Deep in a report on the lack of national security experts advising Donald Trump as president creates international turmoil by first ordering the death of Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, then saber-rattling against the Iranian government, the Washington Post notes the president's top counter-terrorism adviser is at odds with the very agencies he needs for accurate information.
As the Post notes, "Presidents on the brink of war tend to rely on an array of Oval Office assets: teams of experienced advisers, trusted sources of intelligence, strong ties with U.S. allies and credibility with the broad American public. President Trump may be in short supply across nearly all those categories as he faces the prospect of an escalating conflict with Iran."
According to the report, the Trump White House has seen a major brain drain during its three years as knowledgable officials have given up and left and possible replacements have refused to go to work for the volatile president.
"Even before the Ukraine crisis, Trump had spent much of his first three years in office attacking critical capabilities ordinarily cultivated by commanders in chief: He has disparaged U.S. intelligence agencies, disrupted relationships with European partners and diluted the power of the bully pulpit with thousands of falsehoods," the report notes."Former U.S. national security officials described the situation as worrisome in part because of Iran’s capabilities but also because of Trump’s tendency to ignore advisers and favor instinct over hard information."
John McLaughlin, the former deputy director of the CIA, stated that "members of his Cabinet with critical roles in a potential conflict with Iran have two defining qualities: low credibility and limited experience.”
“That’s going to be a problem going forward if this situation deteriorates,” he added.
Complicating matters more is the president's choice to oversee counterterrorism, an acolyte of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who has been at war with the nation's intelligence community.
"U.S. officials fear that Iran may seek to retaliate for Soleimani’s death by using its networks of paramilitary proxies in Iraq and Syria, or its links to terror groups including Hezbollah. If so, coordinating the counterterrorism efforts of the CIA, FBI and other agencies could prove critical to safeguarding potential American targets," the Post reports. "But the top counterterrorism official at the NSC was installed in the job late last year and has less experience than many of his predecessors. Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), also has a strained relationship with the CIA and FBI, current and former officials said, in part because of his involvement in efforts by Trump and his allies to discredit those agencies and accuse them of seeking to undermine the president."
"Trump has spent much of his presidency attacking U.S. spy agencies, rejecting their conclusions on critical national security issues ranging from Russia’s interference in the presidential election to the complicity of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the report adds. "And yet Trump and other officials have pinned the decision to target Soleimani on intelligence from those same agencies the president so frequently disparages."
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