Standoff Over Iran's Oil and Nuclear Program Isn't Going Away

Iran promises more military action in the Strait of Hormuz, western nations try turn up the economic and regular Iranians prepare for the real possibility of war.

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Iran promises more military action in the Strait of Hormuz, as western nations try turn up the economic pressure in an attempt to stop the country's nuclear program. After the Iranians conducted 10 days of drills near the all-important entrance to the Persian Gulf and threatened to close the Strait altogether if the U.S. and Europe impose more oil sanctions ... Europe and the U.S. decided to consider more sanctions. So Iranian naval officials announced a new set of war games that would take place in February. Meanwhile, Israel is talking about having its own missile defense exercise and the European Union is openly talking about a near total ban on Iranian oil imports, ratcheting up tensions instead of deflating them.

So once again we find the world in an uncomfortable standoff, with western countries threatening to cut off Iran's access to major oil markets and simultaneously panicking that Iran might do it themselves by effectively shutting down the Persian Gulf. Such sanctions could hurt Western Europe almost as much as it hurts Iran, since their fragile economies aren't prepared for another price hike on a key commodity. Iran also doesn't want to shut down oil shipping (either through sanctions or their own blockade) as that would have a similarly disastrous effect on their economy. Yet, both seem to believe that bombs trump oil and their ultimate security depends on reminding the other side who is really in charge. (The answer is neither. They kind of need each other.)

The Washington Post also reports that the fear of an actual war is already descending on regular Iranians, who are struggling under existing sanctions that have squeezed the people, but failed to deter the government from its nuclear ambitions. The ultimate irony, of course, is that the more the West tries to punish Iran for pursuing nuclear weapons, the more they prove to the Iranian leadership the necessity of acquiring them. A nuclear-armed state doesn't get pushed around by bigger bullies, yet Washington, London and Brussels still believe that economic pressure can turn Iran away from its quest to get the bomb. It remains to be seen whether either side is simply posturing or actually willing to fire the first shot.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.