It’s important for us to remember how this current Iran crisis began.
Back in 2011, Trump posted a tweet warning that President Obama was going to start a war with Iran in order to secure his re-election, a tweet that was widely revived online over the last few days. Trump’s prediction obviously never came to pass, as Obama instead signed the JCPOA deal, which limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for some economic relief. The agreement was a landmark global achievement, backed not just by the U.S., but also by China, Russia, and most of Europe.
When Trump became President, one of his first acts was to unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from that deal, arguing that “it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.” This was the very definition of irony, considering that withdrawing from JCPOA was the first step towards leaving the U.S. and Iran on the brink of war, as both countries now pursue a dangerous path of escalation.
When Donald Trump first stepped into the Oval Office, there was no crisis with Iran. But he created one by unilaterally tearing up an international agreement that Iran was abiding by. That deal was working as intended, as verified by international observers and even by members of Trump’s own administration, whom he simply ignored. Intentionally ruining this deal was all a part of Trump’s initial mad rush to undo every single achievement reached by President Obama’s administration.
In doing so, Trump reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran which have devastated its economy. More importantly, Trump took away any incentive for Iran not to meddle in Iraq or counter the U.S.’s initiatives in the region. His lack of foresight and intellectual curiosity led him to not consider the long-term consequences of his ego-driven blunders. As an immediate result, over the course of one single weekend, Iran has announced it is also withdrawing from the JCPOA while Iraqi lawmakers have voted to expel foreign troops from the country, handing two major victories to regional hardliners along the lines of Qasem Soleimani, whose main purpose in Iraq was to force the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. In killing Soleimani, Trump has nearly handed the Iranian commander the victory he had sought for almost two decades.
More reprisals from Tehran are sure to follow over the coming months, as the Iranian leadership firmly seeks revenge. This could come in many forms, from cyberattacks to strikes against regional allies to the disruption of the global energy market and beyond. We have had no assurances from the Trump administration that they are prepared other than the usual Twitter threats from the President himself to blow more things up. The President’s past boast that he “doesn’t need an exit strategy” for Iran now looms dangerously over his every decision.
Trump triggered this entire event because his incredibly fragile ego could not stand to live in the shadow of a black man. President Obama took out Osama bin Laden, the greatest terrorist threat in the history of the United States. Trump took out Al-Baghdadi a few months ago, but that didn’t get him the acclaim that Obama got, so in his short-sighted ego trip, he blunders into another terrorist take-out. Trump only seeks to replicate Obama’s successes because he has no genuine ideas or vision of his own. This is backed by early reports from administration insiders, which suggest that Trump’s eagerness to launch the Iran strike was the result of the recent siege of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, as he believed that forcefully responding to this event would make him look stronger than Obama did during the Benghazi affair.
The Trump administration’s attempt to justify its actions after the fact by claiming that Soleimani was plotting to kill a number of Americans, and that he was “directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people,” seems like a post hoc rationalization and is unrelated to Trump’s actual motives.
It is difficult to fathom that Trump fully understands what the potential consequences of this blunder could be. To be fair, no leader can know and foresee everything, which is why they also have advisors who specialized in the different aspects of diplomacy. Yet his cabinet is so full of equally inept opportunistic cronies who have no interest in telling the emperor that he is naked that I doubt rational diplomatic advice is ever provided to him. In addition to this, the State Department is a shell of its former self, with key posts left empty and vital information unheeded. Concerns that Trump waded into a massive geopolitical crisis with a rash and uninformed decision are warranted here.
Trump opened up his all-too-soon victory lap press conference last Friday by saying that “As president his highest and most solemn duty is to the defense of our nation and its citizens.” Yet this crisis he has induced will very likely lead to more harm done to American servicemen and citizens abroad than would have occurred without this assassination. An estimated 750 soldiers were deployed to Iraq last week, with 3,000 more on standby.
Following his statement, Trump walked away from the podium while taking no questions from the press, because as with the rest of his presidency, he has no idea what he is doing or how to fix the problems that he creates.
Scrapping the Iran deal was step one in the road that led us to where we find ourselves today. It really is that simple. Getting out of it, however, will be a much harder process.
How things are managed going forward will also depend on the press and the American voter. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, which the Bush – Cheney Administration started with false unverified claims about “weapons of mass destruction,” the media failed to properly question and verify those false claims. Instead, a significant part of the press helped to sell the war to the American people. Real journalists have to look into the information, decisions and motivations that have brought us here, and educate the American people about these events.
Aside from Democrats in the House of Representatives, the American electorate is essentially the only real check on Trump. Regardless of which presidential candidate prevails in the Democratic primary, we must all come together to defeat Trump in the 2020 election. We cannot afford another four years of this president’s blundering, self-serving, figuring-it-out-as-we-go-along policies. The stakes for our country and the rest of the world are too high.
Josue (Josh) Pierre is the Democratic District Leader for the 42nd Assembly District covering Flatbush and Ditmas Park.
[Editor’s Note: It is the policy of New York County Politics to run any op-ed it receives, with few exceptions. The op-eds do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of NYCP.]