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May 16, 2019

Threat of war

Editorial

 
May 16, 2019

Will US President Trump start a war with Iran? The risks seem to be becoming serious after reports that the US military was reviewing plans to attack Iran. The game of brinkmanship between the US and Iran reached a new phase after Trump took office and tore up the carefully negotiated Obama area nuclear deal – before equating the threat from Iran with the threat from Isis in a tour of the Middle East. That was two years ago. Since then, the US has backed the Saudis in the mounting cold war in the Middle East. Tensions have reached the level of combustion after two Saudi oil tankers were allegedly sabotaged off the coast of the UAE on Sunday. The UAE claimed that two other tankers had been sabotaged too. The US and the Saudis blamed Iran as hawkish US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began to threaten an escalation.

Any sensible US president would not choose a side in the messy conflict in Yemen – but Trump has decided to stick by the Saudis. It is also clear that Washington needs little ammunition to ramp up pressure on Iran. Despite US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisting the US does not want war, the US has pulled embassy staff from Iraq. The result of any enduring direct conflict will be a disruption of the global economy as 15 million barrels a day of oil are shipped through the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to shut down in case of a US attack. The fear is that one wrong move could turn a cold war into a hot war – and send the Middle East and the world spiralling into disaster. Attacking Iran would not be like the 2003 Iraq war, where the US was effectively able to remove Saddam within days. Instead, an attack on Iran would ravage whatever limited sense of normalcy remains within the Middle East. Global energy routes would be disrupted and create a crisis throughout the world. The White House has been baiting Iran to spark a confrontation, which Iran has done well to avoid. The Middle East is still suffering from the aftermath of the Iraq war. It is the US that has sparked the instability in the Middle East we see today. It should avoid making another miscalculated war manoeuvre to secure its interests in the region.

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