Tension in Persian Gulf: US naval strike force nears Iran | Sunday Observer

Tension in Persian Gulf: US naval strike force nears Iran

Suddenly the Arabian Sea, a bare 1,000 km north west of us, is fraught with geopolitical tension of a nuclear kind. In a bid to further intimidate stubborn nuclear power aspirant Iran, Washington has deployed to the Persian Gulf a small ‘carrier strike group’ of missile carrying warships led by one of its largest nuclear powered aircraft carriers with a complement of nuclear capable strike aircraft.

With Washington unleashing a barrage of threats of military intervention against Iran and Tehran scoffing in response, countries around the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf are bracing themselves for any sudden outbreak of hostilities.

The USS Abraham Lincoln, a 105,000-ton giant, Nimitz class, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with some 85 aircraft is accompanied by a squadron of one guided missile cruiser, five destroyers and one frigate. The American squadron is expected to sail through the Strait of Hormuz and enter the Persian Gulf in the next few days as it heads for its new base in Bahrain. As in the past, Iran’s small navy is likely to make harassing forays near the American squadron simply to remind the superpower that the entrance to the Gulf is largely in Iranian territorial waters.

At the same time a wing of long range B52 bombers and aerial combat command planes is flying into the US airbases in Bahrain and Kuwait.

All this American firepower is being concentrated in the Gulf even as US National Security Adviser John R. Bolton keeps up a stream of warlike remarks against Iran.

If any military action breaks out at the entrance to the Gulf that will severely disrupt oil supplies to the world market while halting all shipping in the area. More worryingly, even though Iran does not actually possess nuclear weapons of any kind, Israel, which has previously unilaterally bombed a key Iranian installation, could possibly use the start of hostilities to swiftly intervene and carry out more bombing raids.

Israel is actually the only West Asian country that possesses nuclear weapons and may even use them against Iran just to show the region its destructive capability. After all, the United States invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, following the ‘9/11’ guerrilla attack on the US, was openly touted as geopolitical actions to re-assert America’s global dominance after the humiliation of 9/11. Israel, constantly asserting its dominance over Palestine, also uses every opportunity to demonstrate its military superiority in order to deter the neighbouring Arab states which are unhappy over Tel Aviv’s relentless aggression.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Tehran has warned that it might start withdrawing from its commitments to the Nuclear Pact that severely restricts that poor, harassed, country’s nuclear armament program. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) originally signed with Iran in 2015 by the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the European Union, Tehran was forced to halt its nuclear raw material enrichment program that developed weapons-grade raw material.

Since 2015, Iran had restricted its nuclear raw material enrichment only to nuclear energy production and scientific research. Despite continuous accusations by Tel Aviv and Washington that Iran was still secretly developing weapons-grade material, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which monitors Iranian nuclear operations, has consistently ruled that Tehran was sticking to the conditions of the Pact. What really motivates Washington and its close ally Israel is the fact that Iran, the most powerful country in the West Asian region after Israel and Turkey, is independent of the Western powers and actively supports the cause of Palestinian freedom. Tehran is also actively supportive of other states and political movements in the region that strongly remain opposed to the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine, now in its 70th plus year.

When US President Barack Obama joined the other big powers in negotiating the JCPOA in 2015, Israel was hugely unhappy, realising that the JCPOA and its fulfilment by Tehran further legitimised Iran, giving more moral authority for its support for Palestine. Post 2015, Tehran continued to support not just Palestine but also the weaker Arab/Muslim states around Israel that were being bullied by Tel Aviv into acquiescing to the Zionist state’s military occupation of Palestine and gradual conversion of Palestinian territory into one that is predominantly populated by Israeli Jews.

Today, after decades of military invasions against all its neighbouring Arab states, Israel’s persistent program of illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands has now amounted to the demographic of transformation of the bulk of Palestinian territory. Nearly half of the West Bank is now covered by illegal Israeli Jewish settlements rendering it politically difficult for Palestine to reclaim it. Furthermore, Occupied Palestine itself is experiencing a continuous drain of its own population as homeless, landless, and livelihood bereft Palestinian families migrate out of crowded refugee camps and narrowing living spaces to other parts of the world. Today, the bulk of Palestine’s people are either living as migrants in Europe, North America and in other Arab states as Israeli bulldozers continue to violate all United Nations resolutions and humanitarian law in evicting Palestinians from their homes and traditional homeland.

With the neighbouring Arab states cowed by Israel’s US-backed military might, Iran is the only country in the neighbourhood resisting this hegemony. That this is the reason for the continued US pressure on Tehran is clear by the official reasons given by Washington for its unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and re-imposition of economic and political sanctions against that country. When President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA exactly a year ago this week, he and his officials argued that simply abiding by the nuclear enrichment restrictions of the JCPOA was not enough for Washington. Rather, the Americans wanted Iranian material and moral support for the besieged Palestinians and embattled Israeli neighbours to cease.

Washington has been echoing Israel’s complaints that Iran was ‘destabilising’ the region by its support for the Palestinian cause. No one mentions the fact that all UN member states are obliged to observe the UN’s collective decisions and policy on the full restoration of Palestinian independence and, indeed, actively support their fulfilment and resist any violations. Technically, Israel is constantly violating numerous UN laws and resolutions in relation to Palestine and all UN members should, by now, be imposing sanctions against Tel Aviv!

But ‘realpolitik’ means that might is right and Israel, supported by the US and Europe, has got away with invasion and annexation of territory and continues to get away with the destruction of a whole nation of people under horrendously dehumanising conditions. Thus, not only is Palestine being slowly wiped off the world map, but the regional nation that has stood up for the Palestinians most, Iran, must also be crushed even if it means either starving the Iranians into submission or militarily destroying that fiercely independent nation.

And both Israel and the US are ready to continue to disrupt and destabilise the entire region by their policy of geopolitical bullying for their unrealistic, selfish purposes. I say “unrealistic” because seventy years of Israeli military occupation of Palestine and even the program of elimination of a nation and its replacement with the expanding Jewish nation has failed to halt the Palestinian resistance while neighbouring Arab nations stubbornly refuse to submit to the Occupier’s diktat.

Both Iraq and Syria are suffering today because of their (dictatorial) rulers’ persistent support for the Palestinian cause – and, in Syria’s case, its own self-interest in recovering the Golan Heights forcibly occupied by Israel in 1967. Now it is Iran’s turn. Despite the IAEA’s continued certification of Iran’s compliance, all JCPOA signatories are now being pressured by the US to follow Washington’s re-imposed sanctions regime or face US sanctions themselves. The other JCPOA signatories are currently under far too much economic pressure by the US to be able to continue to actively observe the terms of the Pact which requires them to continue to deal with Iran in return for that country’s compliance with the Pact.

Currently, the whole world, including Sri Lanka, has been forced to cut trade ties with Iran due to US bullying. Oil prices in Sri Lanka remain volatile primarily because of the Iran oil trade ban and the consequent disruption of the world market for oil. Even individuals run the risk of sanctions by the US simply for visiting Iran for tourism purposes! While the smaller countries – like ours – cannot defy Washington and economically survive, it remains to be seen how much Beijing and Moscow and Delhi will succumb to this bullying.

Many western analysts as well as Tehran believe that Washington would not dare go as far as militarily attacking Iran. However, no one seems ready to assume that rogue state Israel will restrain itself.