The Obama administration has inaugurated 2012 with renewed belligerence toward Iran, which threatens to destabilize the region and spark a wider conflagration between the world’s major powers.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed by Obama on Dec. 31 contains provisions penalizing foreign companies dealing with Iran’s central bank, which processes most of the country’s oil sales. This is to be coupled later this month with an oil embargo by the European Union.
The sanctions have the potential to wreck the Iranian economy, which is already in crisis. Oil and gas exports account for some 80 percent of the country’s income and more than half of its state revenue.
Tehran views the aggression as an act of “economic war” and has threatened to close down the Strait of Hormuz through which approximately 20 percent of the world’s oil passes.
Last week it warned American aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis not to return to the Persian Gulf after it provocatively embarked on a “routine transit” of the strait with the guided-missile destroyer USS Mobile Bay during Iranian naval exercises.
“We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf,” Iran’s top Army Commander Major General Ataollah Salehi said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not repeat its warning.”
“The deployment of U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf region will continue as it has for decades,” responded the Pentagon making it clear that any restriction to the “freedom of navigation” through the strait would “not be tolerated.”
Reminiscent of the deliberate lies about weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the illegal war of aggression against Iraq, Washington is once again peddling unsubstantiated claims — this time about an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program. Tehran has denied the accusations maintaining its nuclear capabilities are for peaceful purposes only.
The Obama administration has seized upon the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report which argues on dated “evidence” that Iran carried out research related to nuclear weapons nearly a decade ago.
Washington and Israel are largely suspected in a campaign of sabotage against the Iranian nuclear program over the past few years, from computer viruses and targeted explosions at facilities to assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.
Washington has also sought to undermine Iranian influence in the region, recently concluding arms sales with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – Iran’s chief regional rival – and supporting ongoing efforts to overthrow Iran’s strongest ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Conveniently, those nations pushing hardest for the oil embargo – the U.S., Britain and France – are among the least dependent on Iranian crude.
The real target of the embargo is China who consumes 22 percent of Iran’s oil exports, which accounts for some 11 percent of all China’s oil imports. Other large purchasers of Iranian crude oil – Japan (14 percent), India (13 percent) and South Korea (10 percent) – are all U.S. allies and are expected to benefit from a provision in the NDAA, which allows President Obama to grant waivers to “any country… in cases which the impact would harm the national security interests of the United States.”
This is in keeping with the administration’s new military strategy declaring continued involvement in the Middle East and around the globe while “of necessity rebalance[ing] toward the Asia Pacific region.”
The deliberate march toward war with Iran must be seen within the context of the decades-long drive of the U.S. to assert its hegemony over the energy reserves of the Middle East and Central Asia at the expense of its global rivals. Its root cause is the protracted decline of American capitalism on the world stage.
It is worth noting that the NDAA is the same legislation that authorizes the U.S. military to unilaterally detain without trial U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, demonstrating the indissoluble link between militarism abroad and the erosion of democratic rights at home.
A war with Iran would have nothing to do with that country’s nuclear program any more than the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were about WMDs or the fight against terrorism. The devastating consequences of such a war mean it must be opposed at all costs.