Home > POLITICS > Sanctions are about regime change, not about nukes

Sanctions are about regime change, not about nukes

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Volkhonsky Boris

Photo: EPA   

On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported with a reference to an anonymous senior U.S. intelligence official, that the real goal of sanctions against Iran was to “create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”

The peculiar thing is that an earlier version stated that the “intelligence official had described regime collapse as a goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran.” Later, the paper had to disavow this statement and present a corrected version.

In fact, the “corrected” wording does not sound much different from the original one. “Creating hate and discontent at the street level” is hardly a means to force Iranian leaders “to change their ways.” It is an obvious and necessary prerequisite for the course of events demonstrated last year in a number of Arab countries and being imposed at the moment on Syria.

In fact, the statement exposes the overall U.S. strategy in the “Great Middle East”. Iran has always been the staunchest obstacle for the establishment of complete U.S. dominance in the vast region from Morocco to Pakistan. Now that the “Arab Spring” has been successfully implemented in a number of countries, why not try it on Iran?

As is well known, economic sanctions rarely directly affect governments. But their immediate effect is always felt by the majority of population facing increasing hardships. This really does create public ire and may well result in street protests of the kind tried and implemented in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

While absolutely no unambiguous and conclusive evidence of Iran’s nuclear program pursuing military ends has been presented, the whole story of sanctions and Iranian countermeasures resembles a kind of arguments two boxers exchange before the fight. The real aim is to produce an impression on outside observers.

For the U.S., the “nuclear story” is a two-fold weapon. Internationally, it aims at drawing the attention of its European allies who lately, being preoccupied with their internal problems, were not too eager to obey the orders coming from Washington. The nuclear scarecrow is something that can divert the Europeans’ attention from the euro crisis and restore the U.S. dominance.

Even more important is the internal American aspect of the issue. While global issues rarely matter more than domestic ones in U.S. elections, the “Iranian nuclear program” has been publicized enough to scare an average American. President Barack Obama has been often criticized by his Republican rivals for his presumably “soft” stance on the issue. Mitt Romney went as far as saying, “if we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon.” Therefore, for Obama it is the right time to demonstrate his firmness.

On the other hand, most observers note that Iran’s threats to blockade the Hormuz Strait are unlikely to be implemented. The consequences of such action could be much more damaging for Iran than the sanctions themselves. Still, this does not exclude “asymmetrical” countermeasures. And the current voyage of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Latin America also bears a symbolic importance. In fact, it is Venezuela and not Iran which accounts for a large portion of U.S. oil imports, and if Hugo Chavez decides to stand by his Iranian counterpart in times of hardship, the sanctions against Iran may well backfire.

But what remains the most important unknown quantity in the “Iranian equation” is the possible reaction of China, the biggest importer of Iranian oil. At present, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is on a hard mission trying to persuade China of the common need to impose stricter sanctions on Iran. But, despite polite remarks about “a positive working relationship” and “important cooperation in the multilateral and global arena”, Chinese officials, as usual, have been evasive on the issue of sanctions. Definitely, Iranian oil plays too big a role in the Chinese economy to risk the side effects of the sanctions.

In any case, the matter has gone too far from what it originally was. And now it is no longer about the semi-mythical Iranian nuclear weapons, but rather about the future of U.S. dominance in regional and global affairs. For that end, regime change in Iran seems a much more appropriate target than just forcing Iranian leaders “to change their ways.”

VOR.

.

Laaska News.