After Lightning Offensive, Kirkuk Is Now Fully Under Iraqi Military Control

Photo-posted by local reporters- of a mass exodus from Kirkuk to Erbil as pro Iranian militias are advancing on the city. To be confirmed pic.twitter.com/x94bYbKDhT
— Walid Phares (@WalidPhares) October 16, 2017

Iraq’s military has effectively gained control of major assets and government buildings in Kirkuk city, and is now set to fully pacify it after overnight clashes at a moment when oil prices rose toward a six month high as the conflict now threatens output.
Iraq’s elite U. S.-trained Counter-Terrorism Force has taken over the provincial government headquarters in the center of Kirkuk after operations to seize the city from Kurdish forces began overnight – the contested city is now reportedly under the control of Iraqi national forces. Some of the first footage Western audiences woke up to Monday morning were of (ironically enough) US supplied equipment – including tanks, being used to bulldoze images of Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani. Iraqi forces have further pulled down Kurdish flags flying over government buildings throughout the city, while leaving the Iraqi flag flying.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 16, 2017.

Iran’s Top General Meets With Kurdish President Barzani As U.S. Neocons Push For War

In an unexpected diplomatic turn of events which underscores the seriousness of escalating tensions between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard (which last week were designated by the US as a terrorist organization), General Qassem Soleimani, arrived in Erbil on Sunday and met with Kurdistan regional president Masoud Barzani to discuss the growing crisis at a moment when Kurdish Peshmerga forces are blocking Iraqi Army access to Kirkuk oil fields and military installations.
Major General Qassem Soleimani reports directly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and his elite force provides training and weapons to Iraqi paramilitary groups (PMU or Popular Mobilization Units) backing the Baghdad government. The meeting comes just after President Trump announced his new policy against Iran on Friday that includes designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization.
Though the Unites States officially backs the Iran-aligned Baghdad government in the Kurdistan crisis, Trump’s speech could signal a monumental shift in policy for Iraq. This as Kurdistan officials and media are highlighting Iran’s role in attempting to stamp out the Kurdish move for independence.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 15, 2017.

China Looking at Taking Stake in Aramco

According to local sources in the Middle East, financial difficulties in Saudi Arabia may see a cash injection coming for its oil industry – Aramco. The Saudis are considering a private placement of its shares instead of a traditional float of shares on the stock exchange. The buyer is of course China.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Oct 14, 2017.

Fake News in the Age of Facebook

The “fake news” problem isn’t just about “alternative facts.” The problem has more to do with the spin, the narrative, the context that inclines you to believe, for example, whether there was or was not collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and officials of the Russian government. And the problem is that 60 percent of Americans get their news through social media, mostly Facebook, which uses mysterious algorithms to customize each of our news feeds, selecting all and only what interests me, as computed from every time I press “Like” or forward an article to friends.
It’s not just Facebook. Sit with a friend or, better yet, a friendly enemy – someone you know has political views contrary to your own – and, using your own devices, type the same entries into your respective Google search windows. Try “BP,” standing for the oil company that used to be British Petroleum but tried rebranding itself as Beyond Petroleum. You and your friendly enemy – perhaps your crackpot brother-in-law? – are going to get different results from your searches because of what Google knows about each of you and what you’ve searched before. If you are an avid environmentalist and he’s a rabid lefty, you’ll get more results about the environmental effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster while he’ll get more about its nefarious corporate causes.
Trending Toward Personalization
Personalization has a long and illustrious history, best understood in contrast with its opposite, the mass market of the post-World War II boom. The structure of that marketplace featured mass production that reduced costs with economies of scale. The customer was a mass market that was only gradually differentiated, first by demographic characteristics – age, income and education – and later by psychographics such as likes, dislikes, values and personality traits.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 10/11/2017.

The ‘Amazon Effect’ Is Coming to Oil Markets

While OPEC mulls over further steps to once again support falling oil prices, tech startups are quietly ushering in a new era in oil and gas: the era of the digital oil field.
Much talk has revolved around how software can completely transform the energy industry, but until recently, it was just talk. Now, things are beginning to change, and some observers, such as Cottonwood Venture Partners’ Mark P. Mills, believe we are on the verge of an oil industry transformation of proportions identical to the transformation that Amazon prompted in retail.
According to Mills, the three technological factors that actualized what he calls ‘the Amazon effect’, which changed the face of retail forever, are evidenced in oil and gas right now. These are cheap computing with industrial-application capabilities; ubiquitous communication networks; and, of course, cloud tech.
The Internet of Things is entering oil and gas, and so are analytics and artificial intelligence. These, Mills believes, will be among the main drivers of a second shale revolution, reinforcing the efficiency push prompted by the latest oil price crisis.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 10/10/2017.

A Desperate OPEC Asks US Shale For Help In Cutting Oil Output

While OPEC has been presenting an optimistic facade in recent months, repeating at every opportunity that the global oil market is “rebalancing” and demand is rising, the oil production cartel made a rare slip today when it addressed what should not be named in public: US shale production. Speaking on Tuesday, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo called on U. S. shale oil producers to help curtail global oil supply, warning extraordinary measures might be needed next year to sustain the rebalanced market in the medium to long term. Which is odd because in every other public address by OPEC members, we hear precisely the opposite: that the market is already in a state of “healthy rebalancing” and… the oil production cut which was supposed to last until this past June may now be extended beyond March of 2018.
‘We urge our friends, in the shale basins of North America to take this shared responsibility with all seriousness it deserves, as one of the key lessons learnt from the current unique supply-driven cycle,’ said Barkindo quoted by Reuters during a speech delivered at the India Energy Forum organized by CERAWeek in New Delhi.
‘At the moment we (OPEC and independent U. S. producers) both agreed that we have a shared responsibility in maintaining stability because they are also not insulated from the impact of this downturn,’ Barkindo said, referring to a slide in oil prices that spurred OPEC to agree production cuts late last year.
‘The call by independents themselves (is) that we need to continue this interaction.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 10, 2017.

Iran Threatens America: If New Sanctions Pass, US Military “Would Be At Risk”

In the coming days, president Trump is expected to announce that he will decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal, a step that potentially could cause the historic Obama-era accord to unravel. Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to limit its disputed nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions. Realizing the dire threat that such a move presents for its economy – not to mention Iranian oil exports – Iran has escalated the rhetoric, and overnight it warned the United States that U. S. regional military bases “would be at risk” if further sanctions were passed or if the US designated its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist group.
On Friday the Financial Times reported that Donald Trump is expected to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group, as part of a new hardline strategy against the Islamic republic.
Mr Trump is expected to announce new measures against Iran, including the prospect of additional targeted sanctions, the designation of the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation and the adoption of a tougher stance on Iranian proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, according to a person briefed on the matter.
‘It’s an integrated Iran strategy focused on neutralising and rolling back Iran’s malign activities regionally and globally,’ the person said.
Iran was not happy: “The Americans should know that the Trump government’s stupid behavior with the nuclear deal will be used by the Islamic Republic as an opportunity to move ahead with its missile, regional and conventional defense program,” Guards’ commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, quoted by Reuters. He then explicitly threatened US presence in the region, warning that ‘if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 8, 2017.

Come, You Masters of War

[America’s War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew J. Bacevich (New York: Random House, 2016; 480 pages]
America’s military involvement in the Middle East began in classic imperial fashion, according to military historian and retired Army colonel Andrew J. Bacevich. They had something we needed, and we made sure we had access to it. ‘Oil has always defined the raison d’tre of the War for the Greater Middle East,’ he writes in the first paragraph of his magisterial work, America’s War for the Greater Middle East. ‘Over time, other considerations intruded and complicated the war’s conduct, but oil as a prerequisite of freedom was from day one an abiding consideration.’
By 1969, oil imports already made up 20 percent of the daily oil consumption in the United States. Four years later, Arab oil exporters suspended oil shipments to the United States to punish America for supporting Israel in the October War. The American economy screeched to a halt, seemingly held hostage by foreigners – a big no-no for a country accustomed to getting what it wants. Predictably the U. S. response was regional domination to keep the oil flowing to America, especially to the Pentagon and its vast, permanent war machine.
The Middle East was now a U. S. military priority, and the pursuit of direct American domination of the region came from none other than the supposed peacenik, Jimmy Carter. Before him, Richard Nixon was content to have the Middle East managed by proxies after the bloodletting America experienced in Vietnam. His arch-proxy was the despised shah of Iran, whom the United States had installed into power and then armed to the teeth. When his regime collapsed in 1979, felled by Islamic revolutionaries who would eventually capture the American embassy and initiate the Iranian hostage crisis, so too did the Nixon Doctrine. That same year, the Soviet Union rolled into Afghanistan. The world was a mess, and Carter was under extreme pressure to do something about it, lest he lose his bid for a second term. (He suffered a crushing defeat anyway.)

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Oct 7, 2017.

State Of Emergency Declared Across Southeastern US As Hurricane Nate Looms

Update (1 pm ET): With Nate expected to strengthen into a category 2 storm by the time it makes landfall in southeastern Louisiana late Saturday, the NHC has expanded its storm warnings to include the part of the Florida panhandle east of the Okaloosa/Walton County Line to Indian Pass Florida, which is now under a tropical storm warning. Meanwhile, mandatory evacuations are set to begin in Port Fourchon, Louisiana at 12pm local time Saturday for remaining staff at the port, according to storm update by the Greater Lafourche Port Commission. This follows mandatory evacuation ordered by Lafourche Parish, La., President Jimmy Cantrelle for areas below floodgates in Golden Meadow, La. In addition, the US Coast Guard has suspended marine traffic activity as of 8 am local time for sector Mobile, which includes the ports of Gulfport and Pascagoula in Mississippi, Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., in preparation for Hurricane Nate, according to an agency bulletin.
Staff at offshore oil rigs in the Gulf were ordered to evacuate, leaving nearly three-quarters of US Gulf of Mexico oil production was offline ahead of the storm. American Midstream Partners LP’s Destin gas pipeline and Enbridge Inc.’s Nautilus and Manta Ray lines are evacuating staff from Gulf platforms.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 7, 2017.

Iran, Iraq, And Turkey Unite To Block Kurdish Oil Exports

Authored by Zainab Calcuttawala via OilPrice.com,
Iraq, Iran, and Turkey are taking a unified stance against Kurdistan’s oil sector after the region elected to seek independence from Baghdad in a referendum in September, according to a new report by Rudaw.
‘In the case of northern Iraq; Iran, Iraq and Turkey will form a tripartite mechanism and will decide on shutting down the oil,’ Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with leaders from the other two nations on Thursday.
A day before the vote, the Iraqi central government issued a statement calling on ‘neighboring countries and countries of the world’ to stop buying crude oil directly from Kurdistan and only deal with Baghdad.
Turkey’s Ceyhan port provides an outlet for the Kurdish Kirkuk oil to meet international markets without interference from Baghdad. Erdogan, Tehran and other members of the international community had censured Erbil for proceeding with the independence referendum as Iraq recovers from a three-year war against the Islamic State (ISIS). The Turkish leader had previously threatened to cut Kirkuk off from Ceyhan, but did not provide details on how such a measure would be carried out.
Russia’s oil majors side with Kurdistan in its quest for an independent fossil fuel establishment. Rosneft signed off on a $1 billion gas pipeline deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) a week prior to the historic vote, signaling Moscow’s approval of a hypothetically separate Kurdistan.
Both Iran and Turkey house sizeable Kurdish populations, so the referendum raises fears that Kurds from other nations may seek similar political solutions.
Kurdistan produces around 600,000 bpd of crude oil, or about 15 percent of Iraq’s total output. After the votes were counted, the KRG said that the ‘Yes’ to independence option won at the polls, with 92.73 percent of voters opting to grant Erbil its own regime.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 6, 2017.

China’s Oil Demand Is Far Ahead Of Last Year’s Pace

OPEC recently released its Monthly Oil Market Report which covers the global oil supply and demand picture through July.
OPEC crude oil production decreased by 79,000 BPD in August to average 32.8 million BPD. This marks the first OPEC production decline since April and was primarily driven by sizable outages in Libya.
The cartel revised global oil demand growth for 2017 upward by 50,000 barrels per day (BPD) to 1.42 million BPD. The group reports strong growth from the OECD Americas, Europe, and China.
Global oil demand for 2018 is expected to grow by 1.35 million BPD, an upward revision of 70,000 BPD from the previous report. Growth next year is expected to be driven by OECD Europe and China.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 5, 2017.

ExxonMobil Dethroned As World’s Top Energy Company

Gazprom dethroned ExxonMobil as the top energy company in the world, according to the 2017 S&P Global Platts Top 250 Global Energy Company Rankings. The rankings measure the financial performance of energy firms on four key metrics: asset worth, revenues, profits, and return on invested capital. The list only includes companies that have assets greater than $5.5 billion.
***
For 12 years, ExxonMobil was second to none. But that changed this year – Exxon was ejected from the top spot, and fell all the way to ninth place.
Gazprom’s surge reflects its state ownership, its captured market in Europe for its natural gas, as well as the fall of some of its peers. But the Russian gas giant’s ability to weather sanctions, regulatory threats from the EU, low oil and gas prices, and the rise of competition from new supplies of LNG is impressive.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 2, 2017.

Is the Referendum on Kurdish Independence a Spark in a Powder Keg?

GRI Debate: Will the Independence Referendum in Kurdistan Further Destabilize Iraq and the Region?
Kurdish authorities announced on Wednesday that Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted in favor of a split from Iraq, with 92.7 percent of the electorate casting their vote in support of Kurdistan’s independence. A war of words has already begun between Erbil and Baghdad. GRI asked two of its top experts: will we see an escalation?
The Case for a Real Risk of Armed Conflict
Anas Abdoun argues that geopolitical pressures, centered on the oil resources in Kirkuk, could boil over following the vote.
‘Bringing Kirkuk under full control is vital for the Iraqi central government. Iraq is still a divided and failed state and desperately needs to keep control of the resource-rich area to try and consolidate the country’s unity. On the other hand, Kurdistan also needs Kirkuk, as it cannot achieve real independence without the economic resources to do so. This catch-22 situation could light the spark in a region which is already a powder keg.’

This post was published at FinancialSense on 09/28/2017.

Kurdish Vote Won’t Spark A Sustained Oil Price Rally

Authored by Nick Cunningham via OilPrice.com,
Turkey and Iraq have stepped up the pressure on Kurdistan after the semi-autonomous region of Iraq voted for independence. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to block Kurdish oil exports through Turkish territory, while Baghdad called for an international boycott of Kurdish oil sales.
The Kurdish people appeared to have voted overwhelmingly for independence on Monday, pending final results. But the Kurdish Regional Government has said that the vote, which won’t be recognized internationally, will be a starting point for negotiations with Baghdad, and not the culmination of real independence.
Turkey’s President called the referendum ‘illegal, null, and void,’ and threatened to shut down exports through the pipeline that runs from Kurdistan to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
‘Let’s see where they are going to drain off the petrol – we control the valve,’ he said. ‘Once you turn off the valve, it will be over.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 28, 2017.

Maduro To Generals: Prepare For War With “Criminal Empire” US

After barely managing to scrape together the nearly $200 million needed to make a bond payment earlier this month (the country made the payment a week late), Embattled Venezeulan President Nicolas Maduro is refocusing his attention on the US, warning military leaders Tuesday to begin preparing for war with the US. Maduro’s call to arms comes after the US has repeatedly tightened sanctions against Maduro’s regime and the country’s state-run oil company; earlier this week, the Trump administration blocked Venezeulan officials from entering the US as part of the White House’s new ‘targeted’ travel ban. Trump has also repeatedly threatened a military intervention if Maduro doesn’t leave voluntarily.
Maduro is probably still brooding over Trump’s call for the world community to help restore ‘democracy and political freedoms’ to Venezeula by ousting Maduro (to which Maduro reportedly responded in typical leftist fashion by comparing Trump to Hitler). Trump made those remarks last week during his first address to the UN General Assembly. Earlier this year, Trump said he wouldn’t rule out a military option for dealing with Venezuela, adding that the US has an obligation to take of the country because it’s “our neighbor.”
Maduro said Trump’s threats were the reason for him ordering the military to be on alert.
“We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace,” said Maduro, who wore a green uniform and a military hat as he spoke with his army top brass during a military exercise involving tanks and missiles. “We need to have rifles, missiles and well-oiled tanks at the ready….to defend every inch of the territory if needs be,” he added.
Over the summer, the US announced sanctions to prevent PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owed oil company, from issuing new debt (sanctions that conveniently avoided existing bonds held by Goldman Sachs), while also preventing Citgo, the US subsidiary of PDVSA, from repatriating dividends. The US has also passed sanctions against many top Venezuelan officials. Tensions between Maduro and Trump started escalating shortly after Trump’s inauguration, when the US blacklisted Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for drug trafficking.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 27, 2017.

‘KURDISTAN’- Redrawing the Middle East or the ‘New Middle East’ Project

21st Century Wire says…
In the light of the recent, hotly contested Kurdish referendum in Iraq, we have decided to republish a series of articles that have been written previously, concerning the history and evolution of the bid for independence by the Kurdish factions seeking to carve Kurdistan from territory belonging to Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
The first of these articles was written by eminent specialist in Middle East affairs, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, for Global Research back in 2006:
Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a ‘New Middle East’
‘Hegemony is as old as Mankind…’ -Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U. S. National Security Advisor
The term ‘New Middle East’ was introduced to the world in June 2006 in Tel Aviv by U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was credited by the Western media for coining the term) in replacement of the older and more imposing term, the ‘Greater Middle East.’
This shift in foreign policy phraseology coincided with the inauguration of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Oil Terminal in the Eastern Mediterranean. The term and conceptualization of the ‘New Middle East,’ was subsequently heralded by the U. S. Secretary of State and the Israeli Prime Minister at the height of the Anglo-American sponsored Israeli siege of Lebanon. Prime Minister Olmert and Secretary Rice had informed the international media that a project for a ‘New Middle East’ was being launched from Lebanon.
This announcement was a confirmation of an Anglo-American-Israeli ‘military roadmap’ in the Middle East. This project, which has been in the planning stages for several years, consists in creating an arc of instability, chaos, and violence extending from Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria to Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and the borders of NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan.

This post was published at 21st Century Wire on September 27, 2017.

Is The Rally In Oil Sustainable?

I have been getting a tremendous number of emails as of late asking if the latest rally in oil prices, and related energy stocks, is sustainable or is it another ‘trap’ as has been witnessed previously.
With geopolitical turmoil mounting, for North Korea to Iran, and as natural disasters have rocked the refinery capital of the world (Houston,) the question is not surprising.
As regular readers know, we exited oil and gas stocks back in mid-2014 and have remained out of the sector for technical and fundamental reasons for the duration. While there have been some opportunistic trading setups, the technical backdrop has remained decidedly bearish.
Today, I am going to review the fundamental supply/demand backdrop, as well as the technical price setup, as things have improved enough to warrant some attention. As a portfolio manager, I am interested in setups that potentially have long-term tailwinds to support the investment thesis. The goal today is to determine if such an environment exists or if the latest bounce is simply just that.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 26, 2017.

A Failing Empire, Part 1: Russia & China’s Military Strategy To Contain The US

Looking at the global political landscape over the last month, two trends are becoming more apparent.
The infamous military and economic power at America’s disposal is declining, whereas in the multipolar field, an acceleration has occurred in the creation of a series of infrastructures, mechanisms and procedures to contain and limit the negative effects of America’s declining unipolar moment. This series of three articles will focus firstly on the military aspect of these ongoing changes, then the economics at play, and finally, how and why smaller countries are transitioning from the unipolar camp to the multipolar field.
***
One of the most tangible consequences of the decline of US military power can be observed in the Syrian conflict. Over the past few weeks, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have completed the historic and strategic liberation of Deir ez-Zor, a city besieged for more than five years by Islamists belonging to Al Qaeda and Daesh. The focus has now shifted to the oilfields south of the liberated city, with a frantic rush by both the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the SAA to free territories still held by Daesh. The final goal is to claim Syria’s resources and strengthen a weak US position (the US is not even part of the Astana peace talks) in future negotiations concerning the country’s future. To understand how much the US dream of partitioning Syria is failing, one only need note repeated US failures as seen in the liberation of Aleppo and then Deir Ez-Zor, and now the crossing of the Euphrates river. In spite of American intimidation, threats, and sometimes even direct aggression, the Syrian army continued to work against Daesh in the province of Deir Ez-Zor, advancing on oil rich sites. Thanks to the protection given by the Russian Federation Air Force during the conflict, Damascus has obtained a protective umbrella necessary to withstand attempts by the US of balkanize the country.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 26, 2017.

Buffett, Boomers, & The End Of A Bygone Era

Golden Age
Once upon a time the capital markets consisted of a fairly closed community, comprised on one side by mostly clever, well-connected men working together in syndicate to maintain control over national economic and financial affairs, and on the other side by mostly high earners spread disparately across the land hobnobbing with the syndicate’s local representatives.
It was a privileged ecosystem sanctioned by legally-greased law makers and reluctantly accepted by the great unwashed that acquiesced because capitalism was better than recently defeated fascism and postWar communism, and because, with hard work and production, they too could join the club.
A sequential series of naturally-occurring events successfully transformed and democratized the formerly clubby ecosystem, but in doing so embedded CAT 5 risks into the global productive economy. Consider…
Over-spending by US lawmakers in the 1960s led to the end of the global fixed exchange rate monetary system in the 1970s. US dollars and global assets could begin to be leveraged without limit. Global exporters of oil demanded more money in exchange for their finite resource.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 25, 2017.