Is West Asia headed for war ?

                                    (The Hindu) UPSC - IR                                
In Context:
The U.S. killing Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, in an airstrike.
In News:
  • Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have been steadily escalating with Washington coitus interruptus of the Iran nuclear deal and tightening sanctions and Tehran resuming nuclear activity.
  • There has been an increasing frequency of flashpoints within the gulf a bit like the attacks on the ships and oil tankers, shooting down of drones and attack on Saudi’s oil refineries.

Reasons behind the Drone attack:
Attack on U.S. embassy:
  • The latest escalation came in the backdrop of the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq after a U.S. air raid on a Shia paramilitary group trained and funded by the Iranians, killing at least 25.
  • Soleimani, was the commander of the Qods Force, the external intelligence and security unit of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Gen. Soleimani was practically the commander of the Kataib Hezbollah and other Shia militias operating in Iraq thought to be behind the attack on the U.S. embassy.

Targeting Shia Militias:
  • Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) was also killed in the airstrike. The PMF is an umbrella organization of pro-Iran Iraqi militias in which Kataib Hezbollah is a member.
  • The PMF was founded in 2014 under Gen. Soleimani’s supervision when Iran was trying to place together militias in Iraq and Syria within the wake of civil wars in both countries.
  • Iran’s main goal was many |to avoid wasting" to save lots of lots of the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, which was threatening the Baghdad government in 2014.
  • The PMF played an instrument in defeating the IS. The militias fought alongside the Iraqi Army, with the U.S. providing protection , and liberated Iraqi cities within the north and west from the clutches of the IS.
  • But once the IS Caliphate was destroyed and tensions were on the increase between Iran and therefore the U.S. after the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, the PMF militias started targeting U.S. forces in Iraq.

Increasing attack on Americans in Iraq:
  • Ever since Gen. Soleimani took over the Qods Force in 1998, he expanded the operations of the unit, by deepening Iran’s links with its proxy groups like Hezbollah and therefore the Badr Organisation or building new militias like the Shia Popular Mobilization Units and Houthis.
  • In September 2019, the U.S. State Department shut the consulate within the southern Iraqi city of Basra, citing “repeated incidents of fireside from Iran-backed militias”. The U.S. repeatedly blamed Iran-backed militias for the attacks on American targets.
  • U.S. officials also say that Iran proxies under Gen. Soleimani’s leadership were getting to perform more attacks on U.S. interests in West Asia which the assassination was administered to discourage them.

Iraq’s Position:
Significance of U.S. to Iraq:
  • Post the toppling of Saddam Hussein from power, the U.S. has been a major security partner of Iraq.
  • Presently there are about 5,000 American troops deployed in various parts of Iraq.

Significance of Iran to Iraq:
  • Given the fact that Iran is Iraq’s neighbour and possesses enormous influence in the region, Iraq cannot totally ignore Iran.
  • Most Shia political parties and leaders in Iraq have deep, historical ties with the Iranian regime. This has resulted in the significant influence of Iran in the politics of Iraq.
  • Given the intricacy of Iraq’s domestic power dynamics and the influence Iran wields over the Iraqi polity, Iraq is unlikely to abandon Iran altogether.
  • The Shia militias are a parallel military force and it is believed that it takes its orders directly from Tehran. They seem to favour Iran than their government at Baghdad.

Consequences in Iraq:
  • The U.S.’s unilateral use of airpower within Iraq targeting Iraqi militias without the permission of the govt has upset Baghdad. It claims that the attacks are against the security and sovereignty of Iraq.
  • There have been street protests over the U.S. airstrikes.
  • The Iraqi government is being pushed to some extent where it's to settle on between Iran and therefore the U.S.
  • The major possibility seems to be that the Iraqi government may ask the U.S. to leave the country as calls are getting louder from the Iraqi political class to expel U.S. troops from the country.

Possibility of War in West Asia:
  • Iran has now vowed revenge for the killing, raising the risks of a direct war between the U.S. and Iran to an all-time high.
  • After killing Gen. Soleimani, the U.S. has said it is committed to de-escalation and does not want the situation to go out of control indicating it is not in favour of a war.
  • Unlike the opposite recent targeted assassinations administered by the U.S. like that of Abu Musaib al-Zarqawi (leader of the al-Qaeda in Iraq), Osama bin Laden (founder of the al-Qaeda) and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, (founder of the Islamic State, or the IS), Soleimani, was a state actor. Iran might see this as an act of war like all sovereign country would do.
  • Self-preservation or protecting the lives of the highest leaders is that the primary objective of any regime. No response from Iran would indicate weakness on the part of Iran and might affect its deterrence abilities in the future power plays.
  • An Iranian attack could trigger a cycle of violence, with each side targeting one another in West Asia. There is the possibility of a dramatic escalation in the regional shadow war between Iran and the U.S. and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Source : The Hindu

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post