With the U.S. and Iran seemingly on the brink of war, Iran’s ambassador to India Ali Chegeni insisted his country does not want war but is very good at defending itself.
Chegeni’s remarks in New Delhi on Friday came just a few hours after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that he had called off military strikes against Iran just minutes ahead of launch. The U.S. was “cocked and loaded to retaliate on three different sights last night”, the tweet said but the operation was called off when he learnt it could result in the deaths of at least 150 people.
Whether this was fact or Trump hyperbole is not clear, but the trigger was the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone by Iran. Earlier the U.S. had accused Iran of attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Amid threats by both sides, Ambassador Chegeni warned Iran could give as good as it gets. “We don’t begin a war but we’re very good defenders,” he said adding, “We are strong enough to defend our interests but not to create a fire as it will burn not only others but us as well.”
For good measure, he pointed out: “War is like that. There is no winner in a war. Both sides will lose, some more, some less. We’re not people who will attack somebody. Our entire oil and gas industry is in the Persian Gulf. We don’t want our region to be under tensions.”
War in the Persian Gulf would singe the entire world including Iran, the ambassador warned. “We pray nothing will happen otherwise the entire world will be damaged. It’s the heart of the world’s energy. India will be damaged, Europe will be damaged…we don’t want that. It’s our area. We may be damaged.”
Implicit in the ambassador’s words was the underlying message that his country would not take things lying down. “War is not good for anyone and if we’re attacked, we will defend ourselves. We’re sure about our principles. According to them, we’ll be very good defenders.”
He hinted at a conspiracy in the manner in which the attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf took place when Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran, on a mission to help ease tensions between the U.S. and Iran. “He was our guest. It does not exist in our philosophy to do such things,” he said.
The ambassador’s words are fair warning: The Indian Navy has launched ‘Operation Sankalp’, deploying two ships, a destroyer and a patrol vessel, in the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf, to ensure safety of maritime and tanker traffic.