By Sajjad Shaukat
Very tension arose between Iran and the US-led EU which imposed tough sanctions against Tehran in January this year, which included a freeze of the country’s central bank assets and an oil embargo set to begin in July. These sanctions are part of Western efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear programme, which the West says is aimed at developing atomic weapons. While Iranian leadership has repeatedly denied the charges, clarifying that its programme is for peaceful purposes, and in recent weeks has again vowed no nuclear retreat. However, in response, Iran has cutt off oil shipments to France and Britain. Meanwhile on February 22, 2012, UN nuclear watchdog’s latest mission to Iran, after talks on Tehran’s atomic weapons research failed—a setback likely to increase the risk of confrontation with the US-led West.
Tension between Washington and Tehran had already soared in December, 2011, after Iranian authorities recovered a CIA surveillance drone that had been launched from Afghanistan. Notably, on January 8, 2011, Iran launched a military exercises near its border with Afghanistan, days after naval exercises in the Gulf, and after testing its new missiles in wake of US-Israeli threatening diplomacy. Tehran also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, shipping lane vital to global energy supplies.
On the other side, US has also threatened military action, if Iran closed the Strait of Hormuz. In this regard, The American aircraft carrier on February 15, 2012 joined another US battle group already positioned in the region.
Despite US military pressure, on February 19, 2012, in their warnings, both the US joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and British Foreign Minister William Hague revealed that an Israeli invasion on Iran would have grave consequences for the entire region and urged Israel to give international sanctions against Iran more time to work.
On February 21, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have shown displeasure to US national security adviser Tom Donilon over the statements of senior American officials, critical of any Israeli attack on Iran. Dempsey revealed that the US has so far not been able to persuade Israel not to attack Iran.
It is notable that in January, 2012, during the American visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao, US President Barack Obama had warned his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not be able to keep Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear installations for much longer.
While Israel seems to be determined to invade Iran, if the latter continued its neclear programme. Nevertheless, such an invasion will result in dangerous consequences in the region as well as the whole world.
NBC broadcast recently indicated that Israel “would strike Iran’s nuclear facilities”, but it will not be a limited invasion as Tehran will retaliate by hitting Israel through its own missiles. So, very soon a broader war will start, which will also envelop the US. Iran will also target US bases in the Gulf as well as block the vital Gulf oil shipping route through the Strait of Hormuz. In this respect, on February 11, 2012, both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Shirdel have warned, “If attacked by the Zionist regime (Israel), we will turn it to dust…thousands of our missiles will target Israel and the 40 bases of America in the region.”
Nevertheless, any prospective attack on Iran will cause drastic impact on the US war against terrorism, not only in Pakistan, but also in Afghanistan where US-led NATO forces are already facing defeatism. It is likely to undermine global efforts of stability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In that scenario, it will not be possible for the US-led allies to complete the withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
In an interview with CNN on February 12, Gen. Martin Dempsey already remarked that an Israeli attack could spark reprisals against US targets in the Gulf or Afghanistan.
It is mentionable that in the third trilateral summit at Islamabad, on February 17 this year, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari has also pledged to support Iran, if the US launches a military attack against the Islamic Republic. The Pakistani president assured the Iranian leader that his country’s territory will not be used as a launch pad for such an assault.
It is noteworthy that Turkey, a NATO member has also changed its policy. Now, by supporting the cause of Palestinians, Ankara wants to increase trade with Iran—not to comply with sanctions against Tehran. Besides, Turkey is strengthening its ties with Pakistan. In these circumstances, military adventure against Iran will unite the Arab and non-Arab states, consequently, resulting in massive hostility towards Americans, giving a greater incentive to the extremist elements in Pakistan and the Middle East. Both Iran and Pakistan could stand together to frustrate the US strategic designs. Their alliance with Syria would radicalise a vast region from Pakistan to Somalia and Yemen to the Indian-occupied Kashmir, bringing about more terrorism against the Americans. So, American regional and worldwide interests are likely to be jeopardised in these countries including whole of the Middle East where the US has already failed in coping with the Islamic militants directly or indirectly. Such an invasion could result in violent protests in the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, toppling the pro-American regimes.
These negative developments will further reduce the US bargaining leverage on hostile small countries such as North Korea, Venezuela etc. While Islamabad has already rejected American pressure after the US-led air strikes which killed 24 soldiers in Pakistan in November last year. After the suspension of NATO supply to Afghanistan and the vacation of Shamsi Airbase, Islamabad decided to review its relationship with Washington. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s high officials, political and religious leaders have strongly condemned the US Congress resolution tabled by Dana Rohrabacher, calling upon Pakistan to “recognise the right of self-determination for Balochistan,” as a “conspiracy against Pakistan”, “provocative”, and “intervention in country’s internal matters.” On the other hand, US still needs Pakistan’s help for peace process with Afghan Taliban and for stability in Afghanistan.
In case of invasion on the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah, a close ally of Tehran, based in South Lebanon will also attack Israel. Besides, Islamic militants are likely to target American and Western installations all over the world. In this connection, recently, a US lawmaker Norman Bailey of the conservative American Foreign Policy Council accused that Iran, through its allies Hezbollah, had constructed “numerous military camps inside Venezuela as well as in South Lebanon with the express purpose of training young Venezuelans to attack American targets.”
Russia, on January 18, 2012 rejected the tough Western strategy of sanctions over Iran and Syria. In this context, on February 4, this year, Russia and China vetoed the UN Security Council resolution, calling the Syrian president to step down. Both Moscow and Beijing seeks multinational system in the world instead of unilateral one led by the sole superpower. So, in wake of US or Israeli attack on Iran, Russia and China which have so far asked the US-led EU to peacefully resolve the question of Iranian nuclear programme, will further strengthen their relationship, and a new cold war could be started between the US-led allies on one side and the Russia-China block on the other.
Another consequence of US-led Israeli conflict with Iran is that it will create political and economic instability in Asia, enveloping the developed countries such as Japan, South Korea, China, India etc., and Europe where general masses already held the America responsible for global financial crisis in wake of competing debt crisis. In this context, a greater rift will be created between the US and other western countries.
Besides, US cost of war against terrorism which is more than 7 trillion dollars, will further increase, deepening American debt and financial crises including other related-problems inside the country. For the US economy, higher gasoline prices would likely result in lower consumer spending. That could have devastating consequences for an incumbent president seeking re-election.
Economic experts opine that a war in the Gulf could send oil prices soaring beyond $200 a barrel, giving a greater blow to the financial markets, and “global economic growth would slow, and on the fear that any conflict could worsen and spread.” Nick Witney, former head of the EU’s European Defense Agency, said, “The political and economic consequences of an Israeli attack would be catastrophic for Europe” since the likely spike in the price of oil alone “could push the entire EU into recession.”
It is of particular attention that in March 2011, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had remarked that NATO attack on Libya “is reminiscent of medieval Crusades.” So, most dangerous consequence of attacking Iran is that that it will divide the world in two worlds—Islamic World and Western Christian World, culminating in third world war.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations