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Looking Ahead to the Olympics: Bandar Bush and The German “Lord of the Rings”


Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

COMMENT: With the Win­ter Olympics sched­uled for Sochi (Rus­sia) in 2014, there are a num­ber of inter­est­ing things to con­tem­plate. Prince Ban­dar bin Sul­tan (“Ban­dar Bush”), the chief of Sau­di intel­li­gence, had an inter­est­ing thing to say to the Rus­sians, in the con­text of propos­ing assis­tance if Rus­sia would aban­don its sup­port for Assad and Syr­ia.

Indi­cat­ing that the Saud­is had con­trol of the Chechen Islam­ic ter­ror­ists who have bedev­iled Rus­sia, Ban­dar made what could be con­strued as a Mafia-like threat of pro­tec­tion or vio­lence if the Rus­sians should fail to coop­er­ate.

Recall­ing the last ter­ror­ist inci­dent at the Olympics–in Munich in 1972–there are sev­er­al things for us to remem­ber:

Also of inter­est is Thomas Bach, the new (Ger­man) head of the Inter­na­tion­al Olympic Com­mit­tee. There are sev­er­al things to note in con­nec­tion with Bach:

Will there by an inci­dent at the Sochi Olympics? Is this what the Under­ground Reich has in mind? Will the U.S. be blamed by the Rus­sians, because of the close rela­tion­ship between “Ban­dar Bush” and the CIA? Will this fur­ther Ger­man “Ost­poli­tik”?

“REPORT: The Saud­is Offered Mafia-Style ‘Pro­tec­tion’ Against Ter­ror­ist Attacks At Sochi Olympics” by Geof­frey Inger­soll; Busi­ness Insid­er; 8/27/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . . Buried inside a Tele­graph post about secret Russ­ian and Sau­di talks was a strange pas­sive-aggres­sive alleged quote from the Sau­di head of intel­li­gence about ter­ror­ist attacks at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

The talks — divulged in leaked doc­u­ments — were alleged­ly about an oil deal that would sta­bi­lize Rus­si­a’s mar­kets, if Sau­di Ara­bia cur­tailed the amount of oil it put on the glob­al mar­ket. In exchange for their glob­al price fix­ing — the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that Rus­sia “relies on an oil price near $100 to fund the bud­get” — Rus­sia would back off its sup­port for Assad.

But there was a threat alleged­ly hid­den in there right along with the fruit.

From The Tele­graph [empha­sis theirs]:

[Sau­di intel chief] Prince Ban­dar [bin Sul­tan] pledged to safe­guard Russia’s naval base in Syr­ia if the Assad regime is top­pled, but he also hint­ed at Chechen ter­ror­ist attacks on Russia’s Win­ter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord. “I can give you a guar­an­tee to pro­tect the Win­ter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threat­en the secu­ri­ty of the games are con­trolled by us,” he alleged­ly said.

Along with Sau­di offi­cials, the US alleged­ly gave the Sau­di intel­li­gence chief the thumbs up to con­duct these talks with Rus­sia, which comes as no sur­prise. Ban­dar is Amer­i­can-edu­cat­ed, both mil­i­tary and col­le­giate, served as a high­ly influ­en­tial Sau­di Ambas­sador to the U.S., and the CIA total­ly loves the guy. . . .

“Lord of the Rings: New IOC chief Thomas Bach”; Deutsche Welle.

EXCERPT: . . . . Accord­ing to Ger­many’s “Der Spiegel” mag­a­zine, Bach had a con­sul­tan­cy con­tract with Siemens for around 200,000 euros and alleged­ly had been try­ing to use his IOC con­nec­tions to win Kuwait as a large-scale investor for a Siemens project.

Such accu­sa­tions have so far nev­er real­ly hurt Bach. . . .

Sama­ranch pro­tégé

. . . . Bach lat­er worked for Adi­das, learn­ing the ropes of sport lob­by­ing and build­ing his net­work of con­tacts. He speaks Eng­lish, French and Span­ish and was sup­port­ed by for­mer IOC Pres­i­dent Juan Anto­nio Sama­ranch. Bach got vot­ed into the IOC when he was just 37 years old. Not long after, he made it to the orga­ni­za­tion’s exec­u­tive com­mit­tee. Final­ly, in 2000 he became Vice Pres­i­dent of what is one of the world’s most pow­er­ful sports bod­ies.

Bach worked reli­ably at the side of cur­rent IOC Pres­i­dent Jacques Rogge, wait­ing patient­ly for his oppor­tu­ni­ty. Dur­ing what was pos­si­bly the IOC’s most severe cri­sis, the cor­rup­tion scan­dal around the 2002 Salt Lake City games, Bach got a lot of praise for his cri­sis man­age­ment.

...Bach is also said to have anoth­er pow­er­ful ally, the Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad al-Sabah, pres­i­dent of the pow­er­ful Asso­ci­a­tion of Nation­al Olympic Com­mit­tees and con­sid­ered an influ­en­tial fig­ure in Olympic cir­cles. Just last week, al-Sabah was cel­e­brat­ed at Toky­o’s vic­to­ry par­ty after his lob­by­ing report­ed­ly helped them win the right to host the 2020 games. He also backed wrestling’s suc­cess­ful return to the fold. Even before the results were announced, the Sheikh had admit­ted to not just back­ing, but lob­by­ing for Bach, in an appar­ent breach of IOC pro­to­col; but that, and a doc­u­men­tary broad­cast in Ger­many con­tain­ing alle­ga­tions about Bach’s char­ac­ter and con­duct, failed to derail the favorite from his tar­get. . . .

 “The With­er­ing Whis­pers of the IOC” by Jens Wein­rich; playthegame.org; 6/25/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . . Since his appear­ance at the 1981 Olympic Con­gress in Baden-Baden, when he was cho­sen by the then IOC pres­i­dent Juan Anto­nio Sama­ranch for the new Athlete’s Com­mis­sion, Thomas Bach has been con­sid­ered a pos­si­ble future IOC pres­i­dent. His patron and for­mer employ­er Horst Dassler – the for­mer head of the sport­ing goods com­pa­ny Adi­das, founder of cor­rup­tion giant ISL and string-puller in the Olympic world – is said to have once intro­duced Bach to Sama­ranch with the words: This is Thomas, a future IOC pres­i­dent.

Many long-serv­ing Olympians know this sto­ry. These days they tell it again and again. Besides Sama­ranch and Dassler, Bach has had a third major sup­port­er in his career: The long-time IOC vice-pres­i­dent Willi Daume, a major Ger­man sports leader. Daume stepped down from the IOC in 1991 in order to pass on his place, his per­son­al mem­ber­ship, to Thomas Bach. . . .

. . . . The role of Al-Sabah

But Bach polar­izes the most, too. For exam­ple because of his alliances and his prox­im­i­ty to the alleged IOC king­mak­er, the pow­er­ful Sheikh Ahmed Al-Sabah of Kuwait.

Al-Sabah, for­mer OPEC boss, serves, among oth­er posts, as pres­i­dent of the Olympic Coun­cil of Asia (OCA) and pres­i­dent of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Nation­al Olympic Com­mit­tees (ANOC). The Sheikh, an IOC mem­ber as well, has been out­ed as a sup­port­er for Bach.

Al-Sabah is repeat­ed­ly men­tioned in con­nec­tion with cor­rup­tion scan­dals. Some of his staff and allies are even bribe-tak­ers, for exam­ple, his long-time con­fi­dant and for­mer OCA gen­er­al sec­re­tary Ahmad Mut­taleb. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments he has received mil­lions of Swiss francs from the for­mer sports mar­ket­ing agency ISL/ISMM. Because of anoth­er case Mut­taleb was exclud­ed from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens after a deci­sion of the IOC Ethics Com­mis­sion.

Thomas Bach main­tains impor­tant busi­ness rela­tions to Kuwait. The com­pa­ny Weinig AG from his home­town Tauber­bischof­sheim, where he acts as chair­man of the Advi­so­ry Board, is in the hands of Kuwaiti investors. And in 2008, in con­nec­tion with the world­wide cor­rup­tion scan­dal of the Ger­man indus­try giant Siemens, it turned out that Mr. Bach has been a well-paid Siemens lob­by­ist for many years. In his role as a con­sul­tant he has used his con­tacts to Sheikh Al-Sabah to acquire Kuwaiti investors for Siemens. . . . .

“Juan Anto­nio Sama­ranch”; Wikipedia.

EXCERPT: . . . . Dur­ing the Span­ish Civ­il War, he was con­script­ed into the Repub­li­can forces in 1938, at the age of 18, to serve as a med­ical order­ly. How­ev­er, he was polit­i­cal­ly opposed to the Repub­lic, and escaped to France. He quick­ly returned to Nation­al­ist Spain under Fran­cis­co Fran­co and enrolled in the Span­ish fas­cist move­ment Falange.[5] . . .


10 comments for “Looking Ahead to the Olympics: Bandar Bush and The German “Lord of the Rings””

  1. It’s inter­est­ing to note that the CIA linked “Jamestown Foun­da­tion” protest­ed Sochi as a site for the Olympics:

    Trans­lat­ed from the orig­i­nal Russ­ian Isves­tia


    Tamer­lane Tsar­nae­va recruit­ed via the Geor­gian Foun­da­tion


    Accord­ing to the reports of Colonel Chief Direc­torate Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Depart­ment Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs of Geor­gia Gre­go­ry Chan­turia to the Min­is­ter of Inter­nal Affairs Irak­li Garib­ashvili, “Cau­casian fund” in coop­er­a­tion with the Foun­da­tion “Jamestown” in the sum­mer of 2012 con­duct­ed work­shops and sem­i­nars for young peo­ple of the Cau­ca­sus, includ­ing its Russ­ian part. Some of them attend­ed Tsar­naev Tamer­lane, who was in Rus­sia from Jan­u­ary to July 2012.


    Jamestown Foun­da­tion has repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed its inter­est in Geor­gia and the state of affairs in Rus­si­a’s North Cau­ca­sus. In 2007, the Foun­da­tion held a sem­i­nar “The Future of Ingushetia,” which was attend­ed by for­mer fight­ers of Aslan Maskhadov.

    In March 2010, the Jamestown Foun­da­tion asked the IOC to not hold the Olympic Games in Sochi, cit­ing the trag­ic events of the Cau­casian War of XIX cen­tu­ry.


    The Jamestown Foun­da­tion:


    “The Jamestown Foun­da­tion is a long-stand­ing front oper­a­tion for the CIA, it being found­ed, in part, by CIA direc­tor William Casey in 1984. The orga­ni­za­tion was used as an employ­er for high-rank­ing Sovi­et bloc defec­tors, includ­ing the Sovi­et Under­sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the UN Arkady Shevchenko and Roman­ian intel­li­gence offi­cial Ion Pacepa. The Russ­ian domes­tic Fed­eral Secu­rity Bureau and the SVR for­eign intel­li­gence agency have long sus­pected Jamestown of help­ing to foment rebel­lions in Chech­nya, Ingushetia, and oth­er north Cau­ca­sus republics. The March 21 Tbil­isi con­fer­ence on the north Cau­ca­sus a few days before the Moscow train bomb­ings has obvi­ously added to the sus­pi­cions of the FSB and SVR.

    Jamestown’s board includes such Cold War era indi­vid­u­als as Mar­cia Car­lucci; wife of Frank Car­lucci, the for­mer CIA offi­cer, Sec­re­tary of Defense, and Chair­man of The Car­lyle Group [Frank Car­lucci was also one of those who request­ed the U.S. gov­ern­ment to allow for­mer Chechen Repub­lic ‘For­eign Min­is­ter’ Ilyas Akhmadov, accused by the Rus­sians of ter­ror­ist ties, to be grant­ed polit­i­cal asy­lum in the U.S. after a veto from the Home­land Secu­rity and Jus­tice Depart­ments], anti-Com­mu­nist book and mag­a­zine pub­lisher Alfred Reg­n­ery; and Cas­par Weinberger’s Deputy Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense for Pub­lic Affairs Kath­leen Troia «KT» McFar­land. Also on the board is for­mer Okla­homa GOP Gov­er­nor Frank Keat­ing, the gov­er­nor at the time of the 1995 Mur­rah Fed­eral Build­ing bomb­ing.”

    Posted by Swamp | September 25, 2013, 8:36 am
  2. http://www.timesofisrael.com/new-ioc-head-to-resign-from-controversial-arab-german-trade-group/

    New IOC head to resign from con­tro­ver­sial Arab-Ger­man trade group
    Thomas Bach, under fire for head­ing orga­ni­za­tion alleged­ly pro­mot­ing Israel boy­cott, still mum on whether he’ll allow a minute of silence for the Munich 11
    By Raphael Ahren Sep­tem­ber 15, 2013, 3:57 pm 3

    The new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent of the Inter­na­tion­al Olympic Com­mit­tee intends to resign from the pres­i­den­cy of an orga­ni­za­tion pur­port­ed to sup­port the anti-Israel boy­cott move­ment, The Times of Israel has learned.

    Thomas Bach, a Ger­man sports func­tionary who was elect­ed Tues­day for an ini­tial eight-year term at the helm of the IOC, is the chair­man of Ghor­fa, the Arab-Ger­man Cham­ber of Com­merce and Indus­try. Found­ed in 1976, the orga­ni­za­tion is accused of help­ing com­pa­nies make sure they avoid any trade with Israel. Since Bach’s elec­tion last week in Buenos Aires, sev­er­al Jew­ish groups have called on Bach to step down from his posi­tion at the trade group.

    Bach also came under fire from Jew­ish groups for oppos­ing a minute of silence for the Israeli vic­tims of the Munich 1972 ter­ror attack dur­ing last year’s Olympic Games in Lon­don.

    “He will resign as the pres­i­dent of the Ghor­fa,” Chris­t­ian Klaue, the head of media at the Ger­man Olympic Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Bach’s spokesper­son, told The Times of Israel. He also denied that Ghor­fa had any­thing to do with the Arab world’s boy­cott of Israel.

    Bach had promised to step down from all his oth­er posi­tions bar one — the chair­man­ship of the super­vi­so­ry board at Weinig AG, wood pro­cess­ing com­pa­ny based in his home­town of Tauber­bischof­sheim — if he got elect­ed to head the IOC, Klaue said.

    Bach him­self has not pub­licly com­ment­ed on his con­tro­ver­sial pres­i­den­cy of Ghor­fa. In his can­di­da­cy for the IOC top job, he promised that he would move to Lau­sanne “and devote myself as a vol­un­teer to the ser­vice of the IOC.”

    In Ger­man media, Bach’s mem­ber­ship in the Ghor­fa — and his close rela­tion­ship with the Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, who lob­bied active­ly on the German’s behalf — was described as prob­lem­at­ic weeks ago. After he was elect­ed, Jew­ish groups imme­di­ate­ly called for Bach to resign his post at Ghor­fa.

    “Since 1988, the IOC has flown the UN flag at all com­pet­i­tive sites of the Olympic Games, there­by bind­ing the UN as a part­ner in shar­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for the posi­tions of the IOC and their con­se­quences,” the Simon Wiesen­thal Center’s direc­tor for inter­na­tion­al rela­tions, Shi­mon Samuels, wrote in a let­ter to the spe­cial advis­er to the Unit­ed Nations Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al on sports for devel­op­ment and peace, Wil­fried Lemke.

    “This would arguably include the con­flict of inter­ests of new­ly elect­ed IOC Pres­i­dent, Thomas Bach, who is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly Chair­man of Ghor­fa … [T]his Cham­ber reput­ed­ly con­tin­ues to issue cer­tifi­cates of neg­a­tive ori­gin, pro­claim­ing that con­trac­tu­al­ly sup­plied goods con­tain no ele­ments of Israeli ori­gin. Such dis­crim­i­na­to­ry cer­tifi­cates cam­ou­flag­ing the boy­cott of Israel were banned as ille­gal by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment over twen­ty years ago.”

    Samuels also lament­ed that Bach, then a IOC vice pres­i­dent, argued for the denial of a moment of silence in hon­or of the 11 Israeli ath­letes mur­dered by Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ists dur­ing the 1972 Munich Games, call­ing on the UN to demand Bach’s res­ig­na­tion from Ghor­fa. “His con­tin­ued main­te­nance of both posi­tions will result in boy­cott pol­lut­ing sport in vio­la­tion of the declared prin­ci­ples of both the UN and the IOC.”

    The direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Committee’s Berlin cen­ter, Dei­dre Berg­er, said it betrayed “the prin­ci­ples of sports­man­ship and fair play for the IOC to be head­ed by some­one who active­ly par­tic­i­pates in ongo­ing Israel boy­cott cam­paign mea­sures.”

    Ghor­fa con­tin­ues to issue cer­tifi­cates of Ger­man ori­gin for trade with Arab coun­tries. Its ear­li­er prac­tice of issu­ing cer­tifi­cates ver­i­fy­ing that no prod­uct parts were pro­duced in Israel stopped in the ear­ly 1990s when Ger­many enact­ed trade reg­u­la­tions for­bid­ding the use of cer­tifi­cates of ori­gin to enable de fac­to trade boy­cotts, the AJC stat­ed.

    “In response to a query by Vio­la von Cra­mon, a Green Mem­ber of the Ger­man Par­lia­ment, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment con­firmed on June 20, 2013, that Ghor­fa con­tin­ues to issue cer­tifi­cates of Ger­man ori­gin, ver­i­fy­ing that no prod­uct parts were pro­duced in Israel, for trade with Arab coun­tries,” the group said in a state­ment. “The Ger­man gov­ern­ment says offi­cials from var­i­ous min­istries have spo­ken on a num­ber of occa­sions with Ghor­fa rep­re­sen­ta­tives, includ­ing dur­ing a high-lev­el dis­cus­sion last sum­mer with Mr. Bach, about the con­tin­u­ing prac­tice of issu­ing cer­tifi­cates of ori­gin.”

    A “Sau­di Ara­bia Busi­ness Guide” pub­lished by Ghor­fa, for which Bach wrote the fore­word, states: “For reli­gious rea­sons, there is an import embar­go on var­i­ous goods such as e.g. alco­holic drinks and pork. All imports from Israel are for­bid­den.”

    But Klaue, Bach’s spokesman, denied that Ghor­fa was involved in any boy­cott of Israel. “There is no polit­i­cal activ­i­ty from Ghor­fa. They are not polit­i­cal,” he said. The orga­ni­za­tion mere­ly helps Arab coun­tries with paper­work required by the Euro­pean Union and the Ger­man Cham­ber of Com­merce to cer­ti­fy the ori­gin of prod­ucts, he said.

    “Ghor­fa is offer­ing this ser­vice for the embassies of the Arab states. This is cor­rect. They are offer­ing this ser­vice and have to fol­low the law of the Arab states. But they are not polit­i­cal­ly involved in that,” Klaue said. “This is not an issue of Ghor­fa but of sov­er­eign states.”

    Klaue also said that Bach has been asked many times whether he would recon­sid­er his stance on allow­ing a minute of silence for the Israeli ath­letes that were killed in 1972. “I’m sure he’ll give an answer to that ques­tion when­ev­er they have dis­cussed it and when­ev­er that [will become] a top­ic again,” he said. “But until then I don’t have answer for you on that.”

    Posted by Vanfield | September 25, 2013, 12:57 pm
  3. Robert Par­ry’s take on Ban­dar, Putin, The Olympics and Ter­ror­ism


    Should Cruise Mis­siles Tar­get Saud­is?
    Sep­tem­ber 23, 2013

    Exclu­sive: Sau­di Ara­bia – con­fi­dent in its lever­age over ener­gy and finance and embold­ened by a de fac­to region­al alliance with Israel – is throw­ing its weight around with threats against Rus­sia. But this mus­cle-flex­ing is draw­ing a tough reac­tion from Pres­i­dent Putin, reports Robert Par­ry.


    “Besides sup­port­ing the bru­tal jihadists in Syr­ia, there’s anoth­er incon­ve­nient truth: the his­to­ry of Sau­di Arabia’s sup­port for Islam­ic ter­ror­ism across the region and around the world, a point that Prince Ban­dar report­ed­ly raised dur­ing a tense meet­ing with Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Moscow on July 31, in con­nec­tion with the rebel­lious Russ­ian province of Chech­nya.

    Accord­ing to a diplo­mat­ic account of that bilat­er­al con­fronta­tion, Ban­dar sought Russ­ian sup­port for oust­ing Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad while offer­ing var­i­ous eco­nom­ic induce­ments to Rus­sia along with a pledge to pro­tect next year’s Win­ter Olympics in Sochi from ter­ror­ist attack.

    Putin appar­ent­ly was offend­ed by Bandar’s blend of bribery and threats, espe­cial­ly his allu­sion to Sau­di long­stand­ing sup­port for Chechen ter­ror­ism, a sore point for Rus­sians who have suf­fered numer­ous attacks by Chechen ter­ror­ists against Russ­ian civil­ian tar­gets. I’m told Putin also viewed the ref­er­ence to Sochi as some­thing akin to a Mafia don shak­ing down a shop­keep­er for pro­tec­tion mon­ey by say­ing, “nice lit­tle busi­ness you got here, I’d hate to see any­thing hap­pen to it.”


    “Accord­ing to a leaked diplo­mat­ic account of the July 31 meet­ing in Moscow, Ban­dar told Putin, “The ter­ror­ist threat is grow­ing in light of the phe­nom­e­na spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were ter­ror­ist expe­ri­ences, as evi­denced by the expe­ri­ence of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt and the extrem­ist groups in Libya. …

    “As an exam­ple, I can give you a guar­an­tee to pro­tect the Win­ter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threat­en the secu­ri­ty of the games are con­trolled by us, and they will not move in the Syr­i­an territory’s direc­tion with­out coor­di­nat­ing with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syr­i­an regime but they will have no role or influ­ence in Syria’s polit­i­cal future.”

    Accord­ing to this account, Putin respond­ed, “We know that you have sup­port­ed the Chechen ter­ror­ist groups for a decade. And that sup­port, which you have frankly talked about just now, is com­plete­ly incom­pat­i­ble with the com­mon objec­tives of fight­ing glob­al ter­ror­ism that you men­tioned. We are inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing friend­ly rela­tions accord­ing to clear and strong prin­ci­ples.”

    Ban­dar report­ed­ly replied, “We do not favor extrem­ist reli­gious regimes, and we wish to estab­lish mod­er­ate regimes in the region. It is worth­while to pay atten­tion to and to fol­low up on Egypt’s expe­ri­ence. We will con­tin­ue to sup­port the [Egypt­ian] army, and we will sup­port Defense Min­is­ter Gen. Abdel Fat­tah al-Sisi because he is keen on hav­ing good rela­tions with us and with you. And we sug­gest to you to be in con­tact with him, to sup­port him and to give all the con­di­tions for the suc­cess of this exper­i­ment.

    “We are ready to hold arms deals with you in exchange for sup­port­ing these regimes, espe­cial­ly Egypt.”

    Besides the pos­si­bil­i­ty of lucra­tive arms deals that would ben­e­fit the Russ­ian econ­o­my, Ban­dar report­ed­ly raised the poten­tial for Sau­di coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia on oil and oth­er invest­ment mat­ters, say­ing, “Let us exam­ine how to put togeth­er a uni­fied Russ­ian-Sau­di strat­e­gy on the sub­ject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and pro­duc­tion quan­ti­ties that keep the price sta­ble in glob­al oil mar­kets. …

    “We under­stand Russia’s great inter­est in the oil and gas present in the Mediter­ranean Sea from Israel to Cyprus through Lebanon and Syr­ia. And we under­stand the impor­tance of the Russ­ian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not inter­est­ed in com­pet­ing with that. We can coop­er­ate in this area as well as in the areas of estab­lish­ing refiner­ies and petro­chem­i­cal indus­tries. The king­dom can pro­vide large mul­ti-bil­lion-dol­lar invest­ments in var­i­ous fields in the Russ­ian mar­ket. What’s impor­tant is to con­clude polit­i­cal under­stand­ings on a num­ber of issues, par­tic­u­lar­ly Syr­ia and Iran.”

    An Angry Putin

    I’m told by a source close to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment that this mix of overt induce­ments and implied threats infu­ri­at­ed Putin who bare­ly kept his anger in check through the end of the meet­ing with Ban­dar. Putin’s redou­bled sup­port for the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment is seen as one unin­tend­ed con­se­quence from Bandar’s blend of bribes and warn­ings.

    The source said Rus­sia has respond­ed with its own thin­ly veiled threats against the Saud­is. The Saud­is may have sub­stan­tial “soft pow­er” – with their oil and mon­ey – but Rus­sia has its own for­mi­da­ble “hard pow­er,” includ­ing a for­mi­da­ble mil­i­tary, the source said.”

    Posted by Swamp | September 26, 2013, 9:36 am
  4. The fol­low­ing arti­cle con­cerns the 2022 world foot­ball cup in Qatar. Qatar has made major invest­ments in France in recent years. One won­ders if a “taqqiya sun­rise” might be loom­ing behind this. I don’t have time to trans­late but the arti­cle says that at least 44 (yes, four­ty-four) Nepalese work­ers died in a peri­od of two months last sum­mer on world cup con­struc­tion sites. There should be an arti­cle in The Guardian as well. http://www.lemonde.fr/sport/article/2013/09/26/des-esclaves-nepalais-morts-au-qatar-sur-les-chantiers-de-la-coupe-du-monde_3484869_3242.html

    Posted by le_cler | September 26, 2013, 11:25 am
  5. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/11/01/the_us_saudi_royal_rumble?page=full

    For­eign Pol­i­cy Mag­a­zine
    Fri­day, Novem­ber 8, 2013

    The U.S.-Saudi Roy­al Rum­ble
    Sev­en ways the House of Saud could make things very unpleas­ant for Wash­ing­ton.

    What is hap­pen­ing to the U.S. rela­tion­ship with Sau­di Ara­bia? Even after loud com­plaints from top Sau­di offi­cials that the long­time alliance was on the rocks, the response of offi­cial Wash­ing­ton, out­side the pun­di­toc­ra­cy, was an almost audi­ble yawn.

    Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma’s admin­is­tra­tion should not be so quick to dis­miss the trou­ble the Saud­is could cause for the Unit­ed States in the Mid­dle East — or the Sau­di roy­als’ deter­mi­na­tion to cause a shift in U.S. pol­i­cy. Two arti­cles last month quot­ed uniden­ti­fied “Euro­pean diplo­mats” who had been briefed by Sau­di intel­li­gence mae­stro Prince Ban­dar bin Sul­tan that Riyadh was so upset with Wash­ing­ton that it was under­tak­ing a “major shift” in rela­tions.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has a litany of com­plaints about U.S. pol­i­cy in the Mid­dle East. It faults Wash­ing­ton for pur­su­ing a rap­proche­ment with Iran, for not push­ing Israel hard­er in peace talks with the Pales­tini­ans, and for not more force­ful­ly back­ing efforts to top­ple Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad. Sau­di roy­als are also angry that the Unit­ed States did not stand behind Sau­di sup­port for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-gov­ern­ment upris­ing in 2011, and that Wash­ing­ton has crit­i­cized the new Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment, anoth­er Sau­di ally, for its crack­down on Mus­lim Broth­er­hood pro­test­ers.

    Sau­di roy­als have evi­dent­ly decid­ed that pub­lic com­ments and pol­i­cy shifts are the only way to con­vince Wash­ing­ton to alter what they see as its errant path. Ban­dar’s dec­la­ra­tion came a few days after the king­dom abrupt­ly decid­ed to reject its elec­tion to the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, claim­ing it could not tol­er­ate that body’s “dou­ble stan­dards.” As Ban­dar help­ful­ly point­ed out, the inci­dent was “a mes­sage for the U.S., not the U.N.”

    Accord­ing to an offi­cial in Wash­ing­ton, Ban­dar’s “brief­ing” was actu­al­ly a sev­er­al hour con­ver­sa­tion with French Ambas­sador to Sau­di Ara­bia Bertrand Besan­cenot, who then shared his notes with his Euro­pean col­leagues. Whether Ban­dar intend­ed to leak his remarks to the media is unclear but the Saud­is haven’t done any­thing to wind back his mes­sage. Last week, for­mer intel­li­gence chief Prince Tur­ki al-Faisal made many of the same points in an address to the annu­al Arab‑U.S. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers Con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton.

    It is hard to judge the sig­nif­i­cance of Prince Turk­i’s remarks, because he was essen­tial­ly fired as ambas­sador to Wash­ing­ton in 2007 after falling out with King Abdul­lah. With a nod toward can­dor, he made it clear he does­n’t have a role in the Sau­di gov­ern­ment and claimed not to be privy to its offi­cial delib­er­a­tions. How­ev­er, giv­en his appar­ent place on the king­dom’s lim­it­ed bench of offi­cials that can explain its stances to the world, Prince Turk­i’s remarks can’t be ignored. As he put it, Sau­di Ara­bia “is a penin­su­la, not an island.”

    This is far from the first cri­sis the U.S.-Saudi alliance has expe­ri­enced. In ear­ly 1939, a Sau­di del­e­ga­tion went to Nazi Ger­many to nego­ti­ate an arms agree­ment, part of which would have been divert­ed to Pales­tin­ian Arabs fight­ing Jew­ish immi­grants in the British man­date of Pales­tine. At least some of the Sau­di group met Adolf Hitler at his moun­tain top hide­away at Bercht­es­gaden.

    Ger­man arms nev­er reached the king­dom — or Pales­tine — as the Saud­is could not afford to con­sum­mate the deal (that was in the days before the oil rev­enues start­ed flow­ing in). How­ev­er, King Abdul­lah still trea­sures a dag­ger giv­en as a gift from the Fuhrer him­self, and occa­sion­al­ly shows it off to guests. Vis­it­ing U.S. offi­cials are briefed in advance so they can dis­play appro­pri­ate diplo­mat­ic sang-froid if Abdul­lah points out the memen­to.

    But despite the mul­ti­tude of crises — from the 9/11 hijack­ers to Sau­di pay-offs to Osama bin Laden — past dif­fi­cul­ties have been qui­et­ly repaired. The oper­a­tive word here is “qui­et­ly” — usu­al­ly, the gen­er­al pub­lic has not even known of the cri­sis. The dif­fer­ence now is that, through Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s move at the Unit­ed Nations and Ban­dar’s brief­ing, the king­dom is all but trum­pet­ing its dis­plea­sure.

    Assum­ing that the Saudi‑U.S. rela­tion­ship is real­ly head­ing off course, what could go wrong this time? Here are sev­en night­mare sce­nar­ios that should keep offi­cials in the State Depart­ment and Pen­ta­gon up at night.

    1. Sau­di Ara­bia uses the oil weapon. The king­dom could cut back its pro­duc­tion, which has been boost­ed to over 10 mil­lion barrels/day at Wash­ing­ton’s request, to make up for the fall in Iran­ian exports caused by sanc­tions. Riyadh enjoys the rev­enues gen­er­at­ed by high­er pro­duc­tion, but price hikes caused by tight­en­ing sup­ply could more than com­pen­sate the king­dom. Mean­while, a drop in sup­ply will cause the price at the gas pump to spike in the Unit­ed States — endan­ger­ing the eco­nom­ic recov­ery and hav­ing an almost imme­di­ate impact on domes­tic pub­lic opin­ion.

    2. Sau­di Ara­bia reach­es out to Pak­istan for nuclear-tipped mis­siles. Riyadh has long had an inter­est in Islam­abad’s nuclear pro­gram: The king­dom alleged­ly par­tial­ly fund­ed Pak­istan’s pur­suit of a nuclear weapon. In 1999, then Sau­di Defense Min­is­ter Prince Sul­tan was wel­comed by Pak­istani Pre­mier Nawaz Sharif to the Kahuta plant, where Pak­istan pro­duces high­ly enriched ura­ni­um. After being over­thrown by the mil­i­tary lat­er the same year, Sharif is now back again as prime min­is­ter — after spend­ing years in exile in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    While Islam­abad would not want to get in between Riyadh and Tehran, the arrange­ment could be finan­cial­ly lucra­tive. It would also help Pak­istan out-flank India: If part of Islam­abad’s nuclear arse­nal was in the king­dom, it would effec­tive­ly make it immune from Indi­an attack.

    Alter­na­tive­ly, the king­dom could declare the inten­tion of build­ing a ura­ni­um enrich­ment plant to match Iran­ian nuclear ambi­tions — to which, in Riyad­h’s view, Wash­ing­ton appears to be acqui­esc­ing. As King Abdul­lah told senior U.S. diplo­mat Den­nis Ross in April 2009, “If they get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons.”

    3. Riyadh helps kick the Unit­ed States out of Bahrain. When Bahrain was rocked by protests in 2011, Sau­di Ara­bia led an inter­ven­tion by Gulf states to rein­force the roy­al fam­i­ly’s grip on the throne. The Saud­is have the lever­age, there­fore, to encour­age Bahrain to force the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet to leave its head­quar­ters in Man­a­ma, from which the Unit­ed States projects pow­er across the Per­sian Gulf.

    It would­n’t be a hard sell: Hard­line Bahrai­ni roy­als are already fed up with Amer­i­can crit­i­cism of their domes­tic crack­down on Shi­ites protest­ing for more rights. But it would be a hard land­ing for U.S. pow­er pro­jec­tion in the Mid­dle East: The cur­rent arrange­ments for the Fifth Fleet would be hard to repro­duce in any oth­er Gulf sheikhdom. And it’s not with­out some prece­dent. Riyadh forced the Unit­ed States out of its own Prince Sul­tan air base 10 years ago.

    4. The king­dom sup­plies new and dan­ger­ous weapon­ry to the Syr­i­an rebels. The Saud­is are already expand­ing their inter­ven­tion against Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad’s regime, fun­nel­ing mon­ey and arms to hard­line Salafist groups across Syr­ia. But they have so far heed­ed U.S. warn­ings not to sup­ply the rebels with cer­tain weapons — most notably portable sur­face-to-air mis­sile sys­tems, which could not only bring down Assad’s war­planes but also civil­ian air­lin­ers.

    Sau­di Ara­bia could poten­tial­ly end its ban on send­ing rebel groups these weapons sys­tems — and obscure the ori­gins of the mis­siles, to avoid direct blame for any of the hav­oc they cause.

    5. The Saud­is sup­port a new intifa­da in the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries. Riyadh has long been vocal about its frus­tra­tions with the lack of progress on an Israeli-Pales­tin­ian peace deal. Pales­tine was the top rea­son giv­en in the offi­cial Sau­di state­ment reject­ing the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil seat. The issue is also close to Abdul­lah’s heart — in 2001, he declined an invi­ta­tion to Wash­ing­ton due to lack of U.S. pres­sure on Israel. What’s more, Riyadh knows that play­ing the “Arab” card would be pop­u­lar at home and across the region.

    If Sau­di Ara­bia tru­ly feels that the prospect for a nego­ti­at­ed set­tle­ment is irrepara­bly stalled, it could qui­et­ly empow­er vio­lent forces in the West Bank that could launch attacks against Israeli forces and set­tlers — fatal­ly wound­ing the cur­rent medi­a­tion efforts led by Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry.

    6. Riyadh boosts the mil­i­tary-led regime in Egypt. The House of Saud has already turned into one of Egyp­t’s pri­ma­ry patrons, pledg­ing $5 bil­lion in assis­tance imme­di­ate­ly after the mil­i­tary top­pled for­mer Pres­i­dent Mohamed Morsy. Such sup­port has allowed Egyp­t’s new rulers to ignore Wash­ing­ton’s threats that it would cut off aid due to the gov­ern­men­t’s vio­lent crack­down on pro­test­ers.

    By deep­en­ing its sup­port, Sau­di Ara­bia could fur­ther under­mine Wash­ing­ton’s attempt to steer Cairo back toward demo­c­ra­t­ic rule. As Cairo moves toward a ref­er­en­dum over a new con­sti­tu­tion, as well as par­lia­men­tary and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, Gulf sup­port could con­vince the gen­er­als to rig the votes against the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, and vio­lent­ly crush any oppo­si­tion to their rule.

    7. Sau­di Ara­bia press­es for an “Islam­ic seat” on the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. The king­dom has long voiced its dis­con­tent for the way pow­er is doled out in the world’s most impor­tant secu­ri­ty body. The lead­ers of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Islam­ic Coop­er­a­tion, a bloc of 57 mem­ber states designed to rep­re­sent Mus­lim issues in glob­al affairs, have called for such an “Islam­ic seat.”

    The Unit­ed States and oth­er veto-wield­ing coun­tries, of course, can be count­ed on to oppose any effort that would dimin­ish their pow­er in the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. But even if the Sau­di plan fails, the king­dom could depict U.S. oppo­si­tion as anti-Islam­ic. Such an effort would wreck Amer­i­ca’s image in the Mid­dle East, and pro­vide dan­ger­ous fod­der for Sun­ni extrem­ists already hos­tile to the Unit­ed States.

    Wash­ing­ton insid­ers will no doubt see any of these poten­tial Sau­di poli­cies as self-defeat­ing. How­ev­er, it would be a mis­take to ignore Riyad­h’s frus­tra­tion: While Wash­ing­ton thinks it can call the Saud­is’ bluff, top offi­cials in the king­dom also appear to believe that the Unit­ed States is bluff­ing about its com­mit­ment to a range of deci­sions antag­o­nis­tic to Sau­di inter­ests. The big dif­fer­ence is that the ten­sion in the rela­tion­ship is the No. 1 pri­or­i­ty in Sau­di Ara­bia — but is way down near the bot­tom of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s list of con­cerns.

    Posted by Vanfield | November 7, 2013, 10:23 pm
  6. Robert Par­ry rais­es asks a rather chill­ing ques­tion about the recent bomb­ings in Volvo­grad:

    Con­sor­tium News
    The Russ­ian-Sau­di Show­down at Sochi
    Decem­ber 31, 2013

    Exclu­sive: Last sum­mer, Sau­di intel­li­gence chief Prince Ban­dar report­ed­ly offered Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Putin a deal: if Rus­sia aban­dons Syr­ia, Sau­di Ara­bia would pro­tect the Sochi Olympics from Islam­ic ter­ror­ists. Putin is said to have angri­ly rebuffed the offer. Now, with two ter­ror­ist attacks, it’s Putin’s move, writes Robert Par­ry.

    By Robert Par­ry

    Monday’s ter­ror­ist bomb­ings only 400 miles away from the site of the Win­ter Olympics in Sochi, Rus­sia, have a geopo­lit­i­cal back sto­ry involv­ing implied threats from Sau­di Arabia’s intel­li­gence chief Prince Ban­dar bin Sul­tan to Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin last sum­mer when Ban­dar was press­ing Putin to with­draw his back­ing for the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment.

    Accord­ing to a diplo­mat­ic leak detail­ing the Ban­dar-Putin meet­ing in Moscow on July 31, Ban­dar sug­gest­ed that Putin’s agree­ment to aban­don the Syr­i­an regime of Bashar al-Assad would lead Sau­di Ara­bia to restrain its Chechen ter­ror­ist clients who have been attack­ing Rus­sia tar­gets for years. Putin report­ed­ly grew furi­ous, inter­pret­ing Bandar’s offer as a warn­ing that the Sochi games would be threat­ened by ter­ror­ism if Putin didn’t com­ply.

    At the time, I was even told that Putin warned Sau­di Ara­bia of poten­tial­ly severe con­se­quences – sug­gest­ing mil­i­tary retal­i­a­tion – if Bandar’s implied warn­ing was fol­lowed up by actu­al ter­ror­ist attacks like the ones in Volvo­grad on Mon­day, killing more than 30 peo­ple.

    Of course, it is always hard to trace spe­cif­ic ter­ror­ist acts back to their ori­gins and many ter­ror­ist cells oper­ate with much auton­o­my. But Putin has staked much of his pres­tige on a suc­cess­ful Olympics in Sochi, and he also would risk los­ing face if it were per­ceived that Ban­dar had exe­cut­ed a ter­ror­ist plan to dis­rupt the Win­ter Olympics and that Putin was pow­er­less to stop it.

    Accord­ing to the leaked diplo­mat­ic account of last summer’s meet­ing, Ban­dar sought Russia’s coop­er­a­tion on sev­er­al Mideast con­cerns, includ­ing Syr­ia, and told Putin, “I can give you a guar­an­tee to pro­tect the Win­ter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threat­en the secu­ri­ty of the games are con­trolled by us.”

    Putin report­ed­ly respond­ed, “We know that you have sup­port­ed the Chechen ter­ror­ist groups for a decade. And that sup­port, which you have frankly talked about just now, is com­plete­ly incom­pat­i­ble with the com­mon objec­tives of fight­ing glob­al ter­ror­ism that you men­tioned. We are inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing friend­ly rela­tions accord­ing to clear and strong prin­ci­ples.”

    Besides safe­ty for the Sochi Olympics, Ban­dar raised the poten­tial of Sau­di coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia on oil and oth­er invest­ment mat­ters, say­ing, “Let us exam­ine how to put togeth­er a uni­fied Russ­ian-Sau­di strat­e­gy on the sub­ject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and pro­duc­tion quan­ti­ties that keep the price sta­ble in glob­al oil mar­kets,” accord­ing to the diplo­mat­ic account.

    I was told by a source close to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment that this mix of overt induce­ments and implied threats infu­ri­at­ed Putin who bare­ly kept his anger in check through the end of the meet­ing with Ban­dar. Putin viewed Bandar’s offer to pro­tect the Sochi Olympics as some­thing akin to a Mafia don shak­ing down a shop­keep­er for pro­tec­tion mon­ey by say­ing, “nice lit­tle busi­ness you got here, I’d hate to see any­thing hap­pen to it.”

    Putin then redou­bled his sup­port for the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment in response to Bandar’s blend of bribes and warn­ings. The source said Rus­sia also issued its own thin­ly veiled threats against the Saud­is. The Saud­is may have sub­stan­tial “soft pow­er” – with their oil and mon­ey – but Rus­sia has its own for­mi­da­ble “hard pow­er,” includ­ing a huge mil­i­tary, the source said.


    The shift­ing sands of Mid­dle East inter­ests also have pushed the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia clos­er togeth­er, with the for­mer Cold War rivals shar­ing an inter­est in tamp­ing down dis­or­der across the region. Pres­i­dent Putin and Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma coop­er­at­ed in reach­ing a ten­ta­tive nuclear deal with Iran and in con­vinc­ing Syria’s Assad to sur­ren­der his chem­i­cal weapons. Putin and Oba­ma are press­ing for Syr­i­an peace talks, too.

    Now, how­ev­er, a new com­pli­ca­tion has been intro­duced: Islamist ter­ror­ist attacks aimed at under­min­ing the Sochi Olympics. If Putin con­cludes that the Saud­is are behind these bomb­ings – that the attacks are the equiv­a­lent of a Mafia don hav­ing a store torched after the own­er rebuffed an offer of “pro­tec­tion” – then the issue of Russ­ian retal­i­a­tion could sud­den­ly be on the table.

    Who knows if we’re real­ly see­ing a Russian/Saudi con­flict devel­op­ing, but when we con­sid­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a Russ­ian response to such an attack along with the the kinds of bombs that ter­ror­ist groups just might get their hands on with a lit­tle help from a state-spon­sor, this sto­ry is a reminder that mod­ern day mad­ness may not require mis­siles.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 4, 2014, 7:21 pm
  7. Putin’s lat­est Olympic charm-offen­sive may not be very charm­ing but it sure is offen­sive:

    Putin Says Gay Peo­ple At Olympics Must Leave The Chil­dren Alone

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press – Jan­u­ary 17, 2014, 9:02 AM EST3273

    SOCHI, Rus­sia (AP) — Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin says gays should feel wel­come at the upcom­ing Win­ter Olympic Games in Sochi, but they must “leave the chil­dren in peace.”

    Putin told vol­un­teers Fri­day that gays vis­it­ing Sochi “can feel calm and at ease,” and vowed that there would be no dis­crim­i­na­tion at the games. But he empha­sized that, accord­ing to a law ban­ning homo­sex­u­al “pro­pa­gan­da” among minors, gays can­not express their views on gay rights issues to any­one under­age.

    Putin and oth­er politi­cians have defend­ed the June pro­pa­gan­da law as a pro­tec­tion of child rights, but crit­ics believe that the law dis­crim­i­nates against sex­u­al minori­ties.

    In the wake of inter­na­tion­al out­cry against the bill, Russ­ian author­i­ties have put lim­its on the right to protest dur­ing the Sochi games, which run Feb. 7–23.

    No word yet on whether or not Putin’s decree will also ban ran­dom acts of child bel­ly kiss­ing but, if so, it will pre­sum­ably be selec­tive­ly enforced.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 18, 2014, 12:54 pm
  8. http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/bandar-resigns-as-head-of-saudi-intelligence

    Ban­dar Resigns as Head of Sau­di Intel­li­gence

    Simon Hen­der­son

    Also avail­able in العربية

    April 15, 2014

    The sud­den shake­up at the top of the king­dom’s intel­li­gence ser­vice will like­ly have impli­ca­tions for Sau­di pol­i­cy on Iran and Syr­ia.

    Ear­li­er today, Sau­di Ara­bia announced that con­tro­ver­sial prince Ban­dar bin Sul­tan had resigned as intel­li­gence chief. Accord­ing to the offi­cial Sau­di Press Agency sto­ry, the unex­pect­ed roy­al decree stat­ed that Ban­dar had been “relieved...from his post at his request” and replaced by Gen. Youssef bin Ali al-Idrisi, his deputy at the Gen­er­al Intel­li­gence Pres­i­den­cy (GIP), the Sau­di equiv­a­lent of the CIA. No men­tion was made of Ban­dar’s oth­er offi­cial posi­tion as sec­re­tary-gen­er­al of the Sau­di Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

    The news comes less than three weeks after Ban­dar was report­ed to be return­ing from Moroc­co, where he had been con­va­lesc­ing for sev­er­al weeks fol­low­ing shoul­der surgery. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the spin on his absence was that he had still been run­ning Sau­di intel­li­gence from his hos­pi­tal bed despite report­ed­ly bequeath­ing at least the Syr­ia port­fo­lio to his cousin, Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Prince Muham­mad bin Nayef, in Jan­u­ary. And last Octo­ber, Ban­dar ruf­fled Wash­ing­ton pol­i­cy­mak­ers by brief­ing for­eign jour­nal­ists on Sau­di exas­per­a­tion regard­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s Mid­dle East poli­cies.

    In the absence of fuller infor­ma­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the sta­tus of his Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil role, the change is like­ly explic­a­ble in terms of Ban­dar’s health. In addi­tion to his report­ed shoul­der surgery, the six­ty-five-year-old for­mer ambas­sador to Wash­ing­ton was using a cane to relieve a leg prob­lem when he received Sen. Bob Cork­er (R‑TN) at his Riyadh home in Decem­ber. Biog­ra­phers of the col­or­ful prince also men­tion oth­er ail­ments, includ­ing a bad back (due to an injury sus­tained dur­ing his career as a fight­er pilot) and a ten­den­cy toward depres­sion.

    Ban­dar’s 2012 appoint­ment as intel­li­gence chief was seen as a reflec­tion of King Abdul­lah’s pol­i­cy on two key issues at the time: his hard­line stance against the Assad regime in Dam­as­cus, and his deter­mi­na­tion to thwart Iran’s emer­gence as a nuclear-armed region­al rival to Sau­di Ara­bia. Today’s lead­er­ship switch allows for the pos­si­bil­i­ty that these poli­cies may be chang­ing, as sug­gest­ed by recent Sau­di restric­tions on sup­port­ing jihadists in Syr­ia. But whether Gen­er­al Idrisi, a non­roy­al, has the polit­i­cal weight to imple­ment pol­i­cy is ques­tion­able. Recent intel­li­gence chiefs have all been princes; Ban­dar him­self took over from Muqrin bin Abdu­laz­iz, who was named deputy crown prince last month.

    If Ban­dar retains his Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil role, he will con­tin­ue to wield influ­ence in Riyadh. But giv­en his antipa­thy toward Wash­ing­ton in recent months, the change may sug­gest an oppor­tu­ni­ty to fur­ther close the rift between the Unit­ed States and the king­dom fol­low­ing last mon­th’s meet­ing between Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and King Abdul­lah out­side Riyadh. That assess­ment depends on which offi­cials are pro­mot­ed to fill the gaps that Ban­dar’s res­ig­na­tion will leave.

    Posted by Vanfield | April 17, 2014, 10:49 am
  9. Giv­en the glob­al and rather dra­mat­ic impact of the plum­met­ing price oil, one of the biggest ques­tions in the glob­al econ­o­my today is quite sim­ply “when are the Saud­is going to open the spig­ots?” For some nations ris­ing oil might be a bless­ing. For oth­ers it’s a curse. But for Bashar Assad gov­ern­ment in Syr­ia, the ris­ing price of oil just might be the begin­ning of the end. Maybe. It’s up to Putin:

    The New York Times
    Sau­di Oil Seen as Lever to Pry Rus­sia Away From Syria’s Assad

    FEB. 3, 2015

    WASHINGTON — Sau­di Ara­bia has been try­ing to pres­sure Pres­i­dent Vladimir V. Putin of Rus­sia to aban­don his sup­port for Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad of Syr­ia, using its dom­i­nance of the glob­al oil mar­kets at a time when the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment is reel­ing from the effects of plum­met­ing oil prices.

    Sau­di Ara­bia and Rus­sia have had numer­ous dis­cus­sions over the past sev­er­al months that have yet to pro­duce a sig­nif­i­cant break­through, accord­ing to Amer­i­can and Sau­di offi­cials. It is unclear how explic­it­ly Sau­di offi­cials have linked oil to the issue of Syr­ia dur­ing the talks, but Sau­di offi­cials say — and they have told the Unit­ed States — that they think they have some lever­age over Mr. Putin because of their abil­i­ty to reduce the sup­ply of oil and pos­si­bly dri­ve up prices.

    “If oil can serve to bring peace in Syr­ia, I don’t see how Sau­di Ara­bia would back away from try­ing to reach a deal,” a Sau­di diplo­mat said. An array of diplo­mat­ic, intel­li­gence and polit­i­cal offi­cials from the Unit­ed States and Mid­dle East spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to adhere to pro­to­cols of diplo­ma­cy.

    Any weak­en­ing of Russ­ian sup­port for Mr. Assad could be one of the first signs that the recent tumult in the oil mar­ket is hav­ing an impact on glob­al state­craft. Sau­di offi­cials have said pub­licly that the price of oil reflects only glob­al sup­ply and demand, and they have insist­ed that Sau­di Ara­bia will not let geopol­i­tics dri­ve its eco­nom­ic agen­da. But they believe that there could be ancil­lary diplo­mat­ic ben­e­fits to the country’s cur­rent strat­e­gy of allow­ing oil prices to stay low — includ­ing a chance to nego­ti­ate an exit for Mr. Assad. Mr. Putin, how­ev­er, has fre­quent­ly demon­strat­ed that he would rather accept eco­nom­ic hard­ship than buck­le to out­side pres­sures to change his poli­cies. Sanc­tions imposed by the Unit­ed States and Euro­pean coun­tries have not prompt­ed Moscow to end its mil­i­tary involve­ment in Ukraine, and Mr. Putin has remained stead­fast in his sup­port for Mr. Assad, whom he sees as a bul­wark in a region made increas­ing­ly volatile by Islam­ic extrem­ism.

    Syr­ia was a major top­ic for a Sau­di del­e­ga­tion that went to Moscow in Novem­ber, accord­ing to an Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, who said that there had been a steady dia­logue between the two coun­tries over the past sev­er­al months. It is unclear what effect the Jan. 23 death of King Abdul­lah of Sau­di Ara­bia might have on these dis­cus­sions, which the Saud­is have con­duct­ed in secret.

    Rus­sia has been one of the Syr­i­an president’s most stead­fast sup­port­ers, sell­ing mil­i­tary equip­ment to the gov­ern­ment for years to bol­ster Mr. Assad’s forces in their bat­tle against rebel groups, includ­ing the Islam­ic State, and sup­ply­ing every­thing from spare parts and spe­cial­ty fuels to sniper train­ing and heli­copter main­te­nance.

    With a fifth of the world’s oil reserves, Sau­di Ara­bia is the lead­ing play­er in OPEC and has great sway over any move by the car­tel to raise prices by cut­ting pro­duc­tion. Its refusal to sup­port such steps despite dizzy­ing price declines has prompt­ed myr­i­ad the­o­ries about the Sau­di roy­al family’s agen­da, and Sau­di offi­cials have hint­ed that the coun­try is hap­py to let the low prices pun­ish rival pro­duc­ers who use more expen­sive shale-frack­ing tech­niques.


    The Saud­is have offered eco­nom­ic entice­ments to Russ­ian lead­ers in return for con­ces­sions on region­al issues like Syr­ia before, but nev­er with oil prices so low. It is unclear what effect, if any, the dis­cus­sions are hav­ing. While the Unit­ed States would sup­port ini­tia­tives to end Russ­ian back­ing for Mr. Assad, any suc­cess by the Saud­is to cut pro­duc­tion and raise glob­al oil prices could hurt many parts of the Amer­i­can econ­o­my.

    After the meet­ing in Moscow in Novem­ber between Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Sau­di for­eign min­is­ter, and Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russ­ian for­eign min­is­ter, Mr. Lavrov reject­ed the idea that inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics should play a role in set­ting oil prices.

    “We see eye to eye with our Sau­di col­leagues in that we believe the oil mar­ket should be based on the bal­ance of sup­ply and demand,” Mr. Lavrov said, “and that it should be free of any attempts to influ­ence it for polit­i­cal or geopo­lit­i­cal pur­pos­es.”

    Rus­sia is feel­ing finan­cial pain and diplo­mat­ic iso­la­tion because of inter­na­tion­al sanc­tions stem­ming from its incur­sion into Crimea and east­ern Ukraine, Amer­i­can offi­cials said. But Mr. Putin still wants to be viewed as a piv­otal play­er in the Mid­dle East. The Rus­sians host­ed a con­fer­ence last week in Moscow between the Assad gov­ern­ment and some of Syria’s oppo­si­tion groups, though few ana­lysts believe the talks will amount to much, espe­cial­ly since many of the oppo­si­tion groups boy­cotted them. Some Rus­sia experts expressed skep­ti­cism that Mr. Putin would be amenable to any deal that involved remov­ing sup­port for Mr. Assad.

    “It would be a huge change, and to me, this is an unlike­ly sce­nario,” said Angela E. Stent, a Rus­sia spe­cial­ist at Georgetown’s School of For­eign Ser­vice and a for­mer senior nation­al intel­li­gence offi­cer who focused on Rus­sia.

    Sau­di Arabia’s lever­age depends on how seri­ous­ly Moscow views its declin­ing oil rev­enues. “If they are hurt­ing so bad that they need the oil deal right away, the Saud­is are in a good posi­tion to make them pay a geopo­lit­i­cal price as well,” said F. Gre­go­ry Gause III, a Mid­dle East spe­cial­ist at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Gov­ern­ment and Pub­lic Ser­vice.

    For his part, Mr. Assad has shown no incli­na­tion to step aside. He said in a recent inter­view with For­eign Affairs that the true threat in Syr­ia comes from the Islam­ic State and Qae­da-affil­i­at­ed groups that, in his words, make up the “major­i­ty” of rebel­lion.

    Amer­i­can and Arab offi­cials said that even if Rus­sia were to aban­don Mr. Assad, the Syr­i­an pres­i­dent would still have his most gen­er­ous bene­fac­tor, Iran. Iran­ian aid to the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment has been one of the prin­ci­pal rea­sons that Mr. Assad has been able to hold pow­er as oth­er auto­crats in the Mid­dle East have been deposed.

    And as a major oil pro­duc­er, Iran would ben­e­fit if Sau­di Ara­bia helped push up oil prices as part of a bar­gain with Rus­sia.

    “You are going to strength­en your ene­my whether you like it or not, and the Ira­ni­ans are not show­ing any flex­i­bil­i­ty here,” said Mustafa Alani, an ana­lyst at the Gulf Research Cen­ter who is close to the Sau­di roy­al fam­i­ly.

    But the mil­i­tary aid that Rus­sia pro­vides to Syr­ia is dif­fer­ent enough from what Dam­as­cus receives from Iran, its oth­er major sup­pli­er, that if “Rus­sia with­drew all mil­i­tary sup­port, I don’t think the Syr­i­an Army could func­tion,” a senior Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said.

    A num­ber of Arab nations have been push­ing for the Saud­is and Rus­sians — polar extremes in their posi­tions toward Mr. Assad — to find com­mon ground on the mat­ter as a step toward end­ing the car­nage of Syria’s civ­il war, now almost four years old.

    But, as one Arab diplo­mat put it, “This deci­sion is ulti­mate­ly in Putin’s hands.”

    It’s also worth point­ing out that, while oil jumped more than 20% in the past week for unex­plained rea­sons, there are plen­ty of pos­si­ble expla­na­tions that have noth­ing to do with secret Saudi/Russian nego­ti­a­tions. Still, watch out for a new flood of oil. Parts of the Mid­dle East might wash away with it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 3, 2015, 6:17 pm
  10. Here’s a descrip­tion of the emerg­ing Sun­ni mil­i­tary coali­tion that’s emerg­ing to counter both Iran and Islamist extrem­ist groups in the region, although the term “Islamist extrem­ists” should real­ly be replaced with “rival Islamist extrem­ists” for an arti­cle about a Sau­di-led coali­tion against Islamist extrem­ism to real­ly make sense:

    The New York Times
    Arab Nations to Form Mil­i­tary Force to Counter Iran and Islamist Extrem­ists

    MARCH 29, 2015

    CAIRO — The Arab states said on Sun­day that they had agreed to form a com­bined mil­i­tary force to counter both Iran­ian influ­ence and Islamist extrem­ism, a ges­ture many ana­lysts attrib­uted in large part to their dri­ve for more inde­pen­dence from Wash­ing­ton.

    The agree­ment came as Amer­i­can and oth­er West­ern diplo­mats in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land, were rac­ing to beat a self-imposed dead­line of Tues­day to reach a deal with Iran that would restrict its nuclear pro­gram in exchange for the removal of eco­nom­ic sanc­tions. In response, Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Amer­i­can allies in the region have made clear that they are seek­ing to bol­ster inde­pen­dent region­al secu­ri­ty mea­sures because they see the pro­posed accord as a betray­al of Washington’s com­mit­ment to their secu­ri­ty.

    Regard­less of Iran’s nuclear pro­gram, they com­plain, the deal would do noth­ing to stop Iran from seek­ing to extend its influ­ence around the region by back­ing favored fac­tions, as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen.

    Many of the Arab nations, includ­ing Egypt, Jor­dan and most of the Per­sian Gulf monar­chies, have thrown their sup­port behind a Sau­di Ara­bia-led cam­paign of airstrikes to counter advances by the Iran­ian-backed Houthi move­ment in Yemen; Wash­ing­ton is pro­vid­ing only intel­li­gence and logis­ti­cal sup­port, but Sau­di Ara­bia is lead­ing the bomb­ing while Egypt, with the largest Arab army, has pledged to send ground troops “if nec­es­sary.”

    How the agree­ment, announced at a meet­ing of the League of Arab States in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, will be imple­ment­ed is not known. Arab mil­i­tary chiefs are expect­ed to work out more of the details. Offi­cials of the Arab League said the lead­er­ship of the com­bined forces, includ­ing the ques­tion of whether there might be a sin­gle com­mand or a coali­tion of nation­al units, was still under dis­cus­sion. Each country’s par­tic­i­pa­tion is expect­ed to be vol­un­tary.

    But the pro­pos­al gained cred­i­bil­i­ty because it was announced in part by the Egypt­ian pres­i­dent, Abdel Fat­tah el-Sisi, the for­mer gen­er­al who led the mil­i­tary takeover here in 2013.

    “The chal­lenges fac­ing our nation­al Arab secu­ri­ty are grave, and we have suc­ceed­ed in diag­nos­ing the rea­sons behind it,” Mr. Sisi said, with­out spec­i­fy­ing those rea­sons. The meet­ing, he added, was “pump­ing the blood of hope in the arter­ies of Arab coop­er­a­tion.”

    Egypt has long con­sid­ered itself the shield and pro­tec­tor of the oil-rich but sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed gulf monar­chies like Sau­di Ara­bia. Yet Mr. Sisi has an espe­cial­ly close rela­tion­ship with the Saud­is and their gulf allies because they sup­port­ed his ouster of Pres­i­dent Mohamed Mor­si of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in 2013. The gulf monar­chies have con­tributed tens of bil­lions in finan­cial assis­tance to Egypt since then, includ­ing new pledges of an addi­tion­al $12 bil­lion announced this month.

    Last year, Mr. Sisi also allowed jets from the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates to take off from Egypt for airstrikes against an Islamist-allied polit­i­cal fac­tion in Libya. This year, the Egypt­ian Air Force car­ried out a strike of its own in Dar­nah, in east­ern Libya, in retal­i­a­tion for the behead­ing of a group of Egypt­ian Chris­tians by an arm of the Islam­ic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Both Egypt and its gulf allies remain acute­ly con­cerned about Libya’s civ­il strife and the Islamist groups that have flour­ished as the gov­ern­ment and oth­er nation­al insti­tu­tions have crum­bled.

    The idea of a joint mil­i­tary force “has been there before but not so seri­ous­ly,” said Gamal Abdel Gawad Soltan, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Cairo. He not­ed that Arab joint defense treaties date to 1950 and a joint mil­i­tary com­mand was pre­vi­ous­ly formed for a time in the mid-1960s. That was dur­ing the era of Pan-Arab nation­al­ism, when Arab gov­ern­ments joined forces against Israel. That vision end­ed in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, with a humil­i­at­ing defeat.

    “It is the renew­al of an old idea,” Mr. Soltan said, “but this time the lev­el of seri­ous­ness looks high­er, even if we do not know yet whether the out­come this time will be dif­fer­ent than in the past.”

    Speak­ing at the meet­ing in Sharm el Sheikh, Nabil el-Ara­by, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Arab League, vowed that the Sau­di-led airstrikes against the Houthi move­ment would con­tin­ue until the Houthis had sur­ren­dered, appar­ent­ly leav­ing lit­tle hope for nego­ti­at­ing a prompt end to the vio­lence.

    The cam­paign “will con­tin­ue until all Houthi mili­tias retreat and dis­arm, and a strong uni­fied Yemen returns,” he said, declar­ing that the inter­ven­tion had saved Yemen from slid­ing into the abyss.

    The Houthi move­ment, which orig­i­nat­ed in the north of Yemen and fol­lows a strain of Shi­ite Islam, has seized con­trol of the country’s cap­i­tal, Sana, and oth­er large cities in part by ally­ing itself with mil­i­tary and secu­ri­ty forces still loy­al to Yemen’s for­mer strong­man, Ali Abdul­lah Saleh. Mr. Saleh was removed in 2012, after an Arab Spring upris­ing, in a tran­si­tion­al deal bro­kered by Sau­di Ara­bia and the oth­er gulf coun­tries. While the Houthis have received finan­cial sup­port from Tehran, the Ira­ni­ans do not seem to exert a strong influ­ence over the group as they do, for exam­ple, with Hezbol­lah in Lebanon.


    Beyond all the “what ifs” raised by the prospect of a sus­tained bomb­ing cam­paign and loom­ing ground inva­sion in Yemen, one of the biggest ques­tions that’s yet to be addressed is whether or not that new region­al mil­i­tary coali­tion is going to be inter­ven­ing and ISIS and/or the Assad gov­ern­ment in Dam­as­cus. Fight­ing ISIS will prob­a­bly be gen­er­al­ly wel­comed, but if there’s an attempt to take down Assad’s gov­ern­ment the coali­tion is going to be fac­ing some seri­ous strains:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    Sau­di Arabia’s hos­tile rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia is leav­ing Egypt stuck in the mid­dle

    By Adam Tay­lor March 30 at 5:51 PM

    At a gath­er­ing of Arab lead­ers in Sharm el-Sheikh this week­end, Egypt­ian Pres­i­dent Abdel Fatah al-Sis­si read a let­ter from Vladimir Putin. “We sup­port Arab nations in their effort to ensure a safe future and urge them to resolve all emerg­ing chal­lenges peace­ful­ly with­out any for­eign involve­ment,” the Russ­ian pres­i­den­t’s mes­sage read, to Sput­nik News.

    These com­ments did not go down well with those in atten­dance. In par­tic­u­lar, Sau­di Ara­bia, which accused the Russ­ian leader of hypocrisy. “He speaks about the prob­lems in the Mid­dle East as though Rus­sia is not influ­enc­ing these prob­lems,” Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Sau­di for­eign min­is­ter, said imme­di­ate­ly after the let­ter was read.

    In the increas­ing­ly com­pli­cat­ed web of alliances in the Mid­dle East and far­ther afield, Faisal’s com­ments high­light a note­wor­thy split. Egypt and Sau­di Ara­bia are impor­tant allies; right now, they are part­ners in a joint Arab mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Yemen, where Iran-backed Shi­ite rebels have top­pled the gov­ern­ment. And under the lead­er­ship of Sis­si, Egypt has become increas­ing­ly close to Moscow and moved away from Wash­ing­ton.

    But for Sau­di Ara­bia – a stal­wart U.S. ally and a pow­er­ful Sun­ni-led Arab state – rela­tions with Rus­sia have faced a dis­tinct chill in the past few years. It’s an impor­tant fault line in a coali­tion formed by Sun­ni states to counter the influ­ence of Iran, the region’s Shi­ite super­pow­er – and it’s prob­a­bly not the only one.

    Sau­di Ara­bia and Rus­si­a’s strained rela­tion­ship

    His­tor­i­cal­ly, Sau­di Ara­bia has always sided with Wash­ing­ton over Moscow. That rela­tion­ship was cement­ed when Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt met the first Sau­di king, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, in 1945 as World War II end­ed. Mean­while, Rus­sia and Sau­di Ara­bia had no diplo­mat­ic rela­tion­ship after Joseph Stal­in closed the Sovi­et Union’s embassy in Sau­di Ara­bia in 1938.

    Diplo­mat­ic rela­tions were restored after the Sovi­et Union col­lapsed, and in 2007 Putin became the first Russ­ian leader to make an offi­cial vis­it to the Sau­di king­dom. But in the past few years, Rus­si­a’s iron-clad polit­i­cal sup­port for Bashar al-Assad’s regime through the Syr­i­an con­flict has led to a seri­ous dis­agree­ment between the two nations.

    The most obvi­ous evi­dence of the con­flict between the two nations may be oil prices. Many out­side observers have sug­gest­ed that Sau­di Ara­bia could be using its pow­er to flood the mar­ket with oil as a means of hurt­ing the econ­o­my of Rus­sia, anoth­er oil-pro­duc­ing giant, with the aim of loos­en­ing Moscow’s sup­port for Assad. “If oil can serve to bring peace in Syr­ia, I don’t see how Sau­di Ara­bia would back away from try­ing to reach a deal,” one Sau­di diplo­mat told the New York Times last month.

    Putin him­self sees a polit­i­cal fac­tor behind the low oil prices, which experts say have hit Rus­sia hard­er than eco­nom­ic sanc­tions imposed by the Unit­ed States and its allies. “A polit­i­cal com­po­nent is always present in oil prices,” Putin said in Novem­ber. “Fur­ther­more, at some moments of cri­sis, it starts to feel like it is the pol­i­tics that pre­vails in the pric­ing of ener­gy resources.”

    There might be an inter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal prece­dent here. Dur­ing the nadir of rela­tions between Sau­di Ara­bia and the Sovi­et Union in the late 1980s, some say the Saud­is flood­ed the mar­kets with cheap oil at the request of U.S. Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan. The verac­i­ty of that account has been ques­tioned, but, if true, it would sug­gest that Sau­di Ara­bia is will­ing to use its eco­nom­ic lever­age for polit­i­cal ends – espe­cial­ly if the Unit­ed States is on board.


    Once again:

    The most obvi­ous evi­dence of the con­flict between the two nations may be oil prices. Many out­side observers have sug­gest­ed that Sau­di Ara­bia could be using its pow­er to flood the mar­ket with oil as a means of hurt­ing the econ­o­my of Rus­sia, anoth­er oil-pro­duc­ing giant, with the aim of loos­en­ing Moscow’s sup­port for Assad. “If oil can serve to bring peace in Syr­ia, I don’t see how Sau­di Ara­bia would back away from try­ing to reach a deal,” one Sau­di diplo­mat told the New York Times last month

    That’s the implic­it deal in place: If Rus­sia agrees to “bring peace in Syr­ia” — by pre­sum­ably with­draw­ing sup­port for the Assad regime and allow­ing it to even­tu­al­ly col­lapse to either the rebels or ISIS — the Saud­is will turn on the oil tap in return and end the dam­age to Rus­si­a’s cof­fers. And don’t for­get the reports of sim­i­lar offers back in 2013 (along with the alleged threats to unleash Chechen ter­ror­ists if the Krem­lin did­n’t agree).

    So pry­ing Rus­sia away from Assad using the price of oil as been some­thing the Saud­is have been work­ing on since before this his­toric drop start­ed last year and now that we have the begin­nings of exact­ly the kind of Sun­ni-lead region­al coali­tion force that could pro­vide a ground pres­ence in a post-Assad Syr­ia. Does the road to Dam­as­cus flow through Yemen? In this case it looks like it might, but it’s going to be a very oily road.

    And since the Sau­di King­dom’s road to Dam­as­cus would be major part a much larg­er realign­ment of pow­er and influ­ence in the Mid­dle East that would either elim­i­nate Rus­si­a’s allies in the region or sig­nif­i­cant­ly weak­en them, you have to won­der just how high the Saud­is will have to jack up the price of oil in order to get the Rus­sians to make a deal...and that’s assum­ing a deal of that his­toric nature could be arrived at under any cir­cum­stances. But let’s assume there real­ly is a price that could be arrive at, you have to won­der just what that mag­ic price per bar­rel would be for Putin to give his bless­ing to a Sun­ni mil­i­tary cam­paign on Dam­as­cus? $150/barrel? High­er? It prob­a­bly depends on how low it even­tu­al­ly goes and for how long.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 30, 2015, 6:00 pm

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