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Iran oil waivers sign of US inability to rally global support on sanctions

An Indian analyst believes that the US waivers on Iranian oil to eight countries, including India, shows Washington's awareness of the fact that such a behavior would only antagonize its allies and strategic partners.

Major General B.K. Sharma, who is the Head of the Center for Strategic Studies and Simulation at one of India's top national security and defense service think tanks called the 'United Services Institution of India (USI)' made the remarks while talking to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) in a recent exclusive interview.

Commenting on the US sanctions against Iran, he said Washington's exemption awarded to eight countries shows that it has chosen to behave pragmatically in heeding the economic and strategic interests of other countries vis a vis Iran.

'Iran plays a key role in maintaining the balance of power in the Middle East,' he stressed, adding I don't visualize these developments in terms of zero sum game where there are losers or winners.'

'However,' he added, 'The exemption to eight countries allowing them to continue importing oil from Iran demonstrates the limits of the US to push the envelope on Iran. The so-called concessions accorded are based on hard-core realpolitik that such unilateralism will antagonize the US allies and strategic partners. However, these concessions are not sacrosanct and will be reviewed periodically by the US. And, there lies the catch!!! India is one of the eight countries granted temporary allotment. The US would endeavor that these eight countries fall in line sooner or later or considerably reduce their imports from Iran to nil or negligible level.

Tehran and the importing countries need to evolve a robust alternate system of trade that does not involve dollar transactions. Iran should show deftness in its diplomatic parlors to institutionalize the alternate system of oil imports rather than being contended with a seemingly push back on American unilateralism.

To a question on Iran's role in ensuring peace and stability in the Middle East, the seasoned analyst of the world affairs said: The US is well aware of the pivotal role Iran plays in the regional strategic calculus. However, it sees that Iran's rise is inimical to the national interest of the US and its allies, viz, Israel and Saudi Arabia.'

'Irrespective of the ensuing developments, Iran has been and will continue to be an important strategic player in the region. It has vast energy resources which are in great demand. Iran's strategic location confers on it certain advantages in the geopolitics of Eurasia, West Asia and the Persian Gulf. The US-Iran rapprochement is critical for regional peace, security and development. The two sides must break out from traditional deadlock and cooperate for the sake of global peace and security, he added.

On the possible impact of the US move on India's oil imports from Iran and India's investments in Chabahar Port , he said: India imports 80 percent of its oil requirements and is the third largest importer of oil in the world. India is the second largest importer of oil from Iran. The Indian oil corporation is the biggest Indian customer for the Iranian oil. Energy security is a critical determinant of India's national security. Therefore, import of oil from Iran is a 'sine qua non' for India. Indian government would continue to trade through the local banks in Rupee-Rial exchanges or product export mode till such time these sanctions are in place. Likewise, Chabahar is an extremely important port for India to trade along the Zaranj-Dalaram corridor with Afghanistan and Central Asia. We have successfully utilized the port to supply huge quantities of grains to Afghanistan. Early operationalization of Chabahar is extremely important to provide alternate axis to land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asian states.

India has always impressed upon the US the strategic importance of the port and urged Washington to calibrate its policy in a manner that the early development of this port is not adversely affected. India is committed to speed up development of Chabahar Port. The Port is a strategic imperative for India, added the Indian defense analyst.

On the possible losers and gainers from the US sanctions on Iran, Major General B.K. Sharma said: I think, in the geopolitics of oil there are no clear winners or losers. The reduction in outflow of Iranian oil will adversely affect all importing countries due to hike in prices. If OPEC increases its oil supply, sooner or later these resources will deplete and that will impact their oil-dependent economies in the future. I am sure that they understand not to kill a goose that lays the golden eggs.

'It is, therefore, imperative that oil is treated as a global commodity and the system is strengthened to ensure stability in the global energy supply chain and prices. Outflow of Iranian oil helps oil dependent countries to diversify their suppliers and balance the monopoly of OPEC or such like other emerging blocs, he stressed.

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency - IRNA

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