Netanyahu Is Playing Trump Like a Fiddle

One year ago last Wednesday, Trump announced that the U.S. would pull out of the multilateral Iran nuclear agreement and reimpose sanctions on that country. Over the last few weeks, tensions between the two countries have escalated to a dangerous level. Here is a timeline of events:

April 8th – The Trump administration labeled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, marking the first time the U.S. has applied that designation to part of a foreign government.

May 5th – Citing intelligence indicating that Iran had crafted plans to use proxies to strike U.S. forces, both off the coast of Yemen and stationed in Iraq, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the U.S. had sent an aircraft carrier and bombers to the region to deter an assault.

May 8th – Iran’s president announced that increased uranium enrichment would begin in 60 days if world powers don’t shield it from U.S. sanctions, under the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

May 8th – Trump announced that he authorized new sanctions against Iran, targeting the iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors of the country’s economy.

May 9th – Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan to Trump’s top national security aides that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons. The number of troops discussed would approach the size of the American force that invaded Iraq in 2003.

May 10th – The Pentagon announced that it will deploy a Patriot antimissile battery to the Middle East to shore up defenses against Iranian threats.

May 13th – Saudi Arabia, a Norwegian company, and the United Arab Emirates all reported that oil vessels were attacked at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

As you can see, things have escalated pretty quickly over the last two weeks. It is important to keep in mind that most of the recent events happened on the heels of the intelligence reports about Iran planning to target U.S. forces in Yemen and Iraq. Betsy Woodruff and Adam Rawnsley have written that multiple sources told them that the administration blew those intelligence reports out of proportion, characterizing the threat as more significant than it actually was.

But Barak Ravid reports that it was not U.S. intelligence services that issued the warning.

Bolton’s unusual and aggressive statement [on May 5th] included news that the U.S. would move an aircraft carrier to the region. The officials said intelligence gathered by Israel, primarily by the Mossad intelligence agency, is understood to be part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement.

In other words, the Trump administration is escalating tensions with Iran based on intelligence reports from Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have us believe that this isn’t the first time he has been responsible for the actions of the Trump administration.

In a video clip aired Tuesday by Israeli television, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that Israel was responsible for US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

In the video, which the Kan public broadcaster said was filmed two weeks ago, Netanyahu can be seen speaking to activists and senior members from his Likud party.

“We convinced the US president [to exit the deal] and I had to stand up against the whole world and come out against this agreement,” Netanyahu says in the video. “And we didn’t give up.”

In the most telling part of the exchange captured on video, Netanyahu reveals his real motives.

The prime minister then begins to speak about the Iranian regime — “not the Iranian people, I have nothing against them” — before he is interrupted by an unidentified person off-screen who says, “It will disappear with the help of God.”

“You said it. From your mouth to God,” Netanyahu says in response as the clip ends.

Netanyahu opposed the Iran nuclear agreement because his ultimate goal is regime change, which is only likely via war. With the assistance of Trump’s national security advisor, he is playing this president like a fiddle in order to reach that goal.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.