by Gjermund E Jansen
Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 06:14:38 AM EST
As the climate between Iran and the West reaches a new freezing point,
the climate between Iran and some of its neighbours seems to sour too. Last Friday,
Iran slashed its gas supplies to Turkey by an overwhelming 70 per cent in an act that can only be described as hostile. The ordeal is believed to be a calculated move by the Iranians aimed at warning the Turks over the consequences of supporting a possible military strike against the country. The Turks, on the other hand, have been, until recently, holding a low key in the dispute between Iran and the E3 and the US over nuclear research. In fact as of mid-November last year, the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said:
"Turkey supports Iran's use of nuclear power for peaceful means. However, the Iranian leadership must openly show its goodwill and convince the international community," when addressing a parliamentary committee during a review of his ministry's budget. But at the same time he expressed concern over the harsh rhetoric used by the Iranian leadership.
From the diaries ~ whataboutbob
The Iranian move to suspend large parts of it's gas deliveries to Turkey can bee seen as a counter move to the Turkish governments more firm stance against Iran last week, when the Turkish Foreign Minister seemed to have fallen down on the E3/US more hawkish stance and urged Iran to avoid any move that could erode its dialogue with the international society.
"Turkey hopes that Iran would immediately engage into a full and transparent cooperation with the tripartite European Union (EU) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to overcome the crisis of confidence," the statement from Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
The statement came a day after the EU trio warned Iran that the talks with Iran on nuclear issue were in deadlock.
This latest move from the Iranian government to use their leverage as a big energy power in the standoff with the West has added to the speculations over whether the country is willing to withhold both oil and gas from world markets in case of a showdown over the nuclear affair. But such a self-imposed boycott would mean a further increase in the oil price for the consumers countries and the drying up of oil revenues for Iran and thus an unlikely scenario, given the fact that the supply of oil and gas are, in the words of the head of the US Energy Information Administration, Guy Caruso;
"(.....)so tightly balanced. It's a fungible world oil market, and any disruption in supply affects everyone, because the price would go up for everyone, thus clearly, we can't afford to lose a large supply of crude to the market at this stage."
It is one thing to use a countries power leverage in a bilateral relations, given the world's energy-hunger. It's quite a different story to cut off the supply totally and thus terminating the country's own power asset and at the same time cutting most of their own export sector and thus the national income in the process. The recent negotiations and preliminary agreements with both Asian and European companies suggest that such a move is highly unlikely.
Another country in the region that has broken the silence and aligned with the E3 countries and the US in the dispute with Iran is Saudi Arabia.
Prince Saud al-Faisal, the veteran Saudi Foreign Minister, attending a conference on Terrorism in London on January 15th, criticised President Ahmadinejad's Administration, urging him to forgo atomic energy, to moderate his foreign policy and resist the temptation of interfering in Iraq.
"We are urging Iran to accept the position that we have taken to make the Gulf, as part of the Middle East, nuclear free and free of weapons of mass destruction. We hope that they will join us in this policy and assure that no new threat of arms race happens in this region," he told The Times.
The scenario of Iran going nuclear have lead to the belief that Saudi Arabia might follow suit, given the differences between the two countries in the past, but the Saudi Prince reassured the press that that has never been and will never be an option.
Still, the thought of having a nuclear equipped Iran at their doorstep is a matter of grave concern for both Turkey and Saudi-Arabia, even if it is for different reasons. Iran and Turkey have had an expanding, and sometimes colliding, geo-strategic interest in the newly independent Central-Asian republics.
Saudi-Arabia and Iran, on the other hand, have had an ongoing ideological conflict ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979, with the Iranian theocracy supporting militant groups within Saudi-Arabia opposing the absolutist regime of the Saudi family. With the scenario of Iran becoming the second nuclear power in the Middle East, after Israel, it would alter the geo-political situation in the area and represent a severe threat to many countries in the region, possibly leading to either an arms race or the formation of new security constellations in order to regain the perceived geo-strategic equilibrium in the area.
Israel is though by far the country that dread a nuclear Iran the most, much because of the messianic overtures of the Shiia clerics and their protégés when they propagate that their ultimate aim in the region is to destroy the Jewish State. The election of the Ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
in June 24th 2005, a protégé of Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran,
led quickly to a reversal of the liberal policies of Ahmadinejad's predecessor Khatami
and a souring of Iran's relations with the international community.
It was known well before the election that Ahmadinejad belonged to the conservative side in Iranian politics. Still, the international community held its breath in anticipation that the reform line of Kathami might possibly survive in some form, but in a speech in October 2005, the newly elected Iranian President shut the door of open diplomacy and mutual understanding, propagating that Israel be "wiped off the world map"
starting what, at first, was to become a war of words between the Iranian President and the Israeli leaders, but which later evolved to include most of the Western world too.
The Israeli reaction to this "warmongering"
rhetoric, was to call for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations and the former Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. In that meeting, all fifteen members condemned Ahmadinejad's remarks.
In spite of numerous speculations over if and when the Israelis were going to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, the newly appointed Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz
ruled out a military strike against Iran in a speech held at Haifa University
last week. Whether this was said as an absolute or meant just for now remains to be seen, still it is widely believed that Israel will not stand by while it's only "sworn enemy"
is developing nuclear weapons.
In hindsight of the first Gulf War in 1991, when Saddam Hussein launched some of his Scud missiles in the general direction of Israel, and some of them happened to reach their destination and fell down randomly within the Israeli borders, the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) have been actively pursuing a missile defence system to counter such a missile attack in the future. The Iranian development of the Shahab 3
inter-mediate ballistic missile, with a range capable of reaching any country within the Middle East and able to carry a 500kg-650kg warhead, paired with the country's suspected nuclear ambitions, portrays a rather grim prospect of the future for a nation that have experienced war with most of its neighbours since its establishment in 1948.
As a consequence, the IDF purchased the US produced Arrow 2
anti ballistic system from Boeing in 2000 and immediately began to modify and deploy it to suite the Israeli defence systems. The Arrow
anti-ballistic missile defence system started as a joint project between Israel and the US back in 1988 but has been continuously developed ever since.
Facing the scenario of a nuclear equipped Iran in the future the tension in the Middle East would certainly increase and might even lead to an arms race encouraging other nations to pursue their dream of becoming a nuclear power. That would mean the end of the NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty) and increase the risk of Islamist groups like Hezbollah acquiring nuclear weapons given the tight relations between this group and Iran. It could also possibly mean an even more aggressive Iranian foreign policy in the region and in particular in Lebanon and southern Iraq under the cover of the Iranian States newly acquired nuclear power status. What is unlikely though is the scenario of Iran deliberately going to war with Israel since it would mean the end of much of the Middle East including themselves, but it could mean a new era of regional Cold War.
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