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We May Go to War For Spite [Update with BBC Report]

This story was posted in the Daily Mail today: Trump axed Iran deal to spite Obama: How the British ambassador called the President's actions 'diplomatic vandalism' fueled by 'personality reasons' – as revealed in more explosive cables that have sparked a free speech row while Iran tensions mount

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Now, we always knew Trump hates Obama’s guts and wants to reverse anything Obama did, but here is a professional evaluation by a seasoned diplomat coming to that conclusion:

The Ambassador wrote that Mr Trump appeared to be abandoning the deal for ‘personality reasons’ because it had been agreed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

And

Sir Kim described how the British delegation was surprised by the inability of any of Mr Trump’s advisers to explain why he was so determined to junk the deal or their strategy after withdrawing from it.

And

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Sir Kim suggested there were splits among the President’s closest advisers and said the White House lacked a ‘day-after’ strategy on what to do following withdrawal from the deal.

Well, he sure called that one right! Now that Iran has officially gone over the 3.67% enrichment limit, Trump’s White House is scrambling to come up with a “Plan B” — because Trump doesn’t believe in Plan B:

The problem was that other than a campaign of maximum pressure – squeezing Iran with more sanctions, especially trying to reduce its lifeblood of oil exports to zero – Trump had no Plan B. The administration seemed not to have baked into its hardline approach that Iran, now under pressure, might respond—which it did last month, by mining oil tankers in the gulf and shooting down a very large, expensive unarmed U.S. drone. The Hill July 12, 2019

The Daily Mail continues its story with reporting how then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson — yes, that Boris Johnson, Trump’s bestie — made an emergency trip to DC to talk his BFF out of it:

It was May 7, 2018, and Mr Johnson had been hurriedly dispatched to make a last-ditch plea to President Donald Trump not to abandon a nuclear deal with Iran, regarded by many experts as critical to prevent the regime from building an atomic bomb.

During a frantic 26 hours of meetings, Mr Johnson met all the key ‘Trump Whisperers’ – those advisers with the ear of America’s unpredictable leader. It became clear, however, that despite the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the US, Mr Johnson was not going to change the President’s mind.

It was after that trip that Sir Kim sent his memo.

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Now, Iran doesn’t really want war; it has hardened its infrastructure, it’s four times the size of Iraq, has well-trained and motivated armies, and unlike Saddam’s Iraq, it’s not run by an incompetent megalomaniac.  But it knows it would get badly hurt.

The trouble is, the US is being run by an incompetent megalomaniac. Trump also doesn’t really want war; bullying plays well with his base, but he knows a messy war with Iran would hurt his chances of re-election — as Tucker Carlson (among others) reminded him when he was about to attack Iran last week. Plus, Trump is a coward (like most bullies) who make a big show of fists but who run away when someone stands up and is ready to fight back. On the other hand, there’s John Bolton whispering in his ear. Even Trump admits that Bolton never met a war he didn’t like, and Bolton really wants to stick it to Iran. Next time, he might arrange it that Carlson won’t be able to interfere.

This is high-stakes brinkmanship here, and Trump is no JFK. He can’t even negotiate a deal with people who are on his side; look at the frustrations the GOP leadership is — privately — expressing about his inability to agree with them on things they both want. Iran on the other hand has been practicing the art of negotiating for several thousand years.

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The JCPOA is a flawed deal, but it’s the best deal Obama and the Europeans could get. It did put a halt to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, with inspections, and Iran was living up to its part of the deal. I think that part, as much as anything, drove Trump up the wall: He couldn’t stand it that something Obama did was working. So he killed the Iran deal out of spite, and now he has no idea what to do next about Iran.

Except maybe go to war.

PS: It’s possible the Daily Mail put this story out today to help Johnson, though he doesn’t come off that well in the telling. But the bulk of the story is about Scotland Yard wants to prosecute the press for reporting the memos, and how both Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt object to the Yard’s intentions.

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[Update] Thanks to jwinIL14 for alerting me that the BBC has picked up the story, They basically repeat the Daily Mail points on Trump, but then they add these final paragraphs:

Sir Nigel Sheinwald, who was UK ambassador to the US from 2007 to 2012, told the paper he suspected that whoever was behind the leak “has in mind a wider target of our system of public service and wanted to influence the way the next government handled the civil service, and was perhaps trying to influence the succession of Kim Darroch.”

He added: “This undermining of the public service has been going on for years and is clearly going to be a fundamental problem in the period ahead.” BBC

Maybe a Russian plant is responsible for this?

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