Last Updated: Fri Apr 06, 2012 14:30 pm (KSA) 11:30 am (GMT)

Iran’s moment of truth

Hassan Barari

Thus far, the American administration has focused its effort on multilateral international efforts to convince Iran of the unacceptability of its nuclear program.

While Israel is pounding the drums of war, Washington does not seem keen on a military strike before consuming all means possible to avert a confrontation amid an election year. And yet, Washington made it perfectly clear that it was committed to a prevention rather than deterrence strategy.

Many countries have already cast their doubts on the utility of sanctions. The common argument is that sanctions will not work and will not twist the arm of the Iranian regime. Some Arab countries have also made it clear that the Iranian regime may survive the sanction and Iran may go nuclear accordingly. But again, the United States has a lot on its plate. The official position is one of tightening the sanction regime to a point where the leaders of Iran will be forced to respond positively to the demands of the West.

Nonetheless, new reports allude to new fractures in the Iranian economy. Leading oil companies in Greece and South Africa announced their suspension of their imports of Iran’s crude oil. Tehran’s attempt to project the sanction as bullying tactics is not expected to work. The European Union is set to tighten the sanctions on July 1 by taking extra steps. Therefore, many experts talk about an embargo of Iranian crude oil will take place in July. Iran’s central bank has recently been expelled from the global communication network. This measure has cost Iran dearly as the value of Iran’s currency against the dollar has sharply dropped accordingly. The resulted inflation in prices of imported goods is expected to hit hard the Iranian economy. The sanctions have also pushed some differences with Iran to the fore. It is true that Iranians on the whole oppose the sanction regime, yet there are many disagreements among top leaders as to why Iran failed to avert the stinging impact of the Western policies toward Iran. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Expediency Council and a former president, made the case that Iran had made a grave mistake by failing to improve its relations with Riyadh. In fact, the Saudi cooperation was the key in the Western strategy on sanctions. Put differently, the Western strategy would not have worked had it not been for the Saudi pledge to increase their oil exports to make up for any supply shortfall caused by oil embargo on Iran.

While it remains to be seen how Tehran will respond to the evolving disheartening new reality, the Israeli leadership pushes for more actions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the new sanctions did not have the desired impact. Over the last several months, Israeli leaders have exerted a great deal of efforts trying to mobilize the world public opinion against Iran’s nuclear policy. On more than one occasion, the Israeli government sent a message that the world should not underestimate what Israeli could do regardless of how this would affect the global oil market.

While many observers expect Israel may resort to a military option in dealing with Iran’s defiant stand on the issue, the American administration has been warning Israel of the risks involved in any attack on Iran. In an interview with ABC, US Secretary of State said: “It’s our very strong belief, as President Obama conveyed to the Israelis, that it is not in anyone’s interest for them to take unilateral action.” Washington has “worked very hard with Israel on all levels from the military, intelligence, strategic, and diplomatic level to make sure we were sharing information,” she said.

Interestingly, the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that weapons of mass destruction was religiously prohibited and against Islam. This statement came just a few weeks ahead the resumption of talks between Iran and the West in Istanbul on April 13. Iran is still in need to back up this statement by agreeing to a scheme that would defuse the crisis over its nuclear program. “I want us to come together in Istanbul in a few weeks and really talk honestly about what we need to do to remove the cloud of the Iranian nuclear program, and remove all of the suspicion that could possibly lead to confrontation from the international community,” she said in her interview with the ABC. In brief, Tehran will soon face the moment of truth and will decide over what to do to avert a possible strike.

The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in Arab News on April. 6, 2012

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