Indications in recent weeks are that the Donald Trump Administration in the United States is preparing the grounds to launch an attack in the Islamic Republic of Iran. If that happens, it would be the most disastrous and most dangerous American move since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 in the so-called search for Weapons of Mass Destruction [WMDs], which turned out to be false.
Two weeks ago, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was moved into the Persian Gulf, just off the Iranian coast. This was an extremely serious threat to the country. The aircraft carrier was accompanied by the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge and the Spanish navy frigate ESPS Méndez Núñez. The Trump administration has been banging war drums in the Middle East and has been steadily escalating tensions with Iran since last year.
In May last year, Trump pulled his country out of the landmark nuclear accords that were concluded years earlier by the Obama Administration, together with several Western powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. Even though all the other parties to the deal essentially agree that Iran has kept its side of the bargain by refraining from nuclear enrichment, Trump called the agreement “a bad deal.” He slammed sanctions on Iran, which Obama had eased when the deal was signed, and said Iran must return to the table for fresh negotiations. Understandably, the Iranians refused.
Painful though the sanctions were, the Iranians responded in what was termed “strategic patience.” With the continued support of Europeans, Iran continued to abide by its end of the bargain. On May 8 this year, Donald Trump upped the ante. He removed oil export exemptions, clamped a much tighter sanctions regime on Iran and then announced his intention to deploy the USS Abraham Lincoln to the region. This time Iran retaliated by announcing a part-suspension of its commitment to the nuclear accord. It said it would increase uranium enrichment, a potential step to creating a nuclear weapon. So rather than enhance security in the region, Trump’s aggressive and ill-thought out moves actually increased the chances of Iran accelerating its nuclear weapons plan.
Crisis Group’s Iran analyst Naysan Rafati said, “The main premise of the maximum pressure campaign has been economic coercion. By issuing close to 1,000 sanctions designations, by putting a ‘foreign terror organization’ tag on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and by cutting Iran’s oil’s exports, the US hoped that Iran would come back to the table. But what we’ve definitely seen is a response from Iran on the nuclear front … and the risk has always been that there would be a response on the regional front.”
‘Regional front’ here means groups allied to Iran in the region, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Yemini Houthis, could launch reprisal actions of their own, with or without Iranian encouragement. Indeed, when the UAE reported a sabotage attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the port city of Fujairah, the US blamed the action on Iranian allies, which Iran itself denied. Iran-backed Yemen rebels also mounted a first-ever attack on a Saudi oil pipeline and a Katyusha rocket was launched into Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the US embassy is sited.
Prodding the Trump Administration into this dangerous action is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who never hid his disdain for the nuclear arms deal made by the Obama administration. Trump, who has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israel’s internationally rejected annexation of the Golan Heights and also scuttled the Middle East peace talks, might be planning to go the whole hog and attack Iran in order to please Israel’s hawkish leader.
Such a misadventure could cost tens of thousands if not millions of lives. It was only 16 years ago that Trump’s predecessor George Bush Jnr launched the disastrous Iraq invasion under false pretence. More than a million lives were lost in that misadventure, a veritable crime against humanity. The US must not launch a similar outrage ever again.
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