The new legislation by the venerable lawmakers in the United States, imposing sanctions against Iran (along with Russia and North Korea), has an air of inevitability. But what is inevitable doesn’t always have to be logical.
The base line is how effective these sanctions are going to be. Iran is not new to US sanctions and its economy does not depend on trade or investment from the US. In sum, the US lawmakers are hoping to impose the sanctions via the international community.
But the main difference this time as compared to previous US sanctions is that the POTUS happens to be Donald Trump and the international community regards him with profound scepticism bordering on bewilderment. The world opinion is unlikely to rally behind Trump in an enterprise to punish Iran — or on any issue.
There is a big contradiction in the Trump administration’s approach to Iran because it is legislating sanctions while also certifying that Iran’s compliance with the 15 July 2015 nuclear deal [JCPOA] is satisfactory. And for the world community, JCPOA is a vital platform in international security and is the top priority.
Trump doesn’t have the ghost of a chance to get the UN Security Council to sanctify new sanctions against Iran (on whatever pretext). And in the absence of UN mandate, this becomes an issue of his “America First” foreign policy.
Things will be different if Iran retaliates against these sanctions by exiting the JCPOA, pleading that Washington is backing out from the deal. But Tehran is instead playing an astute game. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif said yesterday that Iran will not give a “gift” to Trump.
Zarif signalled that: a) Iran can live with Trump’s sanctions; b) Iran stands to gain more by complying with the JCPOA and earn international goodwill (especially among the world powers); and, c) Iran is utterly free anyway to pursue its missile program (which is indigenous and does not depend on Western technology).
What matters to Iran is that its successful (re)integration with the international community does not suffer any setback. So long as Iran can sell its oil and gas in the world market and so long as there is no sanctions regime with a cutting edge such as the one Barack Obama brilliantly succeeded in imposing (by getting even China and Russia on board), Iran can advance its development agenda.
In fact, Russia’s Gazprom just signed an agreement with Iran’s Oil Industries’ Engineering and Construction to develop Azar and Changuleh oil fields, Iran’s most recent discoveries located in the western province of Lorestan, which are believed to hold an in-place reserve of about 3.5 billion barrels of oil. (Azar is a joint field Iran shares with Iraq.)
Clearly, in the developing global scenario with the US-Russia relations nose diving — and no improvement possible in a foreseeable future — Russian military technology reaches Iran more freely than ever before. Iran’s strategic defiance of the US matters to the Russian strategy.
Equally, China views Iran as the regional hub in its …read more