US a step closer to Iran blockade
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
The United States government has imposed new sanctions on Iran, this time targeting its shipping industry, by blacklisting the main shipping line and 18 subsidiaries, accusing the maritime carrier of being engaged in contraband nuclear material, a charge vehemently denied by Iran.
While the economic impact of the measures against Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) will be minimal in light of the near absence of any connection between the shipping company and US businesses, this latest US initiative against Iran sends a strong signal about the US's intention to escalate pressure on Iran, even unilaterally if need be. And, perhaps, it is a prelude for more serious and dangerous actions in the near future, above all a naval blockade of Iran to choke off its access to, among other things, imported fuel.
The outgoing George W Bush administration is slowly but surely taking strident actions that will effectively tie the hands of the next US president, particularly if that happens to be Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama, who in the past has expressed an interest in direct dialogue with Tehran.
Should the new sanctions prove as catalysts for more aggressive US actions against Iran in international waters or the Persian Gulf, as called for by some members of US Congress seeking the interdiction of Iranian cargo ships, then by the time Bush's successor takes over at the Oval Office next January, the climate in US-Iran hostility may have degenerated to such depths that it would take a monumental effort to undo what appears to be Bush's last hurrah.
On the other hand, on the eve of US presidential elections in November, more tensions between the US and Iran are tantamount to greater prioritization of national security issues by the average American voter, something that benefits Obama's Republican rival, "bomb, bomb Iran" John McCain.
Indeed, the coupling of crisis in Georgia and the Iran crisis represents a major bonus for McCain and his "get tough" approach toward the US's external foes.
According to American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who has done several reports on US covert actions against Iran, Bush has on more than one occasion vowed not to leave the White House with Iran's nuclear program still intact.
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Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of "Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote "Keeping Iran's nuclear potential latent", Harvard International Review, and is author of Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction. For his Wikipedia entry, click here.