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9. Iran’s New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency

Source: GlobalResearch.ca, October 27, Title: “Iran Next U.S. Target,” Author: William Clark

Faculty Evaluator: Phil Beard, Ph. D.
Student Researcher: Brian Miller

The U.S. media tells us that Iran may be the next target of U.S. aggression. The anticipated excuse is Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. William Clark tells us that economic reasons may have more to do with U.S. concerns over Iran than any weapons of mass destruction.

In mid-2003 Iran broke from tradition and began accepting eurodollars as payment for its oil exports from its E.U. and Asian customers. Saddam Hussein attempted a similar bold step back in 2000 and was met with a devastating reaction from the U.S. Iraq now has no choice about using U.S. dollars for oil sales (Censored 2004 #19). However, Iraq’s plan to open an international oil exchange market for trading oil in the euro currency is a much larger threat to U.S. dollar supremacy than Iraq’s switch to euros.

While the dollar is still the standard currency for trading international oil sales, in 2006 Iran intends to set up an oil exchange (or bourse) that would facilitate global trading of oil between industrialized and developing countries by pricing sales in the euro, or “petroeuro.” To this end, they are creating a euro-denominated Internet-based oil exchange system for global oil sales. This is a direct challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy in the global oil market. It is widely speculated that the U.S. dollar has been inflated for some time now because of the monopoly position of “petrodollars” in oil trades. With the level of national debt, the value of the dollar has been held artificially high compared to other currencies.

The vast majority of the world’s oil is traded on the New York NYMEX (Mercantile Exchange) and the London IPE (International Petroleum Exchange), and, as mentioned by Clark, both exchanges are owned by U.S. corporations. Both of these oil exchanges transact oil trades in U.S. currency. Iran’s plan to create a new oil exchange would facilitate trading oil on the world market in euros. The euro has become a somewhat stronger and more stable trading medium than the U.S. dollar in recent years. Perhaps this is why Russia, Venezuela, and some members of OPEC have expressed interest in moving towards a petroeuro system for oil transactions. Without a doubt, a successful Iranian oil bourse may create momentum for other industrialized countries to stop exchanging their own currencies for petrodollars in order to buy oil. A shift away from U.S. dollars to euros in the oil market would cause the demand for petrodollars to drop, perhaps causing the value of the dollar to plummet. A precipitous drop in the value of the U.S. dollar would undermine the U.S. position as a world economic leader.

China is a major exporter to the United States, and its trade surplus with the U.S. means that China has become the world’s second largest holder of U.S. currency reserves (Japan is the largest holder with $800 billion, and China holds over $600 billion in T-bills). China would lose enormously if they were still holding vast amounts of U.S. currency when the dollar collapsed and assumed a more realistic value. Maintaining the U.S. as a market for their goods is a pre-eminent goal of Chinese financial policy, but they are increasingly dependent on Iran for their vital oil and gas imports. The Chinese government is careful to maintain the value of the yuan linked with the U.S. dollar (8.28 yuan to 1 dollar). This artificial linking makes them, effectively, one currency. But the Chinese government has indicated interest in de-linking the dollar-yuan arrangement, which could result in an immediate fall in the dollar. More worrisome is the potentiality of China to abandon its ongoing prolific purchase of U.S. Treasuries/debt-should they become displeased with U.S. policies towards Iran.

Unstable situations cannot be expected to remain static. It is reasonable to expect that the Chinese are hedging their bets. It is unreasonable to expect that they plan to be left holding devalued dollars after a sudden decline in their value. It is possible that the artificial situation could continue for some time, but this will be due largely to the fact that the Chinese want it that way. Regardless, China seems to be in the process of unloading some of its U.S. dollar reserves in the world market to purchase oil reserves, and most recently attempted to buy Unocal, a California-based oil company.

The irony is that apparent U.S. plans to invade Iran put pressure on the Chinese to abandon their support of the dollar. Clark warns that “a unilateral U.S. military strike on Iran would further isolate the U.S. government, and it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations to abandon the dollar en masse.” Perhaps the U.S. planners think that they can corner the market in oil militarily. But from Clark’s point of view, “a U.S. intervention in Iran is likely to prove disastrous for the United States, making matters much worse regarding international terrorism, not to mention potential adverse effects on the U.S. economy.” The more likely outcome of an Iran invasion would be that, just as in Iraq, Iranian oil exports would dry up, regardless of what currency they are denominated in, and China would be compelled to abandon the dollar and buy oil from Russia-likely in euros. The conclusion is that U.S. leaders seem to have no idea what they are doing. Clark points out that, “World oil production is now flat out, and a major interruption would escalate oil prices to a level that would set off a global depression.”

Update by William Clark: Following the completion of my essay in October 2004, three important stories appeared that dramatically raised the geopolitical stakes for the Bush Administration. First, on October 28, 2004, Iran and China signed a huge oil and gas trade agreement (valued between $70 and $100 billion dollars.)1 It should also be noted that China currently receives 13 percent of its oil imports from Iran. The Chinese government effectively drew a “line in the sand” around Iran when it signed this huge oil and gas deal. Despite desires by U.S. elites to enforce petrodollar hegemony by force, the geopolitical risks of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would surely create a serious crisis between Washington and Beijing.

An article that addressed some of the strategic risks appeared in the December 2004 edition of the Atlantic Monthly.2 This story by James Fallows outlined the military war games against Iran that were conducted during the summer and autumn of 2004. These war-gaming sessions were led by Colonel Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who for more than two decades ran war games at the National War College and other military institutions. Each scenario led to a dangerous escalation in both Iran and Iraq. Indeed, Col. Gardiner summarized the war games with the following conclusion, “After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers: You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work.”3

The third and final news item that revealed the Bush Administration’s intent to attack Iran was provided by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. The January 2005 issue of The New Yorker (“The Coming Wars”) included interviews with high-level U.S. intelligence sources who repeatedly told Hersh that Iran was indeed the next strategic target.4 However, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China will likely veto any U.S. resolution calling for military action against Iran. A unilateral military strike on Iran would isolate the U.S. government in the eyes of the world community, and it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations to abandon the dollar in droves. I refer to this in my book as the “rogue nation hypothesis.”

While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to “dump the dollar,” the reasons for any such drastic reaction are likely straightforward from their perspective-the global community is dependent on the oil and gas energy supplies found in the Persian Gulf. Numerous oil geologists are warning that global oil production is now running “flat out.” Hence, any such efforts by the international community that resulted in a dollar currency crisis would be undertaken-not to cripple the U.S. dollar and economy as punishment towards the American people per se-but rather to thwart further unilateral warfare and its potentially destructive effects on the critical oil production and shipping infrastructure in the Persian Gulf. Barring a U.S. attack, it appears imminent that Iran’s euro-denominated oil bourse will open in March, 2006.5 Logically, the most appropriate U.S. strategy is compromise with the E.U. and OPEC towards a dual-currency system for international oil trades.

For additional information: Readers interested in learning more about the dollar/euro oil currency conflict and the upcoming geological phenomenon referred to as Peak Oil can read William Clark’s new book, Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar. Available from New Society Publishers: http://www.newsociety.com,http://www.amazon.com or from your local book store.

NOTES

1. “China, Iran sign biggest oil & gas deal,” China Daily, October 31, 2004.http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-10/31/content_387140.htm.
2. James Fallows, “Will Iran be Next?,” Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, pgs. 97-110.
3. James Fallows, ibid.
4. Seymour Hersh, “The Coming Wars,” The New Yorker, January 24th-31st issue, 2005, pgs. 40-47. Posted online January 17, 2005. Online: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?050124fa_fact
5. “Oil bourse closer to reality,” IranMania.com, December 28, 2004. Online:http://www.iranmania.com/News/ArticleView/Default.asp?ArchiveNews=Yes&NewsCode=28176&NewsKind=BusinessEconomy.

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  • Nalliah Thayabharan September 11, 2011

    US$, Wars & Earthquakes

    By Nalliah Thayabharan

    At the end of WWII, an agreement was reached at the Bretton Woods Conference which pegged the value of gold at US$35 per ounce and that became the international standard against which currency was measured. But in 1971, US President Richard Nixon took the US$ off the gold standard and ever since the US$ has been the most important global monetary instrument, and only the US can print them. However, there were problems with this arrangement not least of all that the US$ was effectively worthless than before it reneged on the gold-standard. But more importantly because it was the world’s reserve currency, everybody was saving their surpluses in US$. To maintain the US$’s pre-eminence, the Richard Nixon administration impressed upon Saudi Arabia and therefore Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC) to sell their oil only in US$. This did two things; it meant that oil sales supported the US$ and also allowed the USA access to exchange risk free oil. The USA propagates war to protect its oil supplies, but even more importantly, to safeguard the strength of the US$. The fear of the consequences of a weaker US$, particularly higher oil prices is seen as underlying and explaining many aspects of the US foreign policy, including the Iraq and Libyan War. 

    The reality is that the value of the US$ is determined by the fact that oil is sold in US$. If the denomination changes to another currency, such as the euro, many countries would sell US$and cause the banks to shift their reserves, as they would no longer need US$ to buy oil. This would thus weaken the US$ relative to the euro. A leading motive of the US in the Iraq war — perhaps the fundamental underlying motive, even more than the control of the oil itself — is an attempt to preserve the US$ as the leading oil trading currency. Since it is the USA that prints the US$, they control the flow of oil. Period. When oil is denominated in US$ through US state action and the US$ is the only fiat currency for trading in oil, an argument can be made that the USA essentially owns the world’s oil for free.  Now over $1.3 trillion of newly printed US$ by US Federal Reserve is flooding into international commodity markets each year.

    So long as almost three quarter of world trade is done in US$, the US$ is the currency which central banks accumulate as reserves. But central banks, whether China or Japan or Brazil or Russia, do not simply stack US$ in their vaults. Currencies have one advantage over gold. A central bank can use it to buy the state bonds of the issuer, the USA. Most countries around the world are forced to control trade deficits or face currency collapse. Not the USA. This is because of the US$ reserve currency role. And the underpinning of the reserve role is the petrodollar. Every nation needs to get US$ to import oil, some more than others. This means their trade targets US$ countries.

    Because oil is an essential commodity for every nation, the Petrodollar system, which exists to the present, demands the buildup of huge trade surpluses in order to accumulate US$ surpluses. This is the case for every country but one — the USA which controls the US$ and prints it at will or fiat. Because today the majority of all international trade is done in US$, countries must go abroad to get the means of payment they cannot themselves issue. The entire global trade structure today works around this dynamic, from Russia to China, from Brazil to South Korea and Japan. Everyone aims to maximize US$ surpluses from their export trade.

    Until November 2000, no OPEC country dared violate the US$ price rule. So long as the US$ was the strongest currency, there was little reason to as well. But November was when French and other Euroland members finally convinced Saddam Hussein to defy the USA by selling Iraq’s oil-for-food not in US$, ‘the enemy currency’ as Iraq named it, but only in euros. The euros were on deposit in a special UN account of the leading French bank, BNP Paribas. Radio Liberty of the US State Department ran a short wire on the news and the story was quickly hushed.

    This little-noted Iraq move to defy the US$ in favor of the euro, in itself, was insignificant. Yet, if it were to spread, especially at a point the US$ was already weakening, it could create a panic selloff of US$ by foreign central banks and OPEC oil producers. In the months before the latest Iraq war, hints in this direction were heard from Russia, Iran, Indonesia and even Venezuela. An Iranian OPEC official, Javad Yarjani, delivered a detailed analysis of how OPEC at some future point might sell its oil to the EU for euros not US$. He spoke in April, 2002 in Oviedo Spain at the invitation of the EU. All indications are that the Iraq war was seized on as the easiest way to deliver a deadly pre-emptive warning to OPEC and others, not to flirt with abandoning the Petro-dollar system in favor of one based on the euro. The Iraq move was a declaration of war against the US$. As soon as it was clear that the UK and the US had taken Iraq, a great sigh of relief was heard in the UK  Banks. 

    First Iraq and then Libya decided to challenge the petrodollar system and stop selling all their oil for US$, shortly before each country was attacked. The cost of war is not nearly as big as it is made out to be. The cost of not going to war would be horrendous for the US unless there were another way of protecting the US$’s world trade dominance. The US pays for the wars by printing US$ it is going to war to protect. 

    After considerable delay, Iran opened an oil bourse which does not accept US$. Many people fear that the move will give added reason for the USA to overthrow the Iranian regime as a means to close the bourse and revert Iran’s oil transaction currency to US$. In 2006 Venezuela indicated support of Iran’s decision to offer global oil trade in euro. In 2011 Russia begins selling its oil to China in rubles

    6 months before the US moved into Iraq to take down Saddam Hussein, Iraq had made the move to accept Euros instead of US$ for oil, and this became a threat to the global dominance of the US$ as the reserve currency, and its dominion as the petrodollar.

    Muammar Qaddafi made a similarly bold move: he initiated a movement to refuse the US$ and the euro, and called on Arab and African nations to use a new currency instead, the gold dinar. Muammar Qaddafi suggested establishing a united African continent, with its 200 million people using this single currency. The initiative was viewed negatively by the USA and the European Union (EU), with French president Nicolas Sarkozy calling Libya a threat to the financial security of mankind; but Muammar Qaddafi continued his push for the creation of a united Africa.

    Muammar Gaddafi’s recent proposal to introduce a gold dinar for Africa revives the notion of an Islamic gold dinar floated in 2003 by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, as well as by some Islamist movements. The notion, which contravenes IMF rules and is designed to bypass them, has had trouble getting started. But today Iran, China, Russia, and India are stocking more and more gold rather than US$.

    If Muammar Qaddafi were to succeed in creating an African Union backed by Libya’s currency and gold reserves, France, still the predominant economic power in most of its former Central African colonies, would be the chief loser. The plans to spark the Benghazi rebellion were initiated by French intelligence services in November 2010.

    In February 2011, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has called for a new world currency that would challenge the dominance of the US$ and protect against future financial instability. In May 2011 a 32 year old maid, Nafissatou Diallo, working at the Sofitel New York Hotel, alleges that Strauss-Kahn had sexually assaulted her after she entered his suite. 

    Accepting Chinese yuans for oil, Iran and Venzuelathey have constantly been threatened by the US. If euros, yens, yuans or rubles were generally accepted for oil, the US$ would quickly become irrelevant and worthless paper.This petro dollar arrangement is enforced by the U.S. military. 

    On Aug 18 2011, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announces a plan to pull Gold reserves from US and European Banks .Venezuela reportedly has the largest oil reserves in the world. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been a strong proponent for tighter Latin America integration – which is a move away from the power of the US banking cartels. 

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez formed oil export agreements with Cuba, directly bypassing the Petrodollar System. Cuba was among those countries that were later added to the “Axis of Evil” by the USA. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the US of using HAARP type weapons to create earthquakes.

    On Aug 24, 2001 a 7 magnitude earthquake rocks Northern Peru bordering Venezuela which doesn’t use the Petrodollar system and Brazil which has been engaged in discussions to end US$ denominated oil transactions. Is it a coincidence that these uncommonly powerful earthquakes are occurring in historically uncommonly large numbers during such a short period of time?. And that they are occurring in or close to countries that have been seriously discussing plans to leave the Petrodollar system, or are already outside it?

    HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) is an ionospheric research program that is jointly funded by the US Air Force, the US Navy, the University of Alaska and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The HAARP program operates a major Arctic facility, known as the HAARP Research Station. It is located on an US Air Force owned site near Gakona, Alaska. HAARP has the ability to manipulate weather and produce earthquakes. It is capable of directing almost 4 Mega Watts of energy in the 3 to 10 MHz region of the HF band up into the ionosphere. This energy can be bounced off of the ionosphere and directed back down at the earth to create earthquakes.  HAARP could potentially be used by adversaries to produce such events. Depending on the frequency, focusing, wave shape, one can induce a variety of effects such as earthquakes, induced at a distant aiming point, severe disturbances in the middle and upper atmosphere over the target area and anomalous weather effects known as the “Tesla effect”.

    HAARP based technology is being actively used to emit powerful radio waves that permeate the earth and subsequently cause strong enough oscillations along fault lines of targeted areas to produce earthquakes. The high power radio waves of HAARP can be used to produce such intense vibrations as to cause an earthquake. HAARP based technology can be used to encourage and produce various weather phenomena such as hurricanes, flooding, or drought through manipulation of the ionosphere. Already Russia, China and Venezuela have suggested that a HAARP type technology weapon is capable of such and attack and been used against several countries causing severe destructions in Haiti, Japan, Russia, China, Iran, Chile, New Zealand, Afghanistan, India etc. 

    What would the probable response be to such a HAARP attack be? An armed conflict with USA? Or the elimination of the Petrodollar system and a subsequent dumping of surplus US$ into the international and US financial markets resulting in the quick collapse of the US$. Attacking these countries with HAARP would destabilize their economies and currencies and to prevent a move away from the US$ and the Petrodollar system.

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