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China and India stockpile growth absorbing oil surplus, say experts

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

A surfer rides a wave with an oil drilling rig in the background in Huntington Beach, California, USA 29 September 2013. (EPA/MICHAEL NELSON)

A surfer rides a wave with an oil drilling rig in the background in Huntington Beach, California, USA 29 September 2013. (EPA/MICHAEL NELSON)


Written by : Shuja Al-Baqmi
on : Tuesday, 1 Oct, 2013
Saudi Arabia still well-placed in international oil market, with domestic demand set to drop
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Surplus global oil production is being bought up by India and China, say experts, as part of an effort by the two states to bolster their stockpiles.Experts say that the strategic oil reserves of China and India have recently increased, and are expected to continue to grow in the future. China’s oil reserves are expected to rise to 150 million barrels by the end of the current year, while India’s reserves are currently at 50 million barrels of oil.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the experts said the supply surplus in the international oil market had reached 900,000 barrels a day and that “this surplus was being purchased by some of the major countries to add to their reserves, including China and India.”

Energy affairs expert, Ni’mat Abu Al-Souf, told Asharq Al-Awsat that a strategy of building reserves was being implemented by some of the world’s major net oil consumers, regardless of cost.

He said “the strategy to increase the reserves is to confront market fluctuations or the reduction in supply, amid high consumption in these countries.”

Abu Al-Souf added that “China produces around four million barrels of oil daily while it consumes 10 million barrels per day, therefore, it needs to be prepared for any interruption or reduction in supply.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s efforts to decrease domestic oil consumption are expected to bear fruit in the near future.

Abu Al-Souf said “Saudi Arabia has started taking effective measures to reduce domestic energy consumption by relying on gas. Current consumption ranges between 2.8 and 3 million barrels per day.”

He predicted that the benefits of the programs to reduce energy consumption in Saudi Arabia will start to show within two years.

Meanwhile, economics expert Faisal Al-Iqab said the increase in the strategic reserve of some countries was aimed at protecting their markets from world market fluctuations or reductions in supply. He said “amid the geopolitical crises in the region, especially in Libya, Iran, and Syria, countries which have high consumption rates try to take precautionary measures by increasing their strategic reserves.”

Meanwhile, Abdelwahab Al-Sa’adoun, Secretary-General of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) said “the economic development in some countries has an important impact on the volume of international demand for oil. This is what is taking place in China, one of the largest world markets in terms of demand for oil, which largely relies on Saudi oil in particular, and Gulf oil in general.”

He added that a drop in the rate of economic growth in China in the final months of 2012 reduced demand. In turn, this prompted Saudi Arabia to reduce its production by around 700,000 barrels per day, to reach the current level of 9 million barrels per day.

Al-Sa’adoun added that Saudi Arabia was still playing a balancing role in the international oil market. He said: “Saudi Arabia has smart policies, through which, balance can be maintained in world markets, and which gives markets and investors confidence in its policies.”

Al-Sa’adoun said despite the increase in domestic production in the United States, American imports still stood at around 8 million barrels per day. He added that Saudi Arabia was able to reach a level of oil production of 12.5 million barrels per day, should the world markets need it.

Syria crisis: Russia and China step up warning over strike

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

UN weapons inspectors in the western district of Muadhamiya. 26 Aug 2013

The UN team spoke to witnesses and survivors in Muadhamiya

BBC News

27 August 2013 Last updated at 05:52 ET

Russia and China have stepped up their warnings against military intervention in Syria, with Moscow saying any such action would have “catastrophic consequences” for the region.

The US and its allies are considering launching strikes on Syria in response to deadly attacks last week.

The US said there was “undeniable” proof of a chemical attack, on Monday.

UN chemical weapons inspectors are due to start a second day of investigations in the suburbs of Damascus.

The UN team came under sniper fire as they tried to visit an area west of the city on Monday.

A spokesman for UK Prime Minister David Cameron says the UK is making contingency plans for military action in Syria.

Mr Cameron has cut short his holiday and returned to London to deal with the Syrian crisis.

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has called on the international community to show “prudence” over the crisis and observe international law.

“Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa,” he said in a statement.

Late on Monday, the US said it was postponing a meeting on Syria with Russian diplomats, citing “ongoing consultations” about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Hours later, Russia expressed regret about the decision. The two sides had been due to meet in The Hague on Wednesday to discuss setting up an international conference on finding a political solution to the crisis.

The Russian deputy defence minister, Gennady Gatilov said working out the political parameters for a resolution on Syria would be especially useful, with the threat of force hanging over the country.

Residents gather around a convoy of UN vehicles carrying a team of UN chemical weapons experts at one of the sites of an alleged poison gas attack in the Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya on 26 August 2013

UN chemical weapons inspectors spent nearly three hours in the suburb of Muadhamiya in western Damascus on Monday.

On Monday, Mr Cameron spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin who said there was no evidence yet that Syria had used chemical weapons against rebels, Mr Cameron’s office said.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who may have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.

UN visit

Both the Syrian government and rebels have blamed each other for last Wednesday’s attacks.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said three hospitals it supported in the Damascus area had treated about 3,600 patients with “neurotoxic symptoms”, of whom 355 had died.

US officials said there was “little doubt” that President Bashar al-Assad’s government was to blame.

UN inspectors spent nearly three hours in the western district of Muadhamiya on Monday where they visited two hospitals and interviewed survivors, eyewitnesses and doctors.

A UN spokesman said they had collected some samples.

Earlier in the day, the UN convoy came under fire from unidentified snipers and was forced to turn back before resuming its journey.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the shooting and asked the UN team in Syria to register a complaint.


In the most forceful US reaction yet, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday described the recent attacks in the Damascus area as a “moral obscenity”.

He said the delay in allowing UN inspectors to the sites was a sign the Syrian government had something to hide.

He said Washington had additional information about the attacks that it would make public in the days ahead.

“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality,” Mr Kerry said at a news conference on Monday.

“Make no mistake, President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Washington has recently bolstered its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean and military leaders from the US, UK and their allies have convened a meeting in Jordan.

Analysts believe the most likely US action would be sea-launched cruise missiles targeting Syrian military installations.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Monday the West had not produced any proof that President Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons.

He was responding to suggestions from some Western countries that military action against the Syrian government could be taken without a UN mandate.

Mr Lavrov said the use of force without Security Council backing would be “a crude violation of international law”.

Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC an international military response to the suspected use of chemical weapons would be possible without the backing of the UN.

The UN Security Council is divided, with Russia and China opposing military intervention and the UK and France warning that the UN could be bypassed if there was “great humanitarian need”.

In a column in The Times newspaper, former UK PM Tony Blair has written that if the West does not intervene to support freedom and democracy in Egypt and Syria, the Middle East will face catastrophe

The UN says more than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began more than two years ago. The conflict has produced more than 1.7 million registered refugees.

Map showing the areas where the alleged chemical attacks took place in Syria


Mike Rogers: China, Iran, and Russia Launching Cyber Attacks Against U.S.

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Rep. Mike Rogers / AP

Rep. Mike Rogers / AP

House Intelligence Committee chair says $2 trillion has been lost

Chinese government-backed hackers have cost the United States nearly $2 trillion in “lost and stolen property” that was seized through illicit Internet attacks, Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Monday.

The theft of proprietary information and technology by the Chinese constitutes “the largest transfer of wealth illegally in the world’s history,” according to Rogers, who warned that the United States is not prepared to combat these cyber threats.

Chinese military units identify vulnerable U.S. companies and then instruct a team of hackers to steal industrial secrets and other information, according to Rogers, who spoke at an event sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

“We are in a cyber war today,” Rogers said. “Most Americans don’t know it. They go about their lives happily. But we are in a cyber war today.”

China poses the largest threat, according to Rogers.

The Communist regime is “primarily” engaged in economic espionage, he said, explaining that China’s “military and intelligences services” have seized U.S. industrial technology, repurposed it domestically, and then “illegally” competed with the United States in the world market.

Although these hack attacks have been well documented by the United States, few preventative measures have been implemented, said Rogers, a former Army officer and FBI special agent.

“There have been no consequences, and I mean no consequences, to their economic espionage,” he said. “It’s been a free rein and a free run.”

This theft has allowed China to grow its economy by up to seven percent each year, while also damaging America’s own economic recovery.

Other types of cyber criminals, such as those affiliated with Eastern European nations such as Russia, have successfully infiltrated the U.S. banking sector.

“That credit card in your wallet, the company will get hit about 300,000 times today,” Rogers warned.

Countries such as Iran, North Korea, and Russia have used these same tactics to wage a secret cyber war on the United States, Roger said.

The Russians and Chinese, for instance, have the ability to clandestinely implant malicious codes into the U.S. electrical grid.

“If they ever needed to they could shut this off,” prompting mass chaos, Rogers warned.

Iran has also stepped up its anti-U.S. cyber campaign in response to tightening economic sanctions.

“We have seen some very, very devastating efforts on behalf of Iran,” Rogers said.

Iranian government-backed hackers, for instance, have “aggressively pursued probing actions on our U.S, financial institutions,” he said. This action is “unabated” and ongoing.

One recent attack on an unnamed U.S. financial institution cost about “$100 million to deal with,” Rogers revealed. “That’s one institution. One attack. And it’s not their best work. That should make everybody sit up straighter.”

There is evidence that some of these Iranian hack attacks may have been influenced or sponsored by the Russians, Rogers said.

“Some of the [Internet] signatures certainly have a hint of Muscovite in them,” he said, adding that the Iranians have made “the calculation that this is a justified response to sanctions.”

Americans have been lulled into having a false sense of security, Rogers said.

“The common myth is that the government protects these networks,” he said. “If you read it in the newspaper the [National Security Administration] is listening to your every move.”

U.S. policymakers should be targeting hackers across the globe and pressing the issue with the Chinese in particular, Rogers said.

“On any bilateral discussion with China it has to be number one, two, and three on the list,” Rogers said. “We should not get to any other discussion before we get some answers” on the cyber front.

One Rogers-backed bill in Congress would name-and-shame Chinese hackers targeting America and monitor there finances.

“These folks have to understand there’s a consequence for stealing intellectual property,” he said.

IEA: Global recovery, China to pull oil demand in 2014

Friday, July 12th, 2013

TEmerging markets and developing economies are pushing demand for oil to reach a new record, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says. (File photo: Reuters)

Thursday, 11 July 2013

AFP, Paris

Global economic recovery and emerging markets led by China will boost growth of oil demand to a record high total next year, the International Energy Agency forecast on Thursday.

Next year, consumption by emerging markets will dominate demand overall, a position “they should hold in perpetuity”, the IEA said.

But the overall tone of the IEA monthly report stressed that the oil market is heading into a sea of “many uncertainties”, partly because oil production in the United States is “set to grow strongly.”

Supply from other countries outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), notably Brazil, Kazakhstan and South Sudan, would also rise, the agency forecast.

For this year, because unseasonably cold weather had caused a big increase in demand forheating oil in the northern hemisphere in the second quarter, the agency raised its estimate for global demand by 215,000 barrels per day (bpd).

This took the overall estimated annual growth to 930,000 bpd, and total consumption to 90.8 million bpd.

The IEA estimates show demand rising by a further 1.2m bpd next year to 92m bpd, a new record after record demand also this year.

In London, the price of benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil fell 24 cents from the closing price on Wednesday to $106.28, partly in response to the report but also due to comments on monetary policy from the US Federal Reserve, traders said.

Regarding supply, “upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa remains an overarching concern,” the IEA warned.

“Emerging markets and developing economies are forecast to lead demand growth in 2014,” the IEA said.

The growth of demand from countries outside the 34-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had slowed “from the heady pace of recent years” but would “climb above total OECD demand in the second quarter of 2014,” the agency said.

Recently, the speed of expansion had slowed most in China, India and the Middle East, but demand by China would still lead consumption by emerging markets, the agency said.

Against a background of the boom in production of shale oil in North America, the IEA said that the United States would play a role in “an expected steep increase in global refining activity in the third quarter of 2013”.

This was part of “tectonic shifts in the mid-stream and down-stream industries.”

Unrest in Egypt, Syria, worries oil market

The agency said improving prospects for global economic growth would pull demand, despite increasing efficiency in energy use in advanced countries.

Demand from countries in the OECD would shrink at a much slower pace than it had since the financial crisis began in 2008.

OECD demand would fall by 0.8 percent this year and 0.4 percent in 2014, on the basis that “OECD economies will on average return to growth in 2014.”

The International Monetary Fund was forecasting global economic growth of 3.3 percent this year and 4.0 percent next year, the agency noted.

The IEA said that oil prices had risen recently because of concerns that unrest in Egypt could affect supplies via the Suez Canal and the SUMED pipeline which runs from the Gulf of Suez to the Mediterranean Sea.

“Observers worry that the political confrontation in Egypt, like the Syrian civil war, could drag on and worsen before it gets better, and the instability could theoretically threaten production and transit through the Suez Canal,” the IEA said.

Unrest had also disrupted supplies from Libya, Nigeria and Iraq, the IEA noted.

Another factor was temporary disruption to some supply routes within the United States.

In June, production by Saudi Arabia had risen by 100,000 barrels per day to 9.7 mbd, the highest level for seven months, the IEA reported.

The John Batchelor Show

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

The John Batchelor Show

Reza Kahlili, author, A Time to Betray, in re:  Green Chariot + Silk Cocoon – programs to create ICBMs and deliver nuclear warheads.

July 01, 2013

Listen Here

Revealed: Iran’s secret nuke deal with China, N. Korea

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013


Collaboration aims for warheads capable of striking U.S.



Iran is well launched on two programs with North Korean and Chinese help to develop nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems with the goal of having both ready in less than a year, according to an intelligence officer of the regime.

The first program, code-named “Green Chariot,” a joint Iran-North Korea effort begun in 2008, seeks to complete the Islamic regime’s nuclear bomb program, said the source, who cannot be named for security reasons. The secret agreement, which would confront perceived threats from America and Israel, expanded collaboration on developing uranium nuclear warheads, producing and assembling centrifuges for enrichment, establishing underground facilities and working on mobile enrichment facilities.

The second program, code-named “Silk Cocoon,” expands the first program by developing intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads and with a capability to strike at the United States, England and France; other ballistic missiles could target Israel.

This collaboration, agreed to by North Korea and elements in the Chinese military, exported parts and new technology to Iran along with anti-missile batteries and surface-to-air batteries.

The agreement was signed by a “Mr. K.Y-N” of North Korea and by a “Maj. Gen. Z.C.” of China and witnessed by Iranian officials as investors in the project. Only nine individuals were involved in the agreement. Trusted contacts have been used through various international commercial and banking channels without knowledge of the agreement’s details.

Become a part of the investigative reporting team uncovering the truths about Iran, and get author Reza Kahlili’s “A Time to Betray” about his life as a double agent inside Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Three North Korean officials, including former premier Choe Yong-rim, and three Chinese officials, including a former chief of China National Nuclear Corp., joined these three Iranian officials in signing the agreement:

• Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi, a Revolutionary Guard commander and major general and head of the protection of intelligence unit in the supreme leader’s office.

• Ahmad Vahidi, a former commander of the Quds Forces and current defense minister. He is wanted by Interpol for his involvement in the Jewish Community Center bombing of Buenos Aires in 1994.

• Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, the father of the Iranian nuclear bomb program.

The cost of the programs, which consist of three phases, has been estimated at $3.8 billion with 68 percent of the budget going to exports of technology and equipment from China and 32 percent for North Korean assistance. The first two phases were completed respectively in 2010 and 2012, according to the source.

One Chinese official, as the representative for the Chinese general, received $97 million in five transactions from Iran through banking channels in Malaysia; other transactions took place with collaboration of the Islamic Investments Bank. Another part of the financial transactions took place openly in 2010 through oil and drilling contracts with the Iranian company Hava Kish, located and registered on the Persian Gulf’s Kish Island, with Chinese petroleum companies. Part of that payment ensured the transfer of plans for miniaturizing nuclear bombs and in building nuclear warheads with guarantees on accuracy and the capability to arm such warheads on the Iranian Shahab 3 and North Korean No-Dong ballistic missiles. The nuclear program consisted of three phases:

Phase 1: Completion of infrastructure for uranium enrichment facilities and equipment, production of parts and then the assembly for newer cascades to enrich uranium both in Iran and North Korea. The intention was to have the capacity to produce up to 75,000 centrifuges. An Iranian official then invested $640 million in four companies related to the Chinese nuclear industry.

Phase 2: Transfer of Chinese plans, equipment, material and technology for forming, placing and making operational facilities to build uranium nuclear warheads, which was done through North Korea beginning in 2010 with construction work started by the Iranians at three secret locations.

Phase 3: This phase, already well underway, would develop nuclear warheads and marry them up with missiles and, according to the source, is scheduled to be completed by January 2014 to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and the Decade of Fajr.

The source said two Pakistani technicians and members of the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science entered Iran several months ago to help with uranium 235 pushers, graphite shock absorbers, electrical detonators and molding and placement of uranium 235.
Phase 3 calls for Iran and North Korea to conduct uranium nuclear bomb tests in the 50-kiloton range while Iran showcases its intercontinental ballistic missiles. The plan calls for making at least 10 nuclear warheads per year.

Bill Gertz of the Washington Beacon reported on June 28 that U.S. intelligence agencies had recently detected Iranian tests of a large rocket motor. One U.S. official said, “This engine could be used for an ICBM.”

Despite the Islamic regime being under crippling U.N., U.S. and EU sanctions, it has refused to stop its illicit nuclear program. Over a decade of negotiations with talks as recent as April with the 5+1 world powers have failed.

Iran’s nuclear energy chief, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, speaking to journalists in Russia on June 28, stated that nuclear fuel enrichment would “continue in line with our declared goals” and “the enrichment linked to fuel production will also not change.” Iran has declared that its nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes only.

A March WND exclusive revealed Iran’s latest secret nuclear site, named Quds (Jerusalem), which consists of 380 missile depots and facilities for regime scientists to work on nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.

A U.S. nuclear weapons-effects test expert, who could not be named but who served at the U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency and who inspected more than 200 tunnel structures of Russian nuclear test sites as well as Russian operational facilities and silos, viewed the imagery of Iran’s new secret facility.

“The site is similar to a common approach by several other nuclear-capable countries which have used advanced design in hardening these types of tunnels or garages for a quick deployable system,” he said. “I understand exactly what Iran has at the site … the overheads indicate there are many apparent tunnel portals designed to hold a weapon and/or an operational controlling element (support system) for the weapons, an indication of an advanced design for a quick deployable nuclear weapons system capable of surviving retaliation. … This layout is very scary because it is … ready for the operational weapon systems to be installed, and then they are ready to take on the world.”

Watch video on the revelation of Iran’s secret nuclear site “Quds”:

Reza Kahlili, author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray,” served in CIA Directorate of Operations, as a spy in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, counterterrorism expert; currently serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board to Congress and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI). He regularly appears in national and international media as an expert on Iran and counterterrorism in the Middle East.

Candidate criticizes last election, current climate

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013


Sun, 06/02/2013
Mohammadreza Aref

Iranian presidential candidate Mohammadreza Aref spoke about the 2009 election during a radio program, saying: “In the election of 2009, there were overt violations and inappropriate endorsements.”

The 2009 election result was challenged by the reformist candidates, who alleged it had been rigged in favour of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran’s Supreme Leader denied the allegations and gave the green light to government officials to crack down on mass protesters. The candidates, Mousavi and Karroubi, were later put under house arrest, where they remain.

The establishment has accused them of sedition and denies any election fraud took place.

Aref, who is considered one of the reformist candidates currently in the race for the 2013 election, criticized the current political atmosphere, saying people are being asked about how they voted in past elections as a criterion for hiring.

Aref stressed that all media and platforms have been under the sole control of one political group and this needs to change.

While Aref appears to be the chief reformist candidate, the reformist camp has not yet come to a consensus on whether to endorse him.

Hassan Rohani, another approved candidate, also has support in the reformist camp, and the reformist coalition has announced that its final decision about a coalition between Rohani and Aref will be announced next week.

Aref stressed that the greatest challenge facing candidates is “the lack of electoral participation, especially among the youth.”

The presidential election will be held on June 14. The disqualification of moderate cleric Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani has led many progressive forces to question whether they should endorse another candidate or boycott the election.

U.S., China agree to ‘peacefully denuclearize’ Korean peninsula

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) looks at Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Reuters)

Al Arabiya with agencies -

During U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visit to Beijing, the United States and China agreed on Saturday to work together to “peacefully denuclearize” the Korean peninsula.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, said both countries supported the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, Reuters reported.

“We are able, the United States and China, to underscore our joint commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner,” Reuters quoted Kerry as saying to reporters.

“We agreed that this is critically important for the stability of the region and indeed for the world and for all of our nonproliferation efforts,” Kerry added while standing next to Yang at a state guesthouse in western Beijing.

Before travelling to Beijing for the first time as secretary of state, Kerry had made no secret of his desire to see China take a more active stance towards North Korea, which in recent weeks has threatened nuclear war against the United States and South Korea.

“We maintain that the issue should be handled and resolved peacefully through dialogue and consultation. To properly address the Korea nuclear issue serves the common interests of all parties. It is also the shared responsibility of all parties,” Yang said.

As the North’s main trading partner, financial backer and the closest thing it has to a diplomatic ally, China has a unique ability to use its leverage against the impoverished, isolated state, Kerry said in the South Korean capital, Seoul late on Friday before leaving for Beijing.

“Mr. President, this is obviously a critical time with some very challenging issues – issues on the Korean peninsula, the challenge of Iran and nuclear weapons, Syria and the Middle East, and economies around the world that are in need of a boost,” AFP quoted Kerry telling Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday.

Meanwhile, conflicting accounts from U.S. intelligence about the status of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program underscore just how difficult it is for American spy agencies to penetrate the inscrutable regime in Pyongyang, AFP reported officials and experts as saying.

The world’s most powerful intelligence apparatus is often left to guesswork when it comes to tracking a regime that has cut off its population from the outside world.

“I also have to say that North Korea, of course, is now and always has been one of the, if not the, toughest intelligence targets,” National Intelligence Director James Clapper told lawmakers at a hearing Thursday.

The spy chief acknowledged that North Korea’s young, untested leader Kim Jong-Un remained a mystery figure whose motives and mindset were largely unknown.

“There’s no telling how he’s going to behave,” Clapper said.

The United States gleans most of its intelligence from satellites tracking North Korean military movements, as Western spies cannot effectively operate in such a tightly-controlled dictatorship.

“It is virtually impossible to run a human spy in the north and penetrate the Korean state,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and fellow at the Brookings Institution, told AFP.

The vexing challenge posed by North Korea was driven home when a Defense Intelligence Agency report came to light Thursday that seemed to paint a more dangerous picture of the country’s nuclear weapons, unlike previous accounts from U.S. officials.

Iran suggests Cairo for nuclear talks with powers

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Iran's Foreign Minister said that  the next round of nuclear talks should take place in Cairo. (Reuters)

Iran’s Foreign Minister said that the next round of nuclear talks should take place in Cairo. (Reuters)


Iran has suggested that the next round of nuclear talks with world powers should take place in Cairo, the ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday, citing the Islamic state’s foreign minister.

“When I was in Egypt … it was suggested that the next meeting be held in Cairo,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by ISNA on Wednesday. “This issue was welcomed by our dear friends in Egypt and Egypt will consult with the P5+1 for hosting this meeting.”

The last round of negotiations between Iran and six world powers, known collectively as the P5+1, over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program was held in June 2012 in Moscow. Iranian media last week cited Geneva, Istanbul and “some other cities” as possible locations for talks.

Iran and P5+1 – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – say they want to resume talks.

However, the two sides’ priorities diverge: the powers want to curb Iran’s work to potentially develop atomic weapons, while Iran wants sanctions scrapped and their “rights” to enrich uranium formally recognized.

Three rounds of negotiations in 2012 failed to achieve a breakthrough in the decade-old dispute, which has the potential to trigger a new Middle East war. Iran denies it is pursuing weapons and says its program is purely peaceful.

China Signs Steel Deal in Iran

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013



BEIJING—A large Chinese state-owned company said it signed a $712 million dollar contract to help build a steel plant in Iran, signaling that Beijing isn’t ready to join Western nations in increasing pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

A unit of state-owned metals giant China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group said in a statement Wednesday it will provide engineering design, equipment supply and installation, construction and training services for the Iran Butia steel plant.

China has consistently defended its economic ties with Iran, which is under U.S. and European Union sanctions for its alleged nuclear weapons program.

Ahead of Chuck Hagel, John Brennan nominations, intel official in Cairo

Monday, January 7th, 2013

DEBKAfile Special Report January 7, 2013

Chuck Hagel nominated US Defense Secretary
Chuck Hagel nominated US Defense Secretary

As Washington prepared for new appointments to the Obama cabinet, the US president dispatched US Undersecretary for Defense Intelligence Michael Vickers to Cairo Sunday, Jan. 12 on a two-day mission to try and revitalize the counter-terror war on two key fronts: post-Qaddafi Libya and Egyptian Sinai. DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that President Barack Obama hastened to address these fronts, because he expected the five-month old murder of US Ambassador Christ Stevens in Benghazi by al Qaeda to come up at congressional hearings and hamper the endorsement of ex-Senator Chuck Hagel as defense secretary and John Brennan as Central Intelligence Director. Their appointments were to be announced Monday, Jan. 7.

Hagel faced a preliminary storm over his attitudes on Israel and Iran, whereas Brennan, as counterterrorism adviser to the president, has been responsible for shaping administration policy in this sphere in Libya, Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula.

The United States has still not taken steps against the Libyan Ansar al-Sharia group, which assassinated the ambassador and three US staffers on Sept. 11. 2012, and numbered Egyptian al Qaeda jihadis who came in from Cairo.

This cross-alliance still functions with impunity as the Libyan group enforces its control over large areas of Benghazi and eastern Libya, funded by the smuggling of arms from Libya and pumping them into the big smuggling pipelines running through Sinai via Egypt.

Jihadist terror is also rampant in Sinai.  On Nov. 21, President Obama, in a phone call to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, pledged the immediate deployment of US troops for leading a comprehensive Egyptian campaign against the al Qaeda and Salafist Bedouin extremists who have settled in northern and central Sinai after driving the Egyptian administration out. This pledge was part of the ceasefire deal which ended Israel’s Gaza Strip operation. But so far, according to our military and counterterrorism sources, very little has been done except for a visit to Sinai by a small study group of American officers and servicemen.

The delay is accounted for mainly by the weighty challenges confronting Egyptian President Mohamed Mors in the last couple of months. Morso is practically the only office-holder in Cairo ready to endorse an covert military US operation in Sinai for eradicating the terrorist bane. Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi was his only ally, but in recent weeks the Egyptian army has come out against an anti-al Qaeda expedition in Sinai.

The security situation there is constantly deteriorating as Egypt struggles to retain some grip on the territory. In mid-December, the defense minister in Cairo quietly issued an order, with made hardly a ripple outside Egypt, “restricting the right to buy property in Sinai to second-generation Egyptian citizens.”

This prohibition was made necessary, our sources disclose, by the land grab in force by partnerships of Persian Gulf tycoons, mainly Qatar, and Gazan Palestinian, mostly Hamas adherents. They were quietly snapping up choice coastal strips of Sinai to gain control of the peninsula’s Mediterranean and Gulf of Aqaba shores, as well as the western and eastern regions.

The Egyptian military passed the new law to save the territory from slipping out of its hands to Palestinian Hamas and Gulf oil interests.  Hamas is also believed to be in cahoots with allies in the armed terrorist groups of Libya and Sinai.

Delayed American action in Sinai has produced three results:

1.  The Sinai arms smuggling route (which also serves Iran) is thriving as never before. The expanded earnings of Ansar al-Sharia are bolstering its grip on power in Libya;

2.  Sinai has been allowed to evolve into al Qaeda’s primary operational-logistical hub for Africa and the Middle East, its jumping-off base for action in Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen;

3.  In the absence of any resistance, al Qaeda is bringing its positions close to the Israeli border. All Egyptian military efforts to curtail the terrorist creep into the northern Sinai towns of El Arish and Rafah have had no effect.

Sunday, Jan. 6, a band of Salafist Bedouin came up to a parked car on the El Arish main street and shot the driver dead. DEBKAfile reports that the victim, one of the top men in Egypt’s counter-terror campaign in northern Sinai, was on a surveillance mission in civilian dress. The terrorists knew who he was – indicating they have established a clandestine presence inside Egypt’s security services.

Iran warns of cancelling $5 bn China gas deal: media

Monday, December 24th, 2012

24 DECEMBER 2012

View of phases 3 and 4 of the South Pars gas field in the southern Iranian port of Assaluyeh on January 27, 2011. Iran has warned China it could cancel a much-delayed $5-billion offshore gas exploration contract in the Gulf, a news agency said on Monday.

View of phases 3 and 4 of the South Pars gas field in the southern Iranian port of Assaluyeh on January 27, 2011. Iran has warned China it could cancel a much-delayed $5-billion offshore gas exploration contract in the Gulf, a news agency said on Monday.

AFPIran has warned China it could cancel a much-delayed $5-billion offshore gas exploration contract in the Gulf, a news agency said on Monday.

“There is a possibility of cancelling the contract” signed in 2009 to develop the South Pars gas field — which holds around eight percent of the world’s gas reserves — Mehr news quoted oil ministry spokesman Alireza Nikzad as saying.

China has for years aimed to strengthen its economic relationship with sanctions-hit Iran, by filling the investment void left by departing Western companies.

But Iran has accused China of failing to fulfil its commitment and delaying its contractual obligations.

South Pars, a huge offshore natural gas field shared between Iran and Qatar, holds around 14 trillion cubic metres of gas, and Iran plans to use the “phase 11″ project to fill its first-everliquefied natural gas plant.

Mehr named China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the Asian giant’s largest oil and gas producer and supplier, as the company contracted for the project.

Iran suspended a $16-billion contract with China last year for the North Pars gas field, saying the decision to let the Chinese develop North Pars rested on their effectiveness in developing South Pars.

Nikzad said that should the South Pars contract be cancelled, the development of the offshore gas field would be handed over to Iranian contractors.

“The Chinese side has stated it is not inclined to be part of the project’s development,” citing the “high risk” involved in offshore exploration, Nikzad added.

He said that a deal for another gas field would instead be discussed “in the near future,” without giving any details.

Major Western companies that had been operating in South Pars, among them France’s Total and Anglo-Dutch giant Shell, withdrew from Iran between 2007 and 2010 after international sanctions were imposed over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.

Iran, which has the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia, claims it is able to develop South Pars on its own by giving many of the projects to companies affiliated to its elite Revolutionary Guards.

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