War Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

A Palestinian family warm up outside their makeshift house during a power cut in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip in 2017. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, May 7, 2019, that it will send $480 million to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after a cease-fire deal ended the deadliest fighting between Israel and Palestinian factions since a 2014 war.

KHALIL HAMRA/AP

UN envoy to Mideast warns of war between Israel, Hamas

By FARES AKRAM | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: May 13, 2019

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The U.N. envoy to the Mideast said Monday that the recent ceasefire between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel was the „last chance“ to prevent an all-out conflict. A Qatari envoy arrived the same day in the Palestinian enclave with cash to help cement the truce, which halted the worst round of fighting between the two sides in years.

After a spate of violence killed 25 Palestinians, including 15 civilians, as well as four Israeli civilians earlier this month, Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. diplomat, said he hopes all parties see that „the risk of war remains imminent.“

Mladenov, inaugurating a solar power plant for a Gaza hospital, said the parties must „consolidate the understandings“ of the cease-fire. He said „the next escalation is going to be probably the last one“ before the sides descend into a full-fledged war.

The latest bout of fighting was the worst since a deadly and destructive war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. It ended with a cease-fire brokered by Egypt and helped by the U.N. and Qatar.

The most recent ceasefire deal promises to let fuel and humanitarian aid into Gaza, as well as ease the movement of people from the blockaded territory. Among its terms is a program to create jobs for thousands of graduates. Unemployment in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the militant Hamas group seized power 12 years ago, is over 50%.

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi arrived in Gaza with a $30 million cash infusion meant for tens of thousands of needy families as part of the cease-fire understandings. Hours later, beneficiaries lined up outside post offices to cash the $100 checks.

Mohammed Abu Eida, 30, stood in the queue, a pair of crutches propping him up as he recovers from an injury. „We want them to lift the siege so we can work. I have rent for my home and I’m married and have a daughter; what is $100? It’s insufficient.“

The oil-rich Persian Gulf country stepped up its financial support to Gaza last year in order to defuse tensions that have mounted and, in several cases, erupted into cross-border fighting, after Hamas launched weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel perimeter fence. Qatar had previously provided millions of dollars for Hamas government salaries, but, after Israeli protestations over funds going to the militant group, the money now goes to relief operations.

Since 2012, Qatar has financed over $750 million in housing, infrastructure projects and relief operations in the Gaza Strip. Though Doha doesn’t pay directly to Hamas, which the United States and the European Union classify as a terrorist organization, the cash infusions relieve Hamas from having to fund such vital projects.

Last week, Qatar pledged another payment of $480 million to the Palestinians, but this time shifted most of it — $300 million — to Hamas‘ rival in the West Bank: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party-run Palestinian Authority. This support for Abbas’s government, which is also engulfed in a severe financial crisis, situates Qatar as a welcome broker in both Gaza and Ramallah for reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, has warned that food supplies for more than half of Gaza’s population „will be severely challenged“ if the agency doesn’t get at least $60m in additional funding by June.

The Sixth Seal: A Stack of Cards (Revelation 6:12)

Experts Warn NYC Could Fall Like ‚House of Cards‘ With 5.0 Earthquake

A 3-D rendering of a destroyed NYC. (Pavel Chagochkin/Dreamstime.com)

By Mike Dorstewitz    |   Wednesday, 04 April 2018 06:30 PM

A magnitude-5.0 earthquake in New York City would cause an estimated $39 billion in damage after buildings topple like a „house of cards,“ according to the Daily Mail.

And the city is overdue for a quake of that size, seismologists say. The last one was in 1884 and they occur about every 100 years.

An estimated 30 million tons of debris would litter the streets after a 5.0 earthquake in NYC , and anything bigger than that would almost certainly collapse buildings and cause loss of life to the city’s 8.5 million residents.

„The problem here comes from many subtle faults,“ said Lynn Skyes, lead author of a study by seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Daily News reported. „We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.“

New York City is riddled with fault lines. The largest runs down 125th Street, extending from New Jersey to the East River. The Dyckman Street Fault runs from Inwood to Morris Heights in the Bronx. The Mosholu Parkway Fault line runs a bit farther north. The East River Fault is an especially long one, running south, skirting Central Park’s west side then heading to the East River when it hits 32nd Street.

New York’s main problem isn’t the magnitude of earthquakes, it’s how the city is built.

„Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,“ New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation wrote on its website.

Iran Threatens the Strait of Hormuz

UAE says 4 ships targeted by ‘sabotage’ off its coast

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates said Sunday that four commercial ships off its eastern coast “were subjected to sabotage operations,” just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at a nearby Emirati port.

Emirati officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible. However, the reported incident comes as the U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.

Tensions have risen in the year since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

The statement from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah. It said it was investigating the incident “in cooperation with local and international bodies.” It said there were “no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels” and “no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel.”

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, did not immediately offer comment on the incident. Emirati officials declined to elaborate while their investigation is ongoing.

Earlier Sunday, Lebanon’s pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting “Gulf sources,” falsely reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah’s port. State and semi-official media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved in the incident.

The Associated Press, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the report about explosions at the port to be unsubstantiated.

Fujairah’s port is located about 140 kilometers (85 miles) from the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all oil at sea is traded. The facility handles oil for bunkering and shipping, as well as general and bulk cargo. It is seen as strategically located, serving shipping routes in the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and Africa.

The reported sabotage incident comes after the U.S. Maritime Administration warned Thursday that Iran could target commercial sea traffic.

“Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz,” the warning read. “Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf.”

It’s unclear if that is the same perceived threat that prompted the White House to order the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region on May 4.

___

Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

Iran Will Not Yield to Babylon the Great

The entrance to the Ali Qapu, the royal palace, in Isfahan, IranGhaith Abdul-Ahad / Getty

Trump’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ Won’t Make Iran Yield

The one thing Tehran would find more intolerable than the crushing impact of sanctions is raising the white flag because of them.

Ali Vaez6:00 AM ET

Director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group

A magnificent fresco adorns the main pavilion of the royal palace in the Iranian city of Isfahan, depicting the 16th-century Battle of Chaldiran, fought between the Turkish-Ottoman and Persian-Safavid empires. The fresco appears to show the Persian army victorious, having crushed its Turkish adversary. The truth is that Chaldiran marked a decisive victory for the Ottomans, who went on to annex eastern Anatolia and northern Iraq. But what the self-serving historical distortion suggests is not shame of defeat but pride in the heroic valor with which the Iranians resisted a foe that outnumbered them and, unlike them, possessed heavy artillery. Donald Trump’s administration, which has made bringing Iranians to their knees the cornerstone of its Mideast policy half a millennium later, should draw a lesson from the battle and the way the Persians digested defeat.

It has been one year since President Trump reneged on the 2015 nuclear deal that rolled back Iran’s nuclear activities and placed them under the most rigorous international inspection regime ever implemented anywhere. Then came one of the most draconian sanctions regimes ever imposed by Washington on any adversary. So far, the U.S. Treasury has blacklisted nearly 1,000 Iranian entities and individuals, targeting nearly all sectors of Iran’s economy.

There can be little doubt that the administration’s “maximum pressure” policy is inflicting considerable economic harm on Iran. Economic growth that followed the lifting of sanctions in 2016 has given way to an inflationary recession. The Iranian currency has lost two-thirds of its value, as oil exports have dropped by more than half and will likely fall further still. Although food and medicine are exempt from sanctions, lack of access to the global financial system is giving rise to a humanitarian crisis. Some families have not been able to eat meat for months and are suffering from shortages of specialized medicine.

To date, however, there is no sign that either Iran’s regional policies are shifting or its leaders are willing to come back to the negotiating table and submit to the Trump administration’s demands. Nor is there any hint that economic hardship has triggered popular unrest of a magnitude that would threaten the regime’s survival. In the absence of any visible shift in Tehran’s political calculus, Washington is presenting the sanctions’ impact by no metric other than their quantity and severity.

There appears to be a belief among U.S. policy makers, almost congealed into doctrine, that Iran will cave to nothing less than massive pressure, a point it clearly has not reached. With U.S. elections at the end of next year, the administration is therefore responding to Iran’s refusal to concede defeat by doubling down, and it’s going about it in a hurry. It has resorted to the unprecedented steps of designating a state entity, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a “foreign terrorist organization,” and of trying to push Iran’s oil exports to zero almost overnight.

This policy is unlikely to succeed for three main reasons.

First and most important: The one thing Tehran would find more intolerable than the crushing impact of sanctions is raising the white flag because of them. Convinced that Trump’s national-security team is bent on toppling the Islamic Republic, the Iranian leadership views economic sanctions as just one in a range of measures designed to destabilize it. Its counterstrategy can be summed up in two words: Resist and survive. The mere act of survival would constitute victory, however pyrrhic.

Tehran believes it has history on its side. Neither besiegement nor prolonged economic suffering is new to Iran’s rulers or its people. They have previously witnessed nearly half of the country’s oil revenue evaporate during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, again during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, and a third time as a result of the European oil embargo and U.S. sanctions in 2012. They know how to get around sanctions and keep state and society afloat.

Second, Tehran feels compelled to prove to U.S. policy makers the bankruptcy of their belief that severe pressure can force Tehran to yield. Iran may have sued for compromise when it faced potential existential threats in the past, but strategic gain outweighed the cost each time. In 1988, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini reluctantly declared that he would “drink from the poison chalice,” agreeing to a cease-fire with Iraq. But when the guns fell silent, after having suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties, Iran had managed to consolidate the young republic’s rule without losing an inch of territory. A similar logic applied in 2003, when after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and, separately, the exposure of Iran’s secret nuclear activities, Tehran pushed the pause button on the nuclear program, lest it become the next target for regime change, and proposed a grand bargain to Washington. Nothing came of what was essentially an invitation to dialogue, in part because the Bush administration’s Iraq adventure proved a strategic disaster.

And third, if past is prologue, Iran will not negotiate with Washington unless it knows it has a relatively strong hand. As Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei put it, when Iran entered into serious (but then still secret) negotiations with the United States in 2012, it had accumulated significant leverage, in the form of thousands of nuclear centrifuges, tons of low-enriched uranium, bunkered uranium-enrichment facilities, and a nearly completed heavy-water reactor.

President Barack Obama took two additional steps that persuaded Iran to talk and ultimately reach a deal: He took regime change off the table and openly declared that Iran, in principle, would be allowed to enrich uranium on its own soil. So if coercive diplomacy was a factor in bringing Iran to the table, it was not the only, and perhaps not even the principal, one. Iran had built up leverage that it could trade against the lifting of sanctions, and it was offered a realistic way forward. Today the Iranian leadership sees nothing of the sort. That is why it rolled back some of its commitments this week and issued an ultimatum to the deal’s remaining parties that either they step up to salvage the deal or it would step aside from its commitments.

These factors suggest that whatever the benefits, great risks are built into Trump’s maximum-pressure campaign. For one thing, it increases the threat of a nuclear escalation: If Iran reneges on its obligations under the nuclear deal, the United States and Israel will respond by targeting Iran’s resurgent nuclear program, and Iran might direct its allies in the region to target Western assets and personnel.

But even without such a nightmare scenario, the Trump administration’s approach is self-defeating in the long term. The sanctions will reduce Iran’s pro-Western middle class to tatters at a time when the country stands in front of a major transition to a post-1979 leadership. Regime hard-liners, meanwhile, stand to benefit financially from sanctions through their control of the black market and politically through their control of a repressive apparatus to put down dissent. The net effect is a country with its economy in ruins but its regime intact—a political victory snatched from the jaws of economic defeat.

Sanctions, the U.S. travel ban, and a lack of sensitivity to Iranians’ sense of dignity could combine to harden the perception that U.S. policy is indiscriminate and implacable. This is a formula for perpetuating enmity between the two countries for another generation.

Trump and his closest advisers may discover that history will not bend to their will. Rather than trying to achieve the unattainable goal of Iran’s surrender, they should act to prevent another costly U.S. war of choice. This would require stepping back from maximalist demands, and using sanctions as a scalpel, not a chainsaw. In practice, that would mean lifting sanctions gradually and conditionally. The question is whether Trump can find his way out of the escalating confrontation, toward win-win negotiations.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Ali Vaez is the director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group.

Save the Oil and the Wine (Revelation 6:6)

SAUDI ARABIA SAYS TANKER ATTACK THREATENS WORLD OIL SUPPLY

By David Brennan On 5/13/19 at 7:01 AM EDT

This file photo shows a tanker at the oil terminal of Fujairah, UAE, during the inauguration ceremony of a dock for supertankers on September 21, 2016. As regional tensions continued to rise between the U.S., its allies and Iran, two tankers were damaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates to the east of the emirate of Fujairah, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation reported May 12.

PHOTO: KARIM SAHIB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Saudi Arabia warned that sabotage operations against two of its oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates could threaten the supply of oil to consumers all over the world.

As regional tensions continued to rise between the U.S., its allies and Iran, two tankers were damaged off the coast of the UAE to the east of the emirate of Fujairah, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation reported Sunday.

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the two tankers were targeted in a “sabotage attack” and sustained “significant damage to the structures.” One of the ships was en route to a Saudi port to be loaded with crude oil to be sent to the U.S., al-Falih said. “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill,” he added.

Al-Falih claimed the attack was designed to “undermine the freedom of maritime navigation, and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world,” CNN reported.

The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry released a statement via the Saudi Press Agency, describing the incident as a “criminal act” that „poses a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime traffic, which reflects negatively on regional and international peace and security.“ The ministry also expressed Saudi Arabia’s support of the UAE „in all measures taken to safeguard its security and interests.“

UAE officials said Sunday that four boats had been targeted in total, The Associated Press reported, though the officials did not elaborate or name any suspects. The UAE denied earlier reports from Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen satellite channel that seven oil tankers had been hit by an explosion in the Fujairah port on Sunday morning. The nation’s official Emirates News Agency stated, “The operations at the port are going as normal.”

The alleged sabotage came soon after the U.S. warned that Iran and its proxies could be planning to target maritime traffic in the region in response to escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran. Last week, National Security Adviser John Bolton said an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers would be sent to the region as a warning to Iran not to threaten the interests of the U.S. or its allies.

Following Sunday’s reports, the U.S. Maritime Administration warned ships to exercise caution when traveling past Fujairah. The organization noted that the sabotage reports remain unconfirmed.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the apparent sabotage but denied any involvement.

Spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said on Monday that the security of regional shipping and maritime transport was of great importance and called the developments “alarming and regrettable.” According to the state-run IRNA news agency, Mousavi also warned against any “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” or “adventurism by foreigners” to undermine local stability.

Fujairah lies off the Strait of Hormuz—a vital waterway connecting the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea. The route is key to the global oil industry, with around 20 percent of all oil traded worldwide moving through the channel, CNN noted. At its narrowest point, the Strait is only 30 miles wide.

China’s Great Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Visitors walk past China’s second nuclear missile on display as they visit the Military Museum in Beijing / Getty

China’s Great Nuclear Wall

Aaron Kliegman

When it comes to nuclear arms control, China is great at playing hard to get. Beijing is the elusive beauty, a difficult but attractive target for those who seek nuclear disarmament. Powerful yet mysterious, shrouding its nuclear program in a haze of opacity, the Chinese government never actually gives its pursuers what they want. And China knows that only makes them more interested. Indeed, Beijing leads on its suitors with seductive promises of reducing its arsenal of nuclear weapons, only to demand more in return from other states before taking any steps. And then the cycle begins anew, with no fewer nuclear weapons in China.

To illustrate the point, go back to June 1982, when the United Nations General Assembly held a second special session on disarmament. At the gathering, the late Huang Hua, then China’s foreign minister, presented a concrete proposal: if the United States and the Soviet Union halted the testing, improving, or manufacturing of nuclear weapons and reduced their arsenals by 50 percent, the Chinese government would be ready „to join all other nuclear states in undertaking to stop the development and production of nuclear weapons, and to further reduce and ultimately destroy them altogether.“ Just six years later, however, as the United States and the Soviet Union were drafting the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I, which significantly reduced each country’s nuclear arsenal, China changed its standard for joining arms-control talks. The 50-percent threshold was just a start; Moscow and Washington also had to make further „drastic reductions“ in their arsenals. Then, in 1995, after Moscow and Washington signed START I and START II, Beijing changed its standard yet again. China would not, according to nuclear expert Brad Roberts, consider disarmament until the Americans and Russians „reduced their arsenals far beyond START II numbers, abandoned tactical nuclear weapons, abandoned ballistic missile defense, and agreed to joint no-first-use pledge,“ under which they would vow never to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. No matter the circumstance, China was simply not interested in nuclear arms control.

This trend continued throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, with the United States continuously trying—and failing—to foster dialogue with China over nuclear weapons. China has also refused to be transparent about its nuclear capabilities, seeing opacity as key to Chinese deterrence. If the United States is unsure of what China can and cannot do, China’s thinking goes, then Washington will be much more wary of taking aggressive actions against Beijing. Here the Obama and Trump administrations have at least one thing in common: recognizing China’s lack of transparency in the nuclear realm as problematic. The Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, states that „the lack of transparency surrounding [Chinese] nuclear programs—their pace and scope, as well as the strategy and doctrine that guides them—raises questions about China’s future strategic intentions.“ The Trump administration’s NPR echoes the same point, arguing that, „while China’s declaratory policy and doctrine have not changed, its lack of transparency regarding the scope and scale of its nuclear modernization program raises questions regarding its future intent.“ China has, in effect, built a different kind of great wall around its nuclear arsenal, preventing others from even discussing what is behind it.

So it should not be surprising that, this week, China quickly dismissed a suggestion that it would talk with the United States and Russia about a new deal limiting nuclear arms. „China opposes any country talking out of turn about China on the issue of arms control, and will not take part in any trilateral negotiations on a nuclear disarmament agreement,“ Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Monday. „[China’s] nuclear force is always kept at the minimum level required by national security, with an order-of-magnitude difference from that of the United States and Russia, which puts things in a completely different light.“ The spokesman added—and this may sound familiar—that „the pressing task at present“ is for the United States and Russia, which have the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, „to adhere to the consensus reached by the international community to earnestly fulfill their special and primary responsibilities in nuclear disarmament.“ Only then, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, will other countries be able to participate in nuclear disarmament. China’s response came days after news reports said that President Trump ordered his administration to prepare to push new arms-control agreements with both China and Russia.

In the United States, when pundits and politicians discuss nuclear weapons, they tend to focus exclusively on Russia. Watch a congressional hearing on nuclear policy and see what percentage of the questions is about Russia, and what percentage is about China. In some ways, it makes sense why the difference is so large: China has about 280 nuclear warheads, while Russia has, under the New START Treaty, 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads (in addition to thousands more stored and retired). Moreover, China advertises its nuclear strategy as one of „minimal deterrence,“ while Russian President Vladimir Putin regularly touts his country’s nuclear strength with belligerent statements.

Another reason why observers too often ignore China is because of the legacy of the Cold War, which for so many Americans puts Russia at the forefront of any discussion concerning nuclear weapons. Yet America’s extensive history with Russia’s arsenal is precisely why Washington should be so concerned about China. At least the United States has a well-established line of communication with Russia regarding nuclear weapons going back decades. And they negotiated an arms-control agreement as recently as 2010. Each side understands the other pretty well, and if there ever is a nuclear crisis between the two countries, there is a wealth of experience that leaders can use to help navigate through the situation. When it comes to China, however, there is no such experience, nor any line of communication. In a Sino-American nuclear crisis, no one would have a „number to call“ the other side. China’s unwillingness to engage on this issue in any meaningful way makes the prospect of reaching a resolution that much more of an unknown. The United States has no idea how China would react. At least it has some idea of how to deal with Russia.

Realistically, the prospects of the United States, or any country, making progress with China on arms control are remote—although such efforts are still worthwhile. Still, the United States should be very concerned about the Chinese arsenal. China may have fewer nuclear weapons and a seemingly less aggressive nuclear strategy, but that shows, perhaps counter intuitively, why China is a more dangerous adversary than Russia. China is smarter and more patient, looking to the long term. Beijing sees Chinese power on the rise and American power on the decline. There is no need to sound belligerent and risk conflict like the Russians. China can build up its economic and military might without provoking so much international condemnation. And then one day, when no one is ready, it may decide the time is right to seize Taiwan.

Over the long term, China sees itself supplanting the United States as the dominant power in East Asia and, eventually, in the world. Russia, meanwhile, is a fundamentally weak country with lots of nuclear weapons. Putin is certainly dangerous, but he lashes out in part because of that weakness—his country is on the path toward economic irrelevance, along with a demographic nightmare. In other words, China is the more mature adversary, the quiet yet observant mastermind plotting its grand scheme rather than the loud, obnoxious goon drunkenly challenging everyone to a fight.

The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once outlined the following strategy for China: „Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities; bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; never claim leadership.“ Today, many observers argue that Chinese President Xi Jinping has gone away from that model, and that is true to some extent. But China is still patiently biding its time, working to supplant the United States with a sophisticated strategy that involves all aspects of state power, from development to military modernization. That strategy includes maintaining a potent nuclear arsenal, which China hopes to use to get others to disarm, without having to do so itself.

Saudi Oil Bleeds Before Iran Strikes at the US

A logo sits on display on the side of a crude oil storage tank at the Juaymah tank farm at Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. Saudi Aramco aims to become a global refiner and chemical maker, seeking to profit from parts of the oil industry where demand is growing the fastest while also underpinning the kingdom’s economic diversification. Photographer: Simon Dawson

Oil Rises as Middle East Tanker Attacks Add to Political Risks

May 13, 2019, 7:25 AM EDT

Saudi Arabia says two of its vessels sabotaged on Sunday

Brent futures increase as much as 2.2%, WTI gains 2.1%

Crude rallied after Saudi Arabia said its oil tankers were attacked on Sunday, adding to the mounting geopolitical risks in the market.

Brent in London added as much as 2.2%. Saudi Arabia said two of its tankers were damaged in “a sabotage attack” while sailing toward the Persian Gulf, though no one has yet claimed responsibility. Separately, China announced it will raise tariffs on some U.S. goods from June 1 following Washington’s decision to increase levies on $200 billion of Chinese goods Friday, escalating a prolonged trade war.

The tanker attacks are a signal of the growing political risk in the oil market since the U.S. ended waivers for crude purchases from Iran earlier this month. Prices had been struggling in recent weeks against a backdrop of increasing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, which damped the macroeconomic outlook. However, the geopolitical risk in the Middle East, coupled with outages from the North Sea to Venezuela, are now buoying prices.

The oil market is reacting very sensitively to supply disruption risks considering the market is already tight,” said Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS Group AG. “Any additional disruption would further tighten the oil market.”

Brent crude for July settlement rose $1.24 at $71.86 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange at 1:58 p.m. local time. It fell 0.3% last week. The global benchmark is trading at a $9.15 premium to West Texas Intermediate crude.

WTI for June delivery increased 87 cents to $62.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 0.5% last week.

Persian Gulf

The Saudi tankers were damaged while heading toward the Persian Gulf, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. The U.S. has deployed an aircraft carrier, bomber planes and defense missiles in the region amid rising tensions with Iran, which has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important choke-point for oil.

Adding to the production concerns was an outage at a field in the Norwegian North Sea last week that affects around 6% of the country’s total oil output. That disruption saw timespreads in the Brent market — a gauge of supply tightness — surge late last week, reaching more than $1 a barrel on Friday.

President Donald Trump on Monday again accused China of backing out of a deal that was taking shape with U.S. officials, saying Beijing reneged on an agreement to enshrine a wide range of reforms in Chinese law. China plans to raise tariffs on some U.S. good from June sent futures on the S&P 500 equity index lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was also dragged down.

Other oil-market news:

Hedge funds lifted bearish bets on WTI crude by 39%, the biggest short-selling surge in more than eight months.

• The Houston Ship Channel reopened to limited traffic on Sunday after a vessel collision dumped almost 400,000 gallons of a gasoline ingredient and choked suburbs of the U.S. city with noxious fumes. It’s the second time the city has been spooked by benzene plumes in eight weeks.

• U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo makes a surprise visit to Brussels on Monday just as European Union foreign ministers are meeting to discuss ways to salvage the landmark Iran nuclear accord that Washington has abandoned.

— With assistance by James Thornhill, and Sharon Cho

Iran Rejects Babylon the Great’s Offer

Iran Guards, hardliners reject US talks

Reuters May 11, 20194:57am

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards says Tehran would not negotiate with the United States and a senior cleric warns a US Navy fleet could be „destroyed with one missile“, as a US aircraft carrier heads towards the Gulf.

The comments by hardliners appeared partly aimed at discouraging President Hassan Rouhani and his moderate allies in Tehran from taking up an offer of talks from Washington.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leaders to sit down and talk with him about giving up their nuclear program, and said he could not rule out a military confrontation, given the heightened tensions.

The carrier Abraham Lincoln, deployed as a warning to Iran, passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Thursday.

American B-52 bombers have also arrived at a US base in Qatar, US Central Command said.

Iran has dismissed both moves as „psychological warfare“ designed to intimidate it.

The semi-official ISNA news agency quoted hardliner Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad in the city of Isfahan as saying: „Their billion(-dollar) fleet can be destroyed with one missile.

„If they attempt any move, they will … (face) dozens of missiles because at that time (government) officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),“ he said.

Tabatabai-Nejad represents Supreme Leader Khamenei, widely seen to be closer to hardliners than to Rouhani, in Isfahan.

Separately, Yadollah Javani, the elite Revolutionary Guards‘ deputy head for political affairs, said: „No talks will be held with the Americans, and the Americans will not dare take military action against us.“

„Our nation … sees America as unreliable,“ he said, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

„Thousands of Iranians took part in state-sponsored marches on Friday to show support for the government’s decision to scale back curbs on its nuclear program agreed under a 2015 deal with world powers. Iran has threatened to go further if other signatories fail to shield it from US economic sanctions.

State TV showed protesters marching after Friday prayers in Tehran and said similar marches had been held across Iran.

„America should know, sanctions have no effect!“ chanted the protesters.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Richard Moore, a visiting British Foreign Office official, that „Europe should not underestimate Iran’s determination to scale back its commitments (under the 2015 deal) phase by phase“, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Trump, who last year pulled Washington out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, has expressed a willingness to meet Iranian leaders in the past, and renewed it on Thursday.

Asked about Trump’s comments, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said Tehran had been talking with the six powers, including the US, within the framework of the nuclear deal.

„All of a sudden he (Trump) decided to leave the negotiating table … What is the guarantee that he will not renege again?“ Takht Ravanchi said in a US television interview.

He dismissed US allegations of an Iranian threat as „fake intelligence“.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the pieces of intelligence that were causing concern included information that Iran had installed missiles on boats. One of the officials said the particular missile observed was perhaps capable of being launched from a small ship.