According to an analysis by the National Academy of Sciences, Iran is experiencing a serious decline in revenue from its oil exports and, if the trend continues, income could virtually disappear by 2015. The author of the study is Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University and, as reported by the Washington Times, Stern seems a bit too eager to convince us that the U.S. doesn’t need to worry much about Iran’s development of nukes (and to argue for Iran’s need to develop nuclear energy for its own consumption).
If the United States can “hold its breath” for a few years, says Stern, it may find Iran a much more conciliatory country. Stern thinks that we should therfore control any instinct to take on Iran militarily, since “what they are doing to themselves is much worse than anything we could do” and “the one thing that would unite the country right now is to bomb them.” Stern concludes that this is “one problem that might solve itself.”
It might, at that. But does Stern really believe that Iran’s oil revenue is headed to zero by 2015. Isn’t it more likely that Iran will correct at least some of the flaws (e.g., poor management, refinery leaks, failure to reinvest in the industry) that are producing the decline in oil revenues? And, if it doesn’t, can we be confident that an impoverished Iran will lose interest in nuclear weapons and cease to be belligerent? That hasn’t been the case with North Korea.
I’m not discounting that possibility of regime change from within under either good or bad economic conditions. But I’m not sure how wise it would be for the U.S. to base its policy towards Iran on the assumption that Iranian oil revenue is going to dry up.
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