The International Maritime Exercise 2019 (IMX 19) with the participation of 50 US-led countries and seven international organizations in the West Asian region began on October 21. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the US Central Command Area of Operation (AOR) host the exercise. Given the current situation in the region, the question now arises as to whether such training has a particular message at this time, or whether it is more a propaganda and psychological action.
Hassan Hanizadeh, an expert on regional issues, has discussed the aims and consequences of the exercise in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations.
Q: Why the naval drill is taking place at this point in time? Does it have predetermined goals or does it follow more psychological and propaganda aspects?
The drill that has started in the Persian Gulf is the result of a US naval- ground strategy to weaken the Resistance Axis. Deployment of the US Marine Corps to Syria and transfer of about 1,000 Marines from the Euphrates in Syria to Al-Anbar and al-Qaim in Iraq, the recent protests and unrests in Lebanon and Iraq, the Turkish army’s incursion deep into the Syrian territory and the recent Manama maritime security conference are part of an American- Zionist-Saudi scenario that can be analyzed with the aim of limiting Iran’s maneuverability and weakening the Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Beirut resistance axis. Given that the United States and some reactionary Arab regimes have failed to provide sustainable security for the Zionist regime over the past three years, so restructuring West Asia and forming an international coalition to control the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf is considered part of the US security strategy in the region.
Therefore, the exercise appears to have been aimed at limiting Iran’s naval power and intervening in the management of the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf, and the Oman Sea, and the United States is likely to maintain its naval fleet in the Persian Gulf for the next three decades. Recent developments in the region as well as attacks on the Iranian oil tanker in the Red Sea are part of the US-Israeli-Saudi triangle pressure tool against Iran and the Axis of Resistance.
Q: How effective have the recent developments in the region and the power of Iran and its allies been in conducting such an exercise?
It is natural that the deterrent power of Iran and the downing of the American drone in the Persian Gulf have a very clear message to the US and the West that the Islamic Republic of Iran has the necessary deterrence power, so the naval drill is a kind of response to Iran. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have been struggling in recent years to create a physical and military confrontation between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf, but this deterrent force has prevented the United States from directly attacking Iran. Now, the US military strategy is to create a global alliance in the Persian Gulf at the expense of the Arab states in the region, which will, as mentioned, aim at limiting Iran’s naval maneuverability and cutting off the ground link of the Resistance.
Q: How effective do you find Yemeni resistance to the Saudi coalition in such actions based on the West-Arab axis?
Ansarullah’s firm resistance against Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition resulted in Riyadh’s defeat after four years of war against the Yemeni nation, which cost Saudi Arabia nearly $300 billion, a war that did not have any achievements for Riyadh. Hence, the reactionary Persian Gulf states are trying to push the Western powers, especially the NATO, into the Persian Gulf to limit the maneuvering power of Iran through the formation of a Western-Hebrew-Arab NATO and thereby pressure Iran’s allies.
Q: It is sometimes said that the US wants to reduce its concentration on the Middle East region and focus more on the East Asian region and China. But now it looks like the US is still seeking a show of power in the region. What is America’s overall policy in the region?
America’s goals in the region are primarily to secure the Zionist regime and to contain Iran and the Axis of Resistance. As America and the West see Iran and the Axis of Resistance as the weakest ring of global resistance (including China and Russia), the containment of Iran is primarily on Washington’s agenda. So American policy is not to leave the region entirely, but at the expense of Arab countries to follow Iran’s containment policy and ensuring Israel’s security.
Q: There has been some talk of positive signals recently between Iran, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and there has even been talk of improving Tehran-Riyadh relations. But the current Saudi policies do not indicate this. How would you analyze Riyadh’s policy?
Saudi Arabia pursues a completely hypocritical and dualistic policy towards Iran. On the one hand, it is trying to prove to the world that it wants to resolve its problems with Tehran peacefully, and on the other hand its practical attitude towards Iran shows the opposite. The open and hidden relations of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain with the Zionist regime and the efforts of these three countries to drag Tel Aviv to the Persian Gulf can be assessed in terms of their destructive behavior towards Iran. Therefore, , so long as Saudi Arabia has not taken any practical steps in rapprochement with Iran one cannot hope about the prospect of a two-state solution.
It should not be forgotten, however, that the policies and behaviors of some Arab states in the Persian Gulf are actually pursued with the aim of approaching Israel to gain the support of the Zionist lobby and extremist American figures in providing security to them. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, therefore, have repeatedly tried to form a US-backed Hebrew-Arab NATO but their efforts have failed because of opposition from certain Arab League countries. The recent Manama Summit was also aimed at helping Israel participate in regional affairs.
Q: In light of the recent developments, what would be the scenarios in the region with regard to the US presence?
The scenarios ahead depend on the upcoming US election, namely the implementation of Iran’s so-called isolation plan and its containment directly depends on Trump’s victory or defeat in the presidential election. In fact, in the event of Donald Trump’s failure, which is unlikely to be the case, the region’s equations will change in favor of the Resistance.