As I mentioned yesterday, to the extent that the federal government has a role to play in lowering gas prices, one of the biggest things they can do is stop making the world believe that Iran faces an imminent attack on their nuclear facilities that will potentially inflame the entire Middle East and threaten the security of oil shipments. So it’s fortuitous that this intelligence assessment was released in the past 48 hours:
As U.S. and Israeli officials talk publicly about the prospect of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, one fact is often overlooked: U.S. intelligence agencies don’t believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb.
A highly classified U.S. intelligence assessment circulated to policymakers early last year largely affirms that view, originally made in 2007. Both reports, known as national intelligence estimates, conclude that Tehran halted efforts to develop and build a nuclear warhead in 2003.
The most recent report, which represents the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build a weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.
Although Iran continues to enrich uranium at low levels, U.S. officials say they have not seen evidence that has caused them to significantly revise that judgment. Senior U.S. officials say Israel does not dispute the basic intelligence or analysis.
The real ju-jitsu here would be for the President to make a speech affirming the consensus view of the US intelligence community, and then blaming everyone who disputes it and hypes the threat from Iran as being fully responsible for soaring gas prices.
Now I don’t really expect this, but it’s simply a fact that some of the over-speculation in oil futures (though not all) comes from the expectations of a military strike on Iran. And so anything that pushes things further in that direction has a material impact on prices. Belligerence keeps Americans paying more at the pump. A smart strategy would highlight facts over overblown rhetoric and frame the argument as “People who base their statements on myths are costing US consumers billions of dollars.”
But this is a tough sell, of course. 71% of Americans believed Iran already had a weapon in February 2010. The mythmakers have won out. And between the Israel lobby and the military-industrial complex generally, there’s a lot of momentum for continued hyping of the threat beyond all knowledge we have of the situation.
But I’d certainly like to see it.