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  • Syria, Iran, and the Balance of Power in the Middle East

    Let's peel our eyes away from the eurozone disaster momentarily and take a look at another crisis – one with just as much potential to impact our global financial system.

    As we've discussed in Outside the Box before, Iran's trump card is not its nuclear capability but rather its opportune location next to the very narrow, very important Strait of Hormuz ... through which no less than 40% of the world's seaborne oil passes.

    As the US leaves Iraq, Iran is ready and waiting to fill the void and extend its regional influence. So where's the next turf war? A shaky Syria, where the Iranian-Saudi-US balance of power will continue to play out.

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  • Iran’s Nuclear Program and its Nuclear Option

    Take a minute – and maybe a deep breath too – and imagine the markets at opening bell on a hypothetical morning when live video shows burning oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz (through which 40% of the world's seaborne oil passes). Couple that with the already shaky state of the current global economy and you get ... well, what does chaos in a mosh pit look like?

    Iran is back in the headlines, and once again behaving in a less-than-cooperative fashion regarding its nuclear enrichment program. After they've failed to deliver on promise after promise, it does not appear that Iran will come clean anytime soon, and definitely not in time for the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspection report due out any day now.

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  • Iraq, Iran and the Next Move

    For those of you that have read about my new book, Endgame, you know I make the point that, while there are no good options for dealing with the debt crisis, the worst choice of all is doing nothing. In today's Outside the Box, you'll see a similar argument—but this "lesser of two evils" situation deals with the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, and the ever-present Iranian push to dominate the Persian Gulf region.

    George Friedman—my friend, and founder of STRATFOR, a global intelligence company—discusses the potential "bad options" the U.S. has in its attempt to rein in Iran, and arrives at what he considers the least detrimental: negotiation. The worst of course is doing nothing, thus allowing Iran to increase its hold on the entire region—a region on which the global economy is dependent for its oil... You can see why all this matters.

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  • Iran: Using Oil as a Weapon, But Only Rhetorically

    The hottest media topic of the New Year is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. And as I was reading the New York Times on Tuesday, I came across this sentence in one of the articles that was staggeringly truthful and more than a little unsettling in its implications for me as an investor. 'There are other ways to construe the context of this conflict of course. But no matter what, Israel's diplomats know that if journalists are given a choice between covering death and covering context, death wins.' Now, I'm NOT trying to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of either side, but if you're an investor, and you're trying to make decisions about where this conflict might drive oil prices, for example, then context is everything. And according to the New York Times, if you're relying on journalists for context, forget it. But you do have an alternative....
  • The Real World Order

    Today I'm passing along a piece from George Friedman, Chief Intelligence Officer at Stratfor. He makes the absolutely compelling argument that issues of war and peace follow these same guidelines. There are ebbs and flows, but war between countries is an inevitable part of history, and it's driven by simple geography. The recent war between Russia and Georgia was precisely such a "reversion to the mean," double-entendre fully intended. Navigating financial markets requires an understanding of the geopolitical issues - the war & peace - that drive them. What does this war mean for Russian gas supplies to Europe? What does this war mean for the future of the BTC pipeline? Does this war make Iranian inclusion in global markets more or less likely? Is Russia just "vertically integrating" its control of energy flows with less-than-subtle tools?...
  • War Plans: United States and Iran

    This week in our Special Outside the Box, George Friedman of Stratfor addresses what many believe to be the looming war with Iran, the potential wars' strategic futility, the underlying geopolitical implications, and the inherent threats that abound...
  • Russia's Great-Power Strategy

    Introduction Today's special edition Outside the Box discusses the long-term strategy that Russian President Vladimir Putin is setting in place. Stratfor President George Friedman has written an intriguing article on what he sees as some motives,...
  • Rhetoric and Reality: The View from Iran

    Introduction Today's Special Edition of "Outside the Box" by my friends at Stratfor gives us a very insightful analysis of the difference between the rhetoric of Iran and the reality of the world they face. George Friedman, President of...