Kafka at the Pentagon: the Irony of US Policy Towards Iran
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When it comes to U.S. policy toward Iran, irony is the name of the game. Where to begin? The increasingly fierce sanctions that the Obama administration is seeking to impose on that country’s oil business will undoubtedly cause further problems for its economy and further pain to ordinary Iranians. But they are likely to be splendid news for a few other countries that Washington might not be quite so eager to favor.
Take China, which already buys 22% of Iran’s oil. With its energy-ravenous economy, it is likely, in the long run, to buy more, not less Iranian oil, and -- thanks to the new sanctions -- at what might turn out to be bargain basement prices. Or consider Russia once the Eurozone is without Iranian oil. That giant energy producer is likely to find itself with a larger market share of European energy needs at higher prices. The Saudis, who want high oil prices to fund an expensive payoff to their people to avoid an Arab Spring, are likely to be delighted. And Iraq, with its porous border, its thriving black market in Iranian oil, and its Shiite government in Baghdad, will be pleased to help Iran avoid sanctions. (And thank you, America, for that invasion!)
Who may suffer, other than Iranians? In the long run, the shaky economies of Italy, Greece, and Spain, long dependent on Iranian oil, potentially raising further problems for an already roiling Eurozone. And don’t forget the U.S. economy, or your own pocketbook, if gas prices go up, or even President Obama, if his bet on oil sanctions turns out to be an economic disaster in an election year.
In other words, once again Washington's (and Tel Aviv's) carefully calculated plans for Iran may go seriously, painfully awry. Now, in all honesty, wouldn’t you call that Kafkaesque? Or perhaps that’s a question for the Pentagon where, it turns out, Kafka is in residence. I’m talking, of course, about Lieutenant Commander Mike Kafka. He’s a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command -- believe me, you can’t make this stuff up -- and just the other day he was over at the old five-sided castle being relatively close-mouthed about the retrofitting of a Navy amphibious transport docking ship as a special operations “mothership” (a term until now reserved for sci-fi novels and Somali pirates). It’s soon to be dispatched to somewhere in or near the Persian Gulf to be a floating base for Navy SEAL covert actions of unspecified sorts, guaranteed not to bring down the price of oil.
Certainly, the dispatch of that ship in July will only ratchet up tensions in the Gulf, a place that already, according to Michael Klare, is the most potentially explosive spot on the planet.
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published in November.