The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

October 05, 2021

Sides are forming around the Iran vs Azerbaijan squabble. But this fight is not about ethnicity, religion or tribe – it is mainly about who gets to forge the region’s new transportation routes.

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

The last thing the complex, work-in-progress drive towards Eurasian integration needs at this stage is this messy affair between Iran and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.

Let’s start with the Conquerors of Khaybar – the largest Iranian military exercise in two decades held on its northwestern border with Azerbaijan.

Among the deployed Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units there are some serious players, such as the 21st Tabriz Infantry Division, the IRGC Ashura 31 battalion, the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade and an array of missile systems, including the Fateh-313 and Zulfiqar ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 700 kilometers.

The official explanation is that the drills are a warning to enemies plotting anything against the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei pointedly tweeted that “those who are under the illusion of relying on others, think that they can provide their own security, should know that they will soon take a slap, they will regret this.”

The message was unmistakable: this was about Azerbaijan relying on Turkey and especially Israel for its security, and about Tel Aviv instrumentalizing Baku for an intel drive leading to interference in northern Iran.

Further elaboration by Iranian experts went as far as Israel eventually using military bases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iranian nuclear installations.

The reaction to the Iranian military exercise so far is a predictable Turkey–Azerbaijani response: they are conducting a joint drill in Nakhchivan throughout this week.

But were Iran’s concerns off the mark? A close security collaboration between Baku and Tel Aviv has been developing for years now. Azerbaijan today possesses Israeli drones and is cozy with both the CIA and the Turkish military. Throw in the recent trilateral military drills involving Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan – these are developments bound to raise alarm bells in Tehran.

Baku, of course, spins it in a different manner: Our partnerships are not aimed at third countries.

So, essentially, while Tehran accuses Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev of making life easy for Takfiri terrorists and Zionists, Baku accuses Tehran of blindly supporting Armenia. Yes, the ghosts of the recent Karabakh war are all over the place.

As a matter of national security, Tehran simply cannot tolerate Israeli companies involved in the reconstruction of regions won in the war near the Iranian border: Fuzuli, Jabrayil, and Zangilan.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian has tried to play it diplomatically: “Geopolitical issues around our borders are important for us. Azerbaijan is a dear neighbor to Iran and that’s why we don’t want it to be trapped between foreign terrorists who are turning their soil into a hotbed.”

As if this was not complicated enough, the heart of the matter – as with all things in Eurasia – actually revolves around economic connectivity.

An interconnected mess

Baku’s geoeconomic dreams are hefty: the capital city aims to position itself at the key crossroads of two of the most important Eurasian corridors: North-South and East-West.

And that’s where the Zangezur Corridor comes in – arguably essential for Baku to predominate over Iran’s East-West connectivity routes.

The corridor is intended to connect western Azerbaijan to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic via Armenia, with roads and railways passing through the Zangezur region.

Zangezur is also essential for Iran to connect itself with Armenia, Russia, and further on down the road, to Europe.

China and India will also rely on Zangezur for trade, as the corridor provides a significant shortcut in distance. Considering large Asian cargo ships cannot sail the Caspian Sea, they usually waste precious weeks just to reach Russia.

An extra problem is that Baku has recently started harassing Iranian truckers in transit through these new annexed regions on their way to Armenia.

It didn’t have to be this way. This detailed essay shows how Azerbaijan and Iran are linked by “deep historical, cultural, religious, and ethno-linguistic ties,” and how the four northwestern Iranian provinces – Gilan, Ardabil, East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan – have “common geographical borders with both the main part of Azerbaijan and its exclave, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic; they also have deep and close commonalities based on Islam and Shiism, as well as sharing the Azerbaijani culture and language. All this has provided the ground for closeness between the citizens of the regions on both sides of the border.”

During the Rouhani years, relations with Aliyev were actually quite good, including the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia and Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Turkey trilateral cooperation.

A key connectivity at play ahead is the project of linking the Qazvin‑Rasht‑Astara railway in Iran to Azerbaijan: that’s part of the all-important International North‑South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

Geoeconomically, Azerbaijan is essential for the main railway that will eventually run from India to Russia. No only that; the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia trilateral cooperation opens a direct road for Iran to fully connect with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

In an optimal scenario, Baku can even help Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman to connect to Georgian ports in the Black Sea.

The West is oblivious to the fact that virtually all sections of the INSTC are already working. Take, for instance, the exquisitely named Astara‑Astara railway connecting Iranian and Azerbaijani cities that share the same name. Or the Rasht‑Qazvin railway.

But then one important 130km stretch from Astara to Rasht, which is on the southern shore of the Caspian and is close to the Iranian–Azeri border, has not been built. The reason? Trump-era sanctions. That’s a graphic example of how much, in real-life practical terms, rides on a successful conclusion of the JCPOA talks in Vienna.

Who owns Zangezur?

Iran is positioned in a somewhat tricky patch along the southern periphery of the South Caucasus. The three major players in that hood are of course Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Iran borders the former Armenian – now Azeri – regions adjacent to Karabakh, including Zangilan, Jabrayil and Fuzuli.

It was clear that Iran’s flexibility on its northern border would be tied to the outcome of the Second Karabakh War. The northwestern border was a source of major concern, affecting the provinces of Ardabil and eastern Azerbaijan – which makes Tehran’s official position of supporting Azerbaijani over Armenian claims all the more confusing.

It is essential to remember that even in the Karabakh crisis in the early 1990s, Tehran recognized Nagorno‑Karabakh and the regions surrounding it as integral parts of Azerbaijan.

While both the CIA and Mossad appear oblivious to this recent regional history, it will never deter them from jumping into the fray to play Baku and Tehran against each other.

An extra complicating factor is that Zangezur is also mouth-watering from Ankara’s vantage point.

Arguably, Turkey’s neo-Ottoman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who never shies away from an opportunity to expands his Turkic-Muslim strategic depth, is looking to use the Azeri connection in Zangezur to reach the Caspian, then Turkmenistan, all the way to Xinjiang, the Uyghur Muslim populated western territory of China. This, in theory, could become a sort of Turkish Silk Road bypassing Iran – with the ominous possibility of also being used as a rat line to export Takfiris from Idlib all the way to Afghanistan.

Tehran, meanwhile, is totally INSTC-driven, focusing on two railway lines to be rehabilitated and upgraded from the Soviet era. One is South-North, from Jolfa connecting to Nakhchivan and then onwards to Yerevan and Tblisi. The other is West-East, again from Jolfa to Nakhchivan, crossing southern Armenia, mainland Azerbaijan, all the way to Baku and then onward to Russia.

And there’s the rub. The Azeris interpret the tripartite document resolving the Karabakh war as giving them the right to establish the Zangezur corridor. The Armenians for their part dispute exactly which ‘corridor’ applies to each particular region. Before they clear up these ambiguities, all those elaborate Iranian and Tukish connectivity plans are effectively suspended.

The fact, though, remains that Azerbaijan is geoeconomically bound to become a key crossroads of trans-regional connectivity as soon as Armenia unblocks the construction of these transport corridors.

So which ‘win-win’ is it?

Will diplomacy win in the South Caucasus? It must. The problem is both Baku and Tehran frame it in terms of exercising their sovereignty – and don’t seem particularly predisposed to offer concessions.

Meanwhile, the usual suspects are having a ball exploiting those differences. War, though, is out of the question, either between Azerbaijan and Armenia or between Azerbaijan and Iran. Tehran is more than aware that in this case both Ankara and Tel Aviv would support Baku. It is easy to see who would profit from it.

As recently as April, in a conference in Baku, Aliyev stressed that “Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran share the same approach to regional cooperation. The main area of concentration now is transportation, because it’s a situation which is called ‘win‑win.’ Everybody wins from that.”

And that brings us to the fact that if the current stalemate persists, the top victim will be the INSTC. In fact, everyone loses in terms of Eurasian integration, including India and Russia.

The Pakistan angle, floated by a few in hush-hush mode, is completely far-fetched. There’s no evidence Tehran would be supporting an anti-Taliban drive in Afghanistan just to undermine Pakistan’s ties with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The Russia–China strategic partnership looks at the current South Caucasus juncture as unnecessary trouble, especially after the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. This badly hurts their complementary Eurasian integration strategies – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

INSTC could, of course, go the trans-Caspian way and cut off Azerbaijan altogether. This is not likely though. China’s reaction, once again, will be the deciding factor. There could be more emphasis on the Persian corridor – from Xinjiang, via Pakistan and Afghanistan, to Iran. Or Beijing could equally bet on both East-West corridors, that is, bet on both Azerbaijan and Iran.

The bottom line is that neither Moscow nor Beijing wants this to fester. There will be serious diplomatic moves ahead, as they both know the only ones to profit will be the usual NATO-centric suspects, and the losers will be all the players who are seriously invested in Eurasian integration.

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Tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran… “Israel” is on the Line

 ARABI SOURI 

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran -Israel is on the Line

Tel Aviv is not satisfied with this role and its effective military, intelligence, media, and economic presence in Azerbaijan, but it seeks to expand the scope of this influence in the Caucasus region through its presence in Georgia, which is also close to Iran.

The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

Relations between Iran and Azerbaijan are experiencing coolness and sometimes noticeable tension, due to mutual accusations by officials of the two countries, led by President Ilham Aliyev, who spoke of “the incursion of Iranian military vehicles into Azerbaijani territory, during Iranian military maneuvers near the common border,” which was denied by the spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh.

Apathy and tension appeared during the Azerbaijani-Armenian war last year, when information spoke of extensive and intensive Israeli support for the Azerbaijani army, along with Turkish support, which contributed to the victory achieved by the Azerbaijani army.

This victory, to which Tel Aviv contributed by selling Baku drones and spy technology operating via Israeli satellites, was a sufficient reason for further coordination and cooperation between the two ‘countries,’ where the press information talked about Israel establishing bases and radar stations near the border with Iran to monitor Iranian military movements and to monitor Iranian missiles if they are launched towards “Israel”, meanwhile, Israeli companies are working on establishing agricultural and industrial projects similar to the system of Jewish settlements in southern Azerbaijan, 50 km from the border with Iran.

This disturbs Tehran, which sees this Israeli presence, in its various military and intelligence forms, as a threat to its national security, especially with the information that talks about the role of the Mossad in provoking the nationalist sentiments of the Azerbaijani citizens of Iran, who live near the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, who number about thirty million, compared to eight million, the population of Azerbaijan.

This Israeli provocation is accompanied by some Turkish nationalist circles inciting the Azeris of Iran, given that they are of Turkish origin, noting that at least 90% of them are Shiites, and their loyalty is to the Iranian state, while the citizens of Azerbaijan are 80% of them Shiites, and they do not hide their discomfort, rather, they are concerned about provocative statements in the Azerbaijani media and talk about Israeli conspiracy from their lands against Iran.

Some Turkish nationalist circles had launched a media campaign against Iran during the Karabakh war, and talked about Iranian military support for Armenia during this war, in an attempt to provoke the nationalist feeling of the Azeris, while the Turkish-backed Azerbaijani authorities continue to obstruct the passage of Iranian trains and trucks transporting Azerbaijani and Russian goods arriving in Iran through the Caspian Sea on their way to Armenia, without that bothering President Ilham Aliyev, who is proud of his close relations with Tel Aviv, some influential Jewish businessmen in Baku, including Leonid Tayrov, Leonid Goldstein, Talman Ismailov and Aras Aglararv, who have Azerbaijani, Israeli and Russian citizenship, and some of them are American, and they all have close relations with influential Russian Jews in Moscow.

They play an influential role in developing relations between Azerbaijan and “Israel” in all fields, the most important of which are military and intelligence, as Tel Aviv sells one billion dollars annually in arms and military equipment to Azerbaijan. They also mediate between Tel Aviv and Ankara, as is the case with Ukrainian President Zalensky, who is also a Jew, and has a close relationship with “Israel” and the Jewish lobby organizations in America. In one of his leaked speeches, President Aliyev admitted the depth of the relationship with Tel Aviv, and said, “Eighty percent of the relations between the two ‘countries’ are underground,” meaning that they are hidden.

Turkey and Russia.. Central Asia after Afghanistan?

Azerbaijan covers 60% of Israel’s need for oil, which reaches the Turkish port of Ceyhan by pipelines and is transported to the Haifa port by oil tankers, whose owners are said to be the son of (Turkish) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the son of former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

Tel Aviv is not satisfied with this role and its effective military, intelligence, media, and economic presence in Azerbaijan, but it seeks to expand the scope of this influence in the Caucasus region through its presence in Georgia, which is also close to Iran, the biggest concern of Tel Aviv, which was benefiting from its extensive intelligence presence in Afghanistan During the American occupation there. The information talks about Tel Aviv’s efforts to establish Israeli espionage stations in Georgia, whose goal is to monitor Iranian military movements and eavesdrop on Iranian communications, which is the task carried out by the American Koracik base in southeastern Turkey, and its main task is to inform Tel Aviv as soon as any Iranian missile is launched towards “Israel” so that the Iron Dome can confront it before it enters Palestinian airspace.

The information also speaks of Israeli and Turkish efforts to achieve reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, to contribute to the formation of a new bloc in the Caucasus region that might target Iran, and even Russia, which together seek to confront such a move.

It seems clear that this bothers Moscow, especially after the establishment of Turkish military bases in Azerbaijan, and Ankara’s efforts to develop its relations with Georgia, and its continued refusal to the Crimean annexation to Russia, and its continued development of military relations with Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania, which are the countries bordering the Black Sea, this disturbs Moscow, which is watching the movements of Tel Aviv and Ankara, separately, in the Islamic republics of Central Asia, Russia’s backyard, and the neighbors of Iran and Afghanistan together!

And the last bet remains on the developments of the next stage, and the prospects for Turkish policy in the future after the last Sochi summit and all its details are directly or indirectly related to the calculations of “Israel” in the region, and its main target is undoubtedly Iran, which has obstructed and impeded its projects in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the Gulf, and other places in the world!

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Tension between Iran and Azerbaijan. Look for Israel.

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Has the US begun its “great retreat”?

AUGUST 06, 2021

THE SAKER • AUGUST 5, 2021

I have to begin this column by admitting that “Biden” (note: when in quotation marks, I refer to the “collective Biden”, not the clearly senile man) surprised me: it appears that my personal rule-of-thumb about US Presidents (each one is even worse than his predecessor) might not necessarily apply in “Biden’s” case. That is not to say that “Biden” won’t end up proving my rule of thumb as still applicable, just that what I am seeing right now is not what I feared or expected.

Initially, I felt my the rule still held. The total US faceplant in Alaska when Blinken apparently mistook the Chinese for woke-neutered serfs and quickly found out how mistaken he was.

But then there was the meeting with Putin which surprised many, including myself. Initially, most Russian observers joined one of two groups about the prospects for this summit:

  1. This summit will never happen, there is nothing to discuss, Biden is senile, his Admin is filled wall to wall with harcore russophobes and, besides, the (US) Americans are “not agreement capable” (недоговороспособные) anyway, so what is the point?
  2. If the summit takes place, it will be a comprehensive failure. At best a shouting match or exchange of insults.

Neither of these happened. Truth be told, we still do not really know what happened. All we have are some vague declarations of intent and worded pious intentions. And even those were minimalistic! In fact, after the summit most Russian observers, again, broke into two main camps:

  1. “Biden” threw in the towel and gave up. Russian won this round. Hurray!
  2. “Biden” only changed tactics, and now the new US posture might well become even more aggressive and hostile. Russia is about to see a major surge in anti-Russian provocations. Alarm!

I think that both of these grossly oversimplify a probably much more complex and nuanced reality. In other words, “Biden” surprised many, if not most, Russians. That is very interesting by itself (neither Bush, nor Obama nor Trump ever surprised the Russians – who knew the score about all of them – in any meaningful way).

My strictly personal guess is that there is some very serious infighting currently taking place inside the US ruling class. Furthermore, that serious infighting is not about core principles or even strategy – it is a dispute over tactics only.

We have to keep in mind an old truism about outcomes: John F. Kennedy once said that “victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan” and he was right. When any group seizes power and effectively controls its interests, all is well, and everybody is busy consuming the proverbial milk and honey. But when this group suffers a series of humiliating defeats, a typical cascade of events begins:

  • Finger pointing: everybody blames everybody else (but never himself/herself)
  • Hindsight wisdom: “if I had been in charge, this would not have happened!
  • Infighting over quickly shrinking spoils of war
  • A collapse of the centralized center of authority/decision-making centers
  • Generation of subgroups, fighting each other over their sub-interests

In other words, following many years of extremely weak presidential administrations (since Clinton, imho), it is hardly a surprise that infighting would take place (in both parties, by the way). In fact, an apparently chaotic set of uncoordinated, or even contradictory, policies is what one should expect. And that is exactly what we have been observing since 1993 and this dynamic has been getting worse and worse with each passing year).

Needless to say, the main outcome of such defeat-induced infighting is to weaken all the groups involved, regardless of their objectives and policies. Some might believe that this is a positive development, but I am not so sure at all (see below).

That being said, there are some observations which might be helpful when trying to at least (indirectly) identify who are the main groups fighting each other.

The hardcore, really nutty, russophobes are still here, especially in the US media which seems to be serving not so much “Biden” as much as some “crazies in the basement” kind of cabal. Next to the legacy ziomedia, there is an increasing number of US/NATO/UK military officials who are foaming at the mouth with threats, warnings, complaints and insults, all against Putin and Russia. This is important because:

  • The “Zone A” media has comprehensively and very effectively concealed the very real risks of war with Russia, China and Iran. And if this was mentioned, the presstitutes always stressed that the US has the “best military in the history of the galaxy” and that Uncle Sam will “kickass” anybody he chooses to. If the people of the USA were informed of the truth of the matter, they would freak out and demand that this path to war be immediately abandoned and replaced with a meaningful dialog.
  • US/NATO/UK authorities have talked themselves into a corner where they have only two outcomes left: they can do what the US always does, that is to “declare victory and leave”, or they can force Russia to protect her borders on land, air and sea and, thereby, face a major military humiliation delivered by Russia.

Truth be told, during the recent naval exercises UK and US officials made a lot of threats and promises to ignore Russian warnings, but in the end, they quietly packed and left. Smart choice, but it must have been painfully humiliating for them, which is very dangerous by itself.

How much of these statements/threats actually were done with “Biden’s” approval? I don’t know. But I am unaware of any reprimands, demotions or any other action taken against the crazies who are calling for a war against Russia, China or Iran. That does not mean that it did not happen, only that it was not publicized. My feeling is, however, that even if “Biden” did object to this kind of dangerous sabre rattling, “he” is too weak to do anything about it. It is quite possible that “Biden” is gradually losing control of his own administration.

I recently had a good laugh hearing NATO naval personnel saying that Russians made “imitation attacks” on NATO ships by overflying them several times. Apparently, these folks sincerely think that gravity bombs are the main/only threat from the Russian Aerospace Forces and coastal defenses which, in reality, can sink US/UK/NATO ships without ever approaching them or even getting in their radar range. Not to mention 6-7 extremely quiet and heavily armed advanced diesel-electric subs of the Black Sea Fleet. While I don’t doubt the “diversity” of these NATO naval crews, I am now having major doubts about even their basic competence.

There will be many more NATO exercises in the Black Sea in the future. Ditto for USN operations off the Chinese, Iranian or DPRK coasts. This (always explosive) combo of ignorance, arrogance and incompetence could result in a major war.

Another option is the terminally delusional UK government (supported by those Brits who still have phantom pains about their lost empire and, of course, by the largely irrelevant 3B+PU gang) might do something really stupid (say, like this) and trigger a war with the DPRK, Russia, China or Iran and then the US would have to move to defend/save a British Navy which is mostly a joke (at least by Russian or Chinese standards). The main problem here being that the USN is also in a terrible shape and cannot compete against Russian and Chinese standoff weapons (I mean that literally, there are currently no defenses against maneuvering hypersonic missiles! The only exception would be the Russian S-500). The latter two nations, by the way, have joined into an informal and unofficial military alliance for many years already; check out this article and video or this one for a recent update).

But opposite, de-escalatory developments are also taking place. First and foremost, “Biden” seemed to have “farmed out” the “Ukrainian dossier” to the Germans and washed Uncle Shmuel’s hands from it. If so, that was a very slick and smart move (which is something we have not witnessed from any administration in decades!). I highly recommend this translation of a most interesting article by arguably the best Ukraine specialist out there, Rostislav Ishchenko.

Ishchenko goes into a lot of interesting details and explains what “Biden” apparently just did. Frankly, the Germans richly deserve this full-spectrum mess and they will be dealing with the consequences of this disaster for a long time, possibly decades. In fact, the Germans are stuck: they want to be the Big European Leader? Let them. After all, the EU politicians, led by Germany, did all they could to create what is now often called “country 404” – a black hole in the heart of the European continent. Germany is the biggest economic power of the EU? Good, then let the Germans (and the rest of the EU) pay for the eventual reconstruction of the Ukraine (or of the successor-states resulting from the breakup of the country)! Russia simply cannot foot that bill, China most definitely won’t (especially after being cheated several times by the Ukies) and the USA has absolutely no reasons whatsoever to do so. I would even argue that chaos (social, economic, political, cultural. etc.) in Europe is probably seen by the US ruling class as highly desirable since it 1) weakens the EU as a competitor 2) justifies, however hypocritically and mistakenly, a “strong US presence” in Europe and 3) gives NATO a reason (however mistaken, misguided and even immoral) to exist

The US is protected from the fallout (immigrants, violence, extremism, etc.) of the Ukrainian disaster by distance, the Atlantic, a much stronger military (at least compared to anybody else in NATO). The US can print money in any way it wants and has no interests whatsoever in the (dying) Ukraine. If Ishchenko is right, and I agree with him, then there is somebody (possibly a group of somebodies) who is a lot smarter than anybody in the Trump Admin and who figured out that the Nazi-occuppied Ukraine should be an German/EU problem, not one for the US.

There is, of course, also the pessimistic analysis: the US is on the retreat everywhere, but only for the following reasons:

  • Regroup, reorganize, buy time to develop some kind of coherent strategy
  • Focus on each adversary separately and prioritize (divide et impera at least!)
  • Re-analyze, re-plan, re-design, re-develop, re-train, re-equip and re-test pretty much everything in the US armed forces (which have not been shaped by any rational force planning in decades)

Those who believe the strategic retreat theory (I am not personally discounting this version, but I do not see enough evidence – yet – to endorse it either) typically add that “the US only left Afghanistan to hand it over to the Taliban/al-Qaeda and unleash them against “soft underbelly of Russia”. Now, that is utter nonsense, if only because Russia does not have a common border with Afghanistan.

Yes, sure, what is currently taking place in Afghanistan greatly worries all the leaders of the region, including the leaders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. But it just so happens that the Russians have been in intense consultations with all these regional powers. Not only that, but Russia already has forces deployed in the region (including the 201st base in Tajikistan) and she has been substantially reinforcing them with no protests from the Empire (at least so far). Finally, all of Central Asia, the Caucasus and even the Middle-East is well within reach of numerous types of Russian long-range standoff weapons. Apparently, the Taliban know that, because they went to great lengths to promise all their neighbors that the (now inevitable) regime-change in Kabul will not represent a threat for anybody. Can we trust them? Nope, of course not. But can we trust them to be smart enough to realize that while they are currently the biggest force in Afghanistan, they don’t even come close to having what it takes to fight a war against any of Afghanistan’s neighbors? Yes, I think we can. After many years of fighting, and the Taliban already in control of part of Kabul, the Taliban will finally achieve their goals and become the true, official, leaders of Afghanistan. Should they try to attack or destabilize any of their neighbors, the very first thing they would lose would be Kabul and any chance to be accepted as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Remember that, like the US, neither Russia nor Iran need to invade Afghanistan to strike at the Taliban, they can use proxies and they have the kind of weapon systems and launch platforms from which the Taliban cannot protect themselves. Last, but certainly not least, the Taliban know how the Russians and the Iranians fought in Syria, and they will not want to trigger anything similar in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, Russia’s “soft underbelly” is a 19th century concept. In the 21st century only the least informed and least competent people would ever use such a concept. Furthermore, only somebody with zero knowledge of actual military capabilities of the Southern and Central Military Districts of Russia could mention such a silly and outdated notion with a straight face. Besides, while the Afghans can be superb guerillas (but not always, contrary to the popular myth!), they cannot conduct combined arms offensive operations, while Russia and Iran can. Again, I will never say never, especially with Takfiris in the loop, but I don’t see the Taliban attacking anybody, least of all Russian or Iranian allies in the region

Coming back to “Biden’s” great retreat: if “Biden” is smart enough to hang the Ukraine on Germany, “he” is probably too smart to predicate the US foreign policy towards Russia predicated around the “soft underbelly” thingie. As for all the “fire and brimstone” threats of war against Russia, they are not impressing anybody as the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians know that a confident and powerful country does not need to threaten anybody, if only because the actual capabilities of these country are a very telling “threat” by themselves. But when a former superpower is weak, confused and frightened, it will make many roaring statements about how it can defeat the entire planet if needed (after all, the US military is “the best military in the history of the galaxy”! If you doubt that, just listen to Toby Keith!). In other words, while in the West threats are an instrument of foreign policy, in Russia, and in the rest of Asia, they are inevitably seen as a sign of weakness, doubts and even fear.

Then there seems to be a long list of weapons systems, procurement plans and “defense” monies which have been pulled back, including the (truly awful) LCS and F-35. While it is true that the US is gradually phasing out fantastically expensive weapons systems and platforms which were also more or less useless, this show the ability to at least admit that all that talk about super-dooper US superweapons was just that, talk, and that in reality the US MIC is incapable of producing the kind of superb high quality systems which it used to produce in large quantities in the past (Arleigh Burke, F-15, Jumbo 747, the Willys Jeep, F-16, A-10, Los Angeles SSN, KH satellites, etc.). This is why the F-15X is designed to “augment” the F-35 feet (by itself a very smart move!).

Such an admission, even if indirect and only logically implied, might show a level of maturity, or courage, by “Biden” which his predecessors did not have.

Could it be that the folks at the Pentagon, who do know the reality of the situation (see here for a very good Moon of Alabama article about this), figured out that Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump vastly over extended the Empire and now they need to regroup and “re-everything” to achieve a more sustainable “defense” posture?

Could it be that “Biden” will deliver what Trump promised, i.e. to end the useless (and unwinnable!) wars, stop caring too much about the agonizing EU, silently accept that Russia has no intentions (and no need!) whatsoever to attack anyone and focus on the biggest non-military threat out there: China. Maybe.

As far as I know, many (all?) simulations – by RAND and the US military – and command staff exercises have shown that the US would lose badly to both Russia or China. Could it be that “Biden” wants to put Russia and China on the backburner and “deal” with Iran first? The latest news on the US/Israel vs Iran front is not good, to say the least.

I still believe that following the murder of General Suleimani and the retaliatory Iranian missile strikes the US seems to have given up on the idea of a direct attack on Iran. After all, not only did Trump let the “most powerful military in the history of the galaxy” be humiliated and seriously scared – for good reason – by the extremely accurate Iranian missile strikes, but the entire world witnessed this humiliation. After that disaster, why would “Biden” decide to attack?

Could “Biden” be even dumber than Trump? I very much doubt it. Besides, both Trump and Biden were equally subservient to the Israel Lobby anyway, so I would never say never, especially since all Israel has to do to force the US to attack Iran, is to attack first, then present any Iranian response as a planned “genocide of 6 million Jews” (what else?), but this time in Israel and by the Iranians (who might even use gas, who knows?). At these words, both the GOP and the Dems will snap to attention and immediately rush to save America’s most precious and beloved “ally” (in reality, its colonial master and overlord, of course). About Israel, we can only sadly conclude that it really makes no difference whatsoever whether the Demolicans or the Republicrats (mostly RINOs anyway) happens to be in the White House.

So what are we left with?

Frankly, I am not sure.

I think that there is very strong, even if only indirect, evidence which there is some very serious in-fighting taking place in the “Biden” administration and there is also strong, but also indirect, evidence that the military posture of the United States is undergoing what might end up being a major overhaul of the US armed forces.

If true, and that is a big “if”, this is neither good news nor bad news.

But this might be big news.

Why?

Because, objectively, the current US retreat on most fronts might be the “soft landing” (transition from Empire to “normal” country) many Trump voters were hoping for. Or it might not. If it is not, this might be a chaos-induced retreat, indicating that the US state is crumbling and has to urgently “simplify” things to try to survive, thereby generating a lot of factional infighting (at least one Russian observer specialized in “US studies”, Dmitrii Drobnitskii, believes to be the case: see the original article here, and its machine translation here). Finally, the state of decay of the US state might already be so advanced that we can consider it as profoundly dysfunctional and basically collapsing/collapsed. The first option (soft landing) is unlikely, yet highly desirable. The second option (chaos-induced retreat) is more likely, but much less desirable as it is only a single step back to then make several steps forward again. The last option (profoundly dysfunctional and basically collapsing/collapsed) is, alas, the most likely, and it is also, by far, the most perilous one.

For one thing, options #2 and #3 will make US actions very unpredictable and, therefore, potentially extremely dangerous. Unpredictable chaos can also quickly morph into a major war, or even several major ones, so the potential danger here is very real (even if totally unreported in Zone A). This, in turn, means that Russia, China, Iran, the DPRK, Venezuela or Cuba all have to keep their guard up and be ready for anything, even the unthinkable (which is often what total chaos generates).

Right now, the fact that the US has initiated a “great retreat” is undeniable. But the true reasons behind it, and its implications, remain quite obscure, at least to me.

I will conclude by asking you, the readers, for your opinion: do you think that the US is currently in a “contraction phase”? If yes, do you believe that this is a short-term only phenomenon, or will this retreat continue and, if yes, how far?

Turkish conflict with United States

Turkish conflict with United States

July 14, 2021

by Batko Milacic – Independent analyst – for The Saker Blog

The events in the Middle East have made a large number of interstate relations of the former “allies” very complicated due to the large-scale operation “Arab Spring”. After the failure of the original idea of creating the Great Middle East, a project in which the main role was played by Washington, in alliance primarily with the Gulf monarchies but also with Turkey, there was a great redefinition of relations within the axis.

Realizing that its interests in the region will not be satisfied in the alliance with the United States, Turkey turned another page in foreign policy, trying to satisfy its own interests, thus at the same time defying the synergistic policy of the NATO pact in the Middle East.

This act was a revolt within the NATO bloc itself. The most concrete results were seen with the realization of the “Turkish Stream” project with Russia and the purchase of modern S-400 anti-aircraft systems from Russia, despite numerous warnings from official Washington.

However, the question arises as to what other choice the Turkish leadership had. The “Arab Spring” project failed, and European leaders were clear that Turkey would not become a member of the European Union. On the other hand, out of its own interests in the war against Syria, Washington continued to support the Kurds and their parastate in northeastern Syria, thus calling into question Turkey’s national interests.

Faced with these problems, Turkey has decided to formulate its own policy, of course paying the price. The coup organized against Erdogan was the best example of how Washington does not forgive betrayal but also neither the change in foreign policy of “allies“. Especially when foreign policy is not in line with the interests of official Washington.

The surviving coup was a good lesson for the Turkish leadership that the United States is a superpower, and that enmity with Washington is costly. This was best felt by Turkish citizens, as Turkey’s economy has weakened significantly, because of the escalation of economic sanctions by Washington towards Turkey.

However, strong pressure from Washington further united the Turks. The lived experience, regardless of the political differences, united a significant part of the Turkish, primarily nationalist opposition, with Erdogan in relation to the United States. Erdogan has begun to pursue an increasingly Turkish-oriented foreign policy. Turkish society, especially its nationalist and secular elements reached the historical peak of contempt for US foreign policy.

Turkey, no matter how economically weaker than the United States, has shown that it is not a small nation that a “big boss” can discipline simply as it has in some other periods of history. The example of Turkish resistance to subordinate its policy to Washington interests is becoming dangerous, because the Turkish example of sovereignty of foreign policy and rebellion within the NATO pact can be followed by others.

Turkish nationalism got a new impetus by merging what previously seemed incompatible, and that is the greatest merit of US politics. With the failed Gulenist coup against Erdogan, Washington showed that it tried to treat this great nation as Haiti, which awakened Turkish national pride and opened the biggest gap in relations with the United States so far.

On the other hand, Russia, which was originally and still is in a geopolitical conflict with Turkey, accepted Turkish sovereignist policy and showed that, unlike America, it wants cooperation with Turkey and wants to treat Turkey without humiliation. In addition to the aforementioned “Turkish Stream” and the S-400 system, cooperation has also been established in the field of nuclear energy.

It is also very indicative that the last war in the Caucasus passed with the coordination of Moscow and Ankara, for mutual benefit. And guess who was the biggest loss of that war? Again of course the United States!

Russia and Turkey have demonstrated in a simple way who is the boss in the region, and that Washington is incapable of protecting its “allies”. This is especially related to Armenia, whose government is headed by a pro-US prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan. Turkey was a demonstrator of force through Azerbaijan, while Russia appeared as a protector, which was another slap in the face for Washington. Turkish society is increasingly mobilizing against the United States, especially in the media. The extent to which Turkish society is antagonized in relation to the United States is best shown by the new Turkish documentary “Dying Empire”:

Khatibzadeh: Iran’s Stance on JCPOA Not to Change with Administration Change

 July 6, 2021

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stressed that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and lifting sanctions are among Iran’s principled stances, saying they will not alter with government change.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Khatibzadeh said if any agreement is made, the next Iranian government will abide by it.

Unlike the approach taken by other parties, compliance with commitments has always been considered as a principle for Iran, he said.

Despite the fact that some topics still need decisions, progress in Vienna talks is a reality accepted by all parties, he added.

In fact, the finalization of the agreement to revive the JCPOA depends on other parties’ political will, Khatibzadeh reiterated. adding that Iranian delegation is trying to conclude negotiations and to lift cruel sanctions against Iran.

He went on to say that no deadline will be set and negotiations will be underway until the agreement is achieved to meet Iranians’ interests.

He also said that as always mentioned, Iran is not in hurry to reach agreement but will not let erosive talks.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Khatibzadeh said 13 prisoners were recently released from Japan’s and Afghanistan’s prisons and have returned home.

Reacting to Western media claims regarding the US message through diplomatic channels to Iran on recent attacks again Syria and Iraq, he said Iran has always stressed that the language of threat and force will not help establish security in the region.

He advised the US to be aware of the fact that bullying approach not only will bring no result but will deteriorate conditions in West Asia.

ُStressing that Iran has never intended and does not intend to interfere in internal affairs of Iraq, the spokesman said that the US continuous attacks against Iraq and Syria forces’ positions on common borders were only in line with hurting those who stand against the ISIS and reinforcing this terrorist organization.

The Iranian diplomat emphasized that Iran’s opposes the Zionist regime’s membership in the African Union as an observer.

He urged members of the African Union to respect approvals of the international bodies like the organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on opposing granting membership to Israeli regime in regional and international organizations to show their political determination regarding commitment to Palestinian cause.

He noted that OIC Secretary-General Yousef al-Othaimeen in a letter to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had appreciated Iran’s commitments to the OIC principles and Iran’s participation in supporting the Islamic states’ joint efforts on issues related to Muslim Ummah.

He added that granting the observer position to the Zionist regime by the African Union would encourage the regime to continue its colonial and racist policies and to conduct military strikes and commit more crimes against the Palestinians.

Hailing truce In Ethiopia after eight-month war, Khatibzadeh congratulated the Ethiopia Government and nation for holding the 6th round of parliamentary election in a peaceful atmosphere.

Iran urges all sides to support the ceasefire to help establish peace and security in the region.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Khatibzadeh said that Saudi officials should know that based on its principled positions, Iran has always been after preserving peace and security in the Persian Gulf by the regional states.

This approach has contributed ending existence of the ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and preventing infiltration of Takfiri groups’ in the Persian Gulf littoral states.

Iran has always welcomed negotiations to achieve results and has had positive view toward talking to Saudi Arabia.

He also reacted to claims made by some Western media on Iran’s sports and its participation in Olympic Games, saying such claims are incompatible with the spirit of Olympic Charter and sports objectives.

Iran, with all its cultural considerations, is among pioneers of gender equality, and this year, the Iranian girls will have an effective presence in track-and-field category after 57 years.

Khatibzadeh went on to say that Iran’s consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif will resume activities after the situation calms down.

Regarding Azerbaijan initiative in line with creating a regional 3+3 cooperation context, he said that after liberating Azeri lands, grounds have been prepared for Caucasian states as well as Iran, Russia, and Turkey based on respect of territorial integrity of all regional states.

Thanks to its close ties with Caucasian states, Russia, and Turkey, Iran can take important strides in this regard, he noted.

SourceIranian Agencies

Biden’s accounts with Russia. What will Erdogan do? حسابات بايدن مع روسيا.. ماذا سيفعل إردوغان؟

**English Machine translation Please scroll down for the Arabic original version **

Biden’s accounts with Russia. What will Erdogan do?

حسابات بايدن مع روسيا.. ماذا سيفعل إردوغان؟
Biden’s accounts with Russia. What will Erdogan do?
حسني محلي

Husni Mahali 

Al-Mayadeen Net

1 March

Georgia is gaining additional importance in Washington’s calculations, and soon President Biden, because it challenges Russia’s nine autonomous republics — most of whose population is Muslim — including Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Since joining NATO in the early 1950s, Ankara has played a key role in opposing the Western camp, led by America, to the Soviet Union, which was then adjacent to Turkey through Georgia and Armenia in the south. Through dozens of Atlantic and U.S. bases in its territory (12 of which remain), Turkey was also an advanced outpost to defend Western interests and prevent the Communist Soviet Union from expanding south toward the Arab and Muslim world.

The fall of the Soviet Union after the Afghan war and the resulting birth of The Islamic Republics of Turkish origin gave Ankara more power in regional and international calculations, especially after the late President Turgut Ozal’s talks on “the unity of the Turkish nation, from the Adriatic Sea (Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia) to the China Dam, through Bulgaria and Greece, where Muslim minorities of Turkish origin are.

Ozal’s words were welcomed and encouraged by Washington, the traditional enemy of the Soviet Union, and then Russia, which the West wanted to surround from its southern flank, where the Islamic republics, and from the West, where the countries that nato embraced in 2004, namely Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and southern Bulgaria and Romania, which overlook the Black Sea, which Turkey controls, control its only Bosphorus Strait.

This came at a time when Ukraine and Georgia paid dearly for their adventures during their velvet revolutions in which Western institutions played a major role, with Abkhazia and South Ossetia declaring independence with the support of Moscow, and separated from Georgia, while the civil war in Ukraine was a reason for the partition of the country, after the citizens of the eastern regions voted for secession, prompting Russia to “annex” Crimea in 2014.

As was the case in the 1950s and beyond, Ankara has played, and continues to play, some role in all of these developments that President Erdogan wanted to help him to support his projects and plans, which appear to have been influenced by Ozal’s slogans, and Ankara has had, and continues to be, directly and indirectly linked to the developments of its neighbor Georgia, whose tens of thousands of its citizens work in Turkey.

Georgia is gaining additional importance in washington’s calculations, and soon President Biden, because it challenges russia’s nine self-governing republics — mostof whose population is Muslim — including Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Thousands of citizens of these and other Central Asian republics have joined Al-Nusra and ISIS, while Washington wants to help it in the future in its plans to tighten the blockade on Russia, and the factions of “Afghan jihadists” helped America achieve its first goal, which is to overthrow and tear the Soviet Union, according to the green belt theory, it became clear that Washington is planning to return to this belt, and wants Turkey to play a key role in activating it, but after agreeing with Erdogan on a comprehensive deal to achieve both sides the biggest direct and indirect gains, which Presidents Biden and Erdogan are preparing on the eve of the phone call between the two parties, which seem to have been delayed by the many topics that will be in front of them, difficult and intertwined, and they need each other.

In exchange for the financial and political support of Erdogan, which seems to be in dire need, President Biden wants Turkey to go back to the 1950s and prove its absolute loyalty to Washington and NATO, which is clearly preparing for a new phase of psychological, economic and political war against Russia, this time through its back gardens to the south and west, which means that it needs to support President Erdogan because of his ties and role in the Central Asian Islamic Republics (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), as in the Caucasus, where Azerbaijan is linked to Azerbaijan. Georgia has privileged relations, and Washington seeks to annex it to NATO, along with Ukraine.

The events in Armenia at this time are of added importance, having become a direct arena for U.S. and French intervention against the traditional Russian role. Ankara is watching all these interventions closely, firstly because Armenia is a neighboring country, and secondly because of information about the possibility that President Biden will recognize the Armenian genocide of the Ottoman era during World War I, without neglecting Washington’s privileged relationship between Ankara and Kiev, and at the expense of The Russian plans in Ukraine, Erdogan has repeatedly rejected Putin’s decision to “annex” Crimea to Russia, while information speaks of very broad cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine in all fields, especially military industries, including drones, tanks and missiles, with significant Turkish support for the Muslim minority in Crimea.

Ankara has also succeeded in establishing privileged relations with most of the former Soviet Republics and Eastern European countries that have bad memories with Moscow, which President Biden may need in his future calculations to tighten the blockade on Russia within its borders or elsewhere, particularly Latin America, where Erdogan has succeeded in establishing privileged relations with its most prominent head of state, Nicolas Maduro, despite all the personal, ideological and political contradictions between them.

President Biden may need Turkish support for his plans and projects in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, which has turned into a front alcove to defend Russian interests in the region, and across it in many regional and international arenas in which Washington, some Western capitals, and sometimes Ankara, are competing, despite the contradiction of interests among all of these capitals.

In all cases, it seems clear that we will not wait long to see what Biden will ask of Erdogan, and how the latter will respond to these demands, the most important of which is undoubtedly a return to Turkey’s nationalist, religious and historical behavior against Russia. For the past five years, after Erdogan’s apology following the downing of the Russian plane, President Putin has sought to block this possibility through a combination of interlocking economic, political and military relations with Ankara and its implications for coordination, cooperation and joint action in Syria.

With the information that president Biden expects to clear all his accounts with Ankara, whether negative or positive, President Erdogan finds himself in a situation that is never enviable, having become clear that his options are limited, either continue the current situation in the relationship with Moscow and Washington, which Biden will not accept, or continue his cooperation with Russia and its allies, which is completely impossible.

In this case, in his very difficult situation internally, he has no choice but to agree with President Biden on the axes of the next phase, and to minimize the losses in his relations with Russia that he does not want to repeat, as Biden, who knows he has a lot of serious papers against him personally and officially, wishes.

The most important question remains: Will Biden put these papers on the table and ask for them to be resolved, or will he ask Erdogan to use his own papers in Russia’s backyards, in exchange for absolute support in the gardens of others!?

حسابات بايدن مع روسيا.. ماذا سيفعل إردوغان؟

تكتسب جورجيا أهمية إضافية في حسابات واشنطن، وقريباً الرئيس بايدن، لأنها تحدّ جمهوريات الحكم الذاتي الروسية – معظم سكّانها مسلمون – وعددها تسعة، ومنها الشيشان وأنغوشيا وداغستان.

حسابات بايدن مع روسيا.. ماذا سيفعل إردوغان؟
حسابات بايدن مع روسيا.. ماذا سيفعل إردوغان؟

أدَّت أنقرة منذ انضمامها إلى الحلف الأطلسي في بداية الخمسينيات من القرن الماضي دوراً أساسياً في معاداة المعسكر الغربي، بزعامة أميركا، للاتحاد السوفياتي، الذي كان آنذاك مجاوراً لتركيا من خلال جورجيا وأرمينيا في الجنوب. كما كانت تركيا، من خلال عشرات القواعد الأطلسية والأميركية الموجودة في أراضيها (ما زال هناك 12 قاعدة منها)، مخفراً متقدماً للدفاع عن المصالح الغربية ومنع الاتحاد السوفياتي الشيوعي من التمدد جنوباً باتجاه العالم العربي والإسلامي.

وجاء سقوط الاتحاد السّوفياتيّ بعد الحرب الأفغانيّة وما نتج منه من ولادة الجمهوريات الإسلاميّة ذات الأصل التركي، ليمنح أنقرة المزيد من عناصر القوة في الحسابات الإقليمية والدولية، وخصوصاً بعد أحاديث الرئيس الراحل تورغوت أوزال عن “وحدة الأمة التركية، من البحر الأدرياتيكي (البوسنة وكوسوفو ومقدونيا) إلى سد الصين الحصين، مروراً ببلغاريا واليونان، حيث الأقليات المسلمة ذات الأصل التركي.

وقد حظيت مقولات أوزال بترحيب وتشجيع من واشنطن؛ العدو التقليدي للاتحاد السوفياتي، ومن بعده روسيا، التي أراد الغرب أن يحاصرها من خاصرتها الجنوبية، حيث الجمهوريات الإسلامية، ومن الغرب، حيث الدول التي احتضنها الحلف الأطلسي في العام 2004، وهي أستونيا ولاتفيا وليتوانيا، وجنوبا بلغاريا ورومانيا اللتين تطلان على البحر الأسود، الذي تسيطر تركيا على مضيقه الوحيد البوسفور.

أتى ذلك في الوقت الذي دفعت أوكرانيا وجورجيا ثمن مغامراتهما غالياً خلال ثوراتهما المخملية التي أدت فيها مؤسسات غربية دوراً رئيسياً، فقد أعلنت أبخازيا وأوسيتيا الجنوبية استقلالهما بدعم من موسكو، وانفصلتا عن جورجيا، فيما كانت الحرب الأهلية في أوكرانيا سبباً لتقسيم البلاد، بعد أن صوّت مواطنو المناطق الشرقية من أجل الانفصال، ودفع ذلك روسيا إلى “ضم” شبه جزيرة القرم إليها في العام 2014.

وكما كان الوضع في الخمسينيات وما بعدها، فقد أدت أنقرة، وما تزال، دوراً ما في مجمل هذه التطورات التي أراد لها الرئيس إردوغان أن تساعده لدعم مشاريعه ومخططاته التي يبدو أنها تأثرت بالشعارات التي رفعها أوزال، فقد كان لأنقرة، وما يزال، علاقة مباشرة وغير مباشرة بمجمل تطورات جارتها جورجيا، التي يعمل عشرات الآلاف من مواطنيها في تركيا.

وتكتسب جورجيا أهمية إضافية في حسابات واشنطن، وقريباً الرئيس بايدن، لأنها تحدّ جمهوريات الحكم الذاتي الروسية – معظم سكّانها مسلمون – وعددها تسعة، ومنها الشيشان وأنغوشيا وداغستان. 

وقد انضمّ الآلاف من مواطني هذه الجمهوريات وغيرها في آسيا الوسطى إلى “النصرة” و”داعش”، في الوقت الذي تريد واشنطن لها أن تساعدها مستقبلاً في مخطّطاتها لتضييق الحصار على روسيا، كما ساعدت فصائل “الجهاديين الأفغان” أميركا في تحقيق هدفها الأول، وهو إسقاط الاتحاد السوفياتي وتمزيقه، وفق نظرية الحزام الأخضر، فقد بات واضحاً أن واشنطن تخطط للعودة إلى هذا الحزام، وتريد لتركيا أن يكون لها دور أساسي في تفعيله، ولكن بعد الاتفاق مع إردوغان على صفقة شاملة تحقّق للطرفين الحد الأكبر من المكاسب المباشرة وغير المباشرة، وهو ما يستعدّ له الرئيسان بايدن وإردوغان عشية المكالمة الهاتفية بين الطرفين، والتي يبدو أنها تأخّرت بسبب كثرة المواضيع التي ستكون أمامهما وصعوبتها وتشابكها، وهما يحتاجان إلى بعضهما البعض.

ومقابل الدعم المالي والسياسي لإردوغان، الذي يبدو أنه في أمس الحاجة إليه، يريد الرئيس بايدن لتركيا أن تعود إلى خمسينيات القرن الماضي، وتثبت ولاءها المطلق لواشنطن والحلف الأطلسي، الذي يبدو واضحاً أنه يستعد لمرحلة جديدة من الحرب النفسية والاقتصادية والسياسية ضد روسيا، وهذه المرة عبر حدائقها الخلفية جنوباً وغرباً، وهو ما يعني حاجتها إلى دعم الرئيس إردوغان بسبب علاقاته ودوره في جمهوريات آسيا الوسطى الإسلامية (كازاخستان وتركمنستان وقرغيزيا وأوزبكستان)، كما هو الحال في القوقاز، حيث ترتبط تركيا مع أذربيجان وجورجيا بعلاقات مميزة، وتسعى واشنطن لضمّها إلى الحلف الأطلسي، ومعها أوكرانيا.

وتكتسب أحداث أرمينيا في هذا التوقيت أهمية إضافية، بعد أن تحوّلت إلى ساحة مباشرة للتدخل الأميركي والفرنسي ضد الدور الروسي التقليدي. وتراقب أنقرة كل هذه التدخلات عن كثب؛ أولاً لأنّ أرمينيا دولة مجاورة لها، وثانياً بسبب المعلومات التي تتحدث عن احتمالات أن يعترف الرئيس بايدن في 24 نيسان/أبريل القادم بالإبادة الأرمنية في العهد العثماني إبان الحرب العالمية الأولى وخلالها، من دون أن تهمل واشنطن العلاقة المميزة بين أنقرة وكييف، وعلى حساب المخططات الروسية في أوكرانيا، إذ أعلن إردوغان أكثر من مرة رفضه قرار بوتين “ضم” شبه جزيرة القرم إلى روسيا، في الوقت الذي تتحدّث المعلومات عن تعاون واسع جداً بين تركيا وأوكرانيا في جميع المجالات، وخصوصاً الصناعات العسكرية، ومنها الطائرات المسيّرة والدبابات والصواريخ، مع دعم تركي كبير للأقليّة المسلمة في القرم.

كما نجحت أنقرة في إقامة علاقات مميزة مع معظم جمهوريات الاتحاد السوفياتي السابق ودول أوروبا الشرقية التي لها ذكريات سيئة مع موسكو، وهو ما قد يحتاجه الرئيس بايدن في حساباته المستقبلية لتضييق الحصار على روسيا داخل حدودها أو في أي مكان آخر، وبشكل خاص أميركا اللاتينية، التي نجح إردوغان في إقامة علاقات مميّزة مع أبرز رئيس دولة فيها، نيكولاس مادورو، رغم كلّ التناقضات الشخصية والعقائدية والسياسية بينهما.

وقد يحتاج الرئيس بايدن إلى دعم تركي لمخططاته ومشاريعه في الشرق الأوسط، وخصوصاً في سوريا، التي تحولت إلى خندق أمامي للدفاع عن المصالح الروسية في المنطقة، وعبرها في العديد من الساحات الإقليمية والدولية التي تنافسها فيها واشنطن وبعض العواصم الغربية، وأحياناً أنقرة، على الرغم من تناقض المصالح بين جميع هذه العواصم.

وفي جميع الحالات، يبدو واضحاً أننا لن ننتظر طويلاً حتى نرى ما سيطلبه بايدن من إردوغان، وكيف سيرد الأخير على هذه المطالب، وأهمها من دون شك العودة إلى السلوك القومي والديني والتاريخي التركي ضد روسيا. وقد سعى الرئيس بوتين طيلة السنوات الخمس الأخيرة، وبعد اعتذار إردوغان منه إثر إسقاط الطائرة الروسية، لسد الطريق على هذا الاحتمال، من خلال مجموعة من العلاقات الاقتصادية والسياسية والعسكرية المتشابكة مع أنقرة وانعكاساتها على التنسيق والتعاون والعمل المشترك في سوريا.

ومع المعلومات التي تتوقع للرئيس بايدن أن يصفي كل حساباته مع أنقرة، سواء كان سلباً أو إيجاباً، يجد الرئيس إردوغان نفسه في وضع لا يحسد عليه أبداً، بعد أن بات واضحاً أن خياراته محدودة، فإما يستمر في الوضع الحالي في العلاقة مع موسكو وواشنطن، وهو ما لن يقبل به بايدن، وإما يتمادى في تعاونه مع روسيا وحليفاتها، وهو مستحيل تماماً.

وفي هذه الحالة، لا يبقى أمامه، في ظلّ وضعه الصعب جداً داخلياً، إلا الاتفاق مع الرئيس بايدن على محاور المرحلة القادمة، وبالحد الأدنى من الخسائر في علاقاته مع روسيا التي لا يريد أن يعاديها، كما يرغب بايدن، الذي يعرف الجميع أنه يملك الكثير من الأوراق الخطيرة ضده شخصياً ورسمياً.

ويبقى السؤال الأهم: هل سيضع بايدن هذه الأوراق على الطاولة ويطلب حسمها أم سيطلب من إردوغان أن يستخدم ما يملكه من الأوراق في حدائق روسيا الخلفية، مقابل تقديم دعم مطلق له في حدائق الآخرين!؟

The Empire is losing the energy war

January 12, 2021

The Empire is losing the energy war

by The Ister for The Saker Blog

We can see the ongoing war against Russia’s energy industry as an act of revenge from the Empire – but a war which it is losing.

After Putin prevented the looting of the country’s energy reserves in the early 2000s, this economic war was launched, designed to cripple the nascent Russian Federation’s oil and gas industry and by extension the Russian economy as a whole.

This plan began with the planning of the Trans-Caspian, Nabucco, and Baku Tbisili Ceyhan (BTC) pipelines. The BTC pipeline was erected in 2005, pumping oil from Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea fields through Georgia to Turkey. Next, the planned Nabucco pipeline would have brought Azeri gas from the BTC to the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria, where it would circumvent Europe’s need for Russian energy. As a final blow by NATO, the Trans-Caspian pipeline was intended to cross the Caspian Sea, bringing Turkmen gas and oil to Azerbaijan and eventually to Europe through the BTC and Nabucco routes, isolating Russia.

The Russo-Georgian war can also be understood through this lens. Two days before the outbreak of the conflict, the BTC pipeline suffered from a mysterious explosion. Putin’s victory in the war and subsequent occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia held the Nabucco and Trans-Caspian projects at risk, as Western energy corporations would no longer invest in such an expensive undertaking only miles from a conflict zone. The plans were scuttled. Russia’s oil giant Gazprom now signs deals to purchase Turkmen gas directly in order to disincentivize Turkmenistan from taking part in such a future project.

And while we see the reintegration of Crimea as the return of historically Russian territory, it was also a major victory in the energy war. In the Crimean conflict, Putin’s nightmare was that the overthrow of Yanukovych would be followed by the eventually weakening or removal of Russian military positions on the energy-rich Black Sea. A strengthened position in Crimea was leveraged in the creation of the TurkStream pipeline, which then allowed Russia to bypass Ukraine by shipping gas under the Black Sea to Europe.

Russia’s standing in the pipeline battle has been further cemented by recent events regarding the NordStream 2 pipeline, which will bring Russian gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Naturally, America is not a fan of this project and has sought to delay the construction by any means possible.

But even Germany, no friend of Putin or Russia, has pushed ahead with the project. Gazprom will now complete the pipeline alongside partners from British, Dutch, Austrian, and German energy companies. And while America may disapprove from afar, all America exports is its fiat dollar which can offer no substitute for the Russian gas and oil required to power Germany’s industrial clusters.

In December of 2020, Gazprom resumed construction on the pipeline despite America’s protestations. In fact, the German-Prussian state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern has recently voted to create a sanction-proof legal structure that would preempt future attempts by America to interrupt the project.

What a turn of fate: to see America’s omnipotence fade as the Empire’s geopolitical meddling is simply circumvented by peaceful trade

So while Russia’s victory in the pipeline battle has been unequivocal, the war has been fought in other domains. For the last 6 years the Empire has won the pricing battle, with its two primary weapons being the oil of Saudi Arabia and the natural gas produced by the shale revolution.

The oil price battle began when John Kerry and the Saudi King met in September of 2014. An arrangement was worked out where the Saudis would suppress crude prices to weaken the Russian economy in exchange for America’s military support in overthrowing Bashar al-Assad. Because Saudi Arabia has the lowest extraction costs of any major producer (3$ per barrel as of 2020), it can profit at prices much lower than its higher-cost oil-producing opponents such as Russia, Iran, and Syria. Under this new arrangement, crude prices fell to new lows as ISIS was spawned in Eastern Syria, and the Free Syrian Army was given American heavy weapons.

The Russian economy shrank almost 40% over the next two years. By comparison, America’s “Great Recession” almost crushed the entire financial system after a mere 2.5% drawdown in GDP. Russia was able to withstand the enormous contraction because under Putin the country’s monetary policy is focused on maintaining net-zero debt: a far cry from the 1990s when Saudi price-suppression (intended to punish Russia for fighting Islamists in Chechnya) hammered down crude prices and resulted in the 1998 Russian financial crisis. Now that Russia operates without external debt, these price tactics are harmful to the populace but no longer imperil the functioning of the state.

While 2020 has seen a renewal of price suppression by the Saudis, the Kingdom’s long-term prospects are plummeting. Below Saudi Arabia sits the state of Yemen. As the high birth rate outstrips the supply of natural resources, Yemen produces an excess of poor and radicalized young men. In response to Saudi and American airstrikes, the Houthi movement has united Shia and Sunni Muslims in Yemen under a common banner against their northern neighbor. Now Yemeni rebels are targeting Saudi oil facilities with increasingly frequent drone strikes, one of which spiked oil prices by almost 20% in Sep 2019.

Another problem for Saudi Arabia is resource depletion. The Saudis are systematically lying about the amount of oil that’s remaining. Leaked communications showed the former VP of Aramco warning the US that their oil reserves could actually be 40% lower than claimed. Consensus used to be that the Ghawar field had 5 million barrels per day capacity. The IPO filing for Aramco revealed a maximum capacity of 3.8 million barrels per day: and that’s their biggest field, producing a third of the nation’s oil output.

If their oil reserves are fine, why has the Kingdom been panickedly talking about economic diversification for the past 5 years? Why did Aramco even have to IPO? America’s vassal state in the crude oil battle seems to be drying up.

Another weapon in the energy price war has been the shale gas revolution. New advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed America to access previously hard to reach “tight” oil and gas reserves. As many small and mid-sized fracking operations rapidly set up shop in the mid 2010s this flooded the world with cheap natural gas and lowered Russia’s energy earnings. However, many of these firms were unprofitable and existed only due to the ultra-low interest rates available at the time, which enabled companies to operate at a loss for several years: meaning that the profitless shale revolution which hurt Russia was de facto financed by the Federal Reserve.

The fall of US shale seems to be on the horizon, as the industry showed signs of huge weakness in 2020. Oil and gas bankruptcies have quadrupled from 2019 to 2020, and production levels from America’s largest fields have dwindled. The Eagle Ford field is down 30% from 2019, Niobrara is down 35%, and Anadarko is down 40%! The best case for America is that these were voluntary production drawdowns due to cheap prices. The worst case is that these are symptoms of the end stage of depletion – the same fate befalling Saudi Arabia.

Even if the large American fields return to their previous production levels, this wave of bankruptcies will remove many small producers from the market who were essentially drilling at an operating loss for years.

There are other developments that suggest that the Empire is losing the energy war

1. Nikol Pashinian, who targeted Gazprom in Armenia with spurious lawsuits, has been given a black eye by Putin. By brokering the Armenian-Azeri peace deal the Russian military now permanently occupies the Caucasus. Anyone who seriously believes it is limited to 5 years should look to the “temporary peacekeeping operations” that have kept Russian troops stationed in the tiny nation of Transnistria for almost 3 decades. Russia’s position in the region – a crucial energy hub, is now stronger than at any other point since the Soviet Union.

2. In defiance of US sanctions, Iran has restarted its domestic shipbuilding industry by constructing new oil tankers with natively sourced parts. New Aframax size tankers have the capacity to hold 750,000 barrels of crude oil and will be used to surreptitiously deliver oil to Iran’s trading partners

3. Despite feeble efforts by Washington to install Juan Guaido in Venezuela – the only country with comparable energy reserves to Saudi Arabia, Maduro is still in power, and Russia and China are now collaborating to circumvent US sanctions. Throughout 2020, crude from Venezuela arrived at Chinese ports, having been snuck past American detection with the aid of Russian state oil company Rosneft, which made the oil appear as if its port of origin was Malaysia.

So what are the takeaways from these events?

First, we can see that Europe is waking up to the necessity of Russian energy. Despite all America’s bluster, it cannot provide a viable alternative even for the countries with which it aligns ideologically. Sure, there will be haphazard attempts like squirreling tight gas from cracks in the Mediterranean Sea, but those are at best partial solutions. Second, sanctions have backfired: the Russian economy is now fully resilient and profitable. There is no further way to wage economic warfare on a nation that has already been isolated from the global financial system. As far as oil trading is concerned, the willingness of America to impose restrictive sanctions has been matched by the creativity of those hoping to bypass them. Finally, the toughest period of the price war seems to be over and the pipeline battle has been won.

The Empire’s diminishing position in this conflict

Nikol Pashinian who targeted Gazprom is out – and Russia now occupies the Caucasus

Special Report: How China got shipments of Venezuelan oil despite U.S. sanctions | Reuters


The Ister is a researcher of financial markets and geopolitics. Author of The Ister: Escape America

How West, Central and South Asia are interconnecting

How West, Central and South Asia are interconnecting

January 02, 2021

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted on Asia Times

It’s one of those quintessential journeys that make people dream: Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad by train. Let’s call it ITI.

Soon, in early 2021, ITI will become a reality. But, initially, just as a freight train. The deal was recently sealed at the 10th meeting of the transport and communication ministers of ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization) in Istanbul.

ITI’s official name is actually the ECO Container Train. Trial runs started in 2019. The 6,500 km overland journey should now take 11 days – compared to the roughly 45 days across sealanes for trade between Western Europe and Pakistan.

ECO is a very interesting – and strategic – organization, virtually unknown outside of Asia, uniting Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, the five Central Asian “stans”, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan.

Some of these players are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); some are part of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); and almost all of them are partners to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

They have come up with a ECO Vision 2025 that emphasizes connectivity as a springboard to “social and economic development”, privileging trade, transportation, energy and tourism. ECO seeks to de facto integrate West, Central and South Asia plus the Caucasus. For all practical purposes, ECO straddles most of the New Silk Roads developing across a large part of Eurasia.

That pesky Sultan, again

The ITI/ECO Container Train will be yet another layer of connectivity running in parallel to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, centered on the Caucasus, and as we have seen in a previous Turkey/New Great Game column, a key plank of Ankara’s trade strategy.

Soon, ITI/ECO will also link with the European rail networks via that 76-km long engineering marvel – the undersea Marmaray railway tunnel in Istanbul. Of course opportunities abound for branching out to parts of the Middle East. By the end of the decade, ITI/ECO may well go high-speed rail – think Chinese investment.

The fascinating counterpoint to the Marmaray undersea tunnel is the Trans-Caspian: the actual connection between the BTK in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

As you can see here , the strategically designed layout of the ports allows instant roll on-roll off from the cargo trains to huge freight ferries.

Iran, for instance, is building a roll on-roll off shipping port in Bandar-e Anzalī on the Caspian Sea – which will be used to export merchandise but also oil and gas transiting via Russia or Kazakhstan, both Caspian nations, and thus bypassing any further blockade imposed by the US.

The interlink of ITI/ECO with BTK will solidify yet another important East-West trade corridor. Apart from the northern corridors linking with the Trans-Siberian, every East-West trade corridor across Eurasia goes through Turkey. That gives President Erdogan a wealth of options – as Beijing knows too well. The Xian-Istanbul corridor is as important as the Xian-Kazakhstan-Russia corridor.

Our previous Turkey/New Great Game column provoked serious debate in Istanbul. Political analyst Ceyda Karan remarked Erdogan “has only one card: Turkish geopolitics. He doesn’t care how many soldiers will die in Libya or Syria. He doesn’t care about the Turkish people”.

Esteemed Professor Korkut Boratav, now a nonagenarian eminence in macroeconomics, wondered how I could “ascribe those important roles to our chief”, referencing Erdogan.

Well, it’s all about playing geoeconomics. Erdogan certainly has leveraged his Rolodex across Eurasia, in terms of foreign policy, going no holds barred in the manipulation of all sorts of proxy gangs practicing all manner of extremisms. But ultimately what The Sultan really needs is trade and foreign investment in his battered economy.

So trade connectivity is essential. But the problem always remains his own strategy. Supporting, feeding and weaponizing an army of ISIS/Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Uighur/Caucasian jihadi proxies is not exactly a sound business strategy.

Erdogan seems to be everywhere – Libya, Azerbaijan, the Turkish-northwest Syrian border. Strategists in Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Islamabad of course are asking questions: what for, exactly?

There’s no realistic geoeconomic scenario for him to bypass Russia. He may use Azerbaijan as a sort of de luxe messenger between Turkey and Israel – and perhaps, subsequently, profit from Israel’s courtship of Persian Gulf monarchies. After all, as far as allies in the Arab world are concerned, the only player he can really count on is Qatar. Follow the money: Doha by itself won’t finance an economic boom in Turkey.

Let a million trade corridors bloom

Silly rumors about the demise of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are greatly exaggerated – considering they are a sub-section of American propaganda. CPEC is a complex, very long-term project whose implementation, according to the Chinese timetable, has not even started.

What Islamabad must be aware of is how much sexier, in comparison, is Tehran, when seen with Beijing’s eyes. Pakistan counts mostly on Imran Khan’s efforts. Iran has a wealth of oil, gas, gold and an array of crucial minerals. As India famously shot itself in the back – once again – by de facto abdicating from investing in Chabahar port in Iran, China stepped in. The $400 billion China-Iran deal is way more comprehensive than CPEC, at roughly $64 billion.

Back on the road, the good news is Iran-Pakistan seem to be focused on increasing connectivity. It boggles the mind that until recently there was only one crossing along their 900 km border. Finally they decided to open two more border gateways.

This is hugely important, because the first gateway is in ultra-sensitive Sistan-Balochistan province – constantly susceptible to Salafi-jihadi infiltrators – and only 70 km away from strategic Gwadar port.

As far as tourism goes – what the Chinese describe as “people to people exchange” – that’s an extra dimension, because Pakistanis can now easily cross the border, reach Chabahar, and then go by train to Iran’s holy sites Najaf and Karbala.

Finally, there’s the all-important Russian factor – which always commands Erdogan’s undivided attention.

Arguably Moscow’s top strategic priority is to decouple the EU from any US/NATO-imposed Dr. Strangelove impulses. So a EU trade alliance with Beijing – now in progress, via their investment treaty – cannot but be a win-win, as it spells out closer European integration with the Eurasian century, driven by China but with Russia, crucially, positioned as the premier security provider.

And as President Putin once again made it clear in his year end’s vows, BRI and the EAEU are increasingly merging.

Quite a few readers have noted that Russia has now achieved the tripartite capacity that Kissinger once declared essential for US strategic leadership: mastery of weapons exports; control of energy flows; and agriculture exports. Not to mention diplomatic finesse – widely respected all across Eurasia and the Global South.

Meanwhile, Eurasia goes with the flow: let a million trade corridors – Trans-Siberian, BTK, ITI/ECO – bloom.

Turkey pivots to the center of The New Great Game

Turkey pivots to the center of The New Great Game

December 28, 2020

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

When it comes to sowing – and profiting – from division, Erdogan’s Turkey is quite the superstar.

Under the delightfully named Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the Trump administration duly slapped sanctions on Ankara for daring to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems. The sanctions focused on Turkey’s defence procurement agency, the SSB.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s response was swift: Ankara won’t back down – and it is in fact mulling how to respond.

The European poodles inevitably had to provide the follow-up. So after the proverbial, interminable debate in Brussels, they settled for “limited” sanctions – adding a further list for a summit in March 2021. Yet these sanctions actually focus on as-yet unidentified individuals involved in offshore drilling in Cyprus and Greece. They have nothing to do with S-400s.

What the EU has come up with is in fact a very ambitious, global human-rights sanctions regime modeled after the US’s Magnitsky Act. That implies travel bans and asset freezes of people unilaterally considered responsible for genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings and crimes against humanity.

Turkey, in this case, is just a guinea pig. The EU always hesitates mightily when it comes to sanctioning a NATO member. What the Eurocrats in Brussels really want is an extra, powerful tool to harass mostly China and Russia.

Our jihadis, sorry, “moderate rebels”

What’s fascinating is that Ankara under Erdogan always seems to be exhibiting a sort of “devil may care” attitude.

Take the seemingly insoluble situation in the Idlib cauldron in northwest Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra – a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria – honchos are now involved in “secret” negotiations with Turkish-backed armed gangs, such as Ahrar al-Sharqiya, right in front of Turkish officials. The objective: to boost the number of jihadis concentrated in certain key areas. The bottom line: a large number of these will come from Jabhat al-Nusra.

So Ankara for all practical purposes remains fully behind hardcore jihadis in northwest Syria – disguised under the “innocent” brand Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Ankara has absolutely no interest in letting these people disappear. Moscow, of course, is fully aware of these shenanigans, but wily Kremlin and Defence Ministry strategists prefer to let it roll for the time being, assuming the Astana process shared by Russia, Iran and Turkey can be somewhat fruitful.

Erdogan, at the same time, masterfully plays the impression that he’s totally involved in pivoting towards Moscow. He’s effusive that “his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin” supports the idea – initially tabled by Azerbaijan – of a regional security platform uniting Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Erdogan even said that if Yerevan is part of this mechanism, “a new page may be opened” in so far intractable Turkey-Armenia relations.

It will help, of course, that even under Putin pre-eminence, Erdogan will have a very important seat at the table of this putative security organization.

The Big Picture is even more fascinating – because it lays out various aspects of Putin’s Eurasia balancing strategy, which involves as main players Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the assassination of Gen Soleimani, Tehran is far from cowed and “isolated”. For all practical purposes, it is slowly but surely forcing the US out of Iraq. Iran’s diplomatic and military links to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon remain solid.

And with less US troops in Afghanistan, the fact is Iran for the first time since the “axis of evil” era will be less surrounded by the Pentagon. Both Russia and China – the key nodes of Eurasia integration – fully approve it.

Of course the Iranian rial has collapsed against the US dollar, and oil income has fallen from over $100 billion a year to something like $7 billion. But non-oil exports are going well over $30 billion a year.

All is about to change for the better. Iran is building an ultra-strategic pipeline from the eastern part of the Persian Gulf to the port of Jask in the Gulf of Oman – bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, and ready to export up to 1 million barrels of oil a day. China will be the top customer.

President Rouhani said the pipeline will be ready by the summer of 2021, adding that Iran plans to be selling over 2.3 million barrels of oil a day next year – with or without US sanctions alleviated by Biden-Harris.

Watch the Golden Ring

Iran is well linked to Turkey to the west and Central Asia to the east. An extra important element in the chessboard is the entrance of freight trains directly linking Turkey to China via Central Asia -bypassing Russia.

Earlier this month, the first freight train left Istanbul for a 8,693 km, 12-day trip, crossing below the Bosphorus via the brand new Marmary tunnel, inaugurated a year ago, then along the East-West Middle Corridor via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, across Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

In Turkey this is known as the Silk Railway. It was the BTK that reduced freight transport from Turkey to China from one month to only 12 days. The whole route from East Asia to Western Europe can now be travelled in only 18 days. BTK is the key node of the so-called Middle Corridor from Beijing to London and the Iron Silk Road from Kazakhstan to Turkey.

All of the above totally fits the EU’s agenda – especially Germany’s: implementing a strategic trade corridor linking the EU to China, bypassing Russia.

This would eventually lead to one of the key alliances to be consolidated in the Raging Twenties: Berlin-Beijing.

To speed up this putative alliance, the talk in Brussels is that Eurocrats would profit from Turkmen nationalism, pan-Turkism and the recent entente cordiale between Erdogan and Xi when it comes to the Uighurs. But there’s a problem: many a turcophone tribe prefers an alliance with Russia.

Moreover, Russia is inescapable when it comes to other corridors. Take, for instance, a flow of Japanese goods going to Vladivostok and then via the Trans-Siberian to Moscow and onwards to the EU.

The bypass-Russia EU strategy was not exactly a hit in Armenia-Azerbaijan: what we had was a relative Turkey retreat and a de facto Russian victory, with Moscow reinforcing its military position in the Caucasus.

Enter an even more interesting gambit: the Azerbaijan-Pakistan strategic partnership, now on overdrive in trade, defence, energy, science and technology, and agriculture. Islamabad, incidentally, supported Baku on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both Azerbaijan and Pakistan have very good relations with Turkey: a matter of very complex, interlocking Turk-Persian cultural heritage.

And they may get even closer, with the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INTSC) increasingly connecting not only Islamabad to Baku but also both to Moscow.

Thus the extra dimension of the new security mechanism proposed by Baku uniting Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia: all the Top Four here want closer ties with Pakistan.

Analyst Andrew Korybko has neatly dubbed it the “Golden Ring” – a new dimension to Central Eurasian integration featuring Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the central Asian “stans”. So this all goes way beyond a possible Triple Entente: Berlin-Ankara-Beijing.

What’s certain as it stands is that the all-important Berlin-Moscow relationship is bound to remain as cold as ice. Norwegian analyst Glenn Diesen summed it all up: “The German-Russian partnership for Greater Europe was replaced with the Chinese-Russian partnership for Greater Eurasia”.

What’s also certain is that Erdogan, a master of pivoting, will find ways to simultaneously profit from both Germany and Russia.

The Iranian-Turkish Scandal Over Azerbaijan Is Just A Gigantic Misunderstanding

12 DECEMBER 2020

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

The Iranian-Turkish Scandal Over Azerbaijan Is Just A Gigantic Misunderstanding

President Erdogan’s recitation of a 19th-century Azeri nationalist poem during his attendance at Baku’s Victory Parade as his Azerbaijani counterpart’s guest of honor last week provoked harsh criticism from Iranian officials who regarded it as implying territorial claims on their country’s three northwestern provinces that form part of the historic Azerbaijan region (which also naturally includes the Republic of Azerbaijan), though the entire scandal is just a gigantic misunderstanding since it’s doubtful that the Turkish leader meant to convey any such intentions and simply wasn’t aware at the time of how negatively those words would be interpreted by the Iranian government.

The Aras River Poem

The Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership was rocked by a sudden scandal after Tehran strongly protested President Erdogan’s recitation of a 19th-century national Azeri nationalist poem during his attendance at Baku’s Victory Day parade as his Azerbaijani counterpart’s guest of honor last week. The controversial words that the Turkish leader uttered are as follows: “They separated the Aras River and filled it with rocks and rods. I will not be separated from you. They have separated us forcibly.” This poem has previously been used by some to imply territorial claims on Iran’s three northwestern provinces that form part of the historic Azerbaijan region, which was separated by the Aras River from what is nowadays the Republic of Azerbaijan (which forms the other half of that transnational region) as a result of Russian imperial conquests at the time.

Diplomatic Disagreements

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif swiftly responded on Twitter by writing that “Pres. Erdogan was not informed that what he ill-recited in Baku refers to the forcible separation of areas north of Aras from Iranian motherland. Didn’t he realize that he was undermining the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan? NO ONE can talk about OUR beloved Azerbaijan.” The Turkish Ambassador to Iran was then summoned to that country’s Foreign Ministry over President Erdogan’s comments, after which the Iranian Ambassador to Turkey was symmetrically summoned to that country’s Foreign Ministry to deny the allegations made against their leader and complain about Tehran tweeting about this misunderstanding instead of utilizing diplomatic channels to resolve it. The resultant scandal has predictably emboldened opponents of their strategic partnership to become more vocal.

The Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership

Objectively speaking, however, the entire issue seems to be a gigantic misunderstanding. It’s extremely unlikely that President Erdogan was aware of the negative historical connotation associated with that nationalist Azeri poem, exactly as Foreign Minister Zarif suggested, but at the same time, Tehran felt obligated to publicly oppose anything that can even remotely be misportrayed by those will ill intent as encouraging Azeri separatism in northwestern Iran. Iran and Turkey are closer nowadays than at any time in recent memory as a result of their geostrategic convergence on several issues of common interest across the so-called “Greater Middle East” such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, and even Libya. It’s therefore unthinkable that President Erdogan would knowingly jeopardize this historic moment just to earn more applause during a parade in Baku.

Azerbaijan’s Regional Integration Proposal

It can’t be known for sure, but President Erdogan might have had his Azerbaijani counterpart’s visionary proposal for a regional integration platform in mind — which he likely would have been briefed about before his trip — when he made the decision to recite that poem during the parade. President Aliyev told reporters after his talks with President Erdogan shortly before the parade started that a new multilateral platform should be created in the region for all the relevant countries to join. The day after, President Erdogan told a Turkish TV channel that “Mr. Putin has a positive view on this idea”, which the Turkish leader also said could include Armenia, Georgia, and Iran as well. If this ambitious platform is successfully created, then the Aras River — among other borders — would naturally transform from a regional barrier into a bridge for regional integration.

Iranian Interests

There’s a pretty good chance that most — if not all — of the relevant countries will decide to join, with the only possible uncertainties between Armenia and Georgia, the first of which might still be sour about its nearly three-decade-long occupation force finally being kicked out of Nagorno-Karabakh while the latter might refuse to join any platform alongside Russia due to their dispute over the status of Abkahzia and South Ossetia (which Tbilisi claims as its own while Moscow recognizes both of them as independent). In any case, Iran has everything to gain by strengthening multilateral strategic relations with Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey, especially those with a security dimension such as thwarting any separatist plots of ultra-nationalist radicals in its northwestern provinces who might be influenced by hostile third parties like the US and “Israel”.

President Erdogan’s Optimistic Mindset

Having established the background context of President Erdogan’s controversial remarks, it therefore can’t be discounted that was simply assuming the future successful implementation of the regional integration proposal that President Aliyev had just publicly unveiled immediately prior to the military parade at which his guest of honor was invited to speak. In the Turkish leader’s mind, the nationalist aspirations embodied by that poem could finally be fulfilled through peaceful means as a result of creating a transnational community of peace and prosperity through closer regional integration between Azerbaijan and Iran alongside the other members such as Turkey, Russia, and possibly even Armenia and Georgia that could also join this initiative. Had he known how negatively Iran would have reacted to his words, however, then he might not have said them in hindsight.

Clarifying The Turkish Leader’s Comments

All that President Erdogan seemingly intended to convey was that the era of regional divisions has ended as a new era of regional integration emerges in its wake following Azerbaijan’s glorious military victory over Armenia. He certainly didn’t mean to imply that the Azerbaijan would set its sights on the historic Iranian region of the same name next, but just that the Aras River which has separated the transnational Azeri people for over one and a half centuries might soon transform from a regional barrier to a gateway for regional integration in the event that President Aliyev’s visionary proposal is successful. Having presumably been briefed about it ahead of time, he probably thought that his recitation of that nationalist Azeri poem would speak to the heartfelt aspirations of this divided people without realizing how negatively the Iranian state would react to it.

Hindsight Is 20/20

It’s for this reason that observers can remain optimistic about the prospects of the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership and the larger regional integration goals that their leaders share since both governments will probably realize just how gigantic of a misunderstanding this entire scandal really is after finally speaking to one another about it behind closed doors. President Erdogan likely only had positive intentions in mind, yet Tehran wanted to make sure that no one with ill intent exploited his words, hence its very harsh public reaction to them. In hindsight, perhaps President Erdogan shouldn’t have recited that nationalist poem, the same as Foreign Minister Zarif should have resorted to traditional diplomatic channels to resolve the misunderstanding instead of going public with it, yet neither state representative meant any harm by what they did.

A Sad Misunderstanding

It’s all simply a sad misunderstanding where one well-intended action unwittingly led to another. After President Erdogan recited the nationalist Azeri poem, the Iranian government felt compelled to publicly respond in order to make its displeasure known and preemptively thwart any potentially forthcoming Balkanization attempts by hostile third parties such as the US and “Israel”. It’s regrettable how everything turned out considering the original intent since this scandal has overshadowed President Aliyev’s visionary regional integration proposal. Moreover, the opponents of the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership in both countries and abroad have become more vocal over the past few days, which could set into motion a self-sustaining cycle of distrust among their friendly people if such views aren’t moderated as soon as possible.

Concluding Thoughts

Looking forward, it’s predicted that this scandal will soon pass and that the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership will emerge even stronger as a result, especially if both countries join Azerbaijan’s proposed regional integration platform alongside Russia and perhaps even Armenia and Georgia as well in the best-case scenario. As it stands, all sides should accept that this scandal is just a gigantic misunderstanding and realize in hindsight what they should have done better. Under no circumstances must they submit to the sudden pressure upon them to weaken their newfound strategic partnership since that would only ultimately end up playing into their geopolitical enemies’ hands. The larger region needs closer integration at this historic moment, not a return to the era of distrust and Balkanization plots, which both leaderships seem to understand very well.

TURKISH RISK INVESTMENTS IN LOCAL CONFLICTS AND PROSPECTS OF ARMENIAN COUNTER-OFFENSIVE IN KARABAKH

South Front

In early November, the Azerbaijani-Turkish advance in the directions of the Lachin corridor and the town of Shusha in the Nagorno-Karabakh region slowed down.

The main factors are the fierce resistance of Armenian forces, the complicated terrain, deteriorating weather conditions and overextended communications that run through recently captured territories, where Armenian sabotage units are still able to deliver regular attacks. 9 villages, the capturing of which Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced recently, are in fact located inside the territory captured by Azerbaijani forces earlier. This showcases the lack of progress of Baku’s forces in the recent battles.

Commenting on this situation, Armenian sources argue that right now Yerevan has been preparing a powerful counter-attack to push the Azerbaijanis out of the south of Karabakh. The only factor that allegedly stops Armenia from such a move right now is the commitment of the Armenians to the reached ceasefire agreements that Baku blatantly violates.

Meanwhile, the Armenian side continues to regularly release updates about the losses of Azerbaijan in the conflict. The Azerbaijani military allegedly lost 10 UAVs, 21 armoured vehicles, and 103 soldiers in recent clashes. While the high casualties of the sides are not a secret and widely confirmed by visual evidence regularly appearing from the ground, the claims that the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc somehow lost the strategic initiative in the war are at least overestimated. Azerbaijani artillery, combat drones and even warplanes still regularly pound fortified positions, manpower and military equipment of the defending forces. The Armenians do not have enough means and measures to protect its supply columns and manpower from regular and intense airstrikes.

As of November 3, Azerbaijani forces supported by the Turks and Turkish-backed Syrian militants are still deployed within striking distance of Lachin and Shusha. The loss of any of these points may mark the collapse of the entire Armenian defense in the area. Any large Armenian counter-attack, if it does not deliver a rapid and devastating blow to the Turkish-Azerbaijani forces, will likely not allow to achieve a strategic success. Instead, it will uncover the existing Armenian units and increase the number of casualties from air and artillery strikes. The dominance in the air also means an advantage in reconnaissance and target accusation. In these conditions, small regular counter-attacks mostly aimed at disturbing the advancing Azerbaijani-Turkish units, and undermining their efforts to secure the newly captured positions, look more likely. Despite the lack of notable Azerbaijani gains in recent days, the Armenian defense is still in crisis and, if Ankara and Baku succeed in securing communications and regrouping their forces, the new push towards the Lachin-Shusha-Stepanakert triangle seems to be inevitable.

The diplomatic attempts to de-escalate the conflict have so far led to little progress as Turkey and Azerbaijan feel themselves too close to the desired military victory. President Aliyev wants to write his name down in history as the leader that returned Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, while his Turkish counterpart Erdogan sees himself as the sultan of the New Ottoman Empire, pretending be the leader of the entire Turkic world and even wider – of all the muslims in the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia.

The entire Turkish foreign policy of previous years was a policy of aggressive advances, confrontations and raising bets. This led to particular diplomatic and economic problems on the international scene and undermined the Turkish national economy. However, it looks like the Turkish leadership believes that the potential revenue of turning the Neo-Ottoman and pan-Turkic declarations into a hard reality will generate revenue of such a scale that it would allow to compensate for existing tactical difficulties. Therefore, the Turkish-Azerbaijani stance towards the further confrontation in Karabakh is not something surprising.

——-

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الصراع بين موسكو وأنقرة يشتدّ.. ماذا بقي من تفاهمات؟

المصدر: الميادين

31 تشرين اول 23:07

بوتين لا يمكنه المضي بمسارات في القوقاز شبيهة بسوريا ونفذ صبره من ممارسات تركيا

تبدو العلاقة الروسية التركية وكأنها تتجه إلى التوتر في ظل صراع يشتد حول الأزمات المختلف عليها، بما في ذلك الأزمتان السورية والليبية. فهل ستطغى الخلافات على التفاهمات، وتتعمق الفجوة بين الجانبين؟

لروسيا وتركيا مصلحة في إقامة علاقة جيدة بينهما، وفي تجنب صدامٍ مباشر. لكنّ المصالح تتقاطع، فكلٌ يسعى إلى مزيد من النفوذ إقليمياً، وللدولتين موطئ قدم في سوريا وليبيا، أبرز بؤر التوتر، حيث الخلاف بينهما حول الأزمتين منذ سنوات.

في الأولى، يبدو الخلاف في تصاعد، حيث أن موسكو تضرب “فيلق الشام” المدعوم من أنقرة، فترسل بذلك رسالة مفادها أن الروس مستاؤون من تحركات تركيا إقليمياً. كأنما تريد روسيا بذلك أن تقول: “إن نقل المسلحين إلى القوقاز خط أحمر”. وفي ذلك أيضاً، تكثيف للضغوط على تركيا، لتقوم بسحب ثلاث نقاط مراقبة في جوار إدلب.

تركيا من جهتها، تعرب عن سخطها العميق، من تلك الغارة الروسية في إدلب، ورئيسها رجب طيب إردوغان يتهم موسكو في خطاب له، “بعدم الرغبة في السعي لتحقيق السلام في سوريا”.

الرئيس التركي من جهته لا يُبدي استعداداً لانسحاب قواته من إدلب وشمال سوريا، إلا بعد حلّ نهائي للأزمة. وثمّة شرط آخر هو طلب الشعب السوري ذلك، على حد تعبيره. فهل يتجه البلدان إلى وضع متأزم بينهما، كذاك الذي شهداه بعد إسقاط الأتراك مقاتلة روسية، أو ربما حتى أكثر تأزماً؟

قد يكون لنفاد صبر بوتين واندفاع إردوغان، ما يدفع في هذا الاتجاه. وللرئيس التركي ورقةٌ أخرى، هي النفوذ في ليبيا التي تمثل وجهاً آخر للصراع.

وفي سياق توتر العلاقات الروسية التركية، يأتي تراجع رئيس حكومة الوفاق الوطني الليبية فايز السراج عن استقالته من رئاسة الحكومة، ما قد يعيد الأزمة الليبية إلى الوراء، ويهدد بنسف جهود إيجاد حل سياسي.

كذلك، تتسع الفجوة بين الروس والأتراك، رغم حاجة الواحد منهما إلى الآخر، فكلاهما يبحث عن مكاسب تعزز مصالحه، وكلاهما يخشى على نفسه من تقزيم نفوذه.

محلي للميادين: صبر بوتين نفذ من ممارسات تركيا في سوريا

وعن توتر العلاقة الروسية التركية، رأى الخبير في الشؤون التركية حسني محلي في حديث للميادين، أن الرئيس الروسي لا يمكنه المضي بمسارات في القوقاز شبيهة بسوريا. ولفت إلى أن هناك قلق روسي جدي من الدور التركي المحتمل في القوقاز.

وفيما أشار إلى أن صبر بوتين نفد من ممارسات تركيا، إلا أن محلي أعرب عن اعتقاده بأن إردوغان لن يتراجع في سوريا، على الرغم من التفاهمات التي عقدها مع بوتين.

كذلك تساءل محلي: “ماذا فعلت موسكو أمام سيطرة أذربيجان على مساحات مهمة في ناغورنو كاراباخ بدعم تركي؟”. 

واعتبر أنه لا يمكن لتركيا أن تتخلى عن الولايات المتحدة خصوصاً في ظل الأزمة الاقتصادية التي تمر بها.

كما أشار محلي إلى أن واشنطن وبرلين ساهمتا في نجاح التفاهمات الليبية-الليبية.

أوغلو للميادين: القوقاز جبهة صراع بين موسكو وأنقرة

بدوره، رأى الكاتب والباحث في الشؤون السياسية التركية فراس أوغلو، في حديث للميادين أن هناك فرق واضح في القدرات العسكرية والاستراتيجية بين روسيا وتركيا.

وقال أوغلو، إن القوقاز هي جبهة صراع واضحة بين روسيا وتركيا لاعتبارات عديدة. واعتبر أنه بإمكان تركيا المناورة بين الجانبين الأميركي والروسي “وتبقى فائزة”، على حدّ تعبيره.

كما تناول أوغلو ما يجري بين أرمينيا وأذربيجان، ورأى أن الجو الاستراتيجي الآن يناسب أذربيجان لاستعادة أراضيها.

كما رأى أن أرمينيا تتحول إلى نقطة متقدمة لفرنسا وأميركا، “وهذا الأمر ترفضه روسيا وتركيا”، وفق أوغلو.

Russia and Turkey, Has Putin Lost Patience?

October 31, 2020 Arabi Souri

Putin and Erdogan: Syria, Libya, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Ukraine, Crimea

Putin and Assad have lost patience with Erdogan and the Turkish position in Syria that “was and is still the cause of all of Syria’s problems.”

The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

The American campaigns and harassment targeting Russia through Belarus and Kyrgyzstan and the war in Nagorno-Karabakh continue, which has a negative impact on Moscow’s internal security and its national economy. In this context, Vladimir Putin found himself compelled to be more firm and decisive in his dialogue with “friend and ally” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was evident in the contents of the phone call between them last Tuesday evening, as Putin expressed “his grave concern about the continued increasing involvement of terrorists” from the Middle East in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, “according to the Kremlin statement.

And the ‘Middle East’ here is a comprehensive term that Putin may have intended without specifically talking about Syria, after the information that began to talk about the transfer of Syrian and non-Syrian mercenaries from Libya and other places to Azerbaijan, which Tehran also expressed its concern about, with the talk of some Turkish national officials circles said that the Azeris should be incited inside Iran, on the pretext that they are of Turkish origin.

Putin’s warnings related to Syria’s developments acquire additional importance, given their timeliness, which came after a series of Turkish positions that bothered Moscow recently, as the information talked about pressure from President Erdogan on Fayez al-Sarraj and the armed factions that support him, to reject the US-German initiatives to stop the fighting and reach final reconciliation, which will mean the removal of the Turkish forces, experts and Syrian mercenaries loyal to Ankara from Libya.

This information also talked about Turkish pressure on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev not to accept any truce brokered by Russia, America, or Iran, unless Armenia and these countries agree to Turkey’s participation in the future course of the Karabakh crisis, as is the case in Syria and Libya.

Media circles in Moscow view Putin’s style as indicating “important indicators that prove his impatience, after he was finally convinced that Erdogan will not abide by any of his promises and pledges to him in Sochi on September 17, 2018, and in the Moscow agreement on March 5 about Idlib, “the latter has over the past period confronted all Russian pressure, strengthened his military presence in Idlib, prevented the Syrian army from approaching it, and increased his massive military aid to all armed factions in the region.

He also exploited his military presence, supported by tens of thousands of Syrian and foreign militants in Idlib and the western Euphrates in general, and he succeeded in convincing Putin to allow him to enter the east of the Euphrates as well. In more than one speech, Erdogan stressed that he would not withdraw from Idlib, and from northern Syria in general, except after the final solution to the Syrian crisis, on condition that the Syrian people ask him to do so.

In his speech to members of the parliamentary bloc of his party (Wednesday), Erdogan did not forget to condemn the Russian raids that targeted the training center of the Levant Legion (Faylaq Sham), saying, “Russia’s attack on a training center for the Syrian National Army in the Idlib region is a clear indication that it does not want lasting peace and stability in Syria.”

According to the preliminary data, the next few days suggest exciting developments in Russian-Turkish relations, which seem to have entered a new path after the air operation that targeted a training center for the militants of the Levant Legion (Faylaq Sham) loyal to Erdogan near the borders with Turkey, which adopts this faction and all the factions in the region. Turkey has mobilized additional forces with all heavy weapons to meet all possibilities, while Russian pressure continues to withdraw three Turkish observation points besieged by the Syrian army in the vicinity of Idlib “as soon as possible.”

180 Faylaq Al-Sham Terrorists Killed and Injured by a Russian Airstrike in Idlib

https://www.syrianews.cc/180-faylaq-al-sham-terrorists-killed-and-injured-by-a-russian-airstrike-in-idlib/embed/#?secret=3y0nAKnx57

It seems clear that Erdogan rejects such pressure after he was subjected to violent criticism from some armed factions, who accused him of “betrayal and abandoning their cause” after the withdrawal from Morek, which led to the fighting between the pro-Turkish factions.

He will also not accept such a situation, which some will consider the beginning of his defeat in Syria, with continued Russian pressure on him to resolve the Idlib issue and ensure the future of Russian-Turkish relations with all its important elements, which began with Erdogan’s apology from Putin on 27 June 2016 regarding the shooting down of the Russian plane on November 24, 2015, two months after the entry of Russian forces into Syria.

Some military circles do not hide the possibility of a new heated confrontation between the two parties in Syria after it has become clear that Putin will not rest anymore with Erdogan’s policies in the Caucasus, which are much more dangerous for Russia, which borders the Islamic autonomous republics and which borders Azerbaijan. And Putin said in his recent phone call about this region, “Turkey is transferring militants from the Middle East to it,” they may include Chechens and Uighurs, and they are many in Syria.

Here, the bet begins on President Putin’s practical possible position in the event that Erdogan continues in his current position rejecting his demands in Libya and Syria, and most importantly in the Caucasus, with the approaching date of the American elections with all the surprises awaiting the Turkish president, who will then think about a new formula in his regional and international moves, to help him in facing Russian and European pressures, after his crisis with President Macron, supported by European countries, especially Germany, which does not hide its annoyance over Erdogan’s efforts to obstruct its initiative with Washington and the United Nations in Libya, which may require the latter to return to the American embrace, to confront all these harassments, which he seems indifferent to because he believes that he has more bargaining chips in his challenges with everyone, especially Russia, the historical and traditional enemy of the Ottoman and the Republic Turkey, a day after speaking to Putin, he affirmed his country’s determination to move forward with steady steps according to its own vision and agenda, regardless of what the other parties say and do.

This explains the pro-Erdogan media attack on Russia and Iran together, accusing them of supporting the Armenians against Turkey and Azerbaijan, which is what Erdogan talks about from time to time, in a traditional attempt to provoke the Turkish nationalism, Ottoman and religious feelings of the Turkish people.

He also seeks to mobilize the solidarity of all Islamists in the world with him, after he took a violent stand against the French President Macron regarding his hostility to Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Erdogan achieved such solidarity in the early years of the “Arab Spring”, as he declared himself the defender of Muslims against “Shiite” Iran and “infidel” Russia, and the Christian West, which was with him at that time and is now a sworn enemy of him.

Erdogan and Macron, Wait for more Escalation and Surprises

https://www.syrianews.cc/erdogan-and-macron-wait-for-more-escalation-and-surprises/embed/#?secret=joFH9NK4LM

European circles do not hide now their concern about Erdogan’s approach, and they see it as incitement to all Islamists, especially the extremists who live in Europe, which affects all Islamists in the world, including Russia, which has about 25 million Muslims of Turkish origin. They enjoy Ankara’s attention, covertly and overtly, as is the case with Erdogan’s support for the Muslim minority in the Crimean peninsula that was retaken by Russia, his repeated rejection of this, and his efforts to develop strategic military relations with Ukraine.

There is no doubt that this position disturbs Moscow, which has become clear that it is preparing for a new phase in its relations with Ankara, in the event that it continues its tactics that have become embarrassing to Putin in his relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has also lost his patience with the Turkish position that “was and is still the cause of all of Syria’s problems.”

Circles close to the Kremlin expect that Putin will wait for the appropriate opportunity to do an “important practical something” against all Turkish moves, interests, and calculations in Syria, as it is the arena of Russian-Turkish convergence since 2016, which President Erdogan has exploited so that this square will be a starting point for all his political, historical, strategical, and ideological projects, which had it not been for President Putin and the green light granted by him, he would not have been lucky in achieving any of his goals.

The bet remains on the red light that Putin may illuminate at any moment for Erdogan after his last yellow light (80 members of the Levant Legion were killed). And it has become clear that it will repeat itself more than once during the coming period, before Putin’s patience is completely exhausted, and he is convinced that Erdogan is in a position that does not help him with more maneuvers to obstruct the final solution to the Syrian crisis, a possibility that many are betting on as the Turkish president continues to challenge all of them, as long as he believes that he is stronger than everyone else, otherwise, he would not have ruled Turkey for 18 years, despite all his enemies abroad, as he got rid of all his enemies at home, after he succeeded in changing the political system (after the failed coup attempt in July 2016), he controlled all state facilities and apparatus and became the absolute ruler of the country, and his media says that the world fears him!

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هل أسقط أردوغان سياساته التنسيقيّة مع الروس والإيرانيّين؟

 د.وفيق إبراهيم

اقتربت سياسات تركيا التوسعية من إصابة مصالح روسيا وإيران في أكثر من مدى. وتتوجّه الى التسبب بأذى داخلي لهما في علاقتيهما ببعض أقلياتها الدينية والقومية.

هذا يؤدي فوراً الى تصدّع التنسيق المعتمد بين البلدان الثلاثة انطلاقاً من ميادين سورية. وهو تنسيق كان يتطوّر لإدارة الازمة السورية دافعاً نحو ايجاد حلول عميقة لها.

بذلك يضع الرئيس التركي أردوغان بلاده في مواجهات قوية مع روسيا وإيران، ليس في الساحة السورية فقط، بل يتمدّد حكماً نحو ناغورني قره باغ بين ارمينيا واذربيجان وقد يتطور نحو آسيا الوسطى والقوقاز وأذربيجان الايرانية.

فهناك من يعتقد ان الاتراك يعملون لإعادة احياء الدولة العثمانية وذلك عبر اثارة العصبية التركمانية في الجزء الإيراني من اذربيجان واذربيجان المستقلة وذوي الأصول العثمانية التركية، في القوقاز ودول آسيا الوسطى وبعض جمهوريات الداخل الروسي، وأقلية الايغور الصينية، هذا دون نسيان بعض السوريين والعراقيين والليبيين من اصول تركمانية ايضاً.

فيبدو ان السياسة التركية الحالية تبذل جهوداً واسعة لتعبئة تراجعات النفوذ الاميركي وتسعى لحيازة دور أكبر مما تؤديه عادة الدول الاقليمية.

فهل نسي أردوغان أن للأميركيين والحلف الاطلسي قواعد عسكرية ونووية في بلاده؟ وهذه ليست من صفات الدول العظمى؟ وهل نسي ايضاً ان روسيا دولة عظمى يفصله عنها البحر الأسود، وايران دولة اقليمية لديها تحالفات عميقة في الشرق الاوسط والعالم الاسلامي؟

كان بإمكان الروسي والإيرانيين الاكتفاء بأسلوب المناوشات لو بقي الجشع التركي عند حدود البلاغة الخطابية العثمانية، لكنه اصبح يمتلك دوراً عسكرياً واسعاً في ناغورني قره باغ وأذربيجان «باكو» وآليات ثقافية واسعة مع اعلام دقيق يتوجه لاستثارة التركمان في اذربيجان الايرانية وآسيا الوسطى وبعض جمهوريات روسيا، متوجهاً اليها بما يشبه الدعوة الى التحرر من الاحتلالين الروسي والايراني، كما تقول الدعاية العثمانية.

ان هذا الانسداد في العلاقات بين روسيا وايران وتركيا، ظهر بوضوح في حركتين متتابعتين: الاولى القصف الجوي الروسي بالتنسيق مع الجيش السوري على موقع لفيلق الشام في منطقة الدويلة في ريف إدلب السورية المحتلة قتل ثمانين إرهابياً وجرح المئات.

والمعروف هنا أن الجيش التركي يحتل هذه المنطقة ويعتبر منظمة فيلق الشام الارهابية حركة عثمانية اخوانية صرفة تلعب دور إسناد للسياسات التركية من سورية الى ناغورني قره باغ وصولاً الى باكو اذربيجان.

هناك اذاً علاقات بنيوية بين السياسات التركية وفيلق الشام بما يكشف ان قصفه من قبل روسيا هو رسالة روسية علنية للسياسات العثمانية التركية، بضرورة تنفيسها لمرض التاريخ والرؤوس الحامية والعودة الى الالتزام بموازين القوى.

ماذا عن الحركة الثانية؟

تتسم السياسة الايرانية مع تركيا بمبدأ الواقعية السياسية الذي يعتبر الجوار الجغرافي بينهما ضرورة لمنطق الممكن من التسويات انطلاقاً من ان إيران مستهدفة من الاميركيين وحدودها البحرية مع الخليج والاحتلال الاميركي للعراق، الامر الذي يشجعها على تحسين العلاقات مع الاتراك، هذا ما يحدث في سورية من جهة وبتعاملها المتشابه مع الأقليات الكردية في المنطقة. يكفي ان حدود البلدين لم تشهد أي توتر او صدام منذ نصف قرن تقريباً.

هذا لا يعني وجود حالة تحالفية بينهما، وانما ضرورات تنسيقية جغرافية من جهة ولوجود مكونات قومية متقاربة في البلدين، فإذا كان الاتراك يراهنون على توتير الاوضاع العرقية في اذربيجان الإيرانية ذات الجذور التركمانية فهناك نحو 15 مليون علوي تركي مع أعداد من الشيعة بالإمكان الاعتماد عليهم للجم العثمانية الطورانية.

هناك اذاً مشروع تركي لتصديع ايران وآسيا الوسطى عبر تحريك العصبيات التركمانية فيها، ما أدى الى تحريك قطعات عسكرية إيرانية نحو الحدود مع باكو اذربيجان بما يشبه إنذاراً أخيراً للأتراك وأقلياتهم التركية بأن الجمهورية الاسلامية لن تتردد من اللجوء الى الأسلوب العسكري لوقف محاولات تغير الخريطة السياسية للقوقاز وآسيا الوسطى وناغورني قره باغ.

كان هناك تعويل تركي على انتماء باكو اذربيجان التركمانية الى المذهب الشيعي بشكل يفرض على طهران تأييدها او الصمت في أسوأ الاحتمالات.

لكن إيران الخبيرة في الاساليب العثمانية استوعبت الموقف بسرعة وقرأته على انه محاولة لتجديد دولة بني عثمان على اساس العصبية التركمانية. وهذا يؤذي الجمهورية الاسلامية في تعدديتها القومية ودورها السياسي الإقليمي.

وهذا ما استشعر به الروس الذين لاحظوا ميلاً تركياً لدفع باكو أذربيجان الى خرق كل وقف لإطلاق النار مع الأرمن مع مواصلة الحرب وسط خطاب تركي عنصري، يحاول تصوير المعركة أنها بين تركمان وأرمن من جهة وبين مسيحيين ومسلمين من جهة ثانية.

لذلك يحاول أردوغان تقديم بلاده على انها نصيرة الإسلام في وجه الرئيس الفرنسي ماكرون الذي أساء إليه واي محاولة اخرى.

هناك انعكاس سريع مرتقب للتدهور بين الروس والإيرانيين وبين الأتراك في ميادين سورية. وهذا يهدّد التنسيق القائم بينهم والمستمر منذ أربع سنوات تقريباً.

فهل سقط هذا التنسيق الثلاثي أو أنه في الطريق التدريجي اليه؟

لم يعد لدى الاتراك إلا العودة الى اتفاق آستانا وإلغاء الورم التاريخي الذي ينتابهم على قاعدة الانسحاب من إدلب مع منظماتهم الارهابية، او الاستمرار في أساليب المراوغة وهذه تدفع بدورها نحو دور روسي حربي عميق مع الجيش العربي السوري ينفذ خطة القضاء التدريجية على كامل المنظمات الإرهابية من إدلب وعفرين.

يبدو أن الاتراك يترقبون عودة أميركية بعد الانتخابات الرئاسية تدعمهم في سياساتهم التركمانية، اما اذا لم تتم هذه العودة فإن تركيا في طريقها للتراجع عن مشاريعها في القوقاز واذربيجان على اساس الاكتفاء فقط بمطامعها في البحر المتوسط والسعي الى اقتطاع ادوار عبر الروس في سورية والاميركيين في العراق.

AZERBAIJAN IS IN ANGER. ARMENIANS OPEN FIRE AT ITS TROOPS PEACEFULLY ADVANCING IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH

South Front

Azerbaijan Is In Anger. Armenians Open Fire At Its Troops Peacefully  Advancing In Nagorno-Karabakh: izwest — LiveJournal
Video Here

The US-brokered humanitarian ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh collapsed immediately after its start on the morning of October 26. Clashes between the sides did not stop even for a minute and Yerevan and Baku immediately accused each other of sabotaging the peace efforts.

As of the evening of October 26, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan officially stated that the US-brokered ceasefire failed, while Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that “the mediators must either achieve the withdrawal of occupying forces, or move away from the path of Baku”. It seems that the estimation of the Karabakh conflict as an ‘easy case’ by US President Donald Trump did not stand the test of reality.

In a separate statement, the Azerbaijani President said that Turkish F-16 jets, which are deployed in Azerbaijan (just a few days ago the top leadership of Turkey and Azerbaijan was denying this) will be employed to protect his country in response to any act of ‘foreign aggression’. It is interesting to look how the official narrative of Azerbaijan and Turkey has been shifting from claims about Turkish non-involvement in the war to admitting the direct military participation of Ankara in the military escalation. The town of Qubadli and nearby villages were also captured by Azerbaijan as its media and diplomats were blaming Armenians for ceasefire violations.

Apparently, the coward Armenian forces violate the ceasefire regime by attacking the peacefully advancing Azerbaijani troops. The setbacks in the south of Karabakh was confirmed by the Armenian Defense Ministry, but insisted that the situation is still under full control. If this is under full control, it’s hard to imagine how the Armenian side sees the variant of the situation when all is not under control.

During the past days, the Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc continued its advance towards the Lachin corridor, a strategic area where the shortest route between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is located. According to reports, after the recent gains Azerbaijani troops are now about 10-12km from the area. Azerbaijani forces are now working to secure their recent gains and establish strong points there. After this, they will likely establish fire control over the route thus undermining the Armenian ability to send supplies to Karabakh. Then, the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc will likely push towards Stepanakert.

Armenian sources ease the retreats with regular statements about the losses of Azerbaijan accompanied by videos and photos from the ground. For example, on October 26, the Armenian Defense Ministry released a new report claiming that Azerbaijan lost 6,674 troops, 600 armoured vehicles, 6 rocket launchers, 24 planes, 16 helicopters and 220 UAVs since the start of the conflict. While the numbers provided by both sides are expectedly overestimated, the evidence demonstrates that Azerbaijani forces in fact suffered notable casualties in their advance on Karabakh. The problem for Yerevan is that Armenian forces experienced losses of similar or even higher scale.

Members of Turkish-backed militant groups that remain in Syria and are yet to move to some conflict zone to die for Erdogan’s Neo-Ottoman dream also suffer hard times. At least 78 Turkish-backed militants were killed and over 100 others were injured in a recent series of Russian airstrikes on their training camps and HQs in the Syrian region of Idlib. The main strikes targeted a former air defense base of the Syrian Army near Al-Duvayla. This area is controlled by Turkish-backed militants and the former military base itself is currently a training camp for members of Faylaq ash-Sham. Syrian sources link the increased number of Russian strikes on Turkish proxies in Syria with their deployment to the Nagorno-Karabakh combat zone to support Azerbaijan.

Russia sees the increase of the presence of radical militant groups there as an unacceptable scenario. It is likely that this lies behind the recent decrease of reports and evidence on the deployment of Turkish proxies from Syria to Karabakh. The Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc estimate the risks and prefers to avoid the situation of the involvement of some third power in the conflict on the side of the Armenians.

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قراءة في الموقف الروسي: مقابلة سيرغي لافروف

زياد حافظ

إذا كان قرار الصين على لسان رئيسها بأنّ الصين ستردّ على الاستفزازات الأميركية قراراً لافتاً للنظر وخارجاً عن مألوف الدبلوماسية الصينية التقليدية الهادئة، فإنّ أهمية التصريح لا تكمن فقط في أنه صادر عن قوّة عظمى وعظيمة في آن واحد، بل لأنه يعبّر عن موقف لمحور أصبح يملأ الفراغ الدولي الذي يسبّبه التراجع الاستراتيجي للغرب، بشكل عام، وللولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص. والأهمّ من كلّ ذلك هو سقوط نظرية ملكية الولايات المتحدة لأوراق اللعبة بنسبة 99 في المئة. وما يعزّز ذلك التحوّل هو ما أتى به وزير خارجية الاتحاد الروسي سيرغي لافروف في مقابلة طويلة ومثيرة لراديو «سبوتنيك» منذ بضعة أيام شرح فيها بصراحة موقف روسيا من كافة القضايا الساخنة في العالم.

من يطلّع على نصّ المقابلة يشعر بأنّ العالم في موقع جديد وأنّ «الفعل» أصبح خارج إطار التحكّم للغرب وللولايات المتحدة حيث أصبحوا في موقع «ردّ الفعل». وما يميّز المقابلة تواضع اللهجة في إبراز عمق الرؤية الروسية للعالم ومرتكزاتها. فهناك مزيج من المرتكزات المبدئية والواقعية الذرائعية، أيّ البراغماتية، في المقاربة الروسية للعالم. فهي تعلن بوضوح أنّ روسيا مهتمّة بالعالم، بمقدار ما يحفظ ذلك الاهتمام مصالح روسيا ومكانتها. وحرص الوزير الروسي على التأكيد أنّ الأولوية هي حماية النفوذ الروسي في دول جوارها. هذا يستدعي مقاربة للمواقف الغربية بشكل عام والولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص. قد يكون الأمر بديهياً لولا التركيز على مبادئ في أسس التعاطي الروسي في مختلف الملفّات كالقانون الدولي، ما يدلّ على أنّ مصالحها ليست بالضرورة متناقضة مع مصالح العالم. ففي رأينا لا تعتمد روسيا، ومعها الصين، قاعدة اللعبة الصفرية حيث ربح فريق هو خسارة للفريق الآخر، بينما الولايات المتحدة والغرب عموماً لا يستطيعان التعاطي إلاّ على القاعدة الصفرية، فطبيعة الغرب طبيعة عدوانية بامتياز ولم يبنِ رخاءه إلاّ عبر العدوان والتوسّع واستعباد الشعوب، لكنّ تاريخهما الاستعماري والهيمنة الشمولية وضعتهما في حالة إنكار للتحوّلات في العالم. فبدلاً من الإقرار بتلك التحوّلات، يعمد الغرب والولايات المتحدة إلى الهروب إلى الأمام والإمعان في المغامرات غير المحسوبة. لذلك فإنّ الغرب بقيادة الولايات يعتبر أنّ مصالحه هي أولاً وأخيراً الهيمنة، بينما الرؤية الروسية هي التعاون عبر الندّية والاحترام المتبادل. لذلك تخلّلت المقابلة مع الوزير الروسي عبارات كالاحترام المتبادل والكرامة والإقرار بمصالح الآخرين ومفاهيم غير مألوفة في التعاطي الغربي الذي لا يتورّع عن إعلان استعلائه وعنجهيته و«تفوّق قيمه». والرؤية الروسية تعطي أولوية للقانون الدولي ومؤسساته التنفيذية كقرارات مجلس الأمن، بينما الولايات المتحدة والاتحاد الأوروبي يختبئان وراء عنوان فضفاض كـ»المجتمع الدولي» أو التحالفات المتعدّدة الأطراف في المغامرات العسكرية دون الارتكاز إلى القانون الدولي.

ففي العديد من الملفّات التي طرحها الصحافيون حول ما يمكن أن يكون الردّ الروسي في عدد من الملفّات كملف سيل الشمال 1 و2 الذي يوصل الغاز الروسي إلى دول الاتحاد الأوروبي والابتزاز الذي تقوم به بعض الدول تجاه روسيا. من ضمن الإجابات كان ردّه أنه آن الأوان أن لا تهتمّ روسيا بما في أحكام الغرب على سلوكها. بمعنى آخر، لم تعد روسيا ساعية إلى الحصول على «رضى» الغرب كما كان في السابق! هذا الموقف يتكامل مع الموقف الصيني الذي أشرنا إليه في مقدمّة هذه المقاربة أيّ أنّ الصين لن تقف مكتوفة الأيدي أمام الاستفزازات الأميركية، ما يدلّ على أنّ المحور دخل في فرض الندّية بالتعامل مع الغرب.

قد يكون من المفيد الاطّلاع على الرؤية الروسية لعدد من الملفّات الساخنة، وإن تباينت درجات السخونة فيها. بالنسبة إلى روسيا، كما جاء في الحوار، فإنّ العلاقات مع أوروبا والولايات المتحدة أخذت حيّزاً كبيراً، سواء بسبب عدد الأسئلة الموجّهة في هذا الموضوع أو في إسهاب الوزير الروسي في الردّ عليها. هذا يدلّ على أنّ الغرب ما زال يشكّل موضع اهتمام رئيسي للقيادة الروسية وإن كان أسلوب التعاطي الروسي مختلفاً كلّياً عن الأسلوب الأوروبي أو الأميركي. لكنّ هناك منعطفاً في التعاطي، حيث التساهل لم يعد قائماً، وفقاً للموقف المستجّد عند القيادة الروسية.

لم تكن العلاقة مع الولايات المتحدة مدخل الحديث مع وزير الخارجية بل الوضع في ناغورنو كاراباخ، حيث شرح الوزير الروسي دور الرئيس بوتين في المفاوضات ودور وزير الدفاع شويغو. لم يُبدِ أيّ قلق حيال التوتر في ما يمكن اعتباره الحديقة الجنوبية لروسيا ودور الأميركيين فيه، حيث اعتبر أنّ الأميركيين قد يساهمون في الحلّ عبر انسحابهم من المنطقة! شرح كيف تمّ الوصول إلى وقف إطلاق النار والآليات لتثبيته. كما أكّد أنّ احتمالات الحلّ السياسي موجودة وأنه في آخر المطاف لا بديل عن ذلك. الدبلوماسية الروسية معطوفة على موقف عسكري واضح وحازم ساهم في إجبار الطرفين، الأذري والأرمني على وقف إطلاق النار، ما يعزّز الدور الإقليمي لروسيا رغم الانتكاسات بسبب التدخّلات الأميركية والتركية.

وبالتالي يعرض لافروف رؤيته للعلاقة مع تركيا، فهذه العلاقة لا يصفها بالتحالف الاستراتيجي بل بالشراكة الاستراتيجية في عدد من القطاعات فقط. وهذا التوصيف الدقيق للعلاقة يكشف وجود تباينات عميقة في عدد من الملفّات الاستراتيجية كموضوع ناغورنو كاراباخ، وسورية وقبرص حيث اعتبر الدور التركي دوراً سلبياً زاد من تعقيدات الموقف المعقّد أصلاً.

في المقابل، يقرّ لافروف بأنّ لتركيا مصالح متعدّدة ومشروعة، بينما لا يقرّ بمصالح دول على بعد ألوف الكيلومترات كالولايات المتحدة، وفي ذلك إشارة إلى اهتمام تركيا بليبيا والخليج والبحر الأحمر. كما يقرّ بحق تركيا في موضوع جامع آيا صوفيا. لكن رغم كل ذلك، شدّد على أنّ تجنُّب الحرب أولوية في السياسة الخارجية الروسية وعدم اللجوء إليها إلاّ في حال العدوان، أي كدفاع عن النفس إلاّ أنه لفت الانتباه إلى أنّ الدبلوماسية الروسية تستند أيضاً إلى «رأي» وزير الدفاع شويغو لمن لا يفهم مغزى الموقف الروسي بالالتزام بالاتفاقات والقانون الدولي. هنا تتميّز روسيا عن السياسة الأميركية التي لجأت إلى سياسة الحرب الاستباقية لدرء أيّ تهديد على زعامتها في العالم وذلك منذ 2002، وفقاً للسياسة «الدفاعية» الشهيرة في أيلول/ سبتمبر من ذلك العام.

قراءتنا للموقف الروسي تجاه تركيا لم تتغير بعد الاطّلاع على مقابلة لافروف. فروسيا حريصة، في الحدّ الأدنى، على تحييد تركيا من دورها في الحلف الأطلسي وفي الحدّ الأقصى على إخراجها من ذلك الحلف. من هنا نفهم الإصرار على تفاهمات سوتشي وأستانا، رغم مناورات الرئيس التركي. فسياسة النفس الطويل والتقدّم تدريجياً هي التي تحرّك روسيا تجاه تركيا، ويساعدها في تلك الاستراتيجية سياسة الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران في ضرورة احتواء تركيا وتحييدها عن الحلف الأطلسي. هذا يعني في كثير من الأحيان غضّ النظر عن تخلّف تركيا في تنفيذ التزاماتها وتطعيم ذلك ببعض الإنذارات والإجراءات التي تعيد الرئيس التركي إلى السّير ضمن الخطوط المرسومة من قبل الحليفين الروسي والإيراني. هذا ما يحصل في الملف السوري وما يحصل في الملف الليبي ومؤخّراً في ملف ناغورنو كراباخ.

تطرّق الوزير الروسي إلى الدور الأميركي في عدد من القضايا، بدءاً من سورية، إلى ليبيا، إلى أوكرانيا، إلى «النزاع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني». فبالنسبة إلى سورية يرى لافروف أنّ الأساس في التحرّك الأميركي هو زعزعة قرار مجلس الأمن رقم 2254 الذي أكّد على وحدة الأراضي السورية، والأميركيون نشطوا على خلق دولة على الأراضي السورية عبر دعمهم للوحدات الكردية. ويعتبر الوزير الروسي أنّ التدخّل التركي في شمال سورية «أكثر مشروعية» من التدخّل الأميركي. فتركيا لها مخاوف واضحة على أمنها الحدودي. في المقابل ليس للوجود الأميركي في شرق الفرات ما يبرّر ذلك إلاّ البعد النفطي وضرورة «إضعاف تركيا ومن بعدها روسيا». كذلك هو الأمر في ليبيا حيث زعزعة مكانة تركيا تصيب مكانة روسيا، على حدّ قوله، مستنداً إلى التصريحات العلنية للمسؤولين الأميركيين. فبالنسبة إلى تركيا والولايات المتحدة هناك عامل النفط الذي يلعب دوراً كبيراً في الصراع القائم كما لتركيا وجهة نظر في الصراع العربي الصهيوني، خاصة في ما يتعلّق بمستقبل مدينة القدس. ويعتقد الوزير الروسي أنّ الموقف التركي من قضية القدس جزء من الصراع حول زعامة العالم الإسلامي. فتركيا تتنافس مع بلاد الحرمين وإندونيسيا التي هي أكبر الدول الإسلامية في عدد السكّان على تلك الزعامة. التنافس داخل العالم الإسلامي يأخذ طابع الحدّية رغم محاولات بعض الزعماء، مشيراً إلى مبادرة الملك عبد الله الثاني وإعلان عمان سنة 2004 حول وحدة المسلمين. فهذه الوحدة غير موجودة والتفاهم غير موجود داخل العالم الإسلامي.

أما في ما يتعلّق بالملفّ الفلسطيني، فموقف روسيا واضح ولم يتغيّر وهو يدعم حلّ الدولتين. وأثنى الوزير الروسي على جهود الكيان (المصطلح من عندنا!) لـ «تحسين العلاقة» مع دول الجوار، ولكن ليس على حساب حقوق الشعب الفلسطيني التي تؤكدها قرارات الأمم المتحدة 181. هذا الموقف يستدعي بعض الملاحظات. الملاحظة الأولى أنّ الموقف الروسي يتنافى مع موقف محور المقاومة. الملاحظة الثانية هي أنّ الحرب الكونية التي شُنّت على سورية سببها الرئيس دعم المقاومة التي تشّكل خطراً وجودياً على الكيان المحتلّ. الملاحظة الثالثة هي أنّ الحلّ السياسي في سورية لا يمكن أن ينفصل عن حلّ القضية الفلسطينية، وبما أنه لا أفق جاداً لذلك الحلّ غير ما تعمل عليه المقاومة في فلسطين ولبنان، فهناك معضلة روسية لا نرى كيف يمكن تجاوزها بالنسبة إلى الحلّ السياسي المقترح روسياً لسورية. لا نملك الإجابة على ذلك ولكن نعتقد أنّ هذا الموضوع يستوجب البحث في العمق من قبل قيادات محور المقاومة. أما على الصعيد الداخلي السوري، فلا نستطيع أن نتكلّم نيابة عن الشعب السوري وقيادته في ما يتعلّق بالمقترحات الروسية. لكنّ كل ذلك لا ينفي طبيعة العلاقة الاستراتيجية بين سورية وروسيا التي تستطيع أن تتجاوز المعضلات، وإن كان بعضها أقرب للاستعصاء، كالموقف من الحل للقضية الفلسطينية. ففلسطين قضية داخلية في كلّ الأقطار العربية وفي طليعتها سورية وحتى في دول الخليج التي يحاول بعض قادتها تغيير الأولويات. فلا أحد يستطيع أن يقفز فوقها كما أنّ مقترح «حلّ الدولتين» أصبح في خبر كان بسبب تعنُّت قيادات وقاعدة الكيان الصهيوني المحتلّ. لكن ماذا سيكون الموقف إذا ما تدهور الوضع الداخلي في الكيان الصهيوني؟ عندئذ سيكون في رأينا لكلّ حادث حديث!

تناولت المقابلة مواضيع عدة كمفهوم الإمبراطورية والعلاقات الثنائية مع عدد من الدول. فهذه العلاقات يحكمها احترام المصالح والندّية والابتعاد عن قاعدة اللعبة الصفرية. كما أكّد الوزير الروسي أكثر من مرّة في المقابلة على تمسّك روسيا بالقانون الدولي. ففي ردّ على سؤال صريح حول جدوى ذلك التمسّك بالقانون الدولي الذي لا تحترمه الولايات المتحدة، أجاب أنّ الفوضى والدمار يصبحان سيّدي الموقف. كما تناول قضية إعادة كتابة التاريخ، خاصة تاريخ الحرب العالمية الثانية التي يعمل عليها قادة الدول الغربية، بدءاً من الولايات المتحدة مروراً بفرنسا (عدم دعوة الرئيس الروسي إلى احتفالات الإنزال للقوى الحليفة 2019 دليل مثال على ذلك) وكأنّ المنتصرة في الحرب في المسرح الأوروبي كانت الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا وفرنسا فقط، بينما الذي دفع الثمن الأكبر في الأرواح وتحمّل عبء المعارك العسكرية الطاحنة كان الاتحاد السوفياتي. هذه مسألة في غاية الحساسية عند الرئيس الروسي الذي تكلّم في مواقع كثيرة عن التزوير القائم في إعادة كتابة تاريخ الحرب العالمية الثانية. والمقابلة مع الوزير الروسي لم تخلُ من مقاربة ذلك الموضوع.

في الجزء الأخير من المقابلة، تناول الوزير الروسي العلاقات مع الولايات المتحدة. فقال إنّ العلاقة ستزداد سوءاً بغضّ النظر عمن سيربح الانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية. واستشهد بمقال كتبه المخرج السينمائي سميون سليباكوف حيث اعتبر أنّ «أميركا لا تحبّنا». وندّد بالتدخّل الأميركي والغربي بشكل عام في الشؤون الداخلية الروسية عندما يلتقون ويشجّعون المعارضة الداخلية. لذلك قرّرت روسيا اللقاء مع المعارضة لكافة دول الغرب التي تتدخّل في الشأن الروسي كلقاء مع مارين لوبان المعارضة للرئيس الفرنسي ماكرون. كما اعتبر أنّ الخلاف الصيني الأميركي ليس فرصة للتقرّب من الولايات المتحدة كما يعتقد البعض، بل العكس فإنّ أيّ ابتعاد لن يكون لمصلحة روسيا. المسألة التي تهمّ روسيا في العلاقة مع الولايات المتحدة في المرحلة الراهنة هي الوصول إلى اتفاق حول الأسلحة الاستراتيجية. يعتبر الوزير الروسي أنّ الالتزام الأميركي بالحدّ من إنتاج أسلحة استراتيجية قد انتهى عملياً. الأميركيون يريدون فقط الحدّ من وسائل إيصال الأسلحة النووية إلى أهدافها أي الصواريخ والغوّاصات والطائرات إلخ. ويضيف أنّ الأميركيين يريدون فقط تعداد الترسانة وليس الحدّ منها كما أنّ المطلب الروسي هو سحب السلاح التكتيكي النووي من دول الجوار. واتهم الولايات المتحدة بخرق الاتفاقات عبر توريط دول الحلف الأطلسي في مناورات عسكرية نووية خلافاً للمعاهدات المعقودة. ويضيف أنّ الأميركيين يريدون العودة إلى آليات التحقّق التي وُضعت في مطلع التسعينات والتي اعتبرها مذلّة وخلص إلى أنّ الشروط الأميركية لن يوافقوا عليها مطلقاً.

وأخيراً، في ما يتعلّق بالصين، أكّد الوزير الروسي مواقف سابقة وهي أنّ الصين لها أهداف اقتصادية تسعى إلى تحقيقها على صعيد القارة الآسيوية، وهي أهداف مشروعة وأنّ روسيا تشاركها في النهضة الاقتصادية التي تقوم بها الصين. لم يعتبر أنّ هناك طموحات هيمنة بل تعاون مع كلّ المشتركين.

في الخلاصة، عرض الوزير الروسي أسس العلاقات الدولية كما يجب أن تكون والتي ذكرناها في مطلع المقاربة. كما أكّد على ضرورة تجنّب الحرب مهما كلّف الأمر إلاّ في حال العدوان. فالسياسية الروسية العسكرية هي سياسة دفاعية عن الأرض الروسية، أوّلاً وأخيراً، وأيّ اعتداء أو محاولة اعتداء سيواجه بالحزم المطلوب. ذاكرة الحرب العالمية والكلفة الباهظة الذي تحمّلها الاتحاد السوفياتي تحكم سلوك القيادة الروسية وذلك يفسّر الحساسية الكبيرة لمحاولات الدول الغربية إعادة كتابة لتاريخ والتقليل من دور روسيا. كلام الوزير الروسي نابع من ثقة بالنفس وثقة بدور روسيا ولم يُبد قلقاً من المحاولات الأميركية لزعزعة الوضع في دول الجوار سواء في أوكرانيا أو في منطقة القوقاز. كما أبدى امتلاك سياسة النفس الطويل الذي يقارب الأمور بهدوء ويأخذ بعين الاعتبار مصالح الصديق والخصم، في آن واحد، وبالتالي يتجنّب ارتكاب أخطاء سوء التقدير.

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كاتب وباحث اقتصادي سياسي والأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

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More Pressure On Russia Will Have No Effect

20 years of Vladimir Putin in power: a timeline.

Source

October 17, 2020

Over the last years the U.S. and its EU puppies have ratcheted up their pressure on Russia. They seem to believe that they can compel Russia to follow their diktat. They can’t. But the illusion that Russia will finally snap, if only a few more sanctions ar applied or a few more houses in Russia’s neighborhood are set on fire, never goes away.

As Gilbert Doctorow describes the situation:

The fires burning at Russia’s borders in the Caucasus are an add-on to the disorder and conflict on its Western border in neighboring Belarus, where fuel is poured on daily by pyromaniacs at the head of the European Union acting surely in concert with Washington.

Yesterday we learned of the decision of the European Council to impose sanctions on President Lukashenko, a nearly unprecedented action when directed against the head of state of a sovereign nation.

It is easy enough to see that the real intent of the sanctions is to put pressure on the Kremlin, which is Lukashenko’s guarantor in power, to compound the several other measures being implemented simultaneously in the hope that Putin and his entourage will finally crack and submit to American global hegemony as Europe did long ago.

The anti-Russia full tilt ahead policy outlined above is going on against a background of the U.S. presidential electoral campaigns. The Democrats continue to try to depict Donald Trump as “Putin’s puppy,” as if the President has been kindly to his fellow autocrat while in office. Of course, under the dictates of the Democrat-controlled House and with the complicity of the anti-Russian staff in the State Department, in the Pentagon, American policy towards Russia over the entire period of Trump’s presidency has been one of never ending ratcheting up of military, informational, economic and other pressures in the hope that Vladimir Putin or his entourage would crack. Were it not for the nerves of steel of Mr. Putin and his close advisers, the irresponsible pressure policies outlined above could result in aggressive behavior and risk taking by Russia that would make the Cuban missile crisis look like child’s play.

The U.S. arms industry lobby, in form of the Atlantic Council, confirms the ‘western’ strategy Doctorow describes. It calls for ‘ramping up on Russia’ with even more sanctions:

Key to raising the costs to Russia is a more proactive transatlantic strategy for sanctions against the Russian economy and Putin’s power base, together with other steps to reduce Russian energy leverage and export revenue. A new NATO Russia policy should be pursued in tandem with the European Union (EU), which sets European sanctions policy and faces the same threats from Russian cyberattacks and disinformation. At a minimum, EU sanctions resulting from hostilities in Ukraine should be extended, like the Crimea sanctions, for one year rather than every six months. Better yet, allies and EU members should tighten sanctions further and extend them on an indefinite basis until Russia ends its aggression and takes concrete steps toward de-escalation.

It also wants Europe to pay for weapons in the Ukraine and Georgia:

A more dynamic NATO strategy for Russia should go hand in hand with a more proactive policy toward Ukraine and Georgia in the framework of an enhanced Black Sea strategy. The goal should be to boost both partners’ deterrence capacity and reduce Moscow’s ability to undermine their sovereignty even as NATO membership remains on the back burner for the time being.

As part of this expanded effort, European allies should do more to bolster Ukraine and Georgia’s ground, air, and naval capabilities, complementing the United States’ and Canada’s efforts that began in 2014.

The purpose of the whole campaign against Russia, explains the Atlantic Council author, is to subordinate it to U.S. demands:

Relations between the West and Moscow had begun to deteriorate even before Russia’s watershed invasion of Ukraine, driven principally by Moscow’s fear of the encroachment of Western values and their potential to undermine the Putin regime. With the possibility of a further sixteen years of Putin’s rule, most experts believe relations are likely to remain confrontational for years to come. They argue that the best the United States and its allies can do is manage this competition and discourage aggressive actions from Moscow. However, by pushing back against Russia more forcefully in the near and medium term, allies are more likely to eventually convince Moscow to return to compliance with the rules of the liberal international order and to mutually beneficial cooperation as envisaged under the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.

The ‘rules of the liberal international order’ are of course whatever the U.S. claims they are. They may change at any moment and without notice to whatever new rules are the most convenient for U.S. foreign policy.

But as Doctorow said above, Putin and his advisors stay calm and ignore such trash despite all the hostility expressed against them.

One of Putin’s close advisors is of course Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In a wide ranging interview with Russian radio stations he recently touched on many of the issues Doctorow also mentions. With regards to U.S. strategy towards Russia Lavrov diagnoses:

Sergey Lavrov: […] You mentioned in one of your previous questions that no matter what we do, the West will try to hobble and restrain us, and undermine our efforts in the economy, politics, and technology. These are all elements of one approach.

Question: Their national security strategy states that they will do so.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course it does, but it is articulated in a way that decent people can still let go unnoticed, but it is being implemented in a manner that is nothing short of outrageous.

Question: You, too, can articulate things in a way that is different from what you would really like to say, correct?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s the other way round. I can use the language I’m not usually using to get the point across. However, they clearly want to throw us off balance, and not only by direct attacks on Russia in all possible and conceivable spheres by way of unscrupulous competition, illegitimate sanctions and the like, but also by unbalancing the situation near our borders, thus preventing us from focusing on creative activities. Nevertheless, regardless of the human instincts and the temptations to respond in the same vein, I’m convinced that we must abide by international law.

Russia does not accept the fidgety ‘rules of the liberal international order’.  Russia sticks to the law which is, in my view, a much stronger position. Yes, international law often gets broken. But as Lavrov said elsewhere, one does not abandon traffic rules only because of road accidents.

Russia stays calm, no matter what outrageous nonsense the U.S. and EU come up with. It can do that because it knows that it not only has moral superiority by sticking to the law but it also has the capability to win a fight. At one point the interviewer even jokes about that:

Question: As we say, if you don’t listen to Lavrov, you will listen to [Defense Minister] Shoigu.

Sergey Lavrov: I did see a T-shirt with that on it. Yes, it’s about that.

Yes, it’s about that. Russia is militarily secure and the ‘west’ knows that. It is one reason for the anti-Russian frenzy. Russia does not need to bother with the unprecedented hostility coming from Brussels and Washington. It can ignore it while taking care of its interests.

As this is so obvious one must ask what the real reason for the anti-Russian pressure campaign is. What do those who argue for it foresee as its endpoint?

Posted by b on October 17, 2020 at 16:31 UTC | Permalink

Why Conflict in Caucasus Is Erdogan’s Revenge for Syria

Why Conflict in Caucasus Is Erdogan's Revenge for Syria - TheAltWorld

Finian Cunningham

October 17, 2020

Turkey’s outsize role in fueling the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is becoming more apparent. That’s why a peace deal will be hard to cut and indeed the conflict may blow up further into a protracted regional war. A war that could drag Russia into battling in the Caucasus on its southern periphery against NATO proxies.

In a phone call this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly backed Moscow’s efforts at mediating a ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Notwithstanding, Erdogan appeared to deliver an ultimatum to his Russian counterpart. He said that there must be a “permanent solution” to the decades-long territorial dispute.

Erdogan and his Azerbaijan ally have already made it clear that the only solution acceptable to them is for Armenian separatists to relinquish their claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey and Azerbaijan – bound by common Turkic culture – have long-called the Armenian-held enclave an illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territory since a border war ended in 1994.

When hostilities flared again last month on September 27 initial reports suggested the clashes were of a haphazard nature with both sides trading blame for starting the violence. However, it has since become clear that the actions taken on the Azeri side seem to have been a planned aggression with Turkey’s full support.

Following a previous deadly clash on July 12-13 involving about a dozen casualties among Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, there then proceeded massive military exercises in Azerbaijan involving 11,000 Turkish troops beginning on July 29. For nearly two weeks into August, the maneuvers deployed artillery, warplanes and air-defense units in what was evidently a major drive by Ankara and Baku to coordinate the armies from both countries to fulfill joint operations. Furthermore, reports indicated that Turkish forces, including F-16 fighter jets, remained in Azerbaijan following the unprecedented military drills.

Alongside the drills, there was also a dramatic increase in military arms sales from Turkey to Azerbaijan. According to Turkish export figures, there was a six-fold increase in weapons deals compared with the previous year, with most of the supply being delivered in the third quarter of 2020 between July and September. The armaments included drones and rocket launchers which have featured with such devastating impact since hostilities erupted on September 27.

A third factor suggesting planned aggression was the reported transport of mercenary fighters from Syria and Libya by Turkey to fight on the Azerbaijani side. Thousands of such militants belonging to jihadist brigades under the control of Turkey had arrived in the Azeri capital Baku before hostilities broke out on September 27. The logistics involved in organizing such a large-scale deployment can only mean long-term planning.

Armenian sources also claim that Azeri authorities had begun impounding civilian vehicles weeks before the shooting war opened. They also claim that when the fire-fights erupted on September 27, Turkish media were present on the ground to give live coverage of events.

It seems indisputable therefore that Turkey and Azerbaijan had made a strategic decision to implement a “final solution” to the protracted dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

That’s what makes Russian efforts at mediating a cessation to hostilities all the more fraught. After marathon talks mediated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a ceasefire was introduced on October 10. However, within hours the truce unravelled with reports of resumed exchange of fire and shelling of cities on both sides. The main violations have been committed by the Azerbaijani side using advanced Turkish weaponry. Armenian leaders have complained that the Azeri side does not seem interested in pursuing peace talks.

More perplexing is the widening of the conflict. Azerbaijan air strikes since the weekend ceasefire broke down have hit sites within Armenia, extending the conflict beyond the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has also claimed that Armenian missiles have hit cities within its territory. Armenia flatly denies carrying out such strikes, which begs the question: is a third party covertly staging provocations and fomenting escalation of conflict?

What is challenging for Russia is that it has a legal obligation to defend Armenia as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (1992). With Armenia coming under fire, the pressure will be on Moscow to intervene militarily.

This would see Russia being embroiled in another proxy war with NATO-member Turkey. But this is not in Syria. It is the Caucasus region on Russia’s southern border. There are concerns among senior Russian military figures that such a scenario is exactly what Turkey’s Recep Erdogan is aiming for. Turkey was outplayed by Russia in the proxy war in Syria. Erdogan and NATO’s plans for regime change in Damascus were dealt a bloody nose by Russia. It seems though that conflict in the Caucasus may now be Erdogan’s revenge.

Moscow may need to seriously revise its relations with Ankara, and let Erdogan know he is treading on red lines.

Can and should Russia stop the war in the Caucasus?

October 09, 2020

THE SAKER • OCTOBER 10, 2020 

This war is officially a war between Azerbaijan and the (unrecognized) Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (RNK) aka “Republic of Artsakh” (ROA) which I shall refer to simply as Nagorno Karabakh or “NK”. As is often the case, the reality is much more complicated. For one thing, Erdogan’s Turkey has been deeply involved since Day 1 (and, really, even much before that) while Armenia has been backing NK to the hilt since the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is even worse: Turkey is a member of NATO while Armenia is a member of the CSTO. Thus a war started over a relatively small and remote area could, in theory, trigger an international nuclear war. The good news here is that nobody in NATO or the CSTO wants such a war, especially since technically speaking the NK is not part of Armenia (Armenia has not even recognized this republic so far!) and, therefore, not under the protection of the CSTO. And since there have been no attacks on Turkey proper, at least so far, NATO also has no reason to get involved.

I should mention here that in terms of international law, NK is an integral part of Azerbaijan. Still, almost everybody agrees that there is a difference between NK proper and the kind of security zone the army of NK created around NK (see map)

Can and should Russia stop the war in the Caucasus?

(note: the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is part of Azerbaijan)

The reality on the ground, however, is very different, so let’s look at the position of each actor in turn, beginning with the party which started the war: Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has been reforming and rearming its military since the Azeri forces got comprehensively defeated in the 1988-1994 war. Furthermore, for President Aliev this war represents what might well be the best and last chance to defeat the NK and Armenian forces. Most observers agree that should Aliev fail to achieve at least an appearance of victory he will lose power.

Armenia would have been quite happy to keep the status quo and continue to form one country with the NK de facto while remaining two countries de jure. Still, living in the tough and even dangerous “neighborhood” of the Caucasus, the Armenians never forgot that they are surrounded by more or less hostile countries just like they also remained acutely aware of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ideology which, sooner or later, would make war inevitable.

Iran, which is often forgotten, is not directly involved in the conflict, at least so far, but has been generally sympathetic to Armenia, primarily because Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ideology represents a danger for the entire region, including Iran.

Turkey has played a crucial behind the scenes role in the rearmament and reorganization of Azeri forces. Just as was the case in Libya, Turkish attack drones have been used with formidable effectiveness against NK forces, in spite of the fact that the Armenians have some very decent air defenses. As for Erdogan himself, this war is his latest attempt to paint himself as some kind of neo-Ottoman sultan which will reunite all the Turkic people under his rule.

One of the major misconceptions about this conflict is the assumption that Russia has always been, and will always be, on the side of Armenia and the NK, but while this was definitely true for pre-1917 Russia, this is not the case today at all. Why?

Let’s examine the Russian position in this conflict.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Armenia (proper, as opposed to NK) is a member of the CSTO and should anybody (including Azerbaijan and/or Turkey) attack Armenia, Russia would most definitely intervene and stop the attack, either by political or even by military means. Considering what Turkey has done to the Armenian people during the infamous Armenian Genocide of 1914-1923 this makes perfectly good sense: at least now the Armenian people know that Russia will never allow another genocide to take place. And the Turks know that too.

And yet, things are not quite that simple either.

For example, Russia did sell a lot of advanced weapon systems to Azerbaijan (see herefor one good example). In fact, relations between Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev are famously very warm. And while it is true that Azerbaijan left the CSTO in 1999, Russia and Azerbaijan have retained a very good relationship which some even characterize as a partnership or even an alliance.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan has been a much better partner to Russia than Armenia, especially since the Soros-financed “color revolution” of 2018 which put Nikol Pashinian in power. Ever since Pashinian got to power, Armenia has been following the same kind of “multi-vector” policy which saw Belarus’ Lukashenko try to ditch Russia and integrate into the EU/NATO/US area of dominance. The two biggest differences between Belarus and Armenia are a) Belarusians and Russians are the same people and b) Russia cannot afford to lose Belarus whereas Russia has really zero need for Armenia.

On the negative side, not only has Azerbaijan left the CSTO in 1999, but Azerbaijan has also joined the openly anti-Russian GUAM Organization (which is headquartered in Kiev).

Next, there is the Turkey-Erdogan factor as seen from Russia. Simply put, the Russians will never trust any Turk who shares Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman worldview and ideology. Russia has already fought twelve full-scale wars against the Ottomans and she has no desire to let the Turks trigger another one (which they almost did when they shot down a Russian Su-24M over northern Syria). Of course, Russia is much more powerful than Turkey, at least in military terms, but in political terms an open war against Turkey could be disastrous for Russian foreign and internal policy objectives. And, of course, the best way for Russia to avoid such a war in the future is to make absolutely sure that the Turks realize that should they attack they will be suffering a crushing defeat in a very short time. So far, this has worked pretty well, especially after Russia saved Erdogan from the US-backed coup against him.

Some observers have suggested that Russia and Armenia being Christian, the former has some kind of moral obligation towards the latter. I categorically disagree. My main reason to disagree here is that Russians now are acutely aware of the disgusting lack of gratitude of our (supposed) “brothers” and (supposed) “fellow Christians” have shown as soon as Russia was in need.

Most Armenians are not Orthodox Christians, but members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which are miaphysites/monophysites. They are also not Slavs.

The ONLY slavic or Orthodox people who did show real gratitude for Russia have been the Serbs. All the rest of them have immediately rushed to prostitute themselves before Uncle Shmuel and have competed with each other for the “honor” of deploying US weapons systems targeted at Russia. The truth is that like every superpower, Russia is too big and too powerful to have real “friends” (Serbia being a quite beautiful exception to this rule). The Russian Czar Alexander III famously said that “Russia only has two true allies: her army and her navy”. Well, today the list is longer (now we could add the Aerospace forces, the FSB, etc.), but in terms of external allies or friends, the Serbian people (as opposed to some of the Serbian leaders) are the only ones out there which are true friends of Russia (and that, in spite of the fact that under Elstin and his “democratic oligarchs” Russia shamefully betrayed a long list of countries and political leaders, including Serbia).

Then there is the religious factor which, while crucial in the past, really plays no role whatsoever in this conflict. Oh sure, political leaders on both sides like to portray themselves as religious, but this is just PR. The reality is that both the Azeris and the Armenians place ethnic considerations far above any religious ones, if only because, courtesy of the militant atheism of the former USSR, many, if not most, people in Armenia, Azerbaijan and even Russia nowadays are agnostic secularists with no more than a passing interest for the “spiritual values which shaped their national identity” (or something along these lines).

One major concern for Russia is the movement of Turkish-run Takfiris from Syria to Azerbaijan. The Russians have already confirmed that this has taken place (the French also reported this) and, if true, that would give Russia the right to strike these Takfiris on Azeri soil. So far, this threat is minor, but if it becomes real, we can expect Russian cruise missiles to enter the scene.

Finally, there are major Azeri and Armenian communities in Russia, which means two things: first, Russia cannot allow this conflict to sneak across the borders and infect Russia and, second, there are millions of Russians who will have ties, often strong ones, to both of these countries.

Though they are not currently officially involved, we still need to look, at least superficially, at the Empire’s view of this conflict. To summarize it I would say that the Empire is absolutely delighted with this crisis which is the third one blowing up on Russia’s doorstep (the other two being the Ukraine and Belarus). There is really very little the Empire can do against Russia: the economic blockade and sanctions totally failed, and in purely military terms Russia is far more powerful than the Empire. Simply put: the Empire simply does not have what it takes to take on Russia directly, but setting off conflicts around the Russia periphery is really easy.

For one thing, the internal administrative borders of the USSR bear absolutely no resemblance to the places of residence of the various ethnicities of the former Soviet Union. Looking at them one would be excused for thinking that they were drawn precisely to generate the maximal amount of tension between the many ethnic groups that were cut into separate pieces. There is also no logic in accepting the right of the former Soviet Republics to secede from the Soviet Union, but then denying the same right to those local administrative entities which now would want to separate from a newly created republic which they don’t want to be part of.

Second, many, if not most, of the so-called “countries” and “nations” which suddenly appeared following the collapse of the Soviet Union have no historical reality whatsoever. As a direct result, these newborn “nations” had no historical basis to root themselves in, and no idea what independence really means. Some nations, like the Armenians, have deep roots as far back as antiquity, but their current borders are truly based on nothing at all. Whatever may be the case, it has been extremely easy for Uncle Shmuel to move into these newly independent states, especially since many (or even most) of these states saw Russia as the enemy (courtesy of the predominant ideology of the Empire which was imposed upon the mostly clueless people of the ex-Soviet periphery). The result? Violence, or even war, all around that periphery (which the Russians think of as their “near abroad”).

I think that most Russian people are aware that while there has been a major price to pay for this, the cutting away of the ex-Soviet periphery from Russia has been a blessing in disguise. This is confirmed by innumerable polls which show that the Russian people are generally very suspicious of any plans involving the use of the Russian Armed Forces outside Russia (for example, it took all of Putin’s “street cred” to convince the Russian people that the Russian military intervention in Syria was a good idea).

There is also one more thing which we must always remember: for all the stupid US and western propaganda about Russia and, later, the USSR being the “prison of the people” (small nations survived way better in this “prison” than they did under the “democratic” rule of European colonists worldwide!), the truth is that because of the rabidly russophobic views of Soviet Communists (at least until Stalin – he reversed this trend) the Soviet “peripheral” Republics all lived much better than the “leftover Russia” which the Soviets called the RSFSR. In fact, the Soviet period was a blessing in many ways for all the non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union and only now, under Putin, has this trend finally been reversed. Today Russia is much richer than the countries around her periphery and she has no desire to squander that wealth on a hostile and always ungrateful periphery. The bottom line is this: Russia owes countries such as Armenia or Azerbaijan absolutely nothing and they have no right whatsoever to expect Russia to come to their aid: this won’t happen, at least not unless Russia achieves a measurable positive result from this intervention.

Still, let’s now look at the reasons why Russia might want to intervene.

First, this is, yet again, a case of Erdogan’s megalomania and malevolence resulting in a very dangerous situation for Russia. After all, all the Azeris need to do to secure an overt Turkish intervention is to either attack Armenia proper, which might force a Russian intervention or, alternatively, be so severely beaten by the Armenians that Turkey might have to intervene to avoid a historical loss of face for both Aliev and Erdogan.

Second, it is crucial for Russia to prove that the CSTO matters and is effective in protecting CSTO member states. In other words, if Russia lets Turkey attack Armenia directly the CSTO would lose all credibility, something which Russia cannot allow.

Third, it is crucial for Russia to prove to both Azerbaijan and Armenia that the US is long on hot air and empty promises, but can’t get anything done in the Caucasus. In other words, the solution to this war has to be a Russian one, not a US/NATO/EU one. Once it becomes clear in the Caucasus that, like in the Middle-East, Russia has now become the next “kingmaker” then the entire region will finally return to peace and a slow return to prosperity.

So far the Russians have been extremely careful in their statements. They mostly said that Russian peacekeepers could only be deployed after all the parties to this conflict agree to their deployment. Right now, we are still very far away from this.

Here is what happened so far: the Azeris clearly hoped for a short and triumphant war, but in spite of very real advances in training, equipment, etc the Azeri Blitzkrieg has clearly failed in spite of the fact that the Azeri military is more powerful than the NK+Armenian one. True, the Azeris did have some initial successes, but they all happened in small towns mostly located in the plain. But take a look at this topographic map of the area of operations and see for yourself what the biggest problem for the Azeris is:

Almost all of NK is located in the mountains (hence the prefix “nagorno” which means “mountainous”) and offensive military operations in the mountains are truly a nightmare, even for very well prepared and equipped forces (especially in the winter season, which is fast approaching). There are very few countries out there who could successfully conduct offensive operations in mountains, Russia is one of them, and Azerbaijan clearly is not.

Right now both sides agree on one thing only: only total victory can stop this war. While politically that kind of language makes sense, everybody knows that this war will not end up in some kind of total victory for one side and total defeat of the other side. The simple fact is that the Azeris can’t overrun all of NK while the Armenians (in Armenia proper and in the NK) cannot counter-attack and defeat the Azeri military in the plains.

Right now, and for as long as the Azeris and the Armenians agree that they won’t stop at anything short of a total victory, Russia simply cannot intervene. While she has the military power to force both sides to a total standstill, she has no legal right to do so and please remember that, unlike the US, Russia does respect international law (if only because she has no plans to become the “next US” or some kind of world hegemon in charge of maintaining the peace worldwide). So there are only two possible options for a Russian military intervention:

  1. A direct (and confirmed by hard evidence) attack on the territory of Armenia
  2. Both the Azeris and the Armenians agree that Russia ought to intervene.

I strongly believe that Erdogan and Aliev will do whatever it takes to prevent option one from happening (while they will do everything in their power short of an overt attack on Armenia to prevail). Accidents, however, do happen, so the risk of a quick and dramatic escalation of the conflict will remain until both sides agree to stop.

Right now, neither side has a clear victory and, as sad as I am to write these words, both sides have enough reserves (not only military, but also political and economic) to keep at it for a while longer. However, neither side has what it would take to wage a long and bloody positional war of attrition, especially in the mountain ranges. Thus both sides probably already realize that this one will have to stop, sooner rather than later (according to some Russian experts, we are only talking weeks here).

Furthermore, there are a lot of very dangerous escalations taking place, including artillery and missile strikes on cities and infrastructure objects. If the Armenians are really pushed against a wall, they could both recognize NK and hit the Azeri energy and oil/gas infrastructure with their formidable Iskander tactical ballistic missiles. Should that happen, then we can be almost certain that both the Azeris and the Turks will try to attack Armenia, with dramatic and most dangerous consequences.

This conflict can get much, much more bloody and much more dangerous. It is thus in the interests of the entire region (but not the US) to stop it. Will the Armenian lobby be powerful enough to pressure the US into a more helpful stance? So far, the US is, at least officially, calling all sides for a ceasefire (along with France and Russia), but we all know how much Uncle Shmuel’s word can be trusted. At least there is no public evidence that the US is pushing for war behind the scenes (the absence of such evidence does, of course, not imply the evidence of the absence of such actions!).

At the time of writing this (Oct. 9th) Russia has to wait for the parties to come back to reality and accept a negotiated solution. If and when that happens, there are options out there, including making NK a special region of Azerbaijan which would be placed under the direct protection of Russia and/or the CSTO with Russian forces deployed inside the NK region. It would even be possible to have a Turkish military presence all around the NK (and even some monitors inside!) to reassure the Azeris that Armenian forces have left the region and are staying out. The Azeris already know that they cannot defeat Armenia proper without risking a Russian response and they are probably going to realize that they cannot overrun NK. As for the Armenians, it is all nice and fun to play the “multi-vector” card, but Russia won’t play by these rules anymore. Her message here is simple: if you are Uncle Shmuels’s bitch, then let Uncle Shmuel save you; if you want us to help, then give us a really good reason why: we are listening”.

This seems to me an eminently reasonable position to take and I hope and believe that Russia will stick to it.

PS: the latest news is that Putin invited the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia to Moscow for “consultations” (not “negotiations”, at least not yet) with Sergei Lavrov as a mediator. Good. Maybe this can save lives since a bad peace will always be better than a good war.

PPS: the latest news (Oct 9th 0110 UTC) is that the Russians have forced Armenia and Azerbaijan to negotiate for over thirteen hours, but at the end of the day, both sides agreed to an immediate ceasefire and for substantive negotiations to begin. Frankly, considering the extreme hostility of the parties towards each other, I consider this outcome almost miraculous. Lavrov truly earned his keep today! Still, we now have to see if Russia can convince both sides to actually abide by this agreement. Here is a machine translation of the first Russian report about this outcome:

Statement by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia

In response to the appeal of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin and in accordance with the agreements of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan I.G. Aliyev and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia N.V. Pashinyan, the parties agreed on the following steps :

1. A ceasefire is declared from 12:00 pm on October 10, 2020 for humanitarian purposes for the exchange of prisoners of war and other detained persons and bodies of the dead, mediated and in accordance with the criteria of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

2. The specific parameters of the ceasefire regime will be agreed upon additionally.

3. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, on the basis of the basic principles of the settlement, begin substantive negotiations with the aim of reaching a peaceful settlement as soon as possible.

4. The parties confirm the invariability of the format of the negotiation process.

لماذا إيران ليست مع أذربيجان…!؟

محمد صادق الحسيني

بصراحة واختصار لأنّ أذربيجان مع الشيطان…!

هذا هو جواب الذين يتساءلون، لماذا لا تقف إيران الى جانب أذربيجان، بما انّ أذربيجان دولة مسلمة وشيعية ولديها أراض محتلة لدى أرمينيا (غير قره باغ التي هي إقليم حكم ذاتي مستقل، فهناك أراض سيطرت عليها أرمينيا خلال حرب ١٩٩٤، منها بلدة جبرائيل التي زعمت أذربيجان انها استرجعتها اخيراً) فلماذا إذن إيران لا تقف معها وتساندها…!؟

سؤال مهمّ نحاول الإجابة عنه هنا بكلّ موضوعية ومسؤولية وإليكم البراهين:

١– انّ إيران تقف بقوّة مثلها مثل كثير من الدول الى جانب هذا الحق للشعب الأذربيجاني، والذي ضمنه لها أيضاً قرار أممي اعترفت به معظم دول العالم.

٢– انّ جمهورية أذربيجان الحالية تعتبر واحدة من الدول الغارقة في الفساد والمتحالفة تحالفاً عميقاً مع الكيان الصهيوني قلباً وقالباً منذ إعلانها دولة مستقلة بعد انهيار الاتحاد السوفياتي السابق، ويتحكم في قرارها نحو ٤٠ مليونير يهودي من الأقلية القليلة جداً الأذربيجانية لكنها التي تحيط بالرئيس الحالي الهام علييف، وهي التي توفر له حالياً الجسر الجوي الصهيوني من مسيّرات وتسليح متعدّد الأهداف، بالإضافة إلى تدريب مرتزقة أجانب وإرسالهم إلى باكو..!

٣– انّ جمهورية أذربيجان الحالية تلعب دوراً قذراً وخطيراً جداً تجاه الجمهورية الإسلامية حيث تحتضن ومعها تركيا مجموعات من الانفصاليين الأذربيجانيين الإيرانيين (من القسم الأصلي لأذربيجان الذي لا يزال في حضن الدولة الأمّ بعد انفصال جمهورية أذربيجان الحالية مع أرمينيا وجورجيا التي كانت أراضي إيرانية تمّ سلخها عن الوطن الأمّ في نهاية الحرب الثانية بين روسيا القيصرية وإيران القاجارية عام ١٨٢٨).

وهم الذين تحضّرهم الآن حكومتا أنقرة وباكو ليلعبوا دوراً تخريبياً على الحدود الإيرانية، بهدف تمزيق وتجزئة إيران وإشعال حرب قوميات فيها، في حال نجحتا في توسيع نطاق حرب القوقاز الحالية واستدراج إيران إليها…!

٤– انّ أذربيجان دولة قرارها ليس بيدها، والحرب الحالية التي يتمّ تسعيرها تحت غطاء حق قره باغ في الحكم الذاتي ضمن نطاق جمهورية أذربيجان كما تنصّ المقررات الدولية واسترجاع أراض محتلة لها، إنما تمّ شنّها بأمر عمليات أميركي ودعم جزء من الأطلسي وبرأس حربة أردوغانية خبيثة هدفها التحشيد ضدّ روسيا وإيران والصين، ومحاولة استنساخ سيناريو سوري من خلال عمليات نقل وتثبيت عصابات إرهابية تكفيرية من جنسيات ذات أصول سوفياتية وصينية وقوقازية في كلّ جمهوريات القوقاز وفي مقدّمها أذربيجان، بهدف السيطرة على منابع النفط والغاز والطرق الاستراتيجية التي تعيق عمليات الدفاع لثلاثي القوة الصاعد المناهض للأحادية والهيمنة الأميركية أيّ روسيا والصين وإيران في أيّ مواجهة مرتقبة.

وهي عملية هيّأت لها تركيا بنقل مستشاريها الى باكو قبل اندلاع النزاع الحالي تحت عنوان مناورات مشتركة وأبقتهم هناك، بالإضافة الى القيام بعمليات نقل واسعة لمجموعات إرهابية من سورية بتمويل قطري.

٥– انّ حكومة باكو تلعب دور المطية والأداة الطيعة بيد أردوغان الذي سيستخدمها في أيّ مقايضات مستقبلية دولية بين القوى المتصارعة في البحرين الأسود والخزر وكذلك شرق المتوسط حيث تحاول أنقرة أخذ موقع لها مستجدّ هناك، في ظلّ تحشيدات الناتو والأميركي اللذين يقاتلان قتالاً تراجعياً بعد هزائمهما المتكرّرة أمام أسوار وبوابات عواصم محور المقاومة تاركين المجال لأدواتهم الصغار ليملأوا الفراغ…!

٦– انّ سياسة الجمهورية الإسلامية الخارجية لا تقوم مطلقاً على قواعد طائفية او مذهبية في كافة الملفات الدولية والإقليمية، وإنما على قواعد العدالة والقانون الدولي ونصرة المستضعفين أينما كانوا، ومقاومة الظلم والهيمنة والتسلط من اي طرف جاؤوا…

اخيراً لا بدّ من القول بأنّ الطغمة الحاكمة حالياً في أذربيجان هي من بقايا الحزب الشيوعي السوفياتي السابق والتي باتت الآن منقسمة على نفسها بين الرئيس الهام علييف المشهور بالفساد والذي ربط مصالحه الشخصية بأنقرة واستلحاقاً بالغرب من بوابة تل ابيب، فيما زوجته مهربان التي تشغل موقع نائب الرئيس في الجمهورية والتي تترأس جمعية الصداقة الأذربيجانية الروسية وهي التي قلدها الرئيس بوتين أعلى وسام للصداقة في موسكو قبل أشهر، تتمايز عنه بعض الشيء في ميلها نحو موسكو، وهي التي أطاحت بوزير خارجية بلادها ورئيس هيئة الأركان قبل مدة بعد اتهامهما بتغليب مصالح الخارج على مصالح الداخل، ما اعتبر زعزعة للأمن القومي الأذربيجاني!

أما حكاية دعم إيران لجمهورية أرمينيا المسيحية في المقابل فهي حكاية منقوصة التداول…

فإيران لا تصطفّ مع أرمينيا ضدّ أذربيجان في الصراع حول قره باغ، وإنما تحترم وتقدّر دور جمهورية أرمينيا باعتبارها دولة مستقلة تمارس سياسة متوازنة في القوقاز، ولا تساهم مطلقاً في زعزعة استقرار المنطقة، تماماً كما هو دور المواطنين الأرمن الإيرانيين الشرفاء الذين كانوا ولا يزالون يلعبون دوراً ايجابياً في الدفاع عن سلامة واستقرار واستقلال ووحدة أراضي بلدهم ووطنهم إيران، رغم حمايتهم وحبهم وعشقهم لوطنهم الأمّ أرمينيا.

لتجدنّ أشدّ الناس عداوة للذين آمنوا اليهود…

ولتجدنّ أقرب الناس مودة للذين آمنوا الذين قالوا انا نصارى… وانهم لا يستكبرون…

المعيار إذن هو الموقف من مقولة الاستكبار والمستكبرين.

سئل الإمام علي: كيف تعرف أهل الحق في زمن الفتن، فقال: اتبعوا سهام العدو، فإنها ترشدكم إلى أهل الحق.

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

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