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     JULY-AUGUST 1998      


Iran and Mobil,
an Unholy Alliance

Herbert Zweibon

The Clinton administration's strategy of appeasing Iran is moving full speed ahead, as the Iranians devise new ways to avoid U.S. sanctions. It's part of an emerging pattern of the Clinton administration talking tough about terrorism and human rights while pursuing business arrangements with those states that violate civilized standards of behavior.

The latest move involves Iran's attempt to control oil coming from Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. With the aid of the Mobil Oil corporation, Iran intends to carry out what are called "oil swaps": oil producers will deliver crude petroleum from the Caspian region to Iranian ports, and will pick up equal amounts of Iranian crude oil from Persian Gulf portsa scheme not explictly prohibited by the existing U.S. sanctions. This arrangement will "allow Iran to feed Teheran and other northern cities with oil, without the cost of transporting crude from its southern fields," the Wall Street Journal recently noted. U.S. sanctions are supposed to prevent private companies from taking part in such oil-related deals with the Iranians, but the Clinton administration seems ready to back down and let Mobil have its way.

In May, Clinton waived sanctions that would have stopped three foreign companies (from France, Russia, and Malaysia) from investing $2-billion in a huge new natural gas field in Iran. The waiver was issued despite the fact that Iran has not yet made the slightest move in the direction of ceasing its sponsorship of international terrorism or its development of weapons of mass destruction.

Clinton's theory seems to be to ignore the behavior of rogue states, in the hope that if America is nice to them, they'll be nice to America.

Iran is not the only beneficiary of Clinton's soft-on-dictators policy. China is being rewarded with warmer U.S. friendship despite its refusal to make any serious human rights improvements. Syria seems to be virtually immune from U.S. criticism, and administration officials are still pressing Israel to give Syria the
strategically vital Golan Heights, despite Syria's continuing sponsorship of international terror.

To what extent are such policies being influenced by large corporations? Mobil Oil recently placed an ad in the New York Times heaping praise onMadeleine Albright and the Clinton administration for attempting to open a dialogue with Iran. In a display of almost startling frankness, the Mobil ad declared: "As a company with many interests in the region...we have asked the administration to consider some modest policy options that would engage Iran...without undermining U.S. foreign policy goals. These include permitting U.S. companies to negotiate business arrangements in Iran...granting a limited waiver to use Iranian equipment in the Caspian region and allowing limited oil swaps."

Mobil claims that the U.S. can engage Iran "without undermining U.S. foreign policy goals." That is absolutely wrong. Oil swaps with Iran will damage U.S.-backed plans for pipelines through Turkey. It would make more sense to have an ally of the U.S., such as Turkey, benefit, rather than a rogue state like Iran. Delaying the pipeline project through Turkey is clearly not in the national interest. Even worse is the possibility of a pipeline through Iran that would give the hostile Iranians control of the flow of oil from the Caspian fields. Mobil should not be given the permit.

Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel.


The Implications of Withdrawal ...3

Oslo and Israel's Supreme Court ...4

Reign of the Grasshoppers ...5

Netanyahu, Then and Now ...6

Israel at 50 ...8

The Taiwan Lesson ...10

July-August 1998               - 1 -               Outpost


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