The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Targetting Iran

Is it imperialism or the Empire moving on?

Michael Youlton • Dublin, June 1 2003

The article on Iran that follows is an attempt to contribute to the growing international debate of imperialism v the Empire. Are the invasions and destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq and now, most likely, Iran, part, as some would have it, of an imperialist backlash of the ruling elites in the USA (supported by similar elites in a number of countries), or a triumph of a much larger globalisation process unleashed by capital - the Empire being the political form assumed by this process of globalisation.

This is no theoretical debate reserved for academics. I sincerely hope that it provokes some response - some criticism - some come - back from the many many people who are involved in ‘The Blanket’. It is vital for all of us who see ourselves as part of a global opposition to the plans of international capital that we build on this debate. It is through this debate we will come to clarify who is on our side and who against. Who are our allies and who makes up our movement of opposition.

It is, therefore, crucial, in the opinion of this writer, to focus in detail in how the various players in this deadly game, targetting another independent nation, prepare for action while confronting each other.

Russia’s Putin, for example, who hosted world leaders to celebrate his hometown's 300th birthday, and whose Administration is actively engaged in building a nuclear reactor in Iran, signalled on May 30th a shift toward the U.S. position by saying the two countries were "much closer than they seem" on Iran. “We will work together with all our partners, including the United States, to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction across the world and that definitely applies to Iran," Putin said.

Inside the USA itself, while the verbal attacks on Iran resemble those once directed at fallen Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the US administration seems to be debating two strategies toward Tehran. Hawks, among them Rumsfeld and Rice, have turned their sights on Iran, repeating accusations similar to those they deployed to portray Iraq as an imminent threat to the West, in control of weapons of mass destruction. These US officials favour open support for a popular overthrow of the Islamic government, while accepting that this strategy is not based, as yet, on any demonstrated factual proof. It is this tendency which is now covertly arming and training opponents of the Tehran regime based in Iraq. An invasion of Iran would be not be far away from the plans of this group. Donald Rumsfeld seems to be playing a key role: last week he stepped up charges that Iran was harbouring wanted leaders of al Qaeda. Insiders say he is pressing for a U.S. policy shift to support "regime change" in Tehran. Others, in private, are proposing pre-emptive strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, exactly as Israel did in 1991 against Iraq’s similar projects.

Others, much quieter at the moment, lean toward pursuing dialogue with the current Iranian regime.

Bush himself has rejected reports the US is preparing a military operation against Iran, dismissing the idea as "unfounded speculation." But then, he was rejecting the possibility of a war against Iraq for over six months during the second half of last year.

On the Iranian side, "The United States, like any other 19th century colonialist, is trying to impose an American governor in Iraq," the leader of the Islamic republic of Iran, Imam Khamene’i was quoted last Saturday as saying at a meeting with the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Abdulwahed Belkeziz. "Islamic countries must put aside their minor differences in Iraq and collectively stand against this. The Islamic world should reject any government in Iraq, except one elected by the Iraqis, and it should stick to this position," Khamenei added.

Whichever way you proceed, if you thought the U.S.-European clash over the Iraq invasion was bad, wait for the coming transatlantic collision over Iran. European Union officials say they are bracing for the next tug-of-war in strained ties with Washington over whether to isolate, or engage with the Islamic republic.
"This is going to be an important test," said Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency for a few more weeks. "It will bring out the dilemmas we've had recently on Iraq." The Irish presidency beware!

The EU, in the meantime, is negotiating a trade and cooperation agreement with Iran under a policy dubbed "conditional dialogue," which is meant to link improved ties with parallel progress on political issues. EU officials acknowledge they have little progress to show for six months of talks, other than an agreement to admit U.N. human rights monitors and a suspension of the public stoning to death of convicted adulteresses. Meanwhile, Iran has publicly acknowledged having a much more extensive nuclear program, including uranium enrichment, than it previously declared, though it denies seeking atomic weapons.

The Europeans have urged Tehran to sign up to tougher U.N. nuclear safeguards, but it has deflected such suggestions, noting that even the United States and some EU states do not accept such intrusive inspections of their own facilities. Nevertheless, the EU is not ready to give up on Khatami and his reformists, who have struggled since 1997 to democratise and modernise Iran against entrenched conservative resistance.

Tony Blair President Bush's closest ally, has invested political capital in building ties with Iran and is encouraging Washington to give dialogue a chance. Unlike over Iraq, London and Paris are at the moment on the same side in backing cautious engagement with Iran. Both also have serious oil investments in the country.. Germany, Tehran's biggest Western trade partner, backs the dialogue policy more enthusiastically, as does Italy.

Brussels officials are hoping the 15-nation EU's unity will not be blown apart by the first gust of wind from the Pentagon. But that is far from sure.

"Iran could be the next big issue to split both the transatlantic alliance and the European Union," predicts Steven Everts, a specialist on U.S.-EU relations at London's Centre for European Reform. "What will American allies such as Britain do if the U.S. starts to turn the screws -- stick with their European partners or switch over to the U.S. side?"

The next round of EU-Iran talks begins in Tehran today, Sunday June 1st, two weeks before the International Atomic Energy Agency is due to give its eagerly-awaited verdict on whether Iran is in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. EU officials say unless the Iranians make a concession soon on the nuclear issue, Europe will face growing U.S. pressure to halt the trade talks and join in a policy of isolating Iran.

EU foreign ministers are likely to review ties with Tehran in July after a June 26 EU-U.S. summit at which the Greek presidency hopes to convince Bush that the two Western partners can combine their efforts to avoid a re-run of the Iraq crisis.


Oil and natural gas in Iran

Iran controls 9% of the world’s oil reserves. The economy of the Iranian State, with its 65 million population, over the past 50 years has been based on oil export revenues, which contribute as much as 80% of its total export earnings and 40-50% of the State budget.

One important recent development in the world energy demand however has been the ever-more prominent role of natural gas. This has affected the economic and strategic interests of Iran since the country also has the second largest gas reserves in the world.

Thus, Iran began the development of its huge gas resources very late, also because of difficulties in finding gas markets abroad. Previously, Iran had mainly wasted its large amount of gas in flaring, open burning and pumping it back into the reservoirs to enhance oil recovery.

Another important factor of change affecting Iran during the last 10 years has been the discovery of large oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. In view of such discoveries, Iran's geographical position has the high privilege of being the only country linking the two strategically hydrocarbons regions of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Thus, in principle, Iran could have the opportunity to play a central role in the competition for new pipeline networks, offering an important waterways to the landlocked Central Asian countries. However, up to now, United States opposition has strongly hindered projects for an Iranian route. To this end, the approval of the controversial Baku-Ceyhan pipeline construction in the summer of 2002, involving Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, has been a highlight confirming this American policy to exclude and marginalise Iran.

A factor affecting Iranian policies is the strong increase of both home-grown but also Indian energy demand. Iran has been discussing with India possible gas exports for 12 years now. And in early May ‘03, despite open US hostility, Iran and India quietly reached a major long-term gas agreement under which Iran will supply India with 5 million tonnes of liquefied gas (LNG) annually for 25 years, and with 100,000 barrels of oil per day for a trial period of one year.

The domestic situation

Iran was the first country in the Middle East to export gas via pipelines. Therefore, it has an already existing internal pipelines network of almost 4,000 klms of major lines, covering both the south-north and east-west regions. This could represent a basis for a new enlarged pipeline system. Along a south-north axis, the Persian Gulf is connected via pipelines to the Caspian Sea. On the other side the existing east-west pipelines extend from Sarakhs on the Turkmenistan border to Rezaieh near Turkey. The convenient transit routes, linking the landlocked Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, are those via Sarakhs, Dargas, Astra and the northern port cities of Neka, Noshahr and Anzali towards the southern ports of Chabahar, Bandar Abbas and Bandar Imam Khomeini.

The Iranian constitution (1979) strictly bans any concession to foreigners in production or commerce, thus prohibiting any sharing on energy investments or operations. However, a 1987 petroleum law permitted contracts between the Ministry of Petroleum, state companies and "local and foreign individuals and legal entities".

Buy-back contracts date to the time of president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the post-Iraq-Iran war years. They were introduced to foreign companies in 1995, during the first post-revolutionary oil and gas seminar that was held in Teheran, but at first they did not receive much attention. Since President Mohamed Khatami's election in 1997, some criticism started to come from the faction opposed to the new government.

In buy-back contracts, the contractor funds all investments and is responsible for performing all activities including drilling, exploration and pipeline execution. The contractor receives investment plus interests and profits from the Iranian state oil company (NIOC) in the form of a production share. Then, after the contract is completed, the investor transfers all the operations of the field to NIOC. The advantage of the contractor company depends on the fixed rate of return, which prevents both from possible lowering of the oil price and geological risks. In fact, in the first case, NIOC would sell a larger amount of oil and gas to meet the compensation, while, if reserves were overestimated, the rate would remain the same.

On the other hand, the company has no guarantee that it will be allowed to develop the fields. Since strong objections have been made to the buy-back arrangements in Iran, some changes have recently been introduced. A first objection among Iranian opposers of the mechanism concerns the danger that foreign countries could tend to maximize output extraction in the first few years of the operation in order to get back their investment on schedule, without taking care of an overall optimization of the reservoir development, or even cause possible permanent damage to the reservoir.

Other objections regard the absence of any obligation or incentive for foreign companies to employ their state-of-art technology since no long-term investments are involved. Similarly, no interest to transfer know-how is induced in foreign investors.

As a consequence, in 2001 Italian ENI signed a new form of buy-back contract where incentives and penalties, based on performances, were introduced. Any oil project, along with its budget, needs to be approved by the Iranian parliament, as a first step, before passing through a more specialized commission, still including three members of the parliament, but also the board of directors and the trade commission from NIOC.

While Iran has been successful in concluding buy-back contracts on new oil and gas projects, more difficulties have been encountered in attracting direct foreign investments to Iran.

Iran and the Caspian Sea

In the years following the war with Iraq, war damages in the south were not totally compensated and large parts of the southern population left for the north. Meanwhile, the northeastern regions developed faster than in the south and the west of the country. This caused a gradual shift of the centre of gravity of the Iranian economy and demography from the south to the north, thus increasing the relevance of Central Asia and the Caspian region.

Thus, in the competition of the various possible pipelines to connect the landlocked Caspian Sea, Iran has claimed its role not merely as a transit route, but also as a final market for Caspian oil. Tehran not only claims to have offered the cheapest transit route in its region for oil and gas, but also to be competitive from a security point of view. This is because, as regards transnational pipelines, the role of Iran also as a final user of Caspian oil and gas could represent a further guarantee that oil and gas flows would not be interrupted.

However, as regards transnational pipelines, price is just one argument among others, and strategic issues are often dominant. Strong US opposition to any Iranian influence in the Caspian Sea is still playing a leading role, as the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline project seems to show. A debate over whether this pipeline would be commercially viable took eight years, since there are serious questions as to whether there is enough oil volume from Azerbaijan to justify the high costs while human rights and environmental issues have been utterly bypassed.

The proposed Iranian alternative - a Baku-Tabriz-Ceyhan option route - has been put aside, supposedly for cost/benefit factors, and the completion of the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline is scheduled for 2004, with flowing oil planned for 2005. From the United States point of view, the strong political attraction of such an energy corridor from the Caucasus to the West depends on the denial of a significant role for Iran as a Caspian energy exporter, and because it reduces the dependence of Caucasus and Central Asian countries on the Russian pipeline network.

To improve its overall cooperation in central Asia, Iran relies also on the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), which is based in Iran. ECO was founded in Islamabad on November 1992 and its member are Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and the Central Asian countries.

At present, Iran's infrastructure and population are located primarily in the northern part of the country, while nearly all its oil and gas reserves are in the south. Thus, over 700,000 daily barrels of oil are currently refined in refineries located in the northern provinces for local consumption, even though such refineries have considerable excess capacity. Over 40 billion cm3 of gas are currently pumped daily from the southern part of the country to the northern provinces.

Iran also has a very high internal demand for cheap oil. This could be fulfilled by means of the Caspian oil that could be transported towards the northern refineries of Iran and consumed in the northern Iranian provinces. Meanwhile an equivalent amount of oil produced in the reservoirs of southern Iran would be shipped to the Persian Gulf from the Iranian ports.

Iran complains that oil from Kazakh sources is of inconsistent quality (paraffinic and sulfurous) while Kazakh firms are pressured by the US not to use the route even if it is much cheaper. This kind of route for Caspian oil has been widely considered much cheaper than any other possible transportation via new pipelines. Washington has opposed large-scale oil swaps with Iran by American companies.

Another big concern for Iranian policy towards the Caspian region is the unresolved legal status of the Caspian Sea. Up to 1991, Iran and Soviet Union were the only two countries overlooking the Caspian Sea and therefore there were only bilateral treaties between them, which envisaged a joint sharing of the Caspian Sea oil wells. No distinction was made between seabed and water surface wells. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the existence of new states around the Caspian Sea - there are now five in Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan - has imposed an urgency for defining a new legal status for the Caspian Sea, especially since the discovery of new huge offshore hydrocarbon reservoirs.

If the Law of the Sea Convention (1982) were to be applied to the Caspian Sea, an equal division of the sea and undersea resources should be considered among the neighbouring states. If instead the Caspian Sea is not treated as a sea, its resources would be developed jointly, based on a "condominium", a shared, approach.

In the past, the two extreme positions were the one of Azerbaijan and Iran: the first advocated a full division both of the water surface and the seabed, while Iran's preference was the full "condominium approach", without any division among national sectors.

However, the partial development of some Caspian underwater resources by countries in the offshore regions, generally considered as their own national waters, has gradually reduced the probability of a joint regime. The original positions also seem to have evolved, and since 1997 Iran has apparently abandoned the joint sovereignty option, starting to favour a full division of the Caspian Sea as regards both water surface and sea floor.

Thus the principle of a seabed shared among the five littoral countries now seems to be commonly accepted. It is the criteria for such division that is still to be agreed. The main problems are the different sizes of the shared sectors and the overlapping of some offshore wells. As regards the surface, many options are still open: from full division to the establishment of national waters, the widths of which can again give rise to many different possible options. The water surface regime involves passengers and cargo navigation, environment, fishing (including the fishing of the world's largest population of sturgeon-producing caviar), besides warship navigation.

The most recent document where official borders are mentioned dates back to 1957, in the Soviet Union era, where Astara and Hasan-Guli were indicated as the land-based border points between Iran and the then USSR, but without clarifying if the undersea dividing line should simply correspond to a straight line between the two landings. Such an enclosed area would represent 11 % of the whole Caspian Sea area, not accepted today by Iran given the entirely different situation in which it was agreed.

A basic principle to divide the Caspian Sea is the one of the "median line": where national zones meet in the middle of the sea, borders would be equidistant from the facing coastlines. However, by such a principle, the sea division would favour those countries with coasts that are convex with respect to the Caspian Sea. Thus Kazakhstan would receive 28-29 % of the Caspian Sea, followed by Azerbaijan with 21 %, Russia with 19 %, Turkmenistan with 18 % and last Iran, which would receive the smallest sector of Caspian Sea with 13-14 %. But Iran is willing to accept a sharing option only if based on equal 20 % sectors.

Meanwhile, several countries have signed bilateral agreements, often ascribing different regimes to the seabed and to the water surface. Iran rejected as illegal all unilateral and bilateral agreements, arguing that only the old Soviet-Iranian agreements could be considered valid until a new legal status of the Caspian Sea is arrive at among all the states.

Nevertheless, besides development of off-shore wells lying in seabeds of undisputed national ownership, exploration operations were also started in some contested areas, giving rise to strong tensions in the region, so that they were eventually forced to a halt. Both Iran and Turkmenistan oppose efforts to develop natural resources in the disputed area until a final legal status is achieved for the Caspian Sea.

The project of laying trans-Caspian pipelines, strongly opposed from the start by Iran and Russia, and then abandoned by all the Caspian countries, could now be revived following the approval of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, in order to "fill" the expensive pipeline.

And for the first time in centuries, Iran does not have a common border with Russia. The Russian counterweight disappeared in 1991, precisely when the Gulf War provided the impetus for a long-term American military buildup in the Persian Gulf.

Iran had tried to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the Azeri crisis, Rafsanjani warned Baku against a Soviet dissolution, which would have favoured the West and Islam. Indeed, the deterioration of Russian influence around the Caspian Sea has been combined with a growing American - and even European - political and commercial involvement in the area. Containing their influence has been since then a common interest of Russia and Iran, especially after the buildup of American military influence in the region following September 11 and now the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Russia and Iran have begun to share the same strategic alignments. In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan, while claiming a neutral position, both Iran and Russia have not hidden their pro-Armenian stance. Only in Tajik conflicts have their interests diverged, so that they have supported antagonist groups. In March 2001, during a meeting in Moscow, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Khatami signed the first broad cooperation agreement since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.

As regards energy policy, Russia and Iran are strong regional rivals, possessing the two largest gas reserves in the world and being respectively the third and fourth oil producers in the world. Thus they represent alternative routes for pipelines in the Caspian Sea and alternative suppliers of energy.

Moreover, Russia and Iran have often clashed on crude oil prices. In fact, while Russia was looking to increase its market share, Iran seemed more inclined to promote production cuts to sustain oil prices. Until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, only relatively old bilateral treaties signed between the two countries determined the Caspian Sea legal status: the one signed in 1921 between Persia and Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the one signed in 1940 between Iran and the Soviet Union. In these treaties no differentiation was emphasized between warships, passengers and cargos, and a joint sharing of the Caspian sea resources was established, without any distinction between seabed and surface.

Since neither Russia nor Iran have found any offshore reservoirs, in principle they had no interest in abiding by the old rules after the Soviet collapse. However, in 1998 Russia signed a bilateral treaty with Kazakhstan, in which the latter's right to its subsea resources was recognized, while joint control of water surface was agreed upon. It was de facto an abrogation of the original Iranian-Russian condominium, and Russia did it without consulting Iran.

Another energy policy issue between Iran and Russia regards nuclear reactors. Following the meeting with Khatami of March 2001, despite opposition from the United States, Putin promised closer cooperation with Iran over its nuclear energy program. In the meeting of April 2002, Putin reaffirmed his intention to sell Iran a Russian-built nuclear reactor.

Iran and Turkey

By a 1996 agreement, Turkey was supposed to start importing Iranian gas by 1999 for 23 years. The deal was strongly opposed by the Bill Clinton administration for fear that it could have hampered the efforts to isolate Iran, while recognizing that Turkey had important energy needs and not a lot of other options. In order to avoid US sanctions, each country was responsible only for work on the pipeline portion lying on its own soil. The gas transportation costs for Turkey were lowered because the pipeline use, from the Iranian side, was shared with the gas delivered to Iranian users of the northern provinces. The gas flow was postponed several times because of work delays on both sides. Reportedly, US opposition also seemed to have played some role in the delays by blocking the delivery of powerful compressors for the project.

In the end, in December 2001, Turkey started importing gas from Iran, via a 2,577 km pipeline, from Tapirs to Ankara. Iran had previously threatened to seek fines against Turkey because of the delays. Turkey is recovering less quickly than expected from its own economic crisis, and consequently, since the gas flow started, the amount has been so small that it hardly seems to have been worth the investment. In fact Turkey imported less than it promised to buy. Thus, at the end of March 2002, Iran stopped its electricity exports to Turkey. In summer-autumn 2002, Turkey suspended its gas imports from Iran for four months, claiming fuel quality problems. In November 2002, the gas flow from Iran to Turkey was resumed, after negotiating a lower gas price.

Iran and the Indian and Pakistani markets

Energy requirements for both India and Pakistan have been rising at the rate of 6-7% annually during the past decade, and expected to double at the end of the next decade. Iran has been negotiating with India on a pipeline since the early 1990s. And in early May, Iran and India quietly reached a major long-term gas agreement under which Iran will supply India with 5 million tonnes of liquefied gas (LNG) annually for 25 years, and with 100,000 barrels of oil per day for a trial period of one year.

Iran has just two basic options here: either to lay a pipeline overland from Iranian gas fields to India, via Pakistan, or to lay a pipeline under water from the fields to the final destination, thus bypassing Pakistan. India has always insisted on avoiding Pakistani territory.

On its part, Pakistan has always favoured the passage of pipelines on its soil to get annual revenue in terms of royalties. At the moment Pakistan is not interested in getting gas from any pipelines. However, unless domestic exploration programs result in new discoveries in the next few years, the Pakistani shortfall in gas supplies anticipated by 2005-06 could be met only through new imports. In this case, a possible supplier could be Iran, or alternatively Qatar, Turkmenistan or the United Arab Emirates.

In February 2002, in spite of a new India-Pakistan crisis following the December 13 attacks on the Indian parliament, a memorandum of understanding to undertake a feasibility study on an onshore route for the transfer of Iranian gas to India via Pakistan was signed between the Iranian oil minister and his Pakistani counterpart. A feasibility study will be conducted by an Australian company, while a feasibility study for the deep sea pipeline has been commissioned to an Italian company.

In August 2002 the Russian company Gazprom revived its project of an underwater pipeline, previously abandoned for its high cost. Following the "Blue Stream" model, the pipeline should lie at a depth of 2 km in Pakistan's territorial waters, thus well protected against any possible terrorist attack. However, at the end of 2002, India's prime minister raised strong objections to this project because of the unresolved tensions with Pakistan.

The alternative route, excluding Iran, remains the trans-Afghan pipeline, which has seen the long time involvement of the Argentine company Bridas and the US company UNOCAL over the period 1994-1999.

With regard to Pakistan, the country is importing crude oil from Iran, toward which it exports motor gasoline. Its import of light crude diesel from Iran started in the summer of 2000. In 1991, Iran and Pakistan signed an agreement for the establishment of a refinery in Balochistan. Over the past two years, Pakistan has asked Iran to help in the control of motor fuel smuggling from Iran, while Iran wants Pakistan to help it contain drug smuggling.

Iran,the US and Europe

Since 1993, when the Clinton administration took office, the United States has pursued the so-called policy of "dual containment", aimed at isolating Iraq and Iran, in particular to deter Iran from destabilizing the pro-American regimes of the Persian Gulf.

However, although Iraq has been subjected to UN embargoes, which were supported by European countries, sanctions against Iran were not shared by all European allies. In 1995, Clinton signed executive orders prohibiting at first only US companies but then also their foreign subsidiaries from conducting business with Iran, while also banning any "contract for the financing of the development of petroleum resources located in Iran".

The US Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) of 1996 imposes mandatory and discretionary sanctions also on non-US companies investing more than $20 million annually in the Iranian oil and gas sectors. Notwithstanding comprehensive unilateral sanctions against Iran and Libya (1986), the ILSA is different in jurisdictional scope, involving not a primary sanction, as the previous embargoes did, but a secondary boycott.

Thus, US-based CONOCO was forced by the ILSA to abrogate a big contract in Iran. When in autumn 1997 France's Total and Malaysia's Petronas signed a $2 billion (well beyond the $20 million threshold) agreement on the largest gas field in Iran, ILSA was openly violated.

Meanwhile, in May 1997, Khatami was elected president of Iran and on January 1998 in a CNN interview he proposed a "dialogue among civilizations". In 1997 the US government decided that the new pipeline from Turkmenistan to Iran did not technically violate the ILSA, while in May 1998 the Clinton administration granted a waiver to the companies involved in order to avoid clashes with its European allies.

Following this, ENI, Royal Dutch Shell, TotalFinaElf and British Petroleum have agreed to large projects in Iran without any reprisal from the US government. In March 2000, then US secretary of state Madeleine Albright announced the lifting of certain sanctions against Iranian luxury goods, such as carpets and caviar. In 2001, the US Department of State singled out Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2000", and in July 2001 the US Congress voted overwhelming to renew the ILSA for five more years. This has angered the US's allies as they see it as an affront to their sovereignty and their independence in trade policy. Given the situation, various companies have tended to delay commitments, thus slowing down the development of Iran's energy sector.

After September 11, 2001, Khatami strongly condemned the episode, defining it as an "anti-human and anti-Islamic" atrocity. Iran, although a strong opposer of the Taliban, sharply criticized the US air strikes on Afghanistan, and argued that efforts to lead a global war against terrorism should be left to the United Nations. Relations became tense again following the State of the Union address by President George W Bush on January 2002 which referred to Iran as belonging to an "axis of evil", alongside Iraq and North Korea.
Which brings us to the here and now.

If friends in ‘The Blanket’ agree, I’d like to continue and complete the above with a second article, looking at Iran’s relationships with some of its more immediate neighbours, its influence on the growing Shi’ite opposition in Iraq, its relationship with some of the Kurdish groups and how Israel perceives Iran.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
many years of my life
in opposition, and
I rather like the role.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Index: Current Articles

5 June 2003


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Victimisation of Victims
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Heat, Not Necessarily Light

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Targetting Iran
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