Diane Francis: Russia is the only winner after Iranian strikes, plane shoot-down
This week’s stock market and oil price roller-coaster ride, due to U.S.-Iran tensions, isn’t over, even though experts believe that Iran’s retaliation is finished.
More likely, however, is that it is just beginning.
Oil stocks steadied, but airline-related stocks, led by U.S.-led Boeing Company, fell and stayed down amid reports that U.S. intelligence has concluded that the crash in Tehran on Tuesday that killed 63 Canadians and another 113 passengers was an accidental shoot-down by Iranian air defence forces.
The Boeing plane was operated by Ukrainian Airlines, was new, recently inspected and crashed within minutes of takeoff. Iran said it was an accident but then added it would not share the black box data recovered from the scene. That’s highly suspicious in itself. Reports indicate that the U.S. also has satellite and electronic intelligence suggesting that Iran fired one or two missiles at the plane. The U.S. believes this was an accident, a tragic miscommunication, and not a deliberate order by the regime to bring down the plane.
If Iran fails to co-operate, the country’s airspace should be boycotted by all commercial airliners
The Ukrainians have opened a criminal investigation. Canada, along with Britain, Sweden and Germany, should do so too. All had victims onboard. The 63 Canadians on board the flight were going from Tehran to Kyiv then onto Toronto. Ukraine was immediately suspicious, hardly surprising given that one of the biggest airline terrorist attacks by Russian operatives took place in 2014 over eastern Ukraine when Malaysian airlines Flight 17 was shot down out of the sky enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All four Russian operatives were charged with murder in 2019.
There were no Americans on board, but Boeing is a big fat American target. Besides that, the Ukrainian airline is partially owned by Ihor Kolomoisky, a prominent Ukrainian oligarch, with deep ties and citizenship to Iran’s other “Great Satan,” Israel.
If Iran fails to co-operate, the country’s airspace should be boycotted by all commercial airliners, and sanctions placed on the country.
Such probes may take years, and Canada will be drawn into the situation. So, unfortunately, will our military. President Donald Trump yesterday in his press conference asked NATO members to join the United States in fixing the Middle East quagmire. A total of 800 Canadian troops are already spread across the region.
“Fixing” the place may take years because the U.S.-Iranian conflict is not over. This means that oil prices will bounce around like the cardiogram of a heart patient for some time. Another outbreak of violence — or any attack on oil assets or any blockade of oil in and out of the region — will immediately lead to US$100-a-barrel oil. Even if there’s a hiatus, the geopolitical anxiety in the region will remain elevated.
Vulnerable targets include Westerners living or doing business there plus countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and its ally Bahrain. Others may be spared because they have cozied up to both Iran and the U.S. alike. Then there’s Lebanon and Israel.
As for markets, Timothy Ash with Bluebay Asset Management in London predicts: “Big picture, oil prices will go higher, towards 100 a barrel. Winners — Russia/CIS and non-Middle East oil producers”.
But already the biggest winner is Russia, as usual these days. The Kremlin intends to fill the power vacuum in the Middle East created by the U.S., and, along the way, keep oil prices higher. It’s carved up parts of Syria with Turkey and wants to do the same in Libya, where Turks have been deployed. Then there’s the constant pressure on Ukraine and now Belarus.
Most of all, President Vladimir Putin is friendly to Iran and condemned the assassination of Gen. Soleimani. This week, Putin coolly paid visits to his pals in Damascus then Ankara.
“In contrast to Donald Trump’s unpredictability, Russia’s consistency (as an ally) becomes advantageous,” wrote a Bloomberg commentator. “He’s unfazed by Iran’s tension.”