Russian Minister Accuses U.S. of Openly Plundering Syrian Oil

The U.S. military deployment is centered around the oil fields in eastern Syria.

The United States openly controls and plunders the oil fields belonging to Syria and its people, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.

RELATED: Russian Ministers Meet With Italian Counterparts in Rome

 "The Syrian oil fields, the territories where the precious substance is produced, are controlled by the United States. There is shameless plundering of the riches that belong to Syria and the Syrian people," denounced Russia's defense minister in Rome, Italy.

Shoigu, who traveled to Italy with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to attend a 2+2 meeting with their Italian counterparts Luigi Di Maio and Lorenzo Guerini, also condemned U.S. sanctions that prevent oil supplies to the Syrians.

"That country needs fuel to have heat, hot water, and electricity. The United States, in addition to plundering their oil fields, prohibits them from supplying this substance," he said during a press conference after the meeting with the Italian ministers.

The main people affected by the conflict between the two countries is Syrian civilians, and this situation must be reversed as soon as possible, he concluded.

The denunciation bythe high Russian representatives adds to the repeated alerts of the Syrian government about the flagrant U.S. pillaging of the oil resources of that nation in the face of international silence.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently condemned the illegal presence of the U.S. in Syria. Washington's obsession with Syria's oil demonstrates the evident Nazi-style policies of President Donald Trump, Assad said.

Although on October 6, the head of the White House announced the withdrawal of American soldiers from northeast Syria, afterward he reversed the decision. He ordered that a "small number of soldiers" remain in the Arab country "in areas where there is oil" but without any solid legal argument to justify their stay in the country.

Currently, six of the 16 U.S. bases already evacuated are once again full of personnel, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu. This new U.S. military deployment, according to the Turkish media, is centered around the oil fields in eastern Syria.

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Oil prices spike after drone attack in Saudi Arabia

Global energy prices spiked on Monday after a weekend attack on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia caused the worst disruption to world supplies on record, an assault for which President Donald Trump warned that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” to respond.

U.S. officials offered satellite images of the damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial Abqaiq oil processing plant and a key oil field, alleging the pattern of destruction suggested the attack on Saturday came from either Iraq or Iran — rather than Yemen, as claimed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels there.

Iran for its part called the U.S. allegations “maximum lies.”

The Houthis on Monday warned of more attacks on Saudi oil facilities and urged foreign companies doing business in the kingdom to stay away from its energy sites. Yahia Sarie, a rebel spokesman, said facilities such as the Abqaiq oil processing plant and the oil field hit this weekend could again “be targeted at any time.”

In Vienna, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry condemned what he called “Iran’s attack on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” in an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference.

“This behavior is unacceptable and they must be held responsible,” Perry said of Iran. “Make no mistake about it, this was a deliberate attack on the global economy and the global energy market.”

He added that “despite Iran’s malign efforts, we are very confident that the market is resilient and will respond” and said that Trump has authorized the release of strategic oil reserves should the U.S. need them.

But actions on any side could break into the open a twilight war that’s been raging just below the surface of the wider Persian Gulf in recent months.

Already, there have been mysterious attacks on oil tankers that America blames on Tehran, at least one suspected Israeli strike on Shiite forces in Iraq, and Iran has shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone.

Benchmark Brent crude gained nearly 20% in the first moments of trading Monday before settling down to over 8% higher as trading continued. A barrel of Brent traded up $5.33 to $65.55.

That spike represented the biggest percentage value jump in Brent crude since the lead up to the 1991 Gulf War that saw a U.S.-led coalition expel Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

U.S. benchmark West Texas crude was up around 8%. U.S. gasoline and heating oil similarly were up over 8% and 7% respectively before markets opened in New York.

Saturday’s attack halted production of 5.7 million barrels of crude a day, more than half of Saudi Arabia’s global daily exports and more than 5% of the world’s daily crude oil production. Most of that output goes to Asia.

At 5.7 million barrels of crude oil a day, the Saudi disruption would be the greatest on record for world markets, according to figures from the Paris-based International Energy Agency. It just edges out the 5.6 million-barrels-a-day disruption around the time of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to the IEA.

Saudi Arabia has pledged that its stockpiles would keep global markets supplied as it rushes to repair damage at the Abqaiq facility and its Khurais oil field.

Trump said the U.S. had reason to believe it knows who was behind the attack — his secretary of state had blamed Iran the previous day. He assured his Twitter followers that “we are … locked and loaded” depending on verification and were waiting to hear from the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and “under what terms we would proceed!”

The tweets followed a National Security Council meeting at the White House that included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

A U.S. official said all options, including a military response, were on the table, but said no decisions had been made Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations.

Trump’s “locked and loaded” comment mirrors similar remarks he made following Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone in June. However, the president said he pulled back from retaliating against Iran at the last minute.

U.S. officials also offered highly detailed satellite photos of the Saudi sites that show damage suggesting the attack came from the north, where Iran or Iraq are, rather than from Yemen to the south. Iraq’s prime minister has denied the attack came from his country, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias operate. Iraqi Premier Adel Abdel-Mahdi said he received a call Monday from Pompeo, without elaborating.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Sunday called U.S. allegations “blind and futile comments.”

“The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning toward ‘maximum lies,'” Mousavi said.

On Monday, Mousavi dismissed as mere “speculation” media reports about a possible meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later in September. The U.S. has said it will remain open for talks with Iran but Mousavi said a Trump-Rouhani meeting was not on the agenda.

The U.S. satellite photos appear to show the attack on Abqaiq may have struck the most-sensitive part of the facility, its stabilization area. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies has said the area includes “storage tanks and processing and compressor trains — which greatly increases the likelihood of a strike successfully disrupting or destroying its operations.”

Stabilization means processing so-called sour crude oil into sweet crude. That allows it to be transported onto transshipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, or to refineries for local production.

The attack “damaged five to seven spheroids and five out of ten stabilization towers,” said Fernando Ferreira, the director of geopolitical risk at the Washington-based Rapidan Energy Group.

Five “or so stabilization towers appear to be destroyed and will have to be rebuilt — this will take many months,” Ferreira said. “The sophisticated attack now seems likely to reduce Abqaiq’s 7 (million barrels of crude oil a day) capacity for an indefinite period” measured in months.

Saudi Aramco did not respond to questions from The Associated Press regarding damage at Abqaiq and the satellite images.

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Iran renews ultimatum over nuclear deal amid tanker tensions

Iran will continue scaling back compliance with its commitments under the nuclear deal unless other signatories show "positive signals", the Iranian president told a meeting of Russian, Chinese and other Asian leaders in Tajikistan.

Iran stopped complying in May with some commitments in a 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed with global powers, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord and tightened sanctions.

Tehran said in May that Iran would start enriching uranium at a higher level unless world powers protected its economy from US sanctions within 60 days.

"Obviously, Iran cannot stick to this agreement unilaterally," President Hassan Rouhani told the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.

"It is necessary that all the sides of this agreement contribute to restoring it," he said, adding that Iran needed to see "positive signals" from other signatories to the pact, which include Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

He did not give details on what actions Iran would take or say what positive signals Tehran wanted to see.

France and other European signatories to the deal, which aimed to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, have said they wanted to save it, but many of their companies have cancelled deals with Tehran under financial pressure from the US.

Western powers have accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies, saying it wants nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Tanker incidents

Rouhani made no mention of attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week, which Washington has blamed on Tehran, raising concerns about a confrontation.

Iran has denied any role in the attacks, calling the accusations "ridiculous" and "dangerous".

On Friday, acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said the administration of President Donald Trump was focused on building international consensus following the oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz.

The two vessels - the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned Front Altair - were damaged on Thursday morning as they were leaving the Gulf of Oman, the second such incident in four weeks that sent Brent crude prices up and heightened tensions in the region.

Shanahan, asked later whether he was considering sending more US troops or military capabilities to the Middle East, said: "As you know we're always planning various contingencies."

But he then returned to the issue of building consensus.

"When you look at the situation, a Norwegian ship, a Japanese ship, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, 15 percent of the world's oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz," he said.

"So we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate. We also need to broaden our (international) support for this international situation," he added.
Tanker incident video

Shanahan said the Pentagon's role would include sharing intelligence, as the US military's Central Command did on Thursday by publicly releasing a grainy video it claimed showed Iran's military removing an unexploded mine from Kokuka Courageous, hours after the suspected attacks.

Iran said the video proved nothing and that Tehran was being made into a scapegoat.

"The more information that we can declassify, the more information we can share, we will. And that's our intent," Shanahan said.

The release of the black-and-white footage came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said US intelligence agencies had concluded that Iran was responsible for the attacks, without offering concrete evidence.

On Friday, in a TV interview on Fox News, Trump said, "Iran did do it".

"You know they did it because you saw the boat," Trump told the Fox and Friends show. "I guess one of the mines didn't explode and it's probably got essentially Iran written all over it."

But Yutaka Katada, owner of the Kokuka Courageous, cast doubt on part of the US account, telling reporters on Friday that the vessel's crew saw a "flying object" before a second blast on the boat.

Calling reports of a mine attack "false", he said: "The crew was saying it was hit by a flying object … To put a bomb at the side of the boat is not something we are considering."

For its part, Iran rejected the accusations as the United Nations, Russia and Qatar called for an international investigation into the reported attacks.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, said the US had "immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence".

The allegation "only makes it abundantly clear" that the US and its regional allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were moving to a "Plan B", Zarif said, which was to "sabotage diplomacy" as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Iran to defuse escalating US-Iran frictions.
Arab League caution

On Friday, the head of the Arab League called on the Iranians to "be careful and reverse course".

Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit noted, after meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at UN headquarters in New York, that there are conflicting reports about how Thursday's tanker incidents occurred.

"We believe that responsibilities need to be clearly defined," he said. "The facts will be revealed, I am sure, it's only a matter of time."

Aboul Gheit added "My call to my Iranian - and I call them Iranian brothers: Be careful and reverse course because you're pushing everybody towards a confrontation that no one would be safe if it happens."

The British government said it agreed with the US conclusion that Iran attacked the tankers.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that its own assessment concluded "it is almost certain that a branch of the Iranian military," the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, had attacked the tankers.

It said it also believed Iran was behind an attack last month on four tankers near the UAE port of Fujairah.

On May 12, days after Washington announced the military deployment, four oil tankers near the port were damaged in what the UAE called "sabotage attacks".

The US blamed Iran for the incidents, saying Iranian-made limpet mines were used in the attacks. Tehran also rejected these claims.

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Maduro, an Extraordinary Man

Nicolás Maduro is very far from being the dictator he is accused of by the "western" corporate octopi, media weapon of the fourth-generation war against Venezuela.

The expression has also been coined by some presidents with no shred of morals to judge the Venezuelan leader.

I know they lie because I have seen Maduro speak several times in Venezuela, at a meeting, or within his group of collaborators or at a dinner with the Chavista political-military Staff and a group of intellectuals and artists from several countries. The man I’ve seen is noble, modest, intelligent and eloquent forged the persuasion since his early years as a revolutionary activist and later union leader of Caracas Metro System, where he drove buses. He listens carefully, he is fraternal with his comrades and with the people, and very warm with the militants supporting Venezuela.

I’m sure anyone can think the same if they see him and observe carefully his speeches on television. I even made a test with two friends: a psychologist and another art critic, both academic with PhDs who don’t know Maduro in person and they have barely watched him in the news, politics is not among their priorities.

Of course, both are genuinely progressive and fully aware of the huge deceit the “media” throws at their audiences. I sent both the interview to Maduro on August 18th by the Venezuelan veteran journalist and revolutionary José Vicente Rangel. I asked my friends to watch it closely and with critical eye. They both agreed with few differences in the following: he is a good man and, besides his reach as a leader, it’s evident he cannot be a dictator.

I have no doubt that unprejudiced people who can watch his press conference three days later can say the same. I have taken these two appearances of the leader as an example for taking place at a decisive moment of his presidency and of the Bolivarian Revolution, in the turmoil of the work of the Constituent National Assembly (ANC for its acronym in Spanish), when contrary to the media version, we saw a winning leader, in full control of the situation, loaded with proposals and a revolutionary process capable of overcoming big losses, like the one suffered at the legislative elections of 2015, and stand up again proudly and put into practice at the exact moment such a risky initiative as the elections to the ANC.

The serenity, patience and confidence you see in Maduro in both documents, make the man greater who has just delivered an important defeat to the unconventional war against Venezuela lead by the United States and the far-rights. Their objective is to end the dangerous example the Bolivarian revolution is to the world. Not less important, to seize their oil and natural resources. Venezuela is at present the four scenarios where a world war can start if we can’t stop it on time with a great international mobilization.

Maduro intends to reestablish the dialogue with the opposition with the CELAC as background and he asks Pope Francisco that the Vatican resumes the mediation. The proposal is supported by the true spirit of Latin-Caribbean unity and integration which CELAC represents. Opposite to the servility shown by the OAS, an imperial creature. He speaks of economic, political, and moral recovery of the revolution as immediate objectives. The former baseball player and rocker and former chancellor remembers many times that Venezuela needs and wants peace but it’s well armed and equipped with a magnificent Russian system of antiaircraft defense. He assures that the electoral calendar will be met as the Constitution demands and he highlights that the election of governors will be in October and that all opposition parties candidates have already nominated. No honest man can deny that he is a democrat and a man of institutions.

Maduro already deserves greater respect and admiration for the single deed of having worthy and creatively led so far the direction of the revolution and the State passed onto him by the great Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan people.

Amilkal Labañino valdés / Cubasi Translation Staff

Angola Regains African Leadership in Oil Production

Angola has regained the African leadership in oil production, according to a report by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) the press highlights today.

According to OPEC's monthly production bulletin, Angola produced in January about 1,615,000 barrels, a daily decrease of 24,000, against 1,604,000 that Nigeria pumped, whose levels were reduced in 233,700 barrels a day.

Angola produced in 2016 about 1,708,000 barrels a day, a figure exceeding the level the country previously reached in the continent, which attracted 1,447,000 barrels a day, Jornal de Angola newspaper, with the largest distribution on the country, stated.

The decline in the oil production in Nigeria is linked to attacks to production facilities and pipelines by terrorist groups.

The Angolan sales to the Chinese market grew by 18 percent during the first seven months of 2016, to 923,200 barrels of oil a day, placing it third among suppliers, followed by Saudi Arabia and Russia.

  • Published in World

NAM Summit Ends with Vow to Strengthen Developing World

NAM rejected the economic blockade of Cuba, condemned Europe's policy on refugees, and supported Palestine and Puerto Rico in their struggle against occupation.

In the closing declaration of the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, released Sunday, member states committed to revitalizing the movement and urging the United Nations to reform towards a better inclusion of their countries in the Security Council.

ANALYSIS: 5 Things You Need to Know About the Non-Aligned Movement

“This document gathers the 17 previous summits,” said Venezuelan host and President Nicolas Maduro in his closing address. “Here is written the history of the struggle of humanity of the peoples from the (Global) South for their right to peace,” added Maduro, whose country took up the group's presidency on Saturday from Iran.

Maduro also announced that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC countries were "close" to reaching a deal aimed at stabilizing global oil markets.

Among the 21 points the document outlined, the members states committed to building more solidarity and launching new alliances, for instance with the BRICS states; and to work on promoting peace, eradicating poverty and addressing climate change on the world stage.

NAM also rejected the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, condemned Europe's policy on refugees, and expressed support for the people of Palestine and Puerto Rico in their struggle against occupation and for self-determination.

Speaking at the summit, which opened Tuesday, Cuban President Raul Castro warned that Venezuela was being targeted by a U.S. economic war aimed at toppling Maduro.

RELATED: Castro Demands End of Blockade at Non-Aligned Movement Meeting

"Venezuela is facing an onslaught ... that is against all of Latin America and the Caribbean, that is trying to re-impose and recolonize the politics, economy, culture and life of our countries," he said.

Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa said OPEC runs the risk of falling apart over differences on market strategy.

"Clearly OPEC has weakened and there is a danger of it disintegrating," Correa said, speaking on the sidelines of the summit.

Leaders from the 120-nation group gathered on the Caribbean island of Margarita, just off Venezuela's coast. According to Maduro, "this summit, we can say, has been a total success, a victory of Bolivarian diplomacy."

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New Oil Deposits Discovered in Northern Cuba

The Australian company MEO Australia Ltd, who entered the field of oil exploration in Cuba in late 2015 through an agreement with CUPET, has found light oil on the northern coast of Cuba.

According to the website Align Research, the first estimates put the oil at a depth of between 2,000 and 3,500 meters, with a potential for 8,200 million barrels.

The discovery came after drilling was down on what is known as block nine — a part of one of the 59 production areas in which Cuba divides its territory for oil exploration.

Zone nine is reportedly full of hydrocarbon, as it is located near Varadero, the largest producing area in the country, operated by Canadian Sherritt; and Motembo, the first commercial site in the history of the Caribbean country.

More seismic research will reportedly need to be done to accurately calculate the potential for oil extraction.

According to CiberCuba, the island produces 50 percent of the oil it consumes, but most of it is a poor quality with high sulfur content that needs to be combined with other lighter fuels.

In recent years, several foreign companies, including the Spanish Repsol IPS, have made attempts at prospecting in the deep waters of the island, but were unsuccessful.

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