IRAN, the U.S. and the WTO
The U.S. should oppose Iran’s admittance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on political principal. It’s the right thing to do. Although it may seem like a unique point of leverage for the International community, blocking Iran’s admittance into the WTO is not a particularly effective diplomatic tool to economically isolate the Iranian government. No entity is more suited to isolate Iranians and the Iranian government more effectively than the Iranian government itself. Blocking Tehran’s admittance into the WTO is instead an emphasis to Iranian officials about what they must do before Iran can rejoin the community of nations. If Iran were to join the WTO before ending its destabilizing policies, reforming its broken economy and complying with its contractual agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it would be putting its “cart before its donkey”.
More importantly, Iranian officials have given the West no reason to believe they would willingly join the WTO. Rolling out the red carpet or protesting Iran’s admittance suggests the Iranian regime is capable of absorbing progressive political and economic reforms without imploding. Iran's economic policies are consciously engineered to isolate Iran and Iranians from foreign influence and maintain financial authority over those that are not particularly intimidated by the ideology of the Iranian regime. WTO flavored reforms represent a serious threat to Tehran’s hegemonic leadership.
MULTILATERAL TRADE SANCTIONS OR UNILATERAL IRANIAN OIL-EMBARGO
It is noteworthy that the Iranian government’s threats of a unilateral boycott of their petroleum exports are consistence ant therefore, more serious than the West’s threats to sanction Iran’s primary export and economic lifeline, petroleum. Iranian threats to take its petroleum off of the global energy market make clear that the Iranian regime can not rationalize its role among nations. Iranian officials repeatedly demonstrate that they respond to their own crisis making by instituting isolationist policies. Examples like Tehran’s threats to destabilize global energy markets illustrate Iranian governance, in its current form, is an institutionalized destabilizing feedback loop that is threatening to crash the Iranian system, Iran’s neighbors as well as institutions of global democracy.
Tehran’s destabilizing feedback loop, Iran’s current model of governance, is the single biggest indicator that the Iranian government cannot authorize its own admittance into the WTO. If Iran were to begin instituting policies in line with WTO recommendations, it will in effect, empower the Iranian people. Factions of Iranians will rise to demand liberties. The more independent of these factions would not willingly mimic the Iranian governments self defeating destabilization campaign and begin funneling their resources into the Iranian government’s opponents. That sort of challenge in policy would eventually shatter the brittle Iranian government. To illustrate the increasing fragility of the Iranian government, the imprisonment of students, professors and journalists is increasing while greater numbers of media outlets not controlled by the Iranian government are suppressed. Both CNN and BBC have both been banned in Iran, although these bans may be temporary. Expatriate broadcasts originating outside of the country are regularly jammed with sophisticated electronic warfare equipment inside Iran.
INSULATING NATIONS FROM IRAN’S BRITTLE GOVERNMENT
Without question, Iran contributes to the global market quantities of petroleum significant enough to cause instability if it were to spontaneously go off line. In combination, individual national strategic petroleum reserves represent an international strategic reserve but this has yet to be legislated in a way that could logically insulate energy markets from erratic petroleum exporting nations like Iran. An announcement to temporarily release reserves may cool energy prices in the short run and is an informal precedent in times of crisis however true energy security would require a well constructed treaty.
An appropriately worded treaty between energy importers has the potential to define a procedure to deal with any single nation’s attempts to trigger a global economic meltdown by withholding resources. A defined a series of decisive steps could be outlined by the treaty to be taken by the interested parties that may include a policy of regime change of the nation that threatens an abrupt withdrawal of its resources from the global market place. Another insulative international program might be to create an international strategic petroleum reserve defined within the treaty. Without one, energy importers are unduly influenced by the likes of Iran. It is within reason to believe resource rich nations have an obligation to supply resources at a pace the global economy can adjust to without crashing. If Iran wants to pull its oil off the market, fine, but in phases that the global economy can adjust to. If not, then the Iranian government is in effect threatening the quality of life of billions of people. That kind of behavior is totally unacceptable… and consequences should come from the countries impacted by such behavior.
FEEDING THE BEAST: THE ENERGY IMPORT DILLEMA
For example, let’s consider Japan. Iran is the third-largest oil exporter to Japan, accounting for about 15.9 percent. Japan is a great example of a nation who is destroying international energy security by signing contracts to develop Iranian oil fields. Japan will in effect be feeding ours and their most destabilizing force. Here’s the scenario:
Without broad energy solidarity among energy importers, energy security is a pipe dream. As we are all aware, petroleum is a fungible commodity we all have to have to maintain our quality of life. Unfortunately, the international solidarity and discipline required to manifest energy security is not easy to come by. If Japan and similar energy importing nations were offered a contractual guarantee toward energy security if they opt not to feed the beast, the world community could more easily face down Iran’s threats to destabilize the global economy. As the international community braces itself for energy market instability, a senior official of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry explained the dilemma.
"We want to develop the [Iranian oil] field at any cost," the official said. "But opposing nuclear weapons proliferation is the national policy of Japan as the world's only country to suffer atomic bombings.No matter what consequences result from Tehran’s destabilization tactics, multilateral trade sanctions or an Iranian oil-embargo, energy market instability will hit Japan and similar energy importers hard. Japanese officials are fully aware that their energy insecurity is the responsibility is the Iranian government’s conscious effort to destabilize the region.
The evidence is overwhelming that Iran, in its current form, would make an awkward and uncomfortable partner at the WTO. Until the Iranian regime changes significantly enough to join the community of nations the United States and its allies should block Iran’s admittance to the WTO. Iran knows exactly what the community of nations is asking it to do. The ball is in Iran’s court and has been for decades. Inaction from the international community has become dangerous and the time has come to take decisive action before Iranian officials instigate an international crisis that succeeds in scuttling the global economy.