Shell to Drill in Black Sea

Shell to Drill in Black Sea

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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.

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

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


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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

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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



© 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


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.