Monday, February 13, 2006

Sinking Ship

To listen to conventional opinion and reporting, you'd think everything attempted by the West, and the U.S. in particular, is a sad, doomed, farcical exercise in futility and waste better performed by the Keystone Kops, whereas our adversaries are disciplined deep-thinking visionaries commanding infallible minions with infinite resources.

Of course they should not -- must not -- be underestimated.

But as this article makes clear, things aren't always so rosy from the other side of the table.

For example:
Until just a week ago estate agents in Tehran were marketing a housing project due to be launched at the end of the year by an Irano-Finnish company. Now, however, agents contacted over the telephone say the project has been “indefinitely postponed”.

The reason?

“Well, you know where the country is headed,” says one Tehran real estate dealer.

Where the country is headed, of course, is toward a possible clash with the United Nations over its alleged plans to build nuclear weapons. The clash could lead to economic and other sanctions or, if the worst comes to worst, military conflict.

The Tehran leadership under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, appears confident that it can take on the UN and win.
The truth is that things are not going as well for the Islamic Republic as President Ahmadinejad claims. Here are some facts that he might want to consider:

• Over the past six months an estimated $300 billion, mostly belonging to small or medium investors, has been transferred from Iran to foreign banks, especially in the Gulf states. (The chief justice of the Islamic Republic Mahmoud Shahroudi puts the figure at $700 billion).

• Over 10000 Iranian companies have moved their headquarters from Iran to Dubai, Turkey, Cyprus and even Pakistan.

• At least 10 oil companies, among them British Petroleum (UK), Baker-Hughes (US), Halliburton(US), and Conoco-Phillips(US) have either withdrawn from Iran or are winding down operations, even in the Qeshm and Kish “free zones.”

• Several major Western companies have also started their withdrawal from Iran. These include Baker-Hughes (US), Siemens(Germany), General Electric (US) and Phillips (Holland).

• Some international banks are also winding down their activities in Iran. These include Standard-Charter (UK), ABN-Amro(Holland), Credit Suisse (Switzerland), UBS (Switzerland), and the insurance brokers AON Corps.

• The US Treasury Department has revived the long forgotten Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) and is investigating 73 European, American, Canadian and Japanese firms that do business in Iran in violation of its provisions. Many of those firms are likely to withdraw from Iran rather than face being shut out of the US market.

• Iran imports nearly 40 percent of the refined petroleum products it needs from other OPEC members, including Iraq and Kuwait.

The imports could stop if the United Nations’ Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran. That would lead to a severe rationing of petrol for private and commercial use at a time that the military’s demand would be on the increase.
(In fact, when I used to play Avalon Hill "bookcase" wargames, it always amazed how, the situation could look quite different when viewing the mapboard and counters from, literally, the "other side of the table." This was a good lesson.)


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