- War clouds loom because one man puts personal gains first
Statecraft is too serious a business to be left to individuals. But if you happen to be the President of the USA, no occasion merits enough sobriety to prevent you from indulging your whims or petty political designs even if doing so involves risking thousands of human lives.
Donald Trump knows this fact too well to ignore it.
He could thus order the killing of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and push the entire Middle East to the brink of war. For him, such brinkmanship was justifiable. As long as the American homeland is under no direct threat– although Trump would pretend otherwise–- and (white) US citizens in no danger of an imminent attack from Iran. Apparently, Soleimani’s assassination served two purposes for him.
On the one hand, it drew attention away from the impeachment vote. On the other, it helped him consolidate his persona as the fearless President of the USA who would go to any length to protect America.
As head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was obviously seen as the chief protagonist of Iranian interests in the region. The man who was hailed in Iran (and Iraq) as a national hero and charismatic commander, Soleimani was undoubtedly responsible for advancing Tehran’s interests in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The Saudis hated him. The Americans hated him. And surely the Israelis hated him too.
For Trump, Soleimani’s assassination was a perfect sell-out for the upcoming election.
The Iranians, on their part, are clueless to say the least. Domestically, Iranian leaders have for years built political capital over their anti-US posture. But it is only the first time perhaps that they have been forced to match rhetoric with some real action.
By authorizing Soleimani’s assassination, Trump has not only cast shadows of war over the Middle East but also given Iran all the more reason to pursue its nuclear weapons programme with more vigor and at a greater pace. In fact, he has alerted North Korea as well to beware American intentions. As a result of such recklessness, states like Iran and North Korea will continue to invest more resources and money into making more bombs and missiles– resources that could otherwise be used to lift thousands of people from poverty
They did try to respond emphatically by firing rockets at Iraqi bases hosting US troops. Conflicting claims regarding the number of US casualties notwithstanding, Iran’s response may have procured it something to sell out to the domestic audience, were it not for another fiasco– the downing of the Ukrainian passenger carrier.
From outright denial to regretful acceptance of their mistake, the Iranians have been left red-faced. Striking the civil aircraft with a missile not only betrays panic through the military ranks but also leaves many questions to be answered regarding Iranian military preparedness.
And with Iran holding “human error” due to “US adventurism” responsible for firing the missile at the ill-fated plane, it is hard to tell how many more such errors are likely to occur as long as the USA persists with its adventures and Iranians continue to err.
However, what is certain is the outcome of all such (mis)adventurism and fatal errors.
And that is human tragedy.
The death of 176 passengers onboard the Ukrainian plane is only a small glimpse of what the future holds for the Middle East if a US-Iran escalation is not prevented.
The region has already lost too much to sacrifice more. Great-power politics, sectarian militias and terrorist outfits have ravaged Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. An estimated 3 million Iraqis have been displaced since 2014. Thousands have been rendered homeless in Syria. And lawlessness reigns supreme in Yemen as well. Not to mention the scores of men, women and children killed by ISIS.
And there is still no sign of improvement in the lives of ordinary people.
Irrespective of who gains from a US-Iran showdown, the net losers from their confrontation will be the innocent civilians of the region; the people who are already bearing the brunt of the prevailing regional crises.
Their unending tales of misery and calls for mercy have received a mute response at best and gone unheeded at worst. Except for the routine journalistic stories, nothing of much consequence is being done to ease their suffering on the ground. Surely, these will go down in history as one of the worst examples of human indifference and realpolitik.
But let’s just leave it that.
For now, let’s get back to where we began.
That statecraft cannot be left at the mercy of individuals or regimes whose vision is blurred or blinded by personal interests or ulterior agendas. Otherwise, bloodshed and devastation will be the likely outcomes. And we have already seen that happen in Afghanistan and the Middle East. India, too, is charting a similar course by playing on Hindu radicalism to meet short-term political goals.
By authorizing Soleimani’s assassination, Trump has not only cast shadows of war over the Middle East but also given Iran all the more reason to pursue its nuclear weapons programme with more vigor and at a greater pace. In fact, he has alerted North Korea as well to beware American intentions.
As a result of such recklessness, states like Iran and North Korea will continue to invest more resources and money into making more bombs and missiles– resources that could otherwise be used to lift thousands of people from poverty.
Unfortunately, for individuals like Donald Trump personal gains take precedence over all humanitarian considerations.
And as long as such individuals rule over the mightiest countries, the world will never be free from human tragedies.