Pardons for Rioters? Attack on Iran or its Interests or Proxies? An expat American in the Middle East Discusses Concerns
Trump’s Final Days in Office Matter
“Jason Meursault” is an American citizen who has spent most of the past 44 plus years in various countries in the Middle East and North Africa. He identifies himself as being “very much red, white, and blue,” having spent 20 years in two different countries on three different U.S. defense-related contracts (Iran and Saudi Arabia). He has lived and worked in a country with whom we have been allies and then enemies (Iran), in a country that has been an adversary since 1969 (Libya), in countries that are pure allies (Bahrain and Saudi Arabia), in a partitioned country that has been somewhat of an international outcast since 1974 (Cyprus), and in a country of fair-weather friends (Turkey). Meursault has very much been the outsider looking in and has some unique perspectives as an American abroad.
He adds, “I have worked variously as an Academic/Lecturer in foreign national universities, as an independent overseas international educational advisor on U.S. educational opportunities, a defense military contractor, and as a tennis professional.”
Meursault agreed to answer questions I posed about actions President Trump has taken as his administration winds down. His answers appear in bold.
What are the pluses and minuses of conducting defense, national security and foreign policy via Twitter?
The same as a bully puffing his chest and blustering behind a closed door. Communication via social media is the coward’s way and is as effective as shots in the dark — scary in not quite a real way, YET.
Iran monitors and uses social media as well and to their own ends, so Trump feels secure in knowing what he says, via whatever medium, will get someone’s attention.
Is President Trump just making a last minute splash for headlines?
YEP. He does like to be in the forefront and limelight, no matter how banal. Trump is a pure narcissist.
What should Americans make of his Twitter statement? You are not far away from Iran. How do you feel about what is happening in public view?
In fact, Trump is just difficult enough to predict that he has Iran very worried, which is fine by me. What DOES worry me is that Trump will make an 11th hour move to stay in office beyond 20 January by declaring war powers and launching an offensive against Iran on a pretext — I talked about this yesterday. People may laugh at this, but until he moves out of the White House and Biden moves in it is a very real possibility.
Sounds reasonable? What do you think?
Absolutely. To do so would smack of a strategy and move that characterizes “Banana Republics.” However, that does not mean that Trump would not, as Commander-in-Chief, give it a go, under fabricated false “facts” (“alternate realities,” as former Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer once put it) and see how it all falls out. Recall that President George W. Bush had “his people” build a case to go to war against Iraq on the basis of WMD that in fact never existed and that Saddam was working in league with Bin Laden. Both were untrue and cases had to be built, established de facto to support an invasion and war, and then acted upon. WMD aside, Saddam was an incredible egomaniac who would never share anything of a plan with any other thug in the region or world. So we have already had a case whereby a President launched an invasion and a war under a pretext that he was able to “sell.” Trump is by nature a far better salesman than W; he gambled hard with a strong arm, gave the sell a go, and lost.
The Speaker of the House, among others, expressed concern over what the president can still do during his final days in office. She even communicated her concerns with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As well she or anyone else with half a brain should. In my book, Iran has been the enemy for 41 years, exporting its menacing brand of terrorism throughout the region and in other parts of the world. Trump renewed the animosity post-Obama, which certainly sent a signal to the powers in the Middle East. Another four years and the temptation would have been to keep the hatred alive, tighten the screws, drill down on it more, and squeeze Iran more economically in the hope that regime change would eventually happen from within. Now that the sand is about to run out, Trump may well invoke war powers to launch an attack against Iran or Iranian interests and proxies, again nothing more than a strategy to keep a narcissist and egomaniac in power as President of the United States beyond 20 January 2021.
The Capitol went crazy on Jan 6.
Again, fact… It would appear that Trump incited it all through social media and the mouths that supported him — Giuliani and the President’s son. Those who rioted in WDC and stormed the Capitol had license to do so from Trump and I am sure felt totally justified because, “the President told us to.” My guess? The President will pardon them all.
There are calls for the president to resign, be removed or face impeachment. Why won’t Pence act?
A lot has happened since these calls as well. The House has drafted a second round of Articles of Impeachment (passed last night), in the wake of VP Pence removing the possibility of invoking the 25th amendment. Reading between the lines, Pence does NOT want to be perceived by either the GOP or Trump as being complicit in the President’s removal from office; put it on the plates of the Dems and make them eat it. In so doing, Pence is looking after himself toward a 2024 campaign and does not want to alienate potential allies (King-makers) or conservative donors over the next four years. This is smart in one sense; in another, it portrays a perception of weakness in character that has persisted with Pence over the past four years. Pence is very much “traditional” GOP and will not evolve, whereas the Republican base (“ReTrumplican,” as CNN’s Chris Cuomo puts it) has evolved over a 5-year process of traditional Republican “devolution.” Pence may “see” it, but I don’t think he understands it, let alone is ready to identify with it.
Did Kushner just want to get out of D.C one last time in an official capacity? Or did the visit meet personal or professional needs? Or both? Any insights into what this trip was about?
Not a fan of Kushner; he is an opportunist whose father-in-law presented him with opportunities. Brazen appointments based on nepotism never had any credibility with me. While in some country governments this is the practice, Trump showed no shame in appointing his daughter and son-in-law to key administration positions, having had no prior practical experience in any government administration whatsoever.
As his administration nears an end, President Trump is reducing or redeploying troops in various parts of the world, including counter-terrorism forces. This was happening as the Department of Defense took about two weeks off from briefing incoming Biden administration officials. Nothing to see here? Just business as usual?
Didn’t Trump promise ongoing draw downs in world hot spots? Afghanistan, Iraq? Somalia has been a disastrous outing for US forces for quite a while now. In my opinion, the US never understood Africa; nor does the US have the will to understand Africa. The US seems to want to understand North African countries within the context of the Middle East, a disastrous approach; they are African first.
I read a Substack newsletter article by Professor Heather Cox Richardson. She wrote, “There are also questions about law enforcement. While exactly what happened remains unclear, it has emerged that the Pentagon limited the Washington D.C. National Guard to managing traffic. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested support before Trump’s rally, but the Department of Defense said that the National Guard could not have ammunition or riot gear, interact with protesters except in self-defense, or otherwise function in a protective capacity without the explicit permission of acting Secretary Christopher Miller, whom Trump put into office shortly after the election after firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper.”
Her article makes me wonder what the late-term Trump appointees at Defense did and did not do in response to the riot at the Capitol. And why.
All the key players know that Trump teeters on the cliff of instability and yet they still fear him. But one of the other issues with the Trump Administration and anyone responding authoritatively in taking a stand is that too many of the key Administration people are “acting.” Congress never confirmed a lot of the Trump appointees. It is a clever ploy to appoint “Actors,” who hold little or no accountability to Congress or the American people, and this practice should never be allowed to happen again; acting appointees are more accountable to he who appoints than to anyone else.
Why fire the Secretary of Defense so late in the game?
Esper, as a confirmed appointee, was accountable and acted out his conscience in his role. His one sin was not to remain in a show of blind loyalty to Trump, for which he paid.
Trump put more of a premium on being followed than on true leadership.
Had it been the other way? Just not in the nature of the beast, sadly.