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The Latest: Erdogan, Putin talk economic ties as lira falls

August 10, 2018


Adem Altan | AFP | Getty Images – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin last April.

By The Associated Press ANKARA, Turkey — Aug 10, 2018, 10:08 AM ET

Source Link: The Latest: Erdogan, Putin talk economic ties as lira falls

{Note: The original article in this post has disappeared from CNBC and it’s affiliates…strange. I guess it was just an update, but the title was changed as well. – LS}

{Turkey runs to Putin for help. Good luck with that. – LS}

The Latest on Turkey’s financial turmoil (all times local):

5:10 p.m.

Turkish officials say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin during which they discussed economic ties between the two countries.

Officials from Erdogan’s office said the two on Friday “expressed pleasure” that economic and financial ties between their countries were progressing “positively” and of the continued cooperation in the defense industry and energy. The officials provided the information only on condition of anonymity according to protocol.

It was an apparent reference to Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems. Russia is also building a nuclear power plant.

The news of the conversation came shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump said he had authorized the doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs “with respect to Turkey,” causing the Turkish currency to plunge further against the dollar.

———

4:15 p.m.

In a bid to ease investor concerns about Turkey’s economic policy, the country’s finance minister says the government will safeguard the independence of the central bank.

Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak on Friday also vowed sustainable and healthy economic growth as well as “strong struggle” against inflation, which currently stands at close to 16 percent.

Albayrak was speaking at a conference where he outlined his ministry’s “new economic policy” as the currency plunged, raising questions about the country’s financial stability.

He said: “One of our principles will be ensuring the full independence of monetary policy.”

Investors are worried about the president’s unorthodox economic policies, pressure exerted on the central bank, and a dispute with the United States that has led to sanctions.

———

4:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he’s just authorized the doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs “with respect to Turkey.”

Trump says via tweet that the tariff on aluminum imports will be increased to 20 percent and the tariff on steel imports will be raised to 50 percent as the Turkish Lira “slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!”

Trump is also declaring that, “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”

The United States slapped sanctions on two Turkish officials earlier this month over a detained American pastor who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges.

Turkey vowed retaliation “without delay” and warned the move would further harm relations between the two allies.

Trump’s tweet caused a further drop in the Turkish currency, which is now down 13 percent on the day.

———

3:05 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is appealing for calm as the country’s currency plunges, urging people to change foreign money into local lira.

The lira tumbled about 10 percent on Friday to another record low as investors worry about Erdogan’s unorthodox economic policies and U.S. sanctions.

Erdogan said during an address to supporters: “Change the euros, the dollars and the gold that you are keeping beneath your pillows into lira at our banks. This is a domestic and national struggle.”

He appeared to blame foreigners for trying to hurt Turkey, saying: “This will be my people’s response against those waging an economic war against us.”

The lira fell further as Erdogan spoke.

———

2:15 p.m.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government “will not lose the economic war.”

Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and other media reports quote Erdogan as making the comment to a group of worshippers following traditional Muslim Friday prayers during a visit to the northern city of Bayburt.

On Friday, the Turkish currency plunged to another record low amid concerns over Erdogan’s unorthodox economic policies and a diplomatic row with the United States that has led to sanctions.

The lira hit a record low of 6.24 per dollar on Friday, before recovering to 5.96, down more than 7 percent on the day.

———

12:05 p.m.

An analyst at Berenberg bank in London is downplaying the risks to Europe’s economy from Turkey’s currency turmoil, saying the impact on trade would be small.

European economist Carsten Hesse said Friday that even if the export of goods to Turkey falls 20 percent that would take no more than 0.1 percentage point from annual GDP in the 19 countries that use the euro currency.

He cautioned that a banking crisis in Turkey could have “some negative repercussions” on eurozone banks that loaned money there or own Turkish banks. But he said that the possible losses seem “too small to cause a significant eurozone crisis.”

Hesse noted that business confidence in the eurozone did not suffer after Turkey’s economy contracted in 2016 in the wake of a failed coup there.

———

11:40 a.m.

The euro sagged to a 13-month low against the dollar amid worries about the impact of financial market turmoil in Turkey.

The 19-country currency fell 0.7 percent to trade at $1.1450 in morning trading in Europe. The dollar, which traders buy in times of financial concern, was up against most other currencies.

The euro’s fall comes as investors try to come to grips with how big a threat the troubles in Turkey might pose for the currency union. Turkey’s currency sagged to an all-time low Friday amid doubts about the country’s economic management and souring ties with the United States.

The Financial Times added to concerns with a report that the European Central Bank was worried about possible losses at eurozone banks operating in Turkey. European officials also rely on a deal with Turkey to restrain migrant flows in return for aid.

———

11:20 a.m.

The Turkish currency has plunged to an all-time low amid concerns over the president’s economies policies persisted and as a dispute with the United States showed no sign of subsiding.

The lira hit a record low of 6.24 per dollar on Friday, before recovering to 5.94, down 7 percent on the day. The currency has fallen 66 percent since the start of the year.

High level meetings in Washington between U.S. and Turkish officials over a detained American pastor ended this week without an apparent resolution. Washington imposed financial sanctions on two Turkish ministers and warned of additional measures.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday portrayed the currency drop as a “campaign” to harm Turkey.

He said: “If they have their dollar, we have the people, we have Allah.”

Turkey lira crashes to new lows as market alarm grows

August 10, 2018


© AFP | The lira’s drastic fall has European banks worried

10 August 2018 – 13H20 France 24

Source Link: Turkey lira crashes to new lows as market alarm grows

{Trump drops another economic bomb. – LS}

ISTANBUL (AFP) –

Turkey’s embattled lira on Friday hit new record lows against the US dollar and euro, losing over six percent in value as strains with the United States showed no sign of abating and fears grew over the exposure of European banks.

The lira was trading at 5.90 to the dollar, a loss on the day of 6.5 percent. Earlier, it had crashed some 12 percent through the 6.00 level for the first time in history, trading at one point at more than 6.20 lira per dollar.

The lira has now lost over a third of its value against both the dollar and the euro this year, with the currency battered by both concerns over domestic economic policy and the political situation.

Versus the euro on Friday the lira lost 7.0 percent to trade at 6.8.

Turkey remains at loggerheads with the United States in one of the worst spats between the two NATO allies in years over the detention for the last two years of American pastor Andrew Brunson and a host of other issues.

Talks this week in Washington failed to resolve the impasse which has led both sides to slap sanctions on senior officials amid fears of graver measures to come.

– Doubts over central bank –

Meanwhile, markets are deeply concerned over the direction of economic policy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with inflation nearly 16 percent but the central bank reluctant to raise rates in response.

UBS chief economist for EMEA emerging markets Gyorgy Kovacs said a giant rate hike of 350-400 basis points would be “consistent with real rate levels that in the past helped to stabilise the currency.”

He warned a “rate hike alone might not stem the worries about the US and Turkey tensions and a potential further escalation.”

And it remains unclear if the bank would be willing to sharply lift rates with analysts saying the nominally independent institution is under the influence of Erdogan, who wants low rates to keep growth humming.

Erdogan after winning June 24 elections with revamped powers tightened his control over the central bank and appointed his son-in-law Berat Albayrak to head a newly-empowered finance ministry.

“President Erdogan’s strengthened powers under the new presidential system have made it increasingly uncertain whether policymakers will be able to act to stabilise the economy,” said William Jackson, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London.

He said the lira’s fall was being exacerbated by fears the central bank “isn’t being permitted to raise interest rates”.

– ‘Accelerating speed’ –

Concerns were intensified Friday by a report in the Financial Times that the supervisory wing of the European Central Bank (ECB) had over the last weeks began to look more closely at euro zone lenders’ exposure to Turkey.

The report said that the situation is not yet seen as “critical” but Spain’s BBVA, Italy’s UniCredit and France’s BNP Paribas are regarded as particularly exposed.

“Investors have been looking at the unfolding currency crisis in Turkey as a local difficulty, however the accelerating speed of the declines appears to be raising concerns about European banks exposure to the Turkish banking system,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Albayrak, who formerly served as energy minister, is on Friday expected to announce what he has described as a “new economic model” for Turkey but markets remain sceptical.

The president did nothing to reassure markets with comments overnight that the pressure on the lira was due to what he described as a “variety of campaigns” and appearing to play down the magnitude of the crisis.

“If they have dollars, we have our people, we have our right and we have Allah!” he said.

The plunge in the lira has featured remarkably little on Turkish television channels and newspapers — most of which after recent ownership changes are loyal to the government — with most media focusing instead on recent flooding by the Black Sea.

© 2018 AFP

Residents of rocket-hit town describe scramble to reach safety of bomb shelters

August 9, 2018

‘You have to choose which of your children you save,’ says a mother of 7 in the southern town of Sderot


Illustrative. Children are seen in a bomb shelter of an apartment building in Ashkelon, southern Israel, on the third day of Operation Protective Edge, July 10, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

By TOI staff August 9, 2018

Source Link: Residents of rocket-hit town describe scramble to reach safety of bomb shelters

{No one should have to live like this. – LS}

Residents of the southern town of Sderot described Thursday the desperate dash to safety as 150 rockets, fired overnight from the Gaza Strip rained down on southern Israel, including one barrage that slammed into the city injuring several people.

There are no more than 15 seconds from the moment the rocket warning siren sounds until a projectile impacts on the city, during which residents have to get themselves — and their families — into bomb shelters or reinforced rooms in their homes.

Volleys of rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night and into Thursday prompting the Israeli Air Force to bomb at least 12 Hamas positions across the Gaza Strip, the military said.

Sderot resident Etti Kramer told Hadashot TV news how she and her husband dashed to get their seven children into their family’s reinforced room as they heard explosions around them.

“I ran and grabbed the baby,” she said. “The rest of the children ran [to the reinforced room] but didn’t arrive in time. We started to hear explosions and we continued getting the children into the reinforced room. You have to choose which of your children you save. I grabbed the baby and the two-year old and ran to the shelter.”

Another resident, Yossi Lok, recounted how his neighbor was injured by a rocket which their apartment building.

Lok said he had retreated to his reinforced room after the rocket siren alert when off.

“I heard a huge explosion and saw a flash of fire,” he said. “The neighbor cried out that he’d been hit. I came downstairs and saw him really badly hurt, covered in blood. His home was on fire because his gas canister had been hit.”

Residents of the southern town of Sderot described Thursday the desperate dash to safety as 150 rockets, fired overnight from the Gaza Strip rained down on southern Israel, including one barrage that slammed into the city injuring several people.

There are no more than 15 seconds from the moment the rocket warning siren sounds until a projectile impacts on the city, during which residents have to get themselves — and their families — into bomb shelters or reinforced rooms in their homes.

Volleys of rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night and into Thursday prompting the Israeli Air Force to bomb at least 12 Hamas positions across the Gaza Strip, the military said.

Sderot resident Etti Kramer told Hadashot TV news how she and her husband dashed to get their seven children into their family’s reinforced room as they heard explosions around them.

“I ran and grabbed the baby,” she said. “The rest of the children ran [to the reinforced room] but didn’t arrive in time. We started to hear explosions and we continued getting the children into the reinforced room. You have to choose which of your children you save. I grabbed the baby and the two-year old and ran to the shelter.”

Another resident, Yossi Lok, recounted how his neighbor was injured by a rocket which their apartment building.

Lok said he had retreated to his reinforced room after the rocket siren alert when off.

“I heard a huge explosion and saw a flash of fire,” he said. “The neighbor cried out that he’d been hit. I came downstairs and saw him really badly hurt, covered in blood. His home was on fire because his gas canister had been hit.”

“We were afraid that there would be more explosions,” he said. “We all got away from there.”

Lok said his home was also hit, a rocket landing on his roof.

“It was lucky there were no residents in the unit,” he said.

“We were with the kids,” resident Asher Pizam told Hadashot. “There was hysteria and pandemonium. We heard a whistle and a hit after several sirens. There was a lot of stress and panic, especially with the children…We hope the government does all it can so we have quiet here.”

In video shared on social media, dozens of parents and children in a Sderot playground could be seen running for bomb shelters as a rocket exploded in the city sending smoke billowing into the air.

One mother can be heard desperately seeking her son, while at the same time trying to calm a young girl by assuring her that there would no more rockets. Children and parents crammed into overcrowded shelters, with some crouching on the ground outside, as they tried to find safety.

Hanita Kohanik, a resident of the city which has suffered rocket fire from Gaza since 2001, spoke to the Hebrew-language Ynet website about the traumatic day-to-day life in the south.

“It is terrible,” Kohanik said. “There is nothing more I can say. It isn’t easy. We are a family of four and a dog, which gets more confused that we do.”

“As far as we are concerned each time the security situation deteriorates — the anxieties resurface,” she continued

Her son, she said, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, and doesn’t leave home.

“The intermittent and sporadic fire are a daily war,” Kohanik said.

One rocket — or possibly shrapnel from an Iron Dome interceptor — damaged a home in Sderot late Wednesday night, police said. At least two rockets struck the city earlier in the day, injuring three people. Two more were injured in attacks Thursday morning. At least eight others were treated for panic attacks, including two pregnant women who went into labor.

Wave after wave of rocket attacks set off sirens throughout the night in the Hof Ashkelon, Sha’ar Hanegev, Sdot Negev and Eshkol regions outside Gaza, sending thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters, where many bedded down with their families.

The rocket attacks came amid a period of heightened tensions along the Gaza border, following months of clashes and exchanges of fire. On Tuesday, Hamas vowed to avenge the deaths of two of its members killed by IDF tank fire after the army mistakenly thought a military exercise had been a cross-border attack.

At least 11 rockets or mortar shells were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the army said.

Hamas claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks, saying it was avenging the deaths of the two operatives killed the day before.

The United Nations condemned the Hamas rocket fire.

One Palestinian man was reportedly killed in the strike, 30-year-old Ali al-Ghandour was killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

In addition to al-Ghandour, at least six other Palestinians were injured in the Gaza Strip as a result of the IDF strikes, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The Israeli military said the terror group, with which it was fought three wars in the past decade, would bear the consequences of any further violence from the Gaza Strip.

Residents of southern Israel were told to remain close to bomb shelters Thursday in case of additional rockets or mortar shells from Gaza.

Wednesday’s rocket fire represented a major uptick in tensions along the border, amid intensive talks between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire.

Such an agreement is meant to end not only rocket launches and shootings from Gaza but also the regular incendiary kite and balloon attacks from the Palestinian enclave that have burned large swaths of land in southern Israel and caused millions of shekels of damage.

Throughout Wednesday, at least 11 fires were sparked in southern Israel by airborne arson devices launched from the Gaza Strip. Israeli firefighters extinguished all of them, according to a spokesperson for Fire and Rescue Services.

Adam Rasgon and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Iran sanctions: Trump warns trading partners

August 7, 2018

By BBC News Staff – August 7, 2018

Source Link: Iran sanctions: Trump warns trading partners

Time is running out for Iran and waiting for the next US presidential election is not an option. – LS}

US President Donald Trump has issued a strong warning to anyone trading with Iran, following his re-imposition of sanctions on the country.

“Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States,” the president tweeted.

Some re-imposed sanctions took effect overnight and tougher ones relating to oil exports will begin in November.

Iran’s president said the measures were “psychological warfare” which aimed to “sow division among Iranians”.

The sanctions follow the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, earlier this year.

The deal, negotiated during the presidency of Barack Obama, saw Iran limit its controversial nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Mr Trump has called the deal “one-sided”, “disastrous” and the “worst I’ve ever seen”. He believes renewed economic pressure will force Iran to agree to a new deal.

The European Union, which remains committed to the original agreement, has spoken out against the sanctions, vowing to protect firms doing “legitimate business” with Iran.

What else did Mr Trump say in his latest tweet?

He praised the “most biting sanctions ever imposed” and said they would “ratchet up to another level” in November.

“I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!” he said.

On Monday he had said that Iran faced a choice to “either change its threatening, destabilising behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation”.

“I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile programme and its support for terrorism,” he said.

What are the sanctions?

Mr Trump signed an executive order that brought sanctions back into place at 00:01 EDT (04:01 GMT) on Tuesday. They target:

  • The purchase or acquisition of US banknotes by Iran’s government
  • Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals
  • Graphite, aluminium, steel, coal and software used in industrial processes
  • Transactions related to the Iranian rial currency
  • Activities relating to Iran’s issuance of sovereign debt
  • Iran’s automotive sector

A second phase is planned to come back into effect on 5 November which will have implications for Iran’s energy and shipping sectors, petroleum trading and transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.

What has the reaction been?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the US government had “turned their back on diplomacy”.

“They want to launch psychological warfare against the Iranian nation.” he said. “Negotiations with sanctions doesn’t make sense. We are always in favour of diplomacy and talks… but talks need honesty.”

The foreign ministers of Germany, the UK and France released a statement on Monday that said the nuclear deal remained “crucial” to global security.

They also unveiled a “blocking statute”, which is intended to protect European firms doing business with Iran despite the new US sanctions.

Alistair Burt, the UK’s minister of state for the Middle East, told the BBC: “If a company fears legal action taken against it and enforcement action taken against it by an entity in response to American sanctions, then that company can be protected as far as EU legislation is concerned.”

He said Iran would simply “batten down the hatches” until the next US election.

However, German car and lorry maker Daimler, which announced a joint venture in Iran last year, confirmed this week that it has now ceased activities in the country.

How will Iran’s economy be affected?

Iran has already seen unrest since last December over a poorly-performing economy.

Rising food prices, unemployment and even poor water supplies have led to protests in a number of cities.

Demonstrations in Tehran in June were said to be the capital’s biggest since 2012.

How much they are tied to the new US sanctions policy is hard to determine, but one definite link is the effect on Iran’s currency. It lost around half of its value after Mr Trump announced the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

Iran acted by easing its foreign exchange rules on Sunday, and the rial has strengthened by 20% since then.

Iranians have been hoarding gold as a safeguard, pushing it to a record high in Tehran.

The sanctions may bite hardest in November, when the US blocks Iranian oil sales.

This could halt about half of Iran’s exports of some two million barrels a day, although Iran may look to China and Russia to keep its industry afloat.

The International Monetary Fund said in March that Iran’s net official reserves could decline this year to $97.8bn, which would finance about 13 months of imports. And analysts at BMI Research say Iran’s economy could contract by 4.3% in 2019.

However, Barbara Slavin, of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told the Wall Street Journal that when sanctions hit hard, it often means ordinary people become “totally dependent” on their government and so sanctions do not tend to topple regimes.

What do young Iranians think

As the first tranche of new US sanctions kicks in, young Iranians have been sharing their stories with BBC Persian. Many are already feeling the effects, as the economy had slowed down in anticipation of what was to come.

“I used to work in marketing for a home appliance manufacturer,” said Peyman. “I lost my job as the company can’t import the components.”

Aerospace engineer Ali lost his job of 13 years because his company couldn’t import equipment.

“Now I’m working as a taxi driver to feed my family,” he said. Many people say they’re no longer being paid on time and are finding it hard to make ends meet.

A construction worker, also called Ali, said he hadn’t been paid for 13 months. Omid, a doctor, was doing overtime to pay the rent and save up to get married.

Many people said they were losing hope. Sama said falling exchange rates meant her monthly salary was now worth half what it was six months ago.

“Buying a house or a nice car is like a dream now, she said. “Even buying a good mobile phone soon will be impossible for people like me.”

Caroline Glick: Trump’s Offer to Talk to Iran Was Shrewd Move in Complicated Showdown

August 3, 2018

By Caroline Glick – August 2, 2018 Breitbart

Source Link: Caroline Glick: Trump’s Offer to Talk to Iran Was Shrewd Move in Complicated Showdown

Sowing the seeds of discontent. – LS}

President Donald Trump’s offer Monday to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani caught senior administration officials as well as U.S. allies off guard. Many wondered what Trump could possibly be thinking.

Trump’s offer needs to be seen in the context of events in Iran. Iran is in the throes of rapidly growing, country-wide protests which may be the largest it has seen since the 1979 revolution. And worse is yet to come.

Beginning next week, U.S. will begin reimposing sanctions suspended by the Obama administration. Iran’s economy, already in a tailspin, stands a good chance of collapsing.

Trump made his offer in the context of an overall U.S. policy towards the Iranian regime. That policy was set out explicitly by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech in May and in another last month.

In May, Pompeo told an audience at the Heritage Institute that the U.S. sanctions against Iran would remain in place until the regime abided by twelve U.S. demands. The major demands require Iran to end all of its nuclear activities and come clean about its past nuclear operations; end its sponsorship of terrorism regionally and worldwide; respect the human and civil rights of the Iranian people; and end the aggression it is carrying out against its neighbors both directly and through its terror proxies.

In July, Pompeo spoke explicitly in favor of the Iranian people now protesting against the regime. He signaled clearly that the U.S. supports efforts by the Iranian people to overthrow the regime in Tehran.

So when Trump offered to meet with Rouhani without preconditions, it did not mean that he does not expect Iran to change its behavior. It meant that he was willing to meet with Rouhani while leading a policy whose goal is the fundamental transformation of Iran (to borrow a phrase from Barack Obama).

Trump would be happy if that transformation comes in the framework of a massive change in regime behavior. He would also be happy if it comes through a revolution that overthrows the regime.

As for the Iranians, their behavior in recent days probably gave Trump reason to believe they may be desperate enough to at least consider the former option.

On Sunday, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council reportedly decided to free the country’s two top political prisoners from house arrest.

Hossein Karroubi, the son of Mehdi Karroubi, told the Kalameh website in Iran that the council had decided to free his father and Mir Hossain Mousavi from house arrest. The two have been confined to their homes since 2009, when they led the Green Revolution in the wake of Iran’s 2009 presidential elections. The two men each won far more votes than the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But in a mark of the regime’s contempt for the public, and for the very concept of democracy, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner. The mass countrywide protests that followed the stolen election represented the gravest threat the regime faced since the 1979 revolution.

To save itself, the regime sent its Basij paramilitary forces into the crowds of hundreds of thousands of protesters that gathered throughout the country demanding its overthrow. The Basij forces brutally repressed the protesters. Mousavi, his wife, and Karroubi were confined to their homes. Then President Obama, who was keen to reach an accord with the regime, refused to back the protesters.

The regime’s decision to free its top political prisoners is not a sign that it is willing to admit its crimes or make amends to the Iranian public. It is a sign of desperation.

With each passing day, the size of the crowds in the streets protesting against the regime, and the number of cities in Iran that are experiencing major protests, grows. The slogans they shout are not limited to demands that the regime bear down on corrupt officials and lower inflation. Protesters are calling for the overthrow of the regime.

Throughout the country, protesters are calling out, “Death to the Dictator,” meaning “supreme leader” Ali Khamenei. In Isfahan on Tuesday, protesters shouted out, “Reza Shah, may your soul and spirit be happy!”

Reza Shah was the founder of the dynasty that was overturned in the 1979 Islamic revolution. It is also the name of the Shah’s son in exile.

Protesters also insisted that they are done with the regime as a whole. They called for the death of both “reformists,” and “hardliners.”

As for Mousavi and Karroubi’s announced release, although the movement they led in the wake of the 2009 presidential election morphed into an attempted revolution that was brutally suppressed, Mousavi and Karroubi are not revolutionaries themselves. They are reformists deeply embedded in the regime.

In the 1980s, Moussavi served as prime minister and foreign minister, and Karroubi served as speaker of the parliament.

Khamenei and his advisors no doubt view the two men as a bridge to the protesters in the streets, who can moderate their demands and so stabilize the regime. But the fact that the protesters are now insisting there is no distinction between reformers like Mousavi and Karroubi and hardliners like Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Al Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani indicates that the regime may be a day late and a dollar short.

It isn’t just that the protesters want revolution and not reform. They also want America. They hate the regime more than they hate the United States.

In Karaj, outside Tehran, anti-regime protesters were filmed shouting, “Our enemy is here, they are lying when they say it is America.”

Under the circumstances, attempts by regime officials to blame Iran’s economic problems on the U.S. are doomed. After failing to convince the Europeans to bypass U.S. sanctions, the only way the regime can save even a semblance of a normal economy is to beat a path to Washington.

And so, over the past week, Suleimani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif beat a path to Muscat, Oman, in the hopes of working something out. Muscat served as a mediator between the Tehran regime and the Obama administration in the early stages of their contacts, so it was a natural place for the Iranians to turn to renew contacts with Washington today.

Immediately after his meetings with Zarif and Suleimani, Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah flew to Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The Iranians deny that they are using Oman as a mediator. But the confluence of meetings makes it difficult to accept their claims. It is all the more difficult to take their position seriously when Trump made his offer to meet with Rouhani during bin Abdullah’s visit to Washington.

This, then brings us to the purpose of Trump’s offer, and what it tells us about Trump’s view of how to achieve the American goal of fundamentally transforming the regime — either by coercing it to abide by Pompeo’s twelve conditions or by supporting a popular revolution.

Only time will tell if Zarif’s and Suleimani’s attempts to open channels of communication with Washington signalled regime willingness to consider such a transformation. The fact that Pompeo repeated the U.S. position on CNBC after Trump made his offer for talks suggests that the administration thus far has not been lured by the regime into changing its policy.

Although the media portrayed Pompeo’s statement as contradicting Trump’s assertion that there are no preconditions for negotiations, Pompeo simply restated the administration’s position when he told CNBC that the Iranians need to accept the basic parameters of the U.S. position set out in his speech at the Heritage Institute as a basis for negotiations.

One of the things that distinguishes Trump from Obama, as well as from George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, is how he views negotiations. When his predecessors sought diplomatic channels with Iran and North Korea, they willingly discarded all the other levers of statecraft, including military and economic pressure.

The Bush administration took North Korea off the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism and withdrew economic sanctions on Pyongyang. Clinton provided North Korea with fuel and food. The Bush administration downplayed Iran’s role in fomenting and maintaining the insurgency against U.S. forces in Iran and Afghanistan, and Iran’s role in the September 11 attacks. And Obama gave Iran an open road to regional hegemony in the Middle East through a host of economic, military, and political concessions at the expense of U.S. allies and interests throughout the Middle East.

Trump, in contrast, uses diplomacy in tandem with economic and military pressure to foment a change in behavior in his opponents. As Breitbart News’ Joel Pollak explained, the difference between Trump’s offer to negotiate with the Iranians and Obama’s offer to negotiate with them is that Trump’s offer was made from a position of strength while Obama’s offer was made from a position of weakness.

If Trump senses that the Iranians are willing to make a deal along the lines set out by Pompeo — that is, if the regime is willing to agree to curtail its sponsorship of terror and mayhem and end its nuclear program without war — he would be a fool not to pursue it. Assuming he handles them properly, if the talks fail, the Iranian public will be more than willing to blame the regime.

That said, there are two major risks to holding negotiations. First, the Iranian people may view such negotiations as a signal that the U.S. will sell them out. To mitigate that risk, it is imperative that any talks be conducted publicly. The regime will use secret channels as a means to signal that like the Obama administration, the Trump White House supports it against the Iranian public.

The second risk is not unique to discussions with Iran, but is a risk in all negotiations between Western democracies and authoritarian tyrannies.

All negotiations have a tendency to create a dynamic in which reaching a deal – any deal – becomes more important than achieving the goals that brought the parties to the negotiating table in the first place. Western leaders, who are subject to media scrutiny and election pressures, are more susceptible to the pressure to achieve a deal than leaders of dictatorial regimes like those in Iran and North Korea.

As a consequence, the dynamic of negotiations works against the interests of the Western powers and favors the interests of the authoritarians they face at the table. In the current context of U.S.-Iranian relations, we will know that we should be concerned about this dynamic if and when the administration diminishes its public support for the anti-regime protesters in Iran.

On Wednesday, U.S. Central Command warned that Iran is about to launch a massive military exercise in the Straits of Hormuz. Suleimani and other regime leaders have threatened repeatedly in recent weeks to seal the maritime choke point through which 20 percent of world oil shipments transit if the U.S. blocks Iranian oil exports.

This Iranian move, like the missiles its Houthi proxies shot at two Saudi oil tankers in the Bab el Mandab choke point in the Red Sea least week, shows that the Iranians also know how to talk and shoot at the same time.

Obviously, it is too early to know where Trump’s offer will lead. But what is clear enough is that Trump’s offer to negotiate with Iran is no fluke. It is a shrewd, albeit high-risk move made in a complex and highly dynamic and dangerous standoff between the U.S. and its allies — and a lethal, menacing regime whose back is up against the wall.

Caroline Glick is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.

Israel will join coalition against Iran if it blocks Red Sea, PM warns

August 2, 2018


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the naval officers’ graduation in Haifa, Wednesday

If Iran blocks Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which leads into Red Sea, it will face international coalition that includes “all of Israel’s military branches,” PM Netanyahu says • Defense Minister Lieberman: Israel has “heard of threats to harm Israeli ships.”

Lilach Shoval, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

Source Link: Israel will join coalition against Iran if it blocks Red Sea, PM warns

{Wow! It appears the days when Israel was asked to step aside are finally over. – LS}

Israel would deploy its military as part of an international coalition to stop an attempt by Iran to block the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that leads into the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday.

“If Iran tries to block the strait of Bab el-Mandeb, I am certain that it will find itself confronting an international coalition that will be determined to prevent this, and this coalition will also include all of Israel’s military branches,” Netanyahu said. He was speaking at a graduation parade for new Israeli Navy officers in Haifa.

Last week, Saudi Arabia said it was suspending oil shipments through the strategic strait after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two ships in the waterway.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a three-year-old proxy war in Yemen, which lies on one side of Bab el-Mandeb.

Yemen’s Houthis, who have previously threatened to block the strait, said last week they had the naval capability to hit Saudi ports and other Red Sea targets.

Iran has not threatened to block Bab el-Mandeb but has said it will block the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, if it is prevented from exporting oil.

Speaking at a separate event, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel had “recently heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea.” He gave no additional details.

Ships mainly from Asia pass through Bab el-Mandeb heading for Eilat in Israel. Ships also pass through the strait heading for Aqaba in Jordan and some Saudi destinations, as well as to continue on through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea.

The strait is just 29 kilometers (18 miles) wide, making hundreds of ships potentially an easy target. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said an estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and products flowed through it in 2016.

Israel has previously attacked Iranian forces in Syria and has insisted that they leave Syria completely. They have withdrawn to a distance of 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the Israeli Golan Heights, Russia’s special envoy to Syria said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, senior Iranian officials and military commanders on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer of talks without preconditions as worthless and “a dream,” saying his words contradict his actions in reimposing sanctions on Iran.

Israeli officials dismissed allegations that the declaration caught Israel by surprise.

Iran’s currency plummeted to new depths on Monday, dropping below 120,000 rials to the dollar, but Trump’s expressed willingness to negotiate with Iran sparked a minor recovery on Tuesday to 110,000 rials on the unofficial market.

Videos on social media showed hundreds of people rallying in Isfahan in central Iran, and Karaj near Tehran, in protest against high prices caused in part by the rial’s devaluation under heightened U.S. pressure.

Crane: Iran’s ‘Chicken Dance’ on the High Seas Looks Very Similar to the One on Twitter

August 2, 2018

By Eli Crane – August 1, 2018 Breitbart

Source Link: Crane: Iran’s ‘Chicken Dance’ on the High Seas Looks Very Similar to the One on Twitter

{Sink an Iranian ‘fast boat’ and see what happens…probably not much. – LS}

Threatening rhetorical exchanges on Twitter have once again inflamed tensions between Iran and the United States. In tone and effectiveness, Iran’s false bravado on social media reminds me of my personal experience with threatening Iranian naval behavior in the Strait of Hormuz.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani boldly cautioned American President Donald Trump, saying, “Mr. Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret” and suggesting that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

President Trump fired back that Tehran would face very serious consequences, “the likes of which few throughout history have suffered before,” if further threats were made against the United States.

I don’t believe this major Twitter fight is a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention since the introduction of then-candidate Trump and his campaign promise to pull out of the horrible nuclear deal struck by President Obama and reinstate a hard line with the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism.

Iran’s behavior, meanwhile, follows years of a policy to threaten and bully as far as their enemies will allow. I have personally witnessed this kind of Iranian false bravado and posturing followed by immediate retreat on a much smaller scale in the Strait of Hormuz many years ago.

My first experience with the “Iranian chicken dance” occurred in 2003 while a gunner’s mate 2nd class on board the USS Gettysburg (CG-64). It was my first overseas deployment. I’ll never forget the mission brief before our first transit into the gulf. We were told by the weapons officer that we would most likely see a swarm of small, fast Iranian attack craft heading full steam for the battle group as we made our way through the strait, but that they would most likely reverse course and retreat back to their coast before intercepting and engaging our warships.

We were told that we were cleared to fire warning shots if the enemy craft closed within 150 yards.

I thought, really? That is odd. I was brand new to the fleet and had zero exposure to any of this. My station during the transit was as the gunner on the port side twenty-five-millimeter chain gun, so I had a front-row seat for the entire show and, to be honest, the ability to stop them dead in the water. I remember hearing calls coming over coms as we got close to the tightest point in the transit alerting us that the fast attack craft were headed our way. I thought to myself, “you have got to be kidding me.”

Here we are, the most powerful Navy ever created, with several warships accompanying an aircraft carrier with enough firepower to pose a serious threat to the security of the entire Iranian regime, and they are sending a handful of speedboats armed only with crew served and handheld weapons, straight towards us in a game of suicidal chicken.

Sure enough, here they came. There were close to 30 in number and they were so small that you could see their linear wake trailing behind them long before you could spot the actual craft. They were headed straight towards us in a direct line of interdiction with our battle group. Our helicopter immediately headed out to meet them and deter them from doing something very foolish and deadly. To the disappointment of many within the crew that day, the attack boats did exactly what we were briefed they would do.

No shots were fired, nobody was wounded. They puffed out their chest, realized that we were ready for them and unwilling to change our course, and so they turned tail and I-ran back to their shores. Many U.S. sailors, airmen, and Marines have witnessed this dance fight so often that it rarely makes the news or the nightly conversation on the mess decks.

I am far from a subject matter expert on Iranian military capabilities or U.S.-Iranian relations. However, after several years in the surface fleet and close to a decade in the SEAL teams, I can tell you this: a real war with the Iranians would hardly be the mother of all wars. Quite simply, they do not have the weaponry, manpower, defense budget, or world-class training to compete with the top-ranked United States military. It would be over very shortly and, despite the tough talk and bluster by the Iranian regime this week, they are well aware of this fact, which is why an all-out war will likely never happen.

To make a comparison, the Iraqi vs. Iran war lasted 8 years and ended in a cease-fire. How long did it take the U.S. to defeat the Iraqi army in the first Gulf War? You get my point.

I can also tell you this: the episode we saw not too long ago where the Iranians boarded a U.S. vessel and held an American crew hostage will NOT happen while President Trump is our commander-in-chief. That was only a reality because the wise and very observant regime sensed weakness permeating from the Obama White House as the Middle East on fire caused by our poorly planned and telegraphed withdrawal from the region.

Never mind that shameful episode where our commander-in-chief drew a red line in the sand on national television and then did nothing when our adversaries called our bluff and danced all over it. The sleeping tiger the Japanese were afraid of waking up was found spineless, toothless, and unwilling to engage. Just like the fast boats that never attacked our battle groups during my time in the service under the leadership of George W. Bush, the Iranians will never launch a direct military assault on the U.S. under this president. With this regime, we must be mindful of indirect and covert threats.

The Iranians will continue to attack us, aka the “great Satan,” with terrorism and unconventional and cyberwarfare to avoid openly doing exactly what they warned us of, playing with the real lion’s tail. I do believe that when the dust from this international Twitter spat settles, punctuated with all caps, our citizens will once again be reminded that peace through strength works just as much today as it did under the great Ronald Reagan.

Eli Crane is the founder and CEO of Bottle Breacher, a former Navy SEAL, and a current Fox News Analyst. He is a Christian, Husband, Father, keynote speaker, contributor at entrepreneur.com, and member of the Advisory Committee Veterans Business Affairs (ACVBA).

BREAKING: Iran Begs for Meeting with President Trump

August 1, 2018

By Kevin Jackson – July 31, 2018 The Black Sphere

Source Link: BREAKING: Iran Begs for Meeting with President Trump

{Keep squeezing them until they pop. – LS}

Iran is in turmoil, and it’s due to the policies of President Donald Trump.

As one of my contacts reported,

The cities of Tehran, Shahr-e Rey, Tabriz, Qeshm, Karaj and others are witnessing store-owners closing their shops from early Monday morning, reports from sources inside the country indicate.

This new strike follows a recent nosedive of Iran’s currency, the rial, reaching 115,000 rials to the U.S. dollar. On Sunday night, a number of bazaar merchants issued statements calling on their colleagues to stage a new round of strikes. People on social media are welcoming these measures, emphasizing the status quo is no longer acceptable.

I mentioned not long ago that Iran’s currency is taking a beating. I actually saw a report that the rial was not at 115,000 to one U.S. but actually was at 230,000 to the U.S. dollar.

Simply put: President Trump has the rogue nation right where he wants them. So why not meet with Iran to teach them the art of the deal, as President Trump suggests he will do.

President Trump declared Monday that he is willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani anytime and without preconditions, saying that he believes it is always better to meet with adversaries.

“No preconditions,” Trump said of a meeting with Iranian leaders. “If they want to meet, I’ll meet. Anytime they want.”

Trump was responding to a question at a joint news conference at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Last week, tension between the United States and Iran escalated after Trump appeared to threaten military action against Iran in a tweet and Iranian officials vowed to resist any attempt to destabilize their country.

As we’ve learned with Trump, America has nothing to lose in these negotiations and everything to gain.

How pathetic is that, that America has been taken advantage of in every aspect of foreign policy. I put the blame on the previous administration, as Obama had ample opportunity to set a different course for American foreign policy and he punted the football.

Thankfully, Trump recognized the abject ignorance displayed by Obama and righted the ship. And Trump is straightening out Iran without firing a bullet.

If anybody believes the Iranian currency has devalued by 75 percent by accident, you don’t know how things work. While Donald Trump couldn’t take the blood money Obama gave Iran back, he could do something almost as good–make sure the money had no value.

So now the billions Iran received from Obama have been rendered down to millions. And given all the country’s internal woes, they will be forced to re-evaluate the amount of money the can continue to pour into Syria and elsewhere.

Meanwhile organizations like the NCRI and MEK continue to create chaos internally. Look at the trucker’s strike:

July 25, 2018 – The new round of the truck drivers’ strike entered its third consecutive day on Wednesday.

To this day a total of 85 cities in 25 provinces have joined this strike.

Truck drivers in various parts of Tehran and the cities of Isfahan, Najaf Abad, Karaj, Bandar Abbas, Saveh, Khaf, Zanjan, Semnan, Shahroud, Shiraz, Farrokhshah, Kermanshah, Kerman, Zahedan, Malayer, Khorramshahr, Khorramabad, Bojnurd, Yazd, Port Khomeini, Shahr-e Kord, Khur Mousa, Abdulkhan and dozens of other cities have truck drivers on strike.

Authorities in Kermanshah were pressuring truck drivers to end their strike, only to face stiff resistance by their part. Intelligence agents and police officers in this city began taking stripping license plates off parked trucks in order to force the drivers to end their strike. The family members of the truck drivers began protesting these illegal measures.

In Mashhad, the loading terminal station was completely empty and no truck was at the scene to deliver any goods.

Truck drivers in Isfahan were seen protesting those drivers breaking their ranks, demanding they continue their strike.

This new round of the truckers’ strike began on Monday in many cities and towns across the country. Many provinces, including Tehran, East Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, Isfahan, Fars, Semnan, Qazvin, Kerman, Kermanshah, Lorestan, Central (Tehran), Khorasan Razavi, Chahar-Mahal & Bakhtiari, Khuzestan, and Hormozgan were scenes of such strikes.

Two months ago the truckers strike lasted around two weeks, engulfing all 31 provinces of Iran. The drivers were refusing any loads and protesting their poor living conditions, low wages, high logistical costs, and vehicle leases

And what of this message from Iran’s supreme leader, threatening dissidents:

Soleimani on Thursday expressed his fear of the PMOI’s role and the President elect of the Iranian Resistance, and described US policy toward Iran as being reliant only on the PMOI and Maryam Rajavi. With this, Soleimani expressed his fear of the rising credibility of the Resistance inside and outside Iran, as well as the regime’s fear of increasing international pressure and isolation.

Furthermore, he said “We are closer to you than what you think, remember that the Quds Force and I, and not the entirety of our armed forces are your opponent. You know how powerful Iran is in unconventional wars.”

“There is not a single night that we go to bed without thinking of your destruction,” he added.

Clearly the Iranian leadership worries about what might happen next.

From this vantage point, it’s evident that things have changed in Iran. The idea of President Trump even tangentially mentioning that he will meet with Iran, signals to me that he has received back-channel communications requesting as much.

Oil to hold steady into 2019 as OPEC, U.S. compensate for supply hitches

July 31, 2018


FILE PHOTO: A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Company near Guthrie, Oklahoma September 15, 2015. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

July 31, 2018 By Sumita Layek One America News Network

Source Link:
Oil to hold steady into 2019 as OPEC, U.S. compensate for supply hitches

Bonus Link:
Tehran: Trump Wrong to Expect Saudis to Cover Loss of Iran Oil Supply

{There you have it folks. Iran’s feeble attempt to hold the world hostage with its oil is now moot. See the companion article below and in the Bonus Link. – LS}

Oil prices are likely to hold fairly steady this year and next as increased output from OPEC and the U.S. meets growing demand led by Asia and helps to offset supply disruptions from Iran and elsewhere, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.

A survey of 44 economists and analysts forecast Brent crude to average $72.87 a barrel in 2018, 29 cents higher than the $72.58 projected in the previous month’s poll and above the $71.68 average so far this year.

U.S. crude futures were seen averaging $67.32 a barrel in 2018, compared with $66.79 forecast last month and an average of $66.16 until now.

This is the 10th consecutive month in which analysts have raised their oil price forecasts.

“We expect prices will largely remain range-bound in the second half of 2018 and 2019. On the one hand, robust U.S. shale production and market concerns over the brewing U.S.-China trade war will help keep a lid on prices,” said Cailin Birch, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“On the other hand, the recent decline in global stocks will make prices more sensitive to any geopolitical risk, which will keep prices from falling significantly below current levels.”

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC countries agreed to raise supply in a meeting last month to meet rising global demand, but the group did not specify a clear target for the output increase.

Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions on Iran that will come into force later this year will force a decline in exports and help support prices, analysts said.

“The disruption to Iranian barrels will weigh on oil markets in the second half of 2018 and H1 2019 as there are few spare barrels in the market that can offset a big disruption to Iranian supplies,” said Emirates NBD commodities analyst Edward Bell.

The United States pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran in early May casting uncertainty over global oil supplies, and since then it has been preparing to work with countries to help them to cut Iran oil imports.

Analysts expect a drop of about 500,000-1 million barrels per day (bpd) in Iranian output due to the sanctions.

But they also said the ongoing global trade tensions could hurt demand.

“A trade war will slow down economic growth and demand for oil but also eventually spill over into other asset classes, mostly equities, that can have an impact on oil prices through a negative market sentiment,” Jette Jørgensen of Global Risk Management Ltd said.

Analysts continued to see Asia as the main demand driver, projecting an additional 800,000-900,000 bpd in demand this year and the next from the region.

“The market is facing different questions — Is global demand slowing due to weakening worldwide economic growth, will U.S. production keep up its incredible pace, will output in Venezuela keep plummeting, what will U.S. sanctions do to Iranian production, and is OPEC really willing to raise output up to 1 mbpd!” Frank Schallenberger, head of commodity research at LBBW, said.

Tehran: Trump Wrong to Expect Saudis to Cover Loss of Iran Oil Supply

July 31, 2018


FILE – Gas flares from an oil production platform at the Soroush oil fields in the Persian Gulf, south of Tehran, July 25, 2005.

July 31, 2018 7:13 AM Reuters

Source Link:
Tehran: Trump Wrong to Expect Saudis to Cover Loss of Iran Oil Supply

Bonus Link:
Oil to hold steady into 2019 as OPEC, U.S. compensate for supply hitches

{What a load of bull flop. Iran is overplaying their importance once again. Let that sink in for awhile and then read my next post referenced in the bonus link and shown above. Believe me when I say, Donald J. Trump has this covered. – LS}

LONDON —

Iran said on Tuesday U.S. President Donald Trump was mistaken to expect Saudi Arabia and other oil producers to compensate for supply losses caused by U.S. sanctions on Iran, after OPEC production rose only modestly in July.

The comments, from Iran’s OPEC governor, came a day after a Reuters survey showed OPEC production rose by 70,000 barrels per day in July. Saudi production increased but was offset by a decline in Iranian supply due to the restart of U.S. sanctions, the survey found.

“It seems President Trump has been taken hostage by Saudi Arabia and a few producers when they claimed they can replace 2.5 million barrels per day of Iranian exports, encouraging him to take action against Iran,” Hossein Kazempour Ardebili told Reuters. “Now they and Russia sell more oil and more expensively. Not even from their incremental production but their stocks.”

He said oil prices, which Trump has been pressuring the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to bring down by raising output, will rise unless the United States grants waivers to buyers of Iranian crude.

“They are also calling for the use of the U.S. SPR [Strategic Petroleum Reserve]. This will also mean higher prices. U.S. waivers to our clients if they come is due to the failure of bluffers [Saudi and the other producers] and, if not given, will again push the prices higher,” he said.

“So they hanged him [Trump] on the wall. Now they want to have a mega OPEC, congratulations to President Trump, Russia and Saudi Arabia.”

OPEC governors represent their respective country on the organization’s board of governors and are typically the second most senior person in a country’s OPEC delegation after the oil minister.

“The longer-term solution, Mr President, is to support and facilitate capacity building in all countries, proportionate to their reserves of oil and gas. And we will remain the biggest opportunity,” Kazempour said.