America, Middle East and the challenges ahead

Reuters photo



Abdulyassar Abdulhamid



From our experience of the twentieth century, argued Jon B. Alterman in his “The Age of Proxy Wars”, basing his argument on the recent happenings in Syria wherein major regional and global powers resolved to define the future of a country, we have learned a lot about proxy wars. One is how it nurtures extremism (depending on how one gives meaning to it), as the leading parties are not in most cases affected directly by the consequences of the wars. This is evident in how the United States and Russia, each backed by its allies, are shaping the destiny of Syrians today.


The multi-faceted Syrian civil war – which started about seven years ago as a peaceful uprising when pro-democratic demonstrations erupted in March 2011 in the city of Deraa – inspired by Arab uprisings that destabilized the governments in some countries and on which Barack Obama capitalized to depose American perceived foes in the region – has reached a very critical stage. On 10th May, 2018, Israel launched its most extensive attack on Iranian army camps. The bombardment, the first of its kind, was in response to what the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) allegedly termed the first Iranian rocket attack on its army in Golan Heights, which has brought the two mortal enemies to the brink of war. The question is: why is the war heading in another direction?


It came as no surprise to us that Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday 8th May, originally signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, calling it “decaying” and “defective at its core”, knowing fully how dangerous the pendulum of proxy war is swung by world major powers, namely; the US and Russia in Syria these days.


The Iran nuclear deal was forged between Iran and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and the European Union that shortens Iran’s right to refine “nuclear fuel and requires that the nuclear programme be put only to peaceful usages”, instead of the production of weapons of mass destruction, as Asli Bali and Aziz Rana argued. However, the deal may slow down Iran’s progress towards its goal, but in his “Iran Nuclear Deal Will Haunt the Middle East,” Luke Coffey believes that Iran may be the significant threat in the region maybe because it has snuck into Iraq, Yemen and now Syria.


Many analysts have called the US’s decision a “profound mistake” as Joe Biden has written – taking into consideration “the years the deal has taken”, strenuous diplomacy involved, and soft-landing it enjoyed from the international communities.


A critical look at the whole saga will lead one to a sudden shift in Trump’s stand from an indecisive candidate who believed then that it was “very hard to decide” on the destiny of the deal to a die-hard anti-Iranian nuclear deal to support Benjamin Netanyahu and the hard-line Israel side of the Middle East “peace negotiations”, if it may be called one, as Anthony Zurcher phrased it, you know a proxy war is secret war that hardly exposes the intentions and the parties involved.


Two gaps need to be filled to understand where the world is heading, whether to a cul-de-sac that will never allow the globe to swell or open-endedness that will serve as a springboard to the emergence of other “authoritarian states”, perhaps Russia and China. This will be determined by the fate of the impoverished United Nations and relationship between America, multilateral cooperation and international constraints.


For one, by finally cutting down its funding, which will be slashed by over $28 million, America is gradually giving the United Nations a coup de grace (blow of mercy to wrench out the remaining growl it possesses). This reduction would also be applied to the United States’ management of internal security. Beyond the surface are devastating consequences. Such reduction will weaken vital counter-terrorism missions, peacekeeping, humanitarian, health and different development programmes at this trying time when global problems of both security and stability are worsening. America’s decision will have catastrophic consequences on many lives – consider the recent outbreak of cholera and chemical attacks that left more than 80 people dead in Syria and the fresh outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo and what will happen if America finally ditches its humanitarian aid.


Reports have it that the health security team Ziemer was leading in Congo has left, which is a clear indication that the US is underprepared for any pandemic. Whether the approach will bode well is a topic for another day. Although there are debates on Russia and China taking over the responsibilities when the US finally decides to shake it off, the claim needs the test of time to be proven true.


Two, there are too many contradictions in the US’s authoritarian relationship with regards to multilateral ties: The US may have embarked on a mission that would loosen its military muscles and international hegemony by going against some of the policies it once preached such as principals of declaration of independence: self-governance, universal equality and personal liberty, as many commentators predict. However those commentators need to rethink what the aftereffect would be of this twisted knot of war – whether Iran deserves the kid-glove treatment or not due to the threat it poses in the region is evident in its direct involvement in the Syrian war.


This argument can also be built on the idea that America lacks the required respect for international ties, treaties, whatever. The Bush administration’s military enterprise in Iraq and Afghanistan that sidelined the international order, Obama’s military intervention in Libya, by hiding behind the curtain of counter-terrorism operation and now Trump is aiming to overshadow these American signature achievements by opening more frontiers of war, are the cases in point.


One can also reason with the argument that Trump is aiming to kill two birds with one stone: one, he wants to obliterate the footsteps of his predecessors’ signature achievements which were built upon wars by creating new wars. Both Bush and Obama have carved niches for themselves in the American tradition of building statues upon wars. While Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 based on an allegation that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction that was later proved to be blatant lies, Obama spearheaded the military intervention in Libya in 2011 under the guise of saving the lives of peaceful, pro-democracy protestors who found themselves under the thorny shoes of the then Muammar Al-Qaddafi.


Ultimately, by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic and defense correspondent wrote, Trump is clearing ways for a new “and catastrophic regional war in the weakened and battle-destroyed Middle East.” The danger, in the final analysis, is not overestimating the risk of war by Trump’s action; but underestimating its consequences on the region.


Trump’s recent decision is signaling the “Final death throes of U.S global leadership”, hence the end of America’s century-long dictatorship in the world and the rise of possibly two super powers, namely, China and Russia, wrote Asli U. Bali. True or not, time will tell. But for sure Trump’s worldview of “America First” will not augur well for the international collaboration required for global security and health; and it cast doubt on Trump’s top priority of making America stronger and safer.





Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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