Iran and Context, and…Defending Trump?

Iran and Context, and…Defending Trump? January 8, 2020

The good ole context argument, eh! Actually, context can be very important in understanding explanation, though it is very important to understand the distinction between explanation and justification. Explanation is not justification.

Things have been very worrying as of late.

But first, let me get onto defending Trump.

Well, not really that much.

Trump ordered the drone strike on Qasem Soleimani between the 5th and 6th holes…:

Inside ornate Mar-a-Lago suites commandeered as makeshift situation rooms, Trump hosted top advisers and certain friendly members of Congress on Tuesday to discuss a strike taking out the commander of Iran’s security and intelligence services.
In between rounds of golf and dinners with his family over the next 48 hours, he was updated on specific intelligence showing multiple threats to Americans from Iran in the region — and on the expected movement of Qasem Soleimani to Baghdad, where he was taken out by an American drone on Thursday. [Source]

Trump isn’t the most knowledgeable about..well, most things. There is plenty of evidence to suggest he has little background knowledge about anything pertaining to foreign affairs (indeed, of Soleimani himself and the Quds). In this context, there is no way Trump will have been the driver of this strike. He would never have researched and spearheaded such an action. That said, this could be argued for virtually every single decision of this ilk a President makes. He will have been advised by intelligence officials, military officials and so on. this will have come from them, seeking to perpetuate the funding of the military-industrial complex or something similar. The war hawks were at play. Trump merely rubber-stamped it.

But the moral pedigree of a commander-in-chief is the ability and moral strength to veto, not just to agree. And Trump campaigned on being non-interventionist. This was about the most interventionist thing he could think of doing, unilaterally striking down a government official on foreign land.

We often think about these things subconsciously as “Trump did this” or “Trump did that” when there are really so many other players involved. But Trump, like an OmniGod, had the power to stop it from happening, but instead gave the final order.

So he is largely morally culpable. That’s about as Trump-defending as I’ll ever get, I reckon. It’s all downhill for him now…

The historical context, however, is well worth noting. We have a seemingly imperialistic America deciding to make an arguably illegal assassination of a foreign general on a third-party foreign nation’s soil. And Iran has had to look on for decades as America and the UK have screwed them over. Let’s take a whistlestop tour [source]:

1953: US and British intelligence agencies orchestrate a coup to oust Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq. The secular leader had sought to nationalise Iran’s oil industry. (The UK and Russia had also previously intervened.)

1979-81: Revolution against the Shah (who was heavily aligned to the US).

1985-86: Iran-Contra scandal. The US secretly ships weapons to Iran, allegedly in exchange for Tehran’s help in freeing US hostages held by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. The profits are illegally channelled to rebels in Nicaragua, creating a political crisis for Reagan.

1980-88: Iran-Iraq War. US sides with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, funding and arming them (mainly through other nations like Saudi Arabia). Somewhere between 1 and 2 million died in the conflict.  Reports of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran reached the CIA as early as 1983, but the U.S. took no action to restrain Iraq’s violations of international law, failing even to alert the UN. Dual-use technology was sold to the Iraqis that was used to make chemical weapons. Donald Riegle, Chairman of the Senate committee … said [source for this section]:

U.N. inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq’s chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs. … The executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record.

(The U/s proceeds to then invade Iraq twice with the UK, fighting against a military armed and funded by them!)

1988: Iranian passenger plane shot down. The American warship USS Vincennes shoots down an Iran Air flight in the Gulf on 3 July, killing all 290 people on board. The US says the Airbus A300 was mistaken for a fighter jet. Most of the victims are Iranian pilgrims on their way to Mecca.

2002: ‘Axis of evil’: In his State of the Union address, President George Bush denounces Iran as part of an “axis of evil” with Iraq and North Korea. The speech causes outrage in Iran.

2000s: Nuclear sanctions. Several rounds of sanctions are imposed by the UN, the US and the EU against ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. This causes Iran’s currency to lose two-thirds of its value in two years.

2013-2016: Closer ties, and a nuclear deal. In September 2013, a month after Iran’s new moderate president Hassan Rouhani takes office, he and US President Barack Obama speak by phone – the first such top-level conversation in more than 30 years. Then in 2015, after a flurry of diplomatic activity, Iran agrees a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with a group of world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. Under the accord, Iran agrees to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

2016-now: Trump undoes everything Obama put in place, and orders the assassination of their (admittedly malignant) general on foreign soil.

2019: Gulf tensions. In May 2018, US President Donald Trump abandons the nuclear deal, before reinstating economic sanctions against Iran and threatening to do the same to countries and firms that continue buying its oil. Iran’s economy falls into a deep recession. Relations between the US and Iran worsen in May 2019, when the US tightens the sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports. In response, Iran begins a counter-pressure campaign. In May and June 2019, explosions hit six oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and the US accuses Iran. On 20 June, Iranian forces shoot down a US military drone over the Strait of Hormuz. The US says it was over international waters, but Iran says it is over their territory. Iran begins rolling back key commitments under the nuclear deal in July.

It’s really important to understand why Iran feels the way they do towards the US (and UK). A long history of being done over by us has causal implications… Finally, Obama brought them to the table. Trump just smashes the table up in childish delight.

Here’s the key. Knowing all this, as Trump should, what did he expect by ordering the assassination? Did he really expect this to make matters in the region better? Safer for the US and her allies? Did he imagine this would bring parties closer? Did he think this was good diplomacy? Because this:

Impeachment must be making him hot under the collar. That statement should be hugely embarrassing for him. Had Trump “exhausted other possibilities”?

The whole thing is insane. And he accused Obama of having “no clue”?

The key, of course, is perhaps the continued mention of oil. After all, Trump’s politics is almost entirely transactional and based on finance – or his understanding thereof.

 


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