America’s President Donald Trump has carefully and systematically steered his country into the category of a “rogue” state, the term that the United States has itself frequently used to pillory countries that do not accept its policies and agenda.
American commentator Paul Pillar has said that being a “rogue” state means pursuing the national interest “through methods contrary to the accepted standards of international behaviour and contrary to international law”, Contrary to international norms, Mr Trump pulled his country out of the nuclear agreement even when Iran was in full compliance with the agreement, which also had the backing of the all the other parties to the agreement.
Then, contrary to the law, Mr Trump recognised Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, and followed this up with legalising the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights. His “deal of the century” for Palestine is expected to compound these illegalities with the recognition of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank. Mr Trump then went against the advice of his own CIA and the Pentagon to declare Iran’s 11-million strong Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a “terrorist” organisation.
The latest action of the administration to end the six-month “waivers” to the countries that import oil from Iran from May 2, which include India, and expose these countries to US sanctions affirms America’s status as a “rogue state” that is now a threat to world peace and security.
The end of the waivers was announced by secretary of State mike Pompeo on April 22 with the goal of depriving “the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilise the Middle East”. He also set out US demands on Iran: “End your pursuit of nuclear weapons. Stop testing and proliferating ballistic missiles. Stop sponsoring and committing terrorism.”
The end to the waivers immediately affects four countries — India, China, Japan and Turkey. With all of them the US has important political and economic ties — Turkey is a Nato partner, Japan is a cherished ally in Asia, India is emerging as a substantial defence and political partner, while China is the US’ main trade partner and crucial political interlocutor on global political and economic issues.
The end of the waivers will disrupt the global energy economy and harm the interests of the importers of Iranian oil and that of the international community at large. The immediate impact of the announcement ending waivers has been to push oil prices to their highest levels over the last six months: WTI is expected to hover between $63-66 per barrel, while Brent will be between $73-76 per barrel, though Brent could come down later to around $70/barrel due to higher Saudi and UAE production.
While Opec, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and some others may have spare capacity in the short term, they are committed to reducing production by 1.2 million barrels per day to stabilise prices. But there could be problems later -- Iran is a major global producer and has the world’s third largest oil reserves. It will be difficult to make up for the withdrawal of its oil over the longer term, particularly when there is already uncertainty in oil markets due to US sanctions on Venezuela and ongoing conflicts in Libya and Yemen.
Though Indian officials have sought to reassure the market by affirming that alternate supplies have been tied up, high oil prices caused by US actions will harm India’s interests — 11 per cent of India’s oil imports come from Iran. India also benefits from lower Iranian official pricing of its oil, the 60-day credit and attractive insurance terms. With the loss of these advantages and higher global prices, there will greater burdens on the Indian exchequer and attendant inflation and lower growth.
But beyond the immediate commercial considerations, there are other implications — should a major world power impose its agenda on the international community and then blackmail it into compliance through threats of sanctions on allies and friends? This situation is particularly unacceptable when the international community is aware that the US positions are being driven by domestic lobbies promoting confrontation and conflict.
Large sections of America’s right-wing establishment have not forgiven Iran for its Islamic revolution, and specifically for the occupation of the US embassy from November 1979 till January 1981. This group harbours visceral animosity for Iran and believes that by exerting “maximum pressure” on that country it can either effect a regime change, replacing the present rulers with more pliant substitutes, or at least significantly alter its behaviour.
The Trump administration officials and the lobbyists also hope that, under pressure from sanctions and abusive rhetoric, the hardliners in Iran will triumph and pull their country out of the nuclear agreement. This will provide the opening for Washington to declare that Iran has revived its weapons programme, which it will then seek to reverse militarily.
America-based Iranian-origin writers Sina Tossi and Assal Rad point out that “the ingredients for a war with Iran are falling into place”, with the US aiming deliberately at discrediting moderates in Iran and encouraging the hardliners. Truly a mean-spirited and diabolical scheme worthy of a “rogue state”!
Several US commentators believe that Mr Trump is being encouraged by some of his officials to initiate a war againt Iran. The officials are harping on Iran as a “rogue, outlaw, terrorist regime”, focusing on it as a nuclear and terrorist threat, exactly how the case for the war on Iraq was prepared 16 years ago. US Senators Richard Durbin and Tom Udall have noted: “We are again barrelling toward another unnecessary conflict in the Middle East based on faulty and misleading logic.” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif has warned of “accidents, plotted accidents” as creating the excuse for war.
Unilateral sanctions to force compliance with the US agenda rest on the dollar clearing system that is used to effect financial transactions globally. The frequent use of such sanctions will blunt their efficacy as the world will seek to develop new vehicles for financial transactions and over time even attempt to replace the dollar as the principal unit of international exchange.
Mr Trump will eventually harm his country’s own national interest; but that is what “rogue states” invariably do....