Who is really driving US foreign policy in the Middle East - Donald Trump or the deep state? Recently the New York Times published an article which claimed that America's intelligence service did not inform Trump of an operation it carried out to plant surveillance equipment inside Russia's grid. Of course, this prompted the US president to throw another online tantrum, but aside from his own churlish histrionics, many respectable American journalists have been left stunned by the implications of the news.
Trump was not consulted simply because he could not be trusted. I'll let that sink in.
But what else has he not been consulted on by this so-called 'deep state' which my colleagues in the US tell me was not even there before he took office. What has the deep state been working on, behind his back?
Geopolitical analysts in the Middle East like to always stress the two-track structure of Iran - the hardliners associated with the old guard, led by the country's elite special forces, versus the modern camp corralled by Hassan Rouhani.
This distinction is all the more important now as the tanker attacks should not lead us to quickly to arrive at the same conclusion as Trump because of this, but also because of other factors.
Not only do we have to consider the fetid hypocrisy of western media to not only overlook the polarised dimension to Iranian politics - but to also forget to raise that same flag when commenting on Trump and the Washington elite in general.
One of the reasons why western journalists have largely gone along with the assumption that the tanker attacks were pulled off by Iran is that it's simply too confusing to look at these nuances.
Lazy, cash-strapped western media outlets love a bit of video to serenade as 'evidence'. The echo chamber is alive and well in Washington, London and Paris, although most politicians in Europe have signalled that they don't support Trump on Iran, London has blithely supported his latest accusation that Iran hit the tankers.
In the US though, many are wondering if there is also a two-track political dimension to everything Trump is attempting to do around the world. Is it at all possible that Trump is actually not in full control of decisions made about the Middle East?
Pundits are invariably confused about his decisions which rarely make any sense. Is it that he's also confused and not actually in control of them?
The US can't hit back
It's possible of course that Iran was behind the attacks. There is a sober explanation presented by many grey haired regional experts that such a bellicose reaction to US sanctions and the ramped up war talk which we've seen in recent weeks is entirely logical for the IRGC, Iran's powerful elite guard, as it sees that the US can't hit back and it places Iran in a stronger position.
Certainly, since the Bilderberg Group meeting on June 5, which Mike Pompeo was invited to, there has been a cooling off from Trump.
In the last couple of days, Iran has shot down a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz--which Trump termed a 'very bad move'--and in retaliation Trump says the US was 'cocked and loaded' to hit Iran back but then called offthe strike.
This in itself has given Iran the upper hand and now the one who is in control of the mendacious game of menace, which the US certainly started, now has Tehran with its hands on the lever.
And this is the irony. The US no doubt spooked Iran by threats of war and moving an aircraft carrier closer to the Gulf. But in the event, it was Iran who showed the US that it has the ultimate hand of aces to play in the Strait of Hormuz.
The "miscalculation" which Pompeo warned journalists of a week or so ago (talking about Iran) was in fact carried out by Trump weeks earlier; he simply couldn't imagine that Iran would go ahead with the threat of blockading tankers.
But there is so much confusion and ambiguity with the Iran move in Washington and the tanker 'case' which is being assembled to be delivered to media.
Were the grainy images of Iranian special forces on a boat taking off a mine from the side of the Japanese tanker supposed to be 'evidence'? Could those characters have not been Americans dressed up acting for the camera?
Far fetched, some may say. But not as far fetched as uranium from Niger, reported by British intelligence which formed the basis of the WMD case for George W Bush to go to war against Iraq in 2003.
When you're faking the intelligence to go to war in the Middle East, you can't have your yellow cake and eat it, it seems.
Trump is really confused about Iran. He's trapped. He simply has no idea what to do now as he knows of all the options, war is not a realistic one, which is why even after the tanker attacks, media were spoon fed more reports quoting Mike Pompeo stressing that the US wanted dialogue with Iran and not war.
That singular statement might be the only honest utterance from the Trump camp, which is now a blind man fumbling in the dark.
On second thought
Remarkably, the US State Department this week is reported to have asked the Iranians to stick to the terms of the so-called 'Iran Deal' on nuclear weapons. Yes, that same, er, deal which Trump actually opted out of which has created the basis of the tensions and have provided the basis of a manufactured war-scenario in the first place.
It's confusing and there are more unanswered questions than anything remotely conclusive. In reality, though Trump is usually the last person to be informed of anything and doesn't understand Iran. If he did, he would know that imposing crippling sanctions against its regime is not going to bring the Iranians to their knees but more likely put them on their back legs ready to fight.
Surely if history has taught us anything, it is not 'know yourself' as the Greeks believe, but 'know your enemy' before going to war with them.
The article was first published Here