Editorial: Attack on Iran is troubling, follows historical trend

Attack is product of years of imperial attitude in Middle East

Editorial Board

A woman holds up a sign that reads "peace now"
Blake Dahlin
Helena, who declined to provide a last name, marched with the Refuse Fascism group in Downtown Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 11 to protest President Trumps military actions in Iran.

The assassination of Qasem Soleimani came to the national forefront on the morning of January 3rd. Like many issues, Americans rushed to one of two responses: either justifying the general’s death or condemning his killers. Users on social media questioned the motives for Soleimani’s assassination and wondered why there was little political conflict — and even less military conflict — to warrant his assassination. 


This question of justification of Soleimani’s assassination reflects a historical record of the United States in Middle Eastern affairs; one that sets a precedent for unwarranted military interference.


Tensions between Iran and the US started in 1953 with a coup backed by the American CIA and the British MI6, taking power from Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh attempted to introduce reforms to nationalize the oil industry in Iran, transitioning the industry from British owners into the hands of the Iranian government. As a result, he was deposed after two years in office, and relations between Iranian monarch Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Western powers flourished.


The Iranian Revolution of 1979, also supported by the United States, deposed the Shah, and Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power after the reformation of the former monarchy into an Islamic republic.


One hostage crisis, a series of embargoes and a plethora of sanctions later, Iran was becoming more politically alienated from the United States. 


In October of 2002, then-president George W. Bush’s administration managed to convince Congress to pass a formal declaration of war against the country of Iraq based on scant evidence that the country was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The next year, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was deposed and captured. Officials could find little to no evidence of WMDs in the country. In the following decade, ISIS took advantage of the political vacuum in the region, and the group became more powerful with the withdrawal of military forces from Iraq by President Obama in 2011. 


Earlier this month, the United States took another step of political recklessness by assassinating an Iranian military official on the grounds of what President Trump deemed “bad business,” providing little evidence of an imminent offense.


“I think it would have been four embassies, could have been military bases, could have been a lot of other things too. But it was imminent,” he told Fox News on air. 


A precedent has been set by history showing the United States not as a victim of foreign aggression, but as an actor that has its hand in the destruction and rebuilding of unfavorable governments. Although Iran should not be seen as a noble victim of American militarism, Americans should not be taken aback by Iranian political statements of frustration. 

Americans should be far from surprised to see the US recklessly interfering in foreign affairs that could escalate into armed conflict, a possibility many are fearing. Foreign governments, therefore, should be blameless in assuming ill-intent from the United States. The coups of the Middle East have resulted in warranted distrust of US motives and actions.