Mideast On The Brink
January 18, 2020: France has deployed a radar system on Saudi Arabia’s eastern coast that faces the Persian Gulf to help the Kingdom protect its vital oil infrastructure, which was hit by attacks in September.
January 7, 2020: Iran launches barrage of ballistic missiles on Iraqi base where Americans stationed.
January 6, 2020: Pentagon moves six B-52s to Diego Garcia.
January 1, 2020: Iranian-backed militia attack US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. President Trump wins bigly; won't let it turn into another Benghazi.
September 15, 2019: MarketWatch -- why the Saudi oil attack is a "big deal" that could be "game changer."
September 15, 2019: Goldilocks frame of mind.
September 15, 2019: update, Iran's cruise missile attack on the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil sector. That is also the post that will follow the story until it's no longer a story.
September 14, 2019: reports that one-half of Saudi's production is off-line due to massive fires set by enemy drones.
June 20, 2019: Iran shoots down $100 million US drone; US claims it was in international airspace. Tonight Iran says it is ready for war. Headline: price of oil surges. It appears Iran is hoping to push crude oil to $200/bbl -- if it can accomplish that, Iran thinks it can get the world to turn against the US and sanctions. Interestingly, that headline that price of oil surges?WTI went from $52 to $57 -- hardly surging. At $57 oil (WTI), US shale operators survive; at $60 they thrive. At $70+, we'll see just how much oil the US can produce. Twenty years ago, the Iranian ploy may have worked, but I don't see it working this time.
June 13, 2019: Iran claims to have "torpedoed" two oil tanker in the strait. One was "tied" to the US, en route from the UAE to Taiwan. Iran says the tanker was sunk; other sources say "not yet."
December 16, 2018: Notes from the Mideast.
February 21, 2018: Turkey ready to bomb Afrin.
February 13, 2018: France will bomb Syria if chemical weapons were found to be used.
February 13, 2018: the Mideast is heating up. Now that ISIS is out of the way, Iran and Syria have teamed up to drive other rebels out. I assume the Kurds will be caught in the cross-fire and Turkey will muddle US efforts. Israel has hit targets in Iran for the first time, it was reported last week, and Drudge suggested "fight's on." But this is the scary part: it appears that US and Russia are now directly involved. No links; stories everywhere. US fighters have killed "scores" of "Russian fighters" (not further defined) and this morning it is being reported that a US fighter knocked out a Russian tanker in self defense. WTI down another 64 cents; now at $58.64.
November 11, 2017: has the Saudi-Iran proxy war in Lebanon begun? ISIS defeated, Iran can concentrate on Saudi; Russia and Iran both have good reasons to see Saudi fall
November 6, 2017: tribes go to war.
November 4, 2017: Prince Salman calls it something else, but anyone paying attention knows that the prince just took a preemptive strike on a coup.
April 6, 2017: 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria. Proportional response.
March 28, 2017: headlines at Drudge -- panic spreads in Iraq, Syria, as record numbers of civilians reported killed in US strikes; Iran and Russia getting cozy with each other.
March 20, 2017: sane folks suggesting the world is preparing for war (at the link, scroll down).
November 3, 2016: Egypt tiptoes toward a "breaking point."
November 3, 2016: is Turkey headed for civil war? External link.
October 24, 2016; two days ago -- Russia's Northern Fleet was halfway to Syria.
The carrier is also sailing with a handful of new MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter-bombers in addition to her standard complement of Su-33s. The Russian navy has scrambled to get the MiG-29Ks — which pack an advanced avionics suite — ready for the voyage. The fact that Admiral Kuznetsov is sailing with Fulcrums is a sign this is no ordinary Mediterranean cruise.
But as it turns out, the Indian Navy also possesses an ex-Soviet carrier, the Vikramaditya, and operates MiG-29Ks from the flattop. So Admiral Kuznetsov’s mission could be an attempt to promote the fighters’ combat abilities — like a military form of embedded marketing — in the hope New Delhi buys more.October 20, 2016: in biggest offensive since the Cold War, Putin is sending his entire Northern Fleet to the Mediterranean.
October 15, 2016: Putin's quest -- along with Iran, control the Mideast and the global supply of oil. Completely cut of Saudi Arabia.
October 15, 2016: Egypt juggles its allegiances as Russian influence surges -- WSJ.
October 14, 2016: having read The Economist earlier today (the most recent issue) -- no links -- it's hard for me to believe that Putin / Syria won't be the "October surprise." My hunch is that it could become much more serious than the Cuban missile crisis, but it will end more quickly, and it could end more badly. Putin, the Bear, has been backed into a corner, and we all know what is said about a bear being backed into a corner. Even at his "best," President Obama would probably have trouble responding to Putin, but in his last few months, Obama is unlikely to be engaged at all.
October 14, 2016: with Obama now a lame duck, Reuters is a bit more free to report what is really going on. The bottom line: the US has been outplayed by Russia/Syria (Assad) in Aleppo. Obama has no options. Obama has already lost his allies in the Mideast and to win them back he would have to confront Russia head-on. There's a reason the Russian press is talking about the risk of nuclear war with the US. That alone will keep Obama from acting.
October 5, 2016: stories of rifts between Russia and US are reaching fever pitch over Aleppo. Things are possibly as tense as ever between Russia and US, at least as far as Syria is concerned. It may have something to do with the fact that Obama has always been seen as weak, and now, as a lame duck, even weaker. If Hillary is elected, things might improve between Russia and the US, but if Trump is elected, all bets are off, and Putin knows that.
August 28, 2016: Yemeni rocket kills two Saudi Arabia girks as Yemeni rebels step up attacks.
August 21, 2016: CommonDreams says this report is an "old report" and misleading and has nothing to do with civilian casualties. The site says the US pulled out its advisors when there was a "lull" in hostilities.]
August 19, 2016: US pulls advisory staff out of Riyadh, from where Yemeni conflict was being directed. This seems be pretty significant; if so, under-reported by US mainstream media. [Update,
August 17, 2016: Saudi strikes back.
August 13, 2016: if oil prices don't rise, the Mideast will sink.
August 12, 2016: Saudi Arabia has run out of cash for big projects; Iran has not. Iran given green light to move forward with two new nuclear plants.
August 9, 2016: Saudi Arabia okayed to buy US tanks to replace losses in the Yemen war.
July 24, 2016: the US has two major installations in Turkey: Izmir and Incirlik. Izmir is an "open" base and not much there except "command and control." Incirlik is the major base with active aircraft fighting ISIS and the home of a "NATO" presence with nuclear bombs. It is being reported tonight that there is a "massive" fire in / around Izmir. The fire will have a bigger impact on Turkish citizens than US personnel. There is talk that the fire was deliberately set, and is anti-American. One might be concerned that Erdogan is upping the ante to get an exiled Turkish political leader out of the US and back to Turkey to stand trial. The next step of course would be to shut down US activities at Incirlik Air Base but that would be an end to US participation from Turkey against ISIS. That may be a bridge too far for Erdogan.
July 23, 2016: update on "the forgotten war."
July 7, 2016: Baghdad hit.
July 4, 2016: Saudi Arabia hit.
July 3, 2016: nearly 100 killed in Baghdad by suicide bomber; another 200 injured.
July 2, 2016: from The Guardian --
Vice-president Joe Biden called Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to express “strong concerns”, the White House said late on Friday, alluding to a political crisis in the tiny island kingdom that threatens its close ties to the US, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
In a description of the call, the White House said Biden and the king spoke of “recent negative developments in Bahrain and their implications for the wider region”.
On Thursday, an explosion south of the Bahraini capital, Manama, killed a woman and injured her three children. A day later, police said the blast was a “terrorist bombing” in the village of Eker and said officers had begun an investigation.
Violence has increased in Bahrain as the Sunni monarchy has cracked down on dissent among factions of the majority Shia population. Recent bombings have been blamed on radical Shia opposition groups, which were largely driven underground after failed protests in 2011.
About 1,200 troops from Saudi Arabia and 800 from the United Arab Emirates helped quash that uprising, which threatened to upend Bahrain as an Egyptian revolt had overthrown its government a month before.
In recent months, the Bahraini government has stripped away the citizenship of 250 people, including the country’s most prominent Shia cleric; suspended the largest Shia opposition group and extended a prison term for its leader; kept activists out of a United Nations human rights meeting; and rearrested a human rights activist for spreading “false news”.June 5, 2016: pretty minor in the big scheme of things, but simply another story that the Iraqi Army (with huge assist from the US) is still nowhere near able to take on the JV team. This story is from The New York Times and states it will be another day, another campaign, before US-Iraq can think about taking back Mosul. The situation is pretty pathetic.
May 7, 2016: CNN is reporting that ties between Israel and Saudi are as close as ever; Saudi mulls nuclear weapons if Iran "breaks their nuclear deal." Saudi re-thinking Saudi-US relationship. Not mentioned in the article but this story comes on day it was announced the 80-year-old Saudi oil minster was ousted. Another story lurking is the close relationship developing between ISIS and Turkey. Last month it was reported that Turkey's relationship with the US is at a breaking point.
April 30, 2016: is Baghdad about to implode?
April 18, 2016: OPEC in tatters.
April 13, 2016: President Obama will visit Saudi Arabia to participate in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council on April 21, 2016, to "shore up US commitment there." [Update: I do not recall any major announcement following this visit.]
April 13, 2016: Iraq coming apart at the seams.
April 11, 2016: Iraqi Kurdistan President says spoke with Vice President Biden to discuss political crisis in Baghdad, review plans to liberate Mosul from Islamic State.
March 14, 2016: Putin orders Russian troops out of Syria; will maintain "presence."
March 10, 2016: end times for the Caliphate (ISIS); excellent update of the current situation in the war against ISIS.
February 22, 2016: heating up with major Saudi military exercise.
February 14, 2016: Putin rising; US marginalized in the Mideast.
January 31, 2016: a free-for-all in the Mideast. An existential crisis for Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria.
January 25, 2016: Mosul Dam could collapse.
January 13, 2016: from the NewStatesman: Behind Saudi Arabia’s bluster is a country that feels under grave threat.
Saudi Arabia feels with good reason more threatened than at any time in its modern history, at least since the subversive Kulturkampf of the 1950s and 1960s from Nasser’s Egypt.
This stems from five sources: first, the challenge of Sunni and largely Salafi jihadism; second, the sustained ideological and material challenge of the Islamic Republic of Iran; third, the collapse of large parts of the Middle East state system following the Arab spring; fourth, a sharp fall in global energy prices; and fifth, a sense that historical alliances – notably but not only with the United States – are fraying.
These threats are real.
A decade or so ago, the heirs to Juhaiman al-Otaybi’s 1979 Grand Mosque attackers, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, launched a terror campaign within the kingdom with the aim of inspiring a general Sunni insurgency. The Saudis were slow to realise what they were facing. Once they did, they mobilised and ruthlessly crushed the terrorists.
But they did not go away. The remnants regrouped in Yemen and from there plotted, recruited others (including the American imam Anwar al-Awlaki) and directed further attacks, against Western and Saudi targets. More recently there has been a wave of attacks, claimed by Islamic State, mostly on Shia targets – but also on security forces and a Sunni mosque at a military base near the Yemeni border.Remember the fall of the Shah of Iran? It happened during the period when the US president was very, very similar to our current president. Both ideologues and internationally weak and isolationists. From wiki: The Carter Administration increasingly became locked in a debate about continued support for the monarchy. In the current situation, President Obama has explicitly stated and has explicitly acted in such a matter to let the Saudis know they are on their own.
January 11, 2016: ten US sailors held by Iran.
January 11, 2016: Google: The Saudi-U.S. relationship: Shakier than ever.
Saudi Arabia's royal family is frightened — and that's a problem for the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
The Saudis are surrounded by enemies. To the north, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State, has promised to overthrow the Al Saud dynasty, which he calls “the serpent's head.” To the south, Sunni-led Saudi forces are at war against Shia Muslim rebels in Yemen. To the east, the Al Saud face the rival they fear most, Shia-ruled Iran.
The Saudis have problems at home, too. Fearing subversion from both Islamic State and Iran, the government has cracked down on Sunni and Shia dissidents alike, jailing writers, journalists and human rights lawyers as well as potential terrorists. The plummeting price of oil has blown a hole in the government's budget while the population, accustomed to subsidized housing and utilities, keeps growing.
And the family faces a succession crisis; 80-year-old King Salman, who ascended to the throne last year, is described privately by diplomats as nearly senile.
January 10, 2016: quiet; the focus was on the Golden Globes awards.
January 9, 2016: Saudi Arabia calls emergency meeting with its allies on how to deal with Iran.
January 8, 2016: from The Guardian -- Saudi Arabia v Iran: Riyadh defiant and angry after turbulent week.
January 6 - 7, 2016: not much being reported in major US media outlets
January 5, 2016
- Kuwait recalls ambassador from Iran as Saudi executions crisis widens; Kuwait joins SA, Bahrain, and Sudan
- The New York Times headline: US finds itself in a bind as Saudis ties grow strained
- Washington Post: Mideast tensions soar as Saudi Arabia rallies countries to cut ties with Iran
- BloombergView: Obama sides with Iran over Saudi Arabia
- Reuters: Iran unveiled a new underground missile depot; Emad precision-guided ballistic missile was tested in October, 2015
- Saudi Arabia is in trouble, and they know it. Nothing new in the article, but another regional "expert" weighs in.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a proxy war in Syria, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias are fighting Saudi-backed Sunni rebels battling to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.Iran and Saudi Arabia also support opposing sides in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been launching airstrikes against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since March.
- Bahrain, UAE, and Sudan follow Saudis in diplomatic action against Iran; we're starting to see sides line up.
- WSJ op-ed asks: who lost Saudi Arabia? Some quotes from the op-ed:
- Iran and Russia have an interest in toppling the House of Saud.
- Iran already has ample reason to want to topple the Saudis, who are its main antagonist in the Shiite vs. Sunni conflict that has swept the region amid America’s retreat. The two are fighting a proxy war in Yemen, after a Saudi-led coalition intervened to stop a takeover by Iran’s Houthi allies. The Saudis are also the leading supporter of the non-Islamic State Sunnis who are fighting Syria’s ally Bashar Assad. Russia and Iran are allied with Assad.
- The White House decision last week to walk back U.S. sanctions against Iran after its recent ballistic-missile tests may also embolden Iran to take greater risks.
- As for the Saudis, they can be forgiven for doubting that they can count on President Obama. Fairly or not, they concluded from the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak that this Administration will abandon its friends in a pinch. They saw his “red-line” reversal in 2013 in Syria, Mr. Obama’s accommodation to Russian revanchism in Crimea, and that he now may let Assad keep power in Syria. The Saudis intervened in Bahrain in 2011 without telling the U.S., and they recently formed a new Sunni-state coalition to fight Islamic State—again without the U.S.
- Market plunges almost 500 points; oil up a little over 2% but still well below $40
- Iran’s Revolutionary Guard also lashed out at Saudi Arabia Sunday. They compared the executions to attacks carried out by the Islamic State. The Guard said in a statement that Saudi Arabia’s “medieval act of savagery” in putting al-Nimir death will lead to the “downfall” of the monarchy. Comment: I think Iran will be seen by the global community as a "modern" nation compared to the "medieval" Saudi Arabia
- Sunday evening futures (for the archives): the Dow futures righted themselves; early down 175 points, then Asia showed strength on energy; now up 41 points; WTI futures up $0.96
- The [London] Guardian's view: Saudi's moves unjust; provoking. I don't know if Saudi has (m)any friends right now. There are still a lot of Americans that think Saudi Arabia sponsored 9/11; their oil pumping policy is "killing" Venezuela, others; and, now, the Shiite issue
- Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran; gives Iranian diplomats 48 hours to get out of Dodge
- ISIS declared war on Saudi Arabia about two weeks ago when Saudi joined international coalition
- Saudi Arabia has had to cut subsidies for its own citizens; burning through cash
- Saudi Arabia executes prominent Shiite cleric, along with 46 others accused of treason; Iran says Saudi will pay "high price" for execution; "maelstrom" in Saudi predicted by some
- Did we just see the geopolitical event that brings low prices to an end? Iraqi's former Prime Minister al-Maliki says the execution of the prominent Shiite cleric will bring down the current Saudi regime
- protests erupt around the Middle East following the execution of the Shiite cleric; the story how has legs; it's being carried as the #1 story, above the fold, front page of The Los Angeles Times
- Iranians storm, set ablaze Saudi embassy in Tehran; protest Shiite cleric's execution
- EU warns of 'dangerous consequences' of Saudi cleric -- Reuters
- President Obama asking Russia to get out of Syria; tells media it appears Russia is about ready to get out of Syria
- Russia has one air base in Syria
- it appears Russia is getting ready to add a second air base; has already been operating helicopters out of that second air base; indications are it is being prepared for fixed wing aircraft
- Russia also increasing the number of forward operating bases it uses to mount helicopter attacks
- Russia has moved missiles along the Syrian - Turkish border
- late reports today that the US is sending more US troops to the area
- House democrat: Obama risks nuclear war with Putin
- Iraqis feel Obama in "cahoots" with ISIS -- Washington Post (December 2, 2015, lead)
- Obama has directed that "the US will establish a special operations 'targeting force' in Iraq as part of the intensified military effort to fight ISIS"