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Why Obama’s Iran Policy Will Fail: Caught In Bush Mode In A Changed World

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com.
Whereas the tone of the Obama administration is totally different from that of its predecessor, and some of its foreign policies diverge from those of George W. Bush, at their core both administrations subscribe to the identical doctrine: Whatever the White Home perceives as a menace — whether it be Iran, North Korea, or the proliferation of long-range missiles — should be viewed as such by Moscow and Beijing.

As well as, by the evidence out there, Barack Obama has not drawn the right conclusion from his predecessor’s failed Iran coverage. A paradigm of sticks-and-carrots simply is not going to work in the case of the Islamic Republic. Here, a lesson is readily accessible, if only the Obama White Home have been willing to consider Iran’s current historical past. It’s unrealistic to anticipate that a regime which fought Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (then backed by the United States) to a standstill in a bloody eight-12 months battle in the 1980s, unaided by any international energy, and has for 30 years withstood the results of U.S.-imposed financial sanctions might be alarmed by Washington’s recent threats of “crippling sanctions.”

Most vital, the Obama administration is ignoring the altered worldwide order that has emerged in the wake of the global financial disaster triggered by Wall Avenue’s excesses. Whereas its stimulus package deal, funded by taxpayers and international borrowing, has arrested the decline in the nation’s gross domestic product, Washington has finished little to drag the world economic system out of the doldrums. That task — carried out by the U.S. in latest recessions — has fallen willy-nilly to China. History repeatedly shows that such financial clout ultimately interprets into diplomatic energy.

Backed by more than $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, the state-owned Chinese language oil firms have been locking up hydrocarbon assets as far away as Brazil. Not surprisingly, Iran, with the second largest oil as well as gas reserves on the earth, looms massive within the strategic plans of Beijing. The Chinese wish to import Iran’s petroleum and natural gasoline by way of pipelines throughout Central Asia, thus circumventing sea routes weak to U.S. naval interdiction. As this is an integral part of China’s vitality safety coverage, little marvel that Chinese oil corporations have committed an estimated $120 billion dollars — to this point — to Iran’s energy trade.

During a latest meeting with Iran’s first vice president, Muhammad Reza Rahimi, in Beijing, Chinese language Prime Minister Wen Jiabao pressured the importance of cooperation between the 2 international locations with regards to hydrocarbons and trade (at $29 billion a 12 months, and rising), in addition to “higher coordination in international affairs.” Little surprise, then, that China has already moved to neutralize any sanctions that the United States — backed by Britain, France and Germany — would possibly impose on Iran with out United Nations authorization.

Foremost amongst these would be a ban on the export of gasoline to Iran, whose oil refining capability falls significantly short of domestic demand. Chinese oil corporations have already began shipping gasoline to Iran to fill the gap attributable to a stoppage of supplies from British and Indian firms anticipating Washington’s potential transfer. Between June and August 2009, China signed $eight billion price of contracts with Iran to assist develop two existing Iranian oil refineries to produce more gasoline domestically and to assist develop the gigantic South Pars pure fuel area. Iran’s national oil corporation has additionally invited its Chinese counterparts to participate in a $42.Eight billion challenge to assemble seven oil refineries and a 1,000 mile trans-Iran pipeline that may facilitate pumping petroleum to China.

Tehran and Moscow
On the subject of Russia, Tehran and Moscow have a protracted historical past of close relations, going back to Tsarist times. During that period and the subsequent Soviet period, the 2 states shared the inland Caspian Sea. Now, as two of the 5 littoral states of the Caspian, Iran and Russia still share a typical fluvial border.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, relations between the Islamic Republic and Russia warmed. Defying pressures from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Russia’s state-owned nuclear power company continued building a civilian nuclear energy plant near the Iranian port metropolis of Bushehr. It is scheduled to start producing electricity next year.

As for nuclear threats, the Kremlin’s perspective varies from Washington’s. It’s way more involved with the actual menace posed by some of Pakistan’s estimated 75 nuclear weapons falling into militant Islamist arms than with the theoretical one from Tehran. Considerably, it was during his latest trip to Beijing to conclude ambitious hydrocarbon agreements with China that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated, “If we speak about some type of sanctions [on Iran] now, earlier than we take concrete steps, we will fail to create favorable circumstances for negotiations. That is why we consider such speak premature.”

The negotiations that Putin talked about are actually ongoing between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Safety Council (the U.S. Britain, China, France, and Russia) in addition to Germany. In accordance with Western sources, the agenda of the talks is initially to middle on a “freeze for freeze” agreement. Iran would suspend its nuclear enrichment program in alternate for the U.N. Safety Council not strengthening its present nominal economic sanctions. If these reviews are correct, then the chances of a serious breakthrough could also be slim indeed.

At the heart of this subject lies Iran’s potential potential to enrich uranium to a degree usable as gas for a nuclear weapon. This, in flip, is linked to the best way Iran’s leaders view national security. As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is, in actual fact, entitled to enrich uranium. The key level is the diploma of enrichment: 5% enriched uranium for use as fuel in an electricity generating plant (referred to as low enriched uranium, LEU); 20% enriched to be used as feedstock for producing medical isotopes (categorized as medium enriched uranium, MEU); and 90%-plus for petroleum equipment supply engineeringmpany example bomb-grade gasoline (generally known as excessive enriched uranium, HEU).

To this point, what Iran has produced at its Natanz nuclear plant is LEU. At the Iran-Six Powers meeting in Geneva on October 1st, Iran agreed in principle to send three-quarters of its current inventory of 1,600 kilograms (three,500 pounds) of LEU to Russia to be enriched into MEU and shipped again to its existing Tehran Analysis Reactor to provide medical isotopes. If this settlement is fleshed out and finalized by all the events below the aegis of the Worldwide Atomic Vitality Agency, then the proportion of Iran’s LEU with a potential of being was HEU would diminish dramatically.

When it comes to the nuclear conundrum, what distinguishes China and Russia from the U.S. is that they have conferred unconditional diplomatic recognition petroleum equipment supply engineeringmpany example and acceptance on the Islamic Republic of Iran. So their business and diplomatic hyperlinks with Tehran are thriving. Indeed, a sub-structure of pipelines and economic alliances between hydrocarbon-wealthy Russia, Iran, and vitality-hungry China is now being cast. In other phrases, the muse is being laid for the emergence of a Russia-Iran-China diplomatic triad within the not-too-distant future, while Washington stays caught in an outdated groove of imposing “punishing” sanctions against Tehran for its nuclear program.

Tehran and Washington
There’s, of course, a deep and painful legacy of animosity and ill-feeling between the 30-12 months-previous Islamic Republic of Iran and the U.S. Iran was an early victim of Washington’s subversive actions when the six-yr-previous CIA overthrew the democratically elected authorities of Prime Minister Muhammad Mussadiq in 1953. That scar on Iran’s physique politic has not healed yet. Half a century later, the Iranians watched the Bush administration invade neighboring Iraq and overthrow its president, Saddam Hussein, on trumped-up charges involving his supposed program to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Iran’s leaders know that throughout his second term in workplace — as Seymour Hersh revealed in the new Yorker — Bush authorized a clandestine CIA program with a funds of $four hundred million to destabilize the Iranian regime. They’re also conscious that the CIA has focused on stoking disaffection among Sunni ethnic minorities in Shiite-dominated Iran. These embody ethnic Arabs in the oil-rich province of Khuzistan adjoining Iraq, and ethnic Baluchis in Sistan-Baluchistan Province abutting the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

Little wonder that Tehran pointed an accusing finger at the U.S. for the latest assassination of six commanders of its Revolutionary Guard Corps in Sistan-Baluchistan by two suicide bombers belonging to Jundallah (the Military of Allah), an extremist Sunni organization. As yet, there isn’t a signal, overt or covert, that President Obama has canceled or repudiated his predecessor’s program to destabilize the Iranian regime.

Insecure regimes seek security in nuclear arms. History shows that joining the nuclear membership has, actually, proven an effective strategy for survival. Israel and North Korea present putting examples of this.

Uncertain of Western military help in a conventional struggle with Arab nations, and of its ability to take care of its conventional armed superiority over its Arab adversaries, Israel’s leaders embarked on a nuclear weapons program within the mid-1950s. They succeeded of their venture a decade later. Since then Israel has acquired an arsenal of 80 to 200 nuclear weapons.

In the North Korean case, as soon as the country had tested its first atomic bomb in October 2006, the Bush administration softened its stance in direction of it. Within the bargaining that followed, North Korea bought its name faraway from the State Division’s record of nations that support international terrorism. In the on-once more-off-once more bilateral negotiations that adopted, the Pyongyang regime as an official nuclear state has been in search of a assure in opposition to attack or subversion by the United States.

With out saying so publicly, Iran’s leaders want the same assure from the U.S. Conversely, until Washington ends its clandestine program to destabilize the Iranian state, and caps it with an offer of diplomatic acceptance and normal relations, there isn’t a prospect of Tehran abandoning its proper to enrich uranium. On the other hand, the continuation of a policy of destabilization, coupled with ongoing threats of “crippling” sanctions and army strikes (whether by the Pentagon or Israel), can only drive the Iranians towards a nuclear breakout capability.

During George W. Bush’s eight-yr presidency, the U.S. place on the earth underwent a sea change. From the Clinton administration, Bush had inherited a legacy of ninety two months of continuous financial prosperity, a finances in surplus, and the transformation of the U.N. Security Council into a handmaiden of the State Division. What he handed on to Barack Obama was the great Recession in a world the place America’s recognition had hit rock bottom and its economic power was visibly ebbing. All this paved the way for the economic and political rise of China, as properly because the strengthening of Russia as an energy large able to extending its affect in Europe and challenging American dominance within the Middle East.

On this new surroundings expecting the leaders of Iran, backed by China and Russia, to do the bidding of Washington means putting a bet on the inconceivable.

Dilip Hiro is the writer of Blood of the Earth: The Battle for the World’s Vanishing Oil Assets (Nation Books), among other works. His forthcoming ebook, After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World, shall be published in January 2010, additionally by Nation Books.