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Tilting at Windmills

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January 16, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

IRAN AND ITS OIL....Iran's economy minister warned over the weekend that sanctions on Iran could "raise oil prices beyond levels the west expects." Over at the Oil Drum, Stuart Staniford suggests that this is pretty much correct:

To give you the punchline up front, I'm going to argue that, with large (50%) uncertainties, a complete loss of Iranian production for an extended period might be expected to roughly double oil prices and cause massive economic impacts, while a halving of oil production due to sanctions, or retaliation to sanctions, might be expected to produce a 30-40% increase in price and significant economic impacts.

My uninformed gut opinion is that Stuart is actually being optimistic here. A shutdown of Iranian supplies in 1979 led to a doubling of world prices, but that's only because Saudi Arabia made up for part of the loss. They can't do that anymore.

In any case, read the whole thing if you're interested in a historical perspective on oil embargoes and their impact on the global economy.

Kevin Drum 1:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (85)

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Comments

I am putting all of my 401K in Oil stocks.

Posted by: lib on January 16, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

And how much might gas prices be expected to rise if we, say, threatened to invade during the months leading up to the next election, in order to smoke out the liberal democrats, and secure another two years of republican hegemony? Oh yeah, and I forget to say -- we wouldn't actually invade or enact sanctions or anything. Just win baby!

Posted by: The Bush on January 16, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

a complete loss of Iranian production for an extended period

This seems particularly unlikely. It's MAD between Iran and the West, except that the West is harmed somewhat while Iran is completely destroyed. Seriously, what percentage of Iran's revenues comes from oil? Is it at all realistic that Iran could completely stop its production and keep its government intact?

Posted by: Al on January 16, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

George,

How many times do I have to tell you? Just stick to the plan...

Posted by: The Rove on January 16, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

One nice thing about running a quasi-dictatorship is that when you tell people they must sacrifice to fight the enemy, they have to do it.
World economic sanctions against Iran might even make such sacrifices popular. Nationalism has been known to trump the pocketbook in more than one society.

Posted by: JMG on January 16, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

might be expected to produce a 30-40% increase in price and significant economic impacts

I wonder how significant those impacts would really be. After all, we JUST HAD an increase in price by 30-40%, with VIRTUALLY NO impact on our economy.

Posted by: Al on January 16, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

This is why I think nothing will happen on this frount. Surely the Bushies aren't stupid enough to bomb or otherwise cause trouble with the Iranians. If they are, then I suspect we'll see Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil also go offline, as the opposition will go in for the kill.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett on January 16, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's Iran's oil. If they want to horde it or hike the asking price that's their perogative. From everything I read careful analysis of Iraq's nuclear activities indicates they're within their rights to engage in their current programs. If Bush wants to invade I suppose he will but legal justification for doing so seems lacking. Let Iran engineer $100 a barrel crude prices. Maybe a collapse of the American economy will be what it takes to jolt the public into reality regarding the need to conserve and develop alternate sources of energy. Looks like a good time to maybe invest in nuclear power plant concerns, huh?

Posted by: steve duncan on January 16, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

"...with VIRTUALLY NO impact on our economy."

Wait for it, baby. Every dramatic increase in the price of oil has resulted in a recession beginning with the following quarter. We're only in the third week, Al. Patience, patience. All is according to plan.

Posted by: The Rove on January 16, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

correction--IRAN'S nuclear activities seems legal.

Posted by: steve duncan on January 16, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, my guess is that Iran and the U.S. will talk tough for a while, but that Iran won't end up reducing its oil exports at all. But you never know. If it does happen, I suspect Stuart's scenario is pretty much the minimum we can expect.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 16, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Maybe a collapse of the American economy will be what it takes to jolt the public into reality regarding the need to conserve and develop alternate sources of energy."

You can always count on a liberal to hope for a collapse of the American economy, more natural disasters, more soldiers killed, etc...

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 16, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

who's kidding who. There will be no sanctions or invasion of Iran. Atrios was exactly right a couple days ago: there'll be lots of repukelican bluster and bloviating about Iran for political gain leading up to the 2006 elections, and the Kevin Drums will side with the republican bedwetters, act all serious and get after the anti-bloviators for not being serious, but not a thing of actual significance will occur (and Iran damn well knows it).

Posted by: yowzer on January 16, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you think Iran exports oil in the first place? Because they want to be nice to us? They will do much more damage to themselves than they can ever do to us.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 16, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

"You can always count on a liberal to hope for a collapse of the American economy, more natural disasters, more soldiers killed, etc..."

you can always count on a repukelican to have his head so far up his ass that he couldn't begin to see reality through the craptacular fantasy they've invented for themselves.

Posted by: justfred on January 16, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you think Iran exports oil in the first place? Because they want to be nice to us? They will do much more damage to themselves than they can ever do to us.Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 16, 2006 at 1:26 PM

And the evidence you have for this is...?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on January 16, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Why do you think Iran exports oil in the first place? Because they want to be nice to us? They will do much more damage to themselves than they can ever do to us."

see justfred's post @ 1:29

Posted by: Yowzer on January 16, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Iran just forms alliances and oil deals with China and cruises on. They switch to deals involving Euro's instead of continously more worthless dollars which over the long run will pressure China to deal in Euro's. Economics, although more time consuming, has 100's times more power than money consuming invasions. It's a shame conservatives will apparently never fiqure this out. If the shift worldwide to Euro's from dollars continues perhaps they'll get a chance for an education.

Posted by: MRB on January 16, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

FF>You can always count on a liberal to hope for a collapse of the American economy, more natural disasters, more soldiers killed, etc...

And you can always count on the right to hope for more terrorist attacks, american cities nuked, etc ...

Modern conservatives and fundies thrive on fear of death. It's their core meme.

A culture of death, indeed. The neocons themselves are terrorists, in a literal sense. The fact that they don't themselves set the bombs means little. AlQ provides the product, they provide the marketing.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on January 16, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Because of US proximity to Canada, and huge US supplies of coal, the US should be the economy least hurt. However, the new pipelines to China and Japan should blunt the impact there. The chief beneficiary would seem to be Russia. Doubling prices would also give US energy companies lots more money for reinvestment in new energy, probably even sufficient for them to build nuclear power plants without subisdies.

I see no insurmountable large problems here.

Posted by: contentious on January 16, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

a complete loss of Iranian production for an extended period might be expected to roughly double oil prices

How much would a few sunk tankers in the Straits of Hormuz raise prices?

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 16, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Short Al: I know nothing about the difference between a shift in a supply curve and movement along a supply curve.

Posted by: SavageView on January 16, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Cool -- oil prices will skyrocket, bringing in huge amounts of money for US oil companies. Plus we'll probably reduce oil consumption to the extent that we can, so this is good for conservation. The only question in my mind is whether we start sanctions now to hurt Iran's economy before we invade, or just skip straight to the invasion.

I'm totally serious. Democrats need to get out in front on this and call for invasion of Iran as soon as possible. Only by doing so can we show how weak Republicans truly are on national security issues.

Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft on January 16, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

I do know one thing that would happen: the ANWR and offshore drilling proposals would get a different reception in Congress.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 16, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

contentious: based upon your previous posts I can see why you see no insurmountable problems. Your understanding of economics is very limited and this has been shown by your posts. When crude oil prices go up the greatest portion of the increase goes to those producing the oil-not those refining it. A price of crude oil changing from $60/barrel to $120/barrel would basically mean that Iran could sell half as much oil and obtain almost the same in incoming revenue. Iran isn't refining the oil for the US, so when the crude unrefined oil goes up then most of the increase winds up in their pocket.

Posted by: MRB on January 16, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

yowzer wrote this: Atrios was exactly right a couple days ago: there'll be lots of repukelican bluster and bloviating about Iran for political gain leading up to the 2006 elections, and the Kevin Drums will side with the republican bedwetters

I don't know whether anybody here is seriously interested in building the Democratic party or rallying American independent voters to a more liberal set of national policies, but this kind of language isn't going to do it. Leftists insult rightists and rightists insult leftists, but in the middle 40% you win the elections with better policies and better arguments.

Posted by: contentious on January 16, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Its the energy independence, stupid"

I'm telling you guys, there's your policy uniting theme. Unlike so many issues you pick that are instant polarizers, this one is reasonable. You might have to give the ANWR fight and build some nuke plants, but think of the children. They're going to need power too.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 16, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Another example of how Americans are ADDICTED to oil. Just like the junkie on the street, we are willing to be lead into turmoil (Iraq), and fraternize with the lowliest of thugs (Saudis), in order to "secure" more. All this while we are reaffirmed our right to drive the biggest SUV on the earth with government endorsement.

For all the hype about the $ cost to raise efficiency standards, how does that compare to 2,000+ military lives and 200+ billion dollars spent "stabilizing" the Middle east.

Pay for it now, or pay for it later. We're hooked.

Posted by: Jon Karak on January 16, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The US can't effectively invade Iran. Not with boots on the ground that is. Iran has at least twice the population of Iraq. Invasion is out of the question. Without an invasion of Iraq then a possibility of invasion with Iran might be possible but now, no. What is left to do is bombing only. Infiltration is a very very slight possibility but would seem unlikely. No bombing is the only true weapon. Of course, Bush probably lacks the balls for bombing. Now for some odd reason, when with Iraq working with the UN was impossible, Bush now wants to work with the UN. What a flip-flopper. As well as chickenshit.

Posted by: MRB on January 16, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike: "Its the energy independence, stupid"
***
I'm telling you guys, there's your policy uniting theme.

It would work for me. John Kerry had a nice energy plan on his web page (more development for clean coal, for example) but he didn't really push it. Probably because the Democratic party does not support clean coal, but they might be persuadable.

Posted by: contentious on January 16, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

The moment the first bom drops on Iranian soil.
a. All muslim states all over the world should start rioting and burnt whatever things that look western. (Peoples get very angry if they are lied twice). This is to stop prolong war that could kill milions more muslim children and women by amaricans.
b. Take over and overthrow Saudi. Stop all oil export.
c. Burn all refinaries pipelines in Iraq ( to be done by Iranian Shiate)
d, Vanezuela to stop oil export to us with immediate effect.
e. OIC members state to stop oil production with immediate effect. If note, the people on the street should overthrow their current leaders who sit there doing nothing to protect muslim children and women from dying in the incoming iranan state.
f. Many more

Posted by: PolPot on January 16, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I say we call Iran's bluff on this.

Posters who noted that Iran would be economically destroyed by sanctions or boycots are exactly right. If Iran wants to play this game, then fine, play it the same way we played it last time. This method of "war" is less costly and likely to result in a victory against Iran.

Posted by: Matt on January 16, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Without an invasion of Iraq then a possibility of invasion with Iran might be possible but now, no.

I don't think that was ever an option, Iraq or not. Iran hadn't been under a no-fly zone, received an ass-whupping in 91, been under sanctions, and doesn't have a majority of the populace (Shia and Kurds) ready to welcome us, etc. Unlike Iraq, their armed forces would not disband without a fight. Iran has a long coast with access to attacking our Navy along its length. In short, it'd be a real fight with Iran, no questions about it. The real deal. But go ahead and think that it was ever an option, so you can use it to make your real point, which is that you hate Bush for Iraq.

Of course, Bush probably lacks the balls for bombing.

Heh. Yeah, right.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 16, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom Fighter:

You can always count on a liberal to hope for a collapse of the American economy, more natural disasters, more soldiers killed, etc...

Republican dodge #3: blame Liberals for the failures of Rebilican Administration.

Posted by: Jon Karak on January 16, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

MRB: Your understanding of economics is very limited and this has been shown by your posts. When crude oil prices go up the greatest portion of the increase goes to those producing the oil-not those refining it.

I said that Russia would be the greatest beneficiary AND that US energy companies would have higher revenues. You disputed neither of those assertions, and in fact both are probably true. If Iran believed that it could maintain its revenue stream by cutting output then I am sure that they would do so on their own initiative instead of waiting for sanctions.

Your lack of reading comprehension does not imply my misunderstanding of anything.

Posted by: contentious on January 16, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Once again, you spout nonsense. But then I don't show proof of your misunderstanding, you do it so well with each post. If you knew anything about world economics then you would know that your statement about Iran's initiative or ability to set world oil prices is none existant and therefore throws your whole premise into stupidity land. What I said was that if the price of crude oil doubled then Iran could effectively nearly double their incoming revenue from oil exports. Iran lacks the ability to push crude oil prices up by double. You don't know fucking shit about economics and every post you make is indicitive of that. It would be preferable that since you don't have a clue as to what the hell you are talking about that mere pride would make you want to shut up and then seemingly be more intelligent but lacking that continue with some more of your vast economic intellect that is so obvious in your postings. Economically, you're a joke.

Posted by: MRB on January 16, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

The moment the first bom drops on Iranian soil.
a. All muslim states all over the world should start rioting and burnt whatever things that look western. (Peoples get very angry if they are lied twice). This is to stop prolong war that could kill milions more muslim children and women by amaricans.
b. Take over and overthrow Saudi. Stop all oil export.
c. Burn all refinaries pipelines in Iraq ( to be done by Iranian Shiate)
d, Vanezuela to stop oil export to us with immediate effect.
e. OIC members state to stop oil production with immediate effect. If note, the people on the street should overthrow their current leaders who sit there doing nothing to protect muslim children and women from dying in the incoming iranan state.
f. Many more

This sounds familiar...

Oh RIGHT! Every single one of these things was predicted by the left-wing before the invasion of Iraq.

And how many of them actually occurred upon the invasion of Iraq? That's right... ZERO.

Posted by: Al on January 16, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Well, to get back to intelligent discussion as versus psuedo-economics. Iran presents a huge challenge and now it's to late to real engage in the discussion of how neat it would be if Bush wasn't such a fuck-up moron and we therefore wouldn't be in this ridiculous situation. It goes without saying. With China as a major purchaser of Iran's oil, China's ownership of vast levels of republican deficit borrowing, and therefore making Iranian oil export sanctions more or less like stabbing ourselves in the back then we find our selves in a sticky situation. And now we get an adverse reaction to bombing in our ally, Pakistan. So do to the fact that we have no responsible intelligent leadership then I would assume that Bush blather on and on and do nothing. Then just a few months before election, for election purposes, he will drop a few bombs here and there in Iran. He will hit nothing and solve nothing but will use it all to appear strong on something. Meanwhile, as with almost everyother major issue, he will either make it worse or leave it totally fucked up for his replacement. All we can hope for is that the next president will be more adapt at leadership and critical thinking.

Posted by: MRB on January 16, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you think Iran exports oil in the first place? Because they want to be nice to us? They will do much more damage to themselves than they can ever do to us.

We're not the only country that imports oil from
Iran. If the price of oil shoots up, Iran will still profit.

Posted by: Stephen on January 16, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Stephen, I've tried to point that out. But it's kind of like yelling down a vacant mine shaft.

Posted by: MRB on January 16, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

"And the evidence you have for this is...?"

Iran's oil exports is almost 10% of its GDP. That is less than half a percent of the US GDP.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 16, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

If there are UN sanctions, it seems to me that Iran could lower their petroleum exports to match their 2002 revenues fairly easily (that would be about 1/3 of their current exports). If prices go up they could cut further and maintain the same revenue stream. I'm guessing that would be palatable to the majority of the Iranian public and any hardship would be blamed on the US and their sanctions. Because of the last few years of high oil revenue, Iran has a very small external debt and considerable foreign exchange reserves.

Posted by: B on January 16, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

a. Saddam Hussein has WMDs and is a gathering threat to US national security.
b. Saddam has ties to OBL and Al Qaeda.
c. We will hunt down and smoke out the mastermind behind 9/11.
d. The Iraq War will be a cakewalk.
e. Saddam got yellowcake from Niger.

Sound familiar?

Oh RIGHT! Every single one of these things was predicted by the right-wing before the invasion of Iraq.

And how many of them actually occurred upon the invasion of Iraq? That's right... ZERO.

Posted by: LW Al on January 16, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Higher oil prices due to an Iranian embargo (not really a good word here; it just means that Iran stops selling oil to the world market) would slow the Chinese economy a bit but would do very little serious damage to the US economy.

The only economy that would collapse would be the Iranian. They couldn't afford it, even for a few weeks.

Posted by: peanut on January 16, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, we don't import any oil from Iran. Not since the 1995 trade embargo.

Posted by: JAC on January 16, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, the ignorant have certainly flocked to this thread.

Higher oil prices mean that everyone spends more of their income on oil and less on everything else. This slows down the economy as less is bought, less produced, etc.

Get it? It really is that simple.

Short-term higher oil prices are bad for the economy. Period. Take your weird snake-oil economic relativity elsewhere.

Oh, and the market for oil is global. We may not buy oil from Iran, but other countries do, and if they get less from Iran they will get it from somewhere else, driving up the world price.

Posted by: S Ra on January 16, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and the market for oil is global. We may not buy oil from Iran, but other countries do, and if they get less from Iran they will get it from somewhere else, driving up the world price.

That is not in dispute and I agree with your argument 100%. Just pointing out that we don't actually import oil from Iran as some had suggested upthread. That is all. Sorry I wasn't clear.


Posted by: JAC on January 16, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Read Staniford's own piece. He's talking about 30-100% increases in the oil price. By contrast, in 1974, when we were WAY more dependent on the oil price, the oil price quadrupled.

Oil is fungible and part of a world market. There is no way the US would not be able to afford oil. Economies with weaker purchasing power might not be able to afford a doubling, but we would. In many ways, in the long run, a sharp increase now in the oil price might not be all that bad, as it might force China to slow down its consumption growth.

Posted by: peanut on January 16, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

I bet Kevin likes Staniford's blog because it's called the Oil Drum.

Posted by: oilslick on January 16, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

"My uninformed gut opinion is that Stuart is actually being optimistic here. A shutdown of Iranian supplies in 1979 led to a doubling of world prices, but that's only because Saudi Arabia made up for part of the loss. They can't do that anymore."

Iran's oil export totals to a whopping 3% of the total world oil consumption, and 5% of the total world oil exports. Please explain how that will double the oil prices. "Uninformed" sounds about right.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 16, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

FF,

Are you really that dense? Have you never heard of price elasticity? If so maybe you should take econ 101 and stop wasting our time.

Posted by: Tripp on January 16, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

I find it sort of ironic that the leader of the free world (that would be the United States, a/k/a "the adult") seems to be the only country in the world that can't build a new nuclear reactor.

Posted by: 512thirteen10 on January 16, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

5,
Not "can't". "Won't"

Powerful forces don't want the reactors and I'm not talking about the eco-kooks.

In the long run it doesn't matter much - nukes are probably a dead end.

Posted by: Tripp on January 16, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

MRB, my original post was this: Because of US proximity to Canada, and huge US supplies of coal, the US should be the economy least hurt. However, the new pipelines to China and Japan should blunt the impact there. The chief beneficiary would seem to be Russia. Doubling prices would also give US energy companies lots more money for reinvestment in new energy, probably even sufficient for them to build nuclear power plants without subisdies.

Not a single assertion that I wrote there is false. Doubling oil prices would give US energy companies lots more money; even though not all the US energy companies are oil produces, a lot of them are. You just can't read.

Posted by: contentious on January 16, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Why isn't anyone considering a differnt angle, perhaps called a 'long term' view of Iran, Iraq, the whole middle east, Oil thing?

Consider short term vs long term:

Short term: agreed that oil is a limited resource. Fighting/war in middle east to get at oil causes lost lives, economic instability, general chaos both for the US and abroad (abroad = entire world). Prices go up for everything, economic meltown (?), general and major troubles, etc.


Long term: once the east is out of oil, enough oil to make a difference to an economy such as the US, Europe, China, etc. What then? We all, the survivors (our children) will have to develop new ways of living,etc. Will likely happen, as it always has.

So what point other than short term economic gain does any middle east country have in the long term? If in the end, they fuck with us, in the end, our resources, (intellectual, natural, etc) will win, and they will stay in the 'sand age' and live as they always have, with little hope of bettering themselves. We will win no matter what....

What's my point? not sure, other than presenting yet another point of view..

PAX

Posted by: AC on January 16, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Might I ask how China'a recent statements about unwinding some of their dollar holdings impacts this entire scenerio?

Do we end up with both an oil shock of some magnitude coupled with higher interest rates as China (and maybe Japan) no longer buys up all the massive US debt and deficits.

Could this border on catastophic for the US economy? Just askin'

Posted by: Charles Stanton on January 16, 2006 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp:>"Are you really that dense? Have you never heard of price elasticity"

I'm dense? Don't you know that oil is a liquid? It has no elasticity at all!!

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 16, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

contentious:"Doubling oil prices would give US energy companies lots more money"

Whew! That's sure to help all of us..

Posted by: John on January 16, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Whew! That's sure to help all of us..

It will if they reinvest the money in new energy sources. And my other critic said it wouldn't even happen.

Posted by: contentious on January 16, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK
ran's economy minister warned over the weekend that sanctions on Iran could "raise oil prices beyond levels the west expects."

I think those of you looking at this as simply a claim that Western economists ran the figures wrong are misreading it.

I think it is a veiled threat by the Iranian government to respond to sanctions with actions directed at the accessibility of other Middle Eastern oil supplies to the international market.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 16, 2006 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Iran is also very rich in natural gas, and would be price flashpoint in an armed conflict with them:

It is commonly known that two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves are located in the volatile Middle East. But has anyone taken a look at who controls nearly two-thirds of the world's proven reserves of natural gas? With nearly 2,500 trillion cubic feet (tcf), Russia alone -- according to the journal World Oil -- controls more than one-third of the world's natural-gas supplies. (By contrast, Saudi Arabia's proven oil reserves comprise 25 percent of the world's total.) With nearly 1,000 tcf, Iran -- have you been reading about the nuclear-proliferation problems Iran has been causing lately? -- controls about 14 percent.
Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

It is in our best interests to ally with Iran, and bring them back into the mainstream through trade ties. If we were to strike a "Grand Bargain" with Iran, Israel and Palestine, we could greatly reduce tensions in the Middle East and Asia, and at minimum it may only require a Geneva Accord-style agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, a commitment by the U.S. and other nuclear nations to disarm, and a new 100% transparency and inspections regime for all nations generating nuclear energy, with no exceptions, and with a common fund of investment to continually improve the power of radiation-detection instrumentation and surveillance. Iran would commit to foregoing nuclear weapons with the assurance from other nations, including the U.S., that they will never be attacked, and that nuclear weapons will be phased out on a verifiable schedule (and of course these facilities would come under the new universal inspections regime).

The U.S. and other nations would give up nuclear exceptionalism, Israel would give up land as determined by the Geneva Accord (and support state of Palestine), Palestine will get a state and give up the right to return, and Iran will give up nuclear ambitions, recognize Israel, and be released from sanctions.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yup. Well, when someone uses economic power to get still more power in the form of an atomic bomb. It does indicate they are more than willing to use that to.

Posted by: McA on January 16, 2006 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

The U.S. and other nations would give up nuclear exceptionalism, Israel would give up land as determined by the Geneva Accord (and support state of Palestine), Palestine will get a state and give up the right to return, and Iran will give up nuclear ambitions, recognize Israel, and be released from sanctions.

Those are great goals, except they don't include on crucial factor: hatred of Israel and the US is used by the Palestinian leadership, the leaders of various Arab states, and the leadership of Iran to keep their people from realizing that their problems--poverty, lack of political freedom, lack of opportunity for their children--stem from the corrupt regimes and their corrupt practices.

Iran and the Arab states never want to lose the Israelis and the Americans as convenient enemies. They want to point at the evil and say to their people, "everything that we do is designed to keep you safe from the oppression of Israel and the Americans."

As a Democrat, I'd love to praise the Kerry/Edwards plan from the campaign to engage Iran and try to disarm them. I won't--it was ridiculous and it wouldn't work.

You want to keep nuclear material out of Iran? You have to take it out of ever country in the region by force. And you have to have the entire world behind you to do it. And that ain't gonna happen with the current administration and their desperate attempt to loot America before 2008.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 16, 2006 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider, did you just say that the Palestinian leadership doesn't want a state?

I think I'll stick with my old theory that Israel doesn't want to give up the Old City and Temple Mount.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 16, 2006 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Those are great goals, except they don't include on crucial factor: hatred of Israel and the US is used by the Palestinian leadership, the leaders of various Arab states, and the leadership of Iran to keep their people from realizing that their problems--poverty, lack of political freedom, lack of opportunity for their children--stem from the corrupt regimes and their corrupt practices.

It's easy to say this, that Iran's leaders won't accept this, but impossible to prove if we never make a good faith effort at a "Grand Bargain". As for other Arab leaders and peoples, the same thing. Until you make a good faith offer, it's only scoundrelish to accuse the other of what is quite clearly our own problem (our own elites have their own interests in the current arrangement, complicated by 9-11 and continuing resistance and terrorism).

You want to keep nuclear material out of Iran?

Not really, since I know it's almost impossible. The only way we could in good faith and in a civilized way prevent nuclear materials in Iran would be to ban ALL nuclear facilities of every kind worldwide, including powerplants. Otherwise we're just being hypocrites, since I see no reason why any self-respecting nation should forego the so-called and promoted economic benefits of nuclear power, it these claims are really true, or let other nations "lord" it over them in an economic apartheid system.

We have no realistic, civilized options to prevent nuclear materials from entering Iran, but we do have civilized means to reduce tensions and possiby prevent nuclear weapons from entering Iran, but that would take truth, reconciliation, and good faith efforts, sacrifices, and assurances by both sides, in an atmosphere of respect and equality.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider, did you just say that the Palestinian leadership doesn't want a state?

No, they certainly don't.

That would mean they would have to disarm Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and about fifty other small splinter groups that have been armed to the teeth, thanks to Iran and the Arab sympathizers. See, you can't have terrorists running around AFTER you've gotten what you were fighting for. Kinda hard to run a country full of suicide bomb designers and snipers.

I wish there was a Palestinian state, and that the vast majority of Palestinians who want to live their lives like everybody else could do so without any intereference from anyone, including Israel.

The sad fact is, keeping those same people convinced that they are in the position they are because of Israel--and not because the people purporting to lead them have stolen every dime they could get their hands on--is too valuable. Unless someone wants to explain how Yassir Arafat became a fantastically rich man and his widow now one of the richest women in the Middle East, I would think that it's pretty clear that if there was a Palestinian state, Arafat's money could buy a whole lot of infrastructure.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 16, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

but that would take truth, reconciliation, and good faith efforts, sacrifices, and assurances by both sides, in an atmosphere of respect and equality.

Excuse me, all sides. We live in a pluralistic and multipolar world, not bipolar.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm,

I'd like to believe in good faith efforts and in trying to deal with Iran as a civilized nation, but I don't know how it would work. Clearly, Iran is under the control of a hardline, radicalized group of Islamic clerics who don't trust the West and have to maintain a firm grip on a large population that wants more freedom.

I don't put much stock in the current President of Iran--he's obviously their puppet, repeating what they want him to put out there.

As for what I would do, the first thing I would do is apologize for backing the Shah. I would repudiate that chapter in our history. Then, I would pray that the Europeans and the Russians could get something done, because we're not a player right now.

We're a little...overextended, thanks to Iraq.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 16, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Any of you who choose to engage the issue of economic aparheid when it comes to nuclear energy exceptionalism are going to have an impossible mountain to climb.

I recommend against it.

Instead, start with respect and all nations abiding by the same duties, rather than some nations imposing duties on other nations they themselves refuse to abide by, and the citizens of some nations claiming rights for their nation and people that our government systematically denies or frustrates to others as our self-interest dictates.

There is no denying that we overthrew the elected democratic leader of Iran several decades ago, and that this boomeranged and resulted in an Islamic revolution to overthrow our puppet dictator. We have never apologized for this, and have instead dedicated ourselves to treating Iran as a belligerent, no matter what they do and did.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to believe in good faith efforts and in trying to deal with Iran as a civilized nation, but I don't know how it would work.

This is what we need to work on, and I suggest a "Grand Bargain" in the interests of all of us. Technology will only become more destructive, in both deadly force and to the prospect of liberal democracy, as the future unfolds.

Clearly, Iran is under the control of a hardline, radicalized group of Islamic clerics who don't trust the West and have to maintain a firm grip on a large population that wants more freedom.

They have no reason to trust us. This is why only good faith efforts calling for respect, humility and sacrifice on all sides is the beginning of positive change.

As for what I would do, the first thing I would do is apologize for backing the Shah. I would repudiate that chapter in our history. Then, I would pray that the Europeans and the Russians could get something done, because we're not a player right now.

I salute your recommendation for an apology for the Shah. Of course, Israel would have to do so themselves, since their support of the Shah is the primary direct reason that Iran is able to sew hatred of Israel since the Islamic Revolution.

We don't need to pray, we need to sacrifice, and end American and Israeli exceptionalism.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm at 10:55:

I completely agree. Well said.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 16, 2006 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

I salute your recommendation for an apology for the Shah. Of course, Israel would have to do so themselves, since their support of the Shah is the primary direct reason that Iran is able to sew hatred of Israel since the Islamic Revolution.

Oh, and Palestine, of course. But we can help defuse and reduce tensions in both these areas with a Grand Bargain and mutual apologies (Iran for hostages and to Israel), since there is no historical reason for hatred between Persians and Jews, and eliminating that tension would help reduce the tensions between Muslims and Jews in Iran as well, and this would be a good start to larger efforts at cultural and religious reconciliation in the region.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider, the real question is whether we can influence either major party, especially the Democratic Party (Republican party hopeless right now), to make courageous efforts in this regard, and to do so adeptly enough to avoid the obvious and defamatory rhetoric that will be thrown their way from the haters on the Right.

Otherwise, we're just riders on a ship that is slowly sinking.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

The haters and dividers will do everything in their power to portray the Iranians as the most vile, insane, unpredictable, evil human beings (if that) alive, and that there is no option other than stamping out this evil.

The song remains the same.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Breaking news from CNN:

..the Iranian government banned CNN journalists from working in the country after a translation error broadcast by CNN mistakenly quoted Iran's president as saying his nation has the right to build nuclear weapons.

CNN was not informed directly by the Iranian government that it was banned from the country.

The dispute arises from a moment of simultaneous translation Saturday.

As Ahmadinejad was speaking, an interpreter working for a translation company hired by CNN misquoted him as having said Iran has the right to build nuclear weapons. In fact, he said Iran has the right to nuclear energy, and that "a nation that has civilization does not need nuclear weapons." He added, "our nation does not need them."

The incorrect translation was re-broadcast on CNN later Saturday.

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Posted by: Date site brazil on January 16, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider, I understand now what you mean; but surely Arafat could have tyrannized a Palestinian state with his security police. He would've been just like Hussein in Iraq or Assad in Syria.

There is no denying that we overthrew the elected democratic leader of Iran several decades ago, and that this boomeranged and resulted in an Islamic revolution to overthrow our puppet dictator. We have never apologized for this, and have instead dedicated ourselves to treating Iran as a belligerent. (Jimm)

We're still trying to install puppet dictators in Iran, Iraq, Venezuela - really, everywhere - but most importantly, in all the oil exporting states, so we can control the global oil market. That's the actual problem with an Iranian nuclear weapon - they could use it to deter us.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 17, 2006 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

and end American and Israeli exceptionalism.

Posted by: Jimm on January 16, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

we can control the global oil market. That's the actual problem with an Iranian nuclear weapon - they could use it to deter us.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 17, 2006 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

You guys keep missing the picture. The US sucks at least a little bit. But not so much that arming a genocidal, fanatical, xenophobic nation that suppresses its own people with a nuke is worth it.

Pakistan has nukes, India has nukes and Israel has nukes.

We have the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish bomb. Enough with the diversity already!

Would you hand out blow and guns in white suburban schools just to achieve equality with inner city crap schools?

Posted by: McAristotle on January 17, 2006 at 5:56 AM | PERMALINK

" If we were to strike a "Grand Bargain" with Iran, Israel and Palestine, we could greatly reduce tensions in the Middle East and Asia, and at minimum it may only require a Geneva Accord-style agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, a commitment by the U.S. and other nuclear nations to disarm, and a new 100% transparency and inspections regime for all nations generating nuclear energy, with no exceptions, and with a common fund of investment to continually improve the power of radiation-detection instrumentation and surveillance." - Jimm.

You read shit like this and you have to think why bother? When your ideas are that unrealistic and unimplementable.

How about some ideas that might rid Iran of nukes in some foreseeable future. Right here, on planet Earth.

Posted by: peanut on January 17, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Would you hand out blow and guns in white suburban schools just to achieve equality with inner city crap schools?

Spoken like one who hasn't visited a white suburban school lately....

Posted by: Jim J on January 17, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

How about some ideas that might rid Iran of nukes in some foreseeable future. Right here, on planet Earth.

I have no problem with an immediate plan to persuade Iran to forego nukes and enrichment, but it doesn't solve the larger problem, and only puts it off, which is where my suggested solution comes in. It's not impossible - only so for our current leadership. And yes, it would take courage, so it's not likely to come from either major party at the moment.

Posted by: Jimm on January 17, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: I do know one thing that would happen: the ANWR and offshore drilling proposals would get a different reception in Congress.

And how much would that offset the effects of an Iranian oil embargo, even assuming (only fair; y'all have wanted to drill in ANWR for ages) that we could ramp up to full production overnight?

This has always been part of what it's about for the left: ANWR is not the Second Coming of the North Slope. It's a small field that might supply 5% of our oil needs for a decade. That's a little over 1% of global consumption during that time. Think a 1% increase in supply is going to offset Iran? It won't even offset one year's increase in demand.

Solving our oil supply problems with ANWR is like trying to stanch a hemorrhage with a Band-Aid. And for that, you'd risk messing up one of our few genuinely pristine landscapes.

Trading a permanent benefit for an absurdly transient one isn't exactly what I call 'conservative' thinking, but then it's been a long time since I considered myself a conservative.

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