Russian Oil Weapon?

Two pieces from the Jamestown Foundation provide food for thought.

First, Russia is not keeping its contractual obligations in supplying oil to Germany.

Second, Russia is blatantly trying to use the Austrian government to take over the largest Hungarian oil company against its will (read the fine print on this one, it’s subtle).  Austria is happily complying, because their own state-owned enterprise is hopelessly moribund at the same time as MOV, a completely private firm, threatens to make Hungary an energy power in Central Europe — bad for OMV, really bad for Russian geopolitics.

The writing on the wall is that it is in Germany’s geopolitical interest to make certain that MOV survives, and that there are as many alternatives to Kremlin oil (you can’t really call it Russian oil, since the industry is an explicit arm of the siloviki in Moscow) as possible.

The Kleptocrat and the Mouthpiece

The Kleptocrat has just returned to power in Iran.

Rafsanjani is not a nice guy.  He runs the same sort of neo-feudal, nepotist-kleptocracy that has long characterized mid-east tyrannies for years.

But at the same time, Rafsanjani is more than willing to discuss basic reforms, and moderate the more hard-line positions, because it’s become overwhelmingly obvious that Iranian anger at the hardliners makes this a safe position.

Vetted figures are obviously no more available than they are in Russia, but relatively recent data suggests double-digit inflation and unemployment at least that bad, not to mention gas shortages (humiliating for a major exporter of oil).

Any progress in Iran is welcome.  Even an Iran more-or-less operating according to the Chinese model would be a giant leap forward to world peace.  We don’t have to, in the words of Senator McCain, “bomb-bomb Iran,” in order to see progress happening…  but we do need to be realistic about how to empower the kleptocrats at the expense of the uber-conservatives without telling ourselves fairy-tales about the former’s trustworthiness.

There are plenty of moderate, cosmopolitan Iranians who will gradually force their regime into an open society… if they are only provided the breathing space to do so.

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