The US pursuit of missile defence in order to counter and/or hedge against Iran's ballistic missile capabilities coupled with concerns generated by its nuclear programme has had significant strategic consequences. Iran on its part has pursued these capabilities as part of its asymmetric strategy to overcome its strategic vulnerabilities flowing from US encirclement, short-comings in force levels vis-a-vis neighbours and resource constraints in building effective conventional forces.
At the core of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme is the challenge to West Asia’s balance of power from Iran’s growing sphere of influence, which now stretches through Iraq towards the Mediterranean.
The Indian government is now weighing several options to manoeuvre around the ever-tightening sanctions, including the provision of sovereign guarantees to oil tanker operators.
Attempts by India and the US to square the circle on the nature of India’s energy cooperation with Iran have hit high gear in the aftermath of Clinton’s visit.
US President Barak Obama recently signed a tougher sanctions law against Iran in a continuing bid to coerce Tehran into abandoning its nuclear programme. This Backgrounder discusses the reactions of the emerging powers to the new sanctions and their implications.
With growing tensions between the US and Iran leading to a drawing of maritime red lines, the Iranian threat to close the straits of Hormuz and the US response could affect future maritime issues, oil supplies and the world economy.
Whilst war is not likely in the foreseeable future, the likelihood of its occurrence further down the line has increased in the light of Admiral Mullen’s statement.
Only through direct negotiations with Iran can the international community influence and possibly alter the strategic calculus of its rulers.
While the US may continue to keep its contacts with the Pakistani army and its political leadership and strengthen its presence in Pakistan, can it contain the tide of Islamic radicalism prospering within Pakistan?
Will the recent US Treasury sanctions and impending Congress sanctions on Iran influence Indian companies from doing business with the Islamic Republic?