Jamsheed & Carol Choksy: Iran, give Trump a call

“Tehran’s leadership should bear in mind that for Trump, a deal seems to be ‘horrible’ unless it is proposed by his administration. Only then can it be deemed ‘fair’ if not ‘great.’ By making his willingness for a phone call clear, President Trump is laying the groundwork for an attempt, through his bipolar style of negotiations, at an agreement bearing his signature, instead of those of the previous U.S. administration and the other world powers. As Trump stated when he exited the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran deal, in May 2018, he seeks ‘to negotiate a new deal.'”

What’s going on with Iran?

No one seems to know. Republican lawmakers have complained that they’re “left in the dark.” There are rumors that the president feels he’s being coerced into a war he doesn’t want by National Security Adviser John Bolton. And to top it all off, our European allies are disputing the justification for a possible military operation, saying there has been no increased threat from Iran-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.

Is Iran a ‘wag the dog’ situation?

Iran seems to think so. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif rejected allegations that an attack on Saudi oil tankers near a strategic Persian Gulf waterway over the weekend was orchestrated by Iran, saying “some radical individuals inside the U.S. administration and the region” were pursuing “dangerous policies” in an attempt to pull the country into a military conflict with the U.S.

Jason Rezaian: The US should support democracy…but not like this

“By the late 1980s—through traditional intelligence-gathering, international monitoring, support for civil society, academic exchange programs, and diplomatic outreach with the U.S.S.R.—we began to understand that the Soviet Union was a failing enterprise. … One can argue that Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela are displaying those same telltale signs of terminal decay. But as I watch the Trump administration’s approach to all three—led by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—I find myself wishing that today’s leaders would revive some of the late Cold War tactics that worked so well.”

Jeffrey Smith and Hilary Matfess: No democracy is an island

“To be sure, literally embracing illiberal strongmen and rubber-stamping stolen elections spans multiple U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican. However, the Trump administration’s endorsement of deliberately broken democratic processes and the leaders who have benefitted from them has shifted America’s position toward democracy promotion from tepid to outright hostility.”

US seizes North Korean cargo ship

In the hours following the launch of two North Korean missiles, the U.S. has announced that it has seized a North Korean cargo ship that it says is used to transport coal in violation of international sanctions. This may be a signal that nuclear talks between the two countries have deteriorated even further.

Jonathan Bernstein: Why Trump is failing in Venezuela

“It’s not uncommon for presidents to fight with executive-branch departments and agencies for control over policy. Those bodies have multiple masters. But splits between the president and his own staffers in the White House are far rarer, since such people work directly for, and answer only to, the president himself. This presidency is very different.”

William Burns: Trump’s Middle East plan is doomed by delusions

“The Middle East remains the land of bad policy options for the United States. But there is a difference between having bad options and making bad choices. The illusions of the ‘deal of the century’ seem only partly born of arrogance and the magical properties of fresh thinking. There is also an element that is purposeful and willful, apparently designed to make it impossible to resurrect hopes for two states for two peoples. That is the riskiest proposition of all.”

Iran is using boats to move ballistic missiles

Reporting is indicating that Iran is moving short range ballistic missiles by boat, possibly in an effort to target and attack U.S. forces in the region. This intelligence contributed to the decision made by the Trump administration and the Pentagon to deploy an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers in the region.

Russian and Syrian forces hammer Idlib

Russian forces together with Assad’s Syrian forces began escalating their attack on Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria. While Putin says a full-on attack on Idlib is “impractical”, an increased number of air strikes is meant to weaken the rebels’ resolve and to put pressure on Turkey to stop supporting the rebels.

Susan E. Rice: Trump’s foreign policy is guided solely by personal and political interests

“Americans can be forgiven if they struggle to find any coherence in the Trump administration’s foreign policy. It zigs and zags, with senior administration officials saying one thing and President Trump contradicting them without warning the next day. It punishes our allies and coddles our adversaries; it privileges demagogy over democracy. Mr. Trump’s approach appears impulsive, improvisational and inchoate — devoid of clear purpose, values or even ideology. The unifying theme of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy is simply to service his domestic politics.”

US deploys carrier and bomber task force to Iran

A statement from U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton reads, “In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

Pompeo: US to offer Venezuela ‘full range of options’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the Trump administration is offering a broad range of options to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, including “diplomatic options, political options, options with our allies, and then ultimately a set of options that would involve use of U.S. military.” He also said support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó remains strong, and he demanded that interfering countries end their involvement in the conflict.

US does little to help Canada-China dispute

Canada and China have been embroiled in a political and economic dispute following Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Canada made the arrest because of a U.S. warrant. Since then, China has detained two Canadian citizens, and unleashed economic weapons to make Canada pay. Canada, with no leverage over China, needs the U.S. to help, but American authorities are showing little interest in helping their neighbor to the north.

Turkey says it will not bow to US sanctions

Turkey will never bow to U.S. sanctions over its agreement to purchase Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense systems, says Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay regarding a deal that has strained ties between the NATO allies. The U.S. has warned of possible sanctions if Ankara goes on with the Russian deal.

Fareed Zakaria: Trump’s foreign policy is Bolton’s

“Understanding President Trump’s foreign policy is a challenge, since he has written and spoken little on the subject for most of his life. So how to make sense of his worldview? Is there a Trump Doctrine? … [B]ecause Trump is rarely consistent and could change his mind tomorrow — it reflects the views of the man closest to him on foreign policy, National Security Adviser John Bolton. … As a former U.S. official told the New Yorker, Bolton believes that Thomas Hobbes’s famous description of life without order applies precisely to international life — ‘nasty, brutish, and short.'”

US confident with its intelligence on Venezuela

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan expressed confidence in U.S. intelligence on Venezuela as pressure mounts on the administration. U.S. intelligence has been scrutinized as Maduro remains in power. Shanahan insists that failures in intelligence like those that led up to the Iraq war in 2003 will not occur now with Venezuela.

Senate fails to reverse Trump’s veto of Yemen resolution

Republicans in the US Senate blocked a resolution to end US support for Saudi Arabia in the Yemen War, which has starved can estimated 13 million people. The United States has been providing Saudi Arabia with logistical support during the brutal war, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians and left millions on the brink of famine.

Trump and his sanctions

President Trump has never seen a problem that he thought sanctions could not fix. From North Korea to Iran, President Trump has shown that he is not afraid of placing sanctions on any country, even to the frustration of US allies.