Iran sitting pretty in the face of sanctions
The August 31 UN deadline came and there were no
signs from Iran that it had suspended its uranium enrichment programme
as requested by the world body at the behest of the United States
and its three European allies - Britain, France and Germany.
On the contrary, there was defiance from Iran
which refused to wilt under US-European pressure or the threat of
The message Iran is sending to the world is that
it has not violated any international treaty with regard to its
nuclear programme and therefore any punitive measure against Iran
is unwarranted. On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
vowed that his country would never give up its nuclear programme
and accused the West of misinterpreting Iran's nuclear activities.
|Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, flashes
the victory sign, during a public gathering at the city of Orumiyeh
540 miles northwest of Tehran, on Thursday, the day on which
the U.N. deadline for his country to stop enriching uranium
expired. He said Teheran would not be bullied into giving up
its right to nuclear technology. (AP Photo/ISNA)
Iran appears to be confident that the punitive
measures which the US and the European three are threatening to
impose will not see the light of day due to geopolitical factors,
especially those of Russia and China.
Some US analysts, apparently expecting Russia
to back sanctions against Iran, make an effort to paint a nuclear
Iran as a threat to Russia. They say Moscow does not want another
nuclear power close to its border. But Moscow also knows that a
nuclear Iran will be largely a counterforce to the US, Israel and
the West. If Iran becomes a nuclear power, the new geo-strategic
reality will place an additional strategic burden on the West, especially
the US. The West will be compelled to concentrate its strategic
thinking, military resources and intelligence gathering on Teheran.
This means, the West's grip on other areas, including Russia, will
In other words, Russia stands to benefit if Iran
emerges as a counter-balance to the West's military power, especially
in West Asia. Although the Cold War is over, it is no secret that
the West and the United States have not fully incorporated Russia
into their alliance. Neither has Russia sought a membership in any
Western club. It feels such membership belittles its past superpower
laurels. The mutual suspicion that existed during the Cold War is
still evident in Russia's relations with the West and the US.
Russia is also not happy over the growing US influence
in its backyard. Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Uzbekistan,
Kazakhstan and several other Central Asian countries — all
formerly members of the Soviet Union — are governed by pro-US
regimes, much to the chagrin of Russia. Moreover, the Commonwealth
of Independent States, which the states of the former Soviet Union
formed upon the dissolution of the communist empire, is only a namesake
organization today although it was conceived as a bloc to coordinate
foreign and economic policies of member-states. The three Baltic
States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have joined the North Atlantic
Treaty Oragnisation (NATO) and the European Union while other states
do not hide their intention to join the pro-Western military and
Against this backdrop, Russia has reasons to believe
that a militarily powerful Iran will act as a bulwark against Western
domination in the Russian underbelly. Moscow, one of Iran's biggest
trading partners, is the largest supplier of material to Iran's
nuclear industry. Any economic sanctions on Iran will certainly
hit Russia economically. Therefore Russia may feel that it stands
to gain economically and strategically if Iran emerges as a powerful
regional player and saps the military energy of the West.
What about China? China is not lost on the fact
that the United States is building up India — with enhanced
cooperation in military, economic and nuclear fields — as
a counterforce to check Beijing’s growing economic and military
power. Although both China and India are taking diplomatic measures
to improve their relations and neither perceives the other as an
enemy any more, there is friction in several trade and diplomatic
areas. For instance, both China and India are competing with each
other in the energy market with both Indian and Chinese oil firms
spreading their tentacles far and wide to win oil-related contracts.
In diplomacy, China's close ties with Pakistan still evoke India's
There is an opportunity for China to use Iran
in a similar fashion the US uses India.
Besides, Iran is China's biggest oil supplier
and China is unlikely to go with the US and its European partners
to slam sanctions on Iran -- a move that is likely to shoot oil
Teheran is not unaware of these geopolitical factors
and is sitting pretty.
Geopolitical factors apart, Iran believes that
it has not violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or
any statutes of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In
fact, the NPT recommends that signatories to the treaty could obtain
assistance to build nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes from
All states that are party to the NPT have an inalienable
right to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran believes
that as this right is inalienable, it cannot be curtailed under
any pretext. It says that any attempt to do so would be an attempt
to undermine the treaty.
Legally, there is no obligation on the part of
Iran to negotiate or subject its peaceful nuclear programme to new
agreements outside the IAEA or the NPT. Therefore any suspension
of the nuclear programme could come as a voluntary step and not
under US or European pressure. Even the IAEA board of governors
in a previous report had underscored that suspension "is a
voluntary, non-legal-binding confidence-building measure".
However, in a report on Thursday, the IAEA claimed
that Teheran had not halted uranium enrichment and said three years
of IAEA probing had been unable to confirm ''the peaceful nature
of Iran's nuclear programme'' because of lack of cooperation from
The IAEA report, however, does not say that the
nuclear watchdog has been unable to confirm the military nature
of the Iran's nuclear programme.
The language of the IAEA report is no different from that went to
shape up its report on Iraq — a report that allowed room for
the the United States to interpret it the way it wanted and justify
its war on Iraq in 2003.
The whole issue over Iran's nuclear programme
is based on fear and suspicion entertained by the West which refuses
to believe Iran's claim. It is a question of lack of trust. The
West insists that Iran's nuclear programme is weapon-oriented and
to substantiate its claim it does not rely on concrete evidence
but reasons out by saying an oil-and-gas-rich country does not need
nuclear energy. Western nations fear that if Iran is allowed to
grow stronger, they will not be able to implement their designs
and strategies to dominate West Asia and exploit their resources.