After the targeted killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force by the US, the Persian Gulf nation is not going to sit silent, said Dilip Hiro, the London - based Indian writer, journalist and commentator at the IHC-SPS Changing Asia lecture series on The Iran-Saudi Cold War and US role held on January 30 at the Gulmohur Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
After the targeted killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force by the US, the Persian Gulf nation is not going to sit silent, said Dilip Hiro, the London - based Indian writer, journalist and commentator at the IHC-SPS Changing Asia lecture series on The Iran-Saudi Cold War and US role held on January 30 at the Gulmohur Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
Soleimani’s killing had also dragged Iraq into the bilateral hostilities and Iran will take action against US targets in the region. “Hardliners have become harder and even a moderate leader like (Iranian President Hasan) Rouhani has made a very strong statement. My sense is that Iranians are making a plan to try and hit an important American military officer or intelligence official before Election Day in the US,” Hiro said.
Providing context to his assessment, Hiro, who has watched the region for decades, feels Iranians and Americans alike are weary of war in the Middle East and the many high costs. “By exercising restraint in responding to Washington’s provocations, Iran could play on American voters’ opposition to endless wars in the Middle East and help upend US President Donald Trump’s bid for re-election in November,” he explained. According to Hiro, the killing of Soleimani in Baghdad has increased Trump’s political vulnerability. Iran and its proxies in the region will engage in more reprisals, which will be carefully timed to damage Trump’s re-election chances at critical moments, he opined.
Speaking of the growing regional influence of Iran across the Middle East, Hiro attributed it to “the wrong policies of the US and Israel.” He elaborated at length, citing examples, and said Soleimani and his officers were those who had trained the Iraqi Shia militia, which has been at the forefront of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the ground, with US air support.
Hiro also explained how the Shia–Sunni divide between Islamic countries was not the major issue behind the conflicts raging in the region. Outlining the complex equation of Shia and Sunni power politics in the Middle East, Hiro traced the reasons behind the recent Saudi Arabian hostilities with Qatar, Yemen and even Bahrain, suggesting that the impetuous Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (or MBS) was behind some of the hastily-declared hostilities, in the hope that he would swiftly establish Saudi primacy in the region and, by extension, the Islamic world. Hiro explained the role of countries like Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Egypt, and Qatar, while tracing the origins of the deeply entrenched Sunni-Shia conflict. This is now manifest in the Saudi-Iran competition for regional influence, he said, as he identified the six fronts (in the countries he singled out) where this is playing out.
“The hardline constituency in Iran is going to become more enabled after the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and the IRGC is the lead player. There is increasing frustration among the Iranian people and the internal situation is tense and fragile in Iran," C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society For Policy Studies, concluded.
The Changing Asia lecture series is jointly organised by the India Habitat Centre (IHC) and the Society for Policy Studies (SPS), New Delhi