Happy New Year to all of our viewers. Polling for the presidential nominations, by and large, took a break for the holidays. Polls from individual states, you’ll recall, get much more accurate with the holidays in the rear view mirror. We’ll analyze and report on them and the important national polls as they become available. Meanwhile, sectarian tensions in the Middle East were exacerbated when the Saudis executed a Shiite cleric that triggered large demonstrations at the Saudi embassy in Tehran, which was ransacked and damaged in the process. That this was in violation of the Geneva Convention seemed of little consequence to the demonstrators, who appeared organized, judging by the plethora of similar professionally made signs showing the likeness of the cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Iran, of course, is predominantly Shia, while Saudi Arabia is Sunni–with a sizable Shia minority, that mostly live in Saudi’s strategically important Eastern oil region. Al-Nimr, though not theologically a major cleric, was popular throughout the Shiite world and had spent many years in Iran. Al-Nimr, a... Read More
Saudi Arabia is “reportedly” putting “boots on the ground” in Yemen, and these reports have triggered a big rise in Oil Prices. I use quotes around “reported” because, as of this writing, there has been no official or otherwise authoritative confirmation of new, significant troop moves into Yemen. Whether coincidental or otherwise, these reports triggered market-order covering trades in heavily oversold and shorted oil futures markets. Oil prices which had traded below $38 bbl earlier this week, by mid-day Friday had risen to over $45 bbl WTI. West Texas Intermediate is the major U.S. Market for crude oil, and contracts are for 1000 bbl (equivalent to 42,000 gallons). $45 is the price per bbl of crude oil for these contracts. Oil contracts are highly leveraged and so moves like this one no doubt would force some margin calls, hence the market orders to buy, exacerbating the price jump. Cynics will note that Saudi Arabia, as the world’s largest oil producer, has been suffering from the low world’s oil prices, and the short-term timing couldn’t be better going into the final week before the Labor Day long weekend, when petrol demand is very high.
In recent weeks, we have tried to explain the fall of Ramadi in the Anbar Provence of Iraq and the crisis in Yemen where the Outhouse’s had effectively taken over the government and the key cities of Sana’a and Aden. In Ramadi, the government’s army forces, who received training at the hands of the U.S. Army trainers, once again ran from their positions leaving many of their U.S. provided arms behind for the successful ISIS victors. In Yemen, the sobriquets “terrorist” and “Iranian surrogate” were loosely applied to the Houthis. This ignored the fact that the Shia Houthis were formed to fight al Qaeda in Yemen and were supported by the former leader of Yemen, the Sunni Ali Abdullah Saleh. I argued that historically the Houthis were always willing to negotiate, recognizing the minority position that Shia occupy in Yemen. In Ramadi as in the rest of Anbar, the population is overwhelmingly Sunni. The government forces are Shia and not very effective at fighting ISIS. The key... Read More
Yemen III In our April13 post, we noted that the Houthis were considerably more than just an Iranian surrogate in Yemen. Indeed, we pointed out, the Houthis, as part of the minority Shia were basically concerned with fairness for their people in a Sunni dominated country. About forty percent of Yemen’s population is Shia. In fact, since their formation in 2004, they had been fighting the al Qaeda Sunni militant jihadists in the North (practically they were behind the group Believing Youth, formed in Sana’a in the early to mid 90’s). And, recall, the Yemen version of Al Qaeda had just seen their numbers and power increased due to a merger with Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia forming Al Qaeda for the entire Arabian Peninsula, but based in Yemen. Most of this activity took place in North Yemen. Under an Arab League sponsored armistice, and with more forceful pressure from Saudi Arabia, the two non-Houthi key figures contending for power were named head of the new government, namely... Read More