The US-Iran Conflict: What it means to the Philippines
By Virginia J. Pasalo
ACCORDING to available data, the armed conflict of Iran and the US started sometime in 1988, when “the United States launched Operation Praying Mantis against Iran, claiming that it was retaliation for the Iranian mining of areas of the Persian Gulf as part of the Iran–Iraq War. The American attack was the largest American naval combat operation since World War II.”
The American drone attack that recently killed Iranian political leader Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, before any offense was done by Iran, brings the world in peril because Iran’s geography is politically important to other superpowers who can easily be dragged into the current conflict. Immediately after the attack, China, Russia and France condemned the assassination, as other world leaders appealed for calm. Iraq sought the condemnation of the attack by the UN Security Council. Malaysian President Mahathir Muhamad called for all Muslims to unite worldwide and condemned the killing as an “immoral act”. Previous administrations in the US government were never as bold as the current POTUS, sending fears among world leaders that they could be the target of the next drone attack.
Assassinations of political leaders and military figures perceived to be detrimental to US interests is embedded in the US military doctrine and foreign policy as can be seen in its long history (Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, etc.). There had been efforts against the killings, but the resistance had weakened over time. Assassinations presupposes the hope that the “successor” will be weaker and succumb to more favorable conditions for the US to freely dictate its terms of engagement with the targeted countries.
In justifying the assassination, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to the Bethlehem Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Self Defence which states that the right to self-defense includes the use of force in anticipation of an imminent armed attack. Some legal experts contend that Article 51 of the UN Charter provides for a right of self-defense only in response to an actual armed attack. The action taken against Iran based on this doctrine is now being legally scrutinized according to international law, as well as “the domestic laws of the United States and its bilateral security agreements with Iraq.”
The Philippines has a long-standing working relationship with the Middle East, including Iran, and a war of that magnitude would send our economy down, as we depend on the remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from this region. A more important consideration is the safety of our workers in times of war, and their repatriation can be problematic if and when a massive attack is undertaken by all sides. Also, a lot of families depend on the remittances of OFWs especially on the education of their children and their daily sustenance. Most of these OFWs are women, most of them coming from the province of Pangasinan.
Also, the Philippines has a considerable Muslim population whose political leaders have very close relations with other Muslim leaders in Asia and the Middle East. Any call to unite Muslims by their international leaders will disrupt whatever political gains we have achieved to foster peace and unity among Filipinos especially when the Philippines is called upon to support military action against Iran, or anywhere in the Middle East, in compliance with the provisions in the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America which provides that “both nations would support each other if either the Philippines or the United States were to be attacked by an external party.”
Any armed conflict in the Middle East, will severely affect the Philippines, and it is for this reason that we should advocate for peaceful resolutions of conflict to ensure the interest of our country and its citizens.
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