CIA: Low Oil Prices Place Pressure on Iran, Venezuela
Major oil producers such as Iran and Venezuela will come under extreme economic pressure if the current low prices in the crude oil market remain for a while, says CIA Director Michael Hayden.
Hayden believes that crude oil prices in the $40 range could eventually bring out the disgust of the Iranian public against the current regime which may then lead to destabilization and perhaps a halt to their nuclear program.
The regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, a fierce ally of Iran and a U.S. foe in its own right, will also come under pressure if the current oil prices hold.
“It removes a buffer that will cause the natural stressors in Iranian society to become more pronounced,” he said.
Due to the oil woes, Ahmadinejad’s power may face “real challenges here, when you combine it with inflation and the fact that they’re having an upcoming presidential election.”
Separately, the Iranian Oil Minister himself declared that his country predicts that oil prices will hover at the $40 mark in 2009.
“In the opinion of the Oil Ministry, taking into account predictions by various international institutes, the anticipated oil price in the year 2009 will be around $40,” Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said.
He said that the government was told by his ministry to set the price of oil at that amount in its upcoming 2009-2010 budget.
Recent protests in Venezuela against the Chavez regime have been dealt with harshly. Chavez ordered his police to use tear-gas to break up an anti-government protest in Caracas on Saturday.
“Interior Ministry, spray them with gas and dissolve any disturbance. We cannot begin showing weakness as a government,” Chavez said.
Venezuelans will vote next month on a proposed change to the constitution that would allow Chavez to seek re-election when his term ends in four years. The upcoming vote has seen opponents of the regime take to the streets in an effort to have their voices heard. Most times, as was the case on Saturday, they’re silenced by the police with force.
Chavez has come crawling back to the major U.S. oil companies, practically begging them to re-invest in his country’s oil deposits. The oil companies were originally forced out by Chavez in a bid to nationalize his country’s oil and to strike down the “U.S. Empire”.
With oil prices falling 70% from its record high set in July, and Venezuelan output on the decline, he is now asking for those same companies to invest their money with him.
Venezuela has an estimated 235 billion barrels of “recoverable” crude reserves — even more than that of Saudi Arabia.