Published: January 14, 2020
Suleimani was killed! Two Iraqi military bases, hosting international forces, were shelled. A Ukrainian airliner was shot down! Now what?!
A joke going around is that the Indian Prime Minister called President Rouhani demanding an explanation for the Indian-like drama. Another is that the Middle East Final: Turkey vs. Egypt in Libya Stadium. USA vs. Iran in Iraq Stadium. (P.S. The last game is friendly!)
Seriously, what is going on? It is easy to understand the tit for tat match starting from the shelling of US bases and siege of its embassy from one side, and the assassination of Soleimani from the other. After that, the movie becomes just weird: Too much action, too little logic.
For example, why would the Islamic Revolutionary Guards respond to the killing of a general on the battlefield by hitting international forces that fought side by side with Iraq and (supposedly) Iran against Daesh with ballistic missiles carrying blank warheads, after three-day’s advanced warning, only to hit the desert ground around the military bases?
How come Iran moved heaven and earth against the US for violating Iraq’s sovereignty and then did exactly the same by attacking Iraqi bases inside Iraq, hosting invited guests? Besides, wasn’t it Iran’s militias that started the whole episode, by hitting US forces and besieging its embassy?
Then, after the sky-high threats and counter threats, all of a sudden, the rhetoric on both sides was reduced to “enough is enough.” It is like, one day the region was about to explode into a devastating war, and the next, everyone decided to shut up and go home!
Also, how can we understand Iran’s explanation of the shooting of a civilian airliner as a mistake by an individual who had to decide within 10 seconds whether it was a ballistic missile coming at lightening speed toward Tehran, or an innocent, fat and slow airplane taking off and away from the capital’s airport? How could any airlines trust the judgment and professionalism of those people in the future? Let’s not forget that the Iranian government kept insisting for days that it was engine failure that brought down the plane, calling the shooting a “big fat lie” and Western conspiracy.
Surely, there is an explanation for every part of this mind-boggling movie, but certainly not today or tomorrow. So, for the time being, let’s just hope we have reached the End! Or have we?
In my humble judgment, this particular episode is over. The US, Iran and Iraq are back to business as usual - No more escalation. Hezbollah, Alhashad Alsahabi, Hamas and the Houthi are not going to seek revenge for their ringleader. The king is dead, long live the king. The new mafia boss who replaced Suleimani will not change course. The US will increase its maximum economic pressure, but Iran will keep playing dirty. Europe may, at some point, turn around and join US sanctions with more of its own, but unless they get serious about it, they won’t add much value. Half hearted measures are no more effective than shallow political statements.
So, what then? What is the endgame? Iran won’t change unless it changes its imperialistic, revolution exporting constitution, and abandons its ideological projects. Still, they will eventually have to negotiate and compromise -but only if Trump is reelected. Their last hope is pinned on another Obama who will return US policies to the era of containment and appeasement. If not, their economy will collapse, their people will revolt, and they will have to come to the table much weaker.
Till then, unfortunately, life goes on in the Mideast as it has been for the last 40 years with Iran dangerous and risky.
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi