Thursday, January 12, 2012

Iran, U.S. need a crisis exit ramp before a war is ignited

When two important countries appear to be goading each other into a dangerous and meaningless war, it can be useful to take a deep breath, lay the rhetoric aside for a moment, and go back to basics.

The past several weeks have seen a sharp increase in the three-decade war of words between the United States and Iran. Iran has held maneuvers in the critical Strait of Hormuz, combined with threats to interrupt commerce there. The United States has lost its third drone over Iran, and unnamed parties are conducting an unprecedented covert campaign of cyberwar and assassinations inside Iran. Iran says it has broken up a U.S. spy ring and has condemned a U.S. citizen to death.

President Clinton launched U.S. sanctions against Iran's oil industry by executive order in the election year of 1995; at that time, Iran had not a single centrifuge turning. After a decade and a half of the United States and the international community's escalating sanctions, Iran has more than 8,000 centrifuges spinning and a substantial stock of low-enriched uranium. This is the very definition of a failed policy.

The U.S. Congress in December passed a defense authorization bill that included provisions intended to bring down the Central Bank of Iran. Although President Obama expressed reservations, he signed it into law. This latest U.S. sanctions package is openly intended to deprive Iran of its oil revenues. By prohibiting other countries from dealing with Iran's banks, it is intended to prevent Iran from selling its oil. That is the equivalent of an act of war -- a financial blockade of Iran's oil ports that would deprive Iran of more than half its budgetary revenues. more