Given how heavily Trump fans and Tulsi fans seem to overlap, the cognitive dissonance caused by this tweet should be amazing to watch. Tucker Carlson might need medical intervention.

Not the first time she’s accused the president of being someone’s “bitch.” She did it last November too in the context of … Saudi Arabia.

On the one hand, I understand her objection. This Trump tweet makes it sound like the United States is taking foreign policy dictation from the Saudis. When did Mohammed bin Salman become National Security Advisor? On the other hand, it’s awfully “on brand,” shall we say, for Gabbard to be going to bat for Shiite interests. Nothing gets Assad’s favorite candidate exercised to the point of calling the president of the United States a “bitch” like watching him take sides with Sunnis against Iran.

Presumably Trump will reply later today by tweeting that Gabbard is “Assad’s bitch” and then we’ll have a dreary 24-hour news cycle of whether that’s (a) sexist in context and (b) deserved. And then of course there’ll be some Romneyesque reconciliation between the two in Trump’s second term and she’ll end up as Secretary of Defense, before being fired after six months once Trump realizes belatedly a la Bolton that her views on certain matters — like Iran vs. the Saudis — are diametrically opposed to his.

The irony of Gabbard demagoging him as the Saudis’ bitch is that Trump has been remarkably open to diplomacy with Iran. This is the thanks he gets from her, apparently, for canceling a bombing run on Iran earlier this year that was endorsed by the hawks in his administration. Trump’s willingness to consider suspending sanctions against Iran as a precondition to talks was reportedly the final straw for Bolton before he quit, in fact. In fairness to Gabbard, though, Trump has sounded more bellicose towards Iran in the past 48 hours, since that mysterious strike on Saudi oil facilities. And not just in the tweet she flagged him for:

That’s simply a lie. Trump has offered publicly to meet with Iran without preconditions more than once in the past 15 months, and as recently as June. Steve Mnuchin affirmed that Trump would meet without conditions just last week. Now suddenly POTUS is trying to gaslight people on that. Why? Has he shifted to a war footing with Iran and is trying to erase history, or is he just miffed that the Iranians have rejected his offers of presidential diplomacy unless and until the U.S. offers sanctions relief?

The big question: Why did Iran attack the Saudis now, and in particular why did they choose the manner that they did? Tehran’s usual M.O. when hitting a rival is to create plausible deniability by blaming it on a proxy. Iran, you see, is a mature power and a responsible international actor; it’s those darned woolly clients of theirs, like Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen, who occasionally get a little big for their britches. The wrinkle in that logic with the attack on the Saudi facility is that it appears to have been too comprehensive and sophisticated to have been carried out by the Houthis, who claimed responsibility. The missiles that struck the facility didn’t even come from the direction of Yemen, reportedly. Iran’s barely denying its role here, in other words, and by choosing Saudi oil capacity as its target it’s not guilty of a minor attack that might otherwise be ignored in the name of keeping the peace internationally either. This was a gut punch to world energy markets. It’s a big deal and their fingerprints are on it. Why would they do that at a moment when Trump’s hawkish NSA just got fired and the president is thinking about easing sanctions in order to get Iran to talk?

Maybe they’re looking to drive up the price of their own oil by suddenly cutting the Saudis’ supply. Or maybe it’s as simple as them testing Trump to see how he’ll react now that his most bellicose advisor is gone. Do they think he’s so reluctant to go to war lest it screw up his reelection message that he’ll let them slide on this and agree to talk anyway? It could be that Iran has decided to take him up on his offer to talk but the regime is worried that it’ll be berated by hardliners at home for doing so. The only way to make talks acceptable to that group is to look tough first, such as by punching the Saudis in the face. Now if they extend an olive branch to Trump, they don’t lose face. We’ll see if he accepts it.

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