Archive for July 1, 2018

London fears losing ‘market’ and ‘influence’ if Trump makes ‘peace’ with ‘boogeyman’ Russia

July 1, 2018

Published time: 1 Jul, 2018 13:40

https://www.rt.com/news/431403-putin-trump-uk-nato/

Donald Trump (R) speaks with British Prime Minister Theresa May at a working dinner meeting at the NATO in Brussels, on May 25, 2017. © Matt Dunham / AFP

The UK establishment is alarmed by a “peace deal” that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump may reach at their upcoming meeting. London has used Moscow as a “boogeyman” to preserve its fading influence in Europe, experts told RT.

After the time and date of the meeting – that is, Helsinki, Finland on June 16 – was set this week, the Times laid out a piece conveying the fears of unnamed cabinet ministers that a “peace deal” will undermine NATO and compromise European security.

Ideas of “what can go wrong” ranged from the cancelation or downsizing of NATO drills in Eastern Europe to acknowledging Crimea as Russian territory and lifting sanctions against Moscow. One minister even predicted “further provocation by Moscow.”

Clear and present danger of “losing market”

“The UK has been one of the most active supporters of a hard line towards Russia,” and the “vigorous resistance” of its ruling circles to any positive shift in the stance of Washington towards Moscow shouldn’t be surprising, Alexander Bartosh, a military expert and former Russian diplomat, told RT.

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US Army's Global Response Force drill in Hohenfels, Germany. August 26, 2015 © Michael Dalder

“The UK, which quit the European Union, feels a certain loss of its weight in Europe and tries to turn Russia into a kind of boogeyman, seeing the ‘Russian threat’ as a unifying factor for nations, looking for closer ties with London,” he said.

British historian and author on international affairs John Laughland believes that “in the context of Brexit, Britain wants to talk up the Russian threat in order to be able to sell British military expertise, military capacity, and intelligence gathering expertise to the Europeans.

“The British are afraid [because] if the Russian threat is perceived to disappear they lose their market.”

There are all grounds for London to worry because “the common belief that America and Britain are such great friends isn’t really justified, as there are many in the US who support tougher and more pragmatic relations with the UK. The Americans don’t want to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for Britain as they used to do previously,” Bartosh said.

Friends and money

The paper also wrote about fears that US President Donald Trump, who has been bashing NATO allies for not chipping in enough to the organization’s budget, may accept the Polish offer to pay for the establishment of a permanent US base in the country in a bypass of NATO.

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US President Donald Trump reviews the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, Washington, US, April 24, 2018 © Kevin Lamarque

Bartosh believes Poland is striving to replace the UK as America’s prime ally in the region.

“The Poles are using the decrease of the British influence in Europe to show the US that they should now put stakes on them,” he said.

Laughland also believes the proposed establishment of a US military base in Poland without NATO’s involvement “reduces Britain’s role and influence. It shows that it’s not NATO that’s important, but the US – which, of course, is the reality.”

Trump, who has been critical of NATO in the past, is only interested in the bloc “to the extent that he can get the Europeans to pay more money and buy more American weapons,” Laughland said.

By offering Washington a military base on its territory, Warsaw is “pursuing economic targets, in the first place, because it would increase the flow of funds into the Polish economy,” Bartosh said. “Poles are quite reasonable people and they are unlikely to really think that there’s some significant military threat coming from Russia towards Poland.”

So what about the meeting?

During their meeting, Putin and Trump will be trying to find a “unifying agenda for the US and Russia because the relations of the two countries affect not only their own wellbeing, but international security as a whole,” Bartosh said, adding that “none of the sides will be aiming to undermine the integrity of NATO.”

READ MORE: Trump to meet Putin regardless of ‘noise’ at home as it’s in US national interest – Bolton

NATO is jeopardized by internal problems, including Trump’s demands to members-states to increase military spending, divisions and differing views on threats within the EU, and the trade war between Europe and America, according to Bartosh.

It’s also “possible” that during their meeting, Putin and Trump will be able to “find the formulae to overcome the current situation” in relations between the West and Moscow,” Laughland said. The US sanctions can be lifted and the EU may follow suit shortly afterwards as “the European sanctions are coming under heavy questioning from Italy, Austria, Hungary, and other countries.”

Israel deploys tanks, artillery forces at Syria border 

July 1, 2018

Source: Israel deploys tanks, artillery forces at Syria border – Israel Hayom

Is Guilt Killing the West from Within?

July 1, 2018

Russian military downs unidentified drones near Khmeimim Air Base in Syria – MoD

July 1, 2018
https://www.rt.com/news/431393-russia-khmeimim-drones-downed/
Pantsir-S1 air defense system seen at Khmeimim airbase © Dmitry Vinogradov / Sputnik
A group of unidentified drones has been shot down by Russia’s Air Defense units near Khmeimim Air Base in Syria, the Russian MoD has announced. No damage to the facility was reported.

The objects were detected north-east from the military facility on Saturday, the base’s authorities said. “All aerial targets were destroyed,” they confirmed. The military, however, stopped short of naming exact weapon systems which were used to bring down the drones (UAVs).

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FILE PHOTO © Global Look Press

This is not the first time Khmeimim Air Base, located south-east of the port of Latakia, has been targeted with unmanned aircraft this year. In May, the Russian MoD said its units also downed a drone near the military compound.

But the most large-scale assault on Khmeimim was launched in January with at least 10 drones attacking the site. Three others targeted the Russian maritime logistics point in the city of Tartus. The majority of the intruders were successfully downed by the Russian Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft weapon system. The radio electronics warfare specialists also managed to override the operating systems of other drones.

After examining the devices and recovering the data, Russian specialists determined that the January attack was launched from an area near Idlib, controlled by various rebel forces.

Back then, the head of the UAV department of the Russian General Staff, Major General Aleksandr Novikov, warned that terrorists acquired advanced drone technology which raised the risks of potential attacks all over the world. “The research showed that the avionics equipment mounted on the drones facilitated their fully automated preprogrammed flight and bombing, ruling out any jamming,” Novikov said at the time.

READ MORE: Russian air defenses down drone in Syria’s Khmeimim in suspected air attack

The Russian military also noted that that detonators used in the militants’ Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) carried by the drones were “of foreign manufacture.” It suggested that preparing an attack with such aircraft required special skills, which the perpetrators may have received from a foreign party.

Iron Dome versus laser system missile interceptors? Israeli strategists are split 

July 1, 2018

Source: Iron Dome versus laser system missile interceptors? Israeli strategists are split – DEBKAfile

The IDF does not have enough Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to cover both the Gaza and northern fronts. The system would be further stretched if central Israel came under attack.

In two barrages on June 20 and June 27, Hamas launched up to 100 missile mortar shells from the Gaza Strip against Israel towns and villages. Timely alerts sent civilians to shelters in time to avoid casualties. But it had had become obvious that the south was short of Iron Dome batteries to ward off heavy rocket salvoes, because the bulk were deployed along Israel’s northern border where war tensions are rising. This deficiency would become critical if central Israel came under missile attack. This eventuality comes closer as Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite militias, under Iranian Revolutionary Guards command, become a strong component of the Russian-backed Syrian assault advancing in the Daraa province.

Israel’s generals and other strategists are painfully aware of the inadequacy of protection for North and for the national strategic facilities across the country from the new precision missiles, especially those in the Hizballah arsenal. Such missiles could be launched from Syria, Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.

To address this rising threat, the Israel security cabinet is meeting urgently on Sunday night, July 1, to draw up plans for preparing the northern home front for an outbreak of hostilities. The ministers will need to resolve a hot debate taking place in recent weeks among Israel’s military leaders over whether to supplement Israel’s Iron Dome missile interception system with new US laser beam weapons. Israeli projects for developing these systems, partly in conjunction with US partners, were shut down in 2007, when it was decided to focus on the home-made Iron Dome. Then, too, some circles argued that the high cost of deploying the Israeli Iron Dome did not justify the large investment in its development. But after the last Gaza operation in 2014, Iron Dome was held as a national icon and no one talked about its high cost.

However, now the threat has exacerbated. Potentially ranged against Israel are at least 12,000 different kinds of advanced missiles, which pack are far deadlier and more precise punch than the Hamas projectiles of four years ago. And so the argument has revived. It is calculated that it will take at least three to four Iron Domes to intercept one these advanced enemy missiles, a prohibitive outlay that would come on top of the high expense of conducting a full-scale war. This is beyond Israel’s means. The arithmetic is simple: Downing an estimated number of 12,000 enemy missiles would take more than 30,000 Iron Dome missiles, at the astronomical cost of $5 billion. The preponderant rationale under consideration therefore is for Israel to stop paying for additional Iron Domes and instead buy SkyGuards, an anti-missile laser system developed from the US Nautilus, which is readily available or can be quickly assembled.

Fifteen SkyGuard batteries (at $75 million apiece) would come to around $1.125 billion, representing a saving of $3.75 billion compared to the cost of Iron Domes.

The pro-Iron Dome lobby is putting up a strong fight against introducing the laser interceptor to IDF service. Part of this argument is that replacing the Israel product would be detrimental to sales on world markets. Last week, as part of the Iron Dome campaign, reports of a laser beam’s effectiveness against the incendiary kites and balloons flying across the Gaza-Israeli border were hushed up. But as threats escalate on two fronts, the IDF may not have enough time to train field units in anti-missile laser warfare to meet the next conflagration.

Iran looking for ways to export oil despite US sanctions 

July 1, 2018

Source: Iran looking for ways to export oil despite US sanctions | The Times of Israel

Tehran sets up committee to seek potential buyers, as Trump calls on Riyadh to boost production to offset lost Iranian exports, stem price hikes

Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, May 8, 2018. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, May 8, 2018. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iranian leaders held a meeting on Saturday to examine countermeasures to US economic sanctions, including ways to keep exporting oil, according to a report in the Iranian news agency IRNA.

In the meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the heads of parliament and the judiciary, “various scenarios of threats to the Iranian economy by the US government were examined and appropriate measures were taken to prepare for any probable US sanctions, and to prevent their negative impact,” Reuters quoted IRNA as reporting.

Among the issues discussed were “suggestions to achieve self-sufficiency… in producing petroleum, and to prevent the vulnerability in the field of energy carriers,” the news agency wrote on its English-language site.

The Iranian government also set up a committee to look for potential oil buyers after US sanctions come into effect.

“Due to the possibility of US sanctions against Iran, the committee will study the competence of buyers and how to obtain proceeds from the sale of oil, safe sale alternatives which are consistent with international law and do not lead to corruption and profiteering,” Fereydoun Hassanvand, head of the parliament’s energy committee, was quoted as saying by IRNA, Reuters reported.

This photo taken on March 12, 2017, shows an Iranian laborer walking the platform of the oil facility in the Khark Island, on the shore of the Gulf. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENAR)

Iran has faced mounting economic woes since US President Donald Trump announced in May that Washington was withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, negotiated under his predecessor president Barack Obama. The accord imposed controls on Tehran’s nuclear program, in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.

The country has also witnessed growing protests in recent months. On Saturday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US of being behind the unrest.

In a series of tweets, Khamenei said the US formed a coalition with other “disgraceful states” in the region as it is unable to defeat Iran on its own. The Iranian leader didn’t name any specific nations in this so-called coalition, but alleged it was imposing economic pressure on Iran to “separate the nation from the system.”

View image on Twitter

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

will definitely be freed.

“If the US was able to overpower the Islamic system, it would not have needed to form a coalition with notorious countries of the region to create chaos, unrest, and insecurity in Iran,” he said.

“Six previous US presidents made efforts against Iran but failed at their vicious goals,” the Iranian leader tweeted. “Today, after losing hope in other methods, the enemy’s plot is to create a rift between establishment and nation; that’s foolish: they don’t understand that establishment entirely represents nation.”

Over the past six months, Iran’s currency has lost almost 50 percent of its value, with the US dollar now buying around 85,000 rials on the open market.

Iranians have been hit by rising prices, and record levels of unemployment have left a third of under-30s out of work.

Slogans chanted by crowds of Iranians in the recent economic protests, which have leaked out to the world via social media, show that many blame their own government’s foreign policies for the downturn.

A group of protesters chant slogans at the main gate of old Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran, June 25, 2018. (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP)

The protests have seen unusual scenes of demonstrators chanting against continued Iranian spending of billions of dollars on regional proxy wars and support for terrorist groups, which many say has meant less investment in the struggling economy at home.

In recent years, Iran has provided financial aid to Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and Shiite militias in Iraq. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Tehran has poured a reported $6 billion into propping up President Bashar Assad’s government.

Earlier this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sought to calm the growing discontent by assuring Iranians they would be able to withstand the new US sanctions. He blamed the spontaneous demonstrations that erupted across the country earlier that week on “foreign media propaganda,” and accused the US of waging “an economic war” against Tehran.

At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to some 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election. The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 arrested.

Saudi allies

Also on Saturday, Trump said he had received assurances from King Salman of Saudi Arabia that the kingdom will increase oil production, “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels” in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela. Saudi Arabia acknowledged the call took place, but mentioned no production targets.

Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked the king in a phone call to increase oil production “to make up the difference…Prices to (sic) high! He has agreed!”

Oil prices have edged higher as the Trump administration has pushed allies to end all purchases of oil from Iran, following the US pulling out of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Oil prices also have risen with the ongoing unrest in Venezuela, as well as with fighting in Libya over control of that country’s oil infrastructure.

In this June 29, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump gestures while speaking, during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Saudi Arabia currently produces some 10 million barrels of crude oil a day. Its record is 10.72 million barrels a day. Trump’s tweet offered no timeframe for the additional 2 million barrels — whether that meant per day or per month.

However, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told journalists in India on Monday that the state oil company has spare capacity of 2 million barrels of oil a day. That was after Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the kingdom would honor the OPEC decision to stick to a 1-million-barrel increase.

“Saudi Arabia obviously can deliver as much as the market would need, but we’re going to be respectful of the 1-million-barrel cap — and at the same time be respectful of allocating some of that to countries that deliver it,” al-Falih said then.

The Trump administration has been counting on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to supply enough oil to offset the lost Iranian exports and prevent oil prices from rising sharply.

The administration has threatened close allies such as South Korea with sanctions if they don’t cut off Iranian imports by early November. South Korea accounted for 14 percent of Iran’s oil exports last year, according to the US Energy Department.

China is the largest importer of Iranian oil at 24 percent, followed by India at 18 percent. Turkey stood at 9 percent and Italy at 7 percent.

The State Department has said it expects the “vast majority” of countries will comply with the US request.

Trump claims Saudi king promised to up oil production to offset Iran 

July 1, 2018

Source: Trump claims Saudi king promised to up oil production to offset Iran | The Times of Israel

Riyadh does not confirm that it will boost numbers by 2 million barrels after Trump tweet, seen as effort to maintain pressure on Tehran while keeping prices low

US President Donald Trump, left and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud gesture during a signing ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

US President Donald Trump, left and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud gesture during a signing ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he had received assurances from King Salman of Saudi Arabia that the kingdom will increase oil production, “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels” in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela. Saudi Arabia acknowledged the call took place, but mentioned no production targets.

Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked the king in a phone call to boost oil production “to make up the difference…Prices to (sic) high! He has agreed!”

A little over an hour later, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on the call, but offered few details.

“During the call, the two leaders stressed the need to make efforts to maintain the stability of oil markets and the growth of the global economy,” the statement said.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference…Prices to high! He has agreed!

It added that there also was an understanding that oil-producing countries would need “to compensate for any potential shortage of supplies.” It did not elaborate.

Oil prices have edged higher as the Trump administration has pushed allies to end all purchases of oil from Iran following the US pulling out of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Prices also have risen with ongoing unrest in Venezuela and fighting in Libya over control of that country’s oil infrastructure.

Last week, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel led by Saudi Arabia and non-cartel members agreed to pump 1 million barrels more crude oil per day, a move that should help contain the recent rise in global energy prices. However, summer months in the US usually lead to increased demand for oil, pushing up the price of gasoline in a midterm election year. A gallon of regular gasoline sold on average in the US for $2.85, up from $2.23 a gallon last year, according to AAA.

If Trump’s comments are accurate, oil analyst Phil Flynn said it could immediately knock $2 or $3 off a barrel of oil. But he said it’s unlikely that decrease could sustain itself as demand spikes, leading prices to rise by wintertime.

“We’ll need more oil down the road and there’ll be nowhere to get it,” said Flynn, of the Price Futures Group. “This leaves the world in kind of a vulnerable state.”

Other analysts were more doubtful about immediate effects.

Trump appears to be trying to “talk the market down,” said Lawrence Goldstein, who directs the Energy Policy Research Foundation. He questioned whether Trump’s words would do anything to reverse the effects on the market of declining Iranian oil production. He also noted it always takes at least two months before a change in shipping commitments affects the market.

Trump’s aim may be to exert maximum pressure on Iran while at the same time not upsetting potential US midterm voters with higher gas prices, said Antoine Halff, a Columbia University researcher and former chief oil analyst for the International Energy Agency.

“The Trump support base is probably the part of the US electorate that will be the most sensitive to an increase in US gasoline prices,” Halff said.

Trump’s comments came Saturday as global financial markets were closed. Brent crude stood at $79.42 a barrel, while US benchmark crude was at $74.15.

Saudi Arabia currently produces some 10 million barrels of crude oil a day. Its record is 10.72 million barrels a day. Trump’s tweet offered no timeframe for the additional 2 million barrels — whether that meant per day or per month.

However, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told journalists in India on Monday that the state oil company has spare capacity of 2 million barrels of oil a day. That was after Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the kingdom would honor the OPEC decision to stick to a 1-million-barrel increase.

“Saudi Arabia obviously can deliver as much as the market would need, but we’re going to be respectful of the 1-million-barrel cap — and at the same time be respectful of allocating some of that to countries that deliver it,” al-Falih said then.

The Trump administration has been counting on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to supply enough oil to offset the lost Iranian exports and prevent oil prices from rising sharply. But broadcasting its requests on Twitter with a number that stretches credibility opens a new chapter in US-Saudi relations, Halff said.

“Saudis are used to US requests for oil,” Halff said. “They’re not used to this kind of public messaging. I think the difficulty for them is to distinguish what is a real ask from what is public posturing.”

The administration has threatened close allies such as South Korea with sanctions if they don’t cut off Iranian imports by early November. South Korea accounted for 14 percent of Iran’s oil exports last year, according to the US Energy Department.

China is the largest importer of Iranian oil with 24 percent, followed by India with 18 percent. Turkey stood at 9 percent and Italy at 7 percent.

The State Department has said it expects the “vast majority” of countries will comply with the US request.