Monday, January 16, 2006

GAZPROM, Iran sanctions, imperial temptations and so on

Thanks to Gregg Willhauck over at the Center for International Private Enterprise for alerting me to their blog; initially this was in the discussion over Afghanistan (he had a post about the problems in combating drug cultivation) but the latest post about GAZPROM and foreign investment is worth a read.

Thanks to David Billington on the question of Iran, the EU and sanctions. It's my hope that in the spring issue we'll be able to have a European perspective on this question. I'm not particularly sanguine about the "targeted" sanctions approach, because, as with Italy and Ethiopia in the 1930s, you can put a selective embargo without affecting behavior. Sanctions that don't affect energy (I think the sine qua non for Chinese participation) won't really change behavior. Travel sanctions? If I remember what my colleague Ray Takeyh said, Ahmednijad traveled to Moscow and Beijing; whether he'd want to go to Paris or London or would feel deprived if there was a travel ban, I don't know.

Iran's national security establishment has made a calculation that the balance of power is shifting in the world to the extent that it is now possible to "defy" the Euro-Atlantic world and survive via the "Asia connection." That assessment may be premature, but it is revealing.

Leon Hadar was one of the participants in our forum on empire last week--the discussion continues at his blog.

Ironically, one of Iran's biggest immediate vulnerabilities to sanctions lies in its energy imports, since its refining capacity tilts "heavy" (toward fuel oil), while its domestic product demand tilts much more "light" (gasoline and diesel). I posted an explanation of this and some rough numbers over at my blog. It's impossible to know for sure how Iran would respond to sanctions on energy imports, but it might allow us to put the screws to Iran's economy with less negative economic externalities than sanctions targeting Iran's energy exports.
(Comment also crossposted at another blog.)

An interesting contrast between how Iran is being dealt with and how Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been neglected.

Strong American leadership is evident in getting the Security Council to recognize the risk from Iran's nuclear ambitions and developing consensus towards how to deal with that risk. Contrast that with the cat and mouse game played with Musharraf and the Saudi regime. In the latter cases, significant risks in terms of extremism and/or nuclear proliferation have simply not been dealt with the commensurate sense of urgency, and have been allowed to fester.
The failure of U.S. sanctions against Iran is a failure of the U.S. to adjust to changes in competitive strategy since 2002. The sanctions have been all but bypassed through deals with Russia and China. The deterrent strategy has all but collapsed in part due to insufficient support in the EU and a deterrence model that fails to account for cognitive discord and the political imperatives of Iranian leaders. In fact, the sanctions are likely fueling Iranian nationalism which is in turn fueling desires for nuclear weapons development.
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