United States shouldn’t meddle in Iran oil woes

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In comparison to this country, Iran has some of the lowest gasoline prices in the world, at about 39 cents per gallon. But they are going up to about 50 cents — and stiff rationing is being instituted. Drivers buying more than 13 gallons per week will have to pay twice the minimum.

How is this possible in a county that possesses the fourth-largest petroleum reserves in the world (behind only Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada)?

Blame the country’s fundamentalist Islamic regime, at least in part. Though Iran has enormous reserves, it lacks adequate processing plants.

Blame the regime, too, for its reaction to protests against higher gasoline prices. In addition to promising harsh crackdowns against protesters, hardliners in Tehran have shut down internet access to the 80 million people in Iran.

Leaders of the regime blame U.S. sanctions for Iran’s economic woes. In truth, they have played a major role. But when an oil-rich regime such as Tehran’s cannot exist without gasoline rationing, there clearly are systemic problems, too.

Some U.S. officials may be tempted to provide covert support for Iranian protesters. At this point, that could be a mistake.

Meddling in other countries’ internal affairs leads to accusations that any regime change was engineered in Washington. We already know what the consequences of such charges can be in Iran.

Now probably is the time for U.S. officials to let the Iranians handle their own disputes — providing the regime does not crack down through major bloodshed. That could alter the situation dramatically, but even then, Washington should act only in concert with a solid coalition of other nations.

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