Cesar Chelala
A physician and writer

Trump is playing with fire with Iran

The attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman raises again fears of a wider conflict. Although those responsible for the attacks are not yet known, what is known is that President Trump has been stocking the fire for an attack on Iran, for which he has the wholehearted support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Given the level of legal troubles that President Trump is facing now, his decision could be based to some extent in creating the conditions to fog his personal drama.

For the last several decades, relations between the U.S. and Iran and between Iran and the West have been shrouded in misconceptions and prejudices. They have done nothing to achieve a peaceful relationship with that country, and only led to a permanent state of distrust that can lead to a war at any moment, with tragic consequences for the region, and for the world.

Conflicting relations with Iran can be traced to a large extent to 19 August 1953, when both the United Kingdom and the U.S. orchestrated a coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. The reason: Mossadegh was trying to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British corporation, to change the terms of that company’s access to Iranian oil.

Following the refusal of AIOC to cooperate with the Iranian government, the Iranian parliament voted almost unanimously to nationalize AIOC and expel its representatives from Iran. The anti-government coup that ensued led to the formation of a military government under General Fazlollah Zahedi, which allowed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to return and rule the country as an absolute and ruthless monarch.

60 years after the coup, the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) finally admitted that it had been involved in both the planning and the execution of the coup that caused mostly civilian casualties. That coup and the U.S. behavior towards Arab governments throughout the region are behind the anti-American sentiment not only in Iran but throughout the Middle East.

I wonder how the United States would have reacted if China and Russia, for example, would have plotted to overthrow a democratic American government, leaving a chaotic situation in its wake. It is also worth noting that while Iran has not invaded another country in centuries, the U.S. has led brutal wars against other countries and peoples.

U.S. interference in Iranian affairs didn’t end there. In September 1980, Saddam Hussein started a war against Iran that had devastating consequences for both countries. The war was characterized by Iraq’s indiscriminate ballistic-missile attacks and extensive use of chemical weapons.

The war resulted in at least half a million and probably twice as many troops killed on both sides, and in at least half a million men who became permanently disabled. The U.S. actively supported Saddam Hussein in his war efforts with billions of dollars in credits, advanced technology, weaponry, military intelligence, and Special Operations training.

Given this background, however, rather than following a policy of appeasement, President Donald Trump nixed the nuclear agreement with Iran that goes contrary to the U.S.’s own long term political and economic interests in the region. And he has had a faithful ally in Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Not all Israeli military and intelligence officials share Netanyahu’s negative view on the nuclear deal. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said in an interview to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary, “Right now, the agreement, with all its faults, is working and is putting off realization of the Iran nuclear vision by 10 to 15 years. With the deal in place, the window of strategic opportunity is still open in our favor.”

Israel wouldn’t go unscathed from a U.S. attack on Iran. Not only would Israel side with the U.S., but both will have to confront a hardened army which could launch deadly attacks on Israel’s big cities.

Re-imposition of sanctions has certainly affected Iran’s capacity to conduct economic deals with other countries and as a result worsened that country’s already serious economic situation. This action, and President Trump’s constant threats to Iran, have also raised tensions in the Middle East, deepened the conflict between Israel and Iran, and may even affect a possible agreement between the U.S. and North Korea, which may consider the U.S. too unreliable and unable to keep its word.

Dr. César Chelala is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.

About the Author
César Chelala is a physician and writer born in Argentina and living in the U.S. He wrote for leading newspapers all over the world and for the main medical journals, among them The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Japan Times, The China Daily, The Moscow Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde Diplomatique, Harvard International Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, and The British Medical Journal. He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.
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