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The Security Complex of the Persian Gulf

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Authors: Mohammad Ghaderi & Javad Heiran-Nia

In accord with Barry Buzan’s understanding of Regional Security Complex, the Persian Gulf region is itself a security complex made up of friendship and enmity between nation states, communities, and individuals. The friendships and enmity range from deeply historical to current economic, social, cultural, religious, and even personal matters. The role of Iran among Arabs, for example, exhibits such complexity, and is not analyzable simply in terms of the distribution of power. Iran-Arab relations includes border disputes, attachments of persons with a same or similar tribal identity or ideological attitudes, positive or negative communications between Arab and non-Arab or Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

In fact, there is a kind of mutual dependency in the security complex of the Persian Gulf like other regions. But security competition is negative in the Iran – Iraq and Saudi Arabia triangle. In such a complex, the small states like Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain have very limited influence on the structure of this complex. Their security almost depends on the bigger regional power’s pattern and could be defined as a threat against a great power under conditions when alliances are formed with the greater powers.

The security pattern of the Persian Gulf has been worsened in its present condition because of presence of the foreign powers. The security pattern of any region is affected by the security pattern of powers. Competition between the great powers tends to increase the existing regional competitions in the security pattern of the Persian Gulf.

Some experts of the Persian Gulf affairs including Kenneth Polak believe that Arab states of the Persian Gulf have passed significant steps in order to develop some of their capabilities during the last decade. For example, they have extended their relations with the USA and the other western militaristic powers to create their armies.

But the existence of a sum – zero game and the adoption of political realism approach has created the mind set that empowerment of any one these states will create potential threat against others in this security complex. This issue has created some kind of security dilemma in the region.

Even we can say that the dominant realist logic among Persian Gulf states is a kind of offensive realism in which the states are following their purpose of achieving to maximum power to fulfil their maximum security. It means, even defensive realist logic in which states don’t adopt offensive approach and react in condition of feeling threat, this reaction also usually is in the level of balance and preventing the source of threat and is not dominant on the behavior of the Persian Gulf states.

Now, the level of security has been decreased because of the increase in militaristic power the Persian Gulf States. In such condition, there is the probability of war between Iran with Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia against UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt. So, how could we design a kind of security framework which could prevent war in short term and will lead to establish regional coordination in the region for long term? In fact, dialogue between the states of the region and passing into some level that fulfils the security of the region by the Persian Gulf states and non-intervention. Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs declared Iran’s will to end the current crisis and challenges of the region on June 13 during his news conference in Oslo. He emphasized on significance of having dialogue and finding needed solutions to resolve the current regional challenges and issues. Zarif emphasized on having a comprehensive sustainable mechanism for consultation, negotiation and resolving challenges as the maximum significant issue in the region and declared this fact that idea of just negotiating on the current issue between the neighbors is not enough. The Iranian FM pointed to Helsinki Agreement (1975) as an instance for such sustainable agreement. According to Zarif, Helsinki Agreement was succeed to decrease amount of existing challenges and disagreement between the sides on the era of cold war.

In fact, he talked about a security framework that could be able to ensure the regional security for long-term. But how could such mechanism be created? To answers this question, it is necessary to take a look at the existing security mechanisms in the region. Many of these mechanisms like GCC which was created following Iran – Iraq war on 1981 were not successful in long term. Because it could not perform a militaristic alliance by ink of a common defensive treaty between the members. We can point to the current challenges between Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Qatar and the disability of GCC and its manifest to resolve the happened challenges between the members.

ASEAN is another pattern for coordination between the Persian Gulf states. But we have to consider this fact that the mentioned treaty has not been successful in achievement of development in security issues. One of the reasons on this issues backs to existing demographic heterogeneity among the members of this union. In the other hand, this organization has focused on economic issue since 1976 and Bali conference.

OSCE is another recommended pattern to use in Persian Gulf region. We have to mind that the focus of this pattern also is on state security and the external threat against it.

In the other hand this model is inattentive to internal changes and human security or political changes while according to the Arab Sprit issues and consequences, the Arab states just could talk about a comprehensive security framework if they focus on the issue of Human Security.

One of the other patterns for security framework of the Persian Gulf is CESE. This model is a useful and suitable one for security coordination between the Persian Gulf states.

In fact, the Helsinki Treaty (1975) led to establish of CESE and then, OSCE in its next stage. Helsinki Treaty was the beginner for a process of gathering NATO and Warsaw member states beside of non-aligned European states in one place in order to talk about their worries without any precondition.

OSCE which was created on the base of respect to sovereignty, non-use of force, respect to the political borders and territorial integrity, peaceful resolving challenges and non-intervention in each other internal affairs prepared this ability for the member states to seat around a table and talk about their security concerns to each other.

We have to mention that the idea of hegemonic security by a power (domestic or foreign) under the goal of having control and ordering a region has been proposed since the era of colonialism in the region and also the modern idea of collective security between the independent states of the region is a new subject which has been appeared in the political literature of the region.

The Persian Gulf region needs architecture of a comprehensive and extensive order by non-participation of the infra-regional powers in such order. Also the security structure of such security order has to be based on the cooperation of all member states of the region.

That’s why decision making in mega scale in security coordination has to be attended. If we supposed to take the pattern of CSCE, it is necessary to hold some meetings with security agenda and all sides can declare their security, threat concerns and recommend their solutions to decrease such threats. All the sides could create special committees to negotiate with each other on the probable solutions. Finally, some actions have to be performed by one side or all, to build confidence symmetric or non-symmetric. The member states could use these committees to resolve their differences and decrease of challenges or crisis. In the final stage, when they could achieve mutual confidences between the members, then could ink memorandums relating arm control. This helps security and settlement in the region fundamentally.

The consequence of this action could ends to creation of a temporary or permanent organization which puts clear or by case agendas in their program.

In this framework, members have to achieve this concept that no issue or problem is resolvable by war, and nobody is allowed to interfere in the other one’s domestic affairs. The mentioned security framework has to be based on Barry Buzan’s “security complex” model and its concerns has to be focused on the security issues of the Persian Gulf and the members are not allowed to use this mechanism for the non-related security issues to the Persian Gulf.

The mentioned framework has to be inclusive consisting Iran, Iraq and the GCC member states. It is clear that any other framework which separate one or some of these states has not been successful. The experience of Damascus Declaration (6+2 Treaty) and GCC have demonstrated this fact that achievement of a comprehensive security framework in the Persian Gulf is just possible if all the member states in this region accept it. It is very idealistic view that we ask all US regional allies in the region to stop their security and militaristic relations with Washington. This issue will be right just building confidence is enough and there has to be no regional threat.

Having a similar pattern like CSCE in the Persian Gulf is not a threat but such designation will be a great way for having a safe Persian gulf if all the sides accept it.

This order has to call war illegitimate – like Karl Deutsch’s “Pluralistic Security Community” theory which contains various state with ruling governments but no one use war in its relations and there is no place even for probable war in their relations.

There is some hope that dialogue between the states in the region will develop to a level that fulfils the security of the region by the Persian Gulf states and secures the non-intervention of foreign powers. In his news conference on June 13 in Oslo, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs declared Iran’s will to end the current crisis and challenge the region. He emphasized  the significance of having dialogue and finding needed solutions to resolve the current regional challenges and issues. Zarif emphasized that having a comprehensive sustainable mechanism for consultation, negotiation and resolving challenges as the maximum significant issue in the region and declared this fact that idea of just negotiating on the current issue between the neighbors is not enough. The Iranian FM pointed to the Helsinki Agreement (1975) as an instance for such sustainable agreement. According to Zarif, the Helsinki Agreement has succeeded to decrease amount of existing challenges and disagreement between the sides on the era of cold war.

* Mohammad Ghaderi, Editor-in-Chief of Tehran Times newspaper

Ph.D Student of International relations in Islamic Azad niversity،Science and Research Branch (Iran) Visiting Fellow of the Persian Gulf Department in the Center for Middle East Studies

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Defense

Urgency of Reviewing India-Pakistan’s CBMs & Risk Reduction Measures

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In an unprecedented event on March 9, 2022, India launched a missile, reportedly identified as the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, which landed in Pakistan. After crossing the international border, the missile travelled 124 kilometres at an altitude of 40,000 feet into Pakistani airspace before impacting near the city of Mian Channu, Khanewal District. Following the incident, India started issuing clarification statements only after Pakistan reported the matter. In its first statement, India noted that the missile was accidently launched owing to a technical malfunction. Later, the Indian government changed its statement and termed it a human error, involving ‘possible lapses on part a Group Captain and a few others.’ Around six months later, India terminated the services of three Indian Air Force (IAF) officers, after a Court of Inquiry found ‘deviation from the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)’ by the officers and held them responsible for misfiring the missile.

Pakistan has rejected the purported closure of the incident and called the findings of the Court of Inquiry unsatisfactory and inadequate. While reiterating its call for a joint probe, Pakistan not only termed Indian clarifications ‘simplistic’ but also criticised the country for failing to immediately inform when the missile was launched. India’s failure to communicate the incident violated the 1991 agreement with Pakistan on preventing air space violations. Under the agreement, both India and Pakistan have to inform and investigate inadvertent violations of airspace promptly. Meanwhile, India also failed to activate the high-level military hotline to inform Pakistan. Both the countries maintain mechanisms of hotline contact between their Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) to resolve misunderstandings.

Fortunately, the missile was unarmed and no lives were lost. Pakistan also responded towards the situation with restraint. However, the incident marks an alarmist event. Whether the incident was an accidental launch, an unauthorised launch, or a simulated exercise, it suggests not only shortcomings in India’s technical and procedural system but also shows its irresponsible behaviour as a nuclear weapon state. The incident also raises numerous questions about the country’s safety protocols, Command and Control (C2) of nuclear weapons and missiles, and communication mechanisms. The situation would have escalated if the accident had led to destruction or loss of lives, since there were several indications that Pakistani authorities had considered retaliation. Second, if the incident had taken place during a crisis, it could have led to inadvertent military escalation owing to miscalculations.

In this regard, there is a great urgency that both India and Pakistan collaborate on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to ensure that such accidents or unauthorised launches do not take place in the future. Even if they do, the two countries should be able to inform each other before any military response.

First, India and Pakistan need to review their joint 2005 Agreement on the Pre-Notification of Flight Testing of Ballistic Missiles. The agreement covers surface-to-surface ballistic missiles only, and each country provides at least three days’ notice for a test launch. Both countries are obligated to not situate test launch sites within 40 kilometres of their shared border nor land a weapon closer than 70 kilometres from the border. However, the agreement has its limitations as it does not cover cruise missiles. In 2005, New Delhi declined to accept Islamabad’s proposal to include launch of cruise missiles in their joint agreement on pre-notification of ballistic missile launches. Currently, Pakistan and India have multiple and diverse types cruise missiles in their arsenal with high ranges. There is an urgency of expanding the pre-notification regime to include cruise missiles, including surface, air or sea-launched versions to avoid misunderstanding. Second, in order to avoid accidents in case of routine maintenance or inspection, India should efficiently and professionally ensure safety precautions regarding its missiles.

Additionally, India and Pakistan could also consider devising new Risk Reduction Measures (RRMs). For example, missiles that are scheduled to be inspected, both countries need to configure their weapons’ guidance systems to unoccupied places such as oceans or deserts where they pose minimum dangers. Moreover, the weapons’ pre-fed adversary target locations need to be removed while used for inspection, training, or simulated exercises. The maintenance of actual coordinates of adversary targets could lead to unintended escalation in accidental launches. These measures would not only help avoid accidents, they could also serve as an added layer of protocol to minimise the possibility of unauthorised launch.

However, accidents happen despite best safety protocols as there are limits of safety procedures. In such a possibility, there is a need of haste to communicate accidental launches. India needs to make use of existing channels of communication to avoid miscalculations in times of crises. The BrahMos missile incident indicates that crisis could erupt quite quickly between India and Pakistan. Unless the two countries adhere to their existing CBMs and establish new measures, mitigating such incidents and preventing risk of escalation could become a Gordian knot.

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Why Parties to Russia Ukraine War Prolonging it?

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Image source: kremlin.ru

Russia Ukraine War seems to be entering a deadly phase after seven months, witnessing significant twist in the form of Kremlin’s declaring victory in hasty referendum in four regions of occupied territory to join Russia, poising itself for complete annexation of occupied areas, having announced partial mobilization calling up 3,00,000 reservists for frontline duties. The recent successes of Ukrainian counteroffensive, as the cumulative military aid over $60 billion poured into Ukraine from US led NATO, seems to have emboldened Zelensky to talk of defeating Russia and getting back his entire territory. Angered NATO, left out of battle by nuclear threat, calling out sham referendum, is looking to table new resolution against it, knowing fully well that it will be vetoed by Russia.

Why No Party to the war is thinking of conflict termination?

This prolonged war is making everyone in the world vulnerable to inflationary pressures, triggering an unprecedented energy crisis and acute food shortages. In view of that, diplomacy and talks for conflict termination should have been the logical option long back, but no party to the war seems to be thinking about it due to own strategic interest, wanting to make more gains before getting back to negotiation table. All parties know that they can’t be outright winners in this war, but all are prolonging their agony to avoid being an outright loser.

Russian Stakes

Russia is yet to achieve its strategic aim of liberating complete Donbass Region and remaining southern Ukraine to landlock it, to join up with Transnistria. It has suffered heavy casualties and reverses in many regions like Kharkiv. It has received no worthwhile military material support from anyone in the prolonged war; hence consolidating its gains, redeployment of troops in Russian friendly areas by pulling back from unfriendly ones, along with regrouping and rejig in military hierarchy is a sensible option from military perspective.

The awkward thinly veiled threat by President Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, if Russian “territorial integrity” is threatened has put NATO on notice as to how it would respond. The expected annexation post referendum complicates the nuclear threat, as attack on annexed territory may invite nuclear response as per Russian nuclear policy.

Putin may not be encouraged with meek support from China, its ‘strategic partner with no limit’ seemingly responding within careful limits, and comments like ‘Not an era of war’ from otherwise impartial India. Russia might end up with extension of direct land border with NATO by over 1000 Km in terms of Finland joining it. It also continues to suffer standoff attacks from Ukraine’s recently acquired long range capabilities including drones and clandestine raids of special forces and non-state actors like blasts in Crimea.

Russia is aware of its limitations in the areas of economic, diplomatic, information warfare, and political warfare. Russia’s much-criticised partial mobilisation and call for reservists is comparable to Ukraine’s, which carried it out while under Martial Law, seven months ago and was praised by Western media, highlighting information war against Russia. As a result, it will be prone to hold onto its existing territorial gains and prolong the conflict into the winter, which could favor a new offensive to accomplish remaining military objectives to give itself a stronger negotiating position to have the sanctions lifted.

Ukrainian Stakes

Having accepted so much of political, strategic and military investment of NATO in his country and tasted some success in his counteroffensives, President Zelensky, posing to be fighting on behalf of US led NATO to weaken Russia, is not in a position to back out from prolonging the war.

Ukraine cannot overlook the fact that it has lost 15% of its original land since being independent, is left with over 10 million refugees, devastated towns, suffered significant casualties, and its hyped democracy is struggling under martial law and referendum. While US-led NATO’s military assistance and arsenal can increase its combat power to launch standoff attacks, regaining lost ground from the Russians will be very difficult because they will use built-up areas for defending their gains in a manner similar to how Ukrainian troops did, more so under nuclear hangover.

NATO’s military support to pursue war will not bring Ukraine any closer to peace; nevertheless, it may result in long-term changes to its territorial configuration, unending proxy war, and enhance long term Russian threat. President Zelensky is aware that the western narrative and information war that portrays him as a hero and clear victor is unsustainable, yet he will prolong the conflict in order to safeguard his political survival and continued aid.

NATO’s Stakes

NATO may be encouraged by successes of Ukrainian counter-offensives, and its own gains in non-kinetic, non-contact, undeclared war against Russia in economic, information, diplomatic and political domains, but concerned that it can’t take Putin’s nuclear threat lightly, because a tactical nuclear strike from cornered Russia is within the realms of possibility, if Russia declares newly acquired territory as its integral part, post successful referendum and applies the policy of escalate to de-escalate.

The United States may benefit from sales of arms, energy, and post-conflict construction contracts in Ukraine, and it may justify recent increases in aid in order to pursue its goal of weakening Russia in order to fend off potential rivals in Europe, but its biggest strategic loss is bringing Russia, China, and Iran closer than ever before in a strategic partnership. It may be beginning of adoption of alternate global/localised financial systems, undermining its grip on current global financial system.

NATO, encouraged by soft Russian response to the bid of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, is keen to add both with strong militaries, to secure its northern flank for better collective security posture in the long run. It also makes sense in context of Sino-Russian footprints in Arctic region and North Atlantic Ocean.

NATO will continue to urge Russia to end the conflict while supporting Ukraine in its proxy war until last Ukrainian remains because holding negotiations when a sizable portion of the land is in Russian hands will be viewed as NATO’s weakness. With millions of refugees mixed in with activated mercenaries and a longer border with belligerent Russia, which will reorganise itself after learning from its mistakes, the war is undoubtedly not making Europe more peaceful. It has signaled its willingness to sacrifice its energy and economic interests in order to achieve that goal. To effectively combat unfriendly Russia in the long run, the EU will need to increase its defence spending while holding some sovereign decisions hostage to the USA.

Way Ahead

Despite the narrative and rhetoric of the west, Ukraine may not recapture a sizable amount of territory, but standoff strikes, proxy war, clandestine operations, and some ground operations to cause Russian fatalities will continue in the coming days, inviting an equal or stronger Russian reaction.

In the Big powers’ contestation in Ukraine, the global need is that this war should end, but the negotiations are unlikely, because Russia has not yet achieved its strategic objectives on the ground, which is essential to persuade NATO to lift sanctions. On the other side, US led NATO doesn’t have any leverage to restrain Putin, so it finds weakening Russia by ongoing proxy war, without sharing any burden of body bags, as the most convenient option.  This is especially true when Zelensky is prepared to take this move because he understands that without US support, he will lose his position of power.

In current phase of offensive, Russia seemed to have reached its culmination point before seizing center of gravity of Ukrainian forces, a situation which is uncomfortable for any attacker in military campaign. The referendum and nuclear threat by Russia have pushed the war into next phase, with NATO yet to work out its responses.

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India overreacted to the US $450 million deal with Pakistan

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India registered a strong protest with the US last week over the latter’s decision to approve a $ 450 million sustainment package for Pakistan’s aging F-16 Fleet. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency DSCA said in a statement that the sustainment program would assist Pakistan in its campaign against terrorism with a rider that it will not affect the status quo in the region. The Biden administration has ignored the “strong objections” raised by India over the proposed foreign military sale of $450 million to Pakistan in order to sustain the Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 program.

Pakistan’s arch-rival India has voiced “serious objections” to the US plan for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) worth $450 million for hardware, software, and spares for the F-16 fighter jet during official meetings with US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu in Delhi.

In widely published comments, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said last week that the US was not “fooling anybody” by claiming the equipment was for counterterrorism operations. Recently Indian foreign Minister cut short his trip to the US, and without attending his pre-scheduled meetings and returned back to India in protest. His behavior was unprecedented in the diplomacy world and considered an overreaction.

Prime Minister Modi is upset too and sources close to his are guessing a severe reaction from him. Unconfirmed, but a possible reaction may include cancellation of defense agreements with the US, and exclusion from “Quad” – an anti-China alliance with the US, Japan, and Australia. The Indian ideology of intolerance, extremism, and nationalism is the real threat to the region.

As a matter of fact, India has been hijacked by extremists and any extreme reaction is expected at any moment. There was a time in history when India was known democratic and secular state. But, now, under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, all extremist political parties and groups under the umbrella of the BJP are ruling India.

The extremist and fanatics are implementing their agenda of eliminating minorities and transforming India into a “Pure Hindu State”. Especially with Pakistan, a traditional rivalry exists and they cannot see any improvement in Pakistan. 

Pakistan was in the American club for almost Seven Decades and enjoyed very cordial relations with the Western world. Whereas India was a close ally with the former USSR. Although Pakistan was a close ally of the West, yet was facing the toughest sanctions too. However, there is a realization in Washington and a visible policy shit was witnessed recently. Pakistan always welcomes and desires the restoration of traditional friendship between the West and Pakistan.

The US claims the proposed sale to Pakistan does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions, but it would be hard for New Delhi to digest such claims and remain complacent. Interestingly, the fleet of F-16s has been part of the Pakistan Air Force since the early 1980s. Pakistan has always used the US-supplied defense systems in its defense only. The F-16s in their arsenals have been no exception. In February 2019, after the Indian Air Force launched its air strike on Balakot, Pakistan came to deploy its F-16s to target Indian military bases close to the Line of Control.

Apart from Pakistan, the US has sold F-16s in many countries like Bahrain, Belgium, Egypt, Taiwan, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Thailand, Turkey, etc. However, South Asia remains a highly volatile region. The US has been sitting on the sale of F-16s to Turkey based on security concerns in the Mediterranean region, which makes the Pakistan agreement all the more intriguing.

Department of State spokesperson Ned Price has said the relationship Washington had with Pakistan “stands on its own,” responding to criticism from India over a proposed US sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Islamabad.

Answering a question about Jaishankar’s comments, the state department spokesperson said on Monday Washington did not view its relations with India or Pakistan “in relation to one another.” “These are both partners of ours with different points of emphasis in each, and we look to both as partners because we do have in many cases shared values, we do have in many cases shared interests,” Price told a briefing. “And the relationship we have with India stands on its own; the relationship we have with Pakistan stands on its own.”

There are positive signals and it seems the traditional relations between the US and Pakistan will be restored soon. Our relations are not any threat to India or any other nation, but, for promoting regional peace, stability and development. We are partners in peace, development, and the total welfare of humankind.

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