U.S – Iran Crisis: Don’t take sides, Nigerians urge Buhari administration

U.S. President, Donald Trump and Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari
U.S. President, Donald Trump and Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari

Majority of Nigerians who participated in a PREMIUM TIMES poll have asked the federal government not to take sides in the ‘crisis’ between the United States and Iran.

Although most of the participants voted against the idea, a few others voted for Nigeria to take sides while some said they did not care whether or not Nigeria picks a side.

The face-off between both countries which recently dominated headlines globally, caused tension not just in the countries but around the world.

Poll Results

The poll which lasted for seven days, had a total of 3,671 participants.

The participants were asked a single question: “Should Nigeria take a position in the US – Iran face-off?” Respondents were given the options of “yes”, “no” and “I don’t care.”

A total of 68.3 per cent of the respondents (2,509) voted against Nigeria taking a side, while 12.3 per cent (452 respondents) want the federal government to take a position.

About 19.3 per cent (710 respondents) said they do not care whether or not the country takes a side.

Background

The United States on January 8 conducted a military operation that killed an Iranian military chief, Qassem Soleimani. He was killed alongside Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, also called Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Iraq.

The strike was sequel to protests at the United States Embassy in Baghdad a week earlier – where protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound and set fires inside in anger over American airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia.

In retaliation to the killing of the general, Iran launched ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases which house U.S. troops.

Although there were no casualties, U.S. military sources were quoted as saying troops were given enough warning to reach shelters before the missiles struck.

Brewing war

Iran called the killing of Mr Soleimani an “act of war” and “state terrorism” and vowed a response – hence the retaliatory attack.

This is even as the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif disclosed that Iran did not “seek escalation or war.”

Over 50 people later died at a stampede where hundreds of thousands gathered for Mr Soleimani’s funeral in Iran.

Many countries called for the de-escalation of the violence and rhetoric between the U.S. and Iran following the assassination of Mr Soleimani.

The US President, Donald Trump, also continued to talk tough as he accused Iran of being the leading sponsor of terrorism. He showed no remorse for the killing of Soleimani whom he said was responsible for some of the worst atrocities.

Following the Iranian attack on the American bases, many expected the U.S. to retaliate, while others called for the de-escalation of the violence.

Mr Trump later announced that the U.S. would not retaliate militarily but will impose additional economic sanctions on Iran. The president expressed his intent to negotiate with Iran to end terrorism in the middle east and beyond.

Iran, however, sounded unperturbed by the sanctions with the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, saying the economic sanctions against his country has made it an even stronger nation.

More tension

Hours after Iran fired at the American military bases, a Ukrainian plane crashed in Iran killing all 176 passengers on board including members of the crew.

There was immediate suspicion that the plane was shot down but Iran quickly dismissed the claim, with a senior official describing it as “a big lie” on state television.

Ukraine also initially dismissed reports that the plane was shot down, but later retracted after emerging evidence began showing high possibility of a missile attack.

Days later, Iran admitted to firing a missile that brought down the passenger plane shortly after it took off from its main airport. The confession sparked another outrage, including in Iran. Hundreds of protesters have since held demonstrations in Tehran over the shooting of the plane.

How other nations reacted

Many governments around the world have called for a return to diplomacy and considered plans to withdraw their citizens.

According to Aljazeera, over 25 nations reacted to the crisis. They include Latvia, Russia, France, United Kingdome, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Japan, Canada, Australia and the Phillipines.

Others are Pakistan, India, New Zealand, Spain, Israel, Norway, Italy, Syria, Slovenia, Turkey, Cyrus, among others.

The United Nations has also reacted and called for peace. While the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres renewed his “passionate appeal for peace”, he said the world cannot afford a war in the Persian Gulf.

France on the other hand, condemned the Iranian strikes targeting military bases that house US troops in Iraq.

“France would like to highlight again the importance of continuing the fight against the Islamic State , while respecting the sovereignty of Iraq,” said a statement from the French Foreign Ministry.

However, the closest ‘reaction’ from Nigeria was from the police who placed the country on a nationwide red alert amidst claims that some elements within the country may be plotting to instigate crisis as part of the fallout of the killing of an Iranian military chief.

A statement from the Force Headquarters said police chiefs were directed to ensure strategic deployments of both overt and covert police operatives to ensure adequate security and safety of citizens and foreigners especially diplomats and diplomatic missions domiciled in Nigeria, as well as the protection of critical national assets.

What Nigeria stands to gain/lose

Although there seems to be calm now, it is difficult to disregard the fact that crisis like this could affect Nigeria and Africa in general.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, stands to lose as well as gain from the crisis between the U.S and Iran.

For instance, Nigeria – being an oil-producing and exporting country, could benefit from an increase in oil price should there be a conflict between the U.S. and Iran.

On the other hand, the face-off poses greater security challenges as there could be an increase in terrorism and attacks by religious fanatics.

Nigeria has a high presence of Shiites, whose leadership has direct links to Iran. Although the Nigerian Shiites, especially members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), have repeatedly stated that they are a peaceful and law-abiding group, the Nigerian government has labelled the IMN a terrorist organisation. The IMN leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, has been in detention since 2015 when soldiers massacred over 300 members of his group for blocking a road in Kaduna State.


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