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June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019

US-IRAN ROW

Prospects of war dim

Syed Nooruzzaman

Donald Trump Despite the ongoing hot exchanges between the US and Iran, very few experts believe that the Donald Trump administration will risk a war with the Persian Gulf nation at a time when Trump is busy preparing a strategy for a second term as President as the US presidential elections are due next year.
He has been spending more time on handling domestic issues than the challenges the US faces abroad. For some time his focus has been on fulfilling a major commitment he made to the Americans when he successfully contested the 2016 presidential elections --- to seal the US border with Mexico with a wall to prevent illegal entry of job-seeking Mexicans into the US.

If President Trump warned Iran on May 20 not to threaten the US again as that would lead to an "official end" of the Islamic republic, he also said on an earlier occasion that he does not want a war with Iran. Answering a question from journalists a few days back regarding a possible war with Teheran, he declared "I hope not". He stated this only a day after expressing his desire for a dialogue to handle the crisis which has arisen after the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with major powers, including the US and the European Union.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani However, a US-Iran war may become a reality if Washington's closest ally, Israel, succeeds in its efforts to force the two bitter enemies to settle their scores by using their military might. The USIran tensions, which had begun to lessen after the 2015 nuclear deal, escalated after Israel presented an intelligence report (though irrelevant) that Iran's nuclear ambitions were very much intact and that it was surreptitiously using the agreement to make and stockpile nuclear weapons --- Teheran's ultimate objective.

Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office some time ago revealed that his intelligence agents had obtained from Iran's nuclear archives a large number of documents which indicate that Iran had preserved its nuclear knowledge for future use despite entering into the much-publicised nuclear agreement to get UN, US and EU sanctions lifted. He argued that the documents showed that the nuclear deal was based on deception. The US withdrawal from the deal came soon after this development. President Trump did not change his decision despite the revelation later on that the documents secretly obtained from the Iranian archives were too old to have any connection with the 2015 deal.

Turki bin Salman A few days back, an editorial in a Saudi newspaper, owned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's brother Turki bin Salman, added fuel to the fire by calling for "surgical strikes" on Iran to punish it for its misdemeanour. The editorial advice to the US came following a mysterious attack on four oil tankers off UAE coast and a drone assault on a Saudi pipeline by Yemen's Houthi tribes, believed to have been done on Iranian prodding. Houthi militants also carried out a drone attack on Saudi Arabia's Najran airport, having a military base,

Image of Arab News editorial calling for U.S. to strike Iran, May 16, 2019

If a US-Iran military conflagration really comes about, it will be another major mistake Washington will make on the pretext of safeguarding its interests and those of its allies in West Asia.

on May 21 which may serve as another provocative action by Iranian proxies.

The Israelis and the Saudis, who, it appears, would prefer military action against Iran to make it forget about its nuclear ambitions and keep it away from meddling in Syria and other West Asian countries through its armed proxies like the Hezbollah militia, have a powerful backer of their idea in US National Security Adviser John Bolton, a known anti-Iran hawk. If Bolton has his way, a US military action is unavoidable with a view to ensuring a regime change in Teheran. Bolton has indicated through his statements that in his view the use of the US military muscle remains the only solution to the Iranian crisis at this stage. The Trump administration's decision to deploy bombers and a military aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf should be seen against this backdrop.

However, if a US-Iran military conflagration really comes about, it will be another major mistake Washington will make on the pretext of safeguarding its interests and those of its allies in West Asia. First of all, a military action against Teheran may not have the UN Security Council's support as two veto-wielding powers, Russia and China, are not expected to go along with the US because of the huge investments they have made in Iran as well as a clear threat to their interests in the Arab world.

Bashar Al-Assad If the US has been influencing the course of events in the Middle East, Russia has been found to be helping Iran and its allies like President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria. China has been trying to maintain friendly relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two regional powers heading the two opposite camps in West Asia. The Chinese help to Iran may come through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) by allowing Iran to gain entry into this powerful grouping as its fullfledged member.
Thus, a US-Iran war will have larger implications affecting not only these two nations but also many other countries within the region and beyond. The reason obviously is that Iran is not alone as Saddam Hussein's Iraq was after the collapse of the USSR. Iraq had also isolated itself in the Middle East after it attacked Quwait to realise its regional ambitions.

Xi Jinping Besides the Russia and China factor favouring Iran, the Persian Gulf country also has been sustaining many militias like the Lebanon-based Hezbollahs and armed Shia groups in Iraq which may open new fronts leading to the entire Arab world getting sucked into the war. The dreaded extremist outfits like the Islamic State and Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula may take advantage of the chaos that may follow to regroup themselves to achieve their destructive objectives.
The chaotic situation may also cause the outbreak of anti-US protests all over the region, giving birth to a second Arab Spring threatening the very survival of the pro-US regimes in the region. The regimes which escaped the sweep of the first Arab Spring may find it difficult to bear the impact of the upsurge of people's feelings and emotions through protest rallies and demonstrations.

Besides the Russia and China factor favouring Iran, the Persian Gulf country also has been sustaining many militias like the Lebanon-based Hezbollahs and armed Shia groups in Iraq which may open new fronts leading to the entire Arab world getting sucked into the war.

This will mean the third major failure of the US foreign policy after what it experienced in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the case of Iraq, the US used its military might to destroy its enemy's (Iran's) enemy. But in case it declares war on Iran, the US action may lead to dethroning of its friendly regimes in the Middle East without achieving its objective of regime change in Iran.

The only gainer of all that may happen will be Israel, but at the cost of other US allies in the region. A US-Iran war will, therefore, be neither in the larger interest of Washington nor in the interest of its Arab allies. It will be wiser to forget about war before it is too late. Are President Trump's top advisers listening?