The next Syria

Today’s headlines should be 2″ tall:   ISIL is gone from Iraq!   The  US efforts have paid off.  The war for Raqqa in Syria is underway.

Questions remain for both Iraq and its allies:  How to rebuild Iraq so militants will never again be able to seize a city?   More importantly, how the leaders in Iraq can build unity within the country, which overcomes cultural and religious differences.

When ISIL is defeated in Syria, the same questions will remain.   The human toll for both the civil war within Syria and the war with ISIL will be tragic.

No one believes that this will be the end of jhadists.    ISIL has shown to other extremists a new way to extend their extremist philosophy.    The mode of operation are:  (1)   Develop an army capable of surprise attacks and control of targeted cities (2) Profit in any way possible from the occupation and (3) Recruit others to join the movement.  In Syria, ISIL was operating oil fields and selling the oil.

Libya has the potential to be as bad as Syria.   The big prize is the oil.  We have already seen the violence in the Philippines due to extremists.  Indonesia and Malaysia are likely next targets.   In Africa, the Boko Haram in Nigeria and the al Shabaab  in Kenya and Somalia, are very much along the lines of ISIL.

Countries in central Africa, such as the Sudan and South Sudan have terrorist organization and a high potential to be the next Syria.   From extremists point of view, an ideal target is where they can obtain local support or minimal resistance,  control large regions of the country and profit from their occupation.   The last thing we need in the world, is a terrorist base located in central Africa.

In the next week, I will be posting information on South Sudan, one of the newest and poorest countries in central Africa.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

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Bob Corker’s Action on Arms Sale is Spot On

Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, moved to block sales of arms to the GCC countries, until there is resolution on the Qatar crisis.   Already the Senate has approved 500 million dollars of arms shipments to the Saudi Arabia.  The Qatar crisis has the potential to escalate once the 10 days expires on the 13 demand letter on Friday. Numerous commentaries on the crisis have appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post, showing a deep understanding of the problems in the region.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT, OpEd, Joost Hiltermann Qatar Punched above its Weight.  Now it is paying the price.

NYT, Senator puts a hold on any future arms sales to Persian Gulf nations over Qatar Feud 

Perhaps the song should be “What’s terrorism got to do with this?”  music by Tina Turner.

 

How to de-escalate the Qatar crisis?

I present this as an open question.  Going forward, there is no doubt that all of the 13 demands will be rejected by Qatar.  Kuwait appears to be the negotiator in this crisis.  I suspect Oman will play a role.

It may be premature to even think how the crisis can be de-escalated.  Perhaps, what should be addressed is how any further measures by Saudi Arabia and allies to economically harm Qatar be avoided.

The US, UK and the Economic Union can all condemn the blockade on the basis of free trade.  They can also condemn the list of demands as an affront to national sovereignty.  The other Arab countries have state owned news media, why should Qatar be denied this right?   The answer is simple- because Al Jazeera has become the largest and most successful.   It has nothing to do with terrorism.

But, would international condemnation  have any effect?   Would action by the UN help?

The US policy began with tweets from Donald Trump,  foolishly taking credit for the Saudi’s action.   Then it seemed to more to neutral, offering assistance in resolving the crisis.  Now,  the policy seems to lean more towards Qatar.

The most immediate crisis is the deportation of thousands of Qataris from the other Arab countries.  The most obvious step would be to delay these deportations.  However, given the inevitable refusal of Qatar to accept any of the demands,  the deportations are likely.

So, what is the path forward?

Stay tuned,

Dave

I note that there are many excellent articles on the Qatar crisis.  I will provide more links in the future.

Qatar Export Problems and What’s Next

Qatar has enormous gas reserves.    Gas requires a market.  When the local market is limited,   producers often have to invest heavily to make their gas marketable worldwide.  Qatar, along with many other countries, have invested in conversion of their gas to liquified natural gas (LNG) for the purpose of export.  These liquification plants (usually called “trains”),, shipment ports and the carriers usually are require billions of dollars to construct.   There has to be ports constructed to safely  receive the LNG.   For safety purposes, the carriers’ offloading buoys are located a long distance from shore.   Qatar is the world’s largest LNG exporter.   This opens up the world to their gas.

Qatar has contracts with Japan to supply LNG.  The shipping is now more costly  and likey causing delivery delays because these tankers can not refuel in the Persian Gulf.  However, shipments will continue.  Japanese buyers of LNG are hoping to renegotiate the LNG delivery contracts on better terms, to take advantage of Qatar’s situation.

Qatar also supplies the UK.  There was concern last week when two tankers delivering Qatari gas turn around as they entered the Gulf of Aden, but later reports indicate the  Qatari tankers can pass through the Suez canal and supply Europe.

Oil export is a bit tricky.  The very large crude carriers (VLCC) carry nearly a billion barrels of oil.  They generally make multiple loading  (“liftings”) at ports of other  countries to fill their tanker.  However, the rules of the blockade prohibit this-  if a tanker  has a partial load from Qatar, it can not top off its load by lifting at a Saudi port.  Qatar is scrambling to find smaller tankers to lift their crude.

Food is being supplied by an emergency airlift from Turkey.   The US could be doing much more as we have an airbase in Qatar, but I suspect the 100 billion dollars in potential new contracts with the Saudi’s is keeping Trump from taking any action.  Doha is not Berlin.  The stock market in Qatar dropped around 10%, which does not include Qatargas, as it is not a publicly traded  company.   The credit rating of Qatar dropped a notch due to an S+P downgrade.

I have combed the internet, looking for possible ways each side could de-escalate the crisis.   I found nothing that was likely.  The most obvious way to keep the diplomatic/ economic crisis from turning into a humanitarian one, is to stop the deportations,  or at least push back the deadlines.   Qataris were given 2 weeks to leave Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia.    I believe some measures are being done to ensure the families are not broken up.  Amnesty International has come out strongly against these deportation as it makes people on both sides of the conflict, the  real victims of the conflict.  I am certain the Arab countries are now sourcing the labor market, and will be bring in many laborers from Pakistan and the Philippines.   I have not confirmation on this- it’s really just my hunch.   Once deportation begin, it will be difficult to undo through negotiations.

The outsiders, including Russia, France and the US,  plus the non-aligned Arab countries of Kuwait and Oman, all want to help in negotiating a lifting of sanctions.  But, it remains confused at what would satisfy the main actors (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain) in this blockade.   Qatar is not about to “rein in”  Al Jazeera,  in essence, make it less effective a news network.   It is in daily competition with all other news outlets, and given the widespread use of satellite television,  their major competitors are the BBC, CNN and Euronews, at least for the English speaking world.  And they are doing very well. Qatar denies they have any connection with Hamas or any terrorist organizations.

This type of sanctions usually don’t work.  All they will accomplish is to cause hardships for Qatar and the companies and investors doing business with Qatar.   Those who financed Qatar’s rise in the world, were likely rich Persian Gulf investors, buying Qatari bonds, which would be “safe” investments.  They are likely taking a big hit.  The blockade can be lifted easily, but it seems things are at a stalemate.   On the other hand, there are opportunities to escalate the situation.   Qatar could cut the gas supplies to UAE through their pipeline, but this would likely backfire, and Qatar would be the bigger loser.   Other Arab countries would step up their gas supplies to the UAE and the Saudi blockage would gain more unity.   The Arab countries can through controlling the airspace,  effectively ground Qatar Air without much repercussions.  They seem to want to put Qatar Air out of business.   Stopping Qatari  LNG carriers passing through the Suez canal,  would violate international laws,  but  it is still a potential step.  Yemen controls the Gulf of Aden, so this would be the place to extract more economic harm to Qatar.

I have no idea of how this mess can end.    The most recent series of terrorist attacks, in the Philippines and Iran, suggest the Sunni based ISIS is still the number one instigator of secular violence in the world, not tied in anyway to Qatar.   Trump is still going nuts pushing his travel ban, but it is equally likely that the next outside terrorists to land on our shores (there has been very few of them) is equally likely to come from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, France, Belgium, UK or  the Philippines, rather than Libya, Sudan or Syria (countries named in the travel ban).     Actually,  the next terrorists to cause bloodshed in  the US, are more likely to  be US permanent residents or citizens, than agents from any other country.   It is all politics, and getting uglier by the day.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Qatar Crisis – Part 4, The crisis continues to escalate!

It is June 10, 2017 in the US and another day has ended in Qatar.  Things are getting worse. From Saudi Arabia, the strategy is escalation not reconciliation.

Make no mistake about it-  This is not 2014.  This is not a diplomatic rift.  Further, I don’t believe it is really about terrorism, at least the Sunni-based al Qaeda, ISIL, and a host of other groups, which have motivated lone wolf attacks in Europe and the US.

Perhaps the most bizarre part of the daily events was Donald Trump’s tweets early in the crisis where he is actually takes credit for the crisis, siding with the Saudi’s.   The Secretary of State,  Rex Tillerson,  did just the opposite, stating we would work with all parties in reconciliation.  This was almost immediately contradicted by President Trump, who seemed to support Saudi Arabia pressuring Qatar to stop supporting  terrorism.      Russian FM Lavrov has step in as the negotiator of the crisis.

Imagine that, Lavrov and Tillerson with similar position, and Trump seeing this as an extension of his trip and comments that the Middle East countries need to cut funding of extremist groups, allied with Iran. (see links below)  Kuwait is likely will play also role as a negotiator between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  But with so many countries now cutting ties with Qatar, it is escalating every day.

I believe the  Houti attacks in Yemen are still  Saudi Arabia’s  main focus.   They knew exactly how to play Trump in directing his focus to Iran, as the key player.

Right now, Qatar needs food and water, which Turkey has agreed to bring in by air.   Iran also offered assistance, but Qatar smartly declined this assistance.

Syria is unable to supply LNG to UAE, so Shell is making the deliveries.   What’s next?  Saudi Arabia is  trying to economically attack Qatar by restricting access to its air space.  If the other Gulf countries join in,  they could cripple Qatar Air.

The other target is the Al-Jazeera news networks.  In my opinion, it is one of the best at “old fashion” journalism, getting the facts quickly and accurately.   Going lean on commentary and strong on onsite reporting, keeps their reporting honest.  It is not what Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or UAE want.    However, I don’t see how Qatar could ever agree to rein in Al Jazeera.

The Trump administration through  the US Secretary of Defense, General Mattis  finally acknowledged that the Saudi Arabian blockade would make operations in the US airbase in Qatar difficult, and hurt their anti terrorist activities against ISIL    What is at stake is the break up of the GCC and countries having to align themselves only with Saudi Arabia or Iran.  It will lead to more chaos in the area.

Qatar could cut natural gas supplies to UAE, causing enormous electrical shortages.   Nothing good will come of this, as the UAE will then need to retaliate.

Exactly how a deal could be struck to resolve this crisis is uncertain.   Right now,  Qatar is bracing for the worse.  The US has military bases in both Bahrain and Qatar, and strong commercial interests throughout the Persian Gulf, so really we can’t afford to pick sides.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

Trump dumps Qatar Alliance via Twitter and takes credit for Gulf States Cutting Ties (June 6, 2017)

Wikipedia:  Qatar in Crisis

Al Jazeera: Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: Latest Updates

Russia urges dialogue in Qatar Crisis

Trump picks sides not diplomacy in Gulf

 

 

 

 

Cowboy Politics

“Let’s round up a posse and bring in this vermin,”  Sheriff Coffee said to Ben Cartwright last night.   By the end of the show, some 40 minutes later, everything was resolved, and the boys went to the Silver Dollar bar to have some beer.  The big  ox, Hoss was buying.

This, of course, was Bonanza, but seemed similarly equal to the Republican debate last night.  I didn’t watch the whole thing, but as far as the “terrorist threat” responses, it sure sounded like cowboy politics.

ISIL is a Middle East problem.  It will only be solved through a cooperative effort.  You can’t send troops into Syria, and expect to battle both ISIL and the Syrian government.  Rand Paul seemed the only one on stage, that wasn’t talking cowboy politics.

I think President Obama’s State of the Union address was perfect in the recognition that ISIL is not a force that can threaten our national existence.   ISIL  may grab a piece of headline news on a particular day, but they are never going to grab a square inch of US land.  Obama was telling ISIL that their efforts and sacrifice are futile, which is very necessary.   North Korea with nuclear weapons- now there is a real threat to us.   Iran with nuclear weapons- another frightening thought.

Through international efforts,  the immediate threat of Iran gaining nuclear weapons has been averted.  The destruction of uranium and centrifuges as part of the nuclear agreement, adds to our national security.  The inspections will continue as part of the agreement.   To pull out of an agreement, when Iran is fulfilling its obligations is totally nuts.

The next president will need to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.  It will require some very skillful diplomacy.   North Korea is likely looking very closely at Iran as more countries are willing to establish diplomatic relations, as the Iranians abandon their nuclear ambitions.  The nuclear deal meant a very rigorous set of inspections- and any deal with North Korea will be just as tough, and snap back provisions will certainly be a part of this.

But cowboy politics means you go it alone, with your mighty six shooter at your side. Your enemy must be obliterated.  You blanket bomb cities in Syria to get rid of the vermin, and then go to the Silver Dollar bar, to have a cold one with Hoss.

Of course,  your meddling has enrage the entire population of the Middle East  against you.  Your winning is really your loss.

Stay tuned,

Dave