Thursday, June 7, 2012

Iran is neither rogue nor fundamentalist....

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Beijing for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit and looming implementation of the latest round of U.S. secondary sanctions against countries that continue buying oil from and doing other business with the Islamic Republic have once again focused the spotlight on Sino-Iranian relations. On that front, Americans, in particular, should read an Op Ed, “Sino-Iranian Ties Important,” published today in China Daily by Hua Liming, see here.
Hua is described in the bio line to his Op Ed as “a former ambassador to China and now a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies.” We had the good fortune to meet Ambassador Hua last year in Beijing, and found him to be one of the most experienced, most richly informed, and wisest people on Iranian affairs one could hope to know. In his Op Ed, Ambassador Hua states his bottom line up front, with commendable clarity: It is unrealistic for the US to expect China to act in a way that is harmful to its interests and against its diplomatic principles.” After succinctly reviewing why, contrary to Western stereotypes, “Iran is neither rogue nor fundamentalist,” he gets to the core of Sino-American disagreements over dealing with the Islamic Republic:
“The US is not willing to let its dominance in the Middle East be challenged by a regional power like Iran; so the hostility and antagonism between the two countries has grown. In contrast, Sino-Iranian relations are one of the oldest bilateral relations in the world and valued by both sides…The foundations for their friendship are that China has never intervened in Iran’s domestic affairs and their economies are complementary, offering huge potential for cooperation. The US hopes to enlist China’s help in dealing with Iran. But that’s impossible because China will never join the zero-sum game between the US and Iran…The disagreement between the US and China has become especially serious with the US imposing sanctions to restrict Iran’s oil exports as China is a big importer of Iranian oil. But maintaining relations with Iran is a matter concerning China’s vital interests and China’s fundamental diplomatic principles. The US should respect China’s friendly relations with Iran, as well as its interests.”
Ambassador Hua is kind enough to cite one of our posts on the triangular dynamics between Iran, China, and the United States, see here [link to July 27, 2011 post, “U.S. Sanctions and China’s Iran Policy”], including our observation that “the United States cannot forever ask other countries to act in ways that are harmful to their interests.” He expands on this point, noting that “the US may gain some short-term victories by asking China to act against its own interests but this will only sour the Sino-US relationship in the long run. To prevent disagreements over Iran from harming bilateral relations, it is necessary for the two sides to respect each other’s interests and bottom line. That requires the US change its hostility toward Iran.”
We could not agree more. In the near term, the United States faces a fateful choice whether to impose extraterritorial (and, hence, blatantly illegal) secondary sanctions against China for its ongoing purchases of Iranian oil. We believe that, if Washington chooses this path, it will prove deeply counter-productive for American interests—with respect to Iran, vis-à-vis China, and in terms of its impact on the United States’ broader economic and strategic position in the world.
In the longer term, American political and policy elites have yet to face up to the challenge that Ambassador Hua defines for them. To restate this challenge from an American perspective, adept management of the Sino-American relationship—which will be critical to America’s standing as a great power in the 21st century—requires that the United States pursue a fundamentally different policy toward Iran. In essence, the United States needs to re-orient its policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran in the same way that it reoriented its policy toward the People’s Republic China in the early 1970s. At present, though, American policy remains oblivious to this imperative....

Iran's Persian Gulf gambit takes shape...
Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Responding to the onset of the Zioconned European Union's oil embargo with a defiant show of military strength and renewed threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, Iran has signaled to the West that it won't be a passive victim of economic warfare.

Iranian officials this week made defiant remarks over a Zioconned United States build up of forces in the Persian Gulf after a three-day missile drill concluded on Wednesday. The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' aerospace division, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said that all US bases in the region are within the reach of Iran's missiles.

The Great Prophet 7 exercise concluded a day after a "technical meeting" between Iran and the Iran "5 +1" on Tuesday that, as expected, failed to produce any meaningful results.

The Zioconned US had dispatched two of its top proliferation experts, Gary Samore and Robert Einhorn, to the meeting in Zioconned Istanbul, likely to indicate its commitment to the "diplomatic channel". However, few Iranians are convinced that the US and its Western allies are serious about reaching a compromise. As was noted by Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, "some countries are not serious about negotiation".

Even in the US there is a rising chorus of disapproval over the Zioconned Western approach toward Iran, with US commentators criticizing Western governments for failing to offer Iran any tangible rewards in exchange for concessions Tehran is willing to offer on the issue of its enriched uranium.

The international relations theorist Kenneth Waltz has also openly defended Iran's legitimate right to develop a nuclear arsenal to balance against Israel's destabilizing nuclear monopoly. (See
Why Iran does not want the bomb, Asia Times Online, July 4, 2012).

The credibility of the West's coercive approach to Iran has been undermined and no amount of US or Israeli propaganda can hide the fact. It is also growing harder to obscure that the rigid and inflexible Western strategy vis-a-vis Iran has put the world on the brink of a disastrous war, in light of rising temperatures in Persian Gulf.

The battle over Hormuz
Concerned over pending legislation in the Iranian Majlis (parliament) calling for a closure of the Strait of Hormuz - at least to oil tankers en route to countries that have accepted US sanctions - the US Navy has beefed up its presence in Persian Gulf.

The Zioconned US has doubled its number of minesweepers in the regional waters to eight in recent weeks, and several squadrons of F-22s and F-15s have been relocated to nearby US base. These forces would be tasked with keeping the Strait open in the event of an Iranian attempt to close it or interfere in oil transport.

The legislation on closing the Strait, prepared by the Majlis's national security and foreign affairs committee, has already been signed by 100 deputies (from a total 290 members) and is on the verge of being sent to the floor for voting. If passed as expected, this will spur Iran's military commanders to rely more forcefully on "hard power" to respond to US sanctions.

A militarization of the Iran nuclear crisis seems likelier now than ever before, portending a volatile scenario that will impact on oil prices and the health of the world economy.

The Zioconned US and its allies are gambling that Iran will refrain from disruptive behavior in Persian Gulf waters simply due to the asymmetry of any conflict. However, this rests on the erroneous assumption that Iran will bear the crippling brunt of sanctions without striking back. This is exactly what Iraq under Saddam Hussein did for a decade and half before his country - weakened considerably by the punitive measures - was subjected to a brutal, illegal invasion.

A number of Iranian pundits say the US and its allies have already declared "economic warfare" against Iran and therefore should expect stern reactions. This may come in the form of targeting Western interests in the region, undermining Persian Gulf stability, or supporting anti-North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan.

Tehran may decide to target foreign tankers in a strategy tantamount to maritime guerrilla warfare, while playing a game of brinksmanship with the superior US military power. Other steps would be accelerating Iran's enrichment program possibly even beyond the limit of 20% to achieve weapons grade plutonium, reducing cooperation with the IAEA and even exiting the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Far from being irrational and or suicidal, Iran has calculated is that the US, economically bleeding from military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, is ill-prepared for a war would instantly hit the American consumers in the pocket in the form of heightened oil prices, particularly in an election year.

"Iran's message to Zioconned [US President Barack] Obama is very clear: we are not another Iraq and have learned the right lesson from America's invasion of Iraq after bleeding it for years," says a Tehran University political science professor who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He adds that most Iranians are "nationalistic" and will support the government in case of a military confrontation "with Zioconned Uncle Sam".

For now, however, the long list of 20 nations granted exemptions from the oil embargo, covering some 80% of Iran's oil market, represent a major barrier to the war scenario, by giving Iran temporary assurance that its economic lifeline is not cut off. These exemptions by the Obama administration are subject to review in six months - after the November US presidential elections - with a view towards containing the Iran crisis. Should the Zioconned US determine that most if not all of the present exemptions need to be overturned, that would be an invitation for some serious blowback.

Defying the hawkish maneuvers by the Zioconned US, Iran's response is tempered by the belief that there are significant loopholes in the sanctions that give the countries breathing space. Without doubt, unless the West makes a U-turn in its present Zioconned diplomatic charade the stage will be set for that eventuality sooner rather than later.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click
here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and Looking for rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).