Category: Gog-Ezekiel 38 & 39

Kremlin Backs Turkish Plan to Dump the Dollar and Trade in National Currencies

Erdogan announced Turkey was preparing to conduct trade through national currencies with China, Russia and Ukraine as ties with the U.S. continue to crumble

Reuters

Aug 13, 2018 2:11 PM

The Kremlin said on Monday that Russia favored bilateral trade with all countries in their national currencies, rather than the dollar, but that the idea needed detailed work before being implemented.

On Saturday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey was preparing to conduct trade through national currencies with China, Russia and Ukraine.

The Turkish lira sank to a fresh record low of 7.24 to the dollar in early Asia Pacific trade Monday, as investors continue to worry over the state of the economy and deteriorating ties with the United States amid a diplomatic row over a jailed American pastor.

Asked about Erdogan’s proposal, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had been pushing for such an arrangement with all countries. He said the issue had been raised on more than one occasion during bilateral talks between Turkey and Russia.

Erdogan said on Monday he expected attacks on Turkey’s economy to continue but predicted the lira would return to “rational levels” soon, after the Turkish currency hit a record low of more than 7 to the U.S. dollar.

Erdogan, who has described the lira’s fall as the consequence of a plot rather than economic fundamentals, also said that spreading false news about the economy was treason and recent U.S. actions were a stab in the back against Ankara.

Germany has an interest in a stable Turkish economy and is monitoring the situation closely, a government spokesman said, when asked about the meltdown of the Turkish currency, which has lost more than 40 percent against the U.S. dollar this year.

A spokeswoman for the German finance ministry said there had been no crisis talks among members of the G20 industrialised countries on the situation.

Turkey’s lira has declined sharply this year, largely over worries about President Tayyip Erdogan’s influence over the economy, his repeated calls for lower interest rates, and strains with the United States.

The spokeswoman said it was too early to comment on the exposure of German companies to the economic situation in Turkey, and declined to assess the latest developments there.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9324

Russian submarine threat largest since Cold War: top US Navy admiral

 

By Lucas Tomlinson | Fox News

Pentagon and NATO brass have issued fresh warnings about increased Russian naval activity in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, with the top U.S. Navy admiral saying this week Russian submarine operations are currently at levels not seen since the Cold War.

That’s one reason the Navy plans to stand up a new command later this month to deal with the return of an old foe.

Tuesday night provided the latest example of Russia’s new show of force. A British Type 45 guided-missile destroyer escorted two Russian warships through the English Channel.

The Royal Navy posted video of HMS Diamond alongside the Russian destroyer Severomorsk and cruisier Marshal Ustinov in the English Channel. Interactions like this have become so common, the Royal Navy has warships standing 24-hour alert in port.

The incident took place one day after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, at the Pentagon. It marked the second time the same British warship had responded to approaching Russian Navy warships, according to the warship’s commanding officer.

This week, the U.S. Navy’s highest ranking officer, Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, told VOA Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic is “more than we’ve seen in 25 years.”

But a day later, Mattis downplayed the perceived threat from the Russian Navy.

“We always keep an eye on the submarines at sea and I prefer not to say any more than that,” Mattis told reporters on the Pentagon steps ahead of Williamson’s visit.

A recent Russian missile test provided another example of Russia’s resurgence at sea.

Two months before the Helsinki summit, a Russian ballistic missile submarine launched four long-range nuclear missiles in rapid succession from off the coast of Russia in the White Sea, each with a range of 6,000 miles – putting Washington, D.C. in range. U.S. spy satellites took note of the test, which marked the first time Russia had fired this many missiles at once from its newest class of ballistic missile submarine.

Observers said tensions are high right now between Moscow and Washington, despite the summit in Helsinki last month. On Wednesday, the U.S. said it would impose sanctions on Russia over a nerve agent attack.

“I think Russia is signaling to us that the Bear is back. We are likely to see more of this intimidating, threatening operations on the part of the Russian fleet,” said Peter Brookes, a senior fellow for national security affairs at the Heritage Foundation.  “This is an expression of President Putin’s foreign policy and it’s directed towards the United States.”

U.S. officials are concerned special Russian submarines can tap into undersea cables.

Days ahead of the landmark summit between Cold War foes, President Trump signaled a willingness to ease tensions despite his top intelligence officials accusing Russia of meddling in the 2016 election.

“Maybe we will get along with Russia,” the president said at a news conference on July 12. “I think we probably will be able to.”

A week after the Helsinki summit, Trump told CNBC if things didn’t work out, “I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had,” speaking about Russian President Vladimir Putin.  (AP, File)

A week after the Helsinki summit, Trump told CNBC if things didn’t work out, “I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had,” speaking about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since Russian forces deployed to Syria three years ago, Russian submarines in the Mediterranean have at times launched missiles to help crush the rebellion battling the Assad regime.

The increased Russian threat is one of the reasons the U.S. Navy is bringing back the 2nd Fleet later this month in Norfolk, Va. to keep tabs on the Russians in the Atlantic.

It had been deactivated in 2011.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9311

US Reimposes Economic Sanctions on Iran

By JNS August 7, 2018 , 11:14 am

Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. Proverbs 25:26 (The Israel Bible™)

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday restoring key sanctions on Iran with the hope of levying “maximum economic pressure” on Tehran over its nuclear program and other destabilizing activity in the Middle East.

“As we continue applying maximum economic pressure on the Iranian regime,” said Trump, “I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic-missile program and its support for terrorism.”

The new sanctions on Iran prevent any transactions with the Islamic Republic involving dollar bank notes, gold, precious metals, alumni, steel, commercial passenger aircraft and coal, as well as ending imports into the United States of Iranian carpets and food. On Nov. 5, a second round of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry are also set to go back into effect.

“We’re very hopeful that we can find a way to move forward, but it’s going to require enormous change on the part of the Iranian regime,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday. “They’ve got to behave like a normal country. That’s the ask. It’s pretty simple.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Trump on his decision to reimpose sanctions.

“This is an important moment for Israel, the U.S., the region and the entire world. It represents the determination to curb Iran’s aggression in the region and its ongoing intention to arm itself with nuclear weapons. I call upon the countries of Europe, which talk about stopping Iran, to join this measure. The time has come to stop talking and to take action, and that is exactly what the U.S. has done and what Europe should do.”

The renewed sanctions come as a result of Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal last May. Trump, who called the deal “horrible” and “one-sided,” is seeking to ratchet up pressure on the Iranian regime, which the president accuses of destabilizing the Middle East.

“Since the deal was reached, Iran’s aggression has only increased. The regime has used the windfall of newly accessible funds it received under the JCPOA to build nuclear-capable missiles, fund terrorism, and fuel conflict across the Middle East and beyond,” he said.

“Reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions through today’s actions further intensifies pressure on Tehran to change its conduct,” said the president.

At the same time, the renewed sanctions come amid growing protests in Iran over the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Protesters could be seen on the streets in the last few days in several major cities, including Tehran, Isfahan and Karaj.

In addition to the newly imposed sanctions, Iranians are concerned about the rapid drop in the country’s currency, the rial, which has lost nearly 80 percent of its value from a year ago.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9309

Netanyahu warns that Israel will stop any Iranian attempt to close Red Sea

After Yemeni rebel attack on Saudi tankers, PM tells graduates of naval commanders’ course a ‘determined international coalition’ would act against Tehran

By TOI staff 1 August 2018, 10:31 pm 4

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran on Wednesday that Israel, together with an “international coalition,” would not allow the Islamic Republic to close a key regional waterway.

Speaking to graduates of the Israel Navy’s elite captains’ course at its naval training base in Haifa, Netanyahu said, “At the beginning of the week we witnessed a serious clash with Iran’s proxies who tried to obstruct international movement in the straits at the entrance to the Red Sea.”

He added: “If Iran tries to block the Bab Al-Mandab Straits, I’m convinced that it will find itself facing a determined international coalition to prevent this.

“This coalition would include Israel,” he promised the 36 newly-minted naval commanders, “in all its branches.”

Netanyahu was referring to the attack last week by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels on two Saudi oil tankers in the straits, an attack that led to the temporary suspension of Saudi oil shipment through the area and a spike in global oil prices.

The Bab al-Mandab Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, is the southern entrance to the Red Sea. As such, it is a bottleneck for maritime traffic to Israel’s southern port of Eilat.

“The sea provides us with many opportunities. Above all it increases the small size of the State of Israel and allows us to deploy our vessels above and below the waves across a vast area. This gives the State of Israel considerable power,” he said.

Shortly after Netanyahu’s speech, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the graduates that the IDF, which faces security threats on the country’s northern and southern borders simultaneously, is capable of fighting a war on multiple fronts.

“Daring seafarers, our men of iron, ready at any moment for any mission,” he said in a tweet following the ceremony.

“You stand ready in the Red Sea, and in the north and in the south. You are ready for a campaign on all fronts at once, ready to deliver a powerful blow to the enemy.”

The Saudi tankers, operated by the Saudi shipping group Bahri, each with a two-million-barrel capacity, emerged mostly unscathed from the attack.

“One of the ships sustained minimal damage. No injuries nor oil spill have been reported,” the Saudi state oil giant Aramco said.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war has repeatedly warned that the Iran-backed Houthi rebels are threatening vessels in the Red Sea — a key shipping route for world trade — through their control of the strategic Hodeida port.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9300

Iran’s Rial Nearing Collapse Ahead of Renewed Sanctions

By JNS July 31, 2018 , 5:33 pm

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. Proverbs 22:7 (The Israel Bible™)

In just four months the value of Iran’s currency, the rial, has dropped by half—now it takes 102,000 rial to buy a dollar—Agence France-Presse reported on Monday. In March, the rial’s value had dropped to the point that it cost 50,000 rial to buy a dollar.

The latest reported drop of the rial comes ahead of expected sanctions to be imposed by the United States on Iran on Aug. 6.

The unofficial rate was confirmed by an anonymous trader to AFP.

The government set an official rate of 42,000 rials for a dollar in April and threatened to crack down on those trading currency on the black markets. But Iranians still wanted to buy dollars, either to preserve their wealth, or even as an investment, as the rial continued to fall.

Bloomberg reported that the continuing devaluation of the rial, already damaged by “from years of sanctions, mismanagement and corruption,” is nearing collapse.

The disparity between the official and actual rates of the rial has allowed importers to “profiteer” by importing goods at the official exchange rate and then selling them priced in rials at the higher unofficial rate.

In a statement released on Monday, Iran’s central bank blamed the economic uncertainty on “plots by the nation’s enemies to create unrest in the economy.”

Last week, the government replaced Valiollah Seif, the governor of the central bank, effectively blaming him for the nation’s economic straits.

Iran has been taking action against those taking advantage of the rial’s fall.

The police have been chasing black-market traders from their bases of operation. The government has also announced the arrests of 29 people for what it calls “disturbing” the nation’s economy and its “money and currency systems.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9298

Syria proclaims control of borders with Israel = Iranian/Hizballah forces now face IDF Golan positions

Jul 31, 2018 @ 10:10 Binyamin Netanyahu, Golan, Hizballah, ISIS, Israel’s borders, Shiites, Syria, Vladimir Putin

Three glaring inaccuracies appeared in the Syrian claim on Tuesday, July 31, that its army had won control of the entire border with Israel, which failed to credit Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiites.

  1. Hizballah and Shiite militias commanded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, in fact, fought the winning battle for the Syrian-Israeli border regions – not the Syrian army’s 4th
  2. “The Syria Special Forces” credited with the feat is a euphemism for “The Local Defense Forces” – itself a code-word for a Shiite unit run by Hizballah officers and local mercenaries in Hizballah’s pay. Its commander does not take its orders from the Syrian general command, but directly from Iranian Revolutionary Guards centers in Syria. DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that, by now, these “Local Defense Forces” have set up headquarters in the Quneitra region at Tel Mashara and Mashara the town.
    An Israeli officer relayed a hurried request through IDF channels to the Russian command in Khmeimim, asking them to protect the population which had fallen under Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah control after being long allied with and aided by Israel. This request to save lives was not only belated, but futile. The Russians, having abetted the Syrian/Iranian conquest of southwestern Syria, are now gone from the area. President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu have therefore reneged on their reiterated pledge to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to appoint a Russian officer at the head of the Syrian units entering the border regions as a guarantee that pro-Iranian elements would not move in with them. This was the last of a row of commitments which the Russians failed to uphold.
    Going by past instances, the incoming Syrian “special forces” will now start a process of “selection” to establish which parts of the population collaborated with Israel. We will soon start hearing about mass executions.
  3. The battle for the Yarmuk valley is not over, as the Syrians maintain. True, the roughly one thousand Khalid bin Walid Army fighters loyal to the Islamic State have no chance against the onslaught mounted on them in the last corner of the border. But for now, they are still holding out in 50 sq.km of the pocket that controls the Syrian-Israeli-Jordanian border intersection, They are also armed with Grad ground-to-ground rockets, two of which landed in the Sea of Galilee on July 25.

So what happened to the solemn promises never to allow pro-Iranian and Hizballah forces to reach the Israeli border and certainly not to set up bases in Syria, that were heard week after week from Israel’s top leaders, such as the prime minister, the defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, senior cabinet ministers Naftali Bennett and Yoav Galant and the IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot? The new photo attached to this article clearly attests to those hostile forces already sitting on fences within sight of the IDF’s positions on the Golan border.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9290

Next Middle East War Is Most Likely to Start In These Places, According to New Report

Escalating violence in two nations may threaten to plunge the already restive Middle East into a deeper conflict involving regional and international powers, according to the latest report by a leading monitor.

The Belgium-based International Crisis Group describes its “U.S.-Iran Trigger List” as “an early-warning platform to monitor, analyze and provide regular updates on key and increasingly flashpoints between Iran and the U.S. or their respective allies that could lead to a direct or indirect confrontation, or generally to a dangerous regional escalation.” It currently includes nine flashpoints with varying degrees of severity, the highest being “Critical,” across the Middle East and its periphery.

In a statement sent Tuesday to Newsweek, the International Crisis Group announced that, for the first time since the project was launched in late 2017, it includes “flashpoints in two different countries set to Critical.”

“In Yemen, where the battle for [the city of] Hodeida is reaching the point of no return and Huthi ballistic missile launches against Saudi Arabia are on the rise; and in the Golan Heights, where the dangerous tit-for-tat between Israel and Iran continues,” the group said.

Iran and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia are locked in a battle for regional supremacy, fighting proxy wars in several different Middle Eastern countries. Among the conflicts listed in this map, the International Crisis Group has identified Yemen and Syria as being the most likely to produce violence between the U.S., Iran or their allies. Reuters

The war in Yemen has already caused what the United Nations has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” The conflict began shortly after a Zaidi Shiite Muslim rebel group known as the Houthis, or Ansar Allah, managed to force Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi out of the capital city of Sanaa in 2015.

Hadi had replaced longtime Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh after mass protests surrounding the Arab Spring movement in 2012, but the new administration was plagued by accusations of corruption, economic woes and violent insurgencies waged by both the Houthis and the ultraconservative Sunni Muslim Al-Qaeda. Neighboring Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as a proxy force of Iran, which sponsors Shiite Muslim militias across the Middle East, and gathered allies to stage a massive intervention against the Houthi government.

Tehran and the Houthis, though largely aligned politically, deny any military connection, but the U.S. and Israel have joined Saudi Arabia in accusing Iran of supplying the Yemeni rebels with the ballistic missiles they frequently fire on Saudi-backed forces and on the kingdom itself.

Saudi Arabia’s devastating air campaign has largely failed to break a bloody stalemate between the pro-Yemeni government forces and the Houthi bloc. This could change, however, as the Saudi-led coalition claimed to have seized the only Houthi-held port city of Al-Hodeidah. Iran and the Houthis have denied these reports and casualties continue to mount.

The International Crisis Group warned such a critical battle could lead to drastic measures on either side. It listed “Critical” flashpoints in the Yemeni cities of Saada, where the Saudi-led coalition claimed to have captured and killed members of the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement, and in the strait of Bab el-Mandeb, where Houthi commanders have threatened to bomb Saudi vessels and military sites.

A map shows deaths in Yemen from June 10-16, 2018 as battles rage on between the Iran-aligned Houthi rebel movement and the Saudi-led coalition attempting to reinstate Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project/Reuters

The non-governmental organization also listed Syra’s southern region of Al-Tanf, located near the country’s borders with Jordan and Iraq, and the eastern Euphrates River Valley as a “Moderate” threat. The U.S.-led coalition set up a base in Al-Tanf despite Syrian, Russian and Iranian calls to dismantle it and has used force to defend a roughly 34-mile right around it against what it says are incursions from pro-Syrian government fighters.

Syria’s long-running civil war also began with the 2011 Arab Spring protests. The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others backed regime change efforts against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran, both of which ultimately intervened to support the Syrian leader against rebels and jihadis attempting to overthrow him.

Even as the U.S. cut support for an increasingly Islamist opposition, close calls between international forces in Syria have been dangerously commonplace. The U.S.-led coalition and Russia maintain a deconfliction line to prevent incidents between their dueling air campaigns against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). The Pentagon, however, has intentionally targeted the Syrian government on at least two occasions in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks in rebel-held regions, and it has launched several airstrikes on pro-Syrian government fighters—including Russian fighters—after reportedly coming under attack.

The U.S. focused on assisting the local, Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces take out ISIS in eastern Syria, fellow NATO Western military alliance member Turkey staged a unilateral invasion of northwestern Syria to oust U.S.-backed Kurdish groups branded terrorist organizations by Ankara. Scores of Kurdish fighters fled U.S.-led coalition frontlines to battle the Turkish troops and Syrian rebels, even joining pro-Syrian government efforts.  The U.S. and Russia remained mostly sidelined, but Washington refused Ankara’s demands to withdraw from the city of Manbij and the two nations ultimately settled on establishing separate, yet coordinated controls around the Kurd-held city.

The U.S.-led coalition, the Russia-Syria alliance and their mutual Iraqi ally were not the only ones conducting airstrikes in Syria, however. While rarely announced, Israel has increasingly targeted suspected Iranian and pro-Iran military assets in neighboring Syria, from which a hostile force—potentially Iranian—fired rockets toward the Israel-occupied Golan Heights, prompting a massive Israeli air assault.

The U.S. has already warned it would not provide military support to Syrian rebels and a potential arrangement may exclude Iran-aligned elements from taking part in Assad’s latest offensive, but a suspected Israeli attack on what was reportedly an Iranian weapons shipment in Damascus has prompted further concerns that the situation could quickly get out of hand. The International Crisis Group listed “Golan Heights and South/West Syria” as a “Critical” flashpoint.

Smoke rises above the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa as it’s being bombarded in this footage obtained from the official Syria TV network, June 26, 2018. The Syrian military and its allies have begun a new offensive to retake the rebel-held southwest, but involvement by Iran could risk an intervention from Israel, which occupies the nearby Golan Heights. Syria TV/Reuters TV

On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition told Newsweek that its advisers and allied Syrian rebels came under from “an unidentified hostile” force near Al-Tanf. The incident occurred only days after the U.S. and Israel were blamed for deadly airstrikes against pro-Syrian government fighters—including Iraqi militias—in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. The province is located in the Euphrates River Valley, where both the U.S.-led coalition, pro-Syrian government forces and the Iraqi military are clearing out the last of ISIS.

In addition to Yemen and Syria, the International Crisis Group listed other flashpoints in Afghanistan, IraqLebanon and the Strait of Hormuz—a crucial waterway where U.S. and Iranian naval ships have shared tense encounters.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9283

Ignore Iran Because The Caspian Sea Shows That If There Is A Threat It Is Going To Be The War Between Russia And Turkey

By Andrew Bieszad on July 7, 2018 in General

In On Your Majesty’s Secret Service, the world’s most famous spy, James Bond, commented on the flavor of the caviar, in which he noted, “Royal Beluga, North of the Caspian.” Caviar, which are the eggs of the Sturgeon fish and her ichthoyd cousins harvested from either the Black or Caspian Seas, are world famous for their flavor, association with royalty, and high prices.

But there is far more wealth located in and around the Caspian than just caviar. The Caspian is a strategic military point and a major source of oil and gas reserves. Five nations share a border with the Caspian. These are Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan.

While the sea itself is small, he who controls the sea even to the point of defining whether it is a sea or a lake is able to control the flow of oil and gas in the region, and it is for this reason that the status of the Caspian will be discussed at an upcoming international conference in Kazakhstan:

A new draft convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, allowing for the laying of pipelines on the seabed and banning foreign military forces, has reportedly been agreed by the five bordering states. Officials also have said that a summit between the five heads of state will take place in early August to sign the agreement.

If it comes off, it would end a dispute that has festered since the collapse of the Soviet Union on how to divide up the sea and its substantial oil and gas reserves. It could also pave the way for the transport of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Europe, something European officials have long hoped for, but which Russia and Iran have opposed.

On June 22, Russia’s official state portal for legal information published a resolution by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recommending that President Vladimir Putin sign the agreement. It also published the draft agreement itself, but quickly deleted it.

The most noteworthy element of the agreement was Article 14, allowing the littoral states to lay undersea pipelines with the approval only of the countries through whose sectors of the sea the pipeline would pass.

The agreement postponed, however, one of the thorniest issues between the five states: exactly how the sea would be divided up. This has been a longstanding dispute between Tehran, which has insisted on each state getting a 20 percent share, and the other four states, whose shorelines are longer and who prefer a “median line method” of dividing up the sea that would leave Iran with only a 14 percent share.

The published draft document says only that “the delimitation of the floor and mineral resources of the Caspian Sea by sector will be carried out by agreement between the neighboring and facing states taking into account generally recognized principles and legal norms.”

That approach is “evasive” but “expected,” said Stanislav Pritchin, the head of the Center for Central Asia and Caucasus Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview with Russian newspaper Kommersant.

The draft convention is the result of 16 years of talks between the five Caspian littoral states: Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran. It follows December’s agreement between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on how to divide up their maritime border, which has been particularly sensitive as the area contains contested gas fields.

But while details of the final draft itself remain vague, several questions also remain unanswered.

Not least: What’s in this for Russia? Russia is unlikely to welcome competition in the form of gas from Turkmenistan, which could potentially drive prices down and eat into state gas company Gazprom’s market share.

But Russia may be counting on other obstacles getting in the way of a trans-Caspian pipeline, like financing, said Zaur Shiriyev, a Baku-based fellow at the International Crisis Group. “Russia might also believe that ongoing problems between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan will slow down the process,” Shiriyev told Eurasianet.

It also remains unclear why Azerbaijan, itself a gas producer with ambitions to become a major supplier to Europe, would agree to allow a competitor nation – i.e., Turkmenistan – to construct pipelines across the Caspian and transit gas through its territory to compete with its own gas.

“Most likely Russia is more concerned about Turkmenistan’s growing dependence on China as a gas export market and wants to improve its leverage over Ashgabat,” said John Roberts, an analyst on Caspian energy and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
With that in mind, Roberts added, Moscow may be prepared to allow the development of a pipeline carrying small volumes of gas across the Caspian for use by Azerbaijan domestically or for transit to Turkey, secure in the knowledge that Azerbaijan itself would be unlikely to agree to a major pipeline to transit large volumes of gas to Europe.

“Baku might agree to a pipeline carrying, say, 8 to 10 billion cubic meters per year,” Roberts told Eurasianet. That volume could help cover Azerbaijan’s own domestic gas shortage, the result of exporting most of its own production, while providing some for Georgia and Turkey and possibly a small volume for export via the TANAP pipeline being developed by Azerbaijan and Turkey. That pipeline currently has nearly half its capacity still available.

Russia also was able to secure a provision in the draft agreement forbidding the presence of armed forces from non-littoral states on the Caspian. It also forbids any of the signatories from letting their territory be used as a base for an attack on another signatory. Moscow has been extremely sensitive about Western countries’, in particular America’s, tentative efforts to establish naval cooperation with Caspian states.

“The pipeline wasn’t the major issue for Russia,” Shiriyev said. “Security, non-interference, and militarization came first.”

The five Caspian heads of state are tentatively scheduled to have a summit to sign the agreement on August 12 in Aktau, on Kazakhstan’s Caspian coast, reported Kommersant citing several unnamed sources. (source)

America has been working extensively to establish a presence in Central Asia, for in the years following the fall of teh Soviet Union, Central Asia remains under the general geopolitical sphere of influence of the Russians but given the difference in history, language, culture, and religion with the Slavic peoples of Russia despite their close proximity, the US has been attempting to encourage ethnic nationalism in order to further a divide-and-conquer strategy as has been discussed and outlined in the Jamestown Institute’s Decline of Russia Project. Since the earliest days of the CIA and continuing through today, the USA has been attempting to use the ethnic minorities of Russia to encourage separatism, even to the point of supporting Islamic terrorism, to further her geopolitical goals.

In Central Asia there is also the growing power of Turkey. While the people of Turkey are for the most part Greek, Armenian, and Slavic peoples who mixed with Central Asian Turks and converted to Islam in the centuries following their conquest of that region, they are the largest single “Turkic” culture of the Turkic peoples who for centuries were known as the Ottoman Empire, and under President Erdogan, he has made no secret that he wants to revive the glory of Turkey’s past which he believes will be a return to her Ottoman ways.

The five “-stan” nations of Central Asia- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan- are also Turkic, Muslim, and out of which many other conquerors and earth-changing cultures emerged. There is a shared belief that Aryan culture, encompassing what became the Turkic but also Japanese and Germanic peoples emerged from the area around the Caspian and spread into Mongolia, Northern China, and the Islands of Japan as well as India and into Europe. Yet while rich in culture, the nations of Central Asia are some of the poorest nations in the world, and many people have been migrating from them to Russia in search of a better life, for while wages in Russia are some of the lowest in Europe, they are still notably higher than in their own nations.

Russian reaction to the migrations have been mixed, for the peoples of Central Asia uniformly have a higher birthrate for each nation than all of Russia, including Uzbekistan, the only one of the five to have a fertility rate below replacement level. Some have been concerned that Russia may be “replaced” by migrants in the same way that some have expressed concerns in Germany following the massive influx of African people beginning in late 2015. Russia has, like Germany, remained silent, and Putin has gone so far as to appoint Sergei Shoigu, the son of a Central Asian father and a Slavic Russian mother, to the head of the Russian Armed Forces.

This fusion of Slavic and Central Asian culture, while always existing, has been encouraged by Putin not so to “annihilate” or wholly assimilate the two into each other, but to build a closer relationship with the Central Asian republics and their former ruler in Russia on a shared historic and regional security interest.

Each of the republics offers something unique to Russia. In the case of Turkmenistan, she is home to some of the richest resources of natural gas in the region. This has been known for years, and in the 1970s resulted in the creation of an international tourist attraction when while drilling for natural gas, a rig exploded and blew open a large crater in Darvaza, an outpost in the desert. This worksite accident caught on fire and has been burning continually, fueled by natural gas reservoirs from under the ground. It is visible from space and has been named the “Gateway to Hell” for which people come from around the world to see.

But tourist attractions aside, Turkmenistan’s Caspian coastline is oil rich and provides a direct path by sea to Azerbaijan, a nation known to and fought over by the Germans and the Russians in the First and Second World Wars due to her oil and gas reserves on the Caspian. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have been in talks for a long time to build an underwater pipeline to transmit oil, something which Russia and Iran both oppose because of the natural gas lines that flow through either nation. Since both nations rely heavily on oil and other raw materials processing, an Azeri-Turkmen pipeline would pose a direct threat to their economic livelihood.

But as pointed out earlier, the obsession of building an Azeri-Turkmen pipeline would seem to be a foolish move for Azerbaijan, as it truly would invite competition from Turkmenistan. Since most of the gas would be going from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan would stand to gain a majority of the profits as it travels to Europe through Turkey. Economically speaking, it does not makes sense between the two nations themselves.

However, what makes the pipeline profitable is Turkey.

Turkey’s growing power in the pursuit of her Ottoman dream have put her on a global quest to seek out old allies and connect with potential new ones. Azerbaijan is a historical Turkish ally and by extension, an ally of Germany. Germany has not been shy in the past to use her alliance with Turkey as well as to call upon Germanic peoples living in the Volga and Caucasus regions of Russia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan to support her imperialist ambitions during the 20th century.

Azerbaijan does not stand a chance against Turkey in a war, let alone Germany. However, as an ally of Turkey and increasingly an ally of NATO, the poor Caucasus nation is content to show her friendship by allowing Turkish economic interests to flourish in her nation. This is much to the dismay of Russia, who in spite of talks of regional alliances, attempts to serve as a peacemaker in regional Azeri affairs, and their shared history under the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan have deteriorated, especially in comparison to Azeri-Turkish relations.

Azerbaijan has created some well-made propaganda videos for their military, but the reality is that their power comes from Turkey and will act in a way that benefits Turkey as they are close allies.

The Cooperating Council of Turkic States, known as the Turkic Council, based out of Turkey, is one of the largest organizations promoting pan-Turkism, that by invoking images of a shared history, culture, and race, the Turkic peoples would be united and act with a single voice in world affairs. Currently, the Council includes Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan is scheduled to become a member, but has not yet become a full member of the council.

If Turkmenistan were to become a member of the council, aside from the oil pipeline, it would give the Turkic states which share a border on the Caspian a more than 50% control. With Iran holding only 14% of the coast, the rest would belong to Russia. However, it would not change that, in the case of a closer alliance between Turkey and her Central Asian neighbors, which she is already working on, an effective Turkish domination over the Caspian just as how the Ottoman Empire once dominated the Mediterranean Sea for centuries. This domination would make effectively Turkey’s allies- and by extension Turkey- the main oil power in the region, and give her enough oil to pass to her Teutonic ally as they work in mutual support of each other’s militaries.

Could the reason that Turkmenistan’s full participation in the Council be tied to the Azeri-Turkmen pipeline and subsequently, the economic future of Turkey, as well as Turkmenistan’s close alliance historically with Russia? One does not have direct evidence to support this, but in light of the increasing ethnonationalism and the struggle with Russia, such motives should not be eliminated as possible motives.

It also should be no surprise then that both the USA and Germany- sometimes known as the “European Union”- express support for the sister to the Transcaspian pipeline project, which is the Transanatolian pipeline, as the latter is the landward-west part of the former project:

The presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan have inaugurated a major pipeline that will eventually transport Azerbaijan natural gas to Europe.

The $8.5-billion (€7.2 billion) Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, aimed at turning Turkey into an energy hub and diversifying EU natural gas supplies away from Russia.

“Our country is now one step closer to its vision to become a hub of regional energy lines thanks to TANAP,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in the central city of Eskisehir on Tuesday, dubbing the project “the Silk Road of energy.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic were in attendance at the ceremony which saw the last section of the pipeline put in place.

From Turkey to Italy

The 1,850 kilometer (1,150 miles) TANAP pipeline connects to the South Caucasus Pipeline, which pumps gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz 2 field in the Caspian through Georgia to Turkey.

Another section of the pipeline project, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is slated to bring gas from Turkey through Greece and Albania to Italy by 2020.

The 3,500-kilometer Southern Gas Corridor will deliver 6 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Turkey and 10 billion cubic meters to Europe.

Alper Ucok, the Turkish Industry and Business Association representative to Germany, said TANAP shows how Turkey is a key partner in the EU’s energy security.

TANAP has the political support of the EU and United States.

‘Strategically important’ for EU

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, who is in charge of the Energy Union, praised the inauguration of TANAP as a key milestone in improving energy security.

“By helping diversify our energy suppliers and routes, the Southern Gas Corridor is strategically important for the EU’s energy security, including in the most vulnerable parts, such as Southeast Europe and southern Italy,” he said. (source)

This is also the reason why Turkey with the USA and Germany are working on building up a massive railway line going through Turkey and Azerbaijan, through southern Iran and into Central Asia. Oil is most efficiently transmitted by pipeline, but after pipelines the railway system is the second most commonly used means of bringing crude oil from field to refinery.

A railway network is a form of insurance for Turkey and her allies. In the even that either the sea or land portions of any pipeline are shut down, a railroad network ensures an efficient backup means of transportation. Excluding emergencies, a railroad network only adds to the efficiency of transporting oil as it is but another means to move more of the same product faster.

For the most part, any argument between Russia and Turkey is going to be slugged out through public relations appearances, proxy wars, back-door deals and secret meetings as the two nations are historical enemies and which the USA and Germany have extensively funded their Turkish pet project to serve as a hedge against the Russians.

In the years of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan were all a part of the same nation so effectively any oil they pumped went to Moscow. Iran retained her same borders, and just as in the years before 1991, she controls her 14% of the Caspian coast and wants to maintain it. Iran pushed for a renewed plan in which all oil proceeds would be split equally between the five nations, hoping to increase her share of profits, but that plan was wholly rejected and is unlikely to be able to be revived.

Iran is the largest producer of saffron and pistachios, the second largest producer of dates and one of the largest producers of honey in the world. However, like many Middle Eastern nations, her economy does not revolve around Warbat and Ranginak, but petroleum products. Given that 10% of the proveable oil and 15% proveable natural gas fields are in Iran, she relies heavily on her exports to China, India, and the EU for her economic livelihood.

Iran is a strong regional power in the Middle East and parts of Central Asia and her culture is highly influential in the realm. However, by no means is or was she ever a dominant military power. The realm of force belongs to the Turk, who sweeping out of Central Asia centuries ago overran the Alborz and Zagros mountain ranges on their warpath to world domination. It is not just the Ottomans that did this. Every major Turkic migration, from the Seljuks who terrorized the Byzantines, to the Mongolian hordes of Genghis and Hulagu Khan, to the horrors of the Uzbek butcher Tamerlane who nearly extinguished the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, Iran is to the Middle East as Poland is to Germany and Russia. She is the land over which great armies march and fight in, and she is often times stuck in the middle.

Once again, Iran finds herself surrounded by Turkey on the West, Russia to the north, and the Central Asian republics who are again experiencing a revival of pan-Turkism vis-a-vis their Soviet past. The future is unknown, except that Iran can likely be certain that she will be overrun again.

It is unsurprising then that Iran has chosen for the path of regional friendship. In spite of claims from some in the region, what one can tangibly see is that Iran has voluntarily offered to help Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, and the nations of Central Asia for economic partnerships when the opportunity arises. For example, Iran and Azerbaijan recently signed an agreement of friendship to develop oil fields on the Caspian together. At the same time she also signed similar agreements with Russia over finances and also to develop Caspian oil resources. She admits she wants closer ties with all Caspian oil states, and has presented herself as a friend to all.

These oil states are Iran’s economic competitors. She should be, in normal circumstances, competing for her own interests financially. However, the financial issue, which does make up a large part of Iran’s economy, is less important than the more pressing matter of survival. All the oil in the world does not mean anything if one’s nation is invaded by a foreign force, something which Iran has much historical experience of.

Iran is a nation of a high culture, ancient civilization, and has survived many invasions throughout her history going back thousands of years. Even with nations she truly hates and does want to destroy- such as her ancient hatred and disdain for Saudi Arabia, which pre-dates the arrival of Islam, or her eastern enemy of Pakistan, Iran is not going to attack them because she would invite destruction on herself. The Turks would bond on racial issues, the Russians are a power near par with the Americans, and the America and Israeli interests speak for themselves. Shooting at any country that may even have a tangential alliance to any of these nations would be suicide for Iran.

Iran is not a threat to the stability of the Middle East. If anything, her economic cooperation with her neighbors is a vehicle for regional stability, as any fighting which may take place between them would be focused on their personal differences and not with her as she is presenting herself as a friend to all and an enemy to none, for political purposes sitting on the sideline as Slav and Turk with the American sitting in the background fight with each other.

But this conflict is more than regional fighting, as since the oil lines go to Western Europe, this is about preparing Germany for a war with the Russians.

Russia could most likely win a war with Turkey. She could most likely win a war with Germany, She could most likely win a war with Japan. She may even be able to win or break even with the USA- it would be a lot tougher, but the potential does exist. She cannot win a war against all four.

Stop watching and worrying about Iran. While America and her allies and lobbyists are stirring up trouble, threatening revolution in Iran in the name of “freedom”, to overthrow Iran would only be to seize more oil and land assets for an American and German-backed expansion of their economic interests for the benefit of Turkey in the same plan for a coming war with the Russians.

Iran is a threat to Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. She is not a threat to people that if she really did threaten them in a serious way would in turn destroy her.

When President Bush II called Iran a member of the “axis of evil,” He should have taken a look at his Bible and seen that, in the end times, the seat of the Antichrist is neither in Iran nor in Russia, but in Turkey, and as the Ottoman beast revives her empire from the tomb of history, something which does not happen (ask the Greeks, Italians, Mongols, Poles, Germans, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danes, and Brits about their former empires), one may find that while the USA was fighting Russia in the Cold War, she did so by funding the Turkish menace and may have done more than what she intended to.

In the meantime, I would rather have a little bit of caviar to the melodic tune of the tar, pondering at how the days of Noah must seem little different than modern times, as man one again hurdles himself towards his own destruction, and that sometimes, the best way to fight is to simply not partake in the conflict at all.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9278

Carrier USS Harry S. Truman Operating in the Atlantic as Russian Submarine Activity is on the Rise

By: Sam LaGrone

June 29, 2018 3:32 PM • Updated: June 29, 2018 6:42 PM

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) conducts a strait transit. Truman is currently deployed as part of an ongoing rotation of U.S. forces supporting maritime security operations in international waters around the globe on April 27, 2018. US Navy Photo

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) has left the Mediterranean Sea and is now operating in the Atlantic Ocean, a defense official confirmed to USNI News.

This week the carrier, the embarked Carrier Air Wing 1 and some of its escorts passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Atlantic after spending several days in port in Marseille, France.

“As a matter of longstanding policy, we do not discuss future operations, but I can tell you that the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group will continue to conduct operations in support of our NATO allies, European and African partner nations, coalition partners, and U.S. national security interests,” Cmdr. John Perkins, a spokesman with U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, told USNI News.

The move to the Atlantic is arguably a continued expression of two constituent themes in the Pentagon as of late: a return to great power competition outlined in new strategic planning documents, and the direction from Secretary of Defense James Mattis that U.S. forces need to be “strategically predictable and operationally unpredictable.”

In terms of great power competition, there is growing evidence that Russia continues to push its newest attack submarines to operate the North Atlantic at a pace not seen since the Cold War, Navy leaders have continued to stress publicly.

Russian submarine Severodvinsk

“Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict,” current U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa commander Adm. James Foggo wrote in U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings in 2016.
“Not only have Russia’s actions and capabilities increased in alarming and confrontational ways, its national-security policy is aimed at challenging the United States and its NATO allies and partners.”

Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at CSBA, said that carrier strike group operations in the Atlantic make sense for high-end exercises for the U.S. and partner nations. Both the U.K. Royal Navy and the French Navy field effective submarine forces that haven’t trained much lately with U.S. surface ships.

“Our Atlantic coast guys need a chance to train against good submariners,” he said. “Either they’re it doing with the French or the British for training or for hope of finding a Russian submarine.”

For its part, the Truman Strike Group embarked with an extensive escort fleet that will include up to six guided-missile destroyers and the German Navy guided missile frigate FGS Hessen (F 221).

Clark said the U.S. DDGs are equipped with an effective anti-submarine warfare packages that work well in the Atlantic but aren’t typically deployed there.

“You have to make a special effort to put them there,” he said.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has also alluded to an increased Russian submarine presence in public statements about the need for the Navy to operate differently in a new era.

“It’s an aspect of the security environment that it’s getting harder to do things without being observed, no matter where you are. So we’re going to have to be clever about that,” he told USNI News last month.

In line with the Mattis guidance, the Navy is using a so-called dynamic force employment model that in the last several months has broken from the traditional patterns of the last several years.

Earlier in June, the amphibious warship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) entered the Persian Gulf after a two-and-a-half-month gap of a capital ship in the region, while two other ships in the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group – USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) and USS New York (LPD-21) – operated in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, respectively.

“The Navy is making deliberate prioritization decisions in accordance with the [national defense strategy] which may disrupt the ‘business as usual’,” a Navy official told USNI News on Friday. “We must prioritize lethality, deterrence capability, training and readiness of the defined fighting unit, and will ensure the mission is met with the right capability and platform.”

While the Navy did not acknowledge Truman’s mission in the Atlantic, the move harkens back to an exercise from last year.

On its return to Norfolk, Va., the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group operated off of the U.K. as part of Saxon Warrior, an exercise with the U.K., Germany, Sweden and Norway. The exercise was the first in the series since 2011 and was in part prompted by Russian operations in the region, USNI News understands. However, the Truman carrier strike group is expected to continue its deployment for several more months.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9273

Iran poised to resume enrichment at deep Fordow facility

Jun 13, 2018 @ 19:27 Fordow, Hassan Rouhani, Iran nuclear, Natanz, uranium enrichment

After Iran warned it will leave the nuclear accord unless benefits are forthcoming, an atomic energy official in Tehran said that uranium enrichment would resume at Fordow – if that happens.
Iranian President Rouhani issued that warning to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday. On Wednesday, June 13, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi stated in Tehran that new work would begin on the nuclear program on the orders of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Currently the Supreme Leader has ordered that the programs be carried out within the parameters of the nuclear deal,” Kamalvandi said. “And when he gives the order we will announce the programs for operating outside of the nuclear deal for reviving Fordow.”

Fordow, one of Iran’s two big enrichment sites, is equipped with 8,000 advanced centrifuges capable of turning out in a short time uranium enriched to the 20pc grade, required for making a nuclear weapon. At Natanz, Iran’s second large enrichment site, the advanced equipment just installed is believed to include high-speed IR6 centrifuges. Much of Natanz is deep underground and Fordow is buried inside a mountain to keep them safe from aerial bombardment.

The AEOI statement from Tehran had three purposes:

  1. To demonstrate the next day that Iran is unconcerned by the June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un for the nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula.
  2. It was a defiant response to the US president’s comment after the Singapore summit. He said that Iran was in a different place compared to three months ago. “I hope that at the appropriate time after sanctions, really harsh sanctions, kick in, they will negotiate a new deal. Right now, it’s too soon.” Tehran made sure in its response to stress its resolve to continue on its nuclear path regardless.
  3. The statement, combined with Rouhani’s remark to Macron, showed that the Iranian leadership is lined up solidly against Trump’s strategy and determined to resume its nuclear program.
  4. The underground enrichment facility at Fordow, not far from the religious town of Qom, is exceptionally difficult to destroy by air or missile. It consists of a network of long and twisting shafts so designed that if a section is hit, at least 10 chambers will continue to operate. An attempt was made in 2012 to disrupt the plant by sabotaging its high-tension power supply. After that, an independent power station was installed underground.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the US and Israel may be presumed to have prepared detailed operational plans for striking Fordow in consideration of these obstacles.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9243