By K.N. Pandita
Iran-Saudi relations have plummeted to new depths with Saudi and US both bizarrely accusing Teheran of plotting murder of Abdel Al Jubeir, Saudi ambassador in Washington. The episode has been snowballing and now, according to political punditry, it is assuming serious dimensions for a showdown. Iran and Saudi have never been friendly; Iran and the US at loggerheads for three decades in the past. The situation becomes complicated with the US having stakes in Saudi monarchy that is physically guarded by Pakistani elite commandos, and Israel with involvement in all the three countries, namely Saudi, Pakistan and the US.
Washington claims it has found a link between the conspirators and the regime in Teheran. FBI reveals that a Texas-based American of Iranian origin and an activist of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) named Mansour Arabsiyar had visited Mexico purportedly for contacting drug mafia sources to finish the job with the Iranian ambassador.
Teheran has strongly denied the accusation calling it reflex of American frustration over her failure in Afghanistan. In a broadcast, Iran’s patriarch Ayatollah Khamenei warned of harsh retaliation if the US resorted to adventurism as in Iraq.
Substantiating the allegation of murder conspiracy, American circles report that the Saudi ambassador is a very active diplomat who has befriended many Congressmen including some prominent ones from its Jewish lobby. He used his closeness to the Saudi monarch in influencing the king to be openly hostile to the Iranians.
Nevertheless, some political observers and Iran watchers in the US are not convinced that Iran would hazard such a crude conspiracy which the sleuths would uncover easily. They argue that given the astute diplomatic skill and the element of negative creativity, Iranian sleuths have succeeded in terrorist and subversive acts at a number of places in European capitals.
Simultaneously with a slew of allegations, Washington has once again raked Iran’s nuclear issue and demanded the UN watchdog agency, the IAEA, to publicize its findings about Iran trying to develop the weapon of mass murder. Washington has also taken note of Moscow soft-peddling with Iranian nuclear programme. Only recently, Russian engineers and scientists were instrumental in kick-starting Iranians nuclear reactors for generating electric power in Bushahr.
Iran’s stubborn defiance on nuclear issue on the one hand, and her growing influence in the region on the other is looked at by the Saudis with much concern. Although civil war is raging in Syria but President Assad, an ally of Iran, is still holding power despite warnings by Washington to step down. In any case in the light of Arab Spring, there seems very little chance for Assad to hold on and be effectively helpful to Iranian strategy in the Middle East.
Iran has met with some strategic disadvantage in Israel negotiating a deal with Hamas for exchange of prisoners. But Obama had come under fire by the staunch pro-Israel lobby in the American Congress on the issue of Palestine coming close to the recognition of its statehood. That forced Obama to change his stance and focus on other options in handling Iranian imbroglio.
Fierce debate is raging among policy planners and think tanks in Washington whether joint US-Israel military action should be taken against Iran or not. Understanding of sorts now developing between the Saudi monarchy and Israel could play the catalyst to a precipitate action. There is talk about carpet bombing of Iran’s nuclear installations to make them totally dysfunctional. Saudi and Israeli intelligence are jointly of opinion that carpet bombing would also result in Iranian political opposition accelerate resistance movement against the theocratic and conservative regime in Teheran.
However, more watchful and politically more experienced observers caution against a number of serious consequences likely to follow contemplated air raids on Iran. Foremost is the obstruction to the flow of Gulf oil to world markets and especially to European markets. Interruption in flow of Gulf oil would boost Russian supplies to Western Europe and consequent severe economic disability like to accrue thereof. Secondly, there could be likely escalation of the conflict that could involve other regions with the apprehension of a wave of anti-American resentment gaining groundswell. In Pakistan, radicals have never hidden their hatred against the Americans and Afghanistan is already seething with discontent. The Shia’s of Iraq have more than one complaint against Washington and of late, Iran has been exerting pressure on them to defy the authority of the Americans.
Nearer home, New Delhi will adopt neutral stance in case her pleading with Washington fails to avert military action against Iran. Consequently, India, an energy hungry country, cannot maintain her present pace of development whether 8 or 9 per cent. Moreover, war scenario will immensely harm India’s maritime trade with the western world. India has a majority of Shias among her Muslim population. As such New Delhi will have to act with exceptional skills of statesmanship to contain the resentment of this segment of her society in the event of a clash in Iran.
Commentators are analyzing reasons for President Obama’s rather belligerent mood against Iran. Some believe that he wants to regain his credibility with the powerful Jewish lobby in the Congress. He would like to replace his earlier ambivalence on Palestinian statehood case at the UN with pro-active anti-Iranian stand. But others think that Obama needs a major cause’s belle that could win him solid support for his candidature for second term as President of the US in 2012 presidential elections.
Others would like to link the present tense situation with America’s strategic perceptions of the region once she withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan. US-NATO’s departure from Afghanistan leaves the field open for Iran to become pro-active especially in Shia dominated and Farsi speaking regions in the North of Afghanistan, precisely Herat, Hazarajat, Mazar-e Sharief etc. right up to the west bank of the Oxus. Teheran has already been trying to become centre of inspiration for the Shia population in the region. Her overt attempts of fomenting crisis in Bahrain, and instigating the majority of Shia population to overthrow the Sunni kingship has been a direct affront to the Saudis and Americans and a challenge to their sphere of influence in the strategic Gulf region. Taking the time by forelock, Teheran has already made a toehold in Egypt where the Islamic brotherhood is battling for a say in political power sharing process. Iran has striven to mould the Arab Spring to her interests and political aggrandizement.
In a sense war clouds are gathering in our neighbourhood. In all probability, if the US decides to make Iran adventure, the situation will be quite different from what obtained in Iraq. Iran is much a united nation with anti-American hysteria whipped up fiercely for last three decades. The strike will be a procrastinated affair and it will take a lot of effort to cultivate anti-theocratic forces inside or outside Iran. The US has usually given a cold shoulder to the France-based Iranian Resistance Movement.
An over-view of ongoing strategic scenario in the region shows that India has little rather no lever to dissuade US-Israel-Saudi combine from taking a short term view of a serious situation and hence some precipitate action. The US economy is already faced with crunch and retrenchment in services is carried out on a vast scale. Can ordinary Americans hazard another sever economic blow is the question?