Pushing Iran into a corner is not the answer
by Vinod Saighal on 05 Jun 2017 1 Comment
The contrast could not be starker. Preferring the Arab Peninsula as his first trip outside the United States at a time when he is under increased domestic pressure, he needed to fill his bag with petro-dollars. The visit ended with a fat cheque for chief guest Donald Trump of 460 billion US dollars! Never before did any US president visiting the region get such a handsome amount with just hundred days in office. It was music to his supporters back home and a message to his detractors in Washington that he was no lightweight. 


Camouflaged behind the rhetoric of the war on terrorism the new enemy was Iran, which redounded well with the Saudi King and his dignitaries. Iran could have been present in abstention according to a commentator from the region. According to Rasd network, Iran was mentioned negatively 3750 times in the summit and bilateral meeting, Daesh 134 times, Al Qaeda only 13 times, Taliban 8 times and Israel 3 times only.


On the other side of the Arab Peninsula, 42 million Iranians queued up to choose a new President. 57 per cent Iranians voted in President Hassan Rouhani for a second term. For the world it was a sure indication of Tehran’s adherence to the reforms agenda and honoring the nuclear deal signed with the P5 plus 1 for civil use. President Donald Trump was evidently deaf to the message emanating loud and clear from Tehran. He seemed to be bent upon once again pushing Iran into a corner. Without yet planning to abrogate the nuclear deal Mr. Trump would like Washington to increase the sanctions on Iran.


For generations to come, Iranians cannot forget the suffering and humiliation suffered at the hands of the Anglo-Americans starting with the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh. The CIA has publicly admitted for the first time that it was behind the notorious 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, in documents that also show how the British government tried to block the release of information about its own involvement in his overthrow.


On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified documents. “The military coup that overthrew Mosaddegh and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of  US foreign policy conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.


Thereafter, Iran has continued to suffer in one form or another after the Khomeini Revolution of 1979 that overthrew the Shah. The West simply could not reconcile itself to the theocratic regime that came in being in Tehran. Not long after that, while Iran was in turmoil after the change of regime, Iraq took advantage to attack Iran with the full backing of the Gulf Arabs and the West with US and UK again in the forefront. Iran has continued to feel threatened ever since.


Providing itself with a nuclear umbrella was the logical next step in a region bristling with hostility. The Iranians had known all along that the Pakistani nuclear bomb had been financed by Saudi Arabia and Libya, both countries being major equity holders in the venture. With Gaddafi having been removed from the scene Iran keenly felt the nuclear threat to it from both flanks, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The latter had continued to monitor Pakistan’s nuclear progress. Saudi royals were able to visit sensitive nuclear facilities from time to time, whereas no Prime Minister of Pakistan was allowed to come anywhere near them.


After invading Iraq and destroying the remnants of Saddam’s armed forces, the US declared Syria, Iran and Korea as rogue states. No mention was made of Pakistan that had been the incubator for the jihadi stream now flooding the world under Al Qaeda, ISIS as well as the most powerful Pakistani tanzeems like Lashkar-e Toiba and several others. As a matter of fact the Pakistan nuclear threat is far more insidious and widespread than is currently assessed in most quarters.


Iran’s capability vis-à-vis Pakistan on a scale of 0 to 9 is not even 1; Pakistan would be hovering around 7 or 8 in its comparative nuclear capability. Likewise in the case of North Korea, although it has gone much ahead of Iran, it is not in the same league as Pakistan in the number of nuclear weapons that it possesses or is likely to possess in a decade or so. What is more relevant, North Korea does not have the radical groups that are capable of carrying out terrorist acts of varying intensities practically across the globe. Iran to date limits its fighting to Lebanon, Syria & Gaza. In Yemen, it is suspected of backing the Houthis (Zaidi Shia-led religious-political movement that emerged from Sa’dah, northern Yemen in the 1990s).


Whereas many in the US may gloss over it, the rest of the world is fully alive to the devastation that could follow the latest arms sales to Saudi Arabia, starting with 100 billion US dollars and going up to 350 billion dollars in the coming years. The Saudis and 50+ plus Sunni Muslim leaders that were present during the Trump visit should realize that 100 billion dollars or more of the most sophisticated weapons will not be of much use to fight the terrorist threat manifesting around their countries and elsewhere in the world. They are way over any requirement in Yemen.


Similarly, it does not require a former Pakistan Army chief to lead a Sunni Muslim force to go after Al Qaeda and ISIS when he was unable to control the terrorists in his own country. For the long haul, the acquisition of armaments and the Sunni force is clearly pointed in one direction only.


Doubtless the Saudi’s fear Iran as the superior power with a force that has been honed to the highest degree. Its military expertise was seasoned in the long-drawn Iraq-Iran war of earlier decades and now in fighting ISIS in Iraq and in Syria in concert with Hezbollah and others opposed to the Assad regime. It has now become more than a Shia-Sunni divide.


Iran right from the days of the Shah had started removing the overlays of Islam to discover its glorious pre-Islamic past, namely Zoroastrianism and the empire of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire (600-530 B.C.). Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilised states of the ancient Near East. It expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia and the Caucasus. From the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. As a proud people the Iranians are unlikely to forget their illustrious past.


Both events took place a millennium before the advent of the Prophet of Islam who is revered as much by the Iranians as the Sunnis of the Arab world and elsewhere. The guardians of the two holy cities of Islam rightly feel that with the occupation of Najaf and Karbala for the first time in thousand years and the consolidation with the Shii of Iraq, the Iranians feel formidable enough to set their eyes on Mecca and Medina.


With the renewed US backing of Saudi Arabia, the situation could become exacerbated to a degree that could lead to another Arab-Iran war. This time around, the outcome would be the complete destruction of the Middle East as we know it today. Mr. Donald Trump besides milking Saudi petro dollars to the hilt could turn out to be a bigger Machiavelli than his benefactors imagine. He could have set in motion the destruction of Islam on a scale unknown in history.


On the other hand, were good sense to prevail, it is not inconceivable that the Ayatollahs of Iran and the Saudis become joint custodians of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina by the middle of the century. Wisdom lies in that direction. It is either that or Mutually Assured Destruction*.


Iran is essentially a mature civilization. In the years ahead, it could become the lead power in the Middle East as well as Central Asia. Most big powers to the East of Iran, namely Russia, China and India would be comfortable with it, the last named having a long historical connection. (Recall that the court language of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Sikh Empire was Persian). Leaving the US under President Trump to follow its own course, India, China, Russia and the remainder signatories of the nuclear deal have to ensure that President Rouhani is fully backed to carry through his liberalization and opening of Iran to the world. Neither the European Union nor they should become party to any further sanctions on Iran.



The writer is the author of Third Millennium Equipoise. He attended the Imperial Iranian War College in Tehran during 1973-74; in 1966 he served with UNEF, Gaza, just before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War


User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top