By Press TV
By Arash Zahedi
The West has once again stepped up its pressure against Iran, mulling a European sanction of the Iranian oil sector this time after already targeting its banking system.
Of course, in order to legitimize this attitude towards Iran, the West has had to come up with different justifications, the most recent cases of which have been the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, fully propagated by the US, and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) most recent report on Iran’s nuclear work that many criticize for being drafted on political grounds.
But more significant than a pretext for sanctions are the goals they are intended to achieve, the level of their success and the possibility of these pressures to backfire. The Western gains or losses can also measure what the sanctions option has or will achieve.
In fact, generally when the oil sector of a country is sanctioned the primary goal is to limit its revenue making and in later phases to, perhaps, cut it altogether. The revenue that, in Western estimates, accounts for a greater percentage of the Iranian expenditure.
Let’s not forget that the main reason why these sanctions have been picked up is the Western claim that Iran has failed to clarify its nuclear activities which are accused by the west of being covert and ill-intentioned. A claim totally rejected by Tehran and not supported by many previous IAEA reports that confirm no wrong-doing or weapon-making is happening in Iran.
Iranians know sanctions are only to address the worries in Tel-Aviv, rather than anywhere else, that ironically, itself possesses a mysterious nuclear capacity that includes nuclear warheads located in a place that perhaps even their closest allies, the Americans cannot even think of, let alone any IAEA inspector!
However, it seems very unlikely, at this stage of its nuclear work for Iran to halt or slow its activities, even if it means going through some hardship. Nuclear expenses are, after all, only a small portion of Iran’s expenditures.
Meanwhile, the US has been trying to lower the oil prices in the recent months and placing an embargo on Iran’s oil will most likely only worsen the conditions. There are legitimate fears that an Iran oil ban by the EU will push up the prices even higher and create more pain for consumers in debt-laden European countries already burdened by high taxes and economic pain.
International Energy Agency (IEA) says Iran produced 3.5 million barrels a day out of total OPEC production of 30.0 million barrels a day in October.
How much of a dent financially would oil sanctions have on such a major exporter, one of the largest in the world, is another worrying question that has to be answered by those who seek effects out of embargos.
Even the Islamic Republic’s oil rivals have interestingly not backed sanctions. For instance, Russia, itself a large crude exporter to Europe, dismissed the idea this week, saying political restrictions on oil trade are generally unwise.
Also French oil giant Total’s chief executive Christophe de Margerie downplayed oil sanctions. He dismissed a major impact on Iran because “its exports would find their way to Asia if they couldn’t go to Europe.”
The US on the other hand, recently seeing some of its most serious public protests, largely over financial matters and the unjust wealth distribution, has been doing all it can to divert public attention from its ongoing crisis. Alleging Iran for being behind the imaginary Saudi envoy assassination plot is only one of the US measures to rid itself of the negative attention it receives these days.
The US, that has followed a sanctions policy towards Iran since the victory of the Islamic revolution in 1979, has embarked on new anti-Iran measures lately.
In recent gatherings, some US presidential hopefuls have spoken of anything from “Covert Operations” to bombing Iran and sabotaging its nuclear activities in such a way that it seems the stronger their anti-Iran rhetoric is, the better their chances for winning in the elections will be.
“They [Iranians] have one very, very large refinery. I would be focused on how to covertly sabotage it every day,” former House speaker now Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, again assuming Iran’s oil a target, told the Republican Jewish Coalition, a group highly critical of President Barack Obama’s handling of ties with Israel.
It is a great surprise. However, why these officials ignore the fact that making such remarks will only more than ever reveal the absolutely undiplomatic nature of a US presidential hopeful’s foreign policy approaches that may send their success chances into a nosedive, despite being pleasing to the Zionist lobby.
Such remarks also truly indicate the success level of sanctions towards Iran in the past and the hopes for their future effects. Indeed, if sanctions had really worked the way they were expected to, then why should Washington even talk of harsher measures like a war or a “secret operation”, that some in the US refer to as “a Magical Solution”?!
Now, how much of a “Magical Solution” it is, for instance, to kill Iranian nuclear scientists, labeling them as “equal to Al-Qaeda operatives” to prevent Tehran from furthering its nuclear capabilities is entirely open to question!
Sanctions may, at the very most, be able to keep Iran’s oil production level from increasing, the effects of which will only be compensated for the Islamic Republic by the inevitable price rises. But whether they will also keep the prices steady at the Western pumps has left many wondering these days. Further complicating the matters will be the bewilderment that will probably occur in some major European refineries in Spain, Italy and Greece once sanctions are in place.
The West will truly need a “Magical Solution” should that happen.
— Arash Zahedi is a Tehran-based political analyst and broadcaster. He is a frequent contributor to Press TV.