Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Post #324 - No Walk in the Park

The following are excerpts from an article by Hooshang Amirahmadi (head of the American Iranian Council, and Shahir Shahidsaless. Though it was written earlier this year (prior to the June round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Moscow), its observations, though clumsily stated, are still relevant today:

The talks will fail if the P5+1 were to insist in [sic] a disproportionate Iranian compromise to abide by the UN resolutions demanding suspension of all nuclear enrichment activities.

The failure of the talks will almost automatically lead to two planned detrimental sanctions to kick in. Effective June 28th, the US will enforce a new law that denies access to the American market for any foreign company that conducts business with Iran’s Central Bank. According to Senator Robert Menendez, the new legislation simply says to the world that, “you can either do business with Iran or the United States, but not both.” Immediately thereafter, on July 1st, the EU will boycott Iranian oil, a significant 20 percent of the nation’s oil exports...

In its April report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that, “[the] list of countries planning to implement import cuts in coming months suggests Iranian output could plummet to 2.6 to 2.8 million barrels a day by mid-summer, unless alternative buyers can be found.” This level of production would be considerably less than the 3.55 million barrels Iran produced at the end of 2011...

There are even more crippling sanctions in the making. According to Debkafile, an Israeli-based security think tank, quoting official sources in Washington on June 4:

"In the fall, the US administration will bring out its most potent economic weapon: an embargo on aircraft and sea vessels visiting Iranian ports. Any national airline or international aircraft touching down in Iran will be barred from US and West European airports. The same rule will apply to private and government-owned vessels, including oil tankers. Calling in at an Iranian port will automatically preclude them from entry to a US or European harbor. This sanction would launch an air and naval siege on the Islamic Republic without a shot being fired."

The Debkafile report is in line with statements on June 4 by the US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Richard Cohen. While praising the creativity of Israelis in offering ideas with respect to the sanction regimes, he assured the world that, “if we don't get a breakthrough in Moscow there is no question we will continue to ratchet up the pressure." Wendy Sherman, the US negotiator, in return [sic] from Iraq, paid a visit to Israel to reassure Israelis that the US’s positions on negotiations with Iran remains unchanged, meaning, the US will not allow Iran to develop nuclear bombs. The State Department said in a communique that Ms. Sherman was in Israel to “reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security”...

[The Western] boycott of the Central Bank [of Iran] has led to the depreciation of the Iranian Rial by over 50 percent relative to US dollar, and suspension of relations with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) has almost halted Iran's ability to use the international electronic money transfer system. As a result, prices have sharply increased across the board, particularly for Iran’s sizable imports. With unemployment rate already in the high teens, rapid rise in poverty level, and the promised subsidies withdrawn, the mismanaged economy can hardly survive another round of crippling sanctions...

The question is what Tehran will do if its survival is threatened. The US and its European allies seem to believe that under such a condition, the Islamic Republic will surrender. That would have been one possible outcome if Tehran believed it had no other option. Yet, more likely than not, this assumption can prove inaccurate, and all indications point toward a different mood of thinking in Tehran - one of resistance to pressure at any cost...Here are the reasons why:

First, even if Iran’s oil exports were to drop...Tehran can still earn significant revenue from its oil. Iran also has over $100 billion in foreign currency reserves. These funds can help Iran to module [sic] through for at least two years before it hits the red line of economic collapse. Meanwhile, an Iran under threat of survival will speed up uranium enrichment toward developing military capability if it indeed is bent to do so as the US and its allies have claimed.

Second, as many public opinion polls, such as Rand Corporation, have shown the Iranian nuclear program enjoys overwhelming popular support [in Iran]. The nuclear program is often equated with the nationalization of Iranian oil industry under the Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who was overthrown by the US and the UK. That episode has left a scar in the Iranian psyche that continues to trouble Iran-Western relations. Added to this nationalistic sentiment is the country’s culture of resistance particularly to outside pressure...

And third, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei has in [sic] many occasions said that the nation’s nuclear program is inseparable from its national right and dignity and that submission under pressure is more dangerous to the Islamic regime than resisting and risking confrontation with the U.S. Khamenei believes that the U.S. is after regime change and holds that “the end of U.S. pressure and intimidation will only come when Iranian of´Čücials announce they are ready to compromise Islam and their popular Islamic Republic.” The Ayatollah has also put himself in a perilous position by appointing Mr. Saeed Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, as his personal envoy as well, thus rendering himself directly accountable for any menacing outcome.

Thus, in case of a failure [of the negotiations], the Ayatollah will be left with only extreme options in confronting the West. These options could include disruption (not necessarily closure) of traffic flowing through the vital Strait of Hormuz oil route... According to the same Debkafile report:

"Word of the US plan [about introducing new sanctions] prompted a deliberately provocative visit by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari Thursday, May 31, to his forces stationed on the three disputed islands commanding the Strait of Hormuz, Abu Musa, Little Tunb and Big Tunb. … In Washington, Jafari’s visit was perceived as Tehran’s reminder of its repeated threat to close the Hormuz Straits in the event of a blockade to the transit of a large part of the world’s oil."

Another possible action by the Ayatollah would be threatening to exit the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], an option that is open to all signatories of NPT by giving the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a three-month advance notice before pulling out. The Ayatollah can condition remaining in the Treaty by [sic] the West lifting certain crippling sanctions. Disruption of the Hormuz traffic along with a retreat from the NPT could quite possibly trigger a tit-for-tat chain of retaliatory events, ultimately leading to a military confrontation that in Defense Secretary Panetta’s words “we would regret.”

A war over the Iranian nuclear dispute is surely a road to hell for all involved ...

The article goes on to suggest that an agreement might be reached that would have Iran commit to the movement of its enriched uranium out of Iran and permit intrusive inspections, in return for Western guarantees of an end to sanctions and assurance of Iran receiving needed nuclear fuel plates for its research reactor. Security concerns then could be addressed in an atmosphere of defused tensions.

No comments:

Post a Comment