US and India – where will the twain meet?

India will come in handy in case the US wants to have some back-channel negotiations with Iran.

India will come in handy in case the US wants to have some back-channel negotiations with Iran.
India will come in handy in case the US wants to have some back-channel negotiations with Iran.

It behooves US to reach out to India & grant an exclusion on sanctions to allow it to continue its procurement of crude from Iran in exchange for developing the Chabahar port.

June 20th, 2019. Iran shot down a United States drone and Trump breathed fire in his tweets, threatening swift retribution. As the world waited with bated breath, Trump, in a rare act of retreat, backed off his threat of retaliatory strikes on Iran[1].

Why did Trump back off?

That is a million-dollar question. One of the reasons mentioned was that the retaliation would have been a disproportionate response. But could the real reason be that Iran appears to be well prepared to duke it out with the US, should there be a conflict?[2] Let us analyze this a bit further.

As the US pauses, Iran has restarted enriching limited amounts of Uranium. In a game of blink between Iran and the US, it remains to be seen as to who blinks first.

Iran’s missile program is domestic with support from Russia and China. The missile that destroyed the $120 million dollar US drone was able to penetrate the avoidance measures of the US drone, which would make the US to take a pause. It is also alleged that Iran possesses a couple of mean anti-aircraft missiles (about a dozen or so) with a range of about 190 miles that counteract electronic warfare measures of the target. For completeness, the US did down an Iranian drone during a confrontation in the Hormuz Strait[3].

Can Iran block Hormuz strait?

On July 11, this is exactly what happened. According to France 24, a French public broadcast service, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, the British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz[4]. Perhaps realizing that Iran is three times the size of Iraq and that it can fall back on Russia and China to help defend it, Trump has held back on attacking Iran. The might of the US in forcing third party financial institutions from withholding their obligations under the nuclear deal (JCPOA) has angered Iran and it has taken a more confrontationist stance.

As the US pauses, Iran has restarted enriching limited amounts of Uranium. In a game of blink between Iran and the US, it remains to be seen as to who blinks first.

India and Iran

India stopped getting crude from Iran once the US re-imposed sanctions and is presumably expending foreign exchange getting crude for its thirsty populace. If tensions escalate, the price of crude will shoot up and it will be 1973 all over again. Therefore India needs to resume getting at least part of its crude needs from Iran, using the same barter system as before.

All work on Chabahar port by India has stopped and India’s trade with Afghanistan has come to a grinding halt. The 18-month agreement to oversee the port’s operation and to build two additional berths at the cost of $500 million is in limbo. If the US does not allow India to do this, then it runs the risk of Iran giving the development of the Chabahar port to China. This would be an extremely undesirable situation for the US as it would then have to depend on Pakistan for access to its troops still stationed in Afghanistan. What a tangled web, Trump has woven for the US!

At Chabahar, the twain shall meet

So what is the way out? It behooves the United States to reach out to India and grant an exclusion on sanctions to allow it to continue its procurement of crude from Iran in exchange for developing the Chabahar port and also laying a rail link to Afghanistan at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion. India will come in handy in case the US wants to have some back-channel negotiations with Iran. Will they? Only time will tell.

References:

[1] Did Iran block UK ships in the strait of Hormuz? Jul 11, 2019, FRANCE 24 English channel on YouTube

[2] Why Trump Backed Off On IranJun 23, 2019, Pressenza.com

[3] Iran Is Gambling That Trump is Afraid of WarJul 25, 2019, TheNation.com

[4] After reportedly approving Iran airstrikes, Trump backs offJun 21, 2019, MSNBC.com

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Sree Iyer

An inventor and out-of-the-box thinker, Sree Iyer has 37 patents in the areas of Hardware, Software, Encryption and Systems.

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