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M K Bhadrakumar |

The announcement in Tehran on Saturday regarding the successful test of a ballistic missile with a range of 2000 kilometers and capable of carrying multiple warheads to hit different targets phenomenally shift the military balance in the Middle East.

Israel and the roughly 45000 US troops deployed to the Middle East – Jordan (1500 troops), Iraq (5200), Kuwait (15000), Bahrain (7000), Qatar (10000), UAE (5000), Oman (200) – fall within the range of the latest Iranian missile. Iran has demonstrated a deterrent capability that deprives the US and Israel of a military option.

A containment strategy against Iran is no longer feasible. Wisdom lies in the Trump administration engaging Iran in a constructive spirit to influence its regional policies

The missile test signals Tehran’s strategic defiance of the US, after President Donald Trump’s outrageous remarks against Iran in his address to the UNGA. From this point, Trump has to be very careful about tearing up the Iran nuclear deal.

Any such rash act by Trump or the lawmakers in the Congress (imposing new sanctions) can be seized by Tehran to resume its previous nuclear program, which would have far-reaching implications, given its missile capabilities.

Read more: Iran defies Trump & unveils powerful new nuclear missile’

President Hassan Rouhani took a tough line after returning to Tehran from New York. He warned that if Trump violated the nuclear deal, “we will be firm and all options will be before us.” Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told New York Times tauntingly that if the US wanted to re-negotiate the nuclear deal, Tehran too will insist on re-negotiating every single concession it made – “Are you prepared to return to us 10 tons of enriched uranium?”

Tehran is in no doubt that the Kurdistan project is a US-Israeli enterprise to create a permanent base in the highly strategic region with the objective of destabilizing Iran and undermining its regional surge in Syria and Iraq

Rouhani made a strident speech at a military parade on Friday in Tehran underscoring that Iran did not need any country’s permission to bolster its missile capability. He added, “The Iranian nation has always been after peace and security in the region and the world and we will defend the oppressed Yemeni, Syrian and Palestinian people whether you like it or not.”

“As long as some speak in the language of threats, the strengthening of the country’s defense capabilities will continue and Iran will not seek permission from any country for producing various kinds of the missile,” Defence Minister Amir Hatami said in a statement Saturday.

Read more: Iran is Trump’s perpetual enemy in the Middle East

What emerges is Iran’s determination to consolidate its influence in Syria. The US will have to carefully weigh the repercussions before making any intervention (which Israel is pressing for). Again, Iran may establish a long-term presence in Syria. The Iran-supported battle-hardened Shiite militia fighting in Iraq and Syria is a veritable 100000-strong army and Iran is in a position to force the eviction of US forces from Iraq and Syria.

The Iran-supported battle-hardened Shiite militia fighting in Iraq and Syria is a veritable 100000-strong army and Iran is in a position to force the eviction of US forces from Iraq and Syria

The Trump administration must take with the utmost seriousness the thinly veiled threat by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari on Wednesday (while reacting to Trump’s UN speech) – “The time has come for correcting the US’ miscalculations.

Now that the US has fully displayed its nature, the government should use all its options to defend the Iranian nation’s interests. Taking a decisive position against Trump is just the start and what is strategically important is that the US should witness more painful responses in the actions, behavior, and decisions that Iran will take in the next few months.”

Read more: The Iran deal is living dangerously despite sanctions relief

The ballistic missile test followed within 3 days of Gen. Jafari’s threat. Equally, the timing of the missile test can be seen against the backdrop of the referendum being planned for September 25 by the Kurds of northern Iraq, seeking an independent Kurdistan. Tehran is in no doubt that the Kurdistan project is a US-Israeli enterprise to create a permanent base in the highly strategic region with the objective of destabilizing Iran and undermining its regional surge in Syria and Iraq.

President Hassan Rouhani took a tough line after returning to Tehran from New York. He warned that if Trump violated the nuclear deal, “we will be firm and all options will be before us

Unsurprisingly, Israel is furious about Iran’s missile test. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called it “a provocation and a slap in the face for the United States and its allies — and an attempt to test them.” Clearly, Israel is in a panic that Iran is steady, inexorably outstripping it as the number one regional power in the Middle East. However, beyond rhetoric, Israel cannot do much about Iran’s surge.

Israel foolishly instigated Trump to provoke Tehran just at this juncture when he is barely coping with the crisis in Northeast Asia. A containment strategy against Iran is no longer feasible. Wisdom lies in the Trump administration engaging Iran in a constructive spirit to influence its regional policies. Threats never worked against Iran. Time and again they’ve proved to be counterproductive.

M. K. Bhadrakumar has served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes extensively in Indian newspapers, Asia Times and the “Indian Punchline”. This piece was first published in Indian Punchline. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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