Not that it comes as a surprise of any kind, but the US is not a fan of Iran.

In fact, Iran has the dubious distinction of being named specifically (along with North Korea) as both part of the “Axis of Evil” by President George Bush in 2002 and an “Outpost of Tyranny” by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her confirmation in the Senate.

To my thinking, these appellations leave little room for doubt about the antagonism the US has for Iran. And in the intervening eight years since these statements were made, there has not been any noticeable change.

The focus during the last few years has been on Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The US has spent a lot of time casting doubt on the function of Iran’s nuclear facilities and pushing Iran to open its doors to external inspections that would evaluate the legitimacy of its nuclear plants.

Needless to say, that hasn’t happened.

Now, the US is taking things a bit further.

In a statement before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the impact of new US and European sanctions on Iran in late July, 2010, Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and director of its Iran Energy Project, praised President Obama and Congress for passing the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act.

This act, he said, should cause Iranian leaders to “think seriously about abandoning their unlawful nuclear activities.” Dubowitz also recommended that Washington vigorously enforce Iran sanctions, imposing heavy penalties on violators. His full statement is available on the FDD site.

A separate report on the FDD site says the European Union (EU) is onboard with sanctions against Iran, announcing earlier the same week that it would be imposing “robust sanctions” on Iran, targeting energy, shipping, insurance, and financial sectors.

This week, Dubowitz, voiced approval to the House of Representatives for taking what he calls, “the right step in creating a Bipartisan Working Group on Iran Sanctions Implementation.”

California Congressman Howard L. Berman (CA-28), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican member of the committee, initiated the bipartisan group this week. The objective, they said, is to help “ensure that US and international sanctions on Iran are fully implemented, effectively enforced, and, ultimately have the intended effect of bringing about Iran’s termination of all activities contributing to its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

“The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010, which was signed into law by President Obama on July 1, has already had a significant impact on Iran's access to international markets and its ability to acquire refined petroleum,” their statement says.

Clearly, the US is taking a very hard line.

The problem here is that Iran holds the world’s third largest known oil reserves, 132.5 Bbbl, which represents 10% of the world’s assets. The country produces 4.2 MMb/d. Only Saudi Arabia and Canada hold larger oil reserves than Iran.

Iran also holds part of the largest gas field in the world, South Pars (Qatar owns the other portion, which it calls the North Field). In fact, Iran is home to the second largest gas reserves in the world, with 971 Tcf (16% of the total global reserves). Russia is the only country that has more natural gas than Iran, and only Qatar holds nearly as much. A full 62% of Iran’s gas is still in the ground.

It seems to me that the EU and US would be better placed to work with Iran instead of against it. US companies are partnering all over the world with governments that are questionable at best, and they are doing so because it is to their advantage.

Friendly relations with Iran are outside the realm of plausibility today, but it might be worthwhile to consider the value of cultivating them.

Having access to all of that oil and gas would be a much better position to be in than to be railing against possible nuclear proliferation, especially given that all of the sanctions and accusatory comments have thus far come to naught.

As Sun-Tzu, Chinese general and military strategist said nearly 2,400 years ago, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

It’s still sound advice.