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The TownhallPolitics

Who’s afraid of Iran?

When Americans read the news, either liberal or conservative, chances are they’ll hear about the Islamic Republic of Iran’s imminent threat to America. With President Biden poised to rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal, it is vital to see why Iran is not an immediate threat, and why joining the Iran Nuclear Deal is good for everyone involved.  

Now, it is easy to understand the unease people feel when discussing Iran’s threat to America. They certainly make it easy when there are endless videos of Iranian officials shouting both “death to America” and “death to Israel.”  

Nothing makes you want to not trust a group like them literally shouting for your death. As Senator Tom Cotton (R) eloquently put it, “When someone chants, ‘Yes, certainly, death to America,’ we should take him at his word, and we shouldn’t put him on the path to a nuclear bomb.”   

Perhaps, that word ‘literal’ is doing too much work though. Since spouting the slogan in 1979, Iran has made it clear that they do not want death to Americans. 

The slogan refers to “death to American foreign policy” towards Iran, as explained by Foad Izadi, assistant professor of world studies at the University of Tehran. 

Despite the government’s “Do Not Travel” warning about travel to Iran, it is considered a safe country to travel to, even as an American. Apparently, the use of hyperbole is not limited to American presidents

It should also be reminded as to why they want American foreign policy as it stands to “die.” In 1953, Iran democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh as Prime Minister, a left-wing politician dead set on nationalizing oil reserves occupied by a British oil company. Britain was beyond angry.  

They enlisted the help of the CIA to help them overthrow Iran’s Prime Minister and set up a dictator instead. This dictator, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, did bring democratic reforms to Iran, such as opening secular schools for boys and girls, and religious reforms as well.  

However, these religious reforms were overreaching, especially in a country dominated by Shi’a Islam for centuries.  

Particularly, the Shah banned veils and hijabs completely, banning one of the core tenets of Islam. This is tantamount to banning religious freedom of expression entirely. 

Iran’s revolution soon followed. People of all social classes came together to overthrow the Shah’s regime, but along the way the hardline religious right came into power and turned Iran officially into a theocracy.  

Shortly after, they invaded the American embassy and held American hostages for 444 days.  

Since then, the American-Iran relationship has been one marked by intense scorn. Except when it wasn’t.  

When President Ronald Reagan came into power, he actively armed Iran as they entered war with neighboring Iraq. This event became the infamous Iran-Contra Affair.  

At the same time, Reagan armed Iraq and allowed them to use chemical weapons on Iranian citizens. Therefore, America both helped Iran become the military power it is today as well as actively helping Iraq commit war crimes against Iranian citizens.  

Oh yeah, speaking of Americans arming Iran, guess who created Iran’s nuclear program in the first place

If you’re a descendant from the 70-plus nations America did similar actions towards, the ‘death to America’ chants shouldn’t sound as controversial.  

To sum it up, America destroyed Iran’s democracy with a brutal dictator and tacitly approved of committing war crimes against them, all while giving them the conditions to become the potentially nuclear state they are today. 

Since then, the preferred way to harm Iran was through sanctions. While the sanctions destroyed countless civilian lives over the years, they did little to dissuade Iran’s government from developing nuclear capabilities. 

After all those issues, along with many proxy battles between Iranian forces and American-backed Saudi and Israeli forces, there was finally a breakthrough in 2015.  

President Barack Obama worked with other nations in securing the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, also known as the JCPOA deal.  

The deal deterred Iran from being able to develop nuclear weapons by, among other things, allowing watchdogs from around the world to access Iran’s nuclear research facilities at any time.  

In exchange, the United States and other nations rolled back their sanctions towards Iran.  

The deal was seen as one of Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievements, despite Democrat and Republican hawks criticizing the deal as capitulating to the “leading state-sponsor of terrorism.” 

Critics of the deal said that Iran would continue to seek enrichment levels needed for nuclear weaponry and would use the money from sanction relief to commit terrorist attacks abroad.  

With that logic in mind, President Trump got out of the nuclear deal and re-sanctioned Iran.  

Under President Trump, the sanctions became so severe that they stopped Iran from obtaining necessary tools to fight Covid, prompting world leaders to ask the Trump administration to relax sanctions on humanitarian grounds.  

“The United States first and foremost just has a moral obligation to make sure that our foreign policy doesn’t result in the knowing death of innocent people,” Senator Chris Coons (D) said.  

Worse than the immorality at play, however, was the fact that it was widely reported that Iran was abiding by the nuclear deal the entire time. To counteract the facts, the Trump administration needed to convince people that Iran was as dangerous as they claimed.  

Luckily, Trump had friends in reactionary news outlets. Fox News published an opinion piece where author Lew Olowski claimed, among other things, that “Iran even helped Al Qaeda bomb the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania [in 1998], murdering hundreds of innocents.”  

Of course, Olowski’s claim has no basis in reality.  

For one thing, Al-Qaeda is a militant group primarily of Sunni Muslims, while Iran is a Shi’a government. It’s common knowledge that the premier conflict in the Muslim world stems from Sunni Muslims versus Shi’a Muslims. It is an ancient conflict.  

To tie two of the most prominent Sunni and Shi’a groups together is like claiming Black Lives Matter and David Duke are in cahoots. It’s nonsense.  

It’s the same nonsense that the Bush administration recited after 9/11, where they repeatedly lied that Shi’a Iraq was linked to Al-Qaeda as well. 

One would think Republicans wouldn’t need to lie about the potential threat of Iran if the threat were there.  

Upon news that President Biden was going to reenter the Iran deal, however, it looks like the irrational fear mongers are out in full fear-mongering mode. Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has been telling anyone who will listen in recent weeks the same lie that Olowski wrote.  

“Everything changed in 2015 — the same year that the Obama Administration and the ‘E-3’ — France, Germany, and Britain — were finalizing the JCPOA,” Pompeo said, adding that Iran gave Al-Qaeda “a new operational headquarters, on the condition that Al Qaeda operatives inside abide by the regime’s rules governing Al Qaeda’s stay inside the country.”  

How convenient that right when the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed, Iran ended the centuries-long Muslim conflict so they could work with the terrorists responsible for 9/11.  

It’s even more convenient that Pompeo accuses Iran of Al-Qaeda alliances to scare the American public, but meanwhile works heavily with Saudi Arabia. When Saudia Arabia isn’t dismembering American journalists, they’re giving arms to Al-Qaeda.  

Critics of the Nuclear deal say that Iran will use sanction relief to fund terrorists around the world instead of revitalizing their failing economy. If they genuinely cared about terrorism funding, however, they may like a word with the Saudis. 

Also, a 2017 research report by the Institute for Global Dialogue’s concluded that calling Iran the leading sponsor of terrorism is unwarranted given “the U.S. and its allies could also be seen as funders of terrorism,” showing how this conflict is not so black-and-white. 

If people are worried about Iran being a terrorist regime though, the last thing they’d want is that terrorist regime to have access to nuclear weapons. Sanctions, threats, and violence didn’t stop Iran from developing them before, but the Nuclear deal has.

As Biden sets the stage to reenter the Iran Deal, remember those facts, because hawks in the media will go into overtime in making Iran seem like the deadliest threat in the world. 

Seth Tamarkin

Assistant Editor

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