Friday, August 3, 2007

A Shi'a-Sunni War of International Dimension Looms Ahead

For the last few weeks the oil markets have seemed strange. I've felt out of it, without knowing why. A couple days ago I left a comment at the Energy Roundup:

"Mr. Brown, I think Matt Chambers included that quote for a reason.
There is something going on in the pricing external to or in addition to supply/demand.
I’m not referring to the backwardation that has Dec. 2012 8% cheaper than the front month, there’s something going on front month and spot.
I’ve no clue what,
just watching."

I still am at a loss but thought this story from the Iran Press Service was worth bookmarking:

A very dangerous fratricide war that can enflame the whole of the Muslim world may take place if the Saudi Arabia’s authorities do not oblige the country’s religious instances to immediately withdraw fatwas by Wahabbi muftis ordering the destruction of all Shi’a mosques and holly places in Iraq.
“Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and some other leading Wahhabi muftis have reportedly endorsed a fatwa allowing for the destruction of Shi’ite holy shrines of Imam Hoseyn (Shi’a’s third and most revered imam) and his brother hazrat Abbas in Karbala, of their sister hazrat Zeinab in Damascus, Syria, as well as Imam Ali, (the first Imam of Sh’ia Muslims), in Najaf, Iraq”, both the official news agency IRNA and the English-language newspaper "Iran Daily", published by IRNA, reported on Sunday 22 July 2007.

In the decree first released before the second attack on Samarra shrines, Wahhabis are asked to destroy all signs of "polytheism" in Iraqi cities, an implicit reference to the Shi’ite shrines, Iran Daily further reported. "The shrine of (Imam) Hoseyn in Karbala, as one of the main symbols of Shi’ites, should be destroyed," the decree said.

Iranian religious circles reaction to the fatwa was crushing and ferocious, describing the Wahabis as “terrorists”, “puppets of Americans and Israelis”, in an obvious effort not to attack directly the Saudi authorities.

Iranian Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani, one of Shiite sources of jurisprudence in the Holy city of Qom strongly denounced a religious decree issued by some Saudi Mufties (religious figures) to destroy Shi’ate holy sites.

Also, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi and Ayatollah Hoseyn Nouri Hamedani said in separate statements that the Saudi government is responsible for stopping the extremist muftis from waging propaganda campaign against the Infallible Household of Prophet Mohammad.

“Saudi Arabia has unfortunately been turned into a school for nurturing terrorism and supporting the terrorists, promoting an inauthentic version of Islam, and this recent verdict issued by Saudi terrorism worshiper Mufties is strongly denounced", IRNA quoted a communiqué issued by Ayatollah Golpayegani's Office.

"The alert Muslims of the world, prominent Islamic World Alims, scientific and university societies, elites, and statesmen of the important Islamic countries should know that the dark minded, deviated Wahhabi sect has today after a whole century of hatching anti-Islamic plots, got weaker than ever before, and more ill-famed in the eyed of the world Muslims, which is the reason why it has begun killing, massacring, destroying, and committing all types of other corrupt behaviors", Safi Golpayegani has in the communiqué reiterated.

He adds, "The brutal acts committed by this corrupt clan has led to the creation of a very negative image of Islam and the world Muslims in the eyes of the world nations, horrifying and intimidating the innocent human beings, while the dear Islam is the religion of peace, brotherhood, and all-encompassing love of God for His entire creatures"....

I haven't seen anything in the U.S. media about the Saudi Fatwas so I thought I'd put it up.

Another story which got more play:

Expect More Damage from US Kaleidoscopic Diplomacy

The proposed new $70 billion US military aid and sale in the Middle East gigantically enforces the ideological perspectives and policies of decision-makers in Washington without reckoning with Middle East realities -- and will only make the Middle East problems that much more difficult to resolve, says Rami Khouri.

BEIRUT -- The riddle of American foreign policy in the Middle East this week became even more puzzling, following the announcement of major new military aid and sales packages to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and smaller Arab countries. The totals will top $70 billion over the coming ten years. The United States justifies this as part of its policy of fighting radicalism and terrorism, supporting moderates, and promoting an Arab-Israeli peace process.

It might also help the Man on the Moon learn to make really fine New York-style cheesecake....

I've no Idea what that last line means. The story is from Middle East Online.

Just to mix it up a bit more, here's a story from the Middle East Times a week-and-a-half ago:

Reports of a third US carrier task force - with the USS Nimitz - said to be heading for the Gulf region this week now places a total of about 300 carrier-based fighter jets within striking range of Iran.

"The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better," writes Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma, publisher of the SyriaComment blog, who is currently visiting Syria. The next few months "will be a waiting game and the hatches have all been battened down," writes Landis.

Damascus and Tehran are bound by a mutual defense pact and an attack on Iran by the United States is likely to bring Syria into the fray. An Iranian opposition figure reports that an important arms deal was struck between Iran and Syria following the visit of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Damascus last week in which Iran will fund Syria's military about $1 billion toward arms procurement.

On a more optimistic note, this from the Hindustan Times:

USS Nimitz to return next month

It might drive the Left round the bend, but nuclear-powered super-carrier USS Nimitz is returning to Indian waters with a vengeance very soon.

The US is moving a flotilla of warships, led by Nimitz, to the Bay of Bengal to take part in the Indo-US joint naval exercises 'Malabar 07' from September 4-9. The American armada includes aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Chicago, guided missile cruiser USS Princeton and five other warships.

Aircraft carrier INS Viraat will lead the Indian ships that include Rajput class destroyers INS Ranvijay, INS Ranjit and guided missile frigate INS Brahmaputra. The IAF will field its maritime Jaguar fighters and the Navy its Tu-142 long-range reconnaissance aircraft. Featuring three aircraft carriers, the Navy does not deny that the complexity of the exercise will be greater than ever before.

The Left is, however, breathing fire.

And from Reuters:

New U.S. carrier in Gulf region as force reduced

The U.S. Navy, scaling back its force in the Gulf, said on Wednesday it had sent a fresh aircraft carrier to the region to replace two carriers deployed there since early this year amid tension with Iran.

It said the USS Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, which includes accompanying destroyers and a submarine, was in the Red Sea and heading for the Gulf and the wider Gulf region.

Lt. John Gay of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet headquartered in Bahrain said the two other carrier groups, headed by the USS Stennis and the USS Nimitz, had moved out of the area in July and were now in the Pacific.

Not sure what it means, or if it matters to oil prices. Just thought I should point it all out.