The Conflict with Iran Is Rooted in Two Views of HistoryBreaking News
Tensions between the United States and Iran have continued to rise in recent weeks. In the early hours of Thursday June 20, Iran shot down an unpiloted U.S. drone aircraft flying in what it claimed was Iranian territorial airspace. The next day, President Donald Trump approved, then called off, a military strike against Iranian targets. He followed with two executive orders on June 24 calling for increased sanctions targeting Iranian government officials. Iran, in response, says it will increase the production of enriched uranium beyond the limits previously agreed to.
In the wake of growing concerns over last week’s aborted missile attack on Iran, the Republican-controlled Senate, in the longest voting period in modern history, on June 28 rejected an amendment that sought to require Trump to seek Congressional approval before taking military action against Iran.
The widespread view is that this current crisis stems from the May 2018 unilateral withdrawal by the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal,” signed in July 2015. But longtime observers of the region see the origins of the current conflict in a much longer time frame.
Andrew Bacevich is a retired Army colonel and professor of international relations and history at Boston University. He is the author of numerous books on U.S. military history and foreign policy. Bacevich is author of the 2016 book America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, which looks at the historical context for the current aggressive posture. I spoke with Bacevich by phone on June 25, and began by asking about the origins of the current conflict.
Bacevich: I think there are two singular events, one of which determines where Iranians preferred to start the story of U.S.-Iran relations down to the present moment, and there is another such event that defines when the United States wants to start telling that story. For the Iranians, the start point is the CIA-engineered coup that overthrew [Iranian Prime Minister] Mohammad Mosaddegh.
Bacevich: It was, I think, the signature foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama Administration, and I supported it, because, if it retarded Iran's ability to acquire a nuclear weapon, that was a good thing for everybody. Good for American security. Good for regional security.
And, I believed that the Iran Nuclear Deal could have been a first step toward creating a new atmosphere, not only for U.S.-Iranian relations, but also for Iran's relations with its neighbors. It would only have been a first step on a long journey, but it could have provided the basis for a more peaceful regional order.
Instead, what we have is Trump comes in abrogates the deal, climbs in bed with Saudi Arabia, and we helped to further destabilize the region, and the possibility of any kind of a remotely harmonious relationship between Iran and the United States does now appear to be implausible. So Trump’s policies with regard to Iran have been disastrous.
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