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The Coming War

Thursday 26 June 2008, by Aijaz Zaka Syed

Israel and its friends are threatening to attack Iran even though IAEA’s ElBaradei insists Iran’s nuclear programme is not ’a current, grave and urgent danger.’

History, language and culture might separate Iran from the rest of the Middle East. But physically and geographically, the Arab world and Iran are very close — closer than they might like to think.

When the last big temblor hit the Islamic republic, flattening the ancient city of Bam and killing 26,000 people in December 2003, we in the UAE and Gulf felt the tremors.

Which is why amid all this talk of the coming war on Iran, one often wonders what would happen if the US and Israel indeed went ahead and attacked the Islamic republic, as they appear all set to do now. What would happen to the constantly changing skyline of Dubai, the UAE and rest of the Gulf?

Taking a leaf out of Dubai’s book and aided by oil money, of late just about every country in the region has been unveiling real estate projects and investment initiatives worth billions of dollars on a daily basis.

What happens to all those projects and development plans, if there’s a war in the Gulf?

Common sense tells you that at a time when the US is already neck-deep in two disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is not likely to open another front in Iran. Especially when it’s doing so miserably on both fronts.

And particularly when the US economy and the world economy are in such a mess and oil prices are shooting sky-high. Besides, there are less than six months before this born-again president leaves the White House.

This is why the idea of an attack on Iran seems so utterly absurd and downright stupid. This is totally illegal too. Because, according to nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, every signatory state has a right to peaceful nuclear power. And uranium enrichment is part of this right.

Which is why even these sanctions – three rounds of them — that the EU and US have imposed on Teheran are illegal too. These sanctions have been inflicted on Iran despite the fact that it has taken every step of its nuclear programme under the watchful eyes and cameras of the IAEA.

And now Israel and its friends in the West are threatening to attack Iran even though IAEA’s ElBaradei insists that its nuclear programme is NOT “a current, grave and urgent danger.”

Why even America’s own National Intelligence Estimate in December last year categorically concluded that Iran is NOT developing nuclear weapons and that even if Teheran were seeking nukes, it would take it at least 10 years to develop them!

But then this cowboy president has seldom allowed facts and common sense to interfere with his neocon agenda.

And in case we all forgot, in 2003 the US invasion of Saddam’s Iraq too appeared so improbable. Editorial pundits and think tank wonks assured us then that a war on Iraq was not possible because the US was already fighting a bad war in Afghanistan. And now we are once again being told there an attack on Iran is impossible when the US is spread so thin in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But the people in the Middle East have always taken the threat to Iran more seriously, even when common sense suggested otherwise.

Notwithstanding their relations with the US, the Gulf Arab states are understandably worried about the coming war against Iran. After all, they have so much at stake. There are hundreds of billons of dollars in investments across the region — from the UAE to Qatar to Kuwait and Bahrain.

Bandar Abbas, the all-important Iranian port, is only a stone’s throw away from where we are. The Bushehr nuclear power plant — currently at the heart of Iran’s standoff with the West — strategically located as it is close to the Gulf is not far from Dubai and many booming Gulf capitals and cities.

The consequences of an attack on the Bushehr atomic plant or other strategic installations wouldn’t be limited to Iran; they would be felt by America’s friends and allies in the region.

An attack on Iran — even a limited strike — is a terrible, terrible idea for several reasons:

For one, Iran is not Iraq. It is not the spineless wonder that Saddam’s Iraq had become after two disastrous wars and long years of sanctions. Iranians are a young nation with majority of them born after the 1979 Revolution. Fiercely patriotic and proud of their Persian heritage as well as Islamic identity, the 70-million nation would fight hard to defend every inch of its territory.

For two, an attack on Iran is certain to set the already volatile Middle East and rest of the Muslim world on fire. IAEA’s Mohamed ElBaradei exaggerates not when he warns of the region turning into “a ball of fire” if Iran is attacked.

Although Iran does not have nuclear weapons – at least not yet — it has other ways of retaliating against its enemies. For instance, a dangerously desperate Iran could block the Strait of Hormuz through which much of the world’s oil is routed. Just a few missiles and gunboats can choke off the narrow channel, hitting the precarious oil markets with frightening consequences for our world.

Then there’s the humanitarian cost of this misadventure. Recently, the Oxford Research Group warned that up to 10,000 people could die instantly if Iran’s nuclear installations are bombed. An attack on the Bushehr nuclear reactor could send a radioactive cloud over the Gulf threatening millions of lives.

Last time around when they came for Saddam’s Iraq despite opposition from the UN and endless protests in Western capital, a deafening silence descended on the Arab and Muslim world.

There was not a single voice of protest in the so-called Arab and Muslim street. And their leaders persuaded themselves that perhaps the Baathist dictator after all deserved this disgraceful end. They told themselves, okay, Iraq is different. They convinced themselves this wouldn’t happen again.

And now they are preparing to take out Iran. And they will come again and again to take out everyone who stands up for one’s rights and refuses to surrender to big bullies. The only way to put an end to this terrorism of big powers is for the Muslim world to stand up and say in one voice: “Enough.”

 Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Dubai-based journalist and commentator. He contributed this article to Contact him at: