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Trump’s dangerous business

Jun 24,2020 - Last updated at Jun 24,2020

Like the hot-tempered Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s fantasy “Alice in Wonderland” who cried, “Off with their head,” whenever she was crossed, Donald Trump sacks the heads of competent officials who displease him. This is a very dangerous business, as he is diminishing the presidency, decapitating the country’s institutions and destroying US global influence.

His latest victims include the federal government’s independent inspectors general who monitor the conduct of their respective agencies. Among those removed served in the state, defence and transportation departments, monitored multiple intelligence agencies, and led health and human services. His dismissal of the latter was particularly egregious at a time the US is struggling and, due to his misdirection, failing to contain the coronavirus. His attack on watchmen is intended to evade accountability in the spheres of both domestic and international affairs.

Returning to the Queen of Hearts, Carroll saw her “as a sort of embodiment of ungovernable passion — a blind and aimless Fury”. This is exactly how the always mercurial Trump has evolved since entering the White House. To make matters worse, the process has escalated since the US has been gripped by the coronavirus plague and, lately, by “Black Lives Matter” protests across the country.

Among the topmost members of his administration, Trump has fired or forced to resign are figures whose departures have had a notably negative in-fluence on foreign policy.  These include secretary of state Rex Tillerson, White House chief-of-staff John Kelly, secretary of defence James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. These men were considered the  “grown-ups in the room” who tried and occasionally succeeded in curbing Trump’s most destructive behaviour. The people who now surround Trump are loyalists who do not, and dare not if they want to keep their jobs, upset Trump, particularly since he is totally focused on his campaign for re-election during a time of national crisis.

Conservative John Bolton, who, as Trump’s longest-serving security adviser before being fired did little to restrain him. On Iran, in particular, Bolton urged regime change. Bolton has exacted revenge. Ahead of this week’s publication of his book, “The Room Where It Happened”, stated, “I don’t think he should be president. I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job.” Bolton hopes Trump will be a “one-term president who didn’t plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral”.

Unfortunately, Trump has already plunged countries in this region into downward spirals. He did so due to wilful ignorance, laziness and reliance on advisers who, like Bolton, had specific agendas.

Under the influence of son-in-law Jared Kushner and other pro-Israeli figures Trump began, of course, with Palestine by recognising Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and shifting the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested holy city. From there, he cut $365 million in funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees as well as financial support for USAID projects in Palestine. The Palestinian Authority responded by cutting relations with the US which closed down the Palestinian mission in Washington. Trump’s pro-Israel minions drew up his “Deal of the Century” which permitted Israel to annex at least 30 per cent of the West Bank and finished off the “two-state solution” involving the emergence of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Trump’s policies toward Turkey, a serial aggressor in this region, are dictated by his admiration and close relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogon. During early 2018, the Trump did nothing to prevent or halt the Turkish invasion of Afrin, the north-western Syrian Kurdish majority district although Kurdish forces which had done the fighting on the ground in the campaign against Daesh were based there and administered the area. In December 2018, Trump decided to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, prompting Mattis to resign as defence secretary. Trump began the pull out 1,000 in October 2019, leaving Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies exposed to attack from Turkey, which regards them allies of Turkey’s insurgent Kurds. Trump responded to fighting along the Syrian-

Turkish border by permitting Ankara to occupy a 120-kilometre long 30 kilometre wide stretch of territory from which Kurdish civilians were expelled.

On Syria and Iran, Trump had depended for advice on anti-Syrian-anti-Iranian hawks, particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In March 2019, Trump recognised Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights, occupied in 1967. Last week, Trump rubber stamped legislation sanctioning Syrians and non-Syrians cooperating with the Syrian government and institutions and businesses. These sanctions effectively block trade and reconstruction in this war-ravaged country and target civilians far more than individuals with government connections.

In May 2018, Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 agreement providing for Iranian dismantlement of its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. He subsequently clamped down punitive sanctions which devastated Iran’s economy and impoverished its population. In January this year, Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Tehran’s regional involvement. This action not only shook Iran but shocked Iraq, where Soleimani had played a leading role in the defeat of Daesh and the management of pro-Iranian Shia militias. In response, Iraq demanded a full pull-out of the 5,000 US troops in that country and an end to US use of Iraqi territory as a springboard to harm Iran.

Although he had avoided involvement in the Libyan conflict until told Russia and Egypt are backing the rebel side against the UN-recognised, Turkish armed and supported government in Tripoli, Trump called for a ceasefire and negotiations. His aim is, clearly, to prevent warfare between NATO-ally Turkey and regional partner Egypt. This was just about the only positive intervention ever made by Trump in the region.

 

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