The Iranian nuclear threat grabbed center stage at the meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron last week. Jerusalem can chalk this up as a significant achievement. One can assume that the two leaders had a lot of worries on their minds. But Iran is rapidly moving to front and center. It’s not clear if this in itself will prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but it can't hurt.
Over the weekend, Tehran was cut off from the international money transfer network SWIFT. A tourist in the Isfahan bazaar who wishes to transfer payment to a rug merchant for an expensive Persian rug, for instance, will have to go out of his way to find an alternative method or simply give up on buying the rug. Iranian businesspeople are justifiably feeling the heat. It’s not clear if this will prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but it can't hurt.
Reuters reported on Thursday that Obama and Cameron had talked about tapping strategic oil reserves to help settle down oil markets, which have become nervous in anticipation of a possible military conflagration in Iran. If that happens, the world will have to forgo the 2.2 million barrels of oil per day supplied by Iran. Even worse, closing the Strait of Hormuz would affect the 17 million barrels of oil that pass through there daily.
A White House spokesman denied that the two leaders had agreed to tap U.S. emergency oil reserves. It’s possible the idea was just a U.S. trial balloon. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. citizens are unhappy with the president’s economic policies. We can expect more trial balloons soon. A balloon for every gallon (of oil).
In an election year, Obama has no alternative but to find a way to bring down gas prices. He has yet to see a boost in polls from the recent decline in unemployment, and now he has to deal with rising gas prices that are approaching record levels previously seen in 2008 ($4.11 per gallon).
The most recent U.S. polls indicate that most U.S. citizens support an attack on Iran but are outraged by the rise in oil prices. Obama has drawn a connection between the two. Regular Americans less so. It’s not clear that this will prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but it can't hurt.
Meanwhile, the Oscar-winning Iranian film “A Separation,” is being screened all over the world. It’s an amazing and moving film that shows Iran’s human side. Iran’s citizens are not all Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. It’s not clear that the film’s success will prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but it can help us dream that negotiations and sanctions will lead the Iranian people to rise up and do something. It’s not clear that this would prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but it can't hurt.
We’re all waiting for April with bated breath. Talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers are expected to resume then. Almost in tandem, North Korea has announced it is sending a satellite on a long-range rocket into space. “If they were to go forward with this launch it is very hard to imagine how we would be able to move forward with a regime whose word we have no confidence in,” said State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. The day may come when she says the exact same thing about Iran. In the most optimistic scenario, she would say this to them prior to an attack. It’s not certain that this would prevent Iran from getting a bomb, but it could very much help.