A Message From Iran

They're getting ready to have The Bomb.

Reuters reports:

Iran has withdrawn around $75 billion from Europe to prevent the assets from being blocked under threatened new sanctions over Tehran's disputed nuclear ambitions, an Iranian weekly said.  "Part of Iran's assets in European banks have been converted to gold and shares and another part has been transferred to Asian banks," Mohsen Talaie, deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs, was quoted as saying.

Ever since the Islamic revolution under the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 and the ensuing American Embassy hostage crisis that helped sweep Ronald Reagan into office, Iran and the United States have been bitter enemies.  Regular anti-American parades and holidays support thriving sales of American flags (for burning, natch) in the markets of Tehran; and for our part, our government freezes any assets in the U.S. which are found to be Iranian-owned.

Over the years, a key part of American strategy has been to isolate that country and its mullahcracy from the world financial and trade community.  Thus, for instance, most aircraft flying in Iran are meticulously-maintained antiques dating from the 1970s, since they aren't allowed to buy new ones from Boeing (being American) or Airbus (containing American parts.)

For all this time, Europe has gleefully done the business with Iran that American companies are forbidden to do.  This has occasionally been a bone of contention between the U.S. government and our nominal allies across the pond; large parts of Iran's nuclear program, a major foreign-policy concern worldwide, came about because European companies were willing to illegally sell the advanced equipment required.

Iran calls the U.S. the "Great Satan" and Israel the "Little Satan", but generally is much more polite to continental Europe.  Although traditionally crude oil has been valued in dollars, Iran pressures its customers to pay in anything but, and has made attempts to help make the euro a world reserve currency in replacement.  Compared to the volume of world trade, Iran's efforts are a drop in the bucket, but the recent collapse of dollar values has certainly made Iran look prescient.

Why, then, is Iran suddenly moving away from the European banking system?  Something must have changed.  America has tried to convince the Europeans to freeze Iranian assets and cut off trade for forty years; and for forty years, they haven't.  Does Iran believe that Europe is finally taking seriously Ahmadinejad's threats to destroy Israel, and his clear progress toward making a working nuclear bomb available to the world's foremost state supporter of terrorism?

Possibly.  But it's more likely that Iran knows that a showdown with America is fast approaching.

Since the Iraq invasion, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has done all within its power to keep the pressure cooker boiling, providing sophisticated IEDs, conventional weapons, even training to anyone willing to fight the Great Satan.  What's more, Shiite-Islamic Iran has tried to start a civil war between Iraq's Shiites and the Sunnis who up until recently lorded it over them.

For years, it looked like they'd prevail and that America would be stuck in yet another quagmire that could only end in humiliation and failure.  But despite the best efforts of the liberal media, President Bush and General Petraeus have managed to get the situation to the point where, as the Economist said this week, "many things in Iraq have at long last started to go right."

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on both the Bush Administration and Iran's nuke.  Will Iran get the Bomb while Bush is still in office?  He's given every reason to indicate that, no matter what, he won't let that happen.

This month's large, ostentatious diplomatic carrot - Western assistance in building a civilian nuclear plant, in exchange for total transparency and inspections - was flatly rejected.  There really isn't much left to talk about: the Western offer is as generous as it's possible to imagine, and Iran didn't even feel it was worthy of discussion and negotiation.  Clearly, no meeting of the minds is pending.

That leaves... what?  Israel is already planning a military strike to take out Iran's nuclear capability on their own.  It's being reported that advisers of both Obama and McCain recognize the need for the U.S. to talk with Israel about this - and if Iran does actually pull a mushroom cloud out of the hat, it's very difficult to imagine America standing idly by while Israel fights for its life.

By pulling its funds from Europe, Iran is sending a message to the world: Nyah, nyah!  You can't catch me!

The only reason Europe would even consider giving up its Iranian trade is if they seriously expect Iran to make and use a nuclear weapon.  Iran knows this.  It's played Europe and the United States against each other, with tremendous success, for many years.  There's only one thing that could cause that streak to end; Iran is clearly planning for that one thing.

Our upcoming presidential election may be about to become even more momentous than it already was.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
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