In Thailand, the prospect of a conflict between the United States and Iran has raised alarm as the kingdom already has nationals working in the region while increased world instability would be particularly damaging for the kingdom which has an increasingly open economy dependent on tourism and exports.

The US President will make an address on Wednesday morning in Washington on the Iranian airstrikes overnight in Iraq as the world watches, with rising alarm, events in Iraq where the Iranian regime finally came to blows with America after nearly 41 years this week in Baghdad with the killing of Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani.

US President Donald Trump will speak to Americans later today after consulting with advisers in the White House last night following an extended Iranian missile attack on an air force base outside Baghdad holding US troops. It was launched as retaliation for the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Quds Force leader, General Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad last Friday.

The US President Donald Trump will address Americans later in the morning US time on the attack last night on an Iraqi Air Force base 60 km west of Baghdad where US forces are stationed.

Reports last night suggest that tens of surface to surface rockets were launched by the aerospace division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and subsequently hit the Ain al-Asad airbase which has been used by US forces since 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein and in its ongoing battle against ISIS.

The base was visited by the US President and his wife Melania in December 2018, an event not communicated to the Iraqi in advance of the trip.

President held talks with VP and Defence Secretary at the White House last night after the attack

Lats night, after holding talks with the US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, at the White House, the President took to Twitter to give an update on events in Iraq: ‘All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well-equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.’

Unconfirmed reports of casualties

There were unconfirmed local reports of 30 soldiers having been killed at the base which also houses Iraqi soldiers. Some American officials, off the record, have confirmed that an aircraft was hit and set on fire but would not say whether it was an Iraqi or American. 

A spokesman for the Norwegian armed forces which have 70 troops stationed at the base, Brynjar Stordal, told the Associated Press also last night that there were no reports of any casualties.

US President described Soleimani as a ‘monster’

The Iranian attack comes in response to the killing of the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, General Qasem Soleimani, in an American drone strike in Baghdad last Friday. After the killing, the US President described the Iranian general, reportedly the third most powerful man in Iran, as a ‘monster’ while defending the action.

Stampede at funeral kills 56 in Iran

General Soleimani was buried in his home town of Kerman on Tuesday between the burial plots of two former comrades who died in a decisive battle during the Iran Iraq war in 1986.

That war killed 1 million people and saw the future military leader rise through the ranks. During the procession, a stampede left 576 people dead and 213 injured.

‘Unfortunately, as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions,’ Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of Iran’s emergency services revealed on Tuesday.

Last April, the US administration designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation and imposed sanctions on its key leaders.

Scoffed at by Iranian leaders at the time, this designation, had in the end, fatal consequences last Friday.

United States and Iran have been effectively at war since 1979 but up to now it has been a proxy one

The attacks on Soleimani and last night’s response which the Iranian Foreign Ministry indicated was ‘proportionate’ has rattled the world as, since 1979, the United States and the regime in Tehran, while being implacable foes, had not until this point, engaged with each other in direct military action. 

The rise and fall of Isis, the revolution in Syria and political instability in the wider region have, however, seen Iran, led by General Soleimani, extend its influence and support for groups who oppose Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

This is a regime whose primary function is to spread its influence in the region and exert its opposition to Israel even at a huge economic price and hardship for its population.

An all-out war that both countries have been trying to avoid but the dynamics are getting too dangerous

The fear is that this could lead to an all-out war which, it is understood, both Washington, even under this US administration, and Tehran has been determined to avoid.

However, the strident and aggressive policies of US President Donald Trump is believed to have been severely damaging and undermining for the Iranian regime which has recently become more active in Iraq while also becoming more oppressive with growing unrest within it’s own borders.

America would win a war with Iran but the peace raises hard questions as will the cost of such a conflict

Last Friday’s strike is believed to have galvanised support at home for Iranian authorities and what is still an increasingly unpopular regime.

Iran is effectively a theocracy led by a religious supreme leader which controls a state with some democratic institutions.

In spite of this, most experts conclude that the Iranian leadership wants to avoid an all-out war, a situation that would almost certainly see the United States win but like other wars previously, the aftermath would have unpredictable and certainly costly outcomes.

Experts can no longer divine the future

‘Anyone who tells you they know where it’s going is probably overconfident about their own powers of prediction,’ Suzanne Maloney, who is the deputy director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution aid on Friday after the drone attack. 

Regime change in Tehran is the goal of US hawks

Some US hawks suggest that ultimately the regime in Tehran has to be toppled because it is spreading terrorism and instability throughout the region since 1979. 

However, even in this group, most agree that the best approach is to isolate the Iranian regime which has been the Trump administration’s policy until last Friday’s drone strike which in itself came about due to heightened Iranian proxy operations in Iraq challenging the United States.

Thailand fears a further destabilisation in world trade as exporters meet with the government

In Thailand, there are fears among exporters that the escalating situation between Iran and the United States will further destabilise world trade as representatives of the country’s leading exporters meet the government this week.

A retired Thai ambassador and former MP has suggested that Thailand urge the ASEAN bloc to call for de-escalation and preparation by the Thai government to be able to evacuate Thai nationals in the region. ‘In doing so, it will reiterate our neutral stance on the issue and protect our people in the Middle East from possible fallout. Our collective action will also pave the way for the evacuation of our people if need be,’ Kobsak Chutikul told the Bangkok Post on Wednesday.

He warned that a US Iranian conflict would damage the world’s economy further and Thailand’s economic prospects. ‘It will exacerbate the economic slowdown and trigger volatility, putting all of us, including ASEAN, at a disadvantage,’ he said.

Last few days have seen the baht weaken

The overriding concern of exporters this week, however, is still the strength if the Thai baht.

Ironically, since Tuesday, the baht has been weakening amid tensions in the Middle East falling to ฿30.34 against the dollar on Wednesday after breaking through the ฿30 barriers in the last hours of 2019.

Exporters have warned the government that a rate of ฿28 against the dollar in 2020 would see Thailand’s exports contract by as much as 5% rather than expand by 2.3% as predicted by Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board.

Thai Foreign Minister ‘misinformed’ on drone attack

Meanwhile, a controversy involving Thailand’s Foreign Minister, Don Pramudwinai, erupted in the last few days after the top diplomat suggested that he had been briefed in advance on the drone strike against General Suleimani.

This raised eyebrows as the Speaker of the US House and other key political leaders in the United States had decried the fact that they were not briefed on security grounds.

A spokeswoman for the Thai Foreign Minister on Tuesday, Busadee Santipitaks, confirmed however that the minister had misspoken as he had been ‘misinformed’ on the matter.

Further reading:

Thailand’s Foreign Minister warns of the dangers of rising xenophobic populism in the world

US Senator is a woman who speaks Thai – Tammy Duckworth visits Thailand to foster American ties

Thailand cannot afford another year like 2019 and the borrowing stakes are getting higher moving into 2020

Thailand’s economy impacted by the whims of the US President as much as its political future in 2019

Trump to speak to Americans after Iranian attack

+ Trump to speak to Americans after Iranian attack on air force base housing US troops near Baghdad – world watches to see if Iran and America will go to war. O' Connor reports from Bangkok

Posted by on Wednesday, January 8, 2020