How we understand history—the past as well as how the present will become the past—is determined by when we start the clock. The skyrocketing crisis between the United States and Iran didn’t start a few days ago when rockets fired at an Iraqi military base killed a US military contractor. (US officials claim that the rockets were fired by Khataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia with ties to Iran; the militia denies the claim.)
It didn’t start when the United States retaliated with a major attack on the militia, killing at least 25 of its forces. It didn’t start when supporters of the militia as well as many other Iraqi protesters demonstrated outside and attacked the perimeter of the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
And it didn’t start when the Pentagon escalated further, at the direct order of Donald Trump, to assassinate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani yesterday with a drone strike on Baghdad’s international airport. The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Suleimani was the main coordinator of Iran’s strategic alliances across the Middle East, and a revered and highly honored political and military figure among the Iranian population.