Although our window to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons or the capability to produce them nearly at-will is closing quickly, so is the regime’s ability to govern effectively. Besides the option of supporting democratic opposition forces in Iran, as I constantly argue for, there remains other options for non-military means of pressuring the regime.
Iran’s “aging oil infrastructure” will likely doom its economy, and the mullahs that rely on oil exports for about 90% of government revenue:
“A report said Iran, the second largest producer in OPEC, could reduce oil production by 25 percent and suspend exports by 2015.
The report by the Singapore-based Facts Global Energy said Teheran has been plagued by aging fields and lack of infrastructure.
“Without a major change in policy and investment climate in Iran, crude oil production and exports are projected to decline drastically in the future,” the report said. “
These facts may persuade some to just wait until the economic crisis dooms Iran’s government, but we should do everything we can to expedite the process. Dick Morris points out that Iran relies heavily upon imported gasoline, and over half of these imports come through the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally that should have an interest in stopping Iran.
“Kittrie reports that Iran is purchasing nearly all of its gasoline from five companies: Vitrol (Swiss), Trafigura (Swiss/Dutch), Total (French), British Petroleum, and Reliance Industries (Indian). He notes that should this supply be curtailed “the Iranians could replace only some of what they needed from other suppliers — and at a significantly higher price.” Neither Russia nor China could help because “both are themselves also heavily dependent on imports of the type of gasoline Iran needs.”
Gas is already being rationed, and Ahmadinejad had to back off his plan to implement a new sales tax in order to stave off the inevitable economic collapse. Whatever you think of Dick Morris, he’s right in mentioning that any further taxes, rationing, or other forced measures could spark a revolution in Iran. Ahmadinejad has already seen his popularity fall dramatically, and the rule of the mullahs in general is equally unpopular.
President-Elect Obama, upon taking office, needs to quickly work with Dubai to pressure Iran economically. In addition, he can call on American citizens to put their investments in Terror-Free Mutual Funds. Americans are eager to be told what to do to help, and want to be led. Obama can lead with this call, and receive praise from both the left and the right. Privately, he can also tell Israel that if they wait to bomb Iran, he’ll be open to a blockade. Vowing to protect Israel with a “nuclear umbrella” won’t cut it in the minds of the Israeli leadership, especially since the Likud and Netanyahu seem likely to come to power. The Israelis believe that deterrence won’t work, and such an attack could take place without leaving fingerprints. Israel has good reason to doubt America’s willingness to intervene after an attack that cripples, if not destroys them, particularly if the U.S. capability to intervene is dramatically reduced via an EMP attack that could potentially leave no trace of whom the attacker was.
Some experts believe a naval blockade of Iran’s oil supplies would cause the regime to fall in three months if they didn’t give into our demands, which should include dismantling their WMD programs and ending their support for terrorism, perhaps going so far as to include a demand that they allow an internationally-supervised referendum on the government if Obama is feeling especially bold. Oil prices would skyrocket, which will hurt the U.S. especially hard in today’s economic times, but the fall of the mullahs (if this option works) would well be worth it, and oil prices would subsequently fall almost as fast as Obama’s approval ratings would rise. I keep mentioning the political affects for Obama not as a put-down, but to emphasize the affects it would have on American confidence and unity, as these are measures both the left and right would embrace.
Although the short-term outlook on Iran is frightening and bleek, over the long-term, the mullahs will have to take a Gorbachev-like turn or see a popular revolution remove them like Ceausescu. In the coming years, the mullahs will have to make that decision: Gorbachev or Ceausescu.