Just months before the neo-cons in the U.S. administration were preparing the grounds for invading Iraq, Secretary General of Arab League, Mr. Amar Mousa, gave a grim warning about the consequences of such an invasion. On September 6, 2002, he said, “The war on Iraq would open the gates of hell”. Having analyzed the situation in the Middle East since 2003, one still finds it difficult to explain the region in such an accurate manner in these many words. The cost of human fatalities and destruction of infrastructure in Iraq, the phenomenon of Arab Spring, the emergence of ISIS and the refugee crisis which has affected Europe and America, can all be attributed to the consequences of U.S. invading Iraq, which even lacked the UN backing. It now appears that the current head of the neo-cons in Washington, John Bolton, is again preparing for another war in the region, and this time with Iran.
After getting elected to office, President Donald Trump justified quitting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the promise that he would find a better and more comprehensive deal with Iran which would also deal with other issues, especially of Iran’s support to proxies in the region and its ballistic missile program. One year on, after exiting the JCPOA, the U.S. has not even figured out how to reach out to Iran for negotiating such a pact. On the contrary, unilateral American sanctions have further hardened the position in Tehran, by strengthening the conservatives, who are now more skeptical to trust the words from Washington and therefore, any chances for a new deal are almost negligible.
In the latest developments, the U.S. has dispatched more military assets in the Persian Gulf including the Batteries of Patriot Missile Air Defence system, Aircraft Carrier USS Arlington, B-52 bombers and other naval assets. There are apprehensions from even the U.S. Democrats that the hardliners in Washington are pushing the US into another unwanted war. This war with Iran would have even more disastrous consequences than the U.S. war with Iraq not only for the region but for the rest of the world.
Iran has already threatened to block the Persian Gulf if it is not allowed to export oil due to U.S. sanctions. To what extent Iran can actually do that and for how long remains open for debate, but drowning few oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz would disrupt and definitely slow down the oil supplies to rest of the world. Moreover, the oil companies would be reluctant to take the risk of sending the oil tankers and cargo ships to the war zone. This would sharply raise the oil prices causing havoc for the global economy. The war with Iran would certainly not involve any ground troops and is likely to be limited to aerial and missile strikes only. Such an attack will have limited strategic effects on Iran and would neither serve the purpose of regime change nor would destroy Iranian nuclear capability.
On the contrary, such a war risks pulling other regional and world powers in the conflict like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, Russia and possibly China, which would expand the theater of conflict to a global scale. Russia and Iran had already been allies in Syria and both Russia and China has deep-rooted economic and strategic interests in Iran. Moreover, any reckless action by the U.S. or its allies would further result in anti-American sentiments in the entire Muslim world which would only contribute to the cause of extreme forces around the world.
Two fundamental realities have been overlooked and ignored in the West. First, the non-democratic and autocratic rulers in the Middle East had been thriving due to support extended by the European and U.S. governments for economic and political reasons. Second, once coalitions are formed against these authoritarian rulers for regime change, resulting crises wreak havoc in the form of devastating economies, depleting infrastructure, migration and refugee crisis, subsequently affecting neighboring states and regions, including the U.S. and the European continent. Resultantly, the migration and refugee crisis has played a critical role in paving the way for right-wing popular movements in the U.S. and Europe. The emergence of right-wing parties has further divided societies along religious, ethnic and racial fault-lines in Europe and elsewhere thus fuelling the Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments.
Even more problematic would be a comparative analysis of the U.S. dealing with North Korea and Iran. The divergent approach of the U.S. towards these two states would further strengthen the belief among Muslims that the U.S. policies are primarily directed against their religion and are inspired from the Huntington’s thesis of Clash of Civilizations. A prolonged war with Iran would result in humanitarian and refugee crisis spilling over to other neighboring states and Europe, which are already grappling with the aftermaths of conflict in Iraq and Syria. European and American governments usually try to downplay this fact.
Consequently, the Europeans and other stable states in the Middle East, along with Russia and China need to play a critical role to pressurize the U.S. from initiating another war in the Middle East. A new war in the region would not only compound the problems in the region but also could set the stage for a more turbulent relationship between Islam and the West.
Image: Official U.S. Navy Page from the United States of America Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown/U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Geopolitics.
Shams-uz-Zaman, M.Phil, (Strategic and Nuclear Studies), National Defence University, Islamabad. Ex-Visiting Faculty Member, Roots International University College, Islamabad (Affiliated with The University of London). Co-author of the book: “Iran and the Bomb: Nuclear Club Busted”