By Mike Wilcox
I’m not sure many of us realized, but we almost went to war last week. According to news reports, President Trump called it off in the final seconds before missiles were launched.
The target was Iran, and the motive was retaliation for its forces supposedly shooting down an unmanned American drone. Hawks in the Trump administration believed it was necessary to retaliate for what they considered Iranian aggression. When Trump asked his military team how many casualties we might expect with a missile attack, he halted the launch when the answer came back around 150.
Iran has long been a thorn in America’s side. The nation of 82 million people has a well-trained army with the latest Russian weapons and aircraft. While we have focused our attention on North Korea, Iran has quietly obtained the materials and knowledge necessary to create a nuclear arsenal. This has created a great deal of anxiety for us and our faithful ally, Israel, Enemy No. 1 in Iran.
Iran was once a great friend of the United States. Reza Khan, better known as the Shah of Iran, spent billions to westernize his country in the image of the United States, and was very successful until student activists who thought he was too pro-Western overthrew the government in 1979.
The Shah flew the coop and in entered exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, who reversed the modernizing trend in favor of traditional Islam. His followers stormed the American embassy and took 52 Americans hostage. With the blessing of the Ayatollah, they held the hostages in the worst of conditions for 444 days. Finally they were realized.
Since then, many U.S. powerbrokers have had a great disdain for Iran. In 1985, the Iran-Contra affair, in which Iran took seven American hostages, ended when the U.S. covertly sold arms to Iran in exchange for the hostages.
In the 1990s and 2000s sanctions were slapped on Iran periodically in an effort to punish them for fomenting revolution in neighboring Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. To this day sanctions pulverize the Iranian economy.
Iran has been a major problem for every U.S. president since Carter. The Islamic fundamentalists who have a tight grip over the country, despite a somewhat Westernized and progressive population (much different from Syria or Iraq), have goaded Trump and other presidents into a war of words. We have not been able to deal appropriately with the ayatollahs, former leader Mahmoud Ahmaninejad or current leader Hassan Rouhani.
I support President Trump’s decision to withdraw the planned missile attack. Although the drone supposedly shot down by enemy fire was expensive — over $100 million — it was simply a piece of technology. It was not manned by a pilot or carrying soldiers.
Iran needs to be dealt with sooner than later, but we don’t need to go to war over a drone. I’m not sure whether more sanctions will bring Rouhani to the bargaining table, but they sure can’t hurt. I was also encouraged to hear we were engaged in cyberattacks against Iran weapons facilities. Sanctions and cyberattacks make more sense that missile strikes at this point.
I sometimes think about the day Iran is released from the shackles of Islamic fundamentalism. The Persian culture is rich with history. Many of the world’s great intellects and artists have Persian backgrounds. There is so much Iran could offer the world, if only they weren’t led by U.S. and Israeli hating Islamic fundamentalists.