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News | Iran Blames EU for Fueling 'Tension and Crisis' with New Sanctions

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

24 Jan 2012 11:35Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

CurrencyMarketJan24.jpg11:35 a.m., 4 Bahman/January 24 In reaction to the European Union's announcement of new sanctions that it will impose on Iran, including a ban on purchases of the country's oil, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement today that denounced the sanctions, vowed that the Islamic Republic will not surrender its basic rights, and declared the E.U. responsible for producing "tension and crisis." According to the ministry's statement,
The Islamic Republic of Iran has emphasized time and again the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, has continued its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency in the framework of its obligations, and has strived to make its nuclear program as transparent as possible. It appears that the European Union follows irrationally the policy of the United States in its attempt to distract attention from its own economic and social problems, and to deviate the public attention from the social justice seeking awakening [of the masses] and the anti-discrimination and anti-capitalism movement by creating an unreal environment. The Iranian nation has proven repeatedly it will never give up its legitimate and legal rights under pressure and unjust actions. It will certainly resist such approaches in the future in its framework of seeking justice and its belief in international peace and stability, and reminds the Western leaders that challenging the independence and advancement of sovereign nations will only add to the world's complex problems. The European Union will be responsible for the consequences of such irrational decisions and efforts to create tension and crisis.

Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said,

The economic sanctions [imposed on] the peaceful nuclear activities of our country are irrational and unjust, but will not have any effect on the process of our nation's pursuit of its fundamental rights. Threats, pressure, and sanctions against a nation that has strong reasons and rationale for what it does have clearly been defeated. Based on the statements of the European officials in reports about the issue, some of these countries have imposed gradual sanctions, which is indicative of their political nature. The long term needs of the world's countries are such that one cannot sanction Iran, a country that possesses the second largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world. It appears that disrupting the supply of energy to the United States' competitors [presumably China] in the coming years is an official U.S. policy, and under the excuse of putting political pressure on Iran they want to weaken their economic competitors. The European leaders and those of other countries that are under political pressure by the United States should think about their own nations' interests, and not deny themselves Iran's oil in order to materialize the hidden goals of the United States.

Iran's Oil Ministry also issued a statement in reaction to the new sanctions:

The European Union has practically inserted this nonpolitical tool [exporting and importing oil] into its political games and greed. The consequences of the European Union's hastily made decision will affect Europe and the rest of the world. It is noteworthy that only 18 percent of Iran's oil is exported to Europe, while the rest is exported to the rest of the world. Considering the [present energy] market, supply and demand, and Iran's potential oil customers, there is no concern regarding replacing [Europe] with new customers. The people of Islamic Iran should rest assured that the Ministry of Oil of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been planning for this situation for a long time, and it has developed ways of confronting any challenge regarding the issue of energy. Some of the consequences of European Union's hastily made decision are as follows:

(1) Creating a dangerous precedent for using oil as a tool in the political equations governing the world;

(2) Heavy economic losses, as a result of boycotting Iran's oil, for the crisis-afflicted people of Europe and the developing countries;

(3) Increasing the price of oil and decreasing severely the rate of economic growth worldwide, especially in the crisis-afflicted West;

(4) Instability in the supply and demand of energy worldwide;

(5) Imposing severe extra costs on the consumers of oil products in Europe;

(6) Worsening economic crises in countries that grappling with chaotic economic situations, particularly the European countries.

An item in Aftab News, the website that is close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said that the sweeping economic sanctions hurt only ordinary Iranians and are partly responsible for the dramatic devaluation of the Iranian rial against major foreign currencies.

Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi said that worldwide economic conditions are such that it is not possible to harm a nation like Iran simply by approving sanction resolutions. He added, "The ineffective sanctions of the West are not a threat against our country, but represent an opportunity and have had many positive results."

Assembly of Experts member Ali Fallahian, a former minister of intelligence, suggested that, before the European Union implements its sanctions, Iran stop selling its oil to Europe. He added, "Europe has said that it needs six months to gradually replace Iran's oil; therefore, it is better to stop selling it oil now. That will increase the price of oil and disrupt the plans that they have agreed on with the United States."

Former Oil Minister Seyyed Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said that the European countries should know that Iran will be able to export its oil and that "the world needs Iran's oil." He added that Iran's oil is of a quality that no oil exporter, including Saudi Arabia, will be able to replace and that the psychological effect of the new E.U. sanctions will cause a drastic increase in the price of oil.

Ali Adiani, a member of the Majles's Energy Commission, said, "Given the open nature of the worldwide market and Iran's power for selling its oil, sanctioning Iran's oil by the European Union is mostly intended for domestic consumption of the European and American politicians, and will have no influence on Iran's oil exports. The only effect of the sanctions is creating problems for oil-importing countries. On the other hand, Iran is capable of confronting the sanctions and respond firmly to them."

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majles's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that the new sanctions cannot affect Iran's policies, because they are not responsive to Western pressure. He added, "Given the bad economic conditions of the West and the resulting political and social crises, the first negative effect of the sanctions will be on Europe. Iran will transform the sanctions to an opportunity, which will allow the blossoming of our national talents."

Parviz Sarvari, deputy chairman of the commission, said that the new sanctions represent psychological warfare. He opined that "the West is not in a condition to sanction Iran's oil, and the evidence for it is that the new sanctions are supposed to be implemented over a six-month period." He added, "The West's economies are very vulnerable." Another deputy chairman of the commission, Mohammad Esmail Kosari, said, "If the Westerners do not buy our oil, we will sell it to others. But if they disrupt our oil exports, the Strait of Hormuz will definitely be closed." He continued, "If the U.S. and its allies are interested in adventure after the closure of the strait, Iran will make the world insecure for the American military in the shortest possible time, which will force the U.S. military to retreat from the Middle East to save their lives." Both Kosari and Sarvari are former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders.

Commission member Fatemeh Alia said that the sanctions are motivated in part by what she described as the terrible economic conditions in the West: "The enemy is trying to present the economic situation in Iran as abnormal, which is a cover for its own economic crises. Every day, we are witnessing anti-capitalism protests in the West and the confrontation between the 1 and 99 percents."

***

In related news, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of the parliament's Foreign Relations Commission, said that closure of the Strait of Hormuz is "Iranians' right." He added, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has so far refrained from using its special right in the region on energy, but if its oil rights are threatened, Iran can resume talking about closing the Strait of Hormuz. This is part of Iranians' rights because two-thirds of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran's territorial waters, and its security cannot be ensured without Iran['s participation]." On Sunday, the U.S. aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, escorted by French and British warships, passed through the strait and entered the Persian Gulf, in a show of force meant to demonstrate the West's resolve to confront Iranian threats concerning the strait. The carrier has 90 warplanes and helicopters on board.

The Iranian media also prominently featured Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comments on Monday that emphasized Moscow's opposition to Western sanctions against Iran. He said that the new E.U. sanctions reduce the chances of ending the confrontation over the Iranian nuclear program. According to a statement issued by Lavrov's ministry, "It is obvious that what is happening here is open pressure and diktat, an attempt to 'punish' Iran for its intractable behavior. This is a deeply mistaken line, as we have told our European partners more than once. Under such pressure Iran will not agree to any concessions or any changes in its policy." Lavrov did declare, "Despite these aggravating factors, we still have a strong hope to resume talks in the nearest future," referring to the long-dormant negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group -- Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany.

Meanwhile, E.U. and British officials have convinced American lawmakers to grant a sanctions exemption to a large natural-gas project led by British Petroleum. The project, worth $20 billion, and to be carried out in the Caspian Sea off the coast of the Republic of Azerbaijan is viewed as key to reducing Europe's dependence on Russia, its largest supplier of natural gas. Under the agreement, the new sanctions will not block the project, called the Shah Deniz II, even though Naftiran Intertrade Co., a Swiss-based subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company, holds a 10 percent stake in it. British Petroleum and Norway's Statoil each hold 25.5 percent stakes, the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan, France's Total, and Russia's Lukoil Holdings each hold 10 percent stakes, and Turkish Petroleum owns the remaining 9 percent.

At the same time, several reports indicate that thousands of Iranians have crossed into Iraq to purchase U.S. dollars at cheaper prices. In Tehran, the rate of exchange between the rial and U.S. dollar increased by about 5 percent after the new E.U. sanctions were announced, although it had begun to retreat by the end of official trading hours on Monday.

The United States also announced that it has sanctioned Iran's Bank Tejarat. The Treasury Department said that it has taken the action because the bank has worked with other companies that are involved in Iran's nuclear program. It accused the bank of transferring tens of millions of dollars in 2011 for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Bank Tejarat is the 23d Iranian economic entity to be subjected to direct economic sanctions by the United States.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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