The world welcomed the new decade with news about an impending threat of a third world war. Is this a sign of a regressing civilization? One of the most thought-provoking philosophical theories regarding politics that left a huge impact in our society is that of Thomas Hobbes. In his book Leviathan, he discussed the concept of social contract which he introduced as a social and political necessity to avoid war. According to Hobbes, human’s state of nature is anarchy due to scarcity of resources and to resolve that, the people must agree through a social contract to submit their liberty to a sovereign in exchange for security. If we were to apply this concept in modern times, is it safe to assume that with the impending threat of a third world war, we are going back to our state of nature?
The first major international event of 2020 that kept everyone on their toes is the rising tension between the United States and Iran that can escalate into a world war. Being the world’s imperial power, any political move the US makes involving another foreign country can have a significant impact in international politics. Iran being an ally of Russia, can be considered a threat to the United States. With conflicts arising between these two nations, huge changes in global relations can happen. Is the rising tension between the US and Iran an inevitable product of a failed social contract or a political decision? Now, before you can write a paper on the US and Iran conflict, you must first find answers to these questions.
This article will help you find answers to your questions.
What would happen if World War 3 started?
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
A series of conflicts that is happening between the US and Iran throughout the years have left the two nations’ relationship bitter, but the inauguration of US President Donald Trump pushed the tension to its boiling point. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, is an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 or the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—Russia, China, France, United Kingdom, United States plus Germany. It is a 159-page agreement which consists of provisions regarding running a nuclear research facility. Its aim is to promote a peaceful nuclear program and prevent the development of nuclear weapons. Iran’s nuclear program began in 1957 with the aid of the US under the rule of Shah. Iran officially developed a nuclear technology in 1970 with the assistance of the US Atoms for Peace program. Iran then signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The US pulled out its support after the Iranian Revolution and the nuclear program was put aside due to the Iran-Iraq war.
In the 1980s Iran reinstated its nuclear program through entering a bilateral agreement with Pakistan, China, and Russia. Iran then discovered uranium in their own soil and became capable of performing the nuclear fuel cycle. The US viewed this as a threat and suspected that the nuclear program was only a cover for the development of clandestine weapons. Between 2003 to 2006, Iran have had conflicts with EU and IAEA regarding the nuclear agreement. In 2015, Iran and the 5P+1 finally came to a compromisation. The UN Security Council agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on Iran if Iran will reduce the number of centrifuges they produce for the uranium enrichment. The agreement was short lived because the US pulled out of the deal in 2017 under President Donald Trump’s administration.
What are the chances of World War 3 happening?
Why is Iran’s nuclear research program in the spotlight?
Under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s rule, Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. This treaty aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and its ultimate pursuit is the total nuclear disarmament so that nuclear energy can be used peacefully. Despite Iran’s claim that they have been making their nuclear development peacefully, IAEA observed some covert actions from Iran which is why sanctions were imposed which ultimately led to the creation of Iran nuclear deal.
Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s living martyr
The final switch which prompted Iran to fire ballistic missiles on US bases in Iraq and to threaten US was the death of Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani is the General of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) foreign wing which is responsible for protecting the Islamic republic political system of Iran and spreading Iran’s influence in the middle east. Soleimani rose to fame when he was appointed as leader of IRGC’s Quds Force. He was appointed the chief commander of the Quds Force in 1997. His promotion marked the beginning of the spread of Iran’s strong influence in the Middle East. Soleimani became instrumental in Iran’s win over Iraq. He was responsible for uniting Kurdish and Shia forced to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and he was the one who spearheaded Axis of Resistance, an alliance between Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.
While the west, particularly the US, saw him as a terrorist leader responsible for the deaths of hundreds or thousands of people, Iran saw him as their hero who have strengthened the influence of Iran on neighboring countries and secured Iran’s national interest. His dedication to Iran earned him the title “living martyr’. His death fueled the Iranian’s resentment towards the US. His death even drove Iran to shoot ballistic missiles and threaten countries, almost causing a war. Why do Iranians resent the Americans so much? Where did it all started?
Timeline of the US-Iran conflict
For us to have a better understanding regarding the conflict between the US and Iran, we must be educated of its root cause. Here is a timeline of the events that strained the relationship of the United States and Iran:
- 1951: Anglo-Iranian Oil Company dispute. The British government had control over Iran’s oil reserves in the 20th century until the appointment of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. The oil company which was established in 1909 was the fourth largest producer of oil in the world and was under British control. 51 percent of its shares were owned by the British government making them profit from the Iranian oil reserve more than Iran itself. Iran wanted to regain control of their oil reserve and broke its ties with Britain.
- 1953: US helped stage a coup. Mossadegh, Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, took measures to nationalize Iran’s oil reserve. Seeing that the nationalization of Iran’s oil reserves would mean a win for the Soviet Union or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) during the Cold War, Great Britain together with US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), supported Mohamman Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s monarch, to rule as Shah of Iran. This marked the start of Iranians’ decade-long indignation at US as they condemn the foreign interference on their national interest.
- 1957: Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. Iran signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement under Atomic Energy Act of 1954 with the US providing them resources and technology for them to explore US-origin special nuclear materials and reactors for industrial, medical, and commercial purposes. This served as the foundation for Iran’s controversial nuclear program which they began developing in the 1970s.
- 1979: The Iranian Revolution and end of Shah’s regime. Both Secular and Islamist protesters condemn monarch Shah’s authoritarianism and modernization agenda and this led them to take the streets in protest of Shah’s regime. The increasing Iranian opposition has led Shah to flee the country on the 16th of January of that year. This marked the end of the Shah’s regime and the election of Ayatollah Khomeini as supreme leader of the Islamic Republic. Khomeini is an Islamic scholar who was exiled by Shah in 1964. The Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps was formed as a result of the revolution. The revolution marked the end of Western involvement in Iran’s nuclear program.
- 1979-1981: The hostage crisis in Iran and the end of formal diplomatic relations between the two nations. Iranians pressured the US to extradite Shah who was receiving cancer treatment at the US at that time so he can stand trial for his alleged crimes against Iranian people. To pressure the US, Iranian students resorted to taking Americans in the US embassy in Tehran as hostages. The hostage taking lasted for 444 days. At the middle of the crisis, US President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office and immediately ended all diplomatic ties with Iran. The Shah was never extradited and died in Cairo, Egypt on July 1980.
- 1980: The beginning of Iran-Iraq wars. The US and Iran’s bitter relationship worsen when US supported Iraq’s invasion in Iran, which led to eight years of regional war. Iran’s iconic figure Qasem Soleimani joined the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and fought on the frontlines of the Iran-Iraq war.
- 1984: Iran as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”. Iran opened a nuclear research center in Isfahan with the help of China. This triggered suspicions regarding Iran’s desire to create nuclear weapons. Iran was flagged as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) by the US government under Reagan’s administration.
- 1986: High-profit weapon sale to Iran in exchange of American hostages. Despite the US’ established support for Iraq, President Reagan approved a high-profit sale of weapons to Iran despite an existing ban on weapon selling against Iran in hopes that the American hostages in Lebanon be liberated since the Hezbollah, the militia hostage takers, has close ties with Iran.
- 1988: Iran Air Flight 655. A civilian airliner from Iran was shot down by the US mistaking it for a fighter jet. 290 passengers were killed. Although the US said that it was a mistake, Iranians refused to believe the US thinking that it was intentional.
- 1997: Soleimani as head of the Quds Force. Soleimani was appointed as the chief commander of IRGC Quds Force. This marked the beginning of the spread of Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
- 2002: The Axis of Evil. During US President George Bush’s State of the Union address, he called Iran as part of the Axis of Evil along with Iraq and North Korea. Iran had no ties with Iraq and North Korea, the only thing they have in common is US resistance.
- 2003: Iran’s Uranium. Iran announced that uranium was discovered in their own soil enabling them to have a domestic supply for their nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency found traces of highly-enriched uranium at Iran’s nuclear plant. The US expressed their concern that Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran agreed to the suspension of production of enriched uranium and to allow unannounced inspections by IAEA. When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn into office after a few years, Iran’s production of enriched uranium was restarted.
- 2013-2015: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. After years of negotiations, the US under President Barack Obama and Iran together with United Nations Security Council and the other members of 5P+1 (Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, and Germany) signed a nuclear deal prompting the UN Security Council to lift the sanctions imposed on Iran regarding their uranium enrichment in exchange for Iran slowing down their nuclear program development.
- 2017: Banning Seven Muslim-majority nations. When the US President Donald Trump took office, he signed an executive order imposing a 90-day ban against Muslim-majority nations, including Iran, from entering the US. Iran said that it was an “insult to the Islamic world” and proceeded with ballistic missile testing raising the tension once again with the two nations. This also raised concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear deal.
- 2018: US pulled out from Iran nuclear deal. Trump withdraws the US from the nuclear deal as he can see it as “one-sided.” He also expressed his plans to impose more sanctions on Iran.
- 2019: Tension between US and Iran rose again. On April 2019, the US, for the first time, called part of another country’s government a terrorist when Trump labeled the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. Iran responded by declaring the US as a state sponsor of terrorism. On June 2019, the tensions further escalated when Iran was blamed for the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities and the oil tankers in Persian Gulf as well as the downing of US’ drone. In the same month, Iran reduced its commitments on the nuclear deal by producing enriched low-grade uranium beyond its stockpile bringing them a step closer to being capable of building a nuclear bomb. On December 2019, airstrikes were conducted on Iraq and Syria’s facilities that are claimed to be pro-Iranian militias which were responsible for the attacks against US service personnel in Iraq. Pro-Iranian demonstrators stormed at the US embassy to vandal the vicinity as a sign of protest against the airstrikes.
- 2020: Death of Qassem Soleimani. Trump admitted that he ordered the airstrike in Iraq which was intended to disrupt an alleged imminent attack. This killed Soleimani. Thousand Iranians flooded the streets to mourn for his death. This move left Iran furious and vowed to avenge his death. Iran responded by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles in Iraqi bases that was housing US troops. Iran also threatened the US that they would hit Dubai and Israel if the latter retaliates. IRGC also warned that they will hit US allies who will lend their bases to the US troops. In the same month, Iran took down a Ukranian civil airline mistaking it for a US fighter jet killing 176 people. Trump responded by imposing more sanctions on Iran.
- Is World War III likely to happen? For several decades, the US has been putting maximum pressure on Iran for several political agenda but Iran has been consistent in responding with maximum resistance. After the death of Soleimani, Iranians mourned and vowed to avenge his death. Iran fired ballistic missiles and the US responded with adding more sanctions on Iran. Can another unfortunate event involving US and Iran cause a world war? The US and Iran is an example of a war being a political decision. If war is an inevitable product of tensions between two or more countries, then a US-Iran war would’ve happened years ago. In this case, as long as Trump decides to respond diplomatically, a third world war is unlikely to happen.
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