Nimrod Raphaeli of MEMRI argues in "Plummeting Oil Prices – Iran's Options" that the rapid drop in oil prices due to the global financial crisis has particularly severe implications for Iran, where the government has not saved up for a rainy day (its stabilization fund is estimated about US$7 billion, a fraction of what other oil-exporting states have salted away).
In response, Raphaeli speculates, Tehran "may seek to generate a crisis" to cause oil prices to spike, thereby both making economic gains and diverting domestic discontent outward. He offers three possible scenarios: making trouble in Iraq to stop its 1.5-2.0 million b/d from reaching markets; sabotaging an oil tanker in the Gulf of Hormuz to raise both political tensions and insurance premiums; or instigating Hizbullah to attack Israel in a war that perhaps also involves Syrian forces.
Raphaeli leaves matters here, but if the Iranians do take one of these aggressive steps, the likelihood of its provoking an attack by U.S. or Israeli forces on its nuclear infrastructure will go up substantially.
Thus might the financial crisis have the inadvertent implication of impeding the Iranian bomb. Stranger things have happened. (October 30, 2008)