Childish posturing? Muslim civil war? Or do the two authoritarians have a plan?
Albeit a bit less super than they were and surely less super than they think they are, the two old superpowers are once again intensifying their competition in the Mideast. Having made its big move into Syria to fill the vacuum left by Washington’s long-standing confusion, Moscow is now wisely consolidating its new Shi’i stronghold. Its point has been made: Mideast problems can no longer be resolved without Moscow’s participation. Washington, having forgotten its excesses earlier in this century, is grasping at loose sand trying to erect its own Sunni castle. The effectiveness of Washington’s move was instantaneous, shattering the superficial unity of the Sunni Arab Peninsula states/fiefdoms/oil baronies. If Moscow’s new-boys-on-the-block Shi’i allies were not content with their enhanced strategic position, they certainly must be now. Castles in the sand or not, the Shi’i castles look wet and well-packed relative to the massive but dried out, blowing-away-in-the-wind strongholds of the old money Sunnis.
In this interesting context, Washington’s chief has curiously decided that the timing is perfect to meet Moscow’s chief. Like everything else about the new guy on the Potomac, one can only wonder at this decision. Does he intend to cut a deal, on his heels, with the man with the Cheshire Cat grin? Putin has a couple reasons for his grin, from U.S. post-election infighting to last year’s smooth little display of gunboat diplomacy. It is hard to imagine how he might be cowed by Trump’s famous snarl.
Perhaps, however, these two gentlemen are more sophisticated than appearances would suggest. Perhaps they have something in mind that would enhance the reputation of each. Are they dreaming of a new Treaty of Tordesillas?
Update Jul 8, 2017: If we believe a piece in the Guardian based on body language, it was all about one-upmanship, and, in the end, the great meeting boiled down to a hand wrestling match won “hands down” by Putin. The two great authoritarians strode together across the world stage looking…very small.
Investigated me? You’re fired! Or, perhaps not. Perhaps, with Pence, we should all just assume that Trump fired Comey out of his patriotic concern for the welfare of the American people.
Senator Paul said he has seen no evidence…so therefore, he implied, Trump was correct to fire the man who is in charge of gathering it. Whatever the truth of the mess over Trump and Russia, firing Comey right after he requests additional funds to pursue the investigation certainly gives the impression that the White House has something to hide. Unless Trump moves rapidly to appoint an undeniably independent-minded replacement for Comey as FBI chief, what will any outsider be able to conclude except that we are witnessing a cover-up?
Republican Senator McCain compared Trump’s firing of Comey to Nixon’s infamous Watergate cover-up and noted:
This scandal is going to go on. I’ve seen it before. This is a centipede. I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop, I can just guarantee it. There’s just too much information that we don’t have that will be coming out. [The Hill.]
White House deputy press secretary Sanders suggested that the world should move on from the Russia investigation, implying that the dismissal of Comey was, after all, intended to interfere with the FBI investigation.
Republican Senator Burr said he was “troubled” by Trump’s action.
Republican Senator Corker noted the importance of having an investigation “free of political interference.”
Republican Senator Flake tweeted that he could not “find an acceptable rationale” for Trump’s action.
We ain’t seen the end of this yet.
No excuse exists for a unilateral Presidential decision to launch a military attack on another country that is neither posing a direct and imminent security threat to the U.S. nor even posing such a threat to any other identifiable entity. If the White House had time to notify Moscow, it had time to request legal authorization from Congress. War is not the President’s private affair. No member of Congress has any business leaving town this weekend: it is time for Congress to take a stand on the U.S. wars in Syria and Yemen…or is it just a “fake legislature?”