Tensions between the United States and Iran are escalating. On Wednesday, the State Department ordered all nonemergency government staff in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, to leave the country after Washington said it learned of credible threats from Iran.
Iran hawks find loopholes for war
By Jon DiCicco
The escalating confrontation with Iran provides President Donald Trump and hawkish members of his administration a convenient one-two punch: an international crisis in the Persian Gulf that distracts from a constitutional crisis inside the Beltway.
Congress and the president appear to be locked in a slow-motion showdown over Democratic legislators’ demands for documents. The findings of the Mueller report and the subpoena showdown are turning up the heat on President Trump. In moments like these, an international crisis can do much to divert the attention of the news media and the public.
Enter the international crisis with Iran. Iran is a legitimate threat to U.S. interests; there is no doubt of that. But Iran’s war-making capabilities pose no immediate threat to America.
Iran has worked to frustrate U.S. ambitions in the region, and it has supported dangerous militia groups like Hezbollah. Now that "credible" intelligence of Iranian plans to attack U.S. forces has come to light, the Trump administration has responded with a demonstration of military muscle.
National security adviser John Bolton said the United States is “fully prepared to respond to any attack” but “is not seeking war with the Iranian regime.” Skeptics may be forgiven for thinking that the opposite is true, and that Washington has been spoiling for a fight with Tehran for months.
The administration has requested from the Pentagon military strike options against Iran; the State Department designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization; it has been suggested that a presidential decision for military action against Iran may be covered under the 2001 Authorization for Use Military Force.
Eager to regain some semblance of control over foreign wars, senators last month reintroduced a stalled bill to “limit the use of funds for kinetic military operations in or against Iran.” But the revived bill has little bite. Its prohibitions are rendered toothless by three exceptions: an imminent threat to America, a need to rescue endangered U.S. personnel or “a sudden attack on the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
It’s significant that the new intelligence pinpoints U.S. forces in the Gulf region as the intended targets of Iran or its proxies. Should the White House use military force against Iran, what self-respecting American would speak out against protecting U.S. troops abroad?
The new intelligence cited by the administration also conveniently sidesteps the Senate’s attempt to corral the commander in chief, fitting cleanly within the exceptions noted in the bill. If the White House wants war with Iran — to protect our troops, to divert attention or both — Congress poses little more than a speed bump, and administration officials have made the moves necessary to roll right over it.
Jon DiCicco is associate professor of political science and international relations at Middle Tennessee State University. This column originally appeared in the Tennessean.
What others are saying:
Wendy R. Sherman, The New York Times: "Either the Trump administration is trying to goad Iran into war or a war could come by accident because of the administration’s reckless policies, but the prospect of the current tensions in the Middle East escalating into a serious conflict is now dangerously high. ... It is crucial that the news media in the United States and elsewhere continue their crusade for the facts about what is going on with Iran. We cannot repeat the days before the Iraq War when even many of our most reliable news outlets repeated and amplified what was, in fact, a flimsy case for war."
Marco Rubio, Twitter: "The current tension with Iran is nothing like the Iraq War. The only way this leads to war with Iran is if the (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) works with proxy forces to attack Americans first."
Tucker Carlson, "Tucker Carlson Tonight": "More than anything in the world, national security adviser John Bolton would love to have a war with Iran. It would be like Christmas, Thanksgiving, his birthday wrapped into one. Mercifully, John Bolton doesn't command the military. President Donald Trump does. The question is how influential is Bolton in the White House?"
What readers are saying
Tariffs, rumor of wars, stocks plunging. Guess the United States isn't doing so great after all.
— Marie Kahle Tarkington
Republicans know that a "war-time" president has never lost an election in modern times; that's the dirty little secret.
— Rick Gaines Jaxon
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a beast, but we were lured into a war citing weapons of mass destruction when there were none. We shouldn't make the same mistake.
— Blythe Williams
Time to get our people out of all of these countries. We do not need to have a presence there, and we certainly don't need to be sending them any money or anything else.
— Ken Netzel
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Congress is barely a speed bump to Trump, Bolton on road to war with Iran: Today's talker