Non-interventionist Trump allies are cheering President Trump’s Thursday night decision to buck his most senior advisers and abandon an airstrike on Iran, saying the decision could help him win reelection while preventing a major regional war.
The Washington Examiner reports,
Trump canceled the bombing of Iran after authorizing it, saying via Twitter he learned 150 Iranians might die, and that it would not be proportional to the loss of one U.S. drone.
National security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly favored the attack, after issuing aggressive recent statements on Iran.
“He doesn’t trust them. He felt that they were cornering him into something he did not want to do,” said a former White House official whose work included foreign policy, adding he believes Trump weighed the effects of an attack on his reelection in deciding against it.
Cliff Sims, the former White House communications aide who documented West Wing intrigues in his book Team of Vipers, said Trump notably stuck to his campaign trail aversion to Mideast wars.
“Trump’s gut instincts on foreign policy are spot on. It takes a lot of backbone to remain clear-eyed when the foreign policy establishment, even inside his own White House, starts banging the drums of war,” Sims said. “He showed real strength by refusing to buckle to pressure to immediately strike Iran.”
Another former White House official, who is closely linked to Trump’s “America First”-branded non-interventionism, compared Trump favorably to former President Barack Obama.
“Unlike Obama, who ultimately caved to pressure from the generals and launched a disastrous intervention in Libya, it was heartening to see the president stand up to Bolton and say no to a foolish war with Iran,” the former aide said. “Had he listened to Bolton and the rest of the hawks in the administration, it not only would have been disastrous policywise, it would have destroyed his chances of being reelected in 2020. He was elected to end wars, not start them.”
Fernando Cutz, a former White House National Security Council official who worked under both Trump and Obama, said Trump proved himself to be a counterweight to hawks, as advisers pulled for conflict.
“The president seems to be serving as a moderating force on his more hawkish and trigger-ready advisers, particularly John Bolton,” Cutz said. “The president is rightfully not wanting to get us into an unnecessary war. There needs to be an effort by both sides to deescalate the rapidly rising tensions, including a good-faith effort by those working for the president.”
Trump is nearly alone inside the West Wing as the voice for military restraint following a phaseout of grassroots backers, many former White House aides say, leaving the often mercurial president with in-house advisers pushing in one direction.
Praise for Trump’s restraint came from across the political aisle, too. Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who gave 150 House floor speeches against attacking Iran, said it was “a very good thing,” as a strike could have unleashed a major war.
“The Strangelovian characters surrounding the president need to be treated in the same manner as Donald Trump dealt with errant apprentices on his TV show. Donald Trump was elected, among other reasons, because people were fed up with wars,” Kucinich said. “The same deep state actors who have tried to put him out of office will succeed if they get him into war with Iran.”
Though widely hailed as a defeat for Bolton’s long-standing and open push for regime change in Iran, one Trump White House veteran said they felt Bolton is being treated unfairly.
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