In a rare accident during my last year’s trip to India, a cobra managed to sneak into a jaguar’s enclosure in one of the country’s oldest and most popular zoo in the southwestern city of Mysuru. As the Jaguar, named Raja saw the cobra, the two pounced at each other.
When the animal keepers got to the scene Raja had already killed the cobra and in the process had taken a few snake bites. The zoo authorities rushed Raja to the Zoo Hospital but the feline succumbed to the snake bites later the same day.
Today’s precarious situation in the Persian Gulf reminds me of this incident at the Mysuru Zoo, with the U.S. being the cobra, Iran as Raja and world powers the zookeeper. In this case, however, the zookeeper is not too late to save the day.
Although the tensions have been going on for years now but the situation got explosive with the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani on January 3.
General Qassem Soleimani frequently visited Iraq, and these visits were hardly a secret and according to the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. had him under surveillance for a long time. In the past, he had miraculously escaped multiple assassination attempts.
General Soleimani was assassinated alongside and six others following a U.S. air raid at Baghdad’s international airport on January 3.
After funeral processions in Iraqi cities of Kadhimiya, Najaf, and Kerbala, the martyrs were taken to Ahvaz, Mashad, and Tehran where people assembled in hundreds of thousands from the iconic landmarks of Enqelab Square to Azadi Square.
Among the martyrs was also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Front). He was laid to rest in Iraqi holy city of Najaf.
Gen. Soleimani hailed from a modest background in Kerman. He was a child of the revolution. At 13 years of age, he started working to support his family, spending his free time lifting weights and attending sermons by the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini.
Post 1979 Islamic Revolution he began his ascent to the military by receiving just six weeks of tactical training before seeing combat for the first time in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. He fought with distinction as a member of IRGC in the Iran-Iraq war and was from 1998 the founder and commander of its Qods Force, formed for extra-territorial operations.
In 2003 the U.S. invaded Iraq creating the mother of all chaos which eventually saw the end of Saddam Hussain’s Ba’athist government. The power vacuum allowed the rise of the Daesh (ISIS) who terrorized the region for years to come.
General Soleimani (AKA Haj Qassem) was famous for waging effective asymmetric wars enhancing Iranian influence in Arab countries with a significant Shia population such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
Untainted by corruption he was popular in all factions of Iranian population, from all walks of life and a wide spectrum of political views.
He emerged a national war hero for the missions he led across Iraq’s border. In 2006 when after the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Zionists, Haj Qassem had a key role when a disciplined Hezbollah surprised Israel with its training, tactics, and weapons.
In 2017, the U.S. indirectly collaborated with Hashd Al-Shabi (PMU) created by General Soleimani in putting an end of Daesh.
Bracing the global impact of Soleimani’s martyrdom
Iran’s response: On January 8 Iranian missiles fell on Erbil and Al-Asad bases housing American troops in Iraq. No Americans were harmed. Obviously no harm was intended.
Trump’s live message: A day after Iranian missiles fell on two U.S. basis Trump backed away from further military against Iran. He said instead that he would ratchet up sanctions on Iran.
UNSC: Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had sought to give a speech condemning the U.S. assassination of Gen. Suleimani but the Trump administration has barred Iran’s top diplomat from entering the U.S. to address the January 9 meeting of United Nations Security Council. By doing so the Trump administration violated the terms of a 1947 Host agreement requiring Washington to permit foreign officials into the country to conduct UN business.
JCPOA: On January 5, Iran announced that it would no longer abide by limits stipulated in the terms of the Nuclear Deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, putting the final nail in that coffin. However, Iran has maintained that if the sanctions are removed it will reverse all the steps taken so far and will return to the nuclear deal.
Worth mentioning is that Iran had fully complied with the terms and conditions of this historic nuclear deal and in the future the nuclear deal could have been a platform for other nations wishing to join the nuclear energy club.
Oil prices: Within hours of the January 3 assassination of General Soleimani global oil prices saw a four percent rise due to the “fear premium”. Crude oil prices rose by roughly another four percent on initial reports Tuesday night that Iran had launched missiles on two U.S. basis in Iraq.
Oil prices soared on the news of Iranian revenge attack on American bases. Prices for Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, jumped above $70 a barrel in futures markets, a nearly 4 percent rise from a day earlier, before easing back.
Iraq is the second-larger producer in OPEC after Saudi Arabia, and its oil fields have been largely unaffected. Iraq’s exports around four percent of world supplies and any disruptions could drastically propel global oil prices.
So far there is no talk of closing down the Strait of Hormuz, through which around 18 million barrels a day of oil is transported. Occupying the eastern side of the narrow strait, Iran can easily temper with oil flow and global oil supplies.
The downward pressure on prices due to unprecedented rise in U.S. oil production over the last decade to more than 13 million barrels a day, making U.S. the world’s biggest producer. It imports about four million fewer barrels of oil a day than in 2008 because of the production surge and greater use of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
White House internal tensions: The unease was laid bare on as Mark Esper, defense secretary, contradicted Trump’s call to target culturally significant sites in response to any retaliation from Tehran. Esper confirmed that U.S. would abide by the laws of armed conflict – which prohibits targeting such sites.
When Trump initially talked about targeting Iranian cultural sites it reminded me about the incident in 2001, when Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar ordered the destruction of the monumental Buddha statues by dynamite over several weeks. The event was televised live.
For the time being news of an imminent Iran-U.S. war in the Persian Gulf has mellowed down. But let’s not forget that a war would be a disaster for the world in general and no winners are expected out of it. The worst case scenario I can imagine is Trump using nuclear weapons to make “a short and decisive victory.”
From our partner Tehran Times