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Why Does Trump Want Talks With Iran Without Any Preconditions? – OpEd

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Decades ago I had heard, “Thugs have a common interest ‘make money’; they cooperate, facilitate and protect each other, though they may appear to the world, the deadliest enemies”. This was confirmed after the US President; Donald Trump announced, “We are ready to talk to Iran without any preconditions”.

I was curious about this change of heart and probed a little deeper. I instantly found a reason, “trillions of US dollars invested in financial derivatives”. The Bank for International Settlements said last year that the “notional amount outstanding for derivatives contracts” was US$542 trillion, although the gross market value was put at just US$12.7 trillion. Others suggested it was US$1.2 quadrillion or more. A person with ordinary wit may ask, what derivatives have got to do with US-Iran animosity?

The reply is simple, bulk of the derivatives are based on energy products, mainly crude oil. Therefore, it all has to do with the Strait of Hormuz. Blocking the Strait could cut off oil and gas from Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iran – 20% of the world’s oil. There has been some debate on whether this could occur – whether the US Fifth Fleet, which is stationed nearby, could stop Tehran doing this and if Iran, which has anti-ship missiles on its territory along the northern border of the Persian Gulf, would go that far.

According to those privy to information, a series of studies hit President Trump’s desk and caused panic in Washington. These showed that in the case of the Strait of Hormuz being shut down, whatever the reason, Iran has the power to hammer the world financial system, by causing global trade in derivatives to be blown apart. The information was duly circulated to France, Britain and Germany, the EU-3 members of the Iran nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), also caused a panic.

Oil derivative specialists know well that if the flow of energy in the Gulf is blocked it could lead to the price of oil reaching US$200 a barrel, or much higher over an extended period. Crashing the derivatives market would create an unprecedented global depression. Trump’s former Goldman Sachs Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin knows it better than any other person.

And Trump himself seems to have given the game away. He’s now on the record essentially saying that Iran has no strategic value to the US. He really wants a face-saving way to get out of the problem his advisers Bolton and Pompeo got him into. Washington now needs a face-saving, Iran is not asking for meetings, but it is the sole surviving super power, United States.

They also link it to non-scheduled stop of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Switzerland, just because he’s a “big cheese and chocolate fan”, in his own words. Yet any well-informed also say, “He badly needed to ease the fears of the trans-Atlantic elites, apart from his behind-closed-doors meetings with the Swiss, who are representing Iran in communications with Washington. After weeks of ominous threats to Iran, the US said “no preconditions” would be set on talks with Tehran, and this was issued from Swiss soil.

Shabbir H. Kazmi

Shabbir H. Kazmi is an economic analyst from Pakistan. He has been writing for local and foreign publications for about quarter of a century. He maintains the blog ‘Geo Politics in South Asia and MENA’. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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