The GOP And Iran — 67 Years Of Failure And Counting
American involvement in Iran began shortly after democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh nationalized British oil assets in 1951. After Iran regained control of its oil industry, Britain appealed to the Truman Administration for help. However, Truman rejected a British proposal to overthrow Mossadegh.
Subsequently, after Dwight Eisenhower was elected president, his Administration backed the 1953 coup that over threw Mossadegh and brought the Shah to power. The coup was instigated by the CIA and British MI5 at the behest of Anglo-American Oil Company — a British corporation that is now part of BP. U.S. presidents of both parties backed the Shah until he was overthrown by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.
The 1953 coup and U.S. support for the autocratic Shah caused the people of Iran to resent the U.S. Subsequently, the Shah was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution of 1978–79 and replaced by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The theocratic regime established by Khomeini continues to control Iran.
Relations between the Islamic Republic and Iran got off to a terrible start when the Iranians held 52 Americans hostage in Tehran for 444 days between 1979–81. Republicans like to give credit to Ronald Reagan for freeing the hostages but that talking point is simply false. The deal to free the hostages was made by the Carter Administration shortly before Reagan was inaugurated.
After he took office, Ronald Reagan made a disgraceful (and failed) attempt to improve relations with Iran when he traded arms for hostages with the Iranian regime during his second term. This was after Reagan had used jingoistic rhetoric in his campaigns and had promised to never negotiate with terrorists.
Reagan initially denied that he had traded arms for hostages in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, Reagan eventually came clean and admitted to the obvious and apologized to the American people.
The three presidents who followed Reagan didn’t really have much to do with the Iranian regime. A kind of Cold War existed between the U.S. and Iran between 1989 and 2009.
During George W. Bush’s second term, Dick Cheney advocated for airstrikes aimed at taking out Iran’s nuclear program. Fortunately, Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates talked Bush out of it. However, that was a significant development because the radical right has supported the idea of going to war with Iran since the Bush43 Administration. In the heady days of hubris just after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, a common trope among the neo-cons was that “Anyone can go to Baghdad; real men go to Tehran.”
President Obama took Iran policy in a more positive and much different direction which resulted in the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ( JCPOA) with Iran in 2015. This agreement would have had the effect of preventing the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon for fifteen years.
According to Ben Rhodes, former national deputy security adviser to Barack Obama: “ Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced plutonium for a bomb; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges, the machines that can enrich uranium for a bomb; shipped 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium (enough for 10 bombs) out of the country; and submitted to the most comprehensive international inspections regime ever put into place to monitor a nuclear program…. As Trump confronts the consequences of a crisis of his own creation, he can thank Obama for the fact that Iran doesn’t yet have the means to produce a nuclear weapon. He can thank Obama for the fact that Iran’s nuclear program is set back from where it was in 2015. He can thank Obama for the inspections regime that has functioned effectively.”
The Republicans and Bibi Netanyahu bitterly opposed Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Forty seven GOP Senators — including Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse — signed off on a letter that was sent directly to the Iranian Mullahs in an attempt to sabotage the agreement. Moreover, in 2015, Mitch McConnell and Bibi Netanyahu promised us a so-called “better deal” with Iran. It’s been nearly five years. Where is the promised “better deal?” We’re still waiting.
The likes of Fischer and Sasse got their way in 2018 when Trump repudiated the Iran nuclear deal. The former TV reality star reneged on the agreement even though Rex Tillerson and James Mattis supported the agreement and had certified that Iran had complied with it.
Since Trump has blown up the Iran deal, he has pursued an erratic and incoherent strategy. He has oscillated between acts of belligerence and also made statements indicating he wants to pursue diplomacy. Trump’s most reckless action was authorizing the airstrike that took out Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. Trump falsely alleged there was an imminent threat of an Iranian attack and that it made the U.S. safer.
Mike Pompeo’s allegation that this airstrike made us safer is simply false. Since the Solieimani airstrike, all U.S. citizens have been ordered to leave Iraq, flights to Baghdad were cancelled, the U.S. soccer team canceled a trip to Qatar and U.S. companies in the region tightened security. Feel safer?
The blow back thus far following Trump’s attack on Soleimani has further exposed the gross incompetence of this Administration. U.S. officials unanimously say we should expect attacks on US assets, Iran has withdrawn from the nuclear deal, and the Iraqi parliament has voted to expel U.S. forces. Heck of a job!
Trump’s reckless airstrike on the leader of the Iranian Quds force brought the two countries to the brink of war. Fortunately, Iran was content to retaliate with two symbolic missile strikes that didn’t cause any casualties. This allowed the former TV reality star to take an off ramp to deescalate the crisis. This was a standard Trump play: create an unnecessary crisis, claim credit for it not becoming an even worse crisis, and then sit back and watch politicians and pundits on the right clap like seals.
Trump and the Republican Party have a long history of failure when it comes to Iran and the Middle East in general. We simply can’t count on Republican presidents to keep us safe. What that means is that we have to elect a Democratic president in 2020. My educated guess is that the next Democratic president will pursue a foreign policy similar to the ones of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. That would make for a safer and more stable world. Vote Blue no matter who in 2020!