What can restrain a US-Iran conflict

Moral pressure to protect civilians is rising in many forums, helping to set a limit on wider war.

Demonstrators cheer outside Britain's Court of Appeal after a June 20 judgment challenging the government’s decision to grant the export of arms to Saudi Arabia.

As Iran and the United States inch closer toward a possible military confrontation in the Persian Gulf, it is worth noting another type of battleground in the Middle East – one that may help limit a wider war.

It is the battle to protect innocent civilians in the many conflicts involving Iran and other Middle Eastern powers.

On Tuesday, for example, the United Nations Security Council met in emergency session to throw a spotlight on recent mass killings by the Iran-backed regime in Syria. U.N. officials say Syrian planes are dropping barrel bombs on hospitals and similar targets in Idlib province. At least 230 people have died in bombings in the past six weeks.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to block a multibillion-dollar weapons deal with Saudi Arabia out of concern over the killing of civilians in Yemen. The U.N. says more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in the four-year-long war, with 65% of the deaths attributed to airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition trying to defeat Iran-backed rebels.

In breaking with President Donald Trump on the arms sale, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham made this argument for the measure: Saudi Arabia “cannot have a strategic relationship with the United States and behave in a fashion that shows no respect for human dignity, no respect for international norms.”

Also on Thursday, a court in London ruled the British government had ignored whether Saudi airstrikes in Yemen were killing civilians in selling arms to the kingdom. About half of the Saudi air force is made up of aircraft supplied by the U.K. The neglect of civilian casualties violated humanitarian law, the court found. The U.K. will now have to assure there is “no clear risk” of British weapons being used to strike civilians in Yemen.

Such victories for humanitarian law do not make as much news as Iran’s downing of a U.S. military drone or the U.S. preparation for a counterattack. Yet they send a message of restraint and a signal that much of the world is demanding respect for innocent life in a conflict.

This sort of moral pressure can help open a door for peace talks and a diplomatic settlement. Sometimes the battleground in a conflict is not all rockets and bullets but rather appeals to conscience to embrace a shared virtue.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to What can restrain a US-Iran conflict
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today