Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
War watch March 12 , 2014 --Saudi vs Qatar rumble for supremacy in the GCC - Saudis demand ( in large part ) Qatar shutdown Al Jazeera or face air / land and sea blockades ( Saudis also want Brookings Institute and Rand Corporation expelled from Qatar , Muslim Brotherhood ties severed ) ! Syria news items -- West Plans Major New Rebel Offensive in Southern Syria . US, Saudis Pushing New Offensive to Back 'Moderates' ..... In other Syria rebel news , Al-Qaeda Faction ( Al Qaeda in Iraq ) Executes 22 in Syria, Including Rival Rebels . Executions Reported After Capture of Aleppo Border Town ..... News from Jordan -- Netanyahu ‘Regrets’ Israeli Killing of Jordan Judge Killed Over Argument . Soldiers Tried to Paint Judge as Terrorist ...... Libya oil tanker clusterfark finally results in Prime Minister Zeidan getting booted from his job , Libya position as Sultan of the MENA open marketplace for ams smuggling including manpads remains unchallenged . Militia rule and rule of the gun / rifle and anti-aircraft weapon remains the law of the land in Libya ! Pakistan benefits from 2014 " Surge " in US funding , new fair hair child in Af- Pak since Afghanistan hasn't played ball lately ? Turkey protests sparked by death of 15 year old Berkin Elvan ( after 269 days in a coma ) , remarkable photographs h/t Hurriyet !
Though couched as targeting terrorism, the Saudi demands are targeted at Qatar’s international politics, with the primary demand a full closure of popular TV news channel al-Jazeera.
The Saudis also want Qatar to sever ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s elected government ousted in last summer’s coup, and to expel two US think tanks, the Brookings Institute and the RAND Corporation.
The Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Attiya insisted that his government’s policy will not change, and that despite Saudi threats they remain committed to retaining an independent foreign policy.
Saudi Arabia threatens to blockade Qatar over terrorism
Riyadh wants to contain radical groups and media at odds with foreign jihad policy
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal attends an Arab foreign ministers emergency meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Reuters
Saudi Arabia has threatened to blockade neighbouring Qatar by air, land and sea unless Doha cuts ties with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, closes global channel al-Jazeera, and expels local branches of the US Brookings Institution and RandCorporation think tanks.
The threat was issued by Riyadh before it withdrew its ambassador to Doha and branded as “terrorist organisations” the brotherhood, Lebanon’s Hizbullah and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Although the kingdom has long been the font of Sunni ultra-orthodox Salafism and jihadism, it now seeks to contain radical movements and media and other organisations giving them publicity.
King Abdullah has decreed that any Saudi who fights abroad could be jailed for 20-30 years, and those who join, endorse or provide moral or material support to groups classified as “terrorist” or “extremist” will risk prison sentences of five to 30 years.
The decree followed the gazetting of a sweeping new anti- terrorism law prohibiting acts that disturb public order, promote insecurity, undermine national unity or harm the reputation of the kingdom.
While the law and decree are meant to curb jihadi operations on Saudi soil as well as counter non-jihadi dissidence, these legal instruments appear to contradict government policy on foreign jihad.
While 400 Saudis have returned home from Syrian battlefields, another 1,000-2,000 are believed to be fighting with jihadi groups funded by the government as well as wealthy Saudis, Kuwaitis and Qataris.
An informed source speculated the decree sends a message to Saudis: “Don’t come home. Fight unto death or victory.”
For half a century Saudi Arabia used its oil wealth to promote Muslim fundamentalists, notably the brotherhood and its offshoots, to counter the secular pan-Arab nationalism preached by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Syrian and Iraqi Baath parties.
The kingdom provided refuge for brotherhood officials and activists from Egypt and other countries where governments were battling the movement. However, in recent years, Riyadh fell out with the brotherhood because it did not follow Saudi dictation.
After Shia clerics overthrew the shah of Iran in 1979 and tried to export their “Islamic revolution” to the wider Muslim world, which is 85 per cent Sunni, Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the guardian of Sunni orthodoxy, turned to evangelism.
The object has been to convert Muslims to “Wahhabism,” the Saudi puritanical interpretation of Islam. The Saudi campaign in Syria is against Damascus’s ally Shia Iran as well as godless, secular Baathism.
The rise in the price of oil since the 1970s has enabled the Saudis to train clerics and build schools, Islamic centres, universities and mosques around the world.
Traditionally gentle, tolerant, mystic Sufis, who had served as Islam’s missionaries, have been replaced by narrow, harsh Wahhabi preachers and imams. Over the past 30 years the kingdom has spent more than $100 billion (€72 billion) on promoting Wahhabism.
Even before the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia – partnered by the US Central Intelligence Agency – trained and armed mujahideen (holy warriors) from Afghanistan and across the Muslim world to fight the Soviet Afghan republic. After the war ended with the Soviet withdrawal from that country in 1989, veterans of this conflict fanned out to fight in Bosnia, Algeria, Libya, the Caucasus and elsewhere.
BlowbackFearing blowback from Saudi jihadis engaged in the Syrian war, Riyadh has recently given the Syrian file to the interior minister Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, who has been in charge of an anti-terrorism campaign in the kingdom and Yemen, replacing intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
The Wall Street Journal has quoted a key Saudi source who said the shift suggests that Riyadh could rely more on diplomatic than military means by exerting pressure onRussia, Iran and Hizbullah, Damascus’s chief supporters, to resolve the conflict by removing President Bashar al-Assad.
Nevertheless, Riyadh also favours providing shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to “vetted” rebels, well aware these weapons could fall into al-Qaeda hands.
Reports are emerging over the past several days of an imminent new rebel offensive against Assad government positions in southern Syria. The offensive is coming out of Jordan, where the US is training and bankrolling rebel fighters.
The push is coming largely at the behest of the US and Saudi governments, which envision the establishment of a “southern front” of the war driven by more moderate rebels as a counterpoint to al-Qaeda’s dominance of the rebel-held north.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) continues with its territory gains, and with the capture of the Aleppo Province town of Jarabulus, along the border with Turkey, they have continued their strategy of post-capture executions.
Reports say that AQI executed at least 22 people after taking the town, including 12 fighters from unnamed rival rebel factions. AQI began a push to take the town late last month.
Since January, several other rebel factions have been trying to take territory from AQI, and this “war within a war” has become in many ways more fierce than the civil war itself.
AQI has been using mass executions as a common tactic whenever it takes or is about to lose a territory, and has even executed members of other al-Qaeda factions, leading al-Qaeda’s parent organization to disavow them.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a statement of “regret” today after soldiers killed Dr. Raed Zeiter, a Jordanian magistrate judge with a doctorate in international law, at the border crossing.
The judge was on a bus which was being screened by Israeli border guards, and got into an argument with one of the guards when he began shoving the passengers to try to hurry them back on board. He was shot and killed, and the rest of the passengers were ordered to quickly return to the bus and leave the scene.
Israel’s military issued two separate accounts of the incident, initially condemning Zeiter as a “terrorist” who had shouted “Allahu akbar” and charged the troops with a rifle, and then later claiming he “attacked the guards” with a metal pole during the argument.
Witnesses from the bus say they saw and heard nothing of the sort, and even after the judge was repeatedly shot they saw no metal poles on the ground, just the judge’s body.
Israeli officials were quick to point out that there was no surveillance camera pointed at the area where the judge was killed, so there is no footage that might contradict the official military version of events. They have, however, promised an “investigation.”
As reported yesterday, the Morning Glory was captured by the Libyan Navy, but it didn’t stay captured for long. Much smaller Libyan Navy escort ships, designed only for coastal waters , lost the ship pretty quickly en route to the port, as poor weather allowed the Morning Glory to move into international waters.
It didn’t escaped unscathed, according to Libyan MPs. They say the tanker was hit with a missile on its way into international waters, and is now on fire. How bad the fire is remains unclear, but the ship is out of the reach of the Libyan Navy.
The fiasco led to a no-confidence vote and the ouster of Zeidan. He will be replaced in the interim by Defense Minister Abdallah Thinni, who has taken an even more hostile stand on the ship.
Over the weekend, Thinni ordered the Air Force to destroy the Morning Glory with bombs, but the Air Force refused, citing concerns about the civilian and environmental impact of blowing up a ship with some $36 million in oil already loaded.
After the ousted of Moammar Gadhafi, his government’s arms depots were left open to looters who made off with enormous quantities of arms, which have played a key role in sparking major conflicts like the Tuareg war of secession in Mali.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the UN report was not how much damage the weapons smuggling of 2011 caused, but that many of those depots are still under the control of random factions with no ties to the Libyan government, and the weapons remain available to smugglers who can meet their price.
As the State Bank of Pakistan remains tightlipped over the source and purpose of funding, Pakistan received another tranche of $750 million in the newly-established Pakistan Development Fund (PDF), taking the total contribution to $1.5 billion so far.
Highly-placed sources told The Express Tribune that friendly countries have injected another sum of $750 million in the PDF – an account opened to channel money from abroad. The last tranche was received in February that stabilised the dwindling official foreign currency reserves.
It is the first time that any country has generously given $1.5-billion assistance to Pakistan within one month, as Islamabad never received such an amount as ‘upfront’ payments. The US, which remains the largest contributor, always gave amounts in tranches spreading over several years. Under its five-year, $7.5-billion Kerry Lugar aid package, Washington gave less than $2.5 billion in government-to-government assistance in over three years.
However, it was not clear whether the money received is a grant or depositary loans aimed at temporarily bailing out the country.
At the very end of the article, the Express Tribune notes that Pakistan is also asking the US to expedite payments under the Coalition Support Fund, which is the route through which Pakistan is reimbursed for its defense spending related to Afghanistan security. That is very interesting, since it was only a month ago that there was a major disbursement in the CSF:
United States has released second tranche of $352 million out of a total of $1.4 billion Coalition Support Funds (CSF)that Pakistan is budgeted to receive during the current fiscal year.
This was revealed by US Ambassador Richard Olson in a meeting with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday.
According to Finance Ministry, the ambassador assured the Financial Minister that the remaining amount will be disbursed as soon as possible,
Pakistan had hoped to receive the second tranche in December last year.
It certainly stands out that what changed between December and February was Pakistan’s new-found enthusiasm for military action against the Taliban. The article also notes that this payment was meant to cover Pakistan’s expenses incurred during January to March of 2013, so the payments are lagging spending by about a year. That would be why today’s news has Pakistan urging the US to shorten the time until reimbursement:
Pakistan has asked US to speedily reimburse $1.6 billion under Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for the year 2013.Finance Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar stated this here on Monday in a meeting with Thomas Williams, Charge’d Affairs, US Embassy.
The minister informed the Charge’d Affairs that the structural reforms, the new government undertook in the last eight months have started to yield positive results and all economic indicators are as per our projection or even better.
The minister emphasised that, at this stage, the US need to expedite reimbursements to Pakistan on account of CSF. The Charge’d Affairs assured the minister that US would continue to maintain partnership with Pakistan and will work for peace and stability in the region. He said that we are looking forward to enhance our existing relations in all areas of mutual interest. He assured the Finance Minister that the reimbursements to Pakistan will be fast tracked.
And there we have it. ”Development” funds are flowing into Pakistan, almost certainly from the US, at a rate so fast a whole new fund and program had to be established to handle them. At the same time, the US has promised to fast track clearing the backlog of funds owed under the defense fund.
US President Barack Obama has proposed $ 882 million in foreign aid to Pakistan for next year, a substantial drop of 18 % from the fiscal 2013.
According to Congressional experts, who have tabulated the budgetary proposals which was sent to the Congress by Obama, the President has proposed $ 546 million in total economic-related assistance and $ 336 million in total security related assistance to Pakistan.
The assistance to Pakistan in fiscal 2013 was $ 1.2 billion – $ 834 million economic and $ 361 million security related aid.
There is a huge problem with the totals discussed here, though. The linked article does eventually get around to noting that the defense aid discussed here is separate from the Coalition Support Fund, which one would think is in line to grow by a lot with all the new military action. However, the mysterious $1.5 billion in development funding just received is not discussed. How much more US funding will flow into the PDF?
The huge wildcard in this entire scenario is the current 30 day ceasefire that Pakistan has negotiated with the Taliban. Will military action resume when the period ends or will peace talks continue and make progress? Continued US funding at these new extraordinary levels may well be conditioned on the military action resuming.
The Turkish yield curve has inverted once again as the 10Y bond yield in the troubled nation crosses 11% and hits record highs for that maturity. 2Y at 11.2% has broken to almost 5 year high yields as the Lira also presses back lower to six-week lows. This comes as the nation mourns the death of a teenager from last year's riots and Erdogan remains defiant ahead of March 30 elections in the face of rising calls from the EU to let the law run its course:
*TURKEY 10-YR BOND YIELD RISES TO 11.34% RECORD ON CLOSING BASIS
*ERDOGAN: MAR 30 VOTE MOST IMPORTANT IN TURKEY DEMOCRACY HISTORY
*ERDOGAN SAYS VIOLENT PROTESTS WON'T BRING DEMOCRACY TO TURKEY
*EU PARLIAMENT URGES TURKEY NOT TO INTERFERE WITH LEGAL PROBES
*ERDOGAN RECITES ISLAMIC POEM FOR WHICH HE'D BEEN JAILED IN 1997
So once again political instability is soaring and with it capital outflows and bond yields. No, EM is not fixed!
Those with short memories will remember that Turkey was the center of theunivrse just 2 months ago as the Emerging Market crisis was exploding with claims that their emergency rate hike save the world... yields are worse now and the currency is rapidly escalating back to pre-rate hike levels - this is not over and Erdogan's indignance is not helping as people take to the streets once again.
Riot police fire water cannon to disperse protesters mourning Berkin Elvan's death in Istanbul, March 11. AP photo, Emrah GÜREL
Several demonstrations are being staged across Turkey to protest against the death of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old teenager who died earlier today after spending 269 days in coma after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister during last June's Gezi Park protests. Police resorted to tear gas and water cannon attacks against protesters who started gathering in central Ankara.Police also cracked down on a demonstration on Istanbul's İstiklal Avenue after refusing protesters' demand to read a statement in Taksim Square.
Here is a roundup of this evening's protests across the country:
00:17 - A vigil is being held in front of the cemevi in the Okmeydanı neighborhood in Istanbul where Berkin Elvan's body was brought after an autopsy March 11. Elvan will be interred in Feriköy cemetery on March 12.
00:02 - At least 45 protesters have been detained in demonstrations held in Istanbul, according to media reports.
23:28 - A physically disabled man dances in front of the police barricade in İstiklal Avenue, Istanbul, in a show of protest against the crackdown.
23:21 - After Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu becomes the second top government official to publicly express his condolences to Berkin Elvan's family. Earlier today, Şimşek tweeted the following statement: "We have lost our dear Berkin Elvan. Our sorrow is great. I wish God's grace will be upon him and I wish patience for his family. Rest in peace."
23:13 - An electoral poster depicting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set on fire and used as a barricade in Ankara. (Photo source: Twitter)
23:05 - Some 1,500 protesters have demonstrated at Sınırsızlık (Infinity) Sq. in the southwestern town Muğla. Police intervened with tear gas when a group attempted to march on the ruling AKP's local headquarters. Some 22 people have been detained, according to Doğan News Agency.
22:51 - Clashes in Kadıköy, Istanbul, continue, as some 2,000 protesters refuse to disperse in the face of a police intervention near Bahariye Avenue, Hürriyet Daily Newseditor Stefan Martens reports from the scene.
22:42 - Intense tear gas against protesters has also disrupted normal public life in various Turkish cities. In Ankara, tear gas was fired near a bus stop and inside a metro station (Photos: Peter Nut)
...while a teargas canister fell down into a bar in Taksim, Istanbul. (Photo source: Twitter):
22:25 - A woman who fainted on İstiklal Ave. was nearly crushed by an armored police vehicle, Doğan News Agency reported. The woman was saved at the last moment as her friends screamed in fear.
22:19 - More protests are being staged in the Thracian and western coastal towns of Tekirdağ, Edirne, Çanakkale and Çeşme.
22:12 - An electronic billboard in the western city of Eskişehir, whose mayor is from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), features Berkin Elvan: "We won't forget you," the billboard reads.
22:00 - Demonstrations and vigils for Berkin Elvan are also being held abroad, including Paris, Berlin, London, Stockholm and Rotterdam. In Paris' Place de la République, mourners hold a vigil in front of a portrait of Berkin Elvan made with candles.
21:44 - A police water cannon (TOMA) in the southern city of Mersin has hit two women who were crossing the road while police were intervening against a group protesters, Doğan News Agency reported. One women was seriously injured and transferred to hospital after sustaining a head injury, the report said. Eleven protesters were detained and four officers injured during the police crackdown in the city.
21:35 - Police continue to intervene against protests in the Taksim, Beşiktaş and Feriköy neighborhoods of Istanbul.
21:27 - Police used tear gas and water cannon to prevent some 1,000 protesters in Kadıköy from marching to the local headquarters of the ruling AKP. Following the intervention, a group of protesters turned a public bus into a barricade. Police continue to resort to tear gas in order to keep the protesters away from the bull statue, a symbol of Fenerbahçe football team based in the district, which in on the road that leads to the AKP headquarters. "Because of the teargas in the air, it's hard to breath," Hürriyet Daily News editor Stefan Martens reports.
21:21 - During the crackdown against the protesting ODTÜ students in Ankara, police used FN-303 riot gun with an ammunition that is classified as “lethal” in several European countries, daily Hürriyet reports.
20:59 - Police temporarily retreat in Kadıköy as some protesters reportedly hurl fireworks.
20:50 - An intervention starts in Istanbul's Kadıköy neighborhood, with police using intense water cannon and tear gas against protesters, Hürriyet Daily News editor Stefan Martens reports from the scene. Around 5,000 protesters had gathered earlier near the iconic bull statue in Bahariye.
20:43 - Police are also using tear gas and water cannon against protesters who gathered in front of the Divan Hotel near the Harbiye side of Gezi Park. The hotel became famous after sheltering demonstrators during the repeated police crackdowns last summer.
20:32 - Tens of thousands of people keep protesting the Turkish government in several cities. Police have intervened in Taksim (Istanbul), Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Antalya, Denizli, Kocaeli and Mersin, according to Doğan News Agency reporters on the ground.
Demonstrations in Istanbul’s Kadıköy and Bakırköy neighborhoods, as well as those in other cities such as Eskişehir, Zonguldak, Uşak, Giresun, Samsun, Bolu and Konya have seen no police intervention so far.
20: 14 – In one of two striking images which are being shared online today, the victims of the Gezi Park protests are pictured together, showing at which age they were killed.
Another photo shot today during the protests in the Middle Eastern Technical University's (ODTÜ) campus in Ankara, a police officer is seen using tear gas even after falling on the ground.
20:02 - The police intervention continues in the side streets around Istiklal Ave. No significant police presence is yet reported in Kadıköy on the Asian side, where protesters chant slogans "We're all Berkin. You cannot eliminate us by killing us" and "Berkin Elvan is immortal."
19:35 - One protester in Adana is reportedly injured due to the effects of tear gas.
19:29 - Police start intervening with more intensity, resorting to tear gas. Meanwhile, crowds swell in Istanbul's Kadıköy and Bakırköy neighborhoods.
19:28 -Some protesters attend the demonstrations with "bloody" bread, symbolizing the Berkin Elvan's death (Photo via daily Hürriyet editor Banu Tuna).
19:28 - Hundreds of protesters march in the southern city Mersin. 19:19 - A TOMA vehicle occasionally fires pressurized water at protesters from Istanbul's pedestrian Istiklal Ave. in an effort to prevent them from marching to the iconic Taksim Sq (Photo: Reuters / Osman Orsal).
19:10 - Clashes reportedly intensify in Adana...
19:09 - In Istanbul, police reportedly announce that they will let the protesters give a press statement in Istiklal Ave., but they will not allow them to march to Taksim Sq.
19:08 - Protesters gather in the southern town of Antalya's Cumhuriyet Sq.
19:00 - People start gathering in Istanbul's Asian neighborhood of Kadıköy, one of the potential hotspots in tonight's protests.
18:56 - Protesters in the the western town of Sakarya carry banners accusing the ruling AKP government of "murdering" Berkin Elvan.
18:51 - Large crowds start to gather in the western Anatolian city of Eskişehir, where Gezi protester Ali İsmail Korkmaz was killed, as reported by journalist Tuğba Tekerek. 18:45 - Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Aylin Nazlıaka tweets that citizens in Ankara are talking with the police in an attempt to stop the intervention. "Enough. We are in mourning,” the protesters say, according to Nazlıaka. 18:41 - In the western city of Denizli some protesters hurl fireworks at the police.
18:35 - Police start using tear gas in Ankara's Kızılay Square, along with water cannon.
18:19 - Protesters march in the southeastern metropolis Diyarbakır with banners reading "For Berkin Elvan." 18:17 - Crowds start gathering in Istanbul's iconic in Taksim Sq., heart of last year's protests.
18:12 - Another demonstrations is held in Trabzon, further east in Black Sea coast and considered one of the strongholds of ruling AKP. 18:11 - Protesters in the southern metropolis Adana, start gathering at Atatürk Park for a planned demonstration. 18:09 - Over 1,000 people reportedly march in the Black Sea city of Samsun, chanting "Murderer Tayyip (Erdoğan)."
18:05 - Supported by armored vehicles, police move to disperse protesters gathered in Ankara's Kızılay Sq. in the first intervention in tonight's planned demonstrations across Turkey. 17:28 - Protesters in the eastern province of Tunceli (Dersim) are marching with torches toward the provincial office of the ruling AKP.