Iran Doesn’t Understand ‘Maximum Pressure’

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Iran has misjudged not only the toxic effects of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions on the regime but also the entire psychology of U.S. policy toward Iran. The result is that Iranian unemployment is soaring, its gross domestic product is tanking, inflation is raging, oil prices are crashing, and its friends are fewer than ever — and for the first time in 40 years, the regime believes that it must do something quite radical before it implodes.

2020 is not 1979, not 1983, not 1986, not 2004–2007, and not 2011 — all years when Iran variously pressured the U.S. by taking hostages, killing American personnel in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, threatening oil disruptions, and planning to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C. Now things are redefined for a variety of reasons, most of them apparently still underappreciated by the theocratic Iranian elite.

1) As the world’s largest oil and natural-gas producer, the U.S. is not vulnerable to cutoffs of oil from the Middle East. It, of course, cares about global free passage through the Straits of Hormuz, but not as much as do major importers such as Europe and exporters such as China.

Americans today certainly would not go to war if oil-dependent nations did not themselves first confront Iran over any threatened denial of access through the straits. That said, most Americans would not wish their sons and daughters to die to keep Chinese trade — or even Europe’s oil imports — safe.

As far as the old Middle East “tensions” spiking oil prices and thereby harming consumers in the U.S. are concerned, such theoretical crises now offer a wash to America: Higher gas prices would also mean that the value of ascending U.S. daily oil production would increase by hundreds of millions of dollars every week, because consumers mostly pay fellow Americans for increased gas costs at the pump.

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