The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Omar Al-Ubaydli: Trump’s Oil Tweet is About Mueller

Trump’s Oil Tweet is About Mueller

by Omar Al-Ubaydli*

What did Donald Trump mean when he said that oil prices are “artificially high”, and what motivated him to make this announcement? In fact, this is an act of self-preservation as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to look more menacing for the Trump camp.

Let’s start with content of the accusation. OPEC has a reputation for manipulating oil markets in its favor: apparently, by controlling around 40% of the world’s oil production, it oversees coordinated restrictions in its production, thereby realizing higher prices, to the benefit of oil producers.

This sensible perception is actually completely wrong, at least for the period 1980-2009, and most likely up until 2016. Jeff Colgan, a professor at Brown University, has demonstrated in excruciating detail that OPEC’s producers—with the exception of Saudi Arabia—behave identically to OPEC non-members, and that as a consequence, there is no evidence of actual coordinated activity by OPEC.

In fact, if we ignore the media hype, this is expected, since coordinating output cuts between countries that are geographically disparate, have wildly different production costs and fiscal needs, and in a market with volatile demand,is virtually impossible. In fact, coordinated cuts when you only control 40% of the market is commercial suicide, and the advent of shale oil makes it even more unwise.

Notably, Saudi Arabia has historically played a balancing role, by maintaining excess capacity that it brings online in case there is a severe disruption to another OPEC member, such as during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It does so to shield western countries from price spikes as part of its strategic relationship with the USA.

OPEC’s reputation, therefore, is just smoke and mirrors that plays to the interests of the entire oil community: exportersclaim influence over western economies, and importers have a willing scapegoat for any economic crisis.

In December 2016, something incredibly unexpected occurred, which is that OPEC actually managed to coordinate a cut in output, with the cooperation of a group of non-members, headlined by Russia. The catalyst was geo-politics: Russia saw an opportunity to develop its ties with Saudi Arabia, at a time when shale oil meant that US policymakers no longer needed Saudi Arabia’s assistance in preventing oil price spikes. Russia’s strategic ties with Iran also helped ensure conformity within OPEC that would otherwise have been intra-OPEC geopolitical conflicts. The measures successfully lead to an increase in oil prices, and the accord has been extended until the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, Trump’s election heralded a new, pro-oil stance by the White House. Barrack Obama was more of an environmentalist, preventing the Keystone Pipeline, as well as various internal pipeline projects requested by the shale oil community. As a businessman with little sympathy for environmentalists, Trump wasted no time in boosting the oil sector with approvals for the pipelines.

As an economic nationalist, Trump should favor high oil prices, since it means higher US oil production, more US oil sector jobs, and lower US imports, including US oil imports from the Middle East—a historic reason for US regional military intervention, which Trump is keen to diminish.Moreover, the US economy is booming, with no looming threat from oil prices.

Why, then, would he launch a broadside at OPEC when the organization is helping him achieve his policy goals? The reason is that Mueller’s investigation—which is transforming into a real threat to Trump’s presidency.

For the first year of Trump’s presidency, the command-in-chief was rhetorically quite pro-Russian, personally complimenting Vladimir Putin, and claiming the need for greater cooperation, in spite the hostile stance by democrats, republicans, the state department, and the military establishment toward Russia.

However last month, as the US government began considering military action against the Syrian government, Trump began talking very negatively about Russia, aligning himself with the rest of the key players in American politics.

One of the key reasons for this turnaround, most likely, was the steam gathering in Mueller’s investigation. Trump was initially confident that any investigation of Russian collusion would yield nothing, and that any threat could be eliminated by firing people like former FBI director, James Comey, and, if need be, Mueller.

However, Trump has now surmised that his countermeasures need to be aided by a more overt anti-Russia stance. The declaration by House Leader Paul Ryan that he will give up his seat at the expiration of his term is an indication that republicans fear the worse from the investigation.

Returning to OPEC, Trump has correctly inferred that OPEC’s recent success is driven by Saudi Arabia deepening its geo-strategic ties to Russia, to the benefit of both sides. Therefore, as part of his newfound affinity for anti-Russian rhetoric—and as a way of attacking Russian interests—Trump is attacking OPEC’s accord with Russia. He still wants high prices to boost the US oil sector, and to wean America off Middle Eastern oil imports, but he also wants to improve his anti-Russian credentials, in advance of his showdown with Mueller. This saga is heading toward a gripping conclusion.

Omar Al-Ubaydli
@omareconomics
Researcher at Derasat, Bahrain Center for Strategic, International, & Energy Studies

* The views expressed above are the authors own

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 21, 2018 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED Al-Akhbar: Lebanon already buys power from Syria but plans are in the works to dramatically scale up

The Mideastwire Blog

Translated by our Mideastwire.com today, in part below:

“…However, the Lebanese network cannot currently handle this quantity. There’s a need to prepare the right infrastructure, which calls for reverting to the option of the ships. However, the main thing is that 350 megawatts can reach Lebanon within thirty minutes and through an agreement that can be signed by the Electricité du Liban institution rather than the government. Moreover, this quantity could be increased by 150 to 200 megawatts within only six weeks thus reaching a total of 500 to 550 megawatts that Lebanon can benefit from in a matter of two months.

https://www.al-akhbar.com/Politics/247994/%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%B6-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D9%83%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

TRANSLATED Al-Akhbar: Lebanon already buys power from Syria but plans are in the works to dramatically scale up

Translated by our Mideastwire.com today, in part below:

“…However, the Lebanese network cannot currently handle this quantity. There’s a need to prepare the right infrastructure, which calls for reverting to the option of the ships. However, the main thing is that 350 megawatts can reach Lebanon within thirty minutes and through an agreement that can be signed by the Electricité du Liban institution rather than the government. Moreover, this quantity could be increased by 150 to 200 megawatts within only six weeks thus reaching a total of 500 to 550 megawatts that Lebanon can benefit from in a matter of two months.

https://www.al-akhbar.com/Politics/247994/%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%B6-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D9%83%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D

Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Registration Now Open: The Third Yemen Exchange, June 26-July 1, Hosted In Beirut, Lebanon

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The Exchange is an effort to promote professional and academic enrichment through a variety of small group, direct engagement conferences in the Middle East and North Africa.

During their stay, typically lasting five days to one week, participants from around the world listen to and question leading intellectuals, activists and politicians representing an array of different points of view in a specific country.

The first Exchange was launched in June 2008 in Beirut, Lebanon. Now, ten years on, more than 750 people from 51 different countries have attended 35 different Exchanges in the region.

Crucially, all of our programs are funded on the basis of fees paid by the participants themselves: There is no government, private or non-profit support, an aspect that we believe provides a relatively neutral platform for dialogue and understanding.

WHO SHOULD REGISTER:
— Foreign diplomats;
— NGO practitioners;
— Researchers, analysts and journalists;
— Academics working on the region.

UPCOMING EXCHANGES:
June 17-June 24, The Eleventh Tunis Exchange (Final Registration Deadline May 15)
June 26-July 1, The Third Yemen Exchange (Deadline I May 20)
**************************************************
The Third Yemen Exchange: 

An Intensive Course on Yemen
June 26-July 1, 2018/Deadline I, May 20

The Yemen Exchange is an intensive course offered by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies (SCSS) in partnership with Mideastwire.com. Held in Beirut, Lebanon, the course is designed to provide unique access to information and analysis on Yemen for both those seeking to develop a working background on the country and to those already well versed in Yemeni dynamics.

During the six-day program participants from around the world will listen and engage with Yemeni politicians, bureaucrats, civil society actors, tribal figures, business leaders, academics and various Yemen experts to gain insights and in depth knowledge on the country from a wide range of perspectives. This comprehensive course covers Yemeni socio-political dynamics, internal divisions within various parties to the war and possible Southern secession, military developments on the ground and the regional proxy struggle, local, regional and international diplomatic efforts, the humanitarian crisis and response, economic and state collapse, the rise of the war economy, the status of energy exports and the country’s port facilities, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other extremist groups, human rights and war crimes, as well as historical, archeological and cultural overviews.

For a full overview of the invited speakers as well as the six day schedule, visit:
http://sanaacenter.org/event/the-third-yemen-exchange

**********
Program Format:

The Third Yemen Exchange will be held over the six days at the conference room of Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Beirut, from 9am until approximately 4:30pm, June 26-July 1. In order to promote small group dynamics, the number of participants will be capped at 25 persons. Sessions themselves will be conducted on an individual rather than a panel basis for all speakers and will allow ample opportunity for question time (translation into English will be provided when necessary). All sessions will also be held under the Chatham House rule, although we customarily work with our speakers to approve any quotes/references that participants may need for their own work.

Participation Costs:

Participation Fee: $1000

Accommodation: $120 for a single room per night at the five star Crowne Plaza Beirut Hotel (our conference venue) under our group booking with breakfast and taxes included. Shared rooms are also available (we will arrange for sharing with other participants) and are priced at $65 per participant. Note that participants are free to secure their own accommodation/booking.

Airfare: $400, approximately from the European Union.

Apply Now: Request an application via info@thebeirutexchange.com
About the Co-Directors:

Farea Al-Muslimi is chairman and co-founder of Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies and a non-resident fellow at both the Carnegie Middle East Center and Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. In August 2016, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon appointed Al-Muslimi to the Advisory Group of Experts for Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, a study mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2250 to examine the positive contribution of youth to peace processes and conflict resolution and effective responses at local, national, regional and international levels. Al-Muslimi’s writings and analysis on Yemen and the wider region have been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, New York Times, The Independent, The Guardian, Al-Hayyat, As-Safir, Al-Monitor, as well as several other publications. In 2013, Foreign Policy named him to its list of Top 100 Global Thinkers, and in 2014 The Guardian named Al-Muslimi to its Top 30 under 30 list of young leaders in digital media around the world.

Adam Baron is a co-founder of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies as well as a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Baron is also a regular commentator on Yemeni affairs for media outlets including Al-Jazeera English, CNN, Foreign Policy and the BBC. Between 2011 and 2014, he was the Yemen correspondent for The Economist, the Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy Newspapers. He holds a bachelor of arts in Religion and Arab Studies from Williams College and a Masters Degree in International Peace and Security from the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London.

Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 15, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Deadline Approaching: Register For The 11th Tunis Exchange & Meet Key Leaders Across Tunisia, June 17-June 24

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“The best immersion course on a country in transition I’ve seen.”
— Professor Alfred Stepan, Tunis ’17

“Their time-tested technique and tactful diplomacy enable them to achieve an environment conducive to attention, dialogue and reflection.”
— Jalel Harchaoui, Paris 8 University, Libya ’17

The Exchange is an effort to promote professional and academic enrichment through a variety of small group, direct engagement conferences in the Middle East and North Africa. During their stay, typically lasting five days to one week, participants from around the world listen to and question leading intellectuals, activists and politicians representing an array of different points of view in a specific country.

The first Exchange was launched in June 2008 in Beirut, Lebanon. Now, ten years on, more than 750 people from 51 different countries have attended 35 different Exchanges in the region.

Crucially, all of our programs are funded on the basis of fees paid by the participants themselves: There is no government, private or non-profit support, an aspect that we believe provides a relatively neutral platform for dialogue and understanding.

WHO SHOULD REGISTER:
— Foreign diplomats;
— NGO practitioners;
— Researchers, analysts and journalists;
— Academics working on the region.

UPCOMING EXCHANGE: June 17-24 The 11th Tunis Exchange

The Eleventh Tunis Exchange Conference June 17-24 will engage participants from around the world in a multifaceted discussion of some of the key issues facing Tunisia and the wider region. Participants will have the opportunity to meet, listen and engage leading social, political, religious and economic leaders from across the spectrum in Tunisia, as well as in the interior regions. For last Summer’s Tunis Exchange schedule (which did not include travel outside of Tunis) as well as more information, visit www.thebeirutexchange.com.

Request a registration form via: info@thebeirutexchange.com.
**********************************************************************

The 11th Tunis Exchange Politics Conference @ Downtown Tunis
June 17-June 24, 2018

* Application Deadline I April 15/Deadline II May 15, 2018
* 20 slots only/Rolling acceptance
* Registration form via info@thebeirutexchange.com
The Eleventh Tunis Exchange June 17-24 will engage participants from around the world in a multifaceted discussion of some of the key issues facing Tunisia and the wider region. The Tunis Exchange program specifically rests on two tracks this Summer:
Professional & Academic – Participants will attend a series of lectures led by prominent academics, analysts and activists from Tunisia and the wider region. Themes will include, among others:
– The history and internal transformations of Ennahda, including organizational and ideological evolution since the revolution;
– The post-revolutionary evolution of the UGTT, Tunisia’s powerful labor union, and its role in politics (including implications of its role as primary mediator in the National Dialogue of late 2013);
– The composition, platforms of, and alliances between major parties (including Jebha Chaabia, Nidaa Tounes and Afeq Tounes, among others);
– The state of the Tunisian economy, including regional inequalities, budget transparency and decentralization, etc.;
– Security sector reform and the response to terrorism;
– Institutional and legislative reform needs following the passage of Tunisia’s constitution, focusing particularly on reform of the Ministry of Interior (security sector) and Ministry of Justice (judicial sector), Tunisia’s two most problematic ministries;
– Human rights in the new Tunisia (addressing issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, status of women, use of torture and the terrorism debate);
– Salafism, its composition (political, quietist, jihadi) in Tunisia and its relationship to and implications for party politics, stability, and governance moving forward;
– Taking stock of what Tunisia has done regarding transitional justice, what steps are planned to realize the recently passed transitional justice law, and what more needs to be done;
– The role of the media and civil society organizations;
– Youth politics and activism within and outside formal party structure;
– The scope and underlying causes of recent protest movements.
Dialogue with Leaders – Participants will have the opportunity to meet, listen and engage leading social, political, religious and economic leaders from across the spectrum in Tunis, Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa and Sfax
**********
THE COMPLETED SCHEDULE OF LAST SUMMER’S TUNIS EXCHANGE:
NOTE: Accepted applicants will receive the full list of confirmed speakers one month prior to the opening of the Exchange, as well as readings pertinent to the sessions.
Saturday, July 1 (Exceptionally with Human Rights Watch)
9:00AM – Welcome, Introductions and House Rules
Nicholas Noe, Mideastwire.com and Monica Marks, Oxford University
9:30AM – Human Rights in Egypt and the Maghreb since the Arab Revolts of 2011
Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch
10:30AM – The evolution of Human Rights in Egypt and the Maghreb over three decades
Eric Goldstein, HRW
11:45AM – Tunisia, HRW Staff
1:15PM – LUNCH
2:30PM – Libya, HRW Staff
4:15PM – Social Media & Human Rights in North Africa, HRW Staff
Sunday, July 2 (Exceptionally with Human Rights Watch)
9:30AM – Womens’ Rights in North Africa, HRW Staff
11:15AM – Egypt, HRW Staff
12:45PM – LUNCH
2:00PM – Algeria, HRW Staff
3:45PM – Morocco, HRW Staff
6:00PM – Michael Ayari, The International Crisis Group
Monday, July 3
9:30AM – Monica Marks, Oxford University
12:00PM – LUNCH
1:00PM – Huda Mzioudet, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
2:30PM – Amine Ghali, Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center
6:00 PM – Farah Hached, Labo Démocratique
7:30 PM – Hamza Abidi and Abdo Slim, Activists
Tuesday, July 4
9:30AM – Nicolas Kaczorowski, IFES
10:30AM – Lubna Jribi, SOLIDAR
11:30AM – Salaheddine Jourchi, Co-founder An-Nahdha
1:00PM – Meherzia Laabidi, An-Nahdha
2:30PM – LUNCH
4:00PM – Gilbert Naccache, Author
5:30PM – Tarek Kahlaoui, Al-Irada
Wednesday, July 5
9:00AM – Khedija Arfaoui, Activist & Jane D. Tchaicha, Bentley College
10:30AM – Ahlem Belhaj, Association for Democratic Women/UGTT
12:00PM – Lotfi Zeitoun, An-Nahdha
1:00PM – Rached Ghannouchi, Co-Founder, An-Nahdha
2:00PM – LUNCH
3:00PM – Mohamed Ghariani, Ex-RCD
4:30PM – Faouzi Elloumi, Nidaa Tounes
6:00PM – Taoufik Bou Aoun, DG, PM Office for Countering Violent Extremism
7:30PM – Houda Slim, MP, Machroua Tunis
Thursday, July 6
9:30AM – Zied Boussen, Activist
10:30AM – Kacem Afaya, Ex-UGTT
12:30PM – Salwa Gantri, ICTJ
1:30PM – LUNCH
2:30PM – Chafik Sarsar, President, ISIE
3:30PM – Yassine Brahim, President, Afeq Tunis
5:00PM – Mohsen Marzouk, President, Machroua Tunis
6:30PM – Noomane Fehri, BIAT Labs and Former Minister of Information
Friday, July 7
9:30AM – Mohamed Khouja, Founder, Jabhat Al-Islah
11:00AM – The Truth and Dignity Commission
1:00PM – LUNCH
2:00PM – Moncef Marzouki, Former President, Tunisia and Leader, Al-Irada
3:30PM – Noureddine Lajmi, President, HAICA
5:00PM – Achraf Aouadi, I-Watch
6:00PM – Sami Ben Gharbia, Co-Founder, Nawaat
Saturday, July 8
9:30AM – Salem Ayari, Union of Unemployed Graduates
11:00AM – Adnan Hajji, MP, Redeyef
12:00PM – Group Discussion
1:30PM – Steven Abdelatif, The Maison Tunis/YUKA
3:00PM – END
*********
Program Format:
The Tunis Exchange will open at the Novotel/IBIS Hotel with an orientation and security briefing at 7pm on Sunday, June 17. On June 21 at 6pm, the group will travel south for two days of meetings in the interior regions. We will return in the evening on Saturday, June 23 and begin meetings at Novotel/IBIS the next morning, June 24, at 9am. The Exchange will close by 2pm on June 24. In order to promote small group dynamics, the number of participants will be capped at 20. Sessions themselves will be conducted on an individual rather than a panel basis for all speakers and will generally allow ample opportunity for question time (consecutive translation into English will be provided when necessary). All sessions will also be held under the Chatham House rule, although we customarily work with our speakers to approve any quotes/references that participants may need for their own work.
Costs:
Participation Fee – $900; Note that participation fee discounts are available for participants who wish to attend multiple Exchanges. For more information, please email us here. Furthermore, all our programs are funded on the basis of fees paid by the participants themselves: There is no government, private or non-profit support, an aspect that we believe provides a relatively neutral platform for dialogue and understanding.
Accommodation – $60 per night in a shared double room at the Novotel Hotel (breakfast and taxes are included; we will arrange for sharing under our group booking). Alternative accommodation, including in a single room at IBIS (approximately $85 per night), is available upon request. Students are also welcome to arrange for their own housing.
Airfare – $300, approximate from the European Union.
About the Co-Directors:
Monica Marks is a Rhodes Scholar and PhD Candidate at Oxford University. Her work, which focuses on politics, institutional reform, and Islamist movements in Tunisia and Turkey, has appeared in peer-reviewed books and journals, news outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and The Washington Post, and for think tanks including the Carnegie Endowment, the Brookings Institute, and The Century Foundation.
Safa Belghith is an International Relations graduate from the Higher Institute of Human Sciences at Al-Manar University where the focus of her research thesis is Media and Politics. She also has a degree in English Linguistics, Literature and Civilization from the University of Manouba. She works as a freelance journalist and research consultant on issues related to Tunisian politics and women’s rights.
Request a registration form via: info@thebeirutexchange.com

Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 8, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Key change in Hezbollah’s trajectory: To strongly involve itself in domestic policy problems going forward

This is indeed a major shift, one predicated by the 2005 turn, under pressure, which saw the first minister of government by Hezbollah. Despite Safiedinne’s recent talk which called the Lebanese system fatally corrupt and broken, the Party seems to be turning directly into the policy problems of Lebanon. Translated in part by our Mideastwire.com via Al-Akhbar:

“..Based on the last speech, and because it was delivered by the Party’s secretary general, leaping beyond these statements is no longer possible and the Party is now bracing to strongly step in as an essential side at the level of the vital economic files that had so far remained un-tackled. The Party can no longer afford to just sit and watch the economic governmental plans that it had overlooked ever since it stepped into the parliament in the early 1990s and up until this day… It seems that the “financial and economic” grace period is over…”

https://www.al-akhbar.com/Politics/246856/%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87-%D9%8A%D8%BA%D9%8A-%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%84%D8%A9-%

 

Written by nickbiddlenoe

March 23, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Al Akhbar’s Ibrahim Al-Amin says war is near

Translated today by our Mideastwire.com. In part, he wrote:  “But what has changed and what has made things even more complicated? Actually, one can say today that the USA along with France, Britain , Israel and regional countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia or minor players like Qatar and Jordan now have to work by themselves to try and achieve a success or a victory… The things we are hearing today such as threats of massive, imminent military operations in Syria, reflect the fact that our enemy has one of two choices: Either to engage directly in the battle or to pull out and wait for its ominous fate. And because we know our enemies very well, the more logical possibility is that the enemy will revert to the first option…”

http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/292606

Written by nickbiddlenoe

March 19, 2018 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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