Monday, November 24, 2014

Editor's Note

I am right now stuck at an airport (Toronto) .... waiting for a flight to get back home (Montreal). And while I can do some blogging here, it is a pain. So .... expect blogging to be light for the next few hours. The Hagel resignation story is big .... when I get back to the comfort of my "man-cave" I will be posting my own analysis on what this means.

Who Will Be The New U.S. Secretary Of Defense?

Michele Flournoy conducts a press conference at the Pentagon in 2010, while she served as undersecretary of defense for policy. She is considered a leading candidate to become the next Pentagon chief. (Photo by Cherie Cullen/Defense Department)

Who Will Succeed Hagel? Three Potential Replacements as Defense Secretary -- Wall Street Journal

The news that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is set to step down creates an opening for the top job at the Pentagon.

The secretary of defense post will be a crucial post to fill in President Barack Obama‘s final two in office — with the international military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria intensifying and Mr. Obama likely to focus more attention on foreign policy and international issues in his final two years.

Here are the three leading candidates to be Mr. Obama’s fourth defense secretary in his six years in office so far:

Read more ....

Update: Exploring the options to replace Chuck Hagel as defense secretary -- Washington Post

My Comment: Who do I predict will be picked .... Michèle Flournoy ... if she wants the job she will have it.

Breaking News: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Has Been Fired By President Obama

Hagel Resigns As Defense Secretary, Official Says -- Reuters

(Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has resigned, the first major cabinet change after Obama's Democrats were routed in mid-term elections three weeks ago.

Obama was to announce Hagel's resignation at a White House event at 11:10 a.m. on Monday.

Hagel, who had struggled to improve his ties with Congress after a contentious 2013 confirmation hearing, submitted his resignation letter after lengthy discussions with Obama that began in October, officials said.

Read more ....

More News On The Resignation/Firing Of U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to step down -- Defense News
Defense Secretary Hagel, under pressure, submits resignation -- Washington Post
Hagel Retreats from Pentagon Under Fire -- Time
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigning -- CBS News
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Step Down -- ABC News
Hagel to Step Down as Defense Secretary, White House Aide Says -- Bloomberg
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stepping down -- AP
Obama removing DOD's Hagel -- The Hill
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Forced to Step Down, Officials Say -- NBC
Chuck Hagel to Step Down as Defense Secretary -- WSJ
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stepping down, Fox News confirms -- FOX News
Defense Secretary Hagel will resign, sources say -- USA Today
US Defense Chief Chuck Hagel to Resign -- VOA
Chuck Hagel forced to step down as Secretary of Defense -- Washington Times
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to exit Obama administration -- CSM/AP
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Resign Under Pressure -- Newsweek
Obama finds midterm scapegoat in Hagel -- FOX News
US defence secretary Chuck Hagel 'to step down' -- BBC
Chuck Hagel forced to step down as US defense secretary -- The Guardian
US defence secretary Chuck Hagel resigns -- Al Jazeera

Sanctions And The Falling Price For Oil Is Hitting The Russia Economy

A man holds ruble banknotes at an automated teller machine inside a branch of Russia's Sberbank in St. Petersburg. Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters

Sanctions, Falling Oil Prices Costing Russia Billions -- Voice of America

Russia's finance minister says the country is on course to lose $130-140 billion annually due to Western sanctions and falling oil prices.

Speaking Monday at an economic forum in Moscow, Anton Siluanov signaled that slumping oil prices are a more serious challenge for Russia than Western punitive measures over Ukraine.

"We're losing around $40 billion a year because of geopolitical sanctions, and about $90 billion to $100 billion from oil prices falling by 30 percent," he told a news conference.

Read more ....

More News On How Sanctions And The Falling Price For Oil Is Hitting The Russia Economy

Russia loses $140bn with sanctions and falling oil prices – Finance Minister -- RT
Oil price slide and sanctions 'cost Russia $140bn' -- BBC
Russian Official Says Oil Slump and Sanctions Cost $140 Billion a Year -- Reuters
Russia Is Losing Up To $140 Billion Per Year From Western Sanctions And Oil Price Fall -- Business Insider/AFP
Russian Official Says Oil Slump and Sanctions Cost $140 Billion a Year -- Time
Russia to lose some $40B a year due to sanctions: minister -- Daily Star/AFP
Russia faces recession as oil crash and sanctions cost economy £90bn -- The Telegraph
Russia Calls Western Sanctions Over Ukraine ‘Blackmail’ Tool, Costing Country $40B A Year -- IBTimes
Russia specifies losses over sanctions -- Deutsche Welle

A Critical Week For OPEC And The Price Of Oil

All Eyes On Oil: What Will OPEC Do This Week? -- CNN Money

While Americans are chomping down on turkey and pie this week, everyone involved in the energy world will be closely watching the Thanksgiving Day meeting of the OPEC in Vienna, Austria.

Oil prices have tumbled dramatically in recent weeks. Oil now trades below $80 a barrel and most Americans can buy gas for their cars for under $3 a gallon.

The question is how OPEC will respond. So far, energy producing nations and companies haven't scaled back product even though it's pretty clear there's an over supply of oil on the world market.

Experts who follow OPEC and the oil market closely are evenly split over in their bets on whether OPEC will vote to cut product. It will almost certainly come down to Saudi Arabia, which has refused to scale back production because it wants to squeeze its regional nemesis Iran, which is reeling from sanctions over its nuclear program.

Read more ....

More News On OPEC And The Price Of Oil

OPEC divided on oil output before crucial meeting -- Arab News
OPEC to take decision to promote stabilization of oil prices - Kuwaiti expert -- ITAR-TASS
Iran to push for Saudi oil output cut at OPEC - Mehr news agency -- Reuters
Iran seeks cut in Saudi oil output to boost price -- Irish Times
Iran May Propose Million-Barrel Daily OPEC Cut in Saudi Talks -- Bloomberg
Russia-Iran oil talks likely in OPEC meeting in Vienna -- Mehr News
OPEC giant split set to occur at next meeting -- Market Business News
US oil imports from Opec at 30-year low -- Financial Times
OPEC's Easy Days Setting Oil Production Are Over, Veteran Says; You Need Russia, Norway, Mexico -- Bloomberg
Winners And Losers Of Oil War – OpEd -- Shabbir H. Kazmi, Eurasia Review
OPEC's clout on line as decisive meeting looms -- Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
Why Crude Oil $80 Is the New Normal, Reasons Saudi Arabia Will Not “Swing” -- Market Oracle
Infographic: Meet the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members -- USA Today

My Comment: This is what is scaring OPEC members right now .... Oil price seen falling to $60 if OPEC does not cut output (Reuters).

Iran Nuclear Talks To Be Extended By 7 Months

Delegations of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi sit around the negotiations table during their meeting in Vienna November 24, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Joe Klamar/Pool

Negotiators Plan to Extend Iran Nuclear Talks by 7 Months -- New York Times

VIENNA — Hours away from a Monday deadline for completing a new accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program, negotiators planned to extend the talks for another seven months, a Western diplomat said.

An agreement on the main elements of the accord is to be drafted by March 1, the diplomat said. The final details are to be completed by July.

The negotiations are to resume next month. The location for the December talks has yet to be announced, but over the past month, Secretary of State John Kerry has met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Muscat, Oman, and in Vienna.

American officials and their negotiating partners have yet to explain if any substantial progress was made in the latest round of talks here and what gaps remain. President Obama said in a television interview on Sunday that there were still “significant” differences between the two sides.

Read more ....

More News On The Iranian Nuclear Talks Being Extended By 7 Months

Iran nuclear talks extended seven months after deadline missed -- Reuters
Iran nuclear talks deadline extended to end of June -- BBC
Extension granted to Iran ­for nuclear weapons talks -- The Australian/AFP
Diplomats: Iran Nuclear Talks Extended Through June -- VOA
Diplomat: Agreement being formed for 7-month extension of Iran nuclear talks -- FOX News/AP
Iran Nuclear Talks Extended Until July -- Radio Free Europe
Reports: Iran nuclear talks deadline extended to July 1 -- USA Today
Iran nuclear talks extended till end of June -- RT
Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program extended to June 30, 2015 -- Haaretz

My Comment:
I guess no one liked "Plan B" .... No easy 'plan B' for Iran if nuclear talks with major powers collapse (Reuters) .... so no one should be surprised that these talks have now been extended by seven months.

Finland Is Becoming More Nervous On Russian Intentions

President of Finland Sauli Niinisto with Russian President Putin. Office Of The President of Russia

Finland Feeling Vulnerable Amid Russian Provocations -- Washington Post

HELSINKI — Wedged hard against Russia’s northwestern border, peaceable Finland has long gone out of its way to avoid prodding the nuclear-armed bear next door.

But now the bear is provoking Finland, repeatedly guiding military planes into Finnish airspace and deploying submarines and helicopters to chase after Finnish research vessels in international waters.

The incidents are part of a pattern of aggressive Russian behavior that has radiated across Europe but that has been especially unnerving for countries such as Finland that live outside the protective bubble of NATO.

Read more ....

Update: In Interviews, Finland’s Leaders See Peril In Standoff Between Russia And The West -- Washington Post

My Comment: The Finnish military is now at a state of "high alert" .... Finland back on red alert over expansionist Russia (The Guardian) .... but I fail to see how they can do anything more than just "look" at the Russians.

U.S. To Provide Arms To Iraq's Sunni Tribesmen

Tribal fighters take part in a military training to prepare for fighting against Islamic State militants, at the Ain al-Assad military base in Anbar province November 15, 2014. Picture taken November 15, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

U.S. Plans To Arm Iraq's Sunni Tribesmen With AK-47s, RPGs, Mortars -- Reuters

(Reuters) - The United States plans to buy arms for Sunni tribesmen in Iraq including AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds to help bolster the battle against Islamic State militants in Anbar province, according to a Pentagon document prepared for Congress.

The plan to spend $24.1 million represents a small fraction of the larger, $1.6 billion spending request to Congress focusing on training and arming Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

But the document underscored the importance the Pentagon places on the Sunni tribesmen to its overall strategy to diminish Islamic State, and cautioned Congress about the consequences of failing to assist them.

Read more ....

More News On The U.S. Providing Arms To Iraq's Sunni Tribesmen

Iraqi Premier, US Look to Aid Islamic State Battle-- ABC/AP
U.S. plans to arm Iraq’s Anbar tribesmen -- Al Arabiya
Pentagon Plans To Arm Tribes In Iraq With AK-47s, Grenades To Fight Islamic State -- IBTimes
U.S. plans to arm Iraq's Sunni tribesmen -- World Bulletin

My Comment: The fact that the Iraqi government has agreed to this program tells me that they must be desperate and deeply worried that they are about to lose the "Sunni heartland".

Is The Government Of Chad Secretly Backing Boko Haram?

Chad Suspected Of Funding Boko Haram -- Naij, com

Nigeria’s neighbour, Chad, may be the major backer of Boko Haram with eyes on the oil deposits in the Chad Basin, Borno state. The Cable reports.

There are indications that there are hydrocarbon deposits in the Chad Basin covering 3,350 square metres, with federal government pumping close to N30bn in the last two years into feasibility studies of the oil potential there.

Countries such as Chad, Niger and Sudan with similar structural settings are already exploring or producing oil on their own soil.

Chad came into focus when the phantom ceasefire deal brokered in October by its President, Idriss Déby, alerted the security agencies to a possible involvement of the West African country in the insurgency.

Read more .....

Update: EXCLUSIVE: Chad ‘Fueling’ Boko Haram Insurgency With Eyes On Borno Oil Deposits -- The Cable

My Comment: This does not help to fuel concerns that Chad is secretly backing Boko Haram .... Chad president’s friend buys 19 missiles for Boko Haram (Nigerian Tribune).

Update #2: If all of these reports are true, it puts into question the U.S. military presence in Chad .... Why The U.S. Presence In Chad.

Boko Haram Attack Leaves 48 Fish Venders Dead In Nigeria

'Boko Haram' Kills 48 Nigerian Fishermen Near Chad -- BBC

Islamist militants from Nigeria's Boko Haram have reportedly killed 48 people in an attack on fish sellers near the border with Chad.

A fish traders' group said some victims had their throats slit whilst others were tied up and drowned in Lake Chad.

The attack took place on Thursday, but the news took several days to come to light because Boko Haram has destroyed mobile phone masts in the area.

It was the second major attack in two days by Boko Haram.

In Thursday's attack, the traders were on their way to Chad to buy fish when militants blocked their path near the village of Doron Baga, some 180km (112 miles) north of Maiduguri in Borno state.

Abubakar Gamandi, the head of the fish sellers' association, said the militants had used no guns.

Read more ....

More News On Sunday's Boko Haram Attack That Left 48 Fish Venders Dead In Nigeria

Nigerian Islamists Kill Traders in Village on Shore of Lake Chad -- Bloomberg
Nigeria: Dozens Dead in Suspected Extremist Attack -- AP
'Dozens of fishermen killed' in attack by suspected Islamic Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria -- Daily Mail
Over 25 killed in attack on Nigerian fishing community -- Reuters
‘B’Haram slits throats of some, tied hands and legs of others before throwing them into the lake’ -- Vanguard (Nigeria)
As many as 50 killed in new attack by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria -- Euronews
Nigeria: Dozens Killed in Alleged Boko Haram Attack On Nigerian Fish Traders -- Deutsche Welle
Boko Haram Attack Leaves 48 Fish Venders Dead: Reports -- Sputnik
48 Fishermen 'Tied Up and Drowned' by Boko Haram in North-east Nigeria -- IBTimes

Suicide Attack Kills 57 At A Volley Ball Game In Eastern Afghanistan

Afghan Volleyball Blast Toll Rises To 57, Target Was A Police Commander -- Khaleej Times/AFP/Reuters

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency blamed the blast on the Haqqani network, a hardline militant group aligned with the Taleban.

Survivors of a horrific suicide attack which killed 57 people at a volleyball game in eastern Afghanistan said on Monday how the blast ripped through a crowd of spectators enjoying the final moments of the match.

Those who wounded in the explosion said the attack targeted a local police commander.

“Around 500 people had gathered there to watch the match. A local police commander and his men also came an hour later,” Ghazi Khan, 19, a volleyball player, said as he lay in a Kabul hospital, his legs and stomach heavily bandaged.

“Soon after they arrived the suicide bomber came and detonated his explosives attached to his body. He (the police commander) was the target.”

Read more ....

More News On Sunday's Suicide Attack That Killed 57 In Afghanistan

Bomber targeted police commander in Afghan volleyball game attack -- Reuters
Suicide Bomber Kills 57 at Afghanistan Volleyball Tournament -- Bloomberg Businessweek
Many children among Afghan volleyball match bomb victims -- BBC
Suicide Bomber Hits Afghan Volleyball Tournament -- VOA
Afghan Volleyball Game Bomber Targeted Police Commander says Players -- IBTimes
Haqqani group blamed for Afghan suicide blast -- Al Jazeera
Afghanistan bomb blast: Death toll rises to around 50, more than 60 wounded in suicide attack -- Indian Express

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Putin: Russia Is Not Isolated. Dismisses Talk About The 'Iron Curtain' Returning

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Security Council at the Kremlin in Moscow, November 20, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Putin Says Russia Not Isolated Over Ukraine, Blames West For Frosty Ties -- Reuters

(Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin blamed the West for worsening relations with Russia since the Ukraine crisis and said Moscow would not allow itself to become internationally isolated behind another 'Iron Curtain'.

In an interview published by state news agency TASS on Sunday, Putin also said Western sanctions against Moscow, combined with the slide in the rouble and oil price falls would have no "catastrophic consequences" on Russia's economy.

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and ratcheted them up over Moscow's backing for separatists fighting Kiev troops to split east Ukraine.

Read more ....

More News On Russian President Putin's Remarks On Russian Isolation

Russia Will Not Rebuild Iron Curtain In Wake Of Economic Sanctions Over Ukraine: Vladimir Putin -- IBTimes
Putin dismisses risk of Iron Curtain comeback -- Al Jazeera
Vladimir Putin: We are strong because we are right -- ITAR-TASS
Why Vladimir Putin thinks it's still 1985 -- Matthew Chance, CNN

My Comment: The "Iron Curtain" is not returning .... but Russia is now isolated politically from the West .... and on certain levels it is isolated economically. And while I know that Russia will survive .... times are going to be tough for the next few years.

Update: At least this is a bit of positive news .... Putin Says He Won't Remain President Forever (Moscow Times).

Fighting Continues In Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Putin Rebels Step Up Attacks in East Ukraine -- Bloomberg Businessweek

Germany’s foreign minister expressed concerns that Russia is seeking to split up Ukraine by supporting separatists in the east and urged further dialogue with President Vladimir Putin’s government.

“I’m taking Russia at its word that it doesn’t want to destroy the unity of Ukraine,” Der Spiegel magazine cited the minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as saying in an interview. “The reality, however, is speaking a different language.”

The conflict in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine along the Russian border has claimed more than 4,300 lives and laid much of the local infrastructure to waste. The European Union and the U.S. accuse Russia of not abiding by a September truce signed in Minsk, Belarus, and Ukraine says Russian troops and vehicles continue to cross the frontier. Russia denies it’s fomenting the war.

Read more ....

More News On The Conflict In Ukraine

Further gunfire, but also war of words over crisis in Ukraine -- Euronews
Further gunfire in Donetsk amid war of words between Russia and US -- Malta Today
Ukraine's field army digs in for separatist offensive -- The Telegraph
With Borscht and Rifle Scopes, Volunteers Power Ukraine Forces -- New York Times
Destruction from above: Extraordinary drone footage of Donetsk Airport shows how it has been laid to waste with abandoned planes and shrapnel-covered runway -- Daily Mail
Interview: Ukrainian 'Cyborg' Describes Nine Days Defending Donetsk Airport -- Radio Free Europe
Kiev says Russia has 7,500 troops in Ukraine -- Al Jazeera
Kiev says 7500 Russian troops in Ukraine -- SKY News
Russia Sends Mig-31 Foxhound Fighter Jets To Ukraine Border, In Escalation Of Tension Over Separatist Region: Report -- IBTimes
Ukraine Is Building Armored Battle Buses -- War Is Boring
Special Ops medical team advises Ukrainian soldiers -- Airforce Times
Biden denounces Russia, but says Ukraine must do more to clean up its governance -- Washington Post
New Ukraine Coalition Agreed, Sets NATO As Priority -- Radio Free Europe
Starving, seething and scared: Eastern Ukraine's residents struggle to survive -- CNN
Life in Donetsk: 'Winter will be the ultimate test' -- The Guardian
Russia's Igor Strelkov: I Am Responsible for War in Eastern Ukraine -- Moscow Times
Ukraine conflict: How is the country coping one year on? (Video) -- BBC

More Threats From North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un organizes and guides a military drill in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. Reuters

North Korea Warns US, Allies Of 'Catastrophic Consequences' Over UN Human Rights Rebuke -- IBTimes

North Korea has threatened “catastrophic consequences” for the U.S. and other Western powers, in the wake of a U.N. resolution condemning the country's human rights abuses.

A resolution introduced by the E.U. and Japan, calling for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court to face possible charges of “crimes against humanity" passed the General Assembly human rights committee by 111 to 19 with 55 abstentions last week.

North Korea's National Defense Commission (NDC), chaired by Kim, said Sunday that the bill amounted to a "war declaration," adding “The US and its followers will be wholly accountable for the unimaginable and catastrophic consequences to be entailed by the frantic 'human rights' racket against [North Korea]," it said, according to AFP.

Read more ....

More News On North Korean Threats

N.Korea warns of 'catastrophic consequences' over UN rights ruling -- AFP
North Korea warns of 'catastrophic consequences' over UN rights ruling -- Sydney Morning Herald
N Korea warns 'catastrophic consequences' over UN rights ruling -- Channel News Asia
N. Korea warns of "toughest counteraction" over U.N. resolution -- Kyodo News
North Korea threatens nuke war -- The Korea Times
North Korea warns of wiping Japan ‘off world map’ over U.N. resolution -- Japan Times
Is North Korea Backtracking on Threat of Nuclear Test? -- Alastair Gale, WSJ

Taliban Asserting Control In Afghanistan As U.S. Extends Combat Role To 2015

Hour’s Drive Outside Kabul, Taliban Reign -- New York Times

CHARKALAH, Afghanistan — The explosion ripped through the floor of the Humvee, tearing a hole in the armored vehicle and injuring the district governor. The crack of Taliban gunfire followed.

Seeking cover, the Afghan police convoy sped behind a mud compound and unleashed a hail of bullets. Undeterred, the Taliban fighters edged closer. As bullets smacked around his head, an Afghan soldier in a white head scarf crouched behind a waist-high wall trading shots with the insurgents, a cigarette tucked in his lips.

“This is our daily life,” said the police chief of Tagab district, a mostly Taliban-controlled patch of Kapisa Province about an hour from Kabul, as rounds struck the compound’s edges, showering his men with dirt. “Everything is like this — you can see it with your own eyes.”

Read more ....

Update #1: White House extends U.S. combat role in Afghanistan into 2015 -- CNN
Update #2: Obama widens post-2014 combat role for U.S. forces in Afghanistan -- Reuters
Update #3: Afghan parliament OKs U.S. troops beyond 2014 -- AP

My Comment: I think there is a growing realization (especially in Washington) that the momentum is now shifting to the Taliban in this conflict. Will extending the U.S. combat role to 2015 make a difference .... probably not .... but it will not surprise me that in 2015 .... when the fighting season starts again after winter and the opium crop is harvested .... that the Taliban will then start major military operations that will raise alarms in Kabul, Washington, and among our international allies.

Report: Israel Reconsiders Military Action Against Iran

Exclusive: Cornered But Unbound By Nuclear Pact, Israel Reconsiders Military Action Against Iran -- Jerusalem Post

Israeli official cites "sunset clause" in proposed comprehensive deal, which guarantees Iran a path into the nuclear club and may corner Israel into war.

WASHINGTON – Historic negotiations with Iran will reach an inflection point on Monday, as world powers seek to clinch a comprehensive deal that will, to their satisfaction, end concerns over the nature of its vast, decade-old nuclear program.

But reflecting on the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.

Read more ....

More News On Reports That Israel Is Reconsidering Military Action Against Iran

Israel threatens to strike Iran over nuclear deal, experts say it's a 'diplomatic card' -- Al Bawaba
Concerned about nuclear pact, Israel weighs action against Iran: Jerusalem Post -- CNBC
Iran's Nukes - Israel Reconsiders The Use of Force -- CP
Israeli strike threat only a ‘diplomatic card’ against Iran -- Times of Israel
Netanyahu: Israel Following Iranian Nuclear Program Talks 'With Concern' -- Sputnik
Netanyahu: Israel worried by Iran talks, no deal is better than a bad deal -- Haaretz

Iran: Nuclear Deal Impossible Before Monday Deadline. Extension In talks Being Discussed

Iran Nuclear Deal Compromise Sought as Tomorrow’s Deadline Looms -- Bloomberg Businessweek

Nuclear negotiators with only a day left in Vienna to strike a comprehensive accord with Iran are shifting their focus to salvage a lesser agreement that could give them more time to end their 11-year standoff.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and European Union envoy Catherine Ashton, a U.S. official said. The trio remained behind closed doors inside the Palais Coburg two days after Kerry and Zarif canceled plans to leave Vienna and redoubled their attempts to win a bargain.

Read more ....

More News On The Iranian Nuclear Talks

Iran says nuclear deal 'impossible' by November 24 deadline: ISNA -- Reuters
Iran nuclear deal by deadline 'impossible' say negotiating team -- The Guardian
Iran: reaching nuke deal on Nov. 24 ‘impossible’ -- Al Arabiya
Urgent: Iran says final nuke deal with major powers impossible by deadline -- Xinhuanet
Iran: Nuclear deal impossible before deadline -- Al Jazeeera
Iran Nuclear Deadline Approaches -- VOA
Iran nuclear deal ‘unlikely’ by Monday deadline but talks continue -- Euronews
Iran nuclear talks going down to the wire -- CNN
One Day Left to End 11-Year Nuclear Standoff With Iran -- Bloomberg
Few signs of movement as deadline for Iran nuclear agreement nears -- FOX News
Iran Says Nuclear Deal Impossible Before Deadline : ISNA -- RTT
Deadline for Iran nuclear deal looms; Russia, China could join talks -- Washington Post
Russia's Lavrov heading to Vienna for Iran talks -- AFP
UK, French FMs to Return to Vienna for Talks on Iran's Nuclear Issue -- Sputnik
Iran open to extending nuclear talks by up to one year -- Daily Star/AFP
Iran: Nuclear Talks May Focus on an Extension -- AP
Extension of P5+1 Talks With Iran Not Discussed: Iranian Delegation Source -- Sputnik
Iran nuclear deal: Key points -- BBC

OPEC And Russia Remain Divided On Oil Output And Market Share

Iran Vows To Guard Oil-Market Share As OPEC To Review Output -- Fuel Fix

Iran will protect its share of global crude sales under all circumstances, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said, as OPEC members prepare to meet next week to review production levels.

The Persian Gulf nation can double oil exports in two months if sanctions against are removed, Zanganeh said, according to the ministry’s news website Shana.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will gather on Nov. 27 in Vienna to assess its collective output amid a supply glut and a 30 percent drop in prices this year. Iran’s crude output has languished under international economic sanctions that deter foreign energy investors and limit its exports to approximately 1 million barrels a day.

“Under no circumstance will Iran decrease its share of the global market, not even by one barrel,” Shana cited him as saying.

Read more ....

Update: Russia to Cooperate With Saudis on Oil, Avoiding Output Cuts -- Bloomberg

My Comment: Bottom line .... expect the price for oil to remain low.

Update #2: This is an interesting read .... Saudi Arabia Is Fighting an Oil War. But Who’s the Enemy? (Joshua Keating, Slate).

Why The U.S. Presence In Chad

What Is The U.S. Military Building in Chad? -- Nick Turse, Real Clear World/Tom Dispatch

Admit it. You don't know where Chad is. You know it's in Africa, of course. But beyond that? Maybe with a map of the continent and by some process of elimination you could come close. But you'd probably pick Sudan or maybe the Central African Republic. Here's a tip. In the future, choose that vast, arid swath of land just below Libya.

Who does know where Chad is? That answer is simpler: the U.S. military. Recent contracting documents indicate that it's building something there. Not a huge facility, not a mini-American town, but a small camp.

That the U.S. military is expanding its efforts in Africa shouldn't be a shock anymore. For years now, the Pentagon has been increasing its missions there and promoting a mini-basing boom that has left it with a growing collection of outposts sprouting across the northern tier of the continent.

Read more ....

My Comment: It may be a landlocked country .... but every country that borders it is in a state of unrest and/or civil war. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Favorite SR-71 Story

The Ultimate Ground Speed Check - Tales from the Blackbird -- Jalopnik

I don't know of any ludicrous speeding tickets so I can't participate in today's QOTD, but it did remind me of my favorite SR-71 story.

This is an expanded excerpt from Brian Schul's book Sled Driver : Flying the World's Fastest Jet. (which happens to be out of print and ludicrously expensive now, I wish I had bought a copy when I could have afforded it).

Read more ....

My Comment: When I first started this blog someone emailed me this story ..... and it has stuck with me ever since. On this quiet and wintry Saturday night .... I cannot recommend anything better to read than this. Enjoy .... and remember that there is always someone bigger, better, and faster than you are.

Thunderama 2014 - The Thunderbirds

Hat Tip: Theo Spark

Will There Be An Iranian Nuclear Deal This Weekend?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks at his phone as he leaves a meeting in Vienna November 21, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

A Bad Deal Gets Worse -- Lee Smith, Weekly Standard

As we go to press, the White House has reportedly offered Iran a deal regarding its nuclear program, a framework agreement with details to be worked out in the coming months. However, even as the interim agreement is set to expire November 24, it seems the Iranians have not responded to the Obama administration’s offer. And why would they? The White House has made it clear it wants a deal more than the Islamic Republic does. Under the circumstances, why wouldn’t Tehran wait to see how many more U.S. concessions it can extract?

Read more ....

My Comment: "Trust but verified" has been the cornerstone of all international nuclear agreements .... a condition that Iran has been consistently refusing to agree to when it comes to UN inspections of it's military facilities that are suspected of conducting nuclear weapons development. As long as this position by Iran holds .... I fail to see how such an agreement can be agreed to by the Western powers .... unless Washington makes the decision to completely cave-in to Iran's demands .... and the other Western powers fall into agreement. But for the moment .... I just do not see that happening.

Update: My original prediction on what will happen this week with these talks still holds .... an announcement on Monday that great progress has been made (without providing details), and a new extension to the talks will be decided upon.