In October, the United States accused Iran of plotting to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US. Iran vehemently denies the allegation but the US, and Saudi Arabia, are unconvinced. Then, the UN report on Iran’s nuclear capacity was released saying Tehran worked for many years to develop nuclear weapons – and may still be doing so. In response, Western nations have threatened economic sanctions and military strikes to condemn Tehran for secretly developing nuclear weapons. By KHADIJA PATEL.
When he assumed office, US President Barack Obama pledged to seek a relationship built on mutual understanding with Iran.
“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” he said in his inaugural address.
Yet as Obama now campaigns for a second term in office, he has led a new wave of sanctions against Tehran. In Tehran, as in Washington DC and Tel Aviv, fists are being clenched with new vigour.
In addition to the US, Britain, Canada and France are all primed to announce a new set of international sanctions that target Iran's banks and oil industry.
On Monday British Treasury chief George Osborne announced that Britain will stop business transactions with all banks in Iran, including Iran's Central Bank. He said it was the first time Britain had cut ties with the entire banking sector of a country. In turn, the US is widely expected to implement measures to limit Tehran's ability to refine its own fuel, as well as targeting the financial interest of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
US officials are reported to have said the Treasury Department will also designate Iran as a territory of "primary money laundering concern". They say the designation will serve as a warning to foreign governments and businesses to scale back their relations with Iranian financial institutions. Already US companies and individuals are banned from doing business with Iran.
Thus far sanctions against Iran have had a profound effect on the Iranian economy, but not its oil industry. This new wave of American sanctions is intended to cripple Tehran’s oil industry. Critics of Western sanctions against Iran contend that the sanctions have served only to further embolden the Iranian government to the detriment of the Iranian people.
Reports indicate that Obama has actually been reluctant to take action against Iran’s Central Bank. Obama’s hesitation is well founded. Blocking Tehran’s access to international commerce and export markets may lead to a rise in oil prices that could hurt global economic growth.
Since the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report two weeks ago however, US lawmakers have pressured the Obama administration to impose tighter sanctions on Iran. The IAEA report cited intelligence about Iranian efforts to develop the technology needed to build nuclear weapons. Iran retorts that the report is based on fabrications and insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
Last Friday, South Africa’s Governor to the IAEA, Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, chorused scepticism of the IAEA report on Tehran’s nuclear activities. “We also note with a sense of unease, that this time the Agency has provided us with a report containing information characterised by several uncertainties and doubts. From the report and its Annex we discern that the Agency is not yet sure of the continuation of some of the activities alleged to be undertaken by Iran. There is no clarification which of the various procurement activities were successful,” he said.
Minty however expressed South Africa’s concern that the IAEA “remains unable to provide credible assurances about the ‘absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran’.” South African reservations were however disregarded as the IAEA voted in favour of a resolution condemning Iran over its nuclear program.
The diplomatic chasm between Iran and the West continues to widen. Soon after the IAEA resolution was passed, the UN General Assembly also demanded that Iran cooperate with an investigation into the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi envoy to Washington. The Saudi-sponsored resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority by the 193-member General Assembly with 106 votes in favour, nine against and 40 abstentions. South Africa joined Russia, Brazil and India in abstaining from the vote.
Many link the alleged assassination plot to the growing tensions over Iran's nuclear drive and warn that this new wave of sanctions may serve to fuel hostilities in a restive Middle East. DM
- Top 10 ways US tries to subvert Iran in Global Post;
- ANALYSIS | Iran really is on nuclear brink in CBC News;
- Iran: Sanctions a 'lose-lose game' in News24.