Thursday 17 October 2019

Editorial: 'War in middle east will hurt more than the trump brand'

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP


The Chinese, according to Henry Kissinger, believe too great an emphasis on total mastery over specific events could upset the harmony of the universe. We are currently witnessing how too little could have an equally adverse impact.

Some 17 years ago the Bush administration got involved in a propaganda war on the invasion of Iraq. The pretext was the existence of weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein allegedly held which would wipe us out unless immediate action was taken. All these years later, the Middle East is still in turmoil. Meanwhile, a president who vowed to eschew foreign intervention, vowing to bring the troops home, may nonetheless be on the brink of precipitating a disastrous war with Iran.

President Donald Trump, told the world yesterday how the US military was "cocked and loaded to retaliate" against Iran. He "changed his mind" just 10 minutes before the planned strikes.

Any sighs of relief may be short-lived. The latest incident was over the downing of a US drone by Iran. There is a dispute over whether it had violated Iranian airspace.

While Mr Trump is famously impulsive, we also know his administration has a hawkish disposition. The president's specific goal has been preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Some of his administration may have far more aggressive ambitions. His national security adviser, John Bolton, is the most gung-ho. In 2015, he penned a national newspaper article under the title: "To Stop Iran's Bomb, Bomb Iran".

He is also on record saying: "The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs' regime in Tehran..."

He also recently ordered a Pentagon plan for sending 120,000 troops to the region to fight Iran.

Surely Mr Trump must recognise getting caught in another Iraq-style quagmire in Iran could be the death knell to his ambitions for a second term in the White House.

Of course the global implications go well beyond any personal ambitions Mr Trump may harbour.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was first to warn any US attack would be catastrophic. China and Europe too caution restraint.

One of the paradoxes of Mr Trump's America First isolationism is that at a time when he most requires traditional allies, he doesn't have them.

But Saudi Arabia and Israel would be all too happy to see the Iranians brought to heel.

The security and economic stakes for the rest of the world are enormous.

It is alarming to see military conflict of some description in the Gulf is looking probable. Any significant military response could rapidly spin out of control. The security and economic stakes for the rest of the world are enormous.

While there is still time for reason to prevail, it is vital to ask what exactly would be achieved by any attacks.

To all intents and purposes there is already an economic blockade on Iran which has taken a toll.

Any significant military response would be impossible to contain. With tensions ratcheting up higher and higher, intentionally or not the region could explode. The shock-and-awe tactics so championed by previous administrations have already destabilised the region. Further ill-advised American adventurism in the Gulf would be inconceivably irresponsible. Whether a war is accidental, or planned, matters little to its victims.

As Abraham Lincoln observed: "Force is all conquering, but its victories are short lived." Nowhere has this been more evident than in the Gulf.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss