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Published on January 9th, 2012 | by Saira Khan
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Velayat-90 of Iranian navy, Strait of Hormuz, December 27th 2011, Trading China ©"][/caption] Relations between the USA and Iran are on wafer thin ice as a series of rash ultimatums are exchanged between world leaders, embedding the concept of imminent war. The Strait of Hormuz became the point of manifestation for the escalating tensions caused by Iranian nuclear development, in an almost Cuban-Missile-Crisis-style stand-off. President Ahmadinejad continues to reiterate that the nuclear enrichment is for energy, not military, purposes. But the IAEA’s report tells the US otherwise. Of course, this raises the question of who has the right to say which countries can be permitted nuclear weaponry and which cannot. There are a number of reasons why the USA, as decider, believes Iran falls under the latter category. Firstly, there is the argument that Iran’s people want western liberalism and are unable to engage in a successful revolution due to the possible prevention of humanitarian intervention, i.e. the Iranian people are fully aware that the US would not intervene for democratic values if there was a possibility that nuclear weapons could be used against them. However, an Iranian democratic revolution – requiring foreign intervention -- does not seem imminent, in which case, the presupposition that nuclear weapons would prevent this becomes void. Secondly is the fear that states not powerful enough to stand up to Iran will then seek its alliance, shifting the balance of power in the world. Thirdly, and probably more pressingly, is the view that a nuclear Iran would spark a war between Saudi Arabia, Israel and itself. However, it is important to consider the following; possession of weaponry in and of itself does not cause war; constant threats, fear-mongering, sanctioning, provocation and hostility cause war. Therefore, all the USA seem to be doing through their uproar over Iran is creating the conditions for a war that previously may not have developed – fulfilling their own prophecy, as it were. Lastly, the USA’s outrage at another nuclear power willing to oppose their superpower standing may be seen by some as simply a display of American colonialism. This all rests on the assumption that Iran does, in fact, intend to develop nuclear weapons. Whilst the IAEA is not a tool of the USA, as some seem to suggest, and did in fact clarify that there were no WMDs in Iraq, it is not wholly above-board. Why was the report allegedly given to the USA 12 days before it was officially released? Why does it lack appropriate sourcing? The USA’s response to this development was to impose sanctions on Iran and blacklist any countries from US trading that deal with its Central Bank. Iran’s economy has already suffered and its currency is greatly devalued, at 17,800 rials to the US dollar. This may soon be accompanied by a total European embargo on Iranian oil. The problem with this is that sanctions are rarely effective in bringing about policy changes. The time when they are effective is when they are used in Cold-War-style brinkmanship, as a threat that can yet be withdrawn. Multilateral sanctions, such as those jointly envisaged by the US and EU, require a diplomatic consensus that is often very hard to reach amongst differing national interests. As a result, when this is reached, it is far less likely to be withdrawn. The means are confused with the end and sanctions are not used as a threat to bring about policy changes but a punishment for not doing so. Iran’s response to this is one of defiance and retaliation; an if-you-don't-buy-our-oil-we-will-not-let-you-have-anyone-else's scenario. Unless the USA drop its charges of nuclear weaponry and its embargos, Iran will cut off trade access through the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is passage for approximately 20% of all oil exported worldwide, 50% of Chinese oil and 75% of Japan’s oil, according to the Times, December 29th. Closing this off pushes up oil prices, particularly catastrophic for countries highly dependent on it, such as the USA. Consequently, hostility in that region has risen, with more than 20 ships of the US Fifth Fleet stationed at the Bahraini shoreline and Iran successfully testing a surface-to-air missile in the region last week. The result of this oil artery being severed and its entailed diplomatic stand-off is difficult to predict, but predictions are hardly necessary when the outcome may be witnessed mere days from now.

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Hormuz Straitjacket

Velayat-90 of Iranian navy, Strait of Hormuz, December 27th 2011, Trading China ©

Relations between the USA and Iran are on wafer thin ice as a series of rash ultimatums are exchanged between world leaders, embedding the concept of imminent war. The Strait of Hormuz became the point of manifestation for the escalating tensions caused by Iranian nuclear development, in an almost Cuban-Missile-Crisis-style stand-off.

President Ahmadinejad continues to reiterate that the nuclear enrichment is for energy, not military, purposes. But the IAEA’s report tells the US otherwise. Of course, this raises the question of who has the right to say which countries can be permitted nuclear weaponry and which cannot. There are a number of reasons why the USA, as decider, believes Iran falls under the latter category. Firstly, there is the argument that Iran’s people want western liberalism and are unable to engage in a successful revolution due to the possible prevention of humanitarian intervention, i.e. the Iranian people are fully aware that the US would not intervene for democratic values if there was a possibility that nuclear weapons could be used against them. However, an Iranian democratic revolution – requiring foreign intervention — does not seem imminent, in which case, the presupposition that nuclear weapons would prevent this becomes void. Secondly is the fear that states not powerful enough to stand up to Iran will then seek its alliance, shifting the balance of power in the world. Thirdly, and probably more pressingly, is the view that a nuclear Iran would spark a war between Saudi Arabia, Israel and itself. However, it is important to consider the following; possession of weaponry in and of itself does not cause war; constant threats, fear-mongering, sanctioning, provocation and hostility cause war. Therefore, all the USA seem to be doing through their uproar over Iran is creating the conditions for a war that previously may not have developed – fulfilling their own prophecy, as it were. Lastly, the USA’s outrage at another nuclear power willing to oppose their superpower standing may be seen by some as simply a display of American colonialism.

This all rests on the assumption that Iran does, in fact, intend to develop nuclear weapons. Whilst the IAEA is not a tool of the USA, as some seem to suggest, and did in fact clarify that there were no WMDs in Iraq, it is not wholly above-board. Why was the report allegedly given to the USA 12 days before it was officially released? Why does it lack appropriate sourcing?

The USA’s response to this development was to impose sanctions on Iran and blacklist any countries from US trading that deal with its Central Bank. Iran’s economy has already suffered and its currency is greatly devalued, at 17,800 rials to the US dollar. This may soon be accompanied by a total European embargo on Iranian oil. The problem with this is that sanctions are rarely effective in bringing about policy changes. The time when they are effective is when they are used in Cold-War-style brinkmanship, as a threat that can yet be withdrawn. Multilateral sanctions, such as those jointly envisaged by the US and EU, require a diplomatic consensus that is often very hard to reach amongst differing national interests. As a result, when this is reached, it is far less likely to be withdrawn. The means are confused with the end and sanctions are not used as a threat to bring about policy changes but a punishment for not doing so.

Iran’s response to this is one of defiance and retaliation; an if-you-don’t-buy-our-oil-we-will-not-let-you-have-anyone-else’s scenario. Unless the USA drop its charges of nuclear weaponry and its embargos, Iran will cut off trade access through the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is passage for approximately 20% of all oil exported worldwide, 50% of Chinese oil and 75% of Japan’s oil, according to the Times, December 29th. Closing this off pushes up oil prices, particularly catastrophic for countries highly dependent on it, such as the USA. Consequently, hostility in that region has risen, with more than 20 ships of the US Fifth Fleet stationed at the Bahraini shoreline and Iran successfully testing a surface-to-air missile in the region last week. The result of this oil artery being severed and its entailed diplomatic stand-off is difficult to predict, but predictions are hardly necessary when the outcome may be witnessed mere days from now.

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