Included in The New York Times’ coverage of Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s firing on Monday was this notable and alarming bit of speculation:
Defense Department officials have privately expressed worries that the president might initiate operations, whether overt or secret, against Iran or other adversaries during his last days in office.
Do the remaining couple months of Trump’s presidency represent an opportunity to initiate war with Iran, especially among administration hawks like Pompeo?
Axios is reporting that the White House plans to slap new sanctions on Iran every week until the inauguration on January 20 in a “flood” of punitive actions making it ever harder for a future Biden administration to restore US participation in the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA).
Here’s more from the Times on Esper’s downfall after a rocky relationship with Trump:
“In my experience, there would only be a few reasons to fire a secretary of defense with 72 days left in an administration,” Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan and a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration, said in a statement.
“One would be incompetence or wrongdoing, which do not seem to be the issue with Secretary Esper,” she said. “A second would be vindictiveness, which would be an irresponsible way to treat our national security. A third would be because the president wants to take actions that he believes his secretary of defense would refuse to take, which would be alarming. Whatever the reason, casting aside a secretary of defense during the volatile days of transition seems to neglect the president’s most important duty: to protect our national security.”
“Defense Department officials have privately expressed worries that the president might initiate operations, whether overt or secret, against Iran or other adversaries in his waning days in office.” https://t.co/57QXzLZlb4
Like I said 👇🏽 https://t.co/q1VdO3cuNM
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) November 9, 2020
A main criticism of the administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which reached a peak last January with the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani – which Iran considered to have diplomatic protections – is that it has taken tensions to the max, even to a war-footing at times, yet seemingly with no off-ramp.
While Trump held out hope for a new, better deal following the US exit from the JCPOA in May 2018, this was something Iran has repeatedly vowed it would never so much as entertain.