By Imran Malik
The continuity of US policy in the Greater Middle East Region (GMER) is remarkable for its unwavering consistency. Over the last four decades it has been exemplified by its steadfast albeit arrogant and ruthless exposition of all manners of political, diplomatic, economic, technological and military coercions to meet its ends.
The center of gravity of US' vital national interests in the GMER is Israel, its bridgehead into the fossil fuels rich region. US guarantees Israel's independence and survivability, its uncompromisable security and its unquestionable and multidimensional hegemony in the region. All other geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic considerations are secondary. Period.
To that end the US has neutralized all potential and existing threats to Israel. The near-distance ones from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and to some extent Syria stand neutralized variously through wars, occupation of territories, peace accords, economic and military aid etc. The mid-distance ones from KSA and its GCC colleagues have been pacified politically, diplomatically and through exploitative patronage of the ruling royal families. At the farther distance, the militaries and economies of Iran and Iraq, the two major Muslim powers, were decimated through the West-induced 1980-88 war. Iraq was then totally destroyed in the two Persian Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003. Its's budding nuclear program/reactor had already been bombed into oblivion by the Israelis (Osirak, Operation OPERA, 07 June 1981). Thereafter, the Arab Spring and its aftermath took President Gaddafi and his Libya, Egypt again, (the late President Morsi was deposed by a military coup), Tunisia (?) and to a large extent Syria out of reckoning as potential threats to Israel. The Palestinians have long been forgotten by the world. Hamas and Hizbullah are totally dependent on external patronage. Syria, literally destroyed beyond repair, continues to reel under an unending war and subversion. Yemen burns as KSA and Iran fight for influence and control over it. Surprisingly, or not so much, the ISIS, a major, ruthless and most violent terrorist group in the Levant, which has never really threatened Israel or US interests in the GMER, is now ominously relocating to Afghanistan and South Asia having completed its assigned gruesome role there!
However, in these smoldering ruins of the utterly devastated, chaotic and confused GMER the only country that still ostensibly stands defiant against this US-Israeli juggernaut is Iran - (the unfinished agenda of regime changes under the Arab Spring phenomenon?). An Iran armed with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles would usher in a balance of terror in the GMER neutralizing Israel's and by implication the US-led West's, nuclear and ballistic missile monopoly and military ascendancy in the GMER for good. Iran's strategic reach would circumscribe Israel's sphere of influence conclusively, foreclosing its freedom of action to bully, dominate and haughtily overwhelm its neighbors with impunity. Iran's potential of acquiring nuclear weapons at some later stage, its ballistic missile programs and its "malign sphere of influence" in the GMER are thus deemed to be the most dangerous and ominous threats to the collective national interests of the US-led West and Israel. By their reckoning, the balance of power in the GMER has always got to be in Israel's favor. Israel's military and technological supremacy and its singular monopoly over nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is apparently inviolable. No competitor, least of all belligerent Iran, is to be allowed; none to be tolerated!
And that forms the basis for President Trump's Mission Iran!
President Trump has two basic options. He can either offer Iran a peaceful deal that it cannot refuse or bludgeon it into abject submission and acquiescence through brute military force. Presently, he dithers between the two!
President Trump, the maverick, has literally maneuvered the US into wretched isolation itself. None of its NATO or other allies have joined it in this sordid (mis)adventure. The President Obama led P5+1's negotiated Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of 2015 with Iran was unceremoniously trashed by President Trump in 2017. He now wants Iran to renegotiate and submit to at least three inflexible demands. One, Iran would never develop or acquire nuclear weapons. Two, Iran would comprehensively scrap its ballistic missile program for good. Three, Iran would limit its sphere of influence by pulling back its "malign support and influence" from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen etc. In other words, a practically defanged Iran's strategic reach is to be severely circumscribed, to stay well short of Israel, and be left at the mercy and benevolence of the US-Israel Combine and its Arab allies!
At the global level Russia and China too have vital interests in the GMER and will move to secure them - without getting involved militarily. At best, they will support Iran politically and diplomatically. China has already breached US' vociferous ban on oil imports from Iran. Russia, however might reinforce Iran's military but just enough for it to survive. US allies in NATO, Europe, Japan, Australia and others are hesitant and clearly not convinced of the justness of the cause or the impending war against Iran. Global oil supplies and prices and their impact on their own and global economies worry them. At the regional level India has already stopped buying Iranian oil under US coercion. Across the Persian Gulf the KSA-led Arabs are arrayed against Iran hoping fervently to see its strategic reach and "malign influence" conclusively constrained. Turkey is likely to be non-committal. At the bilateral level, Pakistan can ill afford to take sides in this conflict. Its national interests lie with both Iran and the KSA-led Arabs. Pakistan's ostensible mediation is a non-starter as it does not have any meaningful leverage or clout with either of the belligerents. Pakistan must however, ensure that its territory or facilities are not used for or against either of the belligerents, in case of war.
The US has adroitly concentrated its political, diplomatic, technological, economic and military coercions to bear on Iran for maximum effect. Iran has few allies to bank upon, is economically and militarily enfeebled by sanctions, yet it remains confident, defiant and undaunted.
The US military buildup continues unabated. It now has Iran ominously and firmly centered in its crosshairs!
Imran Malik is a retired Brigadier from the Pakistan Army
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