International tensions over Tehran’s Nuclear programme heightened last week, as strict economic sanctions “effective from July 2012” were agreed by the EU.
There are variety of documented sanctions following those made by the US in December, ranging from those concerned with human rights violations to embargoes “on certain goods and technology which could contribute to… the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.” It is limits on Iranian oil imports however, that has proved the most politically and economically contentious, as well as the freezing of Iranian assets in European central banks.
These policies are designed to cripple the political and economic presence of OPEC’s second largest oil producer within the Middle East and wider global markets for as long as it continues to develop technologies associated with nuclear warfare. Iran’s claims to the right of nuclear armament and corollary uranium enrichment programme have beleaguered an international community, who, after unfruitful attempts to negotiate with the regime, now deem the potential consequences of nuclear expansion sufficient to warrant an interventionist role.
Iran did not disappoint in maintaining the stream of invective between itself and its perceived Western oppressors. The leadership retaliated to the EU’s announcement by threatening to shut the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway which transports up to a third of the world’s seaborne oil, an act which Washington subsequently labelled tantamount to war. Both states have consequently faced accusations of brinkmanship.
Further tensions have developed between Iran’s neighbouring states as Saudi Arabia announced it was willing to produce surplus oil to buttress the short fall consequent of the ratification of the EU’s proposals. Iranian politicians have since warned those in the region of the “dangers” implicit in aligning themselves too closely to the United States. German sources have also suggested that Angela Merkel will pressure the Chinese leadership to reduce Iranian oil imports during a visit to Asia this week.
Whilst future military action is by no means confirmed, the pungent clouds of war possibly looming beyond the horizon still chill the West, for whom the prospect of nuclear armageddon is now seemingly perennial. These fears were not pacified when UK foreign secretary, William Hague, contended in an interview with Sky news that all options are still on the table pertaining to the Iranian security threat and did not expressly rule out the use of force.