By Jada Gordon
The following article was featured in the February 2020 edition of The Campus.
On January 3rd, at the direction of President Donald J. Trump, a U.S strike in Baghdad killed Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s powerful Quds Force. The Pentagon confirmed this attack and claimed that “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” However, the facts behind this statement were never confirmed. Iran mourned Soleimani’s loss and the words “Death to America” were shouted in the streets. Both the U.S airstrike and Iran’s mourning of their leader reverberated throughout the world. Americans mostly reacted with fear of retaliation, starting the decade off filled with fright and confusion. Then to add to the conflict, on January 8th, Iran shot down a Ukrainian plane by accident, killing all passengers on board. With this onslaught of fighting, conflict, fear, and retaliation, the conflict between Iran and the U.S must be examined, questioned, and discussed.
Kelly Sullivan, a junior at The City College of New York and an English major made her sentiments quite clear; “The attack on Iran I believe is mindless and will only negatively affect America.” The U.S was already in a compromising position when it came to foreign policy, however, these events put the U.S in a worse predicament. Sullivan continued, “The problem with it is that we always believe that the opposing country can never retaliate enough to significantly harm us, which is toxic nationalism.” Nationalism historically has turned the U.S’s relationships with other countries awry. These acts against the leader of Iran and its citizens might lead the country to war and more conflict. Sullivan explains;
“When the U.S drone strikes first killed Qasem Soleimani, I was unfortunately not surprised. I thought about the United States’ role in the Iranian Revolution and the negative consequences that followed the Iranian people.” Historically, the U.S and Iran have had a complicated past dating back to the 1970s. This conflict was dubbed the “Iran-Contra Affair.”
The “Iran-Contra” affair was a political scandal in the United States that occurred during the second term of the Regan Administration. Senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to the Khomeini government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo. This conflict led to American hostages being taken in Lebanon and former president Reagan taking full responsibility for the affair. The U.S strike against Qasem Soleimani is another event in the U.S and Iran’s storied past.
Other students, like Eva Friedberg, a senior majoring in International Studies, feel like this assassination will bring about even more hateful attacks and religious bias. She says, “I feel that Trump’s decisions with Iran will affect radicalized tensions only heighten Islamophobia in the U.S.” A lot of critics felt as if Trump’s actions were impulsive and dangerous for the people of the U.S. Friedberg continued to say, “What Trump might not think about is the longevity of his decisions and the consequences that follow his every move. I think [the Iran and U.S conflict] will dramatically affect the U.S economy, national security, and position in the Middle East.”
Shilpa Shaju, a junior also studying International Studies and Political Science feels strongly about this matter, breaking down a lot of ways this conflict will hurt the U.S.:
“First, the attack will definitely cause an increase in oil prices and a drop in the stock market. Second, as Iran stated, it will retaliate in an equivalent manner. This means Iran will coordinate an attack on U.S soil or on an equal significant U.S leader. Third, it will force the U.S to remain in the Middle East for a longer period, even though President Trump repeatedly promised to get the U.S out of costly wars in the U.S.”
Although in the Obama Administration, it seemed like the U.S and Iran were building towards peace, now the relationship is fractured. Shaju reflects, “It seemed as if the two nations were making progress. The Trump Administration has shifted this and adopted a policy of escalations with Iran.” She continues, saying, “Yes, I believe this will dramatically affect U.S relations with other countries. For instance, Iraq will be drawn into the conflict between Iran and the U.S.”
In matters of retaliation, Iran has stated that there will be more, which scared a lot of people and made them think deeply about the severity of the conflict. In regard to Ukraine retaliating against Iran, Friedberg says;
I do not believe Ukraine will imminently retaliate for the following reasons. First, Ukraine needs to maintain diplomatic relations with Iran so that its experts can conduct an independent investigation. Second, Ukraine does not have the resources needed to negotiate with and apply pressure on Iran.
This conflict has affected the U.S., Iran, and the entire world. President Trump’s bold move may end up hurting a lot of people in the end. The U.S and Iran now share another dark chapter in their troubled international relationship that will impact how the U.S will be seen and how it will interact internationally with other countries.