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The real reason Joe Biden won't punish Iran

OpinionThe real reason Joe Biden won't punish Iran

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Is President Joe Biden scared of starting a broader war if he attacks Iran? Or is he worried about gasoline prices going up, torching his reelection bid?

The pusillanimous response of Biden to attacks on U.S. troops has enraged critics. Many want the president, who pledged to hold accountable “all those responsible” for the deaths of three U.S. soldiers, to strike Iran. To go after the head of the snake and squash Tehran’s ability to fund and train the terrorists who continue to attack U. S. personnel.  

He won’t do it. Why? Because he’s scared to death that hitting Iran’s oil fields or export facilities would drive global oil prices higher, and boost the cost of gasoline in the U.S. Gas at the pump might go back to $5 per gallon, a record reached in 2022; Biden, already a massively unpopular president, cannot tolerate that. Nothing drags down his approval ratings faster than skyrocketing prices at the pump; in an election year, he will do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen.

This, folks, is the elephant in the room.


Consider: war in the Middle East has always caused oil prices to soar. Astonishingly, today’s $72 per barrel price of West Texas crude oil is actually below where it was trading the day before all Hell broke loose in Israel on October 7. Why is this time different? Because everyone understands Biden’s self-serving game, but few will say it out loud.

Part of the reason oil prices globally have been fairly stable over the past year, and that gasoline prices in the U.S. have held steady, is that Biden’s team allowed Iran’s exports to increase by half a million barrels per day, surging to a five-year high. Iran was one of the main sources of extra global production in 2023, even though tough Trump-era sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports remain in place. Biden’s team has simply chosen not to enforce them.

Worse, the White House lied about it. Janet Yellen told reporters last year, after the October 7 attacks, “We have not in any way relaxed our sanctions on Iranian oil.” That was false. One month later, White House adviser Amos Hochstein said on Bloomberg TV about Iran’s oil exports, then running at one million barrels per day, that “Those numbers will come down.” That never happened. 

Note that the 2023 jump in exports earned Tehran about $10 billion in extra revenues. Ten billion dollars can buy a lot of weapons, especially when combined with another $10 billion in Iraqi-held funds that Biden handed over to Tehran via a special “waiver” from sanctions.  That transfer, incredibly, took place after Iran-backed Hamas attacked Israel.      

It isn’t just our dealings with Iran that have been undermined by Biden’s fear of higher gas prices. Foreign policy regarding Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, has also been (mis)guided by this one imperative.  

Eleven days after the Hamas massacre, as oil prices initially spiked on concerns about a broader Middle East conflict, Biden lifted Trump-era sanctions on Venezuelan oil and gas. (This came about a month after the president banned all drilling in the U.S.  Alaska Wildlife Refuge.) 


The relief was supposedly in return for the notoriously brutal Nicolas Maduro government holding democratic elections this year. News of the deal immediately drove oil prices lower. Just recently, amidst soft oil markets in part caused by and rising production in Iran and the U.S., weak demand from China and with Maduro blocking an opposition candidate from running, Biden is moving to restore sanctions. You can’t make this up. 

And we all remember President Biden eating humble pie as he traveled to beg Saudi Arabia to increase oil production during the Great Gasoline Crisis of 2022. Suddenly, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was not such a “pariah”; Biden even gave him a “fist-bump”. Unhappily for Biden, who had gratuitously insulted MBS early in his presidency, the Saudi royal said no. 


Biden’s policy toward Iran is inexcusable. As with the southern border, former President Trump bequeathed to his successor policies which were working. The Trump White House developed the Abraham Accords, a rearrangement of alliances which promised to solve one of the world’s most difficult and long-lived conflicts. Those agreements led to a growing coalition of Arab Gulf countries that, in league with Israel, formed a solid bulwark against Tehran’s terror activities. 

Because it was Trump’s approach, Biden discarded the progress that had been made. Instead – foolishly – he reverted to the failed Obama-era effort to coax Iran away from its nuclear ambitions. 

Even the benighted foreign policy team assembled by Joe Biden must understand that cutting off Iran’s oil revenues would undermine their campaign of terror. After all, the U.S. did it before. In 2016, when Trump became president, oil exports from Iran averaged 1.8 million barrels per day; by 2019, after the U.S. had withdrawn from the JCPOA and imposed sanctions, that figure had plummeted to 530,000 per day. In 2023, after two years of Joe Biden driving the bus, exports had nearly doubled, growing by about 50% and hitting a five-year high of 1.29 mb/d. 

Most of that surge in exports, and 90% of all Iran’s exports, has gone to China. Biden’s soft-on-Iran posture is a windfall not only for the mullahs that want Americans dead, but also for Xi Jinping.  


The impact of Biden taking his foot off the brake is enormous. Iran’s foreign currency reserves totaled $122.5 billion in 2018; because of strict sanctions imposed by the Trump White House, they plummeted to just under $15 billion by the end of 2019. Since Biden took office, they have steadily grown, and stood at more than $24 billion by October. 

Americans do not like being embarrassed on the world stage. We don’t like our country to look weak. Jimmy Carter found that out, when he failed to rescue U.S. hostages held in Tehran and was subsequently bounced out of office. Biden may face the same fate this coming November. 



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