Archive for the ‘Natural Resources’ Category

Saudi King Abdullah A-OK…

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Saudi King Abdullah has appeared in public for the first time since his surgery, putting away rumors and fears that his condition had deteriorated following his back surgery.


The Chicago Tribune discusses the effect of those rumors on stability in the region and the global markets. Reason enough for Saudi opponents to stir up trouble…

Saudia Arabian King Survives Surgery

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Saudi King Abdullah has recently undergone back surgery in Riyadh.  The King had been complaining of pain in his back, but came out of the surgery healthy.

After his complaints of pain, King Abdullah was admitted to The National Guard’s King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh, where a ligament in his upper back was tightened.

This isn’t the king’s first surgery, though.  In October of 2010 he underwent two back surgeries, where it was discovered that he had a blood clot and a herniated disk in his lower back.  At that time his surgeries were done in the United States, and were also successful.

The risk of his most recent surgery was his age.  He is in his late eighties, with estimates putting him anywhere from 86 to 89.

The other danger was about the fate of the world’s number two oil supplier, and what impact the death of its leader would have on those that depend on it.

But fortunately, King Abdullah has come out of his surgery.  He has named Prince Salman as his heir, but Saudi Arabia is relieved that he will remain king.  Saudi Arabia has managed to maintain a stable government by giving generous money to their citizens and banning public demonstrations.

Seeing as Saudi Arabia is an important U.S. Ally, why was it key that King Abdullah survive his surgery?  How would the world, and particularly the U.S. do, if King Abdullah had not survived this surgery?  Would Prince Salman be able to maintain a stable Saudi government?

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Dawn

Chavez Stands with Syrian Government

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Following his fourth presidential victory, Hugo Chavez spoke briefly of his opinions about the Syrian conflict. Throughout his presidency, Chavez has always supported Syrian leader Bahsar  al Assad, sending the country three shipments of oil and speaking out against the actions of the countries aiding the rebels. Chavez has criticized the United States and European governments for aiding the so-called “terrorists” who are fighting to gain political control. Chavez used this opportunity to reiterate his approval of the current Syrian government and to condemn the United states and “the European governments” for their interfering actions. Chavez alleges that the United States involvement prolonged the conflict  which has been going on for nearly twenty months, and added to the death toll, which has surpassed 30,000 people.  But even more than this, Chavez believes the United States is most responsible. “They killed thousands of innocents just to kill a president,” he says. “How can we not support the government of Bashar al-Assad if it’s the legitimate government of Syria?”


What qualifies a government as “the legitimate one?” Based on what you know about Chavez, why do you think he supports the Syrian government? What about Chavez supporting the Syrian government surprises you? Do you think his point is valid?

PressTV with video clip

An interesting bias from the SunHerald, which seemed to emphasize Chavez’s politcal legitimacy

Brief summary from Today’s Zaman


Iranian Currency Continues to Fall

Monday, October 1st, 2012

According to reports, the rial, which is Iran’s currency fell around 18% on Monday against the US dollar. This figure is a new record low and has reportedly lost about 80% of its value since it began to fall at the end of 2011.

This latest decline appears to be in response to a government move to supply dollars to importers of certain basic goods at a special rate in hopes of reining in the currency slide. This has had the opposite effect, as the decline was so severe that the figures were blocked out from the public late Monday afternoon.

The country has been frozen out of the global banking system due to US-led sanctions designed to discourage Iran’s attempts to construct a nuclear weapon. These sanctions include a ban on the trade of Iranian oil which means that they are unable to sell their oil assets to most other countries. These sanctions are also backed by the European Union.

If Iran can find other countries still willing to trade oil with them, they would have to accept much lower prices said analysts. Analysts also said that most of the country’s economic problems are because of the weakness in currency, which makes imports more expensive and raise the prices for people inside of the country. Falls in currency can also lead to uncertain markets as dealers hoard harder currency in hopes that it will gain more value.

The semi-official Iranian news agency had no report on this event.

Is the US partly responsible for the fall in Iranian currency? What steps should the Iranian government take to avoid an economic collapse?


US Politicians Call for War with Iran

Monday, September 17th, 2012

The heightened tensions between the US and Iran over Iran’s suspiciously large nuclear program have led politicians like John McCain and Joseph Lieberman to support the possibility of armed conflict. Though leading republican figures like Mit Romney support a pre-emptive war against Iran, the conflict would, by nature, make the US’s recent devastating engagements with Iraq and Afghanistan seem docile. According to Aljazeera, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy predicts the conflict to be a “generations-long war”, as Iran commands the eighth-largest active military with modern special operations and tactics for combating larger, more advanced military such as that of the US. If war with Iran is  pursued, the economic recovery of the US and other Western states would surely be upended; oil prices would skyrocket to several hundred dollars per barrel and the 20 percent of the world’s crude oil that travels through the Strait of Hormuz would sit at a standstill. Though support of war may simply be a campaigning act of Republicans, the possibility for conflict is very real and war with Iran would surely create a devastating international conflict that would jeopardize not only the future of the Middle East, but the US and Western powers as well.

Source: Aljazeera

Discussion Question: Is it plausible for the US to consider war with Iran? If Congress were to declare war, what would be the result of this conflict?

U.S. Dependence on Saudi Oil is on the Rise Again

Friday, August 17th, 2012

“The increase in Saudi oil exports to the United States began slowly last summer and has picked up pace this year. Until then, the United States had decreased its dependence on foreign oil and from the Gulf in particular.

This reversal is driven in part by the battle over Iran’s nuclear program. The United States tightened sanctions that hampered Iran’s ability to sell crude, the lifeline of its troubled economy, and Saudi Arabia agreed to increase production to help guarantee that the price did not skyrocket. While prices have remained relatively stable, and Tehran’s treasury has been squeezed, the United States is left increasingly vulnerable to a region in turmoil.”

Clifford Krauss, “U.S. Reliance on Saudi Oil Heads Back Up,” New York Times, August 17, 2012


U.S. Military Buildup Underway in the Gulf

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

In an effort to deter Iran from acting on its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. is building up its forces in the Gulf:

Thom Shanker, Eric Schmitt, and David Sanger, “U.S. Adds Forces in Persian Gulf, a Signal to Iran,” New York Times, July 3, 2012


Oil Boom in Iraq

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

“The increased flow and vital port improvements have produced a 20 percent jump in exports this year to nearly 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, making Iraq one of the premier producers in OPEC for the first time in decades.

Energy analysts say that the Iraqi boom — coupled with increased production in Saudi Arabia and the near total recovery of Libya’s oil industry — should cushion oil markets from price spikes and give the international community additional leverage over Iran when new sanctions take effect in July.”

Tim Arrango and Clifford Krauss, “Oil Output Soars as Iraq Retools,” New York Times, June 3, 2012

The Dark Side of Dubai

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

“I ask the Filipino girl behind the counter if she likes it here. ‘It’s OK,” she says cautiously.’ ‘Really?,’ I say. ‘I can’t stand it.’ She sighs with relief and says: ‘This is the most terrible place! I hate it! I was here for months before I realised – everything in Dubai is fake. Everything you see. The trees are fake, the workers’ contracts are fake, the islands are fake, the smiles are fake – even the water is fake!’  But she is trapped, she says. She got into debt to come here, and she is stuck for three years: an old story now. ‘I think Dubai is like an oasis. It is an illusion, not real. You think you have seen water in the distance, but you get close and you only get a mouthful of sand.’”

Thanks to El Johnson, former NMH Faculty member now living in Beirut, for passing this article along:

The Independent, “The Dark Side of Dubai,” April 7, 2012

Libya’s Ex-Minister Found Dead

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

     The body of Libya’s former Oil Minister, Shukri Ghanem, has been found in the Danube River, Austrian police say. A passer-by reported seeing the body floating under a bridge near a popular recreation ground in Vienna. According to polices, he apparently left his home early on Sunday. A spokesman said there were no signs of violence to Mr. Ghanem’s body.

     Shukri Ghanem, 69, worked as a consultant for a Vienna-based company and also served as Libya’s prime minister from 2003 to 2006 and then as oil minister until 2011. Police spokesman Roman Hahslinger said when Mr. Ghanem was found, he was dressed but had no personal identification documents on him, excluding the one naming the company he was working for. An employee of the company had identified him, the spokesman said.

     Mr. Hahslinger said: “There would be no signs of violence if someone pushed him in. But it’s also possible that he became ill and fell into the water.”

     A post-mortem examination has been ordered for the coming days.