DESPITE the fact that Washington sent a heavily armed carrier strike group USS Abraham Lincoln to the Persian Gulf, and that Tehran has given European partners 60 days to save the nuclear deal, chances of war between the US and Iran are low. Indeed, tensions between the two countries is mounting, but with the denial of the US that it is not sending 120000 troops to the Middle East it appears that the war is unlikely. The US has never hidden its desire for the regime change and wants to keep the pressure on Iran hoping that with the biting sanctions Iran’s economy will collapse and people will rise against the regime due to unprecedented inflation and unemployment. But such strategy never worked, as whenever Iran was threatened or attacked, the people showed unity. There is a perception that after withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US is looking for another adventure.
It has been consistent policy of the US to use contradictions between Iran and the Arab countries; and destroy the countries that offer a palpable threat to Israel. Iraq-Iran war was planned so that both strong countries of the region would be destroyed. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was also planned to use the pretext to attack Iraq that had emerged stronger with the support of the US and the Arab countries. The fact of the matter is that the US considers Iran, Hizbullah and Syria as a threat to Israel’s security. President Donald Trump has tightened economic sanctions against Iran, and his Administration says it has built up the U.S. military presence in the region due to Iran’s threats to US troops and interests. Tehran has described U.S. moves as “psychological warfare” and a “political game”. Taking both sides’ interests into account, war seems even less probable.
Of course, Iran is giving the US tough time in Syria, and Syrian President Bashar al Assad survived because of Hizbullah and Russia’s support. Iran is not an adventurous country; and its foreign and security policies are predictable, even if diametrical to Western interests. However, given the circumstances there is a danger of both sides pushing escalation to the point of no return. John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor, was the architect of the Iraq war, and supported regime change in Syria and Libya. He’s known for his hard-line position on Iran: “If you want to keep them from getting the Bomb, you have to bomb them. The redeeming feature is that European countries do not support Donald Trump’s policy of aggressive regime change, and expect US to honour commitments, so that other countries do not throw agreements to the winds.
In July 2015, Iran and six major world powers had reached a nuclear deal after more than a decade of negotiations. The world had hailed the nuclear deal; the then US President Barack Obama had termed the agreement as “major step to a more hopeful world”, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said it was a historic deal; and the European Union called it a “sign of hope for the entire world”, while Israel called it an “historic surrender”. Anyhow, under the deal, sanctions imposed by United States, European Union and United Nations were lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear program that the West had been suspecting was aimed at producing a nuclear bomb. The agreement was a major political victory for both US President Barack Obama and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. In other words, it was a win-win position for both.
Pakistan had welcomed the N-deal between Iran and P5+1, as it had all along taken a principled stand that under NPT the signatory country had the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. And there was no reason to suspect Iran that it would surreptitiously develop nuclear weapons, as Iran was not at all close to detonating the nuclear device. It was specified that sanctions could be re-imposed if Iran violated the agreement. Hassan Rouhani, during the debate at the time of presidential elections in Iran had stated: “It is good to have centrifuges running, provided people’s lives and livelihood are also running”. It meant that Iran’s leadership cared for the problems faced by the Iranian people who suffered from biting sanctions. Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries were mute on the deal, whereas Israel had said it was a complet surrender.
Anyhow, Yemen is still a flashpoint; it has descended into conflicts between several different groups and there is a civil war. The main fight was said to be between forces loyal to the beleaguered President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and those allied to Zaidi Shia rebels known as Houthis who had forced President Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa. The conflict between the Houthis and the elected government is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which shares a long border with Yemen and would not like to see chaos in its backyard. But who will make Iran and Saudi Arabia realise to forget differences over fiqah otherwise the US would take advantage of their contradictions, and ultimately the entire Muslim world would suffer with the intervention of the US and other foreign powers.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.