The quagmire of the United States’ relationship with most Middle Eastern countries is a stunning display of political opportunism and American exceptionalism. However, it’s the rather loud, ‘cold war style’ conflict with Iran that takes the proverbial cake of impending international doom.
It started in 1953 with the U.S. and British intelligence agencies orchestrating a coup to overthrow the democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, appointing the US-friendly Shah in his place to ensure a steady stream of easily purchasable oil, gifting him a nuclear reactor in exchange. Things only got worse since then, ultimately delivering the kiss of death for diplomatic relations with Iran by giving refuge to the freshly overthrown Shah in the 70s.
After several revolutions, a failed constitution, and multiple hostages taken and released, Iran found itself to be what it currently is. Iran is a democracy, because presidential and parliamentary elections take place regularly in Iran and everyone, including women, has the right to vote, but also a dictatorship — its Supreme Leader has the power to overrule its President and the Parliament.
More than anything in recent history, Iran has been anti-American, or at least an anti-western conservative, which leads to chants of ‘Death to America’ and the occasional and very photogenic phenomenon of the burning American flag — the quintessential image that flashes across TV screens in America when a war/President/beer is to be sold to the American public.
During the Obama era, the U.S. and Iran seemed to be at a mild impasse based on mutual distaste, but then, Obama held out a hand and managed to grasp a diplomatic solution to the ‘problem’ of a nuclear Iran, which promptly went down the drain with the election of Donald J. Trump.
Trump ran on the platform of pulling America out of the Iran nuclear deal, among other things, and he followed through. But most experts believed that that would be the extent of it, with incessant chest thumping till the next election. That did not turn out to be the case.
Qasem Soleimani’s assassination a few weeks ago was brash and reckless, an action of a frantic nationalist right-wing demagogue facing impeachment. In the quest to shift the American news cycle in his favor, Trump, who is very much the opposite of a seasoned politician, has done the political equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot.
There’s no question of a mutually-assured destruction with Iran. America is too big, Iran is too small. The two countries are only adversaries from very far away, in the sense that Iran’s Ayatollah remains in power by selling America as the Great Satan, and American politicians sell the idea of Iran as a Middle Eastern terrorist factory in exchange for votes.
World War 3 started trending on Twitter after the assassination of Soleimani went public. But that’s not what it’s going to be. The Iran-American showdown will not result in a multi-country war. It will result in what has already happened — a Ukrainian passenger plane being shot down by Iran killing all 176 passengers, 130 of whom were Irani, or the death of Iraqi soldiers and civilians due to Iran’s ballistic missile strikes in retaliation to Soleimani’s assassination, which has led to thousands of Iraqis protesting American presence in Iraq.
And of course, as they always are, upcoming elections.
Featured image source: Wikimedia Commons