Media Analysis

Will Trump attack Iran to restore his popularity? (and will the mainstream media let him get away with it?)

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A desperate Donald Trump, sinking in the opinion polls, might try anything to claw his way back into contention — including a military attack on Iran. This is the potential 2020 version of the October Surprise. And the U.S. mainstream press could help him get away with it, partly because it ignores or covers up Israel’s ongoing aim to instigate the U.S. against Tehran.

There was an alarming sign the other day: an irresponsible column in the Washington Post by Jackson Diehl, the paper’s deputy editorial page editor, that warned Iran is in a “belligerent mood” and might attack the U.S. before the November election. Diehl says Tehran would have “nothing to lose” by such an attack. 

The incompetence in this prediction is breathtaking, (although less surprising once you remember that Diehl was an enthusiastic supporter of the disastrous 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq). Iran’s rulers have not maintained themselves in power for decades by being stupid. Ayatollah Khamenei can see that Trump’s support is sinking. He knows that Joe Biden, the likely next president, supported the Iran nuclear deal and is less hostile toward Tehran. Why would Iran risk giving Trump an excuse to attack, and revive his popularity?

Diehl’s single source for his warning is the controversial Reuel Marc Gerecht, who works at the “Foundation for Defense of Democracies,” a Washington think tank. The FDD is a notorious tool of the right-wing branch of the Israel lobby, funded by super wealthy pro-Israel donors, which has been instigating the U.S. to attack Iran for many years. Diehl surely knows this, yet he does not mention Israel in his article one single time. (Gerecht also vigorously endorsed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.)

There was another dangerous sign: a Fox “News” report yesterday from Israel by Trey Yingst that asserted Iran is “getting close to nuclear weapon capability.” In an echo of the threats we have heard for many years, Yingst quoted an Israeli expert who said, “Israel will be in the same dilemma it was a few years ago — between an [Iranian] bomb and bombing Iran.” This warning, a gross distortion of the facts about Iran’s nuclear program, will surely be repeated in the months leading up to November.

Unfortunately, Trump and his ally Benjamin Netanyahu have good reason to believe they might confuse the U.S. mainstream media enough to minimize criticism if they do violently provoke Iran. It is only 5 months since Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad’s airport, and the American press mostly acquiesced, even widely using the dishonest euphemism “took him out” instead of the more accurate “killed.”

So, here’s the Trump/Netanyahu playbook:

  • Increase the drumbeat of dishonest warnings about Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Goad Iran wherever possible, using U.S. military forces across the Mideast, or covert sabotage operations, whether Israeli or American.
  • Hope Iran is provoked into overtly hitting back.
  • Watch as the U.S. mainstream press for the most part accepts Iranian guilt, (and ignores Israel’s instigation). 
  • Hope that Trump’s popularity starts to rise, as misinformed Americans rally around the flag. 

Who in the mainstream media will stand in their way?

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“Breathtaking incompetence” is an apt assessment of Jackson Diehl’s contention that Iran “has nothing to lose” if it attacks. We need to remember that Iran opposed the idiotic US invasion of Iraq, on religious grounds, even though Iran was well aware the foolish American war would benefit Iran.

I don’t see how started any war, any where, can possibly increase a person’s popularity. But then…in today’s world anything is possible.