Sunday, April 27, 2008

Schumer tells the Saudis.. something he'll apologize for

Senator Charles Schumer is trying to threaten OPEC, and Saudi Arabia in particular, to get them to sell America cheaper oil.

“The Saudis have to understand this is a two-way street. We provide them weapons, our troops provide them protection, and then they rake us over the coals when it comes to oil.”— Schumer
Wow. Schumer is threatening the Arabian oil producers. The whole thing about protecting them with our weapons and troops sounds just like a mafia shakedown, with the thing about our troops being already there. Amazing. Doesn't he know that most Saudis hate the fact that US military “protects” them? Does it occur to him that Saudi Arabia could trade American protection for Chinese and Russian protection?

Doesn't he know who recently bailed out America's investment banking system? Among the participants of Citicorp's private offering of convertible preferred securities are the Kuwait Investment Authority, and His Royal Highness Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (see Citi's own press release). Mr. Al-Waleed bin Talal is a member of the Saudi royal family, and one of the world's most successful investors.

The senator from New York, of all people, should know what's going on on wall street. He should know who now controls the huge money center banks. The large investment banks' recent preferred stock offerings were no ordinary stock offerings. These were last ditch efforts to re-capitalize America's banking infrastructure. If these offerings failed there would have been a global financial collapse. So, know that the rescue money from the Arabs did not come without conditions, far on top of the 7% coupon the preferred shares pay. The first condition would be “we control the oil now”.

An article that expands on Schumer's assumption that America can still prevail as a superpower, and gives a somewhat more logical and reasoned framework, was published last week by Chile based market analyst Clive Maund: Powerful Bullmarket In Us Stocks Looms As The Us Prepares For Global Hegemony.... Maund basically says that America now has control of Iraqi oil (because of it's permanent military installations), and, in addition, will soon secure Iran:
“The oil reserves contained within Iraq are gigantic, and thus its acquisition was a major economic and security leap forward for the United States. In addition its central position within the region and the earlier acquisition of Afghanistan make the eventual appropriation of oil-rich Iran an almost foregone conclusion... At present the US is only militarily the greatest power on earth, but in a few years it looks set to assume comprehensive hegemony of the planet, as the massive oil revenues from the spoils of the Mid-East campaigns flow in and correct the careening deficits. China will then comply with US demands or the oil tap will be swiveled in the off direction. Russia, currently blessed by an abundant supply of oil and other natural resources, should do well, but will be surrounded and eventually forced into compliance as its resources dwindle and it becomes increasingly isolated. Britain, as the 1st officer of the US in its wars of acquisition, will enjoy a privileged place at the table in an increasingly resource starved world. Israel will look on with quiet satisfaction at all of this.”
This is a fascinating thesis, and one that I disagree with. America had global hegemony. That ended last year when it became apparent that the USA is essentially insolvent. We simply don't have the time to get out of this: a domestic shitstorm of housing collapse, energy shortage and capital crises are slamming us concurrently. Far from expanding our influence in the Persian Gulf, I think we'll be forced to withdraw. Jim Willie has made a prediction on how the showdown would occur: a demonstration of Iranian firepower via a Russian Sunburn cruise missile.
“The Iran wild card cannot be dismissed. A casual observer might believe the United States Military eagerly desires an incident, even with loss of US soldier lives, provided a cause for war is achieved with Iran, for some greater good not easily understood. So far Tehran has not bitten the bait. In the wings is Russia, quietly in control of European energy supply and eyeing its odd bedfellows among the ruling mullahs. Hidden in the hills and along the shore of the Persian Gulf are oodles of Sunburn missiles, supplied by Russia, installed by Iran, aimed at US warships. The Sunburn is one generation ahead of the Tomahawk Cruise missile in the US arsenal, capable of evasive maneuvers. ”
A sunk aircraft carrier would be a convincing demonstration of power. Naturally such a blow would not go unanswered. Iran would suffer some terrible attack with probably far more loss of life. But the American generals know, as do the Iranian, Russian, and Chinese generals, that America can not prevail. With a depleted military, and without the capital to re-fit and re-build, America can no longer use its military to seize the remaining great oil prizes. Weapons and ideology can start wars, but only fuel and capital can win them.

Fortunately it need not come to warfare. The Chinese could use discreet diplomatic and financial threats to steer us away from the path of global hegemony, even though that is America's natural default stance. We'll just have to spend the money on something boring, like building public transportation. We should mention it to Schumer one of these days. And next time New York needs a little cash he might be saying “sorry!” to His Royal Highness Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

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