To confront Iran, the United States must first confront Europe--and more specifically, the continent's powerful business lobby. This confrontation will come into focus in the next months. As Iran refuses Barack Obama's open-handed offer of engagement, the administration will turn towards sanctioning the Islamic Republic. And while there are surely ways in which the United States can tighten the economic screws on the Mullahs, it is Europe that has a much livelier trading relationship with Iran.
When historians one day dissect the long arc of humankind's use of fossil fuels, they may very well zero in on October 9, 2006, as a turning point for Big Oil. That's when it became clear that the major oil companies--the giants that had survived numerous predicted extinctions and gone on to ever-greater profit and influence--were undergoing a tectonic shift and would either reinvent themselves or die.