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Golden Straws In The Wind

Golden Straws In The Wind 

Life in the world of gold bullion is full of mysteries. Each mystery is like a straw in the wind, which individually means little, but tempting us to speculate there’s a greater meaning behind it all. Yes, there is a far greater game in play, taking Kipling’s aphorism to a higher level.

One of those straws is Russia’s continuing accumulation of gold reserves. Financial pundits tell us that this is to avoid being beholden to the US dollar, and undoubtedly there is truth in it. But why gold? Here, the pundits are silent. There is an answer, and that is Russia understands in principal the virtues of sound money relative to possession of another country’s paper promises. Hence, they sell dollars and buy gold.

But Russia is now going a step further. Izvestia reported the Russian Finance Ministry is considering abolition of VAT on private purchases of gold bullion.[i] We read that this could generate private Russian annual demand of between fifty and a hundred tonnes. More importantly, it paves the way for gold to circulate in Russia as money.

We should put ourselves in Russia’s shoes to find out why this may be important. Russia is the largest exporter of energy, including gas, pushing Saudi Arabia into second place. This means she is also the largest acquirer of fiat currency for energy. That’s fine if you like fiat currencies, but if you suspect them, then you either turn them into physical assets, such as infrastructure and military hardware, or gold. Russia does both.

Then there is China. China has started announcing monthly additions to her gold reserves. China is up to her neck in dollars, and the relatively minor monthly additions to her reserves really make little difference. However, the link between the gold exchanges in Moscow and Shanghai strongly suggest Russia and China are coordinating gold dealing activities.

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

OPEC March Data and Saudi Report

OPEC March Data and Saudi Report

The below OPEC charts were taken from data in the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report. All data is through March 2019 and is in thousand barrels per day.

There was another big decline in OPEC production in March, down 534,000 barrels per day.

The decline was mostly Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iraq.

Iran, Libya and Venezuela are exempt from quotas. Everyone except Saudi Arabia are near their quota. Saudi is over half a million barrels per day below their quota.

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

Platts Survey: OPEC Oil Production Down To More Than 4-Year Low

Platts Survey: OPEC Oil Production Down To More Than 4-Year Low

oil drilling

Over-delivering Saudi Arabia and blackouts in Venezuela helped push OPEC’s crude oil production down by 570,000 bpd from February to 30.23 million bpd in March—the lowest production from the cartel in more than four years, according to the monthly S&P Global Platts survey published on Friday.

OPEC’s de facto leader and biggest producer, Saudi Arabia, saw its production drop in March to the lowest level since February 2017. The Saudis delivered on their promise to cut more than pledged in the pact and slashed output by another 280,000 bpd last month, with March production at 9.87 million bpd, according to the S&P Global Platts survey.

Venezuela, for its part, saw its production drop to a 16-year-low, at 740,000 bpd, due to the massive blackouts that crippled oil production and exports in March, the Platts survey found.

OPEC’s second-biggest producer Iraq cut its production by 100,000 bpd from February to 4.57 million bpd in March, according to the survey. This, however, was still slightly above Iraq’s 4.512 million bpd production cap under the deal.

After an initial plunge following the U.S. sanctions on its industry, Iran’s production has been holding relatively steady over the past couple of months, and the Islamic Republic pumped 2.69 million bpd in March, the Platts survey showed.

The resumption of operations at Libya’s biggest oil field, Sharara, pushed Libya’s production up to 1.06 million bpd in March, according to the survey.

Earlier this week, the monthly Reuters survey showed that OPEC’s oil production in March 2019 fell to its lowest level since February 2015, as Saudi Arabia cut more than it had pledged and Venezuela continued to struggle amid U.S. sanctions and a major blackout.

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

The Ultimate Pivot: Saudi Betrayal of the Petrodollar

The Ultimate Pivot: Saudi Betrayal of the Petrodollar

Saudi Arabia has gone nuclear, threatening the petrodollar. Or has it?

The report from Zerohedge via Reuters that Saudi Arabia is angry with the U.S. for considering a bill exposing OPEC to U.S. antitrust law is a trial balloon.

The chances of the U.S. bill known as NOPEC coming into force are slim and Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to follow through, but the fact Riyadh is considering such a drastic step is a sign of the kingdom’s annoyance about potential U.S. legal challenges to OPEC.

If these things are so unlikely then why make the threat public? There are a number of reasons.

First, one must remember that the Saudis are hemorrhaging money. Their primary budget deficit in 2018 was around 7% of GDP. Since the 2014 crash in oil prices it has gone from almost zero sovereign debt to $180 billion in debt to finance its spending, or around 22% of GDP.

2019’s budget will be even bigger as it tries to deficit spend its way to growth. It’s needs for a higher oil price are built into their primary budget not their production costs, which are some of the lowest in the world.

Second, the Saudis finally opened up the books on Saudi-Aramco this week. And it revealed the giant is far more profitable than thought. It has is eye on acquiring stakes in some of the biggest oil and gas projects out there these past couple of years. It’s floating its first public bond to buy a stake in SABIC to get into the mid and downstream petroleum markets.

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

Saudis Threaten To Ditch Petrodollar As “Nuclear Option” To Block NOPEC Bill

Saudis Threaten To Ditch Petrodollar As “Nuclear Option” To Block NOPEC Bill

Three year ago – almost to the day – Saudi Arabia rattled its first sabre towards the United States, with an implicit threat to dump US Treasuries over Congress’ decision to allow the Saudis to be held responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

In a stunning report at the time by the NYTimes,  Saudi Arabia told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Then, six months ago, the Saudis once again threatened to weaponize their wealth as the biggest importer of arms from America in the world.

Infographic: The USA's Biggest Arms Export Partners | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

And nowReuters reports, citing three unidentified people familiar with Saudi energy policy, Saudi Arabia is threatening to drop the dollar as its main currency in selling its oil if the U.S. passes a bill that exposes OPEC members to U.S. antitrust lawsuits.

While the death of the petrodollar has long been predicted (as the petroyuan gathers momentum), this is the most direct threat yet to the USDollar’s exorbitant privilege…

“The Saudis know they have the dollar as the nuclear option,” one of the sources familiar with the matter said.

“The Saudis say: let the Americans pass NOPEC and it would be the U.S. economy that would fall apart,” another source said.

Riyadh reportedly communicated the threat to senior U.S. energy officials, one person briefed on Saudi oil policy told Reuters

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

Aramco’s Mythical Ghawar Field Could Be Its Weak Spot

Aramco’s Mythical Ghawar Field Could Be Its Weak Spot

Ghawar oil field

Some of the most secretive, highly-anticipated details about the Saudi oil industry have just been released.

Saudi Aramco is preparing to launch a major bond issuance to purchase the Saudi petrochemical company Sabic, a process that required a detailed prospectus on the company. As part of that review, Aramco released on Monday some closely-guarded state secrets that have been kept under wraps for decades and have been the subject of endless and wild speculation.

With little fanfare, Aramco released some details …and they are somewhat damning. For instance, the Ghawar oil field, which has at times held an almost mythical status both because of its massive size and also because of the complete opaqueness on its inner workings, can’t produce as much as previously thought. Ghawar is the core of Aramco’s oil production, and is of vital national security importance to the Saudi state.

The prospectus says that the Ghawar field can only produce 3.8 million barrels per day (mb/d), not the widely thought 5 mb/d that has floated around for years as a rough estimate. “As Saudi’s largest field, a surprisingly low production capacity figure from Ghawar is the stand-out of the report,” said Virendra Chauhan, head of upstream at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd., according to Bloomberg.

There was little other detail offered on that figure, why it declined, or whether it would continue to decline. But it is a very significant downward revision.

Nevertheless, the Aramco prospectus confirmed some more impressive figures that have also been the subject of speculation. The document says the company can produce 12 mb/d, a rate of output that has been criticized and questioned. With current production at about 10 mb/d, that implies a current 2 mb/d of spare capacity, which is a comfortable buffer that could plug some hypothetical supply gaps. In addition, there is about 500,000 bpd lying dormant in the Neutral Zone on the border with Kuwait.

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

Reuters: OPEC’s Oil Production Drops To Lowest Since 2015

Reuters: OPEC’s Oil Production Drops To Lowest Since 2015

oil storage

OPEC’s oil production in March 2019 fell to its lowest level since February 2015, as Saudi Arabia cut more than it had pledged under the output cut deal and Venezuela continued to struggle amid U.S. sanctions and a major blackout, the monthly Reuters survey showed on Monday.

The combined production of all 14 OPEC members stood at 30.4 million bpd last month, down by 280,000 bpd compared to February and the lowest level of OPEC production since February four years ago, according to the survey.  

Production in March beat the previous four-year-low record of the cartel’s oil production from February 2019. As per Reuters survey last month, OPEC’s oil production fell by 300,000 bpd in February compared to January to stand at 30.68 million bpd.  

The figures in the survey for March suggest that Saudi Arabia continues to over-deliver in its share of the cuts, as it has promised multiple times since the new OPEC+ deal began in January 2019.

Under the OPEC/non-OPEC agreement for a total of 1.2 million bpd cuts between January and June, Saudi Arabia’s share is a cut of 322,000 bpd from the October level of 10.633 million, to reduce output to 10.311 million bpd.

The rate of compliance from the eleven OPEC members bound by the pact—with Iran, Venezuela, and Libya exempted—also suggests that the Saudis and their Arab Gulf partners are deepening the cuts.

The eleven OPEC members with quotas had a combined compliance of 135 percent in March, surging from 101 percent in February, according to the Reuters survey tracking supply to the market and based on shipping data and information provided by sources at oil companies, consulting firms, and OPEC.

The survey did not provide figures for the Saudi production, but estimated that exempt Venezuela—under U.S. sanctions and suffering from a major power blackout in March—saw its oil production plummet by 150,000 bpd in March compared to February.

Saudi Arabia Is the World’s Top Arms Buyer

Saudi Arabia Is the World’s Top Arms Buyer

Saudis increased purchases 192% over five years Jason Ditz Posted on March 10, 2019Categories NewsTags Saudi Arabia

Most reports on international arms sales focus on the biggest sellers. That inevitably means the United States, the largest exporter by far in the growing market. You can’t have sales without buyers, however, and that side of the equation centers heavily on the Middle East. 

Middle Eastern countries now buy more than a third of all global arms. The biggest customer not just in the Middle East but in the world, is Saudi Arabia,whose purchases have soared 192% over a five year period. 

Locked in an endless war in Yemen, and always looking toward a war with Iran, Saudi Arabia has seen its military spending soar in recent years. Recent estimates have put Saudi Arabia at the third costliest military on Earth, behind on the US and China, and ahead of Russia. 

Unlike the US, China, or Russia, however, Saudi Arabia lacks a huge decades-old military-industrial complex to make all their weapons of war. Instead, the Saudis are pouring into overseas contracts, buying vast amounts of arms from the US and Britain. 

The Saudis show no sign of slowing down on this, but it isn’t clear how sustainable this is either. Already, Saudi war crimes are fueling a lot of calls to rethink arms sales to them. On top of that, the Saudis are spending 10% of their annual GDP on a mostly-imported military, which is a heavy burden for their economy to bear.

Saudi Arabia: We’ll Pump The World’s Very Last Barrel Of Oil

Saudi Arabia: We’ll Pump The World’s Very Last Barrel Of Oil

Saudi Flag

Saudi Arabia isn’t buying the peak oil demand narrative.  

OPEC’s largest producer continues to expect global oil demand to keep rising at least by 2040 and sees itself as the oil producer best equipped to continue meeting that demand, thanks to its very low production costs.

Saudi Arabia will be the one to pump the last barrel of oil in the world, but it doesn’t see the ‘last barrel of oil’ being pumped for decades and decades to come.  

“I don’t see peak [oil] demand happening in 10 years or even by 2040,” Amin Nasser, president and chief executive officer of Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco told CNN Business’ Emerging Markets Editor John Defterios on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.

“There will continue to be growth in oil demand … We are the lowest cost producer and the last barrel will come from the region,” Nasser told CNN.

For several years, Nasser has been saying that peak oil demand is nowhere in sight, that petrochemicals will drive oil demand growth through 2050, and that all the ‘peak oil demand’ and ‘stranded resources’ talk is threatening an orderly energy transition and energy security.

Saudi Arabia—which has just announced that its huge oil reserves are slightly higher than previously estimated—looks to diversify its economy away from heavy dependence on crude oil, but one of the goals of its Vision 2030 diversification plan is to use less oil in domestic power generation to free up more barrels for exports. Related: IEA Chief: EVs Are Not The End Of The Oil Era

As the world’s top crude oil exporter, Saudi Arabia will not be giving away easily its crown and the geopolitical clout that comes with it.

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

“Energy Dominance,” what does it mean? Decoding a Fashionable Slogan

“Energy Dominance,” what does it mean? Decoding a Fashionable Slogan

“Now, I know for a fact that American energy dominance is within our grasp as a nation.” Ryan Zinke, U.S. Secretary of the Interior (source)

“All Warfare is Based on Deception” Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

Over nearly a half-century, since the time of Richard Nixon, American presidents have proclaimed the need for “energy independence” for the US, without ever succeeding in attaining it. During the past few years, it has become fashionable to say that the US has, in fact, become energy independent, even though it is not true. And, doubling down on this concept, there came the idea of “energy dominance,”introduced by the Trump administration in June 2017.  It is now used at all levels in the press and in the political debate.

No doubt, the US has good reasons to be bullish on oil production. Of the three major world producers, it is the only one growing: it has overtaken Saudi Arabia and it seems to be poised to overtake Russia in a few years. (graphic source).

This rebound in the US production after the decline that started in the early 1970s is nearly miraculous. And the miracle as a name: shale oil. A great success, sure, but, if you think about it, the whole story looks weird: the US is trying to gain this “dominance” by means of resources which, once burned, will be forever gone. It is like people competing at who is burning their own house faster. What sense does it make?

Art Berman keeps telling us that shale oil is an expensive resource that could be produced at a profit only for market conditions that are unrealistic to expect. So far, much more money has been poured into shale oil production than it has returned from the sales of shale oil.

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

U.S.’s Defeat in Syria is a Crisis of Empire

U.S.’s Defeat in Syria is a Crisis of Empire

The U.S. lost in Syria. Donald Trump finally had the courage to admit that to the world when he ordered the pull out of all U.S. troops there.

Syria was to be the sparkling jewel in the Empire of Chaos’ Crown. A masterstroke of realpolitik which would advance every major U.S., Israeli and Saudi objective while thoroughly destabilizing the Levant and setting the stage for wiping out Iran and eventually Russia.

If the Assad government fell Syria would become something worse than Libya. It would become a source of abject chaos for decades to come. And the formation of greater Kurdistan would put advanced U.S. and Israeli military assets on Iran’s doorstep.

Carving up Syria, Iraq and possibly even Turkey, once Erdogan was removed from power, would put the U.S. and Israel in control of the oil assets to fund a jihadist-led insurgency across all of central Asia.

Moreover, the chaos would ensure a steady stream of refugees into Europe to destabilize it. That chaos would lead to further political integration of Europe under EU control.

You can see the remnants of this plan all around you today. In fact, a great deal of it is still on auto-pilot. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron’s tag-team calls for ceding national sovereignty to the EU are a perfect example of this.

They can all feel the project slipping away from them. Despite their failing political power they are pushing their legislatures to ignore the people, calling them traitors.

Orwell would be proud of Macron for saying, ““patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism [because] nationalism is treason.”

The generals Trump just fired over his decision are another example. They still believe they can win a balkanization of Syria and Iraq. They just need more assets and more time.

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Who Was Secretly Behind America’s Invading and Occupying Syria?

Who Was Secretly Behind America’s Invading and Occupying Syria?

Who Was Secretly Behind America’s Invading and Occupying Syria?

The invasion and occupation of Syria by tens of thousands of jihadists who were recruited from around the world to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, was financed mainly by US taxpayers and by the world’s wealthiest family, the Sauds, who own Saudi Arabia and the world’s largest oil company, Aramco. America’s international oil companies and major think tanks and ‘charitable’ foundations were also supportive and providing propaganda for the operation, but the main financing for it came from America’s taxpayers, and from the Saud family and from the Government that they own.

One of the best articles that the New York Times ever published was by Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, on 23 January 2016, “US Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels”. They reported that, “the C.I.A. and its Saudi counterpart have maintained an unusual arrangement for the rebel-training mission, which the Americans have code-named Timber Sycamore. Under the deal, current and former administration officials said, the Saudis contribute both weapons and large sums of money, and the C.I.A takes the lead in training the rebels. … From the moment the C.I.A. operation was started, Saudi money supported it.” Furthermore, “The White House has embraced the covert financing from Saudi Arabia — and from Qatar, Jordan and Turkey.” But “American officials said Saudi Arabia was by far the largest contributor to the operation.” The invasion and occupation of Syria by jihadists from around the world was primarily a Saud operation, though it was managed mainly by the US Government.

Prior to the failed US-backed coup-attempt on 15 July 2015 to replace Tayyip Erdogan as Turkey’s President, Turkey was part of the U.S-Saudi alliance to overthrow and replace Syria’s Government. But afterwards, Turkey increasingly switched against the US and Sauds, and toward instead supporting the target of the Sauds and of America’s aristocrats: Syria.

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Saudi Arabia and China are preparing for war

Saudi Arabia and China are preparing for war

The fact that Saudis want to control Yemen and the Chinese are increasing their presence in Myanmar is a preparation for the conflicts that may soon flare up. It is about securing the flanks.

The war in Yemen is being waged more and more brutally by the Saudis. The weapons of the Saudi army supplied by the USA hit the civilian population more and more often. The central bank moved from Sanaa to Aden by order of the Saudis prints money in heaps, so that the population cannot afford food due to galloping inflation. Why genocide? It is not about ideology, or religious differences between Huthis (Shiites) and the rest of the people of Yemen (Sunnis). One of the reasons can be oil. The reserves of black gold discovered in the northern province of Yemen, Al-Jawf, are said to be larger than the Saudi reserves.1)A bargain for Saudis. But the most important thing for them at the moment is to prepare for the direct conflict with Iran. If war were to break out, Iran would block the oil transit bottleneck in the Strait of Ormuz. Saudi Arabia therefore needs to secure access to the 27 miles wide strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and thus its oil exports. The road is called Bab al-mandeb (Gate of Tears) in Arabic. If it is also blocked by enemies of the Saudis, there will certainly be many reasons for Riyadh to cry.

For China, however, it is the Strait of Malacca that is of strategic importance. Since the Chinese are increasingly aggressive on the South China Sea, have artificial islands built and are on a collision course with countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and the USA, they must be on their guard when it comes to their most important trade and transport routes.

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IEA Chief: U.S. Oil Output To Near Saudi+Russian Production By 2025

IEA Chief: U.S. Oil Output To Near Saudi+Russian Production By 2025

Offshore rig

Total U.S. oil production around 2025 will almost equal the combined production of Russia and Saudi Arabia, Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency on Friday.

The huge growth in U.S. shale production will completely change the balance of oil markets, Birol told the news agency.

The IEA’s Oil 2018 report from earlier this year sees the United States dominating the global oil supply growth over the next five years.

OPEC capacity will grow only modestly by 2023, while most of the growth will come from non-OPEC countries, led by the United States, “which is becoming ever more dominant in the global oil market,” the IEA said.

Driven by light tight oil, U.S. production is seen growing by 3.7 million bpd by 2023, more than half of the total global production capacity growth of 6.4 million bpd expected by then. Total liquids production in the United States—including conventional oil, shale, and natural gas liquids—will reach nearly 17 million bpd by 2023, “easily making it the top global producer, and nearly matching the level of its domestic products demand,” the IEA said in March this year.

“The United States is set to put its stamp on global oil markets for the next five years,” Birol said back then.

The U.S. is currently pumping oil at record levels of more than 11 million bpd, while Russia and Saudi Arabia—which also hit record highs in October and November, respectively—will curtail 230,000 bpd and 322,000 bpd of their production in the first six months of 2019, respectively.

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

Continued American Occupation of the Middle East Does Not Suppress Terrorism, It Causes It

Continued American Occupation of the Middle East Does Not Suppress Terrorism, It Causes It


Even the neo-con warmongers’ house journal The Guardian, furious at Trump’s attempts to pull US troops out of Syria, in producing a map to illustrate its point, could only produce one single, uncertain, very short pen stroke to describe the minute strip of territory it claims ISIS still control on the Iraqi border.

Of course, the Guardian produces the argument that continued US military presence is necessary to ensure that ISIS does not spring back to life in Syria. The fallacy of that argument can be easily demonstrated. In Afghanistan, the USA has managed to drag out the long process of humiliating defeat in war even further than it did in Vietnam. It is plain as a pikestaff that the presence of US occupation troops is itself the best recruiting sergeant for resistance. In Sikunder Burnes I trace how the battle lines of tribal alliances there today are precisely the same ones the British faced in 1841. We just attach labels like Taliban to hide the fact that invaders face national resistance.

The secret to ending the strength of ISIS in Syria is not the continued presence of American troops. It is for America’s ever closer allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to cut off the major artery of money and arms, which we should never forget in origin and for a long time had a strong US component. The US/Saudi/Israeli alliance against Iran is the most important geo-political factor in the region today. It is high time this alliance stopped both funding ISIS and pretending to fight it; schizophrenia is not a foreign policy stance.

There has been no significant Shia Islamic terrorist or other threat against the West in recent years. 9/11 was carried out by Saudi Sunni militants.

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

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