When Saigon fell in 1975, the head of the C.I.A. station sent out his last cable from there. He quoted Sanatayana's admonition that those who refuse to learn from history will repeat it. And then he added he hoped people would learn from Vietnam's recent history.
Forty years later -- after "interventions" in Afghanistan and Iraq -- it's clear the Americans haven't learned a damned thing. Tony Burman writes:
In 2015, after years of negotiations, the world’s major powers — including the U.S., Russia, China and the key nations in Europe — finally worked out a historic agreement with Iran to prevent it from producing nuclear weapons for at least 15 years. Unlike North Korea, Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons.
In exchange, Iran was promised relief from the punishing economic sanctions that had been imposed on it in recent years, and an opportunity to rejoin the international community as a credible member.
The agreement was bitterly opposed by Iran’s regional rivals — Israel and Saudi Arabia — in spite of the prescient warning from U.S. President Barack Obama that war and chaos in the Middle East will not end until they learn how to “share the neighbourhood.”
Upon assuming office, one of the first things Donald Trump did was to tear up that agreement:
Trump claimed that the U.S. had given Iran $150 billion as part of the deal, but that was not true. In fact, the deal lifted a freeze on Iranian assets that were largely held in European, not American, banks. And that amount — money that actually belonged to Iran — was in the $50 billion range, not $150 billion.
Trump also complained the deal allowed Iran to continue funding insurgent proxy groups in Syria and Lebanon that threaten the interests of the U.S. and their allies. Iran, it should be noted, defends support of these groups as a crucial defensive measure against ongoing efforts by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel to topple the Tehran regime.
Now the United States and Iran are engaged in a game of chicken:
Prodded by Trump’s hardline advisers, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the U.S. seems determined to turn the screws on Iran’s regime by goading it to take some action that would justify military retaliation.
As these actions, ironically, serve only to strengthen the hand of Iran’s hardliners, they may very soon get their wish.
History is overpopulated with fools. The price of folly can be catastrophe.
Image: Seeking Alpha