Let’s begin by analyzing this hypothetical scenario. France, a western nuclear power and a country that long seeks to destabilize Nigeria, invades Niger Republic or any of Nigeria’s neighbors. Let’s assume also that France has its military bases in all the countries surrounding Nigeria.
How do you think Nigeria will respond? How will Nigeria respond as a proud sovereign nation? The answer is obvious. Nigeria must do everything to destabilize France’s presence in those countries it invades or has military bases.
That’s because, given France’s anti-Nigerian ambition in Africa, any stability for France in those countries will encourage it to invade Nigeria, its only geopolitical and economic rival in the West African subregion.
That is what is happening in the middle-east regarding the US-Iran rivalry. Iran has every reason to distrust US. Will America tolerate the presence of Russian or Chinese military bases and presence in Cuba and Canada? Will America sit and watch while any of its rivals invades one of its neighbors? Trapped between resistance or acquiescence to US almighty imperialism, Iran has every rationale to seek to undermine US interests around it.
It is America (using the CIA with the help of the UK) that toppled the first democratically elected, popular, left-leaning government of Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953.
It is America that propped up the Shah and his murderous regime, leading to popular discontents that culminated in the Islamic revolution of 1979. Even Iran’s controversial nuclear program began with borrowed US technology during the cold war, when the US was trying to use the Shah as bulwark against Soviet expansionism in the region.
And as much as the media try to paint Iran as the aggressor, Iran has never invaded any country in its history. It is America that invaded Iran’s neighbor on the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction, leading to the death and destruction of a once prosperous Iraqi society.
Any truly independent country will respond in a similar way given the region’s prevailing geopolitical realities vis-a-vis the US.
Soleimani as the commander of Iran’s Quds Force is an official representative of a legitimate regime in a legitimate country. He’s equivalent to the US CIA director and National Security adviser combined. Even larger than that.
There’s a global consensus that military leaders cannot be targeted during conflict (except during real combat) because it is the same leaders that will come to the negotiating table to determine how to end those conflicts. What the US did is a blatant assassination that violates international law.
Granted that Soleimani has blood in his hands. In war, every military leader does. But as far as Iraq is concerned, it is George Bush and Tony Blair, the two western leaders who dragged their countries into an illegitimate occupation of Iraq that have the blood of thousands of Americans and millions of Iraqis in their hands. If America seeks true justice, it should strike no farther.
There’s no doubt that America is no match for Iran militarily, that’s if we shift our argument from the moral consistency of America’s action to its geopolitical significance.
But in America’s strength lie its weaknesses. Iran cannot survive a direct military confrontation with the US nor possess the capability to strike at continental USA. But given its strategic geography (the strait of Hormuz) and with tens of US military bases and assets within its reach, Iran can assert itself and hurt the US via asymmetric means.
Therefore, a military confrontation between Iran and the US will be fought on many fronts. If the US is still struggling to control Afghanistan and is losing to its local Taliban rival nearly two decades after, if the US is still unable to stabilize a 28 million people Iraq 16 years after, how then could the US invade and control Iran, a country of about 80 million people, with advanced asymmetric warfare capabilities, multiple proxies and capability to dictate events in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen and even beyond?
As Soleimani said, it is the US that will start the war, but it is they that will determine when or how it ends. Events in Afghanistan and Iraq validate that claim.
It is easy to blame Iran for the present round of escalations, but it is Donald Trump that unilaterally pulled out from the nuclear deal signed with other world powers, a deal that Iran was complying with even by the assessment of Trump’s intelligence agencies.
It is Trump that ramped up sanctions and pressure with no end goal in sight, even when security officials had warned that such pressure will only push Iran and the US towards military confrontation.
As Nigerian, my major concern, apart from the appalling assault on international law and global order, is what are the effects of all those actions on Nigeria?
America’s adventurism in the middle-east has direct impacts on Nigeria, a country with the largest Muslim population in Africa.
The events in Iraq and Afghanistan played a huge role in laying the jihadi aspirations of Boko Haram. Iraq gave birthed to ISIS and then Libya happened, providing Boko Haram with the ideological leadership and access to fighters and materiel in its brutal campaign of terror against the Nigerian state.
Is Iran Associated with El Zakzaky?
Now with a brewing Shia crisis and the ongoing detention of Zakzaky, another pro-Iranian leader and his group, there’s the potential that any attempt by the Shia group to target US assets in Nigeria (or any attempt by the US to preemptively target pro-Iranian operatives) will drag Nigeria into the US-Iran proxy war. This present a clear threat to Nigeria’s national security.
I doubt if there’s any measure in place to proactively counter this emerging threat before it blossom. Our national security strategy, going by our strategically flawed approach to the Boko Haram insurgency and other internal and external threats, is more grounded in reactionary measures rather than preventive.
There’s the need for Nigeria to put strong measures in place to prevent Nigeria from turning into another theater for the US – Iran proxy war.
By Ahmed Musa Hussaini