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01 June 2013

Press review 01-06-2013

I've been busier than usual the past few weeks and even following news has become difficult, thus shortened and belated press reviews. Several times in the past I've written that the conflict in Syria will end up re-designing the Near East boundary map and above all whom has control over which slice of land. The past few days the lifting of the weapons embargo from the EU to the Sunni has dominated the news. Under the surface however, the table seems definitely turning in favour of the Shia side.
EUObserver
US backs EU arms shipments to Syria rebels
Andrew Rettman, 25-05-2013

The US has endorsed an Anglo-French proposal to let EU countries arm Syrian rebels, but Israel is against the move.

A US state department official told EUobserver in a written note on Friday (24 May) that: "Amending the EU arms embargo on Syria to allow for the provision of lethal assistance to the opposition is ultimately a decision for EU member states."

The contact added: "However … the US strongly supports the easing of the EU arms embargo as part of the international community’s collective efforts to demonstrate its full support for the Syrian opposition and to continue to pressure the regime."
This news were promptly matched with vows from the Kremlin to continue supplying the Shia with weaponry, especially the state-of-the-art anti-air S300 system.
Deutsche Wella
Russia vows to bolster Syrian regime with advanced missiles
28-05-2013

Russia has defended its planned delivery of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian regime, a day after the EU lifted its arms embargo against rebel groups. Israel has threatened to stop the missile deliveries.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday that providing President Bashar Assad's regime with the S-300 missile system (pictured above) could deter Western nations from intervening in Syria's civil war.

"We think this delivery is a stabilizing factor and that such steps in many ways restrain some hotheads…from exploring scenarios in which this conflict could be given an international character with participation of outside forces, to whom this idea is not foreign," Ryabkov said.
Later the local secular Shia leader Bashar al-Assad would confirm the safe reception of the (first?) S300 shipment, in spite of veiled threats from Israel. If in fact the Shia now posses these systems then any airborne intervention from NATO or Israel into Syria becomes a completely different matter, subject to much higher risks. But there is a further development turning the tide in favour of the Shia, the entrance in force of the Hezbollah.
McClatchy
Hezbollah said to control most of Qusayr in major setback for Syria rebels
David Enders, 29-05-2013

Hezbollah and Syrian government forces have seized most of the strategically important town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border, fighters on both sides of the conflict said Wednesday, in what would be a huge setback for the rebels fighting to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A fighter for Hezbollah, the Lebanese group that’s sent troops to Syria to join Assad loyalist forces, said the group had cleared rebels from most of Qusayr. A spokesman for one of the main rebel groups in the area confirmed the assertion.

“We have suffered heavy losses,” said Yazed al Hasan, a spokesman for the rebel Farouq Battalions, which have occupied Qusayr since last year. He also acknowledged that government forces had recaptured the military airport north of the city.
At this stage the situation is especially complex for Israel. While fearing the bolstering of Shia factions like the Hezbollah, Israel seems to fear even more the rise of a well armed, well organised Sunni faction linked with Al Qaeda. Whatever the end result of this conflict Israel seems to loose both ways. At some point a more incisive intervention from Tel Aviv may come to be, S300 or no S300, and ironically likely siding with the Hezbollah.

Shifting now to brighter news, there are some clues the world PV market may be about to bottom. Whereas in Europe governments are openly fighting the expansion of this modern energy source, the rest of the world seems on tack to support demand.
Solar Daily
Solar Industry Capital Spending Hits Seven-Year Low in 2013
Staff Writers, 24-05-2013

Although global capital spending this year in the photovoltaics (PV) supply chain is expected to fall to its lowest level since 2006, indications signal that the downturn in investment has hit bottom and that purchases of equipment may soon rebound.

Capital spending among PV companies is set to drop to $2.3 billion in 2013, down 36 percent from $3.6 billion in 2012, according to the PV Manufacturing and Capital Spending Tool from information and analytics provider IHS.

The anticipated fall will represent the lowest level of spending since $2.4 billion in 2006. It also marks the second year of decline after the market peaked in 2011, as spending plunged by 75 percent in 2012. However, capital expenditures are expected to rebound in 2014, rising 30 percent to $3.0 billion.
Still on energy, a mooted note from the RFI shows how falling petroleum demand in the North Atlantic is casting a lot of strain on OPEC. The tapping of tight oil on one side combined with austerity from the other is leaving some key petroleum exporters out on a limb. Ali Bakhtiari, the late vice-president of the Iranian Oil Company, once wrote that OPEC effectively died when it failed to cap petroleum prices in 2004; he might have just got it right. In practice, the Asian and Atlantic markets seem so detached at the moment that it seems impossible to have a single price policy for both.
RFI
Le pétrole de schiste américain divise davantage l'OPEP
Claire Fages, 31-05-2013

Les ministres de l'OPEP, l'Organisation des pays exportateurs de pétrole, se réunissent aujourd'hui, vendredi31 mai 2013, à Vienne. Le cartel pétrolier ne devrait pas remettre en cause son niveau de production global. Ce qui n'empêche pas les clivages de s'aggraver au sein de l'OPEP, à mesure que les Etats-Unis produisent de plus en plus leur propre pétrole.

A l'OPEP, le clivage n'est pas nouveau entre les « faucons » et les pays du Golfe. Les premiers, Venezuela et Iran, sont toujours prompts à demander une baisse de la production du cartel pour faire remonter les prix, alors que l'Arabie saoudite et les Emirats se satisfont d'un baril au-dessus de 90 dollars, et c'est le cas. Mais la fracturation hydraulique aux Etats-Unis est en train d'aggraver les fissures au sein de l'OPEP. D'abord le fait que les Etats-Unis soient de plus en plus autosuffisants et donc prélèvent moins de pétrole sur le marché international, cela pèse sur les cours, ce qui accentue les exigences des faucons de l'OPEP, qui ont de plus en plus besoin de devises.
And to close some interesting remarks from the US Military regarding austerity policies in Europe. The latter has long regarded the US has an older brother of sorts that takes care of school yard fights for you. Slashing Defence budgets has been one of the predilect ways used by European governments to slow down economic activity. The US Military are understanding that any future conflict involving Europe will likely leave them to foot the largest share of the bill; naturally they are not happy. And this is not just speculation: Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Syria are all at our door steps.
The Telegraph
US fears over cuts in British defence
James Kirkup and Ben Farmer, 30-05-2013

“In a lot of ways they’re depending on us, especially in our ground capabilities into the future.”

Speaking at a Washington think-tank, the general warned that defence cuts by America’s European allies like Britain risk undermining Nato and Transatlantic relations.

“We gotta make sure we stay in sync, because we might become unbalanced,” he said.

Gen Odierno’s public comments reflect the private concerns of US commanders over British defence cut, expressed at several private meetings in recent months.
And that's it; take care.