US struggles to counter Chinese maritime hegemony

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken out against China’s strategy of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, including the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers, and, more recently, the landing of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft at Woody Island. There are, Mattis warned, “consequences to China ignoring the international community.”

But what consequences? Two successive US administrations – Barack Obama’s and now Donald Trump’s – have failed to push back credibly against China’s expansionism in the South China Sea, which has accelerated despite a 2016 international arbitral tribunal ruling invalidating its territorial claims there. Instead, the US has relied on rhetoric or symbolic actions. Continue reading

China Closes The Door On Vietnam’s Oil And Gas Ambitions

offshore rig

 

As China tightens the noose over Vietnam’s ability to drill for oil and gas in its own UN-mandated 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the country is turning to solar energy and other renewables to make up for lost ground.

Over the weekend, Singapore-based Sunseap Group broke ground on Vietnam’s largest solar farm, a 168-MW project in Ninh Thuan province. The $150 million project will become operational in June 2019 and supply more than 200 kWh of electricity to the national power grid annually, Sunseap said in a statement. Continue reading

Iran: The Hollowing-Out of the Regime

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Pictured: The Iranian city of Mashhad, enveloped in a haze of air pollution. Of the 500 most polluted cities of the world, Iran with 19 cities comes fifth. (Image source: Tasnim/Wikimedia Commons)

 

  • Iran: The Hollowing-Out of the Regime The analogies with the former East Germany suggest that Iran, too, is ripe for regime change. They also suggest that a change may come in weeks, months or years, depending on chance events and particularly on whether the local authorities and their security forces, at least in some areas, get tired of killing people.
  • What is likely to push such developments forward? The answer is that the new American policy, whether by chance or intent, may be as good as anything.

On December 28, 2017, major protests against the Iranian regime broke out in Mashhad and quickly spread to numerous other urban centers. Mostly merely noisy at first, some turned violent and eventually the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) suppressed the phenomenon, killing some and arresting thousands of others. Protests have continued, but news about them is scanty. How are they to be evaluated?

There are interesting parallels with the twilight of the East German regime. By a coincidence, the Iranian regime is in its fortieth year and the East German regime suddenly collapsed just after its leaders had held a large-scale pompous celebration of its fortieth anniversary in the capital, East Berlin. Continue reading

OPEC Has Regained Its Grip On Oil Markets

OPEC

 

Higher oil prices seem to have given OPEC the confidence that it needs to begin thinking about moving forward, and with Russia in the mix as well, it appears as though the alliance will be a force to be reckoned with.

– Gasoline prices averaged $2.92 per gallon for the week ending on May 21, and have surpassed $3 per gallon in regional markets.

– The prices are the highest for the Memorial Day weekend in four years.

– However, prices are likely to fall back soon with crude oil prices plunging over the past week. Continue reading

Russia Just Won Big In The European Gas War

LNG carrier

 

There’s been a lot of talk on both sides of the Atlantic about the U.S. pivot and efforts at locking in natural as market share in Europe. Much of this comes amid President Donald Trump’s so-called American energy independence push as well as both U.S. and several EU members thrust to wean Europe off of geopolitically charged Russian gas.

In fact, Trump has pushed for U.S.-sourced LNG to become so much of the EU’s energy security that several European states, particularly Germany, have accused the president of playing energy geopolitics, cloaking American concern for European energy security under the guise and to the benefit of U.S. LNG producers.

Now, however, Trump and U.S. LNG exporters will have an even harder time convincing key EU members to offset overreliance on Russian piped gas with U.S. LNG. Continue reading

Iran’s Demands: Europe Must Guarantee It Will Buy Iranian Oil

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued five demands to the European Union (EU)—including Europe guaranteeing Iran’s oil will be completely sold—that European leaders could find quite difficult to meet.

“Iran will resume halted nuclear activities if Europe fails to provide guarantees,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, a week after the EU said that it would act to protect the interests of EU companies investing in Iran as part of the European bloc’s continued commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Continue reading

What Happens When Oil Hits $100?

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Strong demand for oil is driving prices steadily higher. And if you think it’s bad here in the U.S., imagine living in Europe.

Brent crude (which is the European crude oil benchmark) is trading for more than $80 per barrel. That’s about $8.00 per barrel higher than the price for oil here in the U.S.

The growing global economy is creating plenty of demand for oil. And of course, when demand is high, prices naturally rise. Continue reading

EU Launches Rebellion Against Trump’s Iran Sanctions, Bans European Companies From Complying

Following our discussion of Europe’s angry response to Trump’s unilateral Iran sanctions, in which European Union budget commissioner, Guenther Oettinger made it clear that Europe will not be viewed as a vassal state of the US, stating that “Trump despises weaklings. If we back down step by step, if we acquiesce, if we become a kind of junior partner of the US then we are lost”, moments ago Reuters reported that the European Commission is set to launch tomorrow the process of activating a law that bans European companies from complying with U.S. sanctions against Iran and does not recognise any court rulings that enforce American penalties.

“As the European Commission we have the duty to protect European companies. We now need to act and this is why we are launching the process of to activate the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996. We will do that tomorrow morning at 1030,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

Continue reading

EU Could Switch To Euros In Oil Trade With Iran

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The European Union (EU) is considering switching to euros instead of U.S. dollars in the oil trade with Iran, Sputnik reported on Wednesday, quoting a diplomatic source.

Iran, for its part, said as early as in mid-April that it would be switching to euros from U.S. dollars in reporting foreign currency amounts, to reduce the reliance on the dollar as it was expected that President Trump would not waive the sanctions this time around.

The EU vowed on Tuesday to seek ways to work and trade with Iran. Continue reading

Why Trump cannot merely contain Iran

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In a May 8 ceremony at the White House, President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement. (Reuters)

 

In the Middle East, the US has done more good when it helps create order and liberty than when it simply opposes bullies.

As he promised as a candidate, President Trump has taken the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The pact certainly came with potential flaws in containing Iranian weapons. Yet the withdrawal poses an even bigger issue: Will the US now bring a new order to the Middle East, one that can deal with Iran in other ways? Continue reading

Another Step Towards Collapse of Petrodollar

Note: Please see the source for currency swap agreements chart.

 

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For the past year and half a major topic throughout the alternative press has been the new Chinese oil futures contract settled/priced in yuan. The fact that China is directly challenging the Federal Reserve Note, U.S. dollar, is quiet a significant change. For those that have been paying attention this new futures oil contract is nothing more than the next step in China moving completely away from the Federal Reserve Note, and the “world reserve currency” system and towards a multi-polar world with several currencies being used for international trade. Continue reading

Germany starts to build Nord Stream 2

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Danish and Swedish permits still pending (Photo: nord-stream2.com)

 

Germany has started to pour concrete on a Russian gas pipeline that risks dividing the EU and harming its energy security.

The construction began in Lubmin, on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, on Thursday (3 May), with the laying of foundations for a terminal that will receive 55bn cubic metres (bcm) a year of Russian gas via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline when it goes online in 2020. Continue reading

Gold Leaving US Vaults: Signs of Upcoming Currency War and Armed Conflict

Gold Leaving US Vaults: Signs of Upcoming Currency War and Armed Conflict

 

The Turkish government has made the decision to repatriate all of its gold reserves that are currently housed in the US Federal Reserve System (FRS). Overall Turkey was storing 220 tonnes, valued at $25.3 billion, in the US, which it repossessed on April 19, 2018.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has toughened his stance against the US dollar (USD), declaring that international loans should be made in gold instead of the American currency. Ankara is seeking to reduce dependence on the US financial system. The gold’s homecoming was partly prompted by the US threats to impose sanctions if Turkey goes through with the signed deal to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems. Continue reading

Russia, Iran prepare multi-level response for US-led precision strike on Syria

 

Moscow acted swiftly to boost its ties with Tehran and beef up the Syrian military in reaction to the US-British-French surgical missile strike on Syria’s chemical sites on Saturday, April 12. DEBKAfile’s analysts report that when Russian and Iranian officials warned of “consequences,” they were already on the move:

  1. Saturday morning, while cruise missiles rained down on Syrian chemical sites, a Syrian-Hizballah force, backed by Russian mercenaries, renewed their push to cross the Euphrates River and snatch from US control the east Syrian Konok gas and Al-Umar oil fields. There were initial clashes with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Army (SDF). Two days earlier, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s close adviser Ali Akbar Velyati pointed the way when he told a news conference in Damascus: East of the Euphrates is “a very important area. We hope big steps will be taken in order to liberate this area and expel the occupying Americans.
  2. While media reports abounded about Moscow’s non-reprisal for the US-led attack, Moscow was quietly getting ready to confront the US and its allies. Heavy Russian strategic Tu-95 and Tu-22M bombers were deployed Thursday to air bases in Iran, thereby cutting their flying time to Syria and Iraq by at least four hours; and Russian freighters were transiting the Bosporus Straits Friday and Saturday in full sight of intelligence surveillance, laden with new military equipment for the Syrian army. Continue reading

The U.S. Should Be Reaching out to Russia — Not Risking War

 

There’s no greater villain in the world today than Vladimir Putin. He stands accused in the media and global public opinion of rigging his recent reelection, imprisoning his political enemies, murdering Russian spies turned double-agent, meddling in Western elections, seizing Crimea, destabilizing Ukraine, supporting a murderous dictator in Syria and exporting arms to terrorist nations like Iran.

The list of bad acts laid at Putin’s feet is much longer than the one just recited, but you get the idea. He’s no Mr. Nice Guy. Continue reading