Trump's efforts to get the media off Mueller and impeachment has now reached a critical juncture. It's now a matter of time before we're in a shooting war, the only question is where. On one side, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is all but asking Trump for US troops to enact bloody regime change.
One week after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó's calls for mass protests failed to incite a military uprising and force Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro out of office, Guaidó has suggested to CBS News that he is open to a U.S. military intervention in his country.
"We are open to options that offer a low social cost and that will grant us the ability and the stability to hold a truly free election," Guaidó told CBS News' Adriana Diaz in Caracas. "We want the best exit out of this conflict, and if there are options we have to consider and alternatives, then we will."
But it seems the United States isn't Guaidó's only option. A member of Guaido's team told Diaz that they are in touch with Russian officials, which Guaidó confirmed. He said those talks were happening in an unofficial capacity, with various officials from high to low levels in the Moscow government.
The U.S. and Russia accuse each other of interfering in the Venezuelan crisis. On Monday, speaking from Moscow, Venezuela's foreign minister said his country may expand the amount of Russian specialists there.
President Trump's top aides say all options — including military action — remain on the table.
As I said before, a simple US invasion won't happen. What will happen could be much, much worse. Look no further than Syria to see how this will go. A civil war with Putin controlling both sides by proxy is a dream scenario for him and he knows it.
And as we get into a calculated dog and pony show in Caracas, we also come closer to a flamethrower in a fireworks factory scenario in Tehran.
Consequently, as the first anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord approaches, the action-reaction spiral the administration set in motion with its maximum pressure campaign has produced a very ominous situation—one in which the risk of military confrontation grows by the day.
Thousands of U.S. troops and Iranian-backed forces operate in close proximity to one another in Iraq, Syria, and the crowded waters of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to pursue their air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen despite international outrage over the world’s worst humanitarian disaster there. And Israel regularly conducts military strikes against Iranian arms shipments and infrastructure in Syria. In this volatile context, the scenarios for an intentional or inadvertent U.S.-Iran war are legion.
If Iran or its proxies respond to U.S. pressure in ways that draw American blood or deal a major blow to critical oil infrastructure in the region, things could quickly get out of hand.
All else being equal, Trump probably doesn’t want another U.S. war in the Middle East. But, if past is prologue, his gut instinct will be to respond (likely via Twitter) to any Iranian provocation with bellicose rhetoric that pours fuel on the fire. It is also easy to envision Iranian actions triggering intense political pressure from the president’s right-wing donors, congressional hawks, and regional allies—the same forces that pressed Trump to exit the Iran deal—for military action. And Trump is no longer surrounded by former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and other cooler heads. He is now enveloped by advisors like Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who have long called for war against Iran. Unlike in the latter years of the Obama administration, there are currently no high-level lines of communication between Washington and Tehran to manage a crisis. And hard-liners on all sides seem keen for a fight, looking for opportunities to escalate, rather than de-escalate, tensions.
Indeed, Trump’s advisors appear to be contemplating precisely this eventuality and its possible legal justifications. Last month, during a hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Rand Paul asked Pompeo whether the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda and its associated forces gave the Trump administration the authority to go to war with Iran. Pompeo refused to give a straight forward answer, but—in a dark echo of the lead-up to the Iraq War—said the Trump administration believes there is a connection between Iran and al Qaeda.
It's going to be a long summer, and a bloody one.