11.11.2014 Author: Viktor Titov
Saudi Arabia has recently witnessed the aggression that should have happened sooner or later due to its short-sighted policy in Syria, Iraq and Iran. As an old saying goes: “If you dig a hole for others, you’re sure to fall in it yourself.”
A few days ago the Saudi town of Dalva, situated in the oil-rich Eastern Province, suffered an attack of a group of armed Sunni terrorists, which resulted in seven civilian deaths. Most of the attackers were citizens of the Kingdom. The promt response of the local security forces allowed the servicemen to detain 20 members of an underground terrorist group, consisting mainly of those who had previously fought under the black banner of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Law enforcement agencies of Saudi Arabia have managed to capture the head of the armed group, his name is kept secret. The only information that has become available to journalists is that this commander has recently returned from Syria where he was fighting against the pro-Assad forces.
Riyadh is now facing a harsh dilemma: on the one hand, the House of Saud is actively oppressing its Shia citizens, on the pretext of their disloyalty and their alleged attempts to undermine the national security of the kingdom due to the “evil Iranian influence.” On the other – Sunni terrorists, that Saudi Arabia is fighting today alongside with its closest ally – the US, have assaulted Shia civilians on the Saudi soil, and those were virtually enjoying the same rights as the rest of the population, including the right for protection. It is now official: Saudi citizens motivated by religious hatred are commiting manslaughter of their fellow citizens.
The only question is how Riyadh may react when the Sunni terrorists that it had trained and funded will unleash a wave of terror against the Shia population of KSA? A similar course of events has already taken place in the neighboring Bahrain back in 2011, but Saudi regular troops were fast to cross the border in an attempt to prevent the violence from spreading.
It is no coincidence that the events in the city of Dalva are completely ignored by the international media. Should this fact become widely known then the Saudi authorities will be forced to recognize the threat ISIL poses to Saudi Arabia along with acknowledging the underlying instability of Saudi society that can endanger the ruling Wahhabi regime.
Now that the Shia population of the Eastern Province is buzzing with discontent, the House of Saud has found itself in a tight corner. Should the authorities fail to prosecute the terrorists a violent unrest of the Shia population, similar the one that shook Saudi Arabia in 2011 -2012, in the wake of the above mentioned events in Bahrain, will be quick to follow. But if the terrorists are to be punished to the fullest extent of the Sharia law, then the Wahhabis and Salafis will accuse the royal family of “betrayal” of the Sunnis. This course of events will end no better, with a massive wave of violent terror attacks, carried out by ISIL militants all across Saudi Arabia. Now that ISIL thugs have faced harsh resistance in Syria and Iraq, they will be eager to move south to start a “sacred struggle against the corrupt pro-American reign of Al Saud family“. As for the Iraqi Shia population, they can only welcome this U-turn in their ongoing struggle against Islamists. Moreover, it is possible that the indignation of the Saudi Shia population of the Eastern Province will find some form of support in Tehran and Baghdad. This means that the fate of the kingdom’s territorial integrity will be put to the test. The nightmares of the Saudi ruling family seems to be coming true — Saudi Arabia can be split into several parts, which had been joined together to create the kingdom back in 1929. This trend can be accelerated by the fact that a couple of weeks ago the Shia Houthis rebels seized power in Yemen, on the south-western borders of the KSA.
When Riyadh joined the US “anti-terrorist” coalition back in October, along with a number of NATO and GCC countries, political predicted the imminent revenge of ISIL.
So the events of November 4 may only be the first steps. On top of all, Saudi authorities have yielded to the US demands of dumping oil prices in an attempt to undermine Russia’s economy. This led to the narrowing scope of social initiatives being implemented in the Kingdom, since money became scarce in the royal treasury.
By agreeing to support the US global ambitions, the House of Saud has clearly shot itself in the foot. Especially now, when Washington has displayed its willingness to sign an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in two weeks time. This step will force Saudi Arabia to kiss it oil monopoly goodbye along with the role of the main strategic partner of the US in the region. At this point Riyadh couldn’t care less about the US military adventures in Iraq and Syria, it going to try to save its skin
It is clear that the coming days will put the Al-Saud dynasty’s survival skills to the test. Should the KSA authorities fail to keep the situation in the Eastern Province under control — the Kingdom is doomed. With each passing day the Shiite arc becomes more apparent on the political horizon of the Middle East, just like the US miscalculations.
As soon as Washington is trying to project its influence in the region, the Arab regimes are beginning to crumble and fall apart. One can recall the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, along with the civil wars in Syria and Iraq to illustrate this statement.
It is now safe to say that Obama has screwed everything up again by putting its strategic partner in danger. It seems that the defeat in the US midterm elections was a failure all right, yet he never stops to surprise his followers. And it is unlikely that the Republicans will be fascinated by the sight of Saudi Arabia going down in flames.
Viktor Titov, Ph.D in Historical Sciences and political commentator on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook
by Tyler Durden on 11/03/2014 23:42
Two years ago, in hushed tones at first, then ever louder, the financial world began discussing that which shall never be discussed in polite company – the end of the system that according to many has framed and facilitated the US Dollar’s reserve currency status: the Petrodollar, or the world in which oil export countries would recycle the dollars they received in exchange for their oil exports, by purchasing more USD-denominated assets, boosting the financial strength of the reserve currency, leading to even higher asset prices and even more USD-denominated purchases, and so forth, in a virtuous (especially if one held US-denominated assets and printed US currency) loop.
The main thrust for this shift away from the USD, if primarily in the non-mainstream media, was that with Russia and China, as well as the rest of the BRIC nations, increasingly seeking to distance themselves from the US-led, “developed world” status quo spearheaded by the IMF, global trade would increasingly take place through bilateral arrangements which bypass the (Petro)dollar entirely. And sure enough, this has certainly been taking place, as first Russia and China, together with Iran, and ever more developing nations, have transacted among each other, bypassing the USD entirely, instead engaging in bilateral trade arrangements, leading to, among other thing, such discussions as, in today’s FT, why China’s Renminbi offshore market has gone from nothing to billions in a short space of time.
And yet, few would have believed that the Petrodollar did indeed quietly die, although ironically, without much input from either Russia or China, and paradoxically, mostly as a result of the actions of none other than the Fed itself, with its strong dollar policy, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia too, which by glutting the world with crude, first intended to crush Putin, and subsequently, to take out the US crude cost-curve, may have Plaxico’ed both itself, and its closest Petrodollar trading partner, the US of A.
As Reuters reports, for the first time in almost two decades, energy-exporting countries are set to pull their “petrodollars” out of world markets this year, citing a study by BNP Paribas (more details below). Basically, the Petrodollar, long serving as the US leverage to encourage and facilitate USD recycling, and a steady reinvestment in US-denominated assets by the Oil exporting nations, and thus a means to steadily increase the nominal price of all USD-priced assets, just drove itself into irrelevance.
A consequence of this year’s dramatic drop in oil prices, the shift is likely to cause global market liquidity to fall, the study showed.
This decline follows years of windfalls for oil exporters such as Russia, Angola, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Much of that money found its way into financial markets, helping to boost asset prices and keep the cost of borrowing down, through so-called petrodollar recycling.
But no more: “this year the oil producers will effectively import capital amounting to $7.6 billion. By comparison, they exported $60 billion in 2013 and $248 billion in 2012, according to the following graphic based on BNP Paribas calculations.”
In short, the Petrodollar may not have died per se, at least not yet since the USD is still holding on to the reserve currency title if only for just a little longer, but it has managed to price itself into irrelevance, which from a USD-recycling standpoint, is essentially the same thing.
According to BNP, Petrodollar recycling peaked at $511 billion in 2006, or just about the time crude prices were preparing to go to $200, per Goldman Sachs. It is also the time when capital markets hit all time highs, only without the artificial crutches of every single central bank propping up the S&P ponzi house of cards on a daily basis. What happened after is known to all…
“At its peak, about $500 billion a year was being recycled back into financial markets. This will be the first year in a long time that energy exporters will be sucking capital out,” said David Spegel, global head of emerging market sovereign and corporate Research at BNP.
Spegel acknowledged that the net withdrawal was small. But he added: “What is interesting is they are draining rather than providing capital that is moving global liquidity. If oil prices fall further in coming years, energy producers will need more capital even if just to repay bonds.”
In other words, oil exporters are now pulling liquidity out of financial markets rather than putting money in. That could result in higher borrowing costs for governments, companies, and ultimately, consumers as money becomes scarcer.
Which is hardly great news: because in a world in which central banks are actively soaking up high-quality collateral, at a pace that is unprecedented in history, and led to the world’s allegedly most liquid bond market to suffer a 10-sigma move on October 15, the last thing the market needs is even less liquidity, and even sharper moves on ever less volume, until finally the next big sell order crushes the entire market or at least force the [NYSE|Nasdaq|BATS|Sigma X] to shut down indefinitely until further notice.
So what happens next, now that the primary USD-recycling mechanism of the past 2 decades is no longer applicable? Well, nothing good.
Here are the highlights of David Spegel’s note Energy price shock scenarios: Impact on EM ratings, funding gaps, debt, inflation and fiscal risks.
Whatever the reason, whether a function of supply, demand or political risks, oil prices plummeted in Q3 2014 and remain volatile. Theories related to the price plunge vary widely: some argue it is an additional means for Western allies in the Middle East to punish Russia. Others state it is the result of a price war between Opec and new shale oil producers. In the end, it may just reflect the traditional inverted relationship between the international value of the dollar and the price of hard-currency-based commodities (Figure 6). In any event, the impact of the energy price drop will be wide-ranging (if sustained) and will have implications for debt service costs, inflation, fiscal accounts and GDP growth.
Have you noticed a reduction of financial markets liquidity?
Outside from the domestic economic impact within EMs due to the downward oil price shock, we believe that the implications for financial market liquidity via the reduced recycling of petrodollars should not be underestimated. Because energy exporters do not fully invest their export receipts and effectively ‘save’ a considerable portion of their income, these surplus funds find their way back into bank deposits (fuelling the loan market) as well as into financial markets and other assets. This capital has helped fund debt among importers, helping to boost overall growth as well as other financial markets liquidity conditions.
Last year, capital flows from energy exporting countries (see list in Figure 12) amounted to USD812bn (Figure 3), with USD109bn taking the form of financial portfolio capital and USD177bn in the form of direct equity investment and USD527bn of other capital over half of which we estimate made its way into bank deposits (ie and therefore mostly into loan markets).
More ( here )
And so on, but to summarize, here are the key points once more:
- The stronger US dollar is having an inverse impact on dollar-denominated commodity prices, including oil. This will affect emerging market (EM) credit quality in various ways.
- The implications of reduced recycled petrodollars has significant ramifications for financial markets, loan markets and Treasury yields. In fact, EM energy exporters will post their first net drain on global capital (USD8bn) in eighteen years.
- Oil and gas exporting EMs account for 26% of total EM GDP and 21% of external bonds. For these economies, the impact will be on lost fiscal revenue, lost GDP growth and the contribution to reserves of oil and gas-related export receipts. Together, these will have a significant effect on sustainability and liquidity ratios and as a consequence are negative for dollar debt-servicing risks and credit ratings.
Falling oil prices halted a 30-month growth spurt in Texas’ oil and gas industry boom in June, a new industry report shows.
The Texas Petro Index, which has measured job numbers, rig activity, production totals, wells completed and other related figures across nearly two decades, dropped for the first time since a rush to draw oil from shale caused a surge of drilling in Texas.
The index fell to 270.4 in June from its recent peak in May of 271.5, which was the highest since rapid industry growth pushed it to a record 287.8 in October 2008.
A trend of declining oil prices added to already low natural gas prices to push the Petro Index down, said Karr Ingham, an economist for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, which released the study Tuesday.
He said the number of active oil and gas rigs in Texas has fallen further in recent weeks to 900, the lowest level since September 2011, as companies have reassessed expensive operations that are no longer yielding high returns.
Not coincidentally, he said, oil prices have fallen from near $100 in early 2012 to about $79.08 in June. Benchmark crude lost $1.72 Tuesday to end the day at $88.06 per barrel.
Companies may have grown more cautious about aggressive drilling operations, but the leveling off doesn’t necessarily mean a bust is on the horizon, said Michelle Michot Foss, chief energy economist for the University of Texas Center for Energy Economics.
“They’re trying to get a feel for what the price trajectory could be and it’s affecting decisions,” Foss said. But, she added, “I think you would need a much, much more substantial fall in prices to see a really serious drop in activity.”
Texas employment in the fossil-fuel exploration and production industry hit a record of 251,600 in June, Ingham said. But he noted some indicators that point to possible contraction ahead. Texas crude oil production is at its highest level since 1999, but the weakening world economy is pushing demand down, he said.
That has left resource prices languishing.
The recent 30-month rise in the Texas Petro Index was almost exclusively fueled by oil drilling because low prices have curtailed natural gas production relative to its levels in previous expansions.
The monthly average value of Texas oil and gas production exceeded $9 billion in 2008 but has been around $6 billion during the most recent peak in the index, Ingham said.
During the current shale-driven boom, however, employment has soared well above levels in October 2008, he said.
If declining prices bring about a further reduction in drilling activity, Ingham said, “employment will ultimately be affected and there’s of course no way it could not be.”
Turmoil in Europe and a weakening domestic economy have also affected the industry by depressing oil prices, Ingham said.
“All of these terrible things happened in the second quarter and sort of threw a little bit of rain into our parade,” he said.
But Texas oil prices and drilling activity may not be as influenced by broad economic trends as they may have been by recent pipeline developments, said Ed Hirs, a professor of energy economics at the University of Houston.
A recent increase of pipeline capacity bringing oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast may also be pushing prices down, he said.
“Right now you’ve got more domestic supply coming online than the country is accustomed to handling,” Hirs said.
The alliance’s index dates to 1995, when the index was set at a base level of 100.
- Texas oil, gas producers on the cusp of a slowdown? (fuelfix.com)
- Government departments told to prepare for budget revamp if oil prices stay low (calgaryherald.com)
- Drilling activity trending down (mysanantonio.com)
- Eagle Ford a contender for top U.S. play (mb50.wordpress.com)
From canceling oil leases in his second week in office to denying the XL Pipeline this year President Obama and his administration have offered up a non-stop assault on affordable energy. Now that high gasoline prices have come home to roost, the president is flailing around for an energy policy.
His recent attempts at energy policy include:
- Nobody can do anything about high gasoline prices.
- Maybe I should release crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
- There is a lot of drilling that I haven’t been able to stop. Don’t I get credit for that?
The latest attempt is to blame everything on speculators. And why not? Previous polling shows that 80 percent of Americans believe petroleum price spikes are caused by speculation, which means no more than 20 percent believe it is caused by the fundamentals of supply and demand.
There are several flaws in “the speculators did it” theory. The first is why do they only do it occasionally? That is, why don’t speculators want to make unconscionable profits all the time?
Second, why do the index funds and all the other bad guys only speculate in oil? Where are the profiteering speculators in natural gas, whose current price is about half of what it averaged over the last decade?
Third, there are sophisticated traders on both sides of the petroleum markets. For every speculator who makes money on a trade, somebody else will lose money. Blaming speculators on continued price increases requires an endless string of chumps to take the other side of the speculators’ deals. If anybody should be the chumps, it should be the newbies from the insurance industry and hedge funds, but they are at the top of the most-wanted list.
Finally, for speculation to drive up prices, the speculators must either cause oil production to slow down (which they haven’t) or to pull oil off the market. If the flow of petroleum and its products remains unchanged, the price at the pump will not change. If petroleum is pulled off the market, which can happen even though there are limits to what can be stored, it will eventually come back on the market. And the question becomes, “When the oil comes back on the market, is the price higher or lower than when it was pulled off the market?” The price will only be higher if the amount supplied at that time is lower or the demand is higher. In either of those cases, speculators have helped moderate price fluctuations and will be rewarded with profits. If the price is lower, then the speculators did a bad thing and will be punished by losing money.
The real problem is that combating high gasoline prices requires a greater supply, and this administration’s policies have pushed the other way. It seems the administration does not really want lower gasoline prices. Steven Chu, Obama’s non-car-owning Secretary of Energy, famously said we need to get our gasoline prices up to the $8-$10/gallon level they are in Europe.
- The Obama Oil Embargo: But Only USA Cap and Trade (tarpon.wordpress.com)
- Obama officials rip into GOP gasoline bills (mb50.wordpress.com)
- As gas prices pinch, Obama targets oil speculators (hazimiai.wordpress.com)
- Running on empty: Failing to address high gas prices (thehill.com)
- In Defense of Oil Speculators (foreignaffairs.com)
(Reuters) – China’s main newspaper accused Western countries of stirring civil war in Syria and two Iranian warships docked at a Syrian naval base, underscoring rising international tensions over the near year-long crisis.
Despite pursuing a sustained military crackdown on the opposition in cities across the country, President Bashar al-Assad forged ahead with plans to hold a referendum at the end of the week.
Activists in the western city of Hama said troops, police and militias had set up dozens of roadblocks, isolating neighborhoods from each other.
“Hama is cut off from the outside world. There is no landlines, no mobile phone network and no internet. House to house arrest take place daily and sometimes repeatedly in the same neighborhoods,” an opposition statement said.
Government troops extended their control on Hama after an offensive last week that concentrated on northern neighborhoods on the edge of farmland that have provided shelter for Free Syrian Army rebels.
The rebel fighters have been attacking militiamen, known as shabbiha, while avoiding open confrontations with armored forces that had amassed around Hama.
Government forces also maintained their siege of pro-opposition neighborhoods of Homs, south of Hama on the Damascus-Aleppo highway. Opposition activists reported sporadic morning shelling of Baba Amro district.
Security forces also mounted a campaign of arrests and raids in two suburbs of Deraa city and loud gunfire was heard, activists said. The reports could not be independently verified.
The Monday actions followed a weekend which saw one of the biggest demonstrations yet in the capital as the pro-democracy uprising against Assad’s 11 year-rule neared its first anniversary.
Security forces have killed at least 5,000 people, according to human rights groups, in a campaign to crush the revolt while the Assad government says it has lost more than 2,000 soldiers and security agents in what it describes as a struggle against foreign-backed terrorists,
The conflict has also pitted Western and Gulf-led Arab powers against Assad allies Russia, China and Iran.
The former have condemned Assad for the bloodshed and called for him to step down. Beijing and Moscow say all sides are to blame for the violence and the crisis should be resolved through talks, not foreign intervention.
China’s Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, in a front page commentary on Monday, said: “If Western countries continue to fully support Syria’s opposition, then in the end a large-scale civil war will erupt and there will be no way to thus avoid the possibility of foreign armed intervention.”
A Chinese envoy met Assad in Damascus on Saturday and backed his plan to hold a referendum this coming Sunday on a new constitution which would lead to multi-party parliamentary elections within 90 days.
Syria’s official SANA news agency said about 14,600,000 people throughout the country were eligible to take part in the referendum. The West and Syrian opposition figures have dismissed the plan as joke, saying it is impossible to have a valid election amid the continuing repression.
Assad has ruled Syria for 11 years after succeeding his father Hafez on his death. The Assad family belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, in a majority Sunni country, and there are fears the uprising could break down into a full sectarian conflict.
Meanwhile two Iranian naval ships docked at the Syrian port of Tartous on Saturday, Iran’s state-run Press TV reported. The ships were said to be providing training for Syrian naval forces under an agreement signed a year ago.
Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi, quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency, said: “Our ships passed through the Suez canal and it is Iran’s right to have a presence in international waters.”
likely to add to Western concerns that the Syria crisis could boil over into a regional conflict if it not resolved soon.
Foreign ministers at a G20 industrialized and emerging nations meeting in Mexico were increasingly worried about whether a peaceful solution could be found.
“There is grave concern about the fact that existing structures of the United Nations have not delivered an outcome,”
Australia’s foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, told reporters in Los Cabos, Mexico.
The West has ruled out any Libya-style military intervention but the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia, has indicated some of its member states were prepared to arm the opposition.
In Washington the senior U.S. military officer, General Martin Dempsey, said intervening in Syria would be “very difficult” because it was not like Libya.
Syria’s army is very capable, with a sophisticated, integrated air defense system and chemical and biological weapons, Dempsey said. It was also not clear who or what the fragmented opposition was exactly, he said.
A so-called “Friends of Syria” conference is scheduled to take place in Tunisia this Friday, bringing together Western and Arab powers.
Australia’s Rudd said the group aims “to place maximum pressure on president Assad to go, to end the butchery that we see day by day unfolding in Syria and to make sure we have a durable and peaceful political transition.”
(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Parisa Hafezi in Tehran; Susan Cornwell in Washington; Krista Hughes in Los Cabos, Mexico; Editing by Giles Elgood)
- Chinese newspaper accuses west of provoking civil war in Syria – The Guardian (guardian.co.uk)
- Syrian security forces increase pressure on Damascus protesters (guardian.co.uk)
- Syria’s Civil War Rages, as Alawites Press on (mideastconflicts.wordpress.com)
- Whose War is it in Syria? Al-Qaeda Distorts Field as Big Powers Stand Divided (ibtimes.com)
- Peter Goodspeed: Syrian civil war impossible to contain within its borders (fullcomment.nationalpost.com)
- Syrian gunmen kill judge and prosecutor (guardian.co.uk)