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Iran, oil and the threat of war - March 5

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Obama Warns Against ‘Loose Talk of War’ With Iran

Helene Cooper, New York Times
President Obama gave a forceful defense of his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security on Sunday, using a speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group to take on critics on the Republican presidential campaign trail who have called for a harder American line to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr. Obama, speaking before a conference of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, declared that he would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and would act — militarily, if necessary — to prevent that from happening.

... But the president also made clear that he considers diplomacy, and the policy of sanctions set in motion by the United States and Europe, as the West’s best hope for getting Iran to stop short of pursuing a nuclear weapon. “Already, there is too much loose talk of war,” Mr. Obama said on Sunday.
(4 March 2012)



$5 Gas, Iranian Poker, and the Peak of 'Peak Oil' Denial

Richard Heinberg, EcoWatch
Here in northern California gasoline is now retailing for $4.20 a gallon. Prices haven’t been this high since mid-2008. Forecasts for $5 per gallon gas in the U.S. this summer are now commonplace. What’s driving prices up? [ Driving for Dollars/INKity)] (Image credit: Driving for Dollars/INKity)

Most analysts focus mostly on two factors: worries about Iran and increased demand from a perceived global economic recovery. However, as we will see, there are also often-overlooked systemic factors in the oil industry that almost guarantee us less-affordable oil.

Iranian Poker

Iran wants nuclear power and (probably) the capacity to build a nuclear weapon; the latter is unacceptable to Israel and the U.S. But there is more to the standoff than this. Iran is a strategic oil and gas exporting country that, for the past 30 years, has escaped integration into the U.S. system of client states; it also occasionally provides assistance to Israel’s enemies. Following the disastrous U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has emerged as the principal power in the region, capable of further destabilizing either of its war-torn neighbors. And Tehran has led a move to ditch the U.S. dollar as the standard currency of exchange in the global oil market.

Western sanctions include oil export embargoes that will gradually tighten over the coming months. Tehran has turned the threat around by proactively cutting off supplies to France and the UK. If the situation spins out of control in any of several possible directions, oil prices could shoot to $200 a barrel. So worry alone is keeping prices up.

Of course, the downside of open hostilities could include much more than unbearable oil prices. Nearly the entire Middle East could be thrown into chaos for the foreseeable future. It’s even conceivable that Russia and/or China could be drawn into the conflict in some way.
(3 March 2012)



Iran, Threats and the UN Charter

Glenn Greenwald, Salon
... [The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg] makes clear in describing the [ his interview with Obana]:

Obama told me earlier this week that both Iran and Israel should take seriously the possibility of American action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff. . . . I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.” . . . In the interview, Obama stated specifically that “all options are on the table,” and that the final option is the “military component.”

Regardless of how one wants to rationalize these threats of an offensive military attack — they’re necessary to persuade the Israelis not to attack, they’re necessary to gain leverage with Iran, etc. — the U.N. Charter, to which the U.S. is a signatory, explicitly prohibits not just a military attack on another nation, but also the issuance of threats of such an attack. From Chapter II, paragraph 4:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Does this matter at all? Should we even pretend to care in any way what the U.N. Charter prohibits and whether the U.S. Government’s threats to attack Iran directly violate its core provisions? I’m not asking this simple question rhetorically but rather to hear the answer.

* * * * *

Several related points: (1) for those claiming that Obama has no other viable choice but to sanction and threaten Iran, recall that his own former adviser on Iran, Vali Nasr, harshly criticized the administration last month for failing to pursue a course of negotiations with Tehran; (2) The New York Times today has two Op-Eds on the sanctions regime being imposed on Iran — one pro and one con — which both make the point that the primary effect of this sanction regime is to cause serious suffering, even hunger, among the Iranian people; such “crippling” sanctions are usually advocated by the very same individuals who feign such concern for The Iranian People when it comes to railing against the abuses of their government (unnamed Israeli officials were quoted in the Israeli press today urging mass hunger as a means to force Iran to concede);
(4 March 2012)



2600 years of history in one object

Neil MacGregor, TED
A clay cylinder covered in Akkadian cuneiform script, damaged and broken, the Cyrus Cylinder is a powerful symbol of religious tolerance and multi-culturalism. In this enthralling talk Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, traces 2600 years of Middle Eastern history through this single object.

The writer and presenter of the BBC Radio 4 series "A History of the World in 100 Objects" and the accompanying book.

Transcript available at source.
(21 February 2012)
With Iran so much in the news this talk offers a much longer term perspective of the history of Persia, Iran and the Middle East region. - SO

A History of the World in 100 Objects is a fascinating series fully available here.


What Are Iran’s Intentions?

Noam Chomsky, In These Times
The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs featured the article “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option,” by Matthew Kroenig, along with commentary about other ways to contain the Iranian threat.

The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression—thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law.

As tensions escalate, eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the air. Feverish U.S. primary campaign rhetoric adds to the drumbeat.

Concerns about “the imminent threat” of Iran are often attributed to the “international community”—code language for U.S. allies. The people of the world, however, tend to see matters rather differently.

The nonaligned countries, a movement with 120 member nations, has vigorously supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium—an opinion shared by the majority of Americans (as surveyed by WorldPublicOpinion.org) before the massive propaganda onslaught of the past two years.

... There is little credible discussion of just what constitutes the Iranian threat, though we do have an authoritative answer, provided by U.S. military and intelligence. Their presentations to Congress make it clear that Iran doesn’t pose a military threat.

Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons (which is still undetermined), that would be part of its deterrent strategy.

The understanding of serious Israeli and U.S. analysts is expressed clearly by 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, who said in January, “If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons” as a deterrent.
(3 March 2012)

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