U.S. economic arm twisting comes amidst calls on India, China and Turkey to reduce their imports of Iranian crude oil. Ms. Clinton confirmed last week the U.S. was having “very intense and very blunt” conversations with the three countries on the issue.

By S.M. Hali

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s ominous threat to President Musharraf to bomb Pakistan ‘back to the stone age’ appears to be fulfilling. Devoid of electricity, fuel and gas, Pakistan’s masses huddled around makeshift stoves during the cold bleak winter to keep warm during the constant power and gas outages. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has now turned the proverbial knife in the heart of hapless Pakistanis by threatening the country with sanctions if Pakistan continues with plans to build a natural gas pipeline to Iran. As the U.S. continues its war of words with Iran over real or imaginary threats from Iranian nuclear programme, the Obama administration is moving to squeeze Iran financially in a bid to force it to drop its nuclear program. But Pakistan has so far withstood the pressure to line up behind the U.S., saying it needs neighbouring Iran to help it meet a massive energy shortage.

To rub salt in the wound, Ms. Clinton admittedly told a U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations last week that the Obama administration recognizes Islamabad's "essential energy needs thus it strongly supports the idea of construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.” Clinton warned that the additional pressure that the United States would be compelled to apply would further undermine Pakistan’s economic status. With roughly $1 billion allocated in the State Department’s budget request for fiscal 2013 to help Pakistan address its energy challenges, Congressman Jerry Lewis, a Republican, had asked Clinton about the U.S. response if the Pakistan-Iran pipeline project proceeds.

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U.S. economic arm twisting comes amidst calls on India, China and Turkey to reduce their imports of Iranian crude oil. Ms. Clinton confirmed last week the U.S. was having “very intense and very blunt” conversations with the three countries on the issue.

The U.S. also has been disrupting financial networks that Tehran relies on to get foreign currency for its oil sales. The pressure appears to have achieved some measures of success. The European Union agreed in January to ban Iranian oil imports from July 1. India has stood firm in public, saying it needs Iranian oil. But Indian news reports say the country has quietly been seeking increased oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq in a bid to wean itself off Iranian supply, thus acquiescing to U.S. demands.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister has rejected the U.S. threats and said that the pipeline was crucial for Pakistan’s energy security and the multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline deal with Iran is still on. It may be remembered that an earlier plan to extend the pipeline through to India, at a total cost of $7 billion, was dropped after New Delhi pulled out under pressure from the U.S. The current project spread over 2,775- kilometer pipeline is valued at $1.5 billion and is scheduled for completion by 2014. Once operations begin, Iran has committed to supply 750 million cubic feet of gas per day for 25 years. Pakistan relies on gas for most of its energy needs but dwindling domestic supplies are forcing the country to rely on imports. Gas shortages have contributed to an energy shortfall which means most parts of the country suffer lengthy blackouts on a daily basis and most of its compressed natural gas run vehicles are stranded without fuel.

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The U.S. economic terrorism may work on India where according to Admiral Robert Willard; Pentagon Commander confirmed to a Congressional hearing that US Special Forces teams are stationed in five South Asian countries, including India and Sri Lanka. India has publicly rejected the claim as being “factually incorrect” but Hindu duplicity is well documented to be believed.

The U.S. is considering opening a new front in Iran while it hasn’t been able to subdue a bunch of cave dwellers in Afghanistan whose main means of transportation is donkeys. History is replete with examples of past powers that tried to subdue Afghanistan but lie buried in its wasteland.

Pakistan’s acute energy shortage will not let it wilt under U.S. economic terrorism.  It formally remains a part of the TAPI agreement too but the conditions in war ravaged and strife torn Afghanistan are not conducive yet to the commissioning of the TAPI pipeline through it. The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is in addition to TAPI. If the U.S. is a well wisher of the impoverished masses of Pakistan, it should stop its economic blackmailing and let its erstwhile most non-NATO ally have access to gas from Iran to keep its hearths burning rather than threaten it of dire consequences.

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