Decoding the Pentagon’s online war against Iran

By Kit Klarenburg

Source

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Unknown.jpeg
Photo Credit: The Cradle
From a click of a button in the US to violence on the streets of Tehran, the latest protests in Iran are being engineered and provoked from outside.

The civil unrest in Iran in response to the recent death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was waiting at a Tehran police station, although rooted in legitimate grievances, also bears the hallmark of a western-sponsored covert war, covering multiple fronts.

Mere days after the protests erupted on 16 September, the Washington Post revealed that the Pentagon had initiated a wide-ranging audit of all its online psyops efforts, after a number of bot and troll accounts operated by its Central Command (CENTCOM) division – which covers all US military actions in West Asia, North Africa and South and Central Asia – were exposed, and subsequently banned by major social networks and online spaces.

The accounts were busted in a joint investigation carried out by social media research firm Graphika, and the Stanford Internet Observatory, which evaluated “five years of pro-Western covert influence operations.”

Published in late August, it attracted minimal English-language press coverage at the time, but evidently was noticed, raising concerns at the highest levels of the US government, prompting the audit.

While the Washington Post ludicrously suggested the government’s umbrage stemmed from CENTCOM’s egregious, manipulative activities which could compromise US “values” and its “moral high ground,” it is abundantly clear that the real problem was CENTCOM being exposed.

#OpIran

CENTCOM’s geographical purview includes Iran, and given the Islamic Republic’s longstanding status as a key US enemy state, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a significant proportion of the unit’s online disinformation and psychological warfare efforts were directed there.

A key strategy employed by US military psyops specialists is the creation of multiple sham media outlets publishing content in Farsi. Numerous online channels were maintained for these platforms, spanning Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and even Telegram.

In some cases too, fake journalists and pundits, with numerous “followers” on those platforms emerged, along with profile photos created via artificial intelligence.

For example, Fahim News claimed to provide “accurate news and information” on events in Iran, prominently publishing posts declaring “the regime uses all of its efforts to censor and filter the internet,” and encouraging readers to stick to online sources as a result.

Meanwhile, Dariche News claimed to be an “independent website unaffiliated with any group or organization,” committed to providing “uncensored and unbiased news” to Iranians within and without the country, in particular information on “the destructive role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in all the affairs and issues of Iran and the region.”

Their respective YouTube channels pumped out numerous short-form videos, presumably in the hope they would be mistaken for organic content, and go viral on other social networks. The researchers identified one instance in which media outlets elsewhere had embedded Dariche News content into articles.

An army of bots and trolls

Some of the fake news organizations published original material, but much of their output was recycled content from US government-funded propaganda outfits such as Radio Farda and Voice of America Farsi.

They also repurposed and shared articles from the British-based Iran International, which appears to receive arm’s length funding from Saudi Arabia, as did several fake personas attached to these outlets.

These personas frequently posted non-political content, including Iranian poetry and photos of Persian food, in order to increase their authenticity. They also engaged with real Iranians on Twitter, often joking with them about internet memes.

Pentagon bots and trolls used different narrative techniques and approaches in an attempt to influence perceptions and engender engagement. A handful promoted “hardliner” views, criticizing the Iranian government for insufficiently hawkish foreign policy while being excessively reformist and liberal domestically.

One such bogus user, a purported “political science expert,” accrued thousands of followers on Twitter and Telegram by posting content praising Shia Islam’s growing power in West Asia, while other “hardliner” accounts praised the late General Qassem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), slain in an illegal US drone strike in January 2020, as a martyr, and encouraged the wearing of hijabs.

The researchers state the purpose of these efforts was unclear, although an obvious explanation is the Pentagon sought to foster anti-government discontent among conservative Iranians, while creating lists of local “extremists” to monitor online.

Orchestrated opposition

Overwhelmingly though, Pentagon-linked accounts were viciously critical of the Iranian government, and the IRGC. Numerous Pentagon bots and trolls sought to blame food and medicine shortages on the latter, which was likened to ISIS, and posting videos of Iranians protesting and looting supermarkets captioned in Pashto, English, and Urdu.

More sober posts criticized Tehran for redistributing much-needed food to give to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, while others highlighted embarrassing incidents, such as a reported power outage that caused the country’s chess team to lose an international online tournament.

Furthermore, multiple fake users claimed to seek “justice for the victims of #Flight752”, referring to the Ukraine International Airlines flight accidentally shot down by the IRGC in January 2020.

Using hashtags such as #PS752 and #PS752justice hundreds of times, they blamed Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei personally for the incident.

Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February, these accounts used Persian versions of widely-trending hashtags #No_To_Putin and #No_To_War – themselves overwhelmingly disseminated on Twitter by pro-Ukraine bot and troll accounts, according to separate research.

The users condemned Khamenei’s verbal support of Putin and accused Iran of supplying drones to Moscow, which it was claimed were used to kill civilians.

They also pushed the narrative that Iran’s collusion with Russia would result in adverse political and economic repercussions for Tehran, while making unflattering comparisons between Khamenei and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“One has sold Iran to Russia and ordered their peoples’ murder,” one account tweeted. “The other is wearing a combat uniform alongside his people and has stopped the colonization of Ukraine by Russia with all his might.”

Scattershot fury

There were also cloak-and-dagger initiatives intended to damage Iran’s standing in neighboring countries, and undermine its regional influence. Much of this work seems to have been concerned with spreading panic and alarm, and creating a hostile environment for Iranians abroad.

For instance, accounts targeting audiences in Afghanistan claimed that Quds Force personnel were infiltrating Kabul posing as journalists in order to crush opposition to the Taliban. They also published articles from a US military-linked website that claimed on the basis of zero evidence that the bodies of dead refugees who’d fled to Iran were being returned to their families back home with missing organs.

Yet another damaging false narrative perpetuated by this cluster in late 2021 and early 2022 was that the IRGC was forcing Afghan refugees to join militias fighting in Syria and Yemen, and that those who refused were being deported.

Iraq was a country of particular interest to the Pentagon’s cyber warriors, with memes widely shared throughout Baghdad and beyond depicting IRGC influence in the country as a destructive disease, and content claiming Iraqi militias, and elements of the government, were effective tools of Tehran, fighting to further Iran’s imperial designs over the wider West Asia.

Militias were also accused of killing Iraqis in rocket strikes, engineering droughts by damaging water supply infrastructure, smuggling weapons and fuel out of Iraq and into Syria, and fuelling the country’s crystal meth epidemic.

Another cluster of Pentagon accounts focused on Iran’s involvement in Yemen, publishing content on major social networks critical of the Ansarallah-led de-facto government in Sanaa, accusing it of deliberately blocking humanitarian aid deliveries, acting as an unquestioning proxy of Tehran and Hezbollah, and closing bookstores, radio stations, and other cultural institutions.

Several of their posts blamed Iran for the deaths of civilians via landmine, on the basis Tehran may have supplied them.

Laying the ground

Other CENTCOM psychological warfare (psywar) narratives have direct relevance to the protests that have engulfed Iran.

There was a particular focus among one group of bots and trolls on women’s rights. Dozens of posts compared Iranian women’s opportunities abroad with those in Iran – one meme on this theme contrasted photos of an astronaut with a victim of violent spousal abuse – while others promoted protests against the hijab.

Alleged government corruption and rising living costs were also recurrently emphasized, particularly in respect of food and medicine – production of which in Iran is controlled by the IRGC, a fact CENTCOM’s online operatives repeatedly drew attention to.

Women’s rights, corruption, and the cost of living – the latter of which directly results from suffocating US sanctions – are all key stated motivating factors for the protesters.

Despite the rioters’ widespread acts of violence and vandalism, targeted at civilians and authorities alike, such as the destruction of an ambulance ferrying police officers away from the scene of a riot, they also claim to be motivated by human rights concerns.

Establishment and fringe journalists and pundits have dismissed as conspiracy theories, any suggestions that protests in Iran and beyond are anything other than organic and grassroots in nature.

Yet, clear proof of foreign direction and sponsorship abounds, not least in the very public face of the anti-hijab movement, Masih Alinejad, who for many years has encouraged Iranian women to ceremonially burn their headscarves from the confines of an FBI safehouse in New York City, then publicizes the images online, which travel round the world and back via social media and mainstream news outlets.

A regime-change war by other means

Alinejad’s activities have generated a vast amount of fawning and credulous media coverage, without a single journalist or outlet questioning whether her prominent role in the supposedly grassroots, locally-initiated protest movement is affiliated with foreign hostile interference.

This is despite Alinejad posing for photos with former CIA director Mike Pompeo, and receiving a staggering $628,000 in US federal government contracts since 2015.

Much of these funds flowed from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the US government agency that oversees propaganda platforms such as Radio Free Europe, and Voice of America, the latter of which has produced a Farsi-language show fronted by Alinejad for seven years.

These clusters of social media posts may appear innocuous and authentic in an age of click-bait and viral fake news, yet when aggregated and analysed, they form a potent and potentially dangerous weapon which it turns out is one of many in the Pentagon’s regime-change arsenal.

‘Regime change’ in Hamas and a return to Syria

The removal of Khaled Meshaal from power was necessary for normalization with Damascus to occur

September 26 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By The Cradle’s Palestine Correspondent

In mid-September, Palestinian resistance movement Hamas issued a statement indicating that it had restored relations with Syria after ten years of estrangement, effectively ending its self-imposed exile from Damascus.

After the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, at the height of the so-called Arab Spring, Hamas – in line with its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) – turned its back on its once-staunch Syrian ally and threw its support behind the mostly-Islamist “revolution.”

As governments collapsed in key Arab states, the Ikhwan felt the time was ripe for their organization to ascend to a leadership role from Gaza to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria.

Yet the decision by Hamas’ leadership to leave Damascus was met with strong opposition from influential circles within the movement, especially in its military arm, the Al-Qassam Brigades.

Despite Hamas’ official position toward Syria, internal opposition to the break in relations remained for years, most notably from Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar, and a number of Al-Qassam Brigades leaders such as Muhammad al-Deif, Marwan Issa, Ahmad al-Jabari and Yahya al-Sinwar.

Today, that balance has shifted notably. Sinwar is currently Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, and his alliance is in strong ascendence within the movement.

From Amman to Damascus to Doha

But back in 2011, the person with the final say over the decision to abandon its Syrian ally was the then-head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal.

Meshaal was the director of the Hamas office in Amman in 1999 when the Jordanian government decided to expel him. He travelled between the airports of a number of Arab capitals, which refused to receive him, under the pretext that there were agreements with a superpower requiring his extradition.

Only Damascus agreed to receive him. Despite the tension that historically prevailed in the Syrian state’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, Meshaal was given freedom to work and built a personal relationship with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. In the years that followed, Hamas was granted facilities and resources that it did not enjoy in any other Arab capital.

Syria opened its doors to train hundreds of resistance fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades and to manufacture quality weapons, such as missiles and reconnaissance drones.

One Syrian source told The Cradle that the privileges enjoyed by Hamas leaders and members in Syria were not available even to Syrian citizens. In addition to the high cost of Meshaal’s residence and security in Damascus, the state provided him and his associates with dozens of luxury homes in the capital’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Syria was also at the forefront of countries that facilitated the arrival of high-quality weapons into the besieged Gaza Strip. A source in the resistance tells The Cradle that the first Kornet missile to reach Gaza between 2009 and 2011 came from Syria with the approval of President Assad, and was received by then-Chief of Staff of Al-Qassam Brigades Ahmed al-Jabari.

Also crucial to the Palestinian resistance was the arrival of Iranian and Russian missiles that entered Gaza via Syrian arms depots.

Meshaal chooses Doha

It is important to recognize that while the decision to leave Damascus was not by any means unanimously agreed upon within Hamas, as political bureau chief, it was ultimately Meshaal’s call.

A Hamas source informed The Cradle that in September 2011, six months after the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, Meshaal received an invitation from the Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, to visit Doha. Recall that Qatar was one of the first states to fund and arm the Islamist opposition in the brutal Syrian war.

According to al-Thani’s estimates, the “Syrian revolution” was likely to end in the overthrow of the Assad government. He is reported to have advised Meshaal to abandon the sinking ship, so to speak, because if the rebellion is successful, “those who stayed with him [Assad] will drown, as happened with the late President Yasser Arafat, when Saddam Hussein was defeated in Gulf War,” the source described.

In an attempt to win over Hamas from Iran’s patronage, al-Thani offered to financially support the movement and to provide a geographical space for operations in the Qatari capital and in Turkish territory.

Meshaal is said to have informed his host that such a decision could not be taken unilaterally, and that he needed to refer to Hamas’ Political Bureau and Shura Council for buy-in.

Internal dissent 

On his way back to Damascus, Meshaal made pit stops in a number of regional countries to inform Hamas’ leadership of the Qatari offer. Suffice it to say, the deal was rejected by the majority of members of the Political Bureau and the Al-Qassam Brigades.

The Hamas source says: “The second man in Al-Qassam, Ahmad Al-Jabari, rejected the treachery against the Syrian leadership, along with Mahmoud al-Zahar, Ali Baraka, Imad al-Alami, Mustafa al-Ladawi, and Osama Hamdan.

On the other hand, Meshaal had the support of Musa Abu Marzouk, Ahmed Yousef, Muhammad Ghazal, Ghazi Hamad and Ahmed Bahr, in addition to a number of the movement’s sheikhs such as Younis al-Astal, Saleh Al-Raqab, and Ahmed Nimr Hamdan, while the head of the Hamas government in Gaza at the time, Ismail Haniyeh, did not have a decisive position.

Meshaal’s opponents were of the opinion that as Hamas is a resistance movement, it would be ill-advised to sever ties with the region’s Axis of Resistance – Iran, Hezbollah and Syria – and that leaving this alliance left little options other than to join the “Axis of Normalization” [with Israel].

Meshaal then received a call from Kamal Naji, Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in which he was informed that the Syrians “are aware of all the details of your visit to Qatar, and of the discussion taking place in the Hamas leadership.”

According to the source, Naji advised Meshaal that Hamas “will not find a warm embrace like Syria, and that despite its historical disagreement with the Muslim Brotherhood, Damascus will not ask Hamas to take any declared position on the Syrian crisis.”

The source in Hamas told The Cradle: “The Qataris felt that Meshaal was unable to take such a fateful stance.” At this point, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (considered to be the spiritual guide of the Ikhwan) intervened to pressure both Haniyeh and Abu Marzouk, who had not yet made up their minds.

Fateful meetings

Meshaal was later invited to visit Turkey, where he met leaders of Syrian armed groups, accompanied by the Qatari Minister of Intelligence and officers from Turkish intelligence.

They convinced him that “a few steps separate the opposition from the Republican Palace in the Mezzeh neighborhood of Damascus, and that the days of the Assad regime are numbered.”

The meeting of Hamas’ political bureau in Sudan was the turning point. In that gathering, to the surprise of some participants, both Haniyeh and Abu Marzouk weighed in to side with Meshaal, and it was decided to “discreetly” withdraw from Damascus.

After the decision was taken, the Qataris worked to further enhance Meshaal’s position within Hamas, through an extraordinary visit by the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, to the Gaza Strip – the first for an Arab head of state. During this visit, al-Thani provided generous support with more than $450 million provided for reconstruction and the implementation of development projects.

Hamas’ fateful decision to abandon Damascus, however, was not met with the same enthusiasm by the movement’s military wing, who believed the move made little strategic sense.

Back to Damascus

In the following years, major regional changes contributed to the downfall of Khaled Meshaal and his removal from his position leading Hamas’ Political Bureau.

The Syrian state remained steadfast in the face of collective NATO-Gulf efforts to unseat Assad; Russian military intervention altered the battlefield balance of power; the Syrian political and armed opposition began to disintegrate and suffer heavy losses; the Ikhwan’s rule in Egypt and its control over Libya and Tunisia began to collapse; and a stand-off with Qatar caused Saudi Arabia and the UAE to alter their position on Syria.

With these stunning regional setbacks, it quickly became apparent that neither Qatari nor Turkish support offered any real strategic value for Hamas’ resistance model – nor could they hope to fill the void left by the reduction in Iranian and Syrian military support.

Moreover, Al-Qassam Brigades found itself facing severe financial difficulties, unable to secure the salaries of its members, let alone sustain any meaningful armed resistance against Israel’s continuous assaults and occupation.

At the time, Hamas’ revenues were derived mainly from taxes imposed on Gaza’s residents, while Qatari support, under US supervision, was limited to providing the expenses of the Hamas leadership in Qatar, and providing seasonal financial grants to government employees in Gaza.

Meshaal’s fall from power  

Cumulatively, these events and the stagnation of the Palestinian resistance convinced Hamas’ leadership of the need to reshuffle its regional cards. The freed prisoner, Yahya al-Sinwar, was the initial spark to revamp a fresh new agenda, following his sweeping victory as the new Hamas leader in Gaza.

Sinwar, one of the historical leaders of Al-Qassam Brigades, decided to reset relations with Iran and Hezbollah, and work toward the movement’s eventual return to Damascus.

Meshaal, realizing that regional changes were no longer in his favor, tried to flatter the Syrian state more than once in media statements. But a firm decision had already been taken across the Axis of Resistance that Meshaal was no longer a welcome or trustworthy figure.

This was especially the case after it became clear to the Syrian security services that Meshaal was involved, along with dozens of Hamas members, in supporting armed groups, exposing secret sites of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese resistance Hezbollah, smuggling weapons to armed opposition in the strategically-located Yarmouk refugee camp and eastern Ghouta region, and providing them with expertise in digging secret tunnels.

Meshaal’s isolation became crystal clear at the end of December 2021, when Hezbollah refused to receive him during a Beirut visit, even though he was officially the external relations officer for Hamas.

According to the Hamas source, Meshaal tried to disrupt the consensus of the leadership of the Political Bureau and the Shura Council on restoring relations with Syria, when he “leaked, at the end of last June, the decision taken in the Political Bureau meeting to return to Damascus.”

Hamas, post-Meshaal

Meshaal’s leak caused media chaos, followed by attempts to pressure Hamas to reverse course. A statement issued by eight of the most important Muslim Brotherhood scholars, advised Hamas to reconsider its decision because of the “great evils it carries for the Ummah.”

Meshaal meanwhile, remained busy trying to restore relations with Jordan, in parallel with Iran, Lebanon and Syria. However, with the recent announcement by Hamas that it would return to Syria, “the efforts made by Meshaal and the Qataris behind him have gone unheeded,” says the movement’s source.

The normalization of relations between Hamas and Syria is significant, not only for the military dividend it could reap for the Palestinian resistance, but also because it can pave the way for Turkey and Qatar to re-establish their Syria ties, although Doha would do so very reluctantly.

With the decision to sideline the Meshaal camp within Hamas, it would seem that Hamas – and not Syria – has ultimately been the subject of regime change in this regional geopolitical battle for influence.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Iran contained protests, Washington’s efforts failed: Israeli Media

24 Sep 2022 23:52

Source: Israeli Media & Al Mayadeen Net

By Al Mayadeen English 

Israeli media reports that “the authorities in Iran have succeeded in damping down the protests,” and that “Washington’s efforts have not worked.”

A pro-Islamic revolution protest in Iran

Israeli media reported that “the authorities in Iran succeeded in damping down the wave of protests, as there is a very clear decline in their size and strength,” noting that “the US efforts have not worked.” 

Earlier on Saturday, the Iranian Tasnim news agency reported that the protests in Iran went down by 90% all over the Islamic Republic by Friday night, attributing the decrease to pro-government protestors that took to the street in light of nationwide anti-government protests. 

MidEast analyst for Channel 2 Ehud Yaari said, “Unfortunately, the authorities in Iran succeeded in quelling the wave of protests in Iranian cities, which included attacks against government centers and attacks with Molotov cocktails against the Basij forces who were dispersing the protests.”

“The Americans are making efforts to activate the internet, after the Iranian authorities imposed an internet blackout to disrupt social networks, but this did not help, and we see a very clear decline in the size and strength of the protests,” he added.

Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi stated on Friday that some social networking sites took an active role in directing the riots and igniting the fires, adding that many elements of the riots were the result of training received using these sites.

Vahidi then went on to announce that the ministry decided to put temporary restrictions on social networking sites to “maintain security and the safety of the people.”

Subsequently, the US Department of the Treasury issued a license expanding the provision of internet services to Iran despite the US sanctions on the country.

Tehran: Efforts to violate Iran’s sovereignty will not go unanswered

Commenting on the US measures, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said on Saturday, that the United States “has always sought to target Iran’s security and stability, but it has always failed to do so.” 

“By reducing the severity of some sanctions related to communications, while maintaining its maximum pressure, the United States is seeking in a hypocritical manner to pass its anti-Iran goals,” he added, stressing that “the efforts to violate Iran’s sovereignty will not go unanswered.” 

Mass protests took place in Tehran and Iranian cities, on Friday, raising slogans in support of the Islamic Republic and rejecting the riots that took advantage of the death of the young woman, Mahsa Amini. The protests resulted in deaths and injuries among the security forces and civilians.

Read: Mahsa Amini’s father breaks silence: Protest “not for our sake”

Kanaani commented on the US and European interventions in the case of the Iranian young woman Mahsa Amini, tweeting, “With a despicable human rights record both at home & abroad, how does the US have the audacity to give itself higher moral ground to lecture the world?”

Iran witnessed demonstrations denouncing the death of the young woman, while the Director General of Forensic Medicine in Tehran Province said Wednesday that there were no traces of beating or wounds on the head and face of the late Iranian Mahsa Amini.

The Iranian police published CCTV footage documenting the last moments of Mahsa Amini at the police station. The Tehran police said the footage proved that the 22-year-old was not subjected to any violence or physical abuse.

Watch: Western media promoted Iranophobia after death of Mahsa Amini

Related Videos

America seeks to fuel internet protests in Iran
The axis of resistance.. messages of deterrence and a coup in the scales
Mass demonstrations in a number of Iranian cities to condemn the riots and incitement plots
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards describe recent events as an absurd attempt doomed to failure

Related Stories

Tehran reminds US of its own killings by race, provides proof

 September 23, 2022

Iran, through its Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, calls US human rights records despicable and slams claims on human rights abuses in the country as baseless.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani

The Iranian Foreign Ministry responded to the US Secretary of State’s claims on human rights issues in Iran and slammed them as baseless, reminding the US of its own record of killings and human rights abuses committed racially, with Black people making the majority of those killed.

Following how the West, spearheaded by the US, took advantage of the death of Mahsa Amini, claiming that it was the result of a brutal arrest by the Iranian police, and the fact that the western and Arab-monarchy-backed media outlets quickly jumped to the trend of covering anti-Iran protests, picturing them as large rallies, when in fact, they included far fewer numbers than depicted, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani reminded the US of its “despicable” human rights record across the world. 

“With a despicable human rights record both at home & abroad, how does the US have the audacity to give itself higher moral ground to lecture the world?” Kanaani tweeted on Friday.

Millions of people supporting the regime came out in the Iranian provinces to reject the sedition
Between Mahsa Amini and Zainab Asim: How do political agendas manipulate people?
The axis of resistance.. messages of deterrence and a coup in the scales

Related Stories

Imam Khamenei: The Sacred Defense Proved to The World That the Iranian People Won’t Surrender

 September 22, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei received on the eve of Sacred Defense Week, a number of the commanders and veterans from the Sacred Defense along with the families of martyrs in the Imam Khomeini Hussainiyah in Tehran.

Other Sacred Defense veterans who live in various parts of the country also joined this meeting via teleconferencing from centers in the various provinces.

Imam Khamenei said on Wednesday that the victory of the Islamic Revolution was not an impermanent political failure for the United States but a threat to the empire of the domineering system, stressing that “The Sacred Defense proved the fact that protecting the country and [achieving] deterrence can be achieved through resistance, not surrender.”

His Eminence underlined that the resistance raised the morale and self-confidence of the people and, at the same time, taught the enemy to reconsider its calculations and include the Iranian nation’s power and resistance.

“The military invasion against the country after the [Islamic] Revolution was not unexpected. It is true that Saddam launched the attack, but behind Saddam was global arrogance,” he said.

“The Sacred Defense is an exciting, eventful and fruitful juncture. The era of Sacred Defense is one of the events that have an effect on our yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he said. “Therefore, the veterans [of the war] should be given attention and respect.”

According to the Imam Khamenei, the Iranian nation had a new message for the world during the era of the Islamic Revolution and the imperialist countries did not want anyone to hear that message.

“They wanted to smother the voice of the Iranian nation in the throat,” he said. “They wanted to show that if anyone rises against the US, they will be suppressed.”

Imam Khamenei also said that the enemies were angry because of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which “was not in line with the policies of Western and Eastern powers.”

He recalled that all countries in that era were either pro-West or pro-East and no independent nation existed at the time.

“It was not at all tolerable for a country outside of this [bipolar] system to come and speak its mind. It was unbearable for them that a nation is not afraid of America,” the Leader of the Islamic Revolution went on to say.

Imam Khamenei also noted that the revolution brought about events in the world that “perhaps we were not aware of all of its dimensions at that time, but they knew what had happened.”

His Eminence further underlined that the great power of the Islamic Revolution, the leadership of the late Imam Khomeini, and the distinct characteristics of the Iranian nation turned the threat of war into an opportunity.

Another objective of the domineering system was to bring the Iranian nation to their knees, subvert the Islamic Republic, and change the fate of the Iranian nation, Imam Khamenei said, adding that their ultimate goal was to make the Iranian nation a lesson for other nations and destroy the resistance.

Related Videos

Iranian security forces arrest a number of members of the Komala Organization and the Democratic Party
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards describes the recent events as an absurd attempt doomed to fail
Special coverage | The latest developments in Iran

Related Stories

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s article on cooperation in the Caspian Region

September 20, 2022

The Caspian – a unique region of neighbourliness

On June 29, 2022, Ashgabat hosted an important international event, the 6th Caspian Summit, and I believe it is important to consider the role and place of the Caspian Region in the fairer, more democratic and sustainable multi-polar system that is taking shape today.

The importance of the Caspian Region for the Russian Federation is determined by its strategic location in the centre of Eurasia, at the crossroads of its transport and energy routes, the presence of a huge amount of mineral and biological resources and the intertwining of the local cultures that coexist here.

Russia’s vital interests include durable peace, stability and security in the Caspian Region, sustainable development based on neighbourliness, trust and cooperation of the coastal states, and the use of its economic, including transit, potential to the mutual benefit of the coastal states. A key task is to ensure the rational use of natural resources in the region, protect and preserve the environment of this unique body of water, and guarantee ecological and transport security in its basin. With these aims in mind, Russia advocates the systemic, comprehensive development of cooperation among the five nations and the gradual institutionalisation of this process. We are doing much to expand ties with our neighbours in all areas.

We believe all Caspian issues should be resolved solely by consensus of the five coastal states. Extra-regional forces should not be allowed to exert a negative influence.

Despite the ancient history of the region, the current system of cooperation has taken shape there relatively recently. After the Soviet Union’s disintegration, the number of Caspian states increased from two to five. For this reason, joint administration of the Caspian Sea via constructive cooperation moved to the fore in the early 1990s.

In October 1992, the heads of state and government of the Caspian states met in Tehran to discuss the possibility of establishing a Caspian Economic Cooperation Organisation. The participants reviewed prospects for setting up such entities as a Caspian interstate oil company, Caspian interstate bank of economic cooperation, Caspian development bank, a centre for Caspian economic and political studies, and a centre for the studies of Caspian bio resources.

These initiatives were not translated into reality for several reasons, including the unregulated legal status of the Caspian Sea. In the process the five Caspian states – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan – agreed on the need to draft principles and rules and create special cooperative bodies and institutions in the region. I would like to emphasise that the five-member cooperation format took shape naturally by virtue of political and geographical factors and the need to jointly manage the unique Caspian Sea.

The 5th Caspian Summit in Aktau (Kazakhstan) in 2018 marked a very important step, with participants signing a Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, a kind of a Caspian constitution. This document is based on the consent of the sides (recorded in the preamble) to observe several principles: sovereign rights to the Caspian Sea and its resources belong to them alone; they are responsible to current and future generations for preserving the region and promoting its sustainable development, and they have exclusive authority to settle Caspian Sea issues.

I would like to emphasise 17 principles governing the activities of the sides (Article 3 of the Convention). In effect, they boil down to the code of conduct in the region and help preserve it as an area of peace, neighbourly relations and cooperation. These principles are comprehensive and embrace both universally recognised standards of international law, including respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and rules for practical cooperation between partners.

The sides have adopted a large number of security provisions, some of which are of particular importance. Thus, they pledged to prevent the presence of armed forces of third countries in the Caspian Sea, to refrain from prejudicing each other’s security and to implement military confidence building measures.

The negotiations over the convention lasted for over 20 years and were eventually crowned with a diplomatic compromise based on the verified balance of interests. Speedy ratification of the convention by the sides is in the best interests of regional stability and steady progress.

It goes without saying that the five Caspian nations are not going to fence themselves off from the outside world, especially in the economic sphere. However, we and our partners are firmly committed to the position that outside interference in our affairs is unacceptable.

This means that interaction with players outside the region can occur only with the approval of all five members for the purposes of addressing pressing issues facing the Caspian. Examples include initiatives that are implemented jointly with UN agencies (the UN Human Settlements Programme project titled “Urbanisation and Climate Change Adaptation in the Caspian Sea region,” the UN Environment Programme and the UN Development Programme project on combating pollution of the Caspian Sea with marine litter and plastic waste).

Sectoral cooperation is making progress alongside the efforts to draft and adopt the convention and is being consistently codified in international treaties, such as the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea, and cooperation agreements in other areas ranging from transport and logistics to emergency relief.

The five leaders’ personal contribution to Caspian cooperation can hardly be overstated. Each summit has helped expand and deepen interaction. During the most recent sixth summit, the principles underlying the activities of the five nations were confirmed and thus became political commitments, which fully ensures that they will guide our practical activities.

In Ashgabat, the heads of state reviewed cooperation priorities, including the efforts to tap the Caspian Sea’s transport, energy and resource potential and to ensure environmental safety and cooperation in tourism and culture. The prospects for industrial cooperation and project activities in the high-tech industry were discussed in detail. A number of highly constructive initiatives have been put forward, in particular, President of Kazakhstan Tokayev’s proposal to create a Caspian food “hub” and President of Turkmenistan Berdimuhamedov’s idea to set up a Business Cooperation Council.

An important achievement was the agreement to create a permanent facility for holding five-nation foreign ministers’ meetings in order to discuss development issues and improve the partnership of the Caspian countries, develop coordinated measures for implementing decisions, and draft the agenda and list of final documents for the summits. The ministers will coordinate interaction within the five-nation sector-specific mechanisms.

Thus, we can safely assume that Caspian cooperation is going at a fast clip and breaking new ground. Clearly, far from all issues facing the Caspian countries have been resolved. Some require additional political and diplomatic efforts, such as approving the draft Agreement on methodology for establishing straight baselines in the Caspian Sea which, once adopted by the parties, will make it possible to complete the delimitation of water areas.

In addition, it is important to speed up the process of approving five-nation draft documents in a number of key areas of intersectoral cooperation, such as maritime transport, search and rescue, navigation safety, marine scientific research, combating poaching and the drug threat. Further consolidation of efforts to prevent sanitary and epidemiological emergencies and to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases is greatly needed. Discussions on the Tehran Convention Secretariat’s rules of procedure are ongoing.

In the economic area it is important to keep up efforts to achieve the balanced use of Caspian energy and transit capacities, which requires consideration of all the countries’ interests and environmental security factors. Our region has every chance to become one of Eurasia’s biggest hubs for multi-modal transcontinental shipments, primarily by tapping the potential of the North-South international transport corridor.

Expanding cooperation between regions of the five countries will facilitate Caspian interaction. Cultural cooperation and the development of tourism, including cruise routes, are other promising avenues.

The institualisation of five-nation cooperation should remain at the centre of attention. This process is making headway – regular meetings of the leaders of the Caspian states have already become a tradition.

The Caspian Economic Forum at the heads of government level has become an important format. Its first meeting took place at the initiative of Turkmenistan in 2019. In October 2022, Moscow will host its second forum. We hope it will provide a fresh impetus to the trade and economic aspects of Caspian cooperation.

The institution of the Conference of the Parties to the Tehran Convention is up and running. The commission for the preservation and rational use of aquatic biological resources and management of their common reserves holds sessions every year. The Coordination Committee for Hydrometeorology of the Caspian Sea meets as well. There are agreements on mechanisms for regular ministerial meetings, including the afore-mentioned meetings of foreign ministers as well as their transport and economic counterparts. The high-level working group of deputy foreign ministers/special envoys of the Caspian states is in operation. It was established following the 5th Caspian Summit. I would like to emphasise that all five-nation issues are resolved by consensus.

To make existing structures and mechanisms more efficient, it makes sense to turn them into a uniform regional system. At the current stage, the formation of a flexible five-nation forum – the Caspian Council – seems to be the best way of achieving this. The proposed council should function without a secretariat or other bureaucratic add-ons. The five Caspian countries studied this idea at the expert level and Russia proposed it at the 6th Caspian Summit. We agree with President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev who supported our initiative. He said the Caspian Sea was ready for new steps on institutionalising five-way cooperation.

We have consistently held that the efforts of the five nations to promote the sustainable development of the Caspian Region help maintain stability throughout Greater Eurasia and fuse the creative potential of the states and their integration associations in our common Eurasian home. Russia seeks to continue working closely with its Caspian partners to achieve these and other ambitious goals in accordance with the principles of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.

Speech by the President of Russia at an expanded meeting of the SCO Heads of State Councila Plus Press Conference (ENG Subtitles)

SEPTEMBER 17, 2022

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, colleagues,

https://thesaker.is/speech-by-the-president-of-russia-at-an-expanded-meeting-of-the-sco-heads-of-state-council/I fully share the statements made by my colleagues and their positive assessments of the work of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and its growing prestige in international affairs. Indeed, the SCO has become the largest regional organisation in the world. As previous speakers have pointed out, over half of the world’s population lives in SCO member states, which account for about 25 percent of global GDP and have a powerful intellectual and technological potential and a considerable part of global natural resources.

At the same time, the SCO is not marking time but continues to develop and build up its role in addressing international and regional issues and maintaining peace, security and stability throughout the vast Eurasian space. Colleagues, this is especially important in the current complicated international situation, about which we have talked in detail during our restricted-attendance meeting.

However, I would like to repeat that global politics and economy are about to undergo fundamental and irreversible changes. The growing role of new centres of power is coming into sharp focus, and interaction among these new centres is not based on some rules, which are being forced on them by external forces and which nobody has seen, but on the universally recognised principles of the rule of international law and the UN Charter, namely, equal and indivisible security and respect for each other’s sovereignty, national values and interests.

It is on these principles, which are devoid of all elements of egoism, that the joint efforts of SCO member states are based in politics and the economy. This opens up broad prospects for continued mutually beneficial cooperation in politics, the economy, culture, humanitarian and other spheres.

Fighting terrorism and extremism, drug trafficking, organised crime and illegal armed formations remains a priority of our cooperation. Other key areas include providing assistance in the political and diplomatic settlement of conflicts along our external borders, including in Afghanistan.

Strengthening economic cooperation has traditionally been a critical part of the SCO’s activities. Our joint efforts are designed to expand trade and investment exchanges, carry out mutually beneficial business projects in various industries, and to increase the volume of settlements in national currencies.

As noted above, including by the President of Kazakhstan, we are open to working with the whole world. The SCO is a non-bloc association. We help addressing the energy and food problems that are growing globally as a result of certain systemic errors in the world’s leading economies in the field of finance and energy. Our policy is not selfish. We hope that other participants in economic cooperation will build their policies on the same principles and stop using the tools of protectionism, illegal sanctions and economic selfishness to their own advantage.

The European Commission’s decision to lift sanctions on Russian fertilisers is a vivid example of such selfish behaviour. We are aware of the fertilisers’ important role in overcoming the food problem. Of course, we welcome the decision to lift the sanctions. But it turns out that, in accordance with the clarification of the European Commission of September 10, these sanctions were lifted only for EU countries. It turns out that they are the only ones who can purchase our fertilisers. What about the developing poorest countries around the world?

Taking advantage of the presence of UN Under-Secretary-General [Rosemary] DiCarlo, I would like to ask the UN Secretariat – I discussed this matter with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the day before yesterday – to use its influence on the European Commission’s decision not in word, but in deed and to demand that they, our colleagues from the European Commission, lift these clearly discriminatory restrictions on developing countries and provide access for Russian fertilisers to their markets.

Also, the day before yesterday I apprised Secretary-General Guterres of the fact that 300,000 tonnes of Russian fertilisers are stocked at the EU seaports. We are ready to make them available to developing countries for free.

I would also like to note that Russia is increasing its grain exports to international markets. This year, it is going to be 30 million tonnes, and next year it will be 50 million tonnes with 90 percent of our food exports going to the markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Undoubtedly, the ongoing summit’s decisions and documents to improve the efficiency of international transport corridors, to expand intraregional, to advance industrial and scientific and technical cooperation, and to introduce high-tech solutions in agriculture and healthcare will promote further development of business ties within the SCO.

It is also important to advance cultural and humanitarian cooperation within the SCO.

Agreements and memorandums on cooperation in tourism and museology that will be signed during today’s meeting will serve as the next step forward on this path.

It appears that opportunities are good for stepping up sports cooperation and potentially holding major sporting events with SCO sponsorship. To do this, we could think about creating an association of sports organisations under our association.

Friends,

It was noted earlier today during the restricted-attendance meeting that the SCO states focus on expanding cooperation with countries that seek to establish an open and equal dialogue with our organisation and are interested in joining it. In this context, Russia, no doubt, favours the earliest possible accession of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the SCO, which is what the documents and the memorandum that will be signed today are designed to accomplish. We are convinced that Iran’s full-fledged participation will be beneficial for the association, as that country plays an important role in the Eurasian region and the world at large.

We also fully stand behind the decision submitted for approval by the Heads of State Council to start the process of admitting the Republic of Belarus as an SCO member. Let me be clear that we have always advocated that Belarus, which is Russia’s strategic partner and closest ally, should participate fully in the SCO. This will undoubtedly improve our ability to advance unity in politics, the economy, security and humanitarian matters.

Of course, we welcome the granting of SCO dialogue partner status to Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as the commencement of the procedure for obtaining this status by the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Republic of Maldives, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, and the United Arab Emirates. Notably, there are more countries desirous of cooperating with the SCO in various capacities, and applications from other states and international associations deserve our utmost attention and favourable consideration.

In closing, I would like to thank President Shavkat Mirziyoyev for the hospitality and excellent organisation of our work, and to congratulate Uzbekistan on its successful SCO chairmanship. I would also like to wish every success to our Indian friends who are taking over the chairmanship today.

Thank you for your attention.

Press Conference (ENG Subtitles)

This video was translated and subtitled by Michael Rossi Poli Sci
Please support him on this Patreon channel: https://www.patreon.com/MichaelRossiPoliSci

‘Samarkand Spirit’ to be driven by ‘responsible powers’ Russia and China

The SCO summit of Asian power players delineated a road map for strengthening the multipolar world

September 16 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

Amidst serious tremors in the world of geopolitics, it is so fitting that this year’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) heads of state summit should have taken place in Samarkand – the ultimate Silk Road crossroads for 2,500 years.

When in 329 BC Alexander the Great reached the then Sogdian city of Marakanda, part of the Achaemenid empire, he was stunned: “Everything I have heard about Samarkand it’s true, except it is even more beautiful than I had imagined.”

Fast forward to an Op-Ed by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev published ahead of the SCO summit, where he stresses how Samarkand now “can become a platform that is able to unite and reconcile states with various foreign policy priorities.”

After all, historically, the world from the point of view of the Silk Road landmark has always been “perceived as one and indivisible, not divided. This is the essence of a unique phenomenon – the ‘Samarkand spirit’.”

And here Mirziyoyev ties the “Samarkand Spirit” to the original SCO “Shanghai Spirit” established in early 2001, a few months before the events of September 11, when the world was forced into strife and endless war, almost overnight.

All these years, the culture of the SCO has been evolving in a distinctive Chinese way. Initially, the Shanghai Five were focused on fighting terrorism – months before the US war of terror (italics mine) metastasized from Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond.

Over the years, the initial “three no’s” – no alliance, no confrontation, no targeting any third party – ended up equipping a fast, hybrid vehicle whose ‘four wheels’ are ‘politics, security, economy, and humanities,’ complete with a Global Development Initiative, all of which contrast sharply with the priorities of a hegemonic, confrontational west.

Arguably the biggest takeaway of this week’s Samarkand summit is that Chinese President Xi Jinping presented China and Russia, together, as “responsible global powers” bent on securing the emergence of multipolarity, and refusing the arbitrary “order” imposed by the United States and its unipolar worldview.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pronounced Xi’s bilateral conversation with President Vladimir Putin as “excellent.” Xi Jinping, previous to their meeting, and addressing Putin directly, had already stressed the common Russia-China objectives:

“In the face of the colossal changes of our time on a global scale, unprecedented in history, we are ready with our Russian colleagues to set an example of a responsible world power and play a leading role in order to put such a rapidly changing world on the trajectory of sustainable and positive development.”

Later, in the preamble to the heads of state meeting, Xi went straight to the point: it is important to “prevent attempts by external forces to organize ‘color revolutions’ in the SCO countries.” Well, Europe wouldn’t be able to tell, because it has been color-revolutionized non-stop since 1945.

Putin, for his part, sent a message that will be ringing all across the Global South: “Fundamental transformations have been outlined in world politics and economics, and they are irreversible.” (italics mine)

Iran: it’s showtime

Iran was the guest star of the Samarkand show, officially embraced as the 9th member of the SCO. President Ebrahim Raisi, significantly, stressed before meeting Putin that “Iran does not recognize sanctions against Russia.” Their strategic partnership will be enhanced. On the business front, a hefty delegation comprising leaders of 80 large Russian companies will be visiting Tehran next week.

The increasing Russia-China-Iran interpolation – the three top drivers of Eurasia integration – scares the hell out of the usual suspects, who may be starting to grasp how the SCO represents, in the long run, a serious challenge to their geoeconomic game. So, as every grain of sand in every Heartland desert is already aware, the geopolitical pressure against the trio will increase exponentially.

And then there was the mega-crucial Samarkand trilateral: Russia-China-Mongolia. There were no official leaks, but this trio arguably discussed the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline – the interconnector to be built across Mongolia; and Mongolia’s enhanced role in a crucial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) connectivity corridor, now that China is not using the Trans-Siberian route for exports to Europe because of sanctions.

Putin briefed Xi on all aspects of Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine, and arguably answered some really tough questions, many of them circulating wildly on the Chinese web for months now.

Which brings us to Putin’s presser at the end of the summit – with virtually all questions predictably revolving around the military theater in Ukraine.

The key takeaway from the Russian president: “There are no changes on the SMO plan. The main tasks are being implemented.” On peace prospects, it is Ukraine that “is not ready to talk to Russia.” And overall, “it is regrettable that the west had the idea to use Ukraine to try to collapse Russia.”

On the fertilizer soap opera, Putin remarked, “food supply, energy supply, they (the west) created these problems, and now are trying to resolve them at the expense of someone else” – meaning the poorest nations. “European countries are former colonial powers and they still have this paradigm of colonial philosophy. The time has come to change their behavior, to become more civilized.”

On his meeting with Xi Jinping: “It was just a regular meeting, it’s been quite some time we haven’t had a meeting face to face.” They talked about how to “expand trade turnover” and circumvent the “trade wars caused by our so-called partners,” with “expansion of settlements in national currencies not progressing as fast as we want.”

Strenghtening multipolarity

Putin’s bilateral with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not have been more cordial – on a “very special friendship” register – with Modi calling for serious solutions to the food and fuel crises, actually addressing the west. Meanwhile, the State Bank of India will be opening special rupee accounts to handle Russia-related trade.

This is Xi’s first foreign trip since the Covid pandemic. He could do it because he’s totally confident of being awarded a third term during the Communist Party Congress next month in Beijing. Xi now controls and/or has allies placed in at least 90 percent of the Politburo.

The other serious reason was to recharge the appeal of BRI in close connection to the SCO. China’s ambitious BRI project was officially launched by Xi in Astana (now Nur-Sultan) nine years ago. It will remain the overarching Chinese foreign policy concept for decades ahead.

BRI’s emphasis on trade and connectivity ties in with the SCO’s evolving multilateral cooperation mechanisms, congregating nations focusing on economic development independent from the hazy, hegemonic “rules-based order.” Even India under Modi is having second thoughts about relying on western blocs, where New Delhi is at best a neo-colonized “partner.”

So Xi and Putin, in Samarkand, for all practical purposes delineated a road map for strengthening multipolarity – as stressed by the final  Samarkand declaration  signed by all SCO members.

The Kazakh puzzle 

There will be bumps on the road aplenty. It’s no accident that Xi started his trip in Kazakhstan – China’s mega-strategic western rear, sharing a very long border with Xinjiang. The tri-border at the dry port of Khorgos – for lorries, buses and trains, separately – is quite something, an absolutely key BRI node.

The administration of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Nur-Sultan (soon to be re-named Astana again) is quite tricky, swinging between eastern and western political orientations, and infiltrated by Americans as much as during the era of predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s first post-USSR president.

Earlier this month, for instance, Nur-Sultan, in partnership with Ankara and British Petroleum (BP) – which virtually rules Azerbaijan – agreed to increase the volume of oil on the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline to up to 4 million tons a month by the end of this year. Chevron and ExxonMobil, very active in Kazakhstan, are part of the deal.

The avowed agenda of the usual suspects is to “ultimately disconnect the economies of Central Asian countries from the Russian economy.” As Kazakhstan is a member not only of the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), but also the BRI, it is fair to assume that Xi – as well as Putin – discussed some pretty serious issues with Tokayev, told him to grasp which way the wind is blowing, and advised him to keep the internal political situation under control (see the aborted coup in January, when Tokayev was de facto saved by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO]).

There’s no question Central Asia, historically known as a “box of gems” at the center of the Heartland, striding the Ancient Silk Roads and blessed with immense natural wealth – fossil fuels, rare earth metals, fertile agrarian lands – will be used by the usual suspects as a Pandora’s box, releasing all manner of toxic tricks against legitimate Eurasian integration.

That’s in sharp contrast with West Asia, where Iran in the SCO will turbo-charge its key role of crossroads connectivity between Eurasia and Africa, in connection with the BRI and the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

So it’s no wonder that the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, all in West Asia, do recognize which way the wind is blowing. The three Persian Gulf states received official SCO ‘partner status’ in Samarkand, alongside the Maldives and Myanmar.

A cohesion of goals

Samarkand also gave an extra impulse to integration along the Russian-conceptualized Greater Eurasia Partnership  – which includes the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – and that, just two weeks after the game-changing Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held in Vladivostok, on Russia’s strategic Pacific coast.

Moscow’s priority at the EAEU is to implement a union-state with Belarus (which looks bound to become a new SCO member before 2024), side-by-side with closer integration with the BRI. Serbia, Singapore and Iran have trade agreements with the EAEU too.

The Greater Eurasian Partnership was proposed by Putin in 2015 – and it’s getting sharper as the EAEU commission, led by Sergey Glazyev, actively designs a new financial system, based on gold and natural resources and counter-acting the Bretton Woods system. Once the new framework is ready to be tested, the key disseminator is likely to be the SCO.

So here we see in play the full cohesion of goals – and the interaction mechanisms – deployed by the Greater Eurasia Partnership, BRI, EAEU, SCO, BRICS+ and the INSTC. It’s a titanic struggle to unite all these organizations and take into account the geoeconomic priorities of each member and associate partner, but that’s exactly what’s happening, at breakneck speed.

In this connectivity feast, practical imperatives range from fighting local bottlenecks to setting up complex multi-party corridors – from the Caucasus to Central Asia, from Iran to India, everything discussed in multiple roundtables.

Successes are already notable: from Russia and Iran introducing direct settlements in rubles and rials, to Russia and China increasing their trade in rubles and yuan to 20 percent – and counting. An Eastern Commodity Exchange may be soon established in Vladivostok to facilitate trade in futures and derivatives with the Asia-Pacific.

China is the undisputed primary creditor/investor in infrastructure across Central Asia. Beijing’s priorities may be importing gas from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and oil from Kazakhstan, but connectivity is not far behind.

The $5 billion construction of the 600 km-long Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (Pakafuz) railway will deliver cargo from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean in only three days instead of 30. And that railway will be linked to Kazakhstan and the already in progress 4,380 km-long Chinese-built railway from Lanzhou to Tashkent, a BRI project.

Nur-Sultan is also interested in a Turkmenistan-Iran-Türkiye railway, which would connect its port of Aktau on the Caspian Sea with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea.

Türkiye, meanwhile, still a SCO observer and constantly hedging its bets, slowly but surely is trying to strategically advance its own Pax Turcica, from technological development to defense cooperation, all that under a sort of politico-economic-security package. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did discuss it in Samarkand with Putin, as the latter later announced that 25 percent of Russian gas bought by Ankara will be paid in rubles.    

Welcome to Great Game 2.0

Russia, even more than China, knows that the usual suspects are going for broke. In 2022 alone, there was a failed coup in Kazakhstan in January; troubles in Badakhshan, in Tajikistan, in May; troubles in Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan in June; the non-stop border clashes between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (both presidents, in Samarkand, at least agreed on a ceasefire and to remove troops from their borders).

And then there is recently-liberated Afghanistan – with no less than 11 provinces crisscrossed by ISIS-Khorasan and its Tajik and Uzbek associates. Thousands of would-be Heartland jihadis have made the trip to Idlib in Syria and then back to Afghanistan – ‘encouraged’ by the usual suspects, who will use every trick under the sun to harass and ‘isolate’ Russia from Central Asia.

So Russia and China should be ready to be involved in a sort of immensely complex, rolling Great Game 2.0 on steroids, with the US/NATO fighting united Eurasia and Turkiye in the middle.

On a brighter note, Samarkand proved that at least consensus exists among all the players at different institutional organizations that: technological sovereignty will determine sovereignty; and that regionalization – in this case Eurasian – is bound to replace US-ruled globalization.

These players also understand that the Mackinder and Spykman era is coming to a close – when Eurasia was ‘contained’ in a semi-disassembled shape so western maritime powers could exercise total domination, contrary to the national interests of Global South actors.

It’s now a completely different ball game. As much as the Greater Eurasia Partnership is fully supported by China, both favor the interconnection of BRI and EAEU projects, while the SCO shapes a common environment.

Yes, this is an Eurasian civilizational project for the 21st century and beyond. Under the aegis of the ‘Spirit of Samarkand.’

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Betrayal (Andrei Martyanov)

September 11, 2022

Please visit Andrei’s website: https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/
and support him here: https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=60459185

While I have a very different take on 9/11, Martyanov, again, is spot on.  Highly recommended!

Asia’s future takes shape in Vladivostok, the Russian Pacific

September 08, 2022

by Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

Sixty-eight countries gathered on Russia’s far eastern coast to listen to Moscow’s economic and political vision for the Asia-Pacific

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok is one of the indispensable annual milestones for keeping up not only with the complex development process of the Russian Far East but major plays for Eurasia integration.

Mirroring an immensely turbulent 2022, the current theme in Vladivostok is ‘On the Path to a Multipolar World.’ Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, in a short message to business and government participants from 68 nations, set the stage:

“The obsolete unipolar model is being replaced by a new world order based on the fundamental principles of justice and equality, as well as the recognition of the right of each state and people to their own sovereign path of development. Powerful political and economic centers are taking shape right here in the Asia-Pacific region, acting as a driving force in this irreversible process.”

In his speech to the EEF plenary session, Ukraine was barely mentioned. Putin’s response when asked about it: “Is this country part of Asia-Pacific?”

The speech was largely structured as a serious message to the collective west, as well as to what top analyst Sergey Karaganov calls the “global majority.” Among several takeaways, these may be the most relevant:

  • Russia as a sovereign state will defend its interests.
  • Western sanctions ‘fever’ is threatening the world – and economic crises are not going away after the pandemic.
  • The entire system of international relations has changed. There is an attempt to maintain world order by changing the rules.
  • Sanctions on Russia are closing down businesses in Europe. Russia is coping with economic and tech aggression from the west.
  • Inflation is breaking records in developed countries. Russia is looking at around 12 percent.
  • Russia has played its part in grain exports leaving Ukraine, but most shipments went to EU nations and not developing countries.
  • The “welfare of the ‘Golden Billion’ is being ignored.”
  • The west is in no position to dictate energy prices to Russia.
  • Ruble and yuan will be used for gas payments.
  • The role of Asia-Pacific has significantly increased.

In a nutshell: Asia is the new epicenter of technological progress and productivity.

No more an ‘object of colonization’ 

Taking place only two weeks before another essential annual gathering – the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand – it is no wonder some of the top discussions at the EEF revolve around the increasing economic interpolation between the SCO and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This theme is as crucial as the development of the Russian Arctic: at 41 percent of total territory, that’s the largest resource base in the federation, spread out over nine regions, and encompassing the largest Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on the planet, linked to the free port of Vladivostok. The Arctic is being developed via several strategically important projects processing mineral, energy, water and biological natural resources.

So it’s perfectly fitting that Austria’s former foreign minister Karin Kneissel, self-described as “a passionate historian,” quipped about her fascination at how Russia and its Asian partners are tackling the development of the Northern Sea Route: “One of my favorite expressions is that airlines and pipelines are moving east. And I keep saying this for twenty years.”

Amidst a wealth of roundtables exploring everything from the power of territory, supply chains and global education to “the three whales” (science, nature, human), arguably the top discussion this Tuesday at the forum was centered on the role of the SCO.

Apart from the current full members – Russia, China, India, Pakistan, four Central Asians (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan), plus the recent accession of Iran – no less than 11 further nations want to join, from observer Afghanistan to dialogue partner Turkey.

Grigory Logvinov, the SCO’s deputy secretary general, stressed how the economic, political and scientific potential of players comprising “the center of gravity” for Asia – over a quarter of the world’s GDP, 50 percent of the world’s population – has not been fully harvested yet.

Kirill Barsky, from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, explained how the SCO is actually the model of multipolarity, according to its charter, compared to the backdrop of “destructive processes” launched by the west.

And that leads to the economic agenda in the Eurasian integration progress, with the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) configured as the SCO’s most important partner.

Barsky identifies the SCO as “the core Eurasian structure, forming the agenda of Greater Eurasia within a network of partnership organizations.” That’s where the importance of the cooperation with ASEAN comes in.

Barsky could not but evoke Mackinder, Spykman and Brzezinski – who regarded Eurasia “as an object to be acted upon the wishes of western states, confined within the continent, away from the ocean shores, so the western world could dominate in a global confrontation of land and sea. The SCO as it developed can triumph over these negative concepts.”

And here we hit a notion widely shared from Tehran to Vladivostok:

Eurasia no longer as “an object of colonization by ‘civilized Europe’ but again an agent of global policy.”

‘India wants a 21st Asian century’

Sun Zuangnzhi from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) elaborated on China’s interest in the SCO. He focused on achievements: In the 21 years since its founding, a mechanism to establish security between China, Russia and Central Asian states evolved into “multi-tiered, multi-sector cooperation mechanisms.”

Instead of “turning into a political instrument,” the SCO should capitalize on its role of dialogue forum for states with a difficult history of conflicts – “interactions are sometimes difficult” – and focus on economic cooperation “on health, energy, food security, reduction of poverty.”

Rashid Alimov, a former SCO secretary general, now a professor at the Taihe Institute, stressed the “high expectations” from Central Asian nations, the core of the organization. The original idea remains – based on the indivisibility of security on a trans-regional level in Eurasia.

Well, we all know how the US and NATO reacted when Russia late last year proposed a serious dialogue on “indivisibility of security.”

As Central Asia does not have an outlet to the sea, it is inevitable, as Alimov stressed, that Uzbekistan’s foreign policy privileges involvement in accelerated intra-SCO trade. Russia and China may be the leading investors, and now “Iran also plays an important role. Over 1,200 Iranian companies are working in Central Asia.”

Connectivity, once again, must increase: “The World Bank rates Central Asia as one of the least connected economies in the world.”

Sergey Storchak of Russian bank VEB explained the workings of the “SCO interbank consortium.” Partners have used “a credit line from the Bank of China” and want to sign a deal with Uzbekistan. The SCO interbank consortium will be led by the Indians on a rotation basis – and they want to step up its game. At the upcoming summit in Samarkand, Storchak expects a road map for the transition towards the use of national currencies in regional trade.

Kumar Rajan from the School of International Studies of the Jawaharlal Nehru University articulated the Indian position. He went straight to the point: “India wants a 21st Asian century. Close cooperation between India and China is necessary. They can make the Asian century happen.”

Rajan remarked how India does not see the SCO as an alliance, but committed to the development and political stability of Eurasia.

He made the crucial point about connectivity revolving around India “working with Russia and Central Asia with the INSTC” – the International North South Transportation Corridor, and one of its key hubs, the Chabahar port in Iran: “India does not have direct physical connectivity with Central Asia. The INSTC has the participation of an Iranian shipping line with 300 vessels, connecting to Mumbai. President Putin, in the [recent] Caspian meeting, referred directly to the INSTC.”

Crucially, India not only supports the Russian concept of Greater Eurasia Partnership but is engaged in setting up a free trade agreement with the EAEU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, incidentally, came to the Vladivostok forum last year.

In all of the above nuanced interventions, some themes are constant. After the Afghanistan disaster and the end of the US occupation there, the stabilizing role of the SCO cannot be overstated enough. An ambitious road map for cooperation is a must – probably to be approved at the Samarkand summit. All players will be gradually changing to trade in bilateral currencies. And creation of transit corridors is leading to the progressive integration of national transit systems.

Let there be light

A key roundtable on the ‘Gateway to a Multipolar World’ expanded on the SCO role, outlining how most Asian nations are “friendly” or “benevolently neutral” when it comes to Russia after the start of the Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine.

So the possibilities for expanding cooperation across Eurasia remain practically unlimited. Complementarity of economies is the main factor. That would lead, among other developments, to the Russian Far East, as a multipolar hub, turning into “Russia’s gateway to Asia” by the 2030s.

Wang Wen from the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies stressed the need for Russia to rediscover China – finding “mutual trust in the middle level and elites level”. At the same time, there’s a sort of global rush to join BRICS, from Saudi Arabia and Iran to Afghanistan and Argentina:

“That means a new civilization model for emerging economies like China and Argentina because they want to rise up peacefully (…) I think we are in the new civilization age.”

B. K. Sharma from the United Service Institution of India got back to Spykman pigeonholing the nation as a rimland state. Not anymore: India now has multiple strategies, from connecting to Central Asia to the ‘Act East’ policy. Overall, it’s an outreach to Eurasia, as India “is not competitive and needs to diversify to get better access to Eurasia, with logistical help from Russia.“

Sharma stresses how India takes SCO, BRICS and RICs very seriously while seeing Russia playing “an important role in the Indian Ocean.” He nuances the Indo-Pacific outlook: India does not want Quad as a military alliance, privileging instead “interdependence and complementarity between India, Russia and China.”

All of these discussions interconnect with the two overarching themes in several Vladivostok roundtables: energy and the development of the Arctic’s natural resources.

Pavel Sorokin, Russian First Deputy Minister of Energy, dismissed the notion of a storm or typhoon in the energy markets: “It’s a far cry from a natural process. It’s a man-made situation.” The Russian economy, in contrast, is seen by most analysts as slowly but surely designing its Arctic/Asian cooperation future – including, for instance, the creation of a sophisticated trans-shipment infrastructure for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).

Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov made sure that Russia will actually increase its gas production, considering the rise of LNG deliveries and the construction of Power of Siberia-2 to China: “We will not merely scale up the pipeline capacity but we will also expand LNG production: it has mobility and excellent purchases on the global market.”

On the Northern Sea Route, the emphasis is on building a powerful, modern icebreaker fleet – including nuclear. Gadzhimagomed Guseynov, First Deputy Minister for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, is adamant: “What Russia has to do is to make the Northern Sea Route a sustainable and important transit route.”

There is a long-term plan up to 2035 to create infrastructure for safe shipping navigation, following an ‘Arctic best practices’ of learning step by step. NOVATEK, according to its deputy chairman Evgeniy Ambrosov, has been conducting no less than a revolution in terms of Arctic navigation and shipbuilding in the last few years.

Kniessel, the former Austrian minister, recalled that she always missed the larger geopolitical picture in her discussions when she was active in European politics (she now lives in Lebanon): “I wrote about the passing of the torch from Atlanticism to the Pacific. Airlines, pipelines and waterways are moving East. The Far East is actually Pacific Russia.”

Whatever Atlanticists may think of it, the last word for the moment might belong to Vitaly Markelov, from the board of directors of Gazprom: Russia is ready for winter. There will be warmth and light everywhere.”

Iran and the Persian Gulf monarchies: Diplomacy remains their only option

Reconciliation between Iran and the GCC will reap vast mutual benefits, while conflict only serves those outside the Persian Gulf

September 07 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Mohammad Salami

In mid-August, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states the UAE and Kuwait announced the return of their respective ambassadors to Iran after a six year hiatus.

The move represents the latest sign of warming ties between Iran and the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms since the controversial execution of prominent, outspoken, Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr in 2016 interrupted relations.

Nimr’s killing prompted angry protestors to storm the Saudi diplomatic mission in Tehran, leading to a concerted action by several GCC states to sever or downgrade relations with the Islamic Republic.

The reconciliation of two GCC countries with Iran last month was a result of negotiations stretching back several years. These advances also come amid on-going – sometimes stalled – talks between Tehran and Riyadh, hosted by neutral mediators in Baghdad. So far, five rounds of discussions have been held, with the last one held in April and a sixth one looming on the horizon.

Deescalation and diplomacy

Over the past two years, tensions in the Persian Gulf region deescalated as regional states began to seek alternative options to wind down their various proxy fights in West Asia.

The UAE has been at the forefront of these efforts, normalizing relations with Syria – another battleground against Iran – and agreeing to reset relations with Turkey last year after a decade of divergent ideological stances over the wider region.

Following Abu Dhabi’s lead, Riyadh also markedly improved its own relations with Ankara after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-day trip to Saudi Arabia, which was reciprocated by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MbS) visit to the Turkish capital in June.

Most important for the region, however, is the thorny issue of the longstanding, mutually-perceived threat between Iran and the ‘Saudi camp’ within the GCC. For various reasons, including defeats and setbacks in Syria and nearby Yemen, Iran’s Arab neighbors have come to realize that the continuation of hostilities with Tehran is no longer in their national security interest.

“[Iran and Saudi Arabia] are neighbors. Neighbors forever. We cannot get rid of them, and they can’t get rid of us. So, it’s better for both of us to work it out and to look for ways in which we can coexist,” MbS said in an abrupt about-turn earlier this year.

Such conciliatory views are shared by Tehran, as conveyed by Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani who told reporters on 22 August: “We are optimistic that a positive regional atmosphere is fostering a path of communication and dialogue, and ultimately better relations.”

Rapprochement between Iran and the UAE was preceded by a similar trajectory; after four years of negotiations and five phone calls between Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the two countries concluded that their interests can be better resolved through dialogue.

“Short of confronting Iran, it is wiser to reach out to Mr. [Ebrahim] Raisi. One way to deal with Iran is to continue the conversation and find common ground for good neighborly relations,” AbdulKhaleq Abdulla, the former advisor to the UAE government wrote in an opinion article, in reference to the Iranian president.

The diplomatic moves make sense considering that the UAE and Iran are economically interdependent; trade between Iran and the UAE is extensive, and Abu Dhabi is the largest exporter of goods to Iran. It is worth noting that despite tensions between the two countries, trade never completely ceased during the toughest times.

Motivating factors

Several factors have motivated this wholesale revision of policies towards Iran. Chief among these is the concern that GCC states can no longer depend on unconditional protection from unreliable allies outside the region.

Certainly, US President Joe Biden’s focus on reentering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran – unilaterally abandoned by his predecessor – is a strong indicator that Washington seeks to defuse its own decades-long standoff with Tehran to address more pressing national security priorities elsewhere.

As the US military and foreign policy establishments recalibrate their focus onto major peer adversaries like China and Russia, Washington has reduced its defense and security commitment to its long-time allies in the Persian Gulf.

This eroding ‘security guarantee,’ which began under former President Barack Obama and his “Pivot to Asia,” became strikingly evident in the 2019 Yemeni attack on Saudi’s Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and subsequent attacks on ships anchored in the UAE port of Fujairah, including two Saudi oil tankers.

After the unprecedented strikes by Yemen’s resistance movement Ansarallah, Washington’s utter failure to provide material support to its closest Persian Gulf allies – who have spent billions to procure US military protection – strongly influenced the GCC’s decision to engage with Iran.

“When the US didn’t follow through on defending its Arab partners following the Aramco attacks “it became imperative [for the UAE] to secure itself without relying on others – the US in particular – and engaging with Iran is a part of that,” Dina Esfandiary, a Middle East adviser at the International Crisis Group think tank explained.

The US’ faltering pledge to safeguard the Arab states of the Persian Gulf was heavily criticized by the Senate Republican Policy Committee. In a statement in early August, it accused Biden of undermining his commitment to Persian Gulf allies and missing an opportunity to take advantage of developments in West Asia and the US-brokered Abraham Accords for a united front against Iran.

Additional factors that accelerated dialogue with Iran include the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic – which encouraged further economic diversification away from reliance on oil revenues – the crisis in Ukraine, global energy shortages, and the issue of regional food security.

Conflict with Iran is ‘off the table’

The 2020 Abraham Accords presented an opportunity for Israel and its new Arab partners to form an anti-Iranian front aimed at reducing Iran’s geopolitical reach. But two years of inactive bluster about an “Arab NATO” has instead demonstrated that none of the Persian Gulf’s monarchies – despite plenty of encouragement from Tel Aviv and Washington – have the political will to take that confrontational regional step.

Instead, in the aftermath of normalization, Arab states such as the UAE sought to gain economic and commercial benefits from Israeli IT technologies and clean energy companies, rather than crow for open confrontation with Iran. For this reason “Middle East NATO was a ‘theoretical’ concept and … for Abu Dhabi confrontation [with Iran] was not an option,” says Anwar Gargash, senior diplomatic advisor to the UAE president.

Other GCC member states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar have thus far opposed full normalization with Israel. They know that any overt anti-Iranian front – encouraged by the US and centered on Israel – serves primarily to rehabilitate Tel Aviv’s image within Arab countries, where populations remain hostile to Israel.

They are also now painfully aware that the US will not waste its limited and valuable resources in West Asia when the strategic geography of the China Sea and East Asia are of infinitely more intrinsic value to Washington.

Following the Jeddah Summit, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud said decisively: “There’s no such thing as Arabic NATO.”

Pragmatism in the Persian Gulf

Furthermore, for many Arabs, Iran acts as a valuable counterbalance to Israel in the region. The Persian Gulf – Levant and North Africa too – have a shared interest in obstructing Israel’s many troublesome and disruptive regional ambitions. Iran is a useful tool in this respect, as it absolves Arab states from doing the heavy lifting themselves, which would earn Washington’s ire.

In turn, reconciliation with its Arab neighbors will help Iran mitigate the effects of US-imposed sanctions and isolation efforts. Tehran also wants to keep these diplomatic channels open should the nuclear negotiations in Vienna not come to fruition.

Since his election in 2021, Iran’s President Raisi has repeatedly stressed that regional relations are the primary foreign policy focus of his administration. At the same time, Iran has introduced proposals on a mutually-beneficial regional security architecture that would exclude the need for external military forces in the Persian Gulf and its environs.

Tehran believes a region-first approach can strengthen relations with neighbors across all fields and, importantly, build years of depleted trust. The question is whether its Arab neighbors, many of whom rose to power on the back on western colonial projects, can extract themselves from this dependency and forge independent security strategies.

The timing is not bad. GCC states have concluded that the US will not guarantee security in the way they once perceived, and that Washington is – possibly permanently – distracted elsewhere. These events coincide with a global hike in oil and gas prices because of western sanctions on Russia. As a key member of OPEC+, Russia has thus far managed to keep influential Persian Gulf producers onside on production and pricing policies. China is investing billions in the Persian Gulf states on connectivity and infrastructure. Heavily dependent on Gulf energy resources, China – as well as Iran and Russia – is pushing for a new Persian Gulf security architecture run by regional states.

While the moment may be ripe to advance these new ideas, Iran’s reconciliation with its Arab neighbors is contingent on all parties understanding their mutual interests and threats, which is essential to reduce conflict.

The benefits will be game-changing for all. Ensuing stability in the Persian Gulf will bring about a more prosperous regional economy through interdependence, in addition to enhanced political, security, and geopolitical cooperation in the longer term.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

The rise and fall of Muqtada al-Sadr…again

While Muqtada al-Sadr may be this week’s biggest loser in Iraq, the country’s battle for influence is still in full swing

September 01 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By The Cradle’s Iraq Correspondent

On Monday at noon, Kazem al-Haeri, a prominent Shia authority (marjaa) in Iraq – particularly among supporters of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – announced his retirement and urged all ‘believers’ to follow the Leader of the Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Within Haeri’s two-page statement, he addressed the influential position of Muqtada al-Sadr – whose Sadrist bloc garnered the most votes in Iraq’s October 2021 election – and accused the wildly popular cleric of possessing neither the religious knowledge nor the ability to lead the Shia sect or the people of Iraq.

In response, Sadr made two decisions: the first, was a tweet to announce his retirement from Iraqi politics. Although he has regularly (nine times) ‘retired’ since 2013, this time it was under the guidance of a religious figure he could absolutely not ignore.

For Haeri is the religious heir to Muqtada’s father Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, one of the most influential Shia authorities in Iraq’s recent history. Before his untimely assassination along with two of his sons in 1999, the elder Sadr had urged his followers to obey Kazem al-Haeri in his stead.

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Sadr-religious-authority-is-Haeri-.mp4?_=1

Although in the intervening 23 years, Muqtada has garnered the widespread support of his father’s followers to become the most powerful Shia political figure in Iraq today, he is not Mohammad Sadeq’s designated religious heir, and so Haeri’s public set down was significant.

Baghdad on fire

On Monday evening, hours after Sadr’s Twitter resignation, Baghdad fell into violent chaos when Sadrists stormed the capital’s Green Zone, leading to 30 dead and almost 200 injured security forces and rioters.

Sadr’s quick resignation had in fact been a smart move to prevent his movement from splitting in half: he feared one group would stay loyal to him, while the second would obey his father’s successor, Haeri.

Haeri’s statement would not be the only blow to Sadr’s ambitions. Despite his vast number of Shia followers, Sadr has recently been beset by a series of political setbacks.

In June, after months of unsuccessfully struggling to form a coalition government with his winning parliamentary bloc, Sadr attempted to shake up the Iraqi political scene by ordering his political bloc to quit.

The resignation of his deputies from parliament did not reap the desired results. Iraq’s judiciary gave him the cold shoulder, refusing to provide legal backing for Sadr’s controversial move. And his political opponents slapped right back at him – step by step, tweet for tweet, street by street.

Not only did Sadr fail to dissolve parliament and put in motion a process for new elections, but his calls for other Iraqi parties and movements to relinquish their weapons were rejected.

A nail in Sadr’s coffin?

Sadr’s major second decision on Monday was executed through his party’s armed wing, Saraya al-Salam (Brigades of Peace, ironically). It is inconceivable that the mobs of armed Sadrists who stormed the Green Zone later that evening were part of a spontaneous action. In actuality, Sadr was sending Iraqis a mixed message: while he is withdrawing from commanding his bloc’s political leadership, he is in effect leaving it in the custody of Saraya al-Salam, which will ultimately take direction from Muqtada himself.

The Sadrists rapidly moved to demonstrate that they still maintain the upper hand in Baghdad – despite their leader’s resignation – with a show of force in the city’s high security Green Zone, where Iraq’s government buildings and foreign embassies are mainly located.

The most prominent of the Sadrists on the street that night was the general supervisor of Saraya al-Salam, Tahseen al-Hamidawi, a long-time fighter who participated for years in battles against US occupation forces in Iraq.

The role of Saraya al-Salam in transferring its militants from the neighborhoods of Sadr City, al-Shaab, and Ur neighborhood, east Baghdad, to the Green Zone was crystal clear on Monday night.

Not only did these fighters engage in armed confrontation in the heart of Baghdad, they also moved to the city’s outskirts to torch the headquarters of some Popular Mobilization Units (PMU or Hashd al-Shaabi ) such as Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and the State of Law coalition of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In addition, during the clashes, rockets were fired at the US embassy and pictures of Iranian leaders were burned.

The Sadrists were clearly trying to provoke the PMU into armed confrontation, but the latter exercised a uniform discipline that left the former clashing with Iraqi government forces instead.

Although regional and foreign media tried to frame these clashes as a Shia-on-Shia fight between Sadists and pro-Iran PMU groups, this was never the case, as Sadr himself later clarified in his statement the following day.

The conflagration that night picked up steam quickly, spreading to Basra, the economic capital of Iraq, and to the provinces of Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Diwaniyah.

The clashes between Saraya al-Salam and Iraqi security forces spilled into Tuesday morning, as in Iraq, each person has his own clan and tribal extension, and any crisis tends not to remain confined between political parties once the bloodshed begins.

This was not a good look for Sadr and his supporters. They were fighting, killing, and injuring Iraq’s own forces, and had not succeeded in drawing his opponents into the street. Muqtada had to stop the clashes, and quickly.

A source close to both Ayatollah Ali Sistani – Iraq’s leading Shia authority – and Sadr, tells The Cradle that Sistani’s son, Mohammed Ridha, called Muqtada to arrange a meeting with his father.

In their meeting, Ali Sistani, the Shia cleric whose famous fatwa led to the creation of the PMU after ISIS invaded Iraq, urged Sadr to stop the carnage at once.

Following their conversation, on the afternoon of 30 August, Sadr aired a televised statement demanding that his supporters end their siege of Baghdad’s Green Zone. He further thanked the PMU for their restraint and for not participating in the clashes.

Humbled by his miscalculations, Sadr referred to himself as an “ordinary citizen” and disavowed his own Saraya al-Salam militia by calling their actions “shameless.”

What now?

Iraqis recognize that what is happening now is merely an attempt to calm the situation, and that at least the immediate risk of renewed fighting has been removed.

While it is true that Sadr’s political rival parties were calling for calm, they too have been prepped for an internal fight. These parties hold Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi responsible for allowing the escalation, and have hinted that he has benefited from widespread Iraqi support for their security forces during the clashes, as he rigorously pursues a second term in office.

The ongoing fragility of Iraq’s political impasse demands tangible, radical solutions implemented by a transitional government that tackles the issues of the Electoral Commission, the electoral law, the overlapping of powers, and constitutional loopholes. These are urgent items agreed upon by all political parties.

In public, the official demands of the two rival Shia camps focus on the way the state is run, but in truth, it is a battle for influence in the government and the state.

According to well-informed sources, several Iraqi armed movements, particularly Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades and the Badr Organization, are working on reorganizing inter-Shia talks to reconcile their differences and reach a win-win solution palatable to all.

Although Sadr has stepped away from politics – at least for now – he was able to send several messages this week: he confused Iraq’s various regional influencers, reestablished himself as an important militia leader, and in his resignation speech, managed to win the sympathy of some of his opponents.

Winners and losers

Despite scoring some important points, Sadr and his movement are likely the biggest losers from this week’s events in Iraq.

First, Sadr has consistently demanded that Iraqi militias (PMU), mainly the Iranian-backed variety, hand over their weapons to the government, fearing they might be used internally and not against ISIS or foreign occupation forces. Instead, Monday’s events plainly showed the country that the only militia using their bullets on Iraqis were Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam.

Regionally and internationally, Sadr has been a hard nut to crack – an unpredictable powerhouse with a lot of people-power inside Iraq. Muqtada has fought both the Americans by gun and the Iranians by politics, and his statements against both can flip from one day to the next.

If Sadr keeps his word and maintains his distance from politics, this will create a domestic vacuum that both the US and Iran will be eager to fill.

Given that Iraq’s Shia demographic represents more than 60 percent of the country’s population, and Haeri has asked Mohammad Sadiq a-Sadr’s followers to obey Iran’s supreme leader in his stead, Iran may at first glance have the upper hand in this contest.

An Iraq unswayed by US diktats is, after all, more likely to ease its restricted borders, engage more heavily in trade and diplomacy with its immediate neighbors, and play nice with the region’s Axis of Resistance, which wields influence from Beirut and Damascus to Tehran and Sanaa.

The only genuinely popular Shia leader in West Asia who does not share Iran’s political worldview, at least in recent times, is Muqtada al-Sadr. His exit from Iraq’s political scene makes room for the Resistance Axis’ foreign policy and economic development vision to grow, with less fear of internal breaches and more coordination against common external enemies.

The US and its Persian Gulf allies, however, will not stop seeking influence over Iraqi decisions. Their efforts to sow discord between Shia political parties has succeeded in recent years, and whether knowingly or unwittingly, Sadr was instrumental in realizing this schism.

Only time will tell how this picture progresses. Sadr remains a highly unpredictable figure inside Iraq with a strong support base, and one who is not known for sticking to his word.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Author

The Siege of West Asia

TUESDAY 30 AUG 2022

Source

By Tim Anderson

The one redeeming feature of the US-EU siege of West Asia, one of the worst crimes of the 21st century, is that it is forcing a restructuring of international economic relations, away from a Washington-centred unipolar world.

With multiple failed or failing wars, Washington and its NATO partners and hangers-on have imposed a genocidal economic siege on a contiguous bloc of seven West Asian countries, between the Mediterranean and the Himalayas.

The physical blockades on Palestine and Yemen are joined by coercive measures on Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Amongst other things, this brutal regional siege has led to 90% of the Syrian population living in poverty  and the blockaded people of Yemen suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The aim in all cases has been ‘to starve and cause desperation’ amongst entire populations – as was said about Washington’s blockades on Cuba and on Iran. The explicit aim is imposing ‘deliberate harm’, in the hope of coercing political change. A key associated aim is to help the zionist colony keep stealing Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese land, and so destabilise and cripple the development of the entire region.

While much of this siege is imposed in the name of ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ and ‘anti-terrorism’, none of the NATO allied states of the region – like the Saudis, the UAE and Qatar, who actually finance and arm mass sectarian terrorism – face ‘sanctions’.

The pretexts for this siege are buried in pseudo-legal inventions. The US Treasury’s OFAC database has lists of dozens of ‘sanctioned’ entities and individuals in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen. There are not many ‘sanctions’ against Afghanistan, after 20 years of US and NATO military occupation. However it is notorious that Washington has seized several billion dollars belonging to Afghanistan’s Central Bank, simply because the U.S. is dissatisfied with the current Afghan government. That is certainly a big factor in the looming mass starvation of millions of people in that unfortunate West Asian country.

So what are sanctions and when can they be justified? In international law two principles are said to limit a state’s retaliation against others: that the response should be ‘in proportion’ to an alleged action by the other; and that any reprisal only comes after attempts at negotiation.

But retaliation is unlawful when (1) the aim is to damage the economy of another nation, or there is (2) an attempt at political coercion or (3) the measures imposed also damage the rights of third parties. All these illegal elements are at work in Washington’s current regional siege. Such unilateral ‘sanctions’ are now termed ‘unilateral coercive measures’ (UCMs) and subject to special scrutiny at the United Nations.

For some time international agencies have reported on the catastrophic impact of this siege, for example in Syria and Yemen. Despite the theoretical ‘humanitarian’ exemptions in both US and European coercive measures, the U.S. strangle hold on finance means there is severe impact on essentials such as food, medicine and energy.

The W.H.O. has reported that unilateral US-EU ‘sanctions’ damage children’s cancer treatment in Syria. Medical studies have condemned Europe’s coercive ‘sanctions’ for their damage to COVID-19 prevention and treatment in Syria, while the UN rapporteur on the impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures, Ms Alena Douhan, has called for an end to Washington’s UCMs which inhibit the rebuilding of Syria’s civilian infrastructure, destroyed by the conflict. “The sanctions violate the human rights of the Syrian people, whose country has been destroyed by almost 10 years of ongoing conflict,” said Ms Douhan.

Washington’s anti-Syrian ‘Caesar Law’ was also condemned as it attempts to block third party support for the Syrian population. “I am concerned that sanctions imposed under the Caesar Act may exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in Syria, especially in the course of COVID-19 pandemic, and put the Syrian people at even greater risk of human rights violations,” she said.

Siege measures on north African countries have come under similar criticism. In 2015 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the impact of ‘sanctions’ on human rights, Idriss Jazairy, urged States which have imposed UCMs on Sudan to review their policies. “Sudan has been under unilateral coercive measures for two decades without any adaptation .. The signal given by compulsory measures is in contradiction with their proclaimed objectives” he said, referring to the financial restrictions imposed on all business transactions with Sudan.

In Yemen, the rational is a little different. The US-EU ‘Sanctions’ which sustain the humanitarian crisis are carried out with direct approval by the UN Security Council, under the misguided idea that an interim president from 2014 (Mansour Hadi, in exile in Saudi Arabia for the last seven years) is still the legitimate President of the country. The actual revolutionary government (the only successful revolution of the so-called Arab Spring) led by Ansarallah (disparagingly referred to as ‘Houthi rebels’) is under UNSC sanctions. So the siege on Yemen is authorised under international law, unlike the UCMs against Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Nevertheless, a UN body has said that the western powers and their Persian Gulf allies (especially the Saudis and the U.A.E.) waging war on Yemen should be held responsible for war crimes. That 2019 report detailed a range of war crimes over the previous five years, including airstrikes, indiscriminate shelling, snipers, landmines, as well as arbitrary killings and detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and impeding access to humanitarian aid.

This writer has previously argued that the UN Security Council has betrayed the people of Yemen, exacerbating ‘the world’s ‘worst humanitarian crisis’ by demonising and sanctioning the revolutionary government while backing a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) puppet.

UCM regimes, now so popular with the USA and the European Union, have been condemned by independent UN experts for violating international law and for impeding the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. While UCMs are “imposed mostly in the name of human rights, democracy and the rule of law”, Rapporteur Douhan concludes they actually “undermine those very principles, values and norms” while inflicting humanitarian damage.

The one redeeming feature of the US-EU siege of West Asia, one of the worst crimes of the 21st century, is that it is forcing a restructuring of international economic relations, away from a Washington-centred unipolar world. In future the BRICS bloc, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and allied groups will play a much greater role.

Shea Lies Through Her Teeth as Lebanon’s Electricity Crisis Worsens

August 30, 2022

By Mohammad Youssef

More than a year ago, US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea has given a promise to help Lebanon with power supplies from Egypt and Jordan. A year later, all those promises have proven to be utter lies.

Meanwhile, the new Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Mojtaba Amani, has repeated his predecessor’s offer to supply Lebanon with free fuel had the Lebanese government requested this officially.

This reflects clearly who are the real friends of Lebanon during its dire crisis.

The US ambassador has never been summoned by any official at the foreign ministry to ask her about her continuous lies, nor was she criticized by any Lebanese government official.

The whole issue would cost a decision by Washington to ease the sanctions against Lebanon and lift the siege that blocks the way for receiving help from Egypt and Jordan. Washington which is veteran in sieges against people and bringing them to the brink of deprivation and famine is exercising its criminal policy now against Lebanon and the Lebanese.

This kind of suffocating blockade is reminiscent of other blockades and sieges that the US imposed against free nations in different parts of the world, namely Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Syria, among many others.

This criminal punishment by Washington has cost dear lives, in Iraq alone half-a-million child died because of this, not to mention the great suffering of the people on many levels.

At the time, no one dared to criticize and condemn America for its crimes except for an independent initiative by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who set an international tribunal in the year 2005 in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to sue the war criminals, the tribunal which was a kind of international conference for judiciary and law experts condemned war criminals namely, US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Contrary to this, Iran has extended and continues to extend a helping hand to Lebanon on many levels.

It has expressed its willingness and readiness to help Lebanon in building two power plants for electricity supplies which will be of great benefit for our country.

Time and again, the Islamic Republic of Iran has offered help to Lebanon and never given false promises. Nowadays, Iran waits for an official Lebanese answer to the new offer to supply Lebanon with free fuel oil.

The problem has been always because of the official Lebanese stance that fears Washington and its sanctions.

The kind of official conduct by the Lebanese government is shameful and lacks respect for our country and people alike. It does not reflect at all that we are a free and sovereign country, rather a pro-western nation that is dictated by Washington.

My vision and our promise, this will not continue and the majority of the Lebanese will not accept to be subordinate to Washington or any other country.

It is time for our officials to learn how to protect our dignity and independence so they would resemble their people that sacrificed lives for the sake of the country’s independence and liberation.

Hezbollah: Forty Dimensions of Uniqueness [2/3] – Requirements for the Role of Resistance

August 27, 2022

By Housam Matar | Al-Akhbar Newspaper

Translated by Al-Ahed News

Hezbollah is a small organization fighting “Israel”, which is a regional entity and project with unlimited international support. Therefore, it needed material and financial assets, cadres, an incubating environment, a logistical structure, a dynamic and charismatic leadership, and a strategic geopolitical depth [national and supranational]. How did Hezbollah achieve this?

The first article in our three-part series focused on the impact of local and regional components on the emergence of the party and its forty years of experience.

17- Strict discipline and morality: A widely held notion is that military discipline is the father of all disciplines, and that the concept of bureaucratic organization was born within military formations to enhance the chances of victory before being adapted by other components of the state.

Hezbollah’s core is its jihadist military apparatus, and everything else within the party serves this core and gains value from it.

Combative competence requires strict discipline even within non-state/non-governmental movements, especially when their main enemy is highly efficient.

One of the ways to close the material gap with the “Israeli” enemy is to maximize the use of human resources through strict control, coordination, extracting the best from them, and using them with the highest feasibility, as well as maintaining confidentiality and adhering to the rules.

This requires a structure that combines hierarchy in the chain of command and flexibility in combat plans.

The religious dimension, especially concepts such as order [Allah Allah is in your orderly affairs], obedience to the leadership [which descends from the infallible to the Wali al-Faqih (guardian jurist) to the end of the organizational hierarchy according to authority and scope], the culture of keeping secrets, and the jihad spirit help in strengthening the mentality of discipline.

Thus, discipline within the party has a subjective, cultural, and religious dimension, in addition to the institutional one. This characteristic, i.e., a high degree of military discipline, quickly trickled down to the party’s institutions and formations.

This is why the organizational structures, both military and civilian, are far more significant than the sum of all individual efforts because the former is the outcome of the latter multiplied by several times the level of discipline.

18- Ideological framing is a necessary element for all revolutionary movements as it allows them to present their project to the public, create an identity for the organization, chart its course, and determine the objectives. It also compensates for the material impotence in the face of the hostile force.

The party’s ideology has a religious foundation. Its view is that the world is divided between the oppressed and the arrogant; the main source of the crisis in the region and its people is the structure of domination and occupation, and the path to independence is through Islamic resistance. Accordingly, “Israel” must be removed from existence, and America must be fought as an aggressor and an arrogant political regime as well as the Great Satan who has agents and tools within the region.

Hezbollah’s key attribute in this regard is its ideology. The group combines religious, political, and historical elements within its ideological framework in a manner that is easy for the public to understand and use and in a formulation that allows it to overlap with third world ideologies hostile to American hegemony, even from completely different premises, for example, leftist and nationalist.

19- The military rise imposed by the power of the “Israeli” enemy, as the party evolved militarily and organizationally to unprecedented levels.

The “Israeli” army is very powerful thanks to its accumulation of resources, planning, and massive Western support. It employs those resources effectively, as they constantly increase, linked to the growth of the “Israeli” economy and the continuous infusion of American military resources, both technically and financially.

Accordingly, the party found itself facing one possibility, other than defeat, which was to work to match the “Israeli” military and security forces in an asymmetric and creative way.

Thus, under heavy and sustained pressure to maintain a liberating and then deterrent capability, with Iranian-Syrian support, Hezbollah turned into one of the deadliest organizations on a global scale, according to American experts.

Perhaps the most prominent example in the present day is the party’s precision project [precision missiles and drones]. These have the aim of countering “Israel’s” relative fire superiority in an asymmetric way that allows Hezbollah to hit the entity’s home front, which is of a limited geographical depth.

The party’s firepower, in quality and quantity, is not possessed by many armies around the world. This power can count on supplies in terms of technology, organization, training, planning, management, storage, secrecy, and knowledge, which is quickly reflected in the party’s other compartments.

20- Openness to modern sciences and their employment:

From the beginning, Hezbollah recognized the urgent need for scientific cadres, especially those that could be integrated into military development, and specifically those with basic engineering disciplines.

With the acceleration of “Israeli” technical progress, which is among the most advanced in the world as a result of the policies adopted by the “Israeli” government to attract technology companies since the 1980s, the party deepened its interest in modern sciences related to the manufacturing of explosive devices, building and using missile capabilities, and expanding in engineering disciplines for underground construction, communication, surveillance, broadcasting, and interception technologies. There is special focus on air and sea, and then programming techniques, artificial intelligence and data analysis.

Hezbollah achieved this through several avenues, including the transfer of Iranian experience and knowledge, sending student missions to both Syria and Iran, attracting outstanding university youths, and directing university students towards specific specializations.

 It is easy for party members to engage in these disciplines since they are far from philosophical, social, and cultural issues that may conflict with religious beliefs and their interpretations.

This scientific culture was not confined to the military or hard sciences, but rather expanded to the disciplines of humanities, social, and economic sciences that influence the decision-making process through the establishment of research institutions specialized in public policy affairs (law, economics, and politics), development, statistics, family, education, culture, philosophy, and history. This gave the party a distinct advantage from many parties and political frameworks.

21- Interest in learning and accumulating experiences:

The “Israelis” themselves gave them this description, as they find that the party is always interested in drawing lessons and is good at learning from its experiences.

This quality is related to the need to mainly keep pace with the “Israeli” force and to compensate for the limited material and human resources.

The institutional environment of the party in its jihadi and organizational units also allows recording, storing, and retrieving data and information and extracting knowledge from it.

For example, in the documentary the Al-Manar Channel broadcast regarding the resistance operations in Syria and the Lebanese outskirts against terrorist organizations, specialized individuals were present within the various formations.

Their mission was to document live what is happening. They wore helmets equipped with cameras, and filming teams and officers specialized in studies kept pace with real operations for direct extraction of lessons to later update training and combat plans based on them.

Specialists in these tasks cite a saying attributed to Imam Ali (PBUH): “The mind is the preservation of experiences.”

Many institutions and party frameworks are interested in oral documentation of the history of their cadres, especially the founders’ generation. The Foundation for Preserving the Traces of Martyrs collects and archives as many of their works, achievements, and stories as possible and republishes them in the form of stories, biographies, and dramas.

22- Specialization and integration between military units, or the so-called interlacing of arms:

With the emergence of new needs and greater capabilities, the party is constantly promoting specialization in the military field, without this leading to separation and isolation between specialized units, but rather bringing them together according to objective and organizational criteria.

Specialization allows the party to build highly professional and experienced cadres with knowledgeable backgrounds, especially in advanced fields.

With technical progress in any field, additional specializations appear within it, which helps the party in its secrecy efforts by making information available in each field to a smaller number of individuals, making the possibility of an intelligence breach difficult and limiting its results if it occurs.

During the July 2006 war, alongside the conventional anti-armor units, a special Kornet missile unit appeared, which caused great damage to “Israeli” armor and contributed to thwarting “Israeli” ground maneuvers.

This specialized mentality was not limited to the military field of the party but extended to the entire organization. There are civil bodies that manage the affairs of communication with specific segments of the population [youth, students, women, children, unions, free professions, artists, media professionals, teachers, families of martyrs, etc.], and each field has its institutions [health, education, research and studies, social affairs, traditional and new media, etc.].

23- Progress through realistic achievements: The party was forced to make a radical change in the general mentality prevailing during the eighties, which did not see a horizon for resistance or military victory over the “Israeli” enemy after successive Arab disappointments, the last of which was not Egypt’s exit from the conflict.

This change was not possible through theorizing and mental persuasion in the beginning. Rather, it required successive success stories that inspire youth, mobilize society, and create faith through resistance.

One of the most prominent factors of the party’s uniqueness is its focus on bringing about a change in the reality of the conflict and providing an unambiguous answer to the challenge of the occupation.

Therefore, the first waves of resistance operations were characterized by a lot of valor and human sacrifice – from martyrdom operations [particularly the martyrdom operation of Ahmed Kassir in Tyre in 1982] to operations at the fronts to break into enemy positions and break its prestige, in which a relatively large number of martyrs fell.

Hezbollah’s success story in resistance is the anchor of its soft power, and it has been a snowball rolling for 40 years. Therefore, the party does not sometimes find itself concerned with much theorizing in the field of resistance, as the experience speaks for itself. It only works on framing it and presenting it to the public in various forms on an ongoing basis.

24- Control in the battle of awareness and the narrative of victory: In the context of the war with the “Israeli” enemy, Hezbollah managed to achieve a remarkable superiority in the battle of awareness based on establishing its credibility and reliability due to the media performance and leadership charisma of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Victory in contemporary wars is no longer decisive because they are non-comprehensive wars, but rather extended, low-intensity wars where victory is achieved through accumulation.

Because victory is no longer decisive, it has become an imagined and relative issue that depends on expectations, the framing of the battle, and the psychological and media performance of the two sides.

The “Israeli” enemy has been making unremitting efforts in recent years in the battle of awareness, developing media platforms and networks, and controlling its military rhetoric and terminology to regain the initiative in this field.

This explains the anti-Hezbollah efforts to correct the credibility of its leadership as a basis for attracting popular support and influencing enemy societies.

This characteristic of the party reinforces the “Israelis’” reluctance to wage war, as without a decisive outcome it will be easier for the party to present its narrative of the war and its victory in it, whether for the local or regional audience or even segments of the settlers in the “Israeli” entity.

The bulk of modern wars do not take place on the frontlines, but in the societies of the warring parties. Therefore, the emerging awareness/cognitive wars are active on recent discoveries in neuroscience and psychology, as well as on the massive expansion of social media.

25- Mastering the calculated dangerous maneuver: There is no doubt that the party is a rational [value-based] player, even if it is good at convincing its opponents that it is not when necessary, especially since it goes with careful calculations towards sometimes unimaginable “adventures.” The need for adventure is related either to necessity or to a window of opportunity or both.

Hezbollah’s strength and structure, the metaphysical dimension in its culture, and its reliance on a regional lever help it accept “adventures” when necessary.

The two most recent examples of this are its participation in the Syrian war and the current border-energy escalation with the “Israeli” entity. Participation in the Syrian war was perhaps Hezbollah’s greatest adventure.

However, after the Syrian opposition became armed, militarized, and international, the party had no other choice but to either accept the challenge or accept the catastrophic outcome of the Syrian war.

The party was able to employ its limited capabilities in the most efficient way possible on the ground, which contributed to pushing an existential threat to Syria, Lebanon, and the resistance and reducing it to a strategic challenge that can be dealt with for years.

In the second case, Hezbollah is benefiting from a favorable international moment and from local necessities linked to the collapse to seize the opportunity to regain Lebanon’s invading rights, based on gradual, calculated steps that balance between positioning behind the negotiating process of the Lebanese state and its readiness to go to war if necessary.

26- Deepening the strategic front: Confronting the Zionist entity is a conflict with the American system of hegemony in the region.

Any national resistance movement, especially when it belongs to small states, must possess a strategic depth that guarantees it supplies of resources, maneuverability, and political cover.

Thus, the party had to build a regional strategy based on this need. That is why it was primarily concerned with the relationship with Syria and Iran and for a long time chose to avoid confronting other Arab regimes, built ties with Islamist and nationalist groups and parties in the region, and inspired and supported groups that share the project of confronting hegemony.

Therefore, when the “Israelis” evaluate the cost of the war with Hezbollah, in addition to the unprecedented losses and damage they will incur, many regional factors will be present about the role of Iraq and Yemen, for example, and how this will affect the normalization project and the party’s ability to use the Syrian front, and whether the lines of fighting inside Palestine will move.

The Americans’ integration of Arab regimes [such as Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Qatar] and Turkey more clearly in the regional confrontation after the failure of the project to invade Iraq has led to an increase in the party and Iran’s interest in building a strategic depth for the resistance project and protecting its main regional incubators.

27- Application of hybrid warfare: In its infancy, the party followed the traditional methods of guerrilla warfare due to its relatively limited resources, embryonic experience, and modest human number.

However, the growth and development of the party’s military power prompted it over time to develop its own model in which it combines guerrilla tactics with the capabilities of regular armies.

This hybrid method emerged in the fighting in 2006, then in the Syrian war, and this attracted many “Israeli” and Western studies and evaluations.

The party integrates with remarkable efficiency between war on awareness, media messages, psychological warfare, and security activities, including cyber war, in its military effort.

It also combines traditional and highly advanced means, such as merging traditional fire media with live images from drones directing fire or the possible combination of conventional and precision missiles in the next war in intensive waves to flood the Iron Dome system and reduce its interception efficiency.

28- Economization in military force to avoid distraction and attrition: The party is aware of the limits of its strength and its capabilities. Therefore, its performance sometimes appears conservative, but this is related to its leadership’s estimates of force rationing, even if it is sometimes surplus.

This tendency is linked to the concern that the elements of power will be wasted at the expense of the primary conflict with the “Israeli” enemy.

This economization of force means using it as little as possible in cases outside the direct conflict with the “Israeli” enemy and using other tools or the threat of force.

Therefore, the events of May 7, 2008 were an exception to establish the rule to not use weapons at home, and the Syrian war was an exception linked to an existential threat to the resistance.

Many of the experiences of national forces that have engaged in internal conflicts that have exhausted them, especially with the party’s obsession with sectarian civil war under great external influence hostile to the resistance, are present in the awareness of Hezbollah leaders.

This surplus in military power sometimes pushes the party to abstain from highlighting and using its political influence at home so that this is not considered an investment in its military power.

This management of power includes the conflict with the “Israeli” enemy itself, where the resistance accurately calculates each step and its results and what it will reveal in terms of capabilities and feasibility by noting the goal, stage, and cost.

Power is tempting, so the party is credited with understanding and controlling its limits, not the other way around.

29- The brilliance of the security and intelligence capabilities: These provide the party’s leadership with a huge amount of political, security, and social data and information at the internal level that are related to the “Israeli” enemy and the arenas that have an impact on the resistance project.

This intelligence need motivates the party to dedicate significant resources to invest in technology. This investment, data, and information for military and security need is automatically reflected in the rest of the civilian units through the transfer of experience, expertise, and information so that it is employed to extract knowledge to develop political, development, electoral, or media plans.

30- Youth momentum: The party pays special attention to attracting this segment, as it is in the first place the most capable of fighting and field work.

The party grew up on young cadres, as the older generation at that time had made its political choices in other formations. Therefore, it was natural that the founding generation of Hezbollah were young people who were looking for a different political project.

Hezbollah benefits from the nature of the jihad work, which attracts young people who are captivated by the desire for strength, achievement, and heroism and who are more willing to sacrifice.

Hezbollah allocates a great number of resources and institutions specifically to attracting and integrating young segments into the party. It works to a great extent on rehabilitating them culturally, militarily, and politically and giving them roles that allow them to work and advance in the military and civil fields.

Therefore, Hezbollah is a young, vibrant, and renewed organization, but this is not without challenges and dilemmas related to the generational difference and the emergence of new cultures and values within the party organization that may raise some tensions.

Iran’s UN Envoy Slams “Israel” Refusal to Join NPT, Urges Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in ME

August 27, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

A senior Iranian diplomat has denounced the “Israeli” entity’s continued refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], stressing that establishing a Middle East region free of nuclear weapons is of utmost importance.

Iran’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, made the remarks while speaking to reporters on Friday on the sidelines of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons held at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The issue of the Middle East as a region free of nuclear weapons is one of the important discussions… because the ‘Israeli’ regime, as the only possessor of hundreds of nuclear warheads, is not ready to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said.

He added that the “Israeli” entity’s refusal to join the NPT comes as some countries are cooperating with the regime and have always supported it.

The Iranian delegation attending the tenth NPT review conference played a constructive role in highlighting the significance of a Middle East region free of weapons of mass destruction, he said

As documents relating to the NPT review conferences in 1995, 2000, and 2010 have explicitly announced that the apartheid “Israeli” regime must join the treaty, the Iranian team emphasized that the issue should also be included in the final statement of the 10th NPT review meeting, Takht-Ravanchi added.

He emphasized that during the current conference, the Islamic Republic clearly announced that it would not back down from its stance on the importance of a Middle East without any weapons of mass destruction.

“We said that this issue is one of the red lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran and if they want to act honestly and constructively, the literature used in the statements of previous conferences should also be used in this conference in order to move towards a Middle East without nuclear weapons,” the senior Iranian diplomat pointed out.

He noted that Iran seeks to reach a consensus with the participants at the current NPT review conference but it has principles and certain measures must be carried out.

In a Monday address to the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Takht-Ravanchi expressed concern over the lack of progress in the implementation of the 1995 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] resolution and the 2010 action plan on the Middle East, saying the “Israeli” regime must eliminate its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Takht-Ravanchi also slammed the US double standards, saying the entity’s accession to the NPT “without precondition and further delay” and the placement of all of its nuclear activities and facilities under the comprehensive IAEA safeguards are “essential in realizing the goal of universal adherence to the Treaty in the Middle East and the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.”

The “Israeli” entity, which pursues a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear weapons, is estimated to possess 200 to 400 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, making it the sole possessor of non-conventional arms in West Asia.

The illegitimate entity has, however, refused to either allow inspections of its military nuclear facilities or sign the NPT.

What has emboldened Tel Aviv to accelerate its nuclear activities, according to observers, is the support from the US and Europe, the two countries most critical of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.

The regime has assassinated at least seven Iranian nuclear scientists and conducted a series of sabotage operations against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities.

Iran launches in country-wide UAV maneuvers

August 26, 2022

Algeria ready to provide Lebanon with fuel: Energy Minister

Due to severe fuel shortages, Lebanon’s last running power station is set to be forced out of service on Friday afternoon

August 26 2022

Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

ByNews Desk

Lebanon’s Energy Minister Walid Fayyad says Algeria is ready to provide the country with fuel for its electricity plants, and is willing to do so through Sonatrach, the North African country’s state-owned oil company.

“The country ready to help us in securing fuel oil is Algeria, and I met with [their] Minister of Foreign Affairs… we are preparing for a future visit to Algeria,” Fayyad said on 26 August.

“The agreement with Iraq will secure us 40 thousand tons, but we [still need] 110 thousand tons in order to secure… electricity from other countries,” the energy minister added.

Fayyad went on to say that the ministry has reviewed a decision by Lebanon’s state-owned power company, Electricite du Liban (EDL), to partially increase the supply needed for the country’s power grid.

However, the decision is awaiting approval from Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati.

Under the current situation, Lebanese citizens are forced to rely on private generators, as they usually do not receive more than one hour of electricity a day from Lebanon’s power plants.

According to Fayyad, the remaining 110 thousand tons of fuel that Lebanon needs will secure a daily nine hours.

Alongside the crippling economic crisis that Lebanon faces, the country has been dealing with severe fuel shortages.

Lebanese media reported this week that the Al-Zahrani power station, the country’s last running power plant, will be shut down on the Friday afternoon due to the depletion of its fuel supply.

Earlier this month, Mikati met with the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Mojtaba Amani, and agreed to an offer of “free fuel” from Iran, an official close to Mikati told The Cradle.

Despite the agreement, however, the Prime Minister-designate has failed to provide the documents necessary for initiating the process to receive the Iranian fuel.

Moreover, Lebanon is still waiting for the fruition of a US-sponsored gas deal to import electricity into the country through Jordan and Syria. The deal, however, has failed to materialize due to a US refusal to provide a sanctions-waiver for the countries and states involved.

It has also stalled due to the reluctance of the World Bank in financing the agreement, a reluctance that it has failed to provide a clear reason for.

Bad blood shrouds ‘Israel’ as top officials fight over Iran deal

27 Aug 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The Israeli Mossad chief’s remarks on a looming nuclear agreement, which he called a “strategic disaster”, were not coordinated with the Israeli PM and were contradictory to official talking points.

Israeli Mossad chief David Barnea meets with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid

In yet another feature of mounting internal divisions in “Israel”, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid was taken aback by Mossad chief David Barnea‘s harsh warnings about an emerging Iran nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, as per Israeli media.

Barnea called the nuclear deal, as quoted by reporters, “a strategic disaster” for “Israel”, stressing that the United States “is rushing into an accord that is ultimately based on lies.”

The message was considered harsher and more critical of the US position than previous statements from “Tel Aviv”.

In further detail, Israeli Channel 12 news said that Lapid had met with Barnea between the Mossad chief’s briefing to reporters and the publication of the remarks, which took Lapid by surprise.

Barnea briefed reporters at 11 am, on the condition that his remarks not be published until 8 pm. During that time gap, Barnea and Lapid had a pre-scheduled meeting, which was announced by the Prime Minister’s office.

Lapid was aware of Barnea’s media briefing, but they had not coordinated the comments, and Barnea’s statements differed from talking points circulated by the Prime Minister’s office several days ago and from the message Lapid has been attempting to convey, as per Israeli Channel 12.

Lapid called the Mossad chief shortly after Barnea’s comments were published, telling him he had gone off script in how he criticized the US and asked him for clarification. Whether Barnea was reprimanded or not remains unclear.

Trying to downplay Barnea’s anti-US comments, Israeli media claimed there was an intentional inaccuracy in reporting Barnea’s words to make it seem that he had directly criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the Iran issue, when he had not done so, as per Israeli claims.

Israeli Channel 12 reported that the Mossed has told Lapid that a new Iran deal will most likely be inked in the coming days or weeks. 

In response, the channel reported, the Israeli army and Mossad are planning a series of attacks against Iran, including a strike on its nuclear program, which Iran has been confirming its peacefulness for a long time now.

The US has recently responded to Iran’s comments on the EU draft agreement to restore the nuclear deal on Wednesday.

It is worth noting that the divide over the Iran nuclear deal runs roughly between Israeli officials, becoming more salient as the US pushes for the deal’s revival.

This dispute has a direct impact today on escalating internal divisions which threaten the occupation’s national security. 

Read more: Israeli government on the verge of collapse; Bennett, Lapid struggle

A US-Israeli divorce

Amir Bohbot, a military affairs commentator for the Israeli Wallah website, has lately said that “Israel will not sit in the audience amid the developments in the negotiations between Iran and the United States over the nuclear deal.”

Bohbot added that a conflict might soon begin between the United States and “Israel” over the issue, maintaining that even if they try to keep it behind the scenes, it will appear to the public.

According to Bohbot, “The Iranians are cleverly leading the Americans by the nose,” which does not make the United States militarily reliable, he added.

Related Videos

The head of the Israeli Mossad enters the debate over the prospect of a new nuclear agreement with Iran
Washington responded to the draft nuclear agreement… and Tel Aviv is working to obstruct

Related Stories

Iranian FM visits Mali days after French withdrawal

Malian officials praised Iran for providing aid that ‘does not seek superiority, and seeks the interests of Africans’

August 24 2022

(Photo credit: Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

ByNews Desk- 

On 23 August, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian travelled to Mali to meet with interim President Colonel Assimi Goïta, one week after France withdrew the last of its troops from the African state.

Amir-Abdollahian expressed Tehran’s determination to develop cooperation with Bamako and praised the nation’s struggles against terror groups, highlighting Iran’s experience in the successful fight against ISIS in West Asia.

Western military troops have been operating in Mali – a former French colony – since 2013, allegedly to assist in defeating terrorism. But as terror acts steadily increased over the past decade, Malians have slammed the foreign military intervention and labelled the presence of French troops as an “occupation.”

In a previous letter to the UN Security Council president, Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop accused France of supporting terrorists in his country.

“These flagrant violations of Malian airspace were used by France to collect information for terrorist groups operating in the Sahel and to drop arms and ammunition to them,” the letter charged.

In the meeting to boost bilateral relations between Iran and Mali, Goïta emphasized his nation’s readiness to host Iranian industrialists and entrepreneurs.

Earlier in the day, Iran’s top diplomat took part in the first Iran-Mali joint economic commission with his Malian counterpart, Diop.

After unveiling special plans to promote economic cooperation with the West African nation, Amir-Abdollahian took aim at the “failure” of western sanctions imposed on sovereign nations.

“The west’s nonsensical sanctions policy has failed, and nations will move forward with perseverance, stability, and self-confidence,” Amir-Abdollahian said.

He also called on Malian authorities to take advantage of Tehran’s accumulated experience in the field of countering western sanctions.

“Iran attaches great importance to the development of relations with the important and beautiful African continent. The new Iranian government of President [Ebrahim] Raisi places special emphasis on prioritizing the relationship with Africa, especially with a historical and civilized country like the Republic of Mali,” the Iranian foreign minister affirmed.

For his part, the Malian foreign minister praised Raisi’s commitment to Africa.

“Many countries are interested in Africa for their own interests, but Iran’s choice is different. Iran’s choice is not for political purposes and does not seek superiority, and seeks the interests of Africans,” Diop said.

At the conclusion of their meeting, Amir-Abdollahian announced that the Islamic Republic would donate one million doses of its homemade COVID-19 vaccine to Mali.

Leading a high-ranking economic delegation on a tour of Africa, Amir-Abdollahian is next set to visit Tanzania and Zanzibar.

%d bloggers like this: