This will teach you:
April 8, 2002 6:50 AM   Subscribe

This will teach you: Saddam halts oil shipments to protest Israeli and American treatment of Palestinians.
posted by Rastafari (18 comments total)
No oil = no food (or new palaces).
posted by laz-e-boy at 6:52 AM on April 8, 2002

I don't like the guy, but I'd probably do the same thing in his position.

At least he didn't go with the Scud approach.
posted by jragon at 6:54 AM on April 8, 2002

yeah, until his economy starts suffering
posted by monkeyJuice at 7:03 AM on April 8, 2002

With this move by Saddam, the people who buy drugs are now the only people who financially support terrorism, since he won't let big oil companies fund his $25K payout to suicide bombers.
posted by Werd7 at 7:03 AM on April 8, 2002

The oil thing a farce. How does one tell whree oil comes from once it has been shipped, trxans-shipped, barrelled etc? We have been getting his oil for some time 4even though we are supposed to be boycotting him. There are always middle men to buy, sell, distribute. In other words: PR gesture.
posted by Postroad at 7:09 AM on April 8, 2002

personally, i'd think this has more to do with Saddam wanting to keep the pressure from the street on the Arab governments who don't back a ban, since that may work to his advantage in how a US attack proceeds. Strategically it seems like that isn't that dumb a tactic, since he's been starving his people for years so that the lack of revenue coming in for a month won't really affect his position in Iraq but he may be able to incite some anger against the Saudis et al if he can play the angle that these governments would rather side with the US and Israelis on an embargo than support the Palestinian cause.

Which is a longshot still, of course, but he doesn't seem to have much else to take to stave off his downfall but longshots. *shrug*
posted by zoopraxiscope at 7:15 AM on April 8, 2002

I heard on NPR this morning that we get 9% of our oil from Iraq - albeit indirectly as mentioned in the linked article. I can't get a link to the info - it's all audio links at

Does any of this provide motivation to increase CAFE standards?
posted by Red58 at 7:27 AM on April 8, 2002

Saddam Hussein doesn't care any more about the Palestinians than he does about the Kuwaitis or anyone else. He wants to pass himself off as an Islamist to garner support from fundamentalist Muslims. Although he was never an Islamist in the past, he stands to benefit from Osama Bin Laden's "Islam vs. the West" clash of civilizations.

The scary thing is that as long as America looks the other way while Israel abuses Palestinian civil rights, Saddam can make himself look good by pretending to support their cause.
posted by Loudmax at 7:57 AM on April 8, 2002

I have recently read that an embargo would not have as much as an effect as it did in '72, since the sources of oil have diversified much, and there are enough non-OPEC exporters to at least carry the load for a short while. Basically, the OPEC countries would be hurting themselves. Can't find a link, but will research it.
posted by adampsyche at 8:00 AM on April 8, 2002

As Postroad notes, oil is notoriously (as they say) fungible. About half the oil exported from Iraq winds up in the US eventually -- this Dept. of Energy analysis is far more detail than most people need, but check out the charts. 9% seems is about right -- the figure given is 778,000 barrels out of some 9 million imported. Nevertheless, a 30-day halt in exports is unlikely to have much effect because the supply lines are so long, and there are so many other suppliers from Venezuela to Norway to Russia who will fill the gap before consumers notice anything. (Aside from the summer rise in gas prices, which has begun early this year.) In a pinch the US might release some of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (though unlikely during wartime), which would buy us weeks, if not months, before noticeable shortages.

In 1973 we imported less oil -- only some 35% vs. today's 50% -- but in those days Saudi Arabia accounted for a much larger percentage of world oil consumption (some 35% versus closer to 25% today), and there was little spare capacity elsewhere. The aftereffects of the embargo were magnified by speculation and "windfall profits" problems which themselves had begun months earlier and lasted far longer than the actual embargo; people forget that it ended after 6 weeks, but oil shortages, sky-high prices, and rationing continued for at the very least months.

Mainly, though, the Arab states are in no economic position to hold an organized embargo, as many of them are in deficit spending already, and there are more states like Egypt and Jordan which are beholden to US aid and would face severe punishment. The Gulf states, in particular, will most likely not join. The Saudis do not rule OPEC by fiat as they once did, in part precisely because the 1973 embargo forced further diversification; and they are not leading this boycott.
posted by dhartung at 8:35 AM on April 8, 2002

oil production certainly has diversified since the seventies, but the Middle East and North Africa are still good for about one-quarter of world oil output + greater than two-thirds of oil *if* the Saudis and Kuwaitis got on board it'd still have a big impact. But that's pretty doubtful--there's little to suggest these countries would risk cutting off their own cash flow even if the street remains restive. In addition, the experience of the 1970's embargo leading the way into a global economic recession remains a powerful influence for most OPEC members.

So while this might keep those oil markets jittery, the chances of a real embargo are definitely slim. But the sabre rattling allows the Iraqis (and the Iranians) the chance at least to play to the people in the Arab world....
posted by zoopraxiscope at 8:36 AM on April 8, 2002

...while Israel abuses Palestinian civil rights...

Huh ?

This is so last week. Can't we have a new topic to shred already ?
posted by a3matrix at 8:42 AM on April 8, 2002

looks like venezuela is turning off the spigots as well. perhaps its time to park the SUVs and get on our bikes this spring???
posted by specialk420 at 9:16 AM on April 8, 2002

The Saudis do not rule OPEC by fiat as they once did, in part precisely because the 1973 embargo forced further diversification; and they are not leading this boycott.

Isn't it true that Russia has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world's leading oil exporter? This ought to be another incentive for our government to increase funding for alternative fuel research.
posted by Rastafari at 10:08 AM on April 8, 2002

so, if sadaam stops shipping oil, does it remain the US's fault when iraqi babies start starving? or are we expected to keep shipping them "food for no oil?"
posted by hob at 11:08 AM on April 8, 2002

Does any of this provide motivation to increase CAFE standards?

My guess: no. When cars are more efficient, people buy more gas and drive more. Also, gas related expenditures might be lowered so that people with lower incomes who used to rely on inferior modes of transportation (buses) will start buying cars and driving more. Cars powered by gasoline are such a huge part of our culture and economy, only powerful market forces are going to eliminate gas powered cars, not some piecemeal government program for 'electric cars'. Remember those electric cars? GM made one. It failed. They don't even work reliably in cold environments. There is hope in hybrids, and they would probably sell like hotcakes, only if they are more economical than the current gas powered models.

But, more to the point, this whole oil thing means we can start the war with Iraq soon, right?
posted by insomnyuk at 11:12 AM on April 8, 2002

Postroad: How does one tell whree oil comes from once it has been shipped, trxans-shipped, barrelled etc?

They can identify, via the minor constituents of any given barrel of oil, from where the oil originated. See also: The Origin of Methane (and Oil) in the Crust of The Earth.
posted by Danelope at 11:17 AM on April 8, 2002

A brisk, readable look at how price elasticity affects CAFE, from a libertarian biz-school perspective (just so you know going in). It's got charts!

Rastafari: Russia has the capacity to surpass Saudi Arabia in exports, but agreed to cut production last December to prop up oil prices. If the US-Russia agreement to export oil from Sakahalin Island ports holds up, Russia will likely do so, but that's a long time coming.
posted by dhartung at 2:07 PM on April 8, 2002

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