THE Iranians are tough customers. Just ask former US President Jimmy Carter, the first American leader to get a taste of Iran’s never-say-die attitude when it comes to protecting their national interests.
Over 40 years ago, Iran was ruled by a “friend” of the United States (US). Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, ruled the country with an iron fist. Although the country was economically prosperous and wealthy, the Iranians despised the leader for his despotic ways, and towards the end of the 1970s, protests against his rule were reaching their height.
Against the backdrop of the rising Islamic militancy rising up across the Middle East, activist students led the way in agitating the people to rise up against their hardline president. With the religious leader of the Islamic Shiite sect throwing his full support behind the protesters, it soon became clear that the Shah’s grip on power would soon come to an end.
On Nov. 4, 1979, a group of radical students stormed the US embassy in Tehran, taking hostage 52 American diplomats and citizens. This was the first time that such a huge number of Americans were taken hostage abroad, and the American government essentially was blackmailed into giving in to the demands of the hostage-takers. The hostages were being held by the students, demanding the return of the Shah to Iran to stand trial for his alleged crimes, in exchange for the hostages’ freedom.
Not used to being humiliated by a foreign power—never mind being dictated to by a gang of radical students over the conduct of its foreign policy—then US President Carter attempted to rescue the hostages from captivity, in a failed operation that only succeeded in further humiliating the US, after they were forced to abandon the operation when two of their aircraft involved in the rescue crashed into each other over the Iranian desert. Succeeding American presidents, though always wary of Iran’s intentions in the Middle East, never again tried to provoke the Iranians into a fight, knowing full well that they would never give up and roll over even to superior military might.
For two generations, this was the modus operandi of all American leaders since the ill-fated hostage crisis. That’s until last week, when another US leader—who is either very brave or very stupid—dared to break the unwritten rule and decided to confront the Iranians by killing one of their respected military leaders in a surprise air strike in neighboring Iraq.
As of this writing, the Iranians have already retaliated militarily by firing a barrage of missiles at a US military facility in Iraq. Although no American lives were lost, it was a clear signal to US President Donald Trump that US interests in the Middle East were not safer, but in fact were in greater danger, due to the US leader’s reckless and irresponsible actions.
The US finds itself alienating even its most ardent allies on this occasion. Already wary of the reckless actions of the US president in the recent past, and well aware of his immature and temperamental character, many have issued statements distancing themselves from the actions of the Americans.
In fact, none among his North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Western democratic allies have publicly come out in his support, causing a further rift in the increasingly fractious divide between the US and its erstwhile Western friends.
The first collateral damage from this American irresponsibility over Iran has been the loss of dozens of Canadian and European lives, when a Ukrainian airliner had been mistakenly shot by Iranian missiles, during the night they hit US targets in retaliation for American provocation.
Trump will wash his hands, to be sure—as he always does—from this tragedy. But his hands are just as bloody as those of the Iranians, who he has provoked into dangerous aggression by his unnecessary and irresponsible provocation.