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By Barry Rubin

Summary: It’s not every day when I high-ranking official of a revolutionary Islamist group that seeks world revolution, wiping Israel off the map, the widespread use of terrorism, and the destruction of the United States becomes head of the world’s most powerful energy organization on whose suppies America is dependent.

Rostam Ghasemi is a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and runs one of its big military-industrial operations. In other words, he makes arms some of which are sent to Iraq to kill Americans. He has just been appointed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be Iran’s oil minister. Ghasemi, an engineer, has been personally sanctioned by the United States and EU because of his involvement in Iran’s nuclear program.

This is the man who will now head the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC), which sets the prices and production levels for oil Why? Because in October it became Iran’s turn to choose that person. Iran is second only to Saudi Arabia as an oil exporter. Iran’s interests are to get prices as high as possible and thus hold down production levels when possible.

This is the opposite of Saudi interests since that country has far fewer people and thus wants a longer-term strategy. In addition, unlike Iran, the Saudis have extensive investments in the West and so have an incentive to keep Western economies healthy. With an increasingly powerful Iran racing toward nuclear weapons and an increasingly weak United States racing toward abdicating international power, the Saudis have to pay more attention to Iran’s demands.

As the Obama Administration acts against oil drilling and makes production harder, the supply situation is becoming more dangerous. It isn’t that Ghasemi will do whatever he wants, of course, but having a doctrinaire Iranian Islamist radical heading OPEC as a sanctions-deying matter is somewhat scary, right?

Now, President Obama, about that little matter of drilling in the “Gulf.” You have a choice: “Persian” or “of Mexico?”

Note: An economist I know suggests that the effect will make the Saudis ignore OPEC and do what they want on production levels.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His articles published originally in places other than PajamasMedia can be found at   

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