Iran has spoken defiantly about the European Union decision to impose sanctions on oil purchase, but has left the door open for the upcoming negotiations with the “5+1″. In a judicious response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast at his routine press briefing called it “psywar”. He said the move is “illogical and unfair” and “will not stop our nation from obtaining its rights. The European countries and those who are under American pressure should think about their own interests. Any country that deprives itself of Iran’s energy market will soon see that it has been replaced by others.”
The Foreign MInistry in Tehran in a statement warned EU countries that they will bear “bitter fruits” as a result of their move. It was a firm statement asserting that Iran intended to continue with its nuclear programme, which is its “right” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but stressed Iran’s willingness to be “more transparent”.
Tehran’s assessment seems to be that European opinion is badly divided on the Iran issue and many EU member countries fell in line with a consensus that was forced by the US, UK and France, which are acting under a mix of strong domestic public compulsions and a need to distract attention from the economic crisis in the west and the contradictions of the Arab Spring . British PM David Cameron, for instance, made a hurried trip to Riyadh last week canvassing for a multi-billion pound deal for sale of fighter aircraft, but apparently drew blank.
The Iranian statement asserted: “The Iranian nation has many times proved that it would never yield to pressure and unjust moves aimed at forcing it to abandon its legitimate and legal rights, and will certainly through resistance within the framework of the fundamentals of justice and placing belief in international peace and stability, will not in future too yield to such methods and we remind the leaders of the western countries that any confrontationist move against the independence and advancement of independent countries would lead to further complication of the present-day global crises, and the aftermath of such thoughtless decisions and efforts aimed at building up tensions would lie on the shoulders of the European Union.”
In all likelihood, Iran has taken a stance taking into account the advice given by Moscow and Beijing where an Iranian envoy held discussions last week. Moscow has disapproved of EU’s move and sought restraint so that the negotiations with the “5+1″ could commence. China is yet to speak at the official level, but sometimes action speaks more convincingly than words.
Amidst all the brouhaha over the likely Chinese response — with western media insisting Beijing is about to dump Tehran and trek with the US and its Persian Gulf allies – vital statistics are coming in. China’s General Administration of Customs has let it be known in Beijing that China’s crude-oil imports from Iran last year actually were up 30% from 2010 to touch an all-time high level of 27.76 million metric tonnes. That is to say, China imported 557000 barrels of Iranian oil per day. And, this happened when in 2011 China’s overall crude imports were up by just 6.1%.
Iran’s light, sweet crude is hard to replace and its price shot up by 1.25 dollars to settle at 99.58 barrels on the New York Mercantile Exchange within hours of the EU decision. The Russian RT and Israeli Debka with links to the intelligence have gone to town reporting that India proposes to pay for Iranian oil in gold and that China may follow suit. This may be factually wrong but figuratively it is not lacking in substance.
Unlike Russia or Israel or Australia, which can afford to view the paradigm as the stuff of humor — actually, Russia may even make a quick buck if oil prices jump due to an Iran crisis — this is a dead serious affair for India or China (or Turkey). India uses the light Iranian crude for making fertilisers, which are sold at subsidised price to the farmers.
At the end of the day, this is not going to be a simple matter of the west “punishing” Iran. As a Xinhua commentary summed up, sanctions would only further the animosity between Tehran and the West, making a negotiated solution “even less likely” and pushing up crude oil prices; it could “exacerbate concerns among global oil investors about possible tight supply, leading to surging prices, which will push up global inflation and deal a blow to the fragile global economic recovery. As a result, both the developed world and the emerging economies will feel pressure.”
Indeed, who is going to get hurt most in this shadow-boxing is also far from clear.
– January 24, 2012