The “precision project” of Iranian missiles, especially the Zelzal model (where the word “zelzal” means earthquake in Farsi), currently operating in the Lebanon, has reached a severe critical point.
The “Party of God” is currently the most important non-State military actor in the world, which is certainly even more powerful than the Lebanese army itself, with at least 30,000 full-time fighters and additional 25,000 reservists.
All very well trained by the Iranian Pasdaran, who in 1982 founded the Party with a personal decision of Imam Khomeini.
The Zelzal missiles (and those currently available to Hezbollah are above all the Zelzal 3) are solid propellant surface-to-surface missiles, a model officially created in 2007, with a stable range of over 250 kilometres.
According to the Iranian and Lebanese governments, these missiles have a range between 180 and 250 kilometres; a length of 9,600 millimetres; a diameter of616 millimetres; a maximum weight of the armed warhead equal to 900 kilograms and an average margin of error at arrival lower than five metres. The propellant is the HTBP, an oligomer of butadiene having the following formula.
They have a maximum weight of 1,980 kilos and operate in a maximum of 20 seconds. Their maximum service cycle is seven years.
For the time being, the Iranian project in the Lebanon – and only for Hezbollah-entails the turning of over 14,000 Zelzal2 and 3 into high-precision missiles.
The missile infrastructure project can convert Zelzal-2 into high-precision missiles with a unit cost – over a few hours – of approximately 5,000-10,000 US dollars. An operation that Iran has been doing for some time, also for the Houthi guerrilla warfare in Yemen.
Obviously, this fast rapid reconversion immediately endangers Israel’s commercial, intelligence and military networks in the Red Sea, but also directly all US bases in the Greater Middle East.
Initially Iran tried to send these missiles to the Lebanon directly via Syria, along the Iraqi-Lebanese Shiite “corridor”. Israel, however, has long been carrying out many precise air raids, capable of making the old “corridor” from Iraq to the Lebanon – the real target of Iran’s war in Syria – completely unsafe and above all making also the production of Zelzal 2 and 3missiles in Syria ineffective.
In response, Iran launched its own technical and intelligence operation, with a view to enabling the Zelzal 2 and 3 missiles already present in the Lebanon (which are currently estimated at approximately 14,000 units) to have an autonomous and advanced GPS (and also Russian GLONASS) guidance system.
The most important parts of these missiles are still transported, obviously disassembled, from Iran and Iraq to the Lebanon, in Hezbollah’s covert factories, both by land – in the parallel network of the Iraqi-Lebanese “corridor” – and by air from Syria, using the private commercial lines owned by the Pasdaran.
When the missiles arrive in the Lebanese factories in the hands of Hezbollah (and the Iranian Pasdaran) – often located underground – the Zelzal 2 and 3missiles are upgraded in their intermediate control and command sector. A system is installed for GPS guidance or for the Russian satellite system, a new integrated command and control system. All this basically regards the turning of a Zelzal 2 into a new Fateh 110 missile.
The Fateh 110 is precisely a short-range Iranian missile, usable on land-based mobile launchers, always with solid propellant.
Probably it also incorporates Chinese-made guidance systems and has, however, a length of 8.86 metres; a diameter of 0.61 metres; a weight at launch of 3,450 kilos and a maximum charge of 500 kilos, as well as a maximum operating range of 300 kilometres.
It is not yet completely clear how many Zelzal 2missiles turned into Fateh 110 are now available to Hezbollah, but it is thought that the “Party of God” currently has approximately 150 high-precision missiles.
However, the Lebanese Zelzal 2missiles not yet upgraded are supposed to be 14,000.
It should be recalled that Hezbollah has already attacked with missiles the refinery in Haifa – fortunately without repeating the 1947 massacre – some Israeli air bases, the areas near the nuclear reactor of Dimona, and the Kirya military base of the Israeli Armed Forces, as well as the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Hence, this is the problem: while it is certainly true that Israel has the maximum coverage at missile level, it is equally true that absolute protection is no longer possible.
It is therefore tragically probable that, in the future, the Israeli Defence may be forced to choose between the protection of critical infrastructure and the protection of the most populated centres.
The best strategic solution for Israel can be a direct preventive attack into the Lebanon, which would lead to a full outbreak with the Lebanon, but also with Syria, with the Sunni groups operating there, with Iran and with a share of Shiite militants from Iraq already stationing on the Bekaa-Golan border.
One of the current Israeli strategies, however, is to maintain a focus of international attention and intelligence on Hezbollah’s missiles and to disclose, at the same time, much accurate intelligence data, capable of assessing and checking the danger of this new composition of forces on the Israeli borders.
Incidentally, however, are we really sure that Iran wants to start destroying the Jewish State – just for mere silly anti-Semitic madness – thus setting the region on fire to finally do a favour probably only to its Sunni enemies?
As well as eventually favour a complete clash with the Iranian interests in the Lebanon and Syria of the Western forces, which would easily enter from a destabilized Israel into Iran?
If only the Europeans were less foolish, they could also put credible pressure on Hezbollah, thus letting Hariri’s new government – that still appears friendly to Westerners -know that all this is a clear and very severe violation of the UN Resolution n. 1701.
A pressure capable of forcing also the Russian Federation and China to become milder and more reasonable.
Certainly, the situation is increasingly complex.
As already said, Hezbollah owns approximately 140,000 Iranian-made missiles, hidden in private houses on the Lebanese border with Israel. According to the statistics of the last conflict between the “Party of God” and Israel in 2006, at least 14,000 of them, which are certainly Zelzal 2 and 3 missiles, can be launched at a rate between 180 and 1,200 per day.
Obviously, the saturation of launches from the Lebanon is capable of causing damage against resources or forces, which could jeopardize Israel’s military response and its internal social stability.
As already said, currently Hezbollah’s “precision project” is organized directly by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
Considering Israel’s internal structure, it is enough to hit some critical infrastructure (airports, including the civilian ones, factories, inhabited centres) and the more accurate missiles are, the fewer they are needed to achieve seriously destructive effects.
It should be recalled, however, that Hezbollah has also SCUD 2 missiles available, always deployed in the Lebanon, which are supposed to have an operating range between 200 and 400 kilometres.
The “Party of God” also bought from Bashar al-Assad’s Syria some M-600 Tishreen missiles, the Syrian version of the already mentioned Fateh 110,with different guidance and control systems.
The GPS accuracy of missiles, however, is critical for their strategic effects.
Precision missiles are such especially because they have a low Circular Error Probability (CEP).
CEPis the radius of the circle that should enclose 50% of the points of arrival of the missiles launched.
Hence the lower the CEP, the fewer missiles are needed to destroy a target.
The missiles with GPS and GLONASS systems reach their target through inertial mechanisms.
The main coordinates of the target are entered into the missile, at the time of launch, via laptop.
GPS and GLONASS systems use accelerometers and gyroscopes that move wings and external supports on the missile surface. With immediate feedback on the route and the amount of inertia-fuel that is evaluated immediately and automatically by the missile itself.
The solid propellant engine, however, lasts about 30 seconds and then the missile is driven by inertia.
Corrections to the route are possible until the time of impact.
All these Iranian missiles available to Hezbollah, however, are mobile by road.
The non-negligible size of the missile makes it liable, for a short period, to be hit before the launch, but it is certainly a particularly difficult operation.
The Zelzal 2 and Fateh 110missiles are similar and hence their refitting with GPS or GLONASS systems is relatively simple and entails small additional parts which are easy to transfer.
It should be noted once again that Iran uses both the Western GPS and the Russian Glonass as satellite sensor.
Just 2-3 hours per missile are enough to turn an old Zelzal into a precision missile, i.e. the time needed to replace the guidance system, the new surface fins and the inertial control system.
Some hundreds of Lebanese militants for the Hezbollah missile system are trained in a special section of the Imam Husseyn University in Tehran, the official university of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but only to upgrade the missiles, and many of the “Party of God” have already returned to the Lebanon.
Spare parts and materials are sent to Syria and the Lebanon by land or by air, with the formally civilian airlines owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The new parts are stored and checked especially in the warehouses of Damascus airport, but the Syrian factories of missile parts have all been placed under the Pasdaran direct control since December 2016.
Hence the Hezbollah logic is probably that the more missiles – even low-precision ones – are available, less possible will be for Israel to choose a preventive strategy of destruction of the arsenals before they are used.
How much damage can such a missile -upgraded by Iran for the Lebanese Shiites – do?
The Fateh 110missile has a 100-metre CEP and can hence destroy a standard target with a 75% probability rate.
For urban targets in highly populated areas the Fateh 110 CEP decreases further.
Israel is small and densely populated, with a very high distribution of critical targets between resident population and urban systems.
Particularly important centres are located very close to each other, in an area that, on average, is about 20 kilometres wide and 100 metres deep.
Israel has 20 energy production areas, three commercial ports and a large international airport.
It has also the military bases of Palmahim, Tel Nof, Nevatimand Hatzor, as well as Dimona, the Haifa refinery, and the IDF headquarters in the centre of Tel Aviv.
The operational coverage of Hezbollah’s missile factories in the Lebanon is also varied: under a football field, just north of the Beirut airport, near the Uza’i canal and in many private houses, often of individuals not reported as Shiite militants.
There are also Lebanese missile depots in Latakia – right near the Russian positions and, probably, in such a way as to make them also the target of an Israeli counter-operation –as well as in Safita, Hisya and, as already mentioned, in Damascus.
It should be recalled, however, that all Israeli air raids against the launch sites, factories and areas for upgrading Hezbollah’s Iranian missiles – starting from the one of November 2017 in Hisya to the one on Jamaraya, in February 2018, until the operation on Latakia of September 2018- were carried out by Israel in full agreement with the Russian Federation.
Nevertheless, unlike what happened in Syria, Israel has still no intention of carrying out stable preventive actions on the Lebanese territory, in a region that could quickly trigger off a major conflict with Syria, Iran, the Sunni groups and many others.
In terms of protection and missile response, Israel can still count on the Iron Dome, a network of sensors and early warning missile batteries, with additional advanced mortar batteries – operational since 2012 – but above all operating against the old Qassam or Soviet Katiusce rockets.
It works optimally for targets around 70-100 kilometres.
Since 2017 Israel has also been operating David’s Sling, a medium range and medium-high charge missile network, operating up to 300 kilometres, which is useful precisely against the Fateh 110, the Zelzal 2 and 3missiles, as well as against the Syrian M-600 missiles, including those upgraded with the Iranian GPS-GLONASS. Israel also owns the Arrow 2 network, with ballistic missiles having a long range of over 200 kilometres, which has been operating since 2000. Finally, since 2017 Israel has also been operating Arrow 3, a network of sensors and missiles with a range over 200 kilometres and spatial guidance in their final trajectory phase.
However, there is still a problem.
The anti-missile networks, even the most specialized and modern such as the Israeli ones, can be quickly saturated by a very high rate of almost simultaneous launches and by missile decoding actions in flight, which can blind or otherwise limit the full anti-missile response.
While it is true that Israel has no difficulty in selecting missiles targeted to critical areas of its territory, or those targeted to irrelevant areas, it is equally true that the interceptors are extremely expensive to be placed on site, infinitely more expensive than the missiles they have to intercept, especially if they are short-range missiles.
Hence, in a tragic future, the Jewish State might be forced to choose to defend only the critical infrastructure, thus leaving some populated centres overexposed.
A politically suicidal choice for any government.
Obviously,an unavoidable option for Israel will also be to bring the war – probably not just the air one – into the Lebanon, with evident cascading effects for all the forces present in the region.
Therefore it is fully rational that the Israeli government has made the choice of creating a new IDF “missile Corps” to specifically face this new type of threat, which will come from the North, but also from the South, from the Gaza Strip and, possibly, from the jihadist networks now controlling the Sinai region.
Iran’s technology in the field of missile precision guidance, however, comes from the US Paveway IV (CEP 15 metres, 70,000 US dollars per missile), which is a missile incorporating a dual communication system, carrying out anti-jamming activity on the GPS network (but not on GLONASS), and a semi-active laser guidance.
Currently Great Britain uses the Brimstone, with a CEP lower than one metre and a particularly advanced laser guidance system.
Great Britain has also the Exactor 2 available, a multirole missile with a 30-kilometre range.
A system that is almost completely automated.
All technologies also available to Iran.
The fast reverse engineering of the allied and Western materials found in Syria worked miracles for Iran.
According to Israeli sources, the cost of the new Iranian project on precision missiles in the Lebanon should total 17 billion US dollars, all invested in Hezbollah’s networks only.
Currently the final unit cost per missile is expected to be 10,000 US dollars.
As disclosed by various intelligence sources, however, the Lebanese program still has only 250 missiles already operational, as demonstrated by the documentary film produced by the Lebanese Shiite group, which shows an IDF border patrol, the 401th armoured brigade, hit in an accident occurred four years ago.
It is strange: the Israeli patrol had an M4 Windbreaker tank available, which has a significant passive and active anti-missile defence. Hence Hezbollah, however, has correctly inferred that Israel has currently the ability to send units by land to the Lebanese territory to bring the confrontation to the Lebanese Shiite region.
Which is exactly what Hezbollah does not want at all.
Both the Israeli military services and the Israeli Armed Forces, however, have explicitly stated that Hezbollah “has not yet the industrial capacity to turn the missiles supplied by Iran into precision missiles”.
For the time being, however, the “Party of God” is supposed to have 90-250 missiles available, already prepared for high-precision actions.
It is not what Iran and Hezbollah need to carry out the missile saturation operation they have in mind.
It should also be considered that the “Party of God” normally fails at least 10% of launches, while currently the international standard is 4% for small and medium-sized missiles.
Hence with 50% of the missiles stopped at departure or in flight by Israeli forces – as always happens – finally only 50 of the 250 missiles upgraded by Iran could be currently launched and become really dangerous for Israel.
The political and strategic effect would remain anyway, considering the population density and the complexity of the Israeli defence and infrastructure system.
Therefore the problem is not solved anyway by waiting.
Hence both Iran and Hezbollah have recently decided to confine the upgrade program only to the 14,000 Zelzal 2 missiles already present and operational, without updates, in the Lebanese Shiite group’s arsenal.
Here again, however, there are many problems.
New factories are needed, with a piece-by-piece process that turns a Zelzal 2 or 3 into a Fateh 110missile, which has a 300-kilometre range.
Which is exactly what the Iranian and Lebanese Shiites need in the first missile salvo.
Nevertheless, while Iran has already produced4,000 new high-precision missiles in the above mentioned university research centres in Tehran, so far only 1,000 have safely reached the Lebanon.
Another problem for Hezbollah and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the inevitably significant areas needed to upgrade the missiles both in Syria and in the Lebanon.
All areas already hit by Israeli attacks that, however, are still limited and well-known.
The few factories that have recently been operational in Syria and the Lebanon have already been hit by Israeli air strikes.
Hence, for the time being, Hezbollah has solved the problem by distributing the missiles to be upgraded to small and widespread factories, located throughout Southern Lebanon, and the few ones still existing in Syria.
This means that the process for upgrading the missiles becomes slower, more difficult and hence less qualitatively significant.
Therefore, the previously mentioned costs increase proportionately to the difficulties of technical upgrading. Hence, if the upgraded missiles cost at least 11,000 US dollars each, the total technological upgrade of Hezbollah’s missiles will be worth at least 145 million US dollars.
Therefore, everything is resolved in the standard time needed for the Iranian upgrade and for Israeli response and certainly for a new possible indirect agreement between Israeli and Syria, not mediated – today, as in the 1990s – by the United States.
A tacit agreement that is worth, today, in a framework of agreements between Syria itself, which got its grip on the Lebanon and currently cannot hold it any longer, and Israel itself, which could accept – after a credible threat on Hezbollah- a Russian or even US mediation on the current equilibria in the Lebanon.
Omani national security and the kind of political and military cooperation with the United States
Historical documentary evidence suggests that the United States has always had a strategic partner in the region. Oman is undoubtedly the closest Iranian southern neighbor to the Persian Gulf, with its common cultural and religious roots with the land of Iran. But it should be noted that the effects of convergence between the United States and Oman have an impact on Iran’s national security. Also, after the US Secretary of State Visits Oman and his visit to Sultan Qaboos and the Pompeo positions in Amman, the question is: How much is Oman to do with US sanctions against Iran?
Oman has a geographical isolation in the Arabian Peninsula. The country has only a frontier from its western region, and the three UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are neighbors. On the other hand, the majority of the Abbasid religion of this country has led to its religious isolation in the Islamic world, and Wahhabism has entered into conflict with the followers of this religion several times since its inception, and still considers the abbots from the divergent difference of the Islamic world, And excuses.
Oman is relatively weak in the economic field, dependent on oil and the outside world. However, the Omani dealings with the United States are not high, and most of it is in the military arms sector. The demographic structure of this country, in particular the population of about 5% Shiite, who has a lot of strength and wealth, with the Baluchis, who have traveled to Oman many years before Iran, actually created a situation and the Omani government will not be in a relationship with Iran. If this issue is analyzed along with the influence of Wahhabism on the Omani population, it will be more important if it is to be analyzed.
It should be borne in mind that the Sunnis in Amman claim that they are the majority of the citizens of this country. Oman considers the Gulf Cooperation Council to be important in the framework of this cooperation, in addition to external problems, to prevent Arab aggression, the Omani are well aware of the history of Saudi Arabia’s deployment to its neighboring countries, and therefore the balance Power will not be pleasing to Saudi Arabia. Oman, which seeks to reduce dependence on oil and economic diversification in its 2020 and 2040 prospects, avoids any kind of conflict and conflict in the region, because the arrival of capital, tourists and goods, and services and manpower require security in this country. And stability in the region. They are working to strengthen Qatar in the Gulf Cooperation Council and are working with the United States to provide their own resources in the region, and because strengthening Qatar and removing Saudi and Qatari hostilities are in the interest of the country and necessary to curb Saudi Arabia. Greetings from the United States.
But the question is whether Oman can adopt an independent policy at the level of engagement with global powers such as the United States?
In August 2010, Oman and Iran signed a security agreement; of course, it cannot be said that the relations between Tehran and Muscat are generally without problems and is a full-fledged relationship; for example, the Oman navy does not participate in Iranian military maneuvers while Which is in the military maneuvers of the Gulf states, the United States, India and Pakistan. Oman has given America’s military partner its ports and bases. It has shown its willingness to participate in the US missile defense shield, which is aimed at creating security against Iran’s threat to the countries of the region.
From the point of view of Oman, the military conflict between the United States and Iran has a huge geopolitical and economic risk. To reduce this danger, the Omani government has acted as a bridge between Tehran and the West; that is why the Oman kingdom, unlike Saudi Arabia and some countries of the Cooperation Council, Which wants Iran to lose its position in the region, does not want Iran to be attacked by the military and tries to increase the capacity of Iran in the region by means of a synergy.
The geographic proximity of Iran and Oman in the Strait of Hormuz, Oman’s geographical remoteness from the Arab world, and the geopolitical and geopolitical importance of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran and Oman, have required good relations. Accordingly, and despite the fact that Oman has always had close ties with the United States, this has not had any effect on Iran’s friendly relations with the country. In fact, the different Muscat approach to the Tehran Cooperation Council has had a dramatic impact and has effectively reduced the influence of Riyadh on the smaller member states of the Council for the purpose of convergence, and undermined West’s efforts to isolate Tehran.
It should now be seen that in spite of important approaching variables such as geographic continuity, geopolitical situation in the region, oil, the need for stability in the region, and … the main causes of the security scene in the region.
In the past, in the context of security-related security with national power, there was a belief that with increasing military power security would increase, and with the number of military forces and equipment representing the power and security of each country, but now beliefs have changed and should be noted. National security is not a unilateral process that can only be increased by increasing its military power, but has a broad and comprehensive concept.
It is possible to maintain the national security of each political unit by increasing national power and balancing its constituent elements, and increasing one of these factors, if not accompanied by an increase in other factors, could threaten national security. In this regard, today, national security has taken a cross-border dimension; in other words, it is not just inside the border. Of course, security is not military power, so sometimes increased military strength reduces security and insecurity.
The Omanian kingdom has a different look at the position of the Gulf Cooperation Council on the issue of convergence; on the one hand, it contributes to economic issues within the framework of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, but on the other hand, in foreign policy and disputes between the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council Persian countries has not entered and has been trying to play a role in the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council by assuming the role of the Hammer of Equilibrium. However, now it seems that, despite the differences between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, it is not very willing to remain in the Gulf Cooperation Council. This approach may lead to a gap in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and will split countries into two different blocks. In this regard, Muscat tries to maintain its impartiality in the internal conflicts of this council as well as the differences between Iran and Arab countries, while playing a positive role.
Now the kingdom of Oman is not willing to pay for the rest of the world; therefore, in view of Muscat, Egypt’s entry into the Gulf Cooperation Union is very dangerous. On the other hand, the Omani kingdom does not differ much with other countries, but it is not pleasing to Saudi policies (which are trying to dictate their policies to other Gulf States). The country has repeatedly objected to Saudi apparent interference in foreign policy of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and if the situation continues, it is foreseeable that the Gulf Cooperation Council will collapse in the future, and even Qatar, along with the Oman kingdom, will cooperate with the Co-operation Council Gulf exits and form an alliance with Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. In contrast, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are on the other.
In the future, Muscat tries to maintain its impartiality and, in its relations with the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, and …, continues its policies and tries to play a positive role in resolving regional crises, as The meetings of Iran and the Western countries over the past years with Oman’s administration show that the king wants to mediate Iran’s relations with the West.
Tension in the Gulf: Not just maritime powder kegs
A recent interview in which Baloch National Movement chairman Khalil Baloch legitimized recent militant attacks on Iranian, Chinese and Pakistani targets is remarkable less for what he said and more for the fact that his remarks were published by a Saudi newspaper.
Speaking to Riyadh Daily, the English language sister of one of Saudi Arabia’s foremost newspapers, Al Riyadh, Mr. Baloch’s legitimization in the kingdom’s tightly controlled media constituted one more suggestion that Saudi Arabia may be tacitly supporting militants in Balochistan, a troubled Pakistani province that borders on Iran and is a crown jewel of China’s infrastructure and energy-driven Belt and Road initiative.
Riyadh Daily interviewed Mr. Baloch against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran that many fear could escalate into military conflict, past indications of Saudi support for religious militants in Balochistan, and suggestions that countries like the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are united in their opposition to Iran but differ on what outcome they want maximum pressure on the Islamic republic to produce.
The interview followed publication in 2017 by a Riyadh-based think tank with ties to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of a call by a Baloch nationalist for support for an insurgency in the Baloch-populated Iranian province that borders Pakistan and is home to the crucial Indian-backed port of Chabahar on the Arabian Sea.
It also juxtaposes with Pakistani anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian militants who operate madrassahs along the Iranian-Pakistani border reporting stepped up Saudi funding. The monies are believed to come in part from Saudi nationals of Baloch descent, but the militants suggest the funding has at least tacit government approval.
Balochistan has witnessed multiple attacks on its Hazara Shiite minority as well as in May on a highly secured luxury hotel frequented by Chinese nationals in the Chinese-backed Baloch port city of Gwadar and a convoy of Chinese engineers as well as the Chinese consulate in Karachi. Militants killed 14 people in April in an assault on an Iranian revolutionary guards convoy and exploded in December a car bomb in Chabahar.
Saudi Arabia is also suspected of supporting the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a controversial Iranian exile group that seeks the fall of the Iranian regime and enjoys support of senior Western politicians and former officials as well as US national security advisor John Bolton prior to his appointment and ex-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal.
For now, tacit Saudi support for Baloch militants is likely to be more about putting potential building blocks in place rather than the result of a firm decision to wage a low-intensity proxy war.
“The recent escalation in militant attacks is a direct reaction to Pakistan army’s growing atrocities in Balochistan and China’s relentless plunder of Baloch resources,” Mr. Baloch said.
Asserting that the Pakistani part of Balochistan has been occupied by Pakistan since 1948, Mr. Baloch insisted that the “Baloch nation is resisting against this forced accession. This insurgency is the continuation of that.”
The alleged Saudi support coupled with plans for a US$10 billion Saudi investment in a refinery in Gwadar and a Baloch mine has sparked discussion in Beijing about the viability of China’s US$45 billion plus stake in the region’s security and stability.
Iranian officials see a pattern of foreign support for insurgents not only in Balochistan but also among Iran’s Kurdish, Arab and Azeri minorities. Their suspicions are fuelled by statements by Mr. Bolton prior to his appointment calling for support of insurgencies and Prince Mohammed’s vow that any battle between the Middle East’s two major rivals would be fought in Iran rather than Saudi Arabia.
Complicating the situation along Iran’s borders is the fact that like in the waters of the Gulf where naval assets are eyeing one another, it doesn’t take much for the situation to escalate out of control. That is particularly the case with Iran having shifted tactics from strategic patience to responding to perceived escalation with an escalation of its own.
Iran moreover has been preparing for a potential covert war waged by Saudi Arabia and possibly US-backed ethnic insurgent groups as well as the possibility of a direct military confrontation with the United States by building a network of underground military facilities along its borders with Pakistan and Iraq, according to Seyed Mohammad Marandi, an Iranian academic who frequently argues the Tehran government’s position in international media.
Iran recently released a video showcasing an underground bunker that houses its missile arsenal.
In a further heightening of tension, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards attacked on Friday Iranian armed opposition groups in the Kurdistan region of Iraq with drones and missiles. Iranian artillery separately shelled villages in a region populated not only by armed anti-Iranian and anti-Turkish Kurdish groups but also smugglers.
The strikes followed the killing of three Iranian revolutionary guards. A spokesman for the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) denied responsibility for their deaths.
The risk of escalation is enhanced by the fact that while the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel agree on the principle of maximum pressure, they do not necessarily see eye to eye on what the end goal is.
While US President Donald J. Trump appears to want to force Iran back to the negotiating table, Israel and Mr. Bolton are believed to advocate gunning for regime change ignoring the risk that the effort could produce a government that is even less palatable to them.
That outcome would suit Saudi Arabia that does not want to see a regime emerge that would be embraced by Western nations and allowed to return to the international fold unfettered by sanctions.
A palatable government would turn Iran into a Middle Eastern powerhouse with a competitive edge vis a vis Saudi Arabia and complicate the kingdom’s ambition to become a major natural gas player and sustain its regional leadership role.
Writing in the Pakistan Security Report 2018, journalist Muhammad Akbar Notezai warned: “The more Pakistan slips into the Saudi orbit, the more its relations with Iran will worsen… If their borders remain troubled, anyone can fish in the troubled water.”
Boko Haram and Frustration- Aggression Theory: A Potential Explanation
In the context of Boko Haram, it is vital to identify how Boko Haram resorted to extreme violent behavior. One theory that provides an understanding of such violent behavior is Frustration-Aggression Theory. This “holds that a group’s relative disadvantage in relation to others, which may be manifested in income inequality or hierarchical class, results in frustration which breeds grievance and aggression” (Iyekepolo, 2213). In the case of Boko Haram, this theory can arguably describe how frustration over Western education led to an increase in its aggressive behavior.
To understand Frustration-Aggression Theory further there must be comprehension on the term “frustration.” Frustration, as described by Berkowitz, is “an unpleasant, aversive stimulus which evokes negative affect by automatically eliciting cognitions that are associated with aggressive tendencies.” This view of frustration can provide insight into group motivations to justify acts of aggression. Recognizing these two important aspects of Frustration-Aggression Theory provides not only a background into Boko Haram,but a broad look into future potential attacks.
Application of Frustration-Aggression Theory
This research applies key aspects of frustration and aggression. First, the act of frustration defined as “blocking someone from gaining an expected gratification” (Dill and Anderson, 360). Second, aggression which is defined as “any behavior which is intended to injure the individual to whom it is directed” (Dill and Anderson, 360). These key aspects of Frustration-Aggression Theory provide in-depth knowledge into the decision-making process utilized by Boko Haram.
Boko Haram continues to feed off the economic conditions and frustrations of the Nigerian people. “The situation of poverty in Nigeria and Somalia, where Boko Haram [and Al Shabab] started, is worsened by the day-to-day paradox of mass poverty in the face of rich human and mineral resources.” (Ani and Ojakorotu, 12) This economic decline only fuels Boko Haram’s legitimacy and power. Not only does this fuel its status among African nations, it also increases the frustration of the Nigerian people against not only Boko Haram but the Nigerian government overall.
The level of poverty pervading the region also proved to be a factor in mobilizing the Boko Haram insurgency, as Mohammed Yusuf, the sect’s leader spoke regularly about it; arguing for devout Muslims to ‘migrate from the morally bankrupt society to a secluded place and establish an ideal Islamic society devoid of political corruption and moral deprivation (Iyekekepolo, 2215).
The economic conditions in which the many of the Nigerian people are still living became the foundational grounds for Boko Haram’s rise. The hardship the Nigerian government and its people have faced bred political corruption and moral deprivation. (Iyekekpolo, 2215)This continuous frustration from current economic conditions has also created more insight into Boko Haram’s increased aggression. Solomon Ayegba states this corruption is at the expense of the Nigerian people, which has resulted in the Boko Haram insurgency. (2015)
Boko Haram continued to gain legitimacy throughout Nigeria and neighboring states, which only increased the frustrations of citizens across West Africa. “The poor development status of Nigeria no doubt breeds an atmosphere of frustrated expectations and foster widespread indignation on the part of those that are trapped in the vortex circle of abject poverty.” (Mbasua, Musa and Fada, 96) Those imprisoned by Boko Haram’s terror are left more vulnerable to continued social and economic chaos. As the chaos continues to manifest, it leaves Nigeria not only socially and economically vulnerable but opens the gateway for political vulnerability.
Boko Haram was able to politically corrupt the Nigerian government by gaining a position of power. “A known senior member of Boko Haram, Late BojuFoi, was actually appointed a commissioner by former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff.” (Vaaseh, 407) The people of Nigeria now had more to fear than the current economic and social conditions. Political figures were now making promises to Boko Haram to provide support to “facilitate the actualization of their ideology.” (Vaaseh, 409)
The increased frustration of Boko Haram only led to more acts of violence. However, the target of Boko Haram’s aggression now turned more toward Nigerian security forces. Vaaseh explains “the inability of the politicians to keep to their promise of monthly salaries to the members angered them and the insurgents reacted severely by attacking security agents.” Boko Haram has used these political conditions to spread its ideology but has also capitalized off the lack of education throughout Nigeria proper. “In contemporary Nigeria, most, if not all, of the existing militant organizations are made up of a large percentage of uneducated and unemployed people who express frustration by the existing unbalanced structure of governance in the Nigerian federation.” (Vaaseh, 406)In an attempt to deal with these frustrations, Nigeria decided to form an organization called the Odua People’s Congress (OPC). However, the efforts to mitigate these frustrations ended in violent actions to pursue the organization’s objectives. Perhaps this is mere coincidence, but it more likely provides insight into the validity of Frustration-Aggression Theory and political/social violence within Nigeria.
There are many different manifestations of terrorism that emerge due to religious and ideological beliefs. In this form of extreme behavior, Boko Haram has been able to convince some of Nigerian society that the government is to blame for the overall social instability. “A number of them also blame the Nigerian Federal Government for poverty in the Northeast, thereby popularizing the idea that Boko Haram represents a symbol of the North’s struggle against political and economic marginalization.” (Ani and Ojakorotu, 20) This frustration has not only bred inequality amongst regional Nigerians but also deep psychological frustrations.
As the people continue to experience the economic and political frustrations of Boko Haram, they also experience their own psychological frustrations. Boko Haram has created a society in which people live in fear. “The populace had been deprived of their means of livelihood and this has become frustrating, resulting in aggression.” (Iyekekpolo, 2215) The people do not have the political and economic stability to combat Boko Haram. A vicious spiraling down cycle continues.
Boko Haram continues to launch attacks to intimidate the government and its citizens. The people of Nigeria attempt to live a normal life. However, the second and third order effects of Boko Haram’s terror impact daily living. “On 16 June 2011, the police headquarters in the capital Abuja was bombed, leading to a city-wide curfew.” (Elden, 416) This curfew was established to protect the Nigerian people and allow Nigerian forces to combat Boko Haram’s attacks. So, while Nigeria continues to strive for peace, education, and hope, the methods used can sometimes also become social chains that bind and constrain them.
Evaluation of Frustration-Aggression Theory
Frustration-Aggression Theory has been applied to explain the behaviors of foreign policymakers and those experiencing the violent attacks of Boko Haram. First, applying the Frustration-Aggression Theory framework, it can be hypothesized that foreign policymakers will be less likely to resort to violence towards Boko Haram. Therefore, not able to rely on external positive interference, Nigerians may also resort to alternative means to stop the spread of Islamic extremism due to their justified frustration with Boko Haram’s behavior and no formal governmental success in hindering it.
There are limitations to Frustration-Aggression Theory to consider, such as not all frustration breeds aggression. This study is also limited to evaluating extreme cases of frustration (i.e. corruption, terrorism). This theory is only used to evaluate Boko Haram and those influenced by the insurgency. Further application of this theory would research how Boko Haram perceives Western education as a threat to religious beliefs. Examination would include how Boko Haram exploits religious beliefs to gain sympathy to recruit members. Frustration-Aggression Theory could utilize the underlying frustration of religious intolerance and perceived colonization by the West to breed aggression.
Frustration-Aggression Theory provides knowledge and insight into the decision-making process of Boko Haram but also political members and citizens of Nigeria. Furthermore, it is imperative to recognize how Boko Haram knew such violent tactics would work. Understanding the efficacy of terrorism tactics can arguably shed light on producing new insights and new counter-measures that might lessen extremism on the ground and provide everyday Nigerians more of a fighting chance to create a stable and secure life amidst the chaos.
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