saudi pivot signals end of us dominance / war news / personal emails from china, russia on coronavirus
SAUDI PIVOT: IS THIS THE END OF THE MONOPOLAR WORLD?
by Vince Dhimos
The Saudi kingdom is openly defying the US in ways not seen since the oil wars of the 70s. This could signal the end of US dominance over oil and a significant curtailment of Washington’s ability to wield the bludgeon of sanctions.
Until very recently, the US exercised its power over world oil prices simply by calling on its faithful vassal Saudi Arabia to manage these prices according to its wishes. What the “Exceptional” US demanded, however, was extremely unfair because, while continuing to pump its shale oil in large uncontrolled quantities, it demanded, via its vassal in Riyadh, that all other countries agree to production cuts to keep the prices high for the benefit of the US.
Without this mechanism, US shale oil didn’t have a prayer, as I showed here and here with ample links to reputable sites such as Oil Price. Because shale oil is systemically unprofitable.
But now, that mechanism is challenged like never before. The first challenge was from Russia, which suddenly, out of the blue, declared it would no longer continue the oil production cuts agreed with OPEC. Saudi, led by the impulsive Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), immediately responded by not only launching unbridled production but also extending deep discounts to its customers, thereby seriously jeopardizing its own oil trade as well as all oil producers worldwide. I suspected that this was actually the result of Putin-MBS collusion cleverly made to look like a tussle between Saudi and Russia, but we will never know.
I also suspect that Putin’s goal was not to kill competition from US shale (although that could have been MBS’s motive) but to drag the US kicking and screaming to the bargaining table with Saudi and Russia, where it should have been all along and where Russia would be an equal partner with the other two. Now, there is nothing Washington hates more than fair competition and fair negotiation with countries that refuse to kiss the ring. All knees are supposed to bow to the hegemon.
But the US is no longer in a position to argue. Even so, Trump says – for the sake of the voters – that he will not negotiate with Saudi or Russia. His main problem is the Democrats, who would accuse him of consorting with the enemy if he did so. The move would also erode NATO’s argument that Russia is the enemy of freedom and democracy poised to invade Europe at any moment, and certainly not something as harmless as an equal negotiating partner.
Yet look what the Russians said about the possible negotiations, as reported by Bloomberg:
“If the Americans don’t take part, the problem which existed before for the Russians and Saudis will remain -- that they cut output while the U.S ramps it up, and that makes the whole thing impossible,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, a research group that advises the Kremlin.
Now, if a Kremlin-linked adviser is saying this, it is hard to imagine negotiations taking place without the Americans. Yet the US wants to stick to its previous America-first policy and demand of the rest something that Washington will not accept for itself.
It looks as if Washington will either participate in the bargaining and agree to the same cuts as the rest or Russia will keep up its hard line. And without Russia, there is no deal.
It’s like a game of chicken. Congress will fume and fuss, and in fact, Trump has warned he might impose tariffs on foreign oil. The problem there is that China, not the US, is the biggest oil importer in the world and its oil demand – not America’s – will set the tone. Besides, Trump touts the US as being oil independent, so how is it that he wants to tax foreign oil that he claims is not being imported?
As I keep saying, the US government has long abandoned the practice of solving problems on a practical basis. Its only basis for approaching problems is politics, pure politics, and whether the problems are economic or pandemic-related, the result is the same, namely, creation, rather than solution, of problems.
PERSONAL EMAILS FROM CHINA AND RUSSIA ON THE CORONAVIRUS SITUATION THERE
I keep reading posts at web sites insisting that China and/or Russia is/are lying about the coronavirus situation in those countries. The best sources are people who live there.
First I will share with you an email from a friend in Moscow who is a native of Perm. I wrote him because I had read an article in a Russian site claiming that an agent provocateur associated with the infamous blogger and convicted criminal Alexei Navalny had made a bogus claim that doctors in Perm had been unable to treat COVID19 patients due to lack of equipment. I wanted to find out if there was anything to this and asked VK, who now lives in Moscow:
Greetings from Moscow,
I have not been in Perm since September, but I am in contact with people from there, including my sister. I spoke with her yesterday on Skype about personal things. She is a medical worker, an epidemiologist, now retired. She did not mention anything unusual about COVID-19 in Perm.
ПРИВЕТ из Москвы!
В Перми я не был после сентября. Но я в контакте с пермяками, включая мою сестру. Вчера говорил с ней по скайпу на личные темы. Она медицинский работник эпидемиолог, сейчас на пенсии. Ничего опасного или необычного про COVID -19 Перми в она не говорила.]
One of our contributors writes:
I have a friend in Novosibirsk – a UK citizen who teaches English there – and a former co-worker in Beijing. I received an unsolicited email from him describing the epidemic situation in his country of residence and then asked the other to describe his life in Beijing. I trust both of these gentlemen to tell the truth about their surroundings. Both of their emails are shown below.
From the friend in Novosibirsk:
The Western media seem to be suggesting that the outbreaks of the virus in Russia have been much greater than reported. This is plainly untrue, unless one considers that many people have been infected all over the world by a very mild form which is hardly noticeable. We know exactly how many are in quarantine in the Novosibirsk Hospital for Infectious Diseases: last week it was five and this week it is reported to be ten, all people who have returned from overseas.
Yesterday, here in Novosibirsk, strict measures have been brought in which will last at least until 5th April. These were reported negatively yesterday by Steve Rosenberg, the BBC correspondent, well-known for his twisting and selecting of news to suit his agenda. He is a dangerous fellow because he can almost pass himself off as a Russian and deliberately seeking out dissidents and other unpatriotic persons for interview and mischief. He has not, for example, reported that massive medical aid has been sent to the US and Europe to help the situation. In fact there is a move in the US to reject this aid.
Now, we are directed to conduct <<distance lessons>> on an application called <<ZOOM>>. I understand Mr Johnson uses it for his cabinet meetings, and that he has even given away his link! I have agreed to do these lessons for individuals, but not groups.
All expiring visas have been automatically extended for a further 90 days, which should relieve the stress of those whose visas run out this month.
Please do all you can to assure people that we have plenty of food here, and friends are not forbidden to visit.
From QB in Beijing:
We are all well and self-protected. Coronavirus is now under control in China after the government taking strict measures to do the test and isolate the infected persons nationwide. The current concern is about the cases coming from outside of China. So we are now taking all measure to put this under control.
<<We are hearing a lot of conflicting reports about China these days and are concerned about the welfare of your people.>>
This pandemic seriously attacked the economy here in China. Lots of businesses are closed and lots of people may loose their jobs. I think we will see the serious impact in a few months though most people here can still make a living.
<<Is everything ok? Here in XX we are in very strict lockdown and can only leave the house every other day and for 2 hr only. I can leave today but prefer to stay home->>
I see. It looks like that social distancing effort is now the most feasible measures for all countries. As Bill gates argued that “The only model that is known to work is a serious social distancing effort ("shut down"). If you don't do this then the disease will spread to a high percentage of the population and your hospitals will be overloaded with cases. So this should be avoided despite the problems caused by the "shut down". If a country doesn't control its cases then other countries will prevent anyone going into or coming out of that country.” Hopefully your country can constrain this pandemic. I notice that in XX there are 198 new cases yesterday.
<<No one knows when to expect a return to normal.>>
Mr. Zhong Nanshan, our chief scientist for respiratory diseases (who helped Chinese government effectively beat SARS in early of this century) indicates that If the principle of protection is followed, confirmed cases in Europe will peak in the next week, and then it should go down, but it is difficult to say for the United States. The policies of different countries are different now. If more positive policies can be adopted, the number of cases should be down in April. God bless this world!
<<All the best to you and your family! Our prayers are with you.>>
Thank you so much! All the best to you and your family. Take care and stay safe!
There are lots of little red flags in news like the below report and there is a need for analysis because most Westerners haven’t any idea who is who in Libya. Ok, there are Syrians in Libya and they are fighting Khalifa Haftar’s forces. These Syrians are not the group fighting terrorists in Syria. For the most part, they are the terrorists who have been defeated in various areas by the Syrian Arab Army and the Russians. In the most general terms, Khalifa Haftar is trying to fight the terrorists that are tolerated – even encouraged to some extent – by the US-recognized and UN-recognized Government of National Accord (حكومة الوفاق الوطني hukúmat alwifáqi alwataníi). This is why Russia supports the Haftar army (الجيش الوطني الليبي aljáysh alwataníu alliýbiu). These names can be confusing because they both purport to be “national,” but the national government is not fighting the terrorists, just trying to get along with them and even using them to consolidate its power. US msm will not tell you this – which is why I provided my translation of this comprehensive explanation this comprehensive explanation of the situation in Libya.
Disastrous Syrian-led offensive ends in heavy losses around Tripoli
By News Desk
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:30 A.M.) – The Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter, announced on Friday that it had repulsed an attack by “Syrian mercenaries” in the ‘Ain Zara area near the capital city of Tripoli.
A member of the information office, Aqeela Al-Saber, stated that the Libyan National Army’s “Ajdabiya Operations Force repulsed an attack by the Syrian mercenaries in Ain Zara.”
In his statement, Al-Saber said: “The militia supported by Turkey and the Syrian mercenaries tried this morning to attack our advanced positions in order to recover what was lost in the past two days.”
He stressed that “the attacking force today was entirely from the Syrians,” noting that the operation ended with their suffering “significant losses in their ranks and control of other new sites that were theirs.”
He added: “There is neither a martyr nor a prisoner in Safouna. There were only 3 wounded, and they are in very good condition. Now they are with their comrades inside the axis as well, and we have not lost a single inch.”
The Syrian mercenaries were first deployed to Libya in late December 2019; however, since their arrival, they have been unable to turn the tide of the war in favor of the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
Furthermore, there have been reports of discontent among the Syrian mercenaries, who have accused Turkey of not fulfilling their salary and cigarette promises.
Some reports have even indicated that dozens of Syrian mercenaries have abandoned Libya in favor of traveling to Italy for asylum.
US sanctions paralyzed Iran’s efforts to combat coronavirus outbreak: Tehran Mayor
By News Desk -2020-04-04
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 P.M.) – Tehran’s Mayor Pirouz Hanachi said that the U.S. sanctions against Iran have hindered efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak that has ravaged the country.
In an article published in the British Guardian newspaper, the Mayor of Tehran pointed out that “the lives of many Iranians are lost every day because of the lack of medicines and medical supplies.”
He said that “the time is not right to take revenge policies,” considering that the economic sanctions imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Iran paralyzed our efforts in confronting the coronavirus
This comes at the same time Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the country will continue to implement the social separation plan by turning it into a “smart separation” plan.
He added during a meeting with the National Committee to Combat Coronavirus, “The Ministry of Health will announce today the details of the smart spacing plan … Our priority is the health and safety of society, and the fate of small businesses and the poor class and the future of our children is important to us.”
Today, the Iranian Ministry of Health announced the registration of 2,560 new infections and 158 deaths from the coronavirus in the country, bringing the total number of infections to 55,743 and the number of deaths to 3,452.
Russian military deploys to Qamishli city after Syrian security forces open fire on Kurdish police
By News Desk -2020-04-04
BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:45 P.M.) – A group of [Syrian] National Defense Forces (NDF) personnel opened fire on some officers from the Kurdish-led Asayish forces in the Al-Qamishli Distrit of Al-Hasakah on Saturday. [According to crwflags.com, “The National Defense Force (NDF; Arabic: قوات الدفاع الوطني Quwat ad-Difāe al-Watanī) is branch of Syrian Armed Forces, formed after summer 2012 as a part-time volunteer reserve component of the Syrian military, organized by the Syrian government during the Syrian Civil War.”]
According to preliminary reports, the NDF personnel fired a few shots towards an Asayish vehicle, causing material damage to the car. [Asayish is Kurdish for security. Kurdish is an Iranian language].
The reason for the attack is unknown; however, some reports from the area have said that the Russian military police have intervened to ease tensions between the NDF and Asayish.
No other attacks have been reported at this moment.
In the past, the Asayish and NDF have traded attacks in both Qamishli and Hasakah; this has often led to intervention by the YPG and SAA forces in order to prevent hostilities from escalating.
Russian ventilators given to US were manufactured by sanctioned company: media
By News Desk
BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:10 P.M.) – The ventilators given to the U.S. by the Russian government this week were manufactured by a Russian company that is currently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, Daily Beast columnist Julia Davis tweeted on Friday.
“The ventilators provided by Russia, as it happens, were manufactured by a subsidiary of a company that is currently under U.S. sanctions,” the tweet began.
“Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies is a holding company with the Russian state-owned Rostec group,” she added.
Earlier this week, a Russian military plane carrying medical aid for the U.S. arrived at New York City’s JFK airport, as the country continues its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Russia also sent medical personnel and equipment to Italy last week.
Turkish military strikes Syrian Army troops again in Al-Raqqa
By News Desk
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:20 P.M.) – For the second time on Saturday, the Turkish military has attacked the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) positions in the northern countryside of the Al-Raqqa Governorate.
According to the latest report from Al-Raqqa, the Turkish military, alongside their allied militant forces, launched several artillery shells towards the Syrian Arab Army’s positions in the ‘Ayn ‘Issa countryside.
No information has been provided about the casualties; however, the earlier attack, resulted in at least two soldiers killed.
Meanwhile, near the town of Tal Abyad, the Turkish military also struck the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) posts south of the border.
A source from the SAA said that neither the Syrian Democratic Forces or Syrian Arab Army has provoked the Turkish military and their proxies.
The Turkish military has become increasingly aggressive in the Al-Raqqa countryside recently, launching several attacks against both the SAA and SDF troops.
Venezuela mobilizes forces for potential confrontation with US: report
By News Desk -2020-04-05
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro tweeted on Saturday that he had “ordered the mobilisation of artillery [pieces]” in the country’s strategic areas in order to protect the security of ordinary Venezuelans.
“I denounce the existence of groups financed from Colombia and the US, which seek to undermine the stability of [our] homeland with violent actions”, he wrote on his Twitter page.
The remarks came after he said during a ministerial meeting in Caracas earlier on Saturday that these groups believe that “they can take advantage of the [coronavirus] pandemic and the quarantine to carry out terrorist actions and a coup”.
He added that he had announced the mobilisation of “the artillery pieces” within the framework of the ongoing 2020 Bolivarian Shield drills, which kicked off in mid-February, “to be prepared for the fight for peace”.
Trump Announces Anti-Narcotics Operation in the Caribbean
Maduro’s statement comes a few days after President Donald Trump announced that the US military would deploy naval vessels and aircraft to the Caribbean as part of an enhanced counter-narcotics operation.
“We must not let the drug cartels exploit the [COVID-19] pandemic to threaten American lives. In cooperation with the 22 partner nations US Southern Command will increase surveillance, disruption and seizures of drug shipments and provide additional support for eradication efforts which are going on right now at record pace”, Trump said.
He was echoed by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, who told reporters earlier this week that the US military had managed to obtain intelligence suggesting that “the drug cartels as a result of COIVD-19 were going to try to take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country”.
“We’re at war with COVID-19, we’re at war with terrorists, and we’re at war with drug cartels as well”, he pointed out.
Maduro Pledges to Unleash ‘Bolivarian Fury’ on US
Milley spoke after Maduro asked in a letter on Tuesday for “invaluable support” from the leaders of governments around the world, referring to “this unthinkable and arbitrary persecution [by the US]”, which accuses the Venezuelan president of being involved in drug trafficking – something that has been rejected by him as “false”.
He also condemned the US for continuing to pressure the Venezuelan economy with sanctions, preventing Caracas from obtaining medicine and medical equipment amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has already claimed the lives of at least three people in the Latin American country.
The statement followed Maduro warning in an address last week that the authorities of Colombia and the US will face consequences if they crack down on his country’s political elite.
“If one day the imperialists and Colombian oligarchy dare to touch even a single hair [of those from the elite], they will face the Bolivarian fury of an entire nation that will wipe them all out”, Maduro said.
US Accuses Maduro of ‘Narco-Terrorism’
The Venezuelan president’s remarks were preceded by US Attorney General William Barr announcing that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had brought “narco-terrorism” charges against Maduro and five senior officials in his government, including Venezuela’s defence minister and the supreme court’s chief justice. The DOJ also offered a series of rewards for information on the officials, including $15 million for Maduro himself.
The developments come amid ongoing tensions between the US and Venezuela, which were further exacerbated after Washington recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the Latin American country’s president in spite of a vote in 2018 that saw Maduro re-elected to a new term.
While a number of Western states also supported Guaido, Maduro slammed the self-styled president as a “US puppet”. Russia, China, Turkey, and a number of other countries supported Maduro as Venezuela’s only legitimate president.
Libyan Army kills scores of GNA, Syrian fighters near Tripoli
By News Desk
BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:40 P.M.) – The Libyan National Army forces, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, announced on Sunday that their forces had 41 members of the Al-Wefaq forces and their allied Syrian militants at the Wadi Al-Rabi’a and Al-Mashroa fronts south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, during an attempted counter-offensive by the aforementioned fighters.
The Military Information Division of the Libyan National Army said in a press statement that “A total of 41 people killed from the militia and mercenary crowd groups after an attempt to advance to the armed forces observatories at the Wadi al-Rabi’a axis and part of the project axis.”
The statement added that “the military units, the heroes of the 128th Infantry Battalion, responded to this treacherous attack valiantly and inflicted great losses on the enemy, and those who remained are fleeing, leaving the bodies of their dead behind.”
Earlier, the European Union launched the ” IRINI ” operation to monitor the arms embargo and arms flow to Libya, with the aim of establishing peace.
“The main objective of the operation is to ban and prevent the supply of arms to Libya,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week,
It is noteworthy that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a complete ceasefire in conflicts around the world, while governments and local authorities are making great efforts to confront the coronavirus, which has spread to most countries.
US military testing capabilities of Russia’s S-400 system in Syria: report
By News Desk -2020-04-060
BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:30 P.M.) – The U.S. military is testing the capabilities of the Russian military’s S-400 air defense system at the Hmeimim Airbase in western Syria, the Russian publication Avia.Pro reported on Monday.
Using its military aircraft, the U.S. is attempting to pick up on the S-400’s frequencies around the Hmeimim Airbase, which is located in Syria’s Latakia Governorate, Avia.Pro said.
“Specialists were able to find out that the pairing of American military aircraft and drones off the coast of Crimea and the Russian military air base Hmeimim in Syria is associated with scanning the frequencies of Russian S-400 systems, having gained control over which the American side will be able to freely violate the borders of Russia,” they said, pointing out that the U.S. military is not just trying this in Syria, but also in Crimea.
As pointed out by the publication, the U.S. military has conducted several flights using their P-8 aircraft off the coast of Syria; this has prompted the Russian Armed Forces to raise their alert levels.
“In recent months, US military reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles have been regularly seen near the borders of Crimea and Syria. It’s about working in pairs. At the same time, the drone often operates at the very borders of airspace, forcing the Russian S-400 to work in an active mode, while military reconnaissance aircraft scan electronic signals and process them,” Avia.Pro said.
“If the United States really has access to the frequencies of the Russian S-400, then there is a chance that the Americans are trying to bring the work of the Russian S-400 off balance, and there is a similar probability,” the Avia.Pro specialist notes.
“Even if the United States succeeds, Russia has a huge number of other systems and radars, including those operating from a distance of several thousand kilometres,” the specialist added.