On the geopolitical scene, things went from bad to “I ordered the cheeseburger rare at Trump Tower and now I’m startin’ to feel kinda sick”, on Sunday.
Iran, reeling from the loss of the iconic Qaseem Soleimani, is set to discuss taking further steps towards falling out of compliance with the nuclear deal Trump abandoned nearly two years ago.
“Tonight, there will be a very important meeting to decide about our next nuclear step and the implementation of the deal”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, adding that “considering the recent threats [by Trump] it should be emphasized that in politics, all developments and threats are linked to each other”.
Trump on Saturday unleashed a series of shrill tweets outlining what was likely classified information, involving plans the Pentagon has apparently drawn up to strike more than four-dozen targets in the event Iran retaliates against US interests.
The president overtly threatened to bomb what he called “sites [that are] very important to Iranian culture”. One can’t help but think he was referring to Shia holy sites, both in Iraq and Iran. Trump appears to be on the verge of making The Crusades “great” again.
“This is a war crime”, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said of Trump’s Saturday evening tweets. “Threatening to target and kill innocent families, women and children – which is what you’re doing by targeting cultural sites – does not make you a ‘tough guy’ [and] it does not make you ‘strategic'”, she told Trump. “It makes you a monster”.
The Iranian propaganda machine of course capitalized on Trump’s tweets to underscore the narrative that America is run by a gang of cruel, murderous robbers, whose actions more than justify the lobbing of rockets at military outposts in Iraq.
“Like ISIS, Like Hitler, Like Genghis! They all hate cultures.”, Information and Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi exclaimed.
He wasn’t done. Azari-Jahromi went on to call Trump “a terrorist in a suit”.
You’re reminded that a hallmark of ISIS was the deliberate destruction of Shia shrines. Soleimani is widely credited inside Iran with ensuring the group never established a foothold in the country. He is widely credited outside Iran (even by those who despise him and were pleased to see him killed) with defeating the group in Iraq and Syria. If there is one man who, more than any other, represented the fight against ISIS, it was Qassem Soleimani. Now, Trump has killed him and is openly threatening to destroy Shia holy sites, in the tradition of ISIS.
Clearly, the US president has no conception of the extent to which he is feeding the narrative of the very regime he’s trying to bring down, but that’s precisely the point: When it comes to matters of race and religion (which is what this has become), it is almost never Trump’s intent that is the real problem. (As opposed to other matters involving Trump, where intent is the sole problem.) Rather, it is his haplessness and generalized ignorance.
However calcified his deep-seated prejudices have become in his old age, Donald Trump is first and foremost a money-grubbing, narcissistic buffoon, not a bigot, let alone a genocidal maniac. Yes, he has a long history of trafficking in racist nonsense (see the Central Park 5 debacle), but as we put it more than a year ago, this is a man who spends his evenings gorging himself on well-done NY strips doused in Ketchup while watching Fox News, not holed up in his study penning genocidal political manifestos by candle light.
Missteps like his Saturday evening tweets and his infamous “good people on both sides” boondoggle are 90% frustration and ignorance, and “only” 10% hate.
On Sunday, Soleimani’s multi-day funeral procession across Iraq and Iran continued, with thousands upon thousands of mourners pouring into the streets to pay respects. Here’s AFP:
A tide of mourners flooded the Iranian city of Ahvaz Sunday, weeping and beating their chests in homage to top general Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a US strike in Baghdad.
“Death to America,” they chanted as they packed the streets and filled a long bridge spanning a river in the southwestern city, where Soleimani’s remains arrived from Iraq before dawn.
As Shiite chants resonated in the air, mourners held portraits of Soleimani, seen as a hero of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and for spearheading Iran’s Middle East operations as commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.
By now, it’s probably occurred to many Americans that this was not just “some guy”, so to speak.
It seems likely that, as late as Friday evening, the vast majority of the voting public in the US thought about this situation the same way they would think about any other drone strike or raid on a nefarious actor in the Mideast. Fast forward 48 hours and anyone who’s bothered to conduct even a cursory scan of mainstream media coverage is now acutely aware that this was no small matter.
As Charles Lister, a resident fellow at the Middle East Institute, said Friday of Soleimani’s death, “This far eclipses the deaths of bin Laden or Baghdadi in terms of strategic significance and implications”.