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US-Iran face-off: Nigeria may be battleground as Shiites threaten Trump

US-Iran face-off

The Federal Government has been warned that Nigeria may be a battleground if the lingering face-off between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran degenerates into major conflict following US assassination of Qassem Suleimani.

A US drone strike on Friday killed Suleimani, a major general, who commanded the al-Qud forces of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Iraq on the orders of President Donald Trump, who claimed the Iranian commander was planning to coordinate terrorist attacks against US interests and its allies in the Middle East.

Iran however, condemned the killing as an act war and threatened revenge. The Islamic Republic on Tuesday fired ballistic missiles at US army bases in Iraq in retaliation but President Donald Trump has reportedly   pulled back from the brink of war with Iran on Wednesday saying that Tehran appeared to be standing down after firing missiles without causing casualties at the US troops based in Iraq.

The US President in his address to the nation described Suleimani, as a national hero at home, but the “world’s top terrorist” who should have been terminated long ago.

The general, whose killing sparked reactions across the globe has elicited apprehension in Nigeria as experts advised the Nigerian government to take immediate steps to ensure that the country does not plunge into crisis even as the Shiites in Nigeria in solidarity with Shia-dominated Iran have threatened that the US President will pay for killing the Iranian commander.

Speaking to BusinessDay on Thursday, security expert and columnist Majeed Dahiru, said that Iran may not have capability to directly retaliate the killing, but it could revert to asymmetric tactic against US and its allies across the Middle East and Africa, which will affect Nigeria.

“Iran may not have the capability to directly retaliate this painful US action against their top military commander; they cannot engage the US in an open conventional warfare. My thinking is that Iran would most likely revert to what they know how to do best which is asymmetric warfare against the US and its allies across the Middle East and probably Africa.

“This is where Nigeria comes into the equation as asymmetrical action by Iran will make Nigeria very vulnerable to external infiltration by Iran, which might want to hurt the interest of Nigeria perceived as a Western ally,” he said.

To avoid the impact of such asymmetric warfare, Majeed advised the Nigerian government to reconcile with the Shia population to such an extent that they are no longer ostracized or seem to be persecuted and hence pushed towards solidarity with Iran, which might be tempted to militarize and arm the Shiites just to destabilize Nigeria.

He noted that the Nigerian government can achieve this by releasing the Shiite leader, Ibrahim el-Zakzaky from detention.

He also admonished the government to have a national reconciliation of all Nigerian citizens irrespective of creed or sectarian inclinations and make the people of Nigeria more united in order to forestall such ugly developments.

On the demonstration of the Shiites on Tuesday in Nigeria over the killing, Majeed said the killing of Suleimani by the US Government is not a religious affair.

 “It is purely contestations of geopolitical dominance between the United States and Iran and their respective allies in the Middle East and so the demonstration of the Shiites in Nigeria is for me a misplacement of priority because Shiism is not synonymous to being an Iranian and a Nigerian citizen was not killed. Yes we can condemn the killing of Suleimani within the context of suing for world peace and stability but not because of religious consideration,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Shiites under the banner of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, on Thursday threatened the US President Donald Trump, saying the President must pay for the “crime” he committed against Iran by killing Suleimani.

Spokesman of the Movement, Ibrahim Musa, debunked insinuations that the Iranian commander was a terrorist. He told BusinessDay in a chat that the general had instead played key roles in destroying terrorist groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“Suleiman is a freedom fighter; he is a liberator, so for anybody to kill him extra- judicially and against international laws is not acceptable,” Musa said.

Reacting to the call by the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs  for Nigerian Muslims not demonstrate against the killing of the general in order not to be misinterpreted as taking sides over  what is considered as geopolitical affairs,  Musa said   the group cannot be deterred  from exercising their legitimate right to protest against injustice.

“The bedrock of Islam is that a Muslim is a brother to a Muslim whether he is or from the east or from the west. Muslims in Iran and Iraq are being demonized by America and so we have to feel concern. More over we share the same belief, we share the same jurispuridical religious laws, so why should what affect them not be of concern to us?

“There has to be solidarity in whatever form.  If you are attached to a particular ideology or belief such as ours, there is no reason we should not condemn America. In fact America was condemned in America itself and in London and in various cities across the globe. So why should Nigeria be an exception? We have the constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully and that is what we did,” he added.

When asked about the possible backlash of the action of the Shiites in Nigeria, especially now that they are having a frosty relationship with the President Muhammadu Buhari Government, he said “we are not afraid of any backlash because we are siding with the truth.  Whatever we are doing is correct we are on the side of the truth in professing our beliefs and taking actions that are constitutionally right. So the question of whether the time was not right for the demonstrations does not arise.

“A crime was committed by Trump; he killed somebody who was a guest of a sovereign country so why should we not come out and condemn him.

 “It is not a question of Shia versus Sunni, it is a question of right versus wrong, justice versus injustice, oppression versus the oppressed. So it is not a religious conflict as such even if it escalated. For whatever happened Trump is the cause and he will pay for his actions,” Musa said.

 

 Innocent Odoh, Abuja