Ever since Donald Trump tapped retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser, there were fears that Flynn might use his new position to materialize his conspiracy theories about the West being at war with Islam into actual war.
Less than two weeks after the new administration assumed power, that’s exactly what appears to be happening.
In his first public briefing since taking office, Flynn signaled the United States is going to adopt a more aggressive approach toward Iran, following a recent medium-range ballistic missile launch, which, according to the Trump administration, violates a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Flynn also criticized the previous administration, suggesting former President Barack Obama had “failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions, including weapons transfers, support for terrorism, and other violations of international norms.”
He then declared the U.S. government was "officially putting Iran on notice."
Now, Iran, for its part, confirmed the missile test but denied if it violated the nuclear deal that was signed with the U.S. in 2015 or any U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, according to which Iran is called upon “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology,” however, isn’t specifically prohibited to conduct them.
“The recent test was in line with our plans and we will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defense affairs," said Iranian Defense Minister Hosssein Dehghan, according to the Tasnim news agency.
"The test did not violate the nuclear deal or the [UN] resolution 2231," he said.
Meanwhile, Trita Parsi, of the National Iranian American Council, condemned the White House’s statement on Iran’s missile launch.
“National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s statement on Iran today was reckless. While Flynn’s remarks could be construed as simply bluster, they will beget an Iranian response which in turn will beget further threats by the U.S. At some point, this escalatory cycle that started with bluster may end in war.”
While Parsi called the test “needless provocation,” he said, “It is important to note that Iran’s missile test is not a clear-cut violation of the current U.N. Security Council Resolution on Iran, and Iran’s nuclear pathways have been blocked thanks to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”
U.S. analysts have also called into question how exactly the Trump administration reached the conclusion that Iran had violated resolution 2231.
Cliff Kupchan, a political risk analyst at the Eurasia Group in Washington, told The New York Times the White House’s posturing toward Iran was “worrisome.”
“It’s all Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller right now,” Kupchan stated, adding, “The ‘revolutionaries’ are running the Trump administration.”
To a great extent, the analysis is spot-on. Here’s why.
The first official rift between the Trump administration and Iran began with the president’s immigration executive order on refugees and citizens traveling to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Iran.
That controversial (read: Islamophobic) executive order (read: ban) was reportedly crafted by Bannon, Trump’s White House chief strategist, and Stephen Miller, who is the White House adviser for policy.
Now, Flynn is taking the already-quite aggressive approach a step further by putting Iran “on notice.”
And that’s dangerous for a lot of reasons, the primary being Flynn’s potentially disastrous obsession with the war between the West and Islam, especially Iran.
Flynn is a notorious Islamophobe and a war-monger. “Islam is a political ideology…it definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion,” Flynn said in a November 2016 speech at the annual conference of ACT for America, which happens to be the country’s largest anti-Muslim grassroots group. “It’s like cancer…a malignant cancer in this case.”
The unabashed hateful rhetoric was one of the several reasons his appointment as the president’s national security prompted criticism – but he got the job, anyway.
Furthermore, while Flynn believes there’s “an international alliance of evil countries and movements,” aligning against the U.S., he views Iran as the “linchpin” of that alliance.
These views were expressed in Flynn’s book, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.” It was co-authored by Michael Ledeen and published last year in July.
But now that Flynn has the ear of the president of the United States on important military affairs, the war-mongering he expressed in black and white can easily be translated into actions.
“My worry is that Flynn will start laying a path for conflict or war against Iran,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Thomas E. Ricks last month for Foreign Policy.
Ricks worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency under Flynn’s command.
“He will have the ear of President Trump, not known as a reader, so Flynn will have a dominant role in telling the president what is going on. For me, that represents a nightmare scenario. It is not a question of whether it will happen, it is when and how it will. I am genuinely fearful.”
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