During the presidential campaign, many believed Trump when he said that he would combat jihadism and defend Israel. I was always skeptical. But how to reason from the evidence? What policies will be diagnostic of Trump’s direction? In a Foreign Affairs piece published before Trump took his oath (Part 1), I wrote that if Trump were to:
1) dry off and block the channels that supply jihadists with weapons;
2) support the Rojava Revolution in Syria; and
3) expose the ties between PLO/Fatah and Iran
we would know that the new administration really means to oppose jihadism and protect the Israeli state.
I believe that Trump is already showing his colors, and that he will do none of these things. But that is for a later article. For the purposes of this piece, let us give Trump the benefit of the doubt and ask ourselves: What is a reasonable prior? In other words, even supposing that Trump really had meant what he promised, what was the probability that he could get it done?
That probability depends on the ideology and structure of the US system. Formally and officially, the president calls the shots. But reality might be different. How to know this reality? We must study the past.
At HIR, to free ourselves from the public apologetics of those who make of this planet a chessboard, we try to find patterns in the history of their behaviors—their public policies—which may allow us to infer intentions and goals (‘ideology’). At the same time, we wish to produce a reasonable model of the institutional articulations (‘structure’) that may explain why certain policies are tenaciously consistent over long periods of time.
In this article—Part 2 of the series—I shall point out the tenacious consistency: a US policy tradition in favor of jihadism.
In Part 3, I will explain how this tradition is the product of an institutional engine—a bureaucratic machinery—whose moving parts will seem peculiar to any who thought the US system was democratic.
In Part 4, I will examine who makes foreign policy for Trump. By comparing them to top officeholders of past administrations we can discover whether the Trump team really does have a different bias or if it is just one more incarnation of a trans-generational team.
With this machinery exposed, we may evaluate the probability that Trump can modify the pro-jihadi tradition (even assuming he wants to).
In Part 5 I will examine the early evidence, including Trump’s recent executive order requiring “extreme vetting” of people coming into the United States from a variety of Muslim countries. Was this really an anti-jihadi policy, as it purports to be? The answer may surprise you.
In Part 6 I shall do my best to explain why it makes sense for the US power elite to want to strengthen jihadism.
But first things first. I proceed, below, to examine the longstanding pro-jihadi pattern in US foreign policy.
A pro-jihadi tradition?
This argument is perforce a polemic, for US officeholders repeat endlessly to the media that they fight jihadism. My readers are thus placed on notice and advised to scrutinize my claims; I urge them to try and refute me, in fact, for this is what science requires.
Any who wish to refute the claim that the US has had a pro-jihadi tradition will do well to study the case of Iran. Why? Because:
1) ever since Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979, the Iranian ayatollahs have pushed an imperial jihadism;
2) in their speeches, these ayatollahs have repeatedly promised, as part of their jihadist program, a great genocide of the Israeli Jews; and
3) US officeholders traditionally and publicly call Iran a dangerous ‘enemy,’ and Israel a close ‘ally’ and ‘friend.’
Thus, if we wish to find a US policy that will not favor the growth of jihadism, we should look for it here. We should look for it, especially, among the policies of those presidents who so loudly railed in their speeches against Iran. For example, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Jr.
President Ronald Reagan always had a double identity. On the one hand, he was a movie star, soon identified with ‘the Gipper’ (a college hero he played on the big screen in 1940), and voted fifth most-popular actor of his young generation. On the other hand, he was always a political creature: from 1947—right when McCarthyism was starting, he was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild and a secret FBI informant tasked with fingering presumed ‘communists’ in Hollywood.
Later, from 1967 to 1975, he would be governor of California.
In 1979 he began competing for the presidency. The media impact of his campaign was so extraordinary that we are still talking about it. That Reagan charisma—amazing. The press and the public fell in love with the ‘Great Communicator.’
As 1979 was ending, as luck would have it, an impressive geopolitical backdrop unfurled for Reagan to stride before and play the role of a lifetime. In Iran, where the Islamic Revolution had just succeeded, followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Teheran punched the air with their fists, cursed ‘Great Satan’ (the US), burned the US flag, and took the entire US embassy hostage. It had all become quite difficult, it seemed, for President Jimmy Carter.
The disembodied voice of the Washington Post roved over this drama on December first: “Reagan Finding It Hard to Restrain Himself on Iran Issue.” Under this heading, the Post assured us that Reagan wished to be cautious so as not to derail Carter’s negotiations in favor of the hostages, but Reagan was so mad at Iran, and so mad at Carter, that he could not contain his anger. It was just too much.
Anxious to “make the Iranian issue a major theme of his political campaign,” and “talking more and more forcefully about [it]” and about “the subject of American retaliation against Iran,” Reagan garnered “the heaviest applause” when accusing that the “Carter administration policies of ‘weakness and vacillation’ ” had been responsible for the hostage fiasco. He looked the part of a macho, “impatient warrior,” and the crowds ate it up: “Another applause line,” wrote the Post, “is Reagan’s declaration that he would make the United States respected once again ‘so that no dictator would dare invade a U.S. embassy and hold our people hostage.’ ”
By similarly accusing Obama for his handling of Iran, and promising to “make America great again,” Trump also got lots of applause on his presidential campaign trail. What can we infer? Let us ask, first, what Reagan did.
The day of his inauguration, Reagan presided over what the New York Times called the “Largest Financial Transfer in History,” a hostage-rescue payment prepared by Carter: 8 billion dollars. And right away, the Iranians used that money to… buy US weapons!
“While president Reagan publicly denounced the Iranians as part of a ‘confederation of terrorist states,’ US officials were secretly arranging the first arms sales to Iran.”
When this became public it was called ‘Irangate’ or the ‘Iran-Contra scandal’ (because the Reagan team, diverting some funds, was at the same time financing, arming, and training the Contras, a Nicaraguan terrorist group).
Caught red-handed, Reagan hotly denied this was a rescue payment for new hostages now taken in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a creature of Iran. Not at all. They had merely tried to moderate (yes, moderate) the ayatollahs with… weapons. The weapons were a… gesture. Reagan must have reasoned (unaccountably) that this sounded less ridiculous than “I made another rescue payment.” But then he thought about it. No, he said, the first thing was a lie. Yes, I made another hostage-rescue payment.
And the truth? It was worse: a congressional investigation, years later, documented that secret arms sales to Iran had begun, rather hurriedly, in 1981, right after Reagan was sworn in—in other words, before the first hostage was taken in Lebanon in 1982.
Did the US power elite simply mean to strengthen the ayatollahs?
The presidency of Bush Sr.—Reagan’s former vice-president and his partner in the Iran-Contra doings—would provide evidence consistent with that hypothesis.
In the first year of Bush Sr.’s administration, a CIA operative, working from the important RAND Corp. think tank, published a study claiming that the only way to ‘solve’ the Arab-Israeli conflict was to force the handover of the militarily strategic territories of Judea and Samaria (‘West Bank’) to PLO/Fatah—which is to say, to the group which had created Ayatollah Khomeini’s Israel-bashing, would-be genocidal regime.[6a] Immediately, Bush got busy forcing the Israelis to negotiate with PLO/Fatah. And he succeeded: from his efforts emerged the ‘Oslo Process,’ which would bring PLO/Fatah—Iran’s ally—into Israeli territory.
George Bush Jr.
Another whose mouth ran away from him against Iran was George Bush Jr. In his 2002 State of the Union address he defended his country’s honor, so injured by that comic-book epithet: ‘Great Satan.’ The comeback? Iran would be included in the ‘Axis of Evil.’ Great drama. But what did Bush Jr. do?
Bush invaded Iraq—Iran’s rival.
The officially given reasons to invade Iraq lie in general disrepute, and to this day the real reasons remain a mystery. Those who would solve this mystery should pay attention to the interesting ‘detail’: to invade Iraq, Bush allied with Iran.
This was barely reported. But the Financial Times did publish an article about how Iran assisted the US destruction of Iraq. And the International Herald Tribune (which is to say, the New York Times) another on how Washington repaid the favor by bombarding Iranian dissidents—enemies of the ayatollahs—who had their bases in Iraq. US troops then chased the survivors by land.
By 2006, the Guardian had concluded already that Bush’s invasion of Iraq had been a great gift to Iran, for it had turned Iraq almost immediately into Iran’s westernmost province. This has now reached its ultimate conclusion: Iranian officers—with the blessing of US generals—are leading the Iraqi armies. So the entire military infrastructure left by the US in Iraq was in reality for… Iran. ‘Great Satan’ and the ‘Axis of Evil’—a match made in heaven!
As these two examples show, it is perfectly possible for a US leader to denounce loudly the ayatollahs whilst benefiting them with expensive policies (costing billions of dollars).
In their speeches, the presidents have been, now more bellicose, now more complacent (or, in Obama’s case, frankly obsequious), but whoever follows the money will see that, since 1979—for almost 40 years—be they Democrats or Republicans, every single president has implemented policies to benefit the ayatollahs. We document that here:And it ain’t just Iran—the pro-jihadi pattern is quite general.
This history makes it somewhat risky to say, based solely on Donald Trump’s bellicose speeches, that he will execute a genuinely anti-Iranian foreign policy. On the contrary, before venturing any such opinion, it may pay to ask ourselves why such a consistent pro-jihadi pattern, for almost 40 years, has even been possible.
One hypothesis says that the United States is governed by a power elite organized in the manner of a political cartel, so that, despite the alternation of the two big parties, some important policies never vary. This hypothesis predicts that Trump—even should he want to—will find it impossible to change these policies, because he is not the one holding the reins.
Up next, I shall consider this hypothesis.
Footnotes and further reading
 Fried, A. 1997. McCarthyism, the Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History. New York: Oxford University Press. (pp.125-26)
 “Reagan Finding It Hard to Restrain Himself on Iran Issue”; The Washington Post, December 1, 1979, Saturday, Final Edition, First Section; A9, 742 words, By Lou Cannon, Washington Post Staff Writer
 Kornbluh, P., & Byrne, M. 1993. The Iran-Contra Scandal: The declassified history. New York: The New Press. (p.xviii)
 Kornbluh, P., & Byrne, M. 1993. The Iran-Contra Scandal: The declassified history. New York: The New Press. (pp.xvi-xviii)
 The arms transfers, the New York Times explained, began “in 1981,” which is to say, “before the Iranian-sponsored seizure of American hostages in Lebanon began in 1982…” (my emphasis). Astonishingly, instead of putting the obvious hypothesis on the table—that the US had a policy, even then, to strengthen Iran—the New York Times ducked: “No American rationale for permitting covert arms sales to Iran could be established.” So they sent the weapons… just because? This is “thenewspaper of record”?
And who was the journalist? Seymour Hersh.
SOURCE: The Iran Pipeline: A Hidden Chapter/A special report.; U.S. Said to Have Allowed Israel to Sell Arms to Iran, The New York Times, December 8, 1991, Sunday, Late Edition – Final, Section 1; Part 1; Page 1; Column 1; Foreign Desk, 2897 words, By SEYMOUR M. HERSH, Special to The New York Times, WASHINGTON, Dec. 7
 “War Sirens Herald Iran’s Hour of Revenge”; Financial Times; March 24, 2003, Monday Usa Edition 1; Section: Comment & Analysis; Pg. 17; By Khairallah Khairallah
It may be part of George W. Bush’s axis of evil; some predict it will be next on the list for US pre-emptive action; but Iran is the only one of Iraq’s neighbours that wholeheartedly supports regime change in Baghdad, even if via a US-led invasion.
Getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his government is one of the few objectives on which the various factions of the Tehran regime agree. Since becoming convinced that the Bush administration is indeed determined to effect forcible change in Iraq, Tehran has been egging on Washington, albeit in private. Whenever the US has needed Tehran’s help, the Iranians have been more than happy to oblige.
Take last December’s London conference of Iraqi opposition groups. That gathering would not have been possible had Iran not encouraged its Shia cats-paw, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), to attend. Iran strong-armed Abdulaziz al-Hakim, the Sciri representative, to adopt positions similar to those espoused by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US government representative. In exchange for its efforts, Iran was rewarded with a political statement from the conference that – for the first time in modern Iraqi history – spoke of a “Shia majority” in Iraq. This meant the US was no longer able to ignore the sectarian reality of Iraq. Iran, keen for change in Iraq, realised early on that this could be achieved only with US military involvement.
Iranian interference angered many liberal Shia who warned Washington that, by supporting Sciri, they would be committing the same mistake they made when they encouraged Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to back the Taliban not that many years ago. They warned the Americans that Sciri would cause even more damage to Iraq’s relatively open, multicultural and multi-ethnic society than the Taliban managed to inflict on Afghanistan. America, they predicted, would regret having backed Sciri, just as it now regrets helping the Taliban.
Liberal Iraqi Sunnis, meanwhile, protested that the Iranians had succeeded in hijacking the Iraqi opposition by entering into a secret alliance with the Kurds and the Americans. One of the main reasons Tehran wants the Hussein regime out of the way is because it has realised it is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Iran’s attempts to increase its influence in the region; especially in Iraq proper, which cannot conceivably retain its old character after the US is done with it.
Any new regime in Iraq – whatever its character – will have to take the country’s Shia majority into consideration. Should the US fail to reshape Iraq into a prototype for neighbouring countries, Iran (which would in this case become one of the biggest operators in Iraq) would then succeed in sowing more confusion and forcing Washington to involve itself even more in Iraq. As a result, the Americans would increasingly need Iran.
Even the hardline conservative faction in Iran believes there are benefits in the US war on Iraq. This faction calculates that by having the US army on Iran’s border, it would be able to justify its repressive domestic policies. What better reason for maintaining a hardline stance than having the “Great Satan” on your doorstep?
Overthrowing the Ba’athist regime in Iraq has been an Iranian objective since the days of the Shah. Yet Iran’s attempts to change the regime have failed despite its support for various Iraqi opposition movements, including the Kurds, for more than 30 years, the 1980-1988 war between the two countries and more than 12 years of sanctions.
Tehran therefore came to the conclusion that the only way it could get rid of its old enemy would be through a third party – in this case, the US. Contrary to popular belief, the Iranians have learnt how to co-exist with the Americans, as the experience of Afghanistan has demonstrated.
Whether Iraq manages to remain whole, or civil war breaks out, Iran has been preparing itself for some time to play a role in both the US-led war and in post-Hussein Iraq.
In fact, the only unanswered question is whether Iranian military intervention will be direct or indirect. Will the Badr brigade, Sciri’s military arm, which includes large numbers of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, cross over into Iraq in military or civilian garb?
In either case, it seems that the hour of revenge is at hand for the Iranians. Tehran believes it is time to redraw the political map of the Middle East, giving the Shias a bigger role everywhere, from Afghanistan to the Gulf to south Lebanon.
The writer is a London-based Lebanese political analyst.
 “U.S. Bombed Bases of Iranian Rebels in Iraq”; International Herald Tribune | New York Times; Thursday 17 April 2003; by Douglas Jehl
WASHINGTON – Without public announcement, American forces have bombed the principal bases of the main armed Iranian opposition group in Iraq, which has maintained several thousand fighters with tanks and artillery along Iraq’s border with Iran for more than a decade.
The group, Mujahidin Khalq, has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States since 1997. But the biggest beneficiary of the strikes will be the Iranian government, which has lost scores of soldiers in recent years to cross-border attacks by the guerrillas, who have sought to overthrow Iran’s clerical regime.
At the same time, the attacks appear bound to anger the scores of more than 150 members of the U.S. Congress who have described the Iranian opposition group as an organized and effective pressure point on Iran’s government, and had urged the Bush administration to strike the organization from its terrorist list.
In the months leading up to the war, “We made it very clear that these folks are pro-democracy, anti-fundamentalism, anti-terrorism, helpful to the U.S. in providing information about the activities of the Iranian regime, and advocates of a secular government in Iran,” said Yleem Poblete, staff director for the House International Relations Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East and Asia.
“They are our friends, not our enemies. And right now, they are the most organized alternative to the Iranian regime, and the fact that they are the main target of the Iranian regime says a lot about their effectiveness.”
Defense Department officials who described the air attacks said they have been followed in recent days by efforts on the ground by American forces on the ground to pursue and detain members of the group.
It was unclear whether the attacks, described by Defense Department officials, were intended in part as a gesture by the United States to thank Iran for its noninterference in the war in Iraq.
The United States does not maintain diplomatic relations with Iran, which is listed on the Bush administration’s “axis of evil,” but American officials are believed to have met secretly with Iranian officials in the months before the war to urge Iran’s government to maintain its neutrality.
A top military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the United States had “bombed the heck” out of at least two of the group’s bases, including one about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Baghdad. The officer said the fact that the group had been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States gave the military little alternative but to launch the strikes.
In a telephone interview from Paris, Mohammad Mohaddessin, a top official of a coalition of Iranian opposition groups that includes Mujahidin Khalq, condemned the bombing as bombing “an astonishing and regrettable act. It is a clear kowtowing to the demands of the Iranian regime,” said Mohaddessin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Mohaddessin said the group had abandoned its bases in southern Iraq before the American attack began, and had been assured by “proper U.S. authorities” that its other camps, located northeast and east of Baghdad, would not be targets of American bombing.
An expert on Iran, Patrick Clawson, said Wednesday that the American attacks almost certainly represented an end to the group as a fighting force, after the years in which it operated freely from Iraq with support from Saddam Hussein. Clawson, research director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the attack might also weaken the group’s political arm, the National Council on Resistance in Iran.
“The reason the regime has been so worried about the MEK has been the impression that it could be attractive to those who are rejecting the regime,” Clawson said, using the group’s initials. “It’s now less likely that the MEK will maintain this image in the eyes of young Iranians as being the most radical opponents.”
Mujahidin Khalq was formed in the 1960s and expelled from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Its primary financial support in recent years came
from Saddam’s government, but it has support from lawmakers in Europe as well as the United States.
In its most recent annual listing of terrorist groups, the State Department said of the group that “its history is studded with anti-Western attacks as well as terrorist attacks on the interests of the clerical regime in Iran and abroad.”
During the 1970s, the report noted, Mujahidin Khalq killed several American military personnel and American civilians working on defense projects in Tehran, the Iranian capital.
The decision by the Clinton administration to add the group to its list of terrorist organizations was widely interpreted as a goodwill gesture to the Iranian government, and its president, Mohammed Khatami, a more moderate force than Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Group calls for protests
An exiled Iranian opposition group said Wednesday that it would hold marches in Washington and across Europe on Saturday to protest against attacks on its bases in Iraq that it said killed 28 of its members, Reuters reported from Stockholm.
The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, political wing of the Mujahidin Khalq, plans marches at noon local time in London, Washington, Paris, Cologne, Brussels, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo.
Leaders of the group said 28 people had been killed, 43 wounded and others captured in the attacks, reported to have occurred last Thursday and Friday.
The group began as leftist-Islamist opposition to the late Shah of Iran but fell out with Shiite clerics who took power after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
It uses Iraq as a springboard for attacks in Iran and was accused by Washington, which brands it a “terrorist” group, of supporting Saddam Hussein before his fall. The group is said by Western analysts to have little support in Iran because of its collaboration with Iraq during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.
 “Iran is the true winner of that war. They only had to sit tight and smile as the West delivered on a golden plate all the influence Iran had always sought in the Middle East. The US and its allies will soon be gone from Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving Iranian-backed Shias dominant in both countries, their influence well spread across Syria, a chunk of Saudi Arabia and other countries for decades to come. Historic Iranian ambitions have been fulfilled without firing a shot while the US is reduced to fist-shaking. How foolish was that?”
SOURCE: Comment & Debate: No more fantasy diplomacy: cut a deal with the mullahs: Iran cannot be prevented from developing nuclear weapons, only delayed. We must negotiate not ratchet up the rhetoric, The Guardian (London) – Final Edition, February 7, 2006 Tuesday, GUARDIAN COMMENT AND DEBATE PAGES ; Pg. 31, 1095 words, Polly Toynbee
 “Two to three Iranian military aircraft a day land at Baghdad airport, bringing in weapons and ammunition. Iran’s most potent military force and best known general — the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force and its commander Gen. Ghasem Soleimani — are organizing Iraqi forces and have become the de facto leaders of Iraqi Shiite militias that are the backbone of the fight [against ISIS]. Iran carried out airstrikes to help push militants from an Iraqi province on its border.”
SOURCE: Iran Has Never Been More Influential In Iraq”; Associated Press; 12 January 2015; by Hamza Hendawi Qassim Abdul-zahra.
 “THE US AND IRAN: FRIENDS OR FOES?” Conference presented by Francisco Gil-White; Raúl Baillères Auditorium, ITAM; 30 August, 2016; Historical and Investigative Research
 De hecho es difícil encontrar un lugar donde la política estadounidense no sea apoyar yihadistas. En Afganistán, la CIA creó a los muyahidines, y estos luego viajaron a todo el mundo, exportando la yihad donde quiera que hubiera musulmanes. En Afganistán, se convirtieron en los talibanes. El gobierno de EEUU tiene mucho tiempo aliado con el gobierno de Pakistán, un país fundado sobre un ideal islamista. Ha estado siempre aliado, también, con el gobierno salafí (yihadista) de Arabia Saudita, y otros gobiernos parecidos en el Golfo Pérsico (Qatar, Kuwait, etc.) En la mal llamada ‘Primavera Árabe,’ EEUU apoyó a la Hermandad Musulmana. En Yugoslavia, apoyó a Alija Izetbegovic, cuyo libro Declaración Islámica hacía un llamado al exterminio de los ‘infieles’ en Bosnia. Es un listado parcial. Por supuesto que hay algunos poderes yihadistas contra los cuales EEUU dice—de manera oficial—oponerse, pero los ejemplos de Irán y de ISIS son más que suficientes para quedar generalmente escépticos.