Russian Federation – Minister for Foreign Affairs Addresses General Debate, 74th Session

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September 27, 2019

Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, addresses the general debate of the 74th Session of the General Assembly of the UN (New York, 24 – 30 September 2019).

Transcript : http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3822351

28 September 201900:13
Statement by H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, New York, September 27, 2019

Unofficial translation

Distinguished Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 75th anniversary of the United Nations which was established as a result of the Victory in World War II and the realization of the need for a collective mechanism to maintain international peace and security, is getting closer. Regrettably, the events of the Cold War, which started soon after, prevented this tremendous creative potential from being unleashed.

The hope arose again almost 30 years ago when the Berlin Wall symbolizing confrontation of the two irreconcilable systems fell. It was the hope for the possibility to finally turn the grievous pages of wars – not only hot but also cold – and to join efforts for the benefit of all mankind.

However, we have to admit – although World War III was prevented thanks to the UN, the number of conflicts on the planet has not declined and enmity has not weakened. New most acute challenges emerged – international terrorism, drug trafficking, climate change, illegal migration, the growing gap between the rich and the poor. It is getting harder to address these and many other challenges from year to year. The fragmentation of international community is only increasing.

In our view, the reason for the current state of affairs lies, first and foremost, in the unwillingness of the countries which declared themselves winners in the Cold War to reckon with the legitimate interests of all other states, to accept the realities of the objective course of history.

It is hard for the West to put up with its weakening centuries-long dominance in world affairs. New centers of economic growth and political influence have emerged and are developing. Without them it is impossible to find sustainable solution to the global challenges which can be addressed only on the firm basis of the UN Charter through the balance of interests of all states.

Leading Western countries are trying to impede the development of the polycentric world, to recover their privileged positions, to impose standards of conduct based on the narrow Western interpretation of liberalism on others. In a nutshell, “we are liberals, and we can do anything”. Pursuing these aspirations, the West is less frequently recalling international law and more often and importunately dwelling upon the “rules-based order”.

The aim of such a concept is obvious – to revise the norms of international law which no longer suit the West, to substitute it for the “rules” adjusted to its self-serving schemes which are elaborated depending on the political expediency, and to proclaim the West and only the West as an indisputable source of legitimacy. For instance, when it is advantageous, the right of the peoples to self-determination has significance and when it is not – it is declared “illegal”.

In order to justify revisionist “rules” the West resorts to manipulation of public consciousness, dissemination of false information, double standards on human rights, suppression of undesirable media, bans on practicing journalism. Moreover, the West got “apt students” among its wards on the post-Soviet territory.

Instead of equal collective work, closed formats beyond legitimate multilateral framework are being created, and approaches agreed upon behind closed doors by a narrow group of the “select few” are then declared “multilateral agreements”. This is accompanied by the attempts to “privatize” the secretariats of international organizations, to use them in order to advance non-consensual ideas in circumvention of universal mechanisms.

Attacks on international law are looming large. The US withdrawal from the JCPOA endorsed by UNSC Resolution 2231 is broadly discussed. Washington not just repudiated its obligations enshrined in this Resolution but started demanding from others to play by American “rules” and sabotage its implementation.

The United States set a tough course for abolishing the UN resolutions on international legal framework of the Middle East settlement. It suggests waiting for some “deal of the century”, meanwhile it has taken unilateral decisions on Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. A two-state solution to the Palestinian issue – which is essential for satisfying the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and providing security for Israel and the whole region – is under threat.

Apparently, when NATO members were bombing Libya blatantly violating the UNSC resolution, they were also guided by the logic of their “rules-based order”. It resulted in the destruction of Libyan statehood, and international community is still disentangling the disastrous repercussions of NATO’s adventure with African countries affected the most.

“Hidden agendas” in countering terrorism remain – despite the universally binding Security Council decisions on listing terrorist organizations, some countries made it a “rule” to cover terrorists and even to engage in cooperation with them on the ground as it is happening, for instance, in Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. The United States has already been saying it loud that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is a rather moderate structure which “can be dealt with”. As recent discussions on the situation in the Syrian Idlib showed, the United States wants to induce members of the UNSC to such unacceptable logic.

The West also has its own “rules” regarding the Balkans where it is pursuing an open course for undermining the UNSC decisions on Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina settlement.

Universal conventions together with the SC resolutions are an integral part of international law. The West would like to substitute even them for its “rules” as it happened in the OPCW whose Technical Secretariat was illegally granted “attributive” functions through unlawful manipulations and unscrupulous pressure in direct violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and exclusive prerogatives of the Security Council.

Playing with Conventions obliging all countries to provide linguistic, educational, religious and other rights of national minorities continue. Even here our Western colleagues are guided by their “rules” – they turn a blind eye to the open denial of national minorities’ relevant rights and indulge the retaining of an ignominious phenomenon of statelessness in Europe.

The course for the revision of international law is more frequently observed in the persistent policy of rewriting the history of World War II, justifying an increasing number of manifestations of neo-Nazism, vandalism against the monuments to the liberators of Europe and Holocaust victims.

The key principles of the UN Charter – non-interference in internal affairs, non-use of force or the threat of force – are also undergoing durability tests.

We are now facing the attempts to add Venezuela to the list of countries whose statehood was destroyed before our eyes through aggression or coups inspired from abroad. Like the overwhelming majority of the UN members, Russia is rejecting the attempts to return the “rules” dating back to the times of Monroe Doctrine to Latin America, to change from outside regimes in sovereign states descending to the methods of military blackmail, unlawful coercion and blockade as it happens in relation to Cuba in defiance of the UN resolutions.

Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples adopted at the initiative of our country. However, a number of Western states are still clinging to the old “rules”, ignoring this Declaration and other decisions of the General Assembly on decolonization addressed directly to them, while keeping former overseas territories under their control.

This November marks another anniversary – 20 years since the adoption of the Charter for European Security and the Platform for Co-operative Security. These documents set out principles of cooperation for all countries and organizations in the Euro-Atlantic region. Heads of states and governments solemnly declared that no one should provide his own security at the expense of other’s security. Regrettably, the consensus reached back then today is substituted for taken as a “rule” NATO practice, the organization which continues thinking in terms of searching for enemies, while moving its military infrastructure to the East to the Russian borders and increasing its military budgets, although they already exceed the Russian one more than 20 times. We call on NATO to return to the agreements on shaping equal and indivisible security in the OSCE area. Recently, responsible European politicians have been speaking in favor of it, which, in particular, was demonstrated during the meeting of the Presidents of the Russian Federation and France in August.

The Asia-Pacific region needs a reliable and open architecture. It is dangerous to yield to the temptation and divide it into conflicting blocs. Such attempts will contradict the task to join efforts of all countries in the region in order to effectively address the continuing threats and challenges there, including the task to resolve a whole range of issues on the Korean Peninsula exclusively by peaceful means.

Actions taken by the United States, which, following its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, destroyed the INF Treaty with the overwhelming support of all NATO members, caused a huge damage to the global system of strategic stability which had been established for decades. Now the United States is questioning the future of the New START Treaty, refusing to ratify the CTBT. Moreover, it has lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in its doctrinal documents. The United States is setting course for transforming cyberspace and outer space into the arena for military confrontation.

In order to prevent further escalation of tensions, Russia proposed several initiatives. President Vladimir Putin announced the decision not to deploy land-based intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles in Europe or other regions if and as long as the Americans refrain from doing it. We called on the United States and NATO to join such a moratorium. We have also repeatedly suggested Washington that we start negotiations on prolonging the New START Treaty. Together with China we support the harmonization of a legally binding document on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. So far, the reaction of the United States and its allies has not been encouraging.

We are alarmed by the protracted lack of answer to our proposal made to American colleagues already a year ago – to adopt a high-level Russian-American statement on unacceptability and inadmissibility of the nuclear war which by definition cannot have a winner. We call on all countries to support this initiative.

Today I would like to make an announcement – at the current session of the General Assembly we are introducing a draft resolution on Strengthening and Developing the System of Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Agreements. We invite everyone to conduct substantial talks. The adoption of the resolution would greatly contribute to the creation of conditions for a successful hosting of another NPT Review Conference next year.

Russia will continue to work persistently in order to strengthen universal security. In this sphere, we are acting with utmost responsibility, exercising restraint in enhancing defence capacity – obviously, without any damage to the effective delivery of national security and in full compliance with international law.

We support the consolidation of efforts to combat international terrorism under the auspices of the UN. In the interests of mobilizing the potential of regional organizations to suppress the terrorist threat Russia initiated a Ministerial meeting of the Security Council with the participation of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Among the most critical tasks of the world community is elaboration of generally acceptable approaches to the digital sphere management and understanding of the processes related to the creation of artificial intelligence. Last year, the General Assembly endorsed the beginning of the substantive work on discussing the rules of the responsible conduct of states in information space. Resolution on Combating Cybercrime was adopted at Russia’s initiative. It is important to work for achieving legally binding agreements on all aspects of international information security.

We need to step up efforts to facilitate the settlement of numerous crises and conflicts in all regions of the world. The main point is to seek compliance with already existing agreements from parties without allowing them to invent pretexts to refuse from implementing obligations already taken during negotiations. This also concerns conflicts on the post-Soviet territory, including the need to strictly follow the provisions of the Minsk Package of Measures to settle the crisis in the East of Ukraine.

In Syria, where major success in combating terrorism has been achieved, further advancement of the political process lead by the Syrians with the assistance of the UN is at the forefront. With the decisive contribution of Russia, Turkey, and Iran as guarantors of the Astana format, the establishment of the Constitutional Committee has been finished, which was announced by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres a few days ago. Post-conflict reconstruction and creation of conditions for the return of the refugees are the items on the agenda. Here the UN system is to play an important role.

Yet, on the whole, the Middle East and North Africa still face many challenges. We witness what is happening in Libya and Yemen. Prospects for the Palestinian settlement are on the verge of collapse. Efforts to play the “Kurdish card” – which is combustible for many countries – are alarming.

The Persian Gulf region is facing artificial escalation of tensions. We call on overcoming the existing disagreements through dialogue without baseless accusations. On our part, we made a contribution having presented this summer the renewed Russian concept of the collective security in this region.

Supporting the efforts of the African states to put an end to conflicts on their continent, yesterday Russia organized the meeting of the Security Council on strengthening peace and security in Africa. At the end of October, Sochi will host the first ever Russia-Africa Summit. We hope its outcomes will help increase the effectiveness of addressing modern challenges and threats and of work to overcome the problems of development African countries are facing.

The reform of the SC is aimed at improving the UN anti-crisis and peacekeeping activities. Given the realities of the multipolar world, the main task is to find a formula which would correct an obvious geopolitical imbalance in its current composition and would ensure increased representation of African, Asian, and Latin American countries in the Council with the broadest possible agreement of the UN Member States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dividing lines are harmful not only to the world politics but also to the economy. Its inclusive growth is curbed as a result of the WTO norms being substituted for other “rules” – methods of unfair competition, protectionism, trade wars, unilateral sanctions, and open abuse of the American dollar status. All this leads to the fragmentation of the global economic space, negatively affects people’s standards of living. We believe it necessary to get back to the substantial work both in the UN system organizations and in the G-20. To this end, we will contribute to the creation of favorable conditions, including through the opportunities offered by BRICS, where Russia will assume the chairmanship in 2020.

Together with other like-minded countries we support the harmonization of integration processes. This philosophy lies at the core of President Vladimir Putin’s initiative of the Greater Eurasian Partnership involving the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), SCO, ASEAN, and which is open to all other Eurasian states, including the EU countries. We have already started moving in this direction by interconnecting development plans of the EAEU and the Chinese Belt And Road Initiative. Consistent implementation of these endeavors will contribute not only to increasing economic growth but also to laying a solid foundation in order to form the territory of peace, stability, and cooperation from Lisbon to Jakarta.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the run-up to the next anniversary of the United Nations, I would like to underline – the UN-centered system of the world order, despite all trials, is stable and has a great margin of safety. It is a kind of a safety net which guarantees – if the UN Charter is respected – a peaceful development of mankind through finding a balance of sometimes rather contradictory interests of various countries.

At the outcome of these 75 years the main conclusion is probably that the experience of de-ideologized cooperation of states at the face of common threat, gained in the years of that most severe war, is still relevant.

Today’s challenges and threats are no less dangerous.

Only working together we will be able to effectively address them. Half a century ago a prominent scientist and public figure, the Nobel Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov wrote the following – The division of mankind threatens it with destruction. If mankind is to get away from the brink, it must overcome its divisions It was the unity which was considered the key task of the UN by its Founding Fathers. Let us be worthy of their legacy and memory.

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Rouhani tells US to leave region, as neighbors not outsiders can ensure own security

September 25, 2019

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Press TV

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the US has no business and is not welcome in the region and must leave it, stressing that the security of the Persian Gulf can be ensured only by neighbors not outsiders.  

“The security of the region will be provided through the pullout of American military forces and not by their weapons and intervention. The ultimate way to [achieving] peace and security in the Middle East is ‘democracy inside, diplomacy outside’,” Rouhani said in an address to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

“Security cannot be bought or provided by foreign governments. Peace, security and independence of our neighbors are that of our own. The US is not our neighbor. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran that is your neighbor … we are neighbors to each other not with the US,” he added.

He lashed out at the US for interfering in the region, which has only fueled insecurity without bringing about peace for regional countries.

“The United States is neither the advocate nor the guardian of any state. No state delegates power of attorney to other states and does not give custodianship to others,” the Iranian president said, adding, “The issues of the region are too big … for the United States to deal with. A country that has failed to resolve the issues of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and has been the spearhead of extremism, Talibanism and Daeshism will never be able to resolve more sophisticated issues.”

The Iranian president also warned that the Persian Gulf region is “on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire.”

“We do not tolerate provocative intervention of foreigners and shall firmly respond to any sort of act of aggression against our security and territorial integrity,” Rouhani said.

He said that Iran’s security doctrine is that of safeguarding peace and stability in the Persian Gulf and providing security for navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, adding that the safety of this vital energy route can be guaranteed provided that security becomes a common interest of all regional states.

As a steward of maritime security in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, Iran invites all countries that are affected by developments in the strategic region to join its initiative, dubbed Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), Rouhani said.

He said that the “coalition of hope” aims to promote peace, stability, progress and prosperity of littoral states and help achieve mutual understanding and establish peaceful and friendly relations among them.

“This initiative entails different sectors such as cooperation in providing collective energy security, freedom of navigation and free flow of oil and other [energy] resources from and to the countries off the Strait of Hormuz and beyond that,” Rouhani said.

He said Iran’s proposed coalition of hope is based on commitment to the UN principles and objectives, mutual respect, mutual interests, dialog and understanding, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful resolution of conflicts and above all the two fundamental principles of “non-aggression” and “non-interference in the domestic affairs of each other.”

Before leaving for New York on Monday, Rouhani told reporters at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport that the peace initiative is aimed at establishing long-term peace in the Persian Gulf, which he said is simply not achievable as long as outsiders are present.

According to Rouhani, the initiative will envision the provision of security for the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz with cooperation among Iran and other regional countries.

Rouhani’s initiative comes in response to US efforts to build up military presence in the Persian Gulf. The United States began trying to persuade its allies into a maritime coalition purportedly seeking to boost security in the Persian Gulf, after it blamed Tehran for two separate attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in May and June, without providing any credible evidence to back up the allegation, which Iran has categorically rejected.

Iran has repeatedly warned that it would react to any attempt to undermine the security of the region or to make it difficult for the country to export its oil.

Last month, Rouhani said measures taken by some extra-regional countries, especially the United States, in the Persian Gulf region only serve to render the region’s problems more complicated and make it appear less secure in the eyes of the world.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2019. (Photo by president.ir)  

Iran refuses any negotiations under sanctions

Elsewhere in his remarks, Rouhani hit out at the US for inviting Iran to talks while imposing harsh sanctions against the country.

“We cannot believe [the sincerity of] an invitation to negotiation by those who [claim to] have applied the harshest sanctions of history against the dignity and livelihood of our nation,: Rouhani said, adding that astonishingly “[committing] crimes and [imposing] pressure on the lives of 83 million Iranians, especially women and children, are welcomed by and have become a source of pride for American government officials … The Iranian nation will never ever forget and forgive these crimes and criminals.”

He said that Iran will not accept to sit at the negotiating table with the US while it was under sanctions.

“On behalf of my nation and country, I would like to announce that our response to any negotiation under sanctions is ‘no’. The government and people of Iran have remained steadfast in the face of the harshest sanctions in the past one and a half years, and will never negotiate with an enemy that seeks to force Iran to surrender through using the weapons of poverty, pressure and sanction,” Rouhani said.

He echoed remarks by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, saying the only way for talks to begin is for the US to return to its commitments, stressing, “Stop the sanctions so that a way opens for [the start of] negotiations.”

The Iranian chief executive also criticized the European signatories to the 2015 Iran deal for just playing lip service to the implementation of the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and failing to carry out effective measures.

“It has now become clear to all that the United States turns its back on its commitments and Europe is incapable of fulfilling its commitments,” he said.

In response to the US move to leave the JCPOA and its reimposition of sanctions, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments three times in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as European signatories to the accord finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Iran says that if it does not receive economic benefits from the JCPOA by November it will further reduce its commitments.

Tensions have been running high between Iran and the United States since May 2018, when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the nuclear deal, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Trump is a stern critic of the deal, which was clinched in 2015 by Iran and six world powers, including the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia, and Germany. Under the agreement, nuclear-related sanctions put in place against Iran were lifted in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program.

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Russia Helping Iran Circumvent Illegal US Sanctions

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by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org – Home – Stephen Lendman)

Unilaterally imposed US sanctions against other nations have no legal validity. They’re used against governments unwilling to subordinate their sovereign rights to its interests.

Washington uses them as weapons of war by other means against nations on its target list for regime change.

In 1996, the Vienna-based International Progress Organization called sanctions “an illegitimate form of collective punishment of the weakest and poorest members of society, the infants, the children, the chronically ill, and the elderly.”

When unilaterally imposed, they violate Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorizing the Security Council alone to intervene against member states to restore peace, stability and security.

Its members alone may impose sanctions on member states, their entities or individuals — not heads of state, legislatures or courts of any nation.

Along with wars of aggression, color revolutions, and old-fashioned coups, use of sanctions is a favorite US tactic against targeted nations — notably used against Cuba (since 1962), Iran (since 1979), Syria (since 1979), the Russian Federation (since 2014), North Korea, and China, among other countries.

They’re imposed by the US based on Big Lies and deception, the Trump regime using them more aggressively against Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran than its predecessors — aiming to crush their economies and immiserate their people into submission.

What hasn’t worked before is highly unlikely to be achieved ahead. Failure hasn’t deterred the Trump regime from continuing to use weaponized sanctions as a hammer against the rule of law, peace, equity and justice.

Throughout its history, the Islamic Republic has found ways to circumvent illegal US sanctions, including by working cooperatively with private entities and friendly nations like Russia, China, and Turkey.

Last year it was reported that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani struck an agreement with Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan aimed at circumventing US sanctions, perhaps with China as well at the time.

Last fall, Rouhani said “(w)e will continue by all means to both produce and export” oil. It’s “in the frontline of confrontation and resistance,” adding:

“It is not strange that countries that are sanctioned find ways to dodge the sanctions.”

“The Americans should know that a country which is sanctioned would still be able to find solutions to move forward.” 

“They cannot do this because various mechanisms have been discovered to maintain Iran’s oil exports.”

Iran has been circumventing US sanctions for decades. Responding to Trump’s sanctions war, a statement in May said its oil sales will continue regardless of US tactics to block them.

On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said “Iran should have the opportunity to carry out oil exports at least approximately on a scale comparable to the period until May of last year” — when Trump pulled out of the JCPOA nuclear deal, breaching a Security Council adopted international agreement, making it binding international law.

If Brussels fails to launch its so-called Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) to maintain normal economic, financial, and trade relations with Iran, Russia will help Tehran maintain its exports and circumvent US-imposed restrictions on its financial transactions — bypassing the dollar.

European officials pledged to maintain normal economic, financial, and trade relations with Iran but failed to back promises with positive actions. Russia and China consider the Islamic Republic to be a strategic partner. 

According to TankerTrackers.com, when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Beijing last month for talks on “regional and international issues,” the Chinese oil tanker Pacific Bravo headed “eastward, having loaded approximately 2 million barrels of Iranian oil from the Soroosh and Kharg terminals in the Persian Gulf over the past few days,” adding:

The tanker “report(ed) its destination as Indonesia, but (it) was recently acquired by Bank of Kunlun, a financial institution that is owned by the Chinese state oil company CNPC.” 

“TankerTrackers.com believes China is the ultimate destination for the oil on board.” 

The Chinese-owned tanker was the first to load Iranian crude after the Trump regime ended waivers on the purchase of Iranian oil to designated countries.

Weeks earlier, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said his government “resolutely opposes” unilateral sanctions on Iran.

China and other countries continue normal relations with Tehran. Russian efforts to further help its ruling authorities sell crude and related products, along with conducting financial transactions by circumventing the dollar, are important ways to counter illegal US sanctions.

Imposing them failed to achieve US objectives for decades. What hasn’t worked before is unlikely to be successful ahead.

The Trump regime failed to halt construction of Russia’s Nord Stream II gas pipeline to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of low-cost natural gas to European markets when completed in late 2019 or early 2020 — at the expense of much more costly and less accessible US liquified natural gas (LNG).

Its aim to bring Iranian oil exports to zero and halt its international financial transactions failed so far and is unlikely to work ahead.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

 

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

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Houthi Rebels Overturned the Middle East Geopolitical Chessboard

The Yemeni Shiite group’s spectacular attack on Abqaiq raises the distinct possibility of a push to drive the House of Saud from power

Global Research, September 19, 2019
Mohamed Bin Salman

We are the Houthis and we’re coming to town. With the spectacular attack on Abqaiq, Yemen’s Houthis have overturned the geopolitical chessboard in Southwest Asia – going as far as introducing a whole new dimension: the distinct possibility of investing in a push to drive the House of Saud out of power.

Blowback is a bitch. Houthis – Zaidi Shiites from northern Yemen – and Wahhabis have been at each other’s throats for ages. This book is absolutely essential to understand the mind-boggling complexity of Houthi tribes; as a bonus, it places the turmoil in southern Arabian lands way beyond a mere Iran-Saudi proxy war.

Still, it’s always important to consider that Arab Shiites in the Eastern province – working in Saudi oil installations – have got to be natural allies of the Houthis fighting against Riyadh.

Houthi striking capability – from drone swarms to ballistic missile attacks – has been improving remarkably for the past year or so. It’s not by accident that the UAE saw which way the geopolitical and geoeconomic winds were blowing: Abu Dhabi withdrew from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s vicious war against Yemen and now is engaged in what it describes as a  “peace-first” strategy.

Even before Abqaiq, the Houthis had already engineered quite a few attacks against Saudi oil installations as well as Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports. In early July, Yemen’s Operations Command Center staged an exhibition in full regalia in Sana’a featuring their whole range of ballistic and winged missiles and drones.

The Saudi Ministry of Defense displays drones and parts from missiles used in the refinery attack.

The situation has now reached a point where there’s plenty of chatter across the Persian Gulf about a spectacular scenario: the Houthis investing in a mad dash across the Arabian desert to capture Mecca and Medina in conjunction with a mass Shiite uprising in the Eastern oil belt. That’s not far-fetched anymore. Stranger things have happened in the Middle East. After all, the Saudis can’t even win a bar brawl – that’s why they rely on mercenaries.

Orientalism strikes again

The US intel refrain that the Houthis are incapable of such a sophisticated attack betrays the worst strands of orientalism and white man’s burden/superiority complex.

The only missile parts shown by the Saudis so far come from a Yemeni Quds 1 cruise missile. According to Brigadier General Yahya Saree, spokesman for the Sana’a-based Yemeni Armed Forces,

“the Quds system proved its great ability to hit its targets and to bypass enemy interceptor systems.”

This satellite overview handout image from the US government shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaiq.

Houthi armed forces duly claimed responsibility for Abqaiq:

“This operation is one of the largest operations carried out by our forces in the depth of Saudi Arabia, and came after an accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free men within the Kingdom.”

Notice the key concept: “cooperation” from inside Saudi Arabia – which could include the whole spectrum from Yemenis to that Eastern province Shiites.

Even more relevant is the fact that massive American hardware deployed in Saudi Arabia inside out and outside in – satellites, AWACS, Patriot missiles, drones, battleships, jet fighters – didn’t see a thing, or certainly not in time. The sighting of three “loitering” drones by a Kuwaiti bird hunter arguably heading towards Saudi Arabia is being invoked as “evidence”. Cue to the embarrassing picture of a drone swarm – wherever it came from – flying undisturbed for hours over Saudi territory.

UN officials openly admit that now everything that matters is within the 1,500 km range of the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone: oil fields in Saudi Arabia, a still-under-construction nuclear power plant in the Emirates and Dubai’s mega-airport.

My conversations with sources in Tehran over the past two years have ascertained that the Houthis’ new drones and missiles are essentially copies of Iranian designs assembled in Yemen itself with crucial help from Hezbollah engineers.

US intel insists that 17 drones and cruise missiles were launched in combination from southern Iran. In theory, Patriot radar would have picked that up and knocked the drones/missiles from the sky. So far, absolutely no record of this trajectory has been revealed. Military experts generally agree that the radar on the Patriot missile is good, but its success rate is “disputed” – to say the least. What’s important, once again, is that the Houthis do have advanced offensive missiles. And their pinpoint accuracy at Abqaiq was uncanny.

This satellite overview handout image shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia. Courtesy of Planet Labs Inc

For now, it appears that the winner of the US/UK-supported House of One Saudi war on the civilian Yemeni population, which started in March 2015 and generated a humanitarian crisis the UN regards as having been of biblical proportions, is certainly not the crown prince, widely known as MBS.

Listen to the general

Crude oil stabilization towers – several of them – at Abqaiq were specifically targeted, along with natural gas storage tanks. Persian Gulf energy sources have been telling me repairs and/or rebuilding could last months. Even Riyadh  admitted as much.

Blindly blaming Iran, with no evidence, does not cut it. Tehran can count on swarms of top strategic thinkers. They do not need or want to blow up Southwest Asia, which is something they could do, by the way: Revolutionary Guards generals have already said many times on the record that they are ready for war.

Professor Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran, who has very close relations with the Foreign Ministry, is adamant: “It didn’t come from Iran. If it did, it would be very embarrassing for the Americans, showing they are unable to detect a large number of Iranian drones and missiles. That doesn’t make sense.”

Marandi additionally stresses, “Saudi air defenses are not equipped to defend the country from Yemen but from Iran. The Yemenis have been striking against the Saudis, they are getting better and better, developing drone and missile technology for four and a half years, and this was a very soft target.”

A soft – and unprotected – target: the US PAC-2 and PAC-3 systems in place are all oriented towards the east, in the direction of Iran. Neither Washington nor Riyadh knows for sure where the drone swarm/missiles really came from.

Readers should pay close attention to this groundbreaking interview with General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force. The interview, in Farsi (with English subtitles), was conducted by US-sanctioned Iranian intellectual Nader Talebzadeh and includes questions forwarded by my US analyst friends Phil Giraldi and Michael Maloof and myself.

Explaining Iranian self-sufficiency in its defense capabilities, Hajizadeh sounds like a very rational actor. The bottom line: “Our view is that neither American politicians nor our officials want a war. If an incident like the one with the drone [the RQ-4N shot down by Iran in June] happens or a misunderstanding happens, and that develops into a larger war, that’s a different matter. Therefore we are always ready for a big war.”

In response to one of my questions, on what message the Revolutionary Guards want to convey, especially to the US, Hajizadeh does not mince his words: “In addition to the US bases in various regions like Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Emirates and Qatar, we have targeted all naval vessels up to a distance of 2,000 kilometers and we are constantly monitoring them. They think that if they go to a distance of 400 km, they are out of our firing range. Wherever they are, it only takes one spark, we hit their vessels, their airbases, their troops.”

Get your S-400s or else

On the energy front, Tehran has been playing a very precise game under pressure – selling loads of oil by turning off the transponders of their tankers as they leave Iran and transferring the oil at sea, tanker to tanker, at night, and relabeling their cargo as originating at other producers for a price. I have been checking this for weeks with my trusted Persian Gulf traders – and they all confirm it. Iran could go on doing it forever.

Of course, the Trump administration knows it. But the fact is they are looking the other way. To state it as concisely as possible: they are caught in a trap by the absolute folly of ditching the JCPOA, and they are looking for a face-saving way out. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned the administration in so many words: the US should return to the agreement it reneged on before it’s too late.

And now for the really hair-raising part.

The strike at Abqaiq shows that the entire Middle East production of over 18 million barrels of oil a day – including Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – can be easily knocked out. There is zero adequate defense against these drones and missiles.

Well, there’s always Russia.

Here’s what happened at the press conference after the Ankara summit this week on Syria, uniting Presidents Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan.

Question: Will Russia provide Saudi Arabia with any help or support in restoring its infrastructure?

President Putin: As for assisting Saudi Arabia, it is also written in the Quran that violence of any kind is illegitimate except when protecting one’s people. In order to protect them and the country, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance to Saudi Arabia. All the political leaders of Saudi Arabia have to do is take a wise decision, as Iran did by buying the S-300 missile system, and as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did when he bought Russia’s latest S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system. They would offer reliable protection for any Saudi infrastructure facilities.

President Hassan Rouhani: So do they need to buy the S-300 or the S-400?

President Vladimir Putin: It is up to them to decide [laughs].

In The Transformation of War, Martin van Creveld actually predicted that the whole industrial-military-security complex would come crumbling down when it was exposed that most of its weapons are useless against fourth-generation asymmetrical opponents. There’s no question the whole Global South is watching – and will have gotten the message.

Hybrid war, reloaded

Now we are entering a whole new dimension in asymmetric hybrid war.

In the – horrendous – event that Washington would decide to attack Iran, egged on by the usual neocon suspects, the Pentagon could never hope to hit and disable all the Iranian and/or Yemeni drones. The US could expect, for sure, all-out war. And then no ships would sail through the Strait of Hormuz. We all know the consequences of that.

Which brings us to The Big Surprise. The real reason there would be no ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz is that there would be no oil in the Gulf left to pump. The oil fields, having been bombed, would be burning.

So we’re back to the realistic bottom line, which has been stressed by not only Moscow and Beijing but also Paris and Berlin: US President Donald Trump gambled big time, and he lost. Now he must find a face-saving way out. If the War Party allows it.

*

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are from Asia Times unless otherwise stated

US Embarrassed Its Weapons Failed to Stop Yemeni Drone Attack: Zarif

US Embarrassed Its Weapons Failed to Stop Yemeni Drone Attack: Zarif

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif slammed the United States for playing a blame game over the recent Yemeni drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, saying Washington is embarrassed that the weapons it sold to Riyadh failed to “intercept Yemeni fire”.

September, 18, 2019 – 09:09

The US “is in denial if it thinks that Yemeni victims of 4.5 yrs of the worst war crimes wouldn’t do all to strike back. Perhaps it’s embarrassed that $100s of blns of its arms didn’t intercept Yemeni fire,” Zarif said in a post on his Twitter account on Tuesday.

He added, “But blaming Iran won’t change that.”

Zarif reiterated Iran’s stance that ending the deadly war on Yemen is the “only solution for all.”

Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and their allies in the Yemeni army deployed as many as 10 drones to bomb Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities run by the Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco before dawn Saturday.

The unprecedented attack knocked out more than half of Saudi crude output, or five percent of global supply, prompting Saudi and US officials to claim without any evidence that it probably originated from Iraq or Iran.

Earlier in the day, US Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the tone set by President Donald Trump and said that “it’s certainly looking like Iran was behind these attacks.”

“As the president said, we don’t want war with anybody but the United States is prepared,” Pence said.

Tehran has categorically dismissed Washington’s claim of Iranian involvement in the Yemeni raids.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said on Monday that the Yemeni army’s drone attacks were merely for legitimate self-defense, and no one can expect the Yemenis to remain silent when their country is destroyed.

The people of Yemen “have to respond” to the foreign aggression and the influx of US and European weapons into Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Iranian president told a briefing held in Ankara on Monday after his trilateral summit with his Russian and Turkish counterparts.

In another tweet, Zarif denounced Washington for remaining silent on the Saudi-led coalition’s massacre of Yemeni children with US-made weapons.

“Just imagine: The US isn’t upset when its allies mercilessly BOMB babies in Yemen for over 4 years—with its arms and its military assistance,” the Iranian foreign minister said. “But it is terribly upset when the victims react the only way they can—against the aggressor’s OIL refineries,” he added.

“We confirm that these operations were carried out from Yemeni territories and by the Yemeni Army and Popular Committees,” said Brigadier General Abdullah al-Jefri, head of the Yemeni air forces.Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 91,000 lives over the past four and a half years.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

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أهمّ دروس تحرير خان شيخون

 

أغسطس 24, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– أما وقد حسم الأمر فقد صار وقت التقييم واستخلاص العبر، فلا ينكرنّ أحد أن الرهانات على تعثّر الدولة السورية توزعت على مشارق الأرض ومغاربها، وأنه حيث لا رهانات كانت هناك تساؤلات وانتظارات. فالكل يُجمع على أن إدلب ليست كسواها، وان تجمع عشرات آلاف المسلحين الذين رفضوا التسويات في مناطقهم التي تحرّرت، يجعل الحرب لتحريرها شديدة الضراوة والقسوة محفوفة بالمخاطر والتضحيات والتساؤلات، وأن وجود آلاف الإرهابيين المقطوعي الجذور اليائسين من أي أفق بعد إدلب يمنح كل هذا المشهد القاتم مزيداً من السواد، وأن الحلف المناوئ للدولة السورية مهما ابتعد أو اقترب عن التشكيلات الإرهابية التي تقاتل في إدلب قد اجتاز الخط الأحمر للتعاون معها سابقاً وما عادت لديه مشكلة بإمدادها بكل أسباب الصمود، وأن تركيا التي لانت وتموضعت بعد معارك حلب إنما فعلت ذلك ليس فقط لأنها حسمت أمرها بالعجز عن المضي في المواجهة الكاملة، بل لأنها أرادت الحفاظ على دورها وحضورها في إدلب، وعندما يصبح مصير إدلب في الميزان يجب التريث في إصدار الأحكام حول كيفية تصرف أنقرة، ولا أيضاً في كيفية تصرف موسكو الحريصة على علاقة مميّزة مع أنقرة تبدّلت بين التصادم والتفاهم، واستقرت على سياق إيجابي رغم الخلاف لزمن غير قصير، لذلك كان الانتظار سيد الموقف.

– في كل معارك المنطقة حيث التكامل بين الجبهات واضح، وحيث التداخل بين تأثيرها على بعضها وموازينها أشد وضوحاً، كانت المواجهات ساخنة في الخليج مياهاً ويابسة، وفي اليمن، وفلسطين، ودخل على الخط تسخين العراق من دون مقدّمات، وتمّ بصورة مفاجئة تسخين لبنان، لكن المكان الوحيد الذي بدا أنه سيقول الكلمة الفصل هو خان شيخون، حيث مفتاح الجغرافيا في مصير إدلب،، حيث يمكن تحقيق تغيير في خطوط الجغرافيا من دون سائر جبهات المنطقة. وأما وقد وقع الأمر وانتهى، فمعادل التأثر والتأثير والأوعية المتصلة سيحضر بقوة. وهذا هو التفسير لحركة الرئيس الفرنسي للمسارعة للقاء الرئيس الروسي ومن بعده وزير الخارجية الإيرانية، وزيارة الرئيس التركي القريبة المرتقبة إلى روسيا، والتراجعات الأميركية عن تهديدات الويل والثبور وعظائم الأمور بحقّ لبنان، والجواب بكلمتين، إنه خان شيخون.

– السياق الجديد بات واضحاً بعد الذي جرى وحسم التساؤلات حول الإمكان، ودليل الإمكان هو الوقوع. وما وقع في خان شيخون قابل للتكرار، ولا حاجة لتجارب أخرى للإثبات، فإن عُرض على الطاولة ما يفي بالغرض من التسليم بمكانة روسيا إلى التعامل مع إيران وملفها النووي والعقوبات والملاحة النفطية، إلى الحل السياسي في سورية ومشاريع الحل وإعادة الإعمار، إلى اليمن، إلى العراق، إلى لبنان، إلى فلسطين، ولا أوهام لدى أحد بحلول جذرية بل اعتراف بحقائق القوة التي يتم على أساسها التفاوض، وإلا فالكلمة للميدان كما قالت خان شيخون.

– سيكون صعباً على البعض الاعتراف لكنها الحقيقة المرة عليهم، إنه الجيش السوري الذي لا يُقهر، ومحور المقاومة الذي لا يهزم، وروسيا التي لا تبيع ولا تشتري في المبادئ.

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Iran Not Interested In Renewing Nuclear Talks with US – Zarif

By Staff, Agencies

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Islamic Republic has no interest in engaging in a fresh round of nuclear talks with the United States, over a year after Washington unilaterally withdrew from a previous landmark agreement reached between Iran and six world powers in 2015.

“Iran is not interested in negotiations with the United States to clinch a new nuclear accord,” Zarif said in a joint press conference with Finland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto in Helsinki on Monday, adding, “We had detailed negotiations with the United States and it was not us who left the negotiating table.”

Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany signed the nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.

Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.

Since May, Iran has been suspending some of its commitments under the nuclear deal. Tehran rowed back on its nuclear commitments twice in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.

Earlier this month, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran [AEOI], Behrouz Kamalvandi, said earlier this month that the country would take the third step in scaling back its commitments under the JCPOA “in a matter of a month” if European signatories to the agreement continue to renege on their obligations.

“If the opposite side fails to live up to its commitments in the remaining one month [set as a deadline], the third phase of reducing JCPOA obligations will start as per what the president has previously declared in his capacity as head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council,” Kamalvandi said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Zarif said, “There is no agreement that would satisfy all parties. It would suffice if nobody would disagree with an agreement.”

Zarif added that if there ever was going to be any mediation between Iran and the United States over the nuclear deal, “it must primarily focus on how to make Washington resume fulfilling its obligations under the JCPOA.”

He emphasized that the Islamic Republic is always ready for negotiations and interaction, but it is against raising human rights issues to achieve political goals.

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