When your enemy fights your battles

By Owei Lakemfa
IN an unprecedented and meaningless step, the United States President Donald Trump this Monday designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organisation. It is like designating the American Marines Corps a terrorist organisation. Some of the implications are that economic and travel sanctions would be imposed on the corps, and organisations that maintain ties with it will be sanctioned. 

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But this does not appear logical because entire Iran is already under comprehensive American sanctions. So Trump’s hope that his latest action “will significantly expand the scope and scale of our (American) maximum pressure on the Iranian regime” appears misplaced.

Iran immediately retaliated by designating America as a state sponsor of terrorism, and all American forces in the Middle East, as terrorists. That means that in any battle both armies meet, the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of  War, will not apply as the soldiers of either country will be considered combatant terrorists.

The possibility of this happening is very high because both countries have their armies in Syria fighting the Islamic State, ISIS, terrorists, and both have their soldiers stationed in Iraq where they support the same government. Currently, the US has 5,800 troops in Iraq while Iran has an unknown number of soldiers and an estimated 150,000 pro-Iranian militia forces, especially under the Popular Mobilisation Forces, PMF. These pro-Iranian forces have been integrated into the official  Iraqi forces.

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Apart from Shiites accounting for about two-thirds of the Iraqi population and the government is mainly Shiite and pro-Iran, Iraq is also the main importer of Iranian goods. Trump’s move on the eve of the Israeli elections might appear to be an attempt to give a boost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election efforts, but it appears more of an impotent act. America has staked a lot to tackle the Iranians, including going against the rest of the world over the nuclear weapons deal, but Iran appears to be gaining in strength. The irony is that Iran’s growing strength is mainly a result of American miscalculations and sacrifices, including in American lives!

For instance, following the February 11,1979 Iranian Revolution that brought to an end the reign of the pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, President Sadam Hussein of Iraq had on September 22, 1980, in a pro-American move, invaded Iran. He hoped to overrun a country he thought was in chaos.

That war lasted eight years with 500,000 killed and over that number injured. In invading Iraq in 2003 under false pretences, and overthrowing Sadam, America forgot the sacrifices of Sadam in invading Iran. It also might not have thought through its actions which could only end in the majority Shiite populace taking over Iran. This came to pass. So in reality, the winner of the Americo-European invasion of Iraq was Iran.

When the Americo-European alliance with the Gulf States established, trained and bankrolled the Islamic State, ISIS, to overthrow the pro-Iranian Syrian government, it did not immediately realise that it was giving birth to a monster. After encouraging European and American Muslim fighters to join ISIS, America turned round to fight ISIS. In the process, it strengthened the pro-Iranian Iraqi government and contributed to defeating the ISIS. Ultimately, victory in Iraq and Syria is a victory for Iran.

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Qatar was a close ally of the US. It is also host to the largest American military base in the Middle East: the Al Udeid Air Base. In June 2017, things began to fall apart for the tiny country when a coalition of Gulf and African Muslim countries, including Jordan and Senegal, severed diplomatic ties with it. Qatar was falsely accused of aiding terrorism.

In 2018, four of the countries: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air embargo on Qatar with the intent of suffocating it. Running out of food, with imports declining by 40 per cent and tourism drying up, a hapless Qatar cried for assistance from big brother America, but the Trump government not only turned its back but also supported the four countries. Qatar’s cries that the embargo and stifling conditions violated international laws, fell on deaf ears.

A suffocating Qatar cried out to other countries for help. Iran wasted no time offering Qatar a breather, including opening its airspace to Qatar Air and its shipping routes to the besieged country. Qatar embraced Iran and restored full diplomatic relations. So Iran is a net beneficiary of the embargo on Qatar.

Turkey was an ally of the Americans in the Syrian Civil War. It supported rebels against the Syrian government which was allied to Iran. It went so far as deliberately using its American F-16 jet fighter on November 24, 2015, to shoot down a Russian Suhhoi Su-24 attack aircraft over Syrian airspace. But Russia and Iran warmed up to Turkey and won it over to the Syrian government side.

Today, the Turks are in alliance with the Russian, Iranian and Syrian governments and are resisting American pressures to drop their decision to purchase Russian S-400 air-defence missiles. Now, Iran’s borders with Turkey can be said to be safe and it is a beneficiary of the on-going Turkey-US spat. The American withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Peace Deal, its renewed sanctions and threats against Iran, have given the latter the excuse to resume its nuclear race.

The contemporary American-Iran ‘wars’ began when the American Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, in 1953 organised the coup which overthrew Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq. In its ‘The Battle for Iran’ documents, published on its archive’s website under freedom of information laws, the CIA confessed: “The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”

The Mosaddeq government had nationalised the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, BP, and Britain appealed to the Eisenhower administration for assistance. It obliged with the coup, codenamed TPAJAX by the CIA and Operation Boot by Britain’s MI6.

America is not likely to get international support even of its NATO allies in designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a terrorist organisation. Also, its insistence that all other countries and organisations, including businesses, must join its sanctions against Iran, would not win it many friends. For instance, it has just forced the Standard Chartered Bank to part with $1billion fine for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran and its allies.

The American foreign policy resembles a nursery school rhyme which sounds like: My enemy is your enemy. My enemy must be your enemy. My enemy shall be your enemy. If my enemy is not your enemy. Then you are my enemy.

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