Michael Rubin bemoans the fact that Georgia is apparently tolerating the transfer of Iranian oil shipments:
Perhaps nothing symbolizes the failure of Obama’s foreign policy more than the Georgian smuggling of Iranian crude.
If the greatest example of Obama’s failures abroad were the “Georgian smuggling of Iranian crude,” he wouldn’t have any failures worth mentioning. Rubin saves himself with that “perhaps,” which still leaves open the possibility that there might be something more serious than this. I have wondered how Iran hawks, who also tend to be anti-Russian hawks, would reconcile Georgia’s economic dealings with Iran. These dealings have been increasing for the last few years, and for the Georgians this has been a matter of necessity. Short of telling the Georgians that they have to cut their own throats economically by refusing to do business with Iran, I’m not sure what the U.S. could do to keep this from happening. Naturally, Rubin makes no suggestions other than repeating the usual boilerplate about the importance of standing with “allies.”
One way to respond to Georgian-Iranian dealings would be to recognize that Georgia is a poor country that can’t afford to share America’s obsession with trying to strangle the economy of one of its largest regional neighbors. Iran hawks might find that regrettable, but would realize that it’s unavoidable. It’s one thing to ask wealthy countries to reduce their oil purchases for the sake of our misguided Iran policy, and it’s quite another to ask an impoverished one to spurn potential trade. Another way to respond might to be to question the logic of sanctioning Iran that when sanctions create economic problems for many countries with which the U.S. is friendly. If sanctioning Iran is hurting relations with Indian and forcing Iran’s other regional neighbors to choose between their own interests and good relations with the U.S., perhaps it isn’t worth doing.
Rubin opts for the most predictable and least imaginative option–blame Obama for what Georgia is doing. He doesn’t cite anything that Obama has done or failed to do that has made the U.S.-Georgian relationship any worse, and he doesn’t explain what could have been done to make Georgia refuse to deal with Iran. Perhaps if Georgia acquires some new leadership that is willing to normalize relations with Russia, it will not have to rely as much on trade with Iran. Otherwise, I expect that Georgia will continue to do what is in its interest regardless of whether that supports misguided Iran policy or not.