Dangerous games in the Gulf

THE more things change in the Middle East, the more they seem to remain the same. As if tensions in the world’s most volatile region weren’t high enough, the United States has decided to “upgrade” its military presence in the Gulf. Washington is deploying new defences against possible Iranian missile attacks by placing battle ships off the Iranian coast and anti-missile systems in at least four Gulf countries. It goes without saying that the ostensible provocation and justification for the US moves is the increasingly hawkish posturing and rhetoric of the Iranian regime and the apparent threat potential to America’s allies in the region. However, you do not have to be a genius to know that the real reason behind the US actions against Iran is Israeli pressure on the Obama administration. Tel Aviv has never really kept its designs against Iran and its nuclear ambitions a secret. Of late, with an increasingly belligerent regime in power in Israel, an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations looks like an increasing possibility.

So maybe the Obama administration is trying to send the message to both Iran and Israel that Washington means business and takes the so-called threat from Teheran seriously. For this dangerous situation, Iran has to blame no one but itself. Whether its nuclear programme is peaceful or not, its jingoistic rhetoric and confrontational posturing have provided the Western powers with a perfect excuse to increase their involvement and presence in the region. Teheran may be entitled to nuclear power under the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). However, with its aggressive approach to acquiring it, it has isolated itself internationally and alienated itself from its Arab neighbours.

Maybe all this was deliberate and calculated. With their shenanigans, Iran’s leaders might have been looking to bolster their constituency at home. Whatever the explanation, the Middle East finds itself one more step closer to the precipice, with the big boys joining the dangerous game of brinkmanship. That all this should happen under President Barack Obama, the man who promised a “new way forward with the Muslim world” and won a clear mandate for change from the divisive policies of his predecessor, is deeply ironic and tragic.

The anti-war president is ending up pouring in billions of dollars to bring the latest in military hardware and fearsome weapons to a region that is already too hot for comfort. Who cares if it sparks another arms race in the Middle East, which already has enough weapons to blow it up several times over? A region that is extremely backward despite its riches and oil billions. This is a huge victory for the powerful military establishment in the US and lobbies and special interests that President Obama promised to fight soon after walking into the White House. More important, this is a victory of Israel and its powerful friends in the US. When Obama took over, Palestinians and Arabs had hoped and dreamt of finally getting justice. It seems that dream is already over. Instead of falling in line and giving Palestinians what little remains of their land, Israel is making Obama dance to its tunes.

—KT

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