If you have a moment to spare after solving the Syrian crisis, maybe you can help the world solve the Iranian one, too?
In a brazen display of chutzpah (although I’m sure he wouldn’t call it that) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a big photo op on Wednesday to brag about all the progress his nation has made in its ongoing efforts to enrich uranium. Decked out in a white lab coat, he proudly toured a Tehran facility claiming to have just finished production of the first Iranian-made, weapons-grade nuclear fuel rods, and announced that his government was set to begin the production of yellowcake too, which, as we may recall from Valerie Plame-gate, is a vital ingredient in the construction of a nuclear bomb.
The Israelis, it is widely suspected, have been doing their best to thwart all this, and are assumed to be behind the four “mysterious” assassinations of leading Iranian nuclear scientists that have taken place over the last two years. Small wonder, then, that a string of equally “mysterious” follow-up attacks against Israeli targets this week, in Georgia, Thailand, and India, have been seen as the latest escalation in what is fast becoming a very hot cold war between the two Middle-Eastern powers.
As Iran grows more open about its nuclear ambitious and the rest of the world grows more wary and frightened, the new pressing question is fast becoming “when exactly are you at war?” Certainly there have been no shortages of lines drawn in the sand; the major western powers have all repeatedly demanded Iran stop what it’s doing, and have imposed increasingly harsher and harsher sanctions when they haven’t. The Europeans are poised to impose a complete embargo on Iranian oil this July, and Japan has already reduced its imports by 40% over the last five years. Put together, this has caused a 75% market decline for Iran’s biggest — and indeed, basically only— foreign export, but we’re not done yet!
The Belgian-based Society for Worldwide International Financial Telecommunication is moving to blacklist Iranian banks from its network, making it increasingly difficult for Iranians to access foreign currency, and the White House has frozen all Iranian assets in the United States. Even good old Canada has blocked “virtually all financial transactions with Iran.”
Many news reports now make mention of the fact that Iran’s economy is “crumbling,” or, at the very least, is at one of its lowest lows. Day-to-day business in the country has become deeply arduous and frustrating as a result of the punitive web of restrictions and bans that now strangle so much of Iran’s trade and banking infrastructure, the currency has tanked causing huge inflation, and some reports suggest the nation has resorted to bartering with its few remaining friends simply to import food.
Satisfying though they may be on a purely vindictive level, sanctions have an overall mixed legacy when it comes to securing meaningful change in the behavior of rouge regimes, however. At best, history has proven that in cases where the national leadership is reasonably pragmatic and moderate, as in apartheid-era South Africa under President de Klerk, outwardly-imposed economic hardship can, in fact, beget political reform, but in cases where the leadership is dogmatic and indifferent to anything but its own glory and survival, as in sanctioned-choked Baathist Iraq and modern-day North Korea, financial turmoil merely imposes a new burden on an already long-suffering people.
Israel, for its part, seems unwilling to take a chance with either proposition. A fascinating story out of the London Guardian framed the entire sanctions drive as little more than an anxious stalling tactic on the part of the western powers to distract the Jewish state into delaying a unilateral military strike as long as possible. Among other things, President Obama is said to decidedly not want an Israeli-Iranian war to break out during his bid for re-election, since it would be almost impossible to frame a sane American response in the midst of what would no-doubt be an extraordinarily polarizing moment between left and right.
Unlike Syria, which, at worst, is simply a localized bloodbath that will eventually bleed itself out, the Iranian standoff is a true dilemma with profound consequences for global stability. At some point, something will simply have to happen; either nukes, a war, or a nuclear war.
What would be your guess?
Originally published at: http://www.filibustercartoons.com/index.php/2012/02/18/bibi-and-johnny/
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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