Thursday, October 20, 2005

US Pressure on the Indo-Iranian Pipeline

In the previous post, “India, the country you should not miss!”, I have mentioned about the Indo-Iranian gas pipeline and the US-India strategic partnership. President Bush admitted India’s nuclear power status when he talked with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington DC this July. At the United Nations summit this September, Bush and Singh talked about the Iran problem. The United States pressured on India to scrap the Indo-Iranian gas pipeline in order to stop nuclear proliferation to Iran. India is in the middle between the United States and Iran, and the United States is testing India whether it chooses the West over Iran in the end (“Iran Issue Strains India’s Tie to US”, September 14, International Herald Tribune / New York Times).

As I mentioned before, India has to establish close relationship with the United States because it is exploring a global power status. Also, in the war on terror, India faces common threats with America, which are radical Muslims. On the other hand, Iran is an important partner to India. With growing population and economy, India’s demand for energy is soaring. The Indo-Iranian pipeline is a national project to satisfy this soaring demand for the future. In addition, India regards Iran a gateway for Afghanistan and Central Asia. India has been stepping up military cooperation with Iran to use this country an entry point to this region. Furthermore, India has the second largest Shiite population in the world. It makes no sense for India to confront Iran.

According to US National Intelligence Estimate in January 2005, Iran needs 10 years to develop nuclear bombs. However, Gary Schmitt, Executive Director at the Project for the New American Century, a leading neo-conservative think tank, insists that the United States and its allies keep alert on Iran. He says that Iran has not throw away its nuclear ambition. Also, it is quite difficult to have accurate information about Iran’s nuclear program. The Jerusalem Post estimates quotes Israeli intelligence source, saying that Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2012 and could have the capability as early as 2008. Finally, he argues that it is important to remember why the Bush administration adopted military preemption in its strategic doctrine. No one can foresee the timing of attacks on the America and its allies by states or terrorist groups. As to Iran, people understand too little about the nature of regime and its strategic intention. This makes it furthermore difficult to predict Iran’s behavior. Therefore, the global community must be highly alert on Iran, and careful enough not to provide financial sources for a dangerous project.

To deal with Iran, the United States and EU3 (Britain, France, and Germany) need to demand Russia, China, and India to get involved with non-proliferation efforts. As a neighbor to Iran, India would play an important role. Currently, thanks to high oil price, Iran is in a good position to finance the nuclear program and sponsor terrorism. The Indo-Iranian pipeline will be a further help for this regime.

At the US-India summit this July, the United States agreed to help India’s peaceful use of nuclear energy. At present, nuclear power accounts for only 2.7% of total energy production in India. Further US assistance would be a good alternative to the gas pipeline. Though India has not given up the pipeline plan, Singh decided to vote against Iran at the UN summit this September. This was a critical test for the United States to judge India, whether it is a trustworthy partner or not. The problem is India’s national pride. Leading Indian papers, such as the Hindu and the Times of India laments this vote, because India had been the champion of nonalignment since its independence from Britain. India has made it clear that it would take sides with America and EU3, rather than Russia and China.

This is a vital message for other countries engaged in an energy resource project with Iran. Currently, Japan has a joint oil venture at Azagaden in western Iran. I am afraid this will be the third error for Japan in the conflict between Iran and the West. The first error was in 1952 when Mohammad Mossadegh nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Japan bought oil from this radical leftist regime, which irked Britain and America. Fortunately, Mossadegh was thrown away, and the shah came back. The second error was that Japan continued the Mitsui Oil Project when the United States and Iran confronted over US embassy hostages in Tehran. Will it be the third error in the coming conflict between Iran and the West? That’s a real struck out!