How we came to the brink of World War III

How we came to the brink of World War III

The Iran crisis is one which dates back to the year 1921 when the first domino in this long- stretched identity crisis domino train fell. Post World War I, Brigadier Gen. Reza Pahlavi was installed as “Shah” of Iran in a coup d’état. He was responsible for modernisation and secular reforms of Iran and during World War II decided to stay publicly neutral, although rumoured to have preferences towards Nazis which had alarmed the Allied Forces. This led to the invasion of Iran by the U.S., Soviet Union, and the British to then replace Reza with his son.


In 1951, democracy entered the politics of Iran and powers of the Shah were reduced and a Prime Minister was elected- Mohammed Mosaddeq moved to nationalise the largely British-controlled oil industry. The Shah briefly went into exile over the crisis till the PM was then overthrown in a coup engineered by CIA and MI6 to reinstate the Shah, now with more power than ever. Because of this collapse of democracy, Ayatollah Khomeini, an influential politician, philosopher, and cleric, was exiled. In January 1979, the Shah had Iran amid intensifying unrest. Ayatollah Khomeini returned that February from exile to be named supreme leader of the newly formed Islamic Republic of Iran.


In November, the first step towards this crisis turning fascist began and militant Islamic students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 American hostages and igniting a crisis between the U.S. and Iran; President Jimmy Carter froze Iranian assets in the U.S.—a sanction that remains in place to this day.


On top of this, neighbouring Iraq invaded Iran over a border dispute and concerns that Revolutionary Shi’a influence could spill over the border and overthrow the non-Shi’a Ba’athist regime. The Iran-Iraq War ends eight years later in a stalemate. In the year 1981, the U.S. hostages were released soon after newly elected President Ronald Reagan took office. This was due to covert selling of arms by the U.S. to Iran which further encouraged militant operations of holding hostages in Lebanon and funding anti-communist Contra Militia in the Nicaraguan Civil War.


After many lapses of faith, the United States accuses Iran of attempting to make nuclear weapons, ushering a new era of suspicion, and conflict between the two countries in 2002.


In 2015, a 15-year pact for the increased trade of weapons was created to reduce the sanctions created over a decade ago. This ensured a certain amount of blood-stained peace up until President Trump announced a back-off from the deal we’ll before its expiration date in 2018, which then leads us to the D-Day.


On January 3rd, the U. S. forces assassinated Qasem Soleimani, a major general in the Revolutionary Islamic Guard Corps. and commander of the clandestine Quds Force. Iran retaliated by firing missiles at the U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. Iran also declared that it no longer needs to abide by the limitations of the nuclear deal of 2015.


Western reaction to the killing focused on how the general had been a “terror mastermind” or focused on how Soleimani’s accomplishments as spymaster and military commander helped build Iran’s influence across the Middle East, with Iran at the center.


However, within Iran, there is a different sentiment, says Valentine Moghadam, a professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Northeastern. She argues that even before Soleimani’s death, Iran, surrounded by the U.S. military bases and saddled with economic interests, had a vulnerable position in the region.


No matter how much we trivialise this issue by terming it as WWIII, the tensions between Iran and the United States remain palpable through decades and has the potential to destroy world peace.


Sharanya Mathur

sharanya mathur

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