An op-ed by Orde Kittrie in The Wall Street Journal highlights Iran's "economic Achilles' heel" -- its "extraordinary heavy dependence on imported gasoline." Since more than half of Iran's gasoline imports flow through Dubai, his call to action could pose the first test of Hillary Clinton's independence from her husband's business interests.
Kittrie reports that Iran is purchasing nearly all of its gasoline from five companies: Vitrol (Swiss), Trafigura (Swiss/Dutch), Total (French), British Petroleum, and Reliance Industries (Indian). He notes that should this supply be curtailed "the Iranians could replace only some of what they needed from other suppliers -- and at a significantly higher price." Neither Russia nor China could help because "both are themselves also heavily dependent on imports of the type of gasoline Iran needs."
Most of the gasoline imported into Iran comes through Dubai, located right across the Persian Gulf. Indeed, Dubai is the mainstay of Iranian foreign trade, exporting about $13 billion each year to Iran, including $8.5 billion in goods Dubai acquires from other nations -- especially the U.S. -- and then re-exports to Iran to avoid the U.N. sanctions.
If Hillary and Barack Obama crack down on Dubai and on the European countries that supply Iran with gasoline, they could bring quick, acute, intolerable pain to the streets and government of Iran.
Iran imports a huge amount of gasoline -- about one-sixth as much as the U.S. does. Last month, ArabianBusiness.com reported that "Iran's government needs up to $5 billion more to import fuel for the year to March 2009, in addition to a previously budgeted $3.3 billion, a senior oil ministry official said ..."
This gasoline bill is a huge burden on Iran, a nation with a GDP of only about $270 billion. (The equivalent would be if the U.S. imported over $400 billion in gasoline).
Already, Iran has had to introduce gasoline rationing, which has met with huge popular protest. Iran now rations motorists to thirty gallons of gasoline each month at about 35 cents per gallon. It doesn't dare raise prices or limit supplies further for fear of triggering a revolution.
If Iran gets closer to developing nuclear weapons, it is a foregone conclusion that Israel will have to attack, triggering a massive Mideast war. The Obama administration -- and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- can forestall that possibility by cashing in on Obama's great image in Europe and Hillary's relationships in Dubai to stop gasoline imports to Iran.
It should be their first order of business.
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