THE BLOG

Iran and the OPEC Follies -- What a Difference a Day Makes

May 27, 2011 | Updated Jul 27, 2011

On Monday this corner posted "Trouble Ahead! Iran and Saudi Arabia the "Oil" Brothers." The post was a rumination on the impact the June 8 OPEC meeting in Vienna will reflect as result of the ascendency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Presidency not only of Iran but as the President of OPEC by virtue of his assuming the post of Iran's oil minister while Iran held the rotating presidency of OPEC. An event that was "setting the stage for a highly politicized gathering of the cartel," according to the Financial Times. It became common consensus that Ahmadinejad would use his OPEC prominence not only to push for higher prices to shore up Iran's flagging economy, but to grandstand, thereby consolidating his position at home.

Shortly thereafter however, poof, we learned that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would not participate in the upcoming OPEC meeting. The report thereby undercut a statement last week by a senior government official that Ahmadinejad would chair the next OPEC meeting in his capacity as the country's caretaker oil minister. It appears that the Guardian Council, Iran's constitutional watchdog body, had ruled that Ahmadinejad could not also serve in the oil ministry role.

But then, lo and behold, another bit of news trickled out of Tehran. The Financial Times reported that a senior Iranian government official acknowledged that there exists a "global shortage in the supply of crude" and promised (I repeat the word "promised") that OPEC will keep the market in balance. This from Mohammad Ali Khatabi, an OPEC governor who serves as Iran's permanent representative to the organization. He went on "... OPEC will continue its onerous duty, which is to create balance in the market."

This is a fundamental change in tone and tune. Is it the beginnings of the stirrings of a more liberal and responsible Iran? That would be a most pleasant surprise. Now if only one could get the Saudis similarly responsive in deed rather than in vacuous word, all would benefit.