Donald Trump’s missile strike on Iran’s top general could have set the Middle East on fire. Memet Uludag analyses the impact and calls for international solidarity.
The January 3 US missile strike near Baghdad Airport which killed the Iranian top General Qassem Suleimani sent shock waves around the world. Donald Trump, who ordered the attack, tweeted that if Iran retaliated it would face US attacks on 52 targets, including highly important and cultural sites. As expected, Iran retaliated by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi air bases housing Iraqi and US forces.
The aggression initiated by the US must be strongly condemned. An all-out US-Iran war could set the entire region on fire with disastrous consequences for an already war-torn region. The US led invasion and war in Iraq in 2003 and the years that followed inflicted terrible suffering on ordinary people, which every military intervention has deepened. The ‘war on terror’ agenda has created millions of refugees globally, and the very disastrous consequences that global anti-war protests warned of.
Trump’s threat to hit important cultural sites in Iran has rightly caused uproar. It’s worth remembering that previous US leaders have already done this, destroying historical and cultural sites beyond recovery. Many civilian and economic infrastructures have been bombed, causing extreme poverty for millions of people. The polluting ‘chemistry’ of the war and sanctions in Iraq caused a massive increase in infant mortality and rocketed cancer cases, on top of deprivation and a lack of basic services in an oil rich country.
Today, an Iraqi person of 30 years age would have spent all their life under murderous sanctions, war or conflict conditions. What the US led imperialism did in the Middle-East, especially in Iraq, is beyond belief. Beyond contempt. We remember the Abu Ghraib prison, the Baghdad Apache Helicopter attack on civilians, the Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre. “We don’t do body counts” were the words of a US general, refereeing to civilian death.
Another war will only worsen everything, yet again. The Middle-East does not need more conflicts, imperialist interventions or renewed military pile up. On the contrary, foreign military forces in Iraq and elsewhere should leave and desist engaging in or supporting imperialist intervention. In Ireland, for example, the use of Shannon Airport by the US military aids US imperialism and is an insult to Irish neutrality. The Irish government should end this immediately.
Similarly, the appointment of Hillary Clinton as chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast was a shameful act – her legacy is steeped in warmongering. In Ireland, North and South, officials cannot condemn wars, ask for calm and restraint, while publicly funded intuitions award warmongers with honorary positions. We should oppose imperialism and wars, both at home and internationally.
What does de-escalation mean?
Despite the fears of all-out war, both the US and Iran have since showed unwillingness to further escalate military actions. Trump signalled de-escalation by saying “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned… American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent…The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it.” Iran labelled their retaliation as “concluded” adding “we do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
War games, in this case a Trump initiated military circus, are terrifying events, not only for the people of the Middle-East but for all of us. But they are hardly the full story. There is a deeper, less obvious one.
The killing of Qassem Suleimani and the events that followed the airstrike point to short-sighted actions of a weakened US presence in the Middle-East. Along with misery for millions, the US-led invasion and war in Iraq also triggered a long lasting crisis in US imperialism and its presence in the region. The Middle-East is not the same as it was in 2003 and neither is the scale of the US domination of the region.
Today, the US is embroiled in a chaotic power game where other global and regional forces, including some historic allies of Washington, are exploiting the weakened US power in the region and the vacuum that emerged following the 2003 war. The war that followed the defeat of the revolutionary uprising in Syria proved this emergence of regional powers, increasingly outside of direct US control.
However weakened, the US is clearly unwilling to retreat from the region. Trump’s missile strike is a sign of this unwillingness, but also exposes his weakness. Under previous conditions, a missile attack on the US, especially by an all-time enemy like Iran, would have triggered immediate retaliation. In this case it didn’t and seemingly it couldn’t. Not because the US has come to its senses over imperialist interventions, but perhaps because it has no real appetite to get involved in another potential disastrous military adventure.
Washington seems to be in a bit of crisis too. US senators denounced ‘lack of evidence’ and congressional approval to justify killing of Suleimani. However a symbolic motion, the vote in Iraqi parliament, requiring the government to ask Washington to withdraw American troops from the country was a political blow to Trump. The US relations with its allies in the regions have been increasingly tense.
The US missile attack also came at a time when numerous uprisings emerged in the wider region, some under most brutal regimes in very difficult conditions. Protests in Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran rose up for democracy, and economic and social freedoms. These uprisings, with unique ad individual attributes and dynamics, opposed authoritarianism, poverty, unemployment, corruption and imperialism. In Iraq, protesters in late 2019 demanded the end of Iranian intervention in the country. In Iran there were protests against fuel price hikes but also opposing Iranian government policies.
The people of the Middle-East have risen up many times against their own rulers and foreign invaders. They have defied what the info-graphs of Western TV channels showed us, the lines of sectarian and geographic divisions and at times protested in unity for freedom. Their revolts were not only attacked by their own rulers. They were also victims of permanent imperialist interventions and war conditions, eliminating all possibility for civilian struggles and crushing people’s lives. In the end, what the imperialists left behind were authoritarian regimes and destruction.
Many people have paid a very high price for their struggles facing death, torture, endless journeys of refugee, barbed wired borders, deadly sea crossings and racism. But as our times show us, they will rise again. Our solidarity is with the people revolting against all forms of oppression and war. The presence of US or any imperialist forces, or their wars, is not in the interest of the masses, only in the interest of global powers.
While an immediate US-Iran war seems to be avoided, the threat of potential future conflict is still very high. That’s why we say “No war with Iran”, “US Troops out of the Middle-East” and “US Military out of Shannon”, and “No Clinton at Queen’s.”
We must put pressure on our own governments to show solidarity with the refugees of wars and open our borders for protection. As one placard from Tahrir Square in Egypt, referring to Wall Street protests, said “We are the 99%”.
We don’t want the military barbarism of the 1% destroying the lives of millions in the Middle-East and here.