The U.S. House of Representatives, with a majority of Democrats, approved a bill that would require Trump to get the approval of Congress before a possible military intervention in Iran. Twenty-seven Republicans supported the Democrats. Attempts by the White House to block the bill have failed. The bill, adopted with a 251-171 vote on Friday, prevents federal funds from being used for military force against Iran or another country without Congress approval. This is bad news for Trump, who argues that he does not need permission for any military intervention in Iran.
The bill came with the amendment to the $733 billion Defense Budget bill. However, the Senate had previously passed a $750 billion defense budget bill. The House of Representatives slashed $17 billion. With the budget bill adopted by Congress, it becomes more difficult for Trump to fulfill his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border.
The defense budget bills adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives need to be reconciled in the Senate. In the 100-member Senate, Republicans are the majority with 53 seats. Some Republicans who criticize American interventionism, including Senator Rand Paul, in particular, may side with Democrats and jeopardize Trump's hopes.
According to Ro Khanna, a Democrat lawmaker, who drafted the bill for military intervention, Trump campaigned to end costly wars, but he employed some who were the architects behind the Iraq invasion. Khanna stresses Trump's actions, which escalated tensions with Iran, prove that he does not intend to keep his promise to pull out from these wars.
As Khanna points out, Trump's “Neocon” foreign policy team is a serious obstacle to Trump meeting his promises. If we were to lend an ear to “personnel politics,” then on the one hand, Trump says that he will pull the U.S. out of the “stupid wars” in the Middle East; on the other hand, Neocons carried those strongly affiliated with them, such as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, to the top positions of foreign policy’s decision-making mechanisms.
The active deployment of pro-Israeli Neocons raises concerns that they are gradually dragging the U.S. into war with Iran. Rumors that Trump will replace his director of National Intelligence Dan Coats with Fred Fleitz heightened these concerns.
Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, is known for being closely affiliated with Trump's National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Fleitz was previously appointed by Bolton to be the second man in the National Security Council.
Fleitz, who had recently left his post, became president and CEO of the pro-Israel Security Policy Center. It is said that Fleitz's appointment as National Intelligence Director reinforces the perception that military interventionism will continue. On the other hand, this assignment is also a sign of Trump's contradicting himself.
Coats was at odds with Trump on many issues, especially with regards to Russia and North Korea. Fleitz accused Coats of undermining Trump and he also has long argued that the power held by the Director's Office should be minimized as much as possible. Trump is said to share this view.
The National Intelligence Director presides over the Intelligence Community, which consists of 16 intelligence agencies, and alongside the U.S. President is the Chief Advisor to the “National Security Council” and “Homeland Security Council.” Bolton's position would be further strengthened if Trump appointed Fleitz as the head of such a vital organization.
Rumor also has it that in October, Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford will be appointed as National Intelligence Director. There is a fierce struggle in Washington to influence Trump's foreign policy decisions. We shall see who will emerge victorious from this struggle in the coming days.