Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Iranian Perspective: Securing Our Right to Trade

The Islamic Republic of Iran, since the revolution in the 1970s, has been met with fierce opposition and bloody intrigue by different foreign nations, particularly the world’s only superpower and fountainhead of imperialism – the United States. Not only have the world’s policymakers severely criticized Iranian foreign policy but it also included scores of Western academics and intellectuals who continue a strong lobby in every US administration to pressure governments and supranational organizations to severely sanction Iran and cripple its trade – force the changing of its foreign policy hostile to US and Western interests. But the great Islamic Republic will never stand down to the forces of US imperialism despite all its pressures and threats to Iran and the international community, especially in the wake of the nuclear stand-off, in which the United States continues to insist that our right to produce nuclear energy is only but a mere ruse to pursue and amass nuclear weapons. Discussions on these issues are critical in contemplating the trade policy of the Islamic Republic in order to fully understand the reasons for its perceived dogmatism and hostility towards fully understanding its role in international trade and diplomacy.

Western Barrage for Sanctions

The history of the world is replete with instances where the United States intervened in the foreign policy of states and governments hostile to its interests in terms of geopolitical and economic spread all over the world. There can be no better example for such a policy by the United States than the almost half a century trade embargo in socialist Cuba, in the guise of the little Caribbean nation’s perceived threats to the US mainland. On the other hand, Iran is never spared from the crosshairs of US propaganda as the primary threat to US interests in the Middle East especially in the context of the Islamic state being a haven of Muslim fundamentalists and even state sponsoring terrorist groups. Prior to the current Bush administration, such a militarist mindset was already pervasive –

The DCP, more accurately described as the Iran Containment Policy, calls for collective economic action against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It represents a determined effort to embargo Iran into ever-worsening poverty unless it alters its destabilizing, often terrorist, foreign policies. The DCP is Washington's most coherent attempt to establish a blueprint for coping with Iranian Islamic militancy… It is important then to consider whether that American policy will be accepted by the United States' allies, who are indispensable to its success, and whether it can effectively counter Iran's Islamic radicals.[1]

While it can be said that Iranian foreign policy may seem to the world as destabilizing, it is all in the interest of trying to protect the state and its people from foreign intervention on all fronts and safeguard the Islamic revolution. More so, it can never be said to pursue terrorist foreign policies as not an iota of evidence is present to show that Iran indeed harbors terrorist cells nor produce weapons of mass destruction. Aside from the Dual Containment Policy of the United States, world powers are now preparing to formalize United Nations economic sanctions on Iran for supposedly using nuclear research to produce nuclear weapons in the guise of producing electricity. Again, the Islamic Republic of Iran is being maligned in front of the international community in its peaceful pursuit of nuclear resources as though the countries who are now accusing Iran of nuclear proliferation do not possess any nuclear weapon.

What do we really want?

In all of these, the goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran are fairly simple, and in accord with international principles of diplomacy and trade. It asserts the sovereign right of the Iranian people and its government to conduct fair and embargo-free relations with different states and the corporations that exist therein. In the context of the increased international blackmail of the United States on Iran, securing trade partners the world over will definitely be more difficult and would lead to widespread hunger and the collapse of the Iranian economy. If the United States convinces European states to support its call to sanction Iran for its nuclear activities, Iran will definitely lose one of its biggest trading partners – the European Union (EU). The EU itself, in its website, knows the utter importance of trade between the two entities, especially in the importation of energy resources –

The EU is Iran’s main trading partner concerning both imports and exports. While the EU’s Balance of Trade (BoT) with Iran has traditionally been negative due to large imports in the energy sector, the EU’s BoT (counting all 25 member states) remained positive in two consecutive intervals (2002, 2004) despite rising energy prices. The EU’s BoT surplus in 2004 amounts to €3,7bn. However, EU25 exports to Iran make up only 1,23 % of the EU’s total exports in 2004. While imports from Iran in 2004 are negligible in all sectors except energy (€6bn) and to a much lower extent agriculture (€401m - main import product are pistachios), the EU’s exports of goods are dominated by the machinery sector (€4.938m), transport equipment (€2.848m) and the chemical sector (€1.148m).[2]

In the imposition of economic sanctions, the economy of Iran will definitely be crippled if trade with the European Union is lost. While such a sanction can be relatively defied by member-states of the UN, any state which would establish trade relations with Iran may also be sanctioned in lesser degrees. A paper by Nadir Habibi, an economist with the Middle East department of Global Insight consulting Firm, clearly articulated such detrimental effects on Iran

In the next two years Iran's trade with the European Union (EU) will be highly vulnerable to diplomatic developments. The share of EU in Iran import market has increased from 36% in 2000 to 41.7% in 2005 and the Iranian government had hoped that this steady growth will discourage EU from supporting an economic sanction against Iran. At the same time the growing share of Europe in Iran's merchandise imports has increased Iran's dependency on European industrial products and machinery. Iran's manufacturing and industrial sector will experience a severe short-term recession if the supply of European exports are cut off.[3]

As such, the Islamic Republic of Iran asserts in clear and unequivocal terms that it stringently opposes the economic sanctions on our country as it will inevitably lead to severe economic repercussions detrimental to our people and the development of our economy. More so, we seek to peacefully establish trade relations, bilaterally or multilaterally, to all states in the community of nations for so long as it recognizes the sovereignty and prerogative of the Iranian state and its people to determine its own destiny.

The Way to Go

If the international community is convinced by the lies and the deception by the United States as it did in Iraq, Iran has no other recourse but to struggle forth in defense of its people and the revolution. According to an e-mail interview with Roland Simbulan, a security expert based in the Philippines, Iran has always used its oil supply as a sufficient leverage against attacks on its trade relations with other countries, especially in the wake of UN sanctions, notwithstanding constricting imports from countries like South Korea that side with the United States on diplomatic issues. [4] The Iranian Republic would continue such a strategy of using its oil supply and prior trade relations with other states to force the US and the UN to rethink its impending economic sanctions on the state as the world over cannot have volatile oil prices if it wants the world economic system to remain afloat. By using Iranian oil supply as leverage in the best display of brinksmanship, Iran might compel the world to listen as practically most of the world heavy, intermediate and light industries, agriculture and even commerce is dependent on oil for its operations.

The Role of Other States and Iranian People

The Islamic Republic of Iran, in pursuit of its objective to resist UN economic sanctions, must engage the solidarity of the small yet potent anti-imperialist or progressive states such as critically important Venezuela and Cuba, notwithstanding the support of major world players such as China, Russia, India, and even Brazil. Iran must expose the deceptive scheme by the US to enforce hunger in Iran through the sanctions, without isolating itself from the rest of the world by allowing Iranian President Ahmadinejad to speak on issues detrimental to its cause, such as the sponsoring of forums denying the Holocaust. Iran must be able to convince the international community that if the world really wants to see a change in policy or even a democratic change of regime, the best way would always be to let the Iranian people decide for themselves in the context of a free trade policy without economic sanctions. The foreign policy think-tank, Foreign Policy in Focus, articulated it best –

By opening up strong commercial links with the United States, the Iranians would have much more to lose by initiating any hostilities. Not only that, but the Iranians might recognize that their critics also have an equal interest in maintaining the status quo rather than trying to implement any regime change… Stronger trade links would also raise standards of living among ordinary people in a way that is likely to undermine the mullahs’ regime. Put money in people's pockets and of course you change their ideas, expectations, and values... If standards of living were to rise dramatically in Iran over the coming years, the days of the theocratic regime would be numbered.[5]

If Iran can convince the international community to pursue such a tact, with the support of states sympathetic to its cause, including China and Russia, it just might able to stop the imposition of economic sanctions by the United Nations.

Likelihood of Achieving the Goal

Unless Iran, with the critical support Russia and China, convinces the international community to forestall the economic sanctions, the US-led United Nations economic sanctions will definitely push forward to the detriment of the Iranian people. The international clout of the United States, despite severe criticism for its mishandling of the Iraq war, remains especially on an equally hostile Iran. The Iraq war has also taught world leaders a lesson that the United States will not stop at anything, even a veto by members of the Security Council, in pursuit of its agenda in containing Iran of its perceived threat to American interests in the Middle East. The chances of Iran asserting its right to trade freely without economic sanctions is nil without intense international pressure and condemnation.

Works Cited

  1. Shirley, Edward G. “The Iran Policy Trap.” Foreign Policy (1994) :74.
  2. European Union. “ The EU's relations with Iran.” December 2005. (20 March 2007).
  3. Habibi, Nadir. “The Cost of Economic Sanctions on Major Exporters to Iran.” Payvand’s Iran News. 5 May 2006. (20 March 2007).
  4. Simbulan, Roland. “Iranian Trade Policy.” 18 March 2007. personal email (20 March 2007).
  5. Howard, Roger. “Time to Lift Iran's Sanctions.” Foreign Policy in Focus. 4 January 2007. < > (20 March 2007).

[1] Edward G. Shirley, “The Iran Policy Trap,” Foreign Policy (1994) :74.

[2] European Union, “ The EU's relations with Iran.” December 2005, < > (20 March 2007).

[3] Nadir Habibi, “The Cost of Economic Sanctions on Major Exporters to Iran,” Payvand’s Iran News, 5 May 2006, <> (20 March 2007)

[4] Roland Simbulan, “Iranian Trade Policy,” 18 March 2007, personal email (20 March 2007).

[5] Roger Howard, “Time to Lift Iran's Sanctions,” Foreign Policy in Focus, 4 January 2007, < > (20 March 2007)

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