President Trump’s last minute decision NOT to attack Iran after it shot down an unmanned US drone in what may have been international waters calls to mind an English nursery rhyme that still enchants toddlers: just substitute three fat men arguing over whether to go to war with Iran:
Three blind mice,
Three blind mice
See how they run,
See how they run!
They all ran after
The farmer’s wife
She cut off their tails
With a carving knife
Did you ever see
Such a sight in your life
As three blind mice?
As American planes were secretly ready to take off on a mission to bomb Iran, Congress was bracing for a fight with the president over its prerogative to declare war. It was clear they had lost that power, when Donald Trump cancelled the operation, revealing it at the same time. Usually on the side of Congress, the media admitted the President had made a wise choice by cancelling an attack long sought by his foreign policy advisors obsessed with the idea that Iran could at some future date launch a nuclear attack against (nuclear-armed) Israel.
Coming just as the president begins to ramp up his 2020 re-election campaign, had these strikes been carried out they would have precipitated a war that even Trump’s trigger-happy base does not want. More importantly, although the President is entitled to appoint who he wishes to his cabinet, subject to Congressional approval, the press raised no alarm when known hawks Bolton and Pompeo sailed through that formality. Why did it fail to raise loud objections when there was still time? After all, both men have publicly called for attacking Iran (as well as North Korea and Venezuela, signaling America’s reach to all corners of the globe). The fact that on the day after this near-catastrophe, it talks of nothing else but Joe Biden’s continuing lead in the polls for an election that will happen a year and a half from now suggests it knows what is expected of it.
The President’s decision to cancel an attack that would have killed 150 Iranians can only be negative: he waited until planes were ready for take-off to ask how many casualties the attack would cause, although an assessment of expected fatalities would have been part of the Pentagon’s response to his initial request for action. Even the fact that he found the attack disproportionate to the shooting down of an unmanned drone, is all about his love of the spotlight.
As for responsibility, the Pentagon has not produced visual proof that the drone was shot down in international waters, while the Iranians claim to have recovered parts of the drone in their territorial waters, removing the evidence before the international community could confirm the location. (France 24 reports that Europe, Russia and China doubt the US claim.)
One thing that has not been signaled is Donald Trump’s use of an identical ploy to the one he recently announced regarding North Korea: ‘Iran could be a fantastic country with the right Western help.’ If the US record on carrying out agreements with North Korea is any indication, however, that is about as likely as a farmers wife cutting off mice tails.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years. She can be reached at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.