Russia: “will shoot back” US missile threats on Syria hike oil prices | Sunday Observer

Russia: “will shoot back” US missile threats on Syria hike oil prices

World oil prices suddenly jumped as the United States last week threatened missile bombardment of embattled Syria and West Asia inched closer to big power war. It was the sharpest oil price rise since late 2014. The American missile threat was made by none other than US President Donald Trump himself in a series of tweets and remarks to news media and, also, statements by White House officials.

Meanwhile, in Palestine, the protest demonstrations in the Gaza Strip resulted in several more casualties among Palestinian civilians.

And in America, the FBI noose around the Trump presidency seemingly tightened when on the previous Saturday Federal detectives raided the home and offices of the American President’s long-time private lawyer, for the first time focussing on his private life. Lawyer Michael Cohen achieved fame when he publicly claimed that it was he – and not President Trump – who had arranged to pay two (and possibly more) former illicit women lovers to silence them during Trump’s presidential election campaign.

Much of America takes, with a pinch of salt, lawyer Cohen’s claim that it was he alone – and not Donald Trump – who paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to these women to buy their silence on Trump’s sexual proclivities. Questions are being asked about the legality of this pay-off likely made to avoid news media reportage of an issue damaging to Trump during his presidential election campaign in 2016. Meanwhile, one of the women concerned, erotic film industry actress and film-maker Stormy Daniels, has already seemingly broken her silence regarding her affair with the US presidential candidate. Thanks to the sustained feeding on this scandal by the news media, Daniels now finds herself becoming the world’s best known erotic film star.

Daniel’s lawyer, a Silicon Valley legal eagle, is also benefitting from this presidential scandal, having impressed America’s legal circles with his adept use of news media to build a case against the seemingly philandering Trump.

The FBI raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s premises had reportedly enraged Trump, pushing him closer to acting to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. The FBI raids themselves triggered speculation that the Mueller investigation was focussing on Cohen not so much because of his role in paying off Trump’s illicit lovers but because of past ties Cohen had to high level Russian personalities and his dealings with them.

Thus, the FBI move implied that the Mueller investigation was now fully focussing on the Russian subversion aspect. Prior to his presidential bid, Donald Trump had many dealings with Russia, especially, showing interest in investing in that country’s real estate industry. There is much speculation in the US about Trump’s naïve entanglement with the Russians – involvements possibly to a degree where he is liable to be vulnerable to pressures to spy on behalf of the Kremlin.

The US capital, Washington, continues to buzz with speculation as to when President Trump might feel driven to moving to fire Special Prosecutor Mueller. However, most analysts concur that despite his own tactical incompetence, Trump is likely to heed to saner counsel and not commit such a politically rash act.

The illicit lover scandal on top of the overall Russia scandal is preventing the Republican Administration from getting much political mileage from geo-political moves it wants to make in West Asia and the trade war it has initiated against China ostensibly to protect American industry and jobs.

Last week, pro-Western Syrian rebel groups claimed that the Syrian air force had dropped poison gas bombs in the embattled town Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus killing over a dozen people and injuring scores of others. Even though no independent verification of this rebel claim has been made, the US has attempted to bring the matter to the UN Security Council and obtain punitive measures against Damascus for this alleged ‘war crime’. At the UN Security Council, Russia vetoed the US draft resolution and, in turn, the US vetoed a subsequent Russian draft resolution.

Impatient with the slow proceedings of the UN, Washington has now begun threatening to launch a missile strike against Syrian government forces as a ‘punitive measure’. President Trump himself could not resist promising punitive military action – once again breaking his promise not to pre-publicise any contemplated US international action.

Trump has now repeatedly tweeted his threat to launch missile strikes against Syria. At the same time, Russia has publicly warned that any missile launched by the US targeting Syria “would be shot down”.

This aggressive Russian stance of military retaliation immediately upped the risk factor in West Asia, the world’s largest supplier of crude oil. Al Jazeera TV station reported that “Oil prices have soared to their highest level since December 2014 amid the possibility of the US carrying out air strikes against Syria”. “Brent Crude rose to $71.33 per barrel late on Tuesday, marking its highest level since December 3, 2014, markets showed.” American benchmark crude oil West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rose to as much as $65.86 a barrel at 19:15 GMT - its highest level since March 27.

Although Syria is not a major oil exporter, the wider West Asian region is the world’s most important crude petroleum exporter and tensions in the region disturb market price stability.

Along with Trump’s ad hoc tweets threatening missile strikes, US Defence Secretary James Mattis also did not rule out any military action against Syrian government forces. At the UN, frustrated over the blocking of Western punitive moves, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned that Washington was “ready to respond” to the alleged Syrian gas attack regardless of whether the Security Council acted or not.

Not to be outdone, Russia warned that military strikes by Western forces would be resisted. One Kremlin official told Russian media that Russian forces based in Syria would “shoot down” missiles fired at Syria, according to reports from Moscow.

Vladimir Shamanov, chairman of the Defence Affairs Committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, warned in a speech on Tuesday that Russia possessed “the necessary means” to defend against incoming missiles. Shamanov declared that America and its allies “know that quite well”. Media analysts acknowledged that if the US or other Western allies launched missiles against Syria territory, a Russian retaliatory strike could target US aircraft and naval ships in the region.

The Eastern Ghouta region is the last major rebel stronghold in the southern half of Syria, a country that was one of the most prosperous, most stable and most modernised in West Asia until the West encouraged the launch of an anti-government insurgency claiming to support pro-democracy movements against a dictatorial regime in Damascus.

Today, Syria, one of the world’s oldest civilisations, has gone down the same path as Iraq and Libya and Somalia – collapsed state systems, warring social groups such as tribes and ethno-religious groups, socio-economic devastation. All three states were destabilised due to direct Western military intervention.