In a powerful example of how the world is increasingly becoming multipolar and that Iran, despite US pressure, cannot be isolated, Iran, China and Russia are holding joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. It will be recalled that ever since the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last year, it has deployed a so-called maximum pressure strategy against the Islamic Republic that has involved slapping of sanctions, including secondary sanctions, against Tehran. Additionally, the US has now put together a naval coalition force to patrol the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman citing supposed threats to ships in the region.
All of this is illegal. The US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal unilaterally, despite Tehran following every stipulation asked of it. This was an international accord that was painstakingly put together after years of negotiations and approved by the UN. Yet, US President Donald Trump pulled out of the pact without any real justification. And in reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran he has tried to starve the Iranian economy, thereby hurting the poorest of the poor Iranian people. Many describe this as an economic genocide launched by the US against Iran.
But sanctions in the past did not break Iran. It is unlikely to do so now either. Furthermore, as Iran, Russia, China joint naval exercise shows, the US can no longer unilaterally impose its will over matters. There are forces today capable of countering US unilateralism and Iran won’t be without friends. On the other hand, despite the injustice meted out to it, Iran has also indicated it is ready to sign and ratify by the Iranian Parliament an additional protocol that will allow more intrusive inspection of the country’s nuclear facilities at an earlier date than set out in the 2015 deal. Plus, Iran is ready to enshrine a ban on nuclear weapons in law. [Iran Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has already issue a fatwa banning the manufacturing of nuclear weapons]. But this would have to be in exchange of the US lifting all sanctions against Iran and ratifying the same by US Congress — something which is more than fair.
However, Trump continues to believe his maximum pressure tactic will pay off. But as the Iran, Russia, China joint exercise shows, Washington’s hard power options have their limits. It would be best to resolve the situation through fair dialogue, respecting Iran’s rights and international protocols, and putting military options off the table. Most of all, the US must junk its ‘isolate Iran’ plan. It clearly isn’t working.
* Rudroneel Ghosh is a Delhi-based journalist working for the Edit Page of The Times of India. This article was first published on timesofindia.indiatimes.com on December 29, 2019.