The Financial Apocalypse Accelerates As Middle East Stocks Crash To Begin The Week

What we have seen so far is just the warm up act

It looks like it is going to be another chaotic week for global financial markets.  On Sunday, news that Iran plans to dramatically ramp up oil production sent stocks plunging all across the Middle East.  Stocks in Kuwait were down 3.1 percent, stocks in Saudi Arabia plummeted 5.4 percent, and stocks in Qatar experienced a mammoth 7 percent decline.  And of course all of this comes in the context of a much larger long-term decline for Middle Eastern stocks.  At this point, Saudi Arabian stocks are down more than 50 percent from their 2014 highs.  Needless to say, a lot of very wealthy people in Saudi Arabia are getting very nervous.  Could you imagine waking up someday and realizing that more than half of your fortune had been wiped out?  Things aren’t that bad in the U.S. quite yet, but it looks like another rough week could be ahead.  The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are all down at least 12 percent from their 52-week highs, and the Russell 2000 is already in bear market territory.  Hopefully this week will not be as bad as last week, but events are starting to move very rapidly now.

Much of the chaos around the globe is being driven by the price of oil.  At the end of last week the price of oil dipped below 30 dollars a barrel, and now Iran has announced plans “to add 1 million barrels to its daily crude production”

Iran could get more than five times as much cash from oil sales by year-end as the lifting of economic sanctions frees the OPEC member to boost crude exports and attract foreign investment needed to rebuild its energy industry.

The Persian Gulf nation will be able to access all of its revenue from crude sales after the U.S. and five other global powers removed sanctions on Saturday in return for Iran’s curbing its nuclear program. The fifth-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had been receiving only $700 million of each month’s oil earnings under an interim agreement, with the rest blocked in foreign bank accounts. Iran is striving to add 1 million barrels to its daily crude production and exports this year amid a global supply glut that has pushed prices 22 percent lower this month.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what this is going to do to the price of oil.

The price of oil has already fallen more than 20 percent so far in 2016, and overall it has declined by more than 70 percent since late 2014.

When the price of oil first started to fall, a lot of people out there were proclaiming that it would be really good for the U.S. economy.  But I said just the opposite.  And of course since that time we have seen an endless parade of debt downgrades, bankruptcies and job losses.  130,000 good paying energy jobs were lost in the United States in 2015 alone because of this collapse, and things just continue to get even worse.  At this point, some are even calling for the federal government to intervene.  For example, the following is an excerpt from a CNN article that was just posted entitled “Is it time to bail out the U.S. oil industry?“…

America’s once-booming oil industry is suddenly in deep financial trouble.

The epic crash in oil prices has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, caused dozens of bankruptcies and spooked global financial markets.

The fallout is already being felt in oil-rich states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, where home foreclosure rates are spiking and economic growth is slowing.

Now there are calls in at least some corners for the federal government to come to the rescue.

Is it just me, or is all of this really starting to sound a lot like 2008?

And of course it isn’t just the U.S. that is facing troubles.  The global financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is rapidly accelerating, and chaos is erupting all over the planet.  The following summary of what we have been seeing in recent days comes from Doug Noland

The world has changed significantly – perhaps profoundly – over recent weeks. The Shanghai Composite has dropped 17.4%over the past month (Shenzhen down 21%). Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 8.2% over the past month, with Hang Seng Financials sinking 11.9%. WTI crude is down 26% since December 15th. Over this period, the GSCI Commodities Index sank 12.2%. The Mexican peso has declined almost 7% in a month, the Russian ruble 10% and the South African rand12%. A Friday headline from the Financial Times: “Emerging market stocks retreat to lowest since 09.”

Trouble at the “Periphery” has definitely taken a troubling turn for the worse. Hope that things were on an uptrend has confronted the reality that things are rapidly getting much worse. This week saw the Shanghai Composite sink 9.0%. Major equities indexes were hit 8.0% in Russia and 5.0% in Brazil (Petrobras down 9%). Financial stocks and levered corporations have been under pressure round the globe. The Russian ruble sank 4.0% this week, increasing y-t-d losses versus the dollar to 7.1%. The Mexican peso declined another 1.8% this week. The Polish zloty slid 2.8% on an S&P downgrade (“Tumbles Most Since 2011”). The South African rand declined 3.0% (down 7.9% y-t-d). The yen added 0.2% this week, increasing 2016 gains to 3.0%. With the yen up almost 4% versus the dollar over the past month, so-called yen “carry trades” are turning increasingly problematic.

Closer to home, the crisis in Puerto Rico continues to spiral out of control.  The following is an excerpt from a letter that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent to Congress on Friday

Although there are many ways this crisis could escalate further, it is clear that Puerto Rico is already in the midst of an economic collapse

Puerto Rico is already in default. It is shifting funds from one creditor to pay another and has stopped payment altogether on several of its debts. As predicted, creditors are filing lawsuits. The Government Development Bank, which provides critical banking and fiscal services to the central government, only avoided depleting its liquidity by halting lending activity and sweeping in additional deposits from other Puerto Rico governmental entities. A large debt payment of $400 million is due on May 1, and a broader set of payments are due at the end of June.

It isn’t Michael Snyder from The Economic Collapse Blog that is saying that Puerto Rico is “in the midst of an economic collapse”.

That is the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury that is saying it.

Those that have been eagerly anticipating a financial apocalypse are going to get what they have been waiting for.

Right now we are about halfway through January, and this is the worst start to a year for stocks ever.  The Dow is down a total of 1,437 points since the beginning of 2016, and more than 15 trillion dollars of stock market wealth has been wiped out globally since last June.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people out there that are in denial.

There are a lot of people that still believe that this is just a temporary bump in the road and that things will return to “normal” very soon.

They don’t understand that this is just the beginning.  What we have seen so far is just the warm up act, and much, much worse is yet to come.

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Bilderberg 2015: Full Attendee List & Agenda

Elitist confab to discuss artificial intelligence
Bilderberg 2015: Full Attendee List & Agenda

by Infowars.com | June 8, 2015


The official Bilderberg Group website has released the full attendee list and agenda for this year’s conference. As ever, the list of topics to be discussed is so vague as to almost be meaningless. Infowars will have full coverage of Bilderberg’s detailed agenda later today and for the rest of the week.

63rd Bilderberg conference to take place from 11 – 14 June 2015 in Telfs-Buchen, Austria.

Telfs-Buchen, 8 June 2015 – The 63rd  Bilderberg conference is set to take place from 11 – 14 June 2015 in Telfs-Buchen, Austria. A total of around 140 participants from 22 countries have confirmed their attendance. As ever, a diverse group of political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media have been invited. The list of participants is available on www.bilderbergmeetings.org

The key topics for discussion this year include:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cyber-security
  • Chemical Weapons Threats
  • Current Economic Issues
  • European Strategy
  • Globalization
  • Greece
  • Iran
  • Middle East
  • NATO
  • Russia
  • Terrorism
  • United Kingdom
  • USA
  • US Elections

Founded in 1954, the Bilderberg conference is an annual meeting designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America. Every year, between 120-150 political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media are invited to take part in the conference. About two thirds of the participants come from Europe and the rest from North America; approximately one third from politics and government and the rest from other fields.

The conference is a forum for informal discussions about major issues facing the world. The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed.

Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written. Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.

Telfs-Buchen, Austria 11 – 14 June 2015

Final list of Participants

Chairman

Castries, Henri de Chairman and CEO, AXA Group FRA
Achleitner, Paul M. Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank AG DEU
Agius, Marcus Non-Executive Chairman, PA Consulting Group GBR
Ahrenkiel, Thomas Director, Danish Intelligence Service (DDIS) DNK
Allen, John R. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, US Department of State USA
Altman, Roger C. Executive Chairman, Evercore USA
Applebaum, Anne Director of Transitions Forum, Legatum Institute POL
Apunen, Matti Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA FIN
Baird, Zoë CEO and President, Markle Foundation USA
Balls, Edward M. Former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer GBR
Balsemão, Francisco Pinto Chairman, Impresa SGPS PRT
Barroso, José M. Durão Former President of the European Commission PRT
Baverez, Nicolas Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP FRA
Benko, René Founder, SIGNA Holding GmbH AUT
Bernabè, Franco Chairman, FB Group SRL ITA
Beurden, Ben van CEO, Royal Dutch Shell plc NLD
Bigorgne, Laurent Director, Institut Montaigne FRA
Boone, Laurence Special Adviser on Financial and Economic Affairs to the President FRA
Botín, Ana P. Chairman, Banco Santander ESP
Brandtzæg, Svein Richard President and CEO, Norsk Hydro ASA NOR
Bronner, Oscar Publisher, Standard Verlagsgesellschaft AUT
Burns, William President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace USA
Calvar, Patrick Director General, DGSI FRA
Castries, Henri de Chairman, Bilderberg Meetings; Chairman and CEO, AXA Group FRA
Cebrián, Juan Luis Executive Chairman, Grupo PRISA ESP
Clark, W. Edmund Retired Executive, TD Bank Group CAN
Coeuré, Benoît Member of the Executive Board, European Central Bank INT
Coyne, Andrew Editor, Editorials and Comment, National Post CAN
Damberg, Mikael L. Minister for Enterprise and Innovation SWE
De Gucht, Karel Former EU Trade Commissioner, State Minister BEL
Dijsselbloem, Jeroen Minister of Finance NLD
Donilon, Thomas E. Former U.S. National Security Advisor; Partner and Vice Chair, O’Melveny & Myers LLP USA
Döpfner, Mathias CEO, Axel Springer SE DEU
Dowling, Ann President, Royal Academy of Engineering GBR
Dugan, Regina Vice President for Engineering, Advanced Technology and Projects, Google USA
Eilertsen, Trine Political Editor, Aftenposten NOR
Eldrup, Merete CEO, TV 2 Danmark A/S DNK
Elkann, John Chairman and CEO, EXOR; Chairman, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ITA
Enders, Thomas CEO, Airbus Group DEU
Erdoes, Mary CEO, JP Morgan Asset Management USA
Fairhead, Rona Chairman, BBC Trust GBR
Federspiel, Ulrik Executive Vice President, Haldor Topsøe A/S DNK
Feldstein, Martin S. President Emeritus, NBER;  Professor of Economics, Harvard University USA
Ferguson, Niall Professor of History, Harvard University, Gunzberg Center for European Studies USA
Fischer, Heinz Federal President AUT
Flint, Douglas J. Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings plc GBR
Franz, Christoph Chairman of the Board, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd CHE
Fresco, Louise O. President and Chairman Executive Board, Wageningen University and Research Centre NLD
Griffin, Kenneth Founder and CEO, Citadel Investment Group, LLC USA
Gruber, Lilli Executive Editor and Anchor “Otto e mezzo”, La7 TV ITA
Guriev, Sergei Professor of Economics, Sciences Po RUS
Gürkaynak, Gönenç Managing Partner, ELIG Law Firm TUR
Gusenbauer, Alfred Former Chancellor of the Republic of Austria AUT
Halberstadt, Victor Professor of Economics, Leiden University NLD
Hampel, Erich Chairman, UniCredit Bank Austria AG AUT
Hassabis, Demis Vice President of Engineering, Google DeepMind GBR
Hesoun, Wolfgang CEO, Siemens Austria AUT
Hildebrand, Philipp Vice Chairman, BlackRock Inc. CHE
Hoffman, Reid Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn USA
Ischinger, Wolfgang Chairman, Munich Security Conference INT
Jacobs, Kenneth M. Chairman and CEO, Lazard USA
Jäkel, Julia CEO, Gruner + Jahr DEU
Johnson, James A. Chairman, Johnson Capital Partners USA
Juppé, Alain Mayor of Bordeaux, Former Prime Minister FRA
Kaeser, Joe President and CEO, Siemens AG DEU
Karp, Alex CEO, Palantir Technologies USA
Kepel, Gilles University Professor, Sciences Po FRA
Kerr, John Deputy Chairman, Scottish Power GBR
Kesici, Ilhan MP, Turkish Parliament TUR
Kissinger, Henry A. Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc. USA
Kleinfeld, Klaus Chairman and CEO, Alcoa USA
Knot, Klaas H.W. President, De Nederlandsche Bank NLD
Koç, Mustafa V. Chairman, Koç Holding A.S. TUR
Kogler, Konrad Director General, Directorate General for Public Security AUT
Kravis, Henry R. Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. USA
Kravis, Marie-Josée Senior Fellow and Vice Chair, Hudson Institute USA
Kudelski, André Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group CHE
Lauk, Kurt President, Globe Capital Partners DEU
Lemne, Carola CEO, The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise SWE
Levey, Stuart Chief Legal Officer, HSBC Holdings plc USA
Leyen, Ursula von der Minister of Defence DEU
Leysen, Thomas Chairman of the Board of Directors, KBC Group BEL
Maher, Shiraz Senior Research Fellow, ICSR, King’s College London GBR
Markus Lassen, Christina Head of Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Security Policy and Stabilisation DNK
Mathews, Jessica T. Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace USA
Mattis, James Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University USA
Maudet, Pierre Vice-President of the State Council, Department of Security, Police and the Economy of Geneva CHE
McKay, David I. President and CEO, Royal Bank of Canada CAN
Mert, Nuray Columnist, Professor of Political Science, Istanbul University TUR
Messina, Jim CEO, The Messina Group USA
Michel, Charles Prime Minister BEL
Micklethwait, John Editor-in-Chief, Bloomberg LP USA
Minton Beddoes, Zanny Editor-in-Chief, The Economist GBR
Monti, Mario Senator-for-life; President, Bocconi University ITA
Mörttinen, Leena Executive Director, The Finnish Family Firms Association FIN
Mundie, Craig J. Principal, Mundie & Associates USA
Munroe-Blum, Heather Chairperson, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board CAN
Netherlands, H.R.H. Princess Beatrix of the NLD
O’Leary, Michael CEO, Ryanair Plc IRL
Osborne, George First Secretary of State and Chancellor of the Exchequer GBR
Özel, Soli Columnist, Haberturk Newspaper; Senior Lecturer, Kadir Has University TUR
Papalexopoulos, Dimitri Group CEO, Titan Cement Co. GRC
Pégard, Catherine President, Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles FRA
Perle, Richard N. Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute USA
Petraeus, David H. Chairman, KKR Global Institute USA
Pikrammenos, Panagiotis Honorary President of The Hellenic Council of State GRC
Reisman, Heather M. Chair and CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc. CAN
Rocca, Gianfelice Chairman, Techint Group ITA
Roiss, Gerhard CEO, OMV Austria AUT
Rubin, Robert E. Co Chair, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Secretary of the Treasury USA
Rutte, Mark Prime Minister NLD
Sadjadpour, Karim Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace USA
Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, Pedro Leader, Partido Socialista Obrero Español PSOE ESP
Sawers, John Chairman and Partner, Macro Advisory Partners GBR
Sayek Böke, Selin Vice President, Republican People’s Party TUR
Schmidt, Eric E. Executive Chairman, Google Inc. USA
Scholten, Rudolf CEO, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG AUT
Senard, Jean-Dominique CEO, Michelin Group FRA
Sevelda, Karl CEO, Raiffeisen Bank International AG AUT
Stoltenberg, Jens Secretary General, NATO INT
Stubb, Alexander Prime Minister FIN
Suder, Katrin Deputy Minister of Defense DEU
Sutherland, Peter D. UN Special Representative; Chairman, Goldman Sachs International IRL
Svanberg, Carl-Henric Chairman, BP plc; Chairman, AB Volvo SWE
Svarva, Olaug CEO, The Government Pension Fund Norway NOR
Thiel, Peter A. President, Thiel Capital USA
Tsoukalis, Loukas President, Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy GRC
Üzümcü, Ahmet Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons INT
Vitorino, António M. Partner, Cuetrecasas, Concalves Pereira, RL PRT
Wallenberg, Jacob Chairman, Investor AB SWE
Weber, Vin Partner, Mercury LLC USA
Wolf, Martin H. Chief Economics Commentator, The Financial Times GBR
Wolfensohn, James D. Chairman and CEO, Wolfensohn and Company USA
Zoellick, Robert B. Chairman, Board of International Advisors, The Goldman Sachs Group USA

This Is How You “Boost” GDP: US Sells Over $4 Billion In Weapons To Israel, Iran And Saudi Arabia

Just as the US military industrial complex wanted.
This Is How You "Boost" GDP: US Sells Over $4 Billion In Weapons To Israel, Iran And Saudi Arabia

Image Credits: United States Air Force.

by Zero Hedge | May 22, 2015


War, what’s it good for?

Aside from countless deaths of innocent civilians of course, it means a GDP boost for the biggest exporter of weapons on earth, the United States, and even more profits for the US military-industrial complex. Profits which mean the shareholders of America’s arms manufacturers get even richer.

Which is why following months of middle-eastern sabre ratling and numerous quasi-wars already raging in the region, moments ago the U.S. State Department approved the sale of 10 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia for $1.9 billion, the first step in “a major multibillion-dollar modernization of the Saudi navy’s eastern fleet.”

MH-60R Seahawk helicopter

According to Reuters, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified lawmakers on Thursday about the possible arms sale, which has been discussed for years.

The Saudi government had requested a sale of the 10 MH-60R multi-mission helicopters, built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp and Lockheed, as well as radars, missiles and other equipment, the agency said.

Why do the Saudis need a modernization of their already state of the art weapons?

The proposed sale would improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats from enemy weapons systems, as well as secondary missions such as vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay.

“Saudi Arabia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense,” the agency said.

In other words, the Saudis, by funding ISIS, are creating the very “regional threat” (which recently has launched numerous false flag attacks against the same Saudi Arabia to provie the cover for needing such a modernization) that they need to wage war against.

But wait, there’s more!

Because just to make sure the same vendors of lethal equipment have happy repeat customers, the Pentagon also announced a $1.9 billion deal with Israel to supply 3,000 Hellfire precision missiles, 250 AIM-120C advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, 4,100 GBU-39 small diameter bombs and 50 BLU-113 bunker buster bombs. The order also includes 14,500 tail kits for Joint Direct Attack Munitions for 220kg and 900kg bombs and a variety of Paveway laser-guided bomb kits according to RT.

Bunker buster bomb in moment of deployment

Wait, wasn’t the US said to have tarnished its relations with Israel in recent months following various diplomatic snubs by Netanyahu and Obama? Well, it was all for show: according to Israeli media deal is seen as “compensation” for the rapprochement between Iran and the US.

Curiously, this is precisely what we wrote two weeks ago in “Obama’s Real Motive Behind The Iran Deal: A Backdoor Channel To Sell Weapons To Saudi Arabia” only we can now add Israel in the mix.

“The proposed sale of this equipment will provide Israel the ability to support its self-defense needs,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said, adding that the new contract is meant to“replenish”Israel’s arsenal without supplying the country with any kind of new weapons.

In November 2014 it was reported that Pentagon was going to supplying Israel with 3,000 smart bombs, similar to those used by the Israeli Air Force in Gaza last summer, where an estimated 100 tons of munitions were dropped.

So “modernizing” the Saudi arsenal and “replenishing” that of Israel.

In other words, Obama’s warming up to Iran was nothing but a back door diplomatic loophole to arm Iran’s “threatened” neighbors in the region. Just as we forecast.

As for the beneficiaries, once again there is no question: the main contractors to fulfill the lucrative Israeli arms deal will be Boeing, Ellwood National Forge, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Missile Systems, AFP reported.

But wait, there is even more!

Because, just in case arming Israel and Saudi Arabia with sophisticated modern weaponry isn’t enough to assure of a full on war in the coming weeks as the balance of power in the middle east once again shifts dramatically, the US – to really make sure America’s MIC has even more happy repeat customers, will also deliver 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank rockets to Iraq as early as next week, 1,000 more than announced on Wednesday, to help Baghdad combat suicide car bombings by Islamic State.

Soldier firing AT-4 anti tank rocket

Wait, anti-tank bombs to counter suicide bombers? Apparently yes:

Spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the delivery would help Iraq defend against approaching suicide bombers driving vehicles packed with explosives, attacks used by Islamic State militants last weekend to help them seize Ramadi from Iraqi forces. “This is a good counter to that (type of bombing),” Warren said.

Warren said the anti-tank weapons would allow the Iraqi forces to destroy approaching suicide car bombers at a distance. Relying on small arms requires disabling the engine or killing the driver, which can be difficult, he said.

And all of this why? So that the Saudis and Iran can “fight” against a Saudi-funded ISIS force, while Israel has “defensive” weapons against an Iran which may become a threat to Israel because of its recently friendly relations with the US.

Or, to conclude with the same summary we provided two weeks ago when predicting this outcome:

In other words, we have, for the past few years, been on the edge of a razor thin Middle Eastern balance of power equilibrium which prevented any one nation or alliance from garnering an outsized influence of military power.

All of that is about to change the moment the MIC figurehead known as president Obama greenlights the dispatch of billions of dollars in fighters, drones, missile batteries, and surveillance equipment to Saudi Arabia and its peers, in the process dramatically reshaping the balance of power status quo and almost certainly leading to yet another middle eastern war which will inevitably drag in not only Israel and Russia at least in a proxy capacity, but ultimately, the US as well.

Just as the US military industrial complex wanted.

Because as every Keynesian fanatic will tell you: in a world saturated by debt, and where organic growth is no longer possible, there is only one remaining option.

War.

Iran seizes cargo ship after firing warning shots

By ADAM SCHRECK and ROBERT BURNS
Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian forces fired warning shots across the bridge of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel as it was traversing the Strait of Hormuz, boarded the ship and directed it toward the Iranian mainland, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The incident with the MV Maersk Tigris, which prompted the U.S. Navy to dispatch a destroyer and a plane in response, comes at a critical time in Iran’s relations with its neighbors and the United States.

The U.S., other world powers and Iran are trying to hammer out a final deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Last week, the U.S. Navy dispatched an aircraft carrier and guided missile cruiser to the Arabian Sea amid worries that a convoy of Iranian cargo ships was headed to Yemen to deliver arms to the Shiite rebels fighting to take over Yemen.

And U.S. Navy officials said Tuesday that several Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy vessels had surrounded a U.S.-flagged cargo ship, the Maersk Kensington, last Friday as it was transiting the Strait of Hormuz. No shots were fired, the Iranian vessels broke off contact, and the cargo ship proceeded without further incident.

In Tuesday’s incident, the intercepted ship was traveling through the narrow Strait, which is technically Iranian and Omani territorial waters, but under international agreement is open to foreign ships making an innocent passage, said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. It wasn’t clear whether the ship had strayed off course into coastal waters not protected by that agreement.

The master of the cargo ship MV Maersk Tigris had initially refused an Iranian order to move further into Iranian waters, but after the warning shots were fired the vessel complied, Warren said.

The cargo ship was directed to waters near Larak Island, he said. The island sits off the major Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and is one of several in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian state television reported that only 24 crew were onboard the vessel, and hailed from Britain, Bulgaria, Romania and Myanmar. It said the ship was seized based on a court order due to unspecified violations. Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bandar Abbas is the main port for Iran’s Navy and separate naval forces operated by the elite Revolutionary Guard, as well as the country’s primary commercial port. It overlooks the Strait of Hormuz, the highly strategic waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

The strait is the route for about a fifth of the world’s oil and is only about 33 kilometers (21 miles) wide at its narrowest point. Ships traversing the chokepoint have even less room to maneuver. The shipping lane in either direction is only two miles wide, with a two-mile buffer zone between them.

Iran has in the past threatened to block the strait, a move that could spark a military conflict in the Gulf. American and allied naval forces routinely patrol the strait and have conducted military drills aimed at countering threats such as sea mines that Iran might use to close the waterway.

Tehran frequently conducts military exercises of its own in and around the strait. Large-scale, live-fire naval drills in February saw Revolutionary Guard forces assault a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier built in a Bandar Abbas shipyard.

“It is inappropriate” for the Iranians to have fired warning shots across the ship’s bridge in Tuesday’s circumstances, Warren said. He said it was too early to know whether the Iranian intervention amounted to a violation of the freedom of navigation through a waterway heavily used by international shipping.

Warren said the cargo ship had been boarded by Iranians, but no one was injured and no Americans were involved. The spokesman said the U.S. government has “certain obligations” to defend the interests of the Marshall Islands, but he was uncertain how those obligations to the Pacific Ocean nation apply in this situation.

The Iranian vessels, numbering five or six, were with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, he said. The incident began at about 4:05 a.m. U.S. Eastern Daylight Time, he said.

After the cargo ship sent a distress call, the U.S. Navy sent the destroyer USS Farragut and a Navy maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to the area of the incident to monitor the situation, according to Warren.

Lt. Joseph Hontz, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, which oversees American maritime operations in the region, declined to comment further on the incident and referred queries to the Pentagon.

Maersk, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, said the ship was chartered to Rickmers Ship Management, based in Hamburg, Germany. Maersk said it had no information about the crew or the cargo. Sabina Pech, a Rickmers spokeswoman in Hamburg, said she was aware of the incident but had no information and could not comment.

In 2007, Revolutionary Guard forces captured 15 British sailors and marines from a frigate in the Gulf, accusing them of operating in Iranian waters. They were released less than two weeks later.

Burns reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/adamschreck .

Iran seizes U.S. ship, 34 sailors

Iran has fired at a U.S. cargo ship and has directed it to Bandar Abbas port on the southern coast of Iran, Al Arabiya News Channel has reported on Tuesday.

Up to 34 American sailors are believed to be onboard the ship, Al Arabiya reported.

(developing story)

Last Update: Tuesday, 28 April 2015 KSA 17:32 – GMT 14:32
—————————————————————————————————————–

US denies Iran ship seizure report

The incident happened in the Straits of Hormuz, according to the Pentagon (file image of Iranian warship)

American officials have denied media reports that a US cargo ship had been seized by the Iranian navy.

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV network had reported that a US vessel had been seized and taken to an Iranian port.

However, the Pentagon spokesman said the vessel involved was flagged to the Marshall Islands and that no Americans were on board.

The MV Maersk Tigris was moving through the Straits of Hormuz, according to the Pentagon.

U.S. Moves Warship to Confront Iran Near Yemen

Move to stop Houthis from receiving surface-to-air missiles

by Kurt Nimmo | Infowars.com | April 20, 2015


The U.S. Navy is sending the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the waters near Yemen in response to reported arms deliveries to Houthis rebels by Iran.

The warships are prepared to block Iran from reaching the impoverished country located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

Last week Iran reportedly dispatched an armada of seven to nine ships to Yemen. U.S. defense officials characterized the mission as an effort to arm the Houthis.

In January Houthi rebels seized the presidential palace in the capital, Sana’a, and ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi who is supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia. In March, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf emirate allies began conducting airstrikes against the Houthis.

On Saturday Iran deemed accusations leveled by Saudi Arabia that it is arming the Shia rebels as “ridiculous.”

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi countered by saying Saudi Arabia is using U.S. weapons in airstrikes against the rebels.

“We’re assisting the Saudis to protect their own territory and to conduct operations that are designed to lead ultimately to a political settlement to Yemen,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Thursday.

“We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest responded when asked about the naval maneuvers. “That support will only contribute to greater violence in that country. These are exactly the kind of destabilizing activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.”

The U.S. wants to prevent the Houthis from receiving game-changing weapons such as surface-to-air missiles to challenge the Saudi bombing offensive.

Earlier this month U.S. naval forces in the Red Sea searched a Panamanian-flagged ship but did not find munitions.

Iranian ship convoy moves toward Yemen, alarming US officials

Officials fear the move could lead to a showdown
Iranian ship convoy moves toward Yemen, alarming US officials

by Kristina Wong | The Hill | April 18, 2015


U.S. military officials are concerned that Iran’s support for Houthi rebels in Yemen could spark a confrontation with Saudi Arabia and plunge the region into sectarian war.

Iran is sending an armada of seven to nine ships — some with weapons — toward Yemen in a potential attempt to resupply the Shia Houthi rebels, according to two U.S. defense officials.

Officials fear the move could lead to a showdown with the U.S. or other members of a Saudi-led coalition, which is enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen and is conducting its fourth week of airstrikes against the Houthis.

Iran sent a destroyer and another vessel to waters near Yemen last week but said it was part of a routine counter-piracy mission.

What’s unusual about the new deployment, which set out this week, is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it, officials said. Instead, they appear to be trying to “communicate it” to the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf.

It is not clear what will happen as the convoy comes closer to Yemen. Saudi Arabia has deployed ships around Yemen to enforce the blockade, as has Egypt. An official said the ship convoy could try to land at a port in Aden, which the Houthis have taken over.

Although the U.S. is assisting with the Saudi-led air campaign, it is not participating in the naval blockade of Yemen, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Pat Ryder.

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Britain and America are helping Saudi Arabia push Yemen towards total collapse

UK will support the bombing campaign ‘in every practical way short of engaging in combat’
Britain and America are helping Saudi Arabia push Yemen towards total collapse

Image Credits: Aljazeera.

by Daniel Wickham | Independent | April 12, 2015


As Yemen’s political and economic crisis deepens, the United States and Britain have decided to throw their weight behind a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states currently bombing the Houthi rebel group.

The rebels, who are backed by Iran and military units loyal to the deposed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, have taken over large parts of the country since September.

By providing warplanes and, in the case of the United States, logistical and intelligence support, both countries are playing an important, enabling role in the operation, which in recent weeks has contributed to a sharp escalation of violence in Yemen.

Why should this concern us? Well, for a start, the air campaign is killing large numbers of innocent civilians, and is greatly exacerbating a severe, pre-existing humanitarian crisis.

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Better a War than an Agreement?

U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia would rather see war than a deal that brings Iran out of sanctions

by The Real News | April 3, 2015


Phyllis Bennis says forces aligned in opposition to the Iran Framework Agreement in the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia would rather see war than a deal that brings Iran out of sanctions and back into play as a regional power.

Jade Helm: Preparation For Huge War in the Middle East?

Drill simulates invasion of Iran, Syria

by Paul Joseph Watson | March 30, 2015