This is the one question that has been resonant in most international circles for some time now. Iran’s nuclear program has evoked many strong opinions and has caused the country to bear the weight of economic sanctions from the UN, the USA, and many other countries since 1979. The Islamic Republic has been at the receiving end of an extensive campaign, led by the USA. It remains to be seen if the campaign will lead up to a military operation of the US in Iran, following the precedents of the US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, or if it is aimed at destabilizing the regime at Tehran.
Have the Sanctions Helped?
On January 25, 2012, hours after the European Union foreign ministers agreed on slapping a ban on the import of petroleum products and oil from Iran, the U S Treasury Department imposed sanctions against Bank Tejarat and Trade Capital Bank. The US believes that Bank Tejarat, Iran’s third largest bank, is involved in assisting agencies involved in the Iranian nuclear program.
The resonant concern is that Iran has persisted in its nuclear program despite challenging economic sanctions imposed by the USA since 1979. The country was not dissuaded by the total trade ban imposed in 1995. Many Americans believe that imposing further sanctions is not likely to affect Iran’s nuclear policy.
Fears that a military strike would lead to the blockade of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran is another mitigating factor. Over seventeen million barrels of crude oil, roughly 35% of the world’s seaborne supply, pass through the strait every day. If Iran barricades the strait, this might lead to a sharp increase in oil and petroleum prices. Given the global economic scenario the forecast is not a welcome one. This could also be a blessing for Iran since most of the country’s revenue comes from its export of oil and gas.
The Foreign Ministry of Iran has maintained that the imposition of sanctions was part of USA’s ‘psychological warfare’ and would prove futile in dissuading Iran from following its planned nuclear activities
Can Israel be Isolated?
The European Union was unequivocal in its condemnation of Iran and followed up the oil embargo with sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran and a ban on the trade of gold, diamonds, and precious metals with the country. The EU oil embargo is likely to take effect on July1, 2012. Apart from the USA, Israel has been vehement in its criticism of Iran’s nuclear acquisition. While relations between the US President and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have deteriorated since 2011, Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has warned US that a war is likely to have dire consequences. What is clear, though, is that if a war does break out Iran is unlikely to find itself isolated, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq.
To Attack or Not to Attack?
With the 2012 Presidential Elections coming up, the issue of military action is a hotly debated issue in Washington circles. The Republican presidential candidates have been quite candid in criticizing the Obama administration for not having taken up a strong military stance. Most feel that the delay may provide Iran just the time it requires to acquire a nuclear arsenal and after which war could mean a global disaster.
US President Barack Obama has not officially declared an interest in a regime change in Iran. But experts believe that the threat imposed by a nuclear-armed Iran is not unmanageable and that the actions of the US point to covert action not outright warfare. US may also be better off pressing for a regime change in Iran and getting Iranian authorities to the negotiation table than taking military action and accelerating the nuclear threat they have been trying to ward off.
Yet another school of experts believe that US can ill afford a war with Iran at this time. Following the military operations in Iraq and in the Afghanistan, a war with Iran would be the third conflict with a Muslim country in the past decade, an engagement best avoided.
Is Diplomacy the Solution?
Has USA’s policy of sustained attacks on Iran’s nuclear activities further alienated the country and made a compromise on the standoff a far cry? Recently Iran alleged that the murder of Mostafa Rahimi Roshan, deputy director of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, was linked to US, UK, and Israeli activity in the country. It has often been alleged that the nuclear threat posed by Iran is an exaggeration of the American media and this has further fuelled misunderstanding surrounding the issue.
Many nations of the world have now been forced to believe that restoration of formal diplomatic relations between Iran and USA will help arrest the growing dissent between the two countries. The United Nations and most nations of the world are keen to avoid a military crisis involving the USA and a Middle Eastern country given the worsening global economic scenario.