On Jan. 3rd, 2020, the United States launched a drone strike that resulted in the death of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Supposedly, this man was a great enemy to the U.S., yet it is doubtful that the average American had heard of him before his demise. Since his death, many media outlets, particularly Fox News, have attempted to convince the public of the threat Soleimani posed and in the process justify the Trump administration’s rogue adventurism.
Even though some may see Soleimani’s death as a favorable outcome, one can clearly see the problems with his killing by picturing Americans in a comparable situation. Imagine if Iran murdered the U.S.’s top general in an airstrike in the Mexico City International Airport — along with the leadership of a U.S.-backed army of an allied nation. Would Americans have called it an act of war? Would Americans have accused Iran of international terrorism? Wouldn’t Americans want to retaliate with force?
The move has thrown U.S.-Irani relations into flux, leading to a rapidly changing situation that could change even while this is being written. This unpredictability is concerning for the families of those in the armed forces, many of whom in Georgia, as it could put their loved ones in harm’s way. It is especially concerning for the millions of Irani people whose lives could be put in danger with further military escalation.
These latest escalations between the U.S. and Iran didn’t start with the Trump presidency. The assassination of Soleimani is one of many chapters in the history of U.S. imperialistic efforts against Iran. Significant American intervention in Iran began during the 1950s. After the democratically-elected Irani prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq nationalized the Irani oil industry, the U.S. and Great Britain orchestrated a coup d’état to overthrow him, reinstating the dictatorial Shah. So much for being champions of democracy.
Intervention on behalf of the U.S. did not stop there. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which ousted the pro-American Shah and established the Islamic Republic, the U.S. has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran that have shrunk Iran’s economy and increased the costs of living, leading to higher prices for food, health care, and housing. The ordinary people of Iran are the ones who have been hurt the most by this economic warfare.
During the Iran-Iraq War, initiated by the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980, the United States stopped designating President Saddam Hussein’s government as a sponsor of terrorism while implementing sanctions against Iran. The Reagan and Bush administrations provided aid and allowed for the sale of chemical weapons and deadly biological viruses to Iraq. The war ended in a ceasefire in 1988 after hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Another event fused in the memory of many Iranis is the downing of Iran Air Flight 655. In 1988, a missile cruiser of the U.S. Navy shot down a commercial flight in Irani airspace, killing 290 civilians from six different nations — including 66 children. The U.S. made untrue statements in their defense, claiming that the plane was a war plane outside civilian airspace and that it did not respond to radio calls. George H.W. Bush, at that time the vice president, told Republican leaders a month after the incident that he “will never apologize for the United States—I don’t care what the facts are.” This may not have been said directly regarding the downed plane, but the statement illustrates the Reagan-Bush administration’s refusal to take responsibility for U.S. wrongdoings.
Looking back at this history shows that President Donald Trump is not the initiator of the hostile relations between Iran and the U.S., but he has added fuel to the fire. In his effort to erase all the actions of his predecessor, Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran Nuclear Deal. The U.S. has also reinstated the sanctions removed as a part of the nuclear deal and expanded the scale and severity of the sanctions, making them the most devastating they have ever been. Trump also decided to identify the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization — a move out of step with most of the international community.
Since then, tensions have risen, culminating in the U.S.’s recent attacks on an Iran-backed Iraqi militia group and the assassination of Soleimani. In response to Iran’s promise of retaliation, Trump has said that should Iran attack Americans or American assets, the U.S. would respond by attacking 52 sites in Iran, including cultural sites, which would be considered a war crime under international law
While it is not surprising to see Trump stoop to the level of a war criminal like most modern U.S. presidents, Americans must decide whether they’ll accept this aggression or stand up against the American war machine. As this column is being written, news has broken of Iran launching missiles at two Iraqi military bases that house U.S. troops. Before Americans hastily decide to react to this attack with more violence, they must ask themselves: do we want another war in the Middle East? Would we accept U.S. troops being sent to die in vain? Would we want hundreds of thousands if not millions of Irani people to die as a result of our actions? Hopefully, the answer is clear.