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Thursday 3 October 2019

No new war is coming to the Middle East

Javed Ali. 

When Iran shot down a US drone, there was a threat of war. When Iran seized a British oil tanker in a tit for tat move, there was a threat of war. When Saudi Arabia’s oil refinery was attacked allegedly by cruise missiles, there was a threat of war.

But no new Middle East war is coming. The United States, the Middle East and the world, all cannot afford one. The last time the experiment was undertaken, large swaths of territories fell in the hands of terrorists instead of being liberated. Today, there is no guarantee that the results will be any different.

Trump doesn’t want war

US intervention, despite the beef up of its troops in the area, is all the more unlikely. President Donald Trump kicked off his tenure in an apparent drive to undo all initiatives of the Obama administration. Among other disastrous moves, the Iran nuclear deal was slashed, leaving little sway for the US on keeping a tab on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Another aim of the Trump administration is to avoid getting into a new war. Trump is pulling out of Afghanistan – even if he publicly states that the talks with the Taliban are over. There is lesser US engagement in Syria and Iraq. And North Korea too seems to be getting cozy. Voters before the next elections have to see Trump as the perfect “deal maker” who has the assured ability to wane conflicts among parties of any level.

Trump’s internal problems

Then there is too much for Trump to handle at the domestic front. The imminent threat of impeachment is his biggest concern at the moment. Congress and the media are baying for blood and there is no escape in sight.

If any allies would support him in any new war in the Middle East, this would be the least likely time. His days at the White House may be numbered and getting on a sinking ship is the last option any US partner would like to avail.

The backlash from his supporters who are suffering from the aftereffects of the protracted trade war with China is also weakening his mandate. New wars will further strain the US economy that is trying to find new markets after those of China became expensive, thanks to Trump’s initiatives.

Saudi refusal to retaliate to oil field attack

Saudi Arabia is shown appreciable restraint after the attacks on its oil refinery. Although it ousted a major part of its oil production capacity and was a direct attack in its heartland, it decided not to respond. The princes were right in saying that their aggressive response would upset the oil market whose effects would be felt in all global industries, with the potential of severely hampering the world’s growth.

Meeting between Saudi and Iranian energy ministers

An encouraging sign during these stressing times in the Middle East is the meeting between Saudi and Iranian ministers at a Russian energy conference. While the Iranian oil minister called the Saudi energy minister a friend of 22 years, they were both later seen holding hands with OPEC’s Secretary General.

With all these encouraging sights in the Middle East and troublesome developments for Trump, it can be safely assumed that no new war is coming to the Middles East. Oil supply will remain secure and – if the optimism does not carry us too far – the fire in Yemen too might douse soon.

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