Almaty, Kazakhstan, is in the eye of the volcano next Tuesday, when the P5+1 - the five permanent UN Security Council members, US, Britain, France, Russia and China, plus Germany - meet again with an Iranian delegation over Iran’s nuclear programme.
The record shows that all 16 US intelligence agencies know Tehran is not working on a nuclear weapon. [Not that the intelligence matters, Iran is acting within its rights as a signatory to the NPT - TAB] In a real negotiation, there would be a credible US offer on the table. There is none. This suggests what Washington really wants is to maintain - and turbo-charge - its harsh sanctions package.
Let’s review the mechanism of this “negotiation”. Only a couple of weeks ago, on February 6, a new provision of US sanctions turned the screw on what has been known so far as the “gold-for-gas” trade.
Ankara has been paying Tehran in Turkish lira for its imported gas; Iran then used the money - held in Turkish Halkbank - to buy gold. Now the new sanctions strictly impose what Iran is allowed to buy with its Turkish lira; only food, medicine and industrial products.
Right on cue, Western corporate media again gloated how Iran is “frozen out of the global banking system”. Yet there’s absolutely no guarantee these latest sanctions will work.
Gold will still be part of the picture. A Turkish bank may be threatened with exile from the Western-controlled financial system. But Russian - and Chinese - banks will cautiously find a way to circumvent this, and fill the void. As for Iran, it has decades-old experience of being sanctioned to death - and adapting to it.
Turkey will still need to import natural gas from Iran - at 40 percent, its number one supplier. The other major supplier is Russia; for all of Prime Minister Erdogan’s erratic behaviour, Ankara would never commit the strategic suicide of depending on only one energy source.
So the only loser in this scenario will be Turkey. Why? Because Washington says so.
Now look at Washington’s offer to Tehran; we suspend the gas-for-gold sanctions if you completely shut down the underground Fordow uranium enrichment plant. Not by accident, Fordow would be the most difficult to destroy among Iran’s installations in the event of that perennial “all options are on the table” - a US/Israeli attack.
Right on cue, on Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry, via spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, went straight to the point; “Lately they have said ‘Shut down Fordow, stop (uranium) enrichment, we will allow gold transactions’… They want to take away the rights of a nation in exchange for allowing trade in gold.”
Thus Tehran has duly noted that Washington is not offering to lift UN sanctions; nor lifting unilateral US and EU sanctions; nor ending what amounts to economic war against Tehran - one of the key themes I detailed in this interview by young Iranian journalist Kourosh Ziabari.
No “gas-for-gold” for Iran is, for all practical purposes, an attempt to revive the ghastly “oil-for-food” in place in Iraq up to the 2003 US invasion/occupation.
And yet, even under a de facto Western trade blockade, the leadership in Tehran will still be plugged into Asian-wide markets - with the added incentive, from the point of view of vast swathes of the developing world, of moving deeper along the path of ditching the petrodollar. [READ]