Senior Associate, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC
In a globalised world, hungry for natural resources, energy is power. Over the next 30 years, demand for fuels will increase 55%, even if, due to high prices, demand is currently declining. China’s and India’s unbridled lust for petroleum, and Russia’s use of its gas as a potential strategic weapon, give a new dimension to international relations, even if there have been many historic examples of nations using hydrocarbons as pawns in the great game of Realpolitik. The First Gulf War (1991), the United States (US) intervention in Iraq (2003) and the current wars in the Middle East would not have occurred were it not for the region’s enormous petroleum resources. Conversely, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) defied the West with the two oil shocks of 1973 and 1979, and this meant that Iran and the Arab oil-producing states were flexing their muscles, for the first time in the modern age, and in so doing they changed the geopolitical map of the world.
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