Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Iran is vulnerable on oil: Why aren't we taking advantage?

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, John Vinocur reminds us of just how vulnerable Iran is on oil.
Thirty-one years ago this week — Jan. 16, 1979 — the shah of Iran flew into exile, opening the way to the birth of an Islamic republic and, over time, a country whose leaders have shaken much of world with their apocalyptic threats and drive for nuclear weapons.

For sure, demonstrations, shootings and massive repression brought a picture of chaos and revolution to Tehran and had left Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s Peacock Throne tottering. But it was a series of strikes, virtually shutting down Iran’s oil fields, imposing rationing on gas, and raising the prospect of shortages of heating oil, that really signaled the shah’s end.

In the space of five days from Dec. 23, 1978, after two months of off-and-on strikes, murders and intimidation in Iran’s oil fields, production fell from 6.5 million barrels a day earlier in the month to roughly 700,000, stopping exports and providing just enough supply to cover national consumption.

On Dec. 28, rationing went into effect at gas stations, the Central Bank shut down, and oil field workers, endorsing tactics approved by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from Neauphle-le-Château, outside Paris, pledged not to go back to their jobs until the shah was gone.

The availability of oil and the oil field strikes had become the issue and the endgame. On Feb. 1, the ayatollah, as if apotheosized, returned home triumphantly from France to joy and subsequent years of then-unimagined absolute power and ruthless change.
But, points out Vinocur, the Obama administration is avoiding targeting Iran's oil industry.
Serious was supposed to have started Jan. 1. That was when the Americans said time would run out for Iran to respond positively to an international plan that would have effectively slowed the Iranian nuclear program.

But over the past weeks it has become clear that the sanctions on gasoline aren’t going to happen — either at the United Nations because the Chinese and Russians don’t want them, or in an ad hoc alliance that would include the European Union. One European-based mercantile explanation: third-country suppliers would take advantage of those restrained by a ban.


French diplomats, according to Le Monde, without referring to Mrs. Clinton, said concerns like those she expressed “are exaggerated or baseless.” Rather, the newspaper reported they consider that “the breakdown between the regime and the people appears to be such that putting the country under pressure in relation to its nuclear program would be not be sufficient to result in a burst of nationalist unity.”


On the international scene, the Obama administration’s “no” to trying to rally its friends to oil-related sanctions just might be interpreted as giving tacit support to the very questionable idea that if the West waits long enough, a new regime will nullify the mullahs’ nuclear threat.
Read the whole thing. Jonathan Tobin points out that the alternatives to targeting Iran's oil and gas production are unattractive.
The only alternative to it is, as we all know, Western acceptance of an Iranian bomb or a military response that no one wants to try. Vinocur asks why, given the danger that a nuclear Iran poses to Middle East peace (and existentially to Israel) and the West, as well as the strengthening of Iran’s Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist allies that would result from their attaining a bomb, the West would give up without using the tough sanctions that are available to them? Since it is impossible to imagine this administration taking military action on Iran (and to be fair, its predecessor demonstrated its own lack of interest in the military option during George W. Bush’s last year in office), we are heading inevitably to a point where Obama is going to have to tell us that we must learn to live with an Iranian bomb. Which means that the attempt to downplay the expiration of yet another American deadline on Iran is just the beginning of the president’s prevarications on the threat from Iran in 2010.
Unless someone else decides to take action.


More here.


Post a Comment

<< Home