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Nikki Haley: Neocon Heartthrob

With the eviction of Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka from the inner precincts of the White House and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson besieged and taking fire from virtually all sides, neoconservatives – even the NeverTrumpers among them – must be quietly harboring renewed hopes that their restoration may soon be within reach.

And, as should become clear Tuesday, those hopes reside largely with the Trump administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who’s been on a tear against Iran for several weeks now. Her campaign culminated recently in her unsubstantiated claims—in contradiction to the most recent findings of her own State Department and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), not to mention Washington’s P5+1 partners—that Tehran is not in full compliance with the two-year-old Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Why Tuesday? Because Haley will give a formal policy address on Iran policy at Neocon Central, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). That’s the same “think tank” that acted as the Bush administration’s principal cheerleader for the 2003 Iraq invasion and provided the Pentagon with a number of its “scholars” as consultants to put together the totally failed strategy that followed Washington’s conquest of Baghdad. Who can forget the machismo-filled “black coffee briefings”—featuring the likes of then-Defense Policy Committee chair Richard Perle, serially mistaken Iran “experts” Michael Rubin, Michael Ledeen, and Reuel Marc Gerecht (the last two now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies), and former CIA director James Woolsey—that bolstered the propaganda blitz about Saddam Hussein’s alleged ties to al-Qaeda, his enormous WMD factories, his fast-developing nuclear weapons program, and the gratitude which we should all feel toward the tremendous sacrifices and promise of Ahmad Chalabi as the George Washington of Iraq? If ever there was a highly developed “echo chamber” for going to war in modern U.S. foreign policy, it was AEI that provided the initial shouting points. All of that makes the title of Haley’s impending address, “Beyond the Echo Chamber: Considerations on U.S. Policy Toward Iran,” especially ironic, not to say ominous.

Haley, who has hardly been camera-shy since her appointment and will no doubt get an additional media boost from her demands Monday that the UN Security Council take much stronger action against North Korea following its latest nuclear test, clearly has her eyes set on higher office, no doubt including the presidency itself. As the country’s most influential national-security reporter, The New York Times’ David Sanger, noted just a few days ago, she appears to be the front-runner to succeed an increasingly beleaguered and publicity- and media-averse Tillerson should he or Trump decide that it’s not worth his sticking around. A total foreign-policy novice just eight months ago, Haley could soon find herself running U.S. foreign policy, at least to the extent that the State Department remains a factor in the policy-making compared to the Pentagon and the White House itself.

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