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Geopolitics / Middle East

  • Iran’s Return Prompts Changes to Saudi Arabia Energy Strategy

    As the Iranian nuclear deal begins to take effect and international pressure on the regime continues to diminish, Gulf nations have begun re-establishing diplomatic and economic relations with their once-distant neighbor. The deal has struck an optimistic tone in the Middle East, and officials in the United Arab Emirates are taking the opportunity to settle old disputes and increase energy cooperation with their neighbor across the Gulf.Iran and the UAE are close to reaching an agreement on three long-disputed islands near the Strait of Hormuz, perhaps the world’s most important oil chokepoint. The strait carried roughly 35 percent of all…

  • A Month of Panic in Iraq

    As we have noted on numerous occasions, despite the continued influx of investment in Iraq, the situation is untenable and each month moves closer to an all-out civil war. First, we’ll give you the security run-down, then we’ll get into the oil. •    On 30 December, the Iraqi central government moved to demolish a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi (Anbar province) and negotiated the withdrawal of government forces from the province. •    On 1 January, while those forces were pulling back, Islamic militants (under the umbrella of the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL) seized key areas…

  • Israel’s Oil Platforms in Jeopardy and the Samson Syndrome

    Are Hezbollah and Israel preparing for the next war? Everything seems to indicate that they are, despite the fact that all logic dictates that they should not. A number of intelligence sources who make it their business to monitor Hezbollah are saying that the Lebanese Shi'ite organization is preparing for its next war with Israel. The sources maintain that in recent weeks there has been disturbing news coming out from south Lebanon indicating that the risk of a renewed showdown between Hezbollah and the Israeli army is growing. According to a Wall Street Journal report last month, Hezbollah has successfully smuggled and disbursed…

  • How OPEC Could be Threatened by Iraq’s Re-Emergence as a Major Oil Producer

    Iraq is returning to an energy market which is radically different than the one it was forced to leave years ago, and its OPEC partners now also have a different view on Iraq’s participation. A new paper by Sammy Six and Lucia van Geuns of the Clingendael International Energy Programme (CIEP) assesses how current market developments impact the strategic position of Iraq – and vice versa: how Iraq is likely to impact the global oil market. The authors conclude that although Iraq will help to ease the oil market in the short term, many tensions and uncertainties remain. One thing…

  • Iraqi Government Threatens Action Against Kurds as Oil Exports Set to Begin

    Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs firmly stated the central government will take action, “including fiscal measures,” if Kurdistan begins exporting oil without coming to an agreement with Baghdad. The remarks came as Minister Hussain al-Shahristani spoke at a conference in London on January 28. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) announced in mid-January that oil had begun to flow through a pipeline towards Turkey and that exports would officially start by the end of the month. Shahristani argues that Kurdish oil must be exported through the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), a government-owned entity responsible for marketing Iraq’s oil.…

  • Where is US Foreign Policy these Days?

    There is a remarkable absence of a comprehensive US foreign policy in the Middle East with the Obama administration missing the beat on just about every major event in the region. Concentrated US presence is missing in Syria, where the civil war has now been raging for three years, killed 150,000, maimed probably twice that number and forced some nine million Syrians, out of a total population of 22 million people, into exile. Allowing this war to continue is not only a tragedy and a crime, but it is attracting radical elements from all over the world, many from Western Europe…

  • The Iran Momentum: Hard to Slow, Hard to Control

    Iranian officials are now beginning the suspension of production of 20% enriched uranium, under a six-month agreement that will give Iran increased access to funds held overseas (over $4 billion out of some $100 billion in foreign exchange assets) and lead to the easing of restrictions against the petrochemicals and auto industries.The US and EU on Monday approved the easing of some sanctions against Iran, including the suspension of some trade and other restrictions. Canada has not followed suit, promising Israel that it would leave full sanctions in place for now. Specifically: •    US and EU-based companies can now buy,…

  • UAE to Invest $1.2bn in Kurdish Oil

    Majority state-owned UAE national oil company has announced plans to invest some $1.2 billion in the development of a key oil and gas block in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Granted approval from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) late last year, Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) plans to invest more than $300 million in the first phase of the development of the Atrush oil and gas block, with overall investment expected to be around $1.2 billion. According to Taqa, the first phase of the project is expected to launch in early 2015 with first production at 30,000 barrels of…

  • Winds of Change are Shifting in Arabia

    Throughout the years of the Cold War the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the stability that kept the tumultuous Middle East in check. The kingdom counted on silent diplomacy and staunch US support for its security. And as one of the major oil producing countries in the world, a stable Saudi Arabia, meant a stable oil market. Indeed, rarely did a Saudi member of the royal family or the government make a public statement having to do with another country’s internal affairs. The Saudi leadership preferred to keep silent in public and to act behind the scenes, letting the power…

  • Is Iraq's House Too Divided for Oil?

    During trading on the London stock exchange Wednesday, stock in Genel Energy took a nose dive after it announced imminent exports of Kurdish oil from Turkey. While western Iraq is in the hands of al-Qaida, recent trends suggest there's no safe investment refuge even in the Kurdish north. Genel Energy, led by former BP boss Tony Hayward, said exports of crude oil from its operations in the Kurdish region of Iraq are "expected to commence in the near future." Last week, the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq announced it expected 2 million barrels of its crude oil would be exported from the…