Next Stop $103

Jim Brown
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The attack on Syria has been postponed for several weeks if not permanently. Oil prices should respond accordingly and decline next week.

The heated buildup to attack Syria and possibly inflame the entire Middle East came to a screeching halt on Saturday when President Obama said he had decided to ask for Congressional permission to use force against Syria. Since he never asked for permission to attack and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya you have to wonder why he took that step this time around.

The answer of course is the growing opposition both in the U.S. and from other countries regarding the attack. When you take into account the growing opposition and the potential conflagration that could result from the attack the smart thing to do was back away from the launching pad and push the decision off on somebody else.

Since nearly 200 house and senate members have already spoken against the attack the odds of getting a Use of Force vote passed are pretty slim. America does not want to be involved in another war. A limited strike against Syria may not be a war but the results could cause a meltdown in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few.

This is the age old Sunni vs Shiite battle that has been taking place for more than 1,000 years. Assad is Shiite and the majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims. The majority of the Middle East countries are split on Sunni-Shia lines and every battle and victory or loss in another country stirs up the same sectarian violence in the other countries.

Syria said if the U.S. attacked they would retaliate against Israel and turn Israel into a ball of fire and hinted they could retaliate against "others" in the region that sponsored the attack. That would be Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan, etc. Hezbollah said it would attack Israel and also Jordan if that country aided in the attack. Jordan has since said it wanted no part in the Syrian scenario but the U.S. is installing Patriot missile batteries in Jordan anyway. Jordan has been the staging area for U.S. and Israeli intelligence operations against Syria so the country is on the Syrian hit list.

Iran said it would also attack Israel if Syria was attacked although I believe it was a bluff since an attack on Israel would bring immediate retaliation by the U.S. and Israel. Iran has 5-6 battalions of Revolutionary Guard forces fighting alongside Assad's depleted military and they repeatedly ship weapons and munitions to Syria. Iran is primarily Shiite.

The alleged chemical attack sites are too precise to be an accident or the work of rebels trying to frame the Syrian government. The attacks were done with precision controlled missiles and the coverage of the rebel controlled areas was nearly perfect.

Middle East experts fear even a "limited" strike by the U.S. against Syria could intensify anti-American sentiment and bolster President Assad. They fear an attack against Syria could intensify a fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional influence. They caution that Iran could attack Saudi Arabia in retaliation for supporting Syrian rebels.

Russia has 16 warships in the Mediterranean to protect "national security interests" and announced they were sending a guided missile cruiser and large anti-submarine vessel to counter potential "acts of aggression." The cruiser can give Assad early warning of missile launches, jam radar and interfere with missile navigation systems. They warned the president not to attack.

Congress does not get back from the August recess until September 9th and they have other things on their plate. It will probably take them a week to work up to a vote so that gives protestors two weeks to ramp up opposition. If the measure is voted down the president says he is free to act on his own but I would bet you he would not act against a no vote. If he did the next vote could be impeachment for going against Congress wishes.

After his midday press briefing on Saturday the president went to pay golf with Biden. Before they finished the first nine holes analysts had already passed sentence on his strategy of passing the buck to Congress. They believe it was clever strategy to get himself out of the red line commitment he made as candidate Obama.

Because the attack appears to be dead in the water we should see oil prices decline sharply next week assuming there is nothing new in the headlines.

Jim Brown

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