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    Middle East
     Aug 4, 2012

Sacrificing Iran's queen
By Chris Cook

In the great global political and economic chess game, the US pieces have mounted a seemingly irresistible attack, but while Iran's position appears hopeless, the game is not yet lost.

The economic situation in Iran is at melting point, and the key constituency of the "bazaari" merchants and businesses - whose support was instrumental in Mahmud Ahmadinejad's ascension to the presidency - have now almost completely abandoned him.

The speaker of Iran's Majlis (parliament), Ali Larijani, who is a scion of a very influential family, is reportedly in the religious center of Qom to gather support among clerics, which could assist in swinging the Supreme Leader behind a more pragmatic approach to nuclear negotiations. As Larijani lobbies support, one of his influential brothers has been threatened with criminal


proceedings by the presidential faction.

There is speculation in Tehran that the wily and pragmatic former president Akbar Hashem Rafsanjani will shortly - at the Eid-ul-Fitr celebration of the end of Ramadan later this month - be mandated by the Supreme Leader to negotiate a solution to Iran's nuclear problems.

Rafsanjani's star has been rising as rapidly as President Ahmadinejad's is descending. So on the one hand, we have seen Rafsanjani being restored to a more influential role as head of Iran's Expediency Council, which is one of three key Iranian political institutions. On the other hand, we see death sentences for a multi-billion dollar banking fraud being handed out to individuals associated with factions in the presidential camp.

If Rafsanjani - or anyone else - is indeed to be given the authority to make major concessions to address the nuclear demands made by the P5+1 - the United Nations Security Council permanent five members plus Germany - then the result could be extremely interesting.

Painted into a corner
The US has painted itself into a corner. President Barack Obama is in no position to agree any concessions before the US presidential elections in November, and indeed both he and congress are bent on introducing further sanctions as though the existing sanctions have had no effect (this week he announced new sanctions against foreign banks that help Iran sell its oil). This is political overkill of the highest order.

The new US president will find concessions politically difficult against the entrenched power of the Israel lobby, while a president set on regime change - and Republican candidate Mitt Romney at least appears to meet that description judging by his recent performance in Israel - would marginalise the US completely.

However, not only could Iranian nuclear concessions address Russian and Chinese concerns, but they may also put the European Union's negotiators in a very difficult position.

The special relationship
"England has no eternal friends, England has no perpetual enemies, England has only eternal and perpetual interests." - Lord Palmerston (1848)

As with England then, so with the US now: the US has no friends: it only has interests. Foremost of these is US energy security, and second is the continued hegemony of deficit-based US dollar currency created without limit by the US banking system.

When the UK and quite a few who should know better in the EU do the US' bidding, their excuse is that they have some kind of "special relationship" with the US. Unfortunately for them, Palmerston's imperious comments apply to the US today as much as they did to England over 150 years ago.

The completely base-less, bank-centric and unsustainable euro currency is now in its death throes, with the weakest economies being systematically isolated and attacked - as a hyena picks off the feeblest of the herd - by US and UK financial institutions. It is a source of constant amazement to me that the EU leadership looks westwards to the desperately troubled US economy for support, rather than to the East.

Sacrificing the queen
So the question to be asked of the EU could be whether they are prepared to join a Eurasian framework for political and economic co-operation largely based upon energy and trade, or would prefer to cling to a failing and dysfunctional deficit-based economic framework based upon purely financial dollar claims created by the banking system.

The question is whether Iran's sacrifice of their nuclear energy queen might force the US dollar king to lose the game.

This game's clock is running, with Iran's next move - according to Tehran gossip - to be at a P5+1 meeting in Beijing.

Chris Cook is a former director of the International Petroleum Exchange. He is now a strategic market consultant, entrepreneur and commentator.

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.

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