‘Extreme pressure’ of US root cause of chaos in the Middle East


Sun Chenghao                                                                                                             On Saturday Iran admitted that it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian Airlines plane on Wednesday. Indeed, the downing of UIA Flight 752 is a tragedy, but it is an offshoot of the heightened tensions between the United States and Iran. Hopefully, the deaths of 176 people will prompt all parties in the Middle East to exercise utmost restraint and help restore order in the region. The tragedy shows how an escalating crisis can inflict great harm on ordinary people, even lead to a big tragedy. It also shows the loopholes in the Iranian military’s security mechanism, and reveals a big gap between the military and technological prowess of the only superpower and a regional power. But it also demonstrates US hegemony, which it uses to assassinate another country’s official, Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in this case, in a third country, Iraq. Soleimani’s killing on Jan 3 is an apt example of the US putting “extreme pressure” on a country to force it to accept its demands, no matter how unreasonable they may be. A country assassinating an official of another country in a third country’s territory is a gross violation of the United Nations Charter and the basic principles of international law. By killing Soleimani, the US has not only contravened international human rights treaties because it constitutes extrajudicial execution, but also infringed the sovereignty of Iraq. No wonder the Iraqi parliament voted on Jan 5 demanding the withdrawal of all US forces from the country. Mired in a vicious circle of retaliatory actions and soaring regional tensions, the Middle East seems to be moving toward a serious security crisis. Although neither Iran nor the US nor the rest of the world wants a war, the changed situation in the Middle East could see terrorist groups making a comeback in the region. By pulling out of the multilateral Iran nuclear deal and re-imposing, even intensifying, the sanctions on Iran, Washington re-ignited hostilities with Teheran. And by killing Soleimani, Washington ensured the Iran nuclear deal was all but dead because Teheran said on Jan 5 that it would no longer abide the restrictions imposed by the deal on its nuclear program. Which means Iran will not limit its uranium enrichment level and could even develop nuclear weapons ignoring nuclear non-proliferation norms. The chaos in the Middle East is very likely to have an impact on the security of Europe that has paid close attention to the situation in the region and made great efforts to ensure Iran plays by the rules of the nuclear deal so that regional stability is maintained. In particular, Germany has urged that more concerted efforts be made to prevent the US action from sparking an allout confrontation between Washington and Teheran. The US is using the Middle East as a testing ground for its geopolitical game in total disregard to the interests of the region’s countries and the global consequences of its actions. That the US hasn’t learned any lessons from the Iraq War that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, left many more homeless and turned hundreds of thousands of others into refuges is evident from its actions. The US’ failure to restore peace in Iraq shows that it does not understand the ground realities in the Middle East. Through the more than 16 years since it invaded Iraq on trumped-up charges that Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction”, it has only tried to impose American- style democracy on Iraq to fulfill its own narrow interests. Ironically, the US still believes it is the only savior of the Middle East, without realizing that it is its hubris that has turned the region into a powder keg which could ignite any moment. As long as it keeps daydreaming that it has magical powers that can solve all of the Middle East’s problems, the US will only worsen the situation in the region. Iranian military may have mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian Airlines plane, but it was the US that created the volatile situation that led to the tragedy. The author is an associate researcher at the Institute of American Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.