The specter of a new conflict in the Middle East is haunting millions of people. This is a region that has already witnessed unimaginable destruction because of the reckless policies of imperial powers but it seems there is no respite for the people of the region, who are suffering the tyrannical rule of monarchs backed by Western powers on the one hand and throat-slitting jihadis on the other.
The region looks like a modern graveyard. Around 2.5 million perished in Iraq after the illegal invasion by the sole superpower that advocates respect for international law and global norms. The invasion took place after inhuman UN sanctions that decimated 500,000 Iraqi children. The sanctions also crippled the economy of a country that was relatively prosperous in the region during the decade of the 1970s and 1980s. Despite the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussain, the living standard was not as poor as it is today. A series of conflicts led to the destruction of a country that was the bastion of learning in the Arab world in the past. The global imperial powers not only destroyed Iraq but also ruthlessly robbed it of its historical heritage; even the museums of the country were not spared from the greed of the occupying powers that also plundered the wealth of the nation through their predatory economic policies.
It was the Western powers that first patronized Saddam, pampering him during the Iran-Iraq war and arming him to the teeth. It was they that encouraged him to invade Kuwait, and then it was again they that carried out ruthless bombardment in an attempt to dislodge a single tyrant. In the aftermath of the US invasion on Iraq, their policies not only led to the physical destruction of Iraqi society but also the social fabric of that nation. The occupying forces turned a blind eye as the people of rival sects slaughtered each other. Right under the nose of the US, Isis emerged in the war-torn country, and then gripped areas in Syria where it imposed a brutal regime of terror. Other Al Qaeda-linked terror groups were also encouraged to revolt against the secular Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Tacit support by the Western powers and overt backing by Arab monarchs for these brigades of terror led to the killing of more than 500,000 Syrians and displacement of around 11 million.
The footprints of these terrorists can be traced in several parts of the Middle East and beyond. They are fighting in Libya, Egypt, even Afghanistan. The recent terror attacks in Sri Lanka make it clear that this extremist threat cannot be snuffed out easily. A number of attacks in the Western world indicate that their sleeper cells are also operating there.
So, the policies of wars, invasions and conflicts followed by the American and Western ruling elites seem to have boomeranged on them but it seems they are none the wiser and are now advocating for a confrontation with Iran. It is true that the European countries are not siding with Washington over the issue of Iran the way they did on other matters in the past but they are not offering a vigorous opposition either. They listen to the anti-Tehran rhetoric of American officials with great reverence and fail to summon enough courage to counter the baseless allegations.
One could criticse Iran for many issues: treatment of minorities, gender inequality, stifling of freedom of expression but when it comes to the nuclear deal, there is no concrete evidence that Iran has violated it. The UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the European Union and independent observers are all unanimous in their assertion that Tehran has not violated the nuclear deal and that it is not likely to develop lethal weapons after the deal.
But instead of countering this assertion, the US has sent a bomber task force, including B-52 bombers besides approving the deployment of a Patriot missile defence battery and another warship to the region. More lethal arms are making their way to the Middle East. This sabre-rattling could be very catastrophic if other world powers remain silent over the rising tension that has the potential to engulf not only the region but other parts of the world as well. Any military confrontation with Iran is likely to drag other states of the region and the world into the conflict. Some fear it may even trigger a third world war.
What the US seems to ignore is that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei commands immense support and is revered by millions of Shias across the world. American policies in the last 17 years ended up strengthening Iran, helping it increase its influence. Washington dislodged the anti-Iran Taliban in Afghanistan and toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The racist policies of Israel against the Palestinians and the blanket support of Washington for such sledgehammer tactics have vindicated the Iranian position regarding the Zionist state and its American backer. The imprudent policies of bankrolling terror groups in the name of democracy also prompted secular Syrians to view theocratic Tehran as the liberator. After all, it was Washington and its Arab allies that imposed the monster of the Isis and it was Tehran and its allied militias that liberated the Syrian people from the reign of terror unleashed by these fanatical groups. The same could be said about the Iraqi people who are grateful to Tehran for pushing out these brigands of fanatics out of their country. Houthi rebels and millions in Yemen also consider Tehran as the saviour as the Western world turns a blind eye to the ruthless bombardment in that country.
Iranian influence is not confined to Arab states only. The spiritual leader of Iran also enjoys considerable support and is revered among the Shia community of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. So, any action against Iran will trigger a mass support for the country on the one hand and may prompt Iran-sympathising militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria to target US and Israeli interests. Targeting Israeli interests will not only get support from the Arab masses but Muslims from all over the world. So, any confrontation with Iran has the potential to escalate into a larger conflict that may engulf several countries. Therefore, it is important that the EU, Russia and China come up with a joint strategy to thwart Trump from triggering a catastrophic confrontation.
On its part, Tehran should avoid carrying out any missile test and should also revisit it policy of individual freedom for its citizens if it wants the world community to speak up for it against an impending US provocation. Let us hope that sanity will prevail.