Saudi Arabia

Will MENA Get Nuked?

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Published on The Economic Collapse on February 21, 2016

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World War 3 Could Very Easily Turn Into The Very First Nuclear War In The Middle East

Saudi Arabia already has nukes, Iran probably does, and the Russians are one of the two great nuclear powers on the entire planet.  So if Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their Sunni allies do decide to conduct a full-blown ground invasion of Syria, could someone ultimately decide to use nuclear weapons when their backs get pushed up against a wall?  As you read this article, there are thousands of military vehicles and hundreds of thousands of troops massed along the southern border of Turkey and the northern border of Saudi Arabia.  If the command is given and those forces start streaming toward Damascus, it is inevitable that the Syrians, the Iranians, Hezbollah and the Russians would fight back.  It would literally be the start of World War 3, and the Saudis and the Turks are trying very hard to convince the United States to be involved.  But the truth is that we don’t want any part of this conflict, because it could very easily become the very first nuclear war in the history of the Middle East.

Perhaps you didn’t know that the Saudis already have nukes.  Of course the official position is that they don’t, but it is a fact that they were the ones that funded the development of Pakistan’s nuclear program.  It is an open secret that the Saudis have the bomb, but nobody is really supposed to talk about it.

That is why it was so alarming what Saudi political analyst Dahham Al-‘Anzi told RT just recently

Earlier this week a Saudi political analyst told RT’s Arab network the kingdom has a nuclear weapon.

Dahham Al-‘Anzi made the claim while saying Saudi Arabia is engaged in an effort to “minimize the Iranian threat in the Levant and Syria.”

Although Saudi Arabia has officially denied it has a nuclear weapons program and has publicly stated it opposes nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it has funded a military nuclear program and received scientific assistance from the United States and Pakistan.

You can watch video of this exchange right here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you don’t want to believe him, perhaps you will believe the former director of the CIA counter-terrorism operations center.  He told Fox Business that everyone in the intelligence world knows the Saudis have nukes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the fur started flying in Syria and Russia and Iran decided to start bombing Saudi airbases, would Saudi Arabia resort to using their nukes?

Let’s hope not.

In the event of a massive ground invasion by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies, it is actually more likely that Russia may decide to be the first one to use nukes.  An invasion force of hundreds of thousands of troops would vastly outnumber the relatively small Russian force that is already inside Syria, and so the Russians may feel that the only way that they can keep the Sunni powers out of Damascus is to use tactical nukes.

Russia has more tactical nukes that anyone else in the world by far, and there are some reports that indicate that Russia may be prepared to use them in Syria.  For example, former Associated Press reporter Robert Parry, the author of America’s Stolen Narrative, says that a source has told him that the Russians have already warned Turkey that this could potentially happen

If Turkey (with hundreds of thousands of troops massed near the Syrian border) and Saudi Arabia (with its sophisticated air force) follow through on threats and intervene militarily to save their rebel clients, who include Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, from a powerful Russian-backed Syrian government offensive, then Russia will have to decide what to do to protect its 20,000 or so military personnel inside Syria.

A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.

Given Erdogan’s megalomania or mental instability and the aggressiveness and inexperience of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman (defense minister and son of King Salman), the only person who probably can stop a Turkish-Saudi invasion is President Obama. But I’m told that he has been unwilling to flatly prohibit such an intervention, though he has sought to calm Erdogan down and made clear that the U.S. military would not join the invasion.

Are you starting to understand how serious this is?

With all of the talk of a potential invasion in recent days, the Russians are on high alert and are rapidly preparing for a direct conflict with both Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  The following comes from Infowars

Still, the Russians are taking no chances and they have put all their forces into high alert. They have very publicly dispatched a Tu-214r – her most advanced ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft. You can think of the Tu-214R as an “AWACS for the ground”, the kind of aircraft you use to monitor a major ground battle (the regular Russian A-50Ms are already monitoring the Syrian airspace). In southern Russia, the Aerospace forces have organized large-scale exercises involving a large number of aircraft which would be used in a war against Turkey: SU-34s. The Airborne Forces are ready. The naval task forces off the Syrian coast is being augmented. The delivery of weapons has accelerated. The bottom line is simple and obvious: the Russians are not making any threats – they are preparing for war. In fact, by now they are ready.

In addition, it is important to remember that it is quite likely that the Iranians have nuclear weapons as well.

Of course the U.S. government and the Iranian government both insist that Iran does not have nukes, but many of those in the know insist otherwise.

For instance, you may want to consider what retired U.S. Army Major General Paul Vallely and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dennis B. Haney are saying.  The following comes from an article that was authored by Jerome Corsi of WND

In a joint statement, Vallely and Haney say an accumulation of available evidence shows a coalition of Russia, China and North Korea have assisted Iran since 1979 in achieving a nuclear weapon, despite sanctions, under the guise of a domestic nuclear energy program.

Vallely explained to WND that he and Haney have taken a systematic approach to evaluating each component needed to deliver a nuclear weapon, from the development and testing of a ballistic missile system, to the design of a nuclear weapons warhead, to the development of the weapons-grade uranium needed to produce a bomb.

“To come to our conclusion that Iran is a nuclear weapons power right now, we supplemented publicly available research, plus information from intelligence sources, including Iranian resistance groups such as the National Council of Resistance of IRAN, NCRI,” Vallely explained.

I happen to agree with Vallely and Haney.  I cannot prove it, but all of the intel that I have received indicates that Iran already has nukes.

Hopefully I will not be proven accurate any time soon.

It had been hoped that a cease-fire could be negotiated that would at least temporarily defuse tensions in Syria.  Unfortunately, it does not look like the shooting is going to stop, and this is going to put immense pressure on both Saudi Arabia and Turkey to do something to rescue the radical Sunni militants that are on the verge of defeat.  The Saudis, the Turks and their allies have poured enormous amounts of money and resources into this war over the past five years, and now they are faced with the choice of either accepting defeat or directly intervening in this conflict themselves.

But in order to conduct a full-fledged ground invasion, they are going to need justification for doing so.  There are some that are suggesting that we could soon see a false flag attack that would provide that justification, so that is something to watch out for.

I can’t remember a time when our planet has been so close to World War 3 potentially beginning.

And if it does break out, I believe that it is quite likely that nuclear weapons will be used.

So what do you think?

Do you agree with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear And Loathing in the House of Saud

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Originally published in Sputnik on January 8, 2016


Desperation does not even begin to describe the current plight of the House of Saud.

Riyadh was fully aware the beheading of respected Saudi Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr was a deliberate provocation bound to elicit a rash Iranian response.

The Saudis calculated they could get away with it; after all they employ the best American PR machine petrodollars can buy, and are viscerally defended by the usual gaggle of nasty US neo-cons.   

In a post-Orwellian world "order" where war is peace and "moderate" jihadis get a free pass, a House of Saud oil hacienda cum beheading paradise — devoid of all civilized norms of political mediation and civil society participation — heads the UN Commission on Human Rights and fattens the US industrial-military complex to the tune of billions of dollars while merrily exporting demented Wahhabi/Salafi-jihadism from MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) to Europe and from the Caucasus to East Asia. 

And yet major trouble looms. Erratic King Salman's move of appointing his son, the supremely arrogant and supremely ignorant Prince Mohammad bin Salman to number two in the line of succession has been contested even among Wahhabi hardliners.

But don't count on petrodollar-controlled Arab media to tell the story.

English-language TV network Al-Arabiyya, for instance, based in the Emirates, long financed by House of Saud members, and owned by the MBC conglomerate, was bought by none other than Prince Mohammad himself, who will also buy MBC.

With oil at less than $40 a barrel, largely thanks to Saudi Arabia's oil war against both Iran and Russia, Riyadh's conventional wars are taking a terrible toll. The budget has collapsed and the House of Saud has been forced to raise taxes.

The illegal war on Yemen, conducted with full US acquiescence, led by — who else — Prince Mohammad, and largely carried out by the proverbial band of mercenaries, has instead handsomely profited al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP), just as the war on Syria has profited mostly Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria.

Three months ago, Saudi ulemas called for a jihad not only against Damascus but also Tehran and Moscow without the "civilized" West batting an eyelid; after all the ulemas were savvy enough to milk the "Russian aggression" bandwagon, comparing the Russian intervention in Syria, agreed with Damascus, with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.   

US Think Tankland revels in spinning that the beheading provocation was a "signal" to Tehran that Riyadh will not tolerate Iranian influence among Shi'ites living in predominantly Sunni states. And yet Beltway cackle that Riyadh hoped to contain "domestic Shi'ite tensions" by beheading al-Nimr does not even qualify as a lousy propaganda script. To see why this is nonsense, let's take a quick tour of Saudi Arabia's Eastern province. 

All Eyes on Al Sharqiyya

Saudi Arabia is essentially a huge desert island. Even though the oil hacienda is bordered by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, the Saudis don't control what matters: the key channels of communication/energy exporting bottlenecks — the Bab el-Mandeb and the Straits of Hormuz, not to mention the Suez canal.

Enter US "protection" as structured in a Mafia-style "offer you can't refuse" arrangement; we guarantee safe passage for the oil export flow through our naval patrols and you buy from us, non-stop, a festival of weapons and host our naval bases alongside other GCC minions. The "protection" used to be provided by the former British empire. So Saudi Arabia — as well as the GCC — remains essentially an Anglo-American satrapy.         

Al Sharqiyya — the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia — holds only 4 million people, the overwhelming majority Shi'ites. And yet it produces no less than 80% of Saudi oil. The heart of the action is the provincial capital Al Qatif, where Nimr al-Nimr was born. We're talking about the largest oil hub on the planet, consisting of 12 crisscrossed pipelines that connect to massive Gulf oil terminals such as Dhahran and Ras Tanura.

Enter the strategic importance of neighboring Bahrain. Historically, all the lands from Basra in southern Iraq to the peninsula of Musandam, in Oman — traditional trade posts between Europe and India — were known as Bahrain ("between two seas").

Tehran could easily use neighboring Bahrain to infiltrate Al Sharqiyya, detach it from Riyadh's control, and configure a "Greater Bahrain" allied with Iran. That's the crux of the narrative peddled by petrodollar-controlled media, the proverbial Western "experts", and incessantly parroted in the Beltway.  

Workers rest at Ras Tannura's oil production plant near Dammam in Saudi Arabia's eastern province

There's no question Iranian hardliners cherish the possibility of a perpetual Bahraini thorn on Riyadh's side. That would imply weaponizing a popular revolution in Al Sharqiyya.  But the fact is not even Nimr al-Nimr was in favor of a secession of Al Sharqiyya. 

And that's also the view of the Rouhani administration in Tehran. Whether disgruntled youth across Al Sharqiyya will finally have had enough with the beheading of al-Nimr it's another story; it may open a Pandora's box that will not exactly displease the IRGC in Tehran.  

But the heart of the matter is that Team Rouhani perfectly understands the developing Southwest Asia chapter of the New Great Game, featuring the re-emergence of Iran as a regional superpower; all of the House of Saud's moves, from hopelessly inept to major strategic blunder, betray utter desperation with the end of the old order.  

That spans everything from an unwinnable war (Yemen) to a blatant provocation (the beheading of al-Nimr) and a non sequitur such as the new Islamic 34-nation anti-terror coalition which most alleged members didn't even know they were a part of. 

The supreme House of Saud obsession rules, drenched in fear and loathing: the Iranian "threat".

Riyadh, which is clueless on how to play geopolitical chess — or backgammon — will keep insisting on the oil war, as it cannot even contemplate a military confrontation with Tehran. And everything will be on hold, waiting for the next tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; will he/she be tempted to pivot back to Southwest Asia, and cling to the old order (not likely, as Washington relies on becoming independent from Saudi oil)? Or will the House of Saud be left to its own — puny — devices among the shark-infested waters of hardcore geopolitics?


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

A Week that will Live in Infamy: Week 1, 2016

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 10, 2016

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clusterfuckWeek 1 of 2016 turned out incredibly eventful in the World of Collapse, and as a result I shelved my usual text based Sunday Brunch article in favor of a RANT on the ongoing CLUSTERFUCK.  Carnage like we had in the last week simply cannot be adequately treated in an text based blog.  The article I did have planned for Sunday Brunch I will publish sometime this week or maybe next weekend, a response to some issues brought up in the lead off Weather Gone Wild  episode.

The financial end of Collapse appears to be rapidly accelerating now, and may be at the point Central Bank interventions cannot contain the problem, which as I reinforce regularly is not really a monetary problem at all, but rather a resource depletion & population overshoot problem.  Printing more fiat, extending more credit to the uber-rich, flipping to Gold as currency, none of these things can work to resolve resource depletion and population overshoot.  Only depopulation can resolve those problems, which is why all the wars are breaking out over the resources.  No aggregate population willingly depopulates, although increasing suicide rates within populations are a common outcome.  This has been the case in Greece, and is also now apparent in Alberta in Canada as the Tar Sands play goes bust.  Wars diminish population and continue until some sort of balance is achieved with the resources in the environment.  Given the current level of resource depletion relative to population size, you can expect the wars to continue onward here for quite some time to come, although the profile may change in terms of international conflicts vs civil wars and high tech battles vs trebuchets and atl-atls over time.

In any event, Week 1 of 2016 saw a major escalation on all levels, particularly the financial one, which as it continues inexorably toward final collapse will drive all the rest of the civilization structures toward collapse as well.  Insulating yourself against these oncoming calamities as best you can remains the priority for individuals and small communities as collapse plays itself out.

Also, in case you missed it, here's the recap from 2015 moving into this Clusterfuck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Diner Lens 9

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 9, 2016

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     North Korean leader Kim Jung-un guides the test firing of a rocket in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang. North Korea is "likely" to have conducted a nuclear test on January 6, 2016 that caused an earthquake near a known testing site in the isolated country, the South Korean and Japanese governments said.Picture: REUTERS/KCNA

              
     Children eat during a non-government organization's feeding program at a slum area in Manila, the Philippines on Jan. 5, 2015. The country's population is expected to hit 104 million in 2016 with some 2 million infants expected to be born this year, according to the Philippine Commission on Population (PopCom). (Rouelle Umali/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire)

            
     Men walk on the rubble at the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa January 5, 2016. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

                
      School children cross along a make-shift pedestrian bridge on a drain covered with garbage at a slum in Karachi, Pakistan.
Shakil Adil / AP

                   
     A protester with a wooden stick beats an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.      Ahn Young-joon / AP

                 
     French police secure the area after a man was shot dead at a police station in the 18th district in Paris, Jan. 7, 2016. Police in Paris on Thursday shot dead a knife-wielding man who tried to enter a police station, police union sources said. The incident took place on the anniversary of last year's deadly Islamist militant attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in the French capital. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

                    
              Aftermath of the Rowlett-Garland Tornado

                              
    Indian police officers wield their batons against Kashmiri Shi'ite Muslims during a protest against the execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed along with others in Saudi Arabia, in Srinagar January 3, 2016. (REUTERS/Stringer)

The Scariest News Story of 2016

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Published on the The Daily Impact on December 31, 2015

Arab Spring Yemen

This is what the Arab Spring looked like in Yemen, four years ago, when its people lost all hope. This is what Saudi Arabia, with diminishing prospects of success, is trying desperately to avoid. (Wikipedia Photo)

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Correct. The scariest news story of 2016 is already in. Saudi Arabia is starting to come apart, and when its unscheduled rapid disassembly is a little farther along, the Industrial Age will come to an end.

[TROLL: “Don’t you ever get tired of making predictions that never come true? You said exactly the same thing a year ago. And the year before that.” Actually, dear trolls, what you find here are not exactly predictions, rather they are analyses of trends and the likely outcomes of those trends. But even if you insist they are predictions, the fact is that virtually all of them are in the process of “coming true” — it’s just that people who have the historical horizons of a fruit fly assume that anything that doesn’t happen while they’re looking at it is never going to happen, and never happened before. In medicine that’s called amnesia.]

But back to Saudi Arabia, where the forces of disassembly have been in play for decades.  

It has been only eight decades since the country as we know it — a vast desert sparsely populated by nomadic tribes — was assembled as one kingdom under Ibn Saud, whose descendants still rule there. Six years later, in 1938, Standard Oil of California found oil under the sand. Found, as it turned out, that nearly 20% of all the oil on the planet was under Saudi Arabia.

Made wealthy beyond imagination, the House of Saud has been smart enough to bind together its hard-won alliance of fractious tribes, sects, clans and warlords with lavish bribes, otherwise known as subsidies. For years, Saudis have been filling their tanks with gasoline for a little over 60 cents a gallon. The government paid the difference between that and the cost of production. Similar subsidies kept the costs of electricity and water abnormally low, and the population unnaturally quiet under the lash of despotic rule, harsh justice and misogynistic customs.

Only three things could bring trouble to this paradise: the oil could run out; the price of oil could crash; or a burgeoning population could suck up so much cheap energy that it reduced the amount available for export, thus reducing the revenues needed to pay for all those subsidies.

The Saudis appear to have hit the negative trifecta. Despite nearly impenetrable secrecy and pervasive deception, it has become apparent that the Saudi oil fields have peaked (at a hair over 10 million barrels per day) and are beginning a slow but irreversible decline. Rapidly increasing domestic consumption of oil, now over three million bpd, is eating into the amount available for export. And the crash of oil prices during the past 18 months has placed an appalling drain on the Saudis’ cash reserves, which are huge but not infinite. The current Saudi annual deficit — the largest in its history —  is estimated by the International Monetary Fund to be $140 billion. At that burn rate, their formidable reserves would be exhausted in less than five years.

On Monday, the kingdom announced a wide array of “reforms” to stem the bleeding, including 50% higher prices for gasoline, electricity and water, and higher taxes. When such “reforms” have been attempted in the past, by the Saudis and by other petro-states with extravagant subsidies, the immediate result has been public protest, unrest, and a quick restoration of benefits. With this in mind, the Saudis have tried to increase prices on the richest first, but have also made it clear that more pain is on the way.

It seems clear that there is no road back to normal open to the Saudis. Even a sudden return of oil prices to their previous highs would not solve the problem of the depleted fields and growing domestic demand. In any case, the people of Saudi Arabia, already restive [SEE “The Worst News Story of 2015” and “The Worst News Story of 2015 Just Got Worse”] are unlikely to wait very long to see how these long term trends play out. And to the extent they destabilize Saudi Arabia, they destabilize the world.   

Syrian Sickness

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Publishes on Cassandra's Legacy on November 22, 2015

Here, I argue that the origins of the Syrian collapse are to be found in the economic downturn generated by the gradual depletion of the Syrian oil reserves. Crude oil had created modern Syria, crude oil has destroyed it. This phenomenon can be termed the "Syrian Sickness" and the question is: "which country will be affected next?"

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The "Syrian Sickness": What Crude Oil Gives, Crude Oil Can Take Back.

Crude oil is a great source of wealth for the countries that possess it. But it is also a wealth that comes as a cycle. Normally, the cycle spans several decades, even more than a century, so that those who live through it may completely miss the fact that they are heading to an end of their wealth. But the cycle is faster and especially visible in those areas where the amount of oil is modest; there, wealth and misery appear one after the other in a dramatic series of events.

One of these rapid cycles of growth and decline is that of Syria. It is a country that never became a major world producer, its maximum output was less than 1% of the world's total production when it peaked, around 1995. (graph below, from Gail Tverberg's blog). For the small Syrian economy, however, even this limited amount was important.
 

The Syrian oil production went through its cycle over little more than three decades. Depletion generated progressively higher production costs and that led to a scarcity of capital investments to keep production increasing, eventually forcing it to decline. The result was the "bell shaped" production curve that is often called the "Hubbert curve". Around 2011, the internal consumption curve crossed the production curve and that transformed the country from an oil exporter to an oil importer. The cross-over point corresponded to the start of the civil war.

The IMF data show that the Syrian government's budget was still 25% dependent on oil in 2010. Data on what it was earlier on are hard to find, but it is clear that it must have been much larger. It may well be that, at the time of the peak, most of the government's revenues came from oil. Seen in this light, it is not surprising that the complete loss of these revenues generated a big turmoil.

So, we can build up a narrative of what happened in Syria after the peak. With progressively lower oil revenues, the government was less and less able to afford the bureaucracy and the social services it used to provide. Gradually, it became also unable to afford an efficient police force and a functioning army. The middle class, that had been strongly dependent on the government's handouts, was badly hit. The most educated and wealthy ones left the country or, at least, moved their financial assets abroad. Those who were forced to remain saw their assets destroyed by hyperinflation and became an impoverished urban proletariat. At the same time, the countryside also went through an economic disaster, enhanced by the droughts created by climate change. At this point, a large number of young men, unemployed and without hope for the future, become cannon fodder for religious fanatics and for local warlords, often paid by foreign powers interested in carving out the country in pieces to be distributed among themselves. The destruction of whatever was left was also helped by economic sanction and aerial bombardments. The final result is what we see: the "Syrian Sickness." A nearly terminal form of social sickness; it is hard to imagine when and how Syria will be able to recover even a shade of its former wealth and stability.

 

The factors that led to the Syrian disaster are by no means limited to Syria alone. Yemen went through a nearly identical cycle; going through the peak its oil production in 2002 at levels smaller than those of Syria, but probably even more important for the local economy. The cross-over point of the production and consumption curves took place in 2013 and, like Syria, the country is at present being destroyed by civil war and aerial bombardments.  (image from "crudeoilpeak")
 


There are several other examples of minor oil producers that went through similar cycles. Egypt, for instance, experienced the cross-over of production and consumption in 2010, experiencing a phase of dramatic civil unrest. Egypt, however, did not collapse; most likely because the importance of oil in its economy was not as large as it was for Syria. Other examples of countries that experienced the cross-over are Malaysia and Indonesia, also undergoing internal troubles, but no generalized collapse. No country is completely immune to the Syrian sickness, but some are less sensitive to it.

At this point, the question is obvious: given the known cases of Syrian Sickness, given that depletion is unavoidable, which country is next in line?

There are several candidates for a future crossover of production and consumption, but none seems to be very close to it. Venezuela, Iran, and Mexico may be the producers most at risk; but the critical moment may still be several years away in the future. But the most interesting and worrisome case is that of Saudi Arabia. The data shown below are from Mazamascience. Most producers of the Arabian peninsula (with the exception of Yemen) show a similar pattern.
 

You see that, despite the rapid increase in internal consumption, Saudi Arabia is still able to export about two thirds of its production. But how about the future? Of course, extrapolations are always dangerous, but it doesn't seem that the production and consumption curves are destined to cross each other very soon. Hence, the country might still have at least a couple of decades of substantial oil export revenues. The problem is that the Saudi economy is heavily dependent on oil: 90% of the government revenues come from oil. So, Saudi Arabia may not need to go through the cross-over point to start experiencing troubles. Consider that it is nearly completely dependent on imports for the food its population consumes, and that the trend is worsening because of the depletion of local aquifers. You can imagine what the problem could become in case of a substantial loss of financial resources coming from crude oil. If Saudi Arabia starts suffering of the Syrian Sickness, the result disaster may make the Syrian collapse pale in comparison.

Is there any hope for Saudi Arabia or any other producing country to avoid the Syrian Sickness? There are several ways to postpone or reverse the decline of oil production if sufficient financial resources are available. However, these are just stopgap measures: depletion is an irreversible process. A country can only prepare for it by building an alternative economic infrastructure while it is still possible; an opportunity that was missed in Syria. Today, Saudi Arabia doesn't lack the financial resource for massive investments in renewable energy, that would provide an alternative to the collapse created by depletion. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that these investments are being made, with the Saudi government preferring to engage in expensive military power games. That's a bad idea not only for Saudi Arabia, but for the whole world: with more than 10% of the world's oil consumption provided by producers in the Arabian Peninsula, you can imagine what might happen if the region falls victim of the Syrian Sickness.

Crude oil has given a lot to Saudi Arabia, crude oil can take back a lot from it. But there is something that crude oil can never provide, and it is wisdom necessary to manage it well.

The End of More: Norman Pagett Part 4

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 17, 2015

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Our 4th and Final Part of our discussion with Norman Pagett of the oncoming Collapse of Industrial Civilization.  Of the 4 parts, this one is my personal favorite.

Snippet:

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Collapse Cafe here at the Doomsday Diner.   Today I'm joined by guest Norman Pagett and my co-host, RE.  In this final segment of the podcast, we will cover the likely reactions of the public when confronted with reality to collapse and what would be the typical response and problems of tackling collapse type topics wwith close loved ones in the difficulty of conveying these messages to people, particularly the younger generation We will also explore how Norman first became aware of the predicaments that will confront this all in the coming years. now one of the problems. that springs to mind and its actuallysomething that was raised by Nate Hagens a few years back is that one of the major issues we face is not merely a shortage of energy, although that will be a major issue in itself but a longage of expectations. Can you elaborate on your points about the implications of greater expectations that are not in touch with the realities of life Norman…

End of More: Norman Pagett: Part 3

logopodcastgc2smOff the microphones of Norman Pagett, Monsta & RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 3, 2015

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Part 1

Part 2

Here is a summary of what was covered in this podcast:

(summary by Monsta)

  • Population overshoot in Saudi Arabia.
  • Impact of lower oil production in the country.
  • Potential for nuclear warfare.
  • Issue of ballistic missiles particularly in the destruction of high value/status assets such as aircraft carriers.
  • Impact of middle-east turmoil on oil importer nations which will lead to demand destruction and recession. Over time these problems will work its way from the periphery to the centre of credit creating nations such as Germany, UK and the United States.
  • Crisis of migration once energy declines in countries such as Italy, Greece etc.
  • How will societies cope with population collapse?
  • Expectations and the problems of alternative labour such as horse replacements for truck delivery detailing the biomass problem which is a zero sum game.

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW!

Total War in Yemen Totally Ignored Western Media

gc2smOff the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on New Eastern Outlook on August 27, 2015

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With almost a whimper, the Western media reported that the US-backed regimes of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and their auxiliary fighters drawn from Al Qaeda have begun carrying out what is the ground invasion of Yemen. Along with an ongoing naval blockade and months of bombing raids, the ground invasion adds a lethal new dimension to the conflict – for both sides.

Landing at the port city of Aden on Yemen’s southern tip, it is reported that an “armor brigade” consisting of between 1,000 – 3,000 troops primarily from the UAE are now moving north, their ultimate destination Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

Columns of the UAE’s French-built Leclerc main battle tanks were seen moving out of the port city though their numbers are difficult to establish. Reports claiming that the UAE unit is brigade-sized might indicate as many as 100 tanks involved – a third of the UAE’s total armored force.

The bold move comes after months of frustrating failures for the two Arabian regimes. Their Yemeni proxies – loyalists of the ousted president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi – have proven all but useless in fighting Houthi fighters across most of Yemen despite air superiority provided to them by their Arabian allies. And while it appears the well-equipped Arab forces are able to concentrate firepower, overwhelming Houthi fighters in pitched battles, the ability for Saudi, UAE, and Al Qaeda forces to actually hold territory they move through is questionable at best.

Opportunity 

The Roman Empire throughout much of its reign was feared as invincible. After suffering several major defeats, the veneer of invincibility began to peel and along with it crumbled inevitably their empire. Likewise, Western hegemony has been propped up by the illusion of military superiority on the battlefield. By carefully picking its battles and avoiding critical defeats, the West, and the US in particular, has maintained this illusion of military invincibility

As the US moves against nations with larger, better equipped and trained armies, it has elected to use proxies to fight on its behalf. Thus, any humiliating defeat could be compartmentalized.

However, by most accounts the war in Yemen is not only a proxy war between Iran and the Persian Gulf monarchies, it is one of several such conflicts raging regionally that constitutes a wider proxy war between the US and its regional allies on one side, and Iran, Syria, Russia, and even China on the other.

With the presence of Western main battle tanks in Yemen attempting to move north, the opportunity now presents itself to punch holes through this illusion of Western invincibility. Yemen as the graveyard for an alleged brigade of French-built Leclerc main battle tanks would be one such hole. It would also set the UAE’s extraterritorial military ambitions back, if not overturn them entirely, and finally, would leave whatever fighting was left in Yemen to the Saudis who have thus far proven incompetent.

Perhaps this is one of the many reasons the Western media has decided not to cover the events unfolding in Yemen.

Yemen Vs. Ukraine 

One might ask how – in the context of international law – it is possible for unelected absolute autocracies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE to intervene militarily in Yemen with naval blockades, aerial bombardments, and now an overt ground invasion including armor columns to restore an ousted regime. This is done with seemingly little concern from the United Nations and with the enthusiastic support both politically and militarily of the United States.

The answer to this question becomes more confounding still when considering Western condemnation of Russia for any attempt to support or defend the ousted government of Ukraine, a nation now overrun by NATO-backed Neo-Nazi militias who in turn are backing a criminal regime in Kiev which includes foreigners assigned to cabinet positions and even as governors. Saudi and UAE military aggression in Yemen makes it increasingly difficult for the West to maintain the illusion of moral superiority regarding Ukraine.

Russia’s relative restraint when compared to US-backed aggression on the Arabian Peninsula exposes once again the pervasive hypocrisy consuming Western legitimacy.

This may be yet another reason the Western media refuses to cover the events unfolding in Yemen.

Responsibility to Protect…? 

545353454After NATO’s attempt to invoke the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) as justification for the destruction of Libya, it became clear that NATO was merely hiding behind the principles of humanitarian concern, not upholding them. And while it may be difficult to believe, there are still those across the Western media and policy think-tanks attempting to use R2P to justify further military aggression against nations like Syria.

However, R2P is conveniently absent amid what little talk of Yemen that does take place in the Western media. US-backed blockades and months of aerial bombardments have tipped Yemen toward a humanitarian catastrophe. Not only does both the UN and the West fail to demand an end to the bombings and blockades, the West has continued to underwrite Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s military adventure in Yemen.

The carnage and injustice visited upon Yemen serves as yet another stark example of how the West and its institutions, including the United Nations, are the greatest dangers to global peace and stability, using the pretext of defending such ideals as a means to instead undo them.

Considering this, we discover yet another potential reason the Western media’s coverage of Yemen is muted.

It remains to be seen how the Houthi fighters react to the ground invasion of Yemen by Emirati troops. Dealing severe losses to the UAE’s armor while continuing to weather aerial bombardment may see the stalling or even the withdrawal of this latest incursion. Not unlike the 2006 Lebanon War where Hezbollah fighters expertly used terrain to negate Israeli advantages in airpower and armor, forcing an early end to the fighting, the Houthis may yet answer this latest move by US-backed proxies operating in Yemen.

Perhaps this possibility above all, is why the Western media would rather the general public knew little of what was going on in Yemen. It would represent yet another conventional Western-equipped proxy army defeated by irregular forces in yet another failed campaign fought in the interests of Wall Street and Washington. While the Western media refuses to cover the events unfolding in Yemen with the attention and honesty they deserve, the conflict is nonetheless pivotal, and may determine the outcome of other proxy wars raging across the Middle East and North Africa, and even beyond.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.   
First appeared: http://journal-neo.org/2015/08/27/total-war-in-yemen-totally-ignored-by-western-media/

Rejoice with the ‘new’ House of Saud

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in Asia Times on May 8, 2015

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It’s fascinating to watch the vast, well-rewarded western army of Saudi lobbyists/stenographers singing the praises of a “traditional and conservative institution”, a.k.a. the House of Saud, now embarking on a new, “assertive foreign policy.”

As this concerns the ideological matrix of all Salafi-jihadi variations in the demented galaxy of Wahhabi extremism, I’d rather call it a Mob rule update. Not nearly as entertaining as Coppola’sGodfather saga, but certainly more sinister.

Imagine the outrage, broadcasted to distant galaxies, if this was taking place in certified opponents of the Empire of Chaos such as Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Russia or China. But as the House of Saud are “our bastards”, complete with a minister, Ali al-Naimi, capable of saying that Allah should set oil prices, they can get away with literally anything.

New House of Saud capo di tutti I capi, King Salman, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, must have been brushing up on his Al Pacino to learn how to be swift as a dagger. Lesson learned; with a single move, he achieved the following:

He got rid of his half-brother and sitting Crown Prince, Muqrin. Muqrin duly pledged allegiance to the new boss.

He promoted his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, from No. 3 to No. 2 in the House of Saud succession line.

He promoted his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to No. 3.

He got rid of the former, eternal, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, and placed a Washington darling, the non-royal Adel al-Jubeir, who as ambassador to the U.S. has been the voice, in English, not lost in translation, of the (illegal) Saudi war on Yemen.

He gave the entire military and security forces a bonus of one-month’s pay.

He separated the Saudi Oil Ministry from ARAMCO, the state-owned oil company. Gotta try to balance the books — especially with the Saudi-instigated oil price war going nowhere; the ridiculously expensive war on Yemen; and all those huge bonuses to content the subjects; after all, virtually everyone in the oil hacienda works for the House of Saud. It was Salman’s son, Mohammed bin Salman, who came up with the oil ministry/ARAMCO scheme.

Married to the Mob, remixed

Here’s what the world needs to know about the Mob rule update.

Let’s start with the “youthful” Prince Mohammed bin Salman (What’s not to like? Fawning western hagiographers gleefully speculate over his age like he’s a precious damsel in distress, not a black-bearded hunk. Anything goes, but not upwards of 35.)

The Royal Youthful “wields enormous power” and as defense minister has been prosecuting the (illegal) bombing/war/”kinetic operation” on Yemen. The king himself vaunted his “massive capabilities”. Saudi sources tell me he’s been a (incompetent) cross of Dr. Evil and Mini-Me, with no Austin Powers to save his day. Although he’s a pop star and a TV celebrity inside the Mob hacienda, he’s convinced absolutely no one – from Egypt to Pakistan – to send troops to “his” war.

For his new No. 3 role, according to the official spin, he gained “support from the vast majority of members of the Council of Allegiance.” The operative word here is “vast majority.” This implies Muqrin’s people were a tad uncomfortable. The Council of Allegiance is a group of 35 descendants of the Mob founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Saud.

The Royal Youthful, according to his official biography, had a murky “professional career of 10 years” but then — miraculously — became a special adviser to his father, then governor of Riyadh. He was appointed defense minister and chief of the royal court the same day, Jan. 23, when Salman became king, after the death of former king Abdullah, whose entire family has been completely erased politically.

Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, the new crown prince, is very much loved in the Beltway as a sort of top Saudi cop and a counterterrorism tough guy. He allegedly defeated al-Qaeda inside Saudi Arabia just for it to regroup in Yemen and now, for all practical purposes, enjoy indirect Mob help, adding new meaning to the concept of married to the Mob. His father, the ultra-right winger late Crown Prince Nayef, was colorfully known as the Black Prince.

As the new number two, Nayef will be a busy fellow — as he remains head of the economic and development council, and was also named second deputy prime minister. For all practical purposes, he’s the new go-to guy in the Mob.

As for al-Jubeir, he’s being lauded by the usual suspects for his “expertise” in U.S. politics. Nonsense; al-Jubeir was directly appointed by Washington.

Within this ballet, it’s Muqrin’s silence that speaks volumes. He’s the son of a Yemeni slave girl; was a key protégé of late King Abdullah; and is not exactly close to Salman’s branch of the Mob, the Sudairis. Bets are off on when he’ll finally spill the beans, if ever, about what walks and talks like a palace coup.

What’s the strategy today?

Whatever the scope of the shake-up, the “new” House of Saud – with the Obama administration “leading from behind” — will keep selling the fiction that it’s freeing Yemen from a bunch of terrorists, when it’s actually empowering al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP). It’s AQAP’s fierce enemies — the Houthis — which have been bombed under the orders of the Royal Youthful.

Not to mention the fact the revamped Mob — with a little help from Qatari and Turkish friends — is making sure the Nusra Front (al-Qaeda’s Syrian spinoff) and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh (which originally split from al-Qaeda) are advancing on all fronts across “Syraq”.

And beyond the scope of the shake-up, as wily Israelis have already identified it, the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration will keep duly following convoluted Mob mantras. Sort of. As if there’s any coherence in support for hardcore jihadis in Syria but bombing of hardcore jihadis in Iraq; support for hardcore jihadis in Yemen; support for hardcore jihadis in Libya and then repression of hardcore jihadis in Libya, and so it goes.

What makes it even more absurd is that the “new” House of Saud absolutely detests Washington’s “strategy” in Iraq and doesn’t believe for a second there’s a “strategy” for Syria. As for its own convoluted war on Yemen, it’s much less about Wahhabis hating “apostate” Shi’ites than Wahhabis impermeable to any whiff of Arab Spring near their borders.

Mob rule is in effect since 1902, enforced either by founder Ibn Saud Abdul-Aziz, or his sons. King Salman will be the last of his sons in power. The Royal Youthful is already sharpening his daggers. Expect western corporate media to make him more popular than Justin Bieber.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Saudi Arabia: The Great Oil Game

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Crisis on April 27, 2015

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Chart_Saudi-Prod-Brent-Ap-2015Saudi Arabia just increased oil production to a record level, never reached in previous history. They are doing that in a moment of record low oil prices. What do they have in mind? (Image from Arthur Berman)

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When the collapse of the oil prices started, in the summer of 2014, everyone noticed that Saudi Arabia was not playing their traditional role of "swing producers", that is varying their production in such a way to maintain reasonably constant prices. Facing a slump in demand, they should have reduced production; but they didn't.

Initially, I thought the Saudis were simply taken by surprise and they were slow to react. But now, with the recent increase in Saudi production, it is clear that they have something in mind. Maybe they haven't engineered the market collapse, but in some way they are riding it.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in it. But what method could there be in raising production just when prices are lowest? Every single textbook in economics will tell you that the market should adapt to changes in demand and offer in exactly the opposite way: facing a reduced demand, production should go down, too. 

Of course, as we all know, what you read in textbooks of economics has little to do with the real world. And, in the real world, there is a well known market strategy that consists in bankrupting your competitors by selling below cost. The idea is to create a monopoly and recoup later what the winner of the struggle has lost at the beginning. It is, of course, illegal, but the very fact that there are laws against it, means that it is done.

However, there is a little problem in applying this strategy to the oil market. It has to do with the fact that oil is a finite resource. So, if producers manage to obtain a monopoly, that means they will run out of the resource before the others. Imagine you are an art dealer: would you sell your Picassos at low cost in order to undercut the other art merchants and gain a monopoly? Of course not, what you would obtain is simply to run out fast of your precious Picasso paintings and then leave the market fully open to the others. 

So, what are the Saudis doing, exactly? Art Berman suggests that they are fighting against the banks that created the tight oil bubble possible. After the elimination of the bubble, the market might return to relatively high oil prices and maximize the revenues for Saudi Aramco. 

Berman's interpretation is surely possible, but, as in all these cases, we are looking at governments as if they were "black boxes", trying to understand the inner mechanisms that make them move. This is very risky: just as we see in clouds faces that aren't there, we may see in a government's actions a plan that is not there. Are the Saudis really planning for a long term profit? Or are they simply misjudging the extent of their resources? 

After all, we have several examples of non-renewable resources having been managed as if they were infinite. Just consider how the North Sea oil was extracted at the highest possible rate when the oil market was experiencing historically low prices. That left producers with declining oil fields when market prices started increasing. It was not a very smart strategy, to say the least.

In the case of the North sea, there was no long term planning; it was just that the long term depletion problem was not understood. So, are the Saudis blind to the very concept of "depletion"?(*) That's impossible to say at present. The only certain fact is that age of cheap oil is gone; even though some wild oscillations may make us believe that the good times have returned – but just for a while.

(*) About being unable to perceive that a mineral resource is running out, an especially tragic case is that of Yemen. For a few years, I have been following the "Yemen Times" and. in all this time, I never could read any statement that indicated that the problem of oil depletion in Yemen was understood. Whenever the decline in production was mentioned, it was attributed to terrorism, civil unrest, and other temporary problems. From what I could read, it seems to me that the Yemen society was (and still is) completely and totally blind to the fact that they have been gradually running out of oil and that oil depletion is the root cause of all the troubles that they have experienced, and that they are experiencing right now. (graph from "our finite world")

 

Bomb Iran? Not now: bomb Yemen

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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People walk past a car damaged by an airstrike in Sanaa April 8, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

People walk past a car damaged by an airstrike in Sanaa April 8, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Originally published in RT on April 9, 2015


‘Operation Decisive Storm’ – the Pentagon-style House of Saud glorifying of its ghastly ‘Bomb Yemen’ show – could be summed up in a single paragraph.

The wealthiest Arab nation – the House of Saud petro-hacienda – supported by other GCC petro-rackets and also the wealthy “West”, has launched an – illegal – bombing/war/kinetic operation against the poorest Arab nation in the name of “democracy.”

And this absurdity is just the beginning.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, the innocuous as a stale cannoli Federica Mogherini, seems to be mildly alarmed. She remarked that Saudi bombing of hospitals and “deliberate targeting and destruction of private homes, education facilities and basic infrastructure cannot be tolerated.”

Well, the EU tolerates exactly the same thing in Donbass perpetrated by Kiev’s goons – so nothing will come out La Mogherini’s feigned outrage.

The Red Cross and the Russian Federation, for their part, at least are demanding a temporary ceasefire to allow for humanitarian relief. Humanitarian relief is incompatible with the House of Saud’s bloodline. So after two weeks of Saudi ‘Shock and Awe’, the current toll of at least 560 Yemeni civilians dead (and counting), and 1700 wounded – dozens of them children – is bound to increase.

Bab-el-Mandeb me, baby

Bomb Iran? Not now; the new normal is bomb Yemen. But still bomb Iran might be back in a flash. Pentagon supremo Ash Carter confirmed last week “all options are on the table” even if an Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal is finally reached in June. So, for the record, the Pentagon is affirming nuclear negotiations are just white noise unable to deter the tantalizing prospect of yet another nice little Middle East war.

Needless to add, the so civilized ‘West’ didn’t even flinch when “our bastards” the House of Saud invaded and started shockin’ an’awin’ dirt-poor Yemen. No UN Security Council resolution. Not even a mandate from the totally discredited Arab League. Who cares? After all the ‘Empire of Chaos’ has done the same over and over again with total impunity.

Much hysteria has been raging on whether the Houthis are about to take control of the Bab-el-Mandeb – one of the key strategic global energy chokepoints along with the Straits of Hormuz, and as crucial as the Suez Canal. Nonsense. Whatever the House of Saud does, the not so hidden ‘Empire of Chaos’ agenda is never to lose control of the Bab-el-Mandeb, the Gulf of Aden, and the Socotra Islands.

A man reacts as he inspects the damage of a building caused by an air strike in Sanaa April 8, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

A man reacts as he inspects the damage of a building caused by an air strike in Sanaa April 8, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

This is part of what we could dub ‘Chokepointistan’; wars taking place near or around energy bottlenecks, and always narrated in Global War on Terror (GWOT) deceitful terminology. US Think Tankland is more straightforward, carefully following US naval deployments. That’s what this is all about; an Orwellian “freedom of navigation” masquerading a hardcore strategy of shutting out the geopolitical enemy – be it Iran, Russia, China or all of the above.

‘Chokepointistan’ is all over the place: just watch the war or pre-positioning action in the Bab-el-Mandeb (with spillover effects from Yemen to Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti); the Straits of Hormuz (all about Iran); but also the strait of Malacca (all about China), Panama (about Venezuela), the coming Nicaragua canal (about China), the Korean Strait, the Taiwan Strait, the Kuril Islands, and last but not least the Baltic Sea.

A Grand Armada Run Amok

Saudi intel knows the Houthis can’t possibly control the Bab-el-Mandeb – not to mention Washington would never allow it. What freaks the Saudis out is that the Houthi rebellion in Yemen – supported by Tehran – may encourage bright rebellion ideas among the Shi’ite majority in the eastern provinces in Saudi Arabia, where most of the oil is.

And this where the Saudi excuse for war interfaces with the empire’s paranoia of preventing Iran, Russia and/or China from establishing a possible strategic presence in Yemen, at the Bab-el-Mandeb, overlooking the Gulf of Aden.

So we have once again Pentagon supremo Carter insisting, “The United States supports Arab plans to create a unified military force to counter growing security threats in the Middle East, and the Pentagon will cooperate with it where US and Arab interests coincide.” Translation: we gave the green light for our bastards to maintain “stability” in the Middle East.

Yet there’s a spanner in the works; the possible Washington-Tehran rapprochement, assuming a nuclear deal is reached. For the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration, the nuclear deal will be their only foreign policy success. Moreover, without Tehran there’s no meaningful fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in “Syraq”.

None of this mollifies the cosmically paranoid Saudis, who assembled in a flash a Grand Armada Run Amok (GARA) – 100 jet fighters, 150,000 soldiers – respectfully described by US Think Tankland as a “coalition” of 10 countries. Without even blinking at UN norms, the Saudis instantly declared the whole of Yemen as a no-fly zone.

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif addresses during a joint statement with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (L) in Lausanne April 2, 2015. (Reuters/Ruben Sprich)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif addresses during a joint statement with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (L) in Lausanne April 2, 2015. (Reuters/Ruben Sprich)

And along with routine bombing of residential complexes, the al-Mazraq camp for the internally displaced in Hajjah, a dairy factory near Hodeida, and other instances, came, what else, hardcore internal Saudi repression, via a crackdown with tanks and indiscriminate shooting in Awamiyah, in the eastern provinces; Shi’ites there can’t even think of organizing protests against the bloodbath in Yemen.

In a nutshell, this is the immensely wealthy, corrupt, medieval Saudi regime busy at war against their own people. The usual hard-line Wahhabi imams are busy working up anti-Shi’ite and anti-Iranian fever everywhere; these are all “apostates” under the takfir doctrine, and Iranians are lowly “Safawis” – a quite pejorative reference to the 16th century Safavid dynasty. It’s crucial to remember that Islamic State treats Shi’tes and Iranians the exact same way. But forget about any of this being reported by Western corporate media.

The General and the Sheikh

The House of Saud insists it wants to reinstall the government-in-exile of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. Or, as Saudi Ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubeir glowingly put it, “protect the legitimate government of the country.”

Royally paid Saudi lobby hagiographers are once again frantically spinning the Sunni versus Shi’ite sectarian narrative – which totally ignores the mind-boggling tribal/class complexity of Yemeni society. In a nutshell, this laughable Saudi defense of democracy is paving the way for a ground war; a long, bloody and horribly expensive ground war.

And it gets, as expected, even more absurd. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was recently asked during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing whether he knew of “any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL.” His response: “I know major Arab allies who fund them.”

Translation: the US government not only does not sanction or punish these “allies” (the real fun is to sanction Russia) but showers with logistical and “non-lethal” support the “coalition” that is arguably fighting the same Islamic State they are funding. No one is making this up; this is how the endless war on terra remains the gift that keeps on giving.

It gets even curioser and curioser when we have Dempsey on the same page of Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah. In this crucial speech, Sheikh Nasrallah offers the most extensive and precise account of the origins and ideology of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. And here he expands on Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

So what we have is the ‘Empire of Chaos’ ‘leading from behind’ in the war on Yemen and also de facto ‘leading from behind’ in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; the ones doing the heavy lifting are Iraqi militias supported by Tehran. The hidden agenda is always – what else –chaos; be it across “Syraq” or inside Yemen. With an extra bonus; while Washington is engaged on striking a nuclear deal with Tehran, it also turbo-charges an alliance against Tehran using the House of Saud.

Vietnam in the desert

The House of Saud badly wants Pakistan to take no prisoners, supplying bomber jets, ships and lots of ground troops for their war. Riyadh treats Islamabad as a vassal state. A joint session of the Pakistani Parliament will decide what to do.

It’s quite revealing to learn what happened when Pakistan’s most popular private TV channel assembled representatives of all major political parties to explain where they stand. Soon they reached a consensus; Pakistan should be neutral; act as mediator; and commit no troops, unless there was a “tangible threat” to the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, which is far from the case.

The House of Saud remains on overdrive, showering tons of cash over Salafi and Deobandi preachers to bullhorn their war; that includes a delegation of ulema visiting Riyadh. Support has already duly poured from Pakistan-based hardcore groups that trained with al-Qaeda and fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan; after all they are all funded by Wahhabi fanatics.

Followers of the Houthi movement attend a protest against the Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa April 5, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Followers of the Houthi movement attend a protest against the Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa April 5, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Meanwhile, in the front lines, a real game-changer may be ahead, with the Houthis already firing missiles across the border at Saudi oil installations. Then all bets are off – and the possibility that long-range missiles have been pre-positioned becomes quite credible.

That scenario would mean a foreign intel agency luring the House of Saud into its own Vietnam quagmire in Yemen, setting them up for a barrage of missiles hitting their pumping stations and oil fields, with catastrophic consequences for the global economy. It’s crucial to remember that the Grand Armada Run Amok (GARA) assembled by Riyadh happens to account for no less than 32% of global oil production. This cannot possibly end well.

Everyone in Yemen has an AK-47, not to mention RPGs and hand grenades. The terrain is guerrilla heaven. History spells out at least 2,000 years of hardened tribes fighting foreign invaders. Most Yemenis hate the House of Saud with a vengeance; a majority follows what the Houthis announced in late February, that the House of Saud and the US were planning to devastate Yemen.

The Houthi rebellion includes both Sunnis and Shi’ites – thus totally debunking the Saudi narrative. When they captured the Yemeni National Security Bureau, which was basically a CIA station, the Houthis found a wealth of secret documents that “compromised” Washington’s Yemeni chapter of the war on terra. As for the Saudi Army, it’s a joke. Besides, it employs a huge contingent of – you guessed it – Yemeni soldiers.

“Operation Decisive Storm” – yet another Pentagon-style illegal war – has already plunged Yemen into the twin plagues of civil war and humanitarian disaster. The remains of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and most of all ISIS/ISIL/Daesh (who hate the Houthis and all Shi’ites with a vengeance) couldn’t be happier. The ‘Empire of Chaos’ couldn’t give a damn; the more widespread the chaos, the better for the Pentagon-defined Long War (on terra).

Over five years ago I wrote that Yemen is the new Waziristan. Now it’s also heading towards the new Somalia. And soon it may become the House of Saud’s Vietnam.


Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Calvinball in Yemen

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on April 1, 2015

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Snippet:

…Meanwhile, on the BIG 3 front, you can see ever increasing Polarization between the Ruskies, Chinese and the FsoA, a split in the currency regime and the ever increasing unlikelihood that anyone “in charge” of this clusterfuck will be able to do anything that keeps it from spinning out of control. Because in all reality here, nobody IS in “Control” of this, it is a systemic problem outside the reach of any individual, even the most powerful of individuals. They are governed by the events that take place and can only REACT to them, and there are so many Players in the game that Wild Cards get thrown out all the time, bollixing up any kind of Planning that might be done by anyone.

In just about all cases, the players finally resort to Violence of one sort or another regardless of the fact it doesn’t resolve underlying problems of resource depletion, other than it serves as a Death Vector eliminating some of the Overshoot Population. There are “strategies” and “game theories” putched around, but the rules change daily and then there are always new bunches of people who don’t play by those rules. It’s basically Calvin-Ball on a Global Scale with everybody flying by the seat of their pants…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

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US-Saudi Blitz in Yemen

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on March 26, 2015

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US-Saudi Blitz in Yemen: Naked Aggression, Absolute Desperation

March 27, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – The “proxy war” model the US has been employing throughout the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and even in parts of Asia appears to have failed yet again, this time in the Persian Gulf state of Yemen.

Overcoming the US-Saudi backed regime in Yemen, and a coalition of sectarian extremists including Al Qaeda and its rebrand, the “Islamic State,” pro-Iranian Yemeni Houthi militias have turned the tide against American “soft power” and has necessitated a more direct military intervention. While US military forces themselves are not involved allegedly, Saudi warplanes and a possible ground force are.

Though Saudi Arabia claims “10 countries” have joined its coalition to intervene in Yemen, like the US invasion and occupation of Iraq hid behind a “coalition,” it is overwhelmingly a Saudi operation with “coalition partners” added in a vain attempt to generate diplomatic legitimacy.

The New York Times, even in the title of its report, “Saudi Arabia Begins Air Assault in Yemen,” seems not to notice these “10” other countries. It reports:

Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday night that it had launched a military campaign in Yemen, the beginning of what a Saudi official said was an offensive to restore a Yemeni government that had collapsed after rebel forces took control of large swaths of the country. 

The air campaign began as the internal conflict in Yemen showed signs of degenerating into a proxy war between regional powers. The Saudi announcement came during a rare news conference in Washington by Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States.

Proxy War Against Iran 

Indeed, the conflict in Yemen is a proxy war. Not between Iran and Saudi Arabia per say, but between Iran and the United States, with the United States electing Saudi Arabia as its unfortunate stand-in.

Iran’s interest in Yemen serves as a direct result of the US-engineered “Arab Spring” and attempts to overturn the political order of North Africa and the Middle East to create a unified sectarian front against Iran for the purpose of a direct conflict with Tehran. The war raging in Syria is one part of this greater geopolitical conspiracy, aimed at overturning one of Iran’s most important regional allies, cutting the bridge between it and another important ally, Hezbollah in Lebanon.

And while Iran’s interest in Yemen is currently portrayed as yet another example of Iranian aggression, indicative of its inability to live in peace with its neighbors, US policymakers themselves have long ago already noted that Iran’s influence throughout the region, including backing armed groups, serves a solely defensive purpose, acknowledging the West and its regional allies’ attempts to encircle, subvert, and overturn Iran’s current political order.

The US-based RAND Corporation, which describes itself as “a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis,” produced a report in 2009 for the US Air Force titled, “Dangerous But Not Omnipotent : Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East,” examining the structure and posture of Iran’s military, including its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and weapons both present, and possible future, it seeks to secure its borders and interests with against external aggression.

The report admits that:

Iran’s strategy is largely defensive, but with some offensive elements. Iran’s strategy of protecting the regime against internal threats, deterring aggression, safeguarding the homeland if aggression occurs, and extending influence is in large part a defensive one that also serves some aggressive tendencies when coupled with expressions of Iranian regional aspirations. It is in part a response to U.S. policy pronouncements and posture in the region, especially since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Iranian leadership takes very seriously the threat of invasion given the open discussion in the United States of regime change, speeches defining Iran as part of the “axis of evil,” and efforts by U.S. forces to secure base access in states surrounding Iran.

Whatever imperative Saudi Arabia is attempting to cite in justifying its military aggression against Yemen, and whatever support the US is trying to give the Saudi regime rhetorically, diplomatically, or militarily, the legitimacy of this military operation crumbles before the words of the West’s own policymakers who admit Iran and its allies are simply reacting to a concerted campaign of encirclement, economic sanctions, covert military aggression, political subversion, and even terrorism aimed at establishing Western hegemony across the region at the expense of Iranian sovereignty.

Saudi Arabia’s Imperative Lacks Legitimacy 

The unelected hereditary regime ruling over Saudi Arabia, a nation notorious for egregious human rights abuses, and a land utterly devoid of even a semblance of what is referred to as “human rights,” is now posing as arbiter of which government in neighboring Yemen is “legitimate” and which is not, to the extent of which it is prepared to use military force to restore the former over the latter.

The United States providing support for the Saudi regime is designed to lend legitimacy to what would otherwise be a difficult narrative to sell. However, the United States itself has suffered from an increasing deficit in its own legitimacy and moral authority.

Most ironic of all, US and Saudi-backed sectarian extremists, including Al Qaeda in Yemen, had served as proxy forces meant to keep Houthi militias in check by proxy so the need for a direct military intervention such as the one now unfolding would not be necessary. This means that Saudi Arabia and the US are intervening in Yemen only after the terrorists they were supporting were overwhelmed and the regime they were propping up collapsed.

In reality, Saudi Arabia’s and the United States’ rhetoric aside, a brutal regional regime meddled in Yemen and lost, and now the aspiring global hemegon sponsoring it from abroad has ordered it to intervene directly and clean up its mess.

Saudi Arabia’s Dangerous Gamble 

The aerial assault on Yemen is meant to impress upon onlookers Saudi military might. A ground contingent might also attempt to quickly sweep in and panic Houthi fighters into folding. Barring a quick victory built on psychologically overwhelming Houthi fighters, Saudi Arabia risks enveloping itself in a conflict that could easily escape out from under the military machine the US has built for it.

It is too early to tell how the military operation will play out and how far the Saudis and their US sponsors will go to reassert themselves over Yemen. However, that the Houthis have outmatched combined US-Saudi proxy forces right on Riyadh’s doorstep indicates an operational capacity that may not only survive the current Saudi assault, but be strengthened by it.

Reports that Houthi fighters have employed captured Yemeni warplanes further bolsters this notion – revealing tactical, operational, and strategic sophistication that may well know how to weather whatever the Saudis have to throw at it, and come back stronger.

What may result is a conflict that spills over Yemen’s borders and into Saudi Arabia proper. Whatever dark secrets the Western media’s decades of self-censorship regarding the true sociopolitical nature of Saudi Arabia will become apparent when the people of the Arabian peninsula must choose to risk their lives fighting for a Western client regime, or take a piece of the peninsula for themselves.

Additionally, a transfer of resources and fighters arrayed under the flag of the so-called “Islamic State” and Al Qaeda from Syria to the Arabian Peninsula will further indicate that the US and its regional allies have been behind the chaos and atrocities carried out in the Levant for the past 4 years. Such revelations will only further undermine the moral imperative of the West and its regional allies, which in turn will further sabotage their efforts to rally support for an increasingly desperate battle they themselves conspired to start.

America’s Shrinking Legitimacy 

It was just earlier this month when the United States reminded the world of Russia’s “invasion” of Crimea. Despite having destabilized Ukraine with a violent, armed insurrection in Kiev, for the purpose of expanding NATO deeper into Eastern Europe and further encircling Russia, the West insisted that Russia had and  still has no mandate to intervene in any way in neighboring Ukraine. Ukraine’s affairs, the United States insists, are the Ukrainians’ to determine. Clearly, the US meant this only in as far as Ukrainians determined things in ways that suited US interests.

This is ever more evident now in Yemen, where the Yemeni people are not being allowed to determine their own affairs. Everything up to and including military invasion has been reserved specifically to ensure that the people of Yemen do not determine things for themselves, clearly, because it does not suit US interests.

Such naked hypocrisy will be duly noted by the global public and across diplomatic circles. The West’s inability to maintain a cohesive narrative is a growing sign of weakness. Shareholders in the global enterprise the West is engaged in may see such weakness as a cause to divest – or at the very least – a cause to diversify toward other enterprises. Such enterprises may include Russia and China’s mulipolar world. The vanishing of Western global hegemony will be done in destructive conflict waged in desperation and spite.

Today, that desperation and spite befalls Yemen.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

Welcome to World War Three

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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freda war from tv

Illustration: Anthony Freda

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 16, 2015

In case anyone didn’t get ISIL’s message from their latest video in which 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians have their heads sawn off, here it is: “We’re executioners, not warriors.” Those gouts of blood spilled on a Libyan beach amount to ISIL’s welcome mat to the mass execution of the Euro-American west. The dignity of a funeral is not even on the program.

What we’ve got now with apocalyptic Jihadism spreading clear across the region from Pakistan to Morocco, and Europe blandly ignoring it across the Mediterranean, is an epochal face-off that will change the world. It comes at an odd moment in history, namely as the massive oil wealth of the Middle East and North Africa enters decline. It was that oil wealth that provoked a population spike in a desolate corner of the planet the past century. Now there is a huge over-supply of young men there with nothing to do but act out their angry psychodrama over having no future. When a whole peoples’ prospects for a decent life on Earth dwindle to zero, is it any wonder that they become preoccupied with end-times visions of feasts and virgins awaiting in an after-life?

Partly what you’re seeing over there is an internal fight to control what’s left of the treasure. That battle has already had the strange consequence of disabling the oil production capacity in places like Iraq and Libya, where there is still a lot of oil, but not enough political stability to allow the complicated business of extraction and transport to take place. What’s more there has also been tremendous damage to the oil infrastructure in these places, some from deliberate sabotage, some from shelling and bombing, and a lot from sheer neglect and deferred maintenance. Oil refineries and transport terminals are very delicate machines that require constant loving care.

It’s self-evident now that ISIL would like to control as much of the remaining oil wealth as possible — though I doubt they have the competence to run it for long even if they appear to control the terrain. The Euro-American west always has the option of completing the destruction with bombs and missiles, but then they would also be destroying their own future oil supplies and hence their modern industrial economies.

The Big Prize, of course, is the grand fortress of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is surrounded by Islamic maniacs now, with Yemen recently fallen to the south, the ever-hostile Iranian Shi’a across the Persian Gulf, disintegrating Iraq and Syria to the north, and the festering human compost heap of Egypt and then Libya across the Red Sea. And, of course, along the saddle of the Levant there is Israel with all its enemies and problems. Arabia has a new King, 79, rumored to be weak in the head. The oil revenue is way down and the population still grows, and too many young men have nothing to do but marinate in Wahhabist fantasies. If Saudi Arabia falls apart, it’s game over for modern life as the West has known it (and much of Asia now, too).

The USA, meanwhile, has managed to embroil itself in a completely unnecessary and idiotic struggle over Ukraine, a place of no real strategic importance to us. And in doing so we’ve managed to alienate perhaps the one nation with the will and the motivation to oppose Jihadism, namely Russia, with its vast southern border facing the immensity of Islamic Central Asia.

Europe, meanwhile, is preoccupied playing games with itself over money. Today is supposedly crunch time for Greece. The so-called Troika — the European Central Bank, The European Union bureaucrats, and the International Monetary Fund — still expects Greece to continue to pretend to pay back its debt. That’s been the meaning of “austerity” until now. But Europe is a gigantic debt minefield that no one can really walk across. Other parts of it than Greece are just waiting to blow up, and will, and it’s unclear whether Europe is even paying attention to the blood-red welcome mat that was laid out in Libya last weekend. The true meaning of “austerity” will become clear when Europe finds itself forced to fight World War Three at the same time that its banking system implodes.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

What Game is the House of Saud playing?

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in Russia Today on January 16, 2015

[NOTE: This post is Pepe’s take on the Saudi succession, written just before King Abdullah’s death. ]

The House of Saud now finds itself in times of extreme trouble. Their risky oil price war may eventually backfire. The succession of King Abdullah may turn into a bloodbath. And the American protector may be musing a change of heart.

Let’s start with oil – and some background. As much as US supply has increased by a couple of million barrels a day, enough oil from Iran, Kirkuk in Iraq, Libya and Syria has gone out of production; and that offsets extra US oil on the market. Essentially, the global economy – at least for the moment – is not searching for more oil because of European stagnation/recession and the relative China slowdown.

Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has been flooding the market to offset the decrease in Iran exports caused by the US economic war, a.k.a. sanctions. Riyadh, moreover, prevented OPEC from reducing country production quotas. The House of Saud believes it can play the waiting game – as fracked oil, mostly American, is inexorably driven out of the market because it is too expensive. After that, the Saudis believe they will regain market share.

In parallel, the House of Saud is obviously enjoying “punishing” Iran and Russia for their support of Bashar Assad in Damascus. Moreover, the House of Saud is absolutely terrified of a nuclear deal essentially between the US and Iran (although that’s still a major “if”) – leading to a long-term détente.

Tehran, though, remains defiant. Russia brushed off the attack because the lower ruble meant state revenues remained unchanged – so there will be no budget deficit. As for oil-thirsty East Asia – including top Saudi customer China – it’s enjoying the bonanza while it lasts.

Oil prices will remain very low for the time being. This week Goldman Sachs lowered their 2015 WTI and Brent Crude forecasts; Brent was slashed from $83.75 a barrel to $50.40, WTI was cut from $73.75 to $47.15 a barrel. Prices per barrel could soon drop as low as $42 and $40.50. But then, there will be an inevitable “U-shaped recovery.”

Nomura bets that oil will be back to $80 a barrel by the end of 2015.

Reuters / Lucas Jackson

Reuters / Lucas Jackson

Punish Russia or bust

US President Barack Obama, in this interview, openly admitted that he wanted “disruptions” in the“price of oil” because he figured Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “enormous difficulty managing it.” So that settles the argument about hurting Russia and US-Saudi collusion, after US Secretary of State John Kerry allowed/endorsed King Abdullah in Jeddah to simultaneously raise oil production and embark on a cut price strategy.

Whether Kerry sold out the US shale gas industry out of ignorance or incompetence – probably both – is irrelevant. What matters is if the House of Saud were ordered to back off, they would have to do it in a flash; the ‘Empire of Chaos’ dominates the Persian Gulf vassals, who can’t even breathe without at least an implicit US green light.

What is way more troubling is that the current bunch in Washington does not seem to be defending US national and industrial interests. If humongous trade deficits based on currency rigging were not enough, now virtually the entire US oil industry runs the risk of being destroyed by an oil price racket. Any sane analyst would interpret it as contrary to US national interests.

Anyway, the Riyadh deal was music for the House of Saud’s ears. Their official policy has always been to slash the development of all potential substitutes for oil, including US shale gas. So why not depress oil prices and keep them there long enough to make investments in shale gas a lunatic proposal?

But there’s a huge problem. The House of Saud simply won’t get enough in oil revenues to support their annual budget with oil at below $90 a barrel. So as much as hurting Iran and Russia may be appealing, hurting their own golden pocketbooks is not.

The long-term outlook spells out higher oil prices. Oil may be replaced in many instances; but there isn’t a replacement – yet – for the internal combustion engine. So whatever OPEC is doing, it is actually preserving demand for oil vs. oil substitutes, and maximizing the return on a limited resource. The bottom-line: yes, this is predatory pricing.

Once again, there’s an immense, crucial, complicating vector. We may have the House of Saud and other Persian Gulf producers flooding the market – but its Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Citigroup who are doing the shadow, nasty work via leveraged derivative short futures.

Oil prices are such an opaque racket that only major oil trading banks such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley have some idea who is buying and who is selling oil futures or derivative contracts – what is called “paper oil.” The non-rules of this multi-billion casino spell out “speculative bubble” – with a little help from those friends at the Gulf oil pumps. With oil futures trading and the two major London and New York exchanges monopolizing oil futures contracts, OPEC really does not control oil prices anymore; Wall Street does. This is the big secret. The House of Saud may entertain the illusion they are in control. They’re not.

U.S. President Barack Obam.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obam.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

That dysfunctional marriage

As if this was not messy enough, the crucial succession of the House of Saud is propelled to the forefront. King Abdullah, 91, was diagnosed with pneumonia, hospitalized in Riyadh on New Year’s Eve, and was breathing with a tube. He may – or may not, this being the secretive House of Saud – have lung cancer. He won’t last long. The fact that he is hailed as a “progressive reformer” tells everything one needs to know about Saudi Arabia. “Freedom of expression”? You must be joking.

So who’ll be next? The first in the line of succession should be Crown Prince Salman, 79, also defense minister. He was governor of Riyadh province for a hefty 48 years. It was this certified falcon who supervised the wealth of private “donations” to the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s jihad, in tandem with hardcore Wahhabi preachers. Salman’s sons include the governor of Medina, Prince Faisal. Needless to add, the Salman family controls virtually all of Saudi media.

To get to the Holy Grail Salman must be proven fit. That’s not a given; and on top of it Abdullah, a tough nut to crack, already survived two of his crown princes, Sultan and Nayef. Salman’s prospects look bleak; he has had spinal surgery, a stroke and may be suffering from – how appropriate – dementia.

It also does not bode well that when Salman was promoted to Deputy Defense Minister, soon enough he was shown the door – as he got himself mixed up with Bandar Bush’s atrocious jihadi game in Syria.

Anyway, Salman already has a successor; second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Muqrin, former governor of Medina province and then head of Saudi intelligence. Muqrin is very, very close to Abdullah. Muqrin seems to be the last “capable” son of Ibn Saud; “capable” here is a figure of speech. The real problem though starts when Muqrin becomes Crown Prince. Because then the next in line will be picked from the grandsons of Ibn Saud.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.(Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.(Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)

Enter the so-called third generation princes – a pretty nasty bunch. Chief among them is none other than Mitab bin Abdullah, 62, the son of the king; cries of nepotism do proceed. Like a warlord, Mitab controls his own posse in the National Guard. Sources told me Riyadh is awash in rumors that Abdullah and Muqrin have made a deal: Abdullah gets Muqrin to become king, and Muqrin makes Mitab crown prince. Once again, this being the “secretive” House of Saud, the Hollywood mantra applies: no one knows anything.

Abdullah’s sons are all over the place; governor of Mecca, deputy governor of Riyadh, deputy foreign minister, president of the Saudi Red Crescent. Same for Salman’s sons. But then there’s Muhammad bin Nayif, son of the late Crown Prince Nayif, who became Interior Minister in 2012, in charge of ultra-sensitive internal security, as in cracking down on virtually anything. He is the top competitor against Mitab among the third-generation princes.

So forget about family “unity” when such juicy loot as an oil hacienda impersonating a whole country is in play. And yet whoever inherits the loot will have to face the abyss, and the same litany of distress; rising unemployment; abysmal inequality; horrendous sectarian divide; jihadism in all its forms – not least the fake Ibrahim Caliphate in “Syraq”, already threatening to march towards Mecca and Medina; the unspeakably medieval Council of Ulemas (the lashing/amputating/beheading-loving bunch); total dependency on oil; unbounded paranoia towards Iran; and a wobbly relationship with His Masters Voice, the US.

When will they call the cavalry?

And it so happens that the real ‘Masters of the Universe’ in the Washington-New York axis are debating exactly the erosion of this relationship; as in the House of Saud having no one to talk to but the “puppets”, from Bush Two minions to Kerry at most on occasion. This analysis contends that any promises made by Kerry over the House of Saud “cooperation” to damage Russia’s economy really mean nothing.

Rumbles from ‘Masters of the Universe’ territory indicate that the CIA sooner or later might move against the House of Saud. In this case the only way for the House of Saud to secure its survival would be to become friendly with none other than Moscow. This exposes once more the House of Saud’s suicidal present course of trying to hurt Russia’s economy.

As everyone is inexorably an outsider when faced with the totally opaque House of Saud, there’s an analytical current that swears they know what they’re doing. Not necessarily. The House of Saud seems to believe that pleasing US neocons will improve their status in Washington. That simply won’t happen. The neocons remain obsessed about the House of Saud helping Pakistan to develop its nuclear missiles; some of them – once again, that’s open to speculation – might even be deployed inside Saudi Arabia for “defensive purposes” against that mythical Iranian “threat.”

Messy? That doesn’t even begin to describe it. But one thing is certain; whatever game Riyadh thinks it’s playing, they’d better start seriously talking to Moscow. But please, don’t send Bandar Bush on another Russian mission.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

A Solemn Pause

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 19,2015

Events are moving faster than brains now. Isn’t it marvelous that gasoline at the pump is a buck cheaper than it was a year ago? A lot of short-sighted idiots are celebrating, unaware that the low oil price is destroying the capacity to deliver future oil at any price. The shale oil wells in North Dakota and Texas, the Tar Sand operations of Alberta, and the deep-water rigs here and abroad just don’t pencil-out economically at $45-a-barrel. So the shale oil wells that are up-and-running will produce for a year and there will be no new ones drilled when they peter out — which is at least 50 percent the first year and all gone after four years.

Anyway, the financial structure of the shale play was suicidal from the get-go. You finance the drilling and fracking with high-yield “junk bonds,” that is, money borrowed from “investors.” You drill like mad and you produce a lot of oil, but even at $105-a-barrel you can’t make profit, meaning you can’t really pay back the investors who loaned you all that money, a lot of it obtained via Too Big To Fail bank carry-trades, levered-up on ”margin,” which allowed said investors to pretend they were risking more money than they had. And then all those levered-up investments — i.e. bets — get hedged in a ghostly underworld of unregulated derivatives contracts that pretend to act as insurance against bad bets with funny money, but in reality can never pay out because the money is not there (and never was.) And then come the margin calls. Uh Oh….

In short, enjoy the $2.50-a-gallon fill-ups while you can, grasshoppers, because when the current crop of fast-depleting shale oil wells dries up, that will be all she wrote. When all those bonds held up on their skyhook derivative hedges go south, there will be no more financing available for the entire shale oil project. No more high-yield bonds will be issued because the previous issues defaulted. Very few new wells (if any) will be drilled. American oil production will not return to its secondary highs (after the 1970 all-time high) of 2014-15. The wish of American energy independence will be steaming over the horizon on the garbage barge of broken promises. And all, that, of course, is only one part of the story, because there is the social and political fallout to follow.

The table is set for the banquet of consequences. The next chapter in the oil story is more likely to be scarcity rather than just a boomerang back to higher prices. The tipping point for that will come with the inevitable destabilizing of Saudi Arabia, which I believe will happen this year when King Abdullah ibn Abdilaziz, 91, son of Ibn Saud, departs his intensive care throne for the gloriousJannah of virgins and feasts. Speaking of feasts, just imagine how the Islamic State (or ISIS) must be licking its chops at the prospect of sweeping over an Arabia no longer defined as Saudi! The Saudis are so spooked that they announced plans last week for a kind of super Berlin-type wall to be constructed along the northern border with Iraq. But that brings to mind a laughable Maginot Line scenario in which the masked invaders just make an end run around the darn thing. In any case, Saudi Arabia will already be disintegrating internally as competing clans and princes vie for control. And then, what will the US do? Rush in there shock-and-awe style? Bust up the joint? That’ll make things better, won’t it? (See American Sniper.)

Meanwhile, there will be plenty to contend with state-side. The next time there is a pratfall in the stock and bond markets and the TBTF banks — and there is sure to be — the rescue tricks are liable to be a whole lot more severe than the TARP, ZIRP, and QE hijinks of 2008-2015. Next time around, the federals are going to have to confiscate stuff, break promises, take away things, and rough some people up. The question is how much of this abuse will the public take? I take a certain comfort knowing how heavily armed America is. And not just the lunatic fringe. The thought of Hillary and Jeb out there beating the bushes for big money makes me laugh. They are so not going to happen. Just wait. For now, take this MLK holiday break to reflect on the fragility of our own country, and gird your loins for the week to come.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Oil Patch Ebola

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on January 20, 2015

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12 Signs That The Economy Is Really Starting To Bleed Oil Patch Jobs

The gravy train is over for oil workers.  All over North America, people that felt very secure about their jobs just a few weeks ago are now getting pink slips.  There are even some people that I know personally that this has happened to.  The economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs, and as long as the price of oil stays down at this level the job losses are going to continue.  But this is what happens when a “boom” turns into a “bust”.  Since 2003, drilling and extraction jobs in the United States have doubled.  And these jobs typically pay very well.  It is not uncommon for oil patch workers to make well over $100,000 a year, and these are precisely the types of jobs that we cannot afford to be losing.  The middle class is struggling mightily as it is.  And just like we witnessed in 2008, oil industry layoffs usually come before a downturn in employment for the overall economy.  So if you think that it is tough to find a good job in America right now, you definitely will not like what comes next.

At one time, I encouraged those that were desperate for employment to check out states like North Dakota and Texas that were experiencing an oil boom.  Unfortunately, the tremendous expansion that we witnessed is now reversing

In states like North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas, which have reaped the benefits of a domestic oil boom, the retrenchment is beginning.

“Drilling budgets are being slashed across the board,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies working in the state’s Bakken oil patch.

Smaller budgets and less extraction activity means less jobs.

Often, the loss of a job in this industry can come without any warning whatsoever.  Just check out the following example from a recent Bloomberg article

The first thing oilfield geophysicist Emmanuel Osakwe noticed when he arrived back at work before 8 a.m. last month after a short vacation was all the darkened offices.

By that time of morning, the West Houston building of his oilfield services company was usually bustling with workers. A couple hours later, after a surprise call from Human Resources, Osakwe was adding to the emptiness: one of thousands of energy industry workers getting their pink slips as crude prices have plunged to less than $50 a barrel.

These jobs are not easy to replace.  If oil industry veterans go down to the local Wal-Mart to get jobs, they will end up making only a very small fraction of what they once did.  Every one of these jobs that gets lost is really going to hurt.

And at this point, the job losses in the oil industry are threatening to become an avalanche.  The following are 12 signs that the economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs…

#1 It is being projected that the U.S. oil rig count will decline by 15 percent in the first quarter of 2015 alone.  And when there are less rigs operating, less workers are needed so people get fired.

#2 Last week, 55 more oil rigs shut down.  That was the largest single week decline in the United States in 24 years.

#3 Oilfield services provider Baker Hughes has announced that it plans to lay off 7,000 workers.

#4 Schlumberger, a big player in the energy industry, has announced plans to get rid of 9,000 workers.

#5 Suncor Energy is eliminating 1,000 workers from their oil projects up in Canada.

#6 Halliburton’s energy industry operations have slowed down dramatically, so they gave pink slips to 1,000 workers last month.

#7 Diamondback Energy just slashed their capital expenditure budget 40 percent to just $450 million.

#8 Elevation Resources plans to cut their capital expenditure budget from $227 million to $100 million.

#9 Concho Resources says that it plans to reduce the number of rigs that it is operating from 35 to 25.

#10 Tullow Oil has reduced their exploration budget from approximately a billion dollars to about 200 million dollars.

#11 Henry Resources President Danny Campbell has announced that his company is reducing activity “by up to 40 percent“.

#12 The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is projecting that 140,000 jobs related to the energy industry will be lost in the state of Texas alone during 2015.

And of course it isn’t just workers that are going to suffer.

Some states are extremely dependent on oil revenues.  Just take the state of Alaska for instance.  According to one recent news report, 90 percent of the budget of Alaska comes from oil revenue…

But oil is also a revenue source in more than two dozen states, especially for about a third of them. In Alaska, where up to 90 percent of the budget is funded by oil, new Gov. Bill Walker has ordered agency heads to start identifying spending cuts.

Sadly, it looks like oil is not going to rebound any time soon.

China, the biggest user of oil in the world, just reported that economic growth expanded at the slowest pace in 24 years.  And concerns about oversupply drove the price of U.S. crude down another couple of dollars on Monday

Oil declined about 5 percent on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 global economic forecast on lower fuel demand and key producer Iran hinted prices could drop to $25 a barrel without supportive OPEC action.

U.S. crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, settled 4.7 percent lower at $46.39 a barrel, near its intraday bottom of $46.23.

There is only one other time in history when we have seen an oil price crash of this magnitude.

That was in 2008, just before the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Many believe that we are now on the verge of the next great financial crisis.

I hope that you are getting ready.

The Clash of Civilizations

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 12, 2014

The big turnout in Paris was bracing but it also might reveal a sad fallacy of Western idealism: that good intentions will safeguard soft targets. The world war underway is not anything like the last two. Against neo-medieval barbarism, the West looks pretty squishy. All of the West is one big fat soft target.

Recriminations are flying — as if this was something like a Dancing with the Stars contest — to the effect that the Charlie Hebdo massacre should not be labeled as “France’s 9/11.” It’s a matter of proportion, they say: only 12 dead versus 2977 dead, plus, don’t forget, the shock of two skyscrapers pancaking into the morning bustle of lower Manhattan. Interesting to see how the West tortures itself psychologically into a state of neurasthenic fecklessness.

The automatic cries for “unity,” only beg the question: for or against what? The same cries went up in the USA after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots and the Eric Garner grand jury commotion, pretty much disconnected from the reality of ghetto estrangement, as if unity meant brunch together. The demonstrators quickly reminded everybody that Homey don’t play brunch. If French politicians think that some magical overnight state of fraternité will congeal between the alienated Islamic masses and the rest of the citizenry, they’re liable to be disappointed. If anything, mutual distrust is only hardening on each side, and, anyway, I think that is not the kind of unity they have in mind. Over in Germany, they don’t have to travel very far psychologically to recall the awful efficiency of Hitler in purifying the social scene according to some dark cthonic principle that remains essentially unexplained even after all these years and ten thousand books on the subject. It happened that he picked on a group that wasn’t disturbing the peace in any way; if anything, the Jews were busier than anyone contributing to Western culture, knowledge, and science.

It is at least well-understood that there are seasons in history, but they seem to have a mysterious, implacable dynamism that mere humans can only hope to ride like great waves, hoping to not get crushed. In the background of the present disturbances are not only the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, but the imminent collapse of the machinery that boosted up the greater Islamic economy of our time: the oil engine. It was oil and oil alone that allowed the populations of the Islamic world to blossom in a forbidding desert in the late 20th century, and that orgy of wealth is coming to an end. So will the ability of that region to support the populations now occupying it.

The violent outreach of Islamic wrath is actually a symptom of the region’s death throes, already obvious in the disintegration of one nation-state after another across North Africa and the Middle East. Saudi Arabia will only be one of the last dominoes to fall because it is so stoutly girded by desperate American support. The current theory is that Saudi Arabia can ride out $40-a-barrel oil because of its built-up cash reserves. But that seems mostly a schematic idea. Long before Saudi Arabia goes absolutely broke, it will face terrible internal political strife between the clans and the princes who happen not to be descendants of Muhammad ibn Saud — which represent only 15,000 of the roughly 29 million in the kingdom, and only about 2,000 of those actually in the power loop. King Abdullah is past 90 years old, a mere bit of fragile baling wire holding the whole thing together. Islamic violence is fierce as it is because the Islamic world is actually losing its mojo.

These are the stresses that are boiling over into the West these days. The West itself faces desperately terminal problems around its oil supply, too, mostly having to do with 100 years of the relationship between oil and finance in debt creation. The banking armature that is the dwelling place of all that debt is coming apart just as surely as the 20th century Muslim nation-states that were largely a creation of the West. The long war underway is a race to the bottom where the human project has to re-set the terms of a life above savagery.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Worst News Story of 2015

From the keyboard of Thomas Lewis
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And the (early) award for the worst news story — not the worst story, the worst news — of 2015 goes to……

And the (early) award for the worst news story — not the worst story, the worst news — of 2015 goes to……

First published at The Daily Impact  January 4, 2015

What? Too soon? Maybe not.

This story had precursors in 2014, just a few hints about what it could become. In the spring, a courageous BBC journalist smuggled out pictures and reports of a three-year-old uprising where no uprising can be permitted. Shortly afterward the host country sentenced to death two leaders of the uprising (presumably by the country’s favored method of public beheading followed by crucifixion). Whereupon the uprising managed a murderous bombing attack. In the Middle East they have a name for this: Tuesday.

These events did not take on the gravitas of portents because they took place in the Middle East, but because they took place in Saudi Arabia. There they posed a threat not merely to another brutal Arab dictatorship, but to the entire industrial world, which cannot function without Saudi oil. Such power over the richest countries of the world might seem enviable, but it is, as they say, no bed of roses. Crude oil is selling for about half what it did six months ago, and oil is the kingdom’s only source of income. Their budget for the coming year posits the largest deficit in its history.

The Saudis are not going to run out of money anytime soon, but strains are mounting in every direction. Its population is becoming larger and more affluent, thanks to the lavish spending of oil money, and likes its air conditioning, cars, and 30-cent-a-liter gas. So much so that it is consuming an ever larger share of the country’s oil output, which has not increased significantly since 2005. I am talking here about crude oil, taken from the ground, not the recently fabricated definition of “petroleum liquids” that makes it appear that “production” is still increasing.

So this country, buffeted by market forces, trying desperately to stamp out an insurgency in the heart of its oil-rich Eastern Province, gets the news on Wednesday that King Abdullah, 90, who has terminal lung cancer, was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and was put on a ventilator to keep him breathing. Five per cent of the value of the Saudi stock exchange vaporized. But we are assured that the succession has been arranged, all will be well, nothing can possibly go wrongwrongwrogngarn. It is simply not conceivable that the descendants, in-laws, extended family and close personal friends of (the first Saudi monarch) Ibn Saud’s 45 sons, presented with an opportunity to seize unimaginable wealth and power, will do anything other than behave.

These precursor stories probably do not qualify for the most ominous of 2014. But if the story they are pre-cursing, that is the descent of Saudi Arabia into an Arab Spring maelstrom, should become a story in 2015 then it will win the year for bad news, hands down. May as well hand over the statuette right now.

 

***

 

Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

 

 

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