Let me make it clear, the following isn’t intended to defend the dictatorial Islamic regime in Iran, mitigate its terrorist activities in the Middle East or “mourn” for assassinated Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, as Republicans ridiculously accuse Democrats of doing. I believe the history of U.S. involvement in this troubled region, however, sheds light on current developments.
It is well documented that the CIA and Britain’s MI6 engineered the 1953 coup that replaced Iranian Premier Mohammed Mossadegh with the pro-western Shah of Iran – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Mossadegh had nationalized the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and there were fears that he might fall under the influence of the Soviet Union. Yet, many Iranians were angered by this audacious act.
Various U.S. administrations supported the Shah for 26 years. Some observers claim he was a cruel dictator whose vicious crimes drove Iranians into the arms of Ayatollah Khomeini? Others believe it was the Shah’s attempts to westernize the nation and his close ties to America that motivated radical Islamists to revolt as his power and health deteriorated?
Regardless, anti-American feelings in Iran were running high after President Jimmy Carter allowed the deposed Shah to enter the United States for medical treatment in October 1979. In November, students supporting the revolution stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. Most were treated horribly; some were beaten and many were severely physiologically tortured. But when released after 444 days in captivity, none had died.
Nine months later, my legal job in the Middle East put me face to face with representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the annex to the Iranian embassy in Vienna, Austria. The negotiation involved compensation for my employer’s manufacturing plant in Tehran that had been nationalized during the 1979 revolution. It was an enlightening, yet surreal experience.
Over a year later, I was having dinner at a hotel in Kuwait City. In the distance I could hear muffled explosions and asked about a construction project. My Lebanese host smiled at my naivety. The sounds, he said, were probably from an artillery duel between Iraq and Iran near Kuwait’s border. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had invaded Iran in 1980 and the war was still raging.
It was no secret that President Ronald Reagan supported Iraq with money and intelligence during the fighting. Estimates indicate that hundreds of thousands of Iranian civilians and soldiers were killed in this bloody nine-year war, many of them child combatants. Iranian officials may still believe the U.S encouraged Hussein’s invasion and that America shares the blame for these casualties. But they certainly blamed the U.S. when its war ship in the Persian Gulf mistakenly shot down an Iranian passenger jet in July 1988, killing all 290 people on board
In August 1990, Hussein launched a massive attack on tiny Kuwait. President George H. W. Bush masterfully organized an international coalition of armies that swiftly drove the invaders out in 1991 – but he declined to pursue them into Iraq.
Iraqi forces escaping in various military and stolen civilian vehicles were bunched up in a three-mile-long convoy that was mercilessly attacked for 10 hours, mainly by U.S. aircraft. Over a thousand vehicles were reported destroyed and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers died in the resulting conflagration.
Some observers called the ghastly scene of twisted metal and charred corpses an unnecessary massacre. Others saw it as justice for the “rapists and murderers” who had invaded Kuwait. Iraqi parents and relatives probably viewed it as a vicious, unwarranted execution of their loved ones.
Apparently, President George W. Bush didn’t learn much from his father’s experience. Based on what appears to be flimsy evidence of Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, he ordered the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Iraqi military was totally destroyed and according to a 2013 study, an estimated 500,000 Iraqis were killed, including many civilians. Many call this war the greatest foreign policy blunder in U.S. history. Regardless, it greatly increased Iran’s power and terrorist capabilities in the region.
In 2015, the United States and four other permanent members of the UN Security Council, China, Russia, France and the UK, plus Germany negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement, officially the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” It restricted Iran’s nuclear program for ten years. In May 2018, President Trump withdrew the United States from this agreement and reinstated U.S. sanctions on Iran. Tensions between the two nations have escalated ever since.
Trump claims his decision to kill Soleimani on January 2nd was necessary to prevent impending attacks on American interests and personnel. Personally, I believe he was motivated by a desire to deflect attention from his impeachment and enhance his reelection chances.
But justified or not, here are the results:
- Recent protestors of the Tehran government are now its supporters.
- Iran’s leaders say they will renounce the 2015 nuclear agreement.
- The Iraqi parliament has voted to expel U.S. troops from their country.
- During heightened tensions over Soleimani’s death, a Ukrainian passenger jet was likely shot down accidently by Iranian forces, with a loss of 176 lives.
- Iraq will fall further under the influence of Iran’s revolutionary leaders.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin will gain power in the Middle East.
Unquestionably, Trump has weakened the national security of the United States and compounded its mistakes in the Middle East. When will it ever end?