Debate: what is the right response to the Iran Crisis?

Comment Features International Issues

Image description: Qasem Soleimani

International co-operation is the only solution

Boris Johnson’s government is right to offer cautious support to the U.S. over the Iran issue, but moving forward we must seek an international solution to promote peace across the wider region of the Middle East.

 It is, of course, important to recognise that the assassination of Qasem Soleimani did not occur in a vacuum. That Donald Trump was no champion of the Iran deal came as no surprise to anyone following his 2016 Presidential campaign. Iran itself had done much to play the part of provocateur.

Back in June 2019, the Iranians shot down a U.S. drone. In December, they were thought to be behind a missile attack on Kirkuk, which saw an American contractor killed. Then of course there was the American embassy in Baghdad. On the flip side, one could hardly make the case that President Trump was doing much to ease tensions.

Designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, threatening attacks and ordering the capture of Iranian oil tankers. President Trump is not winning any peace prizes. Killing Soleimani takes it one step further though. Not because of the killing itself, his is hardly the first blood spilled in this conflict.

It’s the precedent that this could set. Assassinating officials who exist in the regimes of sovereign states is not the same as taking out terrorists. I worry Trump does not see it this way.

It begs the question which other figures will be considered undesirable enough to eliminate. We should also consider the Iraqi officials who died in the attack.

However, Soleimani is not someone we should shed tears over. He himself was a major actor in escalating tensions between Iran and the United States. In spite of the noise coming out of Iran, this may actually do a lot to reduce the risk of war.

This is not the first time that Iran has been on the receiving end of aggressive action from a foreign power. Israel has been conducting strikes against the Iranian forces in the Middle East for over two decades. Though there have been a lot of threats and flag-burnings, little of substance has actually taken place.

Is this situation different? Of course. The stakes are much higher, and the arena is far larger: not a regional conflict but a global one. While I personally doubt that war is coming, this crisis can only do more to destabilise a region that has been so frequently devastated by violence.

To me, the solution must come out of a concert of those interests most closely involved. The Middle East itself must come together to resolve their long-standing issues. External foreign powers: the U.S., the U.K., China and Russia should be observers rather than overseers.

That said, the international community must take a strong hand to ensure diplomacy prevails. This means being tough on Turkey, empowering Egypt and giving a voice to the long-suffering Kurds. For too long, the questions of the Middle East have been addressed piece-by-piece, rather than as part of a larger issue. To act as though the regional players can be overlooked or shut out is to ignore the events that led us here.

We cannot allow the new Iranian crisis to be yet another domino of disaster.

What role should the U.K. have in this process? Generally, I feel that embracing the actions of the U.S. while strongly opposing further engagement has been the right approach. Moving forward though, we need to assert a firmer position.

When steps are put in place to suitably de-escalate, I believe it is right for us to express clear opposition to the kind of assassination that took out Soleimani. We must also use our historic links with the region for good. We must work to establish an equilibrium that encourages cooperation and expels the last embers of Cold War conflict.

The wrong approach is for the West to act like a disapproving parent, arrogantly inserting authority without properly appreciating the situation. We are dealing with sovereign nations, not petulant school children.

That the U.K. alone has the unique foresight to mediate the situation unbiasedly is frankly, for the birds.

We have seen the limitations of this kind of intervention in the Israel-Palestine or Turkish-Cypriot conflicts. Why would the Iranians be any more inclined to kowtow to a Raab or Johnson led lecture on expansionism? Britain is certainly in no position to lead the way on sanctions in their current economic climate. To take such an approach would run the risk of appearing neo-imperialistic.

Given our colonial history in the region, this is not an idea we should be encouraging. It is also worth-noting that the fall out of major conflicts in the region, particularly the Iraq war, has been the intertwining of British and American interests. To suggest that the United Kingdom could somehow distance itself from the United States, who’s air-power our ground troops rely on for protection in Iraq, is dangerous absurd.

No one power can claim legitimacy to preside. Only through a co-operation that puts those most closely engaged with this issue can a resolution be achieved. In this case, rational internationalism must prevail over egotism and extremism.

 

Image Credit: Qasem Soleimani – Sayyed Shahab-o- din Vajedi

 

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