Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Saudi Arabia Collapses Texas Oil to a Critical Level

00 Vitaly Podvitsky. That's Not Real Money! 2014

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Analysts said that reduced prices by Saudi Arabian Oil of WTI light oil exported to the USA and Asia lowered the cost of deliveries WTI in Monday trading on the New York Stock Exchange to 78.78 USD (3,026 Roubles. 481.50 Renminbi. 4,835 INR. 90.08 CAD. 90.58 AUD. 62.94 Euros. 49.24 UK Pounds) a barrel, down 2.2 percent over the price at the previous auction. John Kildaf, an employee of hedge fund Again Capital LLC, said, “This move by Saudi Arabia indicates that it’s trying to keep its market share in the USA, which recently declined slightly. Apparently, the Saudis feel comfortable at this price and this level of demand. It seems that Saudi Arabia expects that growth in demand for oil in the winter will allow them to strengthen their position”. On 31 October, WTI on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell by 0.7 percent to 80.54 USD (3,576 Roubles. 492 Renminbi. 4,944 INR. 91.95 CAD. 92.41 AUD. 64.23 Euros. 50.36 UK Pounds) per barrel. Then, analysts noted that some members of OPEC, particularly Saudi Arabia, are ready to keep prices low to preserve their market share.

4 November 2014

Pravda.ru

http://www.pravda.ru/news/economics/04-11-2014/1234014-neft-0/

Editor:

Crude is now BELOW the breakeven point for shale oil and deep-drilled crude. This means that the oil wells in North Dakota are now unprofitable. Big Oil is in a quandary… it can keep the facilities open, and sell at a loss, hoping that the price will rebound… or, it can shut down the facilities until the price recovers, smashing the local economy. You see, the GOP is in the shitter. Their sugar daddies in Big Oil are going to take big hits, which means that they’ll have less available for greedy corrupt pols such as Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum. It’ll make them MORE dependent on Big Pharma than they are… which’ll lead to desperate attempts to repeal the ACA, which President Obama will veto, and they won’t have the votes to override. In short, the situation will play right into BHO’s hands. Played correctly and soberly, it’ll snooker all GOP chances for 2016.

Ironic, ain’t it… the GOP “wins big”, only to find out their paymasters are getting the short end. To put it plainly, the GOP’s sponsors no longer have the cash to subsidise the beginning of the 2016 campaign (which it needs IMMEDIATELY). It also means that the USA no longer has any energy alternative to offer the EU. Saudi and Russian crude are cheaper than any American offering… so, what would any normal person choose? There’s nothing that the USA can do, either… short of attacking the Saudis, which isn’t going to happen. The GOP fires the gun… and finds it full of blanks. L’comédie humaine goes on its merry way.

BMD

Sunday, 5 October 2014

5 October 2014. “Not in My Name”… Iranian Vid on ISIS… and Why REAL Muslims Oppose It

00 Iran Revolutionary Guards. 16.06

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If the USA wants to defeat the Islamists in Iraq, it has to involve Syria and Iran… but the Saudis and Qataris oppose that, as they wish to install a radical Islamist government, thinking that such an entity would be anti-Iranian. Yes, Virginia, the Wahhabis of the KSA believe that the mullahs in Iran are TOO LIBERAL. I shit you not. Besides that, there are tons of Shias in the oil-producing provinces of the KSA. In short, the KSA is volatile as all get-out, and the Qataris (and other minor Gulf States) are scared shitless that they’d go down in the undertow of a KSA capsizing. The ayatollahs are actually more lenient in some of their interpretations of Shari’a as compared to the ISIS radicals. Actually, the USA would do well to allow nature to take its course. Let Syria and Iran stomp ISIS… which they would do gleefully and without cost to the US Treasury. Trust me, they’d do a thorough job, as they’d have to live with the aftermath, as it’s in their neighbourhood. They’d follow the old rule of “don’t shit in your own nest”… they’d see to it that none of the radicals were alive under the sun if they could help it. The USA should stop catering to Israel’s whims… I’m no anti-Semite (in fact, I’m quite the opposite), but I can see where catering to Likud’s notions has hurt American interests in the region. It’s time to get sane. ISIS has to go, and the only way that one can do it is to involve the neighbours. The Syrian Arab Army is battle-hardened, and vets of the Iran-Iraq War lead the Iranian forces. ISIS wouldn’t have a chance. That’s that…

BMD

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Why Syrians SUPPORT Bashar al-Assad

00 Carlos Latuff. Russia and China Veto against US Intervention in Syria. 2012

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The sudden reversion of Washington to a “war on terror” pretext for intervention in Syria confused western audiences. For three years, they watched “humanitarian intervention” stories, which poured contempt on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s assertion that he was fighting foreign-backed terrorists. Now, the USA claims to be leading the fight against those same terrorists. However, what do Syrians think, and why do they continue to support a man who the western powers claim is constantly attacking and terrorising “his own people?” To understand this, we must consider the huge gap between the western caricatures of Bashar al-Assad as a “brutal dictator” and the popular and urbane figure within Syria. If we believed most western media reports, we’d think that President Assad launched repeated and indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, including the gassing of children. We might also think that he heads an “Alawi régime”, where a 12 percent minority represses a Sunni Muslim majority, crushing a popular “revolution” which, only recently, was been “hijacked” by extremists.

The central problem with these portrayals is Bashar’s great popularity at home. The fact that there’s popular dissatisfaction with corruption and cronyism, and that an authoritarian state maintains a type of personality cult, doesn’t negate the man’s genuine popularity. His strong win in Syria’s first multi-candidate elections in June dismayed his regional enemies, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey; but it didn’t stop their aggression. Syrians saw things differently.  They saw Bashar as maintaining his father’s pluralist and nationalist traditions, whilst modernising and holding out the promise of political reform. Opinion polls in Syria showed major dissatisfaction with corruption and political cronyism, mixed views on the economy, but strong satisfaction with stability, women’s rights, and the country’s independent foreign policy. The political reform rallies of 2011… countered by pro-government rallies and quickly overshadowed by violent insurrection… weren’t necessarily anti Bashar.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and other sectarian Islamist groups did hate him, as they also hated the secular state. Yet, even these enemies, in their better moments, recognised his popularity. In late 2011 a Doha Debates poll (created by the Qatari monarchy, a major backer of the Muslim Brotherhood) showed that 55 percent of Syrians wanted Assad to stay. Armed Islamists went further. In 2012, Reuters, the UK Guardian, and Time magazine reported three “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) leaders in Aleppo saying that Assad had about “70 percent” support; or that the local people, “all of them, are loyal to the criminal Bashar, they inform on us”; or that they’re “all informers … they hate us. They blame us for the destruction”.  Of course, unpopularity is fatal to a revolution; to a religious fanatic, it’s merely inconvenient. All three FSA groups were Islamists on good terms with al-Qaeda. None of these revelations changed the western media reliance on Muslim Brotherhood-aligned sources, “activists” or “moderate rebels”. They relied, in particular, on UK-based Rami Abdul Rahman, who calls himself the “Syrian Observatory of Human Rights”. Such sources kept “Bashar the Monster” alive, outside Syria.

Central to the Bashar myth are two closely related stories… that of the “moderate rebel” and the story that conjures “Assad loyalists” or “régime forces” in place of a large dedicated national army, with broad popular support.  To understand the Bashar myth we have to consider the Syrian Arab Army. At over half a million, the Army is so large that most Syrian communities have strong family links, including with those fallen in the war. There are regular ceremonies for families of these “martyrs”, with thousands proudly displaying photos of their loved ones. Further, most of the several million Syrians displaced by the conflict haven’t left the country, but rather have moved to other parts under Army protection. This would be inexplicable if the Army were indeed engaged in “indiscriminate” attacks on civilians. A repressive army invokes fear and loathing in a population, yet, one can see that people do not cower as they pass through the many army road blocks in Damascus, set up to protect against “rebel” car bombs.

Syrians know there were abuses against demonstrators in early 2011; they also know that Assad dismissed the Governor of Dara for this. They know that the armed insurrection wasn’t a consequence of the protests, but rather a sectarian insurrection that took cover under those rallies. Saudi official Anwar el-Eshki admitted to the BBC that his country provided weapons to Islamists in Dara, and their rooftop sniping closely resembled the Muslim Brotherhood’s failed insurrection in Hama, back in 1982. Hafez al-Assad crushed that revolt in a few weeks. Of the incident, US intelligence said that total casualties were probably “about 2,000” including “300 to 400” members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s élite militia. The Brotherhood and many western sources since inflated those numbers, calling it a “massacre”. Armed Islamists posing as civilian victims have a long history in Syria. Quite a number of Syrians criticised President Assad to me, but not in the way that the western media did. They say that they wanted him to be as firm as his father was. Many in Syria regard him as too soft, leading to the name “Mr Soft Heart”. Soldiers in Damascus told me there’s a general order to make special efforts to capture alive any Syrian combatant. This is controversial, as many regard them as traitors, no less guilty than foreign terrorists.

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00 Syrian Church 2012

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Well, what about the “moderate rebels?” Before the rise of ISIS, back in late 2011, the largest FSA brigade, the Farouk unit, the original “poster boys” of the “Syrian Revolution”, took over parts of Homs city. One US report called them “legitimate nationalists … pious and not Islamists, not motivated by sectarianism”. The International Crisis Group suggested that the Farouk troops might be “pious” rather than Islamist. The Wall Street Journal also called them “pious Sunnis” rather than Islamists. The BBC called them “moderately Islamist”. All this was false. Syrians in Homs said that Farouk went into the city with the genocidal slogan, “Alawis to the grave, Christians to Beirut”. Shouting, “God is Great”, they blew up Homs hospital, because it treated soldiers. The churches blamed Farouk for the ethnic cleansing of more than 50,000 Christians from the city, and for the imposition of an Islamist tax. Journalist Radwan Mortada says most Farouk members were sectarian Salafis, armed and funded by Saudi Arabia. They later happily worked with the various al-Qaeda groups, and were the first to blame their own atrocities on the Army.

Let’s consider some key accusations against the Syrian Arab Army. In May 2012, days before a UN Security Council meeting set to debate possible intervention in Syria, there was a terrible massacre of over 100 villagers at Houla. Western governments immediately blamed the Syrian Government, which in turn accused foreign-backed terrorists. Western officials at first blamed Army shelling, changing their story when it was clear that most died from close quarter injuries. One UN report (UNSMIS) was shelved, while another (CoI), co-chaired by US diplomat Karen Koning AbuZayd, blamed un-named pro-government “thugs”, giving no motives. Although the Houla massacre didn’t result in a Libya-style intervention because of opposition at the UN from Russia and China, controversy raged over the authors of this atrocity. German and Russian journalists, along with the Mother Superior of a Monastery, managed to interview survivors who said that a large Farouk battalion, led by Abdul Razzaq Tlass, overwhelmed five small army posts and slaughtered the villagers. The gang sought out pro-government and Alawi families, along with some Sunni families who’d took part in recent elections. One year later, a detailed, independent report (by Correggia, Embid, Hauben, and Larson) documented how the second UN Houla investigation (the CoI) was tainted. Rather than visiting Syria, they’d relied on Farouk leaders and associates to link them to witnesses. They ignored another dozen direct witnesses who contradicted the “rebel” story. In short, they tried to bury a real crime with identified perpetrators and a clear motive. As Adam Larson later wrote, the “official” Houla massacre story turned out to be “extremely ambiguous at best and at worst a fairly obvious crime of the US-supported Contras”.

Houla set the tone for a series of similar ‘false flag’ massacre claims. When 245 people were murdered in Daraya (August 2012), media reports citing “opposition” activists said, “Assad’s army committed a massacre”. British journalist Robert Fisk contradicted this, writing that the FSA slaughtered kidnapped civilian and off-duty soldier hostages, after a failed attempt to swap them for prisoners held by the army. Similarly, when rebels slaughtered 120 villagers at Aqrab (December 2013) the New York Times headline read “Members of Assad’s Sect Blamed in Syria Killings”. In fact, as British journalist Alex Thompson discovered, the victims, not the perpetrators, were Assad’s fellow Alawis. FSA groups had held 500 Alawis for nine days before the fleeing gangs murdered a quarter of them. Yet, without close examination, each accusation seemed to add to the crimes of the Syrian Army, at least to those outside Syria. Another line of attack was that there was “indiscriminate” bombing of rebel-held areas, resulting in civilian casualties. The relevant question was, “How did they dislodge armed groups from urban centres?” Those interested can see some detail of this in the liberation of Qusayr, a town near the Lebanese border, which Farouk and other Salafi groups, including foreigners, had occupied. The Army carried out “surgical attacks”, but in May 2013, after the failure of negotiations, decided on an all-out assault. They dropped leaflets from planes, calling on civilians to evacuate. Anti-government groups stopped many from leaving, whilst an “activist” spokesman claimed that there was “no safe exit for civilians”. In opportunistic criticism, the US State Department expressed “deep concern” over the leaflet drop, claiming that “ordering the displacement of the civilian population” showed “the régime’s continuing brutality”. As it happened, on 5 June, the Army, backed by Hezbollah, liberated Qusayr… they drove the remnants of Farouk, the FSA, and their al-Qaeda partners into Lebanon. This operation, in principle at least, was what one would expect of any army facing terrorist groups embedded in civilian areas. At this point, the war began turning decisively in Syria’s favour.

Accusations of “indiscriminate bombing” recur. In opportunist questioning, more than a year later, British journalist John Snow demanded of Syrian Presidential adviser Dr Bouthaina Shaaban why the Syrian Army hadn’t driven ISIS from Aleppo. A few questions later, he attacked the Army for its “indiscriminate” bombing of that same city. The fact is, most fighting in Syrian urban areas is by troops on the ground. The most highly politicised atrocity was the chemical attack of August 2013, in the Eastern Ghouta region, just outside Damascus. For months, the Syrian Government complained about terrorist gas attacks and invited UN inspectors to Damascus. As these inspectors arrived, “rebel” groups posted videos on dead children online, blaming the Syrian Government for a new massacre. The US government and the Washington-based Human Rights Watch were quick to agree. The UN investigation of Islamist chemical attacks stalled, as attention moved to the gassed children. The western media demanded military intervention. Only a Russian intervention and a proposal that Syria hand over its chemical weapons stockpile (a stockpile it maintained it never used) defused a major escalation of the war.

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Barbara-Marie Drezhlo. Russia and China Say... NO WAR IN SYRIA! 2012

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Saturation reporting of the East Ghouta incident led many western journalists to believe that the charges against the Syrian Government were true. To the contrary, a series of independent reports systematically demolished those claims. Very soon after, a Jordan-based journalist reported that residents in the East Ghouta area blamed “Saudi Prince Bandar … of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaeda linked rebel group”. Next, a Syrian group led by Mother Agnes Mariam provided a detailed examination of the video evidence, saying the massacre videos preceded the attack and used “staged” and “fake” images. Detailed reports also came from outside Syria. Veteran American journalist Seymour Hersh wrote that US intelligence evidence was fabricated and “cherry-picked … to justify a strike against Assad”. A Turkish lawyers’ and writers’ group said, “Most of the crimes against Syrian civilians, including the East Ghouta attack, were committed by armed rebel forces in Syria”. Most likely, the Saudi-backed FSA group Liwa al-Islam was responsible for the chemical attack on Ghouta. A subsequent UN report didn’t allocate blame, but confirmed that chemical weapons were used on at least five occasions in Syria. On three occasions, they were used “against soldiers and civilians”. The clear implication was that these were anti-government attacks by rebels. MIT investigators Lloyd and Postol concluded that the Sarin gas “couldn’t possibly have been fired … from Syrian Government-controlled areas”. Despite the definitive nature of these reports, combined, neither the US Government nor Human Rights Watch retracted or apologised for their false accusations. Indeed, western government and media reports repeat the claims as though they were fact, even falsely enlisting UN reports, at times, as corroboration.

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When I met President Assad, with a group of Australians, his manner was entirely consistent with the pre-2011 image of the mild-mannered eye doctor. He expressed deep concern with the impact on children of witnessing terrorist atrocities as fanatics shouted, “God is Great”. The man is certainly no brute, in the manner of Saddam Hussein or George W Bush. The key factor in Syria’s survival is the cohesion, dedication, and popular support for the Army. Syrians know that their Army represents pluralist Syria and that it fights sectarian foreign backed terrorism. This Army didn’t fracture on sectarian lines, as the Takfiris had hoped, and defections have been small, certainly less than 2 percent. Has the Army committed abuses? Probably it has, but mainly against members of armed groups. There’s some evidence of execution of foreign terrorists. That’s certainly a crime, but probably has a fair degree of popular support in Syria, now. The main constraint on such abuses seems to be a binding general order from “Mr Soft Heart”, to save the lives of Syrian rebels.

However, despite the repeated claims by sectarian Islamists and their western backers, there isn’t any convincing evidence that the Syrian Army deliberately bombed and gassed civilians. Nor would there be a motive for it.  Nor does the behaviour of people on the streets support it. Most Syrians don’t blame their army for the horrendous violence of this war, but rather the foreign-backed terrorists. These are the same terrorists backed by the governments of the USA, UK, and France, hiding behind the fig-leaf of the mythical “moderate rebel” whilst reciting their catalogue of fabricated accusations. The high participation rate (73 percent) in June’s presidential elections, despite the war, was at least as significant as the strong vote (88 percent) Bashar received. Even the BBC couldn’t hide the large crowds that came out to vote, especially those that mobbed the Syrian Embassy in Beirut. Participation rates are nowhere as near in the USA… indeed, no western leader can claim such a strong democratic mandate as this “dictator” has. The size of Bashar’s win underlines a stark reality… there never was a popular uprising against this man; frankly, his popularity has grown.

30 September 2014

Tim Anderson

Senior Lecturer in Political Economy

University of Sydney (Sydney NSW AUSTRALIA)

Pravda.ru

http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/30-09-2014/128641-syrians_support_assad-0/

Monday, 2 December 2013

A Russian POV: Deal with Iran could Create New Balance of Power in the Middle East

00 Iran nuclear programme. political cartoon. 02.12.13

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At a meeting in Genève, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (known as the P5+1) reached a deal with Iran. It stipulates that the Islamic Republic would halt enrichment of uranium above 5 percent purity and dispose of its stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium by diluting it to less than 5 percent. In addition, Iranian nuclear facilities in Fordow and Natanz would be under IAEA control, whilst it’d halt the construction of a heavy-water reactor at Arak, capable of producing plutonium. In return, the P5+1 group, or… to be more precise… the USA and the EU, agreed to ease some of the sanctions against Iran. This would allow Iran to resume limited trade relations with the USA in the oil and gas, petrochemical, and automotive sectors, as well as trading in gold and precious metals. The resulting benefit for Iran would amount to 5-7 billion USD (166.1-232.6 billion Roubles. 5.32-7.45 billion CAD. 5.48-7.68 billion AUD. 3.7-5.2 billion Euros. 3.1-4.3 billion UK Pounds).

However, this deal isn’t just about money. The P5+1 group tabled their demand that Iran shut down and dismantle its already operating centrifuges. This and other provisions of the deal allowed Iran to claim that its key demand… recognition of its right to enrich uranium… was met. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered the following clear summary of the essence of the compromise, “This deal means that we agree that it’s necessary to recognise Iran’s right to peaceful atoms, including the right to enrichment, provided that the questions that remain to the Iranian nuclear programme and the programme itself come under strict control of the IAEA. This is the final goal, but it’s already been set in today’s document”.

The opponents of the deal insist that Iran retained the potential to create a nuclear weapon. The whole of its uranium enrichment infrastructure remains intact. A disappointed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I emphasise… the deal doesn’t envisage the elimination of a single centrifuge”. Already, many experts pointed up that such a large nuclear infrastructure as Iran’s, which consists of some 17,000 enrichment centrifuges, is necessary if a country has 12-15 operating nuclear plants that require fuel rods. However, so far, Iran has only one nuclear power plant, in Bushehr, which receives fuel from Russia. The Iranians have a hard time trying to explain why they need so many centrifuges, but they’re ready for any form of control, including video cameras, meters, and snap inspections.

The willingness of the USA to agree to the deal also requires some explanation. Why has its attitude to the Iranian nuclear programme undergone such a sudden change? Why were American diplomats engaged in secret talks with Iran for nearly a year? After more than 30 years of hostility, why did Washington decide to relent on some of its demands? Granted, Hassan Rouhani replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the President of Iran is no more than the head of government. Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual and supreme leader, decides all matters of principle… nothing has changed.

The answer may have more to do with American domestic politics than Iran itself. In the early 1970s, the USA suffered a devastating defeat in Vietnam. Then, the Watergate scandal forced US President Richard Nixon to resign under threat of impeachment. It was at that moment, putting all sentiments aside, that the USA resorted to an unprecedented rapprochement in relations with the People’s Republic of China. Today, the USA is coping with failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the challenges of the Arab Spring, and allies that would like to drag it into military operations in Libya and Syria… the goals of which would be difficult to communicate to ordinary Americans. The time may be right for the USA to engage with Iran, which is ready to fight for leadership in the Middle East with the oil monarchies of the Gulf. Such a move could restore the balance of power in the Middle East to the situation that existed prior to the 1979 revolution, when Iran served as a counterbalance to Saudi Arabia.

 26 November 2013

Andrei Ilyashenko

Russia Behind the Headlines

http://rbth.ru/international/2013/11/26/deal_with_iran_could_create_new_balance_of_power_in_the_middle__32037.html

Editor’s Note:

The most important takeaway from this is that the USA vexed Israel. There’s going to be no attack on Iran anytime soon or anytime later. To put it mildly, the minor Gulf States are shitting bricks, whilst the Saudis are apprehensive. If the USA makes nice to Iran… what’ll happen to OPEC and its highway robbery tactics? There’s much more to this than is immediately apparent… and we don’t know the full import of it yet. Is this a step-back from the neocon opium dreams of world hegemony? One can hope that it is…

BMD   

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