US-Iran face-off: Some lessons for Nigeria

Following a long running battle of wits, shadow boxing and mutual recrimination between the US and Iran, the former recently drew first blood when US President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iran’s Major General Quassim Soleimani while the later was inside the neighbouring Iraq. The killed general was of such strategic significance to both his country Iran and the US for different reasons. To the US he was a foe whose exit from the geo-political equation between both countries, was inevitable.  But to his home country Iran, he was a hero whose contributions to the country’s interests were invaluable. Hence his killing along with other persons which were hardly reported, attracted pure venom from Iran – specifically the threat of “brutal revenge” from that country. So far however, it remains to be seen how their “brutal revenge” will be executed, for as of now, only a symbolic Iranian missile attack on US military bases in Iraq had been recorded.

Meanwhile, Iraq whose territorial integrity was breached by the US attack on a foreigner (Soleimani) on its soil asked the US to leave its territory on which the latter has several military bases. To this request the US has demonstrated its unwillingness to comply as it demands a refund of the expenses of its intervention in Iraq before any withdraw. Poor Iraq, it has to eat the humble pie of incontinence in the face of this rape on its sovereignty! Hence, in this three-nation drama featuring the US, Iran and Iraq, the two victims have only been consigned to symbolic responses to the show of power by the US.

In the same vein, was as a gale of reactions from across the world which clearly placed the development as not only unusual and bizarre but also questionable. Perhaps the more significant reaction came from outside Iran – especially the US where a wide gulf developed between public opinion circles in the country over the legality and propriety of the development, with respect to that country’s laws and strategic interests. It is for good measure that even in the aggressor country US, sections of the public acted in good conscience to assert restraint on their government.

Ever since however, the whole world has been on edge over the development which without any equivocation remains a dramatic turn of events in the relationship between these two countries with a long history of relations which started on a rosy note over a century ago, but had received hard knocks at various periods. In clear terms, a war between Iran and the US today will not be a tea party as it will not be confined to the borders of the two countries both in costs and overall impact. First of all, they are not contiguous. The US is at least 10,000 kilometres from the Middle East where Iran is located. It actually enjoys the advantage of having a string of military bases surrounding Iran from which it hopes to fight its adversary with, just in case a full scale war breaks out. In contrast, Iran may resort to attacking a complement of US interests within its reach, such as nearby American military bases and as was recently muted, locations as Dubai and other places whose attack may just be collateral damage to the US. Thus far is the inbalance of power between these two belligerent nations.

Seen in another context, the prevailing state of balance of terror among the powers that be, it is in doubt that the present world order will survive another free for all war, as occurred during the First World War of 1914–’17 as well as the Second World War of 1939–’45. For instance, from the perspective of arms stockpiling by the great powers comprising the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Israel and North Korea, there is more than enough destructive force to wipe out the world several times over. In fact, with respect to the race for dominance in endowment in armament, the goal is no more that of quantum than quality, as each of them is ever improving and perfecting ways and means of killing the most with the least effort.

On a more reflective note however, that these two countries are at each other’s throat today testifies to the transience of political relations between partner-countries of unequal endowment in economy and other wherewithal. For a greater part of the centuries-old US Iran relationship, the latter had remained   virtually a vassal state to the former, just as Nigeria and the rest of African countries remain tied to the apron strings of the bigger powers.  Iran which was known as Persia until 1935, was a close ally of the US and even solicited the assistance of the latter to overthrow in 1953, its democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran who was eventually overthrown and forced into exile in February 1979.

The exit of Shah Pahlavi from the gilded throne of Iran was orchestrated by a revolution led by the Iranian cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, through a remarkable campaign from exile in Paris. Ever since the Khomeini intervention in Iran, the ties between the US and that country had not been business as usual. Little wonder that in much of the considerations by the US on Iran, the term – ‘regime change’ has been a constant feature. The pain of losing control over Iran still haunts the US till date, making its President Donald Trump to ever seek ways and means to humiliate the Middle East nation.

Iran on its part had since 1979 commenced on a path of non-conformity with whatever had the imprint of the US in geopolitical matters, and even extended its anti-US grudge to the state of Israel which is a close ally of the US. To lend effect to its agenda, Iran from then adopted self-serving postures and initiatives – some of which ran in conflict with the wider interests of the global community. A typical instance is in the area of proliferation of nuclear weapons. The country’s primary offence was in misreading all global political considerations through a narrow, anti-American prism. Yet as much as the US may be influential in global affairs, it is just one country out of 193 nations of the world, hence cannot be substituted for the rest of the world.

Coming closer to home in Africa, the current travails of Iran await African nations including our dear country Nigeria whose leaders seem to be less wary of undue dependence on superior global powers for gaining strategic advantages in domestic power struggles. Let us pray that such a day will not come when creditor China, and the rest of the superpowers will not carve up Nigeria as gloating buchaneers would do to a roasted turkey on a platter.  What Iran lost to the US through long years of economic dependence we are losing to China through myopic dependence on avoidable debts.

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