Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Iran - time for Greens to support petroleum (gas) sanctions?
Iran is ruled by an oppressive regime whose power was obtained by rigging an election. The regime is contemptuous of human rights, using torture and repression of demonstrations to an extent that makes the Brown Government look almost clean by comparison. Iran backs one of the actors in the festering Israel/Palestine conflict, just as Brown backs the other. Like our Government, it seeks to generate its electricity by the absurdly expensive means of nuclear power. And like our Government, it clings to the childish belief that nuclear weapons confer some kind of magical "national security" based on total global insecurity.
For Brown to call for tighter sanctions on Iran is like the pot calling for the kettle to be sand blasted. Yet although there are similarities, we must agree that AhmadiNajad is more oppressive and unpleasant than Brown. Iran has the Basij, we have the TSG. The world would be a better place if AhmadiNajad were to be brought down, and his nuclear programme scrapped. Which is not to say that the world would not also be better if Brown were to be sent off to write his memoirs and our own nuclear weapons and power plans were to be scrapped.
The differences between the UK and Iran are of degree, not kind.
Hilary Clinton is saying that Iran is becoming a military dictatorship. Whether she is right or wrong in any absolute sense will only emerge in the future. The importance is that the US sees the situation as increasingly critical.
The Israelis have a plan, involving explosives dropped from height onto Iran's nuclear emplacements. This would be like offering to solve a problem of a leaking petrol tank with a match.
There are some sanctions in place against Iran, affecting the nuclear industry, aircraft parts, frozen assets, and petroleum technology. They are not particularly smart sanctions, not targeted on the regime, and only the nuclear sanctions are supported at UNSC level.
One useful tactic would be to entrust the Cyrus the Great "human rights" cylinder to Mr Moussavi, the opposition leader, to symbolise his status as the moral descendant of the great Persian king.
However, in view of the increasing tensions and the danger of the most stupid outcome of all, military action, there is a case for cranking up sanctions, namely, by closing off their petroleum imports.
Iran, despite being a crude oil exporter, is a net importer of refined petroleum products, meeting 1/3rd of its needs through imports. A swift ban on refined oil exports to Iran would put the regime in real half-nelson. The main drawback would be that it would adversely affect the people in many ways, although it would on the other hand have the benefit of reducing their unhealthy air pollution and traffic congestion.The Iranian Revolutionary Guard benefits from the petroleum trade.
The ban should be made subject to an easily attained objective, putting the responsibility for the discomfort caused by the sanctions onto the Iranian regime. Rather than making it contingent on cessation of Iran's nuclear programme, the petroleum import ban would be lifted in principle as soon as AhmadiNajad set a date for a re-run of the election, and implemented as soon as the election had been declared fair by international observers.
This increases the leverage of the ban greatly. Making it dependent on nuclear cessation would mean a long ban, with all the problems of alternative sourcing. Making it dependent on calling an election puts a heavy pressure on the regime, who are already under pressure from within for the same thing. Iranian unions are now joining the call for a fair election. Which may get the Left to stop sitting on its hands over this issue.
A sanctions plan of this size clearly has a multitude of aspects that need to be considered, but one of the central attractions of petroleum sanctions is that Trafigura would be against it. Trafigura is one of the five companies that supply Iran's petroleum, and there would be no tears shed at the disbenefits to Trafigura's profits resulting from sanctions.
Petroleum sanctions would be a sign that governments rule, not corporations.
The Green Parties of the world need to take a position on Iranian sanctions.