Oct 26, 2007

[World Affairs] Centerstage: Iran

Flickr: danny.hammontree - Prepare for War
Prepare for War
by danny.hammontree.

International politics are always a muddy affair where so much happens at the table as part of diplomacy and in the background may it be covert military actions, political posturing or economic manipulations. No country is better equipped in the area than the US, which is probably the source of a lot of international resentment towards them. Let's face it - the US is pretty much the last true superpower and in recent years under George W. Bush the world has been reminded of that strength more than ever.

After the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush has made it perfectly clear that Iran is the next big bad guy to be dealt with one way or another in his so-called Axis of Evil. In a somewhat surprise move, the US has recently increased sanctions against Iran and those who support or do business with them in an effort to curb what they perceive to be a growing nuclear threat.

Here we go again.

The sanctions against Iran are the harshest yet in its history - a sweeping measure that will penalize anyone who does business with key Iranian institutions and individuals following the logic that ultimately, the groups contribue to the continued success of the IRGC. As always, it seems to be in line with Bush's traditionally brute force approach to international politics.

Given their previous inability to push the UN Security Council to impose greater sanctions against the state, they've taken matters into their own hands with this unilateral action. While the move is generally supported by allies like Britain and France, the move also opposed by other nations, namely Russia, China, Italy and Germany who are all known for conducting business with Iran.

Russia remains the key player in this conflict given their ability to stave the Security Council while also deeply involved in supplying Iran with weapons and building a nuclear power plant at Bushehr. Russia has been repeatedly coming to blows with the US in recent years in what sometimes feels like the beginning of the same sorts of actions that led to the Cold War between the two nations nearly 20 years ago. What can one do - Putin is a traditionalist in many ways and has been taking some pretty hardline stances with the US as of late.

Despite the mounting sanctions from the US, Iran remains defiant as always. I've always found that interesting in terms of Iran since you have to give them credit for now sweating despite the big bad wolf that the US bearing down on them. It does say a lot about their confidence in themselves and in their political allies. Just because Russia and China have made no overt moves against the US in recent years doesn't mean they don't have the muscle (military or economic) to do so if needed.

I wonder how far Dubya is going to push this - with his presidency at risk of ending in a lame duck fashion, he seems intent on ending things with a bang. The US is stretched thin as it is and I don't think he can really win any real concessions nor can he support another military offensive within the remainder of his term. Given those limitations, what else is left for him?

The US has done little more than some pretty significant political posturing with this move. Let's see what Iran (or its allies) does to counter things now.

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