ME tensions rise with strike on Saudi oil | Daily News

ME tensions rise with strike on Saudi oil

Oil prices soar after drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities.
Oil prices soar after drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities.

The drone attack on key oil installations in Saudi Arabia, reportedly by the Houthi rebel forces in Yemen has led to a major international conflict, which threatens armed confrontations in the Middle East.

The Saudi authorities and the US are stating that Iran, which supports the Houthi rebels, has been responsible to the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities, which has affected more than 5 million oil barrels a day, the equivalent of 5 per cent of global oil supply. It is significant that the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities, which caused heavy fires and much damage, has not led to any human casualties.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who went to Saudi Arabia, has called the attacks an “act of war”, but did not promise a military response, or provide intelligence that shows the attack was launched from inside Iran. Saudi authorities have produced debris from the attacks which show Iranian built parts, and said the attack was not by the Houthis, but by Iran.

President Trump has ordered new sanctions on Iran, but has not definitely stated that Iran was behind the Saudi oil attacks, while others in the US administration have pinned blame on Tehran.

Western allies and even Saudi Arabia have so far taken a more cautious approach, with the Saudis linking Tehran to the attack but not going as far as Pompeo to call it an “act of war” or say, that Iran itself launched the attack from within its territory. France and the United Nations are sending investigators to the kingdom and Japan has said there is “a high possibility” the Houthis are indeed responsible.

International opinion sees a major confusion in the US and reactions to the attack on the Saudi Aramco oil refinery – the largest in the country. The US supports Saudi Arabia led war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands, and affected large numbers of children, and is caught in confusion on US priorities in the Middle East.

Iran has been strong it its rejection of US and Saudi claims of its alleged responsibility for the attack, and sees it as a reaction by the Houthi rebels to the continuing attacks by Saudi Arabia and its allied forces on the Houthi controlled territory in Yemen. Iranian leaders have said that more such attacks from the Yemeni Houthis could be expected.

The attacks of Saudi oil facilities come in the midst of the major US-Iran confrontation over the US moving out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty among Iran and the US, UK, EU, Russia, China and Germany, and in the context of Iran stating it is moving to increase its nuclear production capabilities.

The current situation in the Middle East has also led to a failure of a possible meeting between President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly sessions in New York next month. This was a move strongly expected by President Trump after his recent meeting at the G7 Summit in France, when such a meeting as promoted by France.

Israel: Netanyahu fails

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is battling for political survival after failing to get a parliamentary majority in Israel’s repeated election this year.

His Likud party has gained just 35 seats in the 120 member Knesset, and will fail to get the 61 members in a coalition led by him. He faced a similar situation after the general election in April this year, which led to the fresh election this week.

The main rival party, the Blue and Whites, led by Benny Gantz a former armed forces chief, has a total of 36 seats, and is reportedly able to form a coalition government, which many expect to be a coalition of National Unity.

Netanyahu, the longest serving PM of Israel, also faces a major crisis with the legal authorities expected to begin questioning him and proceeding with legal action against him on alleged corruption charges. He was hopeful of getting enough seats for the Likud to form a coalition with pro-right extremist allies, and bring legislation to stop the inquiries into his alleged corruption.

The Blue and Whites, led by Benny Gantz, has said it may be willing to form a coalition with the Likud party, but not with Netanyahu’s leadership. A former supporter a Cabinet Minister of Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, is seen as the kingmaker in the new politics in Israel, with his refusal to support Jewish religious extremists whose support Netanyahu obtained in this election. He is willing to support a security government between the Blue and White Party and the Likud, which is expected to keep out Netanyahu.

Israeli politics is showing signs of moving away from the increasingly right-wing and largely anti-Palestinian policies of Netanyahu in recent years. The poll blow on Netanyahu is such that he will pull out of the UN General Assembly meeting next month, when political manoeuvering takes place at home.

UK – Supreme Court

The President of the UK Supreme Court, Lady Hale QC, draws the Supreme Court hearing into UK PM Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament to a close, saying the court's decision will be published “early next week”.

The Brexit crisis situation continues, with the focus this week moved to the UK Supreme Court hearing two appeals on lower court judgement on the prorogation of the House of Commons. These were the Scottish Circuit Court three-judge bench ruling that the prorogation was aimed at stymieing the parliamentary process, and the PM Boris Johnson had given wrong information to the Queen on the need for prorogation. The other was an appeal against a London Court order that prorogation was a political move and the court had no authority to move in that regard.

While the government’s lawyers supportive of PM Johnson’s prorogation move said it was strictly a political move, and that it did not involve the judicial process, the lawyers for the petitioners were very strong in their charges against the Conservative Government and PM Boris Johnson. One key statement made by a QC was that the “Mother of Parliaments was shut down by father of lies”.

On the final hearing day Ex-Conservative PM Sir John Major’s counsel said Parliament was suspended to stop MPs interfering with Brexit.

Summing up for the government, Lord Keen QC said that suspension of Parliament was a political matter, and that prorogation was “forbidden territory, which is a matter between the executive and Parliament”, and MPs “had the tools” to change the law if they did not like it. He said the petitioners are inviting the justices into forbidden territory and an ill-defined minefield; the courts are not properly equipped to deal with.

But Lord Pannick QC summed up his case against suspending Parliament said the scrutiny of MPs in the run-up to the Brexit deadline at the end of October was “of vital importance”, and that the length of the prorogation “was motivated, or at least strongly influenced” by Johnson's belief that Parliament was “a threat to the implementation of his policies”.

The Supreme Court judgement will be awaited by great interest due to its impact on the traditions of British democracy and the parliamentary process.

Afghanistan: Killings continue

The killings of militant and civilians keep climbing in Afghanistan, and 20 people have died after a truck packed with explosives was detonated by Taliban militants outside a hospital in southern Afghanistan, this Thursday.

Many of the victims in the attack in Qalat city were doctors and patients, according to local media reports. Later, officials said another 16 people, many of them civilians, had been killed in a US air strike aimed at Islamic State militants in the east.

Last month, at least 473 civilians were killed in the conflict, and civilians made up a fifth of all known casualties during the month of August.

Media analysts say that most people killed in the recent attacks were combatants - including more Taliban fighters than expected - but a fifth were civilians.

The current casualty toll is just the reality of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. Just more than a week ago, President Trump cancelled year-long peace negotiations between the Taliban and United States, although a return to talks is not ruled out.

Taliban representatives have now moved towards discussions with Russia, after the breakdown of talks with the US.

According to BBC, the Taliban have never been more powerful since 2001, but their fighters account for nearly half of all deaths. There may be a number of factors for this, including the fact the Taliban have been on the offensive during peace talks, and US-led forces have increased air strikes and night raids in response, killing many Taliban as well as civilians.

Hong Kong – Uncertain future

After more than 100 days of protest, turnout for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations appears to be declining, at least for the moment, due to systematic closures of the city’s subway system to restrict protest numbers and in part a natural drop after months of mobilization.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, will next week launch a new “Dialogue Office” to help resolve tensions between the government and protesters. This move is met with skepticism from democracy activists, who consider the move delayed and concerns about the Chinese situation.

In a significant move, Hong Kong's Jockey Club cancelled all races planned for last Wednesday (Sep. 18) after pro-democracy protesters said they would target the Happy Valley racecourse, where a horse part-owned by a pro-China lawmaker was due to run.

The government also said fireworks to mark Chinese National Day on October 1 had been called off. The Jockey Club said it has conducted a thorough risk assessment of the race meeting tonight and concluded that it should be cancelled in order to preserve the security and safety of people and horses.

The decision to call off fireworks on October1, - the Chinese National Day – is of much significance, as it is the important day of celebration for the Chinese Communist Party and marks the celebratory day for the Chinese Government.


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