Iran plays its trump Card; President Trump’s turn to respond

July 1, 2020 5:26 PM

Although Iran faced US sponsored UN sanctions to buy or sell arms, it has had minimal impact on regional security and threat posed by Iran.

Iran also asked Interpol to issue a Red Corner Notice for President Trump.Iran also asked Interpol to issue a Red Corner Notice for President Trump. (File image)

By Brig NK Bhatia

In a surprise development, Iran issued an arrest warrant against US President Donald Trump over “murder and terrorism charges,” relating to 3 January drone strike that killed General QasemSuleimani, the head of Quds Force of Iranian Revolutionary Guard and probably Iran’s most an important military commander who also enjoyed a prominent place in its governing hierarchy. Iranian officials reiterated that they will continue to pursue President Trump even after he steps down from the presidency after his term ends.

Iran also asked Interpol to issue a Red Corner Notice for President Trump.

It may be recollected that General Suleimani was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad International Airport on 03 January along with five others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President HasanRouhaniwhile mourning the death of General Suleimani had vowed, “harsh retaliation” against the USA. At that time the significance of “harsh retaliation” or consequences of his killing was lost on the global community and was merely thought to be a conjuncture.

While Iran lacked any capability to challenge US military superiority or engage in a direct confrontation, its capacity to cause damages through unconventional and irregular means on the USA and all its allies, especially in the Gulf and the middle east are now emerging piece by piece and giving shape to the unforeseen conjunctures.

Summarising certain Iranian military actions, in brief, post the assassination of General Suleimani, reveals that Iran continued to assert itself militarily, albeit in limited ways, to challenge the US and its allies through limited actions that have impinged on overall stability in the middle-east and Gulf region.

Immediately after the assassination of General Suleimani Iran retaliated on 08 January 2020 by launching ‘Operation Martyr Suleimani’ by firing ballistic missiles on two Iraqi bases – Ayn al-Asad in western Iraq and an airbase near Irbil, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. This was followed up by rocket attacks on Camp Taji in Iraq on 11 and 15 March killing two U.S. military personnel and one British soldier besides injuring three US soldiers.

The activities of Iranian Navy and Coast Guard intensified in April 2020 with its personnel boarding a ship and small naval boats carrying out high-speed manoeuvres around western ships to harass them.

Another significant muscle-flexing activity of Iran was the successful launch of a reconnaissance satellite “Noor” after a series of failed satellites on 22 April 2020, under the tutelage of Iranian Revolutionary Guard whose chief General QasemSuleimani was killed by the USA in a direct attack in January.

As is well known, Iran maintains a very large array of precision rockets, artillery and ballistic missiles in its arsenal. The launch of the satellite was primarily to enhance its ballistic missile programme. Similarly, it has been developing its radar and drone technology to enable it to use its ballistic missiles with precision. Its other major military capabilities include cyber-attacks on hostile targets and special-operations forces (part of formidable Revolutionary Guard) to engage in conventional and unconventional warfare. Iran also has significant air forces and air-defence assets in addition to anti-ship missiles, underwater mines and torpedoes to target naval forces.

However, Iran’s major strength remains its Shia proxies that continue to destabilize the region with impunity posing a direct threat to all US allies in the region. These proxies seek guidance and material support from Iran; an open fact acknowledged by Iran which flows out of its theological mindset to propound Shia ideology. In fact, it is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that is the forebearer of guidance and control for these proxies.

Although Iran faced US sponsored UN sanctions to buy or sell arms, it has had minimal impact on regional security and threat posed by Iran.

To the contrary, Iran’s actions have undermined sanctions and forced it to look for new alliances between itself and other pariah states that have been in the firing line of US. Its recent supply of crude to Venezuela is a case in point.

In the instant case of Iranian action to anoint blame on President Trump for the assassination of General Suleimaniand asking Interpol for the issue of a ‘red corner notice‘ against him may appear eccentric at best but the significance of Iranian action should not be lost on anyone.

Iranian action is an outcome of a fixated mindset of its leadership and its belief that cowing down to pressure would lead to its nemesis. The current action is therefore at best a symbolic response to Trump’s sudden decision to order the drone attack and elimination of General Suleimani, the former chief of the formidable Quds Force and closest advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The action against President Trump is also purportedly a message for others to stop any contemplated direct action against Iranian activities. Such sham actions coupled with encouraging its proxies to unleash proxy actions will continue to shape the nature of Iran’s response against the US and its allies in the region.

As things stand today US has limited options to deter Iran from taking any further provocative actions. Prolonged deployment in middle- east starting from operations in Iraq and followed up with a catastrophic failure in Afghanistan must have diminished any US desire to commit resources on the ground. Any US option therefore of getting directly involved in Iran may be too far-fetched and unlikely.

Most western analysts believe that Iranian leadership is struggling to contain the fallout from the devastating effect of sanctions and of the spread of the coronavirus. That may be partially true, but that may not be the reason enough for Iranians to embrace the USA.

For now the Iranians have played their Trump Card; now it may be the turn of President Trump to respond.

(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal.)

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