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Iran Oil Embargo: Act Now to Prevent a Catastrophic New War
In the last few weeks of 2011, leading Western politicians, prodded by Israel, hyped their war propaganda against Iran using as pretext the November report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran, which, while confirming the non-diversion of all declared nuclear material, speculated on possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear programme in the past. These allegations, made for the first time under IAEA’s new head, Yukia Amano, a staunch ally of the US, as exposed in Wiki-leaks documents, have been based on intelligence provided by Israel. They have all been discredited by Robert Kelly, the nuclear engineer and weapons expert of 30 years standing who was the leading IAEA chief inspector for Iraq. Kelly describes the IAEA speculations as “highly misleading” which give a sickly sense of déjà vu. Nevertheless, and despite the consensus of US leaders and Israeli intelligence that Iran is neither developing nuclear weapons nor has decided to build them, the ratcheting up of accusations and warmongering against Iran continued to surge in 2012.
Following months of saber rattling by Israel/US and their Western allies against Iran with the specter of a regional, possibly a global conflict, and their coercion of Iran’s trade partners to join the strangulating boycott of Iran’s economy at very painful cost to their own ailing economies, the prospect of resumed negotiations between Iran and P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council + Germany) was greeted by many with a sense of relief and hope for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
At the conclusion of the third round of talks on 18/19 June in Moscow, the initial optimism about the resolution of the stand-off between Iran and the US over Iran’s nuclear programme has since been replaced for many keen observers by a sober appreciation of the nature of the conflict and the obstacles to reaching anything approaching a workable deal. The events preceding and concurrent with the negotiations will have further disabused the international community of the illusion of “good will” on the part of the Obama administration.
Following the first round of negotiations in Baghdad in April 2012, the US Congress passed a near unanimous bill moving the US’s “red line”, from weaponisation by Iran to that of Israel’s redline of “Nuclear capability”. The bill also made the termination of US sanctions conditional upon such demands on Iranian domestic politics which, in the context of the raging covert war by the US and Israel inside Iran, is tantamount to a demand for regime change. So even a surrender of Iran’s right to enrichment would fail to guarantee the removal of the draconian unilateral economic sanctions by the US, designed admittedly to hurt the population! The bill therefore increased substantially the risk of war – as and when it becomes ‘feasible’ - and scuppered the chances of a successful deal.
Ahead of the second round of the negotiations in Baghdad, Iran made a provisional agreement with the IAEA Chief Inspector, Amano, to provide access to the Parchin military site, where it is claimed nuclear weaponisation related tests might have taken place. According to Iran’s agreed guidelines with the IAEA, Iran is not obliged to open any non-nuclear site to inspection. This important move by Iran, at great risk to its security, was played down by the US as “irrelevant” to the negotiations.
As detailed in New York Times on 1 June, there have also been revelations about the Flame virus attack on the Iranian government computer network and oil and nuclear installations, and the Obama administration’s illegal, dangerous, and accelerating cyber war, in collaboration with Israel, against Iran’s nuclear and other infrastructural facilities as soon as Obama took office and as he was stretching out his much publicised “open hand” towards Iran.
In Istanbul, as announced by the EU Foreign Policy head and the representative of the P5+1, Catherine Ashton, the NPT and step-by-step reciprocity had been established as the key basis for the negotiations. The US’s failure to honour this agreement by demanding Iran surrender its right to enrichment enshrined in the NPT and by refusing to recognize Iran’s right for uranium enrichment for peaceful nuclear technology and offer a reciprocal reduction of sanctions in return for Iranian concession to limit the level of enrichment to below 5 percent and to transfer its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium out of Iran, highlights the US’s absence of good will in resolving the stand-off with Iran.
With his eyes focused on the presidential elections in November, Obama is intent on not looking conciliatory towards Iran. He intends to linger the process of negotiations, albeit at a lower level, to give the full force of sanctions time to weaken Iran’s position, on the one hand, and on the other, by appeasing Israel with crushing sanctions on Iranian economy, keep a threatened Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear plants at bay. An Israeli attack would, in all likelihood, draw the US into an untimely war. Obama is also constricted by a Congress heavily influenced by the AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), to reach a deal with Iran and to reduce or remove sanctions without the Congress’s approval.
The draconian US and EU sanctions targeting Iran’s entire financial system come into effect on 28 June and 1 July respectively. The sanctions prohibit and punish central banks of countries and financial institutions that deal with Iran’s central bank and don’t cooperate with the Western embargo on Iran’s export of oil. The EU insurance ban on tankers carrying Iran’s crude export also drastically reduces Iran’s capacity to sell its oil. The sanctions are presented to the public in the West as part of the “dual track” approach which runs coercive diplomacy alongside the threat of military option. Thus the claim by Western hawkish politicians and their media hacks hailing the positive impact of sanctions in “pressuring” Iran to come the negotiating table and make concessions. In fact all the proposed concessions from Iran - implementing the Additional Protocol, limiting the level of enrichment and transferring the uranium stockpile out of the country - had already been on the table as bargaining chips in return for Iran’s right to enrich, prior to the passage of the US/UE sanctions bills. But even if sanctions wrenched concessions, it would not justify their legitimacy; it merely demonstrates the supremacy of gangster politics in international relations and the moral bankruptcy of the west in its criminal disregard for international law and the UN Charter.
Neither are sanctions an alternative to military confrontation. Sanctions, as evidenced by the experience of Iraq, are prelude to and a preparation for war. In the shorter term, the implementation of sanctions itself and the western clandestine intervention in arming the rebels to force a regime change in Syria could lead to war.
One fifth of the global seaborne oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. The US/EU implementation of the embargo on Iran’s export of oil and its Central Bank, has been described as “an act of war” by Iran and may lead to Iran’s closure, in its defence, of the Strait of Hormuz, which is within Iran’s territorial waters. This would lead to a military confrontation which would most likely conflagrate into a wider regional war, with catastrophic impact on the oil prices and a death blow to the fragile global economy.
The US congress’s sanction bill leaves no doubt that the nuclear crisis is only a mask for forced regime change and the installation of a US client government in Iran. Just as the West’s covert war inside Iran is meant to fragment and destabilise Iran, sanctions are intended to “hurt” and create discontent amongst the population as the necessary ingredients for a forced regime change.
Whereas the removal of the US sanctions requires Congress’s approval, the EU sanctions do not face such obstacles and may be removed without procedural complications. The apathy toward sanctions in Iraq led to the silent destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure and murder of a million and a half Iraqi citizens prior to the 2003 invasion. This would not have been possible without the influence of pro-war think tanks and politicians, media complicity and the timid compliance and collusion of opportunistic politicians.
The US and EU oil embargo against Iran formally take effect this week. To prevent another illegal and criminal war through sanctions leading to a catastrophic war, it is crucial to mobilise public opinion today to challenge Western politicians, demanding the removal of the military option and the illegal sanctions on Iran. The international community must unite to call for a peaceful resolution to the manufactured nuclear stand-off with Iran by negotiations in good faith based on the recognition of Iran’s sovereign and inalienable rights as a member of the Non Proliferation Treaty, for a civilian nuclear technology.