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Algeria’s growing influence is putting it in the US crosshairs

By Robert Inlakesh | RT | December 13, 2022

As Algiers continues to play a more prominent role in Middle Eastern and African affairs, will it face US pressure and even regime change attempts for its foreign policy stances that do not align with those of the West?

In September, US Congress members evoked the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), to call for sanctions to be placed upon Algeria over weapons deals with Moscow. This plea came shortly after the same argument was made by Republican Senator Marco Rubio in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Since the days of the Cold War, the Algerian state has been outside the orbit of the West, lending its favor instead to national liberation movements and pursuing a more tailor-made foreign policy platform. This pitted it against its western neighbor, Morocco, which opted to align itself with the West. Today, tensions are boiling again between the neighboring North African leaderships over a similar alignment of sorts, especially since Morocco decided to normalize ties with Israel owing to pressure from the administration of then-US President Donald Trump. An arms race has been developing between the two nations since 2015, as both governments find themselves further tied to their East-West allegiances.

Against the backdrop of tensions with its Western-aligned North African neighbor, Algiers has emerged in 2022 as a revived regional player. As the global energy crisis continues amid the West’s standoff with Russia in Ukraine, Algeria has come off well and with more wealth. In the first five months of this year alone, Algeria’s oil and gas earnings skyrocketed by more than 70%, amounting to a total of $21.5 billion. This has given Algiers greater freedom to work on its defense goals and infrastructure projects.

Algeria is making significant strides at building sustainable living and working on projects to provide more jobs to its citizens. One such project is the construction of a futuristic city called Boughezoul. The city will not only house 400 new residents as part of its strategy to eliminate slums and derelict housing, but also seeks to host the Algerian space agency, a new railway station, and a new international airport. Efforts such as these, combined with the revival of military displays on the nation’s independence day, seem to represent a real effort to reassure the population of the government’s intentions after years of mistrust and mass demonstrations.

Along with the ongoing attempts to make the best of the new economic advantages domestically, Algiers also seems fixated on having its own impact on regional affairs. As the nation has cut off ties with neighboring Morocco, due in part to Israel’s intelligence and military influence, as well as the alleged Moroccan backing of Kabylie separatist groups, it now seeks to align itself with Tunisia to a greater degree.

Algeria, the third largest gas supplier to Europe, has attracted significant interest this year, becoming the top supplier now for Italy, as military ties also seem to deepen. In the case of Tunisia, Algeria has granted recognition to the nation’s president, Kais Saied, who relies on Algerian gas and is receiving supplies at a discounted rate. Tunis is facing an acute economic crisis and has been accused of trading its historically cordial relations with Morocco for closer ties with Algeria. The Tunisian president invited Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Polisario Front – a movement that fights for the disputed territory of Western Sahara, against Morocco – to the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development that was hosted in Tunisia in August. Inviting the sworn enemy of Morocco to the country triggered the subsequen withdrawal of ambassadors between Tunisia and Morocco. Algeria supports the Polisario Front in its fight over Western Sahara.

For Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune, keeping Tunisia on its side is an important issue, as it fears the UAE-Saudi-Egyptian bloc will assert its own dominance over Tunis’ policies. Kais Saied, who seized power in October of 2019, is clearly within the UAE’s sphere of influence, as opposed to his opponents in the Ennahda party that align with Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. Due to such a strong influence from Abu Dhabi in North Africa, Algeria is made to play a careful balancing game.

Another major issue that Algiers is now involving itself in is Palestinian reconciliation. It has hosted a number of meetings between rival parties Hamas and Fatah in order to bridge the gap and develop a stronger platform from which to argue for Palestinian statehood. The issue of achieving Palestinian statehood also played out as a central theme in the Arab League summit in November, as Algeria attempted to bolster its position regionally by hosting the meeting.

Despite having to play a careful balancing act, both regionally and internationally, Algeria has emerged this year as a key player in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. It has even held strong against its former colonizing power, France, forcing President Emmanuel Macron to change his rhetoric about Algiers and has paved the way to dropping French in the education system and opting to adopt the English language instead, eroding France’s influence further.

All the moves being made by Algeria are signaling that it intends to continue along the lines of adopting policies that do not necessarily align with Western interests, sometimes coming into direct conflict with them. This is why threats from US congressmen and senators to impose sanctions on Algeria have begun to raise eyebrows. America’s ambassador to Algeria, Elizabeth Moore Aubin, has refused to answer questions on hypothetically imposing sanctions, opting to focus on what her job entails, which may indicate that such decisions may not be on the immediate minds of high-ranking US officials. However, Republican party officials have certainly stirred the pot. The question now becomes how far Washington will go to punish Algeria for refusing to ditch Moscow and whether the strategy going forward may be to use Morocco against Algeria.

Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the Palestinian territories and currently works with Quds News. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. 

December 13, 2022 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

US sanctions Russian chemical research institute, saying it’s ‘connected’ to Triton computer malware

RT | October 23, 2020

A Moscow research institute involved in developing the S-300 air defense missiles has been blacklisted by the US Treasury Department over alleged “connections” to malware used “against US partners in the Middle East.”

The Central Scientific Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics (TsNIIKhM, or ЦНИИХМ) is “connected to the destructive Triton malware,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared on Friday, accusing it of “building customized tools that enabled” the cyber attack on “a petrochemical facility in the Middle East” that allegedly took place in August 2017.

No evidence was offered for this claim, nor the one that in “2019, the attackers behind the Triton malware were also reported to be scanning and probing at least 20 electric utilities in the United States for vulnerabilities.”

The alleged malware attack targeted industrial control systems at the facility and “had the capability to cause significant physical damage and loss of life,” Treasury said in the announcement.

There have been media reports of a cyber-attack on a petrochemical facility in Saudi Arabia in August 2017, but its name or ownership have never been revealed. A March 2018 New York Times story said that “Iran, China, Russia, the United States and Israel had the technical sophistication to launch such attacks,” and speculated that Iran was behind it, arguing that none of the others had the motive to do so.

The sanctioned institute goes back to a gunpowder research lab founded in 1894, and is the leading scientific organization in Russia “in the interests of defense and security of the state,” according to the Association of State Scientific Centers, an umbrella group for 48 Russian government-funded research facilities.

As a result of the sanctions, any property of the institute in possession of US persons is blocked and Americans are prohibited from any transactions with it. The designation also opens non-Americans to sanctions if they do business with the institute.

The sanctions were imposed under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a law approved with veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate in July 2017 – at the height of the ‘Russiagate’ hysteria.

October 23, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Eastern Nations Prefer Russian Weapons to US Ones

By Dmitry Bokarev – New Eastern Outlook 02.09.2020 

In recent years, the United States has increasingly more often impinged on sovereignty of other nations, thus flagrantly flaunting just how uncivilized its policies are. Such behavior is exemplified in various ways: diplomatic pressure exerted on policies of other nations; involvement in color revolutions; imposition of unlawful sanctions, and bans on trading with clear rivals to the US (an act that does not comply with existing international laws and the principle of free trade).

All of this is particularly noticeable when it comes to the ever increasing attempts by Washington to stop other nations from purchasing Russian weaponry. The United States must be aware of the fact that Russia’s high quality and fairly inexpensive military equipment is deservedly popular throughout the world. In addition, its export generates considerable revenues for the Russian Federation, and serves as an effective foreign policy tool for the nation, which helps Moscow build and adjust relations with other countries.

It is therefore not surprising that once tensions between Russia and the US arose, Washington began imposing anti-Moscow sanctions, focusing on the Russian Federation’s weapons trade in particular. In fact, a key aim of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was signed into law in August 2017, was to counter “Russian influence in Europe and Eurasia”. In September 2018, the “US government imposed secondary sanctions under CAATSA” for the first time by punishing Russia’s partners for “engaging in significant transactions with” individuals on the List of Specified Persons. According to a note issued by the US Department of State that month, the aforementioned actions were “not intended to undermine the military capabilities or combat readiness of any country”. Overall, the wording of the Act gives Washington a lot of room for maneuver.

There have been several widely publicized stories in connection with the CAATSA and the sale of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems, which are viewed as some of the more sought after items produced by the Russian Federation’s military industrial complex.

The S-400 Triumf is designed to destroy aircraft (including stealth targets), cruise and ballistic missiles (travelling at a speed of 4.8 km/s). The system’s radars can detect dozens of aerial targets at the same time and subsequently intercept them in various weather conditions. S-400 missile systems have been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 2007. In fact, they are an essential part of the Russian Federation’s integrated air defense system.

China became the first nation to express interest in purchasing S-400 systems. Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the sale of S-400 Triumf to China in 2014, i.e. long before the CAATSA was passed.

But once the Act was signed into law, the threat of US sanctions against China for its purchase of the missile systems loomed large. In September 2018, despite the fact that the S-400 agreement between the Russian Federation and the PRC had been reached before-hand, the US decided to impose sanctions against China’s Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission and its director, Li Shangfu. In spite of these troubles, “the first regimental set of S-400” had reached China in the spring of 2018. Apart from launchers, the delivery included command and control systems, radiolocation stations and other parts essential for such pieces of equipment. At the end of 2018, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 Triumf air defense system by “successfully shooting down a simulated ballistic target almost 250 km away and moving at the supersonic speed of 3 km/s”. Such news was quite impressive and helped promote Russia’s missile system to the world. In January 2020, the Russian Federation “concluded delivery of a second S-400 Triumf missile system regimental set to China”. China also received “more than 120 advanced anti-aircraft guided missiles” at the time.

The next country that decided to purchase the S-400 system was Turkey. After Turkey signed the relevant agreement with Russia in September 2017, Washington and other NATO members began criticizing Ankara’s decision. Since that time, the United States has been trying to convince and force Turkey to drop the deal.

In July 2019, the United States removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program, which meant that Ankara would “lose its production work on the jet by March 2020”. In addition, six F-35s meant for Turkey were never delivered by the United States.

After Ankara received the air defense systems from Russia, Turkey conducted its first test at the end of November 2019. Various aircraft, including US-made F-16 fighter jets, were scrambled near Ankara to test the ability of the Russian-made air-defense system to track and intercept such fighters. USA’s F-16s are quite popular in the Middle East and Europe. In fact, the air forces of Israel and Greece (Turkey’s potential enemies) are equipped with such fighter aircraft.

Despite all of its threats, the US is in no hurry to impose more painful sanctions against Turkey in addition to removing it from the F-35 program because the United States does not wish to spoil its relationship with an important partner, such as Ankara. After all, Turkey is an influential nation among the Muslim-majority countries as well as a NATO member. In fact, the nation has allowed the US military to conduct operations in the Middle East from its territories. In turn, Ankara, with its ambitions to become a leader in the region, is trying to show, in every possible way, its independence from Washington. It is worth reminding our readers that, in recent years, Turkey–United States relations have soured because of the ongoing conflict in Syria. For instance, Washington supports Syrian Kurds fighting for their independence, while Ankara views them as its enemies.

At the beginning of July 2020, Turkey conducted more tests of its S-400 Triumf systems despite the possibility of the US imposing additional sanctions against Ankara. Yet again, Turkey used the good-old F-16 as training target.

Yet, it was reported that during the exercise, as reported by the local media, S-400 managed to track F-35 Stealth that were flying over the Black Sea at a distance of some 200 kilometers from the radar station. These were the very fighters that Turkey wasn’t able to purchase because of the S-400. As mentioned above, these aircraft are made with the use of advanced stealth technology, which makes its stealthy capabilities the main selling point. Thus, in addition to the reputational blow that Turkey’s purchase of Triumphs inflicted on America, the S-400 damaged the reputation of American military technology.

In July 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was urged by US Senators to impose sanctions on Turkey over its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

It would seem that Turkey has no intention of ridding itself of the Russian missile systems for now. And hopefully, the S-400 Triumf will continue to reach new markets.

After Turkey, India (USA’s strategic partner in South Asia) decided to purchase Russia’s air defense systems. Since the alliance with New Delhi is extremely important for Washington, the latter expressed its opposition to the aforementioned deal but did not take any measures to punish India.

There have been reports that Iran is interested in buying S-400 Triumf from Russia too. The country has managed to survive sanctions imposed against it by the US and other nations over its nuclear program for quite some time. In fact, Iran is a key rival of the United States, which is why Washington would not be happy if Iran were to purchase such effective air defense systems.

In fact, there is more bad news for the United States with regards to S-400 systems in other parts of the world. The fact that F-35 fighters were detected by Turkey’s Triumf missile defense systems during recent tests could be viewed as a blow to the US designers of these aircraft. In addition, the US may face more serious troubles in the future. Some believe that Turkish servicemen were, in fact, able to obtain important information about the US fighter jets and their movements during the tests.

China’s purchase of S-400 Triumf could have especially negative consequences for the United States. In fact, China’s air defense capabilities have improved on account of the new system. Its range now covers the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea (claimed by both China and Japan) and parts of Taiwan, viewed as either a separate country or a part of China. Hence, Russia’s missile systems could strengthen Beijing’s positions in the region, as a whole, as well as in its territorial disputes.

The author could, therefore, conclude that USA’s concerns about Russian-made Triumf systems are indeed justified. As S-400s gradually become common place throughout Asia, they not only help strengthen air defenses of certain nations and generate earning for the Russian government, but they could also facilitate global political changes.

September 2, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Iraqi parliament demands Baghdad’s procurement of Russia’s S-400 missile system

Press TV – April 18, 2020

The Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee has submitted an in-depth study to the country’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, requesting the procurement of the Russian-built long-range, surface-to-air S-400 missile defense system.

“The committee has presented a comprehensive study to the prime minister, demanding approval for the purchase of the advanced S-400 air defense system. The issue has already been discussed with relevant figures at the General Command of Armed Forces, and now awaits the premier’s agreement,” Badr al-Ziyadi, a member of the committee, told Arabic-language al-Sabaah newspaper.

He emphasized that the purchase of the S-400 missile system, with the aim of boosting the country’s defense capabilities, will be finalized once the next Iraqi government is formed and it ratifies procurement of the system.

“The approval to acquire such a sophisticated system requires large financial allocations and a political decision in order to diversify the sources to get the weapons as we cannot just rely on the Western camp, but rather need to incline towards the Eastern camp as well,” Ziyadi pointed out.

The Iraqi lawmaker went on to say that his parliamentary committee “will support the next Iraqi government’s decisions in this regard, and will present relevant proposals and pieces of advice to it.”

Back on March 18, Ziayadi said US and Israeli arms firms were putting pressure on the Baghdad government not to discuss the purchase of sophisticated military equipment with other states, and sign arms contracts with them.

“There are companies and traders pushing to prevent Iraq from concluding contracts to purchase weapons from developed countries,” he told Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency in an exclusive interview at the time.

The same Iraqi parliamentarian said on January 20 that the Baghdad government was planning to send delegations to Russia, China and Ukraine to hold negotiations over the acquisition of advanced air defense missile systems to protect its territory from any possible act of aggression.

“The delegations intend to visit countries like Russia, China and Ukraine to negotiate the purchase of modern systems to protect Iraq’s airspace,” he told al-Sabaah daily then.

The lawmaker added, “The Iraqi parliament is right now forming a joint executive and legislative delegation to visit developed countries and sign contracts on procuring advanced weapons.”

The United States has already warned Iraq of the consequences of extending military cooperation with Russia, and striking deals to purchase advanced weaponry, particularly S-400 missile systems.

Former US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on February 22, 2018 that Washington has contacted many countries, including Iraq, to explain the significance of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and possible consequences that would arise in the wake of defense agreements with Moscow.

On August 2, 2017, US President Donald Trump signed into law the CAATSA that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

April 18, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Democrats Call for Sanctions on Russia Over Alleged 2020 Election Meddling – Letter

Sputnik – February 24, 2020

WASHINGTON – US Senators Chuck Schumer and Sherrod Brown are urging the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russia following reports alleging that the country is meddling in the 2020 presidential election, a letter published on Monday showed.

“We urge you to immediately and forcefully impose sanctions on the government of the Russian Federation, any Russian actors determined to be responsible for such interference, and those acting on their behalf or providing material or financial support for these election interference efforts,” the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The list of Russian officials who the senators said should be designated includes Russian President Vladimir Putin and other government. Schumer and Brown noted that the US Congress has provided the administration with a broad range of sanction tools through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a bill signed into law in 2017.

More Claims of “Russian Meddling” to Come?

As the senators demanded new sanctions on Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Facebook has been unable to substantiate claims that Russia is involved in any inauthentic activity in the run up to the 2020 vote.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the newspaper that the company investigated a claim made by an independent researcher over suspicious content in support of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

But the investigation yielded no evidence to substantiate the researcher’s claims, Stone told the Wall Street Journal.

In a separate development on Thursday, the New York Times reported, citing a senior Intelligence official who warned members of the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee of Russia’s alleged meddling in the election process to help Trump win the 2020 presidential race.

Trump hit back the following day, blasting Democrats for launching “another misinformation campaign.”

​Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was preparing for an inflow of new allegations of Russian interference in the US election, noting that the claims are baseless.

Russian officials have repeatedly said Russia does not interfere in the US political system and have insisted that the allegations of collusion were made up to excuse the election loss of Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, as well as deflect public attention from instances of election fraud and corruption.

February 24, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 2 Comments

Genocide, Sanctions and Incirlik: Erdoğan Will Not Kick Out NATO From Its Bases Despite Threats

By Paul Antonopoulos | December 18, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dropped a bombshell by announcing that he could shut down the NATO-controlled Incirlik airbase that hosts U.S. nuclear bombs and the U.S. missile warning radar at Kurecik military base, in response to Washington’s threats of sanctions against Turkey. These nuclear bombs are of course placed purposefully close to Russia. The Incirlik air base in the southern Turkish province of Adana is used by the U.S. Air Force while the U.S. military also maintains a missile warning radar in the Kurecik district in Turkey’s southeastern Malatya province, which is part of NATO’s missile defense system in Europe.

“If it is necessary for us to take such a step, of course, we have the authority… We will close down Incirlik if necessary,” Erdoğan said on A Haber TV on Sunday.

Last week, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Senate of the United States Congress approved the “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act” bill that directly targets Turkey’s military and economic apparatus. According to the draft bill, the Turkish acquisition of the powerful Russian S-400 missile defense system gives grounds to impose sanctions against this country, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), including against the Minister of National Defense of Turkey, the Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, the Commander of the 2nd Army of the Turkish Armed Forces, the Minister of Treasury and Finance of Turkey, the Halkbank and a whole host of other senior officials.

This action could further isolate Turkey from NATO, especially after the latest blow against the Eurasian country came last Thursday when the U.S. Senate finally passed S.Res.150 that recognizes the Turkish perpetrated genocide(1915-1923) against Turkey’s Christian minority that saw millions of Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians exterminated. There is no doubt the long-awaited U.S. recognition of the genocide is politically motivated, and Erdoğan understands this, threatening to recognize the U.S. genocide against Native Americans.

However, there are key differences between a potential Turkish recognition of the U.S. genocide against the Native Americans and the Turkish genocide against the Christians of Anatolia. There are hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians living in the U.S. who have direct ancestry to genocide survivors who lost their entire lives including houses, farms, shops and other associated wealth. These descendants could pressure Washington to seek compensation from Ankara and could intensify sanctions against Turkey if they refuse too. Although the likelihood of compensation is extremely low, it could be used as a justification to strengthen sanctions against Turkey, which in turn will only push Turkey further away from the U.S./NATO and potentially closer to Russia.

On the other side, although Turkey may acknowledge the genocide against Native Americans, I would imagine there are no Native Americans, or maybe just a few, living in Turkey. Ankara could reciprocate sanctions against the U.S., but they would be virtually ineffectual as the world’s monetary system is still overwhelmingly dominated by the U.S. Dollar, despite efforts by Russia and China to de-Dollarize the international economy.

Turkey’s potential closure of the Incirlik and Kurecik bases from the U.S. military would effectively mean freezing relations with NATO. Even a Turkish reclamation of its military bases poses problems however – the obvious being political, but also the military and budgetary costs. However, discussions of Turkey closing the bases are not new. Ankara believes the Incirlik base was a staging point for the 2016 coup attempt against Erdoğan and has already contemplated kicking NATO out of there.

Despite the threat from Erdoğan, Washington will likely not be fazed by the threat for a number of reasons:

1) Washington has already turned Greece into its Plan B option in case Turkey leaves NATO.

2) Turkey leaving NATO could mean the U.S. backing a number of issues that have been frozen because of Washington’s policy of appeasing Turkey for geostrategic reasons, such as the unresolved status of Cyprus.

3) The Incirlik base is also used by other NATO states at times such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy, and a Turkish reclamation of the base could see Turkey further souring its relations with the European Union.

Although removing the U.S. military from the Incirlik Airbase would be a huge blow to NATO, Erdoğan is unlikely to do this despite Ankara’s strengthening relations with Moscow. Even if this were the case, the most important question still remains, would U.S. President Donald Trump accept this? It is highly unlikely that Trump will want to surrender the base that is critical for U.S. interests and aggression in the Middle East. Although Greece is a Plan B, it is a Plan B for a reason – it is not as strategically placed as Turkey towards the Middle East, and therefore the U.S. will not surrender such a great advantage it has so easily.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Washington’s Proposed New Sanctions Against Turkey also Aimed Against Russia

By Paul Antonopoulos | December 13, 2019

With the world fixated on Turkish actions against Syria, Greece and Libya at the moment, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Senate of the United States Congress approved a bill, “Promoting American  National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act,” spearheaded and thoroughly promoted by staunch anti-Syria/Venezuela/Iran/Russia Democratic Senator Robert Menendez who celebrated the bills passing on his Twitter. The Republican-led Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-4 to send the bill for a vote in the full Senate.

The approval of the bill was widely reported in the mainstream media as an “anti-Turkey bill.” Senator Jim Risch, the panel’s Republican chairman, a fellow endorser of the bill with Menendez, said that the approval of this bill is because of the “drift by this country, Turkey, to go in an entirely different direction than what they have in the past. They’ve thumbed their nose at us, and they’ve thumbed their nose at their other NATO allies.”

According to the draft bill, the Turkish acquisition of the powerful S-400 missile defense system gives grounds to impose sanctions against this country, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). In particular, the document restricts the sale of U.S. weapons to Turkey and imposes sanctions on Turkish officials responsible for supplying weapons towards their illegal military operation in Syria.

Turkey signed in December 2017 the first contract with Russia for the purchase of the S-400 for a value of $2.5 billion, which caused tension in relations between Ankara and Washington. The U.S. demanded that Ankara renounce that transaction and buy U.S. Patriot systems, and threatened to delay or cancel the sale of the F-35 fighters to Turkey. Ankara refused to make concessions and assured that its purpose of acquiring Russian systems remains firm.

What was missed, perhaps intentionally by the majority of the mainstream media is that this bill has a heavy anti-Russian/Syrian component to it. Although not as detailed and expansive as the Turkish section of the bill, it claims that “the Russian Federation and Iran continue to exploit a security vacuum in Syria and continue to pose a threat to vital United States national security interests,” without explaining what these security interests are, exactly as we have become accustomed to.

According to the bill, there will be a “list of each Russian person that, on or after such date of enactment, knowingly exports, transfers, or otherwise provides to Syria significant financial, material, or technological support that contributes materially to the ability of the Government of Syria to acquire defense articles, defense services, and related information.” Although the bill has not said which specific Russians, the nature of the bill means that there will be inevitable sanctions against Russia as it is a top weapon exporter to Syria, which will unlikely change despite of the new sanctions. Those in the eventual sanction list will face an American blacklist, which means a ban on entry, freezing of assets in the United States, a ban on doing business with this person for American citizens or companies. At the same time, the bill allows that the US President can consider each case separately and refuse to impose sanctions.

These proposed new sanctions that will have to pass the House of Representatives, which passed its own anti-Turkish sanctions bill by an overwhelming 403-16 vote in October, is part of a wider effort for the U.S. to keep pressurizing Russia’s economy. On December 9, the committees of both chambers of the U.S. Congress previously agreed on the military budget for 2020, which includes restrictions against the Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream pipelines to bring Russian energy to Europe, infrastructures designed to raise Europe’s energy security. The U.S. bill that provides sanctions against companies participating in the laying of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline aims to obtain unilateral advantages in the gas area to the detriment of the interests of the countries of Europe. This prompted the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Russian-German Foreign Chamber of Commerce, Matthias Schepp, to explain that the new measures against Nord Stream 2 affect not only Russia, but, above all, European companies and Germany’s energy interests.

Washington is frustrated that European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the U.S., which calls into question the cooperation between the U.S. and Europe. It is a very risky measure and Europe would need to have a blunt attitude of rejection of these measures imposed by the U.S., because its own economy is at risk.

Effectively, the “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act,” which strangely targets Russia who had a greater role than the U.S. in defeating ISIS terrorists, is just another way for Washington to warn other countries not to buy the S-400 or Russian military equipment or engage in energy diplomacy with Moscow. It is unlikely that this will deter states from conducting arms and energy deals with Russia as Moscow has been pioneering anti-sanction measures to protect financial transactions without punishment, and rather it demonstrates a Washington that is becoming increasingly desperate in the Era of Multipolarity.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

December 13, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey’s ‘White Elephants’: S-400s Or Patriots?

By Andrew Korybko | November 20, 2019

Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to the US last week didn’t visibly seem to have accomplished much in repairing the unprecedentedly damaged relationship between these two nominal NATO “allies”, although the very fact that it occurred despite Washington’s CAATSA sanctions threats, their earlier sharp disagreements over Ankara’s latest military operation in Northeastern Syria, and Congress’ provocative passing of a motion recognizing what some countries including Russia regard as the “Armenian Genocide” showed that there’s the political will on both sides to improve their ties even if only at the leadership level at this moment in time. As it stands, the main stumbling block is Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400s, seeing as how the two countries have more or less reached a pragmatic understanding on Northern Syria and Ankara realizes that Trump’s “deep state” foes are politicizing historical events from a century ago in order in order to undermine his foreign policy in an attempt to weaken him ahead of next year’s elections.

President Erdogan reaffirmed to his American counterpart that his country won’t completely abandon its military deal with Russia like Washington wants but that Ankara would buy the US’ Patriots as well if an offer was made “under suitable conditions”, suggesting that one or the other air-defense system would become a ‘white elephant’ under that scenario. The odds, however, are likely that it would be the Patriots which would fulfill this expensive but useless role and not the S-400s. This is because the very intent in diversifying from NATO defense systems in the first place was to ensure that they couldn’t be sabotaged in the event of an intra-NATO conflict such as one between Turkey and Greece or between Turkey and the US. These concerns have been at the forefront of Turkish strategic military thought following the US’ indirect role in orchestrating the failed coup attempt against President Erdogan in 2016, during which time rogue pilots even attempted to assassinate the country’s leader. The S-400s give Turkey the reassurance that it could confidently thwart such scenarios in the future, while the Patriots would always leave it wary that they might prove “unreliable” at the worst moment.

The question then becomes one of why Turkey would even want to fork over what might potentially amount to billions of dollars for an air-defense system that it doesn’t even really plan to use, but the answer rests in the global geostrategic trend of “balancing” that’s increasingly come to define the emerging Multipolar World Order. Turkey acknowledges the threat that the Obama-era “deep state” that Trump inherited poses to it, but it also wisely understands that strategies can always change, hence why it’s important not to do anything that could make a more permanent enemy out of the US. The S-400 purchase is a strong step in the direction of increasing Turkey’s sovereignty at the expense of the US’ proxy control over this rising Great Power, but it’s precisely because of this outcome that even the pro-Trump factions of the US “deep state” are opposed to it. So as to not unnecessarily “provoke” America even more than it already has in recent years through its independent policies, the decision evidently has been made to seek some sort of a “compromise” with it through the potential purchase of Patriots “under suitable conditions”.

The aforesaid likely refer to these systems being offered at a competitive price and not made conditional on Turkey abandoning the S-400s. For as much as the US’ “deep state” factions are uniting in their perception of Turkey as a so-called “threat” to American interests in the Mideast and elsewhere, they also don’t want to completely cut it off and risk the country enacting a full-fledged pivot towards Russia and China in response, hence why they might be interested in reaching a deal that could avoid the imposition of CAATSA sanctions. That same pragmatic logic holds true for India as well, which plans to begin receiving S-400s next year after also signing a deal with Russia to this effect. A formula is therefore being formed for how countries that purchase the S-400s could potentially avoid CAATSA sanctions without abandoning those systems wherein they’d simply purchase some Patriots to complement their air defenses instead, though only so long as the US agrees to allow this to happen by “compromising” on its previously maximalist position that they don’t buy the S-400s at all.

The US might have an interest in making some extra money for its military-industrial complex in parallel with keeping those countries’ multipolar-friendly policies in check by not completely cutting them off from the Western orbit by imposing sanctions against them. From the Indian perspective, its armed forces could still find a use for the Patriots since it’s extremely unlikely that the US would ever sabotage them in the event that the South Asian state enters into a conventional conflict with either China or Pakistan, though the Turks would probably have to be content with accepting that they’re basically paying “protection money” to America by purchasing those “white elephants”. That said, Turkey might possibly find some minor use for these systems such as along the Syrian border for instance, though it’s unlikely that they’ll ever occupy any premier position of strategic importance in defending the country since they can’t ever be relied upon in that respect like the S-400s could. All told, if there’s any positive outcome of President Erdogan’s latest trip to Washington, it’s that Turkey and the US might be coming closer to a deal for avoiding CAATSA sanctions, though lots of work still remains to be done before that happens.

November 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Washington threatens Egypt with Sanctions over Russian Su-35 fighter jet purchase

By Sarah Abed | November 18, 2019

Washington’s latest attempt to dissuade an ally from making arms deals with Russia came in the form of a letter sent on last Wednesday to Egyptian officials warning them that they could face sanctions if they continued with their $2 billion dollar Su-35 fighter jets contract.

In addition to sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned Egyptian Defense Minister Mohamed Ahmed Zaki in Wednesday’s letter that “Major new arms deals with Russia would — at a minimum — complicate future U.S. defense transactions with and security assistance to Egypt.” The United States sends Egypt $1.3 billion annually in military assistance.

Russia has become one of Egypt’s major arms suppliers. This particular arms between Egypt and Russia for ten fighter jets was signed at the end of 2018, with delivery of the Su-35 Flanker-E air superiority fighter aircraft as well as weapons for the planes starting in 2020-2021.

In order to counter Russia’s expanding military influence in the Middle East and dissuade countries from buying Russian-made arms, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was signed by President Donald Trump in August 2017. Countries that are trading with Russia’s defense or intelligence sectors could face secondary sanctions.

Russia estimates that since 2014 it has lost $760 million dollars in potential weapons sales due to the international sanctions sealing off the U.S. market.

However, the CAATSA is not limited to sanctioning Russia and those who purchase Russian-made weapons, this U.S. Federal law also imposes economic sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The first case for secondary sanctions under CAATSA took place in September 2018 when sanctions were imposed by the Trump administration on the Chinese military for purchasing 10 Su-35 aircraft and S-400’s from Russia, also 33 people and entities were blacklisted due to links to Russian military and intelligence.

The second case would be Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system with the first delivery of its components having taken place in July of this year. As a result of going through with their purchase and delivery, Turkey was also suspended from participating in the F-35 program and the F-35 air systems it had already purchased are now under U.S. control.

Although requirements have been met for CAATSA to be enforced there is a gray area as to how, and to what extent the sanctions should be applied. A waiver is also in place that the president can use. Also, both the U.S. executive and legislative branches play a role in determining the action that would be taken against Turkey for doing business with Russian personnel targeted by sanctions.

India is paying close attention to how the US is reacting to Turkey’s purchase as they too have purchased Russia’s S-400 SAMS system which would put them in conflict with the CAATSA as well. However, relations between India and the United States are strong and the likelihood that a waiver will be used to avoid making India suffer collateral damage is likely.

For the past decade Russia has been expanding its military influence in the Middle East, much to the dissatisfaction of the United States. Russia and Egypt’s military and technical cooperation has been deepening and expanding for years. Both nations have repeatedly held joint naval and airborne counterterrorism exercises since 2015. From October 27th till November 7th of this year the Egyptian air force’s tactical training center near Cairo hosted joint Russian/Egyptian military drills dubbed Arrow of Friendship-1.

There’s even been speculation about the prospect of Russia setting up a military base in Egypt, due to the increase of Russian activity on Egyptian grounds. Just two years ago a draft agreement which would “allow each side to use the other’s airspace and air bases” was approved by Moscow and Cairo. Even though it didn’t specify setting up a military base it did set the ground for significant expansion in military cooperation between the two countries.

While the US fumbles around in the Middle East leaving death and destruction in its tracks, Russia has become the main peace broker. While maintaining good relations with all the major players in the region, Russia intervened militarily in Syria at the request of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to fight terrorism and derail a strong regime-change plan by the Obama administration. Relations and business with Iran and Turkey have also increased.

Moscow knows that security in neighboring countries directly impacts its own and standing by allies will only help grow its influence and positive image in the Middle East and beyond.

November 18, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 8 Comments

US Lawmakers Urge More Pressure, Full CAATSA Sanctions Against Russia, Iran

Sputnik – 21.05.2019

WASHINGTON US President Donald Trump should fully implement sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act as a result of the activities of Iran and Russia in Syria, 400 US lawmakers said in a letter to the US president.

“Increase pressure on Iran and Russia with respect to activities in Syria”, the letter said. “America must continue economic and diplomatic efforts to counter Iran’s support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups as well as Russia’s support for the brutal Assad regime. We encourage full implementation of sanctions authorized in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a broadly supported bipartisan bill that you signed into law”.

The lawmakers expressed concern by the threat posed by terrorists and US adversaries in Syria and recommended steps the United States can take to limit the terrorists’ presence, counter adversaries as well as strengthen Israel’s security and continue to oppose international efforts to isolate and weaken the Jewish state.

“With the region in flux, it remains critical that we reiterate to both friend and foe in the region that we continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself”, the letter said. “We must also look for ways to augment our support in the context of the current ten-year Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel and to ensure that Israel has access to the resources and materiel it needs to defend itself against the threats it faces on its northern border”.

The lawmakers also urged increasing pressure on Hezbollah by fully implementing the 2015 and 2018 sanctions against the organization and those who fund it.

“Additionally, we must continue to press UNIFIL to carry out its UN Security Council mandate, including investigating and reporting the presence of arms and tunnels on Israel’s border”, the letter said.

On 29 January 2018, the United States began imposing sanctions on foreign companies under CAATSA Section 231 on all major transactions made with the Russian defence or intelligence sector.

The US Congress passed CAATSA in response to allegations that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the US political system.

May 20, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

If US sanctions Turkey, can India be far behind?

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 9, 2019

Turkish-American relations are at a crossroads. Unlike the past history of their troubled relationship which saw hiccups but the two NATO allies moved on eventually, this time around, they are barreling toward a clash.

From an Indian perspective, it is of interest that the clash is over the Turkish decision to buy the S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Russia, which violates the US’ sanctions regime against Russia known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

In September last year, Washington invoked CAATSA for the first time and sanctioned China over its purchase of Russian military jets and surface-to-air missiles — 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles. Will it be Turkey’s turn now? And if Turkey gets sanctioned, can India be far behind?

The US had explicitly warned India against going ahead with the S-400 Triumf deal with Russia. But India went ahead, nonetheless, last October. (The deal is estimated to be worth at least $5.4 billion.) But while Delhi went about its decision tactfully, Ankara is openly defiant. The Turkish President Recep Erdogan stated on Wednesday in a TV interview,

“We signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of S-400, and will start co-production. It’s done. There can never be a turning back. This would not be ethical, it would be immoral. Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat. Later, we may perhaps go for the S-500s as well, after the S-400.”

The US probably never ever heard such spiteful words from a key NATO ally. Erdogan also warned that the U.S. should not try to “discipline” Turkey through trade measures. If it did, he emphasised, Turkey has its own measures prepared. One of the trade measures he alluded to is the US’ intention to exclude Turkey from the generalised system of preferences (GSP).

Interestingly, while notifying the US Congress last week regarding his intention to remove the GSP benefits to them in trade, President Trump bracketed India with Turkey. India downplayed Trump’s move, saying the GSP benefits are only marginally affecting India’s exports to the US. But Erdogan apparently plans to retaliate.

The Pentagon has sharply reacted to Erdogan’s remarks, warning Turkey of “grave consequence in terms of our military relationship.” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the senior US general for operations in Europe and NATO’s top officer, warned in congressional testimony on Tuesday that Turkey’s pursuit of the S-400 deal would jeopardise American plans to sell to Ankara the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for both policy and security reasons.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee in testimony. According to a Reuter report, he hinted at concerns that Turkey’s using both the S-400s and the F-35 could provide Russia with valuable information on how to defeat the tech-heavy jet slated to become a signature fighter for NATO countries and their partners.

However, Turkey is not backing down. The Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has disclosed that the S-400 missile system will reach Turkey in July and deployment will go ahead as planned in October. The space for diplomatic manoeuvring is shrinking and, clearly, the chances for imposition of US sanctions against Turkey under CAATSA are increasing.

Of course, if Washington imposes sanctions against its key NATO ally, it is going to be highly problematic to exempt India from similar punitive measures for committing the very same offence. Interestingly, like Erdogan, Modi is also getting a very bad press in the US lately. They are the kind of ultra-nationalists that the US regards as hindrances to its regional strategies.

The Turks harbour the suspicion that the failed coup in July 2016, which was masterminded by the Turkish Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen living in Pennsylvania in exile for the past two decades, had covert American support.

Last week, incidentally, US First Lady Melania Trump visited a pre-kindergarten class in Oklahoma, which Ankara believes is linked to supporters of Gulen. Turks believe that the White House was taunting Erdogan.

President Trump’s detractors in the US and in Europe used to berate him for empathising with “strong men” like Erdogan or Vladimir Putin. But as it turns out, the US finds such world leaders irksome in their zeal to uphold strategic autonomy in their foreign and security policies. The US media has been highly critical of Modi too in the recent months.

But US attempts to undermine these nationalist leaderships have run into headwinds since leaders like Erdogan and Putin happen to enjoy mass support in their respective countries. For sure, Washington will be keenly watching the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary election in India in April-May where Modi is seeking a renewed mandate.

As for India, what emerges at the end of the 5-year term of the Modi government is that under his watch India’s relations with the US have been pragmatic and based on limited common interests — shared notions of countering the rise of China and Islamism — and that too, without undermining India’s strategic autonomy. The US seems disappointed that Modi failed to fulfil their high expectations of him as a strategic partner. A sense of frustration is palpable among the US’ lobbyists in India as well.

At any rate, the Modi government continues to negotiate big weapons deals with Russia, disregarding the CAATSA. Last week, PM Modi inaugurated a massive Russian-Indian joint venture, which will reportedly produce about 7,50,000 AK-203 rifles, the most recent version of the famous AK-47 rifles for the use of the Indian armed forces as the standard assault rifle for decades to come. Again, on Friday, Delhi inked a defence deal worth over $3 billion with Moscow for the lease  of a nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia. It cannot be lost on Washington that the Modi government expedited these mega deals with Russia even as its term in office is ending, while US arms vendors have been kept waiting.

All in all, the S-400 which is one of the world’s most advanced AMB systems, is fast acquiring the reputation of a Russian “geopolitical missile” targeted at the US. If the US proceeds with sanctions against Turkey on account of the S-400 deal, it will have deleterious downstream impact on many geo-strategic templates.

The very cohesion of the NATO and the alliance’s overall effectiveness in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East could be affected. Similarly, the US also eyes India as a potentially big customer for American weaponry and will be shooting at its own feet if it were to sanction India. Suffice to say, paradoxically, any US sanctions may only increase Turkey or India’s dependence on Russia for sourcing advanced weaponry, which of course would defeat the very purpose of the CAATSA.

March 9, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

India-Russia relations go way beyond defence deals

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | October 9, 2018

Amidst the welter of commentaries on the Indian-Russian annual summit last week in New Delhi, what stands out is that the government has outstripped our strategic analysts. The latter viewed the Russian summit last week exclusively through the prism of the $6 billion S-400 missile defence deal. Now, that turned out to be like missing the wood for the trees.

The United States’ Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) stipulates secondary sanctions against countries that enter into “significant transactions” with the Russian defence industry. Our S-400 deal became a celebrated test case. So, when in the face of threats held out by the American side relentlessly, when PM Modi went ahead with the S-400 deal, it stunned onlookers.

The ensuing confusion will take time to wither away. It will take time before it sinks in that US bluster aside, there is no way US will sanction India. The CAATSA is a legislation that the US Congress imposed on a reluctant president in the civil war conditions in US politics to stop him from improving relations with Russia (on which there is bipartisan consensus.) True, secondary sanctions have been imposed on China, but US does not intend to export arms to that country anyway!

But that is not the case with India or Turkey. Despite Turkey’s decision to not only fast track its S-400 deal with Russia and to make advance payments to the Russian manufacturer, US still intends to go ahead with its sale of F-35 stealth fighters. Turks nonchalantly told Washington that if the latter wanted to impose sanctions and annul the F-35 business deal, that’s fine with them, and they’d simply source stealth aircraft from some other country (read Russia). But, no, US still wants the F-35 deal to go through, because F-35 is a highly lucrative super business deal for Lockheed Martin, which hopes to sell to Turkey 100-120 aircraft at over $80 million per piece! In effect, Turkey called the American bluff.

Americans have keen business acumen and will not let go a honeypot like the Indian market. In fact, Modi has taken an even tougher decision to go ahead with oil imports from Iran and to sign up contracts for the month of November, although Trump warned that November 4 would be the cutoff date.

Alas, there is a lack of awareness as to what is happening. Our think tankers weaned on American folklore have been programmed to estimate that Russia is a spent force in global politics. They don’t realize that Americans themselves had no doubts already by the start of the millennium that Russia was on the comeback trail. The high oil prices in 2010-2011 proved a game changer for Russia. It was no coincidence that the first American sanctions against Russia was imposed in 2012 – Magnitsky Act – on human rights issues!

The knowledge of Russian politics and the raison d’etre of India-Russia relations is abysmally poor among Indian analysts. Modi’s strategic decision to revive India-Russia relationship as an anchor sheet of foreign policy is yet to sink in. What Americans know and Modi knows but our think tankers do not yet know is that Russia has not only returned to the global stage as a great power but with renewed capabilities in military technology and with an economy that has survived the western sanctions. The high oil prices in the period ahead will only add to Russia’s income significantly.

If the Americans sanction against India’s use of dollars for its transactions with Russia, make no mistake, Indian and Russian ingenuity will find a way to put in place a clearing system that altogether obviates the use of dollar. Arguably, it will be a blessing in disguise if the US forces India and Russia to revive their old Cold War era payment system, because if that happens, the economic content of the relationship will increase exponentially. Will the US want a major global economy like India to jettison the use of dollar and get accustomed to local currency payments?

Again, the US-Russia-China triangle is today splendidly working for Moscow and Beijing to counter the US, while both capitals retain strategic autonomy and neither seeks a military alliance. India can also be a beneficiary here if the available platforms are optimally used – BRICS, RIC and SCO, in particular. Modi made it clear at last week’s summit that India stands with Russia in strengthening multipolarity. It is a clear rejection of the US’ characterization of Russia as a “revisionist power.” Earlier, at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in June, Modi underscored that India does not regard Indo-Pacific to be a strategy. The import of all this should be very clear except if one insists on holding the American brief on Russia and China. Simply put, India has a lot in common with Russia and China in regard of the emerging world order. Modi’s Wuhan initiative and his visit to Sochi soon afterward suggest that he is open to the idea of India’s Eurasian integration.

Things are looking up for India-Russia relations after the long winter of the UPA rule. For the first time in the post-Cold war era, there are signs that trade and investment between India and Russia is gaining traction. Energy sector is poised to generate massive business volume in a conceivable future. The defence cooperation still remains appreciable – at 62% of India’s arms procurement – despite the atrophy during the UPA rule.

It is sound realism that in a multipolar world, India strengthens relationships with Russia with whom it has common interests in regard of the emerging world order. The army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat’s remarks in the weekend asserting that the S-400 deal is a manifestation of India’s independent foreign policy must be viewed in that light. Last week’s summit averted a real risk of India ending up in America’s “Indo-Pacific” stable as a domesticated milch cow.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment