Monday, 2 November 2015

Back from the basement...

Map of Middle East


After two weeks of travelling in the Middle East (well the non-warring bits, so a very small area sadly), I come back for once to find not much has changed. Luckily, we have avoided a stock market collapse in Sept/Oct for another year so we can look forward to the lukewarm rise into the New Year.

Also, a total obsession with this Tax Credit thing, which in the annals of Government is really very small beans, rumbles on. Moves are afoot to change the Lords no less - an annual discussion that has now been going on for 100+ years so we know where that is going!

As for the Middle East, a strange place it is indeed. Oasis of wealth and security in amongst hatred and misery; rather like a large version of London with better weather.

The biggest thing that I can perceive is the rapid descent of Saudi Arabia. Fighting a war in Yemen and against both Asad and ISIS in Syria and Iraq; all the while the price of oil remaining subdued. The country is really screwed in the short-term. So much so it is hurting the Hedge Funds of Mayfair, diddums for them of course. In the longer term Saudi has enough money to ride out a five year storm; but the sort of projections here I feel are fantastical when it has used up 10% of its foreign reserves in one year.

My travels made me think of a challenge though; which is the more decrepit civilisation - Iran or Saudi. Clearly this is a bottom fishing exercise but equally it would perhaps guide us to who will win their Middle East cold war much as the USA beat Russia in the global cold war.

9 comments:

Nick Drew said...

based on my finite sample of first-hand business dealings, Iran = normal degree of native wit / cunning / professionalism / bullshit; Saudi = bone idle / almost as obsessed with 'face' as orientals / will concede almost any price you want so long as (i) and (ii) are studiously pandered to / very keen to believe all manner of comfort-blanket rubbish peddled by snake-oil consultants well-versed in (i) and (ii)

mercifully in all cases no backhanders were required, I can't be doing with that s**t (although obviously in Russia the old 'expediting payment' was a daily fact of life - but as we know, that's different)

based on some personal Iranian contacts there is, under the suffocating blanket of clerical BS, genuine civilisation there that runs pretty deep (they are aryans as they will proudly tell you) - and education, too: plus some genuine get-up-and-go

oh, and when I was in Oman there was the amusing business of seeing the weekly booze pantechnicon loading up for its westward journey - and it wasn't destined for the expats, either ...

hovis said...

Just on my reading of history, and those I have met Iran has the deeper ingrained culture and sense of self, still refering to it's past which predates the curremt Shi'ite cultural overlay.

Incedentally several of the Iranians I have met interestingly referred to themselves as Persians - now that may just be trying to do some spin not wanting pre-conceptions in their way, but interesting nonetheless.

BE said...

I agree with Hovis! Sacré bleu!

Iran is a civilised society with a mentalist regime. Saudi, not so much. This is based on nothing in particular, though.

The sooner energy can be put on a sustainable footing, the better. Let's see the Saudis et al. generate some "value added"!

AndrewZ said...

There are two big differences to the original Cold War. Firstly, all the proxy wars are being fought in the same region instead of being spread across the world so there is a risk that they will merge together into one big war. Secondly, many of the actors are religious fanatics who think they are on a mission from God to cleanse the world of heretics and unbelievers. The more sectarian atrocities they commit they more they will define the conflict as a war of extermination between the Sunni and the Shia. Instead of a Cold War it might become a lot more like the Thirty Years' War, with no possibility of peace until all the zealots who want to fight to the death have had the opportunity to do so.

Anonymous said...

"religious fanatics who think they are on a mission from God to cleanse the world of heretics and unbelievers"

I recognise this. Happens at every local branch meeting of the Conservatives when referring to UKIP.

dearieme said...

It had never occurred to me that I'd see someone imply that Saudi Arabia was a civilisation. Iran has been a civilisation for longer than us. Though it had a bit of a setback in the seventh century from which it has yet to recover.

Raedwald said...

Alas, the UK government's habit of backing the wrong horse (at least for the past few decades) has not left us; whilst we send emollient politicians to pander to the Sauds (and Pandery really is the correct mot here) and their declining petrodollar, Herman the Hun is first off the blocks with organised trade missions to Iran as soon as they sniff a whiff of sanctions-lifting - read Der Spiegel and weep

http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/german-businessmen-travel-to-iran-before-sanctions-disappear-a-1059840.html#ref=rss

And agree with Andrew about the Sunni-Shia war being more like the 30 years war than anything else - and for Islam's sake, let's hope it's as fratricidal, destructive, bloody and death-laden as ours was. The horror of a barren, frozen Europe with no crops in the fields, herds slaughtered, people starving, nothing but death and disease amid the ruins of Europe led us to the First Enlightenment - a stage that Islam badly needs, but it must come endogenously.

dearieme said...

The Enlightenment was preceded by the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, and the Reformation.

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