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Iran and US-No-Win Game

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Whole world has now engulfed in to regional conflicts just to save the skin of their leaderships. Whether it is America, Europe, Asia, Africa and particularly Middle East, all are looking at war at least on the face.

It is very easy to use religious, sectarian or lingual areas or calling them as national interest to gather public by making them an effective tool to raise public sentiments.

Iran and US conflict recently looked like the beginning of a nuclear war but it was just on face. However it took life of a general, 50 to 60 more deaths during burial of the General and then firing on Azerbaijan Airlines plane by mistake taking life of 170 innocent passengers. Iran has now acknowledged that due to human omission a missile was fired from Tehran that brought the plane down.

In wake of these developments Trump is facing impeachment and is a candidate for this year’s presidential election whereas Iran has just come out of public protests recently with lot of casualties due to rise in domestic fuel oil prices and worst economic situation.

Iran had an estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$447.7 billion, and a population of 80.6 million people. Iran’s economy is characterized by the hydrocarbon sector, agriculture and services sectors, and a noticeable state presence in manufacturing and financial services. Iran ranks second in the world in natural gas reserves and fourth in proven crude oil reserves. Economic activity and government revenues still depend to a large extent on oil revenues and therefore remain volatile.

Iran’s GDP growth in 2018-19 dropped to 3.8 percent as the effect of a large surge in oil revenues in 2017 dissipated. The unemployment rate remained high, at 12.1 percent; Youth (15-24 years) unemployment at 28.3 percent.

By August 2018, the rial had devalued by 172 percent over the past 12 months, rising above 100,000 rials per dollar. This has contributed to the measured inflation rate returning to 24 percent in August 2018. Higher import prices from the devaluation are expected to push inflation back above 30 percent in the coming years as inflationary expectations spiral and consumer sentiment falls leading to once again a period of stagflation for Iran.

Now after pulling back from the brink of war, leaders in the United States and Iran may well be evaluating what they have gained and what they have lost in a conflict that has been waged for 20 months.

Looking to de-escalate and mindful of political pressures at home, both sides are publicly declaring victory. But objective assessments might not be as sunny.

The United States has seen more setbacks than advances in its ambitions to increase limits on Iran’s nuclear program, end Iran’s use of armed proxies and, most sweeping of all, remake the Middle Eastern power balance to Iran’s detriment.

Iran fared little better with its goals of securing influence in the region, as well as salvaging the international diplomatic opening and the relief from economic sanctions that the nuclear deal had granted it until Mr. Trump withdrew. Now after this incident they have been imposed again.

The nearly two-year episode is a lesson in the limits of zero-sum theories of conflict, which hold that one adversary’s loss is invariably the other’s gain. In this case, an accounting of the major gains and losses on each side, suggests that at nearly every turn, escalations by the United States and Iran have ultimately left each side worse off.

Much of the conflict has played out amid American efforts to curtail Iran’s use of proxy forces and to turn back the country’s growing regional influence.

American actions have not yet altered Iran’s use of proxy forces or persuaded it to step back from the wider region. Rather, Iranian proxy activity has increased. The threats may have hardened Tehran’s belief that its fight with the United States is existential, compelling it to fight all the harder.

And despite the staggering significance of Washington’s decision to kill Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s top military leader, this has yet to demonstrably change Iranian behavior or the regional power balance. “Assassinations on their own do not remove long-term strategic and political threats or dilemmas. There is no substitute for a political solution, one can say.

American losses in the region, on the other hand, have been clearer.

Killing General Suleimani on Iraqi soil led Iraq’s Parliament to pass a bill demanding that American troops leave the country. While it remains unclear whether the Americans will ultimately leave, Washington’s relationship with the country seems grievously damaged. The turmoil has also left American-led efforts against the Islamic State in doubt.

And Persian Gulf allies such as Saudi Arabia and other countries like Pakistan apparently fearful of being pulled into a wider conflict, have sought to de-escalate with Tehran. This has left the United States with fewer partners in isolating Iranian influence.

Iranian gains in the region, however likely, remain mostly theoretical. Tehran could ultimately fill the void left by any American withdrawal or diplomatic rift between Washington and Baghdad, but that has not yet happened.

Street-level Iraqi anger at Iranian influence was already high before the recent weeks of conflict. And Iran’s retaliation for the killing of General Suleimani — firing missiles at military bases in Iraq that housed American soldiers — was hardly a show of respect for Iraqi sovereignty.

General Suleimani’s death led to an outpouring of nationalist sentiment within Iran. Still, with Iran’s economy in shambles, this will probably prove temporary. The domestic pressures and potential for unrest would remain. Iranian losses center on the death of General Suleimani, who was a major figure in Iran’s campaigns to reshape Middle Eastern conflicts and politics in its favor.

While his killing will certainly damage some of his key projects there is little reason to believe that Iran will change its behavior. The country’s vast military and intelligence services are considered too large and sophisticated for one person’s death to bring drastic policy change.

All told, the broad contours of Middle Eastern power politics appear to be holding. The United States and Iran have both been somewhat weakened, and neither has come obviously nearer to its major goals.

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