Events in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world in the early days of this year are causing concern among people, but analysts say the United States has experienced similar periods in its history.
WASHINGTON – An aggressive mob attacks the US Embassy in Baghdad. Targeted assassination of an Iranian general ordered by President Donald Trump. An accidental Iranian missile strike on a Ukrainian civilian aircraft. Tightening of US economic sanctions against the Iranian regime. Detention of the British ambassador in Tehran.
A little more than a week has passed since the start of the new year and the new decade, but the disturbing and chaotic news from the Middle East is keeping the apprehension at bay. The exact paths of the forces of history cannot be determined, but, according to political scientists and historians, they generally seem to lead to a dangerous situation..
All this happens in a world that already has something to worry about..
Trump has been impeached and is awaiting a trial that could begin in the Senate this week. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, while continuing to threaten the United States, said he would no longer observe a moratorium on nuclear testing. Australia is on fire. UK approaches Brexit.
The Middle East is teetering on the brink
In the midst of the crisis in the Middle East, when a single miscalculation could lead to a situation out of control, and a whole series of other international “fires” that need to be extinguished, many key posts in the national security system in the Trump administration are occupied by unapproved officials, or they remain vacant.
It is not surprising, therefore, that newspapers across the country are reporting an increase in the number of people seeking mental health care for anxiety..
In times like these, a little history can be helpful..
Parallels with 1968
Renowned historian and writer Robert Dallek notes that this is not the first time the United States is faced with seemingly insurmountable problems..
“We went through a lot of difficult moments,” Dallek said in an interview. "Voice of America". “Like it was in 1968, when the country was at war with Vietnam, there was unrest in poor areas, and [President Lyndon] Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election.”.
At the time, a travel agency in France advertised trips to the United States under the slogan: “See America while it is still alive.”.
“It was a time when people also thought that America was slowly coming to an end and perhaps entering a new civil war. Echoes of such sentiments can be seen even now, ”he said. At the same time, he stressed that there is reason for hope. The United States did not slide into civil war, the Vietnam War ended, and civil unrest subsided.
But all of this does not mean that the feeling of anxiety that grips Americans is inappropriate or imaginary..
Perhaps the most stressful situation Americans face right now is the crisis unfolding in the Middle East..
Attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad
On New Year’s Eve, Americans woke up to news that the US Embassy in the Green Zone of Baghdad was being besieged by a crowd that burst into the reception area and set fire to part of the building..
These protests were preceded by US strikes on Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah facilities in Iraq and Syria on December 29, in response to the killing of an American civilian contractor in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk two days earlier..
The Pentagon announced that it is sending troops to the region, the number of which has quickly become thousands..
According to some reports, the attackers on the American embassy were linked to the Iranian-backed militia. Later on Twitter, Trump threatened retaliation if they hurt embassy staff or damage U.S. property..
“This is not a warning, this is a threat. Happy New Year!” – he wrote.
Elimination of Soleimani
Two days later, shortly after landing at Baghdad International Airport, the head of the infamous Iranian al-Quds unit, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a drone attack that was personally sanctioned by Trump..
Suleimani led operations that killed hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq and thousands of civilians throughout the Middle East and was generally considered the second most powerful figure in the Iranian government..
Promising revenge, Iran waited three days of mourning for Soleimani, after which it fired rockets at two sites in Iraq where the US military is stationed. There was reason to believe that the missile strikes were more symbolic than a real danger..
But hopes that a limited Iranian response would ease tensions were dashed a few hours later when a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 people crashed near Tehran. By the weekend, it became clear that a nervous Iranian air defense force, on alert, awaiting a US response after strikes in Iraq, had accidentally shot down the plane..
Later this fact was recognized by Iran itself..
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New sanctions against Iran
On Friday, the US announced new economic sanctions against Iran. They will complement existing measures, which US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin described as the most severe sanctions that the US has ever imposed on another country..
Many Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans have lamented that Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior administration officials misled Congress and the public by claiming that Soleimani posed a “immediate” threat.
The British ambassador to Iran was arrested for several hours after attending a ceremony to commemorate the 176 victims of the Ukrainian plane crash. Iran’s highly unusual move was accompanied by accusations that the diplomat had incited street protests against the Iranian regime. The British government vehemently denies these allegations.
In the United States, the collective response to the unfolding crisis in the Middle East has been concern over where this will lead. Social networks are replete with forecasts – humorous and not so – about the coming Third World War. But experts believe that the likelihood of a full-scale war between the United States and Iran is small..
At the Brookings Institution in Washington, political science professor Michael Horowitz and senior researcher Elizabeth Saunders wrote on Friday: “Backlash could come and a US strike on Soleimani could heighten the risks of near-full-scale war. They are cause for concern. But it is important to distinguish such consequences from a general war “.
“The consequences will surely come, but an all-out war remains unlikely,” they add..
Desire for “normality”
Robert Dallek, who studies the history of the presidential institution, says the most likely outcome of prolonged tensions in society will be an electorate ready to return to a “normal” life. This is what Democrats are counting on as the 2020 presidential campaign picks up steam.
“I think the result will be similar to 1968, when the country wanted to revert to a certain fixed order of things,” Dallek said..
We are talking, of course, about the US elections won by Richard Nixon.