Monday, February 13, 2012

The politics of bluffing, posturing and how sanctions will only make Iran stronger

Self delusion is an intriguing phenomenon that seems almost inherent to foreign policy. In the latest round of sanctions against Iran it seems to have once again worked its all-encompassing spell. History has repeatedly shown that sanctions without the force of multinational disinvestment are woefully impotent, nonetheless the United States and European Union have embarked on a course of action that will likely prove to be a disruptive, but temporary obstacle to Tehran, and perhaps even an unexpected benefit.

The primary consumers of Iranian petroleum have been the European Union and the developing markets of Asia, particularly India and China. The EU consumes appoximately 18% of Iran's petroleum exports and the recent policy decision to completely halt the importation of Iranian oil as of July, will have an undeniable impact on the Iranian economy. However, this is far more superfically ominous than realistically capable of bringing Tehran to the negotiating table.

This internationall drama, for all its political posturing and empty threats of embargos and military action, fails to impart the realities of the new geopolitical order. Iran desires commerce and trade with the West, but it does not need the West.  It does need revenue. The true beneficiaries of the West's political admonitions will not be in Washington or the EU, but in Moscow and Beijing. Europe's markets require inexpensive and reliable sources of petroleum and with the failure of the Nabucco pipeline plan, greater importation of  Russian energy resources will presumably compensate for unavailable Iranian product. Iranian petroleum will expectedly be dumped upon a market in which the consumer can dictate the terms of price and production. China and India are prepared to balance the fine line of economic necessity and political sensitivity, enjoying increased importation of cheaper Iranian oil while neither condoning nor criticizing Iran's nuclear development program.

If the West accomplishes anything through its' policies, it will inadvertently create a stronger East. Neccesity can breed accomodation, a concept sufficiently demonstrated by the Chinese strategy of international investment and development. The West has legitimate reason to fear a possibly nuclear Iran and the threat this poses to Israel, however there appears to be an inability to recognize that Iran is conceivably utilizing the tactics of feigning and posturing that are being so heavily deployed by its critics.  Sanctions will weaken Iran, but only for a brief time. The final consequences of these decisions may not be a cowed and concillatory Iranian government, but one reinvigorated by stable markets willing to ignore its political inclinations. Tehran will no longer have to pretend that it can survive and thrive without the West, it simply will.

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