‘Fake news’ crier Trump lies over Iran drone incident - GulfToday

‘Fake news’ crier Trump lies over Iran drone incident

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

White House

Members of the US Secret Service keep watch from the roof of the White House in Washington, DC. File/AFP

Donald Trump has uttered more than 10,800 lies and false statements since taking office in January 2017.  His comments and tweets on why he cancelled a US bombing mission against Iran after it shot down an unmanned drone in the Strait of Hormuz add tactical lies to this number.

To explain why he took this action, Trump tweeted, “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”  This was his first lie concerning this affair.

The Washington Post contradicts Trump by revealing he had “already been briefed in detail (on this and other issues) earlier in the day, including the Pentagon estimate of up to 150 Iranian casualties.”  Indeed, it is customary for the US and other countries’ military to fully brief their commander-in-chief of the ramifications of the use of force before launching any attack.

Another reason Trump may have called off the strikes is that the drone as well as a second surveillance plane, with 35 airmen and crew members, may have entered Iranian airspace.  Iran contended that they did not target the second aircraft because of the people on board.

While US officials have claimed that the drone did not violate Iran’s airspace, the New York Times reported that images of the drone’s flight path promulgated by the Pentagon were not correct.  The paper wrote a senior Trump official said there was concern that the drone or other US aircraft had crossed into Iranian airspace.     

Trump was under strong pressure from administration hawks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Security Adviser John Bolton, and CIA director Gina Haspel to take military action but  armed forces chief General Joseph Dunford expressed caution as a strike could elicit retaliation against US forces in the region.

The New York Times reported that among other figures Trump consulted was “one of his favourite Fox News Hosts: Tucker Carlson.”  Ahead of the drone incident Carlson warned Trump taking military action against Iran was risky.

Carlson said Trump’s hawks could precipitate war with Iran and lose Trump the 2020 election since the majority of US voters do not want another US military entanglement in this region.

White House lawyer Pat Cipollone also played a role in dissuading Trump, reminding him of the projected casualty figure just before the strikes were to be launched.  The 150 gave Trump a legitimate — and according to some supporters — an “heroic” and “humane” reason to cancel the operation.

Consequently, Trump tweeted, “10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world.”

According to the New York Times, General Jack Keane, a retired army deputy chief, said Trump was told that the shooting down of the drone was a mistake and the Iranians were furious with the commander who ordered the hit. Trump himself took up this line: “I think probably Iran made a mistake – I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down.”

Tehran has said the drone strike was not a mistake and celebrated its downing.

Nevertheless, Keane, a Trump supporter, said, “I don’t think (the false notion it was a mistake) was decisive. What was decisive for him was the comparison for him, compared to destroying missile batteries and killing people, of shooting down a drone.” Keane seems to suffer as much as Trump from an inability to express himself clearly.

It has emerged that while he called off bombing Iran, Trump went ahead with a cyber attack on computer-controlled Iranian rockets and missiles. This was meant to coincide with the strikes on radar installations and rocket launchers and has served as a face saver for Trump after he cancelled the bombings. He is also planning a new round of harsh sanctions.  He has to show that he is tough on Iran to maintain whatever credibility he has with his supporters, Congress, and the world at large.

Tough he may be but Trump is neither heroic nor humane. He has not hesitated to dispatch drones to kill “militants” in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.

According to the Daily Beast, Obama — who served eight years – launched 186 drone strikes while Trump launched 238 during his first two years in the White House.

These strikes have killed an unknown number of civilians.  In Afghanistan alone, such strikes killed more than 150 civilians during the first nine months of 2018.

Since January 2019, US drones have slain 1,257 civilians, according to the Pentagon, while Airwars says the number could be 7,500.  While former President Barack Obama called for civilian deaths to be registered, Trump has cancelled this requirement.

Trump has consistently misled his voter “base” by promising to end US foreign wars while expanding them. In addition to stepping up drone attacks, he has increased conventional bombing in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, and raised troop levels in this region by at least a third.  The US, already militarily omnipresent around the globe, has, under Trump, become extremely proactive.

Commander-in-chief Trump has handed over the war portfolio to the Pentagon and to senior officers in the skies over and on-the-ground in battle zones.

Despite his “heroic” restraint on this occasion, Trump has threatened to obliterate Iran if it responds with military means to his economic war which is impoverishing Iran and inflicting hardship on its citizens.  While earlier administrations tried to argue sanctions were not meant to harm Iranian civilians, Trump and his merry men fully intend them to do so and make no secret of this.

He says he does not want war with Iran and has repeatedly called for negotiations without preconditions but has also put forward the condition that Iran “can’t have nuclear weapons.”  By saying this, Trump repeats the “Big Lie” that Iran intends to manufacture nuclear weapons if given the opportunity. Iran does not have nuclear weapons. Tehran has said it does not want nuclear weapons and signed the 2015 deal providing for the dismantling of 80 per cent of its nuclear programme in order to achieve sanctions relief.  Although this deal prevents Iran from reaching a pathway to nuclear weapons, Trump undermined it by withdrawing the US in May 2018 and re-imposing sanctions.  He is, therefore, personally responsible for the crisis between the US and Iran and whatever happens in this region as a result of his renunciation of the deal.