Tit for tat and the path to war, raging narcissist-in-chief style

So Donald Trump ordered a drone attack which killed a Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, in Iraq,[1] in response to a siege of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad[2] that had ended, likely with the promise of an expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq.[3]

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has already promised an escalation in response to Iran’s response to the U.S. response to what he accuses Iran of having masterminded:[4]

And indeed, the Iranians have promised a response to Trump’s promised response.[5]

Trump refers to the Iranian Hostage Crisis that began in 1979 and ended on the very day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, in which Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 70 or 90 captives, a number initially reduced to 53, and later to 52, and holding the latter for 444 days. This followed a revolution that had overthrown the Shah of Iran,[6] whom the Central Intelligence Agency had helped to seize power from an elected government in 1953.[7]

You should by now be recognizing a pattern, in which each action provokes a reaction, even if decades later, and each reaction is intended to deter further action but, with the exception of the Iranian revolution against the despotic Shah, is really about saving face. We might also note that the CIA-supported coup was about preserving western corporate control of Iran’s oil.[8] But you know, capitalism is just wonderful.

It is also possible that Bill Casey, while managing Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, and who would take some Iran-Contra secrets to his grave, suggested to the Iranians[9]

that it might be in Iran’s interest to stall the negotiations over the release of the American hostages. Casey allegedly intimated that a Reagan administration would resume arms sales to the Iranians.[10]

I imagine a few people have been wondering just what Trump means when he threatens Iranian cultural sites.

Perhaps for our raging narcissist-in-chief, just as the only true Amerikkkans are his supporters, the only people whose reverence matters is that of the social conservatives in his base.

Targeting Shi’ite Muslim shrines is a mistake traditionalist conservatives would never make. I think even neoconservatives would hesitate. But for authoritarian populists, it’s all about “us” versus “them.” And “their” significance lies only in enmity.

A reminder:

According the CIA World Factbook:[11]

  1. Afghanistan has a land surface area of 652,230 sq km and a population of 34,940,837 (July 2018 est.).[12] We are still at war there.
  2. Iraq has a land surface area of 437,367 sq km and a population of 40,194,216 (July 2018 est.).[13] The war with the Islamic State has mostly wound down, but I haven’t heard anyone say we’re finished with the war in Iraq.
  3. So now, drum roll, please: Iran has a land surface area of 1,531,595 sq km and a population of 83,024,745 (July 2018 est.).[14] That is, over twice the land area of Afghanistan and nearly four times the area of Iraq. And something approaching three times the population of Afghanistan and over double that of Iraq. “President Trump said Wednesday [June 26, 2019] that a war with Iran would not ‘last very long’ or involve ground troops, as he seemingly dismissed warnings that limited U.S. military action could spiral into a larger conflict.”[15] He proposes this while we are still embroiled in George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (even if we don’t call it that anymore).

Oh yeah, hubris, baby![16]

As I noted yesterday, “An intelligent president might have been able to avoid a war with Iran. Given the raging narcissist-in-chief we have, I see zero reason for optimism.”[17]

  1. [1]Julian Borger and Martin Chulov, “Iran general Qassem Suleimani killed in Baghdad drone strike ordered by Trump,” Guardian, January 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/03/baghdad-airport-iraq-attack-deaths-iran-us-tensions
  2. [2]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad
  3. [3]Isabel Coles, “Iraqi Parliament Votes in Favor of Expelling U.S. Troops,” Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-parliament-votes-in-favor-of-expelling-u-s-troops-11578236473; Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/body-of-commander-slain-by-us-strike-arrives-in-iran-to-crowds-of-mourners/2020/01/05/4ca3281a-2f17-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html; Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, “Supporters of Iranian-backed militia end siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/supporters-of-iranian-backed-militia-start-withdrawing-from-besieged-us-embassy-in-baghdad-following-militia-orders/2020/01/01/8280cb34-2c9e-11ea-9b60-817cc18cf173_story.html
  4. [4]Luke Harding, “Trump accuses Iran over storming of US embassy compound in Baghdad,” Guardian, December 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/31/us-embassy-stormed-in-baghdad
  5. [5]Erin Cunningham, “Iran announces it is suspending its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal,” Washington Post, January 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/body-of-commander-slain-by-us-strike-arrives-in-iran-to-crowds-of-mourners/2020/01/05/4ca3281a-2f17-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html
  6. [6]CNN, “Iran Hostage Crisis Fast Facts,” October 30, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/15/world/meast/iran-hostage-crisis-fast-facts/index.html; Jimmy Carter Library, “The Hostage Crisis in Iran,” n.d., https://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/research/hostage_crisis_in_iran
  7. [7]Lawrence Wu and Michelle Lanz, “How The CIA Overthrew Iran’s Democracy In 4 Days,” National Public Radio, February 7, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/01/31/690363402/how-the-cia-overthrew-irans-democracy-in-four-days
  8. [8]Jimmy Carter Library, “The Hostage Crisis in Iran,” n.d., https://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/research/hostage_crisis_in_iran; Lawrence Wu and Michelle Lanz, “How The CIA Overthrew Iran’s Democracy In 4 Days,” National Public Radio, February 7, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/01/31/690363402/how-the-cia-overthrew-irans-democracy-in-four-days
  9. [9]Kai Bird, “Some ‘October surprise’ conspiracies turn out to be true,” Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-bird-conspiracies-october-surprises-20170620-story.html
  10. [10]Kai Bird, “Some ‘October surprise’ conspiracies turn out to be true,” Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-bird-conspiracies-october-surprises-20170620-story.html
  11. [11]Central Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook,” n.d., https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/
  12. [12]Central Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook,” n.d., https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/
  13. [13]Central Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook,” n.d., https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/
  14. [14]Central Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook,” n.d., https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/
  15. [15]John Wagner and Dan Lamothe, “Trump says war with Iran would not involve ground troops or last long,” Washington Post, June 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-war-with-iran-would-not-involve-ground-troops-and-not-last-long/2019/06/26/9a0e9918-9813-11e9-830a-21b9b36b64ad_story.html
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Forever war and inhumanity, delusional raging narcissist-in-chief style,” Irregular Bullshit, June 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/06/27/forever-war-and-inhumanity-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief-style/
  17. [17]David Benfell, “War at last,” Irregular Bullshit, January 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/01/04/war-at-last/

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