Bob Franken


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He actually said it! While talking to reporters on his way to Camp David, he used the phrase “Make Iran Great Again”! Does this mean that President Donald Trump has ordered that Iran will join America in the Greatness Club? “MIGA” as opposed to “MAGA”? Of course, Trump insists that since he’s taken over, he’s already accomplished that for America. Could it be he’s branching out and that it’s Iran’s turn? Will there be new baseball caps with the slogan embroidered in Farsi? What will we do about the fact that Iranians call the United States “The Great Satan”?
But Trump said it, so he obviously meant it, like everything else. Perhaps it’s just another step in the wake of his decision not to respond with an attack against Iran after that country’s military shot down a U.S. drone. His determination, said Trump, was made just moments before a retaliation was launched and just after he had learned that the missiles would kill up to 150 Iranians,. That led Trump to decide on the spur of the moment the return operation wasn’t “proportionate.” Whether you entirely believe his version of events — and there’s every reason not to — or even feel it was highly embellished, it doesn’t matter. It was certainly a smart move. Did I mention that the drone was unmanned? It turns out that Iran had avoided another U.S. surveillance aircraft with about 35 living human beings aboard, so a fiery rain of death from the skies would be overkill, to say the least.

Instead, we are now being told that our armed forces dweeb battalion responded with a crippling cyberattack on Iranian military computers. That was followed up with more severe economic sanctions leveled against an Iranian society that was already devastated by the ones in place. Still better than a fiery, deadly escalation.
But since when was such nuanced thinking the way Trump operated? Had sanity snuck into the White House asylum for one brief moment? Will that sanity be quickly sanitized once the warmongers in the administration contrive another crisis? All Donald Trump would really like to do is talk with the Iranian leadership and create a new nuclear deal with them after the United States pulled out of the last agreement following years of bargaining involving this country, Iran, the European Union, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany. When Trump opted out, it left the other parties in the lurch — certainly Iran, which has now pledged to start enriching uranium back on the way to creating a nuclear weapon. Avoiding that was the entire point of years’ worth of tedious talks.
The Trump administration has tightened the vise on Iran’s economy with increased sanctions, which has so infuriated Tehran’s leaders that they publicly rebuffed any idea of sitting down with Trump. They also deny that there are any sort of back-channel, secret discussions underway. That is certainly not true. The Trumpsters are not the only ones who lie through their teeth. There are always back-channel discussions, even though the two countries have no diplomatic relations, not since militant students, loyal to the new government of mullahs, overran the U.S. Embassy and took hostages in 1979. Still, each side takes care of business through so-called interest sections. In Tehran, the Swiss government maintains a United States presence; in Washington, Pakistan oversees Iran’s office. Certainly, officials there can serve as conduits — not even “back-channeling,” more like “front-channeling.” Other countries, like Oman, serve as venues for the more surreptitious exchanges. They always deny it, but that’s the necessary deception of diplomacy, aka lying. But hey, it gets the job done sometimes.
Both sides agree that they don’t want a full-blown war, although they also agree that no option is off the dreaded “table.” All this means that the situation is volatile. Remarkably, it was Donald Trump, or his peeps, who seemed to have lowered the temperature. But don’t order up any “Make Iran Great Again” hats yet. Too much can go wrong.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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