TRUMP IS BEING PUSHED TO CONFLICT WITH RUSSIA AMID ESCALATING OIL WAR

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Trump Is Being Pushed To Conflict With Russia Amid Escalating Oil War
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On March 10th, Kuwait and Iraq, as well as the UAE joined Saudi Arabia in reducing oil prices. Iraq cut the official selling price for its Basrah Light crude for buyers in Asia by $5 a barrel for April shipments.
That’s less than the $6 reduction for Aramco’s comparable Arab Medium grade. Kuwait reduced its selling price to Asian customers by the same as the Saudis.
The UAE, the only major producer that still sets prices retroactively, lowered the cost of its four grades for February sales by $1.63 a barrel from January.
“Any price war to acquire the largest market share does not serve the interests of the producing countries,” Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said. His country is trying to bridge oil producers’ viewpoints to reach a deal to stabilize and rebalance markets, he said in a statement.
Iraq’s state oil-marketing company, SOMO, plans to increase exports in April, according to an unnamed person, cited by Bloomberg.
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Kuwait set its April Export Crude OSP for Asian customers at a $4.65 a barrel discount to the regional benchmark, according to a price list seen by Bloomberg. That’s 60 cents lower than Aramco’s Arab Medium and $1.45 below than Iraq’s Basrah Light to the region. Kuwait’s exports to Northwest Europe were set at a record-low of a $12.60 discount.
Meanwhile, Riyadh is continuing on its “warpath” and is about to flood Europe with crude oil at a price of about $25 per barrel. The Saudi shipments, coupled with unprecedented discounts, are turning the European oil market into a major price battlefield.
Diplomatic and OPEC sources quoted by mainstream media directly say that the ongoing Saudi-led effort to crush the oil market is a pre-planned ‘agressive campaign’ against Russia. One of the main targets is the Russian ability to sale oil to Europe. The fall of oil prices allready caused a major fall of the Russian ruble and impacted negatively the Russian economy.
Trump Is Being Pushed To Conflict With Russia Amid Escalating Oil War
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European refiners including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc, Total SA, OMV AG, Repsol SA and Cepsa SA have all received crude allocations from state-owned Saudi Aramco significantly above their normal levels, according to sources cited by Bloomberg.

The increase in volumes, known in the industry as nominations, was confirmed by Aramco to the European oil companies on Wednesday, the same people said, asking not to be named discussing private information. One of Europe’s major refiners got double its normal allocation, an unnamed source said.

Aramco cut its official selling prices by the biggest amount in more than three decades. The company made its biggest cuts for buyers in northwest Europe. An $8 a barrel reduction in most grades amounts to a direct challenge to Russia, which sells a large chunk of its flagship Urals crude in the same region.

Aramco will sell Arab Light at an unprecedented $10.25 a barrel discount to Brent in Europe.
Discounts for Russian crude immediately ballooned. Vitol Group and Trafigura Group Ltd. failed to find buyers on March 9th when they offered to sell Urals crude at the deepest discounts to a regional benchmark in almost two months.
Currently, the two countries who are suffering most from the oil war are Russia and Iran, both are also under heavy sanctions by the US. Iran’s oil sector is especially crippled owing to Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign.
In Iraq, which as above mentioned is a major oil producer, a camp housing US-led coalition troops was hit by more than a dozen Katyusha rockets. The Taji base was hit and two US marines, as well as a British soldier were killed in the attack.
“Three Coalition personnel were killed during a rocket attack on Camp Taji, Iraq, March 11. The names of the personnel are withheld pending next of kin notification, in accordance with national policies,” the statement said.
“Approximately 12 additional personnel were wounded during the attack. The attack is under investigation by the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. Camp Taji is an Iraqi base that hosts Coalition personnel for training and advising missions,” it added.
A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defense said, “We can confirm we are aware of an incident involving UK service personnel at Camp Taji, Iraq. An investigation is underway, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Iraq is a hot point in tensions between the US and Iran.

Furthermore, on March 11th, the US House of Representatives approved War Powers resolution, which would require US President Donald Trump receive Congressional approvement for any attacks launched against Iran. He is, however, likely to veto it.

Regardless, this means that if, for example, Yemen’s Houthis strike Aramco’s infrastructure again, and both Riyadh and Washington blame Iran, Trump will have less options in the military sphere and face much more political pressure if he opts such a move. So, one could say that the Washington political establishment is limiting the freedom of actions of the Trump administration against Iran, but, at the same time, keeps the window of opportunities for anti-Russian actions open.

Taking into account that recentl US threatened Russia with more sanctions (this time over the situation in Idlib) and the US mainstream media is in the state of constant anti-Russian hysteria, US ‘experts and analysis’ will easily find the ‘Russian trace’ in any escalation in the Middle East or any other place around the world. They already found that the Kremlin should be blamed for the ongoing oil prices collapse, despite Russia being one of the most affected parties. This happens amid the ongoing consitutional reform in Russia itself. Pro-Western forces inside Russia and the neo-liberal part of the Russian elites are actively trying to use this reform to destabilize the situation in the country and turn its course in what they call the ‘right direction’ (the surrender of the national interests to the global capital). These forces as well as their foreign backers are openly interested in the escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia.

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Why countries are reluctant to join U.S.-led maritime coalition

TEHRAN – The U.S.-led naval coalition to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf formally was launched in Bahrain on Thursday. But the notable point is that countries have not welcomed this plan. Only a few countries with ineffective naval power have joined the coalition.

*By Mohammad Ghaderi

On July 2019, the U.S. proposed a coalition plan to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf. Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, invited U.S. allies such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Australia to join the coalition. Although the U.S. has persuaded its allies on various occasions and even applied pressure on them to join the coalition, it was not warmly welcomed. In August, Britain joined the U.S. military coalition in the wake of a conflict with Iran over oil tanker seizures first in Gibraltar and later in the Strait of Hormuz.

Later the Zionist regime and Australia joined the coalition.

Launch of the U.S.-led marine coalition

The coalition, which reportedly aims to “protect shipping in the Persian Gulf”, was launched on Thursday. The U.S. stated that through the coalition it intends to safeguard region’s oil supply against possible threats. Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has joined the coalition along with the UEA and Saudi Arabia.

James Malloy, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, has claimed that the goal of the coalition is defensive. Malloy said the coalition will last as long as necessary.

Some European countries, including France, has not joined the coalition to avoid escalating tensions in the region. Japan has decided to dispatch its naval forces to the Strait of Hormuz independently, rather than joining the coalition.  It is said that Japan made this decision because it has an amicable relationship with Iran and does not like to be seen as an important country and power in the U.S.-led coalition.

In this regard, the London-based Raialyoum wrote that the announcement of formal launch of the U.S.-led maritime coalition to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf with the participation of only 6 countries reminds the old Arab proverb saying “the mountain was in labor but gave birth to a mouse”. Raialyoum added the limited number of countries joining the coalition reveals that the U.S. influence has been reducing not only in the Persian Gulf region but also all around the world. It seems that the current and former U.S. administrations cannot any longer form coalitions like the ones that launched wars in Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan with the participation of 30 or 60 countries.

The Arab world digital news and opinion website said that it is noteworthy that three Persian Gulf states namely Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar are absent in the coalition. They have refused to join the coalition not because they have taken a neutral stance toward U.S. controversial measures against Iran, but because they do not trust the U.S. and its current government. The source added that the U.S. government has adopted rash policies that can lead to regional and probably international war; furthermore, the coalition can be an element of “tension” not a guarantee for defense and stability.

Raialyoum stated that we do not believe these six countries – Britain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Australia, and Albania – will be able to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf because most of them, except the U.S. and Britain, do not have effective naval power.

However, the marine coalition is a dramatic and hypocritical show and the U.S. is trying to milk the three states of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain. By its presence, the U.S. only disturbs the region’s security. Washington only takes care of its interests.

The security in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf will only be achieved through the reconciliation between regional countries since they are neighbors and they cannot change their geography. The intervention of countries outside the region will only make the situation more complicated.

* Author: Mohammad Ghaderi , Tehran Times editor in chief 

His page on Twitter : @ghaderi62 – and Gmail address : m.ghaderi62@gmail.com

US Bases in the Region: The Precious Catch

By Staff

Palestinian Town Changes Name of Street from “Bahrain” to Kuwait’s “Marzouq Al-Ghanim”

June 29, 2019

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The mayor of Palestine’s Yatta in Al-Khalil (Hebron) in south of occupied West Bank changed one of his towns streets from “Bahrain” to “Marzouq Al-Ghanim”, the Speaker of Kuwait’s National Assembly, in recognition of Kuwait’s rejection of the Deal of the Century’.

A statement issued by Yatta’s municipality mentioned that upon a lot of appeals sent by the locals, the mayor Ibrahim Abu Zahra decided to change the name of the street, hailing the Kuwaiti support to the Palestinian cause.

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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Here is where all the US bases are located near Iran

The Pentagon doubled down on the deployment of its carrier strike group on Friday, saying it would beef up its Middle Eastern theatre command’s assets with additional Patriot missile defence batteries, an amphibious assault ship full of Marines and an amphibious dock ship to complement the recently deployed USS Abraham Lincoln and several nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bombers.

Iran has dismissed both Washington’s threats and President Trump’s simultaneous offer to negotiate with the country’s leadership, with a deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards saying the US was mistaken if it felt it could intimidate Tehran into talks with threats and sanctions.

Senior US officials have claimed that the troop buildup was a response to Iranian behaviour. Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan called the carrier deployment a “prudent repositioning of assets in response to indication of a credible threat” by Iranian forces. National Security Adviser John Bolton said the move was a reaction “to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” and was aimed at sending “a clear and unmistakable message to [Tehran] that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

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However, in light of the vast network of bases that the US has surrounding Iran from virtually all directions, it’s worth asking what the US’s real goal is in the present escalation. Because even without those fresh deployments, the US already has thousands of troops surrounding the Islamic Republic.

The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, whose area of responsibility includes the Middle East and North Africa, has at least 7,000 US troops at its permanent base in Bahrain. In Kuwait, meanwhile, the US Army’s Central Command has its forward command post, where some 13,000 troops are stationed.

ALSO READ  US sends B-52 bombers to Middle East to deal with Iran ‘threat’

Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates contains 5,000 plus US personnel, while Qatar’s massive Al Udeid Air Base has roughly US 10,000 troops.

Along with the bases, the US has special forces troops operating in Yemen, while Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan station thousands more troops, although some politicians in Baghdad have recently threatened to evict the estimated 5,200 troops based in their country.

Along with the bases, the US also has access to a large series of smaller ‘cooperative security locations’, also known as ‘lily pads’with 200 troops or less, as well as access to airfields and ports in countries including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt.

On Saturday, Iranian Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi brushed aside US allegations about Iran posing a threat to US forces in the Middle East, accusing the Trump administration of using “fake intelligence.”

“These are all allegations which are being produced by the same people who, in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, did the same,” Ravanchi said, likely referring to John Bolton’s role in pushing the invasion during his work as an adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Given the presence of US troops at bases in virtually every one of Tehran’s neighbours, perhaps it’s Iran’s leaders who should be the ones complaining about “credible threats” and “escalatory indications.”

Source: Sputnik

Regional Powers Partake in Iraq Summit in Blow to ‘Arab NATO’

rouhani

April 20, 2019

Iraq’s parliamentary summit has brought together the country’s neighbors in what has been described as “a display of rare regional unity”, further sidelining a US initiative to form an “Arab NATO”.

The one-day summit, hosted by Iraq’s Parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, brings together representatives from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Kuwait on Saturday.

Speaking on Friday, the young Iraqi speaker welcomed the foreign delegations, describing Baghdad as a historical center of “Arabism, Islam and peace”.

“Iraq, proud, prideful and victorious over terrorism, is honored by the presence of its neighbors in Baghdad,” he added.

His deputy, Bashir Haddad, said the summit will have a “significant” impact on cooperation related to the region’s security and stability.

He called the summit “a valuable initiative and opportunity for strategic partnerships between Iraq and its neighbors.”

“This is a positive message to all neighboring countries and the world that Iraq is determined to regain its health and return to its Arab, regional environment and assume its rightful place in the map of the balance of power,” he added.

Iran’s Parliament speaker Ali Larijani is represented by MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the former chairman of the chamber’s National Security Foreign Policy Committee.

Larijani had initially planned to take part in the summit but was unable to do so due to a conflicting work schedule, reports said.

The summit marks yet another important watershed in a recent booming of diplomatic cooperation in a region that was largely been bedeviled by bloody conflicts in recent years.

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EGYPT PULLED OUT OF U.S. EFFORTS TO FORM “ARAB NATO” TO COMBAT IRAN: REPORTS

 

Egypt Pulled Out Of U.S. Efforts To Form "Arab NATO" To Combat Iran: Reports

IMAGE: eipss-eg.org

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14.04.2019

Egypt pulled out of US and Saudi Arabia’s effort to form an anti-Iranian “Arab NATO,” Israeli media reported citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

The country told the US and other participants in the Middle East Security Alliance, or MESA ahead of a meeting on April 7th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

One of the anonymous sources said Cairo did not send a delegation to the meeting, the latest gathering held to advance the U.S.-led effort to bind Sunni Muslim Arab allies into a security, political and economic pact to counter Shi’ite Iran.

An Arab source also said that this came as a disappointment:

“We all want Egypt to be a part of an Arab NATO,” said the source, “especially as it has the largest army of any Arab nation, and because it carries importance.”

The reasons behind the decision, according to the sources, is that Egypt doesn’t wish to harm its relations with Iran, as well as it doesn’t believe that US President Donald Trump would be elected for a second term. If Trump is gone that jeopardizes the entire “Arab NATO” idea since the next POTUS may decide not to follow through.

On April 9th, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi visited the US and met with Donald Trump. Trump said that they spoke of security issues, but the Arab NATO nor Iran were mentioned in the press conference following the meeting.

Both leaders praised the warm relations between the countries, which could presumably be spoiled if the reports of Egypt giving up efforts are true.

In addition to the US and Saudi Arabia, the MESA proposed participants include the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Jordan.

Two anonymous sources also told Al Jazeera that the project would be moving forward and that Egypt would be pressured into not revoking its membership. The project was initially proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2017, and was perpetuated by US President Donald Trump.

The aim of the Trump administration with the project is to form a a new security body comprising Sunni Middle Eastern countries that would be geared toward countering Shiite Iran’s ‘regional adventurism’. Reportedly, MESA member-states would seek deeper cooperation in the realms of missile defense, military training and counter-terrorism, while strengthening broader political and economic ties.

“It would serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism and will bring stability,” a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council asserted in reference to the potential association.

“It’s not a new project. However, its implementation is what matters,” said Qassem Qaseer, a Lebanese political analyst. He confirmed that the US has been working with Arab states for a while now to form such a body, noting that “the issue remains with the different agendas and political approach of its member of states.”

Qaseer said that the Arab countries don’t agree on more than one critical issue, pointing out that the Arab NATO is still an idea with no structure.

“They aim to pressure Iran on the ground by such initiative, although, they need to make it a reality first,” Qaseer said.

A Saudi political analyst, Sulaiman al-Oqaily, also said that there must be one strategy among the Arab nations that form the alliance, as well as a clear target in order for such an endeavor to succeed.

Al-Oqaily claimed that there must be one united Arab bloc that has agreed that the “Arab NATO” would protect the Arab world from all kind of threats and security challenges. “Its members’ motives and determinants have to be the same.”

Al-Oqaily says that the sectarianism with which Iran targets the Middle East is more dangerous than Israel.

“Iran is taking advantage of its culture and religious links to the Arab world to expand there and destroy it. Israel can’t violate the Arab society like Iran, but through its intelligence services.”

Between November 10th and 13th, 2018, Egypt hosted the Shield of the Arabs 1 military exercise, with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan.

Egyptian military spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai back then said the exercises were part of Egypt’s efforts to enhance military cooperation with other Arab countries but declined to speculate on whether they could evolve into some sort of a military alliance. 

Egypt on the other hand, appears to have stable relations with Iran currently.

Iran hailed the reports of Egypt giving up on the efforts. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was cited by the IRNA News Agency, praising the possible decision.

He said that it wasn’t yet confirmed, and Iran was examining whether it was true, but if it was confirmed it would be “welcomed.”

“Egypt is an important and powerful country both in the Arab and in the Muslim world that can play a key role in creating peace, stability and security in the West Asia region,” said Qasemi.

He said that Egypt can exercise realism to help foster unity among Muslim countries and bring them closer together.

Qasemi expressed hope that Egypt, ‘as an undeniable power of Arab world’, can carry out its historical duty in the most sensitive conditions of the region.

In addition the decision, if it were true, would help foster better relations in the region and assist in fighting terrorism, provide security and sustainable stability, and give a boost to mutual understanding and multilateral cooperation.

Qasemi also expressed Iran’s doubt that the Arab NATO endeavor would be successful, arguing that NATO was founded in Western world ‘under certain historical and geographical conditions, based on a series of certain values and necessities and even very certain commonalities’ which is not likely to be copied in the Arab world.

Egypt’s relations with Russia also appear to be on the rise. Russia is a key partner of Iran, especially in Syria.

On March 18thRussian outlet Kommersant reported that Russia had inked a $2 billion contract for the delivery of 20 fighter jets to Egypt.

The contract was signed at the end of 2018 and delivery of the aircraft, as well as weapons for the planes, will begin as early as 2020-21.

Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) said that no contracts for aircraft supply were signed in the second half of 2018. So the report may be false.

Regardless, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on April 9th warned that Egypt would be subject to US sanctions if it did, in fact, purchase the Russian Su-35 fighter jets.

“We have made clear that systems were to be purchased that… would require sanctions on the regime,” Pompeo told the Senate Committee on Appropriations. “We have received assurances from them, they understand that, and I am very hopeful they will decide not to move forward with that acquisition.”

Earlier, on October 17th, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also signed a strategic cooperation treaty designed to increase trade, military, and other ties between their two nations.

Putin said the talks encompassed “the whole spectrum of bilateral relations as well as key international and regional problems.”

He added that he and Sisi discussed expanding arms trade and military ties, pointing out that Russian and Egyptian paratroopers were conducting military maneuvers in Egypt.

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