US sabre-rattling

May 13, 2019


IT seems like déjà-vu. Once again the US is preparing a casus belli for war with a Middle Eastern country based on flimsy grounds. We have seen the same rhetoric in the run-up to the wars in Iraq, Syria and Libya (with all three countries shattered). Now it seems that the powers that be in Washington want a head-on collision with Iran. Over the past few days, disturbing reports have been emerging of a US military build-up in the Gulf. The Americans have sent two warships, including a strike group, to the Gulf, along with a missile defence system. Moreover, American bombers have reportedly been stationed at a US base in Qatar. The Americans say the mobilisation is in response to an unidentified Iranian “threat”; Tehran has said the moves are merely “psychological warfare”. The spark, it seems, for the latest confrontation between Iran and the US is the nuclear deal. However, a deeply held desire amongst hawks within the Trump administration for regime change in Iran is perhaps the real driver of hostility. The US has found ways to criticise Iran on other fronts, even though the IAEA and the European co-signatories of the nuclear deal all confirmed that Tehran was abiding by it. This indicates that the deal is not the problem; the warmongers in Washington want to depose the ayatollahs.

While saner elements in Washington, as well as the Iranian establishment, may want to avoid war, any miscalculation in the current charged atmosphere can result in hostilities. The US may be a superior military power, but if war does break out, the theatre will stretch from the Gulf to the Levant, with Iran deploying its allied militias against the Americans. Moreover, those American allies keenly gunning for war — eg Israel, the Gulf Arabs — could find themselves in the direct range of the Iranians. Therefore, to prevent a conflagration of regional proportions, the Americans need to pull back from the brink.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2019