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MARC STEINER Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Marc Steiner. Good to have you all with us.
Our guest has written that we are not necessarily bumbling into a war with Iran, but that Trump and his allies in the White House may be pushing for war with Iran. We have seen escalating tensions. Just this week, the British seized an Iranian cargo ship, Iran was accused of hijacking a UAE ship, and all of this in the wake of Trump building up troops, being within minutes of bombing Iran. And it all began when Trump took the United States out of the EU-led agreement with Iran to end economic sanctions in return for Iran pledging not to enrich uranium for military purposes. Now, it seems to have been revealed from leaked diplomatic cables that Trump's motivation might have been deeply personal- to get back at Obama.
To sort all this out, we talk with Khury Petersen-Smith, the Middle East Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington, DC, who this week wrote the article "Iran is not the aggressor; The US is" in Foreign Policy in Focus. And welcome, Khury. Good to have you back.
KHURY PETERSEN-SMITH Thank you. Good to be here, Marc.
MARC STEINER So let's start with how you lead off your article here with Trump's latest tweet. And I think it's really, kind of, telling to talk a bit about what this tweet says, and where it might be taking us all. "Iran has long been secretly 'enriching' in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration. Remember, the deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will be increased substantially!" says Trump. So let's talk about what this means. First, let's deal with what's his whole argument here around this $150 billion, which has been debunked by everybody that this was not the case, but that's being used, kind of, as the wedge here. So talk about both his threat and what that's built on.
KHURY PETERSEN-SMITH Right. Well. First of all, just coming from that tweet, you know, the obvious first question is, if this is a terrible deal that Trump pulled out of, [laughs] then why should Iran be abiding by it? I mean, the thing about what's happening with Iran right now is they're really trying to get us to forget any history. Not only, you know, the history of the past century, what the US has done with Iran as well as Britain and so on, but even in recent history, and what Trump himself has done very recently. And so, this is once again an effort to try to frame Iran as the aggressor, when in fact it's the United States that pulled out of a deal that Iran was abiding by. And now, Iran is responding to that situation.
MARC STEINER I mean, to me, one of the things that many people don't seem to be able to talk about here is that what Trump is pushing are the deals made in a treaty he pulled out of.
KHURY PETERSEN-SMITH Right. Exactly.
MARC STEINER So, you know, he's upset because Iran's violating a treaty that we're no longer part of as a nation.
KHURY PETERSEN-SMITH Violating a treaty that it was abiding by, and it was the United States that pulled out of it. So the Trump administration came into its relationship with Iran not taking yes for an answer. Iran was complying and it's really Trump that is starting the trouble.
MARC STEINER But one of the disturbing things also you point out in the lead of your article, before we talk about some of the things that have happened since your article was published, is that it seems that the press, the Western press, the American press in particular, whether it's The New York Times that has more of a liberal bent in its editorial policy and is a newspaper of note, or whether it's Fox News and they're pushing in their headlines and their hosts, are all almost blaming Iran for what's going on. As in a universal push by the American media, it seems, to agree that Iran is the enemy; they are the evil one.
KHURY PETERSEN-SMITH Right. So that's exactly right. You have the Trump administration itself with that narrative. You have people, like Senator Tom Cotton, who are other government officials who are saying that Iran is the aggressor, and you have the mainstream US media carrying that. And they may disagree with how Trump is going about things, but the idea that Iran is the aggressor here and that the United States has to do the right thing, that's the line that they all agree on. And the fact is, when you look at the situation, it's the United States that pulled out of the deal that Iran was complying with. It's the United States that put thousands of additional troops in the Middle East, a region where the US already has many thousands of troops.