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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Irans nuclear facilities, exactly as
Israel did in 1991 against Iraqs similar projects.
much quieter at the moment, lean toward pursuing dialogue
with the current Iranian regime.
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
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 Khamenei
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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
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.
and natural gas in Iran
controls 9% of the worlds 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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
and the Caspian Sea
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
and the Indian and Pakistani markets
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
US and Europe
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
friends in The Blanket agree, Id
like to continue and complete the above with a second
article, looking at Irans relationships with
some of its more immediate neighbours, its influence
on the growing Shiite opposition in Iraq, its
relationship with some of the Kurdish groups and how
Israel perceives Iran.
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