The start of the new year was the start to growing escalations in the Middle East. On Jan. 2, President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani—an Iranian military general. This took place at the Baghdad airport in Iraq.
A few days prior, on Dec. 31, 2019, there were protesters at the US Embassy located in Baghdad acting against the recent airstrikes that killed 25 members of the militia.
On Jan. 7, Iran launched 12 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq. One of the bases that housed American forces, was hit with six of the missiles.
Another important event that has occurred regards the issue of war powers resolution. The House of Representatives voted 224-194 to limit Trump’s power on Jan. 9. This now moves to the Senate for a vote.
These events quickly took over the news cycles and raised concerns among citizens at first. Michael Marshall, a visiting assistant professor of political science, said that these events, called militarized interstate disputes, happen frequently.
“There are dozens of militarized interstate disputes between the U.S. and Canada for instance,” said Marshall. “Canada tries to see how far into the Great Lakes it can go before it meets resistance, and we do the same thing when we send drones over Canada. I don’t think we’re very close to a war.”
In the Middle East, this is what is occurring with the United States challenging Iran’s sovereignty and Iran reciprocating the actions said Marshall. The news has sensationalized the events and not given experts the chance to explain what is happening and how frequently it occurs. A major difference that Marshall cited is that the United States attacked a government official in another country violating more than Iran’s sovereignty.
Samuel Nelson (’21) said students should watch out for the corporate media and the shift in tone when getting the information.
“Most people had no clue who Soleimani was before he was assassinated, but now we are being told that he was public enemy number one,” said Nelson.
Marshall suggests that students read their news rather than watch it because it all comes from the same source material but frequently the rhetoric changes to allow the stations bias and analysis to keep the news fresh and enjoyable for viewers.
With the news surrounding this situation evolving constantly, Nelson reads the news and updates about it daily. He gets his information from reputable journalists associated with The Washington Post and The New York Times. He also pays attention to “well sourced reactions to their reporting.”
The future of the conflict is uncertain. In recent days, there was been no further escalations of the situation. This differs from the initial reaction on mass media that worried about further war and conflict, and some people opposed it.
“It is heartening to see online interactions between Iranians and Americans that reject calls for war,” said Nelson.
“Any militarized dispute could become a war typically caused by both sides playing brinkmanship,” said Marshall. Brinkmanship is when both sides push each other to the point they step down. This could lead to an accidental war as it has in the past. However, at the moment, the countries are at a tense peace.
The consequences of the issue has lead to a rise in the pro-democracy movements in Iran and has polarized political parties within the United States more than they previously were.
“Try to read the news not only from United States’ perspective but also a worldly perspective and understand the biases,” said Marshall. People should understand the historical, cultural and political background to the situation when examining the events from an outside perspective. They may also try to look at it from the other leader’s point-of-view.
“Understanding how and why is a better way to look at it than just saying they are crazy,” said Marshall. “No, they are rational actors attempting to survive and accumulate wealth and power just as we are as well as preserve our sovereignty.”