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The United States and Iran entered into a direct military exchange for the first time ever with the drone assassination of General Qassem Soleimani last week and a retaliatory strike from Iran via surface-to-surface missiles upon two US military bases on Wednesday.
As usual it was the less powerful nation who exercised restraint, with Iran skillfully targeting the bases' military capabilities but taking measures to successfully avoid any casualties. The two nations de-escalated back down to their previous high level of dangerous hostilities with an understanding between them that neither side wants a full-scale war. Both sides played "chicken" and both sides swerved, and they know that about each other now.
So that was a relief. We were all forced to hold our breath and hope against hope that cooler heads would prevail after the senseless assassination of a sovereign nation's top military official, and they did. A full-scale war that would have dwarfed Iraq and Vietnam in terms of death, destruction and destabilization was averted.
And then Trump immediately went right back to warmongering.
"As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime," Trump said in his speech the morning after the Iranian missile strike. "These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior."
It is unclear at this time what form these sanctions will take. If they are of the sort being leveled at Iran currently, they will further target Iranian civilians with the goal of making them even more miserable so that they rise up and overthrow their government. This deliberate attempt to foment civil war against Tehran is not speculation; it is a fact, admitted to by the Trump administration itself.
A New York Times article from last year reports the following:
"Last week, Mr. Pompeo acknowledged to Michael J. Morrell, a former acting director of the C.I.A., that the administration's strategy would not persuade Iranian leaders to change their behavior.
"'I think what can change is the people can change the government,' he said on a podcast hosted by Mr. Morrell, in what appeared to be an endorsement of regime change."
It is impossible for the US and Iran to de-escalate from the military powder-keg situation they are in as long as the US is deliberately attacking Iran's economy with the goal of igniting a civil war in that country. The US government intends to not just continue to escalate this direct assault, but to continue its increasingly intrusive military presence in the region, including the unwelcome occupation of Iraq.
And yet, bizarrely, Trump also claims to want to reach a new nuclear deal with Iran.
"The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout," Trump said. "Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China to recognize this reality. They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal, or JCPOA. And we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place. We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential."
This is not going to happen. The US government has already burned Tehran on the JCPOA and it's not going to enter into a new deal as long as the US continues to inflict aggressions upon it that the US itself wouldn't tolerate from any other nation. Iran is going to be much less willing to trust the US government in a new deal now and will require much more assurance and accommodation than it did in the previous one; such a negotiation (assuming the Trump administration even really wants it) would be harder, not easier. This will remain true even after Trump leaves office.
A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its trousers on...