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Saudi Arabia knows its defences are not up to war with Iran

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:50

Saudi Arabia knows its defences are not up to war with IranThe smoke rising above above Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil field might seem at first like the justification Riyadh has been waiting for.  If the White House is to be believed, Iran launched an unprovoked attack on the kingdom’s most important oil facilities. Saudi Arabia would be within its rights to strike its Iranian archrivals in response.  In an evening tweet, Donald Trump even appeared to give Saudi Arabia a say in whether the US would attack Iran. “[The US is] waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Saudi Arabia has the power to bring fire and fury down on its most-hated foe but may be reluctant to actually that power. The reality is the Saudis are deeply skittish about the prospects of any war with Iran because they know they will be Tehran’s main target.  If fighting breaks out between the US and Iran, the Iranians will have relatively few chances to strike America directly. They could target US ships in the Persian Gulf or order their Shia militia proxies to harass American forces in Iraq.  But most of their fire is likely to be aimed at the soft underbelly of Saudi Arabia, which is well within range of Iran’s missiles on the other side of the Gulf.   Strikes against Saudi oil plants “Saudi Arabia will not support a war with Iran that has a Saudi return address on it,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.  “Saudi Arabia would support a war between the US and Iran, if Saudi Arabia could hide behind the US, but not one where the Saudis must step out in front, because the Saudis would lose.” Although the kingdom is the world’s third largest defence spender after the US and China, its military is fairly ineffective and would struggle against Iranian forces hardened by decades of unconventional warfare across the region.  Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, openly lamented the disparity between the quality of his troops’ weapons and the paucity of their fighting skills. “It is unacceptable that we are the world’s third or fourth biggest country in military spending but our army is ranked in the twenties [in ability],” he said in 2016. “There is a problem.” Mohammed bin Salman had lamented his forces' capabilities Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo That problem has been mercilessly exposed on the battlefields of Yemen, where Saudi forces equipped with state-of-the-art British and American weaponry have been fought to a stalemate by ragtag Houthi rebel fighters backed by Iran.   This vulnerability explains why, despite Riyadh’s strong rhetoric towards Iran, the Saudis have often looked to de-escalate in the face of Iranian provocations.   After two Saudi oil tankers were bombed in a mysterious sabotage attack in May, the US pointed the finger directly at Iran. Yet, Saudi Arabia hemmed and hawed and appeared reluctant to place the blame on anyone.  In their initial statements about this week's attack, Saudi officials have confirmed the weapons were Iranian-made but have not gone as far as the US in directly blaming Iran. As with the tanker attacks, they may now say that a lengthy investigation is needed to determine the culprits, giving time for passions to fade.    The kingdom surely dream of ridding itself of its rivals in the Islamic Republic across the narrow water. But if the price of confronting Iran is far more smoke billowing above burning Saudi oil fields then Riyadh will probably look for a way to back down.


U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:44

U.S. service member killed in AfghanistanA U.S. service member was killed in Afghanistan on Monday, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said, after the collapse of talks between the United States and Taliban to end the nearly 18-year old war. It said the service member was killed in action but did not provide further details. This brings the number of U.S. service members killed in combat in Afghanistan to 17 this year.


More than half of teens say they're 'afraid' and 'angry' about climate change — and 1 in 4 of them are doing something about it

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:33

More than half of teens say they're 'afraid' and 'angry' about climate change — and 1 in 4 of them are doing something about itTeenagers in the US are afraid of climate change but are also increasingly participating in activist activity, according to a new poll.


Mugabe gets low-key farewell in Zimbabwe home village

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:29

Mugabe gets low-key farewell in Zimbabwe home villageThe remains of former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, who died on September 6, arrived in his home village on Monday for a subdued farewell at a dusty sports field after a weekend state funeral with African leaders in the capital.


GRAPHIC-Saudi's vast storage cushions oil market from supply shock - analysts

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:20

GRAPHIC-Saudi's vast storage cushions oil market from supply shock - analystsSaudi Arabia should be able to keep exports flowing after attacks on vital oil infrastructure on Saturday slashed more half of its oil production, but a prolonged shutdown will rattle global oil supplies, analysts said on Monday. An industry source told Reuters on Sunday that Riyadh plans to compensate the lost production with exports from oil it holds in storage. In addition to its own storage facilities in the kingdom, Aramco also stores oil in other strategic locations like Rotterdam, Sidi Kerir, Egypt, and Okinawa, Japan.


Teen died from birthday meal even after he told restaurant of allergy, coroner rules

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:20

Teen died from birthday meal even after he told restaurant of allergy, coroner rulesOwen Carey collapsed about an hour after he ate the grilled chicken in April 2017. A corner ruled that he died from a "severe anaphylactic reaction."


ICC prosecutor appeals acquittal of I.Coast's Gbagbo

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:15

ICC prosecutor appeals acquittal of I.Coast's GbagboThe chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court appealed on Monday against the shock acquittal of former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo over post-electoral violence that killed around 3,000 people. Gbagbo, the first head of state to stand trial in The Hague, and his deputy Charles Ble Goude, were both cleared of crimes against humanity in January and released the following month. "The appeal will demonstrate that the trial chamber committed legal and procedural errors which led to the acquittals of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ble Goude on all counts," Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's office said.


John Oliver rips apart Donald Trump's 'stand in line' immigration rhetoric

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:09

John Oliver rips apart Donald Trump's 'stand in line' immigration rhetoricJohn Oliver has ripped apart Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric in a scathing new video, detailing the complexities of the immigration process in order to paint a more accurate picture of how people acquire the right to live and work in the United States.The host tackled the topic on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.


Saudi Wealth and Weaponry Still Can’t Guarantee Oil’s Protection

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 09:48

Saudi Wealth and Weaponry Still Can’t Guarantee Oil’s Protection(Bloomberg) -- How could Saudi Arabia, a country with the world’s third-largest military budget and six battalions of U.S.-built Patriot missile-defense systems, fail to defend the beating heart of the oil industry on which the kingdom depends?That question lies at the heart of responses to Saturday’s attack on Abqaiq, which cut Saudi oil production by half, and is critical to any assessment of whether investors will have to permanently factor higher political risk assumptions into the price of oil.As audacious as the strike was, it was only the latest in a series and should have come as no surprise. The effectiveness of the Saudi military machine has long been questioned, despite spending $83 billion on defense last year, compared to $45 billion for Russia and $20 billion for regional rival Iran. The kingdom’s formidably equipped air force has been bombing Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen since 2015, but has so far failed to tip the civil war in favor of Saudi allies.Yet any firm answers to the question of Saudi vulnerability will have to wait for more clarity on exactly what happened on Saturday, according to air defense specialists. There are conflicting accounts as to what technologies were used -- a swarm of 10 armed unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles or a mix of the two.“If it was a mixed attack, if you have small UAVs plus cruise missiles coordinated, coming in at low level -- that is a wicked problem to deal with, even for a capable Western military,” according to Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a U.K. think tank. “The best place to stop this stuff is before it gets in the air.”Formidable ChallengeDefending against drones -- whether over airports or on the battlefield -- was a hot topic at the U.K.’s biggest annual defense show last week among the companies that manufacture and sell high-end defense systems to governments around the world, said Barrie.The nature of oil installations -- large, stationary and inflammable -- in any case makes their defense a formidable challenge, according to Barrie and others. So too their dispersion across Saudi Arabia’s vast empty spaces and the need to monitor thousands of miles of porous borders with Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan.Until U.S.-Iran tensions subside, the risk of further attacks is likely to remain. In recent months, the U.S. has accused Iran of sabotaging tankers carrying oil through the Strait of Hormuz, while Houthi-claimed drones attacked pumping stations for Saudi Arabia’s East-West pipeline in May, and the Shaybah oil field in August. A Saudi military official said Monday that Iranian weapons were used in the latest attacks.“It’s very simple: The Iranians have tried several times to raise the price of oil,” said Ram Yavne, a retired brigadier general and former head of strategic planning in the Israel Defense Forces, who is now with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a Washington think tank. “They want to show the world that the price for the U.S. blocking their ability to produce oil is very high.”‘Highly Vulnerable’Iran, the target of crippling U.S. sanctions, has denied responsibility for all of these attacks, including Saturday’s. Some attempted strikes were foiled by Saudi missile defenses, but those successes are likely to be forgotten in the wake of the attack on Abqaiq, which took about 5% of the global oil supply off line.“There is but one rational takeaway from this weekend’s drone attacks on the kingdom’s infrastructure,” according to a note from Citi Research analysis. “That infrastructure is highly vulnerable to attack, and the market has been persistently mispricing oil.”The success of a drone strike against arguably the most important single piece of infrastructure in the global oil industry could also prove an embarrassment for Raytheon Co.’s high-cost Patriots.“What amazes me is, what happened to the American anti-missile systems?” said Fawaz A. Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics. “This reflects terribly on the U.S. and its defense systems. The Iranians know this now and the lessons learned here will be applied in Syria, Lebanon and others areas in the future.”S-400 CapabilitiesSaudi Arabia has been in talks to acquire the same S-400 advanced air-defense system that Turkey recently bought from Russia. The Russian weapon, though little tested in combat, has technical advantages over U.S. Patriots. It has a range of 400 kilometers (250 miles), versus the Patriot’s 160 kilometers, can destroy targets moving twice as fast and can be mounted for action in five minutes, compared with an hour for a Patriot battery.Buying S-400s would, however, risk a major rift between Washington and Riyadh, as well as U.S. sanctions -- and without necessarily providing the answer to drone attacks. In July, the U.S. said it authorized deployment of 500 troops to Saudi Arabia, as a strengthened “deterrent.”“The issue is that drones/cruise missiles cannot be dealt with with conventional defense like Patriots/Thad or aircraft. That problem nobody has solved not even US,” Ali Shihabi, a Saudi commentator close to the government, said in a tweet Monday. THAAD, for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is another large-format U.S. missile defense system.Russia pairs its S-400s with the smaller Pantsir-S1 system, to handle low flying and short range missiles that would slip past the larger ballistic missile defense system. Though Russia has deployed S-400s in northwestern Syria, it has used the Pantsir system to counter drone strikes.“Ideally, the Saudis need layered defenses, including short range point defense systems like the German Skyshield or Russian Pantsir to allow rapid engagements of small threats with cheaper systems than the massively expensive Patriot,” Justin Bronk, research fellow for air power and technology at the U.K.’s Royal United Services Institute, said in an emailed response to questions.For the Saudis, the first priority will likely be to ascertain the launch point of the attack. Depending on their size, drones could even be driven into the kingdom and launched at short range. “It’s true that this is not the most capable military, said Barrie of the U.K.’s IISS think tank. “But the opposition has an awful lot of advantages.”\--With assistance from Henry Meyer, Yaacov Benmeleh, Zainab Fattah and Vivian Nereim.To contact the reporter on this story: Marc Champion in London at mchampion7@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net, ;Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net, ;Benjamin Harvey at bharvey11@bloomberg.net, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


President orders 'blind unilateral escalation' in Iran after attack halves Saudi oil production, as he defends Kavanaugh amid impeachment calls

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 09:05

President orders 'blind unilateral escalation' in Iran after attack halves Saudi oil production, as he defends Kavanaugh amid impeachment callsDonald Trump has been warned he cannot declare war without congressional support following the bombing of Saudi Arabian oil facilities.The strikes, which destroyed half of the kingdom’s oil production capacity, were claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.


Astronomers Observe the Most Massive Neutron Star Ever

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:59

Astronomers Observe the Most Massive Neutron Star EverIt's 15 miles across with a mass of more than twice the sun.


French boy, 10, dies 8 years after supermarket burger poisoning

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:57

French boy, 10, dies 8 years after supermarket burger poisoningA French boy aged 10, who fell gravely ill in 2011 after consuming a beef burger from supermarket discounter Lidl that was infected with E.coli bacteria, has died of complications stemming from his poisoning, the family's lawyer said. The boy, Nolan, died on Saturday "as a consequence of his poisoning", the family's lawyer Florence Rault told AFP on Sunday. Rault said that Nolan had not "ceased to suffer" after consuming the burger in June 2011.


Investigation into alleged surveillance abuse and targeting of the Trump campaign is in its final stages

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:51

Investigation into alleged surveillance abuse and targeting of the Trump campaign is in its final stagesInspector general Michael E. Horowitz outlined a multi-step review process with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General William Barr; chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports from Washington.


Snowden says he would return to US if he can get a fair trial

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:48

Snowden says he would return to US if he can get a fair trialEdward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor living in Russia after leaking information about the US government's mass surveillance program, has said he would like to return home if he can get a fair trial. Snowden, who faces espionage charges that could send him to prison for decades, stated his desire to return to the United States in an interview with "CBS This Morning" broadcast on Monday. "I would like to return to the United States," said Snowden, whose memoir, "Permanent Record," is to go on sale on Tuesday.


U.N. aid chief says Saudi Arabia to pay $500 million for Yemen aid next week

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:45

U.N. aid chief says Saudi Arabia to pay $500 million for Yemen aid next weekUnited Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock said Saudi Arabia plans to pay $500 million next week of a pledge it made in February to help fund a humanitarian response in Yemen, which the world body has described as the world's worst aid crisis. Lowcock on Monday told the U.N. Security Council that Saudi Arabia - which leads a military coalition fighting in Yemen - planned to pay on Sept. 25 and that the United Arab Emirates had also recently made a payment of $200 million.


Back in 2015, Iran Practiced Sinking a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:35

Back in 2015, Iran Practiced Sinking a U.S. Navy Aircraft CarrierCould this become a reality?


US strike on Iran would be disastrous for the region — and likely for the US

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:33

US strike on Iran would be disastrous for the region — and likely for the USThe US is accusing Iran of attacks on a key Saudi oil facility. Experts warn a US strike on Iran would be counterproductive — even dangerous.


James Murdoch: 'There are views I really disagree with' on Fox News

Yahoo News - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 08:22

 'There are views I really disagree with' on Fox NewsRupert Murdoch’s younger son gave subtle but pointed criticism of the network in an interview with the New YorkerJames Murdoch in Florence, Italy, on 19 October 2015. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesFor decades the Murdoch name has been synonymous with the type of monolithic conservative thinking broadcast and printed by the family’s media empire around the world. More recently, and in particular the Fox News brand, has likewise become synonymous with almost universal praise for Donald Trump. But recent comments given by James Murdoch, younger son of Rupert, point out that not all members of the family are necessarily ideologically aligned.In an interview with the New Yorker, James Murdoch, formerly the CEO of 21st Century Fox before its recent merger with Disney, and now currently unemployed by the family business, levied subtle but pointed criticism at his father’s news network and the president.He has seen signs of rising illiberalism and threats to democracy around the world led by authoritarian regimes using the tools of the digital age to spread disinformation, he said.“The connective tissue of our society is being manipulated to make us fight with each other, making us the worst versions of ourselves,” he said.Asked if that included Fox News, he demurred somewhat, but noted: “There are views I really disagree with on Fox.”His foundation Quadrivium, which he established with his wife, Kathryn, who has worked on the Clinton Climate Initiative, has made part of its mission fighting the type of disinformation campaigns seen in recent years that have helped usher in fascist-leaning governments around the world. The group is also working on galvanizing voter turnout, something sure to work against the prospect of Trump’s re-election were it to prove successful.A New York Times investigation earlier this year suggested Murdoch has long held ambivalent attitudes towards Fox News. The NYT said: “When Roger Ailes, the chief executive of Fox News, was ousted in 2016, amid a sexual harassment scandal, James wanted to revamp the network as a less partisan news outlet.”Murdoch’s latest comments are, on the whole, a small fissure in the typically Trump-adoring Murdoch front, but given some of the recent criticism of the president from Fox News personalities, it may be a harbinger of shifting political winds in the family business.Or it could just be the newly freed Murdoch son, who has dallied with centrist and Democratic causes before, reiterating his independence. Around the time of the protests and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 Murdoch criticized Trump’s comments praising neo-Nazis.One thing it would be hard to say, given comments he gave about Pete Buttigieg – “It’s clear to anyone who hears him speak that he has an extraordinary mind,” he said – and his framing of the 2020 election as “a really crucial moment” for democratic values, is that his vision of a world fighting back against illiberalism includes Trump in it as president.


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