The drone strike that killed general Soleimani in the wee hours of December 3rd, 2020, has literally been the shot that has been heard around the world. However, not in a good way. Almost none of the US allies supported the move. Instead, many were horrified at this turn of events.
The US is quickly losing any prestige that it once had in the world. Even many of the greatest advocates of the values that the US was supposed to stand for are condemning what the Trump administration is doing.
Former Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, yesterday issued a strong statement that demonstrates what many of the friends of America are feeling right now. The America of old, the one that was supposed to stand for freedom and the rule of law, is no more.
While this image was always a bit idealistic, the view of the United States as a symbol of democratic values still reverberated around the world. Just based on this, the US had a certain moral weight and soft power that it could use to its advantage.
Schwarzenberg’s words show how fast the US is losing its influence:
“I grew up in a time when in order to go to war, you needed to declare it. However now shots are fired, rockets launched, and places bombed without any formal declaration of war.
I am horrified at this turn of events. Some politicians are evidently of the opinion that they stand above the law, above justice, and that just like the legendary James Bond, they have the right to kill anywhere in the world. However, there is a difference between the movies and reality.”
In a later part, he continued:
“If we get used to the fact that we can kill anyone, anywhere, it’s a horrible development. I admit, my entire life, I have been a fan of the Americans. It’s a big, democratic country, which can often serve as an example for us. However, these acts of president Trump, I will openly admit, are criminal. No one, not even the president of the United States, has the right to go around international law.”
The rule of law is sacred, and one of the pillars of the international order. Without formal rules on the world stage, you will have chaos.
When Iran threatened with retaliation for the killing, president Trump menaced them by declaring that the US military has targeted 52 Iranian sites, including cultural ones.
This targeting of Iranian cultural sites has earned world-wide condemnation. This is a war crime under international law. Worse, if carried out, it would put the US in the same category as ISIS or the Taliban, both of which destroyed immense historical treasures.
Iran and Iraq were the cradles of civilization. Some of the earliest cultures started there. These are not just Iranian heritage sites, they are world heritage sites. All humanity has benefited from what transpired millennia ago in the Middle East. That’s why we need to protect these treasures, not destroy them.
This is not only criminal, it is counter-productive. Trump’s statements managed to do something that no one has achieved before: unite both the Iranian supporters and opponents of the Islamic regime in the country.
Sam Farzaneh, from BBC’s Persian service, described the mood this way:
“US President Donald Trump’s tweet threatening the targeting of Iran’s cultural sites united Iranians against him. Some of the sites are religious and some are not, but secular and religious Iranians are proud of their heritage and came together to denounce the president’s threats. Nothing could better unite divided Iranians at home and in the diaspora than a hit on their beloved past.”
Well, at least you finally see one thing. Even Donald Trump can be a uniter and not just a divider.