The world, and U.S. President Donald Trump, appeared on Wednesday to have emerged unscathed in the aftermath of the American government’s targeted killing of Iran’s highest-ranking military commander.
It’s almost too good to be true. After vowing a proportionate response to the drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani and another government official in Baghdad last week, Iran’s religious dictatorship retaliated with what appears to be the wholesale slaughter of equipment sheds located on two Iraq army bases that house thousands of American troops.
No one was killed, which seems to have been the intent of the well-targeted precision bombings. “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” tweeted Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister. “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
There is good reason to doubt the attacks mark the end of Iran’s aggression, given that the government’s long game is to drive the United States out of the Middle East.
But for the moment, this measured warning shot seems to have temporarily vindicated Mr. Trump’s unprecedented and impetuous decision to kill the second-most powerful person in Iran.
That’s certainly how Mr. Trump is taking it. He boasted Wednesday that “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned,” and he backed away from any further military action.
He also indicated that he is willing to negotiate with Iran.
But at the same time, and in contradiction to any good feelings engendered by Iran’s non-fatal response, Mr. Trump is ramping up the economic sanctions that have done so much damage to Iran’s economy, and to the country’s beleaguered citizens.
His goal is to force Tehran to agree to a new deal to replace the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal, that was signed in 2015 by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the seven-country agreement in 2018 on the grounds that it was “one-sided” in Iran’s favour, and lasted only 15 years.
The nuclear deal was working, though. Iran was abiding by its obligation to curtail its uranium-enrichment program; it continued to do so even after the U.S. reneged and reimposed sanctions. It was only after the killing of Gen. Soleimani that Tehran announced it would no longer abide by the deal, but even then it said it would continue to allow international monitoring of its activities.
Mr. Trump appears determined to do to the Iran nuclear deal what he did to the North American free-trade agreement: use his country’s muscle to force its renegotiation and then take credit for a “tremendous” new version that largely accomplishes the same thing as the old one.
The original deal is effectively dead, thanks to Mr. Trump. The U.S. and its allies have a great interest in seeing it revived, as does Iran’s economically strapped regime. In the coming months, we could see a new pact that is just like the old pact, except the President will give it a different name and call it the greatest deal of its kind that anyone ever put a pen to.
It was still unclear at press time whether the crash of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 outside Tehran on Wednesday was the result of a deliberate act, or was unrelated to the heightened tensions in the region.
But there is no doubt that it’s a tragedy that is being particularly felt in Canada. Of the 176 passengers and crew on board, at least 63 were Canadian citizens, and as many as 138 were connected to this country, according to Ottawa.
The losses are a devastating blow to Canada’s growing Iranian communities in cities across the country. Most victims were coming home from holidays after visiting friends and families. Some were university and high-school students; some were couples celebrating their marriages; some were young children. As many as 30 were from Edmonton alone.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must keep his vow to ensure that the cause of the crash is properly investigated and made public. In the meantime, Canadians can’t help but be united in mourning for a terrible loss of life that has so hurt a single community.