Charles Krauthammer has a depressingly hard-nosed column about Iran today. Near his conclusion, he writes:
The only sanctions that might conceivably have any effect would be a boycott of Iranian oil. No one is even talking about that, because no one can bear the thought of the oil shock that would follow, taking 4.2 million barrels a day off the market, from a total output of about 84 million barrels.
The threat works in reverse. It is the Iranians who have the world over a barrel. On Jan. 15, Iran’s economy minister warned that Iran would retaliate for any sanctions by cutting its exports to “raise oil prices beyond levels the West expects.” A full cutoff could bring $100 oil and plunge the world into economic crisis.
Which is one of the reasons the Europeans are so mortified by the very thought of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The problem is not just that they are spread out and hardened, making them difficult to find and to damage sufficiently to seriously set back Iran’s program.
The problem that mortifies the Europeans is what Iran might do after such an attack — not just cut off its oil exports but shut down the Strait of Hormuz by firing missiles at tankers or scuttling its vessels to make the strait impassable. It would require an international armada led by the United States to break such a blockade.
Krauthammer goes on to bash European myopia, and he’s probably right, but where do we go from here? All doors seem slammed shut. Like Dan Drezner, I would like to see some constructive thought about this from other quarters. Maybe it’s a time when people can finally get off their partisan hobby-horses and take a clear look at a future that will effect all of us and our children.. unless, of course, you think Ahmadinejad is just joking. Then relax and go back to thinking about how you can win South Dakota next year.
UPDATE: I just discovered, via the PJ tip jar, an example of the partisan crapola I was just talking about. According to The First Post, it’s the fault of the dreaded neo-cons that we now face problems in Iran. Okay, now that that’s clear.