Here Are The Next Steps In The Escalating Middle East

While everyone is focusing on what empty words and promises will come out of Europe this week which continues to valiantly, yet with utter futility, fight simple math, our friends at Religare Research remind us that there is a whole another theater of operations (pardon the phrase) that many are so far forgetting about located in the middle east which is far closer to what at the end of the day really matters: oil. As Emad Mostaque notes: 'While North Africa is busily transitioning to a set of neo-Islamist, GCC-sponsored Sunni democracies (we are positive on this trend), Shia groups in the Middle East have started to stir. In this monthly we focus on some of the key elements of the Shia tradition that may have a significant impact on global markets in the near future." Below are the key takeaways.

  • Potential flashpoint: Tensions could be inflamed on December 6th (Ashura) with Saudi Arabia meriting particular attention. This could lead to a sharp spike in oil. We are also highly cautious on Iraq, where violence could easily spark a civil war
  • Syrian endgame: As predicted earlier this year, December looks to be the crunch point for Syria. Elections or power transfer remain the likeliest outcomes.
  • Bahrain beginning: The arrest of five individuals plotting to blow up various targets in Bahrain last week including the Saudi-Bahraini causeway is a harbinger  of potentially more terrorism to come. The Shia majority is nursing its wounds and without proper dialogue will start to lash out.
  • Iran & bombs: Warnings of an attack on Iran have been circulating for 30 years. It's different this time and we see the probability of an attack rising  sharply as we head into 2012 (probability 40% on a 12 month view from 0% last year). The only solution to this mess is dialogue, which has now effectively  been taken off the table. We see January/February as the point of peak probability for military action.

Full note (pdf):