A Critical Shift in the War for Oil

Davos really do think they are too clever by half. Despite prognostications to the contrary, negotiations with Iran over a new JCPOA are nearing completion which Biden/Obama will sign off on after putting up a bit more token resistance to lifting sanctions.

Why do I say this? Nordstream 2.

Biden backed down on Nordstream 2 and, at The Davos Crowd’s insistence, he will back down on the JCPOA.

Davos needs cheap energy into Europe. That’s ultimately what the JCPOA was all about. The basic framework for the deal is still there. While the U.S. will kick and scream a bit about sanctions relief, Iran will be back into the oil market and make it possible for Europe to once again invest in oil/gas projects in Iran.

Now that Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer going to be leading Israel, the probability of breakthrough is much much higher than last week. The Likudniks in Congress and the Senate just lost their raison d’etre. The loss of face for Israel in Bibi’s latest attempt to bludgeon Gaza to retain power backfired completely.

U.S. policy towards Israel is shifting rapidly as the younger generations, Gen-X and Millennials, simply don’t have the same allegiance to Israel that the Baby Boomers and Silent generations did. It is part of a geopolitical ethos which is outdated.

So, with some deal over Iran’s nuclear capability in the near future, Europe will then get gas pipelines from Iran through Turkey as well as gain better access to the North South Transport Corridor which is now unofficially part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

Russia, now that Nordstream 2 is nearly done, will not balk at this. In fact, they’ll welcome it. It forms the basis for a broader, sustainable peace arrangement in the Middle East. What’s lost is the Zionist program for Greater Israel and continued sowing dissent between exhausted participants.

But the big geopolitical win for Davos, they think, is that by returning Iran to the oil markets it will cut down on Russia’s dominance there.  That the only reason Russia is the price setter in oil today, as the producer of the marginal barrel, is because of Trump taking Iranian and Venezuelan oil off the market.

With these negotiations ongoing and likely to conclude soon I’m sure the thinking is that this will help save Iranian moderates in the upcoming elections. But with Iran’s Guardian Council paving the way for Ebrahim Raeisi to win the election that is also very unlikely(H/T to Pepe Escobar’s latest on this) :

So Raeisi now seems to be nearly a done deal: a relatively faceless bureaucrat without the profile of an IRGC hardliner, well known for his anti-corruption fight and care about the poor and downtrodden. On foreign policy, the crucial fact is that he will arguably follow crucial IRGC dictates.

Raeisi is already spinning that he “negotiated quietly” to secure the qualification of more candidates, “to make the election scene more competitive and participatory”. The problem is no candidate has the power to sway the opaque decisions of the 12-member Guardian Council, composed exclusively by clerics: only Ayatollah Khamenei.

I have no doubt that Iran is, as Escobar suggests, in post-JCPOA mode now and will walk away from Geneva without a deal if need be, but Davos will cut the deal it needs to bring the oil and gas into Europe while still blaming the U.S. for Iran’s nuclear ambitions because they’ve gotten what they actually wanted, Netanyahu out of power.

Trump’s assault on Iran did what Neocon belligerence always does, increase domestic sympathies for hardliners within the existing government. I told you his assassinating Gen. Qassem Soleimani was not only a mistake but a turning point in history, it sealed the alliance between Russia/China/Iran into a cohesive one which no amount of Euro-schmoozing will undo.

Seeing the tenor of these negotiations and the return of Obama to the White House, the Saudis saw the writing on the wall immediately and began peace talks with Iran in Baghdad put off for a year because of Trump’s killing Soleimani.

The Saudis are fighting for their lives now as the Shia Crescent forms and China holds the House of Saud’s future in its hands.

Syria will be restored to the Arab League and all that ‘peace’ work by Trump will be undone quickly. Because none of it was actually peaceful in its implementation.  Netanyahu is gone, Israel just got defeated by Hamas and now the rest of the story can unfold, put on hold by four years of Jared Kushner’s idiocy and U.S. neoconservatives feeding Trump bad information about the situation.

The Saker put together two lists in his latest article (linked above) which puts the entire situation into perspective:

The Goals:

1. Bring down a strong secular Arab state along with its political structure, armed forces, and security services.
2. Create total chaos and horror in Syria justifying the creation of a “security zone” by Israel not only in the Golan but further north.
3. Trigger a civil war in Lebanon by unleashing the Takfiri crazies against Hezbollah.
4. Let the Takfiris and Hezbollah bleed each other to death, then create a “security zone,” but this time in Lebanon.
5. Prevent the creation of a Shia axis Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon.
6. Break up Syria along ethnic and religious lines.
7. Create a Kurdistan which could then be used against Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
8. Make it possible for Israel to become the uncontested power broker in the Middle-East and force the KSA, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and all others to have to go to Israel for any gas or oil pipeline project.
9. Gradually isolate, threaten, subvert, and eventually attack Iran with a broad regional coalition of forces.
10. Eliminate all centers of Shia power in the Middle-East.

The Outcomes:

1. The Syrian state has survived, and its armed and security forces are now far more capable than they were before the war started (remember how they almost lost the war initially? The Syrians bounced back while learning some very hard lessons. By all reports, they improved tremendously, while at critical moments Iran and Hezbollah were literally “plugging holes” in the Syrian frontlines and “extinguishing fires” on local flashpoints. Now the Syrians are doing a very good job of liberating large chunks of their country, including every single city in Syria).
2. Not only is Syria stronger, but the Iranians and Hezbollah are all over the country now, which is driving the Israelis into a state of panic and rage.
3. Lebanon is rock solid; even the latest Saudi attempt to kidnap Hariri is backfiring. (2021 update: in spite of the explosion in Beirut, Hezbollah is still in charge)
4. Syria will remain unitary, and Kurdistan is not happening. Millions of displaced refugees are returning home.
Israel and the US look like total idiots and, even worse, as losers with no credibility left.

The net result is everyone in the region who were aggressors are now suing for peace. This is why I expect some kind of deal that returns Iran to the global economy. There’s no way for Germany’s shiny new trade deal with China to work without this.

Trump’s hard line against Iran was always a mistake, even if Iran’s nuclear ambitions are real. But with the Open Skies treaty now a dead letter the U.S. has real logistical problems in the region and they only multiply if Erdogan in Turkey finally chooses a side and gives up his Neo-Ottoman ambitions, now very likely.

But when it comes to economics, as always, Davos has this all backwards vis a vis oil.  They still think they can use the JCPOA to drive a wedge between Iran and Russia over oil.  They still think Putin only cares about oil and gas sales abroad.  It’s clear they don’t listen to him because the policy never seems to change.

So, to Davos, if they bring 2.5 to 3 million barrels per day from Iran back online and oil prices drop, this forces Russia to back down militarily and diplomatically in Eastern Europe.  With a free-floated ruble the Russians don’t care now that they are mostly self-sufficient in food and raw material production.

None of that will come to pass.  Putin is shifting the Russian economy away from oil and gas with an announced ambitious domestic spending plan ahead of this fall’s State Duma elections. Lower or even stable prices will accelerate those plans as capital no longer finds its best return in that sector.  

This carrot to Iran and stick to Russia approach of Brussels/Davos is childish and it will only get worse when the Greens come to power in Germany at the end of the year.  Unless the German elections end in a stalemate which is unforeseen, the CDU will grand coalition as the junior partner to the Greens, just as Davos wants it.

Don’t miss the significance of the policy bifurcation either when it comes to oil.  The Biden administration is trying to make energy as expensive as possible in the U.S. — no Keystone Pipeline, Whitmer trying to close down Enbridges’s Line 5 from Canada into Michigan, etc. — while Europe gets Nordstream 2 from Russia and new, cheap supplies from Iran.

This is what had Trump so hopping mad when he was President.  This is part of why he hated the JCPOA.  Israel and the EastMed pipeline was what should have been the U.S. policy in his mind.

Now, those dreams are dead and the sell out of the U.S. to Davos is in full swing.  Seriously, Biden/Obama are going to continue on this path of undermining U.S. energy production until they are thrown out of office, either by the overwhelming shame of the election fraud lawsuits which recall Senators from Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, the mid-term elections which brings a more pro-Trump GOP to power or by military force. That last bit I put a very low probability on.

Bottom line, for now global oil prices have likely peaked no matter what drivel comes out of John Kerry’s mouth.

The Brent/WTI spread will likely collapse and go negative for the first time in years as Iran’s full oil production comes online over the next two years while U.S. production falls. We’ll see rising oil prices in the U.S. while global supply rises, some of which China is getting at a steep discount from who? Iran.

Meanwhile Russia continues to hold the EU to account on everything while unmasking the not just the latest Bellingcat/MI6/State Dept. nonsense in Belarus surrounding the arrest of Roman Petrosovich, but also filling the void diplomatically left by a confused and incompetent U.S. policy in the Middle East.

If I’m the Bennett in Israel, the first phone call I make after taking office is to no one other than Putin, who now holds the reins over Iran, Hezbollah and a very battle-hardened and angry Syria who just re-elected Assad because he navigated the assault on the country with no lack of geopolitical skill.

Because it is clear that Biden/Obama, on behalf of Davos, have left Israel out to twist in the wind surrounded by those who wish it gone. We’ll see if they get their wish. I think the win here is clear and the days of U.S. adventurism in the Middle East are numbered.

The oil wars aren’t over, by any stretch of the imagination, but the outcome of the main battles have decisively shifted who determines what battles are fought next.

By Tom Luongo
Source: Gold Goats ‘n Guns

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