Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 21, 2019

U.S. Ships More Air Defense Systems That Do Not Work To Saudi Arabia

The Washington Post notices Russia's offer to sell its air defense systems to Saudi Arabia. It does not like that:

The attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend were a disaster for both Riyadh and Washington, with weapons allegedly made in Iran circumventing expensive U.S. missile defense systems.

But in Moscow, news of the attack was greeted as yet another chance to mock the United States and its allies — all while extolling the virtues of Russia’s own missile defense technology.

“We still remember the fantastic U.S. missiles that failed to hit a target more than a year ago, while now the brilliant U.S. air defense systems could not repel an attack,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Friday. “These are all links in a chain.”

The Yemeni attack on Saudi oil installations caused serious damage (more photos). In Abqaiq at least five of nine stabilization columns were destroyed. These are needed to make crude oil transportable. The three phase separators that separate the fluids into gas, oil and water were likewise eliminated. Most of the gas storage tanks at Abqaiq were penetrated.


Some 5,000 additional workers are now racing to repair the damage. It will still take weeks if not months to get everything up and running again.

Saudi Arabia had to delay oil deliveries to Asian customers. Some will receive heavy oil grades instead of the light sweet crude they ordered. Deliveries to Bahrain were halted completely. Deliveries to Saudi refineries were cut. Saudi Arabia bought additional gasoline and kerosene from the international markets as its own refineries received less crude oil than needed. Saudi citizens report of a lack of gasoline and a video shows long queues in front of a local gas station.

The air defenses surrounding Abqaiq proved to be ineffective. That may have been because they were shut off. But it is doubtful that the systems, even if they had been on alert, would have made any difference.

The U.S. made Patriot system in question was built as an air defense system against fighter jets. It was later upgraded to give it some capability against ballistic missiles. But even its latest iteration is not capable of defeating smaller drones or low flying cruise missiles.

While the Washington Post writer recognizes that the Patriot system can cover only one third of the horizon and fails to detect smaller low flying objects he still asserts that it is better than the systems Russia makes:

While Russia’s S-400 system may have impressive specifications on paper, many analysts are cautious in their assessment of it. It has not been fully tested in real life, whereas the Patriot system successfully intercepted missiles during both the Gulf War and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The "successfully intercepted" link goes to the a site named which is obviously a lobby organization to promote U.S. air defense systems. Its description of the Patriot includes these two claims:

During the Gulf War, U.S. Patriot batteries brought down at least 11 enemy missiles and other Patriot batteries deployed in defense of Israel’s major cities intercepted numerous incoming missiles as well.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Patriot batteries intercepted a total of nine enemy tactical ballistic missiles. One notable intercept occurred on March 23, 2003 when Iraqi forces launched an Ababil-100 tactical ballistic missile (TBM) at coalition forces in Kuwait. The TBM was destroyed by a Patriot system protecting over 4,000 Soldiers and the Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.

There is serious doubt that those numbers are true. Besides that the number of hits does not say anything about the system unless one also knows the number of missiles it failed to engage. After the first Gulf war Congress investigated the issue and concluded:

The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements.

During the first Gulf war the Patriot system had a systemic software problem that made them incapable of hitting the targets:

On February 25, 1991, during the Gulf War, an American Patriot Missile battery in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, failed to track and intercept an incoming Iraqi Scud missile. The Scud struck an American Army barracks, killing 28 soldiers and injuring around 100 other people. A report of the General Accounting office, GAO/IMTEC-92-26, entitled Patriot Missile Defense: Software Problem Led to System Failure at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia reported on the cause of the failure. It turns out that the cause was an inaccurate calculation of the time since boot due to computer arithmetic errors. Specifically, the time in tenths of second as measured by the system's internal clock was multiplied by 1/10 to produce the time in seconds. This calculation was performed using a 24 bit fixed point register. In particular, the value 1/10, which has a non-terminating binary expansion, was chopped at 24 bits after the radix point. The small chopping error, when multiplied by the large number giving the time in tenths of a second, led to a significant error.

Twelve years later, during the war on Iraq, the Patriots also failed:

The 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, which is charged with protecting U.S. ground forces from air and missile attacks, recently released its account of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” As part of that history, the command reports that the Patriot missile defense system, which is designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, scored a perfect nine for nine in intercepting Iraqi missiles. Colonel Charles Anderson, chief of staff of the command, wrote, “The critics concerns over Patriot lethality should be forever silenced.”

Yet Iraq fired at least 23 ballistic and cruise missiles, according to the report, during the three-week span it took U.S. forces to fight their way to Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Nine out of more than twenty three is better than zero but not a great record. But the Patriots also achieved two hits on fighter planes. Unfortunately those were the wrong ones:

A US Navy fighter has been shot down over Iraq by a Patriot missile in the second friendly-fire incident involving the weapon.

The F-18 Hornet from the carrier Kitty Hawk went missing on Wednesday night during a bombing mission. The incident follows the shooting down of an RAF Tornado GR4 by a Patriot as it returned to base in Kuwait, with the loss of its two-man crew.

In 2017 the Saudis fired Patriot missiles against Yemeni ballistic missiles that were launched at Riyadh. All of them failed to hit their targets:

[M]y colleagues at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and I closely examined two different missile attacks on Saudi Arabia from November and December 2017.

In both cases, we found that it is very unlikely the missiles were shot down, despite officials’ statements to the contrary.

The Patriot system does not work. It is one of those typical U.S. big ticket items that enrich the owners of the defense industry but are of little combat value. 

The U.S. is now sending more soldiers to Saudi Arabia with more Patriot systems and additional Terminal High Attitude Area Defense, or THAAD, systems. Neither of these can protect against drones or cruise missiles like those that were used in the attack on Abqaiq. The whole operation is useless security theater.

When the U.S. attacked Syria with 105 cruise missiles the Russian equipped Syrian army managed to shoot down 71 of them. The cruise missiles that got through were aimed at undefended targets.

The Russian base in Syria was attacked several times by swarms of drones. All were taken down by either electronic countermeasures or by short range air defense systems. The long range S-400 have not been engaged yet because no situation required their use.

What Saudi Arabia needs is a layered defense systems similar to the one Syria deploys. It requires point defense systems like Pantsyr-S1 and medium range defense systems like the BUK-2. Long range defense systems like the S-400 can be added to protect against high flying bombers and against ballistic missiles. Electronic countermeasures like the Krasuhka-4 system can be added to suppress radio commanded missiles and drones.

No western country can provide such a modern layered system. If the Saudis really want to defend their country they will have to buy the Russian stuff. But the U.S. is unlikely to allow that.

That makes it more likely that the Saudis will accept the ceasefire the Yemeni Houthi have just offered to them (machine translation):

In a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the September 21 revolution, President of the Supreme Political Council Mehdi Mashat launched a peace initiative in which he called on all parties from all sides of the war to seriously engage in serious and genuine negotiations leading to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone from injecting blood. In the interest of the remaining bonds of brotherhood and to overcome the higher national interests.

He announced the cessation of the targeting of Saudi territory by flying planes, ballistic missiles, wings and all forms of targeting.

"We are waiting for the same or better greetings in a similar announcement to stop all forms of targeting and aerial bombardment of our Yemeni territory and reserve the right to respond if this initiative is not met," he said.

We will have to wait to see how the Saudi clown prince reacts to that offer. If he rejects it the Houthi will surely remind him that his oil exporting desert country is a target rich environment.

Posted by b on September 21, 2019 at 17:02 UTC | Permalink

next page »

Thanks for the excellent follow up reporting b

I wonder if the Clown Prince thinks about how those extra US troops are also there to insure that SA remains as a colony of empire, even if it takes a change of clowns at the top.

Part of me thinks that the Houthi will still attack UAE for their complicity in the aggression in Yemen.

How long with the "rules based order" that the US bloviator in chief is going to spout at the UN on Monday hold for what remains of empire? Too damn long for all those killed in the process

Posted by: psychohistorian | Sep 21 2019 17:32 utc | 1

Saudi citizens report of a lack of gasoline and a video show long queues in front of a local gas station.

Damn, MbS might have trouble getting enough votes for his election next year. Oh, wait a minute, voters don't have any say in SA.

But in Moscow, news of the attack was greeted as yet another chance to mock the United States and its allies

Wow! Even the Washington Post agrees with B about Putin trolling Trump [though admittedly citing Maria Zakharova, but similar comment].

whereas the Patriot system successfully intercepted missiles

I think that's coded speech. When the Washington Post uses the word "successful" in relation to the MIC it means successful sale not successful shot. Also the shots that miss are also successful in generating sale of replacement missiles. If the Patriot fails to take down incoming missiles, that is not relevant according to MIC criteria: "Not our problem, Gov, either Patriot battery operator failure, or the enemy aimed at the wrong target and failed to issue advanced notice".

Posted by: BM | Sep 21 2019 17:37 utc | 2

More to the point, the Russian base in Tartus Syria has been attacked at least a dozen times by drones and the Russian air defense has been able to defend against it w/great efficiency. The Russian layered defense is proven in actual combat conditions specifically against drone attacks.

Posted by: Christian Chuba | Sep 21 2019 17:52 utc | 3

This image from the Business Insider article b linked to shows what appears to be a well and truly rusted hole. I don't think steel rusts that quickly in the desert.

Posted by: Norwegian | Sep 21 2019 18:13 utc | 4

Saudi crude is completely transportable as it leaves the wells.
It is much safer to transport after having been "sweetened" by processing, to remove highly poisonous hydrogen sulfide which continues to outgas until it is all gone.
One has to wonder why the Saudis have never gotten the idea to refine all of their own crude and sell the value-added products instead of the crude.

Posted by: Vonu | Sep 21 2019 18:14 utc | 5

B's analysis here again is valuable. I think A.M. at Reminiscence of the Future additionally debunks the claim that the efficacy of the S-400 hasn't been demonstrated in combat conditions. He makes the point that although it hasn't been fired, its very efficacy is responsibility for a great deal of checked aggression by ZIOFUKUSA in the M.E. and by NATO in Europe.

Posted by: Paul Damascene | Sep 21 2019 18:15 utc | 6

The damage shown does not match up with the (aerial view) picture from your report September 16.

Count the towers. What is shown today is also clearly the result of a fire, therefore not direct evidence of an attack by missile or drone.

Posted by: Ted | Sep 21 2019 18:15 utc | 7

here is some of that equipment being shipped

Posted by: snake | Sep 21 2019 18:16 utc | 8

On another tack, I wonder if B and his readership (Grieved? Karlof1? Don Bacon?) might have any thoughts on President Putin's trolling. I recognize that that's a mode that he has past form in, and maybe he has reached a point of exasperation with the U.S., but trolling the Saudis seems both uncharacteristically statesmanlike and the kind of expression for which there is little diplomatic upside.

Has something happened behind the scenes that might account for this? Perhaps an enmity towards MBS that hasn't surfaced till now? My impression was that Russia was working, in its patient, methodical way, towards fostering relations with SA, and peeling them away from the petrodollar Borg.

Posted by: Paul Damascene | Sep 21 2019 18:20 utc | 9

@6 "responsible" not "responsibility"
@9: "unstatesmanlike" not "statesmanlike"

Posted by: Paul Damascene | Sep 21 2019 18:22 utc | 10

Do the Saudis have the Patriot GEM/C version, C for cruiser missile defense? But even if they did I believe it would still be useless against UAVs.

Posted by: mike | Sep 21 2019 18:31 utc | 11

@#4 Norwegian--

Steel oxidizes in intense fire. The rust is exactly what you would expect from the attack.


Posted by: Gaianne | Sep 21 2019 18:34 utc | 12

"But the Patriots also achieved two hits on fighter planes."

And Iran Air Flight 655, and TWA Flight 800...

Posted by: Trond | Sep 21 2019 18:35 utc | 13

"One has to wonder why the Saudis have never gotten the idea to refine all of their own crude and sell the value-added products instead of the crude."

Because they don't want a proletariat in the neighbourhood?

Posted by: bevin | Sep 21 2019 18:39 utc | 14

I still contend the Israelis are scheming to get the US to start a war with Iran by whatever means possible. Trump seems sympathetic to Israel, but continues to be the current speed bump as even Pompeo and Esper couldn't goad him into an attack.

The US public isn't supportive of a war, but has been well-MSM-conditioned to hate evil Iran. They threaten our security and freedom... somehow... just like those evil bastards in Libya, Iraq and Syria.

Solving the Trump speedbump and getting the anti-semitic US public to buy-in to an all-out hot Iranian war will require Israel to resort to drastic measures: US soldiers must die first, and it must look like Iran 'did it'. No better time like the present for a (another?) false flag - except now there are an increasing number of US soldiers on the ground in Saudi Arabia that might 'accidentally' be hit. Hey, it's a sacrifice both Trump and Israel are willing to make. Trump knows a few Patriot batteries are useless and every US soldier in Saudi Arabia is just another meat shield for the al-Sauds. Think the current Israeli leadership would hesitate if they thought they could get away with it?

Abqaiq and Khurais attack? Predictable, no matter who 'did it'. Amir on Iran GeoMil blog wrote this article back on May 16, 2019. Highly recommended for understanding the Saudi arrogance of being a regional bully and yet somehow immune from consequences:

Analysis: Saudi Arabian Air and Missile Defences
In a time of high tensions, Saudi Arabia's air defences are at their weakest in decades.

Here's and idea for cheap, effective air defense for the Saudis and UAE: Get the hell out of Yemen and stop pissing off Iran.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Sep 21 2019 18:43 utc | 15

@9 There are a lot of bilateral relations between Russia and the Saudis....oil market share, weapons even space. Maybe the petrodollar is a factor but I think mainly Putin would like the Saudis to stop funding jihadis and help with reconstruction in Syria.

Posted by: dh | Sep 21 2019 18:44 utc | 16

@12 Gaianne
Where do you see signs of 'intense fire' in that image? The paint where the hand is looks undamaged roughly 5cm from the hole. At top right there is rust further away, but undamaged paint closer to the hole. I don't think the rust is from 'intense fire'.

Posted by: Norwegian | Sep 21 2019 18:46 utc | 17

Unsaid of course by BezosPost is an important underlying reason for Russia's gloating which was reported and linked to yesterday--Terrorist drone attacks aimed at Latakia guided by Outlaw US Empire P-8 aircraft as publicly reported by Russian Defense Ministry officials at a security forum taking place in China. Such action was an act of war made by the Outlaw US Empire against Russia that the latter have preferred to keep quiet about until now. But that cat is now out of the bag and most every major national military is now aware of the incident, and that there were likely others. It's also likely that the Saudis know about it too, and they certainly are aware of the operational effectiveness of Russia's layered air defense system.

Incidents like the above and others in similarity must be considered and added to the underlying context that informs Sergei Lavrov's important essay "World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future," which expands upon the theme Putin introduced with his remarks on Liberalism's demise.

Late yesterday, Zarif tweeted this:

"Since the Saudi regime has blamed Iran—baseless as that is—for the attacks on its oil facilities, curious that they retaliated against Hodaideh in Yemen today—breaking a UN ceasefire. It is clear that even the Saudis themselves don't believe the fiction of Iranian involvement."

Indeed, actions speak louder than words! Do also see his three later tweets, particularly the one to Margaret Brennan wherein Zarif shows his wit.

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 21 2019 18:57 utc | 18

Paul Damascene @9--

There are numerous things unknown to us general public folk, like the just announced liaison/aid of the Outlaw US Empire with Idlib-based terrorists in their drone swarm attack on Latakia earlier this year as mentioned @18 above, those terrorists having been financed by Saudis. Such trolling's akin to what's known as an inside joke, one that those at the presser were all aware of judging from their collective reactions in the video. When you read what the Russians say and write, it's easier to understand the overall context behind such remarks. Lavrov's essay I again liked to above and Putin's remarks about Liberalism's demise are excellent places to start.

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 21 2019 19:10 utc | 19

Beautiful! It seems the attack was even more effective than we thought before. I could stop to laugh for i guess half a minute after reading this..
Besides the theater now, the US seems to put a rush on the development of their point defense tech. While for a long time teased and in development, they will require AT LEAST 3-4 years to be fielded by the US, let alone its so called allies.
And as i stated before, Putin may be half trolling, but the offer to the Saudis is real. They have good ties, and behind the scenes they undoubted talked about it.
Will be interesting if they Saudis would grow some balls and make they deal. Especially now that Trump has cooled down his endorsement for the Saudis, and in last months even openly angering them.
Interesting times! Especially interesting what MBS will do with the Houtis offer. I doubt he accepts it right away, as he even broke the now long-standing agreements in his latest "punishment attack" as the Houtis rightfully complain.
We will see soon enough i guess.

Posted by: DontBelieveEitherPr. | Sep 21 2019 19:10 utc | 20

S400 not battle tested because opponents all too nervous to go up against it. Pretty cost effective deterence.

Posted by: the pessimist | Sep 21 2019 19:12 utc | 21

Thanks for a brilliant post b. How the hell do you dig up all that stuff in less than a day?

The failure of US defense weaponry will be no surprise to engineers at companies that produce the stuff. There was a blog of Honeywell workers some years ago comprising more than 800 comments which expressed such anger, frustration and disillusion that it was difficult to get through. The blog appears to have disappeared but I copied most of them. Honeywell design and build all sorts of stuff for missiles and avionics. Here is just a sample.

1. That comment about the work atmosphere 15 years ago really hit home. That's exactly how we used to be. We were exceptionally good at our jobs, knew what we had to do and did it. We knew this because our division was very profitable and management told us so. Management provided objectives and turned us loose to accomplish them. Esprit de corps was high. We worked hard, but we had a good time while doing so.
Then the bozos took over. We went from being treated like capable professionals who knew how to get results, to being treated like the stuff you scrape off your shoe. Instead of being given objectives and autonomy to accomplish them, we are now told which foot to lift, how high to lift it, and where to set it down. If a shoelace comes untied, approval to re-tie it must go through four levels of management. As often as not, we're told we didn't need the shoelace anyway. But if approval is received, then only the special management-approved knot must be used to re-tie it. Turns out it's a slip-knot so they'll be able to grant approval many more times in the future.

2. You have increased the complexity of everything that we do (even the simplest of tasks) by 5 to 10 times, by forcefully imposing the use of new, mostly defective, complex, and cumbersome tools, poorly thought out and unnecessary processes, guidelines, etc., in every aspect of our work. You have replaced every simple, single tier, efficient and working methodologies with multiple tier, complex and unworkable ones. You have totally destroyed everyone's morale and motivation, for a long time to come, with your unconscionable and criminal agendas of stealing, robbing and enslaving your employees. You do not encourage or tolerate any feed backs or suggestions, and definitely do not tolerate any resistance, or intelligent constructive criticism, but insist on employing draconian means to enforce your moronic and grossly counter-productive ideas.

3. As an engineer, in days gone by I could see that the work I did made a difference; that my efforts were valued. I had some authority, and what I considered to be fairly sizable responsibility. Projects in double-digit millions. Not a lot of recognition, but I was OK with that. Then it all changed.
New management first stripped away ALL of my authority. My ability to make any decisions regarding monetary expenditures was removed and replaced by micromanaging every step. The blunders were incredible. At first, trying to be a helpful, proactive employee, I tried to point out the drawbacks of these poor decisions. That effort earned a "not a team player" comment in my review.
During this time, not a day went by but what management constantly hammered the workforce with the propaganda that our Chinese counterparts were able to do the same job as us but for 1/10th or 1/5th (it varied) of the pay. After direct experience, I knew this was NOT the case. For management to maintain that it was, said a lot about their ignorance, their willingness to perpetuate a facile lie, or both.

Posted by: Lochearn | Sep 21 2019 19:12 utc | 22

I find the pic (above) of the purported damage to a Saudi refinery unconvincing due to the absence of an identifiable horizon or an identifiable Saudi landmark in the background. 5 minutes ago movie clips of the same scene were broadcast on Although the clips showed penetration holes in the tall structures in b's pic + a pressure tank scaffolded for repair of a penetration just above the waistline of the vessel (i.e. NOT in the "roof" of the pressure tank as earlier pics showed) there was no horizon or identifiable background scenery in the movie clips masquerading as 'news'.

Can any of MoA's resident sleuths positively match the relative layout of the damaged structures with the satellite pics of the, or a, refinery in Saudi Barbaria?

How come these pics and clips weren't distributed 5 or 6 days ago?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Sep 21 2019 19:15 utc | 23

@ Posted by: Norwegian | Sep 21 2019 18:46 utc | 17

The fire, obviously, had already been put out the moment the photographer went to take the pictures. Suicide photographers are not invented yet.

The same is true for war photographs and war videos: they are usually invited photographers/videographers, and are not covering the really intense action. That's why visual records of, e.g., WWII, are usually of deployments or at the periphery of the combat (low intensity combat). The same is true for the proxy wars of the Cold War and post-Cold War.

As for the "oxidation" problem, you can sleep at peace with the link below:

Heating of Steel: Oxidation and Decarburisation | Metallurgy

I'm not a specialist in metallurgy, but those pictures can be either showing oxidation or decarburisation. Steel is an iron-carbon alloy, so it is susceptible to both.

Posted by: vk | Sep 21 2019 19:17 utc | 24

So the Patriot system has a history of hitting the wrong targets, and...

The U.S. is now sending more soldiers to Saudi Arabia with more Patriot systems

Anyone else thinking what I'm thinking?

MH-17 v2 get ready

Ok probably not... but what happens if we see another friendly fire strike? Do you really think the U.S. / Saudi Arabia would resist the ability to blame Iran?

Posted by: twhstmmwmaf | Sep 21 2019 19:18 utc | 25

mike@11, Yes!

Gaianne@12, Exactly!

Posted by: DannyA | Sep 21 2019 19:24 utc | 26

The problem with buying a US defense product called Patriot is that it can only be patriotic to its country of origin (by being profitable and expendable).
Another sick AmeriKKKan joke...?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Sep 21 2019 19:28 utc | 27

@ PavewayIV who wrote
I still contend the Israelis are scheming to get the US to start a war with Iran by whatever means possible. Trump seems sympathetic to Israel, but continues to be the current speed bump as even Pompeo and Esper couldn't goad him into an attack.
I agree that TPTB are wanting more war to maintain/extend their control and that Iran is a big fly in the ointment but MAD must be taken into account. I think the time has past where empire can just start wars wherever and whenever they want to keep all enthralled in conflict. I think the tipping point was Syria and it happened during Uncle Tom Obama's time in office. Both China and Russia have made it quite clear that Iran has their backing and while Iran can handle any "boots on the ground" war, China and Russia are telling dying empire that MAD will be the result of anything with nukes involved.

So, on Monday, the bloviator in chief will go before the High Court of the UN and pontificate about the "rules based order" of empire and those that don't walk out will still understand that empire is no longer making ALL the rules and even less are following them.

The demise of empire cannot come too soon for all those suffering for its perfidy around the world.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Sep 21 2019 19:36 utc | 28

@ Lochearn with the samples of engineer frustration at Honeywell....thanks.

I had the opportunity to work with some amazing Honeywell engineers when I was at Weyerhaeuser in the late 60', early 70's on mainframe computer stuff (WEYCOS). I keep wondering when the engineers of our world are going to wake up enough to see the structural problem of private finance led/controlled Western society....and get off their collective asses and do something about it. Without engineers keeping empire operational, it would fall in a heart beat.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Sep 21 2019 19:56 utc | 29

@ Paveway 15
The US public isn't supportive of a war,
That certainly doesn't matter, never has. What does matter is that the US military is forwarded deployed to the Gulf area and they are at high risk from an Iran counter-attack so the Pentagon just says NO. There are Navy families in Bahrain, for example, women and children, who would object to being incinerated by Iran missiles.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 20:00 utc | 30

Christian Chuba | Sep 21 2019 17:52 utc | 3

I think you mean the Russian Hmeimin Airbase rather than the port they use at Tartous. Whilst the latter has been attacked by drones, from memory it was only once or twice, the latter has been targeted many times.

Posted by: Trond | Sep 21 2019 18:35 utc | 13

Credit where credit is due, Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by a Standard SM-2MR missile. Whilst TWA Flight 800, if it was shot down, was likely the victim of another similar missile. In neither case was a Patriot in the frame.

Posted by: JohninMK | Sep 21 2019 20:03 utc | 31

The owner of the WaPo is competing for a cloud computing contract from the DOD said to be worth $10 billion. A snowball in Hades has a better chance of surviving than the chance that we'd see the WaPo put a $10 billion contract at risk by failing to suck up to the DOD.

Posted by: Random | Sep 21 2019 20:05 utc | 32


Another pic of the three pressure tanks I linked in the last thread also show back ground that matches google.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 21 2019 20:21 utc | 33

Patriot prime contractor Raytheon engineer employee comments on their employer, less than stellar. . .h/t Lochearn @22

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 20:25 utc | 34

Oil price dropping, damages are small and localized, now Abqaiq recovering fast and approaching to full producion. Of course there were damages, but not big.

The queue in the fillind station is a joke, I can show bigger queues in a big city in many days (for example on fridays), 30 - 40 cars is not a huge queue.

You do not need 5000 workers to repair those damages, but to make anual maintenance that they are making to take advantage of the circunstances
In less than two weeks all working.

For the internal allies of the houthis inside KSA it will be difficult to repeat the attack, so the huthi truce offer

Posted by: DFC | Sep 21 2019 20:33 utc | 35

I would like to point out that ships, even those of US Navy and allies, have a kind of layered defence - SM (whatever number) and CIWS. The CIWS, the close combat air defence is the layer which should deal with drones like recently used. At ships, they should also have some forbidden angles to not hit the own ship, a feature highly appreciated for refineries to not receive more damage by defending than the attack could have done at its best.
For the S-400 as "not being approved in combat", I wonder whether customers may have checked its ability by bringing along their targets to be dealt with. During Warsaw Pact times, the AD base in Ashuluk (47°24'36.7"N 48°00'29.3"E) used to be a test place where all AD units had to proof their competence on a regular base in sharp shoot (I personally took part there in 1988 as a draftee). Given that, every customer may bring along its drones, targets, whatever, and its military to check out what the system is capable of. Whenever a seller is confident to allow the customer to check out the quality of the product, he wins a lot, especially if the product does at promised. I'm quite sure (however, having absolutely no evidence) this is one of the reason for the respect the S300, S400 have earned.

Posted by: BG13 | Sep 21 2019 20:35 utc | 36

Lochearn @22--

I'm going to guess the temporal context for comment #1's "15 years ago" is early 1990s prior to the drastic, inefficient, but cost and profitability raising changes occurred.

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 21 2019 20:36 utc | 37

Vonu @ 5:

I'm betting that in the agreement the Saudi govt made with the US govt back in the 1940s, when Franklin Roosevelt was President, the Saudis were to sell only crude oil to the Americans.

Of course the Saudis could earn more by refining the crude and selling the value-added products but that means the West would have to pay more, and that wouldn't make Western Balance of Trade figures (or even Balance of Payments statistics) look good.

In the end, it's all about where the money flows to and who can get the most money out of the transaction.

Posted by: Jen | Sep 21 2019 20:39 utc | 38

Here's a twitter feed from Amir, author of the Iran GeoMil blog. Scroll down to see wreckage of the RQ-4 drone shot down by Iran, and further down to see the actual Sevome Khordad TELAR involved in the RQ-4 shootdown, complete with killmark.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 20:39 utc | 39

Withno pics what so ever of the supposedly hit eleven spheroid tanks, who put out these sat pics and for what reason. According to the news articles, they were released by the US government, and according to Zero Hedge, they were released just before market opening.
Saudi's have been trying to down play the damage and US have been trying to increase the damage.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 21 2019 20:56 utc | 40

Yes karloff1 (19), Zariff has committed many acts of aggression by engaging in a battle of wits with unarmed combatants.

Posted by: Shadow | Sep 21 2019 20:57 utc | 41

@Lochearn - #22

This is all very much a product of the 'financialization' of western economies. Once people discovered they couldn't make it out of engineering school, they switched to business and the colleges, universities and night-school/online diploma mills started churning out MBAs. These guys insert themselves and others like them into every possible production chain in order to siphon high salaries and quarterly bonuses at the expense of long term profitability, r&d, and product quality. Hence it was then time to ship all production off to third world or developing countries. Next, the shareholders, board and c-suite/upper management realized they could also off-shore many of the operations and IT jobs, but profitability plateaued - so the big time "brand" mergers and acquisitions started in order to continue sucking every possible cent out of the system, employee morale and quality control be damned.

So now formerly innovative and trusted technology companies in every market space - from home hi-fi audio to laboratory test and measurement equipment to televisions to phones are merely brands in a Wall Street controlled portfolio. Generally these groups own more than one such company that used to compete with one another, but are now reduced to placing the same ICs and boards into products that have different appearances and name brands, but inside are exactly the same. No more R&D or long-term product support/improvement needed. Like the jobs, the products are essentially disposable or planned to become obsolete.

Absolutely none of what you described happening at Honeywell sounds any different to me than what I've read about the life of companies like JBL or Nokia. They are on opposite sides of the Atlantic, but the same thing happened. Sold to larger conglomerate, which was itself then sold to larger conglomerate. Long-time engineering staffs laid off or off-shored and r&d budgets slashed and combined with r&d budgets of former competitors, now under the same corporate/hedge fund/VC umbrella as each other.

The financialization of western society has benefited only the Wall Street corporate class and the government employees who enter that class through the revolving door once their rolodexes and knowledge of "classified" information/processes are useful enough for the corporations. Just like home audio, the next step in the weapons r&d cycle is snake oil. Billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidized weapons systems that don't work worth a shit - much less worth anywhere near what they cost. Upward redistribution of wealth under the "capitalist" system continues apace.

Posted by: KC | Sep 21 2019 21:00 utc | 42

Happy Peace Day!

The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is a United Nations-sanctioned holiday observed annually on 21 September.

The making of the International Day of Peace has an interesting story. We have Jeremy Gilley to thank for it. He is from England and fought hard to make the Day of Peace fall on September 21st every year.

Before 2002, the United Nations sponsored a day in honor of peace, but it never requested that people stopped fighting, and it didn't have a specific date. On September 7th, 2001, after many letters and meetings with different world leaders on Gilley's part, the United Nations agreed to create the International Day of Peace on September 21st. It was a day that asked the people of all nations to agree to ceasefire and nonviolence.

Right after the UN voted to enact this day, 9/11 happened. In the midst of all the turmoil, Gilley pressed on. It seemed like the world needed to acknowledge peace more than ever before. . .here

Alas, there was no money in it.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 21:00 utc | 43

Brent oil--the global standard--price has leveled off to $64-65 or about its trading range of last June. Why oil prices aren't as high as they ought to be given Trumporean rhetoric and sanctions on Iran is simply explained by the fact that Iran is still able to sell its oil into the global market as analyzed in several articles linked in comments from MoA over the past months. Saudi having to suddenly purchase finished product on open market is a clear indication of the disruption in its production chain, same with altering export product and schedules. When these indicators cease, we'll know most repairs are done--unless another attack occurs inflicting additional damage.

IMO, what impinges on the above is MbS's willingness to admit defeat and negotiate with Houthis, although the attack cited by Zarif isn't a good sign. In the interim, Ansarullah will prepare itself for another attack, probably more complex than the last. Houthi media issued a series of tweets several hours ago saying little that's new aside from another warning to the "US-Saudi aggression" to cease their useless attacks and negotiate. IMO, the phrasing "US-Saudi aggression" reflects the reality needing to be admitted by the global community.

Posted by: karlof1 | Sep 21 2019 21:02 utc | 44


The location of the pic at the top of b's piece. Photographer was somewhere to the north of this pipe overpass,49.6825575,104m/data=!3m1!1e3 looking south.
In the far end of the pic, the last two columns at the south have steel framework structures beside them. Zoom out the google map I have linked to and you can see those steel structures at the south.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 21 2019 21:33 utc | 45

The US says Iran did it for sure, but the Saudis are still investigating to get the proof of what they are certain of.
from AJ:

"The kingdom will take the appropriate measures based on the results of the investigation, to ensure its security and stability," [FM Adel] al-Jubeir told a news conference, declining to speculate about specific actions. "We are certain that the launch did not come from Yemen, it came from the north. The investigations will prove that.". .here

Jubeir is so sure that he knows he'll find out what he already knows because he's well educated. He obtained a B.A. summa cum laude in political science and economics from the University of North Texas in 1982, and an M.A. in international relations from Georgetown University in 1984.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 21:38 utc | 46

@ Posted by: KC | Sep 21 2019 21:00 utc | 42; Posted by: KC | Sep 21 2019 21:00 utc | 42; Posted by: DFC | Sep 21 2019 20:33 utc | 35

Oil prices did not spike for two interrelated reasons:

1) the oil derivative market never really recovered from the 2008 capitalist meltdown; and

2) also because of the 2008 debacle, consumption in the Western Civilization (Europe + USA + its provinces of the "Third World") has grown to a halt (therefore also lowering the demand for oil). They are all zombified ("Japanified") economies now.

Ironically, if it wasn't for China (a socialist country), the world would've already been in a permanent recession right now.

It's important to highlight the fact that capitalism won't collapse a la USSR. The USSR collapsed the way it did (spectacularly and extraordinarily peacefully) because of its sui generis socioeconomic system. Do not underestimated the ravaging blow 2008 did to capitalism -- nothing about what we've been discussing here (multipolarity, Eurasian integration, the rise of the "far-right", color revolutions, China ascension, degeneration of the West etc. etc.) would've happened if 2008 didn't happen.

Posted by: vk | Sep 21 2019 21:46 utc | 47

Great stuff, b. Even brilliant.

The issue though for the future of Saudi policy is internal opinion. Do enough influential Saudi princes continue to support MbS's policy, or not? This news will have discouraged them - "Saudi citizens report of a lack of gasoline and a video show long queues in front of a local gas station." The video though doesn't show long queues, only some queues. If it is really long queues, people will be saying, wtf, why are we supporting this war? and some princes will be hearing them. It all depends on how strong the princely revolt is.

Posted by: Laguerre | Sep 21 2019 21:47 utc | 48

There must be a joke somewhere about a lack of women drivers in those long (or not long) queues. Perhaps those queues (what a weird word) are in liberal Jedda where women can not only vote but drive?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 21:53 utc | 49

@Lochearn on engineer comments at Honeywell—thank for this!

These comments distill a frustration across the world by professionals in the grip of a bureaucratic managerialist coup d'etat. I teach in a university, but those comments could easily have been written by me or my colleagues. When I once remarked that it seemed like monkeys were running the place a colleague replied that we were well beyond that—"the bananas are in charge now, man!" Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro, Morrison, MbS and their bloated micro-managing totalitarian bureaucracies serving faceless 'stakeholders'. We're in a Kafka novel now.

Posted by: Patroklos | Sep 21 2019 22:02 utc | 50

Putin trolling the Saudis?
Why not? The Saudis funded the jihadists in Chechnya and various other parts of the Caucasus. Don't forget that it was the Saudis who were the primary funders of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan back in the 80s/90s as well as the jihadists more recently in Syria, I suspect that a lot more shit will come the way of the al-Saud family and some of it will be "Made in Russia".

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Sep 21 2019 22:03 utc | 51

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 21:53 utc | 49

It's a joke, Don, for those who believe that what Near Easterners do is a joke, and only what the US does, good or evil, counts.

Posted by: Laguerre | Sep 21 2019 22:06 utc | 52

@Norwegian #17

It looks like the work of a shape charge. The blast was highly directional, with maximum penetrating power. Very efficient use of a small payload within the capabilities of a budget-model drone.

Posted by: Thirdeye | Sep 21 2019 22:11 utc | 53

KC@42 Very elegantly put. Financialization is the last stage of a world-system before it implodes.

Posted by: Patroklos | Sep 21 2019 22:12 utc | 54

Well I follow the military news and it is full of sad stories about new materiel which are poorly designed and manufactured, and won't meet requirements which are often poorly thought out anyhow. Billions of dollars are wasted on failed, terminated programs, and even worse are programs that aren't terminated but should have been, like the F-35 jet fighter, eighteen years in development and still hasn't passed initial operational test and evaluation yet they are being manufactured in large quantities at $150m plus per copy.

A big part of it is excessive complexity, using high-tech to the max, because that's where the money is, instead of making something simple and durable, and maintainable in the field. Yet having said that, other countries are excelling the US in some fields, like air defense, electronic warfare and hypersonics. The motivations must be better in these countries! as others have suggested.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 22:17 utc | 55

@ Laguerre 52
what Near Easterners do
Near East is a refreshing change from Middle East. Makes them closer. Thanks for that, you're on your toes.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 22:22 utc | 56

I ran onto a twitter acc of a reporter going to KSA for the 'guided' press tour. They were flown to Khurais for a few quick pics then flown to Abqaiq. The Abqaiq tour was fifteen minutes. From the pics it appears there were two stops where reporters could stand in a marked area and take some quick pics.
The stop at the stabiliser columns appears to be between No's 1 and 2, No 1 being the northernmost column.
No pics show number 1. Number 2 looks to have taken two hits close together and a fire around the base. 3 has a section of insulation missing. 5 has been hit near the top base undamaged. 7 fire blackened at top perhaps only superficial damage. 8 hit relatively high in the column and no fire at the base. 10 no close pics but looks to have had a fire at base similar to 1.

Going by the pics available, the number of definite solid hits I can count are five at the Abqaiq stabiliser columns, No 2 taking two hits, and two hits at the smaller spheroids.
At Khurais pics show one column destroyed and damaged piping beside a spheroid.
I come up with eight definite hits. Houthi claim of ten drones will likely prove correct.

The best middle finger salute Houthis could give to the Saudi's and their US defences would be to wait until its all repaired then hit it again.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 21 2019 22:29 utc | 57

Thnks b for bringing those images to us. The damage looks like it was caused by air blast shrapnel.

Trump manages to keep all the USA and minion's troops in every country they have illegally invaded and still come out on top as being the cautious 'no more war' advocate. This is theatrics straight out of the fake wrestling match genre. Heighten tensions, destroy people's lives and livelihoods, threaten war and deliver pestilence, employ evil buffoons and then sack them for being too belligerent, then hire more of the same. Same approach toward China and any other non submissive nation.

All Trump's antics are aimed at raising the public tension in USA and other gullible nations while they get on with fleecing the people.

The Israeli occupation perfected this by using the Palestinian 'threat' to get consent to move further to the right while simultaneously fleecing the USA and UK public. When things got too quiet or too compassionate they would enable another bomber to blow up a bus etc.

I sometimes think that the mass shooting spree currently vogue in the USA is exactly the result of the USA applying the same tactic. After all we couldn't have a peace dividend after the end of Russia / China threat model could we? One lost century of human development.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Sep 21 2019 22:32 utc | 58

Below is a ZH link that speaks volumes to the US sending troops to support the Clown Prince

Dramatic Footage Captures Major Russia-China War Games Involving Over 120K Soldiers

The take away quotes
Along with the only newly invited China, as well as Pakistani and Indian forces, other central and east Asian countries are participating, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

One analyst, Mathieu Boulegue, a research fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, has been cited in reports as saying China's involvement this year is huge and sends a firm, unprecedented message in terms of Moscow's growing powerful military alliances. “The message is quite clear when it comes to Russia, it means that ‘we’re not alone, we have a lot of partners, we’re not isolated so whatever efforts the West are trying to do against us we are still able to have powerful military alliances with China, India and Pakistan’,” he said.

Please notice that India and Pakistan are included while Trump is trying to negotiate trade deals with India and call it a win.....there are Plato's Cave display optics and then there is reality.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Sep 21 2019 22:40 utc | 59

mmm.. not sure what I was looking at earlier but b's pic does show all ten columns with No 1 at the north having taken the two hits.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 21 2019 22:47 utc | 60

Thirdeye @53: It looks like the work of a shape charge.

That seems logical given that the towers have no exit hole on the other side.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Sep 21 2019 22:48 utc | 61


From what I understand and from what I have seen on video, a shaped charge directs a stream of hot gas which cuts through steel in a similar way to an oxy torch or plasma cutter.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 21 2019 22:57 utc | 62

Shaped charge. a bit long but at the end, a hole is punched lengthways through a piece of heavy bar.

Poor quality but much shorter.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 21 2019 23:05 utc | 63

PavewayIV @15

Great summary. But I'm sensing that the Saudis are the problem not Trump.

"Locked and loaded" is pretty gung-ho.

IMO the Saudis don't want THEIR infrastructure in Iranian cross-hairs. That's why they were so noncommittal in the face of USA eagerness.

The next manufactured crisis will likely be elsewhere. Kuwait? (8 US bases) Bahrain? (2 US bases) or a ship in the Gulf.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Sep 21 2019 23:07 utc | 64

@30 Don

I am not saying that it is beyond questioning that the American mood when it comes to war in a prolonged military engagement/deployment has up to this point stopped our further involvement in Syria, Iran, and Yemen, but it is a point you should consider and speaks to the hope in this land where the bigwigs really do fear what the people will do if they go too far.

IMO, this is eternally the case. They could try another 9/11 to drum up support, but the people are too smart now with Indy media, even though efforts abound to divide us into sub groups and warring factions.


Re: the Saudis. Wow, they are the suckers at the table, aren't they? Sure, Trump talks tough about being locked and loaded, but he is snickering all the way to the bank selling inferior air defense systems to the Sheiks. It won't be long now until their kingdom is gutted and Uncle Sam will not be running to help. Believe me. Though we will cry foul when KFC for those lard ass Saudis and other multinationals are thrown out when the Shiites take over.

Posted by: Nemesiscalling | Sep 21 2019 23:16 utc | 65


I think US expects to own the Saudi oil once the kingdom is gutted. It is also about the only country left that US can comfortably attack militarily and would have good domestic support. If I were a Saudi, I would be taking Putin's advice and buy some Russian defence system.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 21 2019 23:21 utc | 66

Peter AU 1 40

Important comment that reinforces questions we've raised at MoA. Questions that I haven't seen anywhere else.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Sep 21 2019 23:28 utc | 67

Feel free to critique me. I've noticed that a lot of the hotspots in Eurasia are either choke points, through points or terminals for the BRI. The Empire is deathly afraid of the BRI as they produce very little that the rest of the world needs or wants. IT can't compete honestly, so, like a pigeon it knocks over the chess pieces, shits on the board, flies away and declares victory. If it turns out that the Empires weapons and defense are obsolete, what's left? GMO and pesticide tainted food? Chlorinated pork and chicken? No, the Empire must maintain through force and coercion the petrodollar at all costs. So what's a few thousand soldiers compared to that?

Posted by: Shadow | Sep 21 2019 23:54 utc | 68

KC @ 42 started with;"financialization' of western economies."

Kudos KC, I haven't read a more apt and succinct description of the sickness of the U$A's business community.

Thank you..

Posted by: ben | Sep 22 2019 0:07 utc | 69

Spheroid tank at Khurais

I think this is the location,47.510138,831m/data=!3m1!1e3

To the north of the spheroid in google map is the column that was hit in Khurais

Add that spheroid as a definite hit makes 9.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 22 2019 0:11 utc | 70

Specifically, the time in tenths of second as measured by the system's internal clock was multiplied by 1/10 to produce the time in seconds.


Posted by: Joerotten | Sep 22 2019 0:12 utc | 71

Number of hits is a long way short short of the US number of 21 or 22 strikes. US is bullshitting, Saudi's are trying to play it down. Houthi's so called military presentation or presser a few days afterwards was mostly bullshit, but they have the bragging rights and good on em.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 22 2019 0:17 utc | 72

MBS has been selling oil for yuan since last November, and started very recently to sell for euros.There are many suspects and motives from all quarters, and the whole Khashoggi affair had
similar deeper machinations ,his CIA handler sent him to his certain death knowing what MBS had planned,in an attempt to remove him from the succession.Its MBSs credibility again on the line as well as his Aramco IPO.
Quite the coincidence.

Posted by: winston2 | Sep 22 2019 0:33 utc | 73

winston2 @73
How do you know the Saudi's are selling oil for yuan and euros?

Posted by: lgfocus | Sep 22 2019 0:42 utc | 74

Patroklos #50,

You sound like you are working for UTAS, Tasmania. They certainly have bananas in charge.

Posted by: eagle eye | Sep 22 2019 0:48 utc | 75

One has to wonder why the Saudis have never gotten the idea to refine all of their own crude and sell the value-added products instead of the crude.

Posted by: Vonu | Sep 21 2019 18:14 utc | 5

From my recent reading I concluded that one can transport anything, but the cost is quite a bit higher for more flammable products, the same applies to corrosive products. LNG is super-flammable and non-corrosive, the specialized tankers have much higher unit cost. Crude without the lightest fraction can be transported in supertankers that have very low unit cost (both the cost of the ship / # cargo tons and the cost of fuel / #cargo tons x #miles).

As a result, it is more economical to transport (conditioned) crude and make gasoline, kerosene etc. locally, i.e. within the subcontinent where they are consumed.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Sep 22 2019 0:49 utc | 76

Aramco Prospectus, under currency risks,yuan hedges and yuan receivables.
Its in black and white.

Posted by: winston2 | Sep 22 2019 0:53 utc | 77

Peter AU 1 @ 70

Great picture, they got the damage cut out of that sphere relatively quickly. I bet those spheres will be ready to go back online in a week or so. The columns will be much more difficult but they may be able to get away with a similar type of repair. Things will move much faster there than in the West as worker safety will be thrown out the window. Worker safety of non Saudi workers that is. 5000 workers and probably 99% of them are expendable with a few Saudis and westerners directing the workflow.

Let us count the days of distance between now and the next attack. I would guess at least a couple of months or so.

Posted by: dltravers | Sep 22 2019 0:59 utc | 78

winston2 @77

Well its regime change then. Same in Egypt due to Sisi not joining an Arab NATO.

I wondered a while back when we sent troops and military hardware to SA to "counter Iran" if it wasn't to either protect MBS from a takeover or be there to usher his takeover.

Posted by: lgfocus | Sep 22 2019 1:01 utc | 79

Found this little gem in an obscure blog (from 28 August 2018, but still valid to our times). It's very short and I highly recommend the read:

Impractical Saudi Aramco IPO Comes To An End, More Financial Turmoil Ahead

At the end of the post, there's a link to a Haaretz pay walled article. If someone has access to it, please copy and paste here to us.

Posted by: vk | Sep 22 2019 1:46 utc | 80

Thank you Laguerre 48
The issue though for the future of Saudi policy is internal opinion. It all depends on how strong the princely revolt is.

As I recall the opportunities for a princely revolt were nixed some months ago when they were gathered to the fold, tortured, shaken down and no doubt had key family members placed under safe house 'care'. Such is they way of Saudi power embrace.

That leaves the Saudi military... I have no information on them but I would hazard a guess that many therein may see an opportunity and have considerable allegiances to 'anyone but MBS' thus presenting an opportunity to change the boardgame. We shall see.

Regardless of that, the KSA is totally allied with the FUKUSAI team and its five eyed blunder bus and I would assume that it is being subjected to the same slow motion destruction that the same team has visited on the rest of the middle east.

I am humored by the notion of lots more patriot batteries to protect the refinery end of the pipeline. Its a long way from Abquaiq to the red sea and a pipeline runs through it. If Moore's Law is at all relevant here then the next generation of drones will be even greater in their impact and that doesn't include the technology that is in production right now.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Sep 22 2019 1:56 utc | 81

All this is nonsense. You don't want to use a Patriot or an S-400 or any complex missile system on some stupid drone. You want to use those to destroy the launching aircraft, if any. The cost differential between a missile and a drone is so great that any half witted attacker would merely overwhelm your defenses with drones. Also when I say "drone" I do not mean "cruise missile." For a cruise missile you want some low cost missile like the Russian Pantysr. What you need for drones is something like a Phalanx system with a 360 degree radar that fires beehive rounds. The problem with that, from the American point of view, is it's easily built, relatively inexpensive and doesn't sell for billions of dollars per battery. Forget the fact that it's an order of magnitude more effective on subsonic low maneuverability targets, like drones, that's not the point.

Posted by: Paul Bogdanich | Sep 22 2019 1:56 utc | 82

Recently there is a discussion about mental capabilities of Joe Biden and Don Trump. Biden had a widely commented statement during the recent debate of Democratic candidates where he recommended that poor families play unspecified texts to their children using gramophones so they would be better prepared for education in school. Most commentators focus on "patronizing" aspects, but Caitline Johnstone traced a severe "cognitive deficit".

Ever competitive, Trump tossed his own pearls of wisdom. When he was queried about the situation in Persian Gulf and American readiness for action, he deftly changed topic (Biden's prattle was also an evasion of inconvenient topic, something that is expected, but the execution lacked evidence of completely functional brain).

"Our nuclear was getting very tired..Now we have it in, as we would say, tippy-top shape. Tippy top. We have new and we have renovated and it's incredible. We all should pray we never have to use it." Who are "we"? I guess, "all of us" who sell problematic real estate in which some serious problems were hastily patched to be proudly presented as "tippy-top shape, tippy-top" while diverting attention from some irreparable flaws. In any case, "praying" is probably the best thing to do concerning the putative war with Iran. To divert attention even further, Trump announced plans to send people to Mars from (soon to be built?) our base on the Moon.

Strangely enough, with few exceptions the press overlooked those gems:

Altogether, as an orator Trump does not seem to be Biden-level stupid. His evasion of the most important issues was funny, but in sync with the "Atlantic consensus" to avoid two issues. One, the war in Yemen that started the crisis.

Two, the yawning gap between Western military assumptions and reality. How much of territory can be effectively defended from a variety of aerial attack for, say, one billion dollars. Poland is buying a pair of Patriot systems, the price is ca. 2 billions for each. Is it true that you need three of them to be 360 degree prepared? But drones and winged terrain-hugging missiles require short range defenses. "Adequate defense" of oil installation in KSA and UAE could cost an awful lot, 100 billions? Few hundred? And bear in mind, what we have seen is that it is orders of magnitude easier and cheaper to improve the "arrows" than "shields". Should one consider Plan Z (when all other plans fail), namely, peaceful coexistence? To include the arms manufacturers in this coexistence, we can pay them to develop a mission to Mars.

A possible fix would be to TOTALLY divert the attention from Yemen and have some tacit ceasefire. However, this debacle may embolden Iran to actually make an attack under its own "flag" in case the economic sanctions would bite as severely as Administration desires, and an informal ceasfire in Yemen would not last either.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Sep 22 2019 1:57 utc | 83

Peter AU 1 @ 70

Great picture. It is hard to say this is phony now. They got the damage cut out of that sphere relatively quickly. I bet those spheres will be ready to go back online in a week or so. The columns will be much more difficult but they may be able to get away with a similar type of repair. Things will move much faster there than in the West as worker safety will be thrown out the window. Worker safety of non Saudi workers that is. 5000 workers and probably 99% of them are expendable with a few Saudis and westerners directing the workflow.

Let us count the days of distance between now and the next attack. I would guess at least a couple of months or so.

Posted by: dltravers | Sep 22 2019 2:00 utc | 84

Piotr Berman
Inthe last saudi thread,I linked two videos of pressers with Trump and Morrison. In both, when asked about Iran, he talked about how good US military and its nuclear forces are.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 22 2019 2:07 utc | 85

@80 There is the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) and it's separate from the regular army. It's a large force drawn from tribes loyal to the king. That's the theory anyway.

Posted by: dh | Sep 22 2019 2:10 utc | 86

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 21 2019 22:17 utc | 55

Well I follow the military news and it is full of sad stories about new materiel which are poorly designed and manufactured, and won't meet requirements which are often poorly thought out anyhow.

Spain builds submarine 70 tons too heavy after putting a decimal in the wrong place

What’s the problem with Spain’s new submarine?

Spain's new submarine 'too big for its dock'

Posted by: Sergei | Sep 22 2019 2:12 utc | 87


Going by the pics I have, the damaged column at Khurais and the north and probably south stabiliser columns at Abqaiq are past repairing. (No good pics as yet of the southern most column) Rest all quickly reparable.
I am also thinking a few months before the next major Houthi hit.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 22 2019 2:12 utc | 88

Emmanuel Macron:

"The international order is being shaken in an unprecedented manner, above all with, if I may say so, by the great upheaval that is undoubtedly taking place for the first time in our history, in almost every field and with a profoundly historic magnitude.

The first thing we observe is a major transformation, a geopolitical and strategic re-composition.

We are undoubtedly experiencing the end of Western hegemony over the world.

We were accustomed to an international order which, since the 18th century, rested on a Western hegemony, mostly French in the 18th century, by the inspiration of the Enlightenment; then mostly British in the 19th century thanks to the Industrial Revolution and, finally, mostly American in the 20th century thanks to the 2 great conflicts and the economic and political domination of this power.

Things change.

And they are now deeply shaken by the mistakes of Westerners in certain crises, by the choices that have been made by Americans for several years which did not start with this administration, but which lead to revisiting certain implications in conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, and to rethinking a deep, diplomatic and military strategy, and sometimes elements of solidarity that we thought were intangible for eternity, even if we had constituted together in geopolitical moments that have changed.

And then there is the emergence of new powers whose impact we have probably underestimated for a long time.

China is at the forefront, but also the Russian strategy, which has, it must be said, been pursued more successfully in recent years.

I will come back to that. India that is emerging, these new economies that are also becoming powers not only economic but political and that think themselves, as some have written, as real “civilizational states” which now come not only to shake up our international order but who also come to weigh in on the economic order and to rethink the political order and the political imagination that goes with it, with much dynamism and much more inspiration than we have.

Look at India, Russia and China.

They have a much stronger political inspiration than Europeans today—They think about our planet with a true logic, a true philosophy, an imagination that we’ve lost a little bit."

Posted by: Sergei | Sep 22 2019 2:23 utc | 89

@winston 77, @igfocus 78
The aramco prospectus
The "currency risk is mainly cash deposits, debts, payable and receivable. Aramco does the same with pound, yen and euros. Doesn't look like they are selling so much oil in yuan
Control-F "yuan" --> page 223 and next

Currency risk
The Group operates internationally and is exposed to foreign exchange risk arising from various currency
exposures, primarily with respect to the fluctuations of the other currencies towards the SR. Foreign
currency risk mainly arises from commercial transactions, investing and financing activities.
The Group’s policy requires all subsidiaries to conduct a regular review of currency exposures, however the
hedge decisions is delegated to Global Treasury, who manages the execution of all derivatives trading
centrally. In respect of monetary assets and liabilities denominated in foreign currencies, the Group ensures
that its net exposure is kept to an acceptable level by buying or selling foreign currencies at spot rates when
necessary to address short-term imbalances.
The Group is currently exposed to currency risk on balances including receivable against sales, payable to
suppliers, placement with banks and borrowings that are denominated in a currency other than SR. The
currencies in which these transactions are primarily denominated includes US Dollar (USD), Euro (EUR),
British Pounds (GBP), Japanese Yen (JPY) and Chinese Yuan (CNY).

Posted by: Parisian Guy | Sep 22 2019 2:25 utc | 90

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Sep 22 2019 2:07 utc | 84

Opinion: West is slowly making a case that limited use of nuclear weapons to remove the IRI missile threat is preferable to a conflict that would take down the global economy. IRI's mouth pieces have reached the extreme of verbal push back (c.f "all our war", etc.).

We're at the terminal stages of this 40 year old show, that started with the color revolution that removed the Shah of Iran by Western and Soviet intelligence services. (Yes, US was given assurances regarding the Ayatollah and CIA assets were all over that Snake in France. However US did not count on "Old World" European snakes double dealing their American "saviors". It is informative to review the "revolutionaries" that helped bring the worldly Ayatollahs to power.)

Posted by: FKA_Realist | Sep 22 2019 2:30 utc | 91

@Peter AU 1

Are we talking the possibility of US-initiated regime-change in the KSA? I can see that as a definite scenario. The Sauds become bad guys ('Saddamized') and the former KSA becomes an imperial provincia under military command. All that's needed is a Lawrence to lead the Bedouin to freedom and break promises in the end: from 2019 to 1917 all over again...

Posted by: Patroklos | Sep 22 2019 2:35 utc | 92

Saudi have several AWACS. These are fine for seeing low-flying objects. Then, any fast military plane could gun the incoming cruise missiles like flying ducks. Do someone knows why this fix could not make it?

Posted by: Parisian Guy | Sep 22 2019 2:41 utc | 93

@Serguei 88

I'm French. I'm not so surprised by Macron's speech. Ten days after its election, his first foreign meeting was with Putin....
And, my analysis is that its project to (peacefully) pivot to Russia is the reason he got a Washington engineered color revolution (Yellows Vest). Peter_AU may remember I said that in "another blog" almost one year ago.

Posted by: Parisian Guy | Sep 22 2019 2:58 utc | 94

@ 89
The IPO prospectus published in April has other risks besides currency risks.
As at the date of this Base Prospectus, armed conflict is ongoing in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Libya and, since2017, several ballistic missiles were fired into the Kingdom from Yemen, including at the Jazan region where the Company has refining and chemicals facilities.. .

For example, in April and July 2018,Yemen’s Houthi group attacked tankers operated by the Saudi National Shipping Company off the coast of Yemen. Any political or armed conflict or other event, including those described above, that impacts the Company’s use of the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal or other international shipping routes could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s business, financial condition and results of operations. . .

Furthermore, there is a risk of terrorism or other armed conflict in the Kingdom and other jurisdictions in which the Company operates, and the Company’s facilities have been targeted in the past. As at the date of this Base Prospectus, such attacks have been thwarted, but no assurance can be given that such attacks will be thwarted in the future. . .

Furthermore, any of the events described above may contribute to instability in the MENA region and may have a material adverse effect on the willingness of investors to invest in the Kingdom or companies that are based in the Kingdom, which may in turn adversely affect the market value of the Notes. . .

In addition, the Company also depends on critical assets to process its crude oil, such as the Abqaiq facility which is the Company’s largest oil processing facility and processed approximately 50% of the Company’s crude oil production for the year ended 31 December 2018. . .

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 22 2019 2:58 utc | 95

Found this little gem in an obscure blog (from 28 August 2018, but still valid to our times). It's very short and I highly recommend the read:

Impractical Saudi Aramco IPO Comes To An End, More Financial Turmoil Ahead

Posted by: vk | Sep 22 2019 1:46 utc | 79

Thank you for that gem and I note that Musings of a Money Manager has no confidence in arab creative accounting. Well it could well be that MBS is being color revolutioned as we speak. There must be A LOT of yankees who are missing their snout in the trough times when the Saudi Billions were 'better distributed via the princes' as it were.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Sep 22 2019 3:00 utc | 96

I skimmed through the voluminous prospectus looking for the size of the IPO sale and couldn't spot it.

There are some recent comments in Financial Times saying it could be 3 per cent of the company or limited to 1 percent. MBS values the company at $2tn but a "regional financier values it at $1.4tn--$1.5tn.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 22 2019 3:39 utc | 97

paywall problems on FT link
so put "Pressure on Saudi families complicated Aramco IPO" in address block
then click on it at google

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 22 2019 3:47 utc | 98

The paper requested by vk 79:

Offering shares in in Saudi Aramco wasn’t a critical part of the kingdom’s ambitious economic reform plans. But the ensuing muddle captured all its over-the-top zeitgeist.

Aramco is the world’s largest oil producer, and heir apparent Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, or MBS, the man leading the reform drive, was confident it was worth $2 trillion, twice Apple’s valuation. The IPO would be the biggest in history and the world’s leading stock exchanges were competing for the privilege of the listing.

Even U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in with a call for Aramco to choose to float stock in New York. Armies of foreign investment bankers and lawyers were put to work on the offering.

Now, as Reuters reported on Wednesday, the IPO has been halted.

Well, not quite halted but delayed, according to an official government statement. But read between the lines: “The government remains committed to the IPO of Saudi Aramco at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum.”

That’s “forget it,” as Sir Humphrey of “Yes, Minister” would say.

And with that, we have the other and more important part of the zeitgeist of MBS’s “Vision 2030” plan for transforming Saudi Arabia from the world’s gas pump into an economy on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, or at least one where the average Saudi has to work for a living rather than relying on government handouts and sinecures.

Secrets and cold calculations

The Aramco IPO had been put off repeatedly since it was first announced in 2016 for the same reasons that MBS’s big plans for the kingdom are doomed to failure.

The old guard at Aramco and in the government didn't want to disclose as much information about the secretive company as the New York and London exchanges were insisting on. MSB reportedly was fixed on the prestige of a $2 trillion valuation rather than thinking about cold calculations of the market.

What’s become evident is that Vision 2030 is not the daring and transformative process that MBS and the glitzy marketing campaign surrounding it have promised. Like beauty, it's skin-deep,

MBS is correct in seeing the need to get Saudi Arabia off its oil fix.

Trump is still convinced the 20th century isn’t over and that coal and oil will keep fueling us forever, but MBS understands the world is moving on. He is investing in solar power at home and in companies like Tesla (maybe) abroad.

At home, the goal is to create a flourishing private sector independent of petroleum that can provide jobs and create wealth.
An instructor gives feedback to a female trainee using a driving simulator at the Saudi Aramco driving school for women at the headquarters of the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
Woman learning to drive using a simulator at the Saudi Aramco driving school for women, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. Mohammed Al-Nemer/Bloomberg

But MBS has two problems. The short-term one is that he is trying to finance this transition at a time when oil prices are low, which has left the country running huge budget deficits (this year something like 7% of GDP). The Aramco IPO was supposed to help pay some of Vision 2030’s bills. Running deficits would be okay as an investment in the future if Vision 2030 was going to work, but the odds are stacked against it.

MBS’ vision of an economy of innovative, educated Saudis and the dynastic rule of the al-Saud family are a complete mismatch. MBS has shown not the slightest inkling of ceding any royal prerogatives -- least of all his own -- of absolute rule. Indeed, tolerance of dissent has diminished, as evidenced by the arrest of female activists and the threat of imposing the death sentence on one.

Better be grateful

Yes, MBS is letting women drive for the first time and has made some other gentle social reforms. But the modus operandi is that of the ruler bestowing gifts on his people, who'd better be grateful, rather than a process where Saudi society decides through an open process of debate.

MBS’ other problem is that Saudi Arabia doesn’t have the human capital to pull off an economic revolution.

The angry reaction to Canada’s mild critique of the kingdom’s human rights record, detaining the Lebanese prime minister for two weeks, the campaign against Qatar and the nasty war in Yemen and the roundup of businessmen last year on corruption charges tells foreign and Saudi investors that little has really changed in the kingdom. They can’t assume there is any rule of law and that their capital is safe.

The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report ranks Saudi Arabia 87th in the world, a notch behind Egypt, which isn’t exactly Silicon Nile Valley. It’s not that the kingdom wants for money to educate its population, but Saudis have gotten too used to the idea that real work is performed by expatriates. The idea that they will be leading and founding innovative, transformative business is hard to imagine.

Despite some tentative moves to encourage free enterprise, like the kingdom’s first-ever bankruptcy law, Saudi Arabia remains a lousy place to do business and a hopeless one when it comes to high-tech and innovation.

All the money and all the marketing has created a global cheerleading squad of bankers, consultants, economists, analysts and even journalists who sell the MBS reform story. But the country is suffering capital flight and expats are leaving. The people in Saudi Arabia, its subjects and its giant expat workforce, know better.
[David Rosenberg]
Haaretz Contributor

Posted by: Parisian Guy | Sep 22 2019 3:53 utc | 99


Those mere hundreds and thousands of troop deployments now only serves as a tacit weakness to the Empire's opponents.

Posted by: JW | Sep 22 2019 3:58 utc | 100

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