Standoff with Iran must not escalate

10 January 2012

The economic sanctions are making life harder for ordinary Iranians

As the value of the rial nosedives and harsh economic sanctions start to take effect, the Iranian people are once again forced to bear the brunt of Tehran’s global pariah status.

The regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now seems to be only capable of symbolic acts such as storming the British embassy or making threats to close the Strait of Hormuz. For most Iranians living under the fear of attack, with inflation rising and savings losing value, the pressure must be near unbearable. 

The most dangerous aspect of the standoff is that no one in Tehran even wants to sit around a table and talk. As the crisis started to intensify, Ahmadinejad left to tour South America and make quips about Yankee imperialism with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. For the US and its allies imposing sanctions and an oil embargo against Iran, it is essential that the lines of communication are kept open and Tehran is offered a suitable exit strategy that will allow them to save face.

Any sabre-rattling in the Strait of Hormuz must not be met with force unless necessary. It is imperative that the standoff does not escalate to levels not seen in the Gulf since the Iraq invasion in 2003. 

The nuclear programme is continuing, however, and shows no sign of stopping. This is despite several killings of scientists involved and continued cyber attacks.

Tehran is gambling everything on securing nuclear weapons and its only way out now is a quick resolution. Any delay could sink the regime already under enormous pressure, both internationally and domestically.  

Since the demonstrations following the disputed presidential elections in Iran in 2009, the Ahmadinejad government has managed to win back some support with its popular subsidies reform, placing all political opponents under house arrest and some brutal policing.

But with the sanctions now starting to bite, the question is will this be enough to keep the people quiet in 2012?

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