In a desperate bid to survive its economic meltdown, Venezuela is lobbying other OPEC members to agree to steeper oil production cuts, a move that would likely lead to higher oil prices. Venezuelan officials have reached out to their counterparts in Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia to press them on more collective action, according to Argus Media. If there was enough interest, the next step would be an ‘extraordinary meeting,’ which would weigh the option of cutting deeper. The rumors about deeper OPEC cuts have been floating around since June, when oil prices collapsed into the low-$40s. The markets have grown deeply pessimistic about the health of the oil market, and doubt the OPEC cuts will balance the market by the end of the compliance period in March 2018. But the behind-the-scenes effort from Venezuelan officials is notable, if only because the South American OPEC members was one of the earliest and most aggressive supporters of the original deal to reduce output. In 2016, for months the more powerful members of the cartel rebuffed Venezuelan pleas, but in the end they agreed to reductions in November after oil prices continued to wallow below $50 per barrel.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 19, 2017.
U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently admitted that America’s official foreign policy includes a regime-change operation in Iran. The CIA has created an office for this sole purpose, tasking Michael D’Andrea – also known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike – with leading this operation. Iran just had an election in May, and voter turnout was as high as 70 percent. Even prisoners were allowed to vote, something so-called moderate democratic countries like New Zealand disallow. In contrast, voter turnout in the 2016 U. S. elections was around 58 percent, and support for Donald Trump’s impeachment is now higher than support for his presidency. Though Iran is hardly democratic by Western standards given the stringent requirements for becoming a political candidate in the first place, it is still vastly more democratic than most of America’s closest allies in the region. According to a U. S. State Department document: ‘The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the Al Saud family… The following significant human rights problems were reported: no right to change the government peacefully; torture and physical abuse; poor prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention; denial of fair and public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system; political prisoners; restrictions on civil liberties such as freedoms of speech (including the Internet), assembly, association, movement, and severe restrictions on religious freedom; and corruption and lack of government transparency. Violence against women and a lack of equal rights for women, violations of the rights of children, trafficking in persons, and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity were common. The lack of workers’ rights, including the employment sponsorship system, remained a severe problem.’ [emphasis added]
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 21, 2017.
Trump’s ongoing spat with Iran escalated on Tuesday, when Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the US president’s warning to Iran to stop its missile tests, saying the new U. S. president had shown the “real face” of American corruption. “We are thankful to (Trump) for making our life easy as he showed the real face of America,” Khamenei said according to his website. He made the remarks in an address to the commanders of the Army Air Force on the verge of the Islamic Revolution’s victory anniversary which falls on February 10 this year. “During his election campaign and after that, he confirmed what we have been saying for more than 30 years about the political, economic, moral and social corruption in the U. S. ruling system,” he added. It is unclear if Trump’s domestic opponents will be quick to agree with the Iranian. Provocatively, the Supreme Leader once again alleged that it was the US that created ISIS: “The new U. S. president says Iran should thank Obama! Why?! Should we thank him for [creating] ISIS, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, or the blatant support for the 2009 sedition in Iran? He was the president who imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian nation; of course, he did not achieve what he desired. No enemy can ever paralyze the Iranian nation.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 7, 2017.
Even though Trump has said he won’t pursue a criminal investigation of Hillary’s email situation, her past demons just won’t seem to fade quietly into the night. One federal case that is still open was filed by the mothers of the Benghazi soldiers who claim Hillary intentionally lied to them to progress a convenient political narrative and subsequently attacked their character when that narrative was revealed to be completely fabricated. While Hillary has requested that the lawsuit be dropped, the Plaintiffs’ lawyers have blasted the request saying that it would be just another “special favor” to the “political elite.” Per WND:
Lawyers for twice-failed Oval Office aspirant Hillary Clinton have asked a federal court in Washington, D. C., to dismiss a lawsuit over her statements as secretary of state about the Benghazi terror attack that left four Americans dead. The plaintiffs are arguing the case should to go trial because she doesn’t deserve special treatment as a member of the ‘political elite.’ “Plaintiffs respectfully request that the court rule on defendant Clinton’s motion in a politically neutral fashion, as defendant Clinton, like everyone else before the court, is not above the law,’ the filing states.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 12, 2016.
As we move into the final month prior to this year’s presidential election, the tempo of dramatic world events and developments that are breaking daily is mind-boggling. Every single day we are seeing more outrageously desperate actions on the part of the globalists and their US government minions. Among the latest unfolding developments this week all fast tracking towards world war against Russia is NATO’s violation of international law deploying AWACS (Airborne Radar Warning and Control system) in Syria despite only Syria and Russia possessing the legal right to control the embattled country’s airspace. With both US and Turkish boots on the ground in northern Syria and US-led coalition airstrikes regularly invading the sovereign nation’s airspace, recently targeting Syrian soldiers andplans to kill more, along with former acting CIA director Mike Morell’s recent call to begin killing Russian soldiers, the latest warpath rant comes from Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley who is now threatening Russia (as well as China and Iran) with nuclear war. Spoken just like a true grade school bully on a playground, he boasts, ‘We will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before!’ This is the kind of moronic leadership that rises to the top of the Empire food chain? I’m afraid so. God help us when his most likely next commander-in-chief is the warmongering bulldog herself Hillary Clinton who’s not any more civilized nor humane. She’s already made it very clear that any real or perceived cyberspace attack on America coming from anywhere in the world constitutes an act of war and a military response against the cyber-perpetrators’ country. After already vowing to bomb Iran and with her constant accusations blaming Putin for everything gone wrong in her miserable life, including exposing her DNC corruption scandal responsible for rigging her presidential election, she is also all but promising to launch World War III against nuclear powered Russia. Incisive insider Paul Craig Roberts and even Putin have both said so. The neocon insanity that she represents is committed to perpetrating both suicidal and genocidal mass murder. With a total of 7,100 US nuclear warheads as of August 2016 and an estimate reported two years ago of 2,150 operationally deployed nukes, America could destroy itself four times over while Russia’s 7,300 nuclear weapons would likely carry the same tremendous overkill power. When we’re all dead, it hardly matters who has what? As the Benghazi ringleader who gave the stand down order that sealed the fate of four murdered Americans would say,’What difference does it make?’ The sheer madness in control of our planet right now actually believes the elite can simply hunker down in their underground luxury bunkers, take a long nuclear winter’s nap and a few years later emerge like Rip Van Winkle unscathed in their grandiose fairy tale. Talk about madness!
The unrelenting urge among American politicians to keep punishing Iran – or more precisely, to be seen supporting steps with that objective – continues to work against sensible statecraft and U. S. interests in multiple respects. One of those respects concerns how measures taken by the United States affect political competition within Iran. Here’s the current background to questions of U. S. policy toward Iran. The most important development in recent years regarding such policy – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear activity – has been in effect for over a year. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which does the detailed monitoring of the Iranian program, Iran is fully in compliance with its obligations under the agreement. Those in the United States who have opposed any agreement with Iran all along continue to seek any possible basis for accusing Iran of violations. One of the most recent such accusations concerned some issues of implementation that opponents described as ‘secret exceptions’ granted to Iran. They were in fact not that but rather were typical of the detailed questions that inevitably arise in implementation of any agreement this extensive.
VIOLENTLY INTERVENING IN the affairs of other countries has brought the United States much grief over the last century. We are hardly the only ones who do it. The club of interventionist nations has a shifting membership. During the current round of Middle East conflict, two new countries have joined: Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Both have succumbed to the imperial temptation. Both are paying a high price. They are learning a lesson that Americans struggle to accept: Interventions have unexpected consequences and often end up weakening rather than strengthening the countries that carry them out. Turkey’s long intervention in Syria has failed to bring about its intended result, the fall of President Bashar Assad. Instead it has intensified the Syrian conflict, fed a regional refugee crisis, set off terrorist backlash, and deeply strained relations between Turkey and its NATO allies. As this blunder has unfolded, Saudi Arabia has also been waging war outside its territory. Its bombing of neighboring Yemen was supposed to be a way of asserting regional hegemony, but it has aroused indignant condemnation. The bombing campaign has placed Saudi Arabia under new scrutiny, including more intense focus on its role in promoting global terror, which the Saudi royal family has managed to keep half-hidden for years. Turkey and Saudi Arabia intervened in foreign conflicts hoping to establish themselves as regional kingmakers. Both miscalculated. They overestimated their ability to secure quick victory and failed to weigh the strategic costs of failure or stalemate. If the Turks and Saudis had studied the history of American interventions, they would have been more prudent. We know the sorrows of empire. From Iran to Cuba to Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, the legacy of our interventions continues to haunt us. Ambitious powers, however, continue to ignore the stark lesson that American history teaches. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the latest to repeat our mistake. It is the same mistake that has undermined many nations and empires. They overestimated their ability to shape events in foreign lands. Now they are paying for their delusional overreach.
Three top Democratic National Committee (DNC) officials have stepped down in the wake of the email scandal that has already forced the ouster of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. CEO Amy Dacey, communications director Luis Miranda, and chief financial officer (CFO) Brad Marshall all resigned on Tuesday after facing scrutiny for emails that critics say showed favoritism toward Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the presidential primaries. Marshall was particularly criticized for suggesting questioning Sanders’ religion to sow dislike of him among the public. Interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile apologized on Tuesday for what she called ‘insensitive and inappropriate emails.’ Politico reports:
Where are you from?’ the elderly man asked politely, as my wife and I strolled through his small Iranian village in early May. ‘America,’ I answered. ‘Wonderful,’ he said, grabbing my shoulders and giving me the traditional three kisses on my cheeks. ‘I am so glad you are here.’ Then he asked, ‘But why does your government hate us so much?’ I am not shy about criticizing US government policies – when I’m home in America. But, when I’m abroad, I tend to get defensive about my country. So, I muttered something about the importance of people of different nations getting to know each other independent of their politicians, and turned our conversation to the history of his ancient town. Demonization of Iran runs wide and deep in our mainstream politics. But his question – asked of us by many other ordinary Iranians happy to meet American visitors – deserves a better response. Not so much to explain our foreign policy to Iranians, but to ourselves. Demonization of Iran runs wide and deep in our mainstream politics. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tell us that Iran is the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism, aimed at taking over the whole Middle East, if not the world (this echoes the State Department, which in its recently released annual reportcalls Iran the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism). Both have declared themselves ready and eager to ‘strike’ and ‘obliterate’ Iran. Republican Senator Ted Cruz says flatly that Iran intends to launch a nuclear attack against the United States. Mike Huckabee and Benjamin Netanyahu, who must be considered an American as well as an Israeli politician, say that Iran is preparing the ovens for another holocaust of the Jews. In 2013, when there was no evidence that Iran was building a nuclear bomb, Vice President Joe Biden announced that – just in case – ‘all options, including military force, are on the table.’
After buying as much crude as they could in the first quarter because of the low price of oil, Asian refiners are starting to cut back on buying crude, as the region is now oversupplied with crude and refined products. A poll by Reuters of 61 economists found that economic growth in China dropped to 6.6 percent in the second quarter, the lowest level in 7 years. Under normal conditions, this time of the year Asian refiners would have boosted utilization rates starting in July in order to meet increased demand for gasoline and diesel, which climbs in the summer season. But because of the crude acquisitions in the first quarter, there is more than enough to meet demand, which is another reason they’re cutting back on runs. A final factor is while oil has pulled back over the last couple of months, it’s still a lot higher from February lows of just over $26 per barrel. That has shrunk margins, which is cutting back on profits for the refineries. Together this has lowered Asian demand, with some companies in the Middle East lowering prices to generate more interest. Combined with an increase in oil rigs in the U. S., this could put pressure on oil prices going forward as shale production slowly ramps up. Consequently, the price of oil will probably remain level, and possibly test the $43 mark or lower. Add to this the increase in oil from Nigeria, Libya and Canada, along with added supply from Iran and Saudi Arabia, and it’s setting up a scenario where supply could exceed demand once again, resulting an increase in inventory. Asian slowdown Most of us are aware Asia, and China in particular, has been experiencing an economic slowdown. The 6.6 percent growth rate in China may be even more optimistic than warranted, but it does confirm the growth trajectory of China is flattening, and with it the rest of Asia.
In a move that threatens to cost major US airplane manufacturer Boeing $25 billion, the House of Representatives has tacked an amendment on to their latest spending bill which would ban all civilian aircraft sales to Iran under any circumstances. Though the Congressmen pushing the bill presenting it as aimed at presenting Iran from acquiring aircraft ‘for military purposes,’ the amendment forbade the Office of Foreign Asset Control to license any sales of any aircraft.
Hillary Clinton’s recent foreign policy speech was an attack on Donald Trump but was also a reminder that Clinton is a deeply flawed and worrisome candidate. Her record as Secretary of State was one of the worst in modern U. S. history; her policies have enmeshed America in new Middle East wars, rising terrorism and even a new Cold War with Russia. Of the three leading candidates, only Bernie Sanders has the sound judgment to avoid further war and to cooperate with the rest of the world. Clinton is intoxicated with American power. She has favored one war of choice after the next: bombing Belgrade (1999); invading Iraq (2003); toppling Qaddafi (2011); funding Jihadists in Syria (2011 till now). The result has been one bloodbath after another, with open wounds until today fostering ISIS, terrorism, and mass refugee flows. In her speech, Clinton engaged in her own Trump-like grandiose fear mongering: ‘[I]f America doesn’t lead, we leave a vacuum – and that will either cause chaos, or other countries will rush in to fill the void. Then they’ll be the ones making the decisions about your lives and jobs and safety – and trust me, the choices they make will not be to our benefit.’ This kind of arrogance – that America and America alone must run the world – has led straight to overstretch: perpetual wars that cannot be won, and unending and escalating confrontations with Russia, China, Iran and others that make the world more dangerous. It doesn’t seem to dawn on Clinton that in today’s world, we need cooperation, not endless bravado.
On June 2, a few days before the California primary, Hillary Clinton gave up trying to compete with Bernie Sanders on domestic policy. Instead, she zeroed in on the soft target of Donald Trump’s most ‘bizarre rants’ in order to present herself as experienced and reasonable. Evidently taking her Democratic Party nomination for granted, she is positioning herself as the perfect candidate for hawkish Republicans. Choosing to speak in San Diego, home base of the U. S. Pacific Fleet, on a platform draped with 19 American flags and preceded by half an hour of military marching music, Hillary Clinton was certain of finding a friendly audience for her celebration of American ‘strength’, ‘values’ and ‘exceptionalism’. Cheered on by a military audience, Hillary was already assuming the role to which she most ardently aspires: that of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Whenever Hillary speaks, one must look for the lies. The biggest lies in this speech were lies of omission. No mention of her support for the invasion of Iraq, no mention of the disaster she wrought in Libya, no mention of her contribution to pursuing endless death and destruction in the Middle East. But she also lied in claiming partial credit for the Iran nuclear deal, which she had tended to block, and most profoundly in presenting herself as a champion of diplomacy. As Secretary of State, she blocked diplomacy that would have prevented or ended conflict, most notoriously concerning Libya, where even senior U. S. military officers were told to cut off their contacts with Gaddafi agents seeking a peaceful compromise.
Creating an International Islamist Army: Casey, BCCI, and the Creation of al-Qaeda The other most significant case in which the CIA became a front for sanctioned violence was CIA Director William Casey’s use of the CIA in the 1980s to promote his own plans for Afghanistan. Casey’s Afghan initiatives aroused the concern of the CIA’s professional operatives and analysts, including his deputy directors, Bobby Ray Inman and John McMahon.(35) But this did not deter Casey from making high-level decisions about the Afghan campaign outside regular channels when meeting in secret with foreigners. One man Casey dealt with in this fashion was Agha Hasan Abedi, a close adviser to General Zia of Pakistan and, more important, the head of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI): Abedi helped arrange Casey’s sojourns in Islamabad and met with the CIA director during visits to Washington. Typically, Abedi would stay in a hotel and Casey would go to his suite. The two men, who met intermittently over a three-year period, would spend hours talking about the war in Afghanistan, the Iran-Contra arms trades, Pakistani politics, and the situation in the Persian Gulf. (36) Members of Senator John Kerry’s staff, who investigated this relationship, concluded that Casey in his dealings with Abedi may have been acting not as CIA director but as an adviser to President Reagan, so that his actions were’undocumented, fully deniable, and effectively irretrievable.’ (37)(Casey’s dealings with BCCI may not have been at arm’s length: the weapons pipeline to Afghanistan allegedly involved funding through a BCCI affiliate in Oman, in which Casey’s close friend and business associate Bruce Rappaport had a financial interest. (38)
If the oil market needed a theme song for now, it might turn to the one where Taylor Swift nervously sings: ‘Are we out of the woods yet?’ A slump in U. S. production, unexpected cuts in output from Nigeria to Colombia and rising gasoline demand have helped drive a major rally since mid-February. As investors boost their bullish bets, analysts from UBS Group AG to Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. see pitfalls ahead. The global crude glut has spread to diesel and will threaten gasoline after the peak summer driving season. Unplanned outages may be resolved in coming months, boosting supplies as Iran seeks to regain market share andSaudi Arabia defends its turf. Demand is ‘underwhelming’ in emerging markets, says Morgan Stanley. Goldman Sachs warns U. S. output may rebound if prices rally too quickly. ‘Oil fundamentals are improving but the market is still apprehensive,’ said Ehsan Ul-Haq, a senior consultant at KBC Advanced Technologies in London. ‘Only when refiners start complaining about the lack of supply will we see a sustainable recovery.’
China, the world’s second-biggest crude consumer, may be poised for another increase in imports after the number of supertankers bound for the Asian country’s ports rose to a 16-month high amid signs it’s stockpiling. There were 83 headed to China, the most since December 2014, according to a ship-tracking snapshot compiled by Bloomberg on Friday. Assuming standard cargo sizes, they would be able to deliver about 166 million barrels. China is hoarding crude at the fastest pace in at least a decade, filling inventories at a time when oil futures remain about 60 percent below where they were just two years ago. The nation added 787,000 barrels a day to stockpiles in the first quarter, the most for the period since at least 2004 when Bloomberg started calculations based on customs data. Its imports climbed in March from countries including Iran, Venezuela and Brazil.
This week, SU-24 fighter-bombers buzzed a U. S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea. The Russian planes carried no missiles or bombs. Message: What are you Americans doing here? In the South China Sea, U. S. planes overfly, and U. S. warships sail inside, the territorial limits of islets claimed by Beijing. In South Korea, U. S. forces conduct annual military exercises as warnings to a North Korea that is testing nuclear warheads and long-range missiles that can reach the United States. U. S. warships based in Bahrain confront Iranian subs and missile boats in the Gulf. In January, a U. S. Navy skiff ran aground on an Iranian island. Iran let the 10 U. S. sailors go within 24 hours. But bellicose demands for U. S. retaliation had already begun. Yet, in each of these regions, it is not U. S. vital interests that are threatened, but the interests of allies who will not man up to their own defense duties, preferring to lay them off on Uncle Sam. And America is beginning to buckle under the weight of its global obligations.
Global military spending increased to $1.7 trillion in 2015, with the U. S. being the biggest spender by a wide margin. A new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Instituteshows that military expenditures across the globe climbed by 1 percent from the previous year, the first such increase since 2011. The growth was driven by spending in Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Oceania, and some states in the Middle East, according to the study. Overall, military expenditures were equal to 2.3 percent of the global gross domestic product. The data is culled from various sources, including a questionnaire that is sent out annually to national governments. Some countries, such as China, do not participate and estimates are used. A handful of countries, including Cuba and Uzbekistan, are excluded due to a lack of trustworthy data. The report attributes the uptick in spending to a number of complex conflicts currently playing out around the globe, including: the battle against the Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria; Chinese expansion in the South China Sea; the Saudi-led war in Yemen; heightened fears of Iran’s military; and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued support of separatists in Ukraine.
OPEC crude production rose in March as Iranian output climbed to the highest level in almost four years. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries increased production by 64,000 barrels to 33.09 million a day last month, according to a Bloomberg survey of oil companies, producers and analysts. The group set aside its output target of 30 million barrels a day at its Dec. 4 meeting in Vienna. Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Qatar tentatively agreed on Feb. 16 to cap production at January levels. They’ll meet with other countries, both in and out of OPEC, in Doha on April 17. ‘Talk is cheap,’ said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. ‘It’s hard to be really bullish about the oil market when production keeps going up. The OPEC output totals are a little reminder that we’re still in the midst of a massive glut.’
There are numerous tactics available to those who aim to make problems worse while pretending to solve them, but misdirection is always a favorite. The reason to want to make problems worse is that problems are profitable – for someone. And the reason to pretend to be solving them is that causing problems, then making them worse, makes those who profit from them look bad. In the international arena, this type of misdirection tends to take on a farcical aspect. The ones profiting from the world’s problems are the members of the US foreign policy and military establishments, the defense contractors and the politicians around the world, and especially in the EU, who have been bought off by them. Their tactic of misdirection is conditioned by a certain quirk of the American public, which is that it doesn’t concern itself too much with the rest of the world. The average member of the American public has no idea where various countries are, can’t tell Sweden from Switzerland, thinks that Iran is full of Arabs and can’t distinguish any of the countries that end in -stan. And so a handy trick has evolved, which amounts to the following dictum: ‘Always attack the wrong country.’
Need some examples? After 9/11, which, according to the official story (which is probably nonsense) was carried out by ‘suicide bombers’ (some of them, amusingly, still alive today) who were mostly from Saudi Arabia, the US chose to retaliate by attacking Saudi ArabiaAfghanistan and Iraq.