Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani: Trump lawyer, former NYC mayor, serial repeater of 9-11, and long-time supporter of Mojahedin-e Khalq-e Iran (MEK), a cult-like militant group that advocates the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran and was long classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. A foreign policy hawk who has been a major Trump backer, Giuliani’s recent appointment to Trump’s outside legal team quickly led to controversy as he repeatedly made ill-advised public statements about payments Trump allegedly made to keep a sexual affair quiet and called for regime change in Iran. But Giuliani is legendary for going off half cocked, like accusing President Barack Obama of having “founded ISIS.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is a prominent Republican Party figure and a darling of neoconservatives whose militaristic views on foreign policy have helped him gain popularity across the political right. A leading hawk on Iran and a reliable pro-Likud voice in the Senate, Cotton was known for his efforts to push the United States into violating international law by reneging on its commitments under the Iran nuclear agreement. Karl Rove has said of Cotton, “He’s a rising star. He’s capable of building bridges within the Party.” And Steve Bannon: “How many guys in town can give a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations and also get kudos in the pages of Breitbart? The answer is, one guy.”
Lewis “Scooter” Libby is the senior vice president of the neoconservative think tank, the Hudson Institute. The chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby was convicted on a number of counts related to the revelation of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity in 2007 as part of the campaign to undermine opponents of the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq. George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence and President Donald Trump recently pardoned him in a symbolic gesture widely interpreted as a sign that Trump would wield the pardon pen to protect his associates.
Donald Trump campaigned on getting the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear agreement. He has now fulfilled that promise, heedless of the dramatic consequences this may have on the Middle East. Trump’s policies and decisions have also raised tensions across other parts of the world, from Asia to Europe to the Americas, and his tenure has been marked by questions about collusion with Russia during his election campaign and weakening relations with key allies. While he has lauded his rapprochement with North Korea, in fact it was Trump’s aggression that prompted Pyongyang to rapidly build up its nuclear weapons capabilities, and then call for a summit meeting, which the ruling dynasty had sought for decades.
Mira Ricardel is deputy national security adviser under John Bolton. She is a well-known foreign policy hawk and has served in key positions in the administration of George W. Bush. For a decade prior to joining the Trump transition team, she worked for Boeing, marketing advanced weapons and defense systems. During her time with the Trump transition team, she clashed with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis over appointees she deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump. One conservative observer said of her, “It’s clear Trump wants foreign policy decision-making to move at a faster pace than it did in the first year. Bolton wants to drive the process and Ricardel is a driver, she is not a ditherer. And that’s what the president wants.”
Shmuley Boteach, controversial rabbi and close ally of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, is known for his eccentric and aggressive “pro-Israel” advocacy. He rose to prominence through his association with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and serving as a “spiritual adviser” to Michael Jackson. He has remained in the spotlight by loudly criticizing public figures, including supporters of the Palestinian cause. While he is quick to attack others as “hypocritical,” Boteach often appears to be hypocritical in his own advocacy. Ignoring Adelson’s deep relationship with China, for example, Boteach recently attacked Israeli-American celebrity Natalie Portman for avoiding an Israeli prize ceremony and attending an award ceremony in China: “What would lead Natalie to embrace some of the world’s most authoritarian offenders [China] and ignore state-sponsored censorship while announcing a boycott of democratic Israel on its 70th birthday?”
Gina Haspel, Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA, gained national attention because of accusations that she oversaw the torture of prisoners in clandestine CIA sites in 2002 and later destroyed video evidence of that torture. Reports the AP from Senate hearings: “With few details about Gina Haspel’s undercover career, debate over President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA descended into verbal spatting between those who praise her experience and others who want her disqualified because of her role in the spy agency’s harsh interrogation of terror subjects after 9/11.”
Significant numbers of military combat operations across the globe are being outsourced to the private sector with little accountability, including in Syria where both Russia and the United States have put contractors to war.
Among the many disturbing images from the ceremony redesignating a U.S. consulate building in Jerusalem as the new U.S. embassy was the participation of two bigoted American preachers, Robert Jeffress and John Hagee, which reveals just how far removed the issue has become from any presumed effort to provide succor or shelter to a historically persecuted religious minority. Only dogma and raw power remain.
The costs of America’s “war on terror,” still spreading in the Trump era, are incalculable. Just look at photos of the cities of Ramadi or Mosul in Iraq, Raqqa or Aleppo in Syria, Sirte in Libya, or Marawi in the southern Philippines, all in ruins in the wake of the conflicts Washington set off in the post–9/11 years, and try to put a price on them. That number is not included in the $5.6 trillion that the “Costs of War Project” at Brown University’s Watson Institute estimates has been spent since September 12, 2001.
Given the chaotic policymaking process in the White House, Iran policy will likely be implemented in an ad hoc fashion subject to the interplay between President Trump’s continued incoherence and a drive toward confrontation pushed primarily by John Bolton.
Lobelog President Trump’s decision to violate and withdraw from the Iran anti-nuclear deal is one of the most dangerous foreign policy blunders in recent memory, setting the stage for a war that one analyst has noted could “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.” The decision to go…