Friday, August 22, 2008

No Deal

The deal brokered in Lebanon to end Muslim on Muslim violence is off. Maybe way off.

Several Sunni factions in Lebanon announced Tuesday night that they are freezing a truce they had signed with Hizbullah a day earlier.

The agreement, intended to defuse sectarian tension, prohibited any Muslim group from attacking fellow Muslims.

"The agreement will be temporarily frozen pending appropriate circumstances that allow for its implementation," Sheikh Hassan al-Shahhal, who signed the memorandum with a Hizbullah official, told reporters Tuesday, according to The Lebanese Daily Star. The Sunni community, he said, needed to stand "more than ever" united and to shun divisions, while the memorandum needed further study.

Hizbullah officials said Wednesday that they respect the groups' choice of freezing the memorandum of understanding for more discussions and revisions.
Hmmm. Something has happened to weaken the Hizballah position in Lebanon. Meekness has never been one of their virtues. Normally a change like this would be accompanied by threats and bombast.

It appears the correlation of forces in the world is changing. Something has shaken Iran. Could it be economic troubles?
Tehran, 13 August: The punch line of economic models for single- product countries is that they can considerably quicken the process of non-reliance on mono-product policies.

Fundamentally, Iran's economy relies on oil revenues. The extent of this dependence is so much that some experts believe that Iran's oil should be named 'black disaster'.

Since the discovery of oil in Masjed Soleyman, the dependence of Iran's economy on oil sales has not decreased. On the contrary, it has increased on a daily basis and this process has gathered pace and accelerated. Based on this, when a national government with great ideals came to power, one its main mottos and strategies was the formation of an oil-free economy. Unfortunately this policy never materialized and compared to 50 years ago, the Iranian economy's dependence on oil has increased. However, oil prices and its fluctuation are also very dangerous and worrisome.

During recent days, oil price dropped from 140 to 113 dollars in less than a week. This drop happened while three important events which traditionally were considered reasons behind the increase of oil prices occurred in the world. These events included the Beijing Olympic Games, the start of the summer season and an increase in global oil consumption, and most important of all the regional war between Georgia and Russia in the Caucasus.
The Russian economy is also highly dependent on oil these days. Might this explain their move into Georgia? Perhaps the move was not about South Ossetia at all. Perhaps it was really an attempt to keep oil and natural gas from flowing through Georgia in an attempt to prop up world oil prices.

Perhaps the Russians and Iranians are anticipating further drops in oil prices over the coming year. Especially since the Russian grab for the Georgian oil pipeline has failed. Maybe not totally, but essentially.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the interests of the newly emerging states of the Caucasus and countries such as Ukraine and Belarus have repeatedly and fiercely clashed with those of Russia. In particular, they have competed with each other over energy resources and the transmission corridors of the former Soviet Union.

Russian interruptions of gas supplies to Ukraine, Belarus and the rest of Eastern Europe are legion - and so are the restrictions they have imposed on the transmission of Kazakh oil to the international market across their territory. If Russia controls the flow of energy, it also has dangerous sway over the economies of Western Europe.

The EU had been trying to wean itself off energy dependence on Moscow by developing a network of energy routes through Georgia. It's no wonder that the Russians turned their attention in that direction.
If the Iranians are expecting further drops in the price of oil they may be cutting back on funding for their Hizballah Army in Lebanon. Armies like to be paid. Without pay they dissolve.

Talleyrand is reputed to have said something like: "you can do anything with bayonets, except sit on them". Maybe this is one of those cases where the bayonets must be sent home for lack of maintenance.

If America starts drilling for oil (which is looking more and more likely) it is more than possible we can put an end to a lot of unrest in the world by forcing oil exporters to focus on economics rather than war. And that may explain the changes in the correlation of forces.

No comments: