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The Oily Games Trump Is Playing with India

Trump and Bolton’s unwavering assault on Iran means the end of waivers for the right to purchase Iranian oil for India, which is in the midst of a general election.

US President Donald Trump’s current cold war on Iran — which some expect may soon turn hot if he feels free to follow his emotions as he so often does — has turned into a secondary war against his official allies, the most populous and sensitive of which is India, representing nearly 18% of the world’s population. Trump has decided to suspend the waivers to a privileged selection of countries whom it provisionally permitted to continue purchasing oil from Iran. As the Indian publication The Hindu Business Line reports: Trump is “ending waivers that allowed allies like India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey and also adversaries like China to buy Iranian oil — threatening sanctions if they don’t comply.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Comply:

The only choice of action given to nations across the globe that depend in any way on maintaining friendly relations with Donald Trump’s America

Contextual note

India will be the hardest hit, since — unlike China but with a comparably huge population — it is supposedly an ally whose interests, in normal historical circumstances, the US should be looking to defend or at least take into account when making geopolitical decisions. But of course, Trump is a man who insists on being both clear and consistent in his policies. That is the meaning of “America First,” which the Financial Times correctly redefined as “America Alone.”

Trump’s Iran policy of “anything goes that may encourage regime change” is compounded by his simultaneous action directed against another oil-rich nation, Venezuela. This means alternative choices for India are significantly reduced. And the effects go beyond the particular damage to India, a nation that imports more than 16% of its oil from Iran, and with whom it has been collaborating on “building and operating the strategically important Chabahar Port in Iran.” Rising oil prices will affect the global economy in unpredictable ways.

Nafis Alam, an associate professor at the University of Reading Malaysia, describes how Trump’s political grandstanding has a number of unintended consequences. Detailing the reasons for the high probability of increasing oil prices — despite Trump’s contention that Saudi Arabia will solve the problem by compensating for the loss of Iranian and Venezuelan oil — he concludes: “Any resulting rise in oil prices would spread to other commodity prices, leading to inflationary pressure — particularly in countries affected by the end of waiver such as India, where inflation has already started picking up.”

With a general election currently taking place, this is a headache neither India nor its current and possibly continuing prime minister, Narendra Modi, needed, and which will likely embitter Indians against Modi’s supposedly beneficial friendship with Trump. As Bloomberg observes: “Modi, whose government is one of the world’s biggest importers of Iranian crude, is now facing opposition attacks over his inability to win concessions from Washington.” Even if Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the election, this will further weaken his already disastrous hold over the economy and undermine his image of a strong, resolute leader.

The Hindu Business Line gives an idea of how the question is perceived by Modi’s own constituency: “Egged on by Saudi Arabia, Israel and hawkish advisors like John Bolton, Trump’s decided toppling Iran’s government is a crucial goal even if it infuriates allies and endangers US-China trade talks.” It adds: “Still, while it will cause hardship in Iran, nobody’s expecting public unrest to unseat the government. That means Trump’s moves will cause pain all around, and yet could prove to be pointless.”

Historical note

Exceptionally, The Daily Devil’s Dictionary will attempt to place this issue in a historical perspective by reprinting, with his permission, the first and the last stanzas of a poem by a friend, Arjun Janah, a retired public school teacher in New York, who observes his native India from the US.

“There is right and there’s wrong—and then there’s the dollar.

It comes with a leash and it comes with a collar.

It comes with a biscuit and a ride on the ark,

And when bidden, we’ll bite and when bidden we’ll bark—

But not at our Master.  We’re fed by his hand.

His kicks, we will take, as you all understand.

For the sake of the silver, as Judas had done,

We sold out our honor, and the Devil has won.

When our Master decrees that a nation should fry,

Then who has the gumption to stand and defy?

But in time we will see, when it comes to our turn,

That the Devil will laugh, as he watches us burn.”

Janah explained to us that the poem “had served originally as a preface to a shared report on India bowing to US pressure regarding oil purchases and presumably other transactions with Iran. This brought to an open and ignominious end to India’s past autonomy in such matters, as one of the founding members of the nonaligned bloc.”

This expresses how many Indians, who have not forgotten what it’s like to live under an empire that expects them to comply on all occasions, now feel as the election proceeds. Today, it’s right or wrong… or the dollar. Once upon a time in the not too distant past, it was right or wrong… or the pound sterling.

We at The Daily Devil’s Dictionary thank Arjun Janah for using his poetic talent to give the devil his due and profits from this occasion to announce that we will be back on May 2.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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