Fresh Sanctions on Iran
As per BBC, On February 3, 2017, The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Iran following its recent ballistic missile test, after their National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had announced earlier this week, that the White House was putting Tehran “on notice,” for its medium-range missile test. The US Treasury Department announced the measures against 13 people and a dozen companies on February 3, 2017. Some of the newly sanctioned groups are based in the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and China, and include members of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. Reuter’s news agency reported that the sanctions came as the US moved a Navy destroyer closer to the coast of Yemen to guard waterways from the Iran-aligned Houthi militia. The Iranian Government however maintains that they have not violated the UN Resolution, as the missiles were not nuclear, as they do not have a nuclear-weapons program, and its missile tests are not violations of this UN clause.
The Trump Administration seemed to be in hurry to meet the demand of Republican Group, and US allies in the region, to bring Tehran under control, and stop its involvement in neighboring countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Last week, Trump Administration included Iran in the list of seven countries besides Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan, whose citizens would be temporarily banned from entering the United States. An action of this kind was expected because Republicans had expressed enough opposition to Nuclear Deal with Iran under President Obama, when it was being signed, and only a trigger like the missile test was required to scrap it. The travel ban is under severe criticism within and outside US, and will have its pros and cons, but for the time being it appears that the ill effects of this jerky action have not been thought through by new administration at US.
These fresh sanctions will have an indirect adverse effect on India. The oil prices rose on Friday morning, as markets factored it, which in turn will affect the oil prices in India as well. India will also have to keep its fingers crossed regarding Chahbahar port project, which is very crucial for India in light of Chinese combat ships in Gwadar and progress of CPEC project. It however remains a big question mark on seriousness of global community to fight terror, when the world witnesses that a similar missile test by Pakistan, with credible terror potential/links has never been punished with sanctions by any global power so far, and some countries are defending their terror machinery, despite suffering from it occasionally.
Who influenced Hafiz Saeed House Arrest?
The silver lining for India, out of these swift actions out of Trump’s strategy of ‘Unpredictability’, is that after Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said the ban might be extended to Pakistan, and other countries that having “similar problems” with terrorism (Washington Post January 31, 2017), the Pakistan’s hierarchy seems to have jittered, and placed Hafiz Saeed (leader of the Jamaat-ul-Dawa movement, who carries $10 million bounty for his arrest from U.S. government since 2012, who also led militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, responsible for killing of 166 persons in Mumbai including six Americans), under another sham ‘House Arrest’, as has been done twice earlier. The timing of his arrest suggests a general perception including his followers that it has been done to appease Trump Administration, and avoid being listed along with the seven states having terrorism problems.
Pakistani officials maintain that Saeed’s arrest is only implementing the terms of a U.N. resolution that declared Saeed’s group a terrorist organization after the Mumbai attacks. The DG ISPR said, “This is a policy decision that the state took in [the] national interest” (Dawn). This logic cannot be sold easily, because after the UN Resolution he has been moving around openly addressing rallies, with no fear of apprehension despite US bounty on his head. It’s doubtful if Trump actively pressured Pakistan to rein in Hafiz Saeed, but it’s likely that the Trump factor has played some part. US always had all the information about the Pakistan harboring terrorists on its soil, but needed Pakistan due to their strategic location and amenability to be used by them. The financial support by US to Pakistan including sale of military hardware has been part of erstwhile policy, hence all sins of Pakistan including nuclear proliferation by A Q Khan and harboring Osama Bin Laden were ignored by US in earlier regimes.
The China factor cannot be ruled out to be one of the reasons behind the arrest. The rapid and sustained progress on CPEC project is a mutual strategic interest of China and Pakistan. Pakistan being declared terrorist harboring state will disrupt the project appreciably, and will bring the strategic contest of US and China on strategic control of Pakistan, earlier than expected. Xinjiang communist party leaders expressed fears of militants getting training in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and returning to the province to carry out terror attacks resulting five people getting killed in Hotanon December 28 (Xinhua), hence the possibility of Beijings desire for crackdown on some terror outfits can be a possibility. China’s effort to seek security in Xinjiang through economic development and appeasement of some militant groups like JeM, hoping that it will help in tackling insurgency by Uyghur related militant groups (like ETIM militants taking refuge inside Pakistan, working with TTP and other militant groups) may not work for very long time because militants are uncontrollable demons ready to bite their own sponsors. The fact is that some militant groups earlier nurtured by Pakistan are regularly attacking their own Army; hence assurance of Security by Pakistan cannot be relied upon. The recent incident of withdrawal of all passports of residents of Xinjiang some control measures which China must have adopted after realising the reality.
From Indian point of view, while many may feel happy about the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed as a step to check terrorism, but we should be clear that US is unlikely to dump Pakistan or declare it as terrorist state, because it may need the strategic space and usability offered by them, in competition with China. This continues to be the reason for Pakistan never coming under sanctions by US/China despite both countries knowing about their involvement in terrorism, which may be much more than some countries out of the list of seven declared. While Hafiz Saeed’s followers may keep claiming Indian hand in arrest, to keep their rallying point of Kashmir intact, but if it was possible then it would have been done long back. The recent voices in India to declare Pakistan a ‘Terrorist State’ is a step in right direction to develop international pressure, but that will not be effective unless Pakistan gets included in the list of Terrorist states by UN or US. The idea of changing name of JuD to ‘Tehrik Azadi Jammu and Kashmir by him (as reported by media) is an old idea of most militant groups, who once included in the list do so, to carry out business as usual under new unbanned name, by calling it a social welfare organization.
India will have to rely only on its own National Power to combat proxy war/ terrorism by Pakistan because actions of US and China will be purely for ‘America First’ or ‘China First’, and may not be directed towards terror groups directed towards India. In case such cooperation with US happens during President Trump’s era, it must be taken as bonus.
Major General S. B. Asthana, SM,VSM (Retd)
( Connect to author on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter as Shashi Asthana)