How many fuel refining plants could Iran build with the money spent on its nuclear program? It is a question Iranians might wish to ask as winter approaches and Iran finds itself scrapping for gasoline. According to UIP, Iran is seeking to import $7 billion worth of refined fuel products to meet its domestic needs up to the Iranian new year on 20 March 2009. When it’s cold, that is definitely a long way to go, especially since part of the assured supply of refined fuel might run out as early as December 31.
Iran imports approximately 40 percent of its domestic consumption of fuel from abroad–including gas from Turkmenistan and gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from several suppliers, including the United Arab Emirates, India and several European countries. But Iranian officials are concerned that Turkmeni supplies may dry up because of an ongoing price dispute–Turkmenistan cut Iran off early last January, wreaking havoc among northern Iran residents then in the grip of a particularly cold winter. They are now seeking alternative sources–and showing the world that an embargo on refined fuel is something the West should seriously ponder.
Iran’s dependence on fuel shows how vulnerable Iran is to pressure. Cutting off the supply lines would increase internal unrest, which continues to grow due to Iran’s troubled economy. With recent strikes multiplying and spreading to new sectors of the economy, a massive shortage of such a basic supply as fuel would have dramatic effects on the ability of the regime to rule. If Western nations wished to consider an effective way to pressure Iran, now, at the start of winter, cutting the fuel supply lines would be one of them.