Surprise from Tehran

What Iranians did to US’s most advanced surveillance drone when it crossed into their air space on June 20 is the stuff that legends are made of, writes Saeed Naqvi

Surprise from Tehran
If folks in rural UP knew anything about Donald Trump, they will describe him as “chatur Bawraha” or “cunning crackpot.” Extreme caution would be advised when dealing with such a form of life.

If one has nerves of steel like the Iranian leadership, it is a different matter altogether.

The depth of CIA’s involvement with Iran, cooperative and adversarial, is not matched by the US equation with any country, except Israel and, perhaps, Pakistan during the beginning of the Cold War. Close cooperation between the Savak, Mossad and the CIA is well known during the Shah’s rule. Relations plummeted when the Islamic Revolution captured power in 1979. Never in history had such a comprehensive siege been laid to a thriving US embassy. The siege lasted 444 days.

Unbelievable though it may seem, but within five years Iran, US and Israel were in an intricate cloak and dagger operation called the Iran-Contra affair. US-Israeli arms would be sold to Iran. The proceeds from the deal would finance the Contras being helped by the US to oust the Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. For the record, Communist Daniel Ortega is still in harness.

It is interesting to study the contrasting attitudes of the US establishment then and now when the Deep State is pushing comparable clandestine operations in different theatres. During the Nicaragua operations, CIA Director William Casey ordered mining of Central American ports without informing Congress. Senator Barry Goldwater, as chairman of the select committee on intelligence, rapped Casey hard on the knuckles. He wrote: “All this past week I have been trying to figure out how I can most easily tell you my feelings about the discovery of the President having approved mining of some of the harbours of Central America. It gets down to one, little, simple phrase: I am pissed off!”
The lazy assumption that the technologies in the Iranian arsenal must trace their origins to allies in Russia and China is wrong. The truth is that Beijing and Moscow are just as surprised at Tehran’s technological advance

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as deputy chairman of the committee, took an even more dim view. He called it the CIA’s assault on constitutional government. What would he say about the Deep State’s unprecedented pre-eminence today?

Compare the Nicaragua operation to the mess in the Strait of Hormuz these past weeks. Foreign Minister of Iran Javad Zarif piles accusations on the Trump administration for trying to trigger a war by false flag operations. These operations targeted Japanese tankers. This happened so soon after Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe’s visit to Tehran as to be almost laughable. In his tweet, Zarif communicated to the White House that the Iranians had accumulated all intercepts about the Deep State’s frenetic efforts to purchase speed boats to attack tankers in order to pin the blame on Iran. In one instance “Trump’s B team was moments away from trapping Donald Trump into war,” reveals Zarif.

What the Iranians have done to the US’s most advanced surveillance drone, Global Hawk, when it crossed into their air space on June 20, is the stuff that legends are made of. The high tech equipment, worth about $223 million was actually brought down by an indigenously assembled Iranian drone which cost Tehran barely $2,600 per piece.

The lazy assumption that the technologies in the Iranian arsenal must trace their origins to allies in Russia and China is wrong. The truth is that Beijing and Moscow are just as surprised at Tehran’s technological advance as the rest of the world is.

Indeed, Trump could not resist thanking Tehran for having spared a US aircraft ferrying 39 “terrorists” to heaven knows where. The “terrorists” in question are actually soldiers. The term “terrorists” is Iranian tit for tat, a reciprocal insult because Trump had designated Iranian National Guard as “terrorist.”

The story of the manned US plane which flew in close proximity to the fateful drone is interesting for another reason. After the drone was shot down, Iranian Air Force connected with the second aircraft carrying 39 US soldiers. It issued a simple instruction: “turn back immediately or meet the same fate as the drone.” This gesture, as mentioned earlier, was appreciated by Trump.

Given these exchanges, is war with Iran on the horizon? Trump’s almost daily threats echo King Lear in the final stages of his madness. “I will do such things – what they are, yet I know not but they shall be the terrors of the earth.”

Let us, for the sake of amusement list a few. Remember when Trump was stoking the fires to soften Kim Jong-un? He announced a “flotilla was on its way to the sea of Japan to teach the “rocketman,” a lesson. It transpired that the Flotilla in question was sailing towards Australia. “With Trump himself playing up the show of force,” said a Pentagon official, “rolling back the story became difficult”.

Remember how Trump had plucked out from the skies Juan Guaido as a replacement for President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela? This totally arbitrary decision had the support of a dozen European countries. Today, Mister Guaido is something of a laughing stock, presumably plotting coups on some secure beach.

Was Trump’s first policy decision not to pull back all troops from Afghanistan? Even the frenetic movements of special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad between Doha, Kabul, Islamabad appear to have slowed down.

A theory of terrorism as an asset, inaugurated in Afghanistan to oust the Soviet’s, employed in Syria for a failed effort at regime change, is being polished. Russians and Iranians have already accused the US of ferrying groups like Jabhat al Nusra, under new labels, to destinations like northern Afghanistan.

The alacrity with which Tehran has provided evidence that the drone which was shot down took off from a base in the UAE, surprised the Americans. Indeed, the UAE ambassador to Tehran was given an earful by the Foreign Office.

Meanwhile, Iran’s arch regional rival, Saudi Arabia, is fighting the Houthis of Yemen now on its own territory. The Saudi air base of Najran in the South is in Houthi control. In these circumstances, show me the macho leader feeling muscular enough to plunge headlong into war? Note Zarif’s terse warning: he who starts the war shall not finish it.

The writer is a journalist based in India

The writer is a journalist based in India.