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US pours more oil on fire

Sat, July 07, 2018 13:00

By the Gazette Editorial Board

When he decided to walk out of the nuclear deal with Iran, President Donald Trump justified the move he made last May by the need to amend the deal. He wanted to force Tehran to end its ballistic missile programme and suspend its interference in the affairs of its Arab neighbours.

Trump, however, was not satisfied simply to renew US sanctions against Tehran. He urged his European partners, who co-signed the deal with Tehran in 2015, to suspend any sort of co-operation with Iran and threatened that their companies would also be subjected to American sanctions if they did not comply.

This is doubtless why some European companies announced their withdrawal from the Iranian market. They wanted to preserve their businesses in the US market.

Still not satisfied with pressuring its allies to withdraw their investments from Iran, the US also works hard to stop Iranian oil sales on the world market. On the one hand, Washington urged the big oil importing countries, such as India and China, to suspend oil imports from Iran by November 4. It then asked Saudi Arabia and other Opec members to increase their oil output so as to contain the oil price rise as a result of the cut in sales of Iranian oil.

Naturally, such policies are not expected to bring the Mullah regime into the international fold. Nor will they convince Tehran to withdraw its threat to resume uranium enrichment. The strategy of pouring more oil on the fire is more likely to end in triggering more regional disputes that could lead to direct military confrontation between Iran and its Arab neighbours, especially after Iran's recent threat to block the Strait of Hormuz.

The commander of the Al Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guards, Qassem Solaimani, said on Wednesday that Iran would block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if Trump stopped Iranian oil sales.

Solaimani's statement echoed Tehran's official stand, coming as it did, a day after President Rouhani hinted at a threat to disrupt oil shipments from neighbouring countries if Washington pressed ahead with forcing all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.

“The Americans say they want to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero... It shows they have not thought about its consequences,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA while on an official visit to Vienna.

Rouhani, who is now in Vienna trying to salvage the nuclear deal, said US sanctions against Iran were a “crime and aggression.” He called on European governments and others to stand up to Trump’s policies against Tehran.

Under pressure of the hard-liners in Tehran and the growing public anger of the economic hardship, Rouhani is not expected to kneel to the American pressure and accept the introduction of amendments to the nuclear deal, suspend the ballistic missile programme or even reduce its influence in the region.

On the contrary, tightening the rope round Tehran's neck would give more power to the Iranian hard-liners and force Rouhani to heat up public anger against the US as well as the Arab neighbours.

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