As international attention focuses on Iran, everyone’s shared assumption is that it’s a huge and rising danger, thanks to [cue ominous music] the power of oil. And indeed, with so much oil, why would it need to build nuclear power plants? Clearly those are for weapons. Fear Iran! Nay, invade it, quick, before it eats our children!

Well, via Matt Yglesias, I find this piece in the Washington Post drawing attention to a new study of the Iranian oil industry by Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University. According to Stern …

… the Iranian oil industry is actually in something of a death spiral. Iran has been missing its OPEC quota of late, and while high oil prices have masked the decline by keeping revenue up, production has been declining. Higher domestic energy demand in Iran combined with difficulty in attracting foreign investment and other economic problems, he argues, make a rapid decline in oil exports likely — ending in the "extinction" of Iranian oil exports in 2014-15.

Oh, well.

What does Stern think we should do?

Essentially, Mr. Stern concludes that if the United States can "hold its breath" for a few years it may find Iran a much more conciliatory country.

You mean … not invade? Appeaser!

(Of course, the thought of a dying, flailing, nuclear-armed Iran isn’t exactly a lullaby either …)