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Oil Spikes To Fresh 7-Year High After Key Iraq-Turkey Pipeline Explosion

Oil Spikes To Fresh 7-Year High After Key Iraq-Turkey Pipeline Explosion

Despite dollar strength today (and more worrisome ZeroCOVID actions from China), oil prices continued to rise but news after-hours that an explosion knocked out a major pipeline sparked more upside.

Little is known about the cause, but the explosion at a pipeline connecting Northern Iraq and the port of Ceyhan in the Mediterranean has taken 450kb/d of supply offline in an already very tight crude oil market.

The pipelines have been halted before: Back in 2012 blasts blamed on saboteurs halted the link for several months.

The headlines sent oil prices spiking with WTI topping $86 for the first time since Oct 2014 (Brent neared $89)…

This news follows a ballistic missile attack over the weekend, where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen targeted oil infrastructure in the UAE.

Pipeline operator Botas said the fire has been brought under control and cooling operations were under way.

Botas said the it would reopen once the “necessary measures” had been taken, but gave no indication of timing.

The Geopolitical Game That Could Transform Gas Markets

The Geopolitical Game That Could Transform Gas Markets

  • An apparent detente between the UAE and Turkey could be one of the most significant geopolitical developments in the region for decades
  • If Mohammed bin Zayed can succeed in exploiting Turkey’s economic crisis, the East Mediterranean natural gas fields could finally be exploited and sent to market
  • While this is a win-win situation for the UAE, it is unclear whether Erdogan will be willing to do what is necessary to ensure progress in the region

At a time when media and financial analysts are fully focused on oil futures, natural gas markets are moving again. East Mediterranean gas futures, in particular, seem to be looking up due to some ongoing regional developments. The unexpected but very successful visit of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to Turkey and Egypt may well have long-lasting consequences in the region. The multibillion agreements signed between Turkey and the UAE, especially the long-term investment agreements between the Turkish sovereign wealth fund and UAE corporations, such as Abu Dhabi Ports, seem to be an opening to a new era of cooperation in the region.

The overall optimism shown in Turkish and Abu Dhabi-based media sources, however, should be taken with a grain of salt as financial deals may not counter the ongoing power struggle between Turkey’s president Erdogan and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Both nations are supporting political, military, and economic power projects in the East Mediterranean and MENA regions designed to increase their influence. Turkey’s president Erdogan will see the first visit of MBZ in 12 years as a major triumph. His regional power plays are still a bone of contention in Abu Dhabi, Cairo, and Athens. While Turkish media sources are very optimistic about the perceived thaw in relations, other regional players have been watching with anticipation to understand the real outcome of the meetings.

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

UAE To Host European-Led Naval Mission To Secure Gulf Waters

UAE To Host European-Led Naval Mission To Secure Gulf Waters

France announced Sunday that a proposed European-led mission to patrol the Persian Gulf will be based out of a recently established French naval base in Abu Dhabi, and that the naval patrol will soon go “operational” amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Paris has spearheaded efforts to get the European maritime security mission off the ground, in competition with US efforts at establishing an American-led mission, which Iran and some European allies fear could lead to war, given Iranian leaders have condemned any US efforts to “police” the vital Strait of Hormuz

“This morning we formalized that the command post will be based on Emirati territory,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters in the UAE capital.

A French Rafale-M lands on board the USS George H. W. Bush, via French Navy.

“We hope … to contribute to a navigation that is as safe as possible in a zone which we know is disputed and where there has already been a certain number of serious incidents,” she explained of the French-led mission.

The maritime patrol is expected to start early next year and will involve some ten European and non-European nations.

Parly further condemned the latest Iranian announcements confirming that it is blowing past uranium enrichment limits previously agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal.

The maritime initiative since being first proposed in July has received broad support in Europe, including the UK, following the summer-long ‘tanker wars’ which had resulted in the months-long capture of a British-flagged vessel, later released.

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

US Defends Your Freedom By Using Troops As Saudi Oil Security Guards

US Defends Your Freedom By Using Troops As Saudi Oil Security Guards

If you’ve been lying awake at night terrified that the Pentagon might not send additional troops and armaments to defend oil corporations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, I’ve got some great news for you.

In response to an attack on Saudi Aramco oil infrastructure for which Houthi rebels in Yemen have taken credit, the US government has responded in the only possible rational way: by blaming Iran and deploying troops to act as security guards for Middle Eastern oil companies.

“In response to the kingdom’s request, the president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper informed the press yesterday. “We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves.”

So you can breathe easy, my friend. Freedom and democracy are safe once more.


JUST IN: Pentagon to will deploy additional troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia: “In response to the Kingdom’s request, the president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense.”


A lot of delusional, unpatriotic democracy haters like to argue that the US military doesn’t actually defend the freedom of the American people, and that it isn’t really used to defend freedom at all, and that it isn’t even really used to defend any rules-based international order as sometimes claimed, and that even to use the word “defend” to describe anything the US military does is inaccurate since it is consistently on the attacking and aggressing side of any given conflict…

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

Trump Approves US Troop Deployment To Saudi Arabia In Response To “Iran Attacks”

Trump Approves US Troop Deployment To Saudi Arabia In Response To “Iran Attacks”

And now for the Friday evening tape bomb.

For the past five days, the world awaited to see what, if any, would be Trump’s response to last Saturday’s attack on Saudi oil facilities that has taken out millions of barrels of crude production out of the market for an indefinite period. Moments ago we got the first offical reaction, when US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this in lieu of an immediate military strike on Iran, the Pentagon will deploy additional troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to beef up security.

The Defense Secretary said that “the Iranian attack” – which we assume means it has been now settled that Iran was behind the attack despite the lack of actual evidence and just more verbal confirmations, a la the staged “Syrian chemical attacks” – on Saudi oil facilities was a dramatic escalation, and added that President Trump approved deployment of U.S. forces, clarifying that such a deployment will be defensive.

“The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense,” Esper said at a news conference late on Friday.

Actually, scratch that: as other U.S. and Saudi officials have done, Esper stopped short of confirming that the strikes originated from Iran, but he said investigators have concluded that the weapons used in the attack were produced by Iran and were not launched from Yemen, so might as well infer that Tehran is behind it all.

While Esper and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said details of the “force package” deployment will be determined over the coming days, it will include air and missile defense and a “moderate” troop increase, although the number of troops “will not be in the thousands.”

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

How the U.S. Shattered the Middle East

How the U.S. Shattered the Middle East

How the U.S. Shattered the Middle East
The guided missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations against a target in Syria while in the Mediterranean Sea in April 2017. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Ford Williams / U.S. Navy)

Yemen is a nightmare, a catastrophe, a mess—and the United States is highly complicit in the whole disaster. Refueling Saudi aircraft in-flight, providing targeting intelligence to the kingdom and selling the requisite bombs that have been dropped for years now on Yemeni civilians places the 100,000-plus deaths, millions of refugees, and (still) starving children squarely on the American conscience. If, that is, Washington can still claim to have a conscience.

The back story in Yemen, already the Arab world’s poorest country, is relevant. Briefly, the cataclysm went something like this: Protests against the U.S.-backed dictator during the Arab Spring broke out in 2011. After a bit, an indecisive and hesitant President Obama called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. A Saudi-backed transitional government took over but governed (surprise, surprise) poorly. Then, from 2014 to 2015, a vaguely Shiite militia from Yemen’s north swarmed southward and seized the capital, along with half the country. At that point, rather than broker a peace, the U.S. quietly went along with, and militarily supported, a Saudi terror-bombing campaign, starvation blockade and mercenary invasion that mainly affected Yemeni civilians. At that point, Yemen had broken in two.

Now, as the Saudi campaign has clearly faltered—despite killing tens of thousands of civilians and starving at least 85,000 children to death along the way—stalemate reigns. Until this past week, that is, when southern separatists (there was once, before 1990, a South and North Yemen) seized the major port city of Yemen, backed by the Saudis’ ostensible partners in crime, the United Arab Emirates. So it was that there were then threeYemens, and ever more fracture. In the last few days, the Saudi-backed transitional government retook Aden, but southern separatism seems stronger than ever in the region.

UAE Tanker “Disappears” In Persian Gulf, US Blames Iran

UAE Tanker “Disappears” In Persian Gulf, US Blames Iran 

The plight of a “mystery” UAE tanker that’s gone missing in the Persian Gulf now threatens to again send tensions with Iran soaring. Its location transmission signal was turned off Sunday as it drifted toward Iranian waters and it hasn’t been heard from since, with even United Arab Emirates officials staying silent about it. The AP reports:

Tracking data shows an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz drifted off into Iranian waters and stopped transmitting its location over two days ago, raising concerns Tuesday about its status amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S.

The report details that the Riah, a 58-meter oil tanker which operates frequently in the region, switched off its transponder for the first time in three months after 11pm on Saturday, based on tracking data. 

File image: A fishing boat speeds past an oil tanker in the distance in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Source: AP

As of Monday “red flags” were raised as US officials began inquiring of the Riah’s status. CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbarra Starr had this to say based on intelligence sources: “US intel increasingly believes UAE tanker MT RIAH forced into Iranian waters over the weekend by #IRGC naval forces. UAE isn’t talking.” 

However, this could be another case of hawkish US intelligence and defense officials hyping a false threat. Starr continued based on her source: “Some Gulf sources say ship simply broke down/towed by Iran. US says though no contact with crew. Last location Qesham Island.

Following the UK’s controversial and aggressive move to seize a tanker carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian oil of Gibraltar earlier this month, Tehran’s military has threatened to in turn intercept UK vessels.

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

UAE Withdraws From Yemen

UAE Withdraws From Yemen

Christopher Pike for the Crown Prince Court-Abu Dhabi 

A United Arab Emirates decision to withdraw the bulk of its forces from Yemen shines a spotlight on hard realities underlying Middle Eastern geopolitics.

The pullback suggests that the UAE is preparing for the possibility of a US military confrontation with Iran in which the UAE and Saudi Arabia could emerge as prime battlegrounds.

It also reflects long-standing subtle differences in the approaches of Saudi Arabia and the UAE towards Yemen.

It further highlights the UAE’s long-standing concern for its international standing amid mounting criticism of the civilian toll of the war as well as a recognition that the Trump administration’s unquestioning support may not be enough to shield its allies from significant reputational damage.

The withdrawal constitutes a finetuning rather than a reversal of the UAE’s determination to contain Iran and thwart political Islam witness the Emirates’ involvement in the Libyan civil war and support for renegade field marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar as well as its support for the embattled Sudanese military and autocrats like Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

While the UAE may have withdrawn the bulk of its troops from key regions of Yemen, it leaves behind Emirati-trained local forces that will continue to do its bidding. The withdrawal, moreover, is not 100 percent with the UAE maintaining its Al-Mukalla base for counterterrorism operations.

The UAE’s commitment to assertive policies designed to ensure that the small state can continue to punch above its weight are also evident in its maintenance of a string of military and commercial port facilities in Yemen, on the African shore of the Red Sea, and in the Horn of Africa as well its hard-line towards Qatar and rivalry with Turkey.

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

Bolton Says “No Doubt” Iranian Naval Mines Used In UAE Tankers Sabotage

Bolton Says “No Doubt” Iranian Naval Mines Used In UAE Tankers Sabotage

Addressing a press conference in Dubai on Wednesday US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Iranian underwater mines were “likely” used in an attack on four international oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz a week-and-a-half ago, including two Saudi vessels, but still didn’t present evidence nor show the precise nature of the damage.

“Iran probably used Iranian naval mines for the UAE oil tankers attacks,” he said while in Abu Dhabi set to attend an emergency summit of gulf leaders to consider the implications of both the May 12 tanker “sabotage” incident near Fujairah emirate and the drone strikes two days following on a Saudi Aramco pipeline and oil pumping station. 

Two Saudi oil tankers were among four commercial vessels previously sabotaged in waters off the UAE, via Reuters.

Bolton further said there was “no doubt” that Iran ordered the series of aggressive acts, also echoing prior Pentagon statements. “I think it is clear these (tanker attacks) were naval mines almost certainly from Iran,” Bolton said. “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who is responsible for this and I think it’s important that the leadership in Iran know that we know.”

The assessment is consistent with what a Norwegian insurance investigators’ preliminary findings into the incident alleged based on analyzing shrapnel from the attacks which was reportedly “similar” to shrapnel recovered from surface drones used off Yemen by Iran-backed Houthi militia. That preliminary report, released within the week after the incident, said it was was “highly likely” the work of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) deploying underwater attack drones. 

Not only does the US now have a carrier strike group and B-52 bombers on high alert in the Persian Gulf region, but the White House last week signed off on deployment of 1,500 additional troops in response to the heightened Iran threat. 

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

OPEC Collapse Likely, Warns Iran’s Oil Minister

OPEC Collapse Likely, Warns Iran’s Oil Minister

Iran has warned that OPEC might “collapse” due to the “unilateral actions” by some of its members, in a clear jab at Saudi Arabia. 

“Iran is a member of OPEC because of its interests, and if other members of OPEC seek to threaten Iran or endanger its interests, Iran will not remain silent,” Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Thursday, as quoted by the ministry’s official news agency, SHANA.OPEC headquarters, image via WSJ

Following the US declaring its “maximum pressure” campaign to take Iran crude exports down to zero, and ending the waiver program, Saudi Arabia and its close ally UAE pledged they will maintain appropriate supply for the markets to compensate for the shortfall  in accordance with President Trump’s demands that OPEC do more to curb rising oil prices.

Zanganeh had issued the statements warning of the oil cartel’s collapse on the occasion OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo visit to an oil and gas exhibition in the Iranian capital. Barkindo had sought to assure the Iranians that “OPEC tries to depoliticize oil” by saying at the exhibition, “I have told my colleagues at OPEC that you must leave your passports home when coming to this organization,” according to Reuters

Iran last month also accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of exaggerating their surplus oil capacity, to which the oil minister followed this week by saying “any threat from member states won’t go unanswered.”

Meanwhile the OPEC Secretary-General, in a further attempt to calm fears of an unraveling OPEC, told reporters, “It is impossible to eliminate Iranian oil from the market.” He added, “We have faced troubles in the OPEC in the last 60 years, but we have resolved them by unity.”

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

The Death Toll in Yemen is Five Times Higher Than We Think…How Much Longer Will We Shrug Off Responsibility?

The Death Toll in Yemen is Five Times Higher Than We Think…How Much Longer Will We Shrug Off Responsibility?

Photo Source Felton Davis | CC BY 2.0

One reason Saudi Arabia and its allies are able to avoid a public outcry over their intervention in the war in Yemen, is that the number of people killed in the fighting has been vastly understated. The figure is regularly reported as 10,000 dead in three-and-a-half years, a mysteriously low figure given the ferocity of the conflict.

Now a count by a non-partisan group has produced a study demonstrating 56,000 people have been killed in Yemen since early 2016. The number is increasing by more than 2,000 per month as fighting intensifies around the Red Sea port of Hodeidah. It does not include those dying of malnutrition, or diseases such as cholera.

“We estimate the number killed to be 56,000 civilians and combatants between January 2016 and October 2018,” says Andrea Carboni, who researches Yemen for the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an independent group formerly associated with the University of Sussex that studies conflicts and is focusing attention on the real casualty level. He told me he expects a total of between 70,000 and 80,000 victims, when he completes research into the casualties, hitherto uncounted, who died between the start of the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemen civil war, in March 2015, and the end of that year.

The oft-cited figure of 10,000 dead comes from a UN official speaking only of civilians in early 2017, and has remained static since. This out of date statistic, drawn from Yemen’s patchy and war-damaged health system, has enabled Saudi Arabia and the UAE – who lead a coalition of states strongly backed by the US, UK and France – to ignore or downplay the loss of life.

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

MSNBC and Daily Beast Feature UAE Lobbyist David Rothkopf With No Disclosure: a Scandalous Media-Wide Practice

UAE lobbyist and consultant David Rothkopf speaks about Saudi Arabia on MSNBC on October 16, 2018.

ON THURSDAY, the Daily Beast published an article about the Saudi/US relationship by David Rothkopf, a long-time member in good standing of the U.S. Foreign Policy elite. Until last year, he was the editor-in-chief of the establishment journal Foreign Policy, named to that position in 2012 when it was owned by the Washington Post. He’s also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He was previously deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade policy in the Clinton administration and managing director of Kissinger Associates, the advisory firm founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

But, unbeknownst to Daily Beast readers consuming his commentary about Saudi Arabia, Rothkopf is something else: a paid lobbyist for the Saudi regime’s close ally, the equally despotic regime of the United Arab Emirates. Last month, Rothkopf formally registered as a foreign agent for the Emiratis.

On September 12, Rothkopf personally signed a contract with the UAE regime to be paid $50,000 every month, for a period of three years, to, among other services, “provide day-to-day advice on the development of messages”; to work on “media projects [and] outreach efforts”; and to “prepare memoranda [and] talking points” for the “Embassy of the United Arab Emirates to develop and support specific programs and initiatives within the United States.”



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

Big Oil Walking A Tightrope As Prices Rise

Big Oil Walking A Tightrope As Prices Rise

offshore arctic

Supermajors have had a great year so far, and their third-quarter results, to be released over the next couple of weeks, are likely to strengthen this impression. But this does not necessarily mean that investors will reward them. Investors have become a lot more careful in the past few years, and chances are they will want to see more proof of post-crisis flexibility and strict cost discipline before stock prices reflect an increase in trust.

On the face of it, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and their likes have everything going for them: oil prices are higher, free cash flow is coming in at higher rates, and there have even been a few discoveries, most notable among them Exxon’s 4-billion-barrel elephant off the coast of Guyana. But Big Oil still needs to be cautious.

In a recent article for 24/7 Wall Street, its senior editor Paul Ausick noted the heightened prospects of even higher oil prices after a Reuters report revealed that OPEC has been having trouble lifting production by the promised 1 million bpd. From May to September, the cartel’s combined production plus Russia’s had fallen well short of that figure because of production declines in Venezuela, Iran, and Angola, among others. These, the internal OPEC document that Reuters saw, offset some substantial output hikes from Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UAE, Iraq, and Kuwait.

What this means is that there seems to be less spare capacity than optimists believed. This, in turn, means prices are likely to climb further, despite a fresh assurance from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that traders have already factored in the U.S. sanctions against Iran. Mnuchin’s warning that Washington will insist on importers cutting Iranian crude imports by more than 20 percent most certainly has not helped rein in prices, though its effect has yet to be fully acknowledged.

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

U.S. Media Refuses to Inform the Public When Its Commentators and Pundits are Paid Foreign Agents

U.S. Media Refuses to Inform the Public When Its Commentators and Pundits are Paid Foreign Agents

Unbelievably – Rothkopf has the audacity to criticize Trump for having “repeatedly shown great fondness for foreign leaders—even despots and known murderers, human rights abusers and criminals”, while Rothkopf himself is literally a paid agent working to disseminating propaganda for one of the most repressive regimes on the planet, one that does much of the Saudis’ dirty work for it in Washington. And the fact that the Daily Beast makes no disclosure of any of this is what makes this practice – having paid lobbyists and consultants for foreign regimes and corporations masquerade as objective and neutral analysts of the news – such a massive journalistic scandal and fraud.

– From today’s Intercept article: MSNBC and Daily Beast Feature UAE Lobbyist David Rothkopf With No Disclosure: a Scandalous Media-Wide Practice

Much of the American public despises mainstream corporate media, but rather than engage in some self-reflection and admit failure they just complain about Trump. It’s critical we recognize that mass media in the U.S. is very much part of the very same discredited establishment it’s supposed to report on, thus its response to justified criticism is likewise establishment-esque. Blame the readers, blame Trump, blame anyone but themselves.

This is why mass media’s gotten even worse since Trump was elected — not an easy feat. It’s been obsessed with a Russia-Trump collusion tale that appears to be going nowhere, while simultaneously cheering onTrump’s worst instincts such as when he bombs Syria. Moreover, one thing the U.S. media definitely seems to have no interest in doing is disclosing when its commentators and pundits are paid shills for foreign governments, defense contractors and other unmentionable interests.

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

New WikiLeaks Release Exposes Corruption in UAE Arms Deal Fueling War on Yemen

New WikiLeaks Release Exposes Corruption in UAE Arms Deal Fueling War on Yemen

Though the corruption detailed in the newly leaked document took place decades ago, it highlights how lucrative arms deals are often enough incentive for governments to bend the rules in order to keep weapons and cash flowing, no matter the consequences.

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