Wall Street Journal: The U.S.’s escalating pressure on Iran appears to be having some impact, opening up opportunities for real advancements in U.S. foreign policy, whether containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions or underpinning a democratically elected government in Lebanon. The Wall Street Journal
By MICHAEL CONNOLLY
February 20, 2007
The U.S.’s escalating pressure on Iran appears to be having some impact, opening up opportunities for real advancements in U.S. foreign policy, whether containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions or underpinning a democratically elected government in Lebanon. But rather than seeking a quick fix in its contest with Iran, as the U.S. did in Iraq by launching a war, Bush administration officials say they are bracing for a protracted struggle to curb Tehran’s influence in the region.
The Bush administration is pursuing a two-pronged strategy of directly challenging Tehran in places such as Iraq and Lebanon, while seeking to exploit fissures believed to be emerging in Iran’s already fractious social and political systems. The emerging strategy includes military movements to underscore U.S. resolve as well as increased financial pressure to drive a wedge between Iran’s leaders and the country’s merchants. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury announced new sanctions on three Iranian energy companies. It’s notable, however, that the European Union has taken the opposite tack, expanding trade with Iran even as Brussels has professed concern about a nuclear-armed Tehran.
While U.S. officials insist the U.S. strategy isn’t designed to court a war with Iran, it still is fraught with risks, as Jay Solomon and Yochi Dreazen report. Iran could misread or overreact to some American moves, and strategists at the Pentagon concede that U.S. attempts to target Iranian agents operating inside Iraq could stoke a much larger response from Tehran’s paramilitary forces, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Meanwhile, a longstanding Iranian vulnerability is growing: its oil exports. While the energy industry accounts for some 85% of Iran’s export income, such oil shipments may be poised to go into a steep decline, as Bhushan Bahree and Bill Spindle report. Some industry researchers say they can see the day — perhaps 10 years off — when Iran may have no oil to export unless it dramatically changes the policies affecting its oil industry. Such an outcome would not only rob world markets of a major source of supply, it would also leave the Iranian government with no oil revenues to placate its fast-growing population.
Read our report on Washington’s Iran strategy by Jay Solomon in Washington and Yochi Dreazen in Iraq:
Read Bhushan Bahree’s report on Iran’s rapidly dwindling oil exports:
Read Bill Spindle’s fascinating report from Ahvaz, Iran, on the crisis caused by Iran’s increasing oil consumption:
Read our editorial writers’ views about Europe’s tax-subsidized business with Iran:
Read Bret Stephens’ Global View column on our opinion pages about the success of French investigative magistrate and counterterrorism supremo Jean-Louis Bruguiere using terrorism-fighting powers that in the U.S. would amount to multiple violations of the Constitution:
Read our report on Iraq’s oil situation by Chip Cummins in London and Hassan Hafidh in Amman, Jordan: