Iran’s “Oil Weapon” Is A Dud

posted at 6:49 pm on December 28, 2006 by see-dubya

I head seen references to the recent National Academy of Sciences report about Iran’s crumbling oil infrastructure in a few places–Allah cheerily noted here that Iran will have the bomb by the time the tanks go dry and Iran turns into Mad-Max level anarchy. Ace, pointed out that it was being spun as a reason not to attack Iraq. The AP report he linked quotes the main scientist saying as much:

If the United States can “hold its breath” for a few years it may find Iran a much more conciliatory country, he said. And that, Stern said, is good reason to belay any instinct to take on Iran militarily.

“What they are doing to themselves is much worse than anything we could do,” he said.

“The one thing that would unite the country right now is to bomb them,” Stern said. “Here is one problem that might solve itself.”

That’s a good conservative sentiment; many problems may solve themselves and don’t need meddling with. But another account of the report in today’s Telegraph quotes Prof. Stern saying something else:

“They cannot afford to carry out their threats to shut off oil supplies,” he said. “There is no oil weapon, it’s just a bluff.”

I think that’s very important. Lemme tell you why.

Iran has two main weapons now it can use against the West. One is the oil weapon. It can threaten to shut off its own domestic production. It can also threaten to shut down production abroad. Ever notice that Iran is always testing anti-shipping missiles? That’s not just so they can threaten U.S. forces but so they can threaten supertankers off the Straits of Hormuz. They are implying that if things go badly, they can make a serious dent in the world’s oil supply.

But the anti-shipping missile batteries can be dispensed with. And the domestic supply, Stern says, can’t shut down without hurting them worse than it will hurt us. (In fact I hear a lot of talk of deliberately targeting their few functioning oil refineries and plunging the country into chaos.)

Their other big weapon is, of course, terrorism–in Iraq and all over the world through their surrogates such as Hezbollah. But that is an issue for another time. For now, it clarifies things:

I. Let’s pretend we’re James Baker and assume Iran is thinking logically. It’s more likely Iran wants nuclear weapons, because they’re bluffing about the oil weapon and they need a solid deterrent. Especially now that they know we know they’re bluffing about the oil weapon. They need a deterrent–against us, against Arabia, against Pakistan.

II. Now let’s question that first assumption. Iran had a choice to allocate money to fixing its oil infrastructure and securing a huge source of national revenue (70%, according to Stern), and helping their shattered economy–or investing in an illegal nuclear weapons program that gives the most powerful nation in the world a great excuse to start a war with them. They chose nuclear weapons. That’s not rational deterrence–that’s apocalyptic thinking.

III. Iran is much more vulnerable now than we thought they were because (A) they can’t hit back as hard as we thought and (B) their own system is pretty fragile. They may be getting a little more vulnerable each month to sabotage as their refinery capacity dwindles, but they will not be this vulnerable again once they get their bombs online.

So: this would seem like a good time to do something. As for the consequences in Iraq, Iran might have better things to worry about when the gasoline riots are right on top of their bunkers.

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Yes, this would be a good time to do something. I wish we were in better shape in the foreign affairs area, though. It’s disheartening to see yet another US senator going against the will of the administration and talking to Syria. There are and have been members of congress all over the middle east, in South America undermining US foreign policy.

The incoming Dems seem to think they have a mandate to change foreign policy. It will be interesting to see if Bush, and more importantly the congressional Republicans, can stand up to the new ‘majority’.

Sadly, I’m pretty much convinced that the GOP will basically roll over for the Dems at every chance they get. If anything does happen to Iran, it’s not going through Congress.

reaganaut on December 28, 2006 at 7:20 PM

My gut feeling is that this talk of nuclear weapons is possibly designed to push our emotional buttons and unite the Iranian public behind the Iranian President. I do believe Iran wants a massive nuclear electric program to drastically reduce domestic oil consumption and allow more oil for export.

Iran sees the writing on the wall as far as domestic supply and demand of energy is concerned and their only hope of growth and remaining a net energy producer is to wean their domestic economy off oil and they need to do it in a hurry, too, because their production efficiency is dropping quickly. If they don’t get their nuclear electrification program underway before they become a net petroleum importer, their economy collapses.

The problem is that they could have that if they would simply cooperate with the international regulatory agencies but at this point it would mean a blow to the ego of the leadership. So they are in a position where they have cut their noses off to spite their faces. The very actions they take to appear unrelenting to international demands result in the further degradation of their oil infrastructure due to lack of foreign investment. This speeds them toward becoming a net importer.

The Iranian leadership appears to be too clever by half.

crosspatch on December 28, 2006 at 7:24 PM

1. Respectfully disagree with the above – What makes you believe that most all of latest news (in many directions) is not just clever disinformation because Iran already has the bomb?

2. Oil weapon would just be one facet (nuclear, other nations support militarily, economically, etc.) of many pronged strategy – as such and in tandem, it would be real – don’t you think?

3. All of the talk doesn’t explain (rather it distracts away from) Iran’s friends (Russia, which supplies it with nuclear fuel, conventional weapons, etc… China, Venezuela, etc.)> Any ideas?

4. All the hoopla, much on style, short on substance………

What will it take – for Iran to set off the first nuke against Israel? before anyone takes the threat seriously?

There were many nay-sayers and apologists in 1938 as well. On the plus side, WW II only lasted near six years – with today’s advanced weaponry, perhaps only six months or even six days if all the stops are pulled.

What is the price of appeasement and is it worth it for the world to once again sit by and do nothing?

Makes you forget that in 1945 many said “Never again”, and why they said it, doesn’t it?

May God have mercy on our collective inattention and Bless our troops, the IDF, and those who support us.

They will need that as well as our continued prayers, at least.

Once again the leadership at home is content to do nothing while we pay the price.

Emmett J. on December 28, 2006 at 8:57 PM

I don’t see Iran shutting off the oil supply, or even dramatically slowing production. They can’t afford it. The U.S. isn’t the only country that consumes oil in the world. President Ahmadummyjerk has done plenty to alienate even their closest “friends” (a reason why his term has been shortened?) and, with a crumbling infrastructure, I have to agree that Iran is a problem that will take care of itself soon enough.

thedecider on December 28, 2006 at 9:51 PM

This is all very troublesome. On one hand, the Iranian regime in charge having a not-so-bright future is heartening.

On the other hand, if they see their grip on power slipping in 10 or 15 years, this could be the decider when it comes to making a choice on “pulling the trigger” on nukes before that comes to pass or as AP has written here before, entangle Iran in an external struggle in order to head off internal unrest.

All the more reason to do everything possible to stop the Iranian development of nuclear weaponry, if it’s not already too late.

Thanks, President Peanut

hillbillyjim on December 28, 2006 at 11:43 PM

Anti-shipping missiles in the straight of Hormuz.

They wouldn’t dare.

Oh don’t get me wrong they could short-term-spike oil futures by sinking a few ships… but it’s not like we wouldn’t respond instantly.

The US Army and Marines may be busy, but the USAF and the NAVY have all kinds of resources perfect for eliminating every coastal structure under Iranian control… without any risk to us. And they just happen to have all those resources available in-theatre, or with a quick hop from Diego Garcia or Guam.

I mean from a psychological/legal point of view it would be great if they tried somthing, because it would provide all the justification we need to level any “Hostile” facility in Iran… without threatening our ground troops.

Iran is a nation we really do not want to invade. But I think we could eliminate the vast majority of their military capability from afar through bombardment / aircraft.

Further, a prolonged infrastructure-destruction campaign in a situation where there are no americans available to vent their frustrations upon could result in the toppling of their government.

So this parody seems appropriate.

I know what you’re thinking. “Did the Americans forget their reason for fighting?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is the US Military, the most powerful Military in the world, and would blow your country clean away, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

Jones Zemkophill on December 29, 2006 at 1:23 AM

If we want to increase the pressure, it’ll only take 9 cruise missiles to collapse the Iranian regime and economy. They have only nine gasoline and diesel refineries, operating (and deteriorating) at 130% capacity. Iran is a net importer of gasoline and diesel. Take out the refineries, use our naval resources to blockade and the mullahs will fall.

rokemronnie on December 29, 2006 at 2:00 AM

The idea that Iran is weaker than most of us believe is shared by historian and columnist Victor Davis Hansen in his article Iran’s Ahmadinejad Far Weaker Than He Lets On at RCP.

As Dr. Hansen puts it:

The world of publicity-hungry Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not expanding, but shrinking. Despite his supposedly populist credentials, his support at home and abroad will only further weaken as long as the United States continues its steady, calm and quiet pressure on him.

By supporting terrorists in Iraq and Lebanon, enriching uranium and insanely threatening to destroy a nuclear Israel, Ahmadinejad is only alienating Iranians, who wonder where their once vast oil revenues went and how they can possibly pay for all these wild adventures.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad has invested little in the source of his wealth – the oil infrastructure of Iran. Soon, even the country’s once-sure oil revenues will start to decline. And that could be sooner than he thinks if the United Nations were to expand its recent economic sanctions in response to Ahmadinejad’s flagrant violation of nuclear non-proliferation accords


In otherwords, we really have THEM by the short hairs, only the MSM, the ISG, the Democrats, and the “realists” don’t have a clue, and are willing to throw this advantage away by “negotiating” with this terrorist supporting regime.

The “realists,” the ISG, the Democrats, etc., are willfully blind to this reality because they think that Iran is willing to help broker a peace in Iraq — they are not. And even if they were, they do not have the influence with the Iraqis to stop the sectarian violence and the violence against us.

In point of fact, Iran is in the similar position that Libya was placed in by Reagan, says Hansen. Rather than talk with Libya’s strongman, we isolated him. We denied him diplomatic recognition. We ignored him. We certainly didn’t go begging for Kadaffy’s help! In 2003, he caved after he saw how easily his “brother dictator” went under.

The “oil weapon” *IS* a dud, as you noted in the headline! Iran is desperately hoping to finish their nukes before the internal unrest, the UN sanctions, or possibly military action, takes Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs down. Because having nukes to rattle, is Iran’s ONLY way to put down internal dissent short of mass murder. Attempting to close Hormuz or attacking oil tankers at sea will simply cause his missile batteries, naval ports, air force bases, and those factories where they make IEDs, and who knows what else, to be destroyed. And rather than unite Iranians, this will almost certainly raise even more internal dissent. As long as we do not invade Iran.

Their claim that all they want nuclear energy is for internal electrical power generation is pure nonsense.

What ever we must do to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons WE SHOULD DO. If the government directly appeals to the Iranian dissidents the way Reagan directly appealed to the Soviet Union’s dissidents, even those in the Gulags, Iran will collapse under the added pressure of economic sanctions and the threat of violence delivered by us or by the Israelis. If they get nuclear weapons, they will use them in an apocolyptic fashion, if necessary, to prevent the regime from going unders.

So the game plan ought to block Iran from obtaining weapons any way we can, including the use of Sanctions or military force. Because when THEIR oil bubble bursts, their economy will collapse resulting in their government falling.

And so we win.

georgej on December 29, 2006 at 6:32 AM

Liberalism: The assumption that everyone thinks the way you do, and therefore … you’re always right.

When are these guys going to get it through their heads that some people don’t think about what’s going to happen to them. Ya know, like SUICIDE BOMBERS?


One Angry Christian on December 31, 2006 at 11:50 AM