Clinton Embargo Of Iran Has Few Backers

By Pat Smith, The Militant, Vol.59 no.20, 22 May 1995

With few open backers among the world’s governments, U.S. president Bill Clinton signed an executive order May 8 putting into effect a trade embargo against Iran, which it brands as terrorist.

Washington has not been able to win support for the move from its imperialist rivals, or from Moscow or Beijing. The once highly touted Gulf War alliance has failed to materialize for Washington as it seeks to carry out an open assault on the sovereignty of Iran. Calling the reaction of governments around the world a global snub, a May 3 Wall Street Journal editorial noted, Clinton has had a tough time cobbling coalitions of friends for just about anything lately.

Oil-rich Iran, with its population of 70 million, cannot be easily isolated. Many capitalist powers and surrounding nations are moving to increase trade with the Persian Gulf country. A spokesman for the European Union said May 2, We are not going to respond to this initiative. It is in our interests to continue talking with a country that is a major power in the region.

Turkey supports further development of economic ties, with Iran, said Turkish energy minister Veysel Atasoy in response to the U.S. government sanctions. Ankara just signed an agreement with Tehran to purchase 2 billion meters of natural gas a year starting in 1998 and 10 billion cubic meters annually from 2002. The two governments also approved the construction of a gas pipeline.

Officials in the United Kingdom said they saw no reason to join Washington in imposing sanctions on Tehran. And Germany’s economics minister said, We do not believe that a trade embargo is the appropriate instrument for influencing opinion in Iran. Bonn is Iran’s largest single trading partner, exporting nearly $2 billion worth of goods there last year.

Ottawa’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ariel Delouya, sidestepped the U.S. call, arguing, We have very marginal relations with Iran. Delouya said Canada exported about $328 million of goods to Iran last year, mostly wheat. Wheat is not an item that has any strategic value, he held.

The United States’s practice will do no good to a settlement of the problem and will only further strain the relations between the U.S. and Iran, said Shen Guofang, from the China’s foreign ministry.

Even Azerbaijan’s president, Heydar Aliyev, said his government wanted to avoid any worsening of relations with its neighbor. Our relations with Iran have run into some difficulties, he said May 5, referring to Washington’s success in icing Tehran out of a $7.4 billion Caspian Sea oil deal. We had offered 5 percent out of our 20 percent share to Iran, but the U.S. opposed this.

Clinton’s call for governments to stop trading with Iran would especially tighten the screws on Tokyo, which imports 600,000 barrels of oil a day from that country. The Japanese government has declined to act on the recent U.S. government request.

Washington claims that Iran is a rogue state that sponsors international terrorism and is trying to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons. But to the contrary, a London Financial Times editorial May 2 noted, The International Atomic Energy Agency has inspected Iran’s atomic energy facilities and found nothing amiss.

In Iran, the view promoted by Washington is considered particularly insulting. Many there remember or know the history of the coup organized and funded by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that overthrew popularly elected Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq in 1953 and helped reinstall the Shah, who led a murderous regime until his overthrow in 1979.

We will support dialogue with the U.S., providing the ties are based on equal terms, said Ibrahim Abedi, editor of Tehran’s Islamist Salam newspaper. We oppose going back to the subservience to the U.S. that prevailed before the revolution.

Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Israel refuses to do so, pointed out Hussein Sheikh as- Islam, Tehran’s deputy foreign minister for Mideast affairs. The Iranian government offered to turn over spent fuel rods from the light-water atomic reactors it is purchasing from Moscow to ensure no weapons could be produced.

As Clinton prepared for talks with Russian president Boris Yeltsin focusing on the U.S. policy against Iran, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate majority leader Robert Dole threatened to cut off funds to Moscow if the Russian government honored its nuclear reactor deal with Tehran.

Unless the Russians are prepared to accept very, very severe safeguards to insure that it’s only a reactor for power purposes, that none of the raw material can be used to make a bomb, Gingrich said, I think this is a very serious problem. Dole said Congress would reexamine finances almost immediately if Clinton did not win assurances from Yeltsin that the plan would be modified or canceled.

There have been mixed reviews in the big-business press for the sanctions. Some, such as the New York Times, came out immediately in favor, but others have been cool to the initiative. The likelihood is that Clinton is going to ratchet up tension with Iran, hobble American companies, and get far out of step with America’s allies for no achievable purpose, the May 15 Business Week complained.