The Middle East has been a hornet’s nest for eons. Now Donald Trump can choose to start a war there or ease tensions.
Trust me, this column about the threat of the United States and Iran going to war will be relevant no matter what happens between the moment I finish writing this first sentence to the column’s publication or even republication years from now. What I have to say will be relevant whether President Donald Trump has made good on his threat to obliterate Iran or—as he astonishingly hinted he was considering just hours later—would strive to defuse tensions by negotiating with the Islamic republic.
War looming on the horizon is nothing new, folks. Since the conclusion of World War II, diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran have been on a nutty roller-coaster ride. Daredevil Trump is just the latest U.S. President forced to make pivotal foreign-policy decisions involving Iran.
Harry Truman first dragged Iran into America’s Cold War chicanery with his doctrine to contain the Soviet Union’s geopolitical ambitions in the Middle East. Jimmy Carter was Prez when disciples of Ayatollah Khomeini—Iran’s leader after the monarchy was overthrown—held 52 Americans hostage in the U.S. Embassy for 444 days. And there’s Barack Obama, who helped engineer the skittish, multinational nuclear arms agreement with Iran. (Seeking to impose stiffer sanctions, Trump has since pulled the U.S. out of the deal.)
One of my favorite Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, made the dumbest decision regarding Iran. In 1953 he endorsed the CIA’s covert overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddegh, the only democratically elected and secular leader that Iran has ever known. Taking charge again was the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was convinced that he ruled by the power of divine intervention rather than the dictates of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in the days before it assumed its current name, BP. The British government and the CIA were convinced that Mossaddegh’s intent to nationalize the company was part of a Soviet-backed communist plot.