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.
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
Posted in Energy and Geopolitics, Energy and Geostrategy, Global Oil Market, Global Oil system, international relations, Iran nuclear, Iran sanctions, Iraq, Iraqi oil, negotiations, Obama, OPEC, P5+1, Persian Gulf, Rouhani, Sanctions, Saudi Arabia, Syria, The USA, U.S. oil, Uncategorized
Tagged Energy, Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Obama, oil sector, OPEC, Persian Gulf, Saudi, Saudi Arabia, Washington
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
Posted in Energiewende, Energy and Environment, Energy and Geopolitics, Energy and Geostrategy, Euroepen Union, European Union, Germany, Global Oil Market, Global Oil system, international relations, Iran nuclear, Oil course, Persian Gulf, Putin, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabit, The USA, Trade and Commerce, Trade policy, U.S. oil, Ukraine, Uncategorized, unconventional energy
Tagged Beijing, Berlin, China, CSIS, Energy, energy issues, foreign policy, Germany, Iran, JFK Institute of Freie U., Middle East, Obama, oil sector, OPEC, Petróleos de Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, United States, US energy policy, Washington, Zbigniew Brzezinski
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
Posted in Chavez, Chavez legacy, Energy and Geostrategy, Henry Capriles, Hugo Chávez, Latin America, Leopoldo López, PDVSA, The USA, Uncategorized, Venezuela update, Venezuelan Democracy
Tagged Caracas, Chavez, Chavismo, Hugo Chávez, Latin America, Nicolás Maduro, PDVSA, peace talks, Petróleos de Venezuela, UNASUR, Union of South American Nations, United States, Venezuela, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
- 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
Posted in Chavez, Chavez lagacy, Chavez legacy, China, Faja of the Orinoco, Global Oil Market, heavy oil, Hugo Chávez, Institutions and rule of law, PDVSA, Uncategorized, Venezuela oil, Venezuela update, Venezuelan Democracy
Tagged Beijing, Business and Economy, Caracas, Chavez, China, Energy, Heavy crude oil, Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, PDVSA, People's Republic of China
Back in April, Brazil’s Folha de SaoPaulo ran an article entitled: “The Future of Venezuela Depends on China“ and highlighted this quote: Translation: “If Maduzo wins, he’ll have to regain the confidence of the Chinese.” TOM O’DONNELL, petroleum consultant
Indeed, it is now clear that the short-term strategy of the post-Chavez Maduro-Cabello administration was to escape the country’s severe dollar crisis by convincing Beijing to extend it a $5 billion cash loan alleviating food-import shortages before 8 December elections. In particular, the cash was to fund a new dollar exchange system (see El Nacional,25 Sept 2013). Continue reading
Posted in Chavez lagacy, Chavez legacy, China, Faja of the Orinoco, heavy oil, Hugo Chávez, Latin America and Caribbean, PDVSA, Uncategorized, Venezuela diplomacy, Venezuela oil, Venezuela update, Venezuelan elections
Tagged Beijing, Caracas, China, Hugo Chávez, Maduro, Nicolás Maduro, PDVSA, Venezuela
An article I wrote for the IP Journal of the German Council on Foreign Relations is online today. It examines data on China, the EU and Germany’s trade with Latin America and the Caribbean, including in energy. Here’s a quote from near the end:
… China’s exports to Latin America in the low-, medium-, and high-tech categories were below those of Germany and the EU in 2003; but in 2012 [China's exports] exceeded the combined totals of the EU15 in the medium-tech and even in the high-tech categories. The only place the EU15 surpasses China is, rather oddly, in the low-tech manufactured goods …
-> READ THE ARTICLE at GCFP’s IP Journal or at a link from … Continue reading
Posted in China, Economic Crisis, Euroepen Union, Free trade agreements, Germany, High technology, international relations, Latin America and Caribbean, Oil supply, Resource conflicts, The USA, Trade and Commerce, Trade policy, Uncategorized
Tagged Argentina, Brazil, Business and Economy, Caribbean, Chile, China, Council on Foreign Relations, European Union, Germany, High tech, Latin America, South America, Trade, United Nations geoscheme for the Americas, United States, Venezuela
August 3, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (third left) gives letter of appointment to new president Rohani (third right). by: Sanlian Life, Beijing
What does H. Rouhani’s election mean for the Iran nuclear crisis? What separates the US and Iran in negotiations? What’s the role of oil?
The Beijing-based weekly, SanLian Lifeweek, interviewed me several times in recent months on the US-Iran crisis (also on Iranian-Egyptian relations, the South China Sea disputes, and Russia’s trade surge in Latin America). Below are their three articles on US-Iran relations quoting me and other experts. Since these are in Chinese (my name O’Donnell appears as “奥唐奈”), I’m including my written English answers to their questions.
(1a) Chinese: “Iran’s new president: US-Iran talks turnaround and challenges” P20-21观察 3 August 2013
(1b) My English answers (full text):
Q (Sanlian Lifeweek): When election has just ended, many assumed that Rohani’s win will possibly bring a breakthrough in Iran-U.S. relations. Recently, with him showing the intention of appointing Mohammed Javad Zarif, who many of us know well from his days in New York as the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, as the new foreign minister, some believe that US-Iranian negotiation is now realistic for the first time in many years.
Do you agree with this comment? If not, what kind of difficulties do you think Rohani will be facing domestically in seeking moderate U.S. policies? Continue reading
Posted in China, international relations, Iran nuclear, Iran sanctions, negotiations, Obama, Oil supply, OPEC, P5+1, Persian Gulf, Rouhani, South China Sea, The USA, Uncategorized
Tagged Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Middle East, Persian Gulf, Rouhani, Sanlian Lifeweek, South China Sea, supreme leader ayatollah ali khamenei, United States, US-Iran