Administration's foreign meddling could cost Americans at the pump

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS -- In a speech during his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised: "We're getting out of the nation-building business and instead focusing on creating stability in the world."

Neocon members of the Trump administration are overtly working against Trump's stated cause. They have made no secret of their regime-change agenda, which is directly responsible for lightening the wallets of Americans -- notably at the gas pump.

The actions of these neocons are affecting three major oil-producing countries: Venezuela, Iran and Libya. Here's how you're footing the bill for their shenanigans.

Venezuela has long been a major source of oil for American refineries. It produces an estimated 6.5 percent of America's imported crude oil. The regime-change aficionados in the Trump administration -- most notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton -- convinced Trump to sanction Venezuela so heavily on Jan. 28 that by March, imports of Venezuelan crude oil had virtually dropped to zero.

The apparent hope was that this act of economic strangulation would make Venezuelans so desperate that the Trump administration's hand-picked puppet, Juan Guaido, who was unilaterally declared "interim president" of Venezuela in January by the Trump administration and American allies, would ascend to legitimacy. So far, that hasn't happened, although yet another coup attempt was launched against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday.

Venezuela has mitigated the drop in American oil sales by diverting those barrels to India and other countries whose identities the U.S. Energy Information Administration admits to not knowing. The U.S. has since pressured India, a close ally, to stop buying Venezuelan oil, which will now be sold to Russia and China instead. You can't control the whole world -- although some in the Trump administration might try.

The administration's regime-changers have also tried to control the situation in Iran (as well as the options available to U.S.-allied nations) by pulling out of the multi-country nuclear agreement with Iran last year, despite the assessment from U.S. intelligence that Iran was holding up its end of the deal.

Trump reinstated sanctions on Iran and has made it so difficult for European allies to uphold their end of the nuclear deal that Europe has had to create a whole new trading mechanism to bypass American sanctions without having to worry about the U.S. bringing charges against executives of European multinationals.

Iran has reacted by threatening to close the Hormuz Strait -- a move that would block oil shipments to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia, America's second-largest oil supplier (13.4 percent of imports) behind Canada (39.5 percent).

Panic over the potential closure of this vital shipping route could explain the odd volte-face on America's position in Libya. There's currently a Libyan coup underway, led by a Libyan-American military officer named Khalifa Haftar. When Muammar Gadhafi was still in charge of Libya, Haftar was a CIA asset used in an attempted overthrow of Gadhafi. Haftar has since expanded his nation-state sponsorships, courting foreign interests looking for a Libyan horse on which to bet. This latest coup would reverse the U.S.-backed coup in 2011, and Pompeo denounced this latest coup attempt just weeks ago.

But now, faced with the prospect of a Hormuz Strait closure, Trump is all in for yet another coup in Libya. He has engaged with Haftar via phone and praised the Libyan warlord publicly. Trump may be hoping that he can secure some Libyan oil to make up for all the messes this administration has made with formerly reliable oil supplies.

It's easy for casual observers to dismiss the current global flashpoints where the Trump administration is involved in regime-change efforts as irrelevant to daily life. But then you'll wake up one day, drive to the gas station and wonder why it's costing you a fortune to fill up your vehicle. Keep in mind that it's the price of gas that sparked the "yellow vest" protests here in France last year, launching an ongoing popular revolt. Pompeo, Bolton and the other hawks pounding the war drums in Trump's ear are doing America a disservice by pretending that their agenda only harms America's foes and not Americans themselves.