President Trump’s recent order to assassinate Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani has drawn immense backlash from the international community and American citizens alike, as many fear Trump’s actions will lead to a broader conflict and will only serve to escalate violence in the Middle East.
The consensus among scholars, such as Vali Nasr of the New York Times, is that Trump made a strategic error in choosing to assassinate Soleimani. Many domestic lawmakers have also criticized this move, and while I agree that Trump was careless in his decision to use violent force in an already volatile situation, I am concerned by the way the conflict is being characterized, especially on social media. Many Americans have aligned themselves with the Iranian government, over an ostensibly shared hatred of Trump. Thus is the polarizing nature of Trump, that his actions automatically trigger an extreme opposition—often justified, but not always. It is important that people recognize that the Iranian government is not our friend, and that it is naive to assume otherwise.
One popular clip that circulated on social media is of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei explaining why the chanting of “death to America” is more agreeable than it seems at face value. Khamenei explains that such chants heard throughout Iran are merely a call for the end of the Trump presidency, as opposed to a call for violence against American citizens. The notion that Khamenei is merely a liberal activist riding the Blue Wave is not only ridiculous, but also incredibly dangerous. This video was shared by a number of Kenyon students on various social media platforms, which suggests that misinformation on the Iranian government has even permeated the sphere of the college educated.
Khamenei, whose title also includes Supreme Leader of Iran, is an authoritarian dictator with reprehensible views to those who believe in a liberal democratic society. Khamenei, and by extension the Iranian government, is appallingly anti-Semitic. In the past, Khamenei has promoted Holocaust denial, has called for the destruction of Israel and its inhabitants, and has compared Jews to animals.
Additionally, Iran is an Islamic religious state that persecutes minority faiths and forces rigorous adherence to Muslim orthodoxy on the masses. Inherent to such a strict religious state is a pandemic of misogyny that often amounts to violence. The New York Times reported that in November of 2019 the Iranian government murdered up to 450 political dissidents in response to civilian protests against the regime’s oppressive rule. The Iranian government sponsors terrorist organizations that are directly responsible for the deaths of American troops as well as civilians in other countries.
I understand the desire to diametrically oppose everything Trump says and does, and I agree with certain diplomacy experts who suggest his actions are haphazard and potentially dangerous. But Iran is not an ally—nor should it be, given their current state of government. The actions of the Iranian government are un-American, undemocratic and fly in the face of liberalism and egalitarianism. As a nation we need to recognize that the Iranian government is the problem, even if we disagree on the solution.