Iraqi and Iranian citizens are holding their breaths during the rapid violent events between the USA and Iran at the beginning of 2020. The scenario of an outbreak of another war in the region is realistic. Meanwhile, Western societies keep asking themselves how the situation could escalate so unexpectedly. How could people make sense of what is going on? Is that even possible? As someone asked: Is this a real-life episode of Homeland? January 2020: is Homeland getting real?
Trying to understand the current situation is hard, as the ongoing battle is not about facts but about the interpretation of facts. In a nutshell: the USA interprets the Iranian nuclear program and expansion of political influence in the Middle East as terrorism. As a consequence, there are American sanctions, the discontinuation of the nuclear deal and recently the assignation of general Soleimani. These events are interpreted by Iran as an attempt to dominate and weaken the country by the USA.
With that in mind, there’s currently no common truth about what’s going on. Only the facts of deaths, injuries and damage are real. This also means that no-one can predict how the start of the new decade for Iraq and Iran will continue.
Still, there are three things to keep in mind to make a little bit more sense about what is currently going on between Iran and the USA.
The escalations are about conflicting governments, not conflicting societies. A point that is easily misunderstood in Europe and America when media shows the shouting of Iranian people against America. Anyone would easily think that all Iranian citizens strongly support the government.
Reality is different, caused by the gap between the society and the government. In a direct democracy -like in parts of Europe and America- people vote for someone who represents their ideas. They vote for someone who will manage a country according to their ideas. Meaning that their ideas are more directly presented in the government.
People are less able to represent their ideas in the government of a system with a long-lasting not-electable part and limited options for voting. Compared to countries with direct democracy, the gap between the society and the government is bigger like in Western societies. Read more about this: Iranian politics: a valuable lesson.
Theoretical the gap means that the government doesn’t have to represent the ideas of the society at all or only for a small part of society. Iranian protest in the last years, from all parts of society, show that more and more Iranians don’t support the current government or at least parts of it.
Close related to the first point is the fact that being against something is not equal to being the opposite. In the situation of Iran, this means that people who do not support the government or don’t mourn about the death of Soleimani are not automatically pro-America or intervention in the region. The options are not in extremes. Many points of views are open, as no-one could know what is not allowed to exist in public.
What outsiders should realize is that it’s impossible to make conclusions about the unknown. To clarify, there might be people who don’t support the foreign interventions of the government but who do support nuclear activities. Or people who don’t support the national policy but do support the foreign expansion of power.
The possibility of an outbreak of war and more economical sanctions will have a big impact on the daily lives of Iranian families. For sure, the current evens will also affect citizens of surrounding countries like Iraq and Lebanon. Iran has expanded its political influence in the region in the last years. Where-ever the influence of Iran is, there will be effects.
To name examples: In January 2020 violent escalations between Iran and the USA occurred on Iraqi territory. As a consequence could it be possible that a war between the countries will also occur between Iraqi national boundaries. This will have a strong influence on national politics and safety. Iranian minded militias in Lebanon will be affected by an Iranian-USA war. In addition, this will have an influence on the already unstable political situation in the country.
Middle Eastern- related politics are by far not represented in the series Homeland. Unfortunately, what’s happening at the start of 2020 comes close to another episode Homeland. The events of the impulsive, short-term decisionmaking of president Trump. Versus the smart and effective long-term decisionmaking of Iran create a surreal scene that no scriptwriter could have ever imagined.