Independent scholar and IPS News contributor Farideh Farhi argues in the ezine, Jadaliyya, that the Obama administration’s attempts to destabilize the Iranian government to the point of submission may affect Iranian decision-making processes in disastrous ways. Here’s why:

After a short and half-hearted attempt, the Obama administration, willingly or otherwise, fell into the trap of effectively continuing the Bush administration’s one-track policy of ratcheting up pressure in the hope that the Iranians will finally cry uncle. Meanwhile, hard-line Israeli influence on domestic US political dynamics prevents Obama from making do with existing draconian sanctions on Iran that more or less constitute economic warfare. Nothing he does is deemed sufficient; there is a consistent requirement for yet more measures to squeeze Iran yet further, and cease uranium enrichment that brings it closer to the status of a real or virtual nuclear state.

The problem with this approach is that the current Iranian leadership perceives itself as left with few options apart from responding to belligerent policies with belligerence of its own. It believes the Obama administration, despite protestations to the contrary, is like its predecessor: more interested in regime change and destabilization than resolving the nuclear issue. Hence, in its response, the Iranian leadership has made a calculated decision to demonstrate it will not be a passive recipient of decisions made by others. It has thus highlighted the costs of escalating sanctions, whether through threats to obstruct or shut down oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz; permitting protestors to attack the British Embassy; or threatening to halt oil exports to European states before European sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank come into effect in July.

This escalating sanctions regime and threat scenario naturally increase the prospect of an accidental conflagration in the Persian Gulf, where both Iran and the US have a substantial military presence and lack sufficient means of communication. In short, the potential for this presumably controlled game of brinksmanship to spin out of control will continue to increase if the current round of negotiations fails to produce results.

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