Every year, astrologers and fortune tellers, drawing on supernatural powers, make this prediction for the New Year: “There’s going to be trouble in the Middle East.” For the last three thousand years they have been right – 2020 is no exception.

President Trump versus Iran has made us tremble. On January 3, he ordered the killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s military (or “terrorist” if you like) Quds Force, at Baghdad Airport. Soleimani is believed to be responsible for deadly attacks against Americans and others all around the Middle East. It seems he was a bad man. But there are a lot of bad men in the Middle East and, while American presidents kill some of them, they suck up to others. The terrorists behind the 9/11 attack on New York came from Saudi not Iran. So why does the US grovel before Saudi but menace Iran? Why did the US not kill the head of the Saudi army?

Presidents Bush Jnr, Obama and Trump have killed, or caused to be killed, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and now Soleimani. The overthrow of the first two has been disastrous. They have been replaced by more dangerous and unstable regimes, which have spread terror and crushed Christian minorities. Another bad man, Bashar al-Assad, seems to have won a horrible war in Syria, thanks to Russian help. The lessons of the recent past suggest it’s best to leave him there, and not overthrow him too, as Hillary Clinton wants to do and Trump seems not to want to do.

I think Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran was excellent, pinning Iran down to tough inspection to make sure she couldn’t make nuclear weapons. Trump reneged on that deal, sullying the US’s reputation for honouring contracts, and increasing the chances of Iran’s getting nuclear weapons. 

In his election campaign Trump promised – sort of – to withdraw the US from military adventures abroad. To some extent he’s done so, sometimes badly, as in removing troops protecting the Kurds. Trump has a habit of making bellicose noises and then backing off. In the case of Soleimani he had the man killed, and immediately backed off, not responding to Iran’s recent rather feeble (deliberately feeble I hope) retaliatory strikes. He says he does not want war against Iran or regime change. The Iranians don’t want war with the US either. Here is hope.

But there has also been a tragedy. Iranian missiles accidentally shot down an airliner flying from Iran to the Ukraine, killing all 176 passengers. They have admitted it and are contrite. Trump has reacted calmly. It might actually have a sobering effect on the conflict.

In the US itself, the political response to the killing of Soleimani has been fairly sensible despite some silliness – from Elizabeth Warren, for example. Some “Conservative” commentators, notably Tucker Carlson of Fox News, condemned it (he asked what good could come from it) while some “Progressive” commentators on CNN supported it. Rand Paul, my favourite Republican, and Tulsi Gabbard, my favourite Democrat, both condemned it. 

History can give us false messages. In WW2, America, mainly for moral reasons, helped to defeat Nazi Germany and gangster Japan, and was brilliantly successful in turning both into thriving democracies. Is the lesson that America can always use military force to bring democracy and happiness? Unfortunately not, as we have seen in the Middle East and other regions. 

The other false message is over the “appeasement” of Hitler. It is argued, accurately, that appeasement encouraged Hitler. From 1933 to 1938, Hitler could easily have been stopped by military action from the Western democracies or even by the serious threat of military action in 1936 when Hitler invaded the Rhineland. Instead the French gave way and Hitler, encouraged and emboldened, grew stronger and angrier. But the President of Iran is no Hitler either, and so the Hitlerian arguments about appeasement and deterrence don’t make much sense.

Towering above all other antagonisms in the Middle East is the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. It has been seething for 14 centuries. It is the overwhelming reason for the hostility between Saudi and Iran for which everything else, including Israel and the West, is a side show. Few people in the West seem to grasp this but it explains almost everything.

What to do in the Middle East? I’ve got no grand solutions, but just want the US to stop unnecessary military intervention, withdraw military forces responsibly, deal with all parties fairly, trade with everyone and use diplomacy as the primary tool of foreign policy.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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3 COMMENTS

  1. It seems everyone has to diss Trump as a matter of course before discussing what he’s doing no so?

    Anyway, besides that bit, Trump has been strategically brilliant.

    Sorry, but pretty much everything he has done has been correct. By bombing Soleimani he has done the equivalent of killing Heinrich Himmler after Hilter took the Rhineland, telling old Adolph that the next bomb has his name on it.

    So Trump is not committing thousands of men and billions of dollars of materiel to a war which can be won by killing a few key people and letting the Iranians revolt like they’ve been trying to do since 1979.

    As for his results, Trump v Putin = W; Trump v Xi Jinping = W, Trump v Kim Jong = W; Trump v Khomeini = W.

    The nuclear deal was a farce BTW

  2. “The terrorists behind the 9/11 attack on New York came from Saudi not Iran. So why does the US grovel before Saudi but menace Iran? Why did the US not kill the head of the Saudi army?”

    Are you sure Andrew that those terrorists came from Saudi? Has there been any convictions? I thought the IRR is a liberal organisation and that someone is only guilty if, in a country where the political system is based on the rule-of-law, is found guilty in a court of law. 9/11 happened in 2001. More than 19 year later, no-one has been convicted in a public court. This is after many seemingly innocent people have been incarcerated in secret CIA prisons and military prisons like the notorious Gauntanamo Bay. And most of them has been there without trial since soon after 9/11 but most probably for more than 10 years. And even with torture there is not enough evidence to convict anyone in a public court. A couple of people wrongly incarcerated were released but the prisons holding people without a chance of a fair or any trial, are still operating in “liberal” USA.

    Andrew you can ask any architect or civil engineer if a building can collapse symmetrically if it was damaged asymmetrically. It is impossible. The only way that can be done is by the symmetric instantaneous removal of all load bearing structures on a specific floor (usually the basement if you want to collapse the whole building). And for that explosives, proper equipment and a highly qualified implosion team is required.

    But the successive USA governments have always denied that explosives were used but instead seem to believe in a fabricated scenario of fires caused by aeroplane crashes creating such an intense heat that a symmetric collapse is possible. Fires, no matter how intense, tend to start at one point, as was clearly the case for the World Trade Centre Buildings. That will cause asymmetric damage. Symmetric damage caused by asymmetric fires is impossible except if something is constructed by design to collapse symmetrically after asymmetric fire damage. The fact that it is denied that the “terrorist”, whoever they may be, used explosives, and also the fact that no-one has yet been convicted in an open court, makes the official report extremely suspect.

    I realise that this is a minor point in your argument but why use it? And why are you so gullible? Why perpetuate “fake” news? I see that you have a degree in Physics and Mechanical Engineering. Have you ever investigated the implosions on 9/11 critically? And if you did, why are you parroting pseudo-science that goes against the laws of physics?

  3. Sorry Andrew, but I don’t get it, so, killing a terrorist is a bad idea but giving billions of $ to terrorist regime seems to be a good thing? Obama “…pinning Iran down to tough inspection to make sure she couldn’t make nuclear weapons”… was the right way to keep Iran at check. But the fact of the matter is that the Iranian gov was using US money to develop weapons and carry on with terrorist attacks in the Gulf anyway, plus, inspectors have been taken for a ride most of the time. Regarding the WW2 issue and weak stand of western Europe governments, lets don’t forget also about the Soviets who were preparing themselves to go west and invasion of Poland on 17’th September and pact Ribbentrop-Molotov was a prelude to it.

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