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The latest US-Iran dust-up

Reckless baiting . . . again

by Ken Sehested

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer . . . who says Cyrus [“the Great,” 6th century BCE ruler of Persia,
modern day Iran, who freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity] is my shepherd and he shall carry out
all my purpose” for he is my “anointed” [the same word later used for Jesus in the Newer Testament].
—Isaiah 44:28-45:1

It’s quite possible that the last two days’ headlining spat between the US and Iran may be Trump’s desire to distract public attention from his domestic challenges. It is not inconceivable that, as some are saying, he’s willing to go to war with Iran in order to get reelected.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to pay attention to how the Administration and the press are reporting this latest dust-up.

Today’s article on the subject in USA Today (Kim Hjelmgaard and David Jackson) is a perfect example of how the US often portrays itself (ourselves) as victims, effectively disguising our role as provocateur.

On Sunday night Trump sent a Twitter shout, in all caps, demanding “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE US AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE” (which contains the implicit threat of a nuclear attack). Trump was responding to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who, earlier on Sunday while speaking to an international group of foreign ministry officials, warned the US against a military attack on his country.

On Monday White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders put the blame on Iran, saying “If anybody’s inciting anything, look no further than to Iran.”

As if this history of belligerence began on Sunday. Not mentioned in news coverage are these facts:

1. In July 2017 John Bolton, currently Trump’s National Security Advisor, promised regime change “before 2019,” saying “I have said for over 10 years . . . that the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs' regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself.”

2. Not mentioned is that in May, weeks after unilaterally pulling out of a multi-lateral agreement with Iran to halt its nuclear weapons production, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his first speech as secretary of state, outlined a 12-point list of demands on Iranian leaders, which the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian called “silly.” Then, after Rouhani’s speech surfaced, Pompeo issued a statement portraying Iranian leaders as “mafia” and urged Iranian citizens to rise up against its government (hinting at US support).

Keep in mind that Pompeo’s derision of Islam dates from his days as a congressman from Kansas: “The threat to America is from people who deeply believe that Islam is the way and the light and the only answer.” He is not only a fervent evangelical; his piety expands to a theocratic governing vision: “[T]o worship our Lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right, it is our duty,” describing politics as a “a never-ending struggle . . . until the rapture.” —Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, “Pompeo, Religion, and Regime Change in Iran,” Common Dreams

3. On Monday night, US General Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme commander (and one-time advocate of “internment camps” to house “disloyal” American citizens) commented that such tit-for-tat recriminations between the US and Iran “go all the way to the Iranian revolution of 1979.”

He failed to acknowledge the reason for that revolution and the dramatic hostage-taking of US Embassy personnel in Tehran: In 1953 the US Central Intelligence Agency (with British allies) sponsored the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, putting in its place the dictatorial regime of the Iranian Shah (“emperor”), Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who provided bargain-basement access to the nation’s considerable energy resources by Western oil companies.

4. Few citizens recall that during the 1980s Iraq-Iran war the US removed Iraq from its “state sponsors of terrorism” list in order to supply crucial military intelligence to Iraq, as well as components of Iraq’s chemical weapons.

(General Clark has written cogently about the catastrophic effect a military strike on Iran. For more see his “Here’s the real cost of leaving the Iran deal,” CNBC.)

Or that the student hostage-takers at the US embassy in Tehran reconstructed and published 54 volumes of evidence, patched together from embassy files, revealing “CIA operatives . . . manipulating, threatening and bribing world leaders, rigging foreign elections, hijacking local political systems, shuffling foreign governments like decks of cards, sabotaging economic competitors, assassinating regional, national and tribal leaders at will, choreographing state-to-state diplomacy like cheap theater.” (Quote from Margot White’s Waking Up in Tehran first-hand reporting from that period, in David Swanson, “Waking Up in Tehran,” Global Research .)

Or the “Iran-Contra” affair in the mid-‘80s, when the Reagan Administration secretly sold military arms to Iran (in violation of an official arms embargo) to fund the US “contra war” in Nicaragua, opposing the Sandinista government, funding which Congress prohibited.

Or the 1988 incident when the US Navy shot down an Iranian passenger plane, flying in Iranian airspace, killing all 290 passengers, after which President Reagan expressed “regrets.”

Or that the US currently has two dozen (that we know of) military bases in 10 countries surrounding Iran, in addition to at least one Naval carrier group in the Persian Gulf region.

As Jeff Faux has written (“Why Are We in the Middle East?”), “The [US] rationale is embarrassingly circular—we must remain in the Middle East to protect against terrorists who hate America because we are in the Middle East.”

You don’t have to believe that Iran’s current leaders are innocent of the charges brought against them to acknowledge that the US has sought to work its will on the Iranian people for a long time and is currently pursuing a reckless game of brinkmanship with potentially catastrophic consequences.

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•For more on this dangerous threat, see “Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions? You should be.”

•For a local congregation’s confessional statement opposing such a war (approved in 2007, reissued in 2012), see “We Say No, Again: Baiting Iran toward a dangerous collision.”

©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org