President Donald Trump "will bomb the hell out of" Iran, Fox News host Sean Hannity promised at the opening of his show last night. This statement came right after Tucker Carlson closed his Fox show praising Trump's restraint on the Iran front. Which is it? And does U.S. foreign policy really hang on the whims and bloviating of two TV entertainers?
Carlson certainly has Trump's ear on this topic, according to The Daily Beast. And for that, foes of Forever War should be grateful:
In the upper echelons of the Trump administration, hawkish voices on Iran predominate—most notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. But as tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated over the last few weeks, there's been another, far different voice in the president's ear: that of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
A source familiar with the conversations told The Daily Beast that, in recent weeks, the Fox News host has privately advised Trump against taking military action against Iran. And a senior administration official said that during the president's recent conversations with the Fox primetime host, Carlson has bashed the more "hawkish members" of his administration.
It's not clear what made Trump change his mind Thursday, after initially ordering a strike on Iran in retaliation for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone. ("Iran insisted the drone had crossed into its airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, but the U.S. Central Command called it an 'unprovoked attack,'" notes The Washington Post.)
The president then called off the bombing a few hours before it was supposed to take place.
Update: On Friday morning, Trump tweeted this explanation:
While disappointed warmongers worried about whether we were all being fair enough to John Bolton, many folks breathed a sigh of relief—for now. Where this all goes is still anyone's guess (and I would prefer if Trump watched more Carlson and less Hannity in the interim).
War with Iran "is HIGHLY likely unless Trump swallows his pride & returns to the Iran nuclear agreement he tore up," tweeted 2020 presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a refrain currently coming from a lot of Democrats.
In other Middle East policy news: the Senate voted yesterday to block an arms deals with Saudi Arabia. "Seven Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, joined all Democrats in voting for the measures," reports NPR. But "while sending a strong signal to the administration, all three Senate votes failed to get enough votes to override a pledged veto by the president."
- Turns out—alas—the youths are not growing horns.
- The State Department's annual "Trafficking in Persons" report is out. I'll do a proper post on it soon, but for now, here's a Twitter thread with some highlights.
- The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday "ruled that Congress did not overstep its authority in handing off important power to the attorney general under the federal Sex Offender Registration Act."
- SCOTUS also ruled that the city of Bladensburg, Maryland, could leave up a World War II memorial in the shape of a cross.
- Alabama will let a Birmingham megachurch run its own police force.