Tag Archives: signals

Threat Assessment High: The Attack on Saudi Arabia's Oil Supply Signals a New Danger

Threat Assessment High: The Attack on Saudi Arabia's Oil Supply Signals a New DangerThe drone strike on Riyadh’s oil supply is a strategic turning point that has wider implications for the Middle East.



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'Nobody can stop it': Saudi oil attack signals an escalating crisis

'Nobody can stop it': Saudi oil attack signals an escalating crisisTrump is letting Riyadh decide about whether to retaliate against Iran – and if that happens, Iranians would likely raise the stakesThis satellite overview shows damage to oil and gas infrastructure from drone attacks at Haradh Gas Plant on 14 September 2019 in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty ImagesThe attack on Saudi oil facilities is the latest, most violent, example of an escalating series of gambits rival powers in the Gulf aimed at achieving their objectives by all measures short of all-out war.But the chances of avoiding such a devastating conflict diminish each time the stakes are raised.Iran has denied responsibility for the attack on an oil field and refining facility, while the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies have hesitated over the geographical origin of the air strikes. The size and sophistication of the operation however points to a state actor, and it fits a pattern in recent months of increasingly bold Iranian moves intended to raise the costs of the US campaign of maximum pressure and the Saudi war in Yemen.Until now, Iranian harassment of oil tankers traveling through the strait of Hormuz and the downing of a US surveillance drone have appeared calibrated to stop short of triggering a military response. If Iran is indeed behind Saturday’s strikes, it marks a significant step towards more reckless action by Tehran, possibly emboldened by the departure of Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, and the desperation of Iran’s economic plight.“What is clear is that the strategy of bombing Yemenis and starving Iranians into submission is more likely to backfire than bring the desired results,” said Ali Vaez, an Iran expert at the International Crisis Group. “Iran has less to lose and is less risk-averse.”Trump’s tweet about being “locked and loaded” echoed his claim the US was “cocked and loaded” to response to the downing of a US drone in June. But having agreed to launch retaliatory missile strikes then, Trump changed his mind, saying the risk of casualties made it a disproportional response.Now without Bolton at his side making the case for war, Trump appears even more cautious, trapped between not wanting to appear weak and anxious to avoid going to war in the midst of a reelection campaign. His solution to the dilemma on this occasion has been to pass the buck to Riyadh.According to Kirsten Fontenrose, former director for the Persian Gulf in the the national security council, Trump is betting Riyadh will not want to be seen declaring war.“The president knows that at the end of August when [deputy Saudi defence minister] Prince Khalid bin Salman was visiting Washington he told senior leaders at State, DoD [defence department] and the CIA that while they support economic squeezing the Iranian regime they do not support going to war. So the president knows that,” said Fontenrose, who resigned from the White House last November and is now at the Atlantic Council.“So he’s probably looking at Saudi to say no no no – let’s handle this another way. Really going towards and nobody’s interests.”Ellen Wald, a Gulf energy expert and author of a book about the Aramco oil company, Saudi, Inc, said Trump’s comments have exacerbated Riyadh’s dilemma.“It really does put a lot of pressure on the Saudi monarchy to initiate a response, potentially a military response, and that’s probably really not something that Saudi Arabia is equipped to handle. The Saudi military is is not prepared to fight a protracted war with Iran in any way,” Wald said.Meanwhile, fighting a war on behalf of Saudi regime has seldom been so unattractive in the US, following the murder of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, and Trump’s own tweeted reminder on Monday, that the US less dependent than ever on oil flows in the Gulf.However, while it may be in nobody’s interests to go to war, the political costs for not responding currently fall most heavily on the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman – and his response is unpredictable.“We’re not dealing with common sense here. We are dealing with the fact that the Saudi’s have to retaliate one way or the other one form or the other,” said Jean-Francois Seznec, a Gulf expert who teaches at Georgetown University. “Otherwise the position even of the crown prince would be seen as weak in the country and at this point doesn’t have many friends even in his own country at the higher level.”One option for Riyadh and Washington is a retaliation against a proportionate Iranian target, accompanied by much signalling that it is a limited response. However, Tehran may not see it that way.“If they retaliate, the Iranians would have to retaliate even more. And we are just in an inertia of war,” Seznec said. “We really are in that situation right now and what’s so scary is that people all agree that this is not good for anybody. But there is nobody who can stop it.”



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Iran Signals More Escalation With Warning on Gulf Violations

Iran Signals More Escalation With Warning on Gulf Violations(Bloomberg) — Iran is responsible for security in the Persian Gulf and is acting more vigorously to protect it, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, suggesting that a showdown between his country and Western powers over crucial shipping lanes could escalate.“We used to overlook some violations but no longer,” Zarif said at a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Tehran. Iran has the longest stretch of coastline with the waterway in the region and is responsible for its security, he added. The remarks indicate that Iran could step up its operations against tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important maritime chokepoint for oil, amid a confrontation with the U.S. over sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy.On Sunday, the Islamic Republic said it had impounded a third vessel last month, a small oil tanker in the Persian Gulf it suspects of smuggling fuel. Iran’s state-run Press TV reported that the ship impounded on July 31 was an Iraqi tanker, but Iraq denied that.Iran began capturing vessels two weeks after U.K. forces seized an Iranian tanker on July 4 near Gibraltar. Unraveling DealThe drama in the region’s waterways has been a dangerous sideshow to the broader confrontation that broke out last year after U.S. President Donald Trump quit the 2015 multipower nuclear deal with Iran and embarked on a crusade to bring Tehran to its knees by choking off the oil exports that are the lifeline of its economy.In response, Iran has abandoned restrictions on uranium enrichment, downed a U.S. drone and test-fired a ballistic missile. It’s also been accused of carrying out a number of attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, through which about one-third of the world’s seaborne oil passes.The U.S. administration has also imposed unprecedented sanctions against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters. Last week, it also added Zarif to its sanctions list.Zarif was asked to comment on a report in The New Yorker that he had been invited to meet with Trump in the White House last month, with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul extending the offer. He stopped short of denying the report, saying he never discloses details of his meetings.He told reporters that it was his understanding that “Mr. Trump isn’t after war,” but that National Security Adviser John Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are.Broader AccordTrump’s declared aim is to negotiate a broader accord that would address elements the original deal did not include, such as Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for militant groups in the region such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Zarif rejected the notion that the U.S. is interested in diplomacy, saying Washington can’t expect Tehran to engage in negotiations as long as it engages in “economic terrorism.”“We had hundreds of hours of negotiations with Americans,” he said. “We are not against talks, but we’ve had talks already — maybe the Americans have idle time, but we don’t.”Iran’s plan to continue scaling back its commitment to the nuclear deal is not the same as leaving it, but its next step in reducing compliance won’t be its last, Zarif added, saying the European Union “can’t cite U.S. sanctions for not meeting obligations.”European powers have been working with Iran to try to salvage the accord, but haven’t come up with a mechanism that would allow Tehran to skirt the U.S. sanctions on its oil.(Updates with additional Zarif comments from seventh paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Benjamin Harvey in Istanbul at bharvey11@bloomberg.net;Arsalan Shahla in Tehran at ashahla@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Benjamin Harvey at bharvey11@bloomberg.net, ;Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Amy TeibelFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Kellyanne Conway signals the GOP line on Mueller: He 'may be feeble'

Kellyanne Conway signals the GOP line on Mueller: He 'may be feeble'The White House counselor on Thursday endorsed a talking point that has emerged in the aftermath of the former special counsel’s testimony before Congress.



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North Korea's Kim inspects new submarine, signals possible ballistic missile development

North Korea's Kim inspects new submarine, signals possible ballistic missile developmentNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a large newly built submarine, state news agency KCNA reported on Tuesday, potentially signaling continued development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program. Kim inspected the operational and tactical data and combat weapon systems of the submarine that was built under “his special attention”, and will be operational in the waters off the east coast, KCNA said. KCNA said the submarine’s operational deployment was near.



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U.S., Iran send conflicting signals on their disputes

U.S., Iran send conflicting signals on their disputesTensions have risen since U.S. President Donald Trump last year abandoned the major powers’ nuclear deal with Iran under which Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in return for the lifting of global sanctions crippling its economy. Washington has since reimposed draconian sanctions to throttle Iran’s oil trade in a “maximum pressure” policy to force Tehran to agree stricter limits on its nuclear capacity, curb its ballistic missile program and end support for proxy forces in a regional power struggle with U.S.-backed Gulf Arabs.



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Cohen signals closer cooperation in bid to stem prison term

Cohen signals closer cooperation in bid to stem prison termNEW YORK (AP) — With prison looming, Michael Cohen now says he's in "constant contact" with federal prosecutors in New York, providing them with information in an attempt to get his sentence reduced.



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Trump signals he will declare national emergency over border wall, calling congress talks ‘a waste of time’

Trump signals he will declare national emergency over border wall, calling congress talks ‘a waste of time’Donald Trump has indicated he is likely to declare a national emergency when a federal government funding deal runs out later this month, dismissing talks with Democrats as “a waste of time”. The president said he had “set the stage” for action to sidestep congress to secure $ 5.7bn (£4.4bn) for a wall on the US-Mexico border, as the prospect of a second government shutdown looms. In a wide-ranging New York Times interview, Mr Trump also said he had received reassurances he was “not a target” of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and dismissed talk he may not seek re-election in 2020.



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Trump says no amnesty for 'Dreamers,' signals support in broader deal

Trump says no amnesty for 'Dreamers,' signals support in broader dealIn a morning Twitter storm, Trump also said he would not seek the removal of millions of illegal aliens living in the United States, while bashing House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for turning down his offer on Saturday. “No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3-year extension of DACA.



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Charging of Chinese hackers signals aggressive new cyber strategy here to stay

Charging of Chinese hackers signals aggressive new cyber strategy here to stayThe Justice Department indicted two Chinese nationals allegedly involved in an international hacking scheme that targeted “dozens of companies in the United States and around the world,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Thursday.



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