At 6:03 AM on June 21, Friday, the world woke up to these tweets by the President of the United States. The entire world was rattled by the fact that we were only 10 minutes away from what could potentially become the destruction of massive proportions. But what was about to happen on Thursday night was not arbitrary, the stage for this situation had been set almost half a century ago. It was in 1951 that seeds for this conflict had been sown.
In 1951, Iran in its 35th elections elected Mohammad Mossadegh as its Prime Minister. The new elect was confused as to why all of the nation’s wealth was being taken out of the country and decided to nationalise Iranian oil production taking away the monopoly from the Anglo-Iranian oil company. This move by Mossadegh angered the United States and the United Kingdom. The United States decided in 1953 to orchestrate a coup d’état to overthrow the prime minister to reinstate the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The Shah was a puppet to the west. One of his first moves was to regulate oil production back to the West apart from catalysing a “White Revolution” where he tried to bring about progressive political changes such as allowing women to vote, but his rule became even more oppressive. He tried to forcibly rid the country of Islam, giving impetus to a corrupt government that led to the creation of huge economic chasms. The Shah also set up secret police called the SAVAK trained under the US to perform torture and executions to stifle dissent against the Shah.
Tired of the tyrant’s rule the people of Iran took to the streets of Tehran and in 1978 ousted the Shah, who fearing for his life fled to the US. The people of Iran demanded his return but when on November 4, 1979, when their request was denied a group of college students stormed the U.S embassy in Tehran taking 52 people hostages. This hostage crisis would later turn out to be the longest recorded hostage situation in recorded history lasting for 444 days.
Among all this chaos in 1980, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq decided to invade Iran. The United States of America decided to side with Saddam Hussein and through the war provided his military with not just military and intelligence support, but also financed the war and kept the conflict in the region going for over 8 years. This conflict with Iraq and Iran was not an isolated instance. This conflict opened the doors to a tragic series of events that continue to affect us to this day. The conflicts that were triggered by this conflict include the following but are not limited to, the Iran-contra scandal, the anti-communist purge, the downing of Iranian-Air flight 655, the Syrian civil war, the Yemeni crisis, naval skirmishes, covert wars, sanctions, detained diplomats and the threat to the Persian Gulf.
In the Persian Gulf lies the Strait of Hormuz. The strait is one of the lifelines of our modern world being the most important oil shipping channel. This strait facilitates the movement of 19 million barrels of oil per day from crude oil producing countries to the key markets of the world, including but not limited to Asia, North America and Europe. In comparison, the Strait of Malacca has 16 million barrels of oil going through it every day and the Suez Canal has only 5.5 million barrels of oil passing through it.
The reason this strait is now under discussion is because of Iran’s threat to close the shipping channel. The Islamic Republic of Iran has threatened to do this in retaliation to the US’s attempt to block Iranian oil exports that mint Iran an annual income of $66 billion and comprise the 2/3rds of Iran’s total exports. This comes on the heels of Trump backing out of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” or more popularly known as the “Iran Nuclear deal”.
The Iran Nuclear deal was hammered out by the Obama administration to counter the years of hostility between the countries. The signatories of the deal included the U.S.A, E.U, U.K, Germany, Russia, China and France. The principle of the treaty was that Iran would refrain from developing a nuclear weapons programme and they would be reciprocated with a rollback of the sanctions imposed on the country. This deal wouldn’t have been possible without Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Zarif and moderate prime minister Hassan Rouhani. It is because of Hassan Rouhani that this deal was pushed through, otherwise, the nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the successor of Iran’s first supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini would have interpreted it as a concession to the West and the deal would have been met with fierce dissent.
On May 8, 2018, when President Trump decided to back out of this deal, the world witnessed a tweetstorm by him where he cited his disagreements with the current deal. One of his first problems was that the clauses were going to expire in a ten-year period. The president vehemently opposes the expiry of these clauses in lieu of the fact that Iran would then be free to develop their weapons programme but backing out of the deal lets Iran develop their nuclear programme right now. A legitimate issue that Trump has raised is that the nuclear deal does not cover Iran’s ballistic missile programme. Trump has also demanded that IAEA have access to all nuclear sites, the existing nuclear deal has been ratified to this effect and the IAEA has testified to Iran’s adherence to the relevant constraints set by the treaty.
Iran used to be India’s third-largest oil supplier, but when the US imposed sanctions on Iran last year, India along with 7 other countries was granted a reprieve, but that reprieve expired on May 2.
Saudi Arabia and Iraq were the only countries that supplied more oil to India but with Iran out of the picture, India has now been forced to source their oil from other major oil-producing nations. China is now the only country that has ignored the U.S sanctions and continues to trade oil with Iran. Oil and energy needs, though important, cannot be obtained at the price of war. Iran-US relations need to be mended immediately or the countries might soon engage in a protracted war that will not be favourable to any nation and will only result in loss of lives and instability.
A war will only lead to the nations being laid to waste.