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Can Chávez push oil prices to $200?

Venezuela's president says he'll team up with Iran to hurt US economy. Analysts call it bravado.

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– Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says oil would shoot to $200 a barrel if the US invaded Iran. He and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are "united like a single fist," Mr. Chávez said earlier this week.

Does Chávez, with or without Iran's help, have the power to push oil to $200 a barrel? Can he "tip the world into a recession" as an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times asserted last week?

Venezuela is the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the US. But despite a concern among some economists that high oil prices will provoke recession, many analysts say that Chávez alone has minimal impact on the how high the price of oil goes. And even as he looks to export oil elsewhere and reduce his dependence on the US, where half of Venezuela's production is sold, it's a swap he won't be able to carry out soon.

"Between those two countries, Venezuela is way more dependent on the US than the US is on Venezuela," says Roger Tissot, director for Latin America country strategies at PFC Energy, a consulting group.

Chávez's latest threats came during the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) summit last weekend in Saudi Arabia, as he and Mr. Ahmadinejad sought to push OPEC away from trading in the US dollar.

"God willing, with the fall of the dollar, the deviant US imperialism will fall as soon as possible, too," said Chávez, in a visit to Tehran after the OPEC meeting, according to the state news agency in Iran.

But the intent was rejected by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter. Saudi King Abdullah remarked that oil "should not become a tool for conflict and emotions."


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