By Arab News
By Linda Heard
The US and Europe’s attack on Iran’s oil industry and international banking system is self-defeating as long as Tehran retains eager customers like China, South Korea, Japan, Turkey and India that intends to continue its Iranian imports and circumvent banking restrictions using gold bars.
The EU, in particular is shooting itself in the foot at a time when its leaders are desperate to drag the bloc away from recession, prop up debt-laden member states and preserve the floundering euro. From the EU’s perspective reducing its oil supplies is a bit like cutting off its nose to spite its face.
Once again, Europe is taking the lead from Washington even though it has a lot less to lose when the US has been stockpiling oil to create the largest emergency reserve in the world “the Strategic Petroleum Reserve” that holds 727 million barrels. In any case, the US receives the bulk of its oil from Canada and Latin America and now that its economy is on the upturn — be it ever so slightly — America will be less impacted by an oil shortfall than Europe.
The EU has attempted to cushion the effects of its proposed anti-Iranian oil embargo by postponing the commencement of sanctions until July 1st this year when demand is reduced during the warmer months and also to give EU member countries the opportunity to boost their own emergency oil banks. However, in recent months, Iran has refused to take its “punishment” lying down, declaring it may terminate oil sales to Europe as early as next week. Tehran has also warned Arab oil suppliers not to increase production to make up for the shortfall saying this will be regarded as an unfriendly act — and has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to shipping in response to sanctions against its oil industry.
Should such broad based sanctions hit ordinary Iranian people rather than the top tier, anger against the West will be elevated, rallying ordinary Iranians behind their besieged government and, thus, reducing the chances of any Arab Spring-type uprising any time in the near future. Certainly, 10 years of sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq that crippled the economy and produced shortages of food, educational necessities and medicine caused endless misery to families but did not achieve the desired result of toppling the Iraqi dictator. Iran with a GDP of almost $ 819 billion is also better placed to withstand Western sanctions than devastated post-war Iraq was.
Then there is the question of ethics. When the Arab members of OPEC plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia used oil as a political weapon in 1973 cutting off supplies to the US and certain of its allies in retaliation for its supply of weapons to Israel during the 1973 War, the result was a collapse of stock markets and the quadrupling of oil prices. The use of oil, an essential global resource, as a weapon by its caretakers was globally condemned as immoral.
Since then Arab oil-producers have kept oil out of geopolitics; some might say reducing their clout on the international platform. Just imagine the influence Arab oil exporters or OPEC members — could wield on issues like the formation of a Palestinian state if they chose to wave the oil card. Together they could hold world economies hostage until their demands were met, although, of course, such unethical behavior would heighten the potential for conflict.
But the West can’t have it both ways. If, as just about every country agrees including Arab states, using oil as a weapon is immoral, then it is just as immoral for the US and Europe to use Iranian oil as a weapon to pressure Iran to bend to their will. It seems to me that Western powers are unwittingly changing oil from an almost sacrosanct commodity into a political tool which could open the door to Arab producers doing the same thing in the future. Iran is just as guilty with its threats to block other countries’ oil exports and fire Gulf oil fields should it come under attack.
Come on, everyone knows that sanctions don’t work. I don’t believe they are meant to. They are rather being used to send a message, a kind of prelude signaling military intervention is potentially on the cards. When they fail, as they surely will, those countries keen to use their fighter jets, drones, missiles and bunker busters to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities can stand up in the United Nations to say war is the only option left to them.
In fact, a secret — or, perhaps, not so secret- war is already being waged on Iran. The propaganda war led by Israel and the US against Iran’s nuclear program has been ongoing for years. The latest from Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak is the world must act against Iran before it’s too late on the grounds that Tehran is soon reaching the point where even “a surgical strike” couldn’t prevent its acquisition of nuclear weapons. On the same day, the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iran could produce a nuclear bomb within a year while reiterating that the US “shares common goals with Israel” on this matter.
It is believed, too — and expressed by former CIA agent Phillip Giraldi — that the US and/or Israel was responsible for the Stuxnet computer worm that some experts believe was conceived to cause detrimental harm to Iran’s nuclear program. It is so sophisticated, some say, that it is likely to have been created by a nation state. Furthermore, during the past two years, four Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated, the latest being Mustafa Ahmadi Roshan killed by a car bomb earlier this month.
The inevitability of a full scale conflict is drawing nearer as each day passes. This could be triggered by the US in a “Gulf of Tonkin” style false flag operation in the waters around the Gulf or it could be kicked-off by Israeli aggression at any moment that would drag Washington into the fray. Alternatively, and this is looking ever more likely, a cornered Tehran could decide to launch the first strike to benefit from an element of surprise. It’s a sad indictment of the human condition that the real surprise would be for the parties to set aside their vitriol and guns long enough to talk peace.