A new world war involving nuclear weapons may have already begun, Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday, warning that an attack on Iran would be disastrous.
Mahathir said that bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan could have marked the start of the world’s fourth conflict after the two great wars and the Cold War, which ended with the collapse of Russia.
The veteran leader who ruled Malaysia for two decades until stepping down two years ago said he was convening a “peace forum” later this month bringing together experts who were sounding the alarm on the looming conflict.
“They feel that the threat is very real, certainly the fourth world war has already begun… they are convinced nuclear weapons will be used, maybe not immediately, maybe some time later,” he said.
“It’s not acceptable that the world should endure a prolonged fourth war,” he added. “I’m convinced this might happen unless they change leaders or something like that.”
Mahathir said he feared that an attack by the United States on Iran, which is insisting on pursuing nuclear capability, could trigger a global wave of suicide bombings that would create widespread insecurity.
“I went to Iran myself … and the Iranians seem to be very determined that they will defend their country. They will not give in nor will they give up their right to do research in nuclear material,” he said.
“They will fight back and I believe that they have the capacity to inflict damage on whoever attacks them.”
Mahathir said without providing evidence that he had read reports of up to 14,000 suicide bombers being trained in Iran.
“They will not confine themselves to Iran. We will not know where they are and as we have seen, people who are desperate and angry will not be very particular about whom they attack,” he said.
“So the world will become very insecure if Iran is attacked. Anywhere at all they may decide to take action, they may blow themselves up wherever.”
Mahathir said that terrorism was the result of powerful countries attacking nations that had no other means to defend themselves, and compared their actions with independence movements during the British colonial era.
“We think that nobody should kill but there are instances where people have no other means of defending themselves — they are being attacked using helicopter gunships, bombs, rockets etc and they are without any means of fighting back.”
“They are in fact defending themselves. I’m not going to excuse them for killing children etc but one has to remember that children are also being killed by government forces,” he said.
“So what is needed here is a proper perspective. If your country is being attacked, I think it’s legitimate to fight back.”