Oil, Gas, And Fracking News Reads: 08Sept 2019 – Part 2
Here are some more selected news articles about the oil and gas industry from the week ended 07 September 2019. Go here for Part 1 .
This is a feature at Global Economic Intersection every Monday evening.
Russia ups LNG race with green light on $21 billion Arctic LNG-2 project – (Reuters) – The $21 billion Arctic liquefied natural gas (LNG)-2 project led by Russian private gas producer Novatek won a green light on Thursday, the latest in a raft of new projects aimed at meeting a likely doubling of LNG demand over the next 15 years. Arctic LNG-2 is expected to launch in 2023 and will aim to export 80 percent of its LNG to Asia, Novatek Chief Executive Leonid Mikhelson, Russia’s richest businessman according to Forbes magazine, said after the project’s partners signed a final investment decision (FID) at an economic forum. At nearly 20 million tonnes per annum (mmpta) of LNG it would be largest single project to reach FID, according to Wood Mackenzie, and take total LNG volumes sanctioned this year to about 63 mtpa, beating the previous record of 45 mmtpa in 2005. Arctic LNG 2 will be the third LNG project for Novatek, which hopes to match Qatar in production of the super-chilled fuel. “Novatek is clearly driving home their ambitions to be a global LNG power house,” said Chong Zhi Xin, associate director of gas, power and energy at IHS Markit. “It adds another 12 million tonnes to their portfolio on an equity basis. They are emerging as one of the largest LNG suppliers in the market.” The project’s equity partners include French energy producer Total, China’s National Petroleum Corp [CNPET.UL], CNOOC and the Japan Arctic LNG consortium, made up of Mitsui & Co and state-owned JOGMEC, formally known as Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp.
Moscow Fuels Arctic LNG Race With Billions Of Dollars – Novatek, Russia’s largest private natural gas company, will receive a tax deduction of about US$600 million (40 billion rubles) from the regional budget of Yamal-Nenets and US$1.5 billion (100 billion rubles) from the federal budget to build an LNG export terminal in the autonomous region in northwestern Siberia, Russian daily RBC reported this week.The information , which was confirmed by Novatek, is the latest indication that Moscow is doubling down on liquefied natural gas at a time of growing demand for the commodity that will inevitably displace a portion of demand for one of Russia’s top export commodities, oil.Novatek, which last year overtook Gazprom in market capitalization, operates the Yamal LNG plant, which has a nameplate capacity of 17.4 million tons annually, and is building the Arctic LNG plant, which will add another 19.8 million tons when completed. Eventually, Novatek plans to operate total annual liquefaction capacity of 60 million tons .The Russia company is not going it alone. Its partners in Arctic LNG 2 include Total, CNPC, Japan Arctic LNG, and CNOOC. There were many reports that Saudi Aramco would buy into the project, but with 60 percent for Novatek and 10 percent for each of the minority partners, all the stakes have been divided– and Novatek has said it would not reduce its 60-percent holding in the project.Novatek is widely seen as the spearhead of Russia’s international LNG expansion. Gazprom also produces LNG but on a smaller scale than the private company, for the time being. Earlier this year, in an interview with Bloomberg, Novatek’s chief financial officer Mark Gyetvay said Russia could emerge as one of the top four global LNG producers over the next few years.Bloomberg estimates that from April this year, the U.S. and Qatar could both have installed capacity of 100 million tons annually by 2030, sharing the top spot, with Australia following with 95 million tons annually and Russia coming fourth with 75 million tons of LNG capacity.
The First County to Abandon IMO 2020 Indonesia announced last week that it would not enforce the upcoming IMO 2020 rule requiring marine vessels to burn bunker fuels containing no more than 0.5 percent sulfur on its domestic shipping fleet.The country thereby became the first “rat” to jump from the IMO ship. Indonesia’s actions may have a noticeable impact on at least the Asian bunker fuel market.According to Reuters , the country made its decision in reaction to the high cost of new, cleaner fuels. Instead of complying with the IMO mandate, Indonesian-flagged vessels can keep burning high-sulfur fuels within Indonesian markets. Reuters added that this policy would continue until the domestic supply of low-sulfur fuel increases. As one official stated, “We always put forward national interest as consideration [sic] in making the decision.”
Ruptured pipeline in Nigerias Delta state spilled oil (Reuters) – A pipeline that ruptured on Friday in Nigeria’s Delta state spilled oil, but has been contained, the head of state oil company NNPC said on Saturday. NNPC initially said the pipeline was carrying gas, but NNPC managing director Mele Kyari said on Twitter Saturday afternoon that it was the Abura Crude Trunk line. Local people in Otu-Jeremi in Ughelli South area of Delta state reported a pipeline explosion and told Reuters that oil was leaking from it. Kyari repeated NNPC’s assertion that there was no explosion. “It was a rupture on one of our pipelines,” Kyari said on Twitter, adding that engineers were at the site already. He said they had contained a spill and would fix the pipeline within three days. “There’s no cause for alarm,” he said. The pipeline is near Oil Mining Licence 34, owned by NNPC subsidiary Nigeria Petroleum Development Co. and ND Western. That license produces an average of 17,000 barrels per day of oil and condensates and 390 million standard cubic feet per day of gas. Gas processed from the field goes into the Escravos-Lagos Pipeline, which feeds Egbin power plant, the largest in Nigeria. It is also near NPDC asset OML 65, which produces as much as 12,000 bpd of crude oil from the Abura field.
Mangalore Port gears up to fight possible oil spill – Tridevi Prem, the dredging vessel that was abandoned by its crew members on Monday after she started taking in water in the pump room, sank off the New Mangalore Port outer anchorage in the wee hours of Tuesday. Fearing a possible oil spill as the vessel had 45 kilolitres of fuel, the port authorities have initiated a slew of measures to prevent it. Fortunately, the fuel is only white oil — low-sulfur high-speed diesel — and the port authorities have ruled out much impact on the environment. NMPT had deployed the dredging company Mercator based in Mumbai with a tender period of three years, but the company abandoned dredging in January. So, the port has engaged Dredging Corporation of India for the work from September this year. After the Tridevi Prem, anchored 2.5 nautical miles from the dock started taking in water on Sunday, its 13-member crew reported the flooding to the Indian Coast Guard and abandoned the vessel in the early hours of Monday. The abandoned vessel sank almost at the outer anchorage around 1 am on Tuesday. “However, the ship sunk except some portion which is visible. The port’s efforts to empty the fuel using a bunker barge did not succeed due to inclement weather and the swell,” he said. Explaining the efforts to contain any possible oil spill, the chairman said the dredging vessel has approximately 45 kl of high-speed low-sulfur fuel in its bunker. “Fortunately, the fuel termed as white oil is not harmful to marine life as it evaporates in the atmosphere. We were worried about the possible storage of black oil in the vessel which has higher viscosity and is dangerous to the environment. In this case, there is no black oil in the vessel but all the precautionary measures have been taken,” he said.
OPEC is struggling to prove it can still arrest oil price declines in the age of Trump, expert says – OPEC is under intensifying pressure to show it still has the power to reverse a slide in oil prices, according to RBC Capital Market’s Helima Croft. The Middle East-dominated producer group has struggled to shore up crude futures this year, amid a deteriorating outlook for global growth and a protracted trade dispute between the U.S. and China. It has once again raised questions about whether OPEC really wields that much influence over world crude markets, particularly at a time when oil traders are constantly on alert for the next tweet from President Donald Trump. “It may prove easier to clean up the physical market than to overcome skepticism about the ultimate efficacy of its strategy in the age of Trump,” Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy, said in a research note. “OPEC’s burden is to show that it still has the appropriate tools to arrest price declines driven in no small part by White House policy.” Supply restraints and involuntary losses in Iran and Venezuela has seen OPEC’s share of the global oil market sink to its lowest level in years. Meanwhile, the U.S. has more than doubled oil production in the last decade to become the world’s largest oil producer. To be sure, the U.S. shale industry has expanded at such a rapid rate that it threatens to overwhelm OPEC-led efforts to mitigate demand concerns, swamping the global oil market with supply. Earlier this year, the head of EMEA oil and gas research at J.P. Morgan told CNBC that a gradual fall in oil prices over the coming years could prompt OPEC to reclaim some of its market share from the U.S. GP: US Oil workers Oil Boom in Texas’s Permian Basin Workers extracting oil from oil wells in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas on May 1, 2018. Benjamin Lowy | Getty Images International benchmark Brent crude traded at around $60.77 Thursday morning, up around 0.1%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $56.27, little changed from the previous session. Brent futures have tumbled more than 20% from a peak reached in April, with WTI down over 17% over the same period.
Iraq is pumping record oil, creating a ‘fully-blown migraine’ for OPEC – OPEC’s second-largest oil producer hit record production figures in August with an output of 4.88 million barrels per day (bpd), according to the latest figures from S&P Global Platts.Iraq’s highest-ever production count has contributed to what may be OPEC’s first monthly output rise of the year, throwing a wrench into the 14-member organization’s plans to limit global oil supply and keep a floor under declining crude prices.“The recent increases in Iraqi production turned what was a sort of minor headache for OPEC into a fully-blown migraine,” Dave Ernsberger, global head of commodities pricing at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC on Thursday.The problem for the cartel, Ersnberger says, is twofold. “It makes it more difficult for OPEC to manage the perception that it will balance markets, as demand is currently under pressure.”It also creates “tremendous pressure” within OPEC itself, as these production gains come at the expense of Iran, he added: “Whenever Iranian production is under pressure and Iraqi production increases, keeping the peace within OPEC becomes incredibly difficult to do.”To put Iraq’s 4.88 million bpd figure in perspective, the country’s output five years ago was 2.96 million bpd, and between the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and 2010 it veered between less than half a million barrels per day to barely touching 2.5 million. After more than 15 years of conflict and a dire need to rebuild, Iraq’s government hails this growth as a success. Iraq’s crude oil exports also increased to 3.6 million bpd in August, from 3.56 million bpd the previous month, according to its oil ministry.
Debunking The Lower Oil Supply Will Raise Prices Narrative – Gail Tverberg – We often hear the statement, “When oil supply is lower, oil prices will rise because of scarcity.” Now, we are getting to see first-hand whether oil prices really do rise, as oil supplies become more scarce. Figure 1 shows that world oil supply hit a peak in November 2018 and has declined since then, mostly because of a decline in OPEC’s production. So, total oil production seems to be down for about eight months, relative to the peak in November 2018. Despite this big cutback by OPEC in its oil production, prices have not responded as OPEC had hoped: In fact, as I write this, Brent oil price is currently quoted as $60.48, which is back in the range of December 2018 and January 2019 low prices. Also, reducing production doesn’t seem to be reducing inventories. Figure 3 suggests that they are now higher than they were before the reduction in oil supply took place. Why aren’t oil prices rising and oil inventories falling, if oil production has fallen? The basic issue is that the economy is very much interconnected under the laws of physics, because energy is required for every activity that is considered part of GDP. Energy is required for any kind of heat or any kind of movement. Energy is even required for electricity. Without energy from the sun, food can’t grow; without supplemental energy of some kind (such as using electricity to heat an electric stove or burning animal dung or sticks), it becomes impossible to cook food or smelt metals. One strange phenomenon that arises from the interconnected nature of the economy is the fact that the prices of all energy products (including those not listed on Figure 4) tend to move together. This strange phenomenon arises because energy products are well-buried within every part of the world economy. A person’s job requires energy consumption. The tasks that governments do, such as building roads and schools, require energy consumption. Both transporting and cooking food require the use of energy products. Refrigerating food requires energy products. These energy uses, as well as many other everyday hidden uses of energy, aren’t things that we can easily cut back on. Gasoline accounts for about 26% of world oil consumption, or about 8.7% of total energy consumption, based on the most recent BP energy data. Cutting back on the optional use of gasoline would not reduce total consumption very much. If it were possible to reduce gasoline consumption by 10% by voluntary cutbacks, it would still reduce world energy consumption by less than 1%. The strange pattern of the price changes shown on Figure 4 indicates that there is something affecting energy prices of many kinds, simultaneously. I would describe this as “affordability.” It has to do with how affordable finished goods and services are to the population in general, much more than it does scarcity. (Economists call this affordability issue “demand.”) If finished goods and services are affordable to a large number of consumers, as they were in 2008 and in 2012 and 2013, prices will be bid up to very high levels (Figure 4). If finished goods and services aren’t very affordable, a drop-off in prices, such as that experienced in November and December of 2018 (Figure 2), is likely to occur.
OPEC Abandons Whatever It Takes Strategy, Boosts Production — OPEC’s production increased in August thanks to Iraq and Nigeria a Reuters survey found on Friday. OPEC’s August production has been estimated at 29.61 million barrels per day, which is 80,000 barrels per day over July’s production level. The production increase is surprising, given that Iran and Venezuela are producing less not by choice, and continue to face uphill battles when it comes to maintaining their oil production. Saudi Arabia, too, over complied with the production cut deal again as expected, but it raised production for August slightly over July. Overall, the group is still over complying with the production quotas. This brings OPEC’s compliance for August is now estimated at 136%, no thanks to Iraq and Nigeria, who lifted production by 80,000 barrels per day and 60,000 barrels per day, respectively. And even though Saudi Arabia is still over complying, it lifted production in August to produce 9.63 million barrels per day. While Iraq, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia increased production in August, Iran’s production fell further – experiencing a 50,000 barrels per day loss for the month. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week said it had successfully removed 2.7 million barrels of oil per day off the oil market since it first sanctioned the country. Iran’s July oil and condensates exports for July fell to 120,000 barrels per day, Reuters said last week. Iran’s production for July was 2.21 million bpd. This compares to an average daily production rate of 3.55 million barrels for all of 2018. Oil prices fell sharply on Friday, and news that OPEC’s production increased this month may press further down on prices. At 3:26pm EST, WTI was trading down 3.14% on the day at $54.93 per barrel, while Brent crude was trading at $58.88, down 2.66% on the day.
Oil Holds Losses on Growth Fears — Oil held losses after its first monthly drop since May as a deepening trade war with no end in sight stoked global growth fears. Futures were steady in New York after closing down 2.8% on Friday to cap a 5.9% loss in August. U.S. tariffs on a further $110 billion of Chinese imports — including footwear, apparel and certain technology items — took effect Sunday. Additional Chinese levies on American products — including agricultural goods and oil for the first time — also kicked in. The outlook for Chinese manufacturing deteriorated further in August, the latest evidence of the impact the trade conflict is having on the global economy. Face-to-face talks between American and Chinese negotiators scheduled for this month are still on, President Donald Trump said Sunday, but investors see very little chance of a near-term breakthrough. Hedge funds last week raised bets by 14% that West Texas Intermediate crude will drop. “Remaining hopes of a last-minute deal have now come off,” said Howie Lee, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore. “It’s the lack of light at the end of the tunnel that is depressing prices.” WTI for October delivery declined 3 cents to $55.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 7:28 a.m. in London after falling as much as 1.1% earlier. The contract lost $3.48 in August. Brent for November settlement fell 21 cents, or 0.4%, to $59.04 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange. The October contract, which expired Friday, lost 7.1% last month. The global benchmark crude traded at a $4.18 premium to WTI for the same month. The U.S. imposed previously announced 15% duties on a wide range of Chinese consumer goods. Another batch of about $160 billion of Chinese products — including laptops and mobile phones — will be hit with 15% levies on Dec. 15.
Hedge funds cautious on oil, wait for economy- Kemp – (Reuters) – Hedge funds are becoming slightly more pessimistic about the outlook for oil and the economy, though position changes remain small owing to the holiday season in North America and Europe. Hedge funds and other money managers were small net sellers of petroleum futures and options last week for the third time in the last four weeks, according to an analysis of data published by regulators and exchanges. Fund managers sold a total of 26 million barrels in the six most important futures and options contracts, reducing their net long position to 525 million barrels in the week to Aug. 27. Funds sold NYMEX and ICE WTI (-20 million barrels), U.S. diesel (-4 million) and European gasoil (-5 million) though they were smaller buyers of Brent (+4 million) and left U.S. gasoline positions basically unchanged. Since 2013, when the time series starts for all six major contracts, the hedge fund community has always run a “structural” net long position in petroleum, concentrated in Brent and WTI. In this period, fund managers have NEVER been net short of either crude contract in the last six years, even when prices were plunging in 2014/15 ( https://tmsnrt.rs/2zJcuV2 ). Much of this structural net long position represents passive index-tracking positions as well as the predisposition of fund managers to be bullish towards their own asset class. Across all six petroleum contracts, the structural net long has been equivalent to around 491 million barrels (consisting of 587 million barrels of structural long positions minus 96 million barrels of structural shorts). Since structural positions do not change, in aggregate, it is more useful to focus on the remaining “dynamic” positions, which have a closer relationship with short-term price changes. Hedge fund managers are currently running a dynamic net long position of just 35 million barrels, down from a recent peak of 420 million in April. In effect, fund managers are neutral on the outlook for prices, with concern about the economy and oil consumption offsetting production restraint by Saudi Arabia and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. Until economic uncertainty is resolved, either with clearer signs of recession or indications of renewed growth, portfolio managers are likely to remain on the sidelines.
Oil falls amid new round of tariffs in US-China trade war – Oil prices were lower on Monday after new tariffs imposed by the United States and China came into force, raising concerns about a further hit to global growth and demand for crude. Brent crude was down 27 cents, or 0.5%, at $58.98 a barrel by 0324 GMT, while U.S. oil was down 2 cents at $55.083 at barrel. The United States began imposing 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods on Sunday – including footwear, smart watches and flat-panel televisions – as China put new duties on U.S. crude, the latest escalation in a bruising trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump said the sides would still meet for talks later this month. Trump, writing on Twitter, said his goal was to reduce U.S. reliance on China and he again urged American companies to find alternate suppliers outside China. Beijing’s levy of 5% on U.S. crude marks the first time the fuel had been targeted since the world’s two largest economies started their trade war more than a year ago. “The trade and tariff overhang is inescapable for oil markets, so while trade uncertainties persist, it will be difficult for oil to shrug off concerns about the threat to global demand,” said Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader. South Korea’s exports tumbled in August for a ninth consecutive month, on sluggish demand from its biggest buyer, China, and depressed prices of computer chips globally, government data showed on Sunday. The bleak data clouded the outlook for Asia’s fourth-largest economy as a brewing trade dispute with Japan emerged as a new risk on top of the prolonged U.S.-China trade war. Elsewhere, oil output from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rose in August for the first month this year as higher supply from Iraq and Nigeria outweighed restraint by top exporter Saudi Arabia and losses caused by U.S. sanctions on Iran, a Reuters survey found. In the United States, energy companies cut drilling rigs for a ninth month in a row to the lowest level since January last year.
Oil slips as U.S., China add more tariffs in trade war – (Reuters) – Oil prices weakened on Monday after new import tariffs imposed by the United States and China came into force, raising concerns about a further hit to global economic growth and demand for crude. International Brent crude futures LCOc1 settled down 59 cents to $58.66 a barrel, after trading as low as $58.10 during the day. U.S. benchmark WTI crude CLc1 was down 33 cents at $54.77 a barrel. Activity was thin because of the U.S. Labor Day public holiday. The United States began imposing 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods on Sunday – including footwear, smart watches and flat-panel televisions – as China put new duties on U.S. crude, the latest escalation in a bruising trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump said the two sides would still meet for talks this month. Trump, writing on Twitter, said his goal was to reduce U.S. reliance on China, and he again urged American companies to find alternative suppliers outside China. “Even as President Trump has indicated that scheduled talks between the U.S. and China are still to proceed, the market is more and more resigned to a protracted standoff between the two countries and will be looking towards central bank easing to shore up risk appetite,”
Oil Markets Hit Hard By Trade War Escalation – Oil prices fell back on Monday on returning fears of a global economic slowdown. Higher tariffs took effect over the weekend. Also, China and the U.S. have not yet agreed to a schedule for trade negotiations, a further sign that the trade war is very far from a resolution. “It is still all about the economy,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity-markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA, told Bloomberg . “When it comes to U.S.-China trade tensions, any setbacks appear to lend support to the U.S. dollar and generate headwinds for commodities.” Last month China announced retaliatory tariffs on U.S. oil imports. Those levies took effect on Sunday. Saudi Arabia has named Yasir al-Rumayyan, the head of the sovereign wealth fund, as the chairman of Saudi Aramco, replacing energy minister Khalid al-Falih. The decision was made as a preparation for the company’s public offering. Also, the government created a new ministry for industry and mineral resources, separating it out from the energy ministry. Together, the moves diminish the authority of al-Falih, although he will retain control of the energy ministry. Sources told Reuters that the government has been unhappy with the results of development under al-Falih. The Saudi economy has been slowing down amid production curtailments and low oil prices. Economists see GDP growing by 1.4 percent this year, down from 2.2 percent last year. OPEC production rose by 200,000 bpd in August, the first collective increase since the OPEC+ cuts took effect at the start of the year. Gains came from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Iraq. For the first time ever, ExxonMobil fell out of the top 10 in the S&P 500, a sign of the declining position of the oil major, but also a warning sign for the oil industry on the whole. The latest EIA data shows monthly U.S. oil production falling to 12.082 mb/d in June, a slight decrease from the month before. The figures show a decline in some states, while only tepid growth in Texas. The data offers more evidence of a slowdown in production growth from the shale patch. China has submitted a WTO complaint against the U.S. over tariffs. The complaint comes as reciprocal tariffs took effect on September 1 on a larger portion of goods.
Oil drops more than 2% as trade war rumbles and output swells – Oil prices fell more than 2% on Tuesday, weighed down by rising OPEC and Russian oil output as well as the protracted U.S.-China trade dispute that has dragged on the global economy. U.S. crude was down $1.80, or 3.27%, at $53.30 a barrel by 1305 GMT and Brent crude was down $1.28 or 2.18% at $57.38. “The gloomy mood has mainly been down to the U.S.-China stand-off in trade talks as the two countries continue the tit-for-tat measures of implementing import tariffs on each others goods,” said Tamas Varga of oil brokerage PVM. “This is the single most important flat price driver of late.” The United States this week imposed 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods and China began to impose new duties on a $75 billion target list in a trade war that has rumbled on for more than a year. Though the trade conflict has intensified, U.S. President Donald Trump said the two sides would meet for talks this month. Meanwhile, South Korea’s economy expanded less than expected in the second quarter, with exports revised down in the face of the U.S.-China dispute, central bank data showed on Tuesday. A move on Sunday by Argentina to impose capital controls also cast a spotlight on emerging market risks. Output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rose in August for the first month this year as higher supply from Iraq and Nigeria outweighed restraint by Saudi Arabia and losses caused by U.S. sanctions on Iran. Russian oil productionin August rose to 11.294 million barrels per day (bpd), topping the rate cap pledged by Moscow in a pact with other producers and hitting its highest since March, data showed on Monday. Data due this week on U.S. inventory levels will be delayed by a day to Wednesday and Thursday because of the U.S. Labor Day holiday on Monday.
Oil Plunges As Trade War Rages – Oil prices tanked to multi-week lows early on Tuesday, the first full trading day after the new U.S. and Chinese tariffs and counter-tariffs entered into force and as signs emerged that both OPEC and its key partner in the production cut deal, Russia, boosted oil production in August. As of 11:06 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, WTI Crude was down 3.23 percent at $53.23 and Brent Crude had fallen below $58 a barrel – to $57.59, down by 1.82 percent on the day.Market participants were again concerned about the repercussions of the U.S.-China trade war on global economies and oil demand growth. On Sunday, September 1, the U.S. imposed tariffs on Chinese goods, and China imposed tariffs on some U.S. goods, although Beijing left most of the tariffs for the December round of new tariffs.On the demand side, the market is worried about slowing economies and, by extension, slowing oil demand growth. On the supply side, too, bearish factors abound.According to a Reuters survey, OPEC’s crude oil production increased in August, thanks to Iraq and Nigeria. OPEC’s August production has been estimated at 29.61 million barrels per day, which is 80,000 barrels per day over July’s production level. Even though Saudi Arabia is still over-complying with its share of the cuts, it lifted production in August to produce 9.63 million barrels per day.In Russia, OPEC’s key partner in the OPEC+ coalition curbing output to support oil prices, oil production increased to 11.29 million bpd in August, up from 11.15 million bpd in July, and exceeding Russia’s cap under the deal. Rosneft boosted its oil production by 5 percent last month compared to the previous month, according to Russia’s energy ministry data cited by Reuters. Yet, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak affirmed that Russia was still looking to comply in full with its share of the cuts.
Oil sinks as manufacturing data feeds global economy worries (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Tuesday, with U.S. crude futures down 2% after manufacturing data raised concerns about a weakening global economy, while the U.S.-China trade dispute continued to drag on investor sentiment. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures fell $1.16, or 2.1%, to settle at $53.94 a barrel. The session low was $52.84 a barrel, the lowest since Aug. 9. Brent crude LCOc1 futures lost 40 cents, or 0.7%, to settle at $58.26 a barrel. It sank as low as $57.23 a barrel, also the weakest since Aug. 9. Prices extended losses following data that showed U.S. manufacturing activity in August contracted for the first time in three years. Earlier, separate data showed euro zone manufacturing activity contracted for a seventh month in August. “That deterioration is continuing to undermine the demand growth outlook for oil,” Oil prices have fallen around 20% since a 2019 peak reached in April, hit by concerns the trade war would dent oil demand. The U.S.-China trade dispute “is the single most important flat price driver of late,” said Tamas Varga of oil brokerage PVM. On the supply side, Venezuela’s oil exports fell in August to their lowest level in 2019, internal reports and Refinitiv Eikon data showed, following tougher U.S. sanctions. Russian oil production C-RU-OUT in August rose to 11.294 million barrels per day (bpd), data showed on Monday, hitting its highest since March and topping the rate Moscow pledged under a pact with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Oil Prices Fall Amid Risk-Aversion Deja Vu – West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil declined Tuesday amid an undercurrent of déjà vu tied to concerns about international trade and an economic downturn.The October WTI shed $1.16 Tuesday to settle at $53.94 per barrel. The light crude marker traded within a range from $52.84 to $55.24.Brent crude oil for November delivery also faltered, losing 99 cents to end the day at $58.26 per barrel.On Monday, the Bloomberg news service reported crude oil futures declined amid ongoing pessimism about the likelihood of a resolution in U.S./China trade negotiations as new U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports – and new Chinese tariffs on U.S. imports – took effect over the weekend.The effects of the trade dispute carried over into Tuesday’s trading, Barani Krishnan, senior commodities analyst with Investing.com , told Rigzone.“Oil is selling off as it’s risk-aversion all over again from the trade war and recession fears,” said Krishnan, adding that other factors are at play. “By itself, the onset of September marks a seasonally weaker period for fuel demand as the peak summer driving period ends. And other key factors have worsened sentiment lately, among them the lack of Russian cooperation to OPEC production cuts.”Krishnan also commented that one should not assume that a period of weaker demand necessarily will translate into more gradual oil price movements. “Yet, what we could have hereon is more volatility,” Krishnan continued. “Historical data show that, despite U.S. crude draws entering a period of non-peak draws from September, the demand data on certain years has been exceptionally good late into the summer. If that happens again in 2019, we could have more price swings.”
Sluggish oil consumption to keep pressure on prices- Kemp – (Reuters) – Global oil consumption is likely to increase by less than 1 million barrels per day this year, according to a downbeat but realistic assessment from BP’s finance chief on Wednesday. Growth of less than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) would represent an increase of less than 1% in consumption and be the slowest growth since 2014 and before that 2012. In both those slow-consumption years, oil prices averaged above $100 per barrel in real terms, helping restrain fuel use. So far this year, however, prices have averaged less than $65, confirming just how weak demand is at present. BP’s forecast is even lower than current predictions from the International Energy Agency (+1.1 million bpd), OPEC (+1.1 million) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (+1.0 million). But it is consistent with the broad-based slowdown in global growth stemming from the trade war between the United States and China and a climate of increased uncertainty for businesses. Global GDP growth has been the primary driver of oil consumption for the last 50 years – with prices playing a secondary regulating role, forcing consumption into line with production in the short term. Global GDP increased by 3.0% in 2018 but is forecast to slow to just 2.6% in 2019, according to the World Bank (“ Global economic prospects “, June 2019). GDP growth of 2.6% would be the slowest since 2014 and before that 2012, when oil consumption increased by just 1% in both cases ( https://tmsnrt.rs/2Q2ZcxR ). Since the World Bank produced its forecasts three months ago, however, most indicators have pointed to a further deceleration in growth. The most likely outcome is now that GDP growth will come in below 2.5%, perhaps significantly lower, the worst since the recession of 2008/09. By implication, oil consumption growth is likely to slip below 1% and 1 million bpd, in line with BP’s latest forecast.
Oil prices rise nearly 3% on positive economic data – Oil prices rose nearly 3% on Wednesday, boosted by a wider market pickup on positive news from China’s services sector, after three days of losses due to fears about a weakening global economy. Brent crude was up 2.66%, at $59.81 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures gained 2.66%, to $55.50 a barrel. Global markets rebounded after a private survey showed that activity in China’s services sector expanded at the fastest pace in three months in August as new orders rose, prompting the biggest increase in hiring in more than a year. China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer and largest importer. But U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned he would be “tougher” on Beijing in a second term if trade talks dragged on, compounding market fears that trade disputes between the two countries could trigger a U.S. recession. U.S. data released on Wednesday showed manufacturing activity contracted in August for the first time in three years, while euro zone activity shrank for a seventh month. Some analysts argued that the overall fundamentals of the oil market remained discouraging. Data due this week on U.S. oil inventory levels will be delayed by a day to Wednesday and Thursday because of the U.S. Labor Day holiday on Monday. U.S. crude stockpiles are expected to have declined for a third straight week, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday. “Crude oil remains troubled by reports that production from OPEC, Russia and the U.S. all rose last month. This (comes) at a time when the strength of demand growth, due to trade war pessimism, has increasingly been called into question,” But supply looks set to stay constrained as Russian officials and OPEC sources indicated the countries would remain committed to their agreement to rein in production despite a shake-up in Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.
Oil Jumps 4% On Positive Chinese Economic Data – The bleak outlook on the overall global economy has combined with the trade war worries to pressure prices over the last few days, but today’s economic data that is just in from China have caused oil prices to surge on Wednesday afternoon.At 12:17pm EDT, WTI crude was trading up 4.21% for a gain of $2.27 on the day, at $56.21 per barrel. Brent crude was trading at $60.68, up 4.15% for a gain of $2.42 per barrel.The reason for the spike in oil prices was favorable economic data that came in from a private survey of China’s services sector, which showed that in August, it grew at the fastest rate in three months, which triggered a flurry of hiring activity to support it – the biggest increase in hiring in the sector in over a year.China, a major consumer of crude oil, imported 10.64 million bpd in April – a new record for China. And its H1 imports of crude represented an 8.8 percent rise year over year, or 800,000 bpd. The growth here accounts for almost all of the world’s demand growth for the year, so it makes sense that all eyes are on China’s economic data as well as the trade war with the United States.China’s August imports by its oil majors PetroChina and Sinopec increased 2.03 percent over July imports, which is larger than the increase seen in July of 1.25 percent. It is largely expected that the two oil majors will process even more crude oil this month, as refinery maintenance slows. Oil prices are expected to react later today as well on API’s estimate on US crude oil inventories, and again tomorrow on EIA’s take on the inventory moves.
Oil Prices Spike Back Up – West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent oil futures posted solid gains Wednesday. The October WTI contract added $2.32 during midweek trading, settling at $56.26 per barrel. The benchmark peaked at $53.84 and bottomed out at $56.58. Brent crude for November delivery gained $2.44 Wednesday to settle at $60.70 per barrel. Steve Blair, senior account executive with the RCG Division of Marex Spectron, told Rigzone that a variety of factors continue to influence the petroleum complex. He said that key drivers include: Reports that some OPEC+ alliance members hiked their monthly production levels in August A strong U.S. dollar Ongoing and continuing tensions between the U.S. and China on trade tariffs A potentially contracting U.S. industrial sector Brexit
Like most of the petroleum complex, the October WTI continues to trade within a technical range stemming back to early August, noted Blair. “Today’s substantial price spikes now bring this contract back toward the high end of the range close to the $57 level as well as a downtrend line of resistance, which is at the $57.57 level on today’s chart,” Blair said. “A close above resistance at $57.40 and above the downtrend line would indicate a breakout of this trading range. Such a breakout could see the market propelled to near the $60 level. Support seen around the $53.67 level with $52.85 below that.” Like the WTI, November Brent has also been occupying a wide trading range, said Blair. Referencing a Brent daily chart, Blair observed the Brent is near the higher end of the congestion range with resistance seen at the $61.35 level. “The downtrend line of resistance for this contract, however, is seen higher than is being seen in WTI relative to the congestion range,” said Blair. “There is firm resistance around the $62.68 level with the downtrend line just above that at the $62.93 level today. A breakout, meaning a close above these levels, should propel the market to near $64 and above. Support seen at $59 and again at $58.10.” Reformulated gasoline (RBOB) also finished higher Wednesday. October RBOB settled at $1.53 per gallon, reflecting a six-cent gain. Despite its midweek gain, however, Blair commented that October RBOB has been the “weakest link in the petroleum complex.”
WTI Tumbles After Surprise Crude Build – Oil prices exploded higher today, helped by a weaker dollar, after the U.S. announced plans to intensify sanctions on Iran and Russia said it would trim production in September. But after last week’s huge draws, all eyes are back on the inventory picture after a delay due to the Labor Day holiday this week… “Any kind of draw would be good,” as this would mean last week’s decline wasn’t a one-week event, according to Jan Stuart, global energy economist at Cornerstone Macro LLC. API: Crude +400k (-2mm exp) Gasoline -877k (-1.5mm exp) Distillates -1.2mm (+500k exp)
After last week’s yuuge draw, analysts continued to expect another draw for crude but a surprise build of 400k barrels spooked traders… “Right now, the market isn’t only following fundamentals. It’s very perceptive to the ongoing trade war,” and that’s affecting demand, said Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, an analyst at Rystad Energy. “ You can’t discard the possibility that China and the U.S. will continue to raise the levies again,” she added. WTI ramped all the way up to $56.50 at the highs today…
Oil prices slip after surprise build in US inventories – Oil prices fell on Thursday, giving up some of the strong gains of the previous session, after an industry report showed U.S. crude stockpiles rose last week, against analyst expectations of a decline. Brent crude was down 18 cents, or 0.3%, at $60.52 a barrel by 0040 GMT. On Wednesday, Brent rose 4.2 percent. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was down 23 cents, or 0.4%, at $56.03 a barrel, having risen 4.3% the previous session, the biggest percentage gain in nearly two months. “Oil bulls can’t seemingly catch a break after the rally sapping surprising build in the American Petroleum Institute oil inventory survey has throttled WTI upward momentum dead in its tracks,” said Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader. U.S. crude stocks rose last week, while gasoline inventories decreased and distillate stocks drew, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed on Wednesday. Crude inventories rose by 401,000 barrels in the week ended Aug. 30 to 429.1 million, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 2.5 million barrels. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 238,000 barrels, while refinery crude runs fell by 306,000 barrels per day, API said. Oil prices surged on Wednesday after a survey showed that activity in China’s services sector expanded at the fastest pace in three months in August as new orders rose. China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer and largest importer. But as evidence mounts that the trade war between the United States and China is hitting economies worldwide, oil demand growth expectations have been trimmed.
WTI Extends Gains Above $57 After Bigger Than Expected Crude Draw… WTI rebounded dramatically this morning (on headlines about talks resuming between China and US) from overnight weakness driven by a surprise crude inventory build reported by API . “Oil coat-tailed the overnight dialing down of global political tensions and the rotation out of defensive macro positioning,” Jeffrey Halley, a senior market strategist at Oanda Corp., said in a note. More direction will come from official U.S. crude-inventory data later on Thursday, he said. But after last night’s API data, we suspect the algos will find it hard to ignore if DOE confirms a build. DOE Crude -4.77mm (-2mm exp) Gasoline -2.396mm (-1.5mm exp) Distillates -2.538mm (+500k exp)
After last week’s huge draw, analysts still expect another draw (even after API reported a build) and DOE confirmed it (more than expected). For the second week in a row, there were inventory draws across the board… For US crude production, the market wasn’t expecting another rise after the 200k b/d gain seen for the week ending Aug. 23 because “its hard to keep pace of growth due to constraints in deploying human logistics resources to individual projects,” Bart Melek, head of global commodities strategies at TD Securities in Toronto, says. Production inched lower on the week, still notably decoupled from the plunging rig counts…
Oil Prices Edge Upward – West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil finished higher Thursday on a positive development in international trade. October WTI posted a slight gain Thursday, adding four cents to settle at $56.30 per barrel. The light crude marker traded within a range from $55.75 to $57.76. Brent crude for November delivery showed a relatively robust 25-cent gain, finishing the day at $60.95 per barrel. Both oil benchmarks maintained their respective four-plus-percent gains from Wednesday, bolstered by apparent signs of progress in trade talks between the United States and China, according to a Bloomberg posted to Rigzone earlier Thursday. Citing a statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce and confirmation from the Trump administration, the news agency reported that high-level officials from both countries will hold trade talks “‘in the coming weeks.’” Trade tensions between the United States and China, including the implementation of tariffs by both sides, have stoked concerns about demand for crude oil and myriad other products. Equities and energy commodities markets welcomed Thursday’s news that officials plan to return to the negotiating table. Thursday’s modest upward price movement extended to reformulated gasoline (RBOB). The October RBOB contract price gained one cent, settling at nearly $1.55 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas, which on Wednesday had gained more than 11 percent since August 27, faltered during Thursday’s session. October gas futures fell by a penny to close at $2.435.
Bullish Sentiment Creeps Back Into Oil Markets — Oil was down at the start of trading on Friday, but has shown more life this week after the U.S. and China agreed to hold trade talks in October. Jobs data from the U.S. Labor Department was slightly worrying, with employment gains slowing, but markets are increasingly confident that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates again this month. Another bullish report from the EIA eased fears of an imminent recession. The agency reported strong drawdowns in crude oil, gasoline inventories, and a dip in production. Oil prices rose on the news . In what would be a dramatic escalation in the standoff between the Trump administration and California over national fuel economy standards, the EPA is preparing to revoke the waiver granted to California that allows the state to set stricter fuel economy standards than the federal government. On a separate track, the EPA is in the midst of trying to water-down federal requirements for automakers. Just weeks ago, major automakers announced a plan to align their operations with the California standards, a blow to the Trump administration. “Going for preemption is the nuclear option,” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard environmental law professor . Mexico has initiated the process for its $1 billion oil hedging program by asking banks for quotes, according to Reuters . Mexico engages in an annual hedging program, locking in prices for the upcoming year, in the world’s largest sovereign derivatives trade. Mexico’s 2019 sales were locked in at $55 per barrel. The frontrunner and likely future president of Argentina said on Thursday that “it makes no sense to have oil if multinationals take it,” a cryptic statement that will likely send a shudder through the oil industry in the country. “I have no problems with multinationals, but my main concern is to generate wealth for Argentina and the Argentines,” Alberto Fernandez said . Meanwhile, the economic and political crisis, which has led to price controls on oil and fuel, has severely damaged the prospects of Vaca Muerta development. Chevron is laying the groundwork for an exit from Venezuela in the event that the Trump administration lets its sanctions waiver for the company expire. Bloomberg reports that Chevron updated some of its agreements with partners to remove penalties if Chevron decided on early termination. According to Emirates NBD, OPEC is actually destabilizing the oil market , rather than stabilizing it. The production cuts have simply created one more source of uncertainty.
Oil down but still set for weekly gain on US-China diplomacy – Oil prices fell on Friday as U.S.-China trade tensions continued to weigh on sentiment despite recent diplomatic progress. Brent crude was down 93 cents, or 1.53%, at $60.02 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down $1.08, or 1.92%, at $55.22. Brent is still set to register its fourth consecutive weekly gain while U.S. crude is on track for a second weekly rise. Beijing and Washington on Thursday agreed to hold high-level talks in early October. The news cheered investors hoping for an end to a trade war that has brought tit-for-tat tariffs between the world’s two biggest economies, chipping away at economic growth. The prolonged dispute has had a dampening effect on oil prices, though they have risen over the year thanks partly to production cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to drain inventories. However, analysts warn that market fundamentals remain bearish and depend heavily on a resolution to the U.S.-China trade saga. “If trade tensions escalate further, oil demand growth may soften even more, requiring much lower prices,” UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo said in a note analyzing oil market trends for 2020. “On the other hand, unexpected supply disruptions in the Middle East or a surprise production cut by OPEC and its allies may push oil prices higher.” U.S. crude and product inventories fell last week, with crude drawing down for a third consecutive week despite a jump in imports, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said. Crude stocks dropped 4.8 million barrels, nearly double analyst expectations, to 423 million barrels, their lowest level since October last year. Oil prices on Thursday soared more than 2% after the EIA report, though they gradually trimmed gains on investor doubts over the chances that the trade talks will yield results.
Oil jumps after Fed says it will act to sustain U.S. growth – (Reuters) – Oil prices rose above $61 a barrel on Friday after the head of the U.S. Federal Reserve said the central bank will act “as appropriate” to sustain an economic expansion in the world’s biggest economy that has been pressured by uncertainty over global trade. Global benchmark Brent crude settled at $61.54 a barrel, up 59 cents, or 1%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude ended 22 cents, or 0.4%, higher at $56.52. Both benchmarks had declined earlier on concerns over slipping U.S. job growth and continued U.S.-China trade tensions, despite recent diplomatic progress. The Federal Reserve has an obligation “to use our tools to support the economy, and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at the University of Zurich, sticking to a phrase that financial markets have read as signaling further interest-rate reductions ahead. The Fed cut rates by a quarter of a percentage point in July. Crude prices “are working back up right now,” said Bill Baruch, president at Blue Line Futures LLC in Chicago. Comments by Powell that indicate further interest rate reductions are one factor that would help keep “a bid in the market ahead of the weekend.” Oil prices had fallen earlier in the session as U.S. government data showed the nation’s job growth slowed in August for the seventh month in a row, with nonfarm payrolls expanding by 130,000, about 28,000 less than economists polled by Reuters had forecast. Global oil demand could grow by just 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2019 and 2020, UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo said in a note analyzing oil market trends. Other forecasts of oil demand growth have been reduced to around 1 million bpd, down from earlier predictions of about 1.3 million bpd, analysts said.
U.S. oil futures up a second straight week – Oil futures ended higher on Friday , tallying a gain for a second week in a row. Prices got a boost from data Friday showing a third-weekly decline in the number of active U.S. oil-drilling rigs. That followed government data Thursday that revealed that domestic crude supplies have also fallen for three consecutive weeks. October West Texas Intermediate oil CLV19, +0.37% rose 22 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $56.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. For the week, prices were up 2.6%, according to FactSet data.
Saudi Aramco to replace chairman in a push to get IPO moving – Saudi oil giant Aramco will be getting a new chairman to replace Energy Minister Khalid al Falih as the company moves ahead with its plans to go public.Falih had been spearheading the move towards an initial public offering but lately had been blamed for a slowing in the Saudi Arabian company’s movements towards diversification.Falih will be replaced by Yasser Othman Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, according to a tweet from Falih’s verified account. Falih congratulated Al-Rumayyan on the appointment, saying he was “wishing him every success,” according to a Google translation.The news comes just days after the Saudi government created a new ministry for industry and mineral resources, breaking it away from energy in a move seen as reducing Falih’s influence. However, he will remain the head of the energy ministry.The Wall Street Journal had reported that officials believe separating the duties will help accelerate the process to get the Aramco IPO moving ahead.A S audi Aramco spokesman said the company would “respond at the earliest opportunity” to a CNBC request for comment.
Saudi Arabia splits industry and mining from energy ministry (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia created a new ministry for industry and mineral resources, separating it from the kingdom’s colossal energy ministry, and replaced the powerful head of the royal court, in a series of royal orders issued late on Friday. Bandar Alkhorayef, an investor and industrialist plucked from the private sector, was named to head the new entity, which will become independent on Jan. 1. The move appears to diminish the sprawling authority of Khalid al-Falih, who retains control of the energy portfolio and chairmanship of state oil giant Saudi Aramco. Falih had overseen more than half the Saudi economy through the super-ministry, which was created in 2016 to help streamline new reforms. But despite ambitious plans for industry and mining, the sectors have seen relatively little development. Two sources said Saudi industrialists were unhappy with a lack of results during Falih’s tenure. The separation followed meetings between those businessmen and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, one source added. Industry and mining are critical to the young crown prince’s push to diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter away from crude, cut bloated state spending and create millions of jobs for young Saudis. Saudi economist Fawaz al-Fawaz said the split was a step in the right direction but still not enough. “There are scattered efforts in local content and military manufacturing and a constant lack of investment. We need more thought,” he said on Twitter. In a separate royal order, Fahd bin Mohammed al-Essa was appointed head of the royal court, a powerful gatekeeper position in the absolute monarchy. Essa was formerly the head of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s office at the defence ministry.
Oil Policy Unchanged as Saudi Energy Ministry Split — The Saudi decision to shrink the energy ministry will leave the kingdom’s oil policy unchanged as the world’s largest crude exporter continues cutting output to balance markets, a person with knowledge of the matter said. With crude trading below Saudi Arabia’s break-even level, oil policy is now a top priority for Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih. He’ll now have more time to work on balancing the market after most of his domestic portfolio shifts to the new ministry. Saudi Arabia will split the vast energy, industry and mining portfolio that Al-Falih had run since 2016 into two separate ministries. The reshuffle, announced as part of a raft of royal decrees on Friday, sees Al-Falih keeping responsibility over energy policy and losing the industry and mining aspects of the role. The person who spoke about oil policy asked not to be identified because the information is confidential. Al-Falih has been the face of OPEC diplomacy over the past three years as the producers’ group has sought to counter the rising tide of U.S. shale oil that flooded markets. The kingdom will remain focused on curbing production to balance crude markets and prop up prices, said Edward Bell, commodities analyst at lender Emirates NBD PJSC in Dubai. “This is crunch time now for the next couple of months” as crude suppliers struggle to deal with the U.S.-China trade war and the potential adverse impact on the global economy, Bell said. “They can control the supply part of the picture, but weak demand and the perception of that is what’s dictating the price.” Saudi Arabia has cut production to less than 10 million barrels a day as part of its agreement with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to limit output. Al-Falih helped broker the deal that brought other producers like Russia into the effort to balance markets by curbing production. The Saudis are doing most of the heavy lifting to support the deal, pumping about 500,000 barrels a day less than they pledged.
Saudi airstrikes on Yemen prison kill more than 100 – Saudi coalition jet fighters carried out a series of airstrikes on a Houthi rebel-run prison in southwestern Yemen early Sunday morning, killing more than 100 and wounding another 40. The attack ranks among the worst in a long string of war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia, with the full backing of the American and British governments, in its four-year-long effort to reimpose a puppet government on the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula. Residents reported that seven separate airstrikes slammed into a former university building in the southwestern city of Dhamar which had been converted into a detention center by the Houthis, obliterating the structure and killing or wounding every single detainee. Members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) rushed to the scene of complete devastation to search for possible survivors and comb through the rubble for the bodies of victims. While the Saudi-led coalition justified the horrific attack by claiming the site had been used by the Houthis to store drones and missiles, the ICRC confirmed that the attack had in fact destroyed a prison where its representatives had previously visited detainees. “It’s a college building that has been empty and has been used as a detention facility for a while. What is most disturbing is that [the attack was] on a prison. To hit such a building is shocking and saddening – prisoners are protected by international law,” Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC’s delegation in Yemen told the Guardian . The Saudi monarchy, given the green light by Obama in March 2015 and now with the unyielding support of Trump, has been waging a bloody assault on Yemen in an effort to return its puppet President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi back to power after he was forced to flee the country in the face of an advance by the Houthis. The US claims the Houthi rebels are backed by Iran and that the war is a critical component of its efforts to counter Tehran’s influence in the region. Despite repeated assertions, the Trump administration has yet to provide any evidence to back up its allegations. Trump reaffirmed Washington’s support for the Saudi-led slaughter in Yemen in April when he vetoed a congressional resolution which would have required the Pentagon to end direct military support.
US ‘Complicit in This Nightmare,’ Says Sanders, After Trump-Backed Saudi Coalition Kills Over 100 in Bombing of Yemeni Prison — In what was described as its deadliest attack on Yemen this year, the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition on Sunday killed more than 100 people with airstrikes on a detention center in Dhamar city, forcing aid workers to divert medical supplies intended for the nation’s cholera epidemic to treat victims of the bombing. Franz Rauchenstein, head of the the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Yemen, which responded to the attack and searched for survivors under the rubble, called the bombing “disturbing” and a likely war crime. “The location that was hit has been visited by ICRC before. It’s a college building that has been empty and has been used as a detention facility for a while,” Rauchenstein told AFP. “To hit such a building is shocking and saddening – prisoners are protected by international law.” According to ICRC, there were around 170 people in the detention facility when it was attacked by the Saudi-led coalition. At least 40 survivors are being treated, and the rest are presumed dead. “Witnessing this massive damage, seeing the bodies lying among the rubble was a real shock,” said Rauchenstein. “People who are not taking active part in combat should not die in such a way.” Shortly following the bombing, United Nations special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths issued a statement demanding an investigation and accountability for the attack. “The human cost of this war is unbearable. We need it to stop,” said Griffiths. “Yemenis deserve a peaceful future. Accountability needs to prevail.” The Saudi-led coalition’s latest air raid comes months after President Donald Trump vetoed a War Powers resolution that would have ended U.S. military cooperation with Saudi Arabia’s years-long assault on Yemen, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
How the U.S. Shattered the Middle East – Major Danny Sjursen -Yemen is a nightmare, a catastrophe, a mess – and the United States is highly complicit in the whole disaster . Refueling Saudi aircraft in-flight, providing targeting intelligence to the kingdom and selling the requisite bombs that have been dropped for years now on Yemeni civilians places the 100,000-plus deaths, millions of refugees, and (still) starving children squarely on the American conscience. If, that is, Washington can still claim to have a conscience. The back story in Yemen, already the Arab world’s poorest country, is relevant. Briefly, the cataclysm went something like this: Protests against the U.S.-backed dictator during the Arab Spring broke out in 2011. After a bit, an indecisive and hesitant President Obama called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. A Saudi-backed transitional government took over but governed (surprise, surprise) poorly. Then, from 2014 to 2015, a vaguely Shiite militia from Yemen’s north swarmed southward and seized the capital, along with half the country. At that point, rather than broker a peace, the U.S. quietly went along with, and militarily supported, a Saudi terror-bombing campaign, starvation blockade and mercenary invasion that mainly affected Yemeni civilians. At that point, Yemen had broken in two. Now, as the Saudi campaign has clearly faltered – despite killing tens of thousands of civilians and starving at least 85,000 children to death along the way – stalemate reigns. Until this past week, that is, when southern separatists (there was once, before 1990, a South and North Yemen) seized the major port city of Yemen, backed by the Saudis’ ostensible partners in crime, the United Arab Emirates. So it was that there were then three Yemens, and ever more fracture. In the last few days, the Saudi-backed transitional government retook Aden , but southern separatism seems stronger than ever in the region.What makes the situation in the Arabian Peninsula’s south particularly disturbing is that supposed foreign policy “experts” in D.C. have long been hysterically asserting that the top risk to America’s safety are Islamist-occupied “safe havens” or ungoverned spaces. I’m far from convinced that the safe-haven myth carries much water; after all, the 9/11 attacks were planned in Germany and the U.S. as much as in, supposedly, the caves of Afghanistan. Still, for argument’s sake, let’s take the interventionist experts’ assumption at face value. In that case, isn’t it ironic that in Yemen – and (as I’ll demonstrate) countless other countries – U.S. military action has repeatedly created the very state fracture and ungoverned spaces the policymakers and pundits so fear?
US Sanctions Are Designed to Kill – US sanctions are killing ordinary Iranians by the thousands. Through its control over the world banking system, America’s sanctioning power flouts international human rights law and poses a threat to the world. When President Trump reimposed sanctions in November 2018, it cut off Iran’s oil exports and access to the international financial system. At the time, he announced that Iran could either comply with new US demands or face “ economic isolation .” Additional US sanctions imposed since then have specifically targeted a thousand individuals and entities with the goal of reducing Iran’s oil revenues to “zero.” More recently, Trump said that although “[Iran’s] economy is crashing . . . it’s very easy to straighten [it] out, or it’s very easy for us to make it a lot worse.” And so, according to Trump himself, the United States has the power to solve – or exacerbate – Iran’s current economic problems. What is left unsaid, including by much of the media, is that sanctions that “crash” the economy are an attack on the country’s civilian population and create widespread human misery. Indeed, they appear to be contributing to widespread shortages of medicine and medical equipment, particularly affecting cancer patients. In Venezuela, which is under a similar US sanctions regime, there have been similar effects, with more than 40,000 people estimated to have died from 2017 to 2018 due to the “collective punishment” inflicted on them. Yet other statements from US administration officials often contend that sanctions have negligible economic or social effects on the general population of Iran. For example, the US State Department’s special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, recently denied that US sanctions on Iran affect the availability of medicine and agricultural products. In this argument, Hook divorces the connection between the economic damage caused by sanctions in Iran and the lack of basic necessities like medicine and food, preferring to instead lay blame on the Iranian government, not on what the Trump administration calls “targeted” sanctions.Are the sanctions causing Iran’s economic problems, or simply a way to punish individual actors? Answering this question requires an examination of the impact sanctions have on Iran’s economy and the mechanisms by which sanctions work – two important areas of inquiry that seldom receive attention in the US press.
Saudi Arabia Can Destroy Iran In 8 Hours, Brags Saudi Prince – A Saudi prince posted on Twitter Thursday that Saudi Arabia’s military could destroy Iran in eight hours if they wanted to. Prince Abdullah bin Sultan bin Nasser Al-Saud tweeted a video on Thursday that showed some of the Gulf kingdom’s F-15 warplanes in comparison to Iran’s F-4 Phantom jets. “السعوديةتستطيعتدمير #ايران في٨ساعات” طبعاهذامقطعمنعامانأيقبلطائراتالف١٥اسايوقبلشراءوتطويرمنظوماتالدفاعالجويوالقواتالبحريةوالبريةوالجويةبصواريخمتطورةومتقدمة. وماخفياعظم.. >لاتوجدايقوةفيالعالمتستطيعانتقففيوجهوحدتناوعزمناونهضتناوالحمدلله.. pic.twitter.com/dn2WZx3OTB – عبداللهبنسلطانبنناصرآلسعود (@ASNA_20) September 4, 2019 In quotations, the prince tweeted: “ Saudi Arabia can destroy Iran in 8 hours. ” And he further added, “What is hidden is greater. There is no force in the world that can stand up to our unity, our resolve, our renaissance and thank God.” The Saudi prince cited an earlier report on Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities. “Iran has no fighter jets that can reach Saudi Arabia,” according to an analyst interviewed on Channel 24 featured in the tweeted video. Saudi Arabia has for the past years been America’s #1 arms purchaser, with up to 70 percent of the kingdom’s arsenal now coming from the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
US Waives Human Rights Conditions To Release $1.3BN In Military Aid To Sisi’s Egypt – Aside from Saudi Arabia’s MbS, the other long forgotten about Middle East autocratic ally of the United States known for arresting journalists, authors and activists is President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.The strongman known lately for aggressively cracking down on civil liberties, including muzzling journalists and throwing media figures and activists in jail, is also set to rule for another solid decade, given months ago Egyptian parliament approved constitutional changes to allow the sitting president to stay in power until 2030. The US this week moved to waive human rights rules in order to vote through sending military aid to Egypt, totaling $1.3 billion. Remember this the next time the State Department blathers about human rights violations in Venezuela, Iran or any other officially-designated “enemy” country https://t.co/mcwJUY9qki – Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) September 6, 2019 The Middle East analysis news site Al-Monitor cited a human rights violation exemption waiver in reporting the release of the $1.3BN in aid.US military aid to Egypt was set to expire Sept. 30 without the crucial waiver : In a memo sent to Congress and obtained by Al-Monitor, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waived human rights conditions that apply to $300 million in US aid, calling the Arab nation “important to the national security interests of the United States” for providing access to the Suez Canal, overflight rights and fighting terror in the Sinai desert and along its borders with Libya and Sudan.
Revealed: How a secret Dutch mole aided the U.S.-Israeli Stuxnet cyberattack on Iran –For years, an enduring mystery has surrounded the Stuxnet virus attack that targeted Iran’s nuclear program: How did the U.S. and Israel get their malware onto computer systems at the highly secured uranium-enrichment plant?The first-of-its-kind virus, designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, effectively launched the era of digital warfare and was unleashed some time in 2007, after Iran began installing its first batch of centrifuges at a controversial enrichment plant near the village of Natanz.The courier behind that intrusion, whose existence and role has not been previously reported, was an inside mole recruited by Dutch intelligence agents at the behest of the CIA and the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, according to sources who spoke with Yahoo News. An Iranian engineer recruited by the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD provided critical data that helped the U.S. developers target their code to the systems at Natanz, according to four intelligence sources. That mole then provided much-needed inside access when it came time to slip Stuxnet onto those systems using a USB flash drive.
‘Good Morning, Donald’: Iranian Minister Taunts Trump With Photo of Satellite After Launch Accident — On Friday, US President Trump tweeted an uncommonly high-resolution photo of an apparent explosion at Iran’s space centre, raising questions over whether it was supposed to be shared.Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, has tweeted a selfie with the Nahid-1 satellite after Donald Trump appeared to tease Tehran with an image of its failed launch.“Me & Nahid I right now, Good Morning Donald Trump!” Jahromi wrote Saturday alongside a picture in which he’s standing next to the solar-powered communication satellite, which is visibly undamaged.Jahromi earlier said that the satellite Tehran planned to launch was safe in a laboratory.Trump on Friday tweeted a highly-detailed aerial image that appeared to show the charred rocket launch pad and damaged vehicles at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in Iran’s Semnan province, after an apparent rocket explosion at the site a day earlier.“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations,” Trump wrote, extending his “best wishes” to Tehran. The tweet has raised concerns that POTUS could have disclosed sensitive military information, with some analysts suggesting the photo was taken by a highly-classified military satellite or a drone – which would mean that the US has either breached Iran’s airspace or has a drone so advanced it can fly well above national airspace.
Iran Offers EU Two Options To Keep Nuclear Deal In Place – Iran has offered the European Union two options to keep the nuclear deal alive as the EU keeps failing to find a way to support the Iranian economy amid U.S. sanctions. Bloomberg reports the options include either asking the United States to reinstate sanction waivers for the countries that import Iranian crude or providing a credit line to Tehran. The offer was made public by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi.Araghchi said Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had shared the options with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during a recent series of phone conversations. “What Mr. Rouhani has told Macron is that if Europe wants to preserve the nuclear deal then they must establish our ability to sell oil,” the Deputy Foreign Minister said. “There are two options or solutions — one is for them to go to the Americans and get waivers again for oil buyers so they can buy oil from Iran, or if they cannot do that, they themselves should buy that level of oil, using a credit line.” The first option may be the less likely to succeed but the second one has a chance after President Trump said he was not against the idea of Europe providing Iran with “a letter of credit”, backed by oil, that would allow the country to meet pending payment obligations.France’s President has spearheaded efforts to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive and last weekend met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, during the G7 summit. Zarif’s arrival at the summit surprised the United States.Three unnamed sources told Reuters at the time that Tehran would demand increased oil exports if it was to discuss the nuclear deal. “As a goodwill gesture and a step toward creating space for negotiations, we have responded to France’s proposal. We want to export 700,000 bpd of oil and get paid in cash … and that is just for a start. It should reach to 1.5 million bpd,” one of the sources said.
France explores a credit line for Iran, but needs Trump’s buy-in – European officials are looking at creating a multi-billion-dollar credit line for Iran to entice the sanctions-battered country to keep abiding by an international nuclear deal.But their efforts face resistance from U.S. officials who oversee those sanctions, even though President Donald Trump has publicly flirted with the idea as part of broader nuclear negotiations.French officials said this week they have been discussing the possibility of a credit line with both Iranian and U.S. officials. The talks come as Iran has pledged to take more steps to violate the nuclear deal within days, its latest retaliation for Trump’s decision to quit the agreement and reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran.In return for the credit line, Tehran would have to fully comply with the 2015 nuclear deal and commit to not threatening security in the Persian Gulf and not impeding freedom of maritime navigation. The country would also have to agree to future talks on Middle East security and on more long-term nuclear arrangements, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said Tuesday. The credit line would be guaranteed by Iranian oil.The exact value of the credit line, and which countries will contribute to it, remains under discussion, although Iranian officials have said it would be around $15 billion.“There is still a lot to figure out. It’s all still very fragile,” Le Drian said. His remarks came a day after an Iranian economic delegation was in Paris for talks. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Lawrence Kudlow, a top economic adviser to Trump.
France Presses Washington On $15BN Iran Credit Line To Save Nuclear Deal – As first unveiled on the sidelines of the recent G7 summit in France, President Macron is making a last ditch effort to create conditions to bring Tehran and Washington back to the nuclear negotiating table by offering Iran a $15 billion credit line as an incentive to come back into compliance with the nuclear deal. Iran’s top diplomat, FM Zarif, was said to be open to it when it was first raised in Biarritz, France over a week ago – but the plan’s progress is now conditioned on whether the White House rejects it.Though this past week Iranian leaders again threatened to further breach uranium enrichment caps set by the 2015 JCPOA, Iran responded positively to the new trade mechanism involving the $15 billion credit line issued to the end of the year to help it conduct business. The proposal comes after Trump at the G7 publicly expressed rare openness to sitting down with Iran, saying of Macron’s efforts to cool tensions toward dialogue , “If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree with that.” Trump cited “good feelings” about Iran and its desire to escape currently escalating tensions. Reuters reports an Iranian delegation is in Paris negotiating with French officials over the details which would provide immediate sanctions relief. A source privy to the negotiations told Reuters , “The question is to know whether we can reach this $15 billion) level, secondly who will finance it, and thirdly we need to get at the very least the tacit approval of the United States. We still don’t know what the U.S. position is.”The Iranians appear to have fully endorsed the deal, with an Iranian official saying, “France has offered the credit line of $15 billion but we are still discussing it. It should be guaranteed that we will have access to this amount freely and also Iran should be able to sell its oil and have access to its money.”“President Macron is trying hard to resolve the issue and help to save the deal … and we have overcome some issues and gaps narrowed but still there are remaining issues,” the Iranian official said further . Trump has reportedly softened toward the idea of a special credit line or alternative mechanisms which bring Iran back in conformity with enrichment limits; however, he’s said to be firm on not walking back sanctions.
Iran lifts more limits on nuclear programme as deal unravels – Iran is poised to begin work on advanced centrifuges that will enrich uranium faster as the 2015 nuclear deal unravels further after European nations failed to step up and counter devastating US sanctions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the removal of all limits on nuclear research and development – the third major step to scale down commitments to the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.”I, as of now, announce the third step,” Rouhani said on state television late on Wednesday, just as the United States announced that it was imposing sanctions against an oil-shipping network with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ( IRGC ).”The atomic energy organisation [of Iran] is ordered to immediately start whatever is needed in the field of research and development, and abandon all the commitments that were in place regarding research and development.”The nuclear deal – agreed on by Iran, China , France, Germany , Russia, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union – gave Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for accepting curbs on its nuclear programme. Since the US unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions in a “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran , Tehran has insisted it wants to save the pact but that the remaining signatories – especially Europe – must provide additional economic support. The announcement came hours after Rouhani threatened to take the step if Europe failed to provide a solution by Friday to allow Iran to sell its oil abroad after the US’s withdrawal and sanctions.”Iran’s third step is of an extraordinarily significant nature,” Rouhani said earlier during the day, without detailing what that would entail.In July, Iran reduced two other nuclear commitments: to keep its stockpile of enriched uranium below 300kg and a 3.67 percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks. A short time after Rouhani’s statement, US officials announced new sanctions on Iran, this time aimed at a shipping network it said was run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to allegedly smuggle oil.The US also offered a reward of up to $15m for anyone with information that could disrupt the financing of the guards, signalling that it was not letting up pressure on Tehran.
No trade mechanism until Iran passes terrorism financing laws: French diplomat – (Reuters) – A European trade mechanism to barter humanitarian and food goods with Iran will not work until Tehran sets up a mirror company and meets international standards against money-laundering and terrorism financing, a French diplomatic source said. Britain, France and Germany, parties to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran along with the United States, China and Russia, are determined to show they can compensate for last year’s U.S. withdrawal, salvage trade promised to Iran under the accord and still prevent Tehran from developing nuclear bomb capability. French President Emmanuel Macron has led those efforts and is trying to clinch a $15 billion credit line that would offset tough U.S. sanctions that have strangled Iran’s oil exports, but that requires getting some backing from Washington. In addition to that the Europeans have attempted for more than a year to set up the Instex trade mechanism, but it is still not operational. It would initially only deal with food and medical trade not Iran’s principal export – crude oil. “The Iranian mirror structure is not operational. The day they have signed the necessary FATF (Financial Action Task Force) conditions we’ll talk about it and the day that we are sure that the first transactions through Instex aren’t put under American sanctions, (then) we’ll talk about it again,” the diplomatic source said. France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday the mirror company had not been set up. But the clock is ticking. Iran’s president on Wednesday gave Europe another two months to save the deal and warned Tehran was preparing for further significant breaches of the accord’s caps on nuclear activity if diplomatic efforts ultimately failed.
Iran injects gas into advanced centrifuges, violating deal – Iran on Saturday said it now uses arrays of advanced centrifuges prohibited by its 2015 nuclear deal and can enrich uranium “much more beyond” current levels to weapons-grade material, taking a third step away from the accord while warning Europe has little time to offer it new terms.While insisting Iran doesn’t seek a nuclear weapon, the comments by Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran threatened pushing uranium enrichment far beyond levels ever reached in the country. Prior to the atomic deal, Iran only reached up to 20%, which itself still is only a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. The move threatened to push tensions between Iran and the U.S. even higher more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions now crushing Iran’s economy. Mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East followed Trump’s decision.
Iranian Tanker Adrian Darya Goes Dark Off Syria’s Coast – The Adrian Darya 1 and its 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil have gone dark, disappearing from satellite tracking off Syria’s coast somewhere between it and Cyprus. According to its last signaling data the vessel is still full. It’s transponder signal switching off was somewhat to be expected given analysts early this week said it would likely “go dark” within days in order to attempt a ship-to-ship transfer of the oil to ultimately offload it to its buyer, still believed to be Syria. The #AdrianDarya1 has now gone presumably dark off the AIS grid as signals aren’t arriving via terrestrial VHF listening stations or via Satellite-AIS. She’s been offline for over 100 minutes. We’ll wait and see because this sort of thing happens at times. No rumors, thanks. pic.twitter.com/cAD4csSe4V – TankerTrackers.com, Inc.⚓️ (@TankerTrackers) September 2, 2019 Crucially, there’s still a US seizure warrant out for the Iran-flagged vessel after its release last month from UK/Gibraltar custody over Washington’s objections. The US has since pressured Greece, Lebanon, and Egypt and its vital Suez Canal to not give the tanker any assistance or passage. According to Bloomberg its lost signal placed the ship to the west of the Lebanon-Syria border as it was heading north.
Russia declares ‘ceasefire’ as Syrians try to storm border post – Russia has announced a unilateral ceasefire in northwestern Syria, where Moscow-backed government forces have been waging a fierce offensive to capture the rebels’ last major stronghold, from Saturday morning.The announcement came on Friday as displaced Syrian civilians tried to push through a border crossing to enter neighbouring Turkey, amid an increasingly deteriorating situation in Idlib provinceThe United Nations has warned that the military push risks further fallout for the three million residents of the province, half of whom are already internally displaced from areas previously captured by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad . More than half a million civilians have been uprooted since the offensive began in late April, according to the UN, with over 500 people killed.Russia, which intervened in Syria’s long-running conflict four years ago to back al-Assad, said on Friday that an agreement had been reached on “a unilateral ceasefire by Syrian government forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone, from 6am on August 31”.The ceasefire aimed “to stabilise the situation” in Idlib, the statement said, urging anti-government fighters to “abandon armed provocations and join the peace process”, the Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria said in a statement.There was no immediate response from rebel groups. On Friday, Syrian troops captured several hills and small villages southeast of Idlib as they appeared to be trying to take as much ground as possible before the ceasefire went into effect.In the renewed offensive, Russia and its Syrian ally have stepped up aerial raids on northwestern Syria , sending reinforcements from elite army units and Iran -backed armed groups, according to opposition sources, army defectors and residents.The Russian-led alliance has taken the towns of Khwain, Zarzoor and Tamanah farms in southern Idlib, pushing closer into densely populated parts of the province. The advancements were the first major gains since the alliance seized the main rebel pocket in Hama province last week.
Syria’s war: US ‘targets al-Qaeda leaders’ in rebel-held Idlib – The United States military has said it hit an al-Qaeda-linked training camp in northwest Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on Saturday its attack close to Idlib city targeted leaders that were “responsible for attacks threatening US citizens, partners, and innocent civilians.” “The removal of the facility will further degrade [ al-Qaeda ‘s] ability to conduct future attacks and destabilize the region,” the statement added, without mentioning what kind of weaponry was used. A war monitor said “at least 40” fighters were killed in what it called a missile attack. CENTCOM declined to say what kind of weaponry was used in the attack in Idlib, the last remaining bastion for anti-government rebels in Syria that has been the target of a Russia-backed government offensive since April.The air attack “targeted a meeting held by the leaders of Hurras al-Deen, Ansar al-Tawhid and other allied groups inside a training camp,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday. Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Hatay, near the Syria-Turkey border , quoted sources on the ground as saying that the area targeted was “a training centre connected with al-Qaeda”.”[The training centre] encouraged people from all ages – young boys to teenage men to older men – to come there for training,” Smith said, adding that videos posted after the attack showed at least one wounded child.
Russia slams US for ‘indiscriminate’ attack in Syria’s Idlib -Russia, a major backer of Syria’s government, has accused the United States of having “compromised” a fragile ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province by launching an attack on the rebels’ last remaining bastion.The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Saturday it had hit an al-Qaeda -linked training camp in northern Idlib, targeting leaders that were “responsible for attacks threatening US citizens, partners, and innocent civilians”.The Russian military said on Sunday that the US struck the region “without advance notice to Russia or Turkey”, which have troops on the ground in Idlib. It described the attack as “indiscriminate”.The raid caused “great losses and destruction”, the Russian defence ministry added in a statement, accusing Washington of having “compromised the ceasefire in the de-escalation zone of Idlib”. Russia intervened in Syria’s long-running conflict almost four years ago in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad , while Turkey has long backed rebels in Idlib. The two countries cosponsored a de-escalation agreement for Idlib that has been in place since last year but faltered in recent months.
Erdogan- We’ll Flood Europe With Syrian Refugees Unless ‘Safe Zone’ Established – “We will be forced to open the gates. We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Thursday while demanding that European countries give political support to his controversial ‘safe zone’ plan in northern Syria.Ankara is currently in tense negotiations with the United States over Erdogan’s plan to militarily carve out a large swathe of territory along the Turkish-Syrian border which would serve as a buffer zone of sorts where US-backed Kurdish militias could not operate.Erdogan said one million refugees could settle in the new buffer territory, thus alleviating the crisis on Turkish soil, and ultimately for Europe as well. Turkey sees the YPG core of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as a terrorist extension of the outlawed PKK. Turkey has of late vowed to carve out the proposed ‘safe’ territory on a unilateral basis if it can’t make progress with Washington.Also during the speech Turkey’s president complained his nation “did not receive the support needed from the world” to help it cope with the refugee crisis through the eight-year long war.Erdogan issued a ‘with us or against us’ ultimatum to the world on Thursday : “You either support us to have a safe zone in Syria, or we will have to open the gates. Either you support us or no one should feel sorry. We would like to host 1 million refugees in the safe zone,” he said. It goes without saying that the territory in question is not his to control or dole out, and Damascus has slammed what it sees as a big Turkish land-grab.
Erdogan Stuns By Saying Turkey May Need Nuclear Weapons – This is a first: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday suggested Turkey should seek its own nuclear weapons in comments sure to gain Washington’s attention at a moment NATO’s most controversial member is busy deploying Russia’s S-400 anti-air defense system. During a televised speech in which he ranted against rivals and moderates within his own Justice and Development Party (AKP) Erdogan said, “They say we can’t have nuclear tipped missiles though some have them. This, I can’t accept,” according to Turkey’s Ahval news . “I don’t accept this,” he said. “The US and Russia have them. Every developing nation has them.” He pointed out that Turkey had in the past been unfairly denied weapons deals by allied nations, which led to Turkish ingenuity in producing its own weaponry. Erdogan also reportedly invoked Israel’s ‘unofficial’ or undeclared nuclear stockpile during his speech, saying that because Israel has nuclear weapons, “no one can touch them”. Turkey is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1980, and further signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear tests for any purpose. The country does store US-supplied NATO ‘tactical nukes,’ however.His comments were part of a broader theme attacking “rebels” within AKP who are seeking to possibly establish new political parties as “weakening” and splintering the nation.
New US Embassy’s Massive 20-foot ‘Defense Wall’ Has Enraged Jerusalem Residents As if the US embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition of the US designating the ancient city Israel’s capital wasn’t contentious enough, a local controversy has exploded after the soon to be completed embassy compound’s perimeter wall began to be constructed. Both Arab and Jewish residents in the area are outraged at the mammoth 5.8 meter high ‘defense wall’ going up (or nearly 20 feet) in the south Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona. Residents say the giant structure in their midst has marred the neighborhood and obstructed surrounding views. According to a report in Haaretz , the wall was originally slated to be 3.2 meters high, but weeks ago the US embassy petitioned Israel’s Defense Ministry to double the height, which was granted. Neighborhood activists are also outraged at the ease of the wall’s approval, given the normally very strict standards in place limiting any construction or upgrade to residential buildings, given the area is zoned for conservation. Haaretz further reports that every request of the Americans seems to have been granted based on special ‘exemption’ status: “The Americans demanded that an escape road be built, with a concrete wall around it, and queried the Foreign Ministry, which in turn approached the Finance Ministry” – all of which was approved, according to the report .
Taliban take credit for Kabul attack as peace deal nears completion — The Taliban took credit for an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday as negotiations between the insurgent group and the U.S. came close to reaching a conclusion, the Associated Press reported. Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahmi confirmed to the outlet that the target of the blast was the Green Village compound in the city. It is too early to know how many casualties resulted from the attack. At least 34 wounded people were taken to the nearby Wazir Akbar Khan hospital alone, according to AP. The attack came the same day that special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad showed a draft deal to Afghan President Ashram Ghani. The deal would reportedly have the U.S. withdraw nearly 5,000 troops from five bases in return for the Taliban not allowing militants to use Afghanistan to plan attacks on the United States or its allies. It still requires approval from Ghani and President Trump. The United States currently has roughly 14,000 troops deployed on a mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban, as well as conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.
China And Iran Flesh Out Strategic Partnership – Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Zarif paid a visit to his Chinese counterpart Wang Li at the end of August to present a road map for the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership, signed in 2016. The updated agreement echoes many of the points contained in previous China-Iran accords, and already in the public domain. However, many of the key specifics of this new understanding will not be released to the public, despite representing a potentially material shift to the global balance of the oil and gas sector, according to a senior source closely connected to Iran’s petroleum ministry who spoke exclusively to Petroleum Economist in late August.The central pillar of the new deal is that China will invest $280bn developing Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors. This amount may be front-loaded into the first five-year period of the deal but the understanding is that further amounts will be available in every subsequent five-year period, subject to both parties’ agreement.There will be another $120bn investment in upgrading Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure, which again can be front-loaded into the first five-year period and added to in each subsequent period should both parties agree.Among other benefits, Chinese companies will be given the first refusal to bid on any new, stalled or uncompleted oil and gasfield developments. Chinese firms will also have first refusal on opportunities to become involved with any and all petchems projects in Iran, including the provision of technology, systems, process ingredients and personnel required to complete such projects.
Water Wars: A Song of Oil and Fire – A tense standoff in the waters southwest of Vietnam is about to enter its seventh week. Throughout May and June, Chinese Coast Guard vessels aggressively patrolled around Malaysian and Vietnamese oil drilling platforms. The situation escalated on July 3 when Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 (English: “Marine Geology 8″) began surveying blocks of seabed on Vanguard Bank, a raised portion of the continental shelf within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the westernmost reef in the Spratlys. Vietnam responded by sending its own law enforcement vessels to the scene on July 4, although their attempts to close with Haiyang Dizhi 8 were blocked by the Chinese Coast Guard ships. On July 16, after nearly two weeks of tense maneuvering, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally issued a statement on the situation, reass