McMaster Cleans House
Trump’s National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, has recently been cleaning house:
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the 31-year-old hired by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to serve as the senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, was fired on Wednesday afternoon, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The proximate cause for this firing and a couple of others seems to have been a ridiculous memo that conjured up a fantasy of a “globalist and Islamist” plot against the U.S. Foreign Policy reported:
“It’s everyone who touched that concept paper,” the source told FP.
So the simple explanation is that McMaster fired these people because they were producing garbage analysis. More generally, these firings are happening because McMaster is weeding out some of the holdovers from the brief Flynn era and because he is asserting more control in the National Security Council. The less influence Flynn appointees have on our foreign policy, the better it is for the country. The end result is that some of the more hard-line elements in Trump’s NSC are being removed, but I’m not sure I would conclude that this means that there will be any significant changes in policy. As long as Trump is an incorrigible opponent of the nuclear deal and determined to undermine it, making changes to the composition of the NSC won’t matter very much.
Iran hawks are predictably attributing McMaster’s decisions to supposed “hostility to Israel,” but that seems very unlikely and the accusation doesn’t mean much coming from people that define being “pro-Israel” as narrowly as possible. If all of the people McMaster fired happened to be “pro-Israel” Iran hawks opposed to the nuclear deal, that just reminds us that virtually everyone in the Trump administration fits that description. Insofar as the firings mean that there are fewer fanatical Iran hawks in important positions in the administration, they are good news, but they may not mean much in the long run.