ast week Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili wrote European
Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, reiterating that the
Islamic Republic's willingness to return to the negotiating table "is
tied to the P5+1's constructive approach to Iran's initiatives," Press TV
In that letter, Iran voiced their "readiness for dialogue on a
spectrum of various issues which can provide ground for constructive and
forward-looking cooperation," and that talks should be approached "on
step-by-step principles and reciprocity."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, flanked by Ashton at a
Friday press conference that was pure Kabuki theater said "We think this
is an important step, and we welcome the letter," The Washington Post
"I'm cautious and I'm optimistic at the same time for this," Ashton
told reporters after a gabfest with Clinton at the State Department.
"It also demonstrates the importance of the twin-track approach," Ashton told The New York Times
"referring to the international effort to intensify sanctions while
leaving the door open for a diplomatic resolution of concerns about the
possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons."
In essence what Ashton is saying is: We have a gun pointed at your
head and can pull the trigger at any time; better to capitulate now and
give up your right to enrich uranium for your civilian program rather
than run the risk of war.
Undeterred by implicit Western threats, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali
Akbar Salehi "has reiterated Tehran's determination to continue with its
peaceful nuclear program, insisting on the nation's willingness to even
deal with 'the worst-case scenario'," Press TV
Speaking at a news conference Salehi asserted, "Since we believe
that we are right, we do not have the slightest doubt in the pursuit of
our nuclear program. Therefore, we plan to move ahead with vigor and
confidence and we do not take much heed of [the West's] propaganda
warfare. Even in the worse-case scenario, we remain prepared."
Lambasting the West's contradictory posture, hailing Iran's
willingness to renew talks with the P5+1 nations on the one hand, while
raising "baseless allegations" over Iran's civilian nuclear program on
the other, Salehi observed that "they [the West] have an arrogant
nature, they have not learned to engage in political interactions with
prudent and humane manners."
The Foreign Minister however "expressed optimism" that "Western countries, as a whole will amend their policies towards Iran."
On Monday a team of IAEA inspectors arrived in Tehran, BBC News
Chief inspector Herman Nackaerts said their "highest priority" was to
clarify the "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program.
Although the Agency had described their last visit in January as
"positive," saying that Iran was "committed to resolving all outstanding
issues," as in the case of Iraq a decade ago, an unnamed U.S. official
told The New York Times
that the meeting was "a disaster" that demonstrated Iranian "foot-dragging."
The IAEA's board of governors "is scheduled to convene on March 5 in
Vienna, the same day on which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due
to give a speech in Washington at a meeting of the annual policy
conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee," Haaretz
Talk about coincidences!
her remarks last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said
that any resumption of talks "will have to be a sustained effort that
can produce results." Translation: "Iran will give in to all our
The "or else" wasn't long in coming.
In fact on Friday, the same day that
Ashton and Clinton expressed "cautious optimism" over a resumption of
P5+1 talks, the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial
Telecommunication, or SWIFT network, "bowed to international
reported, "and said it was ready to block Iranian banks from using its network to transfer money."
So much for "confidence building" measures ahead of negotiations!
latest move to strangle the Iranian economy, follow efforts by the U.S.
and EU to enact crippling sanctions that would punish countries and
financial institutions if they do not cut-off purchases of Iranian oil.
However, the Associated Press
last week, "American attempts to get major Asian importers of Iranian
oil to rein in their purchases are faltering as allies South Korea and
Japan give U.S. officials a polite brushoff."
"Emerging giants India and China may even increase their purchases," AP disclosed.
as a close ally of Tehran "China has also dug its heels in--in fact,
far deeper than either South Korea or Japan. Beijing turned a blind eye
to efforts by American Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to get it to
cut back on Iranian imports during a January visit."
"Earlier this month," AP reported,
"the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily described Western efforts
to pressure Iran with an oil embargo as 'casting a shadow over the
In this light, the move to cut-off Iranian banks from the SWIFT
network will have far-reaching ramifications and will surely intensify
Washington's geopolitical machinations targeting their Asian capitalist
In an email published by Reuters,
the private company declared that "SWIFT stands ready to act and
discontinue its services to sanctioned Iranian financial institutions as
soon as it has clarity on EU legislation currently being drafted."
The Iranian response quickly followed the announcement. Last week,
Iran said it would "immediately" order a preemptive embargo of crude oil
exports to six recession-hit European nations--Portugal, Italy, Greece,
Spain, France and the Netherlands.
"It took virtually no time for Iran's Oil Ministry and then the Foreign Ministry to deny it," Asia Times Online
analyst Pepe Escobar wrote.
"But only the deaf, dumb and blind wouldn't understand the message;
blowback for the ridiculously counter-productive European sanctions/oil
embargo package will only plunge vast swathes of Europe further into
deep economic pain," Escobar observed.
Making good on a pledge approved by Parliament earlier this month,
the Iranian Oil Ministry announced it has cut oil exports "to British
and French firms in line with the decision to end crude exports to six
European states,"Press TV
Oil Ministry spokesperson Alireza Nikzad-Rahbar said that Iran would
have no problem exporting and selling crude oil to its customers.
have our own oil customers and replacements for these [British and
French] companies have already been chosen and we will sell the crude
oil to new customers instead of the British and French companies,"
On Monday, Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Qalebani "hinted at the
possibility of a halt in oil exports to Spain, the Netherlands, Greece,
Germany, Italy and Portugal," Press TV
"Undoubtedly if the hostile actions of certain European countries
continue, oil exports to these countries will be stopped," Qalebani
Call it round two of a new tit-for-tat oil war where almost everyone loses.
As financial jackals and capitalist hyenas lusting after
publicly-owned assets in cash-strapped EU states such as Greece, Italy
and Spain move in for the kill, Washington's one-two punch against Iran and recession-hammered
EU workers will have have the salutary effect of hastening "reform,"
i.e., the immiseration of millions of proletarians "transitioning" to
their new role as low-paid wage slaves in a global order lorded over by
Wall Street and the City of London.
In a Press TV
interview, two Italian lawmakers voiced "their serious concern about Tehran halting oil exports to some European states."
Democratic Party Senator Francesco Ferrante told the Iranian news
outlet that "Rome is currently importing a great deal of its needed oil
"As a result, Italy will suffer more than other
countries from the decision of cutting oil supplies to European states
taken by the Iranian government," he added.
Ferrante said that "Italians' everyday lives will be affected as
fuel prices are likely to go up [as a result of Iran oil cut]. The [oil]
cut will also have negative consequences on Italian companies."
Another senator, Stefano Saglia from Italy's People of Liberty Party, told Press TV:
"Without a doubt, Italy is the European country that will be damaged
the most from this situation as Iran and Italy have always been close
And with a massive strike wave earlier this month against harsh
austerity measures imposed on Italy's combative working class by the
unelected government of Prime Minister Mario Monti, the European
Chairman of David Rockefeller's Trilateral Commission and a leading
member of the shadowy Bilderberg Group, an Iranian oil boycott could
send the Italian economy over the cliff.
As a result of escalating tensions, Forbes
on Friday that the price of crude oil "has gone on a nice rally in
February and a perfect storm has brewed that promises to take it
"Markets have underestimated how tight global oil markets truly are," Forbes disclosed.
So much for U.S. fantasies that Saudi Arabia or the Gulf monarchies
will make up any shortfalls that arise from removing Iranian oil from
"Supply-side issues, particularly the problems around Iran, and
demand-side issues, especially very strong Asian and Chinese demand,
will help take prices higher. A weak U.S. dollar adds a final drop that
could take U.S. prices to $118 a barrel by the fourth quarter of 2012,
according to Barclays."
"West Texas Intermediate contracts for March delivery, currently
trading at $103.52 a barrel, have gained on eight of the last ten
trading days while Brent, the international benchmark, recorded six
positive sessions over the same time frame and was at $119.62 as of
4:20PM in New York on Friday," Forbes reported.
Following Monday's report that Iran may be poised to halt oil
shipments to additional EU states, "crude for March delivery rose as
much as $2.20 to $105.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York
Mercantile Exchange, the highest intraday price since May 5," Bloomberg News
"The more actively traded April contract gained $1.64 to $105.45.
Prices increased 4.6 percent last week and are up 6.1 percent so far
this year." Additionally, "Brent oil for April settlement on the
London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange climbed as much as $1.57, or
1.3 percent, to $121.15 a barrel.
According to Christopher Bellew, "a senior broker at Jefferies Bache
Ltd. in London, who correctly predicted last week that the price of
Brent crude would advance to $120 a barrel," increasing tensions in the
Persian Gulf "continues to support prices," Bloomberg noted.
Commenting on the deteriorating situation, NusConsulting Group analyst Richard Soultanian told Forbes that
"Market prices currently reflect a significant risk premia for the
potential of a supply disruption from a geopolitical event," i.e., a
"preemptive" attack on Iran. "However, the amount of risk premia
currently included does not fully account for an actual event/supply
In plain English, should a U.S./Israeli/NATO attack force Iran's
hand into closing the strategic energy chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz,
as a defensive response to Western aggression, global energy prices
will skyrocket and quickly wreck havoc on recession-plagued capitalist
According to Barclay analysts, "Our view remains that policy and
circumstances are now both running fast enough for policy accidents and
unintended consequences to play a role. In other words, in our view, the
probability of the situation becoming 'hot' in some way that affects
the oil market is now significant and perhaps rising, in a way which
makes the maintenance of too entrenched a short position in the market
Will the SWIFT cut-off work? "Hardly," according to Asia Times.
"It will certainly represent more devastation unleashed over 'the
Iranian people'--the vague entity of choice against which the US has 'no
quarrel.' More than 40 Iranian banks use SWIFT to process financial
transactions, and Iranians use it like everybody else in a globalized
However, Pepe Escobar writes, "it will drag SWIFT's carefully
maintained reputation for trust and neutrality through the mud; imagine
other member countries' reaction to the fact they can also be totally
marginalized according to the US's whims."
The "message" was delivered to the Europeans "Mafia-style" Escobar
averred, "in person" by David Cohen, U.S. Treasury Department
Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
On Friday Cohen told The Washington Post that
cutting-off Iranian access to SWIFT "would build on earlier U.S.
efforts to exclude Iranian banks from international commerce."
"It's another good turn of the screw," Cohen said.
"If the Washington/Tel Aviv-promoted hysteria is already at fever pitch," Asia Times warned,
"wait for March 20, when the Iranian oil bourse will start trading oil
in other currencies apart from the US dollar, heralding the arrival of a
new oil marker to be denominated in euro, yen, yuan, rupee or a basket
"That may be the straw to break the American camel's back."
in March, the USS Enterprise, along with a large contingent of U.S.
Marines will join two other aircraft carrier battle groups and NATO
warships and enter waters off Iran's coast.
Earlier this month, the Enterprise and NATO military units,
including forces from Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia
and New Zealand concluded maneuvers, including large-scale amphibious
landings against an unnamed "hostile power."
The menacing tone of U.S. rhetoric was matched by the deployment of American firepower. The Associated Press
last week that U.S. Fifth Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Mark Fox said
that the Navy has "built a wide range of potential options to give the
president" and is "ready today" to confront any hostile action by
"We've developed very precise and lethal weapons that are very effective, and we're prepared," AP reported. "We're just ready for any contingency."
As the World Socialist Web Site
pointed out, what Fox and other Pentagon big wigs have "outlined is the
classic scenario for a US provocation that could provide the pretext
for war--the appearance of 'Iranian' mines, an inflammatory media
campaign and a US attack on Iranian naval assets that rapidly escalates
into all-out conflict."
"The US has a history of manufacturing naval episodes to serve as a casus belli,"
Peter Symonds warned. "The notorious Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964,
in which Vietnamese PT boats allegedly attacked a US destroyer, was
exploited to obtain congressional approval for a massive US military
intervention in Indochina."
Today, with the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration marching
in "lockstep" with Israel as it plans to launch a "preemptive" war of
aggression against Iran, and as the administration allies itself, once
again, with the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence
assets, also known as Al Qaeda, in its "regime change" program targeting
Iran's ally, Syria, a major global conflict is a provocation away.