While Australia has been absorbed in the tragedy of the bushfires, the rest of the world has been transfixed by fear that the assassination of Iran’s most senior general on the orders of US President Donald Trump might start a new Middle East war.
There is no need to shed tears for Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force who was killed in a US drone attack on Iraqi soil last week. He masterminded – and was the public face of – a violent campaign to spread Iran’s influence in Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq that included committing war crimes against civilians.
The killing of General Soleimani on Friday followed an attack last week on the US embassy in Baghdad, which Mr Trump blamed on Iran. The embassy attack came after US air strikes on Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria. Mr Trump may have thought such tough action could teach the Iranians a lesson while conveniently distracting attention from impeachment proceedings. Iran-backed forces throughout the Middle East, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, have threatened violent retaliation and there are serious doubts about how Mr Trump plans to respond.
Australia, which has troops in the region who could come under attack, can certainly express support for US concerns about Iran’s aggressive policies, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rightly urged the US to exercise restraint. The cycle of violence must not be allowed to spin out of control.