One of the major aspects of a contemporary geopolitical reality in the world is an ongoing tension between the U.S. and Iran, reflected by the fact that, as time goes on, the U.S. continues to apply more economic sanctions against Iran ever, while encouraging its European and regional (the countries of GCC) allies to do the same. The justification for such a course of action, on the part of the U.S., serves the allegations of Iran developing nuclear weapons and also the fact that, according to the U.S. Department of State, the system of a political governing in Iran is utterly undemocratic. In its turn, this provides many Western political observers with a certain rationale to discuss the earlier mentioned tension in terms of the Constructivist political theory. That is, the currently deployed America’s foreign policy towards Iran is commonly referred to; as such, that serves the purpose of ensuring peace and security in the Persian Gulf region.
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Nevertheless, even a brief analysis of the issue at stake reveals the sheer inconsistency of this suggestion. After all, despite the fact that many American top-ranking politicians talk about the Iranian nuclear program, as such that is concerned with Iran pursuing an unmistakably military agenda, there is no even a single proof that it is indeed the case. As Chintamani and Tourangbam noted, “No intelligence analysis could produce any conclusive evidence to suggest that Iran was at work to develop nuclear weapons” (2011, p. 230). The claim that the reason why the U.S. continues to apply economic sanctions against Iran is that this country does not share the American conceptualization of ‘democracy’ also does not stand any ground. After all, the blatant violations of ‘democracy’ in such countries as Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, which happened to be allied with the U.S., do not seem to concern the U.S. Department of State at all. Therefore, it is specifically the theory of political Realism, which provides us with the discursively appropriate framework for addressing the assignment’s question.
According to the Realist paradigm, the never-ending process of states competing for natural/human/territorial resources defines the essence of qualitative dynamics in the arena of international politics. As Sterling-Folker pointed out, “Based on implicit biological context, realism’s overarching narrative tells what evolutionary biologists refer to as ‘just-so stories’ about the behaviors and institutions that are anticipated in a context of the ongoing competition. Realist (IR) accounts… are dominated by this selection-by-competition logic” (2002, p. 78). Hence, this paradigm’s conceptualization of what accounts for the de facto purpose of just about every country’s existence: a) political/economic expansion, b) maintenance of political stability within, c) destabilization of competing states. In my paper, I will aim to explore the validity of this suggestion at length, in regards to what appears to the discursive significance of American currently enacted policies towards Iran, associated with subjecting the latter to ever-tougher economic sanctions.
In order for us to be able to attain a thoroughly analytical insight into the subject matter mentioned in the assignment, it is important to understand that in the world of politics, nothing just happens ‘out of the blue’. This is especially being the case when the discussion of the major super-powers’ foreign policies is at stake. Therefore, before we proceed with answering the assignment’s question, we will have to elaborate briefly on what is the major challenge that the U.S. currently faces. This challenge has to do with the fact that, as of today, the U.S. experiences an acute systemic/economic crisis. For example, as of 2012, the country’s annual budget deficit has reached $1.16 trillion (Peterson & Paletta, 2012).
According to the economic theory’s provisions, this should have immediately resulted in the U.S. Government severely reducing the scope of currently enacted social programs (even eliminating them altogether), as the mean of trying to prevent (or rather postpone) the collapse of the national economy. Yet, the Government does something entirely opposite. It continues to spend more and more money on social programs – hence, ensuring its continued popularity with intellectually marginalized voters. It also continues to increase the number of its military spendings. The reason why the Government it is able to act in such a manner is simple – The Federal Reserve System is able to ‘cover’ the Government’s expenses, in this respect, by the mean of continuing to print tons and tons of essentially valueless’ green paper’, which has ceased being backed by any material assets, as far back as in 1973.
This money is spent on buying products and natural resources (such as oil) abroad. Eventually, the same money is being returned back into the domestic circulation by the mean of foreign investors buying the so-called ‘U.S. treasury bonds’ – the Government’s debt-obligations. For example, China alone holds $1.3 trillion in these bonds. What it means is that the continued functioning of the American economy heavily depends on the foreign investors’ willingness to purchase ‘treasury bonds’. In its turn, this presupposes that foreign investors should continue being provided with strong enough incentives to acquire America’s debts.
What can be considered the most effective incentive in this respect? It is the escalation of international tensions – preferably to the point when they are being transformed into armed conflicts. The reason for this is apparent – in times of uncertainty (triggered by these conflicts), investors are more encouraged to invest in the most stable world’s currency, which continues to remain the U.S. Dollar – pure and simple. This explains the true reasons behind the outbreaks of ‘orange revolutions’ in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and now Syria. These revolutions had very little to do with the native citizens’ desire to enjoy ‘democracy’, but rather with the U.S. and its Western allies’ intention to destabilize the political situation in these countries, while assuming a control over the natural resources (natural gas and oil), in the wake of the impending energy-crisis (Lacher, 2011).
The earlier provided line of argumentation, in regards to what be considered the actual objective of the U.S geopolitical agenda, helps us to better understand the discursive significance of America’s economic sanctions against Iran. First, these sanctions are meant to strengthen the factor of uncertainty in the area of the Persian Gulf – hence, preventing the region’s oil-rich countries from indulging in economic cooperation with each other, without taking into consideration the U.S. geopolitical interests. In its turn, this results in the GCC members’ continual willingness to act as America’s puppet-states. Second, the U.S. backed sanctions are expected to weaken the Iranian economy, which should eventually lead to the rise of an anti-governmental sentiment among Iranians, and possibly to the overthrow of the legitimate Iranian government, by the mean of ‘people’s uprising.’ After all, Iran’s share in the discovered world’s oil-deposits accounts for 10%, and in the world’s natural gas-resources for 16%. It is needless to mention, of course, that if the agents of foreign influence in Iran succeed with deposing the ‘undemocratic government’, American transnational corporations will assume full control over these resources, just as it happened in Iraq and Libya.
Third, the earlier mentioned sanctions are supposed to negatively affect Iran’s most important trade partner and America’s biggest geopolitical rivalry – China.
Nevertheless, even though the enacted sanctions do impede the proper functioning of the Iranian economy, there is nothing too critical about them. Partially, this can be explained by Iran’s status as the most powerful country in the region of Near and Middle East. Having a population of 80 million, with its GNP estimated to account for $420 billion, Iran has what it takes to ensure a largely self-sustainable functioning of its economy (Bali, 2006).
As of today, a bulk of Iranian exported oil goes to China, with this country only formally sharing the U.S. vision that Iran should not be allowed to develop its own nuclear capacities. According to Lounnas, “In this global context, keeping good relationships with Tehran is an important component in Beijing’s Middle Eastern policy, particularly in the case of crisis between China and the US. Tehran can always guarantee a regular ﬂow of oil to Beijing, with no pressure from Washington” (2011, p. 229). Formally speaking, this creates objective preconditions for the U.S. led military strike against Iran to be only a matter of time. Nevertheless, the majority of political commentators refer to such an eventual scenario, as being rather unlikely. While striving to illustrate the validity of their suggestion, in this respect, they commonly refer to the fact that, after Obama’s reelection as the American President, the intensity of anti-Iranian rhetoric in mainstream American Media subdued considerably.
There are, however, a number of purely rationalistic reasons for the U.S. to continue to refrain from attacking Iran (contrary to the requests of its allies of Israel and Saudi Arabia), while preferring to expose this country to rather ineffective economic sanctions. These reasons can be outlined as follows.
First, the Iranian army is considered one of the strongest armies in the world (Entessar, 2013). To make things worse for the U.S., its allies in the Gulf will not be able to provide any considerable assistance to the American Army, when it would come to America waging a full-scale war on Iran. According to Cordesman, “Iran’s army has a total manpower of more than 540,000, compared to a combined GCC total of 176,500” (2009, p. 15). There is, of course, Israel. However, it is highly unlikely that, during the course of military hostilities with Iran, this country would be willing to send its soldiers to serve as a ‘cannon meat’ for America. At best, Israel will be able to provide an air-support for the ground-operations, carried out by Americans.
In its turn, this points out to the fact that America cannot possibly expect that it is will be able to conduct the blitzkrieg-type of a warfare in Iran, which given the sensitivity of the American public to casualties, sustained by the country’s army-units, makes the whole prospect of the U.S. invading Iran utterly unrealistic. The legitimacy of this suggestion can also be illustrated in regards to the unconfirmed intelligence-reports of Iran having deployed Russian most modern long-range surface-to-air missile systems C-300 (Souleimanov & Ditrych, 2007). If these reports are valid, it means that it will prove impossible for the U.S. Air Force to ensure its undisputed superiority in the Iranian skies. Yet, as we are well aware of how the U.S. Army conducts its ground-operations, the attainment of such superiority is the most important precondition for the troops to be deployed in the first place.
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Second, no ground-assault on Iran will prove possible, unless the government of Bashar al-Assad is being overthrown in Syria. This is because the U.S. Army will not be in a position to carry out military operations against Iran, without enjoying the freedom of an operational deployment, which can only be guaranteed if Saudi Arabia and Qatar-based ‘fighters for freedom’ take control of government offices in this country. Yet, given the fact that, unlike what it was the case Libya, the legitimate Syrian government is being financially and militarily backed by Russia and China, there can be very little rationale in expecting that Bashar al-Assad will be deposed any time soon.
Third, the U.S. will never be able to ensure that the U.N. Security Council (due to the veto-powers of China and Russia) supports the military attack against Iran (Yazdani & Hussain, 2006). Given the fact that both of these countries have repeatedly expressed their strong disagreement with the U.S. tendency to act as the ‘world’s gendarme’, the America’s unilateral attack of Iran may well result in Russia and China adopting an active stance on the matter, which in turn may result in the triggering of the World War 3. Yet, whereas the U.S. is more than capable of subduing Iran, it would prove impossible for this country to effectively deal with the combined military forces of Russia and China.
Fourth, the military attack of Iran may only take place, once there are no objective preconditions for the U.S. most combat-worthy military units to remain dispersed throughout the word. However, there is very little rationale in suggesting that in the observable future, this may indeed be the case. Quite on the contrary – as time goes on, the U.S. is experiencing an increasingly hard time while defending its geopolitical interests in different parts of the world.
The above-mentioned considerations contribute to the U.S. top-officials’ decision to refrain from attacking Iran while subjecting it to economic sanctions instead. Ideally, this should lead to establishing the prerequisites for the ‘orange revolution’ to take place in Iran, as well. However, due to the Wikileaks-related scandal, more and more people in natural-resource-rich (and consequently ‘undemocratic’) countries grow increasingly aware of the actual mechanics of how these ‘revolutions’ are being made, which in turn make the practical deployment of the U.S. ‘soft power’ foreign policies rather ineffective. The validity of this statement can be shown in relation to the recently failed ‘people’s uprisings’ in Iran and Russia. Nevertheless, it may very well be the case that the U.S. will decide in favor of attacking Iran, despite the considerations of a conventional reason. This is because, expanding the areas of ‘controlled chaos’ on the world map (even at the expense of facing the risk of triggering the World War 3), is the only way America can temporarily prevent the collapse of the U.S Dollar, as the world’s single ‘reserve currency.’
I believe that the earlier provided line of argumentation as to why the U.S. favors specifically the application of economic sanctions against Iran, fully correlates with the paper’s initial statement. It is only when we think within the framework of the Realist political paradigm, that the true significance of currently ongoing geopolitical developments may become clear to us.
Bali, A 2006, ‘The US and the Iranian nuclear impasse’, Middle East Report, vol. 241 no. 5, pp. 12-21.
Chintamani, M & Tourangbam, M 2011, ‘Iran’s quest for nuclear weapon status’, India Quarterly, vol. 67 no 3, pp. 229-244.
Cordesman, A 2009, Iranian weapons of mass destruction: the broader strategic context, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington.
Entessar, N 2013, ‘US foreign policy and Iran: American–Iranian relations since the Islamic Revolution’, Iranian Studies, vol. 46 no. 2, pp. 321-323.
Lacher, W 2011, ‘Tribes and cities in the Libyan revolution’, Middle East Policy, vol. 18 no. 4, pp. 140-154.
Lounnas, D 2011, ‘China and the Iranian nuclear crisis: between ambiguities and interests’, European Journal of East Asian Studies, vol. 10 no. 2, pp. 227-253.
Peterson, K & Paletta, D 2012, ‘U.S. news: deficit seen topping $1 trillion again’, Wall Street Journal, Europe, 1February, p. 8.
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