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Encircling Iran - Middle East

Encircling Iran

Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

(Pic shows US bases surrounding Iran)

Iran had felt very confident in the passing years with its successful foreign policy in Iraq and Syria, and its monumental Nuclear Deal that was celebrated as a great win by the Iranian people. Iranian military forces and its allied militias had defeated US-backed militias and forced the ISIS machine out of both Iraq and Syria — but all this joy seems to have been upended with Trump’s extraordinary sanctions on the country.

Yet, this is not the first experience for Iran to have external forces meddle with its sovereignty and its right to a natural progress. In the Great Game since the 1700s, because Persia and Afghanistan had become buffer states between the Ottoman, the Russian and the British empires, the Russian and the British had made the two states a constant theatre for conflict and influence. And though these states could not be occupied, the two constantly vied for influence in the courts of the Shahs, forcing them to accept their portegee in regional matters. At the end, the Qajar were replaced by the compliant Pehlavi, who gladly gave oil concessions to the British, which ended only with the coming of the Revolution.

After this experience of national coercion from the historical to the contemporary time, despise for external suppression has become a part of the collective conscience of the Iranian people and thus the roots of the Revolution are strengthened in the people.

Trump’s disintegration of the Nuclear Deal and his attempt to bar Iran’s graphite, aluminium, steel, coal, gold, etc from the international market by disallowing transactions in the Iranian Rial was enough to cripple the economy of the country. And now more sanctions are stopping Iran from selling its oil to China, India, Japan and its European clients, and Iran has been denied insurance and financial messaging services via international facilities such as SWIFT. This is nothing less than strangulation, but this is not new, the US has been imposing different sanctions on Iran since 1979.

Perhaps this has been the reason for Iran to develop most of its military hardware indigenously in the passing decades. Iran has been able to produce at home, albeit of a relatively crude technology, a whole inventory from aircraft to helicopters, from drones to missiles, from tanks to submarines and warships, and a range of artillery, everything they need to be battle ready.

Apart from this, Iran also has a list of friends it can rely on. Russia of course has been a strategic ally in Iraq and Syria; China too would not want to see any more of US expansionism in its periphery. China would also dread to see another war-devastated country where it was planning to build another of its BRI rail and road network — a network that was going to be an essential link for its Central Corridor of the Silk Road.

But perhaps Iran’s enemies are far stronger than its friends — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel and the US are all laced with state-of-the-art modern warcrafts, aided with satellite power and military/naval bases spread all around Iran. In fact in the narrow Persian Gulf, where the weak Iraq and Qatar may be the only ones that would not attack Iran in case of battle, the rest will all be allied with the US forces and even if Iran succeeds in destroying some of the enemy’s naval crafts in the Gulf and knock down some jets, it will soon get dried down of firepower and will be no match to the aerial bombing campaigns of the foreigners.

Indeed, Jawad Zarif has said in his recent visit to Japan that ‘there is no possibility of negotiations with the US’, with what he calls an economic war on Iran, but he has also said in a previous interview that John Bolton, Bibi Netanyahu, Mohammed Bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed (UAE), nicknamed the B-Team, was trying to “push the US toward disaster” by lobbying to attack the country. That may not be an exaggeration, as Netanyahu just in February, in the Warsaw Summit blabbered to all the Arabs attending the conference there that they “are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran”.

One may argue that such cabals do not define the policies of a refined state machine such as of the US, but the sad fact of the matter is that ‘attacking Iran’ or bringing about a ‘regime change’ in it is exactly the policy defined under the Reagan Doctrine of the 1980s, which on the one hand shows the profoundness in US policy doctrines that are built upon the older layers, making them so pragmatic, but on the other, also shows that the US has used it superpower status just as cruelly as other imperialist in history have. And in spite of all its humanitarian sloganeering, it has proven unable to become a benign human-friendly power, as it boasts to be.

Coming back to the war, one can easily visualise images of destroyed cities, ruined infrastructure and wasted means of living in war-torn Iran, as the world audience has become habitual of seeing in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. But one thing will be different: there will probably be no indigenous rebel group as the Ayatollahs are so interwoven with their society, they seem to be in control, and also because with the war in Iraq, several pro-Tehran Shia-led militias are already in place. And the web of these militias goes right up to Lebanon, knocking at Israel’s door. And Tehran would be tempted to bust into this door with any chance it finds, just for the tit-for-tat.

But after winning a destruction of Iran, would the Arab states siding with the US be safer and more powerful in the region? Are they thinking that the US will bestow the newly-gained power into their laps — just like the British had once promised the whole of Arab region to the Shareef of Mecca in WWI? Rather it would be utter chaos — with the whole belt from Iran to Lebanon turned into a cauldron oozing with turbaned militants, making their own rules of war, making their list of enemies, and uniting under the most revolutionary and daunting of all — and with perhaps one univocally defined enemy in their midst — Tel Aviv.

Previously Published at The Express Tribune,