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Trump's Michael Corleone moment in the Middle East

Fareed gives his take on how the US strike that killed top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, threatens to suck the US into another war in the Middle East.

Posted: Jan 6, 2020 6:10 AM
Updated: Jan 6, 2020 6:10 AM

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Michael Corleone's lament in "The Godfather Part III," about never being able to escape his family business of crime, could well be said about America's entanglement in the Middle East.

President Trump came into office firmly committed to the bipartisan consensus that the US had wasted more than a decade — and untold blood and treasure — waging war in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the country had neglected its own problems, like its crumbling infrastructure and forgotten working class.

In foreign policy, Washington should have been focused on the real challenge — a rising competitor in China.

And yet here we are a few years later, the old conflicts still not resolved, moving towards military escalation in the Middle East.

Qasem Soleimani was an enemy of the United States, a man who had directed his forces to battle against American troops, and who had directed Iran's military operations in the region. The Trump administration was justified in targeting him in moral terms. But why has it placed itself in a situation where, for two years now, it has been ratcheting up tensions in the most volatile part of the world? What American interests are being served by this strategy? What is its goal?​

Trump's policy towards Iran has, from the start, been marked by ideology rather than common sense. He inherited a manageable strategic situation. Tehran's march towards a nuclear arsenal had been stopped.

Every outside intelligence agency, including Israel's, concluded that Iran was abiding by the nuclear agreement. The country remained active in spreading its influence across the region, as it had for years, so that challenge to America and its allies remained.

But Trump withdrew from the agreement, tightened the economic noose around Iran and designated its Revolutionary Guards as terrorists. This "maximum pressure" campaign seemed geared toward nothing less than regime change — a goal Trump has denied.

With the killing of General Soleimani, any prospect of a new nuclear deal or any negotiations with the Iranians has evaporated. Washington has expanded hostilities with no clear objective or endpoint.​

In January 2007, when President George W. Bush announced the surge, sending thousands more troops into Iraq, I happened to be having lunch with a well-connected Chinese friend. I asked his opinion of the escalation.

His response: "We would hope that you would send the entire American Army into Iraq and stay for another 10 years. Meanwhile, we will keep building up our economy."​

It's easy to get into another conflict in the Middle East. The place is unstable, there are lots of real bad guys, and many of the locals want America to come and fight their battles for them. But getting dragged back into the morass, once again getting mired in other peoples' quarrels, losing another decade as China and others march on — that would be the surest path to America's strategic decline.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
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Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
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Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
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Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
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Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
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Monona4352
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Van Buren3585
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Decatur3170
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