The Economist
writes: “The oil price
reached $68 a barrel on Friday, January 20th, amid worries about the security of
supply from Iran, the world’s fourth largest
exporter, where there is talk of possible economic sanctions. Adding to the
tension, oil firms in Nigeria, the eighth biggest exporter,
have been attacked by militants. And Osama bin Laden has released an audiotape
threatening more attacks on the west. With demand from Asia as firm as ever, oil is heading in only one

A New York Times writer points out
that Iran gets half of its revenue from selling oil, so withholding supply will
hurt it perhaps more than it hurts the rest of us: “In the United States, the
stand off is increasingly perceived as the top foreign policy and security
challenge for President Bush’s second term. On Sunday, Senator John McCain, a
Republican from Arizona, speaking on CBS’s
“Face the Nation,” said the United
States should press for international sanctions against
Iran. He added, “If the price of oil
has to go up, then that’s a consequence we would have to

On Friday, the US share market dropped close to 2%, and last
week’s tentative recovery in Asia is likely to
be snuffed out, indeed reversed. It looks ominously as though the various risk
factors, including Iran and the oil price, will be in
the ascendant for a while yet.

Economists see this as a major risk
to the global boom.

Read more at Henry

Iran – Just
Whose Side is God On?

With more and more coverage in the
media, we turn again to the events playing out with Iran. Leanne
wrote an excellent opinion piece which carefully puts forth the case
that the most favourable outcome for the planet would be an internal revolution
by Iranians who – we hope – are just as worried about the possibilities involved
with President Ahmadinejad’s agenda as the rest of

The alternatives – military strikes
that would back up Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric that the West is out to get
Iran, or inaction which allows him to
get the bomb – don’t bear thinking about. Of course it all assumes that there
really is a pressing threat, and that the same people who swore black and blue
that Saddam had WMD’s have not got it wrong again. The good folks at the
subscription only Nelson Report seem to think it’s possible – even likely – that
things are not nearly as bad as people think.
Their logic leads inexorably to the
“wag the dog” argument that the Republicans used against Clinton when he was
taking an unhealthy interest in cigars and interns, and that the political left
in the US now seem happy to level at Bush, fuelled by his undeniable need to
raise his game as leader of the political right in the

Plausible arguments perhaps, but the
other piece of inexorable logic is that there will be a day of reckoning when
Iran will have to be dealt with, and better to do it now when there is less at
stake and it looks like the UN security council, the Russians and even possibly
the Chinese are singing from the same songsheet.

Back to Leanne Piggott’s article
however, where a particular thread seems, in Henry’s view, to cut to the core of
the issue, pointing out that the usual rules will not apply to a nuclear armed
Iran, and that the appropriately acronymed doctrine of Mutually Assured
Destruction won’t work when you are dealing with a religious zealot who believes
he has both the right and capability to hasten the coming of the messiah. All
worldly considerations are thus secondary and people can say what they like –
this guy believes he is literally on a holy

Compare and contrast with the
motivations in play in the US. Some of the more polarised views
out there have it that President Bush has crafted his Middle Eastern policy with
more than a casual eye to the doctrines of the Christian Reconstructionist
which advocates the “recapture of all institutions for Jesus Christ”.
The argument goes something like this: Most Christians believe that
Jesus will return to earth, heralding judgement of mankind thus saving
the righteous and consigning the rest to Hell at the end of days. To
the best of Henry’s understanding, this is not supposed to be able to
happen until the people of Israel are saved and the
State of Israel made secure (“restoring the Kingdom to Israel”).

Read on at Henry
Thornton here.