With the world preoccupied by Ukraine, another conflict is “ready to explode” in the Middle East, says Patrick Cockburn in the I newspaper. Last week, efforts to revive the 2015 deal between the US and Iran – scaling back the latter’s nuclear programme and allowing for international monitoring – collapsed spectacularly, as Tehran backtracked and announced plans to ramp up activities at its secret Fordow plant. It’s the latest in a string of escalatory events. First came the re-election of former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, a vocal opponent of any co-operation between the US and Iran. When he was last in office, Netanyahu doggedly lobbied then-President Trump for military action in Iran and trained his own air force for a potential strike.
Then there’s Iran’s “surprise emergence” as a significant player in the Ukraine war. Since October, the “cheap precision-guided missiles” it has supplied to Russia have hammered Ukraine’s electrical grid, souring Iran’s relationship with the West “even further, if that were possible”. We mustn’t underestimate the gravity of this situation. Iran is bolstered by high oil prices, and its status as a “drone super-power” gives it a huge battlefield advantage. If conflict with the West were to break out, Iran could easily shut off the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s oil and gas travels every day. Our leaders might have their “hands full with the war in Ukraine”, but they can’t ignore that “another war is brewing”.
⚽️😈 When Iran play the “Great Satan” America in the World Cup this evening, says Bobby Ghosh in Bloomberg, all eyes will be on whether the Iranian players produce another show of defiance against their rulers. In solidarity with protesters back home, they pointedly refused to sing the national anthem before their opening game against England, and captain Ehsan Hajsafi told a post-match press conference that “the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy”. Usually, authoritarian states use football to distract from their tyranny. Not this time.