Shell to Drill in Black Sea

Shell to Drill in Black Sea

maritime executive

Shell Stock Photo

By MarEx

One day after shutting down exploration in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, Bulgaria wants Shell to conduct deepwater oil and gas exploration off the Black Sea.

Bulgaria would like to reduce its reliance on Russian oil imports and expects to sign a contract with the multinational oil and gas company by the end of October.

Shell big on a five-year exploration permit at Silistar and will invest about $21 million into the project and will pay an additional $5.5 million bonus to Bulgaria. The Silistar Block is about 6,893 square kilometers and is expected to produce up to 84 billion cubic meters of gas. Drilling is expected to begin February 2016.

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Putin’s Syrian Move Disrupts Erdogan’s Plans, Despite Turkish Stream

What Does Russia’s Power Move in Syria Mean for Turkey?

USNEWS

al monitor

Will Turkey’s rules of engagement against Syrian planes now apply to Russian planes flying near the Turkish border?

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend an opening ceremony for the newly restored Moscow Cathedral Mosque on Sept. 23, 2015 in Moscow, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a ceremony in Moscow on Sept. 23.

By: Kadri Gursel, Columnist for Al-Monitor

Turkey’s July decision to finally open its air bases near Syria and Iraq, including Incirlik, to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State was a game changer for the region. It meant the coalition’s air raids against IS would become more effective and less costly.

Only days after the first detachment of six American F-16s was deployed to Incirlik in early August, the media reported the deployment of six Russian MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor fighter jets to the Mezze air base near Damascus. Russia’s military presence in Syria continued to grow thereafter, with the number of Russian warplanes said to have reached 28, including long-range Su-27 Flanker interceptor fighter jets.

The Russian military buildup, backed with air-to-ground assault aircraft, attack helicopters, drones, air defense systems, ground assets and a large number of military personnel, is said to have two aims: fighting IS and preventing the collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In this sense, the impact of the Russian intervention is much stronger. By dramatically boosting its force and weight in the Syrian equation, Russia has turned upside down the game plans of others, chief among them Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Using some imagination, one could foresee the adverse impacts Russia’s move will have on Ankara’s policies on the ground. Ankara is now likely to be forced to end the de facto situation — virtually a no-fly zone — it has enforced casually in border areas since 2012. In June 2012, after a Turkish reconnaissance plane was shot down by an air defense system in Syria, Ankara announced new rules of engagement, including the interception of Syrian aircraft flying close to Turkish airspace. There has been no indication so far that these rules of engagement have changed. Since the summer of 2012, Turkish media have occasionally reported incidents of Turkish fighter jets taking off from their bases to chase off Syrian planes and helicopters flying “too close” to the border.

Ankara-backed Islamist groups fighting Assad’s regime have emerged as the main beneficiary of these rules of engagement, which have effectively served as a Turkish air cover for their military and logistical operations in border regions.

Now, the following question arises: Will Ankara stick to its rules of engagement if airplanes approaching the border have the Russian star on their wings? My guess is that the rules of engagement will not be enforced against Russian aircraft, thus ending the de facto air cover for the rebels.

Similarly, Ankara’s intention to create a safe zone along the border stretch from Jarablus to Azaz inside Syria has become completely meaningless since the Russian intervention. Preventing Syrian aircraft from flying over the designated area is the first prerequisite for such a zone, which naturally requires the use of an air force. Thus, Russia’s deployment of interceptor fighter jets in Syria can be explained only with one objective: to deter Ankara as an initial step. Another explanation is hardly possible, given that jihadi groups such as IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham do not have an air force.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s problem stems from his priorities, which are different from those of the coalition. Turkey may have opened its air bases to make coalition airstrikes on IS more efficient and less costly, but this doesn’t mean that fighting IS has become a top priority for Erdogan and his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. IS is not and has never been a priority for the pair — this we have known for ages. Erdogan, for instance, waited until Sept. 25, 2014, to finally brand IS a terrorist group.

For the Erdogan-Davutoglu pair, the use of Turkish air bases against IS had been preconditioned on the simultaneous pursuit of a regime change in Syria, which, in turn, entailed the creation and enforcement of the safe zone they had advocated since 2012. So, what happened that they finally acquiesced to the air base deal in July after months of stubborn foot-dragging?
The decision was driven by three reasons, none of which places the IS threat in the foreground.

First, forces of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), advancing under coalition air cover, captured the border town of Tell Abyad from IS in June. The Erdogan-Davutoglu duo was alarmed that the more it deferred cooperation with the anti-IS coalition the more ground slid from under its feet, while the PYD, the sister organization of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), grew stronger by the day, allied with the coalition.

Turkey is opposed to the idea of the PYD advancing from Kobani to the western bank of the Euphrates to help oust IS from Jarablus. This has been another factor in Ankara’s decision to open the bases. Yet, only time will tell whether Ankara can keep the PYD in Kobani, given that the United States aims to cut all ground links between IS and Turkey, something that the Turkish government forces have failed to deliver.

Second, the supply route from the Turkish border town of Kilis to Aleppo — a vital element in sustaining Ankara’s regime-change policy — came under IS threat in June. The area stretching from the Bab al-Salam border crossing down to Aleppo is controlled by rebel groups officially backed by Ankara. The AKP government needs to preserve this access to Aleppo, without which its ambitions in Syria become completely irrelevant. Thus, allowing the coalition to use Turkish air bases became imperative in light of stopping the IS advance on the eastern side of the route.

Third, the PYD — which has the PKK as its main supplier and supporter — emerged as the United States’ only reliable ally fighting IS in Syria. Driven by domestic political considerations, Ankara resumed its war on the PKK, weakening the sole US ally on the ground. Keeping the bases closed to coalition aircraft in these circumstances would have been a very unwise idea. In other words, the bases were granted as a sort of “hush money” to the US-led coalition. Washington says it has not sanctioned Ankara’s onslaught on the PKK, denying any explicit or implicit “bases-for-PKK” deal. Yet, Ankara’s logic in this equation functions independently from the categorical US attitude.

The United States is quite content with Ankara’s decision to open the bases. Turkey is said to have engaged in more serious cooperation against IS since the spring. Also, US support for the PYD is said to be limited to the fight against IS, not involving the supply of weapons and ammunition.

Stopping IS remains the No. 1 US priority. Had Turkey shared the coalition’s objective to degrade and defeat IS as a top priority, it would not have been affected that much by Russia stepping in against IS and on Damascus’ side. For the Erdogan-Davutoglu pair, IS represents a growing threat due to the reasons mentioned above, but is never a top priority.

Turkey’s No. 1 problem and priority today is the PKK, which it has been fighting since the two-year cease-fire came to an end in July. Yet, for the United States, the PKK’s Syrian extension, the PYD, is not part of the problem but part of the solution. Overthrowing Assad has ceased to be a US priority since IS emerged as a threat on a regional scale.

With Russia’s military moves balancing the gains that other jihadi groups made in Idlib in the north and Daraa in the south earlier this year, Ankara’s priority of toppling Assad has grown even more irrelevant. Ultimately, the Russian move means Ankara will have to settle for much less than it had hoped for by letting the anti-IS coalition use its air bases.

US Judge Rules Saudi Arabia Has Complete Immunity for Sept. 11, 2001

Saudi Arabia has sovereign immunity from 9/11 damage claims, judge rules

cbc news

Information from imprisoned Zacarias Moussaoui ruled irrelevant due to immunity

By Nate Raymond, Thomson Reuters

This undated file photo provided by the Sherburne County Sheriff Office shows Zacharias Moussaoui, who figured in the lawsuit by the families of 9/11 victims.

This undated file photo provided by the Sherburne County Sheriff Office shows Zacharias Moussaoui, who figured in the lawsuit by the families of 9/11 victims. (Sherburne County, Minn., Sheriff’s Office/AP)

A U.S. judge on Tuesday dismissed claims against Saudi Arabia by families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who accused the country of providing material support to al Qaeda.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said Saudi Arabia had sovereign immunity from damage claims by families of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks, and from insurers that covered losses suffered by building owners and businesses.

“The allegations in the complaint alone do not provide this court with a basis to assert jurisdiction over defendants,” Daniels wrote.

The victims had sought to supplement their case with new allegations to avoid that result, including based on testimony they secured from Zacarias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaeda operative imprisoned for his role in the attacks.

Daniels said even if he allowed the plaintiffs to assert those new claims, doing so would be “futile, however, because the additional allegations do not strip defendants of sovereign immunity.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they would appeal. Sean Carter, one the lawyers, said he believed the ruling was also the consequence of the U.S. government’s decision to keep classified evidence that could be favourable to their cause.

“Obviously, we respectfully disagree with Judge Daniels’s ruling,” he said

A lawyer for Saudi Arabia declined comment.

The ruling came just over 14 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in which airliners hijacked by al Qaeda militants brought death and destruction upon the United States.

Most of the 19 attackers were Saudi nationals who hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers revolted.

The case against Saudi Arabia has had a complicated history, with trial judges including Daniels twice before ruling that Saudi Arabia was entitled to immunity under the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

But in 2013, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York revived the lawsuit, in light of a 2011 decision that allowed similar claims to proceed against Afghanistan.

The case is In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 03-md-01570.

Brit Press Push “Depleted ISIS” Theme—Claiming Islamist Forces Cut In Half, Hundreds Quit Over Pay Cut

ISIS exodus: Hundreds of fighters leave brutal terror group after wages are slashed

“The killers were earning £260 a month from the brutal regime until money shortages forced ISIS to drop the rate to £65.

At least 200 fighters have quit the group and have flocked from northern Iraq in search of better pay from other extremists stationed in Syria.”

ISIS defeated? Islamic State WILL be overthrown and half its fighters have been killed

“The terrorist group has shrunk from an estimated 18,000 to 10,000 and has been forced to surrender 25 per cent of territory it has captured.”

Russian parliament unanimously approves use of troops in Syria

Russian parliament unanimously approves use of troops in Syria

Russia-Today

 

© Sergey Mamontov
The upper chamber of the Russian parliament has unanimously given a formal consent to President Putin to use the nation’s military in Syria to fight terrorism at a request from the Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Consent was necessary for deployment of troops for foreign combat missions under the Russian constitution.

The request for use of force was sent by the president after considering the large number of citizens of Russia and neighboring countries, who went to join terrorist groups fighting in Syria, head of the presidential administration Sergey Ivanov told media. There are thousands of them, and Russia’s national security would be under threat, should they return home, he added.

“This is not about reaching for some foreign policy goals, satisfying ambitions, which our Western partners regularly accuse us of. It’s only about the national interest of the Russian Federation,” the official said.

Ivanov stressed that no ground operations are planned in Syria. Russia would use its warplanes to hit terrorist targets when requested by the Syrian government. He stressed that unlike the US-led coalition of countries that bombs militant troops in Syria, Russia was invited to do so by the legal authorities of Syria and thus follows international law.

“The military goal of the operation is strictly to provide air support for the [Syrian] government forces in their fight against Islamic State,” he said.

The bombing campaign is time-limited, Ivanov said, not revealing a clear deadline for it. He said he was not authorized to disclose details of the operation such as the number of warplanes involved.

“All our partners and allies will be informed about our decision today through corresponding military channels. Specific military information will be provided as well, I believe,” he concluded.

Previously, Russia provided the Syrian government with advanced weapons and military instructors to teach the Syrians how to use them.

READ MORE: Russia, Iran, Iraq & Syria setting up ‘joint information center’ to coordinate anti-ISIS operations

The developement comes after Moscow has intensified involvement in Syria, establishing an Iraqi-based military communications center with Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

It also happened just days after President Putin called for an international anti-terrorist effort in Syria that would include the government of President Assad at the UN General Assembly. Western nations have been seeking to oust Assad since 2011, but several key nations such as Germany, France, Britain and the US have confirmed they would not be opposed to Assad staying in power for a transitional period, which would include defeating the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group.

IS has taken over large portions of Syria and neighboring Iraq and is on its way to creating a caliphate. Islamic State has consolidated its position with a combination of successful raids, barbaric brutality and active campaigning on social media targeting potential recruits and supporters worldwide.

There are other significant militant groups active in Syria, including an Al Qaeda branch in the region, Al Nusra Front, which competes with IS for territory, resources and fighters. Another major player in the country is the Kurd militia, which has been defending the Kurd-populated north from IS with assistance from the US-led coalition.

Russian Navy Taking Wargaming Positions Between Tartus Port and Cyprus

Russian Black Sea Cruiser Moscow, Amphibs Heading to Drill in Eastern Mediterranean, MoD Warned Planes Away from Syria

USNI News

Russian ship Moscow in 2009.

Several Russian warships are bound for the Eastern Mediterranean for high-end exercises, according to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defence.

The Russian Navy’s Black Sea flag-ship — the guided missile cruiser Moscow (or Moskva) — left from Sevastopol in Crimea on Thursday, according to Russian state-controlled media.

The ship follows several amphibious warships and at least one surveillance ship have transited out of the Black Sea into the Mediterranean, according to the independent Turkish ship spotting blog, Bosphorus Naval News.

According to the Thursday statement from the  Russian MoD the formation will start exercises in the next several days and will run into October.

“In the course of the training activity, the Russian ships will practice organization of antisubmarine, anti-ship and air defense as well as search-and-rescue activities and rendering assistance to a distressed vessel,” read the statement from the MoD.

“During the exercise, the military seamen are to perform over 40 different combat tasks including missile and artillery firings at surface and aerial targets.”

The MoD did not specify the location of the drills but — according to one report in Agence France-Presse — the military warned away civilian aircraft from a an area between Cyrpus and the Tartus Russian naval base in Syria.

In addition to Moskow, the MoD said the exercises would include the Kashin-class guided missile destroyer Smetlivy and the Tapir-class landing ship Saratov as well as a variety of auxiliary ships.

Bosphorus Naval News tracked the signals intelligence ship Donuzlav and the Ropucha-class landing ship Novocherkassk moving out of the Black Sea.

The MoD said the exercises had nothing to do with the Russian build up of forces in Syria and been long planned — but the timing of the drill coinciding with the influx of Russian troops raises questions as to the intent of drills.

Tartus is Russia’s sole foreign naval base and the Putin government has been one of the few international supporters of the current Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned a media report that said the Russians were preparing to start striking Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) targets as, “speculation that has nothing to do with reality,” according to The Associated Press.

The following is the complete Sept. 24, 2015 statement from the Russian MoD on the Eastern Mediterranean exercises.

Russian Navy to conduct exercise in the eastern part of the Mediterranean

This September and October the Russian Armed Forces will increase the combat training intensiveness conducting exercise of different scale.

According to the Training plan of the forces in the eastern part of the Mediterranean adopted in the end of 2014, an exercise with the Russian Navy formation including the Moskva missile cruiser, Smetlivy guard ship, Saratov major landing ship and the auxiliary vessels is scheduled for this period.

In the course of the training activity, the Russian ships will practice organization of antisubmarine, antiship and air defence as well as search-and-rescue activities and rendering assistance to a distressed vessel.

During the exercise, the military seamen are to perform over 40 different combat tasks including missile and artillery firings at surface and aerial targets.

To provide safety navigation, the exercise zone was declared dangerous for civil aircraft and ships according the international law.

Obama, Global arms dealer-in-chief

This Nobel Peace Prize winner has sold $90bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia since 2010, and even eclipsed arms sales under George W Bush

Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a mere 12 days into his presidency. Never had a recipient achieved so little to be lauded so much. Essentially it was a pre-emptive award given on the presumption Obama’s foreign policy record would eventually meet its promise.

In the six-years since becoming planet earth’s most recognised agent for world peace, Obama has failed to close Guantanamo Bay, which remains the symbol of the darkest chapter in modern US history; has assassinated US citizens around the globe sans due process; has suspended habeas corpus; has terrorised villagers in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere with the incessant buzzing sound of weaponised drones; armed Israel in the midst of its brutal and bloody invasion of Gaza, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead; toppled a government in Libya without so much as a consideration for what might come next; supported the toppling of a democratically elected government in Egypt, and, in turn, armed arguably the most brutal dictator in that country’s history; and has coordinated and guided Saudi Arabia’s terrorist activities in Yemen, which has left more than 4,000 Yemeni civilians dead.

It’s a record to behold with some awe, and it gets worse.

A newly released report reveals Obama is the greatest arms exporter since the Second World War. The dollar value of all major arms deals overseen by the first five years of the Obama White House now exceeds the amount overseen by the Bush White House in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion.

Hail the chief

America’s arms-dealer-in-chief has flooded the most volatile corner of the world, the Middle East, with guns, bombs, fighter jets, tanks and missiles.

In an interview, William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, told Democracy Now he was “astonished that Obama had sold this much”. He added: “I mean, I knew there were record deals with the Saudis, but to outsell the eight years of Bush, to sell more than any president since World War II, was surprising even to me, who follows these things quite closely. The majority, 60 percent, have gone to the Persian Gulf and Middle East, and within that, the Saudis have been the largest recipient of things like US fighter planes, Apache attack helicopters, bombs, guns, almost an entire arsenal they’ve purchased just in the last few years.”

Hartung also points out that this breathtaking bundle of war tools not only makes its way to stable regimes and governments, but also to states on the verge of collapse, which ultimately means many of these arms end up in the hands of militia groups across the region, which results in an all too predictable conclusion: more death and chaos.

Investigative journalist Dr Nafeez Ahmed says that if you want to trace the origins of certain jihadist groups, all you need to do is “follow the money”. He notes: “Anyone can have bad, horrific, disgusting ideas. But they can only be fantasies unless we find a way to manifest them materially in the world around us.” US arms sales to failing states and non-state militias is providing those with “disgusting ideas” the material infrastructure to play out their fantasies.

In other words, the deluge of US arms into the region is making conflicts, rivalries, and unrest even more deadlier, and with the US having little idea whose hands much of this weaponry ends up in.

“We don’t know the full numbers, but in Iraq the security forces abandoned large amounts of the weaponry to ISIS. US-armed rebels in Syria, armed by the CIA, went over to join ISIS. There’s $500 million missing of weapons in Yemen. Some think it’s gone to the Houthis. Some think it’s gone to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” said Hartung. “Of course, there’s arms on both sides, because the government and the forces have split in this war. So it’s quite possible every side of that war in Yemen may have some level of US weaponry. So it’s really gone, you know, haywire. It’s sort of what I call the boomerang effect, when US arms end up in the hands of US adversaries.”

But what amounts to “haywire” for the Middle East amounts to massive profits for the US, and on that score no single entity is more profitable and more beneficial to America’s balance of trade than Saudi Arabia.

Arming Saudi

The Congressional Research Service found that since October 2010 alone, President Obama has agreed to sell $90.4 billion in arms to the Gulf kingdom.

“That President Obama would so enthusiastically endorse arming such a brutal authoritarian government is unsurprising, since the United States is by far the leading arms dealer (with 47 percent of the world total) to what an annual State Department report classifies as the world’s “least democratically governed states,” notes Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Obama has done little to promote democracy or bring an end to terror. When children in Gaza pick up unexploded ordinance, they see “Made in Bethesda, Maryland, USA.”

In 2008, the United Nations banned the use of cluster munitions – an agreement the US is yet to ratify. Why? Cluster bombs are the number one seller for Textron Systems Corporation – a Wall Street-listed company located in Providence, Rhode Island. For $38 per share, you can add the sale of cluster bombs to your stock portfolio.

In February of this year, the Obama administration announced it would allow the sale of US manufactured armed drones to its allies in the Middle East. According to the Teal Group, a research and analysis firm, the sale of drones is expected to double from $5 billion to $11 billion over the course of the next decade.

This means countries with horrific human rights records – regimes whose power is dependent on the repression of its people – will have access to the most brutally effective tool available for repression management. While the Obama administration insists the sale of drones will be made on a “case-by-case” basis, it’s laughable that the US gets to decide who gets these aerial killers given the US’s own use of drones often violates international law.

In fact, both a 2013 Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report found that US drone strikes were killing far more civilians than the Obama White House was letting on, and these strikes were nearly always in violation of international law.

Drone dynamics

Furthermore, armed unmanned airborne vehicles have the potential to completely change the power dynamics in the Middle East. “The drone is the ultimate imperial weapon, allowing a superpower almost unlimited reach while keeping its own soldiers far from battle,” notes James Risen in Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Relentless War.

There isn’t a country in the Middle East that isn’t clamouring for the Predator drone. Obama, via US drone manufactures such as General Atomics, is making the dreams of some of the most oppressive regimes a reality. From Egypt to Saudi Arabia, from Syria to Iraq, the forthcoming flood of such advanced weaponry promises to produce effects we are yet to imagine. “An advance fleet of missile-carrying drones could, overnight, turn a group like Hezbollah into a legitimate military power,” forewarns Risen. “A drone programme for Hezbollah could alter the military dynamics along the Israel-Lebanon border.”

These end games are not imagined by the Obama administration, nor any other US administration past or future because profits supersede democracy, human rights and international law; thus greed promises the Middle East endless war, and the US military oligarchs endless profits. Obama, like his predecessors, has made sure of that.

– CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, God Hates You. Hate Him Back, Koran Curious, and is the host of Foreign Object. Follow him on twitter: @cjwerleman

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

Photo: President of the United States Barack Obama speaks during the 2015 Sustainable Development Summit, on 27 Sept 2015, at United Nations headquarters, New York.

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