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Qatar Puts Military On Highest State Of Alert Over Fears Of Imminent Incursion @zerohedge
Yesterday's news that Saudi Arabia has issued an ultimatum to Qatar,
listing ten demands among which that Qatar end all ties with the
Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, has prompted a dramatic response by the
small Gulf nation, and according to a just released report by Arabic
CNN (and confirmed locally) US officials have said they have observed
increased Qatari military activity as the country placed its forces
"on the highest state of alert" over fears of an imminent military
Bitcoin's Valuation Is Confusing Currency Analysts
Bitcoin’s gold for millennials. Or maybe it’s that generation’s fine
wine and collectible art. Or just a bubble waiting to burst.
For foreign-exchange analysts trying to use traditional methods to
value the so-called cryptocurrency and its digital cousins, it may be
all of the above -- but it’s not quite a currency.
"It is difficult to use standard FX valuation frameworks that are
based on the fundamental drivers of the currency, like relative
productivity, or terms of trade of the country, because there are no
such concepts," said Juan Prada, a New York-based currency strategist
at Barclays Capital Inc.
Polls on eve of UK election suggest PM May will boost majority Reuters
Law & Politics
Of six polls published on Wednesday, two showed the Conservatives
widening their lead over Labour, two showed a narrowing and two were
But they mostly suggested she would increase the small majority she
inherited from David Cameron last year, shortly after the surprise
referendum decision to take Britain out of the European Union.
Polling firm ICM said Conservatives' wide lead of 46 percent to 34
percent for Labour would give May a majority of 96 seats, up sharply
from the working majority of 17 she has had until now and bigger than
any Conservative majority since the days when Margaret Thatcher was
The Independent newspaper said the 44-34 lead for the Conservatives in
a poll it commissioned from ComRes would give May a majority of 74.
YouGov, which found the Conservatives' lead had increased to seven
percentage points from four during the weekend, also said May would
bolster her power in parliament.
"The seven-point Conservative lead is the same as at the previous
election, but we think it is likely they will nevertheless be returned
with an increased majority," YouGov Director Anthony Wells said.
At the other end of spectrum, Survation said the Conservatives' lead
stood at just one percentage point, echoing two polls it published in
recent days which called into question whether May would get a
majority at all.
Polling experts have said the main difference between the polls which
give the Conservatives a big lead and ones such as Survation which
suggest a tighter race is largely down to varying estimates of how
many young voters, who typically support Labour, are likely to
actually vote on Thursday.
Can Jeremy Corbyn turn on and turn out the Youth Vote. ?
The Saudi Prince, the Sheikh and a Gulf Renegade
Law & Politics
The choreographed statements by Saudi Arabia and three allies to
quarantine Qatar at just after 6 a.m. on June 5 were not signed, but
there was no mistake about who was behind them.
The move to halt air and sea transport and shut the tiny Gulf nation’s
only land border carried the fingerprints of two of the Arab world's
most powerful leaders: Saudi Arabia’s young deputy crown prince,
Mohammed bin Salman, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the de facto head
of the United Arab Emirates.
The coordinated action underscores the growing authority of both men,
whose countries control vast amounts of oil wealth and buy weapons
from the U.S. They’ve been using both to mold the Middle East in
recent years by supporting leaders and groups they like and opposing
those they don’t. And now they have the explicit backing of President
Donald Trump as he tries to toughen the U.S. stance on Iran.
The stated aim was to crack down on the “Iranian sponsored terrorism”
they said Qatar helps finance. Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that
Middle East leaders essentially told him as much during his visit to
Saudi Arabia last month.
Turning the screws on the world’s richest country per capita thanks to
its abundant reserves of natural gas put the Saudis and Emiratis in
direct confrontation with a country that remains a key American ally,
and which hosts the U.S. Central Command. It also allows Bin Salman
and Bin Zayed to send a clear message to their 37-year-old Qatari
counterpart, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani: In this neighborhood, we
run the show.
“The name of the game here is the rise of this duo as architects of
regional policy," said Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa
director at Eurasia Group. “This is unprecedented. What the Gulf
countries have largely lacked is detailed strategic processes. This
was much more planned.”
It all circles back to that rivalry and efforts to undermine the
Muslim Brotherhood, a group that Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have
opposed for years, in part because of its stated aim of gaining power
through elections. The alliance against Qatar also included Egypt,
whose leadership ousted the Brotherhood in a 2013 coup led by
U.A.E.-backed army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, as well as Bahrain.
But the track record of the new assertive policy isn’t stellar. The
Saudi-led war in Yemen against pro-Iranian rebels is stuck in a bloody
stalemate, and in Syria, their allies are on the retreat in the face
of forces backed by Russia and Iran. Egypt has been in turmoil even
after the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia poured billions of dollars in aid to
“Mohamed Bin Salman and Mohamed Bin Zayed essentially have a zero
tolerance policy toward any sort of radical political project for the
region, whether Sunni or Shiite in denomination,” said Mokhtar Awad, a
research fellow at George Washington University’s program on
extremism. The danger is that the two leaders get “locked in to
endlessly pursuing a policy that on the face of it seems to be not
working,” he added.
More known for banking and the Dubai high-life than its foreign
policy, the U.A.E. started to engage more in the region a few years
ago while the U.S. and other Arab powers were distracted elsewhere.
Then came changes to the royal household in Saudi Arabia, followed by
the departure of Barack Obama, whose rapprochement with Iran with a
nuclear deal has been upended by Trump.
Bin Zayed, 56, known as MBZ among diplomats, was among the first
leaders in the region to engage Prince Mohammed, 31, who was appointed
deputy crown prince by his father, King Salman, in 2015.
The ambitious prince, known as MBS and who is also Saudi defense
minister, emerged as the driving force behind a reform plan unveiled
last year that’s meant to drag his country, shackled by the strict
teachings of an 18th century imam, into the 21st century economy. His
model may have been Dubai rather than the more conservative Abu Dhabi
of Bin Zayed, but the relationship endured.
Sheikh Mohamed keeps a low profile. A graduate of the British military
academy at Sandhurst and a lifelong soldier, he's been a key
point-person for Washington over the years.
“The Saudi-Emirati assertive foreign policy approach is largely driven
by personalities,” said David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Yet that in itself carries a
risk if, for example, King Salman is succeeded by a monarch who
doesn't share MBS's vision, he said. Failure in Yemen could also
“undermine MBS's position in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“Thanks to Trump’s recent visit they seem to feel that he has their
back because he’s taken an anti-Islamist, anti-Iran discourse,” said
Yezid Sayigh, senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in
Beirut. “They seem to think that this means they can do whatever they
8-MAY-2017 :: My price target is $32.00 a barrel. Crude oil prices in extremis move exponentially.
Law & Politics
The OPEC “Go-Go” days of Sheikh Yamani, his prayer beads and delphic
pronouncements belong to yesteryear. Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, the
current OPEC secretary-general, is a poor imitation of Yamani and is
playing with a set of cards that is stacked against him. Reserves have
been depleted from Abuja to Riyadh, from Luanda to Caracas and in all
the oil producing capitals in the world. So many capitals are fiddling
while sitting on a tinderbox and playing with matches. The deputy
Crown Prince was quoted on Al-Arabiyya about Iran: “How can I
communicate with them while they prepare for the arrival of al-Mahdi
This is deluded thinking at a time when things could seriously fall apart:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere e ceremony of
innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand
[W.B Yeats e Second Coming]
The combination of the attack in Tehran with the split among the gulf monarchies "is another layer of fissure and confrontation in the region" said Randa Slim
Law & Politics
Members of the Qatari royal family, the Thanis, believe that in 1995
Saudi Arabia helped engineer a coup attempt in Doha. The emir at the
time had recently carried out a coup against his own father, and the
Qataris, who arrested several Saudi citizens in connection with the
later coup attempt, believe that the Saudis were plotting to restore
In the aftermath, Qatar gradually adopted the policy that its
officials and analysts refer to as hedging. While embracing the
overarching alliance with Washington and Riyadh, Doha has also opened
relations with opposing players in the region, including the Muslim
Brotherhood, Hamas, the Taliban and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah
Congolese cling to election hopes, some fear the worst
The currency has lost more than half of its value in the past year and
inflation is nearing 30 percent, prompting comparisons with the later
rule of Mobutu Sese Seko, who was eventually ousted by Kabila's father
in a civil war that went on to kill millions.
"Today, we have to ask the question: do we let Congo collapse again?"
said Daniel Mukoko Samba, a former budget minister under Kabila,
referring to the 1990s
"The administration is falling apart in the territories (areas outside
Kinshasa), which have become practically uncontrollable," said Jean
Omasombo, a Congo expert at the Royal Central Africa Museum in
Large companies, even ones used to Congo's risk, are shying away. They
are reluctant to speak on the record to avoid angering the government,
but some of their actions suggest a move towards the exit.
Last year Freeport McMoRan sold off its stake in the Tenke copper
mine, one of the world's largest. It cited a desire to reduce its
debts, though analysts say the operating environment played an
important role in the decision.
The Chamber of Commerce last week decried a deteriorating business
climate in Congo's copper-mining southeast, including harassment by
tax authorities to the tune of over $300 million in what it said were
bogus customs duties.
Former Kabila minister Mukoko, now an economics professor at Kinshasa
University, said a decade after donors withdrew support for Mobutu's
Zaire, the country fell apart as war engulfed the east. "If the
government says to itself 'we don't need a dialogue, we are going to
do what we want,' we are heading for disaster," he said.
"Mobutu left due to a rebellion supported by the neighbouring
countries," said Tryphon Kin Kiey Mulumba, a leader in Kabila's ruling
coalition. "President Kabila ... has the support of the sub-region."
Does not look very good does it?
Kenya to Lower Growth Forecast as Drought Cuts Food Production
Kenya will cut its growth forecast to reflect the impact of a drought
that slashed agricultural output in East Africa’s biggest economy
leaving the country short of its staple food, Treasury Secretary Henry
Economic growth will probably be 5.7 percent this year, compared with
an earlier estimate of 5.9 percent to 6 percent, Rotich said in an
interview Wednesday at his office in the capital, Nairobi. The
forecast may be reduced further to 5.5 percent once an assessment of
the March-May rains is completed, he said.
“We are analyzing some leading economic indicators to see if this
drought has gone beyond quarter one,” Rotich said. “If that is the
case, we may adjust our numbers a bit lower.”
Kenya is experiencing its worst drought in more than three decades.
The dry weather cut production of corn, reducing the country’s
strategic grain reserve to less than a day’s supply, and resulted in
shortages of products including sugar and milk. The drought has been
severe because it’s spanned three seasons and affected a wider region
than normal, according to the National Drought Management Authority.
Beyond agriculture, the momentum in the economy is “still strong,”
Rotich said, citing the building of a standard-gauge railway linking
the port of Mombasa to neighboring Uganda. That’s underpinning growth
of the construction industry, he said, while tourism, one of the
country’s biggest generators of foreign exchange, is also “picking
Cutting its forecast will bring the Treasury’s estimates more in line
with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which have
cut their predictions to 5.5 percent and 5.3 percent respectively.
Both organizations have cited the drought as a factor in lowering
their forecasts, as well as the slowdown in lending by banks to the
private sector after the government placed a cap on commercial lending
“We are aware that the caps potentially will constrain credit to
small- and medium-sized enterprises and other high-risk areas that
used to enjoy credit,” Rotich said. As the impact of reforms is felt
“maybe the caps will become redundant over a period of time.”
Credit to the private sector grew 4 percent in March, the slowest pace
since 2003, according to central bank data. Lenders including KCB
Group, Kenya’s biggest by market value, have said they only expect the
caps to either be altered or removed after presidential elections take
place in August.
“We don’t think that, from our standpoint, that the caps are going to
be sustainable for our economy,” Rotich said. “Our preference is to
let the markets decide.”
Rotich declined to say when Kenya will return to the Eurobond market.
He said foreign debt sales would in future be used for “liquidity
management,” as debt raised earlier matured, and the country could
issue bonds with longer maturities after Senegal sold $1.1 billion of
Eurobonds last month that will mature in 2033. Kenya’s longest-dated
Eurobond has a 10-year tenure.
Lack of power lines delays sub-Saharan Africa's biggest wind farm
The wind farm had planned to begin producing power this month, but
construction of the transmission line to the power grid, being built
by state-run Kenya Transmission Company (KETRACO), has been delayed.
"The challenge is now to get the wind farms connected to the grid and
that is indeed a project which is not with us," head of Vestas'
Central European and sub-Saharan business Nils de Baar told Reuters in
an interview at the Africa Energy Forum in Copenhagen.
"The expectation is that it will happen in early 2018," he said,
adding that the project is Vestas' largest-ever in terms of the number
of wind turbines being installed.
The 428 km powerline from Loiyangalani in northern Kenya to Suswa in
the centre of the country was due to be completed by October last
year, but demands for compensation from landowners along the route and
other issues have delayed it.
Kenyan Election Body Denies Awarding Deal to Blocked Company Bloomberg
Kenya’s electoral commission said it’s yet to decide which company
will print ballot papers for elections being held in two months, after
a local newspaper said the deal had been handed to a Dubai-based firm
whose contract has been blocked twice.
“We are still working on it,” Andrew Limo, spokesman for the
Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission, said by phone on
Wednesday from the capital, Nairobi. “Communication will be made as
soon as a decision has been taken.”
The Nairobi-based Star reported earlier that the 2.5 billion-shilling
($24 million) contract had been handed to Al-Ghurair Printing &
Publishing Ltd., even after two previous attempts to award the deal to
the company was halted by Kenya’s High Court and the Public
Procurement Administrative Review Board, citing irregularities.