Archive | January 8th, 2016

Saudi-Iranian Spat: Another Skirmish in the Oil War

© Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Saudi Arabia is a beheading paradise. But this PR nightmare is the least of all problems in an oil crisis. Once again, the heart of the matter is – what else – black gold.

So far, the House of Saud’s whole energy strategy has boiled down to shaving off its oil production no matter what it takes, even issuing bonds to cover its massive deficits.

Now the strategy has been moved one step ahead via a flagrant provocation: the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

The House of Saud believes that by stoking the flames of a Riyadh-Tehran confrontation it may raise the fear factor in the oil supply sphere, leading to higher oil prices (which it needs), while maintaining the Holy Wahhabi Grail of keeping imminent Iranian oil off the market.

From the beginning, Riyadh bet on the possibility of extra energy-related sanctions on Iran in case Tehran forcefully responded to its beheading provocation. Yet Iranians are too sophisticated to fall for such a crude tap.

Persian Gulf traders have confirmed the 2016 Saudi budget is based on an average crude oil price of only $29 per barrel, as first reported by Jadwa Investment in Riyadh.

From the House of Saud’s budget dilemma perspective, this is absolutely unsustainable. The House of Saud is the biggest OPEC oil exporter. Yet their supreme hubris is to deny Iran any leeway in exports, which will be inevitable especially in the second half of 2016. Moreover, the low oil price strategy doesn’t apply solely to Iran: it’s still part of the oil war against Russia.

Somebody though is not doing the math right in Riyadh. The Saudi low oil price strategy has been punishing Russia – the number two global oil producer – badly. The Saudis cannot possibly expect that their beheading provocation will simultaneously scotch an OPEC-Russia deal on cutting production and also lead to higher oil prices, which would mostly benefit – guess what – Iran and Russia.

Six months to destroy Russia

A case can be made that the House of Saud’s low oil price strategy has been a slow motion Wahhabi hara-kiri from the start (which, by the way, is hardly a bad thing.)

The House of Saud budget has collapsed. Riyadh is financing an unwinnable, mightily expensive war on Yemen, financing and weaponizing all manner of Salafi-jihadists in Syria, and is spending fortunes to prop up al-Sisi in Egypt against any possible Daesh (Islamic State) and/or Muslim Brotherhood offensive. As if this were not enough, internally the succession is a royal mess, with King Salman’s 30-year-old warrior-in-chief, Mohammad bin Salman, stamping his toxic mix of arrogance and incompetence on a daily basis. Predictably, Riyadh once again is following Washington’s orders.

The United States government is frantically trying to hold the oil price down to destroy the Russian economy, using their proxy Persian Gulf producers who are pumping all out. That amounts to no less than seven million barrels a day over the OPEC quota, according to Persian Gulf traders. The US government believes it can destroy the Russian economy – again – as if the clock had been turned back to 1985, when the global glut was 20 percent of the oil supply and the Soviet Union was bogged down in Afghanistan and internally bleeding to death.

Oil went down to $7.00 a barrel in 1985, and that low figure is where the US government is now trying to drive the price down. Yet today the global glut is less than three percent of the oil supply, not 20 percent as in 1985.

The surplus today is only 2.2 million barrels a day, according to Petroleum Intelligence Weekly. Iran will bring on initially around 600,000 barrels a day of new oil in 2016. That means later this year we will have a 2.8-million potential surplus.

The problem is, according to Persian Gulf traders, an annual oil depletion of seven million barrels a day, and that cannot be replaced with the collapse in drilling. What this means is that all surplus oil could be wiped out in the first or second quarters of 2016. By mid-2016, oil prices should start surging dramatically, even with additional oil from Iran.

So the US government strategy has now metastasized into trying to destroy the Russian economy before the oil price inevitably recovers. That would give the US government a window of opportunity spanning only the next six months.

How this could have been pulled off so far is a testament, once again, to the irresistible force of Wall Street manipulators using cash settlement; they are able to create a crash where there is hardly any surplus oil at all. Yet even as the Empire of Chaos frantically manipulates the oil price down, it may not go down fast enough to destroy the Russian economy.

Even Reuters was forced to admit briefly the oil surplus was less than two million barrels a day, and may even be alarmingly less than a million barrels a day before returning to the usual oil-at-an-all-time-low story. This information on the real oil surplus so far had been completely censored. It confronts head on the hegemonic US narrative of surpluses lasting forever and the imminent collapse of the Russian economy.

As for Saudi Arabia, it’s just a mere pawn in a much nastier game. Common sense now rules that it’s essentially a matter of Black Daesh (the fake “Caliphate”) and White Daesh (the House of Saud). After all, the ideological matrix is the same, beheadings included. It’s the next stage of the oil war that may well decide which Daesh will be the first to fall.

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Fake “Left” “Anti-War” Movement Calls for “Regime Change” in Syria


In Syria Petition, an Odd “Left’ Abandoned Concrete Analysis for Demagogy


It’s difficult enough for the Left to make any headway against the formidable forces arrayed against it without some of its members abandoning concrete analysis and coherent argument in favor of fantasy and appeal to emotions.

In May 2013, a group calling itself the Global Campaign for Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution promoted a petition which called for Solidarity with the Syrian Struggle for Dignity and Freedom.”

The petition listed Gilbert Achcar, Richard Seymour, Tariq Ali, Vijay Prashad, Norman Finklestein and Ilan Pape among its supporters.

Appearing to equate Islamists seeking a harsh theocratic rule in Damascus to “revolutionaries” linked to the struggles of Palestinians and opponents of neo-liberalism in the West, the petition called on the Syrian president to leave immediately and submit to a peaceful transition. One problem. The petition’s drafters failed to mention that this could only mean surrender to the rule of murderous sectarian fanatics in Damascus, with regrettable consequences for anyone who didn’t share the fanatics’ religious views. Or that the bulk of Syrians didn’t favor this outcome.

Nowhere did the petition mention:

  • Takfirism or Wahabbism;
  • Political Islam, backed by imperialist powers and their regional allies, as the driving force of the rebellion;
  • Washington’s efforts to “build” a US partner who would govern in Damascus;
  • The material support Washington provided to anti-Assad forces even in advance of the Arab Spring;
  • Constitutional changes the Syrian government made in 2012 in response to the March 2011 uprising to open political space in the country;
  • The reality that the largest Sunni fighting force in Syria was, then as now, the Syrian Arab Army;
  • The fact that Assad had commanded sufficient popular support to continue in power despite, at that point, two years of war and the concerted opposition of the world’s most formidable powers and their regional allies— hardly a feat to be expected of a government that was oppressing its people.

In place of concrete realities to engage our minds, the petitioners offered honeyed, nebulous, words to play on our emotions. We were to sign up to a romantic vision of heroic revolutionaries struggling for freedom and dignity against an evil dictator in a fairy book world where imperialism; sectarian intolerance; Saudi, Turk, Qatari and US agendas; the Syrian government’s concessions; al Qaeda; and a decades-long struggle within Syria between political Islam and secularism, didn’t exist.

Instead, they asked us to “defend the gains of the Syrian revolutionaries,” but didn’t say who the revolutionaries were or what gains they had won.

They called for “a peaceful transition of power,” but didn’t say to what.

They asked us to “support the people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria,” but didn’t say who they were or where we could find them, or what a democratic and free Syria would look like (free from what and to do what?)

They said that the rebellion in Syria was linked to “the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation,” and “the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality,” yet they didn’t say how. Was it also linked to the revolt of the southern states against the Union?

And yet while they demanded that “Bashar al-Assad leave immediately,” the Syrian government was the only organization on the ground of any significance, then as now, that (a) (with the constitutional changes of 2012), offered Syria a democratic future of multi-party parliamentary and contested presidential elections and (b) offered freedom from domination by the political agendas of outsiders, both those of the Western powers who seek a US “partner” to govern in Syria and the sectarianism of the West’s retrograde anti-democratic regional allies.

It’s as if in the middle of Operation Barbarossa—Nazi Germany’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union—that a call had been made for Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to leave immediately and arrange “a peaceful transition” so that Russia could “begin a speedy recovery toward a democratic future.” Of course, a call for a peaceful transition would have meant nothing but surrender to the Nazis and their multinational coalition of Italy, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Finland and Spain, with the consequent enslavement of the Slavs. (The United States isn’t the only country that could put together a multinational coalition.)

Likewise, it’s clear that, then as now, Assad leaving immediately would bring al Qaeda-linked organizations to power in Damascus, with carry-on massacres of populations the “revolutiCall for onaries” deemed heretics and apostates. Demanding Assad leave immediately and peacefully was a call for surrender to sectarians backed by retrograde despotisms allied to Washington—an odd way to show solidarity with the Syrian people and hardly likely to promote their freedom and dignity.

Of course, much has happened since the petition was drafted in May 2013, and some of petition’s supporters may have changed their views since, but others, including Gilbert Achcar, continue to use demagogic methods, appealing to emotion rather than reason, to authority rather than evidence, taking cover in ambiguities and romantic fantasies, while shunning concrete social, political, military and economic realities.

To anyone who insists on evidence and critical analysis, Achcar and company are a good part of the reason it’s still possible to refer to a “loony left.” For the cautious, they’re suspected of advancing a sinister political agenda under cover of promoting leftist and humanitarian concerns. Neither possibility is pleasant to contemplate.

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Tehran Accuses Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime of Airstrike on Iran’s Embassy in Yemen


Tehran accused Zio-Wahhabi regime of conducting an air strike on the Iranian embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

“Saudi Arabia bears responsibility for damaging the embassy and injuring its staff,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said as quoted by state TV channel IRIB.

A guard was allegedly injured.

“This deliberate action by Saudi Arabia is a violation of all international conventions that protect diplomatic missions,” he was quoted as saying by AFP.

Ansari added that “the Islamic Republic [of Iran] reserves the right to pursue its interests in this matter.”

#Iran FM Spoxs strongly condemns recent Saudi air attack agnst Iran’s embassy in #Sanaa says some guards are wounded

— Mehdi Sayyari (@mehdisayyari) 7 января 2016

Zio-Wahhabi led coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said the accusations would be investigated and explained that the coalition had conducted heavy air strikes against Houthi militants’ missile launchers. He added that the militants had used civilian buildings including abandoned embassies.

An Arab coalition headed by Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime has been carrying out airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen at the request of President-in-exhile Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi since late March.

#Iran says #Saudi warplanes attack its embassy in the #Yemeni capital, injuring some staff

— Warfare Worldwide (@WarfareWW) 7 января 2016

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia took a nosedive after Zio-Wahhabi regime executed 47 men including a prominent Shiite cleric on terrorism charges on January 2. Condemning the move, protesters took to the streets in Iran, the biggest Shiite country, and attacked the Zio-Wahhabi embassy. Riyadh in response severed its relations with Tehran.

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Politics, Money and Propaganda: British Public Perceptions Wrong On Most Important Issues


Misinformation, disinformation and propaganda – you are subjected to all three every single day. The problem is that the media in Britain is heavily tainted by an agenda driven by politics and money. Many of the decisions you make will be based on your perceptions of life and the way you see it.

Cognitive dissonance – is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change, basically it happens when our beliefs do not match up with our behaviors.

So, will you vote to stay in the EU at the expected “Brexit” referendum based upon immigration? Many will, indeed, in the latest poll conducted by The Independent it shows that this has been central to the debate which has been bolstered by public anxiety over the triplicity of the refugee crisis, the Paris killings and fears over acts of terrorism on home soil – all inter-related. This poll shows about 52% of the population would vote for ‘Brexit’ right now as a result.

However, it is estimated that the empirical annual probability of a UK resident dying from a preventable cause (e.g. smoking, drinking, obesity, adverse hospital events, violence etc) is 1 in 417, this being 38,000 times higher than the empirical annual probability of a UK resident being killed by a terrorist which is about 1 in 16 million.

As far as terrorism is concerned, the government and media have conducted an impressive campaign infrightening its citizens to the point of hysteria to achieve their own aims.

Statistically, you less likely to be killed by a terrorist than by a lightening strike – about 1 in 10 million of the population. Food poisoning will kill three times as many, falling off a ladder will kill five times more as will falling out of bed in the morning.

So, armed with the fact that statistically speaking you will never be killed by a terrorist, who may or may not be a refugee, then voting for Brexit on this basis is wrong. However, deep down, you may want to vote for Brexit on this basis anyway. This is called cognitive dissonance.

Part of the problem is that the average adult thinks that Britain now has 25% of its population who are immigrants and that they are a threat to our traditional way of life.

The reality is that at the last census, (the latest full data we have), there were 7.5 million foreign-born residents in the UK, corresponding to 11.9 per cent of the total population. The latest estimate shows that 4.76 million (7.7 per cent) were born outside the EU and 2.24 million (3.6 per cent) were born in another EU member state.

Don’t forget that language often confuses. Foreign born resident, non UK national and migrants can mean different things in different contexts.

In the Political sphere, the home secretary Theresa May claimed that immigration is pushing thousands out of work, undercutting wages and bringing no economic benefit to the UK. This was reported all over the establishment press.

The facts tell a different story. There are currently 31 million people employed in the UK. Of these, 27.8 million are UK nationals, 3.1 million are non-UK nationals or 10% of the total workforce.

The Home Office, Teresa May’s own department recently published a report confirming that migration was statistically insignificant to the displacement of UK nationals in the workplace. This is also supported by the fact that those out of work (in the entire working age population) but seeking employment has changed little in well over two decades, increasing by just 0.4% in that time.

The same can be said of wages. An OECD report confirms that there is no evidence that migrant workers have cut wages to UK nationals. EU nationals are statistically more likely to be in work than UK nationals and considerably less likely to be on benefits. The Office For Budget Responsibility released a reportstating that the net contribution that migrants make will have a positive effect on reducing the national debt.

The distortion of such detail does not fit the narrative of those with an agenda or it may be that we want to believe what we think is right, irrespective of the facts. So, now you know that you won’t be killed by a terrorist and that he/she won’t take your job or push your wages down, Brexit makes no sense on this basis.

The facts that distort our perceptions can make us uncomfortable when we are shown evidence that contradicts our beliefs.

For instance – the wealth that the top 1% own, we massively overestimated. The average guess of the proportion of UK wealth of the 1% is a staggering 59% when the actual figure is 23%. It’s a headline grabber for sure. As it turns out, Britain is most wrong on this out of 33 countries in a recent Ipsos Mori Poll.

When the public were asked what percentage they think the wealthiest 1% should own, they say on average 20%, only slightly below the actual figure.

Obesity is another subject we have wrong. It’s in the press because of the financial pressures being overweight causes the NHS and with headlines like “Obesity could bankrupt NHS if left unchecked” one can see the concerns.

Britons think only 44% of those aged over 20 are overweight or obese, but the actual figure is much higher at 62%. The truth is worse than our perceptions. And our perceptions may be driven by the fact that 70% of obese people think they are simply overweight.

The list of misperceptions goes on and mainly derived from misinformation and disinformation provided by the media.

  1. Teenage pregnancy: the British think one in six (16%) of all teenage girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, when the actual figure is only 3%.
  2. We think one in five British people are Muslims (21%) when the actual figure is 5% (one in twenty).
  3. Benefit fraud: the public think that £24 of every £100 of benefits is fraudulently claimed. Official estimates are that just 70 pence in every £100 is fraudulent – so the public conception is out by a factor of 34.
  4. 26 per cent of people think foreign aid is in the top three items the Government spends money on. It actually makes up just 1.1 per cent of expenditure.
  5. 29 per cent of people think more is spent on Jobseekers’ Allowance than pensions. In fact we spend 15 times more on pensions – £4.9 billion on JSA vs £74.2 billion on pensions.

The relationship between print and digital media, public opinion and government policy usually brings about distortion of the truth and is designed to point your perceptions and understandings of the world around you in one direction – a political one.

Research shows public opinion often deviates from facts on key social issues including crime, health, employment, benefit fraud and immigration – all of which are central to political ideologies.

How is it possible to develop good policy when public perceptions can be so out of shape with the evidence? And without doubt facts are often the enemy of politicians.

A good example is that public support for extending British airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria plummeted since MPs voted in favour of David Cameron’s case that rested on the existence of 70,000 moderate ground forces in Syria, since found to be completely false. Public support fell from 60% to 44% as a result. One conclusion you could make from this is that armed with the evidence, we may not have gone bombing Syria and the threat of terrorism may well have fallen.

Posted in UKComments Off on Politics, Money and Propaganda: British Public Perceptions Wrong On Most Important Issues

Syria: US State Department Confirms Planned “Timeline” “Regime Change”


[Featured image: State Department Spokesman John Kirby. Source: Wikipedia]

A “working paper” written by US diplomats envisions Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ceding power to a new government by March 2017. The State Department confirmed the document was authentic, but denied that it represented official US policy.

The key points of the policy paper were published on Wednesday by the Associated Press. It envisions an 18-month political process, starting with talks in Vienna next month and ending in Assad’s resignation next year.

According to the document, by April there would be a “security committee” composed of members of the current government and opposition groups. By May, the Syrian parliament would be dissolved and a new transitional authority established, with the mission to draft a new constitution and pass reforms. The Syrians would vote on the constitution in a referendum scheduled for January 2017. Two months later, the paper says, Assad “relinquishes presidency; inner circle departs.”

At the press conference on Wednesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby acknowledged the paper was authentic, but tried to dismiss it as a working-level document written by a staff member.

“That kind of work is done here at the State Department all the time,” Kirby said, adding that it did not represent official US policy but merely laid out a potential timeline for the political process in Syria.

“All these are targets,” Kirby said. “Our hope and expectation is that the entire 18-month process will start this month.”

Does envisioning Assad’s departure next year, rather than right away, suggest that Washington wants to avoid a power vacuum that could be exploited by Islamic State, RT’s Gayane Chichakyan asked.

While acknowledging that the US wanted to avoid a collapse of Syrian institutions, Kirby said the US policy towards the Syrian president has not changed. He cited Secretary of State John Kerry as saying that “the exact timing of his departure isn’t something that we’re fixated on.”

In December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution endorsing the political process that would set up “inclusive and non-sectarian governance” in Syria, using the 18-month timeline framework referenced in the State Department document.

Kirby’s efforts to dismiss the document, and AP’s coverage of it, as somehow irrelevant irked the agency’s chief diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee, who at one point asked: “Are your arms a little tired, [from] the straw man you put up to knock down?”

Earlier in the briefing, Lee needled Kirby over the statements about North Korea that made it sound as if the Obama administration rejected reality.

“We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear armed state. And yet it is,” Lee said. “You also say this about other things. You say you’ll never accept Crimea as a part of Russia. Yet it is.”

“Isn’t it time to recognize these things for what they are and not live in this in this illusion, or fantasy, where you pretend that things that are, are not?” Lee asked, to chuckles in the briefing room.

“The short answer is, no,” Kirby retorted, denying that Washington lived in a fantasy world. Rather, he argued, there was a difference between dealing with reality and officially acknowledging it.

Syria has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011, with fractious rebel groups backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the US demanding the ouster of President Assad. The conflict has claimed an estimated 250,000 lives and displaced millions. Russia and Iran have resisted all efforts by outside powers to determine Syria’s future, insisting that this would be a decision for the Syrians themselves.

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