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Intervention in Iran Would be Just Another Black Spot on our Middle Eastern Record

Member Views is a series of opinion pieces written by Blue Beyond members.

The US assassination of General Qasam Soleimani has pinned the eyes of the world once again on the Middle East, this time in Iran. With the country promising revenge attacks and Donald Trump assuring the regime that the US will destroy 52 cultural targets as retaliation itself, it looks like we are on our way towards another war in the Middle East. While it may be complicated at this point to prevent America from going into the region, that does not mean though that we have to follow. I am confident that if America goes into Iran, and we were to provide support, in good time, our intervention will be shown as unjust and counterproductive in the years to come. Therefore, we must avoid assisting America on this occasion.

Before I properly jump into my argument, I would like to address some of the points made by fellow Beyonder, and fellow Luke at that, Mr. Luke George, in his article for why we should assist the US. In his piece, Luke focuses mainly on the fact that Soleimani was a totalitarian, evil figure whose death I should lose no sleep over (for everyone’s information, I won’t be). He also argues that the Iranian regime has supported figures such as Assad in Syria, has a heinous domestic policy for its treatment of women and members of the LGBT community, and that opting for de-escalation, which I have advocated for, is not an option.

I do not deny that General Soleimani was a nasty piece of work. While I confess I did not know about him before his assassination, research has quickly clued me up as to what atrocities he committed throughout his military career. I also do not deny that Iran’s treatment of women and minority groups is genuinely atrocious. However, Luke’s argument has one major flaw: it focuses, as many Western governments have done with the Middle East before, too much on what is happening before the invasion, and not what might happen afterward. Yes, it would be preferable if these dictatorial governments could be removed, but the West has a historical problem of not answering the question of what they would do after. It is this fear that the region could be left in an even worse state and that thus, history will repeat itself, which is partly preventing me from supporting following America into Iran.

While this is the central part of the picture for me, it must also be acknowledged that the state the country will be left in is only part of the issue. Intervention would be totally unjust under the Just War principles, used by the United Nations to decide if going to war is justified, and probably the most important thing so far I have taken away from my War Studies and History degree. Under these principles, you must have: ‘Just Cause’, your actions must have the ‘Right Intention’, waging war must be authorised by ‘Competent Authority’, it should be the ‘Last Resort’, and the ‘Probability’ of doing good should be higher than doing harm. Against this immeasurably important criteria, America’s case simply does not stand.

Donald Trump, and many others who support going to war with Iran, claim the drone strike on General Soleimani was carried out because he had already killed thousands of Americans, and intelligence suggested he was planning to kill many more. Now, for me, assassination based on the grounds that it would prevent the loss of more life is normally acceptable by itself, but the fact that those flocking to Trump’s aid focus more on the past actions of the Iraqi military leader, rather than what he was going to do, says to me that the assassination was more of a retaliatory measure than one used to prevent bloodshed. This does not help America’s case in the ‘Just Cause’ category for intervention, as it suggests that intervention would mainly be fuelled by a desire to bring down the regime rather than a desire to protect life. This also immediately fails America in the ‘Right Intention’ clause, as we then know their actions in Iran would not be carried out for the sole purpose of protecting the lives of the Iraqi people.

Next, we move on to ‘Competent Authority.’ Under Just War Theory, any intervention must be waged by duly constituted public authorities, such as NATO. It was the United Nations Security Council that authorised for NATO to intervene in Libya, and it was Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary-General, who said in 2004 that the Iraq War had been carried out illegally by the UK as the Security Council had not voted for intervention. Donald Trump, similarly to Tony Blair at the time, does not have authorisation from the United Nations to go into Iran. The current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement yesterday asking for de-escalation and a return to dialogue, so I doubt that Trump will be getting authorisation from the UN anytime soon. In this sense, we must also consider if military intervention is the ‘Last Resort.’ Is it? On this one, I am more dubious. Sanctions haven’t worked to quell Iran, and I have never been too keen on the idea of talking to groups such as ISIS. Still, it is the view of the wider international community that dialogue should first be attempted before considering moving more down the path to military engagement.

Finally, we come back to what I mentioned when countering Luke Graham’s argument: we must consider the ‘Probability’ of doing more good than harm in the region. I, for one, am entirely confident, given America’s inability to meet the ‘Just Cause’ and ‘Right Intention’ clauses on this occasion, that they would allow history to repeat itself. Trump and his administration do not care about the mess they will leave behind, only bringing down the regime to show America’s strength. This would then mean only one thing: Iran being left in a worse state after intervention than before. Militias will fight over territory, the transitional government that will no doubt be implemented will not have the resources nor necessary support to take control of the region, and the increased hatred for Western nations will only lead to more terrorism being conducted by Islamic extremists.

America is completely unjustified in going to war with Iran. The country fails to meet all of the criteria for a Just War under the conditions laid out by the United Nations. This fact should be understood and spread far and wide for all to hear. I fear that America, always happy to exert its military hegemony, will disregard the fact that it has almost no right to intervene in Iran and will go to war anyway. But knowing that it is unjustified in doing so, should be enough for Britain to say it will not be offering its support to its neighbour, and if not that, at least remain neutral in this conflict.

If we assist with intervention, it will be something this government will gravely regret.

Luke Stewart