Saudi Crown Prince Defies the US Policy against Syria

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° 

In November 2022, Saudi Arabia formally changed its stance on Syria. Saudi Arabia is the political powerhouse of the Middle East, and often shares positions on foreign policy and international issues with the UAE, which has previously re-opened their embassy in Damascus.

“The kingdom is keen to maintain Syria’s security and stability and supports all efforts aimed at finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the November Arab League summit in Algeria.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 following the outbreak of conflict instigated by the US, and portrayed in western media as a popular uprising of pro-democracy protesters.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said, “The developments in Syria still require a pioneering Arab effort. It is necessary to show flexibility from all parties so that the economic collapse and political blockage can be dispelled. Syria must engage in its natural Arab environment.”

The next Arab League summit will be held in Saudi Arabia, and there is a possibility of Syria once again taking its seat at the round table.

On January 16, the Syrian Foreign Ministry agreed to resume imports from Saudi Arabia after over a decade of strained relations, and Syria planned to import 10,000 tons of white sugar. This development signals a new beginning between the two countries.

Saudi and the Syrian tribes

The Arab tribes in the north east of Syria have traditionally had strong ties with Saudi Arabia, and have received support from the kingdom. The tribes have opposed the ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of Arab villages which the US-led YPG militia has conducted for years. Even though Saudi Arabia has been viewed as a US ally in the past, this has changed since the US military has supported the Marxist YPG who have oppressed Syrians who are not Kurdish.

The US occupied oil wells in north east Syria may come under attack by Arab tribes who are demanding their homes, farms and businesses back from the US-supported YPG.  Some analysts foresee the US troops pulling out of Syria after the Kurds find a political solution with Damascus.

Turkey and Syria repair relationship

Turkey and Syria have begun steps to repair their relationship, which ended after Turkey supported the US-NATO attack on Syria for regime change, and hosted the CIA operations room funneling weapons and terrorists into Syria, under the Obama administration.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad demanded recently the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria to begin to repair the relationship.

Russia is brokering the reconciliation between Erdogan and Assad, which began with the Moscow hosted meeting of the three defense ministers, and a meeting between the three foreign ministers is upcoming.

The developments between Turkey and Syria are being watched by Iran. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said his country was “happy with the dialogue taking place between Syria and Turkey.” Amirabdollahian will travel to Damascus on Saturday for talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Mekdad.

Iran is looking to establish a new role in the recovery process in Syria. President Ebrahim Raisi will visit both Turkey and Syria soon, his first visit to Turkey since taking office two years ago.  While analysts see Saudi Arabia and Iran as antagonists, some feel the kingdom will ultimately realize they have to work with Iran in Syria and Lebanon.  Iran is part of the region and can’t be excluded from the geo-political sphere.

Saudi Arabian reforms 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said on April 27, 2021 that the country was undergoing a sweeping reform which would restructure the role of religion in Saudi politics and society.  The process began a few years before he became crown prince, but under his leadership it has accelerated. Islamic institutions in the Kingdom have seen changes in procedure, personnel, and jurisdiction.  All of these reforms are in line with the future vision of the country.

Some analysts feel the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1960s eventually gave rise to support for domestic religious institutions, and eventually led to funding of religious activities abroad, while religious leaders at home wielded power over public policy.

Vision 2030

Saudi King Salman, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and his son, MBS have a plan for the country which is known as Vision 2030.  MBS is also Prime Minister and Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.

The days of unlimited oil and markets are in the decline. Education, training, and employment opportunities are the stepping stones to building a thriving country and MBS is determined to plan for a long future of growth and innovation.

MBS

The Crown Prince is young and has new ideas.  He is instituting sweeping reforms to the society which have included more rights and freedoms for women. He has championed projects to place Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination, year round golf and soccer venue, and encouraged cultural arts such as musical productions. MBS is breaking the mold: no longer will Saudi Arabia be a breeding ground for Radical Islam.

Extremist preachers

Saudi Arabia had hosted many extremist preachers.  Some were featured on satellite TV channels located in Saudi Arabia, and others were local preachers, authors, or scholars.  Some had traveled abroad preaching in pulpits and exporting their hatred and sectarian bigotry.

One of the most famous preachers was Muhammed Al-Arifi, who has had an electronic surveillance device attached to him by Saudi intelligence agents, after they seized all of his social media accounts. His last tweet is said to be on May 6, 2019, when he had 20 million followers, and 24 million likes on Facebook, which ranked him as tenth in the Arab world and in the Middle East. The kingdom is shutting down clerics who are extreme.

In 2014, Great Britain banned Arifi from entering the UK following reports that was involved in radicalizing three young British citizens who went to Syria as terrorists.

A YouTube video in 2013 showed Arifi preaching in Egypt and prophesying the coming of the Islamic State.  Egyptian TV reported Arifi meeting with the former Muslim Brotherhood prime minister Hisham Qandil in his office.

Arifi is best remembered for his statement on the media Al Jazeera in which he called for jihad in Syria and supported Al Qaeda.

Adnan al-Arour is another extremist preacher who had appeared regularly on two Saudi-owned Salafist satellite channels. Arour was originally from Syria before settling in Saudi Arabia, and in the early days of the Syrian conflict he would stand up on camera, shake his finger, and called for his followers to ‘grind the flesh’ of an Islamic minority sect in Syria and ‘feed it to the dogs’.

These extremist preachers made it clear that the battles being waged in Syria had nothing to do with freedom or democracy, which the western media was pushing as the goal.  The truth was the conflict in Syria was a US-NATO attack for regime change and utilized terrorists following Radical Islam, who fought a sectarian war with the goal of establishing an Islamic State in Syria.

The previous Crown Prince

Muhammad bin Nayef Al Saud (MBN) served as the crown prince and first deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia from 2015 to 2017.  On June 21, 2017 King Salman appointed his own son, MBS, as crown prince and relieved MBN of all positions.

MBN met with British Prime Minister David Cameron in January 2013. He then met with President Obama in Washington, on 14 January 2013. The discussion focused on the US-NATO attack on Syria and its support from Saudi Arabia.

In February 2014, MBN replaced Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia, and was placed in charge of Saudi intelligence in Syria. Bandar had been in charge of supporting the US attack on Syria. Bandar had been trying to convince the US in 2012 that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons.  However, research has shown that the terrorists used chemical weapons to push Obama into a military invasion, based on his speech of ‘The Red Line’.

In March 2016, MBN was awarded Légion d’honneur by French President François Hollande, another partner in the US-NATO attack on Syria.

On February 10, 2017, the CIA granted its highest Medal to MBN and was handed to him by CIA director Mike Pompeo during a reception ceremony in Riyadh. MBN and Pompeo discussed Syria with Turkish officials, and said Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the US was “historic and strategic”.  Just months later in June MBS would depose MBN and strip him of powers, in a move considered to be “upending decades of royal custom and profoundly reordering the kingdom’s inner power structure”.

US diplomats argued that MBN was “the most pro-American minister in the Saudi Cabinet”. That is what brought MBN down. The days of blindly following the US directives are over in Saudi Arabia.  MBS has refused to bow down to Biden when he demanded an increase in oil production.  The Vision 2030 that MBS developed does not include financing failed wars in the Middle East for the benefit of the Oval Office. MBS has a strained relationship with Biden, and he wears it as a badge of honor.

Saudi role in the Syrian war

Saudi Arabia played a huge role in the large-scale supply of weapons and ammunition to various terrorist groups in Syria during the Syrian conflict.  Weapons purchased in Croatia were funneled through Jordan to the border town of Deraa, the epi-center of the Syrian conflict.

At the height of Saudi involvement in Syria, the kingdom had their own militia in Syria under the command of Zahran Alloush. The Jaysh al-Islam are remembered for parading women in cages through the Damascus countryside prior to massacring them.

In summer 2017, US President Donald Trump shut down the CIA operation ‘Timber Sycamore’ which had been arming the terrorists fighting in Syria. About the same time, Saudi Arabia cut off support to the Syrian opposition, which was the political arm of the terrorists.

Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, expressed his view at the time that “Saudi Arabia is involved in the ISIS-led Sunni rebellion” in Syria.

Syria has been destroyed by the US and their allies who supported the attack beginning in 2011.  Now, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are looking to find a solution which will help the Syrian people to rebuild their lives.  Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have turned away from past policies which found them supporting the conflict in Syria at the behest of the US.  There is a new Middle East emerging which makes its own policies and is not subservient US interests.


Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist

Global South: Gold-backed currencies to replace the US dollar

The adoption of commodity-backed currencies by the Global South could upend the US dollar’s dominance and level the playing field in international trade.

January 19 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

Let’s start with three interconnected multipolar-driven facts.

First: One of the key take aways from the World Economic Forum annual shindig in Davos, Switzerland is when Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan, on a panel on “Saudi Arabia’s Transformation,” made it clear that Riyadh “will consider trading in currencies other than the US dollar.”

So is the petroyuan finally at hand? Possibly, but Al-Jadaan wisely opted for careful hedging: “We enjoy a very strategic relationship with China and we enjoy that same strategic relationship with other nations including the US and we want to develop that with Europe and other countries.”

Second: The Central Banks of Iran and Russia are studying the adoption of a “stable coin” for foreign trade settlements, replacing the US dollar, the ruble and the rial. The crypto crowd is already up in arms, mulling the pros and cons of a gold-backed central bank digital currency (CBDC) for trade that will be in fact impervious to the weaponized US dollar.

A gold-backed digital currency

The really attractive issue here is that this gold-backed digital currency would be particularly effective in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of Astrakhan, in the Caspian Sea.

Astrakhan is the key Russian port participating in the International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC), with Russia processing cargo travelling across Iran in merchant ships all the way to West Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean and South Asia.

The success of the INSTC – progressively tied to a gold-backed CBDC – will largely hinge on whether scores of Asian, West Asian and African nations refuse to apply US-dictated sanctions on both Russia and Iran.

As it stands, exports are mostly energy and agricultural products; Iranian companies are the third largest importer of Russian grain. Next will be turbines, polymers, medical equipment, and car parts. Only the Russia-Iran section of the INSTC represents a $25 billion business.

And then there’s the crucial energy angle of INSTC – whose main players are the Russia-Iran-India triad.

India’s purchases of Russian crude have increased year-by-year by a whopping factor of 33. India is the world’s third largest importer of oil; in December, it received 1.2 million barrels from Russia, which for several months now is positioned ahead of Iraq and Saudi Arabia as Delhi’s top supplier.

‘A fairer payment system’

Third: South Africa holds this year’s rotating BRICS presidency. And this year will mark the start of BRICS+ expansion, with candidates ranging from Algeria, Iran and Argentina to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has just confirmed that the BRICS do want to find a way to bypass the US dollar and thus create “a fairer payment system not skewed toward wealthier countries.”

For years now, Yaroslav Lissovolik, head of the analytical department of Russian Sberbank’s corporate and investment business has been a proponent of closer BRICS integration and the adoption of a BRICS reserve currency.

Lissovolik reminds us that the first proposal “to create a new reserve currency based on a basket of currencies of BRICS countries was formulated by the Valdai Club back in 2018.”

Are you ready for the R5?

The original idea revolved around a currency basket similar to the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) model, composed of the national currencies of BRICS members – and then, further on down the road, other currencies of the expanded BRICS+ circle.

Lissovolik explains that choosing BRICS national currencies made sense because “these were among the most liquid currencies across emerging markets. The name for the new reserve currency — R5 or R5+ — was based on the first letters of the BRICS currencies all of which begin with the letter R (real, ruble, rupee, renminbi, rand).”

So BRICS already have a platform for their in-depth deliberations in 2023. As Lissovolik notes, “in the longer run, the R5 BRICS currency could start to perform the role of settlements/payments as well as the store of value/reserves for the central banks of emerging market economies.”

It is virtually certain that the Chinese yuan will be prominent right from the start, taking advantage of its “already advanced reserve status.”

Potential candidates that could become part of the R5+ currency basket include the Singapore dollar and the UAE’s dirham.

Quite diplomatically, Lissovolik maintains that, “the R5 project can thus become one of the most important contributions of emerging markets to building a more secure international financial system.”

The R5, or R5+ project does intersect with what is being designed at the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), led by the Macro-Economics Minister of the Eurasia Economic Commission, Sergey Glazyev.

A new gold standard

In Golden Ruble 3.0 , his most recent paper, Glazyev makes a direct reference to two by now notorious reports by Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar, formerly of the IMF, US Department of Treasury, and New York Federal Reserve: War and Commodity Encumbrance (December 27) and War and Currency Statecraft (December 29).

Pozsar is a staunch supporter of a Bretton Woods III – an idea that has been getting enormous traction among the Fed-skeptical crowd.

What’s quite intriguing is that the American Pozsar now directly quotes Russia’s Glazyev, and vice-versa, implying a fascinating convergence of their ideas.

Let’s start with Glazyev’s emphasis on the importance of gold. He notes the current accumulation of multibillion-dollar cash balances on the accounts of Russian exporters in “soft” currencies in the banks of Russia’s main foreign economic partners: EAEU nations, China, India, Iran, Turkey, and the UAE.

He then proceeds to explain how gold can be a unique tool to fight western sanctions if prices of oil and gas, food and fertilizers, metals and solid minerals are recalculated:

“Fixing the price of oil in gold at the level of 2 barrels per 1g will give a second increase in the price of gold in dollars, calculated Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar. This would be an adequate response to the ‘price ceilings’ introduced by the west – a kind of ‘floor,’ a solid foundation. And India and China can take the place of global commodity traders instead of Glencore or Trafigura.”

So here we see Glazyev and Pozsar converging. Quite a few major players in New York will be amazed.

Glazyev then lays down the road toward Gold Ruble 3.0. The first gold standard was lobbied by the Rothschilds in the 19th century, which “gave them the opportunity to subordinate continental Europe to the British financial system through gold loans.” Golden Ruble 1.0, writes Glazyev, “provided the process of capitalist accumulation.”

Golden Ruble 2.0, after Bretton Woods, “ensured a rapid economic recovery after the war.” But then the “reformer Khrushchev canceled the peg of the ruble to gold, carrying out monetary reform in 1961 with the actual devaluation of the ruble by 2.5 times, forming conditions for the subsequent transformation of the country [Russia] into a “raw material appendage of the Western financial system.”

What Glazyev proposes now is for Russia to boost gold mining to as much as 3 percent of GDP: the basis for fast growth of the entire commodity sector (30 percent of Russian GDP). With the country becoming a world leader in gold production, it gets “a strong ruble, a strong budget and a strong economy.”

All Global South eggs in one basket

Meanwhile, at the heart of the EAEU discussions, Glazyev seems to be designing a new currency not only based on gold, but partly based on the oil and natural gas reserves of participating countries.

Pozsar seems to consider this potentially inflationary: it could be if it results in some excesses, considering the new currency would be linked to such a large base.

Off the record, New York banking sources admit the US dollar would be “wiped out, since it is a valueless fiat currency, should Sergey Glazyev link the new currency to gold. The reason is that the Bretton Woods system no longer has a gold base and has no intrinsic value, like the FTX crypto currency. Sergey’s plan also linking the currency to oil and natural gas seems to be a winner.”

So in fact Glazyev may be creating the whole currency structure for what Pozsar called, half in jest, the “G7 of the East”: the current 5 BRICS plus the next 2 which will be the first new members of BRICS+.

Both Glazyev and Pozsar know better than anyone that when Bretton Woods was created the US possessed most of Central Bank gold and controlled half the world’s GDP. This was the basis for the US to take over the whole global financial system.

Now vast swathes of the non-western world are paying close attention to Glazyev and the drive towards a new non-US dollar currency, complete with a new gold standard which would in time totally replace the US dollar.

Pozsar completely understood how Glazyev is pursuing a formula featuring a basket of currencies (as Lissovolik suggested). As much as he understood the groundbreaking drive towards the petroyuan. He describes the industrial ramifications thus:

“Since as we have just said Russia, Iran, and Venezuela account for about 40 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, and each of them are currently selling oil to China for renminbi at a steep discount, we find BASF’s decision to permanently downsize its operations at its main plant in Ludwigshafen and instead shift its chemical operations to China was motivated by the fact that China is securing energy at discounts, not markups like Europe.”

The race to replace the dollar

One key takeaway is that energy-intensive major industries are going to be moving to China. Beijing has become a big exporter of Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) to Europe, while India has become a big exporter of Russian oil and refined products such as diesel – also to Europe. Both China and India – BRICS members – buy below market price from fellow BRICS member Russia and resell to Europe with a hefty profit. Sanctions? What sanctions?

Meanwhile, the race to constitute the new currency basket for a new monetary unit is on. This long-distance dialogue between Glazyev and Pozsar will become even more fascinating, as Glazyev will be trying to find a solution to what Pozsar has stated: tapping of natural resources for the creation of the new currency could be inflationary if money supply is increased too quickly.

All that is happening as Ukraine – a huge chasm at a critical junction of the New Silk Road blocking off Europe from Russia/China – slowly but surely disappears into a black void. The Empire may have gobbled up Europe for now, but what really matters geoeconomically, is how the absolute majority of the Global South is deciding to commit to the Russia/China-led block.

Economic dominance of BRICS+ may be no more than 7 years away – whatever toxicities may be concocted by that large, dysfunctional nuclear rogue state on the other side of the Atlantic. But first, let’s get that new currency going.

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

What prompted the urgent, secretive summit in Abu Dhabi?

January 20 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Key Arab heads of state convened this week for an emergency meeting that excluded the Saudis and Kuwaitis. The likely hot topics under discussion were Egypt’s economic collapse and Israel’s aggressive escalations.

By Abdel Bari Atwan

On 18 January, the United Arab Emirates hastily arranged a consultative summit in Abu Dhabi, which included the leaders of four member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Heads of state of the Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE attended the urgent summit, along with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

The absence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and either Kuwaiti Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad or his Crown Prince Mishaal al-Ahmad was noted with some surprise. No official statements or press leaks have yet emerged to explain the omission of the two GCC leaders or their high-level representatives from the urgent consultations.

This surprise summit came on the heels of a tripartite meeting in Cairo on 17 January, which included President Sisi, King Abdullah, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Directly afterward, the Jordanian monarch flew to Abu Dhabi carrying a message for Emirati Emir Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) that prompted him to immediately convene a summit the next day.

What was so urgent to necessitate an emergency meeting of Arab leaders? Why did the top Saudi and Kuwait leaders give the  summit a miss? There are several possibilities behind this swift convening of key Arab leaders in Abu Dhabi.

First, is the rapid deterioration of Egypt’s economy after the decline of the Egyptian pound to its lowest levels in history (32 pounds to the US dollar). Spiraling inflation rates, harsh conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – most notably the floating of the national currency and a heavy reduction of private contracting and trade companies affiliated with the Egyptian army – have added sharply to the economy’s downward turn.

There are reports that the IMF has asked GCC countries to provide $40 billion in immediate aid to Egypt, otherwise the state’s collapse is imminent and inevitable.

Second, are the dangerous policies currently under consideration by the right-wing government of Israel’s new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. These include, most notably, threats to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the practical abolition of Jordan’s Hashemite Custodianship over Jerusalem, the illegal annexation of the West Bank, and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of its Palestinian residents to Jordan.

Third, former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, warned his neighbors a few days ago on Twitter of an imminent US-Israeli aggression against Iran that could fundamentally shake the security and stability of the Gulf.

The risk of economic collapse facing Egypt was perhaps the most important and urgent factor on the summit agenda. Financial assistance from the Gulf – once a reliable source of emergency aid – has completely stopped. Even if it continues, funds will no longer arrive in the form of non-refundable grants and unconditional deposits, as in years past.

That approach to funding has changed as Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed bin Jadaan made clear in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on 18 January. In previous statements, Egypt’s President Sisi has confirmed his country’s financial woes by revealing that Gulf states have stopped their aid completely.

The absence of the Emir of Kuwait from the consultative summit may be understandable in this context – if, in fact, Egypt’s economy was the top of the summit’s agenda. The Kuwaiti National Assembly (parliament) has adopted a decision to prevent his government from providing a single dollar in aid to Egypt.

Gulf states have provided Egypt with $92 billion since the ‘Arab Uprisings’ began to tear through the region in January 2011.

Currently, Kuwait’s own internal governmental crisis, in addition to the deterioration of its relationship with Cairo over its deportation of Egyptian workers, can explain the emir’s absence. What is not understood so far, is why Saudi’s MbS was a no-show in Abu Dhabi.

While Emirati leader MbZ’s warm and friendly reception of his Qatari counterpart Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani raised hopes of easing bilateral tensions, news leaks suggested that Saudi-Emirati relations are in their own state of crisis – based on growing differences over the Yemeni war and other regional issues. Perhaps this crisis is what led to a thaw in Qatari-Emirati relations.

In addition, Egyptian-Saudi relations have collapsed to an state unprecedented for years. A report last month by US media outlet Axios revealed that Egyptian authorities have halted practical procedures in their transfer of the strategic Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi sovereignty. Egyptian official media has also launched a fierce attack on the Saudi-owned “MBC Egypt” channel and its presenter Amr Adib, accusing him of working for the Saudis amid fears the station will stop broadcasting from Egypt.

Besides the economic aspects, the differences, squabbles, and fluctuating relations between the countries of this axis, there are other issues of significant gravity that may have been addressed at the Abu Dhabi summit.

A key topic may have been the ambitions of Netanyahu’s unprecedentedly right-wing Israeli government – notably its prevention of Jordan’s ambassador from visiting Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, as a first step to abolish the Hashemite Custodianship over the ancient city.

While the failure to invite Palestinian President Abbas to the Abu Dhabi summit (there is an Emirati veto against it) may suggest otherwise, Jordan – currently under US and Israeli pressure to participate in the second Negev summit in Morocco – and its monarch may have pressed this issue in Abu Dhabi.

Gulf states that have normalized relations or opened communications with Israel would have been asked to use their influence to de-escalate these pressures. The ramifications of continued Israeli aggressions in Jerusalem and the West Bank are a direct threat to Jordan’s security and stability.

Interestingly, all the states represented at the Abu Dhabi summit – with the exception of the Sultanate of Oman and Qatar – have signed normalization agreements with Israel. The absent Saudis and Kuwaitis, have notably not yet joined that club.

Details of the Abu Dhabi emergency summit of heads of states have not yet emerged, but the days ahead could provide some answers. Will billions flow to Egypt to extract the country from its financial crisis? Or will the Arab House remain the same? We will have to wait to see.

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

Europe’s gas emergency: A continent hostage to seller prices

January 16 2023

Europe’s reliance on Russian gas imports has been upended by sanctions against Moscow. With few options for practical alternatives, the continent will remain energy-dependent and financially-vulnerable regardless of who it imports from.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Mohamad Hasan Sweidan

The 2022 outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine revealed the importance of energy security in bolstering Moscow’s geopolitical power in Europe. The continent, which imported about 46 percent of its gas needs from Russia in 2021, found itself in a vulnerable position as it sought alternative sources.https://thecradle.co/Article/Analysis/20403

This presented an opportunity for the US to replace Russia and become the primary supplier of natural gas to Europe at significantly higher prices, resulting in large profits at the expense of its European allies. According France-based data and analytics firm, Kpler, in 2022 the EU imported 140 billion cubic meters (BCM) of liquefied natural gas (LNG), an increase of 55 BCM from the previous year.

Around 57.4 BCM of this amount (41 percent) now comes from the US, an increase of 31.8 BCM, 29 BCM from Africa (20.7 percent) – mainly from Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria and Angola – 22.3 BCM from Russia (16 percent), 19.8 BCM from Qatar (14 percent), 4.1 BCM from Latin America (2.92 percent) – mainly from Trinidad and Tobago – and 3.37 BCM from Norway (2.4 percent).

European gas imports 2022

In 2022, France was the leading importer of LNG in Europe, accounting for 26.23 percent of total imports. Other significant importers included Spain (22.3 percent), the Netherlands (12.65 percent), Italy (11 percent), and Belgium (10.42 percent).

These countries, along with Poland (4.7 percent), Greece (2.9 percent), and Lithuania (2.31 percent), imported over 90 percent of LNG exported to Europe at prices higher than Russian pipeline gas. It is worth noting that upon arrival, LNG is converted back to its gaseous state at receiving stations in Europe before being distributed to countries without such infrastructure, such as Germany.

Graph: 2020-2022 European gas imports, by month 

Switching dependencies

Europe was able to reduce its reliance on Russian pipeline gas from 46 percent to 10 percent last year. This decrease, however, came at a high cost to the economy, as the price of gas rose to $70 per million British thermal units (Btu), up from $27 before the Ukraine war. By the end of the year, the price had fallen to $36, compared to $7.03 in the US.

This price disparity has been hard to stomach. French President Emmanuel Macron went public with his annoyance: “American gas is 3-4 times cheaper on the domestic market than the price at which they offer it to Europeans,” criticizing what he called “American double standards.”

High gas prices have made Europe an appealing destination for gas exporters from around the world, with increased interest from countries such as Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, UAE, Iran, Libya, Algeria, and those bordering the Mediterranean basin, as they either export gas, or possess gas but lack infrastructure.

To replace the cheaper Russian pipeline gas, European countries are being forced to seek out the more expensive LNG. The EU and Britain are working to increase LNG import capacity by 5.3 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day by the end of 2023, and by 34 percent, or 6.8 BCF per day, by 2024.

Can West Asia, North Africa meet Europe’s gas needs?

The West Asia and North Africa region has the potential to partially meet Europe’s gas needs due to its geographic proximity and the presence of countries with large gas reserves and export infrastructure, such as Palestine/Israel, Algeria, and Egypt. However, there are several obstacles that must be considered.

Map of natural gas pipelines to Europe

For example, Egypt’s high production costs and increasing domestic consumption limit its export capacity. Additionally, Europe would need to be willing to pay a higher price than the Asian market for Egyptian gas.

Israel, on the other hand, has seen an increase in gas exports to Europe in the first half of 2022 after the pipeline to Egypt via Jordan was restored in March, but it is unlikely to significantly increase exports in 2023 due to factors such as limited export capacity and high domestic consumption. Experts predict that Israel may export around 10 BCM of gas to Europe this year, similar to the amount exported in 2022.

Qatar is the only Persian Gulf emirate that has increased its gas exports to Europe for 2022. This is largely because Persian Gulf countries prefer to sell their gas to Asian markets, where they can garner higher profits due to lower shipping costs and longer-term contracts.

Last year, Qatar took advantage of the significant increase in gas prices to sell part of its shipments on the European spot market. According to the Qatari Minister of Energy, between 10 percent and 15 percent of Qatar’s production can be diverted to this market.

However, it may be difficult for Europe to attract Qatari gas away from the Asian market, especially as China is expected to recover its demand for gas in 2023. In a policy home-goal, western sanctions on Iran, which has the second-largest natural gas reserves in the world, impede the investment needed to increase Iranian production.

No real alternatives

Iran’s lack of infrastructure connecting it to Europe and high domestic consumption also affect its export capacity. According to a report by BP, Iran produced 257 BCM of gas in 2021, of which 241.1 BCM were consumed domestically.

With regards to Algeria, the main obstacle in increasing its gas exports to Europe is political tension with Morocco and Spain that led to the suspension of the Moroccan-European gas pipeline project, which can export 10.3 billion cubic meters of Algerian gas.

In the case of the UAE, despite having the seventh-largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, its production is not sufficient to meet the demands of the local market and it imports a third of its gas consumption from Qatar through an undersea pipeline. European countries are currently in talks with Abu Dhabi to accelerate work on gas projects and increase production.

As for Saudi Arabia, it consumes all of its gas production domestically and does not export any, with a total production of 117.3 BCM in 2021. There are also expectations for a significant increase in the demand for oil and coal in 2023. The World Bank reports that this is due to an increase in European countries’ reliance on these fossil fuels instead of natural gas. This increase in demand will keep oil prices high, allowing Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ members to make large profits.

The dilemma of growing demand

The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that global demand for natural gas will increase to 394 BCM this year, driven in part by Europe’s need to diversify its sources of gas away from Russia. And West Asia, with its significant reserves, remains a key region for Europe to tap into for this purpose.

The challenge remains in finding cost-effective ways to transport the gas from the region to Europe, which will necessitate building a pipeline connecting the Mediterranean Basin to the Old Continent.

Failure to do so will result in Europe continuing to pay a high premium for its energy security without achieving true independence. The alternative for Europe is to rely on LNG from the US. This gives Europe almost complete independence from Russian gas, but keeps it weak, obedient, and dependent on American energy supplies.

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

Turkey and Syria Meeting in Moscow May Result in Peace Plan

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360°

Steven Sahiounie

Tomorrow, the Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Syria will meet in Moscow.  This is the highest level meeting between the two countries who have been on opposite sides of the US-NATO war on Syria for regime change since 2011.

The outcome of that meeting, and the expected follow-up meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, may form the basis for the recovery of Syria, circumventing the UN resolution 2254, which has failed to produce results.

The US has lost the war, but has used armed militias to remain occupying parts of Syria, and to impose a stalemate which prevents a peaceful solution and recovery for Syria.  America is no longer the only superpower, and decisions made in the new Middle East no longer depend on orders from the US State Department.

Erdogan is up for re-election in June and faces heavy opposition. The economy is dismal, and people blame the Syrian refugees for lost jobs and social ills.  Erdogan and the opposition promise to send the refugees packing.

The Turkish export market to Syria in 2011 represented half of the entire global export market for Turkey.  That was lost when Damascus banned all Turkish imports because of their participation in the war on Syria. Erdogan could get the Syrian market restored by repairing the relationship.

In order to win re-election, Erdogan proposes a rapprochement with Assad.  The US has voiced its displeasure at any attempt of any country to repair relations with Syria.  However, Erdogan will not be swayed by US opinion or threats, in light of the fact that the US supports, trains and supplies weapons to the Kurdish militia (SDF and YPG) linked to an internationally banned terrorist organization (PKK), which have killed thousands in Turkey over three decades of terrorism. The Kurds know that Turkey is a much more important ally to the US, and the US will never fight Turkey to save the Kurds.  Former US envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, told the Kurds they should repair their relationship with Damascus for protection. The US never supported a “homeland” for the Kurds.

Syria and Turkey are united in their goal to demilitarize the Kurdish northeast of Syria.  Syria and Turkey share a common enemy (the Kurds), and a common ally (Russia). This may be the basis of forming a new foreign policy between the two neighbors.

Syria

Syrian officials have met with Turkish officials and Arab Gulf officials.  Some Arab embassies in Damascus were re-opened, and Assad made a visit to the UAE.

The Assad administration in Damascus controls the vast majority of the Syrian territory.  The exceptions are: Idlib province in the northwest is under the occupation of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a Radical Islamic terrorist group which was the former Al Qaeda branch in Syria, and the Kurdish administration region in the northeast under the occupation of about 600 US troops and two local Kurdish militias (SDF and YPG) which follow a communist political ideology first promoted by the jailed PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

Syria and Russia have been prevented from attacking and liberating Idlib from terrorist control. The US uses the three million civilians living under occupation as human shields to prevent attack. The US and its allies in the UN demand that the UN food and medical supplies be delivered to Idlib. The civilians are being fed and clothed, but the terrorists and their families are as well. The international community is supporting the welfare of the terrorists, who are there at the behest of the US, to prevent peace and recovery in Syria.  Despite the UN protocol which demands all UN members to fight Al Qaeda, or their affiliates, anywhere on earth, the US and Turkey have circumvented the protocol and use the terrorists as guards of the political stalemate which the US imposed on Syria.

The US

America has maintained an iron grip on Syria through the use of US sanctions and a brutal military occupation which has prevented the Syrian citizens from fuel for transportation and home heating, and to generate electricity.  Syrian houses, hospitals, schools and businesses have between 15 minutes to 1 hour of electricity in four intervals per day because of the US imposed sanctions, which have not affected the Syrian government, but have brought the Syrian people to desperation. Kidney dialysis machines require electricity constantly.  A gasoline powered generator can suffice when there are blackouts, but the US sanctions also prevent the importation of gasoline.  How can Syrians survive?

Despite Richard Haass writing in 1998 that US sanctions are ineffective and immoral against civilians, the US State Department hangs on to sanctions as a tool for regime change.

Iran

Iran and Syria have been united in their resistance to the occupation of Palestine Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms.  Iran stood firmly with Syria during the US-NATO attack on Syria because it is a key in the land route from Iran to Lebanon. Recently, there are some cracks appearing in the relationship between Damascus and Tehran.  Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s meeting in Damascus was postponed recently. Some experts feel Iran has been asking too much of Syria, and with new opportunities for improved relations with the Arab Gulf and Turkey, Syria may be taking time to evaluate its options.

Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries want to see Iran out of Syria.  As long as Iran is in Syria the Israeli airstrikes will continue, which have been deadly and destructive.

There were 32 Israeli raids in 2022 that destroyed and struck 91 targets, including civilian infrastructure, buildings, weapons caches and vehicles. Eighty-eight military personnel were killed and 121 wounded in the attacks.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the United States’ largest foreign military sales customer, with more than $100 billion in active cases.  In the US there is a saying, “The customer is always right.”

Perhaps this may explain why the US takes no action against Saudi Arabia even when there have been deadly issues, or when Biden asked the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to pump more oil, and he refused.

MBS is making huge reforms, which includes loosening restrictions on women, and creating new tourism and international sports opportunities.

MBS and Netanyahu are united in a common issue: to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, despite Iran insisting on wanting nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes, such as energy production and medical research.  Netanyahu has stated one of his main priorities in office will be to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia.

The Arab League

The upcoming Arab League Summit will take place in Saudi Arabia, traditionally scheduled yearly in March.  Depending on the outcome of meetings between now and spring, Syria could possibly be reinstated and occupy their seat at the table.  Big changes have been taking place in the region involving the relations between Arab countries and the US, China and Russia. Saudi Arabia is in the driver’s seat and will use their hosting of the summit to project their ranking as the Middle East’s power broker.

Israel

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has announced that the next Abraham Accords summit will be held in Morocco in March 2023.

The US had brokered in 2020 the Abraham Accords for the normalization of relations between Israel, Morocco, the UAE and Bahrain. Later, Sudan joined the accords.  Areas of shared interests are: defense, investment, agriculture, tourism, and energy.

The meetings and realignments between Syria and Turkey, mediated by Russia, may produce lasting changes in the Middle East, and bring enemies together as new friends.  The Israeli occupation of Palestine will continue to be the primary cause of instability and violence in the region.  It fuels religious extremism and terrorism. If Israel values the establishment of relations with their Arab neighbors, they must first look at their closest neighbors in Gaza and the West Bank.  The Middle East and the world wait for a peace summit to begin the process of peace for Israel and Palestine, and the host country will not likely be the US.


Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist

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US on alert as UAE seeks to join Turkish-Syrian reconciliation talks

As the UAE tries to join Russia in mediating between Ankara and Damascus, the US is looking to establish a middle ground between Turkiye and the SDF in hopes of preventing normalization with Syria

January 08 2023

(Photo Credit: Emirates News Agency)

ByNews Desk- 

During a speech in Ankara on 5 January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted that a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad may soon take place, “as part of efforts for peace.” He added that a tripartite meeting between the foreign ministers of Turkiye, Russia and Syria is scheduled to be held in the near future for the first time since 2011.

The upcoming meeting aims to enhance communication after Russian-sponsored talks between the Turkish and Syrian defense ministers were held in Moscow on 28 December. The meeting was the highest-level of official meetings between Ankara and Damascus since the start of the Syrian war.

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 5 January, Erdogan called on the Syrian government to “take the steps to achieve a tangible solution concerning the case of Syria.”

The US seeks to establish a middle ground between Ankara and the SDF in order to prevent Turkish-Syrian reconciliation

The Syrian-Turkish rapprochement via declared Russian mediation was paralleled by Emirati-Syrian rapprochement – the latest of which was a “brotherly” meeting aimed at strengthening cooperation and restoring historical relations between Assad and Foreign Minister of the UAE Abdallah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, according to SANA.

Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the UAE seeks “to join Russia in sponsoring Syrian-Turkish relations at a high level,” noting that the Emirati foreign minister’s visit to Damascus sought to arrange Turkiye’s participation in the tripartite meeting of Syrian-Turkish-Russian foreign ministers, making it a quadripartite meeting.

The meeting is meant to pave the way for a presidential meeting between Erdogan and Assad in the presence of Putin. Reportedly, the UAE has offered to host this summit, with a possibility of a high-level UAE official being present at the meeting if it will be held in Moscow.

Asharq Al-Awsat added that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu plans to visit Washington on 16-17 January to brief US officials on the developments of Turkish-Syrian normalization, his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad, and the “roadmap” sponsored by Moscow in the context of security, military, political and economic fields – as agreed upon by the defense ministers as well as the intelligence chiefs in Syria, Turkiye and Russia over the past weeks.

As Turkiye has been launching successive operations against Kurdish groups both on the Turkish-Syrian border as well as within Syria itself under ‘Operation Claw Sword,’ a Western official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that a high-ranking US official will be visiting Ankara in the coming hours as part of efforts to mediate between Turkiye and the SDF in northeastern Syria.

Ankara has demanded that Moscow and Washington commit to the implementation of the bilateral military agreements signed at the end of 2019. The agreements stipulate the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to beyond 30 kilometers from the Turkish border, and from the areas of Manbij and Tal Rifaat, in addition to the withdrawal of all heavy weaponry.

The SDF says that it has fulfilled its obligations, and will not withdraw its police force – known as the Asayish – nor dismantle its local councils, despite Turkiye’s insistence on dissolving all Kurdish military and civil institutions in the area.

Meanwhile, Cavusoglu told media on 29 December that Ankara is willing to withdraw from the territory it occupies in northern Syria and hand it over to Damascus in the event that “political stability” is reached – after cooperation in “neutralizing ISIS members, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the YPG.”

The Saudi newspaper’s report stated that US mediation seeks to reach a “compromise” between the Kurdish groups and Ankara without a new Turkish incursion taking place ahead of the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections in mid-2023. This mediation seems to be an attempt at circumventing the imminent Syrian-Turkish reconciliation.

Another official source disclosed that Ankara was “uncomfortable with the leaks following the meeting of the Syrian, Turkish and Russian defense ministers in Moscow, and that it had agreed to a full withdrawal.” However, the source confirmed that, “it is true that Ankara and Damascus consider the PKK a common threat, and will work against any separatist agenda, because it is an existential threat to both countries,” adding that the two countries will “work to open the Aleppo-Latakia Highway.”

Following the UAE’s visit to Damascus, which came after the US called on its allies and international partners to refrain from normalizing ties with Syria, Asharq Al-Awsat quoted an official as saying that the US has been the only western country to issue a statement against normalization, and is working alongside Paris, Berlin, and London to assume a united stance against normalization with Syria.

Communication is currently underway for a meeting between the representatives of Paris, Berlin, London, and Washington and UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pederson in Geneva on 23 January. This meeting will take place before Pedersen’s visit to Damascus to meet with the Syrian foreign minister to “confirm the position against normalization, and support the provision of funding for electricity projects within the timeline of early recovery,” stipulated by a resolution for international aid that will be extended before 10 January.

Asharq Al-Awsat said that the UAE has proposed to contribute to the funding of economic and electrical projects in Syria – within the confines of the Caesar Act.

Simultaneously, Jordan, who was the first to open high-level channels of communication with Damascus, is leading efforts alongside other Arab countries to reach a “united Arab position that defines Arab demands in order to make normalization possible.”

The newspaper quoted another western official as saying that Jordan is calling for coordination to put pressure on Damascus to provide political and geopolitical steps for the coming phase in southern Syria, as Amman confirmed that there has been an increase in the smuggling of Captagon, weapons and ammunition across the Syrian border following the start of the normalization process. Additionally, Amman has said that the Iranian presence in southern Syria near the Jordanian border has not diminished, and that there has been an expansion of ISIS activity in the area, according to the official.

Syria’s Arab League membership was suspended in November of 2011 following the start of the Syrian war, and it has been excluded ever since.

Yemeni Forces Prepared to Thwart US, ‘Israeli’ Plots Against National Resources, Islands

December 20, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

The Yemeni Supreme Political Council underlined that the country’s Armed Forces are prepared to stand up to any bids by the US and the ‘Israeli’ occupation regime that would be directed at Yemen’s resources, islands and waterways.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces are prepared to confront the avaricious plots of the United States and the ‘Israeli’ regime against the country’s resources, islands and waterways. They are ready to face up to any threat against the national sovereignty,” the council announced in a statement on Monday, stressing the full combat preparedness of Yemeni soldiers and fighters from Popular Committees.

This came as a report said in September that a delegation of ‘Israeli’ military experts had apparently been stationed to the Yemeni island of Socotra, more than six months after it was reported that the United Arab Emirates was constructing a settlement on the strategic island to accommodate dozens of Zionist soldiers, officers and military experts.

The Arabic-language Yemen Press Agency, citing informed sources speaking on condition of anonymity, reported that an ‘Israeli’ military delegation along with a number of UAE intelligence officers have been present on Socotra Island since a few days ago.

Home to some 60,000 people, Socotra overlooks the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a main shipping route that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, and has a unique ecosystem.

‘Israel’ and the UAE are currently making all logistical preparations to establish spying bases to collect information from across the Gulf of Aden, including Bab el-Mandeb and south of Yemen, which is under the control of forces backed by the UAE, the report said.

Meanwhile, the US is also making aggressive attempts to wrest control over energy reserves and plunder natural resources in conflict-plagued Yemen.

In the Monday statement, the council also said that it will “adopt proper measures when the time is ripe, and will not allow the Saudi-led coalition of aggression to get Yemen caught in an endless cycle of chaos and uncertainty.”

“We once again reiterate that we are striving for an honorable peace that would ensure Yemen’s sovereignty and independence, and would safeguard its territorial integrity. We welcome any meaningful and viable initiative in this regard,” the council added.

The Yemeni Supreme Political Council also underlined the need that humanitarian issues must be separated from political and military matters. “Progress in this regard will strongly indicate the success of any future mediations, negotiations or contacts.”

Saudi Arabia launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with its Arab allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and other Western states.

The objective was to reinstall the Riyadh-friendly regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and crush the Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of a functional government in Yemen.

While the Saudi-led coalition has failed to meet any of its objectives, the war has left hundreds of thousands of Yemenis martyred and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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Dear followers, your ‘influencers’ seem ignorant about Israeli crimes

December 17, 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen English

By Aya Youssef 

The world of ‘influencing’ and ‘content creation’ seems to be tone-deaf to “Israel” killing, bombing, and assaulting the people of Palestine.

Dear followers, your ‘influencers’ seem ignorant about Israeli crimes

So a mere handshake or even a simple eye contact will eventually initiate some sort of disruption unless you are ‘okay’ with the crimes that are being committed and these crimes sit well with you.

Now let’s delve deeper; consider this enemy, “Israel”, the occupation that was ‘established’ on the backs of Palestinians and formed due to “Israel’s” horrific massacres in Palestine.

This is called normalization 

Moving on to another set of rules: When a country that used to consider “Israel” an enemy in the past, intentionally decides to build diplomatic relations with “Israel”, this is known as “normalization agreements”. When a single diplomat steps foot in “Israel”, that is called normalization. When direct talks happen, that is called normalization. When an athlete faces another Israeli athlete in sports tournaments, that is called normalization. And when a group of Arab influencers pose for photos at an event where they are taking lessons on content creation from an Israeli, this is called normalization. 

‘Influencers’ & ‘content creators’ for “Israel”

Behind the scenes of endless selfies, likes, and comments, over 3000 ‘influencers’ and ‘content creators’ attended and spoke at the ‘1 Billion Followers Summit’ in Dubai, where the Israeli ‘activist’ Nuseir Yassin was a co-host.

The event included dinners and celebrations, and the contributors ‘lit a fire in the desert’. Sounds fun doesn’t it? 

Nuseir Yassin is known for his pro-“Israel” stance regarding the Palestinian struggle for freedom. He intentionally disregarded, through his self-described ‘humane videos’, the Palestinian Nakba, the Palestinian suffering, and most importantly, Israeli war crimes.

Nuseir is vocal about the ‘two-state solution’ in Palestine and believes that Palestinians and Israelis should ‘co-exist’. 

In his last video about the Palestinian struggle, Yassin disregarded the Palestinians’ right to self-defense and called them ‘attacks’ on “Israel”. Nusseir Yasin usually introduces himself as “Arab-Israeli”.

Read More: Nas Daily: When ‘entrepreneurs’ NAS-TILY become Israeli propaganda
  
Applying the before-mentioned set of rules, these Arab influencers’ existence in the same room and event as Nuseir, interacting, laughing, taking notes, and speaking with him, is called normalization. 

Keynotes into normalization 

Looking into the “agenda” of the Summit on the website, various topics were discussed during the two days event. 

Starting from day one, after the opening ceremony, the first speaker was Nuseir Yassin. 

Yassin’s topic, as it appeared on the website, was “Why Creators Will Conquer The World”. What was said during each speech or lecture cannot be found on any platform, given that the event was ‘exclusive’. On the Summit’s YouTube channel, few videos are posted and most of them are teasers or wrap-ups of the event. 

Users can rarely find any content that is related to what Nuseir or other speakers said. Is censoring part of the summit? Or is it because some attendees were not supposed to be there?

In one of these short videos that were published by a particular news outlet, Nuseir was seen talking with the audience and giving a lecture about content creation with a picture displayed for them that says “And if you look like me… GOOD LUCK..” 

In the video, Nuseir was filmed talking and lecturing the crowd about ‘history’ and how ‘throughout history, people could only impact 150 people…” 

Why does normalization always have to be ‘fun’?

For additional background information on this topic, Nas Daily is a popular page that publishes videos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Each platform has a vast number of followers. 

On its Instagram account, Nas Daily writes the following slogan: ‘We Bring People Together’ at the top of its page.

Interestingly, on its Youtube platform, the ‘1 Billion Followers Summit’ posted a teaser titled “1 Billion Followers Summit – The Expo of Content Creation”. The video says ‘connecting 1 billion people under the same roof.’ 

In another ‘shorts’ video on YouTube, the Summit posted a video that says ‘The world of social media gathers under one roof!’ 

Sounds familiar? 

The vlog-styled videos are identical to those of Nas Daily. The scripts, the tone, even the shooting style, and the enthusiasm, all give the same vibes.

The Summit is powered by New Media Academy, the same academy that funded and embraced Nas Daily for its videos where they whitewash Israeli crimes. 

On the Summit’s LinkedIn, one can see how employees in Nas Daily actually worked for this big event. Parikshit Sachdeva appeared to be Nas Daily’s social media manager as he was a community manager in the ‘1 Billion Followers Summit’. 

Another example is: Nizar Salman worked for Nas Daily as a project manager for 1 year and 9 months. Salman was an event lead for 8 months at the Summit. 

The contributors to the event added the ‘mystery celebrity speaker’ into the event to make it more ‘exciting’. The speaker turned out to be the former TV presenter and comedian Trevor Noah. 

Yassin was the one who hosted Noah during a debate that many attended and listened to. 

In addition to Noah, many international YouTubers attended the event such as Jordan Matter and Matpat. The speakers came from the US, Canada, Poland, Lebanon, India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and many more.

When it comes to Arabs, activist Saleh Zaghari, appeared in a video justifying his participation in the event by saying that he was seeking to provoke those in charge of the conference by raising the Palestinian flag in the event. 

However, after Zaghri was heavily criticized by social media activists, he later apologized and admitted that he made a mistake by attending this event. 

The other normalizing event 

While the ‘1 Billion Followers Summit’ happened over the course of two days, 3 and 4 December, on 5 and 6 December, a different event took place in Abu Dhabi. The two events may look different on the surface, regarding the objectives and topics, but both meet at the same end; normalization with “Israel”. 

Around 300 decision-makers and representatives of 47 international space institutions attended the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate this month. The event focused mainly on topics related to ‘space sustainability, accessibility, and security’.

All looks normal, doesn’t it?

After his unwelcomed visit to Bahrain, and after he met with UAE’s President Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan at his private home in Abu Dhabi, the Israeli President Isaac Herzog took part in the Space Debate where he made a speech. 

Herzog, during his speech, urged to “move onwards and upwards, not with the competition of a cold war,” but rather with “our warm peace.” The Israeli occupation’s President called for countries to “collaborate in here on the blue planet we call home.”

The UAE was the first Gulf state to normalize ties with “Israel”, kicking off a wave of normalization that saw Bahrain, Sudan, and Morrocco swept by the tide.

The Israeli occupation and the United Arab Emirates have long been exchanging visits, drawing more and more criticism for the Arab nation that abandoned the Palestinian cause. 

Spot the ‘influencer’ in the audience 

After the Space Debate took place, many Lebanese activists strongly condemned the presence of a Lebanese filmmaker and content creator. 

Lebanon is among the countries that still have a strong stance regarding the normalization agreement with “Israel” and considers “Israel” as an occupation. 

Lebanon criminalizes normalization with the Israeli occupation in its law. The Lebanese criminal code, the 1955 Boycott Law, and the Code of Military Justice all say that any type of contact between Lebanese and Israeli citizens is prohibited; punishment can range from a few months in prison to death.

Many Twitter activists argued that the Lebanese filmmaker, Kazim Fayad, should not be present at an event that the Israeli President spoke at. After the backlash, Fayad had to issue a statement regarding the matter. 

The filmmaker claimed that he was not able to leave the hall where the event was taking place and that the only reason he was attending was that he had booked interviews with several news outlets. 

It is worth mentioning that the speakers of the event were published ahead of the ceremony, in addition to the many news outlets that reported that Herzog arrived in the UAE to attend the Space Debate. It does not stop here. Looking closer into the event itself, which was posted in its entirety on YouTube, there was a 40-minute break between the end of the last debate that took place and Herzog’s arrival at the event. Thus, giving Fayad, and other so-called “influencers” plenty of time to dodge a possible encounter with the enemy’s President.

Read More: Serious Concerns as Lessons in Normalization Hit Lebanese Schools

Ignorance or turning a blind eye? 

Now one cannot help but wonder: do the influencers realize what they are really ‘influencing’? 

The real question here is whether the millions of followers, that these ‘influencers’ have, know what subliminal messages they are intaking on daily basis, through swiping, liking, and commenting on those influencers’ social media stories, videos, and pictures. 

In both events, Israelis were present. In both events, Arabs were present. And in both events, prominent figures, TV presenters, and social media influencers were present. Should any questions be raised? The answer is yes.

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Yemen: Prisons Beyond the Boundaries of Humanity

 December 14, 2022 

By GIDHR

The Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights published a series of reports in which it has been monitoring the human rights situation in Yemen since the start of the Saudi-led war in March 2015.

In one report, the organization provided verified information on a particular category of violations caused by nearly eight years of war in Yemen, which has been led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This war caused thousands of civilian casualties, created a catastrophic humanitarian situation, suppressed public rights and freedoms, and deprived Yemenis of the most basic life necessities.

Since the start of military operations in Yemen, the Saudi and Emirati forces have been deployed to many Yemeni cities, islands, and regions. These deployments resemble a form of direct occupation through which the occupiers control public affairs, exploit resources and wealth, and have actual control over the management of all of the cities’ and areas’ capabilities.

These cities and areas had fallen under the full control of Saudi and Emirati military leaders and political figures who extended their influence using military and security formations. These were deployed throughout the cities and regions of southern Yemen, several strategic islands, and the city of Marib in the north.

Throughout the war, the Saudi-Emirati coalition took control of the city of Aden and established dozens of secret prisons. They also took control of Hadhramaut and turned Al-Rayyan airport and the port of Dabh into secret prisons. In Shabwa, the Emirati forces turned the Balhaf oil facility into a secret prison.

In Al-Mahrah, Saudi forces disrupted operations at the Al-Ghaydah airport and turned it into a detention center for those opposed to its presence. The forces from the two countries also established detention centers and secret prisons in Abyan, Marib, Al-Mokha, and Socotra Island.

In addition, many residents fell victim to arbitrary arrest campaigns. Reports and investigations carried out by international organizations and human rights activists surfaced. This resulted in the discovery of dozens of secret prisons and illegal detention centers established by Saudi and Emirati forces. These facilities were run by Saudis and Emiratis inside Yemen.

The detainees in these prisons were subjected to the worst forms of humiliation, and the worst methods of torture imaginable.

These detainees are usually placed in prisons administered by local authorities for a short time and then transferred to secret prisons and detention centers inside Yemeni cities. Others are transferred outside Yemen to prisons in Abha, Saudi Arabia and even prisons belonging to the UAE in Eritrea and Djibouti.

Hundreds of travelers were subjected to various arbitrary measures, from the moment they were taken to the detention centers in areas controlled by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates up until the deportation of a number of them to prisons and detention centers located on the territory of Saudi Arabia.

GIDHR investigated a number of violations that were cited in reports compiled by local and international organizations and committed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in their illegal detention facilities and prisons in southern Yemen.

GIDHR reviewed information and testimonies provided by Yemeni detainees in Saudi and Emirati-run prisons during its investigation, all of which confirmed that opposing the Saudi and Emirati presence on Yemeni territory as well as rejecting and opposing the policies of the two countries was the only charge leveled against those who were subjected to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture.

According to information gathered and verified by GIDHR, detainees in Saudi and UAE prisons face the most severe forms of oppression, humiliating and degrading treatment, and torture that no human mind can imagine.

GIDHR’s investigations identified the following torture methods:

– Kicking and slapping

– Deprivation of water and food for long periods

– Beating with whips, sticks, and electric wires

– Electrocution

– Burning with cigarettes stubs

– Hanging upside down

– Shackling and hanging from the hands and feet for hours

– Hitting the extremities with hammers

– Sleep deprivation

– Denying access to toilets

– Use of insulting, “obscene and sexual” words

– Simulated drowning in water basins

– Forced to drink urine

– Forced nudity

– Prohibition from practicing rituals

– Prostrating to the Saudi and Emirati flags

– Sexual assault and rape

– Sodomy

– Threats of arrest and sexual assault of relatives

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China stresses support for Iranian sovereignty, territorial integrity

13 Dec 20122 7:29

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

After the statement which led Iran to summon the Chinese ambassador, Beijing does not support meddling with Iranian affairs.

Chinese Vice President Hu Chunhua.

After Iran summoned its Chinese ambassador after territorial claims, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said on Tuesday that “China supports Iran’s national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national honor, and fights against foreign interference.”

“Beijing’s will to develop comprehensive strategic relations with Tehran has never changed,” Hu Chunhua said in a meeting with Mohammad Mokhber, Iran’s vice president.

Mokhber, for his part, said that China and Iran have a common view against unilateralism and hegemony, and that “respecting Iran’s territorial integrity is a sensitive matter for us, and everyone must respect this point.”

The Iranian vice president also pointed out that the bilateral negotiations between the two countries are progressing well, as he gave thanks to China for its support for Iran’s presence in the Shanghai Cooperation and BRICS. 

Recently, Iran summoned the Chinese ambassador in protest against a statement coming from the Gulf-Chinese Summit, which brushed on the status of the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, which are disputed by Iran and the United Arab Emirates. 

A few days ago, the Gulf states and China issued a joint statement, which explains the UAE’s position in reaching a peaceful solution with Iran regarding the three islands which Tehran considers a part of its territory, in addition to calling on Iran to seriously engage in negotiations to return to the nuclear agreement.

Tehran denounced the statement as an interference in its territorial affairs, stressing that the status of the islands will not change and they will remain Iranian forever. 

We are fully prepared if enemies decide to escalate, Al-Houthi warns

7 Dec 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

By Al Mayadeen English 

Ansar Allah leader highlights the developments in Yemen and touches on a number of regional files, spearheaded by Iran and Palestine, in addition to the relationship with Hezbollah.

Ansar Allah leader Sayyed Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi 

    The leader of the Ansar Allah movement, Sayyed Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, confirmed that the movement is ready and fully prepared to confront the enemies if they decide to escalate once again, warning them that “our actions will exceed [in their magnitude] any other actions in previous stages.”

    In a televised speech on the occasion of the anniversary of Martyr Day, Sayyed Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi stressed that “America, “Israel”, and Britain, with the complicity of their regional tools, want an occupied, submissive, and yielding Yemen, but we will not allow the occupiers to control the political situation in Yemen and plunder its wealth.”

    He further added, “The Yemeni people can never submit to the idea of their country being under occupation or to the Americans, British, Emiratis, and Saudis coming and establishing their bases in it wherever they feel like it.”

    “[Since when does] political flexibility entail accepting the occupation and leaving our beloved free people under the American, British, Israeli, Saudi, and Emirati hegemony?” he wondered.

    Al-Houthi said the enemies of Yemen “want to establish their bases anywhere in Yemen and to control its facilities, as well as its political situation to the point of being in charge of choosing who will be president or prime minister, and still, they think it is too much for our people to receive oil derivatives with their real prices and value, which can only be obtained after straining hardship.”

    He further stressed that the coalition of aggression wants to usurp the Yemeni people’s oil and gas, leaving nothing but crumbs for them with the aim of forcing dire living conditions on them, at a time when hundreds of billions go to American and European companies.

    Sayyed Al-Houthi said that from the day the armistice was signed and afterward up to this very day, they deemed it too much for the Yemeni people to get their salaries from their own oil and gas, although it is their inherent right.

    “The hostile policies of the coalition of aggression harm all the Yemeni people, even in the occupied areas,” Ansar Allah leader said.

    He further stressed that these forces do not want an army that is capable of protecting the independence and sovereignty of the country, rather, they want combat units fighting under the command of Emirati and Saudi officers who themselves are under the command of American, British, and Israeli officers.

    “The enemy spares no effort to exploit any trouble or conflicts, even if they are tribal, in order to foment sedition and instigate more bloodshed,” Al-Houthi said, warning the Yemenis against sectarianism and calling for taking action in the course of consolidating the all-inclusive identity.

    He also confirmed that “had submission and surrender been accepted, the cost of surrender would have been a lot higher,” pointing out that “the suffering that befalls the people for taking the right stance will surely be worse when responsibility is not shouldered.”

    Enemies can imprison a mercenary, even if he is a president

    On the relationship between the forces of aggression and the mercenaries, Sayyed Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi said, “The enemies do not respect even the mercenaries who work for them after betraying their homeland,” highlighting that some might even go as far as leaving their families hostage to the Emiratis just to prove their sincerity and loyalty.

    To prove his point, he asked, “Have the provinces that do not house enemy fronts not exposed the enemies when they went to establish military bases in Hadhramout, Al-Mahra, and Socotra?”

    He stressed that “when the Americans, the British, the Saudis, and the Emiratis want to imprison a mercenary, they are even willing to imprison even those who hold the status of president or minister and even insult and humiliate them.”

    Iran never aggressed us; Hezbollah took the most honorable stances with us

    Al-Houthi touched on the relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran and stressed that Iran did not fight or aggress on Yemen, rather, it took an outstanding stance no other country took in solidarity with the Yemeni people.

    He added, “We will never be hostile to any Islamic country just for the sake of America and Israel, no matter what their collaborators do or say.”

    Regarding Hezbollah, he said, “The enemies want Yemen to antagonize Hezbollah who took the most honorable stance alongside the Yemeni people.”

    “They also want us to antagonize the free people of Iraq without them having done anything against us,” he continued to say.

    Some Arab countries receive the Israeli President as the Palestinian blood flows

    Regarding the situation in Palestine and normalization, Al-Houthi said, “On these days, and as the Palestinian blood is shed every day, some Arab countries receive and celebrate the leader of the Zionists and emphasize partnership with the Israeli enemy.”

    He added, “The Saudi and Emirati regimes and the Al Khalifa family in Bahrain have classified the Jihad movements in Palestine as terrorist, although they are only fighting the Israeli occupation.”

    Ansar Allah leader stressed that his country is not like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, or Bahrain, as “we cannot be dictated by America.”

    On the occasion of Martyr’s Day, Ansar Allah leader said, “One of the manifestations of Yemen’s true faith and wisdom is the great sacrifices the Yemeni people made, including offering many martyrs on the course of God, the right stance, and just causes.”

    The speech of Mr. Abdul-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi on the occasion of the anniversary of the martyr 1444 AH
    Iran.. Absorbing the internal crisis in the context of confronting the outside / with the new ink with Abbas Khamyar

    11 years on… UK gets what it was always after; Libya’s oil

    29 Nov 2022

    Source: Agencies

    By Al Mayadeen English 

    British oil giants BP and Shell are returning to the oil-rich north African country just over a decade after the UK took part in destabilizing the nation with the 2011 military intervention.

    An oil and gas platform off the coast of Libya (Getty Images)

    Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) agreed last month for BP to begin drilling for and producing natural gas in a major project off the north African country’s coast.

    The UK corporation, whose board of directors includes former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers, controls exploration areas in Libya nearly three times the size of Wales.

    For a long time, British officials have sought to profit from oil in Libya, which contains 48 billion barrels of reserves – the largest oil resources in Africa, accounting for 3% of the world total.

    BP is one of the few international oil and gas companies with exploration and production permits in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi nationalized its assets in Libya shortly after seizing power in a 1969 coup that called into question the entire British position in the country and region.

    Following years of tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Tony Blair met Gaddafi in 2004 and struck the so-called “Deal in the Desert,” which included a $900 million exploration and production agreement between BP and Libya’s NOC.

    Read next: UN calls for Libya ceasefire after deadly clashes

    BP re-entered the country in 2007, but its operations were halted by the 2011 NATO-backed aggression on the country, resulting in ousting Gaddafi and later killing him.

    BP operations resumed after the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2018 between the NOC and Eni, the Italian oil major, to resume exploration, with Eni as the oil field operator. BP CEO Bob Dudley hailed the agreement as an important step “toward returning to our work in Libya.”

    The $8 billion BP-ENI project includes two exploration areas, one onshore in the Ghadames basin and one offshore in the Sirte basin, totaling approximately 54,000 km2. The Sirte basin concession alone encompasses an area larger than Belgium.

    The UK’s other oil major, Shell, is also “preparing to return as a major player” in Libya, according to its statement in a confidential document. After putting its Libyan operations on hold in 2012, the corporation is now planning to explore new oil and gas fields in several blocks.

    Oil bribery

    In September of last year, a third British company, Petrofac, which provides engineering services to oil operations, was awarded a $100 million contract to help develop the Erawin oil field in Libya’s deep southwest.

    Petrofac was at the time under investigation for bribery by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO). One of its executives, global head of sales David Lufkin, had already pleaded guilty in 2019 to 11 counts of bribery. 

    The SFO convicted and fined Petrofac on seven counts of bribery between 2011 and 2017 in the month following the award of the Libya contract.

    The company pleaded guilty to using agents to bribe officials to the tune of £32 million in order to win oil contracts in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

    “A key feature of the case,” the SFO noted, “was the complex and deliberately opaque methods used by these senior executives to pay agents across borders, disguising payments through sub-contractors, creating fake contracts for fictitious services and, in some cases, passing bribes through more than one agent and one country, to disguise their actions.”

    It works with BP in several countries around the world, including Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Oman, and in the North Sea.

    Backed by UK government

    All three British firms re-entering Libya have close ties to the British government. During some of the years when Petrofac paid bribes, the company was led by Ayman Asfari, who donated nearly £800,000 to the Conservative Party between 2009 and 2017.

    David Cameron appointed Asfari, who is now a non-executive director of Petrofac, as one of his business ambassadors in 2014.

    In May 2019, when Petrofac was under investigation by the SFO, UKEF provided £700m in project insurance for the design and operation of an oil refinery at Duqm in Oman, a project in which Petrofac was named as the sole UK exporter.

    Read next: Libya’s largest oilfield resumes operations after 2 months of shutdown

    Petrofac was one of five companies that sponsored the official reopening of the British Embassy in Tripoli in June of this year.

    Ambassador Caroline Hurndall told the audience, “I am especially proud that British businesses are collaborating with Libyan companies and having a meaningful impact upon Libya’s economic development. Many of those businesses are represented here tonight.”

    BP and Shell are close to Whitehall, with a long history of personnel revolving between the corporation and former senior civil servants.

    Control of oil

    Despite all that has befallen the north African nation, Libya was the UK’s third largest source of oil last year, after Norway and the US, supplying 7.8% of all British oil imports. Oil provides over 90% of Libya’s revenue, which makes it the country’s lifeline. 

    However, the country’s NATO-backed aggression has provoked a battle for control over the oil industry which has been described as being in “disarray”, with “little clarity on who really is in control of the nation’s most valuable resource.”

    UK ministers have long sought access to Libya’s oil in the international rivalry over access to the key resource. Documents obtained by the oil-focused NGO Platform in 2009 revealed that Labour ministers and senior civil servants met with Shell at least 11 times and possibly as many as 26 times in less than four years to discuss the company’s oil interests in Libya.

    Read next: Libya Announces the End of Division in Oil Sector

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    World Cup Arab fans shun Israeli media, reject normalization: Reports

    22 Nov 2022 

    Source: Israeli Media

    By Al Mayadeen English 

    Arab football fans refuse to be interviewed by Israeli journalists in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

    Arab football fans refuse to be interviewed by Israeli journalists in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

    Israeli media agencies reported on Tuesday that Arab fans in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 are distancing themselves from the Israeli media and are rejecting normalization with the occupation.

    i24news said that several Israeli media agencies told Reuters that those asked for interviews turned their backs, refused to answer, or shouted Palestine, adding that fans are specifically shunning Israeli reporters, in a move that could illustrate challenges in warming relations between the Gulf and “Tel Aviv”.

    Israeli officials expressed their hope that the US-brokered normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in 2020, and later with Sudan and Morocco, would lead to further normalization, including with Saudi Arabia, i24news said.

    “While Israel did not qualify for the World Cup, it had hoped the presence of an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Israelis at the event would warm ties,” the website said, noting that this “included Israeli reporters, who flew to Qatar ahead of the event on connecting flights, while one of them was on the first direct flight from Tel Aviv to Doha on Sunday, under a FIFA-brokered agreement,” the website added.

    “Attempts to talk to soccer fans in Doha didn’t go according to plan,” the website added, noting that footage circulated online shows Saudi fans, a Qatari shopper and a number of Lebanese fans deliberately distancing themselves from Israeli reporters, i24news confirmed.

    Two days ago, Israeli media said that Lebanese fans in the World Cup Qatar 2022 refused to speak to Channel 12 reporter after learning he was Israeli.

    According to the Israeli channel’s correspondent in Qatar, the Lebanese young men became angry when they learned that the person speaking to them was from an Israeli media agency. The correspondent said, “The Lebanese young men refused to recognize the existence of Israel,” stressing that “Israel” does not exist, it is Palestine.

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    KSA fears Yemen due to strategic location, resources: Sanaa

    November 19, 2022

    Source: Al Mayadeen & Agencies

    By Al Mayadeen English 

    The head of the Sanaa negotiating delegation, Mohammed Abdul Salam, stresses that Saudi Arabia’s fears of Yemen’s strength and independence are unreasonable.

    KSA fears Yemen due to strategic location, resources: Sanaa

    Riyadh’s payment of the salaries of Yemenis and the lifting of the siege on Yemen are basic demands and conditions for any agreement, the head of the Yemeni negotiating delegation, Mohammad Abdul Salam said on Friday.

    This came in an interview published by the Majal forum, under the title “Does the new Yemen represent a threat to Saudi Arabia?”

    “It is normal that Riyadh and Sanaa exchange visits on the humanitarian and political levels,” Abdul Salam said, stressing that “paying the salaries and lifting the siege are prerequisites for any agreement, and matters depend on how the Saudi regime will handle the new stage’s requirements.”

    “Saudi Arabia’s fears that a strong and independent Yemen rises are unreasonable,” he said, explaining that “mercenaries are working to exaggerate these fears in order to invest them at the expense of the country’s security and interest.” 

    Abdul Salam emphasized that the humanitarian issue is what should be the first point for any future agreements.

    Unreasonable fears

    “We believe that the Saudi side’s concerns are due to the strategic location of Yemen and its population and abundant resources,” Abdul Salam noted.

    “The Saudi regime is afraid that countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council and other countries in the region be independent and strong, let alone Yemen, the country with the largest area after the Kingdom in the peninsula, in terms of area, population, capabilities, and strategic location,” he pointed out.

    “Saudi Arabia’s best interest is for Yemen to have an independent, stable, and prosperous state,” Abdul Salam continued, stressing that “if the state is not self-managed, in accordance to its strategic interests and obligations to its people, it will be managed by external powers. This was the problem of the recent mortgage regimes, which were unable to achieve any strategic interests for Yemen.”

    However, Abdul Salam stressed that “if there are other concerns related to borders, region, and security, it is only natural that discussion of such issues takes place between the countries, as happens between any two countries.”

    The head of the Yemeni negotiating delegation then talked about the role played by some mercenaries, who stand by Saudi Arabia, “in exaggerating many fears and drawing many regional conflicts into the Yemeni arena.”

    This role “keeps Saudi Arabia from looking at the chances of peace,” Abdul Salam explained.

    Humanitarian file is a priority, and the ball is in Riyadh’s court

    Abdul Salam affirmed that “the end of the truce came as a result of previous agreements ending, which were concluded under the auspices of the United Nations, given that it had completed or exhausted its options, and the payment of salaries became a basic requirement.”

    He pointed out that the ball is in the Saudi regime’s court, because “relations between Sanaa and Riyadh are primarily linked to the latter’s position and the way it deals with it.”

    “Sanaa is on the defensive, and this is clear. As for Riyadh, it is the one leading a major international coalition and working in the international corridors on continuing the blockade on Yemen and keeping the diplomatic pressure, with the United States of America and the United Kingdom behind the scenes,” he said.

    Regarding the recent mutual understandings and visits of delegations, Abdul Salam explained that “meetings and visits between the parties for humanitarian or political goals are normal.”

    Speaking on behalf of the Sanaa government, he added that the Yemenis “support these directions, and the most important thing is that there be a tendency to discuss all humanitarian aspects, not just the prisoners’ issue, which is considered one of the basics, in addition to opening airports and ports, removing restrictions on goods, and lifting the unjust siege on Yemen.”

    International developments are an opportunity to realize the need to end the aggression

    With regard to the changes in the international and regional arenas and their connection to the Yemeni issue, the head of the Yemeni negotiating delegation stressed that despite the effects, “We believe that it will not have a significant impact, because the US and British standpoints, as well as, unfortunately, the Saudi and Emirati, are similar.”

    He pointed out that the only possible effect “goes to the Saudi side realizing that the war and aggression against Yemen are no longer in the interest of the Saudi regime, nor the future relations between the two countries or the future of the two peoples.”

    “These developments may be an opportunity to re-evaluate the situation in Yemen, in terms of peace and stability,” Abdul Salam concluded, stressing that the interest of the two countries is understanding, coexistence, dialogue, and eliminating problems.

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    US intelligence UAE report: Activities go beyond ‘influence peddling’

    15 Nov 2022

    Source: The Washington Post

    By Al Mayadeen English 

    The Washington Post publishes an analysis telling how the United Arab Emirates meddled in the American political system.

    US intelligence UAE report: Activities go beyond ‘influence peddling’

    The US newspaper The Washington Post published an analysis on November 14 that says “US intelligence officials have concluded the United Arab Emirates meddled in the American political system, including by hacking into computers in the United States.”

    This comes after Intelligence officials in Washington have put together a classified report showing efforts made by the United Arab Emirates to meddle in US politics despite Abu Dhabi being a close ally of Washington’s.

    According to the same newspaper, the activities include legal and illegal bids to influence the US foreign policies in ways that would serve its interests throughout various administrations in the White House.

    Meanwhile, only as per DoJ records, Abu Dhabi has spent over $154 million on lobbyists since 2016, the newspaper added.

    “Three people who read a classified report and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information said the activities attributed to the UAE in the report go well beyond mere influence peddling,” writer John Hudson said.

    “One of the more brazen exploits involved the hiring of three former U.S. intelligence and military officials to help the UAE surveil dissidents, politicians, journalists, and U.S. companies. In publlic legal filings, U.S. prosecutors said the men helped the UAE break into computers in the United States and other countries,” Hudson added.

    “The report amounted to a ‘unique’ intelligence examination of a ‘friendly power,'” according to Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who once served on the National Intelligence Council, which compiled the report and typically writes such reports about adversaries.

    However, as per Riedel, “it also serves as a reminder that the UAE has sought to become a force in cyberspace and has made questionable use of cyberweapons, including by siphoning ex-U.S. officials into surveillance work against the United States itself.”

    For this purpose, the UAE has repeatedly been connected with the use of spyware known as Pegasus, a product of the NSO Group and Project Raven.

    Last September, former US officials Mark Baer, ​​Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gerek admitted to providing advanced computer hacking technology to the UAE, and the UAE agreed with them to pay approximately $1.7 million to resolve criminal charges in a deferred prosecution agreement, which the Ministry of Justice described as the first of its kind.

    “Under Project Raven, former U.S. government hackers aided foreign intelligence services in the surveillance of journalists, human rights activists, rival governments, and dissidents. That included the targeting of Americans,” the WP added.

    “And the pipeline continues. Just last month, my colleagues Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones reported that over the past seven years, nearly 300 military retirees have sought federal authorization to work for the UAE,” the newspaper wrote, adding, “That includes cybersecurity advisers.”

    In another investigation conducted by the Washington Post, more than 500 retired US military personnel, including top army officials, have taken high-paying jobs working for foreign governments since 2015, largely in countries infamous for human rights abuses and political repression.

    Turkey in Yemen: An evolving foreign policy

    Throughout the eight years of war in Yemen, Ankara has seen its policies towards the country shift several times due to Turkey’s own changing political and economic situation.

    November 07 2022

    Photo Credit: The Cradle

    By Mohammad Salami

    Turkey’s foreign policy under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is based on the ideology of “Neo-Ottomanism.” Ankara employs soft power and military intervention to promote three priority axes: the Muslim Brotherhood, Pan-Turkism, and moderate Islamism to serve as a model for Sunni activists in the region and beyond from West Asia and North Africa to Central Asia.

    Despite Turkey’s active foreign policy in the region, Yemen has been an exception for Ankara owing to several reasons. These include: geographical distance, lack of active foreign policy in Sanaa before the Saudi-led military intervention, and the country having been Riyadh’s backyard for decades.

    Western-oriented approaches of previous Turkish governments -with recent priority given to Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean  – have also played a part in Ankara’s limited activity in Yemen.

    Despite this relative inactive foreign policy, Ankara has swiftly passed through three stages in Yemen: it has veered from supporting the Saudi-led coalition, to silence, followed by de-escalation. At present, Turkey’s preference of diplomacy with neighboring countries has opened the door to similar attitudes towards Yemen.

    What does Turkey want in Yemen?

    As mentioned, Turkey’s current foreign policy has three axes -among them, the promotion of moderate Islam, which in turn is a projection of soft power. Despite a bitter history of the Ottoman Empire in this corner of Arabia, and unlike the main foreign stakeholders in the conflict, the modern Republic of Turkey is a relative newcomer to the complex political arena of contemporary Yemen.

    This has encouraged Ankara to try influencing the hearts and minds of Yemenis through this soft power in order to advance its own interests.

    As the effective inheritor of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey presents itself as a Muslim power that is far more responsible and ethical than influential Arab states. In early 2019, Turkey’s Deputy Interior Minister Ismail Çatakli visited Yemen’s southern port city of Aden to discuss the humanitarian situation and infrastructural investments.

    Around that time, Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoglu stated that “finding a solution to the Yemeni issue will be one of Turkey’s priorities in 2019,” placing particular blame on coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the UAE for the current humanitarian crisis. More recently, in May, Ankara’s chief diplomat accused Abu Dhabi of fuelling the chaos in Yemen.

    Through promoting its soft power, Turkey hopes to forge a role as a provider of humanitarian aid so that after the end of the crisis, it can further develop relations with a future government of Yemen and build a bridge for its future policies.

    Given the circumstances, where Turkey has less political and economic influence in Yemen than other competitors – namely, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, and even the US – this may be the best option for Ankara. A prominent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey is also trying to deepen its ideological ties with the Islah Party, widely seen as the Yemeni chapter of the Brotherhood.

    Ankara’s strategic interests

    From a Realist approach, Ankara’s real interests arguably lie in developing a strong presence in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. In December 2016, Turkey signed an agreement with the northeastern African country Djibouti, to establish a free trade zone of 12 million square meters with a potential economic capacity of $1 trillion.

    In September 2017, Turkey established its biggest military base overseas in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia and a key city in the Horn of Africa. The lifting of US sanctions on Sudan in the following month, also caught the attention of the Turkish government. As the first Turkish president to visit Sudan, Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed $650 million in deals, including $300 million of direct investments.

    Turkey considers Yemen as the gateway to Africa and the Red Sea; the Strait of Bab al-Mandab, the Gulf of Aden, and the ports of Yemen in the Red Sea are all strategic areas where Turkey can exert influence in the southern entrance of the Red Sea.

    The Bab al-Mandab strait is where the oil of the Persian Gulf Arab sheikhdoms is transported to the Red Sea and from there to the Suez Canal to be sent around the world. Therefore, the presence of Turkey can potentially apply political pressure on these oil producing nations.

    In this regard, in early 2020, the Yemeni Minister of Transport, Saleh al-Jabwani, traveled to Ankara to negotiate with his Turkish counterpart to form a joint committee for the development of transportation infrastructure in Yemen, including the modernization of ports and airports.

    However, while it illustrates Turkey’s intention to invest in and use Yemeni ports to strategic ends, this decision was rejected by the former exiled-Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

    Three stages of diplomacy in Yemen

    At the beginning of Riyadh’s military intervention in March 2015, President Erdogan announced that Turkey supported the coalition’s objective of toppling the Ansarallah-led government in Sanaa. He also went onto to criticizing Iran’s regional ambitions in both Yemen and Iraq. “The aim of Iran is to increase its influence in Iraq,” he added, “Iran is trying to chase Daesh from the region only to take its place.”

    There were several reasons for Turkey backing the coalition. Firstly, Ankara is engaged in a rivalry with Iran through sponsoring opposing sides in Syria and Iraq, and now in Yemen, with most of power lying with the Iran-allied Sanaa government. The Saudi-backed Islah Party are also among Ansarallah’s main opponents on the ground, who as mentioned earlier have drawn closer to pro-Brotherhood Turkey.

    Second, Saudi Arabia’s paradoxical shift toward the Brotherhood changed after King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud came to power in January 2015. His predecessor, the late-King Abdullah, was in favor of eliminating threats from Muslim Brotherhood movements in Arab countries such as Egypt, but under King Salman, Riyadh focused on improving relations with Doha and Ankara to counter Iran, and was less concerned about the Brotherhood.

    This provided Ankara with an additional incentive to support the war against Yemen, because it meant weakening Iran while coordinating with the Saudis on their mutual animosity toward the Islamic Republic’s regional role.

    A non-interventionist approach was the second stage of Turkey’s diplomacy toward Yemen. Since 2017, along with the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, Ankara felt that it’s alignment with the coalition would eventually prove costly and therefore decided to pursue a non-interventionist policy in Yemen.

    Turkey’s economic downturn in 2018 and its decision to normalize relations with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran have also influenced this foreign policy shift.

    The “active” approach is the latest stage of Turkish diplomacy toward Yemen. After pursuing its destabilizing policies based on a competitive foreign policy with its neighbors over spheres of influence, Ankara gradually realized that pursuing these policies was eroding its own power.

    This was especially so following the growing domestic unrest, driven by economic mismanagement and mistrust of the Turkish government. It was around this time that Erdogan pursued a policy of de-escalation with the UAE, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to adapt to the changing political landscape.

    A back-door entry into the Yemen conflict

    The warming of ties between Ankara and Riyadh has given rise to the speculation that Turkey intends to join the Arab front against Iran and to covertly become involved in the Yemen war. This limited involvement may come in the form of increased support for the Islah or arms sales, especially advanced Turkish drones, to Saudi Arabia in exchange for Riyadh’s investment in Turkey.

    In April 2021, Al-Monitor reported that although there was no accurate information about Turkey’s entry into the Yemeni fray, the so-called Syrian National Army, an armed group backed by Turkey, has been working to send dozens of mercenaries to Yemen with a monthly salary of $2,500. Similarly, the Violations Documentation Center in Northern Syria said Turkey’s intelligence agency assigned an opposition commander to recruit fighters to be sent to Yemen.

    Additionally, a Turkish armed drone was reportedly downed by Ansarallah-backed forces in the al-Jawf region, further fanning claims about possible Turkish involvement in the conflict. Sanaa’s military spokesman Yahya Saree said the downed drone was a Turkish-built Vestel Karayel aircraft. Saudi Arabia acquired these drones as part of a contract last year with Vestel Defense worth $200 million.

    Yemen provides an opportunity for Turkey to further its regional ambitions with potential low-risk and low-cost benefits. The geopolitical and ideological upside of Turkey’s possible presence in Yemen – and Ankara’s recent de-escalation with Saudi Arabia and the UAE – have convinced Turkish officials to take a closer look at this strategic part of the Arabian Peninsula.

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

    Yemen Can’t Wait: 19 million Suffer Food Insecurity as Saudi Siege Continues

    October 29, 2022 

    The United Nations warned in March that millions of Yemenis are at the brink of starvation as a result of the economic collapse caused by the Saudi-led aggression on Yemen for the seventh year in a row, calling for “urgent measures to be taken.”

    By Staff, Agencies

    Yemen needs an urgent political solution that culminates in the country reaching a solution that ends the suffering caused by the war on the country, which has been going on for eight years, the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] said on Friday.

    “Two out of three Yemenis are currently suffering from food insecurity, i.e., about 19 million people,” said the Director of Operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross Martin Schuepp on Twitter during his visit to Yemen.

    “Many more suffer from a lack of access to basic health care, yet despite all this, Yemen is too often out of the spotlight. We need to ensure that the support we receive from donors and partners continues to enable us to continue our work,” Schuepp added.

    The UN official explained that “the ICRC is dealing with urgent needs and at the same time trying to come up with solutions that would allow the country to catch a breath”. However, he stressed that a “full recovery in the long term will be possible only with a political solution to the ongoing conflict.”

    “During the visit, I personally saw local doctors, together with ICRC staff, treating people with gun wounds in a local emergency department, and I spoke to farmers whose livelihoods were severely damaged during the years of conflict,” said the Red Cross operations director. “We are trying to provide them with some additional income to restore their livelihoods.”

    For almost eight years, numerous treaties and laws were violated by the Saudi-UAE aggression coalition, but no international action was taken. Yemen is now known as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, but officials only had empty statements and imposed double standards.

    Other than the numerous bombardments, the coalition attacked hospitals and human aid warehouses and imposed an aerial and naval blockade on Yemen, violating Articles 9, 11, 14, and 18 of the Additional Protocol II.

    Earlier this year, the Eye of Humanity Center for Rights and Development in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, announced that the number of civilian casualties as a result of the Saudi-led coalition’s direct bombing over the past seven years resulted in 46,262 casualties, between martyrs and wounded.

    The aggression has so far caused 17,734 deaths, among which are 4017 children, 2434 women, and 11,283 men, while the number of those wounded reached 28,528, including 4,586 children, 2,911 women, and 10,032 men.

    In the same context, Entisaf Organization for Child and Women’s Rights in Sanaa reported that the siege imposed by the aggression caused the loss of 100,000 newborns, at a rate of six children every two hours, in addition to more than 3,000 children with cancer who are at risk of death.

    The United Nations warned in March that millions of Yemenis are at the brink of starvation as a result of the economic collapse caused by the Saudi-led aggression on Yemen for the seventh year in a row, calling for “urgent measures to be taken.”

    Yemeni Resistance Shoos Away Ship Looting Oil, Renews Warning against Similar Violations

    October 21, 2022

    By Al-Ahed News

    Yemeni Armed Forces Spokesman Brigadier General Yehya Saree unveiled that the Yemeni Forces carried out a warning operation to prevent an oil ship that was attempting to loot crude oil from the Dhaba Port in Hadhramaut Province.

    In a statement issued Friday evening, Saree explained that the oil ship violated the resolution issued by the concerned sides about banning the transfer and export of the sovereign Yemeni oil derivatives, adding that the warning message was to prevent the unending looting of the Yemeni oil wealth that is not given to the Yemeni people and to pay salaries and provide services.

    “The warning message came after addressing the concerned sides onboard the ship and informing them about the decision based on the applied Yemeni laws and international laws.”

    The spokesman further underlined that the ship was dealt with upon warning measures through which the Yemeni Armed Forces were keen to preserve the safety and security of Yemen’s infrastructure as well as the safety of the ship and its crew.

    Saree then reiterated that the Yemeni Armed Forces won’t hesitate to carry out their duty to prevent and stop any ship that attempts to loot the wealth of the Yemeni people.

    “We can launch more warning offensives to defend our great people and protect their wealth from looting, and we renew our warning to all companies to fully abide by the resolutions issued by the Sanaa authority to refrain from taking part in looting the Yemeni wealth,” Saree concluded.

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    UAE reminds Borrell about ‘tolerance and respect’ during phone call

    Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs described Borrell’s comments as racist, and said they contributed to a worsening climate of discrimination worldwide

    October 19 2022

    (Photo Credit: CDE)

    ByNews Desk

    On 19 October, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, received a phone call from EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell following his racist remarks last week.

    During the phone conversation, the two head officials discussed the importance of promoting the values ​​of tolerance, pluralism, respect, and ensuring peaceful coexistence in the world, according to the Emirates News Agency.

    Bin Zayed emphasized the close relationship between the EU and the UAE in their efforts to enhance and develop close and mutual cooperation in various fields. 

    Borrell and Bin Zayed also discussed developments in the regional and international arenas, the war in Ukraine, and global efforts to resolve an energy crisis that has emerged and affected Europe due to aggressive sanctions targeting the Russian markets.

    Last week, Borrell described the world outside the EU as “a jungle that could invade the Union,” which he compared to a beautiful garden.

    On 17 October, UAE officials summoned the acting head of the EU delegation, demanding an explanation for his racist and colonial remarks. 

    The Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation described Borrell’s comments as racist and said they contributed to a worsening climate of intolerance and discrimination worldwide.

    Others have said Borrell’s speech reflected long-outdated views of European supremacy over the ‘uncivilized’ world. His words also ignore the long history of colonialism that allowed countries in the west to develop at the expense of the Global South.

    “Colonial nostalgics resurface like monsters,” Qatar’s Minister of State, Hamad al-Kawari, tweeted earlier on Tuesday in response to Borrell.

    During a press conference on 17 October, Borrell denied that his message was racist or colonialist, according to the Spanish news agency EFE. He claimed the comments intended to reject the idea of ‘fortress Europe’ and to encourage students to engage with the world.

    Opec+ row: The US has lost control of its Gulf allies

    13 October 2022 

    David Hearst

    The Biden administration is now paying the price for its chaotic and inconsistent policy on Saudi Arabia

    On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden issued his national security strategy, which boasted, among other things, of his country’s unique capacity to “defend democracy around the world”.

    US President Joe Biden at the White House, on 4 October 2022 (AFP)

    One of the standout phrases of this unashamed piece of geopolitical fiction was this one: “We are forging creative new ways to work in common cause with partners around issues of shared interest.”

    This statement was released just days after Opec+, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, unleashed the biggest shock to oil markets this century by cutting production by two million barrels a day.

    It’s chaos – not in the unstable Middle East, but in the corridors of the National Security Council

    Despite Riyadh’s latest protestations that the decision was based only on “economic considerations”, the move has triggered a tidal wave of anger among Democratic members of Congress, who are now threatening to suspend arms sales to the kingdom for a year. National security adviser Jake Sullivan has also said the White House was looking into a halt to arms sales. As 73 percent of the kingdom’s arms imports come from the US, this is no mere rhetorical threat.

    “If it weren’t for our technicians, their airplanes literally wouldn’t fly… We literally are responsible for their entire air force,” Ro Khanna, a Democratic congressman from California, told reporters. “What galls so many of us in Congress is the ingratitude.”

    Incidentally, the same is true of the British firm BAE Systems, which supplies and maintains aircraft for Saudi Arabia, but the UK government is staying silent. 

    It should not. Because the national security strategy shows that, among other things, the US has lost control of its allies, especially in the Middle East and particularly in the Gulf.

    Courting a ‘pariah’

    To take Biden’s tenure as an illustration, one of the first things he did upon taking office was to appoint Brett McGurk, a diplomat who had served under previous presidents, as his National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East.

    McGurk is famous, or rather infamous, among Sunni political circles in Iraq – let alone pro-Iran Shia ones – for being rather too close to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and latterly its prime minister. McGurk set up the disastrous “fist bump” encounter between Biden and Mohammed bin Salman by negotiating an agreement between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt over the transfer of two uninhabited but strategically placed islands in the Red Sea, Tiran and Sanafir.

    How, then, could Mohammed bin Salman poke such a large finger in Biden’s eye just before the midterm elections, if McGurk had been doing his job? It’s chaos – not in the unstable Middle East, but in the corridors of the National Security Council.

    Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are pictured in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 16 July 2022 (AFP)
    Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 16 July 2022 (AFP)

    Or take the decisions that Biden made over Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist and Middle East Eye columnist murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Biden abandoned the principles he touted as a presidential candidate to treat the Saudi crown prince as a pariah, the moment he took office. 

    Upon the publication of a summary of a CIA report on the murder, which concluded that Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing, Biden had an opportunity to put US weight behind a UN investigation into the killing. He notably declined to do so.

    The US announced visa restrictions against 76 Saudis implicated in the plot, but did nothing against the man its intelligence services said was behind it. 

    “The relationship with Saudi Arabia is bigger than any one individual,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the time of the so-called Khashoggi ban. “What we’ve done by the actions that we’ve taken is really not to rupture the relationship, but to recalibrate it to be more in line with our interests and our values.”

    Dennis Ross, a former Middle East negotiator, applauded Biden for “trying to thread the needle”, telling the New York Times that the affair was “a classic example of where you have to balance your values and your interests”.

    Not unnaturally, Mohammed bin Salman concluded that he had gotten away with it. Now, Biden is paying the price.

    State of surprise

    The American foreign policy establishment has been, since the end of the Cold War, in a permanent state of surprise.

    There was surprise that it had “lost Russia” at the end of the 1990s; surprise at the devastation caused by its invasion of Iraq; surprise over Vladimir Putin’s 2007 Munich speech, in which the Russian leader called out the US’s “almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations”; surprise at Putin’s intervention in Syria; surprise over the fall of Kabul; and surprise that strategic decisions such as expanding Nato eastwards would ultimately lead to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

    At least the US is showing consistency in its faulty analytics and strategy, and massive blind spots. You can now rely on it to make the wrong choice

    A world power that, until Putin’s intervention in Syria, held a monopoly on the use of international force but has squandered its authority in a series of mainly unforced errors. That is why it can no longer lead the democracies of the world.

    Alienating China at the very time the US needs President Xi Jinping to contain Putin and stop him from using battlefield nukes, which he is quite capable of doing, is perhaps the biggest strategic mistake it is currently making. 

    At least the US is showing admirable consistency in its faulty analytics and strategy, and massive blind spots. You can now rely on it to make the wrong choice. 

    But what of its wayward allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates?

    Saudi miscalculations

    Saudi foreign policy cannot be untangled from the personality of its de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman. He is to international relations what a Nintendo game console is to careful reflection. He presses a button and thinks it can happen. He has an idea, and it has to be true.

    I recently met an academic in Tehran who believed Mohammed bin Salman had moved beyond his Game Boy past. He is involved in backchannel negotiations with the Saudis.

    Saudi Arabia: Mohammed bin Salman is now the state

    Read More »

    “A senior Saudi diplomat told me that MBS started as a kid playing video games,” he told me. “Killing Khashoggi, starting a military intervention in Yemen which would last ‘two weeks’, the siege of Qatar, getting rid of [Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri were all video games for him, buttons you can press, enemies disappearing from the screen. Out of necessity, he is becoming more strategic.

    “Strategic maturity does not come from what you would like to have. It comes out of necessity,” the academic added. “I don’t think the Saudis decided to move beyond that strategic relationship with America. The American hand is still strong. But there are differences happening. The Americans are not seen with the same confidence that was seen in Riyadh.

    “Where does it leave the Saudis? The Saudis have been trying to build relations with China and Russia and in the region. Vision 2030 cannot move without calm all around the kingdom. The Saudis see Yemen in two tracks: one, the Saudi-Yemeni track [with the Houthis]; two, the national reconciliation track. But the two rely on each other, and MBS is moving towards a compromise.”

    The Iranian academic admitted that this was music to his ears, which was why he thought his Saudi counterpart was playing it, but nor could he discount the temptation to believe it.

    Machiavellian tutor

    Mohammed bin Salman admires Putin personally. Multiple sources have told me that the inspiration for the Tiger Squad – which killed and dismembered the body of Khashoggi and tried to do the same to Saad al-Jabri, a former minister of state and adviser to deposed crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef – came from the killing of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London and the attempted poisoning of defector Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

    But beyond that, Mohammed bin Salman sees the limits of the kingdom’s ties to the US. He used former President Donald Trump as his ticket to the top of the Saudi royal family, but now that the Trump clan is – for the moment – out of power, he sees no reason not to court Russia. 

    But he remains impulsive, and his tutor in the modern art of Machiavelli, UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed, is more astute.

    Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (R) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are pictured in Abu Dhabi in November 2019 (AFP/Saudi Royal Palace)
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, in November 2019 (AFP/Saudi Royal Palace)

    In distinction to his pupil, Mohammed bin Zayed still sees his country’s growing trade alliance with Israel as his ticket to influencing US policymakers. It was his ambassador in the US, Yousef al-Otaiba – not the Saudi ambassador – who introduced Mohammed bin Salman to the Trump family and to Washington.

    But Mohammed bin Zayed hates being told what to do. One official familiar with relations between the Saudi and Emirati crown princes told me of a plan Mohammed bin Salman once had to run a maglev railway around the Gulf. Only a few of these systems, such as the Shanghai Transrapid, are running in the world, due to the enormous cost of construction. 

    “MBS makes a plan and tells everyone else how much to invest without consulting them,” the official said. “He had an idea to run a maglev train going around the Gulf. Its [cost] was $160bn, because it’s $1bn a mile. Abu Dhabi’s share was huge. They were furious and stopped the plan.

    “MBZ resents being told what to do by MBS, because he thinks he created him. MBS could not conceive of a relationship to him where he is subservient.”

    New era of power projection

    So while Mohammed bin Zayed went to Russia courting Putin, his officials distanced themselves from the Opec+ oil cut. The Financial Times reported that the UAE and Iraq had “expressed misgivings”.

    Foreign policy in the hands of Mohammed bin Zayed is more nuanced than in those of his Saudi protege. This means that every move Mohammed bin Zayed makes is reversible, and therefore tradeable. He calculates each move before he makes it.

    Although the two men look in public to be close to each other, in reality, Mohammed bin Salman is moving faster than his neighbour wants him to. The one thing that Mohammed bin Zayed does not want is for Mohammed bin Salman to become his own man. At the same time, the one thing that Mohammed bin Salman will not tolerate is for anyone else to issue him orders. 

    The US is being tested as much by its allies as by its foes. And for good reason

    It happened once over Yemen, where the announcement of the pullout of UAE troops left the Saudi crown prince on his own.

    Biden and his advisers may be tempted to take a successful pushback of Russian troops in Ukraine as a starting gun for a new era of American power projection around the world – one whose target is China. But even if Putin is turned back in Ukraine, they would be profoundly wrong to do so.

    The US is being tested as much by its allies as by its foes. And for good reason: they sense that the US won’t resume the role of unchallenged leader, which it held briefly for three decades.

    The US has learned no lessons from the fall of Kabul. It reacted to its military defeat in Afghanistan by trading up. A geographically limited conflict in Central Asia was replaced by a potentially much larger conflict with China. Large parts of the world have rightly lost faith in this type of leadership.

    The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

    This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

    David Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He is a commentator and speaker on the region and analyst on Saudi Arabia. He was the Guardian’s foreign leader writer, and was correspondent in Russia, Europe, and Belfast. He joined the Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

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