By Nauman Sadiq
A joint American-Israeli program , involving a series of short-of-war clandestine strikes, aimed at taking out the most prominent generals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and targeting Iran’s power stations, industrial infrastructure, and missile and nuclear facilities has been going on since early this year when commander of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in a US airstrike at Baghdad airport on January 3.
As the US presidential race is heating up, the pace and sophistication of subversive attacks in Iran is picking up simultaneously. Since June, “mysterious explosions” were reported at a missile and explosives storage facility at Parchin military base on June 26, at power stations in the cities of Shiraz and Ahvaz, a “mysterious fire” at Bushehr port on July 15 destroying seven ships, and a massive explosion at the Natanz nuclear site on July 2 that has reportedly set back Iran’s nuclear program by at least two years.
Besides whipping up nationalist sentiment in the American electorate in the run-up to the US presidential election slated for November 3, another purpose of the subversive attacks appears to be to avenge a string of audacious attacks mounted by the Iran-backed forces against the US strategic interests in the Persian Gulf that brought the US and Iran to the brink of full-scale war in September last year.
In addition to planting limpet mines on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE in May last year and the subsequent downing of the US surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf by Iran, the brazen attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia on September 14 last year was the third major attack in the Persian Gulf against the assets of Washington and its regional clients.
That the UAE had the forewarning about the imminent attacks is proved by the fact that weeks before the attacks, it recalled forces from Yemen battling the Houthi rebels and redeployed them to man the UAE’s territorial borders.
Nevertheless, a puerile prank like planting limpet mines on oil tankers can be overlooked but major provocations like downing a $200-million Global Hawk surveillance aircraft and mounting a drone and missile attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility that crippled its oil-processing functions for weeks could have had serious repercussions.
The September 14, 2019, attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility in eastern Saudi Arabia was an apocalypse for the global oil industry because it processes five million barrels crude oil per day, more than half of Saudi Arabia’s total oil production.
The subversive attack sent jitters across the global markets and the oil price surged 15%, the largest spike witnessed in three decades since the First Gulf War when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, though the oil price was eased within days after industrialized nations released their strategic oil reserves.
It bears mentioning that alongside deploying several thousand American troops, additional aircraft squadrons and Patriot missile batteries in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Abqaiq attack, several interventionist hawks in Washington invoked the Carter Doctrine of 1980 as a ground for mounting retaliatory strikes against Iran.
The last year’s acts of subversion in the Persian Gulf should be viewed in the broader backdrop of the New Cold War that has begun following the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 when Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula and Washington imposed sanctions against Moscow.
The Kremlin’s immediate response to the escalation by Washington was that it jumped into the fray in Syria in September 2015, after a clandestine visit to Moscow by General Qassem Soleimani, the slain commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force.
When Russia deployed its forces and military hardware to Syria in September 2015, the militant proxies of Washington and its regional clients were on the verge of drawing a wedge between Damascus and the Alawite heartland of coastal Latakia, which could have led to the imminent downfall of the Bashar al-Assad government.
With the help of the Russian air power, the Syrian government has since reclaimed most of Syria’s territory from the insurgents, excluding Idlib in the northwest occupied by the Turkish-backed militants and Deir al-Zor and the Kurdish-held areas in the east, thus inflicting a humiliating defeat on Washington and its regional clients.
Moreover, several momentous events have taken place in the Syrian theater of proxy war and on the global stage that have further exacerbated the New Cold War between Moscow and Washington:
On February 7, 2018, the US B-52 bombers and Apache helicopters struck a contingent of Syrian government troops and allied forces in Deir al-Zor province of eastern Syria that reportedly  killed and wounded scores of Russian military contractors working for the Russian private security firm, the Wagner Group.
The survivors described the bombing as an absolute massacre, and Moscow lost more Russian nationals in one day than it had lost during its entire military campaign in support of the Syrian government since September 2015.
A month after the massacre of Russian military contractors in Syria, on March 4, 2018, Sergei Skripal, a Russian double agent working for the British foreign intelligence service, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a public bench outside a shopping center in Salisbury. A few months later, in July 2018, a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after touching the container of the nerve agent that allegedly poisoned the Skripals.
In the case of the Skripals, Theresa May, then the prime minister of the United Kingdom, promptly accused Russia of attempted assassinations and the British government concluded that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a Moscow-made, military-grade nerve agent, novichok.
Sergei Skripal was recruited by the British MI6 in 1995, and before his arrest in Russia in December 2004, he was alleged to have blown the cover of scores of Russian secret agents. He was released in a spy swap deal in 2010 and was allowed to settle in Salisbury. Both Sergei Skripal and his daughter have since recovered and were discharged from hospital in May 2018.
In the aftermath of the Salisbury poisonings in March 2018, the US, UK and several European nations expelled scores of Russian diplomats and the Trump administration ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.
In a retaliatory move, Russia also expelled a similar number of American, British and European diplomats, and ordered the closure of American consulate in Saint Petersburg. The relations between Moscow and Western powers reached their lowest ebb since the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in December 1991.
A month later, an alleged chemical weapons attack took place in Douma, Syria, on April 7, 2018, and Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile strike in Syria on April 14, 2018, in collaboration with the Theresa May government in the UK and the Emmanuel Macron administration in France.
The strike took place little over a year after a similar cruise missile strike at al-Shayrat airfield on April 6, 2017, after an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, though both the cruise missile strikes were nothing more than a show of force.
But the fact that out of 105 total cruise missiles deployed in the April 14, 2018, strike against a military research facility in the Barzeh district of Damascus and two alleged chemical weapons storage facilities in Homs, 85 were launched by the US, 12 by the French and 8 by the UK aircrafts demonstrated the unified resolve of the Western powers against Russia in the aftermath of the Salisbury poisonings in the UK a month earlier.
Nevertheless, despite occasional show of force, Trump has shown remarkable restraint during his four-year presidency against the advice of his national security advisers who wanted more proactive engagement of the US military in conflict flashpoints, such as Syria, Iran and Afghanistan, to the point that some generals in the top-brass of the US military even accused him of being Putin’s “useful idiot.”
In addition, despite having to contend with the Bush and Obama administrations’ legacy of myriad wars and proxy wars across the Middle East region, Trump has even announced significant drawdown of the US forces from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and even the US strategic ally Germany.
There is no denying the fact that the four years of the Trump presidency have been unusually tumultuous in the American political history, but if one takes a cursory look at the list of all the Trump aides who resigned or were otherwise sacked, almost all of them were national security officials.
To name a few Trump aides who resigned or were sacked, they include former national security adviser John Bolton, former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, former defense secretary Jim Mattis, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, former director of national intelligence Dan Coats, former Navy secretary Richard Spencer and former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security Miles Taylor.
In fact, scores of former Republican national security officials recently made their preference public that they would vote for Joe Biden instead of Donald Trump against party lines.
What does that imply? It implies that the latent conflict between the deep state and the elected representatives of the American people has come to a head during the Trump presidency. Although far from being a vocal critic of the deep state himself, the working-class constituency that Trump represents has had enough with the global domination agenda of the national security establishment.
They want American troops returned home, and want to focus on national economy and redress wealth disparity instead of acting as global police waging “endless wars” and, least of all, a New Cold War against a formidable adversary like Russia.
Addressing a convention of conservatives in 2019, Trump publicly castigated his own generals, much to the dismay of mainstream chauvinists upholding American exceptionalism and militarism, by saying: “I learn more sometimes from soldiers what’s going on, than I do from generals. I do. I hate to say it. I tell the generals all the time.”
At another occasion, he ruffled more feathers by telling the reporters: “I’m not saying the military’s in love with me. The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
In conclusion, to answer the oft-repeated question as to how the Biden Presidency would look like, how the “Sleepy Joe’s” vice presidency looked like, as Trump often derisively taunts him on social media and in speeches. His presidency would be no different from his uneventful vice presidency.
Joe Biden is a typical establishment Democrat who would play into the hands of the US national security establishment like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama before him. But considering the backdrop of a New Cold War with Russia, his presidency could risk plunging the world into a catastrophic Third World War.