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Response to US global bullying: Iran, India ditch dollar to continue trading oil despite sanctions

Response to US global bullying: Iran, India ditch dollar to continue trading oil despite sanctions

Response to US global bullying: Iran, India ditch dollar to continue trading oil despite sanctions
In an effort to circumvent US-imposed sanctions, India and Iran have reportedly ditched the US dollar and are trading oil in rupees. The reason becomes clear after considering the dynamics at play in the region.

In mid-February last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited India, and the two countries signed nine agreements signalling a strengthening of ties. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to celebrate the growing relationship, stating that it was “a matter of great pleasure” for India that an Iranian president came to India “after a gap of 10 years.”

Fast-forward a few months later, and then-UN ambassador Nikki Haley was bluntly telling India that they should rethink their relationship with Tehran.

Donald Trump’s decision to rip up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last year, also known as the Iranian nuclear accord, was a particularly significant blow to Iran-India relations. At the time the JCPOA was formulated, Indian officials believed the deal to be the “best deal available.” After the JCPOA’s implementation in 2016, exports of Iranian oil to India increased by more than 110 percent.

Maybe the issue isn’t always that Washington wants to contain its rivals in the Middle East and Asia, but perhaps there is a chance that it also wants to keep a lid on its so-called allies as well. Right now, India is the third largest oil consumer in the world, and is expected to become the largest by the year 2040. As its domestic reserves are not meeting the needs of its rapidly expanding economy, India has been importing 80 percent of its oil supply from overseas, including and especially Iran.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is Bolton Steering Trump into War with Iran?

Is Bolton Steering Trump into War with Iran?

Is Bolton Steering Trump into War with Iran?

“Stop the ENDLESS WARS!” implored President Donald Trump in a Sunday night tweet.

Well, if he is serious, Trump had best keep an eye on his national security adviser, for a U.S. war on Iran would be a dream come true for John Bolton.

Last September, when Shiite militants launched three mortar shells into the Green Zone in Baghdad, which exploded harmlessly in a vacant lot, Bolton called a series of emergency meetings and directed the Pentagon to prepare a menu of targets, inside Iran, for U.S. air and missile strikes in retaliation.

The Wall Street Journal quoted one U.S. official as saying Bolton’s behavior “rattled people. … People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

Bolton’s former deputy, Mira Ricardel, reportedly told a gathering the shelling into the Green Zone was “an act of war” to which the U.S. must respond decisively.

Bolton has long believed a U.S. confrontation with Iran is both inevitable and desirable. In 2015, he authored a New York Times op-ed whose title, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” said it all. He has urged that “regime change” in Iran be made a declared goal of U.S. foreign policy.

When Trump announced his decision to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops now in Syria, Bolton swiftly imposed conditions: ISIS must first be eliminated, Iranian forces and allied militias must leave, and the Kurds must be protected.

Yet enforcing such red lines would require a permanent presence of American troops. For how, without war, would we effect the removal of Bashar Assad’s Iranian allies, if he declines to expel them and the Iranians refuse to go?

Bolton has an ally in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In Cairo last week, Pompeo declared it U.S. policy “to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Mainstream Media Join the US Government Offensive Against Iran: Case Study of Reuters

How Mainstream Media Join the US Government Offensive Against Iran: Case Study of Reuters

How Mainstream Media Join the US Government Offensive Against Iran: Case Study of Reuters

Summary: A 2013 news investigation of Iranian corruption by Reuters news service has been cited by at least four books published one after another, the most recently in 2018. 

It has also been cited by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2018 speech. Given the article’s ongoing influence, this article will scrutinize flaws in the reporting techniques and raise reasonable questions about several of its findings. The article will also mention, a piece of important historical context, that was long assumed, but made official in 2013 – the same year the story was published – when the US government released classified documents about its involvement in the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953 and the establishment of the Shah. The purpose of this article is not to stain the reputation of an entire news agency – but to simply lay out an alternative context for interpreting a single, influential story. 

Ever since the beginning of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, the United States has been leading a propaganda campaign against Iran, minimizing own harmful role in key historical events, justifying an ousted monarchist regime, and demonizing the new political system. Frequently it is done in lighter forms, for example by claiming that new government is far from perfect or even the same as a previous one, but the methods can sometimes be so radical that the characteristics of the two systems are completely inverted.

While the Reuters claims Iran is active in spreading disinformation online, the history of the agency’s reports about Iran shows the opposite. The latest of such reports is a false report about Iran’s missile program. The falsehood of the article has been dissected here.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nothing To See Here, It’s Just Everything

The politics of oil are complicated, to say the least. There’s any number of important players, from OPEC to North American shale to sanctions. Relating to that last one, the US government has sought to impose serious restrictions upon the Iranian regime. Choking off a major piece of that country’s revenue, and source for dollars, has been a stated US goal.

In May, the Trump administration formally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known otherwise as President Obama’s “Iran deal.” It was widely expected that pulling out would lead to harsh sanctions against any country continuing to trade using Iranian crude oil.

At the beginning of November, the US government formally re-instated those sanctions. In a surprising compromise, it did issue a number of waivers to countries like South Korea, Greece, Japan, and even China (among several others). That meant a good bit of Iran supply would remain available on global markets as a substitute source.

It is becoming 2018’s version of the 2014 “supply glut”, a benign or nearly so excuse for oil’s otherwise shocking crash. From Bloomberg only last week:

Just in late September, some traders were predicting that global oil prices would hit $100 a barrel over the following months. Their forecasts were based on the prospect of a supply crunch due to U.S. sanctions on Iran that went into effect in November. However, America’s surprise decision to grant waivers from its restrictions to some nations sparked a collapse in crude.

On the surface, the story does seem to check out; the US government did, in fact, keep Iran open for a little while longer. That additional future supply would have to have been factored into the ongoing oil price, further pressure to the downside.

But did it “spark a collapse in crude?” Nope, a demonstrable fallacy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Is U.S. Geopolitical Strategy Experiencing a Monumental Shift?

Is U.S. Geopolitical Strategy Experiencing a Monumental Shift?

The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago. Most such contests have ended badly, often for both nations, a team of mine at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has concluded after analyzing the historical record. In 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, the result was war. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part not just of the challenger but also the challenged.

– From Graham Allison’s article: The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?

For the past two years, my geopolitical assumption has been that the Trump administration would more or less continue along with the reckless, shortsighted, and disastrous neocon/neoliberal interventionist foreign policy of the past two decades focused on undeclared regime change and proxy wars across the world, especially the Middle East. Given his strange obsession with Iran, I figured he’d start a conflict there and that this conflict would end up a bigger disaster than Iraq.

I assumed this mistake would coincide with continued massive deficits, a unwieldy debt load and most likely a recession. In turn, I believed this would lead to an embarrassing and chaotic unraveling of the U.S. empire. At that point, other nations like China would opportunistically take advantage of the huge power vacuum left over. Based on a variety of events over the past few months, I’m no longer convinced this is how it’s going to unfold.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Empire’s Sea of Woes

The Empire’s Sea of Woes

The noose cinches.

Second-rate George H.W. Bush got a first-rate Washington send-off. For one day it interrupted the downtrend in equity markets. It may mark the US apotheosis of inflated grandiosity. Across the Atlantic, Emmanuel Macron, pretentious popinjay of Gallic grandiosity, has gotten a deserved comeuppance. Brexit, Trump’s election, and nationalist uprisings in Southern and Eastern Europe apparently insufficient warning to the globalists who would rule us, the French rioters are sending yet another wake-up call. If that’s not enough, so too are many of the nations outside the Euro-American welfare state asylum.

The crazies’ kings, queens, and courtiers face a dwindling inheritance and mounting debt, but spend lavishly to keep up appearances. Falling markets and rioting taxpayers are unwelcome reminders that the money’s running out, leaving behind a stack of IOUs that won’t be paid. The aristocracy wants to offload the pain to the peasantry, but the riots demonstrate that the peasantry has other ideas. Our betters also want to blame their sea of woes on Eurasia’s leaders, but Russia, China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are having none of that. They are, however, delighted to see the West crumbling and will do nothing to stop it.

Empire is America’s noose, hubris America’s curse. Once upon a time it didn’t matter much to the American people or their politicians what happened in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or even Europe. During the nineteenth century, for the most part we minded our own business, and what a business it turned out to be. America became the world’s industrial, technological, and commercial powerhouse.

Success may be the hardest human condition to endure. Few individuals withstand it. For empires, it’s always temporary. They fail and topple from the pinnacle with monotonous regularity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New Rules of Engagement Between Syria and Israel, as Russia Changes its Position

NEW RULES OF ENGAGEMENT BETWEEN SYRIA AND ISRAEL, AS RUSSIA CHANGES ITS POSITION

Syria will adopt a new rule of engagement with Israel now that Russia has taken a tougher and clearer stance on the conflict between Israel and the “Axis of the Resistance”. Henceforth, Damascus will be responding to any Israeli strike. If it damages a specific military target it will reply with a strike against a similar objective in Israel. Decision makers in Damascus said “Syria will not hesitate to hit an Israeli airport if Damascus airport is targeted and hit by Israel. This will be with the consent of the Russian military based in the Levant”.

This Syrian political decision is based on a clear position taken by Russia in Syria following the downing of its aircraft on September 18 this year. In 2015 when the Russian military landed in Syria, it informed the parties concerned (i.e. Syria, Iran and Israel) that it had no intention to interfere in the conflict between them and Hezbollah and that it would not stand in the way of Tel Aviv’s planes bombing Hezbollah military convoys on their way to Lebanon or Iranian military warehouses not allocated to the war in Syria. This was a commitment to remain an onlooker if Israel hit Iranian military objectives or Hezbollah convoys transporting arms to Hezbollah from Syria to Lebanon, within Syrian territory. It also informed Israel that it would not accept any attacks on its allies (Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies) engaged in fighting ISIS, al-Qaeda and its allies.

Israel respected the will of Moscow until the beginning of 2018, when it started to attack Iranian bases and Syrian military warehouses, though it never attacked a Hezbollah military position. Israel justified its attack against the Iranian base, a military facility called T4, by claiming it had sent drones over Israel. Tel Aviv considered violation of its neighbours’ sovereignty as its exclusive prerogative.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

US forces in Syria, via ABC News

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000.

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When you want to sanction States, you call them « terrorists »

The new unilateral sanctions by the United States against Iran, Russia and Syria add to the previous actions concerning the same three targets. They now form the most unforgiving embargo in History. The way in which they have been organised is illegal according to the definition of the Charter of the United Nations – these are weapons of war, designed for killing.

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Secretary of Defense James Mattis applauded by United States Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin.

For his visit to Moscow on 8 November, ambassador James Jeffrey was tasked with explaining the current US obsession with the expansion of Persian influence in the Arab world (Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen). Washington now wishes to formulate this question in geo-strategic rather than religious terms (Chiites/Sunni), while Teheran is organising its national defence around forward posts composed of Chiite Arabs.

Moscow then considered the possibility of negotiating on Teheran’s behalf for the easing of unilateral US sanctions, in exchange for its military withdrawal from Syria. President Vladimir Putin confirmed his proposition, not only for his US opposite number, but also for the Israëli Prime Minister, during their meeting in Paris on 11 November for the celebrations marking the centenary of the end of the First World War .

He attempted to convince the Westerners that Russia alone in Syria was preferable to the Irano-Russian tandem. However, he could not guarantee that Iran would have sufficient authority over Hezbollah – as both Washington and Tel-Aviv pretend – to be able to order it to withdraw also.

Washington’s only answer, nine days later, was to announce the eleventh series of unilateral sanctions against Russia since the beginning of August.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

OPEC Cuts Deep to Save Cartel

OPEC Cuts Deep to Save Cartel

With oil prices in free fall and the dawning realization that Great Reflation trade of 2017 is over, OPEC needed to do something drastic to remind everyone how important they are.

Moreover, with Qatar quitting the cartel last week it was then doubly necessary for OPEC to make the markets stand up and remember them.

So, after a few days of wrangling, a 1.2 million barrel per day cut was announced by OPEC, far larger than the market was expecting.

The Trump administration is fuming today over this result.

Predictably, oil prices jumped on the news.  All is right with their world, yes?

Well, yes and no.  The Saudis need $80 per barrel oil.  Russia doesn’t get its hair mussed below around $50 and even then it simply scales back government spending in line with oil prices — auto-budgeting based on oil tariffs.

The free-floating ruble insulates Russia domestically from a sharp drop in oil prices far better than Saudi Arabia since the Riyal is pegged to the U.S. dollar.

But for Saudi Arabia, the stakes are far higher.  And its chief rival, Iran, understands this very well.  The reason the OPEC meeting was so touch and go was Iran exerting its leverage over the Saudis in response to U.S. sanctions.

Because while Russia agreed to a 200,000 barrel cut, which is nothing to them in the grand scheme of things, Iran was exempted from making any cuts.

Iran, Libya and Venezuela will be effectively exempt from the cuts, though the text of the deal will say they received “special considerations,” Iraqi oil minister Thamir Ghadhban said.

Saudi Loss Leader

Saudi leadership is weakening.  Qatar left to pursue its own ambitions without OPEC getting in the way.  That’s a nice way of saying they want to do business with Iran developing the shared North Pars gas field.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil Volatile As Iran Denies Reports It Agreed To Deal

Oil Volatile As Iran Denies Reports It Agreed To Deal

Update (8:00 am ET): Oil prices spiked Friday morning before quickly fading after Reuters reported that Iran has agreed to the OPEC deal for 800,000 b/d of cuts – only for an Iranian delegate to swiftly deny that report, sending crude prices back from whence they came.

The Iranian delegate said there’s still ‘lots of haggling’ about a possible deal.

* * *

Update (7:10 am ET): As furious negotiations continue on day two of the OPEC+ talks in Vienna, one OPEC delegate has informed BBG that the group has yet to finalize the final number for the cuts.

* * *

Update (6:30 am ET): Boom…

OPEC TALKS IN VIENNA ARE DEADLOCKED: DELEGATE
Reports of the deadline followed headlines claiming that Iran had demanded that an exemption must be included in any agreement about production cuts. A counteroffer for Iran to agree to a “symbolic” cut has reportedly been categorically rejected by the Gulf Producer. WTI has moved back to unch on the day.

* * *

Update (6:20 am ET): Expressing dissatisfaction with the terms of whatever deal has been discussed, Iran is reportedly holding out for language about an exemption for the struggling producer to be included in the agreement following three hours of talks on Friday.

It would be ironic if Iran – which has been blamed, along with Saudi Arabia and Russia, for triggering the collapse in oil prices due to the sanctions ‘exemptions’ on its oil exports extended by the US – ends up killing the deal, because the only less-desirable outcome for oil markets than a ‘baseline’ cut scenario would be ‘no deal’.

Oil prices are all over the place as the perceived prospects for a deal change with each new headline.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blain: “Are We Backing The Wrong Country In The Saudi-Iran Race”

As excerpted from Blain’s Morning Porridge, submitted by Bill Blain

Where do we go from here?  

I’ve said it a few times already – 2019 is likely to see the start of the New Market Reality. Although some pundits claim yesterday’s sell-off was due to automated algo’s triggering a crash because they misread the US yield curve inversion – bad programming they claim – the reality is markets are extremely nervous: of the recessionary signals the inversion shows, slowing economic numbers, the prospects for trade war accelerating recession, etc. The US economy may be a full employment and growing, but where does it go from here as the rest of the globe falters, housing collapses, Auto sales plummet and everyone worries just how they are going to pay off student loans, mortgages and credit cards?

Markets have reversed polarity on Trump.

Peak Trump Bullshit means we just switched from positive to negative. Don’t think about what can go right as Trump forces through trade deals, tax cuts, a compliant Fed, etc. Think about Trump negatives – forget the FED put. Forget overly-optimistic valuations based on rosy global growth projections, and the belief very smart people will make bright shinny things brighter and shinier. Next year is going to be about real stuff, like how you going to sell this commodity (be it an electric car, swanky mobile phone with a fruit logo, or avacados. Why avocados…? because.. just because.) Consumption vs recession. Ouch.

Markets are being roiled by politics, soiling themselves on trade war panics, scared witless by mounting populism and its pay-off:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran: Oil To Fall To $40 If OPEC Fails To Reach Deal

Iran: Oil To Fall To $40 If OPEC Fails To Reach Deal

oil tanker hurricane

A fractured OPEC is meeting later this week to discuss a deal to cut oil production—yet again—to rebalance the market and lift oil prices that have recently slipped to below most of the cartel members’ budget-balance points.

OPEC needs a unanimous vote to pass decisions such as curtailing production. Yet, Iran—one of OPEC’s biggest producers but also one of the most sidelined members in recent months—warns that the group is unlikely to reach an agreement on a sizeable cut of around 1.4 million bpd as some are suggesting. Such a failure to act decisively would send oil prices plunging to $40 a barrel, Iran’s OPEC Governor Hossein Kazempour Ardebili told Bloomberg in an interview.

The cartel and its Russia-led non-OPEC allies may not extend their cooperation pact either, according to Iran’s representative at OPEC—a position typically held by the second most powerful oilman in a cartel member after the oil minister.

Iran has repeatedly expressed frustration with the Saudi/Russia-led increase in oil production since June to offset what was expected to be a steep decline in Iranian oil supply with the U.S. sanctions on Tehran’s petroleum and shipping industries.

Iran’s oil exports indeed dropped by some 1 million bpd, but they are likely still holding onto above 1 million bpd, while U.S. waivers to eight Iranian customers allow buyers to continue purchasing oil at reduced volumes until the end of April next year.

Oil prices have plunged by around 30 percent from early October as the market started to fear an oversupply is building up again, due to record high production in Saudi Arabia and Russia, and an all-time high oil output in the United States, coupled with fears of slowing economic and oil demand growth.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Again Threatens To Block Key Oil Transit Choke Point As U.S. Aircraft Carrier En Route

Here we go again: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has once more threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is vital to up to one-third of all global oil shipping as it’s a key transit choke point in the Persian Gulf.

On Tuesday Iranian state broadcasts carried his words, saying “if someday, the United States decides to block Iran’s oil (exports), no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf.” He further vowed that the United States will not be able to prevent Iran from exporting its crude — something the White House has repeatedly pledged to take down to zero exports through international allies and economic blockade through sanctions.

A prior Iranian Navy drill off the Strait of Hormuz, RFE/RL

The carrier deployment, though previously scheduled, was announced after the US condemned Iran’s test firing a medium-range nuclear capable ballistic missile on Sunday.

“The United States should know that we are selling oil and we will sell our oil and it cannot block Iran’s oil export,” he said on Tuesday addressing the people of Shahroud in Semnan province broadcast live on state TV.

The United States and the Israeli regime cannot stand the idea of a powerful and dignified Iran, and the Iranian nation will not bow to them, Rouhani highlighted, adding, “the United States failed in launching a coup in our country. They were after separating Khuzestan province, imposing sanctions against the country, and undermining Iran’s power, but they failed. It should be studied why the US is angry with Iran and Iranians.” MEHR News Agency

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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