In my previous post, I discussed two groups dealing with the Iranian nuclear problem: that which actively supports sanctions and that which objects to them. The issue, however, is not black and white: between the countries that actively support unilateral and multilateral sanctions and those that staunchly condemn them lies a third group of quasi-supporters that privately limit their financial interaction with Iran, despite public condemnations of Western sanctions.
China and India (two of the five BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) belong to this third group of states. Like Russia, their critical public responses to U.S. and multilateral sanctions have more to do with personal relationships than a desire to effectively solve the Iranian nuclear problem. The critical attitudes of these countries are rooted in their historical relationships with Iran and reveal their underlying motives for negotiation.
China and India, for example, have publicly refused to support sanctions. It is no coincidence that these two countries are the largest importers of Iranian crude. Despite their public statements, however, both countries have limited their financial relationships with Iran. China has cut purchases of Iranian crude oil. Though this may have more to do with oil discounts from Russia than with a moral obligation to support Iranian sanctions, China has nevertheless impacted Iran’s export economy.
Indian refineries have also cut purchases of Iranian crude by at least 15 percent, despite public statements by their government that they would not support sanctions.
While some governments such as China and India, and even organizations such as South Africa’s COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) have denounced America’s “imperialism,” publicly refused to support sanctions, or accused the international community of failing to provide concrete evidence of Iranian nuclear weapons technology, there are certain facts that point to Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon. A section of the IAEA’s November 2011 report on Iran titled “Possible Military Dimensions” cited evidence of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which included “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” The Agency documented four indications of Iran’s potential development of nuclear-related military capabilities:
1.) “Efforts, some successful, to procure nuclear related and dual use equipment and materials by military related individuals and entities;
2.) Efforts to develop undeclared pathways for the production of nuclear material;
3.) The acquisition of nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network; and
4.) Work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components.”
Iranian oil sanctions, if applied effectively and with continued international support from powerful EU and BRICS countries, will continue to impair Iran’s crude oil exports. The Iranian nuclear program poses a potential threat to the international community. Negotiations will not work until Iran has no other options. For countries serious about reforming Iran’s human rights abuses and nuclear ambitions, offering support of sanctions is the best option. Many already seem willing to do so.