Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Goodness! Look at this marxisant rubbish:

American administrations have long sought stability in the Persian Gulf. In early 1980, President Carter declared, “Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” While Carter was addressing an audience in the Kremlin, the Carter Doctrine is as relevant today as it was three decades ago. The United States has repeatedly, by its actions, made clear that domination of this crucial region by a local power is inimical to our vital national interests. The Persian Gulf’s oil production capacity as a proportion of global demand is roughly the same today — about 28 percent — as it was in 1980. The US Fifth Fleet and our other military assets in the region guarantee the free flow of oil through the Persian Gulf.

Perhaps this passage appears in the latest issue of Monthly Review? No, it actually shows up in a February 1 paper from the Bipartisan Policy Center, “Stopping the Clock,” about Iran’s nuclear program. The paper sums up the findings of a working committee chaired by former Sen. Charles Robb (D-VA) and retired Gen. Charles Wald. And here is the last sentence of the paragraph:

But a nuclear-armed Iran would gain de facto immunity from conventional attack, significantly limiting the ability of US forces to ensure a secure supply of oil from the Persian Gulf.

Yes, the analysis above is advanced to buttress BPC’s case, as Reuters says, that Washington should “deploy ships, step up covert activities and sharpen its rhetoric to make more credible the threat of a US military strike to stop Iran’s nuclear program.” The paper concludes with a section titled, “Augment Credibility of Israeli Threat.”

The paper will be chewed over extensively in the coming days, with many noting that the BPC last made a big splash in Iran news with a 2008 report calling for tougher sanctions on Iran and prepositioned military assets in anticipation that diplomacy would fail to halt Iran’s nuclear program and that “kinetic action” might therefore be necessary. An important figure behind that paper was Dennis Ross, who went on to head up Iran policy for the Obama administration (“Wherever you go at State, they tell you, ‘You’ve gotta go through Dennis,’” one insider told Bob Dreyfuss in 2009) and has subsequently left government service…but now sits in an office fitted with a “red phone” allowing the highest US and Israeli officials to speak to him on a top-security line. One might fairly surmise that Ross departed his government job after the 2008 BPC report had become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But the new paper is notable as well for its frank explication of the “vital interests” in the Persian Gulf that help to make Iran a hardily perennial subject of bipartisan concern. (Of course, the paper adduces other reasons for worrying about Iran, too.)

Disruption of oil supply, domestic economic downturn and disaster for global oil markets are frequently cited by opponents of the gathering Iran war talk as reasons why war is a terrible idea and by skeptics as proof that, in fact, there is no military option. Persuasive as these arguments may be to ordinary folks, they are not necessarily viewed as downsides to war by many in the US foreign policy establishment. In fact, right before the passage quoted above, the BPC paper reads:

The consequences detailed above would add greater risk to the secure supply of oil from the Persian Gulf, sparking a long-term rise in oil, gasoline and heating fuel prices that would have serious negative implications for the fragile US economy. Indeed, every $10 rise in annual oil prices equates to a nearly 0.5 percent decline in US Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The paper warns of this scenario not as a result of an air strike on Iran, but as the result of “inaction” as Iran enriches uranium to the high levels that can then constitute fissile material. In other words, the BPC is worried about oil in the event that Iran acquires the “turnkey capacity” to build a bomb, because that would allow “domination of this crucial region by a local power.”

This is not a simple instance of a hawkish think tank turning the anti-war logic on its head to score points. Rather, it reflects how many power centers — not all — in Washington regard the question of Persian Gulf oil and interruptions of the supply. The question is a strategic one; it matters over the long haul. A blinking red light indicating that war talk is getting serious would be people besides the usual proponents of “kinetic action” contending explicitly that short-term disruptions are something the world can live with.

In the meantime, the fact that Ross has signed off on such thinking and is still in such proximity to the innermost US (and Israeli) sanctums is reason not to dismiss the BPC paper as so much bluster.

How to cite this article:

Chris Toensing "Strategic Commodity 201," Middle East Report Online, February 01, 2012.
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