Trauma in the Waiting
Middle East has certainly remained an arena of horrendous events, for the last couple of decades where violence and hope work in reverse directions. The region which bobs on huge oil and gas reserves is blessed with every commodity but ‘peace’ that is distinctly scarce. Year 2006 passed by, treacherously impacting some countries with severe blow and carving omens for others that could surface ultimately as tragic events.
Nuclear diplomacy in the wake of clamping of UN sanctions on Iran appears to be on crutches again. Iran is reticent while sticking to its stance of gaining nuclear capability. On the other hand USA and Israel have shown explicit resolve to deny Iran any such capability.
Encouraging development in the whole episode, however, is that both of the concerned powers are prodding their way forward to diffuse Iranian nuclear capability through UN.
Iran surrounded by nuclear powers like India, Pakistan, Israel, and US and Britain (in Iraq) considers its sovereign right to develop nuclear arsenal against perceived security threats. Its sense of vulnerability and strategic isolation stands further exacerbated while US is found clinching a stranglehold around it in Caspian Region as well where Iran, being a Middle Eastern country, is also one of the claimant of Caspian littorals bonanza. In US and Israeli calculus, prosperous Iran, instead of fostering peace, would render terror network a hard nut to crack and her appetite for acquiring WMDs shall sharpen. For Israel, nuclear Iran is a clear threat, more so after a tactical reverse meted out to it by Hezbollah, which she considers, is an Iran’s proxy, bang on its border.
Astonishingly blunt hostile posturing by Iranian President recently, calling WW-II Jews holocaust a myth and predicting end of the Jewish state, meant loss of considerable diplomatic weight to Iran among the international community. Conversely it afforded an effective platform to Israel to depict Iran as a belligerent country with risk of facing increased isolation and tipping the ambivalent middle line countries support for US and Israeli agenda. Such assertions studded with the balmy promises to liberate the holy places, now under Jews domination and crystallizing a Palestinian state dream, do tickle Muslim’s hearts but there is a considerable majority that advocates, recourse to diplomacy option be made first.
Iran’s nuclear obsession is largely triggered by Israel-centric behavior. It seeks moral ascendancy to plead its case under the logic when US is seen discriminating by way of condoning Jews developing their sizeable nuclear arsenal covertly for decades and denying overt Iranian access to nuclear technology for ‘peaceful’ purposes. Both sides have pretty sound logic when seen through intertwined intricacies congruence among some parallel issues. Disregard to the debate about legitimacy or otherwise of Iranian pursuit of nuclear capability, the major concern is now surfacing whether the world powers led by US and Israel would resort to military option to dilute Iran’s will to develop nuclear arsenal.
The pointers that are obtaining suggest that the answer is affirmative because:
1) Coalition forces led by US in Iraq and Afghanistan afford them superior strategic orientation against Iran by virtue of their presence in situ.
2) Assembly of forces is already complete with extended advantage that reconnaissance and planning phase might have gone in for years already and the plans matured by now to support any kind of incursion into Iran through air, land and/or sea. Fresh induction if needed could be conveniently built upon the existing forces system.
3) The balance of forces and technology edge is distinctly in favor of the US and Israel that may lead the assault for which it has been conducting exterior maneuvers for years. Israel appears to have successfully convinced US that there is striking similarity of security threats to US and Israel which, collectively emanate from Muslim regions, for Israel read, Iran. Israeli Begin Doctrine (named after Mr. Menachem Begin) of 1981 vintage under which Iraqi Osiraq unclear reactor was effectively eliminated, observers opine, appears to have been adopted ditto by US as their Preemption Doctrine with tremendous appeal to their public for making US safe.
4) Precision Guided Munitions enable them to consider multiple options or minimally keep their engagement restricted to an air assault only.
5) Tactical nukes are the lucrative available option that could turn any nuclear installation redundant, no matter how deep it is located. Exercise of such option shall make it imperative to work out political damage-control measures in advance in the post assault scenario when US is traditionally prone to floundering in the crises.
6) US facing a nightmarish situation in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan desperately needs face saving worthy of a lone super power status before it opts to withdraw from Middle East. Iran bashing through international consensus is likely to rehabilitate its tall image among the comity of nations, particularly once it hopes to eliminate or at least jolt a potent support-base (Iran) for Hezbollah and other terror networks that US and Israel assume are the Iranian devices the world over alongside al-Qaeda.
7) Iran’s clear endeavors to buy time have annoyed an honest broker, EU as well which appeared totally inclined to render her ample maneuver space for renouncing its quest for the nuclear capability, offering in turn a package that could dent Iran’s isolation.
8) Russia and China have proved their mettle of friendship for Iran despite their divergent strategic interests in Middle East, US, Central and Western Europe. However effective electronic media blitz against Iran left them with no choice but to support UN and NPT charter lest it would otherwise erode their credibility of being responsible members of the nuclear club.
9) Muslim ‘ummah’ faces worst of the mutual split and their fragmented stance will have no diplomatic weight because most of them are embroiled in their own problems, fledgling from their futile efforts of squelching all norms of ‘democracy’. In fact its major actors may align against Iran, some loud blasting from the likes of Mahatir Muhammad of Malaysia notwithstanding.
10) Litmus test for the assault proposition has come recently when US President has opted to deal with Iran, Syria and resolve Israel-Palestinian Issue while unveiling his plan of additional induction of over 21,000 troops in Iraq. Reinforcing a failure in Iraq on the surface appears universally accepted strategic blunder as military ‘pundits’ always advise against. Yet going for such a seemingly flawed option in spite of domestic resistance authenticates the belief that Iraq Zone is being used as a deception for additional assembly of forces that are likely to be assigned the fresh mission in altogether a new orientation towards Iran.
11) Pre-conflict hostile posturing historically had been the part of diplomacy to cultivate ‘deterrence’. In the obtaining scenario, the irony of fate is that each side is assuming such moves by the opponent(s) as a mere ‘bluff’. Mr. Bush, Mr. Olmert and Mahmud Ahmadenejad may well ask for some serious ‘staff checks’ by their militaries before falling prey to miscalculations of each others intents and capabilities. However if the dead lock persists, mid 2007 period will be crucial that may be seeing yet another conflict in ME.
Recommendation. The trio needs to understand that committing or bearing an assault of any kind and combination may be relatively easier than remedying its post assault ramifications. While no sane person would recommend military option and trampling of sovereign status of a country, nothing encumbers Iran to dab its acrimony towards the powers it considers as hostile. An Arab proverb has lot wisdom in it to emulate, ‘the hand you can not bite must be kissed’. If some responsible panel like the one led by Mr. James Baker, translating popular trend can recommend engaging Iran and Syria diplomatically, it is also the Iranians right to insist upon their Govt. to cooperate with UN as much as it is of the US citizens to question neo-cons why are they hell bent on discarding some major recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Iraq and Afghanistan are the live run of the tragic episodes that have lessons in the fold for both the sides. If ‘peace’ does not win, a recent allusion made by Mr. Tony Blair to WW-III shall loom large on the horizon as a monster.
The author is a PhD Research Scholar from University of Peshawar, NWFP, Pakistan and a member of the Intl Advisory Board of WSN.
BrigGen (ret) Muhammad Aslam Khan Niazi is member of the WSN International Advisory Board.