By Eric Zuesse
The Wall Street Journal headlined on May 27th, “Iran’s Crude Buyers Jump Ship” and reported that “the country’s direct crude buyers have all but vanished, traders and executives in the Islamic Republic say. … China, India, Turkey, South Korea and Japan have ended all direct purchases of Iranian crude and condensates, they said.”
Those buyers had “bought up to 1.6 million barrels a day of Iranian crude in March combined.”
In China’s case, the decision to comply with Trump’s sanctions had not yet been known, until “When a Chinese-owned tanker loaded in Kharg in mid-May, it was widely interpreted as a resumption of Beijing’s crude purchases. But the tanker subsequently gave Indonesia as its destination,” and this indicated that the largest importer of oil from Iran, China, is now complying with the U.S. demand to stop trading with Iran.
Now that Trump has cancelled all waivers, these countries have added themselves to the list of those which were already complying with the U.S. demand to stop importing Iranian oil.
Furthermore, “Chinese companies are no longer buying Iranian crude, businessmen in Tehran say.” The U.S. and Saudi Arabia intend to be selling most of the oil that Iran previously had been selling but now is blocked from selling; so, at the same time as Iran gets strangulated by Trump’s sanctions, America and its chief ally, the Sauds, become further enriched by these sanctions.
The American people seem to be overwhelmingly supporting President Trump’s efforts to strangle Iran. On May 24th, The Hill bannered “Sanders refuses to apologize for opposing war with Iran”, and the reader-comments there were mostly lukewarm-to-hostile toward Sanders. However, some of the others expressed puzzlement, such as the one that received the most up-votes, “Apologize for not wanting to go to war? What???” Some other commenters explained “What???” such as by saying: “Still wouldn’t want him as president. Not after he voted AGAINST russia sanctions.” That person clearly supports America’s imposing sanctions against countries that never attacked America.
Many people are plainly suspicious of any candidate who rejects neoconservatism (U.S. imperialism, regime-change invasions, etc. — U.S. aggressiveness) and they think the person to be weak. The neoconservative Joseph Biden is probably benefiting more from his having supported neoconservatism, against Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc., than Sanders is benefiting from having opposed those invasions. In U.S. politics, the record shows that there is no gain to be won by opposing U.S. aggression. Sanctions are economic aggression: they are the first step toward an outright invasion. Between the sanctions and the invasions comes a crescendo of propaganda in order to whip up ‘patriotism’. It happened with Iraq. It happened with Syria. It happened with Nicaragua. And it could happen with Venezuela, Iran, Russia, China, and/or North Korea.
The U.S. doesn’t follow its Constitution anymore. The Constitution says that the President cannot go to war unless and until the Congress authorizes that by declaring war (which isn’t defined in the Constitution), and “The last time the United States formally declared war, using specific terminology, on any nation was in 1942”, so that all of the roughly 125 U.S. invasions after 1945 were without any legal authorization but instead entirely at the whim of the U.S. President as the Commander-in-Chief, who actually possesses no authorization to declare war, but never do a majority of American subjects oppose that (or any other violation of the U.S. Constitution).
For today’s America, Congress’s authorization for sanctions against a country is the new way that Congress declares war against a country, and this path to war requires only a 50% majority in both Houses, and it is stated in a Congressional resolution that the average American won’t recognize as being a declaration of war, though it actually is. To authorize sanctions is now to authorize invasions, coups, or any other way to finalize a regime-change operation. Sanctions are now the way they all start — they are the “Open, Sesame” to American aggression, despite the U.S. Constitution. And the American public basically don’t care.
On May 13th, Reuters headlined “Iran insists on ramping up oil sales to stay in nuclear pact” and reported that “EU officials … estimate Iran needs to sell 1.5 million bpd to keep its economy afloat. A drop below 1 million bpd could bring hardship and economic crisis.”
Prior to U.S. President Donald Trump’s cancellation of the nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposition of economic sanctions against Iran and against any companies that trade with Iran, Iran had been selling around 2 million bpd (barrels per day). So, the subtraction of “1.6 million barrels a day” would, alone, bring this down to 0.4 million bpd. It would be turning the screws so hard that the suffering of Iranians would be unbearable. But look at what Trump and a passive Congress are doing in Yemen, where the U.S. regime supplies the weaponry the training and the Saudis and UAE forces use them to slaughter as many Houthis as they can by bombing the food-supply route. Maybe just starving Iranians won’t seem to Americans to be that bad. American propaganda makes it all seem okay or even good and a necessary thing to do.
Furthermore, quoting again the May 13th article: Once Europe’s biggest supplier, Iran has seen its exports gradually cut off from European buyers.China – Iran’s largest oil customer with imports of 475,000 bpd in the first quarter of this year – has also stopped buying from Iran after Washington chose not to renew sanctions waivers.
That’s part of this 1.6M bpd which the WSJ more recently confirmed.
Therefore, companies both in Europe and in China are terminating trade with Iran. The likelihood is consequently that Iran will be forced back into its nuclear program, and that things will be much as they had been before Obama had struck his deal with Iran. Here’s what that situation was like:
On 22 April 2010, the Congressional Research Service reported to Congress that: Iran’s economy is highly dependent on the production and export of crude oil to finance government spending, and consequently is vulnerable to fluctuations in international oil prices. Although Iran has vast petroleum reserves, the country lacks adequate refining capacity and imports gasoline to meet domestic energy needs. Iran is seeking foreign investment to develop its petroleum sector. While some deals have been finalized, reputational and financial risks may have limited other foreign companies’ willingness to finalize deals.
Trump seems to exceed the hostility toward Iran that Obama and Bush had displayed. If Trump is trying to force Iran to retaliate, then the goal is to use Iran’s retaliation as an excuse for the U.S. military to move in — to invade Iran.
The May 13th Reuters article says “One year after Washington quit the deal, Iran announced on Wednesday steps to relax some restrictions on its nuclear program.”
So: that is already restarting.
OilPrice dot com bannered on 22 April 2019, “Iran Threatens To Block Key Oil Chokepoint If It Can No Longer Export Crude” and reported that, “Iran will block the world’s most important chokepoint for global oil trade, the Strait of Hormuz, if Tehran is barred from using it to export its oil, Navy Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said.”
A year ago, on 13 May 2018, Dr. Arshad M. Khan had headlined at Modern Diplomacy, “The Eclipsing Iran Deal: Truth And Consequences” and stated that, Iran commands the Strait of Hormuz and a blocked Persian Gulf could see a quadrupling or more in the price of oil, bringing the current economic and stock market boom to a crashing end. Missile attacks from Iran and its ally Hezbollah would cause havoc in Israel’s cities. Asymmetric warfare in Syria and Iraq would cost American lives.
On 5 July 2018, Britain’s Guardian headlined “Iran threatens to block Strait of Hormuz over US oil sanctions”, and reported that, Tehran threatened to block the Gulf passageway in retaliation for Washington’s looming sanctions against Iranian oil exports – a threat the US military said would be immediately countered. … Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards commander, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying: “We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”
Iran’s fear here is that those “looming sanctions against Iranian oil exports” will be accompanied by a U.S. military blockade in order to enforce the economic sanctions militarily, and not merely by sanctioning both Iran and any company that trades with Iran. That would then be a physical blockade in addition to the economic blockade. In a sense, it would be like what the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and UAE are doing to the residents in the Houthi area of Yemen: starving the people to death.
The Trump regime is clearly hoping for an excuse to invade Iran; and, if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, then Trump and his friend Netanyahu will have their wish, their excuse to invade that country.
Iran is being abandoned now, not only by America’s allies such as in Europe, but even in countries that had formerly been friendly toward Iran, such as China. Trump and Netanyahu are having their way. Iran is apparently trapped, by the two fascist regimes in U.S. and Israel (and not only by the Sauds, who also crave to destroy Iran).
The U.S. regime is additionally trying this strategy against Venezuela, of economically strangling the country with sanctions as a way to soften it up for a subsequent invasion. The excuse for an invasion there will probably be ‘humanitarian’, in order to stop the shortages of food, medicine and other necessities, which shortages are being caused actually by America’s economic sanctions against Venezuela and against any company that trades with Venezuela.
On May 13th, the New York Times bannered “White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War” and reported that Trump’s team had presented to the President “an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.” The plan was not for a land-invasion but for an air-invasion: bombers and missiles.
If Russia abandons any of its allies, such as Iran and/or Venezuela, then the U.S. regime will have discredited Russia in the eyes of any remaining allied or even just friendly country, and this too could be part of Trump’s strategy — his expectation that Russia will abandon its allies if the U.S. regime invades one of Russia’s allies.
However, otherwise (in the event that Russia stands with and defends its allies), World War III seems likely.
Under Obama and escalating under Trump, there already are many U.S. sanctions against Russia; so, the start of America’s war against Russia preceded Trump, who merely continues and escalates Obama’s policies regarding Russia — policies that had (and have) overwhelming support from both Parties in both houses of Congress.
All of this — against Iran, against Venezuela, and against Russia — is strongly bipartisan. It started with the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which was based on a hoax that became accepted as true and which created the first of now a string of congressionally legislated U.S. sanctions against Russia. It can’t be blamed only on a political Party but on the group of people who basically control both of America’s political Parties, which is America’s 585 billionaires — the people who decide whom their Party will nominate for the U.S. Presidency and for seats in Congress. These policies — fraud-based though all of them actually are — have no opposition from any of America’s billionaires. And here is the latest such fraud.
Those examples show how economic sanctions against a country are the first stage of war by the U.S. regime, an unofficial declaration of war against that ‘enemy’ country and the preparatory stage for a coup, or, if the coup fails to work, then for an invasion. A successful coup happening in any of those countries would be extremely unlikely. Consequently, if Trump is going to be demanding at least one victory, then at least one of those countries will probably be invaded, and Americans will be prepared for it, with intense ‘patriotism’ (though the U.S. Constitution did everything it could to prevent any of this from happening). Maybe the term for that should instead be “nationalism,” and maybe “patriotism” should apply only to people who loathe aggressors and violators of the U.S. Constitution. But, then, there would be very few American patriots around, anymore (if there ever were). Anyway, in our time, America is clearly a dictatorship; so, what the public want is irrelevant to what the rulers do. Politics is just propaganda and theater now, here.
*Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,