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article imageOp-Ed: The Malvinas Precedent

By Paul Iddon     Dec 28, 2012 in Politics
Margaret Thatcher is revealed to have expressed surprise at the Argentine junta's invasion of the Falkland Islands. Given the nature of that and other dictatorial regimes such capricious actions and behavior should be of no surprise.
“I never, never expected the Argentines to invade the Falklands head-on. It was such a stupid thing to do, as events happened, such a stupid thing even to contemplate doing,” Margaret Thatcher stated to the Falkland Islands Review Committee chaired by Lord Franks in October 1982 as newly released papers have revealed.
Indeed 30-years on it still strikes one as quite a profoundly interesting event. The Argentine military junta of the day, that had ruthlessly crushed dissenters to its authoritarian iron-fist rule, reiterated that country's claim that the islands constituted part of their land and had been illegally colonized by British settlers nearly two-centuries beforehand. Acting on that stated belief that junta proceeded to seize those little islands, not believing that the United Kingdom would be capable of retaking them by force.
The British proved them wrong in quite a spectacular attack that saw to the Royal Navy Task Force take on the Argentine military force and retake the island. It was a risky move on behalf of the British but Mrs. Thatcher's action saw the British prevail. It also ensured the brutal regime in Buenos Aires lost face at a pivotal moment and subsequently lost its hold on power, ushering in a democratic Argentina.
I cited the unbelievable action taken by that desperate regime when defending my friend Nader Uskowi. Writing about the disputed islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs in the Persian Gulf, he contended that we should not rule out the possibility that the Iranian controlled islands that the United Arab Emirates lays claim to may be seized by the Arab gulf states by force in a future confrontation with Iran. With the unbelievable action taken by the Argentine junta when it faced dire economic circumstances at home and the risk of 'losing face' it could very well be a possibility that we should not rule out.
Saddam Hussein took the world by surprise when he decided to seize the state of Kuwait following a border dispute with the smaller gulf emirate. Claiming it as part of Iraq which was stolen by the British following the break up of the Ottoman Empire Saddam proclaimed Kuwait to be the 19th province of Iraq.
In that case he believed that the United States and the western powers were too weak to face down Iraq in a 'mother of all battles'. Then U.S ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie, who many analysts contend inadvertently gave Saddam the go ahead to solve his border dispute with Kuwait by force when she said the U.S had no opinion on Arab disputes of that kind, was told by the former Iraqi dictator that her society was one that could not afford to lose 10,000 soldiers. Hussein as we know was faced down and his forces suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a technologically superior and proficient US-led coalition that liberated Kuwait and devastated Iraq.
Writing here on Digital Journal earlier this year I outlined a scenario that could potentially entail Iran intervening in the small Persian Gulf island-kingdom of Bahrain under the pretext of protecting the marginalized Shia majority there. I was never quite satisfied with that scenario. It seemed so outlandish, something that if they were to actually do would genuinely surprise me. But when I ponder why I would be surprised I wonder why that would be the case. That region has proved that anything is possible, no matter how unlikely it may seem something will transpire.
For instance, who would have thought back in 1978 looking at Iran that within the space of a year or two an aged cleric would return from exile and relative obscurity, replace a man who was seen as the most powerful autocrat in the region and impose a strict form of Sharia on all Iranians, in that relatively short space of time. It would seem outlandish to suggest the possibility of such events transpiring a mere year before they took place.
The caprice that oppressive regimes exhibit is something that shows they can be predictably unpredictable. There is very seldom something they won't do if they feel undertaking such an action would secure their holdings on power. If that means brutally torturing and murdering peaceful protesters so be it. If it means attempting to divert economic discontentment among your disgruntled population you undertake a risky military adventure (Kuwait and the Falklands are perfect examples of this).
Thatcher was right about Argentina's move over the Falklands. It was indeed a stupid thing to do. But when a government denies its citizens freedom of speech, imposes a military rule, eventually they will convince themselves the only solution to their many problems lies outside their borders. Seizing the Falklands in the junta's eyes would serve to reassert dwindling national pride, which in reality wasn't lost as a result of British ownership over the Malvinas but over the trodden down by the junta of the people of Argentina. Similarly Saddam Hussein sought to solve his country's own economic woes by not only settling the border dispute on Basra's frontier with Kuwait, but by seizing all of that little oil kingdom and defying the international community.
In light of these examples the Iranian regime may try to quell further dissent by proclaiming itself to be the guardians of oppressed Shia outside of its borders and intervene in Bahrain (an island that was formerly claimed by Iran in a latent manner similar to Iraq's former claim over Kuwait) and annex it.
Outlandish? Maybe. But again before 1974 it wasn't quite clear that the communal rivalries between the two diverging communities on the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus would lead to Turkey directly intervening and seizing (and also annexing) the northern third of that island under the pretext of protecting the Turkish Cypriots.
One could ponder the 101 different scenarios we may face in the future. It can be counter productive doing this too much. But one should always be ready to expect the unexpected when it comes to dealing with capricious fascistic regimes. And history attests that this has always been the case.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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