September 21, 2020

Trump accused of ‘weaponizing foreign policy’ to advance personal campaign at a vulnerable moment

Did Trump kill Qassem Soleimani to distract from impeachment and advance his political campaign?

As the Senate Impeachment trial of President Trump loomed, he ordered the killing of Qassem Soleimani, who has been called Iran’s most powerful commander. If you consider the timing suspect, you are certainly not alone. Was the strike meant as a way to distract from Trump’s troubles at home?

Although Trump’s inner circle strongly dismisses such accusations, the Associated Press reports that Trump’s campaign is seizing on the Soleimani killing to advance his personal political agenda.

“Donald Trump once warned Barack Obama not to ‘play the Iran card’ to boost his political prospects by starting a war. Eight years later, Trump is showing no reluctance to capitalize politically on his order to kill a top Iranian general, drawing accusations that he is weaponizing foreign policy for his campaign’s own gain,” reports the AP.

The Trump campaign has purchased ads on Facebook, which feature the Soleimani killing, AP reports.

On Twitter, the GOP is seizing the moment to attack Trump’s political rivals.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said:

“Americans want to see their President acting decisively and defending the nation’s interests, and that’s exactly what President Trump did.”

Michael Ahrens, communications director of the Republican National Committee said it was an example that Republicans excel at “killing terrorists.”

“Republicans are good at killing terrorists, and this is a reminder of that.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claims the attacks made the world safer.

Journalist Garrett Graff points out why the word, “safer” is hardly the right word, especially after Iranian missiles started flying since this Tweet.

We all remember the suspect reasoning that drove the United States into a war with Iraq during the Bush administration. Today, we have suspect reasoning driving us into potential conflict nearby.

War for Big Oil

The motive for war in Iraq aligned nicely with the interests of Big Oil.

Ten years after the war in Iraq, CNN reported:

“Of course it’s about oil; we can’t really deny that,” said Gen. John Abizaid, former head of U.S. Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq, in 2007. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan agreed, writing in his memoir, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” Then-Sen. and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the same in 2007: “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are.”

War for Trump?

Today, the reasoning for conflict in Iran is similarly suspect, but it’s not about oil. For many, it appears to be about helping another Republican president politically at a vulnerable moment.

If Soleimani was planning attacks, there aren’t any details. No tell-tale “weapons of mass destruction” as Bush falsely claimed years ago.

“The Pentagon said Soleimani ‘was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.’ But the Trump administration has refused to provide any specific information about the nature or timing of the alleged plots, leaving Trump open to suspicions that the attack was driven, at least in part, by a belief that it might help him in the polls.
Those around the president strongly dismiss any suggestion of political motive. But they have been happy to use the killing to contrast Trump with his Democratic rivals, painting him as a strong leader and accusing Democrats of appeasing Iran with a failed foreign policy approach,” reports the AP.

A year ago, Trump campaign ads celebrated the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In 2020, the name is replaced with another.

“ANOTHER dead terrorist,” declared the subject line of a Sunday campaign email blast, which described Soleimani as a “monster responsible for THOUSANDS of American deaths.”

Bringing the soldiers back home?

As the Trump campaign points to a victory for Trump, he now has to walk a fine line as tensions immediately escalated in the Middle East. Not too long ago, Trump campaigned on getting troops out of conflicts overseas.

“I campaigned on bringing our soldiers back home, and that’s what I’m doing,” Trump said in October 2019.

Ending war was supposedly the reasoning to abruptly pull troops out of Syria, endangering our allies in the fight against ISIS, the Kurds. However, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, the Post soon reported that there would be more troops in the Middle East than before.

Now, rather than stopping the “endless wars” in the Middle East, Trump is effectively doing the opposite.

A personal vendetta?

Some of Trump’s 2020 rivals, Warren and Sanders, accuse him of assassination for political motives, not for the interests of Americans, who prefer to avoid war.

Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut stated that Trump had no congressional approval before jumping into conflict.

Why risk war at this moment?

One has to wonder why Trump is taking the risk to entangle the country in another war at this particular moment in time, although conflict has been building since the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in 2017.

The Nation’s Jeet Heer described Trump’s predicament:

“Unable to resolve the contradiction between his instincts to avoid a war and his need to present himself as a tough guy to his Republican followers, Trump has settled for turning Iran policy into a personal vendetta.”

Trump had no congressional authorization. There are indications that in private, Republicans are concerned about a potential ongoing conflict in Iran.

According to Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, “Some of my best Hill sources tonight tell me there is very little to no appetite inside GOP for attacking Iran in Iran, but support for taking steps to protect the embassy in Baghdad as long as intel is solid. Emphasis on securing compound, stability. Uneasiness tho about POTUS.”

Congressman Ted Lieu from California notes that Trump’s actions actually migth have helped Iran in three key ways.

Now, as the Trump campaign highlights the Soleimani killing, it is Trump himself who suggests why. In a past warning from Twitter, he projects his own motivations today.

“In order to get elected, @BarackObama will start a war with Iran,” Trump tweeted in November 2011, warning a year later: “Don’t let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected–be careful Republicans!”

Writer Ari Berman reflects on the current shaky state of the presidency in 2020. With no mandate, and facing impeachment, Trump is driving us into more and more conflict, both at home and abroad.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans want more war in the Middle East, so why are they supporting Trump’s extreme actions today?

More from MSNBC:


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