GP Insights

GP Insights # 92, 29 June 2019

Tensions in the Middle East: Iran shoots down US drone
Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh Iyer

What happened?
In an escalation of existing tensions between Iran and the US, the Iranian forces shot down a US drone. As per official sources from Iran, the drone was shot down once it entered the Iranian airspace. The US, on the other hand, said that the drone was hit over international territory. There have been disagreements over the issue ever since. It is important to note that this incident is the first attack which Iran has directly claimed against the US and its assets after tensions between the two intensified into a war-like scenario. 

Also, on 26 June 2019, the Iranian foreign minister marked in twitter that a "Short war with Iran is an illusion" and warned the US President that he was mistaken if he thought that a war between the duo would not last long. 

What is the background?

US relations with Iran has taken a toll since Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal over Iran's Nuclear Programme and imposing harsh economic sanctions. There has been a further escalation in tensions when the Trump administration sent an aircraft carrier to the region and moved to send additional troops indicating the possibilities of a military confrontation.

While both the nations are still working on different pages, recently, the friction had also taken paradoxical shifts when Trump announced his openness to holding diplomatic talks with Iran.

What does it mean?

First, apart from the fact that the incident intensified the possibilities of a war between Iran and the US, it demonstrated Iran's defence capabilities and how that could further go on to pose a challenge to the American technological superiority. Besides, it is also imperative to consider the possibility of Iran extending its potential to work along with its proxy groups across the region to threaten the US and its Middle Eastern allies.

The attacks on the US and its allies by Iranian proxies have reportedly already been increasing in recent times. Second, Iran will not give up on its regional ambitions easily. It has been continuously trying to put pressure on the US both diplomatically and militarily for the regime is toiling with sanctions and unable to survive. The current attack might be smaller in scope but has managed to put significant pressure on the US to recalibrate its stance and also to an extent boasted its image in the regional front.

Finally, just because the US President Donald Trump called off a counter-attack in retaliation, it wouldn't mean that the US wouldn't make any further military move. The chances of a confrontation remain high. 

A "maximum pressure strategy" of Washington will not make Iran surrender. Since both the regions cannot afford a war, the present scenario seems unstable. However, the coming days will inevitably see a "limited military confrontation" that could further pave clear paths into newer negotiations and eventually peace. 

Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh Iyer is a Research Associate at ISSSP, NIAS. She can be reached at ssethadinesh2807@gmail.com. 

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