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The US, Israel & The Middle East

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Saudi Arabia Suspends Oil Exports Through Bab-el-Mandeb Strait After Houthi Attacks
July 25, 2018 by Reuters



Photo: Igor Grochev / Shutterstock




By Rania El Gamal DUBAI, July 26 (Reuters) – Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was “temporarily halting” all oil shipments through the strategic Red Sea shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb after an attack on two big oil tankers by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement sent by his ministry that the Houthis had attacked two Saudi Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) in the Red Sea on Wednesday morning, one of which sustained minimal damage.

“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandeb Strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab al-Mandeb is safe,” the statement said.

Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis in a three-year war, lies beside the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the most important trade routes in the world for oil tankers, which pass near Yemen’s shores while heading from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe.

Saudi Arabia accuses regional arch-foe Iran of supplying missiles to the Houthis, something Tehran and the Houthis deny.

The Western-backed coalition of Sunni Muslim states which Saudi Arabia leads had launched an offensive last month to wrest control of Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah from the Houthis in a bid to cut off the main supply line of the movement, which holds the most populated areas of Yemen including the capital Sanaa.

The alliance has called a halt to the offensive to give U.N. efforts a chance to reach a political solution that would avert an assault on the port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, which the United Nations fears risks triggering a famine in the impoverished country.

Most exports from the Gulf that transit the Suez Canal and the SUMED Pipeline also pass through Bab al-Mandeb strait. An estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this waterway in 2016 toward Europe, the United States, and Asia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Bab al-Mandeb strait, where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, is only 20 km (12 miles) wide, making hundreds of ships potentially an easy target.

The ministry statement said both tankers were operated by Saudi shipping company Bahri, which had earlier said that one of its VLCCs had suffered minor damage in an incident in the Red Sea, without elaborating.

“The two million barrels capacity for each tanker were full of crude oil cargo at the time and were headed for export. One of the VLCCs sustained minimal damage,” Falih said.

“However, fortunately, there were no injuries or oil spill that would have resulted in catastrophic environmental damage. Efforts are currently underway to move the damaged ship to the nearest Saudi port.”

“ATTACK FAILED”
One of the coalition’s main justifications for intervening in Yemen’s war in 2015 was to protect shipping routes such as the Red Sea. It has said it foiled previous attacks there in April and May.

The coalition said in a statement carried by Saudi state media on Wednesday that the Houthi movement had attacked one oil tanker west of Yemen’s Hodeidah port, but did not name the vessel or describe how it was attacked.

“Thankfully the attack failed due to immediate intervention of the Coalition’s fleet,” it said without providing details.

The Houthis’ Al Masirah TV had said on Twitter that they had targeted a warship named the Dammam off the western coast of Yemen in what the group later said was a missile attack.

In a separate statement carried on the Houthi-run SABA news agency, the group said it had also targeted a coalition boat off the coast of al-Durayhmi in southern Hodeidah on the west coast.

The Houthis have also launched missile attacks on Saudi cities, including the capital Riyadh.

The coalition has carried out a campaign of thousands of air strikes and restricted imports into Yemen, worsening what the United Nations says is potentially the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

(Reporting by Rania El Gammal, Ali Abdelaty, Omar Fahmy and Marwa Rashad; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by David Stamp and James Dalgleish)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2018.

http://gcaptain.com/saudi-arabia-su...gh-bab-el-mandeb-strait-after-houthi-attacks/
 

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Saudi Arabia Halts Oil Shipments Through Bab el-Mandeb




File image


By MarEx 2018-07-25 20:57:10

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's state oil company announced that it would suspend all shipments through the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb after an attack on its tankers off the coast of Yemen. The halt will affect the flow of crude from the world's top oil exporter to markets in Europe and the United States.



"In the interest of the safety of ships and their crews and to avoid the risk of oil spill, Saudi Aramco has temporarily halted all oil shipments through Bab El-Mandeb with immediate effect. The company is carefully assessing the situation and will take further action as prudence demands," Aramco said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Khalid Al-Falih, confirmed that two VLCCs operated by state-owned shipping company Bahri were attacked by Houthi rebels Wednesday morning in the Red Sea. One of the ships sustained minimal damage, according to Saudi Aramco. No injuries or pollution have been reported.

Earlier in the day, Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an attack on an unnamed Saudi tanker off the contested port of Hodeidah, Yemen. The Saudi-UAE coalition backing the Yemeni government in the nation's long-running civil war confirmed that the attack had resulted in slight damage to one vessel.

Wednesday's incidents were the latest in a long series of Houthi attacks on merchant and naval vessels off the coast of Yemen. In April, Houthi armed militias conducted a missile attack on the tanker Abqaiq, resulting slight damage to her bow. At the time, Minister al Falih said that the attack would not "affect economic activity or stall oil supplies."

Geopolitical implications

In an essay for Forbes, energy and geopolitics scholar Ellen R. Wald noted that the halt in energy shipments could provide justification for the involvement of foreign forces in the Yemeni conflict. The United States provides material assistance to Saudi forces, including aerial refueling, tank parts and aircraft repairs, but is not currently engaged in an open conflict with the Houthi side. "The Red Sea is a very important shipping lane. If there is a major disruption European powers, Egypt and the United States would all have reason to intervene," she wrote.

The Houthi rebels are widely believed to be backed by Iran, Saudi Arabia's primary competitor for regional influence. Separately, Iran has also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz - the strategic chokepoint at the mouth of the Persian Gulf - if the United States should reimpose sanctions on Iranian oil exports over Tehran's former nuclear weapons program.

https://maritime-executive.com/arti...il-shipments-through-bab-el-mandeb#gs.TLTUHv4
 

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Germany offers asylum to White Helmets, some MPs ask why not to Assange?
RT



Published on Jul 26, 2018
Germany's decision to take in members of the controversial Syrian group, the White Helmets, has sparked anger among lawmakers, who say Berlin should be offering asylum to others instead.
 

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Explainer: What is the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and Why is it Important?
July 26, 2018 by Bloomberg



Bab-el-Mandeb. Image credit: eol.jsc.nasa.gov

By Julian Lee (Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia temporarily halted oil shipments via the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a key shipping lane for crude at the southern end of the Red Sea, after the country said two tankers were attacked by the Yemeni Houthi militia. Here’s why this waterway is starting to become a focal point for the global economy.

What is the Bab el-Mandeb Strait?
The Bab el-Mandeb, or “Gate of Tears”, is a narrow neck of water that separates the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean. It’s bordered to the northeast by Yemen and to the southwest by Eritrea and Djibouti. The strait is divided into two channels by Perim Island. Larger vessels use the wider and deeper western channel, which at its narrowest point is around 16 miles (25 kilometers) wide and 170 fathoms (310 meters) deep. A smaller channel along the Yemeni coast is two miles wide. Shipping through Bab el-Mandeb is separated into inbound and outbound channels, each two miles wide.

Why is it important?
Bab el-Mandeb forms a vital link on the trade route between the Mediterranean and Asia. Vessels carrying goods between Europe and Asia, as well as oil from the Middle East to Europe and North America, pass through it if navigating Egypt’s Suez Canal. The EIA estimates that in 2016 — the last year for which it published data — 4.8 million barrels a day of crude and petroleum products flowed through the strait, with about 2.8 million going north toward Europe, and another 2 million moving in the opposite direction.

How important is Bab el-Mandeb to Saudi Arabia?
It sent 600,000 barrels a day of crude from the Persian Gulf to buyers in Europe and North America this year, according to tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. An additional 330,000 barrels a day were shipped from the country’s main export facility at Ras Tanura to its Red Sea port of Yanbu. On top of that, 120,000 a day went in the opposite direction, to Asia from Yanbu. The kingdom’s total exports have been about 7 million a day this year.

How serious could a disruption get?
There’s no suggestion that the Bab el-Mandeb could be closed, and it is rare for companies to avoid it. That happened at the height of a piracy crisis about a decade ago, during which a Saudi Arabian supertanker was among dozens seized, and owners of different types of vessels said they would divert elsewhere. The kingdom’s decision was announced late Wednesday in response to attacks on its own vessels, so it may well remain a localized issue.

How long could the suspension last?
Saudi Arabia has said the suspension is temporary. It’s unlikely to reverse the decision until it’s confident that crew, ships and cargoes are safe.

Can oil exporters bypass the strait?
Ships carrying oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe and North America can avoid the Bab el-Mandeb by traveling around the southern tip of Africa. The voyage from Fujairah, at the exit from the Persian Gulf, to Houston would increase by 2,660 nautical miles, or 28 percent. The distance to Rotterdam would rise by 4,800 nautical miles, or 78 percent, while a journey to Augusta in Italy would be nearly three times as long, at 10,860 nautical miles. The increased distances would add to shipping and fuel costs, and also disrupt supplies. A voyage from Saudi Arabia to Rotterdam takes about 22 days via the Bab el-Mandeb and Suez Canal, compared with 39 days around Africa, according to data compiled from Bloomberg tanker tracking.

Can Saudi Arabia ship more from its Red Sea ports?
Saudi Arabia could pump more of its crude across the country by pipeline to its Red Sea port of Yanbu, from where the barrels could be loaded on tankers for delivery through the Suez Canal. That would bypass the Bab el-Mandeb. The 1,200 kilometer (746-mile) East-West pipeline has a capacity of 5 million barrels a day, but it’s also used to deliver crude to four refineries along the Red Sea coast that can process as much as 1.4 million barrels a day.Saudi Aramco exported an average of 650,000 barrels a day from Yanbu this year, according to Bloomberg ship-tracking data. Supplies to the refineries and shipments from Yanbu indicate that Aramco is only using around 2 million barrels a day of capacity along the East-West pipeline. In other words, there’s a theoretical 3 million barrels a day spare.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2018.

Read Next: Trump, Iran and the New Guns of August -James Stavridis

http://gcaptain.com/explainer-what-is-the-bab-el-mandeb-strait-and-why-is-it-important/
 

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A Brief History Of US Covert Action In Syria - Part 3


by Tyler Durden
Fri, 07/27/2018 - 01:05


In part 3 of this corrective history of the Syrian proxy war, we chart ISIS' rapid advance into central Syria and inroads into the Damascus suburbs, as well as Russian intervention and the resulting failure of US regime change plans. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Part 3: The Myth of US 'Inaction' in Syria, by William Van Wagenen via The Libertarian Institute



On May 20, 2015 ISIS conquered the city of Tadmur at the site of ancient Palmyra, famous for its Roman ruins, and which lies in Homs province on the road between Deir Ezzour and Damascus. CNN reported of the ISIS assault to take Palmyra that “After at least 100 Syrian soldiers died in fighting overnight, Syrian warplanes carried out airstrikes Thursday in and around Palmyra.”

Shortly after capturing the city, ISIS released video of its fighters throwing two allegedly gay men from the top of a building, and then stoning them. CBS News cited an eyewitness as claiming that "ISIS militants blared on loudspeakers for men to gather".

Then a black van pulled up outside the Wael Hotel, and Mallah and Salamah were brought out. The first to be thrown off was Mallah. He was tied to a chair so he couldn’t resist, then pushed over the side. He landed on his back, broken but still moving. A fighter shot him in the head. Next was Salameh. He landed on his head and died immediately. Still, fighters stoned his body, Omar said. The bodies were then hung up in Palmyra’s Freedom Square for two days, each with a placard on his chest: ‘He received the punishment for practicing the crime of Lot’s people.’”

ISIS also released video of teenage boys carrying out the mass execution of 25 captured Syrian soldiers in the city’s ancient amphitheater. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that ISIS executed as many as 200 people after taking the city. ISIS militants also murdered Khalid al-Asaad, the 83 year old retired director of antiquities for Palmyra. The New York Timesreports that “After detaining him for weeks, the jihadists dragged him on Tuesday to a public square where a masked swordsman cut off his head in front of a crowd, Mr. Asaad’s relatives said. His blood-soaked body was then suspended with red twine by its wrists from a traffic light, his head resting on the ground between his feet, his glasses still on, according to a photo distributed on social media by Islamic State supporters.”

CNN commented that despite these atrocities, “there’s no indication that Syrian ground forces will try to take back the city, 150 miles northeast of Damascus, the capital. Nor that any other countries such as the United States will come to the rescue. ‘The world does not care about us,’ the Palmyra resident said. ‘All they are interested in is the stones of ancient Palmyra.’”

US refused to stop ISIS advance on Palmyra
US planners could have indeed bombed convoys of ISIS fighters moving across the open desert from Raqqa to assault Palmyra, but chose not to.
The LA Times reported of this period that “as Islamic State [ISIS] closed in on Palmyra, the U.S.-led aerial coalition that has been pummeling Islamic State in Syria for the past 18 months took no action to prevent the extremists’ advance toward the historic town — which, until then, had remained in the hands of the sorely overstretched Syrian security forces.

The U.S. approach in Palmyra contrasted dramatically with the very proactive U.S. bombardment of Kobani during 2014-15 on behalf of U.S.-allied Kurdish militias fending off a furious Islamic State offensive [Emphasis mine].” US planners were willing to come to the aid of their Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria against ISIS, but refused to do the same for residents in Palmyra, as the city had been under Syrian government control.

One year later, in March 2016, Russian and Syrian forces were able to retake Palmyra and liberate it from ISIS, to the displeasure of US planners. The LA Times noted that White House officials have “difficulty publicly lauding advances against Islamic State by Assad and his allies, including the Russians and Iranians, after years of calling for Assad’s fall” and that the Russian success in combating ISIS created a “dilemma” for US planners, because “Washington has endeavored to portray the battle against Islamic State as a project of the United States and its allies, while accusing Moscow of attacking ‘moderate’ rebels instead of the extremists. Palmyra seems to embody an alternative narrative.” US dissatisfaction at the defeat of ISIS in Palmyra was also expressed by State Department spokesperson Mark Toner at a press briefing in March 2016, when Toner refused “to laud” the Syrian and Russian effort to liberate the city.

The fall of Palmyra in May 2015 resulted in ISIS control of some 50% of Syrian territory, and constituted “another strategic defeat that could expose Homs and Damascus to the terror group’s advances,” according to the Guardian. Al-Jazeeraacknowledged the same, explaining that the “fall of the city potentially opens the way for ISIL [ISIS] to advance towards key government-held areas, including the capital and Homs.”

Terror Insurgency Gains Momentum
After capturing Palmyra, ISIS militants attempted multiple times to assault the nearby T4 airbase, located 40 km west to the west of the ancient city in Homs province. Crowd-sourced journalism site Bellingcat reported that “The Islamic State’s [ISIS] offensive in Central Syria has not only allowed the fighters of the Islamic State [ISIS] to expand their operations into areas previously out of reach, but it now also threatens the regime’s gas supplies, its presence on numerous fronts, its control over the only road leading to the vitally important T4 airbase and the airbase itself, the largest of its kind in Syria.”

On August 6, 2015 ISIS advanced further toward the Damascus by capturing the town of al-Qaryatain, which lays roughly half way between Palmyra and the Syrian capital. United Press International (UPI) reports that “37 pro-government forces were killed, as were 23 IS militants.

The battle began with suicide bombings at checkpoints of the town of about 40,000; the population of the community, a mix of Sunni Muslims and Christians, has been reduced by the flight of refugees. The capture of al-Qaryatain indicates IS [ISIS] can move troops and supplies across central Syria without interference, from Palmyra in the east and southwestward to al-Qaryatain.” CNN cited SOHR as reporting that “The Islamic extremists [ISIS] have abducted more than 200 people, said Rami Abdurrahman, the observatory’s executive director. Up to 500 people are unaccounted for, but Abdurrahman said the observatory has confirmed that at least 230 people have been taken hostage.

He said that ISIS militants targeted Christians, some of whom were abducted from the town’s Dar Alyan monastery, as well as people believed to have alliances with the Syrian regime.” To be considered a collaborator or as having “alliances with the regime” by ISIS, it was often enough to simply have a picture of Bashar al-Assad on one’s phone, despite the fact that “lots of people have a picture of Bashar on the phone because it helps them get through checkpoints,” according to one former ISIS captive. ISIS militants then bulldozed the 1,500 year old monastery and its church, while the senior priest, Father Jacques Mouraud, was among the kidnapped.

The capture of Qaraytain also allowed ISIS forces to threaten to take control of the strategic M5 highway on month later.

Patrick Cockburn of the Independent reported in September 2015 that “Islamic State (Isis) forces in Syria are threatening to capture a crucial road, the loss of which could touch off a panic and the exodus of several million refugees from government areas, in addition to the four million who have already fled. Isis fighters have advanced recently to within 22 miles of the M5 highway, the only major route connecting government-held territory in Damascus to the north and west of the country. . . The four million Syrians who are already refugees mostly came from opposition or contested areas that have been systematically bombarded by government aircraft and artillery, making them uninhabitable.

But the majority of the 17 million Syrians still in the country live in government-controlled areas now threatened by Isis. These people are terrified of Isis occupying their cities, towns and villages because of its reputation for mass executions, ritual mutilation and rape against those not obedient to its extreme variant of Sunni Islam. Half the Syrian population has already been displaced inside or outside the country, so accurate figures are hard to estimate, but among those particularly at risk are the Alawites (2.6 million), the Shia heterodox sect that has provided the ruling elite of Syria since the 1960s, the Christians (two million), the Syrian Kurds (2.2 million), and Druze (650,000) in addition to millions of Sunni Arabs associated with the Syrian government and its army [emphasis mine].”

ISIS inroads to Damascus
By April 2015, ISIS and Nusra had also captured the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, known as the capital of the Palestinian diaspora, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, and just kilometers from the presidential palace. This allowed ISIS and Nusra to control territory that could be used as a base to assault the heart of the Syrian capital itself.

Flush with newly delivered weapons supplied by the CIA and its Saudi partners, rebels from the FSA and Nusra had invaded and occupied Yarmouk camp two and a half years previously, on December 15, 2012. Rebels entered the camp against the will of Yarmouk’s resident’s, despite explicit requests from the PLO that the rebels not invade, as Palestinians wished to remain neutral in the conflict.

Some 800,000 Yarmouk residents, both Palestinian and Syrian, fled the camp to escape the dangers of the subsequent fighting. Residents, fearing both the rebel mortars and Syrian government MiG airstrikes, sought refuge in other Damascus neighborhoods, in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, in Turkey, and even in Europe, with the scale of the displacement numerically rivaling that of the 1948 Nakba.

Rebels soon began looting homes, taking over hospitals and stealing medicine. The Syrian government imposed a siege on Yarmouk, which prevented the rebels from advancing further toward Damascus, but which made food, water, and basic necessities scarce, forcing residents to depend heavily on intermittent UNRWA humanitarian aid deliveries. Government and rebel use of heavy artillery and mortars while fighting one another led to significant destruction in the camp, and scores of civilian deaths.

The few remaining civilians, roughly 20,000, became trapped in the camp because, as one Yarmouk resident told the Guardian, “rebel groups were eager to keep people in the camp, she said, particularly men and boys. Their departure was seen as defection from the opposition cause as well as potentially making it easier for government troops to enter the camp by force and regain control.” While the Syrian government encouraged civilians to leave, many nonetheless feared being detained by the Syrian security forces which were screening exiting civilians for fighters. The rebel occupation and government siege continued for years, causing hundreds of deaths due to starvation and lack of medical care.

In April 2015, Nusra fighters facilitated the entry of ISIS fighters into Yarmouk. The BBC reported that “Monitors say IS [ISIS] and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, who have fought each other in other parts of Syria, are working together in Yarmouk.”

Several thousand residents who managed to escape the camp and take shelter in a school in an area under Syrian army control told of ISIS atrocities, including one boy who saw ISIS fighters using a severed head as a soccer ball, and a woman who described how “’Daesh’s [ISIS] arrival meant destruction and massacre. Their behavior’s not human and their religion is not ours.”

Clashes between ISIS and local Palestinian rebels (who were loyal to Hamas and had previously supported Nusra’s initial invasion of the camp) exacerbated the humanitarian situation, forcing UNRWA to cease the already limited aid deliveries to Yarmouk. The Guardian quoted one Yarmouk resident as stating, “There is no food or electricity or water, Daesh [ISIS] is killing and looting the camp, there are clashes, there is shelling. Everyone is shelling the camp. . . As soon as Daesh entered the camp they burned the Palestinian flag and beheaded civilians.”

The Syrian government tightened the siege, reaffirming their concern that ISIS fighters controlled territory so near the heart of the Syrian capital. Al-Jazeera reporter Stefanie Dekker explained that “It is a complex situation. The government forces control the northern part [of the camp] towards Damascus. It is their priority to keep the capital safe. . . The fact that ISIL [ISIS] fighters are less than 10km away is of a huge concern. If they allow a humanitarian corridor, who will be coming out?” Despite these concerns, al-Jazeera reported that the Syrian government did indeed allow residents to leave, as some 2,000 were able to be evacuated at this time, with many finding shelter in government schools in neighboring areas.

Fighters from the pro-government Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) confronted ISIS fighters at the northern edge of the camp to stop their advance, while the Syrian military bombed ISIS positions. Foreign Policy quoted one PFLP-GC fighter originally from Yarmouk as saying “I will not stop until they [ISIS] leave the camp. . . I have no problem staying here in this position, not sleeping, digging out tunnels, and fighting. We need to do this,” while quoting another PFLP-GC fighter who felt that “If we weren’t here fighting, [the militants] would be able to access Damascus. . . We’re here to protect the camp and Damascus.”

The New York Times acknowledged the ISIS threat to Syrian capital at this time, observing that “By seizing much of the camp” ISIS had “made its greatest inroads yet into Damascus,” while the Washington Post noted that “Their new push puts [ISIS] within five miles of the heart of the capital... even as they are on the retreat in Iraq.”

As a result of this threat, 14 Palestinian factions agreed to form a joint operations room with the Syrian army to try defeat ISIS militarily and purge its militants from the camp. PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani told a press conference that “The decision will be jointly made by the two sides to retake the camp from the obscurantist terrorists who seize it now.” However, the PLO soon reversed course, claiming the Palestinians should not be dragged into any conflict, allegedly as a result of pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

US Policy of Leveraging ISIS Against Assad
The US preference for the advance of ISIS toward Damascus, even as US warplanes were bombing the terror group in Eastern Syria and Iraq, was explained by Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry shockingly admitted that US planners actually welcomed the ISIS push toward Damascus, which they felt they could leverage to put pressure on Assad to give up power to the US-backed opposition. As discussed above, Kerry explained that, “We were watching. We saw that Daesh [ISIS]was growing in strength. And we thought Assad was threatened. We thought we could manage that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got Putin to support him.”

The New York Times reported in detail on the meeting, an audio recording of which was leaked, as did the Guardian and CNN. Despite Kerry’s shocking comments, none of these three news outlets mentioned his admission that US planners welcomed the ISIS advance on Damascus, presumably due to requests by US intelligence officials.

CNN initially posted the full audio of the leaked tape, but later took it down, claiming in an editor’s note to have done so for the safety of participants in the meeting.

Enter Russia
The Nusra/FSA advance on Latakia and ISIS advance on Damascus and the M5 highway provides the context in which Russian forces intervened in Syria in September 2015. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Charles Glass confirmed Secretary of State Kerry’s view that Russia intervened in the conflict to prevent the fall of the Syrian government to jihadists from Nusra and ISIS. Glass quoted “one analyst familiar with Russian decision making” as noting that by autumn 2015, “it was clear Damascus could fall,” which was a “red line” that “Russia could not abide.” As a result, Russia “increased air support and sent ground forces to guarantee the survival of Syria’s government, army, and institutions. Its action saved Damascus from an insurgent onslaught and gave the Syrian army the upper hand in the long seesaw war.”

US planners responded to Russian efforts to save Damascus and Latakia from Nusra and ISIS respectively by immediately increasing shipments of TOW anti-tank missiles to the FSA, despite their knowledge these weapons had helped Nusra conquer Idlib and threaten Latakia.

The New York Times reported on October 12, 2015, just two weeks after the start of the Russian intervention, that rebels were now receiving as many TOW missiles as they asked for. One FSA commander explained, “We get what we ask for in a very short time,” while another rebel official in Hama called the supply “carte blanche,” suggesting, “We can get as much as we need and whenever we need them.” The NYT also acknowledged that FSA cooperation with Nusra constituted a “tactical alliance that Free Syrian Army commanders describe as an uncomfortable marriage of necessity, because they cannot operate without the consent of the larger and stronger Nusra Front.”

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) observedthat “at this point it is impossible to argue that U.S. officials involved in the CIA’s program cannot discern that Nusra and other extremists have benefited” from CIA weapons shipments to Syrian rebels, “And despite this, the CIA decided to drastically increase lethal support to vetted rebel factions following the Russian intervention into Syria in late September.”

The CIA knew where TOW Missiles were going
Understanding that TOW shipments were benefitting al-Qaeda, US planners stopped short of also providing anti-aircraft missiles to FSA groups. US planners have strongly supported Syrian rebel groups, but not at any cost. The New York Times noted that the Russians “appear to be using techniques honed in Afghanistan, where the occupying Soviet Army fought insurgents who were eventually supplied with antiaircraft missiles by the United States. Some of those insurgents later began Al Qaeda. That specter hangs over American policy, and has kept Syrian insurgents from receiving what they most want: antiaircraft missiles . . .”

Opposition supporters, including many oddly identifying as socialists, complained bitterly that US planners were not willing to take the step of providing anti-aircraft missiles to the FSA, for the ultimate benefit of al-Qaeda. Author and opposition supporter Leila al-Shami bizarrely suggested the US refusal to provide anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels proves that “The United States support for Free Syrian Army militias on the ground has never really been any more than rhetoric. It’s never really given any serious support to them.” Al-Shami ignores the over $1 billion of weaponry and assistance provided by the CIA to the rebels directly, not to mention the much larger amounts of aid provided by America’s Gulf partners to both the FSA and Salafi rebel groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam since the start of the Syrian conflict, with US approval.

Some opposition supporters expressed to Secretary of State Kerry that they would not be satisfied unless the US military intervened directly on behalf of the rebels to depose Assad, despite the illegality of doing so under international law, and potential that such an intervention could trigger a direct conflict between the US and Russia.

Rebel-affiliated media activists tweeting under the guise of the young girl, Bana al-Abed, suggested the US should come to the aid of the al-Qaeda-dominated rebels in Aleppo even at the risk of starting World War III with Russia.

Conclusion
US planners welcomed rebel gains in Syria, including by jihadist groups advocating genocide against Syria’s Alawite population such as ISIS and Nusra, because these gains bolstered the broader US goal of toppling the Syrian government, in an effort to weaken its close allies, Iran and Hezbollah.

US planners wished to see rebel gains in Syria, in spite of the obviously catastrophic consequences for Syrian civilians that rebel success would bring. US support for the rebels belies the myth of US “inaction” in Syria, and the myth that any US intervention would be for the sake of preventing massacres and even genocide, rather than in support of it.

The Syrian government is an authoritarian police state that has long been in need of drastic reform. Like all governments fighting a war, the Syrian government has killed civilians and committed crimes against innocent people during the course of the Syrian conflict (though the extent of these crimes has been massively inflated and often even fabricated in the Western press). Similarly, the Russian military deserves harsh criticism, as it has undoubtedly killed civilians unnecessarily during air strikes against the rebels. The deaths of these civilians are tragic, as are the deaths of civilians in Raqqa and Mosul killed by US bombs in the effort to defeat ISIS in those cities.

It is unclear however, how Syrian civilians generally would have benefited if US planners had succeeded in accomplishing their goal of helping the predominantly jihadist Syrian rebels, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, topple the Syrian government. One Syrian fighting for a pro-government militia articulated why he and many Syrians in general oppose the rebels and the Syrian political opposition which supports them: “At first, my family sympathized with the protesters. But then it became obvious that the hardliners among the secular opposition work in the interests of Turkey and the Arab monarchies. Plus the course for Islamization was visible early on, and that was a concern. Like pretty much all normal people, my family, my friends and everyone I know in Syria are strongly against Wahhabis and religious extremism in general [emphasis mine],” with Wahhabism referring to the state ideology of Saudi Arabia, from which al-Qaeda and ISIS draw much of their inspiration.

In Syria’s major population centers, civilians are terrified that the rebels will come, and look to the Syrian army to protect them. Large numbers of civilians leave any city where rebels gain a foothold and seek refuge primarily in government controlled areas of the country or outside of Syria itself. The threat of Syrian and Russian bombing certainly plays a role in this, but it is clear that rebel looting, the murder of minorities and those sympathetic to the government, and the imposition of extremist religious rule do not endear the rebels to Syria’s civilian population.

Contrary to most reporting on Syria, which suggests the "civil war" has pitted Syria’s entire Sunni population against its Alawite, Christian, Druze, Shia and other minorities, in fact many Syrian Sunnis support the government and oppose Salafi-Jihadism, the extremist religious ideology undergirding most rebel groups in Syria.

The Syrian government would have fallen long ago, if not for Sunni support. For example, the rebels were hated even in the majority Sunni city of Aleppo and many Sunnis continue to fight in the Syrian army against the rebels, while many Syrian Sunnis have been killed by the rebels for this support of the government. For this reason, describing the rebels as “Sunni” is misleading. A more accurate description of Syria’s rebels would be “Salafi-Jihadi” or “Wahhabi,” or “Takfiri,” or “religious fundamentalist” rather than “Sunni.”

Had Damascus and Latakia fallen to the rebels, not only Alawites and Christians, but also pro-government Sunnis and Sunnis opposed to Salafi-Jihadi ideology would have been massacred, not to mention members of Syria’s LGBTQ community.

The Russian intervention in Syria then, by all indications, prevented this horrific outcome for Syrians of all ethnic and religious identities, despite the best efforts of US planners to achieve the “catastrophic success” in Syria they had hoped for.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-07-26/brief-history-us-covert-action-syria-part-3
 

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Risks to Middle East Oil and Gas Shipping Routes: Here’s What’s At Stake
July 26, 2018 by Reuters



Photo: Anatoly Menzhiliy / Shutterstock




DUBAI, July 26 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was suspending oil shipments through the Red Sea after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two crude tankers, underscoring risks caused by the conflict in the world’s top oil exporting region.

Iran, in its row with the United States over sanctions, has also threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, the other major strategic shipping route for oil from the region and the main route for Iranian crude exports.

Below are facts about region’s shipping routes:

BAB AL-MANDEB
Any move to block the Bab al-Mandeb, the narrow waterway between the coasts of Yemen and Africa at the southern end of the Red Sea, would virtually halt oil shipments through Egypt’s Suez Canal or the SUMED crude pipeline that link the Red Sea and Mediterranean.

The SUMED pipeline, with capacity for 2.34 million bpd, runs roughly parallel to the Suez Canal and can be used by oil tankers that cannot navigate the canal waterway.

An estimated 4.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through the strait in 2016 to Europe, the United States and Asia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Reuters data shows Saudi crude exports through Bab al-Mandeb, which is about 18 miles (29 km) wide at its narrowest point between Djibouti’s coast and the Yemeni mainland, are estimated to be 500,000-700,000 bpd.

Closing the strait, which has a shipping channel just two miles (3.2 km) wide, would force oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers around the southern tip of Africa, extending the distance for a vessel travelling between Saudi Arabia and the United States by 2,700 miles (4,300 km).

This would add weeks to the journey time and extra costs, although Saudi Arabia could export its crude along that route on non-Saudi vessels.

STRAIT OF HORMUZ
About 18.5 million bpd of oil or more than 30 percent of seaborne traded crude was transported in 2016 through the Strait of Hormuz, making the waterway at the southern end of the Gulf the most important oil transit channel in the world, according to U.S. EIA figures.

The strait, which is about 33 miles (54 km) wide at its narrowest point, separates the Arabian Peninsula from Iran.

Most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq must slip through a four mile (6.4 km) wide channel between the Omani and Iranian coasts.

More than 85 percent of the crude oil that moves through it is sent to Asia, mainly Japan, India, South Korea and China.

In addition, LNG tankers from Qatar, the world’s biggest LNG exporter, pass through the strait.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain and responsible for an area that includes the Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean, has said it would not allow any disruption of traffic through the strait.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pipelines that can transport their crude without passing through the strait. The UAE can ship crude from it Indian Ocean coastline, while Saudi Arabia’s alternative route runs to its Red Sea port of Yanbu.

SAUDI ARABIA
Most oil exports from Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter which produces about 10 million bpd, are transported by ship through the Strait of Hormuz.

In addition, the East-West Pipeline, known as Petroline, mainly transports crude from the kingdom’s eastern fields to Yanbu, which lies north of Bab al-Mandeb so shipments could avoid that Red Sea shipping chokepoint.

The Petroline has capacity to transport about 5 million bpd of the kingdom’s oil exports that can reach 8 million bpd.

Saudi Arabia has a parallel 290,000 bpd Abqaiq-Yanbu natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline linking gas processing plants in the east with NGL export facilities at Yanbu. It also provides only a partial alternative to Saudi shipments of NGL from the Gulf.

State oil giant Saudi Aramco plans to launch its overhauled Muajjiz oil terminal on the Red Sea this year, lifting its total loading and export capacity to as much as 15 million bpd.

Located on the Red Sea, Muajjiz had been used as an export terminal for Iraqi crude through the Iraqi Pipeline in Saudi Arabia (IPSA), but it has not carried Iraqi crude since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

OTHER GULF PRODUCERS
Other OPEC members in the region, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, rely almost entirely on the Strait of Hormuz.

A Kuwaiti official said 90 percent of Kuwaiti oil shipments go to Asia and do not pass through Bab al-Mandeb. The remaining 10 percent of its shipments passing through the Red Sea chokepoint were mostly refined products.

The UAE has built a new pipeline, the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline with a capacity of 1.5 million bpd, to carry the bulk of its production to Fujairah, a bunkering hub and oil terminal on the Indian Ocean, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz.

Qatar, a small crude exporter, shipped about 3.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) per year of LNG through the Strait of Hormuz in 2013, according to BP Statistics.

IRAQ
Nearly 80 percent of Iraq’s crude is exported through Gulf ports and through the Strait of Hormuz. Most of it heads to Asia.

IRAN
Iran’s total reliance on crude exports through the Strait of Hormuz is one of the reasons why it is unlikely to be blocked.

Sources: U.S. EIA, Saudi Aramco World, BP Statistical Review, Reuters News, Sumed website, IEA.

(Reporting by Rania El Gamal Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper Editing by Edmund Blair)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2018.

Explainer: What is the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and Why is it Important

http://gcaptain.com/risks-to-middle-east-oil-and-gas-shipping-routes-heres-whats-at-stake/
 

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Poison toothpaste, prisoners hypnotised to kill: How Mossad, Israel's secret service, has become the world leader in assassins with 800 operations in the last decade

  • Israel, a country born in bloodshed, has become the leader in assassinations
  • Mossad’s secret agents killed more people than the agents of any other state since World War II, with some 800 operations in the last ten years alone
  • An operation in 1968 was directly inspired by the film The Manchurian Candidate
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...ls-secret-service-world-leader-assassins.html
 

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Taliban militants claim to have held their first direct talks with the US in Qatar, in bid to negotiate a peace deal to end the bloody 17-year-long Afghan conflict

  • Taliban member said group met with top US diplomat in South Asia, Alice Wells
  • Described meeting, not confirmed by American officials, as 'positive' and 'useful'
  • If true, it's one of the most significant developments towards drafting peace deal
  • Taliban source said discussions were aimed at preparing for future peace talks
  • The militant was confident there would be another similar meeting in the future
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6002101/Taliban-militants-hold-direct-talks-Qatar.html
 

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Trump says he'll meet Iran's leaders with 'no preconditions' after tense standoff with Rouhani and reports that the U.S. was ready to bomb Tehran

  • Trump said Monday during a press conference with Italy's prime minister that he would be willing to meet personally with Iran's leaders
  • 'No preconditions,' Trump said, offering that 'if they want to meet, I'll meet'
  • Trump waged an international war of words with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week, exchanging militaristic barbs
  • But ultimately the American leader softened, saying by week's end that he was ready to make a new nuclear deal with Tehran
  • He has already had one unprecedented leader-to-leader summit, last month's meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...hell-meet-Irans-leaders-no-preconditions.html
 

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Israel Threatens Military Response If 'Iran-backed' Houthis Block Red Sea Strait


by Tyler Durden
Thu, 08/02/2018 - 08:16


Will the war in Yemen become the next battleground in the ongoing Iran-Israel proxy war for the Middle East?

The past year has witnessed a more out in the open proxy war between the two grow in Syria, but the role of both in Yemen has been more obscured: Israel has echoed US charges that Iran supplies Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels with ballistic missiles capable of hitting Riyadh, while the Shia rebels have accused the "Zionist" Saudis of massacring the civilian population as the kingdom's covert intelligence sharing alliance with Israel has become public knowledge of late.

While the two have waged what is largely up to this point a war of words in Yemen, trading accusations of operating in the shadows, Israel has now openly threatened to intervene off the coast of Yemen if Houthi forces block the vital waterway through which cargo ships bound for Israel pass from Asia.



According to a breaking Reuters story, "Israel would deploy its military if Iran were to try to block the Bab al-Mandeb strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday."

This is the first significant threat of deploying military force issued from Tel Aviv in the Yemeni theater, and comes after the temporary halt in shipments through the strategic Bab el Mandeb strait which began a week ago. The halt followed a Saudi accusation that Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen had attacked two Saudi oil tankers traversing the waterway, driving home the threat that the conflict poses to a key chokepoint in international trade and the flow of Gulf oil to world markets. The Houthis for their part claimed they had actually attacked a Saudi warship rather than oil tankers.

Saudis have in previous months accused the Houthis of attacking Saudi commercial ships passing through the strait with surface-to-surface missiles supplied by Iran. In early April, for example, the coalition said a Saudi oil tanker in the Red Sea was hit in a Houthi attack off Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, and escaped with minor damage after another coalition ship intervened.

An estimated 4.8 million barrels of oil are shipped daily through Bab al Mandeb that connects the Red Sea with the Arabian Sea off the coast of Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea.



Meanwhile major Western media have largely ignored the devastating Saudi military intervention in Yemen, now in its third year, which has resulted in possibly up to 70,000 deaths, according to some humanitarian and activists group accounts.

Yemen's Houthis have on several occasions threatened to block the vital Bab al-Mandeb strait along with last week announcing naval capabilities of striking Saudi ports.

Simultaneously, there's a growing standoff in another major oil transit point, the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where Iranian military leadership (specifically the elite IRGC) and the Pentagon have exchanged threats over oil tankers' safe passage. Though Iran has issued veiled threats of blocking the Hormuz strait, it's not directly addressed fighting near Bab al-Mandeb, possibly playing a much more behind the scenes and reserved role in Yemen.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu announced the following at a military parade in Haifa: “If Iran will try to block the straits of Bab al-Mandeb, I am certain that it will find itself confronting an international coalition that will be determined to prevent this, and this coalition will also include all of Israel’s military branches.”

Netanyahu further called recent alleged incidents of Houthi attacks on Saudi ships "a sharp clash with Iran's satellites who tried to sabotage international shipping" at the mouth of the Red Sea.

Israel's defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, in a separate speech echoed the prime minister's charge at the same event, saying he had "recently heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea" while giving no further specifics to back the claim.

The halt of oil shipments could provoke an escalation of the conflict with external powers intervening in a bid to assist Saudi Arabia and the UAE in defeating the Houthis and dealing a blow to Iran’s alleged regional presence.

By the same token, the halt potentially offers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates an opportunity to focus international attention on resolving a civil war aggravated and turned into a regional conflict by the two Gulf states’ military intervention in March 2015.

Rather than proving to be a swift campaign that would have subdued the Houthis, the intervention has turned into a quagmire an
d a public relations fiasco for Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

International criticism of their conduct of the war is mounting as a result of its devastating human cost. Voices in the US Congress, the British parliament and other Western legislatures as well as human rights groups calling for a halt of arms sales to Saudi Arabia are growing ever louder.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018...e-if-iran-backed-houthis-close-red-sea-strait
 

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Massive military exercise involving 100 warships 'is underway in Iran' amid heightened tensions with the US

  • More than 100 Iranian warships are said to be involved in the drills in the Gulf
  • Activity seen in the Strait of Hormuz - a strategic waterway for oil shipments
  • Iran was left furious after Donald Trump pulled out of international nuclear deal
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...ise-involving-100-warships-underway-Iran.html
 

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EU Blocks Trump’s Iran Sanctions To Protect Companies Hours Ahead Of Snapback


by Tyler Durden
Mon, 08/06/2018 - 07:46


The European Union issued a statement Monday ahead of when renewed US sanctions are set to snap back against Iran after midnight US Eastern time, saying it "deeply regrets" the sanctions and will take immediate action to protect European companies still doing business with Iran.


Image source: ATR


The statement by EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany pledged to also work to keep "effective financial channels" open with Iran. "We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the US, due to the latter's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)," the statement issued from Brussels begins.

The US has ordered all other countries to halt imports of Iranian oil by early November or face punitive measures. In a statement on Sunday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the White House will detail implementation of the measures sometime Monday morning.

As expected after the Trump administration was unmoved by European leaders' calls for an exemption, the EU will seek legal protection for firms in the 28-nation bloc to work with Iran by invoking its so-called blocking statute, considered the most powerful tool at its immediate disposal. When invoked, it bans any EU company from complying with US sanctions and does not recognize any foreign court rulings seeking to enforce American penalties.

According to the statement:

We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with UN Security Council resolution 2231. This is why the European Union’s updated Blocking Statute enters into force on 7 August to protect EU companies doing legitimate business with Iran from the impact of US extra-territorial sanctions.​

The EU also restated its commitment to upholding the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), calling the 2015 brokered agreement "a matter of international security":

The remaining parties to the JCPOA have committed to work on, inter alia, the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran's export of oil and gas.​

At the end of the day Monday, the following sanctions will be re-imposed according to a US Treasury Department official statement:

“Sanctions on the purchase or acquisition of US dollar bank notes by the Government of Iran; sanctions on Iran’s trade in gold or precious metals; sanctions on the direct or indirect sale, supply, or transfer to or from Iran of graphite, raw, or semi-finished metals such as aluminum and steel, coal, and software for integrating industrial processes; sanctions on significant transactions related to the purchase or sale of Iranian rials, or the maintenance of significant funds or accounts outside the territory of Iran denominated in the Iranian rial; sanctions on the purchase, subscription to, or facilitation of the issuance of Iranian sovereign debt; sanctions on Iran’s automotive sector.”

Furthermore, according to the US Treasury, this includes a ban on Iranian-origin carpets and foodstuffs, and notably export or re-export commercial airplanes as well as services and parts.

It is unclear if the EU blocking statute will have any significant impact beyond being used as sending a strong political message.

First adopted in 1996, the blocking statute bans EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions, allowing them to recover damages arising from such sanctions, and declares null any foreign court proceedings seeking to impose penalties among EU countries.
Reuters explained in May after President Trump formally pulled the United States from the JCPOA that "it has never been used and is seen by European governments more as a political weapon than a regulation because its rules are vague and difficult to enforce, serving mainly as a warning to the United States."

And further that, "The international reach of the U.S. financial system and the U.S. presence of many European companies also raise questions about its effectiveness."

But perhaps the real question remains whether or not Iran's economy will weather the storm, which could ultimately become to catalyst for European companies severing relations.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018...n-effective-financial-channels-iran-statement
 

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US-backed military coalition in war-torn Yemen is 'secretly PAYING al-Qaeda to leave cities and letting fighters retreat with weapons and looted cash without firing a shot at them - despite claiming key victories'

  • US backed coalition claims to have made key victories over al-Qaeda in Yemen
  • But investigation claims fighters are sometimes paid to leave city strongholds
  • Others are 'allowed to leave with weapons and looted cash without shots fired'
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...en-secretly-PAYING-al-Qaeda-leave-cities.html
 

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Trump Warns Allies "Risk Severe Consequences" If They Violate Iran Sanctions


by Tyler Durden
Mon, 08/06/2018 - 11:10


With the hours ticking by ahead of Washington's re-imposition of a slew of economic sanctions on Iran, President Trump has just released a statement confirming the narrative he would prefer Americans believe.




Just hours after the European Union issued a statement Monday ahead of when renewed US sanctions are set to snap back against Iran after midnight US Eastern time, saying it "deeply regrets" the sanctions and will take immediate action to protect European companies still doing business with Iran.

Trump makes it clear that any violation (among America's allies) will not be tolerated...

"The Trump Administration intends to fully enforce the sanctions reimposed against Iran, and those who fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences."

The first set of sanctions will hit at the Iranian financial system, including Iranian government purchases of US dollars and its gold trade and government bond sales. The US' dominant role in the world's financial system means it has been able to pressure countries and companies into compliance, though China remains a key holdout.

"The JCPOA, a horrible, one-sided deal, failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb," Trump said Monday, defining that its policy as applying "maximum economic pressure on the Iranian regime."​

The US denies it is seeking regime change, but rather aims to "modify the regime's behavior," according to an administration official.
A US administration official said the Iranian government was using financial resources freed up by the nuclear deal "to spread human misery." The US was seeking now to address the "totality of the Iranian threat" in the Middle East.

"None of this needs to happen," an official said on sanctions. Trump is willing to meet the Iranian leadership "any time" for talks," the official noted.

* * *

Full Statement below:

REIMPOSING TOUGH SANCTIONS: President Donald J. Trump, Administration is taking action to reimpose sanctions lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

  • President Trump made clear when he ended United States participation in the JCPOA that his Administration would be reimposing tough sanctions on the Iranian regime.
In connection with the withdrawal from the JCPOA, the Administration laid out two wind-down periods of 90 days and 180 days for business activities in or involving Iran.​
  • Consistent with President Trump's decision, the Administration will be reimposing specified sanctions after August 6, the final day of the 90-day wind-down period.
  • On August 7, sanctions will be reimposed on:
The purchase or acquisition of United States bank notes by the Government of Iran.
Iran, trade in gold and other precious metals.
Graphite, aluminum, steel, coal, and software used in industrial processes.
Transactions related to the Iranian rial.
Activities relating to Iran's issuance of sovereign debt
Iran, automotive sector.​
  • The remaining sanctions will be reimposed on November 5, including sanctions on:
Iran, port operators and energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors.
Iran, petroleum-related transactions.
Transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.​
  • The Administration will also relist hundreds of individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft that were previously included on sanctions lists.
ENSURING FULL ENFORCEMENT: President Trump will continue to stand up to the Iranian regime's aggression, and the United States will fully enforce the reimposed sanctions.
  • The Iranian regime has exploited the global financial system to fund its malign activities.
The regime has used this funding to support terrorism, promote ruthless regimes, destabilize the region, and abuse the human rights of its own people.​
  • The Trump Administration intends to fully enforce the sanctions reimposed against Iran, and those who fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences.
  • Since the President announced his decision on May 8 to withdraw from the JCPOA, the Administration has sanctioned 38 Iran-related targets in six separate actions.
PROTECTING OUR NATIONAL SECURITY: The JCPOA was defective at its core and failed to guarantee the safety of the American people.
  • President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran deal upheld his highest obligation: to protect the safety and security of the American people.
  • The Iranian regime only grew more aggressive under the cover of the JCPOA and was given access to more resources to pursue its malign activities.
The regime continues to threaten the United States and our allies, exploit the international financial system, and support terrorism and foreign proxies.​
  • The Administration is working with allies to bring pressure on the Iranian regime to achieve an agreement that denies all paths to a nuclear weapon and addresses other malign activities.
* * *

The initial reaction in markets was modest aside from in the oil complex where prices spiked...




https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018...e-consequences-if-they-violate-iran-sanctions
 

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Trump slams 'horrible, one-sided' Iran nuclear deal as he reimposes sanctions on Tehran and threatens 'severe consequences' against nations and businesses that refuse to abide by his decree

  • President Trump said Monday that he will fully enforce sanctions due to be reimposed against Iran at midnight
  • He signed an executive order authorizing the punishing actions behind closed doors from his New Jersey estate
  • Statement trashed the Iran nuclear pact as a 'horrible' and 'one-sided' agreement
  • 'Individuals or entities that fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences,' Trump said
  • After promising as a candidate to rip up the nuclear agreement Trump formally withdrew from the international pact in May
  • Other sanctions that were halted as a result of the nuclear agreement will go into effect at the beginning of November
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...ntation-new-Iran-sanctions-Monday-Pompeo.html
 

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US aims to crush Iran's oil sector in next wave of sanctions

CNBC
Patti Domm
9 hrs ago


Crude prices are likely to be volatile and higher, as tensions between the U.S. and Tehran rise ahead of the next wave of sanctions, aimed at cutting off Iran's oil exports by early November.

As a first wave of U.S. sanctions were reimposed Monday on Iran's financial, automotive, aviation and metals sectors, Iran President Hassan Rouhani lashed back, saying President Donald Trump's call for talks between the two countries was not honest and was only for show in America.

"If you stab someone in the back and then say you want talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife," Rouhani said in a televised address. Rouhani's speech came after reports of protesters taking to the streets in recent days complaining about the faltering economy and rising prices, and chanting: "Death to inflation! Death to unemployment!" according to The Wall Street Journal.

Analysts see little chance for discussions between the U.S. and Iran and expect both sides to become more entrenched, for now.

"There's no way there's sanctions relief before an agreement is reached. Then the Iranians don't gain anything from talking," said Matthew Reed, vice president at Foreign Report. "The White House has set a very high bar for what they think Iranian conduct should be. This is not just about the nuclear agreement. It's about everything the Iranians do and get away with in the region."

The U.S. has objected to Iranian meddling in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, in which it supports rebels that are hostile to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has also charged that Iran supports terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. "On top of that, the White House also wants to see human rights respected. It's a very long list and a lot of it speaks to the DNA of the [Iranian] system," Reed said.

Oil prices were higher Monday as the sanctions were reimposed but mainly because Saudi Arabia oil production reportedly fell in July, to 10.29 million barrels a day, a decline of 200,000 barrels from the month earlier. The decline in output was a surprise because Saudi Arabia had seemed to commit to Trump's request to tap its spare capacity and add barrels to the market to make up for shortfalls due to Iran.

The reduction in Iranian exports has not yet shown up in the market, but the Saudi reduction in output created nervousness in the market. "Without the extra Saudi oil we had in June, it's hard to crunch the numbers and get a lower price going into the end of the year," said John Kilduff of Again Capital, adding Saudi Arabia should now be gearing up to increase its output.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.8 percent Monday to $69.01 per barrel. How much oil prices move in coming weeks though depends on how successful the U.S. will be in halting Iranian oil sales around the world by Nov. 5, when another round of sanctions hits Iranian oil exports. Analysts expect as much as 1 million barrels a day to come off the market by year-end or the first quarter, while the U.S. had demanded that all Iranian exports of about 2.5 million barrels a day be stopped.

"From all I'm hearing, the Trump administration is very serious about efforts to deeply cut Iranian exports and put more pressure on the regime, and I do think this market will tighten," said Helima Croft, head of global commodities strategy at RBC. "In the fourth quarter, we will have a much tighter situation. On price, it will be how much can Gulf States respond in terms of putting additional barrels on the market and what do security issues look like. Are we having an Iranian nuclear restart or are we having maritime issues?"

U.S. officials have said they want Iranian exports to drop to zero by November though they have also said they will talk to countries and companies that are trying to cut back.

"I am pleased that many international firms have already announced their intent to leave the Iranian market, and several countries have indicated that they will reduce or end imports of Iranian crude oil. We urge all nations to take such steps to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation," Trump said in a statement Monday.


The Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran and five other countries that had ended sanctions on Iran in return for it terminating its nuclear program. The Trump administration said the deal favored Iran and would have allowed it to resume its nuclear program eventually. The other countries so far remain in the deal with Iran but there is some speculation Iran will return to its nuclear program, after Europe proves unable to take actions to soften the blow of the sanctions.

"One of the defining features of the last few months is we have officials in foreign governments saying one thing and the private sector saying another. You have officials talking tough. They're promising to resist U.S. sanctions and they're going to help the companies, and companies are saying we're not sure we want to," said Reed. India, for instance, imported a record amount of crude, about 770,000 barrels, last month through state-owned companies, even though its private-sector refineries said they were backing away from Iranian oil.

Reed said some buyers of Iranian crude have ramped up imports ahead of time and will cut back closer to the deadline, promising to reduce imports from now elevated levels, in the hope that will help reduce the impact of sanctions. Reed said the major buyers of Iran's crude will continue to be India, Turkey and China, while other Asian buyers, such as Japan and South Korea, are clearly cutting back.

"If countries are going to cut oil imports to get exemptions from the U.S. government, they'll do that in September and October, before the deadline. We could see volumes come off the market before then," Reed said. That could add to volatility in oil prices, but also by then Saudi Arabia will be exiting its own high-demand period, when it uses about 500,000 more barrels a day in the summer to generate electric power. It could send those additional barrels to the market.

Croft said Iran could restart its nuclear program as it attempts to agitate the U.S.

Croft also said it's too soon to judge the potential damage to the Iranian regime. "We might be in a different moment than we were in 2009. But the leadership doesn't show it's willing to blink at this moment," Croft said.

"The long story short, if there is a serious crisis of legitimacy underway, the regime doesn't seem to have an answer for it," said Reed. "It is an existential crisis. The protests are too small, but if you look at what officials and former officials are saying in Iran to each other, they're clearly worried the system is in trouble, maybe mortal danger. It is clearly blunt talk coming from officials," he said.

One concern among analysts is what would happen if the current regime were to be toppled. Kilduff said Rouhani may want to come to the table to talk to Trump ultimately. "The Iranians need an out. They're going to get desperate quick," he said, noting it could be a more right-wing regime that could take over.

Reed said Iran has options for now. "One of the big ones is to threaten international shipping in the Middle East, which they've done more explicitly over this summer," he said. "They're going to try every trick in the book. They're going to resort to some old tricks they have at times used. ... They have to wait and see what happens to the Trump administration. They have to see what happens in the midterm elections in the U.S. This is a story that's going to drag on."

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/mark...-next-wave-of-sanctions/ar-BBLArdo?ocid=ientp
 

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Just Business: EU blocking US sanctions against Iran to protect European companies
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Published on Aug 6, 2018
The European Union is enforcing the so-called Blocking Statute to protect its firms operating in Iran from looming US sanctions against the country.
 

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US-led coalition finally admits killing 77 civilians in Syrian airstrikes as campaigners say the deaths are 'just the tip of the iceberg'

  • Amnesty International in June said 77 civilians were killed in Raqqa bombing
  • Coalition officials slammed the report with some calling it 'naïve' and 'reckless'
  • But coalition admitted to the 77 deaths in a casualty report released on 26 July
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...s-killing-77-civilians-Syrian-airstrikes.html
 

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Pentagon Keeping Tabs on Iranian Naval Exercise
By: Ben Werner
August 6, 2018 7:22 PM




Undated photo of IRGCN fast attack boat.

THE PENTAGON — U.S. officials confirmed they were monitoring Iranian naval exercises in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, but had little to say about the activity involving up to 100 vessels and intended to showcase the nation’s desire to be the regional maritime security power.

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) exercise occurred during a time of increasing tensions between Iran and the U.S. On Monday, President Donald Trump reinstated sanctions against Iran, effective this week, in a move related to his May 2018 decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal.

“The exercise was conducted with the aim of controlling and safeguarding the security of the international waterway within the framework of the IRGC’s annual calendar exercises program,” the force’s spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said Sunday, as reported by Tehran-based Press TV.

On Monday, as Trump finalized reinstating the sanction, comments from Iranian officials were more pointed.

“If the oil faucet is turned on and the petrodollars go to the pocket of those who threaten Iran, it will definitely have effects on the security of the strait,” said Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, Iranian Armed Forces spokesman, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

For its part, the Pentagon said they were keeping tabs on the operations.

“Clearly we’re aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman last week,” Col. Robert Manning, the director of press operations for the Department of Defense during a media briefing Monday. “There were no unsafe or unprofessional interactions with the Iranian naval forces last week.”

A year ago, on Aug. 8 and then again on Aug. 14, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operated by Iranian forces approached the carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) while it was conducting flight operations in international waters.

“The UAV did not use any aircraft navigation lights while it made several passes in close proximity to Nimitz and its escort ships during active flight operations, coming within 1,000 feet of U.S. aircraft,” said a Navy statement released after the August 14, 2017 incident. “The failure of the Iranian UAV to utilize standard, internationally-mandated navigation lights during a nighttime approach of a U.S. aircraft carrier engaged in flight operations created a dangerous situation with the potential for collision and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws.”

Since last summer, though, Iranian forces have significantly curtailed their harassment of U.S. Navy vessels. In January, Iranian officials said the decrease was caused by their belief the U.S. Navy was operating differently, in a less threatening manner. U.S. Navy officials told USNI News at the time there had been no change in U.S. Navy operations in the region.

Iran scheduled this exercise at a time when the U.S. Navy is not operating a capital ship in the region. According to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker, as of Monday, the Navy’s nearest deployed capital ship to the Strait of Hormuz is USS Essex (LHD-2), which is operating in the Western Pacific.

U.S. 5th Fleet does have warships based at its headquarters in Bahrain which conduct regular patrols in the area. According to press reports, the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) is operating the region.

“They’re capable and they maintain an appropriate posture to respond to any contingencies in the area,” Manning said of 5th Fleet forces. “We continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways and advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws.”

https://news.usni.org/2018/08/06/35603
 

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Iran Forced to Rely on Own Tanker Fleet Even as Oil Exports Fall
August 8, 2018 by Bloomberg



File Photo: REUTERS/Tim Chong

By Julian Lee (Bloomberg) — It is still nearly three months until U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports snap back into force, but they are already having a big impact on the Persian Gulf country’s trade.

The nation’s outflow has fallen, and Iran is having to rely more on its own fleet of tankers to carry oil to its customers, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

Iran’s exports of crude and condensate, a form of light oil extracted from gas fields, were down by 430,000 barrels a day, or 15 percent, in July compared with April, the last month before President Trump announced that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposing sanctions.

Iran’s fleet of very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, and Suezmax tankers — the largest that can fit fully-laden through the Suez Canal — has always played an important role in delivering Iranian crude to customers, but it is increasing as insurers and international shipping companies react to the sanctions snap-back. In April, vessels belonging to the National Iranian Tanker Co. were hauling a little under half of country’s crude and condensate exports. By last month that share had risen to around two thirds.

Nowhere is the growing reliance on Iran’s own tanker fleet more apparent than in its shipments to Turkey. Under the previous sanctions on Iran, all crude deliveries from Iran to Turkey were made on ships belonging to NITC. That began to change in mid-2016, after those sanctions were lifted, and from September of that year it became rare to see Iranian-owned tankers passing through the Red Sea and Suez Canal to Turkey.

Now that picture is switching back again. Last month more crude was loaded onto Iranian-owned tankers bound for Turkey than at any time since August 2016.

Iran’s oil ministry said last month it doesn’t use the Bab el-Mandeb strait at southern end of Red Sea for its crude exports after Saudi Arabia temporarily halted its own shipments through the waterway, due to an attack on two of its tankers. The ministry didn’t say when Iran stopped using the strait.

Yet, there there has been a steady stream of Iranian crude passing through the strait, though until recently very little of it has been carried on Iranian-owned vessels. That is fast changing as Iran seeks to maintain deliveries to Turkey amid U.S. sanctions.

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

http://gcaptain.com/iran-forced-to-rely-on-own-tanker-fleet-even-as-oil-exports-fall/
 

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Israel and Hamas 'on a ceasefire' following two days of fighting resulting in a 'tense calm' after scores of rockets fired by both sides left three dead

  • An 18-month-old girl and her pregnant mother were killed in Israeli airstrikes on territory capital, officials said
  • The strikes came after some 180 rockets were allegedly fired from Gaza into Israeli territory on Wednesday
  • Smoke was seen rising after the airstrikes, with casualties earlier reported on both sides after bombardments
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...asefire-following-two-days-fighting-Gaza.html
 

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Third Palestinian dies after Israeli soldiers shot 131 people during protests along the Gaza border

  • Ahmed Abu Lulu, 40, died of wounds a day after Friday's mass protests in Gaza
  • He was one of three killed, including a volunteer medic, when troops opened fire
  • Palestinian protesters set tyres alight and threw stones across the border
  • Another 131 Gazans were wounded in the violent clashes on Friday
  • Israeli fire broke temporary truce set on Thursday after days of bombardment
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...ers-shot-131-people-protests-Gaza-border.html
 

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'Trump is unpredictable & untrustworthy': Iran's supreme leader rejects talks with US
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Published on Aug 13, 2018
Iran's Supreme Leader has rejected holding talks with the U.S., following President Trump's offer of a meeting to improve bilateral ties.
 

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Top Iran General 'Ready for Jihad'; Posts White House Explosion Pic On Instagram


by Tyler Durden
Fri, 08/17/2018 - 19:00

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani has for two years maintained an Instagram account, and despite the well-known elite Iranian force commander being formally designated a terrorist by the U.S. Department of the Treasury since 2011, the account hasn't been suspended.

Among a number of prior threatening images, Gen. Soleimani recently posted an artistic rendering of himself standing in front the White House, which is depicted as on fire after an explosion.

Soleimani's account has been authenticated as his own by the Middle East Media Research Institute's (MEMRI) Cyber and Jihad Lab in a new report.


The above image post appeared on the following account authenticated as Gen. Soleimani’s by MEMRI: His Instagram handle is @sardar_haj_ghasemsoleimani; he first posted on July 28, 2016. At the time of this writing, he had 710 posts and 69,100 followers, and is following 30 accounts. His account bio reads “Major General in Iranian Army, IRGC and commander of Qods Force since 1998,” and links to his Telegram account, T.me/sardar_haj_ghasem.

Since MEMRI's analysis was published Thursday, Soleimani's account has grown to over 70,000 followers and continues to be very active with a dozen more updates since the report was issued.

Notably the post, which includes both English and Farsi words that read, "Ready for Jihad - We will crush the USA under our feet," was published on July 28 at the end of the same week that included threats and counter threats exchanged between President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rohani.


Trump had started that week responding to Rouhani's warnings for the US not to provoke Iran or halt Iranian oil exports.
In a tweet addressed to Rouhani, Trump said, “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”

And days that followed, Gen. Soleimani weighed in during a provocative July 26th speech wherein he likened the US president to a "gambler" in a casino or a bar while declaring according to MEMRI's translation:

Know that we are near you, in places that don’t come to your mind. We are near you in places that you can’t even imagine. We are a nation of martyrdom… You know that a war would mean the loss of all your capabilities. You may start the war, but we will be the ones to determine its end.
Other recent posts include images with "Death to America" written on them...


And further some feature Iranian leaders greeting Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, such as the below photo which shows Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Nasrallah in an official visit.



As MEMRI notes, some of the content on Gen. Soleimani's page appears to violate Instagram's Terms and Conditions, which state: “Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups… We can remove any content or information you share on the Service if we believe that it violates these Terms of Use, our policies (including our Instagram Community Guidelines), or we are permitted or required to do so by law.”

This begs the obvious question: does posting an image of the White House being blown up not constitute a clear violation of Instagram's conditions?

If it doesn't, then we don't know what does. Others recognizable political figures have been kicked off for much less.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018...oleimanis-instagram-page-features-image-white
 

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Palestinian ambassador accuses President Trump of being 'anti-peace' after the US cuts more than $200 million in aid to the Gaza Strip

  • US officials said Friday they have canceled more than $200million in aid for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank
  • As a result, their ambassador has accused Trump of being 'anti-peace'
  • The decision to cut funding comes amid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has seen a surge of violence since Palestinian protests began in March
  • At least 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during demonstrations near the border with Israel
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6096193/US-cuts-200-million-aid-Palestinians.html
 

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As been said so many times : "If the Palestinians would put down their weapons there would be PEACE. If Israel put down its weapons there would be SLAUGHTER".
OBTW
ME History: The Palestinians are THE Red-Headed Step-children of the Muslim world. If it weren't for Israel being there the other Muslim factions would have eliminated the Palestinians decades ago.
 

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Trump is kissing Israel (the fake one) ass.
All aid to any country should be cut.
Taxpayers should not pay for a politician's religious crusade.
I have found this Blackstone intelligence channel to have decent reporting on the bs that msm spins and the administration propaganda.
 

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Report to Congress on Iran’s Threats, the Strait of Hormuz, and Oil Markets

August 24, 2018 6:27 AM

The following is the Aug. 6, 2018 Congressional Research Service Report, Iran’s Threats, the Strait of Hormuz, and Oil Markets: In Brief.

From the Report:
The exchanges of threats between members of the governments of Iran and the United States, including the presidents of both countries, have again raised the specter of an interruption of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz (the Strait), a key waterway for the transit of oil and natural gas to world markets. In the first half of 2018, approximately 18 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and condensate, almost 4 million bpd of petroleum products, and over 300 million cubic meters per day in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exited the Strait. Iran accounted for about 10% of oil and 0% of the natural gas through the Strait. In a speech on July 22, Iranian President Rouhani stated, “We are the…guarantor of security of the waterway of the region throughout the history. Don’t play with the lion’s tail; you will regret it.”

Read the full report here https://news.usni.org/2018/08/24/report-congress-irans-threats-strait-hormuz-oil-markets
 

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Russian Navy To Hold Drills Off Syria
August 30, 2018 by Reuters


Tugboats escort the Russian Navy guided missile cruiser Varyag, upon arrival for a goodwill visit, at Pier 15, South Harbor, Metro Manila, Philippines April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

by Tom Balmforth, Andrew Osborn (Reuters) – Russia will begin a major naval exercise in the Mediterranean on Saturday, the Ministry of Defense announced, a move the Kremlin said was justified by a failure to deal with militants in Syria’s Idlib province.

Idlib and areas surrounding it are the last major enclave held by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close Russian ally, and a source has told Reuters he is preparing a phased offensive to regain it.

“This hotbed of terrorists (in Idlib) does really not bode anything good if such inaction continues,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

“The situation in Syria has a significant potential to become more complicated and the situation around Idlib leaves a lot to be desired,” he said after the announcement of the naval drills, which appeared aimed at deterring the West from carrying out strikes on Syrian government forces.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday, saying “we will go all the way” in Idlib and declaring the Nusra Front group, formerly the local branch of al Qaeda, as the main target.

The Russian defense ministry said more than 25 warships and support vessels and around 30 planes, including fighter jets and strategic bombers, would take part in the Mediterranean drills which it said would last from Sept. 1 to Sept. 8.

They would involve anti-aircraft, anti-submarine and anti-mining exercises. Ships from Russia’s Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets would take part as would vessels from its Caspian Flotilla.

The ‘Marshal Ustinov’ missile cruiser would lead the drills.

“In the interests of ensuring the safety of shipping and air traffic and in line with international law, the areas of the exercise will be declared dangerous for shipping and flights,” the ministry said.

This followed the announcement on Tuesday of Russia’s biggest war games next month since the fall of the Soviet Union in the country’s central and eastern military districts.

Russia has been expanding its naval forces in the Mediterranean this month, part of what a newspaper has called Moscow’s largest naval build-up since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015.

FOREIGN FIGHTERS
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, warned Washington on Thursday against what he called “groundless and illegal aggression against Syria”. Antonov said he had told U.S. officials Moscow was concerned by signs that the United States was preparing new strikes on Syria.

The United Nations has called on Russia, Iran and Turkey to delay a battle that could affect millions of civilians.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that there was a high concentration of foreign fighters in Idlib, including an estimated 10,000 terrorists, but it would be better to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians than rush into a battle which could turn prove to be a “perfect storm”.

Additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by David Stamp

https://gcaptain.com/russian-navy-to-hold-drills-off-syria/
 

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Russian Navy To Hold Drills Off Syria
August 30, 2018 by Reuters


Tugboats escort the Russian Navy guided missile cruiser Varyag, upon arrival for a goodwill visit, at Pier 15, South Harbor, Metro Manila, Philippines April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

by Tom Balmforth, Andrew Osborn (Reuters) – Russia will begin a major naval exercise in the Mediterranean on Saturday, the Ministry of Defense announced, a move the Kremlin said was justified by a failure to deal with militants in Syria’s Idlib province.

Idlib and areas surrounding it are the last major enclave held by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close Russian ally, and a source has told Reuters he is preparing a phased offensive to regain it.

“This hotbed of terrorists (in Idlib) does really not bode anything good if such inaction continues,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

“The situation in Syria has a significant potential to become more complicated and the situation around Idlib leaves a lot to be desired,” he said after the announcement of the naval drills, which appeared aimed at deterring the West from carrying out strikes on Syrian government forces.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday, saying “we will go all the way” in Idlib and declaring the Nusra Front group, formerly the local branch of al Qaeda, as the main target.

The Russian defense ministry said more than 25 warships and support vessels and around 30 planes, including fighter jets and strategic bombers, would take part in the Mediterranean drills which it said would last from Sept. 1 to Sept. 8.

They would involve anti-aircraft, anti-submarine and anti-mining exercises. Ships from Russia’s Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets would take part as would vessels from its Caspian Flotilla.

The ‘Marshal Ustinov’ missile cruiser would lead the drills.

“In the interests of ensuring the safety of shipping and air traffic and in line with international law, the areas of the exercise will be declared dangerous for shipping and flights,” the ministry said.

This followed the announcement on Tuesday of Russia’s biggest war games next month since the fall of the Soviet Union in the country’s central and eastern military districts.

Russia has been expanding its naval forces in the Mediterranean this month, part of what a newspaper has called Moscow’s largest naval build-up since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015.

FOREIGN FIGHTERS
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, warned Washington on Thursday against what he called “groundless and illegal aggression against Syria”. Antonov said he had told U.S. officials Moscow was concerned by signs that the United States was preparing new strikes on Syria.

The United Nations has called on Russia, Iran and Turkey to delay a battle that could affect millions of civilians.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that there was a high concentration of foreign fighters in Idlib, including an estimated 10,000 terrorists, but it would be better to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians than rush into a battle which could turn prove to be a “perfect storm”.

Additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by David Stamp

https://gcaptain.com/russian-navy-to-hold-drills-off-syria/
Good, the US does this shit all the time in South Korea. What can't the Russians?
 

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Search, hope you don't mind if I drop this here.

Mind? No...……..not at all. The more - the merrier. Anyone is welcome to post in any of my threads.
 

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Syrian War Report – August 30, 2018: Russia Says Terrorists In Idlib Have To Be Liquidated
South Front


Published on Aug 30, 2018
 

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If only one thing Trump and or Q said (honestly can't remember which) would come to fruition it...
We're saving Israel for last!
 

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Syrian War Report – August 31, 2018: Russian Navy To Hold Large Drills Near Syria
South Front


Published on Aug 31, 2018
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Israel next???