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Geopolitics - July 11

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Why the U.S. won't attack Iran
Reality Bites Back

Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch
It's been on the minds of antiwar activists and war critics since 2003. And little wonder. If you don't remember the pre-invasion of Iraq neocon quip, "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran..." -- then take notice. Even before American troops entered Iraq, knocking off Iran was already "Regime Change: The Sequel." It was always on the Bush agenda and, for a faction of the administration led by Vice President Cheney, it evidently still is.

Add to that a series of provocative statements by President Bush, the Vice President, and other top U.S. officials and former officials.

... Given the Bush administration's "preventive war" doctrine which has opened the way for the launching of wars without significant notice or obvious provocation, and the penchant of its officials to ignore reality, all of this should frighten anyone. In fact, it's not only war critics who are increasingly edgy. In recent months, jumpy (and greedy) commodity traders, betting on a future war, have boosted these fears. (Every bit of potential bad news relating to Iran only seems to push the price of a barrel of oil further into the stratosphere.) And mainstream pundits and journalists are increasingly joining them.

No wonder. It's a remarkably frightening scenario, and, if there's one lesson this administration has taught us these last years, it's that nothing's "off the table," not for officials who, only a few years ago, believed themselves capable of creating their own reality and imposing it on the planet.

... Nonetheless, sometimes -- as in Iraq -- reality has a way of biting back, no matter how mad or how powerful the imperial dreamer. So, let's consider reality for a moment. When it comes to Iran, reality means oil and natural gas. These days, any twitch of trouble, or potential trouble, affecting the petroleum market, no matter how minor -- from Mexico to Nigeria -- forces the price of oil another bump higher.

Possessing the world's second largest reserves of oil and natural gas, Iran is no speed bump on the energy map. The National Security Network, a group of national security experts, estimates that the Bush administration's policy of bluster, threat, and intermittent low-level actions against Iran has already added a premium of $30-$40 to every $140 barrel of oil. Then there was the one-day $11 spike after Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz suggested that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities was "unavoidable."

Given that, let's imagine, for a moment, what almost any version of an air assault -- Israeli, American, or a combination of the two -- would be likely to do to the price of oil.
(9 July 2008)



The latest oil shock

Lionel Laurent and Miriam Marcus, Forbes
The world is facing the prospect of its third oil shock in 100 years, as oil prices have jumped over 40.0% this year as supply struggles to keep pace with rising consumption in emerging markets, rising cash flows from hedgers and growing tensions between Iran and Israel.

... If geopolitical tensions over Iran continue, it is probable that Tuesday's $5 fall in oil will have just been a breather, and not a sign that the price of oil has reached its peak.

"In the past two days, oil has given up circa $10 per barrel," said Joel Crane, analyst with Deutsche Bank, who pointed to a reversal of "the Iranian premium." It is this "Iranian premium" that will probably continue to lead oil prices higher.
(9 July 2008)



US will not hesitate to defend Israel, Rice warns Tehran

Julian Borger and Ewen MacAskill, Guardian
The US vowed to defend Israel and its other allies in the Gulf, as Iran carried out its second ballistic missile test in two days yesterday.

As the situation worsened in the Gulf, the French oil company Total said it would pull out of a large-scale investment in an Iranian gas field - a serious blow to Tehran, which is keen to exploit its gas reserves, and a victory for the Bush administration, which has been seeking to isolate the Iranian government.

A spokeswoman for the company said it was too risky to invest in Iran at present.

Oil prices resumed climbing yesterday as Opec said it would not be able to replace any shortfalls if Iran were attacked and took its crude supplies off the market.
(11 July 2008)
Comment by Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly:
THE IRANIAN MISSILE LAUNCH.... So as of this morning, everyone in the Iran-Israel-United States triangle has (a) demonstrated that they can attack their enemies, (b) blamed the others for starting it, (c) claimed that their own acts have nothing to do with any possible offensive strike, and (d) airily dismissed the possibility of war. It's nice to see that everyone is so dedicated to reducing tensions in the area.



What fraction of America's $4+ gallon gasoline is due to the war in Iraq?

A Siegel, The Oil Drum
Earlier today, someone asserted that well over half (or more than $2) of America's $4.10 gallon of gas is due to the war. Another person asked "Is that right?" And, after pulling out some hair from my head, my response was both short and then long.

The short:

Two dollars a gallon is, perhaps, as good a swag as anyone's.
...
I think.

And, the long? well, it's under the fold. :)
(10 July 2008)



The Afghan pipeline you don't know about

Tom Engelhardt, The Nation
... Well, speak of the dead and not-quite-buried. It turns out that, in April, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (acronymically TAPI) signed a Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement to build a U.S.-backed $7.6 billion pipeline. It would, of course, bypass Iran and new energy giant Russia, carrying Turkmeni natural gas and oil to Pakistan and India. Construction would, theoretically, begin in 2010. Put the emphasis on "theoretically," because the pipeline is, once again, to run straight through Kandahar and so directly into the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.

Pepe Escobar of Asia Times caught the spirit of the moment perfectly: "The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which cannot even provide security for a few streets in central Kabul, has engaged in Hollywood-style suspension of disbelief by assuring unsuspecting customers it will not only get rid of millions of land mines blocking TAPI's route, it will get rid of the Taliban themselves." Nonetheless, as in Iraq, American (and NATO) troops could one day be directly protecting (and dying for) the investments of Big Oil in a new version of the old imperial "Great Game" with a special modern emphasis on pipeline politics.

There has been a flurry of reportage on the revived pipeline plan in Canada, where -- bizarrely enough -- journalists and columnists actually worry about such ephemeral possibilities as Canadian troops spending the next half century protecting Turkmeni energy. If you happen to live in the U.S., though, you would really have no way of knowing about such developments, no less their backstory, unless you were wandering the foreign press online.
(7 July 2008)

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