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.
Goldman, which has been pushing for higher oil prices with seemingly daily bullish research reports for the past month, and which underwrote the last Saudi Arabian bond issue and is expected to also manage the Aramco IPO (explaining the bank’s conflict of interest), released a note commeting on the latest development in the oil market, which sent the price of crude higher by 3% after Saudi and Russia oil minister agreed to extend the OPEC production cuts by another 9 months through the end of Q1 2018. Specifically, Goldman writes that “today’s announcement will likely further extend the oil price rebound started last week on decent stock draws and low positioning, although the rally so far today has remained modest compared to the move that occurred last year when the OPEC cuts were first announced.” Even so, Goldman’s oil analyst Damien Courvalin had some caveats. Specifically, he said that for the strategy to work, however, two things have to take place: compliance needs to remain high and long-term oil prices need to remain low to prevent shale producers from ramping up investment significantly more. In fact, an extension of the cuts should go hand in hand with guidance of future production increases by low cost producers, in our view, with an already notable emphasis by Saudi and others that oil prices will likely remain in a $45-55/bbl long-term range, in line with our forecasts. This leaves us reiterating our 3Q17 $57/bbl Brent price forecast and, with an increasingly likely extension of the cuts, raises our confidence that the oil market will shift into backwardation in 3Q17. His full note below: Saudi and Russia commit to a 9-month extension of oil production cuts Saudi Arabia and Russia announced today, May 15, that they had reached an agreement to extend their oil output cuts for another nine months, through Mar-18. This announcement comes ahead of the scheduled May 25 meeting of OPEC members. Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak further pledged in a joint statement “to do whatever it takes” to reduce global inventories to their five-year average. In our view, this commitment to a longer than expected cut by the two largest participants of the output deal significantly increases the likelihood that all participants will agree to such an extension, with the longer duration likely helping to achieve high compliance through 2017.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 15, 2017.
History shows how the United States has staged dozens of violent coups worldwide since the end of WWII. Here the CIA will simply install its own compliant puppet leader in order to better streamline US interests with those of the target nation. This practice was not only confined to nation states, however, as we can see with the out-going UN Secretary General. The whole basis of the UN charter was to avoid the kind of undeclared wars of aggression suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany. Back in October, 21WIRE’s Vanessa Beeleyexplained: ‘To compare Saudi Arabia’s belligerent actions in Yemen to Nazi Germany’s undeclared wars of aggression prior to WWII is no exaggeration. In fact, one could make the argument that this Saudi-US joint venture is much worse, and a far more dangerous precedent. Likewise, the failure of a corrupt UN (who effectively sold Saudi Arabia its seat on at the head of the UN Human Rights Council ), led by an impotent Secretary General in Ban-ki Moon, to censure Saudi Arabia for its flagrant violation of international law, the Nuremberg Principles and the entire Geneva Convention content and implied framework – leaves the UN in the exact same position as the League of Nations in 1938.’ Now that US puppet Ban-Ki Moon is finally on his way out, we can see the true scope of the corruption he’s presided over – and the irreparable damage he’s inflicted on this international institution…
Back in October, Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group Corp., announced the creation of the SoftBank Vision Fund, a UK-based technology fund, with a $45 billion capital commitment form the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The initial press release for the Vision Fund announced the company expected to invest at least $25 billion over the next 5 years and said that overall funding could reach $100 billion. Since Donald Trump won the US presidential election in November, Mr. Son has been actively courting the president-elect, by vowing to invest as much as $50bn in American start-ups…something the pair happily announced in the lobby of Trump tower back in December. Masa (SoftBank) of Japan has agreed to invest $50 billion in the U. S. toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs…. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 5, 2017.
Following last week’s report that Saudi Arabia is starting to apply pressure on the Trump administration by hinting it could move the Aramco IPO away from New York to some still undeteremined venue due to concerns the recently passed Sept 11 law could make business in the US problematic, on Sunday Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he has been lobbying US legislators to change a law allowing victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue the kingdom. According to AFP, Adel al-Jubeir told reporters he had returned from an extended stay in the United States, which was partly “to try to persuade them that there needs to be an amendment of the law”, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). In September, the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the JASTA. While 15 of the 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudi, Riyadh continues to deny any ties to the plotters who killed nearly 3,000 people, and is worried disclosures in court could lead to material complications about conducting business in America. “We believe the law, that curtails sovereign immunities, represents a grave danger to the international system,” Jubeir said at a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2016.
One day after Julian Assange officially revealed for the first time that the source of hacked Podesta and DNC emails in Wikileaks’ possession is not Russia, in the second excerpt from the John Pilger Special, to be broadcast by RT on Saturday Julian Assange accuses Hillary Clinton of misleading Americans about the true scope of Islamic State’s support from Washington’s Middle East allies. As previously reported, in an August 17, 2014 email made public WikiLeaks last month, Hillary Clinton, who had served as secretary of state until the year before, urges John Podesta, then an advisor to Barack Obama, to ‘bring pressure’ on Qatar and Saudi Arabia, ‘which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical Sunni groups.’ “I think this is the most significant email in the whole collection,’ Assange, whose whistleblowing site released three tranches of Clinton-related emails over the past year, told Pilger in the interview. ‘All serious analysts know, and even the US government has agreed, that some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIS and funding ISIS, but the dodge has always been that it is some ‘rogue’ princes using their oil money to do whatever they like, but actually the government disapproves. But that email says that it is the government of Saudi Arabia, and the government of Qatar that have been funding ISIS.’ As recounted by RT, Assange and Pilger, who sat down for their 25-minute interview at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where the whistleblower has been a refugee since 2012, also talked about the conflict of interest between Clinton’s official post, her husband’s nonprofit, and the Middle East officials, whose stated desire to fight terrorism may not have been sincere.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 4, 2016.
Summary: US Congress, first the Senate and then the House, humiliated the president when it voted on Wednesday to override Obama for the first time in his eight-year tenure, as the House rejected a veto of legislation allowing families of terrorist victims to sue Saudi Arabia. The House easily cleared the two-thirds threshold with a 348-77 vote to push back against the veto. The Senate voted 97-1 in favor of the override earlier in the day, with only Democratic Leader Harry Reid voting to sustain the president’s veto. ‘We can no longer allow those who injure and kill Americans to hide behind legal loopholes denying justice to the victims of terror,’ said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). The White House immediately slammed lawmakers following the Senate vote. ‘I would venture to say that this is the single most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done possibly since 1983,’ press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One, an apparent reference to a 95-0 vote to override President Ronald Reagan that year. The override was widely expected in both chambers, with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle characterizing it as an act of justice for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 28, 2016.
Summary: The US Congress, first the Senate and then the House, humiliated the president when it voted on Wednesday to override Obama for the first time in his eight-year tenure, as the House voted 348-77 to reject a veto of legislation allowing families of terrorist victims to sue Saudi Arabia. The House easily cleared the two-thirds threshold to push back against the veto. The Senate voted 97-1 in favor of the override earlier in the day, with only Democratic Leader Harry Reid voting to sustain the president’s veto. ‘We can no longer allow those who injure and kill Americans to hide behind legal loopholes denying justice to the victims of terror,’ said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). The White House immediately slammed lawmakers following the Senate vote. ‘I would venture to say that this is the single most embarrassing thing that the United States Senate has done possibly since 1983,’ press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One, an apparent reference to a 95-0 vote to override President Ronald Reagan that year.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 28, 2016.
21st Century Wire says… One glaring conclusion from last night’s US Presidential debate between is that there is virtually no difference between either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton’s view on what the US should do in Syria. Both are advocating for more war – for more airstrikes in Syria, and for ‘building safe zones’ which are actually ‘No Fly Zones’ (where only US Coalition aircraft are allow to fly). There is one vast difference however, between these two candidates. During her tenure Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was both the architect of the US-led destruction of the Libyan State, and also of Washington’s secret war against Syria, officially from 2011. Clinton led the notorious ‘Friends of Syria’ lobbying tour through Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, which was used to promote the US policy of ‘regime change’ for Syria by bringing together Gulf Arab Monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UEA and others) and other US client states to create a policy of economic, military and social subterfuge which, with the help of the CIA and others, has since destroyed large parts of Syria now occupied by Terrorist fanatical groups – who are backed by the same ‘Friends of Syria’ member nations managed by Clinton. From start, these two war were managed by what is allegedly a ‘liberal’ or left-wing Democrat Party. They are anything but. What this really means, is that the next ‘President Clinton’ is already priming Americans for a escalation of warfare in Syria come this January. Here’s why…
Throughout Obama’s presidency, his vetoes have always survived Congressional challenges. That his first might be a bill about Saudi Arabia reflects waning Saudi influence in lobbying Congress to get their way, and what would likely have once been a very safe veto is now at serious risk. Obama’s Friday veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) aims to block a bill that would allow family members of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in American courts. The House and Senate both passed JASTA unanimously, and many in both parties are expressing confidence they have the votes for an override of the veto. The House was widely expected to override easily, but Sen. Chuck Schumer (D – NY) insisted that the Senate too would ‘quickly’ override Obama’s veto, insisting that the Saudis must be held accountable if the courts find they were culpable in 9/11.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 26, 2016.
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.
China’s got the world puzzling over its oil hoard. From underground caverns by the Yellow Sea to a scattering of islands in the Yangtze River delta, the government has been stockpiling crude for emergencies in a network of storage sites dotted around the country. Record purchases this year by the world’s biggest energy consumer have helped oil prices recover from the worst crash in a generation. What the country plans to do next could determine where they go from here. The difficulty is that nobody outside China really knows for certain. The government won’t say how much it’s holding or when the tanks will be full. Energy Aspects Ltd. says the country will probably keep buying and fill up commercial tanks if it has to, while the likes of JPMorgan Chase & Co. say the purchases may soon stop. The difference in opinion is equivalent to about 1.1 million barrels a day, or more than the Asian country buys from Saudi Arabia. ‘China seems to feel no obligation to report on its strategic stocks, and that might confer a genuine advantage in its favor,’ said John Driscoll, the chief strategist at JTD Energy Services Pte, who has spent more than 30 years trading crude and petroleum in Singapore. ‘The scope of their purchases can dramatically affect fundamentals and prices. However, since they will likely be shrouded in secrecy, it will remain challenging to quantify the impact.’
While carefully navigating the waters of what a reasonable man would presume as guilt over pay-to-play cronyism at the highest levels of government, it appears that The New York Times is gravely concerned at what The Clinton Foundation’s trail of tumult could do to the messianic reign of Hillary Clinton. As a result, this morning its editorial board joined the chorus of mostly right of center voices, calling on Hillary Clinton to ban all foreign donations to her family’s charity in a editorial published Friday. The call comes after a string of reports noting that the Clinton Foundation had begun to accept foreign donations after banning them for the four years Clinton served as secretary of state. The foundation has since defended donations from countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman as philanthropy, not influence peddling, but Democrats and Republicans have questioned the practice. “All of which underlines the need for Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her all but certified role as a Democratic presidential candidate, to reinstate the foundation’s ban against foreign contributors, who might have matters of concern to bring before a future Clinton administration,” the editorial board wrote. “This was a restriction Mrs. Clinton worked out with the Obama administration to allay concerns of potential conflict of interest when she became secretary of state in 2009.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 30, 2016.
Saudi Arabia resumed its appalling war in Yemen last week and has already killed dozens more civilians, destroyed a school full of children and leveled a hospital full of sick and injured people. The campaign of indiscriminate killing – though let’s call it what it is: a war crime – has now been going on for almost a year and a half. And the United States bears a large part of the responsibility. This US-backed war is not just a case of the Obama administration sitting idly by while its close ally goes on a destructive spree of historic proportions. The government is actively selling the Saudis billions of dollars of weaponry. They’re re-supplying planes engaged in the bombing runs and providing ‘intelligence’ for the targets that Saudi Arabia is hitting. Put simply, the US is quite literally funding a humanitarian catastrophe that, by some measures, is larger than the crisis in Syria. As the New York Times editorial board wrote this week: ‘Experts say the coalition would be grounded if Washington withheld its support.’ Yet all we’ve heard is crickets. High-ranking Obama administration officials are hardly ever asked about the crisis. Cable television news has almost universally ignored it. Both the Clinton and Trump presidential campaigns have been totally silent on this issue despite their constant arguing over who would be better at ‘stopping terrorism’. Beyond the grotesque killing of civilians, it’s clear at this point that the Saudis’ bombing campaign has also boosted al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) to a level which Reuters described as ‘stronger and richer’ than anytime in its 20-year history.
(ANTIMEDIA) On Thursday, the U. S. State Department approved the sale of more military equipment, valued at around $1.15 billion USD, to the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This sounds like a lot of money to most of us, but the most frightening aspect of the sale is that it represents a continuation of an arms-dealing relationship between Washington and the Saudi regime, which has been worth over $50 billion USD in arms sales to date. It is not an understatement to say Obama’s tears over gun violence are disingenuous considering his administration has enacted a policy of systematically arming the entire world with all manner of warcraft. According to the Department of Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), during his first six years in office, the Obama administration entered into agreements to sell more than $190 billion USD in weaponry worldwide. As the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, William D. Hartung, states, this figure is higher than any U. S. administration since World War II. Perhaps that is why the Nobel secretary has voiced serious regrets about awarding the Peace Prize to the president. While there are a number of companies who are making an absolute killing from these sales – like Lockheed Martin and Boeing – the fact remains that the U. S. government actively facilitates this industry in more ways than one.
Trump’s Terrorist Fear-Mongering – – Raucous Cover Band For The War Party Contrary to the spurious ‘morning in America’ refrains of the Democratic convention, the nation is heading for ruin but not due to violent crimes or terrorist threats on main street; it’s owing to the larcenous economic policy crimes of the Imperial City which Trump’s GOP convention narrative hardly mentioned. There is a growing likelihood, therefore, that the Trump campaign will be entirely sidetracked from the core economic crisis of Flyover America. That’s especially owing to The Donald’s shrill remonstrations about the dangers of domestic terrorist attacks. By contrast, after 15 years it is abundantly evident that the horrific attack of 9/11 was a complete fluke. It could have been readily thwarted by alert intelligence work, and even then it only happened because of the complicity of Saudi Arabian officials. In fact, the San Diego based Saudi handlers of two of the 19 terrorists received wire transfers of more than $75,000 from the Saudi ambassador’s wife. We now know from the recently released 28 pages of classified text from the Joint Inquiry that at least one of the handlers – – Omar al-Bayoumi – – was a Saudi agent. The report leaves little doubt that the Prince Bandar faction of the Saudi ruling family facilitated the murderous crime against 3,000 innocent Americans.
Opec’s worst fears are coming true. Twenty months after Saudi Arabia took the fateful decision to flood world markets with oil, it has still failed to break the back of the US shale industry. The Saudi-led Gulf states have certainly succeeded in killing off a string of global mega-projects in deep waters. Investment in upstream exploration from 2014 to 2020 will be $1.8 trillion less than previously assumed, according to consultants IHS. But this is a bitter victory at best. North America’s hydraulic frackers are cutting costs so fast that most can now produce at prices far below levels needed to fund the Saudi welfare state and its military machine, or to cover Opec budget deficits.
Top clerics in Saudi Arabia have issued a fatwa banning the playing of Pokemon Go as a form of gambling. The decree was issued by General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars on the website of the General Presidency for Scholarly Research and Ifta, Arab News reported Wednesday. The edict actually updates an existing ban on the Pokemon card and video games before they morphed into the mobile phone virtual reality game that has swept the world. The clerics issued the old fatwa, (No. 21,758), 16 years ago, declaring the original Japanese game a form of gambling, which is forbidden in Islam, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fozan, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said the virtual reality version of the game is the same as the old one. The game has not been officially released regionally, but is nonetheless popular in the Middle East among gamers who have downloaded the app, the Associated Press reports. Although Pokemon Go does not involve the winning or losing of money, the fatwa notes that it nonetheless violates the gambling ban.
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.