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WAR WITH IRAN: Inescapable logic of Donald Trump’s regime change policy

Despite denials Donald Trump’s announcements clearly point to regime change in Iran as the objective

Alexander Mercouris

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Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) agreed between the world community and Iran has set the stage for the next major war in the Middle East.

Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA was widely expected.  His decision to impose across the board sanctions against Iran was not.  It seems that the US’s European allies – Britain, France and Germany – were not informed of this in advance, and are making no secret of their dismay.

Moreover it is quite clear that the US is intending to sanction any country which seeks to help Iran circumvent the sanctions.  The White House’s statement about this could not be more clear

  • The JCPOA enriched the Iranian regime and enabled its malign behavior, while at best delaying its ability to pursue nuclear weapons and allowing it to preserve nuclear research and development.

  • The President has directed his Administration to immediately begin the process of re-imposing sanctions related to the JCPOA.

  • The re-imposed sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as its energy, petrochemical, and financial sectors.

    • Those doing business in Iran will be provided a period of time to allow them to wind down operations in or business involving Iran.
  • Those who fail to wind down such activities with Iran by the end of the period will risk severe consequences.

  • United States withdrawal from the JCPOA will pressure the Iranian regime to alter its course of malign activities and ensure that Iranian bad acts are no longer rewarded.  As a result, both Iran and its regional proxies will be put on notice.  As importantly, this step will help ensure global funds stop flowing towards illicit terrorist and nuclear activities.

(bold italics added)

Though the sanctions are unilateral – imposed only by the US, and not by the UN Security Council – the US, in accordance with its current doctrine that its laws have worldwide application, will impose massive fines on any company or business which now trades with Iran.

That makes it inconceivable that any Western business or company, or any international company which trades in dollars or which has assets in any Western country, will defy the US by continuing to trade or do business with Iran.

Since Donald Trump’s announcement there has been a lot of brave talk of the EU defying the sanctions, and protecting EU companies which wish to continue to trade with Iran.

It should be said clearly that this is no more than talk.  Though the Europeans are shocked and upset by Donald Trump’s announcement, trade with Iran is simply not important enough for the European economy for the EU states to defy the US in that way.

Over the next few weeks and months trade between the EU and Iran – and between the US’s other allies such as Japan and South Korea and Iran – will come to a stop.

The US is pulling out of the JCPOA and is imposing across-the-board sanctions on Iran not because Iran has violated any provision of the JCPOA.  On the contrary even the US grudgingly admits that Iran has abided fully by the terms of the JCPOA.

The US is pulling out of the JCPOA and is imposing across-the-board sanctions on Iran because it fears that Iran is becoming too powerful.

This is made clear by the extraordinary demands the US is making of Iran, which amount to an ultimatum to Iran to change the pattern of its entire domestic and foreign policy

  • President Trump will work to assemble a broad coalition of nations to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon and to counter the totality of the regime’s malign activities.
    • Nations must work together to halt the Iranian regime’s destabilizing drive for regional hegemony.
      • In Syria, the Iranian regime supports the Assad regime and is complicit in Assad’s atrocities against the Syrian people.
      • In Yemen, the regime has escalated the conflict and used the Houthis as a proxy to attack other nations.
      • In Iraq, Iran’s IRGC sponsors Shia militant groups and terrorists.
      • In Lebanon, the Iranian regime enables Hizballah to play a highly destabilizing role and to build an arsenal of weapons that threatens the region.
    • The Administration’s actions are directed against the malign behavior of the Iranian regime, not against the Iranian people, who are the regime’s longest-suffering victims.
    • Never have an ICBM, cease developing any nuclear-capable missiles, and stop proliferating ballistic missiles to others.
    • Cease its support for terrorists, extremists, and regional proxies, such as Hizballah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al-Qa’ida.
    • End its publicly declared quest to destroy Israel.
    • Stop its threats to freedom of navigation, especially in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.
    • Cease escalating the Yemen conflict and destabilizing the region by proliferating weapons to the Houthis.
    • End its cyber-attacks against the United States and our allies, including Israel.
    • Stop its grievous human rights abuses, shown most recently in the regime’s crackdown against widespread protests by Iranian citizens.
    • Stop its unjust detention of foreigners, including United States citizens.President Trump is making clear that, in addition to never developing a nuclear weapon, the Iranian regime must:

These demands are so extreme that no sovereign state could ever accept them and retain its independence.

In fact some of the demands are of such a nature that Iran could not agree to them even if it wanted to.

By way of example, Iran cannot “cease its support” for Al-Qaeda, since that fanatical sectarian Wahhabi terrorist organisation is Iran’s enemy, and is not and cannot be supported by it.

Similarly Iran cannot “end its publicly declared quest to destroy Israel” since it has never “publicly declared” such a quest for the simple reason that it doesn’t have one (contrary to claims which are repeatedly made former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said that Israel “should be wiped off the map”).

Defenders of Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA say that his intention is to force Iran to the negotiating table so that he can extract a better deal from Iran than the JCPOA was.

A classic expression of that view is set out in this editorial by The Times of London

The Trump administration’s objections go to the heart of the agreement’s terms, however. The deal imposed only a 15-year interdict on producing enriched uranium. Even before that clock timed out, there were to be other easements. After eight years, for instance, restrictions on particular kinds of centrifuges were set to fall away. These sunset clauses, Mr Trump has reasonably argued, always meant that Iranian ambitions to become a nuclear power would persist. The agreement did nothing, meanwhile, to curb Iran’s ballistic missile programme. The regime for inspection, too, although uniquely intrusive, left much to be desired…..

The best outcome would be for European countries to work in tandem with the US administration to reach an agreement without sunset clauses, covering ballistic missiles and binding Iran to broader commitments than those on nuclear development.

If that is possible, and Iran feels so overwhelmed by economic pressure that it can only come back to the table, then the return of a nuclear weapons programme is not a foregone conclusion. Having shown he is willing to walk, Mr Trump may now surprise US allies and push Iran into making further concessions.

Any Iranian official reading the US’s list of demands would however have no hesitation in dismissing this.

Whilst Donald Trump and the US government may pretend that they are open to a new and better deal with Iran, the sheer scale of what they are demanding from Iran shows that what they really want from Iran is not more concessions but regime change.

I say this because it would be impossible for the Iranian government to accept these demands and survive in its present form, and it is impossible to believe that those around Donald Trump who support his policy and who will have helped him to formulate his demands – notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton – don’t know it.

In fact the White House statement makes it perfectly clear what the plan is: suffocate Iran’s economy in order to push it into crisis so as to trigger mass unrest which will bring down the Iranian government.

The JCPOA foolishly gave the Iranian regime a windfall of cash and access to the international financial system for trade and investment.

Instead of using the money from the JCPOA to support the Iranian people at home, the regime has instead funded a military buildup and continues to fund its terrorist proxies, such as Hizballah and Hamas.

Iran violated the laws and regulations of European countries to counterfeit the currency of its neighbor, Yemen, to support the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force’s destabilizing activities.

In other words trade and business with Iran is impermissible because it allows Iran to conduct its foreign policy.  Strangling Iran economically will prevent it conducting its foreign policy.

Since that foreign policy is inherent to Iran’s political system, that means strangling Iran’s economy in order to change its political system.

Forcing political change is after all the ultimate intention of all the sanctions the US has imposed on every country on which it has imposed sanctions ever since the Second World War ended.

The sanctions the US is now imposing on Iran are no different.  In fact they are simply the latest and one of the most extreme examples of this.

Will it work?

I am not sufficiently familiar with the political situation within Iran to be able to say for certain one way or the other.  However, for what it’s worth, my opinion is it will fail.

On the one hand there does seem to be a significant and articulate minority within Iran who do hanker for better relations with the US and the West, and who do seem willing to make the most extreme concessions up to and including the overthrow of the Islamic Republic in order to achieve them.

My overall impression is however that Iran is too complex and sophisticated a society, and its population is too proud and patriotic and too committed to the Islamic Republic, for the policy to succeed.

Ultimately it comes down to a question of how strong support for the Islamic Republic within Iran is.  Donald Trump’s view is that it is not strong at all, and that even mild pressure will cause the Islamic Republic to collapse.  That after all is what he said in remarks he made on 13th October 2017

…..the previous administration lifted…..,sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

(bold italics added)

My view on the contrary is that the Islamic Republic not only enjoys legitimacy within Iran but has the support of a critical mass of Iran’s people, and that it will prove strong enough to resist the latest attempts to destabilise it, just as it has done before.

Already it seems that the immediate effect of the US decision has been to be provoke Iranians into rallying behind their government, and that is likely to continue, at least for a time.

After all the Iranian government is now in a strong position to say that it has done all that it reasonably could to try to mend relations with the US, and that it is not its fault that it has failed.

Besides, despite the sweeping nature of the sanctions, it is debatable whether they will be quite as effective as the US obviously supposes that they will be.

Though the sanctions will almost certainly bring trade and investment by Western companies and businesses in Iran to a stop, there are now numerous companies and businesses in countries like China, Russia and India – all major trading partners of Iran – which trade entirely outside the US dominated dollar system, and which can step in to fill the gap.

Over and beyond this there are the big Russian state owned companies like Rosatom, Rosneft and Rostec, some of which are already affected by sanctions, which might also be willing to trade with Iran, especially if they told to do so by the Russian government.

Rosatom already has a major presence in Iran, and there is already talk of Russia stepping in and selling to Iran the civil aircraft the US and the EU can now no longer supply.

Sanctions of the sort the US is now imposing on Iran would have been utterly crippling had they been imposed by the US on Iran twenty years ago.

Today, with new economic and trading centres emerging in Eurasia and the Far East, they may no longer be quite as effective as they once were, though they will undoubtedly have a significant impact, at least in the short and medium term.

Assuming that the sanctions do not bring about the desired regime change in Iran, what will happen next?

Given that despite denials regime change in Iran is clearly the agenda, and given the existential language the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia now use when they talk about Iran, it is difficult to look to the future without a sense of deep foreboding.

If the Islamic Republic survives the sanctions, and if it continues with its current policies – as in that case it could hardly fail to do – the way the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia talk about Iran makes it difficult to see how they can avoid escalating further by taking military action.

Even The Times of London – unswervingly loyal in its editorials to Donald Trump as it tends to be – appears to recognise the danger, even if it does express it in an upside-down way

The worst case scenario is now that Tehran doubles down. More extreme elements of the regime never liked the agreement anyway, and will be delighted at the opportunity to reinvigorate the nuclear programme. Indeed, one of the great long-term costs of abandoning the 2015 deal is that it will embolden those hardliners and sideline more sober interlocutors. Immediately after Mr Trump spoke, President Rouhani announced that he had ordered the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran to “be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels”……

If Washington and Tehran both dig in, however, [Donald Trump’s] decision will herald the return of a volatile country with realistic nuclear ambitions, and put western European countries, including Britain, in a diplomatic bind.

The “diplomatic bind” West European countries like Britain would find themselves in would in reality be the least of it.

If the sanctions fail to bring about regime change the pressure to attack Iran to bring it about will be be all but certain to grow.

Of course if there are signs of Iran resuming its nuclear programme (as there may well be) that pressure will grow exponentially.

A war with Iran – a huge and relatively advanced country of 80 million people – would be a calamity by comparison with which the 2003 invasion of Iraq would look like a sideshow.

That however is the logical outcome of the disastrous course the Trump administration has set the US on.

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Republicans call Justice Department’s Bruce Ohr to testify, but where is British Spy Steele? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 78.

Alex Christoforou

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Representative Mark Meadows tweeted Friday…

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+ contacts with dossier author Chris Steele, as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth.”

Lawmakers believe former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr is a central figure to finding out how the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid PR smear firm Fusion GPS and British spy Christopher Steele to fuel a conspiracy of Trump campaign collusion with Russians at the top levels of the Justice Department and the FBI.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Sunday to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo…

So here you have information flowing from the Clinton campaign from the Russians, likely — I believe was handed directly from Russian propaganda arms to the Clinton campaign, fed into the top levels of the FBI and Department of Justice to open up a counter-intelligence investigation into a political campaign that has now polluted nearly every top official at the DOJ and FBI over the course of the last couple years. It is absolutely amazing,

According to Breitbart, during the 2016 election, Ohr served as associate deputy attorney general, and as an assistant to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. His office was four doors down from Rosenstein on the fourth floor. He was also dual-hatted as the director of the DOJ’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Ohr’s contacts with Steele, an ex-British spy, are said to date back more than a decade. Steele is a former FBI informant who had helped the FBI prosecute corruption by FIFA officials. But it is Ohr and Steele’s communications in 2016 that lawmakers are most interested in.

Emails handed over to Congress by the Justice Department show that Ohr, Steele, and Simpson communicated throughout 2016, as Steele and Simpson were being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the role Bruce Ohr played in Hillary Clinton’s Deep State attack against the Presidency of Donald Trump, and why the most central of figures in the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, British spy for hire Christopher Steele, is not sitting before Congress, testifying to the real election collusion between the UK, the Obama White House, the FBI and the DOJ.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Washington Times

Republicans in a joint session of House committees are set to interview former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr this month to gauge whether a complex conspiracy against Donald Trump existed among Hillary Clinton loyalists and the Justice Department.

“DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+contacts with dossier author Chris Steele as far back as January 2016. He owes the American public the full truth,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

His panel and the House Judiciary Committee plan to hold a joint hearing to interview Mr. Ohr, according to The Daily Caller.

FBI documents show that the bureau bluntly told dossier writer Christopher Steele in November 2016 that it no longer wanted to hear about his collection of accusations against Mr. Trump.

But for months afterward, the FBI appeared to violate its own edict as agents continued to receive the former British spy’s scandalous charges centered on supposed TrumpRussia collusion.

 

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The US-Turkey Crisis: The NATO Alliance Forged in 1949 Is Today Largely Irrelevant

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via American Herald Tribune:


There has been some reporting in the United States mass media about the deteriorating relationship between Washington and Ankara and what it might mean. Such a falling out between NATO members has not been seen since France left the alliance in 1966 and observers note that the hostility emanating from both sides suggests that far worse is to come as neither party appears prepared to moderate its current position while diplomatic exchanges have been half-hearted and designed to lead nowhere.

The immediate cause of the breakdown is ostensibly President Donald Trump’s demand that an American Protestant minister who has lived in Turkey for twenty-three years be released from detention. Andrew Brunson was arrested 21 months ago and charged with being a supporter of the alleged conspiracy behind the military coup in 2016 that sought to kill or replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has asserted that the coup was directed by former political associate Fetullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, but has produced little credible evidence to support that claim. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan has had himself voted extraordinary special powers to maintain public order and has arrested 160,000 people, including 20 Americans, who have been imprisoned. More than 170,000 civil servants, teachers, and military personnel have lost their jobs, the judiciary has been hobbled, and senior army officers have been replaced by loyalists.

Gulen is a religious leader who claims to promote a moderate brand of Islam that is compatible with western values. His power base consists of a large number of private schools that educate according to his curriculum, with particular emphasis on math and sciences. Many of the graduates become part of a loose affiliation that has sometimes been described as a cult. Gulen also owns and operates a number of media outlets, all of which have now been shut by Erdogan as part of his clamp down on the press. Turkey currently imprisons more journalists than any other country.

It is widely believed that Erdogan has been offering to release Brunson in exchange for Gulen, but President Donald Trump has instead offered only a Turkish banker currently in a U.S. prison while also turning the heat up in the belief that pressure on Turkey will force it to yield. Washington began the tit-for-tat by imposing sanctions on two cabinet-level officials in Erdogan’s government: Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul. Ankara has now also been on the receiving end of a Trump tweet and tariffs have been placed on a broad range of Turkish products, to include steel and aluminum.

The view that economic pressure will force the Turks to yield could be mistaken and demonstrates that the Administration does not include anyone who knows that Americans have been unpopular in Turkey since the Gulf War. The threats from Washington might actually rally skeptical and normally pro-western Turks around Erdogan but U.S. sanctions have already hit the Turkish economy hard, with the lira having lost 40% of its value this year and continuing to sink rapidly. Foreign investors, who fueled much of Turkey’s recent economic growth, have fled the market, suggesting that a collapse in credit might be on the way. Those European banks that hold Turkish debt are fearing a possible default.

It is a spectacle of one NATO member driving another NATO member’s economy into the ground over a political dispute. Erdogan has responded in his autocratic fashion by condemning “interest rates” and calling for an “economic war” against the U.S., telling his supporters to unload all their liquid valuables, gold and foreign to buy the plummeting lira, a certain recipe for disaster. If they do that, they will likely lose everything.

Other contentious issues involved in the badly damaged bilateral relationship are conflicting views on what to do about Syria, where the Turks have a legitimate interest due to potential Kurdish terrorism and are seeking a buffer zone, as well as Ankara’s interest in buying Russian air defense missile systems, which has prompted the U.S. to suspend sales of the new F-35 fighter. The Turks have also indicated that they have no interest in enforcing the sanctions on Iran that were re-imposed last week and they will continue to buy Iranian oil after the November 4th initiation of a U.S. ban on such purchases. The Trump Administration has warned that it will sanction any country that refuses to comply, setting the stage for a massive confrontation between Washington and Ankara involving the Turkish Central Bank.

In terms of U.S. interests, Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, is of strategic value because it is Muslim, countering arguments that the alliance is some kind of Christian club working to suppress Islam in the Middle East. And it is also important because of its geographic location close to hot spots where the American military is currently engaged. If the U.S. heeds Trump’s call to cut back on involvement in the region, Turkey will become less valuable, but currently, access to the Incirlik Airbase, near Adana and the Syrian border, is vital.

Indeed, Incirlik has become one of the flashpoints in the argument with Washington. Last week, a group of lawyers connected politically to Erdogan initiated legal action against U.S. officers at Incirlik over claimed ties to “terrorists” linked to Gulen. The “Association for Social Justice and Aid” has called for a temporary halt to all operations at the base to permit a search for evidence. The attorneys are asking for the detention of seven named American Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command based in Germany is also cited. If the lawyers are successful in court, it will mean a major conflict as Washington asserts the rights of the officers under the Status of Forces Agreement, while Turkey will no doubt insist that the Americans are criminals and have no protection.

Another trial balloon being floated by Erdogan is even more frightening in terms of the demons that it could be unleashing. Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist columnist writing in the pro-government newspaper Yeni Atik, has suggested that there might well be a second terrorist attack on the United States like 9/11. Dilipak threatened that if Trump does nothing to reduce tension “…some people will teach him [to do] that. It must be seen that if internal tensions with the United States continue like this that a September 11 is no unlikely possibility.” Dilipak also warned that presumed Gulenist “U.S. collaborators” inside Turkey would be severely punished if they dared to go out into the streets to protest in support of Washington.

If recent developments in Turkey deteriorate further it might well suggest that Donald Trump’s instinct to disengage from the Middle East was the right call, though it could equally be seen as a rejection of the tactic being employed, i.e. using heavy-handed sanctions and tariffs to compel obedience from governments disinclined to follow Washington’s leadership. Either way, the Turkish-American relationship is in trouble and increasingly a liability for both sides, yet another indication that the NATO alliance forged in 1949 against the Soviet Union is today largely irrelevant.

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Is This The Most Important Geopolitical Deal Of 2018?

After more than 20 years of fraught diplomatic efforts, the five littoral Caspian nations agreed upon a legal framework for sharing the world’s largest inland body of water.

The Duran

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Authored by Olgu Okumus via Oilprice.com:


The two-decade-long dispute on the statute of the Caspian Sea, the world largest water reserve, came to an end last Sunday when five littoral states (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) agreed to give it a special legal status – it is now neither a sea, nor a lake. Before the final agreement became public, the BBC wrote that all littoral states will have the freedom of access beyond their territorial waters, but natural resources will be divided up. Russia, for its part, has guaranteed a military presence in the entire basin and won’t accept any NATO forces in the Caspian.

Russian energy companies can explore the Caspian’s 50 billion barrels of oil and its 8.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan can finally start considering linking its gas to the Turkish-Azeri joint project TANAP through a trans-Caspian pipeline, while Iran has gained increased energy supplies for its largest cities in the north of the country (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) – however, Iran has also put itself under the shadow of Russian ships. This controversy makes one wonder to what degree U.S. sanctions made Iran vulnerable enough to accept what it has always avoided – and how much these U.S. sanctions actually served NATO’s interests.

If the seabed, rich in oil and gas, is divided this means more wealth and energy for the region. From 1970 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, the Caspian Sea was divided into subsectors for Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all constituent republics of the USSR. The division was implemented on the basis of the internationally-accepted median line.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new order required new regulations. The question was over whether the Caspian was a sea or a lake? If it was treated as a sea, then it would have to be covered by international maritime law, namely the United Nations Law of the Sea. But if it is defined as a lake, then it could be divided equally between all five countries. The so-called “lake or sea” dispute revolved over the sovereignty of states, but also touched on some key global issues – exploiting oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Basin, freedom of access, the right to build beyond territorial waters, access to fishing and (last but not least) managing maritime pollution.

The IEA concluded in World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 that offshore energy has a promising future. More than a quarter of today’s oil and gas supply is produced offshore, and integrated offshore thinking will extend this beyond traditional sources onwards to renewables and more. Caspian offshore hydrocarbon reserves are around 50 billion barrels of oil equivalent (equivalent to one third of Iraq’s total oil reserves) and 8.4 trillion cubic meters of gas (almost equivalent to the U.S.’ entire proven gas reserves). As if these quantities were not themselves enough to rebalance Eurasian energy demand equations, the agreement will also allow Turkmenistan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline, connecting Turkmenistan’s resources to the Azeri-Turkish joint project TANAP, and onwards to Europe – this could easily become a counter-balance factor to the growing LNG business in Europe.

Even though we still don’t have firm and total details on the agreement, Iran seems to have gained much less than its neighbors, as it has shortest border on the Caspian. From an energy perspective, Iran would be a natural market for the Caspian basin’s oil and gas, as Iran’s major cities (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) are closer to the Caspian than they are to Iran’s major oil and gas fields. Purchasing energy from the Caspian would also allow Iran to export more of its own oil and gas, making the country a transit route from the Caspian basin to world markets. For instance, for Turkmenistan (who would like to sell gas to Pakistan) Iran provides a convenient geography. Iran could earn fees for swap arrangements or for providing a transit route and justify its trade with Turkey and Turkmenistan as the swap deal is allowed under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, or the D’Amato Act).

If the surface water will be in common usage, all littoral states will have access beyond their territorial waters. In practical terms, this represents an increasingly engaged Russian presence in the Basin. It also reduces any room for a NATO presence, as it seems to be understood that only the five littoral states will have a right to military presence in the Caspian. Considering the fact that Russia has already used its warships in the Caspian to launch missile attacks on targets within Syria, this increased Russian presence could potentially turn into a security threat for Iran.

Many questions can now be asked on what Tehran might have received in the swap but one piece of evidence for what might have pushed Iran into agreement in its vulnerable position in the face of increased U.S. sanctions. Given that the result of those sanctions seems to be Iran agreeing to a Caspian deal that allows Russia to place warships on its borders, remove NATO from the Caspian basin equation, and increase non-Western based energy supplies (themselves either directly or indirectly within Russia’s sphere of geopolitical influence) it makes one wonder whose interests those sanctions actually served?

By Olgu Okumus for Oilprice.com

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