Friday, January 03, 2020

Iran "Doesn't Seem to Fear Trump" Who "Is Eager to Resume Talks" with Tehran: Top New York Times Story Published During Baghdad Strike Is Unwittingly Hilarious


I just realized something: I have been waiting for the American military's air strike ever since I was a teen-ager during the Carter administration. (Thanks for the birthday gift, Donald Trump…)

But this post is about the New York Times. Of course, the main story on the Friday's front page is U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Commander of Iranian Forces, which, naturally enough, gets the prized position of top right corner.

The problem for the Times is that their international edition had already gone to the printer hours earlier, by the time the drone attack on Qassim Suleimani had taken place, and there is no mention of that story anywhere (see pictures of the two editions' January 3 front pages below).

That is the risk of printed media and cannot be remedied, but what is amusing — shall we call it hilarious? — is David Sanger's article that the European edition chose to put in its right corner instead: Trump's talk fails to quell threats from adversaries. (Update: shookhran for the Instapundit link, Glenn Reynolds…)

In the American edition, the title is different: Trump Bet He Could Isolate Iran and Charm North Korea. It's Not That Easy. What we learn from the article that I read about six hours after Qassim Suleimani had been blown to smithereens is that "Trump is eager to resume talks" with Tehran and that
Both the Iranians and the North Koreans seem to sense the vulnerability of a president under impeachment and facing re-election … Many foreign policy experts say he fundamentally misjudged the reactions of two major American adversaries. Neither seems to fear him, precisely the critique he leveled at Barack Obama back in the days when Mr. Trump declared America’s toughest national security challenges would be solved as soon as a president the world respected was in office …
Oh yeah: Obama — if the MSM can introduce a defense of the Apologizer-in-Chief, by all means, let it do so.
 … [Donald Trump] dismissed the depth of Iran’s determination to re-establish itself as the most powerful force in the region.… Mr. Trump … simply repeats his mantra that Iran will never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons … The attack on the outer walls of the American Embassy in Baghdad, even if short-lived, was clearly intended to send a shiver down the spine of Mr. Trump’s political aides, who remember … There are signs Mr. Trump is eager to resume talks, including his effort to lure President Hassan Rouhani to the phone when the Iranian leader was in New York in September for United Nations meetings. … That diplomatic initiative will doubtless continue in secret.
Friday's NYT, which appeared after the air strike
The NYT's international edition appeared hours earlier

That is the gist of this post. For those interested in more details, take a look at a more detailed excerpt of the article by David Sanger (whom I met in Paris years ago, incidentally, when he came to present the French translation of his book on Obama):
President Trump entered the new year facing flare-ups of long-burning crises with two old adversaries — Iran and North Korea — that are directly challenging his claim to have reasserted American power around the world.

While the Iranian-backed attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad seemed to be under control, it played to Mr. Trump’s longtime worry that American diplomats and troops in the Middle East are easy targets and his longtime position that the United States must pull back from the region.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s declaration on Wednesday that the world would “witness a new strategic weapon” seemed to be the end of an 18-month experiment in which Mr. Trump believed his force of personality — and vague promises of economic development — would wipe away a problem that plagued the last 12 of his predecessors.

The timing of these new challenges is critical: Both the Iranians and the North Koreans seem to sense the vulnerability of a president under impeachment and facing re-election, even if they are often clumsy as they try to play those events to their advantage

… The protests in Iraq calmed on Wednesday … But events of recent days have underscored how much bluster was behind Mr. Trump’s boast a year ago that Iran was “a very different nation” since he had broken its economy by choking off its oil revenues.

 … Today the most generous thing one could say about those statements is that they were wildly premature. Many foreign policy experts say he fundamentally misjudged the reactions of two major American adversaries. Neither seems to fear him, precisely the critique he leveled at Barack Obama back in the days when Mr. Trump declared America’s toughest national security challenges would be solved as soon as a president the world respected was in office.

 … He dismissed the depth of Iran’s determination to re-establish itself as the most powerful force in the region.… Mr. Trump … simply repeats his mantra that Iran will never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons 
The attack on the outer walls of the American Embassy in Baghdad, even if short-lived, was clearly intended to send a shiver down the spine of Mr. Trump’s political aides, who remember well that a hostage crisis helped lead to President Jimmy Carter’s re-election defeat 40 years ago.

In recent months, Iran has repeatedly mounted a strike and pulled back, including its attacks on oil tankers, an American drone and Saudi oil facilities.

The Iranians have made clear what Mr. Trump needs to do to reopen negotiations: Essentially return to the deal struck with Mr. Obama, largely by lifting sanctions Mr. Trump imposed starting in May 2018. There are signs Mr. Trump is eager to resume talks, including his effort to lure President Hassan Rouhani to the phone when the Iranian leader was in New York in September for United Nations meetings.
That diplomatic initiative will doubtless continue in secret. …
Back to the latest development and update — U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Qassim Suleimani, Commander of Iranian Forces:
Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani … was the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades, and his death was a staggering blow for Iran at a time of sweeping geopolitical conflict.
Again: I have been waiting for news like this from the best military on the planet ever since I was a teen-ager during the Carter administration.
In Paris, a No Pasarán webmaster and a NYT journalist

10 comments:

Harrison said...

Maybe the Iranian Junta will draw an important lesson. You attack unmanned drones, costing us a few million, and all we do is crack down on your economy, costing you a few hundred million (for which Trump was roundly criticized, I concluded by people who did not understand the difference between property damage and killing someone). Granted, that really does not affect the Junta much, they just pass the suffering on to the Iranian people, any evidence they care about them?

However, you actually kill an American in a foreign country (Iraq) while you are conducting an illegal war there, and the consequences are a little more personal. So when your Big Man shows up in that foreign country (who came up with THAT idea??) to assist in the illegal war, he becomes a legitimate target of war, and suffers the consequences. Now there are initial reports of premature death “visiting” other Iranian assets who are conducting the illegal war in Iraq.

Can you hear Mr. Trump now, Junta-heads?

Also, many on the left are claiming Trump is starting a war. No, he is conducting a war in Iraq, per the (stupid, in my opinion) authorization to use force Congress granted W. So how does that give Iran a basis for declaring war (beyond what they have done regularly since 1979)? When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it was an attack on a foreign country. When the Germans invaded Poland, same thing. When did the U.S. attack Iran? Not yet.

This makes me think Trump will not attack Iranian territory unless Iran attacks American territory (which would include ships in international waters, as well as any future attacks on our embassies). If I am correct, do you think the Iranians can figure that out too? Because if they do not, they could be in for a world of hurt.

Kit Carson said...

Trump is trying to win via signals and memes. it's a 21st century strategy for a time with low-cost, instantaneous globe-girding communications systems.

remember how he gave the dog a medal - attempting to shame a shame culture that despises dogs. and how he assiduously described the cowardice of bagdadhi.

he is using twitter to communicate public threats to be taken privately and seriously in councils of state. and economic sanctions rather than military pressure.

he is a billionaire who is stingy, always looking to cut costs and save money. he is stingy with american soldiers lives, very much NOT wanting to waste them for small gains.

maybe it will work. much better to try these sorts of things before going in with guns blazing.

Iman said...

The lesson is there for Iran to learn. Let's hope they understand it.

David said...

"This makes me think Trump will not attack Iranian territory unless Iran attacks American territory (which would include ships in international waters, as well as any future attacks on our embassies)."

Technically we have been at war with the Islamic Republic since they took over our embassy in Tehran in 1979. That was an act of aggression against a place that, under international law, is considered sovereign US territory, just like the White House or the Capitol.

So it's a bit late in the day--30 years too late, to be exact--to unring that bell.

Unknown said...

Anyone remember [self-proclaimed Iraqi 'Information Minister'] "Baghdad Bob" during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq? It seems he now works for the New York Times . . .

'Iran "Doesn't Seem to Fear Trump" Who "Is Eager to Resume Talks" with Tehran: Top New York Times Story Published During Baghdad Strike Is Unwittingly Hilarious'

Anonymous said...

David said:

Technically we have been at war with Iran ... it is more like the Islamic Republic has been at war with us...we have just stood by like a punching bag. (IMHO)

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