Facts don't lie, even though truth, is the first casualty of war. When two or more sides start fighting, one of the first things they do is to lie about their true intention or motivation. Senator William Fulbright in US, who was against the US involvement in Vietnam War, was the first Senator to understand this. Thus, to this very day, one of the most prestigious scholarships, on par with Rhodes and Truman scholars are the Fulbright Scholarships. Many Malaysians and non Malaysians have studied or visited the US as Fulbright Scholars. They stand for mutual understanding and peace.
The recent decapitation of the top leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Army Guards (IRAG), otherwise known in Iran as Al Quds, to give them the semblance of trying to reclaim Jerusalem or Baitul Muqaddis, is indeed a risky and dangerous act of aggression by President Donald Trump, granted that he is the US Commander in Chief that gave Pentagon the green light to kill Soleimani, and his Deputy, and the Deputy of Hizballah, a militia that has grown into some 800 off shoots in and across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Due to the popular standing of Al Soleimani, who enjoys a popularity standing of up to 80 per cent in Iran -- if not 95 per cent now, since he has been celebrated in Iran as a martyr -- the clerics and Al Quds have vowed 300 revenges.
No one know how's how the Shia wing in Iran, formed of Ayatollah Ali Khameinei, and President Rouhani and Al Quds, agreed on the 300 revenges as a fair retaliation.
But that number has become the sound bite of the Iranian and Western media, which means there will indeed be some mortars landing in US embassy, also known as the Green Zone in Baghdad, or, bases in Kirkuk in Iraq. True enough, such tit-for-tat has begun.
But for those trying to decipher if this is a start of another World War, they should be more careful in understanding the context. To begin with, the US has been watching Iran's actions since the days of President Barack Obama. Despite Iran supporting President Bashar Assad, who launched not one, but several chemical war fare against his own people, the US has proceeded on the side of caution by signing the Joint Comprehensive Points of Agreement (JCPOA). The goal was to denuclearize Iran militarily, which to the credit of Iran, it agreed and adhered to until the recent act of aggression by the narcissistic US President Trump.
But when President Trump's team noticed that some 800 Hizballah remain active across MENA, fomenting conflicts, sustaining them, and trying to ensure that evil regimes like Syria remain in power —- leading to the prolonged war between Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) against the Houthis in Yemen -- the US unilaterally decided to withdraw from JCPOA in 2017, to the horror and angst of many including their NATO allies.
Slighted and angered by the US withdrawal of JCPOA, which means US and global economic sanctions would continue indefinitely in Iran, President Rouhani, Ayatollah Khamenei, and Al Quds have tried to make sure that the US is punished for reneging on the agreement; which European Union (EU), incidentally, is still supporting, as European statecraft has never truly seen Hizballah or it's 800 militias as a threat, as opposed to the administration of President Donald Trump; for that matter the son in law of President Donald Trump, the Zionists-Israeli friendly Jared Kushner who is supposed to be the point man of the White House on the Middle East.
In the days and weeks ahead, the prices of Brent Crude oil will reflect these confusions and tensions, which is why the price of oil per barrel will hover from USD 68 to USD 70 before dropping down, and potentially going up again. Stock markets across the world has also seen sharp dive albeit possible rebound as Iran so far had been limited in its retaliations to US military targets only. It also issued a statement that there will be no further retaliations if the US stop its unilateral aggression.
To commentators in CNN like Fareed Zakaria, who has a PhD in Government, from Harvard University, what President Donald Trump did is the near equivalent of a "stupid" fumble. Just as China is growing economically to dominate all ten strategic industries of the world by 2045, consequently to become number 1 in all ten sectors, ranging from digital commerce to space based satellite preponderance, the US is bumbling yet into another conflict, this time with Iran or Persia.
But then again, this aggression has consolidated the voters base of Trump too. And, with an impeachment trial hanging over his head, President Donald Trump has to make the US all hyper nationalistic too. And the best way to do it is to challenge Iran head-on. After all, Wall Street has continued to grow beyond 30 per cent just last week. And this was only the fifth time in the last century in the US.
Indeed, Wall Street continues to manage US$47 trillion worth of stocks and various instruments of investments. And the portfolio touches half of America population in one form or the other through their retirement and social insurance schemes. The fact of the matter is both sides i.e. US and Iran will continue to use nationalism as the smoke screen of their own domestic purposes, even if the domination of MENA is their ultimate wet dream. Just last month, Iranians demonstrated in large numbers against Tehran for it's inability to hold down the cost of living.
Tehran lives in livid fear of being over thrown by their own people. When they are engaged in a bellicose exchange with US, however, the demonstrators attention are on defending the country against the US. Understanding this background, is more important than trying to wonder if US and Iran are about to trigger a world war. Although there is always a possibility that this can escalate to a World War. And in any war, as history has shown repeatedly, there will be no victors, only losers. Howsoever one curate the narrative of it, post war!
(Datuk Wira Dr. Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff is the President/CEO at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.)