Flushing The US Out Of West Asia

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Waseem Shehzad

Dhu al-Qa'dah 12, 1444 2023-06-01

News & Analysis

by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 53, No. 4, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1444)

On May 1, a very interesting—and revealing— encounter occurred between Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) naval units and a US warship in the Persian Gulf. As the American warship came close to Iran’s territorial waters, the IRGC commander warned it against violating its territorial waters. What followed was even more interesting: the Iranian commander ordered the Americans to “speak Farsi.”

“This is the Persian Gulf. Speak Farsi. Did you hear me?” an IRGC officer is heard saying in a video published by IRNA.

“Thank you very much. We heard you. We’ll contact you on channel 16,” the US vessel responded in Farsi.


Video: Humiliation of American sailors by IRGC forces The IRGC's sailors force the American sailors to speak Farsi instead of English in the Persian Gulf and also immediately move away from the sea borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The video then showed the IRGC officer directing the US warship to take a different course, threatening to “deal decisively” with it if it did not comply. “This is the coalition warship. We changed our course in international waters,” a voice is heard responding over the radio in Farsi. “We conduct regular patrols in international waters to maintain security.”

America’s claim to “maintaining security” is in fact the very source of insecurity and instability in the region and beyond. It also begs the question: who authorized the US to act as a global cop? The Islamic Republic of Iran, a major regional power, has repeatedly said that security in and around the Persian Gulf is the responsibility of regional powers, not external predators like the US.

This is now beginning to take practical shape with Iran’s proactive diplomacy in trying to ease tensions with all its neighbours, except of course the illegitimate zionist entity. Three parallel developments are shaping the regional architecture in ways that was unthinkable even a year ago.

First is the Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Islamic Iran and Saudi Arabia, two regional heavyweights, whose policies have a huge impact on the thinking of other players in West Asia. This welcomed change has been described as “a paradigm shift in West Asia” even if it has caused severe heartburn in Washington and Tel Aviv.

The Iran-Saudi rapprochement has provided impetus to the second development: re-integration of Syria into the Arab fold. While underway for several years, its pace was slow, primarily because the Saudis were dragging their feet. That impediment was also lifted with the visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan to Damascus on April 18 following Iran-Saudi reconciliation.

Several subsequent meetings of Arab foreign ministers (May 1 in Amman, May 7 in Cairo and May 19 in Jeddah) to bring Syria back into the Arab League from which it was expelled in 2011 have speeded up the process. The closed-door meeting in Cairo on May 7 formally invited Syria back into the Arab League resulting in Syrian President Bashar al Asad attending the Jeddah summit on May 19.

The third development is the key role played by Russia, Iran, and China in facilitating these changes. Unlike the US and its NATO allies whose military presence has caused great instability, the Russia-China approach is focused on reconciliation, notwithstanding Moscow’s support for Asad’s government.

There is also convergence of views on oil production between Russia and Saudi Arabia, two of the largest producers in the world, earning huge revenues for both. The Saudis have realized that the Americans treat their country merely as a cash-cow and do not care about their well-being.

The huge US military presence in the region—42,000-50,000 troops stationed in more than 50 military bases in the region—far from preventing instability, have been the major source of conflict. Thoughtful Americans, like Benjamin Denison have pointed to the “temptation problem” the presence of US troops in the region creates for policymakers.

“The wisdom of making wars easier depends on the wisdom of the wars. Rapid military response to all global trouble may sound good, but it can tempt policymakers to intervene even for non-vital interests.

“US military bases and logistics hubs in and near the Middle East are the primary examples—they make foolish wars too easy to start,” Denison writes.

Russia, Iran and China have augmented their diplomatic efforts with robust military and economic policies. In mid-March, Russia, Iran and China held naval drills in the Gulf of Oman. These were the third such exercises since 2019.

Unlike the US, the Russia-Iran-China military component is not meant to threaten regional states. Rather, it is meant to secure the crucial waterways from the Malacca, Hormuz to Bab al-Mandab Straits for safe transportation of oil. For China, safe passage of tankers in these waterways is crucial.

Beijing imports 40 percent of its oil from the region. American control of these choke-points was meant to undermine China’s economic growth that has now outstripped that of the US.

While the US and its vassals issue threats against opponents whose limitations now lie exposed, the approach adopted by Russia, Iran and China is radically different. Tehran has for many years called for dialogue among its neighbours to resolve all issues amicably. This has now borne fruit.

As early as September 2019, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had proposed the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) at the UN General Assembly. Its aim was to bring together the littoral states of the Persian Gulf—the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), plus Iran and Iraq—around a common framework for security, freedom of navigation, and economic cooperation. America’s disruptive policies, however, prevented the realization of peace in the region until recently.

Over the last few months, the situation has undergone radical change. With patient diplomacy, Iran has built trust among its neighbours to bring them to the negotiating table. China, and to a lesser extent Russia, has played a crucial role in this.

Since assuming the office of President in August 2021, Dr Ebrahim Raiesi has pursued the HOPE initiative with even greater vigor. Mediation efforts between Iran and Saudi Arabia that Iraq was facilitating since April 2019 (later, it involved Oman as well), suffered a major setback when then US President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of General Qassem Solaimani as he arrived at Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020 on a diplomatic mission. Agnes Callamard, the then UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial killings, described General Solaimani’s assassination as a war crime.

Iran has vowed to seek revenge, at a time and place of its choosing. In the meantime, Tehran’s soft power diplomacy bore fruit when diplomatic relations with the UAE were restored in August 2021. These were severed in the wake of the Saudi rupture.

All that is history now although the Americans have not given up on mischief as was evident from US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s visit to Jeddah to meet Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman (Mbs) on May 6. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also slated to visit Saudi Arabia on June 16. The aim in both cases is the same: impede China’s entry into the region and disrupt Iran-Saudi relations.

The Saudis, it appears have decided to chart a different course, one that is largely independent of America’s overbearing attitude. There are other players on the global and regional scenes that it can rely on. These players do not act as parasites, as America has done for more than 80 years.

Whether the newly emerging scenario will hold is still up in the air. This will depend to a large extent on MbS being able to fulfill his promises. He is fickle-minded. The Islamic Republic has to be careful dealing with him. It should enter into water-tight agreements that he cannot wriggle out of easily.

For now, one can say that events are moving in the right direction.

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