Just as concern over closure of the Suez Canal and Sumed pipeline as a result of popular uprisings in Egypt had begun to subside, the expansion of antigovernment demonstrations and civil unrest to Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, and Jordan have resurrected fears of oil supply disruptions and higher oil prices.
In Libya, as protests have spread from Bengazi to Tripoli, a defiant Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi has attempted to quell the crowds by using helicopters and military aircraft to fire on demonstrators, prompting senior diplomats and government officials to resign and increasing calls for him to step down.
In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh's attempts to mollify protesters by agreeing to concessions, including not standing for reelection, have thus far not satisfied demonstrators, and protests are continuing. Two Iranian naval vessels were aksi transiting the Suez Canal to join maneuvers off the coast of Syria.
Collectively, these countries represent 10 percent of global oil output and roughly another 10 percent of worldwide refining capacity. More importantly, however, they abut other major producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait, serve as home to key regional U.S. military bases, and are proximate to major oil transit "choke points" (the Suez Canal, Bab el-Mandeb, and the Strait of Hormuz) through which a significant portion of global oil moves to international markets.
The Middle East currently produces 30 percent of the world's crude oil supplies, and when combined with North African producers, the region accounts for over a third of the world's oil supply. While to date, the demonstrations have not significantly affected production output--nor major transit routes--continued unrest is beginning to have an impact. As a consequence, oil prices and perceptions of heightened geopolitical risk to key producers are on the rise.
With this quick summary -- and events are evolving rapidly -- I include below a wonderful analysis of how a small ripple of suicidal protest turned into a larger and more dangerous global tsunami of events to even yet unfold economically, militarily, socially, religiously.
Even as I write this, the wave of protests that began in the Middle East appears to have reached North Korea. For the first time in the history of the Stalinist regime, groups of ordinary citizens have protested in three cities demanding food and electricity, according to AsiaNews. The event is exceptional and confirms the economic difficulties, especially concerning food supplies, people have to face under the Communist government.
The tsunami of citizen action is spreading worldwide at a quickening pace and the shores of the US are in sight.
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Michael Bagley Editor, Oilprice.com Weekly Intelligence Newsletter Twitter: @TheOSINTGroup
The Extraordinary Events in the Middle East and the Coming Global Tsunami
The extraordinary events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are the initial high tides of an eventual tsunami that will impact the world that globalists have so fervently promoted for decades, in ways not necessarily to their liking. The first wave has struck and is now retreating from the shore, but will shortly return with redoubled force, and what and who will be swept away and what will be left standing is anyone's guess.
Per usual, America's intelligence agencies on which $60 billion a year is lavished, or $200 for every man, woman and child in the U.S., have given zero benefit to the American citizenry in anticipating events in the North African Magreb, as the CIA along with America's 15 other federal intelligence agencies were completely blindsided by events, if public information is to be believed. If any comfort can be had in this, it is the fact that America's favorite bête noire, al Qaida, much less other Islamic fundamentalists such as the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt, were apparently caught flatfooted as well.
As "Beltwayistan" frantically tries to conceptualize events in North Africa now threatening the larger Muslim world, Washington's pundit class has tried a number of insta-definitions to explain events.
First, it was an "Arab' thing. Secondly, a "Muslim' thing, where dark forces, epitomized by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaida lurking in the wings, were standing poised to hijack events and turn Egypt and now Libya into an Islamic state, with de facto hostility to the West and in particular, towards America's client state Israel, threatening the 1979 Camp David accords.
To use an American English cliché, the "bottom line" is that what's happened in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya represent an ominous turn for Western (read American) interests in the Middle East. Like a Greenland glacier weakened by global warming, the Middle East system of stability carefully crafted by Western interest focused on the region's energy reserves over the last 50 years has begun suddenly to fracture and crumble, and what will replace it is uncertain at best.
In reality, complex as the origins for the North African unrest are, major aspects of them are simply incomprehensible to American GS-17 "specialists" in Washington earning six-figure salaries, along with the hordes of denizens of the Dilbert cubicles cloistered in the NSA's Fort Meade and the CIA's Langley environs, sifting through the massive amounts of data hoovered in each day by the Echelon intelligence network.
What these "experts" have overlooked in their analysis over events are two critical issues - the massive poverty and income disparity of the states undergoing protests, but even more importantly, the presence of an aware youth, plugged into the digital age since childbirth, questioning the status quo.
Interestingly, and also largely overlooked by Western commentators, is that the region's favorite bête noirs has been apparently totally blindsided by the recent events in the Magreb. For the Arab world, this includes the CIA and Israel's Mossad, which are usually seen behind every political event in the region. While such information is tightly held, there is every indication at this stage that both intelligence agencies, vaunted for their abilities, particularly in their native countries, were caught totally flatfooted by the recent events in North Africa.
For the aforementioned two agencies, their initial attempts along with the Western media to portray events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and now destabilizing Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain as part of a nefarious, long developed part of a master plan by Islamists to topple their respective regimes have similarly proven to be as false as those peddling them.
Islamic militants in recent events have been conspicuous by their absence, not in the vanguard of events mobilizing popular support streaming into the streets, nor taking advantage of the resultant political chaos to bring the masses over to their side in proclaiming that whatever succeeds the newly toppled old regime will have a predominantly Islamic tinge. Nowhere have these Western and Israeli fears been more assiduously stoked than in Egypt, where the deep rooted and long banned Islamic Brotherhood maintains a formidable presence.
Given the absence of the region's favorite evil covert intelligence agencies as well as the West's mirror imaged paramount and paranoid fears of covert Islamic fundamentalist jihadis, the causes for the unrest roiling North Africa must be sought elsewhere.
They lie in two root causes simply off the pundit's and intelligence service's radar - poverty and the emergence of a bright, computer literate generation, the first in world history, that sees its options for a decent livelihood, much less prosperity, blocked by a brutal plutocracy designed exclusively to profit the scions of the ruling class, while their corrupt governments buy off Western criticism by waving the specter of Islamic fundamentalism.
The catalyst? The suicide on 17 December of Tarek el-Tayyib Mohamed Ben Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who set himself alight in the town of Sidi Bouzoud, a poverty stricken locale with an unemployment rate of 30 percent, after being harassed by officials who confiscated his pushcart's wares of fruit and vegetables, harassing and humiliating him. Nothing to see here, move along.
Except the Tunisian people did not. While the government clamped down on the Internet, tech-savvy young Tunisians quickly evaded the restrictions and furthermore, used cutting edge digital facilities such as Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about events. The anger and violence against President Ben Ali mounted to the point where he fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia with his family on 14 January, which now seems a lifetime ago.
The Tunisian "jasmine revolution" and the subsequent events in Egypt and Libya now igniting unrest throughout the Middle East were instigated and largely belong to the dispossessed Twitter generation. This is a far larger development than is being portrayed with global implications. The pundits who have prattled on for years about "globalization" are now seeing the first stirrings of that and are furiously explaining away their lack of foresight as they assumed that globalization's benefits would forever benefit the ruling classes while those at the bottom of the economic food chain would continue to remain, as they have for decades, quiescent and passive, awaiting the "trickle down" benefits from the tables of their masters which in fact never arrived. Reaganism on a global scale.
If poverty were the sole cause of social and political unrest, then as Karl Marx once observed, the poor would be in a constant state of turmoil. But millions of educated young Middle Easterners can now use the Internet and other digital media and have become aware of their situation and the grotesque financial inequities in their countries making their training largely worthless for finding employment, and unlike their parent's generation, have mobilized for change.
What has largely been overlooked by Western intelligence agencies in their eagerness to find fundamentalists underpinning events in the Magreb is that the events of the last five weeks have not only been initiated by economic issues of extreme poverty, but the emergence of a global phenomenon largely overlooked up to now, the emergence of the world's first totally computer literate generation, that can circumvent Internet restrictions.
The implications of the emergence of this generation, technologically literate and noting the disparity between their lives and the persistent, hypocritical bleatings of Washington about democracy have proven a potent mix and not only underlay today's events, but are ominous harbingers for those affluent international plutocrats looting worldwide on the assumption that those young will forever passively accept the same conditions as their downtrodden parents.
Another extraordinary moment totally overlooked by the western media is how the events in Egypt represent al Jazeera's coming of age. For media coverage of the events in North Africa, al Jazeera has consistently proven that it is the equal with any global television channel and deserving of wide dissemination. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya should prove their breakthrough moment for their brilliant and unwavering coverage of events, much as the 1991 Gulf War catapulted CNN into worldwide prominence.
"Walk like an Egyptian." To those plutocratic governments that have asset-stripped their populations for decades for the benefit of their affluent ruling class, the watchword is now, "Be afraid, be very afraid."
Long oppressed Middle Eastern peoples led by their tech-savvy youth have determined that their organized masses if tightly and consistently focused on Tahrir Square or elsewhere outweigh the repressive forces of the state if they are willing to accept casualties. Even beleaguered self-styled Libyan "King of Kings" ( or "Mad Dog," if you prefer Reagan's appellations) Moammar Qadaffi can't kill them all.
As all repressive systems are ultimately based on the threat of using force to ensure the population's passivity, this, along with the information age young spearheading the information revolution, are the true lessons of recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, while Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen are on notice.
In America, technologically capable young people currently organize fun "flash mobs" or pants-less days - but certain elements deny them jobs for years and crush their employment opportunities while saddling them with decades of debt for their education, the future is not so bright.
As events in Wisconsin are proving, this is not solely an issue of the young, but of perceived assaults on declining standards of living imposed by spendthrift governments, as even America's older working class is discovering 'red lines."
The turmoil transcends national boundaries - it is notable, though not reported in the American media, that Egyptian labor unions sent a message of solidarity after their protest began, thanking them for their earlier messages of solidarity, saying, "We stand with you now as you stood with us then." America's billionaires, relentlessly promoting globalization over the last three decades outsourcing American jobs abroad in search of increased Third World profits where labor is cheap, are now seeing some 'blowback," to use a CIA phrase.
We are all cheese-heads now. In the United States, 48 years after Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his stirring "I have a dream" speech at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, 45 percent of young African-Americans have no jobs and the top hedge fund managers are paid, on average, $1 billion a year, a thoughtful American can only expect the mass protests against cuts in services and jobs in Wisconsin to spread.
And America's propensity for eventual chaos is far higher than the Middle East, demonized in the press as a violent region, when one considers that America's 300 million citizens have between 238 million and 276 million privately owned firearms.
As a prescient 23-year old from Hibbing, Minnesota, Bob Dylan warned an earlier generation 47 years ago about to embark on its misguided mission to safeguard and democratize in Vietnam, "There's a battle outside and it is raging, It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, For the times they are a-changin'."
America has older prophets on the current situation - as Thomas Jefferson observed, "A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government."
Take heed, Governor Walker of Wisconsin and all the rest of you political leaders in Washington DC - or fuel up your learjets and head for the Cayman Islands.