Yesterday’s decision by EU foreign ministers to impose an embargo on Iranian oil has brought the world one step closer to the war that Israel and elements within the US political establishment have long sought. If Iran carries out its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, then it will initiate a potentially catastrophic confrontation, not only in the numbers of lives that may be lost (most of which will not be ours of course), but it terms of its ability to generate massive political and economic chaos in the Middle East and also impact on the crumbling economies in the West.
It is a measure of the stupidity, subservience and sheer incompetence of the EU leaders that they have taken a reckless decision which runs entirely contrary to Europe’s own economic interests. Greece, Italy and Spain all import large quantities of Iranian oil and are all likely to pay a heavy price at a time when their economies are already going under.
The EU’s aggressive brinkmanship has been given the usual diplomatic facade, with a joint statement from Cameron, Merkel and Sarkozy calling on Iran to suspend its nuclear activities and insisting that ‘We have no quarrel with the Iranian people. But the Iranian leadership has failed to restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.’
Similar statements were made when sanctions were introduced against Iraq that led to an estimated half a million deaths during the 1990s. They were also made by Western leaders before the bombs fell on Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and no doubt the Iranian population will feel similarly moved by their concern. Because, after all, as Foreign Secretary William Hague insists:
‘It is absolutely right to do this when Iran is continuing to breach UN resolutions and refusing to come to meaningful negotiations on its nuclear programme. These are peaceful and legitimate measures, they are not about conflict.’
And then there is the truly ridiculous non-entity ‘Baroness’ Cathy Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, parachuted into her job by the Labour Party for reasons that were unclear to anyone, now solemnly warning that
‘Iran has the opportunity to come forward not just to talk, but to have some concrete issues to talk about. It is very important that it is not just about words. A meeting is not an excuse, a meeting is an opportunity and I hope that they will seize it.’
And last but by no means least there is Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to NATO, also inviting the Iranians to ‘ resolve this issue with negotiations.’ And if they won’t, well you know
‘These situations, the choices are very, very difficult. I have not looked at the exact military contingency plannings that there are â€¦ But of this I am certain: the international waterways that go through the strait of Hormuz are to be sailed by international navies including ours, the British and the French and any other navy that needs to go through the Gulf; and second, we will make sure that that happens under every circumstance.’
Translated into less diplomatic language, the Iranians are indeed being given a choice: capitulate completely to the demands of the ‘international community’; dismantle their nuclear program and submit to an inspections regime of the type that was imposed on Iraq; allow inspectors to come into their country and grant them unlimited access to all of their nuclear and many of their military installations.
No state in its right mind would agree to this, especially after what happened in Iraq, and the West knows this perfectly well. But the pressure being applied to Iran has very little to do with nuclear proliferation. Everyone knows that even if Iran had a nuclear bomb and used it for whatever reason – an assumption that is entirely based on the belief that Iran is some kind of mad state intent on collective suicide – then it would be annihilated within minutes. Everyone knows that Israel has some two hundred odd nuclear warheads, even if no European or American politician ever talks about them.
If nuclear proliferation were really the issue then the states that are now applying sanctions could seek to resolve the Iranian nuclear programme within a broader international framework that might include for example, Israel’s nuclear ‘deterrent’ – to say nothing of their own. Nor is just a question of the Israeli tail wagging the US – and indirectly – the European dog.
Ever since the end of the Cold War, American military policy has been predicated on the premise that no state should be able to challenge US dominance in any part of the world. This was one of the reasons for its obsession with Iraq. As a result of the strategic blunder of the 2003 invasion, Iran has been empowered and must be taken down.
Nuclear proliferation is therefore the diplomatic battering ram, through which the US has sought to mobilise international support behind this objective. But in the end we are not talking about world peace here. Iran is being targeted for reasons that are entirely to with geopolitical strategy, access to energy supplies in the Caspian and the Gulf, oil pipelines and the continued attempt to dominate a region that the West still thinks it owns.
And as for the European Union, its role in this episode has been truly shameful and pathetic. There was a time, when some europhiles speculated that the EU might be able to forge a new relationship with the Middle East, and that it might even act as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That never happened. Despite the initially tepid response of France and Germany to the Iraq war, the EU has fallen entirely in line with the US-Israeli agenda in the region.
From its participation in the pointless ‘Quartet’ that has achieved almost nothing except to act as a networking and money-making forum for Tony Blair. Now the EU is doing everything that Israel wants and everything that the United States wants. In doing so it has brought the world one step closer to yet another war – even as its leaders continue to talk of peace.