Trump Officials Setting Stage for Iran Conflict

Another decade of war looms - “The United States is stumbling into another decade of war in the greater Middle East. And this next decade of conflict might prove to be even more destabilizing than the last one,” writes Fareed Zakaria for The Washington Post. “The administration has ramped up its military operations across the greater Middle East, in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia — more troops, more bombings, more missions. But what is the underlying strategy?”

--“Military force without a strategy or deeply engaged political and diplomatic process is destined to fail, perhaps even to produce unintended consequences — witness the past decade and a half… After 16 years of continuous warfare, hundreds of thousands dead, trillions of dollars spent and greater regional instability, somebody in Washington needs to ask — before the next bombing or deployment: What is going on?” For the full article, click here.

Tweet - @tparsi: The warnings of an unexplained, pending military confrontation with Iran is now coming from all directions

Officials’ plans worry Mattis - “A pair of top White House officials is pushing to broaden the war in Syria, viewing it as an opportunity to confront Iran and its proxy forces on the ground there, according to two sources familiar with the debate inside the Donald Trump administration,” write Kate Brannen, Dan De Luce and Paul McLeary for Foreign Policy. “Their plans are making even traditional Iran hawks nervous, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has personally shot down their proposals more than once, the two sources said.”

--“Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East advisor, want the United States to start going on the offensive in southern Syria, where, in recent weeks, the U.S. military has taken a handful of defensive actions against Iranian-backed forces fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” Full article here.

See also - “Is Trump Preparing For a Conflict With Iran?” Podcast with Sharon Weinberger, Jon Finer, Dan De Luce, and Kate Brannen for Foreign Policy here.

Ploughshares Fund in the News - Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione spoke yesterday at an event held by the Center for the National Interest event, “An Analysis of U.S. Missile Defense.” The event was broadcast on CSPAN and can be found here. Following remarks by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Joe Cirincione had a lively and spirited debate with Rebeccah Heinrichs of the Hudson Institute on U.S. missile defense.

Trump officials considering regime change - “As the White House formulates its official policy on Iran, senior officials and key allies of President Donald Trump are calling for the new administration to take steps to topple Tehran’s militant clerical government,” writes Michael Crowley for POLITICO. “‘The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran,’ said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who speaks regularly with White House officials about foreign policy. ‘I don’t see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism,’ he added.” For the full article, click here.

Tillerson’s “peaceful” regime change policy - “In a public congressional hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that U.S. policy toward Iran would include, among other things, support for ‘peaceful’ regime change,” writes Eric Pelofsky for Just Security. “At best, it reflected the inchoate state of the Trump administration’s Iran policy; at worst, it reflected an unexpected neo-conservative beachhead in President Trump’s nascent Iran policy. Either way, it is likely to trigger an enduring response from the Iranians, who will not distinguish between Tillerson freelancing, free-associating, or previewing U.S. policy toward Iran. The Trump administration must move quickly and decisively to clarify its policy toward Iran, both to the American people and to the international community.” Full article here.

Syria threat catches military off-guard - “The White House said late Monday that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria appeared to be preparing another chemical weapons attack, and warned that he would ‘pay a heavy price’ if one took place,” write Michael D. Shear, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt for The New York Times. “Several military officials were caught off guard by the statement from President Trump’s press secretary, but it was unclear how closely held the intelligence regarding a potential chemical attack was.”

--“Monday’s message appeared designed to set the stage for another possible military strike. After Mr. Assad allegedly used chemical weapons in April, the American military fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the air base his government had used to launch the attack.” For the full article, click here.

Nuclear safety is critical - “The nuclear weapons enterprise is a vast complex of laboratories and design and manufacturing facilities, relying on thousands of people who build and operate the planes, submarines and missiles, as well as care for the warheads. Nothing can be allowed to go wrong, ” writes The Washington Post Editorial Board. “The administration is now conducting a nuclear posture review, a good opportunity to set priorities… It goes without saying that a credible deterrent force also means paying attention to safety, down to the last glove box.” Full article here.

See also - “These workers’ lives are endangered while contractors running nuclear weapons plants make millions” by Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith for USA Today here.

INF Treaty withdrawal would prove disastrous - “A fierce debate is brewing inside the Trump administration over whether to withdraw from another international treaty — this one a cornerstone disarmament pact with Russia banning an entire class of nuclear missiles,” write Gregory Hellman and Bryan Bender for POLITICO. “Leading Republican hawks are pushing legislation to compel President Donald Trump to take steps to develop new missiles... the first steps to jettisoning... the INF treaty.” However, a multitude of arms control experts strongly oppose withdrawing from the INF Treaty. “Withdrawing from the treaty could give Russia cover for deploying even more missiles in violation of the treaty. It also could spark a backlash from European allies within reach of the banned weapons, argues Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund.” For the full article, click here.

Tweet - @globalzero: If @realDonaldTrump pulls out of the INF treaty, there's nothing stopping a full-scale nuclear arms race w. Russia.

See also - “House bill threatens Russia with nuclear treaty suspension” by Ellen Mitchell for The Hill here.

Compatibility key at U.S.-ROK summit - “Moon Jae-in will be going to the White House for what is shaping up to be a challenging summit, with the leaders taking sharply different approaches to dealing with North Korea and a continuing disagreement over an American antimissile system deployed to South Korea,” writes Anna Fifield for The Washington Post. “‘The summit should really be about drawing the big picture, but instead they will be focusing on areas of potential friction,’ said James Kim, a specialist in U.S.-South Korea relations. ‘A lot will hinge on how the two leaders get along and the chemistry between them.’” For the full article, click here.

See also - Watch Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione talk with Georgetown University’s Victor Cha on “How to denuclearize North Korea” on GPS by Fareed Zakaria for CNN here.

See also - “Why There Are No Military Solutions to North Korea” by Geoff Wilson for War is Boring here.

U.S., China keen on North Korean denuclearization - “Rex Tillerson and James Mattis are talking to their Chinese counterparts. The conversation is just getting started but it appears to be constructive,” writes Gregory Kulacki for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Mattis addressed concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program by reminding reporters that, ‘China’s end state on the Korean Peninsula in terms of nuclear weapons is the same as ours, and we continue to work towards that end state.’ Tillerson added that the United States and China ‘affirmed our strong commitment to cooperate, including through the UN, to realize our shared goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.’” Full article here.

See also - “Time to Negotiate With North Korea” by Thomas Graham Jr. for U.S. News here.

See also - “China, U.S. agree on aim of 'complete, irreversible' Korean denuclearization” by Christian Shepherd for Reuters here.

Quick Hits

--“Will the Saudi-Qatar Spat Escalate Friction Between America and Iran?” by Mark Perry for The National Interest here.

--“What's next for South Korea-US relations?” by J Berkshire Miller for Al Jazeera here.

--“A major war in the Middle East is now more likely than ever” by Shahir Shahidsaless for Middle East Eye here.

--“North Korea Can Produce Hydrogen Bomb But Is Not Likely To, Stanford Professor Says” by Vishakha Sonawane for International Business Times here.

--“Should the US pull its nuclear weapons out of Turkey?” by Jamie McIntyre for The Washington Examiner here.


--”Crafting a Successful Iran Strategy.” CNAS 2017 Annual Conference. Featuring Sen. Chris Murphy, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Ilan Goldenberg and others. Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 11:00a.m.-11:50a.m. The Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.

--“Mission Accomplished? Challenges to Safety Culture in the Nuclear Weapons Complex” Hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Featuring Joyce Connery, Patrick Malone, Don Nichols, Toby Dalton and R. Jeffrey Smith. Thursday, June 29, 2017, 1:00p.m.-2:30p.m. Carnegie Endowment Headquarters, 1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.

--“Debate: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Modernization.” Co-hosted by Ploughshares Fund and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Featuring Adam Mount, Hon. Ellen Tauscher and others. Thursday, June 29, 2017, 4:30p.m.-7:00p.m. CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.

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