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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Iranian Oil Bourse- Proposed switch from Dollars to Euros

II. Iranian Oil Bourse

The Iranian government has recently proposed to open in March 2006 an Iranian Oil Bourse that will be based on an euro-based oil-trading mechanism that naturally implies payment for oil in Euro. In economic terms, this represents a much greater threat to the hegemony of the dollar than Saddam’s, because it will allow anyone willing either to buy or to sell oil for Euro to transact on the exchange, thus circumventing the U.S. dollar altogether. If so, then it is likely that much of the world will eagerly adopt this euro-denominated oil system:

  • The Europeans will not have to buy and hold dollars in order to secure their payment for oil, but would instead use with their own currency.
  • The Chinese and the Japanese will be especially eager to adopt the new exchange. It will allow them to drastically lower their enormous dollar reserves and diversify them with Euros. One portion of their dollars they will still want to hold onto; another portion of their dollar holdings they may decide to dump outright; a third portion of their hoards they will decide to use up for future payments without replenishing their dollar holdings, but building up instead their euro reserves.
  • The Russians have economic interest in adopting the Euro – the bulk of their trade is with European countries, with oil-exporting countries, with China, and with Japan. Adoption of the Euro will immediately take care of the first two blocs, and will over time facilitate trade with China and Japan. Also, Russians seemingly detest holding depreciating dollars, for they have recently found a new religion with gold: their central bank is diversifying out of dollars and accumulating gold. Russians have also revived their nationalism; if embracing the Euro will stab the Americans, they will gladly do it and smugly watch the Americans bleed.
  • The Arab oil-exporting countries will eagerly adopt the Euro as a means of diversification against rising mountains of depreciating dollars. Just like the Russians, their trade is mostly with European countries, and therefore will prefer the European currency both for its stability and for avoiding currency risk.

Only the British will find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They have had a strategic partnership with the U.S. forever, but have also had their natural pull from Europe. So far, they have had many reasons to stick with the winner. However, when they see their century-old partner falling, will they firmly stand behind him or will they deliver the coup de grace? Still, we should not forget that currently the two leading oil exchanges are the New York’s NYMEX and the London’s International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), even though both of them are effectively owned by Americans. It seems more likely that the British will have to go down with the sinking ship, for otherwise they will be shooting themselves in the foot by hurting their own London IPE interests. It is here noteworthy that for all the rhetoric about the reasons for the surviving British Pound, the British most likely did not adopt the Euro namely because the Americans must have pressured them not to: otherwise the London IPE would have had to switch to Euros, thus mortally wounding the dollar and their strategic partner.

At any rate, no matter what the British decide, should the Iranian Oil Bourse gain momentum and accelerate, the interests that matter—those of Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, and Arabs—will eagerly adopt the Euro, thus sealing the fate of the dollar. Americans cannot allow this to happen, and if necessary, will use a vast array of strategies to halt or hobble the exchange’s operations:

  • Sabotaging the Exchange—this could be a computer virus, network, communications, or server attack, various server security breaches, or a 9-11-type attack on main and backup facilities.
  • Coup d’├ętat—this is by far the best long-term strategy available to the Americans.
  • Negotiating Acceptable Terms & Limitations—this is another excellent solution to the Americans. Of course, a government coup is clearly the preferred strategy, for it will ensure that the exchange does not operate at all and does not threaten American interests. However, if an attempted sabotage or coup d’etat fail, then negotiation is clearly the second-best available option.
  • Joint U.N. War Resolution—this will be, no doubt, hard to secure given the interests of all other members of the Security Council. Recent rhetoric about Iranians developing nuclear weapons undoubtedly serves to prepare this course of action.
  • Unilateral Nuclear Strike—this is a terrible strategic choice for all the reasons associated with the next strategy, the Unilateral Total War. The American will likely use Israel to do their dirty nuclear job.
  • Unilateral Total War—this is obviously the worst strategic choice. First, the U.S. military resources have been already depleted with two wars. Secondly, the Americans will alienate other powerful nations. Third, major reserve countries may decide to quietly retaliate by dumping their own mountains of dollars, thus preventing the U.S. from further financing its militant ambitions. Finally, Iran has strategic alliances with other powerful nations that may trigger their involvement in war; Iran reputedly has such alliance with China, India, and Russia, known as the Shanghai Cooperative Group, a.k.a. Shanghai Coop.

Whatever the strategic choice, from a purely economic point of view, should the Iranian Oil Bourse gain momentum, it will be eagerly embraced by major economic powers and will precipitate the demise of the dollar.

source

© 2006 Krassimir Petrov, Ph.D.


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