Iran Sanctions: War By Other Means

Iran Sanctions: War By Another Name

Dispatches From The Edge

Conn Hallinan

July 9, 2012

Now that the talks with Iran on its nuclear program appear to be on the ropes, are we on the road to war? The Israelis threaten it almost weekly, and the Obama administration has reportedly drawn up an attack plan. But in a sense, we are already at war with Iran.

Carl von Clausewitz, the great theoretician of modern warfare, defined war as the continuation of politics by other means. In the case of Iran, international politics has become a de-facto state of war.

According to reports, the annual inflation rate in Iran is 22.2 percent, although many economists estimate it at double that. In the last week of June, the price of chicken rose 30 percent, grains were up 55.8 percent, fruits up 66.6 percent, and vegetables up 99.5 percent.   Iran’s Central Bank estimates unemployment among the young is 22.5 percent, although the Financial Times says “the official figures are vastly underestimated.” The production sector is working at half its capacity.

The value of the Iranian rial has fallen 40 percent since last year, and there is a wave of business closings and bankruptcies due to rising energy costs and imports made expensive by the sanctions.

Oil exports, Iran’s major source of income, have fallen 40 percent in 2012, according to the international Energy Agency, costing the country just under $32 billion over the past year. The 27-member European Union (EU) ban on buying Iranian oil will further depress sales, and a EU withdrawal of shipping insurance will make it difficult for Teheran to ship oil and gas to its diminishing number of customers. Loss of insurance coverage could reduce Iran’s oil exports by 1/5 million barrels a day, or $4.5 billion a month. Energy accounts for about 80 percent of Iran’s public revenues.

Whipsawed by energy sanctions, the worst may be yet to come. The U.S. has already made it difficult for countries to dealing with Iran’s Central Bank, and the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would declare the Iranian energy sector a “zone of proliferation concern” that would strangle Teheran’s ability collect payments for its oil exports. Other proposals would essentially make it impossible to do business with Iran’s banks. Any country that dared to do so would find itself unable to conduct virtually any kind of international banking.

If the blizzard of legislation does pass, “This would be a significant ratcheting-up of the economic war against Iran,” Mark Dubowitz told the Financial Times. Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who has lobbied for a series of economic assaults against the Palestinians, China, and Hezbollah.

But the “war” has already gone far beyond the economic sphere.

In the past two years, five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated. The hits have been widely attributed to the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, and the People’s Mujahidin of Iran (MEK), an organization the U.S. designates as “terrorist.”

Last year a massive explosion rocked the Bid Ganeh military base near Teheran, killing 17 people, including the founder of Iran’s missile program, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam. According to Israeli media, the camp was sabotaged by the MEK working with Mossad. Deadly attacks directed at Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have been tied to Jundallah, a Sunni group with ties to U.S. and Israel intelligence.

It is no secret—indeed, President Obama openly admitted it—that under the codename “Olympic Games,” the U.S. has been waging cyber war against Iran. The Stuxnet virus shut down a considerable portion of Iran’s nuclear program, although it also infected infrastructure activities, including power plants, oil rigs, and water supplies. The virus was designed to attack systems made by the German company Siemens and has apparently spread to China, Pakistan and Indonesia.

The U.S. is also suspected of being behind the Flame virus, spyware able to record keystrokes, eavesdrop on conversations near an infected computer, and tap into screen images. Besides Iran, Flame has been found in computers in the Palestinian West Bank, Lebanon, Hungary, Austria, Russia, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates.  Because “malware” seeks out undefended computers no matter where they are, it has a habit of spreading beyond its initial target.

Most of the media is focused on whether the failure of the talks will lead to an Israeli or American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and there is certainly considerable smoke out there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been threatening to attack Iran for the past two years. According to Gideon Rachman, a leading columnist for the Financial Times, some Israeli officials have told him Tel Aviv will attack sometime this summer or early fall. One source told him “Israel will wait until September or October because the weather is better and it’s closer to the US elections.”

But the Independent’s (UK) Patrick Cockburn, one of the more reliable analysts on the Middle East, thinks the Israeli threats are “the bluff of the century.” Cockburn argues that there is simply no reason for Tel Aviv to go to war, since the Iranian economy is being effectively strangled by the sanctions. But the saber rattling is useful because it scares the EU into toughing up the siege of Teheran, while also shifting the Palestinian issue to a back burner.

There are serious divisions within Israel on whether to go to war, with the Israeli intelligence and military generally opposed. The latter’s reasons are simple: militarily Tel Aviv couldn’t pull it off, and politically an attack would garner worldwide sympathy for Iran. Recent statements downgrading the threat of Iran by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz suggest the Netanyahu government is finally feeling the pressure from divisions within its own ranks and may be backing off from a military confrontation.

And the US?

According to Paul Rogers, a Department of Peace Studies professor at Bradford University and OpenDemocracy’s international security editor, the Pentagon has drawn up plans for a concentrated attack on Iran’s nuclear industry, using a combination of bombers and cruise missiles. The U.S. recently beefed up its military footprint in the region.

But while the possibility of such an attack is real—especially if congressional hawks get their way—the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence establishment are hardly enthusiastic about it. And in any case, the US is carpet-bombing Iran’s economy without firing a shot or sending air crews into harm’s way.

While Iran is generally depicted as the recalcitrant party in the current nuclear talks, it has already compromised, even agreeing to ship some of its enriched uranium out of the country and to guarantee the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all nuclear facilities. Teheran has also converted one-third of its 20 percent enriched uranium into plates, making it almost impossible to use the fuel for nuclear weapons. Weapon’s grade uranium is enriched to 90 percent.

In return, Teheran is demanding the right to enrich to 3.5 percent—the level one needs to power a civilian reactor—and an end to sanctions.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not ban enriching uranium—indeed, it is guaranteed by Articles III and IV—as long as the fuel is not weaponized. “Iran is raising eyebrows,” says Yousaf M. Butt of the American Federation of Scientists, “but what it is doing is a concern—not illegal.”

However, the P5+1—the permanent UN Security Council members, Britain, France, the US, Russia, China, plus Germany, is demanding an end to all enrichment, shipping the enriched fuel out of the country, and closing the enrichment plant at Fordo: “stop, shut, and ship.” In return Iran would get enriched fuel for medical use and some spare parts for its civilian airlines. The sanctions would remain in place, however, although it would open the subject up for discussion. The problem is that many of the more onerous sanctions are those independently applied by the U.S. and the EU. Russia and China have expressed opposition to the independent sanctions, but so far have not shown a willingness to openly flaunt them.

It will be hard for Teheran to make further concessions, particularly if there is no light at the end of the sanction tunnel. Indeed, some of the demands seem almost crafted to derail a diplomatic solution, raising the suspicion that the dispute is less about Iran’s nuclear program than a concerted drive to marginalize a country that has resisted European and U.S. interests in the Middle East. Isolate Iran enough, the thinking goes, and it might bring about regime change. Moscow or Beijing don’t support such an outcome, but they have little influence over what Washington and Brussels do independently.

There is no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Indeed, the body of evidence suggests the opposite, including the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate that Teheran mothballed its program in 2003. But evidence is irrelevant when the enormous economic power of the US and the EU can cow the rest of the world, and force a country to its knees without resorting to open hostilities.

In short, war by other means.

—30—

About these ads

50 Comments

Filed under Iran, Middle East, Military, Oil

50 responses to “Iran Sanctions: War By Other Means

  1. i really appreciate coming here everyday to see what’s new on your website, and i already told my friends to do the same.http://www.notebok.org

  2. perhaps this is one of the most interesting blogs that i have ever seen. interesting article, funny comment. keep it up!http://www.comprints.com

  3. this blog is definitely an example of a huge help for me since i am just starting a blog myself.http://www.locawebi.com

  4. thank you sir for providing us such a great knowledge and sharing of great piece of life living with us.http://www.mototopia.net

  5. good topic, this is going to help a lot of people get the whole concept.http://www.sedohr.com

  6. thank you for sharing all this great information.http://www.valeejunto.com

  7. Israel’s solo threats a big bluff? I agree. On the other hand, a war where the US comes in and destroys Iran, is ***VERY MUCH*** in Israel’s(short-sighted?) interest. So war may just — whoops! — “happen”.

    Look at the wild cards:

    Without question, Israel wants Iran neutered. They can’t do that themselves, yes, that much is clear, so a full on ***US*** war with Iran is the key. Consequently, if the Israelis can’t provoke the Iranians with assassinations, cyber attacks, etc into attacking someone and thus providing a casus belli, then a carefully crafted false flag attack may be employed. This is the “Israel gets what Israel wants from its US “bitch” wild card.

    While the US govt may not want war, it most certainly does want regime change, which it aggressively pursues with sanctions and threats. Only psychopathic arrogance, a bully’s overconfidence, and echo-chamber self-delusion blind the elites to the obvious: that aggression-short-of-war brings the US half way to “real” war.

    Then add that the US “patriot” population, which is — predictably, after all the years of politically motivated demonization and saber rattling — foaming-at-the-mouth for war with the Mullahs. That takes us three-quarters of the way.

    Then finally, to the govt and the “Kool-aid crowd”, add the Israelis and the war-is-our-rice-bowl profiteers. That’s where we are now, with the US right on the brink, and no way to back out. If it “appears” that Iran has committed a violent act — “appears”, as in false flag — then we’ll have war simply because it is ***POLITICALLY*** unavoidable. This is of course the “US Elections” wild card.

    Then there is the oil factor — ie $$$$$$$$$.. When war erupts in the heart of the mid-east, oil prices go through the roof.

    While this may seem like a bad thing — catastrophic for the world economy so they say — it would be immensely profitable for others. That is, for the big oil companies, petrodollar bankers, Wall Street oil price speculators, and the non-combatant oil producers like Russia and Venezuela (Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, Norway, Nigeria, Brunei, etc). For them, oil at $200-$300/barrel(or more, who knows?) would be a huge windfall. Not that they would start a war,… but nation states being aware of their self-interest, just how strenuously might they work against a war that, with little or no cost to them, would hugely enrich them?. That’s the “money makes the world go round” wild card.

    Finally, we have the Sunni-Shia “interested third parties”. The Saudis, GCC, etc — the “Establishment” Sunnis — want Iran neutralized. While the al Quaeda types — “extremist Sunnis — want Iran AND the US AND the Saudi tyrant regime destroyed. How better to accomplish that than a sneak attack — certain to be blamed on Iran — on US forces in the region. One well-placed bomb, and the world explodes. One bomb and the full complement of al Quaeda’s enemies leap at each other’s throats: an attack which, if successful, would make 911 seem by comparison a minor kerfuffle. One bomb and several billion religious whack-jobs are cheering: on one side for the return of Jesus and the Rapture, on the other for the return of the 12th Imam and the Caliphate. I call this the “Whoops! Didn’t see that one coming, did ya? Time to kiss your ass good-bye.” wild card.

  8. wow guys, nice article. i will bookmark your site to check out your updates regularly.http://www.jogosdofutebol.net

  9. hey i visited the site…it is a nice site. thanks for providing information here…i like your blog post too thanks a lot.http://www.1001passagens.com

  10. try to publish frequently, i will be very pleased.http://www.buscaape.org

  11. you need time to create that interesting and additionally real effort to make such a good article.http://www.icarlyjogos.net

  12. i always enjoy coming back to this blog for posts like this.http://www.pizzaspop.com

  13. superb! i’ve gotten through the 5 newest posts, and i’m lovin’ it! i’ve really enjoyed your blog.http://www.datacontsys.com

  14. thanks for taking a time to help people with so great information, congratulations, your work is so dignifying.http://www.desentupidorasemsp.com

  15. you need time to create interesting and additionally post, real effort to make such a good article.http://www.centraline.net

  16. your website is very popular, because of the amount of good posts.http://www.casaemail.com.br

  17. i’ve never heard of something like that before, thank you for sharing this information with us.http://www.acertemail.com

  18. great website my friends, this is an awesome post, keep them ideas coming up…good luck.http://www.divulgaemail.com

  19. this post is so interesting, when i find some free time i will read all the others.http://www.acertemail.com

  20. that was a lovely article. i liked reading it. thanks for sharing.http://www.kitsucesso.com

  21. in some point i disagree with you, but still your words seen very coherent to me.http://www.acertemail.com

  22. the most incredible things about your website are the structure and the information you provide.http://www.acertemail.com

  23. i truly admire the work you are doing. i follow your articles and love what you have to say. you’ve already made a difference.http://www.casaemail.com.br

  24. Perhaps there is some thing not right with the site? The images on the topmost look a little messed up. Nice blog post nevertheless, continue the great work you are doing here!

  25. your statement was highly appreciating i will make a look on.http://www.maladiretasegmentada.com.br

  26. your work is very appreciated for me, i always read your posts.http://www.casaemail.com.br

  27. would you mind writing more posts about this subject?http://www.divulgaemail.com

  28. hi, this is my first visit to this blog, i like your writing style. i’m very interested in your posts, please keep up the good work!http://www.casaemail.com.br

  29. i would like to know more about this subject. thanks a lot.http://www.kitsucesso.com

  30. the post is actually the freshest on this laudable subject. i harmonize with your conclusions and will look forward to see your approaching updates.http://www.boliche.com.br/email.htm

  31. thank you, you have gained a new fan, these texts you post here are very useful to me.http://www.kitsucesso.com

  32. keep the good work by posting better posts, as you always do.http://www.ecadastro.com.br

  33. Great blog! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am bookmarking your feeds also

  34. Great opinion!. I think that my opinion is very similar to yours. Maybe google has sent me here by this reason

    cool site
    Thanks so much for posting a lot of this excellent info! I am looking forward to checking out more posts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s