Daily Archives: September 5, 2012
(Reuters) – The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideological affiliates in the Arab Spring uprisings has stoked fears among Gulf Arab governments that the United States may one day abandon its traditional allies as it warms up to Islamists.
While the ruling families in the Gulf are currently vital U.S. allies who buy large amounts of American military hardware and facilitate a significant U.S. military presence, some are apprehensive Washington may apply pressure on them to accommodate Islamists who could end up challenging their exclusive rule.
In a number of colorful online outbursts, Dubai’s outspoken police chief Dhahi Khalfan has warned of an “international plot” to overthrow Gulf systems of government with Western complicity. The Brotherhood, manipulated by the United States, is working to take over the Gulf by 2016, he said.
“Today the Americans are mobilizing the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab nation, for the benefit of America, not the Arabs,” he wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday. “There is an American plan that has been drawn up for the region.”
Though Khalfan insists his tweets are his personal views, analysts and diplomats say they reflect largely unspoken concerns among the United Arab Emirates’ ruling elite about the regional popularity of the Islamists and the possibility that the West will sympathize with them as political underdogs.
They also reflect fears among the region’s Sunni Muslim rulers that, despite being Sunni itself, the Brotherhood is soft on their arch enemy Shi’ite Iran. Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Mursi tried to dissipate such fears at a Tehran conference last week by condemning Iran’s ally Syria and urging attendees to back rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Despite pockets of Western-style liberalism in cities like Dubai, most Gulf ruling elites seek to project an image of Islamic conservatism.
So the threat they see is not religious or social but political: the Brotherhood advocates playing by the rules of parliamentary politics as a path to government, threatening inherited rights to rule and state-backed clerical establishments.
An opposition movement that gains ground in Gulf states could perhaps find the U.S. administration newly disposed to speak out in its favor.
Such an opposition has already emerged in the UAE, where more than 50 Islamists linked to Brotherhood thinking have been arrested since late last year. So far Washington has kept mum.
“While the U.S. security umbrella protects the UAE against threats from Iran, Washington would be much more reluctant to support a widespread crackdown against a local opposition movement,” said analyst Ayham Kamel of the Eurasia Group.
“This is making the political leadership in the UAE much more nervous about domestic threats,” he said.
The Brotherhood also has potential to draw support from Gulf Arabs who may see their countries’ foreign policies as overly pro-Western and are concerned about the social influence of their large Asian and Western expatriate communities.
SEEKING U.S. REASSURANCE
Washington was initially hesitant to openly support the uprisings that toppled Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, partly because of concerns they could bring Islamists to power.
President Barack Obama’s administration has since overcome its reluctance, and has made extensive efforts to engage Egypt’s Brotherhood over the past year.
Analysts say Washington is simply pursuing realpolitik given the new power centers in the region.
“I don’t think the West is keen on having a bunch of Islamists coming to power in the Gulf anytime soon,” said Michael Stephens, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute based in Doha. “It’s more the case that Washington is working with who they can work with, because Islamists are in power and they have to be dealt with.”
U.S. officials said privately that they addressed the Gulf’s concerns last year after Mubarak fell and that subsequent conversations have not focused on the issue. They declined to go into specifics.
“Gulf governments realize both the United States and Iran will want to have relations with the new regimes,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, senior analyst with Cornerstone Global. They just needed to be reassured that those regimes’ gain was not their loss, he said.
Diplomats said they were confident that building good ties with the Brotherhood was unlikely to strain the long-term strategic relationship between the U.S. and Gulf states.
“They (the Gulf states) need the Americans to protect them against Iran. Iran is the biggest worry for them in the whole region right now,” one Gulf-based Western diplomat said, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
YES, BUT …
Still, rumblings persist.
Saudi Arabia, which has long seen itself as insulated from political Islam because of its promotion of more conservative Salafi Islam, is feeling less secure these days, said Abdulaziz Alkhamis, a London-based Saudi analyst.
“After the Arab Spring they (the Islamists) are rising again. They start to use Islamist political rhetoric to gain publicity in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Prominent clerics such as Awadh al-Garni and Salman al-Odah, viewed as sympathetic to the Brotherhood, have become more outspoken, cheering Islamist gains in social media.
Brotherhood-linked Islamists are well-established in Kuwait, where parliamentary politics is most advanced in the Gulf. And in Bahrain the government has drawn closer to the Minbar party, another group inspired by the Brotherhood, as it shores itself up against a protest movement dominated by Shi’ite Islamists.
The angst over what the United States plans for the region is at its most public and visceral in Bahrain, whose government Obama has urged to enter dialogue with leading Shi’ite opposition group Wefaq, citing the group by name.
Sunni clerics and commentators in official media regularly raise the fear that Washington, currently at odds with Tehran over its nuclear program, is plotting to create a Wefaq-led government in a regional reordering of power that would open a new page of cozy ties with Iran.
TV presenter Sawsan al-Shaer denounced a “Satanic alliance” between Tehran and Washington in an article in the al-Watan daily last month, claiming Wefaq was a “Trojan horse, used by the U.S. administration and Iranian regime to redraw the region.”
The wild card in the region is Qatar. It has actively promoted the Brotherhood and its affiliates, giving them coverage widely seen as positive on its satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera.
At an early stage in the uprisings Doha stuck its neck out much further than other Gulf states in its support for protests in Egypt and Tunisia, and then rebel movements in Libya and Syria, supporting those among them close the Brotherhood.
Earlier this year the Dubai police chief railed against Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, a popular Brotherhood-linked Egyptian cleric based in Doha who criticized UAE policy towards Islamists on Al Jazeera. Khalfan threatened to arrest the cleric if he ever entered the country.
Alkhamis said opinion in Saudi Arabia was split over whether Qatar’s close links to the Islamists was a smart move to keep a close eye on a rising movement whose historical time has come, or a ruse to sow discord for its neighbor and sometime rival.
“The Qataris say that if we don’t have the Brotherhood (operating) openly then they will go underground and that it’s not against Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis are not happy with this,” Alkhamis said pointing to Qatar-backed Islamist seminars. “Some think the Qataris are not an honest friend, but have an agenda.”
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington and Raissa Kasolowsky in Abu Dhabi; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Sonya Hepinstall)
- Dubai police chief warns of Muslim Brotherhood threat (dailystar.com.lb)
- Egypt’s Outreach to China and Iran Is Troublesome for U.S. Policy Makers (jafrianews.com)
- ‘Brotherhood’ threatens Gulf (arabtimesonline.com)
CORPUS CHRISTI — Cheniere Energy has filed for permits from the federal government to build its proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in San Patricio County.
The company’s subsidiary, Corpus Christi Liquefaction, applied this past week with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, to build and operate the terminal along the La Quinta Channel near the Sherwin Alumina plant.
Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is gas that is supercooled to liquid form for shipping. Cheniere then would export the product overseas.
The terminal — worth in excess of $10 billion — would feature storage tanks, docks and three liquefaction trains, or chilling facilities, each capable of processing millions of tons of natural gas.
Cheniere proposes processing about 1.8 billion cubic feet per day of LNG at the facility, drawn from sources including the gas-rich Eagle Ford Shale formation about 65 miles northwest of Corpus Christi.
The project includes a 23-mile pipeline that will tie in with the regional pipeline network.
Cheniere has more than 660 acres along the San Patricio County shoreline available for development, including a 52-acre piece under lease from the Port of Corpus Christi.
“After an eight month pre-filing process with the FERC, we have determined that our site at Corpus Christi meets all of the requirements of an attractive liquefaction project,” Charif Souki, chairman and CEO of Cheniere, said in a statement.
Cheniere once considered an LNG import facility at the same location. The import project received full approval from the federal government before plans were shelved because of market shifts.
That prior approval may help Cheniere with certain parts of its new export project during the approval process, company spokesman Andrew Ware said.
Company officials anticipate the terminal is on target to begin operation in late 2017.
Cheniere also applied for permission from the U.S. Department of Energy to export as much as 15 million tons per year of LNG from the site.
If approved, the department’s set of permits would allow Cheniere to export to all countries the U.S. has free trade agreements with and those it doesn’t, the company announced.
Due to an oversupply of natural gas in the U.S., low prices have made gas extraction less profitable.
Producers are flaring gas rather than selling it, which makes a case for exporting LNG to other countries, Ware said.
A condition of the Energy Department’s permission is that the company must prove there is an alternative public need for the gas the terminal will process, Ware said.
Cheniere also has applied for corresponding permits through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and air permits from the Environmental Protection Agency. The entire permitting process for the site is being marshaled by federal energy regulators, Ware said.
The company expects to have its regulatory approvals and financing commitments secure by early 2014, with construction beginning about that time.
Commercial agreements could be done by the third quarter of 2013.
- USA: Golden Pass Files with DOE to Export LNG (appliedagrotech.net)
DTE Energy, Enbridge Inc. and Spectra Energy Corp announced the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly develop the NEXUS Gas Transmission (NGT) system, a project that will move growing supplies of Ohio Utica shale gas to markets in the U.S. Midwest, including Ohio and Michigan, and Ontario, Canada.
The proposed NGT project will originate in northeastern Ohio, include approximately 250 miles of large diameter pipe, and be capable of transporting one billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. The line will follow existing utility corridors to an interconnect in Michigan and utilize the existing Vector Pipeline system to reach the Ontario market. Upon completion of the project, Spectra Energy will become a 20-percent owner in Vector Pipeline, a joint venture between DTE Energy and Enbridge.
The new pipeline will serve local distribution companies, power generators and industrial users in the Ohio, Michigan and Ontario markets. It will include interconnects with Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, Consumers Energy and, through the Vector Pipeline, the Enbridge Tecumseh Gas Storage facility and Union Gas’ Dawn Hub, both in Ontario.
The Partners have received expressions of interest for a significant level of firm capacity to anchor the project. An open season for the project is planned for fourth quarter 2012, with a targeted in-service as early as November 2015, depending on final market demand and commitments.
DUBAI | Wed Sep 5, 2012 7:01am EDT
The comments came after the White House denied an Israeli news report that it was negotiating with Tehran to keep out of a future Israel-Iran war and as U.S. President Barack Obama fends off accusations from his election rival that he is too soft on Tehran.
“The Zionist regime separated from America has no meaning, and we must not recognize Israel as separate from America,” Ali Fadavi, naval commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.
“On this basis, today only the Americans have taken a threatening stance towards the Islamic Republic,” Fadavi said. “If the Americans commit the smallest folly they will not leave the region safely.”
Iran – which has missiles that could reach Israel and U.S. targets in the region – has conducted military exercises and unveiled upgraded weapons in recent months, aiming to show it can defend itself against any strike against its nuclear sites.
Israel – thought to be the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons – says the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran would pose a threat to its existence. Tehran denies it is developing weapons and says its nuclear program is peaceful.
With the approach of U.S. elections in November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a tougher stance against Iran – implicitly knocking Obama’s emphasis on diplomatic and sanctions pressure to halt Iranian nuclear work.
While Israel would expect U.S. backing if it decided to strike Iran, the top U.S. general has suggested Washington would not be drawn into a conflict.
Netanyahu abruptly ended a meeting of Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday, saying someone in the forum had leaked details of its discussions on Iran.
Any decision to go to war against Iran would, by Israeli law, require the approval of the security cabinet. One government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no such decisions had been on the table at Tuesday’s meeting.
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
- U.S. Tells Iran: We Won’t Join Israeli Attack (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Did Obama Just Make A Deal With Israel To Delay The War With Iran Until After The Election? (judgementofamerica.wordpress.com)
(Reuters) – Britain sent a clear signal of support to its oil and gas industry when it named an advocate of shale gas fracking as environment minister and a wind farm sceptic as energy minister.
The appointments in Prime Minister David Cameron‘s ministerial reshuffle on Tuesday mark a departure from his pledge to run Britain’s greenest government, in favour of the fossil fuel sector that generates billions of pounds in tax revenue.
“There is a shift away from greener ministers in posts towards less green ministers and I think that’s serious,” Alan Whitehead, a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said during an industry event on Tuesday.The government last year put a brake on the development of shale gas extraction due to environmental concerns after it triggered two small earthquakes near Blackpool.
But Owen Paterson, a member of Cameron’s Conservative Party who was appointed Environment Secretary in the reshuffle, has hailed the potential economic benefits of shale gas, a message likely to sway the country’s decision in favour of the drilling method.
“If developed safely and responsibly, shale gas could generate massive economic activity and a wealth of new jobs,” Paterson said in May, when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
He said huge shale gas deposits in Northern Ireland could be exploitable, adding that discoveries in the United States had shrunk its gas price to a quarter of British levels.
“(Shale gas) has also ended America’s dependence on unreliable and dictatorial regimes,” he said.
The decision on whether Britain will resume shale gas fracking, a method of drilling through shale deposits to retrieve gas by injecting liquids and chemical, is in the hands of the energy ministry, but support from the Department for Environment could speed up a decision.
NEW ENERGY MINISTER
John Hayes replaced Charles Hendry as Energy Minister in the reshuffle.
In his final media interview as Energy Minister, Hendry said a decision on shale gas was not imminent, but that Britain could not ignore its impact on the U.S. energy market.
Hayes has been a vocal opponent of wind farms, a technology the government regards as key to meeting climate change goals.
“Such tall structures will have a detrimental impact on the quality of life for local residents, the attractiveness of the area and its potential for tourism,” Hayes said at a local council meeting, reflecting the views of his constituents campaigning against the construction of a wind farm.
He said wind farms would always be backed up by conventional power plants because of their unreliability and that they had a detrimental impact on wildlife.
“Wind power (considerably) increases the average household energy bills as the profit-hungry energy companies continue to chase the taxpayer funded subsidies and credits,” the new Energy Minister said.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by David Cowell)
- Pennsylvania’s Booming Shale Gas Energy Industry (tarpon.wordpress.com)