Iran's response

Tehran (Iran)/ Image by Kamran Gholami
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By MK BHADRAKUMAR

Iran is aware of the urgent need to gain strategic depth before the wolves approach

The stunning Iranian missile and drone attacks against the territories of three countries (Syria, Iraq and Pakistan) over the course of 24 hours, and Tehran's extraordinary decision to announce its responsibility for them, sent a blunt message to Washington - its ploy of creating a coalition of terrorist groups around Iran will be resolutely opposed.

That the United States' strategy against Iran began to take new forms emerged after the October 7 Hamas operation against Israel, which eroded the latter's position as regional ruler. The rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, mediated by China, and the inclusion of Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt in the BRICS put North American strategists in panic mode.

There were already signs in the second half of 2023 that the Washington-Tel Aviv axis was planning to use terrorism as the only viable means to weaken Iran and restore the regional balance in Israel's favor, which is of critical importance to the swing from Washington to Asia-Pacific, which still needs to control the circulation of oil from the Middle East. Strictly speaking, a conventional war with Iran is no longer viable for the United States, as it risks the virtual destruction of Israel.

Future historians will certainly study, analyze and reach sober conclusions regarding the attacks on Israel by the Palestinian resistance on October 7th. In classical military doctrine, they were, par excellence, a preemptive strike by resistance groups, before the United States and Israel steamrollered their terrorist groups – such as the Islamic State and the Mujahideen-e-Khalq – to transform themselves into a rival platform comparable to the axis of resistance.

Iran is aware of the urgent need to gain strategic depth before the wolves approach. Tehran had been pressuring Moscow to accelerate a bilateral strategic pact, but, unsurprisingly [given the situation in Ukraine], the Russians were stalling it. One of the key points on the agenda of “work visit” by President Ebrahim Raisi to Moscow on December 7th was to finalize the pact, based on a personal meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

It was then that, on January 15th, the Russian Ministry of Defense revealed, in a rare statement, that Minister Sergey Shoigu called his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, to communicate that Moscow had agreed to sign the pact: “both parties underlined their commitment to the fundamental principles of Russian-Iranian relations, including unconditional respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each one, which will be confirmed in the important intergovernmental treaty between Russia and Iran, as soon as this document is finalized.”

According to Iranian news agency IRNA, Sergey Shoigu made it known that Russia's commitment to Iran's sovereignty and territorial integrity will be explicitly stated in the pact. The article adds that “the two ministers also highlighted the importance of issues related to regional security, and stressed that Moscow and Tehran will continue their joint efforts to establish a multipolar world order and to negate North American unilateralism.”

Two days later, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told journalists in Moscow that the new treaty would consolidate the strategic partnership between Russia and Iran, and cover a full range of ties. “This document is not only timely; he is already late” – added Maria Zakharova.

“Since the signing of the treaty currently in force, the international context has changed and relations between the two countries are experiencing an unprecedented rise” – she noted. Maria Zakharova said the new treaty was expected to be signed during what she termed an upcoming contact between the two presidents.

On the other hand, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state news agency TASS, mentioning that an exact date for a meeting between Putin and Raisi will be determined. It is clear that something of profound significance for the geopolitics of the Middle East is happening before our eyes.

Suffice it to say that Iran's missile and drone attacks against terrorist targets on the 16th are a vivid demonstration of its assertiveness to act in self-defense in the new regional and international environment. Iran's so-called “representatives” – whether Hezbollah or the Houthis – have reached adulthood, with their own ideas, to decide their own strategic positioning within the axis of resistance. They do not require a life support system from Tehran. It may take some time for Anglo-Saxon strategists to get used to this new reality, but eventually it will happen.

Thus, it would clearly be an underestimate to consider Iran's missile and drone attacks as mere anti-terrorism operations. Regarding the attack on the command positions of the terrorist group Jaish al-Zulm, in Pakistani Balochistan, it occurred, curiously and coincidentally, one month after the week-long trip of the Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Army, General Asim Munir , to Washington.

Asim Munir met with senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, and Deputy Counsel of national security, Jonathan Finer – plus, of course, the fearsome Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, the driving force behind the neoconservative policies of the Joe Biden government.

An official statement from Islamabad on December 15, during that trip, stated that Pakistan and the United States “intend to increase reciprocal engagement” in “mutually beneficial” engagements. It said the two sides discussed ongoing conflicts in the region and “agreed to increase interactions between Islamabad and Washington.” The statement further said that “issues of bilateral interest, global and regional security and ongoing conflicts were discussed during the meetings. Both parties agreed to continue their engagement in exploring potential avenues of bilateral collaboration in pursuit of realizing shared interests.”

The statement added that during the meeting between the two countries' top defense officials, “counter-terrorism cooperation and defense collaboration were identified as cardinal areas of cooperation.” For his part, and in line with the Pakistani statement, Asim Munir reportedly stressed the importance of “understanding each other's perspectives” on regional security issues and developments that affect strategic stability in South Asia.

Pakistan has a long history of serving American interests in the region, and its headquarters in Rawalpindi has been the driver of this collaboration. What is currently evident is that the upcoming elections in Pakistan have not discouraged the Joe Biden administration from rolling out the red carpet for Asim Munir. But the best part is that both Iran and Pakistan are smart enough to know each other's limits.

The United States' intentions are clear: to outflank Tehran from the west and east, through failed and easy-to-manipulate states. The hastily organized meetings in Davos between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and senior officials from Iraq and ethnic representation of Kurds, following the Iranian attacks, explained: (i) “the importance of [Kurdistan] resuming oil exports [to Israel], given Washington’s support for the “strong partnership between the Kurdistan region and the United States”; (ii) the importance of stopping attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria; (iii) the United States’ commitment to “enhance security cooperation as part of a long-term, sustainable defense partnership”; (iv) North American support for Iraq's sovereignty; and (v) Joe Biden's invitation for the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani, to visit the White House “soon”.

In essence, Jake Sullivan expressed the American intention to reinforce its presence in Iraq. His objectives are the same in Pakistan too. Washington trusts Asim Munir to ensure that ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan remains in prison regardless of the outcome of Pakistan's elections.

This strategic realignment comes at a time when Afghanistan is definitively escaping the Anglo-American orbit, and Saudi Arabia no longer shows any interest in being a cog in the American wheel or in continuing to tarnish itself with the forces of extremism and terrorism.

*MK Bhadrakumar, a retired Indian diplomat, was his country's ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey.

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published on the portal Indian Punchline.


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