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Total number of comments: 16 (since 2014-02-02 22:26:37)

Barkley Rosser

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  • Don’t Be Fooled by Saudi’s Reshuffle
    • SANG is commanded by one of the sons of the late King Abdullah, separate from the regular military, which is under the Defense Minister, now Mohammed bin Salman, who just got appointed Deputy Crown Prince. The HQ of SANG has long been on the private palace grounds of the late King Abdullah, who was its commander for decades befoire turning it over to a son, incluidng in 1979 when it finally removed the Ikhwan rebels who had seized control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca after the regular military under Sudeiri Prince Sultan had failed to do so. The Saudi Arabian National Guard has long been bedouin tribally based, unlike the DOD regular military.

    • While the press is claiming this is about strengthening national security policy and independence of action from the US, it has nothing to do with any of that, the new Crown Prince haveing been praised for his close US ties when he was first named Deputy Crown Prince, and the now deposed Muqrin having strong national security credentials. Rather, this is all about putting descendants of the Sudeiri Seven, the sons of the kingdom's founder's favorite wife, fully in succession rather than any other line. In particular, Muqrin, whose mother was low class, had been selected by the former king, Abdullah, and was viewed as close to some of his sons. So, this was all about cutting out Abdullah's descendants from the becoming kings. The rest is all just cover, but no changes in policy at all should be expected from this on any front.

  • ‘It’s like a war here’: Saudi police raid defiant Eastern Province amid wider conflict with Shia
    • A curious outcome of the longstanding discrimination against the Shi'a in KSA is that while they were kept out of government jobs, back in the days when US companies still ran ARAMCO, they were perfectly willing to hire qualified Shi'i who lived nearby there in the eastern province (most of them live in large oases, as a matter of fact). Later the government would take over ARAMCO, but local Shi'a had come to occupy more high level jobs than other Saudis and would continue to hire their co-religionists. The upshot is that there is a substantial concentration of Shi'a in the upper reaches of the Saudi oil industry.

      This is ironically paralled in Iran, where much of the oil industry is located in Khuzestan, dominated by Sunni Arabs, who had a similar experience in the past and are disproportionately represented in the Iranian oil sector. At the time of the Islamic takeover in 1979, many of these oil workers belonged to unions associated with the Communist Tudeh Party, many of whom were killed during the violent period following the revolution.

  • New Saudi King to Obama: Lower-price Oil Policy won't Change
    • super 390,

      The 1986 increase in Saudi oil production leading to a plunge in the price of oil was not driven by a desire to tank the USSR, although it did that. It was drven by internal factors and their annoyance with Iran and Iraq, who had been violating OPEC production quotas to buy weapons with cash to fight each other. The Saudis had kept the price propped up at $34 per barrel by repeated production cuts over a five year period. But these finally did begin to pinch the Saudi budget and particularly the part that funds the royal family perks. That is what led then King Fahd to pull the plug and crash the price.

      As it was, then VP Bush ran wailing to Riyadh to ask for a pullback as Savings and Loans crashed hard in Texas (ultimately costing US taxpayers billions), and Fahd did pull back. The price had fallen to $9 per barrel by July, 1986. Some small cutbacks put it back well into the teens, where it stayed for a long time.

      It is this and some other similar experiences that drive current policy. Oil Minister al Naimi has declared that Saudi Arabia is tired of saving the behinds of high cost producers by cutting their own production. As it is, Iran and Iraq are not the high cost producers this time who will be hit hard. Those include the US as well as parts of Venequela and Russia, although Russia also has some of theh lowest cost fields in the world outside the Persian Gulf, where the costs are indeed the lowest. Some production costs in KSA are as low as $4-$5 per barrel.

    • Obama may be less bothered by the low oil prices than many think. After all, they help most US consumers and the US economy overall, if hurting oil producing states like Texas, OK, Louisiana, Wyoming, ND, AK, and some others so noted for their support of him (OK OK, CA is on the list, but oil not so important there).

      Also, I doubt these Saudi budget forecasts. In November the Saudis publicly declared they were planning their budget on oil prices being in a $45-$50 range, which they have been pretty much for the last three weeks since the price first fell below $50.

      Finally, I think a very important reason Obama went and got an hour wih Salman is that he personally wanted to check on the reports of Salman suffering from dementia and becoming incoherent after a few minutes of conversation. The main person publicly pushing these rumors has been Simon Henderson of the Near East Policy Institute in Washington. Why this Israeli-linked institute would want to spread such rumors is not entirely obvious to me, given the Saudi-Israeli sympathy on the Iran issue. But, I suspect Obama got his answer, which we are unlikely to hear of.

  • ISIL, Coins, and the Caliphate: Banking on Idealism
    • In their discussions of this it looks like Daesh is closely following Saudi Wahhabist views, which draw on the bullionism of the Qur'an, that money must be gold or silver. It will be interesting to see if they follow the Saudi practice of putting silver threads in their paper money, if they print any.

  • Saudi Arabia at the G20: Is it waging Econ War on Iran, Russia and N. Dakota?
    • Expect Putin to eventually support the rebels taking the Donetsk airport and Mariupol, the seaport they previously held on the Black Sea. That would provide "Novorossiya" with air and sea transport linkages for a long term stable eoonomic viability, but this will have nothing to do with his "undiplomatic" treaqtment in Brisbane, which he fully deserved. He already showed what he thought of that by departing early.

    • Juan,
      Yes, way long ago. What is relevant is recent trends. In May Libya was at 200,000 bpd, but according to the WSJ it was at 1.2 million bpd at end of October. That is an increase in six months of a million barrels per day. You are right that such sums do not mean all that much now, but it is also a larger change in such a period of time than one generally sees.

      I would note that you are not alone in this claiming that Libya has had declining production, with many repeating more or less the same list you did. It certainly was true, but is not any more.

    • Juan,

      One might not expect this, but in fact production in Libya has been up recently, amazingly enough. The estimable and very knowledgeable Jim Hamilton pointed this out recently on Econbrowser on a post about why oil prices have been declining, although he points at increasing US production and falling global demand as the major culprits. He did not finger the Saudis as being part of it one way or the other.

  • On Iranian New Year, Russia hints it May Swing Support to Tehran over Crimea Sanctions
    • 3 points:

      1) While Persion mythology claims Now Ruz was once celebrated in the fall, perhaps like the Hebrew Rosh Hoshanah, most evidence suggests that they simply took over the ancient Mesopotamian calendar when they conquered Babylon, which started their year at the vernal equinox, as also does the astrological calendar. Something else they picked up from the Babylonians who probably got it from the Sumerians was the whole system of 24 hours in a day, with 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute. The Persians did what the Arabs would later do in the Abbasid caliphate when they took over large chunks of Persian practices upon conquering them. There is a substantial continuity that continues today from ancient Sumerian civilization, with Now Ruz just a part of this.

      2) It occurs to me that a non-trivial part of Putin's pique over Ukraine and Crimea was exacerbated by perceived putdowns from Obama, particularly his non-attendance at the opening of the Olympics. Probably Putin's anger at the fall of the Yanukovych government was decisive in his deciding to take over Crimea, but I wonder what would have happened if Obama had not dissed him by failing to show up at Sochi.

      3) Joseph Dillard, It would seem that it was the dilly-dallying of the EU in its holding back on making it easier for Ukraine to sign the trade deal with them that led Yanukovych to make his turn to Russia economically that triggered the internal demonstrations that led to his fall during the Sochi Olympics, thus angering Putin. I do not see neocons playing any role in this, although their comments now are not helping the situation any.

  • The Crimean Crisis and the Middle East: Will Syria & Iran be the Winners?
    • It is completely false to claim that prior to 1784 Crimea was "all Tatar." There were few, if any, Russians or Ukrainians, but Crimea was long a multi-ethnic place, with many of the groups there from long before the Tatars ever showed up. Among those expelled by Stalin along with the Tatars were Greeks, Armenians, and Bulgarians, and there had long been a substantial Jewish population, which was exterminated by Hitler, those that did not get out in time.

      The Greeks in particular long predated the Tatars, initially arriving in the 6th century BCE and a constant presence thereafter until 1944, with many towns founded by them, such as Feodosia. They were in two groups by then, one group that spoke Tatar, and the other an ancient dialect of Greek, Rumeila Greek. The Greeks called the place "Tauris," later changed to "Taurica," with the name "Crimea" being given by the Tatars, who only showed up about 1,000 years ago. BTW, that older name in turn reflected an even earlier group the Greeks found there, the Tauris, who spoke an Indo-European language and may have been descended from the Cimmerians (not Scythians).

  • A New Crimean War? (Update: Stuff's Getting Real)
    • Following up on the matter of Khrushchev and his mistress, I have posted on this at http://econospeak.blogspot.com , but ill note that she was Yekaterina Furtseva, not a Ukrainian, but the first woman on the Soviet Politburo, put there by Khrushchev i n1956. She had been an oblast CPSU chief after being personally appointed ion 1949 by Stalin, and then Khrushchev brought her to Moscow after Stalin died where he first made her Moscow City party chief. It was at this time that he made the decision, and there were many rumors, with BBC reporting these, of their affair. She would have supported the plan to bring in "loyal" Ukrainian peasants to replace the expelled Tatars, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Armenians, who were trying to return, but were still viewed as German sympathizing "enemies of the people." Also, Khrushchev almost certainly had some Ukrainian ancestry, a mixed bag.

    • Four points.

      1) While indeed Crimea was long ruled by Muslims including Ottomans, local khans, and so on, it is not precisely to refer to the Tatars as "indigenous," although they have been there for a long time. But there longer and supplying governors of the place are the Greeks, although they were also mostly removed by Stalin, along with the long-present Armenians. The original name of the place was Taurica, which is Greek, with "Crimea" being of Tatar origin and only adopted later..

      2) It is not true that Khrushchev was "Ukrainian." He was an ethnic Russian who rose through the Ukrainian Communist Party. There is an old tale in Moscow that the real reason he gave Crimea to the Ukraine was that he did it for a Ukrainian mistress he had in 1954.

      3) Certainly the Russians are violating international law, but this is not the first time that they have militarily occupied an area against international law to support locals who wanted to separate from a new state independent with the fall of the USSR. This applies to both Transdniestria, still recognized internationally as being part of Moldova, and Abkhazia, recognized internationally as being a part of Georgia. Nobody did anything about either of those occupations.

      4) There is a special problem in all this for the US and UK. They signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994 with Ukraine and Russia, which involved removing nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia, who was to dispose of them Part of that memorandum was that Ukraine's sovereignty was guaranteed, and no way Russia would be invading if Ukraine still had those nukes. As it is, due to their signatures on that, the US and the UK are both on the hook regarding resisting this incursion into what is now officially Ukrainian territory, even if a majority of the population in Crimea now favors either independence or becoming part of Russia.

  • Not to Reason Why: A New Crimean "War"?
    • Two points:

      1) Khrushchev was an ethnic Russian, even if he came out of territory now part of Ukraine.

      2) The real and not publicized bottom line on why he delivered this one territory where actual ethnic Russians totally outnumber ethnic Ukrainians, who are near zero there, although there are many other nationalities including controversially a lot of Tatars, fifth largest language group in Urkaine, with most of them in Crimea, is that Krushchev had a Ukrainian mistress at the time when he rather arbitrarily made the transfer of Crimea from the Russian Repubic of the USSR to the Ukrainian Republic of the USSR, which as long as there was a USSR was not a big deal. Now, since the breakup of the USSR the main interest of Russia was the Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol, and the willingness of Russia initially to accept the independence of Ukraine involved the latter accepting ongoing Russian control of that naval base, which continues until today. But, who knows, what did not matter before matters now. K made a mistake, and Crimea really does belong to Russia, but it is probably impossible to undo this ridiculous historical mistake.

      BTW, I may be biased since my wife is a descendant of the last tsarist governor of Crimea, who was ethnically Greek, just to note further complications of the ethnic history of that area.

  • Now Peace Talks, John Kerry, are "Anti-Semitic" in Eyes of Israeli Far Right
    • An obscure fact, not secret, but not frequently noted, is that John Kerry is actually half-Jewish, on his father's side, even though most people think he is Irish Catholic and he had a close relationship with the Kennedy's, even dating Jackie's sister at one point briefly. He looks like a WASPy Boston Brahmin, and that is what he is on his mother's side, related to John Adams. But his father, whose family took that nice Irish name, were Jewish, although Kerry was not raised that. I think he was raised Episcopalian, although I am not sure about that. In any cas,e it may be that his family background is why he thinks he mght be able to make the deal, but to the extent these critics even know of his family background, they would probably label him a "self-hating Jew."

  • Saudi Arabia, Distribution of Annual Rainfall

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