Articles Asia Defense & Security

Lock, Stock and the America Bureaucracy Barrelling For War

Image by (Jason Waite/U.S. Navy) (MCSN Jason Waite/U.S. Navy)
America, Iran, EU, China,

When a redeemed (neoconservative), termed John Bolton, in perhaps a more eloquent arraignment of neoconservative ideology than one expects coming out of Fox, a ‘bureaucratic tapeworm’, it might have been read as treason had Donald Trump himself not called off strikes against Iran late last month. Tucker Carlson issued a denunciation of National Security Adviser, John Bolton, earlier last week, as response to both Bolton’s incorrigible warmongering, and political rhetoric echoing through Congressional chambers calling for Donald Trump’s head for even considering a strike against Iran.

The former is in reference to John Bolton’s role in the regime change in Iraq in 2003; a policy narrative that has only been accentuated under Bolton’s much more prominent role as National Security Advisor in the current administration. To put this in context, his policy directives for Venezuela were reflective of the same ‘Bolton-esque’ neoconservative rhetoric, that though sought a revival in Trump’s presidency upon him taking office in 2017, failed to make any significant grounds in the Pentagon until of course John Bolton ascended to the highest levels of bureaucracy; neoconservatism that has more recently incurred the wrath of Tucker Carlson. To boot, Bolton has found an ally in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has almost become the face of American sanctions on everything ‘autocratic’.

To put this in context, his policy directives for Venezuela were reflective of the same ‘Bolton-esque’ neoconservative rhetoric, that though sought a revival in Trump’s presidency upon him taking office in 2017, failed to make any significant grounds in the Pentagon until of course John Bolton ascended to the highest levels of bureaucracy; neoconservatism that has more recently incurred the wrath of Tucker Carlson.

The called off strikes are the closest Bolton has gotten to physical ‘retaliation’ on Iran. He has called for military strikes on Iran periodically over the last year; after Iranian proxies allegedly hit an open space near the US embassy in Baghdad with mortars before testing a medium range ballistic missile and sending a satellite in space. In his bid for a conflict with Iran, Bolton claimed a link between Iran and Al-Qaeda, in which case the President of the US would not need congressional approval for strikes against Iran, based on a measure issued after 9/11.  Bolton, though might have found some solace when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was designated a terrorist organization.

Following Bolton’s adventurism reaching fever pitch inhibited only by Trump’s reluctance to acquiesce citing the loss of Iranian lives a ‘disproportionate response’, the Democratic debates would inevitably have touched upon the subject. The only consensus across the field of candidates was that against scrapping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Senators Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar in addition to Tulsi Gabbard pointed out the possibility of a better deal being signed between America, its allies and Iran to contain Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Candidates leading the polls following the first round of debates including Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, reaffirmed support for the deal that Trump pulled the US out of.

The consensus among the nominees is clear and until the polls indicate a clear leader; or indeed until after the primaries, the narrative will follow traditional Democratic lines. In this perspective, is a more plausible Iranian countermeasure to wait out Trump’s administration hoping for a Democratic win in 2020? The answer to this is perhaps much more multifaceted than Bolton’s brash and rather parochial foreign policy narrative. As the National Security Adviser ramps up military pressure in the Gulf, the Congress, wary of the extent of Trump’s authority to declare war now more so than ever, is increasing pressure in the legislative chambers to ensure that any declaration of war is issued by the Congress, not the President.

America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA has led to provocations not just between Iran and the US but has diplomatically forced Europe and the US further apart

The Senate denied letting a bipartisan measure aimed at limiting the Executive’s ability of declaring war on Iran from coming into effect. Mary Elizabeth Taylor, the assistant Secretary of State for legislative affairs confirmed that the President did not intend to use the authority reserved for him to declare war on any party or state that played a part in the attacks on the World Trade Center, ‘except as maybe necessary to defend US or partner forces engaged in counterterrorism operations’. Such is the ambiguity in legislative authority over the declaration of war. As a majority of Republican senators would have it, limiting the President’s ability to declare war on Iran amid rising tensions would not be appropriate.

America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA has led to provocations not just between Iran and the US but has diplomatically forced Europe and the US further apart. In an attempt to circumvent US sanctions on entities trading with Iran, France, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK) have formulated an instrument of trade with Iran called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). INSTEX is designed to trade in humanitarian goods, allowed for by the US in its sanctions on Iran, through virtual monetary exchange.

Europe’s venturing into trade with Iran has not been looked upon by America favourably. Given that Europe has circumvented basic outlawed measures in its newly founded trade mechanism with Europe, the irony in Bolton and Pompeo resorting to loopholes in the legislature to justify a unilateral declaration of war, is profound.

While Iran is yet to state clearly its stance on the matter post INSTEX, it has made clear that it does not intend to honour the JCPOA, now that the US has pulled out. Regardless of how long the conflict is drawn out, war seems the least likely option despite the US sending in more troops for the US is wary of Iranian proxies in the region. The US military machine might outweigh its Iranian counterpart but proxy forces, backed and funded by Iran have operated in the Middle East for a lot longer than US’s military presence there. Ratcheting up the conflict in the region might just be the immediate Iranian response to any American military excursions on its territory. Both Russia and China have also weighed in on the conflict with China calling for a peaceful resolution to the issue and Russia emphasising American predilections for war that can be avoided. Given an actual military strike by the US in Iran, deeper into the region, China and Russia in the region might not be as passive in their response to the situation.

Ratcheting up the conflict in the region might just be the immediate Iranian response to any American military excursions on its territory.

As the US increases diplomatic pressure on Iran through the G20 summit, Iran would want to extend its economic ties into Europe as much as it can. As the neoconservatives make use of the strength of the Executive office to campaign for military action, Iran ought to use the consequent alienation of the European Union to its advantage as much as it can.To put this in context, his policy directives for Venezuela were reflective of the same ‘Bolton-esque’ neoconservative rhetoric, that though sought a revival in Trump’s presidency upon him taking office in 2017, failed to make any significant grounds in the Pentagon until of course John Bolton ascended to the highest levels of bureaucracy; neoconservatism that has more recently incurred the wrath of Tucker Carlson.

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