Iran Defense Minister Tells Turkish Counterpart: Independent Countries Have Challenged US Hegemony

July 21, 2022

By Staff, Agencies 

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani says the United States is seeking to create a unipolar and hierarchical world order, but independent countries and new poles of power in the world have challenged Washington’s hegemony.

During a meeting with his visiting Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar in Tehran on Tuesday, Ashtiani stated that the world and the West Asia region, due to geopolitical and geostrategic rivalry of global powers, are experiencing a period of transition and are undergoing fundamental changes as a new order is being created.

“The United States is seeking to create a unipolar and hierarchical world order. Naturally, independent countries and new poles of power in the world have challenged the US hegemony, and are standing against the process,” the Iranian defense chief pointed out.

He added that West Asia is enjoying relative peace following a turbulent and chaotic period as a result of threats caused by terrorism, extremism, separatism and proxy wars.

“However, threats still loom in the region, and important regional countries are still required to use their capacities in order to ensure security,” Ashtiani said.

The Iranian defense minister went on to describe combat against extremism, terrorism and separatism as a common concern for both Iran and Turkey, stressing the significance of cooperation and coordination between the two neighboring countries in this regard.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s approach to regional issues is founded on participation of regional countries to resolve issues through dialogue, respect for the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries, and opposition to any border and territorial changes,” Ashtiani stated.

He also touched on attempts by some regional Arab attempts to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel, saying, “The occupying regime of al-Quds is the bitter and implacable enemy of Muslim countries.” 

Ashtiani stated that Iran views Turkey as an effective country in the Muslim world, which has numerous capacities in political, economic and international dimensions.

“Naturally, coordination and cooperation between the two countries is needed to strengthen mutual relations, and to protect the benefits of the region and Muslim world,” he said.

Ashtiani further stated that Iran and Turkey have significant capacities in military and defense sectors, stating that there are enormous opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, and Tehran is ready to dispatch high-profile defense, military and technical delegations to Ankara.

‘Enemies are trying to use terrorism to start proxy wars in region’

Akar, for his part, pointed to the wide range of commonalities between Iran and Turkey, and said cooperation between the two countries is important to maintain bilateral and regional stability and security.
“Nowadays, terrorism is a tool of imperialism. Enemies are trying to foment insecurity in the region through such a tool and launch a proxy war,” the Turkish defense minister said.

He highlighted that Turkey’s positions regarding the landmark 2015 Iran have always been clear, and emphasized the need for the continuation of negotiations aimed at the revival of the accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

The power troika trumps Biden in West Asia

The presidents of Russia, Iran, and Turkey convened to discuss critical issues pertaining to West Asia, with the illegal US occupation of Syria a key talking point

July 20 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Oil and gas, wheat and grains, missiles and drones – the hottest topics in global geopolitics today – were all on the agenda in Tehran this week.

By Pepe Escobar

The Tehran summit uniting Iran-Russia-Turkey was a fascinating affair in more ways than one. Ostensibly about the Astana peace process in Syria, launched in 2017, the summit joint statement duly noted that Iran, Russia and (recently rebranded) Turkiye will continue, “cooperating to eliminate terrorists” in Syria and “won’t accept new facts in Syria in the name of defeating terrorism.”

That’s a wholesale rejection of the “war on terror” exceptionalist unipolarity that once ruled West Asia.

Standing up to the global sheriff

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his own speech, was even more explicit. He stressed “specific steps to promote the intra-Syrian inclusive political dialogue” and most of called a spade a spade: “The western states led by the US are strongly encouraging separatist sentiment in some areas of the country and plundering its natural resources with a view to ultimately pulling the Syrian state apart.”

So there will be “extra steps in our trilateral format” aimed at “stabilizing the situation in those areas” and crucially, “returning control to the legitimate government of Syria.” For better or for worse, the days of imperial plunder will be over.

The bilateral meetings on the summit’s sidelines – Putin/Raisi and Putin/Erdogan – were even more intriguing. Context is key here: the Tehran gathering took place after Putin’s visit to Turkmenistan in late June for the 6th Caspian summit, where all the littoral nations, Iran included, were present, and after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s travels in Algeria, Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, where he met all his Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) counterparts.

Moscow’s moment

So we see Russian diplomacy carefully weaving its geopolitical tapestry from West Asia to Central Asia – with everybody and his neighbor eager to talk and to listen to Moscow. As it stands, the Russia-Turkey entente cordiale tends to lean towards conflict management, and is strong on trade relations. Iran-Russia is a completely different ball game: much more of a strategic partnership.

So it’s hardly a coincidence that the National Oil Company of Iran (NIOC), timed to the Tehran summit, announced the signing of a $40 billion strategic cooperation agreement with Russia’s Gazprom. That’s the largest foreign investment in the history of Iran’s energy industry – badly needed since the early 2000s. Seven deals worth $4 billion apply to the development of oil fields; others focus on the construction of new export gas pipelines and LNG projects.

Kremlin advisor Yury Ushakov deliciously leaked that Putin and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in their private meeting, “discussed conceptual issues.” Translation: he means grand strategy, as in the evolving, complex process of Eurasia integration, in which the three key nodes are Russia, Iran and China, now intensifying their interconnection. The Russia-Iran strategic partnership largely mirrors the key points of the China-Iran strategic partnership.

Iran says ‘no’ to NATO

Khamenei, on NATO, did tell it like it is: “If the road is open for NATO, then the organization sees no borders. If it had not been stopped in Ukraine, then after a while the alliance would have started a war under the pretext of Crimea.”

There were no leaks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) impasse between the US and Iran – but it’s clear, based on the recent negotiations in Vienna, that Moscow will not interfere with Tehran’s nuclear decisions. Not only are Tehran-Moscow-Beijing fully aware of who’s preventing the JCPOA from getting back on track, they also see how this counter-productive stalling process prevents the collective west from badly needed access to Iranian oil.

Then there’s the weapons front. Iran is one of the world’s leaders in drone production: Pelican, Arash, Homa, Chamrosh, Jubin, Ababil, Bavar, recon drones, attack drones, even kamikaze drones, cheap and effective, mostly deployed from naval platforms in West Asia.

Tehran’s official position is not to supply weapons to nations at war – which would in principle invalidate dodgy US “intel” on their supply to Russia in Ukraine. Yet that could always happen under the radar, considering that Tehran is very much interested in buying Russian aerial defense systems and state of the art fighter jets. After the end of the UN Security Council-enforced embargo, Russia can sell whatever conventional weapons to Iran it sees fit.

Russian military analysts are fascinated by the conclusions Iranians reached when it was established they would stand no chance against a NATO armada; essentially they bet on pro-level guerrilla war (a lesson learned from Afghanistan). In Syria, Iraq and Yemen they deployed trainers to guide villagers in their fight against Salafi-jihadis; produced tens of thousands of large-caliber sniper rifles, ATGMs, and thermals; and of course perfected their drone assembly lines (with excellent cameras to surveil US positions).

Not to mention that simultaneously the Iranians were building quite capable long-range missiles. No wonder Russian military analysts estimate there’s much to learn tactically from the Iranians – and not only on the drone front.

The Putin-Sultan ballet

Now to the Putin-Erdogan get together – always an attention-grabbing geopolitical ballet, especially considering the Sultan has not yet decided to hop on the Eurasia integration high-speed train.

Putin diplomatically “expressed gratitude” for the discussions on food and grain issues, while reiterating that “not all issues on the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports are resolved, but progress is made.”

Putin was referring to Turkiye’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who earlier this week assured that setting up an operations center in Istanbul, establishing joint controls at the port exit and arrival points, and carefully monitoring the navigational safety on the transfer routes are issues that may be solved in the next few days.

Apparently Putin-Erdogan also discussed Nagorno-Karabakh (no details).

What a few leaks certainly did not reveal is that on Syria, for all practical purposes, the situation is blocked. That favors Russia – whose main priority as it stands is Donbass. Wily Erdogan knows it – and that’s why he may have tried to extract some “concessions” on “the Kurdish question” and Nagorno-Karabakh. Whatever Putin, Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev may really think about Erdogan, they certainly evaluate how priceless is to cultivate such an erratic partner capable of driving the collective west totally bonkers.

Istanbul this summer has been turned into a sort of Third Rome, at least for expelled-from-Europe Russian tourists: they are everywhere. Yet the most crucial geoeconomic development these past few months is that the western-provoked collapse of trade/supply lines along the borders between Russia and the EU – from the Baltic to the Black Sea – finally highlighted the wisdom and economic sense of the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INTSC): a major Russia-Iran-India geopolitical and geoeconomic integration success.

When Moscow talks to Kiev, it talks via Istanbul. NATO, as the Global South well knows, does not do diplomacy. So any possibility of dialogue between Russians and a few educated westerners takes place in Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the UAE. West Asia as well as the Caucasus, incidentally, did not subscribe to the western sanctions hysteria against Russia.

Say farewell to the ‘teleprompter guy’

Now compare all of the above with the recent visit to the region by the so-called “leader of the free world,” who merrily alternates between shaking hands with invisible people to reading – literally – whatever is scrolling on a teleprompter. We’re talking of US President Joe Biden, of course.

Fact: Biden threatened Iran with military strikes and as a mere supplicant, begged the Saudis to pump more oil to offset the “turbulence” in the global energy markets caused by the collective west’s sanction hysteria. Context: the glaring absence of any vision or anything even resembling a draft of foreign policy plan for West Asia.

So oil prices duly jumped upward after Biden’s trip: Brent crude rose more than four percent to $105 a barrel, bringing prices back to above $100 after a lull of several months.

The heart of the matter is that if OPEC or OPEC+ (which includes Russia) ever decide to increase their oil supplies, they will do it based on their internal deliberations, and not under exceptionalist pressure.

As for the imperial threat of military strikes on Iran, it qualifies as pure dementia. The whole Persian Gulf – not to mention the whole of West Asia – knows that were US/Israel to attack Iran, fierce retaliation would simply evaporate with the region’s energy production, with apocalyptic consequences including the collapse of trillions of dollars in derivatives.

Biden then had the gall to say, “We have made progress in strengthening our relations with the Gulf states. We will not leave a vacuum for Russia and China to fill in the Middle East”.

Well, in real life it is the “indispensable nation” that has self-morphed into a vacuum. Only bought-and-paid for Arab vassals – most of them monarchs – believe in the building of an “Arab NATO” (copyright Jordan’s King Abdullah) to take on Iran. Russia and China are already all over the place in West Asia and beyond.

De-Dollarization, not just Eurasian integration

It’s not only the new logistical corridor from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Astrakhan and then, via the Caspian, to Enzeli in Iran and on to Mumbai that is shaking things up. It’s about increasing bilateral trade that bypasses the US dollar. It’s about BRICS+, which Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are dying to be part of. It’s about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which formally accepts Iran as a full member this coming September (and soon Belarus as well). It’s about BRICS+, the SCO, China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) interconnected in their path towards a Greater Eurasia Partnership.

West Asia may still harbor a small collection of imperial vassals with zero sovereignty who depend on the west’s financial and military ‘assistance,’ but that’s the past. The future is now – with Top Three BRICS (Russia, India, China) slowly but surely coordinating their overlapping strategies across West Asia, with Iran involved in all of them.

And then there’s the Big Global Picture: whatever the circumvolutions and silly schemes of the US-concocted “oil price cap” variety, the fact is that Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela – the top powerful energy-producing nations – are absolutely in sync: on Russia, on the collective west, and on the needs of a real multipolar world.

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

In Eurasia, the War of Economic Corridors is in full swing

July 15, 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Source

Mega Eurasian organizations and their respective projects are now converging at record speed, with one global pole way ahead of the other.

By Pepe Escobar

The War of Economic Corridors is now proceeding full speed ahead, with the game-changing first cargo flow of goods from Russia to India via the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) already in effect.

Very few, both in the east and west, are aware of how this actually has long been in the making: the Russia-Iran-India agreement for implementing a shorter and cheaper Eurasian trade route via the Caspian Sea (compared to the Suez Canal), was first signed in 2000, in the pre-9/11 era.

The INSTC in full operational mode signals a powerful hallmark of Eurasian integration – alongside the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and last but not least, what I described as “Pipelineistan” two decades ago.

Caspian is key

Let’s have a first look on how these vectors are interacting.

The genesis of the current acceleration lies in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital, for the 6th Caspian Summit. This event not only brought the evolving Russia-Iran strategic partnership to a deeper level, but crucially, all five Caspian Sea littoral states agreed that no NATO warships or bases will be allowed on site.

That essentially configures the Caspian as a virtual Russian lake, and in a minor sense, Iranian – without compromising the interests of the three “stans,” Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. For all practical purposes, Moscow has tightened its grip on Central Asia a notch.

As the Caspian Sea is connected to the Black Sea by canals off the Volga built by the former USSR, Moscow can always count on a reserve navy of small vessels – invariably equipped with powerful missiles – that may be transferred to the Black Sea in no time if necessary.

Stronger trade and financial links with Iran now proceed in tandem with binding the three “stans” to the Russian matrix. Gas-rich republic Turkmenistan for its part has been historically idiosyncratic – apart from committing most of its exports to China.

Under an arguably more pragmatic young new leader, President Serdar Berdimuhamedow, Ashgabat may eventually opt to become a member of the SCO and/or the EAEU.

Caspian littoral state Azerbaijan on the other hand presents a complex case: an oil and gas producer eyed by the European Union (EU) to become an alternative energy supplier to Russia – although this is not happening anytime soon.

The West Asia connection

Iran’s foreign policy under President Ebrahim Raisi is clearly on a Eurasian and Global South trajectory. Tehran will be formally incorporated into the SCO as a full member in the upcoming summit in Samarkand in September, while its formal application to join the BRICS has been filed.

Purnima Anand, head of the BRICS International Forum, has stated that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are also very much keen on joining BRICS. Should that happen, by 2024 we could be on our way to a powerful West Asia, North Africa hub firmly installed inside one of the key institutions of the multipolar world.

As Putin heads to Tehran next week for trilateral Russia, Iran, Turkey talks, ostensibly about Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is bound to bring up the subject of BRICS.

Tehran is operating on two parallel vectors. In the event the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is revived – a quite dim possibility as it stands, considering the latest shenanigans in Vienna and Doha – that would represent a tactical victory. Yet moving towards Eurasia is on a whole new strategic level.

In the INSTC framework, Iran will make maximum good use of the geostrategically crucial port of Bandar Abbas – straddling the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

Yet as much as it may be portrayed as a major diplomatic victory, it’s clear that Tehran will not be able to make full use of BRICS membership if western – especially US – sanctions are not totally lifted.

Pipelines and the “stans”

A compelling argument can be made that Russia and China might eventually fill the western technology void in the Iranian development process. But there’s a lot more that platforms such as the INSTC, the EAEU and even BRICS can accomplish.

Across “Pipelineistan,” the War of Economic Corridors gets even more complex. Western propaganda simply cannot admit that Azerbaijan, Algeria, Libya, Russia’s allies at OPEC, and even Kazakhstan are not exactly keen on increasing their oil production to help Europe.

Kazakhstan is a tricky case: it is the largest oil producer in Central Asia and set to be a major natural gas supplier, right after Russia and Turkmenistan. More than 250 oil and gas fields are operated in Kazakhstan by 104 companies, including western energy giants such as Chevron, Total, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell.

While exports of oil, natural gas and petroleum products comprise 57 percent of Kazakhstan’s exports, natural gas is responsible for 85 percent of Turkmenistan’s budget (with 80 percent of exports committed to China). Interestingly, Galkynysh is the second largest gas field on the planet.

Compared to the other “stans,” Azerbaijan is a relatively minor producer (despite oil accounting for 86 percent of its total exports) and basically a transit nation. Baku’s super-wealth aspirations center on the Southern Gas Corridor, which includes no less than three pipelines: Baku-Tblisi-Erzurum (BTE); the Turkish-driven Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP); and the Trans-Adriatic (TAP).

The problem with this acronym festival – BTE, TANAP, TAP – is that they all need massive foreign investment to increase capacity, which the EU sorely lacks because every single euro is committed by unelected Brussels Eurocrats to “support” the black hole that is Ukraine. The same financial woes apply to a possible Trans-Caspian Pipeline which would further link to both TANAP and TAP.

In the War of Economic Corridors – the “Pipelineistan” chapter – a crucial aspect is that most Kazakh oil exports to the EU go through Russia, via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC). As an alternative, the Europeans are mulling on a still fuzzy Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, also known as the Middle Corridor (Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey). They actively discussed it in Brussels last month.

The bottom line is that Russia remains in full control of the Eurasia pipeline chessboard (and we’re not even talking about the Gazprom-operated pipelines Power of Siberia 1 and 2 leading to China).

Gazprom executives know all too well that a fast increase of energy exports to the EU is out of the question. They also factor the Tehran Convention – that helps prevent and control pollution and maintain the environmental integrity of the Caspian Sea, signed by all five littoral members.

Breaking BRI in Russia

China, for its part, is confident that one of its prime strategic nightmares may eventually disappear. The notorious “escape from Malacca” is bound to materialize, in cooperation with Russia, via the Northern Sea Route, which will shorten the trade and connectivity corridor from East Asia to Northern Europe from 11,200 nautical miles to only 6,500 nautical miles. Call it the polar twin of the INSTC.

This also explains why Russia has been busy building a vast array of state-of-the-art icebreakers.

So here we have an interconnection of New Silk Roads (the INSTC proceeds in parallel with BRI and the EAEU), Pipelineistan, and the Northern Sea Route on the way to turn western trade domination completely upside down.

Of course, the Chinese have had it planned for quite a while. The first White Paper on China’s Arctic policy, in January 2018, already showed how Beijing is aiming, “jointly with other states” (that means Russia), to implement sea trade routes in the Arctic within the framework of the Polar Silk Road.

And like clockwork, Putin subsequently confirmed that the Northern Sea Route should interact and complement the Chinese Maritime Silk Road.

Russia-China Economic cooperation is evolving on so many complex, convergent levels that just to keep track of it all is a dizzying experience.

A more detailed analysis will reveal some of the finer points, for instance how BRI and SCO interact, and how BRI projects will have to adapt to the heady consequences of Moscow’s Operation Z in Ukraine, with more emphasis being placed on developing Central and West Asian corridors.

It’s always crucial to consider that one of Washington’s key strategic objectives in the relentless hybrid war against Russia was always to break BRI corridors that crisscross Russian territory.

As it stands, it’s important to realize that dozens of BRI projects in industry and investment and cross-border inter-regional cooperation will end up consolidating the Russian concept of the Greater Eurasia Partnership – which essentially revolves around establishing multilateral cooperation with a vast range of nations belonging to organizations such as the EAEU, the SCO, BRICS and ASEAN.

Welcome to the new Eurasian mantra: Make Economic Corridors, Not War.

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

Iran Demands ‘Strong’ Economic Guarantees in JCPOA Revival Talks – FM

July 15, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said it is a “necessity” for Iran to gain economic benefits from the 2015 agreement and thus wants “strong” guarantees in talks on a potential revival of the deal, which the US abandoned unilaterally three years after its conclusion.

“We seek strong economic guarantees. If a Western company signs a contract with its Iranian counterpart, it must rest assured that its project will be implemented and it will receive compensation in case new sanctions are imposed,” Amir Abdollahian, who is on a visit to Rome, said in a Wednesday interview with Italian newspaper la Repubblica.

The top Iranian diplomat added that the issue of guarantees is one of the biggest obstacles in the talks aimed at restoring the 2015 deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

Elsewhere in his remarks, Amir Abdollahian was asked about reports on Washington’s refusal to remove the Islamic Revolution Guard [IRG] from its blacklist.

He said during last month’s indirect talks between Iran and the US — mediated by the European Union — in the Qatari capital of Doha, Tehran proposed putting off the issues related to Washington’s so-called list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations [FTOs].

“But we must be certain that the Iranian companies enjoy the economic benefits and their own share of the agreement. Making economic benefits in the JCPOA is a necessity. We do not ask for anything that goes beyond the nuclear agreement,” Amir Abdollahian said.

He also noted that Tehran and Washington are in contact through the EU on possible ways to remove anti-Iran sanctions, saying both sides should have flexibility and initiatives.

Iran and the US concluded two days of indirect talks, mediated by the European Union, in the Qatari capital of Doha, late last month in an attempt to break the stalemate in reviving the JCPOA.

At the end of the talks, Iran and the EU said they would keep in touch “about the continuation of the route and the next stage of the talks.”

The talks in Doha followed seven rounds of negotiations in the Austrian capital of Vienna between Iran and the five remaining parties to the JCPOA since April last year.

They were put on hold as Washington insists on its refusal to undo its past wrongs through measures such as removing the IRG from its foreign terrorist organization list.

Iran maintains that the IRG’s designation in 2019 was part of former President Donald Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran, and, therefore, it has to be reversed unconditionally.

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Biden in Jeddah: mending fences, not building bridges

President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia will likely end in face saving gestures, but no major geopolitical concessions

July 12 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Kristian Alexander and Giorgio Cafiero

Before 2019, never had a US president referred to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a ‘pariah’ on his campaign trail. Joe Biden’s Saudi-bashing as a presidential candidate, plus a host of other delicate issues, have fueled significant friction between the White House and Riyadh.

Today, relations between the US and Saudi Arabia are probably at their worst since the events of September 11, 2001, stymied by a major trust deficit in the relationship between Biden’s White House and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).

By the same token, the Biden administration views Saudi Arabia as a critical partner in the Persian Gulf and continues to sign massive arms deals with the kingdom.

For all the rhetoric on Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose brutal murder MbS is said to have sanctioned, team Biden never imposed state-level sanctions against Saudi Arabia, nor on the crown prince himself.

Meanwhile, the administration praises the role of Riyadh in the Arab world’s trend toward normalization with Israel.

Within this context, Biden’s first presidential trip to West Asia – in which he will go to Israel, the occupied West Bank, and Saudi Arabia this week – will be important to White House efforts to mend fences with Riyadh and salvage this decades-old partnership.

In a US mid-term election year that will likely lead to significant gains for his Republican opposition, Biden seeks to score major foreign policy points in Jeddah that can be used for domestic consumption back in Washington this summer.

Incentivizing Biden to convince the Saudis to increase their oil production are the millions of US motorists struggling with high gas prices and the many average American voters grappling with generational high inflation.

Energy prices are therefore extremely important to Biden’s controversial trip to the kingdom. Yet, this month’s summit in Saudi Arabia is unlikely to give Americans much relief at the gas pump between now and the elections in November.

Shifting the narrative from oil to peace

Determined to ensure that the US public does not tie this tour’s success specifically to a Saudi oil production hike – which could easily result in the Biden administration’s humiliation – the White House message is that this visit to Jeddah largely concerns peace in the region.

As Biden wrote in the Washington Post, avoiding a future in which the region is “coming apart through conflict” is of “paramount importance” to the White House, and he will “pursue diplomacy intensely – including through face-to-face meetings – to achieve our goals.”

According to Biden, if the region comes together through “diplomacy and cooperation” there is a lower chance of “violent extremism” threatening US national security or “new wars that could place new burdens on US military forces and their families.”

This trip comes at a time in which there is a fragile truce in Yemen, where the Saudis and Emiratis have waged a devastating seven-year war. Although the conflict remains unresolved, the drastic reduction in violence and increased humanitarian assistance to the war-torn country have given millions of Yemenis desperately needed relief.

The truce in Yemen has been possible in part because of Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member support, which makes it easier for Biden to justify his visit to Jeddah. After all, it was the Khashoggi affair and the conflict in Yemen that ‘Biden-the-candidate’ cited as reasons for his ‘pariah’ treatment of Riyadh.

Thus, moving toward a settlement to this conflict, in which the last two US presidents were heavily involved in escalating, helps Biden save face as he makes this trip. If the president leaves the kingdom with some guarantees from the Saudis about their commitment to future truce extensions, that could be interpreted as a win for Biden.

“The US administration is beginning to realize that President Biden can’t just ignore Saudi Arabia and that it’s in the best interest of the two countries to start working together, not just to reduce oil prices and pressure on US consumers, but also to further the stability of the Middle East and contain [the Iranian] threat whether in Lebanon or Yemen,” Najah Al-Otaibi, an associate fellow at the Riyadh-based King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, said in an interview with The Cradle.

Expanding on her point, Al-Otaibi said that “Saudi Arabia has recently agreed to extend the United Nations-mediated ceasefire with Yemen, and Prince Mohammed [bin Salman] played a critical role in this move, according to Biden’s officials who thought it is a step forward to solving the conflict.”

Last month, Biden clarified that, for him, bolstering Israel’s security was a major motivation for the trip to Saudi Arabia. Despite some speculation among pundits that Saudi Arabia will soon join the Abraham Accords, this is highly doubtful, especially with King Salman still on the throne. However, with MbS “the reformer” as future king, normalization between “the Land of the Two Holy Mosques” and Israel is all the more likely.

Insecurity and an ‘Arab NATO’

Even if Riyadh remains outside the Abraham Accords, there is much that Saudi Arabia can do to make it easier for other Arab-Muslim countries to normalize with Tel Aviv, and for the kingdom’s allies, already signatories to the Abraham Accords, to build on their overt relations with the Israelis.

While in Jeddah, Biden will likely push the Saudis to take some more baby steps toward a de facto normalization with Israel, even if it remains unofficial. One way for the kingdom to do so would be by granting permission for Israeli planes to transit Saudi airspace on their way to the UAE, Bahrain, and other countries.

Other avenues could include bolstering involvement by Israeli technology firms in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Saudi–Israeli military cooperation, and more visits by high-ranking Israeli officials to the kingdom that could build on former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s November 2020 visit to Neom.

Shoring up US–Arab partnerships in preparation for the increasingly likely scenario that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks with Iran will collapse in acrimony is a high priority for Biden.

Against the backdrop of Iran’s nuclear advancements as negotiations further stall, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states attending the GCC+3 summit are preparing for a post-JCPOA future in which friction between the US and Israel, on one side, and the Islamic Republic, on the other, appears set to intensify in the coming weeks and months.

“I think Iran, not oil, is the main issue as Iran moves closer and closer to having all the parts it needs to put together a nuclear bomb,” David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Wilson Center, told The Cradle. “Only a revival of the Iranian nuclear deal can stop that trend, and nobody is optimistic about that happening now.”

Although Riyadh and Tehran have been in direct talks via Baghdad since April 2021, the Saudi leadership wants assurances from team Biden that Washington remains committed to the kingdom’s security regardless of the fate of the 2015 nuclear accord, and that the US will work with its Arab allies to counter Iran in regional hotspots, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Yet, mindful of the little trust Saudi officials have in the Biden administration, it is difficult to imagine the US president gaining enough confidence from Riyadh during this upcoming trip vis-à-vis Iran-related issues. As Ottaway told The Cradle:

“I suspect [Biden] will declare another US commitment to defending the kingdom from its foreign enemies, but after Trump’s failure to take any action after Iranian attacks on Saudi oil facilities in 2019, he needs to say or do something to back up [what are] just words.”

In recent weeks, there has been much discussion about an Arab NATO that includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other US-friendly Arab states. Biden will seek to advance this initiative as the west and its allies and partners in West Asia remain worried about Iran’s regional foreign policy agenda.

“[Biden] wishes to reaffirm the historical strength and enduring reciprocity of the alliance, but also to press Riyadh on cooperating more on the energy side – particularly as the US moves as well to create a region-wide defense platform, the so-called Middle East NATO,” Sean Yom, an associate professor at Temple University, pointed out in an interview with The Cradle.

“There is, however, one sticking point that will probably cause a difference: the Saudis continue to desire a strong US presence in the Gulf, one that can police Iran and intervene in a potential militarized conflict, whereas Biden clearly is continuing his predecessors’ anti-interventionist stance,” added Yom.

Nonetheless, many experts have doubts about an Arab NATO ever manifesting into a real alliance, and expect the initiative to remain merely conceptual. This assessment accounts for the opposition of some Arab states to an open military coordination with Israel, as some GCC states, like the Sultanate of Oman, do not want to join an alliance aimed at weakening or intimidating Tehran.

There are also logistical hurdles which would make it difficult for these state militaries to integrate in a NATO-like manner.

“Biden’s plan for a US-backed ‘Arab NATO’ of GCC states plus Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan seems as unlikely to succeed as Trump’s Middle East Strategic Alliance, which never got off the ground,” Ottaway says.

Virtue-signalling human rights

Although Biden’s administration has determined that the moral costs of this presidential trip do not outweigh the perceived benefits, the Khashoggi affair remains a delicate issue – though significantly less so now than in the immediate aftermath of the grisly murder in October 2018.

MbS wants the US government to drop the Khashoggi issue, but elements within Biden’s party maintain that any interaction between him and the crown prince would be “profoundly disturbing.” To placate more progressive politicians, high-profile media pundits, and human rights activists who criticize Biden for “legitimizing” MbS on this trip, the president will seek some human rights concessions, like those which his administration secured at the start of his presidency.

If Biden is successful on this front, he could return to the US claiming that his visit to the kingdom helped advance, rather than hinder, the cause of human rights. Such an achievement would help Biden save face and tell his base that he did not abandon certain principles or so-called ‘American values’ by meeting MbS in the Saudi kingdom.

“His campaign trail rhetoric, like all political campaign rhetoric, was never going to bear much resemblance to executive policy and official diplomacy,” cautioned Yom. “But I do think Biden will exit the meetings by claiming that he squarely put human rights concerns, and potentially even democratic awareness, onto the agenda for Riyadh.”

Yet, whether the Saudi leadership feels it is under sufficient pressure to release any political prisoners, or provide liberties to some recently released Saudis who are banned from traveling, remains to be seen.

From the perspective of the Saudi government, the US and other western governments are inappropriately virtue signaling when raising human rights concerns in the kingdom. The view from Riyadh is that these issues are internal issues that do not concern Washington or European capitals.

Saudi and other Arab officials will often point to US sins in Iraq or police brutality against African-Americans to highlight elements of hypocrisy on the part of US politicians lecturing the Saudi government on the human rights front.

MbS reportedly “shouting” at US national security adviser Jake Sullivan after the high-ranking official brought up the Khashoggi case underscores the effect of these discussions on the leaders of Saudi Arabia.

The grander geopolitical picture 

Biden will visit Saudi Arabia amid a period of increasing east–west bifurcation and intensifying great power competition. Although neither China nor Russia is on the verge of replacing the US as security guarantor of Saudi Arabia or any GCC states, US influence in the Gulf has declined with Beijing and Moscow gaining greater clout at Washington’s expense.

Biden’s trip to Jeddah aims to reassert US influence in the Persian Gulf and attempt to prevent Riyadh and other Arab capitals from moving closer to the Chinese and Russians. An objective of Biden’s is to bring GCC states back into the geopolitical orbit of the west, while slowing down the growth of their partnerships with Beijing and Moscow.

“There were undeniable hiccups in the relationship last year, relating to halting support to the Yemen war, aggressive rhetoric against MbS, and more scrutiny on arms sales,” Yom explained.

“Fundamentally, none of these factors perturbed the great structural core of the US–Saudi alliance, built upon mutual perceptions of energy security, sovereign protections, and regional hegemony. But those hiccups were enough to make the decision-making circles in Riyadh a bit uncomfortable, enough at least to entertain Russian and Chinese overtures for military and energy cooperation.”

The White House and the entire US foreign policy establishment have grave concerns about Sino–Saudi ballistic missile cooperation and the extent to which the Chinese and Emiratis are making their defense and security relations more robust.

It is safe to say that while in Jeddah, team Biden will make it clear that the US will withhold future military assistance if GCC states move militarily closer to China. The extent to which such pressure has any impact on Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s relationships with Beijing remains an open question.

Nonetheless, team Biden must understand that this visit will occur against the backdrop of serious tensions between the US and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has grown frustrated with many aspects of Washington’s agenda in the Biden era.

The Saudi government’s view is that Biden is an ’Obama 2.0’ – a perspective that is not unreasonable when mindful of how many Obama administration veterans, including Biden himself, are serving in the White House.

By moving closer to China and Russia, the Saudis are sending a message, loud and clear, to Washington that Riyadh has other options on the international stage as the world moves towards multipolarity with more Arab statesmen perceiving the US as a power that is withdrawing from West Asia.

Riyadh can exaggerate the extent to which the kingdom has grown closer to Beijing and Moscow to gain leverage over the US and secure more concessions from Washington. That is likely to continue, and Biden would be making a mistake in placating the Saudis in every instance to merely try to stop Riyadh from tilting closer to China and Russia.

Simultaneously, Saudi Arabia is showing itself to be increasingly confident and Biden’s visit to the kingdom will add to Riyadh’s sense of being emboldened, giving the Saudi leadership more reason to pursue its own interests in ways that sometimes align more closely with Beijing and Moscow’s foreign policy objectives than those of western powers.

Despite these geopolitical tensions, the Biden administration and Al-Saud rulers both value Washington and Riyadh’s decades-old partnership, and neither side wants to abandon it. Much anger and a significant trust deficit, however, have built up between these two countries.

Biden will not be leaving Saudi Arabia later this month with all these issues resolved. But the dialogue in Jeddah has the potential to begin a process of mending fences.

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

China Reaffirms Refusal to Comply with US Sanctions on Iran

July 8, 2022

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian expressed on Thursday during a press conference his comments regarding the imposed US sanctions on a network of Chinese, Emirati, and other companies that are accused of helping to deliver and sell Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia.

He said, “China has always been firmly opposed to illegal and unjustifiable unilateral sanctions and so-called long-arm jurisdiction by the US. We urge the US side to abandon the wrong practice of resorting to sanctions at every turn and contribute positively to negotiations on resuming compliance with the JCPOA.”

He added that “the international community, including China, has conducted normal cooperation with Iran within the framework of international law. This is reasonable and lawful without harm done to any third party, and deserves to be respected and protected.”

The reinstatement of US sanctions after Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the Vienna Nuclear Agreement plunged Iran into a very difficult economic situation (9.5% drop in GDP in 2019) and prompted it to get closer to China. Spectacularly, bilateral trade increased from $4 billion in 2003 to $51.8 billion in 2014, making Beijing Tehran’s leading economic partner (25% of total trade in 2019-2020).

This privileged relationship resulted in the signing, in March 2021, of a trade agreement of 400 billion dollars for a period of 25 years between the two countries, the strategic “Lion-Dragon deal.” This alliance was also militarily expressed through the sale of arms, as well as joint naval maneuvers alongside Russia. This new Sino-Iranian proximity is reshuffling the cards in the Middle East. It also weighs on Chinese relations with “Israel” with whom Beijing had heated its exchanges in recent years.

Source: Iranian media (edited by Al-Manar English Website)

مشروع بايدن: «ناتو إسرائيليّ» بأموال العرب بلا قنبلة إيرانيّة!

 الثلاثاء 28 حزيران 2022

الأحلاف، السياسية منها والعسكرية، كانت بين أبرز مرتكزات الهيمنة الأميركية على العالم (أ ف ب)
 محمد صادق الحسيني

كلّ شيء يتحرك بسرعة وفجأة من أجل تنفيذ تعليمات السيد الأميركي المختنق في الشرنقة الأوكرانية!

تتزاحم الزيارات والمصالحات بين عواصم المتخاصمين، وتعود طاولة المفاوضات النووية الى الانتعاش بشكل سريع، وتنقل بحركة أوروبية انقلابية من فيينا لتصبح على مقربة من عرش ابن سلمان المهدّد بالباليستي اليمني ويُستدعى «الحاجب «

العراقي ليقوم بدور التهدئة بين الرياض وطهران.

وتتحرك «المقاصة» المالية القطرية لتحلل ما هو محرّم على بايدن داخلياً في الوقت الراهن بخصوص إطلاق سراح الأموال الإيرانية المجمّدة.

وقد يتوّج ذلك في مسقط لتحضر بريطانيا كشريك فاعل!

إنها حركة «دمج» قرار الدولة الأميركية العميقة المهزومة عالمياً والمنسحبة من منطقتنا بحالة الضعف والهزال الصهيوني وعجزه عن حماية أمنه بنفسه لينبلج عملياً الإعلان عن «مشروع بايدن الإسرائيلي الجديد» من إحدى مدن الملح في منتصف تموز المقبل.

ودائماً على قاعدة «الضرورات تبيح المحظورات» سيبرّر الأميركي كلّ هذا للرأي العام لديه، مع تقديم ضمانات لأيتام ترامب من تل أبيب الى الرياض بأن لا قنبلة نووية ايرانية في الأفق.

ولما كان منسحباً من المنطقة كما فعل مع أفغانستان لذلك سيقول لهم جميعاً :

 تفضلوا قلعوا شوككم بأيديكم وأطلقوا نظام الدفاع الجوي المشترك، وشركاتنا المتعددة الجنسية ستؤمّن لكم كلّ ما تريدون لينتعش مجمع الصناعات الحربية الأميركي بأموال العرب…

واما عن آلية حصول ذلك، فقد أفاد مصدر دبلوماسي متابع للتحركات الجارية، بما يلي:

أولا ـ انّ الهدف الأساسي للرئيس الأميركي، من زيارته المقبلة للشرق الأوسط، هو إعادة ترتيب المنطقة من جديد، اقتصادياً وسياسياً وعسكرياً، وهو الأمر الذي يستدعي جعل إيران جزءاً لا يتجزأ من هذه الترتيبات الجديدة .

ثُانيا ـ يرى بايدن أنّ العودة الى الاتفاق النووي مع إيران هي الخطوة الأساسية لإنجاح مشروعه.

وعليه فإنّ هدف الرئيس الأميركي من وراء سعيه لدمج إيران، في مشروع إعادة صياغة الشرق الاوسط، يتمثل في ما يلي:

أ ـ تهدئة خواطر الدول الخليجية وطمأنتها على أمنها في المستقبل .

ب ـ ضبط إيقاع إيران في الشرق الأوسط مستقبلاً، من خلال تقديم إغراءات اقتصادية وتجارية لها، في إطار مشروع الدمج المُشار إليه أعلاه.

ثالثا ـ يرى بايدن انّ أمام إيران خيارين هما:

أ ـ أن تكون جزءاً من هذه الترتيبات المستقبلية.

ب ـ أو تواجه التحدي العسكري من الولايات المتحدة وحلفائها.

رابعا ـ يعتبر الرئيس الأميركي انّ معيار نجاح زيارته للشرق الأوسط هو نجاحه في العودة الى الاتفاق النووي مع إيران، والاتفاق معها على الترتيبات المستقبلية، لمنطقة الشرق الأوسط، من خلال تفاهمات ثنائية، بينها وبين واشنطن، خارج الاتفاق النووي.

خامسا ـ اما بخصوص الترتيبات العسكرية، التي يريد بايدن العمل على الشروع بتنفيذها، بين الدول العربية و»إسرائيل»، فإنّ مواقف الأطراف المعنية بهذا المشروع، هي مواقف متباعدة وليس من السهل حشدها لقبول التنفيذ.

سادسا ـ إذ انّ دولة الإمارات العربية مثلاً الدولة الأكثر اندفاعاً للمشاركة «الإسرائيلية» في التحالف العسكريّ المقترح من الولايات المتحدة لمواجهة إيران.

 بينما ترفض كلٌّ من مصر والكويت وعُمان الدخول في تحالف معادٍ لإيران وذلك لأنها لا ترى انّ إيران تشكل ايّ تهديد لأمن هذه الدول او لمصالحها العربية والاقليمية .

سابعا ـ وفي إطار موقفها، من إنشاء تحالف عسكري ضدّ إيران في الشرق الأوسط، فإنّ الإمارات و»إسرائيل» تنويان البدء بإقامة قواعد الإنذار «الإسرائيلي» المبكر في الإمارات بعد انتهاء زيارة بايدن مباشرة.

علماً انّ الجهات «الإسرائيلية» المعنية قد انتهت من نقل المعدات والتجهيزات العسكرية اللازمة لذلك الى الإمارات العربية المتحدة.

كما انّ الخبراء العسكريين «الإسرائيليين» والفنيين والمهندسين، التابعين لشركات الصناعات الجوية «الإسرائيلية»، موجودون أيضاً في الإمارات ويقومون بتنفيذ الترتيبات التحضيرية لإقامة تلك القواعد.

ويمكرون ويمكر الله، والله خير الماكرين.

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

Talks on Iran’s Nuclear Program to begin on Tuesday in Qatar – Reports

27 Jun 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

Iran’s Foreign Ministry revealed that JCPOA talks would resume on Tuesday in Doha, Qatar.

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program to lift US sanctions will begin on Tuesday in Qatar.

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program will begin on Tuesday in Qatar, according to the IRNA news agency, citing an Iranian Foreign Ministry source.
 
“Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program to lift US sanctions will begin on Tuesday in Qatar,” the source told IRNA.

Since 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and began reimposing harsh economic sanctions on Iran, the nuclear deal has been hanging by a thread.

Although US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to return to the agreement, saying it is the best way forward with the Islamic republic, it has expressed growing pessimism in recent weeks.

The talks, according to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh, will take place “in an Arabian Gulf country in the coming days, later this week” and will focus on the lifting of US sanctions.

Separately, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported, citing an unnamed foreign ministry source, that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri would visit Qatar on Tuesday for “negotiations on lifting sanctions,” and that the US-Iran indirect talks would take place there.

A State Department spokesperson in Washington confirmed that the talks would take place this week in the Gulf.

“We are prepared to immediately conclude and implement the deal we negotiated in Vienna for mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the deal’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Khatibzadeh voiced hope for “positive results” from the talks.

Exclusive: Qatar may host indirect talks between Washington and Iran

Seyed Mohammad Marandi, A media advisor to the Iranian nuclear team, said earlier to Al Mayadeen on Monday, that Qatar will host indirect talks between Iran and the United States regarding reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Speaking with Al Mayadeen, Marandi stated that Qatar is one of the options offered to host indirect negotiations between Iran and the US.

During EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell’s visit to Iran, Tehran and Brussels are discussing the location for the coming JCPOA talks.

According to reports, Borrell had stated that Vienna would not host the next talks. “Talks between Iran, the United States, and European Union will not take place in Vienna because talks will not happen in US+P4+1 format,” Borrell said.

He explained that the negotiations will be held in the coming days and that they will be similar to the indirect negotiations between Iran and the US in Vienna.

أوروبا دخلت الحرب على التوقيت الأميركيّ فهل تخرج أميركا منها على التوقيت الأوروبيّ؟

 الإثنين 27 حزيران 2022

ناصر قنديل

لم يكن التصعيد الأميركي الأوروبي بوجه إيران وصولاً الى تعليق المفاوضات في فيينا بشروط تعجيزية، واعتماد إجراءات عدائية عبر الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية، معزولاً عن النظرة الأميركية الأوروبية لمفهوم الحرب الواحدة ضد روسيا والصين وإيران، بعد فشل محاولات الفصل بين الملفات، واحتواء أو إغراء أو ترهيب أي من اطراف المثلث الآسيوي الصاعد وصولاً الى تفكيك الحلف الثلاثي الذي يهدد الهيمنة الغربية. ومثل خط الصعود كان خط النزول، فالمبادرة الأوروبية المنسقة أميركياً نحو استئناف المسار التفاوضي بأفكار إيجابية مع إيران، هي تعبير شامل عن الخلاصات التي رسمتها موازين القوى، سواء في جبهة المواجهة مع روسيا أو مع الصين أو مع إيران.

يتباهى الرئيس الأميركي بأنه أسقط 30 سنة من الاستثمار الروسي على العلاقات المميزة مع أوروبا، وأثبت مناعة التحالف الأميركي الأوروبي، ودرجة تماسك حلف الناتو، لكنه لا يستطيع أن يتجاهل أن هذا الإنجاز الذي تجلى بنجاح أميركا في جر أوروبا وراءها وبتوقيتها لدخول الحرب الأوكرانية في مواجهة روسيا، يبقى مؤقتاً طالما أن الحفاظ على هذا التماسك الأميركي الأوروبي يستدعي ضبط إيقاع الخطوات الأميركية على حجم قدرة أوروبا على السير، وطالما أن الاستثمار الروسي على العلاقة مع أوروبا لم يكن حملة علاقات عامة، بل انطلاقاً من حقائق تفرضها الجغرافيا الاقتصادية وفي طليعتها حقيقة أن روسيا القريبة هي أفضل مورد للغاز والنفط لأوروبا، من زاوية المصلحة الأوروبية، وأن النجاح الأميركي أوروبياً مشروط بأحد أمرين: الأول هو الفوز برهان إسقاط روسيا بالضربة المالية القاضية عبر العقوبات، التي صمّمت لدفع الاقتصاد والنظام المالي في روسيا للانهيار، ما يضمن نهاية سريعة للحرب التي لا يمكن الرهان على الجانب العسكري الصرف للفوز بها، وعند الانهيار المالي الروسي يتحقق الخضوع الروسي للشروط الأميركية الأوروبية، كما كانت تقول الخطة المفترضة. والثاني هو النجاح بتأمين بدائل كافية وبأسعار معقولة توفر الطاقة لأوروبا، وجدول زمني مناسب مع تزامن الخروج من مصادر الطاقة الروسية، وعندها تتحضّر أوروبا للتأقلم مع حرب طويلة تستطيع تحمل تداعياتها.

فشل الرهانان الأميركيان، رغم سلاسة الانصياع الأوروبي، واقتربت ساعة الحقيقة، فقد شرعت روسيا بوقف ضخ الغاز، والمخزونات الأوروبية لا تكفي للحد الأدنى من حاجات ومتطلبات الشتاء المقبل، وقد امتلأت الغابات الأوروبية بالعائلات تحول أشجارها الى حطب، واستبدلت في البيوت تجهيزات التدفئة على الغاز بتلك القديمة على الحطب، وعاد الفحم الحجري رغم نسب التلوث المرتفعة التي يتسبّب بها للدخول على الكثير من أوجه الاستخدام الصناعي، والحديث على أعلى المستويات عن تناوب المصانع الكبرى على يومين للعمل في الأسبوع وإقفال صناعات لا تحتاج الأسواق الداخلية منتوجاتها المخصصة للتصدير ويمكن الاستغناء عنها، وبلغ ارتفاع الأسعار نسباً متصاعدة، تتراوح بين 50% و100%، وهي مرشحة للتزايد، ومعها الاضطرابات الاجتماعية والسياسيّة المقبلة، وأول المؤشرات جاءت من الانتخابات الفرنسية.

بالتوازي كشفت كل الاتصالات والمحاولات التجارية والسياسية لتأمين الغاز من مصادر أخرى أن سقف المتاح لا يغطي أكثر من 30% من حجم الغاز الروسي لأوروبا، 10% من أميركا بضعف السعر الرائج، و10% من قطر والجزائر، لكن بعد العام 2024، و10% من غاز شرق المتوسط، ودونه تعقيدات سياسية وأمنية، كحال الغاز المفروض استخراجه وضخه من بحر عكا والمرتبط بمستقبل ترسيم الحدود البحرية مع لبنان، وأمن الاستجرار عبر المتوسط، وكلها بأكلاف عالية والحاجة لاستثمارات ضخمة، وانتظار لشهور او سنوات، بينما لم يعد موضع نقاش أي رهان على تهاوي الاقتصاد الروسي او انهيار النظام المالي للنقد الروسي، فسعر صرف الروبل الذي استعاد مكانته بعد اهتزاز لم يدم لأكثر من ثلاثة ايام، يحقق ارباحاً تتخطى الـ 50% بالقياس لسعره قبل الحرب، عاكساً نهضة اقتصادية داخلية ونمواً متزايداً في قطاعات جديدة وفرتها عملية تشغيل البنى التحتية لمنشآت الشركات الغربية التي غادرت الأسواق الروسية بفعل العقوبات.

ساعة الحقيقة الأميركية هي الاختيار بين المضي قدماً في خيار المواجهة دون أوروبا، التي بدأت علامات الإعياء والإنهاك تظهر عليها، وبدأت الانقسامات تهدد وحدتها، وصارت فرضية انسحاب تدريجيّ لدولها من خيار المواجهة مطروحة على الطاولة. وهذا يعني فقدان زخم المواجهة، في لحظة تعاني هذه المواجهة أصلاً من العجز عن تحقيق تقدم، سواء في المسار العسكري، أو في المسار الاقتصادي، والانفصال الأميركي عن أوروبا يعني منح روسيا ربحاً استراتيجياً بتلقف هذه التشققات الأوروبية والتعامل معها، وتخلي الأميركي عما تباهى به من الحفاظ على تماسك أميركا وأوروبا معا، أو القبول باعتبار الحفاظ على الوحدة مع أوروبا يبقى الأمر الأهم في أولويات المرحلة المقبلة، وهذا يعني أنه كما دخلت أوروبا الحرب على التوقيت الأميركي، فقد آن أوان أن تبدأ أميركا بالاستعداد للخروج منها على التوقيت الأوروبي.

الاستجابة الأميركية للدعوة الأوروبية للعودة الى مسار التفاوض لإنقاذ الاتفاق النووي مع إيران، وقبول تقديم ما يوصف بالتنازلات المؤلمة لتحقيق هذا الهدف، هي تعبير عن مسار سيتكرر على الجبهة الأوكرانية بحديث مواز عن تنازلات مؤلمة على الغرب وأوكرانيا تقديمها، تحت شعار دفع خطر المجاعة عن البشرية، وقد بدأ الترويج لهذا الشعار تمهيداً لنقلات دراماتيكية في مسار الحرب الأوكرانية، والحملة البريطانية التحذيرية من إذلال أوكرانيا ليست إلا استباق لهذا المسار المقبل.

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Iran After Strong, Sustainable Deal in JCPOA Talks: Shamkhani

June, 26, 2022

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani reaffirmed Tehran’s push for a strong, sustainable and reliable agreement in the talks for saving the 2015 nuclear deal and lifting the anti-Iranian sanctions.

In a meeting with the European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, held in Tehran on Saturday, Shamkhani slammed Europe’s inaction and the US’s lack of commitment to its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Iran’s remedial measures in the nuclear sector are merely a legal and rational reaction to US unilateralism and Europe’s inaction and will continue as long as the West’s illegal practices persist,” he stated.

Shamkhani noted that the illegal withdrawal of the US from the HCPOA has caused the Iranian nation to lose trust in the West and Washington.

“We have fulfilled all our commitments under the JCPOA and have never left the negotiating table and we are still looking for a strong, lasting and reliable agreement,” the top security official said.

Shamkhani emphasized that the removal of illegal sanctions and full and lasting realization of the economic benefits of the JCPOA are Iran’s main objectives in engaging in the talks with the P4+1 group of countries.

“Iran does not favor an agreement that fails to meet the two above-mentioned principles in providing a reliable guarantee from the US and Europe,” he said.

He emphasized that the participants in the Vienna talks failed to reach a final agreement on the JCPOA revival because of the US’ contradictory behavior and its sticking to threats and sanctions.

“The language of force cannot be used in addressing a country that has overcome the most difficult conditions of sanctions with vigorous resistance and the sympathy and support of its people,” the SNSC secretary said, Press TV reported.

The senior EU diplomat, for his part, said the possible JCPOA revival under the current global circumstances can be regarded as a very important security achievement in the international system.

Borrell criticized Trump for pulling the United States out of the multilateral agreement and said all the parties to the JCPOA must look ahead to the future to reach a good final deal.

Pointing to his talks with US officials before traveling to Tehran, he added that the administration of Joe Biden is keen to reach an agreement on the JCPOA revival.

Negotiations have been held in the Austrian capital of Vienna since April last year to restore the JCPOA, which was ditched by former US president Donald Trump in May 2018.

In quitting the agreement, Trump unleashed what he called the “maximum pressure” campaign to bring Iran to its knees. Tehran maintains that the policy has failed dismally. The Biden administration agrees, yet it has not taken any tangible steps to deliver on its promise of repealing the policy.

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Sergey Lavrov’s Presser at a joint news conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

June 24, 2022

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Tehran, June 23, 2022

Ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to thank my colleague, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for the hospitality extended to me and my delegation from the first minutes of my stay on Iranian soil.

Yesterday’s detailed conversation with President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi and today’s long talks have confirmed both countries’ focus on deepening cooperation in all areas in accordance with the agreements reached by our leaders. I am referring to Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Russia in January 2022 and his subsequent telephone conversations with President Vladimir Putin. The last call took place on June 8.

The presidents are unanimous that relations between Russia and Iran have reached the highest point in their history. At the same time, there is significant untapped potential for further advancement in our partnership. To this end, work is now underway on a new and comprehensive “big interstate treaty,” initiated by the President of Iran. Some time ago, Russia submitted its proposals and additions to the Iranian initiative to Tehran. Today we agreed that experts should coordinate this important document as soon as possible because it will determine the prospects for our strategic cooperation for the next two decades.

Particular attention during the talks was paid to trade and economic issues, investment, and the need to expand bilateral relations in a situation where the United States and its “satellites” are using illegal sanctions to hinder our countries’ progressive development and the interaction between Russia and Iran, as well as with other countries that reject diktat and refuse to follow Washington’s orders. Despite this discriminatory policy, trade between Russia and Iran showed a record growth of over 80 percent in 2021, exceeding $4 billion for the first time. This trend continued into 2022. We will do everything we can to support it.

A Russian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak visited Tehran at the end of May to promote economic cooperation. The delegation included representatives from the relevant ministries and agencies, the heads of Russian regions that cooperate with Iran, and business representatives. They met with their Iranian counterparts to discuss purely practical issues of expanding cooperation, outlining action plans for such areas as energy, transport, agriculture, finance, banking, and customs. At this point, these ambitious goals are being considered at the level of relevant experts.

We highlighted success in implementing our flagship projects, including  the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (the second and third units being under construction), the Sirik Thermal Power Plant that is being built with the state loans issued by the Russian Federation and a project to upgrade a railway section.

Just last week, a panel discussion dedicated to the Russian-Iranian business dialogue took place as part of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. A meeting of the intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation will be held soon. As we agreed today, the foreign ministries of Russia and Iran will continue to provide political and diplomatic support to all joint economic undertakings every step of the way.

In this context, Russia has been facilitating the Iran-EAEU negotiating process that started out in 2021 to develop a free trade agreement. The working group in question will meet in Isfahan in early July.

We talked about fortifying the contractual and legal framework. Hossain Amir-Abdollahian mentioned an agreement on international cybersecurity and an agreement on creating cultural centres in our countries.

We also mentioned the importance of moving forward with drafting an agreement on cooperation in geological exploration and oil and gas production, as well as with ratifying the existing agreement on scientific and technical cooperation between our countries.

We discussed international issues in depth. We stand together in rejecting the concept of the rules-based order that is pushed forward by the United States and its satellites. This concept is designed for use as a substitute for international law and the UN Charter’s basic principles, primarily the principle of sovereign equality of states. Everything that the United States and its allies are doing in the international arena flat-out undermines this fundamental UN principle. Iran and Russia condemn the untenable practice of unilateral illegal sanctions that are imposed contrary to the UN Charter and need to be opposed by all independent members of the international community.

To this end, the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations was established which, among others, includes Iran and Russia and has more than 20 members. I’m sure the group will expand.

On behalf of the Russian Federation, we welcome the official process for Iran joining the SCO as a full member which was launched in 2021. A memorandum will be signed at a SCO summit to be held in Samarkand in September that will clearly lay out the legal scope and timeframe for this process. It should not take long.

We are convinced that Tehran will make a significant contribution to strengthening the SCO as one of the key centres of the emerging multipolar order.

We discussed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action designed to settle matters related to the Iranian nuclear programme. In conjunction with other nations that signed this plan, we have been striving for a long time now to correct the mistake made by the United States. Washington withdrew from this deal and from the corresponding UN Security Council resolution, once again trampling upon its commitments under international law. We will push for the JCPOA to be restored in its original configuration, the way it was approved in 2015 by a UN Security Council resolution, without exceptions or additions, to make sure that the illegal sanctions on Iran that are inconsistent with the JCPOA are lifted. We hope Washington will make a rational choice, although we cannot fully rely on that.

We spoke about our cooperation on a Syrian settlement, primarily in the Astana format that includes Russia, Iran and Turkey. We highly rated the regular session in this format which took place in the capital of Kazakhstan in early June of this year. We agreed to continue coordinating our efforts to achieve the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, resolve humanitarian problems in Syria and encourage the international community to start practical work on restoring the infrastructure, preparing for the return of refugees and in general, ensuring the country’s return to normal life.

Iran and the Russian Federation are doing much in this area, helping to implement relevant projects on the ground in the Syrian Arab Republic. Unfortunately, the majority of the Western members of the international community are doing everything to delay fulfilment of the requirements of this resolution and impede the efforts of international organisations to this end, primarily the relevant UN agencies. This politicised course of action prevents the settlement of problems in Syria and, zooming out, in the Middle East and North Africa.

Russia and Iran have a common position on the need to resume direct talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis with a view to implementing all decisions of the international community, including the creation of the State of Palestine and the OIC-approved Arab Peace Initiative. We will uphold this position in the UN and closely cooperate with the OIC and the Arab League.

We talked about the developments in the South Caucasus, Afghanistan and Yemen. Russia and Iran have many opportunities to use their influence and contacts with a view to achieving a durable settlement and normalisation.

We reaffirmed our commitment to facilitate stabilisation in the Persian Gulf. As you know, Russia has introduced and continues promoting a concept for collective security in this important part of the world. We are willing to help promote dialogue between the Arab countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

We are members of the Caspian Five. Next week, the Caspian states will meet for a summit in Ashgabat. We coordinated our preparations for this important event.

Talking yesterday with President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi and today with Foreign Minister of Iran Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, we described in detail the current developments in and around Ukraine. We thanked our Iranian friends for their entirely correct understanding of the events. Above all, they realise that during the past decade our US-led Western colleagues have been trying to turn Ukraine into a bridgehead for threatening and “deterring” Russia, in part, by developing Ukraine’s territory militarily. We repeatedly sought to engage with the West on this matter. All our concerns have been ignored. President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking officials explained many times that Russia simply did not have another choice but to ensure the interests of Donbass and its Russian residents in the face of a threat from the increasingly aggressive neo-Nazi regime that took power in Kiev after the anti-Constitutional coup d’etat. The Kiev authorities and those who put them in power and continue supporting officially refuted all our attempts to achieve the implementation of the Minsk agreements that were approved by the UN Security Council.

We are convinced that an overwhelming majority of the world’s countries understand the current situation. The Americans are trying to impose a “rules-based order” on all others. This concept is designed to subordinate the security of all countries to the interests of the Western world and ensure the total, “eternal” domination of Washington and its allies. Understandably, this concept goes against the entire historical process and the objective trend towards forming a multipolar world order under which countries, with their independence and self-worth intact, will uphold their interests in conformity with the principles of the UN Charter. The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation are among these countries.

Question: Given the constructive role played by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the negotiations, they have managed to reach a sustainable agreement on the JCPOA. We see the current sabotage by the United States through the imposition of new sanctions and anti-Iranian resolutions. They are slowing down the process. What is your assessment of Washington’s destructive policy of slowing down the JCPOA negotiating process?

Sergey Lavrov: Not only on the JCPOA, but on virtually every issue on the international agenda, the United States is totally inconsistent, driven by short-term considerations, glancing back at the problems in the United States itself and how they can try to distract voters from them.

What the United States is doing in the negotiations to resume the JCPOA is an example of such actions, where the focus is on creating a “picture” designed to reaffirm the unquestioned leadership role of the United States on every issue on the international agenda. Such attempts to put a falsely understood reputation ahead of the merits of the issue are highly risky.

About a year ago, the United States tried to blame us for the fact that an agreement to fully resume the JCPOA was delayed. That was, to put it mildly, untrue. Everybody understands this very well. A year ago, the Russian Federation, like all the other parties to the agreement, reiterated its readiness to resume it in full. Since then, the United States has been single-handedly stalling the agreement. We have once again confirmed to our Iranian friends that we will support in every way possible their position on the need to resume the JCPOA in full, without any exceptions or unacceptable “add-ons”. This includes lifting all illegitimate sanctions.

Question (retranslated from Pashto): How close is Russia’s position on the Syrian crisis to that of Iran? Does the warning to Israel about an attack on Damascus International Airport mean that the positions of Iran and Russia are close on this issue?

Sergey Lavrov: We have repeatedly emphasised the need for all countries to strictly fulfil UN Security Council Resolution 2254 that relies on the basic principle of recognising the territorial integrity of the SAR and the need to respect Syria’s sovereignty.

During regular contacts with our Israeli colleagues, we constantly draw their attention to the need to stop violating this resolution and the air space of Syria, not to mention striking at its territory.

To our great regret, the latest incident is serious. It was a strike on a civilian airport, which put it out of service for several weeks and made it impossible to deliver humanitarian cargoes by air.

We sent a relevant note to Israel, emphasising the need for all countries to abide by Resolution 2254. We will continue upholding this position in our contacts with Israel and other countries that are involved in the Syrian settlement process in different ways.

You asked my colleague several questions, including one about the food crisis. I would like to emphasise again that there is no connection whatsoever between the special military operation in Ukraine and the food crisis. This is admitted even by US Government members and representatives of the international organisations dealing with food security. The crisis and the conditions for it were created several years ago. It didn’t start today or yesterday, but a couple of years ago when the Western countries embarked on imprudent, ill-considered, populist fiscal policies. President Vladimir Putin spoke about it in detail. I will not describe them at this point. I would merely stress that the efforts undertaken now by Turkey and the UN Secretary-General would have succeeded long ago if Ukraine and its Western patrons demined Black Sea ports. This issue is clear to any specialist. The attempts to establish an international coalition for these procedures are obviously aimed at interfering in the affairs of the Black Sea region under UN aegis. This is perfectly clear to us. There is no need for any complicated procedures. It is simply necessary to allow the ships locked by the Ukrainians in the mined ports of the Black Sea to leave. The main thing is to clear these ports of mines or provide clear passageways for them.

As for international waters, the Russian Federation guarantees the safe travel of these ships to the Strait of Bosporus. We have an understanding with the Republic of Turkey in this respect.

I will say again that the attempts to make a “worldwide tragedy” out of the amount of grain that remains in Ukraine are not above board. Everyone knows that this grain amounts to less than one percent of the global production of wheat and other grains.

Now it is important to compel the Ukrainians to let out the foreign ships that are being held hostage there. There is no need to turn this problem into a diversion to conceal the mistakes and failures of the West in its international policy on the food and fertiliser markets.

Question (retranslated from Farsi): A fortnight ago you mentioned a new political package from the US side. A week ago, Mr Zadeh said that “the train has not yet gone off the rails” and you said that in the future there was a possibility that negotiations could be resumed. Has anything changed recently?

Sergey Lavrov: If I understood the translation correctly, cooperation between Russia and Iran in the energy sector has a rich history and good prospects.

As far as bilateral cooperation is concerned, we have always found solutions to the problems that have arisen in this area because of the illegal actions of the United States and its satellites, who are trying to hinder the development of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s energy sector. At the present stage, they are trying to do the same with regard to oil and gas production and transportation in the Russian Federation. Our bilateral plans under consideration today are starting to take concrete form; they are beginning to be implemented. They are aimed at making sure that they do not depend in any way on the unlawful unilateral intervention of anybody else.

I can assure you: there is a reliable plan to work in this way. Together with Iran, we have traditionally worked together in the context of international efforts to stabilise the oil and gas market. There is a complete agreement within the OPEC+ group on the need to safeguard Iran’s interests in its future activities. We will be guided by this.

Question: Israel and the United States have announced a new regional air defence alliance in the Middle East to protect Israel and neighbours from Iranian rockets. How will this affect the Iran nuclear deal? Will Moscow and Tehran intensify military cooperation in this regard?

Sergey Lavrov: We are following statements made by our American colleagues, who are openly declaring their intention to try and forge a bloc between several Arab countries and Israel and target this new group against the Islamic Republic of Iran. I believe too much has already been said about the inconsistency of American foreign policy. I don’t want to repeat myself. But this idea is obviously at odds with their intention to normalise the situation in the region and resume full implementation of the JCPOA, through the efforts of the United States, if they are sincerely interested in this.

We prefer less contradictory arrangements, as compared to those the Americans are now promoting in various regions. Take their idea of ​​the Indo-Pacific. It runs counter to every universal format that has developed over the years around ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific region. Those formats included the US, Russia, China, Australia, India, Japan and Korea. It was a process whereby all interests, primarily those of the regional players and their partners, were brought to a common denominator. Instead, having disrupted all the bodies created under the auspices of ASEAN, the Americans are promoting conflict-generating, divisive formats, without hiding that their policy is aimed at restraining China and isolating Russia.

The same logic is evident in the initiative to create an air and missile defence system in the Middle East. This is the logic of division and confrontation. We prefer unifying logic. The underlying principle of our initiative to build a collective security system in the Persian Gulf region is unification. The system we propose should provide a framework for the Arab countries to establish a dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran, work out joint measures of confidence and transparency, and take other steps to ensure stabilisation. Our idea is to involve the permanent members of the UN Security Council, the EU, the Arab League, the UN and the OIC to facilitate these processes. This is an example of how we consistently propose resolving any problems through combining efforts and finding a balance of interests.

The example we are now discussing, which involves the US initiative in the Middle East, is not a case of finding a balance of interests; it is a case of planting confrontation, and an attempt to create dividing lines that will be there forever. Needless to say, this is a dead-end position. In any case, in the end, everyone will come to understand the need to return to the underlying principles of the United Nations, such as resolving problems through cooperation, and not through the creation of hostile and aggressive blocs.

BRICS Leaders Vow to Enhance & Expand New Development Bank

23.06.2022

Samizdat 

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa held their 14th annual summit on Thursday virtually. This year, the summit was chaired by China.

BRICS members vowed to widen the Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB) on Thursday, following the successful admission of Bangladesh, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Uruguay in September 2021.

“We look forward to further membership expansion in a gradual and balanced manner in terms of geographic representation and comprising of both developed and developing countries, to enhance the NDB’s international influence as well as the representation and voice of Emerging Market and Developing Countries (EMDCs) in global governance,” the 75-point joint declaration released after the summit read.

BRICS has supported the NDB’s goals of attaining the highest possible credit rating and institutional development. The BRICS member nations have also stressed that they have a similar approach to the global economic governance, and their mutual cooperation can make a valuable contribution to the post-Covid economic recovery.

Geopolitical Concerns

Leaders also discussed the ongoing crisis in Eastern Europe, recalling their national positions at different global forums, including the United Nations’ Security Council and General Assembly.

“We support talks between Russia and Ukraine. We have also discussed our concerns over the humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine,” the joint declaration said.

Amid border tensions between India and China, the leaders committed to “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States,” stressing the peaceful resolution of differences and disputes through dialogue and consultation.

The BRICS countries – which represent 24 percent of the global GDP and 16 percent of worldwide trade – further reiterated the need to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through peaceful and diplomatic means as per international law. They stressed the importance of preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a deal reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in 2015. The stand-off between Iran and western nations continues following the US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018.

Israel Murders Iranians While Biden Kills the Iran Deal

June 23, 2022

By Connor Freeman | The Libertarian Institute |

In a clear message to Tehran, an American B-52 flew over the Persian Gulf as soon as Joe Biden entered the White House. Biden promised to return the U.S. to the Iran nuclear deal. But indirect talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which began last April, have stalled for three months without a resolution in sight. Counting on the reliable support of Biden and bipartisan Iran hawks in Congress, the nuclear-armed Israeli apartheid regime intends to kill the deal entirely.

Tehran, a decades-long signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, is neither seeking nor has ever sought nuclear weapons. But the Islamic Republic, once Tel Aviv’s “best friend,” serves as Israel’s favorite boogeyman, superficially justifying billions of dollars in American military aid each year. The JCPOA threatens the racket.

Formally known for years as “Israel’s man in Washington,” President Biden is essentially pursuing ultra-Zionist Donald Trump’s foreign policy regarding Iran and supporting, tacitly or otherwise, Tel Aviv’s relentless attacks against Iran and its allies. Biden is continuously imposing yet more sanctions, increasing the “Maximum Pressure” on the economically crippled Iranian people.

The rial has hit all-time lows. With a population of 82 million, almost half of all Iranians live below the poverty line, and inflation is somewhere between 40-50%.

America’s self-styled sanctions artists delight in seeing the results of their economic war on Iran: excess deathssevere medical shortagesprohibitively high prices for staple goodsplummeting incomesand social unrest over food costs.

This year, Tel Aviv has been bombing Syria, Tehran’s ally, at the usual weekly rate. A recent strike, coming from the illegally occupied Golan Heights, attacked Damascus International Airport. The airstrike targeted the facility’s only working runway Israel had not yet destroyed, rendering the airport temporarily inoperable.

Shortly afterwards, The Wall Street Journal put out a story confirming that Tel Aviv coordinates with the Pentagon on many of its strikes in Syria.

The Israelis just wrapped up month-long war drills, the largest held in decades, aimed squarely at Tehran. Exercises over the Mediterranean Sea, with over 100 aircraft and navy submarines, spanned 10,000 kilometers and were designed to simulate repeated airstrikes on Iran and their civilian nuclear facilities.

Early reports were that the U.S. Air Force would participate, providing refueling planes, but this reportedly did not come to pass. Although General Michael Kurilla, the new head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), observed some of these Chariots of Fire exercises.

On May 22, 2022, the Israelis carried out a high profile assassination of a senior colonel in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei. Shortly afterwards, citing an unnamed intelligence official, The New York Times reported Tel Aviv had informed Washington that it was responsible. Israel’s attacks seem to be primarily focused on the Iranians’ drone program, namely killing people who work on drone technology and attacking related sites.

As Dave DeCamp, Antiwar.com news editor, reported,

Israel was immediately suspected of the assassination since it has a history of carrying out targeted killings and other attacks inside Iran. Israel rarely officially acknowledges such operations, and it’s typical that its responsibility is revealed by leaks to the media, often by Israeli officials.

Israeli officials claimed to the Times that Khodaei was in charge of a secret covert IRGC group known as Unit 840, which Iran denies exists. The Israelis claim Khodaei was involved in plots to kill and kidnap Israeli civilians and officials around the world, but there’s no evidence Tehran was planning to target Israelis abroad.

Two people affiliated with the IRGC told the Times that Khodaei was a logistics officer who played a key role in transporting drone and missile technology to Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon and advised militias in Syria. Iran has said Khodaei was involved in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Israel is suspected to have subsequently poisoned and murdered two Iranian scientists including Ayoub Entezari, an aerospace engineer, who reportedly worked on missile and drone projects, and Kamran Aghamolaei, a geologist.

Last month, a few dozen miles south of Tehran, quadcopter suicide drones attacked the Parchin military complex. The drones hit a building being used for drone development and killed a young engineer. In February, Israel used six quadcopter drones in a strike targeting another Iranian drone facility in Kermanshah which did significant damage. In Tabriz, there were reports of another Israeli attack on a drone factory, as many as three people may have been killed. This month, two additional IRGC members also working in the aerospace industry died during mysterious accidents in Iran. Both deaths were declared “martyrdoms.”

In the midst of these soaring tensions, Robert Malley, Biden’s Iran envoy, is telling Congress “all options are on the table.”

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass a non-binding resolution which insists they would never support a restoration of the JCPOA if the IRGC were removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) blacklist. The FTO designation is ostensibly one of the final sticking points preventing the deal’s straightforward revival. Congress has been sending messages, loud and clear, to Tehran and Biden that the deal has virtually no support.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is peddling baseless stories about Tehran attempting to assassinate his predecessor Mike Pompeo. Pompeo enthusiastically supported Trump’s Maximum Pressure campaign as well as the drone strike murder of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, leader of the IRGC Quds Force. Though these claims of Pompeo’s life being endangered remain unproven, U.S. taxpayers pay millions per month for a security detail to put his and Blinken’s mind at ease.

Much like Tel Aviv’s unproven accusations that the IRGC is out to kidnap and murder Israelis, especially in Istanbul for some reason, this obviously plays well with the overall anti-JCPOA campaign.

The IRGC is the only state military organization on the terrorism blacklist. Considering the myriad preexisting sanctions on the unit, it is a superfluous insult. In 2019, Trump implemented this policy at the behest of Israeli-partisan hawks like Mark Dubowitz at the Foundation For Defense of Democracies, a notoriously anti-Iran think tank. This is one of the largest bricks in the so called “sanctions wall” precluding any of Trump’s successors from ever returning to the deal for fear of the built-in political toxicity. It is enough to keep Biden and the cowardly Democrats from backing what is ultimately Barack Obama’s deal in favor of a neoconservative-style Iran policy.

As May began, Israel started making these claims about a global Iranian plot to kill Israelis. At that time, the JCPOA negotiations were seemingly stalled irrevocably because of the IRGC-FTO issue. But then the Vienna talks’ broker, European Union nuclear negotiator Enrique Mora, traveled to Tehran. He took meetings with Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani as a last ditch effort to break the deadlock. Mora was sent by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. As a result of the American led sanctions blitz on Russia, Europeans are in desperate need of another crude supplier as Borrell has noted. The same week, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, also made a trip to Tehran and pushed for progress during meetings with President Ebrahim Raisi as well as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On May 13th, Borrell announced Mora’s mission went “better than expected,” Vienna talks had been unblocked, and a final deal was within reach.

Days later, coinciding with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s visit to Washington, and his meetings with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, Khodaei was murdered in the drive-by shooting. Israel’s assassination campaign had commenced.

Two days after the Khodaei killing, Politico reported that the final decision to keep the IRGC on the FTO list was made. On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanked Biden for the “principled decision and for being a true friend of the State of Israel.”

Following Trump, Biden’s administration is also continuing to seize tankers, stealing Iranian oil and pirating it for profit. Ironically, after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, there was some talk from Biden officials about making a deal with the Islamic Republic to put Iran’s abundant oil back on the market to reduce global energy prices. But this was apparently never taken seriously.

Biden instead prefers to kowtow to the genocidal Saudi regime which along with Abu Dhabi and Washington have starved to death and bombed over 400,000 Yemenis, including more than 263,000 children.

Those deaths mean little to the Abraham Accords caucus. This bipartisan coalition in Congress is working to ensure Washington arms these tyrants further while the Pentagon assists them in joining forces, as well as integrating missile defenses with Tel Aviv eyeing Tehran. As Biden heads to the Middle East, there is even talk of the U.S. offering security guarantees to the United Arab Emirates.

For almost a year, the Israelis have been pushing an anti-Iran, NATO-style, U.S. led alliance in the Middle East. In recent weeks, Gantz has openly promoted this strategy which Bennett is said to have suggested to Biden during a White House meeting last year.

As Iran is encircled militarily and strangled economically, the American Empire is refusing to allow them any breathing room. Each day the U.S. forgoes lifting sanctions and restoring the deal the likelihood of a hot war increases.

Given the size of Iran, its population, its geostrategic location, substantial ballistic missile deterrent, its Axis of Resistance partners, and the wide variety of U.S. military targets in the region, a war with Tehran would likely dwarf the catastrophic damage, scope, and deaths of America’s other Middle East wars.

If the JCPOA fails, the hawks armed to the teeth surrounding Iran may try to goad Tehran into leaving the NPT. Whether this happens ultimately or not, Israel may use the coming breakdown in diplomacy to justify instigating its long desired war. Rightfully, the Iranians will see such an Israeli attack as an American declaration of war.

This week, Tehran has formally dropped their demand for removing the IRGC from the FTO list. Washington has not yet responded. Contrary to the corporate press narrative, the ball is now firmly in Washington’s court.

Iran called Biden’s bluff. It is imperative that the American people now assert our support for terminating the unjustified and brutal Maximum Pressure campaign as well as denounce Israel’s murderous aggressions.

The Iranian people deserve to live and trade in peace.

IAEA claims Iran is preparing to increase uranium enrichment

The only activity Iran has confirmed is the ‘passivation of the cascade, a process that precedes enrichment and also involves feeding UF6 into the machines’

June 21, 2022

A uranium enrichment centrifuge cascade. (Photo credit: US Department of Energy/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

ByNews Desk

According to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report obtained by Reuters, the Islamic Republic of Iran is allegedly preparing to increase nuclear enrichment with advanced centrifuges at the Fordow underground nuclear facility.

The Reuters report, released on 20 June, cites IAEA allegations that Iran is getting ready to use advanced IR-6 centrifuges at the Fordow facility. The report states such centrifuges allow operators to easily switch between enrichment levels.

This is one of many gradual steps Iran has stated it will carry out in retaliation for Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under then president Donald Trump, as well as the subsequent US sanctions placed on Iran regularly since then.

The IAEA alleges that Iran is “ready to feed uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, the material centrifuges enrich, into the second of two cascades, or clusters, of IR-6 centrifuges installed at Fordow,” according to the report.

The only activity that Iran has directly confirmed, according to the report, is “passivation of the cascade, a process that precedes enrichment and also involves feeding UF6 into the machines.”

Iran has not confirmed as to what purity the cascade will enrich to. In the past, Iran had informed the IAEA that IR-6 cascades can enrich either 5 percent or 20 percent purity.

The Fordow nuclear facility was targeted for a sabotage attack on 15 March, but the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) thwarted the plot, which they claim was orchestrated by Israeli spies.

On 17 June, Iran informed the IAEA that it is moving some of the nuclear activities from the facility in Karaj to the facility in Natanz, despite not having an obligation to disclose this information.

The Karaj facility was subject to a sabotage attack in June 2021, which damaged several cameras. Iranian authorities asserted that Israel was behind the attack on the site infrastructure.

On 9 June, Iranian media reported on the expansion of the production and installation of advanced IR-6 centrifuge networks in the underground Natanz nuclear facility.

The decision to expand came one day after the IAEA Board of Governors passed an “anti-Iran” resolution introduced by the US, UK, France, and Germany.

The head of the AEOI, Mohammad Eslami, said on 9 June that the IAEA has been hijacked and is being exploited by Israel.

The anti-Iran resolution was adopted just days after IAEA chief Rafael Grossi traveled to Israel to meet with outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Israel has a semi-secret arsenal of several hundred atomic weapons. Its nuclear program – which includes both commercial and military applications – is not subject to inspections nor scrutiny by the IAEA.

In response to the US-backed IAEA resolution, on 8 June, Iran shut down several IAEA-owned CCTV cameras that surveil the activities of Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Iranian foreign ministry stated that their response was “decisive and appropriate.”

The Islamic Republic has previously presented evidence that the IAEA sends in spies and saboteurs under the guise of nuclear inspectors, who allegedly pass sensitive information on to Iran’s adversaries.

Skepticism towards the neutrality of IAEA also increased after the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

انتخابات الكيان المبكّرة وعلم الاحتمالات

June 20, 2022

ناصر قنديل

في ظاهر الأمور جاء قرار الائتلاف الحاكم في الكيان بحل الكنيست والذهاب إلى انتخابات مبكرة يرجّح أن تجري في شهر تشرين الأول المقبل، تعبيراً عن تطوّرات المشهد السياسي الداخلي في الكيان، مع وجود حكومة تمزقها تناقضات مركبة بين مكوّناتها الآتية من أصناف اليمين واليسار، والتي تشكلت بأغلبية هزيلة، بعدما دنا موعد انتقال الرئاسة بين شركائها من ضفة اليمين الى ضفة يسار الوسط، من نفتالي بينيت إلى يائير لبيد، وفي ظل هشاشة الدعم النيابي الذي تلقاه بعدما بدأت الأغلبية بالتداعي، ووجود التحدي الدائم الذي يلوح به الخصم القوي بنيامين نتنياهو والذي يعرض على التصويت يوم غد الأربعاء لإجراء انتخابات مبكرة ويمكن لن يحصد أغلبية الكنيست، إذا صحت التقديرات بانتقال أكثر من نائب من ضفة الائتلاف الى ضفة نتنياهو، لكن هل هذا يكفي لتفسير قرار بحجم إدخال الكيان في حالة فراغ على مستوى القرار السياسي الأول في لحظات تبدو شديدة الدقة في تاريخه، حيث المواجهة مع قطاع غزة في تنامٍ، والمشهد في الضفة الغربية يتصاعد، والتوتر جمر تحت الرماد مع لبنان في ظل أزمة النفط والغاز وترسيم الحدود والبدء باستثمار حقل بحر عكا، بعد اتفاق أوروبي إسرائيلي على صفقة دسمة، بينما التحدي بين الكيان وإيران في ذروته، وكلها تحديات دفعت بالأحزاب للتفكير بحكومة وحدة وطنية في ظروف مشابهة؟

يمنح تزامن قرار الائتلاف الحاكم في الكيان مع التحضيرات الجارية لزيارة الرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن الى المنطقة، بعداً خاصاً، حيث كشفت التقارير الصحافية الأميركية والإسرائيلية عن ضغوط أميركية على الائتلاف الحاكم والمعارضة معاً لاستبعاد اندلاع أزمة حكومية، والذهاب لحل الكنيست، بهدف تمرير زيارة بايدن بعد أقل من شهر، بوجود حكومة كاملة المواصفات في الكيان، يمكن أن تتم الزيارة بوجودها وتكون ذات جدوى، خصوصاً أن ما كشف عن مضمون الزيارة يقول إن التعاون الخليجي الإسرائيلي في بناء شبكات موحّدة للرادارات تحت قيادة أميركية، يشكل أحد أهداف الزيارة، بينما رفعت بعض الصحف الإسرائيلية سقوف توقعاتها للقول إن زيارة بايدن تهدف للحصول على موافقة سعودية على التطبيع مع «إسرائيل» كثمن للاعتراف الأميركي بشرعية تولي ولي العهد السعودي للعرش في بلاده، ويجري الترويج لزيارة الرئيس الأميركي بصفتها تعبيراً عن انسداد الخيار التفاوضي بين واشنطن وطهران، وترجيح كلفة خيار المواجهة بينهما.

ثمة مؤشرات معاكسة يأخذها بعض المحللين ضمن دائرة الاحتمالات والفرضيّات، فالكلام الأميركي عن قرب امتلاك إيران لما يكفي لامتلاك قنبلة نووية وإرفاقه بالإعلان عن الاستعداد للعودة الى الاتفاق النووي، رغم إلقاء اللوم على إيران لتعثر التفاوض، بقي غير مفهوم الوظيفة في ظل التصعيد الأميركي بوجه إيران، وساء بحجز ناقلة النفط في اليونان وطائرة الركاب في الأرجنتين، أو التصعيد في مجلس حكام الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية، ومثله الجواب الإيراني بتأكيد الجهوزية للعودة الى الاتفاق، وإلقاء اللوم على واشنطن في التعثر، في مناخ عالي السقف في الحديث عن الجهوزية لمواجهة أية اعتداءات إسرائيلية، واللغة القاسية في الرد على الوكالة الدولية، ما فتح الباب للحديث عن فرضية تقول بأن واشنطن وطهران تتجهان للتوقيع على الاتفاق. وهذا معنى تصريحات المستشار الإعلامي للوفد الإيراني في فيينا عن عدم وجود بند رفع العقوبات عن الحرس الثوري في الطلبات الإيرانية التفاوضية من جهة، وعدم استعداد إيران لتقديم أي تعهد بعدم ملاحقة المسؤولين الأميركيين عن اغتيال القائد قاسم سليماني، ووفقاً لهذه الفرضية فإن زيارة بايدن تهدف لتقديم ضمانات لـ«إسرائيل» بأنها لن تكون وحدها في حال تعرّضها للاستهداف من إيران، وأن واشنطن ستكون مسؤولة عن منظومة رادارات وتعمل في الخليج وترتبط بشبكة الباتريوت من القبة الحديدية التي تقودها واشنطن أصلاً داخل الكيان، وان الرئيس الأميركي بعد إنهاء هذه المهمة سيعتبر أنه بات طليق اليدين في العودة للتفاوض وصولاً لتوقيع الاتفاق مع إيران.

إذا صحت هذه الفرضية تكون الإطاحة الذاتية بالحكومة الائتلافية في الكيان، استباقاً وقائياً من مثل هذا الخيار، واعتماد الفراغ الحكومي في الكيان لتحقيق الفراغ التفاوضيّ بين واشنطن وطهران.

Iran Shuts Off IAEA Cameras with Access beyond Safeguards Agreement

 June 8, 2022

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced on Wednesday that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s surveillance cameras recording data beyond the Safeguards Agreement in the country have been deactivated.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said while Tehran has extensively cooperated with the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA has unfortunately ignored the fact that such cooperation signifies Iran’s goodwill, has been ungrateful for the cooperation, and has considered it as a duty of Iran.

As a result, Iran decided to shut off the ultra-Safeguards Agreement cameras monitoring enrichment levels (OLEM or Online Enrichment Monitor) and flowmeters of the IAEA as of Wednesday, June 8, it added.

However, the statement noted, more than 80 percent of the IAEA’s cameras in Iran have access to data within the framework of the Safeguards Agreement which will continue to operate as before.

The OLEM is obviously used to monitor the enrichment of uranium gas through piping at the enrichment facilities.

The spokesperson for the AEOI visited a nuclear site on Wednesday to observe the process of deactivating the two cameras of the IAEA.

The Iranian authorities had already warned the parties seeking to submit an anti-Iran resolution at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting that they will have to take responsibility for the consequences.

The US and the EU troika –the UK, Germany and France- submitted the draft to the 35-nation board on Tuesday, accusing Iran of failing to offer transparent responses to the IAEA’s questions over nuclear activities at three sites.

Source: Iranian media (edited by Al-Manar English Website)

The Sanctioned Ones: How Iran-Russia are setting new rules

While China, keen to ward off US sanctions as long as possible, is lagging, its RIC partners Iran and Russia are doing the legwork to break the west’s global financial grip.

May 31 2022

Iran and Russia are taking the lead in establishing alternative financial networks to bypass western sanctionsPhoto Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

The first Eurasia Economic Forum, held last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, should be regarded as a milestone in setting the parameters for the geoeconomic integration of the Eurasian heartland.

Sergei Glazyev, Russia’s Minister in Charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), is coordinating the drive to design an alternative monetary-financial system – a de facto post-Bretton Woods III – in cooperation with China.

According to Glazyev, the forum “discussed the model of a new global settlement currency pegged to baskets of national currencies and commodities. The introduction of this currency instrument in Eurasia will entail the collapse of the dollar system and the final undermining of the US military and political power. It is necessary to start negotiations on signing an appropriate international treaty within the framework of the SCO.”

Glazyev described the initiative to upend the western global financial system in more detail during an exclusive interview with The Cradle in April.

It’s particularly relevant to understand how Glazyev interconnects the EAEU’s drive with the increasing geopolitical and geoeconomic role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which unites at the same table key Eurasian powers: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Iran.

That connects directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, supporting the extension of a temporary free trade agreement between the EAEU and Iran, which is the newest (and only West Asian) full member of the SCO. Putin said this should go ahead despite the “confrontation by the collective West.”

The EAEU, inaugurated in 2015 with five full members – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Armenia – represents a market of 184 million people and a collective GDP of over $5 trillion. The next step with Iran will be to implement a full free trade agreement, possibly before the end of the year, according to Iranian deputy trade minister Alireza Peymanpak. Egypt, Indonesia and the UAE are also candidates to strike deals with the EAEU.

Iran, which has for over four decades now been forced to find creative solutions to bypass serial, imperial sanction packages, may have a conceptual lesson or two to teach Russia. Barter arrangements are gaining ground: Tehran is offering spare parts and gas turbines to Moscow’s power plants in exchange for much needed zinc, aluminum, lead and steel for its metal and mining industries, according to Iranian trade and industries minister Reza Fatemi Amin.

And more barter on a wide range of commodities is ahead, as discussed during a recent visit to Tehran by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.

The other ‘RIC’

Slowly but surely, the new RIC (Russia-Iran-China) – as opposed to the old RIC in BRICS (Russia-India-China) – is attempting to integrate their financial systems. Iran is a matter of national security strategy for China, as an energy provider and essential partner of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in West Asia.

Russia-China, though, is a much more complex matter. Extremely fearful of provoking US sanctions, Chinese banks are refraining – at least for the moment – to increase their deals with Russian banks, which brings us to the case of UnionPay:

The Chinese bank card provider – increasingly popular, especially across Asia – declined from partnering with Sberbank even before Russia’s largest bank was excluded by the EU and the US from the global bank messaging platform SWIFT. UnionPay also canceled plans with other Russian banks to issue UnionPay cards linked with the Russian Mir payment system, profiting from the exit of Visa and Mastercard from the Russian market.

This is still a careful balancing act for China. Earlier this year at the Boao Forum in Asia, President Xi Jinping was adamant in opposing the “wanton use of unilateral sanctions.” And over 80 percent of Chinese companies already established in Russia appeared to continue their business as usual.

Yet in practical terms, there are serious problems. The Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) have restricted financing for Russian commodities. Even the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), absolutely essential for sustainable development projects, linked or not with BRI, decided to freeze all lending to Russia and Belarus in early March to “safeguard” its “financial integrity.”

On the financial front, cautious Chinese banks, with enormous western exposure, are always balancing the fact that nearly 80 percent of global cross-border transactions are still in dollars and euros, and only two percent in yuan. So the Russian market is not exactly a priority.

In parallel, the Russia-Iran front is quite lively. They are turbo-charging mutual settlements in their national currencies to “the highest possible level,” as highlighted by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak: “We discussed together with central banks the spread and operation of the financial messaging system, as well as the connection of Mir and [Iranian] Shetab payment cards.”

As it stands, the Mir card is still not accepted in Iran, but that’s about to change – just as in Turkey, which this summer will start accepting Mir card payments from legions of Russian tourists. What this means in practice is that Russia and Iran will be connecting their banks to the System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS), the Russian equivalent to SWIFT. The Chinese will obviously be examining how seamlessly the transition works.

Now compare all of the above with the prospect that soon there won’t be any SWIFT at all, as Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach let slip in Davos.

Miebach was participating in a panel on Central Bank Digital Currencies, discussing cross-border payments, when he suggested that SWIFT might soon be a thing of the past. No question about it: Moscow is eyeing crypto and digital currencies already, and Beijing is dead set on setting up the digital yuan to work around SWIFT and its linked CHIPS (Clearing House Interbank Payment System).

The Sanctioned Ones, now moving fast

The Russia-Iran front has been fast evolving since January this year, when Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, on a visit to Moscow, handed a draft agreement to Putin on strategic cooperation for the next 20 years, building on “the very good experience of cooperation between Iran and Russia in Syria in combating terrorism,” and expanding to “economy, politics, culture, science, technology, defense, and military spheres, as well as security and space issues.”

Raisi also explicitly thanked Putin “for facilitating Tehran’s entry into the SCO.”

Iranian Oil Minister Javad Ouji went straight to the point in his meeting with Novak in Tehran last week: “Our countries are under strict sanctions, and we have the potential to neutralize them through the development of bilateral relations…We have created joint committees on banking, energy, transport, agriculture issues, as well as the issue of creation of nuclear power plants.”

And that brings us once again to the seemingly eternal soap opera of the Vienna-based Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov now signaling the final draft “is at a high degree of readiness for adoption. There are some political problems, which are not related to the finalization of the text.”

Cutting through the proverbial fog of US swamp spin, Ryabkov stressed how “in terms of our interests, including in the context of peaceful nuclear cooperation with Iran, the text is quite satisfactory…there is nothing to ‘fine-tune’.” So when the Americans say that the deal is “out of reach,” Raybkov added, it means that they “broadcast the results of their internal discussions.”

The bottom line is that on the JCPOA, Tehran and Moscow are in sync: “We are what they call on edge, and it could happen very quickly if the political decision is made.”

Expanding on their synchronicity, Tehran even proposed to host negotiations between Moscow and Kiev over the Ukraine conflict – following the Turkish example. By now though, after Ankara’s failure, it is clear that Washington decision makers want no negotiation, but an endless war to the last Ukrainian.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian remains in sync with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov. At Davos, he said the Ukraine drama was caused by “the US and NATO’s provocative actions…they “provoked the Kremlin into this.” That’s essentially what Beijing has been discreetly implying.

All of the above shows some of the trials and tribulations of Eurasia integration, and the long and winding road to an EAEU-SCO new monetary system. But first things first: there’s got to be some action on the Mir-UnionPay front. When that news breaks, the die will be cast.

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

The Structural Scaffolding to Potential Mid-East War

May 23, 2022

By Alastair Crooke

Source

Today, Iran is demonised as an intolerable threat to western global Order. But it was not always thus, Alastair Crooke writes.

The Structural scaffolding was first put into place in the early 1990s. But that structure was erected on false premises and lazy misconceptions. Its flaws, however, were papered over for nearly two decades; but now changes to the overall regional paradigm mean that the scaffolding is reversing itself: it no longer contains latent conflicts, but is funnelling us headlong toward them.

To understand the double helix at the centre of the Middle East, pulling us into its swirling sink-hole, we must first address the structure of Israel’s relationship with Iran and the Palestinians, and see how that has come to lock us into dynamics which, as matters stand, threaten to break the fetters holding containment in place.

Today, Iran is demonised as an intolerable threat to western global Order. But it was not always thus.

“We had very deep relations with Iran, cutting deep into the fabric of the two peoples”, said a high-ranking official at the Israeli foreign ministry just after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Israeli (and U.S.) officials then saw it as sheer madness to view Iran as anything other than a natural interlocutor.

That sense of close affinity persisted well beyond the Iranian Revolution. It was not just remorse for the late Shah. Sentiments of imagined affinity prompted even hard-headed Israeli politicians of the Right – including prime minister Menachem Begin – to reach out to the new Revolutionary leadership: Ayatollah Khomeini’s pragmatism in foreign policy was being misread by Israelis as evidence that the revolution had been an aberration.

Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, did not see Israel as part of the Middle East, but as part of Europe. From 1952, Ben-Gurion repeated that although Israelis were sitting in the Middle East, this was a geographical accident, for they were a European people. “We have no connection with the Arabs,” he said. “Our regime, our culture, our relations, is not the fruit of this region. There is no political affinity between us, or international solidarity”.

Resulting from this rather orientalist optic, Ben Gurion in the first instance looked to the U.S. as partner – but, rebuffed by Eisenhower, Ben-Gurion evolved the concept of the “Alliance of the Periphery” which together with a subsequent alliance of minorities, aimed to balance the vicinity of hostile Arab states by forming alliances with Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia. It was an attempt to strengthen Israeli deterrence, reduce Israel’s isolation, and add to its appeal as an ‘asset’ to the U.S.

Here is to be found the first misperception to the scaffolding story: Viewed by Israel, (a perspective shared by the U.S.), the Iranian Revolution was no more than a discontinuity in the western narrative of a historical progression from backwardness to western-style secular modernity. It was an aberration, a kick against modernity that would be self-corrected over time. The ideological basis to the revolution, therefore, was seen as hollow. And whenever Iran’s revolutionary leadership showed any signs of pragmatism in its foreign policy, it reinforced the U.S. and Israeli view that this would lead eventually to an alliance with Israel.

It was this latter conviction which underpinned Israeli and U.S. thinking during the 1980s. Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad official, noted that the periphery doctrine was so “thoroughly ingrained” in the Israeli mindset that it had become “instinctive”. It was out of this conviction that Israel inveigled the U.S. to sell weapons to Iran in the mid-1980s – a prelude to the Iran-Contra scandal.

Why did this misconception occur? Probably it owed to a style of secular western rationality, which, ingrained with its materialist bias, perceived no ideology to the Revolution in the contemporary post-modern sense of a blueprint of concrete objectives. Consequently, it overlooked in Iran the thread of an ancient philosophical ‘way of being’ – not ideology – that simply did not exist in the Sunni sphere – where Ibn Taymiyyah had ‘closed the gates’ to philosophy, already in the thirteenth century. Did this then mean that it was a threat?

Whilst it was very much the case that the western culture of consumer society repelled Iranian leaders, they had no problem with modernity, or technology as such. The revolution was at no point conceived with an aggressive regional ambition. It did not threaten Israel, nor the U.S., in conventional military terms. It was about esoteric transformation, which (admittedly) was a focus not easily accessible to many in the West.

In any case, events intervened in the years 1990-92 to turn the paradigm on its head. One was the implosion of the Soviet Union which saw Russia ‘out’ from the region; and the second was the first Gulf War which saw Iraq removed as a threat to Israel.

Paradoxically, Israel – instead of being reassured – was afeared. Iran and Israel now were the pre-eminent rival regional powers. What if the U.S. were to side with Iran, rather than with Israel, in the war’s wake? Well, Yitzhak Rabin’s Labour Party, elected in 1992, dramatically and radically decided to turn everything upside-down, to ensure that did not happen.

The Rabin shift placed Israel and Iran on opposite sides in the new equation, and the change was as intense as it was unexpected: “Iran has to be identified as Enemy No 1,” Yossi Alpher, at the time an adviser to Rabin, told the New York Times. And Shimon Peres, the other most senior Labour figure, warned the international community in an interview in 1993, that Iran would be armed with a nuclear bomb by 1999.

In other words, Iran was made the Manichean enemy of the West out of choice – as a political tactic – rather than because of any objective evidence of enmity. The demonisation of Iran served as a lever with which to divert the U.S. Jewish Lobby: The Lobby would be switched to a new focus on the existential threat from Iran, rather than to turn its’ anger on Israel’s leaders for betraying Jabotinsky, by supping with the enemy – Arafat and the Arabs.

It was Jabotinsky who had argued in his seminal Iron Wall article in 1923 that there could – and should – never be agreement with the Arabs. Yet here was Rabin casting aside the Ben-Gurion’s Alliance of the Periphery, to embrace Yasir Arafat and a Palestinian movement that had emerged crippled by the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War.

The inversion of the earlier paradigm was completed by the U.S.’ contemptuous, multiple rebuffs to Iran despite the latter’s cooperation with Washington during the war in Afghanistan (2002) and Iraq (2003), and in its audacious attempts in 2003 to mitigate U.S. concerns about its nuclear programme.

All to no avail. The U.S. was ‘high’ on Adrenalin from its Iraq war. William Kristol, a leading U.S. neo-con, was to write in May 2003: The defeat of Iran had become the means to deliver a double blow to the Arab and Muslim psyche, as well as to the Islamist resistance. The Arabs would become docile, and the Middle East would succumb, like so many dominoes.

The structural scaffolding to today’s rising tensions then was bolted together – again on false premises.

Firstly, the Palestinians were to be ‘contained’ within the Oslo Accords. These Accords were erected on three pillars: That demography alone, in lands between the River and the Sea, meant that Israel ultimately must ‘give’ Palestinians their State (i.e. as Palestinians began outnumbering Jews); that to trigger statehood, it was required that Palestinians should firstly reassure Israel that they would attend to its security concerns (i.e. they must build the confidence with Israel that Palestinians would pose no security risk); and thirdly, that it would be Israel alone who would determine when Palestinian security efforts merited ‘gifting’ statehood.

These latter premises were based on erroneous foundations (as the last thirty years bear witness).

The next structure – the Iranian nuclear issue (ultimately addressed through the JCPOA) – was conceived in a similar approach: Iranian national sovereignty was to be limited (if it sought to exercise its rights under the NPT); that Iran would be required to prove a negative (that it was not pursuing a weapons programme) and thirdly, Israel and the U.S. would be the final arbiter on whether Iran would be trusted to have a (peaceful) nuclear power programme.

The final structural component to contemporary tensions was put into place over ten years – by Benjamin Netanyahu. He moved the centre of Israel’s centre of gravity significantly to the Right – both politically and culturally. He deliberately burnt all Israeli bridges to any political solution: either with the Palestinians, or with Iran, arguing that a military powerful Israel, allied to a supportive U.S. President and Congress, was in a position to disdain giving an inch, to either.

So … on to today’s paradigm inversion. Instead of Russia being ‘out’ from the Middle East – we have Russia ‘in’ and the U.S. (incrementally) going ‘out’; instead of an Israel paramount in the region, we have Israel isolated in the region (the only state ‘crossing the Rubicon’ to arm Ukraine to kill Russians); instead of Moscow turning a (reluctant) blind eye to Israeli air incursions into Syria, we have a Moscow that is tense with Israel, and increasingly ready to switch on its air defences’ target radar in Syria – when Israel incurses.

And … above all – instead of Israel having the ‘military edge’, we have Iran’s Red Pill deterrence.

What is the ‘Red Pill’ Deterrence? Put very bluntly, it is the conjoined aggregation of swarm drones and smart cruise-missiles surrounding Israel on all sides. The Red Pill is that if Iran is attacked by America, it will do damage to Iran, for sure, but the aftermath is ‘Israel will be no more’.

Why is it that this circle of expired scaffolds of containment are snapping shut now, with tensions spiking?

It is because a renewed JCPOA seems to be eluding Biden (in part due to a lack of Congressional support). In October 2022, the arms embargo (from the 2015 JCPOA) expires – and other clause restrictions begin to expire in 2025. And in coming months, the claim will ring out across the West that Iran has reached nuclear threshold status.

In the Palestinian sphere, all Palestinian factions have rallied to the cause of protecting al-Aqsa. If the latter is again threatened by an Israeli settler invasion, a four-front war (the Red Pill scenario again!) has been placed ‘on the table’

It is, metaphorically speaking, as Donbas is an encirclement and cauldron for the Ukrainian forces dug-in there, so the Red Pill has been devised as the cauldron for Israel.

For now, a frustrated President Putin continues to hold the ring, as regional actors ready for war. What will the Israeli leadership do? Russia, China and the SCO probably hold the only key that might unlock the situation, and allow a regional security architecture to be attempted. But for Israel going down that path would imply crossing Washington at a moment of highly wrought psyche.

BREAKING: Iran seizes two Greek-flagged oil tankers in the Persian Gulf

 May 27 2022

The US navy says they are ‘looking into the incident,’ which came in retaliation for the theft of an Iranian oil cargo by Greece and the US

ByNews Desk

Naval forces from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized two ships sailing under the Greek flag in the Persian Gulf on 27 May, in retaliation of the coordinated theft of its oil by Greece and the US.

Local sources have confirmed the ships’ names are the Delta Poseidon and Prudent Warrior, with just the former being operated by a Greek crew. They were seized near the Iranian ports of Bandar Lengeh and Asalouyeh.

The Prudent Warrior vessel loaded its cargo at Basrah, Iraq, and was on its way to the US. The Delta Poseidon also loaded its cargo at the same port, however its destination remains unknown.

According to AP, the US navy’s 5th Fleet said it was “looking into” the seizures, which came on the heels of Tehran threatening to take “punitive action” against Athens.

Earlier in the day, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss chargé d’affaires in order to lodge a complaint over Washington’s illegal seizure of its oil, which was confiscated from a Russian-operated Iranian tanker impounded by Greece the day before.

“The Swiss chargé d’affaires was summoned to convey Iran’s concern and strong protest over the continued violation of international laws and maritime conventions concerning free navigation and trade by the US administration,” Director-General of the Foreign Ministry’s department for US Affairs said in a statement.

Switzerland’s envoy is the official representative of the US in Tehran.

The Foreign Ministry also called for the immediate release of the tanker and the confiscated oil, as the Swiss chargé d’affaires assured officials that Iran’s message has been conveyed to US officials.

On 25 May, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Greek embassy chargé d’affaires in Tehran, explicitly condemning the seizure of the tanker and laying the responsibility on the Greek government, who it accused, alongside the US, of engaging in “maritime piracy.”

Iran’s Ports and Maritime Authority said that the vessel had to stop in Greek waters due to bad weather conditions and technical problems. However, the ship did not receive assistance and was instead seized by the Greek government.

A day later, the US seized the tanker’s oil cargo, and is reportedly shipping it to a US port aboard another vessel.

The illegitimate seizure was confirmed by a separate western source familiar with the matter, who added “that the cargo was transferred onto the Liberia-flagged tanker Ice Energy, which is operated by Greek shipping company Dynacom.”

Iran openly condemned the Greek decision, referring to it as an “unacceptable” surrender to US pressure.

This is not the first time the US illegally seizes Iranian oil in international waters. In August of 2020, the US seized four Iranian tankers headed for Venezuela in the Straits of Hormuz. According to reports, the Iranian oil was then sold for over $40 million.

The oil seizure comes as the sanctions-removal talks in Vienna have been stalled due to Washington’s unwillingness to meet Tehran’s conditions, such as the removal of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) off the terrorist list.

“Now, we have reached a point [during the negotiations in Vienna] that if the American side makes a realistic decision, an agreement would be within reach… Zionists tell many lies about Iran’s nuclear issue, but Americans exactly know what they must do if they want to return to the JCPOA,” Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said while speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 26 May.

W. Bush’s Iraq/Ukraine slip – same truth as Kerry’s ‘implode’/‘sanctions’ Iran slip in 2013

May 25, 2022

by Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with PressTV

The clip of George W. Bush’s attempt to condemn Russia’s military operation in Ukraine but instead referring to his own autocratic warmongering in Iraq exploded across the internet.

I saw the clip and, perhaps like many, watched it several times in succession. I even found myself returning to it several more times. There is so much to be said about it, and it says so much. It perfectly sums up where we were 20 years ago, the state of the world today, the political gullibility of many, decades if not centuries of US history, counterposes the absolutely different last century of Russian history, the ability of Western politicians to so easily wave away their failures no matter how atrocious, and – well, like I wrote, it says so much.

Much, much later I was finally reminded of a similar incident in February 2013 involving then-US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran.

Kerry was in Paris on his first overseas trip as Barack Obama’s new foreign minister, having replaced Hillary Clinton. Add in Bill Clinton and this paragraph contains the Democratic Party’s power brokers since 1992.

I was covering the visit for PressTV, and it was only after a careful reviewing of his answers about Iran that I realised that Kerry had made a shocking Freudian slip. He was responding to a question about the importance of dialogue between nations:

“Richard Nixon, at a time when we had no relationship with China, that they were great dangers, had the courage to send Henry Kissinger and made a decision which opened up China and (which is now) a member of the P5, and now works with us in concert to try to implode put the sanctions in place to deal with Iran.”

The thing is, whoever paid for Kerry’s failed 2004 presidential campaign against W. Bush still got their money’s worth – he is truly a professional: in a lightning flash he rushed out “put the sanctions in place” to cover his initial admission of “implode”. It was so fast I honestly didn’t even catch it the first time I watched.

Nobody else caught it, but PressTV and I ran a report on it, titled US Foreign Minister Kerry talks of trying ‘to implode’ Iran in another overseas gaffeIt’s right here at the 0:40 mark of our report.

“Try to implode” Iran – that’s truly always been the goal of the US. That’s what sanctions have always been about. It was great to finally hear the top US diplomat openly admit it, if only by accident.

Watch the clip – it feels just as vindicating as it was seeing George W. Bush admit, “The decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of the Ukraine. Iraq, too. Anyway.”

But the vindication in both is not a righteous one – at least for me – but a tragic one, filled with a nostalgic, deeply sad sense of what could have been but was not allowed to be.

If Twitter existed in 2013 I didn’t know about it, but our report didn’t go viral.

February 2013 was so long ago that an interim agreement for the JCPOA on Iran’s nuclear energy program hadn’t even been signed yet, much less the final agreement. In 2022 Iranians are still – still – waiting for the JCPOA to start and for efforts “to implode” to stop. (Of course, it’s not really “implosion” when the combustion is provided from the outside.) If I could guess the real feelings of Western politicians regarding this deadly delay I think they would likely use Bush’s phrase, “Anyway.”

This week saw the first visit to Iran by a UN human rights expert in 17 years, a stunning delay.

“During our visit, we were able to identify (the) devastating humanitarian impact of sanctions,” said Alena Douhan, the UN special rapporteur focused on the impact of unilateral US sanctions.

I suppose this has to qualify as progress. Probably not to the families of those who died because of the sanctions.

I’m sure that in a few more years we’ll get a viral clip of Obama making a gaffe about the deadly impact of sanctions on Iran and laughing, “Anyway”.

In 20 years I’m absolutely certain French President Emmanuel Macron will make a slip regarding his brutal weekly repression of the Yellow Vests and he’ll just laugh it off and add, “Anyway”.

Ukraine could be roasted in nuclear fire before the 2014 Minsk Agreements were respected by the West, and as the geiger counters are still going haywire 20 years later politicians across the entire West will laugh it off and say, “Anyway”.

The signed JCPOA has still proven to be less valuable than the ink which was used to sign it – the West is simply not “agreement-capable”. The idea that belligerence belonged to W. Bush – but not Obama or Biden – is egregiously nonfactual. If you find that too biased a conclusion then feel free to give your own analysis: just a bit more lobbying in Congress is needed, it’s all Donald Trump’s fault (remember 20 years ago when everything was supposed to be all W. Bush’s fault?), please wait for the new administration in Washington to get settled, Biden really does mean well, etc.

Western-led institutions are discrediting themselves as fast as the internet can now publish proofs of their failures. The UN was told to wait years before allowing an unbiased effort which examined the effort to implode put the sanctions in place on Iran. Gulf War II was based on a total lie. The European Union is not breaking with the foreign policy of Washington, as Tehran has long hoped, but is gleefully gutting their own 99% for years to join a war drive against Moscow.

What the W. Bush clip shows most of all is: how bankrupt the words and policies of Western politicians truly are, and because they reflect the needs of their elite and not of their people. The problem should not be placed in their culture, but in their aristocratic Liberalist structures. That is not only what allows them to make such heinous crimes and to escape domestic accountability, but which propels them even to make such belligerent efforts in the first place.

Tehran fails to realise that the EU is a completely Liberalist – and thus oligarchical – structure. It was rammed through undemocratically from start to finish, with national referendums first being ignored and then totally bypassed – I know, I know: “Anyway”. My point is that the EU is not going to break with the US over Iran while also going along with the US on Russia.

The US and EU are obviously working in perfect tandem, and especially since the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 finally, firmly installed the power of the undemocratic pan-European project. I go back to what I wrote in that February 2013 report on Kerry’s visit: “Since rejoining NATO in 2010 France has marched in lockstep with the US, regardless of international perception.” It’s not that things don’t ever change, it’s that they have only gotten worse in Europe since 2009.

It’s not Tehran’s fault – the failure to pursue diplomacy logically implies a choice to pursue war, and that would be wrong and shameful. Like choosing not to implement the JCPOA. Or the Minsk Agreements. Or choosing to go to war in Iraq. Or choosing to go to war with Russia.

Anyway.


Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. His new book is ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values’. He is also the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

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