KT’s weekly address on Russia and Iran
President Obama has enjoyed a triumphal romp of the world – and been received with wild whoops of enthusiasm throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. But he hit a brick wall when he got to Moscow. In what was the most amazing display sof body language I’ve ever seen in diplomacy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made it clear he wasn’t buying what Obama was selling.
While Obama talked about lofty goals and moving beyond Cold War divisions, Putin was picking lint off the sleeve of his suit. When Obama talked about freeing the world of nuclear weapons, Putin gazed off in the other direction, with an extremely bored look on his face.
Behind the scenes it was much the same. Obama was hoping to achieve a grand bargain with the Russians – they would stop Iran’s nuclear program and in exchange, we would give up the Missile Shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russians said nyet. We tried to sweeten things, presumably for the next round, by agreeing to put the missile shield on hold, but even this concession is unlikely to bring the Russians around anytime soon.
Even if Obama were to give Eastern Europe back to the Russian sphere of influence, it’s not clear the Russians will try to stop Iran or even could if they wanted to. Time is running out on America’s number one national security priority – preventing Iran from getting the bomb. Improved relationships with every country in the world mean little if that world includes a Nuclear Iran. And according to experts, that frightening prospect is only a year away.
So Obama has to try another track to bring the Iranians to the negotiating table – immediately – and ready to do business. The one way to get their attention now is a gasoline embargo.
Iran may be the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, but since it doesn’t refine that oil, Iran still has to IMPORT Forty percent of its gasoline. That gasoline comes from just 5 companies – four in Europe and one in India. The ships that deliver that gasoline are insured by a handful of companies in Britain, France, Germany and Japan. If we can pressure those refining and insurance companies to stop doing business with Iran, we can get Iran in the economic equivalent of a half nelson.
Congressional legislation to that effect has just been introduced by Senator Lieberman and others -to sanction any company that helps Iran import gasoline. Last year, British Petroleum, BP figured this was coming so they stopped selling gas to Iran, figuring they’d prefer to lose out on that business rather than risk their American customers.
If these European, Indian and Japanese companies do what BP did, and stop trading with Iran, others will probably move into fill the void. But they will charge Iran more for the gas – much more – which means the average Iranian has a higher price tag at the pump. That’s bound to make Iranian citizens really mad. Just two years ago, when the Mullahs tried to raise gas prices the Iranian people rioted – torching gas stations and taking to the streets.
Hmmmm….doesn’t that sound familiar?
The Mullahs of Iran are unlikely to be lulled into giving up their nuclear weapons program just because we sing them the sweet songs of diplomacy.
On the other hand, the last thing we need right now is a military confrontation with Iran to topple their government.
What we can do, and should do immediately, is cut off their gasoline, so that those Iranian citizens, who have recently taken to the streets to protest a sham election, will take to the streets again to protest an incompetent government. That’s how we helped bring down the Soviet Union, and that’s how we can help bring down the Mullahs.