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Anti-escalation rhetoric not enough

May 19,2019 - Last updated at May 19,2019

In the wake of the recent US escalating rhetoric against Iran and the deployment of some of its naval units, in addition to a number of air force bombers in the Middle East, high-ranking Iranian officials have been saying that Tehran does want war with Washington.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif went out of his way in Beijing only a few days ago to assure the world that “there will be no war” between his country and the US. Zarif went on to say that President Donald Trump does not want one either. Iran has been hinting that only a small number of hardliners at the White House has been pushing for escalation between the two nations to the brink of war.

All signs indicate that, indeed, the possibility of an all-out armed conflict between the US and Iran is receding for now, even though President Trump has recently ordered non-essential US diplomats and staff out of Iraq for fear that they could be the subject of attacks by militias acting on behalf of Iran.

It is reassuring that neither side seeks a war in the area, and have been disclaiming any plan for one. Yet, this de-escalation mode by both sides does not eliminate the causes that brought the two sides to the brink of a war.

Nothing really has changed, except, perhaps, the rhetoric. It is not enough to deny any plan for war without dealing with the reasons why tensions have been brewing between the US and Iran. The attack on four ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week by allegedly pro-Iran agents still haunts the concerns of the many countries which count on the Gulf waterway to obtain essential oil and gas.

The follow-up attack on oil installations in the middle of Saudi Arabia by Houthis a few days ago contradicts the cooling off words of Iran that it does not seek a conflict with the US.

Actions speak louder than words, and until the anti-escalation rhetoric is backed by deeds on the ground, the possibility of a major military conflict breaking out between the US and Iran remains high. Such a high probability remains real for the time being, unless bona fide diplomacy replaces war preparations.

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