What escalating tensions between the US and Iran could mean for Jamaica

Hundreds of thousands of Persians take to the streets of capital Tehran to protest an American airstrike that killed a top security official, renewing tensions between the two countries (Photo: CommonDreams.org)

On Friday (Jan. 3), US President Donald Trump announced that he had sanctioned a drone strike in Baghdad, killing the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force Qassem Soleimani and deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, among others.

Head of Iran’s elite Quds Force Qassem Soleimani (centre), one of several top officials killed in a Donald Trump-sanctioned drone strike in Baghdad on Friday (Photo: TimesOfIsreal.com)

This has led to escalating tensions in the Middle East with Iran declaring that Soleimani’s death will not go unpunished.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei said, “a harsh retaliation is waiting.”

What could conflict mean for Jamaica?

As the likelihood of imminent war is considered what does it all mean for Jamaica?

A hefty oil bill somewhere in the region of US$3 billion, if the conflict should continue for the better part of a year. This, in turn, will lead to rising inflation reversing the progress made in containing it.

It will also put additional stress on the currency with even more interventions by the Bank of Jamaica to bring it to a more palatable range.

The Bank of Jamaica

With the wind in its sails, the Government may well be looking to call a general election this year on the back of a credible economic performance, which will be threatened by this external shock.

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) may well look to see how this plays out before going to the polls and will want to avoid facing the consequences of high gas prices, rising inflation, and a deteriorating economy.

There could be a greater split between the Muslim and non-Muslim world forcing Jamaica to make a decision on whose side it comes down.

Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kamina Johnson Smith will need all her diplomatic skills to explain and outline Jamaica’s position.

On one hand, the United States views Jamaica as a key ally and partner in the region and expects its support when needed.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith (Photo: Twitter @KaminaJSmith)

On the other, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries will berate the US as an imperialist power breaching its sovereignty and conducting executions in its country with impunity.

It will be asking whether Jamaica condones such actions.

Iraq said it had submitted complaints to the United Nations Security Council over the fatal drone strikes.

President Trump has warned that the US would target 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Iran attacks U.S. citizens or assets.

Will this spell a new era in foreign relations where any nation can go in and take out parties deemed to cause a threat to its safety and security?

Jamaica will have to make a decision…

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah said Soleimani’s death spells a new era in the history of the Middle East.

Secretary-General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah (Photo: TimesOfIsreal.com)

“It was a date separating two phases in the region…it is the start of a new phase and a new history not just for Iran or Iraq but the whole region.”

Jamaica may very well call for restraint and dialogue and may see itself playing a role in bringing both conflicting parties together in search of a solution.

Jamaica depends on tourism and would not want to countenance its resorts and attractions viewed as soft terrorism targets by Middle Eastern countries who view Jamaica as siding with the United States.

If American tourists decide that Jamaica is too much of a risk as a result of a terrorist act it would be a major blow to the economy and its ability to earn foreign exchange.

Tourists climbing the iconic Dunn’s River Falls in St. Ann

Perhaps Pope Francis got it right speaking at the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican earlier today when he said: “I call on all sides to keep the flame of dialogue and self-restraint alight and ward off the shadow of hostility.”

“War only brings death and destruction.”