Shifting Alliances: Is Turkey Now “Officially” an Ally of Russia? Acquires Russia’s S-400. Exit from NATO Imminent?

Global Research, July 13, 2019

Turkey is taking delivery of Russia’s S 400 missile defence system. What this signifies is that Turkey and Russia are now “officially” allies. The first shipment of the S-400 landed in Ankara on July 12, according to Turkey’s Ministry of Defense. (see image below)

Two more shipments are due, with the third delivery of “over 120 anti-aircraft missiles of various types… [scheduled] tentatively at the end of the summer, by sea.” 

Reports confirm that the “Turkish S-400 operators will travel to Russia for training in July and August. About 20 Turkish servicemen underwent training at a Russian training center in May and June, …”(CNN, July 12, 2019)

How will the US respond?

In all likelihood, Erdogan’s presidency will be the object of an attempted regime change, not to mention ongoing financial reprisals directed against the Turkish Lira as well as economic sanctions. 

Bloomberg screenshot

What is unfolding is an all out crisis in the structure of military alliances. Turkey cannot reasonably retain its NATO membership while at the same time entering into a military cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation. 

Reminiscent of World War I, shifting alliances and the structure of military coalitions are crucial determinants of history.

Today’s military alliances, including “cross-cutting coalitions” between “Great Powers” are markedly different and exceedingly more complex than those pertaining to World War I. (i.e  the confrontation between “The Triple Entente” and “the Triple Alliance”).

Turkey’s de facto exit from NATO points to a historical shift in the structure of military alliances which could potentially contribute to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East as well as creating conditions which could lead to a breakup of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO constitutes a formidable military force composed of 29 member states, which is largely controlled by the Pentagon. It is a military coalition and an instrument of modern warfare. It constitutes a threat to global security and World peace. 

Divisions within the Atlantic Alliance could take the form of one or more member states deciding to “Exit NATO”. Inevitably an NATO-Exit movement would weaken the unfolding consensus imposed by our governments which at the this juncture in our history consists in threatening to wage a pre-emptive war against Iran and the Russian Federation.  

Sleeping with the Enemy

While Turkey is still “officially” a member of NATO, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (right) has for the last two years been developing “friendly relations” with two of America’s staunchest enemies, namely Iran and Russia.

US-Turkey military cooperation (including US air force bases in Turkey) dates back to the Cold War.

Turkey by a long shot has the largest conventional forces (after the US) within NATO outpacing France, Britain and Germany,

#NATOExit

Broadly speaking, the US-Turkey rift and its implications for the Atlantic Alliance have sofar been ignored or trivialized by the media.

NATO is potentially in a shambles. The delivery of the S-400 almost a year ahead of schedule will contribute to further destabilising the structure of  military alliances to the detriment of Washington.

Turkey is also an ally of Iran. Inevitably, Turkey’s possession of the S-400 will affect ongoing US war plans directed against Iran (which will also be acquiring the s-400).

Does this mean that Turkey which is a NATO member state will withdraw from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system? Such a decision is tantamount to NATOExit.

Moreover, Turkey’s long-standing alliance with Israel is no longer functional. In turn, The US-Turkey-Israel “Triple Alliance” is defunct.

In 1993, Israel and Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding leading to the creation of (Israeli-Turkish) “joint committees” to handle so-called regional threats. Under the terms of the Memorandum, Turkey and Israel agreed “to cooperate in gathering intelligence on Syria, Iran, and Iraq and to meet regularly to share assessments pertaining to terrorism and these countries’ military capabilities.”

Image on the right: Sharon and Erdogan in 2004

The triple alliance was also coupled with a 2005 NATO-Israeli military cooperation agreement which included “many areas of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism and joint military exercises.”  These military cooperation ties with NATO were viewed by the Israeli military as a means to “enhance Israel’s deterrence capability regarding potential enemies threatening it, mainly Iran and Syria.”

The “triple alliance” linking the US, Israel and Turkey was coordinated by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was an integrated and coordinated military command structure pertaining to the broader Middle East. It was based on close bilateral US military ties respectively with Israel and Turkey, coupled with a strong bilateral military relationship between Tel Aviv and Ankara. In this regard, Israel and Turkey were close partners with the US in planned aerial attacks on Iran since 2005. (See Michel Chossudovsky, May 2005). Needless to say, that triple alliance is defunct.

With Turkey siding with Iran and Russia, it would be “suicide” for US-Israel to even consider waging aerial attacks on Iran.

Moreover, the NATO-Israel 2005 military cooperation agreement which relied heavily on the role of Turkey is dysfunctional. What this means is that US-Israeli threats directed against Iran are no longer supported by Turkey which has entered into an alliance of convenience with Iran.

The broader Realignment of Military alliances

The shift in military alliances is not limited to Turkey. Following the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in disarray with Qatar siding with Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Qatar is of utmost strategic significance because it shares with Iran the world’s largest maritime gas fields in the Persian Gulf. (see map below)

The Al-Udeid military base near Doha is America’s largest military base in the Middle East, which hosts US Central Command’s forward headquarters in the Middle East. In turn, Turkey has now established its own military facility in Qatar.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

A profound shift in geopolitical alliances is also occurring in South Asia with the instatement in 2017 of both India and Pakistan as full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).  Inevitably, this historic shift constitutes a blow against Washington, which has defense and trade agreements with both Pakistan and India. “While India remains firmly aligned with Washington, America’s political stranglehold on Pakistan (through military and intelligence agreements) has been weakened as a result of Pakistan’s trade and investment deals with China.”  (Michel Chossudovsky, August 1, 2017)

In other words, this enlargement of the SCO weakens America’s hegemonic ambitions in both South Asia and the broader Eurasian region. It has a bearing on energy pipeline routes, transport corridors, borders and mutual security and maritime rights.

Pakistan is the gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia, where US influence has been weakened to the benefit of China, Iran and Turkey. China is involved in major investments in mining, not to mention the development of transport routes which seek the integration of Afghanistan into Western China.

Where does Turkey fit in? Turkey is increasingly part of the Eurasian project dominated by China and Russia. In 2017-18, Erdogan had several meetings with both president Xi-Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Turkey is currently a dialogue partner of the SCO.

The Antiwar Movement: #NATOExit People’s Movement

Of crucial significance, the crisis within NATO constitutes a historic opportunity to develop a #NATOExit people’s movement across Europe and North America, a people’s movement pressuring governments to withdraw from the Atlantic Alliance, a movement to eventually dismantle and abolish the military and political apparatus of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Image right; logo of the No Guerra No Nato Florence Movement to Exit NATO

Part of this updated article was taken from an earlier text by the author.

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Shifting Alliances: Is Turkey Now “Officially” an Ally of Russia? Acquires Russia’s S-400. Exit from NATO Imminent?

Global Research, July 13, 2019

Turkey is taking delivery of Russia’s S 400 missile defence system. What this signifies is that Turkey and Russia are now “officially” allies. The first shipment of the S-400 landed in Ankara on July 12, according to Turkey’s Ministry of Defense. (see image below)

Two more shipments are due, with the third delivery of “over 120 anti-aircraft missiles of various types… [scheduled] tentatively at the end of the summer, by sea.” 

Reports confirm that the “Turkish S-400 operators will travel to Russia for training in July and August. About 20 Turkish servicemen underwent training at a Russian training center in May and June, …”(CNN, July 12, 2019)

How will the US respond?

In all likelihood, Erdogan’s presidency will be the object of an attempted regime change, not to mention ongoing financial reprisals directed against the Turkish Lira as well as economic sanctions. 

Bloomberg screenshot

What is unfolding is an all out crisis in the structure of military alliances. Turkey cannot reasonably retain its NATO membership while at the same time entering into a military cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation. 

Reminiscent of World War I, shifting alliances and the structure of military coalitions are crucial determinants of history.

Today’s military alliances, including “cross-cutting coalitions” between “Great Powers” are markedly different and exceedingly more complex than those pertaining to World War I. (i.e  the confrontation between “The Triple Entente” and “the Triple Alliance”).

Turkey’s de facto exit from NATO points to a historical shift in the structure of military alliances which could potentially contribute to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East as well as creating conditions which could lead to a breakup of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO constitutes a formidable military force composed of 29 member states, which is largely controlled by the Pentagon. It is a military coalition and an instrument of modern warfare. It constitutes a threat to global security and World peace. 

Divisions within the Atlantic Alliance could take the form of one or more member states deciding to “Exit NATO”. Inevitably an NATO-Exit movement would weaken the unfolding consensus imposed by our governments which at the this juncture in our history consists in threatening to wage a pre-emptive war against Iran and the Russian Federation.  

Sleeping with the Enemy

While Turkey is still “officially” a member of NATO, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (right) has for the last two years been developing “friendly relations” with two of America’s staunchest enemies, namely Iran and Russia.

US-Turkey military cooperation (including US air force bases in Turkey) dates back to the Cold War.

Turkey by a long shot has the largest conventional forces (after the US) within NATO outpacing France, Britain and Germany,

#NATOExit

Broadly speaking, the US-Turkey rift and its implications for the Atlantic Alliance have sofar been ignored or trivialized by the media.

NATO is potentially in a shambles. The delivery of the S-400 almost a year ahead of schedule will contribute to further destabilising the structure of  military alliances to the detriment of Washington.

Turkey is also an ally of Iran. Inevitably, Turkey’s possession of the S-400 will affect ongoing US war plans directed against Iran (which will also be acquiring the s-400).

Does this mean that Turkey which is a NATO member state will withdraw from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system? Such a decision is tantamount to NATOExit.

Moreover, Turkey’s long-standing alliance with Israel is no longer functional. In turn, The US-Turkey-Israel “Triple Alliance” is defunct.

In 1993, Israel and Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding leading to the creation of (Israeli-Turkish) “joint committees” to handle so-called regional threats. Under the terms of the Memorandum, Turkey and Israel agreed “to cooperate in gathering intelligence on Syria, Iran, and Iraq and to meet regularly to share assessments pertaining to terrorism and these countries’ military capabilities.”

Image on the right: Sharon and Erdogan in 2004

The triple alliance was also coupled with a 2005 NATO-Israeli military cooperation agreement which included “many areas of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism and joint military exercises.”  These military cooperation ties with NATO were viewed by the Israeli military as a means to “enhance Israel’s deterrence capability regarding potential enemies threatening it, mainly Iran and Syria.”

The “triple alliance” linking the US, Israel and Turkey was coordinated by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was an integrated and coordinated military command structure pertaining to the broader Middle East. It was based on close bilateral US military ties respectively with Israel and Turkey, coupled with a strong bilateral military relationship between Tel Aviv and Ankara. In this regard, Israel and Turkey were close partners with the US in planned aerial attacks on Iran since 2005. (See Michel Chossudovsky, May 2005). Needless to say, that triple alliance is defunct.

With Turkey siding with Iran and Russia, it would be “suicide” for US-Israel to even consider waging aerial attacks on Iran.

Moreover, the NATO-Israel 2005 military cooperation agreement which relied heavily on the role of Turkey is dysfunctional. What this means is that US-Israeli threats directed against Iran are no longer supported by Turkey which has entered into an alliance of convenience with Iran.

The broader Realignment of Military alliances

The shift in military alliances is not limited to Turkey. Following the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in disarray with Qatar siding with Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Qatar is of utmost strategic significance because it shares with Iran the world’s largest maritime gas fields in the Persian Gulf. (see map below)

The Al-Udeid military base near Doha is America’s largest military base in the Middle East, which hosts US Central Command’s forward headquarters in the Middle East. In turn, Turkey has now established its own military facility in Qatar.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

A profound shift in geopolitical alliances is also occurring in South Asia with the instatement in 2017 of both India and Pakistan as full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).  Inevitably, this historic shift constitutes a blow against Washington, which has defense and trade agreements with both Pakistan and India. “While India remains firmly aligned with Washington, America’s political stranglehold on Pakistan (through military and intelligence agreements) has been weakened as a result of Pakistan’s trade and investment deals with China.”  (Michel Chossudovsky, August 1, 2017)

In other words, this enlargement of the SCO weakens America’s hegemonic ambitions in both South Asia and the broader Eurasian region. It has a bearing on energy pipeline routes, transport corridors, borders and mutual security and maritime rights.

Pakistan is the gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia, where US influence has been weakened to the benefit of China, Iran and Turkey. China is involved in major investments in mining, not to mention the development of transport routes which seek the integration of Afghanistan into Western China.

Where does Turkey fit in? Turkey is increasingly part of the Eurasian project dominated by China and Russia. In 2017-18, Erdogan had several meetings with both president Xi-Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Turkey is currently a dialogue partner of the SCO.

The Antiwar Movement: #NATOExit People’s Movement

Of crucial significance, the crisis within NATO constitutes a historic opportunity to develop a #NATOExit people’s movement across Europe and North America, a people’s movement pressuring governments to withdraw from the Atlantic Alliance, a movement to eventually dismantle and abolish the military and political apparatus of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Image right; logo of the No Guerra No Nato Florence Movement to Exit NATO

Part of this updated article was taken from an earlier text by the author.

A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the US Command Structure

Global Research, July 08, 2019

In this article, we examine America’s war strategies, including its ability to launch an all out theater war against the Islamic Republic on Iran.

A follow-up article will focus on the History of US War Plans against Iran as well as the complexities underlying the Structure of Military Alliances. 

**

Under present conditions, an Iraq style all out Blitzkrieg involving the simultaneous deployment of ground, air and naval  forces is an impossibility. 

For several reasons. US hegemony in the Middle East has been weakened largely as a result of the evolving structure of military alliances.

The US does not have the ability to carry out such a project.

There are two main factors which determine America’s military agenda in relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

1. Iran’s Military

There is the issue of Iran’s military capabilities (ground forces, navy, air force, missile defense), namely its ability to effectively resist and respond to an all out conventional war involving the deployment of US and Allied forces. Within the realm of conventional warfare,  Iran has sizeable military capabilities. Iran is to acquire Russia’s S400 state of the art air defense system.

Iran is ranked as “a major military power” in the Middle East, with an estimated 534,000 active personnel in the army, navy, air force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It has advanced ballistic missile capabilities as well as national defense industry. In the case of a US air attack, Iran would target US military facilities in the Persian Gulf.

2. Evolving Structure of Military Alliances

The second consideration has to do with the evolving structure of military alliances (2003-2019) which is largely to the detriment of the United States.

Several of America’s staunchest allies are sleeping with the enemy.

Countries which have borders with Iran including Turkey and Pakistan have military cooperation agreements with Iran. While this in itself excludes the possibility of a ground war, it also affects the planning of US and allied naval and air operations.

Until recently both Turkey (NATO heavyweight) and Pakistan were among America’s faithful allies, hosting US military bases.

From a broader military standpoint, Turkey is actively cooperating with both Iran and Russia. Moreover, Ankara will be acquiring in 2020 Russia’s state of the art S-400 air defense systemwhile de facto opting out from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system.

Needless to say the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in crisis. Turkey’s exit from NATO is almost de facto. America can no longer rely on its staunchest allies. Moreover, US and Turkish supported militia are fighting one another in Syria.

Iraq has also indicated that it will not cooperate with the US in the case of a ground war against Iran.

Under present conditions, none of Iran’s neigbouring states including Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia would allow US-Allied ground forces to transit through their territory.

In recent developments, Azerbaijan which in the wake of the Cold War became a US ally as well as a member of NATO’s partnership for peace has changed sides. The earlier US-Azeri military cooperation agreements are virtually defunct including the post-Soviet GUAM military alliance (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova).

Bilateral military and intelligence agreements between Iran and Azerbaijan were signed in December 2018. In turn, Iran collaborates extensively with Turkmenistan. With regard to Afghanistan, the internal situation with the Taliban controlling a large part of Afghan territory, would not favor a large scale deployment of US and allied ground forces on the Iran-Afghan border.

The Gulf of Oman

With the 2017 split up of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Oman appears to be aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf are potentially in jeopardy. (For details see our analysis below)

Visibly, the policy of strategic encirclement against Iran formulated in the wake of the Iraq war (2003) is no longer functional. Iran has friendly relations with neighbouring countries, which previously were within the US sphere of influence.

Under these conditions, a major conventional theater war by the US involving the deployment of ground forces would be suicide.

This does not mean, however, that war will not take place. In some regards, with the advances in military technologies, an Iraq-style war is obsolete.

We are nonetheless at a dangerous crossroads. Other diabolical forms of military intervention directed against Iran are currently on the drawing board of the Pentagon. These include:

  • various forms of “limited warfare”, ie. targeted missile attacks,
  • US and Allied support of terrorist paramilitary groups
  • so-called “bloody nose operations” (including the use of tactical nuclear weapons),
  • acts of political destabilization and color revolutions
  • false flag attacks and military threats,
  • sabotage, confiscation of financial assets, extensive economic sanctions,
  • electromagnetic and climatic warfare, environmental modification techniques (ENMOD)
  • cyberwarfare
  • chemical and biological warfare.

US Central Command Forward Headquarters Located in Enemy Territory

Another consideration has to do with the crisis within the US Command structure.

USCENTCOM is the theater-level Combatant Command for all operations in the broader Middle East region extending from Afghanistan to North Africa. It is the most important Combat Command of the Unified Command structure. It has led and coordinated several major Middle East war theaters including Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003). It is also involved in Syria.

In the case of a war with Iran, operations in the Middle East would be coordinated by US Central Command with headquarters in Tampa, Florida in permanent liaison with its forward command headquarters in Qatar.

In late June 2019, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone President Trump “called off the swiftly planned military strikes on Iran” while intimating in his tweet that “any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”

US Central Command (CENTCOM), confirmed the deployment of the US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters to the al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, intended to “defend American forces and interests” in the region against Iran. (See Michael Welch, Persian Peril, Global Research, June 30, 2019). Sounds scary?

“The base is technically Qatari property playing host to the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command.” With 11,000 US military personnel, it is described as “one of the U.S. military’s most enduring and most strategically positioned operations on the planet”   (Washington Times). Al-Udeid also hosts the US Air Force’s 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, considered to be “America’s most vital overseas air command”.

What both the media and military analysts fail to acknowledge is that US CENTCOM’s forward Middle East headquarters at the al-Udeid military base close to Doha de facto “lies in enemy territory”

Since the May 2017 split of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Qatar has become a staunch ally of both Iran and Turkey (which is also an ally of Iran). While they have no “official” military cooperation agreement with Iran, they share in joint ownership with Iran the largest Worldwide maritime gas fields.

The split of the GCC has led to a shift in military alliances: In May 2017 Saudi Arabia blocked Qatar’s only land border. In turn Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE have blocked air transportation as well as commercial maritime shipments to Doha.

What is unfolding since May 2017 is a shift in Qatar’s trade routes with the establishment of bilateral agreements with Iran, Turkey as well as Pakistan. In this regard, Russia, Iran, and Qatar provide over half of the world’s known gas reserves.

The Al-Udeid base near Doha is America’s largest military base in the Middle East. In turn, Turkey has now established its own military facility in Qatar. Turkey is no longer an ally of the US. Their proxy forces in Syria are fighting US supported militia.  Turkey is now aligned with Russia and Iran. Ankara has now confirmed that it will be acquiring Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system which requires military cooperation with Moscow.

Qatar is swarming with Iranian businessmen, security personnel and experts in the oil and gas industry (with possible links to Iran intelligence?), not to mention the presence of Russian and Chinese personnel.

Question. How on earth can you launch a war on Iran from the territory of a close ally of Iran?

From a strategic point of view it does not make sense. And this is but the tip of the iceberg.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric underlying the official US-Qatar military relationship, The Atlantic Council, a think tank with close ties to both the Pentagon and NATO, confirms that Qatar is now a firm ally of both Iran and Turkey:

Put simply, for Qatar to maintain its independence, Doha will have essentially no choice but to maintain its strong partnership with Turkey, which has been an important ally from the perspective of military support and food security, as well as Iran. The odds are good that Iranian-Qatari ties will continue to strengthen even if Tehran and Doha agree to disagree on certain issues … On June 15 [2019], President Hassan Rouhani emphasizedthat improving relations with Qatar is a high priority for Iranian policymakers. … Rouhani told the Qatari emir that “stability and security of regional countries are intertwined” and Qatar’s head of state, in turn, stressed that Doha seeks a stronger partnership with the Islamic Republic. (Atlantic Council, June 2019, emphasis added)

What this latest statement by the Atlantic Council suggests is while Qatar hosts USCENTCOM’s forward headquarters, Iran and Qatar are (unofficially) collaborating in the area of “security” (i e. intelligence and military cooperation).

Sloppy military planning, sloppy US foreign policy? sloppy intelligence?

Trump’s statement confirms that they are planning to launch the war against Iran from their forward US Centcom headquarters at the Al Udeid military base, located in enemy territory. Is it rhetoric or sheer stupidity?

The Split of the GCC

The split of the GCC has resulted in the creation of a so-called Iran-Turkey-Qatar axis which has contributed to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East. While Turkey has entered into a military cooperation with Russia, Pakistan is allied with China. And Pakistan has become a major partner of Qatar.

Following the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in disarray with Qatar siding with Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar is of utmost strategic significance because it shares with Iran the world’s largest maritime gas fields in the Persian Gulf. (see map above). Moreover, since the GCC split-up Kuwait is no longer aligned Saudi Arabia. It nonetheless maintains a close relationship with Washington. Kuwait hosts seven active US military facilities, the most important of which is Camp Doha.

Needless to say, the May 2017 split of the GCC has undermined Trump’s resolve to create an “Arab NATO” (overseen by Saudi Arabia) directed against Iran. This project is virtually defunct, following Egypt’s withdrawal in April 2019.

The Gulf of Oman 

In the case of a war with Iran, naval operations would in part be conducted by the US Fifth Fleet out of Bahrain. The Fifth Fleet is under the command of US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). (NAVCENT’s area of responsibility consists of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea).

With the split up of the GCC, Oman is now firmly aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf would potentially be in jeopardy.

The strait of Hormuz which constitutes the entry point to the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman is controlled by Iran and the Sultanate of Oman. The width of the strait at one point is of the order of 39km. All major vessels must transit through Iran and/or Oman territorial waters, under so-called customary transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

More generally, the structure of alliances is in jeopardy. The US cannot reasonably wage a full-fledged conventional theatre war on Iran without the support of its longstanding allies which are now “sleeping with the enemy”.

Trump’s Fractured “Arab NATO”. History of the Split up of the GCC. 

Amidst the collapse of  America’s sphere of influence in the Middle East, Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) consisted at the outset of his presidency in an improvised attempt to rebuild the structure of military alliances. What the Trump administration had in mind was the formation of a Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), or  “Arab NATO”. This US-sponsored blueprint was slated to include Egypt and Jordan together with the six member states of the GCC.

The draft of the MESA Alliance had been prepared in Washington prior to Trump’s historic May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia, meeting up with King Salman, leaders of the GCC as well as “more than 50 high-ranking officials from the Arab and Islamic worlds in an unprecedented US-Islamic summit.”

The Riyadh Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the summit on May 21, 2017, announced the intention to establish MESA in Riyadh.” (Arab News, February 19, 2019). The stated mandate of the “Arab NATO”  was to “to combat Iranian hegemony” in the Middle East.

Two days later on May 23, 2017 following this historic meeting, Saudi Arabia ordered the blockade of Qatar, called for an embargo and suspension of diplomatic relations with Doha, on the grounds that The Emir of Qatar was allegedly collaborating with Tehran.

What was the hidden agenda? No doubt it had already been decided upon in Riyadh on April 21 with the tacit approval of US officials.

The  plan was to exclude Qatar from the proposed MESA Alliance and the GCC, while maintaining the GCC intact.

What happened was that the Saudi embargo imposed on Qatar (with the unofficial approval of Washington) was conducive to the fracture of the GCC with Oman and Kuwait siding with Qatar. In other words,  the GCC was split down the middle. Saudi Arabia was weakened and the “Arab NATO” blueprint was defunct from the very outset.


May 21, 2017: US-Islamic Summit in Riyadh

May 23, 2017: The blockade and embargo of Qatar

June 5, 2019: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt sever diplomatic relations, cut off land, air and sea transportation with Qatar  accusing it of  supporting Iran.


Flash forward to mid-April 2019: Trump is back in Riyadh: This time the Saudi Monarchy was entrusted by Washington to formally launching the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) (first formulated in 2017) despite the fact that three of the invited GCC member states, namely Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are committed to the normalization of relations with Iran. In turn, the Egyptian government of President Sisi decided to boycott the Riyadh summit and withdraw from the “Arab NATO” proposal. Cairo also clarified its position vis a vis Iran. Egypt firmly objected to Trump’s plan because it “would increase tensions with Iran”.

Trump’s objective was to create an “Arab Block”. What he got in return was a truncated MESA “Arab Block” made up of a fractured GCC with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Jordan, without Egypt. Kuwait and Oman officially took a neutral stance, whereas Qatar sided with the enemy, thereby further jeopardizing America’s sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf.

An utter geopolitical failure. What kind of alliance is that.

And US Central Command’s Forward headquarters is still located in Qatar despite the fact that two years earlier on May 23, 2017, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was accused of collaborating with Iran.

It is unclear who gave the order to impose the embargo on Qatar. Saudi Arabia would not have taken that decision without consulting Washington. Visibly, Washington’s intent was to create an Arab NATO Alliance (An Arab Block) directed against Iran to do the dirty work for us.

Trump and the Emir of Qatar, UN General Assembly, October 2017, White House photo

The rest is history, the Pentagon decided to maintain US Central Command’s forward headquarters in Qatar, which happens to be Iran’s closest ally and partner.

A foreign policy blunder? Establishing your “official” headquarters in enemy territory, while “unofficially” redeploying part of the war planes, military personnel and command functions to other locations (e.g. in Saudi Arabia).

No press reports, no questions in the US Congress. Nobody seemed to have noticed that Trump’s war on Iran, if it were to be carried out, would be conducted from the territory of Iran’s closest ally.

An impossibility?

***

Part II of this essay focuses on the history and contradictions of US war preparations directed against Iran starting in 1995 as well as the evolution of military alliances.

*

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Libya: The Hidden Turkish Intervention

Alessandro Lattanzio

As of 30 April, the LNA controlled 1259800 square kilometres of territory (equal to 77.58% of the surface of Libya, including 6.5% of the Tuariq Council area), the Tebus controlled 260989 square kilometres (16.07%) and the GNA 103081 square kilometres (6.35%).

On May 2, the LNA interrupted the supply lines between Sadiyah and Aziziya, while advancing on Aziziya from Hira and Qasarat.

On May 3, the barracks of the 166th Brigade of the Libyan National Army near Sabha was attacked, causing nine deaths. The attack on the Sabha training camp was the work of ISIL terrorists, who murdered eight soldiers, beheading one, as they already did in Buabat al-Faha, Baraq Shati and Darna. The action was a demonstration of the links between GNA and Islamist terrorism.

Numerous terrorists were treated in the Italian camp hospital of Misurata, according to the Media Centre of the al-Qarama Operative Centre of the LNA:

“We have received confirmed intelligence information on the Italian camp hospital in Misurata which treats numerous terrorists fighting alongside the Muslim Brotherhood and the militias”; listing the terrorists treated in the Italian hospital of Misurata:

Muhamad Abdalqani, known as Abu Zubayr, of ISIL
Asad Qudayr al-Shami known as Abu Qatada, of Bayt al-Maqdis
Abdalwahab Mahmud al-Asali, of Bayt al-Maqdis
Abu al-Layth, of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb
Hasan Abdalwadud, known as Abu Sayaf, of ISIL
Ayman Tahar al-Isqandarani, known as Abu Fatima, of ISIL in Algeria
Abdulah Hasan al-Iraqi, of ISIL in Algeria
Said al-Mashgul, known as Abu al-Bara, of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb
Ibrahim Ataf Qudayr, known as Abu al-Dahma, al-Murabitin Army terrorist organisation

The statement confirmed the arrest of terrorists from the Egyptian organisation Hisham Ashmawi arrested in Darna. “We know that the Italian forces have assigned this field hospital to fight terrorism and not to support it”, concluded the statement of the Operations Room al-Qarama.

On May 5, the LNA advanced in the Qahali quarter, freeing the al-Naq petrol station, and liberated Sabiah and Suq al-Sabat, arriving on the southern outskirts of Suani.

On May 7, the LNA shot down a GNA Mirage F-1, taken off from Misurata, on al-Hirah, south of Tripoli, capturing its pilot.

On May 10, the LNA advanced on Tuisha and clashed with the GNA west of Sabiah.

Meanwhile, a leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organization, arrived in Libya from Syria to join the Islamist militias of the GNA that were fighting against the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Tripoli. Nusret Imamovic was a Bosnian who studied Islamic Sharia in Sarajevo. He had been fighting for Jabhat al-Nusrah in Syria since 2012, and resided in Azaz, Governorate of Aleppo, before Syrian forces freed the area.

On May 11, the LNA recaptured the Zahra Bridge.

On 13 May, the Tobruq Parliament voted on the law defining the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. An LNA airstrike destroyed the headquarters of the al-Faruq brigade in al-Zuiya, west of Tripoli, eliminating a leader of the ISIL, Safwan al-Jabar.

On the 14th of May, the LNA shot down a UAV of Turkish manufacture, belonging to the GNA of Misurata, at the air base of al-Jufra.

On May 16, the Saqa units of the LNA entered Tripoli from the south. Qalifa Haftar met in Rome with council president Giuseppe Conte, who called for a ceasefire.

On May 17, Fathi al-Majbri, Vice President of the Presidency Council of the Government of the National Accord, accused Fayaz al-Saraj of using his powers for personal gain, of the failure of the political process and of the outbreak of war in Tripoli. Al-Majbri declared that al-Saraj was obsessed with power and willing to do anything to stay in power;

“What civil status are you talking about while violating the simple principles of government administration? Fayaz al-Sarraj manages the country with the de facto authority of outlaw militias. Al-Saraj has allied himself with extremist groups and today they are the backbone of the forces fighting against the Libyan army”.

Meanwhile the GNA admitted that it had lost Sabratha and Surman, stating “that the two municipalities were now taking orders from the parallel government in the eastern region”, in other words, the interim government of Bayda led by Abdullah al-Thani. GNA’s Ministry of Local Government said Surman supported what he described as “aggression against Tripoli”. U.S. public relations firm Mercury signed a $2 million a year contract with Fayaz al-Saraj to spread favourable propaganda through the Wall Street Journal, including an article on May 9 asking President Donald Trump to support al-Saraj rather than Field Marshal Qalifa Haftar.

On May 18, the Islamist factions of the government of Fayaz al-Saraj received Bulgarian MG-M1 machine guns and ammunition, delivered to the GNA from Turkey along with at least 40 BMC Kirpi II and Vuran armored ammunition, disembarked from the Amazon cargo ship, in Misurata, to repel the operations of the Libyan National Army in Tripoli. Kirpi armored vehicles are produced by the Turkish company BMC in Samsun. The BMC was sold in 2014 to the Committee for the Industry of the Armed Forces of Qatar by Turkish businessman Ethem Sançak, a member of the governing body of the Justice and Development Party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. BMC manufactures the new Turkish tank Altay, whose deliveries began in December 2018, and in March 2019 Qatar ordered 100 of them. In January 2019, Turkey and Qatar opened a military engine plant in Karasu, northwest Turkey.

On May 20, the LNA captured the transport base of Tripoli, advancing towards Qalat Qafar and Nasr.

On May 21, the head of the Tarhuna Salah al-Fanidi council declared at a meeting of commanders and tribal leaders in Sidi Sayah that the Tarhuna, Bani Walid, Warshafana and Nuahi al-Arbah tribes supported the Libyan National Army in operations in Tripoli.

On 22 May, the LNA freed the Walid district of Tripoli.

On May 24, the LNA freed Ramlah and advanced to Ayn Zara.

On May 25, the Libyan National Army (LNA) advanced south and east of Tripoli with the support of the Libyan Air Force.

On May 28, the LNA advanced in the Walid district while the GNA reoccupied the transport field. Egyptian Intelligence Director (GIS) Abas Qamal visited Libya and met Qalifa Haftar. Fayaz al-Saraj visited Malta.

On 29 May, 1 Dassault Falcon 900EX (I-OUNI) from the Italian secret service took off from Tripoli.

On 30 May, Qalifa Haftar visited Moscow.

On May 31, the head of the LNA’s al-Qarama information office, Qalid al-Mahjub, confirmed the arrival of 12 Turkish military instructors at Misurata.

On June 3, the LNA repelled the attack by the GNA forces on the international airport of Tripoli, after two days of combat and the elimination of 31 GNA fighters, the arrest of dozens more and the destruction of many of their military vehicles and artillery pieces. ISIL detonated two car bombs in Darna, killing and injuring 19 people. The LNA repelled the ISIL attack on checkpoint 400 in al-Fuqaha, al-Jufra region. Salah al-Raqi, GNA undersecretary in the Ministry of Housing and head of the Islamist militia Fursan Janzour, was eliminated in clashes with LNA forces in Tripoli.

On June 4, 18 GNA militiamen were eliminated in clashes at al-Tuysha, south-west of Tripoli Airport.

On June 7, the LNA destroyed military aircraft at the Mitiga airport occupied by the GNA, including at least one Turkish armed drone.

On June 8, the LNA freed the Tuayshah, Ramalah and Tariq bin Ziyad area by advancing on Suani, south of the airport, and Walid.

On June 10, GNA forces withdrew from the Ayn Zara – Fuzi Al-Mansuri line in Tripoli.

On June 13, a GNA L-39ZA aircraft was shot down at al-Dafniyah, 200 km south-east of Tripoli, as it flew to the Misurata air base.

On June 20, the LNA repelled the GNA attack on Tripoli International Airport.

On June 21, a GNA unit, Battalion al-Uburm, moved to the LNA.

On June 24, the GNA forces were repelled by the LNA at al-Tuaisha, south-west of Tripoli International Airport, attacking on two axes: the airport road from Dakla and the Qazirmah area.

On June 26, the LNA entered Qaryan and eliminated 11 GNA fighters, but after a surprise attack by the GNA forces, the LNA decided to withdraw from the city 100 km south of Tripoli. The LNA repelled a GNA raid on al-Quasim and Abu Shiba, northwest of Qaryan.

On June 26, the Libyan National Army handed over captured U.S. mercenary to U.S. officials. Jamie Sponaugle was a mercenary pilot captured after his plane was shot down during the fighting in Tripoli, he had received orders from the GNA to destroy Libyan infrastructure. The GNA, with Turkish, Italian and French support, launched a major attack south of Tripoli, occupying Hira, Buqaylan, Quasim and Wadi Shaybah.

On 27 June, LNA Major Muhamad Ahmad al-Targi fell in combat in al-Quasim, north of Qaryan. As the LNA withdrew from Qaryan after the attack launched by the GNA.

On June 28, a Lockheed Martin C-130J of the Italian Air Force departing from the base of Pisa San Giusto landed in Misurata, with supplies for the Italian military hospital in Misurata.

On June 28, LNA repelled the attack on al-Sabia, 40 km south of Tripoli, advancing on al-Aziya. After leaving Qaryan, the LNA command moved to Tarhuna. Meanwhile, Qalifa Haftar also arrived in Tarhuna, 60km southeast of Tripoli. Following the aggression of Qaryan, where 28 wounded in the hospital were killed by the Islamists of Fayaz Saraj.

On 29 June, the General Command of the Libyan National Army declared:

“While the forces of the Libyan National Army are fighting terrorism on Libyan territory, terrorists in our country have had Turkish logistical support for years. In recent days it has evolved into direct Turkish intervention using war planes, transporting mercenaries and sending ships loaded with weapons, ammunition and armoured vehicles to support terrorism in Libya. Therefore, the General Command of the Libyan National Army ordered the Air Force to target Turkish ships and boats within Libyan territorial waters.

The Interim Government must expel all Turkish companies operating in Libya and end their operations on all projects on Libyan territory, boycotting Turkish industries and products and stopping civilian flights to and from Turkey at Libyan airports in response to this Turkish terrorist attack. Turkish drones had bombed several locations at the airport south of Tripoli, in support of the Islamist militias of Fayaz al-Saraj in Tripoli”.

The week before, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted that his government had provided arms, ammunition and military support to the al-Saraj gangs.

Qalid al-Mahjub, spokesman for the Tripoli Operations Room of the Libyan National Army (LNA), stated that there was a Turkish Operations Room leading the Islamist groups of the Fayaz al-Saraj government in battle, composed of numerous Turkish army officers, who trained the al-Saraj Islamist militias during battles against the Libyan National Army in the southern districts of Tripoli. Al-Mahjub declared that the Turkish Operations Room was located in the Mitiga airport in the centre of Tripoli, and that they also used Turkish drones taking off from the Air College of Misurata, under mercenary command.

On June 30, an LNA air attack on the Mitiga international airport destroyed 1 Turkish UAV while taking off. The Libyan National Army arrested several Turkish citizens, engaged in sabotage and subversion operations and in coordinating Ankara’s military support to the Islamist government of Tripoli. The detainees were General-Major Güksel Kahya, Deputy Minister of Defence of Turkey, General-Major Irfan Ozsert, Head of Military Intelligence and Secretary General of the Turkish General Staff, General-Major Levent Ergond, responsible for the operations of the Turkish armed forces abroad, Rear Admiral Gersoy Zaipanar, Brigadier General Ilkay Altyndach and Brigadier General Selcuk Yavuz, responsible for the actions of the special forces on the Syrian border.

Levent Ergon was sentenced for illegal activities to 13 years in prison, but was released by the Erdogan government, which then appointed him in charge of the operations of the Turkish armed forces.

Ilkay Altyndach was imprisoned for disseminating secret documents, but was released by Erdogan and in 2018 promoted to brigadier general.

Rear Admiral Gersoy Zaipanar was sentenced and sentenced to 16 years in prison for conspiracy, but was released by Erdogan.

Brigadier General Selcuk Yavuz led an offensive in Syria with the special units he directed.

According to the Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, “such people would be Erdogan’s neo-nationalist dream team for dirty operations abroad. They are all indebted to Erdogan and therefore happy to carry out any sordid action, such as supporting Islamist groups to use them as agents of influence… it is clear that they were engaged in military and intelligence operations in Libya”.

The Ministry of Defence of Benghazi declared that Turkey was the sanctuary of terrorists sought by the Libyan National Army.

On July 1, the GNA militia leader Ahrar Libya, Isam Qatus, was eliminated in the clashes in Laft. He was appointed NTC ambassador to Niger in 2014.

GNA L-39 planes launched by Misurata bombed Tarhuna, 65 km south-east of Tripoli.

Fayaz al-Saraj flew to Italy to meet the Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini in Milan. Saraj asked for a “reserved” meeting to obtain more military aid from the Italian government in favour of GNA.

GNA sources stated that “the government of Tripoli greatly appreciates the role and position of Italy, but at this point calls for a greater effort to consolidate the political role of a Libyan government recognized by the United Nations. We have asked for weapons, we have asked for intelligence, medical support, and at least stronger, more evident, more open political support”.

On July 2, the LNA Air Force bombarded 30 GNA targets at al-Azizya, Swani and Tajura. At least 90 GNA fighters were eliminated.

Haftar Is Trying To Trick Turkey Into Overextending Itself In Libya

Global Research, June 30, 2019

Libyan National Army leader General Haftar ordered his forces to attack Turkish ships and companies that he accused of helping the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, as well as to arrest Turkish citizens in the country, which is nothing short of an effort to trick Turkey into overextending itself by provoking it into “mission creep” so that it ends up trapped in the Libyan quagmire.

***

The Libyan Civil War might be entering a new phase if the forces led by Libyan National Army (LNA) leader General  Haftar do good on their leader’s threats to attack Turkish ships and companies that he accused of helping the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), a well as to arrest Turkish citizens in the country. The popular warlord has already succeeded in capturing most of the country with the notable exception being the capital of Tripoli, which has only held out as long as it has supposedly because of Turkish support.

The Libyan Civil War was directly caused by NATO’s 2011 War on Libya and the subsequent scramble for influence in the energy-rich and geostrategically positioned North African state, with Turkey playing a leading role in the latter because the de-facto Muslim Brotherhood-led country envisions restoring its Ottoman-era empire through the establishment of ideologically allied governments in this vast trans-continental space. The GNA is comprised of Muslim Brotherhood fighters and their offshoots who came to power after 2011, which is why Erdogan supports them so strongly and has a stake in their continued leadership of the country, something that Haftar is adamantly opposed to because he sees his countrymen’s collaboration with Turkey as treasonous.

The LNA leader is now threatening to impose serious physical costs to Turkey’s unofficial intervention in the Libyan Civil War, hoping that this will either compel it to retreat or counterproductively dig in through “mission creep” and risk overextending itself in what has become a regional proxy war between secular and Islamist forces backed by the UAE/Egypt/France and Turkey/Qatar/Libya respectively. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s ego, his ambition for regional influence, and the domestic political pressure that he’s under after the latest mayoral election rerun in Istanbul are responsible for Turkey’s vow to retaliate against the Libyan warlord.

Should Turkey suffer highly publicized losses at the hands of Haftar’s forces, then it might embolden the country’s Cypriot, Greek, Kurdish separatist, and Syrian enemies in its immediate neighborhood if they interpret those developments as a sign of weakness proving that the Turkish military is just a “paper tiger” incapable of properly defending its interests and/or defeating its first conventional military adversary in decades. Erdogan is therefore in a classic dilemma since he’s damned if he retreats but equally damned if he doesn’t and ends up being humiliated by Haftar. It’ll remain to be seen what ultimately happens, but Turkey is in a very tricky position nowadays and needs to be careful that it doesn’t get trapped in the Libyan quagmire.

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This article was originally published on Eurasia Future.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

The Economic Entrails at the Heart of the ‘Deal of the Century’

Image result for The Economic Entrails at the Heart of the ‘Deal of the Century’
Alastair Crooke
June 25, 2019

It is nothing new to say that the ‘Deal of the Century’ is – and always was – in essence an economic project. Indeed, it seems that its political ramifications are viewed by the White House as little more than the ineluctable consequences to an a priorieconomic architecture, already in the process of being unfolded.

In other words, it is the economic facts on the ground that are intended shape the political outcome — an attenuated political landscape that anyway has been minimised by Trump’s pre-emptive removal of key pieces of any Palestinian negotiating leverage.

The financial squeeze on the Palestinians is well attested. On the one hand, the Palestinian Authority (historically dependent on Saudi subvention) is gently slipping into bankruptcy; whilst Gaza is held in virtual abject dependency through the drip-feed of subventions channelled into Gaza by Qatar, with Israeli permission — the size of this latter monthly ‘lifeline’ subvention being carefully adjusted by Israel according to what it judges to be the norms of (generally Hamas) ‘good conduct’.

So, on the one hand there is the financial siege that is intended to make the Palestinians pliant to the ‘quality of life package’ which the ‘deal’ is supposed to bring — the Bahrain summit later this month being its shopfront. But there is another less well recognised side to the Deal which is summarised in the title to a McClatchy article entitled, White House sees Egyptian energy forum as a ‘roadmap to Middle East peace’.

In a later piece, McClatchy publishes the newly declassified map of the US East Mediterranean energy ‘roadmap’. And here the fuller picture becomes clear: the US sponsored ‘gas forum’, “according to three senior administration officials, that map [the] declassified one, obtained by McClatchy – has motivated members of the [US] National Security Council to prioritize the formation of a gas forum in the Eastern Mediterranean that would simultaneously boost and entangle the economies of several countries that have been at odds for decades”.

Well, let’s translate that little euphemism: ‘boost and entangle’. What that formula translates into is — the means to integrate Israel into the economic regional sphere is firstly, through energy. Yet, it is not intended to integrate Israel alone into this Egyptian economic sphere, but also to make Jordan, the PA (and maybe even Lebanon), too, partially dependent on Israeli energy – alongside putative partners, Italy, Greece, and (the Greek-linked part) of Cyprus — with the US offering to help flesh out the structure of the ‘gas forum’ with U.S. expertise.

This is the heart of ‘the deal’. Not just political normalisation for Israel into the region, but the making of economic dependencyof the Egyptians, Palestinians, Jordanians (and possibly – but not so likely – Lebanon) on the US East-Med gas ‘hub’.

Source: McClatchy

And, inevitably there is a sub-plot to all this, (as McClatchy notes):

“On this front, the administration enjoys support from unlikely allies. Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee … said the Mediterranean gas forum project was a strategic opportunity for the U.S. to stymie Russian influence efforts over local energy resources. “I think that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Russia can’t and should not be able to control the situation,” Engel stated”.

So, the US Administration is pursuing two bipartisan congressional efforts to ‘stymie’ Russia in the region: One is a bill promoting energy partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean; and a parallel bill which threatens to sanction European firms supporting the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline taking Russian gas into Germany.

There are however, two obvious big ‘catches’ to this notion of both ‘stymying’ Russia, whilst simultaneously normalising Israel economically into the region. The first, as Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute notes, [is the notion that] the area’s underlying geology could help Europe offset, or even replace, its dependence on Russian gas “seems farfetched at the present level of discoveries. Several more giant fields like Leviathan or Egypt’s Zohr would have to be found before this reality changes”:

“The idea that East Mediterranean energy could impact on the European energy balance in such a way as to dent Russian market share is a fantasy – Europe’s thirst for gas is so huge, and Russia’s ability to provide that gas is so great, that it’s a wild dream to even hope we can achieve it given the limited reserves discovered thus far,” Henderson said. “Hoping you can find gas is not the same as finding gas”.

In short, an Egyptian ‘hub’ serving exports, might only ‘work’, as matters stand, through patching some of the smaller East-Med discoveries – together with a large Israeli contribution – through pipelines into the two Egyptian gas liquefying plants near Port Said and Alexandria. But LNG availability globally is high, prices are hugely competitive, and it is by no means certain that ‘the hub’ can be commercially viable.

And here is the main catch: Geo-politics. Anything aimed at integrating Israel into the region is bound to be sensitive. So, whilst US officials are optimistic about Egypt’s leadership of their ‘gas forum’ in the wake of President Sisi’s April meeting with Trump – Egypt – a mainstay to the separate US Iran confrontation plan – shortly afterward the visit, rather notably withdrew from the strategic military alliance the Trump administration was trying to build to confront Iran: The Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), to the consternation of US officials.

When it comes to energy deals, however, even having a treaty with Israel does not put an end to public sensitivities about rapprochement with Israel, Henderson notes. Notwithstanding any ‘peace treaty’, many Jordanians still oppose the prospect of using (Israeli) Leviathan gas to provide for large-scale electricity generation, beginning early next year. Amman has tried to deflect such anger by calling the supplies “northern gas” or “American gas”, emphasizing Noble’s role in producing it.

But here is the other side to the issue: Clearly, Egypt does not want to be a part of any anti-Iranian US-led alliance (MESA). But equally, why should Egypt – or Jordan, or for that matter, or any other member of the ‘gas forum’ – wish to be tightly aligned with an US anti-Russian strategy for the region? Egypt may have signed up to the US ‘gas hub’ project. But at the very same time, Egypt also was signing a $2 billion contract to buy more than twenty Russian Sukhoi SU-35 fighter aircraft. Do ‘hub’ members really judge an Egyptian ‘hub’ to be a rival to Russian gas in Europe?

Probably not: For ultimately, the idea that a putative energy hub can ‘stymie Russia’ indeed is fantasy. Europe’s thirst for gas indeed is so huge, and Russia’s ability to provide that gas so great, that it is a wild dream to even think it. The EU shows, for example, no particular interest in the US supported $7 billion mooted pipeline linking the eastern Mediterranean through Cyprus, to Greece. The undersea terrain is too problematic, and the cost too high.

Israel too, hopes to find more gas (of course). But the deadline for bids on nineteen of its offshore blocks has been pushed back to mid-August – seemingly reflecting a lack of investor interest. For now, the oil majors seem more tempted by the Cypriot blocks – up for bid.

But politics again: being a part of America’s ‘gas forum’ in which the Nicosia (i.e. the Greek-linked) government is a key member, explicitly places the forum and its members on a potential collision course with Turkey, who will not readily yield on its ambitious claims on the East Med basin (it has just announced that it will establish naval and air bases in Northern Cyprus). Nor will Lebanon, either. Sisi and Erdogan share a mutual, personal dislike, but will the others wish to be drawn into that quarrel?

Russia anyway, seems not greatly interested in the production possibilities of the Mediterranean Middle East. Rather it is focused on a pipeline corridor stretching from Iran and Iraq to Europe via Turkey or (eventually) Syria.

In sum then, the Kushner – Trump ‘Deal’, in respect to the integration of Israel into the regional energy economy seems destined to draw the same skepticism and distrust, as does the ‘Deal’s’ other parts.

Lebanon Rejects US-Led Summit in Bahrain, Backs Palestinian Boycott

By Staff, Agencies

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil says his country is boycotting the forthcoming US-led conference in Bahrain in support of President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for “peace” between the “Israeli” regime and Palestinians, dubbed the “Deal of the Century,” because Palestinians are not taking part in the event.

“We will not participate in the Bahrain conference [scheduled for June 25-26] because the Palestinians are not participating and we prefer to have a clear idea about the proposed plan for peace. We were not consulted regarding [the plan],” Bassil said on Tuesday.

The statement came after an unnamed senior White House official said Jordan, Egypt and Morocco had informed the administration they would send representatives to Manama.

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia announced in May that they would participate in the conference.

The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] and the Hamas resistance movement have called for an Arab boycott of the Bahrain conference.

Hamas, in a statement issued on May 20, also called on Arab countries to provide the Palestinian people with every support to confront and frustrate the US “deal of the century.”

“We are following with great concern the American announcement about holding an economic workshop next June in the Bahraini capital of Manama,” Hamas said, describing it as the first American conference in support of the so-called “Deal of the Century”.

The movement also denounced any Arab participation in adopting and executing the deal, saying any attendance in the American-led Bahrain conference would be considered a deviation from Arab and Islamic values.

Trump’s “peace plan” has already been dismissed by Palestinian authorities ahead of its unveiling at the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and the formation of the new “Israeli” cabinet, most likely in June.

Speaking in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on April 16, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh lashed out at the initiative, asserting it was “born dead.”

Shtayyeh noted that negotiations with the US were useless in the wake of the country’s relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds [Jerusalem], which Palestinians consider the capital city of their future state.

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