UK scuttles Obama’s Iran sanctions
By M K Bhadrakumar
January 23, 2012
The Indian government’s inclination not to allow itself to be browbeaten by Washington on the Iran sanctions issue, if true, is based on sound reasoning. At the end of the day, all this sanctions route is political chicanery and there is a lot of bluster is gong on, the latest being that if you cut oil links with Iran, the good old Saudis will promptly make up for it. Whereas, it is crystal clear that the Saudis aren’t in any position to do that.
Imagination is running riot. Simply put, the west cannot do without Iranian oil and the world market cannot do without Iranian oil. So, Barack Obama will end up giving exemption after exemption — selectively, of course — to those who carry on oil trade with Iran. Such as — hold your breath — BP. Yes, London has asked Obama to exempt BP from his sanctions regime so that the future of its 20-billion dollar natural gas pipeline project in the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field doesn’t get imperilled.
The point is, Iran holds 10% equity in Shah Deniz II and if Tehran doesn’t say ‘Da‘, it becomes a ‘Nyet‘ for the entire trans-Caspian project. The funny thing is, London is pleading that the project is imperative for Europe’s energy security as it will be the first Caspian energy project to bypass Russian territory and it is useful for the ‘containment strategy’ toward Russia.
So, what do we get here? Britain, which does not have diplomatic relations with Iran and is the US’s staunchest ally in “isolating” Iran, is pleading with Washington to exempt the BP from sanctions so that it can go ahead with Tehran’s acquiescence with a major energy project that helps Europe to reduce its dependence on Russia (which is, of course, Iran’s strategic ally in withstanding Obama’s containment policy).
The geopolitical spin is that all this ‘tough love’ holds the potential to create misunderstandings between Iran and Russia as well at a delicate juncture when their strategic understanding is gaining traction and the negotiations over the nuclear issue are about to resume.
At the end of the day, the name of this desperate game for Britain (and the US) is to gain access to Iran’s fabulous energy resources, which are one of the last great untapped frontiers in the world of energy.
The US and Britain shall be loathe to see upstarts like China or India stealing a march over them. The more the Iranian regime of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad tried to exercise its ‘Asia option’, the more London and Washington began tightening the screws. An Asian energy grid has all along been a nightmarish thought for Britain and the US.
It is this cynical self-centredness that is at the root of the US pressure tactic toward India forcing Delhi to shut down the ACU mechanism for conducting oil trade with Iran and to browbeat the Indian leadership from proceeding with the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, by exploiting the prospect of the US-India nuclear deal.
The US strategy is to ensure that Iran remains as a low-hanging fruit for Uncle Sam to come and pluck and savor it once the US-Iran standoff gets resolved, finally.
Thus, it comes as refreshing news that India may allow the Central Bank of Iran to open a rupee account in two Indian banks. More important, Delhi says it won’t ask Washington for exemption from its sanctions regime against the Iranian central bank but would exercise its national sovereignty to pick and choose its trading partners.
If Delhi sticks to this upright position — you can never tell, though, with the present government — it will be in good company. In fact, with Beijing also brusquely rebuffing the US, and Japan playing hide and seek, linking its own attitude to China and India’s, Delhi has nothing to fear — except fear itself. Now, with Britain busting the US’s sanctions regime, Delhi would have no reason to fear Obama’s wrath. Read the WSJ report on the UK-US doublespeak on Iran.