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Friday, August 10, 2007

For a Fistful of Petrodollars

Three steely-eyed gunmen eye each other from the corners of a triangle, standing in the hot sun...the good, the bad, and the ugly...is it Clint, Lee & Eli? (Spaghetti westerns are the reason I got a satellite dish on my lily pad, but I never did know who was the bad and who was the ugly.) Anyway, the correct answer is: neither! In today's case, they are (in no particular order) Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iraq.



The United States government, in a fine example of its continuing sensitivity to the delicate religious differences in the Middle East, is looking into sending Iraq's oil to Israel. This would require reviving the old Haifa-Kirkuk pipeline, which inexplicably fell into disuse in 1948 (must have been some bad weather that year or something). In return for the new business, Israel would only have to give total support to America's presence in Iraq, and maybe pony up some of the $400,000 per kilometer (that's $640,000 per mile) to rebuild the pipeline.

The Iraqis are a little strapped for cash at the moment, but maybe the US taxpayers can divvy up the rest. It's only 570 miles from Haifa to Kirkuk, so that works out to $365 million - a bargain when you're trying to get a grip on the world's fourth largest oil reserves! But surely there are other reasons -- it can't just be about oil. For instance, there could be small children in Israel who have squeaky toys that need oiling.

But I think we can be sure it's at least a little about oil. After all, before the Bush Administration took office, they did quite a bit of chatting with this fellow:



His name is Matt Simmons. He's an investment banker who regularly speaks out about how global oil production is about to peak, or maybe already has. Could that be why the Bush Administration started talking about regime change in Iraq starting at their very first NSC meeting, several months before 9/11? Hmm, well, it could be a coincidence. After all, King Umberto of Italy met a man who looked just like him, who also married a woman named Margherita and had a son named Vittorio. So anything is possible.

But back to the shoot-out at the Linguine Corral. Where does Saudi Arabia fit into all this? Turns out that lonely little frontier of beach-front property is about to be the proud owner of $20 billion worth of new arms from the United States. The deal will include advanced weaponry, missile guidance systems, upgraded fighter jets, naval ships and seven million unopened DVD's of "Snakes on a Plane". (Just to be fair and balanced, the US will also give $30 billion worth of arms to Israel. What could go wrong?)

Now what, exactly, do the Saudis plan to do with all those missiles, ships and arguably-lethal DVD's? Let's see. The Saudis are Wahhabi Muslims -- Wahhabi being a stricter sub-sect of the Sunni side of Islam (not to be confused with the Sunny side of the Street, written by Louis Armstrong). Their main rival over there is Iran, which is Shiite. Meanwhile, Saddam, who was Sunni (whenever it suited him) is toast, leaving the majority Shiites in control of Iraq, except for the Kurdish portion which wants to be independent, which makes Turkey nervous, and the Turks (who are mostly Sunni, but are trying to be secular) are already upset about the prospect of no longer getting paid to move Iraq's oil if it starts going through the Haifa-Kirkuk pipeline.



The bottom line, of course, is that the US is going to need somebody to look after Iraq when the troops eventually go home. And who better than the leaders of the House of Saud (average age: 493), who will be looking for new sources of oil to sell to the world once their own production starts to peak next Thursday? So by cleverly handing guns to everyone in the Corral (the US is arming the Iraqis too, of course) America might just make off with that saddlebag full of black gold yet! Yeehaa!