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U.S. Says Exercise by Israel Seemed Directed at Iran
Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, New York Times
Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.
(20 June 2008)
Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back
Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times
Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP - the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company - along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.
The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.
(19 June 2008)
Related from Pepe Escobar at Asia Times: Why Iraq won't be South Korea.
Anatomy of a Price Surge
Michael T. Klare, The Nation
As the pain induced by higher oil prices spreads to an ever growing share of the American (and world) population, pundits and politicians have been quick to blame assorted villains--greedy oil companies, heartless commodity speculators and OPEC. It's true that each of these parties has contributed to and benefited from the steep run-up. But the sharp growth in petroleum costs is due far more to a combination of soaring international demand and slackening supply--compounded by the ruinous policies of the Bush Administration--than to the behavior of those other actors.
... the Administration's greatest contribution to the rising oil prices is its steady stream of threats to attack Iran if it does not back down on the nuclear issue. The Iranians have made it plain that they would retaliate by attempting to block the flow of Gulf oil and otherwise cause turmoil in the energy market. Most analysts assume, therefore, that an encounter will produce a global oil shortage and prices well over $200 per barrel. It is not surprising, then, that every threat by Bush/Cheney (or their counterparts in Israel) has triggered a sharp rise in prices. This is where speculators enter the picture. Believing that a US-Iranian clash is at least 50 percent likely, some investors are buying futures in oil at $140, $150 or more per barrel, thinking they'll make a killing if there's an attack and prices zoom over $200.
It follows, then, that while the hike in prices is due largely to ever increasing demand chasing insufficiently expanding supply, the Bush Administration's energy policies have greatly intensified the problem. By seeking to preserve our oil-based energy system at any cost, and by adding to the "fear factor" in international speculation through its bungled invasion of Iraq and bellicose statements on Iran, it has made a bad problem much worse.
(19 June 2008)