Iran nuclear scientist

On November 27, Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrezadeh was assassinated in an ambush near Tehran. He is one of the most important scientists to be assassinated to date and his death is a major psychological and professional blow to the Iranian nuclear program. This high profile killing will have long-term aftershocks on geopolitics of the Persian Gulf.

The multidimensional impact could be a strengthening of conservatives’ position in Iranian domestic politics, further deepening security cooperation between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Israel, igniting asymmetric conflict with primary focus on activating proxies, and a reconciliatory approach towards Qatar by Saudi-led Arab bloc.

The imminent threat of Iran’s potential response and forthcoming change in the White House has also triggered a new wave of diplomacy among GCC member countries.

Conservatives hold majority after Soleimani’s killing

General Soleimani’s killing in January 2020 helped conservatives to win more than two third majority in the Iranian parliament. In the 11th Parliamentary elections of Iranian Majlis conservatives won 221 out of 290 seats while moderates could win merely 30 seats.

Later in May, Mohammad Ghalibaf, a former commander of Iranian Revolutionary Gaurds (IRGC) elected as the speaker of the Iranian parliament. This is why, the Iranian parliament strongly condemned the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and signed a statement with consensus to scale up uranium enriching process up to the levels of pre-Iran nuclear deal.

Read more: Israel receives new missile boat as Iran tensions surge

According to media reports, the parliament will likely pass a bill, which would be obligatory to Iranian government and Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. If happens, it would be a major setback for the global nuclear nonproliferation regimes.

Also, these acts will diminish prospects of likely diplomacy between Biden administration and Iran, leaving behind a perpetual environment of insecurity in the region. Moreover, it seems that killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh will help conservative presidential candidates to win upcoming Iranian elections in 2021, which would further aggravate tensions between Iran and GCC-Israel.

Netanyahu’s secret meeting linked to Fakhrezadeh’s assassination

The assasination of Fakhrezadeh has been coincided with Netanyahu’s secret visit to Saudi Arabia and meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. Though, Saudi Arabia officially denied any meeting between Netanyahu and MBS, however, it has delivered a strong message to Iran. The Netanyahu’s visit was not solely for the purpose to convince Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to recognize Israel, which is perhaps a medium-term goal for Netanyahu.

The short-term goal for him is to cooperate with Saudi Arabia on an establishment of a joint regional security network based on Human and artificial intelligence against Iran amid fears that President-elect Joe Biden and the European Union may renew the Iran Nuclear Deal, releasing the pressure off the Iranian regime and leaving the GCC and Israel to fend off against Iran by themselves.

The multidimensional impact could be a strengthening of conservatives’ position in Iranian domestic politics, further deepening security cooperation between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Israel, igniting asymmetric conflict with primary focus on activating proxies, and a reconciliatory approach towards Qatar by Saudi-led Arab bloc. 

 

Rather escalating a direct conflict, Iran and Israel will ignite proxy war to damage each other’s interests in the region. It seems Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has strategy to kill Iranian nuclear scientists and delay developments of Iranian nuclear program. This strategy has been intensified recently, which means Israel has been able to develop a subversive Human Intelligence (HUMINT) network deep inside Iran.

Establishment of HUMINT network in Iran is an extraordinary success of Mossad. It seems that the basic aim behind the UAE to ban visas to Muslim countries including Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc is to forestall any prospects of building (HUMINT) inside UAE by Iran. Arab countries are now preparing themselves for subversive proxy warfare and securing their citizens and territories from any possible retaliation by Iran.

Iranian regime a victim of oppression again

For the time being, Tehran’s response would be through its proxies in the Middle East. Trump’s actions related to Israel including acceptance of Netanyahu’s announcement of settlements in West Bank, recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel, and announcement of a controversial Middle East Peace Plan and subsequent Iran’s consistent and severe stance on such issues helped Tehran to gain further sympathies among Palestinians, Hamas and Hezbollah. This incident has given another instance to Iranian regime to project itself as a victim of oppression of Israel. Hence, it would be easy for Iran to use Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel to avenge Fakhrizadeh’s assassination.

Hezbollah has been silent after 34 days war of 2006. Since then, it has developed extraordinary capability in missile program and reportedly has over 130,000 missiles and remains potential security threat to Israel. Syria might be another area to launch strikes against Israel. Since February 2020, Israel has been proactively striking on Iranian military sites in Syria but Tehran followed restraint due to an imminent threat of conflict escalation and direct US involvement in any potential conflict. However, Iran might strike back on Israel through Iranian military sites in Syria during Trump’s last days and Biden’s initial days in office with expectation of lesser chances of American involvement in the conflict.

Read more: Saudi denies role in Iranian nuclear scientist’s killing

New wave of diplomacy

The imminent threat of Iran’s potential response and forthcoming change in the White House has also triggered a new wave of diplomacy among GCC member countries. In 2017, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed their relations with Qatar and blocked land, air and sea routes. However after more than three years, Saudi Arabia – the leader of four nation bloc – seems to mend its ways in order to minimize pressure emanating from current tensions in the region. Trump’s advisor Jared Kushner’s visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia after less than one week of US Secretary Mike Pompeo’s visit has extraordinary for any potential diplomatic engagement. In current circumstances, the Saudi-led bloc’s reconciliation towards Qatar is highly viable and might be affective to reduce pressure on Saudi-led Arab countries and improve GCC’s existing security framework.

To conclude, since 2018 the Persian Gulf has been going through significant strategic changes. Trump administration’s consistent and overwhelming support to anti-Iran bloc has reset the tone of US-Israel, Arab-Israel and intra-Arab relations. It seems that in a post-Trump era, these countries will conveniently form alliance to deter Tehran’s nuclear program and minimize its influence in the region. Threat perceptions of states and their responses might keep the regional security environment fragile for the foreseeable future.

Khurram Minhas is a PhD candidate at the NUST and researcher at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

 

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