Tit For Tat

How many of you have heard of the term ‘Tit for Tat’? It’s a phrase that was reportedly first used in 1558. Cambridge dictionary describes it as an adjective where something is done to someone intentionally to punish for something done to you. I found a cute picture of two birds on a thesaurus site. One bird asked the other, what are other words for Tit for Tat? The second bird responded with retaliation, retribution, reprisal, vengeance, eye for an eye, requital, counterattack and quid pro quo. If you think in biblical terms and the golden rule it means do unto others as they have done to you. I bring this historic phrase up because I could think of no better way to describe the current political and military escalation that is occurring between the United States and Iran.

Some of you may be wondering how and why this all started? It’s a complicated question with a not so simple answer. If you only focus on the most recent events and try to work backward you will probably land in 1979. This is when Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic republic on April 01, 1979, to formulate and approve a new theocratic-republican constitution whereby Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country the following December. Prior to that, Iran was ruled by monarchy. The Iranian revolution, also known as the Islamic revolution of 1979 was a movement against the monarchy that was supported by various leftist and Islamist organizations and student movements. The culmination of the yearlong revolt replaced a pro-Western authoritarian monarchy with an anti-Western theocracy.

Your next question might be what’s the difference between the two types of governments? The simple way to remember how to differentiate between theocracies and monarchies are Pope’s and Queen’s. The Vatican is an example of a theocracy. The Pope rules the Vatican and has the final say on all that occurs. Queen Elizabeth is in charge of the United Kingdom’s royal family. There are many other countries around the world where Kings and Queens have remained in power for centuries. So what is a theocracy and was the shift to Iran becoming an anti-Western theocracy the cause for the decade’s long tension that has now culminated in the military strikes done by and against the two nations that we’ve seen in recent events?

According to the site worldpopulationreview.com, a theocracy is a type of government where one or more priests rule in the name of a deity. A god and those who claim to be a religious authority are recognized as the supreme ruler, and the laws of the area are based on religious law. Throughout history, there have been many nations and regions with a theocratic government. Ancient Egypt, for example, was a theocracy, and the pharaoh was the offspring of the Sun God. In Japan, the emperor was the offspring of the Sun Goddess. Tibet, Israel, and China were all once theocracies. Besides the Vatican and Iran, the only remaining theocratic run governments are Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and Afghanistan.

I want to focus on theocracy for a moment because I feel it’s important to the discussion and the root cause of the rising tensions between Iran and the USA. I found an article on the topic written recently by Tom Head, which was published on ThoughtCo.com. He gives a definition of it, the history of the word’s origin, and notes that theocracies are primarily found in the Muslim world, particularly in the Islamic States governed by Sharia. He compares North Korea to a version of theocracy due to supernatural powers that were attributed to former leader Kim Jong Il. He states that hundreds of thousands of indoctrination centers operate on devotion to Kim’s will and legacy and to that of his son, the present leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. It should be noted that North Korea and Iran have both been on a decade’s long quest to proliferate their nuclear arms capability. Tom points out the strikingly similar characteristics of the two nations in the following passage.

Although mortal men hold positions of power in theocratic governments, the laws and rules are considered to be set by divinity, and these mortals primarily serve their deity, not the people. As with the Holy See (Vatican), leaders are typically clergy or that faith’s version of clergy, and they often hold their positions for life. The succession of rulers may occur by inheritance or may be passed from one dictator to another of his choosing, but new leaders are never appointed by popular vote. The ultimate power or ruler is whichever God is the country- or state-recognized deity.

There is no freedom of religion, and defying one’s faith—specifically the theocracy’s faith—often results in death in extreme governments. At the very least, the infidel would be banished or persecuted. Laws and legal systems are faith-based, typically based literally on religious texts. Religious rule dictates social norms such as marriage, law, and punishment. The governmental structure is typically that of a dictatorship or monarchy. This leaves less opportunity for corruption, but it also means that people cannot vote on issues and do not have a voice.

Some people may feel that the shift in government style was the impetus for the tension between the two nations. Merriam-Webster defines impetus as a driving force; a stimulation or encouragement resulting in increased activity. One would need to look no further than the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 for proof to support that claim.

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Western media described the crisis as an “entanglement” of “vengeance and mutual incomprehension.” American President Jimmy Carter called the hostage-taking an act of “blackmail” and the hostages “victims of terrorism and anarchy.” In Iran, it was widely seen as an act against the U.S. and its influence in Iran, including its perceived attempts to undermine the Iranian Revolution and its longstanding support of the Shah of Iran.

As a result of that action, Iran and the United States have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1980. Pakistan serves as Iran’s protecting power in the United States, while Switzerland serves as the United States’ protecting power in Iran. Prior to Iran’s recent missile strikes into Baghdad, a one-hour warning of potential attack locations was sent to Switzerland. This was with the obvious intention of that message being related to Iraq and US forces so they could prepare and remove their forces from harm’s way. One might be wondering why would Iran give the US and Iraq a ‘heads up’ warning if they were going to send missiles their way? Does that give Iran the moral high ground and portray them as being more civil with their retaliatory aggression? Yes and no. The reason they or any other nation would provide warning is that damage done to property without lives lost is less hostile than attacks that have fatalities. Iran knew that if US soldiers were killed it would leave the US no room to back down and cause an immediate and even more deadly retaliation on Iranian soil. The following statement from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the warning from Iran provides confirmation of the attempt to engage in civil warfare.

“Switzerland is deeply concerned about the heavy tensions between the U.S. and Iran and the latest cycle of violent confrontations in Iraq. We call on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any further escalation. Switzerland stands ready to support initiatives of the international community that seek de-escalation in the region. The diplomatic communication channel between the U.S. and Iran that is provided by Switzerland in the framework of the protective power mandate continues to operate. Switzerland confirms that several messages were transmitted through this channel.”

History is written by those who have lived it. After all, the splitting of the word means his story. Iran sent missiles into Iraq and towards American assets as a response to the US killing Qasem Soleimani in a most violent fashion via hypersonic missile. The top Iranian Quds Force commander along with members of Lebanon backed Hezbollah were in Iraq when the US embassy in Baghdad was attacked on New Year’s Eve and was believed to be responsible for that attack and many others. President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the embassy breach and called on Iraq to protect the diplomatic mission and provided the following statement via Twitter. “Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”

Trump gave the following explanation for the removal of Soleimani. “General Qasem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught! He was, directly and indirectly, responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened, as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”

I can go on for hours and provide examples of retaliatory actions by each nation. Besides physical warfare, the United States has imposed harsh economic sanctions against Iran with the most crippling occurring since Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Iran Nuclear deal in 2018. Those sanctions have been devastating to the Iranian economy as they severely restrict nations from doing business with Iran if they also want to do business with the US. Since the attack on the US embassy in Iraq, Trump has announced even further economic sanctions. This is obviously retaliatory in nature but has been promoted as a way to get Iran to deescalate their aggressive behavior and desist in their quest for nuclear proliferation. In response to the additional sanctions, Iran has stated it will no longer abide by the rules of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and will ramp up its efforts to become a nuclear nation. Tit for Tat!

Here’s what happens when attack and counter-attack go awry. In a report published on January 11, 2020 by CBSNews.com, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard acknowledged on Saturday it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger jet this week, killing all 176 aboard. The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division said his unit accepts “full responsibility.”

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said on state TV that forces were on high alert and that an officer mistook the plane for a hostile missile and made the “bad decision” to open fire, The Associated Press reported. He said he “wished” he “was dead” when he learned about the downing of the aircraft.

Earlier on Saturday, Iran announced its military “unintentionally” shot down the jetliner and blamed “human error.”

The jetliner crashed early Wednesday in the hours after Iran launched missile attacks on two Iraqi military bases housing American troops. The attacks were a response to the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani days earlier.

The majority of the citizens that were killed on that commercial airplane were of Canadian and Ukrainian descent. Seeing as how the shooting was initially an act of war and self-defense those two nations and any others who had countrymen on that flight now have to decide how to proceed. Do they accept Iran’s apology and pursue legal compensation for the families of the victims? Seeing as how it was done in error, are airstrikes into Iran by Canada and Ukraine as a form of retaliation justified? If a kinder, gentler response is preferred, do they themselves impose sanctions against Iran or chalk it up to “human error” and just let it go?

All wars have a beginning and many have been started for less. The problem with Tit for Tat, you hit me so I hit you back, is that each side feels they are justified in their aggression even when they are both right. I brought up the history of theocracy and it’s often oppressive form of governance, especially in Iran, because it directly contrasts the Democratic freedoms of religion and speech that we here in America and many other countries enjoy across the world. While the United States, Israel, and many other countries impose sanctions against Iran and North Korea for that matter, to deter them from obtaining nuclear weapons, an obvious counterstatement from those countries is why?

Why should the US, Russia, Israel, United Kingdom, France, China, India, and Pakistan all have nuclear weapons and North Korea and Iran be prevented from joining the club? Pro-Western media will state that both countries time and time again have said they would use nuclear weapons to destroy the US and Israel first. If they are able to level the playing field with nuclear weapons the balance of power will have shifted. No country wants to use nuclear weapons regardless if their leaders promote as much. Doing so would lead to the demise of mankind. The reason why the US and Iran have been on a crash course for war since 1979 is the same reason why the Iranian revolution occurred over 40 years ago. Those with opposing views resent the power and influence the US enjoys on a global level. The military strength, vast wealth, and counterintelligence capabilities earned by the US have had a historical impact on many regime changes. In order to remain on top, the US has played a direct role in the removal of dictators and other forms of governments that conflict with our own. It’s no different than any other country that has aspirations for expansion. The leaders of North Korea and Iran are fighting for their survival. More than the defense of their nation, they are fighting to remain in a position of personal power. The best way for them to do that is by continuing their quest to become a nuclear nation. By doing so, they retain control over their country, while expanding the influence of their territory, which is what every ruler in history has strived for since millennia.

Iran War

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