Posts Tagged ‘Persian Gulf’

Fugitive Bahrain militants die at sea en route to Iran — Fugitives wanted for serious acts of terrorism fleeing to Iran are “lost at sea”

February 22, 2018

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Three suspected Bahraini militants wanted on terrorism charges died at sea in unexplained circumstances this month and another is missing, activists said, after they appear to have fled the country by boat headed for Iran.

The incident shines a light on alleged links between a small, armed fringe of Bahrain’s Shi‘ite Muslim opposition and Iran, which authorities in the Western-allied Gulf kingdom accuse of helping stoke years of attacks against its police.

An activist group in their home village called Youth of Karbabad hailed the four men as “holy warriors” in a statement, saying they sought to flee authorities by sea.

“They were martyred…in a sinking in regional waters near Iran on February 7 in hazy circumstances which remain unclear”.

A Bahraini security official, however, denied any involvement by its forces in the incident.

“It’s the latest in a pattern of fugitives wanted for serious acts of terrorism fleeing to Iran in coordination with authorities in Tehran and other exiles there,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Map of Persian Gulf (also known as the Arabian Gulf)

Iranian authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and Tehran has denied any support for Bahraini militancy.

Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni monarchy, has cracked down on perceived threats since pro-democracy Arab Spring protests in 2011 led mainly by the island kingdom’s Shi‘ite majority were quashed with help from Gulf Arab neighbors.

It has shut down the main opposition parties, jailed or stripped the citizenship of prominent dissidents and put the top Shi‘ite spiritual leader under de facto house arrest.

According to Bahraini security dossiers on the men lost at sea reviewed by Reuters, all had been convicted in absentia for attacking police and taking part in riots and were on the run inside Bahrain.

One, Maytham Ali Ibrahim, was wanted for killing a police officer with a fire bomb last April.


Under pressure from authorities, many activists, clerics and some militants appear have moved to Iran and other countries in recent years.

A militant commander was killed in a Bahraini commando raid last year along with several comrades headed to Iran on a speedboat after they staged a prison break.

Three wanted militants who also took part in the escape did arrive in Iran. They appeared at a lecture in the Iranian holy city of Qom praising their slain fellows, according to a video filmed and distributed by activists.

At a wake held in Qom for the three militants lost at sea on Tuesday, an exiled Bahraini leader mourned their death in a videotaped statement.

“We heard about their departure but they were missing for a long time at sea and the boat was found after three days … from the first moments the Iranian authorities were looking for them,” Sheikh Abdullah al-Duqaq said.

The Iranian coast guard had no role in their deaths, he said. Calls by Reuters to Duqaq’s telephone went unanswered.

Reporting by Noah Browning; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Hugh Lawson



Iraq to build oil refinery in Al-Faw with Chinese companies — seeking investors to build three more

January 29, 2018

Above, a floating oil platform offshore from the southern Iraqi port city of Al-Faw. (AFP)
BAGHDAD: Iraq plans to build an oil refinery at the port of A-Faw on the Gulf with two Chinese companies, and is seeking investors to build three more, the oil ministry said on its website on Monday.
The refinery in Al-Faw will have a 300,000 barrel-per-day capacity and include a petrochemical plant, it said.
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Two other refineries, each with a 150,000-bpd capacity, are planned in Nasiriya, southern Iraq, and in the western Anbar province. A third, with a 100,000-bpd capacity, is planned in Qayara, near Mosul, the northern Iraqi city, which was taken back from Daesh militants last year.
Iraq is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, after Saudi Arabia. Its refining capacity was curtailed when Daesh overran its largest oil processing plant in Baiji, north of Baghdad, in 2014.
Iraqi forces recaptured Baiji in 2015, but the place sustained heavy damage in the fighting. The country now relies on the Doura refinery, in Baghdad, and Shuaiba plant, in the south.
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Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military

January 25, 2018

Tehran halts dangerous encounters in Persian Gulf amid tensions over nuclear deal

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The Iranian military has halted the routine harassment by its armed “fast boats” of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military said, a turnabout that officials welcomed but were at a loss to explain.

The boats for at least two years would dart toward the U.S. vessels as they passed through the Persian Gulf, risking miscalculation, but haven’t done so for five months, U.S. military officials said.

The officials said they hoped the respite would continue. “I hope it’s because we have messaged our readiness…and that it isn’t tolerable or how professional militaries operate,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East this week. Iranian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The fast boats, typically armed with .50 caliber machine guns and rocket launchers, have come within shooting distance of American naval vessels, encounters that grew routine even though each one presents potential dangers to American vessels transiting through international waters.

In some of the more serious incidents, Iranian crews have directed spotlights at ship and aircraft crews, potentially blinding pilots as they conduct operations, according to U.S. military officials. In one case, an Iranian boat pointed a weapon at an American helicopter flying off a Navy vessel, officials said. In the most serious incidents, U.S. vessels have fired warning shots in return.

The Iranian boats are typically crewed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, U.S. military officials have said. The IRGC is Iran’s elite military unit and reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Since January 2016, there has been an average of more than two “unsafe or unprofessional” incidents each month, according to the U.S. military. There have been 50 such incidents in the last two years, officials said.

A video grab from the U.S. Navy shows an Iranian vessel heading toward the USS Thunderbolt in the Persian Gulf in July, 2017.Photo: US NAVY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

But in response to a query, U.S. military officials said there have been no such incidents since August 2017.

The apparent shift in Iranian behavior comes as an international nuclear agreement with Tehran is teetering as President Donald Trump threatens to end U.S. sanctions relief provided to Tehran under the deal, signed under President Barack Obama.

Washington’s European allies are discussing ways of heightening sanctions against Iran for actions not directly related to the country’s nuclear program.

Gen. Votel said that the abatement in the Persian Gulf didn’t alone signal a broader “strategic shift” by Iran, noting activities such as Iran’s support of Houthi rebels in Yemen. “I think we have to look at Iran in totality,” Gen. Votel said.

Read More

  • In Common Occurrence, Iranian Boats Veer Close to U.S. Warship
  • Trump to Extend Sanctions Relief to Iran, Keeping Nuclear Deal in Place—For Now
  • Navy Images Show Iranian Boats in Incident Involving Top U.S. General

The U.S. has publicly criticized what it says is Iranian backing of the Houthis. Iran also has sent forces to Syria and backs militants operating there on behalf of the Assad regime.

Military officials noted that while Iranian harassment in the Gulf had declined, the country’s forces weren’t idle. Iran has been observed by the U.S. conducting activities that approach but stop short of what would be considered harassment, a U.S. military official explained.

Officials at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, in Manama, Bahrain, were loathe to guess the reasons behind it.

“We are not going to speculate on the reason for this recent positive trend in interactions, though we hope it will continue in the future,” said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, in Manama, Bahrain.

Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, said the decrease in harassment is part of a broader pattern by Tehran to refrain from provoking the U.S. and providing fodder for the Trump administration to blame them for regional instability.

“I think they understand the administration’s policy at this stage is to put the spotlight on Iranians and portray them as the source of all evil in the region,” he said. “The Iranians are certainly part of the problem in the region, but they’d like to be portrayed as part of the solution, not just the problem.”

The lull in harassment coincides with an internal directive last summer in which Mr. Vaez said Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council had ordered the IRGC to stand its ground in the region, but not to harass U.S. Navy ships. The council is presided over by President Hassan Rouhani but Mr. Khamenei has the final say.

Capt. Urban said the U.S. Navy hadn’t modified its operations in the region and would continue to operate “wherever international law allows.”

The last incident, in August, occurred when an Iranian drone flew in the vicinity of aircraft conducting night operations on the USS Nimitz.

Capt. Urban expressed concern about Iranians’ use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, to harass American vessels.

“Even with the decreased incidents, we remain concerned with the increased number of Iranian UAVs operating in international airspace at night without navigation lights or an active transponder as would be expected according to international norms,” he said. “We continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws.”

The U.S. military currently is participating in a joint exercise called Native Fury with the United Arab Emirates, designed for training in ways to get essential supplies into the Gulf region over land if the Strait of Hormuz was ever blocked, as Iran has threatened to do in the past. Some military experts see Native Fury as a message to Iran.

It is “a demonstration of our resolve,” Gen. Votel said. The Iranians also are conducting a two-day exercise in the Strait of Hormuz.

Write to Gordon Lubold at and Nancy A. Youssef at

US Navy says it received Iran broadcast about naval exercise

January 23, 2018

Iranian ships on the Gulf (AFP/File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The US Navy says it only received a radio message from Iranian naval vessels about an ongoing Iranian exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, countering Tehran claims of a tense encounter between the two fleets.

Lt. Chloe Morgan, a spokeswoman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, says an American warship in the Gulf of Oman heard the message on Monday.
Morgan said on Tuesday that the American vessel “continued to execute its mission and did not alter operations as a result of the radio transmission.”
Iranian media had alleged its navy either “warned off” or fired “warning shots” at Saudi or American vessels during an ongoing two-day annual drill in the strait.
The US Navy and Iranian forces routinely have tense encounters in the Arabian Gulf.

The U.S. Navy Lowers Its Sights — Donald Trump pledged the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration

January 18, 2018

Has Trump given up on expanding the size of the fleet? If so, there’s still time to reverse course.

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The U.S. Navy announced Tuesday that it will court-martial the officers who commanded the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain last summer when they collided with other craft in the Pacific Ocean. They will face charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel. In response to the collisions Navy Secretary Richard Spencer ordered a fleetwide review of strategic readiness. An independent team of civilian executives and former senior military officers delivered their sobering report last month.

The episode should serve as a wake-up call to military and civilian leaders alike. The U.S. has entered a new age of peer and near-peer competition for which the Navy is unprepared, according to the review’s findings. A much diminished fleet has been overloaded with tasks in recent years, yet the number of ships deployed around the world has remained constant. The Navy has managed this by increasing the time that ships and their crews spend at sea. “The net result has been a dramatic increase in the operating tempo of individual ships, and accompanying reductions in the time available to perform maintenance, training, and readiness certification,” according to the review’s authors. “The growing mismatch between the supply and demand of ships taxed fleet personnel and consumed material readiness at unsustainable rates.”

Accidents are inevitable under these circumstances. While enlisted sailors are spending more time away from their home ports, junior officers are spending less time at sea than is necessary to develop what the review calls “deep maritime operating skills.” Sailing a desk on a headquarters staff has became a path to timely career advancement. The review recommends freeing up officers from staff requirements so they can spend more time honing their war-fighting skills. It also urges a better fiscal balance among the operation of ships, equipment maintenance and personnel training—all vital, all expensive.

The most problematic recommendation requires acknowledging a difficult political reality. The Navy must communicate to political leaders “that the higher cost and time to achieve established readiness standards will mean less Navy presence worldwide.”

In September, the Government Accountability Office told the House Armed Services Committee that more than a third of the ships in the Navy’s Japan-based Seventh Fleet had expired warfare-training certifications. The review calls this a “normalization of deviation,” a problem that will persist so long as the Navy lacks the resources to fulfill its obligations.

If implemented, the review’s recommendations would restore the Navy’s readiness to respond to threats and flare-ups as they present themselves. But how, and at what price?

One option—a bad one—is for the Navy to reduce its global presence. As the review’s first sentence acknowledges, the Navy’s global primacy “is being challenged as it sails into a security environment not seen since before the collapse of the Soviet Union.” If achieving naval readiness requires ceding control of the seas to aggressive rising powers like China, Russia or Iran, it won’t be worth it.

A better alternative is to increase the size of the fleet so that necessary maintenance, repairs and training can ensure America’s ability to project naval power from the Western Pacific to the Eastern Mediterranean, from the Arctic to the Arabian Gulf, and to other areas of current—and future—competition with rivals. At the top of this list must be the Baltic and Black seas, where Russian influence is expanding.

As a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to increase the size of the Navy from approximately 275 combat vessels to 350 or more. But in December the administration’s national security strategy document signaled a shift in the president’s thinking. While the document claims the Trump administration supports modernization, acquisition reform, improved readiness and a “full spectrum force,” it does not call for a 350-ship fleet. When it comes to sea power, the U.S. is lowering its sights.

A flexible Navy that retains the ability to respond to threats as they emerge and a fleet large enough to defend vital U.S. interests are not mutually exclusive. But the Trump administration appears to have concluded that since lawmakers are unlikely to pay for construction of a large number of new warships, it won’t even ask them to. It’s a different vision for America’s naval future from the one Mr. Trump outlined on the campaign trail. He was right then; he is wrong now. There’s still time to reverse course.

Mr. Cropsey is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he directs the Center for American Seapower. He served as an officer in the Navy and as deputy undersecretary in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and is author of “Seablindness” (Encounter, 2017).




A Larger Fleet Is Not Enough

Expanding the navy is a good idea, but only in service of a strategy to ensure U.S. dominance at sea.

Published on: March 14, 2017
Seth Cropsey served as a naval officer and as Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush Administrations. He is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and director of Hudson’s Center for American Seapower.

Trump’s Seapower Contradiction

By Bryan McGrath

President Trump made many promises on the campaign trail, including one to greatly increase the size of the Navy. However, there is a “say/do” contradiction at work between Trump and expansion of American Seapower, one that manifests itself in his view of the role of the U.S. in the world, his key personnel choices, his view of the Russia threat, and his notable lack of public leadership necessary to build support for a larger fleet.The CampaignThe centerpiece of candidate Trump’s call to rebuild American military power was his call for a 350-ship fleet built around 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The Trump fleet represented an increase in size of over 25% compared to the 276 ships in the fleet on Election Day and was fully 15% larger than the 308 ships called for in the final Obama fleet plan. He distinguished himself among GOP hopefuls in calling for a larger fleet, as both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were similarly inclined. Trump’s victory in November caused a great deal of anticipation among Seapower advocates who consistently called for a larger fleet, giving the Navy political cover necessary to release its December 2016 Force Structure Assessment calling for 355 ships, an increase of 47 ships from its 2012 review (which had been the basis for the 308-ship fleet).

There was little in the way of a strategic narrative to support an increase in fleet size in Trump’s campaign rhetoric, and given the much-reported lack of policy staff preparation within the campaign, there is little reason to believe such justification existed. Additionally, given candidate Trump’s positional flexibility and propensity to make things up on the fly, it was difficult to discern where a naval buildup fell among the many promises he made on the campaign trail, or even whether it was important to him at all. Nevertheless, as 2017 dawned, a President came to office who ran on a larger fleet, the Navy had promulgated its larger (355 ships) fleet force structure, and three Congressionally mandated fleet architecture studies reached the consensus view that the Navy’s planned fleet of 308 ships was insufficient. All the cosmic tumblers were clicking into place to support a significant fleet buildup.

Nearly a year later, there is little evidence to suggest that a fleet expansion beyond the Obama Administration’s number is underway, or under serious consideration. A careful reconsideration of facts in evidence leads to the conclusion that at best, the “350-Ship Navy” claim was a meaningless campaign promise, and at worst, was an opportunistic lie deeply at odds with the rare ideological underpinnings Trump possesses.

Seapower and Globalism

Globalism, and the expansion of free trade that underpins it is responsible for much of the growth of the global economy in the past quarter-century, as well as the dramatic decline in world poverty. The fall of the Warsaw Pact was the precipitating security event that contributed to this economic dynamism, but global freedom of the seas, over which most international trade travels, is what has kept the party going, freedom provided by a preponderant United States Navy. In fact, protecting global freedom of the seas is the most important mission of the U.S. Navy, mostly because no other element of military power has even a minor role in providing it, and how utterly dependent our prosperity is upon it. America is an outward-facing trading nation that still possesses the world’s largest and most vibrant economy. Our prosperity is directly tied to global free trade, and global free trade depends on freedom of the seas. There is only one Navy on Earth with the forces and basing structure to act as the global guarantor of freedom of the seas, and it does so because the nation’s economy and security demand it. Others prosper because of global trade carried over free and open seas, but no nation prospers more than we. Our future prosperity could be at risk without free and open seas, and no nation has a greater interest in guaranteeing them.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s dictum that “…whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself” has animated America’s naval strategy since World War II, although it has done so in a manner enriching the entire world. That strategy is under increasing pressure, and nowhere more so than in the South China Sea, where China’s naval and missile buildup is designed to challenge America’s ability to provide unimpeded movement for its commerce and that of others, enabling China to exercise de facto dominance over a region of great importance to the United States.

Finally, the U.S. Navy’s global posture provides the catalytic spark for U.S. led regional security in areas where our interests are most notable, and most threatened. Because the U.S. Navy is strong and forward deployed, smaller, less powerful nations are incentivized to join with us in cooperative maritime security efforts and can do so without fear of retribution from other powerful, regional actors (see China, Russia, Iran). Were the U.S. Navy less forward and less strong, regional powers could exert more pressure on these weaker nations resulting potentially in either destabilizing arms races or painful accommodation of the regional power in ways antithetical to our security interests. In other words, it is in our interest to be there, and it is in these lesser powers’ interest to be there with us.

What Trump Believes

Donald Trump’s political views have been flexible over the years. He has been both pro-life and pro-choice. He has been a gun-control supporter and guardian of the second amendment. He has been stridently anti-immigrant while stocking his resorts with foreign guest workers. Some of Trump’s supporters believe that this positional flexibility is a good thing, which the lack of ideological moorings leaves him free to “make deals.” And while the record is clear that Trump does not have many deeply held principles underlying his politics, one consistently held and vocally expressed strain of thought is that the United States is overextended, that allies are not paying their share, and more recently, that free trade often works against American interests. By way of evidence are two articles covering Trump nearly thirty years apart. The first was a recent piece looking back on a younger Donald Trump who took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Boston Globe on September 2, 1987. Here is how a portion of it went:

“For decades, Japan and other nations have been taking advantage of the United States… “The saga continues unabated as we defend the Persian Gulf, an area of only marginal significance to the United States for its oil supplies, but one upon which Japan and others are almost totally dependent….why are these nations not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests…the world is laughing at America’s politicians as we protect ships we don’t own, carrying oil we don’t need, destined for allies who won’t help.”

Nearly thirty years later while running for President, Trump said the following during a campaign speech in April 2016:

“Secondly, our allies are not paying their fair share, and I’ve been talking about this recently a lot. Our allies must contribute toward their financial, political, and human costs, have to do it, of our tremendous security burden. But many of them are simply not doing so. They look at the United States as weak and forgiving and feel no obligation to honor their agreements with us. In NATO, for instance, only 4 of 28 other member countries besides America, are spending the minimum required 2 percent of GDP on defense. We have spent trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.”

Thirty years apart, these statements bespeak the consistent view of a man with little understanding of how much the United States benefits economically from its forward-deployed military posture, and even less of an understanding of the choices those nations face in their regional security environments especially were we to abandon our alliances. Additionally, given that a naval expansion on the order of what he promised on the campaign trail would cost upwards of $40B a year in total costs, it begs credulity to believe that he would advocate doing so given the laggard performance of our friends and allies in paying for their own defense. If the Administration does begin to assert the need for a larger fleet, Congress must require it to explain the role of this dramatically expanded force, in light of the President’s clear disdain for forward operations.

The Russia Question

The Navy’s 355 Ship Force Structure assessment and each of the three congressionally-mandated fleet architecture studies shared an underlying threat assumption that contributed to their broad consensus on force levels. That assumption was that Russia posed a significant and growing threat to our interests in the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, in the CSBAstudy in which I participated, we considered the Russian threat to be more serious in the near term than the China threat, and our recommended naval force posture reflected it (see pp. 53-59)

Putting aside for the moment ongoing questions of Russian meddling in the 2016 Election and potential Trump campaign collusion therein, it is not at all clear the degree to which President Trump views Russia as a military threat to American interests. If Russia is not a threat, the Navy likely does not have to be 350 ships. If Russia is a threat requiring a Navy that large, the President should be required to say so—something he has not authoritatively done, but which would have to be made clear in a coherent justification for a naval buildup. The impending release of the Trump Administration National Security (NSS) Strategy should provide some indication of what the President believes, but Congress should not rely solely upon the NSS. It should insist that the President name a resurgent Russia as a clear national security threat to the United States and that the threat warrants additional buildup in U.S. forces.

Personnel is Policy

Perhaps the most obvious sign of Trump’s less than arduous attachment to his promise to grow the fleet was his selection of former South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) as his Director of Management and Budget. Originally elected with the Tea Party Class of 2010, Mulvaney earned a reputation for opposing the more hawkish elements of the GOP in the House. Clearly, Mulvaney works for the President and will carry out the President’s wishes, but in the absence of Presidential leadership, Mulvaney will be an unlikely supporter of increasing the size of the Navy. In fact, the original FY 18 budget submission to Capitol Hill in the spring of 2017 accounted for no additional ships above what the Obama Administration had planned for that year. A furor from the Alabama and Wisconsin Congressional delegations added a second Littoral Combat Ship to the budget—presumably against Mulvaney’s wishes.

The selection of retired Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense has also put a chill over the warm talk of naval expansion, as one of his initial acts upon taking office was to issue budget guidancethat made growing the force his third priority, behind current readiness and replenishing weapons stocks, and that more detailed plans for force growth would be held in abeyance pending the White House issuance of a National Security Strategy and the Defense Department’s submittal of a National Defense Strategy—neither of which is expected until early next year. It is difficult indeed to find anything other than generalized statements of support for a larger Navy from Mattis, a situation of some irony given his propensity as the U.S. Central Commander to demand the near-continuous presence of two aircraft carriers.

Finally, the only evidence we have thus far of the top-line management of the Department of Defense budget is the President’s 2018 Budget Submission, which represented only a 3% increase over the Obama projection for 2018. Three percent does not a massive military buildup make.

Presidential Leadership

The final evidence offered for the lack of priority afforded a naval buildup under President Trump is that he has done almost nothing to make it happen, and historically speaking, nothing is as important to growing a Navy as Presidential support. As stated earlier—building a larger Navy is an expensive proposition, and while Congress appears ready to provide the Navy with more resources, it will not do so in the absence of a clear plan of how that money will be spent and the sense that the President is dedicated to following through on it. A campaign promise is insufficient reason for the expense. A clearly articulated, consistently reinforced statement of need is central to the persuasive case that must be made for the American people to allocate massive resources in peacetime to a naval building program. That case has not been made, and the President must be the one to make it. Thus far in his Presidency, we have not seen active Presidential support for policies the President was believed to be personally invested in (see Health Care, tax reform), so it remains to be seen whether he will muster the effort to get behind a larger Navy.

Is All Hope Lost?

Given the conflict between the benefits of dominant American Seapower and the consistency of Donald Trump’s most long-standing national security belief, the dubious nature of the President’s view of the Russian threat, his appointment of senior subordinates not likely to be committed naval expansionists, and his own lack of leadership on the issue—the 350 ship Navy appears to be just another broken campaign promise.

The way forward is clear; Congress must assume a greater share of the lead in moving forward with a naval expansion. Uniformed Navy leadership must step forward and relentlessly reinforce the strategic benefits conferred by preponderant American Seapower. For the first time in its history, the nation must attempt to increase the size of its Navy in the absence of Presidential leadership or attention.




Donald Trump pledged the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration

Donald Trump has pledged that he’ll lead the biggest U.S. Navy build-up since the Reagan administration, but the details on what’s likely to be an expensive and potentially decades-long effort remain to be seen.

Trump vowed to build the 350-ship fleet Republican defense hawks have long sought and reverse decades of fleet contraction which has yielded today’s battle force of 272 ships. And while the politics of large increases to the defense budget are dicey in the best of times, Trump sees a naval build-up as part of his agenda to create jobs, according to an October internal Trump campaign memo obtained by Navy Times.

The plan, if enacted, would aim to restore the Navy to a size it hasn’t been since 1998, and would mean tens of thousands of new sailor jobs. So far, it remains unclear what mix of ships the incoming administration wants to build more of, from $10 billion Ford-class carriers or $3 billion Virginia-class attack submarines to $500 million littoral combat ships, and how that fleet composition is connected to a strategic vision.

Trump’s camp believes generally that if you have more ships and more capabilities, you give the government more options in a crisis to deter conflicts and defeat enemies. That’s what top Trump advisers told Navy Times’ sister publication Defense News in October ahead of the election.

“I think at this point in history with the credibility of president of the United States eroded, were they to suspect that the United States is abandoning its defense spending,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in the interview. “It takes more than a speech to turn this around.” 

Trump has pledged to build a much larger fleet that experts say will cost many billions more per year, as state-of-the-art technology raises the price of new ship classes.Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin”Trump’s plans are actually to build more ships and maintain a higher number of troops and aircraft. It will go a lot further than words to convince the world that we remain strong. It will help us to maintain the peace.

In the campaign memo, sent by a senior aide to Rep. Randy Forbes, an outgoing Virginia congressman and a top contender to be Trump’s Navy secretary, Trump promises to fund modernizing “a significant number of the Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers,” some of which the Obama administration has sidelined for months or years until they get their modernization overhauls.

The memo also lays out a plan to invest heavily in new submarines and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and to revitalize the shipyards and get warships the maintenance that has been deferred in the last few years because of across-the-board budget cuts.

“Mr. Trump’s plan will require a significant partnership with a defense industrial base that has been strained by years of significant cuts to shipbuilding and ship repair,” the memo reads. “The nationwide infrastructure of yards, depots, and support facilities that created and sustained the World War II and Cold War-era Navy has been largely dismantled.”

The solution, the memo says, is to find places where old shipyards went out of business and have the ability to restart, an effort that would be led by the incoming Navy secretary. Trump also wants to build a robust training pipeline for skilled workers in the shipyards to increase the support base for the growing Navy.

Growing the fleet

Expanding the fleet is an idea that has gained currency both in the current administration, which is trying to boost the fleet to 308 ships up from 272, and among conservative defense proponents who have advocated for a much larger fleet.

The fleet could be grown to the size advocated by Trump, or at least close to it, by the 2030s, said Bryan Clark, a former senior aide to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert and an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

would need to start building three Virginia-class attack submarines per year and continue to pump out LCS and its follow-on frigates starting in 2019 to do low-end missions. The submarine build-up would need to continue even as the nation begins on the next-generation of ballistic missile submarines, which are estimated to cost at least $5 billion per hull.

The Navy, he said, could also accelerate the production of the aircraft carriers to get the fleet up to 12 by the 2030s. That buildup would get the Navy from an end strength of about 330,000 sailors today to more than 380,000 in Trump’s Navy.

One idea that wouldn’t work, Clark said, would be to bring ships out of the mothball fleet the way the Reagan administration did. Reagan famously recommissioned the World War II-era Iowa-class battleships to try and meet his 600-ship Navy goal.

“The difference between the ships in the fleet and the ships in mothballs is the technology is two or three generations removed from what’s in use today,” Clark said. “In the 1980s, the ships you could pull out of mothballs, the combat systems were not that far removed from the systems of the day. It wasn’t that dramatic.”

Clark said the modern-day equivalent would be to modernize all the existing cruisers to keep them in the fleet through the 2030s, an idea that has gained traction in the incoming Trump administration.

Now they just have to find a way to pay for it.

Navy and defense spending isn’t the only thing Trump wants to spend money on, and figuring out the winners and losers among Trump’s policy agenda is going to be a challenge, experts warn.

“There are going to have to be lot of trade-offs,” said Dan Palazzolo, a professor of political science at University of Richmond.

Donald Trump wants a lot of things: Big tax cuts, big infrastructure spending, doesn’t want to touch entitlements, defense spending. There are tensions here that are going to have to get unwound.

“Really this is going to be the challenge of Trump’s presidency: How do you translate these broad policy proposals into policies, and defense in that mix. It’s going to be on Congress to help him figure that out.”





Does the US Navy have a strategy beyond hope?

The U.S. Navy begins the new year in crisis. By its own admission many of its ships and aircraft are in poor condition. Training is not where it should be, its ships can’t maneuver properly around other ships, and Navy leaders for years have complained the service is overstretched, constantly struggling to meet requirements and falling short in any number of areas. It is by no means clear that new ideas and concepts are being implemented to counter ever-growing military rivals.

Worldwide challenges abound. China is effectively moving the U.S. out of the western Pacific positions of influence held since the 1940s — ironically using a fast-growing and evermore effective naval force modeled on that of the United States. Virtually every country in the region is re-evaluating political and military realities as China’s influence grows. Russian sea power is reasserting itself in the Mediterranean, Black and Baltic seas and most disturbingly in the undersea arena, where a growing threat could compromise or destroy the undersea cables upon which the internet relies. The Middle East remains problematic — stability in the region is threatened by the war in Yemen, eternal squabbling among Arab states and a restless Iran. Terrorist groups, humanitarian crises and natural disasters all increase instability. The list of potential conflict areas widens virtually every week. Above all, the very real threat of armed conflict with North Korea —nuclear or conventional —has many smart people convinced that some sort of clash is rapidly nearing.

Is the U.S. Navy ready? Is it up to the task? Do we see evidence that it is? In a word, no. Aside from resting on past laurels, there seems little reason to persuasively argue otherwise.

Looking for more on the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet? Get the latest here.

The world’s media abounds with stories, videos and images of the growing military capabilities of those who would challenge the U.S., much of them put out directly by those governments or with their support. Check out YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites and it’s no problem to get an impressive and often detailed picture of what the other guys are doing.

Where is the U.S. Navy in all this? Pretty much nowhere. Sure, there’s lots of product coming from Defense Department sources, but increasingly it’s watered down, devoid of much real content. By decree, information about operational movements and war-fighting capabilities is largely stripped from official content — certainly whatever remains is a shadow of what was only a couple years ago a robust picture of U.S. military might.

The independent media, of course, would love to take up the slack, but it’s become harder as the Pentagon and service leadership — led by the Navy — warn against giving away too much information. The resulting desire to err on the side of caution means real information has all but dried up.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, noted in a March 1 memo to department personnel that public communications should be done to “communicate with purpose” — but, he added, “very often less is more.”

“Sharing information,” the CNO wrote, “even at the unclassified level, makes it easier for potential adversaries to gain an advantage.” Should there be doubt about a message, he continued, “bias on the side of caution. I am not asking you to throttle back engagement with the media or with the public.”

But make no mistake, the flow of information has indeed been throttled back. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis continued the clampdown in an Oct. 5 memo warning against leaks and divulging classified information. “We must be vigilant in executing our responsibility to prevent disclosure of any information not authorized for release outside the Department of Defense,” Mattis wrote.

There is no question that divulging military secrets would be a mistake, and the great majority of the media doesn’t seek to do so. But one of the goals of putting out information is deterrence, to portray expertise, capabilities, readiness and commitment to deter an enemy from provoking or prompting armed conflict. Mere pronouncements of strength — and the U.S. military leadership has become stridently adept at substituting clichés and slogans for substantive content — don’t deter anyone.

Media requests have become routinely stifled, delayed or denied. Interviews no longer take two or three weeks to arrange — two or three months has become the norm, if at all. A recent development, according to many reporters, is for interviews becoming qualified at the last moment. “We can’t talk about XXX,” officials tell reporters, sometimes a day or less before an appointment, “but we understand if you’ll want to cancel the interview.”

Another tactic to delay or avoid responding to questions is for officials to claim: “We don’t want to get out ahead of leadership,” meaning a topic or program can’t be discussed until higher-ups explain their position. But the higher-ups repeat the assertion, and the request is kicked up multiple levels to the point where executives don’t discuss such things because it’s simply beneath their level.

This information chill is not just about securing defense secrets. It is also about not attracting unwanted attention, particularly from congressional overseers. Heaven forbid some poor program manager mentions a problem and the next day several congressional offices want answers. Sure, no one likes people looking over their shoulder telling them what to do, but that’s exactly what oversight committees are charged with. It’s their job, and the system of checks and balances is a fundamental principal of our government.

Trust and confidence stem from sharing information and having faith the information bears something close to the truth. It is difficult these days to have much faith and confidence that the Pentagon and the Navy can deter war or successfully prosecute an armed conflict. One hopes so, but as someone once said, hope isn’t much of a strategy.

Christopher P. Cavas is a naval analyst and commentator. He was formerly the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.




Chinese interests at risk as Gulf crisis expands into the Horn of Africa

January 13, 2018

Beijing strategically placed its first overseas military base in Djibouti, an area vital for Chinese exports, but rising regional tensions make it a tough place to do business


South China Morning Post

The six-month-old Gulf crisis has expanded to the Horn of Africa, potentially fuelling simmering regional conflicts that could place massive Chinese investment at risk in a part of the world that is home to the People’s Republic’s first overseas military base.

Anxieties about the stand-off in the Horn – a region pockmarked by foreign military bases that straddles key Indian Ocean trade routes and 4,000km of coastline – deepened last month when Sudan granted Turkey the right to rebuild a decaying port city and construct a naval dock to maintain civilian and military vessels on its Red Sea coast.

Much of Djibouti’s unique character comes from its position at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East. Photo: Handout

The Horn, at the intersection of key maritime passages which include Bab-el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden, is vital for the flow of oil as well as Chinese exports. But nations such as Somalia and South Sudan are wracked by political violence, and Yemen, where a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran rages, is nearby. Nevertheless, Beijing understands the region’s geopolitical importance and has made it the focal point of its initial foreign military operations.

China initially joined an international anti-piracy naval force and more recently established its first overseas military base in Djibouti, a country that already hosts US, French, Saudi and Japanese military facilities.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, right, gives a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at Khartoum International Airport. Photo: AFP

The US$650 million Sudanese-Turkish agreement, which enables Turkey to have a military presence in the Red Sea to help fight terrorism, threatens to exacerbate confrontations and suck China into a myriad of interrelated disputes. Competition for influence between Gulf states stretches beyond the Horn and East Africa into the Sahel as well as Central and West Africa. Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, toured six West African nations last month to shore up support for his country in its dispute with other Gulf states.

Africa is not only a Gulf battlefield but also a theatre for the fierce rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shiite Muslims primarily fought on the continent in countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon and Mauritania.

The Sudanese-Turkish agreement suggested the rivalry may come to play an increasingly influential role in the Horn’s geopolitics. Both Saudi Arabia and UAE worry about Turkish military expansion because of its close relations with Iran and support for Qatar. Turkey has a military base in the Gulf state and intends to expand its presence to 3,000 troops in coming months. Turkey also has a training facility in Somalia and is discussing the establishment of a base in Djibouti.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, right, welcomes Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan at Khartoum Airport, Sudan. Photo: Reuters

Hinting at a link between Saudi Arabia and the Turkish presence in Sudan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to the African nation last month, the first by a Turkish head of state, that the ancient port of Suakin would boost tourism and serve as a transit point for pilgrims travelling to the kingdom’s holy city of Mecca.

What’s behind the crackdown in Saudi Arabia – and where will it lead?

Saudi Arabia and UAE, which has bases in Berbera in the breakaway republic of Somaliland and in Eritrea, fear the agreement will allow Turkey, with whom they have strained relations because of differences over Qatar, Iran and Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, to station troops close to Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have accused Qatar of funding the development of Suakin. Adding to the air of suspicion is the fact Turkey believes UAE supported a failed coup to topple Erdogan in July 2016.

The agreement is even more stinging because relations between Saudi Arabia and Sudan had significantly improved after the African country broke off relations with Iran in early 2016, an early Saudi victory in its battle with the Islamic republic for influence in Africa.

A Houthi fighter inspects a detention centre after it was hit by alleged Saudi-led air strikes in Sana’a, Yemen. Photo: AFP

Sudan has since contributed 6,000 troops as well as fighters from the Janjaweed tribal militia to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Under US President Donald Trump’s administration, Washington eased economic sanctions on Sudan in October at Saudi Arabia’s request.

Saudi Arabia this month agreed to re-establish banking ties with Sudan despite criticism of the Sudanese-Turkish agreement in the government-steered Saudi press and on social media. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has insisted his country would keep its troops in Yemen irrespective of the agreement.

Concern about the agreement is not limited to Qatar’s detractors in the Gulf. Egypt suspects the agreement will fuel a border conflict with Sudan over the region of Halayeeb. Sudan recently accused Egypt of deploying troops to the Sudanese side of the border and sending warplanes to overfly the coastal area.

If Trump and Saudi Arabia tinker with Iran as it teeters towards revolution…

Sudan last week closed its border with Eritrea amid reports Egypt, with the backing of UAE, had sent troops to Eritrea. Earlier, Sudan complained to the United Nations that a maritime demarcation agreement reached in 2016 by Egypt and Saudi Arabia infringed on what it claimed to be Sudanese waters off Halayeeb.

Egypt is further worried mounting tensions will complicate already sharp differences with Sudan as well as Ethiopia over a massive dam Ethiopia is building. Egypt believes the dam will reduce its vital share of Nile River waters that are the country’s lifeline. Negotiations over the dam are at an impasse, with Sudan appearing to favour Ethiopia in the dispute.

“Sudanese President Omar Bashir is playing with fire in exchange for dollars. Sudan is violating the rules of history and geography and is conspiring against Egypt under the shadow of Turkish madness, Iranian conspiracy, an Ethiopian scheme to starve Egypt of water, and Qatar’s financing of efforts to undermine Egypt,” charged Emad Adeeb in a column entitled “Omar Bashir’s political suicide”.

The Gulf crisis, even without Turkey in the fray, has placed fragile peace arrangements in the Horn at risk.

Men fish in front of a container terminal in Djibouti. China recently established its first overseas military base in the country. Photo: Handout

Qatar, in response to Eritrea and Djibouti’s decision to downgrade relations with the Gulf state when the conflict erupted last June, withdrew its peacekeeping contingent of 400 troops from the Red Sea island of Doumeira. Eritrea immediately seized the island that is also claimed by Djibouti in a move that could ultimately spark an armed conflict that may draw in Ethiopia.

While reaping the benefits of heightened interest, the Horn risks violent conflict in what has become a high-stakes chess game for both Middle Eastern and African adversaries. It is a game China inevitably will have to play a hand in, despite the risk of also being sucked into the region’s expanding battles.

“Post-Arab Spring … activism may unsurprisingly contribute to the militarisation of the Horn of Africa and, even more dangerously, alter the existing balance of power in this conflict-ridden region,” warned Patrick Ferras, director of the Horn of Africa Observatory.

China’s military base in Djibouti, wittingly or unwittingly, positions the People’s Republic for what has become inevitable. 

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

First Djibouti … now Pakistan port earmarked for a Chinese overseas naval base, sources say

January 6, 2018

The facility would be similar to one in operation in African nation, offering logistics and maintenance services to PLA Navy vessels

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 10:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 11:34pm
 Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water
South China Morning Post

Beijing plans to build its second offshore naval base near a strategically important Pakistani port following the opening of its first facility in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa last year.

Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming said the base near the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea would be used to dock and maintain naval vessels, as well as provide other logistical support services.

“China needs to set up another base in Gwadar for its warships because Gwadar is now a civilian port,” Zhou said.

“It’s a common practice to have separate facilities for warships and merchant vessels because of their different operations. Merchant ships need a bigger port with a lot of space for warehouses and containers, but warships need a full range of maintenance and logistical support services.”

Another source close to the People’s Liberation Army confirmed that the navy would set up a base near Gwadar similar to the one already up and running in Djibouti.

“Gwadar port can’t provide specific services for warships … Public order there is in a mess. It is not a good place to carry out military logistical support,” the source said.

The confirmation follows a report this week on Washington-based website The Daily Caller in which retired US Army Reserve colonel Lawrence Sellin said meetings between high-ranking Chinese and Pakistani military officers indicated Beijing would build a military base on the Jiwani peninsula near Gwadar and close to the Iranian border.

Sellin said the plan would include a naval base and an expansion of the existing airport on the peninsula, both requiring the establishment of a security zone and the forced relocation of long-time residents.

Gwadar port is a key part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a centrepiece of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s broader “Belt and Road Initiative” to link China through trade and infrastructure to Africa and Europe and beyond. The corridor is a multibillion-dollar set of infrastructure projects linking China and Pakistan, and includes a series of road and transport links.

Sellin also said the Jiwani base could be “signs of Chinese militarisation of Pakistan, in particular, and in the Indian Ocean”.

Chinese military observers said Gwadar had great geostrategic and military importance to China but China was not about to “militarise” Pakistan.

Zhou said China wanted better access to the Indian Ocean, which was now largely limited to the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia. The Gwadar port could be a transit hub for sea and land routes once the corridor’s railway was up and running, helping improve and cut the cost of logistics for China.

“The Chinese naval flotilla patrolling in the Gulf of Aden and other warships escorting Chinese oil tankers in the Indian Ocean need a naval base for maintenance as well as logistical supplies because they can’t buy much of what they need in Pakistan,” Zhou said.

Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, said India was well aware of China’s plans in Pakistan.

“China finds it very useful to use Pakistan against India and ignore India’s concerns, particularly on terrorism issues. That has created a lot of stress in the relationship between Beijing and Delhi,” he said.

“[But] Indian naval capabilities and experience in the Indian Ocean region are fairly good. Much better than Pakistan and China.”

Swaran Singh, a professor at the school of international studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said neither Gwadar nor Jiwani would be a wise choice for a naval base because of its proximity to the port of Chabahar in Iran, in which India has a big stake.

New Delhi has invested more than US$100 million for two berths in the port on a 10-year lease, as a way to promote trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.

“Potentially both [Gwadar and Jiwani] can become vulnerable to any stand-off … between Pakistan and Iran but also China in Pakistan and India which is present in Chabahar,” Singh said.

China began building what it describes as a 36-hectare logistics base in Djibouti in 2016, with its first naval troops arriving in July last year. The troops have staged regular live-fire drills since September, a move military analysts say is meant to show China’s ability to protect its overseas interests in Africa and the Indian Ocean region.

Animated Video of All-out Saudi-Iranian War Breaks Arab World’s Internet

December 20, 2017

The release of an animated video, ‘Saudi Strike Force,’ showing an all-out war between the Sunni and Shi’ite superpowers, comes at a time of rising tensions in the region

By Molly Bernstein — Dec 20, 2017 2:56 PM

Animated video shows Saudi Arabian troops storming an Iranian compound and lowering the Iranian flag

Animated video shows Saudi Arabian troops storming an Iranian compound and lowering the Iranian flag Screen shot

An animated video depicting a Saudi Arabian military victory over Iran dominated social media this week in the Arab world against the backdrop of mounting tensions between the Sunni and Shi’ite powers, vying fiercely for power in the Middle East.

The five-minute long cartoon titled “The Saudi Strike Force,” produced by Saudi “youngsters,” according to the Saudi Sabq news site, opens with a quote attributed to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying that Iran’s primary goal is to reach the Qibla – i.e., the “direction” toward which Muslims pray, the Kaaba in Mecca. Furthermore, Salman warns that his country “will not wait until the battle takes place in Saudi Arabia” and as such, “will work toward having the battle in Iran.”

The video, with English narration and captions in Arabic, garnered over 860,000 views on YouTube as of Tuesday, and was widely shared on Twitter with translations in French, Turkish, Farsi, Spanish and Hebrew.

“The Saudi Strike Force” begins with the image of a Saudi humanitarian aid ship sailing through the Arabian Gulf. (The term “Arabian Gulf,” used by U.S. President Donald Trump, among others, is typically perceived as a provocation by Iranians, who refer to it as the Persian Gulf.) Three small Iranian boats attack the aid ship, which is apparently fully weaponized and fires back, destroying them with ease.

Next the video shows an aerial attack by Iranian missiles, which are shot down by an American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile activated by a Saudi control center. The Saudis go on to thwart the Iranian offensive with other U.S.-made aircraft and the Europhyter Typhoon, and by activating the Chinese-made East Wind nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, aka Dongfeng, which hits Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant and Badr Air Base.

The scene involving the East Wind missile prompted the Saqb news site to comment that the video was a way for the Saudis to showcase their weaponry and military might, flexing their muscles in order to intimidate Iran.

The video goes on to show Iran’s Mehrabad Air Base being destroyed and Saudi paratroops landing on Iranian territory, whereupon military commanders inform Crown Prince Salman that “the operation is moving as planned,” as the invading Saudi troops wave their flags enthusiastically. The troops corner an unknown Iranian leader and he surrenders, as planes drop notes reading. “Peace be upon you, Saudi Arabia is with the people of Iran” to an apparently grateful Iranian populace. The closing scenes show Iranians in the streets, celebrating their “liberation” by the Saudis, holding up pictures of the crown prince and waving Saudi flags, and masses of Muslims praying together at the holy site of Kaaba.

Reports on the Arabi21 Egyptian website suggested that “The Saudi Strike Force” was a “sarcastic reaction” to the Saudi Arabian government’s recent decision to reopen movie theaters, which were closed by the Sunni-dominated regime in the 1980s.

On Tuesday, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed to have fired a ballistic missile at the Saudi capital of Riyadh, and the Saudi-led coalition reported that it intercepted the missile south of city.

Last week, the United States presented what it called conclusive evidence that Tehran has indeed supplied weapons to the Houthis, violating UN resolutions.

In early November, the Houthis reportedly shot a missile at Riyadh’s international airport. Saudi officials claimed that the missile was intercepted, a fact later disputed by The New York Times. After the Saudis blamed that attack on Tehran, an Iranian government newspaper, Kayhan, published a headline threatening that the next Houthi missile would hit Dubai, implying that Iran regime may have some control over the targets selected by the Houthis. (Kayhan, ironically, was suspended from publication for two days by the regime in Tehran and reprimanded for what was called a “belligerent” headline.)

Following the November attack, Mohammed bin Salman called Iran’s Supreme Leader “the new Hitler of the Middle East.” Subsequently, Tehran accused the Saudis of colluding with Israel and not preventing President Trump from making his declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


Molly Bernstein
read more:

Europe Receiving 40% of Iran’s Crude Oil Shipments

December 6, 2017

Image result for Iran, oil, photos

Iran’s Oil Business is Booming

Asian markets continue to remain the largest recipient of Iranian crude, as European customers account for around 40% of Iranian oil exports.

Iran shipped 60% of its crude exports to refineries in Asia in November, Shana, the official portal of Oil Ministry, reported on Sunday.

China was the biggest customer of Iran’s crude oil last month, taking in around 600,000 barrels a day, the report said.

South Korea was also the main buyer of Iran’s condensate. Asia’s fourth-largest economy, which relies on imports for nearly all of its fossil fuel consumption, purchased over 400,000 barrels of condensate per day from Iran in November.

Image result for Iran, oil, photos

Condensate is an ultra light grade of oil extracted from South Pars, the world’s largest gas field shared between Iran and Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Iran ships out nearly its entire condensate output.

Until two years ago, Iran was shut out of the European energy market and its oil trade was limited to a handful of Asian buyers that took in just around 1 million barrels a day under temporary waivers.

But the lifting of sanctions in January 2016 helped Iran actively resume oil sales to major customers in Europe, including Italy’s Saras and Eni, Greek refiner Hellenic Petroleum, Madrid-based Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell and French energy giant Total that holds a stake in an offshore Iranian gas venture.

Iran’s crude oil and condensate exports have surpassed 2.5 million barrels a day, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters on the sidelines of an OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria, last week.

Image result for Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, photos

Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh

The country is pumping around 3.8 million bpd, according to government figures and data provided by OPEC’s secondary sources monitoring the production of the group’s member states.

According to Iran’s first deputy oil minister, Marzieh Shahdaei, Iran is in active negotiations with new European customers as the country looks to assert its footprint in western energy markets.

“As negotiations with European countries bear fruit, the share of Europeans from Iran’s oil exports will rise,” she said last month.

Hellenic Petroleum became the first buyer of Iranian oil after the nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers came into effect in January. Big names also quickly moved to secure Iranian barrels.

In February last year, three international vessels loaded 4 million barrels of crude for destinations in Europe in what was the first major shipment of Iranian oil to European buyers after the tightening of sanctions in 2012. The shipments were ordered by Total, Spanish refiner Cepsa and Russia’s Lukoil.

According to Shana, Europeans on average shipped in 720,000 bpd of oil from Iran in the first seven months of this year.

Source: Financial Tribune

Iran crude oil exports graphicView larger picture

Iran crude oil exports graphic. Click image to see graphic

Gulf rulers boycotting Qatar skip GCC annual summit

December 5, 2017

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani gestures as he poses for a family photo during the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in Kuwait City, Kuwait, December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed Reuters

By Ahmed Hagagy

KUWAIT (Reuters) – Qatar’s Emir said on Tuesday he hoped a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Kuwait would help maintain stability in the region, Al-Jazeera TV said, though four Arab heads of state involved in a rift with Qatar stayed away.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt which have imposed economic, diplomatic and trade sanctions on Qatar in a dispute that began in June, sent ministers or deputy prime ministers instead to the annual event.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah were the only heads of state to attend the meeting, acknowledged that the summit took place in “highly sensitive circumstances” in the life of the GCC.

“I am full of hope that the summit will lead to results that will maintain the security of the Gulf and its stability,” Tamim said, according to the Doha-based Al-Jazeera.

Sheikh Sabah, opening the summit, called for a mechanism to be set up in the Western-backed grouping to resolve disputes among its members.

Relations within the Gulf have soured since the four Arab states accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. Qatar had denied the charges.

Kuwait, which had spearheaded unsuccessful mediation efforts since the rift began, had hoped the summit would provide an opportunity for leaders to meet face-to-face and discuss the crisis, according to two Gulf diplomats.

Earlier, the UAE said it would set up a bilateral cooperation committee with Saudi Arabia, separate from the GCC, on political, economic and military issues.

UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the new committee would be chaired by Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, Mohammed Bin Zayed, state news agency WAM reported.

Saudi Arabia has not yet commented.

The proposal also coincides with an escalation in the conflict in Yemen, where both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are heavily involved. Veteran former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a roadside attack on Monday after switching sides in Yemen’s civil war, abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favor of a Saudi-led coalition.

Founded in 1980 as a bulwark against bigger neighbors Iran and Iraq, the GCC is facing an existential crisis after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, charges Doha denies.

(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)