American-German economic researcher and historian F William Engdahl observed that never in its wildest dreams did the Obama administration expect that it’d face a financial disaster after it conspired with Riyadh to drop oil prices and flood the market with cheap petroleum, trying to rerun the highly successful American-Saudi deal of 1986 that weakened the USSR. Although it wasn’t not made public, on 11 September 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry and King Abdullah concluded a secret deal to use Saudi “oil muscle” to bring Russia and the Kremlin to its knees. Remarkably, on the very next day, the US Treasury’s aptly-named Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, headed by Treasury Under-Secretary David Cohen imposed new sanctions on Russia’s energy companies Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftgas, and Rosneft and prohibited American oil corporations from participating in Russian offshore oil projects in the Arctic. Engdahl said, with a touch of irony, “Then, just as the rouble was rapidly falling and Russian major corporations were scrambling for dollars for their year-end settlements, a collapse of world oil prices would end Putin’s reign. Clearly, that was the thinking of the hollowed-out souls who pass for statesmen in Washington today. Victoria Nuland was jubilant, praising the precision new financial warfare weapon at David Cohen’s Treasury financial terrorism unit”.
Meanwhile, nothing hinted at any trouble in July 2014… West Texas Intermediate traded at 101 USD (6,460 Roubles. 627 Renminbi. 6,440 INR. 133 CAD. 136 AUD. 92 Euros. 65 UK Pounds) a barrel, and Engdahl noted, “The shale oil bonanza was booming, making the USA into a major oil player for the first time since the 1970’s”. However, when WTI slid to 46 USD (2,940 Roubles. 286 Renminbi. 2,930 INR. 60 CAD. 62 AUD. 42 Euros. 30 UK Pounds) per barrel in January 2015, American strategists suddenly realised that they’d cut their own throat. Indeed, “the over-indebted US shale oil industry” was about to breathe its last because of the plummeting oil price. Although Washington and Wall Street made every effort to artificially stabilise the dire situation (resulting in a slowly rising oil price since February to May, when it hit 62 USD (3,970 Roubles. 385 Renminbi. 3,950 INR. 82 CAD. 84 AUD. 57 Euros. 40 UK Pounds) per barrel), the American political and financial élite underestimated the Saudi factor’s importance.
Engdahl said, “Reportedly, al-Naimi [the Saudi Oil Minister] saw a golden opportunity in the Kerry proposal to use the chance to, at the same time, kill off the growing market challenge from the rising output of the unconventional American shale oil industry. Often, al-Naimi said that he’s determined to eliminate the American shale oil ‘disturbance’ to Saudi domination of world oil market”. Alas, the Saudis are very unhappy with Washington’s shale oil advance and the Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration with Tehran. Engdahl emphasised, “In fact, the Saudis are beside themselves with rage against Washington. This has all added up to an iron Saudi determination, aided by close Gulf Arab allies, to further crash oil prices until the expected wave of shale oil company bankruptcies. On 29 July 2015, WTI fell to 49 USD (3,140 Roubles. 305 Renminbi. 3,130 INR. 65 CAD. 66 AUD. 45 Euros. 32 UK Pounds)”.
Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street bank, reported in panic, “We anticipated that OPEC wouldn’t cut, but we didn’t foresee such a sharp increase. This downturn would be more severe than that in 1986. As there was no sharp downturn in the 15 years before that, the current downturn could be the worst of the last 45+ years. If this were to be the case, there would be nothing in our experience that would be a guide to the next phases of this cycle… in fact, there may be nothing in analysable history”. What makes matters even worse for Washington, is that Saudi Arabia, its longstanding and subservient ally, has begun to play its own geopolitical games. On 18 June 2015 Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister and son of King Salman visited Russia and met with President V V Putin. The parties discussed up to 10 billion USD (640 billion Roubles. 62.07 billion Renminbi. 637.48 billion INR. 13.14 billion CAD. 13.48 billion AUD. 9.12 billion Euros. 6.46 billion UK Pounds) trade deals.
Engdahl remarked, “Today, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer and Russia a close second. A Saudi-Russian alliance on whatever level was hardly in the strategy book of Washington State Department planners”. Engdahl went on to say, “October 2015 is the next key point for American shale oil companies… banks will decide whether to keep funding fading American shale oil production or rollover their loans. At the same time, if the Federal Reserve raises American interest rates in September, highly indebted American shale oil manufacturers would face “disaster of a new scale”. Unfortunately, such a “doomsday” scenario may be accompanied with further unintended consequences for American and global financial system. Indeed, as a proverb says, “Curses, like chickens, come home to roost.”
8 August 2015