By Harold Rook
Attention, ladies and gentlemen, pack your emergency MREs and head straight to your local fallout shelter, because World War III is here! Haven’t you heard? Tensions between the United States and Iran are at an all-time high, with President Trump giving the go-ahead for the assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani. With the death of this modern-day Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a global war is sure to come, and soon enough we’ll be drafted! Therefore, I decided to do the bravest thing I can think of: run as fast as I can to my own private bunker, away from the impending chaos that is sure to come. Of course, the possibility of Mutually Assured Destruction may make this decision pointless; what good will running for the hills do if no one else knows what is happening? So, to avoid being the only person left alive when nuclear destruction ravages the world, I am going to tell you all the story that led up to it. After this, hopefully everyone else can know just what is going on and be prepared to survive World War III.
Where does our story begin? Realistically, there are several points of interest that we can analyze to understand US foreign policy towards Iran: the ousting of the Western-friendly Shah in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the establishment of an Islamic Republic under the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini, and the immediate taking of 52 American hostages that lasted over a year. Things are off to a great start! What made the situation even worse was geography; following the revolution, the new Iranian government gained control of the Gulf of Hormuz, a strategic area for supplying oil, causing a world-wide energy crisis in 1979. From this point forward, the United States and Iran took a more hostile stance towards the other, cemented with American support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. Following the war, the United States and other western nations placed sanctions on Iran in what Iranian leaders claimed to be “economic terrorism.” Perhaps there is some truth to this claim; the decades to follow would see inflation skyrocket due to the sanctions and low oil prices, with one US dollar being equal to just under 31,000 Iranian Rials by 2016. In addition, Iran started its own nuclear program in the 1980s, with the intent of enriching uranium and creating secret facilities to do so. This led many observers, including the United States, to worry about the possibility of Iran using uranium for nuclear weapons instead of clean energy. Tensions were mildly reduced when, in 2015, Iran agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal), lifting the economic sanctions in exchange for greater transparency in its nuclear program to an international committee.
Then, to the surprise of everyone, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Calling the Iran Nuclear Deal a “total disaster,” Trump pledged that, upon election, he would pull out of the agreement. Following his victory and after two years in office, Trump initiated the United States’ withdrawal from the provision on May 8th, 2018 and reinstated the sanctions that were previously in place. This came before labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization, citing its support for radical terror groups through financing and proxies. In response, the IRGC would shoot down a US drone in international airspace, claiming that it was in Iranian airspace. With Trump staving off his more war-hawk advisors by firing John Bolton, additional sanctions are placed on Iran, leading to the price of gas rising as high as 200%, and causing protests that continue to this day. How does Iran respond to these protests? By killing at least 1500 protestors, although some figures suggest the death toll is higher. Regardless, the IRGC, seeing increased economic strain on Iran and Trump embroiled in his impeachment, decided to back a pro-Iranian militia in their effort to storm a US embassy within Baghdad on December 31st, 2019. This brings us to where we are now: Trump does an Archduke Franz Ferdinand to Soleimani on January 3rd, 2020. Admittedly, the details regarding this decision are somewhat hazy, with some sources stating that Trump had actually authorized this seven months prior, that this was presented as the extreme option to motivate Trump to pick a more moderate approach, that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on at least four US embassies, and so on. Either way, the result is a dead Soleimani, contradicting justification from the White House, and Iran swearing retaliation.
Before we get into reactions, a brief tangent on Iranian politics and Soleimani himself. Iran has called itself an Islamic Republic, with citizens being able to elect a president as well as members to Iran’s parliament, the Majlis. They also have a say in choosing an “Assembly of Experts,” who can pick the Supreme Leader of Iran. Sounds democratic, right? Well…not really. The Supreme Leader, Ali Khameini, is the highest authority figure, having the final say in foreign, educational, economic, military, and political policies. Additionally, Khameini can appoint the head of the judicial system of Iran and six clerics to the Guardian Council, both of which must be experts in Islamic law. The Guardian Council, for its part, is made up of the six clerics appointed by Khameini and six judges elected by the head of the judicial system. Their responsibility in government is to carefully vet candidates who are running for president, Majlis, and the Assembly of Experts, ensuring that they follow Islamic and constitutional law. If all this sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare, that’s because it is. The important thing to know is that, although the state appears to operate as a republic with democratic principles, it is really run as an Islamic theocracy, with Supreme Leader Khameini as its ruler.
In this messy web of theocratic government, Soleimani served as the commander of the IRGC Quds Forces, which functions comparatively to the CIA. During his career, he would direct his forces to aid Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization, in their fight against the Israeli Defense Force during the July War. In addition, Soleimani formed the pro-Iranian proxy group called the National Defense Forces as a means of bolstering the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Most importantly, he was viewed by some in Iran as a war hero, with him being the likely successor to Supreme Leader Khameini. Quite literally, Soleimani was the Franz Ferdinand of Iran.
So, because of all this, war is obviously here! Republicans and Democrats alike were furious with Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani. For example, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va) have sponsored a measure to prevent Trump from taking further military action against Iran. Of course, Iran is also enraged, vowing harsh retaliation against the United States. I’m certainly not a fan of the events that have unfolded, sitting in this bunker, but the best reactions, by far, have come from Twitter, with many celebrities condemning President Trump’s actions. One such reaction came from actress Rose McGowen, who, in a Twitter meltdown, called the United States a terrorist regime, apologized to Iran, said that Soleimani potentially plotting attacks on US embassies is “not the point” and “f*** your freedom…” to critics of her response. However, my personal favorite comes from Michael Moore, who sent the Supreme Leader a personal appeal to not respond to this assassination with violence. Yes, Michael, I’m sure that the theocratic dictator of a country that operates under strict Islamic law, bars most forms of democracy, censors its media, chants “Death to America,” kills its own protestors, ignores human rights, hangs gay people from cranes, and restricts the freedom of women to maintain modesty will listen to your appeal.
Well, I’ve been in this bunker for several hours, and I’m certain that World War III has destroyed the world. Should I check outside? It’s risky, but I will. I’m opening the door and see…nothing. As in, nothing happened. What gives? Well, Iran did respond with what it calls a “slap in the face” to the US, firing missiles at American troops in 2 Iraqi bases, killing…nobody. Wow, strong slap you got there, Iran. Do you even lift, bro? In all seriousness, this was likely deliberate, only as a display of force against the US. With all this said, are we really going to war? Should we worry about being drafted to fight in a conflict thousands of miles from our soil? Putting it bluntly, no. Iran itself is in no position to decisively take direct military action against the US; the government is still contending with protestors as well as facing international pressure from shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane. Does this mean that we should not worry at all? While a “war” is likely not going to occur, Iran may direct proxies to do its bidding against our troops. There are also political implications: there was no congressional approval for the killing. In playing hardball with Iran, Trump risks foreign entanglement into a potential conflict that we, as citizens, have no say in, be it direct or through congressmen. Make no mistake, Soleimani was by all accounts a threat to national security at home and abroad; the cries by those attempting to downplay this are pathetic, but making reckless decisions in foreign policy, shocking your citizens, and circumventing congressional approval can only harm us in the long term. World War III isn’t here today, but we certainly had fun imagining a possible World War I Remastered scenario.