Despite escalating tensions it appears that full-blown conflict between the US and Iran has been averted, even if only temporarily
But the fallout from the reckless assassination of General Qassem Soleimani has taken on a familiar shape. In the US, the parallels with the tub-thumping that preceded the eventual 2003 invasion of Iraq are horrifyingly eerie: lies and concoctions
from the administration; mealy-mouthed passivity
from leading Democrats; and a compliant and process-obsessed media that manufactures consent in the knowledge that nothing sells like a war.
That this potential conflict is one entirely of the United States’ own making is undeniable. From tearing up Obama’s nuclear deal to Trump’s constant provocations on social media, the administration has been spoiling for a fight since Donald stepped foot in the Oval Office.
The United States’ framing of Iran as public enemy number is politically useful to the Republicans, and to a lesser extent the Democrats, but the murder of Soleimani, a hero to the Iranian people, seems especially unnecessary when you remember that it was only recently that he and the United States worked together
to defeat ISIS.
A war with Iran would of course be catastrophic. At best it would drag the US and the West into another costly military mire; at worst it could trigger a global conflict
and plunge the world into an economic slump.
Given this you would hope that our prime minister would call for cooler heads to prevail and a deescalation of tensions. But no. Morrison has come out in support of Trump, committing Australia to playing “whatever constructive role we can
”, signalling a departure from comments in September last year when he seemed to distance himself
from the US president’s aggressive posturing.
It’s actually a fairly predictable response when you think about it. Nothing gets a weak leader more excited than the prospect of going to war.
Morrison is reeling from his disastrous performance during the bushfire crisis, bouncing from one faux pas to the next and looking like a leader on borrowed time – quite a come down for a PM who, barely six months ago, won an unwinnable election and forced Labor into a period of deep mourning and reflection.
Fighting “good wars” against “bad guys” is a great way to rebuild authority and exhibit strength and resolve. Take George W. Bush: before 9/11 he was floundering and directionless; his violent campaign of retribution against Bin Laden, the Middle East and the entire religion of Islam gave him purpose and all but guaranteed his re-election in 2004.
Could Morrison, who has form when it comes to demonising groups of people for political ends, see an opportunity to reestablish his leadership credentials with the Iran crisis?
There’s no recent polling on Australians’ attitudes to a potential military conflict with Iran, although national security fears have certainly waned in recent years. The annual Scanlon Foundation national survey
found that in 2019 only two per cent of Australians listed “defence/national security/terrorism” as the most important problem facing the country, down from 10 per cent in 2015.
But with a credulous media doing its bit to position Iran as an existential threat, it might not be too long before the fear begins to kick in and the juices start flowing. Don’t forget that Australians have a tendency to get pretty bullish about wars in the Middle East. In 2003, when the drums were beating for a war against Iraq, Australia was found to be the most pro-war country
in an international poll of 39 nations, with more than two-thirds backing military action.
History shows that our involvement in the Iraq war eventually proved to be unpopular with the public, but that certainly didn’t stop Howard leveraging the increase in terrorist activity and refugee numbers triggered by the war for his own successful political ends
If the US continues to agitate for war against Iran, and Morrison, who has previously sought to harness anti-Muslim sentiment
for electoral purposes, remains politically weak, you can expect to hear drumbeats coming from our own shores before too long.
in Rolling Stone
explains what more we can expect from Iran in response to the assassination of General Soleimani, including the country’s asymmetric capabilities, while this analysis
by Christopher Warren lays out the likely climate impacts of a US-Iran conflict.