U.S. military spending rose 4.6% in 2018 to reach $649 billion, making it by far the world’s biggest investor in death.
President Trump has to find ways to justify this excess. He has set his sights on Iran. China is out of the question, so that’s become a trade war. Russia is in the grip of Stalin’s heir and Trump is looking the other way with occasional mealy-mouthed warnings over Ukraine, Venezuela, and Syria. Saudi Arabia blotted its copybook with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but Trump despises investigative journalists and the Saudis are buying 70% of their weapons from the USA, so who cares?
In “By punishing Iran, Trump risks a full-scale war between our two countries” (The Guardian, 22 July 2019), former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami criticizes the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which violates UN security council resolution 2231, and the ongoing imposition of severe economic sanctions on the Iranian people.
“Today, the Middle East once again faces a crisis not of its own making; a crisis which was both unnecessary and avoidable. It doesn’t have to be this way, and escalating tensions can still be defused. Cool heads must prevail if the region is not going to find itself dragged into yet another violent maelstrom. This cycle of imperious unilateralism and the substitution of military solutions for political ones must stop, and the US administration must respect its international obligations by choosing dialogue over coercive diplomacy and threats of war.”
Khatami might be accused of bias or of playing both ends against the middle to engineer a sympathy vote against Trump. On the other hand, Khatami is a scholar of political philosophy and he is democratically minded in a country hobbled by extreme hard-line elements. Khatami was responsible for the United Nations’ 2001 call for dialogue among civilizations “to avoid violence through better articulation of differing ideas, visions and aspirations.”
The idea of a dialogue among civilizations is powerful, as long as it it takes place on an equal footing. Iran’s image is still tarnished by the atrocities of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the later Iran-Iraq war, its involvement in the Syrian Civil War and in Yemen. And then there is its nuclear program, subject to all kinds of suspicion and hearsay yet certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in February 2019 as abiding by the main terms of the 2015 international Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Today, the U.S. and Russia each deploy roughly 1,400 strategic warheads on several hundred bombers and missiles and both are modernizing their nuclear delivery systems. China, India, and Pakistan are pursuing new ballistic missile, cruise missile, and sea-based nuclear delivery systems. Pakistan has also lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use by developing tactical nuclear weapons capabilities to counter perceived Indian conventional military threats and North Korea is continuing its nuclear ambitions in violation of its earlier denuclearization pledges.
Collectively, these actions pose far greater threats to the survival of humanity – on a par with the current climate emergency. Iran must not retaliate to the many provocations coming its way but talk openly and sensibly with anyone who will listen. Unfortunately, the bizarre election of Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister has now muddied the waters. He is a sycophant of Trump and likely to flatter the U.S. administration by endorsing threats against Iran. Saner voices in Europe must prevail.