Thursday, February 2, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He had some difficulty articulating his administration's Iran policy.

Yesterday, Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn said that Iran was being "officially put on notice" for ballistic missile tests and its support for rebel groups looking to overthrow the government of Yemen. Pressed for clarification today, White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed the "on notice" language but refused to say what it meant. Spicer also seemed to suggest that Iran had attacked a US Navy vessel, which would have been an act of war, before being corrected by a reporter.

Trump himself confirmed in a tweet that Iran had been "PUT ON NOTICE," then claimed that the country would have collapsed but for a "life-line" in the form of $150 billion given to them through the six-party nuclear nonproliferation deal signed last year. Neither the number, nor the suggestion that Iran was about to "collapse,"  nor the implication that the United States paid any money to Iran are correct, although it is not at all clear that Trump personally understands this.

Why should anyone care about this?

  • A president needs to understand the basic facts of treaties affecting nuclear proliferation, even if he wouldn't have signed them himself.
  • If a White House press secretary briefs reporters on an act of war against the United States that never happened, either he is grossly incompetent or someone else in the administration is.
  • It is very bad if a president is more willing to issue specific threats to allied countries than to hostile ones.