“Current Affairs Editorial – Gathering Clouds over West Asia”

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                                Gathering Clouds over West Asia

G.S. Paper II: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora; Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Context:
 West Asia is in a period of heightened uncertainty.
 The arc of uncertainty has found permanence in West Asia where crises of different shapes and sizes have been hosted over a vast time span.
 If the U.S. refuses to certify Iran’s compliance on the nuclear deal, it will provoke a new spell of uncertainty.
 The newest crises could spell disaster for the whole region because of its huge ramifications.

The Vaccum in Levant:
 In the Levant, regional powers are scrambling to fill the vacuum created by the steady dismantling of the Islamic State’s caliphate across Syria and Iraq.

The Kurdish Referendum:
 Kurds, buoyed by their pivotal position in this race to Raqqa, have held an independence referendum.
 The Kurdish referendum drew the displeasure of their Iraqi, Turkish, Syrian and Iranian neighbours.
 Every chance of a conflagration in disputed, oil-rich areas such as Kirkuk can result in a crisis with utter devastation for all.

Turkey slides into Authoritarianism:
 Turkey continues its authoritarian descent, and its relations with Europe are growing sourer by the day.
In fights within the Gulf Cooperation Council:
 A crisis within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), pits Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar.
 This crisis has entered its sixth month, with no sign of resolution in sight.

The Many Shades of Reforms In Saudi Arabia:
 Within Saudi Arabia, the young and ambitious heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, is experimenting with an unpredictable mix of reform and repression.
 On the one hand women are permitted to drive and on the other hand dissident poets, clerics and intellectuals are sent to jail for dissenting.

The Biggest Crises of All:
 The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ( JCPOA), a nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six major powers, will celebrate its second anniversary on October 18.
 It was, and remains, a landmark piece of diplomacy, which recognised Iran’s right to enrich uranium in exchange for a battery of tough, but time-bound, limits on nuclear activity.

The Rich Dividend of Democracy:
 Through an adroit mixture of pressure, incentives and dogged diplomacy, it defused a crisis that had burned since the 1990s, threatening to spiral into a war in the 2010s.

Opponents to the JCPOA:
 Conservative forces in Israel, the Arab world, and the U.S. denounced the The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement.

Unhappy with Iran’s Non Nuclear Behavior:
 They complained that it did not address Iran’s non-nuclear behavior.
 This includes Iran’s support for Hezbollah and other militant organizations.
 The critics claim that the “sunset” clauses, which progressively relax the constraints on Iran over the next three decades, were too generous.

President Donald Trump’s take on JCPOA:
 Donald Trump’s tirade in the United Nations General Assembly, saw him call the deal “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into”.
 In a short time, Donald Trump must “certify” Iran’s compliance.

Dismantling the JCPOA and ushering in sanctions:
 If he refuses to do so, it would open the way for the U.S. Congress to re-impose sanctions on Iran, which would automatically violate the agreement.
 The United States of America, repeatedly, but falsely, claimed that Iran is violating the agreement.
 Europe’s reaction to the grandstanding of the United States and its allies in the region will have extremely important ramifications for the future of the deal.

Extending Categorical Support for JCPOA:
 The U.K., France, Germany and the European Union have all expressed their categorical support for maintenance of JCPOA.
If the U.S. re-imposes so-called secondary sanctions, which cover foreign companies, Europe would most likely take legal and diplomatic steps.

Europe’s commerce with Iran:
 This would be to protect its substantial commerce with Iran, even at the cost of a transatlantic crisis.
 European banks, manufacturers and energy companies have also signed dozens of major agreements with Iran over the past year.

Others who will defy the Sanction move of the U.S.A:
 China, Iran’s main trading partner, and Russia, Iran’s military ally in Syria, would defy U.S. sanctions with even greater enthusiasm.
 In short, it would be virtually impossible to rebuild today the broad, multinational sanctions regime that helped push Iran to the negotiating table during 2013-15.

Incentives for Iran to abide by the JCPOA:
 If Iran were therefore persuaded that its re-integration into the world economy could continue regardless, this would be a powerful incentive for Tehran to abide by the JCPOA.
 If the deal collapses, Tehran is unlikely to expel inspectors entirely, as Iraq did in 1997, or withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), like North Korea in 2003.
 Such steps would undercut Iran’s professions of peaceful intent and cede the moral high ground.

Back to the Nuclear build up:
 Iran would, however, consider re-starting the nuclear build-up that it had halted after an interim deal in November 2013.
 If sanctions were the West’s way of pressuring Iran, nuclear build-up could once more be Iran’s own bargaining chip.
 Tehran would have to have to balance the advantages of this course against the risks.
 This course may provoke Europeans into siding, reluctantly, with Washington.

Possibilities of a Preventive War:
 It may push the U.S., Israel, or both, into a preventive war.
 Not only would a war fail to eradicate Iran’s nuclear know-how, it would have far-reaching regional consequences.

Unleashing the powerful Shia Militia:
 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards could unleash Shia militia against U.S. troops in Iraq, and expand support to Afghan insurgents just as Mr. Trump’s surge gets underway.

The possibility of high tension between Saudi and Iran:
 Saudi-Iran tensions Tension would spike and the risks of a U.S. – Russia confrontation in West Asia would jump dramatically.

Possible Threats For India:
 Indian imports of Iranian oil in particular and other goods in general will fall.
 The Chabahar project, scheduled for completion next year, could face fresh obstacles.
 The huge Indian Diaspora in the middle east may witness an exodus to India as a consequence of heightened tensions spilling over to become wars.
 Iran-Pakistan relations may also shift unpredictably, and in ways that work against Indian interests.

Conclusion: Diminished credibility of Washington in Future diplomacy:
 More broadly, abrogation of the JCPOA would be devastating for Washington’s credibility in future diplomacy.
 It will hasten the process of shifting of axis of power from the United States of America to the East i.e. China.
 Hence the famed U.S. Exceptionalism which substantially benefits its allies in the region will come back to haunt the United States.