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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 9)

All News 07:01 January 09, 2020

Avoid worst-case scenario
US, Iran should try to find peaceful solution

Tensions are escalating further in the Middle East after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two U.S. military bases in Iraq, Wednesday. The launches were revenge attacks for the U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike near Baghdad, Friday.

Iran's retaliatory action should not come as a surprise because its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed "harsh revenge" right after Soleimani's slaying. It defied the international community's call for restraint. The Islamic Republic also ignored U.S. President Trump's threat against any potential retaliation by Iran. On Saturday, Trump warned that 52 Iranian sites would be targeted if the country retaliated.

Now no one can rule out the possibility of an all-out war as both sides are ready for tit-for-tat exchanges. Iran's missile attacks could be seen as only the beginning of further action against "Uncle Sam." If war breaks out, it would be open conflict between the two countries which have been archrivals since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The consequences of such a conflict will certainly destroy peace and stability not only in the Middle East but across the globe.

For this reason, we cannot help but express deep concern about what is happening between Washington and Teheran. We call on both countries to refrain from ramping up tensions. They should not burn bridges and go head to head. If history is any guide, military conflict such as in the Iraq War cannot solve problems. This is why the two foes should try to find a peaceful solution to their longstanding confrontation.

Trump ordered the assassination of Soleimani as part of the U.S. fight against terrorism. On the other hand, Iran described its top military leader as a martyr. Washington and Tehran will never find an exit from the hair-trigger situation unless they get out of the terrorist-martyr framework.

Against this backdrop, other world powers such as Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia need to go all-out to ease tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The United Nations should also work hard to settle the dispute. Of course, this is easier said than done. Settling old scores and ending decades of enmity is not attainable overnight because it requires time and effort.

It is regrettable for the Trump administration to shift its focus from peace to military action in dealing with Iran, which has sought to increase its influence in the Middle East. President Trump has come under fire for trying to play the Iran card to boost his re-election bid in the face of impeachment. He withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran which soured bilateral ties. Soleimani's killing might lead Iran to resume its nuclear weapons program, further destabilizing the region.

Washington and Iran should avoid the worst-case scenario. It would be better for them to resume dialogue to end the rising conflict as soon as possible.
(END)

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