BRICS must define the scope of the Upcoming War
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 11 Jan , 2020

Assassination of Qasem Soleimani [the head of Iran’s elite Quds military force] under direct orders from the President of the United States is likely to further escalate into a military conflict in a region that holds vital security implications for India and other members of BRICS group of nation. By assassinating an influential military commander in the region the US has created a strategic opportunity that it has been looking for many years – a direct military conflict with Iran. While the US has issued threats to Iranian leadership of massive military retaliation in case of an Iranian military response to Soleimani’s assassination on 03 January, Iran must remain wise not to take the bait.

However, Iran has no choice but to respond given Soleimani’s stature in Iran and Iraq. As expected on 07 January Iran walked into the trap by launching a surface-to-surface ballistic missile (09) attack on Ain al-Asad airbase (Iraq), the largest of the Iraqi military compounds where foreign troops are based – not yet[1].

It is most likely that in response to Iran’s rocket attack, the US will respond as it has warned to do so. If this follows, then Iran next move would be to take-over Bahrain – Iran now has fully entered the trap. In his first public statement after the Iran’s missile retaliation President Trump ended his address by calling for peace and bright future for Iran. However, prior to greeting the audience at the start of his address he stated “as long as I am the President of the United States, Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons”.

It is very likely that the US is going to decapitate Iran’s nuclear weapons facility through air strike or other means. Can’t predict this for sure given the signaling given by Russian President through his sudden visit to Syria – if I can defend Syria, I can defend Iran as well.

Iran’s military capability at this point in time cannot absorb the offensive onslaught of the US military offense given that its strength is oriented towards defense and asymmetric warfare. Iranian military leadership is already taking about a proportional response and the end of escalation cycle thereafter. However, the US game plan is to set up Iran for a direct military confrontation where it has no military strengths and decimate its military potential in long-term and allow it minor influence in the regional politics of Middle East. In simple terms the US wants to be attacked so that it can then engage with Iran with its strength in conventional warfare as against asymmetric warfare – this is a set-up.

For India and other members of the BRICS group of nations, the sudden rise in oil prices and disruption in supply upon which its economic growth depends would be crippling. All major economic crises in India are directly linked to the events occurring outside of her. A sudden surge in oil prices or its delivery will have very immediate effect on the lives of its ordinary citizens and this in turn can cause political disruptions as well. Given this direct correlation India has no choice to remain a silent spectator to events in Middle East following the Iranian commander’s assassination. It quite clears that India’s strategic culture and its comprehensive national strength does not allow it to intervene in situations like these unilaterally. However, India is part of the powerful BRICS group of nations that can shape the outcome of the ongoing escalation cycle between Iran and the US.

BRICS from its inception 2008-09 has been a strong advocate of multi-lateralism and affirms the role of the United Nations in seeking peaceful resolution to international disputes.The sixth BRICS annual Summit held at in Fortaleza, Brazil, on 15 July 2014 for the first time recalled that “development and security are closely interlinked, mutually reinforcing and key to attaining sustainable peace.It condemned unilateral military interventions and economic sanctions and emphasized the unique importance of the indivisible nature of security, and that no State should strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others”[2].

However, apart from Russia no other BRICS member nation has devoted its military for this purpose. Russia’s military intervention in Syria following the US led war on Libya was a case in point. Along with India and China, the BRICS group is a military superpower in every sense of the word. All annual summit meetings of BRICS group have stated in unequivocal terms the displeasure regarding the trend towards unilateralism.

The US decision to by-pass not just the UN but also its domestic law making institutions to conduct assassination strike against a key military leader in Middle East responsible for defeating the territorial ISIS calls for not just a rhetoric but a tactical military posture from BRICS groups.

Though in popular perception BRICS is a grouping of emerging market economies, many of its policy objectives are directed against a West led international political and economic order. The situation in Iran provides BRICS nation with a strategic opportunity to establish itself as a force to reckon within the international system.

While Russia is perhaps the only country that can dedicate its military resources in defense of Iran given its combat experience and capability, India and China must also use this opportunity to expend its military potential in a region of vital strategic importance to them. India in particular must not aid the US forces as it did during the Gulf war and China must not see this war as a US distraction from the Western Pacific as it has in the past. The options therefore for India and other BRICS member nations are as following;

•  Encourage Iran to delay its comprehensive military response indefinitely and await appropriate conditions to do so.

•  Seek military assistance from BRICS in case of a full scale war.

•  Allow Iran such military capabilities that would discourage the US from seeking a direct military conflict.

•  Increase BRICS military presence in Middle East under the cover of humanitarian assistance to citizens of BRICS nations in the region.

•  Allow Iran the capacity for protracted warfare and deny the US force a quick military victory.

•  Mobilize public opinion in the western world against the US war plan.

•  Advice military leadership of Iran to defend itself against hi-tech driven first wave of the US offense and preserve its forces during the initial days of the US offensive strikes.

The US war plans in Iran are directly linked to the security of BRICS member states in both long-term and short-term. BRICS must view this situation as a strategic opportunity and seize it. World economic history is testimony to the fact that war has its shadow all over global economy. The west led politico-economic world order was born in war will have to end in war. This is the reality and BRICS cannot escape it but face it.


[1]“Iran Fires “More Than Dozen” Missiles At Iraq Airbases Housing US Troops”NDTV (World News), 08 January, 2020. Available at [Accessed on 08 January, 2020].

[2]Sixth Summit: Fortaleza Declaration and Action Plan, Fortaleza, Brazil, on 15 July 2014.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Dr Rajasimman Sundaram

teaches history, politics, and culture and a member of the Institute of BRICS Studies and College of Multi-Languages at Sichuan International Studies University [四川外国语大学] (The People’s Republic of China)". 

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