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Defusing the Middle East Would Lower Gas Prices

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The author of this entry is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or
March 23, 2012 | 2,724 views | 7 comments

By Sheldon Richman

Republicans see rising oil and gasoline prices as an opportunity to score political points on President Obama. To be sure, Obama is partly responsible for the rise in world prices and could do something about it. The irony is that Republicans would emphatically oppose the one measure that would be most effective in easing the pressure on prices right now: defusing tension in the Middle East by taking the war threat against Iran off the table.

Tension in the Middle East tends to push prices up, because the threat of war puts this major oil region under a darkening cloud of uncertainty. With Iran the tension is even greater because it is located on the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, 21 nautical miles at its narrowest point. Roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil moves through the strait, which is key for getting oil from the gulf countries to the rest of the world.

Iran has threatened to mine or close the strait in retaliation for an attack by Israel or the United States. The danger to oil tankers traversing the strait would shoot insurance prices through the roof, and the price of oil would follow as the supply diminished.

Since American and Israeli war talk directed at Iran is undoubtedly responsible for much of the recent price rise, it stands to reason that ceasing that talk convincingly would take the pressure off and would allow prices to fall again.

So why aren’t the Republicans calling on Obama to extend an olive branch to Iran? The answer is simple: Republicans (excepting Ron Paul) place American imperial bullying ahead of everything else. They may talk about the virtue of free markets and private property, but clearly their priority is American hegemony, no matter the cost in taxpayer money and freedom.

They would rather risk cripplingly high gasoline and oil prices -- not to mention crippling American military personnel and Iranian children -- than pass up an opportunity to rattle their sabers in defense of the American empire and to show how fierce these chicken hawks are. (Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich spent no time in the military, much less in a war zone. Such politicians are often the most eager to send men and women to war.)

To hear them tell it, the very existence of the United States and Israel is at stake in the confrontation with Iran over its alleged nuclear-weapons program. Nonsense. American and Israeli intelligence say that the Iranian government has not decided to build a nuclear weapon. Every pound of uranium in Iran’s possession is under an International Atomic Energy Agency seal. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons years ago, and repeated this prohibition as recently as February. Furthermore, no American or Israeli official seriously believes that Iran would use a nuclear warhead to attack, even if it did build one. Why not? A nuclear strike on Israel or the United States would summon a devastating second strike that would destroy Iran and its government -- and no one believes the Iranian regime is suicidal. Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, himself says survival is the regime’s top priority.

So why the loose war talk? Why does Obama menace Iran without provocation by declaring that “all options are on the table,” including “all elements of American power” (emphasis added)? Why has he imposed harsh economic sanctions, which inflict pain on the Iranian people and which constitute an act of war under international law?

The reason is that America’s top politicians, Republican and Democrat, are locked into the imperial mindset. In their view, this country -- more precisely, the man who presides over the national government -- is the policeman of the world. They embrace President George H.W. Bush’s decree from 1990: “What we say goes.” If the president doesn’t like something, he reserves the authority to do something about it -- militarily if “necessary.”

So they are willing to go to war, or to risk it in a deadly game of chicken, regardless of the cost in human life or economic growth.

More expensive gasoline for the rest of us is a small price to pay for their imperial ambitions.

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of The Freeman magazine.
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Your Opinions and Comments

4 th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Springs  
March 27, 2012 9:39am
How about fully developing all out natural resources (gas, coal, petroleum, wind, solar) to the point that we are self-sufficent and tell those idiots, killers, terrrorist in the Middle East and South America to shove it? Then,... More ›

Rock'n chair Rambler  
Over Taxed, TX  
March 27, 2012 8:21am
"The FFF is a left-wing 'thinktank' " Not so much. It's a libertarian organization. They don't do a lot of thinking - mostly just bellicose ranting against whoever is in charge. "we spend billions... More ›

Russell Dickerson  
Floresville, TX  
March 27, 2012 8:02am
1) The FFF is a left-wing 'thinktank' which has a clear record of anti-Israel sympathies 2) In order to lull you back to sleep, they include many falsehoods and half-truths. I prefer to take the Iranians at their words... More ›

Rock'n chair Rambler  
Over Taxed, TX  
March 24, 2012 3:47pm
"their priority is American hegemony," We certainly do intervene way more than we should in other countries, but not to dominate them for imperialistic reasons. We get nothing out of the effort except hatred. We... More ›

Alvin Charmaine  
March 24, 2012 6:13am
Sheldon would have us kick the can down the road yet again. You have to deal with your problems not run away from them. The Iranians have been attacking us for 30 years.

Tracy Bogert  
Von Ormy, TX  
March 23, 2012 9:32pm
You have some valid points. It is my opinion that less tension in the Middle East would lower prices a little but not much. On or about April 4th or 6th Exxon Mobil and 6 or 7 other giants of the industry will announce record... More ›

Elaine K.  
March 23, 2012 10:29am
New column posted.

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