Deep State Wars: Trump vs. Biden On China & Iran

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

7 DECEMBER 2020

Deep State Wars: Trump vs. Biden On China & Iran

Should Biden succeed in seizing power from Trump, he’ll be forced to confront serious internal challenges to his envisioned foreign policy decisions towards China and Iran, which will likely lead to a worsening of tensions within the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) even though the chance still exists for a possible compromise between its two most prominent factions.

“Deep state” deniers — those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of factionalism within the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies — are attempting to mislead the public into expecting that the implementation of Biden’s envisioned foreign policy decisions towards China and Iran will be perfectly smooth if he succeeds in seizing power from Trump. It’s extremely unlikely that such a scenario will come to pass since the Democrat presidential candidate will almost certainly face intense internal resistance from the pro-Trump elements of the deep state that hang around for his possible presidency. What follows is an extended bullet point summary describing the current deep state dynamics, predicting their forthcoming development under a possible Biden Administration, identifying their fault lines with respect to China and Iran, proposing some areas of compromise, and then touching upon some other common points between their largely contradictory worldviews. The purpose in sharing this insight is to debunk the deep state deniers and provide observers with a glimpse of what might transpire across the coming four years.

Deep State Dynamics

* All permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep states”) in the world are comprised of different factions.

* Each deep state has a different dynamic which changes with time.

* The past four years of the Trump Administration proves that zealous individuals will overtly and covertly attempt to sabotage the President’s foreign policy.

* This unilateral assertion of interests (whether individually or in coordination with like-minded supporters) against the chain of command is very worrying.

* It was seen most prominently with respect to Trump’s envisioned desire to reach a “New Detente” with Russia, which his deep state foes feared (sincerely or not) represented a dire threat to national security.

* Even after four years, Trump was still unable to “purge” and/or “politically neutralize” these forces, hence why they continued to hinder the implementation of his policy in that respect.

* Of relevance as well was the Syrian chemical weapons incident of early 2017 which provoked Trump into hypocritically going against his prior criticism of Obama when he threatened to bomb the country in late 2013.

* The specifics of that incident are in dispute, but Russia and Syria officially alleged that it was a provocation carried out by US intelligence-backed “rebels”.

* That being the case, which is consistent with their prior claims about similar incidents, then it proves that elements of the US deep state can stage provocations to pressure the President in a certain direction.

* There’s no reason to predict that this dynamic will change if Biden seizes the presidency, it’s just that this time it’ll likely be anti-Chinese and anti-Iranian elements of the deep state that might be driving this instead.

Bureaucratic Challenges

* Trump thought that replacing the heads of various departments would lead to positive changes down the chain of command, but this proved to not have been the case.

* In Trump’s experience, some of the individuals who he chose to lead those departments (ex: the CIA’s Gina Haspel and former Defense Secretary Mattis) have/had sharp contradictions of vision with him on some issues.

* It’s impossible to know in advance whether a nominee is “ideologically pure” on all issues since the importance is in immediately selecting someone to lead those departments who seems to be on the same page.

* It’s only throughout the course of time that differences might make themselves apparent, whether they preceded that individual’s nomination or independently developed later on.

* There’s nothing wrong with contrasting visions, but they become problematic when the individuals tasked with leading key departments defy the Executive Branch’s will, whether overtly or covertly.

* Even with the most “ideologically pure” individuals, they’re still literally only just one person and cannot exercise full control of the countless people below them, some of whom might be more zealous in their dissent.

* Institutional safeguards and oversight unique to each department are supposed to prevent this from happening by identifying it in advance and/or rigorously responding after the fact to prevent its recurrence.

* That hasn’t always worked as intended, as the storied experience of the State Department’s many disagreements with Trump’s policies attest, and the President wasn’t able to perfectly impose his will.

* The ideal solution then is for the most “ideologically pure” individuals to take charge of departments and ensure that dissenters who might go against the chain of command are identified and rooted out.

* Nevertheless, these actions are regarded in American political culture (whether rightly or wrongly) as “witch hunts” which go against the country’s traditions, which is how they were described when Trump attempted them.

* Biden, however, is held to different standards by a much more supportive media, so any efforts in this direction likely won’t receive the popular pushback that Trump’s did.

* In this case, dissenters might only receive a platform (whether directly or via leaks) to share their views on suppressed media outlets such as Breitbart and a few others, therefore mitigating their impact on public opinion.

* This might in turn embolden Biden and his team to carry out the “purge” that Trump only dreamed that he’d have been able to do, especially since new nominees are career bureaucrats unlike Trump’s relative “outsiders”.

* The unintended consequence of that success might be the development of more powerful groupthink, which could in turn blind policy makers and increase the risk of ideologically radical policies being promoted.

* As a case in point, the Biden team is known to prioritize “spreading democracy” and “protecting human rights” through Obama-era Color Revolutions and “Humanitarian Interventions”.

* Without responsibly expressed dissent within their ranks against these ideological desires, they might be more prone to resort to coercive (including kinetic) means to impose them abroad.

* That could in effect lead to a more militant foreign policy than was pursued under the comparatively less ideological and much more pragmatic Trump, whose vision was kept in check by deep state dissenters.

Deep State Fault Lines: China

* The primary deep state fault line that’s expected to develop within a possible Biden Administration is over the US’ approach towards China.

* If there’s one deep state front that Trump scored some success on, it’s with installing anti-Chinese individuals into these three institutions (the military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies).

* They’ve already developed clear strategies, implemented tangible policies (some of which irreversibly changed the state of play), and published comprehensive policy documents for guiding the deep state.

* For these reasons, it’ll be extremely difficult for Biden to reverse the trajectory of ever-intensifying US-Chinese competition, although he might try to regulate it a bit better.

* There are already several flashpoints between these two countries — namely the Korean Peninsula and territorial disputes (Japan/Taiwan/South China Sea/India) — that could be exploited by the dissident deep state.

* It’s not even so much the fact that it might just be one “rogue” individual who could spoil everything (unlikely), but that there’s an institutional mindset in the military at least not to “be soft” on China.

* With this in mind, Biden will likely have to compromise with members of the dissident deep state with respect to China the same as Trump had to do vis-a-vis Russia, though it’s unclear whether the same outcome will occur where he ends up bending to their will for the most part.

* What’s meant by this is that Biden can only go so far in seeking to regulate the US’ Great Power competition with China since members of the military might go against him just like diplomats defied Trump on Russia.

* Where Biden has much more flexibility then is on the economic front since that doesn’t fall within the typical domain of the “deep state”, which is also why Trump was so successful in pushing through his trade war agenda.

* Biden, therefore, might try to reach a more comprehensive trade deal with China which mitigates economic tensions but retains most of the military legacy thereof that he inherited from Trump.

* A possible compromise with the dissident deep state might be to continue Trump’s strategy of assembling an anti-Chinese economic coalition with the EU.

* Some exceptions might occur, though, such as if “ideologically pure” intelligence and/or diplomatic allies succeed in “reforming” some of Trump’s anti-Chinese containment measures in Asia.

* For instance, the situation in the South China Sea might remain tense, but it might also not get any worse, with Biden’s allies “freezing” the state of affairs in order to prevent it from spiraling out of control.

* That might not be ideal for the deep state dissenters, but it might also not be unacceptable for them either.

* Ultimately, it still remains to be seen how he’ll manage this complex interplay of shadowy interests since the outcome of this intra-governmental competition will greatly shape global affairs across the next four years.

Deep State Fault Lines: Iran

* The second most consequential deep state fault line lies with Iran, especially considering the influence that the “Israeli” and Gulf lobbies hold over the US government in general and the Trump Administration in particular.

* It already seems like dissident anti-Iranian deep state elements opposed to Biden’s possible return to the Iranian nuclear deal are conspiring to sabotage that scenario.

* This speculation is the result of Pompeo’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia, which Netanyahu was reported to have attended as well despite Tel Aviv and Riyadh’s denial.

* Observers are of the opinion that this wasn’t just a “going away party” for Pompeo, but a plot to undermine any Iranian-friendly outreaches by Biden.

* It can only be speculated what form this might take, but the subsequent assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist might suggest possible ways in which this could play out.

* It’s unclear who was responsible, but whether it was the US, “Israel”, or Saudi Arabia, all three (at least under the outgoing Trump Administration) are on the same page that it was a positive development.

* Even in the event that Biden is able to “purge”/”politically neutralize” as much of his deep state as possible of anti-Iranian forces, “Israel” and Saudi Arabia can still engage in similarly destabilizing and provocative acts.

* Moreover, while Gulf influence over the US government can potentially be mitigated, “Israeli” influence is recognized as being much more powerful and unquestionably has strong bipartisan support.

* That observation, however, doesn’t explain why Obama went through with the Iranian nuclear deal in the first place, which shows that there are still some divisions between some of the US deep state and “Israel”.

* That doesn’t mean that a split is imminent, but just that those in the US who might want to assert their view of national interests at “Israel’s” perfecived expense might be emboldened under Biden’s Obama-era team.

* It’s here where Biden’s “purge”/”political neutralization” of anti-Iranian elements will be important because if he roots out Pompeo’s allies, then “Israel” and Saudi Arabia would be more isolated if they sabotaged his policies afterwards.

* Should he fail in this attempt or not do so to the extent that’s needed, then Biden’s Iran policy might be sabotaged from within just like Trump’s Russia one was.

* Unlike with China, it might be more difficult to reach a deep state compromise on Iran because anti-Iranian elements regard the country as an existential threat to their “Israeli” ally, which China doesn’t represent.

* The ideological radicalism influencing their opposition to Iran makes them unlikely to compromise, meaning that this might become the most intense front of dissident deep state subterfuge of Biden’s foreign policy.

* For instance, the military likely won’t agree to any compromise with Iran since it was the military which supported Trump’s anti-Iranian policies the most.

* The intelligence and diplomatic communities, however, were always split in this respect, and if anything, they’ve leaned closer to preferring Obama-era policies, thus making it easier for Biden to promote them.

* Although a compromise is difficult to reach in the Mideast, deep state dissent might be quelled if the US’ return to the Iranian nuclear deal somehow or another has loopholes for intensifying pressure on the country.

* Iranian conservatives were against the initial deal since they didn’t trust the US, and they’re skeptical of any future one which mandates more international inspections and any missile cuts for that reason.

* If Biden were to propose what’s presented (whether rightly or wrongly) as a “perfect deal” but was rebuked, then this might set into motion a chain reaction of escalations that would serve the military’s interests.

* Although it’s only speculative, such a plan of action could be discussed behind closed doors with dissident deep state members from the military to either ensure their support or create staged drama.

* If Iranian conservatives saw that the military vehemently opposed a deal, they might then think that maybe it really is more to their interests than they thought, even if that’s only a ruse to strategically disarm them.

* In any case, it’s still a risky proposal because there’s no way to ensure the military’s support for something that they’re so clearly against even if they promise otherwise, hence why this is only speculation.

Possible Points Of Deep State Compromise

* There are some common points of interest between the Trump and Biden teams, as well as those who are influenced by both of their visions within the deep state.

* The first is the recognition that China is the US’ top strategic competitor, though Trump’s deep state regards it as the greatest threat while Biden’s thinks that Russia fulfills this role instead.

* Nevertheless, they can still find some common ground in strengthening the US’ anti-Chinese alliance system, focusing first on the Quad and 5G, then perhaps on trade (such as what was proposed earlier with the EU).

* The military-industrial complex is also very important to both so there was never any credible risk of either administration — Trump or Biden — pulling away from international affairs and “isolating” despite critics’ claims.

* This nod to the military dimension of the deep state ensures that it remains a prominent force influencing the US’ grand strategic designs, even if the other two (intelligence and diplomacy) override it on topics like Iran.

* Trade and tech (5G especially) are other areas of common interest between the Trump and Biden deep states, and representatives from both spheres regard China as the US’ top global competitor.

* Dissident deep state elements might therefore be appeased if Biden expanded the US’ anti-Chinese global alliance network on the basis of trade and tech even if militarily de-escalating in the South China Sea.

* American values are also important to both too, and these can be incorporated into the basis for a more comprehensive worldwide anti-Chinese alliance system, possibly winning over the dissident deep state.

Concluding Thoughts

As was argued in this analysis, dissident members of the deep state are prone to replicating the Russiagate precedent by actively working to sabotage Biden’s envisioned foreign policy decisions towards China and Iran. While the projected president-elect might make some headway in politically neutralizing the internal opposition to his vision, he’ll more than likely still have to confront significant pushback along these two main fronts. The possibility therefore exists for him to consider a compromise between the deep state’s two most prominent factions which could see the US retaining some elements of its prior strategies against those two countries in exchange for moderating its hostile approach towards them in specific spheres. It’s way to early to predict with a lot of confidence whether this will all play out or not, especially since Biden hasn’t (yet?) been certified as the president-elect, but it’s nevertheless important to begin prognosticating how everything might unfold if that does indeed come to pass. In any case, the importance of this analysis rests with the attention that it gives the deep state level of analysis, which is deliberately neglected by most mainstream analysts.

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