U.S. Troops May Remain In Northeast Syria To Protect Oil Fields

(This article is courtesy of NPR news)
(THIS IS LOGICAL FOR OUR PRESIDENT, PUT AMERICAN TROOPS LIVES IN DANGER FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF PROTECTING OUR ENEMIES INCOME AND FUEL FOR THEIR WAR MACHINES TO USE AGAINST SYRIAN CIVILIANS.)(oped: oldpoet56)

Some U.S. Troops May Remain In Northeast Syria To Protect Oil Fields

U.S. military vehicles drive on a road in the town of Tal Tamr on Sunday after pulling out of a base in northern Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says some troops may remain in northeast Syria to secure oil fields.

Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. may now keep some troops in northeast Syria, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday. It is the latest in a series of consequential pivots the Trump administration has made in its Syria policy.

Esper said the troops are needed to secure oil fields from falling into the hands of ISIS and profiting from them, The Associated Press reports. But most recently it was Russian mercenaries, not ISIS fighters, who tried to seize the oil fields and who were repulsed by U.S. airstrikes, NPR’s Tom Bowman reports.

Despite President Trump’s earlier announcements that ISIS is defeated and that he is bringing the troops home rather than being entangled in “endless wars,” the U.S. forces are not heading immediately for home. Instead, they’re being moved to western Iraq to continue to fight ISIS there, Esper said during his overseas trip to Afghanistan and other countries.

Shortly after Esper spoke, President Trump acknowledged during a Cabinet meeting that the troops would be deployed to different areas first — but he added they would then return to the U.S.

“Well, they’re going to be sent initially to different parts, a different method,” Trump said. “Ultimately, we’re bringing them home.”

According to a White House pool report, Trump said of America’s allies in Syria, “We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”

U.S. forces could be seen withdrawing on Monday. They left a base in Turkey and rolled into the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, NPR’s Jane Arraf reports. Thousands of refugees are also flooding across the border into Iraq, doubtful that the ceasefire the U.S. brokered with Turkey last week will hold, and unsure of what will happen next.

As U.S. forces left the northeastern city Syrian of Qamishli, residents of the majority Kurdish city pelted American military vehicles with potatoes, the AP reported. “Like rats, America is running away,” a man was quoted shouting in Arabic.

There has been widespread criticism of President Trump’s decision two weeks ago to pull troops from northeast Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to assault the Kurds, key allies with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, says 120 civilians have been killed since Turkey began the operation it calls “Peace Spring” on Oct. 9. The group says 300,000 people have been displaced by the violence.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said on Monday that Turkish-aligned forces had violated the terms of the ceasefire. The SDF said violent clashes had broken out, with casualties among both the SDF and the Turkish-backed forces.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Jordan on Sunday, leading a delegation meeting with leaders including Jordan’s King Abdullah II to discuss the crisis in Syria.

With the U.S. pulling out its troops, Kurdish commander Mazlum Kobani is predicting his people will be slaughtered.

“There will be ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people from Syria, and the American administration will be responsible for it,” he told The New York Times. He said the U.S. should work “to limit the damage of this past decision and preserve the areas we liberated together.”

We’re Not the Saudis’ Mercenaries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

We’re Not the Saudis’ Mercenaries

Trump brought the crisis with Iran on himself.

Nicholas Kristof

By 

Opinion Columnist

ImageSecretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
CreditCreditPool photo by Mandel Ngan

Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, once scoffed that Saudi Arabia “wants to fight the Iranians to the last American.”

The danger is that we slip toward that nightmare. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that Iran has committed an “act of war” by attacking Saudi oil processing centers. Influential hawks like Senator Lindsey Graham have suggested carrying out strikes on Iranian oil refineries.

Meanwhile, Iran is warning that it will retaliate for any strike with a “rapid and crushing” response.

President Trump faces a conundrum. If Iran was behind the attack on Saudi Arabia, that was a serious provocation. It’s reasonable to wonder if Iranian leaders are emboldened because they see Trump as someone full of just bluster and bombast.

“He is not a lion, he is a rabbit,” said Ali Bigdeli, a political analyst in Tehran, according to a Times article by David D. Kirkpatrick and Farnaz Fassihi.

Iran may have concluded that Trump is the mother of all bunny rabbits after the lack of any kinetic response to attacks on oil shipping in May and June, or to Iran’s shooting down of an American drone in June.

The upshot is that hawks are urging Trump to be tougher this time and to consider bombing Iranian targets. That would be even more dangerous than a perception of weakness, for it could quickly escalate. Iran would strike back at sites in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain, and it would target American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

A full war with Iran would be a catastrophe. Iran has twice the population of Iraq and would be a much more formidable foe than Iraq was.

So Trump has a genuine dilemma: Inaction may be perceived as weakness, while military strikes may escalate and drag us into cataclysm. But this is a dilemma of Trump’s own making.

We are in this mess because Trump abandoned the landmark 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. Hawks argued that we could apply maximum pressure on Iran and inflict such pain that it would buckle, without appreciating that Iran could also ramp up the pressure on us.

That’s the problem with hawks. They plan out their chess games and triumphantly plot a checkmate without appreciating the basic lesson of Sun Tzu or Clausewitz that the other side also gets to move.

Unfortunately, without the Iran nuclear deal, all options are bad. We should be searching for ways to return to the agreement, with face-saving tweaks that would allow both Trump and the Iranian supreme leader to claim victory.

Instead, I’m afraid we risk slipping into conflict. Nobody wants a war, but getting out of this will require skillful diplomacy, which isn’t something the Trump team has much demonstrated.

We need not be Saudi Arabia’s guard dog, or lap dog. Yes, Iran is a threat to international security — but so is Saudi Arabia. It is Saudi Arabia that kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, caused a schism with Qatar and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Attacking Saudi oil installations was a breach of global norms — as was murdering and dismembering a columnist for The Washington Post who was a resident of the United States. Saudi Arabia has the gall to call for an international inquiry into the attack on its oil installations, even as it blocks any international investigation into the murder of my friend Jamal Khashoggi.

Macabre new transcripts show that the Saudi hit squad was discussing the dismemberment even before Jamal walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. “I know how to cut very well,” one member of the team said. “I have never worked on a warm body, though.”

Saudi Arabia continues to imprison a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Loujain al-Hathloul, after earlier torturing and sexually assaulting her for advocating women’s rights. The kingdom apparently offered Hathloul freedom if she would publicly deny that she had been tortured; she bravely refused.

Trump might seek Saudi input on whether to go to war with Iran by placing a call not only to a killer on a throne but also to a hero in prison.

If Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to respond militarily to the airstrikes on its oil facilities, he can go ahead with the kingdom’s own fighter jets and missiles. But this is not our fight. Nor should it be our graveyard.

This is a struggle between two misogynistic, repressive regimes that are both destabilizing the region. And Trump’s suggestion that we will be well paid for defending Saudi Arabia is an insult to our troops, casting them as mercenaries working for a thuggish potentate.

Our task instead should be to cooperate with European countries to get out of this muck and find a way back into the Iranian nuclear agreement.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The Times since 2001. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur. You can sign up for his free, twice-weekly email newsletter and follow him on Instagram@NickKristof  Facebook

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France, Lebanon Condemn Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SAUDI ARABIA’S ASHARQ AL-AWSAT NEWS)

 

France, Lebanon Condemn Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities

Sunday, 15 September, 2019 – 11:15
Smoke is seen following a fire at Aramco facility in the eastern city of Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, September 14, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
France condemns attacks on Saudi oil facilities that have disrupted global production, the country’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.

“France firmly condemns yesterday’s attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil installations,” the ministry said in a statement that also expressed “complete solidarity” with Saudi Arabia.

“These actions can only worsen regional tensions and risk of conflict,” the French statement added. “It is imperative that they stop.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed on Sunday the attacks, deeming them a “dangerous escalation that threatens to widen the arena of conflicts in the region.”

He said the attacks demand that the international community assume major responsibilities to put an end to “aggression and terrorism that are sweeping through the Arab world and jeopardizing regional stability.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday accused Iran of launching attacks on Saudi oil plants, ruling out the involvement of the Tehran-aligned Houthi militias in Yemen.

The Houthis claimed credit for the attacks, but Pompeo firmly placed blame on Iran.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” Pompeo said, referring to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” he added.

Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes

Media caption Abqaiq is the site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant

Drone attacks have set alight two major oil facilities run by the state-owned company Aramco in Saudi Arabia, state media say.

Footage showed a huge blaze at Abqaiq, site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant, while a second drone attack started fires in the Khurais oilfield.

The fires are now under control at both facilities, state media said.

A spokesman for the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said it had deployed 10 drones in the attacks.

The military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, told al-Masirah TV, which is owned by the Houthi movement and is based in Beirut, that further attacks could be expected in the future.

He said Saturday’s attack was one of the biggest operations the Houthi forces had undertaken inside Saudi Arabia and was carried out in “co-operation with the honorable people inside the kingdom”.

Saudi officials have not yet commented on who they think is behind the attacks.

“At 04:00 (01:00 GMT), the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of… drones,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The two fires have been controlled.”

Map

There have been no details on the damage but Agence France-Presse quoted interior ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki as saying there were no casualties.

Abqaiq is about 60km (37 miles) south-west of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, while Khurais, some 200km further south-west, has the country’s second largest oilfield.

Saudi security forces foiled an attempt by al-Qaeda to attack the Abqaiq facility with suicide bombers in 2006.


An attack method open to all

Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

This latest attack underlines the strategic threat posed by the Houthis to Saudi Arabia’s oil installations.

The growing sophistication of the Houthis’ drone operations is bound to renew the debate as to where this capability comes from. Have the Houthis simply weaponised commercial civilian drones or have they had significant assistance from Iran?

The Trump administration is likely to point the finger squarely at Tehran, but experts vary in the extent to which they think Iran is facilitating the drone campaign.

The Saudi Air Force has been pummelling targets in Yemen for years. Now the Houthis have a capable, if much more limited, ability to strike back. It shows that the era of armed drone operations being restricted to a handful of major nations is now over.

Drone technology – albeit of varying degrees of sophistication – is available to all; from the US to China, Israel and Iran… and from the Houthis to Hezbolllah.


Markets await news from key facilities

Analysis by BBC business correspondent Katie Prescott

Aramco ranks as the world’s largest oil business and these facilities are significant.

The Khurais oilfield produces about 1% of the world’s oil and Abqaiq is the company’s largest facility – with the capacity to process 7% of the global supply. Even a brief or partial disruption could affect the company, and the oil supply, given their size.

But whether this will have an impact on the oil price come Monday will depend on just how extensive the damage is. Markets now have the weekend to digest information from Aramco and assess the long-term impact.

According to Richard Mallinson, geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, any reaction on Monday morning is likely to be muted, as markets are less worried about supply than demand at the moment, due to slower global economic growth and the ongoing trade war between the US and China.

However, there are concerns that escalating tensions in the region could pose a broader risk, potentially threatening the fifth of the world’s oil supply that goes through the critical Strait of Hormuz.


Who are the Houthis?

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebel movement has been fighting the Yemeni government and a Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen has been at war since 2015, when President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia backs President Hadi, and has led a coalition of regional countries against the rebels.

The coalition launches air strikes almost every day, while the Houthis often fire missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Mr Sarea, the Houthi group’s military spokesman, told al-Masirah that operations against Saudi targets would “only grow wider and will be more painful than before, so long as their aggression and blockade continues”.

Saudi-led coalition air strike on Dhamar in Yemen, 1 SeptImage copyrightEPA
Image captionSaudi-led coalition air strikes regularly target Houthis in Yemen

Houthi fighters were blamed for drone attacks on the Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility last month and on other oil facilities in May.

There have been other sources of tension in the region, often stemming from the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia and the US both blamed Iran for attacks in the Gulf on two oil tankers in June and July, allegations Tehran denied.

In May, four tankers, two of them Saudi-flagged, were damaged by explosions within the UAE’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman.

Saudi Arabia and then US National Security Adviser John Bolton blamed Iran. Tehran said the accusations were “ridiculous”.

Tension in the vital shipping lanes worsened when Iran shot down a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz in June, leading a month later to the Pentagon announcing the deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia.

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