ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Trump and Tehran

The United States’ insatiable appetite for war is yet again proving to be a threat to world peace.


The assassination of Major General Qasem Soleimani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Quds Force, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, in a drone strike on 3 January, by the United States (US) has triggered a fresh cycle of violence in West Asia. Through its actions, the Donald Trump administration has unequivocally announced that 2020 will be a year of violence. In response to the hubris of the US, Iran has retaliated by launching missile attacks on the US’s Ain al-Asad base in Anbar province and a base in Erbil in Iraq.

The American elite of all hues, liberal or conservative, is blinded by its faith in American military supremacy, and remains convinced that the world is destined to play by its rules. Therefore, it is delusional to expect military restraint from the US. The Pentagon has been using West Asia to test its latest weapons technology since the end of the Cold War. With a $700 billion annual military budget, the US will continue to reduce world peace to a utopian dream. As the US prepares for another set of attacks, the world is faced with a bleak diplomatic landscape in West Asia.

The overt military action against a foreign leader enjoying diplomatic immunity is a travesty of professional military ethics, a blatant attempt to extend the battlefield dimensions. The state-centric international order proscribes assassination of foreign leaders. The 1907 Hague Convention proscribes assassinations, identifying it as “treacherous killing.” The Trump administration’s actions are destroying the rule-based international order and pushing it towards barbarism and the medieval ages where assassination as a tool of statecraft was legal.

President Trump’s justification for the barbarous act is that Soleimani was responsible for killing or badly wounding “thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more … but got caught.” From his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump claimed that the attack was executed “to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.” The fact is that the US is once again using military necessity as a ruse to undermine diplomatic niceties and sovereign protections.

The US-led “Middle-East order,” which Henry Kissinger erected in the wake of the oil crisis and the growing demand for a New International Economic Order by third world countries in the mid-1970s, now lies in tatters. Trump, who rallied against the US engagement in West Asian wars in his election campaign, changed tack by 2017, indulging in systematic and wanton destruction of the “order.” The unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there, imposing back-breaking economic sanctions against the people of Iran, and declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation were all provocative acts designed to apply maximum pressure and test Iran’s “strategic patience.”

The US and its regional allies are opposed to Iran’s involvement in Syria and its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria because enhanced regional connectivity is likely to destroy sectarian political regimes serving US imperial needs. The US is perturbed by the nationalistic surge in Iraq and the growing demand for the removal of US troops from Iraqi soil.

It is strange that in Yemen, the region’s poorest nation, a war between the Houthis, a relatively small rebel group, and a weak government is the focal point for the Iranian–Saudi rivalry. Regional integration is anathema to US strategy, which is focused on becoming the biggest exporter of oil in the world. In addition, a secular West Asia with Shia–Sunni unity adds to Israel’s paranoia. In the 1970s, the US weaned West Asia away from the bloc consisting of the developing and poor countries in order to pierce their solidarity. After having used the region to establish hegemony, the US now wants to push it back into the category of poor nations.

The geopolitical reality is that Iran wants to build a land-bridge from Baghdad to Beirut that would give it direct access to the Mediterranean through Iraqi, Lebanese, and Syrian ports, and the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia want to disrupt it because that would free regional trade from the sea lines of communication controlled by the US navy. It cannot be forgotten that one of the big reasons for Anglo–Americans to trigger World War I was to thwart the German plans to build the Berlin–Baghdad railways that would have undermined the importance of the Suez canal.

The escalating tensions between the US and Iran are likely to close the Strait of Hormuz, from where 20% of global marine oil shipments pass. This disruption in the normal flow of cargo transport is likely to pull the oil price higher and make the global economy more vulnerable. India, which is already suffering from sluggish economic growth over the last few years, will find it difficult to cope. The Indian foreign policy establishment must use its bonhomie with the Trump administration to shift the discourse towards peace, if, of course, the US is willing to have India as a mediator.

Updated On : 14th Jan, 2020


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