Playing With Fire Means You’ll Just Get Burned

America Toes the Line in Terms of Nuclear War

Annie Sinert , Scarlet Staff

Over the course of his Presidency, Donald Trump has only escalated tensions with other countries, further putting the United States in the exact peril he promised to deliver us from. These tensions were further exacerbated by his call to assassinate Qassem Soleimani, the head General of the Iranian military. In the early hours of January 3rd, Trump ordered a drone strike near the cargo area of the Baghdad International Airport where Soleimani was traveling by car. The strike killed Soleimani and ten other individuals including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces.

Soleimani was incredibly popular among the people of Iran, as well as with many Iranian allies. He had survived several previous assassination attempts over the past two decades and was credited with helping armed groups retaliate against the nefarious terrorist group commonly known as ISIS. His death sparked outrage among Iranians with citizens taking to the streets to publicly mourn his demise. Following the assassination, many Iranian officials and leaders spoke out with promises of revenge against America. Former Iranian military Commander, Mohsen Rezaei, tweeted “Soleimani joined his martyred brothers, but we will take vigorous revenge on America.” In another tweet from Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister said that “The U.S. act of international terrorism targeting and assassinating General Soleimani – THE most effective force fighting ISIS, Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al – is extremely dangerous and foolish escalation.”

As they promised, Iran delivered retaliation. Five days after Soleimani’s death, Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at U.S. military airbases in Iraq. Thankfully there were no casualties, though later reports stated that thirty-four American service members suffered traumatic brain injuries from the blast. When asked about the injuries at a news conference, President Trump, in his usual flippancy, said that he “heard that they {the soldiers} had headaches” and that he doesn’t “consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries” he has seen. This comment outraged American troops and veterans who are now demanding an apology.

So why did this happen? The rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran in recent years could be a possible answer. Last year, Trump pulled the U.S. from the landmark nuclear deal between the countries and began re-imposing punishing sanctions in an effort to weaken the Iranian economy. Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has cycled through more cabinet members and advisors than any other president. Anyone who did not agree with him or didn’t propose options that he wanted was pushed from the White House. Trump’s current Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, as well as his acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, have little to no expertise or knowledge on Middle East relations. They could not have warned the President of the potential ramifications of this action because they genuinely did not know what would happen. Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, had extensive knowledge of the Middle East and, knowing that Trump was a “loose cannon,” didn’t want to enable any bad decisions by providing military options that Trump could seize. His successors did not have this awareness and thus allowed Trump to grab at the most extreme option they could offer him. We are exactly where Mattis feared we would be: teetering on the edge of a nuclear war.

The possibility of a full-scale conflict between the U.S. and Iran is at its highest point in decades. Trump’s reckless decision to assassinate Soleimani now locks our countries in a dangerous escalatory cycle, leaving his administration and Congress scrambling with the consequences. Trump has not met any of his stated objectives. If anything, he has pushed our country into a position of weakened security and made another war an actual possibility that would destroy our economy and push us deeper down the rabbit hole. In a televised press statement, Trump tried to justify his performance by saying that “we took action to stop a war, not to start a war” and that “the world is a safer place without these monsters.” Ironically, not only did Trump metaphorically bang the war drums, but he has painted himself as the exact monster that the world would be a safer place without. His imprudent and ill-advised action has pushed us to the very edge of a war that we cannot afford. He is playing with fire and we’re all about to get burned.