Pulling out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal

If there ever was a lose-lose proposition, this is it.  It is a loss for the US, for Iran and for our allies.   It may also be a win for Russia, in the long term.

So many experts have stated the most obvious reason for staying in the agreement – Iran was in compliance with the terms of the agreement.  The agreement called for the release of Iranian funds that the US and other countries had frozen.   The US did not get everything it wanted from the accords, but it got the really important part – Iran would not be building a nuclear weapon any time soon.

Moreover,  if we’ve learned anything from history, it is that unilateral sanctions don’t work.  They certainly were a failure in Cuba and  Libya.

It is a major win for the hardliners in Iran, who will wage a narrowly focused campaign against the US.  They will likely blame Iran’s economic problems on new US sanctions, instead of needed reforms.  The losers will be the Iranian people not the Mullahs.  Had the Iranian nuclear deal continued with the US support,  there would have been no guarantees that the moderates in the country would succeed in reforms, but now, with the help of Trump,  the hardliners have new ammunition against any progressive program for disarmament.

It makes North Korean discussions more difficult.  How can North Korea trust us, when we break our word with Iran.  Bad all around, in my opinion.

Opening of our embassy in Jerusalem:

The US ignored the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem, and with it, lost any chance of being a fair broker in peace negotiations.  After a UN vote condemning the move,  UN Ambassador Nikki Haley,   held a reception for “Friends of the US” and I’m not sure who went.  The invitees were the countries that either voted against the UN resolution condemning the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.   There are only four  countries with a population of over one million people who voted against the resolution –  Israel, Guatemala, Honduras  and of course, the US.

The opinion piece by columnist Dana Milbank, summed up my thoughts on the “peace” celebration in Israel, entitled, “Nothing says ‘peace’ like 58 dead Palestinians.”   Jerusalem was to be a city to be shared between Palestinians and Israels, as a result of peace negotiations.

“The move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv could have been a moment of unity and brotherhood. Instead, as with most everything Trump touches, it became a symbol of division and bitterness. It could have been the capstone of a peace deal, as Republican and Democratic administrations alike had hoped. Instead, it all but dashed hope for a two-state solution.”

Israel invited representatives from all 86 countries with consulates in Israel to attend opening ceremonies, but only 32 attended.  Of the 54 countries absent from the opening ceremony were France, UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, India, China, Russia and Australia.  In South America, only Peru and Paraguay attended.   Like the “Friends of the US” reception in January 2018,  a lot of familiar friends are not with us.  See links

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/opens-embassy-jerusalem-countries-attended-180514141915625.html

 

 

Iran Nuclear Deal

It is likely that Donald Trump will pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal on May 12, just 5 days from today.  The deal was not perfect by any one’s standards, but the flaws were blown way out of proportions by Republicans in Congress.   Trump has used this, and almost everything else negotiated by Obama (and other presidents) as terrible.   The response from Iran is unknown to the US pullout.  Our allies, France, Germany and the UK, have all been trying to keep Trump in the agreement.

The deal is working and Iran is in compliance.    Only  Benjamin Netanyahu,  the president of Israel, is against the agreement.   It will impact our negotiations with North Korea, who will see the US as a country which can not be trusted.   One president makes deals and the next one breaks  the deal when the other side is in compliance.

I hope I’m wrong.  If not, I would list this as the worst decision of the Trump administration,  followed by the pull out of Paris Climate Accords.  The third on the list, is the very brazen efforts by  EPA Director, Scott Pruitt, and Interior Department Secretary, Ryan Zinke,  not to protect  the environment or the interior, but to let the fossil fuel companies to do what they want, in the guise of deregulation. I believe the EPA should be changed to EDA, or Environment Destruction Agency.   As long as I’m criticizing Trump’s appointees,  this last one, John Bolton, as National Security Adviser, would be best described as the person most capable of turning a small problem into a larger one, through inflammatory rhetoric.

I won’t go into any more details on the Iran Deal, as there is a lot of commentary on the Internet.  I’ve included a link from Wikipedia below.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link:

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

 

 

 

Changes in the Administration

I did not  comment on the firing of Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State or Andrew McCabe,  Deputy Director of the FBI.  In both cases, I was really hoping that Trump would not fire them.   Rex Tillerson seemed to be working in the same mode as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton,  with a lot of travel and face to face meetings.   I think this was particularly important. He did not take sides in the Saudi Arabia – Qatar crisis, as Trump had done, but stated we would help facilitate an eventual end to the blockade of Qatar.  He understood the priority should be in Middle East unity in fighting terrorism, and Qatar with a US military base has helped this effort.   Trump on the other hand,  seems to want to intensify the Sunni-Shia rift, siding with the Saudi’s and against Iran.

There are hot spots all over the world, Yemen,  Somalia, Libya and northern Syria.   It is the United States “soft power”  that  helps keep the peace.    Proxy wars intensify as outsiders supply the equipment, making any negotiations more difficult.  Syria, Libya and Yemen are classic proxy wars.  There should be widespread condemnation of massive human rights violations,  the most recent on in the ethnic cleaning in Myanmar of the Rohingya,  the 600,000 survivors of this genocide are now living in Bangladesh.  I don’t think Mike Pompeo is ready to look beyond partisan politics.

There is no question that Andrew McCabe was fired from the FBI, as was Director James Comey, because he was doing his job, and would not be influenced by politics.   Russian meddling in the US elections to help Trump win the elections did happen.   The manner of the firing of Tillerson,  Comey and McCabe,  through Twitter or the media,  showed Trump could a very mean and disrespectful.

Now,  I am very fearful of Trump’s  new administration selections, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State and John Bolton, National Security Adviser.

The most urgent decision is on Iran, and the likely US pull out of the Iran nuclear accord in May 2018.  In the House,  Mike Pompeo led the charge against the Iran Nuclear Deal.  The New Times editorial on John Bolton, was scathing:

Yes, John Bolton is really that bad

The good thing about John Bolton, President Trump’s new national security adviser, is that he says what he thinks.

The bad thing is what he thinks.

There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war. His selection is a decision that is as alarming as any Mr. Trump has made. His selection, along with the nomination of the hard-line C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, shows the degree to which Mr. Trump is indulging his worst nationalistic instincts.

Mr. Bolton, in particular, believes the United States can do what it wants without regard to international law, treaties or the political commitments of previous administrations.

He has argued for attacking North Korea to neutralize the threat of its nuclear weapons, which could set off a horrific war costing tens of thousands of lives. At the same time, he has disparaged diplomatic efforts, including the talks planned in late May between Mr. Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. He not only wants to abrogate the six-party deal that, since 2015, has significantly limited Iran’s nuclear program; he has called for bombing Iran instead. He has also maligned the United Nations and other multilateral conventions, as Mr. Trump has done, favoring unilateral solutions.

Over a 30-year career in which he served three Republican presidents, including as United Nations ambassador and the State Department’s top arms control official, Mr. Bolton has largely disdained diplomacy and arms control in favor of military solutions; no one worked harder to blow up the 1994 agreement under which North Korea’s plutonium  program was frozen for nearly eight years in exchange for heavy fuel oil and other assistance. The collapse of that agreement helped bring us to the crisis today, where North Korea is believed to have 20 or more nuclear weapons.

The editorial goes on to show how often Bolton dismissed diplomacy and US soft power to create a more peaceful world.  Instead,  the one well woven thread, was that we should use military action to support our objectives, no matter what the consequences were, including international condemnation.  As National Security Adviser, Bolton does not need congressional approval.

One last entry into the White House staff,  is  combative lawyer Joseph diGenova, replacing John Dowd.  As Trump explained, “I’m fucking do it my way”  which is never be defensive,  never apologize, but to launch an aggressive attack on those he considers in his way.   It is more of “do them harm before they can get going at you.”   DiGenova claimed the Russian investigation was all a big conspiracy,  and Donald Trump was being framed.  So, it’s fine to trash the Justice Department, FBI and CIA, as an acceptable defense.  And of course, the mainstream media.

So, we have a case of out with the good or not so bad,  Gen McMasters,  Rex Tillerson, Andrew McCabe, and I guess John Dowd,  and in with the bad to terrible,  John Bolton,  Mike Pompeo and Joseph DiGenova.

I have not added links to this story, as there are many editorials on the White House changes available on the Internet.  The month of May is looking to be particularly  bad, with both the North Korea summit and the Iran Nuclear Deal on the table.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Friends of America

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, held a reception for the “Friends of America” to thank the countries who voted against the UN resolution, condemning President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem.    It was a bit bizarre, as of the 193 members representing almost all of the 7.6 billion inhabitants of our planet, only 9 countries voted against the resolution.   Of these 9 countries,  only 5 have populations over 1 million residents: US,  Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, and Togo (See list  at end of this blog).  Some reception!

If Donald Trump is dividing the world into proper civilized countries, and shithole ones, Guatemala probably would fall in the latter.  The State Department’s Travel Advisory states:

Reconsider travel to Guatemala due to crime. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, carjacking, armed robbery, and murder, is common. Gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, and narcotics trafficking, is widespread, particularly in the border regions. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.

This is Level 3 advisory.   The top warning  is Level  4 which advises travelers not to visit the countries and if  intrepid travelers ignore this advice,  the State Department suggests having a will prepared prior to travel.  The only other South American countries with a Level 3 advisory (Reconsider Travel) are Honduras and El Salvador.

Personally,  I have nothing against Honduras and Guatemala. I have been several times to Guatemala, and each visit was fantastic.  The other country, Togo, is in Africa, and has been struggling for years due to low prices for its agricultural exports.  It has an astounding dense population of approximately 8 million residents. I was actually surprised at Togo’s vote, with a 20% Muslim population.

So, Nikki’s party invitees of “No Voters” had one wealthy country (Israel), three countries in economic dire straits (Guatemala, Honduras, and Togo) and 4 tiny island states in the Pacific.  Nauru is one of them, which has a population of 13,000 residents,  whose best asset is it’s seat in the UN and a vote that comes cheap.  See link below on Nauru’s recognition of Russia’s breakaway republics in exchange for aid.

It is our President which is dividing up the world, through his travel bans, cuts in aid and policy decisions, to make the US disliked around the world as never before.  He’s been able to sour relations with our close neighbors, Mexico and Canada.

The invitees to the Haley’s reception included all those who  didn’t vote at all or abstained so the total number of invitees was 64.   I can see why – as the resolution was going to pass anyway, and it really had no effect except to embarrass the US.  So, to be a friend of the US doesn’t take much, just sit at home on the day of the vote.   Still, it was a landslide vote against the US.

Usually, when you tell nation leaders that they must support US policies or else, “We’re taking names” comment by Nikki Haley, it is counter productive.  The recent violence in Pakistan, is directed at Trump’s cut off of military aid.  It’s regrettable as we need them as an ally against terrorism.

We seem to be antagonizing both friends and enemies.  We lost the chance to broker some peace settlement between Palestine and Israel,  with our decision to recognize Jerusalem.  South Korea seems to be making inroads to reducing hostilities with North Korea, after we  exchanged increasingly higher threats with North Korea.  The humanitarian crisis in Yemen seems of little importance to Trump.  It is a Iran-Saudi proxy war, and we’ve sided with the Saudi’s.

The Middle East countries are now more divided into the Sunni and Shi’a factions, and doing less to curb real terrorism.  We may eventually undermine the moderates control in Iran,  by President Rouhani, by imposing new sanctions, and threatening to abandon the nuclear agreement.  In doing so, we discourage any deal with North Korea over their nuclear program.  Meanwhile, the State Department continues to shrink under Secretary  Rex Tillerson, with many of the diplomatic posts unfilled.  Yet I consider him one of the best of the cabinet leaders.  I would include Gen.  Mattis at Defense as well.

I would like to have seen a “Friends of the US” reception with leaders from all the continents of the world.   This would require a major re-think of the America First agenda.  We are “Stronger Together”  the slogan of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN:  How each country voted at the UN

Yes votes: 128 No votes: 9 Abstaining: 38 votes Not voting: 21

Tiny Nauru struts world stage by recognising breakaway republics

I’ve often thought about a service on the internet, similar to “Letgo.com” where countries could bid on the UN representatives’ vote. Maybe “Cash4votes.com” would work.  Of course, the country would first have to let the world know it’s vote is up for sale.

Nikki Haley’s New Best Friends at the UN

Hundreds of Pakistani protesters burn US flags after Trump says he is cutting aid to the country because it ‘does not take terrorism seriously enough’

 

Terrorism

I’ve been working on a blog on Hezbollah.   It’s a very hot button issue.  Israel  consider Hezbollah as one of the worst terrorist groups.  The US also condemns Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.  Other countries do not and in particular Lebanon has been trying to co-exist with the presence of Hezbollah.   The US accuses Iran of supporting Hezbollah.  Hezbollah militia fought against ISIS in Syria in the destruction of Raqqa.   But,  I’m really jumping ahead in this blog.

It is tempting to lump all groups with an extensive cache of arms as terrorist organizations.  I would more likely term such organizations as collectives of angry people who are contemplating acts of violence.   Even in the US, there are organizations which purchase and store arms as they believe they are part of a larger resistance movement their rights as citizens.  It is in fact, their constitutional right to store arms in defense of their home.

On the Wikipedia site,  it is stated no single accepted definition of terrorism.  I’ve provided two links on this subject.  However, Wikipedia provides one “broad” definition as follows:

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.  It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence against peacetime targets or in war against non-combatants.  The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity during the U.S. Presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981–89) after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings and again after the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in September 2001 and on Bali in October 2002.

The September 2001 is obviously the “9/11” attack on the US by Al-Qaeda, and it was indiscriminate as the action targeted anyone who was in the buildings at the time.  I would include in the definition that terrorist organizations plan violent acts  intended to cause large scale loss of human life.  The broad definition would include both non-state and state organized terrorists.

Further, Wikipedia states their definition is hardly rigorous or universally accepted as follows:

There is no commonly accepted definition of “terrorism”.[7][8] Being a charged term, with the connotation of something “morally wrong”, it is often used, both by governments and non-state groups, to abuse or denounce opposing groups.[9][10][4][11][8] Broad categories of political organisations have been claimed to have been involved in terrorism to further their objectives, including right-wing and left-wing political organisations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments.[12] Terrorism-related legislation has been adopted in various states, regarding “terrorism” as a crime.[13][14] There is no universal agreement as to whether or not “terrorism”, in some definition, should be regarded as a war crime.[14][15]

Regardless of how one wishes to define terrorism, the horrific actions of ISIS, Boko Haram and  Al-Shabaab, clearly make them the worst terrorist groups.   All countries repudiate the actions of these organizations.   Similarly, the actions of Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups are repudiated by all countries.  For these groups, the “I know it when I see it” (Potter, 1964, US Supreme Court)  test works well for these groups, but it doesn’t help in many other cases.  This is exactly the point made in the Wikipedia’s summary.

Political groups and individuals within many Arab countries and Iran, may be extremely anti-American, but this can be simply rhetoric and  does not mean they support terrorism.  Further complications come into play when there are groups of extremist groups within a country, and governments for political reasons, are not making a priority to arrest or otherwise destroy extremist groups.  Wealthy individuals may support ISIS or al-Qaeda groups within many countries.  Should the governments be held responsible?  They may allow individuals accused of terrorist activities to live within their country.  Is that mean the country is complicit in terrorism?

Fethullah Gulen has been accused of acts of  terrorism by the Turkish government.   He lives in Pennsylvania and the Turkish government wants him deported to stand trial.  The US has demanded the evidence against Gulen before extraditing him.   He is 76 years old and in fact has denounced terrorism as a violation of his faith as follows:

Gülen has condemned terrorism.[135] He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians and said that it “has no place in Islam”. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12, 2001, one day after the September 11 attacks, and stated that “A Muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.”[136][137] Gülen lamented the “hijacking of Islam” by terrorists.[78]

The extradition of Fethullah  Gulen for terrorism is weak, and the US so far has taken no action, except to request more evidence.

As I was completing this blog,  President Erdogan invoked the terrorist label, on condemning Israel, in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as its capital, as follows:

“Israel is a state of occupation and a terror state,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas on Dec. 10, vowing that Turkey “will not leave Jerusalem to the consciousness of a child-killer state.”

The west bank and Gaza strip are areas that Israel took by force during the Six Day war in 1967.

During the Syrian civil war,  President Bashir Assad would claim that the US and other European countries were assisting terrorist, as we were training and providing arms to groups against the Assad regime.  However, the US was also fighting against ISIS in Syria,  with the support of Syrian government.    So what were we to Assad – enemy or friend?

When there is a rebellion within a country,  immediately the leader of the country will denounce the rebel groups as traitors, or agents of foreign governments.  This is exactly what the President Gaddafi did in 2011 during the Libyan civil war.  The US  and NATO supported the rebel group with air support.

The Yemen civil war is a clash between the Houthi rebels and the Yemen government.   By their rhetoric and slogans, the Houthi would seem just as radical as Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Written in Arabic on their flag:

“The God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam”

However, the Houthi appear to simply want to take over Yemen, not wreck havoc in the western world.    The Houthi’s gained control in 2014 to 2015, through a coup d’etat.  What sparked the uprising in 2014, was an end to government subsidies on fuel.

The Houthi have committed acts of indiscriminate violence, hence it would be easy to call them terrorists by the broad definition.  Yet the coalition of countries fighting against the Houthi, with air strikes conducted by Saudi Arabia, has acted equally brutal bombing a Doctors without Frontiers hospital (October 13, 2016) and other civilian targets.

Since the Saudi-led coalition began military operations against Ansar Allah on 26 March 2015, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes unlawfully struck hospitals and other facilities run by aid organizations, according to Human Rights Watch.[352] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical facilities in Yemen were attacked four times in three months.[353] On 26 October 2015, HRW documented six Saudi-led airstrikes which bombed a MSF hospital in Haydan district (Sa’dah Governorate), wounding two patients.[352][353][354] An Saudi-led coalition airstrike then hit a MSF mobile clinic on 2 December 2015, in Al Houban district (Taizz). Eight people were wounded, including two MSF staff members, and one other civilian nearby was killed. On 10 January 2016, six people were killed and seven wounded when a hospital in Sa’ada was hit by a projectile.[352][353] MSF said it could not confirm whether the hospital was hit in an air strike by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition, or by a rocket fired from the ground, and at least one other landed nearby.[352][355] On 21 January 2016, an MSF ambulance was hit by an airstrike. Seven people were killed and dozens were wounded.[352][353]
MSF’s director of operations Raquel Ayora said: “The way war is being waged in Yemen is causing enormous suffering and shows that the warring parties do not recognise or respect the protected status of hospitals and medical facilities. We witness the devastating consequences of this on people trapped in conflict zones on a daily basis. Nothing has been spared – not even hospitals, even though medical facilities are explicitly protected by international humanitarian law.”[353]

Iran is accused of supporting the Houthi,  which  Iran denies.   Iran was instrumental in the formation of Hezbollah, which they consider is a group defending the borders of Lebanon and Syria from Israeli aggression.   Yet Iran joined with others in the  war against ISIS.    Both Hezbollah and the Houthi’s are Shi’a organization, so they would never align themselves with ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

Just yesterday,  UN Ambassador Nikki Haley stood in front of parts of a recovered missile from Yemen,  claiming this was hard evidence that Iran had supported Houthi rebels in direct violation of an UN resolutions.  While it was great for the media,  the problem was that it could have been supplied to the Houthi’s before the UN Resolution.   Further, it was apparent to experts, that the missile could not carry a nuclear warhead (a violation of another UN resolution).   There are various links on the internet, and I just posted the one from the NYT.

You see how complicated the label “terrorist organization” has become when it is extended beyond ISIS and Al-Qaeda.   I will explore more the Hezbollah group in a future blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links

Terrorism

Definition of Terrorism

NYT: U.S. Accuses Iran of U.N. Violation, but Evidence Falls Short

Six Day War

Hezbollah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qatar’s Cows

cows.pngI swear I’m not making this up!  The idea of cows in Qatar would normally be preposterous given Qatar’s six months of brutally hot and dry summer.  Camels and sheep, ok, but cows- that’s impossible!

But the cows are coming to Qatar, so the  Qataris can drink really fresh milk. Baladna Farms in Qatar has built special cow sheds with temperature control.

baladna farm

In June 2017, an economic blockade of  Qatar was initiated by  Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE)  and agricultural products.   I have discussed this in prior blogs. Qatar really has only a small agricultural industry, well until recently!

In many ways, Qatar is pushing back, with increased trade with other countries including Iran, Turkey and Morocco. Plus,  they are now in the dairy industry, as shown in the video below.

It has to cost a lot to  maintain air conditioned structures in the middle of the desert with the summer day time temperature well over 100 degrees.  Airlifting cows has got to cost a fortune.  The news media stated the first two deliveries were 230 cows using Boeing 777 Cargo planes.   The goal in to have 4,000 cows in Qatar by mid-September.

It is certain that Qatar has turned this economic blockage into an economic windfall for Qatar’s company, Power International Holdings.  Having enormous gas resources to generate cheap electricity for the air conditioned sheds really helps.

Saudi Arabia new Crown Prince thought he could push around Qatar through economic measures.   Qatar is not only rejecting the 13 demands of Saudi Arabia, but pushing back big time, by restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran.

Links:

https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/07/08/2017/Baladna-Farm-plans-to-meet-Qatar-s-dairy-needs-by-April-2018

There’s many other news stories found by searching Google for “Qatar Cows”

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Qatar Stalemate

After the deadline ended, there was not  sufficient agreement among the Saudi coalition  to ratchet up the sanctions against Qatar. Food is being supplied by Turkey.   Military conflict appears off the table.   Tough talk comes mainly from the Saudi’s and foreign minister of the UAE.   Thus,  the softer partners in this conflict might be Egypt and Bahrain.    A settlement to restore relations with these countries might be a first step.   There has to be some concession from Qatar.  Germany is trying to be work with Qatar and other countries in finding a diplomatic solution.  I’m certain they do not want Russia to become involved, perhaps any more than they are already.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

UAE refuses shipments of condensates from Qatar

In an effort to ratchet up the economic sanctions,  the UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company  (ADNOC) refused to accept tanker shipments of condensates (light crude oil) from Qatar.   The UAE has stated that they have invoked a Force Majeure clause in their contract, as their legal basis.

Qatar has stated they will take legal actions presumably for breach of contract.   Usually,  suppliers invoke Force Majeure when certain events  beyond their control make it impossible to fulfill a contract.   It is an odd application of Force Majeure since the halt was done strictly for political purposes.   However,  ADNOC may counter that this refusal was at the direction of the Emir of the UAE, and  beyond their control.

Gas will continue to flow from Qatar to the UAE through Dolphin pipeline.  It is estimated that 40% of the UAE electrical generation depends on this gas.

I don’t know how many barrels of condensate are presently being shipped to the UAE.   The UAE has two refineries, which can each process up to 140,000 barrels of fuel per day and ultimately produce gasoline and diesel.   I will update this blog as information is received.

News Link:  http://www.worldoil.com/news/2017/7/4/qatar-says-fellow-opec-state-uae-halts-oil-imports-in-row

Qatar has stated that the boycott impacts both their country and the other GCC countries involved in the blockage.  It certainly appears this is the case.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Qatar crisis and the deadline extension

The 48 hour extension should be up beginning Wednesday.   The extension was not offered for Qatar or the Saudi led coalition time to reconsider the list of  demands.   It had nothing to do with negotiations, because there really are none.

The blockade isn’t going as the Saudi’s thought it would.  This is the real reason for the 48 hour delay.   The Saudi’s and allies need more time in considering their next step.   How far do they push the blockade before other friendly countries condemn it?

The US is not backing the Saudi’s actions, nor condemning it.  Trump is still talking about how the Arab countries need to stop funding terrorism, while Tillerson’s position is to  urge all parties to negotiate.

The three blocks have emerged.  The Saudi group, includes Egypt,  Yemen, Bahrain and the UAE.   Also, the Tobruk government of Libya and a number of other states support the Saudi’s.   Then there’s the opposition group, which includes including Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Russia.   Finally, the neutral group of the GCC,  Oman and Kuwait.

This isn’t beneficial to any group.  It certainly weakens an concerted effort to combat terrorist groups.   Iran and Turkey may eventually  emerge as the winners in the conflict, for standing up for little Qatar, unfairly isolated by the Saudi’s and GCC allies.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Negotiating the non-negotiable demands

It is not business as usual in Qatar.  Food supplies from the GCC countries have been cut off.  Qataris will be deported.  Both the Saudis and the UAE have been talking tough- met our demands or else!  So, I pity those who want to negotiate anything in this environment.   The ten day deadline is up on Monday.  Just waiting for the “what else” to happen.

Stay tuned,

Dave

The Qatar-Iran Mega Gas Field

The political world in the Middle East seems to be in continual flux,with the Iraq and Syria conflicts,  Qatar crisis and the Libyan civil war.     However, the business world seems very different and much more stable,  as investments in oil and gas must be made over decades, not timed to local or regional  politics.   It appears the business deals transcends all the political rhetoric and cultural differences, with the common goal of sound investments for the long term for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.

The Trump administration seems obsessed with blaming everything linking terrorism to Iran.   It is a theme popular with  Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, but I think now, it is a pretext for their blockade of Qatar.    The only other non-Arab  country with this fixation is Israel.

The business world doesn’t see this as a problem.   Simply put, “Money talks and nobody walks away from a profitable deal.”   Even the French, who have seen more of their fair share of terror attacks.

Iran and Qatar  economically they have no choice, but to cooperate, as they are “joined at the hip”  by a mega gas field, the South Pars (belonging to Iran) and North Dome (belonging to Qatar) field. The division of the field based on maritime agreements.  Fortunately, for both countries, there is no dispute on gas ownership.

South_Pars

The South Pars  reserves account for roughly 7.5% of the world’s gas reserves and almost 40% of Iran’s total natural gas wealth. The field  is the world’s largest gas field in terms of recoverable gas with a reserves of 1235 trillion cubic feet (tcf).  The second largest gas field, Urengoy, in Russia has 222 tcf.   The field  produces both natural gas and condensed gas liquids (condensates).   See links below for more details.

The field was discovered in 1971, but first production did not occur until 1989.   With the discovery of  a mega field, why wait so long to develop?  Gas discoveries are a blessing and a curse.   Gas,  unlike oil,  can not be easily transported and sent to European and Asian markets.   Gas can be liquified  transported in specially built tankers.  The curse is that mega gas fields require mega investments, in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars.   To develop the field, Iran needed international partners from France (Total) and China (CNPC).

The French company, Total, operates South Pars, which means they are responsible for exploration, development and production, but Iran and the other partners have  approval authority on all activities.   The Pars Oil and Gas Company (POGC). a subsidiary of National Iran Oil Company, has jurisdiction over all South Pars-related projects.

Since the mid-2000s development of the field has stagnated due to a lack of foreign investment and export opportunities because of United Nations (UN) and Western sanctions against Iran.  A partial lifting of these sanctions in 2015 has enabled POGC, which was established in 1998, and the government to move forward with the 24th development phase set out for the field.

Total benefited from the lifting of sanctions as field development, aimed at increasing gas production could continue.  As Republican candidates where crisscrossing the US, denouncing the Iranian nuclear agreement  deal as the most horrible deal of the century,  Total was quietly discussing with Iran on the next development phase of the South Pars field.  By November 2016, Iran announced a memorandum of agreement, and in April 16, 2017,  President Rouhani  concluded contracts for  5 new phases of field development worth 20 billion dollars. See links below. It is expected that Iran’s production will surpass Qatar’s.

All this depends on an accessible market.  It is a big “if.”   Iran ships its gas via pipeline.   Qatar has a far reach to the rest of the world through its liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities.   Qatar exports 1/3 of all LNG worldwide.   Qatar supplies the UAE by the Dolphin pipeline and LNG shipments.

As Iran was announcing development plans in South Pars,  Qatar followed by the announcements of further developments in the North Dome.   The withdrawals from both sides of the field must be done in a way to avoid significant migration across the maritime country boundary.  So it made sense that as Iran planned increases, Qatar would do the same.   Also,  engineers on both sides have to collaborate to avoid excessive withdrawals which could impact total recoverable gas and liquids.   This is called “reservoir management.”

So,  the GCC countries likely could see the gas supply was going to be increasing,  and both Iran and Qatar would seek ways of extending the lines of  supply either by pipeline or LNG tankers.    Interestingly,  even though the UAE has taken the extreme position that the 13 demands are non-negotiable,  the critically important gas from Qatar still flows to the UAE.

The current Qatar crisis likely came to a boil, as a number of actions taken by Qatar.  This includes the payment of ransom to Shite militants in Iraq which could be used to support the claim of terrorism.  It also saved the  lives of members of the royal family.  Others have commented on the open reporting on the 2011 Arab Spring uprising by Al Jazeera, upset many of the Arab countries.  A “respectful press” would have immediately taken the side of the government, not the dissenters.  Qatar’s willingness to accept exiled dissidents from other Arab countries angered Saudi Arabia and the other GCC country.

But, perhaps what has not received enough attention is the economic power of the tiny nation of Qatar, was on the rise.   Could it partner with Iran in the future, by processing Iranian gas for LNG  export?   Could Qatar  invest in  LNG  projects or construction companies?  This would seem to be a perfect fit.

Qatar was really understood that its hydrocarbon assets would not last forever,  and it needed to diversify into other areas.  Exactly what the Saudis are doing right now.

In sum,  Iran’s planned increases in gas production, would result in more gas development  from Qatar, and a push to increase LNG processing capacity.   The other GCC countries knew the rising economic wealth of both Iran and Qatar  would change the balance of power in the Middle East.  While Iran was too big to isolate or pressure, Qatar looked vulnerable.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Offshore Technology: Developing South Pars: a look at Iran’s mega gas field (undated but likely written prior to April 2017)

Iran opens new South Pars gas field phases worth $20 billion

Qatar crisis: Have the Saudis gone too far?

Middle East Eye:  Iran seeks stronger Ties with Qatar

(Any suggestions- I know there is a lot of discussion on these points, and I’ll add more later)

 

 

 

Qatar – Criticism of the “Demand List” Grows

The demand list is short.   Clearly missing from this list, is any basis for the demands.

But, it is clear underlying these demands is  a general accusation  that Qatar supports terrorism.  It is accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood through commentary from the Al Jazeera news network.    The Muslim Brotherhood is recognized only by certain countries as a terrorist organization.

Further, it is accused of harboring terrorists within its country.   In this respect, we can welcome Qatar to the club as we too harbor “terrorists.”  Surprised!  They are only labeled terrorists by leaders outside of our country.

One US harbored terrorist is Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish national, who according to Wikipedia:

He is currently on Turkey’s most-wanted-terrorist list and is accused of leading what the current Turkish officials call the Gülenist Terror Organisation (Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü, FETÖ). A Turkish criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Gülen.  Turkey is demanding the extradition of Gülen from the United States.

Mr. Gulen is 76 years old, and came to the US in 1999 for medical reasons.  He was an ally of President Erdogan until the anti-corruption protests in 2013.  The US has refused to turn over Mr. Gulen, until it receives evidence of terrorist activities.   Why make a fuss over just one elderly man which has been convicted of crimes against Turkey?   Because of our values and national sovereignty.  Gulen has a US permanent visa.  Also, he has never advocated violence.   In fact he is very much against Islamic violence as follows:

Gülen has condemned terrorism. He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians and said that it “has no place in Islam”. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12, 2001, one day after the September 11 attacks, and stated that “A Muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.” Gülen lamented the “hijacking of Islam” by terrorists.

President Erdogan’s definition of a terrorist is likely the same as Syrian President Assad, as anyone whose ideas might threaten the continuation of his regime.

President Obama did not hand over our “terrorists” without sufficient evidence of terrorist activities.  President Trump will do the same.  Qatar will do the same.

The demand to shut down Al Jazeera will fail.  Saudi Arabia can not tell a news network in another country what it can and cannot broadcast.

It is hoped that this list of demands will highlight the fact that the blockade led by Saudi Arabia  is political power grab  and has no role in the fight against Islamic jihadists.  It also shows how the Saudi’s “played” President Trump’s visit to their maximum advantage.

Stay tuned,

Dave

News and Views

I don’t believe there is any other site, with the range of topics, as you will find in this blog.  The two year anniversary is just 60 days away.  From the statistics, it is nice to see a growing list of followers.

I have my favorites.  Under Science, you will find the pictures sent by the  New Horizon spacecraft as it passed by Pluto, plus a brief discussion of amateur astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto.   Science and politics collided when President Trump withdrew from the Paris Peace Accords.  Under science, you will find more information on this topic.

Another favorite, is “I’ll see you in Court” which as I dug, the story just became more incredible.   Although it happened decades ago.  I believe it reveals a lot about Trump’s personality.

I try to cover the news, but a lot of the topics are not front page items.   Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil,  the battle for Marawi in the Philippines, or the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and Qatar (coming soon!) are headline news for me.   A favorite of mine is “Minimum Mandatory Sentences”  which provided a brief unity between conservatives (Rand Paul, for example) and liberal members  in the Senate.    It also reminds me, that what sounds good, isn’t necessarily good.

So,  what’s coming next?  I can’t really tell.  I will continue to provide my commentary on problems, and as my followers can tell, I generally ascribe to a progressive and pragmatic  philosophy of problem solving.  I accuse Trump often of problem ignoring or minimizing.   I have a core belief that government regulations came from good intentions to either solve a problem, or reduce it.   I do not subscribe to the idea that fewer regulations provide more freedom and/ or are good for the economy.   It is just too simplistic.  For example, if the air is unhealthy to breathe in an area, most folks can’t just move to another area.   Their jobs are where they live.  When government regulations are not succeeding, then it is time to revisit the problem and look for other ways to look for other options.

The second theme, is international problems are poorly understood, but they affect us.  Globalization isn’t an approach to problems; it is a fact of life for better or worse (frequently both).    What happens in Afghanistan or the  Qatar is relevant to events in the US.    This is why I  posted five blogs on Qatar and other blogs on the Middle East.

Comments are always appreciated.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Qatar in Crisis – Part 1, The earthquake

“A small problem in the beginning can be a big one in the end,”  Thomas Aquinas.

There has been a number of conflicts between Persian Gulf countries, but this crisis has exploded like an earthquake with enormous ripple effects.

The claim of the other Persian Gulf countries, lead by Saudi Arabia is that Qatar supports terrorist organizations.  Qatar denies this, and claims just the opposite, that it actually is fighting the terrorism, in particular,  the Sunni based al-Qaeda and ISIL groups.   It is amazing how quickly Qatar’s friends are siding with the Saudis.  For example, Qatar  supported Libya’s effort to end the oppression by  their dictator, Gaddafi.  Now even Libya (eastern side gov’t)  has joined in the effort to isolate Qatar.  Some thanks!    This will be reviewed in later blog.

This  is not the front page story in the US- but the consequences are huge and may be long lasting.    Wikipedia calls this a diplomatic crisis.  They are keeping up to date with the countries severing ties with Qatar .  I particularly like the  Al Jazeera site, with it’s  timeline of all events.   Al Jazeera is now banned in all hotels in Saudi Arabia, yet it remains the best information source.  There’s been great  reporting in the New York Times, as usual.

The Persian Gulf region’s  political,  economic and military alliances  are, at this moment, in turmoil.  It is quickly getting worse by the hour  as other countries, including Turkey, Russia and the US are becoming involved.   The US can’t help from being involved as it has a major military base on Qatar.  Numerous universities, including Texas A+M have set up university programs in Qatar.    The liquid natural gas (LNG) facility in Qatar has US and French partners -Occidental Petroleum   and Total.  Huge gas reserves are located in the Persian Gulf (South Pars/ North Dome gas condensate field)  and production is shared by Iran and Qatar,  so these two countries are economically joined at the hip.   Qatar Petroleum began drilling additional wells in April 2017, after a 12 year lapse.

Another precious gem of Qatar is the Al-Jazeera news network, which Saudi Arabia and Egypt  hate,  but is a very reliable international news network, not a propaganda machine, as claimed.   Free speech and absolute monarchies, as in Saudi Arabia never really combine well.

The claim of supporting terrorism by the Saudis, seems to focus on support of the Muslim Brotherhood, more than any other organization.   Support of both Hamas and Hezbollah is also cited by Saudi Arabia and other countries.  I will explain in a future blog the recent ransom paid to an Iraqi shi’a group in return for members of the Qatari royal family upset Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

All efforts are being exerted by Saudi Arabia and their allies to control Qatar by isolating them.   There are no set of demands issued by the Saudi alliance.   Qatar is highly defiant right now.   Qatar is fiercely independent and extremely prosperous.    It will rely on Turkey for food and water supplies.   Saudi Arabia can’t isolate Qatar by land or sea,  but by denying airspace rights, this could be  a super big problem for Qatar Airlines. I believe the crisis is really about economic and political dominance of the area.  The fight to end funding of terrorism, is really the pretext.

There is nothing simple or easy to understand about this crisis.   It will not fit within one quick blog, so it is likely it will likely be broken up in parts.

Qatar by most measures is a small and wealthy country.  It’s GDP per capita is around $74,000, higher than the US, with $54,000 per capita.  Of course, the distribution of wealth is very different. It has 2.2 million inhabitants, and is about the size of Connecticut.  This is a country with only 330,000 Qatari citizens and all the others are expatriates.

There are a number of excellent summaries of Qatar on the internet.  The Lonely Planet travel guide used to say that the capital city, Doha, was one of the most boring places to visit.  They completely changed their tune and  now rave about the Doha, as a travel destination.  See Links at the bottom of this blog.

The crisis began when  Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut off relations with Qatar.    This is a major power play among the six  Gulf Cooperative  Council (GCC) countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.   The GCC was formed in 1981.  It provides cooperation among the countries in many areas, including trade, economic development and mutual military defense.   The GCC was active in providing air attacks against ISIL in Syria.  This cooperative effort against ISIL includes Qatar.

Some very critical background.  Of the Saudi Arabia’s Muslim  population, 90% belongs to  Sunni branch of Islam.   Just the opposite in Iran, as about 90% belong to the  Shi’a branch of Islam.   There are more  subgroups  within each of these branches and even the subgroups do not work well together.   No country is 100% Sunni or Shi’a.   In the Muslim world,  around 80% belong to the Sunni branch.

All countries, connected by land to Saudi Arabia have high Sunni populations:  Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, UAE and Oman.   Qatar is the exception  as it is about 60% Shi’a.

Now, the terrorist groups, ISIS and al-Qaeda beliefs stem from the most extreme subset of the Sunni Islam, although most Muslims would say they really represent  an extreme departure of the Muslim religion.  It would not make much sense to claim that Qatar is both supporting fighting against these terrorists groups in Syria through air strikes and simultaneously supporting these groups.  As a predominately Shi’s country, support of a Sunni based terrorist group makes no sense.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

Wikipedia: Muslim Brotherhood

Wikipedia: Qatar

Wikipedia:  Qatar in Crisis

Al Jazeera: Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: Latest Updates

 

Qatar Crisis – Part 2, the Kidnapping and Release of Qatari royal family members in Iraq

The Kidnapping and Payment of Ransom

A hunting party in southern Iraq was kidnapped in mid-December 2015.   The hunters included members of the Qatari royal family.  No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.   According to the Al Jazeera report (see links below), the kidnapping was done by Shi’a militia in the Muthanna region.   This is consistent with many other reports.  It was not done by a Sunni extremist group, like al Qaeda or ISIL

The ransom deal took 16 months to complete.  Release of the Qatari hostages occurred on April 22, 2017.  The agreement included the release of 26 Qatari hostages and the safe evacuation of approximately of 2,000 Shi’a residents in four Syrian cities as follows:

The deal was linked the evacuation of thousands of people from four besieged towns in Syria: the northern Syrian villages of Fouaa and Kefraya, which are government-controlled but have been besieged by rebels, and the central villages of Madaya and Zabadani, which were besieged by pro-government forces.

It was reported that the ransom was “up to one billion dollars.”

Who are the Shi’a militias?  Per PBS Frontline:

Shia militias reached new heights of power in Iraq in the aftermath of ISIS’s rampage across the country in 2014. As Iraq’s army crumbled and ISIS seized Mosul, the government relied heavily on Shia militias to halt ISIS’s further advance.

Later in the article, it is stated:

Experts say Iraq’s Shia militias fall into three broad categories: those backed by Iran (the largest of the three blocs), those with ties to Iraqi political parties or politicians, and those who consider themselves followers of Sistani and the Shia religious establishment in Iraq. Militias that fall into these last two categories are more likely to be nationalist and wary of Iran.

The groups have little in common, according to experts.

“Their commonality is basically [being] anti-ISIS, and that’s it,” said Renad Mansour, a fellow at Chatham House, an independent policy institute in London. “Once you stop talking about ISIS as an external threat, they actually have a lot of differences amongst each other, ideological, strategic and administrative differences. What brings them together is this fight.”

In answering  question of  how many fighters do they have, the article states:

It’s hard to say. Estimates have put the number at around 100,000, but because of the informal structure of the militias, it’s impossible to provide a precise number.

“There isn’t a database. It’s not like enlisted soldiers with salary payments, so it’s really hard to tell,” said Mansour. While some militias are well established, others “are really just neighborhood watches and armed groups.”

By comparison, a recent analysis by Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute, puts the strength of Iraq’s security forces in May 2014 at 221,000 — shortly before the army’s collapse in Mosul.

The US has no interest in working with the Shi’a militias as stated by Frontline:

The U.S. government has long maintained that it does not support the militias — and it has even gone so far as to officially label groups such as the Hezbollah Brigades, also known as Kataib Hezbollah, as terrorist organizations. Coalition-supported offensives against ISIS in 2015 and 2016 saw a careful dance with U.S.-led airstrikes trying to stay away from areas where Shia militias were spearheading the assault.

“We do not enable Shia-backed militia at all,” former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told FRONTLINE in August 2016. “We only support and enable forces that are subordinate to Prime Minister [Haider al-Abadi]. This is fundamental, because the hell of Iraq has been sectarian violence.”

Was Qatar by way of making a deal for the release of hostages and payment of ransom, supporting terrorism?

A simple yes or no answer isn’t possible.  The central problem is that there are so many extremist groups with different agendas, it is a terrible mistake to lump them into one large international group, capable of doing harm everywhere.  The Syrians backed by Iran and Russia, would consider the anti-government rebels fighting Assad as terrorists, in the same group as al Qaeda and ISIL.

We in the US have our own national terrorists, who want to promote their agenda through violence.  The neo-Nazi’s groups in the US aren’t about to jump on a plane, and cause trouble in Mali, for example.

It is certain none of the ransom money went to the Sunni based terrorist groups that the US and Europe are focused on:  ISIL, al Qaeada, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and the Taliban.   In fact, it may be channeled to Shia militia fighting against ISIL or the rebel forces against Bashar Assad in Syria.  However,  Shi’a along with the revolutionary guard  CUDS force of Iran, backing anti-Israel groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah.   So, is the enemy of my enemy,  may be at times both my enemy and my friend.  The Frontline story really needs to be read, to get the all the details.

I am more swayed by the fact that Qatar had no good options as they were trying to get the release of royal family members.  It was a life or death situation.  Qatar did not intentionally want  to support groups with possible ties to Iran or  sectarian violence within Iraq.  As 2,000 Iraqi’s could be evacuated,  the ransom secured more than 26 lives.

In any case, many news articles state the payment of ransom was the last straw for Saudi Arabia and the other GCC countries to take action against Qatar. However, I am more convinced that Saudi Arabia saw this as an opportunity in making the case for the other Persian Gulf Sunni-based countries to sever their diplomatic relations with Qatar.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Al Jazeera: Qatari hunters kidnapped

New York Times Report

Frontline: Iraq Shi’a Militias

Wikipedia:  Qatar in Crisis

Al Jazeera: Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: Latest Updates