- Published: Monday, January 2, 2012 - 8:53 AM
- Tags: Amiel UngarDore GoldEU sanctionsIranObamaStrait of Hormuz
Iran’s behavior over the past few weeks indicates that the regime now feels threatened by the prospect of biting sanctions targeting oil exports and Iran’s central bank.
Just before the end of 2011 US president Obama signed a bill that includes new sanctions on financial institutions dealing with Iran’s central bank. The new sanctions immediately caused a 30% devaluation of the Iranian currency Rial on Sunday.
The US move came after Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and Saudi Arabia promised to make up for the loss of Iranian oil imports in case of a Western embargo.
On December 15th the Iranian news site Mashreq News published a detailed plan outlining military actions the regime in Tehran could take to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Such a move would immediately cause the price of oil to rise drastically. The news site – which is close to the Iranian military – issued a veiled threat to the West: oil sanctions will be regarded as an act of war by Iran.
The following are excerpts from the MEMRI translation of the Mashreq News article dealing with the threat:
The article stated that despite Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s statements that Tehran would not initiate a military confrontation but would retaliate harshly if attacked, “there is no guarantee that [Tehran] will not launch a preemptory strike on the civilian level, for instance through cyber-warfare or by means of economic pressure, including by closing the Strait of Hormuz and cutting off [this] energy lifeline for an indefinite period of time.” It added, “Should additional sanctions be imposed on Iran, especially in the domain of oil export, Iran might keep [its] oil from leaving its territorial waters.”
In a further threat, the article stated that Iran would in the future be able to attack the 480-km pipeline with a capacity of 2.5 million barrels/day that the UAE is planning to build in order to bypass the Strait of Hormuz in order to neutralize Iran’s ability to disrupt the world’s oil supply: “As for the plan… to construct a [pipeline] from the UAE that will be an alternative in times of emergency in case the Hormuz Strait is closed, we should note… that the entire territory of the UAE is within range of Iran’s missiles, [so Iran] will easily be able to undermine security at the opening of this [pipeline] using weapons to be discussed this report.”
In a related move Iran announced that it is ready to renew talks with the EU regarding its nuclear program.
Amiel Ungar – an Israeli professor of political science and publicist for Ha’aretz and Israel National News – wrote that this move is designed to split the EU and US in order to avoid an oil embargo.
“The Iranian proposal to rejoin EU-led talks over its nuclear program is a classic divide and rule tactic. Iran wants talks with the 5+1 contact group comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Two of the five permanent Security Council members – Britain and France – are members of the EU together with Germany that makes 50% of the votes. When one adds the sympathy that Iran enjoys from China and Russia, the Iranians are banking that the US will be isolated in this forum. As an inducement Iran has postponed its missile tests although the postponement is said to be a brief one.
Iran is banking on the fact that the European Union would jump at the opportunity. Iran remains a major trading partner with Germany and still conducts trade fairs in that country. Europe given its parlous economic conditions would not relish a conflict breaking out over Iran that could lead to skyrocketing oil prices. The Iranian threat to close the Straits of Hormuz in the event of an embargo on Iranian oil already had the effect of driving up oil prices pass $109 per barrel. Talks with Iran would of course boost the prestige of the European Union that will welcome a shot in the arm from any possible direction.
The Iranians fear the talk of an embargo on Iranian oil on which their economy depends. While an embargo may start with the Europeans and the Americans it could easily spread to America’s major allies such as Japan and then if China or India were willing to increase their purchases of Iranian oil (at the risk of angering Iran’s enemies in the Arab world) they would expect a discount in return for saving Iran’s economic hide.
The Europeans were suckered into this game in the previous decade and the question is whether they will insist this time on serious concessions from Tehran as an entry price or will Baroness Ashton’s remarks about no preconditions represent the European stance”.
Ungar is correct in his interpretation of the meaning of the Iranian offer. Once again the regime in Tehran is trying to buy time in its race towards a nuclear weapon.
The game has always been to use the EU as the weak spot in this game of deception, which is discussed at length in Dore Gold’s book ‘The rise of a nuclear Iran’.
Gold’s final conclusion was that ”the West may get another chance to halt the Iranian program if it understands what policies have universally failed to work and correctly exploits the new possibilities that are now being presented”.
This ‘other chance’ is now on the table. An embargo on Western imports of Iranian oil and sanctions targeting the Iranian central bank could be the final chance to stop Iran by non-military means.