was a discreet, almost hush hush affair, but after almost
three years of stalling and endless delays, it finally happened.
Now more than ever, it may also signal a true geoeconomic earthquake
- way beyond a potentially shattering blow to US dollar hegemony.
the Iranian Oil Bourse - the first-ever oil, gas and petrochemical
exchange in the Islamic Republic, and the first within OPEC -
was launched by Iran's Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari, flanked
by Minister of Economy and Financial Affairs Davoud Danesh Ja'fari,
the man who will head the bourse.
official name is Iranian International Petroleum Exchange (IIPE),
widely known in Iran and the Persian Gulf as the Kish bourse.
Kish island is a free zone (declared by the Shah) in an ideal
laissez faire setting: lots of condos and duty-free malls, no
Khomeini mega-portraits and hordes of young honeymooners shopping
for made-in-Europe home appliances.
frantic speculation all over the world that the bourse would start
trading in euros. But according to Nozari, transactions at this
early stage will be in Iran's currency, the rial. Anyway the Iranian
ambassador to Moscow, Gholam-Reza Ansari, has already advanced
that "in the future, we'll be able to use the ruble, Russia's
national currency, in our operations".
Iran plans to do in the long run is quite daring: to directly
challenge Anglo-American energy/corporate banking domination
of the international oil trade.
that "Russia and Iran, two major producers of the world's energy,
should encourage oil and gas transactions in various non-dollar
currencies, releasing the world from being a slave of dollar".
Russia's first deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the
previous week that "the ruble will de facto become one of the
regional reserve currencies."
is just what the Iranians are calling the first phase. Ultimately,
the bourse is to directly compete against London's International
Petroleum Exchange (IPE) as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange
(NYMEX), both owned by US corporations (since 2001, NYMEX is owned
by a consortium which includes BP, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley).
What Iran plans to do in the long run is quite daring: to directly
challenge Anglo-American energy/corporate banking domination of
the international oil trade.
There's a lot hanging in the balance to assure the success of
the bourse already in this first phase. Other OPEC members, and
especially Iran's neighbors, the Persian Gulf petro-monarchies,
must be supportive, or at least "catch the drift".
It makes total sense for OPEC member countries to support an alternative
to both NYMEX and the IPE, which exercise a de facto, unhealthy
monopoly of the oil and gas market, are always very comfortable
to exploit volatility for profit, and are always able to wreak
havoc against the interests of producer countries. An avalanche
of contracts related to Iranian or Saudi oil, for instance, are
still indexed to the price of the UK's North Sea Brent oil, whose
production is terminally declining.
in the oil business knows that high oil prices are not really
due to OPEC - which supplies 40 per cent of the world's
crude - or "al Qaeda threats". The main profiteers are middlemen
- "traders" to put it nicely, "speculators" to put it bluntly.
the summer of 2005, at the Petroleum Ministry in central Tehran,
this correspondent interviewed Mohammad Javed Asemipour, then
the executive in charge of establishing the Kish bourse. Asemipour
stressed the road map, which remains unchanged: the bourse would
start dealing with petrochemical products, and then with what
everybody really craves - light-sulfur Caspian Sea crude. This
was not going to be an Iranian-style exchange, but "an international
exchange, fully integrated in the world economy". The ultimate
goal is very ambitious: the creation of a new Persian Gulf benchmark
Today, Minister Nozari admits Iran's share of global oil trade
is still very low. Enter the bourse, which is the solution to
eliminate the middlemen. Everyone in the oil business knows that
high oil prices are not really due to OPEC - which supplies 40
per cent of the world's crude - or "al Qaeda threats". The main
profiteers are middlemen - "traders" to put it nicely, "speculators"
to put it bluntly.
The Petroleum Ministry's immediate priorities remain the same:
to attract much needed foreign investment in the energy sector
in Iran, and to expand its address book of oil buyers. Iran -
like so many developing countries - does not want to depend on
Western oil trading firms such as Philip Brothers (owned by Citicorp),
Cargill or Taurus. Enron - until its debacle - used to be one
of the most profitable. Some powerful oil companies - such as
Total and Exxon - trade under their own names.
empire will strike back
At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, mega-speculator
George Soros was adamant, stressing we are at the end of the dollar
era and a "systemic failure" may be upon us.
does not trade a single barrel of oil in dollars anymore.
Since December 2007 it converted all its oil export payments
to other currencies. Iran now sells oil to Japan in yen.
February 8 in Dubai OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri told
the London-based Middle East Economic Digest that OPEC may inevitably
switch to the euro within a decade.
and Venezuela - supported by Ecuador - are actively campaigning
inside OPEC for oil to be priced at least in a basket of currencies.
to OPEC's current president, Chakib Khelil, OPEC Finance ministers
will soon meet to discuss the possibility in depth. According
to Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, a committee will
"submit to OPEC its recommendation on a basket of currencies that
OPEC members will deal with."
There's no evidence - yet - that ultra-cautious iron clad US ally
Saudi Arabia would incur Washington's wrath by supporting such
a move. As for Iran, it is OPEC's second largest exporter. According
to minister Nozari, Iran's oil revenue will reach US$63 billion
by the end of the current Iranian year, which ends on March 20.
Crude oil production is at 4.1 million barrels a day, the highest
level since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran does not trade a single barrel of oil in dollars anymore.
Since December 2007 it converted all its oil export payments to
other currencies. Iran now sells oil to Japan in yen. That makes
sense: Japan is the top importer of Iranian oil, and Iran is Japan's
third-largest supplier. Worryingly for the dollar, Qatari Prime
Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani has already announced
that the tiny oil-rich emirate would abandon the dollar for the
Qatari riyal before summer. There's a strong possibility the United
Arab Emirates (UAE) may also switch to their own currency.
the Kish bourse picks up momentum, more and more oil and
gas trading will happen in a basket of currencies - and
more and more the US dollar will lose its paramount status...
Iranian officials have always maintained Washington has
threatened to disrupt the oil bourse - via an online virus,
attempting regime change or even the dreaded, unilateral
pre-emptive nuclear strike.
the Kish bourse picks up momentum, more and more oil and gas trading
will happen in a basket of currencies - and more and more the
US dollar will lose its paramount status. Quite a few Middle East
analysts expect the Persian Gulf petro-monarchies to end their
dollar peg sooner rather than later - some say as early as next
summer, as their black gold will increasingly not be traded in
dollars. Iranian economist Hamid Varzi stresses that the "psychological
effect" of Iran's move away from the US dollar is "encouraging
others to follow suit.
Iranian officials have always maintained Washington has threatened
to disrupt the oil bourse - via an online virus, attempting regime
change or even the dreaded, unilateral pre-emptive nuclear strike.
On the other hand, the possible success of the bourse may be crucial
to signal the US's waning power in a world evolving towards multi-polarity.
The Saudis and the Persian Gulf petro-monarchies have already
decided to reduce their US dollar holdings. It's not far-fetched
to imagine Washington, sooner or later, having to pay for its
oil and gas imports in euros.
No wonder Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is so demonized by
Washington as he keeps repeating that the empire of the dollar
is falling. But even ultra-cautious Prince Saudi al-Faisal, Saudi
Arabia's Foreign Minister, has admitted during the latest OPEC
summit in Riyadh that the dollar would collapse if OPEC decided
to switch to euros or a basket of currencies.
During a crucial closed meeting - with the microphones on, by
mistake - Prince Saudi said "My feeling is that the mere mention
that OPEC countries are studying the issue of the dollar is itself
going to have an impact that endangers the interests of the countries.
There will be journalists who will seize on this point and we
don't want the dollar to collapse instead of doing something good
trillion-dollar question is if, and when, most European and Asian
oil importers may stampede towards the Iranian oil bourse. OPEC
members as well as oil producers from the Caspian may be inevitably
seduced by the advantages of selling at Kish - with no dreaded
middlemen. If they can buy oil with euros, yen or even yuan, Europeans,
Chinese and Japanese won't need US dollars - and the same applies
for their central banks.
trillion-dollar question is if, and when, most European
and Asian oil importers may stampede towards the Iranian
oil bourse... If they can buy oil with euros, yen or even
yuan, Europeans, Chinese and Japanese won't need US dollars
- and the same applies for their central banks.
take only a few major oil exporters to switch from the dollar
to the euro - or the yen - to fatally bomb the petrodollar mothership.
Venezuela, Norway and Russia are all ready to say goodbye to the
petrodollar. France officially supports a stronger role for the
euro in international oil trade.
It may be
a long way away, but ultimately the emergence of a new oil marker
in euros in Kish will lead the way to the petroeuro global oil
trade. It makes total sense. The European Union imports much more
oil from OPEC than the US, and 45 per cent of Middle East imports
also come from the E.U.
of the Iranian oil bourse is stark; it shows that the flight from
the US dollar is irreversible - and so would, sooner rather than
later, the capacity of Washington to launch wars on credit. But
at this early stage in the game, only one thing is certain: the
Empire will strike back.
Note: The above article was circulated by Information Clearing