It has long been the case that Jihadist Al-Qaeda groups tend to find the occasional odd, western groupie, but probably never before has there been a case as peculiar as that of 18-year-old Mohammad Hadi, from the city of Coventry, who as Al Arabiya reports, is believed to have joined the infamous and brutal Islamic militant group which is causing nightmares for the US state department, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant aka ISIS. Meet Osama Bin Bieber.
The battle between Islam's two major branches began over 1400 years ago when the Islamic prophet Mohammad died and the two sides clashed over who should succeed him. This centuries old 'war' is once again threatening Iraq's (and indeed the Middle East - and thus the world's) stability. The Washington Post's senior national security correspondent Karen DeYoung explains in 100 seconds just how we got here...
If you don't know SMAC, then you don't know jack. SMAC - Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud - is the ubiquitous term that every startup pre-IPO entrepreneur must use (no matter how awkwardly) in order to garner triple digit P/E valuations. Clearly not as superfluous as Pets.com, Goldman describes the powerful theme in enterprise software, enabling businesses to realign go-to market models with faster and informed decision-making driving an enhanced user experience.
Whether or not Obama made a huge political gaffe by secretly arranging the Qatar-mediated exchange of Bowe Bergdahl, who some 16,000 Americans have petitioned should be court-martialed for walking away from his post in 2009, for 5 Taliban leaders remains to be seen. To be sure republicans have jumped on the blunder and especially the hawks within the GOP are now "tag-teaming" the issues of Benghazi and Bergdahl with the intent of painting will Obama "as an appeaser, and a negotiator-with-terrorists" as The Nation reports. In any case, if Obama was hoping to use the Bergdahl exchange as a marker of successful foreign policy, he is suddenly caught flat-footed. What won't help the president's case of promptly sweeping this latest scandal under the rug, is a clip such as this one, released earlier today by the Taliban showing the handover of the prisoner of war to US forces.
In the aftermath of the disastrous, for both the US and Saudi Arabia, false flag campaign to replace the Syrian regime with one which would be amenable to allowing a Qatari gas pipeline to pass underneath the Al-Qaeda rebel infested country, there were numerous rumors that the reign of Saudi's infamous former ambassador to the US and current intelligence chief, Prince Bandar "Bush" bin Sultan - the man who we suggested was the puppetmaster behind the entire failed operation - had come to an end. Some two months ago, Shia Post reported that "News sources announced that the chief of the Saudi spying apparatus Bandar bin Sultan has been dismissed." Moments ago, in a tersely worded statement from the Saudi Press Agency, it was indeed confirmed that, perhaps in response to his failed handling of the Syrian conflict, Prince Bandar has indeed been sacked.
Well over a week after the disappearance of flight MH370 - which now is the longest official disappearance of a modern jet in aviation history - with no official trace of the missing plane yet revealed, the investigation, which as we reported over the weekend has focused on the pilots and specifically on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, earlier today revealed that on his home-made flight simulator had been loaded five Indian Ocean practice runways, among which those of Male in the Maldives, that of the US owned base at Sergio Garcia, as well as other runways in India and Sri Lanka - all notable runways as all are possible landing spots based on the flight's potential trajectories. The Malay Mail Online reported, "The simulation programmes are based on runways at the Male International Airport in Maldives, an airport owned by the United States (Diego Garcia), and three other runways in India and Sri Lanka, all have runway lengths of 1,000 metres."
It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
"The more information we get, the more we're inclined to conclude that it was not a terrorist incident," says the Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble according to CNN, as details of the 2 Iranians at the center of the "stolen passport" uncertainty are identified. As CNN reports, Noble gave their names and ages as Pouri Nourmohammadi, 18, and Delavar Syed Mohammad Reza, 29 and added "they are not likely to be members of a terrorist group." Of course, the more dismal unknown is that of the entire plane and its passengers and crew which remain missing without a trace.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said on Wednesday they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar after it had not implemented an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others' internal affairs. The move, unprecedented in the 30-year history of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), follows the Bahrain state minister for information Samira Rajab saying she has evidence of Qatari media provocation against her country. As Gulf News reports, Qatar has been a maverick in the region, backing Islamist groups in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East that are viewed with suspicion or outright hostility by some fellow GCC members. Not a good sign for the oil-generating center of the world.
Earlier this week, in "Why The Turkish Government May Be The Casualty Of A $119 Billion PetroDollar Loophole" we said "dare to mess with the Petrodollar and the wrath of the US government will hunt you down... sooner or later." Sure enough, after resulting in a Turkish government scandal, punishing its stock market and sending the Lira reeling, the blowback has reached Iran where billionaire Babak Zanjani was arrested yesterday on corruption charges, although in reality his chief transgression was allowing the Petrogold system to show that the Petrodollar is no longer irreplaceable.
UPDATE: Details of the deal are emerging including $4.2bn in FX
Despite earlier denials from Iran's Deputy FinMin, EU, Iran, and US officials have confirmed:
- *IRAN NUCLEAR ACCORD WITH WORLD POWERS ENDS 10-YEAR DEADLOCK
- *IRAN WILL HALT 20% ENRICHMENT FOR 6 MONTHS, FARS REPORTS
- *IRAN AGREEMENT DOESN'T FORMALLY RECOGNIZE RIGHT TO ENRICH
- *IRAN AGREEMENT WILL STILL ALLOW IRAN TO ENRICH URANIUM
- *IRAN INTERIM AGREEMENT FREEZES ADDITIONAL SANCTIONS
- *IRAN DEAL LIFTS TRANSPORT AND INSURANCE SANCTIONS ON OIL
There are no details yet - but an interim agreement has been reached to 'roll back' some of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of some sanctions. Close U.S. ally Israel opposes the deal as too generous to an enemy it sees as a mortal threat. Israel is not a party to the talks. President Obama will address the nation at 1015ET to take a victory lap (perhaps this foreign victory will lift his domestic approval rating off record lows)...
When last week's Iran nuclear talks were blocked by France, it provided a useful glimpse into just who it was that would benefit politically from a continuation of the regional confrontation. But while the French sabotage was an amusing distraction, it revealed a curious shift in middle-east alliances, namely old "enemies" Israel and Saudi Arabia, both feeling shunned by Big Brother, suddenly becoming the best of buddies. It was only a matter of time before this novel alliance moved beyond just paper and tested how far it could go in real life. Said test may come far sooner than expected: according to the Sunday Times, Israel's Mossad and Saudi Arabia are planning an attack against Iran if negotiations and talks don't come to an agreement, and that Saudia Arabia will permit Israel to use their air space for an attack on Iran including full technical support. According to the Sunday Times, the Saudis would assist an Israeli attack by cooperating with the use of drones, rescue helicopters, and tanker planes. "Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” said the paper citing an unnamed official.
While most pragmatists knew well in advance that optimism over an Iran nuclear programme deal emerging out of Geneva was very much displaced, few anticipated what the actual reason for the failure would be. Indeed, most had expected that the staunchest opponent to the deal, Israel PM Netanyahu who moments ago appeared on Face the Nation and made his case (saying Iran would have given up "almost nothing") would have used his influence over the US as a key member of the 5+1 group of nations (US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Iran) to block any Iranian detente with the US, even though none other than John Kerry has been urging for the Iranian deal for weeks. So when news hit that it was France who had scuttled a deal with a last minute block, many were surprised.
- U.S. spy chiefs face Congress amid spying rift with Europe (Reuters)
- Deutsche Bank income hit by €1.2bn of legal provisions (FT)
- China's second tapering attempt fails: China central bank seeks to reassure money markets after rate spike (Reuters)
- UBS Takes Action Against Staff in Foreign-Exchange Probe (WSJ)
- Saudi Arabia frees man jailed for Mohammad tweets (Reuters)
- Tax Revolts Hit Hollande as Farmers, Soccer Clubs Protest (BBG)
- German parliament to meet over U.S. spying scandal (Reuters)
- Google Nears Smartwatch Launch (WSJ)
- How to end gridlock in DC? Pork projects (Reuters)
- UBS ordered to increase capital reserves (FT)
It has been a very interesting week as the Government shutdown/debt ceiling debate debacle moves into the background. The focus has now turned back towards the fundamentals of the market, economic environment and the ongoing Federal Reserve interventions. What is becoming increasingly evident is that market participants are once again potentially throwing "caution to the wind" betting on a belief that the Fed's ongoing Q.E. programs will continue to trump valuations and economics. After all, that has seemingly been the case up to this point. The problem is that no one really knows how this will turn out. However, as we discussed earlier this week, it is likely that we are close to finding out answer. In the meantime, here is our weekly list of "things to ponder this weekend."