By - Makinde Ebenezer
On the 3rd of January 2020, news outlets all over the world announced the killing of an Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani by the United State government under the leadership of President Donald Trump. Expectedly, the killing generated a lot of waves throughout the Middle East and in the Muslim world, while the rest of the world took sides on whether the killing was justified or not. Qassem Soleimani was an influential figure in Iran and his killing heightened tension between the United States of America and Iran. At that point the world began to brace up for an all-out war like we saw in the 1940s during the Second World War (1939-1945). Clearly, analysts and political commentators were discussing the conflict between Iran and the U.S as if it was a confrontation between two equal countries that could match each other if a war broke out between them.
But that was a wrong way to view the conflict between the United States of America and Iran. A careful analysis of the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle-East and the Muslim world after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US soil, which led to the painful deaths of about 3,000 U.S. citizens shows that the current crisis between the U.S. and Iran is part of the bigger picture and is being influenced by the U.S. strategic game plan in the region post 9/11. Though, it is tempting to say that the response of the U.S. to the 9/11 attacks was directly targeted against terrorism and insurgency, what we have seen over the years is that what George W. Bush had in mind was beyond combating terrorism and insurgency, but also include political interference in other countries, regardless of whether their sovereignty is being trampled upon or not.
The knowledge of this dominative foreign policy of the United States of America was first revealed to the world when General Wesley Clark granted an interview in 2007 where he mentioned that he was aware of an intelligence which involve U.S. military operations in seven countries in the Middle East and Africa. These targeted countries included Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. This was a revelation of America’s hegemonic agenda in different parts of the world. These countries became the object of U.S aggression and such aggression has not only continued but also remained as a threat to the existence of these countries in a supposedly United Nations managed international political system.
The U.S. as a Threat to International Peace
Following the end of the Second World War, the United States of America emerged as a major power alongside Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). Both the USSR and the U.S. had opposing ideologies and competed for influence in different parts of the world including Africa and the Middle-East. However, after the end of the Cold War in 1991, the U.S. emerged as the most powerful nation in the international system with dominance in economic, political and military spheres above all else.
This dominance enhances U.S. presence in many regions of the world much to the danger of international peace and security. In 1945, the United Nations was created to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Therefore, the United Nations Charter (Article 2) forbids the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any states except in a matter of self-defence. Yet, what the U.S. has done since she emerged as a major power is to violate this command. From the period when the United States of America emerged as a world power, she has engaged in more foreign interventions than any other country in the world. For example, the U.S. military interventions increased from 46 from 1948-1991 to 188 from 1992-2017. While some of these interventions are justified (for example, U.S prevention of Iraq from conquering Kuwait during the Gulf War 1990-1991, or the intervention to stop the Bosnian genocide in 1994), much of it represent affronts on the United Nations principle of non-interference and respect for territorial integrity of other states.
Over the years, the United States of America has positioned herself as world leader interested in promoting and maintaining the peace and security of the international system. Instead, what the country has done is to put greater emphasis on achieving her own political objectives at the expense of international peace and security. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, the United States of America country has embarked on massive counter-terror interventions in different parts of the world without respect to the territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The fundamental logic of the U.S. war on terror is to engage in direct or indirect military interventions in any country perceived to be harbouring terrorists or where terrorist groups are operating as they please. Policy makers in the United States of America since the time of George Bush strongly believe that attacking and killing terrorists wherever they are located represents a preventive measure against terror attacks on U.S. soil or terror attacks on America’s allies.
However, apart from the human and financial costs of the war on terror on the U.S (about 7, 000 service members killed, $5 trillion dollars spent), many of the countries where these wars on terrors have taken place have been made unstable with countless civilian casualties and bifurcation of political authority together with its associated problems.
In 2001, the United States of America attacked Afghanistan in a supposed self-defense scenario, though 14 of the 19 men that carried out the 9/11 attacks were citizens of Saudi Arabia (an ally of the U.S.). Since 2001, U.S. aggression and military occupation in Afghanistan has continued unabated despite being illegal under international law. In a study by Nicolas Davies for Consortium News, he argued that based on available estimate, about 875,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S. intervention. The number of deaths in Iraq was 2.4 million as a result of U.S. activities while in Pakistan, the number was put at 325, 000.
The refusal of Libya to become a Middle-East friend of the U.S. as well as the crackdown of Muammar Gaddafi on internal uprising against his regime led to the UN/NATO limited military intervention in 2011, but further culminated into a regime change, all thanks to the United States of America. From the beginning, U.S/NATO activity in Libya was simply to protect the people of Libya against Gaddafi`s crackdown, but what happened after the operation was a regime change which was far beyond what the United Nations approved. While the U.S. toppled the evil of Muammar Gaddafi’s government, bigger evil was unleashed by the death of Gaddafi. Violent deaths and violation of human rights have since increased more than seven folds in Libya after the death of Gaddafi.
Based on the results of a study titled “Libyan Armed Conflict 2011: Mortality, Injury and Population Displacement” published in the African Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2015 it was estimated that 21, 490 people were killed in Libya as a result of the operations of the U.S./NATO/UN-led intervention that was meant to protect the civilian population. With the war on terror as a cover for sinister enterprises, from 2001 till date, the United States of America has played major roles in the turbulence and instabilities in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Libya.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the U.S. has made for herself continental clients by building alliances and networks appropriate for her strategic interests. The United States of America has increased her presence in the continent of Africa. According to Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of the United Nations Africa Command, in 2017, U.S. troops carried out an average of nearly 10 missions per day 3,500 exercises, programs, and engagements for the year across the African continent. More so, in the past years, the United States of America has carried out military operations in 13 African countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia.
Unlike the Middle-East, where real threats of terrorist attacks on the U.S. exist, much of the terrorist organizations in Africa have smaller and domestic scope not extending beyond their regional concentrations. In other words, few African insurgencies pose a direct threat to U.S. core interests. Yet, since 2007 when the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM), U.S. military operation has increased in Africa.
The consequences of the U.S. continued military operations in the continent are obvious and dangerous. They are with a price that only African people are paying. For example, in order to maintain the relationships with her clients in Africa so as to achieve her strategic interests in the continent (which include securing the flow of resources, especially oil from West Africa), the U.S. has often ignored the repressiveness and autocratic rules of many African leaders; many of the U.S. major partners in the continent like Ethiopia, and Uganda are chronic human rights abusers. One of the implications of this is that the U.S. is only interested in achieving its strategic interests in Africa at the expense of human rights of the African people and respect for their territorial integrity.
Secondly, AS we have argued before now, what is ironic about U.S. military interventions in many of these countries, including in Sub-Saharan Africa is that, the U.S. by the virtue of their supposedly protective interventions often makes many of these countries unsafe and turbulent than they met them. In Somalia, it was reported by Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) that U. S. -backed Ethiopian intervention in 2006 led to the death of 24, 631 people. Nicolas Davies for Consortium News on the other hand estimated that about 600,000 people have died in Somalia due to the activities of the United States of America and their allies. Therefore, rather than stabilizing the continent, security has progressively worsened with militants strengthening their foothold across the region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and fuelling ethnic tensions.
Furthermore, the available data show that terrorist attacks in Africa have increased despite the increase in U.S. counterterrorism operations. For example, according to Steven Fiedstein for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, terror-related incidents in West Africa have gone from 41 in 2006 to 2,498 in 2017. There has also been an increase in violence during this period. The report by Amnesty International (2015) revealed that US-backed and trained Nigerian military forces starved, suffocated and extrajudicially executed more than 8,000 people, most of whom were victims of Boko Haram. The report further stated that: “They (Nigerian soldiers) have arbitrarily arrested at least 20,0001 people, mostly young men and boys; and have committed countless acts of torture. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Nigerians, have become victims of enforced disappearance.”
Niger being the heart of counter-terrorism operations of the United States of America and other countries like France has experienced violence in different dimensions since the U.S. began operations in the continent. Like in other African countries, what the U.S. security forces are doing in Niger involved provision of support (including training of Nigerien soldiers) to counter terrorism operations of the government of Niger. However, critical questions have been asked by many people including U.S. citizens on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Niger especially following the ambush on U.S. military personnel and their Nigerien counterparts which led to the death of four American soldiers.
On the one hand, questions about the effectiveness of U.S. presence in the country have been raised. On the other hand, questions are being asked about the continued operations of the U.S. military forces in different countries of the world fighting in opaque and shadow wars. More importantly, many of these military operations have questionable legal backing and constitute threats to international peace and security that the United Nations was created to preserve.
U.S. as a challenge to United Nations` Mandate
One fundamental implication of U.S. continued military interventions in different parts of the world is that it threatens United Nations` mandate of preserving international peace and security. The dominant ideas about the establishment of the United Nations is to say that it was established to prevent another world war and maintain international peace and security. Why this is not false, this perception understates the meaning of “world war” within the context of the international system. The implication of this is that, analysts can talk about the achievements of the United Nations compared to the League of Nations that it came to replace as being the prevention of a “third world war.”
However, a closer look at the international political system will show the presence of conflicts and crises in different parts of the world that makes a mockery of the United Nations` objective of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war. The international system is profoundly unsafe. Conflicts are becoming protracted by intense rivalries between global powers and regional powers as they support proxies to wage war overseas as we have in Syria and Yemen. There is also the practice of labelling conflicts as counter-terror struggles as the United States of America have done in Niger, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq etc.
This tendency leads to the neglect of the factors and actors driving conflict and the erosion of space needed to build peace. We have seen this occur in high-profile cases like Syria but also in Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere. When leaders use the pretext of counter-terror to crush dissent and political opposition, it escalates violent conflict rather than reducing it. There is also the Legacies of military intervention and regime change framed as interventions to counter terror, save civilians or remove rogue regimes. In case after case military intervention and regime change have failed to bring lasting stability or to defeat fundamentalist groups. On the one hand this has brought deep distrust of interventionism.
The United Nations as we have it today was set up in 1945 following the Second World War to mediate primarily in state-to-state crises which barring the rivalry among major powers have subsided. The nature of global conflicts and security challenges have changed and the United Nations has continued to prove incapable of managing the international system. The problem relating to the ineffectiveness of the United Nations in managing international conflicts and insecurity is not much about the inability of the organization to perform, but because much of the crises that threaten international peace and insecurity are U.S. wars that violate the UN charter.
How the U.S is manipulating the U.N. to serve her purpose
One major challenge facing the United Nations is its inability to control world major powers who threaten international peace and security that the U.N. is mandated to preserve. Many of these veto-wielding super powers have on many occasions ignored the decisions of the U.N. especially when it threatens the achievement of their strategic interests. United States of America has been identified as a major culprit in this regard.
Different U.S. presidents including George Bush and Barack Obama circumvented and manipulated the U.N. to achieve their objectives. For example, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was not approved by the United Nations though many analysts including U.S. policy makers argued that it was an act of self-defence as prescribed by the United Nations Charter Article 52. Similar scenario occurred in Iraq in 2003 when the U.S-led coalition aimed at disarming non-existing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and ending the reign of Saddam Hussein considered as a threat to the United States of America and her allies.
These two occurrences revealed to the world how powerful the United States of America has become such that the United Nations now serve her interest. Indeed, an ambassador of the U.S. to the United Nations was quoted to have said that:
“There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that is the United States, when it suits our interests, and when we can get others to go along.” He added that, “When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interests to do so, we will do so.”
Apart from outrightly challenging the authority of the United Nations by engaging in illegal foreign military occupations which are blatantly against the U.N. Charter, the U.S. have also learned to extend the scope of any U.N. authorization (like it occurred in Libya in 2011) just to suit her purpose. The point is that, the United Nations has been unable to control or restrain the United States of America despite the U.S. being the ring leader of countries who have become threats to international peace and security by virtue of their activities in the international system.
In the light of this, analysts have often argued that the United Nations was established precisely to serve the interests of the major powers, especially the United States of America. Clearly, what the United Nations has done in recent times is not to prevent and preserve international peace, but to engage in post-conflict reconstructions in conflicts and wars started or indirectly influenced by the United States of America. It is in this sense that several U.N. agencies like U.N. High Commission for Refugees, the World Food Program, UNICEF etc. play critical roles in post-conflict environments in different parts of the world. It is therefore convenient to say that the U.N. is only doing the dirty work of the United States of America.
But why does the U.S. have so much influence on the United Nations? There are two ways to answer the question. On the one hand is the fact that the U.S. has remained a dominant country in the international political system with military and economic powers more than all else. These economic and military powers have continued to position the U.S. has a country to be reckoned with in the U.N-managed international system. Another fancy way to answer the question is to mention the disproportionate burden that U.S. is bearing as a way of supporting the United Nations. According to the current American president, Donald Trump: “The United States is one out of 193 countries in the United Nations, and yet we pay 22 percent of the entire budget and more. In fact, we pay far more than anybody realizes….” Indeed, as far as the U.S./U.N. relationship is concerned, it seems, “he who pays the piper is the one calling the tune.”
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