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Geopolitics

  • Africa No.1 Risk Area for Oil Tankers

    First, the good news.Piracy off Somalia is down. In 2012, there were 297 piracy attacks and 28 hijackings worldwide, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center, with 75 incidents attributed to Somali pirates, who captured 250 hostages.Royal Dutch Navy Commodore Ben Bekkering, the former commander of the NATO counter piracy task force, said, “The numbers of successful pirate attacks are going down, but I am also pretty sure that as soon as we turn away and go somewhere else, they will be back in big numbers.” In the past few years, NATO and the U.S. have led multinational…

  • Foreign Energy Investors Should Not Give Up on Egypt

    Egypt is not only hungry for energy—it’s starving, and this starvation will play a role in the underlying revolutionary instability that has foreign investors asking whether the other boot is about to drop and should they quit the country. Most immediately, Egypt is hoping to buy 968,000 tons of diesel fuel for April-June delivery to stave off a worse energy crisis amid country-wide protests that threaten the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on power ahead of April parliamentary elections. The past four weeks have been very rough—against the backdrop of political unrest, tensions simmer as a result of fuel shortages that have…

  • Mali, Nigeria, and the Bigger Picture

    The Mali War will be neither simple nor quick, ‘though the players all wish it so.  Timboctou, almost a year in the hands of militants, had fallen to French and Malian forces by January 29, 2013. It appeared to the world’s media that the domination of Northern Mali by self-styled jihadist fighters - most of them intruders from a range of foreign countries - was rapidly coming to an end. By January 30, 2013, the last al-Qaida-linked rebel town, Kidal, had been cleared of jihadists. Gao, in the south-east, had been taken by French and Malian forces before that, and…

  • U.S. Violating its Own Sanctions on Iran

    An audit of U.S. defense spending in Afghanistan finds the Pentagon may have spent a significant amount of money on fuel for the military there that came from Iran. Congress appropriated billions of dollars of taxpayer money to support the Afghan military and the lack of strict oversight means some of that money may have wound up in Tehran's coffers. A week ago, Iran said it was taking pre-emptive measures by cutting off whatever is left of its European consumer base from oil and natural gas. Demand from vibrant Asian economies, meanwhile, has provided a boost to Iranian oil exports.…

  • Investors Beware: Egypt's Revolution is Not Over

    In April, Egypt will hold crucial parliamentary elections. Preparations for this are being undertaken against an extremely volatile backdrop of violent protests, a state of emergency in three key provinces, weapons caches discovered in Cairo, and growing calls from radical Salafi forces who think the Muslim Brotherhood has far too moderate an agenda. All of these should be warning signs for investors, if economic indicators aren’t enough. Popular Uprising, Take IIA number of developments over the past months, weeks and days have triggered country-wide unrest in Egypt, which was already volatile. •    The Muslim Brotherhood president made a very controversial…

  • Qatar's Agenda in Syria

    Situation: Qatar continues to funnel weapons and facilitate other assistance to Syrian rebels and Salafi jihadists fighting the Assad regime in Syria.Bottom Line: Determining the outcome of the conflict in Syria is very difficult due to the sheer number of private players in this theater and the varying agendas. Determining the extent to which Qatar is willing to go is made easier by understanding what it wishes to achieve: Global stature—and a pipeline through Syria.Analysis: Right before the conflict in Syria broke out, Iran had cut a deal with Iraq for an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline to pump natural gas from the…

  • Does Russia Have Anything to Fear from Chavez's Failing Health?

    Incident: Russia makes moves to deepen its energy cooperation with Venezuela, with Rosneft announcing a planned $10 billion investment in offshore oil and natural projects and the creation of a joint venture to purchase Russian oil drills. In total the two sides plan to invest $47 billion over the next six years. Other Russian companies will invest an estimated $7 billion in these same projects, and Rosneft expects a second investment phase to see it contribute an additional $16 billion. Bottom Line: This deal, according to Venezuela’s energy minister, should boost production from the state oil company to 1.12 million…

  • Could we See a Revolt in Azerbaijan?

    Incident: Azerbaijan is experiencing an unusual amount of unrest as protesters take a stance against corruption and challenge the authority of Azerbaijani strongman Ilham Aliyev, who has responded with a brute force that is likely to backfire and trigger a stronger protest momentum. Bottom Line: A series of protests that turned violent in some areas and triggered a social-media-inspired solidarity response in Baku are first and foremost about corruption in a country whose immense oil riches have failed to trickle down to the general population. With presidential elections set for October 2013, Azerbaijan should be monitored for increasing signs of…

  • Iran on the Offensive

    Until now, the Arab oil producing countries of the Persian Gulf, also called the Arabian Gulf, or to those seeking political neutrality, simply the Gulf, looked at their Persian neighbour with suspicion and trepidation. The fear came from mainly the military superiority that Iran wields over the Gulf, Persian or Arabian, depending on how you prefer to call it. The reasons behind the animosity between Arabs and Persians are numerous. There is the historic schism of culture, language, tribal, territorial but also religious. For the most part the Arabs are Sunni and the Iranians are Shia. Yet, although being a religious…

  • Exxon, BP Straddle Front Line in Iraq-Kurd Oil War

    BP Plc (NYSE: BP) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) are caught on opposite sides of the front line of the oil war between the Iraqi central government and the Iraqi Kurds, with Baghdad talks with BP over a deal in disputed Kirkuk and warns Exxon about working with the Kurds.On 28 January, the Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi again threatened to cancel Exxon’s contract in the massive West Qurna-1 oil field in southern Iraq if it refuses to stop dealing separately with the Kurds in Northern Iraq.  “We can’t allow Exxon to step over the constitution. It can’t…