Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s Iran Obsession and the Tehran Attacks

Trump’s Iran Obsession and the Tehran Attacks

Trump speaks at Washington rally against the Iran deal back in September 2015. Credit: Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA/Newscom

The White House’s insulting response to the Tehran attacks has not been well received by most Iranians or by the Iranian government. Coupled with the 92-7 Senate vote to advance Iran sanctions legislation yesterday, it went over very badly:


This report on how the response was crafted makes it seem even worse:

So when the White House woke on Wednesday to images of a possible Islamic State attack on Tehran, it prompted a sharp quandary: How does President Trump condemn the violence without seeming to embrace the victims? [bold mine-DL]

Several administration officials said it took most of the day [bold mine-DL] for the White House to work out the terse, curt wording of a statement that sought to show sympathy for the Iranian public even as it pointedly suggested that the behavior of Tehran’s clerical leaders made its people a target.

Common decency would have told most people that there is no “quandary” here at all. Just express sympathy and support for victims of terrorism, no matter who they happen to be, and save other political messages for another occasion. A condolence message is not the time to make a point or deliver an insult to a foreign government, and it certainly isn’t the time to suggest that the victims or their government brought it upon themselves. This would not be a hard thing for most people to understand, but I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that Trump and his advisers can’t summon up much empathy for innocent people from a country they are determined to loathe. How else could it take most of the day to write such a short and insulting message?

The message by itself would have been unfortunate enough in the wake of the attacks. Coming as it does on the heels of Trump’s visit to Riyadh and his administration’s increasing hostility towards Iran, it was bound to be perceived as a slap in the face. The episode shows just how deep and distorting the administration’s Iran obsession is, and that bodes ill for the future of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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