By Javad Heirannia

Next election is a referendum for Trump: Pillar

September 25, 2018

TEHRAN – Professor Paul Pillar, who was CIA intelligence analyst for 28 years, tells the Tehran Times that “No doubt other participants in the coming Security Council meeting--and not just Iran, which needs to be given an opportunity to speak--will raise the point that the United States under Trump has been in violation of an agreement that became enshrined in a Security Council resolution that passed by a unanimous vote.”

Pillar also says, next election is “very important for Donald Trump not only to try to retain Republican control of Congress but also a show of approval or disapproval of himself.”
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: According to the News, Trump plans to oust the Defense Secretary James Mattis after the Congressional election. What are the reasons for this?

A: It is not unusual for cabinet members to leave after a couple of years in office. Mattis probably would consider two years to be a respectable tenure, and he could leave around the beginning of next year with such a departure genuinely described as voluntary rather than an ouster.  It a strain for anyone to serve in a senior position in Trump's administration, and Mattis probably will be happy to go.  From Trump's perspective, the president probably is feeling constrained by Mattis steering him away from damaging policies, and Trump may be somewhat jealous of the favorable press that Mattis gets.  

Q: Why does Trump postpone this decision after Congressional elections? And how much congressional elections are important for him?

A: This election will be even more of a referendum on the presidency than most mid-term elections are.  Opinion polls show that more than ever before, voters' intentions to vote for a Republican or a Democrat correlate highly with their views, positive or negative, of the president.  So this election is very important for Donald Trump not only to try to retain Republican control of Congress but also a show of approval or disapproval of himself.  For Trump the latter consideration is even more important than how the Republican Party fares.

Q: Some analysts argue that the Trump approach to Iran will intensify after the congressional elections, because James Mattis is a more reasonable person than other foreign policy and security policy makers. What is your opinion?

A: A trend generally in Trump's presidency has been toward personnel changes that have put into office people who agree with the president more or who will restrain him less than did the officials they replaced.  Although Mattis has his own strong views about Iran, which he sees as a threat, he has opposed some of Trump's more destructive policies, such as the reneging on the nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  Mattis has a lot of prestige, and his departure is likely to mean Trump's policy toward Iran will become at least as intense and as hostile as it is now.

Q: Trump is scheduled to Chairing a meeting at the United Nations Security Council about Iran. We can imagine what charges he will make to Iran. From a political point of view, does have the person who has violated the nuclear deal the authority to preside this meeting? Of course, I am not referring to the legal aspect.

A: Chairmanship of the Security Council reflects a simple rotating of that duty among all member states, and it never has rested on judgments about a specific state's adherence to international agreements, international law, or even actions of the Security Council itself.  No doubt other participants in the coming Security Council meeting--and not just Iran, which needs to be given an opportunity to speak--will raise the point that the United States under Trump has been in violation of an agreement that became enshrined in a Security Council resolution that passed by a unanimous vote.  Trump's advisers reportedly have warned about this turn the meeting could take, and now the United States is saying the subject will cover nonproliferation and not just Iran.
 

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