Tension will continue in West Asia but war very unlikely

Jatin Desai
Sunday, 30 June 2019

The tension is building up in West Asia but one thing is clear that it will not lead to war. The US and Iran were very close to war last week.

The tension is building up in West Asia but one thing is clear that it will not lead to war. The US and Iran were very close to war last week. Thanks, it did not happen. The war, if happened, will also lead to regional conflict. Both the US and Iran say they do not want war but aggressive, rhetoric continues. The tense scenario has already started affecting the global economy. Only a mature, rational response from the leadership of both countries can save the situation. 

It did not happen suddenly. The tension was building up mainly from May 2018 when the US pulled out from a nuclear deal known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action against the advice of its European allies. The international nuclear agreement was reached in 2015 when Barack Obama was US President. It was signed by Iran and the P5 + 1 - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. It was also endorsed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Iran agreed to limit enrichment of uranium. The immediate provocation for the US was when Iran shot down its high-tech surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran claimed the drone was in its airspace. Recently, two oil tankers near Strait of Hormuz were attacked. The US suspected Iran’s hand behind the attack. Around 40 per cent of the world’s seaborne oil travels through Strait of Hormuz. 

On June 20, the US and Iran came to the brink of a war when President Donald Trump directed and immediately cancelled air strike against Iran. The plan was to attack three different sites. But, President cancelled it within 10 minutes of the order when he realised that it may kill around 150 people. Trump tweeted, “I stopped it, not…proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.” The US have tightened sanctions against Iran. The sanction is affecting Iran badly as they are finding it difficult to sell oil. India, China and six other nations were exempted from importing oil from Iran. But, that deadline got over on May 2 and since then India has stopped importing oil from Iran. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during his recent India visit, said,” We are doing everything we can to ensure you have adequate crude imports.” 

Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton are known hardliners and they pushed for air strikes. Trump is in favour of talks but at the same time, he is also sending mixed signals. Reuters reported that Trump had sent a message to Iran via Oman warning an imminent attack and calling for a dialogue. The US wants to bring Iran on the negotiating table through fresh sanctions. Iran has condemned the latest sanctions on their supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and many others. Iran called it ‘America’s desperation.’ Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the White House move was ‘mentally discarded.’ The sanction on Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is seen as a pragmatist, will make it difficult for him to travel to the US without the waiver.
 
Global nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Iran has increased the production of enriched uranium. Trump wants to renegotiate the deal and broaden it to curb Iran’s ballistic missile programme. 

The war against Iran is not an easy option. Iran has its own allies in West Asia. Iran has a huge influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah. In Yemen, Iran is backing Houthi.They are fighting Saudi backed militias. In recent weeks, the Houthi attack within Saudi Arabia has escalated. The rising attacks within the Saudi are also a message to the US that any conflict with Iran may ignite regional tensions. Iran is also believed to support Hazara community in Afghanistan. The regional conflict can prove worse to the world economy. It may also hamper Trump’s re-election chances. This is hard reality and it may be the real reason of Trump’s not attacking Iran. 

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