إيران ترسم إيقاع العلاقات الدولية

مايو 14, 2019

ناصر قنديل

من الصعب مشاهدة وزير الخارجية الأميركية مايك بومبيو يغيّر وجهة سفره من موسكو الى بروكسل، بعد كل ما أصاب ناقلات النفط على ساحل الإمارات الشرقي خارج مضيق هرمز من جهة بحر عمان، وعدم الربط بين الحدثين، كما يصعب سماع معاون وزير الخارجية الروسية سيرغي رياباكوف يتحدّث عن إلغاء زيارة بومبيو الى موسكو وحصرها بسوتشي بعد يومين دون تذكّر التصعيد الأميركي الإيراني في الخليج، خصوصاً بعد إعلان الكرملين عن عدم وجود أي تثبيت لموعد لقاء بين الرئيسين الأميركي دونالد ترامب والروسي فلاديمير بوتين على هامش قمة العشرين، وسبب ربط كل ما يجري بإيران هو ببساطة أن الأمور كانت تجري باتجاه معاكس وتغيّرت على إيقاع الحدث الإيراني.

– في مقلب آخر كانت أوروبا ترفع صوتها اعتراضاً على المهل الإيرانية لتأمين عائدات مناسبة من الاتفاق النووي تحت طائلة الانسحاب منه، حتى بدا أن منطقة الخليج مهددة بالاشتعال وأن واشنطن تتصرف بأسلوب طائش سيتسبب بإطلاق حرب اسعار في سوق النفط وتحريك التدافع في الطلب عليه خشية وقوع أحداث كبرى في المنطقة التي يتدفق منها قرابة نصف ما يتداوله السوق وربع ما يستهلكه العالم، فتغيّرت لغة أوروبا نحو السعي لاحتواء إيران وتقديم العروض لها والسعي لإبقائها في دائرة التفاوض على البدائل، ومواجهة وزير الخارجية الأميركية برفض مجاراته في سياسة الضغوط والتصعيد والعقوبات، وبدأ الحديث الأوروبي العملي عن كمية النفط التي ستتعهّدها أوروبا من انتاج السوق الإيرانية، والحد الأدنى الذي يحق لإيران تأمين بيعه من عقود دولية ثابتة، والحديث يدور بين مليون برميل يومياً وفقاً للعرض الأوروبي او مليون ونصف المليون برميل وفقاً للطلب الإيراني، وهو ما يعني سقوط مفاعيل العقوبات الأميركية.

– ليست القضية هي أن إيران تقف وراء تفجيرات وأحداث الفجيرة أو ما أصاب ناقلات النفط السعودية، فالمنطقة خارج مضيق هرمز وفي بحر عمان الواقع جنوب مضيق هرمز وفي الممر المائي بين مضيقي هرمز وباب المندب، كانت دائماً مسرحاً لجماعات القرصنة البحرية الصومالية، حتى بدأ التنسيق الواقعي بين إيران التي تملك وحدها أهم أسطول بحري قوي في منطقة الخليج، وبين السفن الآتية وفي مقدمتها ناقلات النفط، لمواكبتها في هذا الممر الخطير، وهو ما توقف منذ بدأت العقوبات الاميركية في نسختها الأخيرة ومن ضمنها التعهد الإماراتي السعودي بالشراكة في العقوبات عبر ضخ الكميات التي يحتاجها سوق النفط بفعل نقص المبيعات الإيرانية بسبب العقوبات، والمنطقي أن تكون مسؤولية من يدّعي القدرة على ضمان استقرار سوق النفط دون إيران أن يقدم الدليل على ذلك. وما جرى يقول إن الاميركيين والخليجيين عاجزون بدون إيران عن فعل ذلك، من دون أن يفيدهم توجيه الاتهامات لها بشي.

– عملياً بدأ ارتفاع الأسعار في سوق النفط العالمية، ومزيد من التوتر سيسبب المزيد من الارتفاع والمزيد من زيادة أكلاف التأمين على السفن التجارية وناقلات النفط، والمزيد من السعي لتخزين كميات احتياطية خشية اندلاع أزمة تتسبب بوقف تدفق النفط من المنطقة، وكل رعونة أميركية أو مواقف خليجية صبيانية تحت شعار تفادي الأزمة ستدفع الامور بهذا الاتجاه بسرعة أكبر.

– رسمت إيران معادلة عنوانها لا استقرار في سوق النفط العالمية دون شراكة مريحة لإيران، مقابل المعادلة التي تعرضها واشنطن وقوامها لا استقرار لمكانة إيران المالية والنفطية دون ضمان أمن «إسرائيل»، بعدما فشلت واشنطن في فرض معادلة ربط استقرار سورية بأمن «إسرائيل» بمقايضة فاشلة لوجود إيران وقوى المقاومة بالوجود الأميركي في سورية سبقت الانسحاب الأميركي من التفاهم النووي مع إيران.

– سيعود الجميع الى رشدهم ويعرفون الطريق الى طاولة التفاوض في سوتشي، وستثبت إيران معادلتها لأن الحرب انتهت او تكاد، والذي هزم في سورية ليس أبو محمد الجولاني ولا أبو بكر البغدادي، بل قادة الحلف الأطلسي مجتمعين ومعهم كل حلفائهم في المنطقة وفي المقدمة «إسرائيل» وحكومات الخليج.

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Iran Squeezed Between Imperial Psychos and European Cowards

By Pepe Escobar – with permission and cross posted with Consortium News

What Putin and Pompeo did not talk about

The Trump administration unilaterally cheated on the 2015 multinational, UN-endorsed JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal. It has imposed an illegal, worldwide financial and energy blockade on all forms of trade with Iran — from oil and gas to exports of iron, steel, aluminum and copper. For all practical purposes, and in any geopolitical scenario, this is a declaration of war.

Successive U.S. governments have ripped international law to shreds; ditching the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is only the latest instance. It doesn’t matter that Tehran has fulfilled all its commitments to the deal — according to UN inspectors. Once the leadership in Tehran concluded that the U.S. sanctions tsunami is fiercer than ever, it decided to begin partially withdrawing from the deal.

President Hassan Rouhani was adamant: Iran has not left the JCPOA — yet. Tehran’s measures are legal under the framework of articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA — and European officials were informed in advance. But it’s clear the EU3 (Germany, France, Britain), who have always insisted on their vocal support for the JCPOA, must work seriously to alleviate the U.S.-provoked economic disaster to Iran if Tehran has any incentive to continue to abide by the agreement.

Protests in front of former U.S. embassy in Tehran after U.S. decision to withdraw from JCPOA, May 8, 2018. (Hossein Mersadi via Wikimedia Commons)

Russia and China — the pillars of Eurasia integration, to which Iran adheres — support Tehran’s position. This was discussed extensively in Moscow by Sergey Lavrov and Iran’s Javad Zarif, perhaps the world’s top two foreign ministers.

At the same time, it’s politically naïve to believe the Europeans will suddenly grow a backbone.

The comfortable assumption in Berlin, Paris and London was that Tehran could not afford to leave the JCPOA even if it was not receiving any of the economic rewards promised in 2015. Yet now the EU3 are facing the hour of truth.

It’s hard to expect anything meaningful coming from an enfeebled Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Berlin already targeted by Washington’s trade ire; a Brexit-paralyzed Britain; and a massively unpopular President Emmanuel Macron in France already threatening to impose his own sanctions if Tehran does not agree to limit its ballistic missile program. Tehran will never allow inspections over its thriving missile industry – and this was never part of the JCPOA to begin with.

As it stands, the EU3 are not buying Iranian oil. They are meekly abiding by the U.S. banking and oil/gas sanctions — which are now extended to manufacturing sectors — and doing nothing to protect Iran from its nasty effects. The implementation of INSTEX, the SWIFT alternative for trade with Iran, is languishing. Besides expressing lame “regrets” about the U.S. sanctions, the EU3 are de facto playing the game on the side of U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates; and by extension against Russia, China and Iran.

Rise of the Imperial Psychos

As Tehran de facto kicked the ball to the European court, both EU3 options are dire. To meaningfully defend the JCPOA will invite a ballistic reaction from the Trump administration. To behave like poodles — the most probable course of action — means emboldening even more the psychopaths doubling as imperial functionaries bent on a hot war against Iran at all costs; Koch brothers Big Oil asset and enraptured evangelist, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and paid Mujahideen-e Khalq asset and notorious intel manipulator, National Security Advisor John Bolton.

The Pompeo-Bolton gangster maneuver is hardly Bismarck’s Realpolitik. It consists of relentlessly pushing Tehran to make a mistake, any mistake, in terms of “violating” its obligations under the JCPOA, so that this may be sold to gullible American public opinion as the proverbial “threat” to the “rules-based order” doubling as a casus belli.

There’s one thing the no-holds-barred U.S. economic war against Iran has managed to achieve: internal unity in the Islamic Republic. Team Rouhani’s initial aim for the JCPOA was to open up to Western trade (trade with Asia was always on) and somewhat curtail the power of the IRGC, or Revolutionary Guards, which control vast sectors of the Iranian economy.

Washington’s economic war proved instead the IRGC was right all along, echoing the finely-tuned geopolitical sentiment of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who always emphasized the Americans cannot be trusted, ever.

And as much as Washington has branded the IRGC a “terrorist organization,” Tehran replied in kind, branding CENTCOM the same.

Independent Persian Gulf oil traders dismiss the notion that the kleptocrat House of Saud — de facto run by Jared “of Arabia” Kushner’s Whatsapp pal Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the Saudi  crown prince – holds up to 2.5 million barrels of oil a day in spare capacity capable of replacing Iran’s 2 million barrels of exports (out of 3.45 million of total daily production). The House of Saud seems more interested in hiking oil prices for Asian customers.

London protests at Saudi bombing of Yemen. March 2018. (Alisdare Hickson via Flickr)

Faulty Blockade

Washington’s energy trade blockade of Iran is bound to fail.

China will continue to buy its 650,000 barrels a day – and may even buy more. Multiple Chinese companies trade technology and industrial services for Iranian oil.

Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey — all bordering Iran — will continue to buy Iranian high-quality light crude by every method of payment (including gold) and transportation available, formal or informal. Baghdad’s trade relationship with Tehran will continue to thrive.

As economic suffocation won’t suffice, Plan B is — what else — the threat of a hot war.

It’s by now established that the info, in fact rumors, about alleged Iranian maneuvers to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf was relayed to Bolton by the Mossad, at the White House, with Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat personally briefing Bolton.

Everyone is aware of the corollary: a “reposition of assets” (in Pentagonese) — from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group deployment to four B-52 bombers landing in Al Udeid Air base in Qatar, all part of a “warning” to Iran.

A pre-war roaring crescendo now engulfs the Lebanese front as well as the Iranian front.

Reasons for Psychotic Rage

Iran’s GDP is similar to Thailand’s, and its military budget is similar to Singapore’s. Bullying Iran is a geopolitical and geo-economic absurdity. Iran may be an emerging Global South actor — it could easily be a member of the G20 — but can never be construed as a “threat” to the U.S.

Yet Iran provokes psychopathic imperial functionaries to a paroxysm of rage for three serious reasons. Neocons never mind that trying to destroy Iraq cost over $6 trillion — and it was a major war crime, a political disaster, and an economic abyss all rolled into one. Trying to destroy Iran will cost untold trillions more.

The most glaring reason for the irrational hatred is the fact the Islamic Republic is one of the very few nations on the planet consistently defying the hegemon — for four decades now.

The second reason is that Iran, just like Venezuela — and this is a combined war front — have committed the supreme anathema; trading on energy bypassing the petrodollar, the foundation stone of U.S. hegemony.

The third (invisible) reason is that to attack Iran is to disable emerging Eurasia integration, just like using NSA spying to ultimately put Brazil in the bag was an attack on Latin American integration.

The non-stop hysteria over whether President Donald Trump is being maneuvered into war on Iran by his pet psychopaths – well, he actually directed Iran to “Call me” — eludes the Big Picture. As shown before, a possible shut down of the Strait of Hormuz, whatever the reasons, would be like a major meteor impact on the global economy. And that would inevitably translate as no Trump reelection in 2020.

The Strait of Hormuz would never need to be blocked if all the oil Iran is able to export is bought by China, other Asian clients and even Russia — which could relabel it. But Tehran wouldn’t blink on blocking Hormuz if faced with total economic strangulation.

According to a dissident U.S. intel expert, “the United States is at a clear disadvantage in that if the Strait of Hormuz is shut the U.S. collapses. But if the U.S. can divert Russia from defending Iran, then Iran can be attacked and Russia will have accomplished nothing, as the neocons do not want detente with Russia and China. Trump does want detente but the Deep State does not intend to permit it.”

Assuming this scenario is correct, the usual suspects in the United States government are trying to divert Putin from the Strait of Hormuz question while keeping Trump weakened, as the neocons proceed 24/7 on the business of strangling Iran. It’s hard to see Putin falling for this not exactly elaborate trap.

Not Bluffing

So what happens next? Professor Mohammad Marandi at the Faculty of World Studies of the University of Tehran offers quite a sobering perspective: “After 60 days Iran will push things even further. I don’t think the Iranians are bluffing. They will also be pushing back at the Saudis and the Emiratis by different means.”

Marandi, ominously, sees “further escalation” ahead:

“Iranians have been preparing for war with the Unites States ever since the Iraq invasion in 2003. After what they’ve seen in Libya, in Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, they know that the Americans and Europeans are utterly brutal. The whole shore of the Persian Gulf on the Iranian side and the Gulf of Oman is full of tunnels and underground high-tech missiles. The Persian Gulf is full of ships equipped with highly developed sea-to-sea missiles. If there is real war, all the oil and gas facilities in the region will be destroyed, all the tankers will be destroyed.”

And if that show comes to pass, Marandi regards the Strait of Hormuz as the “sideshow”:

“The Americans will be driven out of Iraq. Iraq exports 4 million barrels of oil a day; that would probably come to an end, through strikes and other means. It would be catastrophic for the Americans. It would be catastrophic for the world – and for Iran as well. But the Americans would simply not win.”

So as Marandi explains it — and Iranian public opinion now largely agrees — the Islamic Republic has leverage because they know “the Americans can’t afford to go to war. Crazies like Pompeo and Bolton may want it, but many in the establishment don’t.”

Tehran may have developed a modified MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) framework as leverage, mostly to push Trump ally MbS to cool down. “Assuming,” adds Marandi, “the madmen don’t get the upper hand, and if they do, then it’s war. But for the time being, I thinks that’s highly unlikely.”

Guided-missile destroyer USS Porter transits Strait of Hormuz, May 2012. (U.S. Navy/Alex R. Forster)

All Options on the Table?

In Cold War 2.0 terms, from Central Asia to the Eastern Mediterranean and from the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea, Tehran is able to count on quite a set of formal and informal alliances. That not only centers on the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran-Herat axis, but also includes Turkey and Qatar. And most important of all, the top actors on the Eurasian integration chessboard: the Russia and China in strategic partnership.

When Zarif met Lavrov last week in Moscow, they discussed virtually everything: Syria (they negotiate together in the Astana, now Nur-Sultan process), the Caspian, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (of which Iran will become a member), the JCPOA and Venezuela.

The Trump administration was dragged kicking and screaming to meet Kim Jong-Un at the same table because of the DPRK’s intercontinental ballistic missile tests. And then Kim ordered extra missile tests because, in his own words, as quoted by KCNA, “genuine peace and security of the country are guaranteed only by the strong physical force capable of defending its sovereignty.”

Global South Watching

The overwhelming majority of Global South nations are watching the U.S. neocon offensive to ultimately strangle “the Iranian people”, aware more than ever that Iran may be bullied to extinction because it does not posses a nuclear deterrent. The IRGC has reached the same conclusion.

That would mean the death of the JCPOA – and the Return of the Living Dead of “all options on the table.”

But then, there’ll be twists and turns in the Art of the (Demented) Deal. So what if, and it’s a major “if”, Donald Trump is being held hostage by his pet psychopaths?

Let The Dealer speak:

“We hope we don’t have to do anything with regard to the use of military force…We can make a deal, a fair deal. … We just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. Not too much to ask. And we would help put them back into great shape. They’re in bad shape right now. I look forward to the day where we can actually help Iran. We’re not looking to hurt Iran. I want them to be strong and great and have a great economy… We have no secrets. And they can be very, very strong, financially. They have great potential.”

Then again, Ayatollah Khamenei said: the Americans cannot be trusted, ever.

HOUTHIS STRIKE KEY SAUDI OIL PIPELINE AMID GROWING CONCERN OVER NEARING US-IRANIAN ARMED CONFLICT

South Front

On May 14, Saudi Arabia halted pumping on its 1,200km-long East-West pipeline after it had been targeted by suicide unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The kingdom’s Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid al-Falih confirmed the attack on the pipeline, which carries crude oil from the country’s main eastern oil fields to the Red Sea port city of Yanbu in the western part of the country. He described the attack as “an act of terrorism” and said that it “proves the importance of confronting all terrorist organizations.”

The targeted facilities were located in the towns of al-Duwadimi and Afif. No casualties were reported.

The energy minister stressed that Saudi oil production and exports will still continue uninterrupted. Despite this, global oil prices rose after the incident.

On the same day, Yemen’s Masirah TV, loyal to the Ansar Allah movement [also known as the Houthis], reported that seven drones had been employed against vital Saudi installations. According to the report, the drone strikes were carried out in response to Saudi Arabia’s military aggression against Yemen. The TV station quoted an official from the Ansar Allah government, who said that Yemeni forces are ready “to execute more of these significant and tough strikes as long as the siege continues.”

The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia blame any operations carried out by Ansar Allah against Saudi Arabia on Iran.

Another situation, which fueled concerns over oil supply disruptions and nearing conflict between the US-led bloc and Iran, is developing over the reported “sabotage attack” on four commercial vessels off the UAE’s Fujairah on May 12. Initially, the UAE denounced reports about this situation, but then was forced to admit that some kind of “sabotage” incident took place. The targeted vessels were identified as very large crude carrier (VLCC) tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah, both owned by Saudi shipping firm Bahri. The other two were UAE-flagged fuel bunker barge A Michel and Norwegian-registered oil products tanker MT AndreA Victory.

Thome Ship Management said its Norwegian-registered oil products tanker MT Andrew Victory was “struck by an unknown object”. Jaber Al Lamki, an executive director at the UAE’s National Media Council, claimed that the attack was “aimed at undermining global oil supplies and maritime security.”

Despite the lack of clear evidence, Western mainstream media outlets as well as many pro-UAE and pro-Saudi sources immediately blamed Iran. In turn, Teheran distanced itself from the attacks and claimed it was a false flag. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that the country expected such “suspicious sabotage acts” designed to “create tensions in the region”.

In the meantime, the US deployed the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and the USS Arlington amphibious transport dock, which carries marines, amphibious vehicles, and rotary aircraft, as well as the Patriot missiles, near the Persian Gulf. An additional strategic bomber task force arrived at the US airbase Al Udeid in Qatar. In all cases, the US cited the growing Iranian threat and possible Iranian attacks on US forces and infrastructure as the reason for the deployment.

At the same time, reports are surfacing that the US is actively drawing up plans for a military action against Iran. While Trump denounced NYT reports on the plan to deploy 120,000 troops to the Middle East, his administration repeatedly confirmed that it is ready for active measures in the event of the escalation or even in the event of Iran’s withdrawal from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal accord. The irony is that the US itself has done more that any side to destroy this deal thus de-facto pushing the region toward the new crisis.

In Video: Site Of Ansar Allah UAV Attack On Saudi Pumping Stations

 The media wing of Yemen’s Ansar Allah (also known as the Houthis) released a video, which shows an impact of the May 14 UAV strike on pumping stations of Saudi Arabia’s East-West pipeline.

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India, Iran, Russia push alternative to Suez Canal

The International North-South Transport Corridor is to link the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf via Iran to Russia and North Europe.

The International North-South Transport Corridor is to link the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf via Iran to Russia and North Europe.

Wed Oct 31, 2018 11:00AM

India, Iran and Russia will meet next month to discuss the operation of a 7,200 km trade and transport corridor that presents a cheaper and shorter alternative to the traditional route through the Suez Canal.

A general view of the Suez Canal from Al Salam Peace bridge on the Ismalia desert road before the opening ceremony of the New Suez Canal, in Egypt

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a multimode network of sea and rail routes, will link the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf via Iran to Russia and North Europe.

The project comes in the backdrop of China’s multi-trillion-dollar One Belt One Road initiative. Within Iran, the two routes overlap in a potential boon to future businesses.

New Delhi has been actively courting Tehran, given the utmost importance it attaches to the route and Iran has been receptive.

Once operational, the corridor will allow India to send its goods to Bandar Abbas in Iran by sea, from where they will be transported to Iran’s Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea by road. Next, they will be shipped to Astrakhan in Russia and transported into Europe by rail.

Image result for India, Iran, Russia push alternative to Suez Canal

The route will cut the time and cost of delivering goods by about 30 percent to more than 40 percent. Compared with the Suez Canal, the corridor will reduce the transport time between Mumbai and Moscow to about 20 days. The estimated capacity of the corridor is 20 to 30 million tonnes of goods per year.

India’s Union Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Saturday met a Russian business delegation in New Delhi, where he said “all issues may be resolved in order to operationalize the (INSTC) route as early as possible.”

An official statement said India, Russia and Iran will hold a trilateral meeting on November 23 to make the route operational soon, Indian media reported Tuesday.

“The INSTC is the shortest multimodal transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf via Iran to Russia and North Europe,” India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in the statement.

To access resource-rich Central Asia, India has to route its goods either through China, Europe or Iran. The routes through China and Europe are long, expensive and time consuming, with Iran being the most viable one.

The first dry run of the INSTC was conducted in August 2014 and the second in April 2017.

India is seeking to leverage the strategic Chabahar port in southeast Iran to link with the INSTC.

The country has committed $500 million to Chabahar that it is building chiefly to crack open a trade and transport route to landlocked Afghanistan.

Last week, senior officials from the two countries met their counterpart in Tehran to discuss a full commissioning of the port that the three countries are jointly developing.

It was the first trilateral meeting of the Coordination Council of the Chabahar Agreement, coming in the face of fresh sanctions imposed by Washington on the Islamic Republic.

“All sides shared the view that a full operationalization of the trilateral Chabahar initiative will promote connectivity and economic development of Afghanistan and the region,” India’s External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

For landlocked Afghanistan, the corridor means opening the way to billions of dollars in trade and cutting the country’s dependence on foreigners for aid as well as stemming the illicit opium trade.

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