- Current Scenario:- USA’s recent targeted air strike on Iranian Revolutionary Gaurds’, Qassem Soleimani, was condemned by Iranian officials as an act of “State Terrorism”. Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, which has been previously deemed as a terrorist organization by the U.S, Canada and Saudi Arabia, and was considered as the second most powerful person of Iran. The killing of Soleimani, is likely to escalate tensions and fears of a military conflict, potentially involving other nation-states and organizations in the international platform regarding Global War on Terrorism, engaging either physically or ideologically.
As a result, there is possibility of retaliatory actions and significant aggravations by Iranian forces. Iranian leaders have defiantly vowed “shattering revenge”, while the U.S Officials said that they would preemptively attack any Iran-backed paramilitary groups in Iraq that they perceived as a threat. However, if ‘any Americans or American assets’ are targeted by Iran, Trump has declared that he would sanction specific military strikes against Iranian Cultural sites, which could amount to a war crime, under modern international law. Furthermore, US Secretary of the State Mike Pompeo refrained from giving a direct answer when asked about cultural targets, saying that Washington State will carry out the actions that are essentially right, and the things that are consistent with U.S. Law. Iraqi Shiite lawmaker Anaam al-Khizaee has said that Iraq will respond with “legal actions” if US President Donald Trump follows through with the impending threat to impose sanctions on the country, a US ally.
The U.S air strike comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran over rocket attacks in Iraq, that U.S Officials have blatantly blamed on Iranian-backed forces, as well as an attempt to breach the embassy compound in Baghdad. Following the attack, President Trump has made a clear declaration,- “Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous: To terrorists who harm or intend to harm any Americans, we will find you; we will eliminate you”. This proclamation remains consistent to his recent given rationale for the air strikes, that is, “stopping an imminent and sinister attacks” against Americans in the region.
- Attacks on US Embassy in Baghdad: Five days after the airstrike, Iran launched a series of missile attacks on U.S. forces based in Iraq, a direct engagement between Iran and the U.S. There were no officially reported casualties from missile attacks of Iran on the U.S. forces in Iraq. The analysts stated that the limited deaths could indicate the strike, the first direct Iranian attack on a US base, were designed to allow Iran’s leaders to satisfy their domestic audience that Suleimani’s Killing had been avenged successfully, without clearly forcing the Trump administration to retaliate.
- Iranian Protests: Just weeks before the US airstrikes, thousands of anti-government protesters had taken to the streets to voice their frustration with Iran’s Government; as well as the crippling economic sanctions imposed on the country by Trump Administration. But widespread reverence for Soleimani, who commands a cult-like status in the country, has seemed to unite Iranians- even the severe critics of the government and leaders. Mourning of thousands of people are being practiced, for Qasem Soleimani in the Iran capital of Tehran– but they are also visibly infuriated. Even days after his death, numerous followers in the crowd have been there present in the protests since the sunrise, grieving for one of the country’s top military leaders. There has been recorded to be a significant rise in the furious anti-US protests, both in Iran and Iraq capital of Baghdad.
Consequently, the administration of Trump Government is thought to be potentially in danger of losing control of the political storm unleashed by its killing of Soleimani. A challenge is being proposed by cascading events that appear to leave the US more vulnerable and isolated, after President Trump’s claim that the drone strike on Iran made Americans safer.
Criticism in the U.S: The US Administration’s foundational basis for the attack came under suspicion after secretary of the State Mike Pompeo told CNN that it was not “relevant”to reveal how imminent the attacks on US interests were that Trump said Soleimani was planning. Dissent also emerged inside the administration over Trump’s vow to strike Iranian cultural sites if Tehran mounts a reprisal strike on them. In New York, protesters gathered in Times Square, with signs reading things like “Use our taxes for schools, not for war”. Several painted peace signs on their faces and held posters decrying American imperialism.
Anger in the Middle East: In signs of the crisis deepening, Iran had announced that it was moving off restrictions on its uranium enrichment under the Obama-era nuclear deal. Iraq’s Parliament also voted to expel US troops- which could imperil the fight against extremism and consolidate Iranian influence in Baghdad.
An Isolated US:A distance have been started to maintain by Washington’s allies from Europe, who are unwilling to be associated with Trump’s assault. The military coalition led by the US, which was initially fighting ISIS, temporarily ceased its counter ISIS missions, in order to focus on protecting Iraqi bases and coalition forces there, from Iranian-backed militias. And in a sign of widening gaps between Iraq and the US, Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said that he had been scheduled to meet Soleimani on the day he was killed.
- Iran-US Nuclear Deal: Previously, Trump Administration had made a decision of withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), in 2018. The JCPOA had made tight restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for ending sanctions that had severely damaged its economy. However, the deemed repercussions of the US killing of the top Iranian general led Iran to announce recently that it will no longer abide by the limits contained in the 2015 nuclear deal. Iraq’s parliament also claimed for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil. An Iranian state television, holding deemed reputation, mentioned a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s Administration saying the country would not observe the deal’s restrictions on fuel enrichment, on the size of its stockpile of rich uranium and on its development and research activities. Without an ounce of doubt, we can clearly say that the announcement represents the most transparent nuclear proliferation threat made by Iran in the midst of crisis, since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
In a televised address, Iran insisted it still remained open to all kinds of negotiations with European partners who have so far been unable to offer a way for Tehran to sell all its crude oil abroad in the backdrop of US sanctions.
- Historical Overview: USA’s Assassinationof high-level government and military figures, as a Policy consideration has been persisting for a long time. Such instances include attempts by the United States to target during air raids Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, additional to successful missions to kill non-state terrorist leaders like Osama Bin-Laden, Abu Bakr Baghdadi. Recently, the real effectiveness of anti- terrorist “Leadership Targeting”, has become a heated subject of scholarly debate, especially taking in regard whether such killings are actually beneficial to the country’s foreign policy goal or not, as the US officials claim to be.The costs and benefits of foreign policy assassinations are difficult to reckon, and decisions to go ahead with such actions usually reflect the vague hope that any successor to the targeted person will be less capable against, or will embody policies more favorable toward, the country taking the action.
Even in the wake of terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched an international war on terrorism defined by military intervention, nation building, and efforts to reshape the core politics of Middle East.
- Military Intervention: The Department of Defence defines military intervention as “The deliberate act of a nation or a group of nations to introduce its military forces into the course of an existing controversy”. Since 2001 the most significant engaging component of the international War on Terror has been direct military intervention. A significant factor of War on Terror and its determining force of its outcome, has been the decision to confront terrorism with military force, rather than through the more traditional law enforcement framework. I would further like to make a distinction between direct and indirect military intervention. The former involves sending American troops to fight, occupy, or defend territory in other nations or conducting air strikes or missile strikes. Indirect military intervention, involves providing various kinds of support like money, training, military equipment, to facilitate the use of military force by a third party.
However, a critical foundation of the strategy of military intervention is a belief that the United States could no longer wit until the threat was fully formed. Instead, the United States needed to begin evidently striking with military force. Moreover, officials have previously, and in some cases even now, have viewed military intervention as a critical tool to prop up the weak governments, and staking out safe harbors in weak states.
It is important to note that with the election of Barack Obama, a little change in the strategic level was provoked. In addition to the continued fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the United States under Obama conducted drone strikes, air strikes, and Special Forces operations in Pakistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen.
- Historical Political Overview: In 2018, tensions rose between Iran and US after Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal of 2015, and reimposed sanctions against Iran. This strategy was adopted by the US administration to pressurize Iran into establishing a new Nuclear deal which served USA’s interests. The Quds Force which Soleimani led has been designated a terrorist organization by Canada,Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Soleimani himself was sanctioned by the United Nations and sanctioned by the European Union and was on U.S. terror watchlists.
- Major Point 1: USA’s expansive counter terrorism campaign- Success or Failure?
- Minor Point: If we take a deep dive into this analysis, we might be revealed with an inescapable conclusion that the staggering cost of the War on Terror have far outweighed its benefits. A truly nerve- wrecking number of $5 trillion has been reported by a recent study by a researcher at Brown University. The United States is also known widely to invest heavily in its attempts to remake and reshape the Middle East in pursuit of longer-run and more fundamental solutions to the deepest causes of terrorism. Both the Bush and Obama administrations argued that terrorism is a result of unhealthy political and economic systems and that terrorist groups will flourish where states are too weak to exert effective control over their own territory. The response has been a long-term campaign that started with regime change to depose supporters of terrorism, which evolved into democracy promotion and nation building to encourage the development of future allies and well-behaved nations, and finally has left the United States with the challenge of propping up weak and unstable governments.
- Minor Point; Assessing the War on Terror: It is to difficult to analyse or measure if the Counter-terrorism strategy has been successful or not. Unlike a conventional military campaign, there is no enemy capital to capture, or army base to destroy. Even a terrorist organization that is disintegrated and demoralized still has the capacity to lash out and kill many innocents. This assessment should answer the critical question of whether the United States has reduced the terror threat since 9/11, despite successful killing of thousands of Terrorist group members, I personally believe that the War on Terror has not succeeded in making Americans appreciably safer (nor made them feel safer) than they felt before 9/11, partially because offensive counter-terrorism has little or no connection to the rate of terrorism in the United States Homeland. Although we can admit that the United States has not suffered a major large scale terrorist attack after 9/11, there is no full-proof that military intervention abroad has anything to do with that. Studies have indicated that United States has not destroyed Al Qaeda, Islamic Group or any other terror group of global reach, regardless of well or poorly the description applies to groups comprised of a few hundred or thousand people. According to the reports, more Americans have died from terror attacks and there have been more Islamist-inspired attacks in the Homeland since 9/11, compared to the same period before, while the number of Islamist-inspired terror groups has risen since the War on Terror began.
- Major Point 2: Terrorism as a primal point in National Security Policy of USA post 9/11:
- Minor Point 1: Another justification, which was touted by both Bush and Obama Administrations, is that the international war on terrorism- has not oly improved homeland security efforts, but also prevented events of terrorism on the US land. They provided two arguments to support their claim– one, that by eliminating terrorists and destroying their organizations, the United States made it impossible for these groups to strike a blow at them And second, by demonstrating American resolve, the War on Terror played the role of a deterrent since terrorist groups realised the futility of conducting acts of terror against the United States.
However, we can clearly witness serious loopholes in the strategic logic of the War on Terror. Despite unprecedented counter terrosism strategies across the Middle East, the United States has clearly not managed to fully eliminate terrorist organizations. It can be admitted that militaries are useful at destroying large groups of people and buildings, but they are not designed to eradicate groups of loosely connected individuals associated to terrorist groups, who can blend in well with their local civilian crowd.
- Minor Point 2: If we speak in terms of legal perspective, the most riddling subject of debate is the legal justification of the airstrike. The Charter of the United Nations essentially prohibits the use of force to other states, if the country does not consent to it on its territory. There was no permission granted to the U.S by the Iraqi Government, to target a military commander from another country on its own soil. Therefore, some legal experts believe the lack of consent from Iraq makes it difficult for the United Nations to justify the attack. A number of legal questions were raised when a few members of the Congress were not consulted or briefed before the Soleimani strike. They sought to restrict the President’s ability to conduct future military operations against Iran without Congressional consent.
- Minor Point 3: There has been striking marking of inconsistencies and confusion, particularly in the last two years of U.S policy towards middle-east. The Counter- ISIS campaign, for instance, has achieved its military goals. But this campaign in particular, and comprehensive counter- terrorism efforts, never end with battlefield wins. The counter- narrative aspects of the campaign, the political conflicts that opened the ungoverned space in which ISIS grew, and the important work of stabilization are still necessary to longer-term success. It seems that in the counter-ISIS campaign, and on the issue of the U.S Strategy in the region, the administration has failed to articulate a clear and realistic approach.
V.Implications of U.S Policy on Middle East: It is imperative to understand the distinction between Arab public opinion about the United States, and the Arab opinion regarding U.S Policy. Historically, both anecdotal evidence and polling data shows a wide variations in the attitude between Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan and Egypt, where attitudes have tended to be positive about US society and negative about US foreign Policy, and Muslim countries outside the region like Pakistan where there is a negative perception of U.S society as a whole. An imperative first step in conceiving a sound long- term policy will be to generate more precise knowledge about the nature of opinion among various Arab and Muslim populations about the US policies, and in particular the relationship between the U.S and their own governments. Over the longer term, its questionable whether the US Policy-making, as currently structured, is capable of addressing these issues in a sustained way. In short, the nature and scale of U.S power is such that- particularly, but not exclusively, in the Middle East– the U.S is generating its own opposition. Public opposition to the U.S is crushing governments, including those with which the U.S might work towards a democratic transformation.
- Conclusion: What should be done?
- Confront Terrorism through Indirect and Multilateral channels: For that matter, terrorism is not a big enough threat to warrant direct American military intervention. The United States should give a clear indication to its Middle Eastern partners that, although the United States opposes ISIS and supports the development of open societies in the Middle East, the measures of dealing with terrorism and governance are regional responsibilities.
What support the United States does provide, however, should be indirect and, whenever possible, should be provided through the United Nations or other multilateral institutions in order to defuse the “West versus Islam” narrative that the War on Terror has unfortunately reinforced.
- Emphasize on the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Paradigm as a counter- terrorism Strategy: American military operations in the Middle East have done little to reduce the incidence of Islamist-inspired lone-wolf terrorism here in the United States and have potentially led to a higher incidence of such attacks. Instead, the United States should rather put its emphasis upon the difficult work of assessing emerging threats and interrupting them in the planning cycle through intelligence and police work, not military intervention. Fighting terrorism, has historically been a task for the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies.
The War on Terror teaches us that it is time for the United States to take an alternate approach. It needs to be acknowledged by the policymakers that a serious concern although terrorism is, it represents only a modest security threat to the American homeland. Further, the United States should relinquish the use of military intervention and nation building in the War on Terror. Instead, the United States should instigate regional partners to confront terrorist groups abroad, while the U.S. gets back to an emphasis on the intelligence and law enforcement paradigm for combating the threat against the American homeland.
A careful reading of the experiences from the past 15 years indicates that the United States should abandon the existing strategy in the Middle East for three reasons. First, military intervention and nation building efforts, even at current “minimal” levels, cause more problems than they solve, including spawning more anti-American sentiment and creating, rather than reducing, the conditions that lead to terrorism. Second, in contrast to the atrocious picture cited by many observers, including President Trump, the terrorism threat is too small to justify either the existing strategy or more military intervention. Finally, following the first two arguments, the costs of a forward-looking strategy to fight terrorism are simply too high.
All in all, embracing and adopting a less militaristic and less interventionist approach is applicable. The visible and militarized presence of the United States has helped feed the growth of terrorism and anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East. Pulling U.S. troops out of the conflicted region, ending drone strikes, and withdrawing from the direct fight against ISIS will not only reduce casualties that stem from the military campaign, but may further reduce the possibility of future terrorist attacks against the United States.
Military strikes should not be a regular mechanism of U.S. counter-terrorism strategy.