Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iran: is this a prelude to war?

A few straws in the wind in Iran.

I have been keeping a weather eye on what has been happening in Iran over November. Of course the longstanding issue is over what has been going on with the development of nuclear power in that country. While Iran claims that they are developing a nuclear option to provide power and medical supplies, the US is pretty sure that they are developing a bomb. Why should we believe otherwise? It's a strange fact that people tell lies and there are always some gullible people who believe them.

Here is the gist of a speech that even Obama gave a couple of weeks ago:

Barack Obama to consider all options to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons

US president Barack Obama has said economic sanctions against Iran to contain Tehran's nuclear ambitions have "enormous bite," and he will consult with other nations on additional steps to ensure that Iran does not acquire an atomic weapon.

14th November 2011:

Mr Obama expressed confidence that Russia and China in particular understand the threat of a nuclear armed Iran would pose and said their leaders agree that Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons and trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.

The president, answering questions at a press conference during an Asia-Pacific economic summit, did not specifically say he would consider military action if Tehran were to persist in arming itself with a nuclear weapon. But he added: "We are not taking any options off the table. Iran with nuclear weapons would pose a threat not only to the region but also to the United States."

A report on Friday from the International Atomic Energy Agency provided new evidence that Iran's nuclear program includes clandestine efforts to build a bomb. The report, circulated among the UN watchdog agency's member countries, includes satellite images, letters, diagrams and other documents. It alleges Iran has been working to acquire equipment and weapons design information, testing high explosives and detonators and developing compute models of a warhead's core. Taken together, it's the most unequivocal evidence yet that the Iranian program ranges far beyond enriching uranium for use in energy and medical research, which is what Tehran says it's for.

In meetings on Saturday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nor Chinese President Hu Jintao, Mr Obama sought to rally support for putting new pressure on Iran's regime. But there was little public sign either country was ready to drop its opposition to additional sanctions. Four rounds of UN sanctions have caused economic hardship in Iran, but have yet to force any change in the nuclear program.

Remember back to Suez in 1956? At this time Britain, France and Israel entered into a conspiracy to stop Col Nasser from nationalizing the Suez Canal. They were stymied by the US using its financial muscle to threaten to paralyze the markets in London and threaten the British economy. Now with international markets especially in the Eurozone so vulnerable it is possible that the freedom to act politically by the West would be compromised. So I was heartened to read this in the afternoon editions today:

The Bank of England, together with the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of Canada, today announced co-ordinated action to enhance their capacity to provide liquidity support to the global financial system. In a dramatic move welcomed warmly by the markets the banks said that their actions aimed to ease strains in financial markets and alleviate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses and thus boost economic activity.

A couple of days ago this was in the news:

Mystery explosion rocks Iran city

A large explosion has been reported in the Iranian city of Isfahan as the regime issued conflicting reports apparently designed to deny any suggestions of a sabotage attack on its nuclear facilities. Officials gave varying accounts of a "huge explosion" in the ancient city, which hosts one of Iran's main facilities for refining uranium in its nuclear programme. While some sources told news agencies there had been a blast on military facilities, others said there had been a fireball at a petrol station. Residents of the city were independently telling relatives and friends overseas that the city had been shaken by a massive blast in the early afternoon.

The reports immediately prompted speculation that Iran had suffered another sabotage attack, just two weeks after a blast at a missile base gave rise to similar suspicions. Isfahan is home to Iran's largest facility for research and development of ballistic missiles. Multiple reports said the blast did not emanate from the nuclear facility.

Then yesterday we had this:

Iranian hardliners storm British Embassy in Tehran.

Two British Embassy compounds were stormed mid-afternoon on Tuesday during a demonstration in the street outside the main building in downtown Tehran, smashing windows, torching a car and burning the British flag in protest against new sanctions imposed by London.

Protesters also broke into the residential compound at Qolhak in north Tehran, a sprawling, wooded property which used to be the embassy's summer quarters. The scenes at the British embassy in Tehran inevitably conjured up memories of the hostage crisis at the nearby US mission that erupted in 1979, during Iran’s Islamist revolution. Then, as now, the mob that stormed the building was led by militant youngsters - but there the similarity ends. The students behind the assault on the US embassy held 52 American nationals hostage for 444 days, with the connivance of the regime.

Privately, Iranian diplomats were disturbed and confused by the scenes in the British embassy. At a time when London has dealt a severe blow to Iran's economy by severing the country's ties with the UK financial system, they hoped to stress the suffering this decision would inflict on ordinary Iranians. Instead, their embassy in London has been shut down and the latest deterioration in diplomatic relations will dominate the agenda.

All this undoubtedly reflects deep divisions within Iran's regime. The two men at the pinnacle of the country's opaque power structure, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, have become bitter rivals. Beneath them, factional struggles have taken over the government, complicated by the approach of presidential elections in 2013. In simple terms, the supreme leader's allies have supported the mob who stormed the embassy; the president's friends have voiced their disquiet. In the shifting sands of Iranian politics, Mr Ahmadinejad appears to be the unlikely voice of moderation in this particular dispute.

From the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague:

The Iranian Chargé in London is being informed now that we require the immediate closure of the Iranian Embassy in London and that all Iranian diplomatic staff must leave the United Kingdom within the next 48 hours.

If any country makes it impossible for us to operate on their soil they cannot expect to have a functioning Embassy here.

This does not amount to the severing of diplomatic relations in their entirety. It is action that reduces our relations with Iran to the lowest level consistent with the maintenance of diplomatic relations.

The House will understand that it remains desirable for British representatives to be in contact with Iranian representatives, for instance as part of any negotiations about their nuclear programme or to discuss human rights. But it does mean that both Embassies will be closed.

We wish to make absolutely clear to Iran and to any other nation that such action against our Embassies and such a flagrant breach of international responsibilities is totally unacceptable to the United Kingdom.

There was a certain inevitability about the British government's decision shut down the Iranian Embassy in London. Now that the British mission in Tehran finds it impossible to function and all of its staff have been withdrawn, it would have been impossible to allow Iranian diplomats to carry on as normal over here.

But the nuances of all this are important. William Hague was at pains to point out that Britain is not breaking off all diplomatic relations with Iran. Instead, bilateral ties are being reduced to the bare minimum, but not severed altogether. This is designed to give the Iranians a bridge back to respectability.

Britain will support an embargo on Iranian oil imports following the deterioration of relations between the two countries, a diplomatic source told Reuters on Wednesday, in an apparent reversal of its former position.

"Now that the UK has downgraded diplomatic relations with Iran, it will support increased sanctions...and would likely go ahead with those sanctions unilaterally or with France and Germany," said a diplomatic source, referring to the ban on Iranian crude oil imports.

Italy will also discuss with its European allies and the US the option of an oil embargo against Iran. Italy is also considering closing its embassy in Tehran, Reuters reports. In light of yesterday's events in Tehran, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle decided that the German ambassador in Iran should be recalled to Berlin for consultations.

All UK based staff have now left Tehran, Hague announces.

French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is the latest world leader to condemn the attacks. During a cabinet session, "the president firmly condemned the scandalous attack on the embassy of Great Britain" in the Iranian capital, the French government spokeswoman said. Mr Sarkozy said the attacks "confirmed" the decision to impose new sanctions on Iran, the spokeswoman, Budget Minister Valerie Pecresse, told journalists. UN Security Council President Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral condemns the attacks. Norway said it had temporarily closed its embassy but its diplomats continued to work from elsewhere in Tehran

Will this spread beyond Iran? In this little noticed report I notice that Khamenei has been speaking in Saudi Arabia, supposedly bitterly opposed to Iran:

Iran – Supreme leader calls for "Islamic power-bloc"

In a message to more than 2.5 million Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia on 5 November, Iran’s supreme leader called on the world’s Muslim-majority nations to form an “international Islamic power-bloc”, laying down an ominous challenge to Western powers. Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said that Islamic countries should “make the most of [the] opportunity” created by the Arab Spring, as well as the anti-capitalist movement across the world.

According to the Ayatollah, Islam has become the guiding principle of the Arab uprisings despite the efforts of secular rulers to curtail the influence of religion in their countries. Pointing to the victory of the Islamist Ennahda Party in Tunisia’s recent elections, he predicted similar outcomes elsewhere, saying, “Without doubt, free elections in any Islamic country will hardly result in anything except what happened in Tunisia.”

Heralding a global power shift and issuing an ominous challenge to Western powers, the Ayatollah said that “the West, the United States and Zionism are weaker than ever before”. He urged the entire umma (Islamic nation) and especially the revolutionary nations to continue to be vigilant “against the plots of arrogant international powers”.

The Hajj is a strange thing. Muslims should be committed to visit Mecca once in their lifetimes. I know many Muslims for whom this is a holy and life-changing experience, but many Muslims leave it very late in their lives and actually die on the visit. Charter airlines arrange cheap flights with poor conditions and there is an 8 mile walk at the other end in searing heat. Although there are rickshaws to carry them for this journey many demur and insist on walking. Those who die are often propped upright in their airplane seat and leak body fluids on the way home to European destinations. For the other passengers it is not a pleasant experience.

1 comment:

Burke said...


I think your confidence in central banks is misplaced. From what I'm reading, what they are doing now is agreeing to a currency swap, euros for dollars mostly. This is because the euro is about to collapse and US banks are heavily invested over there. My suspicion is that Mr. Bernanke is doing this as another indirect bailout of US banks.

The principle function of central banks is to create money and to make it possible for commercial banks to create more money to lend than they would be able to create in a free market (with the fractional reserve system).

Anytime more money is created this way, the value of money decreases via inflation. But those who get the newly created money come out ahead.

It's really nothing but a transfer of real wealth from those with money holdings ( cash, notes, annuities, fixed incomes, etc.) to those who get the newly created money.

In principle, little different than when a counterfeiter does it.

In fact, everything the govt does outside the realm of it's police and military functions ( including their support services) is just forced govt wealth redistribution.

It's just a matter of how much destruction will be wrought before people learn that a free society is the only way.