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Iran Affair: US Machinations

US Machinations We can be grateful to the US ambassador to India, David Mulford for telling it like it is


US Machinations

e can be grateful to the US ambassador to India, David Mulford for telling it like it is – India had to vote on the same side as the US at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) governing board if it wanted to have any chance of securing congressional approval of the Indo-US nuclear energy deal. But New Delhi also has reason to be relieved at the Russian and Chinese backing for the proposal thattheIAEAwill submit a report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) in March on Iran’s civilian nuclear energy programme and activities and its dualuse implications and possibilities. This has given the Congress-led UPA government a cover behind which it can hope to hide its foreign policy subservience to the US.

The real issue has never been imminent fear by the US of an Iranian acquisition of a nuclear bomb. Certainly, US determination after the September 2001 terrorism attacks to not allow certain selected countries (of which Iran is one) to even develop the capacity to make nuclear weapons, does explain why the US now feels the need to prevent these countries from having domestic control of even a full civilian nuclear fuel cycle, though they have every legal right to have such control. But the more fundamental reason why Washington has sought to squeeze Teheran is that it can otherwise have no assured domination of the geo-strategically crucial region of west Asia. The invasion of Iraq was not undertaken because it had weapons of mass destruction or because the US wanted to “export democracy”, but as a major step in pursuit of just such geo-strategic ambitions. This same ambition meant that the US would have to turn its attention subsequently to Iran. The IAEA-Iran affair has simply provided the US with the excuse it needed and outlined the path it can take, to try and push Iran into a corner as well as best gain international support in doing so.

Iran on its part faces a difficult though by no means impossible situation. It can capitulate to the pressure put on it by the US and EU by going in for a deal that allows it to enrich uranium only in Russia under non-Iranian supervision, i e, give up in practice full control of the nuclear fuel cycle. Since Russia and China have endorsed such a discriminatory proposal against Iran, the latter may well feel that if, in due course, the issue of sanctions comes up in the UNSC then it may no longer be able to count on a Chinese or Russian veto to protect it. But even if Teheran were to capitulate in this manner this would at best only stall the US, not cause it to abandon its posture of strategic hostility towards Iran or end its efforts to undermine the current regime. Such a course of action would also seriously undermine the present Ahmadinejad government domestically, given the aroused nationalism of the Iran public, justifiably angered by the immense hypocrisy of the whole proceedings engineered by the US and its supporters inside and outside the IAEA governing body. The other option Iran has would be to hang tough and defy the five permanent members of the UNSC in the belief that despite all threats implied or explicit, there will be no sanctions that can really bite hard into Iran’s economy; that it has enough cards of its own to play in Iraq; and that the US will not itself, nor allow Israel to, carry out an air strike on its nuclear-related facilities for fear of the wider and uncertain ramifications that would follow from such an action. By, if not before, early March it will become clear what path Iran has chosen.

As for India, the US is in the happy position of knowing that the two main parties, the Congress and the BJP, are both deeply committed to sustaining and deepening the India-US-Israel axis. BJP criticisms of the Indian vote at the IAEA should not be taken seriously since the party’s main purpose is to fish in the troubled domestic waters churned up by the more genuine opposition of the Left and to hope that the latter might be provoked into pulling down this government if not quite now, then at least sooner rather than later. When one takes into consideration the signal sent out by the removal of the additional charge of petroleum from Mani Shankar Aiyar, it is entirely reasonable to infer that the US exercises even more influence on the prime minister’s office than even the most hardened cynics may be inclined to assume. Aiyar’s plans for establishing long-term oil and gas security (including pushing for the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline) were not just the most creative and strategically well thought out perspectives ever developed by the petroleum ministry, they were for that very reason (e g, pursuit of an alternative Asian energy grid involving China and India) an unacceptable challenge to the US’ own global oil politics. In effect, the pipeline deal in due course may well fall through thus creating much more dependence on an India-US nuclear energy deal that may not even get through the barriers presented by the US congress and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.


Economic and Political Weekly February 11, 2006

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