Negar Mortazavi: "President may not want a war, but he might get one anyway'

The chances of war between Iran and the United States have just increased again. A small mistake from either side could lead to dangerous results – and easily escalate into a disaster for both sides, as well as the entire Middle East.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the US is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in response to “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran yesterday.

It is no secret that Bolton wants a war with Iran aimed at changing the country’s government. In March 2015, at the height of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the Obama administration, Bolton wrote an op-ed titled ‘To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran’ in the ‘New York Times’, where he suggested the US or Israel should attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. He also added that military attacks should be combined with “vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change”.

Similarly, in 2017, at the gathering of Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), Bolton said the policy of the US should be “the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran”.

Bolton was one of the main architects of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And today he seems to be playing a similar tune about Iran.

However, President Donald Trump does not want another war in the Middle East. He constantly criticised his Republican and Democratic predecessors for waging costly conflicts in the region, and ran a campaign on the promise of ending those wars and avoiding new ones.

It is important to note that today’s political climate in the US is different from the pre-Iraq War era. The Iraq War happened in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, when the US public was outraged and ready to take out all enemies. It was not hard to sell a war, even one partially built on misinformation about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

Today, Americans are tired of years of wars in the region, with thousands of casualties and billions of their tax dollars spent. Although hawks still hold some positions of power in the US administration and in Congress, their long-time war agendas do not hold much support.

Another difference is that Europe would be unlikely to follow the US into a war. An important reason for that is the Iran nuclear deal. Although the US has unilaterally exited the deal, Iran and America’s European allies have stuck to the agreement. The deal provides a mechanism for systemic diplomacy and regular contacts between Iran and European powers, and makes it difficult for the US to get Europe on board with a military attack on Iran.

The people of Iran are extremely dissatisfied with the leadership of their country. The economy is on a constant downfall, Iran’s regional adventures have isolated the country from the West, and now sabre-rattling with Washington has increased the threat of war. But the Iranian people don’t want their country to end up like war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, much less to see civil wars like the ones in Syria or Libya.

American hawks should bear the interests of everyday Iranians in mind as they attempt to further their agendas. (© Washington Post)

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