Iran fired some missiles at two US bases in Iraq on Tuesday and declared it as ‘proportionate response’ to the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. Trump addressed the nation on Wednesday and hinted at increasing the pressure on Iran without going for further military action.
Both sides desire de-escalation although the tussle through other means will certainly continue. For now, we have possibly stepped back slightly, just slightly, from the brink of war.
It is important to deconstruct some of the rhetoric.
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Trump sounded quite presidential in his speech Wednesday morning.
Here are the main points:
As long as I am President of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.
Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.
Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world. We will never let that happen.
By removing Soleimani, we have sent a powerful message to terrorists: If you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our people.
As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.
Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash. Instead of saying “thank you” to the United States, they chanted “death to America.” In fact, they chanted “death to America” the day the agreement was signed.
The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout. Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.
They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal -– or JCPOA –- and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place. We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper, and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential. Iran can be a great country.
Today, I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process.
We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.
The American military has been completely rebuilt under my administration, at a cost of $2.5 trillion. U.S. Armed Forces are stronger than ever before. Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast. Under construction are many hypersonic missiles.
The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.
ISIS is a natural enemy of Iran. The destruction of ISIS is good for Iran, and we should work together on this and other shared priorities.
Finally, to the people and leaders of Iran: We want you to have a future and a great future — one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.
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Considering that it was the first official response of the President of the USA after the bombing of their bases in Iraq, it is clearly a message of peace. — Not a single word about further military action.
In fact Trump made just two demands to Iran:
- Stop interfering in the affairs of other regional countries
- Don’t build a nuclear weapon
This is quite reasonable and even the severest critics cannot find fault with these two requirements, especially when he is promising to work with the Iranian government and the people for ‘a great future.’
Simultaneously, foreign minister Jawad Zarif told journalists on Wednesday that the missiles fired at the Anbar and Erbil bases were ‘proportionate response’ to the assassination of Soleimani. He said that Iran wants peace.
Iran informed the Iraqi authorities beforehand about the attack and Iraqis informed the US forces. The purpose was to avoid any casualties.
The situation has obviously been resized.
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Iran has officially closed this chapter but what about the proxies. The Iranian backed militias in Iraq have said that they will continue to act against the US forces.
The Iranian pledge that they would ensure the expulsion of foreign forces from the region has not been retracted.
There are chances that some false flag operation from anyone could regenerate misunderstanding and that may lead to the renewal of hostilities.
Actually, there are two horns of this dilemma — The Iranian leadership needs to cool down the anger of the public, especially the rural Iran while maintaining the national unity that has been restored because of the assassination of Soleimani. On the other hand, Trump needs to win the elections this year; he needs to sound tough without taking America to another war.
The job of the Iranian leadership will be made difficult because of the Pasdaran, of which Soleimani was the head of the external wing, the Quds Force.
The job of Trump will be made difficult because of the hawks like John Bolton.
The noise that will ensue would primarily be for the benefit of the electorate at home.
Trump has some solid economic gains to show when going into elections. However, the younger crowd is itching for change.
The younger crowd in Iran is disillusioned with their leadership. Ayatollah Khamenei had to mention in his speech after the missile attack that the young people were fully committed to the revolution.
The shape of the vacuum on both sides is eerily identical.
There is hardly anyone in the Trump administration that can be called a darling of the Millenials.
The clergy in Iran is ageing and there is no cleric below 35 who has universal popularity across the nation.
While the risk of a war may have been avoided for now, the circumstances that led to the state of affairs have not changed much. The risk of sudden flare up – intentional or accidental – cannot be ruled out.
Since a war between Iran and the USA will affect the entire world, everyone needs to do whatever they can to create the conditions for lasting peace.
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A word of caution for Central Asia is in order.
The war of words will continue from both sides and they will use indirect means to promote their own interests. In doing so, if the interests of the other side are harmed, they will not care much about that.
The ‘freelance sympathizers’ across the region will draw their own conclusions.
What we mean by ‘freelance sympathizers’ are the people who feel agitated by the humiliation of a Muslim country. They are mostly not the members of any organizations. They are not even practicing Muslims in the conventional sense. They just feel helpless and burn with anger.
They may be alone or they may be in small groups of a few people.
Some of them, blinded by anger and frustration, may do something drastic such as exploding a homemade device or any other act of sabotage.
There should be a way to explain to the people in general that it is not a war between Islam and the USA.
It is a war of interests; shortsighted and artificial interests. What Trump is doing is not in the best interests of the USA. What the Iranian leadership is doing is not in the best interests of Iran or the Islam.
Someone needs to convince them that Islam is the middle path. /// nCa, 9 January 2020