Fears have grown that a civilian airport on the west coast of Ireland could become the target of an attack by the Iranian regime as the fallout continues from the unprecedented US military’s killing of an influential general in a missile attack at Baghdad Airport last weekend.
The organizers of a monthly protest against the US military’s use of Shannon Airport in Co Clare have noted a huge surge in interest among the general public across Ireland ahead of the next scheduled vigil at the airport on Sunday (2 pm).
The airport in Co Clare, close to President Donald Trump's Irish golf course, has been used by US military planes and civilian carriers transferring troops to and from the Middle East since then-President George W. Bush began his “war on terror” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
After the Iranian regime launched missiles to retaliate for the assassination of General Qassem Suleimani on Tuesday night, the head of Iran’s regular military, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, issued a stark warning which has been greeted with alarm in Co Clare.
"We are warning all American allies, who gave their bases to its terrorist army, that any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted," said a statement from Baqeri.
Peace activists in Ireland, who have opposed the use of Shannon by the US military for decades, believe this is a stark warning to the passenger airport which has been used by hundreds of thousands of US troops over the past 19 years.
Edward Horgan of Veterans for Peace, a former Irish Army officer, has noticed a significant increase in troop movements at Shannon over the past week and believes the airport could become a target.
“If the present crisis between the US and Iran escalates, Shannon Airport is one of the possible locations for an Iranian 'counter-attack' to stop it being used by the US military. This is not just scaremongering, this could be a reality,” he said.
He claimed that a number of Miami Air planes carrying at least 1,000 armed US troops have traveled through Shannon on their way from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait since the killing of Suleimani in a US drone strike last Friday.
“This amounts to Ireland participating in the US conflict against Iran. Why is our Irish Government treating the peoples of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen as enemies of Ireland when we are supposed to be a ‘neutral’ country?” asked Horgan.
Horgan has participated in monthly protests against the US military presence at Shannon since January 2008 and has documented troop and aircraft movements throughout that time. He sees the presence of US troops at Shannon as a breach of Irish neutrality, which he claimed was supported by the majority of Irish people.
John Lannon of Shannonwatch, who organizes the monthly protests at the airport, said the interest from the public was unprecedented this week.
He claimed that US President Donald Trump had set a dangerous precedent with the drone killing of the influential general, the commander of the Quds force.
"If it was legitimate for the Americans to target an Iranian general in Iraq, in other words, to target somebody they are not at war with in another country in which they are not at war, then it’s equally legitimate for Iran to target a US general or others in another country like Ireland, in a place like Shannon,” he claimed.
“Of course I hope it doesn’t happen, but that is the type of precedent Trump has set. The attack in Baghdad is obviously in gross violation of international law. It’s ironic that it happened beside an airport, given our concerns here. US soldiers often travel in and out of hotels here on a regular basis.”
Lannon claimed that people living in the Shannon region were “waking up” to how “unpredictable and dangerous” President Trump had become.
He claimed President Trump took the decision to kill Suleimani at Baghdad Airport without a clear understanding of the consequences of his actions throughout the Middle East and beyond.
“Previous presidents have caused civilian deaths right across the Middle East, but Trump has brought it to another level of illegality,” he said.
“We at Shannonwatch have been highlighting the dangers of US foreign policy in the Middle East for the past two decades, but Trump’s volatility and the wanton disregard he seems to have for human rights and international law is just too much for people now.”
The protest against the US military’s presence at Shannon takes place at the airport on Sunday afternoon (2 pm).
Ciaran Tierney is the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blogger of the Year. Find him on Facebook or Twitter here. Visit his website here - CiaranTierney.com. A former newspaper journalist, he is seeking new opportunities in a digital world.
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