Middle East

Iran vs. the United States

(Photo: Benjamin Haas, Shutterstock)

Rhetoric of war has recently escalated between the United States and Iran. The U.S. naval warship USS Lincoln is said to be moving towards the Persian Gulf. The United States has also accelerated development of a 13.6 ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb, which is capable of destroying the underground nuclear facilities of Iran. Notwithstanding the sanctions and embargoes imposed by the West, Iran has sustained and expanded its nuclear program. While Iran has repeatedly insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, the United States claims that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons that pose a threat to global security.

Tensions between the United States and Iran reached new levels recently when Iranian President Mahmhoud Ahmadinejad launched production of enriched uranium fuel rods in Tehran. He also announced the setting up of four more nuclear reactors, showing the West that it has advanced its nuclear technology.

The United States has once against called upon the international community to severe its ties with Iran. But Ahmadinejad is apparently unfazed. He announced, "Some 6,000 centrifuges are operating [in Natanz facility], and 3,000 new ones have been added, bringing the total to 9,000." He also assured that Iran would share this information with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and comply with IAEA safeguards. To the United States, Ahmadinejad asserted, "The era of bullying nations has passed. The arrogant powers cannot monopolize nuclear technology. They tried to prevent us by issuing sanctions and resolutions but failed."

Iran's nuclear program is not new. It dates back to 1960s. But after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, it had to be stopped. It was revived after 1990 and has progressed notwithstanding U.S. sanctions. Washington accuses Tehran of clandestinely developing nuclear weapons in the garb of its nuclear program in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But not all countries are ready to tow this American line on Iran. One reason is that U.S. claims about Iraq possessing WMD were found false. Moreover, it is well understood that Washington is just trying to secure Israel by limiting Iran's increasing strength in the region.

In December, Iran shocked the world when it claimed to have landed a U.S. drone that it said was spying in Iranian airspace. An embarrassed Pentagon said that the drone crossed into Iranian airspace from Afghanistan owing to a technical snag. Iran has since said that it possesses six American drones, which it has landed by deploying Iranian communication technology.

In January, an Iranian court issued a death sentence to an American of Iranian descent convicted on charges of spying for the CIA. Also in January, an Iranian nuclear scientist died in a terrorist bomb blast in northern Tehran when an unidentified motorcyclist attached a magnetic explosive device to the scientist's car. Iran indicated that it believed the United States and Israel were responsible for the killing.

Tensions also escalated recently when Israeli officials blamed Iran for bomb attacks in the capitals of Georgia, India and Thailand targeted at Israeli embassy personnel. Evidence suggests that the bombings were part of a single plot, for which Israel has blamed Iran. Iranian officials have denied any involvement and accused Israel of conspiring these bombings.

Israel also wants the United States to attack Iran, destroy its nuclear establishments and in the process weaken its military. Washington is not only increasing international pressure on Iran through sanctions, but also encouraging domestic opposition against Ahmadinejad's government within Iran. Washington expected New Delhi to stand with it on Iran issue, but, taking a clear stand, India has politely rejected the American suggestion and instead called for a diplomatic route to break deadlock. Countries like Russia, China and India are apparently choosing standing with Iran over the option of military action.

As U.S. allies, countries like France, Spain, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal proposed to stop oil imports from Iran from July onwards. They estimated that Iran could be made to fall in line using such threats. But their policy seems to have boomeranged as Iran has decided to stop crude exports to these countries with immediate effect. By this step, Iran has tried to prove that it is strong enough economically to deflect such threats.

This standoff between the West and Iran is a matter of serious concern in the times of global economic slowdown and the danger of looming recession. Does Iran treat American threats as mere hollow rhetoric? Economic slowdown has crippled Washington's ability to get involved in another needless war. Perhaps this is the reason why Iran is openly challenging U.S. hegemony.