It took 14 hours after terrorist attacks abroad before Donald Trump assumed his now standard roll as the bull in a china shop. What was Trump’s vile response to grieving Iranians after terrorists struck Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, killing and injuring dozens? You deserved it. Thus, his thesis on terrorism is as follows: “We must condemn all terrorist acts and eliminate them wherever they strike. Unless we don’t like you. In which case, you got what was coming to you.”
Can you imagine the (justified) uproar in Washington if, for example, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said we deserved 9/11? At this point, expecting Donald Trump to exude the dignity and poise of a superpower is like expecting a child to refrain from eating an unclaimed bowl of ice cream (two scoops, of course). Nevertheless, it remains important to juxtapose what an American president should do versus what Trump actually does – this time regarding his callous response to the terrorist attacks against Iran. If I was still working at the U.S. Department of State, here’s what I would’ve recommended he do immediately upon hearing the news – and should still do as soon as possible:
1) Unequivocally condemn the attacks in Tehran without any caveats or qualifications. Not through a terse, offensive White House statement, but rather at the podium and on his Twitter account.
2) Discreetly contact the Iranian government and offer American assistance in preventing further terrorist attacks inside Iran.
3) Offer a discreet bilateral U.S.-Iran diplomatic channel to discuss the shared interest in combatting terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, who openly call for killing Americans and Iranians.
This is not rocket science. Either America supports terrorism against Iran, or it doesn't. You can't be half pregnant. It’s time for Trump to choose. Then again, after his sword dance in Saudi Arabia and repugnant response to terrorism against Tehran, it looks like he already has. To that end, you may be asking yourself: "What would Iran do after a terror attack in the United States?” Good question! After 9/11, the following occurred in Iran:
1) Then-President Mohammad Khatami condemned the attacks and the terrorists who carried them out.
2) Two days after 9/11, a stadium full of Iranians who gathered for a soccer match in Tehran observed a moment of silence for the victims and their families.
3) Huge crowds in Iran held candlelight vigils for 9/11 victims and their families. There are a plethora of pictures online. Google it.
4) The Iranian government provided substantial assistance in fighting al-Qaeda, which the George W. Bush administration greedily accepted for months before foolishly including Iran in its asinine “Axis of Evil.”
The difference between Iran’s reasonable response to 9/11 and Trump’s disgusting diatribe also oozes with hypocrisy and privilege not seen since the bad old days under Dubya: the United States can draw links between terrorism and foreign policy, but no one else can. Such double standards cheapen the concept of American leadership, weaken the causes it seeks to advance, and irreparably damages its core national interests.
Moral of the story: Three weeks ago, Iranians chose peace at the ballot box and extended a hand of friendship to the world. After the terrorist attacks in Tehran, Trump had yet another chance to do the right thing and unclench his fist. While it may be wishful thinking to highlight such opportunities that are subsequently squandered, it does serve a key overarching purpose: Preventing the Trump-led Republican party from spinning an Iraq 2003-esque web of deceit to trick Americans into the war with Iran they’ve long lusted for.