Sambeet Dash

Right-Wing governments are known to launch military strikes in an Election year to improve their winning chance, says Sambeet Dash in this analysis after Qassem Sueimani’s assassination. 
Qaseem Soleimani
The Middle East, what a mess? It is getting messier and murkier. Qassem Sueimani, the powerful, legendary Iranian general considered the second most powerful person in Iran was assassinated today when his convoy was attacked by American Airstrike just outside of Baghdad International Airport. The US claims that Suleimani was taken out for his alleged involvement in the killing of an American soldier and military contractor in a recent attack in Baghdad.

But the truth is a lot more complicated. Suleimani was not new to dealing with the USA. In 2008 during the peak American occupation of Iraq, when questioned about his involvement in a Rocket attack inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green zone he famously responded, “If the attack is accurate, it is mine”. He also assured the Americans that the attack on them in Iraq by the Shia Militias trained by him will be reduced, provided a dreaded captured militia leader Qais Al Khajali captured by Western forces is released.

His power kept growing and extending beyond Iraq, a nation with Shia majority (Arab Shia make 60% of Iraqi population who were oppressed during Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship). Suleman was a formidable General, the head of Iran’s dreaded Revolutionary Guard or Qud forces. He was the strategic brain behind many spectacular Iranian operations in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.

Donald Trump His Shia backed Militias were fly on the ointment to the American, Saudi and Israeli interests. He was supposedly the mastermind behind a recent drone attack on Saudi flagship Aramco oil installations. The American Advanced Warning system given to the Saudis failed to apprehend and foil the attack.

Interestingly, at one point Suleiman was helped by the US when he led the elite Republican Guard or Qud forces fight against ISIS, a Sunni outfit who considers the Shias as heretics. Americans cooperated with the Iranian backed Militias giving them air cover during their fight with ISIS. This yet vindicates at there is no permanent friends or enemies in the shadowy world of foreign policy where only permanent interest thrives, nothing else.

Suleimani was answerable only to the Supreme Commander Khameini of Iran, not their elected President (Iran has some semblance of democracy, a rarity in the Mullah landscape). The Americans acted on the behest of the Saudis and Israelis who have no love lost for Iran. The charismatic Iranian general was getting too powerful & charismatic to be kept on loose. A shadowy figure, the Americans must have got some timely, accurate intelligence on him which enabled them to carry out their successful operation.

iran_trump_soleimaniIt is interesting to note that by taking out Saddam Hussein the US laid the groundwork for an Iranian general to operate inside Baghdad – the heart of Iraq. Ironically it is also the same Americans who bumped the Iranian general off. Saddam Hussein hated the Iranians to the core. He famously said – God should not have created 3 things. Sands, Mosquitoes and Persians (Iran), keeping Iran at bay. No sooner Saddam came to power than he attacked Iran. The US-supported Iraq at that time.

What’s going to happen next? A long year is ahead. The global gas prices are going to go up. India an energy-hungry country that imports 80% of its oil need is bound to be impacted. A $10 per barrel increase in crude price is estimated to bring down India’s GDP by 0.2 points.

Diplomatically, India needs to tread very carefully in this murky middle East quagmire and should not get drawn into the swamp. Of late India had been seen siding with US – Saudi – Israel nexus. That’s too myopic. It acquiesced to US pressure not to buy oil from Iran. India’s recent bonhomie with Saudis has not gone unnoticed to Iran (It’s another matter the Saudis are recently showing sympathy to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue). If China, Russia, Japan, South Korea et all have good relationships with Iran, then why not India! Don’t think it is prudent to put all the eggs in one basket.

It took the fallacy of one George Bush to give a golden opportunity to Iran to infiltrate Iraq and expand its sphere of influence. Iranians may be opportunist, but not suicidal. They will wait for the opportune moment to strike American,  Saudi and Israeli (Iran considers the Jewish state as an extension of US) interests. They can launch a Cyberattack, block oil supplies and make some stealthy, retaliatory attacks, but may stop from a full-fledged war.

Right-Wing governments are known to launch military strikes in an Election year to improve their winning chance. Modi did the same last year. Trump and his lackey Republicans are following the suit. Timing is after all the leitmotif, the sine qua non of politics. Trump has begun the New Year well with a bang.

(Sambeet Dash is an Odia technocrat living in Georgia ,US)