A combination of circumstances has increased the risk that armed conflict will break out between the United States and Iran. Such a war is no certainty, but the chance that one will occur is greater today than it has been in years. Some of the relevant circumstances, such as the first two mentioned below, have been around in some form for a substantial amount of time, while others are more recent.
Anti-Iranism in American discourse. The vocabulary has become so repetitive and widely used that it rolls off tongues automatically: Iran is a “theocratic autocracy” and the “largest state sponsor of terrorism” that engages in “nefarious,” “malign” and “destabilizing” behavior as part of its “drive for regional hegemony,” etc. The verbiage has become a substitute for thought and for any careful examination of exactly what Iran is and is not doing and how it does and does not affect U.S. interests. Such a commonly accepted mantra means that anyone making a focused attempt to stir up trouble with Iran starts with a built-in advantage in mustering public and political support.
The lobby pushing hostility against Iran. There indeed have been, and still are, focused attempts to stir up trouble. Politically potent interests have their own narrow reasons to keep U.S.-Iranian relations bad and to keep Iran isolated. Foremost among those interests is the right-wing government of Israel, for which Iran as chief bête noire serves to cripple a competitor for regional influence, to explain all regional trouble in terms that do not relate to Israel, to distract attention from matters (especially the occupation of Palestinian territory) the Israeli government would rather not discuss, and to keep the United States wedded to Israel as supposedly its only reliable regional partner. Given the obvious impact of the Israeli government’s preferences on American politics, this factor weighs greatly on the current administration’s policies toward Iran. Donald Trump has tilted heavily to those Israeli preferences, as reflected in his appointments and in his rhetoric since midway through the presidential campaign. Trump still aspires to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, which would require sharp breaks with the Netanyahu government’s current course. But that might make aggressiveness and confrontation with Iran seem all the more necessary, as a form of compensation to Netanyahu while pressing him for concessions toward the Palestinians.
Anti-Obamaism and the nuclear agreement. The preceding factor was one of two major reasons for opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the multilateral agreement that severely restricts Iran’s nuclear program and closes any possible path to a nuclear weapon. The other major, and very partisan, reason was that the accord was probably Barack Obama’s biggest single achievement in foreign policy. Trump, who scathingly denounced the accord during the campaign and whose administration only grudgingly acknowledges that Iran is complying with its obligations under the agreement, still shows a strong inclination to do the opposite of whatever Obama did. Now that the Republican effort to undo Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, has run aground on the realities of health care, the urge may be stronger than ever to undo Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement. If it can be undone not through direct U.S. renunciation but as a casualty of some other confrontation with Iran, then so much the better from Trump’s point of view.
Weak voices of restraint in the administration. There are press reports of debate within the Trump administration on aspects of policy toward Iran, and real debate is much better than policy made through wee-hours tweets. But it is doubtful whether the sober reasons why armed conflict with Iran would be folly are getting adequate attention. This is not only a matter of the dominance of non-sober voices, such as that of self-declared Leninist destroyer-of-worlds Stephen Bannon, who demonstrated his clout with Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement. The problem also is that visceral anti-Iranism infects even some of those looked to as adults in the room, most notably Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Ik kwam zojuist mijn oude vriend, de bestseller-auteur en mainstream-opiniemaker Geert Mak in de regen op straat tegen. Na elkaar te hebben begroet, vertelde Geert mij dat hij van oordeel is dat Europa zo snel mogelijk met Rusland om de tafel moet gaan zitten, om de opgelopen spanningen te deëscaleren. De VS heeft heel andere belangen dan 'wij,' aldus Mak, die benadrukte dat de macht van 'onze' Atlantische bondgenoot ingrijpend aan het afnemen is. Kortom, ik hoorde wat ikzelf al enige jaren op mijn weblog schrijf. Opvallend hoe een Nederlandse opiniemaker binnen zo'n betrekkelijk korte tijd zo wezenlijk van oordeel kan veranderen. Immers, Mak’s gevaarlijke anti-Rusland hetze was een treffend voorbeeld van zijn opportunisme. Mei 2014 beweerde op de Hilversumse televisie de zogeheten ‘chroniqueur van Amsterdam, Nederland, Europa en de VS,’ dat er sprake was van een 'Russische gevaar,’ aangezien ‘meneer Poetin’ aan ‘landjepik’ deed en dat de Russische president d…
A sign marks the entrance to White Earth Indian Reservation in Mahnomen County, Minn. (J. Stephen Conn / CC 2.0)
WHITE EARTH RESERVATION, Minn.—Candice (not her real name) awoke with a start. Someone was pulling down her sweatpants. It was a male friend.
“Stop!” she shouted.
He kept groping her. She kicked him and he fell off the bed. She dashed out of the bedroom, tripping and tumbling down the stairs. Gripped with fear, she heard his footsteps behind her in the dark and forced herself to stand upright as she staggered out to the porch.
Candice was still intoxicated. She got into her car and drove into a ditch. A white police officer pulled up. She struggled to hold back tears as she told him about the attempted rape.
All the officer saw was a drunk and disorderly Native American woman. He dismissed Candice’s report of sexual assault as a lie she had made up to avoid getting a DUI. He did not take her to the hospital for a forensic exam. The sexual assault was not recorded in his pol…