Category Archives: MidEast

Update on Iran sanctions


The boycott of Iran has been more successful than I had anticipated, with Iranian oil production and exports down significantly from a year ago.

Alternative estimates of Iranian oil production. Source: Early Warning.


And even stronger additional sanctions may soon be agreed upon. The measures appear to be having a significant effect on the Iranian economy, with the IMF reporting an inflation rate of 20-25% and some observers claiming the true figure could be as high as 70%. There are some signs of growing political opposition to the regime.

The goal of the sanctions is to try to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program. There was at least one indicator last week of some progress toward that goal, as statements from Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast seemed to signal a modest move forward in negotiations.

Of course, lower oil production from Iran has not been without cost for the oil-consuming countries. The combined effects of the loss in Iranian production and modest gains elsewhere have left total world oil production essentially flat since the start of the year.

Alternative estimates of world oil production. Source: Early Warning.


And where will this all end? Based on prices of Intrade contracts, bettors see a 12% chance of a U.S. and/or Israeli air strike against Iran before December 31, a 39% chance before June 30, and a 51% chance before December 31 of 2013.

Price in cents of promise to receive $1.00 in event of air strike before December 31, 2013. Source: Intrade.


Those same Intrade markets, by the way, put a 40% probability on Mitt Romney winning the presidential election.

Update on Iran sanctions
James Hamilton
Sun, 14 Oct 2012 14:50:12 GMT

The Libyan Consulate

Clearly this a tragic situation.

If Romney and other conservatives ultimately think that it is critical ultimately that we use force against some one in the Mid-East, at the least I think we should  try to make that response surgical and focused on those responsible.

The previous administration, or at least parts of it, I think basically believed that it was important to ‘show the Muslim world who was boss’ after the 9/11 of 2001.  To do so:  start and win a war against a Mid-Eastern country.  I’m not sure it mattered who, as long as we showed we were strong and not to be trifled with. 

Hence we attacked a nation nominally to disarm it of weapons it proved not to even have.  To a lot of those most critical of the Obama administration, I don’t think this mattered, we showed we were not to be messed with; the Muslims hate us and we need to show them they still have to fear us, and by God we did; or so the Bush administration hoped.  I’d  characterize that response as blunt with abundant collateral damage to innocent by standers that may have spawned a new generation of terrorists.

In fact, 9 years later, it isn’t clear to me that we’ve cowed our enemies and potential enemies given this tragic incident.  So has Obama’s charm offensive failed or the earlier attempt to intimidate the entire mid-east? 

I’m inclined to think this is at least partially blow-back from our use of force rather than failure by the Obama administration.  In the end we likely shouldn’t let this go unanswered, but I hope we at least make the response focused on bringing the actual perpetrators to justice, not just punishing Muslims and the Mid-East in general.  Whatever we do, I don’t think it should be an act in the emotions of the moment, or that exaggerates what force can accomplish.

Gaddafi – Qadhafi, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

Chart Porn

via Gaddafi – Qadhafi, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.

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Though I think of myself as kind of middle right, I will confess that I voted for Obama in 2008.

Why?  Mostly because I liked the fact that he had opposed the war in Iraq from the start, and at least by 2008 I thought that was the right place to have been.  McCain in contrast couldn’t really seem to get much past proclaiming the surge as a great success, without acknowledging the war had been a mistake in the first place.  In fact, he almost seemed to be itching for a fight with Russia over Georgia.

So, I thought sensible "no drama" Obama, whatever his other failings (like letting the congress turn the stimulus into a pork fest) wouldn’t use his commander in chief power to carelessly take us into war again.


I think Lewis Black nailed it on the Daily Show.  Why don’t we just elect Donald Trump.  What we need is a third world strongman.   Our system just doesn’t seem to bring us sensible good candidates. 

So if we’re gonna have bad presidents, let’s make them REALLY bad.

You gotta kill that bear now !

Assuming we are part of airstrikes against libya, we better realize in a little, means in all the way.  Ghaddafi is a monster.  That’s clear.  But honestly I felt we should stay out.  This was becoming somewhat painful as rebels are brutally attacked, and one thinks of what will happen to them if and when Ghaddafi regains control of all of Libya.

So why would we stay out?  We’re badly overextended militarily already, mostly in Muslim nations.  While we may help take down a monster here its not at all clear that the rebels in the end may not  behave a lot like him, especially in an area as tribal as Libya is.  The consequences of intervention are anything but clear.  In the end western intervention will certainly be used against those we support in the sense of calling them foreign puppets.  Finally what happens if we lose the stomach to see this through to a new government in Libya?

That will be disastrous in at least two ways.  We will have just made the libyan government (the bear) mad but not have killed it.    This may have blowback in a more bloody suppression of our allies, who will have the taint of foreign support.  Second, that angry bear may lash out with increased terrorist activity in Europe, and maybe even here in the US.

But the die is caste now.  I hope the President and the US public see this to a conclusion.

No Matter Who Leads It, Intervention in Libya Is Folly

No Matter Who Leads It, Intervention in Libya Is Folly
Daniel Larison
Thu, 17 Mar 2011 22:10:19 GMT

If the Security Council authorizes intervention in Libya, Obama deserves a significant share of the blame, and blame is the appropriate word. Years ago, I concluded that Obama’s instincts tended to favor military intervention overseas, which was why there was no U.S. intervention that Obama opposed except Iraq, but more recently I had started to think that I had emphasized this too much in the past. It seems that I was right the first time. I had started to think that the people in the administration couldn’t possibly be so dense as to become entangled in a Libyan civil war in any way, but clearly I overestimated them.

Outside military action in Libya is a bad mistake. If it is mainly European and Arab governments making that mistake, that relieves the U.S. of most of the burden, but it will still be folly. Even though it was carried out by a regional government, Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia to install the U.N.-approved government of Somalia has proved to be ruinous for Somalia and harmful to regional security. Military “solutions” to other states’ internal conflicts typically don’t solve those conflicts, but simply give them another dimension. The U.S. is still a moving force behind the resolution that will apparently authorize such action, and that makes us partly responsible for whatever comes next.

U.N. authorization gets around one of the technical legal objections to U.S. participation in yet another unnecessary war. It does not get around the fundamental problems that most Americans want no part of this war, it has nothing to do with the United States, and it is an inexcusable waste of limited resources that will strain the military even more. There must not be any U.S. involvement in military action against Libya unless Sen. Lugar’s conditions of a full debate and vote on a declaration of war are met. The American people are weary of endless warfare. If two-thirds of them no longer believe that the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting, which is arguably the only remotely justifiable war the U.S. has fought in the last twenty years, I fail to see how they will ever support the War for Sarkozy’s Bad Conscience (or perhaps it should more accurately be called the War for Sarkozy’s Desperate Damage Control).

Looking at the list of supporting governments on the Security Council, one will be hard-pressed to find any state other than the U.S, Britain, and France that wields significant political clout. It is telling that every other major and rising power currently on the Council is expected to abstain. Along with Russia and China, India, Brazil, and Germany are all expected to abstain, which is a remarkable vote of no-confidence from two major strategic allies of the U.S. and the leading democracy in Latin America. The success of going through the Security Council in this instance will simply encourage interventionists to push for military action in more situations than before in the hope that the Council will confer some measure of legitimacy on their latest obsession.

Update: As expected, UNSCR 1973 was just adopted 10-0 with five abstentions.

Second Update: Andrew Exum reacts to the news:

It really does seem like we are going to go to war with another country in the Arabic-speaking world. I should be thankful for the broad international coalition we have put together, but I mainly just have a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.


Geopolitical unrest and world oil markets


via Geopolitical unrest and world oil markets.