Military Action Against Iran Would Be Disastrous For The Region

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Young Academic Features Editor Robert Gant reports on how the West is hurtling towards disaster as Iran test fires missiles in Gulf. This is the student news portal’s first enthralling opinion piece of 2012 and there will be plenty more where this came from, make sure you follow our RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss a thing…

As tensions between the West and Iran reach new levels, the failure of the West’s policy concerning Iran becomes ever clearer. The policy of imposing international economic sanctions on Iran has failed.

Economic sanctions are designed to damage a country so sufficiently that either its leaders (in this case Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) lose power or make the country’s leaders change course on the action or policy in question. The action or policy in question is of course Iran’s nuclear programme and its alleged nuclear weapons development.

American and EU led sanctions have achieved neither of these things. Sanctions by their very nature create a siege economy which allows a leader to use nationalistic rhetoric to rally support. In effect it doesn’t allow for an intellectual opposition to develop and progress against the leader. It can be, and has been in the case of Iran, counterproductive.

Whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons and whether it would be right to do so are huge arguments in themselves. As a nation surrounded by hostile countries, nuclear armed nations and American military bases and allies it should hardly come as a surprise if they are trying to develop a nuclear deterrent.

However, the West and Israel have decided this to be unacceptable and as the sanctions imposed so far have failed to make Iran relinquish its nuclear programme, the ante is being upped, considerably.

Talks of military intervention from Israel are nothing new. In fact it would be shocking if members of the Israeli government weren’t threatening to attack one of her neighbours at any given time. Israel is in danger of becoming a state that cannot function without the threat of war or indeed a war itself.

More alarming are the noises coming out of Washington and London in which they declare they are planning for a military strike against Iran and that ‘the military option is on the table’.

As the West threatened to impose sanctions on Iranian crude oil, the life blood of the Iranian economy, a military conflict started to look increasingly more likely. First Iran threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, a small straight in the Gulf in which 20% of the world’s oil exports travel through, if those sanctions were imposed.

The US Navy’s 5th Fleet responded by saying it would not allow Iran to block the Strait of Hormuz under any circumstances. Iran responded with military exercises in the Gulf, test firing various missiles in a show of military strength.

Today it has gone a step further by telling the US Navy’s 5th Fleet that it is not welcome to return back into the Gulf now Iranian military manoeuvres have finished. The world watches on as the US and her allies, and Iran play a dangerous game of military chicken that could end in absolute disaster for the wider region and would send world oil prices through the roof.

Covert military action has already begun. American and Israeli intelligence are believed to be behind a number of assassinations of key nuclear scientists working for the Iranian regime. If Benjamin Netanyahu , Barrack Obama and David Cameron take less covert, more conventional military action then we will watch a region on the brink go up in flames.

Iran is a completely different beast to Iraq was under Saddam Hussein. A pre-emptive strike on Iran would lead to an immediate response. Iranian missiles would rain down on Israel and American bases in the region. Hezbollah in Lebanon would no doubt fight for Iran by attacking Israel. Iran funds and arms the movement to further serve Iran’s interests in region and would expect that kind of loyalty in return.

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups also would be likely to take the opportunity to fire missiles into Israel, meaning Israel would be under attack from at least three sides. While the military impact may not be huge, the risk to Israeli civilian life would be very high.

How the other main powers in the region would react is less certain. Turkey would be far from happy about an attack on Iran and would likely not allow the US to use Turkish bases or airspace as a launch point.

Iraq is led by a Shia government which is now influenced more by Tehran than by Washington. However the only thing a Western attack on Iran is likely to do for Iraq is heighten the sectarian Sunni-Shia tensions and lead to further bloodshed on the Iraqi streets.

The situation in Syria means it is totally unpredictable how Iran’s main regional ally would respond in such a scenario. President Bashar al-Assad may try and use such an event to unite his people against a common enemy, Israel. A chance to instigate border skirmishes around the Golan Heights might distract Syrians from the protests and upheaval the country has witnessed over the last 9 months.

It is also equally unpredictable how Egypt would react in the event of a strike against Iran. Once an ally to America and a stable peace partner for Israel, things are less certain since the Arab Spring removed Hosni Mubarak from power. With the Muslim Brotherhood looking certain to gain a large majority in the parliamentary elections and the military still desperate to maintain power and influence in the country, Egypt is no longer the reliable, stable partner Israel has grown used to.

With so many flashpoints in the region and so many unpredictable results of a strike against Iran, the West is hurtling towards a disaster in the Middle East.

Common sense must prevail and a diplomatic solution must be reached. However, while ever both sides are stepping up the rhetoric and flexing their military muscles, anything other than conflict starts to look less and less likely.

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