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Russia vetoes motion after preparing Special Forces for Syria

Russia vetoes motion after preparing Special Forces for Syria
DEBKAfile

The West and Russia had a major showdown Saturday Feb. 5 over the Arab League resolution calling on Bashar Assad to step down and allow the formation of a national unity government. US President Barack Obama demanded a UN stand against the Syrian president’s “relentless brutality” and a vote before the end of the day. It was put to the vote and defeated by Russian and China vetoes.

Moscow sources charged that the motion had been intended to pave the way for war in Iran and a bid to overthrow the Tehran regime.
debkafile’s military sources report that the Russians backed their hard line against the West by putting Rapid Reaction Force (aka Spetsnaz) units in Black Sea bases on the ready to set out for Syria and defend Damascus. A Cold War dimension has been injected into the Syrian crisis, which is fast descending into a sectarian war between Syria’s ruling Alawites (Shiites) and the majority Sunnis. The regional dimension is provided by pitting Iran and Syria against Turkey and the Gulf Arabs.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s earlier announcement that he would visit Damascus next Tuesday, Feb 7, with Russian Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov was meant to buy Bashar Assad another three days’ grace to polish off the opposition before a possible UN-ordered ceasefire.
However, the US and Western powers refused to wait for further Syrian excesses to take place after various sources reported earlier Saturday that Syrian troops had shelled the Homs district of Khaldiyeh, killing an estimated 350 people there and injuring some 1,500, in the worst military bombardment of nearly 11-month-old uprising,.

Syrian government officials denied the charge accusing “gunmen” of killing civilians.

debkafile’s intelligence sources note that Moscow’s gesture to send the Russian foreign intelligence chief to Damascus alongside the foreign minister is supported additionally by the presence in the Syrian port of Tartus of Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov with two destroyers and a marine force.

Aside from a few Turkish brigades strung out along the Syrian border, the West maintains no troops on in the vicinity of Syria since the American military withdrew from Iraq last December.

The United States presented a tough front at the UN Security Council Saturday, with President Obama insisting that the council vote on a Arab League text without further delay or changes to accommodate Moscow and that its president step down over his “unspeakable assault” on Homs.
The hard lines taken by Washington and Moscow over the Syrian crisis produced a harsh showdown over the “Arab Spring” per se, which Russian has been building up to since NATO helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Qaddafi.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who runs for his third term as president in a month’s time, and President Dmitry Medvedev appear to have determined, even at the price of military intervention, not to let NATO and Arab states repeat the Libyan exercise in Damascus. The gauntlet they threw down was picked up by President Obama Saturday. If the Russians continue to obstruct the US, European and Arab role in backing the Arab revolt and the Muslim Brotherhood, The United States, the Europeans and the Gulf Arabs are likely to redouble their efforts to unseat Bashar Assad.

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Oil and the Falklands – the Saga Continues


Oil and the Falklands – the Saga Continues

Written by John Daly

Like some dimly remembered Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, pitting Hardy British tars against perfidious foreigners, the Falklands periodically recycles into the gaze of bemused international observers every decade or so.

Since the brief 1982 war between Argentina and Britain, the issue of sovereignty of the Falklands has lurked beneath the internationals diplomatic surface, an irritant but hardly threatening to reignite a new round of hostilities. Three decades on from that unfortunate confrontation the issue of the Falklands is again roiling Argentinean-British relations over the possibility that the archipelago contains beneath its surrounding waters something of value – oil.

British oil group Rockhopper Exploration has unveiled optimistic plans for a $2 billion oil infrastructure investment in the Falkland Islands announcing on 14 September that it expected to start pumping oil in 2016 from its four licensed Sea Lion concessions totaling 1,500 square miles, with a projected production rate of roughly 120,000 barrels of oil per day by 2018. Rockhopper Exploration said the fifth well in the Sea Lion complex “had found a high quality reservoir package and oil column.”

This roseate picture is somewhat clouded by several facts, including that currently Rockhopper Exploration has on hand a mere $170 million, enough to pay for two more scheduled wells. Nevertheless, Rockhopper Exploration shares, which have outperformed the European index of oil and gas companies by 14 percent since August, were up 1.1 percent in early trading after the company’s announcement.

A second element in this picture is a sobering fact that while both British and Argentinean companies have drilled a handful of exploratory wells in the water surrounding the Falklands, only Rockhopper Exploration has discovered petroleum.

And thirdly last but certainly not least is the issue of the islands sovereignty, contested by both Argentina and Britain for the last 198 years.

While various City pundits excitedly speculate that the Falklands is to become another North Sea, the above facts taken together indicates at the very least a far greater degree of risk in underwriting Rockhopper Exploration’s ambitious program.

So if the Falklands oil potential is so promising, then why are the international major oil companies not involved? The answer is in brief that they have looked at the islands’ potential and given a pass.

According to a US embassy cable dating from February 2010 and leaked last year by Wikileaks, “ExxonMobil International chairman Brad Corson told us he does not believe there is enough oil on the Falkland Islands continental shelf to be profitable, citing Shell’s earlier oil exploration attempts which they abandoned.”

Argentina is not taking the news lightly, declaring its intention following Rockhopper Exploration’s to both file an official complaint against Britain for oil exploration activities in Falklands/Malvinas disputed waters before the United Nations Decolonization Committee along with inviting the U.N. Special Committee of the 24 on Decolonization Chairman Francisco Carrion-Mena of Ecuador to visit Argentina to hold a meeting on the issue in Buenos Aires.

The Falklands now have the dubious distinction of joining the list of contested offshore maritime oil and natural gas concessions spewed by two or more countries.

These include a growing dispute in the eastern Mediterranean between Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Turkey, the final disposition of the Caspian’s offshore waters currently contested by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Turkmenistan Russia and rising confrontation in the East China Sea over the region’s offshore waters which involves the Spratly island’s more than 750 islands, islets, atolls and cays, whose various portions of offshore waters are claimed by China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

What makes the Falklands Argentinean-British dispute unique however is the fact that in 1980 to the countries actually fought a brief vicious war over the archipelago and its surrounding waters. At the time oil exploration of the Falklands waters had yet to begin, and the node and Argentinian writer Jorge Borges famously compared the dispute to “two bald men fighting over a comb.” The stakes are much higher now.

Common sense would seem to indicate that the best way for might be a possible joint venture between the two nations to explore their offshore waters oil potential hand, if any significant reserves are found jointly to develop them with an agreed-upon program of profit sharing, but given the increasingly strident claims sole sovereignty over the archipelago this seems increasingly unlikely.

If therefore Rockhopper Exploration’s drilling programs prove successful, a number of developments seem increasingly clear. First is that, depending on the political temperature in Buenos Aires, future activities may well need the protection of the Royal Navy.

Secondly is Latin America’s increasingly lining up behind Argentina’s claims to the islands, and Brazil recently stated that it would not allow British exploration vessels to use Brazilian ports to exploit any possible oil developments in the Falklands, Rockhopper Exploration will need to source virtually all of the necessary equipment from the other side of the Atlantic as well as possibly Britain, both major expenses for a company which states it has only $170 million of available cash. Furthermore should development go forward, then a total lack of access to Latin American hydrocarbon infrastructure support means that Rockhopper Exploration will probably be forced to use a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel to store and transport its output.

Last but not least, the de facto boycott by Latin America of any future Falklands oil production means that the oil at the very least will have to transit South Atlantic before reaching potential markets, further increasing both development costs and shrinking potential profits.

In light of the above, a joint venture would seem to be the most common sense way to proceed, but given the rising jingoistic nationalism flaring over the issue in both London and Buenos Aires, don’t count on any time soon.

While in history is rife with examples of daring oil explorers making fortunes, the number of examples shrink dramatically when major oil companies give a pass on projected production and you future output is situated in a contested site which less than 30 years ago was a “hot” war zone.

By. John C.K. Daly of OilPrice.com

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” I am become Death, the destroyer of Worlds” – Israels Doomsday Weapon: Leviathan

Doomsday weapon: Israel’s submarines

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Alex Fishman

The day the Twin Towers collapsed in Manhattan, September 11, 2001, IDF submarine “Leviathan” of the advanced Dolphin model was on a training sail somewhere at sea – the exact location of Israel’s submarines will always remain classified, even dozens of years after the fact.

At one point, the submarine rose to the surface to take a break. The sub’s commander, then-Lt. Colonel Oded, looked through the periscope and saw a calm, blue sea. However, one crew member soon informed him that he just saw the New York towers collapsing on television. Oded’s first reaction was laughter: What kind of movie are you watching there? How could the Twin Towers collapse? Yet soon after, the official announcement arrived from Israel.

The training session ended abruptly. Orders started to pour in from Navy headquarters. The submarine went into high alert and sank into the water for a lengthy period of several weeks. “In such case,” Oded says, “nobody knows where you are except for your crew and your direct commanders. Even your family doesn’t know. They don’t know what you’re doing or when you’ll be back. They know nothing.”


What does a terror attack at the World Trade Center have to do with an Israeli submarine going on high alert? This question shall remain unanswered as well. We can only guess: When the US experiences an unprecedented terror event whose implications are still unclear, nobody knows how the superpower would respond and what will happen in the Middle East as result. At such moments of uncertainty, Israel’s first walls of defense are its long-range strategic arms – the most secretive one is the submarine fleet.

Israel’s enemies must be made to understand that should they dare use any weapon of mass destruction, their own fate will be sealed. According to foreign reports, Israel’s Dolphin fleet plays a crucial role in the game of deterrence with its second strike capability.


Virtual passport

Just like Israel’s submarine fleet is secretive, so are its commanders. Colonel Oded, 44, has recently completed his tenure as the fleet’s commander, ending a chapter of more than 20 years where he performed almost every command post in the fleet. “If a layman would see submarine troops from the side, he would not understand how we can withstand it,” Oded says in a rare interview. “It’s a group of people who perform missions at very certain locations and feel like home there. People wake up for their shifts, eat breakfast and follow a routine in the least trivial locations one can imagine.”

When I ask Oded whether his troops’ passports would be filled with stamps, had they theoretically stamped them at border control, he smiles and says nothing. Indeed, we can imagine that these virtual passports would have been full of stamps. The Navy’s submarines, as opposed to other vessels, never dock at foreign ports, including friendly ones. This is the nature of the service: The submarines only dock in Israel.


Exceptional soldiers

In order to serve on a submarine, one needs more than to excel at school and accumulate more and more knowledge. Such soldiers need a specific mental makeup that enables them to be isolated for lengthy periods of time from their natural environment, while living with 40 other people under crowded conditions and an intensive, tense operational atmosphere.


“People who cannot withstand the pressure drop out in the screening process and during the courses,
” Oded says. “There is only one way to minimize the fear and improve the ability to function during emergencies: Sisyphean training. For that reason we constantly engage in simulating extreme scenarios, so when things happen in real life the soldiers are trained and already experienced those things during training sessions.


“When you arrive at the sub after the course, you feel that nobody is better than you, but very quickly you realize that you have much to learn from the people around you,
” Oded says. “The veteran non-commissioned officer is much more professional than you in his area of expertise. The secret of the submarine’s power is the accumulated knowledge of everyone on board. Each soldier is an expert, so you learn to appreciate and trust them…you learn very quickly that the quality of the soldiers is so high that you cannot just issue orders.”


Not like in the movies

So what happens to a young man who one day becomes privy to the State of Israel’s deepest secrets? “If we developed the right person, and his ego is at a healthy place, not much happens,” Oded says. “The heavy responsibility and significance of the work merely increase the need for modesty. Even though it’s quite surprising and fascinating to discover what this country can do, we don’t tell our parents or anyone else. Never. Everything stays within the submarine. This is one of the reasons why the friendships formed between the soldiers and officers don’t exist elsewhere. We develop a culture where secrecy means life or death.

In the movies we often see a submarine commander receiving a mysterious message, walking over to the safe, pulling out an envelope and discovering a dramatic mission for the first time. Yet when Oded is asked whether this happens in real life, he bursts into laughter. “This happens in the movies. These are precisely the things that are not done in real life, because the sub commander works completely independently, and at times has no contact whatsoever with his superiors. Hence, he must have all the information available to him and be familiar with the mission’s big picture, so he can make the right decisions.


Having fun in the shower

At the end of the 1980s, Oded completed a degree in electrical engineering and physics at the Technion. Upon graduation, he was appointed as commander of a missile boat that specializes in anti-submarine warfare (the Navy ensures that future sub commanders serve on such boats first, as there is no better way to learn how they behave when confronting a submarine.) After two years, Oded embarked on a submarine commander’s course – an intensive eight-month track with a personal mentor. In 1999 he was assigned to command the old-model submarine “Gal.” The only thing he is willing to say about that period is: “It was a very operational year, with plenty of counter-terror activity.” In 2001, he was appointed as the second commander of “Leviathan,” a new model Dolphin sub.

When asked how it feels to command “Leviathan,” a submarine that is three-times larger than the previous sub he led, Oded first speaks about the improved shower experience. “When you are sailing for weeks and your only way to take a shower is to use the air-conditioner’s water, yet suddenly you have a shower, only then you understand the meaning of this,” he says.

“Suddenly there is a convenient space for service, in submarine terms of course. Suddenly your sub has more than one floor. There are also more arms and more advanced sonar systems. There is also a leap in atomization and in command and control capabilities. It’s like flying into space. Moreover, it’s a very quiet submarine that can perform its mission with greater secrecy.

Doubling the fleet

At this time the Navy is preparing to double Israel’s submarine fleet from three to six in the next five years, making it one of the region’s largest and most advanced fleets. As result of this process, Oded was not only required to double the submarine fleet’s manpower, but also to create a larger cadre career officers for a lengthy service term, as the need for professional expertise will only be growing. Hence, the Navy realized it must offer these soldiers the army’s best service terms. For example, sub troops can study almost anything they want, as long as they stay in the force. Notably, a sub officer is required to serve nine years at least.

Oded says that doubling the fleet’s size is “not only a challenge for the army; it’s a challenge for the State.” When asked whether Israel needs such large fleet, especially in an era of cutbacks, Oded has no hesitation: “I have no doubt we need it. A large submarine fleet gives us much more than a multiplier effect in strategic and security terms.”

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