Obama was Right, Trump is Wrong on IranRoundup
tags: Iran, Obama, Trump
Andrew Meyer is a professor of history at Brooklyn College. He blogs at Madman of Chu.
Last Thursday's assassination of General Qasem Soleimani again accelerated the spinning wheel of US-Iranian confrontation that has been in motion since 1979. It is a bitter irony that if you told a US state department official in 1975 that the American military would one day target and kill the second-most powerful leader of Iran, that official would scarce believe you. Why would we so violently antagonize one of our closest allies in the Middle East? What could have happened to turn a security partnership almost as close as that between the US and Israel into such a vitriolic conflict?
We know in hindsight what that hypothetical state department official could not: in 1979 a new revolutionary regime in Tehran would condone the capture of 52 American diplomatic personnel and hold them hostage for 444 days. That act was one of the most serious blows to American prestige in the 20th century, and an egregious betrayal of what had been for more than two decades a relationship of mutual trust and cooperation. Though the hostility of the 1979 revolutionaries toward the US was not wholly arbitrary or gratuitous (more on this below), the hostage crisis was a folly of tragically epic proportions, in that it foreclosed the possibility that the US and Iran could ever recover the degree of amity and trust that had once existed between Washington and Tehran.
The legacy of the hostage crisis has predictably engendered a "hard line" wing of the foreign policy establishment in Washington with respect to US-Iranian relations, represented by figures such as Paul Wolfowitz, Daniel Perle, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. From their perspective, the current regime in Tehran must be treated as irredeemably hostile and malignant. It can be contained, but it can never truly be engaged. No diplomatic efforts with the regime can aim at developing mutual trust or working toward a modus vivendi- the best that diplomacy can achieve is to win concessions or elicit guarantees of good conduct.
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