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America’s Dangerous Iran Obsession

The US, seemingly with no awareness of its recent history with Iran, and led by an emotionally unbalanced president who believes he may commit murder and get away with it, is still acting out a 40-year-old psychological trauma. As usual, it's others who are most at risk.

NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump’s order to assassinate Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani while on an official mission to Iraq was widely hailed in Trump’s jingoistic Republican Party. Government-sanctioned murders of foreign officials, clerics, and journalists are commonplace nowadays. Yet there is something special about America’s bloodlust against Iran. It is a 40-year-old obsession that has now brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war.

The US fixation on Iran dates back to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when Iranian students took over the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year. That traumatic experience has made it psychologically impossible for American politicians to calibrate US policies. It is the reason, for example, that Trump has now threatened the war crime of destroying 52 targets in Iran, including cultural sites, one for each of the 1979 hostages, if Iran retaliates for Suleimani’s murder.

Trump is claiming the right to murder a leader in a foreign country and to commit war crimes if that country retaliates. Yet this criminality is widely applauded in the US. It reflects a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder of the US political system, at least on the right. It is similar to America’s reckless launch of wars across the Middle East after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.