Middle East


By: Michael Drohan

Early on Friday Jan 3, 2020 President Trump ordered the assassination of Maj. General Qassim Suleimani of Iran near Baghdad Airport, Iraq. Suleimani was the head of the Quds Military Force in Iran and was the second most powerful figure in Iran. The recklessness and barbarity of this act is hard to overestimate. Comparisons have been made with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the heir apparent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914, an act which ignited World War I. 

For starters, assassinations are strictly forbidden by American law. Secondly, this act exacerbated the relationships between the US and Iran and has brought us ever so close to full scale war of a proportion we can only imagine and dread. Thirdly, it taught us that the Pentagon and the Trump administration have learned absolutely nothing from the 19 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The semi-destruction of these countries, leaving them in ruins and permanent internal conflict, does not seem to have sunk in. 

The reasons for the escalation of hostilities towards Iran are encased in lies and obfuscation. The first reason put forward by the Trump administration is that Suleimani was planning attacks on US assets and that these were imminent. But now Secretary of Defense Mike Esper maintains that he was not informed of any such threats. The timing of the assassination, coming right in the middle of the impeachment of President Trump, suggests that this reckless act may have been to blow the impeachment process out of the water. 

There are also several ironies associated with the assassination. The fact that Suleimani was in Iraq at all is a direct fall-out of the 17-year US war in Iraq. That war removed from power Saddam Hussein and the Sunni rulers, handing over power to the Shia opponents of Hussein. This gave entry to the Iranians in Iraq, who are Shia in majority. In addition, the Iranian presence in Iraq had contributed greatly to the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Supposedly, the presence of the US in Iraq is to defeat ISIS. In essence, ignorance and confusion seemed to be the characteristics of this recklessness. 

Rather than seeking consistency and logic in this act of savagery, we have to look further back at Trump’s record in office. A consistent theme of his Presidency has been an unbounded antipathy towards his predecessor Barack Obama and a commitment to undoing any and all of the achievements of the latter’s Presidency. Specifically, he has devoted his Presidency to nullifying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of Obama and the nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed on November 24, 2015. Trump withdrew from the latter in 2018 on the basis of Iran violating its terms. He also imposed insufferable economic sanctions on Iran, which amounts in reality to war by other means. But the animus towards Iran for Trump seems to be derived from Trump’s racial animus, which has a long and sordid history. A second layer of the animosity to Iran is Trump’s subservience to the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of whom are committed to the destruction of Iran. 

The sequel to the assassination of Suleimani was the bombing of Iraqi bases housing US troops with ballistic missiles. It was a measured response involving no human fatalities. The Trumpian response, however, is even more egregious. He threatened to destroy 52 Iranian targets, including archaeological sites of ancient Persian empires, one for each hostage taken in 1979. Empires never forget their hurts and grievances. Forget the facts, such as that the revolution of 1979 was to overthrow the dictatorship that the US imposed on Iran in 1953, when they deposed the democratic leader Mohammed Mossadeq. Revenge for the hurts of empire run mighty deep. There are in fact some things that Trump knows and remembers, the hurt of empires. 

As this is being written (January 13), the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has announced another round of more harsh sanctions on Iran. In other words, make life for the people of Iran so unbearable that they will succumb to the wishes of their oppressor. Destroy them economically as a prelude to military destruction. The supposed rationale for all this is that they wish to bring “democracy” to Iran. In their total idiocy and ignorance, they do not realize that what they are doing will only strengthen the allegiance of the people of Iran to their religious zealot leaders. 

Michael Drohan is a member of the Merton Center and of the Editorial Collective. 

NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 1. February, 2020. All rights reserved.

Categories: Middle East, News

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