My talk on Iran, NYC | After an Iran-USA deal: A Mideast without democracy, run by Iran & Saudi Arabia?

Figure 1.  Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani (R) exchanges greetings with the new Saudi Arabian ambassador to Iran, Abdulrahman Bin Groman Shahri in Tehran, April 22, 2014. (photo by Twitter/ISNA)    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/04/rafsanjani-saudi-ambassador-kiss-controversy.html#ixzz32ktJuoKR

Kiss between Rafsanjani and Saudi ambassador stirs controversy   Former Iranian President, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani (R) exchanges greetings with the new Saudi Arabian ambassador to Iran, Abdulrahman Bin Groman Shahri in Tehran, Al Monitor, April 22, 2014. (photo by Twitter/ISNA)

Appreciation: I am honored to again be invited by my Iranian colleagues in New York, Professors Reza Ghorashi, Hamidah Zangeneh and Hamid Sedghi, to join this panel and discuss the geopolitics of US-Iranian relations.  And, my thanks to Prof. Sedghi for reading my paper as I am teaching in Berlin and cannot be with you today. I only ask that those who dislike my message, kindly refrain from shooting the messenger.

Introduction

The US-Iran nuclear confrontation finally appears close to resolution.  This is because both Presidents Obama and Rouhani desire a diplomatic solution, and both countries need to move on. With such an agreement, it is possible that relations will slowly become normalized.

Of particular note—as a direct consequence—are the recent secret negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia towards a rapprochement.  These were initially facilitated by Oman (e.g. see reports here, here, and here). Until very recently the Saudis had remained fiercely opposed to any US deal with Iran.  However, the Saudi’s are realists, and know when it is time to adapt.  Figure 1. is a photo of kisses exchanged on 22 April between ex-President Rafsanjani of Iran and King Abdullah’s ambassador to Iran, which caused quite a stir in the region. Agreements reached in these recently revealed negotiations have already significantly affected the presidential-succession crisis in Lebanon, sectarian conflicts in Iraq, and the conflict in Yemen. Next the two sides are expected to negotiate regarding their interests in the Syrian conflict.

In addition, the nature of the US-Saudi relationship is changing, transferring much more responsibility on the Kingdom and its Gulf partners for their own defense–albeit strongly supported with US weapons and logistics. This is part of the US disengagement from direct regional interventions, which will be significantly furthered by a successful US-Iran agreement (e.g., see here and here, and this report on Saudi defense buildup from Balfour at Harvard).

How are these new developments to be understood? Continue reading

USA Oil Seminar 5.0 | USA as Rising Energy Superpower?

us_air_force_jets_oil_buring_iraqNote: These “USA Oil Seminar” posts are extra readings for my students to better understand how US energy policy is developed and to hear the views of US experts.  The seminar is: “The Global Oil System & US Policy” at JFK Institute of FU-Berlin. 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. This Friday, watch live (or the recording later on): Is the U.S. a Rising Energy Superpower? Implications for Global Markets and Asia, the Middle East, Russia, and Europe.  CSIS upcoming talk by Fereidun Fesharaki.  FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2014 | 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM .  Moderated by David Pumphrey.
  2. Read the paper: Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy |April 15, 2014. By: Bruce Jones, David Steven and Emily O’Brien.  Brookings Institute; Washington, DC.

BACKGROUND:  This week, the class reading assignments are a couple conference papers I wrote a few years ago on the history and structure of today’s global oil system, and how it grew to replace the neo-colonial oil system. Continue reading

My IP Journal article | Addressing Europe’s Energy Dependence on Russia: Gas globalization?

 25371_460x259Globalizing gas market, creating OECD strategic reserves could make embargoes history | By Thomas W. O’Donnell  6May14| Post-war Western Europe was twice the target of energy embargoes, each dramatically altering its energy landscape. A lesson for today is that Europe’s present natural gas dependence on Russia can be addressed with a gas policy like that adopted by the OECD for oil in 1973 – one that launched today’s collective, market centered, and embargo-proof global oil security system.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote a letter made public April 10, 2014, warning several EU heads of state that Ukraine must pay its past due gas bill of $2.2 billion or Russian energy giant, Gazprom, “will completely or partially cease gas deliveries” to the country and be “compelled” to insist on payments one month in advance for any future deliveries – including $5 billion to refill Ukraine’s gas reserves before next winter.  CONTINUE READING AT: IP Journal of The German Council on Foreign Relations.

USA Oil 3.0 | US energy experts on Europe, Russia & Ukraine

Note: I’m teaching a post-graduate course “The Global Oil System & US Policy” at JFK Institute of Freie U. in Berlin. In order to give students a feel for how US energy policy is developed–and to see the views of important US actors–I’m sending them frequent e-mails with supplemental readings and videos  from US think tanks, US government offices and from the US media on energy topics.

These are not my own in-depth analysis like I usually post on GlobalBarrel.com.  However I think they are worthwhile sharing with especially non-USA followers of my blog.  I’ll title these posts “USA OIL” plus a number to label them).  I hope these are useful.  Here’s today’s ‘optional material’ I sent to my students:

How is US energy policy developed? You might find this video of interest.

Some background: The CSIS (Center for Study of International Security) is a non-partisan (i.e., not Democratic or Republican) think tank in Washington, DC. It performs an important role in US foreign policy. Continue reading

My AQ piece: Maduro’s Conundrum as UNASUR Starts Venezuelan Peace Talks

Venezuela Pres. Nicolas Maduro during first UNASUR-and-Vatican mediated peace talk with opposition in Caracas 10 April (Reuters)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking during the first UNASUR-and-Vatican mediated peace talks with the opposition in Caracas 10 April (Reuters)

Here’s my commentary at Americas Quarterly today, 11 April:

A delegation of foreign ministers from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) returned to Caracas on April 7 and 8, securing an agreement to hold peace talks to calm political polarization and protests in Venezuela.  The talks are being mediated by the foreign ministers of Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador, plus a Vatican representative.

The UNASUR delegation first visited in late March, recommending that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and leaders of the opposition’s Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) enter into a dialogue.  The U.S. State Department had expressed support, as had Organization of American States (OAS) General Secretary José Miguel Insulza.

However, UNASUR’s plan will be complicated by Maduro’s reliance on paramilitaries within his Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV), whose loyalty requires his polarizing words and deeds. This conundrum already wrecked a previous dialogue.

In early February, before protests broke out, a highly placed government official explained to me,  …  CLICK to Continue Reading at Americas Quarterly. Continue reading

Venezuelan state’s economic response to protests: Rationing plus Chinese and Russian loans to float a liberal dollar market

The anti-government protest in eastern Caracas 13 March ended in clashes with Venezuelan police BBC
The anti-government protest in eastern Caracas 13 March ended in clashes with Venezuelan police. Three more died in widespread protests. BBC

As protests continue against Venezuela’s faltering “oil revolution,” the political strategy of the chavista administration is striking for its intransigence. President Maduro has refused to recognize any grievances by students or other protesters. He calls protesters “fascists” and blames them for all the ills of the economy.  Protests are attacked by the national guard and often by state-organized paramilitary gangs on motorcycles who are praised by the president.

The administration’s strategy so far appears to be that protests will burn themselves out if they can be delegitimized and contained within middle-class areas.  Accordingly, the president’s rhetoric aims at inciting poorer citizens against protesters.  All in all, this is a risky strategy.  Protests have constantly intensified, with perhaps 25 persons dead now.
After a month of protests, the administration has taken urgent economic measures it hopes will undermine the protests and prevent their spread to poor and working-class barrios.
1. Ramirez announces Chinese and Russian loans and the launch of a very liberal Sicad 2

My DGAP article | Energiewende vs. USA Shale Gas: Can German industry compete?

ImageIn Germany, the impact of the country’s renewable energy transition on the economy is a very hot topic.  Tuesday, Mrs. Merkel’s  new Minister of Economy & Environment (and chair of the Social Democratic Party), Mr. Sigmar Gabriel, declared: “We need to keep in mind that the whole economic future of our country is riding on this,” (NYT, 21Jan14).

Here’ is my article in the DGAP’s (German Council on Foreign Affairs’) IP Journal of 30Dec13  (submitted 24Nov13):

Germany’s Energiewende (renewable-energy transition) is under intense pressure both from consumers facing soaring electric bills and from German manufacturers fretting about their falling energy competitiveness vís-a-vís the US, where manufacturers are benefiting from the boom in cheap natural gas production. What should be done to address these concerns has become a major topic of the CDU-SPD negotiations forming Chancellor Merkel’s new coalition government.  

From the viewpoint of German manufacturers, there are two ways the US shale gas revolution implies a worrisome competitive challenge. First, cheaper natural gas in the US is lowering electricity and other energy costs for American manufacturers, while Germany’s continue to rise. This is especially of concern to energy-intensive industries, where the EU now has 36 percent of world capacity and the US only 10 percent. Secondly, as the US begins to build facilities for export of liquefied gas (LNG), this capacity could have a significant effect on the price of electricity and gas in Asia. … Continue reading at DGAP’s (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V.) IP Journal.