The United States portrayed top Iranian commander Major Gen Qassem Soleimani, killed in an air strike, architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East. After killing him, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo tweeted Iraqis are celebrating the death of top Iran commander Qasem Soleimani by “dancing in streets”.In the 22-second video which Pompeo shared on Twitter, people are seen running on a road carrying a several meter-long Iraq national flag. He could not see Iraqi processions expressing anguish at the killing.
Shortly, after the USA resumed military cooperation and training programme with Pakistan. Media speculates Pakistan tacitly supports US strike. Asian Lite report dated January4, 2020, based on Pakistan’s foreign-affairs-ministry letter reveals `14 personnel of Pakistan Armed Forces were killed recently by Baloch militants based in Iran, sponsored by Iranian intelligence chief Soleimani against Pakistan’. Pakistan’s mood is conspicuous from its absence from Kuala Lumpur conference, attended, inter alia, by Iran. Riyadh view the moot as a nascent alternative to its protégé Organisation of Islamic Conference.
Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of interfering in their domestic affairs. They blame Iran for the Houthi attack on Saudi oil facilities and the attack on oil tankers near Ras Al Khaimah.
In an attempt to woo India, Trump said, ‘Soleimani plotted terror attacks in India’(Sunday Standard January 4, 2020). He apparently alluded to the February 13, 2012 bomb blast in New Delhi, in which Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua Koren was injured. With billions sunken in Chahbahar port construction, India is unlikely to be weaned away so easily.
An act of frustration: The USA could not bring about a regime change in Teheran through sanctions. So, it had the last recourse to blunt rising frustration in Washington’s pro-Israel hawks and to galvanise pro-Trump lobby. The only visible impact of the sanctions was sporadic demonstrations against chicken prices (staple food), bank lootings, and rising unemployment in Iran, . Iran’s exasperating non-cooperation continued despite flurry of warnings, including those from the White House and 10-Downing Street.
Several writers, including John Galtung, Miroslav, Wallensteen, Schlesinger, Hufbauer, Garg, Jefferey Scot, Kimberley Elliot, Nye, and Franklin L. Levin have tried to define, illustrate and classify sanctions. Generally the sanctions are categorized as diplomatic, communicative and economic. But they are complex in their impact. They are useless if they fail to ‘change Iranian regime’ or its behaviour for the `better’.
Iran does not appear to be much vulnerable to economic sanctions in the light of her past history. In response to the seizure and detention of American diplomatic and counselor personnel in Teheran, the USA froze Iranian assets and called upon the allied governments in 1979 to take similar action and halt their trade with Iran. The European industrial powers announced to cooperate. But, one by one, they resumed their commercial ties with Iran. Germany, Italy, Japan and China need Iran oil or gas. Isn’t it eerie that, despite US restrictions, Iran never fell short of parts for her refineries or the American rail track? Several European multi-national banks declined to declare Teheran in default on its financial obligations and thereby mitigated the effect of the American sanctions.
A dormant UNO: Threats of forced regime-changes have made a mockery of the UNO. Wars become inevitable when the world leaders develop hallucinations of diabolical enemy images. Kaiser Wilhelm saw devils in both Russia and England. This perception led him to attack Russia and England.
The UNO should not be used as a rubber stamp. In Korean War, the UNO lost the credibility to act as a true mediator because it merged with the American cause. America’s humanitarian intervention in Viet Nam led to dropping of seven million tons of bombs (eighty times the amount that was dropped on Britain during the World War II, equivalent to over three hundred atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945). In return, the USA also received 55,000 metal caskets, and war costs of $ 150 billion.
Need for peace: If the USA had not plunged into Indo-China, Viet Nam would have emerged as a Titoist nationalist, rather than a Beijing or Moscow satellite. John G. Stoessinger reminds: ‘A victor’s peace, history teaches us, is seldom lasting. Neither is total defeat’ (Why Nations Go to War, p. 217).
Peace with Iran means peace in Hormuz Straits and with hizbollah, as also in Yemen. Let us see whether the US government is able to convince the American mothers to contribute body-packs to Iran? If ‘United States’ means the American people, the answer is ‘no’ _ they are peace-loving, family-oriented people. If the ‘United States’ means the American government then the answer is ‘may be’. Through propaganda the government is trying to mold people (who Chomsky calls a `bewildered herd’) for war against Iran (Noam Chomsky’s Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, Karachi, Vanguard, 2004, p.16). Chomski reminds that Woodrow Wilson wanted to plunge the pacifist American people in war against Germany. He established a government propaganda commission, Creel Commission, which succeeded, within six months, in turning the pacifist population into a hysterical, war mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world.(ibid., page 12). The US government has not been impressed by Chomsky’s suggestions for defusing the Iran crisis (Defusing Iran crisis): (a) The US and Israel should stop threatening Iran so that Iran does not consider nuclear deterrence necessary. (b) All production and processing of weapons-usable material be under international control with ‘assurance that legitimate would-be users could get their supplies’. (c) The 1993 UN resolution for fissile material cut-off treaty should be fully implemented.
Iran’s right: Iran’s right to peaceful enrichment should be respected. It was the USA itself, who during the Shah’s days encouraged Iran to develop a nuclear programme, whether for peaceful or non-peaceful purpose. Europe brought about joint control of Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme. It appears Iran is excessively relying on European Union’s efforts to defuse the crisis. Coercion is unlikely to bring Iran to its knees. Dialogue is the only way out of the Iran impasse. Israel’s hallucinations should not becloud American thinking.
Iran’s options: Iran could target U.S. troops in Iraq, either using mid-range rockets or ballistic missiles. Iran-backed proxies in the region, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the `popular militia force’ in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, can carry out on America’s allies.
Soleimani’s assassination may reduce divisions within Iranian politics between moderates and conservatives.
Iran withstood sanctions. A war will by no means, be a walkover. Any major escalation as fallout of Suleiman’s killing will have global repercussions on crude oil prices.
Iran may avoid a direct military confrontation, but it may exercise smorgasbord of options.
Shia proxies may hit US assets in West Asia or use cyber weapons to cripple networks in mainland America.
For the time being, Iran is unlikely to shut down Straits of Hormuz, lest supplies to China are truncated. . A US-Iran escalatory spiral would serve as a strategic boon for China.
After Suleiman’s killing, Trump’s pacific policy, like Obama’s pivot to Asia, could end up mere rhetoric.
Credibility of Iraq regime would be eroded further. It is caught between the U.S. and Iran. At present, America has about 5,000 troops deployed in various parts of Iraq. Most Shia political parties and leaders in Iraq have deep, historical ties with the Iranian regime. The U.S.’s unilateral use of air power within Iraq targeting Iraqi militias without the permission of the government has flabbergasted Baghdad. The Iraqi government had strongly condemned the U.S. air strikes on Kataib Hezbollah; a huge crowd participated in the siege of the American Embassy. Let us see what Iraqi `parliament’ decides.