Editorial: 'Drone attack reminds why Ireland is important to UN'
The new 2020 "decade of hope" was barely two days old when in blundered US President Donald Trump with a drone attack that killed Iranian army general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, along with other leading military personnel. Thus the powder keg that is the Middle East was given yet another abrupt injection of flint.
Mr Trump argued that his action was aimed at saving lives, especially those of US citizens in that troubled region. He said he ordered the attack "to stop a war - not start a war".
Few will mourn the death of Soleimani, who left a trail of destruction across the Middle East furthering Iran's ambition to have extensive influence there. But many will fear the consequences of this assassination via that US drone strike.
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More considered observers of the events in recent days fear that the move will have the direct opposite effect, risking a new phase of terrorist attacks in many different countries. US citizens have now been advised to leave Iraq as thousands more American troops are deployed and the Department of Homeland Security has stepped up precautions all across the US, especially in the bigger cities.
The US Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, a noted friend of Ireland, remarked ruefully: "One reason we don't generally assassinate foreign political officials is the belief that such action will get more, not fewer, Americans killed."
The world in 2020 is a small place indeed. Ireland, and Irish citizens at home and across the world are as much at risk as any other people. The economic fallout of events in a region which is the world's oil well is an ever-present threat to our current prosperity.
Our thoughts immediately turn to the 385 Irish troops currently serving on peace-keeping duty in Lebanon, many of them close to the Israeli border. The persistent risk to their security is now intensified and there is also anxiety about the many other Irish citizens living and working in other centres around the Middle East.
Ireland, as a small nation, can only have a small say in what occurs on the global stage. But we must not underestimate our potential to punch above our weight in international matters and our moral obligation to speak out for what is right.
Ireland's long history of participation in international peace-keeping gives us a certain credibility within the United Nations. At times of dangerous actions such as this, the UN seems rather toothless and irrelevant. But the UN is among the few hopes the world has of some kind of sanity being brought to bear on a dangerously volatile situation.
In June of this year, UN member states will vote on Ireland's bid to take a two-year stint on the guiding UN Security Council. Because it involves an expensive campaign, the effort has wrongly been castigated as "a vanity project".
The reality is events such as these emphasise the need for small nations to remain as active as possible in international discourse. The catastrophic consequences of events like the US lethal drone attack emphasise the need for Ireland to remain involved with the United Nations.