Category Archives: Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world’s largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2 (1,250,000 mi2). The area is an important part of the Asian continent and plays a critical geopolitical role of the Middle East and Arab World due to its vast reserves of oil and natural gas.

The Arabian Peninsula is bounded by (clockwise) the Persian Gulf on the northeast, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman on the east, the Arabian Sea on the southeast and south, the Gulf of Aden on the south, the Bab-el-Mandeb strait on the southwest, and the Red Sea on the southwest and west.[4] The northern portion of the peninsula merges with the Syrian Desert with no clear border line, although the northern boundary of the Arabian Peninsula is generally considered to be the northern borders of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The peninsula’s constituent countries are (clockwise north to south) Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the east, Oman on the southeast, Yemen on the south and Saudi Arabia at the center. The island nation of Bahrain lies off the east coast of the peninsula.

Crashing crude may blow a $1.6 trillion hole in the global oil sector, annually

Dec 14, 2014 9:36 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (MarketWatch)—Talk about an oil spill. The spectacular unhinging of crude oil prices over the past six months is weighing mightily on the U.S. stock market.

And while it may be too early to abandon all hope that the market will stage a year-end Santa rally, it appears that if Father Christmas comes, there’s a good chance his sleigh will be driven by polar bears, instead of gift-laden reindeer.

Wall Street’s gift: a major stock correction.

Indeed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.79%  already endured a bludgeoning, registering its second-worst weekly loss in 2014, shedding 570 points, or 3.2%, on Friday. That’s just shy of the 579 points that the Dow lost during the week ending Jan. 24, earlier this year. It’s also the second worst week for the S&P 500 this year SPX, -1.62% which was down about 58 points, over the past five trading days, or 2.83%, compared to a cumulative weekly loss of 61.7 points, or 3.14%, during the week concluding Oct. 10.

But all that carnage is nothing compared to what may be in store for the oil sector as crude oil tumbles to new gut-wrenching lows on an almost daily basis. On the New York Mercantile exchange light, sweet crude oil for January delivery settled at $57.81 on Friday, its lowest settlement since May 15, 2009.

Moreover, the largest energy exchange traded fund, the energy SPDR XLE, -1.86% is off by 14% over the past month and has lost a quarter of its value since mid-June.

The real damage, however, is yet to come. By some estimates the wreckage, particularly for the oil-services companies, may add up to a stunning $1.6 trillion annual loss, at oil’s current $57 low, predicts Eric Lascelles, RBC Global Asset Management chief economist.

Since it’s a zero-sum game, that translates into a big windfall for everyone else outside of oil players.

In his calculation, Lascelles includes the cumulative decline in oil prices since July and current supply estimates of 93 million barrels a day. It’s a fairly simplistic tally, but it gets the point across that the energy sector is facing a serious oil leak. Here’s a look at a graphic illustrating the zero-sum, wealth redistribution playing out as oil craters: Source and more

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U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

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U.S. Africa Command/Major Eric Hilliard – The Seychelles, where the U.S. had temporarily stationed MQ-9s under the operational authority of U.S. Africa Command, now houses a base where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month.

By Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller
Published: September 20

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.

The island nation of 85,000 people has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.

The cables, obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, reveal that U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reapers are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.

To allay concerns among islanders, U.S. officials said they had no plans to arm the Reapers when the mission was announced two years ago. The cables show, however, that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones.

During a meeting with Seychelles President James Michel on Sept. 18, 2009, American diplomats said the U.S. government “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions . . . to gain approval” to arm the Reapers “should the desire to do so ever arise,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting. Michel concurred, but asked U.S. officials to approach him exclusively for permission “and not anyone else” in his government, the cable reported.

Michel’s chief deputy told a U.S. diplomat on a separate occasion that the Seychelles president “was not philosophically against” arming the drones, according to another cable. But the deputy urged the Americans “to be extremely careful in raising the issue with anyone in the Government outside of the President. Such a request would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’ and would have to be handled with ‘the utmost discreet care.’ ”

A U.S. military spokesman declined to say whether the Reapers in the Seychelles have ever been armed.

“Because of operational security concerns, I can’t get into specifics,” said Lt. Cmdr. James D. Stockman, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the base in the Seychelles. He noted, however, that the MQ-9 Reapers “can be configured for both surveillance and strike.”

A spokeswoman for Michel said the president was unavailable for comment.

Jean-Paul Adam, who was Michel’s chief deputy in 2009 and now serves as minister of foreign affairs, said U.S. officials had not asked for permission to equip the drones with missiles or bombs.

“The operation of the drones in Seychelles for the purposes of ­counter-piracy surveillance and other related activities has always been unarmed, and the U.S. government has never asked us for them to be armed,” Adam said in an e-mail. “This was agreed between the two governments at the first deployment and the situation has not changed.”

The State Department cables show that U.S. officials were sensitive to perceptions that the drones might be armed, noting that they “do have equipment that could appear to the public as being weapons.”

To dispel potential concerns, they held a “media day” for about 30 journalists and Seychellois officials at the small, one-runway airport in Victoria, the capital, in November 2009. One of the Reapers was parked on the tarmac.

“The government of Seychelles invited us here to fight against piracy, and that is its mission,” Craig White, a U.S. diplomat, said during the event. “However, these aircraft have a great deal of capabilities and could be used for other missions.”

In fact, U.S. officials had already outlined other purposes for the drones in a classified mission review with Michel and Adam. Saying that the U.S. government “desires to be completely transparent,” the American diplomats informed the Seychellois leaders that the Reapers would also fly over Somalia “to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts,” though not “direct attacks,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting.

U.S. officials “stressed the sensitive nature of this counter-terrorism mission and that this not be released outside of the highest . . . channels,” the cable stated. “The President wholeheartedly concurred with that request, noting that such issues could be politically sensitive for him as well.”

The Seychelles drone operation has a relatively small footprint. Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport, it includes between three and four Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.

The military operated the flights on a continuous basis until April, when it paused the operations. They resumed this month, said Stockman, the Africa Command spokesman.

The aim in assembling a constellation of bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is to create overlapping circles of surveillance in a region where al-Qaeda offshoots could emerge for years to come, U.S. officials said.

The locations “are based on potential target sets,” said a senior U.S. military official. “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

One U.S. official said that there had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for as long as four years, but that plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.” Other officials said Ethiopia has become a valued counterterrorism partner because of threats posed by al-Shabab.

“We have a lot of interesting cooperation and arrangements with the Ethiopians when it comes to intelligence collection and linguistic capabilities,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with special operations missions in the region.

An Ethio­pian Embassy spokesman in Washington could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The former official said the United States relies on Ethiopian linguists to translate signals intercepts gathered by U.S. agencies monitoring calls and e-mails of al-Shabab members. The CIA and other agencies also employ Ethiopian informants who gather information from across the border.

Overall, officials said, the cluster of bases reflects an effort to have wider geographic coverage, greater leverage with countries in the region and backup facilities if individual airstrips are forced to close.

“It’s a conscious recognition that those are the hot spots developing right now,” said the former senior U.S. military official.

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Chomsky: US drone killings are state terror

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The U.S. policy of targeting terror suspects in foreign countries using unmanned aerial vehicles amounts to “state terror”, leading academic Professor Noam Chomsky has said.

“There is no justification for targeted assassination,” Chomsky said in an interview with PublicServiceEurope.com which was published on Friday.

“There were things going on before, under the last president, but the Obama administration has extended earlier procedures to a global assassination campaign directed at people suspected of encouraging others to carry out what the U.S. calls terrorist acts. What are called ‘terrorist acts’ also raises rather serious questions — and that’s an understatement,” he said.

Asked if he believed Obama’s foreign policy in relation to drone strikes had been worse than that of his predecessor George W Bush, Chomsky said: “In terms of state terror and that’s what I would call this, I have to say yes — and that has already been pointed out by military analysts.”

“The Bush administration policy was to kidnap suspects and send them to secret prisons where they were not treated very nicely, as we know. But the Obama administration has escalated that policy to you don’t kidnap them, but you kill them. Now remember, these are suspects — even in the case of Osama bin Laden.” defencemanagement.com

FACTS & FIGURES

Since 2001, the U.S. government is known to have used drones to mount lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. commondreams.org

The Washington Post has reported that the Obama administration is building a constellation of secret drone bases in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, including one site in Ethiopia. Antiwar

Bombing raids by robotic unmanned U.S. aircraft dramatically increased under President Barack Obama. Dawn

Human rights groups have raised concerns that the use of drones by the CIA has allowed the conduct of a secret assassination campaign abroad without public scrutiny and little oversight by lawmakers in Congress. AFP

The U.S. drone campaign is deeply unpopular among anti-American Pakistani public and the government has publicly demanded an end to the attacks. AFP

Barack Obama’s administration authorized the assassination of the radical cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, a rare move against an American citizen. Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on October 14.

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