Many critics of the Trump administration have made the argument that the U.S. decision to remove itself from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) and to reimpose sanctions on Iran has unnecessarily provoked Iran.
Supposedly, it is because of these unnecessary provocations that the Iranian regime has unleashed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and its Iranian proxy terror groups on international shipping in the Persia Gulf, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea, thereby endangering the world’s oil supply. They have also prompted the IRGC to shoot down a U.S. drone.
However, this argument is simply not true.
First of all, legally and morally speaking, it makes no sense to blame the U.S. for the Iranian regime’s aggression.
That is because we don’t assign blame to the non-violent party for “provoking” the intentional violent actions of the other party, under U.S. law, or under international law. Otherwise, we would be encouraging and excusing violence. And regardless of whether you agree with these actions, removing the U.S. from a political document like the JCPOA — which is not even an executive agreement — and re-imposing U.S. sanctions are both legal and non-violent acts.
Perhaps another example will make it clearer.
Osama Bin Laden declared war against the U.S. in 1998, citing a number of reasons. Among them — the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, U.S. support of Israel, and the economic sanctions the U.S. imposed after the 1991 Gulf War against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Does that mean that the U.S., which indeed did these three things, provoked the September 11, 2001 attacks? No serious person would ever make this argument.
Second, since the founding of the Iranian regime in 1979, the regime has consistently supported terrorism against the U.S. and other nations. Thus, the regime’s support for terror far precedes both U.S. sanctions and the JCPOA.
The State Department has long listed Iran as the “leading state sponsor of terrorism.”
In the 80’s, Iran set up, and directed, Hezbollah, a Lebanese terror group. Hezbollah bombed the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut and killed 241 American servicemen who had been sent to Lebanon for peacekeeping purposes. Pretty much simultaneously, Hezbollah also bombed another building in Beirut, which killed 58 French soldiers.
Also, during the late 80’s, Iran went after international oil shipping with mines, one of which struck a U.S. ship, injuring U.S. sailors. This prompted the U.S. to respond with Operation Praying Mantis, which resulted in the destruction of Iranian ships and other assets. In 1996, Hezbollah bombed the Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, murdering another 19 U.S. servicemen. During the U.S. occupation of Iraq (from 2003 to the present), at least 600 hundred American soldiers were killed by roadside bombs or other weapons that were constructed, and supplied, by Iran to Iraqi rebels. The Iranian regime also has supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, going so far as to offer to pay $1,000 for each U.S. soldier killed.
Soldiers from many other nations, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, have also suffered casualties in Afghanistan as a result of Iranian actions.
Even during the time between the announcement of the JCPOA, and the Trump administration’s removal from it, the Iranian regime was still committing acts of violence against the U.S. and other nations. As mentioned above, the Iranian regime continued to supply terrorists in Afghanistan that killed U.S. and other troops. The Iranians also seized more U.S. — and other nation’s — hostages, to replace hostages ransomed the same day as the deal went into effect.
The Iranians were aggressive in the Persian Gulf, with U.S. forces operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz often being approached by Iranian warships and aircraft in an “unsafe or unprofessional manner.” This happened 22 times in 2015, 36 times in 2016, and 14 times in 2017, before stopping in 2018. A U.S. Navy ship once had to fire warning shots to ward off IRGC boats. Another time, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired two missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer operating in the Red Sea — though neither missile hit the ship. Many of the missiles supposedly fired by the Houthis may have been fired by the IRGC or Hezbollah. The Iranian regime also seized U.S. sailors from two small ships. And there have been at least two assassination plots in Europe that were broken up over this time.
Third, it is completely irrational to blame the U.S., or any other country for that matter, for Iranian violence, because the Iranian regime has an ideology that actually supports and encourages terror attacks and violence.
The Iranian regime is driven by an expansionist doctrine to export the Iranian Revolution.
Iranian IRGC-Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani has admitted, “We are witnessing the export of the Iranian Revolution throughout the region, from Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen, and North Africa.”
Further, Iran’s leadership, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are “convinced that the End of Days has come… (and) the Shia messiah… will appear soon to establish a global Islamic kingdom known as the caliphate. What’s more, they believe the way to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam is to annihilate Israel (which they call the “Little Satan”), and the United States (which they call the “Great Satan”).”
The Iranian regime has had a long and consistent history of violent actions directed against the U.S. and other nations. To blame the U.S., or any other nation — especially one that is a victim of Iranian regime sponsored violence — for any of that violence is both morally wrong and erroneous.
Adam Turner is the General Counsel and Legislative Affairs Director for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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