Category: Gog-Ezekiel 38 & 39

6 Of The Last 8 U.S. Recessions Were Preceded By Oil Price Spikes – Damage To Saudi Oil Industry Could Take “Months” To Repair

September 16, 2019 by Michael Snyder

When the price of oil rises dramatically, that tends to be really bad for the U.S. economy.  Because we are so spread out and goods are transported over such vast distances, our economy is particularly vulnerable to oil price shocks, and that is one reason why the events that we just witnessed in the Middle East are so alarming.  According to an article that was published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in 2007, five of the last seven U.S. recessions that had occurred up to that time “were preceded by considerable increases in oil prices”.  Since that article was published in 2007, the recession that began in 2008 hadn’t happened yet, and of course that recession was immediately preceded by the largest oil price spike in history.  So that means that six of the last eight U.S. recessions were preceded by oil price spikes, and now we may be facing another one.  It is being reported that it may take “months” for Saudi Arabia to fully repair the damage that was done to their oil industry, and that could fundamentally alter the balance of supply and demand in the global marketplace.

Yesterday, I discussed why high oil prices are so bad for our economy.  When the price of oil is too high, it can cause inflation and hurt economic growth simultaneously.  The article from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco that I mentioned in the last paragraph tried to explain why this happens in very basic economic terms

Oil price increases are generally thought to increase inflation and reduce economic growth. In terms of inflation, oil prices directly affect the prices of goods made with petroleum products. As mentioned above, oil prices indirectly affect costs such as transportation, manufacturing, and heating. The increase in these costs can in turn affect the prices of a variety of goods and services, as producers may pass production costs on to consumers. The extent to which oil price increases lead to consumption price increases depends on how important oil is for the production of a given type of good or service.

Oil price increases can also stifle the growth of the economy through their effect on the supply and demand for goods other than oil. Increases in oil prices can depress the supply of other goods because they increase the costs of producing them. In economics terminology, high oil prices can shift up the supply curve for the goods and services for which oil is an input.

Needless to say, the unprecedented attack on Saudi oil production facilities was going to cause the price of oil to rise substantially.  In fact, when global markets opened up on Sunday evening we witnessed quite a dramatic spike

In an extraordinary trading day, London’s Brent crude leaped almost $12 in the seconds after the open, the most in dollar terms since their launch in 1988. Prices subsequently pulled back some of that initial gain of almost 20%, but rallied again as traders waited in vain for an Aramco statement clarifying the scale of damage.

So where is the price of oil going from here?

One analyst quoted by Oilprice.com believes that we could soon see it hit $80 a barrel, and others believe that it could move up toward $100 a barrel not too long from now.

In the days ahead, global markets will be watching Saudi Arabia very carefully.  The longer it takes them to resume normal production levels, the higher the price of oil will go.

According to Bloomberg, one analyst is already publicly admitting that “full resumption could be weeks or even months away”…

All eyes are on how fast the kingdom can recover from the devastating strike, which knocked out roughly 5% of global supply and triggered a record surge in oil prices. Initially, it was said that significant volumes of crude could begin to flow again within days. While Aramco is still assessing the state of the plant and the scope of repairs, it currently believes less than half of the plant’s capacity can be restored quickly, said people familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

”Damage to the Abqaiq facility is more severe than previously thought,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. “While we still believe up to 50% of the 5.7 million barrels a day of output that has been disrupted could return fairly swiftly, full resumption could be weeks or even months away.”

That is really bad news, and that is assuming that there won’t be any more attacks like we just witnessed.

If there are more attacks, Saudi oil production could be far lower than normal for an extended period of time, and that would be catastrophic for the global economy.

Most Americans don’t realize this, but a lot of Saudi oil actually gets shipped to the west coast.  The following comes from Fox Business

Drivers in California, however, could be hit the hardest. Nearly half of what Saudi Arabia exports to the U.S. is sent to the West Coast, as reported by Reuters. In the year that ended in June, the West Coast imported an average of about 11.4 million barrels of Saudi crude every month – much of which went to California refineries.

The Golden State already has among the highest average gasoline prices in the country – at $3.63 per gallon as of Monday.

We are going to see higher gasoline prices right away, but in the short-term we should be able to handle them okay.

But if there are more attacks like the one we just saw, or if a major war breaks out in the Middle East, the price of gasoline could easily spike to levels that we have never seen in this country before.

The U.S. economy was already deeply struggling even before the attack in Saudi Arabia, and so this could definitely push us over the edge.  We should all be getting prepared for an extended economic downturn, because it looks like that is precisely what we could be facing.

Hopefully we won’t see any more attacks on oil production facilities, but the attack on Saturday clearly demonstrated how extremely vulnerable such facilities are to terror attacks.  And with Middle East tensions currently at an all-time high, USA Today is warning that our future “may well get much rockier soon”…

The new threat is tension among nations in the region, as well as the ability to attack based on new and relatively simple technology. Drones can be flown long distances carrying weapons just powerful enough to attack oil facilities. Middle East tensions are severe enough that attempts at similar attacks are not over.

Oil futures do not trade based on the present. They trade on forecasts about oil supply and demand in the future. The future looks rocky and may well get much rockier soon.

We are truly in uncharted territory, and we desperately need peace and calm to prevail in the Middle East.

Sadly, that is not likely to happen, and every new wave of violence is going to mean more economic pain for all of us.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10048

If You Think The Price Of Oil Is Skyrocketing Now, Just Wait Until The War Starts…

September 15, 2019 by Michael Snyder

In the aftermath of the most dramatic attack on Saudi oil facilities that we have ever seen, the price of oil has exploded higher.  The Wall Street Journal is calling this attack “the Big One”, and President Trump appears to be indicating that some sort of military retaliation is coming.  Needless to say, a direct military strike on Iran could spark a major war in the Middle East, and that would be absolutely devastating for the entire global economy.  Just about everything that we buy has to be moved, and moving stuff takes energy.  When the price of oil gets really high, that tends to create inflation because the price of oil is a factor in virtually everything that we buy.  In addition, a really high price for oil also tends to slow down economic activity, and this is something that we witnessed just prior to the financial crisis of 2008.  And if this crisis in the Middle East stretches over an extended period of time, it could ultimately result in a phenomenon known as “stagflation” where we have rapidly rising prices and weaker economic activity simultaneously.  The last time we experienced such a thing was in the 1970s, and nobody really remembers the U.S. economy of the 1970s favorably.

The damage caused by the “drone attacks” in Saudi Arabia was immense.  According to the Daily Mail, “huge plumes of black smoke” could be seen pouring out of a key Saudi oil facility…

Infernos raged at the plant in Abqaiq, Bugayg, and the country’s second largest oilfield in Khurais yesterday morning after Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a flurry of rockets.

Huge plumes of black smoke could be seen coming from the oil facility.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have publicly taken responsibility for the attacks, but they may or may not be telling the truth.

At this point, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is completely rejecting that explanation, and he is claiming that there is “no evidence the strikes had come from Yemen”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for coordinated strikes on the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, saying they marked an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.

The strikes shut down half of the kingdom’s crude production on Saturday, potentially roiling petroleum prices and demonstrating the power of Iran’s proxies.

Iran-allied Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen claimed credit for the attack, saying they sent 10 drones to strike at important facilities in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. But Mr. Pompeo said there was no evidence the strikes had come from Yemen.

And according to Reuters, another unnamed “U.S. official” told them that the attacks came from “west-northwest of the targets”…

The U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said there were 19 points of impact in the attack on Saudi facilities and that evidence showed the launch area was west-northwest of the targets – the direction of Iran – not south from Yemen.

The official added that Saudi officials had indicated they had seen signs that cruise missiles were used in the attack, which is inconsistent with the Iran-aligned Houthi group’s claim that it conducted the attack with 10 drones.

Of course drones don’t have to travel in a straight line, and cruise missiles don’t either, and so we may never know for sure where the attacks originated.

But we do know that the Houthi rebels in Yemen are being backed by Iran, and we also know that the Shia militias in Iraq are also being backed by Iran.

So whether the attacks originated in Yemen, southern Iraq or Iran itself, it is not going to be too difficult for U.S. officials to place the blame on the Iranians, and we should expect some sort of military response.

In fact, President Trump posted the following message to Twitter just a little while ago

Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!

Of course U.S. airstrikes against Iran itself could ultimately spark World War 3, and most Americans are completely clueless that we could literally be on the precipice of a major war.

According to the Saudis, the equivalent of 5.7 million barrels a day of oil production were affected by the attacks.  Saudi Arabia typically produces about 9.8 million barrels a day, and so that is a really big deal.

When the markets reopened on Sunday night, oil futures exploded higher.  In fact, according to Zero Hedge this was the biggest jump ever…

With traders in a state of near-frenzy, with a subset of fintwit scrambling (and failing) to calculate what the limit move in oil would be (hint: there is none for Brent), moments ago brent reopened for trading in the aftermath of Saturday’s attack on the “world’s most important oil processing plant“, and exploded some 20% higher, to a high of $71.95 from the Friday $60.22 close, its biggest jump since futures started trading in 1988.

As I write this article, the price of Brent crude is currently sitting at $66.89, although at least one analyst is warning that the price of oil could soon shoot up to “as high as $100 per barrel” if the Saudis are not able to quickly resume their previous level of production…

The oil market will rally by $5-10 per barrel when it opens on Monday and may spike to as high as $100 per barrel if Saudi Arabia fails to quickly resume oil supply lost after attacks over the weekend, traders and analysts said.

Saudi officials have already told us that they anticipate that a third of the lost oil output will be restored on Monday.

But because of the extensive damage that has been done, restoring the remainder of the lost output could take “weeks” or even “months”.

In the short-term, President Trump has “authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve“, and that should help stabilize prices somewhat.

However, if a full-blown war with Iran erupts, nothing is going to be able to calm the markets.  In such a scenario, the price of oil could easily explode to a level that is four or five times higher than it is today, and that would essentially be the equivalent of slamming a baseball bat into the knees of the global economy.

The times that we are living in are about to become a whole lot more serious, but most Americans are not even paying attention to these absolutely critical global events.

In fact, even the mainstream media seems to believe that the new allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh are more important.

That is because they don’t understand what is really happening.

Trust me, keep a close eye on the Middle East, because things are about to start breaking loose there in a major way.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10042

Iran-Backed Militants Launch Drone Strike On Saudi Arabia’s Aramco Refineries Wiping Out Over Half Of The Kingdom’s Oil Refining Capabilities

Fires raged at the plant in Abqaiq, Bugayg, and the arab country’s second largest oilfield in Khurais this morning after mounting tensions between Riyadh and Tehran finally came to a head prompting Houthi rebels in Yemen to launch the flurry of rockets. A military spokesperson for these Yemeni rebels, who are locked into a bloody civil war, claimed responsibility for the strike on Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant Aramco.

by Geoffrey Grider September 14, 2019

Half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production power is feared to have been wiped out after Iran-backed militants turned two of the world’s most valuable refineries into infernos with a devastating drone strike.

Iran is fighting a proxy war on many fronts including Saudi Arabia and Israel, by supplying weapons and funding to Islamic terror groups in Yemen, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. These one-off type of attacks can be, as you can see here, devastatingly effective. In this recent drone strike attack on Saudi Arabia, it wiped out half of the kingdom’s production power to produce oil.

So it’s a good thing that the United States, due largely to the shale boom in the Permian Basin of West Texas, has just this month surpassed Saudi Arabia at now over 11 million barrels per day. The United States isn’t expected to cede its crown any time soon. The EIA expects US oil production to stay ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia through 2019.

Attacks took place at 4.00 am at world’s largest oil processing plant Abqaiq

FROM DAILY MAIL UK: A eye-watering 5 million barrels per day of crude production has reportedly been destroyed – more than 50 per cent of the kingdom’s 9.65 million daily output which is relied upon around the globe. Fires raged at the plant in Abqaiq, Bugayg, and the arab country’s second largest oilfield in Khurais this morning after mounting tensions between Riyadh and Tehran finally came to a head prompting Houthi rebels in Yemen to launch the flurry of rockets.

A military spokesperson for these Yemeni rebels, who are locked into a bloody civil war, claimed responsibility for the strike on Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant Aramco.

The Houthi fighters have previously launched attacks over the border, hitting Shaybah oilfield with drones last month and two oil pumping stations in May. Both attacks caused fires but did not disrupt production.

The Saudi government has not yet officially confirmed the scale of the damage, by two well-connected sources told Reuters that 5 million barrels worth of daily production had been impacted.  Yahia Sarie announced that the Houthi’s were taking responsibility for the attacks on Saturday in a televised address carried by the Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel.

He said the Houthis sent 10 drones to attack an oil processing facility in Buqyaq and the Khurais oil field, warning that attacks by the rebels against the kingdom would only get worse if the war in Yemen continues.

Sarie said: ‘The only option for the Saudi government is to stop attacking us.’

Iran denies supplying the Houthis with weapons, although the UN, the West and Gulf Arab nations say Tehran does. Drone models nearly identical to those used by Iran have been used in the conflict in Yemen. The attacks highlight how the increasingly advanced weaponry of the Iran-linked Houthi rebels – from ballistic missiles to unmanned drones – poses a serious threat to oil installations in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter.

The international energy watchdog said that the global oil markets are for now ‘well supplied with ample commercial stocks.’ The International Energy Agency said in a statement: ‘We are in contact with Saudi authorities as well as major producer and consumer nations.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10039

Netanyahu exposes previously unknown nuclear weapons site in Iran

Netanyahu said the facility was in a region of Iran called Abadeh. He showed satellite images of the site before July, 2019 after which Iran – somehow – discovered Israel had learned of the site.

By Herb Keinon

September 9, 2019 20:47

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he said was a newly discovered Iranian nuclear weapons development site at Abadeh, south of Isfahan, during a hastily called press conference Monday afternoon.

The prime minister showe satellite photos of the site taken in June, and then – after the Iranians discovered that the site had been uncovered – pictures from July showing their attempts to cover-up and destroy the site. “They destroyed the evidence, or at least tried to destroy the evidence,” he said.

Netanyahu, who spoke briefly in both Hebrew and English, said that he has a message “to the tyrants of Tehran.”

“Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows when you are doing it, Israel knows where you are doing it,” he said. “We will continue to expose your lies. What you see is a consistent pattern of Iranian lies, deception and violations.”

The revelation comes a year after Netanyahu – during a speech at the UN – exposed what he called a “secret nuclear warehouse” in the Turquzabad neighborhood in Tehran for storing materials and equipment for Iran’s nuclear program, and a year and a half after he unveiled Iran’s secret nuclear archives that the Mossad spirited out of the country.

Netanyahu said the Abadeh site – where Iran “conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons” – was first exposed in the nuclear archives.

The prime minister called on the international community to “wake up” and “realize that Iran is systematically lying.” He called on the international community to “join President Trump’s sanctions to exert more pressure on Iran. The only way to stop Iran’s march to the bomb and its aggression in the region is pressure, pressure and more pressure.”

Netanyahu’s announcement came a few hours after IAEA’s acting director-general, Cornel Feruta, said at a meeting of the organization’s board of governors in Vienna that “time was of the essence” for Iran to explain how uranium particles were found at the Turquzabad site which Iran originally said was a carpet-cleaning facility.

Netanyahu said that the discovery of traces of uranium at the site,  and Iran’s refusal to provide an explanation to the IAEA, is a direct violation of the Non Proliferation Treaty which Iran has signed. The prime minister showed satellite images of how the Iranians tried to cover up the site with gravel.

As he left the podium in the Foreing Ministry, with pictures of the newly revealed site on a screen behind him, Netanyahu joked – in a reference to the controversy over placing cameras at polling places – “it is important that there are cameras everywhere.”

Netanyahu’s political opponents quickly accused Netanyahu of a cynical use of intelligence information to promote his election campaign.

“Netanyahu is again using intelligence information for his campaign propaganda,” Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid said. “This is terrible national irresponsibility. Iranian nukes cannot be used as campaign antics.”

And the Democratic Union’s Ehud Barak dismissed Netanyahu’s statement eight days before the election as mere “election spin.”

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office deflected those charges, saying that security officials recommended that Netanyahu deliver his statement immediately after Feruta’s comments in Vienna.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10036

Israel said again mulling raid on Iran; thinks Trump, unlike Obama, won’t oppose

NY Times exposé reveals extent of Netanyahu-Obama rift on stopping Iranian nukes; PM himself tells paper he’d ‘unequivocally’ have ordered strike in 2012 if cabinet had backed him

By Michael Bachner 4 September 2019, 4:13 pm 11

Israeli officials are currently considering the possibility of conducting a military strike on Iran, with or without the approval of the United States, The New York Times reported Wednesday. They believe US President Donald Trump could decide not to stand in the way of such an attack, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, the paper reported Wednesday in an exposé that detailed the lows and highs of the Israel-US relationship in the face-off against the Islamic Republic over the past decade.

“Once again, more than a decade after they first raised the subject with American officials, Israeli officials have been considering the possibility of a unilateral strike against Iran,” said the report. “Unlike with Bush and Obama, there is greater confidence that Trump wouldn’t stand in the way.”

The report, “The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran,” which focused on Israeli-US efforts to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, did not specify which targets Israel was now said to be contemplating attacking. It noted that “hawks in Israel and America have spent more than a decade agitating for war against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program,” and asked: “Will Trump finally deliver?”

 “The threat of war could be a bluff, or an election ploy,” it added. “But it also represents a dangerous confluence of interests: an American president often reluctant to use military force and an Israeli prime minister looking to deal with unfinished business.”

“I think that it’s far more likely that Trump would give Netanyahu a green light to strike Iran than that Trump would strike himself,” the Obama administration’s ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro was quoted as saying. “But that, you know, is a big risk.”

Trump himself in June was “half an hour away” from approving a US strike on the Islamic Republic, reports said at the time.

“Trump’s last-minute decision to abort the attack in June led to a concern among Iran hawks in both Israel and the United States: that the president ultimately might not have the resolve to confront the threat with military force,” Wednesday’s piece said.

Jerusalem has been actively pushing and preparing for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities for many years, and in 2012 came extremely close to giving the Israel Defense Forces a green light to carry that out, the NY Times said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was interviewed in August for the article, told the paper that he would “unequivocally” have approved the attack, but did not have the necessary cabinet support.

The report quoted dozens of current and former senior officials to describe how Netanyahu threatened the Obama administration with carrying out the strike. That pressure, according to some of those cited in the story, ironically pushed the US president to expedite the negotiations with Tehran that eventually yielded the 2015 nuclear deal. Thus Netanyahu, according to these sources, inadvertently pushed Obama to promote the agreement he loathes so much.

According to one Israeli intelligence official, “Netanyahu achieved exactly the opposite of what he wanted… By doing what he did, he promoted the deal that he fought against afterward.”

Other sources, however, told the paper that Israeli pressure did not play a significant role: “President Obama’s push for a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear challenge long predated Prime Minister Netanyahu’s saber-rattling,” it quoted Ned Price, spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, saying. “Candidate Obama pledged in 2007 to seek the very type of diplomatic achievement he, together with many of our closest allies and partners, struck as president in 2015.”

The report said Washington had been closely monitoring Israeli activities at the height of Israel-Iran tensions in the Obama era, and that in the summer of 2012, American spy satellites “detected clusters of Israeli aircraft making what seemed to be early preparations for an attack.”

 “Israeli leaders had spent more than a year delivering ominous warnings to Washington that they might launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities — and that if they did, they would give the United States little warning and no chance to stop them,” the report said. “One former senior Israeli security official, looking back at that time, said that it wasn’t until then that he believed the prime minister was serious about striking Iran.”

Realizing the gravity of the moment, then-US secretary of defense Leon Panetta was said to make a rare decision to invite Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak to his Pentagon office and show him a “highly classified video.”

“In a desert in the American Southwest, the Pentagon had constructed an exact replica of the Fordo [fuel enrichment plant], and the video showed a test of the 30,000-pound [13,600 kilogram] massive ordnance penetrator, a bunker-busting weapon the [US] Air Force had designed to penetrate the most hardened of underground defenses. The bomb destroyed the mock-up in the desert. Barak was impressed,” the Times reported.

Concern in the White House over the potential Israeli strike also led it to send an official to Israel every several weeks to to “Bibisit” the Israeli leader and make sure he did not launch a strike on the Islamic Republic, the report said.

However, Israel kept preparing for the strike, which “came far closer to happening than has previously been reported.”

“[Israel’s] military and intelligence services had cut the time needed for the final preparations — for the attack and for the war that might ensue,” the report said.

“I went to bed every night, if I went to bed at all, with the phone close to my ear,” it quoted Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington at the time, as saying. “I was ready to be called in by Israel and sent to the White House or the State Department to tell them we had attacked, or if they already knew from their own sources, straight to CNN.”

Netanyahu himself was quoted as saying the threat to attack Iran “was not a bluff — it was real. And only because it was real were the Americans truly worried about it.”

A satellite image from April 2, 2016, of the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)

The Times said Netanyahu at the time “pulled back from the brink only because he still could not get a majority of his cabinet to support him.” The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday confirmed to The Times of Israel that Netanyahu was referring to the security cabinet, not the full cabinet.

“If I’d had a majority, I would have done it. Unequivocally,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by the Times.

The timing was problematic as well, shortly before the 2012 US presidential elections. And after those elections the attack became impossible to approve because of a rift between Netanyahu and Barak, caused by a meeting the latter had with Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in an attempt to convince him to support Jerusalem’s move. Netanyahu received word of the undeclared meeting and believed Barak had been undermining him.

In October, the report said, the strike was called off. It quoted Barak as saying: “It is one thing to strike alone, and a totally different thing to draw the United States into a confrontation that it doesn’t want to be a part of.”

Among other claims made in the piece is that Netanyahu “became increasingly suspicious of his senior advisers” as he considered in attack seven years ago. “He now accuses [then Mossad chief, the late Meir] Dagan of leaking the attack plan to the CIA, ‘intending to disrupt it,’ a betrayal that to Netanyahu’s mind was ‘absolutely inconceivable.’ Within a year, the paper noted, Dagan, IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, and national security adviser Uzi Arad, “were no longer in their posts.”

But “if Netanyahu hoped his handpicked replacements would be more compliant, however, he would soon be disappointed,” the report continued. Quoting three senior officials, it said “many others in the government,” including the new IDF chief Benny Gantz, “were also against the attack.” Gantz, who is Netanyahu’s main rival in the September 17 elections, was quoted telling the paper that his stance was a practical matter: “Even those who have not seen the intelligence understand that it would be a highly complicated affair and — if the impact it would have on other countries is taken into account — a strategic affair of the highest level,” Gantz said.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10026

The Fighting Dramatically Escalates As Both Sides Prepare For “The Final War” Between Israel And Iran

August 26, 2019 by Michael Snyder

Are we about to see World War 3 erupt in the Middle East?  Over the past several days, Israel has attempted to prevent attacks by Iranian forces and their allies by striking targets in Syria, Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq.  As you will see below, political leaders in both Lebanon and Iraq are now accusing Israel of a “declaration of war”, and Hezbollah is pledging to strike Israel back extremely hard.  Of course if a full-blown war erupts between Israel and one of her neighbors, it is likely to become a multi-front war almost immediately.  But at the core, this is a conflict between Israel and Iran.  The Iranians have repeatedly pledged to wipe the nation of Israel off the face of the planet, and the coming “final war” is going to literally be a matter of life or death for those two nations.  Both sides have been preparing for this “final war” for a very long time, and once it fully erupts the death and destruction that we will witness will be off the charts.

Just within the past few days, the fighting has escalated dramatically as the Israelis have conducted operations in four different territories

Israeli forces openly claimed attacks over the weekend in Syria and the Palestinian-administered Gaza Strip and were blamed for two more operations in Lebanon and Iraq. As reports of what occurred across the region emerged, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at his country’s ongoing efforts abroad, telling a Monday planning meeting that “we will deepen our roots and strike at our enemies.”

The attacks in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq specifically targeted Iranian forces and their allies, and the goal was to prevent imminent attacks against Israel

In Syria, Israeli warplanes killed two members of the Lebanese Hezbollah. Israel says the individuals were supporting an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps plot to launch explosive-laden drones into Israel. The Israelis say that the specific Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unit responsible was the Quds Force, led by Qassem Soleimani. If true, the Quds Force was likely using Hezbollah as a deniable proxy to avoid direct links between the plot and Tehran.

In another operation in Lebanon, Israel targeted another Iranian-allied group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In Iraq, senior Iran-aligned figures accused Israel of another air strike.

Missiles are not flying directly back and forth between Israel and Iran yet, but at this point a state of war essentially exists, and many are deeply concerned about what is going to happen next.

In particular, it looks like Hezbollah could launch a large scale attack against Israel at any moment, because their leadership is absolutely furious that the Israelis just hit their headquarters building in Beirut

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, threatened to attack Israel in retaliation for a drone attack over the weekend on the organization’s headquarters in Beirut. Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah are now at their highest point since the 2006 war.

And the Lebanese government itself is extremely angry as well.  In fact, the president of Lebanon has publicly stated that what Israel has just done is essentially the equivalent of “a declaration of war”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun met Monday with the U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis, calling Israel’s moves in Beirut and Qusaya “a declaration of war.”

The statement echoed the words of Iraq’s powerful Fateh Alliance, which called separate strikes that killed a militia commander in the border town of Al-Qaim “a declaration of war on Iraq and its people,” according to the Associated Press.

 This is an extremely serious situation.  Israel is literally on the brink of war with Hezbollah, and many feel that such a war is inevitable.

Meanwhile, a very powerful bloc in the Iraqi government has also accused Israel of “a declaration of war”

A powerful bloc in Iraq’s parliament has called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, following a series of air raids targeting Iran-backed Shia militias in the country that have been blamed on Israel.

The Fatah Coalition said on Monday that it holds the United States fully responsible for the alleged Israeli aggression, “which we consider to be a declaration of war on Iraq and its people.”

We had not seen the Israeli military strike targets in Iraq until just recently, and this latest attack has absolutely enraged the Shia militias.  During the funeral procession for the commander that was killed in the attack, some of the Shia fighters were actually trampling the American flag

The Shia militia group, meanwhile, held a funeral procession in Baghdad for the commander killed on Sunday.

“There is no greater God but God!” the mourners shouted as they marched behind a banner with the words “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” Some trampled on an American flag as they marched.

Thousands of U.S. soldiers died, thousands more were injured, and we spent trillions of dollars in the process of “liberating” Iraq, and this is how they feel about us.

What a colossal waste.

Ultimately, nothing is going to be able to stop the massive war that is coming to the region.  The Iranians and all of their allies have a religiously-fueled hatred for Israel that most people living in the western world will never understand, and they are absolutely obsessed with permanently destroying the nation of Israel as it exists today.  There will never be peace between the two sides, and the coming apocalyptic conflict will literally be a battle for national survival.

This can definitely be described as a time of “wars and rumors of wars”, and the situation on the ground is extremely fluid right now.  The fact that the Israelis have another national election coming up adds another layer of complexity to all of this, and that election may cause events to accelerate even faster than many were anticipating.

Let us pray for peace, because right now tensions are extremely high and things are beginning to spiral out of control.

And when a full-blown war does break out, it is highly likely that the U.S. will get involved, and that will have enormous implications for all of us.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=10014

Satellite firm says images of bombed Iraqi site indicate it was hit in airstrike

Israel’s ImageSat International releases pictures of weapons depot in southern Baghdad controlled by a pro-Iranian militia; attack has been blamed on Israel

By Judah Ari Gross and Adam Rasgon 14 August 2019, 8:01 pm 2

An Israeli satellite imaging firm on Wednesday released photos of a weapons depot in southern Baghdad controlled by a pro-Iranian militia that was hit in an alleged Israeli airstrike earlier this week.

ImageSat International said that damage characteristics identified from the photos show “it is probable that the blast was caused by an airstrike, followed by secondary explosions of the explosives stored in the depot.”

On Tuesday, a former Iraqi deputy prime minister appeared to blame Israel for the massive explosion on Monday.

 “We believe they are weapons we were holding onto for a neighboring state and they were targeted by an oppressive colonial state on the basis of a treasonous Iraqi act,” former deputy prime minister Baha al-Araji wrote on Twitter.

Satellite photo of a weapons depot in southern Baghdad controlled by a pro-Iranian militia that was hit in an alleged Israeli operation on August 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

An unnamed security source on Wednesday told Asharq al-Awsat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London, that Israel was behind the strike.

“All indications point to Israel, perhaps with the support of the United States, completing what it started in Syria in terms of targeting sites with Iranian forces,” the source said.

The Israel Defense Forces has not commented on the reports.

According to foreign reports, Israel has been increasingly active in carrying out airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq, shifting its focus after years of reported raids aimed at keeping Tehran from gaining a foothold in Syria.

Israeli officials have identified Iraq as a likely growing base of operations for Iran-backed efforts against the Jewish state.

“It is clear that we are in the midst of a real battle between Israel and the United States against Iran and its allies in Iraq. It is clear that the two sides chose Iraq to be the place for their unannounced battle,” the unnamed security source told the Saudi-owned newspaper.

The blast occurred Monday in the Saqr military base in the southern section of the Iraqi capital, which is ordinarily used by the country’s Federal Police and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a state-sponsored umbrella group of militias, some of which are supported by Iran, according to Iraq’s Interior Minister Saad Maan.

Local media reported that the weapons storehouse was controlled by the Sayyid of Martyrs Battalions, an Iraqi Shiite militia supported by Iran.

In contrast to the opinion of the unnamed defense source, Adel al-Karawi, spokesman for the Ansar Allah al-Awfiya in the PMF, said that “the data regarding a fire breaking out at the Saqr base, near the al-Dura area south of Baghdad, indicates the base was subject to a bombardment by an American [drone] carrying missiles.”

The explosion set off some of the munitions stored on the base, sending projectiles into surrounding neighborhoods.

According to Maan, 13 people were injured in the blast, including two federal policemen and four PMF members. It was not immediately clear if the injuries were caused by the initial blast or the projectiles that were launched following the blast.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said one person was killed in the Monday incident and that civilians were also wounded. Mahdi ordered an investigation into the blast along with “integrated safety measures at all military bases and armed forces’ storage facilities to prevent it from occurring again,” he wrote on Twitter.

But the unnamed security official said the results of the investigation — as well as investigations into previous cases of bombings at pro-Iranian militia bases — would likely never be publicized as doing so “will bother the Iranians.”

“[Tehran has] adopted a strategy to not announce Israeli and American targeting of their sites in Syria and later in Iraq,” the source added.

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US pulls out of Reagan-era arms treaty, saying Russia ‘made no efforts’ to comply

By Lukas Mikelionis | Fox News

Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin says the president made the right decision to pull out of the INF treaty because Russia was not complying.

A historic arms-control treaty signed three decades ago by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was scrapped after President Trump decided to withdraw Friday.

The move to scrap the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty comes amid the administration’s assessment that Russia was in “material breach of the treaty” and made no effort to “come back into compliance” with the agreement, a senior White House official said.

Russia was given a six-month period, in accordance with the treaty, as a “final opportunity to come back into compliance” with the agreement, but the government headed by President Vladimir Putin “has made no efforts to do that,” the official added.

The end of the treaty sparks of a new global arms race between the two countries, which possess the world’s largest nuclear arsenals.

The Trump administration stressed it was Russia’s fault the treaty came to an end, pointing out that Moscow has been developing and fielding weapons that violate the treaty and threaten the U.S. and its allies, particularly in Europe.

“Russia alone is to blame for this situation,” the senior official said. “We have taken every opportunity — dozens and dozens of opportunities across two administrations – to bring Russia back into compliance.”

“Russia alone is to blame for this situation. We have taken every opportunity — dozens and dozens of opportunities across two administrations – to bring Russia back into compliance.”

— A senior administration official

“It is clear that they are in material breach of the INF Treaty, which is, of course, not its only arms control violation. They are a serial violator of arms control agreements,” the official added, noting that “This violation, however, represents a direct security threat to the United States and our allies.”

The U.S. has long complained that the treaty was no longer fair and actually doesn’t stop the arms race as intended as Russia was openly violating it, while China, which is a non-signatory, is free develop weapons that would otherwise be prohibited.

The Trump administration said, for example, Russia has produced and fielded multiple battalions of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile throughout Russia, which is a violation of the treaty. Some of the missiles have “the ability to strike critical European targets.”

“This violation, which has been underway for many years, is a critical threat to American and Allied security now. That is why this action has become unavoidable,” a senior official said.

Another White House official pointed out that Russia has been deceptive about its military buildup, particularly denying the development of a ground-launched cruise missile in 2014 that is now fielded and poses a security risk to Europe.

 “Throughout the process, they lied about the existence of the missiles at both the expert level and, finally when confronted with the evidence, came clean for this in the past several months,” the official said.

European powers came out to criticize Russia for not complying with the INF treaty amid the U.S. announcement of withdrawing from the agreement.

“We regret the fact that Russia has not done what was necessary to save the INF treaty,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“Now we call all the more on Russia and the U.S. to preserve the New START treaty as a cornerstone of worldwide arms control,” he added. “Nuclear powers such as China must also face up to their responsibility on arms control — they have more weight in the world than at the time of the Cold War.”

“We regret the fact that Russia has not done what was necessary to save the INF treaty.”

— German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Both the U.S. and Russia will have to decide whether to extend or replace the larger New START treaty when it expires in early 2021, a treaty that imposed limits starting in 2018 on the number of U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear warheads and launchers.

Trump hasn’t committed to extending the treaty and even once calling it as “just another bad deal” concocted by the predecessor, the Obama administration.

The 1987 INF treaty was responsible for the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet Union nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles. The treaty also banned land-based missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles).

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9971

Russia and China romance runs into friction in Central Asia

US strategists call for driving wedge between the traditional rivals

HIROYUKI AKITA, Nikkei commentator July 29, 2019 15:03 JST

TOKYO — China and Russia are cozying up ever closer as they find a common enemy in Washington.

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia in early June, the two countries signed a joint statement pledging to deepen their ties, as well as around 30 economic agreements.

Xi’s Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, has criticized the U.S. for leveling trade and technology sanctions against China and pledged to cooperate with it to resist U.S. pressure. The two countries are also pushing back against U.S. objectives regarding North Korea and Iran.

While analysts puzzle over whether the romance between China and Russia has peaked or will grow still more fervent, it seems clear they need each other more than ever.

Laboring under U.S. and European sanctions, Russia’s economic growth is forecast to slow to around 1% this year. That will encourage it to lean more heavily on China. For Xi, Russia is a useful tool in countering Washington’s increasingly hard-line policies against China.

But despite their growing closeness, China and Russia must deal with frictions.

Russia “is feeling a potential threat” from China, according to an expert on the Russian military. The difference in the two countries’ power continues to widen: China’s gross domestic product is roughly eight times larger than Russia’s and its population is 10 times larger. Russia is especially nervous about the possibility of Central Asia — much of which was once part of the Soviet Union and is seen by Russians as their backyard — falling under China’s sway.

That is already happening economically. In 2018, China became the largest trading partner of three former Soviet republics: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. According to official data released by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, China is the largest source of foreign direct investment in the two countries. China has also overtaken Russia as the fourth-largest investor in Kazakhstan.

Russia tolerates China’s economic advance in Central Asia because its stands to benefit from infrastructure improvements and regional development that the flood of Chinese investment will bring. Security, however, is another matter. Moscow will not want China encroaching on its turf.

In Uzbekistan, in mid-June, cabinet ministers, senior officials and experts from the U.S., Europe and neighboring countries gathered to discuss the regional situation. China’s activities loomed large during the meeting.

The strategic environment began shifting a few years ago as China began secretly deploying troops in Tajikistan, according to local experts. Although the Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied its troops are in the area, a person familiar with the matter said there are similar indication in Afghanistan.

China has, up to now, refrained from involving itself in regional security issues out of consideration for Russia. But its actions in Tajikistan, part of its effort to keep Islamist militants from entering the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, indicate a change in Beijing’s thinking.

In light of Tajikistan’s lax border controls, China may have sent troops to help it shore up security, one expert said. China is likely to have received a green light to do so from Moscow. But local diplomats said Russia is growing concerned about China’s military moves.

Russia’s largest military base outside its borders is in Tajikistan. The base is scheduled to remain until 2042, under a bilateral agreement. Given that it has around 8,000 troops at the base, it is unthinkable that the Russian and Chinese forces will both stay in the country without friction over the long term, according to one security strategist in Central Asia.

China’s objective is to play a larger security role in Central Asia as part of its counterterrorism strategy without irritating Russia. That is easier said than done. Russia also seems anxious about U.S. ambitions in the region.

Leaders of the five Central Asian countries had planned to hold their second summit meeting in March. But the conference was canceled due a sudden change in Kazakhstan’s president. So far, no new meeting has been scheduled. Whatever the official reason given for calling off the summit, a local diplomatic source said the real reason was that the participants were worried about provoking a backlash from Russia.

“Many in Russia still maintain an empire mentality. They consider the former Soviet Union to be their own sphere of influence,” said Dr. Farkhod Tolipov, a political scientist who heads Knowledge Caravan, an independent education and research institution in Tashkent. “Russia wrongly believes that if the Central Asia region integrates it will gradually lean toward the United States and eventually enter U.S. sphere,” he said.

If a rift develops between China and Russia, the implications for global politics would be significant. A weakening of the Sino-Russian axis would be favorable to the West and Japan. It would also help the international community increase pressure on North Korea.

At a public-private strategic dialogue between the U.S. and Europe in the Polish capital, Warsaw, in June, an idea was floated for how to drive a wedge between China and Russia to give the West an edge in its strategic competition with Beijing.

It may be impossible for Europe to reconcile with Putin, given Russia’s annexation of Crimea, according to military strategists in Washington. But they argue the U.S. should try to ease tensions with Moscow after Putin’s term of office ends in 2024 to encourage Russia to keep China at arm’s length.

China and Russia share a border of more than 4,000 km. And although they are unlikely to repeat their military clashes of 1969, it also seems unlikely that their current love affair will last forever, given their historical geopolitical rivalry.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9967

Second Israeli attack on Iranian targets in E. Iraq reported by Iraqi sources

A second Israeli attack in 10 days on Iranian Guards’ and Iraqi militia forces in eastern Iraq was claimed on Sunday, July 28 by Iraqi military sources. They described one or more Israeli Air Force jets striking Camp Ashraf in Diyala Governorate, some 80km from the Iranian border and 40km north of Baghdad. The Iraqi sources reported that the Israeli aircraft struck a consignment of ballistic missile launchers transferred a short time ago from Iran to Iraq. as well as the missiles themselves and the living quarters of Guards officers and personnel of the pro-Iranian Iraqi Badr Brigades militia. Some sources reported up to 40 dead in the attack.

Camp Ashraf is described by DEBKAfile’s military sources as one of the largest military compounds in eastern Iraq, with room to house more than 4,000 troops and their weapons systems. It also holds a big complex of subterranean facilities storing missiles, tanks and heavy artillery. Camp Ashraf is the address of the main base and command headquarters of the Badr Brigades, the largest pro-Iranian militia in Iraq, This militia has become heavily engaged in Tehran’s new drive to transform Iraq into a frontline base of operations.

Israel’s first purported target in Iraq on July 19 was another Badr Brigades facility in eastern Iraq, outside the town of Amerli in the province of Salahudin. That one housed the 52nd Brigade of the Hash Shaab militia.  

On July 24, Israel was reported by the Syrian military to have conducted a surface missile attack – this one to demolish an intelligence station just constructed by the Iranians at Tal al-Harara in southern Syria for a broad overview of northern Israel and parts of the eastern Mediterranean.

If all three Israel attacks are confirmed, it would indicate a radical escalation of its operations against Iran’s new, ongoing initiatives to set up a new front-line military presence in Iraq and southern Syria.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to the successful Arrow 3 tests in Alaska against exo-atmosphere ballistic targets at the Sunday cabinet meeting by saying: “They were successful beyond imagination, Each a perfect hit. This means that Israel could send ballistic missiles into Iran.”

Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, did not elaborate on this comment, but it evidently carried a message, that while Israel has the capacity to intercept and destroy the ballistic missiles that Tehran has begun transferring to Iraq and Syria, it has no defense against Israel’s long arm and its ballistic missiles.

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