Might is right and so, Iran is a pariah The Statesman 23 Apr 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar



Might is right and so, Iran is a pariah The Statesman 23 Apr 2024

          Under the Vienna convention, embassies of countries are treated as sovereign territories of the nation concerned, not of the host country. The convention defines embassies as ‘buildings or parts of buildings and the land ancillary thereto, irrespective of ownership, used for purposes of the mission including the residence of the head of the mission.’ The National Museum of American Diplomacy stated while describing a US embassy, ‘An attack on an embassy is considered an attack on the country it represents.’

The building destroyed by Israel in Damascus, was part of the Iranian diplomatic compound, housed the residence of the ambassador and some offices, hence the strike on it was an attack on Iran. Tel Aviv refused to either admit or deny, however was globally identified as the perpetrator. It was a deliberate assault by a country sworn to stand by the Vienna Conventions and not a terrorist organization, hence should have been criticized.

In the special UNSC session, requested for by Iran, Tel Aviv was not criticized and its actions defended by western nations, which accused Iran of supporting Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The US ‘urged Iran and its proxy and partner groups to avoid exacerbating regional tensions.’ Thus, the attacked was accused while the attacker exonerated.

          Iran was compelled by domestic pressure to respond. It defended its actions under article 51 of the UN charter which enshrines the ‘right of self-defence.’ However, seeking to avoid escalation, Iran warned nations of its impending attack.

According to Reuters ‘Iraqi, Turkish and Jordanian officials mentioned that Iran had provided early warning of the attack, including some details.’ A US official stated, ‘We received a message from the Iranians as this was ongoing, through the Swiss.’ The US had a ten-hour warning period.

Iran ignored the basic military principal of surprise as its intent was to avoid damage and casualties. If the Hezbollah possesses hypersonic missiles, as claimed by the US, so would Iran. As per Tehran Times, Iran employed its Shahed-136 drones, along with 2nd or 3rd-generation missiles. Its ‘fifth generation missiles and top-tier drones’ remain secure for future assaults.

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN, Amir Iravani, mentioned in the UNSC debate, ‘It (the Iranian attack) was precise and only targeted military objectives and carried out carefully to minimize potential for escalation and prevent civilian harm.’ As per Israel, one child was injured in the desert and an airbase suffered miniscule damage.

          There is no doubt that Iranian proxies including the Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthi’s and the Palestinian Jihad amongst others have been armed and funded to operate against the US and Israel, its two declared adversaries. Is Iran the only nation which has funded and maintained proxies aimed at a particular state.  

Pakistan backs the anti-Iran Jaish al-Adl terrorist group at the behest of the west. It also supports anti-India terrorist groups on its soil. Identified Khalistan terrorists find shelter in the US and Canada, apart from Pakistan. Despite multiple requests no Khalistani has been arrested or their activities curtailed.

The US continues to back the Kurdish ‘Peoples Protection Unit’ and at one time supported the Taliban operating against Russia. Moscow has openly employed its proxies in Ukraine. Employing proxies to further a nation’s agenda is a global norm; then why is Iran being singled out. Possibly because they target US, its allies including Israel, all of whom are powerful states.

The UNSC session discussing the Iranian strike on Israel had pro-Israel nations criticizing Tehran, even though it claimed self-defence. US Ambassador Robert Wood mentioned, ‘The Security Council must call for Iran and its partners and proxies to cease their attacks.’ Similar views were echoed by other western nations. With Russia and China present, the meeting ended with calls for both sides to ‘exercise maximum calm and restraint.’

          The US and its allies have imposed additional sanctions on Iran. They claim it is to placate Israel and prevent it from retaliating and expanding the conflict. Sanctions and restrictions have not been contemplated against Israel even for the record number of civilian casualties in Gaza as also blocking movement of aid into the region, leading to what the UN terms as an ‘impending human catastrophe.’ Ignoring global demands for stopping its assault on Rafah has had no consequences.

          The US anger against Iran has existed since the overthrow of the Shah and seizure of its embassy in Tehran in 1979. The country has faced multiple sanctions since then. The US views Iran as unwilling to adhere to global norms, while Tehran considers Washington as seeking to oppress it and deny it its destiny of being a dominant power in the region.

The distrust between the two has grown over the years with the US blaming it for multiple terrorist strikes including the 1983 US embassy bombing and the Beirut barracks bombing, apart from others. Iran’s current alignment with Russia and China have only added to distrust. This has benefitted Israel. To contain Iran, the US is working at creating a coalition including enhancing Israel and Saudi ties. Simplistically put, Iran is considered the pariah, responsible for all unrest in the Middle-east.

The US along with its western allies are major global decision makers. They determine who is right or wrong based on their perceptions. The US has never been questioned on its follies in Iraq which led to the creation of an ISIS state as also its actions in Libya, which turned Africa’s most progressive country into one of poverty and instability.

The US is aware that Iran, by its location, can control the straits of Hormuz, which is the gateway for oil flows from the gulf. Any action by Iran could push the world towards Russian oil, making mockery of US sanctions on it, while dramatically enhancing energy prices, the blame for which would rest on Washington. Thus, the US is compelled to tread on eggshells.   

The US is attempting to overthrow the current Iranian regime and bringing in a favourable one. However, as Iraq and Libya have proved that what emerges could be worse that what existed. Rather than seeking to pressure Iran based on its economic and military might, the US would be better off attempting a rapprochement with Tehran.