Posts Tagged ‘Qatar’

Can Turkey turn to the Arab world for economic support?

August 14, 2018

The collapse of the lira and the diplomatic row with the United States has sent Recep Tayyip Erdogan scrambling for help from his allies, including in the Arab world. However, experts say he may find support lacking.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech

The value of Turkey’s currency, the lira, nosedived over the weekend, hitting a record low to the dollar. While it recovered somewhat on Monday, all eyes remain fixed on Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As the latest drama unfolded, the Turkish president invoked the kind of outlandish and provocative rhetoric he has become known for in recent years.

“If they [Americans] have dollars, we too have our people, our God, our Allah,” Erdogan said on Friday.

According to Hazim al-Amin, columnist at the Al-Hayat newspaper, remarks like that are only likely to alienate the Arab leaders Erdogan will need to turn to in his country’s tough times.

Erdogan’s behavior is typical of populist politicians who like to utilize religious sentiments rather than secular politics guided by reason, said al-Amin. “This group includes Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Erdogan,” he explained. “They are all concerned with at least partially replacing politics with religion.”

Pastor spat hampers Erdogan

Trump, like Erdogan, has riled European leaders with his harsh rhetoric, particularly when it comes to trade, said al-Amin, but the reaction there has been somewhat restrained in comparison. However, when it comes to the ongoing diplomatic strife between the United States and Turkey, fueled by the controversy surrounding US pastor Andrew Brunson, who is being held on terrorism charges, the US president may have met his match. “Catastrophe is inevitable,” said al-Amin.

Read moreTurkish economic shadow looms over Europe and beyond

According to Yunus Ulusoy from the Foundation Center for Turkish Studies and Integration Research in Essen, the whole affair has put Erdogan in a difficult spot. Theoretically, it is conceivable that the Turkish president will release Brunson, “but that would be a loss of face for Erdogan that would leave him little support from his followers,” said Ulusoy, adding that such a solution is perhaps only probable in the long term.

Erdogan visiting Qatar (picture alliance/dpa/abaca/K. Ozer)Erdogan was quick to come to Qatar’s defense, but will that support go both ways?

Friendly Qatar has struggles of its own

Turkey maintains only limited economic relations with the Arab world and its prospects for trade in the region are also limited as a result, explained Mustafa Ellabad, director of the Al-Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “The Turkish-Arab partnership is overrated,” he told DW. “Turkey exports mainly basic, unprocessed goods to the Arab world.”

Turkey’s closest ally in the region is Qatar. The two states’ already-strong political ties — Turkey stations troops in Qatar, for example — were further deepened last year when Ankara backed Doha after it was diplomatically isolated by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. Turkey stepped in and provided Qatar with essential goods. However, to what extent Qatar, embroiled in its own diplomatic crisis, can now support Turkey remains to be seen.

Read moreIs the Turkey crisis a threat to Europe’s economy?

Although Ankara continues to maintain relations with other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, they are very limited, said Ellabad. “If we compare trade relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, they are disproportionate to those which the Saudi kingdom maintains with the EU states,” he said.

Unfortunately for Erdogan, he may have to look elsewhere for help in solving his country’s current economic woes. He will find “no support for Turkey from the Arab states in this crisis,” Ellabad said.


Amid Saudi Arabia Row, Canada Feels Alone in The World — Oil Superpower Hates Critics

August 12, 2018

Riyadh uses Canada to send a broader signal to western governments that any criticism of its domestic policies is unacceptable.

Soon after Donald Trump took office, it became clear that the longstanding relationship between the United States and its northern neighbour was about to change: there were terse renegotiations of Nafta, thousands of asylum seekers walking across the shared border and attacks on against Canada’s protectionist trade policies.

But this week laid bare perhaps the most blatant shift in the relationship, as the US said it would remain on the sidelines while Saudi officials lashed out at Canada over its call to release jailed civil rights activists.

“It’s up for the government of Saudi Arabia and the Canadians to work this out,” state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this week. “Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can’t do it for them.”

Image result for Justin Trudeau, saudi crown prince, photos

Canada’s lonely stance was swiftly noticed north of the border. “We do not have a single friend in the whole entire world,” Rachel Curran, a policy director under former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, lamented on Twitter.

The UK was similarly muted in its response, noted Bob Rae, a former leader of the federal Liberal party. “The Brits and the Trumpians run for cover and say ‘we’re friends with both the Saudis and the Canadians,’” Rae wrote on Twitter. “Thanks for the support for human rights, guys, and we’ll remember this one for sure.”

The spat appeared to have been sparked last week when Canada’s foreign ministry expressed its concern over the arrest of Saudi civil society and women’s rights activists, in a tweet that echoed concerns previously voiced by the United Nations.

Saudi Arabia swiftly shot back, expelling Canada’s ambassador and suspending new trade and investment with Ottawa, making plans to remove thousands of Saudi students and medical patients from Canada, and suspending the state airline’s flights to and from Canada, among other actions.

Speaking to reporters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister urged Canada to “fix its big mistake” and warned that the kingdom was considering additional measures against Canada.

Analysts and regional officials said the spat had little to do with Canada, instead characterising Riyadh’s actions as a broader signal to western governments that any criticism of its domestic policies is unacceptable.

Several countries expressed support for Saudi Arabia, including Egypt and Russia. But Canada continued to stand alone, even as state-run media in the kingdom reported the beheading and “crucifixion” of a man convicted of killing a woman and carrying out other crimes.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, said Canada was continuing to engage diplomatically and politically with Saudi Arabia. “We have respect for their importance in the world and recognise that they have made progress on a number of important issues,” he told reporters this week.

He insisted, however, that his government would continue to press Saudi Arabia on its human rights record. “We will, at the same time, continue to speak clearly and firmly on issues of human rights at home and abroad wherever we see the need.”

In this particular dispute, Canada did not need US help, said Thomas Juneau, a professor at the University of Ottawa. “Saudi Arabia-Canada relations are very limited, so there’s not a lot of damage being done to Canada right now,” he said. “But this should be a source of major anxiety: when a real crisis comes and we are alone, what do we do?”

The week’s events have added impetus to a conversation that is slowly getting under way in Canada, Juneau said. “We are starting some serious soul-searching in the sense of what does it mean for Canada to have a US that is much more unilateral, much more dismissive of the rules and the norms and of its leadership role in the international order that it has played for 70 years?”

These changes south of the border have clearly emboldened Saudi Arabia, Juneau argued, describing the kingdom’s recent actions in Yemen, Qatar and Lebanon as a pattern of aggressive, ambitious and reckless behaviour.

He saw no immediate end to the row, particularly as neither side is suffering significant costs in the dispute. Saudi Arabia has shown little inclination in recent years to walk back from its reckless and impulsive behaviour, he said, while Canada’s federal government – facing an election in 14 months and already under fire for signing off on the sale of more than 900 armoured vehicles to Riyadh – is loth to be seen adopting any kind of conciliatory posture towards the conservative kingdom.

While some in Canada had been disappointed to see the UK and Europe opt to publicly stay out of the diplomatic spat, Juneau described it as unsurprising. “When Saudi Arabia had comparable fights with Sweden and Germany in recent years, did Canada go out of its way to side with Sweden and Germany? No, not at all,” he said. “We stayed quiet because we had nothing to gain from getting involved. So on the European side, the calculation is the same.”

Canada’s lonely stand for women’s rights in the kingdom did earn the support of some around the world; this week saw the Guardian and the New York Times publish editorials urging Europe and the US to stand with Canada. So did the Washington Post, going one step further by publishing their editorial in Arabic.

Their call was echoed by a handful of prominent voices in the US, including Bernie Sanders. “It’s entirely legitimate for democratic governments to highlight human rights issues with undemocratic governments,” the US senator wrote on Twitter. “The US must be clear in condemning repression, especially when done by governments that receive our support.”

U.S.-Iran Sanctions Give China Lead in World’s Top Gas Field

August 12, 2018

China National Petroleum Corp. is expected to take the lead on a $5 billion project to develop Iran’s share of the world’s biggest gas deposit, taking over from France’s Total SA, which halted operations after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

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State-owned CNPC, which had joined an original consortium involving Total and Iran’s Petropars Ltd. in 2016 to develop Phase 11 of the South Pars Gas field in the Persian Gulf, is set to increase its stake in the project from the current 30 percent. Total had originally agreed to take a 50.1 percent stake in the development.

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CNCP will become lead operating partner in the project, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said, citing Mohammad Mostafavi, National Iranian Oil Company investments and business head. Terms of the contract have not yet officially changed, according to Shana, the oil ministry’s official news site. Calls to CNPC went unanswered on Sunday and a company spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a Bloomberg News email requesting comment.

Total, which finalized its agreement with Iran in July 2017, had already spent some 40 million euros ($45.7 million) on the project when Trump announced in May that the U.S. would exit the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and reimpose sanctions on Tehran lifted after the accord was signed.

Why Trump’s Sanctions on Iran Carry So Much Force: QuickTake

The first round of U.S. sanctions was put back into place this week, with more to come in November, greatly complicating efforts by companies that rushed into Iran after the 2015 nuclear accord was signed by Iran, the U.S. and five other countries plus the European Union.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to take steps to limit its nuclear program, and to submit to verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency in return for economic sanctions relief.

Scores of European companies, including Total, have withdrawn their operations and investments from the oil-rich Persian Gulf country since the U.S. reversal. Trump marked the return of sanctions with a tweet on Aug. 7: “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.”

Iran, which holds the world’s largest gas reserves, shares South Pars, also known as the North Dome field, with neighboring Qatar.

Total had previously withdrawn from South Pars in 2009 because of sanctions. It planned an initial investment of $1 billion for Phase 11, with the aim of eventually producing 2 billion cubic feet a day, or 400,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day including condensate, the company said in a statement in July 2017. At the time, Total said the contract had a 20-year duration.

CNPC has been active in Iran since 2004, operating in oil, gas and oil-field services, according to the company’s website. In 2006, it was awarded a three-year contract to provide offshore well-logging and other services at South Pars.

Susan Rice: President Trump, the Autocrats’ Best Friend and Abdication of American moral leadership

August 10, 2018

The Trump administration is tolerating abuses by Saudi Arabia instead of defending its democratic ally, Canada.

By Susan E. Rice

Ms. Rice was the national security adviser during President Barack Obama’s second term.


People hold pictures to support Samar Badawi and her brother, the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, against the Saudi government at a 2015 rally in Paris. The Canadian foreign minister tweeted in protest of their imprisonment.CreditStephane De Sakutin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After Canada’s foreign minister tweeted concern about Saudi Arabia’s imprisonment of prominent human rights and women’s rights activists, the Saudis this week tried to punish Canada and intimidate other potential critics. They vowed to interfere in Canada’s internal affairs; expelled Canada’s ambassador and recalled their own; froze future trade and investment with Canada; and threatened to yank thousands of Saudi students out of Canadian universities. Normally, when confronted with this type of challenge, the State Department, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, would issue a statement something like this:

“The United States firmly supports the universal right of all people to express their views freely and to criticize their government’s policies peacefully. The United States is deeply concerned by the recent imprisonment of leading women and civil society activists in Saudi Arabia and joins Canada in urging their immediate release. We regret that Saudi Arabia, an important partner of the United States, has reacted to Canada’s expression of concern with excessive rhetoric and actions detrimental to both countries. We encourage both Saudi Arabia and our ally Canada to resume dialogue in order to restore normal relations.”

That is how, consistent with America’s traditional global leadership in defense of human rights, we would reiterate longstanding objections to Saudi abuses. We would support Canada, a NATO ally and indispensable neighbor, whose statement was neither harsh nor ill-conceived. We would signal subtly to Saudi Arabia that if they have a problem with Canada over this, then they also have one with the United States, because neither of us will be cowed into curtailing our criticism of friend or foe, when warranted.

Instead, after a shockingly weak initial response on Tuesday, the State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, mustered the following:

“We have a regular dialogue with the Government of Saudi Arabia on human rights and also other issues. This particular case regarding Canada, we have raised that with the Government of Saudi Arabia. They are friends, they are partners, as is Canada as well. Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can’t do it for them.”

False equivalency. Refusal to criticize obvious human rights abuses. Abdication of American moral leadership.

President Trump with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office in March. Credit Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The United States’ stance reflects the carte blanche we have given the 32-year-old Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to act with impunity on a wide range of issues. The crown prince has been feted and fawned over from Wall Street to Hollywood, where his acolytes hail his economic diversification and social reforms, including granting women the right to drive and young people the freedom to attend selected foreign movies and concerts.

While these steps are welcome, they mask a darker set of domestic and foreign policies that the crown prince is pursuing to the detriment of American interests. He has harshly cracked down on activists, imprisoned royal family members and businessmen without due process on corruption charges and briefly held hostage the prime minister of Lebanon. Alongside the United Arab Emirates, the crown prince has prosecuted a relentless war against the Iranian-backed Houthi in Yemen, where he has used American logistical support and weapons, some provided by the Obama administration, to bomb civilians indiscriminately, reportedly collaborated when convenient with Al Qaeda fighters, and constrained the delivery of desperately needed assistance.

For more than a year, Saudi Arabia has persisted in blockading neighboring Qatar and is now digging a canal to turn it into an island, despite the presence of 10,000 American troops, to punish Qatar for allegedly supporting terrorism and its relationship with Iran. Most dangerously, the crown prince and his regional allies urged the Trump administration to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions, while stoking potential conflict with Iran.

The United States is following, not leading, in our newly unconditional partnership with Saudi Arabia. We consistently acquiesce in the crown prince’s actions, however impulsive or harmful. For reasons that remain unclear, President Trump has signaled to the crown prince (who is likely to lead the kingdom for decades) that America is at his service.

Defenders of this administration’s foreign policy love to tout the much-improved American relationship with Saudi Arabia, several Gulf countries and Israel, drawing a sharp contrast with the Obama era. It’s no wonder these countries love President Trump, because unlike under his predecessors, the United States has rolled over and played dead while they do whatever they please. Not exactly the stuff of leadership.

Susan E. Rice (@AmbassadorRice), the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, is a contributing opinion writer.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump’s Autocratic Friends.

Israeli minister says Egypt bears equal responsibility for Gaza (And That Means Hamas)

August 6, 2018

Egypt bears as much responsibility for the Gaza Strip as Israel does, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Monday, in remarks that could upset Cairo as it tries to avoid being drawn back into the Palestinian enclave while brokering truce talks there.

Hamas senior Ismail Haniyeh shakes hands with his deputy Saleh Arouri upon his arrival in Gaza from Cairo, Egypt, in Gaza City, August 2, 2018.

Hamas senior Ismail Haniyeh shakes hands with his deputy Saleh Arouri upon his arrival in Gaza from Cairo, Egypt, in Gaza City, August 2, 2018.Mohammad Austaz/AP

In parallel to U.N. mediation, Egypt has used its contacts with both Israel and the dominant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to discuss ways of calming a more than three-month-old surge in confrontations along the Gaza-Israel border.

But some Egyptian officials say they would resist any attempt by Israel, or its U.S. ally, to shift to Cairo the onus for addressing Gaza’s long-term governance or economic problems.

Egypt ruled Gaza before losing it to Israel in a 1967 war. Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 while keeping control of its coast and airspace. Egypt has helped the Israelis isolate Hamas while insisting they remain the occupiers of Palestinian territory and therefore uniquely liable for Gaza.

Asked about Cairo’s role in the truce talks, Zeev Elkin, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet and Likud party, said Egyptian security needs meant the Arab power “understands that it cannot shrug off Gaza”.

“As far as we are concerned, after the State of Israel left Gaza, responsibility should not be imposed on us. Egypt is no less responsible,” Elkin to Israel’s Ynet TV in an interview.

“We left Gaza. If someone strikes at us from Gaza, they will get hit back. Let the Arab world resolve the internal, humanitarian problem of the Gaza Strip. Why should we bear responsibility for this?”

Asked if Elkin’s comments reflected Netanyahu government policy, an Israeli official close to the prime minister declined comment. There was no immediate response from Cairo.


But Egyptian officials have privately voiced worry about Israeli calls for them to be more involved in Gaza, proposals that they think may dovetail with the Trump administration’s efforts to address Palestinian grievances with pan-Arab help.

According to one Egyptian official, the Foreign Ministry in Cairo instructed its diplomats in a June 10 cable to emphasize that Egypt would not budge from its position that Israel is the country with exclusive, ultimate responsibility for Gaza.

A ministry spokesman was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment on the cable.

The Egyptian official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, summarized Cairo’s message as: “We are willing to do what we can to calm down the situation in Gaza or work on Palestinian reconciliation. But we will not take over from Israel in Gaza. It’s Israel’s problem.”

The Palestinians and the United Nations similarly dispute Israel’s assertion that it ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005.

On Sunday, when the Israeli security cabinet convened to discuss the Gaza truce ideas, one member – Intelligence Minister Israel Katz – tweeted that these should include “bringing Egyptian infrastructure, at sea and on land, to bear for the good of Gaza, under international supervision”.

The Egyptian official said Cairo would not let its facilities or territory in the Sinai desert, bordering Gaza, be used to relieve Israel of keeping the Palestinian economy alive.

Still, in what Palestinians saw a goodwill gesture, Egyptian cooking oil began entering Gaza on Sunday, offsetting Israeli supplies cut off in retaliation for the border violence.

The White House said on June 21 that it had discussed with Egypt “the need to facilitate humanitarian relief to Gaza”. The Trump administration’s stated position is that Gaza should be under the control of Hamas’s Western-backed Palestinian rivals.

Additional reporting by John Davison in Cairo, Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by William Maclean



Palestinian Officials: Israel, Egypt Advancing Gaza Deal Behind Abbas’ Back

Senior Hamas officials say the group has held series of meetings to discuss Egypt-led proposal, which would be funded by Gulf States, EU, and U.S. Reportedly, an Israeli official recently visited Qatar

Israel and Egypt have been advancing a deal to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip without involvement by the Palestinian Authority, official sources in Ramallah say.

According to a senior Palestinian official, an Israeli official visited Qatar during the visit of Egypt’s intelligence chief, General Abbas Kamel, to Washington, in an attempt to push the proposal forth.

The Palestinian official said that the proposal being promoted in Jerusalem and in Cairo put the United Nations responsible for promoting the projects while the Egyptians would be involved in the evaluation and supervision over the projects. The funding, he said, would come mainly from the Gulf States, including Qatar, with additional funding from the European Union and the United States. A reported $650 million would be invested in projects, without direct involvement by Hamas or the PA.

>> Analysis: Hamas stands to emerge dominant from possible Gaza deal – at Abbas’ expense ■ Analysis: Israel sees potential breakthrough in Hamas deal on Gaza

Hamas has not yet officially responded to the proposal, but senior figures in the organization are sending a positive message, noting that an improvement in the situation is expected, although there is fear that the proposal’s collapse is still possible.

According to a Hamas official, the most likely option currently on the table does not include a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation. According to him, “Gaza is on the verge of total collapse, also because of the sanctions the PA has placed on the Strip, so Hamas wouldn’t think twice before accepting a proposal that would ease the Gazan population’s suffering and give true relief by lifting the siege, even if there was a political price to pay.”

The official told Haaretz that there are three possible scenarios for Gaza: a full confrontation with Israel, a long-term cease-fire that would include reconciliation based on prisoner exchange and lifting of the blockade and the scenario currently on the table, which has cease-fire as a first stage with prisoner exchange as the next stage and significant easing of the siege and the final stage, leading to a long-term cease-fire, but not internal Palestinian reconciliation.

Members of the Hamas political bureau continued a series of meetings Sunday discussing the Egyptian-led efforts for a cease-fire with Israel. No final decision was reached.

Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine criticized Hamas for working towards a cease-fire without national Palestinian agreement, thereby serving Israel and the United States’ plan to sever the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.

In light of the criticism, Hamas initiated a meeting with representatives of the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, including Fatah. Senior Hamas figure Husam Badran, who recently arrived from Qatar with the delegation of Hamas’ international leadership, said that the meeting was intended to coordinate positions and to ensure broad national consensus for any proposal that would be presented.

An activist in one of the factions who participated in the meeting told Haaretz that Hamas representatives spoke in general terms without discussing details, which have yet to be agreed upon.

Fatah’s criticism of Hamas indicates that there is no expectation that the Palestinian government will return to the Gaza Strip, at least in the first stage, and that the PA will likely be a remote partner, working primarily with the United Nations.

An Egyptian source told Haaretz that Cairo still prefers a plan in which the PA is directly involved. Therefore, it is possible that the publications in recent days regardinng a proposal bypassing the PA were intended to exert pressure on the parties to promote reconciliation.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has presented 14 objections that could derail the whole process.

The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday that the Egyptians submitted a position paper following the PA’s reservations to the proposal. The position paper suggested the Palestinian government ministers would return to the Gaza Strip and manage their offices fully. Within five weeks, according to the paper, internal security arrangement between the sides would be coordinated in Cairo. In order to implement the provisions of the Cairo reconciliation agreement, a joint Fatah-Hamas committee will be set up. The committee will oversee transferring the payment collection mechanism and the legal system to the PA in return for paying salaries to government bureaucrats in the Strip, including officers nominated by Hamas.

A delegation of Islamic Jihad senior officials is set to visit Moscow for meetings with senior Russian officials. In June, Moscow hosted a Hamas delegation.

Cairo rejects funding from Qatar because of the diplomatic conflict between the two countries.

Two main proposals are under discussion – one presented by Egypt and the other by United Nations special Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov. The Egyptian proposal gives high priority to internal Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah; to exchanges of prisoners and of bodies of soldiers, with Israel; and to an agreement for a long-term cease-fire, to last from five to seven years, with the first step being a cease-fire within days of signing the accord.

Turkish Daily Discloses Highly Guarded US Secret Base Near Iran Borders

August 5, 2018
A leading Turkish newspaper disclosed that the US has established a secret base in Turkey near the borders with Iran which is heavily guarded.
FARS news (Iran)
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The Turkish-language Milli Gazete newspaper wrote that the base is located in Eastern Turkey, 450km away from Iran’s borders, where dozens of US commanders have deployed and are strongly protected.

“The US has allocated a heavy budget in 2018 to improve the situation of its military bases in Turkey, specially the air force budget,” it added.

“The military structure of the base and the type of military equipment and ammunition existing in there are still unknown,” the paper said.

It added that while the budget demanded for the US base in Incirlik is clear, the money spent on other bases in Turkey has remained a secret.

The US military in March denied news reports that it was preparing to abandon bases in Qatar and Turkey.

“The US is not leaving Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, nor is the US leaving Al Udeid AB, Qatar. These reports are false and without merit,” CENTCOM said.

Along NATO’s Southern flank in Turkey and across the Persian Gulf, the future of America’s bases in the region has long been a source of speculation.

Trump Push for Energy Dominant U.S. Blunted by China LNG Threat

August 4, 2018

China’s threatened tariff against U.S. liquefied natural gas comes as a second wave of American export terminals seek financing with an eye toward the Asian giant’s drive to reduce its use of coal.

The U.S., with its abundance of shale gas, is rapidly expanding its ability to export the fuel overseas. China, which became the world’s biggest importer of the fuel in May, is seen as a key target as it pursues a strict five-year plan to shift away from smog-inducing coal for both residences and industry.

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But a 25 percent tariff, retaliating for a U.S. plan to expand levies against China, could give exporters Qatar, Australia and Russia an edge in securing contacts with the world’s second-largest economy as a dozen or so U.S. companies seek to build new export terminals. That’s not a happy thought at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants the U.S. to be “energy dominant.”

That agenda “will cease to exist if one of the largest energy markets in the world is preemptively placing tariffs on LNG,” Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a Washington-based industry group, wrote in an email.

It’s the first time LNG, a super-chilled form of natural gas that can be transported by tanker, has been ensnared by the developing trade war between the U.S. and China. It comes as part of a $60 billion response to Trump’s recent statements that he plans $200 billion in tariffs against China.

If the threats are followed through on, billions of dollars could hang in the balance. Cheniere Energy Inc.Tellurian Inc. and other LNG developers have courted utilities and state-backed companies in China to justify building more terminals to ship gas abroad. Cheniere and Tellurian shares slid in New York trading Friday following China’s release of its report.

As U.S. LNG projects under development compete to slash costs for their potential exports, “the 25% tariff will definitely price USA LNG completely out of the Chinese market,” said Claudio Steuer, senior visiting research fellow at The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Cheniere was the first U.S. company to export shale gas overseas, starting in 2016. It’s already made substantive inroads in China, a country that trails only Mexico and South Korea among the biggest buyers of U.S. LNG.

As of mid-June, China accounted for 13 percent of the exports from Cheniere’s Sabine Pass terminal. The company recently gave the green light to expand its Texas export terminal thanks in part to a contract it signed earlier this year with China National Petroleum Corp.

Cheniere does “not view tariffs as productive,” spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said by email on Friday, describing LNG as a “win-win’’ financial situation for both the U.S. and China.

Warren Patterson, commodity strategist for ING Bank NV, said Cheniere is right to be concerned. If the tariffs are implemented, China could turn to Australia and Qatar, the world’s two biggest LNG exporters, to supply its needs, he said. Additionally, the tariff threat comes as Russia advances plans to begin pumping gas to China through its newly-built 2,500-mile (4,000 kilometer) Power of Siberia pipeline by the end of 2019.

Patterson said he was “quite surprised” to see LNG show up on China’s tariff list. With China’s aggressive move away from coal “I would have thought that the government would have wanted to ensure adequate supply,” he said in an email.

Meanwhile, Tellurian’s chairman, Charif Souki, downplayed the threat. ‘’This is people posturing one way or another on both sides of the equation; it changes nothing,” Souki in an interview. “One word: gibberish. ”

China has a “very fundamental need” for LNG and U.S. gas at $2.75 per million British thermal units is a sharp discount to the roughly $10 LNG is going for in Asia, according to Souki. Tellurian is signing non-binding agreements with some of a pool of about 25 possible partners in its project, some of which are Chinese companies, Souki said.

Whether or not the tariff will deter those negotiations with the companies from China is unknown, he said.

Iran Reportedly Launches Cyber Attack At Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt

August 2, 2018

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The group, dubbed “Leafminer,” has attacked networks in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and Afghanistan, according to a report issued by US cyber security firm Symantec.


Manama, Bahrain (Tribune News Service) – A group of “highly active” hackers based in Iran have been found to be trying to steal vital information from governments in the Middle East.

The group, dubbed “Leafminer,” has attacked networks in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and Afghanistan, according to a report issued by US cyber security firm Symantec.

However, an Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA) spokesman told the GDN yesterday “no indication was found up until now that Leafminer targeted the portal or any systems managed by IGA.”

The cyber espionage group’s targets includes the “energy, telecommunications, financial services, transportation and government” sectors.

Means of intrusion used to infiltrate target networks consisted of infecting malware on websites often visited by the users, also known as watering hole style attacks, and using brute-force login attempts, which features trying numerous passwords with the hope of eventually breaching the network.

“Symantec has uncovered the operations of a threat actor named Leafminer that is targeting a broad list of government organizations and business verticals in various regions in the Middle East,” stated a threat intelligence report by Symantec.

Operations reportedly began in early 2017 but has increased since the end of last year.

“Leafminer is a highly active group, responsible for targeting a range of organizations across the Middle East.

“The group appears to be based in Iran and seems to be eager to learn from, and capitalize on, tools and techniques used by more advanced threat actors.”

The report also said an investigation into Leafminer revealed a list, written in Farsi, of 809 systems targeted by the hackers.

“Targeted regions included in the list are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, and Afghanistan.”

The report said the attackers were looking for e-mail data, files and database servers on their target systems in financial, government, energy, airlines, construction, telecommunication and other sectors in the region.

Symantec said it was able to identify Leafminer after discovering a compromised web server that was used in several different attacks.

“It [the cyber espionage group] made a major blunder in leaving a staging server publicly accessible, exposing the group’s entire arsenal of tools.

“That one misstep provided us with a valuable trove of intelligence to help us better defend our customers against further Leafminer attacks.”

IGA said, in a statement to the GDN yesterday, that part of its job was to monitor any report issued by security vendors such as Symantec regarding any threat actors targeting the region.

“The team then conducts further investigation to look for any sign of indication related to the threat actors,” it said.

“If an indication is detected, the case is reported to IGA’s cybersecurity incident management team to take the needful action to approach the incident.

“With regards to the Leafminer cyber espionage group, no indication was found up till now that Leafminer targeted the portal or any systems managed by IGA.”

IGA officials previously said that around 27,000 attacks on government systems were managed last year, with majority of them originating from countries in the east, namely Iran.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from Bahrain-based security firm CTM360 said it was aware of Leafminer and urged companies and individuals to install anti-virus software as well as use complex passwords.

“Leafminer targeted government organizations and businesses in the Middle East by using the existing available threats out there,” said the spokesman.

“The group studied reports published by different security firms about malwares or threats, and fix the loopholes mentioned in those papers for an advanced malware attack.”


Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Efforts to hinder Saudi-UAE plan to invade Qatar cost Rex Tillerson his job, report says

August 2, 2018

Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson managed to prevent a join plan by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) to invade Qatar, which caused him to be suddenly removed from his post, the Intercept news organization reported Wednesday.

According to the piece published on the news portal, Saudi Arabia and the UAE lobbied the hardest for the top diplomat’s removal, angered by Tillerson’s efforts to end the blockade against Qatar and reconciliation in the Gulf.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Saudi King Salman speak before their meeting, October 22, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Speaking to the Intercept on the condition of anonymity, one current U.S. intelligence community member and two former State Department officials said that Tillerson “intervened to stop a secret, Saudi-led, UAE-backed plan to invade and essentially conquer” the peninsula.

The ex-CEO of Exxon Mobil also urged Saudi King Salman, then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir “not to attack the country or otherwise escalate hostilities,” the Intercept quoted the sources as saying.

According to the sources, Tillerson’s efforts helped contain the stringent efforts of the crown prince, and he backed down. On the other hand, Tillerson’s work “enraged” the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed.

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Adel al-Jubeir

The invasion plan foresaw Saudi troops, militarily backed by the UAE, crossing the land border into Qatar and advancing approximately 110 kilometers (68 miles) toward Doha. “Circumventing the U.S. air base, Saudi forces would then seize the capital,” the Intercept added in the piece.

According to the U.S. intelligence official the website quoted, Qatari intelligence agents working undercover inside Saudi Arabia discovered the plan early in the summer of 2017. The Intercept added that Tillerson acted after the Qatari government informed him and the U.S. embassy in Doha.

The piece also claimed that the intelligence reporting by the U.S. and U.K. confirmed the existence of the plan.

Did Qatar use ‘black ops’ to win World Cup bid?

July 29, 2018

Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host nation, has been accused of using secret “black operations” to undermine rival bids. It has been claimed a PR firm was hired to put out “fake propaganda” about rival nations.

World Cup fan banner reads: Thanks Russia see you in Qatar 2022 (picture-alliance/sampics/S. Matzke)

A British newspaper claimed on Sunday that Qatar’s World Cup bidding committee recruited influential individuals to attack rival bidders in their native countries. According to documents leaked to The Sunday Times, the Qatari team hired journalists, bloggers and other key figures to pump out “fake propaganda” about main rivals Australia and the US during Qatar’s campaign to host the 2022 soccer tournament.

The Qatari strategy was to give the impression that there was “zero support” amongst Australians and Americans to host the World Cup. In one instance, a broker is said to have approached academics “pretending to represent taxpayers concerned about public money on rival bids.”

One professor is alleged to have received $9,000 (€7,700) to write a negative report about the huge economic cost of a US World Cup and then distributed the piece to international media.

Read more: FIFA face legal action over alleged mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar

Qatar Emir Shaikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a World Cup handover ceremony for the 2022 World Cup at the Kremlin (Reuters/Y. Kadobnov)Qatar Emir Shaikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a World Cup handover ceremony for the 2022 World Cup at the Kremlin

Foul play    

FIFA — the international football (soccer) governing body — specifies that bids to host the World Cup should have strong backing from domestic populations.

In addition, bidders are prevented from making “any written or oral statement of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association” under FIFA guidelines.

The Sunday Times claimed the documents containing the allegations were leaked to the paper by a whistle-blower who worked with the Qatar bit to host the 2022 tournament. It said one of the leaked emails was sent to deputy bid leader Ali al-Thawadi. The email allegedly shows the Middle East nation was aware of plots to spread “poison” against other bidders.

The newspaper reported that the whistle-blower gave testimony to Britain’s minister for culture, Damian Collins. The minister said he was “extremely concerned” and called for a FIFA probe into the allegations. “The ultimate sanction for breaking the rules would be the loss of the right to host the tournament,” he said.