Iran was one of Donald Trump’s favorite boogeymen on the campaign trail—specifically the Obama Administration’s deal to lift some sanctions in return for a rollback and/or slowdown of the Iranian nuclear program. The effectiveness of this exchange cannot be truly ascertained for years, as the swap created immediate relief for the Iranians and long-term concessions to the Western world, but we know that Iran has been freed up to funnel more support to their proxy groups promoting terrorism—like Hezbollah—and so it is very easy to denigrate this deal right now. However, the entire motivation behind the agreement was to push the United States and Iran off the path to war—as the main point of concern from Barack Obama’s perspective was allowing a country that harbors terrorism to own a nuclear weapon, which would likely set off a nuclear arms race in the most volatile area of the world.
However, for the war-mongers in Washington D.C., simple deterrence of Iran’s nuclear program is unacceptable. During the Obama administration’s negotiation with Iran, Tom Cotton and other Congressmen penned an extraordinary and unprecedented letter which rebuked the president’s negotiating stance. Cotton has become a prominent voice in Congress, mainly due to his hawkishness on the Iranian regime, and his stance has been unequivocal: “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran. I don’t see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism.” The irony that his Republican Party tramples our democracy to try to keep their own brand of theocratic despotism in power was apparently lost on Cotton.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress a couple weeks ago that while their Iranian policy is still being drafted, the state department’s generic view on Iran is moving them towards a “peaceful transition of [the Iranian] government.”
The president himself has taken a very bellicose and fatalistic tone towards Iran as well.
Trump's tweets—which the White House officially confirmed as real presidential policy when they submitted them as a formal statement to Congress about his “tape” threat to James Comey—reveal a man who seems to be anticipating a war, or even trying to bait one with all this charged rhetoric.
Mike Pompeo, the current head of the CIA, published an op-ed last year in state-run media which stated that “Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.” Politico obtained a memo written by a hawkish think tank called the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies—a memo which has circulated within the White House—and it argues that “Iran is susceptible to a strategy of coerced democratization because it lacks popular support and relies on fear to sustain its power. The very structure of the regime invites instability, crisis and possibly collapse.”
America is constantly dealing with hawks pushing for regime change somewhere in the world. The military-industrial complex has constructed the greatest “business model” known to mankind—charging millions of dollars for products largely with a one-time use—and the purveyors of that wealth have an itchy trigger finger. Expanding war, misery and bloodshed has the benefit of also expanding the bank accounts of the powers that be, and the drumbeat that we heard for Iraq in the early 21st century is starting anew with the country to its east—with the U.S. foreign policy mafia attempting to influence another easily swayed president.
We are already fighting a war with Iran in Yemen. The Saudis—our proxies—engaged their proxy battalions with the Houthi rebels—Iran's proxy soldiers—and the situation is escalating. Trump's first major military authorization greenlit a calamitous raid in Yemen which led to the death of a Navy Seal and countless civilians—and this was just a taste of what those running the military-industrial complex would will into existence, given free reign. Obama created space for the Iranians to expand their financing of terror, and now major players in the Trump administration want to fight fire with fire.
If there is one thing that Trump learned from bombing an empty Syrian airfield earlier this year, it's that he constantly has an option to remove himself from one of his least favorite bugaboos—negative press. American media powers love war as much as they love their children, and they have a proven method of greasing the wheels to give the military room to “slide into war.”
American media is so elated with war that even if unassailable proof that Trump colluded with Russia to fix the 2016 election came out on Monday, Trump could declare war on Iran on Tuesday, and by Friday, outlets like CNN and The New York Times would be hailing Trump as “presidential” for showing “leadership” by bombing a despotic regime. The logical conclusion of the American elites’ position on war is invading at least one third of all nations on the planet. Bad guys must be purged, and if America consequently “slides” into war, so be it.
Significant portions of the Trump administration are laying the groundwork for regime change in Iran, and very few alarm bells are being rung. This should be serious cause for concern, but the media’s silence on this issue speaks volumes. The truth of the matter is that war is one of the few areas where we have bipartisan agreement in Washington. Obviously, a military engagement with Iran would be catastrophic, and could suck us into an extended conflict that makes the debacle in Iraq look humane and organized—but it would also be great for TV ratings, which is the epicenter of the Venn diagram aligning Trump’s interests with American media and the military-industrial complex. There are a lot of concerning items on the Trump agenda, but beating the drums of war in Iran’s direction should rank towards the top of our national priorities. It’s quite telling that it doesn’t.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.