Feb 15, 2017
The departure of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn removes one of the most bellicose opponents of Iran from President Trump’s cabinet. Another one, retired General James Mattis, remains firmly ensconced as Secretary of Defense, and he is joined by Chief White House Strategist Stephen Bannon, who is perhaps the president’s closest confidante. President Trump himself has repeatedly said that he favors a more confrontational posture toward Tehran. He has also repeatedly promised to crush ISIS. Veteran foreign affairs correspondent Patrick Cockburn says that those objectives may prove to be irreconcilable.
Mattis and the now-departed Flynn have been guilty of “threat inflation when it comes to Iran, though without providing any evidence for its terrorist actions, just as their [Bush-era] predecessors inflated the threat supposedly posed by Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMD and fictional support for al-Qaeda,” writes Cockburn. “This is all good news for ISIS, though it has so many enemies committed to its defeat that a switch in US policy may be too late to do it a lot of good,” continues Cockburn. “But its main enemies on the ground are the Iraqi and Syrian armies, whose governments are backed by Iran, and the Syrian Kurds who fear that the US may soon give them less support in order to appease Turkey.”
Over the next year or two, “when previous policies conceived under Obama have run their course, Trump may well feel that he has to show how much tougher and more effective he is than his predecessor,” which may result in military action against Iran, Cockburn predicts. This would be a great boon to ISIS, assuming the group can survive until then.