Shipping Sanctions Against Iran, Arms Sales to Israel: Another Step Closer to War?

Last week the United States announced sanctions against Iran Shipping Lines and its 18 affiliates, which constitute the bulk of Iran’s shipping industry. Though the impact of the sanctions themselves is likely to be minimal as the company does little direct business with the US, it is seen by many as another step closer to a full naval blockade of Iran. Such a blockade would be considered an act of war.

Israel has long pressed the United States for such a blockade, and both houses of Congress have proposed bills to that effect, although neither has yet been brought up for a vote. There has been increasing concern throughout the world in recent days that Israel may attack Iran, which would certainly start an enormous war in the already tumultuous region.

Last week, it was reported that Israel had been rebuffed by the US in a requested “aid package” that included bunker-buster bombs and an air corridor through Iraq for such an attack. The United States has reportedly promised Iraq that it will not use its airspace for attacks on any of its neighbors, and apparently told Israel that the use of Iraqi airspace for an attack would have to be negotiated with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a virtual impossibility given the political ramifications in the largely Shi’ite nation.

But Friday the Department of Defense announced that it had decided to sell the bunker buster bombs to Israel after all, just the latest in its ever spiraling number of weapons sales worldwide. And as Russian troops begin their pullout from Georgia, perhaps Israel’s reported plan to use Georgian airfields in an attack on Iran would be back on the table, eliminating the need to use Iraqi airspace.

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar declared last month that his nation is ready for any surprise attacks against it, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned repeatedly against attacks. But President Ahmadinejad has come under growing fire internally for his mismanagement of the economy, which has led to rising inflation. Former President Mohammad Khatami also chastised Ahmadinejad for his sloganeering, which he warned would “play into the enemy’s hands”.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.