Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion on national security in his offices in Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 17, 2016. 
Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP

Team Trump puts Iran ‘on notice,’ won’t explain what that means

Mike Flynn, Donald Trump’s controversial National Security Adviser, appeared in the White House press briefing room to make a brief statement yesterday, declaring, “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”

The president himself added on Twitter this morning Iran “has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer used the same phrase this afternoon with reporters.

The trouble is, no one seems able to say what “on notice” means in the context of U.S. foreign policy. Sure, we remember Stephen Colbert’s “on notice” board, but when it comes to the White House, it remains an unexplained mystery.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t expand Thursday on what President Donald Trump’s national security advisor meant when he said the U.S. was putting Iran “on notice.”

“The President and national security adviser wants to put Iran on notice but haven’t specified what that is,” a reporter asked Spicer at the daily briefing. “What options are on the table? Are there any options like military action that might be off the table at this point?”

Spicer did not specify what retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn meant when he said Wednesday that “we are officially putting Iran on notice,” after the nation tested a ballistic missile.
“I think Gen. Flynn was very clear yesterday,” Spicer said, which is obviously untrue, since no one has any idea what exactly the White House is saying. The press secretary added, “Clearly we wanted to make sure that Iran knows they are on notice,”

Right. But that’s the only thing that’s “clear” in this equation.

Note, among those who are confused is CentCom. “We saw the statement as well,” a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which runs operations in the Middle East, told The Guardian. “This is still at the policy level, and we are waiting for something to come down the line. We have not been asked to change anything operationally in the region.”

So, the rookie White House is making vague pronouncements about the Middle East, while the amateur president tweets recklessly and his administration says nothing to the military personnel who need a heads-up about such things.

It’s almost as if there’s no adult supervision in the West Wing right now, and the result is an increasingly dangerous environment.