Mirza Aslam Beg
THE intelligent machines like the drones and the cruise missiles that hit Saudi oil facilities, demolished the myth of security, which the multi-billion dollar US ‘Iron-Dome’ air defence system was to provide. With one stroke it has exposed the vulnerability of eight military bases of America in the Middle East region, and all the oil producing facilities of Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Arab countries. That is the reason that “locked and loaded’, threat of Trump, was rejected by the saner elements, who didn’t want ‘American forces acting as mercenaries to Saudi Arabia.” Iran is equally vulnerable, facing the “economic war” sanctions and more sanctions.
The Israel-Hezbollah war of 2007 is one such example, where the American Iron Dome air defence system was defeated by free flight rockets of Hezbollah. Israel lost the war. Such is the tyranny of high-tech expensive weapons defeated by very simple and inexpensive anti-weapons. It is reported that the Houtis fired 22xdrones and cruise missiles from a distance of about 1000 kms. Abqaiq was struck 18xtimes while nearby Khumrais was hit four times, that triggered multiple explosions and towering flames that took hours to extinguish. I remember, President Clinton in 1998 fired cruise missiles from a distance of 1200 km, targeting Osama Bin Laden hide-out in Afghanistan. Seventy of these missiles hit the target area, while the remaining hundred fell over Pakistan territory, many of them in good condition, were picked-up by Pakistani technicians, who did the reverse engineering, to develop the prototype of the Toma Hawk Missiles. It’s the Americans, the Iranians and the Pakistanis who have this technology. Pakistan is now working to increase its range to last limit of Indian territories.
Now Pompeo says “our mission is to avoid war with Iran. We are sending more troops to the region to deter aggression,” which is meant to fool the Arabs, with a false sense of security. Iran warns “we have stood tall for the last forty years. If any country attacks Iran, that country will become the battle ground.” The situation is explosive. On the other hand, our soft diplomacy has emboldened the Indian Army Chief, threaten hitting strategic targets in Pakistan, and we are seeking clarification of such outbursts. The Arabs have no hope of getting any reliable defence of their vulnerable assets. They should fight their own wars. The United States after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, appears ready to reach out to Iran to accept a more restrictive agreement. The Iranians suffering from the sanctions of the economic war, “have, no doubt, orchestrated threat to flow of Gulf oil causing pain to United States and their Arab allies. Now it would be foolish to counter this escalation with an escalation that would mean choosing between an unwise escalation, or a humiliating climb-down.”
The defensive measures would continue to be taken by the adversaries such as, the US military cyber command carried-out strike against military computer systems used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, to control rocket and missiles launchers. Any miscalculation in this explosive situation would blow-up the entire region into a conflagration of uncontrollable dimensions. For sure Israel would jump into the foray inviting strong retaliatory actions by Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. And the weapons of war would be missiles, rockets, drones and suicide bombers in thousands, to break the will of the adversary. Israel would be the main target, whose very existence may be threatened. Trump appears to take the risk of such an expanded conflagration that would signal “a catastrophic situation for the region that may be his long-term objective.”
The Israeli defence analysts, Uzi Rubin and Eran Etzion, say Iran has developed long range missiles and drones with precision guidance systems, capable of hitting strategic targets. Has deployed them close to Israeli borders and at several places in the Middle East, which has so fundamentally altered the region’s strategic balance that no nation can take on Iran, including United States” whose eight military bases in the region, are vulnerable. “Hezbollah alone can destroy part of Tel Aviv.” “That’s called a game changer. They would need only two hundred such systems to stop Israel’s ability to wage its own war. This is reason that Trump’s now is trying to meet Mr Rouhani to find peaceful solution of this complex situation.
Trump best friend Modi would be facing similar challenges, as well as the Jehadis of the world reaching-out in support of the Kashmiri freedom fighters. Decision will be sought here and not at Washington. Better sense appears to have prevailed. “US want to give diplomacy, every chance to succeed” Pompeo. The days of strategic domination over West Asia are over. On the other hand, Mr Rouhani has decided to attend the General Assembly Session, to unfold his “Hormuz Peace Endeavour” – (PEACE).” A sagacious and timely move. The stark realities of the recent past must be remembered: • The Stinger Missiles, in 1987, made the Soviets pull out of Afghanistan. • The Green Arrow Anti Tank missiles in the hands of the Bosnian Muslims, in 1995, forced the Serbian killers retreat. • The Free Flight Rockets of Hezbollah in 2007, forced defeat on Israel. The Precision Guided Missiles and Drones, now in the hands of Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and perhaps the Houtis of Yemen also have changed the strategic balance of the entire Middle East Region. Pakistan has clear options of maintaining the Strategic Balance in its favour, than relying on the atomic prowess.
— The writer, a retired 4-star General, is former COAS, Pakistan Army.