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.

Netanyahu returns, but Israel’s political and military landscape has changed

Bibi is back, leading Israel’s most right-wing government but also facing unprecedented Palestinian resistance and global turmoil.

November 06 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

While the Arab Summit in Algeria affirmed its adherence to the so-called ‘Arab Peace Initiative’ as a final solution to the Palestinian issue, Israel’s response came quickly and resolutely with the return to power of Benjamin Netanyahu and the anti-Arab religious Likud bloc.

In the 1 November legislative elections, Israelis voted in large numbers for the anti-Arab, racist, religious parties, which openly embrace a policy of killing and expelling Palestinians from all of occupied Palestine, and promote a solely Jewish-Zionist identity of the country.

The “Jewish Power” party, which won 15 seats, and is led by the two most racist figures in the short history of the Jewish state, Bezael H. Cherish and his deputy Itamar Ben Gvir, will be the backbone of Netanyahu’s coalition government.

The leader of this party, which will be the most prominent partner of the Arab monarchs who signed peace agreements with Israel, has called for killing Arabs, expelling them and wrapping the bodies of the martyrs in pigskin “in honor” of them.

Normalization the new norm

Nonetheless, it is likely that red carpets will be laid out for Ben Gvir and Netanyahu in Arab capitals, where they will enjoy Arab hospitality and drink from their gilded goblets. Indeed, there is no difference between the winning Israeli coalition and the defeated one (Lapid-Gantz).

Both converge on their mutual hostility and hatred of Arabs and Muslims. General Benny Gantz, the Israeli Minister of Defense in the previous government, used to boast that he was the Israeli who killed the largest number of Arabs – and this is true, as his government has killed 166 Palestinians since the beginning of this year.

There is a silver lining, however: This racist government will hasten Israel’s demise and lead to its inevitable end, not at the hands of the battered Arab armies, but at the hands of the Palestinian resistance and their regional allies, their missiles and drones.

There are three steps that the Netanyahu government and his extremist coalition may take upon assuming power:

First, a return to reviving the Trump-era ‘Deal of the Century,’ the annexation of the West Bank, and the deportation of most of its Palestinian residents to Jordan as an “alternative homeland.”

Second, the escalation of incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the consolidation of Jewish control over East Jerusalem, and the obliteration of its Arab and Islamic identity. The first step may be dividing it on the model of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, then demolishing it, and erecting the alleged “temple” on its ruins.

Third, the canceling or freezing of the maritime border demarcation agreement with Lebanon, similar to what happened to the Oslo Accords with Palestinians. Netanyahu announced his intent to do so openly in his election campaign.

This option appears especially likely given that extraction of gas and oil from the Karish field has already begun, while the Qana field, which was “partially” recognized as Lebanese, remains untouched, with no surveys or exploration conducted until this moment.

It is likely that the Lebanese gas fields will lay dormant for the foreseeable future. The same US mediators did not guarantee the implementation of even 1 per cent of the Oslo Accords, and they will most likely not guarantee the rights of the Lebanese people.

Renewed Palestinian armed resistance

But Netanyahu is set to assume control over a very different state of affairs, both domestically and internationally. For starters, Israel is facing an escalating internal conflict, and most importantly, a revived intifada in the form of West Bank armed resistance.

We cannot talk about West Bank resistance without discussing the phenomenon of The Lions’ Den whose political and military influence is expanding, while the Palestinian public’s embrace of the movement is growing. Not a day passes without witnessing a commando operation in various parts of the West Bank; in Nablus, Jenin and Hebron – later in Ramallah, and then in the pre-1948 occupied Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu may succeed in including one or two more Arab governments in the Abraham Accords, which was signed under his last premiership. However, such political acrobatics will have no value in light of the “awakening” of the Palestinian people and their return to armed resistance.

The returning Netanyahu will not forget the May 2021 battle of the “Sword of Jerusalem” that humiliated him, and its missiles that isolated the occupying state for more than 11 days, forcing millions of Israeli settler-colonizers into shelters and bunkers.

These missiles are still present and ready, along with hundreds of armed drones. Perhaps it is also worth reminding the incoming Israeli Prime Minister of how he ended an electoral meeting in the city of Ashdod (my ancestors’ hometown) and fled in terror from the 400 missiles launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement in retaliation for the assassination of its leader, Baha Abu al-Atta.

Just another day in the office?

The “Israel” to which Netanyahu returns is not the same Israel he left, and the world he knew when he was last in power, is not the same world today. His US supporter is mired in an unprecedented proxy war of attrition with Russia in Ukraine, where his co-religionist, Volodymyr Zelensky, has so far lost about a fifth of his country’s territory, and has plunged it into darkness and despair.

While Netanyahu is viewed as as being close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, that friendship had deepened before the Ukraine war. The situation has now changed dramatically, and he will be forced to choose between Washington and Moscow in an era of multipolarity.

As for the Lions’ Den, they have effectively changed all the equations and rules of engagement in occupied Palestine – and perhaps in the Arab world as well – and within this context will actually “welcome” the hardliner Netanyahu’s return to power.

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

Can Any Lebanon-Israel Maritime Deal be Trusted?



Abdel Bari Atwan

While the demarcation agreement is yet to be signed, scepticism on both sides signals conflict ahead

There is a sense of optimism in Lebanon over the possibility of signing a maritime agreement with Israel that would enable the extraction of gas from Lebanese territorial waters, which could help lead the country out of its dire financial crisis.

After the 3 October meeting that brought together Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Republican Palace, it was clear that everyone agreed with the “moderate” proposals presented by US envoy Amos Hochstein, head of the indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over their common maritime border.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elias Abu Saab announced after the meeting that Lebanon’s “comments” on the proposals would be sent to Hochstein, and that the Lebanese government would not provide an official answer to the proposal – pending a response from the US envoy before the end of the week.

Israel for its part has reportedly given preliminary approval for the proposal which consists of a 10-page draft.

Abu Saab confirmed that Lebanon had obtained its full rights in the maritime “Qana gas field,” but he cautioned that the devils lie in the detail.

Mikati, who seems the most enthusiastic to sign the US-brokered agreement, said after leaving the presidential palace that “things are going in the right direction.” His smile was wider than ever – as though gas revenues in the billions of dollars were about to flow into the coffers of the Central Bank of Lebanon.

Gas deal ‘leaks’

So far, few details of the agreement have been revealed. Currently in circulation are ‘deliberate’ indirect leaks from the two negotiating parties to ‘beautify’ the agreement for their respective constituents. It reflects the desire of deal proponents to clinch an agreement as soon as possible, ostensibly to avoid a war on the Lebanese-Israeli border that could escalate into a regional war, and maybe more.

While the Lebanese side appears uncharacteristically united and more willing to sign, sharp divisions persist in the Israeli camp, especially between interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his ally Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, on the one hand, and the opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other.

Lapid claims, through his camp’s leaks, that Israel will retain full sovereignty over the contested Karish gas field and will receive financial compensation by relinquishing part of Lebanon’s Qana gas field – paid for by French corporation TotalEnergies, which is currently in talks of its own with Israel over potential profit sharing from exploration.

Lapid also promotes the notion that Israel made a “tactical concession in exchange for a strategic gain in stability on the northern borders.”

Netanyahu has stepped up his attacks on the prime minister and has criticized the draft agreement for making huge concessions on the ‘Land of Israel’ and for handing over its natural resources to Lebanon and Hezbollah.

This, he contends, is taking place without holding a public referendum or securing the approval of the Knesset (Parliament). He has also vowed to abolish the agreement if he comes to power following legislative elections scheduled for 1 November.

Meanwhile, everyone is awaiting the results of the mini-Israeli security cabinet meeting next Thursday, which is supposed to discuss and ratify the agreement.

The internal battle may then move to Israel’s Supreme Court to decide on the opposition’s demands to hold a referendum on the agreement, or to submit it to the Knesset for approval – or both. There are initial indications that the Supreme Court may support the opposition’s opinion.

Uri Adiri, the chief Israeli negotiator for demarcating the maritime border with Lebanon, announced his resignation in protest of Lapid’s management of the negotiations. It seems clear that the resignation came under opposition pressure, and it is not unlikely that similar resignations will take place in the coming days.

Negotiations leading to ‘normalization’

There are also criticisms on the Lebanese side in some circles, chiefly over the notion that such negotiations are a precursor to normalization with the occupation state. Abu Saab, however, has insisted that no agreement or treaty will be signed with the Israeli enemy, and that there will be no document that includes a Lebanese signature alongside an Israeli signature.

But there are several caveats worth noting:

  • Firstly: The final version of the US-brokered proposals has not yet been agreed upon, and therefore the possibilities of returning to square one, that is, before the ‘theoretical current agreement,’ are still present.
  • Secondly: The only guarantors of this agreement are the United States and France. Experiences with US guarantees are not encouraging. As we have seen with Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – likewise, the US guarantee of the Oslo Accord, signed at the White House on 13 September, 1993 – an American guarantee no longer invokes much confidence.
  • Thirdly: Netanyahu cannot cancel the agreement as long as it is legally approved, but he can undermine it if he wins the next legislative elections. As with the Oslo Accords – which he strongly opposed – while he could not exit the agreement, he prevented its implementation and reduced it to empty words by settling 800,000 settlers in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Delaying the inevitable

Finally: We cannot rule out that these Israeli disputes between the government and the opposition are just political theater intended to stall, deceive the Lebanese, and plan ahead for the inevitable response by the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah.

It should be noted that the US is Israel’s strongest global ally, that Lapid is one of Israel’s most ardent supporters of the US war against Russia in Ukraine, and that the American “mediator” Amos Hochstein is Israeli-born and served in the Israeli army.

The only reliable guarantee for Lebanon, for its oil and gas resources, for its security and stability, is the Islamic resistance represented by Hezbollah and its huge arsenal of precision missiles, advanced drones, and one hundred thousand-strong army of resistance fighters.

This is the first time in the history of Israel, since its establishment, that its government has offered concessions under the threat of arms and in fear of a war that threatens its existence. This is entirely due to Hezbollah’s refusal to allow Israel to extract gas before Lebanon has secured its own rights.

The next few days could be the most dangerous for Lebanon and the region. The utmost caution must be exercised, and every word or comma in any binding agreement must be carefully scrutinized before signing.

Remember that Netanyahu is a paper tiger, and he was subjected to humiliating defeats at the hands of the resistance in the Gaza Strip, especially in the battle of Sayf al-Quds.

The resistance is the biggest winner of this agreement so far in both in its implementation – because it is the one who imposed it with missiles and drones – and in the event of its collapse – because it is ready for all possibilities, foremost of which is war.

While the Lebanese people are peaceful, and have sought hard to secure a fair and equitable agreement over their maritime borders, they may yet be forced to militarily secure their national rights to Lebanon’s natural resources.

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Sword of Jerusalem II has begun and there is no room for negotiation

Israel may have miscalculated, again. The PIJ resistance it has brutally targeted in Gaza and the West Bank wants to take this confrontation until the liberation of Palestine

August 06 2022

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Only about half of the 160 rockets (Israel says 400+) fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) on the mass of Israeli settlements flanking the Gaza Strip were intercepted by Israel’s US-funded Iron Dome systems.

This, in itself, is a major military and psychological achievement for the Palestinian resistance. The settlers have lost their security, their time to leave has come.

The PIJ cleverly handled the pre-battle phase by stepping up armed military confrontations in the West Bank, entering into strategic operational coordination with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – particularly in Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarem – and besieging and forcing a curfew on more than 1.5 million Israelis in the southern settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

These confrontations were in retaliation for Israel’s targeting of PIJ’s cadres throughout Palestinian territories this summer. But it was the Israeli leadership which decided on war and must take responsibility for the consequences of its decision, regionally and internationally. The PIJ lured Tel Aviv to war without firing a single missile, and herein lies the miracle.

A war or a skirmish?

The battle is still in its infancy, and in its first two days was limited to the PIJ alone, which stands with its resistance fighters in the face of the mighty Israeli military machine.

The participation of other Palestinian factions in the battlefield, especially Hamas, is still not excluded.

The PIJ’s announcement on Saturday that its military forces are mobilized and prepared may be the first step to what comes next.

It is Israel that began the airstrikes and violated its commitments to previous agreements, most notably by initiating and executing a campaign to assassinate PIJ leaders: most recently Tayseer Al-Jabari, their field commander in the Gaza Strip, and a number of his fellow fighters. For this, Tel Aviv will now have to pay a heavy price.

The resistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and their constituents are rushing to join Hamas and its fighters, missiles, drones, and frogmen into the confrontation; to provide protection to the more than two million Palestinians currently under Israel’s absolute rule in Gaza.

The most frequent question asked in the West Bank and Gaza Strip today is “where are Abu Obeida, Mohammad Deif, and Yahya al-Sinwar?” – in reference to the military spokesman of Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, its supreme military commander, and Hamas’ political leader in Gaza, respectively. “How long will they be absent from this battle?”

Israel’s big problem 

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz may have launched the airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday, but he will not be the one to decide the battle’s conclusion. As in the Sword of Jerusalem (Saif al-Quds) conflagration in May 2021, which Gantz incorrectly predicted would last at least a week, he cannot control the outcome of this fight.

That May, to Israel’s utter horror and confusion, for the first time in decades, West Bank, Gaza and 1948 Palestinians banded together to confront Israel over its provocative storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. In one short month, Tel Aviv’s decades-long systematic efforts to separate and compartmentalize these three Palestinian areas was decimated.

Gantz, his army, and his prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) were impotent in the face of the multi-front Palestinian response. It was US President Joe Biden who begged Egyptian mediators for a quick intervention because Israel could not sustain the repercussions of one more missile hitting Tel Aviv.

Will Hamas join the fight?

It is clear that Hamas cannot stand by while Israeli raids kill children and bomb towers in the Gaza Strip.

Although somewhat restrained by its Turkish and Arab allies, Hamas – a resistance partner to the PIJ – must ultimately listen to its Palestinian, Arab and Muslim constituents, or risk losing much in the short and medium term.

Daoud Shihab, spokesman for the PIJ’s Al-Quds Brigades, has already said “No” to Arab mediators led by Egypt. The PIJ believes that this is not the time to calm down, but to confront Israel’s aggression, avenge the Palestinian martyrs and ask:

How dare the mediators resume their efforts, talk about ceasefires, and try to halt a justified Palestinian response. Did the Israeli enemy respect its commitments to rebuild the Gaza Strip, refrain from assassinating the leaders of the resistance, and ease years of a harrowing siege?

“We have been deceived by the mediators,” says Mohammad Al Hindi, a member of the Political Bureau of the PIJ movement.

When General Benny Gantz says that his current Gaza operation is to strike the entire PIJ network – in parallel with strikes directed by his security forces in the West Bank – he reveals his plan for a “fitna” (inner rebellion) to tear apart the unity of the resistance and instigate a factional war between the PIJ and Hamas movements. Greater awareness and discipline is required to thwart Gantz’s plan, specifically by Hamas.

On Friday night, the PIJ’s Secretary General Ziad Al-Nakhala declared in an on-air interview with Al-Mayadeen that this war is open: there are no red lines and it will continue until victory.

Nakhala also said he may issue instructions to the PIJ delegation to refuse Egyptian mediation in Cairo, and halt ceasefire negotiations that will serve Israel’s interests only and save Tel Aviv from this trap it fell into with eyes wide open.

A war until liberation?

This is a war that will last. It comes as a precious gift to the Palestinian people and their resistance, and the coming days will reveal shocking and terrifying surprises for the Israelis that will send millions of them into shelters and global isolation.

Hezbollah’s Hisham Safieddine, executive council chairman of the Lebanese resistance movement, recently said: “The resistance has obtained strategic weapons that will break the balance of power, and the enemy’s attempt to prevent their arrival has failed.”

To this he added: “we must be present and not be affected by propaganda media campaigns that want to undermine our capabilities – by the Israeli, US and Gulf media and some of their ‘mignons’ in Lebanon. We will not give up our wealth [natural resources] in our territorial waters,” which means that the gas war is very imminent.

We are facing a war that may have begun in the Gaza Strip, but could, with just one ill-timed spark, transform into a regional war involving many other resistance factions. This comes at a time when western colonialism is facing two major power wars – in Ukraine (with Russia) and East Asia (with China).

Millions anticipating the appearance of Hamas’ Abu Obeida with his red kefiyah may not have to wait long. The Sword of Jerusalem II is in the running to be a much larger and more dangerous confrontation than the Sword of Jerusalem I.

Airports may close very soon, and thousands of Israeli settlers may take to the seas in search of safety from the retaliatory missiles of the resistance. Watch this space and its developments in the coming days.

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

It is time for Israel’s gut punch

Today, Israel bombed Damascus Airport, tomorrow it could strike the Presidential Palace. Despite the threat of war, Israel must now receive swift, fierce retaliatory measures.

June 13 2022

Eye for an eye: Will Israel’s illegal strike on Damascus airport invite a proportional retaliation against Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv?Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

In an escalatory attack on Syria last Friday, Israeli warplanes launched missiles strikes on Damascus International Airport, damaging runways, passenger terminals and crossing a major red line. Tel Aviv’s latest aggression has put Syria’s main passenger airport out of service for days, if not weeks, in a deliberate provocation against the Axis of Resistance.

This aggression, which violates all the previous rules of engagement, came in the immediate aftermath of a month-long Israeli military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean. These drills, we were told, mimicked real-time attacks against Iran, Syria, southern Lebanon, and even the likes of Yemen and Iraq.

“One who is safe from punishment will continue to commit the same crimes”

Hundreds of illegal Israeli missile strikes against Syria have taken place over the past five years, under the pretext of bombing ‘Iranian arms convoys to Hezbollah.’ Over time, these attacks have evolved into the bombing of alleged Syrian and Iranian military targets inside major cities in the Arab republic.

Friday’s Israeli attack occurred just before dawn, a day after Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech promising to target a UK/Greek gas exploration ship near the disputed Karish gas field. What made this latest attack unique was it marked the first time that the Damascus International Airport’s civilian transport area had been targeted by Israeli military strikes.

This means that Tel Aviv has underestimated the threats of retaliation from the Axis of Resistance. Israel, it seems, is subsumed in the fog of self-deception, and like “one who is safe from punishment, will continue to commit the same crimes.”

Will there be a response?

On Al-Quds Day, held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, Nasrallah stated that the Axis of Resistance will respond to any Israeli aggression within the Syrian depth. He further stressed that the long-held notion that retaliation must be reserved for the “right time and place” has fallen forever. This begs the tough question: Will the Axis respond to the missile raid on a most prominent and important site of the Syrian state, both politically and militarily (i.e., Damascus International Airport), in order to preserve its credibility, prestige and dignity?

The ones to answer this question are the Syrian leadership, and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad personally. While it is clear that a response to this blatant and unprecedented Israeli aggression may lead to a regional war, silence, inaction, and avoidance of “Israeli traps” will almost certainly lead to further escalation from Tel Aviv.

If there is no Syrian or Axis military response to Israel’s crossing of this red line, we should not be surprised if future Israeli raids target all civilian airports, more Syrian infrastructure such as water and electric stations, and possibly the Presidential Palace itself.

Syria is not afraid of war and has fought four of them in the past 40 years – in addition to an 11-year internal war of attrition led by the United States, the European Union, and their Arab allies. The foreign aggressors spent hundreds of billions of dollars to destroy and partition Syria, and overthrow its government, but Damascus did not fall or surrender.

We do not believe Syria can fear a new war, especially because it has a solid army that is hard to defeat and has significant battle experience. Most importantly, we believe that the Syrian military will be difficult to defeat because it belongs to the Axis of Resistance, who itself has a massive arsenal of missiles, submarines and drones.

The likelihood of responding to this blatant Israeli aggression is much greater in our view than the possibilities of silence, even if this response leads to an all-out war. It cannot and should not be a random retaliatory strike, and it requires coordination and consultation with all the arms of the Resistance Axis, the development of a deterrence strategy in which roles are well distributed and integrated, and requires both patience and recklessness to achieve a positive, honorable outcome.

The Russian Role

As Syria’s major power ally, Russia’s silence in the face of years of illegal Israeli strikes – and Moscow’s refusal to green light a Syrian military response or equip it with the necessary defense capabilities such as advanced S-400 missile systems – bears the greatest responsibility for reaching this unfortunate, humiliating situation for the Syrian leadership.

On Sunday, the Syrian army held immediate exercises by order of President Assad, under the supervision of the minister of defense and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces General Ali Mahmoud Abbas, in the presence of the deputy chief of Russian forces present in Syria.

This may be an indication that the response to this Israeli aggression is imminent.

The time has come to respond

The Axis of Resistance should not hesitate to respond to this insult as soon as possible. This legal and justified retaliation should be at least as powerful as the illegal and unjustified Israeli aggression, and it should take place in the occupied Palestinian depth. From the perspective of a legitimate right to self-defense, the response should be tit-for-tat: an airport for an airport, a port for a port, and infrastructure for infrastructure.

We know very well that war is costly, but this time its cost to the Israeli enemy will be much greater because its losses will be “existential,” as Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in his last speech.

Syria did not choose this war; it did not initiate aggression and has demonstrated the highest levels of self-restraint. But now the knife has reached the bone, and restraint has become counterproductive.

At this point in time, inaction would prolong a deadly siege that has exceeded the limit of starvation. It is why the time for debate is over, and all honorable people should stand in the trenches to defend this nation and its just causes. Syria has sacrificed tens of thousands of martyrs. It has lost lives and territories, but refused to bargain, surrender and normalize relations with the occupation forces. For this, Syrians have paid the heftiest of prices in the Arab and Islamic realm.

We stood, and we will stand, in the trench of Syria, in confronting this Israeli aggression, and responding to it with the same amount of ferocity, if not more. Over the course of 8,000 years of its honorable civilized history, Syria has faced many aggressors, and it will emerge victorious once again.

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

Timing is everything: Unpacking Assad’s visit to Tehran

May 12 2022

Five reasons for President Assad’s unannounced visit to the Iranian capital amid rapid geopolitical developments in the region

Major political salvos across West Asia have heightened tensions, and the main parties are rushing to calibrate their next moves and new responses.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Since the onset of the brutal war against Syria in 2011, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rarely travels abroad. His rare foreign visits are carefully calculated, and devised to discuss strategic issues of great importance, politically, militarily and economically.

In the last decade, Assad has restricted these visits to only two capitals, Moscow and Tehran. The only exception was his surprise trip last March to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which followed an Emirati outreach to Damascus an previous months.

In this context, any foreign trip by the Syrian president always draws interest. His visit to Tehran last Sunday, during which he met the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, was not announced for security reasons until after its completion and his return to Damascus. This is something that does not need to be explained as the man is a target, especially for the United States of America and the Israeli occupation state.

Little information about Assad’s visit was available, as the parties only provided media with photos of his two meetings with Khamenei and Raisi. However, the timing of his trip can tell us a lot more about its purpose.

The reasons for Assad’s visit to Tehran can be summarized in the following five points:

First: It coincided with the start of the largest Israeli military maneuvers of its kind near the Syrian and Lebanese borders, amid reports and rumors of preparations to launch a major war against the Axis of Resistance, especially Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. Tel Aviv is in the grips of terror due to the escalation of the strength of this Axis, Israel’s failure to impact Vienna negotiations, and Iran’s closeness to acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities.

Second: In his speech on the International Quds Day (April 29), the Secretary-General of the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, affirmed that Iran and its resistance alliance will retaliate against any Israeli aggression in Syria. He stressed that the notion of a “response in the right time and place” has gone irreversibly, which requires Syrian-Iranian coordination at highest levels, in preparation for an upcoming confrontation on Syrian soil that may turn into an all-out war.

Third: Lebanon is about to enter a critical and sensitive stage beginning on 15 May, with the holding of parliamentary elections that are neck-deep in foreign interference, especially from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The results of these elections may lead to political and military confrontations if they do not conform to the calculations of some internal parties and their supporters abroad.

Fourth: After the Russian military operation in Ukraine commenced, the Arab region has witnessed new political and military rules of engagement, which may lead to a dramatic change in regional and international alliances. Recently, we witnessed an Egyptian, Saudi, and Emirati rapprochement with Russia – and a sharp rise in their tensions with their historic American ally – after the Arab states rejected Washington’s request to increase gas and oil production to lower prices and replace the disruption of Russian energy sources to Europe.

Fifth: Syria is facing a severe energy crisis due to the US occupation of gas and oil wells east of the Euphrates, and the suffocating US siege and blockade imposed on the entire country. Iran is Damascus’ only lifeline as Syrian cities plunge into darkness due to power outages, with the onset of the hot summer months looming.

Far from anticipating events and rushing into speculations that may not be accurate, it can be said, with great caution, that this June may be hot indeed – similar to countless previous ‘Junes’ that witnessed the outbreak of many of the Arab region’s wars over the past 75 years.

After the Russian-Ukrainian war, it is clear that Moscow has found Damascus and Tehran to be reliable allies, and Israel to be an ungrateful friend that supports Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and stands openly on the American side. While Tel Aviv initially sought to position itself as a neutral party to the conflict, that notion dissipated quickly with a statement by its Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who condemned the “Russian invasion” as a “war crime.”

The escalating war of words between Russia and Israel may have provided Iran and Syria with a green light to respond to any Israeli aggression, and thus lifted the ban on the Syrian Arab Army’s use of the Russian “S-300” missiles to counter Israeli air strikes on Syrian territory.

Moscow’s welcoming of a Hamas delegation in recent days only appears to solidify the view that Russia’s position on Israel may be shifting – whether this is a major policy shift, or merely a harsh warning to deter Tel Aviv, is yet unknown.

The next major Israeli raid on Iranian targets on Syrian territory, if it happens, may be the real test, and we are waiting on pins and needles for its outcome.

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

By restricting Moscow’s moves, Erdogan is playing Russian roulette

April 27 2022

If closing part of Turkish airspace to Russian planes is an indication of Ankara’s new direction, it may prove fatal for Turkey across several fronts.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Turkey’s decision to close its airspace to Russian military and civilian aircraft bound for northern Syria surprised many observers. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s announcement of this decision to Turkish journalists during his Latin America tour raised many questions about its future implications for Russian-Turkish relations.

It is unlikely that this decision may have been one of the outcomes of a Turkish-American deal following discreet contacts between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Joe Biden to clamp down on Russia. Unlike his predecessor Donald Trump, Biden believes that it is difficult to achieve regional security without Turkey, which is an original member of NATO. And so the deal between the two countries included expanding economic cooperation and meeting Turkey’s defense needs, particularly in the advanced F-35s, Patriot and THAAD missile systems.

There are several explanations for Ankara’s decision. The first is that the US exerted pressure on Turkey after it became evident that the Russians commanded the battle of Mariupol and other southeastern Ukrainian areas from the Russian airbase of Hemeimim in northern Syria – from which strategic strikes were carried out against Ukrainian forces.

A second possible explanation is that Erdogan succeeded in improving his country’s relations with Washington, taking full advantage of the desperate US need for regional allies in NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine.

But where one loses, another gains. On the back of the surprise Turkish decision, Tehran cleverly offered to allow Russian aircraft to use Iranian airspace to reach naval and air bases in northern Syria. While these flight times may be longer, there are instant benefits for the two countries, especially Iran, which has now further enhanced its strategic relations with the Russia-China axis. Iran has not been ambiguous: since the outbreak of the Ukrainian military crisis, it has failed to condemn Moscow’s actions and has stood quietly in the Russian trench.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been generous with his Turkish counterpart. He forgave Erdogan for his 2015 mistake when Turkish air defenses shot down a Russian Sukhoi plane that allegedly penetrated Turkey’s airspace near the Syrian-Turkish border for a few seconds. It took a series of expansive Russian punishments for the Turkish president to apologize in all languages, including Russian, for the mishap.

Putin has showed understanding, and even patience, over the Turkish occupation of areas in northern Syria, contrary to the wishes of his staunch allies in Damascus. However, Ankara’s latest decision to establish a ‘Russian no-fly zone’ will not be so easy to forgive, especially if followed by further measures such as banning the passage of Russian military vessels through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to the Mediterranean, in accordance with the Montreux Agreement.

This remains an option in light of the rapid – if stealthy – improvement in Turkish-US relations. But choosing to align with Washington on Ukraine also risks racking up Russian-engineered military, political, and economic costs for Turkey, one year out from the country’s pivotal elections.

Further aligning with the US also means Erdogan will not be able to continue playing his carefully crafted role as a “neutral” mediator in this crisis, and host the upcoming summit meeting between the Turkish and Ukrainian presidents.

Turkish aspirations to expand trade cooperation with Russia to $100 billion dollars per annum will also be impacted, and the sale of further Russian S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey will be unlikely. More seriously, Russia may respond by developing or expanding relations with the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and supporting its operations in Turkey.

Politically speaking, the Russian military operation in Ukraine is a matter of life and death for Putin. Therefore his response to Ankara’s belligerent moves are likely to be decisive and could possibly play out on several fronts:

  • The Syrian front: To keep the balance in Russian relations with Turkey, Putin strongly opposed the Syrian leadership’s desire to invade Idlib to eliminate the jihadist terror groups based there and restore territorial control back to Damascus. While Moscow’s position may not yet change, renewed, intensive Russian military operations in Idlib will lead to an increase in Syrians fleeing to Turkish territory, which already hosts over 3 million Syrian refugees.
  • Strengthening Russian-Iranian relations: This will have a negative impact on Erdogan’s regional ambitions – especially in West and Central Asia – taking into account that China, which forms the third and strongest arm of this budding alliance is a full-fledged member of this troika.
  • The Arab Front: Turkey’s desire to improve its relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Persian Gulf and Arab states may be hindered in light of the rapprochement of these countries with Russia and China, which coincides with the breakdown of their relations with their traditional American ally. There is much the Russia-Iran-China (RIC) alliance can do in West Asia to unsettle Ankara’s relations within the region. It is worth noting that Riyadh has not yet responded to Turkish diplomatic outreach, significantly on the closure of the file of the state-sanctioned murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Erdogan’s leadership in recent months has been characterized by confusion and volatility. Recent political developments include Ankara’s unpopular improvement in ties with Israel, its gradual involvement in the Ukraine crisis, and its warming relations with Washington. These come at a critical time, not only amid a nation-wide economic crisis but also a year before presidential and legislative elections that pose a serious threat to Erdogan’s reign.

President Putin may have decided initially to overlook Turkey’s sale of the Bayraktar drones that have arguably contributed in the deaths of some 2,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and reluctantly accepted its role as an intermediary in the crisis. At the strategic level, though, it will be difficult for him to tolerate Turkey’s accelerated bias toward the west.

It is true that Turkey is a regional power, and militarily strong, but it is also true that the US-led camp toward which it is tilting is in decline, torn apart by divisions, and failing dramatically in its economic sanctions regime against Russia. Furthermore, this camp is facing an alliance of two super-powers, a nuclear third (India), and a fourth on the way (Iran), together comprising more than half of the world’s population.

President Erdogan’s gamble with Russia is risky and may backfire, at just the wrong time.

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

Yemen’s Hadi has no “power” to bestow on the new presidential council

The exiled Yemeni president will transfer his presidential powers to the new council, with the Saudis pulling all the strings. 

April 08 2022

In Yemen, yet another Saudi initiative to take ownership of a foreign state’s sovereignty.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

The significance of the newly established Presidential Leadership Council, which was formally declared on 7 March by the exiled Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, lies in the unification of most, if not all, of Yemen’s political and tribal factions who oppose the Ansarallah resistance movement and the National Salvation Government (NSG) it leads in Sanaa.

The transfer of “legitimacy” to the new entity by Hadi will also come with the support of US $3 billion dollars from its two main sponsors – and the two leading war coalition partners – Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Another Saudi-backed scheme

Saudi’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), who surprised many with this move, may have eliminated the burden of propping up the ailing 76-year-old Hadi and his notorious vice president General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar.

However, two main challenges remain for this presidential council: the first of which is its cohesion and the continued harmony of its members, who will need to set their own authoritarian ambitions and marked differences aside.

Secondly and most importantly, is the council’s recognition by the Ansarallah-run NSG, whose inclusion in potential peace negotiations are essential in order to reach a political settlement in Yemen.

The chairman of this presidential council, chosen by the Saudi and Emirati sponsors is an advisor of Hadi, Rashad Al-Alimi. There are eight members of the council, four from the north and four from the south – including the head of the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), Aidarus Al-Zoubaidi. The one thing they have in common is shared military and security concerns against the Ansarallah-aligned forces, now dominating the Yemeni battlefield.

United only in opposition to Ansarallah

Forming a potent political, geographic, and tribal mix of separatists, Islamists, tribesmen, secularists, tribal elders, and militia leaders, virtually the only element that binds this hodgepodge of mindsets is their collective hostility to Ansarallah. The factions that make up this council wither have political, principled or ideological reasons to refuse to coexist with the Yemeni resistance, or to join their ranks, despite Ansarallah being the strongest party on the ground.

In what will likely be President Hadi’s last stand, he announced during his televised address the establishment of the new presidential leadership council, and irrevocably ceded all his powers to it – as he said: “without returning.”

Whose authority is it anyway?

This reminds Arabs of the situation former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri found himself in, when he was kidnapped in Riyadh by his Saudi hosts in 2017, roughed up, and forced to read a ‘resignation’ speech on television during his house arrest. Were it not for the intervention of French President Emmanuel Macron, Hariri may still have been under detention, like many other ‘guests’ of the Ritz Carlton, including senior princes.

The legitimacy of this new presidential council can only come from its recognition by the majority of the Yemeni people and an approval by the NSG as a viable, domestic negotiating partner. Only then, can the parties try to reach a political settlement, share power, agree to a permanent cessation of fighting, and ultimately end the war.

Ansarallah’s spokesman and political bureau member, Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, acknowledged the move took him by surprise, but he denounced the idea of any dialogue with the new presidential council, stating that “dialogue must be dialogue between Yemen and the countries of the four-way aggression, we do not negotiate with the tools of the states of this aggression.”

Al-Bukhaiti also launched a scathing attack on the new chairman of the council, Alimi, and described him as a stooge of the US.  “The real legitimacy is for those who defend the independence of the country, and this presidential council is illegal, because it is an extension of the occupation,” he argued.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, who heads Ansarallah’s delegation to UN-sponsored negotiations, said that Yemen’s only path to peace is halting the aggression and lifting the economic siege of the country, adding that the Yemeni people would not accept “illegal measures issued outside the borders of their homeland by an illegal party.”

Trouble ahead?

The Saudis have technically ousted Hadi with this soft coup, as he was increasingly perceived as a liability incapable of unifying Yemen’s anti-Ansarallah groups and militias. But there is no guarantee this council will succeed either, as there are more issues that divide than unites them.

We should also not forget that those who have been removed, such as Hadi and his deputy, and those who have been excluded from the council, have supporters and fellow tribesmen on the ground. These elements may be able to disrupt the council’s agenda, and Hadi’s description of Ansarallah as “brothers” the day before he was removed may be a sign of things to come.

This presidential council may also have been formed to counter Ansarallah politically, and not to make peace with them, as has been seen with all the previous ill-fated unification initiatives thus far.

Presidential, in name only

In any case, after seven years of war, and the deaths of 377 thousand Yemenis, the conflict in Yemen is no longer confined among Yemenis, but has developed into a conflict over legitimate authority and the distribution of it. Anyone who says otherwise does not know Yemen and certainly does not know Saudi Arabia.

As with the Riyadh Agreement before it, the Presidential Leadership Council is also doomed for failure, so long as there is a refusal to acknowledge who actually wields the most power and authority in Yemen, both in governance and in the battlefield.

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

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Four signs that a US-Gulf ‘divorce’ is in the making

The rapid-fire ‘messages’ directed at Washington from old Persian Gulf allies are brutal, and strongly suggest that the days of US hegemony are done

March 20 2022

In all the geopolitical salvos issued left and right last week, nothing was less expected than the visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to the UAE. It is a strong sign of the Persian Gulf’s dissatisfaction with its US ally.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

If any good has come out of the Ukraine war for the Arab world, it is the diminished status and influence of the US in West Asia. Washington is losing many of its traditional allies in the region, especially in the Persian Gulf, and this trend looks like it will accelerate.

Four recent developments illustrate this.

First, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to the UAE on Friday. The warm welcome laid on for him by its leaders was a slap in the face of the US administration, its strongly stated objections to the visit, and its sanctions aimed at de-legitimizing the Syrian government.

Second, the growing defiance of US hegemony by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, OPEC’s two largest oil producers. Most notable was their rejection of US President Joe Biden’s pleas to increase oil production in order to push down prices and provide extra supplies to enable western sanctions of Russian oil and gas imports.

Third, the failure of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit – on Washington’s behalf – to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, where he conveyed veiled threats to the two countries should they fail to toe the western line on Ukraine, join in imposing economic sanctions on Russia, or break their oil production agreements with it.

Fourth, Saudi Arabia’s invitation to China’s President Xi Jinping for an official visit and Riyadh’s openness to pricing its oil sales to Beijing in yuan. This signals that the kingdom and possibly other Gulf states may be willing to join the new global financial system Russia and China are developing as an alternative to the western one.

Of the four developments, the reception accorded to President Assad in Abu Dhabi and Dubai was the clearest sign of this Gulf rebellion against the US and its domination. The visit didn’t need to take place now; that it did shows more about the mood in the Gulf centers of power than anything else.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have reportedly declined to receive US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who is keen to follow up Johnson’s visit to try to succeed where he failed.

Instead, in a snub seen around the world, the UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Ahmad Bin Zayed visited Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. The public show of bonhomie they displayed was bound to rub salt into the American wound.

The timing of Assad’s trip – on the 11th anniversary of the start of the US-led war on Syria aimed at toppling its government, and three weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine – and the UAE’s indifference to the angry US reaction, are further signs of the start of divorce proceedings with an abusive partner that fleeces and cheats on its allies.

Assad’s visit to the UAE provided important gains for both countries and their leaders. It broke Syria’s official isolation in the Arab world and heralded the breaking of the US embargo imposed on the country. This caps a broader process of Arab ‘normalization’ which is set to see Damascus regain its membership of the Arab League and role in collective Arab decision making, and take part in the Arab summit to be held in Algiers in November.

This bold step also benefits the UAE in many ways. It helps offset the hugely negative impact on its image that resulted from its signing of the so-called Abraham Accords and enthusiastic courtship of the Israeli enemy.

Building bridges of trust and cooperation with the Axis of Resistance via Syria, Iran’s closest ally, could also help the UAE and Saudi Arabia find ways out of their quagmire in Yemen. It may be no coincidence that Riyadh is proposing to host an all-party Yemeni dialogue and has officially invited the Houthi Ansarullah movement to take part.

In short, what we are seeing today are manifestations of a revolt against US hegemony in the Arab world by the axis of Arab ‘moderation’ led by the Egyptian-Emirati-Saudi trio. It is open for other Gulf and Arab states such as Iraq, Algeria, and Sudan to join should they wish. This new axis may take clearer shape at the Algiers summit in the fall.

The process of Arab normalization with Israel is bound to slow down. It is the most grievous error that normalizing countries – old and new – could have made, and should be halted completely. But there is optimism in this regard, as turning against the US also implies turning against Israel.

Meanwhile, Assad’s presidential plane, which over the past decade has only flown to Moscow and Tehran, looks set to do a lot more traveling in the coming weeks and months. Its next destination after Abu Dhabi could be Riyadh or Cairo, despite the best efforts of the US to bar its way.

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

In Ukraine crisis, will Iran emerge a winner and Israel a loser?

West Asian developments play second fiddle to the Great Power battle over Ukraine. But regional states must pick a side because events in Kiev will trickle

February 15 2022

Even in West Asia there will be winners and losers over the stand-off in Ukraine.

By Abdel Bari Atwan

If we look at the developments of the Ukrainian crisis through a West Asian lens, and measure up the potential profit and loss scenarios for regional players, it is likely that Iran may be the biggest winner, and Israel the biggest loser.

Let’s start with Iran. This worsening crisis between the Russian-Chinese axis on the one hand, and the American-European alliance on the other, could not come at a better time for Tehran.

The Ukraine stand-off, which has captured the world’s attention, has significantly reduced Iran’s ranking on the list of US priorities by several degrees, and in turn, eased western pressures in the Vienna nuclear negotiations, which is barely a blip these days on the evening news.

Moreover, the blanket western disinformation campaign against a yet-unseen ‘Russia invasion’ really bolsters Moscow’s – and even Beijing’s – desire to strengthen strategic relations with Iran and other US-sanctioned states to fortify a rival axis that can challenge American aggression everywhere.

Let’s then consider Israel – Iran’s arch-enemy – and most Arab states in West Asia, who although clearly pro-US, have strived for decades to maintain a healthy ‘public’ neutrality in great power conflicts. In the event of an actual Russia-NATO clash, directly or through proxies, this fragile balance will now be tested rigorously, for it seems no state can remain neutral in times like these.

Names and numbers will be taken, alliances will be questioned, and silence will be punished. This is a certainty where Washington is concerned – as witnessed when Jordan was punished for staying neutral in the first Iraq war, and France in the second.


Let’s look at how this works in reality. Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government made a request for military assistance from Israel, as revealed by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid after his Sunday meeting with Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Amina Gavrova. Lapid promised to study the request, and herein lies Tel Aviv’s biggest test:

If the Israelis agree to send weapons to Kiev, the Russians will be angered. If Israel remains silent and ignores the response, it will lead to a frigid resentment from the western camp, and NATO specifically.

In the past, Tel Aviv has managed to easily walk the tightrope between the great powers by invoking the Holocaust, concentrations camps, Russia’s role in defeating the Nazi army in WWII, preservation of Jewish interests in Ukraine (50,000 Jews) and Russia (230,000) – but those arguments have little relevance in the coming conflict.

Tel Aviv will want to prevent any war in order to avoid making the hazardous choice between the Russians and Americans – where neutrality is forbidden. It tried to offer up a mediation summit in Jerusalem to resolve the crisis, but was ignored by Moscow or Washington, who could care less about West Asia at this moment.

Iran, meanwhile, stands satisfied in the shadows, neither aggravating nor weighing in on Ukrainian matters. Tehran resolved its position early on by standing in the Russian-Chinese trench, while Israel, to its utter mortification, really has only one choice.

Tel Aviv will have to stand in the US-European trench eventually, which will lead to the loss of its privileged relations with Russia, the consequences of which it will ultimately bear in Syria, Iran, and the entire West Asian region.

Some argue that the crisis in Ukraine could benefit Israel which may use the pretext of an impending war to lure Ukrainian Jews there for their ‘safety.’

But there are already one million Russian immigrants in occupied Palestine, half of them either non-Jews or non-practicing, and a large proportion of these lean toward Moscow, and President Putin in particular. In the event of a large influx of Ukrainian Jews, sponsored by Israel, the Russians already there for several decades could transform into a “fifth column” for Russia, their motherland.

In recent days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to adopt the intermediary role – that Israel is now seeking – to extract himself from a similar dilemma. He tried to cloak his bias towards Ukraine by presenting himself as a mediator in this crisis, but was also ignored.

Erdogan is already too neck-deep in his Ukraine faux pas for Putin to forgive. In recent months, Turkey and Ukraine have been discussing the joint production of ships, turbine engines and military aircraft. The Turkish president has sent around 500 Turkish Bayraktar drones worth $69 million to Ukraine, condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea, and dropped into Kiev for a photo op at the height of the crisis.


There were two messages addressed to Israel in the past seven days, both intended to impart serious warnings:

The first missive was the firing of a Syrian missile into Israel, which landed in the northern city of Um al-Fahm in retaliation for an Israeli missile strike on southern Damascus. This Syrian response could only have been sent with advance coordination with Moscow, and possibly even at its behest.

The second missive came from Iran, in a statement by the nation’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary-General Ali Shamkhani, who said: “The nuclear negotiations have reached a critical stage, and it depends on an Iranian political decision to accept or reject the conditions.”

The first message is that a firmer Syrian response to the Israeli raids may be imminent, and it may depend on Israel’s position on the Ukraine crisis. The second message confirms that Tehran is sticking to its guns on all its international positions, including the Vienna negotiations that Israel has tried hard to sabotage, and that Iran is immovable regardless of whether an agreement is reached or not. Maintaining its nuclear edge and ambiguity suits Iran just fine.

The global spotlight moving to Ukraine has only strengthened the Resistance Axis in West Asia and provided it with a greater variety of hard and soft cards to play – cards that the Russians will appreciate, but Israel may come to regret.

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

Will the US reignite a ‘Syrian revolution’ to punish Russia in Ukraine?

The US and its allies have already set the scene for Revolution 2.0 in Syria.

The question is whether their plan is to extract concessions from Russia over Ukraine, or to go full out and risk a West Asia-wide conflagration

By Abdel Bari Atwan

February 11 2022

The US and its allies are set to re-ignite the Syrian battlefield to deter Russia in Ukraine.Photo Credit: The Cradle

With new political, military, and economic tensions escalating between the United States and its NATO allies on the one hand, and China, Russia, North Korea and Iran on the other – including the Taiwan front in East Asia, and Ukraine in central Europe – we are now witnessing accelerated plans to activate new crises in West Asia, from Syria to Iraq to the war on Yemen.

Let us leave the situation in Iraq and Yemen aside, temporarily, and focus on Syria. The country has experienced an atmosphere of relative calm, or rather a ‘stalemate,’ in the past few years, after the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) regained more than 70 percent of its territory.

This period of calm has also seen the decline of the so-called Syrian opposition, both politically and militarily, in the city of Idlib and its vicinity, as well as in other areas in northeastern Syria, currently under the umbrella of US forces.

There are, however, several international and regional indications that the dormant Syrian ‘opposition’ is on its way to being reactivated again.


It is likely this reactivation may appear in a more ferocious form than the militancy that was unleashed at the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. Numerous indications of this have already emerged:

First, Russian foreign intelligence on Tuesday unveiled US plans to support armed groups in Syria, and ‘Islamic’ extremists in particular, to intensify their attacks against Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces in Tawaz, while igniting and encouraging ‘peaceful’ protests deep within Syria.

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) reported that US government agencies are “planning to task extremist ‘sleeper cells’ in Damascus…and Latakia province [by] staging pinpoint attacks against Syrian law enforcers, and Russian and Iranian military personnel.”

Russia’s Deputy Envoy at the UN Gennady Kuzmin told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that “The problem of terrorist threats in northeastern Syria is pressing. The US troops that are illegally deployed there cannot bring order. Or they don’t want to.”

In what appears as a reference to the mass ISIS jailbreak in Hasakah from a US-controlled area in late-January, Kuzmin added that “the atmosphere of a power void and impunity around the US forces’ deployment areas serves as a nourishing ground for terrorists of all stripes.”

The second indicator points to the statement issued by the Russian Intelligence Service, which says that the US administration is seeking to maintain its military presence in northeastern Syria, prevent the stability of Syria, rehabilitate the leadership of the Syrian opposition, and unite its ranks, Kurdish or Arab.

The US plan will be carried out through the exploitation of the current decline in economic conditions, basic services, and a significant weakening in the price of local currency, due to the suffocating US blockade.

According to the statement, the US will launch a “vast media campaign” on Arabic-speaking social media to incite Syrians to again take to the streets and squares, in the capital Damascus, and the cities of Aleppo, Homs and Latakia to push the regime to use the ‘violent’ iron fist in the face of ‘peaceful’ protests.

In other words, a re-play of the Deraa scenario in early 2011.

The third indicator was the two-day conference that took place last Saturday in Qatar’s capital city, Doha, which re-united various Syrian opposition figures on the subjects of reform and the future of Syria.

The conference – a culmination of a series of workshops held in a selection of European capitals – was launched by the renegade former Syrian prime minister, Riad Hijab, and included the representatives of Qatari, Arab, and international research centers, as well as more than 60 Syrian opposition figures.

Qatari authorities provided full support for this seminar, which Al Jazeera and its sister channels covered with remarkable intensity.

The fourth indicator relates to Algeria’s multiple efforts to hold an Arab summit in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will participate, and Syria’s seat in the Arab League will be restored. These efforts have failed, in part because Qatar has been the most fierce opponent to the rehabilitation of Syria at the Arab League.

And finally, fifth, is the out-of-the-blue assassination of the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, at the hands of US special forces in Turkish controlled areas in Syria.

Al-Quraishi was attacked in his home, in the north of Idlib, in an attack that has no documented audio or image evidence, similar to the previous assassinations of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and, before him, Osama bin Laden – but entirely unlike the execution of Saddam Hussein and the killing of his two sons.

This ‘assassination’ may, of course, just be a cover for the new US plan to restart covert communications with and support for radical Islamist militants, while publicly suggesting that the US continues to target them as ‘terrorist organizations.’


Quraishi’s sudden killing in Syria during the dangerous stand-off between NATO and Russia raised some questions in Washington as well. Former US Air Force Special Operations Joint Terminal Attack controller, Ethan Brown, pondered aloud in The Hill about “its “timing and the curious proximity to the crisis in Ukraine.”

Brown asks whether “the execution of a [US] military operation outside of a declared was zone in the Middle East…is somehow a credible deterrent to Russian actions elsewhere.” Then straight-out declares: “Make no mistake, the two unique situations are intertwined.”

On Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Erik Kurilla, tapped to be the next commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if Russian invades Ukraine, it could create broader instability in West Asia, including Syria.

This week, the Israelis struck Syria heavily again, just two weeks after the Russians and Syrians launched their first joint jet patrols over the Syrian-Israel border. This time, Moscow reacted strongly, calling Tel Aviv’s actions “a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty” that “may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions.”

The escalation in Syria, likely connected to Washington’s Ukraine strategy, has already started. The question is whether the protagonists will merely stage some events as a threat – or go all out.


The Syrian opposition launched its first ‘movement’ 11 years ago in Doha, and it seems that the attempt to revive it will also take place in the same place.

The official statement of the meeting outlined its “aims to try to find mechanisms of action to promote the performance of the opposition and discuss how to get the political transition out of the current global warming.”

“The Biden administration wants 2022 to be the year of qualifying Syrian opposition forces to be ready to replace the regime in any change that may occur,” Syrian opposition media outlet Orient Net stated in a report broadcast two months ago.

The report also revealed that US Deputy Secretary of State Eitan Goldrich had met with Syrian opposition leaders in Istanbul, Qamishli, and Gaziantep late last year to prepare for the new US scenario in Syria.

Will this new US plan work in Syria? Has the suffocating US blockade on Syria, imposed for this purpose 11 years ago, reap its harvest? Will this attempt fare any better than the first? Will funding come from Gulf financiers themselves? And how will the axis of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Syria respond?

We leave the answer for the coming weeks and months.

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

Ansarullah Leader: US, ‘Israel’ True Enemies’ Of Muslims

Feb 02 02 2020

By Staff, Agencies

Leader of Yemen’s Ansarullah resistance movement Sayyed Abdul Malik Badreddine al-Houthi called the United States and the ‘Israeli’ regime “number one enemies” to Muslims around the world.

“Americans and ‘Israelis’ try to abuse the problems that lie within the [international Muslim] Ummah [Nation] towards furthering their own plots,” Sayyed al-Houthi said on Tuesday while receiving tribal delegations from across war-torn Yemen.

“‘Israel’ and its mercenaries consider the Yemeni nation to be their common enemy,” he added.

Sayyed al-Houthi was referring to the regional Arab states that have entered US-backed normalization agreements with the ‘Israeli’ regime and have, ever since, been trying to ingratiate themselves to the occupying regime by aligning their positions with it.

“The [adversarial] positions that the United Arab Emirates, the Zionist regime, and Saudi Arabia [adopt] against the Yemeni people during their meetings is very clear,” the Ansarullah leader noted.

The UAE was one of the regional states that normalized its relations with the ‘Israeli’ regime via the Washington-mediated so-called “Abraham Accords” in August 2020.

Several other regional states followed suit. Saudi Arabia has not yet clinched any explicit normalization agreement with Tel Aviv, but has once received the occupying regime’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and recently opened its airspace to a UAE-headed flight that was carrying Zionist President Isaac Herzog.

Sayyed al-Houthi attacked Riyadh’s double-standards in dealing with the occupying regime and the Yemeni people, asking how come the kingdom would open up its skies to ‘Israeli’ officials’ plane, but at the same time would forbid the Yemeni people from travelling within the kingdom.

The Emirates is also Saudi Arabia’s main ally in a 2015-present war and simultaneous siege that the kingdom has been leading against Yemen in order to change the impoverished country’s ruling structure.

The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and turned the entire country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

On Tuesday, the spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces, repeated a threat he had leveled against the UAE last week, in which he had warned that — with the Emirates’ ongoing involvement in the devastating war — the country’s popular Dubai Expo 2020 might be the next target of Yemen’s retaliatory strikes.

“To be safe…we repeat the advice,” Brigadier General Yehya Saree wrote in a tweet that incorporated Expo as its only hashtag.

Precisely this time last week, Saree had urged the events’ participants “to change” their destination.

In a single month, the Yemeni army and its allied popular committees have carried out several rounds of retaliatory strikes against targets in Dubai and the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi.

Sanaa has also warned Abu Dhabi that the counterstrikes would be exceedingly “painful” if the latter failed to wind down its involvement in the Saudi-led war.

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Abu Dhabi forewarned: More Israel, more missile strikes

The UAE thought it could protect its Yemeni interests with Israel’s help. Then the Israeli president visited Abu Dhabi and Yemen dropped missiles to welcome him.

January 31 2022

UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed meets Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Abu Dhabi, hours before Ansarallah retaliatory strikes hit the city.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Hours after Israel’s president arrived in Abu Dhabi, marking the first ever visit of its kind, Yemeni resistance movement Ansarallah fired ballistic missiles at targeted sites in the UAE’s capital.

Any question as to how the Houthis will respond to Israel’s military and logistical role in the Saudi-UAE war on Yemen was answered by a few well-timed projectiles. The question now is, how will each side respond?

Israel’s highest officials have been flocking to Abu Dhabi in abundance these days. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit last month was followed, on Sunday, by the jarring spectacle of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s plane crossing Saudi airspace – a video of which was beamed to social media in a jiffy – before landing at Abu Dhabi’s airport.

There, Herzog was greeted by no less a personage than Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ), Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces.

This visit, which Herzog described as “historic,” comes just days after the UAE was bombarded with ballistic missiles and drones by Yemen, in retaliatory strikes. The Emirati defense systems, ground and air, failed to confront most of the projectiles, which is why air navigation at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports were briefly disrupted, and fuel tanks exploded at a refinery belonging to giant oil company ADNOC.

Since the signing of the September 2020 Abraham Accords under intense US pressure, Israelis have lined up in droves to visit the UAE, which has admitted more than two hundred thousand Israelis to date.

The Israeli visitors, it transpires, created more problems than the profits and gains made by the host country. Hebrew newspapers have extensively documented their shenanigans, which include theft, fraud, drugs, and money laundering in the Emirates.

But Herzog is on no ‘apology tour.’ Instead, what was remarkable were his remarks on the battle in Yemen, a brutal war co-launched by his Emirati hosts. The Israeli president seemed keen to “condemn the Houthi missile attacks that targeted the UAE, condemn any attack on its sovereignty by terrorist groups, and affirm their readiness to respond to its security requirements.”

We do not know what the Israeli occupation state thinks it can provide to protect the UAE, its security, and its stability – or how it believes it can succeed where the US and its NATO allies have failed.

When Ansarallah’s ballistic missiles on 24 January targeted the Al Dhafra base in Abu Dhabi, home to 3,500 American and British soldiers and tens of missile systems for US Patriot batteries and their more advanced THAAD systems, these soldiers fled to shelters for safety.

The Israeli army, whose government boasts that it cannot be defeated, was defeated and humiliated several times: the first in 2000 when it fled from southern Lebanon, unilaterally, without an agreement; the second, in the South Lebanon war of July 2006; the third, in May 2021’s Battle of the Sword of Jerusalem, when then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begged US President Joe Biden to mediate with the Egyptian government to intervene to stop the war on its eleventh day.

Can this army, which is more than 1,500 kilometers away from Abu Dhabi, protect the Emirates and provide it with security and stability? Will it confront the imagined Iranian “aggression,” as Israeli officials claim and pledge?

Tel Aviv sells an illusion to the UAE and other Arab countries that have signed peace agreements with it. Under the facade of ‘peace,’ Israel engages with Arabs mockingly – focused on exploiting every advantage via blackmail, theft, threat and bluster.

In the UAE’s case, Israel works to dispel a double concern – the first for some Emiratis, and the second for most Israelis – which is the growing strength of the region’s Axis of Resistance and its massive and advanced military and missile capabilities.

On Sunday, Israeli military analyst Alon Ben David revealed in a Maariv article why the Israeli government rejected a $3.5 billion arms deal to the UAE – including the transfer of the “Iron Dome” and “David’s Sling.” Put simply, Tel Aviv feared the leaking of these sensitive systems technologies to Iran and Yemen’s Houthis. The UAE has since headed to South Korea in search of alternatives.

This refusal means, at first glance, that the Israeli “ally” does not trust his Emirati counterpart, or his ability to protect himself and preserve these systems and their secrets. It is not to say that Tel Aviv expects Abu Dhabi to hand over its secrets; rather, Israel doesn’t exclude the possibility of an invasion and occupation of the Emirates by a third party, which could then commandeer the Israeli military systems and decipher its technological secrets.

There is another reason for Tel Aviv’s block on the weapons transfer that should not be ignored: Israel’s leadership does not want to directly and publicly involve itself in the Yemen war. It is well aware that providing any notable military or security assistance to the Emirates could result in Ansarallah retaliatory missile responses in the depths of Israel or on its ships in the Red Sea, through which 80 percent of its exports pass.

The distance between Sanaa and Abu Dhabi (1500 km) is the same between Saada and Eilat, and whomever can hit one, will not hesitate to hit the other, if the situation demands.

On Monday, the Israeli president is supposed to inaugurate his country’s pavilion at the ‘Expo 2020’ in Dubai. This highly-hyped Emirati exhibition, according to some Ansarallah spokesmen, is one of the expected targets of missile strikes – if the UAE continues to intervene in two crucial battles in the Marib and Shabwah governorates.

The United Arab Emirates has committed two strategic mistakes. The first, is its involvement in the Yemen war seven years ago. The second, is in signing the Abraham Accords and normalizing relations with the Israeli occupation state.

If the first mistake drained it financially and morally, the second one has created an existential threat for its security and stability.

Simply put, the UAE has placed bad bets on worse allies – successive Israeli defeats, the imminent US withdrawal from West Asia after its humiliating exit from Afghanistan, and the approaching settlement of  the Vienna nuclear negotiations – which, negative or positive, will not hinder Iran’s regional trajectory one bit.

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

Erdogan’s Long-Coming Reality Check:

February 14, 2020

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

It is hard to say if Erdogan is running out of choices, friends, time, or all of the above; and his stands on various issues and the contradictions he ploughs through are making his situation increasingly untenable.

For the benefit of readers who haven’t heard this before; Erdogan is juggling being a Turkish Muslim reformer who parades under the photos of Turkish secular anti-Muslim nation-builder Mustafa Kemal; an EU-aspiring member and also an aspiring global Sunni leader; an ally of Israel as well as Hamas; an Islamist who is also at odds with the Wahhabi Islamists; a nationalist Turk who wants to curb Kurdish aspirations not only in Syria and Iraq but also in Turkey; a Sunni leader who wants to restore the Sultanate and Caliphate and the fundamentalist Sunni version of anti-Shiite Islam but is also a friend of Shiite Iran; a NATO member with a special relationship with America, and a special friend and ally of Russia.

Ironically, despite all the contradictions and conflicts of interest, he has thus far managed to get away with wearing not only all those hats, but also turbans and fezzes in between. Clearly however, this maneuvering cannot last forever and, sooner or later, he is going to end up painted into a tight corner. I certainly would like to believe that he is already in this space.

Erdogan however believes that he has a mandate from God. Following his November 2015 election win, in an article titled “Erdogan the Trojan Horse of Terror” (https://thesaker.is/erdogan-the-trojan-horse-of-terror/), I wrote: “With this win, Erdogan felt invincible. For an Islamist, and this is what Erdogan is, feeling invincible takes on a whole new meaning.

This is a simplistic translation of a Quranic verse: “If God is by your side, no one can defeat you” (Quran 3:160).

Erdogan believes he is invincible because he believes that he is on a mission and that God is by his side. If he had any reason to doubt this divine role he believes he has, the November election results put that doubt to rest.”

Ironically, Erdogan is able to comprehend the contradictions of others. Whilst America for example does not give two hoots about the Syrian Kurds and is only using some vulnerable leaders to dig a wedge between the Syrian Government and the Syrian Kurdish population, Erdogan has most vehemently stated to both the Obama and Trump administrations that America cannot be an ally of Turkey and the Kurds at the same time.

Yet, this same Erdogan justifies for himself the supplying of Idlib terrorists with state-of-the-art weaponry to attack not only Syrian Army units with, but also the Russian Hmeimim Air Base. The Russians have thus far thwarted countless attempted drone attacks on the base, and if Turkey did not directly supply the weapons, it definitely facilitated their transport.

Remember that the Idlib area that is controlled by Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as Al-Nusra) lies between the Syrian-Army controlled area and the Turkish border. It has an open highway to Turkey where all arms and fighters move freely from Turkey into Syria.

And even though Erdogan has signed an agreement with Russia to end the terrorist presence in Idlib, according to veteran Palestinian journalist Abdul Bari Atwan, he does not want to understand why Russia is fed up with him and his antics and why President Putin is refusing to meet with him. In his article written in Raialyoum https://www.raialyoum.com/index.php/لماذا-يرفض-بوتين-لقاء-قمة-مع-اردوغان-لح/, Atwan argues that the Russians refuse Erdogan’s call for a new disengagement negotiation meeting and that Turkey must adhere to the existing Sochi agreement; which it has broken on several occasions by Erdogan.

Atwan adds that:

Firstly: “the Turkish gamble and reliance on Syrian opposition and the Free Syria Army in particular have failed because those forces abandoned their positions and the Syrian Army entered the towns of Khan Sheikhoun and Maarra Al-Numan unopposed without suffering a single casualty

Secondly: The 12 Turkish surveillance posts that were established in the Idlib district have turned into a liability because seven of them are under siege by the Syrian Army with a hundred Turkish soldiers trapped in each and can easily be destroyed by the Syrian Army in case Turkey launches a major offensive against Syria.

Thirdly: Russian support to the Syrian Army has reached an unprecedented level after the Russians shot down two drones launched by Tahrir Al-Sham yesterday” (ie the 10th of February 2020).

In addition, according to Atwan, “Erdogan missed a golden opportunity when he refused the (recent) Iranian initiative proposed to him by Iranian FM, Zarif, to find a political resolution for the impasse with Syria, and this was perhaps the last opportunity to reach a diplomatic resolution before a direct open confrontation with Syria”

In a Financial Times article titled “Testing Times for Erdogan and Putin” https://www.ft.com/content/cbe31640-4726-11ea-aeb3-955839e06441, the author is a tad short of saying that the relationship between Erdogan and Putin is irreconcilable. According to him, “If Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was looking for a way to convey his anger at Russia over the death of eight of his country’s troops in Syria, a visit to Ukraine provided the perfect opportunity.

At a guard of honour at the presidential palace in Kyiv on Monday, Mr Erdogan shouted “Glory to Ukraine”, a nationalist slogan deeply associated with anti-Russia sentiment and the country’s fight for independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

His carefully chosen words — to an army battling Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine — were a clear rebuke to President Vladimir Putin”.

In all of this, what Erdogan needs more than anything, is a long-coming reality check, and it seems more forthcoming than ever.

He may believe that he is a president for life who deserves the purportedly one thousand room palace he built for himself. He may hope to rebuild the Ottoman Empire and resurrect the Caliphate. He may imagine that, having been able to build up the Turkish economy to a level that has earnt a position in the G20, he has become the leader of a super power; but he has not. Turkey is at best a regional power, but it is only powerful if it has more powerful friends and allies to back it up. For as long as Turkey has to literally beg the Russians and/or the Americans to buy state-of-the-art weapons to defend itself with, then it is not in a position that allows it to stand on its own feet; not in the manner that Erdogan wishes it to stand. He should take heed and look at history. Mehmet Al-Fatih built his own guns to breakdown the defence walls of Constantinople. Even though the engineer who built them was from the Balkans, but they were Mehmet’s guns and they were the biggest in the world at the time.

I am not advocating that Erdogan should build his own nuclear arsenal, fighter jets and defence and attack missiles. In the ideal world, no one should. But to add to his list of contradictions, if Erdogan wants to wear the Turban of the Sultan, huff and puff at Russia, he cannot be riding Don Quixote’s donkey at the same time.

And if he thinks that he can now make a U-turn and be the loyal NATO leader and dump Russia, he will find himself again facing the same impasse he had with the Americans over the Kurdish issue. Furthermore, what will this do to his trade deals with Russia and his gas supplies?

And if Erdogan also thinks that America would come forward to save him in Idlib, one would have to remember that the illegal American presence in North East Syria is hundreds of kilometres away from Idlib and separated by the Russian-backed Syrian Army. Why would America, even Trump’s America, risk a confrontation with Russia to save his hide?

Erdogan has thus far evaded Karma because he has been hedging his bets in all directions, working up his enemies and allies against each other. But unless one is powerful enough to stand on his own feet when he needs to, then such a strategy in the long run can only leave one with no friends, a long list of enemies and a hoard of untrusting onlookers.

Above all, what do Turkish people want from the Turkish presence in Syria? Turkey hasn’t been at war for a whole century. The leader that once promised “zero problems” with neighbours is digging in his heels and seems determined to engage in an all-out war with Syria. The average Turkish citizen may ask why and to what end?

Erdogan has hopefully finally wedged himself into a corner that he cannot weasel his way out of without losing face. He will either have to bolster his military presence in Syria and fight the Syrian Army and Russia, or back off. If he takes the former option, he will not find any international supporters, and possibly the support of his own people will become questionable. But if the psychopathic, megalomaniac feels that he has to retreat, he will be scrambling for a face-saving exit, and the options are running out.

Russia was prepared to put the deliberate Turkish downing of the Su-24 in November 2015 behind and move forward. A lifeline was given to Erdogan back then, based on the promises he made and the later agreements he signed. But time proved that he was only looking for buying time, and that window with Russia is up.

Body bags have already been sent to Turkey and there are unconfirmed figures of how many Turkish soldiers have been killed defending Al-Nusra fighters. What is pertinent here is that, in the event of an all-out war with Syria, Syrians will be fighting an existential battle, aided by Russia and regional allies. Turkey however, will be fighting a different type of existential battle; one for Erdogan, not for Turkey itself.

Turkey has no reason for having a military presence and fight in Syria. It is only Erdogan’s ego and dreams that do.

The Syrian Russian Turksih Idlib Stand-Of – Erdogan’s Last Stand?

February 06, 2020

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

Even though the Syrian Army, with the aid of its international friends and allies, especially Russia, has been able to score many victories and liberate most of Syria’s major cities from the control of terrorist groups, the fight is far from over.

Before the situation in the American-controlled North-East is addressed, the Western regions, including Idlib and its surrounds must be put back fully under the legitimate government control.

As a matter of fact, politically speaking, the situation now is perhaps more complex to deal with than nine years ago when the “War on Syria” took form. Almost exactly nine years ago, the enemies of Syria combined efforts to launch a joint attack. United only by their hatred for Syria, they had diverse agendas, but they combined efforts in order to capitalize on each other’s strengths. The Wahhabi version of Islamists, headed by Saudi Arabia, joined hands with the Muslim Brotherhood version headed by Turkey and financed by Qatar, and they all joined hands with NATO, Israel and Lebanese ultra-right militia among other vendetta groups, for the single purpose of deposing President Assad and replacing the legitimate secular Syrian Government with one that is sectarian and pliable to the will of the Western roadmap.

They failed.

They failed in achieving their combined objectives and some of the armies they created, such as Jaysh Al-Islam, headed by former Syrian Army officer Zahran Alloush, ceased to exist. Alloush was killed in a Syrian Army attack in December 2015, but the casualties also included conspirators who were sidelined and lost their careers; the most prominent of which is Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, who was perhaps the single biggest architect of the attack on Syria.

The tides began to turn in favour of Syria after the Syrian Army scored its huge victory in the Battle of Qusayr in mid-2013. This was a decisive battle that basically disabled the terrorists from linking the Damascus province with their northern supply lines. Without this victory, in retrospect, it would be arguable if Syria would have been able to earn much support from Russia; if any at all. Syria had to show a fighting spirit, resolve, determination and respect for her to reach such an echelon. After all, Russia does not only by tradition honour and respect those who stand up with dignity against all odds, but on the geopolitical scene, and after decades of being sidelined by the Western bloc, any Russian global move had to be fully and thoroughly assessed before any venture was to be undertaken.

It was crucial for Russia therefore, and for President Putin in particular, to ensure that the presence of Russian troops in Syria had very high chances of success.

The fragmentation of Syria’s enemies began to take form before Russian action in the skies and on the soil of Syria. The Saudi’s first and biggest disappointment was when the USA refused to level Damascus to the ground after Prince Bandar orchestrated the alleged Ghouta chemical attack in September 2013. That was Bandar’s last draw after the loss of Al-Qusayr and his attempts to blackmail Putin by threatening him to unleash Islamists in Chechnya.

From that point in time onwards, the Saudi role in the “War on Syria” dwindled and came to an end with the demise of Alloush. But as the tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia emerged in 2017, Qatar remained “represented” via its ally Turkey.

Erdogan was initially determined to victoriously pray at the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus early in the piece. But he is still determined to get a bite of the cherry, a consolation prize, despite all the setbacks that his former camp has endured.

After Turkey downed the Russian Su-24 in November 2015, the relationship between Turkey and Russia reached its nadir. But the pragmatist Erdogan soon apologized to Putin and eventually reached an agreement about how to deal with the deadlock situation in Idlib.

But Erdogan is not coming clean about his commitment to what became to be known as the Sochi Agreement. https://thedefensepost.com/2019/10/22/russia-turkey-syria-mou/.

Erdogan defiantly continues to wear the hat of a fully-fledged NATO member, a close friend and ally of Russia, the leader of the nation that is desirous to enter the EU, an Islamist who wants to rebuild the Ottoman Empire, and a nationalist who is willing and able to deal with Kurdish issue. What he does not see is that whilst those antics gain him popularity amongst sympathetic Muslim supporters, on the international scene, he is increasingly making a mockery out of himself.

His clear-to-see contradictions seem mind-boggling, but to the pragmatic Erdogan who is trying as hard as he can to be Sultan, his mind is fixated on Islamism and nationalism, and he is performing as if he has found himself a Fatwa that permits him to dance to the tunes of the devil to reach his ultimate objectives.

Among other things, to Putin, Erdogan portrays himself as Russia’s friend who is reconsidering his alliance with the US and even wants to buy Russian S-400 defence missile systems. To America, he remains as a NATO member and an American ally who wants to buy America’s latest state-of the-art F-35 fighter jets. On one hand, he makes verbal attacks against Israel, but continues to opt to have strong diplomatic ties with that state. He pledges support for the Palestinian cause but offers no evidence to put his words into action.

If Erdogan truly deserves any recognition and respect at all, it would have to be for his ability to meander his way through and survive amongst all the contradictions that he has deliberately and systemically implanted along his path.

He could be running out of options; at least in Syria, but this doesn’t stop him from making yet more contradictory statements within a few days of each other. By the end of January 2020 he threatened to take a new offensive in Syria over the Russian-backed Syrian Army offensive in Idlib. https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/202001311078189883-erdogan-threatens-new-offensive-in-syria—report/ A few days later, he made a U-turn and declared that he will not allow the situation in Idlib to sour his relationship with Russia. https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/202002041078225599-turkey-will-not-escalate-tensions-with-russia-over-syrias-idlib—erdogan/?fbclid=IwAR1X6tQuRrWsX5iQ3kJCJaxFoR11cnfJpj–VlYhuUu9ZXLK6OQal0kiHaw But in between the two statements which are only four days apart, the Syrian Army has shelled Turkish positions and purportedly killed six Turkish soldiers and injured about a dozen. Whilst such an unprecedented incident should have sent Erdogan firing up as one would expect, according to Palestinian veteran journalist, Abdul Bari Atwan, this wasn’t to happen this time.

In a translation-worthy article, Russia and Syria have decided to take action in Idlib and they are no longer waiting for Erdogan to abide by his promises and agreements.

Atwan’s article’s title translates as: “What does the Syrian shelling of Turkish troops in Sarakob and the killing of six Turkish soldiers signify? And, what is the Russian message to Erdogan? And, did the Russians and the Turks tear up the Sochi Agreement? And, who will emerge as a winner in the bone-crushing battle in Idlib?”

According to Atwan’s analysis, the Syrian shelling of Turkish positions signaled the end of the line of joint Russian-Syrian patience with Erdogan’s lack of commitment to the Sochi Agreement. Atwan argues that opinion polls within Turkey indicate that Erdogan does not have the support of escalating in Syria and neither that of sending troops to Libya for that matter.

Did Atwan see the end of the line of Erdogan’s lies and contradictions this time? I personally hope he did. I must admit that in my previous analysis I have predicted several times that Erdogan had made his final and detrimental mistake . Somehow he always manages to slither out of the hole he was in and keep going.

Has he made his final and lethal mistake or is he going to relent and let Syria be?
Time will tell.

The Palestinian Political Scene is in a State of Paralysis: “The People Reject Normalization with Israel”

An Interview with Abdel Bari Atwan

Global Research, April 01, 2019

American Herald Tribune 18 March 2019

Mohsen Abdelmoumen: What is your analysis of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Gaza?

Abdel Bari Atwan: The Palestinian political scene is in a state of paralysis, which is a direct consequence of the disastrous Oslo process. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is not in good health, so the stage is now set for the post-Abu Mazen period. But nobody has a roadmap for where to go. Abu Mazen is the last of the founding fathers, and his departure will cause the Fateh movement to fragment and lose influence, as happened to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) after the death of George Habash. So chaos and confusion prevail. I wouldn’t be surprised if people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip draw inspiration from the demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria.

MA: What about the Palestinians’ right of return to their lands stolen since 1948 and the deal of the century that removes the Palestinian right of return? Has the deal of the century been abandoned or is it still valid?

ABA: The ‘Deal of the Century’ cannot be pulled off. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi consigned it to an early death, as it plunged the deal’s broker into crisis. No Palestinian could accept it anyway. The Palestinian Revolution began in the refugee camps. It was all about the right of return. To abandon it would be to abandon the Palestinian cause. That right and others cannot be bought off with promises of investment or improved economic conditions, as the deal proposes. Palestine is not Northern Ireland.

MA: How do you explain that at the moment when in Europe and in the USA, we see rising a great critical movement of Israel, like the BDS which advocate different forms of boycott, Arab countries are normalizing their relations with the Zionist and criminal entity of Israel?

ABA: These moves towards normalization are not too worrying, as they are confined to the governments and do not extend to the peoples.The peoples reject normalization with Israel, as the cases of Jordan and Egypt show. It’s the same in every other Arab country. Israel is alarmed by BDS and how it may develop in future. This explains its frenetic efforts to brand all criticism and opposition anywhere in the world as anti-Semitic: it fears to become a pariah state and the only way it can avoid that is to criminalize and close down exposure and discussion of its behavior.

MA: What is your reading of the Warsaw conference of February 13 and 14, when we saw the alliance between Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain, etc. and the Zionist and criminal entity Israel against Iran?

ABA: The Warsaw Conference was a one-man show, starring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was staged for his benefit, but I believe it was a failure. Its original purpose was to launch a new US-led alliance — a so-called ‘Arab Nato’ — that would act as the spearhead of an international coalition against Iran and include Israel as a member, probably informally at first. But the Gulf States that the US is trying to turn into allies of Israel are not representative of the Arab world as a whole. They account for less than 5% of the Arab population, and their own peoples overwhelmingly reject normalization with Israel. In recent years these states have been able to play a dominant role in the Arab world due to their oil wealth and their manipulation of political Islam. But political Islam has been changing in nature, and the importance of oil in the global energy picture has been declining, so their ‘golden age’ is drawing to a close.

MA: How did we get to the fact that some Arab countries come to betray and sell themselves to the Zionist and criminal entity of Israel?

ABA: It’s not new, and mainly it’s a matter of perceived self-preservation. Regimes see the goodwill of the US as vital, and Israel as the key to the US’ heart. They talk about a shared interest in confronting Iran but that shouldn’t be taken at face value. Israel talks up the Iranian threat as a way of trying to sideline the Palestinian cause, and the Gulf States do the same to bolster the rule of their regimes. This also entails the poisonous fuelling of Sunni-Shii sectarianism.

MA: I did an investigation a few years ago about the activities of the Israeli lobby in Congo. What is your reading of Israel’s strategic redeployment in Africa?

ABA: Africa is currently an arena of rivalry for influence and competing interests involving many countries – the US, China, Turkey, Israel, Russia, and others. Israel does not have much to offer Africa, other than political influence in Washington. It is eager to establish a presence and exert influence on the periphery of important Arab countries like Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt.These countries are all in a weakened state at present and preoccupied with internal problems. But they will eventually recover and their governments will awaken. Sub-Saharan Africa is their natural hinterland and they cannot be prized apart in the long term.

MA: The people of Yemen is experiencing a criminal war waged by Saudi Arabia and its allies in total silence. How do you explain this silence of the international community and the media?

Abdel Bari Atwan 1 48e65

ABA: The West turned a blind eye to the Yemen war when it was launched four years ago because of Saudi influence and interests. It gave Saudi Arabia a chance to resolve the conflict in its favor. But neither Saudi Arabia nor the West appreciated the nature of Yemen or its people into account. They should have heeded the advice of the kingdom’s founder, King Abdelaziz, who ordered his sons Faisal and Saud to withdraw when they tried to invade the country. The latest war on Yemen has had a catastrophic effect, but in military terms, it has been a failure. The international silence is now beginning to be broken, and I hope that continues.

MA: What is your reading of events happening in Venezuela? Do you think that the United States will come to a direct military intervention?

ABA: What is happening in Venezuela is a US-sponsored coup attempt and I believe it will fail.

MA: There is no longer any mention of the Khashoggi case, which showed the true face of the Saudi regime and raised a worldwide outcry. How do you explain that?

ABA: The Khashoggi case is closely linked to Trump’s fate. Trump’s opponents in the US seized on it as a stick with which to beat him, due to his close association with the current Saudi leadership. That’s why there was such an outcry over the killing, however horrific, on an individual, but no similar reaction to Saudi actions that caused thousands of deaths such as the war on Yemen (until recently) and the proxy intervention in Syria. It should not be any surprise, however, that US and Western interests ultimately prevailed over human rights concerns, in this case like so many others. The Israel Lobby has also played a part in suppressing the outcry.  But the affair will have a longer-term impact. It laid bare Saudi Arabia’s high-handedness and dominance in the region.

MA: How do you analyze the events taking place in Algeria against the fifth term of Bouteflika?

ABA: The protests were not so much against Bouteflika as against the ruling elite that was using him as a front and was too divided to agree on a replacement for him, long after he should have been allowed to retire. The powers-that-be made three mistaken assumptions: first, that the fifth term could be pushed through; second, that Algerians would rather have stability than democracy; and third, that the terrifying memory of the bloody decade of the 1990s would deter demonstrations or protests, for fear of repeating what happened in Syria or Libya. They seemed to think, perhaps based on Syria’s experience, that concessions are a slippery slope and not compromising pays off in the longer term. But now they have had to give at least the appearance of backing down due to the strength of popular feeling. The question now is what comes next: a measure of genuine but controlled reform as in Morocco or an Egyptian-style scenario where the army runs things behind a facade of pro-forma elections?

MA: Intelligence reports indicate a redeployment of Daesh to Libya. Can we end the terrorism of Daesh and Al Qaeda without really fighting the ideological matrix of these groups? Is it enough defeating these groups militarily?

ABA: Daesh is finished above ground in the Arab world. But it will continue to exist underground because the conditions that incubated still exist. In my view, the challenge is not so much to fight the ideology as to address those conditions. The ideology, or at least its adoption or acceptance in some places and by some people, is a product of these ‘failed-state’ conditions and the marginalization they cause. In many cases – Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen – they are a consequence, in whole or in part, of direct or indirect Western military intervention. Putting an end to these interventions would be a step to tackling the problem.

MA: Are we not witnessing the continuation of the Cold War between the US administration on one side and Russia and China on the other? How do you explain the need for the United States to have an enemy?

ABA: The US can’t sleep unless it has an enemy. It has become an obsession, though creating or talking up external enemies has always been a means of advancing the interests of domestic power elites.But the picture is changing. America is no longer rules the world in matters of war and peace. Its real power is not its military might but the US Dollar. Its abuse of its financial and commercial power has become so extensive that an international alliance is taking shape to deprive it of this weapon.


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Abdel Bari Atwan is a Palestinian journalist born in 1950 in Deir al-Balah, a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He lived in a family of 11 children. After graduating from primary school in the refugee camp, he continued his studies in Jordan. He then studied journalism at Cairo University. After working for many Arab newspapers, he ran until 2013 al-Quds al-Arabi, a newspaper he founded in London in 1989 with other Palestinian expatriates. Today, he is the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website. He lives and works in London.

Mohsen Abdelmoumen is an independent Algerian journalist. He wrote in several Algerian newspapers such as Alger Républicain and in different sites of the alternative press.

All images in this article are from American Herald Tribune

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The Palestinian people’s principal problem is their own leadership

Abbas at the UN

September 27, 2018

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ address to the UN General Assembly was disappointing. It repeated the same phrases used in his last eight speeches. Nothing new at all. The same appeals for international sympathy. Even the wording of his complaints about Israel’s failure to respect agreements was unchanged. And his declaration that the US is not an honest broker but biased towards Israel we have heard a million times before.

So it was neither strange nor surprising that the chamber was almost empty of delegates and delegation heads, and that the warm applause came mostly from the Palestinian delegation.

US President Donald Trump will not heed Abbas’ demands that he rescind his recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Nor will East Jerusalem be capital of a Palestinian state, because there will be no Palestinian state at all. Not according to the US’ ‘Deal of the Century’, which has rapidly begun entering the implementation stage – with US support, the collusion of some Arabs, and Palestinian security coordination.


The US and Israel will not fret about Abbas’ threats regarding their non-compliance with the agreements signed with them. Nor will that arouse the sympathy of UN member-sates. So long as he continues talking Mother Theresa-like about peace, renouncing violence, and joining the fight against terrorism in any part of the world – as he affirmed in his speech – nobody will listen to him or take him seriously.

It was regrettable that the Palestinian president used the UN podium to discuss the agreements he signed with the Hamas movement and threaten not to abide by them. That is the only one of his threats he will actually carry out: to cut off what remains of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s aid to the Gaza Strip. This amounts to around $90 million in electricity subsidies and salaries, the vast majority of which go to members of Fateh, the PA’s party. Is this the place to make such threats? Does the world benefit from hearing them?

The international community will not thank Abbas for promising not to resort to violence or revert to ‘terrorism” i.e. legitimate resistance to occupation. How could such thanks be forthcoming from UN delegates when so many of their countries gained their freedom through resistance, not by imploring and lamenting the loss of their rights at international forums.

Abbas has been saying for the past ten years or so that peaceful popular resistance is the only option. We ask:

Where is this resistance? Why do the PA’s security forces repress all political activists and throw them in jail, or inform on them to the occupation authorities to facilitate their arrest?  Enough lies and deception, please. Respect your people’s intelligence, and their martyrs and prisoners.


We ask President Abbas:

Why did the US administration cut off all aid to schools, hospitals, PA institutions and UNRWA, while increasing its aid to the Palestinian security forces, at a time when he announced a boycott of any meeting or dialogue with the US? What good did this boycott do in this case?

The fault does not lie with UN, the US, or Israel. It lies with President Abbas, his leadership and administration, his Authority, his security coordination, and his speechwriters and cheerleaders.

When Palestinian leaders chose the course of resistance and sacrifice, the US and Israel and the West in its entirety sought to meet and negotiate with them, recognized them, and feared them.

This farce needs to be ended at once, and the actors stripped of their masks. It has gone too far, and the Palestinian people, both in the homeland and the diaspora, must not remain silent about this situation.

  عن الفريسة السوريّة التي “تَهاوشت” على صَيْدِها السعوديّة وقطر ونَجت بجِلْدِها

عبد الباري عطوان


مُقابلات الشيخ حمد بن جاسم آل ثاني، رئيس وزراء، وزير خارجيّة قطر السابق، تُثير الاهتمام، وتَجذب الكَثير من المُشاهدين والقُرّاء، سواء كانوا من المُواطنين العاديين، أو من كِبار المَسؤولين، لأن الرّجل يتحدّث ببساطةٍ وجراءةٍ وعفويّة، ويَكشف في كُل مرّة عن العَديد من المَعلومات والوَقائع، على غير عادة المَسؤولين العَرب.

في مُقابلته الأخيرة التي خصّ بها تلفزيون دولة قطر الرّسمي، (وليس قناة “الجزيرة” التي قال أنّه كان أحد مُؤسّسيها ويَندم على ذلك)، خاضَ الشيخ بن جاسم في مَواضيع عديدة، لشَرح مَوقف بلاده، من أبرزها المَوضوع السوري، في مُحاولة لتبرئة قطر من بَعض جوانب خِلافها مع السعوديّة (الشقيقة الكُبرى)، وعِتابها على انقلابها على المَوقف القطري، بعد تنسيقٍ وتحالف تامين بين الجانبين، ولكن هذا العِتاب لم يَجد آذانًا صاغية، كما أن التطوّرات المُتلاحقة في سورية هذهِ الأيّام، تأتي في غير مَصلحة الطّرفين، والدّوحة على وَجه الخُصوص.

الشيخ حمد بن جاسم كَشف أنّه التقى العاهل السعودي الراحل الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز في الرياض، وأبلغه بوجود خُطّة قطريّة بالتنسيق مع القوّات الأمريكيّة وتركيا بالتدخّل في سورية في بداية الأزمة، وأن الملك عبد الله باركَ هذهِ الخُطوة وأعطاه الضوء الأخضر، وقال “نحن معكم، أنتم سيروا في هذا الموضوع ونحن نُنسّق، ولكن فلتبقوا أنتم مُستلمين المَوضوع″، ثم “تهاوشنا” على الفَريسة “فضَاعت مِنّا”.


والأهم من ذلك أن الشيخ بن جاسم اعترف أن الجميع تورّط في سورية، إلى درجةِ دَعم جبهة النصرة، وبتنسيقٍ كامل مع القوّات الأمريكيّة (وكالة المُخابرات المركزيّة)، التي كانت تُشرف على توزيع كُل شيء (المال والسّلاح)، وعندما أصبحت النصرة غير مَقبولة (جَرى وضعها على قائمة الإرهاب) توقّف الدّعم لها.

لا نَعرف رد السّلطات السعوديّة على هذهِ المَعلومات، مِثلما لا نَعرف ما إذا كانت وغيرها ممّا وَرد في المُقابلة، قد خفّف من حِدّة الخِلاف مع قطر، وقَرّب بين البلدين، ولكن ما نَعرفه أن هذا الكَشْف نَزلَ بردًا وسلامًا على قلب الحُكومة السوريّة ومُؤيّديها الذين دَعموها طِوال السّنوات الماضية، وما يُؤكّد وجهة نَظرها التي تبنّتها مُنذ بداية الأزمة، وتُؤكّد أن هُناك مُؤامرة خارجيّة بزعامة الولايات المتحدة لتغيير النّظام في دمشق خِدمةً لمَشروع التّفتيت والتّقسيم.
سورية كانت “فريسةً” فِعلاً، تَقاتل على “جِلدها” الصياديون من أكثر من ستين دولة، انضموا تحت منظومة “أصدقاء سورية” بزعامة أمريكا، وكان دَور السعوديّة وقطر مَحصورًا في التّمويل والتّسليح، أمّا دُول عربيّة أُخرى فلَم يَزد عن دَور “المُحلّل”، أو شاهِد الزّور.

“التّهاوش” لم يَكن سبب فرار “الفريسة” من الشّباك السعوديّة القطريّة، وإن كان، فإنّه سبب هامشي، وليَعذرنا الأشقاء السوريين على تِكرار استخدام توصيف “الفَريسة” غير المُحبّب، فناقل الكُفر ليس بكافر، أمّا الأسباب الأساسيّة فهي صُمود النّظام، وعدم انهيار مُؤسّساته، أبرزها المُؤسّستان الأمنيّة والعَسكريّة، ووجود حاضنةٍ شعبيّةٍ، كَبُرت أو صَغُرت، كانت تلتف حَولهما وقيادتهما في دمشق، حتى في أصعب الأوقات وأكثرها حراجةً، وفي ظِل ضَخ إعلامي استخدمت فيه إمبراطوريّات ومُؤسّسات عُظمى تَملُك ميزانيات بالمِليارات، وتَغييبٍ كاملٍ للإعلام السّوري (جَرى حَظْره وحَذفه من الأقمار الصناعيّة العربيّة، وعرب سات تحديدًا بقرارٍ من الجامعة العربيّة، ووزراء إعلامها)، رغم أن هُناك مآخذ كثيرة على هذا الإعلام وحِرفيّته.

الشيخ حمد بن جاسم أعاد الكَثيرين إلى الوَراء سَبع سنوات، وبالتّحديد عندما ذَهب إلى دمشق حاملاً عرضًا بـ 15 مليار دولار كدُفعةٍ أولى مَشروطةٍ بابتعاد سورية عن إيران، وانضمامها إلى “مِحور الاعتدال” العربي، ومن سُخريات القَدر أن المملكة العربيّة السعوديّة التي أطاحت بدولة قطر من مِقعد القيادة في المَلف السوري، وأرجعتها إلى المَقاعد الخلفيّة، مِثلما اشتكى الشيخ بن جاسم في مُقابلة أُخرى أكثر تشويقًا مع صحيفة “الفايننشال تايمز″، باتت أقرب إلى روسيا، وبالتّالي سورية بطريقةٍ غير مُباشرة، وباتت تَقبل ببقاء الرئيس بشار الأسد في الحُكم، وتتطلّع إلى حلٍّ سِلمي للأزمة، أمّا دولة قطر فتُواجه حِصارًا من أبرز أسبابه قُربها وعَلاقاتها الوثيقة مع إيران.
كَثيرون أخطأوا في حَق سورية، وكثيرون يتهيأون لارتكاب خطايا أكبر تُجاه المِنطقة بالتّحالف مع أمريكا وإسرائيل، ضِد مِحور المُقاومة، وإذا كانوا قد نَجوا بأقل الخسائر من الأخطاء الأولى، وفي حَق سورية وليبيا والعِراق خُصوصًا، ولو مُؤقّتًا، فلا نَعتقد أن الحال سيكون نَفسه في المرّة الثانية.


سوريا تتعافى هذهِ الأيام وبشكلٍ مُتسارع، وتتقاطر البِعثات الدبلوماسيّة على عاصمتها، وكذلك وفود رجال الأعمال الذين يَبحثون عن المال والاستثمار في ظِل قُرب مَعركة إعادة الإعمار، ويكفي الإشارة إلى أن السيد سعد الحريري، رئيس وزراء لبنان، ورجل السعوديّة فيه، والذي كان من أبرز المُعارضين للقيادة السوريّة، ولم يُبقِ كلمةً مُشينة وإلا وجّهها لها ورئيسها، السيد الحريري وَقّع اليوم مَرسومًا بتعيين سفير لبنان جديد في دمشق، وها هو وفد برلماني أُردني كبير يستعد لشدِّ الرّحال إلى العاصمة السوريّة، بعد آخر تونسي، و”المَسبحة كَرّت”، مِثلما يقول المَثل الشّامي.
العلاقة التحالفيّة “الاستراتيجيّة” بين قطر وإيران، وبين قطر وتركيا، وإن كانت الأخيرة بدرجةٍ أقل، هي من أسباب تَوتّر العلاقات بين السعوديّة ومِحورها ودولة قطر، إلى جانب أسباب أُخرى، وأمام قطر خياران، إمّا أن تَقطع هذهِ العَلاقة كُليًّا وتَنضم إلى السّرب السّعودي، ولكن في المَقاعد الخلفيّة، أو أن تَستمر الأزمة وتَتصاعد وتَخترق خُطوطًا قانية الاحمرار.

تَفسيرات وتَوضيحات و”مُرونات” الشيخ بن جاسم تَظل مَحدودة التّأثير في نَفْس الجار السّعودي، ومِن الصّعب أن تَستميل قَلبه “المُتحجّر”، لأنّها تتحدّث عن الماضي، ولا تَقترب من مَطالب المُستقبل، وسواء كانت مَقبولةً أو مرفوضةً، ومن يَحكم السعوديّة اليوم غير الذي كان يَحكمها طِوال السّنوات الخَمسين الماضية، ولا بُد أن الشيخ بن جاسم، الذي نَعترف له بالذّكاء، يُدرك هذهِ الحَقيقة جيّدًا.
رأي اليوم

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Trump Is Playing With Fire

By Abdel Bari Atwan

September 25, 2017 “Information Clearing House – This week’s headlines have been dominated by reaction to US President Donald Trump’s bluster against North Korea during his address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. This has overshadowed the equally threatening and ominous references he made in the same speech to Iran.

Anyone listening to will have been left with two impressions: Trump’s speech faithfully echoed the utterances Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and it brazenly beat the drums of war against Iran.

Trump described Iran as a ‘rogue state’ and ‘corrupt dictatorship’ that exports violence, anarchy, and bloodshed. He also said that he had reached a decision regarding the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran, while declining to reveal what it is. This has led many observers to conclude that he will soon withdraw from the agreement, in line with his electoral promise to tear it up on the grounds that it is the worst agreement in US history, and in deference to the dictates of the Israel lobby.

Trump is widely expected to announce the US’ withdrawal from the agreement in mid-October when he testifies to Congress in his semi-annual review. This is likely to be accompanied by a further tightening of the sanctions and the economic blockade on Iran. And it could prompt the Iranian government to immediately resume the enrichment of uranium at very high levels, giving it the capacity it to produce nuclear warheads.

It was no coincidence that shortly before Trump spoke, Netanyahu demanded that the nuclear agreement be scrapped or altered, while likening Iran to a hungry tiger on a vicious rampage in the region and the world. Nor was it a coincidence for Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot to announce that Israel has plans already in place for attacking Iran and Hezbollah, which he described as an Iranian surrogate whose growing missile and intelligence-gathering capacity (via pilotless drones) was a top Israeli concern.

The Israeli occupation state is the only country that backs Trump’s stance. The EU is opposed to it, especially French President Emmanuel Macron who warned it would be a ‘mistake’ for the US to withdraw from the nuclear agreement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed the same view and vowed that his country would continue to uphold the deal.

Trump is literally implementing Israeli dictates. He is planning to drag his country and the world into a ruinous war in the Middle East: a war whose main victims will be Arabs and Muslims, and which will not spare the citizens of those states that host American military bases, which along with Israel can be expected to be targeted in any Iranian retaliation.

Iran will certainly not to stand by with folded arms in response to the attempt to cancel the agreement it spent five years negotiating with the six major powers, and ratchet up the economic sanctions that have stifled it for decades and inflicted huge damage on its economy and its people’s livelihoods. President Hassan Rowhani replied by stressing that his country was ready for all scenarios, including that of immediately resuming its nuclear activities. Revolutionary Guard Commander Mohammad-Ali Jafari went further, threatening to deliver a painful blow to the US if compelled to do so. Saturday’s test of a new ballistic missile a few days after Trump’s speech – apparently taking a leaf out of North Korea’s book – was intended to demonstrate that Iran is not prepared to take his threats lying down.

After the failure of his plans in Syria and the entire region, and after the humiliating embarrassment inflicted on him by North Korean President Kim Jong-un, who defied him by carrying out fresh nuclear and missile tests, Trump wants to return to the Middle East in force and start fires there. He is confident that the region’s oil-rich governments will cover the war’s expenses and does not mind turning their citizens into its victims.

But the Israelis who are pushing for this war will also pay heavy price. They too will not be secure, either during or after this war, as hundreds of thousands of missiles will be aimed at their cities and settlements from Iran, Lebanon and Syria. It would be the mother of all wars, and with Israel armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, potentially the region’s last. This time round, however, it will not be one-sided.

Trump is playing with fire. He may not only burn his fingers but also millions of our innocent people unless he is restrained, and unless his deranged tendencies and the megalomania which dominates his behaviour and policies are brought under control.

This article was first published by Raialyoum –

لماذا يُهدّد نتنياهو بقَصف القصر الرئاسي السوري والقوّات الإيرانيّة في سورية هذه الأيام؟ هل يَجرؤ .. وماذا كان رد بوتين “الصّادم” عليه؟

عبد الباري عطوان 

إذا أردنا أن نفهم حالة “الرّعب” التي تَسود النّخبة الحاكمة في دولة الاحتلال الإسرائيلي هذه الأيام، ووصلت إلى درجة التهديد علانيّةً بقَصف قصر الرئيس السوري في دِمشق، والتجمّعات العسكريّة الإيرانيّة في سورية، ما عَلينا إلا مُتابعة التصريحات التي أدلى بها روبرت فورد، آخر سُفراء أمريكا في سورية، وأحد أبرز مُؤيّدي “الثورة السورية” وداعميها.

مرّةً أُخرى نقول.. فليُجرّب نتنياهو حَظّه.. والأيام بيننا.

السفير فورد وفي مُقابلة مع صحيفة “ذا ناشيونال”، أكّد أن الرئيس الأسد انتصر، وأن الحرب التي انطلقت لإسقاطه وحُكمه قبل سبع سنوات بدأت تَقترب من نهاياتها بشكلٍ مُتسارعٍ، وقال المستر فورد الذي يَعمل حاليًّا زميلاً في مَعهد الشرق الأوسط في واشنطن “أن الرئيس الأسد لن يَخضع لأي مُسائلة لتحمّل المَسؤوليّة عَمّا حَدث في سورية، وأن حُكومته في المُستقبل لن تَقبل بالإدارات المَحليّة، وأن “الدولة الأمنيّة” باقيةٌ ولن تتغيّر”.

توقّعات السفير فورد هذه ربّما تُفسّر لنا، ولغيرنا، حالة الرّعب الشّديد التي دَفعت بنيامين نتنياهو، رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي للسفر إلى سوتشي للقاء الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين قبل أسبوع، طالبًا منه إنقاذ “إسرائيل”، والوقوف إلى جانبها إزاء التغييرات الاستراتيجيّة التي تجتاح سورية هذه الأيام، وتَصب في مصلحة صُعود إيران كقُوّةٍ إقليميّةٍ عُظمى.


ما يُريده نتنياهو من الرئيس بوتين، وكرّره علانيّةً للأمين العام للأمم المتحدة أنطونيو غوتيريش، الذي زار تل أبيب قبل يومين، مَنع النّفوذ الإيراني من التّغلغل في سورية، وإقامة مصانع صواريخ دقيقةٍ في شمالها، وأيضًا في جنوب لبنان، مَعقل “حزب الله”، وإلا فإن الطائرات الإسرائيليّة ستَقصف “قصر الأسد”، ومواقع الخُبراء العَسكريين الإيرانيين فيها.
الرئيس بوتين، وحسب تقارير الصّحف العِبرية، التي أكّدتها صحيفة “برافدا” المُقرّبة من الكرملين، كان هادئًا في مُواجهة حالة الانهيار والهِستيريا التي كانت باديةً على ضَيفه الإسرائيلي، وردّ عليه بأسلوبٍ أكثر برودة، بالقول

“أن إيران دولةٌ حليفةٌ استراتيجيّة مع روسيا في الشرق الأوسط، ولن نتنازل عن هذا الحليف من أجل عُيون “إسرائيل”،

وأن موسكو تعتمد على هذا التحالف مع إيران في مُواجهة حلف الناتو العربي الإسلامي، الذي تتزعّمه السعودية، ويَضم الممالك العربية، وتُديره أمريكا من واشنطن”، ورشّ الرئيس بوتين أكياسًا من المِلح على جُرح القَلق الإسرائيلي عندما شدّد على “أن موسكو ستستمر في تعزيز الدّور الإيراني في سورية، وتثبيت سُلطة الرئيس الأسد، وتَسليح حزب الله”.

لا نَعرف بأي حق يُطالب نتنياهو موسكو والأمم المتحدة بمَنع إيران من إقامة مَعامل للصّواريخ في سورية ولبنان، وإجبارها على سَحب قوّاتها من الأولى، فهل يُريد نتنياهو أن تكون سورية ساحةً مَفتوحةً أمام الطائرات الإسرائيليّة لتَقصف ما شاء لها القصف من الأهداف دون أن يكون لديها أي قُدرةٍ للدّفاع عن النفس؟
هل اعترضت سورية وإيران على القُبب الحديديّة الإسرائيلية ومَنظوماتها الصاروخيّة التي تُموّلها جُيوب دافع الضرائب الأمريكي، وهل احتجّت موسكو على إرسال عشرات الطائرات الأمريكية من طِراز “إف 35″ الأحدث في الترسانة العسكرية التي لا تَرصدها الرادارات؟

إنّها قمّة الوقاحة والاستكبار، وكان الرئيس بوتين مُحقًّا في عدم الاستجابةَ لها، فهو لا يَعمل مُوظّفًا لدى نتنياهو، ولا يتلقّى الأوامر منه، فروسيا العُظمى وخُبراؤها ذوو الخِبرة الميدانيّة العالية جدًّا في ميادين الدّفاع والسياسات الاستراتيجيّة، ليسوا بحاجةٍ إلى نتنياهو وأمثاله لكي يُلقي عليهم دروسه، ويقول لهم ما يجب أو ما لا يَجب فِعله، أو كيفيّة إدارة سياستهم الخارجية ومَصالحهم في منطقة الشرق الأوسط.

روسيا لا تَقف إلى جانب “إسرائيل” أو غيرها، مِثلما يُطالبها نتنياهو، وإنّما إلى جانب مصالحها، وهي لا يُمكن أن تنسى أو تتغافل، أن الأخيرة، أي “إسرائيل”، الحليف الأوثق لواشنطن في المنطقة والعالم.

إنّنا نَخشى أن تكون هذه اللّهجة التهديديّة الواضحة التي وردت على لسان نتنياهو، سواء أثناء لقائه مع بوتين، أو مع الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة، هي مُجرّد تمهيدٍ لخُطط إسرائيلية للعُدوان على سورية أو لبنان أو الإثنين معًا، تحت ذرائع التهديدات الإيرانية لأمنها، و”أن هذا العُدوان هو من قبيل الدّفاع عن النّفس″ في مُواجهة الخَطر الإيراني.
وما يَجعلنا لا نَستبعد هذا الاحتمال، أن حبل مَشنقة الفساد يَقترب من عُنق نتنياهو، وربّما يَدفعه إلى إشعال فتيل الحرب لإبعاد الأنظار عن التحقيقات التي تُوشك على إدانته وتوجيه الاتهام إليه، وعَزله من منصبه، واقتياده إلى السجن، ألم يَلجأ إيهود أولمرت، رئيس الوزراء السابق، إلى الخُطّة نفسها عندما اعتدى على لبنان في تموز (يوليو) عام 2006؟

إسرائيل في حالةِ ذُعرٍ وخَوف، ونتنياهو فاقد أعصابه، وعلى حافّة الانهيار، والحِزام الإيراني المُمتد من مزار شريف في أفغانستان حتى الضاحية الجنوبية لبيروت على ضِفاف المُتوسّط، يترسّخ ويَزداد قوّةً، والحرب في سورية تَقترب من نُقطة النّهاية بشكلٍ مُتسارع.


هل سيَجرؤ نتنياهو على الهُروب إلى الأمام، وقَصف سورية وقَصر رئيسها، والقوّات الإيرانيّة على أرضها؟ فليُجرّب، ولكن ربّما يُفيد تَذكيره بأن عامين ونصف العام من قَصف طائرات “عاصفة الحزم” من الطّراز الأمريكي نفسه، لم تَفرض الاستسلام على اليمن الفقير المُنهك، الذي يَملك أسلحةً انتهى عُمرها الافتراضي قبل نصف قرن، إن لم يكن أكثر، فهل ستَنجح طائراته في فَرضه، أي الاستسلام، على سورية الذي صَمد جَيشها لأكثر من سَبع سنوات، أو إيران، التي تَملك ترسانةٍ صاروخيّةٍ تَضم أكثر من 200 ألف صاروخ، إن لم يكن أكثر، إلى جانب مِئة ألف صاروخ لدى “حزب الله”.

ثم نَسأل نتنياهو أن يُسمّي لنا حربًا واحدةً انتصر فيها جيشه في لبنان؟ ألم يَنسحب هذا الجيش مَهزومًا من جنوب لبنان، ومن طرفٍ واحد عام 2000؟ ثم في عام 2006؟

ليست الأسلحة الحديثة وَحدها التي تَحسم الحُروب، إنّما الإرادة القويّة، والاستعداد للقِتال حتى الشهادة، والقيادة القادرة على إدارة الحرب بشكلٍ فاعلٍ، وهذهِ العناصر الثلاثة تتوفّر لدى السوريين والإيرانيين وحزب الله وحُلفائهم.
مرّةً أُخرى نقول.. فليُجرّب نتنياهو حَظّه.. والأيام بيننا.

رأي اليوم

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