It all started in the month of November last year, when Iran backed militia decided to quit using 107mm rockets, instead began using the lethal and longer range 122mm rockets to attack American bases located inside Iraq. By the second week of December when secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was in Iraq, atleast 10 US installations, inhabited by not just the American soldiers but also the allied forces, were attacked. But it was the attack on December 27 at the Kirkuk base which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The rocket attack killed a few American soldiers and a contractor. With this Qasem Soleimani, the man behind the attacks on US’s installations in Iraq and Syria, was walking around with a bull’s eye drawn over himself.
On January 3rd, US launched a targeted drone strike near Baghdad airport on a convoy that was carrying Soleimani. The Blue lightning operation was declared successful when Soleimani’s death along with that of commander of Iraqi popular mobilization forces and 6 others was confirmed. This news hit Iran like a thunderbolt which had just lost a man who had helped expand Iran’s footprint in middle east by using proxies. Iran has now vowed to retaliate in the same coin as America, which has led to myriads of politicians, and influencers across the globe predicting a World War-III.
Iran prefers avoiding conventional war, says history
In the recent past on plethora of occasions Iran has always chosen pragmatic ways of circumventing a war like situation on its soil.
- Iran hostage crisis: In the year 1979, about 52 American diplomats and citizens were held captive inside US embassy in Tehran by supporters of Iranian revolution. America declining Iran’s demand to hand over the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who had taken asylum in US, was the reason that American citizens with diplomatic immunity were held hostages against Vienna Convention, by the Iranians. The 444 days long crisis ended on the day Renold Reagan took over as the president of America. This incident helped cement Ayatollah Khomeini’s position as the founder of Islamic republic of Iran.
- Suspension of nuclear program: The year 2003 was very eventful, as this was when America had managed to bring down the dictator in Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and also managed to coax Iran into suspending its nuclear program. This was confirmed by US’s national intelligence estimate (NIE). America had been on a rampage since 2001 when it’s forces had embarked on operation enduring freedom, but it was Saddam Hussein’s capture and hanging which led to the suspension of nuclear program in Iran, ostensibly.
Emasculated Army and economy
After the “cornucopia” of devastating sanctions on Iran by America in May 2018, it’s economy has shrunk by 9.5%. The bone of contention was the nuclear deal which both Iran and America did not sign after President Donald Trump came to power. Adding to Iran’s woes were the protests which commenced immediately after the Iranian regime hiked the prices of gasoline. Albeit, few economic analysts are of the opinion that Iran can sustain the sanctions for another 2 years as the $100 billion in it’s reserves will cushion the economy. This could be a mere speculation as oil production of Iran has fallen by a whopping 1.65 billion barrels per day, with it the most common type of Iranian oil sold– Iran heavy oil, has lost its value by 11%.
According to Global firepower, Iranian military is 14th most powerful military in the world, with a defence budget of $6 billion with 523,000 active personnel in various defence forces. But Iran’s military might pales when compared to America’s military, which has double the number of active personnel and a budget which is 100 times higher. Iran’s on back-foot as it faces many sanctions
Asymmetrical warfare, the cheaper option
Pakistan is a good example of how a nation with an inferior military can continue to cross swords with its enemy, in this case India, with a behemoth military and a sound economy. Pakistan relies on an age-old practise of asymmetrical warfare wherein it utilises trained terrorists, clandestine snipping, psychological warfare strategies to its advantage, to give a perception of its military having an upper hand over the enemy, atleast to the people living in Pakistan. The same is true for Iran.
Iran’s theocracy is very reliant on creation of a perception where it is more important for it to convince its people of Iran’s clout over America, as this ensures support of the populace. This is the reason why Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has made the statement that Iran will seek revenge, and a harsh revenge at that. But those in power in Iran are very aware of the repercussions of such a step and ergo would most likely avoid a war. But this would not prevent Iran from pumping money into the terrorist organisations like Hezbollah to and militant groups in Syria to continue waging an indirect war on America and its allies.
Soleimani’s killing was definitely not a step to resolve America’s issues with Iran, infact it can be called a step taken for self-preservation. The biggest impact Operation Blue lightening has had is the surge in oil prices across the world.
Operation Blue lightening was named after a video game from mid 90’s, in which a General called Drako has to be killed.
Article by Levina