Nuclear negotiations in Moscow between Iran and the P-5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US) came to a close on June 19th 2012 with little sign of progress. Late 2011 and the beginning of 2012 saw a wave of speculation with the prospects of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations. The November 2011 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that the Tehran regime had computer models that can only be used to develop a nuclear weapon and this led to a frenzy, driven largely by Israel, that Iran would imminently enrich Uranium to over 90% and be able to load the enriched Uranium on a deliverable warhead towards Israeli cities. The drums of war constantly beat from Tel Aviv as many in the West celebrated the start of 2012.
6 months into 2012 the drums of war have subsided and other international events have taken over as the headlines.
US v Israel
Whilst the US and Israel share much in common and work together on achieving their many interests, the US has interests to maintain the US positions globally and protect its own interests. Israel is just another nation with which it has relations with a view to achieving its interests in the Middle East.
Israel was serious about launching strikes on Iran, the American news agency UPA on November 2nd 2011 reported that: “The Britain’s Chief of Staff Gen. David Richards paid a secret 3-day visit to Israel, while the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak visited Britain on the evening of 2nd November, 2011 at a time when Israel’s military attack on Iran was being discussed intensively”. The Israeli media reported also said in early November 2011 that the Zionist Air force carried out an aerial exercise at one of the NATO’s bases in Italy which included all possible types of air force formations which possibly may participate in an attack.
The US however acted as an obstacle to this. The WSJ confirmed that the Barak Obama, Leon Panetta and other senior US officials sent a series of secret messages to the Israeli leadership warning them of the dire repercussions of any possible attack. They also informed Israel about the long standing US position which has always been giving time to the sanctions regime to bear fruit.
Talks, talks and more talks
In implementing the US plan and subduing Israel talks were called for by Iran in March 2012 to deal with the stand-off. Talks took place in Istanbul in April 2012 between the P5+1 group and Iran, the conclusion was to meet again, for more talks, this time in Baghdad the following month.
The meeting in Baghdad took place on 25 May 2012, with nothing conclusively agreed, aside from another meeting to discuss matters, this time in Moscow.
The talks in Moscow proved to be even more inconclusive and with more sanctions looming, Iran as well as the US were not reacting at the level of urgency that the Israeli’s had hoped for. By July, a series of sanctions are supposed to take effect.
The US was able to successfully neutralise the Israeli attack and European attempts at inciting Israel.
The US has long argued that Iran should not possess nuclear weapons and that it is prepared to negotiate with Iran and offer incentives for it to abandon such a pursuit. However the rhetoric that comes out from the US has always been contradictory. At times the US has been aggressive in order to influence Tehran’s behaviour whilst on other occasions it sabotaged the negotiations which lead to a breakdown in the negotiations. However since the end of the Bush term and the emergence of Obama in the White House the political language adopted by Barack Obama and his foreign policy team has called for the use of diplomacy and soft power, not only to normalise US relations with Iran, but also to bolster Iran and encourage it to play an active role in the region. Writing in Foreign Affairs in July 2007, Obama stated: ‘Throughout the Middle East, we must harness American power to reinvigorate American diplomacy. Tough-minded diplomacy, backed by the whole range of instruments of American power – political, economic, and military-could bring success even when dealing with long-standing Tough-minded diplomacy, backed by the whole range of instruments of American power – political, economic, and military-could bring success even when dealing with long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria.’
The US has exploited the negotiations to achieve its wider interests in the region. By doing so, America has gained a strategic advantage by persuading the Gulf Arab countries to acquire nuclear energy, by nudging the Israelis into a security pact further integrating Israel’s security with that of America. With the US withdrawal in full swing in Iraq, it will be Iran who will prop up whichever government is in Baghdad, the political architecture the US created in the country is dominated by Iranian proxies.
With regards the threat of crippling sanctions, no sanctions regime is water tight. The Russians as an example do not participate in sanctions. The sanctions that are scheduled to begin in July are to tighten US financial sanctions, while the EU is supposed to impose a so-called embargo on Iranian crude imports. The EU is also expected to deny insurance to vessels carrying Iranian crude from July 1, meaning that Iran’s biggest crude buyers would theoretically lose access to the London-based insurance market. There are both overt and covert loopholes embedded in any sanctions regime. The United States has already exempted India, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Taiwan, Japan and 10 European countries from the upcoming sanctions after intense lobbying from them.
As the dominant power in the Persian Gulf the US needs Iran to implement its strategies in the region, it also needs Iran to balance other powers in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Iran has become even more important for the US as it withdraws from Iraq. Israel with European incitement and believing Iran’s possession of a nuclear device would completely alter the military-security landscape in the region was gearing for war, however the US was able to placate it, and in turn protect its interests and obstructed any military conflict in the region. Fundamentally for all the rhetoric against Iran by the US, it was the Obama administration that ensured military strikes did not take place against Iran in order to protect its interests and proxy in the region.