Archive for June 1, 2018

Report: US Oil Output Jumps To Record High In March

June 1, 2018


In the first great Texas gusher, oil is discovered at Spindletop in Beaumont, Texas

Reuters Thursday, May 31, 2018

Source Link:
Report: US Oil Output Jumps To Record High In March

{Strategically, this is good news if you consider Saudi output was just below this figure for the same period. – LS}

U.S. crude oil production jumped 215,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) to 10.47 million bbl/d in March, the highest on record, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a monthly report on May 31.

Production in Texas rose by 4% to almost 4.2 million bbl/d, a record high based on the data going back to 2005. The Permian Basin, which stretches across West Texas and eastern New Mexico, is the largest U.S. oil field.

Output from North Dakota held around 1.2 million bbl/d, while output in the federal Gulf of Mexico declined 1.1% to 1.7 million bbl/d.

The agency also revised February oil production down by 5,000 bbl/d to 10.26 million bbl/d.

U.S. natural gas production in the Lower 48 states rose to an all-time high of 88.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in March, up from the prior record of 87.7 Bcf/d in February, according to EIA’s 914 production report.

Output in Texas, the nation’s largest gas producer, increased 1.3% in March to 22.7 Bcf/d, the most since April 2016.

In Pennsylvania, the second biggest gas producing state, production dipped to 16.4 Bcf/d in March, down 0.6% from February’s record high of 16.5 Bcf/d. That compares with output of 14.8 Bcf/d in March 2017.

Netanyahu on top of the world at home as political wins add up

June 1, 2018

Source: Netanyahu on top of the world at home as political wins add up – Middle East – Stripes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the U.N. General Assembly meeting at the United Nations on Sept. 19, 2017.

CAITLIN OCHS/BLOOMBERG

By DAVID WAINER | Bloomberg | Published: May 31, 2018

Yoaz Hendel, a former adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, has become one of his fiercest right-wing critics, denouncing his policies in columns and talk shows, and leading a rally against the corruption that’s allegedly permeated his government.

Now, even Hendel is reconsidering his views of the Israeli prime minister, impressed by his role in the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal, and Israel’s strikes against Iranian military forces in Syria. He’s not alone. Netanyahu’s popularity has surged in recent polls, overshadowing the graft probes that have already produced police recommendations to indict him in two cases.

“It’s not that anything’s changed in terms of his attempts to undermine our democracy and institutions,” said Hendel, who quit as the prime minister’s top spokesman in 2012. “But I need to recognize that the way he’s coping with strategic challenges are forcing me, and others on the right who were questioning his leadership, to think about his accomplishments as a statesman.”

Netanyahu’s grip on power is still potentially in jeopardy, and his political successes shouldn’t have a bearing on Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit’s decision whether to indict him in the corruption cases – in theory at least. But it would take an especially aggressive attorney general to indict a popular, sitting prime minister for the first time in Israel’s history, said Eran Vigoda-Gadot, a political science professor at Haifa University.

“In order to put a sitting prime minister in jail, you need to come up with a smoking gun,” Vigoda-Gadot said. “We tend to think the separation of powers is strong enough to help the judicial system take independent decisions regardless of public opinion. But in reality, judges and attorneys general, without admitting it, are influenced by what happens around them.”

Just a few months ago, things were looking bleak for Netanyahu. Several former aides had agreed to testify against him, and as doubts about his political durability grew, right-wing rivals started positioning themselves for the post-Netanyahu era.

Today, gone are the headlines about gifts of pricey cigars and champagne from billionaires. European leaders have berated Israel for killing more than 120 Palestinians at sometimes violent protests in the Gaza Strip, but at home Netanyahu is widely seen as the forceful leader who persuaded Washington to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The election of the like-minded Trump came as a boon to Netanyahu, whose ties with the Obama administration had been strained over their divergent approaches on Iran and the Palestinians. During his campaign, Trump pledged to move the embassy and exit the Iran deal, and after he was elected, he delivered.

Israel’s strong economy, for which Netanyahu takes a lot of credit, has helped his standing, too. Gross domestic product has grown above 4 percent for three straight quarters and unemployment is near record lows. Investment in high-tech is high and tourism is booming.

“From the economy to security, Israelis realize they have it good, they don’t want a change at the top,” said Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, whose Jewish Home party competes for right-wing voters with Netanyahu’s Likud. “Much of this is largely to his credit, and he’s now reaping the political benefits.”

There are high risks to Netanyahu’s strategic accomplishments. Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal could backfire and increase conflict in the region. Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, could widen into a war embroiling the West Bank and Jerusalem. And the threat still looms of a direct confrontation with Iran over its military presence in Syria.

Critics say there is another Netanyahu in addition to the one who has scored successes on the diplomatic stage – one who poses a danger to Israeli democracy. The prime minister has railed against law enforcement and the media, accusing them of trying to depose his nationalist government. He’s also supported legislation meant to curb police powers, and media have reported he opposes extending the tenure of the police chief overseeing a total of four corruption investigations entangling his government.

“There is a deliberate, orchestrated attempt to undermine the rule of law in Israel as the prime minister’s investigations draw close to an indictment,” Yair Lapid, chairman of the opposition Yesh Atid faction and Netanyahu’s chief rival in polls, said earlier this month. “And the one who’s leading the attack is the one who was supposed to protect it.”

Yet those accusations aren’t likely to sway Netanyahu’s governing partners or a constituency that has remained loyal even during his darkest days. Netanyahu, already 12 years on the job, may be on his way to becoming his country’s longest-serving prime minister.

“We are being bombarded by good news,” said Ran Baratz, another former Netanyahu aide. “The political forces that were positioning against him a few months ago understand that he’s now in full control again.”

Europe makes an about-face on Israel 

June 1, 2018

Source: Europe makes an about-face on Israel » J-Wire

June 1, 2018 by Melanie Phillips – JNS.org

A strange, startling and deeply unfamiliar sound was heard this week. A Trump tweet imploding, perhaps? Kim Jong-Un finally destroying his nuclear arsenal? A distant rumble from the Hawaii volcano?  No. It was the sound of the European Union and United Nations loudly supporting Israel against attack.

In the heaviest onslaught since 2014, southern Israel was attacked from Gaza this week by Islamic Jihad and Hamas launching dozens of rocket and mortar attacks, as well as bursts of machine-gun fire. An Israeli kindergarten was hit, although no one was hurt. After Israel pummeled terrorist targets, Egypt brokered a truce.

What was striking was that the Israel-averse European Union, United Nations, France, Italy, Germany and Ireland criticized the Gaza attackers and expressed support for Israel.

France declared that its commitment to Israel’s security was “unwavering.” Germany said the targeting of Israeli civilians was “malicious,” and that it was “Israel’s right to preserve its security, defend its borders and respond proportionately to attacks.”

Yet two weeks earlier, when Israel defended itself against the attempt by Hamas to storm the Gaza border and murder Israeli civilians, those same European nations and the United Nations grossly misrepresented what happened as the killing of unarmed civilians in “peaceful protests,” despite the vast majority of those killed by Israel being Hamas terrorists.

So what’s changed? Well, first of all, the situation on the ground.

European Union flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels. Credit: Amio Cajander via Wikimedia Commons.

When Hamas began its weekly riots at the Gaza border fence, some took this as the sign of an inevitable escalation to all-out war. Yet on May 14—the day of the heaviest onslaught that provoked the E.U. criticism—Hamas abruptly called off its invasion. Whatever the reason, the decision was taken to cool it.

Then suddenly, Islamic Jihad—aided and abetted by Hamas—launched its missile onslaught. It was clear this did not enjoy wide support. Russia didn’t want it. Egypt didn’t want it. The Gulf states will tolerate nothing that gets in the way of their tacit alliance with the United States and Israel against Iran. Even Hamas reportedly got cold feet over the scale of the attack.

So who wanted it? Step forward the Islamic Republic of Iran, backers of Hamas and patrons of Islamic Jihad. And why did Iran want it? Because the regime is distinctly rattled.

America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal has thrown it into disarray. The United States is threatening to impose condign sanctions. The Iranian rial is in freefall. The recent speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extended U.S. policy way beyond curtailing Iran’s nuclear activities.

Iran, he said, must stop supporting Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, support disarming Shi’ite militias in Iraq and withdraw from Syria. The United States would work to counteract its cyber activities, track down its operatives and proxies and “crush” them.

Israel is now destroying more and more Iranian assets in Syria with U.S. backing.

Moreover, a wedge is being driven between Russia and Iran. Russia needs stability in the region to safeguard its interests. The last thing it wants is for Israel to be drawn further into Syria. So Russia is trying to keep Iranian forces away from Israel’s northern border and has said the Islamic Republic should pull its forces out of Syria once a political settlement is reached.

Galvanized by the new U.S.-led dynamic, the Iranian people are continuing to revolt. There’s now a Twitter hashtag in Farsi calling for regime change, as well as another that reads: “Thank you Pompeo.” If this escalates, the Iranian people can bring down the regime.

In the space of a few months, therefore, it has gone from being an unstoppable regional force to scrabbling to survive. So in desperation, it is playing two of its remaining cards.

The first was using its proxies in Gaza to unleash the missile barrage against southern Israel. The second is its urgent wooing of the European Union to persuade it to defy the American call to impose global sanctions.

At this moment, the European Union chooses to back Israel against the Gaza missile barrage—the same European Union that all but ignored the missile barrages that led to the 2014 Gaza war in which, of course, it denounced Israel for finally defending itself.

When it came to the Gaza border riots, however, the European Union was not united in its condemnation of Israel. The Czech Republic Foreign Minister Martin Stropnický said rushing the security fence should be regarded as a form of terrorism.

Earlier, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic had blocked an E.U. statement condemning the U.S. embassy move while other countries, including Slovakia, Greece and Poland, reportedly also expressed reservations. On Monday, European foreign ministers discussed Gaza at their monthly meeting but failed to issue a statement, a sign they didn’t agree.

But the real reason for the E.U.’s surprising change of tone is surely that the presence in the White House of President Donald Trump has changed everything.

America backed Israel strongly over the Gaza riots. While eight E.U. members lined up at the United Nations to call on Israel to refrain from using “excessive force” against “peaceful protests,” the U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley said the violence came from those who rejected the existence of the State of Israel. “Such a motivation—the destruction of a United Nations member state—is so illegitimate as to not be worth our time in the Security Council, other than the time it takes to denounce it.”

The European Union is beginning to grasp that the implicit criticism of those who fail to join the United States in supporting Israel carries consequences. President Trump has made it clear that he expects European and other countries to support him in imposing sanctions against Iran. If they don’t, they will have to choose: trade with Iran or trade with America. They can’t do both.

Meanwhile, Italy is politically imploding and threatening the whole E.U. project. The financier George Soros has said the European Union is now facing an existential crisis.

Is the E.U. going to choose this moment to get up America’s nose still further? Hardly. So it was presumably anxious to demonstrate to Trump that, despite its earlier sanitizing of Hamas as “unarmed protesters,” it was really against Hamas after all.

If so, such declarations won’t cut it. For the world has reached a tipping point, and Iran is key. To avoid a truly terrible conflagration, the Iranian regime has to be brought down.

Israel, the United States, the Gulf states and the Iranian people are behind such a strategy. Astoundingly, Britain and the European Union stand with the regime against them. They must now decide if they will join the attempt to defeat the forces of evil—or else suffer the consequences.

Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a column for JNS every two weeks. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has been published by Bombardier, which has also published her first novel, “The Legacy,” released in April. Her work can be found at her website,  www.melaniephillips.com.

Top Saudi commentator calls for peace with Israel

June 1, 2018

Source: Top Saudi commentator calls for peace with Israel – Israel Hayom

Gaza is on borrowed time 

June 1, 2018

Source: Gaza is on borrowed time – Israel Hayom

Report: Kremlin gives Israel ‘green light’ to launch attacks in Syria

June 1, 2018

Source: Report: Kremlin gives Israel ‘green light’ to launch attacks in Syria – Israel Hayom

PM Netanyahu: The Iranian people are brilliant

June 1, 2018