unforeseen consequences

Image: Elyeser Szturm

Since Khomeini took office in 1979, there have been 40 years of hostilities through third parties, between the United States and Iran. Donald Trump broke with that by authorizing the drone strike that killed Iran's military brain

By Luiz Carlos Azenha*

Every US military decision follows, more or less, the political objectives of the current occupant of the White House. Jimmy Carter became a one-term president when a military operation intended to rescue Americans held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979 failed.

There is a line that unites Khomeini, a Shiite religious authority, with President Mohammed Mossadegh, a doctor of law who nationalized Iranian oil and was overthrown by the CIA in 1954, in a coup that had strong British support. Although from different backgrounds, both defended Iran's sovereignty, something unacceptable in the eyes of the United States dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

Since Khomeini took office in 1979, there have been 40 years of hostilities. by proxy, that is, through third parties, between the United States and Iran. Donald Trump broke with this by authorizing the drone strike that killed Iran's military mastermind, Qassem Soleimani, who had landed in Baghdad from Syria. For nearly 30 years, as leader of an elite Revolutionary Guard force, Soleimani militarily articulated Iran's regional interests in the Middle East.

The Persians have always had influence beyond their own borders, given the fact that they are major producers and exporters of oil, but Iran has a special role: it is the guardian of Shia Muslims, who are a population minority and suffer strong repression from Sunni majorities in countries like Saudi Arabia.

That was the case in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which articulated secular Arab nationalism and ruled the Shiites with an iron fist. Ironically, Saddam would later be overthrown precisely for exercising Iraqi nationalism beyond its borders. The United States and the West used Saddam to “contain” Khomeini in the 1980s, in the bloody Iran-Iraq war that devastated both countries.

Saddam seized the initiative, but was almost defeated by waves of infantry orchestrated by Iran. Because of the war effort, Iran developed the short and medium range missiles that hit Baghdad and forced Saddam to accept the end of the war. The United States provided the strategic intelligence that prevented Saddam's defeat, as well as weaponry. They gave the Iraqi leader a green card to stop the Iranian infantry with chemical weapons that they later hypocritically condemned.

Saddam, a believer that the West owed him a debt, understood that he had personally received authorization to occupy Kuwait from Donald Rumsfeld, at the time in the service of President George Bush Senior. With an eye on his own re-election, which he did not obtain, Bush Sr. articulated an international coalition to expel Saddam from Kuwait, but decided to keep him weakened in power precisely to maintain regional balance. A balance that would be broken by George W. Bush, allegedly to avenge an assassination attempt that Saddam organized against Bush senior.

As soon as the Twin Towers fell in September 2001, the US did not turn against Saudi Arabia, the origin of Osama bin Laden and most of the suicide bombers who promoted the attacks. With all sorts of lies, including the biggest one about false weapons of mass destruction, the United States occupied Iraq, with disastrous consequences for the region.

Millions of Iraqis have fled to Syria and Jordan, exporting instability. The roses with which US soldiers would have been greeted never appeared. Instead, Iraqi nationalists rebelled, inflicting heavy human and economic losses on the United States and creating a power vacuum where the Islamic State flourished. The obvious consequence of this disaster was the increase, not the decrease, of Iran's regional power, which deepened the division between Sunni and Shia elites, especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Soleimani's head has been at a premium for decades. However, Donald Trump had a special reason to attack it: the elections of November 03, 2020. Cornered by the Democrats, Trump needs the vote of independent voters — men, whites, lower middle class — who are for the United States as the PSD stood for Brazilian politics. They are in the minority, but they form the decisive pendulum of the Electoral College in industrial states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, for example.

They are voters who respond to Trump's patriotic appeals, as they direct their class resentment at an elite that would be responsible for the relative decay of the United States in the world - the East Coast elite that Trump claims to despise, even though he is part of it as "new money". ”, but despicable from casinos. As this relative decay of the United States is a given of reality, Trump's chances of being re-elected have always been reasonable.

Trump hopes that the instinct of self-preservation will temper the Iranian authorities' response to the killing of Soleimani, but Shias around the world will, overnight, be called upon by clerics to avenge the blood of their military leader. Once again, we are under the Law of Unforeseen or Unintended Consequences in international politics.

Iraq does not have the strength or disposition for a new confrontation with Iran at the service of the United States. Any military confrontation will pass through Saudi Arabia, where the United States has been bolstering its military presence in recent months. The impact on the international oil price will be immediate, with devastating effects on the already reeling world economy.

It is possible that Trump is indeed the great short-term beneficiary of the more or less open conflict with Iran. However, if he is re-elected, he himself will be sitting on the time bomb he set, especially if the price of oil triggers a new global recession.

And for Brazilians, what are the consequences?

Under current circumstances, Petrobras shareholders will be able to make a large profit, but consumers will be subject to the risk of paying, with luck, 6 reais per liter of gasoline at the pump.

*Luiz Carlos Azenha is a journalist

Article originally published on the website Viomundo

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