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Why the US & Saudi Arabia fear Iran-Pakistan cooperation

© AFP / IRANIAN PRESIDENCY
By Darius Shahtahmasebi | RT | April 23, 2019

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Tehran has been marred by two recent deadly attacks. Despite an apparent willingness to cooperate, there remain many outside players who will push for this alliance to fail.

Someone clearly hates the idea of peaceful dialogue between Iran and Pakistan. Whether a coincidence or not, the timing of an attack in Pakistan within barely a day or two of a planned visit to Iran’s capital by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is certainly perfect timing for those who view an increasing relationship between the two nations through negative terms. The attack in question saw at least 14 Pakistani security forces personnel killed in a bus ambush. Not helping the issue, is the fact that Pakistan’s foreign office instantly blamed the attack on Iran, accusing Iran of inaction against ethnic Baloch separatist groups, even as Khan was set to visit Tehran.

In February, there was similarly an attack in eastern Iran that killed at least 27 Iranian security personnel. Tehran warned Islamabad it would “pay a heavy price” for allegedly harboring the militants who planned the suicide bombing, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish al-Adl group.

Now, I am not saying that there is any conspiracy behind the attacks. I mean, why would I need to bother? Whether there are attacks or not, the media and a handful of notable leaderships will continue to portray Iran-Pakistan relations as the worst possible form of détente imaginable.

All this being said, the two countries were able to have a somewhat fruitful and productive engagement during Khan’s visit. The news that is likely to infuriate some other major players on the world stage is the announcement of a creation of a joint rapid reaction force along the shared border of Iran and Pakistan.

Ironically, the recent attacks against Iranian and Pakistani personnel may have brought these two nations closer together, as Khan announced that Pakistan will not allow any militant groups to operate from Pakistani soil, vowing to dismantle any militant group inside the country.

On a side note, WikiLeaks documents have shown that Saudi Arabia financed militant groups inside Pakistan. Even Deutsche Welle notes that most of the Pakistani based militant groups “unleashing terror” on Pakistan’s minority Shiite population “take inspiration from the hardline Saudi-Wahhabi Islamic ideology”.

Khan’s visit also magically coincided with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that it was clamping down hard on countries who sought to buy Iranian oil, namely, India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and of course, China, who account for about half of Iranian oil exports. This would undoubtedly send a clear picture to Pakistan about what will happen if it continues down its current trajectory.

Undeterred, Pakistan and Iran have agreed to establish a so-called barter committee to help in a planned increase in trade, with an eye for bypassing US-enforced sanctions.

Despite the picture the media wants to paint of a hostile Pakistan weary of an aggressive, terrorist-supporting Iran, the truth is that Iran and Pakistan are not really traditionally that adversarial.

Historically speaking, the two countries have had relatively friendly relations. Iran was one of the first countries to recognise and reach out to Pakistan after its creation in 1947. In fact, then-Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was the first head of a foreign nation to visit the newly created country. Iran also provided moral and material support to Pakistan during its infamous conflicts with India in 1965 and 1971.

The countries only really split along a Sunni-Shia divide after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. Aside from strengthening its relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s major rival, Pakistan also became a major US ally, particularly during the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s. Iran then viewed Pakistan as nothing but a lackey state of the United States.

Even though, Khan has made it clear that Pakistan holds no ill will to Iran following the revolution, purportedly stating that “I came here [to Iran] in 1972. I saw a big difference between the rich and the poor, a big cultural difference. Iran has become a more egalitarian society that is what the revolution has done.”

Despite the fact these two countries have many long standing differences and areas of competition, they still have many avenues of cooperation that they have felt the need to pursue.

One such avenue is the question of Afghanistan. For example, India has increased its interest in the war-ravaged nation, which puts Pakistan in a very compromising position indeed given it is essentially on the verge of a major war with its Indian neighbour.

According to Khan, both Pakistan and Iran have been affected by the conflict in Afghanistan, hosting millions of refugees between the two nations.

Iran and Pakistan have also been in the line of fire of Donald Trump’s hawkish administration. While Trump’s desire to annihilate Tehran is much more apparent than any such desire to go to war with Pakistan, we cannot ignore the major blows to US-Pakistan relations that have occurred under the watch of Trump.

The two nations further share close relations with China, the formulation of which has been termed as a trilateral nexus by the Asia Times. Pakistan and Iran also have a pipeline of their own capability of pursuing, which will most likely entail the deepening of cooperation even in spite of their major differences.

Another interesting aspect that comes into play in this dynamic – which I guarantee you, you will never see highlighted in a corporate media outlet – is that Iranian President Rouhani actually enjoys the support of the local ethnic Sunni population of Iran. Therefore, it is not beyond the administration of Rouhani to work more closely with its predominantly Sunni neighbours (if you don’t believe me, I wrote an extensive article highlighting the notable attempts by Iran to reach out to Sunni Saudi Arabia over the last few years).

The major problem that Pakistan faces is that while it can find common ground with Iran, including on matters in relation to economic ties and security, it does not want to irk Saudi Arabia too much, a nation which just pledged $20 billion in investments to Pakistan. Islamabad is likewise not impressed by Iran’s growing relationship with India. This is why Pakistan put itself in a questionable position whereby its former Chief of Army staff was appointed to what is essentially the head of a Saudi-led Arab NATO, which does not include Iran (indeed, it seems as though its existence is based on the idea that it needs to counter Iran).

At the end of the day, the optimist in me reckons that there are enough areas of cooperation between the two countries which can help to balance out the devastating rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia and prevent a deadly war. But in all honesty, if you were to compare the outcomes between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) visit to Pakistan and Khan’s visit to Tehran, the latter seems a bit weak in substance. It seems as though no matter how far Iran reaches its hand out to Pakistan, its loyalty to Saudi Arabia will continue to prevail ($20 billion will always be worth more than anything Iran can ever offer to its neighbour). Not to mention the money that Pakistan is offered from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which also views Tehran mostly in hostile terms.

Perhaps Khan can act as a mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but the available evidence suggests there is nothing to mediate. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has destroyed an entire country on its border simply on the suspicion that Iran could be backing the rebel movement inside Yemen. Even the possibility that a rebel-controlled government installed on its border could align itself with Tehran is a major deal-breaker for the Saudi Kingdom, worth starving over 85,000 children to death and threatening behind closed doors that Yemen should “shiver” for generations when they hear Saudi Arabia uttered.

The optimist in me is going to have to be a bit more realistic.

Read more:

Iranian President Rouhani declares joint border ‘reaction force’ with Pakistan

What you won’t hear from US govt: Iran is open to working with Saudi Arabia

April 23, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

Understanding Saudi Arabia’s Role in Post-Coup Sudan

By Adam Garrie | EurasiaFuture | April 18, 2019

In previous times, when Saudi Arabia sought to intervene in the affairs of foreign nations, it did so overtly. Whether funding foreign masjids to advance Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam or sponsoring militant groups with unambiguous links to Riyadh, it used to be that when Saudi Arabia wanted change in a foreign nation, there was no real attempt to hide such developments.

Under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, this has partly changed. While western media has struggled to form a cohesive narrative through which to portray military strongman and US citizen Khalifa Haftar’s ongoing attempt to take Tripoli, Haftar’s own movements make it clear just how much Saudi Arabia is backing the renegade military man who once fled Libya as a traitor in the late 1980s.

Haftar was in Riyadh where he met the Saudi monarch just days before he began his assault on Tripoli. It has further been reported that Haftar has received millions of dollars from Riyadh. Thus, it is clear that in spite of Riyadh’s US partner’s support of the fledgling and endlessly corrupt Tripoli regime, Saudi Arabia along with its Egyptian and Emirati allies are firmly behind Haftar.

Recent events in Sudan have served as a reminder to the world that whilst long serving and recently ousted President Omar al-Bashir came to power in 1989 with the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, since then, Bashir had become something of a post-ideological/poly-ideological political survivor. At various times Bashir has been friendly with and had disputes with countries as diverse as Iran, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Gaddafi’s Libya, Assad’s Syria, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey. In many ways, the only two nations with whom Bashir has had consistently good relations were China and Russia. In respect of just about every other country that seeks strategic relations with Khartoum, Bashir’s career was something of a geopolitical game of ping-pong.

Recent years however had seen Bashir’s Sudan greatly improve relations with Turkey and also Turkey’s closest Arab ally Qatar. To this end, Turkey has signed an agreement with Khartoum to construct a modern port at the location of a once prominent Ottoman Port at Suakin. Yet whilst this apparently win-win project did not immediately radiate political overtones, there were in fact many to be found. Suakin was a traditional Ottoman port of call for those on the Hajj to the Holy City of Mecca. From Suakin, pilgrims would take a short maritime journey to Jeddah before moving on to Mecca. For Saudi Arabia, this was seen as a Turkish attempt to influence what could once again become a major route for those on the Hajj. As Turkey and Saudi Arabia continue to compete for influence among the region’s millions of Sunni Muslims, Riyadh certainly took notice of the Turkey-Sudan port deal.

Although Sudan continues to provide mercenaries to the Saudi coalition in nearby Yemen, Bashir’s juggling act between Saudi Arabia on the one hand and the Turkey-Qatari partnership on the other, proved to be one that has self-evidently been a source of consternation in Riyadh.

To be sure, issues of poverty, corruption, genuine human rights concerns and a general political fatigue in the face of Bashir’s lengthy rule were in fact sources of the protests which led to the former President’s ouster. That being said, the rapidity with which Sudan’s new military rulers have moved against Bashir suggests that there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

Reports have now emerged that Bashir is under arrest whilst the country’s new self-proclaimed rulers issue frequent statements of extreme disapprobation against their former boss. This combined with the fact that Turkeys’ calls for calm and moderation are becoming increasingly vocal whilst Saudi state media is celebrating the fact that Sudan’s new regime has refused to receive Qatar’s foreign minister, makes it clear that the new forces in Khartoum are acting in a manner that leans heavily towards Riyadh and away from the Turkey-Qatar partnership that Bashir had been drawing ever closer to in his final years in power.

Although the situation in Khartoum remains fluid to the point of being chaotic, it is already becoming clear that while the origins of the coup where in many ways organic, the management of events since the ouster of Omar al-Bashir has been one that is incredibly favourable towards Saudi Arabia whilst being notably less so to Turkey and Qatar.

This likewise proves that in the age of Muhammad bin Salman, direct intervention into foreign nations via religious groups and militants has been replaced by using Riyadh’s economic influence to force rulers of poorer nations to do as Saudi Arabia wishes.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Academic: Saudi arrest campaign against Palestinians

MEMO | April 18, 2019

Saudi is carrying out an arrest campaign against Palestinians in the country, an exiled academic has said according to Al-Resalah newspaper.

On Twitter, Said Bin Nasser Al-Ghamdi wrote: “In the kingdom, a new and wide arrest campaign against a number of Palestinians, another number under travel ban, their accounts were frozen and their organisations were confiscated.”

Al-Ghamdi said that these Palestinians are accused of “sympathising with the resistance in Palestine, having an interest in the issue of Jerusalem and Gaza or supporting Hamas.”

He also said that authorities arrested Saudis, who sponsored the Palestinians or employed them in the kingdom.

In early March, Saudi announced the arrest of 50 people over security concerns, they included 30 of its own nationals, six Palestinians and three Jordanians.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

The “Yemen Bill” Trump Just Vetoed Never Had Anything to do With Yemen

By Adam Garrie – EurasiaFuture – 2019-04-17

Donald Trump has just vetoed a bill passed by the US Congress which would have ended American financial support for the Saudi led coalition in the Yemen conflict. When the bill was passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate, many were surprised that an otherwise pro-war and pro-interventionist group of politicians would support something that was seemingly anti-war. However, to assume that the majority of votes were motivated by an anti-war sentiment is to deny the very specific circumstances behind the bill’s passage.

In the United States, both main political parties have incredibly strong relations with Saudi Arabia. Yet among the US public, this “special relationship” is far more controversial than the fact that both US parties also have strong ties to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ally Israel. While Israel and Saudi Arabia are both known for pursuing internationally controversial foreign policies, among the US public, Israel is generally viewed in a positive light while Saudi Arabia is not. As such, whenever an opportunity comes along for American politicians to virtue signal against Saudi Arabia without actually changing US foreign policy in a meaningful way, such an opportunity will be acted upon. Trump himself virtue signaled against Saudi Arabia during his 2016 election campaign.

When it became clear that elements of the Saudi “deep state” were responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and when after that it became clear that Donald Trump was not going to do anything to punish Riyadh for the Khashoggi murder, many in the opposition Democratic party sought to take advantage of a public opinion that had soured even further against Riyadh in the aftermath of the infamous murder which took place in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate.

In this sense, the vote to cut funding to the Saudi coalition in Yemen was a largely symbolic measure that most who voted for it knew would be vetoed. Making matters all the more stark, it can be assumed that some of those who voted for the bill even wanted it to be vetoed as the intention was only ever to virtue signal to an American public that had become somewhat upset in the aftermath of the Khashoggi murder. The bill was never actually meant to change Washington’s pro-Riyadh/anti-Tehran position vis-a-vis Yemen.

In this sense, while some are blaming Trump for prolonging the crisis in Yemen because of his veto, the reality is that Trump was handed a bill intended as a virtue signalling provocation rather than a genuine call to end the conflict in Yemen. As such, Trump responded in the way that virtually anyone in his position would have done.

April 17, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Leave a comment

French-Made Weapons Reportedly Used in Yemen War, More Arms to Be Delivered

Sputnik – April 15, 2019

Journalists claim to have uncovered the “massive use” of French-made weapons in war-torn Yemen through a leak of secret military documents.

Radio France and investigative reporters from the NGO Disclose say they have obtained a classified 2018 report about French arms sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which form part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi militiamen in Yemen since 2015.

The paper was allegedly compiled last September by France’s military agency DRM and handed over to President Emmanuel Macron and other cabinet-level officials. It apparently contains a list of all French weapons deployed in Yemen by the two Arab monarchies.

“These include Leclerc battle tanks, long-rod penetrator ammunition, Mirage 2000-9 fighter jets, COBRA counter-battery radar systems, Aravis armoured troop-carrying vehicles, Cougar and Dauphin helicopters, CAESAR truck-mounted howitzers,” reads a statement on Disclose’s website.

The journalists went on to claim that some of the French-made weapons are being used in combat operations in Yemen, including in civilian zones. Specifically, two French-made warships — a missile-launching corvette and a warfare frigate — are said to be taking part in the naval blockade of Yemen, as per the report.

The leaked report appears to include a map titled “Population under threat of bombs”, which indicates the deployment of 48 CAESAR guns near the Saudi-Yemeni border.

“Put more simply, the guns are used to bombard Yemeni territory to open up a path for the tanks and armoured vehicles invading the country,” the journalists argue. The population living within the range of potential artillery fire is estimated at being over 436,000.

According to the report, at least 129 CAESAR howitzers are due to be delivered to Saudi Arabia between by 2023.

French authorities are yet to comment on the matter.

French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly said in a radio interview in February that the military had “recently sold no weapons that can be used in the Yemeni conflict”.

Last October, she rejected claims that domestically made weapons were targeting civilian population. “To my knowledge, the weapons we have sold recently have not been used against civilians,” she told reporters.

The minister also described France’s weapons exports to Saudis as “relatively modest”, saying they were subject to tight restrictions. “We don’t sell weapons like they’re baguettes,” she added.

Disclose and Radio France note, meanwhile, that the French parliament has been “deliberately kept apart” from this information by the government, which has so far given only “fragmentary answers or even falsehoods”.

April 15, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Israeli businessmen, officials cancel Bahrain visit amid national outcry

Press TV – April 15, 2019

An Israeli delegation of merchants and officials has canceled its planned participation in a business conference in Bahrain amid growing national outcry over the Persian Gulf kingdom’s warming ties with the Tel Aviv regime following years of clandestine contacts.

A spokeswoman for Israel’s Economy Ministry said a planned visit to Bahrain this week by Israel’s Economy Minister Eli Cohen had been “delayed because of political issues.”

A group of around 30 Israeli business executives and regime officials was scheduled to participate in the event, which is organized by the US- based Global Entrepreneurship Network and will run in Manama from April 15 to 18.

At least three Israeli speakers, including the Israel Innovation Authority’s deputy chief, Anya Eldan, were scheduled to speak at the event.

“While we advised the Israeli delegation they would be welcome, they decided this morning not to come due to security concerns and a wish not to cause disruption for the other 180 nations participating,” the organization’s president Jonathan Ortmans told Reuters.

Earlier this month, Bahrain’s most prominent Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim strongly denounced the Manama regime’s decision to host an Israeli delegation in the business conference.

“Hosting and greeting the Zionists at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, is a bold step on a dishonorable path; that of humiliation, capitulation and shamelessness,” he said in a statement carried by the Arabic-language Lua Lua television network.

Sheikh Qassim further underlined that the Israeli regime tops the list of Muslim world’s enemies, and that Manama’s plan to host Israeli delegates was in line with its attempts to compromise and normalize ties with the enemy.

This is a clear sign of the Manama regime’s disregard for Islam and the will of the nation, the top cleric pointed out.

Last month, members of the Bahrain parliament issued a statement, rejecting the visit.

“Parliament stresses its support for the just cause of the brotherly Palestinian people, and it will remain a priority for the Bahraini and Arab people,” the statement read.

It added, “The end of the Israeli occupation and the withdrawal from all Arab land is an absolute necessity for the stability and security of the region and for a fair and comprehensive peace.”

Some street protests were also held in Manama in condemnation of the planned visit.

Russia’s RT Arabic television news network reported on March 4 that Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al ash-Sheikh, the speaker of Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Assembly, together with his Emirati and Egyptian counterparts had opposed a paragraph in the final communiqué of the 29th Conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union in the Jordanian capital city of Amman, which demanded an end to efforts aimed at normalizing ties with Israel and condemned all forms of rapprochement with the occupying regime.

The paragraph stated that “one of the most important steps to support Palestinian brethren requires the cessation of all forms of rapprochement and normalization with the Israeli occupiers. Therefore, we call for resilience and steadfastness by blocking all the doors of normalization with Israel.”

On February 17, a report published by Israeli Channel 13 television network said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had held a “secret meeting” with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita last September.

Additionally, the Warsaw conference, a US-sponsored gathering that was held in the Polish capital on February 13-14, brought together Netanyahu and representatives from a number of Arab states, including Oman, Morocco, Saudi Arabic, the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.

The Israeli regime also recently re-launched a “virtual embassy” in a bid to “promote dialogue” with the Persian Gulf Arab states.

April 15, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nasrallah on the End of US Hegemony: Trump will Leave the Middle East, Region Already Reshaping – PART II

Interview of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah Secretary General, with Ghassan Ben Jeddou, founder of the pan-Arab and anti-imperialist Al-Mayadeen channel, January 26, 2019.

Transcript:

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: (The US forces withdrawal from Syria announced by Trump) is therefore not a mere tactical maneuver. You say he is serious and sincere in his desire to withdraw, but this reflects a failure, if not a defeat, not for Trump especially but for the American (hegemony) project in general.

Hassan Nasrallah: Obviously this is all at once a failure, a dead end and a defeat. Currently, the cause of his hesitation is that (his advisers) tell him that the Kurds are their allies (and that they should not abandon them). I’ll explain why we saw these hesitations recently (as regards the US withdrawal from Syria).

When Trump said that US troops would withdraw and that there was only sand and death in Syria, he also said something even more important: “Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East? Do we want to be there forever?” With this statement, he hinted, and even more than hinted (this is an explicit indication), that all these US forces in the Middle East were not to stay, and that in time he would conduct (a full) withdrawal. What effect did this statement produce in the region, Professor Ghassan? Let us leave the question of Israel for later.

This statement caused, within the Saudi regime, in a number of Gulf countries enemies of Syria, and among all the allies of the United States in the region, – be they organizations, parties or personalities, not to mention the States – an immense feeling of fear and despair. And Trump knows them well (and he knew the effect that his statement would cause). When he says (to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries) that “You would not last two weeks (in power) without American (military) support”, or “Without us, your planes would get off the ground but couldn’t land”, “Without us, you Saudis would speak Persian.” He tells them all this, and adds “We will not remain the (Middle East’s) policeman, we will leave the region.” This caused a state of confusion, despair and fear in the region. That’s the first point.

That is why all the countries and groups (who rely on the US), starting with the Kurdish parties, came to Beirut and asked to meet with Hezbollah. We met them. Then they went…

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: Who are you talking about ?

Hassan Nasrallah: Kurdish parties, who are responsible for negotiating on behalf of the Kurdish units. They came to talk to us, and from there they went to Moscow and then to Iraq to request that Iraq serves as an intermediary with President Bashar al-Assad. Today, the Kurds and the Kurdish movements are (hopelessly) seeking…

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: Who are you talking about exactly? The Syrian Democratic Forces?

Hassan Nasrallah: Yes, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Kurd bodies and representatives in charge of negotiating. Very quickly, they rushed to Moscow, to Iraq, to Lebanon. Why? Because Trump has abandoned them, he forsake them, he betrayed them. This is regarding the East of the Euphrates.

Regarding the (US-aligned) countries, (they panicked at the idea of being abandoned), and they all began to think (intensely and reconsider their positions). They review their stances and try to strengthen their relations with Russia, they reconsider their relations with Iran. Even in Syria, the priorities of some countries are not the same anymore. And now we can talk about the issue (of the relations between) Arab (countries) and Syria. You want me to tell you this story now, or later?

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: Please, go ahead.

Hassan Nasrallah: According to my information, all that we saw in recent weeks, namely the Emirates reopening their embassy in Syria…

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: And before that, the President (of Sudan) al-Bashir (coming to Syria).

Hassan Nasrallah: Indeed. The President al-Bashir came to Syria. Did he come on his own?

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: What is your information?

Hassan Nasrallah: He got a green light from Saudi Arabia.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: This is your information?

Hassan Nasrallah: Yes. A green light from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.

At the end, lately, President al-Bashir rallied them. And the fact that (an Arab President) meets Bashar al-Assad is something of vital importance to (Saudi Arabia and the Emirates).

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: So this visit was not an arrangement of Russia that would have angered Saudi Arabia and the UAE (as some media have claimed)?

Hassan Nasrallah: No, under no circumstances. The current problem between President al-Bashir and Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with his visit to Syria. It concerns the fact that Saudi Arabia has not kept its promises and financial commitments made to President al-Bashir in return for his sending brigades of the Sudanese army to fight in Yemen – and Sudan’s involvement in this war is very unfortunate. This issue has nothing to do with Syria.

Anyway, the visit of President al-Bashir (to Syria), the reopening of the UAE embassy, the announcement of the Foreign Minister of Bahrain – and by the way, his statement was false, he was lying – who claimed that their embassy in Syria had always remained open, etc. But this is not true. Anyway, we started to see an Arab atmosphere (different with regard to Syria), we see Saudi advances, (Syrian) delegations visited Cairo, and there is talk about the coming of President al-Sissi and others to Damascus, etc. What is the reason ? And here I also speak basing myself on sound information that come from more than one (trustworthy) source.

In light of the decision of Trump to withdraw, and after the resignation of Mattis, who was seen as a guarantee by many, and because of the visible concern within the US administration, there was a great wave of panic in Saudi Arabia and the UAE – and with all their allies and instruments, but especially these two countries in particular. They met in Abu Dhabi to assess the situation – and their options – at a very high level. They assessed their situation in Syria and said:

“The battle against President Bashar al-Assad is over, and our groups have failed. All the movements we financed are now with Erdogan, isn’t it? All those who fought in Syria, in southern Syria, which were financed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel, have gradually retreated (following their consecutive defeats) and are now all in the North, that is to say (in the hands of) Erdogan. The battle against President Assad is over as regards the armed factions, groups and parties that we supported, as well as our various networks of influence: our whole project collapsed. Assad will certainly remain in office, the Syrian State won, the opposing Axis triumphed in Syria. There remains (only) one danger (that we can prevent): Erdogan –sorry, I mean Trump– made the decision to withdraw (his troops from Syria), and therefore, the only refuge of the Kurds is Assad and Damascus, (to avoid) the invasion of the East of the Euphrates by Turkey.”

Trump told Erdogan that Syria is his. If Syria is (abandoned to) Erdogan, if Turkey wants to invade Syria, it is a very dangerous project for Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Imagine that their analysis reached this conclusion: the main danger in Syria is not Iran…

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: This is the conclusion reached by the UAE and Saudi Arabia?

Hassan Nasrallah: Yes. (The main danger in their eyes) is not Iran. The main danger (today) is Turkey. Iran comes in second position. President Assad, whose position is fully consolidated in Syria, is third, and (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) are even willing to have relations with him. They may also agree with Russia and get some guarantees from her, etc. Russia is less problematic in their eyes. They consider that the main danger is Turkey.

You know, (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) always think in sectarian terms. Ultimately, (in their eyes), Iran – and do not blame me for my frankness – is a Shiite country, and therefore may only have limited influence in Syria, etc. On the other hand, Turkey is a Sunni country, which has a certain presence in Syria, historical relations with that country, is a neighboring country and has a common border, so if Turkey enters (permanently) in Syria, it will be the end and no one will be able to get them out. (That’s how they see things).

Is it because their heart burns for Syria (that they fear a Turkish invasion)? Certainly not. Never. They couldn’t care less about the fate of Syria (and Syrians). But they believe that the advance of the Turkish project in Syria would be the advance of the (opponent) Axis, namely Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. And that would revive this project, which targets, according to them, the Saudi regime, the UAE regime, the Egyptian regime, etc.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: And this is the reason of their opening (towards the Syrian regime)?

Hassan Nasrallah: That is why they decided to get closer to Syria and to restore relations with President Assad and the Syrian State, while remaining in their hostility towards Iran, but trying to agree with Russia in order to put obstacles in the way of any progress of Erdogan’s (neo-Ottoman) project in Syria and therefore in the region.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: But what happened to them so that they’d interrupt their rapprochement with Damascus?

Hassan Nasrallah: The opening (towards Syria) began, and they started talking about the return of Syria in the Arab League. President al-Bashir visited President Assad and told him about it. And Assad’s position did not surprise me.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: What have they offered? What is your information?

Hassan Nasrallah: They asked Syria to submit a written request indicating that given the new circumstances in the region (end of the war in Syria, etc.) and their concern for the Arab States and Arab Unity  & Cooperation, they wanted to regain their statute of member of the Arab League.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: This is the message they gave him?

Hassan Nasrallah: Yes. Of course, I refer to the substance of their proposal, and I do not quote it by heart.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: And then?

Hassan Nasrallah: (Assad’s) answer (was as follows): “Syria has never walked out of the Arab League (voluntarily), so we cannot request to come back to it. We never submitted a resignation that we should now withdraw. It is up to those who have kicked us out to ask us to come back.” And this is a noble and dignified position, and perfectly predictable. It is not a surprise. If Arab regimes think that they merely have to tell President Assad that their doors are open and that Syria can come back (to the Arab League), to see him feel a huge relief and run with joy in their arms, they are deluded. Syria will resume its place in the Arab world, and it is in its interest. But she will come back with all her dignity (and not slavishly).

What is new is that the US has made an assessment of Trump’s accomplishments, “But what have you done? Where are our allies?” So-and-so is (getting closer to) Russia, so-and-so is with President Bashar al-Assad, so-and-so considers that now, the main danger in Syria is Turkey (major NATO member) and not Iran, while the US want their (main) enemy to remain Iran. What to do (in this situation of dramatic decline of US influence in the Middle East)?

Allow me to say, about Lebanon and all the Lebanese political forces that were betting on the fall of the Syrian State and regime, that you can imagine in what state they found themselves when they heard Mr. Trump declare that he would withdraw from Syria.

Therefore, the US decided to ask Mr. Pompeo to tour the region to boost the morale of all States and groups who are devastated by the announcement of the US withdrawal from Syria (and the Middle East), and began to reconsider their choices, their relationships and their future and to grab on to their thrones (in a fit of panic). (This Pompeo visit aimed to) try to put them back on their feet, to boost their morale and to assure them that the US supports them and won’t give up on them, that they do not intend to leave the region, and as a proof, he invited them to participate with the United States to a conference in Warsaw meant to deal with Iran, its influence and its threat, (in an attempt) to put them back in confrontation with Iran, at least in terms of appearances.

(Pompeo) sent David Hill to Lebanon – for Pompeo (feels) too important to come himself to Lebanon – with the same message, to reassure those who felt frightened, demoralized, anxious and lost by the US policy in the Middle-East.

But since we have arrived at this point of our discussion, I want to conclude this presentation with this statement: the United States will not manage to do more than they have already done. I declare to the governments of the region, to their leaders, to their peoples, to their movements and to Israel – because we will finally come to Israel –, that the US are deserting our region. They will flee Syria – it may take several months, but the decision is taken.

O my brothers, they are fleeing from Afghanistan. And do you know who they leave (in charge of) Afghanistan? They leave the Taliban! Because in the agreement, Trump won the Taliban’s commitment not to allow Al Qaeda and ISIS (to settle) back in Afghanistan. Trump considers that the Taliban represent the government of tomorrow, who can (already) provide guarantees to the US government. Isn’t it a humiliating defeat for the US in Afghanistan? Especially since the Taliban are officially considered as a terrorist organization (by the US), and Washington claims to never negotiate with terrorists.

The United States will flee. There will be no more US forces waging war in our region. Trump won’t launch a war for the eyes of Mohammad Bin Salman (Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia), nor for the eyes of Mohammed bin Zayed (UAE Crown Prince), not even for Netanyahu’s eyes – and clearly, Netanyahu’s eyes are much more valuable to Trump. Not even for the eyes of Netanyahu! Trump, the US and the situation of the United States, either inside at the level of the economy, etc., etc., etc., do not allow them to launch a new war in our region. There will be no US war in the region.

What does Trump want then? (For him), it is from their own pocket that States, regimes and forces (allied to the US in the Middle East must fight), with their own money, their own media, their own blood… Trump wants to bring them together again to put them (alone) against Iran. And if, against Iran, for 40 years – we are at the 40th anniversary (of the Islamic Revolution) –, the United States and all the tyrants on Earth have been unable to do anything to bring down this regime and this blessed Islamic Republic, then (what could the Arab States do by themselves)?

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: But Eminent Sayed, relatively, (the United States), haven’t they won? You just revealed a very important information, namely that the Saudis and Emiratis gathered and concluded that the major strategic change that you just presented will occur (inevitably). But it seems that Trump still won. First, he slowed down the rush of Arab countries to Damascus, and secondly, today, we hear a new discourse from the Arab countries, namely that…

Hassan Nasrallah: The fact that he stopped the momentum of the Arab countries is natural. He can keep them in check easily. Do you think that these countries are courageous, independent, that they have an independent process of decision, and may rebel against their American master? Never. That is why…

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: What I mean is that the US managed to put all their allies –Saudi Arabia, the UAE and all others– into line.

Hassan Nasrallah: Yes, but this is not a success. Trump only prevented that everything collapses quickly. But (it is mere damage control and) the collapse process is still ongoing.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: Has he stopped or only slowed down the process of opening the Arab countries towards Syria?

Hassan Nasrallah: What we have heard and what was reported to us is that they are undecided. There is no clear choice to maintain the absence (of relations with Damascus) or stay in a completely negative attitude (against Syria). I give you a proof of that. Two days ago, there was a meeting between a UAE economic delegation and a Syrian delegation. I do not remember if it was held in Damascus or in the Emirates. This means that at least, at an intermediate level, these relations will continue. (Sooner or later), it will be revealed that very important people in Arab countries secretly came to Damascus, although these meetings were not made public. But it is for the Syrian leadership (to reveal this issue). And I speak of meetings at the highest level.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: At the political or security level?

Hassan Nasrallah: At least at the security level.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: For example heads of intelligence services?

Hassan Nasrallah: For example.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: Policymakers?

Hassan Nasrallah: Yes.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: From these (most) influential Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia and UAE)?

Hassan Nasrallah: Let’s just say from Arab countries, (don’t try to force me) to reveal more about their identity or titles – whether Sheikh or Sayed, Professor or Hajj, Doctor or Engineer, etc. What I have revealed is enough (I will say no more).

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: Influential and active Arab countries?

Hassan Nasrallah: Currently, the United States wants and strives to retain forcefully these Arab countries back (to prevent them from making a step towards Damascus, Moscow, etc.) But of course, so far, they haven’t brought anything substantial to convince them and reassure them (that this is the right choice), and that the United States have not abandoned Syria to Turkey. For this is what Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, President al-Sissi and Egypt, and all the others, want to hear clearly.

That is why we will perhaps see, on the Arab question, a slowdown or coldness in the momentum towards Syria, but I exclude that this movement can be completely stopped. Therefore I conclude this point by saying that the United States failed in Syria. Of course, after this fiasco, the one who loses the most and who is in the greatest distress is Netanyahu.

Ghassan Ben Jeddou: Yes. […]

Translation: unz.com/sayedhasan

March 31, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New US Ambassador to Tajikistan Seems to be Up To the Task

By Martin Berger – New Eastern Outlook – 29.03.2019

To this day Central Asia remains an arena of struggle for a number of major international players, namely Russia, China and the United States. In this struggle, Washington has now started losing its influence, which resulted in a series of desperate attempts to establish a sound foothold in this region, which could serve as a bulwark against both Russia and China. Against this backdrop, it’s no coincidence that the so-called private intelligence service known as Stratfor would reveal in its forecast for this year that the United States is planning to step up its efforts in Central Asia, especially in those countries that share a common border with Afghanistan, namely Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This service won’t go into much detail about the efforts it’s referring to, but it’s hardly a secret that Washington has been busy redeploying radical Islamists from Syria, where they are getting defeated by the government forces and its allies, to Afghanistan, while making claims about its devotion to the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.

In this situation, a relatively small regional player – Tajikistan found itself at the forefront of Washington’s attempt to push Moscow and Beijing out of the region. The US is particularly interested in influencing the foreign policy pursued by Dushanbe due to the two following reasons.

First of all, Tajikistan is not just an immediate neighbor of Afghanistan, but it shares the longest common border with this country out of all of the former Soviet republics – 800 miles in total. Secondly, Dushanbe has been enjoying close ties with Russia, which resulted in Moscow establishing its largest overseas military installation in Tajikistan – the 201st Military Base.

Due to the negligible size of its economy and its relative geographic isolation, Tajikistan can hardly be described as a promising trade partner of the United States, as Western oligarchs would have a hard time justifying investments in this country. So, the only approach that Washington can take in influencing Tajikistan into those decisions that it’s not willing to make is to complain about Dushanbe undermining democratic values, while pursuing closer military cooperation with it. For instance, as it’s been reported by a number of media sources, last year the Pentagon handed out 8 million dollars worth of military equipment to Dushanbe.

However, the situation on the ground may change rather abruptly and unexpectedly at any given moment. For instance, on the back of a long list of complaints Washington has made about Dushanbe being “not democratic enough” the West may decide to pursue a regime change in this country, which will result in the CIA and the Pentagon cutting costs on the illegal transit of opiates from Afghanistan.

That is why, in order to achieve its goals, the United States has been actively promoting the notion of establishing a regional young leadership network in Central Asia, under which young activists from Central Asian states would be able to receive education in Western universities together with the offspring of the regional elites. It goes without saying that after returning home those youngsters would promote Western neoliberal ideas, pedaling American interests like there’s no tomorrow. That is why Washington spends hundreds of millions of dollars on sponsoring various non-governmental organizations in Tajikistan.

In recent years, a large network of various organizations has been working for American money in the country, including, among others, the Soros Foundation, the Aga Khan, the Institute of War and Peace, and so on. In fact, there’s there’s well over 3,000 non-profit organizations registered in Tajikistan, with most of them being involved in the promotion of Western interests, including news agencies and law firms.

Back in the early 90s the United States and Tajikistan signed a deal on mutual attempts to facilitate the promotion of humanitarian and technical assistance. It’s hard to say how much money Washington has spent so far while promoting its narrative in Dushanbe, but it’s clear that USAID alone spent some 450 million dollars on such activities in the last three decades alone.

However, a series of “color revolutions” that Washington staged across the globe resulted in a considerable tightening of anti-NGO legislation in Tajikistan, which means that Dushanbe has been steadily increasing its ability to shape the internal situation within the country.

Now the US is testing a new strategy of coercion developed at the Pentagon for Venezuela and a number of other countries that dare to disagree publicly with Washington. It involves the use of a number of leverages, including financial sanctions and offensive online operations against the target country, along with the support of the political opposition and continuous threats of imminent military aggression.

There’s every reason to believe that the United States is going to test this new approach in Tajikistan, combining anti-government street protests with armed “revolutionary” jihad mounted by radical forces and, quite possibly, supported by a rebellion of local criminal groups. At the same time, Washington’s calculations of such developments clearly suggest that the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, Muhiddin Kabiri would be advertised as the new leader of Tajikistan, while the prominent Badakhshan drug dealers would be tasked with fielding militants to support the runaway Tajik commander of the special forces who defected to ISIS, Gulmurod Khalimov. The Tajik portal Akhbor, in particular, has already announced that the United States initiated the transfer of elite ISIS fighters from Afghanistan that are being led by Halimov, with Saudi Arabia footing the bill for this operation.

Against this background, the arrival of the new US ambassador to Dushanbe, John Pommersheim can only be regarded as a troubling development. Pommersheim is considered to be one of the best experts on Russia in the entire State Department, as he would study Russian in Moscow after obtain scholarship from the US Department of Defense. The man who made a career at the US Information Agency (USIA) back in the 1980s is being transferred to Tajikistan from the US embassy in Kazakhstan. Moreover, Pommersheim is reverted as an expert on Central Asia and the Caucasus. His appointment in Tajikistan further demonstrates Washington’s growing interest in Central Asia. By using Tajikistan as a bridgehead, the United States can inflict extensive damage to both Russia and China, that are being described as the strategic opponents of Washington. In particular, should it succeed in destabilizing Central Asia, Washington would render the entire concept of the One Belt One Road initiative senseless, which implies China reorienting its trade routes to Europe from sea to land.

Of course, it would be naive to assume that John Pommersheim will start staging a “color revolution” in Dushanbe on the day of his arrival. As of now, the US cannot build enough momentum to force Russia or China out of Tajikistan. Instead it’s going to support all sorts of anti-Chinese and anti-Russian sentiments, taking advantage of the network of NGOs, the tactics that Pommersheim managed to master a long while ago.

We are going to follow the achievements of Pommersheim in Dushanbe rather closely, as it seems unlikely that Washington would have sent such a figure to Tajikistan for him just to enjoy the view.

March 29, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK troops accused of training child soldiers in Yemen

Press TV – March 28, 2019

UK Foreign Office minister Mark Field has promised to get to the bottom of “very serious and well sourced” allegations that British special forces have been training child soldiers in the Saudi-led war against Yemen.

He was answering an urgent question asked in the Commons on Tuesday by the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, who suggested the British troops may have been witnesses to war crimes.

She claimed as many as 40 percent of the soldiers in the Saudi coalition were children, a breach of international humanitarian law.

Field also said he would be making inquiries with the UK Ministry of Defence in light of a report that British Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers were injured in a firefight with the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen.

The UK government has a general policy of not discussing the operations of its special forces but Field seemed determined to provide an explanation to members of Parliament.

There had been social media reports from Yemen in February suggesting that British soldiers had been injured in a firefight, and the Daily Express newspaper claimed two SAS members had been injured during a “humanitarian” operation.

However, it was claimed in The Mail on Sunday, a weekly newspaper, that UK special forces were not just involved in so-called humanitarian operations, but providing mentoring teams inside Yemen, including medics, translators and forward air controllers, whose job is to request air support from the Saudis. It claimed five special forces soldiers have been injured.

Conservative Party MP Andrew Mitchell said the allegations were so serious because they flew in the face of successive assurances given by ministers that the UK was not a participant in the Saudi war against Yemen, and was only providing general logistical support to Riyadh.

“These serious allegations that are authoritative and credible, and fly in the face of assurances that have been given from the despatch box on countless occasions,” Mitchell told the Commons.

The UK is known to be close to the Saudi military but denies it is involved in operations against the Houthis in Yemen.

A number of Western countries, the US and Britain in particular, are accused of being complicit in the ongoing aggression in Yemen as they supply the Riyadh regime with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.

The Saudi-led war has taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that over 22 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, while 8.4 million are threatened by severe hunger.

According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating campaign on March 26, 2015, with the aim of bringing a former government to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement. Riyadh has failed to fulfill its objectives.

March 28, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

An Iran-Syria ‘Belt & Road’: A Far-Reaching Geopolitical Strategy Unfolds

By Alastair CROOKE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 25.03.2019

As the US tries to consolidate its strategy for weakening and confronting Iran, the contours of an important geo-political strategy, launched by Syria and Iran, are surfacing. On the one hand, it consists of a multi-layered sewing together of a wide ‘deterrence’ that ultimately could result in Israel being pulled into a regional war – were certain military trip wires (such as air attacks on Syria’s strategic defences) – to be triggered. Or, if the US economic war on Iran crosses certain boundaries (such as blockading Iranian tankers from sailing, or putting a full stranglehold on the Iranian economy).

To be clear, the aim of this geo-political strategy is not to provoke a war with the US or Israel – it is to deter one. It sends a message to Washington that any carelessly thought-through aggression (of whatever hybrid nature) against the ‘northern states’ (from Lebanon to Iraq) might end by putting their ally – Israel – in full jeopardy. And that Washington should reflect carefully on its threats.

The deterrence consists at the top-level of Syrian S300 air defences over which Russia and Syria have joint-key control. The aim here, seems to be to maintain strategic ambiguity over the exact rules of S300 engagement. Russia wants to stand ‘above’ any conflict that involves Israel or the US – as best it can – and thus be positioned to act as a potential mediator and peace-maker, should armed conflict occur. In a sense, the S300s represent deterrence of ‘last resort’ – the final option, were graduated escalation somehow to be surpassed, via some major military event.

At the next level down, deterrence (already well signalled in advance) is focussed on halting Israeli air attacks on either Iranian or Syrian infrastructure (in either state). Initially, air attacks would be countered by the effective (80%) Syrian, Panzir and BUK air defence systems. More ‘substantive’ attacks will be met with a proportionate response (most probably by Syrian missiles fired into the occupied Golan). Were this to prove insufficient, and were escalation to occur, missiles are likely to be fired into the depth of Israel. Were escalation to mount yet further, the risk would be then of Iranian and Hizbullah missiles entering into the frame of conflict. Here, we would be on the cusp of region-wide war.

Of course Hizbullah has its own separate rules of engagement with Israel, but it is a partner too, to the wider ‘resistance movement’ of which the Supreme Leader spoke after his meeting in Tehran with President Assad. As Israel knows, Hizballah possesses ‘smart’ cruise missiles that can cover the length and breadth of Israel. And, it has well experienced ground-forces that can be directed into the Galilee, as well.

But were we to leave matters there – as some responsive deterrence plan – this would be to miss the point entirely. What has been happening at these various meetings amongst military and political leaders in the north is the unfolding of a much wider, forward looking, strategy to frustrate US objectives in the Middle East.

What has emerged from the key visit of President Rouhani to Iraq is something much larger than the military alliance, alluded to above: These states are unfolding a regional ‘Belt-and-Road’ trading area, stretching from Lattakia’s port on the Mediterranean (likely contracted out to Iranian management) across to the border with Pakistan (and perhaps ultimately to India, too).

What is so significant arising from Rouhani’s recent visit to Iraq is that Iraq, whilst wanting to keep amicable relations with Washington, rejects to implement the US siege on Iran. It intends to trade – and to trade more – with Iran, Syria and Lebanon. One major strand to the agreement is to have a road and railway ‘belt’ linking all these states together, for trade.

But here is the bigger point: This regional ‘Belt and Road’ is to be unfolded right into the heart of the Chinese BRI project. Iran always has been envisaged as a – if not ‘the’ – key pivot to China’s BRI in the region. As China’s Minister of Commerce, Zhong Shan, underlined this week: “Iran is China’s strategic partner in the Middle-East and China is the biggest trade partner and importer of oil from Iran”. A senior Chinese expert on West Asia plainly has taken note: Rouhani’s visit has “long-term geopolitical implications” in terms of expansion of Iran’s regional influence.

And here is a second point: The unfolding of this ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, effectively marks the end of the Belt & Road members’ looking to Europe as a principal trading partner. EU equivocation with the US over the JCPOA by trying to tie conditions to their SPV, and by holding reconstruction aid for Syria hostage to their ‘transition’ demands, has back-fired. Together with the US, the EU has become tainted through its efforts to mollify Washington – in the hope of avoiding being tariffed by Trump.

How will the US respond? Well, Secretary Pompeo is about to arrive in the region to threaten Lebanon (as it has already threatened Iraq) with tough sanctions. Russia, Iran and Syria, of course, are already under harsh sanction.

Will it work? Mr Bolton presently is trying to weaken Iran – surrounding it with US special forces hubs, placed in proximity to Iran’s ethnic minority populations, in order to de-stabilise the central authority. And Pompeo is about to land in the Middle East threatening all around with sanctions, and still ‘talking the talk’ of reducing Iranian oil sales to zero, as US oil waivers expire on 1 May.

Of course, zero waivers were never likely, but now with the new trade ‘Belt and Road’ alliance unfolding, the stakes for US foreign policy are doubled: Syria will find investors in its reconstruction precisely because it – like Iran – is a pivotal ‘corridor’ state for trade (and ultimately for energy). And Iran will not be brought to capitulation through economic siege. What Pompeo risks, through his belligerency, or clumsiness, rather, is to lose both Iraq and Lebanon.

In the former, ‘losing Iraq’ could entail the Iraqi government demanding US troops leave Iraq. In the latter case, ‘loosing’ Lebanon, translates into something more sinister: To sanction Lebanon (in order to ‘hurt’ Hizbullah) actually means putting Lebanon’s entire economic stability into play (as Hizbullah is an integral part to Lebanon’s economy – and the Shi’a compose some 30-40% of the population. They cannot be somehow ‘filtered out’, as if some stand-alone sanctions target). Instability in Lebanon is never far away, but to induce it, is crazy.

Wherever Pompeo travels on his journeys through the region, he cannot fail but to notice that US policies – and the constancy of such policies – are not trusted (even this week, ‘old US ally’ Egypt has turned to Russia for the purchase of military aircraft).

It is against this background, that the earlier intelligence service quotes in the NY Times, and its Editorial (i.e. not an op-ed article): Shedding Any Last Illusions about Saudi Arabia, might be understood. US policy across the entire Middle East, and by extension, much of its leverage over Russia and China, stands on extremely weak foundations. The débacle of the US-sponsored Warsaw conference, which was supposed to consolidate support for America’s anti-Iranian ‘war’ – and the silence with which VP Mike Pence’s address at Munich was received – provide clear evidence for this.

Well, the pivot for countering this unfavourable US conjuncture rests on one man: MbS. America’s entire foreign policy, and that of its ally, Israel, has pivoted around this erratic, highly-flawed, psychologically-impaired figure. The NYT leak from CIA officials, with its unqualified endorsement through a NYT board editorial, suggest that the CIA and MI6 have concluded that US global interests cannot be left in such unreliable, unsafe hands.

What this ultimately might mean is unclear, but such a leak would suggest that it stems from a concerted CIA professional assessment (i.e. that it is not just a partisan party warfare). Trump may not concur, or like it much, but the CIA when it does form such a definitive view, is no force to be lightly trifled with.

March 25, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Report: Egypt plan to lift siege requires disarmament of Gaza

MEMO | March 22, 2019

An Israeli report said that Egypt has put forward a plan for a settlement between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Israel Hayom newspaper reported on Thursday that “according to security sources in Egypt and Palestinian officials in Gaza and Ramallah, Israel and Egypt have become convinced that Hamas’s control in Gaza is a self-evident fact.”

Israel Hayom quoted Egyptian security sources and Palestinian officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It explained that the Egyptian proposal stated that they would disarm the factions – except for light weapons – in exchange for lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip.

According to this plan, all internal affairs will remain in the hands of Palestinian organisations headed by Hamas or a unified political entity for all organisations in the Strip. The internal security of the Gaza Strip will be based on “Hamas National Security Forces, which are currently operating.” The arms that will be in possession of the Internal Security Forces will be light weapons, in small quantities and subject to a strict control system.

In turn, the Israeli and Egyptian siege on the Gaza Strip will be lifted, according to the newspaper. Also, projects in the areas of infrastructure, employment, economy, health and education, financed by the United Nations, the European Union and Arab countries, “led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE,” will be implemented. The plan calls for the opening of a maritime route to the Gaza port, which will allow in the first stage the export and import of goods directly to the Gaza Strip.

The newspaper asserted that “these parties have succumbed to the fact that the Palestinian Authority will have difficulty in regaining control in the Gaza Strip, whether after an internal Palestinian reconciliation, or because of the collapse of Hamas rule against the backdrop of the grave humanitarian situation, or because of the continued military confrontation with Israel.”

According to the newspaper, Egyptian sources stated that the Israeli policy towards the Strip is “soft,” and that this stems from Israel’s unwillingness to allow the “Hamas regime” to collapse and in anticipation that in the event of Hamas’s collapse, “extremist groups loyal to Iran or Salafist groups similar to Daesh will enter” to fill the vacuum.

The newspaper further said that estimates in Israel and Egypt indicate that “such a settlement can be implemented within three to five years, but the main obstacle is that Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions will oppose disarmament.”

Quoting sources it described as officials in Ramallah, the newspaper added that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO leadership would agree to “overthrow” Hamas and the factions in Gaza “only in case it led such a process when the control of Gaza is in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.”

The newspaper asserted that US security bodies obtained a draft of the plan which was formulated by Israeli and Egyptian crews. It quoted an Egyptian security official saying: “We are currently waiting for the new government to be elected in Israel to speed up the process; while the goal after the Israeli elections is the entry of other influential Arab countries, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE.”

The Egyptian security official added that “if Abu Mazen and the leadership in Ramallah do not put obstacles, the plan can be put into effect with the full cooperation of all the regional actors and through providing guarantees and assistance by the international community. But, it is estimated that there will be strong opposition to the disarmament plan of the Gaza Strip by the PLO and mainly by the armed factions in Gaza.”

March 22, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The US is pushing Lebanon into the arms of Iran and Russia: US sanctions affect the local economy

Lebanese disputed blocks with Israel
By Elijah J. Magnier – 18/03/2019

Lebanon is expecting the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week at a time when the Lebanese economic-political map is being redrawn and while Lebanon is suffering its most serious economic downturn in recent history.

Reasons for the deterioration of the local economy include not only the corruption of Lebanon’s political leadership and lower level administration but also US sanctions imposed on Iran. The latest sanctions are the harshest ever imposed. They will also dramatically affect Lebanon so long as President Donald Trump is in power if Lebanon does not follow US policy and dictates.

If, as anticipated, Washington declares economic war on Lebanon, the sanctions will leave Lebanon few alternatives. They may force Lebanon to fall back on Iranian civilian industry to overcome US economic pressure, and to rely on the Russian military industry to equip Lebanese security forces. This will be the result if Pompeo insists on threatening Lebanese officials, as his assistants have done on previous visits to the country. The consistent message from US officials has been: you’re either with us or against us.

Politically, Lebanon is divided between two currents, one pro-US (and Saudi Arabia) and another outside the US orbit. The economic situation may well increase internal division to the point that the local population reacts angrily in order to exclude the US and its allies from influence in Lebanon.

Such a scenario may still be avoided if Saudi Arabia injects enough investment to reboot the agonising local economy. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia fears that those who are not aligned with its policies and those of the US could benefit from its support. To date, Riyadh has not fully understood the internal Lebanese dynamic and what it is possible or impossible to achieve in Lebanon. The kidnapping of the Prime Minister Saad Hariri was the most flagrant indication of Saudi ignorance of Lebanese politics. The Saudis’ lack of strategic vision in Lebanon will likely prevent any serious support to the failing economy and may lead the country into serious instability.

Before 1982, one US dollar was equivalent to 3 Lebanese Lira. This was in part because the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was spending tens of millions of dollars in the country on its own people and on Palestinian families living in Lebanon. Moreover, United Nations organisations (UNRWA) and other NGOS were also distributing financial support to Palestinian refugees whose homes had been taken by Israel forcing them to leave their country.

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the PLO was forced to leave the country. Not much later, one US dollar reached an exchange rate of 3000 Lebanese Lira, later devalued to stabilise at the current rate of 1$ for 1500 L.L. Iran entered the scene to support local Lebanese fighters (the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, i.e. Hezbollah) to recover their territory from Israeli occupation. In the year 2000, Iran began to make a serious investment in Hezbollah as the group managed to force the Israelis out of most Lebanese territory. Iranian financial investment had reached a very high level by the 2006 war when Israel was prevented from disarming Hezbollah to keep its rockets and missiles out of range of Israel.

In 2013, the Syrian government asked Hezbollah to support the Syrian Army to prevent disintegration of the country and to keep Takfiri militants from taking over. Iran pumped billions of dollars to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda and to prevent them from overwhelming Syria and Iraq, aware that Iran would be the next target. The budget for Hezbollah troops went sky high. Support for movements of troops, logistics and daily allowances given to fighters, contributed to boosting the Lebanese economy. Hezbollah’s monthly budget went much beyond $100 million per month.

But after the arrival of Donald Trump in power and his rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, the US government has imposed the severest sanctions on Iran and halted donations to the United Nations organisations supporting Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). Sanctions on Iran have forced a new budget on Hezbollah, a five-year austerity plan. Forces have been reduced to a minimum number in Syria, movement of troops are slowed accordingly and all additional remunerations are suspended. Hezbollah reduced its budget to a quarter of what it had been without suspending any militants or contractors’ monthly salaries and medical care as stipulated by a personal order from Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General.

This new financial situation will affect the Lebanese economy as cash flow and foreign currency dry up. The consequences are expected to be more noticeable in the coming months, leading to a plausible domestic reaction from the local population that will feel the weight of the failing economy.

The US and Europe are imposing strict controls on any monies transferred to and from Lebanon. The country is on a financial blacklist and there is tight scrutiny on all transactions. Religious donations from abroad are no longer possible since they expose donors to serious accusations of support for terrorism by western countries.

As long as Trump is in power, Hezbollah and Iran believe the situation will remain critical; they estimate that the US President will most probably enjoy a second term. The next five years are expected to be hard on the Lebanese economy, particularly if Pompeo’s visit brings messages and dictates that Lebanon cannot obey.

Pompeo wants Lebanon to give up on its demand to redraw its disputed water borders with Israel, compromising on blocks 8, 9 and 10 to the benefit of Israel. This request will not be granted and Lebanese officials have said on several occasions that they are relying on Hezbollah’s precision missiles to stop Israel from stealing Lebanese water.

Pompeo also wants Lebanon to give up on Hezbollah and its role in government. Again, the US establishment seems ignorant that Hezbollah is almost a third of Lebanon’s population, enjoying the support of more than half of Lebanese Shia, Christian, Sunni and Druse, with official members in the executive and legislative authorities of the country.

What then is the alternative? If Saudi Arabia moves in, Lebanon doesn’t need one or two or five billion but tens of billions of dollars to resuscitate its economy. It also needs a hands-off policy from the US establishment to allow the country to govern itself.

The Saudis are already suffering from Trump’s bullying, and their funds are drying up. If Saudi decides to invest in Lebanon, it will seek to impose terms not much different from US demands. Saudi Arabia engages in wishful thinking when it aims to expel Iran’s influence and Hezbollah supporters from Lebanon, an impossible goal to fulfil.

Lebanon’s remaining choices are few. Lebanon can move closer to Iran to lower its expenditures and the cost of goods, and it can ask Russia to support the Lebanese army if the West fails to do so. China is preparing to move in and can be a positive alternative for the country, using Lebanon as a platform to reach Syria and later Iraq and Jordan. Otherwise, Lebanon will have to prepare to join the list of poorest countries.

A shadow is hanging over the land of the cedars, a country that has already had to fight for survival in the 21stcentury. Hezbollah, now subject to US and UK sanctions, is the same force that protected the country from ISIS and other takfiri fighters who threatened to expel Christians from the country, in accordance with French President Sarkozy’s advice to the Lebanese patriarch that Lebanese Christians abandon their homes. The takfiri jihadists and NATO shared the same intentions for Lebanon. The failure of the US establishment’s plan to divide Iraq and create a failed state in Syria as part of a “new Middle East” woke the Russian bear from its long hibernation. Today Russia competes with the US for hegemony in the Middle East, obliging Trump to pull out all the stops in an attempt to break the anti-US front.

It is a battle with no taboos where all blows are permitted. The US is pushing Lebanon into a bottleneck with no alternatives to closer partnership with Iran and Russia.

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment