Saturday, April 7, 2012

Iran and Tensions Surrounding it in the Region

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The international community is largely still transfixed with the situation surrounding Iran’s Nuclear Program. Officials from both U.S. and Europe believe that Tehran is trying to build nuclear weapons while Iran maintains that the Program’s goal is only to provide electricity to the country without using oil supplies that can be sold abroad as well as to procure the fuel for the medical reactors. And though the tensions surrounding the Iran’s Nuclear Program in one of the most volatile regions of the contemporary world have been there for years their recent escalation began in November 2011, due to the report of the international inspectors from IAEA and the heavier sanctions that immediately followed from the West.
Following the sanctions came Iran’s response in the form of threat to close the Strait of Hormuz disrupting around 20% of global oil traffic. Threats were answered by the U.S. that made it quite clear they prepared to take all necessary actions to maintain the oil flow crucial to the global economy. Strait of Hormuz is one of the most important straits for the international trade exchange and security. While traversing that strait, ships have to pass through the territorial waters of Iran and Oman and follow Traffic Separation Scheme throughout the strait to escape the risk of collision. Basically, that Scheme separates inbound and outbound traffic in the Hormuz through the establishment of two 3 km (1.9 mile) lanes and another 3 km (1.9 mile) in between to navigate the ships flow through Hormuz. Total traffic lane is now around 10 km (5.7 mile) wide.
Generally speaking Iran does not have any legal rights to block of suspend transit passage of ships through Hormuz. Such actions should be considered not only grave breach of international law, but due to the economic and trade nature of the strait, the threat to the international peace and security. That is why it is not surprising that U.S. are prepared to take action in such case even with the use of force. The fact that the presence of the U.S. warships continuously increases in the Gulf area only confirms the gravity of the situation.
Moreover, the tensions around Iran’s Nuclear Program boiled to the point when Israel made a clear message that it is ready to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Such statements from Israel are causing the oil prices to go up thus having an effect that surpasses regional level and goes straight to rattling the already unstable global economy that still can’t get back from sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
Recently global geopolitical players came to the consent to continue negotiations with Iran, after the authorities in Teheran made statements that they would allow international inspectors access to the classified military complex Parchin. Before that moment Iran refused such access. However, it is still unclear how limited and conditional such access would be.
The primary goal of the sanctions against Iran is usually described as an effort to disrupt its Nuclear Program by the means of distancing the country from international financial system, including both institutions and funds. The coordinated sanctions imposed by Europe and U.S. aim first at the banking system. Second target became companies that are related to the Iran’s nuclear industry as well as some petrochemical and oil industries. Common understanding is that such sanctions should weaken Iranian government through depravation from possibilities to develop and invest in the oil industry and gasoline refinement.
As sanctions came into the effect the response of Teheran was to further escalate the tensions by suspending the oil exports to U.K. and France and threatening to do the same in relation to other European states. Interesting fact is that these countries are least dependent on Iranian oil from all 27 European Union states. Thus the Teheran’s pressure so far seems more diplomatic in nature than real response to sanctions.
The intensification of tensions around the situation is on the rise since. Experts speculate about Israeli attack on Iran nuclear facilities, enforcement of sanctions grows stronger and Iran threatens with retaliation, while at the same time expresses its readiness to cooperate with IAEA to prove peaceful nature of its Nuclear Program.
Another situation that adds pressure on regional security is of course the atrocities in Syria. While the situation is of a grave concern to the international community UN Security Council is at the legal stalemate initiated by Russia and China. So far both Russia and the West agree only that the main role in negotiating peace in the country should belong to the Arab League. The problem is the fresh memory of the Libyan resolution in the Security Council. In the Libyan case, the U.S. and EU countries’ interpretation of the strict resolution on the situation was so wide it included participation on one side of the civil war, which led to the change of the regime in Libya and ultimately to the brutal death of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who (although an international criminal) should have been brought to justice. At the same time Russia and China see an intervention into Syria as an opportunity for U.S. to weaken Iran distancing the country from one of its allies.
Moreover, the rising tensions in the relations between Iran and Azerbaijan making the picture of a very tense and otherwise overloaded with security issues region quite complete. Fearing the possible presence of the U.S. forces close to Iranian northern borders coupled with concerns for the large Azerbaijani minority living on the northern part of Iran, made Teheran start a real information war against Azerbaijan in its media, following the attempts to assassinate famed Israelis on the Azerbaijani soil through specially trained armed groups.
Overall situation in the region has been tied into a very tense geopolitical knot. World powers are watching the situation that can spill over into the violent outbreak very closely, trying to allocate the possible scenarios for the future of Iran. Which at the moment doesn’t seem so bright.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor of Laws (LL.D)

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