Here’s where we are with Iran: Trump ordered the killing of one of their generals. That sets off Iran and they threaten apocalyptic revenge. Trump threatens to flatten their cultural sites; they come back with more threats of apocalypse. Then they fire a bunch of missiles into the dirt in Iraq, purposely avoiding hitting anything. Trump blames Obama, says Iran is backing down, and he’s heading for the golf course.
It’s all for show: Trump bloviates to his base to reassure them that he’s butch (and in desperate need to find a distraction from impeachment), and Iran’s religious nuts-in-charge need to unite their people after some rather unsettling pro-democracy demonstrations. And other than a couple of dead generals and the collateral deaths in a stampede, this pecker contest with each other’s sworn enemy was about domestic politics and base appeasement. I’ve seen the same kind of act between two horny peacocks in my backyard.
The difference, however, between Trump and the ayatollahs and the stupid fucking birds is that the guys without the fancy tail feathers have means at their disposal to really kill a lot of people, mainly civilians. Add to that the fact that Trump is acting, as he always does, via his lizard brain; no strategy, just reflex. And then when he does react, he recoils and retreats behind bluster and bullshit and lies and obfuscation. The Iranians know this, and it’s not hard to imagine that they knew that Trump would back down or at least get talked out of nuking Persepolis, so they can carry on with their “Death to America” chants.
This is how dictators and fanatics handle foreign policy. They need someone else, some common enemy, to blame for all their troubles, most of them self-inflicted. Trump has done that all his life, as has every other megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur fueled by rampant paranoia and the harsh reality that they will never measure up to the expectations of some mythic father figure; seething with hatred for those who naturally achieve greatness. (Trump’s call for “peace with all who seek it” is his rather gauche attempt to claim yet another legacy of Obama for himself: the Nobel Peace Prize.) But at some point, someone always goes too far and the next thing you know, it’s not just preening; it’s a real war. With real targets, real armies, and millions dead.