Despite both sides appearing to ‘stand down’ in January the underlying conditions for a conflict with Iran have not gone away

Mayer Wakefield

Under the cover of night, an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter departs Camp Taji

This week has seen the predictable return of tensions between the West (US and UK) and Iran. On Wednesday, a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps was killed along with two US soldiers at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad. This is significant not just because it is the first time a British serviceperson has been killed by enemy fire since 2014 but also because it draws the British government further in to any potential conflict with Iran.

Despite both sides appearing to ‘stand down’ after January’s unprecedented flash points, the underlying conditions for a conflict with Iran have not gone away and this week’s events are solid proof of that.

Although no one has yet claimed responsibility for the initial incident the Trump administration has sought to pin the blame on Iran and what they call its proxy forces – namely Kata’ib Hizbollah, who have praised the attack. On Friday, the US launched retaliatory strikes against Kata’ib Hizbollah sites in Iraq. The Iraqi military have reported five casualties – three Iraqi soldiers and two policemen – and Defence Secretary, Mark Esper, has not ruled out further strikes on Iranian targets. The UK government has fully backed the retaliation and British planes are rumoured to have taken part in the bombing raids.

The last time tit-for-tat attacks like this occurred it led to the assassination of General Soleimani and brought the world to the brink of a major conflict. The root of this conflict lies in Donald Trump’s sabotage of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Once again, we need to make clear that the British public has no desire to be dragged into a war of Donald Trump’s creation.

These incidents also raise the issue of British troops in Iraq and serve as proof that the presence of Western troops is detrimental to all sides significantly raising the threat of war in the region. 17 years on from Bush and Blair’s disastrous invasion, supposedly intended to liberate Iraq from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein and his stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction, we find that we must continue to demand that all British troops leave the country and all bombing raids cease immediately.

At the height of the crisis in January, following Soleimani’s assassination in Baghdad, the Iraqi parliament voted overwhelmingly to expel all foreign troops from the country. Huge street demonstrations backed up these demands. Since that vote, Iraqi sovereignty has been continually undermined and both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have patronised and threatened the country in equal measure.

Johnson called for “the Iraqi authorities to continue providing the Coalition all the necessary support” just after the vote while his sponsor in the White House was typically gung-ho: “We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” A truly horrific threat considering UN sanctions pushed by the West resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 children in the early 1990’s. This maybe something Trump is unaware of but not something the US was unaware of at the time. Then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “we think the price is worth it.”

Trump’s comments on sanctions demonstrate a president completely out of touch with reality. US sanctions are currently preventing the import of disinfectant and basic medical supplies to Iran, a country being severely hit by a global pandemic. Sanctions can be a tool of war; they kill more slowly and silently without the drama of military shock and awe. Sanctions on Iran must be lifted immediately.

While the Covid-19 outbreak dominates the headlines, the anti-war movement must remain alert to the potential for further conflict with Iran and demand the end to the occupation of Iraq. Further escalations have the potential to endanger millions of lives and the seriousness of this threat must not be underestimated.

13 Mar 2020

Sign Up