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Former Joint Chiefs chairman: Obama plotted to destabilize regimes in Bahrain, Egypt

[Ret.] Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff.

WASHINGTON — The United States was said to have planned to destabilize at least two Arab countries over the last two years.

A former leading U.S. military commander asserted that the administration of President Barack Obama worked to destabilize the regimes of Bahrain and Egypt.

[Ret.] Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the administration’s drive against Bahrain, wracked by a Shi’ite revolt, was led by the intelligence community.

“America thought Bahrain was an easy prey that will serve as key to the collapse of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] regime and lead to giant oil companies controlling oil in the Gulf,” Shelton said.

In an interview on the U.S. network Fox News, Shelton said the administration plot was foiled by Bahraini King Hamad in 2011. He said Hamad agreed to a Saudi-sponsored decision by the GCC to send thousands of troops to Bahrain to help quell the Shi’ite revolt, attributed to Iran.

Shelton, who met Hamad during his assignment to the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet, based in Manama, said the administration plot harmed relations with both Bahrain as well as neighboring Saudi Arabia. He said Riyad ended any trust in Washington after it was found to have helped the Shi’ites in Bahrain.

The former Joint Chiefs chairman, who served under President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, said Egypt stopped a drive by Obama to destabilize Egypt in 2013. Shelton said Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul Fatah Sisi, a former intelligence chief, also detected a U.S. plot to support the ruling Muslim Brotherhood amid unprecedented unrest. On July 3, Sisi led a coup that overthrew Egypt’s first Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.

“Had Gen. Al Sisi not deposed Morsi, Egypt would have today become another Syria and its military would have been destroyed,” Shelton said.

Shelton, who did not disclose his sources of information, said Arab allies of the United States have moved away from Washington. He cited the new alliance between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Brotherhood.

“I expect calm to be restored in Egypt,” Shelton said. “Gen. Al Sisi has put an end to the new Middle East project.”

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Bahrain Prefers Russia Over Iran for LNG

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Bahrain is expected to start importing liquefied natural gas from Russia by 2014.

Bahraini officials said Russia would replace Iran as a supplier of liquid gas amid deteriorating relations between Bahrain and Iran.

“Whether Russia supplies us with Iranian liquid gas or from anywhere else is up to them,” Bahraini Energy Minister Abdul Hussein Mirza said. “We have a deal that they are our main supplier.”

Last year Bahrain terminated a gas deal with Iran, accused of supporting the Shi’ite revolt in the Gulf Cooperation Council kingdom.

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Cost of "Arab Spring" more than $55 billion: report

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By Peter Apps

(Reuters) – The uprisings that swept the Middle East this year have cost the most affected countries more than $55 billion, a new report says, but the resulting high oil prices have strengthened other producing countries.

A statistical analysis of International Monetary Fund (IMF) data by political risk consultancy Geopolicity showed that countries that had seen the bloodiest confrontations — Libya and Syria — were bearing the economic brunt, followed by Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen.

Between them, those states saw $20.6 billion wiped off their gross domestic product and public finances eroded by another $35.3 billion as revenues slumped and costs rose.

But as the major oil producers such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait avoided significant unrest — often through increasing handouts as oil prices rose — they saw their GDP grow. Oil prices rocketed from around $90 a barrel of Brent crude at the start of the year to just short of $130 in May before retreating to around $113 now.

“As a result, the overall impact of the ‘Arab Spring’ across the Arab realm has been mixed but positive in aggregate terms,” the report estimated, saying overall the year to September saw some $38.9 billion added to regional productivity.

Libya looks to have been the worst affected, with economic activity across the country — including oil exports — halted at an estimated cost to GDP of $7.7 billion, or more than 28 percent. Total costs to the fiscal balance were estimated at $6.5 billion, roughly 29 percent of gross domestic product.

In Egypt, nine months of turmoil eroded some 4.2 percent of gross domestic product with public expenditure rising to $5.5 billion just as public revenues fell by $75 million.

HANDOUTS NOT REFORM?

In Syria, where protests have continued throughout the year in the face of a bloody crackdown, the impact is hard to model but early indications suggested a total cost to the Syrian economy of some $6 billion or 4.5 percent of GDP.

The report said the number of Yemenis below the poverty line was expected to be pushed above 15 percent as a result of currency falls and protracted unrest. Total cost to the economy was estimated at 6.3 percent of GDP, with the fiscal balance deteriorating by $858 million, 44.9 percent of GDP.

Tunisia, where the protests began in late 2010, lost some $2.0 billion from its GDP, roughly 5.2 percent, with negative impacts across almost all sectors of the economy including tourism, mining, phosphates and fishing. Tunisia’s government increased expenditure by some $746 million, pushing its fiscal balance some $489 million into the red.

Saudi Arabia’s newly instituted handouts and wider public investment program, the report estimated, amounted to some $30 billion — perhaps seen by the kingdom’s rulers as a way of avoiding real reform. But increased oil prices and production helped boost gross domestic product by more than $5 billion and push up public revenues by $60.9 billion.

In Bahrain, oil helped cushion the impact of weeks of protest, with the fall in GDP relatively low at some at 2.77 percent. Public expenditure rose some $2.1 billion, partly because of cash transfers of $2,660 to each family.

None of these steps, the report argued, addressed the underlying causes behind the unrest. A better solution, it said, was much broader international support through the G20 or United Nations aimed at much wider reform.

Original Article

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