On Wednesday morning, gunmen and suicide bombers terrorized central Tehran, hitting parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in attacks that left 12 dead and 42 injured. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the terrible events, while Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps alleged that Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, was behind the attacks.
Several hours after the attacks, the White House issued a statement addressing Iran’s tragic day. But rather than extending a hand in understanding, or simply issuing a traditional, if rote, message of condolence, the president essentially cast blame back on Iran itself:
Contrast that with how Iran responded after terrorists attacked America on September 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. That night, some 60,000 Iranians observed a moment of silence in a soccer stadium; hundreds more marched with lit candles in the streets of Tehran. But it was the statement of Iran’s then-President Mohammad Khatami that shows how distasteful the White House response to the attacks in Tehran today really was:
“My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims,” Khatami said on Iranian television. “Terrorism is doomed, and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it.”
In a conversation on CNN two months later, Khatami didn’t waver from those sentiments:
I expressed my deepest sorrow to the people of America right after the tragedy, and I'd like to say how sorry I am, and express my sorrow. ...
What matters is that we must confront this phenomenon. We have to do it in a determined manner. We have to address the root causes of terrorism. We have to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. And we must fight terrorist bases wherever they are. But again, we have to address the roots as well.
...What matters is that we must identify matters very clearly. We must not act too quickly. And we must also fight terrorist bases and hopefully we must move in a direction so that in the future no nationality, no country will face such tragic events again.
Trump’s statement today, it should be noted, seems to have been the only conditional message of condolence. French President Emmanuel Macron, for one, picked up the phone and promised Iran cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, quickly expressed support:
I stand in solidarity with the President of Iranian Parliament and the Iranian people.— EP President Tajani (@EP_President) June 7, 2017
And the current high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, offered condolences at the European Commission:
The UN Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric and cowardly attacks.”
All of these statements stand in stark contrast to the one from the White House. It’s not that Iran isn’t a state sponsor of terrorism, as Trump notes in his statement — it is. It’s that pointing that out in the same breath as offering condolences and essentially saying that they had it coming eschews any moral or ethical high ground, let alone moment of humanity, this might have engendered.