Trump is obsessed with shooting up Iranian gunboats out of fear of looking weak: report
Donald Trump AFP/File / MANDEL NGAN

According to a report from Axios' Jonathan Swan, Donald Trump's latest outburst about shooting "down" Iranian gunboats he believes are harassing U.S. naval ships is born out of a fear of looking weak as well as his penchant for latching onto a "shiny object" that catches his attention when he doesn't want to deal with a real crisis.

Earlier in the week the president issued a threat against Iran on Twitter by writing, "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea," which led Axios to report that the president has long been obsessed with Iran over the possibility the leaders of the country might do something to make him look weak.

As Swan writes, "President Trump's declaration about directing the Navy to 'shoot down and destroy' Iranian gunboats brings to a head his years of urging military leaders to get tougher on Iranian harassment at sea. Now — unlike in the days when James Mattis ran the Defense Department and often ignored what he viewed as intemperate orders from Trump — the president faces no meaningful resistance from his national security team."

Noting that "Trump often looks for shiny distractions during crises and has done so repeatedly in this case, " Swan claims that no one in the administration is surprised by the latest outburst by a president determined to look tough for his adoring fans.

"Trump lives in fear of Iran taking U.S. military personnel hostage. He wants, at all costs, to avoid scenes of American weakness and humiliation playing across the world's screens, current and former advisers say," Swan wrote. "He connects Iran — and its actions at sea in particular — to this image. Another factor: Trump views the subject of Iranian gunboats — as he does so many other things — through the prism of Barack Obama. He's told aides he'll never let U.S. sailors be filmed captured by Iran, on their knees."

The report points out that Trump has repeatedly requested that the Pentagon provide him with plans as to how they could go about blowing up what he calls Iran's "fast boats" in the Persian Gulf going back to former Defense Department head James Mattis who reportedly "refused to do so," with Swan adding, "He never provided the plans and simply ignored the requests of former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, according to three former officials involved in the deliberations."

Having written that, the Axios reporter noted that it would not be surprising if Pentagon officials took the president at his word and fired on the ships because "leadership of the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council have largely aligned on this subject."

"Naval commanders have maximum flexibility with Trump as commander in chief. Trump has now made clear they won't be reprimanded if they decide to take him at his tweet," he concluded.

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