Want to Stop Iran, President Obama? Cut Its Gas Supply

Limited refining capacity is chink in Tehran's armor—and opportunity for US

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 13, 2008 12:47 PM CST

(Newser) – Could Barack Obama petro-blackmail Iran on its nuclear ambitions? Former State Department official Orde Kittrie thinks so. Despite abundant crude oil, limited refining capacity forces Iran to import 40% of its gasoline, Kittrie explains in the Wall Street Journal. And though none of its main suppliers are based in the US, four of the five companies are European; perhaps the new president should test his diplomatic skills on persuading them to boycott.

Some receive money directly from the US government, while others are building facilities on US soil. Plus, the US can likely convince their home countries to apply pressure, too. With Iranian economists complaining about weak existing sanctions, ratcheting up the price of gas “could be a game-changer,” Kittrie argues. “It may be our best remaining hope of peacefully” stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

An Iranian man pumps gas as his family sit in the car, at a station in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, May 22, 2007.
An Iranian man pumps gas as his family sit in the car, at a station in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, May 22, 2007.   (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Due to limited refining capacity, Iran imports about 40% of the gasoline it needs for domestic consumption, Orde Kittrie writes in the Journal.
Due to limited refining capacity, Iran imports about 40% of the gasoline it needs for domestic consumption, Orde Kittrie writes in the Journal.   (AP Photo)
An Iranian man pumps gas into a bottle in a gas station in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday Oct. 14, 2008.
An Iranian man pumps gas into a bottle in a gas station in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday Oct. 14, 2008.   (AP photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
Cutting gasoline imports could force Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to bargain with the US, which is seeking constraints on Tehran's nuclear program.
Cutting gasoline imports could force Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to bargain with the US, which is seeking constraints on Tehran's nuclear program.   (AP Photo)
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Iran right now imports gasoline. If we can prevent them from importing the gasoline that they need that starts changing their cost-benefit analysis. That starts putting the squeeze on them. - Barack Obama

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