The Persian Chessboard

It has become a common norm amongst world leaders to refer to Iran as an enemy of liberty and a threat to world peace, with the rise of populism and nationalism it has become a recurrent theme that rising politicians use to seemingly strengthen their base. In light of the recent events surrounding Iran’s seizure of British-flagged oil tanker it has come to my attention that there needs to be a consensus on why Iran has become the nation it has, why do other nations perceive Iran as a hostile nation – in the words of President Donald J. Trump a “Nation of terror“, what are the side effects of this conflict and what are the chances that the west is drawn into another Middle Eastern Conflict?

Iran has been a dominant and rich civilization since the greeks, their development and widespread influence has been largely due to the fact that Iran boasts the world’s largest natural gas supply and fourth-largest oil reserve enabling them to be a beacon for Shiite Muslims. Iran has a very unique history, it is one of the only Islamic Republics in the world and used to be a close ally of the west. Following World War II the West sought to undermine Soviet influence in the region by instilling a leader that would ensure communism would not rise, despite the protests of the public. The tension between Iran and the west was created during this time, the people felt that the United States was protruding themselves in affairs that did not directly concern them, many of the conflicts that we see in the present is due to all the proxy-wars that the United States supported during the Cold War. Throughout history the same pattern is present where nations choose to fight over resources, ignoring the sentiments of the local people and the irony of this increases when the west does not understand why people from these regions hate the West. As a child who has been on this world since the fall of Saddam Hussein I understand the global need for resources, but what I do not understand is why the United States refuses to have formal diplomatic relations with Iran when it wholeheartedly considers Saudi Arabia a close ally. Iran does support terrorist groups, but it is a known fact that Saudi Arabia also provides aid to extremists and is the main perpetrator in one of the largest humanitarian crises plaguing the world, the Yemeni Civil War. Again to deduce this issue we must look directly into the middle east to understand the true rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran and why this conflict affects the west.

Iran as said before is a beacon for Shiites around the world, on the contrary Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of the Sunni faith, both nations see the other as a direct threat to their version of Islam. Moving off a bit, in the past the main conflict was Israel against the rest of the middle east a common issue that united the Muslim world, now we see the Arab world (including Israel) against Iran and their allies. What I find extremely absurd is how some of these Muslim states choose to side with a Jewish state to fight another Islamic state. Iran is perceived as a hostile nation because of the fact that Saudi Arabia has the second-largest oil reserves and is allied with Israel in this conflict, this is why the west supports the latter side in this conflict. What I really admire about the Obama administration is that they let go of their support for the Saudis and chose to help lift Iran out of seclusion with the hopes that they let go of their nuclear ambitions with the Iran Nuclear Deal Framework in 2015, this unfortunately, was practically dismantled after the Trump administration withdrew from the deal and Iran restarted their uranium enrichment facilities. Now it is no surprise that tensions are escalating as Iran again feels isolated and under threat by western and Sunni forces.

Whenever a major conflict occurs millions of innocent people have their lives caught in the crossfire, this conflict with Iran will be no exception if it comes down to that, but a battle between the west against Iran will solidify the sphere of influence in the Muslim world. If Iran forces the US to a cease-fire that will be considered a victory and ensure Iranian dominance over the middle eastern region for years to come, this in turn will strengthen Syria, Hezbollah, Iraq, and Qatar and ensure that Sunni dominance will be severly weakened. What could possibly emerge is a new middle eastern order where Saudi Arabia and Turkey are not the dominating partnership, but instead Iran with the support of Russia projects itself as the next global superpower. With a large population the removal of sanctions will allow Iran to once again reach for the glory that was once within reach during the days of the Obama administration, the question is whether President Trump will come to his senses. With the rise of Iranian dominance it is possible that the middle east again focuses its attention on Israel this time with more truculent aims, Israel could be facing a similar situation to what it faced before the Camp David accords and this time the Arab world would be prepared with a strong force. I would not count out the possibility of a reemerging Iraqi or Irani kingdom with the possible reacquisition of Kuwait or growing influence in the Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea respectively. However, if the west does defeat Iran swiftly extremism and guerilla warfare will spread as we saw in Afghanistan. If the war is drawn out public opinion domestically and internationally will go against the war creating the exact same situation as we have seen in other middle eastern countries the US has interfered in. At this stage the safest decision in my opinion would be to create a nuclear deal similar to that of 2015, this should be done with several amendments in order to appease President Trump who represents the biggest stakeholder in this conflict.

Coming to a conclusion on the brewing conflict, we have established several key features of these events, but what are the actual chances that this conflict breaks out into a full war. Firstly, if there was a war the nations most likely to be involved would be the US, Saudi Arabia, UK and Iran with Russia and Syria providing aid to Iran and NATO and most of the Arab states providing aid to the US, UK and Saudis. In reality, I doubt a war does break out, moreover what I see happening is one of the two paths. One, a similar approach is undertaken with Iran as was done with North Korea though I doubt that the Saudis would approve of this. Or secondly, the more likely option is that worldwide sanctions are increased, Iranian airspace is closed off and the US increases Iranian espionage operations in order to cripple the country from the inside by trying to garner US support and increase dissatisfaction with the Shah. The next steps that world leaders take, specifically President Trump’s will be essential to the middle eastern hierarchy of the future.

NYAA Sichuan Trip

Recently over the October break, I visited a region that I thought I would not visit for a very long time. During my school trip, I visited my grandparent’s homeland of the Kham region, though I was not able to visit their hometown of Chamdo, I was still able to enter the Kham region which was very surreal. We had a lot of preparation as were going to be traveling in harsh conditions which made some of my peers nervous, but me very excited.My school trip in Sichuan was one of the most memorable trips that I have had as it not only enabled me to go to one of the places I am from but also was a very adventurous trip full of fun and challenge.

Through this trip, I was able to reflect more on what I want to do this year and when I am older. I found the service work we did with the schoolchildren very meaningful and service/helping those less economically fortunate than us would be something that I would like to spend time on. Additionally, this trip fueled my passion for alpine climbing, especially high mountains as those usually involve lots of encounters with snow. I was able to meet with people that I would rarely see in my lives such as nomads. I found nomads’ lives very interesting as they never have a home base rather they live throughout the land, sharing it with their livestock. Talking with the nomads, it made me interested in their lives. When I reached Singapore, I looked into the lives of nomads and found that their population was quickly dwindling due to the fact that the Chinese government was moving them into settlements near cities so their lands could be used for resource extraction.  I found this very underwhelming as I found the Tibetan nomad culture unique and essential to Tibetan culture and irremovable part of the Tibetan way of life. While in Tibet I became more aware of the fragile ecosystem that is present in Tibet, often dubbed the ‘Roof of the World’, Tibet is the highest region in the world and the source of 13 major Asian rivers, that support billions of people. The vast snow lands made me aware of how Climate Change’s most affected areas will include Tibet.

This trip not only opened up my eyes, but it also gave me several new skills. I became more of a critical thinker as I understood how one action could have a very large impact, there were many times when I had trash in my pocket and I was tempted to litter, but I stopped myself because I knew it would be bad for the ecosystem, and I would never commit any wrongdoing in my homeland. Being more of a critical thinker has made me more aware of my environmental choices, I have decreased my plastic consumption and also ensure my family is doing so also. The trip is supposed to be the hardest 9th grade trip and it was very grueling, high altitude climbing (4000m+) in subzero autumn temperatures in the highest mountain range in the world. There were many times in the trip where my 25kg backpack was too much to handle, but I did not want to slow our group down or show weakness, so I pushed throughout it, and by the end of the trip, my shoulders and legs were very sore. Additionally, due to the high altitude, everyone got Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) at least once which involved headaches, vomiting and fevers which was something that 4 of our peers could not handle so they stayed down. During this trip I decided to take a backseat on the leadership aspect, usually on most school trips I like to present myself as a leader, but during this trip I thought it would be better if I shared that role amongst everyone which I thought was really well suited as everyone got their own chance to prove themselves.

In conclusion, this trip was very heartwarming and emotional as we capped it all by going to a monastery which is my house of worship, there I spoke with monks who I knew had gone through much hardship and torment from the Chinese government. Nevertheless, I was extremely happy that I went on this great trip because it made so much more grateful with what I have and reminded me that sometimes when something is really hard you just have to push through and stay quiet.