Russian Destroyers Are Escorting Iranian Tankers In Mediterranean Amid US-UK ThreatsTyler DurdenFri, 10/23/2020 — 04:15
The United States Naval Institute has highlighted in a new report that Iranian fuel tankers are being escorted by Russia’s military in the Mediterranean in order to prevent a high seas intercept or detention by American or allied vessels, as happened in 2019 with the Grace-1 off Gibraltar which involved seizure by elite British forces.
Citing satellite imagery, the US Naval Institute’s official news page details that “Last week, the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Samah entered the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.” The imagery shows that:
“After a few miles, the 900-foot-long ship stopped reporting its position and destination. Evidence suggests the ship sailed to Syria, escorted by two Russian Navy ships, including a destroyer.”
Tankers transporting Iranian oil have often used this “ghosting” technique — that is, switching off its tracking transponder, in order to evade US sanctions on Iranian oil exports. But a Russian military escort is a new one.
The report continues by noting this raises the stakes for any potential future attempt to seize Iranian fuel, as also happened recently with Venezuela-bound tankers crossing the Atlantic:
Russia’s role in protecting the shipment may change the dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the past, Iranian tankers sailing to Syria have been intercepted by the U.K. Royal Navy. The Russian Navy escort could be viewed as a precautionary step, raising the political and military risks of any intervention by the Royal Navy or others.
There’s lately been a major uptick in Russian naval traffic observed off Syria’s coast, including recent armed exercises to ensure “smooth passage of civilian ships” according to defense ministry statements.
Syria remains one of the few countries Iran can offload large quantities of oil to, given Syria is (like Venezuela) facing its own fuel crisis due to biting sanctions but also the ongoing American occupation of oil and gas concentrated Deir Ezzor province.
Russia does not rule out the possibility that OPEC+ could extend its current 7.7 million barrels per day of production cuts into next year, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The comments could be merely jawboning to a market that is desperately seeking reassurances that oil production will not ramp up too quickly beyond demand. But Russia has in the past been reluctant to keep up its end of the oil production cuts, so any mention that it is even thinking about a slower tapering of the cuts is noteworthy.
In fact, Russia had failed to bring its own oil production down to the level it agreed to for most of the period of cuts in 2019 and early 2020.
Russia also was the spark that ignited the oil price war between it and Saudi Arabia-and by default the United States, when it refused to agree to additional cuts using the argument that as OPEC decreases its production, it opens the door for U.S. producers to increase theirs.
Vladimir Putin has had several discussions with Saudi Arabia and the United States on the state of the oil markets. “We believe there is no need to change anything in our agreements,” Putin said. “We will watch how the market is recovery. The consumption is on the rise.”
Putin added, however, that they did not “rule out” the possibility that OPEC+ could keep the current production cuts instead of removing them at the pace it had initially agreed upon.
But Putin didn’t stop there. “If need be, maybe, we can take other decisions on further reductions. But we don’t see such a necessity now,” Putin said, intimating that more cuts were at least possible.
Russia’s willingness to even consider additional cuts or waiting longer to ease the cuts than planned will be viewed positively by the markets, which has been struggling to break out of a rut where oil prices have traded in a relatively tight band for months.
Turkey Vows National Troops To Help Azerbaijan If Requested Tyler DurdenFri, 10/23/2020 — 02:45
Among the big fears of major regional powers neighboring the Caucasus like Russia or Iran is that the ongoing war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Karabakh region might spill over into a broader regional conflict that becomes internationalized. In Iran’s case, for example, errant missiles and mortar fire from the fighting are now somewhat routinely crossing the border and land on Iranian soil, sometimes on civilian homes.
In Russia’s case, the Kremlin has a mutual defense pact with Armenia in the case of national war, yet few direct national security interests which would be reason enough to get involved militarily.
And yet what’s most alarming is Turkey’s continued bellicose and jingoistic stance when it comes to aggressive verbal and political support for its tiny ally Azerbaijanthrough the past weeks of fighting over the self-declared autonomous border region.
On Wednesday Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay gave a forceful statement and promise, which surely raised eyebrows from Tehran to Moscow to Washington, saying that if requested Turkey is willing to send ground troops to the Karabakh region in support of Azerbaijan.
The Turkish vice president said this in an interview with CNN Turk: “Turkey will not hesitate to send soldiers and provide military support for Azerbaijan if such a request is made by Baku,”according to a Reuters translation and paraphrase.
Reuters described further of the ultra-provocative comments:
Speaking in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk, Oktay also criticized the OSCE’s Minsk group — formed to mediate the conflict and led by France, Russia and the United States — of trying to keep the issue unresolved and supporting Armenia, both politically and militarily.
He did underscore, however, that no such request has yet to be made. No doubt Baku also has an interest in not seeing a broader war with Armenia expand beyond the contested border zone, given it could trigger both Russian and Iranian intervention if Turkey’s army formally enters.
Already, Turkey’s Erdogan has stood accused of facilitating the transfer of Syrian Islamist mercenaries from northern Syria into the Nagorno-Karabakh theater.
Meanwhile Armenian President Armen Sarkisian on the same day complained to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in a meeting that Turkey remains the biggest obstacle to a lasting ceasefire, accusing it of “supporting” Azerbaijan both “militarily and diplomatically”.
President Sarkisian said, “This conflict is not only between the Armenian side and Azerbaijan, there is a third country that supports Azerbaijan both militarily and diplomatically. This country is Turkey, which also brings terrorists to the region.”
The Armenian president added, “Unfortunately, this country is a member of NATO. If Turkey stops being a party to the conflict, I think we will reach a ceasefire and we will be able to sit at the negotiating table and find a peaceful solution.”
Corona Virus Bill tabled in Jan 2019 — OVER1YEARAGO!
On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the CARES Act, a massive $2 trillion USD bailout intended to mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the United States economy.The legislation will ship payments of up to $1,200 to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small and flush billions more to states, local governments and the nation’s all but overwhelmed health care system.
The House approved the sweeping measure by a voice vote, as strong majorities of both parties lined up behind the most colossal economic relief bill in the nation’s history. The U.S. now has 85,996 confirmed cases, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy, the U.S. and China account for nearly half the world’s more than 550,000 infections and more than half of the roughly 25,000 reported virus deaths.