As sabre rattling across the Gulf grows, US- Iran tensions are leading the world into another possible conflict. It started with the US leaving the JCPOA(Joint comprehensive plan of action) or Iran nuclear deal after Trump scuttled the international community’s effort for peace in May 2018. JCPOA was reached through consensus between P5+1(Permanent Members of UNSC and EU) and Iran. While the withdrawal caused concern across the world, no one could predict that US-Iran tensions could lead the Gulf region to the brink of another major war within one year after US left JCPOA.

It may be interesting to note that John Bolton, the National Security Advisor to Trump administration, took charge of the office on 9th April 2018 and within one month he was able to persuade President Trump to eject out of JCPOA. Bolton is better known as a hawk in Washington.  His pet formula for dealing with opposing states is regime change. He has been an advocate of regime change in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Yemen, Syria, Libya and even Venezuela. Bolton comes from the Neocon cabal of DC and has been a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute as well as a regular contributor to Fox News.

Although the current tension in the Gulf region can be traced back to President Trump’s election promise of leaving the Iran nuclear deal, John Bolton has been a major factor in pushing the Trump administration and the US military establishment into current strategic posturing.

Before I discuss the possible scenarios of conflict in the Gulf region, it is essential to have a look at the strategic geography of the Persian Gulf. Persian Gulf is an elongated water body with Iran along its northern periphery and the Arab Gulf states of Oman, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and KSA as its southern periphery. Strait of Hormuz forms a bottleneck before the Persian Gulf opens into the Gulf of Oman. The minimum width at Strait of Hormuz is just 35 miles, that’s almost a stone throw away distance in military terms. Nearly one-third of global seaborne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz every day, that means a blockade of maritime traffic in the Gulf could spell disaster for energy supply in the world and may push Oil prices to sky high.

The recent announcement by the US that commercial airliners flying over Gulf risk being misidentified means that the region may witness a conflict soon.

Past few months have witnessed strategic manoeuvring and posturing by the US and her allies(KSA, UAE and Israel) on one side and Iran on the other. As the US did not allow any more waivers to India, China, Turkey and Japan for importing oil from Iran after 2nd May, maximum economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran was affected. To her dismay, Iran found that even her strong ally and builder of Chabahar port, India refused to help her and sided with US sanction regimen. This was followed by reports of some serious threat to US interests in the region and Trump administration started dispatching military platforms like Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and strategic bombers to the Gulf region. The US already has her military bases in the Gulf region and Afghanistan, with her allies like Israel, UAE and KSA ready to join in the war, if imposed on Iran.

Unfortunately, the situation seems to have entered a dead end, Iran and the US have taken almost extreme positions, and it appears that the events are going to push them across the cliff into a hot war. Some mysterious attacks took place against Saudi and Emirati commercial ships at the UAE port of Fujairah; this was followed by drone strike at a Saudi ARAMCO pipeline station causing massive damage. Before these events, Houthi Militia from Yemen regularly targeted KSA, and KSA has blamed Iran for supplying long-range missiles to Houthi Militia.

If we connect the dots and look at the emerging scenario, the possibility of a conflict triggered by miscalculation becomes quite high. Imagine a missile strike on Holy Places or some urban centre’s of KSA and UAE as well as some shrines in Iraq, or a maritime skirmish leading to the sinking of some ships in the Strait of Hormuz, causing quarantine of the Gulf and shutting down one-third of global oil supplies.

Iranian vulnerability lies in her periphery areas. These areas starting from the Sunni dominated Sistan o Balochistan province in the South East to Arab speaking regions of Ahwaz in the south and Kurdish, and Turkman people in the north-west and north-east surround the Persian speaking heartland. Iran’s periphery is quite diverse, and opponents could use these areas to usher in chaos and internal implosion.

Any major conflict between Iran and the US and her allies will not remain restricted to the Gulf region. Unfortunately, this conflict has the potential to divide the Islamic World along sectarian lines further, as two principal schisms of the Islamic world, KSA and Iran come into a direct clash. We have already seen the devastation of sectarian and tribal wars in Iraq and Syria and regime change in Libya; suffice to say that such conflicts have no winners.

Since the Gulf region is a major base and conduit of global energy supply, the conflict will drag other major powers like the Russian Federation, China and EU in some form or the other. How are these big powers going to negotiate the challenges thrown up this simmering conflict, one cannot guess, but the global economy and the international system will undergo a significant change, for worse.

As both sides beat the drums of war, the international community must realise that time is running out before this conflict implodes into a major war and brings more miseries to humanity reeling under current woes and challenges, let the peace doves come out and save the world.