Let's peel our eyes away from the eurozone disaster momentarily and take a look at another crisis – one with just as much potential to impact our global financial system.
As we've discussed in Outside the Box before, Iran's trump card is not its nuclear capability but rather its opportune location next to the very narrow, very important Strait of Hormuz ... through which no less than 40% of the world's seaborne oil passes.
As the US leaves Iraq, Iran is ready and waiting to fill the void and extend its regional influence. So where's the next turf war? A shaky Syria, where the Iranian-Saudi-US balance of power will continue to play out.
If you haven't been following the newest developing crisis in the Middle East, I recommend you spend some time with this piece by my friend George Friedman, CEO of STRATFOR. I'm also including a great background video from STRATFOR on the history of the Sunni/Shia divide. It's something you hear referenced all the time, but you may not know how it got started ... or what it really means.
If you're interested in more than the infrequent freebie from me, you should consider subscribing to their service. As an OTB reader you get a great discount and a free book when you join. There's nothing quite so enriching as getting a daily dose of what's really going on in the world. It's the intellectual equivalent of a Thanksgiving meal.
Your thinking about the turkey-mashed-potatoes-and-gravy balance of power analyst,
This week, we've seen a barrage of news and opinion pieces on Israel's attack on the Turkish aid flotilla headed for the Gaza strip. In the midst of myriad media discussions concerning the moral and strategic angles, my friend George Friedman from STRATFOR brings up an interesting point: "[The Israelis] seem to think that the issue is whose logic is correct. But the issue actually is, whose logic will be heard?"
George puts the entire situation into the perspective of a war of public perception, which gives us a much more accurate idea of what may come of all of this. Give his article a read, and then join STRATFOR's free email list to receive more intelligence of this sort--they will keep you in the know like no one else can.
Sometimes when I read a newspaper article, it strikes me as a "He said, she said" game. If I'm going to make an informed decision, I need analysis - not opinions from two sides, each with their own motive. You can find quotes from "experts" anywhere, but they usually don't offer much insight, except into the agenda of the person quoted. For deeper insight, I turn to my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR. STRATFOR publishes intelligence, not news. No journalists, no politicians - just analysts.
I'm sending you a peek at the type of intelligence they provide for decision-makers like you and me. Enjoy the read, notice the difference and visit their site to sign up to get your own free articles.
The closed-door meeting is a prime indicator of unpredictability. It's one of the most difficult elements for even the most savvy investors to encounter and plan for - or against. Usually we know the preemptive measures we need to take in order to protect our assets, and even make a few dollars in auspicious instances. But what about the information we can't access?
Luckily, we have options. Today I'm including an excellent video from my friends at STRATFOR, a global intelligence company. They shed light on a closed-door meeting between the Obama administration and 3 top Israeli officials. When speculation is rampant, there's only one source I trust for reliable insight, and that's STRATFOR. I encourage you to watch this video. Also, sign up to get their two free weekly intelligence reports for more door-opening insights on critical issues.
I've mentioned a couple of schools of thought before: those who look at the big picture and those who pore over the details. Often, the major product is the result of its minor pieces. If you use good meat, good buns, and good vegetables- you're going to turn out a pretty good hamburger. The same goes for cars, businesses and portfolios.
One industry in which this methodology really doesn't seem to work is information. Mainstream sources of information almost always fail to connect the world's events. They do a great job telling you that former Iranian president Rafsanjani addressed his supporters, that anti-Ahmadinejad protestors outside chanted "Death to Russia", and that Israel sent a submarine through the Suez Canal. But they don't show how the incidents fit together in the geopolitical landscape, nor what they mean for the relationships between global powers. They give you the meat, the buns and the vegetables, but there's no hamburger.
This week I'm sending you an article AND a video on the Iran situation, from my friend George Friedman and his team of intelligence analysts at STRATFOR. Click here to watch "Rethinking Iran" and read the article below (They complement each other nicely). George connects the pieces and draws conclusions – so you can make better-informed decisions regarding investments, assets and travels around the world.
In the midst of an economic crisis, we are inundated with data - information that often, a few years down the line, turns out to be wrong. Forecasts are made based on a single month's set of data or previous trends, and the public often doesn't know how to read the fine print about margins of error.
The problem is faulty methodology. Most media and even government intelligence agencies assume the information they get from leadership figures is 100% correct, no questions asked - leading to defective analyses. Instead, underlying assumptions should be constantly vetted in the face of new facts. I'd encourage you to consider the intelligence produced by my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR - a trusted source in forecasting future geopolitical trends.
Click here to watch this video by George and his intelligence team. It looks beyond the current protests in Iran and delves into what policy changes could be on the horizon in this pivotal Middle Eastern state. George extrapolates what these recent events mean for President Obama's and Israel's options in terms of Iran and the peace process.
Anyone looking to gain a leg up in the world of finance needs to understand geopolitics and foreign investments. Take a look at STRATFOR, which offers a special deal for my readers. Barron's referred to them in a cover-story profile as the "Shadow CIA," but I would say that their methodology gives them much greater accuracy than their government counterpart.
Dear Friends -
Occasionally I need a fast answer. So I'll run a Google search, and 2.54 MILLION responses later I've learned how to handle a Thanksgiving turkey-roasting crisis but nothing useful about Turkey's financial crisis.
There's certainly no shortage of data these days. But what's in all-too-short supply is understanding. As investors, what creates opportunities isn't access to data but to ways of thinking about the world. I created Outside the Box precisely for this reason, to share with you some of the best thinkers in the world and some of the best ways to think about investments.
To understand how geopolitical events impact your investments, there's simply no one better than my friend George Friedman and his team at STRATFOR. They couple objective facts with unbiased context and analysis so you know what it all means for you. This understanding is a critical piece of my investment formula, and I strongly encourage you to click here to take advantage of a special offer that George is offering my readers.
In the meantime, take a look at this article about Israel, the U.S., and the chance for peace in the Middle East. If you've ever wondered why this conflict doesn't have a simple, Hollywood resolution, you'll be blown away by the clarity George provides.
The hottest media topic of the New Year is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. And as I was reading the New York Times on Tuesday, I came across this sentence in one of the articles that was staggeringly truthful and more than a little unsettling in its implications for me as an investor.
"There are other ways to construe the context of this conflict of course. But no matter what, Israel's diplomats know that if journalists are given a choice between covering death and covering context, death wins."
Now, I'm NOT trying to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of either side, but if you're an investor, and you're trying to make decisions about where this conflict might drive oil prices, for example, then context is everything. And according to the New York Times, if you're relying on journalists for context, forget it.
But you do have an alternative: my friend George Friedman's company, Stratfor, is the unbiased source for insightful analysis of global events. George and his team are all about context - and they provide it without bias or an agenda. If you're my age, you remember "Just the facts, ma'am." Whether it's the conflict in Gaza, the war between Georgia and Russia, or the mayhem and violence in Nigeria, when I need to know how geopolitics is going to hit energy prices, I turn to Stratfor.
I'm including today one of their analyses on the conflict: Iran: Using Oil as a Weapon, But Only Rhetorically. In it, Stratfor showcases its strengths: unbiased analysis--and in this case, of a situation mainstream media has barely even registered. George has kindly arranged a special offer for my readers. Click here, and you'll get 2 years of Membership for the price of 1 for just $349. Plus George is including a free copy of his new book coming out later this month (I'll be reviewing it for you in a couple weeks.)
Your all-about-context analyst,
In times of crisis, those with psychological fortitude discover opportunities that most people miss. A friend of mine in Houston tells me of unending piles of tree limbs broken down by the hurricane. The homeowner laments his disaster; the tree trimmer and the roofer order a new Mercedes. Most of the world sees a Wall St. meltdown. Buffett takes the opening to deploy billions from his cash hoard. They're all seeing the same thing, but they're reacting differently based on different visions of the future.
I've included a piece today from my friend George Friedman over at Stratfor about the landscape the next US President will face. This article is a perfect example of why I rely on Stratfor for my geopolitical intelligence. The newspapers and other media do better or lesser jobs of telling me about what's happening right now. But that's not what an investor needs. What I need - and I recommend for you - is an analysis of what we're going to be facing. That's where George and his team absolutely excel.
For at least the next month, the public conversation is going to be completely dominated by the November election and the political maneuvering to address the financial crisis. There will be tremendous drama. There will be dizzying swings back and forth in emotions, expectations, and more than likely the markets. And if you focus on it, you'll miss the real opportunities to position yourself for the emergence. George has made a special offer on a Stratfor Membership available to my readers, and I strongly encourage you to click here to take advantage of this opportunity. Now is the time to get positioned for future opportunities, while everybody else is wallowing in the here and now.
Kudos to my friend George Friedman and his crew at Stratfor. If you didn't see the article in this week's Barron's about Stratfor's analysis of the geopolitical risk premium built into oil prices, you missed a really good piece of work. You've probably heard Napoleon's quote that "Amateurs discuss strategy, and professionals discuss logistics." If you want a perfect example of how that quote plays out for the markets, take a look at Stratfor's article below. It's precisely the kind of sober, fundamental research that makes Stratfor my invaluable source for geopolitical intelligence.
No matter where you're looking at putting your money today, the impact of energy prices simply can't be overstated. The commodities trade, US and foreign equities, debt and interest rates, everything is being driven by energy prices right now. Whether you're trying to factor energy as a direct input into the price and consumption of manufactured goods or dealing with monetary policy's impact on the dollar and debt markets, you're implicitly making an energy trade.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you're trying to trade today's markets without geopolitical intelligence, it's like trying to trade the juice futures market without a weather forecast. You can do it, but good luck to you.
George has kindly passed me the article that was the basis of the Barron's story. You'll notice right away that unlike many of the so-called experts out there, Stratfor doesn't airily dismiss underlying logistics in favor of handwaving. But better than taking my word for it, click here to get your own Stratfor Membership at the discounted rate for my readers. Every day you'll receive the same forecasts and intelligence guidance that I use to shape my thinking on where the world is going - and especially on energy prices.
This week we step outside the box of conventional geopolitical analysis to hear the thinking of George Friedman, founder and chief executive officer of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), on the geopolitics of Israel. George makes the key point that Israel's geography has been fundamentally important to its geopolitical successes and limitations, and has lent a surprising continuity to its foreign policy from the Biblical era forward to the present day.
This is the first in a series of monographs by George on the geopolitics of countries that are currently critical in world affairs, and he has kindly let us have a preview.
George Friedman and Stratfor have long been my single best source for commentary on geopolitics. They identify trends and predict world-changing events in a way that is consistently ahead of the curve - and that has earned them worldwide respect. I see about 3-4 Stratfor letters each day, each with thoughtful analysis of both breaking global events and longer-term situations. I find the work they do to be of the highest quality and very useful as I think about how everything fits together in our rapidly changing world.
And finally, if you have not yet subscribed to Stratfor, then you should. They have some very favorable offers just for my readers, which you can access here: https://www.stratfor.com/campaign/biblical_and_modern_israeli_geopolitics_0
In my Friday letter, Thoughts from the Frontline, I wrote, "This week's events have made it clear why as investors you need to be able to get a handle on world events." The turmoil in the Middle East has only intensified since then, making the markets start off the week in the midst of geopolitical uncertainty.
I think you will find it interesting to read today's note from Stratfor on the Mid-East situation. Strategic Forecasting, Inc, or Stratfor for short as I noted last Friday is my single best source for geo-political news. The company is headquartered in Austin, TX with a satellite office in Washington, DC and intelligence sources from around the world. Stratfor focuses on providing corporations, governments and individuals strategic intelligence on the economic, political and security issues that will affect them.
George Friedman, the President of Stratfor, has written an up-to-date piece on how the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict is likely to unfold. With oil in the mid 70's and the Fed facing tough decisions, investors must be on their guard with yet even more volatility from geopolitical concerns. I trust that you will find this alert to be quite "Outside the Box" compared to what the traditional media is reporting.
I have gotten them to reduce their normal subscription rates to $199 for the next few days. You can subscribe by going to https://www.stratfor.com/offers/060522-milrate/?ref=060522-milrate-BMG&camp=060522-milrate. Once again, if you need a real source of information on what is happening in the world, especially if you are in the money management business, you should subscribe.