Mr. Putin has a great deal riding on the outcome in Iran. With the Russian economy teetering, he needs a steep increase in oil prices to stave off the collapse of his government. So he has been working to increase tension in the Middle East and now sees the Iranian crisis as potentially helpful — if Ahmadinejad comes out on top.

According to industry analysts, Iran could produce up to four million more barrels of oil per day if foreign companies were allowed to modernize the country’s oil infrastructure. Rapidly increasing Iran’s oil output would likely force oil prices to fall. However, if Ahmadinejad retains power, foreign companies aren’t likely to be invited in and Israel may well feel compelled to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, which will likely drive up energy prices…

But what has been flagging so far has been leadership from the United States. Only in his second statement, a week into the crisis, did President Barack Obama underscore the importance of nonviolence, though he still declined to support the Iranian protestors. I understand the reluctance to provide Iranian leaders with the opportunity to smear the protestors as American stooges. But can the leader of the Free World find nothing more intimidating than bearing witness when it is clear that the regime doesn’t care who is watching?