Member Profile

Total number of comments: 62 (since 2014-02-02 22:26:37)

Barkley Rosser

Showing comments 62 - 1

  • Was Democratic Nomination rigged for Clinton against Sanders?
    • I might add that I think Donna Brazile is creating some unfortunate damage with the timing of this book release just prior to the elections coming up this week. There is a very close race for governor in Virginia where I live, where the GOP candidate has been gaining on the basis of an absolutely horrendous bombardment of phony ads. And here comes Brazile with her Dems are corrupt book, even though it proves very little we did not already know. She should have waited for a couple of weeks to release it.

    • I do not see what the big whoop on this new book is. Everybody knew that the DNC favored Hillary, just as the RNC did not favor Trump. I fail to see a single primary or caucus (most of the latter going for Bernie) changing their outcome in the nomination fight if the DNC had been neutral. Can anybody name one, and if there is one, would it have swung the outcome, which had Hillary winning it even without the superdelegates where she had a massive edge? And note, I say this as somebody who voted for Bernie in the primary in my state.

  • Fading ISIL in Syria lashes out, kills 128 in reprisals as Gov't takes back Town
    • Juan, I agree with you that this name "Islamic State" (or "Islamic State group") is now totally inappropriate. However, for reasons never clear to me the US media decided some time ago that it was to be called that and continues to do so, even as any remnant of an actual state has pretty much disappeared and is probably about to do so totally. So in a story yesterday in WaPo about the fall of Raqqa, there was the reporter quoting people referring to the group as Daesh and ISIS and ISIL, none of them calling it "the Islamic State," but the WaPo story so unhelpfully informed its readers that these terms were "acronyms for the Islamic State." Gag.

      This has been a personal matter for me as I have recently completed with my wife, Marina, the third edition with MIT Press of our widely used textbook, Comparative Economics in a Transforming World Economy. Foreseeing that Daesh would cease to be any kind of state by the time our book hits the market early next year we insistently called it "Daesh" with at one point a footnote linking it to the other names, with "Islamic State" the last one and least preferred. A copy editor demanded that we call it "Islamic State." We refused and got our way. Clearly we called it. But it is about time for media anywhere or anybody anywhere to stop complimenting it with this now meaningless title, "Islamic State."

  • No, It Wasn't Iran: Top 7 Reasons Baghdad took Kirkuk
    • Another aspect of this is that according to some sources this fall of Kirkuk has cut off production of oil production by about 350,000 barrels per day. This adds to the upward pressure on world oil prices currently going on.

    • Good post, Juan. Just two additions from me.

      The first, which I think I saw you make awhile ago, is that Barzani probably did this partly due to a weakened economy in KRG territory arising from the lower price of oil recently compared to recent years. This was undermining his political position, which was (and is) highly questionable given that there was supposed to be an election back in 2015, which he canceled, meaning that he is not really legally in office at the current time. So, not just his ego, but his political survival may have been behind this nationalistic assertion, which may yet prove to be a mistake and lead to his downfall, with him clearly not expecting to lose Kirkuk and its oil to the central government, big mistake.

      The other has to do with his timing vis a vis the struggle against Daesh/ISIS/ISIL. I thought this move might lead to a weakening of the fight against Daesh, but in fact it may be that on this Barzani took advantage of the near ending of that fight, with Daesh down to only a few border towns within Iraq at this point in time, and the Kurds whom the US is working with, who apparently have just completed defeating Daesh in their official capital in Syria of Raqqa, are separate from the factions in KRG, if my understanding is correct. So, while this may lead to a breakdown of anti-Daesh cooperation, it looks like maybe the need for that cooperation is basically over, at least in Iraq, even if there are still some final bastions to defeat in Syria and just on the border inside Iraq.

  • Saudi King seeks Recognition for letting Women Drive, a basic right
    • I have been and remain highly critical of the Saudi regime, but for once I think we should just accept and applaud this obviously long overdue progressive move. It had long been rumored that the incompetent and arrogant new crown prince, MbS, was going to deliver women driving and other moves into modernity. It is about time that he finally delivered on something admirable and useful rather than stupidities like the horrible war in Yeman and the absurd embargo on Qatar, not to mention ongoing discrimination against Shia and other religious minorities.

  • Trump blasts Iran for backing Syria, ignores Russia, Praises Saudis
    • I completely agree with Juan that these remarks by Trump are "apocalyptically stupid," and hope against hope that David Ignatius (in WaPo today) will prove correct that for all his talk he will not in the end pull out of the JCPOA, although he has certainly been making it sound like he might.

      It is also stupid for the Israelis and Saudis to be pushing this nonsense. In the case of Israel, this has been a political line of Netanyahu, scaring Israelis with Iran to vote for him, and probably hoping that indeed the US will not pull out of the agreement, with many Israeli military and intel figures (usually retired) there coming out for the agreement.

      Regarding the Saudis, plenty of the older dead top Saudis, like the late foreign minister, Sa'ud al Faisal, would know better. But it may well be that the rumors that King Salman is senile are true, and all power is now in the hands of the new Crown Prince, MBS, who seems to be astoundingly (if not apocalyptically) incompetent and stupid, with his awful war in Yemen and his failed boycott and embargo of Qatar prime examples. Who knows what he thinks?

      Minor points: of course it is "Iran is 2.5 times more populous than Iraq" [not Iran]

      Finally, I am not sure who the third "neighbor" of Iran is that the US has invaded after Iraq and Afghanistan. If it is Kuwait, well, there is a stretch of Iraq containing the Shatt-al-Arab river between Iran and Kuwait, admittedly very narrow, and I think the "invasion" by US forces was supported and invited by the legal Kuwaiti government to help expel the invasion by Saddam Hussein. Maybe Juan is thinking of another country, arguably Iran itself given some past interventions ranging from the overthrow of Mossadegh to the failed efforts to free hostages under Carter? Or maybe he is referring to the raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. As it is, I don't think Iran is its own neighbor, even if it is 2.5 times as populous as itself, :-).

  • Iraqi PM to Secessionist Kurds: "You're Playing with Fire!"
  • Saudi Arabia wants to improve Image; Here's How
    • I know I said my previous post would be my last, but... I agree that current Salafism looks very different from late 19th century Salafism. But it appears that they are historically linked, with al Banna who founded the Egyptian Ikhwan and al Qutb back in the 1920s being students of those earlier Salafists, and with them moving it more in the direction of a conservative traditionalism, with this being more aggravated when King Faisal invited many of them into Saudi Arabia in 1962, forming the Muslim League, and promulgating a form of "pan-Islamist Salafism" that converged substantially on Wahhabism. (I discuss some of this in the post I have put up on this on Econospeak.)

    • Juan,

      I am going to post on this on Econospeak more fully shortly, and this will be my last comment here.

      Rashid Rida is generally viewed as one of the founders of Salafism, so, well...

      As for this key matter about Sunnism, I think you are barking up a not very useful tree on that one. Sure, this annoyed Sunni here or there wants to separate themselves from the super-strict Wahhabis in KSA, but the hard fact is that right now the very annoying Saudi monarchy is playing the game of leading the Sunnis against the Shia in a worldwide war. That this is really a power game against the non-Arab Iranian Shia in a local power competition phonily blown up into a supposed a global theocratic war is a bunch of baloney and garbage does not matter. It is what most people believe and accept. I know that you and I agree that this silly conflict should not be supported by the US, whatever we think about whether or not the Saudis are really Sunnis or not.

    • Juan,

      I am willing to grant at least some of your points, although all of this is very complicated with lots of disagreements out there among various sources. There are some who distinguish "Wahhabi" and "Sunni," but the vast majority view the Wahhabis as a sect of Sunnis, who are also may be a sub-sect of "traditionalist Salafism." It is certainly clear that Abdel Wahhab viewed other Mjuslims who did not follow his teachings as not being proper Muslims and thus worthy of being killed if they did not convert, this idea being used by his allies among al Saud to justify their conquests in the Nejd and slaughters n various places, including Karbala (that city mostly Shia).

      I also grant that he did not specifically call for imposition of the Hanbali code per se, something I have erroneously said in many places and in print. He did his own thing, especially focusing on following Hadith and opposing worship of tombs and saints and such things. However, his family had long been followers of Hanbali ideas, especially his influential grandfather. It does seem that when later Wahhabis did go for adopting the Hanbali code they tended to emphasize ibn Tamiyyah, Hanbal's student, more than ibn Hanbal's teachings themselves. I am not clear on exactly when the Hanbali code became official in Saudi Arabia, but it would appear that certainly by the time of Abdulaziz this was the case (or not too long into his rule).

      Part of the problem here is that the Wahhabis do not like being called that, with the current Saudi king apparently especially opposed to the use of the term. They prefer Muwahuddin, usually translated hilariously as "Unitarians," although nobody but they call them that. But they seem more willing to be called "Salafis" than "Wahhabis," which has probably encouraged the trend to people confusing the two.

    • It may be worth reviewing the basic history of these Sunni codes just to get this a bit clearer, and I accept that Juan or others may correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, the Hanafi is the mainstream one that was used by the ruling caliphates: Ummayyad, Abbasid, and later the Ottoman. It is widely viewed as the "most liberal," although that is a matter of interpretation. It tended to accept more Hadith than the others and also allowed until this stopped around 1000 CE reasoning as well as an accumulation of judicial precedent. It persists in the central core of the Muslim world.

      The Melki and Shafi developed as variations on the dominant Hanafi during the Abbasid period, each emphasizing that certain parts of the Hanafi were not to be allowed, either some of the Hadith or parts of the reasoning (ijtihad) or precedents. Today, one finds many nations in North Africa using Melki codes while Shafi is more in Southeast Asia, although this is complicated.

      The Hanbali was the last to develop and was/is the strictest and most puritanical and least widespread. It allowed only the Qur'an and a very narrow set of Hadith to be used for the shari'a, with pretty much all of the reasoning and precedents rejected. Thus it is not surprising that as Juan has noted those wanting to impose the Hanbali code such as Abdul-Wahhab rejected followers of the other codes as impure and unacceptable Muslims.

      Ironically, the only nation that I am aware of besides Saudi Arabia that uses the Hanbali code is Qatar. But they use a more liberal interpretation of it than do the Saudis, which is another reason for the fierce competition between the two royal families and nations, although I think that maybe the Taliban imposed it when they ruled Afghanistan, something I suspect Juan knows the answer to,.

    • But Juan, the Hanbali code is a Sunni code. The Wahhabi Saudis view themselves as leading all the Sunnis against the Iranian Shia. They are certainly not Shia nor Idabi nor the various odd subsects of Shia that many Muslims do not accept as being Muslim, and so on. I completely agree that they considered all other Sunnis besides themselves not to be proper Muslims. But they have always considered themselves to be Sunnis, the one true and pure brand of Sunni Islam.

    • Good list, Juan. Maybe the Saudis will follow up on one or two of the items in the no-too distant future, but almost certainly not all of them.

      Just a point on this ongoing problem of how to characterize the relationship between Salafism and Wahhabism, which I have commented on here before. I think it is not accurate to call Salafism, "the Sunni version of Wahhabism." This simplies that Wahhabism is not Sunni, but it is, a very specific form of Sunnism. Again, the fundamental demand of Wahhabism from the 1740s on in KSA is that the Shari'a law code that a nation adopts should be that of the strict Hanbali Sunni code. The Salafis do not make that demand, with the other three acceptable, namely Hanafi, Melki, and Shafi. The Salafis originated in Egypt and Cyrenaica in the 19th century initially as a liberalizing movement, but have become more traditionalist/fundamentalist more recently. Part of the issue of confusion between them and Wahhabis is that many Egyptian Salafis fled to KSA under Nasser and became high school teachers there. That has led to some convergence of their views and some of the ongoing confusion, with many inaccurately simply equating the two. Also, some say that Wahhabism is a branch of Salafism, but that is only true under an expanded definition of what Salafism is.

  • Trump, the Magical WASP, Deepens Racial Divide again in Phoenix
    • On the matter of CO2 emissions per capita, the US is actually slightly ahead of Australia. Who is ahead of the US is several PG oil exporters, with Qatar at over 40 metric tons per person per year the tops and more than double the US (it also has the world's highest real per capita income), along with UAE and Oman, as well as several very small states, such as Luxembourg, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, the Falkland Islands (yes!), and New Caledonia.

  • Top 4 Lessons Trump can Learn from Napoleon in Russia
    • It is true that Haussman for Napoleon III did far more building of Paris than anybody else ever, but in fact there was a lot of construction in Paris under Napoleon I. One of the most important things he did was a fundamental infrastructure investment, the sewers, les egouts. While Napoleon III was tops for construction, NB was one of the tops, with few others at his level. Macron was not mistaken in his comment.

  • All Signs from Trump Point to a Coming Conflict with Iran
    • Well, I agree with the vast majority of this post. Trump and many of his top advisers are clearly very hawkish on Iran, and there have been lots of unwise moves directed at Iran made recently. But I think Feffer overdoes it a bit.

      Clearly the most important and most central issue is the nuclear deal. Yes, Trump dissed it, but I suspect that the fact that he has not dumped it so far means he will not do so in the future. Feffer is precisely accurate on this, noting that the unpleasant moves by Trump and Congress are all within the agreement, if clearly hostile. I suspect that even Israel is for keeping it, despite all the rhetoric from Netanyahu, which is mostly political propaganda for Israeli yahoos (yes, there are dumb Israelis). His military/intel people know better, and I suspect he does as well. They know the agreement puts the Iranian nuclear weapons genie into a box, at least for awhile, and that is good for Israeli national security.

      I would note one sloppy point, although Feffer was probably just being rhetorical himself. The ruling group in Saudi Arabia do not call themselves "sheikhs." They are royals carrying titles of "emir," prince. There are people in Saudi Arabia who do bear the title "sheikh," respected newspaper columnists, such as Sheikh Ahmed Tashkandi, and other notable public figures. But none of these people are members of the ruling royal family, and they know it.

      As it is, the worst dangers look to be a possible troops on the ground involvement in the disaster in Yemen, and overdoing going after Iranian forces in Syria. But bad as these would be, they are not remotely as bad as an outright attack on iran, which Muhammed bin Salman has seemed to support. Maybe US intel will be trying to overthrow the Iranian regime from the inside, but I suspect that such efforts will go exactly nowhere and probably not lead to some broader conflagration.

  • The Millennial's Palace Coup in Saudi Arabia: How Dangerous?
    • The current regime is not the "Third Saudi kingdom." Abdulaziz did not take the title malik or "king" until he conquered the Hejaz in the 1920s from the Hashemites, where, during WW I, the former Sherif Hussein al-Hashim had taken the title "King of Hejaz." His sons would be installed by the British as kings of Iraq and Jordan, with a descendant, Abdullah II, still ruling Jordan. Prior to that conquest of Hejaz, Abdulaziz and his ancestors who led the Saudi regimes in the Nejd, bore the title "Emir," usually translated as "Prince."

      I am in complete agreement with the substance of the post. I suspect that the move to elevate MbS may have been triggered by the increasingly obvious moves by Tillerson and Mattis to distance the US from the Saudi position on Qatar, where the latter two have become impatient at the unwillingness of the Saudis and Emiratis to articulate their specific demands for the Qataris.

  • Erdogan, Trump, the Russians and General Flynn: The Tangled Web
    • Kortepeter mislabels the entity that Flynn directed under Obama. It is the Defense Instelligence Agency, or DIA, not the Defense Intelligence "Unit."

      Janssen, what are you referring to? Obama did not nominate HRC for president. He did appoint her to be SecState, and aside from being somewhat more hawkish and pro-Sunni rebels in Syria than he was, she was largely a reasonably competent one, oh, unless you want to take seriously that email matter in which she imitated what her two predecessors had done. It was also at the time a politically smart move, putting his main rival for the presidency within the Dem party into his cabinet, hardly a "huge mistake."

  • Trump in Absolute Monarchy during Iran's Election
    • No, Liinda. Abdulaziz took power in Riyadh in 1902 by a dawn raid. Hi family had ruled from there or nearby largely since the mid-1700s, although replaced by the Rashid family in the mid-late 1800s. Abdulaziz took Mecca and Medina in the 1920s from the Hashemites, where the title "King of Hejaz" was being used. By 1932, the current borders of modern Saudi Arabia were established and it had officially become what it is now, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. in the late 40s, Abdulaziz managed to get the first 50-50% profit-sharing deal with the oil majors operating as Aramco. Abdulaziz died in 1953, being succeeded by one of his 43 sons, Saud. All the kings since have been one of his sons, including the current one, Salman, although they are nearly all gone now. The biggest threat to their rule since 1902 was in 1929 when the Rashidis and the Ikhwan revolted against Abdulaziz, but he defeated them with significant assistance from the British through St-John Philby, father of later Soviet spy, Kim Philby. The older Philby was the first European to cross the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia. The US never propped up a seriously threatened Saudi monarch.

    • While "Rahbar" gets used, it is my understanding that the official title that Khamenei bears is Vilayat-e-faqi (sp?), which is usually translated as "Supreme Jurisprudent."

      It is the case that when many Salafis fled from Egypt to Saudi Arabia decades ago, with many becoming school teachers, there a convergence of views between Wah'habism and Salafism took place. And many indeed do equate the two outside of KSA. But I think there is some use in keeping the distinction between the two, with Wah'habism having the specific demand that the Hanbali Shari'a code be adopted, whereas Salafism is looser on that point, if in many places more prone to support violence.

  • Is Trump really a Fascist?
  • Dems Should be Careful about using Deep State to get at Trump
    • This is a seriously garbled and barely coherent post, one of the worst ever linked to here. HRC was indeed a flawed candidate, and probably the Russian hacking of the election was not responsible for her electoral college loss. However, she was almost certainly done in by the Deep State, if anything done by Comey and the FBI is to be described as that. While not saying a word about the fact that Trump and his team were under investigation by the FBI for their various links to Putin and various Russians, nine days before the election Comey publicly announced how more data on her emails had been found and was to be investigated. The day before he did this, she was so far ahead in the polls she was campaigning in places like Arizona and Utah rather than Wisconsin or Michigan. Not only was everybody assuming Dems would take the Senate, there was even speculation they might take the House. Once Comey made his public statement, for 8 days the only news was about his investigation, and the polls turned around. By the time he reported at the last minute that there was nothing new there to be found, well, oops, it was too late, and even a 2% win in the popular vote was not enough to win her the electoral college or give the Senate to the Dems. I am sorry, but this Ian Berman is not somebody worth linking to.

  • Clinton brings back Gore, talks Green, but still Opposes Carbon Tax
    • We have been through this before. Carbon tax is faddish but will not pass Congress and is less preferred in the Paris Agreement, which reflects fact that Europe has a cap and trade system, which comes from the Kyoto Protocol that the US did not join. In principle, carbon tax and cap and trade are equivalent, with cap and trade an idea that came from the US and was put into the Kyoto Protocol at US insistence. Europe and others very angry that some in US now pushing carbon tax, which is not its superior, despite a lot of noise from people who do not know economics, such as James Hansen, a climatologist. Economists are split on the issue, but environmental economists like Robert Stavins and Tim Tietenberg support cap and trade while more general economists like Joe Stiglitz support a carbon tax. In any case, this has nothing to do with Wall Street interests or fossil fuel sector interests, as the two can have the same effect in principle.

  • How the JASTA override on Saudi could Bite Americans in the Ass
    • Anybody thinking this bill is good because the 9/11 families have received no financial compensation should realize that on average the US government paid them $1.8 million each, which is not too shabby. I also note that current Saudi finances are not doing so well due to low oil prices, with them having recently cut all government salaries by 20 percent. For a bit more, here is me on this at Econospeak, link to .

  • Syria: Are Russo-Iranian and US-Saudi interests converging enough for a Ceasefire?
  • "Pigs! Crusaders!": US-Backed Fundamentalist Militias drive US Commandos out of al-Ray, Syria
    • I do not have the answer, maybe you do, Juan, but I am wondering to what extent this weird conflict between two US-backed groups represents a split between the Pentagon and the CIA in terms of Syrian policy. Thus it is DOD special ops who are supposedly embedded with the Kurds, while I have occasionally seen that CIA backs the Syrian Free Army, but I could be wrong. Maybe they also have DOD backing, but other branches than those backing the Kurds. In any case, SecDef Carter was the one throwing the last roadblocks in the way of the US-Russian truce deal. I am wondering if this reflects DOD unhappiness with the Russians and Turks backing the Free Syrian Army against the Kurds with the Pentagon embeds. Anybody know?

  • In Rejecting Carbon Tax HR Clinton is playing Russian Roulette with our Future
    • Correction of the last letter. The letter only sees carbon taxes as a way to price carbon, ignoring the more widely used and diplomatically accepted cap and trade.

    • Mike,

      Dems are for reducing CO2 emissions and given that carbon capture and storage tech is not feasible in the near future for coal, this means supporting reducing coal production (which is falling anyway due to competition from cheaper natural gas). So it is inevitable that formerly pro-Dem places like West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and eastern Kentucky are and will be pro-GOP.

      There are a variety of policies that can lead to this reduction, including command and control quantity policies, encouraging alternative technologies, and pricing carbon. The latter can be done either by taxing it or by setting up markets for emissions of it based on an overall quantity limit, the so-called cap and trade. The problem with the article is that it sees only carbon pricing as a reasonable policy and dumps on HRC for not supporting it, even though the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol have been based on cap and trade.

    • Oh gag, another stupid column equating "carbon pricing" with a "carbon tax." As known by all economists, including those who favor a carbon tax, a tradeable emissions permit system, aka "cap and trade," such as the EU has in place, is also a "carbon pricing" system. This is what is favored by the Paris Agreement, and is being put in place by China and all the other major nations involved in that agreement. The carbon tax is a fad pushed by a some economists and environmentalists because the US Senate failed to pass Obama's cap and trade proposal back in 2010. Well, they are not going to pass a carbon tax either. This is wishful thinking in the face of total GOP opposition to any tax on anything whatsoever.

      For the record I shall note that while there are some prominent economists from both parties, such as Stiglitz and Mankiw who support a carbon tax (and they always have, just getting more publicity for it now), actual environmental economists such as Robert Stavins and Tom Tietenberg have long supported cap and trade, which was what was in the Kyoto Protocol, which led to the EU adopting it, and is the preferred system in the Paris Agreement. So Hillary Clinton is in fact on top of what is the diplomatically preferred system as well as that by most environmental economists.

      Barkley Rosser

  • Reinventing Saudi Arabia after Oil: The Prince's $2 Trillion Gamble
    • It is unclear to me (an economist) what Prince Muhammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Sa'ud really thinks he is up to with this partial ARAMCO IPO. Most of the publicity has been about the large amount of money that it might raise (or not) that will then be added to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which will presumably invest abroad and provide a flow of income. But this will be offset by the loss of a share of profits to the new partial owners. Not at all clear that there will be a net gain by all this.

      Of course he may be looking at using some of that windfall to offset short term budget deficits. But that is not a sustainable policy, unless he continues to sell off more and more of ARAMCO and similarly uses the money. But again, while that would stretch things out, eventually that comes to an end.

      Another argument might be that he has bought into general privatization ideology of private ownership is more efficient than state. Maybe, but this is a selloff of only 15% or something like that, which will not involve any change in management.

      Finally it should be noted that this reverses a long history. At the Red Line Agreement in 1928 in Achnacarry Castle, Walter Teagle of then Jersey Standard (now Exxon Mobil) was granted Saudi Arabia (while now BP and Royal Dutch Shell took other parts of the Gulf with the red lines drawn around them on a map on a table). ARAMCO was initially Exxon, Mobil, Gulf, and Texaco and found oil in 1938. They owned it and they took nearly all the profits. Starting in 1948 (or thereabouts) King Abdulaziz gained a 50-50% profit-sharing agreement that was the model for later such agreements in many oil-producing nations. By the time of the OPEC price hike in 1973, the Saudis had nationalized ARAMCO and their oil to get 100% of the profits. Now Muhammed bin Sultan wants to undo all of that, and people are cheering him?.

    • Probably that third route is the Gulf of Aden, also not a big money maker.

      KSA will remain stuck on oil, following many other resource-cursed nations that have tried to get off their dependence on their overly abundant exportable natural resource. What will keep them on oil is not only that they have the world's second largest reserves, but they have the lowest production costs aside from Kuwait. Even in a world of falling demand for oil, the Saudis will be producing it and exporting it long after most of the rest of OPEC will have shut down.

      Oh, and the largest export from there prior to the discovery of oil was dates, although the Hajj has always been a bigger money maker.

  • 3 Surprising reasons Saudi Arabia may be getting out of the Oil Business
    • There seem to be several commentators here who think that either KSA is running out of oil or else having major problems with its industry. This could not be further from the truth. The only nation with higher reserves is Venezuela, but they are much higher cost-to-produce tar sands in Lake Maracaibo, whereas the Saudi reserves are far lower cost. They are not having major problems on their production side. They are hurting financially because the low prices mean that they are running budget deficits. But they will be exporting oil when almost nobody else still is.

    • I think this is not likely to happen. The two reasons are that KSA indeed has enormous reserves despite some rumors to the contrary. The other is that it is the second lowest cost oil producing nation in the world after only Kuwait, with costs as low as $4 per barrel. It will be one of the last to shut down the taps as the oil industry declines in the future.

  • Top 5 Ways Saudi Arabia really could fight Terrorism, & not by a Vague Coalition
    • Good post by Juan. Two emendations.

      One is that while the Taliban are technically Hanafis, the most liberal of the Sunni Shari'a codes, many of them follow the north Indian Deobandi movement that has fallen under the influence of Saudi Wahhabis supporting the Hanbali code. This partly explains the openness of the Taliban to letting the strongly Wahhabist al Qaeda in to Afghanistan, although Juan is right that al Qaeda follows a much more radicalized version of Wahhabism than is generally practiced in Saudi Arabia, as does its offshoot, Daesh.

      The other is that while in many places Salafism and Wahhabism are essentially identical, they have different historical origins, which show up in some places in ongoing differences. Whereas Wahhabism dates from 1740 in Saudi Arabia and has been closely linked to the Saud family, Salafism started in the 19th century in Egypt and eastern Libya and was originally focused on making Islam consistent with modern science and rationality while also purifying its doctrines to fit with early Islam, with them largely Hanafi. Later the modernizing branch would weaken while the more fundamentalist branch gained. The link with Wahhabism came during Nasser's rule in Egypt when many were expelled and became school teachers in Saudi Arabia where they were welcomed. There this group's views converged more on Saudi Wahhabi views, but some subtle differences remain.

  • Top 10 Signs the US is the Most Corrupt Country in the World
    • I noted that the corruption in the US is important because of its size and global importance. But in percentage terms the scale of wealth transfers and corruption far beyond mere petty bribery in say Russia completely dwarfs what goes on in the US.

    • Everything Juan lists here is true, and clearly the US is more corrupt than many European nations, especially the squeaky clean Nordic ones. However, saying it is the "most corrupt" is simply overdoing it. I just checked Transparency International's current national rankings and the US is the 17th least corrupt out of 175. At the bottom are such places as Somalia, North Korea, South Sudan, and Turkmenistan. Yes, the US is unpleasantly corrupt, with this having global significance because of our size and power. But we are nowhere near the leagues of most nations on the planet, and especially some of the really awful whoppers down at the bottom of that list.

  • After 2008 Wall Street Crash, did US White Working Class Drink itself to Death?
    • This is an embarrassingly misguided post by the usually astute Barbara Ehrenreich. She goes on and on about poor whites, with much discussion about conduct by white males, and the headline being about "drinking themselves to death." But in fact the rising death rate is entirely a matter of femailes, not males, although the death rate for middle-aged white males has stopped declining. And it is the opiods that clearly are well ahead of drinking as the cause, with accidental posoining at the top of the list and suicide second, a third of those by using opiods. Much of what she says is accurate, but it is really unfortunate that she somehow did not check on the details of all this before she went and put up a post that also was seriouslyi misinformed in major parts.

  • Top 4 Issues Saudi King Salman will discuss in first visit to Obama's White House
    • A real irony of all this is that for decades the big thorn in the relationship between US and KSA was Israel, US support for it and Saudi opposition to it. Today it is all these other regional issues, with to the extent Israel is an issue it is because the Saudis agree with the Israelis against the US in opposing the Iran nuclear deal. Such is history.

  • The Long Knives Come out in Baghdad
    • BTW, very little of that increased oil production in Iraq involves US companies. So, that great dream of Dick Cheney that US oil companies would get back into Iraq in a big way failed big time. About the only one of them that made much money there was his one, Hallliburton, but it made its money mostly through non-competitive contracts with the US military during the war, not in the oil industry itself.

    • One thing that has been going beter has been oil production, with Jim Hamilton at Econbrowser reporting that it has risen in Iraq by about a half million barrels per day, about a sixth of recent global increase in crude oil production. He notes that this mostly involves the finally starting of various projects that have been a long time in the planning and preparing. I am not sure what percentage of that is actually in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has just started selling its oil directly to foreigners to protest what its leaders claim is Baghdad's failure to share appropriate amounts of revenue from the sale of their oil. It would also look like the elimination of the presidency might well further alienate the Kurds

      If what comes out of this is furher crackdowns on Sunnis and alienation of the Kurds, we may indeed be about to see a more serious crackup of Iraq than has already been the case.

  • Why Partitioning Iraq is a Terrible Idea
    • While I think that it probably is not the time yet for Iraqi Kurdistan to declare formal independence (if for no other reason than to keep Iran and Turkey at bay), Ari is right about their oil situation, and furthermore, they have just started separately selling oil abroad without going through the Iraqi central government, protesting their claimed lack of proper payment from Baghdad for past oil sent there (I am in no position to objectively judge the validity of this protest). This is de facto economic independence, and if they can get away with it without declaring formal independence, who needs it?

      I also note that the proposed "reforms" that the current Iraqi PM is making include eliminating the position of President in Iraq, a position that has often been held by Kurds in recent years. That would seem to be an act by the central government to push the Kurds further away (and many have charged that these "reforms" also tilt things against the Sunnis, so these reforms may well lead to such a partition, at least more seriously de facto, if not de jure).

      And on all that, I do not think it matters one whit what Odierno had to say.

  • Are Arab Oil Monarchies divided over Iran Deal?
    • Oman's position is reinforced by relition, given that an important part of the Saudi-Iran conflict is over Sunnism vs Shi'ism. They are neither, being Idabis, viewed by both as heretics. Also, the fact that they share the Strait of Hormuz with Iran makes them especially wanting there not to be war in the Gulf. It is not surprising that they helped initiate the negotiations and support the nuclear dea.

  • Coal comeback in Europe threatens Climate, Environment (already kills 18,000 a year)
    • This is an incredibly stupid article. The main reason Germany is relying so heavily on coall at the moment is that in the wake of Fukushima they decided to shut down all the nuclear power plants. A lot of greens think nukes are awful, but they emit zero CO2, and the only people who died from the nuclear power plants in Japan were the workers who went into the damaged plants to shut them down. People got terrified by all the people dying, but all but about three of them died from the tsunami, not from the plants. Most of the rest of Europe is angry with the Germans for their hypocrisy on the energy issue, triggeing both more CO2 emissions as well as electricity rate hikes for the entire EU due to their decision on nuclear power, which does not help global warming. Yes, they are moving forward admirably on alternatives, but unfortunately those are simply not coming in rapidly or sufficiently to replace the power lost by shutting down the nukes. That this article said zip about it says that the authors are not to be taken seriously.

  • Kurdish Muslims abandoning Islam for Zoroastrianism in Disgust at ISIL/ Daesh?
    • BTW, there were Zoroastrians high in the security services under the Shah, which contributed to them being somewhat persecuted after the Islamic Revolution, alshough not as badly so as the Baha'i, who were viewed as heteritics. The Iranian Muslims apparently do view the Zoroastrians as being fellow monothesists, like the Jews and the Christians. Many think that it was Persian Zoroastrian dualistic influence when Cyrus liberated the Hebrews from the Babylonian exile that introduced the comcept of Satan into Judaism (and thus Christianity), with appearance by this figure in only a few books of the Old Testament and barely at all in the Torah (mostly the Adam and Eve tale), with the Job the main place this fiture appears.

    • This post contains startling errors, starting with the claim that Zoroastrianism "more or less disappeared" after the arrival of Islam. This may be true for its original home in Kurdistan, and it is true its numbers are low, but it has lasted continuously in certain locations, notably the city of Yazd in Iran, where it was the dominant religion prior to the takeover by Islam. When that happened members fled to India where they became the Parssees, arguably the most socially and economically elite group in India (particularly Bombay), with such wealthy families as the Tatas being Parsees.

  • 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 , 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

Showing comments 62 - 1

Shares 0