Monday, December 03, 2007

Iran: US presses the pause button.

The US appears to be attempting posture shift vis-a-vis Iran.

The public pronouncements of the US National Security Advisor appear to be aimed at discouraging both speculators and the media pack on a US invasion of Iran.

If the idea in the USG is to ensure that all talk of an invasion of Iran is scotched, then one such utterance is not enough. More such pronouncements will be required to bring the situation back from the brink. Whether the USG recognises it or not, the media has already told the Iranians that a US attack could occur at any time. This has added to whatever advantage the Iranians might have gained from watching the US "talk-to-walk" time in Iraq. If the US seeks to genuinely avoid war with Iran, it will have to do more to gain Iranian confidence on this issue.

If the idea in the USG is to ensure that no one save those designated by the Bush Admin speaks out of turn about a US invasion of Iran - then it is likely that one such utterance will be sufficient. Most of the talking heads in the media rely on some degree of consonance with the official line and by deliberately redrawing the official line - the pool of people on US TV yammering about the war with Iran will dry up. Though this will do nothing to reassure the Iranians, it will ensure that the debate in the US itself - does not overheat.

Either ways it appears for now that the invasion of Iran has been postponed.

Though this kind of thing is quite stunning, it is not clear what has prompted this change of stance in the US. It is possible that

- the profitability of the invasion of Iran declined with the dollar i.e. the net damage to the dollar via Iranian actions became a small fraction of the damage caused by a decline in international confidence in the dollar following the sub-prime crisis or

- US public opinion was against getting into another long drawn out counter-insurgency campaign in a foreign land and this raised electoral costs for the Republican party. The US also largely failed to gain support for its anti-Iran actions in Russia, China and Europe. It is likely that the absence of interational support made US expressions of unilateralism unsustainable or

- the deteriorating situation in Pakistan made an action in Iran dangerous and so it had to be postponed or

- Iran did something to deflect the blow. Though from the way the debate was being shaped by the US at every level, it seemed highly unlikely that there was anything the Iranians could have done to avoid getting thrashed by the US. From the way they were talking about it, the Americans seemed all too keen to get into a fight with Iran.

Whatever the reason, from the Indian point of view, it is unwise to accept this development as a sign that this US-Iran issue is over.

Though India has enough coal reserves, it may be recalled that heavy oil is India's real lifeline.

The Indian Railway transports coal around the country using diesel fueled locomotives. Without diesel, coal will never reach India's TPPs. Diesel is used in a majority of agricultural activities (pumps, tractors, trucks - food production, harvesting and transport). A vast number of critical vehicles (i.e. GOI/security forces) rely on diesel. Another heavy oil, kerosene is used in a majority of urban Indian households for cooking. A refined version of Kerosene (Jet A) is used as jet fuel. Heavy oil is used in electricty generation vital to India's smaller industries.

Fuel substitution projects are underway, for example Jatropha based biodiesels are being used in the Indian Railways, however this effort is in its infancy and cannot provide security of supply.

A US attack on Iran (and a host of other instabilities in the Middle East) could cause unacceptable fluctuations in the domestic price of heavy oils in India.

India will remain vigilant to that possibility.


At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should we believe that Iran EVER had a nuclear weapons program at all?


Iran NIE report: Are you lying now, or were you lying then?

If the 2005 NIE report was wrong when it claimed with "high confidence" that Iran had a active nuclear weapons program, why should the 2007 NIE be any more credible when it claims that Iran had a nuclear weapons program until 2003? If Iran really had a nuclear weapons program until 2003 as the new report claims, then why has the IAEA found no evidence of it?

At 6:43 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi anonymous,

You may recall that in the run up to the Iraq intervention, the NIE and the Bush Admin's policy position were out of sync. At that time it emerged that the policy authors and the NIEs were different people. You may also recall that it was only after the Iraq invasion went through that the media suddenly remembered that the NIE had said something completely different.

Today the 2005 and the 2006 NIE contradict each other and the new NIE is out of sync with the Admin's rhetoric.

The simple explanation may be that the authors of the NIE has changed.

The new authors appear to be less inclined to go into a war with Iran. The ease with which "super duper top secret" plans to invade Iran that are made in the "deepest deep secret codeword" sections of the Pentagon are leaked to newspapers suggest that there is greater debate on this issue within the US NSC than explicitly acknowledged.

At 7:58 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi kg,

The more I look at this the more I feel Abbaji's men have yanked the attack dogs' leashes.

They want this to be a show ponies only affair.

Wait and watch... that is the best thing for now.

One eye on this and one on the Diesel gauge.


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