November 17, 2008

Former State Dept official echoes neocon oil argument

The continuing saga of the only new idea neoconservatives have had regarding Iran.  Though the blockade bill died in Congress, the idea of stopping oil exports to Iran continues…
Former State Department negotiator Orde Kittrie spoke on Thursday about viable alternatives for pursuing peace with Iran at Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) where he is a visiting professor. “A US or Israeli military strike on Iran is bad idea and a nuclear Iran is a bad idea. We should attempt to persuade them peacefully” he said.
Among the reasons why a peaceful solution must be found to the Iranian nuclear question, Kittrie emphasized the notion that a nuclear Iran would prompt other states in the region to proliferate. He explained that in a region where conflicts tend to get out of hand quickly, nuclear arsenals would further escalate the situation. Additionally, “the apocalyptic ideology of the Iranian government makes it hard to determine whether deterrence would work” said Kittrie.
Kittrie’s plan for forcibly coercing Iran to give up its’ nuclear program centers on pressuring global corporations such as British Petroleum, VITOL, Trafigura and Total to cease exports of refined petroleum to Iran. Kittrie notes that although Iran sits on one of the richest deposits of crude oil in the world, they still import over 40% of their refined gasoline. In order to convince these companies to stop their dealings with Iran, Kittrie suggests that we utilize a combination of strategies. First, “we should ask.  Bush never asked.” If that doesn’t work, Kittrie suggested that the US should utilize their leverage with these companies by denying investment opportunities.
There are serious concerns as to whether this plan would work due to the opaque nature of commerce. The overabundance of smuggling, laundering and outright deceit seems to indicate the weakness of this plan from the beginning. Kittrie suggests that as long as we can convince the big five companies to cease exporting oil to Iran, the plan would have its desired effect.  But in the international oil market, where there is an incentive to cheat it is usually a good bet that someone eventually will.

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