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The Senate comes to the White House. Is war with North Korea coming?

Briefing of the entire Senate in the White House on Wednesday increases prospect of US military action against North Korea.

Alexander Mercouris




Immediately following the call by Chinese President Xi Jinping to President Trump on Sunday, during which the Chinese President warned President Trump against any unilateral military action against North Korea, comes news that the White House on Wednesday will be a location for a briefing on North Korea of the entire US Senate.

It is important to say that contrary to a report by the BBC this is not a summons of the Senate to the White House by the President.  Rather it is a decision by Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, to hold a Senate briefing in the White House rather than on Capitol Hill.

That this is so was confirmed by Sean Spicer, President Trump’s spokesman, during his regular press briefing on Monday

Also on North Korea, on Wednesday, the White House campus will play host to a briefing for all U.S. — 100 U.S. senators on the subject.  The briefers will be Secretary Tillerson and Mattis, Director Coats and General Dunford.  This is a Senate briefing convened by the Majority Leader, not a White House briefing.  We are just serving as the location.  For further questions, I’d direct you to the Majority Leader’s office and the office of the four briefers.

Holding a Senate briefing in the White House instead of on Capitol Hill is however a most remarkable step, and the Washington Post says staffers in the Senate are perplexed by it.

Though the White House says the meeting was convened by Senator McConnell rather than by the Trump administration itself, it is difficult to believe that it was done without some degree of prompting from the White House.

The Senators are in the process of returning to Capitol Hill after a 2 week recess, and with the President possibly smarting from his failure to press the Chinese into taking stronger action against North Korea, it seems the administration has now decided to raise the stakes by getting Senator McConnell to convene a classified briefing of the whole Senate in the White House.

There has to be concern that this briefing is preparatory to the White House seeking authorisation for military action. The fact that General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be attending the briefing, points strongly to that likelihood, and suggests that military options against North Korea will be discussed during the briefing.

Against that it has to be said that the President hosted a lunch in Washington of the UN Security Council ambassadors on Monday, including obviously those of China and Russia.  During that lunch he made the following comments

The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable, and the Council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not.  North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve.  People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem.

That suggests that the President is heeding China’s warning and is still looking for diplomatic action, with his priority being to get the UN Security Council to impose further sanctions against North Korean after these have been agreed by the administration with the Russians and the Chinese.  If so then that suggests that military action has not been decided on yet.

Putting all the known facts together, what is possibly the most likely explanation for this strange move is that after their long slumber some members of the Senate and of the Congress, as they return to Washington after the recess, are finally starting to signal their concern, and the President and his advisers are seeking by briefing them in the White House both to bring them onside and to  send a strong signal to the North Koreans and the Chinese.

However if one thing is now clear about this President, it is that it is impossible to predict his actions with any confidence.

Moreover even if the intention is merely to keep the Senate onside during a period of growing tension in the Korean Peninsula whilst at the same time sending a strong signal to the North Koreans and the Chinese, the mere fact of briefing the full Senate in the White House – and of regaling the Senators with what will undoubtedly be flesh-creeping talk of North Korean nuclear bombs and missiles raining down on the US – risks creating a momentum of its own.  It is bound to heighten talk of war, and of the need for a pre-emptive US strike to prevent what many of the Senators will no doubt see as a ‘clear and present danger’ from North Korea to the US.   That in turn is bound to make the possibility of a military strike more likely.

What that unfortunately means is that we are a further step closer to a US military strike against North Korea, even if that is not what the President intends at the moment.

The next few days will be extremely tense, and the situation is now very dangerous.

Much will depend on whether or not there is a North Korean nuclear test over the next few days.  If there is one, it is difficult to see how the President can draw back without losing face.  It is nonetheless to be sincerely hoped that he does.  However, one way or the other, by holding a Senate briefing in the White House, the President has just made pulling back harder as he closes off his options for retreat.

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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.

The Duran



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



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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Nigel Farage lashes out at Angela Merkel, as Chancellor attends EU Parliament debate (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 17.

Alex Christoforou



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Nigel Farage’s blistering speech, aimed squarely at Angela Merkel, calling out the German Chancellor’s disastrous migrant policy, wish to build an EU army, and Brussels’ Cold War rhetoric with Russia to the East and now the United States to the West.

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