, 12 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter

It's great that @realDonaldTrump chose smart conservative @robertcobrien as his NSA. Robert is a strategic thinker with a wide skill set (Army officer, high-level lawyer, diplomat) and an understanding of the Trump Doctrine.

Issue #1 right now is Iran...

Iran is clearly behind the attack on our ally. It's an unprecedented provocation. The question is "What does Iran want to provoke?"

Clearly, Iran wants the expected consequences of a military attack - retaliation.

The obvious/traditional response would be US retaliatory strikes (cruise missiles/planes) on military targets in Iran.
But Iran knows that. And it's clearly made the decision to accept the predictable damage. So it's clear that it wants that kind of military response. Why?

Iran believes that being attacked would be to its advantage. This is especially true b/c the US was not itself directly attacked and Iran denies it was involved - it can pose as a victim to international and domestic audiences. (This all changes if Iran attacks Americans).

Here are some possible upsides for Iran (in its calculation):

1. A US attack would stoke Persian patriotism & stifle Iran's internal dissent

2. Trump promised no more ME wars - war hurts him going into 2020

3. It further splits the US, domestically & with its Euro "allies"

What are our upsides for an air attack by the US?

1. Deterrence? No, Iran's already decided not to be detered

2. Save face? Maybe, but our allies know Iran's game and would understand us not playing it

3. Degrade Iran's combat power? Iran's accepted that cost.

So, do we do what Iran wants us to do and attack? If we do, Iran gets what it wants & the US gets marginal & intangible benefits.

So, time to think outside the envelope. What does Iran think is not on the table (as a target of US power) that it does not want to risk?

Iran's weakness is a crumbling economy and internal unrest. Those are population-centered vulnerabilities. Both relate to the mullahs' greatest risk (and fear) - that the Persian people will rise up and thrown them out.

Iran's people are the decisive point.

The clear answer is not a traditional military response (which Iran expects and can accept) - especially since Iran's threat to us and our allies is not a traditional military infrastructure that is vulnerable to conventional attack. Bomb some drones & they just buy more.

We need to leverage our Diplomatic/Information/Military/Economic elements of national power on the population in order to promote and assist internal unrest in Iran. That's the one vulnerability these mullahs (rightly) fear.

Deepen sanctions and use our leverage to force Iran's trading partners to choose: Iran or the US.

Cyber: Damage Iran's power grid and petrol facilities. Shift the costs onto the people, and let the mullahs explain why there's no lights or gas.

Info: Make it Mullahs v US

Iran is not operating from strength. It is operating from weakness and trying to use strategic judo to cause the US to take actions that hurt long-term US strategic goals while strengthening the mullahs.


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