In case you missed these Iran-related talking points last week…
- Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying that “Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it is there that more could be done to squeeze the current government.” While Jay Solomon notes the former intelligence head was speaking in “private capacity,” Faisal has been used in the past to “float ideas” concerning Saudi policy. Faisal allegedly made the “closed-door remarks” earlier in the month, likely after the Saudi-led 4 Gulf country proposal to increase crude oil production was rejected by a 7 country majority (Nigeria remained neutral).Meanwhile discussions about whether markets require more crude oil continue. Earlier in the month Katherine Spector at CIBC World Markets was quoted in Reuters saying that
Saudi is the cartel member most interested in earning political ‘points’ with consuming countries, and maintaining its image as a reliable supplier of last resort….Venezuela and Iran likely feel they have less to gain politically by increasing quotas as a symbolic gesture.
And according to policy analyst Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group, global oil supplies are healthier than they seem because “the most substantial fallout from the Arab world’s recent upheaval is behind us,” more additional supply is coming and OPEC’s biggest producer Saudi Arabia increased production anyway.
Bremmer ends his piece in the Financial Times by noting
Economically stressed oil producers such as Iran and Venezuela always want higher oil prices. But the Saudis and other Gulf Co-operation Council producers maintain a longer-term moderating outlook and they are the ones with the spare capacity to make the difference.
- As an addendum to my post from the 17th, Vali Nasr has also weighed in on the debate about what the departure of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will mean for US policy. Writing in Foreign Policy the professor of international politics states:
Ahmadinejad is a threat to clerical supremacy, but without him, Khomeinism is even more vulnerable to reformist challengers. The alternative would be a right-wing ideological state — nationalist, fundamentalist, populist, and ruled by militarism, something akin to the Japan of the 1930s. And that cannot last. In this contest between Iran’s elite factions, the world should be rooting for the clergy — their victory will bring about the quickest end to the Islamic Republic.
While an Iran nationalist-led Islamic Republic of Iran could indeed prove to be more powerful than the one led by the increasingly hated clergy, Nasr’s statement that “[a]round the region, Ahmadinejad has had little impact” is questionable.
As shown by a 2010 Sadat Chair/Zogby International poll surveying Arab public opinion in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, when asked about the world leader Arabs admired most, Ahmadinejad came in 3rd place, behind Recep Erdo?an and Hugo Chavez. This amounts to quite an impact, no?
According to the principal investigator Professor Shibley Telhami
My own analysis of the results suggested that Iran is benefiting from the sentiment that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This was particularly visible when those polled were asked to identify the two states that posed the biggest threat to them: 88 percent identified Israel, 77 percent identified the United States and 10 percent identified Iran. While the results on this latter issue varied somewhat from country to country, the trend held across countries polled.
But this year the populist leader isn’t only the enemy of the West, he’s also a public enemy of Iran’s traditional ruling elite and it will be interesting to see how Arab populations respond to the increasing attacks on him.