If this is the start of the third world war, as some quivering liberal commentators seem to believe, then my suspicion is that it will be over quite quickly, such is the majestic impotence of our opponents.
I realize it is unwise to underestimate one’s enemy, but come on. In the immediate aftermath of the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, a couple of cheap rockets were lobbed in the direction of the US embassy in Baghdad — they missed, succeeding only in causing a handful of casualties including, presumably, similarly foam-flecked anti-American residents, i.e. people on their own side. A day or two later at least 50 people were killed attending Soleimani’s funeral in the Iranian city of Kerman, crushed to death while expressing their manifest grief and also their perpetual fury at the Americans. Then a fusillade of more cheap rockets. No American casualties, apparently. The death toll in world war three so far then is 56-0.
The problem for the other side is that they are only slightly more interested in killing other people (usually Sunni Muslims, of course) than they are in killing themselves. Leave them alone for a few moments and they will either blow themselves up or congregate together in a suffocating enraged horde, resulting in mass slaughter. It is all very well to try to frighten the infidel by insisting ‘we do not fear death as you do!’; it is another thing entirely to embrace death as an attractive lifestyle choice, much as westerners take up golf or go vegan for January.
Meanwhile, we await the Iranian government’s independent inquiry into the funeral debacle. I saw no stewards in luminous yellow jerkins; still less of proper ticketing procedures and clearly marked directions for exit and entry. If the Iranians are going to make a fist of World War Three they really need to up their game a bit. And if I were working in one of Iran’s uranium enrichment plants I’d book a bit of time off work, sharpish, because my guess is that’s where the next missile will fall.
Incidentally, those liberal commentators — including all opposition politicians over here and the Democrats in the US — were at a loss when asked how Iran will respond, how it will hurt us all. What, exactly, can it — and its repulsive allies in Hezbollah and the rest — do? Sponsor more cowardly terrorism, one supposes — which will come as a pleasant change, no?
I am not sure if the assassination of old Qasem, who had a marked resemblance to George Clooney, will make the world a safer place or a slightly less safe place. I suspect the call is marginal and in any case I am neutral, finding little to distinguish between the nutters of Iran and the nutters of Saudi Arabia, even if the Saudis are our savages. But at least Donald Trump’s reflexive flinging of a missile was motivated by pragmatism — a wish to rid the world of a murderous sponsor of terrorism — rather than by the sort of boneheaded evangelism which underlay the invasion of Iraq and our tacit support for those ‘Arab Springs’ (which all turned out so well, didn’t they?). As such, Trump does not need a ‘strategy’ at all, even if the same commentators insist he must.
It seems more likely to me that the killing of Soleimani was strategic only in a domestic sense. Trump knew precisely how the Democrats would react, much as I knew exactly how British shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry would react, i.e. with hand-wringing, hypocrisy, idiocy and denunciation. The American public in election year, then, has to choose between an administration which acts quickly and successfully to extinguish threats to its country and its servicemen, and a bunch of challengers who can easily be portrayed as utterly averse to the US taking any action to protect itself and its interests. A satirical publication, the Babylon Bee, suggested Democrat candidates had demanded that flags be flown at half-mast to commemorate the death of Soleimani. It was, fairly obviously, a joke. And yet it gained a lot of traction on social media, especially in the US, precisely because that is the sort of thing one could imagine coming from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who once denounced cauliflowers as being agents of colonialism, the almost senile Bernie Sanders or the anti-Semitic congresswoman, Ilhan Omar. Fake news — but fake news which one could conceivably believe, because it rang true.
The problem for the left, then, is two-fold. First, it is utterly devoid of patriotism, thinking it the last refuge of a fascist, whereas the left’s voter base tends to have a certain love for its country and its history and traditions, as we perhaps saw in our own general election. Second, the left always tends to give Islamic countries a free pass, for a whole bunch of confused and convoluted reasons. It will scream its little heart out if western countries (or, of course, Russia) contravene any one of a myriad of LGBTQI shibboleths, but take no notice when homosexuals are hanged from a crane in Tehran, have their heads chopped off in Riyadh or are subjected to Quranical denunciation from a mosque in, say, Birmingham.
I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of the population, either in the UK or US, does not go along with this kind of airheaded doublethink. Nor do they share the leftish view that Iran and the US or UK are either equivalent as nation states in their capacity to do bad things, or indeed, for the Corbynista-Cortez left, think that Iran is superior because it has suffered colonial interference and has been reviled simply because of western Islamophobia. They see Iran, rightly, as a foul and despotic theocracy which sponsors terrorism and is antithetical to our world view, our culture, our religion and our interests. The most important consequence of the assassination of Soleimani is likely to be four more years of Donald Trump.