I was going to write about the Presidential Impeachment for my first International Update of the year…and then this happened.
If you want more news about what’s going on in the world, produced in clear, everyday language, with a focus on info, please check out The Skimm. But if you want to know more about what’s going on in Iran and Iraq, keep reading.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the articles used in this post and have provided links to them below. A bit of additional research has gone into this post, but a majority of this is my own personal interpretation, opinions, and rants.
National Public Radio: How Did We Get Here?
Article Title: How the U.S. Came to Strike and Kill a Top Iranian General
Here’s the gist: The airstrike that killed Iranian General Qussem Soleimani and surprised the world was building for roughly a week.
On December 27, 2019, the militia group, Kataib Hezbollah attacked a military base near Kirkuk. In this attack, one American was killed and several American and Iraqi personnel were injured. On the 29th, President Trump was presented with both combative and non-combative options of how to handle the attack.
Two days later on New Year’s Eve, Iraqi supporters of Kataib Hezbollah stormed the U.S. embassy in Bagdad, leading to violence and damage to the outside of the embassy. President Trump was receiving regular updates. An infantry battalion from the 82nd Airborne Division was deployed as a precaution. Trump at this time is quoted saying, “I want to have peace. I like peace. And Iran should want peace more than anyone.”
On January 2, 2020, Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, states that there are signs Iran may be planning additional attacks. He also sends a message to American allies to “stand together” against Iran. Later that night, there are reports of the airstrike that is now known to have killed Soleimani.
To read the full NPR article, go here.
(If you want to go even further back in the events leading up to the current tensions between the U.S. and Iran, check out this BBC article.)
Tehran Times: How Iran Reacted
Article Title: Soleimani became a general of security and peace, says cleric
Here’s the gist: Iran went into mourning for three days after the loss of Soleimani. A large chunk of the Iranian regime now see him as a martyr.
Haj Ali Akbari, an Iranian conservative politician and the temporary leader of prayer in Iran’s capital of Tehran, stated that General Soleimani helped rid the Iranian region of ISIS and created security and peace through his acts of resistance.
It is clear through Akbari’s statements that the Iranian regime believes, “security which comes from compromise and dialogue will not last, but the security that comes from active resistance is permanent.”
It is noted that the airstrike that took out Soleimani also killed the deputy commander of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Iran responded with an airstrike of more than 10 missiles on January 8, 2020 on an American base in Iraq. The attack was stated as a “slap” in the face of the United States and a further action from the United States of American would result in a much more”painful and crushing” response.
To read the complete article from the Tehran Times, go here.
New York Times: How Trump Made Things Worse
Article Title: Pentagon Rules Out Striking Iranian Culture Sites, Contradicting Trump
Here’s the gist: President Trump took to his Twitter account the weekend after the airstrikes on the Baghdad airport stating that the United States had identified 52 potential targets in Iran if the Iranian government retaliated against the American drone strikes. He stated that these sites included high-level sites that were important to Iran and the Iranian culture.
Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, that these sites– protected under laws of war– were not targets presented to the President. Senators on both sides voiced similar views as the Secretary of Defense stating that attacking cultural sites in Iran could create more problems and could be construed as attacks on history and humanity.
The United States was a part of the 1954 Hauge Convention where they signed an international agreement to protect cultural property in armed conflict and is a country known for vocalizing this belief when other nations destroy places of cultural significance.
If you would like to read the rest of this NYT article, go here.
(President Trump retracted his statements in regards to destroying cultural sites in Iran after the publication of this NYT article)
Associated Press: Where We are Now
Article Title: US, Iran step back from the brink; region still on edge
Here’s the gist: On January 8, 2020, President Trump made it clear that he would not retaliate militarily for Iran’s strikes on U.S. troops in Iraq. This was the most direct assault Iran has made against America since 1979.
He stated on the 8th that the U.S. was ready to embrace peace with all who seek it. This contradicted his words from the 7th, where he was stating that if Iran did anything that they shouldn’t be doing, their going to be suffering the consequences and very strongly.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatallah Ali Khamenei stated that the attacks they conducted on the 8th may not be Iran’s complete response to the killing of Soleimani. He is quoted saying, “What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”
Iraq’s parliament has also voted to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, but Trump says the U.S. will not be leaving.
While it is still up in the air as to if attacks from either side are over, it seems that both leaders do not wish to escalate into a full-fledged war.
For the entire AP article, go here.
Arab Times: Some Additional Perspective from the Middle East
Article Title: Qassem Soleimani: He will kill no more
Here’s the gist: I’ve included this piece as outside perspective of a person that has lived in the region of the world mainly effected by Soleimani. This editorial piece was written by Faisal J. Abbas, the Editor-in-Chief of the Arab Times.
He goes into detail about the death and destruction Soleimani brought to the world, particularly focusing on how Soleimani has the blood of over half-a-million Syrians on his hands and can be credited for the displacement of millions in the region.
He states his beliefs that the only way to keep tyrants like Soleimani in check are by placing sanctions on nations like Iran. He reminds his readers that no sane person wants war and it is time for self-restraint and negotiation.
For the whole opinion piece from the Arab Times, go here.
Why We Should Care
Was General Qussem Solemani a bad guy? Most definitely. Is the regime in Tehran dangerous and unpredictable? Also true. Does any of this make President Trump the good guy in our story? No.
Every day that goes by is another page added to history. The definition of who is good and who is bad in any historical narrative is completely subjective to the author of the book. With this story, it’s vital that we realize there was no good guy. There was a villainous general that used extreme tactics to create a sense of security in the Middle East who was stopped by an emotionally volatile; willfully ignorant President.
The leaders of both the United States and Iran do not seem willing to back down from their current fight and yet neither seems willing to escalate into war. We are balancing on a tight rope that could snap at any minute. It’s a tumultuous time to be alive–especially when it is difficult to find a sense of solace or security in the leader of our country.
When you are given a job to rule a nation, it is your responsibility to think. Think before you speak. Think before you act. President Trump is in control of the lives of brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, daughters and sons by being the Commander-in-Chief of this nation. He says he wants peace; but he is not creating it.
He has yet to learn the rules set out before him by over two hundred years of international negotiation and stateside legislation. Once–actually I should say if– he learns these rules he may see that enough is enough and it’s time to bring our troops home.
I know my next statements might strike a cord and you may disagree with me. I am no military expert or an expert in anything at all; but I have lived through the entirety of this war.
I was in second grade when the Twin Towers fell in 2001. I’ve had cousins go fight in Iraq and am proud to be the relative of members in our nation’s military. But this battle is almost into its second decade. How much time do we need to learn that we should stop trying to inflict our Western beliefs onto nations that do not want them?
I understand why we have sanctions in countries that threaten our safety and I’m not saying we should remove those sanctions entirely from Iran. My question though is this: Do we always have to use military force and violence to inflict our sanctions? Is it possible to use self-restraint and peaceful negotiation? I like to believe that it is. (Take the end of World War II as an example if you need one.)
With that, I would like to close with some statements recently given by former President Carter that were brought to my attention while working on this piece. He is the longest living former president our country has seen:
“Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anyone? None. And we have stayed at war. The United States is the most warlike nation in the history of the world due to a desire to impose American values on other countries. We have wasted, I think, $3 trillion. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”
We should really think about what Carter has to say. He’s seen a lot more of this nation’s history than most of us.