Govt woefully unprepared to support people during crisis
KATHMANDU, Jan 9: Nearly two million Nepalis working in the Middle East are alarmed by the prospect of war between the United States and Iran. People are huddling in tea shops and chautaris across the country to discuss the possibility of World War III and families of our migrant workers are rightly worried by the news coming out from the Middle East. Sadly, our government has done very little to assure the public of the measures it will take to provide the necessary support to Nepalis in the region in the unlikely event of an all-out war. We have yet to see a statement or public remarks from the government to assure the worried Nepalis, both at home and abroad.
Things escalated quickly after American president Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on Friday.
Iran launched over a dozen ballistic missiles on the al-Asad and Erbil bases that house US troops in Iraq yesterday; retaliation in “self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter,” tweeted Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister. Some of the western media outlets have reported that Iran informed Iraq of the missile attacks in the US bases, which were then relayed to the United States. The United States has reported no casualties from the attacks.
A full-fledged war between the US and Iran is highly unlikely. In a televised address Wednesday, Trump called for a new deal with Iran in order to “embrace peace”.
Iran knows that its military strength is nowhere close to that of the United States. With the exception of Iran, Lebanon and Iraq, almost all the countries in the Middle East have Sunni Muslim majority population. Both Iran and Iraq have Shi’a Muslim majority population. A war is stacked against Iran. Israel, another nuclear power and a US ally, has vowed to never let Iran develop nuclear weapons capabilities.
The threat of all-out war has been averted for now. But fallout from recent developments will impact the peace and stability in the Middle East. Iran has been actively supporting various militia outfits in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere and it wants the US military out of the region. Proxy wars in the region are likely to intensity in the days and months to come.
Unstable Middle East will directly impact our economy. Millions of Nepalis working in the region will be suddenly at risk, and with it the billions of remittances coming home will dry up. Their safe return will be a humongous challenge. The Middle East emergency lays bare our government’s capacity to protect Nepalis wherever they are. This crisis should be a wakeup call to put in place strategies to help our people in need.