Ever since US President Donald Trump stated that the US would reimpose sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, critics have come out of the woodwork. Some have believed Iran’s warnings about oil prices going up, and that Saudis, Russians, and other producers will not be able to increase output sufficiently. Europeans believe that crippling the Iranian economy will lead to more radical behavior from Tehran. And in light of the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives, there are few who feel comfortable with continuing to buy oil from Riyadh, or have any relationship with them whatsoever. All of this is happening in tandem with a new report from the United Nations on the dire situation of climate change. There are steps that we can take to minimize rising oil prices and punish the radical regimes in Tehran & Riyadh.
Those criticizing Saudi Arabia and Iran are both right to do so. These regimes are some of the most barbaric in the world. In Tehran, religious heathens hang gays from construction cranes, ban indigenous peoples from speaking their languages, and financially contribute to the butchery of innocent civilians in Syria. Riyadh is run by fanatic savages that have exported their backwardness all around the world, while instituting an apartheid regime between men & women in the country. The simple-minded and feckless will continue to advocate–needlessly–for continued engagement with at least one of these regimes. Donald Trump and Trita Parsi are both cases in point. Trump and his administration will argue that we need the Saudis to offset the high price in oil from sanctions on Iran. As such, it is highly unlikely that the Saudis will be punished for their role in the Khashoggi disappearance. Trita Parsi, the head of the National Iranian American Council, regularly ignores Iran’s role in regional destabilization and promotes closer engagement between the US and Iran. At the same time, he, quite hypocritically, disparages Arab countries and Israel. While at times, one must be pragmatic and choose the “lesser of two evils,” this is not one of those times. I advocate a new approach. Progressives, capitalists, and environmentalists should all embrace the renewed sanctions on the Iranian oil industry and push for the disengagement from the Saudis that would also cripple their oil sector.
For decades, the world has had the capability to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in order to improve the environment. Movie star and former California governor Arnold Shwarzenegger has extolled the virtues of clean energy, regardless of one’s opinions on the science behind climate change. He embraces the idea that clean energy is the next big capitalist and industrial venture that will create many jobs. Much as the horse-and-buggy largely disappeared after the invention of the car (because we didn’t need it), oil can disappear, or at least be greatly reduced in use, by alternative energy. While nuclear energy may be regarded by many as too great a risk to employ, solar power, wind energy, and electric cars could take the place of oil in a more environmentally-friendly capacity. Investing in these industries and expanding them would also create healthy economic competition that could enable growth. Imagine, for example, all of the young engineers and scientists in the United States that could be employed and receive living wages if a thriving solar power industry took hold in the Sunbelt. Imagine how the US–which is already preparing to destroy Iran’s oil market–could become a world leader in clean energy, while also investing in a business that many Millennials care about.
Sadly, too many people have weaponized Khashoggi’s death as merely another means to criticize Trump (for his close ties to the Saudi Crown Prince), while ignoring Khashoggi’s dubious and shady ties to radical groups; previous acts by the Saudis that are just as reprehensible, if not worse; and Turkey’s own human rights abuses against journalists, such as Hrant Dink. Make no mistake: Turkey’s outrage over Khashoggi stems from its decline. The president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been isolated by Western powers due to human rights abuses and his Islamist governing style. As a result, he has seen his country’s economy deteriorate. After freeing an American hostage in exchange for some economic relief, Turkey is trying to use the Khashoggi case to drive a wedge between the West and Riyadh in order to raise its prestige and save Qatar from a Saudi-led blockade. It hopes that by doing so, it can become the leader of the Sunni-Islamic world and reap economic rewards, while covering up its own terrible human rights record. Countries truly concerned over human rights abuses should not fall for Turkey’s hypocritical and self-serving trap, nor should they ignore the many other human rights abuses committed by Saudi Arabia that are regularly ignored by the media. It is time to translate complaints into action.
Capitalism is about competition, and accepts the “evolve or die” narrative regarding businesses, industries and corporations. It would be hypocritical to exclude the oil industry from this way of thinking. Progressives should be coming out not solely against Iran or Saudi Arabia, but both. Why would anyone choose to side with one of these tyrannical regimes merely because one appears to be even worse? Environmentalists should seize the moment to pressure more countries into adopting plans for clean energy that could create millions of jobs and potentially delay or offset some of the negative effects of climate change. Criticizing Trump for ties to Riyadh or for the Iran oil sanctions is not enough. Progressive leaders need to go on the offensive and prepare to draft oil replacement plans and policies that advocate for slowing or halting climate change through humanitarian, innovative, and fair capitalist means. Cooperation between capitalist businesspeople, environmental activists, and progressives could provide a great if not rare example of unity in a time of great discord in the US. And most importantly, embracing clean energy will relegate to the dustbin of history the barbarians running Tehran and Riyadh, along with the primitive oil industry.