War is not the answer in the Mideast

The UN is still a force for the greater good and it must step in to block any hasty escalation between the US and Iran.

By Bikram Vohra (Between the Lines)

Published: Sun 5 Jan 2020, 9:02 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Jan 2020, 11:04 PM

US President Donald Trump has effectively eclipsed the brouhaha over his impeachment. It took a missile strike and the subsequent targeted death of a high profile Iranian General to push the charges against the White House incumbent off the front pages. Not even the most diehard Democrat or anti-Trump media organ would find traction in the mainland today by pursuing the cases against the president in light of the new developments.
That Major General Qasem Soleimani, who headed the Quds force, and with him Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis as well as several others who were droned out near Baghdad airport actually supersedes as a point of extreme danger the organised deaths of Osama bin Laden and Al Baghdadi. By packaging Soleimani as maniacally anti-US and a man who intended to engineer more attacks on Americans and American interests, Trump has sidelined any protests about this cataclysmic action.
The last time the US killed a military leader in service was 1943 when they tracked down and killed Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto during Operation Vengeance for planning and executing the attacks on Pearl Harbour.
Even those US political camps that might want to say it was hasty and trigger-happy are muted. For the now, it has not only made him heroic but brought back memories of his predecessor Barack Obama ceremoniously announcing the end of bin Laden.
Trump today has mobilised the act as tangible evidence of the 'America first' policy and this approach, though brashly cowboyish in origin and texture, has many takers.
US legal eagles have already said that anticipatory self-defence justifies the killings thereby giving Trump a clean chit.
Last week's bumbling, oafish and crude captain of the ship is now a man fully in command and one who backs his crew and never mind the price that will be paid. In that lies the unanswered question. Who will pay the price and who gets to be the jam in the sandwich? In contrast it was a tiny little bullet that killed Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo and sparked the start of World War I. An unprovoked invasion of Poland by Hitler's troops set the word aflame with World War II.
The fears of another global conflagration have never been so strong. The calls by nations for restraint, a collective clarion beseeching for sanity in which the UAE has been playing a pivotal and salutary role since the Baghdad blast is the only defence of those who are truly concerned about the fallout from this attack.
What more can they do then to advocate a backing off from the impasse and stop the night from riding in?
In the aftermath of the missile strikes on US coalition troops in Iraq on Saturday, the world pressure on Tehran has to be relentless. This sort of a 'you hit us, now we will retaliate' sentiment will probably play big for now. With the mood belligerent and the street rage at a peak the funeral itself was one of high emotion. That Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is both an academician and a lawyer as well as a former diplomat should provide some relief that he will not like to go to the edge of the abyss. There is no percentage in letting loose the dogs of war. That would not just cry havoc but shriek it.
This said, there would be pressure on him to see that he and his government are not cowed by Washington and that retaliation is mandated so that the people feel vindicated. At present the moves are more in the realm of seeking support and the call on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to come out and display solidarity is echoed by a further demand that the world at large matches that support.
"If we do not have a united voice against the US aggression, the entire region will face a major threat," President Rouhani said although he did not elaborate exactly what the extent or manner of that threat would be. But it has to be accepted that perceptions count and the 'face saving' element is very real. Whether that translates into limited sporadic attacks on US interests which will then be depicted as appropriate responses or blow into an open-ended conflict cannot be second guessed.
"The US has today committed a serious crime against us, and if we remain silent, such measure will be taken against the other countries tomorrow," the Iranian president stated.
Most nations at this moment would be weighing diplomatic options, chary to take any side but eager to use good offices to mitigate the tension and create space between Tehran and Washington.
It is a vain hope that the 'assassinations' will go unanswered or simply fade into the pages of history. Iran is more likely to hit back in some form or the other, perhaps even later than now, when the guard is lowered. This does give time for nations in the region who are most likely to be affected by the fallout to use all measures at their disposal to calm things down.
And it is not just the region that is feeling the tight wire atmosphere. In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was misquoted on the media saying it was vital to "de-escalate and destabilise the situation" clearly meaning otherwise as he emphasised that war was in no one's interest, a fact that most of us know. Trump himself has also upped the alert saying an Iranian offensive could occur in weeks, thereby ensuring that the Iran-US confrontation continues to dominate the news.
Time will tell if the killing of Soleimani was a wild and woolly west self-indulgence or a deliberate attempt to rid itself of its current number one enemy as an entity and separate and mutually exclusive for the peace moves between these two countries.
The United Nations (UN) must now step in and endorse Raab's sentiment that war is in no one's interest. It is still a force for the greater good and has to come between the two countries and block any hasty escalation.
It has been a rough start to 2020 and one in which nature has also played a devastating role in Australia. Was it less than a week ago the world was celebrating the turn of the calendar and now waits in trepidation for the second shoe to drop.

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