"Developments have taken serious turn": India after US kills Iran General

Wednesday 08th January 2020 06:10 EST

Foreign minister S Jaishankar termed the ongoing US-Iran face-off "very serious". US President Donald Trump had announced that top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US air attack. The war of words since has spiralled, with President Trump threatening to target 52 cultural sites in Iran if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets.

A tweet from Dr Jaishankar's official twitter handle this evening read: "Just concluded a conversation with FM @JZarif of Iran. Noted that developments have taken a very serious turn. India remains deeply concerned about the levels of tension. We agreed to remain in touch." While US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called his counterparts in several countries and the Pakistan army chief after the Iraq strike, he has not called India's External Affairs Ministry. India has been a traditional ally of Iran and had managed to work around US sanctions on purchase of Iranian oil for a while. The imports stopped in May last year. .

Qasem Soleimani - described as the second most-powerful man in Iran -- was killed in a US strike on January 3, Friday in action that is considered a dramatic escalation in the simmering hostilities. Washington said he was planning imminent action that threatened American citizens. President Trump, however, assured that the US took action to stop a war. "We did not take action to start a war," President Trump said, adding: "We do not seek regime change." The next day, as Iran's supreme leader Ayatullah Khamenei warned of "severe revenge", India called for restraint.

"The increase in tension has alarmed the world. Peace, stability and security in this region is of utmost importance to India. It is vital that the situation does not escalate further. India has consistently advocated restraint and continues to do so," the government said in a statement. In first hints of retaliation, mortar attacks took place in an area near the US embassy in Baghdad. Two rockets slammed into the Al-Balad air base where American troops are deployed.

The killing of General Qassim Suleimani, who was responsible for building up Tehran's network of proxy forces across the Middle East, has prompted mass mourning in Iran. US and Iranian warnings of new strikes and retaliation have also stoked concerns about a broader Middle East conflict and led to calls in the US Congress for legislation to stop US President Donald Trump going to war with Iran. "We will take revenge, a hard and definitive revenge," the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, told tens of thousands of mourners in Suleimani's hometown of Kerman. Many chanted "Death to America" and waved the Iranian flag. s

Trump puts India in a bind over Iran

US President Donald Trump's claimed that the slain Iranian military commander and intelligence chief Major General Qassem Soleimani was responsible for terror plots in New Delhi has cornered India that shares a delicate relationship with Iran. Though President Trump did not give any specifics about the IRGC terror plots in Delhi, many in official circles believe that he was alluding to the 2012 bombing of the car of the wife of the Israeli defence attache in New Delhi.

While the US is India's most important ally and Israel remains a strategic partner on many core issues, Iran enjoys significance given its geographical location, religious demographics and its overall sympathetic view of India. New Delhi hopes that the Chabahar Port in Iran, which it is helping develop to access oil and gas resources in Iran and Central Asian countries, will offset the competition that Beijing poses with its Gwadar Port built in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Iran, affected badly by the US sanctions over its refusal to pursue nuclear programme, seeks to recover its economy with the help of accessing Asian markets using the Chabahar Port. Similarly, the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC), the sea, rail and road route to move freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, is another major dream project aimed to benefit both India and Iran economically.

Around five million Indians live in the Iran which holds huge religious and cultural influence over the Shia population (16 to 25 million) in India.

Iran considering 13 'revenge scenarios'

Iran is considering 13 scenarios to avenge the killing of a top Iranian military commander in Iraq by a US drone attack, a senior Tehran official said as the general's body was brought to his hometown for burial. In Washington, the US defence secretary denied reports the US military was preparing to withdraw from Iraq, where Tehran has vied with Washington for influence over nearly two decades of war and unrest.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and military commanders have said Iranian retaliation for the US action would match the scale of Suleimani's killing but that it would be at a time and place of Tehran's choosing. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said 13 "revenge scenarios" were being considered. Even the weakest option would prove "a historic nightmare for the Americans," he said. Iran, whose southern coast stretches along a Gulf oil shipping route that includes the narrow Stait of Hormuz, has allied forces across the Middle East through which it could act. Representatives from those forces, including the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, attended the funeral.

Trump has promised strikes on 52 Iranian targets, including cultural sites, if Iran retaliates, although US officials sought to downplay his reference to cultural targets.

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