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We pay for war or diplomacy, it’s just the latter costs less

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (Photograph by Aamir Qureshi/Pool Photo/AP)

The Iranian nuclear agreement. Unratified but support for which was not fully withdrawn. But yet it remains not supported. Confusion abounds over a nuclear arms non-proliferation agreement that is filled with misunderstanding; in particular when the rationale espoused for non-support is that Iran is supposedly the sponsor of terrorist groups and itself is singularly destabilising the region.

Without choosing any sides in this debacle, someone needs to remind the Trump Administration that there is a sectarian war taking place all over the Middle East and what the West, ie, America, is doing in actuality is effectively choosing one side of the sectarian conflict.

As an equivalent, it would be like siding with the Protestants in a Catholic-Protestant conflict.

To add insult would be when we use in that sort of conflict the biased term “Catholic militants” or “terrorists” but when referring to the Protestants, we use the terms “the military” or “the police and security forces”, and refer to regional issues by saying “the Catholic militants are bringing insecurity to the region”.

Listening to Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, pivot to defend the foreign policy against Iran, he clearly expressed — albeit in subtle terms — the idea of regime change as the hidden motive. This administration, with its “make America great again” slogan, is not the one to determine what type of regime change is needed or would be beneficial to the Middle East.

The aim of the previous administration was to rein in Iran’s nuclear programme and to bring them under an umbrella of military supervision within an arrangement that continued to engage Iran among the fraternity of world nations in civil trade relations. It was a pragmatic and civil approach to a volatile situation. The present stance has the potential of breaking the nuclear containment and, as an attempt to discredit and demonise, push Iran into an openly hostile position. But it may not find similar agreement among European and Asian allies who view Iran differently.

Given the conflict is largely sectarian, it also means countries such as Iraq, with its majority Shia population, will not sit in idle complicity with an American-led military threat against Iran, nor will they support a smear tactic.

Iraq just played host to the Isil problem, which was essentially radical Sunni; it is almost over and any attempt to shift the battleground to Iran will not lead to peace in the entire region’s foreseeable future.

After Isil the world needs to take a pause. The Middle East, in particular, needs a break from war and to be able to breathe again for a while and give peace a chance. The sectarian issue is ideological and the best weapon in any ideological war is the use of the pen, books and lectures, not bombs or armaments. Rather than the billions being spent on weapons of war, with far less money we could achieve much more peace by investing in dialogue and learning.

Radical Islamic fundamentalism did not emerge overnight, nor did it grow organically. It happened as a direct result of hundreds of millions of dollars being put into its promulgation. Nothing less than a nonideological response backed by a significant and sustained economic effort is needed.

Barack Obama’s original message to the Middle East is the right message, which was to say that the people of the Middle East want what all human beings, including Americans want: self-determination and freedom in a framework of openness and rationale, and just the simple ability to raise their families in dignity.

What was missing from the Obama initiative was the financial support and commitment that sustains and brings those words and hopes to fruition. Yes, the United States under Obama did have the right words, but like the position and words of Ronald Reagan during the final days of the Soviet Union, they both showed no real commitment towards the ideals they were advising.

They say the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Well, the cost of peace is no less. We either pay for war or we pay for diplomacy. Unavoidably, they both cost; it’s just that diplomacy is cheaper and peace is more productive. I vote for peace.