Geopolitics

Iran cannot hold Asian countries hostage to its anti-Israel obsession
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 06 Feb , 2024

Commentators wonder why President Biden has not reacted to the killing of three American soldiers as a result of a Houthi missile attack in Jordan. (He has done so since). Is it because he says he does not want an escalation of bloodshed to other places in the region? Or, is it because the US feels she would be entangled in a local issue in the Middle East, whereas the bigger issue of Ukraine still looks ferociously into his eyeballs?

Many observers think that direct action against Iran by the superpower could win the US a much-needed victory on the land.  But they stop thinking about the global implications of an extreme step against any power, more particularly Iran with its immense strategic importance. In a direct onslaught on Iran, the US will no doubt achieve its objective of cutting off the hand of Iran but it will also seal all chances of the masses of Iranian people having any soft corner for the US at any point of time in future. The US should not indulge in such adventurism… The US President categorically said that his country is not interested in the escalation of the conflict to other parts of the Asian Continent.

But, impervious to the consequencesof passing on lethal weapons into the hands of its Houthi proxy, Iran’s role in the unfolding situation has turned the region unpredictable. Perhaps Iran is trying to step into shoes larger than its size.  Iran-supported Houthi have attacked commercial vessels carrying cargo across the Red Sea to the Suez Canal and Europe. These attacks violate international law governing mercantile navigation. The Houthis argue that the cargo connected with Israel will be attacked.

In the process, the Houthi have also tried to attack the American or British vessels in the Red Sea so much so that the US had to deploy naval power to destroy the missiles fired by the Houthi from Yemen. This has got the US involved militarily along two fronts. One is to deter the Iranian proxy from attacking American troops based in the region and the second is to protect the merchant cargos moving across the Red Sea.

Last week, the Houthi launched a drone from Iraqi soil which struck a small US army base in Jordan, Though the damage caused was negligible three American soldiers were killed and 30 others wounded. . President Biden was under pressure from many Congressmen on how he was going to respond to this situation. After all, the Red Sea is the key to oil and other cargo transportation to Europe. Endangeringthis critical waterway means endangering the economic structure of the Western world. According to Israeli think tanks, the war in Gaza is likely to protract throughout the year 2024. Under given circumstances, the US finds it unavoidable to bomb the strongholds of the Houthi adversaries and render them incapable of posing any threat to the maritime route across the Red Sea.

Now the Iran-supported Houthi are trying to sink commercial as well as navy ships in the Red Sea to cripple the economy of Europe.

The Houthis are not just the pirates on the high sea. No, they are pursuing a definite mission in which they draw inspiration from Iran. The mission is to paralyse the trade and military routes that connect Asia, particularly the Far East and the IOR countries, to Europe.

Commentators are envisaging the shape of things about to take place without further loss of time.  President Biden has to decide what action he is contemplating to neutralise the Houthi or the Iranian threat to freedom of navigation. Things cannot be left as these are as that would mean compromising the gravest danger to international trade routes. Iranian proxies have been looking for American facilities to strike at and cause whatever damage is possible.  The hindsight reveals that so far the US has been deploying only low-intensity drone and missile strikes which are not likely to take a heavy toll on life of the enemy forces. It was a mild warning. But as the proxy attacks continue and with some intensity, the US has to retaliate in a manner that casualties do happen in the other camp and they are forced to see with their own eyes the consequences of their arrogance.  Washington is more than convinced that the lethal weapons which the Houthi are using form the basis on which they aspire to bring the commercial activity to a halt.

When and in what form the US will strike back cannot be predicted. Iran has chosen bad causes for its actions in the Red Sea region. The challenge is not only to the US and UK but to most of the countries in the Asian continent that are not interested in military conflicts and clashes but in trade and commerce and a congenial atmosphere between the nations.

It will also be noted that India has also begun to stretch its naval muscle. India has sent a strong naval force to the western Pacific Ocean close to the Arabian Gulf. India is already a member of Quad -4, and by that token, she is supposed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US, UK and other Q-4 countries. The area of conflict is not the Indo-Pacific but then the vital link via the Red Sea to the Suez Canal and onwards to Europe is a link immensely important for India for her trade and commerce with the Western world.

It has to be noted that India and Iran are on friendly terms. But friendship means that the interests of each country are not jeopardized through some unwanted action. Even France has also expressed its resentment over the brigandist activities in the Red Sea.

The ball is in the court of Iran. Iran is talking tough but from a position of weakness. Iran is overdoing its animosity against Israel. It cannot hold important nations in the region hostage to its irrational interests of showing down Israel.  Iran must coolly consider whether in a situation of armedconflict with the US and UK, will China or Russia come to its rescue. No, they will not because they, too, have an interest in the safety and freedom of movement in the Red Sea. That is why Iran has negatively become the focus of attention of major players on the chessboard of international politics.

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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

KN Pandita

Former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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One thought on “Iran cannot hold Asian countries hostage to its anti-Israel obsession

  1. Iran is possibly the only nation in Asia which is not scared of US, though it’s Military equipment is obsolete. Only its missiles and drones can be called modern.
    Under debilitating sanctions since 1979 which has seen many in this oil rich nation perish due to want of modern medicines, it has opted for creating a strategic depth by backing Shia rebels in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

    US has killed its Generals and Scientists but this has been of no avail as the country shows no signs of wilting to US pressure but rather has strengthened itself with strategic alliances with China and Russia and now has normalised lies with Saudi Arabia too .

    Iran has been a very strong ally of India and in times of Oil Crisis, Iran has come to our rescue and it has also accepted long term payments of Oil purchases and in Ruppees too .

    Before 1947 , Iran was our neighbour from times immemorial . In the Arab world, Ottoman Empire ( Turkey) and Persia ( Iran) have been the two major powers in history and are today too .

    With US seeing India as a long term bulwark against China, it’s wooing India with cooperation in many fields including defence.

    India till now has been able to maintain its strategic autonomy but in case there is an Iran- US war or Russia( our strongest ally)- US war ( over Ukraine) or even US- China ( our largest trading partner) over Taiwan, India will be in a quandary as to whom to support.

    Nice article by the author as it has highlighted the sufferings the world trade and economy is facing due to the ongoing Red Sea Crisis. It has affected us too , mainly in import of crude from US which is now substituted by our Middle East friends.

    Crisis in the region also affects our proposed India- Middle East- Europe Economic corridor.

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