A few days ago, during an air raid by the United States, Qassem Soleimani the head of Iran’s elite Quds force was targeted. He was killed during the attack with deputy commander of Iran-backed militia known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Authorities in the United States said that the target was engaged according to the directions of President Trump. This incident brought the Middle Eastern region to the brink of war which is already destroyed by civil wars and terrorist organizations like Islamic State. World leaders have urged both states to deescalate tension because any conflict in this oil-rich region might end in disaster.
Despite the fact that any war will result in destruction both states are showing aggressive behaviors and both have promised to use force against each other. The question again here arises why states go to war? Even though in this modern world they have enough information about the horrors that can be produced as a result of the war. Realists like John Joseph Mearsheimer suggests that it is the international anarchic structure that motivates states to preserve their national interest. When a state increases its power, other states who are unaware of the intentions of the former, also maximize their power. Consequently, it might end in a conflict. This is a very simple explanation of war that is caused by international anarchic structure .we have another explanation of war but it is largely missing in mainstream debate.
In 1982, thousands of protestors gathered in Buenos Aires to denounce the military government that took power in 1976. Military regime used force to suppress the protestors. Thousands were arrested but it was almost impossible for government authorities to calm down the demonstrators. Within a one-week Argentinian government invaded a group of Islands located 300 KM away from their land, called Falkland Island that was bone of contention between Argentina and Great Britain. A conflict emerged between two states and due to its superior naval force British took them back only in 74 days. Military government in Argentina knew that due to military asymmetry they could not control the islands for too long but to strengthen their regime they invaded them. The result was that within one week protestors were marching in favor of military regimes in the streets of Buenos Aires. On the other hand, these islands did not have very much importance for Britishers but they took them with full force .it increased the popularity of British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher to 51% which was only 29% before the start of the war .Thatcher used this momentum for its election campaign that resulted in victory a year later.
Now recall the recent events that happened both in Iran and in the United States from the last couple of weeks. Iran was facing widespread riots that have brought revolutionary Iranian government under the biggest threat since 1979. Protestors were demanding the end of regime and ruthless suppression of it by state institution resulted in the death of dozens. On the other hand, President Trump was facing impeachment by the congress. A week ago US Embassy in Iraq was stormed by protestors. Although the situation eased down after a couple of days the US accused Iran of supporting these protestors. In retaliation, the US killed Qassem Soleimani an Iranian general and Iran than promised a strong response.
Now, what is the situation in both Iran and in the United States? President Trump has successfully removed the attention of the local and international community from his impeachment process. In the same way, theocratic government in Iran that was under threat from widespread demonstration now can feel secure. Thousands have attended the funeral of Qassem Soleimani and the general population is charged with anti-American sentiments.
Leaders of states have always used the rally effect to maximize their power. Rally effect is defined as “The tendency for people to become more supportive of their countries government in response to dramatic international events such as crisis or war”
In William Shakespeare’s play Henry V, a king who was on his death bed advised his son “To prevent plots against him he needs to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels”.
*Muhammad Rizwan is research scholar of MS International Relations at COMSATS University Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]