The Trump Doctrine In Action During The Campaign: Is There Any Agent Of Influence Donald Trump Jr Didn’t Meet With?

Apparently not! From The New York Times:

Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.

The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.

Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.

The company, which employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.

It is unclear whether such a proposal was executed, and the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute. But Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting, and after those initial offers of help, Mr. Nader was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser. At the time, Mr. Nader was also promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election. The interactions are a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, who was originally tasked with examining possible Trump campaign coordination with Russia in the election.

Mr. Nader is cooperating with the inquiry, and investigators have questioned numerous witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Tel Aviv and elsewhere about what foreign help may have been pledged or accepted, and about whether any such assistance was coordinated with Russia, according to witnesses and others with knowledge of the interviews.

The interviews, some in recent weeks, are further evidence that special counsel’s investigation remains in an intense phase even as Mr. Trump’s lawyers are publicly calling for Mr. Mueller to bring it to a close.

It is illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involved in American elections, and it is unclear what — if any — direct assistance Saudi Arabia and the Emirates may have provided. But two people familiar with the meetings said that Trump campaign officials did not appear bothered by the idea of cooperation with foreigners.

Zamel founded and runs Wikistrat*, as well as several other defense and intelligence sector companies. The one in question here is Psy-Group, whose website is basically a front page. Given that Zamel is an Israeli counter-terrorism specialist and employs former Israeli intelligence personnel, there is no way, shape, or form that he was involved with this without Netanyahu’s tacit approval. Erik Prince, of course, is now a wholly funded asset and subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China. And it appears that this most recent reporting is further proof that Prince lied in his testimony to Congress.

According to The New York Times reporting, Zamel is also tied to Oleg Deripaska, who was Paul Manafort’s sugar daddy for Manafort’s work on behalf of Putin’s Ukrainian catspaw Viktor Yanykovych. As well as Dmitry Ryobololev. Ryobololev bought the President’s previous south Florida mansion for a significant markup. But the key piece in all of this is George Nader, who we know has been cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller since late last year. Nader served as the middle man for this meeting, just as he did for Erik Prince’s Seychelles’ meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, who is a close associate of Putin’s. Nader is also the bridging node to Elliott Broidy, who like Michael Cohen, is one of the RNC’s Finance Chairs.

What we have here is the Trump Doctrine at work during the campaign. In this case the Saudis and Emiratis, in conjunction with an Israeli counterterrorism specialist who owns several defense and intelligence contracting companies that employ former Israeli intelligence personnel, offering to help the President’s campaign in order to ensure that he would win. And offering to do so in a way that seems very, very reminiscent of what Cambridge Analytica was supposedly doing for the campaign. The Saudis and Emiratis certainly had their own interests in making this offer; they were upset over the US led JCPOA agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But they also had other interests.

The Emirati crown prince, Muhammed bin Zayed (MBZ), has taken it upon himself to mentor both the Saudi crown prince, Muhammed bin Salman (MBS), and Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner. By treating the President fairly via his campaign, MBZ and MBS were setting the conditions to have their interests in the Middle East given priority should the President’s campaign prove successful, which it was. This is also what Prince and Zamel were hoping to get out of providing support.

Treating then candidate Trump fairly was intended to provide very lucrative opportunities for Muhammed bin Zayed, Muhammed bin Salman, Erik Prince, Josh Zamel, George Nader, and the latter three’s patrons should the campaign prove successful. This is just the latest reported example of the President’s campaign being open to and/or actively seeking foreign assistance during the campaign. We’re not talking about receiving a donation or two from someone who shouldn’t have, realizing it, coming clean in an FEC filing, and donating it to charity or returning the donation. We’re talking about actively seeking out or being actively receptive to receipt of foreign assistance in goods and services in order to advance the campaign. And remember, Nader has been cooperating with the Special Counsel’s Office since last year, so the Special Counsel and his staff know everything and have known it long before The New York Times broke the story this morning. And woven through all of this new reporting are Russians. You can’t diagram anyone in the President’s familial, business, or campaign orbit, as well as several in the administration, without quickly linking to an influential Russian oligarch tied to Vladimir Putin. That is NOT normal!

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

* Here’s Wikistrat’s subject matter experts. See anyone you know?

Der Spiegel’s Editors Have Sussed Out The Trump Doctrine

Der Spiegel’s editors have sussed out the Trump Doctrine. That the President expects that he, and as an extension of himself the US, will be treated “fairly or else”. From Der Spiegel’s Klaus Brinkbaumer:

The most shocking realization, however, is one that affects us directly: The West as we once knew it no longer exists. Our relationship to the United States cannot currently be called a friendship and can hardly be referred to as a partnership. President Trump has adopted a tone that ignores 70 years of trust. He wants punitive tariffs and demands obedience. It is no longer a question as to whether Germany and Europe will take part in foreign military interventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. It is now about whether trans-Atlantic cooperation on economic, foreign and security policy even exists anymore. The answer: No. It is impossible to overstate what Trump has dismantled in the last 16 months. Europe has lost its protective power. It has lost its guarantor of joint values. And it has lost the global political influence that it was only able to exert because the U.S. stood by its side. And what will happen in the remaining two-and-a-half years (or six-and-a-half years) of Trump’s leadership? There is plenty of time left for further escalation.

Every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., senior DER SPIEGEL editors gather to discuss the lead editorial of the week and ultimately, the meeting seeks to address the question: “What now?” Simply describing a problem isn’t enough, a good editorial should point to potential solutions. It has rarely been as quiet as during this week’s meeting.

Europe should begin preparing for a post-Trump America and seek to avoid provoking Washington until then. It can demonstrate to Iran that it wishes to hold on to the nuclear deal and it can encourage mid-sized companies without American clients to continue doing business with Iranian partners. Perhaps the EU will be able to find ways to protect larger companies. Europe should try to get the United Nations to take action, even if it would only be symbolic given that the U.S. holds a Security Council veto. For years, Europe has been talking about developing a forceful joint foreign policy, and it has become more necessary than ever. But what happens then?

The difficulty will be finding a balance between determination and tact. Triumphant anti-Americanism is just as dangerous as defiance. But subjugation doesn’t lead anywhere either – because Europe cannot support policies that it finds dangerous. Donald Trump also has nothing but disdain for weakness and doesn’t reward it.

Clever resistance is necessary, as sad and absurd as that may sound. Resistance against America.

Combine this with Chancellor Merkel’s recent statements,

as well her remarks which I wrote about here last May when describing how the President’s preferences had brought the American century to and end after 72 years.

The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days.

We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.

and you can begin to see that Chancellor Merkel has fully realized that the US is, at best, an unreliable ally for the foreseeable future.

The outstanding question right now is what is Chancellor Merkel actually going to do. Will she be able to pull in French President Macron and leverage the EU as a counterweight? Does she have the political will, let alone political capital, to increase Germany’s defense sector spending to compensate for the vacuum being created from the President’s longstanding hostilities to America’s allies and partners and his belief that they are taking advantage of us, ripping us off, and laughing at us. Does she have the political capital within the EU to be able to get France and other EU member states to also step up their defense sector spending? And can she do this without making it look like she’s doing it to both oppose the President who doesn’t actually want a strong, unified EU as a counterweight and seem like she’s leading the way to appease the President’s oft stated, but largely inaccurate statements about NATO member spending. Can this be done as Britain lurches its way through Brexit? And can it be done while Putin continues his active measures campaign and cyberwarfare against the US, the EU, and other states?

Chancellor Merkel and President Macron have their work cut out for them. They and their teams have to quickly figure out how to navigate a rebalancing of both the global system and the Western Alliance that has underpinned it since the end of World War II. There is no doubt that the global system needs to be reconceptualized. That is needs to be rebalanced. That the post World War II and post Cold War system are out of date. The complication here, what really makes it a wicked problem, is that because of who the President is and what he beliefs and what his preferences are, this reconceptualization and rebalancing is not being done in a thoughtful and proactive way. It does not include discussions between allies, partners, and even peer competitors to work out the most feasible, acceptable, and suitable – even if it is not the most optimal (perfect) – solution to reconceptualizing and rebalancing the global system to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Ordinarily everyone would expect the US to take a leading role in this process. Instead, because of the President’s preferences for bilateral relations and unilateral actions, the US has accelerated and precipitated the need for this process while abdicating its role within in it. America first increasingly looks like America alone. And America alone will be costly not just for Americans, but for the rest of the world as well. The price to be paid for Making America great again…

Open thread!

* One final point: I am actually working on, if by working on we mean trying to wrap my head around, a book on the Trump Doctrine. Which will likely be titled The Trump Doctrine. So if any of you who have written and published books have suggestions on how to get this thing published, feel free to shoot me an email. The longest thing I’ve written in over a decade of work for the military is the 60 page or so cultural assessment of the operational environment for the Levant plus Iran.

Kim Jung Un Uses The Trump Doctrine To His Own Advantage

Early this morning, three Korean Americans who were being held prisoner in the DPRK landed at Joint Base Andrews and were greeted by the President.

Stop for a second. Reread the remarks that Frank Luntz is highlighting:

“We want to thank Kim Jong Un,” Trump said after emerging from the medical plane that transported the three prisoners, which he and his wife had boarded to greet the men. “We very much appreciate that he allowed them to go before the meeting. He was nice in letting them go before the meeting … That was a big thing, very important to me.”

That these three men were freed is a great thing. Because he’s president, and as would be the case with anyone who was at a time like this, some of the accolades for their release will and should accrue to the President regardless of what anyone thinks of him. But focus on the President’s remarks here one more time (emphasis mine):

We want to thank Kim Jong Un,” Trump said after emerging from the medical plane that transported the three prisoners, which he and his wife had boarded to greet the men. “We very much appreciate that he allowed them to go before the meeting. He was nice in letting them go before the meeting … That was a big thing, very important to me.

It is unclear from these remarks if the President realizes that these men were scarfed up and imprisoned at a forced labor camp to be used as bargaining chits. The first during the Obama administration and the latter two in 2017 on this President’s watch. These remarks are divorced from the reality of the situation. They ignore why the men were taken, why it was unacceptable, and why describing their release like this just reinforces that Kim has learned to appear to treat the President, and by extension the US, “fairly” to get what he wants. And to avoid the “or else” of the Trump Doctrine. While you don’t want to create a new international incident at 2:00 AM EDT if you can avoid it, the President’s remarks about these men’s release seem to ignore the reality of the actual situation and are equivalent to praising that nice Ted Bundy because he wanted to make sure young women didn’t have to walk home alone!

What the President doesn’t seem to grasp with these men’s release, or if he does, what he doesn’t seem to be able to communicate, is that the US had already granted Kim Jung Un his most important concessions. By browbeating and threatening President Moon and the ROK over trade imbalances and the President’s belief that the South Koreans are ripping off the US through our strategic alliance with them, the President made it much easier for President Moon to move on his own policy preferences, which were to directly and bilaterally negotiate with Kim. This gave Kim his first victory via concession. The second was in agreeing to meet with Kim. Such a meeting, long sought by Kim, as well as Kim’s father and grandfather, should have been a carrot held out as a reward for making significant, concrete positive movements rather than as an impulsive give away. Kim has now gotten what he wanted. President Moon is negotiating with him directly. The President is praising him publicly, which further helps Kim get out from being considered an international pariah. And the President is going to meet with him on June 12th in Singapore, which gives Kim his biggest concession: elevating his and the DPRK’s status on the international stage.

Kim has figured out, as has President Moon of the ROK, that the Trump Doctrine can be used against the President and the US. He’s basically weaponized appearing to treat the President, and by extension the US, “fairly” to both get what he wants and to avoid the “or else”. As a result, in less than six months we went from this:

To this:

Once Kim got what he wanted, a status elevating meeting with the President, he no longer needed these prisoners as bargaining chits. What remains to be seen is whether come June, Kim continues to leverage the Trump Doctrine to get the better of the President.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

The Devolution Of A Superpower And The End Of The American Century Part III: It Appears The President Will Withdraw The US From The JCPOA

As we wait for the President’s public remarks regarding whether the US is going to pull out of the JCPOA, there are already leaks that the President has telegraphed what he is going to do. Specifically that the President has already notified President Macron of France and congressional leaders that the President has made the decision to pull out.

President Trump told President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday morning that he plans to announce the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

Mr. Trump’s decision unravels the signature foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, Barack Obama, isolating the United States among its allies and leaving it at even greater odds with its adversaries in dealing with the Iranians.

The United States is preparing to reinstate all sanctions it had waived as part of the nuclear accord — and impose additional economic penalties as well, the person said.

A second person familiar with negotiations to keep the 2015 accord in place said the talks collapsed over Mr. Trump’s insistence that sharp limits be kept on Iran’s nuclear fuel production after 2030. The deal currently lifts those limits.

Senior administration officials also have begun informing congressional leaders of the president’s intent to withdraw, according to a third person familiar with the discussions.

Unfortunately for the President, Iran has a plan.

From the al-Monitor:

During a speech May 7, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested that if the United States were to exit the comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, European countries could keep the deal alive.

“The people must be certain that we have taken into consideration various possible scenarios in dealing with the United States,” Rouhani said on the possibility of the United States exiting the nuclear deal on May 12. He added, “In this direction, what we want from the nuclear deal is either guaranteed from countries other than America, or if we see what we want out of the nuclear deal is not secured, we will follow our own path and plans.”

Rouhani said what Iran had sought in the nuclear deal was the “removal of oppressions such as sanctions.”

Regardless of what happens with the United States, Rouhani said that this will not be a “long-term” issue. He noted, “If America takes actions against its own commitments, world opinion and countries around the world — with the exception of a few — will know America to be at fault.” He added that this likely action by the United States will not be like previous eras in which the Security Council would support the United States as it had done previously through sanctions and other measures.

Iran’s stated strategy here is to continue to comply with the agreement, keeping it in place with the other signatories – China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany, and the European Union. By doing so Iran intends to isolate the US. As future IAEA reports of compliance are reported, and as Iran maintains the deal with the other signatories to mitigate the reimposition of US sanctions and the imposition of any new ones, Iran will have positioned itself as the good citizen of the global system and the US, under the current President, as the rogue nation.

One of the reasons that Iran is able to do this is because the US officially defines treaties differently than any other nation-state and international law. The US constitution defines a treaty very narrowly. As an agreement between the US and one or more other nation-states and/or non-state actors that is ratified by the US Senate. Every other nation-state and international law define a treaty as any agreement between one or more nation-states and/or non-state actors. From the perspective or Iran and the other signatories, this is a fully articulated treaty properly entered into. As we saw with Senator Cotton’s letter to Ayatullah Uzma Khameini, the US does not. As with everything else over the past forty years or so, treaties and other agreements negotiated by the US have been weaponized by the GOP caucus in the Senate. This is why we still don’t have a ratified Law of the Sea Treaty even though it was primarily negotiated by a Republican administration.

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA, despite the IAEA certifying Iran’s ongoing compliance because the President and his enablers don’t understand the agreement and how it works or because they’d rather go their own way and threaten military attacks and war, is another example of the devolution of the US from a superpower, the diminution of its power and influence within the international system, and the end of the American century. Here America First clearly means America alone. Which makes sense given the President’s longstanding belief that US alliances and partnerships only leave the US weaker because our allies and partners use these alliances and partnerships to rip the US off.

Despite the President’s zero sum, hyperbolic style of negotiation, the Trump Doctrine isn’t in play with the Iranians. They don’t care if the President feels as if he, and by extension the US, is being treated “fairly”. They’re not going to invite him for a summit, roll out the red carpet, and schedule a military review for his edification. They’re also not going to empower someone close to the government to do business with his companies. And they don’t care about the “or else”. The Iranians are not concerned with a reimposition of US sanctions because they’ve decided that if they stay in compliance with the JCPOA that France, Germany, the EU, China, and their strategic partner in the region Russia will not reimpose their own sanctions or go along with reimposed US sanctions. Moreover, because the leadership of our British, French, and German allies personally intervened to ask the President to stay in the JCPOA and he disregarded their entreaties, he has further isolated the US from its traditional allies. Chess was invented in India. Its name is an anglicization of the Persian word shah or king and the Iranians have been playing the game for thousands of years. They know and understand the game better than almost anyone and have maneuvered the pieces on this game board to isolate the American king. Just think of the cost for the President ordering the US withdrawal of the JCPOA as the price required to Make America great again.

Here’s the live feed for the President’s remarks about the JCPOA:

Stay frosty!

Open thread

War With Iran: A Campaign Of Catastrophe

Cheryl has been covering the bad faith and disingenuousness of the JCPOA critics and their bad faith arguments against the agreement. I want to focus on the actual strategic issue of what war with Iran would actually entail given the people that are advocating against the JCPOA seem to think that a military solution would bring about a better resolution.

Strategic air strikes won’t achieve our objectives.

Let’s look at three maps. The first details Iran’s nuclear sites:

(Map 1: Iranian Nuclear Sites)

Map 2 is of Iran’s military bases:

(Map 2: Iranian Military Bases as of 2002)

The third map is of Iran’s population centers and population density.

(Map 3: Iranian Population Centers with Population Density)

The Iranians aren’t stupid. All of their nuclear research sites, nuclear energy sites, labs, military bases, etc are either built near heritage sites, near cities and towns, and/or close enough to the borders and the ground and sea lines of commerce and communication (GLOCCs and SLOCCs), that attempting to blow them up will cause not just significant collateral damage, but that damage will include damage to heritage sites (a war crime), as well as potentially release enough toxic material that will necessitate undertaking an immediate humanitarian assistance, disaster management and mitigation, and emergency response mission alongside offensive military operations. Iran’s placement of their nuclear sites and military bases complicates use of strategic air strikes. Moreover, these sites are hardened, meaning that Landpower will have to be used to actually go in and finish the job after the initial air campaign is concluded.

The Iranians will pursue an asymmetric, irregular, and unconventional warfare strategy against the US.

The Iranians have the ability to close the Shat al Arab waterway  and the Straits of Hormuz in order to spike global petroleum prices. They also have the ability to sink a US aircraft carrierSuch actions would be part of the overall Iranian strategy to fight the US on an asymmetric, irregular, and unconventional warfare strategy. If they do this, it will spike global oil prices and crash the economy, which would itself be part of the asymmetric and irregular strategy.

This strategy goes beyond asymmetric naval warfare. Iranians are incredibly patriotic. Even a majority of those unhappy with the current government and who would like to see some changes. The minute we attack, those folks are going to rally to the national cause and defense. As such the Iranians allowed their war planning to leak back in the mid aughts when they were worried that the US would use Iraq as a launching pad to attack Iran. The planning basically called for emptying all the population centers, moving everyone into the mountains, and creating civilian cadres assigned to military units to conduct asymmetric and irregular warfare against the American invaders. The Iranians have specifically developed a layered or mosaic defense.

In 2005, the IRGC announced that it was incorporating a flexible, layered defense —referred to as a mosaic defense—into its doctrine. The lead author of this plan was General Mohammad Jafari, then director of the IRGC’s Center for Strategy, who was later appointed commander of the IRGC.

As part of the mosaic defense, the IRGC has restructured its command and control architecture into a system of 31 separate commands—one for the city of Tehran and 30 for each of Iran’s provinces. The primary goal of restructuring has been to strengthen unit cohesion at the local level and give commanders more latitude to respond to potential threats—both foreign and domestic. But the new structure would also make it difficult for hostile forces to degrade Iranian command and control, a lesson the Iranian military has learned by analyzing U.S. operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.

The mosaic defense plan allows Iran to take advantage of its strategic depth and formidable geography to mount an insurgency against invading forces. Most of Iran’s population centers and major lines of communication are spread out within the interior of the country. Iran’s borders are ringed by rugged mountain ranges that serve as natural barriers to invasion. As enemy supply lines stretched into Iran’s interior, they would be vulnerable to interdiction by special stay-behind cells, which the IRGC has formed to harass enemy rear operations.

The Artesh, a mix of armored, infantry and mechanized units, would constitute Iran’s initial line of defense against invading forces. IRGC troops would support this effort, but they would also form the core of popular resistance, the bulk of which would be supplied by the Basij, the IRGC’s paramilitary volunteer force. The IRGC has developed a wartime mobilization plan for the Basij, called the Mo’in Plan, according to which Basij personnel would augment regular IRGC units in an invasion scenario.

IRGC and Basij exercises have featured simulated ambushes on enemy armored columns and helicopters. Much of this training has been conducted in an urban environment, suggesting that Iran intends to lure enemy forces into cities where they would be deprived of mobility and close air support. Iran has emphasized passive defense measures—techniques used to enhance the battlefield survivability —including camouflage, concealment and deception.

This strategy is one of attrition. Leveraging the human geography of Iran – Iran’s people, places, and things – to bog the US military down and inflict such high casualties as quickly as possible in order to destroy support for the war in the US and severely damage the morale of the troops fighting it on the ground. Basically the Iranians, who invented the game of chess, have opted to prepare to play go and to play it for massive psychological effects against the US.  This means the US would be fighting a war among the people. Something we are particularly bad at. Those US military units that are actually good at it, do not have enough personnel to actually conduct this type of campaign at the national level.

The US military has a readiness problem!

As GEN Thomas, the SOCOM Commander testified to Congress back in May 2017:

The head of U.S. Special Forces told Congress Thursday that constant deployments and unrealistic mission expectations were taking a major toll on his troops.

 Army General Raymond Thomas, top commander of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), testified before the Senate Armed Service Committee, saying his elite forces had been engaged in “continuous combat over the past 15 and half years.”

During Thursday’s testimony, Thomas also criticized “media circles” for promoting the idea that Special Forces could solve any issue around the world. Special Forces, about 8,000 of which are currently active in an estimated 80 nations, are not a “panacea” to remedy all global conflicts, he argued.

We don’t have enough of the specialized personnel to cover down on all of SOCOM’s missions right now, we certainly don’t have enough of them to fight an asymmetric, irregular, and unconventional war against Iran. Not only that, but US conventional forces are also overstretched and barely able to conduct the missions they already have.

The US Air Force, as well as US Navy aviators, have been in almost constant combat operations since Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. As Lt. Gen. (ret) David Deptula, the Dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies has stated:

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has been at war not just since 9/11, but since 1991.  After 25 years of continuous combat operations, coupled with budget instability and lower-than-planned top lines, have made the USAF the oldest, smallest, and least ready it has ever been in its history. The average USAF aircraft age is 27 years—the youngest B-52 is over 50 years old. Going into Operation Desert Storm, the USAF had over 530,000 active duty personnel, today that number is 320,000—40 percent less, and the USAF has almost 60 percent fewer combat fighter squadrons today (55) than it did during the first Gulf War in 1991 (134).  Today, over 50 percent of USAF forces are not sufficiently ready for a high-end fight against near-peer capabilities posed by China or Russia.

LTG Deptula’s analysis can be seen in the increase in crashes, like the one last week, of US military aircraft.

In March of 2017, the US Army notified Congress, through the official testimony of three 3 star general officers, that it was also faces a conventional force readiness problem. We now know this is even worse than we thought as the Army is way off – by 12,000 recruits – its recruiting targets to this point in 2018.

The Trump Doctrine and a campaign of maximum pressure will not work with Iran.

The Iranians do not actually care if they treat the President fairly or else. They’re not interested in currying favor with him personally, with his family and associates in regard to business, nor with the United States. That isn’t to say that they want a direct confrontation. Rather, unlike Kim in the DPRK, they aren’t seeking a summit to elevate their status in the international system or as a way to get out from under crippling sanctions. Iran has survived under such sanctions since the early 80s. Any attempts by the President and his surrogates to try to replicate what they think was a successful strategy against the DPRK that brought Kim to the table, will not work with Iran. Moreover, the Iranians know that two of the President’s most prominent surrogates in regard to Iran – his National Security Advisor Ambassador Bolton and his personal attorney Mayor Giuliani – are actually paid surrogates for the Mujahedin e Khalq (MEK), which is a quasi-religious/quasi-political cult that was on the US’s terrorist list until a few years ago and not thought highly of in Iran. This reduces two of the President’s key surrogates on this issue effectiveness within the region. The President’s approach to applying maximum pressure, including weaponizing twitter through the use of incendiary and insulting tweets, is the wrong strategy to achieve results with Iran. It is not clear if it was even a major factor, despite administration assertions, in Kim’s decision making. Even if it becomes clear that the maximum pressure campaign was a major contributing factor in Kim’s decision making, Ayutalluh Uzma Khameini is not Kim Jong Un and Iran is not the DPRK.

War with Iran would be so catastrophic to the US it shouldn’t even be contemplated. The actual physical terrain, as well as the human geography, is disadvantageous to the US. ISIS is not done and has either dug into its remaining strongholds in Iraq and Syria or reconstituted itself as a purely guerrilla force. Arguably the region’s best strategist is MG Suleimani, the Quds Force Commander, who turned around Assad’s flailing military campaign in the Syrian Civil War. Given Iran’s asymmetric, irregular, and unconventional war planning, if the US attacks Iran it will be like placing one’s hand in a wood chipper and pulling out a stump.

Open thread.

(I previously wrote about this issue here).