On Tuesday, US navy issued an order, which appeared to be directed towards Iranian ships stationed in the Gulf region. The order was more of a warning stating if any ship which comes closer to US warships or crosses 100 meters of area surrounding a US vessel, it would be considered as a threat,allowing the US forces to undertake “lawful defensive measures.” The notice to the Gulf mariners was in line with US president Donald Trump’s earlier threat last month to shoot at any Iranian ships that harasses Navy vessels.
The Bahrain-based U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement that the order was “designed to enhance safety, minimize ambiguity and reduce the risk of miscalculation.”
On Wednesday, Iranian naval force issued a response stating that it would continue its “regular missions” in the Arabian Gulf ans the Gulf of Oman, following the international guidelines, as in the past.
Despite the ongoing verbal warfare between Washington and Tehran, analyst believe that the turn of events hint at the deliberate deescalation of conflict between the two. Experts highlighted the recent secret US-Iran deal, wherein Iran supported the US-backed candidate, Mustapha al-Kadhimi as Iraq’s prime minister. It is well-know how strongly Iran influences political decisions in Iraq, as seen in the past. Hence Iran’s acceptingAl-Kadhimi, helped him become the country’s prime minister. In return, the United States granted Iraq a four-month waiver from sanctions, allowing Baghdad could to purchase gas from Tehran. The waiver, which was longer than the usual tenure of 30 to 45days, brought to Iran the much needed cash, to help its crippling economy.
Besides, analysts observed that Iran was significantly reducing and in certain parts even ceased the offensive activities carried out by the Iran-backed militias. An adviser to Iran’s foreign ministry said that even the Quds Force — the elite wing of the Iranian military force, which controls proxy militias from Iraq to Lebanon — had been ordered to “act conservatively” and stay in “a holding pattern” until November.
Iran doesn’t want to take any action, which would knowingly or unknowing benefit Trump, since US elections are just six months away.
Also, after losing its most celebrated general, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in a US-led air strike in January this year, Iran wants to revisit its strategy and wait for the things to run in its favour and till then focus on strengthening the nation – economically, politically and militarily.
A senior Iranian diplomat and former ambassador to China, Mohamad Hossein Malaek,wrote in the April edition of an Iranian Diplomacy magazine, “Iran is redefining its regional policies after Gen. Suleimani’s assassination. It’s reshuffling its cards, it’s reassessing its capabilities, and it has entered the arena with a new perspective and plan.”
In April, Iran reached out to the US officials in order to initiate negotiations for a prisoner swap, offering to release a US Navy veteran in exchange for an Iranian-American doctor detained by the US forces. Though not much has happened in this area so far, but these developments have led to emergence of a sense of optimism.
“A war is less likely to happen, but there is still the risk of a confrontation,” a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, Randa Slim told the New York Times, “But it’s less likely because the intent of the primary actors has shifted. Both Iran and the US definitely do not want a war six months before the US elections.”
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