The Folly of Picking a Fight With Iran

During the Cold War, the United States government could sell wars of choice like Vietnam as strategic checks against supposedly monolithic Soviet Communism. After 9/11, the George W. Bush administration invoked fear of Islamic terrorist attacks to justify invading Iraq.

But now, in 2019, there isn’t a global threat frightening enough to convince the American public we need to fight a war with Iran. Going to war with Iran is plainly stupid and avoidable, which should be enough to guarantee it would never happen. Unfortunately, the world we actually live in, the chances of a U.S.-Iran conflict are probably better than even.

To understand the absurdity underpinning provoking a war with Iran, look to our main ally in the region, the Saudis.

Saudi Arabia is a real-deal monarchy in the medieval sense, not the cutesy figurehead kind. It’s a place where you can still get your head chopped off at the whim of the king.

For decades, the Saudi royal family has quietly funded madrassas around the world preaching the severe Wahhabi strain to countries that historically practiced a more tolerant version of the faith. These madrassas are effectively terrorism schools, providing the broad ideological framework for groups like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and others. It’s no accident that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.

Yet surprisingly, mentioning Saudi Arabia does not induce the same Pavlovian rage-response among average Americans that the word “Iran” does thanks, no doubt, to decades of spin by the U.S. foreign policy establishment, who decided to back Saudi Arabia at the expense of their Iranian rivals in the wake of the barely remembered 1979 hostage crisis, which, honestly, we kind of brought on ourselves.

The U.S. and its officials have capriciously screwed with Iran ever since, helping Iraq in its brutal war against Iran in the ‘80s, issuing round upon round of punishing economic sanctions, and making “jokes” about bomb-bomb-bombing Iran. For marketing purposes, Bush placed Iran on an “axis of evil” as the U.S. was fighting in Iraq, on Iran’s western border, and in Afghanistan to its east.

But America’s embrace of Saudi Arabia and its demonization of Iran appears especially outlandish when you consider the kinds of terrorism the two sides sponsor.

The Sunni Saudi regime considers the Iranians, largely Shia Muslim, to be apostates. The simmering conflict-by-proxy between the two is akin to Europe’s wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants centuries ago. Muslim terror attacks in places like Paris, Boston, New York and London were carried out by radicalized Sunnis.

Shia terrorism is more like asymmetric warfare, the only realistic self-defense option for a country whose sworn enemies include the most powerful nation in the world and its regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel (which, unlike Iran, has nukes). Shia attacks don’t target civilians in the West, which are the only kind of attacks regular people in the West really care about.

So our know-nothing, corrupt president pulled us out of a nuclear treaty with Iran that was working, largely out of spite towards his predecessor and at the behest of a 30-something Saudi prince who may be too authoritarian even for the Saudis. We are applying “maximum pressure” against a country that helped us after the 9/11 attacks and whose citizens, somehow, have a favorable view of the American people. Meanwhile, school kids in Saudi Arabia are still taught that Christians, Hindus, Jews and those who “practice witchcraft” should be put to death.

Any sane person watching trust-fund buffoons like Bush and Donald Trump heedlessly deploying America’s unparalleled military might must wonder whether any country should have that kind of power at all. Any decent American cannot help but feel disgust towards the tens of millions of her fellow citizens who will spare barely a moment’s consideration for the countless innocent Iranians who would be made to suffer and die should our country proceed with this monstrous fucking crime.