The Crisis In The Middle East

[op-ed of the day]Bracing for global impact after Soleimani’s assassination

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much.

Mains level : Paper 2- International relations

Context

The recent targeted killing of Commander of Quds Forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by the US raised the tension in the region to a new high level. The imminent blowback from Iran could have several consequences for the rest of the world including India.

Different from past killings

  • Though the U.S. has carried out many such targeted killings in the past but this case bears two important differences to the past killings.
  • Unlike Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr, Gen. Soleimani was a state actor.
  • Unlike the above mentioned two, he was not past his prime.

Roles played by Gen. Soleimani

  • He was the founder-commander of Iran’s Quds Force-formed for extra-territorial operations.
  • He enhanced Iran’s influence in the Arab countries by leveraging the disarray in the region.
  • Arab countries with a significant Shia population such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen came under Iranian influence.

What could be the fallouts

  • Tit-for-tat between Iran and the U.S. could easily go out of hand and precipitate into a major confrontation.
  • Both countries have domestic compulsions- there are elections due in both countries.
  • These compulsions limit options for both countries to low-intensity skirmishes.
  • The fact that the killing was carried on the Iraqi soil also assumes significance.
  • The incident could increase the problems in Iraq which is rocked by three months of youth protests against undue foreign interference by both Iran and the U.S.
  • The event is also likely to re-polarise the Iraqi society along sectarian lines.
  • In the worst-case scenario Iraq could turn into the new Syria.

Potential fallout for India

  • Global oil prices have already seen a 4% rise in within hours of the incident.
  • India has already faced difficulty in maintaining relations with both countries because of the U.S.-Iran cold war.
  • While we want to be on the right side of the U.S., our ties with Iran apart from being civilisational have their own geostrategic logic.
  • With conflict turning hot, its adverse impact on India could magnify.
  • High oil prices will definitely increase our import bill and increase difficulties in supplies.
  • Safety of an estimated 8 million expatriates in the Gulf may be affected.
  • Iran could influence the U.S.-Taliban peace process in Afghanistan which in turn increases India’s woes.
  • After Iran, India has a large number of Shia population and some of them could be radicalised due to the event.

Conclusion

The event, if turn into a wider conflict between the two countries, could have many consequences for India from soaring oil prices and maintaining the balance between the two countries to the safety of expatriates in the Gulf.

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