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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Military Build-up in the Gulf and Heightened Tensions in the Region

US president Trumps unilateral withdrawal in May 2018 from Iran Nuclear deal called JCPOA (Joint comprehensive plan of action) signed by P5+1(Permanent Members of UNSC and EU) and Iran in 2015 under Obama Administration and imposition of further sanctions regimes on countries buying Iranian oil (primarily China, India, and Japan) to economically cripple Iran with devastating impact on IRGC and Iranian backed proxies in the Middle East tantamount to proverbial cornering the cat. The credit for it goes to hawkish National security adviser John Bolton who is notorious for advocating and scheming regime changes in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Yemen, Syria, Libya and even Venezuela. To further add salt to the wound, USA has moved nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and strategic bombers to the Gulf region. The US already has her military bases in the Gulf region and Afghanistan, with her allies like Israel, UAE and KSA ready to join in the war, along with British navy frigates to beef up US 5th naval fleet already stationed at Bahrain i.e. next door to Saudi Arabia. This development has given rise to many speculations, military invasion of Iran being the leading possibility, though it may be low on probability. From the other side, some mysterious attacks took place against Saudi and Emirati commercial ships at the UAE port of Fujairah; this was followed by drone strike at a Saudi ARAMCO pipeline station causing massive damage. Before these events, Houthis Militia from Yemen regularly targeted KSA, and KSA has blamed Iran for supplying long-range missiles to Houthis Militia, asking for surgical strikes against Iran; which may result in targeting Iran’s naval and missile capabilities, oil fields and suspected nuclear sites suspected of violating JCPOA conditions, IRGC Headquarters and Iran sponsored militant proxies by US alone or along with other Allies including KSA and even Israel, by using her military bases in the region and more importantly in Afghanistan at the verge of being abandoned otherwise. The scenario seems all set to trigger a new round of a major conflict against yet another Muslim country after effective pulverization of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, and Sudan; either by military invasions, covert wars or through regime changes on one excuse or the other.

While both US and Iranian President have expressed the hope that war was not an option and diplomatic efforts are already afoot by White House through Swiss president looking after US diplomacy with Iran due to absence of American embassy in Iran, at the same time Iranian foreign minister Jawad zarif has made shuttle diplomacy to India (in dismay though), China, Russia, Turkmenistan and Japan for keeping the oil sale intact. Ironically, war drums being beaten in Iran are chanting slogans against KSA instead of USA, thus any accidental or provocative stage managed incident is prone to bring Iran and KSA in direct military conflict involving all GCC and other countries in the region purely divided on sectarian identity or affiliation. The obvious outcome is destruction of economy, oil reserves, precious infrastructure and great human resource of all Muslim countries in the region. Thus with or without a major conflict, the mere military build-up by US and allies in the region serves multiple purposes i.e. the GCC countries will spend most of the money on buying arms and munitions raising their defence budget beyond bearing capacity but keeping US and Allies’ defence industry and economy buoyant (already over $ 100 billion plus), ensure safe and uninterrupted flow of energy and trade through the Strait of Hormuz, checkmate China’s economic influence in the region and hinder BRI, undermine Chinese “ String of Pearls” versus “US Asia-Pacific Rebalancing” by establishing more and more naval military ports in the Asian–Pacific region, another leverage against China in trade war, strengthen Indian efforts in Asia-Pacific to confront Chinese rise, put to test the Russian alliance with Iran in the region and get them out at least from Syria that threatens Israel the most, cripple economic and military potential of all Muslim countries of the region and make them totally dependent on USA (virtual colonization).

However, the most lethal scenario could be involving Pakistan in the conflict from KSA side, spoil its relations with Iran, instigate emboldened sectarian divide, give more fillip to covert war inside Pakistan using East, West and South-Western fronts, embroil Pakistan Armed Forces more on internal front, promote aggravated law and order situation, further squeeze economic pressure with unimaginable inflation and price hike , forcing the public outcry and mass protests under embedded as well as by under law’s scrutiny corrupt politicians, asking for regime change……while all evil eyes remain fixed on achieving a dire situation where international or UN regime could be applied on Pakistan to surrender or compromise its nuclear capability…..which has remained her survival kit. God forbid, if such a scenario is allowed to set in motion by the Government of Pakistan and her allies like China, Turkey and other fragile countries, it could trigger Third World War that may be the last one that planet earth could afford to see.

Above in context, it is time for China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, CARs, SAARC and OIC countries including Pakistan to shake up UN Security Council as well as UN General Assembly to play her role in stopping the unfolding nefarious and most dangerous US/ Allies scheme in the region that is bound to swallow up the global peace. At the least, SCO and CSTO countries can join hands and heads to play diplomatic and other possible role to mitigate the triggering hostilities in the region, and undertake due defensive steps as danger is knocking on every country’s door. George Carlin said.” those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music”; same is true for the drums of war.

21 May 2019

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