Tracing an Iran Oil Blockade Meme

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:

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.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.