Trump, Putin & Khamenei Set up Confused Policies for Mutual Deception
How to pin down Donald Trump’s policy towards Vladimir Putin? Is it defined by his approval of US-Russian cooperation in establishing de-escalation zones in Syria? Or by the sanctions he signed reluctantly this week?
Or even by the message carried by Vice President Mike Pence to the Baltic States?
Pence said in Tallinn, Estonia on July 30: “Our message to the Baltic states, my message when we visit Georgia and Montenegro will be the same: to our allies in Eastern Europe, we are with you, we stand with you on behalf of freedom.”
Equally inconsistent – on the face of it – is Trump’s attitude towards Iran. On the one hand, he shows every intention of cracking down hard on the Islamic Republic (see separate article in this issue), while on the other, he suddenly fired Derek Harvey, one of his top Middle East advisers, from the National Security Council on July 27. Harvey, a leading proponent of strong action against Iran in the Middle East and the Gulf was replaced by Army Colonel (ret.) Michael Bell.
Putin’s messages appear no less erratic.
Does he really seek cooperation with the Trump administration in the Middle East, or in Europe, or the Far East, especially in the case of North Korean belligerence? Or has he lost patience with Trump and means what he said on July 30: “We’ve been waiting for quite a long time that maybe something would change for the better, we had hopes that the situation would change. But it looks like its not going to change in the near future… I decided that it is time for us to show that we ill not leave anything unanswered.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 2, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev put the boot in when he said Moscow has given up hope of improving ties with the Trump administration following the imposition of new US sanctions and accused the White House of declaring a trade war
In Syria, is the Kremlin playing ball with Iran behind American backs, as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel contend? Or is Moscow two-timing Tehran by gathering in the Shiite militias imported by Iran to fight for Bashar Assad into a kind of Syria Spetsnaz, or Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps for curbing Iranian expansion? (See a separate article on this scheme)
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources offer some explanation for these apparently tangled policy webs.
Trump and Putin are deliberately weaving back and forth as a smart device to conceal their real game, which is to hoodwink and disarm their rivals.
In the wings, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is trying to play one against the other. But he was badly worsted by a fairly obscure, though astonishing, development picked up by Middle East intelligence agencies.
On Tuesday, Aug. 2, the powerful Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, the notorious radical cleric who led Iraq’s Shiites in violent opposition to US forces in Iraq in the last decade, announced he had returned from Saudi Arabia with “results.”
What was this radical Shiite doing in Sunni Saudi Arabia of all places?
It turns out that he was invited to Riyadh for an official visit and spent three days in talks with top level Saudi leaders, including the strongman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On returning to Baghdad, Sadr announced that his visit had yielded a number of results, including the Saudi government’s willingness to appoint a new ambassador to Iraq and promote bilateral trade.
Our American and Saudi intelligence sources reveal that the Trump administration and the Saudi throne had orchestrated the Sadr visit and view it as a major breakthrough for the US-Sunni alignment fashioned by President Trump and Saudi King Salman last April.
Why did they choose the most radical Shiite in Iraq for their purpose? The answer is that this firebrand cleric has meanwhile matured into the most powerful Shiite leader in Iraq. He heads a political party, the Sadrist Movement, and the largest Shiite militia in the country, the Mahdi Army, which once led the resistance to the American army.
Without his say-so, no power, including Iran, can aspire to any position of influence with the Iraq’s Shiite majority, or, by the same token, in Baghdad.
Therefore, by winning Moqtada Sadr over to US-Saudi plans for Iraq, Washington and Riyadh have dealt both Tehran and Moscow a major setback on two scores:
1. Iran has for years invested heavily in Syria in the hope of gaining an open land bridge through Iraq to Syria.. This goal was contingent on Iran’s military control of parts of the Syrian-Iraqi border, a battle to which Hizballah was harnessed in the past two weeks. Now, with their objective within their grasp, the Iranians discovered that the Americans had penetrated the very heart of the Shiite leadership in Iraq, and pulled the Iraqi carpet from under their feet. Without a controlling interest in Baghdad, Tehran can forget about its land bridge.
2. The Russians had hoped to ride in on Iran’s back to military domination of Syria and influence in Baghdad. That hope was dashed when Tehran lost Sadr as its key ally.
As for Moscow’s game with the Trump administration, their joint de-escalation zones are continuing to take shape, which means that their cooperation is prospering for the moment. However, although the Americans promised to cut off US funds and arms to allied anti-Assad Syrian rebels through their clandestine training program, DEBKA Weekly has discovered that this assistance is being secretly rechanneled through back routes from the US Army’s Central Command (CENTCOM).