Will Iran be another Iraq?

    Almost a decade after the West’s venture in the Middle East, the world finds itself in a similar position having to consider whether a pre-emptive military strike is the correct approach, in order ensure future global security and stability.

    Ten years following the decision to engage in military action in Iraq, the West’s armies are still committed (although slowly withdrawing) and the controversy is still alive and in many ways has redefined the people’s attitude to war and the trust in government. Therefore, in understanding Iran it is important to first look at the events in Iraq, without the media’s hysteria and sensational headlines (at times on the expense of accuracy).

    The biggest controversy is that fact that weapons of mass destructions have never been found. That claim strengthens the notion that the West was never under any threat and therefore there was no  interest for the West to get involved. The other controversy was that at the time a new UN resolution was not sought after, rather an older resolution was used, which some consider illegal. And finally the latest major point of contention is the aftermath of the war, which has seen about 110,000 deaths from military action, although mainly from sectorial violence, which followed the toppling of Saddam.

    The case to invade Iraq is argued very well in a few resources. Perhaps the most interesting and powerful argument is put forward in Tony Blair’s biographical book, where he dedicates a whole chapter to Iraq. Without repeating the argument, Tony argues that the life in Iraq before the war wasn’t much better than after the war. Different in that instead of suicide bombs and sectorial fighting, children were dying of malnutrition and lack of medicine and ethnic groups were deprived of human rights. Tony goes on to argue against Saddam’s history of violence in attacking Iran, Kuwait and more importantly using chemical warfare against his Kurdish population.

    However, many would find that all the argument against Saddam, still do not amount to a justification for war, especially since the Western world is routinely looking the other way in different regimes committing similar crimes. This then leads to an examination of the intelligence used to justify going to war.

    There is still a notion that Tony Blair lied to the people of Britain, fiddling with the intelligence to justify the move. However, the government has exposed the intelligence that was used and made it public (http://www.fas.org/irp/world/uk/iraqwmd0903.pdf). Anyone that cares to read the report would probably conclude that it was the intelligence that was wrong, not the British government’s decision. And therefore the big question is how could the intelligence get it so wrong and could it be trusted again?

    There is no reason to crucify and doubt the intelligence, as it is almost on a monthly basis that we hear that terrorist attacks are being foiled (one has to make the base assumption that the media is doing its job finding out information and would expose a situation in which the government is manufacturing these news). Evidently, the various global intelligence services have informants in the right places as well as the ability to intercept messages and collaborate, so what was so different in Iraq?

    This is where the views differ (please note these are ‘views’ not facts). One view is that Saddam saw admitting a lack of capability of WMD as a regional suicide. In a tough neighbourhood such as the Middle East it is important to have a military might, in order to affect regional policies, ensuring survival of the regime as well as economic prosperity (this would explain, why during years of sanctions and population starvation, Saddam still found the money to fund terrorist activity as well as pay bonuses to families of suicide bombers in Israel). The other view was that Saddam truly believed that the programs were progressing, however in effect he lost control of the army, who were feeding him wrong information. A third view is that the US were so eager to attack Iraq that while knowing of chemical and biological capabilities, they forged some of the intelligence on nuclear, in order to win public support. The most crucial case is that of Saddam’s attempt to purchase uranium from Niger, which seems very unreliable after Wilson’s Op-Ed (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/06/opinion/what-i-didn-t-find-in-africa.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm) claiming he was the one that filed the  report confirming the low likelihood of Iraq signing an agreement with Niger to buy ‘Yellow Cake’.

    The war in Iraq was a political disaster to both the US and Britain. Both leaders have been accused of lying to the people. However the blow would have not been so great had it not been for the longevity of the war and the high number of deaths. Had Saddam been toppled and Iraq stabilized within months, criticism would have probably been minimal.

    However, in politics as well as warfare, not only does one not have the benefit of hindsight, but one can’t accurately assess the outcome of the road untaken.  Arguably, the sectorial fighting that took place in Iraq would have taken place today as a result of the Arab Spring. Libya, Egypt and Syria all have a great deal in common with Iraq and are suffering or have suffered a similar consequence. Or even worse, perhaps not toppling Saddam would have meant that the Arab public wouldn’t have risen against their dictators. Furthermore, in defence of the decision to go into Iraq, one should not forget that it is not the army, which is killing civilians en masse, rather ethnic differences and foreign powers, which is dominated by the old Sunni – Shiite conflict.

    So now the world is faced with Iran. Similar to Iraq, Iran has decided not to cooperate with the UN, resulting in crippling sanctions, making their civilians’ lives more difficult than they should be. Furthermore, Iran is not taking any steps towards reassuring the world that their nuclear program is peaceful as it claims and while most information is hidden from the public eye, even the media catches a glimpse every now and then of disconcerting facts, such as Iran hiding the existence of the nuclear facility in Qom, the rejection of the compromise to enrich the fuel outside of Iran, advances in the development of long range missiles and most concerning the change of attitude since El-Baradei has been replaced by Amano as the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) representative.

    There is little doubt that unless the world waits for advanced stages of the nuclear program, once again it will be hard to produce a “smoking gun”. However, one would think that the governments would have learned from past mistakes and run a different campaign, if action in a foreign country were to be taken.

Here are some of the mistakes that have not been addressed in Iraq and should be addressed in Iran:

–          The support of terrorism. Saddam was a supporter of terrorism and so is Iran. It should not be difficult to invest in collecting proof that it is Iranian financed or Iran militia fighting in Iraq, Syria, Israel as well as abroad (mainly via Hezbollah)

–            Dictator regimes, while the West cannot take the high ground on intervening with every conflict, there is no reason, why they should not intervene in certain cases. Just as there was an intervention in Kosovo to save the Muslims, purely on a humanitarian basis.

–          The UN has proved to be affected by small time international politics, a campaign needs to be done to expose such countries playing international politics rather than fulfilling their humanitarian duties (such as currently China and Russia in the case of Syria)

–          Securing the parameters, if an action is taking place in Iran, the countries have to anticipate and address the involvement of foreign powers (such as limiting across the border movements from neighbouring countries)

    Experience has shown that Iran has already decided to sacrifice its people for the bigger purpose of continuing with their plan. For example sending two war ships through the Suez Canal to Syria is another way to show defiance and give a “Business As Usual” feeling both domestically and overseas.

    The timing is crucial, since the US is going to elections in November and is therefore reluctant to commit to another war, while Israel has hinted towards a ‘point of no return’, which is said to be this spring, in which if there is no evidence of the program stopping, they will attack, not allowing Iran to secure the nuclear facilities deep in the ground.

    In the meantime, Israel is practicing warplane manoeuvres as well as drills simulating rockets hitting the center of the country and there is much talk about who is behind the mysterious killings of personnel involved in the missile and nuclear program in Iran. On the other hand, Iran’s economy is suffering with the Rial, Iran’s currency, dropping by half (the unofficial rate, which is not regulated by the government), the sanctions on oil and commerce, which will see their export revenue declining and cost of commerce increasing and the most recent blow, disconnecting them from SWIFT, the international money transfer system.

    Only time will tell whether an attack will take place and if so whether this conflict would be perceived as justified or another Iraq. However one thing is almost certain, which is the Iranians will suffer like the Iraqis did, because of their dictatorship government’s reluctance to drop their last century aggressive mentality.


Al Qaeda’s Justification

    Following the US’s assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the US’s foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, is once again taking center stage at debates. There is a reoccurring argument, which states that Al Qaeda was formed as a retaliating force to the West’s foreign policies (especially the US) and that the war on Afghanistan was wrong to initiate, since the Taliban would have delivered Bin Laden to US custody, if only, the US could provide evidence that he was behind the 9/11 bombing, as they requested at the time.

    Surprisingly a large number of people subscribe to these arguments or at least feel strongly that the US shares as much responsibility for the situation. This behaviour could be the result of the West’s democracy and free speech, which has given people the freedom to consider these claims, while not fearing persecution or even for publically doubting their governments’ motives and directly accusing them of moral wrongdoing.

    The open attitude of the West to freedom of speech, which it holds as one of the pillars of a free society has created an acceptance to misinformation and misleading by presentation of facts out of context. There is a layer of political correctness that created a gap in common sense. In this space shoddy figures strive, as the self-deprecating antigovernment narrative always finds enough audience rewarding its promoter both financially and with publicity.

    While criticising our representatives is our main defence to fend off our exploitation, it is important to understand to whom we might be lending our support and therefore question the other side equally.

    Al Qaeda was formed in 1988, well before the Afghanistan or Iraq war. It bases its ideology amongst other things, on the writings of Sayyid Qutb, which believed that the Muslims have a duty to follow strict Islamic law by creating a Muslim state and ridding their world of Jews and Orientals. In a fatwa issued in 1996, Bin Laden argued that the US must be driven out of Arab land and all the governments cooperating with the West such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be overthrown and replaced with one ruler over the entire region.  Achieving these goals would allow the Muslims to once more establish a Caliphate, which in essence would be an empire with no national borders stretching on all Arab land run by one man with divine authority, the Caliph.

    The reasoning behind the war on the West has evolved over the years. In the same Fatwa in 1996 Osama and Al Qaeda declared that the reasons for the need to fight the West are (besides of the existence of the Jewish state, Israel, on Arab land) the “…massacres in Tajikistan, Burma, Kashmir, Assam, the Philippines, Fatani, Ogaden, Somalia, Eritrea, Chechnya, and Bosnia-Herzegovina…” However since 9/11, when Al Qaeda achieved the public exposure it was seeking, the reasoning for the attacks focused on Israel as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, which unsurprisingly are controversial issues that separate people in the same way that liberals have a different view of life than conservatives. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that Al Qaeda’s “marketing” of their ideology was tweaked, in order to apply pressure on the topic, which would widen the gap of the two beliefs and ultimately increase the convictions of their sympathisers, most of which were young Muslims or people with resentment to the government.

    Regarding the claim of the Taliban turning in Bin Laden, it is necessary to examine Bin Laden’s relationship with Afghanistan’s ruling party, which has always been close. Bin Laden claimed that the Taliban rule has made Afghanistan into a model Muslim state, governed by Sharia. Under the Taliban, pre-9/11, Al Qaeda was given free reign and established training camps, where most terrorist received their training and inspiration for attacks on the West. Given that fact, it is absurd to think that there was any substance behind the claim that the Taliban would have delivered Bin Laden into the US hands, had the US only been able to provide enough proof that Bin Laden was behind the attacks.

    The other criticism often thrown at the US is that it is their imperialistic nature that Al Qaeda opposes. However any anti-Empire person looking onto Al Qaeda to dispel this notion, shouldn’t side with Al Qaeda on this matter, as Al Qaeda openly seek to create a Muslim Empire. Furthermore, one of Al Qaeda’s grievances was the establishment of a Christian rule in East Timor, ignoring the fact that it is a region with a clear Christian majority, which wanted to break away from bigger Muslim Indonesia.

    Last but not least, it should never be overlooked that Al Qaeda’s ideology seeks to obliterate millions of people’s rights and freedoms. As no doubt a true Muslim state under Sharia does not support democracy, does not allow women’s education or equality, believes that homosexuality is punishable by death as well as other laws, which the West finds as human rights violations. For anyone that would use the claim that most Muslim countries propagate this attitude anyway, it has been made very clear recently by the uprisings that this is not the will of the people and Al Qaeda would most certainly stop this situation from evolving into the Middle East democracies that its people seek and are for which they are willing to risk their lives.

    Therefore anyone that believes that Al Qaeda’s anti US motives are justified and believe that the solution would be for the US to leave the Middle East, should ask themselves, who would benefit from this action and more importantly, whether they truly believe that this would be the last time Al Qaeda disrupts  the Western world.