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Philippines President Duterte praises Donald Trump after blasting Barack Obama

After referring to Barack Obama as a ‘son of a whore’ and cancelling a US arms deal, President Duterte of Philippines has said kind words about Donald Trump and America. Here’s what it means for Asia and the wider world.

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Whilst the world has been watching Washington, something incredibly interesting happened in Manilla. Weeks after President Duterte of Philippines cancelled a US arms deal and went to Beijing, opening up a new chapter in Chinese-Philippine relations and just months after calling Barack Obama a ‘son of a whore’, Duterte has praised Donald Trump.

Yesterday, President Duterte, called the United States a ‘friend’ and ‘ally’ and affirmed his commitment to all bilateral agreements between the two countries. He went on to say, “The respect should be there, and in all matters that would affect our two countries, especially the treaties that we signed with them, and there are so many agreements, it will be honoured, all of these thing”.

In the same statement, the usually brash Duterte described himself as a ‘tiny molecule’ in relation to Trump, before making other positive comparisons between the two leaders. He went so far as to compare his penchant for swearing with that of Trump.

The praise heaped on Trump contrasts sharply with his thoughts on Obama whom Duterte said can ‘go to hell’. But behind a personal affection for Trump and a willingness to re-cooperate with former colonial master and neo-colonial ally America on key issues, what will this mean for the region?

Early in Obama’s presidency, there was talk of a ‘pivot to Asia’. This was meant to mean that US foreign policy would be shifted away from Europe in order to focus on building relations, strengthening alliances and dominating East Asia, rather continuing to act as Europe’s post-Marshall plan godfather.

That worked out about as well as Stevie Wonder’s attempted to become a fighter pilot and Angela Merkel’s plan to be a Chanel catwalk model. Obama’s Presidency ends with American troops all over Europe, ready to receive orders at any moment to go to war against an ‘imminent Russian invasion’, the go to phrase amongst many Eastern European politicians when they seek to divert their citizens’ attention from a faltering economy and growing gap between working hours and wages.

Whilst American troops sit in Europe waiting for Godot, much of East Asia has moved away from America. Whether it be Russia considering re-opening bases in Vietnam, Japan’s increased diplomatic engagement with Russia or most importantly the apparent shift of the Philippines move away from the US towards China, Obama’s pivot to Asia didn’t happen, instead Asia pivoted away from America.

The implications of Duterte’s move towards China immediately eased tensions in the long disputed South China Sea. But does Duterte’s pivot back to America mean that he’s pivoting away from China?

There are several scenarios. The worst case scenario for regional stability would see Duterte’s ‘reset’ with America reigniting conflict with China over the South China Sea as well as causing domestic instability amongst a population that have recently rioted over the continued American presence in their former colony.

The most awkward scenario would be for Duterte to not follow through on his warm words to Trump, thus ending more than 100 years of a US-Philippine relationship on a confused note that could only see Duterte’s credibility suffer in the eyes of both China and America.

The best case scenario for all sides involved would be for Manilla to continue to cooperate with Beijing and indeed continue to open trade avenues with China whilst changing the nature of the long relationship with the US. Insofar as this is possible, it will be dependent on Trump bringing his business acumen to fore in respect of geo-political negotiations in Asia.

If Trump is able to let go of the arrogant colonial policies of this country’s past and treat the Philippines as a potential competitive market for goods, rather than a country to be financially, militarily and politically dominated by America, this could only be a good thing. It would mean that Trump and Duterte could sit around the table as equals rather than master and man, this in spite of Duterte’s characterisation of Trump as superior to him, at least in a personal capacity.

Were this latter scenario to transpire, The Philippines could possibly act as a kind of go-between/joint negotiator in Trump’s desired plan to renegotiate America’s trade relationship with China. In any case, it is well to remember that when criticising American trade deals with China, Trump never attacked Chinese leadership. On the contrary he called them intelligent and referred to those in Washington as stupid. I personally cannot disagree with this characterisation.

If Trump were able to engage in a respectful post-colonial relationship with Manilla whilst negotiating the China as an equal, it could only be a good thing for global stability and for Trump’s reputation.

It remains to be seen what will happen, but it’s difficult to remember the change of tenancy to the White House, so suddenly shifting geo-political opinion of America so rapidly. From Moscow to Damascus and now in Manilla, it looks like President Trump has potential allies waiting for him in countries that had the worst of relations with the Obama administration. Looks like America is open for business.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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OPEC Plus: Putin’s move to control energy market with Saudi partnership (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 150.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss OPEC Plus and the growing partnership between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which aims to reshape the energy market, and cement Russia’s leadership role in global oil and gas supply.

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Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ WILL survive

The Express UK reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ will not only survive, but grow, regardless of geopolitical turmoil and internal Saudi scandal…as the energy interests between both nations bind them together.

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin’s Russia have a “long-term relationship” which is strategically beneficial to both of them, and which underlines their position as the world’s most influential oil producers, alongside the United States, an industry expert has said.

Following concerns about too much oil flooding the market, Saudi Arabia on Sunday performed an abrupt u-turn by deciding to reduce production by half a million barrels a day from December.

This put the Middle Eastern country at odds with Russia, which said it was no clear whether the market would be oversupplied next year, with market analysts predicting the country’s oil producing companies likely to BOOST proaction by 300,000 barrels per day.

But IHS Markit vice chairman Daniel Yergin said the decision was unlikely to jeopardise the relationship between the two allies.

The Saudis have faced significant international criticism in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Speaking to CNBC, Mr Yergin made it clear that Moscow and Riyadh would continue to be closely aligned irrespective of external factors.

He explained: “I think it’s intended to be a long-term relationship and it started off about oil prices but you see it taking on other dimensions, for instance, Saudi investment in Russian LNG (liquefied natural gas) and Russian investment in Saudi Arabia.

“I think this is a strategic relationship because it’s useful to both countries.”

Saudi Arabia and Russia are close, especially as a result of their pact in late 2016, along with other OPEC and non-OPEC producers, to curb output by 1.8 million barrels per day in order to prevent prices dropping too far – but oil markets have changed since then, largely as a result.

The US criticised OPEC, which Saudi Arabia is the nominal leader of, after prices rose.

Markets have fluctuated in recent weeks as a result of fears over a possible drop in supply, as a result of US sanctions on Iran, and an oversupply, as a result of increased production by Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, which have seen prices fall by about 20 percent since early October.

Saudi Arabia has pumped 10.7 million barrels per day in October, while the figure for Russiaand the US was 11.4 million barrels in each case.

Mr Yergin said: “It’s the big three, it’s Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, this is a different configuration in the oil market than the traditional OPEC-non-OPEC one and so the world is having to adjust.”

BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley told CNBC: “The OPEC-plus agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia and coalition is a lot stronger than people speculate.

“I think Russia doesn’t have the ability to turn on and off big fields which can happen in the Middle East.

“But I fully expect there to be coordination to try to keep the oil price within a certain fairway.”

Markets rallied by two percent on Monday off the back of the , which it justified by citing uncertain global oil growth and associated oil demand next year.

It also suggested  granted on US sanctions imposed on Iran which have been granted to several countries including China and Japan was a reason not to fear a decline in supply.

Also talking to CNBC, Russia’s Oil Minister Alexander Novak indicated a difference of opinion between Russia and the Saudis, saying it was too soon to cut production, highlighting a lot of volatility in the oil market.

He added: “If such a decision is necessary for the market and all the countries are in agreement, I think that Russia will undoubtedly play a part in this.

“But it’s early to talk about this now, we need to look at this question very carefully.”

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