by Stephen Lendman
Multiple rounds have been held. Istanbul technical talks just concluded.
Breakthroughs haven't happened. How can they when Washington blocks them.
Nuclear talks are a subterfuge. Washington, European nations and Israel know Iran's program is peaceful and legitimate.
Yet the charade continues. Effective July 1, harsh new sanctions were imposed. They include an EU ban on Iranian oil imports and insurance for tankers carrying its oil.
The London-based International Group of P&I (property and indemnity insurance) Clubs covers about 95% of world tankers.
On June 28, Congress imposed harsh penalties on foreign companies trading with Iran's central bank. They include blocking their access to America's financial system and US banks.
Sanctions bite. To what degree is hard to determine precisely. Washington claims they're working. Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi dismissed them as futile, saying:
"The sanctions not only fail to impede the progress of the Iranian nation, but they also lay the ground for self-sufficiency and development."
On June 30, Iran's Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said Tehran is fully prepared to counter efforts to curtail its oil exports.
London-based Middle East Institute Director Hassan Hakimian says Iran's economy is doing better than commonly believed. At the same time, it remains to be seen what impact sanctions will have going forward.
Iran may find innovative ways of shielding itself from their worst effects, he added. "Iran has been expecting (new) sanctions for quite a while, so (it's) better prepared than most people might realize."
Enormous foreign reserves were accumulated. Estimates are around $150 billion or more. In addition, Iran has billions of dollars in gold.
Its ability to import shouldn't be underestimated. Its oil is highly valued. Nations like China, India and others eagerly buy it. How oil exports are impacted going forward bear watching.
True enough Iran's economy faces challenges. So do Western European countries and America. Targeting Iran may backfire and harm them. Unintended consequences sometimes happen.
In 2010, Ron Paul said Iranian sanctions are an act of war. In 1997, the New England New England Journal of Medicine called economic sanctions "a war against public health."
Sanctions constitute war by other means. Manipulated money power in private hands used irresponsibly is financial war.
Former Indian diplomat Neelan Deo and Gateway House research and geoeconomics fellow Akshay Mathur suggest BRICS countries may find creative ways around Western sanctions. They use them to buy Iranian oil.
"India worked through banks in Europe, Dubai and Turkey before finally using its own state-owned UCO Bank to pay its $10bn annual oil import bill from Iran."
"Small banks hidden from the reach of the sanctions, like Russia's First Czech-Russian Bank, China's Bank of Kunlun and Iran's Saman Bank, are available...."
The Iran Insurance Company and Chinese P&I aren't part of the London-based International Group of P&I. India and China can pay in gold. Bilateral currency swaps between the Iranian rial and renminbi, rupees and rubles can circumvent dollars.
A multilateral BRICs bank was proposed. A new clearing union and insurance club for international trade, finance, and transportation could supplement it.
So could new commodity exchanges to facilitate alternate ways of price discovery and currency benchmarking. Indian commodity exchanges already trade crude oil futures contracts. In 2008, Iran launched its own oil bourse.
BRICS countries have normal relations with Iran. Increasingly they're asserting their rights. Ways around Washington's stranglehold exist. Expect more ahead.
Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett say "America's policy on Iran-related secondary sanctions is on a collision course with itself as well as China. Secondary sanctions violate the United States' obligations under the World Trade Organization and are, thus, illegal."
WTO members may curb trade with other nations for security reasons, they say. However, imposing economic sanctions on business they conduct with third countries has "no legal basis."
If affected nations challenge Washington in the WTO's Dispute Resolution Mechanism, "the United States would almost certainly lose the case."
As a result, Iranian secondary sanctions may be "a house of cards" heading for collapse. Washington assumes other states won't challenge its authority. Doing so may end up shooting itself in the foot.
After multiple rounds, P5+1 talks approached dead end last month in Moscow. Washington and Israel are obstructionist. Britain, France and other Western states agree to policies harming their own interests.
They demand Iran relinquish rights enjoyed by dozens of other nations with commercial nuclear programs. Doing so lacks legitimacy. Iran wants its legal rights respected. It insists unjust sanctions end.
Washington's intransigence produced deadlock. Alleged concerns about Iran's nuclear program is sham cover for longstanding regime change plans.
Denying Tehran's right to produce nuclear power in accordance with NPT provisions has no legitimacy. Iran's legal right to refuse looks like pretext for war.
America's Middle East presence is menacing. Dozens of bases surround Iran. A larger buildup is underway. Ostensibly it's to keep shipping lanes open. In fact, it reflects hostile intent. Whether belligerence follows remains to be seen.
Two aircraft carrier battle groups are in the Gulf. Minesweeper numbers were doubled. Several squadrons of F-15s and F-22 stealth technology aircraft are present. So are tens of thousands of combat troops.
The Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 is positioned in the Mediterranean Sea nearby. It can target Iran and/or Syria.
According to German Rear Admiral Thorsten Kahler, its presence is "to give a clear message to terrorists in the region that NATO is on duty."
"Terrorism is not dead and we have to make sure that the message of NATO is understood. People and especially NATO are not willing to accept terrorism coming to the Mediterranean. We have to publish that message clearly."
On Wednesday, Istanbul Iranian/P5+1 technical talks ended. Both sides said more discussions will follow. No date was announced. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov put a brave face on what happened, saying:
"There are grounds to speak of certain progress." However, he added:
"I cannot say that we reached some sort of breakthrough or achieved decisive progress."
In fact, nothing ahead looks promising. Iran rejects unreasonable demands. Washington blocks conflict resolution efforts.
Ousting independent Iranian and Syrian regimes is planned. Rule of law principles don't matter. Embroiling the entire region in more war looms likely. Only its timing remains unknown.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.