Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
There are several on ET much better able than me to comment in relation to the current position and likely future trends in respect of Iran's production of crude oil, oil products and LNG.

My perspective is based upon five years or so - on and off - actually engaging with Iran in respect of a single project - the "Iran Oil Bourse" as it is popularly known.

There appear to me to be maybe 3 key themes which are particularly relevant:
 (a) National Identity;
 (b) Governance - ie Democracy and Decision Making;
 (c) Market Economy.

National Identity
Iran's Persian antecedents have roots some 4000 years old.  And certainly for the last few hundred years they have seen their nation under attack most recently and bloodily by Saddam - probably the latest in the series of Western sponsored attempts to access Iran's oil.

There is therefore a huge resistance to letting foreigners having any more than minimal rights to Iran's oil, and this makes investment in Iranian energy projects protracted and tedious at best and impossible at worst.

Iran actually is quite a vibrant democracy in many ways - there is nothing of the autocracies typical of most Arabic states - but the Constitution and decision-making structure is horrendously complex and hierarchical.

Very few decision-makers actually exist, and even those who do will rarely make a decision without a protracted process of consultation among the elite. As a result delay and corruption are an ever present fact of life, since too many top officials are in place not because of what they know, but who they know.

This tends to add a further dimension to already tortuous contractual negotiation.

Market Economy
From the Islamic revolution onwards there has been a deep suspicion in Iran of the "Western" Market Economy.

Those with any understanding of it left Iran in droves, and in fact the Stock Exchange was closed for some years and has always been viewed with suspicion, particularly by the religious conservatives.

The lack of understanding in Iran of markets (I did not say trading, they are pretty good at that) is almost total. By way of example, when the Stock Exchange crashed not long since, this was actually blamed by the Press on the stock exchange management, as opposed to supply and demand.

In attempting to put in place an energy marketplace able to interface with the existing global market, a railway analogy comes to mind.

The current position of the Stock Exchange is a bit like a diesel engine: they can run it, and even repair it, but there is not the first inkling about how they might set about the necessary project to electrify it.

Their Westernised financial system - Central Bank, Stock Exchange and so on - sits very uncomfortably upon their Society, and through privileged access to oil wealth, the Iranian elite continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the average citizen.

The issue of Social Justice underpinned the surprise win by the current President. His inability so far to get to grips with the Market Economy has led to Rafsanjani's recent "come-back" on behalf of the elite.

The central thrust of my work has been to design, and if possible to implement, new financial tools and products better able to permit the Iranian economy to thrive, and in particular to enable the necessary investment to stem the suggested decline in Iranian oil output.

In doing so I am suggesting that it is possible to create "Asset-based" financing and trading tools which combine with a new partnership-based enterprise model to give an outcome acceptable to all parties and with a deep-seated compatibility with Islamic Values.

I live in hope.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Dec 26th, 2006 at 10:16:02 AM EST

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