One might think that with a global pandemic, thoughts of war might fade into the background. But as Murtaza Hussain reports, that is not the case in the US-Iran conflict.
On Wednesday, the birthday of assassinated Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a barrage of rockets slammed into the Camp Taji airbase north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The attack killed two Americans and a Briton, while wounding 14 others. A day later, U.S. forces in Iraq hit back, carrying out airstrikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia that it blamed for the attack. It is a safe bet that the violence between the United States and Iran will not stop there. Already on Saturday morning, reports emerged of another attack at the same base that wounded three more U.S. service members.
Despite a terrifying pandemic that has overwhelmed entire cities in Iran and now looms over the United States, the crisis between the two countries that began when the Trump administration exited the 2015 Iran nuclear deal shows no sign of abating. The possibility of war in the midst of a global public health crisis is, to put it mildly, outrageous. Iranians are believed to be among the most numerous victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their government’s decision to risk a conflict at this moment is both mystifying and galling.
But Iran’s grim determination to hit back against the United States regardless of its people’s suffering does illustrate an important point. It puts paid to a major Trump administration justification for the controversial assassination of Suleimani in a January drone: deterrence.
It is crazy to escalate this situation when there is a much greater crisis that requires everyone’s attention. But governments like to send ‘messages’ to adversaries in this absurd fashion even when other more pressing matters exist and it risks doing real harm to its people.
One would think that this would be a good time to find ways to de-escalate the Iran situation without looking like you were backing down, with the US government easing sanctions as a humanitarian gesture to help Iran better deal with the pandemic while Iran makes similar goodwill gestures such as releasing Americans it is holding, because combating this virus requires global cooperation and provides global benefits. But that kind of thinking is beyond the reach of the child-like mind of Trump who sees everything in terms of winners and losers with him having to be the winner, and he has even at this time increased sanctions on that country.
The ‘win-win’ concept is utterly beyond his comprehension.