Rising Iran-US Conflict
Baljit Dhaka

Rising Iran-US Conflict

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Rising Iran-US Conflict

Why in News?

  • Iran has completely withdrawn from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) nuclear deal. The announcement came after the US troops killed General Qassem Soleimani.


  • Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, was recently killed in a US strike at Baghdad International Airport.
  • He was the long-serving head of
  • Iran’s Quds (“Jerusalem”) Force and has been seen as a deadly adversary by America and its allies.

US statement about Soleimani’s killing

  • The US Department of Defense has stated that the US military had taken the “decisive step to protect US personnel abroad by killing Soleimani, the head of Quds Force, which is the overseas operations wing of the IRGC and a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation.”
  • According to the State Department, the regime in Tehran “is responsible for the deaths of at least 603 American service members in Iraq since 2003”. This, according to the US, “accounts for 17% of all deaths of US personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, and is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies”.
  • In recent years, Quds Force plots have been uncovered in countries including Germany, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Bahrain, and Turkey.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC):

  • Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini set up the IRGC in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution ended to protect the Islamic order of the new Iranian Government. 
  • IRGC has contributed roughly 125,000 men to Iran’s forces and has the capability of undertaking asymmetric warfare and covert operations.
  • This includes the Quds Force that over the years has established links with the Hezbollah of Lebanon, Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Shi’ites in Afghanistan,, and the Palestinian territories.

What is the Quds Force?

  • Quds is the Arabic word for Jerusalem and is responsible for carrying out unconventional warfare and intelligence activities.
  • The force is responsible for training, financing,, and assisting some extremist groups overseas. It also undertakes Iranian missions in other countries, including covert ones.

What does Soleimani’s death mean for US-Iran relations?

  • Soleimani’s death would result in a dramatic escalation in relations between the US and Iran. The strike has left the Middle East on edge, with possible repercussions beyond the region.
  • The killing would make Iran more decisive in resisting the US, while anti-US forces would exact revenge across the Muslim world.
  • The killing could have a ripple effect in any number of countries across the Middle East where Iran and the US compete for influence.

What was the Iran nuclear deal?

  • Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear program in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France,, and Germany.
  • Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium,, and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.
  • The JCPOA established the Joint Commission, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.

Why did Iran agree to the deal?

  • It had been hit with devastating economic sanctions by the United Nations, the United States,, and the European Union that are estimated to have cost it tens of billions of pounds a year in lost oil export revenues. Billions in overseas assets had also been frozen.

Why the US pulled out of the deal?

  • Trump and opponents of the deal say it is flawed because it gives Iran access to billions of dollars but does not address Iran’s support for groups the U.S. considers terrorists, like Hamas and Hezbollah. They note it also doesn’t curb Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and that the deal phases out by 2030. They say Iran has lied about its nuclear program in the past.

Implications for India

  • On Oil and Gas: The impact on world oil prices will be the immediately visible impact. Iran is presently India’s third-biggest supplier (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia), and any increase in prices will hit both inflation levels as well as the Indian rupee.
  • It would impact the development of the Chabahar port.

INSTC: It will also affect these plans, especially if any of the countries along the route or banking and insurance companies dealing with the INSTC plan also decides to adhere to U.S. restrictions on trade with Iran.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: China may consider inducting Iran into the SCO. If the proposal is accepted by the SCO, which is led by China and Russia, India will become a member of a bloc that will be seen as anti-American and will run counter to some of the government’s other initiatives like the Indo-Pacific quadrilateral with the U.S., Australia,, and Japan.

Global Implications:

  1. Down trends in the global economy.
  2. Fuel prices would reach high points.
  3. Iran may block the Strait of Hormuz which is a strategic choke point which in turn would affect global trade.
  4. Giant economies like India, China and Russia will suffer.
  5. The US may cancel airlines from the US to India because they pass over Iran which would affect the aerospace industry.

Related Information

  • Following the killing of Iranian military and intelligence commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in a drone attack carried out by the United States, the Iranian government registered its protest with the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.

Why Switzerland?

  • Switzerland represents the interests of the US in Iran. This is because the US itself does not have an embassy there. Iran’s interests in the United States, on the other hand, are represented by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington.

How can one country represent another country?

  • In an arrangement such as this, Switzerland is the “Protecting Power” of the United States’ interests in Iran. The instrument of Protecting Powers is provided for under the 1961 and 1963 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations.

What do the Vienna rules say?

  • 1961 Vienna Convention states, if diplomatic relations are broken off between two States, or if a mission is permanently or temporarily recalled, the sending State may entrust the protection of its interests and those of its nationals to a third State acceptable to the receiving State.
  • And the 1963 Convention reiterates: “A sending State may with the prior consent of a receiving State, and at the request of a third State not represented in the receiving State, undertake the temporary protection of the interests of the third State and of its nationals.”

Roles of Protecting power

  • In the absence of diplomatic and consular relations of the United States of America with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as the Protecting Power of the USA in Iran since 21 May 1980. The Swiss Embassies Foreign Interests Section provides consular services to US citizens living in or travelling to Iran.
  • The United States government describes the same role on a web page on the “US Virtual Embassy” in Iran.