lunedì 30 gennaio 2012

The Wizard of Hormuz

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On December 27, vice president of Iran Mohammad Reza Rahimi threatened the international community, with special care to United States, that "not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz" if Western countries decide to impose new sanctions over its nuclear program which, actually, would hit two of the most important sectors of Teheran: oil and gas.

The Strait of Hormuz is the stretch of sea, 54 km wide, which separates Iran from the Arabian peninsula and links the Persian Gulf with the Oman one. About 20 million barrels of crude oil per day cross this unique sea passage to the Indian Ocean, 75% is headed to Asian countries like China, India and Japan.

That’s why this threat did not seem plausible from the beginning. Closing the Strait would mean causing a military reaction by the United States and lose those few allies that still try to defend the Iranian government. China, for example, not only has several times tried to shield against economic sanctions placing vetoes at the United Nations Security Council, but Beijing is also among the largest importing countries of Iranian oil (22%).

The intentions of Teheran, then, are different: answering back to the accusations made by IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and getting the regime stronger after the clash inside the conservative wing. In its latest report, IAEA affirms that Iran's nuclear program arouses "grave concern" despite lack of evidence that the country is building weapons of mass destruction instead of using the atom just to satisfy its energy needs, as always stated by the government. This change of attitude by the UN Agency is mainly due to the retirement of the Nobel Peace Prize Mohamed El-Baradei and the advent as IAEA Director of Yukiya Amano, closer to the Western position.

The other objective of the regime is trying to control the Iranian people, more and more anxious to get reforms and worried about the political struggle for the control of institutions between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei, which occurred in April 2011. On March 2, 2012 legislative elections will be held all over the country and many experts have called this event as the most important from the Islamic Revolution.

2012 could be a crucial year for the future of the Islamic Republic, but also for the role it could play in one of the most tricky areas in the world. A role that needs a good coach and teammates (and easy oil exporters) to be successful. The “transfer season” of Iranian President, recently started in Latin America, could balance the forces in the field, at least from an economic point of view.

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