Scraping the Barrel…. 24 July 2012

Chevron is chummy as ever with the Venezuelan powers that be, Setty’s notebook writes. The US major seems to be betting on ailing president Hugo Chavez’s reelection, having committed late last week to a $2 billion loan to state oil giant PDVSA, where the Chavistas are very much hands-on. Just how well do Chevron and Chavez get along? The Prez recently issued a warning to Spain’s Repsol for taking action against Argentina after its YPF SA unit was nationalized, suggesting that its arbitration case against Argentina could impact the company’s holdings in Venezuela. This comes after a long-running legal battle between Chevron and Ecuador came to a head over a pollution lawsuit last January – a case in which Chavez refrained from any verbal barbs against his buds at Chevron. If you scratch my back, Hugo, I’ll scratch yours, Chevron seems to be saying – to the tune of $2 billion cold.

Not a major oil producer itself, Syria’s revolution still has major implications in the world’s premier energy producing region. Robin Mills writes in The National that a prolonged civil war could threaten a spillover of violence into Iraq; and the loss of an ally in Damascus could make Iran redouble its efforts to influence Baghdad, creating a potentially toxic geopolitical triangle between the three states. Then there are the Kurds, who make up about nine percent of the Syrian population. If they emerge as a political force after the fall of Bashar al Assad, they may supply the semi-autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq with an alternative oil export route, to the chagrin of Baghdad and Turkey’s capital, Ankara. All adds up to suggest that, far from simplifying the energy equation in the Middle East, Assad’s demise might muddle the picture even further.

On the topic of regime change, popular dissent is on the rise in Sudan, where the regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is facing the most significant and sustained popular calls for regime change in its 23-year history. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is on a knife’s edge as the three elements of its power structure – the military, the Islamists, and the hardline political and business elite – hedge their bets. President al-Bashir is the one man trusted by all three factions and remains the keystone holding the bloc together; but the union is tenuous, and collapse would ripple through “Nigeria, Mali and every country in the East and Horn of Africa.” Not to mention the nascent state of South Sudan, with whom Khartoum is locked in a critical battle over oil revenues.

Category: Daily news reviews · Tags:

Leave A Comment