Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Iran’s Plan to Beat Sanctions

By Barry Rubin

Iran is sneering at the possibility that one day during the remainder of this century, the United States and European countries will put some form of sanctions on Iran to try to stop its nuclear weapons’ program.

At the Friday prayer sermon in Tehran—the most important forum in the country—on October 9, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, the event’s leader, said of the Geneva talks between Iran and the United States plus other important countries:

"The meeting was a great victory for the Islamic Republic of Iran to such an extent that even the Western and Zionist media had to admit defeat....Prior to the talks, they used to speak of suspension and sanctions against Iran, but after the talks, there has not been any word of suspension or sanctions, rather, Iran's package of proposals was the axis."

While it is not true there hasn’t been any talk of sanctions, there have been no major advances in plans for them either.

Supposedly the secret weapon—of the West, not Iran—will be to restrict the sale of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran, which can’t make its own. Yet while this idea is being pressed by the U.S. Congress and discussed at length among the Western states, it is already becoming outdated. That is, it’s already clear three to six months before such restrictions are imposed—and yes, it would be better to have them than to do nothing—they are outdated and will be ineffective.

Iran’s leaders are confident of breaking any embargo or sanctions. When you hear their plans you can well believe them:

--Use China, Russia, and other countries that will violate sanctions in exchange for money. China and Russia will water down sanctions and then, whether or not they promise to adhere to them, will circumvent restrictions put on trade with Iran.

--Reduce subsidies for fuel to cut down on consumption.

--Employ the big gasoline stockpile Iran has been building just for this purpose.

--Put into production the huge new refinery the Chinese have built for them.

--Use the fact that there is an international recession plus surplus refining capacity to find companies eager to sell them gasoline and other fuel products.

And, of course, the more time Tehran has before sanctions are invoked, the more prepared it will be to defeat U.S. efforts.

I hate to say this but I’m betting on Tehran.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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