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The gulf within GCC is only widening

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | December 10, 2018

The annual summit meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh on Sunday was particularly important for Saudi Arabia as a display of its regional leadership. But the short meeting of the GCC leaders behind closed doors, lasting for less than an hour, ended highlighting the huge erosion of Saudi prestige lately.

The litmus test was the participation by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. King Salman’s letter of invitation to the emir was perceived as some sort of an olive branch for reconciliation. But Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi represented the country at the summit.

The calculation by the hot headed crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE that Qatar would pack up is turning out to be a historic blunder. Qatar had some trying times but it has successfully weathered the harsh embargo by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the boycott is now hurting its enforcers. Qatar “celebrated” the anniversary of the boycott in June by banning the import of goods from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt (which had cut diplomatic and transport ties on June 5, 2017.) Ironically, Iran has been a beneficiary as Qatar established diplomatic relations with Tehran and began importing Iranian products.

Qatar also strengthened its alliance with Turkey, which stepped in as provider of security for Doha. And Turkey checkmated any plans that Saudis and Emiratis might have had to use force to bring the Qatari emir down on his knees.

The emir’s absence from the summit in Riyadh yesterday underscores that he is not in a mood to forget and forgive. Equally, Kuwait and Oman also have issues to settle with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There is tension between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia over two oil fields – Khafji and Wafra – that are jointly owned by the two states, which have a capacity to produce more than half a million barrels per day, but have been closed since 2014 and 2015, respectively. The dispute is over the sovereignty over the so-called Neutral Zone on their border, which has been undefined for almost a century.

The Saudis are not relenting. “We’re trying to convince the Kuwaitis to talk about the sovereignty issues, while continuing to produce until we solve that issue,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg in an interview in October. Similarly, Saudis and Emiratis have stationed troops in Yemen’s southern province of al-Mahra that borders Oman although the region has no presence of Houthi rebels. Oman considers the move an infringement on its national security. Interestingly, instead of the Sultan of Oman, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmood Al Said represented the country at the GCC summit.

To be sure, like Banquo’s ghost at Macbeth’s banquet in Shakespeare’s play, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi provided the backdrop to the GCC summit. The GCC states (including Qatar) have not criticized the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) but they would know this is a developing story and it has dented Saudi prestige irreparably, especially with the US Senate is at loggerheads with the Trump administration. The big question for the Gulf region would be as to where Saudi Arabia is heading. (See the blog by Thomas Lippman What Now For U.S. Policy And The Crown Prince?)

Of course, if the GCC disintegrates due to these contradictions, Saudi Arabia will be the big loser, because it will be a reflection on its regional leadership. But do the Saudis understand it? The remarks by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir at the end of the GCC summit showed no sign of remorse.

He said, “The members of the Gulf Cooperation Council are keen that the crisis with Qatar will have no impact on the Council (GCC). But this does not mean relinquishing the conditions imposed on Qatar.” Doha should stop supporting terrorism and extremism and avoid interfering in other countries’ affairs and needed to fulfill the Arab countries’ conditions to open the way for its return to the full-fledged work in the GCC. “The stance towards Qatar came to push it to change its policies,” he added.

The leading Saudi establishment writer Abdulrehman al-Rashed fired away at Qatar on the day of the GCC summit. In a column entitled Is it Time to end the GCC? in the Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat (owned by royal family members) he wrote:

“Qatar… has been putting obstacles in the GCC path and it has succeeded where Saddam and Iran have failed: It managed to destroy and rip it [GCC] apart… It organized an internal and external opposition against the United Arab Emirates. It is now the primary financier of the greatest attack against Saudi Arabia and it stands behind the politicization of Khashoggi’s murder… Today’s [GCC] summit could not conceal the dark political cloud hanging over its head. It also strongly poses a question over the future of the GCC as doubts rise over the value of this union… A wedge has been driven in the GCC.”

The disarray within the GCC undoubtedly calls attention to the decline of US influence in the Middle East region. At the end of the day, the Gulf states have not paid heed to repeated US entreaties for GCC unity. Ideally, GCC should have provided today for the US strategy a strong platform for launching the regime change project against Iran. On the contrary, GCC is split down the middle, with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait getting along just fine with Tehran. While addressing the summit in Riyadh on Sunday, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad hit the nail on the head when he said, “The most dangerous obstacle we face is the struggle within the GCC.”

December 11, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Turkey & Qatar are being punished for refusing to do Washington’s bidding on Iran

By Dan Glazebrook | RT | August 31, 2018

For years, Turkey and Qatar were at the vanguard of the Western imperial project in the Middle East. Having had their fingers burnt in Syria, however, they’re refusing to facilitate Washington’s Iran plans – and paying the price.

Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May last year – his first foreign trip as president – was significant for two main reasons: first, the $110 billion arms deal it produced, and secondly, the regional blockade of Qatar it heralded. This was widely seen as having been greenlighted by Trump during his visit. The impact of the blockade – implemented by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – was, however, immediately mitigated by increased trade with Iran and Turkey in particular, limiting its overall impact.

This month’s attack on the Turkish economy, however, has had far more devastating results. Trump’s tweet on August 10 – announcing a doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on an economy already hit hard by his trade war – sent the Turkish currency into freefall. By the end of the day’s trading, it had lost 16 percent of its value, reaching a nadir of 7.2 to the dollar two days later; before his tweet, it had never fallen below six to the dollar. Trump’s move came on the back of Federal Reserve policies that were already threatening to provoke financial crises in over-indebted emerging markets such as Turkey. These are harsh punishments for countries long considered prime US allies in the region.

I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018

A NATO member since 1952 (following Turkish involvement in the Korean war on the side of the US), Turkey has hosted a major US airbase at Incirlik since 1954. This has been essential to US operations in the region, and even housed the US nuclear missiles which triggered the Cuban missile crisis. Incirlik was crucial to the US-UK bombing of Iraq in 1991, and, although the Turkish parliament narrowly prevented its use for the 2003 redux, Turkey has been the launchpad for subsequent US strikes both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Qatar, meanwhile, is, to this day, run by the family – the al-Thanis – appointed as Britain’s proxies in the 19th century. Granted formal independence only in 1971, the country has remained deeply tied into Western foreign policy since then. Both its ‘post-independence’ rulers were educated at the UK’s Sandhurst military academy, and it, like Turkey, hosts a major US base, while its ruling family, like those of the other Gulf monarchies, are dependent on Western arms transfers to maintain their power. In 2011, Qatar played a major role in NATO’s Libya operation, providing airstrikes, military training, $400 million of funding to insurgent groups, and even ground forces – not to mention the major propaganda role played by the Qatari-owned network Al Jazeera.

Then, in mid-2011, both countries threw themselves headlong into the war to overthrow the Syrian government. Turkish President Erdogan had previously enjoyed relatively warm relations with his Southern neighbor, but at some stage decided that the Western-backed rebellion was going to win, and he wanted in on it. Turkey’s collaboration was crucial for the London-Washington Syria project, not only to give it a semblance of regional legitimacy, but more importantly because its 800km border with the country was to be the conduit for the tens of thousands of armed fighters on which the insurgency would depend.

Unwilling – and, following the decimation of their armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, probably unable – to provide the ground forces necessary to destroy the Syrian Arab Army themselves, the ‘regime-change regimes’ of the West relied on states like Qatar and Turkey to act as intermediaries to facilitate weapons transfers, provide finance and smooth the passage of foreign fighters. Both states, heady with the prospects of the economic and geopolitical rewards that would follow Assad’s removal, and believing their own networks’ fantasies about an imminent collapse, were more than happy to act as accomplices. Over the years that followed, the resources they committed – and the devastation that resulted – were immense. In the case of Turkey, in particular, the spillover would prove disastrous.

Less than three years into the war, the International Crisis Group estimated that Turkey had spent $3 billion on the war on Syria. Yet this figure, high as it is, represents a fraction of the true costs involved. A detailed report in Newsweek in 2015 noted the huge increase in military spending following the start of the Syrian war, rising from $17 billion per year in 2010, to $22.6 billion in 2014, an increase of 25 percent. Furthermore, Turkey has been the first port of call for millions of Syrians fleeing the war. This alone had cost the country an estimated $8 billion by 2015.

Added to this, the report says, are the ‘collateral costs’ resulting from the deterioration of relations with Russia following Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet in 2015, which it estimated could be as high as $3.7 billion due to lost Russian tourism, investment and trade. Trade with Syria, of course, also slumped by “70 percent as a direct effect from the Syrian war,” from $1.8 billion worth of exports in 2010 to $497 million two years later. In place of this legitimate trade – much of it in energy resources – however, came a flourishing new illicit trade. This new trade imposed “an additional cost to the Turkish economy: a growing, untaxed, hard-to-control black market economy. To combat its effect on government revenue, Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Agency declared an increase in inspections and control mechanisms in Turkey.”

Ultimately, however, the government opted to facilitate, rather than attempt to control, this burgeoning black market, issuing in April 2015 “new border regulations that enabled Turkey to open its borders to uncontrolled cash inflow and remittances. According to the new law, travelers no longer had to declare transported currency or profit amounts at the customs booth.” This policy would, noted former governor of Turkey’s central bank Durmus Yilmaz, “attract black money to flow into Turkey.”

“In sum,” concluded the report, “as Turkey incrementally left its prior foreign policy agenda of “Zero Problems with Neighbors” and moved towards an Assad-centric policy, the costs imposed on its economy multiplied. This can be observed directly from the refugee costs, military spending, border security costs and the changing composition of trade volume and quality of liquidity flows in the economy.” Furthermore, “The data suggest… that the more aggressive Turkey gets in its Syria policy in terms of military involvement, the more aggressively these costs rise.” Erdogan’s enthusiastic collaboration with the regime-changers in Washington and London had crippled his country’s economy – not to mention spawning a new era of sectarian militancy in the form of ISIS, which would launch multiple terrorist attacks within Turkey itself.

Being far removed from the conflict, the Syrian war’s impact on Qatar was not nearly as severe. Nevertheless, Qatar, too, pumped billions into the insurgency. The Financial Times noted in 2013: “The gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3 billion over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government.”  It added that “Qatar has sent the most weapons deliveries to Syria, with more than 70 military cargo flights into neighboring Turkey between April 2012 and March this year,” showing clearly the division of labor between Qatari finance and Turkish logistics.

Turkey and Qatar have thus put themselves right at the forefront of Western efforts to overthrow the Syrian state. To date, however – other than an ever-growing pile of burnt Syrian corpses and a huge hole in their own finances – they have nothing to show for it.

In hindsight, the Turkish downing of a Russian jet in November 2015 can be seen as a last-ditch attempt to test the resolve, not of Russia, but of the West. Erdogan wanted to know whether or not the US was going to put their money where their mouth was and put some decisive muscle into the conflict. In the escalation that followed the attack, Turkey immediately put forward plans for a ‘no fly zone’ – euphemism for the sort of all-out aerial bombardment that befell Libya.

But nothing came of it. That was the moment Turkey realized the West was not about to commit anything like the resources necessary to actually bring about victory. Assad was here to stay. Turkey would have to deal with that. And that meant dealing with Russia. The slow realignment of Turkish foreign policy had begun. And earlier this year, with tails no doubt firmly between their legs, even Qatar re-established relations with the Syrian government.

So, when Trump came knocking for buyers for the West’s next brilliant idea – war on Iran, beginning with a brutal economic siege – neither Turkey nor Qatar were exactly chomping at the bit to sign up. The suggestion was even less appealing than the disastrous Syrian gambit, targeting an even more important trading partner, and with even less chance of influence over some mythical future government.

Qatar shares a major gas field – South Pars – with Iran, and is dependent on Iran for accessing eastern energy markets, while Iran is the major source of Turkish energy imports. Following Syria, neither country has much nose left to cut off, even if they had wanted to spite their own face. Trump’s merciless attack on their economies is yet another sign of the increasing US inability to bend once-pliable clients to its will. For all his bluster, it is a clear admission of weakness and failure.

Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.

August 31, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Riding on Qatari wings, multipolarity arrives in the Middle East

The unscheduled arrival of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar’s emir, in the Turkish capital Ankara throws a new light on regional links

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | August 16, 2018

Trust Turkey’s Recep Erdogan to have had a game plan when he challenged the Trump administration and promised that the latter will regret its “unilateralist” policies.

Some pundits thought Russia and China have been inciting him and are lurking in the shadows to escort Erdogan to a brave new world.

Others fancied that the Eurasian integration processes would now take a great leap forward as Turkey embraced Russia, while a few forecast that Turkey would now sell itself cheap for Chinese money.

And then, there is the ubiquitous prediction in such situations that whoever defied the lone super power would come a cropper and Turkey’s fate is going to be miserable.

All these apocalyptic predictions overlooked the fact that Turkey may have a ‘third way’ forward – by strengthening even further its strategic autonomy and optimally exploiting its foreign policy options.

This path opened dramatically on Wednesday with the unscheduled arrival of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar’s emir, in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Economic projects, investments, deposits

Qatar’s royal court has announced in a statement that Al-Thani “issued directives that will see the State of Qatar to provide a host of economic projects, investments and deposits” worth $15 billion to support the Turkish economy.

A government source in Ankara told Reuters that the investments would be channeled into Turkish banks and financial markets. Al-Thani confirmed the direct investment plans in Turkey, which he described as having a “productive, strong and solid economy.” He tweeted: “We are together with Turkey and our brothers there, who stand by Qatar and problems of the Ummah.”

Erdogan responded, saying his meeting with al-Thani was “very productive and positive.” Erdogan thanked the emir and Qatari people for standing with Turkey. “Our relations with friendly and brotherly country Qatar will continue to strengthen in many areas,” he tweeted.

At its most obvious level, we may locate the historic Qatari gesture toward Turkey in the matrix of the strong convergence that has accrued in their relationship in recent years in the backdrop of the emergent power dynamic in the Middle East. The axis works on many planes.

On the ideological plane, importantly, the ruling elites in both countries share a unique affinity toward Islamism and in visualizing the Muslim Brotherhood as the vehicle for the democratic transformation of the region. As a result, both have been targeted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE – and Egypt.

Joint military exercises

Until the retreat of Qatar from the Syrian killing fields in recent years, it was collaborating closely with Turkey in the failed project to overthrow the Assad regime. Of course, both countries are strong supporters of Hamas, too.

Turkey keeps a military base in Qatar, which may seem symbolic in comparison with the Western bases, but turned out to be an important lifeline for Doha for pushing back at Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the past couple of years. Turkey and Qatar are also planning to hold joint military exercises this year.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi resent Erdogan’s projection of power through Qatar into the GCC territory, which they regard as their playpen. The Turks in turn suspect that Emiratis had a hand in the failed coup attempt against Erdogan in July 2016.

Meanwhile, there is great complementarity in the economic sphere between Turkey and Qatar. Turkey has a dynamic export industry and an economy that has registered impressive growth in the last decade, while Qatar has a huge surplus of capital for investment.

One consideration for Doha will be that the Turkish construction industry, which is affected by the present financial crisis in Turkey, is involved in preparing the infrastructure for the FIFA World Cup 2022, which Qatar is hosting.

Fundamentally, therefore, the planned Qatari investment in the Turkish economy holds big resonance for the geopolitics of the Middle East. No doubt, it proclaims the adulthood of the Turkish-Qatari axis. Regional states ranging from Iran to Israel will carefully take note that Al-Thani has come to Erdogan’s help at a critical moment.

Some spice in a heady brew

Yet, the Qatar-Turkey axis will not project itself as a strategic defiance of the United States – although the Qatari emir is well aware of Erdogan’s face-off with the Trump administration. Nonetheless, what adds some spice to this heady brew is that the Trump administration has been unabashedly partial toward the Saudi-Emirati line-up in the Gulf region.

A recent American report even claimed that former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lost his job because he stood in the way of a Saudi-Emirati plan to attack Qatar.

At any rate, the apt description for the Turkish-Qatari axis is that it is a manifestation of the arrival of multipolarity in the politics of the Middle East. Both Turkey and Qatar have good relations with Iran.

Although US Central Command is headquartered in Doha, Al-Thani also has a warm relationship Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the power dynamic of the Middle East, the trend toward multipolarity is poised to accelerate. As time passes, conceivably, even Saudi Arabia and the UAE will see the attraction in strengthening their strategic autonomy.

It will be a fallacy, therefore, to continue viewing the Middle East through the Cold War prism, as most US analysts do, as an area of contestation between the big powers – as if the regional states don’t have a mind of their own or multiple options in developing their policies.

Simply put, Turkey or Iran may lean toward Russia, but can never forge a strategic alliance with Moscow. With a view to pushing back at US pressure, they may lean decidedly toward Moscow from time to time, but they have no intentions of surrendering their strategic autonomy.

But to caricature these countries as passive participants in Russia’s Eurasian integration processes will be delusional.

Russia understands this complicated reality, which is not surprising, given Moscow’s historical memory of its highly problematic relationships with Turkey and Iran through centuries in its imperial history. Thus, the Russian policy is not unduly demanding and is willing to accept their nationalist mindset.

On the other hand, the failure of the US policies lies in Washington’s inability to accept equal relationships and its obsession, ‘You’re either with us, or are against us.’

Make no mistake, the European capitals watch with exasperation the Trump administration’s handling of Erdogan – although he is by no means an easy customer to handle. The point is, European countries are closer to Russia in their appreciation of the complexities of the Middle East. Nor are European countries inclined to view Turkey through the Israeli prism.

Therefore, a concerted Western strategy toward Erdogan under US leadership will remain elusive. Germany’s decision to lift its sanctions against Turkey can be seen in this light. Equally, Erdogan is due to pay a state visit to Germany in September.

August 16, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 2 Comments

Qatar pledges $15bn of direct investments in Turkey – Ankara

RT | August 15, 2018

Qatar has pledged $15 billion of direct investment in Turkey’s financial markets and banks. The news comes in a statement released on Turkey’s President’s website following his meeting with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

“The Turkish President and Emir of Qatar met today [Wednesday] in the presidential complex in Ankara. They have exchanged views on bilateral relations and regional issues, Al-Thani said that Qatar intends to directly invest $15 billion in Turkey,” said a press release after the meeting.

The Turkish lira firmed to 5.8699, from 6.04 to the US dollar after the news. The record low level of 7.2 against the greenback happened on Monday.

The Turkish officials did not provide any further information on the nature of the investments, according to AP. Erdogan’s office said the pledge was made by Qatar’s head, Al Thani.

The investment will be channeled into Turkish financial markets and banks, a government source told Reuters.

The Turkish economy has recently been hit by a record depreciation in the national currency lira. On Friday, US President Donald Trump doubled tariffs on aluminium and steel from Turkey in response to the detention of a US citizen. American pastor Andrew Brunson is being held on terrorism charges in Turkey, facing up to 35 years in prison for his alleged role in a failed coup in 2016.

In response, Erdogan announced boycott of US electronic devices, including Apple iPhones. Turkey has also hiked tariffs on US goods such as tobacco, alcohol, cars, cosmetics and others.

August 15, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Dubai firm commissioned Qatar-smearing film from American who made fake news for Iraq war

RT | April 28, 2018

When Gulf states cut ties with Doha in 2017 over its alleged support of terrorism, tensions were aided by a Dubai firm that hired a man to create an anti-Qatar video. That same man also led a US propaganda project in Iraq.

Charles Andreae is the owner of the firm Andreae & Associates, which was contracted in August 2017 to produce a six-part film linking Qatar with global terrorism, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed. The Dubai-based strategic communications firm Lapis Communications, which is owned by an Afghan-Australian entrepreneur, gave Andreae more than $500,000 to produce the video.

The brief given to Andreae’s firm was to produce “six multimedia products focused on an investigation into the role of the state of Qatar and the state’s connection to global terrorism.” It was commissioned as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were intensifying an international campaign against Qatar over its alleged links to terrorism.

News of the contract emerged in a recently filed lobbying declaration with the US Department of Justice. American companies such as Andreae & Associates are required by law to disclose information on lobbying and PR work for foreign clients.

The film, titled ‘Qatar: A Dangerous Alliance,’ included conservative pundits discussing Qatar’s links to Islamist groups, as well as bits of news and archive footage. Copies of the video were distributed at an event at the Hudson Institute think tank in October. Among the keynote speakers at that event were US President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, former defense secretary Leon Panetta, and former CIA director David Petraeus. So far, the documentary has been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube and is also available on Amazon.

In addition to Andreae’s involvement in making the film, he also registered as a lobbyist with the US Senate on Qatar-US relations on behalf of Lapis in January. But Andreae’s questionable actions didn’t begin with Qatar.

Andreae was also responsible for running the Washington end of a Pentagon propaganda contract in Iraq, which he did when he was working for the British public relations firm Bell Pottinger. Although the campaign details were known in 2016, Andreae’s involvement was only confirmed to the Bureau by Bell Pottinger co-founder Tim Bell last week.

That project, which has a $500 million contract with the Pentagon, consisted of running secret operations during the Iraq War. Bell Pottinger answered to the US commander in Iraq and created fake local news reports and smeared Iran. It also put together Al-Qaeda propaganda videos, planted them in people’s homes, and tracked who viewed them.

Neither Andreae & Associates nor Lapis Communications has responded to RT’s request for comment.

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Qatar govt. must send troops to Syria or lose US support and be toppled – Saudi FM

April 28, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Qatari FM Denounces Saudi Calls to Send Troops to Syria

Sputnik – 27.04.2018

The Saudi Foreign Minister had announced that Riyadh was willing to send troops to Syria as part of a wider international coalition if it receives an invitation to do so. He also expressed his opinion that Qatar must do the same.

Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani has branded Saudi Arabia’s demands for Qatar to pay for US troops to remain in Syria and the sending of its troops before the US withdraws an attempt to influence public opinion in the Arab world, according to France 24 TV channel.

“This statement [by the Saudi Foreign Ministry] is not worthy of an answer. Qatar refutes the brainwashing of the public opinion in the Arab world in such a way,” Qatar’s Foreign and Prime Minister said.

He also admitted that Qatar’s delegation was informed during its visit to the US about the idea of sending troops to Syria. Al-Thani believes that any decisions on Syria must be made as a part of the comprehensive solution to the Syrian problem.

“[Qatar insists] on developing a political solution to the Syrian problem, which would embed the political transition of power, punishment of war criminals and return stability to Syria,” Al-Thani said.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir stated on April 25 that Qatar must send its troops to Syria prior to the US withdrawal from its base in the country. Earlier US President Donald Trump claimed that Middle Eastern countries must pay for everything that happens in their region as well as deploy their soldiers on the ground, possibly referring to the situations in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. He also added that without US protection, “wealthy” Arab states “wouldn’t last a week.”

The Saudi Foreign Minister said on April 23 that Riyadh is ready to send its troops to Syria, but is waiting for an official invitation.

The Iranian Foreign Minister’s advisor Hussein Sheikholeslam has expressed his opinion in an interview with Sputnik that the deployment any additional troops to Syria will not bring about peace, but instead will only complicate the crisis.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

The idea of replacing the US contingent in Syria with Saudi troops is doomed to failure

By Dmitry MININ | Strategic Culture Foundation | 25.04.2018

The White House has had a hot new idea – to leave Syria but also stay there at the same time by deploying an Arab contingent to US military bases, primarily from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). So to Arabize one of the bloodiest wars of our time in keeping with the bitter memory of Vietnamization.

It seems that the plan was worked out during the almost month-long stay of Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in America. And the plan’s existence was announced on 17 April by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, during a joint press conference with the UN secretary general, António Guterres. Following the missile attack on Syria, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, reiterated that President Donald Trump still wants an early withdrawal of US troops from the country. The introduction of a Saudi contingent in their place seems to Washington to be in the interests of the United States. And the US government has not just suggested to Saudi Arabia that it replace the American contingent, but to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as well. They would take a back seat to the Saudis, however. There is also talk of these regimes providing money to rebuild Syria’s destroyed north. It seems they wouldn’t just be counting on military force, but on “buying” the local population as well.

It does raise a question, of course: have the Americans asked the Syrian government or its own allies – the Kurds and, at the very least, Turkey, Russia and Iran – about the desirability of such a replacement? No, of course they haven’t. Even while withdrawing, the US is unable to forget about its “exclusivity”. For many reasons, however, the idea of replacing Americans with Arabs is doomed to failure.

That Damascus will resolutely resist the proposed reoccupation of its territory by the forces of a “fraternal country” is obvious. It can only lead to more fighting and a rise in regional tensions. Almost as well-equipped as the Americans, the Saudis will never be a worthy opponent of the battle-hardened Syrian army. They have already shown what they’re capable of in the endless war in Yemen, where barefoot Houthis are inflicting one embarrassing defeat after another. Riyadh’s intention to fight a “decisive battle” against Iran on foreign soil will not be realised, either. With its ally Iraq behind it, Tehran would soon have the advantage.

All in all, not a single one of Syria’s neighbours is in favour of the arrival of Saudi troops to replace the Americans except Israel. Iraq is categorically against the idea, since it wants to avoid having to deal with an upsurge in fighting between Sunnis and Shi’ites on its borders. Turkey has no need for the Saudis either, because they would undermine its influence in the Ankara-controlled area of northern Syria. Suffice it to say that the nearly 30,000 troops now under Turkey’s wing from Eastern Ghouta, which was recently liberated by government troops, have been on Riyadh’s payroll for the entire war. Turkey has every reason to fear that Saudi Arabia will use these and other groups to assert its dominance over the area. Libya is also against the appearance of Saudi Arabia on the Syrian stage, fearing that clashes between Sunnis and Shi’ites will move to within its own borders. Even Jordan, which is dependent on Washington and London, is weary of the initiative. As a pragmatic politician, King Abdullah II of Jordan has a good idea of all the possible negative repercussions of such an undertaking.

The proposals have also been criticised by Egypt, which has completely ruled out its involvement in their realisation. Mohammad Rashad, a senior official in Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, expressed himself in no uncertain terms: “The Egyptian Armed Forces are not mercenaries and cannot be leased or ordered by foreign states to deploy in a certain area.” Rashad continued: “This is not acceptable. No one should dare to direct or give orders to Egypt’s army.” The statement is an indirect response to an appeal by the US president’s new national security advisor, John Bolton, to the head of Egypt’s intelligence services, Abbas Mustafa Kamil, inviting Cairo to be involved in the project.

Just as many problems await the Saudis in and around the area of their proposed location. To begin with, the Kurds from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who control the area with the help of the US will certainly not welcome their arrival. It would mean the Kurds giving up control of the local Arab population in favour of the incoming contingent and losing most of the power they have won. It is quite possible that the Americans are secretly pushing for a scenario in which, as well as Arabization, there will also be a “dekurdization” of northern Syria, but at someone else’s hands. Then it would seem as if they are not betraying the Kurds, while calming Arab national feelings and ironing out differences with the Turks at the same time. Don’t think that the Kurds will remain passive bystanders in this situation, however. Chances are they will occupy the vacated US bases and refuse to let anyone in. It is even possible they will finally realise that, in the current situation, the most sensible course of action to resolve the Kurdish national question would be an alliance with Damascus. For the time being, Damascus is prepared to extend the rights of Kurds, but should they find themselves on the losing side later on, their window of opportunity will gradually close.

And for Saudi Arabia, a direct clash with the Islamic State (IS), which, according to the official version, is the terrorist group that the Saudis must go to Syria to fight, could prove fatal. The truth is that many of the IS militants still fighting in Syria are mujahideen from Saudi Arabia and their ability to indoctrinate their fellow countrymen should not be underestimated. It could happen that any direct contact between the Saudi contingent and IS militants will eventually extend the latter’s influence to the Kingdom, something that the Islamic State has long dreamed of. In the countries of the Persian Gulf, there are already some who think it would perhaps be better to hire Sudanese nationals, Pakistanis or some other poor souls for the operation.

The new plan for America to save face in the Middle East is just as chimerical as all of America’s previous attempts at a global reorganisation of the region. The outcome of Arabization will not be any better than the outcome of Vietnamization was all those decades ago. And this will continue to be the case until Washington starts taking into account the positions of all interested parties, including Damascus.

April 26, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Incitement to crime’: Russian senator blasts Saudi advice to send Qatari troops to Syria

RT | April 25, 2018

A member of the Russian upper house security committee has described a recent Saudi statement urging Qatar to send troops to Syria as blackmail, and warned that any such step would bring only chaos and casualties to the region.

“The statement made by the head of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry is a very real blackmail. Saudi Arabia is inciting Yemen into knowingly unlawful action,” Senator Frants Klintsevich told reporters on Wednesday.

Klintsevich referred to comments by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir, who earlier in the day stated that Qatar must “send its military forces (to Syria), before the US president cancels US protection of Qatar, which consists of the presence of a US military base on its territory.” The minister also hinted that Qatari forces could replace US servicemen in case the latter are ordered to withdraw from the region.

The Russian senator told the press that he personally had great doubts about the US’ intention to leave Syria, despite all contrary statements made by President Donald Trump. “Saudi Arabia must be talking about Qatar’s participation in the Syrian campaign alongside the US forces, not instead of them. This is even stranger as Riyadh cannot fail to understand that this would bring nothing but additional chaos and new senseless casualties,” he said, adding that he suspected Saudi authorities had their own goals in the conflict, which they preferred to keep quiet.

The Al-Udeid airbase located near the Qatari capital Doha is currently the largest US military base in the Middle East, with around 11,000 servicemen stationed there. Qatar’s own army is one of the smallest in the region, with some 12,000 active military personnel.

In January, the Qatari defense minister outlined a far-reaching expansion of US military presence in the country and a potential US Navy deployment after it completes renovations of its naval ports. He also expressed hope that the base will one day become permanent.

April 25, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

US Senate Warns Russia of Sanctions if S-400 Sold to Any Foreign Nations

Sputnik – 17.03.2018

WASHINGTON – A group of US lawmakers led by Senator Bob Menendez told the State Department in a letter that any sale of Russian S-400 air defense system should lead to new punitive measures as stipulated in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

“We are writing today to specifically inquire about reported negotiations between Russia and certain countries over sales of the Russian government’s S-400 air defense system and whether these reported deals could trigger mandatory CAATSA sanctions,” the letter said on Friday. “Under any circumstance, a S-400 sale would be considered a ‘significant transaction’ and we expect that any sale would result in designations.”

The lawmakers also requested that the State Department provide detailed analysis on the current status of Russian S-400 talks with China, Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and any other country.

The senators based their letter on a report produced by the Congressional Research Service, which showed that Russia has been working on potential defense deals with different countries.

Menendez and co-signers demanded information on how the State Department is trying to prevent the sales of S-400 being finalized and reiterated Washington’s accusations of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and meddling in democratic process in foreign states.

The request comes just a day after the Treasury Department used the CAATSA legislation, along with an Executive Order that was amended by CAATSA, to impose sanctions on five entities and 19 individuals.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Main Intelligence Directorate and six Russian individuals were sanctioned under the CAATSA legislation.

The US Congress passed CAATSA last summer in response to allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Trump signed it into law on August 2.

Russia has repeatedly denied all allegations of interference in the US election, calling the accusations “absurd.”

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Doha ‘diffused’ attempt by Riyadh, Abu Dhabi to invade Qatar: Defense minister

Press TV – February 3, 2018

Qatar’s defense minister says Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had planned a military invasion of his country at the beginning of a diplomatic crisis that erupted last year when several states cut off diplomatic relations with Doha.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Friday, Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah said Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had “tried everything” to destabilize Qatar, but “we have diffused this intention.”

“They have intentions to intervene militarily,” said Attiyah.

“They tried to provoke the tribes. They used mosques against us. Then they tried to get some puppets to bring in and replace our leaders,” he added.

Attiyah, who traveled to the United States last week and held talks with his US counterpart Jim Mattis, described the beginning of the crisis by the Saudi-led bloc as an “ambush” that was “miscalculated.”

Asked about Qatar’s relations with Iran, Attiyah said that Qatar maintained “friendly relations with everyone.”

The Qatari defense minister said that the Saudi-led bloc had “failed” in its attempt to replace Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani with a new leader.

“They put their puppet, [Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, a relative of a former Qatari emir], on TV,” he said.

“They can’t do anything. The Qatari people love their emir,” he noted.

Back in June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.

The Saudi-led quartet presented Qatar with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences.

The demands included closing the Al Jazeera broadcaster, removing Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil, scaling back ties with Iran, and ending relations with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and denounced them as unreasonable.

Amid the diplomatic crisis, Abu Dhabi has taken an especially tough line towards Doha.

The Qatari former deputy prime minister, Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, told Spanish daily ABC last October that the UAE had planned a military invasion of Qatar with thousands of US-trained mercenaries, but it failed to secure the support of Washington.

A series of leaked documents revealed in November 2017 that the UAE had a stunning detailed plot to launch an economic war on Qatar.

Dubai security chief Dhahi Khalfan also once called on the Saudi-led coalition involved in a deadly military campaign against Yemen to bomb Al Jazeera.

February 3, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Turkey switches to full defiance of US, continues Putin courtship

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | December 14, 2017

On Monday, US National Security Advisor HR McMaster added to tensions in the Middle East when he condemned Turkey and Qatar as prime sponsors of extremist Islamist ideology.

He tore into the Turkish leadership, saying the country’s growing problems with the West are largely due to the rise of the Justice and Development Party in Ankara.

A few days ago, McMaster had described China and Russia as “revisionist powers” encroaching on US allies and undermining the international order, and castigated Iran and North Korea as outlaw regimes that “support terror and are seeking weapons of mass destruction.”

McMaster now rounds on Turkey and Qatar for mentoring a radical Islamist ideology that “is obviously a grave threat to all civilized people.” The stunning part is that Turkey is a NATO ally, while the US Central Command is headquartered in Qatar.

Arguably, Turkey no longer qualifies to be a NATO member. McMaster spoke at a rare public policy platform with his British counterpart Mark Sedwill, at an event hosted by the Policy Exchange think tank in Washington. How any of this transmutes into Anglo-American policy will bear watching. (Interestingly, on a visit to Greece last week, Erdogan publicly sought a revision of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which was negotiated under the tutelage of Britain and the US and ceded, amongst other things, all Turkish claims on the Dodecanese Islands and Cyprus.

Significantly, McMaster’s outburst came within hours of a meeting in Ankara between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, their eighth this year, during a combined day-long trip by the Russian leader which included stops in Egypt, Turkey and the Hmeimim airbase in Syria.

Ironically, if it was the perceived Soviet threat to Turkey that Harry Truman and Dean Acheson blew out of proportion to lay the ground for an enthusiastically pro-American Turkish prime minister, Adnan Menderes, to bring Turkey into the NATO fold in 1952, 55 years later the blossoming of Russo-Turkish cooperation prompts Washington to doubt Turkey’s credentials as an ally.

But then, NATO has no precedents of ousting a member state and its decisions are taken unanimously. To be sure, Erdogan will only leave the NATO tent kicking and screaming. His intent is to shake off US hegemony, which he can do better while inside the NATO tent. He is in turn taunting, provoking, snubbing, defying and – worse still –ridiculing US regional strategies.

Erdogan’s talks with Putin on Monday suggest a new stage in their coordination to undermine US interests in the Middle East. Putin announced that they agreed on a loan agreement, which will be signed “very shortly,” to pursue the “significant prospects for expanding our military and technical cooperation.”

Erdogan added that “the relevant agencies of our two countries are expected to complete what needs to be done this week” with regard to Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system. It is a huge snub to Washington and some of its NATO allies that the Russian system cannot be integrated into the alliance’s defenses.

Again, Erdogan announced that Turkey and Russia are “determined to complete in the shortest possible time” the Turkish Stream (which will bring more Russian gas to Turkey and use Turkey as a hub to supply southern Europe) and the US$25 billion Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. The US opposes the Turkish Stream, which will frustrate its plans to export LNG to Europe.

Putin joined Erdogan to criticize the US decision regarding Jerusalem. Putin said, “It is destabilizing the region and wiping out the prospect of peace”; Erdogan said he was “pleased” by Putin’s stand. Erdogan said the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) summit in Istanbul on Wednesday would be a “turning point” on the crisis; Putin promised to send a representative.

Most stunning, though, are the emerging contours of a profound Russo-Turkish action plan in Syria. They attribute centrality to the Astana peace process, which also includes Iran but leaves the US and its regional allies in the cold. Following Putin-Erdogan talks, the next meeting at Astana has been announced.

Equally, Russia and Turkey are collaborating to organize a congress of Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu signaled on Tuesday that Turkey no longer objects to Kurdish participation. Evidently, Russia is leveraging its influence with the Kurdish groups. This badly isolates the US, which is increasingly left with rump elements of Kurdish militant groups as its remaining allies. An open-ended US military presence in Syria becomes pointless since the capacity to influence a Syrian settlement is nearing zero.

After returning to Moscow, Putin submitted to the Duma a new agreement on expanding the Russian base in the Syrian port city of Tartus. The balance of forces in the Mediterranean region is dramatically shifting even before a Syrian settlement is negotiated.

Meanwhile, Cavusoglu hinted that Turkey and Russia plan to create new facts on the ground in northern Syria. “Threats for Turkey are coming from Afrin. We may enter this region without a warning. If we carry out the operation there, we will agree on all its aspects with our allies, including Russia.”

Putin apparently heeded Erdogan’s concerns that Afrin is a crucial region for Turkish national security. This is a paradigm shift. If Turkey kicks out the Kurdish militia from Afrin in coordination with Russia, it is a slap to America’s face. A flashpoint may arise.

What emerges is that denying the US any form of land access to Syria’s Mediterranean coast and reducing the American bases in Syria as remote and isolated pockets would be a Russo-Turkish enterprise. McMaster’s rage is understandable.

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Qatar finalizes $8bn weapons deal with UK

Press TV – December 10, 2017

Qatar has signed a major weapons deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom amid a political stand-off with former Arab allies of the Persian Gulf region.

Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, signed the deal on Sunday in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The agreement, worth USD 8 billion (6.8 billion euros), is the latest to come from Doha amid a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The four cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar six months ago over allegations of its support for terrorism. They have even warned of further action if Doha does not mend its regional policies.

Qatar has showed no sign that it is ready to bow to the pressures while maintaining that it would remain independent in its foreign policy. It has also rejected key conditions put forward by the four countries for normalization, including a downgrade in ties with regional power Iran and expulsion of Turkish troops from the Qatari soil.

The deal signed Sunday is Qatar’s second major military agreement this week. An agreement to buy 12 French Dassault Aviation warplanes worth of billions of dollars came on December 7.

Williamson, British defense chief, hailed the Sunday agreement with Qatar and said it was the biggest order for Typhoons in a decade. He said the fighter jets will support “stability in the region and delivering security at home”.

Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region are major customers for weapons made in the West. Spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, the countries have signed deals worth of tens of billions of US dollars with major western arm producers over the past years.

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment