IS THE IRANIAN OIL BOURSE A CAUSE FOR WAR?
By F. William Engdahl
[This article published in: Zeit-Fragen No.7, 2/13/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/.]
Important discussions can be found on the Internet suggesting that the imminent opening of the Teheran oil bourse expected in March 2006 could be the true reason for Washington's preparations of a military strike against Iran. When sellers can trade in other currencies than the US dollar - according to the argument -, the US dollar, the financial pillar of the American empire, will collapse along with the global hegemony of the United States. While it may seem convincing, this argument has weak spots. The only currency that could endanger the dollar as the preferred currency of the world oil trade is the euro.
For the sake of argument, let us assume that China, Japan, India, East Asia and the countries of the EU would be ready to trade oil in euros, as Saddam Hussein did from November 2000 with the Iraqi oil-for-food program, then trade with the limited supply of euros on the international finance markets would soon end in a cul-de-sac. The limit lies here with the European Central Bank (EZB) and the Maastricht treaty. The EZB is committed to this Maastricht to strictly limit circulation in euros, to enforce a discipline in state indebtedness and restrict new indebtedness by the governments. As long as this continues with the EZB, no serious challenge exists for the role of the dollar.
Still the matter is even more complex. The role of the dollar as the reserve currency for world trade and the central banks has a political nature. It is a political decision of the Japanese to partly support the US dollar as a return favor for the defensive nuclear shield from the US. This is also true for Saudi Arabia. The governments and economic leaders of the European Union are so closely entwined in a net of dependencies that they fear anything that could turn against Washington or the dollar.
The man who served Teheran as a private advisor in establishing the oil bourse is Chris Cook, former director of the London International Petroleum Exchange (IPE). In a column that recently appeared in the "Asia Times," Cook describes his role since 2001. He tried to convince the authorities in Teheran that as local oil bourse - trading the local crude oil from the Persian Gulf - could free Iran and other OPEC states from the manipulation of the oil price by mammoth investment banks in New York and Europe since these banks use financial derivatives and other means to make immense profits on paper.
"The denomination of oil sales is a pure transaction affair. What counts is in what assets (or in the case of the United States, in what debts) these revenues are then invested," Cook emphasizes. The backgrounds on whose basis Washington could attack or not attack Iran are more important. In the present situation, the oil bourse represents a symbolic manifestation of Iran's desire to be less dependent on a US-dominated dollar-world, no more.