Tracing an Iran Oil Blockade Meme

| Fri May 30, 2008 9:44 AM EDT

On Wednesday, Wall Street Journal opinion editors proposed a plan for a naval blockade on Iran of refined gasoline imports. But they don't say where they got the idea.

The Journal:

The Administration would do better to withdraw from this international charade and consider means by which the mullahs might be persuaded that their regime's survival is better assured by not having nuclear weapons. A month-long naval blockade of Iran's imports of refined gasoline – which accounts for nearly half of its domestic consumption – could clarify for the Iranians just how unacceptable their nuclear program is to the civilized world.

Here was Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz in January explaining the idea of thirty year Israeli intelligence veteran Shmuel Bar:

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Dr. Shmuel Bar, a researcher at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center and one of the discussion's initiators, believes that the U.S. can still prevent Iran from reaching the next stage in its program of nuclear development. In place of economic sanctions imposed by the UN, which he feels are ineffective, he proposes imposing a naval blockade on all refined petroleum products imported to Iran.

Sound familiar?

(Bar led a closed session at the Herzliya conference in January that brought together US and Israeli intelligence analysts to discuss the December U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. You can find more of his writings here).

More recently, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert reportedly proposed the blockade idea in a meeting with House speaker Nancy Pelosi, as noted by Judah Grunstein.

On its face while not as overtly militaristic a proposal as air strikes, which some hawks advocate, such a blockade may constitute the kind of provocation that would force international conflict just the same -- which may be some of its proponents' intention. (It may also constitute an act of war.) Worth observing how the blockade idea has worked its way into Washington's public policy discourse, and paying attention to see if becomes a more frequent talking point in right leaning national security circles in coming months.