Iran Threatens US With Closure Of Vital Strait If It Invokes New Oil Sanctions – OpEd


What do Howard Berman, Brad Sherman, Jane Harman, Gary Ackerman and all the other Congressional water-carriers for Aipac care about the impact of their vote for closing Iran’s oil spigot, even if it might force Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation and start a regional war?  This is precisely the danger foreseen by the Founding Fathers when they arrogated the conduct of foreign policy to the executive branch and not the legislature.  Members of Congress grandstand and posture for their constituents.  They pander for votes.  Of course, they will vote for everything Aipac tells them to and more, in return for unlimited cash from pro-Israel donors.  Who the hell cares if their actions bring the region closer to conflagration?  When the shit hits the fan, they’ll blame Obama and say it’s the president who conducts foreign policy, not them.

Iran today warned that if Obama signs into law the new sanctions regime approved by Congress, it will close the Straits.  If it does that it will throw a huge wrench into the flows of Middle East oil around the world and send the price of oil through the roof.

Obama claims he has a plan to counteract such an Iranian act.  What might that be?  He’s not saying.  But it’s highly likely that anything the U.S. might do to respond to such an Iranian closure would escalate tensions even further.  How much higher can they go before real hostilities break out?  And perhaps that’s precisely what the U.S. and Israel want–to ratchet up pressure gradually so that Iran finally breaks and does something that will be a cause for war.  If they do this incrementally, they believe the world won’t be as likely to blame THEM for starting the war.  But we know better, don’t we?

On a slightly different note, UPI is reporting the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the government against the defense contractor which provides the fuses for the bunker buster bombs Obama gave the Israelis for use in penetrating Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.  The lawsuit alleged that fuses for the weapons were defective.  This may have some impact on Israel’s plans for attacking Iran, unless they’ve already solved the problem.

Returning to the NY Times story, I found this passage in David Sanger’s report to be foolhardy:

…A White House spokesman said there would be no comment on the Iranian threat to close the strait. That seemed in keeping with what administration officials say has been an effort to lower the level of angry exchanges, partly to avoid giving the Iranian government the satisfaction of a response and partly to avoid spooking financial markets.

You mean passing a law to destroy Iran’s ability to feed its people wasn’t provocation enough?  And not responding to the Iranian threat will somehow assuage them?  And do Sanger and Obama think that the financial markets don’t read the NY Times and won’t understand the full import of the Iranian threat?

As I’ve written here, any attempt to stop Iran’s access to world oil markets is likely to blow up in our faces.  It will send the price of oil sky-high, it will not necessarily shut Iran out of the markets, and will benefit Iran which stands to gain a financial windfall from increased oil prices.   In fact, today world oil prices broke the $100/barrel  barrier.  Hey, the sky’s the limit.  Howard Kohr and the boys from Aipac are probably working up some new ploy which will send them even higher.  I can’t wait to find out what they have in store for us next.  And this couldn’t have happened at a more opportune moment economically when the 99% (which excludes Obama, Sherman, Harman, Berman, et al.) face a looming recession and nearly 10% unemployment.

Don’t ya just love the cool certainty of this Treasury Department wise man who assures us the administration knows precisely how to handle this situation so that it will cause maximum harm to Iran and minimum harm to the U.S.:

“We have flexibility here, and I think we have a pretty good opportunity to dial this in just the right way that it does end up putting significant pressure on Iran.”

Why didn’t you say so?  Now I know we’re in good hands and nothing bad can come of this nonsense.

So here’s the U.S. plan in all its brilliance:

…The administration’s aim is to reduce Iran’s oil revenue by diminishing the volume of sales and forcing Iran to give its customers a discount on the price of crude.

Got that?  Through some sort of magical hocus-pocus we’re going to cut Iran’s ability to sell oil to anyone.  That won’t send the price of oil for us through the roof by some sleight of hand.  Luckily, there are some sane analysts out there who take a dim view of the practicalities of this:

Some economists question whether reducing Iran’s oil exports without moving the price of oil is feasible, even if the market is given signals about alternative supplies. Already, analysts at investment banks are warning of the possibility of rising gasoline prices in 2012, due to the new sanctions by the United States as well as complementary sanctions under consideration by the European Union.

Note that the administration plans to offer “alternative supplies” to Iran’s trading partners so that they can wean themselves from that country’s oil.  We haven’t ever been able to get the Saudis to do anything we wanted regarding raising or lowering their oil production.  Now all of a sudden not only will the Saudis answer the call, but they’ll have enough to replace what the world supply will lose from Iran.  Libya, Iraq (with it’s Shiite majority largely sympathetic to Iran) and Angola will take up the slack.  Oh, and we’ve got to approve the Keystone pipeline too and approve all those new fracking wells that threaten to destroy the water supply for hundreds of thousands of Americans.  If you believe this fairy tale, I’ve got a rusting hulk of a NYC bridge to sell you.

Another alarming intended effect of the new sanctions is to wreck the Iranian economy, which is supposed to be in free-fall.  But this appears to be a game of chicken: who will such a collapse hurt more–the country’s rulers or the tens of millions of ordinary Iranians who will be bankrupted and starved by the destruction of their national economy?  I strongly doubt that the common folk will rise up to smite their rulers because of the impact of these sanctions.  In fact, it’s liable to have precisely the opposite effect.  While we’re playing this game of Russian roulette determining who will lose the most, thousands of Iranian babies will begin dying from lack of basic sustenance and available health care just as happened in Saddam’s Iraq.  Is this really a moral burden Barack Obama wants to shoulder?  Of course, George Bush was happy to do so.  And the Aipac crowd will be happy to do so as well.  But does Obama want to be called the killer of Iranian babies?

Note also how the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador has become real in this passage from Sanger’s report:

…A plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States…

Now here I always thought it was the responsibility of the government to prove its claims in a court of law.  How foolish of me.  I didn’t realize reporters could decide for themselves that a government allegation was actually a proven fact.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

One thought on “Iran Threatens US With Closure Of Vital Strait If It Invokes New Oil Sanctions – OpEd

  • January 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Iran has the potential to wonderfully balance Israel’s cruel and outrageously exercised Mideast hegemony. Primarily at behest of Israel, United States has persuaded UN to impose increasingly severe punitive sanctions against Iran. Why should Iran be expected to not retaliate in kind. Closing Hormuz would justly impose the same economic hardship on Iran’s tormenters as they have imposed on Iran. Iran has a recent history of peace, whereas Israel has repeatedly initiated preemptive wars, and continuously brutalizes and kills Palestinians.


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