Home » Posts tagged 'middle east'

Tag Archives: middle east

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Middle East Oil Producers Are Drowning In Debt

Middle East Oil Producers Are Drowning In Debt

Arab Gulf oil producers are losing billions of U.S. dollars from oil revenues this year due to the pandemic that crippled oil demand and oil prices. Because of predominantly oil-dependent government incomes, budget deficits across the region are soaring.

Middle East’s oil exporters rushed to raise taxes and cut spending earlier this year, but these measures were insufficient to contain the damage.

The major oil producers in the Gulf then rushed to raise debt via sovereign and corporate debt issuance. Bond issues in the region have already hit US$100 billion, exceeding the previous record amount of bonds issued in 2019.

Thanks to low-interest rates and high appetite from investors, the petrostates are binging on debt raising to try to fill the widening gaps in their balance sheets that oil prices well below their fiscal break-evens leave.

Saudi Aramco Taps International Debt Market Again

One of the latest issuers is none other than the biggest oil company in the world, Saudi Arabia’s oil giant Aramco, which raised this week as much as US$8 billion in multi-tranche bonds.

Aramco is tapping the international U.S.-denominated bond market for the second time in two years, after last year’s US$12 billion bond issue in its first international issuance, for which it had received more than US$100 billion in orders.

Saudi Aramco prefers to considerably increase its debt to cope with the oil price collapse than to touch its massive annual dividend of US$75 billion, the overwhelming majority of which goes to its largest shareholder with 98 percent, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Analysts warn that the dividend windfall from Aramco will not be enough to contain Saudi Arabia’s widening budget deficit if oil prices stay in the low $40s for a few more years.

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

You Can Have Peace Or The US Empire. You Can’t Have Both.

You Can Have Peace Or The US Empire. You Can’t Have Both.

Just in the last few days Israel has reportedly dropped cluster munitions and white phosphorus on southern Lebanon, bombed Gaza, and fired missiles on Damascus, because Israel is a nation whose existence depends on unceasing military violence.

In order for Israel to continue existing as the imperialist apartheid state that it is, it needs to wage war in all directions at all times, both against its neighbors and against the increasingly brutalized Palestinian population. If the bombings end, so too does Israel as we know it, because the regional population will never stand for its oppression, tyranny, and multiple illegal occupations.

Peace and Israel are therefore two mutually exclusive concepts. You can have peace or you can have today’s Israel; you can’t have both.

 

A nation that cannot exist without ceaseless war is not actually a nation at all: it’s an ongoing military operation with some suburbs and schools mixed in. A nation that cannot exist without constant war is like a house that can’t exist without constant construction: if your house needed 24/7/365 construction work in order to remain standing, you’d either completely redesign the way it’s built or you would move.

This is true of Israel, and on a larger scale it is true of the globe-spanning, empire-like oligarchic world order that is loosely centralized around the United States.

This US-centralized empire, of which Israel is a part, is entirely dependent upon endless war for survival. If military violence ceased to be a tool which power structures could use to enact their agendas, this empire would necessarily cease to exist, because there’d be nothing to stop nations from exercising their sovereignty on the world stage. Currencies, resources and commerce would begin moving along completely different channels.

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

War Drums Beat in Middle East After Thousands of Casualties in Beirut Explosion

WAR DRUMS BEAT IN MIDDLE EAST AFTER THOUSANDS OF CASUALTIES IN BEIRUT EXPLOSION

DonatePlay Video

On the evening of August 4th, a massive explosion rocked the port of the Lebanese capital of Beirut, causing devastating damage and leaving thousands of casualties. The explosion sent a shockwave across the city and blew out windows up to 10 kilometers away. It was felt as far away as Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea.

As of the morning of August 5th, the number of reported fatalities exceeded 100, with at least 4,000 people reported  injured. At least 48 staff members of the United Nations and 27 members of their families were among the injured. 10 rescuers involved in the operation to contain the damage and to help people have been reported killed.

Initial reports suggested that the explosion may have been caused by an incident in the firework storage area. However, later, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which is typically used as an agricultural fertilizer, had been stored for six years at a port warehouse without proper safety measures, “endangering the safety of citizens.”

This statement was backed by General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who said a “highly explosive material” had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, just minutes’ walk from Beirut’s shopping and nightlife districts.

It is still unclear what caused the explosion itself thus laying the ground for various speculations in mainstream media outlets and on social media platforms. In particular, reports suggested that a number of Hezbollah members were in the port area at the moment of the explosion. This immediately caused reports that this may have been a result of some Israeli attack, for example sabotage actions or a somehow unnoticed missile strike, and that the site of the explosion was in fact a part of the Hezbollah military infrastructure.

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

Oil Price Crash Sparks A Wave Of Banking Mergers In The Middle East

Oil Price Crash Sparks A Wave Of Banking Mergers In The Middle East

The historic oil price crash and Covid-19 pandemic have left major producers of the commodity in a deep economic crisis. Dramatic production cuts by OPEC+ has exacerbated the situation by further lowering export inflows for economies that depend heavily on oil dollars. Some, such as the UAE, have tried to put on a brave face by touting the strength of their banking systems and claiming they can withstand shocks of any scale.

Unfortunately, a growing body of evidence suggests pretty much the opposite: A wave of banking mergers is sweeping through the Middle East as the sector scrambles to stay afloat amid slowing economic growth.

About $440 billion worth of deals are already on the table. That’s a remarkable feat for a region that has the lowest banking penetration anywhere on the globe. 

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia–guilty of initiating the oil price war with Russia that triggered the oil price crash–is well represented in the growing trend.

Source: World Bank

Giant mergers

Source: Bloomberg

#1 Saudi Arabia The National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabia’s largest lender by assets, has lined up a $15.6 billion takeover bid for rival Samba Financial Group. The $15.6B tab represents a nearly 30% premium to Samba’s valuation before the deal was announced, while the potential deal will create a $210 billion (assets) behemoth.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, the Kingdom’s central bank, has unveiled nearly $27 billion in stimulus packages to support its flagging banking system suffering from years of weak private sector loan growth. The Kingdom’s oil and gas sector accounts for 50% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. The IMF has estimated Saudi Arabia’s fiscal breakeven sits at $76.1 per barrel, a far cry from the current ~$40/bbl.

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

A Machiavellian US in the Middle East

A Machiavellian US in the Middle East

The war in Syria has dropped out of the news, like almost everything else, in a time when the Coronavirus seems to dominate all discourse and reporting. But the regime of Bashar al-Assad continues to strangle its own country. The Russians continue to bomb on his behalf, terrifying civilians and hospitals. The Americans work semi-clandestinely to undermine both the regime and its Russian backers.

There is no sign in the US-Soviet relationship of what was called in the 1970s and 80s détente. The big powers, Russia, the US, the UK and France appear intent on maintaining their interests in the Middle East.

Russia has long been a friend of Syria and has had its single foreign base there since Soviet days. For even longer the US, France and the UK have been a friend of Saudi Arabia and today provide weapons for the Saudi air force so it can support Yemen’s government in its attack on the Houthi rebels, resulting in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Finding a pathway to big power détente in the Middle East seems to be eternally difficult. For those who want to shed some light on how it all works, I refer them to an excellent analysis in the current issue of Harvard University’s International Security by Professor Galen Jackson of Williams College.

Reading this one understands how US Middle East policy in the era of presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and their national security advisor Henry Kissinger became totally Machiavellian after Nixon’s resignation.

It raises the question about how Machiavellian it is today. Is the US engaged in undermining Russia so that it can ensure its dominance in the Middle East? Has it been about trying to give Russia a bloody nose in Syria via the firepower of its local allies, which it and some of its NATO allies have provided?

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

Will Quiet Middle East Last? Or Is It Lull Before Next Storm?

Will Quiet Middle East Last? Or Is It Lull Before Next Storm?

Across the Middle East, the coronavirus is stirring up both upheavals and more subtle changes from Tel Aviv to Riyadh, little reported and when covered little understood in the Western media.

In Israel, the virus has enabled that master political magician Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pull off yet another spectacular escape as improbable as any in a James Bond or Star Wars movie to remain in power indefinitely.

After matching him in three successive national elections, Blue and White opposition leader, former Army Chief of Staff retired Lieutenant General Benny Gantz finally blinked: Because of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, he agreed to enter into a coalition with Netanyahu leading it for the first 18 months.

This is more than enough time for Netanyahu, a master political infighter and intriguer to splinter Blue and White into fragments. Indeed, Gantz has already done the biggest part of the job for him.

His own top allies in the new party, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid and former Defense Minister and Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon both firmly opposed any agreement to compromise with Netanyahu refused to go along with it. Currently, even Gantz and Netanyahu have not yet finalized their agreement, but Netanyahu has seized the initiative from him. His record in power over the past decade suggests he will not release it easily.

Netanyahu can at least boast that his lockdown has kept Israel relatively isolated from the pandemic. That is not the case in Iran, which boasts close trade and energy ties with China and where the virus has been raging ferociously.

That of course, is also the case in the United States. Extremist US hawks have been gloating – hopefully – that the crisis in Iran might discredit and topple the government there. That seems very unlikely at the moment.

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

Iran War Was “Closer Than You Thought”, Trump Admits

Iran War Was “Closer Than You Thought”, Trump Admits

In what the administration has described as an “off-the-record lunch” on Tuesday, President Trump told television anchors hosted at the White House that war with Iran was “closer than you thought,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

It’s an annual tradition for the president to host television anchors from major networks just ahead of the State of the Union address, which was delivered last night.

The private luncheon marks the first time the president gave candid remarks confirming the US stood very close to entering another major war in the Middle East, which was on the heels of the Jan.3 assassination of IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani and subsequent Iranian ‘retaliatory strike’ on Jan.8 against a US base in Iraq. 

During that time in early January the hashtag WWIII was trending on Twitter, along with countless social media viral memes warning the US stood on the brink of major war with Iran. 

In apparent confirmation that the public’s fears were justified, the WSJ describes further of the president’s off-the-cuff comments:

The president’s comment on Iran came after one attendee asked him how close the U.S. came to going to war with Iran earlier this year, after the U.S. killed a top Iranian military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran responded with a missile barrage on Iraqi bases housing U.S. and allied military forces. The Iranian strikes didn’t result in any U.S. deaths.

And further, the report notes: 

Mr. Trump didn’t elaborate on why war with Iran was “closer than you thought,” the people said.

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

Pipeline or a Pipe Dream: Israel, Turkey Hydrocarbon Conflict is Brewing in the Mediterranean

Pipeline or a Pipe Dream: Israel, Turkey Hydrocarbon Conflict is Brewing in the Mediterranean

Photograph Source: Jay Phagan – CC BY 2.0

Massive natural gas discoveries off the coast of Israel and Palestine are slated to make Tel Aviv a regional energy hub. Whether Israel will be able to translate positive indicators of the largely untapped gas reserves into actual economic and strategic wealth is yet to be seen.

What is certain, however, is that the Middle East is already in the throes of a major geostrategic war, which has the potential of becoming an actual military confrontation.

Unsurprisingly, Israel is at the heart of this growing conflict.

“Last week, we started to stream gas to Egypt. We turned Israel into an energy superpower,” Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, bragged during a cabinet meeting on January 19.

Netanyahu’s self-congratulating remarks came on the heels of some exciting financial news for the embattled Prime Minister, as both Jordan and Egypt are now Tel Aviv’s clients, receiving billions of cubic meters of Israeli gas.

For Netanyahu, pumping Israeli gas to two neighboring Arab countries constitutes more than just economic and political advantages – it is a huge personal boost. The Israeli leader is trying to convince the public to vote for him in yet another general election in March, while pleading to Israel’s political elite to give him immunity so that he can stay out of prison for various corruption charges.

For years, Israel has been exploiting the discovery of massive deposits of natural gas from the Leviathan and Tamar fields – located nearly 125 km and 80 km west of Haifa respectively – to reconstruct regional alliances and to redefine its geopolitical centrality to Europe.

The Israeli strategy, however, has already created potentials for conflict in an already unstable region, expanding the power play to include Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, and Libya, as well as Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Russia.

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

British Airways Ends All Flights To China As Virus Spreads To Middle East

British Airways Ends All Flights To China As Virus Spreads To Middle East

As the Trump Administration denies plans to shut down all passenger air traffic to China, more airlines around the world are suspending routes, a sign that the coronavirus outbreak could do permanent damage to the industry.

Just hours after the UK Foreign Office warned Britons against traveling to China, British Airways, Britain’s flag carrier, and its second-largest airline in the UK. British Airways operates direct flights from Heathrow to Beijing and Shanghai, but right now, passengers can’t book flights on those lines until Feb. 29. CNN called it “the most drastic action yet by a major airline” in response to the crisis. The decision comes after United Airlines said it would temporarily reduce the number of flights between the US and China.

“We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel,” British Airways said in a statement Wednesday.

This comes after United said Tuesday that it had seen a “significant decline in demand” and been forced it to suspend flights from Feb. 1 through Feb. 8 between its US hubs and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In total, 24 round trips have been impacted between Hong Kong to San Francisco and Newark; Beijing to Dulles, O’Hare and Newark; and Shanghai to San Francisco, Newark and O’Hare.

American Airlines, Delta and United all extended change fee waivers through the end of February, while Hong Kong flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said it will reduce the capacity of flights to and from mainland China by half or more until the end of March.

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

“No, No America” – Mass Protests Erupt In Baghdad Demanding U.S. Troops Withdraw

“No, No America” – Mass Protests Erupt In Baghdad Demanding U.S. Troops Withdraw 

Al Jazeera English is reporting that thousands of Iraqi protesters have hit the street in Baghdad after the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for a “million-strong” march to demand the withdraw of U.S. coalition forces from the country. 

NBC News Tehran Bureau Chief & correspondent Ali Arouzi said hundreds of thousands of protesters marched across Baghdad on Friday, demanding U.S. troops leave the country and close all military bases and embassies.  

100’s of thousands protest in Baghdad, calling for all US troops to leave Iraq, close all bases & embassies, if they don’t they will be considered an occupying force. pic.twitter.com/C3CqBqpxyD— Ali Arouzi (@aliarouzi) January 24, 2020

Iraqi Prime Minister Presses U.S. to Discuss Troop Withdrawal

Protestors held signs that read “no, no to America” and “no, no to occupation” amid a sea of nationalism and anti-Americanism erupting across the country’s capital. 

Others were heard on loudspeakers blasting the phrase: “Death to America. Death to Israel.”

The presence of U.S. coalition forces in the country has become a hot subject since President Trump launched a drone attack on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, killing both, earlier this month near Baghdad International Airport.

The Green Zone, the International Zone of Baghdad and home of the U.S. embassy, has been peppered with rocket attacks since the killing of Soleimani. 

Iraq’s parliament voted to expel all foreign troops, including 5,000 U.S. forces from the country, and asked the government to cancel assistance from the U.S.-led coalition that has been working with the Iraqi Army in the eradication of ISIS. 

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

Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, Mad Policies for a Mad World

Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, Mad Policies for a Mad World 

What’s the value of an American life in the age of Donald Trump? If you were judging by the death of Nawres Hamid, an Iraqi-American contractor killed in late December after an American base in Iraq was mortared by a Shiite militia believed to have ties to Iran, the answer would be obvious: enough to risk war. After all, the president cited Hamid’s death in going after that militia and then drone-assassinating Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani. In response to the mortar attack, U.S. air strikes in Iraq and Syria killed at least 25Iraqi militia fighters and then, as January began, that drone strike near Baghdad International Airport took out a figure who was often considered the number-two man in Iran, as well as its possible future leader. In addition, it killed an Iraqi militia commander and eight otherpeople.

So you might say that the president considers any American death under such circumstances worth not just 35 Iraqis and Iranians, but the possibility of adding in a significant way to America’s forever wars (that he’s long denounced). Of course, you would have to reach a different conclusion if you considered the deaths in early January of an American soldier and two American contractors at an airport in Kenya after an attack by the Somali terror group al-Shabaab. In that case, there was no obvious response at all, not even a comment from the president. And the same would be true of the two dead and two wounded U.S. soldiers whose vehicle recently ran over a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan (deaths immediately claimed by the Taliban). Again, neither a comment nor a response from you-know-who.

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

Could ISIS Take Control Over This Large Iraqi Oil Field?

Could ISIS Take Control Over This Large Iraqi Oil Field?

Iraq Oil Field

As always, it’s the fear of sanctions that provides the leverage Trump seeks in this cat-and-mouse game with Iran. And this time, the leverage is over Iraq, which would like to see both American and Iranian forces out of the country, for obvious reasons. 

There is nothing ISIS would love more than this. 

It would also devastate Iraq because the sanctions threatened would include blocking access to Iraq’s U.S.-based account where all the oil revenues are kept. That threat stands if Iraq moves to kick U.S. forces out of the country. 

That would mean victory for Iran (temporarily). Kicking out Iranian forces is not nearly as simple because the line between state and non-state actors is blurred, at best. 

A few weeks ago, a U.S. drawdown of military forces in Iraq was already expected, but that now seems unlikely because of the implications. 

The very military base that Iran attacked following the assassination of General Soleimani was already preparing for a drawdown. 

In addition to the threat of sanctions on oil money, a U.S. withdrawal would likely open the door for an ISIS return.  

What Iraqis Want

There is no consensus on this question, other than the fact that no one wants Iraq to be the proxy battleground between the United States and Iran. 

It’s a fair point, and Iraqis have had a very difficult time enjoying anything close to sovereignty since the fall of Saddam Hussein. 

While the Iraqi parliament has voted for U.S. troops to leave, they do not represent a unified voice. The Sunni elements of parliament did not participate in the vote. Neither did the Iraqi Kurds. 

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

After Missiles Fly, Iraq Becomes the Battleground

After Missiles Fly, Iraq Becomes the Battleground

The future of the U.S.’s involvement in the Middle East is in Iraq. The exchange of hostilities between the U.S. and Iran occurred wholly on Iraqi soil and it has become the site on which that war will continue.

Israel continues to up the ante on Iran, following President Trump’s lead by bombing Shia militias stationed near the Al Bukumai border crossing between Syria and Iraq.

The U.S. and Israel are determined this border crossing remains closed and have demonstrated just how far they are willing to go to prevent the free flow of goods and people across this border. 

The regional allies of Iran are to be kept weak, divided and constantly under harassment. 

Iraq is the battleground because the U.S. lost in Syria. Despite the presence of U.S. troops squatting on Syrian oil fields in Deir Ezzor province or the troops sitting in the desert protecting the Syrian border with Jordan, the Russians, Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds forces continue to reclaim territory previously lost to the Syrian government. 

Now with Turkey redeploying its pet Salafist head-choppers from Idlib to Libya to fight General Haftar’s forces there to legitimize its claim to eastern Mediterannean gas deposits, the restoration of Syria’s territorial integrity west of the Euphrates River is nearly complete.

The defenders of Syria can soon transition into the rebuilders thereof, if allowed. And they didn’t do this alone, they had a silent partner in China the entire time. 

And, if I look at this situation honestly, it was China stepping out from behind the shadows into the light that is your inciting incident for this chapter in Iraq’s story.

China moving in to sign a $10.1 billion deal with the Iraqi government to begin the reconstruction of its ruined oil and gas industry in exchange for oil is of vital importance. 

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

Russia Conducts War Drill With Hypersonic Missiles Amid Threat Of War In Middle East

Russia Conducts War Drill With Hypersonic Missiles Amid Threat Of War In Middle East

Russian President Vladimir Putin observed a war drill off the coast of Crimea on Thursday that included the launching of hypersonic missiles, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The ministry’s Zvezda broadcasting service said Russia’s Black Sea and Northern Fleets participated in the military exercise.

Various missiles were fired during the drill, including Kalibr cruise missiles and Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched missiles.

More than 30 warships, including the Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Makarov frigate, one submarine, and more than 40 aircraft, including Tu-95MS strategic bombers, Su-30SM fighters, and Su-24M bombers, participated in the drill.  

Two MIG-31K fighters air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles while guided missile destroyers launched Kalibr cruise missiles at targets.

Putin observed much of the exercise aboard the Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser.

“The drills have been held successfully,” Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, told Putin on Thursday. 

The drill comes as the US and Iran were on the verge of war earlier this week. Tensions have simmered down but are still elevated after Iran launched missiles at two US bases in Iraq.

Receive a daily recap featuring a curated list of must-read stories.

Russia is a military ally of Iran, both countries have conducted military operations in Syria, and in recent times, held maritime war drills.

Washington’s relations with Russia and Iran have deteriorated since the beginning of the Syrian civil war and even more since President Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

Russia’s latest military exercise and escalating tensions in the Middle East are certainly indicating that the world is inching closer to conflict.

Gold Just Broke Through A Key Level

Gold Just Broke Through A Key Level

For the first time in more than six years, gold broke through a key level.  Gold surged on Friday due to the geopolitical tensions stemming from the Middle East after the U.S. took out Iran’s top military leader.  During early trading in the early Asian markets, the gold price continued even higher, reaching $1,579.

This morning, gold is trading at the $1,575 level.  It will be interesting to see if gold closes at the end of the day near its high or a low. The key resistance level is $1,550, which gold surpassed by $25.  Here is gold’s monthly chart below (each candlestick represents one month of trading).

If you look at the “Larger View” insert, I have superimposed the candlestick breaking through the Key level.  Unfortunately, Stockcharts.com does not provide a live chart for the metals or commodities.  We have to wait until the close of trading to see the new candlestick price level.  I find this quite odd because they recently added “Live” Crypto Trading charts for Bitcoin and several others.

Regardless, the Gold price finally broke through this level, and for it to remain in a bullish trend in the monthly chart below, it will have to close above the $1,550 (actually $1,560) level by the end of January. If we look at the next chart, the gold price surpassed the high of $1,566 in September:

According to Kitco.com, as of 9:43 am EST, the gold price reached a high of $1,577 and is currently trading at $1,573.  And, if we look at the weekly gold chart, we can clearly see gold breaking through the $1,550 level:

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase