Bryan Griffin: Don’t Legitimize Iran’s Propaganda
Reactions to the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani are troubling. Some media and political figures are seizing upon Iran-backed narratives and legitimizing an incredulous Iranian talking point that that nation is merely a victim of a disproportionate American attack. The responses reek of as much partisanship as the recent impeachment hearings. This is a critical moment for the world to unify against a longstanding opponent. Instead, we see partisanship and equivocation.
The Iranian regime hated America long before Soleimani’s death. The Ayatollah, Iran’s supreme leader, has ridiculed America, called us the “big Satan,” and vowed opposition to the Western world since his installment, as have his equally nefarious predecessors. Since Persia became the Islamic Republic of Iran by coup d’etat in 1979, the country’s leadership has publicly hated America and the Western World. There is nothing new here – nothing was borne of our recent actions. The world just didn’t seem to pay any attention or care very much about the hatred spewing from Iran. Now, however, the Iranian regime has found itself with the extraordinary ability to thinly veil its hatred of the rest of the world as legitimized based on its recent defeat.
I find it troubling that Iran can find any degree of success legitimizing their hatred retroactively, post-dating it like a check. Yet a large portion of the world’s media have given Iran’s propaganda the weight it so desperately hoped it would carry.
And Democrats have spent the aftermath exploiting countless angles to attack Trump for his decision to neutralize Soleimani.
Speaker Pelosi is rebuking the Trump administration for its actions and threatening a War Powers Resolution. Hypocrisy abounds in this move. President Obama was lauded for his Defense Department’s similarly executed mission to take out Osama Bin Laden. Powers solely reserved to the Congress by our Constitution don’t seem to be any concern to Democrats like Pelosi unless they only control the House of Representatives and not the White House.
Qasem Soleimani was the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps “Quds Force” which since 2007 has been a designated terrorist organization according to the U.S. government. Any notice due of the administration’s intent to treat the group with military force to protect U.S. assets or lives was effectively given in the designation.
What is it that those who oppose this move want, exactly? A more diplomatic approach to dealing with this terror-wing of the Iranian government?
Uniquely, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is one of the few designated terror organizations that also represents an official part of a recognized state actor. However, Iran has consistently acted outside of the Westphalian order, or the generally accepted diplomacy and conduct of recognized states. The current Iranian regime wouldn’t want to be categorized with other modern nations. Thus, it makes no sense that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard should be treated as anything other than a hostile terrorist organization by the U.S. Defense Secretary Esper was right when he said Iran needs “…to start acting like a normal state,” if it indeed wants to be treated like one.
Iran doesn’t care about its own violations of international norms and standards but is more than willing to use our own standards in its propaganda to divide us. Human rights abuses abound within the country, it is a state sponsor of terror, and Iran frequently supports militant tactics wildly outside of internationally agreed conventions. Yet when Iran suffers a defeat, as it did with Soleimani, it is the first to take its soapbox to the international community and toss around phrases like “war crimes.” Absurdly, the Iranian parliament just approved a bill labeling the U.S. military as a “terror group.” Why would we let them get away with such blatant double standards? Worse, will we feed into and legitimize their propaganda?
Soleimani was responsible for the immediate death of an American contractor and life-threatening protests against the American embassy in Iraq. Soleimani has the blood on his hands of hundreds of American lives. According to CNBC: “The U.S. has pursued him for decades — his operations within Iraq since 2003 have killed more than 600 American personnel.” The State Department has affirmed that it had reason to believe that he was orchestrating further attacks. There should be no love lost for this man, and any country would be justified in removing such a threat to their own people.
Let’s be entirely realistic about Iran’s “recent” decision not to abide by the terms of the JCPOA, or the deal that was supposed to limit Iran’s production of weaponizable nuclear material. Iran willfully used advanced centrifuges and exceeded stockpile and enrichment caps beyond the limitations of the deal before the U.S. strike. And that’s just what we know about. The deal was enormously flawed to begin with as it restricted the world’s ability to ensure Iran abided by its end of the bargain to what Iran was willing to let us inspect. We know Iran wants nuclear weapon destruction capabilities. The regime’s rhetoric is clear. It certainly hates and wants to remove Israel from the map. And its leadership has clearly indicated a desire for the fate of the U.S. to follow Israel’s demise. Additionally, Iran has been repeatedly caught arming and supporting other terror groups worldwide, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis in Yemen.
The New York Times reports that demonstrations against the Iran strike were held in 80 communities across American this week. How genuine can these protests actually be? Are they really motivated by an anti-war, peace loving Constitutionalism if similar demonstrations never followed the Obama administration’s drone strikes? Another potential alternative is worse – supporting the current Iranian government -- which is a regime that endorses horrific human rights abuses and maintains a society subject to an alarming lack of freedom. The Iranian government is everything a true progressive should starkly stand against.
The anti-war backlash to Soleimani’s death seems contrived. We have never had good relations with the current Iranian regime. Strike or no strike, any opening to harm U.S. interests or personnel would have been fully utilized by Iran. To quote Joe Lieberman writing in Monday’s Wall Street Journal opinion section, “[I]f we allow fear of a self-declared enemy like Iran to dictate our actions, we will only encourage them to come after us and our allies more aggressively.”
The Iranian regime is a wayward actor that has gotten away with too much death and destruction for too long. It wants the world to believe it is a victim. It doesn’t deserve to have its propaganda treated as a legitimate alternate perspective because it is demonstrably false. It is a hypocritical regime with a hatred for the rest of the world that will be the catalyst of its own demise. This can’t just be another opportunity for Trump-contrarianism. The world should unite in a desire to speak truth to Iran’s lies.
Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.
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