NBC: Trump Starting ‘Religious War’ To Distract from Impeachment

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Three days after President Trump ordered the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the liberal media were still tripping over themselves as they continued to clamor about the President supposedly starting a war (while downplaying the Iranian-backed attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq). But during NBC’s Sunday Today they took it another step, declaring Trump had started a “religious war” and insinuated it was a tactic to distract from his impeachment.

Correspondent Harry Smith was filling-in as host for the show when he asked NBC national security analyst and Obama-era CIA and Defense Department official Jeremy Bash:

The President was tweeting a lot last night saying, we've got all these targets picked up that we're ready to hit in Iran should Iran respond. To me, it almost sounds like the President is daring them to respond. What's your sense?

Off the bat, Bash insisted Trump was “framing this as a cultural war, it’s a religious war” for tweeting the military had 52 targets of importance to Iranians selected for destruction if Iran retaliated. “Now, I guarantee you, Harry, that the Pentagon does not think of this in that way,” he declared. “There’s no one list of sites. If we were to be in an all-out military conflict with Iran, there would be many more targets. But the President, in framing it as a cultural or religious war I think is inflaming tensions.”

 

 

The idea that the military didn’t have a list of high-value targets pre-selected when the U.S. and Iran had been going tit-for-tat for months was laughable. In fact, shortly before Bash made that claim, NBC political director Chuck Todd talked about how the military had given Trump options for a response to the embassy assault:

And according to our reporting, it is part of the press coverage of that response, the perception that he looked weak in doing it that may have driven the President this time to do something a bit more spectacular, a bit more high-profile, which apparently he went back to advisers and surprised some by picking a more high-profile response, which in this case was the killing of Soleimani.

At one point, Bash actually boasted about Iran’s military capabilities. But he failed to catch the irony that he was describing how they were a threat to be dealt with. “Well look, on June 20th Iran shot down a U.S. aircraft, Harry, and then on September 14th Iran used precision-guided munitions, land-attack cruise missiles and drones to attack a Saudi oil facility. So, Iran has a number of military capabilities that they've been developing,” he touted.

Towards the end of their discussion, Smith insinuated Trump’s actions were simply a tactic to distract from impeachment, quipping to Todd: “Chuck, guess what. Impeachment, no one’s talked about impeachment, what, for two or three days now?”

“Right. Well look, that is a fact, Harry. It is -- this issue of Iran is overshadowing impeachment,” Todd agreed, adding that it injected uncertainty into the process. “So, yes, this thing overshadows impeachment in a big way. And I think it only introduces more complicated politics for both parties next week.

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

NBC’s Sunday Today
January 5, 2020
8:05:36 a.m. Eastern

HARRY SMITH: Jeremy, let me start with you. Do you have a sense, a real-life sense of where this goes next?

JEREMY BASH: Well look, on June 20th Iran shot down a U.S. aircraft, Harry, and then on September 14th Iran used precision-guided munitions, land-attack cruise missiles and drones to attack a Saudi oil facility. So, Iran has a number of military capabilities that they've been developing. So, this could get very heated, very, very fast.

SMITH: Chuck, it feels like there's been a tit for tat as Jeremy was talking about over the last six months or year plus. Was there a tipping point that you understand that took place in the White House that made the President say, “let's do this, let's get this guy?”

CHUCK TODD: It looks -- well, I think it's interesting, Harry. You're right in that there was somewhat of a tit for tat but the United States and President Trump had held back responding to every one of the instances Richard brought up -- excuse me, Jeremy brought up, the attack on the Saudi oil fields. And the President, remember, pulled back on a response.

And according to our reporting, it is part of the press coverage of that response, the perception that he looked weak in doing it that may have driven the President this time to do something a bit more spectacular, a bit more high-profile, which apparently he went back to advisers and surprised some by picking a more high-profile response, which in this case was the killing of Soleimani.

SMITH: Jeremy, let me ask you this. The President was tweeting a lot last night saying, we've got all these targets picked up that we're ready to hit in Iran should Iran respond. To me, it almost sounds like the President is daring them to respond. What's your sense?

BASH: Well, I think what he's doing is he's framing this as a cultural war, it’s a religious war. We have 52 sites in Iran that we're going to take out. Now, I guarantee you, Harry, that the Pentagon does not think of this in that way. The intelligence community does not think of hitting cultural sites.

First of all, it's a violation of the law of war. And second of all, there's no one list of sites. If we were to be in an all-out military conflict with Iran, there would be many more targets. But the President, in framing it as a cultural or religious war I think is inflaming tensions.

I think where this really has to go, Harry, is we have to see the underlying intelligence. What was the information that caused the President to believe that it was an imminent threat to U.S. forces and this killing of Qasem Soleimani was necessary to stop it? If we don't understand what the intelligence picture looks like, it will be hard for the American people to judge whether this was, in fact, justified.

SMITH: And Congress was informed, as they were by law, supposed to be within 48 hours of the attack but it sounds like what they were told is not really sufficient in terms of people really being able to understand the motivation, Jeremy.

BASH: Well, again, the President will be briefing and the administration will be briefing members of Congress about this, but I think ultimately the intelligence will have to be declassified so we can decide for ourselves whether or not the attacks against American forces were truly imminent.

SMITH: And one more quick one for you, Jeremy. If this were to proceed, would the Iranians say, “we're going to start an all-out war” or would it be more of a piecemeal, “we're going to attack here, we’re going to attack here,” more sort of in their guerilla tradition?

BASH: No, I think it would be the latter, Harry. I think they would use asymmetric attacks, I think they would use their proxies, I think they would use deniable precision-guided munitions, there would be a number of ways they could threaten us in the Middle East and beyond.

SMITH: Chuck, guess what. Impeachment, no one’s talked about impeachment, what, for two or three days now?

TODD: Right. Well look, that is a fact, Harry. It is -- this issue of Iran is overshadowing impeachment. And this is a reminder that the uncertainty, I think, that this Iran situation introduces to our politics with impeachment, with the presidential race, let alone our uncertainty with our security in the Middle East and our security here. So, yes, this thing overshadows impeachment in a big way. And I think it only introduces more complicated politics for both parties next week.

SMITH: Yeah, for sure. Chuck, thanks very much. Jeremy, appreciate it, both of you.

NB Daily Events Trump Impeachment Foreign Policy Middle East Iran Conspiracy Theories Military Broadcast Television NBC NBC Nightly News Video Harry Smith Chuck Todd Jeremy Bash Donald Trump Qasem Soleimani

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