Thursday, November 16, 2017

Norway’s $1 Trillion Pension Fund Wants To Ditch All Oil And Gas Stocks

Via Business Insider:

Norway's trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund is proposing to drop oil and gas companies from its benchmark index.

The Central Bank of Norway, which runs the fund, sent a proposal to the Ministry of Finance today.

The aim is primarily to reduce the fund’s exposure to oil price fluctuations.

Norway’s trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund is proposing to sell off all its holdings in oil and gas companies.

In a letter sent to the Ministry of Finance today, the The Norwegian Central Bank, which runs the Sovereign Wealth Fund, said the move would make it “less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil and gas prices”.

Around six percent of the fund’s holdings, or $37 billion, consist of oil- and gas stocks such as BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil. The fund’s exposure to fossil fuel markets is currently double that of a standard global fund, the Central Bank said.

"This advice is based exclusively on financial arguments and analyses of the government's total oil and gas exposure and does not reflect any particular view of future movements in oil and gas prices or the profitability or sustainability of the oil and gas sector", said Deputy Governor Egil Matsen in a press release.

Norges Bank further said a divestment would not affect the fund’s projected returns, nor would it raise its risk profile. The proposal is based on the oil and gas sector as defined by the FTSE reference index.

The decision now rests with the Norwegian Ministry of Finance. If the government and the parliament reach a unanimous decision on the matter, a final approval could take place next summer, reports Norwegian site E24.

The Government Pension Fund of Norway, which recently surpassed one trillion dollars in value, is the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. It invests Norway’s revenues from oil and gas production in stocks, bonds and real estate.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Top Banker: Here's Why The Nordics Should Form The "United States Of North" – A Global Superpower

Via Business Insider:

Eirik Winter is the CEO and Chairman of Citi’s Nordic operations. In a recent opinion piece in Swedish business daily Dagens Industri, Winter – representing himself in a private capacity – proposes that Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland should form a ‘United States of North’ - to win more clout in an unpredictable world.

In ranking after ranking, the Nordic region puts the rest of the world to shame. Whether it concerns social progress, economic dynamism or press freedom, the region's countries are held up as poster cases.

But the one thing missing, according to Eirik Winter – the CEO and Chairman of global investment bank Citi’s Nordic branch – is Nordic power on the world stage.

In a world marked by "Brexit anxiety, a fraying EU, American protectionism, Russian threats, mass immigration, and the increasingly dominant [emerging powers] China and India", the Nordic region needs to become more independent and united, Winter writes in Dagens Industri (in a private capacity).

To make "the Nordic voice heard and respected," Winter proposes that the Nordics form a close-knit political and economic union; what he calls “United States of North”.

On aggregate, the union would be the world's 10th largest economy, and a global superpower.

“27 million citizens, the world’s 10th largest economy, leadership within sustainability and digitalization. Global exports in shipping, energy, medicine, technology, heavy industry, music and telecoms. A sovereign wealth fund that owns two percent of the world’s [publicly listed company stocks]. A society that is founded on openness, equality, negligible corruption, respect, rule of law and tolerance”.

A seat at the G20

Although his idea draws inspiration from the federal model of America, Winter is not proposing a central state. Instead, he talks about a “confederation” - based on a rotating union government, which would form a unified Nordic voice in geopolitical affairs.

Winter sees the region’s shared history, values and languages as fertile ground for close co-operation, which, he notes, has historical precedents in the Kalmar Union under Margaret I of Denmark (14th century), or the union between Sweden and Norway that was ultimately dissolved in 1905.

Whatever differences the countries have – in terms of memberships in Nato or the euro, for instance – would be far outweighed by the countries' consolidated voice and reduced transaction costs in global affairs, Winter argues.

Even though Nordics have grown accustomed to running their political affairs via the EU, they would benefit more by banding together, he says.

“Let us take matters in our own hands and gain a strong voice that can make a real difference in [global affairs]. Everything else is just [peanuts]“, Winter ends the piece.

Here’s what Winter proposes as the key pillars of the ‘United States of North’:

Common voice towards G20, Nato, UN, EU,USA, Russia

Common voice and initiatives in foreign policy, EU-matters, defense-, migration-, energy- and economic policy matters

A united, high-tech defense that is built on neutrality, and co-operation with regards to common enemies and terrorism

A rotating union government

All countries remain independent, and maintain their cultural, linguistic and social heritages

Open towards immigrants who want to work and study in the region

A common central bank

The union would also comprise the autonomous regions of Åland, Faroe Islands and Greenland

The Baltic countries may also be invited into the union

All Scandinavian monarchies could stay intact

...Eirik Winter is not the first one to raise the issue of Nordic political and economic union.

Already, citizens of the Nordic countries enjoy almost equal rights in their neighboring countries. They are able to move, study and work freely – Finns in Sweden, Swedes in Norway, and so forth. The argument concerns to what extent the region should integrate – and whether co-operation should extend beyond just regional affairs.

Gunnar Wetterberg, a Swedish historian and author of the book “The United Nordic Federation”, has long proposed initiatives similar to Winter’s. In August, he wrote an opinion piece for Swedish tabloid Expressen, called 'The Nordic Countries should use their Power', in which he said:

“If the Nordic countries were to unite under common policies, then EU, Nato and G20 would listen – even at the Nordic countries that stand outside these organizations”.

Wetterberg also called for the removal of internal barriers in the Nordics, and a redesign of regulations regarding the movement of labor, taxes and social security. “[The legally gifted] should get the assignment to summon a Labor Market 2.0”.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Former Apple CEO John Sculley Explains Why Steve Jobs Was The Best Recruiter He Ever Met

Via Business Insider:

Steve Jobs was never one to hold back.

That's exactly what made him so adept at finding talent, according to John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple and Pepsi.

"The best recruiter I ever met was Steve Jobs", he told Business Insider. "He really set no limits to the talent he would go after".

Jobs' success was driven by his confidence in Apple's mission, Scully said.

"He felt what he was doing was so incredibly important to the world", Sculley said. "Why not get the best?"

Sculley would know. Jobs himself first poached Sculley from his role at Pepsi. Sculley told Business Insider editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell that Jobs won him over with a simple, pointed question: "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

Jobs unabashedly went after the top people in tech and business and never let the occasional failure trip him up, Sculley said.

"It didn't always work out, but the reality was that he never compromised on trying to go for the best talent he could", Sculley said.

For Jobs, his ability to passionately convey his belief in Apple - and his lack of qualms over going after prominent talent - was crucial. Scully, who is now chairman of startup RXAdvance, a startup that seeks to blend the fields of high tech and healthcare, said for most people, it's a lesson that's simply learned through time and experience.

"Those are things that only come through experience", Sculley said. "You've got to learn how to recruit a team, you've got to learn how to work with other people, and you've got to learn how to get good stuff done".

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tim Cook Just Visited The "Breathtaking" Forests Of Northern Sweden - Here's Why

Via Business Insider:

Today, Tim Cook started his day by visiting Apple’s headquarters in Stockholm, before disappearing in a black car. Speculation was rife about where the American tech executive headed next. Now we know: to the forests of northern Sweden.

Dagens Industri (Di) reports that the American executive was really headed to Iggesund forestry, near the mid-Swedish town of Hudiksvall, where Swedish forest industry company Holmen produces advanced packaging materials.

For more than a decade, Apple has had a “top secret” deal with Holmen, which has supplied the American tech giant with an ever-increasing volume of packaging for Apple’s iPad’s, Di reports.

Tim Cook was invited to Iggesund only last week, and perhaps it’s no surprise he accepted: Before becoming CEO of the world's most highly valued company, he was responsible for Apple’s supply chain.

Moreover, durable packaging is strategically important for Apple, as many customers save their boxes after purchase.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Newest Decluttering Craze Is "Swedish Death Cleaning"

Via Business Insider:

It's hard to tell when Margareta Magnusson is being serious.

Honestly, I'm still not sure if her intention with the forthcoming book "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" is to poke gentle fun at all the self-help literature out there dedicated to cleaning and organization.

Either way, Magnusson - a Swedish artist "somewhere between 80 and 100 years old" - raises a good point when she suggests that, if you can't motivate yourself to clean for the sake of being clean, just think of how much of a burden you'll place on loved ones when you, um, pass on.

It's something she's personally experienced after the death of her parents, her in-laws, and her husband. And it's something that many millennials and Gen Xers are experiencing today, sometimes paying up to $5.000 for people to haul away their aging parents' furniture and other possessions.

Magnusson shares some solid guiding principles for organizing your home, no matter your age or life circumstance.

For example, if you have embarrassing items in your possession - say, letters from an illicit love affair - consider getting rid of them now. "If you think the secret will cause your loved ones harm or unhappiness", Magnusson writes, "then make sure to destroy them".

Note taken.

And if Aunt Cece gives you a gorgeous (read: hideous) piece of china and you hate it, don't keep it. Don't even put it on display when Cece visits, Magnusson says - that will just motivate her to give you more of the same. (Apparently, in Swedish, the word fulskåp describes "a cupboard full of gifts you can't stand to look at, and which are impossible to regift".)

Magnusson's strategy is pretty different from the last big decluttering fad: "Kondo-ing" your home and office, named after Japanese organization guru Marie Kondo. Kondo encourages people to keep only those items that "spark joy" in their hearts.

But Magnusson also urges readers to approach death cleaning rationally. She recommends not starting with photographs and other emotional items: "You will definitely get stuck down memory lane and may never get around to cleaning anything else". Better to begin with your wardrobe, she says.

As for books, if you can't stomach the thought of donating or selling them to anonymous readers, Magnusson suggests having family and friends browse your collection first and take what they want.

But - and this is important - always keep in mind that what you consider a treasure may be to others a burden. Magnusson writes: "I often ask myself, 'Will anyone I know be happier if I save this?'"

In the book's introduction, Magnusson writes that one of her sons asked her if her book was going to be sad, given that it's largely about death. "No, no, I said. It is not sad at all. Neither the cleaning nor the writing of the book".

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Author Of "Funky Business" Told Us That "Anything That Can’t Be Digitized Will Become Profitable" — Here’s The Proof

Via Business Insider:

We often assume that today’s most profitable businesses must be digital. But Kjell Nordström, the co-author of global bestseller Funky Business (2007), begs to disagree. His advice to entrepeneurs is to look at what might seem boring, non-digital industries.

“The rule of thumb is easy: if it cannot be digitized it will create value and become profitable", Nordström said at the Nordic Busines Forum in Helsinki last week, at Business Insider Nordic's live studio.

Nordström gave some examples from the music industry, where many famous artists are touring to make money (as opposed to selling their records online).

“Look at the Madonna’s, the Justin Bieber’s, the Rolling Stones – what are they doing? They are on tour", he said, adding:

"Look at the spa business, which sells experiences. They are very profitable”.

To avoid fierce competition and have a better chance at creating value, Nordström says, one needs to look for the inefficient markets, the non-digital ones.

"If you can digitize something, there will be a lot of competition, for the simple reason that the market functions very well”.

When Nordström later sat down for an interview with your reporter, it happened in something called a smart meeting cube – which turned out to be a good example of his thesis.

Founded in November 2015, Smartblock has seized the non-digital market for professional meetings (and improved ability to focus at work).

Just two years after its founding, Smartblock's projected turnover is €3 million euros, or four times last year's. Smartblock also says it expects to turn a profit of €200k euros; a result your standard VC-backed app can only dream of two years after launch.

Among some recent Finnish success stories, there are further signs that Nordström may be on to something.

From phone booths to hairdressers

Take Smartblock’s indirect Finnish market competitor, Framery, which has become a leading producer of office phone booths.

The Tampere-based company had €17.6 million euros in turnover in 2016, with profits amounting to more than 3,5 million euros. Last year’s revenue grew almost 250 percent on the previous year, according to Finnish public company data.

When Finnish business daily Kauppalehti recently compared the performance of Series A-backed Finnish startups of the past five years, it found that among the 88 - mostly tech - companies surveyed, the best performer was SuperPark, a chain of indoor activity parks founded in 2012.

This year, Kauppalehti estimates, SuperPark will post €14 million in revenue, and is on track to double that amount next year on the back of an expansion to Asia.

Finally, Finnish hairdresser chain M Room's revenue has almost quadrupled between 2012-2016, to €2.4 million. The company is now expanding aggressively to the United States, where it plans to open some 200 franchises by 2020.

One way to claim an edge in mainly non-digital markets, beyond expanding globally, is to use digital components to make your product stand out. Smartblock's CEO, Janne Orava, gave an example:

“We are piloting IoT-sensors, and we have just introduced the Microsoft Surface Hub [screens] in our cube’s. We have also used the Microsoft Hololens - as the first company in the world according to Microsoft - as a sales tool”, he told BI Nordic.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Is Saudi Arabia's Grand Strategy Shifting?

Via ZeroHedge:

Most observers were taken aback by what to many seemed to be the inexplicable visit of Saudi King Salman to Moscow this week, wondering how and why the two long-standing Great Power rivals were able to get so close to one another in such a short period of time – and apparently without much public fanfare, too – in making this historic event possible. The usual Alt-Media demagogues decried this as a sellout of Russia’s fundamental national interests, with the most extreme pundit-provocateurs even ranting that it amounts to President Putin siding with “terrorists” such as Daesh and Al Qaeda, especially in light of Moscow’s decision to sell the much-vaunted S-400 anti-air missile systems to Riyadh and even set up a Kalashnikov production plant in the Kingdom.

Had the Saudi Arabia of 2017 been the same country as it was half a decade ago, or even last year for that matter as some could argue, then there might be some rhetorical substance to this outlandish claim no matter how false it would still be, but what most people don’t realize is that Saudi Arabia is in the process of comprehensive changes to its foreign and domestic policies, and that there’s a very high likelihood that it will moderate its traditional behavior in becoming a more responsible actor in international (and especially regional) affairs. A lot of this has happened away from the public eye, at least in the sense that the developments weren’t “sexy” enough to draw widespread attention from most media outlets and commentators, but these piecemeal changes have altogether contributed to the formation of what looks to be a totally new grand strategy.

Russia’s Rationale

Before getting into the details of the drastic policy changes that Saudi Arabia has been up to lately, it’s important to comment a bit on why Russia is embracing its erstwhile nemesis. For starters, Russia’s foreign policy is driven nowadays by the “progressive” faction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which believes that their country’s 21st-century grand strategic ambition should be to become the supreme balancing force in the Eurasian supercontinent. To this end, they’re diligently employing “military diplomacy” and “nuclear diplomacy”; the first in selling arms to rival states in order to preserve the status quo between them and prevent a hot war from transpiring (which is the opposite of the US selling weapons in order to tip the balance in favor of its preferred partner and spark the said conflict that Russia wants to avoid), and the second in utilizing its global leadership in nuclear energy technology to make important strategic inroads with non-traditional partners.

Multipolarity In Action

Concerning Saudi Arabia, this has seen Russia sign deals with it for the S-400 anti-air missile system and Kalashnikov production plant (“military diplomacy”), and Rosatom’s proposal to build Riyadh’s first-ever nuclear power plant (“nuclear diplomacy”). Of course, there’s also traditional and energy diplomacy at play here as well, the former as it relates to cooperation in uniting the Syrian “opposition” as a prerequisite to resolving the War on Syria, and the latter when it comes to both sides’ participation in the historic OPEC+ output deal from last year and subsequent renewal earlier in 2017. Moreover, none of this is occurring in a multipolar vacuum either, as Russia’s premier Chinese partner has been making great strides with Saudi Arabia in the same timeframe, including by inking two sets of deals totaling than $130 billion in the past six months alone.

Riyadh’s Reforms

Most of the Chinese-Saudi agreements were signed in the framework of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030 project for diversifying away from his Kingdom’s present oil-exporting dependency and towards a more “real-sector” economy. This can’t happen unless crucial socio-cultural reforms are made in Saudi Arabia, and the young prince – who’s far from a fundamentalist Wahhabi in real life and therefore something like a “rock star” among his country’s majority “moderate-prone” youth population (over half of which is under 25 years old) – recently undertook the pivotal decision to allow women to drive in the future, understanding that this is a necessary step to increasing their future participation in the economy. It can be expected that more such reforms might follow in the future, such as the possible reopening of movie theaters and maybe even one day lessening the patriarchal legal restrictions placed on women’s freedom of movement.

Unipolar Pushback

Mohammed Bin Salman’s reforms aren’t without controversy, however, as they’ve produced a lot of resistance among the country’s ultra-fundamental clerical class, as was explained in the author’s recent analysis about “Why Allowing Saudi Women To Drive Is Very Dangerous”. The fact of the matter is that Saudi Arabia isn’t a pure “monarchical dictatorship” in the structural-political sense, but a “dual dictatorship” between the monarchy and the clergy, but the Crown Prince’s socio-culturally modernizing reforms are being perceived of as an unprecedented “power grab” which de-facto constitutes a “soft coup” by the monarchy against the clergy. In turn, the most extreme clerics could become a pressing national security risk if they rally their followers against the monarchy in fomenting unrest, whether manifested through street protests, a royal coup, or terrorism. It’s the fear of this happening which explains the Kingdom’s recent crackdown and the author’s subsequent investigation into “Who’s Really Trying To Overthrow Mohammed Bin Salman?”

As the aforementioned article concludes, the only serious player with the clandestine competencies to pull this off is the US, which is considering the “Balkanization” of the Kingdom into a collection of emirates aided by the duplicitous connivance of its regional UAE ally. This was elaborated on more in depth by the author in his work a couple of months ago explaining “The Machiavellian Plot to Provoke Saudi Arabia and Qatar into a ‘Blood Border’ War”, but the overriding idea is that the US has had an interest in betraying its decades-long ally ever since the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal was agreed to, which the author predicted in his summer 2015 piece about a “Polar Reorientation In The Mideast” that also described the strategic contours that would eventually lead to the present-day Russian-Saudi rapprochement. It’s this Great Power convergence between Moscow and Riyadh, as well as the latter and Beijing, which is driving the US to wage an incipient but increasingly multifaceted Hybrid War on Saudi Arabia.

Stopping The Saudi “Deep State” Conspiracy

Mohammed Bin Salman must masterfully manage to tame both the radical clerics and domestic terrorists if he’s to have a chance at avoiding a US-backed royalist coup against him. He already has the support of the majority-youthful masses who could come out to the streets to support him in the event of a sudden coup, just like they did for Turkish President Erdogan during last year’s failed pro-US coup attempt, so this infers that he needs to win the backing of the military-security services in order to preemptively suppress clerical-terrorist destabilizations before countering the royalist conspiracy that’s taking form. However, Saudi forces are embroiled in the bloody War on Yemen, which was one of the first decisions that he made as Defense Minister and is therefore attributed entirely to him, but would have probably happened regardless of whoever was in power at the time due to the geopolitical dynamics involved.

In fact, the author forecast that a forceful Saudi response could be expected to developments in Yemen as early as September 2014 in his article about “Syria’s Yemeni Opportunity and the Rise of the Shia Circle”, which deliberately analyzed events from Riyadh’s sectarian perspective in an attempt to better understand the Kingdom’s future response. Likewise, the follow-up piece in January 2015 about “Yemen: The Saudi Coup That Totally Backfired” presciently concluded that “the Saudis are expected to hit back as hard as they can against the phantom ‘Iranian menace’ that they’re attributing their Yemeni failings to”, and that “no matter which form it takes, it’s not going to be pretty.” In any case, the only way for Mohammed Bin Salman to be confident in the support of his military-security services is to downscale the disastrous War on Yemen and eventually follow the Syrian peace format in resolving the conflict there in as much of a “face-saving” way as possible.

That, however, won’t necessarily endear him to any of the conspiratorial royals who are plotting his ouster, many of whom are reportedly irreconcilably opposed to him for his high-profile foreign policy failings in the aforementioned War on Yemen and Qatar Crisis, which is why the young prince so urgently needed to make up for them with a dramatic success elsewhere, ergo the reason why he decided to commence his country’s now-successful rapprochement with Russia. Conversely, it’s precisely because of his pivotal role in carrying out this game-changing foreign policy rebalancing that the US wants him out, and Washington sent a very clear message to Riyadh of its displeasure just the other day when it announced that it will be halting some of its military exercises with “Gulf countries” until the Qatar Crisis is resolved. Reading between the lines, this is the Pentagon voicing its strong opposition to King Salman’s visit to Moscow and Saudi Arabia’s S-400 deal with Russia, thereby signaling to its in-country proxies that it’s time to commence their planned regime change operation.

Moderating The Monarchy

All in all, Mohammed Bin Salman is trying to compensate for his earlier errors of judgement in “moderating” his country’s foreign policy to the most realistic extent possible under the present circumstances, which in an historical comparison amounts to an unprecedented pivot of sorts towards the Multipolar World Order. This doesn’t just have geopolitical implications, however, as there’s the very real possibility that Saudi Arabia might de-dollarize new Vision 2030 and energy contracts with its new non-Western partners, which would in effect equate to the death of the “petrodollar”. The author predicted this in a late-September forecast after it became abundantly clear that the country was no longer as solidly in the American camp as most observers had considered it, especially following its fast-moving rapprochement with Russia and the $130 billion’s worth of deals that the Kingdom signed with China.

The combined effect of these two multipolar realignments, as well as the likely downscaling of the War on Yemen and the “Damocles’ Sword” potential that Saudi Arabia has for dealing a deathblow to the dollar, are increasingly turning Mohammed Bin Salman into the “Saudi Saddam”, in that he’s now being targeted for elimination by the US because this one-time American subordinate was brave enough to chart his country’s own sovereign path in the world. If he can successfully withstand the US-encouraged “deep state” coup against him being waged through the Hybrid War mechanisms of a rebelling clergy, a possible domestic terrorist insurgency (as partial blowback from Saudi Arabia’s support for such groups abroad), and a royalist plot, among whatever other means might soon make themselves available, then it’s expected that the end result will be a considerable moderation of the Kingdom’s destabilizing activities in the region.

Irate Iranians

Background Concepts:

While the welcoming of Saudi Arabia into the multipolar fold as a responsible member of the international community would be celebrated by many because of the far-reaching consequences that it could have in altering the entire course of the New Cold War, there’s one multipolar party which would actually be incredibly irate at this happening, and that’s Iran. The Islamic Republic is caught in an intense security dilemma with the Kingdom, inspired partly by the centuries-old but previously long-dormant Sunni-Shiite split, and also the US’ efforts since the 1979 Revolution and especially after 9/11 to exacerbate this into taking on geopolitical dimensions all across the international Muslim community (“Ummah”). Iran and Saudi Arabia both conceive of international affairs as being a “zero-sum” game between them, and it’s very likely that Riyadh and its media surrogates will intentionally misportray King Salman’s visit to Russia as being against Tehran instead of epitomizing Moscow’s skillful geopolitical balancing act.

It’s understandable if Iran feels uncomfortable with these optics, though it should recognize that Russia’s overall intent is truly apolitical and driven by neutral Great Power considerations, not anything directed against it personally no matter what the forthcoming Saudi psy-ops might infer. That being said, it’s very tempting to perceive of events through the aforementioned “zero-sum” prism in seeing any betterment of Russian-Saudi relations as being to the overall detriment of Russian-Iranian ones, which in turn might prompt an asymmetrical response or set thereof from Tehran in countering what some of its leadership might truly believe is Russia’s “unfriendly” and “humiliating” gesture by hosting the Saudi King, selling him S-400 anti-air missiles and state-of-the-art Kalashnikovs, and bidding to produce the Kingdom’s first-ever nuclear power plant. This isn’t speculation either, as Iran already isn’t happy with the de-facto alliance that Russia has struck with “Israel” in Syria, which is explained in detail in the author’s earlier work rhetorically questioning whether “Anyone Still Seriously Thinks That Russia And Israel Aren’t Allies?”

Phase 1: Syria

Moreover, Iran doesn’t like how Saudi Arabia is the main reason why it hasn’t been invited to join BRICS, and while the other four members are in a technical sense equally responsible for this too, it’s only Russia which is courting Saudi Arabia in a way which could make Iran uneasy given how impactful the latest rapprochement will be for Syria. Therefore, even though Iran’s official media has been largely silent on the implications of the Russian-Saudi rapprochement, it can’t be ruled out that the millennia-experienced Iranian diplomats are preparing one of their stereotypically asymmetrical responses to what’s happening, and that it could most immediately have consequences for Syria. For example, Iran could make the Astana talks more difficult by siding more closely with Damascus in attempting to rebuff the joint Russian-Turkish efforts to get the Syrian government to enter into certain political-administrative concessions (e.g. a “phased leadership transition” and “federalization”) as part of a comprehensive peace plan that would meet the interests of most external parties to the conflict and therefore maximize Moscow’s geopolitical “balancing” capabilities.

Phase 2: Caucasus

Apart from that and stepping its response up a notch, there’s also the possibility that Iran could work with India to redirect the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) from Azerbaijan and Russia to Armenia and Georgia instead, the latter route of which was predicted in the Mideast chapter of the author’s book-length analytical series about “The Chinese-Indian New Cold War” and would allow both on-the-fence Great Powers to pioneer a trade route to the EU. This would be a geopolitically troubling development for Russia and contribute to its perception that Armenia has become an “obstructionist” actor vis-à-vis Moscow-led Eurasian integration processes and has probably been totally taken over by the powerful American-based diaspora lobby, though China’s latest inroads in building its second-largest embassy in the post-Soviet space in Yerevan might help to “balance” everything out in preventing this potential move from being completely disastrous for multipolarity. Nevertheless, if Iran takes this step in rerouting some or all of the NSTC to Armenia, Georgia, and the EU, then it would probably mean that it’s also seriously considering expanding its asymmetrical response to the third phase of operations in the Balkans.

Phase 3: Balkans

The third and final escalatory phase of Iran’s most realistic responses to any perceived “security dilemma” with Russia after Moscow’s rapprochement with Riyadh would be if Tehran seeks to broaden its asymmetrical measures to include energy and geopolitical dimensions in the Balkans. The author wrote about the future role that post-sanctions Iranian energy exports to Europe could have in challenging Russia’s present market dominance in certain regions, and while this might not happen if the EU reimposes sanctions against the Islamic Republic in compliance with American pressure, it still can’t be entirely discounted that Iranian LNG exports to Croatia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and even Poland could be in the cards, as well as its exit from the OPEC+ output agreement. However, the most destabilizing consequence of Iran’s irritability with Russia could be if it decides to return to its post-Yugoslav role in breaking up Bosnia, using the Serbs as stand-ins for the Russians in a new proxy war. That’s the most extreme step that Iran could take and there’s nothing right now which indicates that it will happen, but it should nevertheless be included as the worst-case “dark scenario” forecast.

Concluding Thoughts

Royal Pivot:

Saudi Arabia’s grand strategy is shifting away from its former Western-/unipolar-centric focus to a more diversified one of “multi-alignment’ with multipolar leaders such as Russia and China, motivated in part by the US’ hostile energy and geopolitical actions against it. On the domestic front, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is modernizing his country’s socio-cultural situation by enacting belated reforms that will complement his ambitious Vision 2030 project of multisectoral economic diversification away from its present dependency on oil exports. Taken together, the international and domestic dimensions of Saudi Arabia’s grand strategic shifts are expected to have game-changing implications in altering the global dynamics of the New Cold War, to say nothing of what would happen if the Kingdom de-dollarizes its future Vision 2030 and energy deals with its new non-Western partners, hence why the initiator of all of this, Mohammed Bin Salman, is now the “Saudi Saddam” in the sense of being targeted for elimination.

Iranian Reaction:

That’s not all that there is to it, however, since even in the event that the young prince is successful in thwarting his myriad Hybrid War adversaries and the wide variety of weaponized threats that they’re poised to utilize against him, it’s unlikely that this will result in multipolar stability in the Mideast, owing mostly to the fact that Iran is expected to be incredibly irate at its hated rival being feted as a privileged partner by Russia and China. The difference between the two Eurasian Great Powers, however, is that Moscow’s outreaches to Riyadh are having direct consequences for Syria, particularly as it relates to possibly “counterbalancing” or even “rolling back” Iran’s intended post-Daesh influence in the Arab Republic, or so it may seem, which is why Tehran looks much more suspiciously at Moscow than it does at Beijing. The problem, though, is that Russia isn’t doing any of this “against Iran”, but in the “larger multipolar interests” of becoming the supreme “balancing” force in the Eurasian supercontinent, which in and of itself necessitate having excellent relations with Saudi Arabia.

Scenario Forecasts:

If the Iranian leadership is misled into viewing Russia’s ties with Saudi Arabia as part of a “zero-sum” game and not the “win-win” strategy that it’s actually intended (key word) to be, then it’s very likely that the Islamic Republic will resort to one of its stereotypically asymmetrical responses honed by millennia of diplomatic experience in making its silent disagreements well known. This would be an unfortunate development because it would mean that Russia’s sincere efforts to balance and then mediate the Saudi-Iranian/Sunni-Shiite rivalry would be for naught, and that the US’ unstated goal of redirecting Iranian attention away from Saudi Arabia and towards Russia would have been partially successful. Nevertheless, should this happen, then it’s expected that the three-phase tier of escalatory responses could see Iran create “complications” in the Astana peace process; redirect the North-South Transport Corridor away from Azerbaijan and Russia and towards Armenia, Georgia, and the EU; and begin actively competing with Russia for part of the European energy market. At the worst, it might even try to restore its destabilizing influence in Bosnia and spark a proxy war against Russia’s Serbian partners there.

American Backup Plan:

None of Iran’s forecasted responses are certain, or even that it will negatively appraise the fast-moving Russian-Saudi rapprochement in the first place, but in the possible event that it does, then it would inadvertently be playing into the US’ intended strategy of indirectly using Iran as a backup plan for replacing Saudi Arabia in countering Russian interests in the Mideast, Caucasus, and the Balkans. In addition, Riyadh’s reversal from the unipolar camp to the multipolar one would leave the US without a regular source of jihadi recruits, thereby necessitating that it scout elsewhere in such countries as Sudan, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. The most likely scenario to happen in the near future is that Iran’s suspicions of the Russian-Saudi rapprochement manifest themselves subtly in Syria, at least at first, while the US begins looking to non-Mideast “Global South” countries for mercenaries while concurrently commencing its regime change operation in Saudi Arabia.

The best outcome would be if Russia’s multidimensional diplomatic efforts could bring Saudi Arabia and Iran together in a “New Détente” like how Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr unsuccessfully tried to do, all the while assisting both of them in warding off the US’ Hybrid War threats, but the most likely result is that this wishful thinking eventuality is still a far way’s off, if it ever happens at all, since the US is well known for flexibly adapting its unipolar grand strategy to accommodate for any multipolar contingency such as this one.