The Iran Conundrum

The international “noise” to punish the Iranian regime and bring it down to its knees is reaching its peak at this moment, led by the United States.

For followers of international political intrigue and nuclear happenings around the world, the Iranian drama is nothing new. The same thing happened with India as well – the only major difference was that India was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and so, could not be “officially” punished. Well, there is one other major difference – India was a major democracy and not a theocracy or an inscrutable government led by a dictator.

The key difference with Iran is the unclear picture of what’s going on within the confines of Iranian government – who is actually running Iran today ? Is it the elected government, or is it a group of religious leaders who are “outside” the government machinery ?

The “Western” powers are often at a loss when dealing with ambiguity – they want clear-cut functionaries in the opposite side with whom they can deal with. Often, they expect that the other side should be similar to theirs and follow their definition of a working government. When they find that it is somewhat “undefinable” and the responses are often confusing, then they tend to get aggressive as they do not understand the noises emanating from the other side. This has happened repeatedly in the post-second world war history. Recent examples include Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea.

Iran is a real puzzle, no doubt about that. It is important to maintain a consistent stand about the official government’s position in front of the global institutions such as the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency), the UNSC (the UN Security Council) and other multilateral bodies. It is critical to communicate an unambiguous legal position which others understand. It is very important not to fudge around, as has been happening very often with Iran.

The U.S. has the unenviable task of having to exert control on Israel, which has been threatening to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities. While I appreciate the position of Israel with respect to the threat it faces from Iran, it is high time that Israel respects the international stand on Iran and wait for a resolution rather than damning any possibility of a rapprochement. Similarly, the other powers such as the U.K., France, Germany and Russia need to exercise caution. A repetition of the mistakes made in Iraq should be avoided, simply because of the unnecessarily huge loss of innocent lives who had nothing to do with the nuclear stand-off.

I again fail to understand the role of the United Nations and its Secretary General. Why is the UN not doing something substantive to resolve such critical international disputes to the mutual satisfaction of all parties involved ? Why is the matter of resolution always left to the UNSC ? Why should UNSC vetoes determine the fate of millions of people around the world ?

I pity the difficult position of India under the circumstances. India imports lot of crude oil from Iran, and Iran is strategically important for India to access the land-locked Central Asian countries, and critically, Afghanistan. Such a strategic partner in providing for the economic and political interests of India cannot be ignored. If we take the case of the United States itself, we can realize that successive U.S. Presidents have maneuvered strategic positions in the Middle East with a firm eye on the crude oil requirements of the U.S. So, what is wrong if India, as one of the most hungry energy customers of the world, work with Iran ? Can just the nuclear ambition of a country bring it down all the way in the eyes of this world ?

The issue boils down to reliability and trustworthiness of the government. India could manage its international standing notwithstanding the sanctions imposed by President Clinton in 1998, soon after it conducted its second and conclusive nuclear test. But Iran does not have that luxury.

So, in a nutshell, Iran has to come to the negotiating table, there is no option. And, it has to prove that it is sincere. But India need not completely stop buying oil from Iran or stop trading with it. That extreme step is not warranted. India should make its own decisions and ignore the strictures of stupid newspaper mandarins such as those from the Wall Street Journal, which published a scathing editorial – read for yourself how vindictive it can be, with scant regard for democratic processes, and that is how relations could be affected between two important, otherwise friendly countries.


Vijay Srinivasan
4th February 2012


5 thoughts on “The Iran Conundrum

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