Donald Trump Needs To Open Dialogue With Iran After Airstrikes, Says New York Times Editorial

Iraqi security forces gather at the entrance of the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 1, 2020, as smoke billows following a demonstration by supporters of the largely Iranian-trained Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty

President Donald Trump should try to alleviate tension in the Middle East by opening a dialogue with the government of Iran following U.S. airstrikes on one of its militias and a brief siege on the American embassy in Iraq, the editorial board of The New York Times argued in a piece published Wednesday.

By pulling the U.S. out of the deal that gave Iran billions of dollars in relief in exchange for reining in its nuclear program and instead deciding to put even more sanctions on Iran, the president has made peaceful resolutions more necessary, but harder to reach, they argued.

"After Mr. Trump loudly pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposed tough sanctions on Iran, it is hard to see what incentives he could dangle to prevent Iran and its proxies from further complicating the task of American forces in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East," the editorial board wrote. "The president could conceivably lessen tensions by opening some form of dialogue with Iran, whether about a possible renegotiation of the nuclear deal or resolving conflicts in Yemen or Syria."

The board noted that certain Iraqi militias, to which Iran supplies weapons and other means of support, have been firing missiles at American troops for several months. The U.S. has maintained about 5,000 troops in Iraq since the military returned to the country in 2014, and one of the aims of the Iran-backed militias is to rid Iraq of American soldiers so that Iran can exert more power in the region.

After one of the missiles killed an American contractor in Iraq, the U.S. military responded with airstrikes on Friday against Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia operating in Iraq and Syria, killing 24 people. The airstrikes prompted retaliation. Thousands of protesters stormed into the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, shouting "Death to America."

During the protests, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah said that the attacks would only harden the militia's resolve to rid the land of American forces.

"We will take our fight to expel U.S. troops from our land to parliament, and if we don't succeed, we will return," militia spokesman Mohammed Mohyee told the crowd of protesters that had broken into the embassy, The Washington Post reported.

Though the protesters had fully dispersed by Wednesday, the editorial board of the Times propounded the idea that the incident was emblematic of the problems between the U.S., Iraq and Iran that should be cause for the president to step in to prevent escalation.

Continued conflict with Iran "could hardly be what President Trump wants, if he has been sincere in saying he wishes to avoid wars in the Middle East," the editorial board wrote.

The authors went on to describe how public outrage—partially against the Iran-backed militias—forced Iraq's prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, to resign after months of protests. His resignation sparked what the editorial board termed a "power struggle." Kataib Hezbollah may have intentionally set out to provoke a military attack from the U.S. in order to stir anti-American sentiment among the Iraqi people and redirect their anger—which, given the "Death to America" protests, would have succeeded.

Trump referenced the incidents in Iraq on Twitter Tuesday, writing that Iran would "be held fully responsible" for both the missile strike that killed the American contractor and the protests at the embassy in Baghdad.


Later, he reiterated that Iran would be held "fully responsible" and wrote that it would pay a very "BIG PRICE!" He stressed that his tweet was "not a Warning" but a "Threat."

According to the newspaper's website, the editorial board of the Times is comprised of "opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values," and who are not part of the same team that reports the news.

Donald Trump Needs To Open Dialogue With Iran After Airstrikes, Says New York Times Editorial | Politics