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25 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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It is Iran against everyone else

Timothy Snyder

Donald Trump's presidency is possible because "freedom is hard, democracy is hard: We're not always going to have nice outcomes that we like — that's the first thing to remember." Published in 40 languages, Snyder's work has received the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award and the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought, among other honors. He also spoke to DW about Russia's role in the US's conflict with Iran and the European Union's sanctions against Russia.

Timothy Snyder: One has to answer that a little bit more broadly. The broad outline of the conflict in the Middle East is Iran versus everyone else — versus the Israelis, versus the Saudis — and the Americans take the side of the Saudis and of the Israelis, and the Israelis quietly improve their relations with most of their Arab neighbors, so that now Iran is the main enemy from that point of view. The Russians have, unlike the Americans, been very consistent in the Middle East in the last few years. Since September of 2015, Russia has undertaken bombing campaigns and other actions with the goal of shoring up the Assad regime.

With Iran, the Russian-American conflict of interest is indirect. I think the difference would be that the Russians have a clear goal. The Russians would like authoritarian regimes to remain authoritarian regimes. Trump's reaction brought more confusion than clarity: Within hours, the president set in motion plans for a retaliatory strike. It was announced that US warplanes were preparing to strike Iranian radar and missile installations. It was said that the attacks would take place on Friday, the Muslim holy day, in an effort to minimize casualties. The US president engaged Oman as mediator. The sultanate relayed the US's intent to attack along with Trump's desire to open dialog with Iran's leadership rather than engage in an armed conflict.

It was implied that dialogue could prevent the attack. Iranian officials kept their cool and played for time. Leaders made clear that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had previously rejected such offers, but the message would, nevertheless, be passed on to him.

Trump had painted himself into a corner. The US Air Force, already in the region, was in the air and en route, naval personnel in the Persian Gulf were put on alert. But the entire exercise stood in clear contradiction to Trump's pledge that he simply wanted to negotiate.

The president could not likely have found a way out of the situation on his own. He must have realized that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, the staff hard-liners, would not provide objective assistance in the matter.

It is more likely that he was again guided by the same the anonymous military advisers who had recently warned him to refrain from his usual course of action in this conflict. They have made clear to Trump that it would be extremely unwise for him to start a military conflict on his own, reminding him that he would need a broad political consensus for such a move. And Trump must realize that he cannot count on majority backing in Congress. That lack of support would have weighed on his mind this week, after he officially announced his reelection campaign on Tuesday.  

A military conflict with Iran would go against Trump's election promises the first time around: namely, to bring US troops home from the Middle East. Now he is boosting troop presence in the region and threatening to start another war.

The Americans under . Trump are kind of moving day to day and improvising. Any war in the Middle East is a bad idea. But a war which is the result of improvisation seems like an even worse one.

The writer is  a professor of history at

Yale University

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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