By Styliani Kampani. Originally published on 2012/02/13
The Iran case turned up in the Western media frontlines (again) in December 2011. With Iran enriching uranium by 20% and defying International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) regulations, it ended up with a bunch of sanctions. The majority of the western societies have repeatedly expressed their severe concern about Iran’s doubtful nuclear program. First and foremost the USA and Canada along with the EU adopted the heavy sanctions that they had been threatening within the past few months. Russia, China and other Asian states are critical of the sanctions and keep a more moderate and neutral position. On the other side Iran remains firm, claiming that its nuclear plan is for solely destined peaceful purposes and also within the limits of international law. Then why so much noise about a country that possesses nuclear power since 1950?
Fear of nuclear power
Power and security is what every single country seeks in an unpredictable global system. Taken this nuclear recourses could eventually offer the strategic advantage. In 2003 Iran started its nuclear program which is said to be developed for electricity production. Nevertheless, investigators from both sides of the Atlantic suspect with good reason that Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons. This forms quite a threat for the West, since possessing nuclear weapons raises issues of international security. Some fear that nuclear could fall into the hands of terrorists and spread around the wider area. Others support that a nuclear Iran would set off a proliferation-spiral in the Middle East turning this critical region into a tinderbox. Apart from that, Iran theoretically could trigger a new conflict with Israel that would definitely push US in it. Or alternatively US allying with Israel could start up a pre-emptive war against Iran. It worth’s mentioning here the ongoing disputes in the Gulf of Hormuz (choke point for trade routes) with the USA, which strait further the explosive atmosphere.
The Security Council has been busy with Iran case since 2005. Up to present, Iran has received six resolutions concerning its nuclear activity. Whatsoever none of them did even scratch Iran, which undisturbed continued its activity. More specifically the investigations of IAEA did not let experts absolutely tranquilized about safeguard implementation issues, experiments of explosive materials and abstention from interviewing of some scientists. Things got worse when Tehran failed to comply with Security Council’s work plan and kept on enriching uranium (basic component for nuclear weapons).
Did the EU take the right decision?
The position of the EU is in line with that of the Security Council. This comes not as a surprise since Britain and France belong to the Permanent Five (P5) and Germany is the 6th additional non-member. All 27 member states agreed in the latest Foreign Affairs Council to impose a list of sanctions, including freezing assets of the Iranian Central Bank in the EU, stop precious stones and metals trade and set travel ban on Iranian individuals and companies linked to Iran’s nuclear program. As for the burning issue, crude and petroleum products, the imports have been banned, save for the already concluded contracts, which can be executed until July 2012.
Fact is the dependence of many European countries on Iranian oil, so cutting up oil supply could eventually affect them more than Iran. Namely Italy, Greece and Spain are heavily dependent on Iranian crude. Considering the tough times for the euro-zone, this could be an additional problem. In numbers, Europe is importing averagely 865,000 barrels from Iran according to Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Someone could say the gap could apparently be covered by Russia or Norway. But taken the cheap trade via Mediterranean, Russia seems unprofitable and Norway cannot immediately double its production. Cutting off oil supply would definitely increase oil price, hinder economic growth and could stiffen bilateral relations of the EU-Iran in the long term.
Apart from that Iran could likely cover the export deficit by feeding other “hungry” economies like China, India, Japan and South Korea. China and India have already stated their willingness to increase imports with a small treat though, better prices. Additionally, the chief executive of France’s Total SA, Christophe de Margerie stated “I don’t think that it will have a major impact on Iran. After a period of time, the oil market will adapt and, the part [of Iran’s oil] which is not sold to the OECD will be sold elsewhere, probably to the Asian markets”.
Keep the date. A review of the measures relating to oil and petroleum products will take place by the end of spring. As such the EU has a second chance to redefine its position and divide the cards on the negotiations table, hopefully. Using diplomacy, negotiations and proactive “dialog” more can be achieved than lost. Handling the situation with threats and punishments makes the opposite side more and more stubborn. Except for that, as the case of Iraq showed, economic sanctions do not always produce the consequences intended and often damage the civilian population, rather than the government or the oil-privileged minority. Last but not least there is a small difference comparing to the former (failed) times of trying to discipline Iran. Now Iran is under some more serious pressure, since trade with Far East might not work with the best terms.
For further reading visit the following links:
Global Policy Forum :
Handbook on nuclear law by IAEA :