Lost among the deluge of stories about the Russia investigation and the Republicans’ push to take healthcare away from millions of people, the Trump administration is laying the groundwork for a disastrous regional proxy war against Iran in Syria and possibly beyond.
Foreign Policy reported recently that key officials within the Trump administration are “pushing to broaden the war in Syria, viewing it as an opportunity to confront Iran and its proxy forces on the ground there.” The strategy was being advocated over objections from the Pentagon, but it doesn’t seem to be deterring White House.
As the Washington Post made clear just a few days ago: Iranian and US forces have already been directly clashing in the region, and officials are busy planning the “next stage” of the Syria war once Isis is defeated – a plan that centers around directly attacking the Iranians.
On Monday night, the White House seemingly laid down its marker. In a surprising statement that seemed to catch even the Pentagon off guard, press secretary Sean Spicer warned that Syria was planning another chemical weapons attack and “would pay a heavy price” if it came to pass. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley quickly chimed in on Twitter saying that any further attack would “be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”
The White House is almost looking for a reason to launch yet another potentially catastrophic war in the Middle East, right in the middle of the most complex civil war we’ve seen in decades. There is no telling what chaos and destruction such a move would bring, but you can see the war wagons aligning within Trump administration circles as they prepare to move ahead with it anyways.
Just this weekend, Politico quoted key Republican Senator Tom Cotton saying: “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran.” The CIA has already expanded its Iranian covert operations, while the main White House liaison to intelligence agencies, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, has reportedly “told other administration officials that he wants to use American spies to help oust the Iranian government.” And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in little noticed comments to Congress last week, called for “regime change” in Iran as well (albeit a “peaceful” one – whatever that means).
Trump’s bloodlust for war against Iran has been brewing since the start of his administration. They have been sabre rattling ever since disgraced ex-National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn showed up in the White House briefing room unannounced less than two weeks into Trump’s term to declare that Iran was “on notice.”
The New York Times reported in February that the Pentagon had outlined a brazen plan to start boarding Iranian ships in international waters – a clear act of war – that was only put on hold because the plan leaked. And it’s only a matter of time before they find a way to rip up the nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration.
The Trump administration’s plans may not stop in Syria either. Some officials have allegedly also been pushing for the Pentagon to step up its support of Saudi Arabia’s appalling war in Yemen, which has left 20 million people on the verge of starvation – all to go after Iranian-backed forces in the region as well.
All of this comes as the Trump administration ramps up war across the Middle East. They are conducting drone strikes at a rate almost four times that of the Obama administration, civilian deaths from US forces in Syria have skyrocketed, special operations in Somalia have been ramping up and the Pentagon is sending thousands of more troops to Afghanistan.
Six months ago it may have been hard to imagine a more destabilized Middle East, but leave it to the Trump administration to somehow make things worse. If they follow through on their stated desire to start a war with Iran, it will be a deadly folly of historic proportions.