“Lame duck” US President Donald Trump’s legal challenges to the validity of the November presidential election have chalked up more than fifty defeats in the courts in the past weeks, the most recent one (“the big one,” in Trump’s own words) being the US Supreme Court’s refusal on Friday, December 11, to consider a lawsuit by the state of Texas to undermine the election results in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin. The high court’s decision seemingly blocks Trump’s judicial option from staging a coup d’etat and overturning the electoral victory of Joe Biden. “From a legal perspective, the fat lady has sung,” said Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas Law professor [Ed. our emphasis]. Perhaps, but there are still other options open before Trump and his minions.
Tomorrow, Monday, December 14, the Electoral College vote will take place in the respective capitals of all of the 50 US states and in Washington DC, ostensibly to affirm Joe Biden’s win. However, according to the US Constitution, the individual electors are in fact free agents, and retain the right to vote for whomever they please. In the context of the surreal, unprecedented political melodrama taking place in the heart of US power since the November 3 election, it is premature to take as given that all of the 306 electors who are supposed to vote for Biden will in fact do so. The aim of Trump and his Republican lackeys is to do whatever is required to bring the decision to the House of Representatives which is what will happen if the Electoral College is unable to decide the results on Monday. In the House, each state would receive a single vote, and in that configuration the Republicans would hold the majority, enabling them to elect Trump in a constitutionally-prescribed and valid scenario. But even if the Electoral College does affirm the Biden presidency, Donald Trump still remains Commander in Chief of all US military forces until noon on January 20, 2021. And, particularly in the Middle East, a very lot can happen in the 38 days remaining until then.
Given the military configuration of US forces in the Middle East and Persian Gulf Region in recent weeks, and the plethora of diplomatic activity on the part of Trump since August in the four deals he has brokered for the normalization of reactionary Arab regimes with Israel (the latest being that with Morocco announced by the US president on Thursday of last week), we can perhaps better discern the new show of imperialist arrogance and prepotency that Trump set in motion on the very same day, December 10, with the sending of another two American heavy bombers from the United States to the Persian Gulf. The planes flew over a swath of the Middle East to send what US officials said was a “direct message of deterrence to Iran.” The flight was coordinated with US allies in the region, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.
According to American officials, “The flight of the two massive B-52H Stratofortress bombers over the region, the second such mission in less than a month, was designed to underscore America’s continuing commitment to the Middle East.” Bomber deployments and short-term flights to the Middle East and Europe have been used in the past to “message Iran” a few times in the last two years. According to officials, the bombers flew out of Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on Wednesday and conducted the flight into Thursday. Officially nicknamed the Stratofortress and informally known as the Big Ugly Fat Fellow, the B-52 gained lasting fame in Vietnam as an aerial terror. US Bombers from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota flew a similar mission in late November.
Furthermore, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, and as many as three other warships in its strike group, had been scheduled to head home by the end of the year, but they have been held in the Middle East and no new timeline on the departure has been given. Officials, however, have made it clear that the ships’ return has not been decided and the additional time in the Gulf area is open-ended.
Or as Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) said in late November, “Netanyahu and his partners in the outgoing Trump administration, along with the leaders of Gulf states, understand they’re living on borrowed time and are trying to take advantage of the months that are left until Trump leaves to stir up a war… Netanyahu, the Trump administration and bin Salman are apparently trying to set the region on fire and put spokes in the wheel of the return to the Iran nuclear deal and are likely to devolve the region into an escalation of hostilities and war.”
As the world witnessed only two weeks ago, with the assassination of the head of Iranian nuclear program Muhsin Fahirzadeh on Friday, November 27, universally attributed to but unconfirmed by Israel, the anti-Iranian axis remains unabashedly intent on striking Tehran’s nuclear facilities by first provoking the Islamic Republic into reacting militarily so that the US and her allies can justify a major assault on Iran. But Trump, with all of his own capacity for such foolhardy adventurism, has been studiously tutored to do so since the beginning of his administration by Israel’s corrupt and embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. We can only assume that the Iranian regime is also counting down the days to the end of Trump’s term in office before reacting — likely hoping that it will be absolved from doing so with a change of US administrations — and therefore is currently exercising self restraint, but has promised a response at a time and place appropriate to its own considerations. Netanyahu’s calculations are clear: The coming days and weeks are the last chance for the US to be maneuvered by Israel into striking Iran’s nuclear facilities. With the transfer of power scheduled for January 20, 2021, if indeed it takes place, Netanyahu reasons, it will no longer be nearly so easy for the Israeli tail to wag the American dog.