People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 12

March 13, 2012

Iran: US and Israel in “Lockstep”


Yohannan Chemarapally


BELYING reports appearing in the western media about an imminent strike by Israel against Iran, the Israeli prime minister after returning from his official trip to Washington, instead ordered an aerial bombardment on hapless Gaza. Four days of continuous attacks killed more than 25 Palestinians, including many children. The Obama administration while keeping up the volume of criticism against the Syrian government’s actions against armed militants inside its territory is characteristically mum on the civilian casualties that have resulted from the latest Israeli attacks. On Iran, president Obama keeps on repeating that “all options are on the table”. In February, the US armed forces have begun their biggest amphibious landing drill in the Persian Gulf region in more than a decade. The Pentagon recently doubled the number of aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf region. US military and spy drones have been flying over Iran for some time now. One of the sophisticated American drones was brought down by the Iranians late last year.


The Israeli media is full of stories about the build up of American troops in two small Gulf islands near the Straits of Hormuz. The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, one of the architects of the massacre in Gaza three years ago, said in early February that “the window” for an effective military strike on Iran is rapidly closing because of the continuing development of uranium enrichment centrifuges by that country. The Israeli vice prime minister, Moshe Yaalon declared that his country was confident of hitting any facility in Iran it chooses to. He said that he was speaking from his experience as the former head of the Israeli armed forces. The French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, added his belligerent voice to the war discourse by saying that an attack on Iran would be justified if the country “continues its senseless race to get the bomb and threaten its neighbours”. Sarkozy seems to have conveniently forgotten that in the modern era, Iran never started a war. It has always been a victim of aggression. It was the West and the Arab monarchies which encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Iran in 1980 leading to the eight year war which led to the loss of more than a million Iranian lives.


Teheran appears to be unfazed by the ratcheting up of threats from the West. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking on the occasion of the 33rd anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, said that the Islamic Republic will very soon announce some “very important” achievements in the nuclear field. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also reiterated that Iran would never give up its “rights” to a peaceful nuclear program. Iran has been consistently stating that as a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) it has every right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program. All of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including those engaged in uranium enrichment are monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that weapons grade uranium is not produced. Khamenei warned the West against undertaking a military adventure, saying that if hostilities broke out, “it would be ten times deadlier for the Americans” than it would be for Iran. Reacting to threats from Israel, Khamenei said the country was a “cancerous tumor” in the region which had to be removed.


The US secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, told the media in Brussels in early February that there was a strong likelihood of Israel attacking Iran by the middle of the year.




On December 20, 2011, the US joint chiefs of staff chairman, Gen Martin Dempsey told CNN that a whole range of options were being examined for military action against Iran. “I am satisfied that the options that we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable if necessary”. The right wing government in Israel would like nothing better than precipitating a war with Iran. The hawkish government in Israel has coldly concluded that the Obama administration, readying itself for re-election later in the year, would have no other option but to finish the war which Israel wants to start. But the realists in the Obama administration know that Iran is not like neighbouring Iraq, which they could occupy in a couple of weeks. President Barack Obama, trying to tone down the talks of imminent war, said in the first week of February that the Israelis had not yet decided their course of action against Iran. He emphasized that the two countries would “work in lockstep, as we proceed to solve this, hopefully diplomatically”. Meanwhile, the Republican contenders for the American Presidency, with the exception of Ron Paul, are carrying on with their refrain of “bomb, bomb Iran”.


On the nuclear issue, the Iranian people are united as never before. The neighbouring Arab monarchies are no doubt tacitly supporting the psychological and economic warfare being currently waged by the West against Iran but they realize that Iran too has many cards to play. The Shiite populations in these countries are already restive and openly demanding their democratic rights. Senior Iranian officials have warned that if war breaks out, the Iranian army will target the American military bases littering the Gulf countries. If shipping is affected in the choke point of the Straits of Hormuz, global oil prices are bound to shoot through the roof. Even the American consumer could be left with a big hole in his pocket during an election year. This will be detrimental to Obama’s chances to win a second term.


On a parallel track, the US has been trying desperately to arm twist the traditional friends and trading partners of Iran, like India, to implement the unilateral sanctions imposed by the West. When India’s foreign secretary, Ranjan Mathai was in Washington recently for talks, the US State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters that among the important issues discussed included “how India might find alternative sources of energy”. She said that the US was trying to implement a “two track policy, both to encourage countries to wean themselves from Iranian oil, but also to work with suppliers around the world to help countries find alternative sources of energy”.


The Saudi Arabian government has promised to ramp up production of oil in order to meet any shortfall in case Iranian oil is forced out of the international market. Iran has described the unilateral sanctions imposed by the West as part of the “psychological warfare” being waged against it. In the first week of February, the Obama administration gave more powers to US Banks to freeze Iranian assets and close loopholes that would make it even more difficult for the Iranian government to transfer funds through international banking channels. Iran’s Vice President, Mohammed Reza Rahimi, defiantly reacted to the latest set of sanctions saying that Iran will make “the sanctions ineffective, as it has done in the past and will continue selling oil”. The sanctions meanwhile are beginning to affect the lives of ordinary Iranians. The Iranian Rial has registered a steep decline against the dollar in recent months, leading to high inflation and rise in the prices of basic imported goods, like medicine


India is among Iran’s biggest buyers of oil and gas. Senior Indian policy makers say that though the country’s dependency on Iranian oil is decreasing, it will continue to be a major supplier. 12 per cent of India’s crude imports are from Iran. In January, India became the biggest importer of Iranian oil, displacing China. The announcement by the Indian government that it was planning to send a large trade delegation to Iran to further strengthen economic ties has angered Washington. The Indian Commerce Secretary, Rahul Khullar, told the media in Delhi, that New Delhi was implementing the requisite UN mandated sanctions against Iran, but emphasized that the sanctions don’t apply “to a vast range of products India supplies to Iran”.


With Iran agreeing to payment in rupees and other unconventional methods like barter trading, Indian officials have made it clear they would not be pressured by the West into taking steps that would have an adverse impact on the national economy. For that matter, even Pakistan has struck a defiant tone. Despite open warnings from Washington, Pakistan has announced the work on the gas pipeline with Iran will continue. Washington was more successful with New Delhi on the gas pipeline issue. Under pressure from the Bush administration, India had withdrawn from the project. Indian officials justified their withdrawal form Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) project on the grounds that it was economically unfeasible and would also give Islamabad undue leverage on the country’s energy security. Under American pressure, many of big private Indian companies like Reliance had suspended their contracts with Iran for the supply of refined gasoline. The Israeli government is now trying to pressurize the Indian government by trying to link Iran with the bombing of their embassy car in Delhi. Most commentators have noted that it is Israel which stands to gain after the alleged simultaneous attempts against Israeli targets in India, Thailand and Georgia. All three countries have good relations with Teheran.


The Obama administration is naturally unhappy with India’s decision to broaden economic ties with Iran at this juncture. US Congressmen have started raising the issue. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat speaking at the confirmation hearing for the Obama administration’s nominee for the ambassador’s post in New Delhi, Nancy J. Powell, said that India “seems to be rebuking the sanctions” imposed by the West on Iran. Senior Indian officials however insist that they will continue dealing with Iran. They point out that the West till recently was urging India to cut economic ties with Myanmar in order to isolate the government there. Today, it is the West which is leading the charge to invest in that country. Indian officials predict that this situation will replicate itself in Iran too within a couple of years.