The First of Two Thoughts on The Day (No War with Iran)

I went to sleep last night worried that we would all be waking up to a war with Iran.  I am so grateful that the administration interpreted Iran’s attack on our bases as a retaliatory gesture that was pointed but at the same time perfunctory. Actually, I don’t have a problem with the president’s formally expressed hard line on Iran, or with the two aims he expressed today: deterring Iran’s expansive militarism and deterring it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

I want to see Donald Trump out of the presidency, but, when I hear him speak about Iran, I agree completely. His remarks today took into account the really desperate internal condition of that country, and he articulated the ultimate and ideal goal of seeing Iran reach a state of peace and prosperity.

The people of Iran have suffered terribly under years of international sanctions and government repression. They want a functioning economy and normal lives. This is why Iran has lately been witnessing widespread popular demonstrations, which the government has had trouble putting down. Internally, Iran is in a terrible position to go to war with any nation, let alone the United States.  The people of Iran want to get rid of the ayatollah and the fundamentalist strictures that the clerics have imposed on the country for decades.

At the same time, I liked Trump’s emphasis on our energy independence, and how that gives us more latitude when it comes to getting out of the Middle East. Interestingly, the desirability of withdrawing US troops from Iraq in some fashion but as soon as is feasible is a point on which Trump and Bernie Sanders agree.

18 responses

  1. I was so surprised to hear myself say, “Thank President Trump,” this morning. Good article!

    • I found it difficult to give the president credit for making a good choice. I imagine that he gave the speech he did only after perceiving how unpopular he would be if he started an unnecessary war.
      Thanks, Jody.

  2. In general, I agree. I object, however, to Trump’s assertion that the hostage-taking was the beginning of it all. Does he not know that the US meddled and put the Shah in the role of leadership some years earlier? The shah’s oppressive rule lead to the theocracy that still exists today, which included the hostage-taking event of 1979.

  3. Indeed, I have to agree with Peggy. Our troubles with Iran date to 1953 when the CIA, in concert with its British counterpart, overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossaddegh, and established the corrupt Shah as ruler of Iran. This was done because Mossaddegh tried to limit British control over Iranian oil reserves. We propped up the Shah for decades until he was overthrown in 1979. (It wasn’t until 2013 that the CIA publicly admitted its role in the Shah’s rule). The Shah was widely reviled in Iran because of his corruption and torture of Iranian citizens. We are still dealing with the consequences of our actions in 1953.

    I also feel – I hope I’m wrong – that we are nowhere near the end of our conflict with Iran – and currently we have no peaceful means to engage with them. Trump mentions “talks”, but we have assassinated their number 2 man – the equivalent of taking out Mike Pence and the Joint Chief of Staff combined – (yes, he was a very bad man who is responsible for many atrocities, and it’s good that he’s gone, but killing him was an act of war), have severed diplomatic relations with them, withdrew from the nuclear treaty over a year ago, have no clear framework from which to start, etc., etc.

    • I also agree that the current situation is not comforting. Trump may say he doesn’t want war, but he is impulsive and has a need to be perceived as strong. We can only hope for the best outcome.

    • Yes, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess Iran will strike at the US again much later and in a way that compensates it emotionally for the loss of its major military strategist and its hurt pride. That will be ugly.

      Domestically, Trump’s recklessness and his failure to keep Congress sufficiently informed on Iran has hurt his hold on Capitol Hill. Senator Mike Lee’s outburst to Fox News the other day was noteworthy. The Republican from Utah was quoting the Federalist Papers regarding Congress’s war power and raging that Trump’s behavior toward the Senate was humiliating. Some of the Republicans there are about due to explode.

    • We certainly don’t want to get swept up in a dynamic of vengeance, which is the justification of so many conflicts that don’t need to exist. Often our actions in the Middle East have an element of condescension, as if we are going to “save” those nations from their own cultures or their own political imperatives and decisions. We certainly have done enough in many areas of the world to justify the hatred perennially directed to the US.

      It is tough to take responsibility for that and collectively resolve to behave differently. I have fairly strong isolationist leanings and believe many Americans of all stripes are tired of our unending involvement in foreign wars (and the sort of puppetry that inevitably blows up). Beyond that, I am grateful for any measure that will help extricate us and let the hatred that animates terrorism recede. It is terrifying to think that the administration has no overall plan and lacks the kind of people capable of forming one.

  4. I wonder why Iran’s leaders have been causing soooo much mischief (actually horrible troubles) in some countries in their region. Why such aggression? They are involved in supporting elements to foment government overthrow in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. And, of course, their (leaders’) number-one enemy after the United States is Israel.

    It seems the current regime wants no peace with anyone. They are full of hate, so much blowing up of hospitals, schools, churches, crowded marketplaces, etc, etc, etc. The sometimes clandestine troops who carry out these atrocious actions are trained, financed and weaponized by Iranians. Is it all really about religious differences, or about oil, minerals, or just about taking over land?

    I was in Iran in 1978 about 3-5 weeks before the Shah and his family took off. I was in the country ten days. The people HATED the Shah. He had created a very powerful secret spy force and, like other dictators, tossed anyone in jail who spoke against him. Fast forward to the present. It seems to be exactly the same, just a different cast of characters. The Shah was a U.S puppet but did not have grandiose international ambitions. I suppose the only way the current leaders of Iran are going to be kicked out is by an internal revolution. Fat chance. . . .

    Iran has recruited rogue Pakistani nuclear scientists to run their program of enriching uranium to U52, atomic bomb power. Other Pakistani rogue rocket specialists teach them how to build and operate what will be intercontinental ballistic nuclear-tipped rockets. I guess, like North Korea, the Iranians want to have a say and join the “exclusive club” of being able to wield the “big stick.” Lastly, you know, in that whole area, almost all the countries are run by true kooks and power-hungry dictators. The few exceptions are Jordan, Israel, and most of those small U.A.E. countries. . .

    • In September, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said of the West, ​“Your presence has always been a calamity for this region, the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security [will] come [to] our region.” I don’t take everything he says on faith, but I think one of the keys to peace in the Middle East is laissez-faire on the part of the West–the US particularly. Maybe Iran would still want the bomb then, and maybe it would still be dangerously aggressive toward its neighbors, but I think it would be less so.

      I wonder if there will ever be reconciliation between the branches of Islam. Obviously sectarian difference is one of the main drivers of internal violence throughout the region. It’s all so painful to witness. Like the troubles in Northern Ireland only much much worse.

      Thank you, RB.

  5. I have something more to add concerning the drone killing of that monster and piece-of-sewage general whose hands were drenched in the blood of tens and tens of thousands of innocent humans. First, I must respectfully disagree with KW about comparing his importance to our Vice President and Secretary of State. Pence is an elected official holding the the second highest office in our country and Pompeo is a member of the Cabinet, a part of the civilian government; both are political positions and “outrank” any member of our armed forces. That Iranian general just a general. His business was war. He was not chosen by the Iranian folks, who sadly never have voted on anything or anybody.

    Second, that general was a very, very wanted man in the multiple countries I listed above. He roamed around mobilizing discontent in other countries, encouraging subversive and violent conflict. All the legitimate leaders of those countries and millions of people throughout the Middle East are saying just what many here are saying: “Good riddance to him. May he rot in Dante’s deepest hell.”

  6. RB, hello. As I said, I do not object to the the fact that we killed the Iranian general and, yes, he was a terrible guy; good riddance. My point was simply that doing so was an act of war. Whether or not he was elected, he was the #2 man in the Iranian government (where no one is elected), more than just a general (by the way, I did not compare him to Pompeo; I compared him to the Joint Chiefs of Staff). Like it or not, Iran is a sovereign state (unlike, say, the Taliban, or ISIS), and attacking a high ranking official was an act of war. By the way, I read that we have not intentionally targeted and killed another country’s general since WWII when we shot down a Japanese plane that was carrying a high ranking Japanese general. We were, of course, very much at war with Japan when we did that.

    • I found this webpage useful in thinking about the nature of Soleimani’s position in the Iranian power structure:

      Whereas Iran’s regular army is somewhat similar to the US army, it seems like Soleimani’s activities as one of the generals of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), charged with perpetuating religious revolution outside Iran’s borders, has no exact US counterpart. It is a full-blown military serving a transnational religious goal. That he was in charge of proxy armies fighting inside Iraq, where he was killed, also makes the case somewhat different than if he had been killed in Iran. Perhaps the old distinction between “fighting generals” and “desk generals” (such as the Joint Chiefs are) is germane?

      What I find particularly fascinating though is how the citizens of Iran are in the middle of an uprising against their theocratic leaders. The Ayatollah and his clerics keep the war machine going. It isn’t particularly popular, I don’t think.

  7. Thanks, Susan; the PBS website provides important background info on how the Iranian government is structured, much of which was new to me. I was struck, though, that under the military section it did not mention the Quds Force, of which Soleimani was commander, an important unit of the Revolutionary Guard. According to Wikipedia, “the Quds Force is a unit in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) specializing in unconventional warfare and military intelligence operations. U.S. Army’s Iraq War General Stanley McChrystal describes the Quds Force as an organization roughly analogous to a combination of the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the United States.”

    I was wrong in comparing Soleimani to Pence or the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to McChrystal, he is more analogous to the Director of the CIA and of the JSOC (currently under the command of Lt. Gen. Scott A. Howell). Obviously, Soleimani spent much time in the field, whereas Gina Haspel, our CIA Director, would be extremely unlikely to do so; we will never find exact parallels between the structure of our government and that of Iran

    Stanley McChrystal’s article about Soleimani (cited in the Wikipedia article) “Iran’s Deadly Puppet Master,” Foreign Policy, Winter 2019 is a really good read, explaining S’s extraordinary power and influence. It is especially interesting because it was written well before Soleimani was killed. McChrystal served during the George W. Bush administration, and explains – although a bit too briefly – why he (MCChrystal, that is) was reluctant to kill Soleimani when he had an opportunity to do so.

    It’s clear from the article that Soleimani was very much a child of the 1979 revolution (he was a very young man at the time) as well as the Iran-Iraq War. Roughly two generations of Iranians have been born since 1979, none of whom have direct experience of the revolution and may not be wedded to its ideals. As you point out, many young Iranians are protesting, expressing their disenchantment with the government, especially concerning the nation’s economy and lack of employment. Most recently, protesters are expressing their fury with the government over its responsibility for the downing of the civilian aircraft at Tehran airport. I have read that many of the passengers were some of the best and brightest of the young generation, some of them Canadian citizens of Iranian heritage, heading to back to Canadian universities after the holiday break.

    It is intriguing to think that this youthful disaffection may bring about positive change in Iran. Way too soon to know. In the meantime, the older generation holds power.

    McChrystal’s article on Soleimani:

    • Thank you so much, KW. This thread of comments prompted me to read more about Iran and Soleimani, and it looks like I should add the McChrystal article to the mix.

      Just as Iraq doesn’t want to be the site of a proxy war between Iran and the US, so too are the Iranian people really weary of being powerless, impoverished, and repressed. Peace would do such wonders for the people of both nations; their souls could enlarge.

      For the moment I remain grateful that neither Iran nor the US blundered their way into an all-out war.

      I found this article of interest: