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US bracing for a fight in Persian Gulf

There is greater clarity today than at anytime yesterday evening on what is prompting the US’s anti-Iran tirade. The New York Times reports Sunday that US is embarking on a big military build-up in the Persian Gulf region.

In the absence of a coherent policy toward Iran, with the loss of military presence in Iraq, with Saudi Arabia inexorably descending into crisis, with the ‘pro-West’ Arab oligarchies getting afraid of the dark, with the Aran Spring poised to arrive in the Persian Gulf, with Egypt preoccupied with its own regeneration and the israelis in existential despair, US is doing what comes most natural to it, namely, arrest the march of history with gunboats and missiles. 
Barack Obama is already under some pressure at home, being lampooned for his exciting doctrine of the US “leading from behind” during the Libyan intervention. On top of it, he is now coming under domestic compulsion to show he is not lacking in a regional strategy in the Middle East. The withdrawal from Iraq is traumatic for a host of segments of political opinion in the US – ranging from the neocons to the war veterans, Pentagon, the liberals, Republicans to the Israeli Lobby. A group of influential senators have asked for hearings on Obama’s decision. Sen Joe Lieberman’s presence suggests that the israeli Lobby is pushing Obama against the wall which he can disregard only at some risk in an election year.   
The NYT report says that in addition to ‘repositioning’ US combat troops in Kuwait, the naval presence in the Persian Gulf will be beefed up. Conceivably, the frightened Arab oligarchies will be asked to foot the bills for this big deployment. Most interestingly, US is also proposing a new regional security architecture to be choreographed around its military presence which would “integrate air and naval patrols and missile defence.” (By the way, a bonus will be that the ABM ring around Russia is further tightening. Don’t overlook that there is also a slice of the ‘new great game’ here with Russia about to sign up with the GCC a Memorandum of Understanding on ‘strategic dialogue and cooperation’. ) 
Maybe Patrick Cockburn has a point: Obama could be bracing for a fight with Iran. Doubtless, the best way for him to console the Israelis will be to come down on Iran. That of course won’t solve the US’s accumulating problems in the Middle East, but may help Obama’s election campaign. 
Meanwhile, Iran can be trusted not to give any outright excuse for a fight with US, as it knows things are in any case working out favorably for it (even without it doing anything), and its ‘soft power’ will only increase as the Islamist forces come to the fore wherever the ancien regimes capsize – be it Egypt or Libya – as Iran’s defence minister pointed out
The bankruptcy in the American thinking on Iran is simply astounding. The Israeli tail is wagging the dog. After 3 decades of the ‘containment’ policy toward Iran that the US vainly pursued with dismal results, when a fine mind like Fareed Zakaria suggests more of the same, a nadir has been reached. But then, FZ has his ears glued to the ground, too, and attunes himself quickly. Does he know something we do’nt? 

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3 Responses

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  1. says

    With due respect to Badrakumar’s brilliant analysis in many situations, I would beg to differ in this respect! America is on a roll with successes in foreign policy initiatives, notwithstanding US withdrawals from Iraq! Time, it will not be many years, will tell that US actions are justified and US will be successful in this front too!

  2. tick says

    The assumption of sabre-rattle alone makes room for moderation, if US-Israel is really serious about conflict with Iran then there is no scope for moderation. It would confirm the neo-colonial credential Indian Left believes in. India hopefully would side with Iran and distance itself from neo-colonials.

    This will have a tectonic impact on not just India but the whole of S Asian region. If Pakistan is not a let down and Indo-Pak-Iran friendship stands ground, there would be no option but stay clear off Iran. If Pakistan fails to stand the ground and takes advantage of the situation, consolidating its US-PAK-SINO friendship, it may still not be triumphalism of Kissingerian era all over for Arab spring makes the response of other nations in West and Central Asia indeterminate.

    This is the risk Dr Rice always feared and made repeated statements against IPI pipeline which finally got scuttled. But the real threat to Iran is quite different in character from a pipeline. There is simply no scope for finesse here. Indian anti-colonial credential is critical to its entry into Security Council with veto rights. This veto right probably needs to be exercised on the ground first, test case being Iran, before it translates into an international law.

  3. tick says

    Indian policy makers are in real bind here. While the US-Israeli contribution to Indian strategic needs, particularly in technology acquisition and upgradation is critical, friendship with Iran is no less critical to India. It is not just access to Afghanistan, the anti-colonial freedom movement ethos, our vast deep cultural-linguistic-religious heritage linkages, potential for contributing to energy security, gateway to West Asia, balancing factor to predominantly Sunni Pakistan, all these matters make Indo-Iranian friendship invaluable. Further, drawing Iran to war would destabilize the South Asian region in ways unforeseen.

    The extreme focus on Iran by US-Israeli policy makers is surprising, for the real threat in military terms could come only if Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan decide to call the shots on Palestine. Having turned these nations to allies, the strategists may be merely sabre-rattling for political purposes. If this premise is true, then Arab spring and deepening of democracy in Pakistan, makes such noise making irrelevant, and may even cause damage by further distancing from Iraq. If this noise hypothesis is true, there is scope for a moderating role by a non-aligned nation to attenuate it to irrelevance for Iranian co-option.

    Iran is a fascinating country, it has stressed on its cultural mooring and adopted a native language policy akin to what Japan, S Korea, China, Russia and all European nations have done. Whereas the Indian effort towards Hindikaran which was initiated by stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee failed misreably. It also has made considerable success of its self-reliance mode of technology development, which is admirable atleast to Indian eyes. There is much for Indian society to learn from Iranian success.

    But the rule of civil democracy has not been free and fair in Iran. There have been commandeering of power and government structure intertwined with religious ones, creating a dangerous mix prone to false premises and crazed world views. Fortunately this crazed mix is immiscible with the religious brew in Pakistan. But this can be a serious threat to civil-secular India as well, though it is not presently. So internal change within Iran to civilize its polity is in the interest of all democracies including India.

    Iranian re-entry into global economic structure would be considerable gain to world at large and may be an anti-dote to the spectre of dismal economic future looming in the developed world, not merely by stabilizing global energy prices, but turning the risks emanating from West Asia benign. It would obviate the need to external presences to stabilize the the region in order to assure world economy energy resources. Indian diplomacy has some real work ahead here.

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