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There is an irony to the thought, apparently alive in the Middle East according to the polls David is seeing, that our troops are in Saudi Arabia because of oil. If this is true, it is only true in the narrow sense that we are there to stabilize the international oil market at a higher price than the market would dictate in the absence of Middle East unrest.

OPEC is obsolete. I am dead certain that our troops and the uneasy status of the Middle East actually prop up oil prices as much as 30 to 50 percent. The prospect of Saudi Arabia shutting down or of other short-term disruptions is behind a large part of the reason for our Russian diplomacy these days, and probably among the reason the Saudis aren’t supportive of our Iraq policy. In the aftermath of a (successful) Iraq war, I predict world oil prices will gradually drift down to about $15 a barrel, from today’s roughly $30 price. The Saudis and other Arab oil states will not like this.

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