By Kalinowski, Tim on January 7, 2020.
Former University of Lethbridge sociologist and Middle East scholar, Abdie Kazemipur, says the decision to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the Trump administration in Iraq represents a dangerous turning point in Western-Middle Eastern relations.
“Using that word ‘assassination’ will go a long way in terms of conveying the context and allowing us to capture the consequences of this,” he says. “Because of the atypical nature of this act, I think it has a lot of unfortunate and unusual consequences. I think in the short term what happens as a consequence of this act is the middle ground is starting to disappear. All the moderate voices normally there to make compromises, and are able to bring different sides together, they get lost.”
While open warfare between and U.S. and Iran is a remote possibility, Kazemipur feels the Iranians may turn to less direct, more “symbolic” means to even the score with the U.S., particularly with the Trump administration.
“They (Iran) will try to kind of package that and sell it to the domestic population as the response that was promised,” says Kazemipur.
Kazemipur says the U.S. has let the genie out of the bottle on the range of responses Iran may take in this current situation – in what, up until now, has been a mostly indirect competition for influence between Iran and the United States in the region.
“I think we should not forget this important fact: that what is happening there is not a legitimate cause fighting against an illegitimate one,” he explains. “It’s basically a competition and conflict over dominance in the region. Both Iranians and Americans are playing this game with the same kind of motivation. The symbolism of this (assassination) event happening in Iraq is basically conveying that message about the ongoing competition between Iranians and Americans on Iraqi lands. Neither of these two parties are being attacked in their own home countries.”
Kazemipur also says neither side has complete legitimacy or support in their domestic politics, with President Trump facing a possible impeachment hearing with less than 50 per cent support at home, and the Iranian regime with a history of human rights violations and the suppression of opposition voices.
“I would say there is a high level of concern amongst all Iranians about the possibility of a war, and all the consequences for the country, for the population and for their families,” Kazemipur says. “But they are divided on who to blame for the source behind this unfortunate situation. There are some who blame the Iranian regime, and some who blame the Americans. I think it would be helpful to keep this fact in mind that whole conflict behind this, and this particular aspect of it, is a competition over power and dominance in the region … Any kind of (attempted) intervention from outside, and any kind of removal of the regime, is not doing it because of the human rights violations. They (in the U.S.) are trying to undermine the power of a competitor, a rival.”
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