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Major Gaurav Arya's LIVE Blog: The President Talks. He Doesn't Speak

As the world waits and watches after Iran's missile attack against US forces in Iraq, I will be penning my thoughts and analysis in this LIVE Blog. Stay tuned

Major Gaurav Arya
As the world waits and watches after Iran's missile attack against US forces in Iraq, I will be penning my thoughts and analysis in this LIVE Blog. Stay tuned
22:38 IST, January 8th 2020
The President Talks. He Doesn't Speak

You have to hand it to him. Trump can create swagger out of nothing at all. In his usual inimitable style, he started off by saying that as long as he is President, Iran will never have nuclear weapons. He justified the killing of Qassem Soleimani saying that he was the world’s greatest terrorist and was directly and indirectly responsible for thousands of American deaths.

Announcing “punishing sanctions” on Iran, he said that the sanctions would be in effect till Iran comes around. Coming down hard on Obama, he said that that the missile attacks on US troops yesterday was funded by the previous administration.

Don’t need Middle East oil, thundered Trump. Spent 2.5 trillion USD to modernize the US Armed Forces, boomed Trump. Have the shiniest missiles in the world, claimed Trump. Rambling on about al-Baghdadi and other terrorists killed, Donald Trump patted himself on the back. Yet, he pleaded with China, Russia, UK and France to help him. And he asked NATO to pitch in.

He jumped from topic to subject, never completing a coherent sentence, and stopped short of taking his own autograph. His entire address left everyone confused. The President of the United States talked. He didn’t speak. In the East, they will say, “Today, Trump lost face”.

Good night, world. Sleep easy. We are not going to war. For now, the crisis has been diffused. Trump gave an election speech masquerading as what he thought was a statesmanlike global address. The President was not Presidential.

And in many ways, Iran won.

21:37 IST, January 8th 2020
Waiting for the President

POTUS Donald Trump is a man caught in an image trap, much of it of his own making. To his own mind, he is a tough guy and a great negotiator. And like most US Presidents, he must have his own little war.

Unfortunately, all indications point to the likelihood of the war that he wanted, not happening; at least, not now. Ignore the high-decibel rhetoric emanating from Tehran. That is for the masses, reared on a steady diet of “Death to America”. Leaders live in the real world.

NATO, like it or not, is solidly behind Trump. And it is at Iran’s doorstep. Imagine what it feels like to have an eight hundred pound gorilla in the back seat of your car.

Iran, push comes to war, will use whatever assets it has. And it will use its widespread influence on Shia militia and terror organizations that Major General Qassem Soleimani raised, trained, funded and indoctrinated. Solemani’s death is a punch to Iran’s guts. He was not just the Commander of the Quds Force. In much of the Middle East and Gulf, he was an extension of Iran’s foreign policy.

Very soon, Donald Trump will speak. And he will decide how the world sleeps tonight.

20:18 IST, January 8th 2020
No One Wants This War Except...

As the drama unfolds, the tensions between US and Iran are multi-faceted. While the Iranian President says that Iran will never retreat in the face of American aggression, its Ambassadors fly white doves of peace all over the world.

While NATO has been unequivocal about wanting immediate de-escalation, we need to take a step back and look at this scenario from Iran’s point of view. Saying “Death to America” is one thing. Knowing that NATO is at your doorstep and your closest ally is Syria is not something that gives one too much confidence.

I have war-gamed many scenarios in my mind. In no scenario does Iran come out smelling like roses. The American military juggernaut is war-ready and war tested. It has the best equipment that money can buy and it has technology at its disposal that Iran probably hasn’t even heard of. Everyone knows this. The usually belligerent Erdogan, ever ready to wage war, is urging restraint. For the UAE, it is always business first. They have assured the world that oil prices will not be affected.

The United Kingdom has urged restraint but has kept its forces at the ready.

Heaven forbid, if the Americans cross over into Iran, and may that scenario never unfold, the region will go into a tailspin.

No one wants a war. Except, maybe Trump. As I write these lines, it is 9:30 am in Washington DC. Let's see what POTUS has in mind for Iran. The world watches with bated breath.

18:12 IST, January 8th 2020
US-Iran Tensions and the Dawn of Reality

“Death to America” has been a constant in the Iran-US relationship. Whenever the relationship goes south, which is more often than not, the streets of Tehran erupt with this war cry.

The problem is peculiar. The US is not speaking. Iran is speaking with a forked tongue. Domestically, Iran is screaming blood and hellfire, swearing revenge. In New Delhi, its envoy says that it will be happy if India intervenes. He says that Iran does not want war. Clearly, Iran’s plan is to keep repeating to its domestic audience that 80 US soldiers have been killed in the Iranian missile attacks.

In a nation where the media is not free, information floats and bounces back in an echo chamber. For a few weeks, the Iranian media will repeat the “80 US soldiers killed” story. The people will believe what they have been fed. This is the same formula used by Pakistan. It is tried and tested. The truth is that Iran does not want a war. It has said as much.

UK PM Boris Johnson has supported the US action of killing Qassem Soleimani, and has asked for immediate de-escalation. Poland has evacuated its ambassador from Iraq.

In Iran, ministers and diplomats are doing what they do best. The Generals are threatening war. The diplomats are advocating peace.

The world is still waiting for Donald Trump to awaken. From the right side of the bed.

16:58 IST, January 8th 2020
The US-Iran Tango In Baghdad

As missiles rained down on the Erbil Base, one of the many homes of the US-led coalition forces in Iraq, the world watched with bated breath. Within a few hours, three things happened. Iran claimed that their missile strike had killed eighty US soldiers; there was an earthquake near an Iranian nuclear site measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale, and a Ukrainian commercial aircraft with 178 passengers crashed in Iran, killing everyone on board. Rumour mills have been on the overdrive, since.

In between, Russian lawmaker of Moscow’s upper house Vladimir Dzhabarov jumped in saying that the specter of nuclear war was very real. He believed that the US would nuke Iran.

The truth is somewhere in between. Iran has no stomach for a war, surrounded as it is by sanctions, street protests and faced with a very real economic meltdown. Trump, on the other hand, is almost itching for a war. He is currently contending with impeachment and re-election. A brand new shiny war would bolster his credentials in the eyes of the American public. Or so he thinks.

China has urged restraint. India is doing what it does best; walking the middle path. It has stakes both in Iran and the US. It cannot afford to take sides. India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar will have to bring his top game to the pitch. This is a diplomatic tightrope.

President Trump is expected to make a statement on the crisis in a few hours. Knowing Trump, the world will be waiting with bated breath and punters will be betting on which side of the bed he gets up from.

As the globe awaits further developments, I will be penning my thoughts and analysis in this LIVE Blog. Stay tuned