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The Ridiculous Distortions of the Iran Obsession

Mike Pompeo gave an interview with Newsmax TV this week, and during that interview he made one of the most ridiculous statements he has uttered during his short, embarrassing tenure as Secretary of State:

The most important thing that President Trump did was recognize that the nuclear deal was dumb, that it was bad for America, that it presented real risk. And so he ripped America out of that back in May of 2018. Since then, we have taken a fundamentally different approach to stability in the Middle East. We recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran as the greatest threat to that peace – the greatest threat, frankly, to Americans all across this great country [bold mine-DL]. And so we have put enormous costs on the regime itself.

Pompeo knows as well as anyone that Iran poses no real threat to Americans in the U.S., so it is risible and dishonest for him to assert that Iran is somehow the “greatest threat” to Americans here.

Iran does not have the ability to attack the U.S., and it likely never will have that ability, but the more important point here is that the deranged exaggeration of the threat from Iran comes at the expense of neglecting other much more obvious and immediate threats to this country. While Pompeo has been traversing the globe to cajole other governments into normalizing relations with Israel and berating our allies for refusing to dynamite the JCPOA at the U.N., Americans continue to die from a pandemic that this administration has done very little to get under control. Our political leaders obsess over minor foreign threats that can do us no harm while neglecting the real dangers that claim American lives on a daily basis. As the pandemic continues to spread in this country and the death toll rises over 210,000, our government’s priority remains piling sanctions on a medium-sized country on the other side of the planet in the vain hope of collapsing their state. Instead of focusing on international cooperation to protect Americans from this scourge, our top officials are fixated on vilifying a country that can’t do anything to us. You could hardly ask for a foreign policy more divorced from the real, vital interests of the United States than this one.

More Americans have died on U.S. soil from the actions of one Saudi pilot on a shooting spree at an American base than have ever died here from attacks sponsored by the Iranian government. Iran obviously is not the “greatest threat” to Americans in this country, but the more damning indictment of the administration’s Iran obsession is that Iran doesn’t even crack the top twenty threats. Iran hawks shamelessly overstate Iranian power to frighten people into supporting unjust and monstrous policies that harm innocent civilians in Iran, but our government’s cruel Iran policy doesn’t have the slightest thing to do with protecting Americans. This is pain and suffering inflicted on tens of millions of people simply because our government chooses to do it.

There are a few reasons why government officials lie about the size and nature of a foreign threat. One reason is that they hope to scare the public into acquiescing in their current destructive policies. Another is that they want to exaggerate foreign dangers to provide a pretext for the massive military spending they want for other reasons. But the main reason to do something like this is that they want to whip up hostility against another country to provide support for aggressive military action. Lying to the public that another government threatens them more than any other is what you say when you want to lay the groundwork for an attack. It is false and it is malicious, and we shouldn’t tolerate it.

When we consider the vast disparity in power between the U.S. and Iran, it is preposterous to think that their government is the one that threatens us. The U.S. is waging a relentless economic war on the entire country of Iran, and the Iranian people bear the brunt of that war as they have for a long time. That economic war is a direct consequence of the decision to renege on an agreement that Iran was complying with in good faith for several years, and even now their government remains committed to the deal despite the administration’s efforts to force them to abandon it. The Iranian government cooperated and compromised when it made that agreement, and its payment since 2018 has been wave after wave of sanctions to punish them for having the audacity to keep their word. Pompeo said that the Trump administration took a “different approach to stability in the Middle East.” That part was true, but not in the way he meant it. The Trump administration has consistently taken destructive and provocative actions to destabilize the region, and their “different approach” may still push the U.S. into another unnecessary war before all is said and done.

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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