Gulf Region: The Gathering Storm

The Gulf Region seems to be heading towards a military storm due to the growing confrontation of Iran with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program. The United States perceives the Iranian nuclear program as aimed and headed towards nuclear weaponization. Iran on the contrary continues to insist that its nuclear program is directed towards the generation of nuclear power for production of civilian nuclear energy. Iran further maintains that it is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and it is not prohibited from a civilian nuclear power program. 

For the last three years especially, this confrontation has been acquiring global overtones. The United States has made the European countries of France, Germany and Britain to engage Iran in a dialogue to persuade to roll back its nuclear weapons and be more forthcoming to the inspection of its nuclear facilities by international inspectors from the IAEA. Iran kept the dialogue going but has been selective in terms of access to international monitoring of its nuclear facilities. Keeping this in mind the United States along with the European countries in late 2005 made the IAEA to make a referral to the United Nations for application of UN sanctions against Iran. However, at the UN this move ran into opposition from Russia and China who opposed sanctions and maintained that the issue be resolved by more dialogue.

This controversy has also acquired significant regional overtones too in that the United States maintains that Iran is actively involved in the stirring of strife in Iraq against the present American military presence there. Iran has also been accused by the United States of assisting the Hizbollah in Lebanon in its military confrontation and strikes against Israel which is a vital US ally in the region. Saudi Arabia which is another vital US ally is already involved in a regional tussle for supremacy in the Gulf Region with Iran.

Iran has made the confrontation worse with the fiery speeches by its President that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth. Israel therefore believes that if the Iranian nuclear weapons program materializes then Israel's security would be severely jeopardized. Israel on past records has reacted sharply to any emerging nuclear weapons program in the Middle East going by its record of preemptive air strikes against the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor much before the two Gulf Wars. Israel is now reported to have already devised contingency plans and rehearsed air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities should the need arise

The United States seems to be running out of patience with Iran over its delaying tactics to come out with visible and firm commitments that it has no nuclear weapons program and that it would roll back any nuclear weapons program if in existence. Added to the explosive situation existing in Iraq and the other confrontations in the Middle East the United States 'Iran confrontation on the nuclear issue may soon head towards a showdown.

The United States has recently positioned additional Aircraft Carrier Groups on station in the Gulf to its already sizeable military deployments in the region. These are read as signals to Iran that in the ultimate showdown the United States would be willing to use military force against Iran to make it desist from acquiring nuclear weapons

Iran too has been carrying out military exercises in the Gulf and especially missile firings to indicate that it could make any US military intervention costly for the Americans. Iran may be miscalculating that the United States with its military involvement in Iraq would not be in a position to attack Iran and that it would also not be able to use Iraq as a base for its offensive against Iran.

What we are witnessing today in the Gulf is a military confrontation in the Gulf with Iran bent on pursuing brinkmanship to the extreme. Iran suffers from grave strategic asymmetry with the United States and is not in a position to confront the United States militarily.

The Gulf Region today is witness to a gathering storm in which fatal miscalculations could arise especially for Iran as it stands poised to confront both the United States and Israel who are not ready to countenance the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran. 


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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