Houston energy insiders, Iraqi nationals have very different worries about unrest brewing in Middle East

HOUSTON – Iraqi nationals living in Houston worry their countrymen back home will face the immediate backlash of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani’s death. Meanwhile, energy insiders in the nation’s oil capital brace for the possibility of a disruption in global markets.

Iranian officials have promised “severe consequences” and “hard revenge” for the death of the longtime leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. What exactly this means is yet to be seen. Houston entrepreneur and veteran of the energy industry, Bob Cavnar told KPRC 2 that he worries the Strait of Hormuz will take center stage in the conflict between the US and Iran.

“I'm not as concerned about ground war as I am about how they're going to upset the energy markets,” said Cavnar.

The federal government’s Energy Information Administration refers to the Strait of Hormuz as the “world’s most important oil transit checkpoint.” Our government estimates 21% of the world’s petroleum liquid consumption passed through the strait in 2018. The strait connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea.

“That is the leverage that Iran has on the whole world, is being able to control those straits,” said Cavnar.

Oil prices already jumped following Soleimani’s death. Cavnar said if Iran tries to disrupt transit through the strait, as it has in the past, oil prices will climb higher which will translate to higher prices at the pump. Cavnar said while the US is not nearly as dependent on middle east oil as it was 30 years ago, higher prices can trigger a global economic downturn which can eventually affect the U.S.

“I'm worried about that and that helped kicked off the global downturn in 2009, high oil prices,” said Cavnar.

Many Iraqi nationals living in Houston also worry their country will be caught in the middle of the conflict.

“We don't want Iraq to be a battlefield,” said Nooruldeen (Noor) Aldulaimi. “Iraqi's are worried about the consequences, beside the fact that we're happy that he's dead.”

Aldulaimi and Dina Al Bayati fled to America because of the persecution they say came at the hands of Iran-backed and trained militia forces.

“Many of the abuses was directed and ordered by Qassem Soleimani,” said Al Bayati. “The reason why we're here in America is because of this individual and because of many individuals like him.”

Both fear Soleimani’s death will push these groups to increase their attacks in Iraq. Al Bayati and Aldulaimi said peaceful protesters, who are pushing for government reform, became the frequent target of attacks by Iran-backed militia groups.

“In Iraq people do look at (Soleimani) as a terrorist, but Iran-backed militias look at him as a hero,” said Aldulaimi.

Al Bayati, a political activist, said many of the protesters simply want a government that is accountable to the people. She said militia forces will try to try to equate these government reform efforts with being “pro-American.”

“Their biggest agenda is 'you’re anti, you’re with Americans, you work for the embassy,’” said Al Bayati. “They use this propaganda to appeal to the uneducated to try to radicalize them.”