The current state of U.S.-Iranian relations has little to do with the actions of President Trump and everything to do with the actions of his two predecessors. The reason: we were drawn into a 1,300-year conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Much of this is the result of President Bush’s invasion into Iraq resulting in the formation of ISIS. But, it was the Obama administration’s lack of a real response to ISIS that opened the door to Iranian influence.
Iran is the ideological and historical home of the Shia. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are the ones in charge of facilitating and financing the acts of violence (terrorism) Shia perform outside of Iran and it’s their mission to secure Iranian theocracy. The Supreme Leader, Khamenei controls the IRGC, which is his personal religious army. General Soleimani oversaw the IRGC and was responsible for organizing and implementing their violent acts. The Shia populations outside of Iran do not view their actions as terrorism but as acts of liberation and they see Iran as their protector from Sunni aggression.
Over the last few months, and under the leadership of Soleimani, Iran destroyed a U.S. surveillance drone, attacked oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, attacked Saudi oil facilities with cruise missiles, rocketed an American military base and facilitated an attack on our Bagdad embassy, while financing and facilitating terrorist attacks against Israel committed by Hamas and Hezbollah. Our lack of any significant response showed weakness and gave the Iranians a green light to continue their bad behavior. Sanctions were ineffective; the Russians, Europeans, and the Chinese were ignoring them. The option left to us was a military response and the assassination of Soleimani showed the Iranians that there are consequences for their actions. Iran’s counterattack showed significant restraint and a understanding of this.
Putin is too cunning and intelligent to jeopardize his goal of replacing American global supremacy and hegemony. He is eager to see conflict between the United States and Iran and has been actively selling military weapons and technology to the Iranians. His goal is to weaken the American military, economy, and our global standing and a war with Iran would accomplish all three. Because of Russia, the Iranian military is no joke and they can strike anywhere in the region (as Iran’s counterattack showed). Our military and technological superiority would defeat them, but it would come at a high cost and a prolonged military engagement that would result in thousands of American deaths.
The Iranian Nuclear Deal was flawed but the Iranians were abiding by it. The Obama administration hoped the agreement would outlive Iran’s Supreme Leader, who is the most right-wing, anti-American cleric in Iran and has absolute authority over international relations and Iran’s military. It was hoped that after his death, Iran would liberalize, and the generation born after the Iranian Revolution would have more influence. This was a gamble that didn’t pay off – the deal has allowed Iran to continue militarizing and pursuing nuclear energy. Iran has vast oil and gas resources, so it’s illogical to assume they need nuclear energy. Therefore, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal.
The Russian goal is self-serving, and they provide Iran with enough aid to sustain the status-quo within Iran and enough military aid to ensure conflict with the United States would be costly.
If President Trump ordered this assassination to recapture American superiority, I welcome it. If it was done to facilitate Russian superiority, I fear it. Both Iran and President Trump showed restraint, and this is not in Russia’s interest; however, ignoring Iranian aggression has not been in ours.
We are living in unpredictable times and I hope we are returning to a pro-American foreign policy and not a pro-Russian one.
Dustin Berna, Ph.D.
Nova Southeastern University
About the Author
Dustin Berna, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Conflict Resolution and Political Science at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. He is also the director of Assessment and Planning for the college.
His research specializations include Middle Eastern politics, Islamic fundamentalism, religious extremism, social movements, terrorism and political institutions. He has taught classes on the Iraq War, Islamic politics, Middle Eastern politics, terrorism, political violence, international relations, U.S. foreign policy, the politics of developing states, revolutions, international negotiation and violence prevention.
Dr. Berna has written numerous articles on topics that range from terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism to Iranian political institutions and Islamic democracy. He has recently finished a book on ISIS titled Ignorance, Isis, and Indoctrination: The World of Islamic Fundamentalism. His book is currently under review at Duke University Press and is expected to be published in 2016.
Dr. Berna earned his doctorate from the University of New Orleans in 2008. His two major fields of study were Middle Eastern politics and international relations. American political institutions were third and minor field. His dissertation was a quantitative study that evaluated the causes and electoral success of Islamic fundamentalist movements. Berna has collected and coded every Islamic fundamentalist group that is, or has been, in operation in the Islamic world since 1970.
Nova Southeastern University fully supports an individual’s right to express their viewpoint and opinions. The views expressed in this guest editorial are that of Dustin Berna, Ph.D. in Nova Southeastern University’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and are not necessarily those of NSU, its President or Board of Trustees.