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  • The Covert Intelligence War Against Iran

    Today I offer a topic that might have missed your "news-net" coverage of the eurozone crisis, US debt insanity, and a possible global recession. Folks, we may have the modern-day equivalent of the Cold War on our hands.

    Go ahead and let go of the images of McCarthy at the podium, the Sputnik launch, and reel footage of schoolchildren ducking under desks; this cold war likens more to Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible than the original with Peter Graves. I'm referring to ongoing covert operations against Iran over its quest for nuclear capabilities, and its staunch position against the existence of Israel. After the defection of nuclear officials, the Stuxnet computer worm, and a few questionable "explosions," it is becoming increasingly clear that a cold war is being waged (and has been, since at least 2007) to ensure, simply put, some level of peace in the Middle East.

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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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  • U.S. Midterm Elections, Obama and Iran

    With midterm elections quickly approaching, the media is full of sordid details about candidates and good old-fashioned mudslinging. Few take a giant step back, and consequentially the high road, to recognize the big picture. As my friend George states in the piece below - whether we see overwhelming Republican victory or surprising Democratic saves next week, the end result is the same. Democrats will no longer hold a decisive majority, and any Republican majority will still face the presidential veto. Domestic politics are about to change.

    In the article, George - founder and CEO of STRATFOR, a global intelligence company - explores what President Obama's options are if he hopes to secure a second term. It's not a prediction of what Obama will do, but the options George presents are very, very interesting, and would have repercussions well beyond U.S. borders and 2012 elections.

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  • Brazil, Iran: A Troublesome Relationship for the U.S.

    World economies I get: currency, trading, deficits, surpluses... World politics is another story. I follow what happens: summits, policy changes, elections: but what does it mean for energy markets, potential threats, actual relations between countries? These situations define our future - financial and otherwise.

    Today I'm sending you a piece from STRATFOR on the relationship between Iran and Brazil - and what it means for energy, trade, U.S. sanctions, and this rising power in the South. STRATFOR is my go-to source for all things geopolitical. The great thing about it is that it's not just available to government agencies, Fortune 500 corporations and financial advisers such as myself. Rather, you too can access their content.

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  • A Defensive Buildup in the Gulf

    Sometimes when I read a newspaper article, it strikes me as a 'He said, she said' game. If I'm going to make an informed decision, I need analysis - not opinions from two sides, each with their own motive. You can find quotes from 'experts' anywhere, but they usually don't offer much insight, except into the agenda of the person quoted. For deeper insight, I turn to my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR. STRATFOR publishes intelligence, not news. No journalists, no politicians - just analysts.

    I'm sending you a peek at the type of intelligence they provide for decision-makers like you and me.

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  • Iran Sanctions (Special Series), Part 3

    Recently I had a discussion with a colleague about university athletes. I was previously unaware that NCAA colleges set up guidance programs that develop the well-roundedness of student athletes. 'Life coaches' ensure that these individuals balance their rigorous athletic commitments with personal and academic accomplishments. I'm not judging your ability to run a mile or catch a football, but well-roundedness is an element to being successful - whatever your area may be.

    To be a solid investor, it's important to consider a variety of markets, and you must be well-informed in a myriad of sectors. This is where having the best information comes in, and one of the better places for intelligence is STRATFOR. They offer a straightforward recipe of news about global affairs - causes, outcomes and what to expect next based on a rational, time-tested methodology.

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  • Russia, Ahmadinejad and Iran Reconsidered

    I've mentioned a couple of schools of thought before: those who look at the big picture and those who pore over the details. Often, the major product is the result of its minor pieces. If you use good meat, good buns, and good vegetables- you're going to turn out a pretty good hamburger. The same goes for cars, businesses and portfolios.

    One industry in which this methodology really doesn't seem to work is information. Mainstream sources of information almost always fail to connect the world's events. They do a great job telling you that former Iranian president Rafsanjani addressed his supporters, that anti-Ahmadinejad protestors outside chanted 'Death to Russia', and that Israel sent a submarine through the Suez Canal. But they don't show how the incidents fit together in the geopolitical landscape, nor what they mean for the relationships between global powers. They give you the meat, the buns and the vegetables, but there's no hamburger.

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  • Iranian Elections, Israel and the United States

    In the midst of an economic crisis, we are inundated with data - information that often, a few years down the line, turns out to be wrong. Forecasts are made based on a single month's set of data or previous trends, and the public often doesn't know how to read the fine print about margins of error.

    The problem is faulty methodology. Most media and even government intelligence agencies assume the information they get from leadership figures is 100% correct, no questions asked - leading to defective analyses. Instead, underlying assumptions should be constantly vetted in the face of new facts. I'd encourage you to consider the intelligence produced by my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR - a trusted source in forecasting future geopolitical trends....
  • 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....
  • Obama's Challenge

    With the election of a new US President, everyone is focused on the 'First 100 Days.' How Obama transitions into the presidency impacts not just the U.S. but the entire global system. What happens to U.S. relations with Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan? What's going to happen at Treasury and to all the programs addressing the financial crisis? What's going to emerge from the next G20 summit? You need to read the analysis below, written by my good friend George Friedman at Stratfor. He details the immediate issues facing the president-elect, including one of the stickiest: Europe's desire for a global banking regulatory regimen. How will Obama respond to European pressure? George has built his company Stratfor and its reputation on forecasting the future, and I'm amazed at how often he's right -- on broad themes and specific events....
  • The New President and the Global Landscape

    In times of crisis, those with psychological fortitude discover opportunities that most people miss. A friend of mine in Houston tells me of unending piles of tree limbs broken down by the hurricane. The homeowner laments his disaster; the tree trimmer and the roofer order a new Mercedes. Most of the world sees a Wall St. meltdown. Buffett takes the opening to deploy billions from his cash hoard. They're all seeing the same thing, but they're reacting differently based on different visions of the future. I've included a piece today from my friend George Friedman over at Stratfor about the landscape the next US President will face. This article is a perfect example of why I rely on Stratfor for my geopolitical intelligence. The newspapers and other media do better or lesser jobs of telling me about what's happening right now. But that's not what an investor needs. What I need - and I recommend for you - is an analysis of what we're going to be facing. That's where George and his team absolutely excel. For at least the next month, the public conversation is going to be completely dominated by the November election and the political maneuvering to address the financial crisis. There will be tremendous drama. There will be dizzying swings back and forth in emotions, expectations, and more than likely the markets. And if you focus on it, you'll miss the real opportunities to position yourself for the emergence....
  • 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?...
  • Mediterranean Flyover: Telegraphing an Israeli Punch?

    Kudos to my friend George Friedman and his crew at Stratfor. If you didn't see the article in this week's Barron's about Stratfor's analysis of the geopolitical risk premium built into oil prices, you missed a really good piece of work. You've probably heard Napoleon's quote that 'Amateurs discuss strategy, and professionals discuss logistics.' If you want a perfect example of how that quote plays out for the markets, take a look at Stratfor's article below. It's precisely the kind of sober, fundamental research that makes Stratfor my invaluable source for geopolitical intelligence. No matter where you're looking at putting your money today, the impact of energy prices simply can't be overstated. The commodities trade, US and foreign equities, debt and interest rates, everything is being driven by energy prices right now. Whether you're trying to factor energy as a direct input into the price and consumption of manufactured goods or dealing with monetary policy's impact on the dollar and debt markets, you're implicitly making an energy trade....