07/7/15

Is Saudi Arabia Leaving The U.S. Behind For Russia?

The news from the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which took place from June 18 to 20, inspired a torrent of speculation on the future direction of energy prices.

But the real buzz at the conference was the unexpected but much publicized visit of the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, as an emissary of the King. The Prince, who is also his country’s Defense Minister, carried the royal message of a direct invitation to President Putin to visit the King, which was immediately accepted and reciprocated, with the Prince accepting on behalf of his father.

It would be news enough that the unusually high level delegation from a long-time ally and protectorate of the U.S., like Saudi Arabia, was visiting a Russian sponsored economic conference, in a country sanctioned by the U.S.

Some saw this well publicized meeting as the first sign of an emerging partnership between the two greatest global oil producers. If the warmth of the meeting was any evidence, it seems likely that Russia, a non-OPEC producer, might come a lot closer to the fold.

That could mean that, at the very least, Russia would have a voice in the cartel’s policy decisions on production. And if so, it would be a voice on the side of stable but rising prices.

The great Indian journalist, M.K. Bhadrakumar (MKB), may have been the first to point out that there was plenty of reasons for the Saudis and Russians to come closer together. Among these are the U.S.’ diminishing dependence on Middle Eastern energy, due to the momentous development of shale resources. There’s also the over-riding goal of the U.S. to pivot toward the East, where a huge economic transformation is unfolding, while reducing the U.S. role in the Middle East. It’s clear that the Saudis are going to have to make new friends.

MKB also makes the point that although the Saudis are wildly opposed to any form of U.S. entente with Iran, the clear-eyed Kremlin understands that there are many temptations for its erstwhile ally, Iran, to move much closer to the West.

Pepe Escobar of Asia Times saw the Prince’s visit as harboring the first glimmer of light in ending the current global oil trade war, in which the Saudi’s might turn down the spigot and lower production, enabling prices to rise: “Facts on the ground included Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil ministers discussing a broad cooperation agreement; the signing of six nuclear technology agreements; and the Supreme Imponderable; Putin and the deputy crown prince discussing oil prices. Could this be the end of the Saudi-led oil price war?”

Bullish oil traders thought they found some hope in the words of Ali al-Naimi, the famous and longtime President and CEO of the Saudi National Oil Company, Aramco, and current oil minister. Naimi publicly stated: “I am optimistic about the future of the market in the coming months in terms of the continuing improvement and increasing global demand for oil as well as the low level of commercial inventories.” This, the minister said, should lead to higher oil prices by year’s end.

Ali al-Naimi publicly praised the enhanced bilateral cooperation between Riyadh and Moscow, stating that, “[t]his, in turn, will lead to creating a petroleum alliance between the two countries for the benefit of the international oil market…”

This could be music to the ears of oil price bulls. But more skeptical minds were quick to clamp down excessive optimism. “Of course, we shouldn’t read into any new developments outside political frameworks, because I can hardly imagine that Saudi Arabia has decided to turn against its alliances—but it probably wants to get out of the narrow US corner and expand its options,” Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, wrote in a column after the summit.

At the meeting, the Saudis and Russians signed several memoranda of understanding including the development of nuclear power plants in the Kingdom, with the Saudis planning some 16+ plants.

The two sides also plan on setting up working groups to study other possible energy joint ventures in Russia. Russia also agreed to the construction of railways and metro subways for the Saudis. Russia is also believed to have agreed to supply advanced military defense equipment to the Kingdom, despite the Saudis being long time arms customers of both the UK and U.S.

However there is quite a bit of doubt that the U.S. is ready to just step aside and be replaced by Russia as the Saudis’ main ally. Saudi Arabia and Russia are on opposite sides on a range of geopolitical issues, including Iran, Syria, and Yemen. These conflicts will likely put a limit on any potential entente.

Also, there is serious doubt as to whether it is so simple for the Saudis to raise oil prices. Flooding the markets with oil to crash prices only requires the Saudis to over-produce by some one and a half million barrels of oil per day, easily within their grasp, and something the Saudis can do on their own.

Bringing prices up is a different story, requiring global oil producers to comply in oil cutbacks.

At the same time, rising prices are a clear signal to global producers to increase production, worsening the current glut, so that any price increase may prove to be temporary.

And yet, the fact is prices have been rising since the first of the year, and many are convinced there is more to go. C. DeHaemmer, a well-known energy newsletter writer, is now predicting a price rise by WTI to a range of $73-$78, and a Brent range of $82-85, by years end. Not impossible, but long term, the issue becomes cloudier.

On a different matter, there was another surprise announcement at the forum, with India, a longtime U.S. ally, confirming that it will sign a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a Russian-led trade bloc including Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Russia and China have agreed on making the EEU a central part of the Chinese sponsored Silk Road, so by default, it would appear that India is moving towards joining the grand Chinese project.

As has become standard at the St. Petersburg Forum, a number of energy deals were signed, including a BP deal to buy a major stake in a Siberian oil field owned by Rosneft, a company suffering under international sanctions. BP, as a twenty percent stakeholder in Rosneft, says it is seeking to expand on its joint ventures with the Russian company

Another deal was signed with Gazprom to build a second pipeline under the Baltic, following the path of Nordstream to Germany, in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell, Germany’s E.ON, and Austria’s OMV. Apparently, Western Europe’s oil giants find Russian sanctions to be no hindrance in dealing with Russian energy companies.

After his onstage TV interview with Putin, Charlie Rose, the well-known TV celebrity, was asked why he had decided to become a moderator at the Forum. He said, “I believe it’s important to talk to people.”

In the meantime, the U.S. reporter, with camera man in tow, found nothing of interest to report at the conference.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Is-Saudi-Arabia-Leaving-The-US-Behind-For-Russia.html

By Robert Berke for Oilprice.com

06/22/15

“Deranged Lone Assassin” Mows Down, Stabs 37 Austrians, Answering ‘IS’ Call to Balkan Muslims: “Either Join, or Kill Over There”

By: Julia Gorin
Republican Riot

Is it a coincidence that earlier this month, the following call to Jihad by IS was issued specifically to Balkan Muslims: IS to Balkan Muslims: “Either join, or kill over there”

Well, Alen Rizvanovic killed over there. Not exactly “lone” or “deranged” (beyond the mental disorder otherwise known as Islam which, yes, is lame. And now so are 34 Austrians, plus three dead).

Austria is of course very vulnerable to feeling the effects of the call of the wild, thanks to the Bosnian Muslims it welcomed back when it served as the financing center of the Bosnian Jihad, known to Westerners as the Bosnian war, or “Serbian genocide against Bosniaks.” Official Austria was front and center in helping make the war go in favor of the Muslims who demanded to carve their own Islamic state in Europe out of Yugoslavia.

But getting to the main question at hand: Gee, why would IS think it can recruit Balkan Muslims? Of all people. Didn’t we make it clear that those Muslims aren’t like those Muslims? IS and its forebears must not have gotten the memo that the West proclaimed the Muslims of the Balkans to be modern, secular, European, Western-facing, moderate, and so on — and gave them the upper hand in the war, and then in the peace. Because that way there would be no risk that these Muslims would turn into those Muslims, right? I mean, if they drink alcohol and eat pork — as their advocates constantly point out — then there’s no way they’ll choose Islamic solidarity over the West. Right?

Here was that IS call:

IS to Balkan Muslims: “Either join, or kill over there” (B92, RTS, vocativ.com, June 5, 2015)

The Islamic State has published a propaganda video that threatens Balkan countries and calls on Muslims to either join it, or launch attacks in the Balkans.

The video, titled “Honor is in jihad, a message to the Balkans”, has been published by the Alhayat Media Center – a propaganda center established to reach audiences in the West with Islamic messages.

The video, that lasts a little over 22 minutes, has an English language narrator talking about the history of the Balkans, while showing historical footage, and about the Muslim communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania “and other countries in the region.”

Members of the Islamic State who came from the Balkans are shown, with several of them calling on other Muslims to go to Iraq and Syria, “where they can safely and with dignity live with their families.”

Among the identified Islamists are Abu Bilkis, aka Al Albani and Abu Mukatil, aka Al Kosovo, as well as Abu Muhammad al Bosni.

[What names these are! “Al-Bosni, Al-Albani, Al-Kosovi.”? Who could have foreseen it? Those very same “moderate” and “pro-American” Muslims.]

“Many of you complain that they cannot grow a beard or wear a niqab. Now is your chance, make Hijra,” said one of those featured, Salahudding Al Bosni.

He also told the audience that “to think back to the last war in Bosnia-Herzegovina”.

As in other propaganda videos, the jihadists are telling those who are “unable to emigrate to the land of Islam” to attack “dictators in Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania”, as well as their armies.

“Fight them over there. If you can, put explosives under their cars, in their houses, all of them. If you can, take some poison, put in it their drink, in their food, let them die. Kill them in every place and wherever you can. In Bosnia, in Serbia, in Sandzak. You can do it, Allah will help you,” Salahudding Al Bosni is heard saying.

This clip has been “much better produced than the dozens of previous propaganda materials made for the Balkan Islamists in the past 20 years,” said the reports.

Well that must have done the trick. This guy was motivated enough to extrapolate “over there” to his own adopted home of Austria, not far from the Balkans. It’s a call-up that has Deutsche Welle asking, “Are the Balkans a gateway for ‘IS’?”

Now, why would the Balkans per se — more than some other part of Europe — be IS’s gateway? I mean, what is different about the populations of the Balkans from those of the rest of Europe? Surely it couldn’t be the countless Westward-facing Muslims that populate that region. In any case, when has the word “extremism” ever been associated with Balkan Muslims? Yet that is the category Deutsche Welle placed the story under:

EXTREMISM
Are the Balkans a gateway for ‘IS’?
Millions of Muslims live in the Balkans. According to media reports, Islamist terrorists are increasingly trying to influence them. But opinions are split on how dangerous the situation really is.

The history of the Balkans over the past 100 years is nothing but a chronology of Muslim oppression, at least according to the “Islamic State” (IS) terrorist group, whose propaganda targets the region. [Funny, that’s also according to the Bosnian and Albanian ‘not-like-those’ Muslims.] The only solution in the fight against the communists, so-called “crusaders” and Jews is jihad, they say. In an elaborately produced video, “IS” urges Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegowina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia to kill their “infidel” neighbors.

“Put explosives under their cars and houses, pour poison into their food, let them croak,” a young bearded man shouts in Bosnian. The terrorists in the video even have nicknames, depending on where they come from: Al-Bosni, Al-Albani, Al-Kosovi.

The propaganda has already served one purpose: for days, all of the regional media reported that “IS” has its sights on the Balkans. Such reports are extremely useful to the Islamists, warns Vlado Azinovic, a political scientist and journalist from Bosnia.

“Via Twitter alone, the IS publishes more than 200,000 short messages per week,” the terrorism expert says. “They all contain such threats in several languages, so it’s wrong to believe that IS is targeting the Balkans in any way,” Azinovic told DW.

But, notions that the Balkans represent a gateway for jihadists are nothing but media hype and an expression of “hysteria”, he added.

[That’s right, Folks. Stay on-program. There’s no difference between short twitter messages and an elaborately, professionally produced video specifically in the Balkanites’ own language.]

Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper also reported that radical Islamists are increasingly networking in the western Balkans, offering “a kind of initial training for would-be jihadists.” The paper quoted German security officials as saying the situation is so alarming that it was discussed at the most recent G7 summit.

“The threat posed by IS should be taken seriously,” says Filip Ejdus, a Belgrade political scientist. While the expert doesn’t believe “IS” can create branches in the Balkans at this point, he fears the terrorists will soon carry out more attacks in Europe…

Experts may disagree about the extent of the threat posed by “IS” in the Balkans, but there is no doubt that the “Islamic State” has been recruiting many new backers in the region.

A record 250 men from Kosovo have gone to war for “IS”, media reports say. Bosnia-Herzegowina is also said to be at the top of the jihadist recruitment list…

…Ejdus says… “Although a majority of Muslims in the Balkans rejects these anti-civilizing ideas, they still unfortunately find their way to some people.”

The same is true for Kosovo, says Ismail Hasani, an expert on the sociology of religion from Pristina. Some Imams, who were trained in the Middle East, propagate a non-traditional interpretation of Islam, he told DW. “But in the Balkans, these radical versions don’t fall on fertile soil.” Hasani is convinced these interpretations will soon be a thing of the past…

But back to the present. Here is the UK Daily Mail report:

‘Deranged lone assassin’ drives at 90mph into crowds of shoppers in Austria before stabbing bystanders, killing four-year-old boy and two adults, and leaving 34 injured (June 20, 2015)

A four-year-old boy is reported to be one of three people killed after an SUV ploughed into a crowd of people in Graz, Austria.

Another 34 people were injured in the attack, with six – including two children – said to be in a serious condition.

Eyewitnesses say the driver rammed into crowds at up to 90mph before he got out and began randomly stabbing bystanders, which included the elderly and policemen.

The three victims killed in the attack have been described as a 28-year-old Austrian man, a 25-year-old woman and a four-year-old boy.

The woman and boy were both killed as the driver ploughed through crowds on the main Herrengasse shopping street before reaching the city’s main square.

The governor of the state has described the driver as a ‘deranged lone assassin’.

The National Police Director, Josef Klamminger, said the man, who is believed to be a 26-year-old Austrian truck driver, was suffering from ‘psychosis’ related to ‘family problems’.

The attacker is believed to be married with two children.

Police director Klamminger added that the man was under a restraining order keeping him away from the home of his wife and two children, after a domestic violence report was filed against him last month. [So far, we’re hitting on all the tropes of being a pious Muslim male.]

The driver did not resist when he was arrested by the police – who say he acted alone – and they have no reason to believe it was an act of terrorism.

The mayor was reported to be riding his Vespa in the street when the SUV sped past him, just feet away.

He only avoided being hit by driving onto the pavement, according to local media.

Always doing his homework, writer Daniel Greenfield found an Alen Rizvanovic on facebook, who has twice “liked” jihadist Bosnian war criminal Naser Oric, commander of Muslim soldiers at Srebrenica whom we are to again memorialize this July 11th. (And with extra gusto, please, as it’s the 20th anniversary of “the worst atrocity in Europe since WWII.”)

By the way, isn’t Graz where the Bosnian Muslims and Croats stole off to in the first place, to have their secret referendum on secession? Graz even sounds like a shortened Grazie — as in ‘Thanks, Austria, for not extraditing that Bosniak war criminal on the Serbs’ warrant, and thanks for trying to block Serbia’s EU accession start. Doing everything “right” for the Bosnian Muslims sure goes a long way.

01/28/15

An Auschwitz Anniversary

By: Alan Caruba
Warning Signs

Auschwitz

There was some serious irony when U.S. Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew gathered together with French President Francois Hollande and a Russian delegation led by Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff, along with leaders from Germany and Austria to participate in the January 27 ceremony commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945 by Russian troops.

I suspect that an entire generation or two born after that year, 70 years ago, may have little or no knowledge of what Auschwitz was. It was a Nazi death camp located in Oswiecim, Poland. Its full name was Auschwitz-Birkenau and it is estimated that one million people, mostly Jews, were killed there.

I say “irony” because Auschwitz-Birkenau was part of a system of six Nazi death camps that included Belzac, Chelmo, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka. Each camp was filled with the victims of a widespread anti-Semitism that had existed in Europe for two thousand years, so it was not difficult for the Germans to turn a blind eye or the French and others to provide assistance in rounding up their Jews.

Jewish StarThe camps engaged in large scale murder to fulfill Adolf Hitler’s intention to exterminate every Jew in Europe. In 1933 there had been nine million living in 21 nations that would be occupied during World War II. By 1945, two out of every three European Jews had been killed.

In addition to the Jews, an estimated five million others deemed enemies of the state for political or other reasons such as being Communists, trade unionists, gypsies or homosexuals also died in the camps.

What is rarely acknowledged is that the Europeans of that era were largely educated, had a rich culture of music, literature, and drama, and many were church-goers. In short, you would not have been able to tell them apart from the Europeans of today.

The Nazis wrote the book on the use of terrorism to facilitate their barbaric, murderous theology of death. The Muslims that have moved to Europe have adapted it to their own ends, seeking like the Nazis to become globally dominant. They don’t have death camps—yet—but the widespread and constant slaughter in which they are engaged has a similar feel to it.

In the 1930s those European Jews had few places to which to flee. They were not even that welcome in America where anti-Semitism was widespread. Those that could did emigrate and, again there is irony because several of the German physicists that came to the U.S. were instrumental in the creation of the atomic bomb that ended World War II while others played roles in the Nazi’s defeat during the war. One such emigrant, Albert Einstein, was the first to suggest the creation of the weapon to Franklin Roosevelt.

In response to European anti-Semitism, a movement called Zionism had begun before World War II with the intention of reestablishing Israel as a Jewish state where Jews could be safe. The movement was founded by Theodor Herzl in 1896. Here again there is irony because the movement was dominated by secular Jews who were not motivated by Jewish history or the Torah. What they wanted was to be free of the oppressive antipathy of the nations in which they lived. What they were seeking was emancipation.

By the time World War II occurred they were a force to be recognized in Israel, known at the time as the Palestinian Mandate and run by the British who, as often as not, shared the anti-Semitism that had given life to the Zionist movement. It would take the Holocaust to accelerate the movement of Europe’s surviving Jews to Israel which in 1948 declared its sovereignty and was immediately attacked by the Muslim nations surrounding it.

Fast forward to our times and the Jews of Israel as well as those around the world know one truth. If Iran is permitted to reach a point where it can create its own nuclear weapons and put them on their missiles, Israel will only be minutes away from an extermination that the Iranian leadership and the other Muslim nations of the Middle East have openly called for since Israel came into being and the Islamic Revolution took control of Iran in 1979.

This time, however, the same nuclear weapons that would destroy Israel would also be turned on the United States because the shouts of “Death to America. Death to Israel” are a part of the daily lives of the Iranians, as well as others in the region.

What makes these days so dangerous is that the United States of America is engaged in negotiations with an Iran that has never made a secret of their intention to be a nuclear-armed nation. What makes these days so dangerous is that the President of the United States has barely hidden his own anti-Semitism and animus toward Israel.

One can only pray that seventy years hence some other writer will not be commenting on the second great annihilation of the Jews, literally within the lifetime of people who were alive during the first one. I am one of those people and Auschwitz is not some place that existed a long time ago. It was yesterday.

© Alan Caruba, 2015