As the Barack Obama administration struggles to devise a strategy for dealing with Iran’s intransigence on the uranium-enrichment issue, it appears to be gravitating toward the imposition of an international embargo on gasoline sales to that country.
Such a ban would be enacted if Iranian officials fail to come up with an acceptable negotiating plan by the time the United Nations General Assembly meets in late September – the deadline given by the White House for a constructive Iranian move.
Iran, of course, is a major oil producer, pumping out some 4.3 million barrels per day in 2008. But it is also a major petroleum consumer. Its oil industry has a significant structural weakness: its refinery capacity is too constricted to satisfy the nation’s gasoline requirements. As a result, Iran must import about 40% of the refined products it requires. Government officials are attempting to reduce this dependency through rationing and other measures, but the country remains highly vulnerable to any cutoff in gasoline imports. [continued…]
He may have finished last in Iran’s disputed presidential election, but in the weeks that followed, Mehdi Karroubi has often taken the lead in challenging the Iranian government. After the announcement of the result triggered massive demonstrations in June, Karroubi was one of the first major figures to blame the government for the violence — a brave act considering that the state media was calling the demonstrations riots instigated by foreign powers. And when Basiji militiamen roughed him up on the way to Friday prayers last month, Karroubi spoke out again. “They want to create an atmosphere of threat and terror so that people are kept silent,” he said. And despite the growing atmosphere of official intolerance for challenges to the postelection order, Karroubi has again infuriated supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by publicizing the charge that opposition protesters were raped and abused in prison. [continued…]
As Iranians celebrated the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, they were confronted Saturday with new charges of reform movement supporters being tortured in prison and of bodies being secretly buried in a cemetery on the outskirts of Tehran.
The accusations, filed on Web sites affiliated with the reform movement, added to the push and pull between an opposition movement struggling to keep itself from being silenced and a government that has tried to move past the crisis over the country’s disputed presidential elections in June. [continued…]