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Obama’s Foreign-Policy Fade Ignores Oil Weapon

It’s nice to know that Contentions isn’t the only place that noticed the Obama administration’s Dec. 31 deadline before serious action on Iran would begin. In tomorrow’s International Herald Tribune (available online now at the New York Times site), John Vinocur calls attention to Obama’s feckless drift to inaction on the issue. Vinocur writes:

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.

The veteran Times reporter hones in on the role that oil has planned in the history of the Islamist regime. It was, he says, strikes and Islamic terrorism in the oil fields that cut the country’s supply of home heating oil and made rationing of gas necessary that really signaled the end of the Shah in 1979. Today tough international sanctions on fuel supplies and cutting off exports could play the same role in toppling an unpopular and despotic Islamist Iranian government. But as Vinocur rightly says, the United States has been jawboned into inaction by cowardly allies and Obama’s inability to sweet-talk either Russia or China into imposing sanctions on its Iranian business partners.

Vinocur quotes Thérèse Delpech, director of strategic affairs for the French Atomic Energy Commission, as saying that sanctions are a feasible strategy for crippling the Iranian government and bringing it to heel. But, like the Americans, the French aren’t taking a stand either. Oil and gas sanctions are the only route to a plan that has a chance of success in getting Iran to stop its nuclear program. 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.



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