Yonden Lhatoo
SCMP Columnist
Just Saying
by Yonden Lhatoo
Just Saying
by Yonden Lhatoo

Never mind Hong Kong’s revolution, the world is about to go to war

  • Yonden Lhatoo takes a break from stressing over the city’s long-running social turmoil to start worrying about a potentially catastrophic war brewing in the Middle East

Hong Kong protest news fatigue, anyone?

It certainly feels like post-traumatic stress disorder after nearly seven months of saturation coverage and daily overdoses of news from the revolution of our times.

The Western media’s focus on Hong Kong, from unhealthy fixation to unhinged obsession, has been noteworthy.

Particularly mainstream American media outlets, which have been called out by the watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, for their disproportionate infatuation in portraying this city’s destructive political and social upheaval as a noble, democratic struggle against an authoritarian regime, while dismissing similar chaos in other countries as mob violence and rioting.
All of it has to do with feeding the anti-China narrative, of course, as there is no Beijing to bash and therefore no need to gloss over the violence when reporting on uprisings in the likes of France, Spain, Chile, Ecuador and Iraq.
But Iraq is where everyone’s attention had better turn to, as far away from their backyard as it may be, in light of what the US has just perpetrated there with the assassination of top Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani.
The fatal attack on General Qassem Soleimani raises the stakes in the stand-off between Iran and the US. Photo: AP

Iran’s most powerful figure behind supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was killed in a US drone strike on his convoy as it was leaving Baghdad international airport on Friday.

Soleimani, 62, was not only Iran’s man in charge of Middle East military operations and proxy wars, but also a “living martyr of the revolution” who enjoyed rock-star status among tens of millions in the region for whom he was “James Bond, Erwin Rommel and Lady Gaga rolled into one”, as a CIA analyst once put it.

Despite Western media homing in on Hong Kong, violent protests have engulfed other parts of the world, including Iraq. Photo: AFP

His extrajudicial killing, ordered by US President Donald Trump in an act of war, should be seen as far more important in terms of its significance and implications for the rest of the world than the TV reality-show executions of America’s bogeymen like Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Qassem Soleimani was Iran’s ‘living martyr’ in war against US and Israel

By taking him out, Washington is elevating all the past months of chest-bumping confrontations with Tehran to a whole new level and risking a major war in the Middle East all over again. Only, this time it’s Iran, not the wreck of a nation that Iraq already was when the Americans went in and transformed it into hell on Earth.

The geopolitical dynamics with Iran are different, too, and the threat of a wider world war is not something to be dismissed as alarmist chatter.

“A war with Iran would make the war in Iraq look like a cakewalk. The devastation and the cost would be far greater than anything we have ever experienced before,” Democratic presidential candidate and Iraq war veteran Tulsi Gabbard warned last year when it looked like the US and Iran were headed for a catastrophic showdown.

How the world is reacting to the US killing of top Iran general

Whatever game he may be playing – or being made to play – Trump has voters to answer to in an election year, many of whom put him in office specifically because of his campaign promise to stop “wasting blood and treasure” on endless armed conflicts in the Middle East.

A photo released by the Iraqi government shows the aftermath of Friday’s deadly US air strike in Baghdad. Photo: AP

He’s already being reminded of that by some of his biggest fans, such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who ripped into him with this latest admonishment: “The ones telling you the Persian menace is the greatest threat we face are the very same ones demanding that you ignore the invasion of America now in progress from the south, the millions – tens of millions – of foreign nationals living among us illegally.

“They are liars and they don’t care about you, they don’t care about your kids. And you should keep all of that in mind.”

Donald Trump’s decision to order the killing of one of Iran’s most revered public figures has ramifications far wider than the unrest in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Also worth keeping in mind, we in Hong Kong may feel overwhelmed by our all-pervading revolution, as it dominates the news and daily life, but it pales in comparison with what is brewing in the Middle East and what it could do to the world.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Never mind Hong Kong, the world is about to go to war