No sane person wants war.
But, with the global economy in tatters and geopolitical tensions rising, a serious war looks likely.
It’s difficult to know where it will start…
North Korea, the South China Sea and the Middle East all have the potential to be the spark that sets it in motion. Wherever it starts, when this really kicks off, it’s likely to escalate quickly into the first major conflict of the 21st century.
I don’t say this to scare you. And it’s not a topic that I enjoy talking about. But someone has to warn you about the real risks that we’re facing. The loss of life in a major conflict will be devastating. But, unfortunately, with insane politicians running the world, there is nothing we can do to stop that.
What you can do is prepare yourself financially for the worst possible scenario. If this war escalates as I believe, at least your wealth won’t be erased. That may help your family cope emotionally (as much as possible) when the world turns upside down.
With that in mind, let’s turn to the Middle East. I’ll talk about the other hotspots another day.
In September 2014, I reported the following analysis to Resource Speculator readers. That date seems ancient today. But the analysis is more relevant than ever. The Middle Eastern conflict has grown around Syria for some time now. And if you’ve ever wondered why a poor country like Syria matters, at least to the US and Saudi Arabia, I’ll explain.
The Middle East power play
At the end of the day, the whole mess boils down to politics, power and money. I don’t expect this to shock you.
But to kick things off, let’s start with religion at the very surface level. In doing so, please understand that I take no view on religion. My purpose here is to provide an objective view on the region from an investor’s perspective.
With that said, it’s helpful to know who the main players are. The governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are controlled by Shi’ite Muslims. While the governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Jordan are ruled by Sunni Muslims.
When it comes to controlling energy, these groups broadly tend to back their own circle. That’s important when you analyse the world’s largest natural gas and condensate field — South Pars and North Dome. It’s shared by both Iran (Shi’ite ruled) and Qatar (Sunni ruled).
Both the Shi’ites and the Sunnis want to build their own gas pipeline networks. You can see this on the map below…
[Click to enlarge]
The Shi’ites want to use the route that runs through Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Europe (Islamic pipeline); the Sunnis prefer the one that runs through Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Europe (Qatar-Turkey pipeline).
What’s the catch?
Well, both groups need to build a pipeline through Syria. And for this reason, Syria represents huge strategic value. If either the Sunni or Shi’ite groups are going to get their gas piped to Europe, they’ll have to go through Syria.
This is where it gets interesting…
The house of cards
Syria has been ruled by the Assad family for decades. There have been tensions between the Syrian and Saudi elites for many years. And there is huge tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis — the region’s largest oil producer — feel threatened by Iran’s rising dominance in the region, and they have long sought to replace its government.
For Saudi Arabia to replace Iran’s government with its own ruling party, effectively gaining control over OPEC, it first needs to overthrow the Assad family in Syria. It then hopes to build the pipeline with the help of other Sunni groups.
The Shi’ites want Assad to remain in power, so they can build their pipeline with his blessing.
The Middle East conflict essentially boils down to a destructive game of poker.
To make things worse, a lot of powerful outside parties have chips on the table. The US has its chips on the Sunni side (Saudi Arabia). And the Russians and Chinese (although China remains officially undeclared) are all in on the Shi’ite side (Syria).
Now, you may wonder why the US wants to get involved at all.
Thanks to fracking technology, it’s the world’s largest oil producer. It doesn’t need Middle Eastern oil anymore.
So what interest does the US have in the region?
Aside from US companies operating in Iraq, they’re hoping to help the Sunni cause.
If the Sunni natural gas pipeline reaches Europe, Russia’s geopolitical influence in Europe will be greatly diminished.
Geopolitical games 101
It’s clear that the US wants to isolate Russia — it’s the only country (bar China) that really stands up to them. So to put Russia in its place, it’s using sanctions and other measures. For example, attempting to cut off Russia’s lifeblood — oil and gas money.
Russia is by far the biggest supplier of natural gas to Western Europe — where many of America’s closest allies (Germany, France and Italy) are situated.
It’s a massive bargaining chip. Russia could simply switch off the gas, and cause immense economic and political damage to America’s allies. It’s already switched off Ukraine’s gas a number of times. It could switch off the gas to a number of Eastern European nations if NATO continues to push and build up its presence of troops on the border.
If Putin does this, it will squeeze Europe’s struggling economy even harder. Capital will flee European markets and head towards the US, pushing the US dollar even higher. Europe’s economy is a train wreck, and its bond markets are ready to crash. US and European sanctions are poorly conceived — to say the least — and will almost certainly backfire…hard.
In the meantime, the US establishment’s goal to isolate Russia continues. They realise that if Europe can get their gas from the Middle East instead of Russia, Vladimir Putin can no longer threaten to ‘turn off the gas’. Russia’s gas-monopoly trump card ceases to exist. I believe the elites think that should give them leverage over Putin.
That’s part of the reason Russia is noisily protecting its interests in the region.
But this isn’t all…
Russia holds long-term exploration and development rights to a large part of Syria’s offshore waters. These are extremely lucrative and, according to some estimates, offer a massive untapped oil supply. If Russia can find oil and gas in the region and have influence over a pipeline to Europe, it would have control over all the gas flowing into Europe.
Everyone has a lot on the table in this game of political brinksmanship. And the region is extremely hostile. At the moment, the US is pushing Russia to the edge. If it goes into Syria, it will draw Russia and Iran into conflict. This is coming, whether we like it or not.
I hope I’m wrong about the scale of the coming conflicts. But if I’m not, you have to ask yourself, is your portfolio prepared for a global-scale war?
Resource Speculator readers have received strategic advice for years about the hurdles that we’re facing. They will be prepared for the tough times ahead. Indeed, during times of war, the demand for most commodities increase. That should send the best resource stocks through the roof.
Find out when and how to invest in order to maximise your investment returns here.
Editor, Markets & Money