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January 13, 2020

The gamble backfires

Opinion

January 13, 2020

Trump’s assertion that the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani would save American lives has proven wrong.

On many accounts, Trump’s unwise move to kill Gen. Soleimani has backfired; Americans are not celebrating killing of alleged top terrorists. Neither Democrats nor some even in his own party have applauded the action. As a matter of fact, the legality of Trump approving a drone strike against a sovereign country’s top general has come under question.

After the 9/11 attacks, this is first time that the US Congress has passed a non-binding resolution to curtail the president’s war powers, fearing Trump’s impulsive temperament could land the country and the world at a greater risk of war.

The American media, other than those firmly on the right wing, refuses to buy Trump’s version of events following General Soleimani’s killing. Many analysts believe Trump’s top diplomat Mike Pompeo’s years-long anti-Iraq rhetoric might have led him to this end. Last Sunday morning, on television talk shows Pompeo could not produce evidence of how Gen Soleimani was planning ‘imminent attacks’ against US diplomats and troops abroad.

The much awaited classified briefing to Congress members on the intelligence behind the killing of Qassem Soleimani could not satisfy them, and invited a furious and harsh reaction from two Republican senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul terming it ‘insulting and demeaning’. “It was probably the worst briefing I have seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I have served in the United States Senator”, remarked Senator Mike Lee, who announced to vote in support of the resolution limiting the war powers of the president.

The Iran crisis is of his own making; no one else can be blamed for bringing both countries on the brink of war, other than President Trump. After the failure of his ‘maximum pressure’ policy, Trump is now asking allies to partner with US for a supposedly better and improved Iran nuclear deal.

Trump did not make clear in what way it would be different than the previous one, a deal that was celebrated across the world. Obama was not able to seek Congressional approval for the deal mainly because he did not have votes in the House and the Senate, which gave Trump ground to unilaterally withdraw from the deal through an executive order.

Despite differences on domestic political issues, Democrats and Republicans have largely been on the same page on foreign policy issues – what they call bipartisan support to global order, enforced by US military and diplomacy. The Trump presidency has brought an end to traditional bipartisan support to the foreign policy choices of the country. In less than a year on three occasions, Trump’s own Republican Party did not endorse his foreign policy choices. Senate Democrats, with the help of Republican senators, passed resolutions rejecting Trump’s foreign policy choices on the Yemen war and the troop withdrawal from Syria; both resolutions were vetoed by Trump.

Following unilateral withdrawal from the US-Iran nuclear deal, Trump imposed fresh sanctions on Iran hoping it would produce desired results. Despite a 100 percent reduction in oil exports, Iran did not succumb to the US economic pressure.

Before US sanctions went into effect in 2018, the Iranian economy was growing at the rate of 12 percent when Trump ended the nuclear deal and imposed stricter sanctions (which barred US companies from trading with Iran, but also with the foreign firms or countries that were dealing with Iran).

Iran lost $55 billion in net oil exports, and the GDP contracted an estimated 4.8 percent, and last year there were forecasts it would shrink a further 9.5 percent. Iran’s foreign exchange reserves saw a 20 percent reduction after sanctions went in full swing when Trump withdrew the exemptions. Sanctions were bleeding Iran, yet not bringing it down on knees and to submit to US pressure.

Trump’s Iran gamble has backfired at home and abroad, and only helped Iran regain sympathies across the Muslim world and at home. Until a few weeks ago, many Iranians were bitterly pitched against their own government; widespread violent protests were an expression of the economic hardships that people were going through. The American drone strike has reinforced nationalistic fervour in the country during extremely difficult times.

Trump’s Iran operation has backfired. His foreign and defence departments are being accused of acting without credible grounds, and showing complete inability to foresee the consequences. Of this, the worst for the US is the Iraqi parliament’s resolution asking US forces to leave their country, washing away investment of a decade and a half of human, military and capital resources, loss of 5,037 soldiers and $2.5 trillion war expenses.

After a 17-year-long war in Iraq, the US stands not wanted in the country by virtue of a parliamentary vote, while people on the streets of Baghdad mourn the killing of the Iranian general. This should give US policymakers the opportunity to rethink things and ponder over whether, like the Vietnam war, Iraq too should end sooner than later.

The presence of 60,000 US troops in the Middle East is serving the interests of royal families by keeping them in power. Today, when the US no more relies on imported oil, what strategic interests is being served of the country other than seeking longevity for an aging and unsustainable empire?

Email: [email protected]

Twitter @mushrajpar