President Barack Obama withdrew American combat forces from Iraq in 2011, and by 2014, they would be deployed to assist the Iraqi forces in their fight against the Islamic State in northern and western Iraq.
Iranian-supported militias were allies with the U.S.-backed Iraqi troops, and President Trump's decision to deploy a U.S. naval carrier group and bomber planes to the Persian Gulf - because of what seems an unsubstantiated Iranian threat - has the potential to be a real game-changer in this region. Iraq is caught between Iran and the U.S. in a potential power play. This recent escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf is transpiring in the aftermath of Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement.
Leaked evidence include photos of Iranian Revolutionary Guards uploading missiles, presumably to attack American and Allied shipping that passes through the Straits of Hormuz. It is no secret much of the world's oil supplies pass through this waterway that is only 24 miles wide, and the U.S. has been down this road before regarding tensions in the Persian Gulf that threaten crude oil on the global market. In the 1980s, despite the fact that the Reagan administration knew Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War, the much larger concern was protecting Iraqi oil from attacks by Iran. Iran had felt the brunt of the American alignment with Saddam Hussein during that conflict, as Iranian patrol boats had been attacked, and Iranian oil platforms were being destroyed by U.S. forces. A U.S. warship in 1988 shot down an Iranian Airbus, killing nearly 300 civilians.
Many Iranians have a deep-seated hatred of Americans, and it goes far beyond U.S. military intervention in the Iran-Iraq War, backing out of a nuclear deal, or the deployment of U.S. forces to a region with a history of U.S. involvement. The 1953 coup that brought about the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh helped to sow the seeds of resentment toward the American government when President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the green light for CIA covert action that resulted in propping the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the legitimate ruler.
Once the Shah was in power, Pahlavi set out on a bold infrastructure improvement plan, and while this included transportation and irrigation systems and health care, many Iranians resented the Western influence. They saw the regime was based on U.S. power and greed, as well as what some viewed as a regime antithetical to Islam. Many Iranians rejected the authoritarian rule, and dissent was suppressed by the Savak, the secret police force. By the early 1970s, as oil revenues were increasing in Iran, many were enraged at the income disparity tied to oil wealth. Discontent among the Shiite clergy, lower classes, and students would lead to a revolution, and by January 1979, the Shah fled Iran.
Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton has said, "The U.S. is not seeking war with the Iranian regime." Yet Bolton has spoke of a U.S. military response in the event of an attack by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, regular Iranian forces, and proxy groups to include Iran's renowned proxy, Hezbollah. While the U.S. military might eclipse Iran in numbers and overall military infrastructure, Iran does not require a mammoth navy to impede shipping through the Straits of Hormuz, which could paralyze the supply of oil on a global level, and ravage economies.
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator who is currently teaching at Alice Robertson Junior High in Muskogee.