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Iranian Banter: Suicidal ‘Oil Weapon’ Threat Renewed

In its final month of ‘intransigence without cost’ regarding its clandestine nuclear weapons program, Iran on Sunday renewed its threat to use its ‘oil weapon’ if the UN Security Council makes good on its threat of sanctions if the Tehran regime does not cease enrichment operations be August 31. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said at a Tehran press conference, “We do not want to use the oil weapon. Do not force us to do something that will make people shiver in the cold. We do not want that.”

Telegraphing Iran’s expected (and previously hinted) rejection of the West’s incentives package, Larijani made clear once more that Iran’s nuclear program is not for sale. “We will expand nuclear technology at whatever stage it may be necessary and all of Iran’s nuclear technology including the [centrifuge] cascades will be expanded,” he said.

As the ‘oil weapon’ issue is raised once more, it is important to consider that such a strategy is more banter than substance, playing to Western fears over oil prices. The Christian Science Monitor’s David R. Francis correctly noted in March 2006 that an Iranian oil export cutoff would be suicidal. Iran relies on oil exports for 90% of its revenues and is already an economy in deficit spending with a burgeoning population.

Unless Iran has a willing suitor for private trade during such a period (though unlikely, consider China for sake of example), the impending economic implosion of Iran and its ruling theocracy could be counted down in terms of weeks. Thus, the threat should be either dismissed or even welcomed.

But while none of this is new in either style or substance, the Times Online article brought to the surface a “UN report prepared last month which alleged that an illegal shipment of uranium was intercepted in Tanzania last October en route from Congo to an Iranian port.” Larijani denied the claims, but a ‘senior Tanzanian customs officer’ provided detail that the uranium was hidden within a shipment of coltan (used in the manufacture of capacitors for electronics equipment) that was bound for Kazakhstan through the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

The UN report is said to express that there is “no doubt” that the uranium shipment came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. There also should be no doubt that it was bound for Kazakhstan. Even still, Larijani said, “This is part of a psychological war which the Americans resort to once in a while to feed the public mind.”