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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 28 New Delhi June 29, 2019

Major Threat in West Asia

Saturday 29 June 2019

by Harish Chandola

India has so far not commented on the danger or possibility of a nuclear war erupting in its neighbourhood, in West Asia, where a very dangerous development is taking shape in the Persian Gulf, to which an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is heading, to be joined by bombers, following unspecified threats from Iran.

This is in retaliation to a statement made by the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, who said his country would no longer abide by the terms of a deal signed with the US and other world powers to limit its nuclear programme in return for economic relief.

Iran is now poised to resume its slow but steady march towards making nuclear bombs, which American National Security Adviser, John Bolton, said any Iranian attack would be met with unrelenting force.

The two sides had signed a nuclear deal four years ago when Barack Obama was the US President. It promised to set back Iranian nuclear programme by more than a decade to break the cycle of threat and counter-threat between them since the Iranian Revolution 40 years ago.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are located in the region, including Iraq, and Iranian naval boats patrol the entire Persian Gulf.

The nuclear deal, called the Joint Compre-hensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was being complied with by Iran, but critics of it in the US complained that temporary restrictions on it would ultimately legitimise Iran to produce missiles.

US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the agreement last year, calling it a disaster and renewed sanctions. He cancelled waivers to let some countries continue buying Iranian oil and punish those that trade with it.

India is one that buys Iranian oil. It has said nothing whether it will continue buying.

Iranian President Rouhani hoped that European countries would honour the deal. He said his country would begin stockpiling low enriched uranium and heavy water in sufficient quantities and would not accept any limit on Iranian enrichment, which suggests that it will move closer to building a nuclear bomb. This would please hardliners in his country. It is also trying to stop European countries from following the US. He may not succeed.

American troops are not far from the Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. Its warships are also close to the Iranian patrol boats in the Gulf. America recently declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group. Iranians also called the American forces the same. Bolton recently wrote an article in the New York Times, entitled “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”

Bombing would not destroy Iranian nuclear know-how. It would drive its programme underground, making it more dangerous.

The US has Israel with it in the region.

At the moment the chances of negotiations between the US and Iran on the subject appear limited, though America is trying to use Switzerland for a possible venue for talks with Tehran.

India has said nothing on how it is viewing this threat in its neighbourhood.

The author is a veteran journalist with wide knowledge of developments in West Asia and the Arab world.

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