Iran has a surprising weakness: Its oil and gas industry, the lifeblood of its economy, is showing serious signs of distress. As domestic energy consumption skyrockets, Iran is struggling to produce enough oil and gas for export. Unless Tehran overhauls its policies, its primary source of revenue and the basis of its geopolitical muscle could start to wane. Within a decade, says Saad Rahim, an analyst at Washington consultancy PFC Energy, “Iran’s net crude exports could fall to zero.” . . .

Iran’s looming crisis is the result of years of neglect and underinvestment. As in other oil-producing countries such as Venezuela and Mexico, the government treats the oil industry as a cash cow, milking its revenues for social programs. It allocates only $3 billion a year for investment, less than a third of what’s needed to get production growing again.

Hmm. This almost makes the Bush Administration’s weirdly nonconfrontational (one might even say “oblivious”) stance with regard to Iran seem sensible — but can we wait a decade? I don’t think so.