Saleem Akhtar Malik |
Getting bored with his sniping match with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump has now turned his Twitter guns on Iran. Give credit to this man that, by always choosing to embroil with a much inferior power, he has reduced the once mighty USA to the level of a street bully. In the recent past, Pakistan also had a close brush with Trump’s shot from the mouth volleys.
However, the Pakistani rulers, being what they are, readily succumbed to the POTUS’ Diktat. In his recent spat with Iran, Trump has threatened the Ayatollahs with de-certification of the multilateral Iran nuclear deal. The deal commits the US, along with France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the European Union, to accept the peaceful dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. It simultaneously prohibits the latter from ever crossing the nuclear red line.
A nuclear Iran will be a factor of stability in the Middle East. Look, what happened in South Asia! However, while a MAD system may facilitate peace between Israel and Iran, and consequently between the US and Iran
Iran’s Rouhani has countered by stating that the deal is non-negotiable, and warned the US on its attempts to unilaterally alter a multilateral international agreement. The recent tiff between the US and Iran cannot be delinked from the past – it has its origin in the turbulent history of the US-Iran relationship. During the Cold War, the Shah of Iran had been the US’ policeman in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
After Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of the Shah, the new Iranian leadership, comprising of clerics, held the US in contempt for its past mentoring of the Shah. They, therefore, came into direct confrontation with the US. On the other hand, the US was wary of Khomeini’s proclaimed objectives of exporting the Iranian revolution and overthrowing the conservative Arab regimes. This brings the Arabs into the permutation.
And it goes without saying that Israel is the major beneficiary of the American policy in the Middle East. If not for Israel, the US would not have torn asunder Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen with a vengeance
Talking of the rift between Iran and the Arabs, the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the city-states dotting the southern and eastern fringes of the Arabian Peninsula have significant Shia populations, all of them ruled by Sunni governments. Iran claims that this region was part of the ancient Persian Empire.
If Iran had its way, this entire region would become part of a confederacy controlled from Tehran. From a larger perspective, Iraq and Syria would also be absorbed into this confederacy. This is a modern power struggle based on ancient rivalries and prejudices. Since the US had very large stakes in the Arab Middle East, it cast its lot with the conservative Arab regimes. However, while doing so the US had no love lost for the Arabs.
It had one major objective- to protect the state of Israel. To achieve this strategic objective, the US even exploited the differences between Iraq then ruled by the secular and nationalist-leaning Saddam Hussain, and Iran. During the Iran –Iraq war America was indirectly helping Saddam Hussain through the conservative Arab regimes. On the other hand, it secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, the subject of an arms embargo.
It was planned that Israel would ship weapons to Iran, and then the United States would resupply Israel. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to achieve the release of the U.S. hostages
Some U.S. officials hoped that the arms sales would secure the release of several hostages and allow U.S. intelligence agencies to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. It was planned that Israel would ship weapons to Iran, and then the United States would resupply Israel. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to achieve the release of the U.S. hostages.
The ongoing confrontation between the US and Iran has very little to do with pure non-proliferation. It makes sense only when the Israel factor is introduced into the permutation. Starting from the First Gulf War, the US has played a very active role in destabilizing the Arab Middle East.
And it goes without saying that Israel is the major beneficiary of the American policy in the Middle East. If not for Israel, the US would not have torn asunder Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen with a vengeance. The most likely regional conflict in the Middle East can take place between Iran and Israel. The national power (GDP+ Level of expertise in Science &Technology+ Military Power) differential between the two countries is in Israel’s favor.
If Iran had its way, this entire region would become part of a confederacy controlled from Tehran. From a larger perspective, Iraq and Syria would also be absorbed into this confederacy
If we do not take into account Israel’s nuclear capability, the two declared adversaries can fight it out among themselves till they are exhausted. Because of its relatively large economy (USD 404 billion against Israel’s USD 303 billion), Iran can sustain a little longer. But military power, the level of science and technology, nuclear deterrence, and America’s backing favor Israel.
The dispute over Iran’s nuclear weapons program has dragged on for quite some time and it will be an illusion to think that somehow Iran will manage to buy time or circumvent the crisis. We should view Trump’s recent insinuations against Iran in that context. In the final analysis, it will be Israel, not America, which will confront Iran. The Middle East is unstable because Israel is the only (undeclared) nuclear power. The scenario can change only through Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
A nuclear Iran will be a factor of stability in the Middle East. Look, what happened in South Asia! However, while a MAD system may facilitate peace between Israel and Iran, and consequently between the US and Iran, it will not address the inhibitions and fears of the Arab regimes regarding Iran’s regional ambitions. Peace in the Middle East is that much simple and easy!
Saleem Akhtar Malik was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honors degree in War Studies, an MBA and an M.Phil in Management Sciences. He is the author of the book Borrowed Power. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.