Lt Col Mukhtar Ahmed Butt (Retired)
ON 11 September 2001, militant’s fundamentalists hijacked commercial airliners and flew them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon killing over 3000 people. US intelligence agencies started investigations about Iraq’s possible connection with Al Qaeda a terrorist organization that claimed responsibility of the attack. In Jan 2002 President Bush blamed Iraq as one of the rogue nations that financed terrorists. Iraq was blamed negotiating with Niger to purchase huge quantity of Uranium Yellowcake to create WMD. UN weapons inspectors tried to ascertain if Saddam had violated UN Resolutions against manufacturing biological and chemical weapons but their report was not given any weight because Bush had already made his mind to bring regime change in Iraq and tried to get support of key Security Council nations including France and Germany.
Bush announced he was ready to launch military action against Saddam all alone by itself. Bush gave 48 hours ultimatum to Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq or face war but they declined. Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom on 19 March 2003. Bush received harsh criticism from home and abroad but was able to destroy a peaceful country. Saddam Hussain went into hiding and was ultimately captured and tried and hanged. Britain openly sided with USA. Bush kept denying that he manipulated intelligence reports to get rid of Saddam and bring democracy in Iraq without consent of the people. Question arises who authorized Bush to bring democracy in Iraq. Although Bush announced “Mission accomplished” but in actual fact he faced great opposition and attacks by insurgents. US lost more than 3000 men with 23000 wounded while Iraqi civilian casualties were more than 50000. It was just show of power by a superpower and was a big lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, later on Tony Blair acknowledged that it was his mistake to side with Bush.
We are now once again confronted similar like situation now Donald Trump administration believes that US personnel face credible threat in the Middle East. Actually the conflict is between KSA and Iran. US is openly supporting KSA. The advisors want Trump to go for military action but Trump prefers diplomatic approach. US has suffered defeat in Afghanistan with thousands of casualties and over three trillion dollars on inconclusive war. Security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are not on same page. Trump still wants to talk to Iranian leadership but his Security Advisor wants regime change as was done in Iraq but at what cost.
But one thing is definite the war will be different from Iraq that is what is worrying Trump. Trump is on record having called Iraq war a massive and avoidable blunder and he believed that he would not repeat such blunder as it is costly affair in men and material. Trump still wants to negotiate with Iran and reach some settlement suiting both the countries but his Security Advisor seems to have very rigid approach. European Union is also not convinced and wants US to show solid reasons about indications of any aggression from Iranian side.
All saner people are advising Trump not to repeat the same mistake as was done in 2003 by Bush while invading Iraq on the premise that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Why US does not look at Israel’s nuclear arsenal. US has completed its deployment in the region by building up his strategic naval forces not to fight naval battle but to apply shock and awe therapy to strike Iran tantamount to further prolong another war by US. Region would be in great turmoil, Saudis would be on the receiving end and also foot the bill. Iran’s national fervour has reached high pitch. Tens and thousands of Iranians are ready to die for noble cause of defending their homeland. They will fight the aggressor till death, they are taking oath in the name of Allah. Sanctions and threats have further unified them, they believe in reasoning and want to avoid war but if imposed have no option except to defend themselves.
In all probabilities US shall repeat same strategy as done in Iraq massive aerial bombardment to neutralize Iranian capabilities. Maximum damage to infrastructure to cause scare. However Iran shall respond adequately and attempt to rain down missiles towards American war machinery and his coalition partners and attack on American ships deployed in the Gulf. End result will be severe destruction of infrastructure of Iran on the lines of Iraq with heavy innocent casualties. Strait of Hormuz will partially stand blocked, oil prices jumping over $ 100 a barrel hitting Pakistan economy below the belt giving opportunity to opposition to cry foul against the government. However, situation may change if Russia and China back Iran but so far there has been no apparent signal from both whatsoever to diffuse the situation
In fact this is a cover war against Iran but actually against Pakistan to sabotage CPEC. It is an open secret that India has been opposing CPEC which is part of China’s One Belt One Road or China’s Belt and Road Initiative later on US also joined India. The US opposition was on wrong assumption that CPEC a part of which will pass through disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan rejected the statement of US defence chief and urged the international community to take notice of India’s atrocities in occupied Kashmir and reminded US that they had also participated in OBOR summit. China also dismissed Mattis statement by saying that OBOR plan was backed by UN and CPEC was an economic cooperation initiative.
This war that is more inclined to derail OBOR has China as its main target and is more likely to attack its economic growth and capture space in the world. The much declared and projected likely enemy may be Iran but let there be no doubt it is China’s rise , development and growth that US actually wants to derail and combat India continues its negative propaganda through chosen enemies of Pakistan. But question arises why our political parties are silent on this negative propaganda, they are active against Imran and the government where as their concentration should be to protect Pakistan’s stand. Realization is missing, self interest is superseding country’s interest without realizing its consequences.