US-Iran conflict, an impending catastrophe


Baber Bilal
US-Iran relations have taken a new ugly turn after the brutal assassination of Iranian top military commander Qasem Soleimani. In response, Iran has fired ballistic missiles on US bases in Iraq on 8 Jan 2020. This is the first direct military confrontation after the fall of Shah in 1979 and subsequent actions of US Embassy hostage episode in Tehran. Both the US and Iran have been engaged in war of words since then. Iranians have also not forgotten US involvement in ousting the elected Prime Minister (Mohammad Mosaddegh) in 1953 and bringing Shah in power. US-Iran both have vested interest in the Middle East (ME) and have been engaged in proxy wars in Iraq, Yeoman, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. US efforts to control and minimize Iranian {Shia} influence, called “Black Crescent” which has been a major security threat to the US and Israeli interests in the region and beyond. Iranian efforts to acquire modern weaponry including nuclear capability is also a major stumbling block between the two parties. However, Iran accepted JCPOA in 2015 but situation again worsened after US withdrawal from JCPOA in 2018 and re-imposition of economic sanctions on Iran. This created worsening economic conditions for Iranians on domestic front, thus, large scale anti-government agitation was observed in the recent past. The US and Iran were collectively trying to eliminate ISIS threat despite their clash of interests in ME politics. Lately, according to Iraqi Prime Minister, the slain military commander of Iran was carrying Iranian response to de-escalate Iran-Saudi conflict. In this regard, PM of Pakistan and other like-minded leaders were also involved to reduce the regional tension between two Muslim countries.
Now question arises, who has gained out of this US move and what would prevail? First of all, lecturing Iranians to accept the killing of their national hero as fait-accompli of US-Iran conflict is a mistake. Mind it, WW-I started because of the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. This incident has provided yet another opportunity to Iranian public to once again unite against a common enemy. Furthermore, US core alloy Israel, has also shown inability at present to openly supporting US move. Other US allies in the ME including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt are also silent as they fully understand the ultimate outcome of war for which simple example is 2% loss in share value of ARAMCO (losing US$ 200 Billion) after the killing incident. If we carefully analyze US actions, especially why now? – first and foremost reason is that year 2020 is an election year in the US and most likely Mr. Trump wanted to show domestic audience, especially Jew voters that he is the only man who can tackle Iran’s military threat upfront in the ME. He is also under a lot of pressure for his role in Ukrainian aid issue for which impeachment process is in motion. The US, thus has tried to gain many benefits out of this bold action, first; eliminated hardcore professional enemy, even gave lessons to allies if they intend to take a solo flight like Saudi-Iran negotiations through third party; has re-set the timeline for Saudi-Iran peace initiatives; succeeded in dividing Muslim Ummah on Shia Sunni lines once again; has a chance to tackle militarily Iranian nuclear ambitions; preserve threat environment in the ME for US arms sales, and limiting role of China and Russia in present crisis.
The US has sold arms and ammo worth billions of dollars in the ME in the last four decades, which will be used against Iran, bringing total destruction to human life and property in the Muslim world thus to reduce the military and economic muscles of Muslim world considerably, addressing the security concerns of Israel in the long run. The ISIS is another major cause of concern. US has already indicated halting of so-called action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with elimination of Iranian Force Commander fighting the ISIS, it is now crystal clear that some of the vested powers of the world do not want to see complete elimination of this threat, fueling rumours that the US has interests in keeping ISIS threat alive. US general populace may not be interested in going to war against Iran, subject to honest information on the subject. However, same is not likely as even US Secretary of State was not willing to share evidence with local media. Hence, with arrival of few US coffins because of Iranian action, US Government will be able to mould opinion of political leadership and general public against Iran, thus, may walk into another bloody war. However, this likely scenario will not be limited to US-Iran but may engulf entire globe into WW-III.
Pakistan is an ally to US interests in Afghanistan and has very limited options available for exercising independent foreign policy options because of economic vulnerability. However, we need to understand, sharing of grief with Iran should not be put to diplomatic jargons. Nations do remember friends in times of need, like we still cherish Iranian and Indonesian roles in wars against India. PM Khan to take lead mustering global support to stop pot boiling further. He needs to take tour of Iran, Saudi Arabia and even USA immediately as global concerned citizen, otherwise, Pakistan will have another Afghanistan on its borders, brewing out of US-Iran conflict. This time, it will further widen Shia-Sunni internal fault-lines, bringing violence back in the country. It is thus opined that the UN and responsible states should address this issue on a war footing. They need to pacify the Iranian sentiments, not by asking them to restrain, but pressurize Trump Administration to control their actions and stop threatening Iran. Mind it …Iran is not Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Libya. Iran is a nation, geographically important and has a history of more than 2500 years to independent statehood.
—The writer is a retired Commodore of Pakistan Navy and International Maritime Security Expert at National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Islamabad.

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