What prompted the urgent, secretive summit in Abu Dhabi?

January 20 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

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

By Abdel Bari Atwan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 17, 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen English

By Aya Youssef 

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

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

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

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

This is called normalization 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keynotes into normalization 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does normalization always have to be ‘fun’?

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

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

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

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

Sounds familiar? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other normalizing event 

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

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

All looks normal, doesn’t it?

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

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

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

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

Spot the ‘influencer’ in the audience 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignorance or turning a blind eye? 

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

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

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

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Anti-Israel protests rage in Bahrain, Herzog forced to change plans in Manama

Sunday, 04 December 2022 11:00 AM  [ Last Update: Sunday, 04 December 2022 11:16 AM ]

Anti-Israel protests rage in Bahrain, Herzog forced to change plans in Manama

People in Bahrain have staged fresh demonstrations across the Persian Gulf country to reiterate their support for the Palestinian cause, and to condemn the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the Tel Aviv regime, and the visit by Israeli president Isaac Herzog to Manama.

Protesters in the village of al-Markh chanted slogans in protest against the normalization of ties, voiced solidarity with the Palestinian nation in their struggle against the occupying Israeli regime and called for the expulsion of Israeli tourists from Bahrain.

People take part in a rally in al-Daih, Bahrain, on December 3, 2022, against Israeli president Isaac Herzog’s visit to the tiny Persian Gulf country. (Photo via Twitter)

They chanted slogans including “We shall never accept humiliation,” “Normalization is treason” and “Bahrain is the cemetery of Zionists”. The demonstrators also trampled upon the Israeli flag.

A similar rally was also held in the village of al-Daih, where participants held up placards against Herzog’s visit and normalization of relations with Israel. They waved Palestinian national flags and chanted “Death to America” ​​and “Death to Israel.”

Elsewhere in the coastal village of Dumistan, demonstrators called for the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners.

Herzog arrived in Manama on Sunday and was welcomed by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani and Bahrain’s envoy to Israel Khaled Yousif al-Jalahma upon landing in Manama.

As a result of the protests, Herzog’s itinerary was changed at the last minute, though Bahraini officials said they would not allow protests to take place during the visit.

Palestinian crashes car through Ben Gurion Airport checkpoint ahead of Herzog trip

Israeli authorities tell passengers at Ben Gurion Airport to duck due to security breach after a Palestinian man crashes a car through the airport’s checkpoint.

He is set to head to al-Qudaibiya Palace, where he will meet King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah over lunch.

Earlier, Herzog had been slated to meet with members of the local Jewish community, and then hold a meeting with the Bahrain Economic Development Board.

Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Thursday that the regime’s so-called security service, Shin Bet, had decided to boost Herzog’s security detail for the trip following an online social media campaign from Bahraini opposition activists.

Chanting ‘death to Israel’, Bahrainis rally ahead of Herzog visit

Bahrainis take to the streets in the tiny Persian Gulf island country to condemn Israeli president Isaac Herzog’s upcoming visit.

On Monday, the Israeli president will take off for the United Arab Emirates to meet with his Emirati counterpart Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the Abu Dhabi ruler and known colloquially as MBZ. Herzog will also attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed US-brokered normalization agreements with Israel in an event in Washington in September 2020. Sudan and Morocco followed suit later that year. Palestinians have condemned the deals as a treacherous “stab in the back.”


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

www.presstv.ir

www.presstv.co.uk

RELATED ViIDEOS

Amid popular rejection, “Isaac Herzog” arrives in the Kingdom of Bahrain today on a visit, the first of its kind since the conclusion of the agreement
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Herzog in Manama on the impact of widespread popular demonstrations against normalization

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

13 October 2022 

David Hearst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courting a ‘pariah’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State of surprise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saudi miscalculations

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

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

Saudi Arabia: Mohammed bin Salman is now the state

Read More »

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

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

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

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

Machiavellian tutor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New era of power projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

Russia courts Muslim countries as strategic Eurasian partners

Thursday, 13 October 2022 7:10 PM  [ Last Update: Friday, 14 October 2022 9:14 AM ]

Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) attend the CICA summit in Astana, Kazakhstan on October 13, 2022.

By Pepe Escobar

Everything that matters in the complex process of Eurasia integration was once again at play in Astana, as the – renamed – Kazakh capital hosted the 6th Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

The roll call was a Eurasian thing of beauty – featuring the leaders of Russia and Belarus (EAEU), West Asia (Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, Palestine) and Central Asia (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan).

China and Vietnam (East and Southeast Asia) attended at the level of vice presidents.

CICA is a multinational forum focused on cooperation toward peace, security, and stability across Asia.,Kazakh President Tokayev revealed that CICA has just adopted a declaration to turn the forum into an international organization.  

CICA has already established a partnership with the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). So in practice, it will soon be working together side-by-side with the SCO, the EAEU and certainly BRICS+.

The Russia-Iran strategic partnership was prominently featured at CICA, especially after Iran being welcomed to the SCO as a full member.

President Raeisi, addressing the forum, stressed the crucial notion of an emerging  “new Asia”, where “convergence and security” are “not compatible with the interests of hegemonic countries and any attempt to destabilize independent nations has goals and consequences beyond national geographies, and in fact, aims to target the stability and prosperity of regional countries.”

For Tehran, being a partner in the integration of CICA, within a maze of pan-Asia institutions, is essential after all these decades of”maximum pressure” unleashed by the Hegemon.

Moreover, it opens an opportunity, as Raeisi noted, for Iran to profit from “Asia’s economic infrastructure.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, predictably, was the star of the show in Astana. It’s essential to note that Putin is supported by “all”nations represented at CICA.

High-level bilaterals with Putin included the Emir of Qatar: everyone that matters in West Asia wants to talk to “isolated” Russia.      

Putin called for “compensation for the damage caused to the Afghans during the years of occupation” (we all know the Empire of Chaos, Lies and Plunder will refuse it), and emphasized the key role of the SCO to develop Afghanistan.

He stated that Asia, “where new centers of power are growing stronger, plays a big role in the transition to a multipolar world order”.

He warned, “there is a real threat of famine and large-scale shocks against the backdrop of volatility in energy and food prices in the world.”

Hefurther called for the end of a financial system that benefits the “Golden billion” – who “live at the expense of others” (there’s nothing “golden” about this “billion”: at best such definition of wealth applies to 10 million.)

And he stressed that Russia is doing everything to “form a system of equal and indivisible security”. Exactly what drives the hegemonic imperial elites completely berserk.

“Offer you can’t refuse” bites the dust

The imminent juxtaposition between CICA and the SCO and EAEU is yet another instance of how the pieces of the complex Eurasia jigsaw puzzle are coming together.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia – in theory, staunch imperial military allies – are itching to join the SCO, which has recently welcomed Iran as a full member. 

That spells out Ankara and Riyadh’s geopolitical choice of forcefully eschewing the imperial Russophobia cum Sinophobia offensive.  

Erdogan, as an observer at the recent SCO summit in Samarkand, sent out exactly this message. The SCO is fast reaching the point where we may have, sitting at the same table, and taking important consensual decisions, not only the “RICs” (Russia, India, China) in BRICS (soon to be expanded to BRICS+) but arguably the top players inMuslim countries: Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar.

This evolving process, not without its serious challenges, testifies to the concerted Russia-China drive to incorporate the lands of Islam as essential strategic partners in forging the post-Western multipolar world. Call it a soft Islamization of multipolarity.  

No wonder the Anglo-American axis is absolutely petrified.

Now cut to a graphic illustration of all of the above – the way it’s being played in the energy markets: the already legendary Opec+ meeting in Vienna a week ago.

A tectonic geopolitical shift was inbuilt in the – collective – decision to slash oil production by 2 million barrels a day.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry issued a very diplomatic note with a stunning piece of information for those equipped to read between the lines.

For all practical purposes, the combo behind the teleprompter reader in Washington had issued a trademark Mafia threat to stop “protection” to Riyadh if the decision on the oil cuts was taken before the US mid-term elections. 

Only this time the “offer you can’t refuse” didn’t bite. OPEC+ made a collective decision, led by Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

Following Putin and MBS famously getting along, it was up to Putin to host UAE President Sheikh Zayed – or MBZ, MBS’s mentor – at the stunning Konstantinovsky Palace in St. Petersburg, which datesback to Peter the Great.

That was a sort of informal celebration of how OPEC+ had provoked, with a single move, a superpower strategic debacle when it comes to the geopolitics of oil, which the Empire had controlled for a century. 

Everyone remembers, after the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, how US neo-cons bragged, “we are the new OPEC”.

Well, not anymore. And the move had to come from the Russians and US Persian Gulf “allies” when everyone expected that would happen the day a Chinese delegation lands in Riyadh and asks for payment of all the energy they need in yuan.

OPEC+ called the American bluff and left the superpower high’n dry. So what are they going to do to “punish” Riyadh and Abu Dhabi? Call CENTCOM in Qatar and Bahrain to mobilize their aircraft carriers and unleash regime change?

What’s certain is that the Straussian/neocon psychos in charge in Washington will double down on hybrid war.

The art of “spreading instability”

In St. Petersburg, as he addressed MBZ, Putin made it clear that it’s OPEC+ – led by Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – that is now setting the pace to “stabilize global energy markets” so consumers and suppliers would “feel calm, stable and confident” and supply and demand “would be balanced”.

On the gas front, at Russian Energy Week, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller made it clear that Russia may still “save” Europe from an energy black hole.

Nord Stream (NS) and Nord Stream 2 (NS2) may become operational: but all political roadblocks must be removed before any repairing work starts on the pipelines.

And on West Asia, Miller said additions to Turk Stream have already been planned, much to the delight of Ankara, keen to become a key energy hub. 

In a parallel track, it’s absolutely clear that the G7’s desperate gambit of imposing an oil price cap – which translates as the weaponization of sanctions extended to the global energy market – is a losing proposition.

Slightly over a month before hosting the G20 in Bali, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati could not make it clearer: “When the United States is imposing sanctions using economic instruments, that creates a precedent for everything”, spreading instability “not only for Indonesia but for all other countries.”

Meanwhile, allMuslim-majority countries are paying very close attention to Russia. The Russia-Iran strategic partnership is now advancing in parallel to the Russia-Saudi-UAE entente as crucial vectors of multipolarity.

In the near future, all these vectors are bound to unite in what ideally should be a supra-organization capable of managing the top story of the 21st century: Eurasia integration.    

Pepe Escobar is a veteran journalist, author and independent geopolitical analyst focused on Eurasia.

(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

www.presstv.ir

www.presstv.co.uk

Inside the Secret Meeting Between the CIA Director and Saudi Crown Prince

May 28, 2022

Source

By Ken Klippenstein

In an unusual foray into diplomacy, William Burns pressed Mohammed bin Salman on oil production, prominent detainees, and the kingdom’s relationship with China

Last month, as part of a regional tour, CIA Director William Burns quietly met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, a port city in western Saudi Arabia. The unusual meeting, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is the first known encounter between the United States’ top spy and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler — and, according to three sources familiar with the matter, the latest attempt by high-ranking U.S. officials to appeal to Saudi Arabia on oil amid rising U.S. gas prices. Also on the table, two of the sources told The Intercept, were Saudi weapons purchases from China.

President Joe Biden has so far refused to meet with MBS, as he is known, owing to the crown prince’s role in ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But in February, Biden made an effort to begin repairing the relationship with the kingdom, asking King Salman to increase the country’s oil production in return for U.S. military support for its “defense” against Yemen’s Houthis. According to a Saudi readout of the call, Biden was denied. Though Burns again asked for an oil production increase last month, Saudi Arabia announced last week that it would be sticking to its production plan, once more denying the U.S.’s request.

A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment on Burns’s travels. The Intercept’s sources — a U.S. intelligence official, two sources with ties to the U.S. intelligence community, a source close to members of the Saudi royal family, and a think tank official — interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The meeting was also an opportunity to broach a subject of intense concern to Washington: Riyadh’s growing relationship with China. In addition to Burns’s ask on oil, the CIA director also requested that Saudi Arabia not pursue a purchase of arms from China, according to the two sources close to U.S. intelligence.

Saudi Arabia’s very public overtures to Beijing — most notably, exploring the possibility of selling its oil in the Chinese currency, yuan — have caused consternation in Washington. This week, in Senate testimony, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines warned of efforts by China and Russia to “to try to make inroads with partners of ours across the world,” mentioning Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as examples.

What is not publicly known, however, is that the Saudi government is planning to import ballistic missiles later this month from China under a secret program code-named “Crocodile,” the source close to U.S. intelligence said. (The other source with ties to U.S. intelligence confirmed that the discussion pertained to arms sales with China.)

Burns also requested the release of numerous high-profile Saudi royals whom MBS has detained, including MBS’s cousin, former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the sources said. MBN, as he is known, was heir to the throne before his ouster by Crown Prince Mohammed in 2017. Because MBN is a close partner to U.S. intelligence, the Biden administration has reportedly pressured for his release amid allegations of torture.

Relying on a CIA director to conduct high-level diplomatic engagement of this sort is extremely unusual, although it does offer at least one big advantage: discretion. Burns’s presence also served as a means of attempting to mend the fraught relationship between MBS and other top Biden administration officials, the source close to U.S. intelligence said. Last year, when Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan brought up the Khashoggi murder, MBS shouted at him, remarking that the U.S. could forget about its request to increase oil production, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

Burns’s meeting with MBS was one of several with leaders in the region, including in Qatar, the UAE, and Oman, the source also said. (A prominent think tank official close to the Biden administration confirmed that Burns had been traveling throughout the Middle East.) Burns’s meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed echoed the theme of his meeting with MBS, urging him to stop warming up to China, specifically referring to the construction of a Chinese military base in the UAE. Last year, the Biden administration reportedly warned the UAE that China had been building a military facility at an Emirati port and that its construction could imperil their relations. In the case of Saudi Arabia, U.S. intelligence has assessed that the country has been working with China to manufacture its own ballistic missiles domestically — raising concerns about touching off a regional arms race.

“What’s different about this is the Saudis are now looking to import completed missiles,” the source close to U.S. intelligence said.

Burns has come under criticism for conducting diplomacy for the administration, which is supposed to be handled by diplomats at the State Department. Last year, as Kabul fell to the Taliban, Burns was reportedly in the Middle East, meeting with top Israeli and Palestinian government officials. Shortly thereafter, Burns secretly met in Kabul with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar. Just last week, Burns met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, urging him not to interfere with his country’s elections.

“Burns has been doing a lot of the diplomatic heavy lifting, which is terrible,” a U.S. intelligence official close to the administration told The Intercept, decrying what he called the “further castration of the Department of State.” This has rankled diplomats at Foggy Bottom, who had hoped that Biden would make good on his campaign pledge to empower diplomacy after years of neglect by the Trump administration.

Concerns about Burns’s role in diplomacy and sidelining the State Department have even come from figures like Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “Intelligence professionals can coerce and threaten unencumbered by the restraints of diplomacy,” Rubin wrote in a recent article for the Washington Examiner. “They are not there to debate and formulate foreign policy.” The Biden administration is currently without an ambassador to Saudi Arabia, having only last month announced its intent to nominate diplomat Michael Ratney for the position.

Mercenaries in Yemen: Nationalities, numbers & horrors

March 29 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

By Mona Issa 

American. French. Sudanese. German. Colombian. Yemeni. Eritrean. You name it.

Mercenaries in Yemen are a significant factor in what prolonged the war.

It’s the twenty-first century. Corporates have armies. With as little as a few ID papers and almost no governmental regulation, you can take up state-of-the-art arms and be sent to a war that’s not your war, not your battle, and kill people whose names you can barely pronounce. The trade offer? You receive some $10,000 a week. That’s $40,000 a month. That’s more than 30x the American minimum wage for some honest work. You need not read some Veronica Roth, because we’re already living in a dystopian novel. 

Let’s address the word “mercenaries.” In the very far away bureaucratic world of secret operations where sharp terms are smoothed down (recalling comedian George Carlin’s usage of post-traumatic stress disorder as a euphemism for shell-shock!), “mercenaries” is a taboo word. Instead, they’re called special forces to drive people away from the clandestine, underground nature of foreign soldier recruitment. An ancient ‘job’ dormant since the Middle Ages, the United States revived the mercenary industry with Bush’s War on Terror, and continued the venture into the UAE and Saudi-led war on Yemen, and now in Ukraine

Putting Saudi Arabia aside for now – UAE is the perfect orbit state for Washington. With a population of only 1 million with a total of 9 million expatriates, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan does not want to risk it all for a wealthy population that can barely manage a home without housemaids – the UAE is largely operated by foreigners rather than locals. So how was the UAE going to fight this war? An army operated by foreigners – namely US lieutenants and colonels and allies.

But why mercenaries? One reason is numbers. There was no way MBZ was going to send soldiers from his local population of 1 million to war. A foreign population, however, is cost-effective, could be bought in abundance, and will guarantee to prolong the war – especially if major terrorists like ISIS are on the ground.

Another reason is accountability. Because mercenaries operate outside the scope of direct military command – or, at least that’s what we know – Abu Dhabi benefits from zero accountability. Mercenaries can kill, maim and commit other war crimes with no investigation from a legitimate governmental body. They’re bought and sold like a commodity, where corporates, on the long run, can transform into superpowers like states in the new world.

A third reason would be, as an ex-Navy SEAL – Erik Prince – once said: Muslim soldiers could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims. Sending Muslim soldiers, Emirati or Saudi, to kill Yemenis will bear a conflict of interest. 

Read more: 7 years of aggression on Yemen, victims surpass 46,000

The Yemeni armed forces and the Popular Committees in Yemen can testify to witnessing American, Australian, Sudanese, Colombian, Eritrean, and even Yemeni mercenaries, working for Gulf and US interests in Yemen. Some were recruited out of ignorance and poverty, others were recruited out of coercion and deception, and many bear arms for major cash.

Kingfish

Erik Prince is a former US Navy SEAL who was behind the revival of the private security industry. 

He also calls himself ‘Kingfish.’ 

Notoriously known for Blackwater and his involvement in the Iraq War, he established another private military company called Reflex Responses – or R2 – after he sold Blackwater to investors as an escape from controversy. The UAE secretly hired both companies, Blackwater and R2, to go to Yemen. 

See more: Blackwater founder to charge $6,500 per seat on Afghanistan evacuation plane

Blackwater, which has massacred scores of Iraqis and is despised in Iraq more than the US soldiers themselves, has taken pride in employing Colombians and other Latin American military personnel, from soldiers to commanders. 

But, why did MBZ’s private army, a project originally launched by Blackwater, consist mostly of Colombians? 

As Professor of Strategy at the National Defense University Sean McFate put it, think of the private military industry as the t-shirt industry. In America, it costs 20$ to make, but in Bangladesh, it costs 1$ to make.

Colombian mercenaries are not only cheap, but they are also trained by Washington and are more violent and rigorous than others given they are hardened by guerrilla warfare in Latin America. 

The UAE hired 1,800 Colombians on the ground and tripled and quadrupled their salaries. 

“They’re pretty tough warriors in my experience,” McFate said. “They obey chain of command, and they have American training.

“When you take them out of Latin America and put them in the Middle East, they have no sort of political affiliation to any Middle Eastern action or country, so they’re just truly loyal to their paymaster. So they got a lot of Latin American ex-special soldiers in Abu Dhabi. Then, as the Emirates went to war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen, that’s when the Emirates deployed these mercenaries into Yemen to kill Houthis. And they did. And now we have mercenary warfare in Yemen almost like it’s the Middle Ages again.”

Under the guise of construction workers, Colombian mercenaries became part of an American mercenary army, led by Erik Prince, who scored a $529 million budget from the UAE to create a monster. 

“That is to me a pretty crazy part of the evolution of the mercenary business model that was taken from Erik Prince developing it in the US then exporting it to Abu Dhabi – then, all of the sudden, there are Colombians dying in Yemen. It’s hard to track,” said McFate. 

Spear: A Delaware-based firm with an Israeli touch

“Give me your best man and I’ll beat him. Anyone,” said Abraham Golan, the Israeli-Hungarian owner of Spear Operations Group that has also operated in Yemen to commit targeted assassinations. 

Golan was able to convince, over spaghetti and maybe some wine, the security advisor to MBZ that hiring his security company would be more effective than his own army – and, it worked. 

On December 29, 2015, a group of mercenaries from the Delaware-based military firm planted a bomb in the Islah political party headquarters in Aden, Yemen. Escorted by UAE military vehicles front and back, one of Golan’s mercenaries, Isaac Gilmore (also an ex-Navy SEAL and Delta Force veteran), jumps from the vehicle, fires bullets at civilians around the block, as his comrade rushes to plant the explosive device just under the building. With an Emirati soldier behind the wheel, the SUV zooms off as soon as the deed is done. 

Assassination targets handed out to Spears Group Operations’ mercenaries who were sent to operate in Yemen. (BuzzFeed News)

The group that Golan and Gilmore pieced together was a 12-man army, mostly consisting of former French legion officers and ex-US soldiers. The French officers were paid half of what Golan intended to pay – around $10,000 a month – which was even less than half of their American counterparts, a testimony to the commodification of military personnel and ‘market’ value. 

The assassination plot to kill Anssaf Ali Mayo, a leader of the conservative Islah party in Yemen, was plotted out over spaghetti at a UAE military base with MBZ’s security advisor and ex-Fatah member, Mohammed Dahlan. 

Dahlan fell from grace when he was accused of collaborating with the CIA and “Israel” – and that’s exactly what he did as he sat with Gilmore and Golan. The MBZ security advisor has his hands in a lot of political mess.

Read more: “Israel’s” piggyback on the Saudi-Emirati war on Yemen

A report by Al-Khaleej Online in 2018 exposes Dahlan’s complicity in holding secret training camps in occupied Palestine. 

The secret training camps, which held hundreds of Nepalese and Colombian mercenaries, were situated in the Naqab desert in occupied Palestine, where the geological nature of the region looks synonymous with that of Yemen.

Dahlan personally supervised the training and made regular visits and check-ups.

“Mohammed Dahlan visited these camps on more than one occasion to be informed,” sources revealed to Al-Khaleej Online. Dahlan was filled in on the progress of the preparations, in addition to the mercenaries’ training.

And by the way, the Aden operation failed. 

The price of Washington lip service? The blood of young Sudanese men 

There were two ways through which young Sudanese – even minors under 18 – got recruited to Yemen. By force and deception, and by Omar Al Bashir’s thirst for power. 

Estimates and reports suggest that up to 15,000 Sudanese mercenaries were fighting in Yemen. 

By force and deception: Many Sudanese became victims of forced conscription into becoming mercenaries for a private US firm, Black Shield Security Services. 

Responding to online job posts as “security guards,” the UAE-based company would trick the job applicants into signing the contract, only to the surprise of the young men that, all of the sudden, they’re redirected to a military training camp in the UAE to be sent off to either Libya or Yemen. They were offered ‘large’ sums of money, more than they can ever get in an average job in their country which has been experiencing an ongoing political crisis. 

The contracts signed by young Sudanese men, which had an e-Visa to enter the UAE from Khartoum attached to it, had “profession: Security Guard” written on them. 

Up to 15,000 Sudanese mercenaries were reportedly deployed in Yemen, who, according to the current Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, were reduced to 5,000. Many of them were children.

Official recruitment is also the culprit. Omar Al Bashir, Sudan’s old ruler, whose throne was strangled by sanctions and international pressures, sold his pro-Iran alliance for financial help from the Gulf – which meant sending thousands of Sudanese men and children to kill in Yemen. 

To go through with the recruitment, a private company – Rapid Support Forces – or the Janjaweed, a die-hard Bashir-backing militia, scored major bags with Saudi and Emirati officials. Both groups face allegations of systematic rape, indiscriminate murder and other war crimes from the Darfur war in which 300,000 people were killed. 

Arriving by the thousands from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, the Sudanese mercenaries were handed US-made weapons and uniforms. Then, they were taken to Al-Hudaydah, Taiz and Aden. Paid in Saudi riyals, 14-year-old amateurs were paid some $480 a month, while experienced officers from the Janjaweed were paid $530 a month – both cheaper than any other mercenary, including Colombians.  

The RSF profited $350 million from its role in Yemen. 

Ahmed, who was 25-years-old at the time when he was sent to Al-Hudaydah, commented on this experience: “The Saudis would give us a phone call and then pull back.

“They treat the Sudanese like their firewood,” he told the New York Times.

Other than Sudan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have also been paying Eritrea to provide troops and assistance. In 2015, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea revealed that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi signed a deal with Eritrea which allowed the coalition to use Eritrean military bases to attack Yemen. Chad isn’t left from the equation either: RSF mercenaries include hundreds of Chadian men, whose alignment lies with Bashir, hence maintaining an interest to keep him in power. 

There are also some 1,000 Pakistani mercenaries fighting in Yemen, despite a majority no-vote in Islamabad’s parliament. 

Yemenis fighting Yemenis 

As poverty, war and uncertainty brought millions of Yemenis to prolonged angst, many contemplated turning their back on their own kind. 

For around $1,200 a month, Yemenis were compelled to join the Al-Fateh brigade, a mercenary-militia based in Najran, Saudi Arabia, which was formed in 2016. The brigade is an all-Yemeni mercenary hub.

The Saudis recruited over 1,000 mercenaries to the Saudi-Yemen border to defend it.

In a report by the Middle East Eye, one mercenary that goes by the name Anees narrates that some thousand Yemenis were forced to advance towards Jabara valley in Saada province, Yemen, knowing that the valley is under control of the Yemeni armed forces, and that they were positioned just behind them in Najran. 

The leaders of Al-Fateh forced the mercenaries to move forward, assuring that Salafi fighters would follow and protect them.

He narrates, “Suddenly, the Houthis started to attack us from the mountains. We tried to withdraw but there were no Salafi fighters backing us up and only the Houthis besieging us from all directions.”

The Yemenis were besieged for four days, abandoned by both the Saudis and the Salafis. 

“We were about to die from hunger. We had run out of food. The Saudis and the Salafis did not break the siege on us, so we fought and pushed towards Najran and only few were escaped including me,” Anees said.

Bundeswehr

Last year, former German soldiers and police officers lodged in an offering to Saudi Arabia to form a group of mercenaries – or, according to German prosecutors, a terrorist organisation – to be sent to Yemen.

Two Bundeswehr soldiers were charged with terrorism by state prosecutors for conspiring to recruit 150 men and former soldiers from the Bundeswehr armed forces. The mercenaries were to be paid $46,400 a month to conduct operations in the Arabian peninsula.

The goal of the mercenary force to be formed was to capture land held by the Yemeni Armed Forces – however, it does not stop there. The mercenary force was also to be sent to other protracted conflicts around the world, with the two convicted terrorists in full conscious awareness that the fighters will have to commit murder and kill civilians to achieve strategic goals. 

The future

If the Saudi and Emirati armies were to fight and bleed, the war would not have lasted long with a population of 30 million willing to resist barefoot. Mercenaries played a significant role in the war on Yemen by sustaining the violence on the ground, continuously causing grief. 

Many experts would say that the future of warfare is private. The effectiveness of state armies is diminishing, while private firms have proven to get more tasks done – however bloody and sinister. 

As corporations overshadow governmental authority, warlords and investors will be more keen on keeping ‘security firms’ going in so-called “conflict zones in the Middle East,” where the flow of weapons and the funding for violence come from Western neoliberal democracies. 

While the use of mercenaries was dishonorable in recent times, the West has been promoting its use. As the foreign fighters are used to carry out targeted assassinations and other forms of murder, states and governmental bodies take in less and less responsibility and accountability for the humanitarian disaster that comes with the recruitment. 

A UN Mercenary Convention in 2001 forbids the recruitment of mercenaries in conflict: Only 36 countries supported the convention. Some of the countries that did not ratify it are the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, India, Japan and Russia. 

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Would Syria Become the Main Gate for All Arabs?

March 26 2022

By Mohammad Sleem

Beirut – Last Friday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and met the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed [MBZ] Al Nhayan and the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

In terms of timing, Assad’s visit to an Arab country is the first since the crisis erupted in Syria11 years ago.

During the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed wished that “this visit would be the beginning of peace and stability for Syria and the entire region.”

Moreover, the two leaders discussed “issues of common concern”, such as Syria’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of the foreign forces from the country.

The Assad-Al Maktoum meeting “dealt with the overall relations between the two countries and the prospects for expanding the circle of bilateral cooperation, especially at the economic, investment and commercial levels.”

MBZ, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince of and deputy commander-in-chief of the Emirati Armed Forces – summed up the Syrian President’s visit as “a good, peaceful and stable start for Syria and the entire region.”

Over the years, the UAE’s words had been put into action; starting with the reopening of its embassy in Damascus in December 2018, in the most significant Arab overture toward the Syrian government. However, relations remained cold.

Last fall, the Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs flew to Damascus for a meeting with Assad, the first visit by the country’s top diplomat since 2011. The United States, a close ally of the UAE, criticized the visit at the time, arguing that the US would not support any thawing in relations with the Assad government.

The visit also implies a remarkable dimension, namely that it coincides with the anniversary of the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in mid-March 2011, in an implicit message at this time that Syria is paving the way to consider solutions to its crisis, and that Assad is quite aware that the visit to the UAE will be a milestone in the road to resolving it.

Syria was expelled before from the 22-member Arab League and boycotted by its neighbors after the conflict broke out 11 years ago.

According to the aforementioned, the visit signals a clear message that some countries in the Arab World are willing to re-engage with Syria as several countries are reviving ties with the Syrian government, including Jordan and Lebanon.

US stance regarding Asaad’s visit

When asked about Assad’s UAE visit, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that Washington was “profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimize Bashar al-Assad, who remains responsible and accountable for the death and suffering of countless Syrians, the displacement of more than half of the pre-war Syrian population, and the arbitrary detention and disappearance of over 150,000 Syrian men, women and children.”

Price downplayed the US-led wars over the past 20 years, which resulted in the death of millions of people and the devastation of several countries.

Long ago Syria has been called the heart of Arabism. At present, amid the new political developments taking place between Syria and the UAE, Damascus might become the main gate for all the Arab countries. This step was first of its kind in terms of diplomatic relations between countries of the Axis of Resistance and the so-called neutral countries, who are normalizing ties with the Zionist entity.

Bearing in mind the crisis it has been confronting since 2011, Syria must definitely be granted the Medal of Honor for standing in the forefront of countries refusing to normalize relations with the “Israeli” regime. And the coming days will prove Syria’s real position in the Arab World.

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Bennett, Sisi and MBZ Discuss Iran, ‘Mutual Security Interests’

23 Mar 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Zionist Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed [MBZ] held a joint meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on Tuesday to discuss a joint defense strategy in dealing with what they referred to as the ‘Iranian threat,’ as well as ‘common security interests.’

What are the ‘common security interests’ that would pool the ‘Israeli’ entity with Egypt and the UAE?

Although the so-called ‘Iranian threat’ would come to mind first, there would be several other concerns. A hint to that is the Emirati comments to ‘Israeli’ The Jerusalem Post newspaper, which mentioned that “Abu Dhabi is shocked by the US behavior,” and that “it is hard for the UAE to deal with the US administration of Joe Biden in security affairs,” also noting that ties in general have been deteriorating.

The JPost cited a source in Abu Dhabi as saying: “The United Arab Emirates is very unhappy with the US move toward removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.”

Some in Abu Dhabi “are in great shock,” and they view the possibility of the IRG’s designation being removed in the same way as ‘Israel’ does, the source added.

The meeting took place as the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran was nearing completion.

The US and Iran have been indirectly negotiating in Vienna to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal for the past 11 months. The deal placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for the gradual lifting of sanctions.

Most of those restrictions expire at the end of 2025. In addition, in recent years, Iran has far surpassed the deal’s 3.67% uranium enrichment limit, enriching to 60% – weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90% – and has converted some of it to a format that is hard to dilute or transport.

The Tel Aviv regime and the United Arab Emirates expressed dissatisfaction with American concessions to the Islamic Republic.

“The leaders discussed the ties between the three countries on the background of recent developments in the world and the region, and the ways to strengthen [the ties] at all levels,” Bennett’s office stated.

Bennett’s visit to Egypt was supposed to be secret, but once the press caught wind of it, Sisi’s office did not oppose placing a Zionist regime’s flag at the meeting for the photo-op.

Sisi also accompanied Bennett to his plane when he departed Sharm El-Sheikh on Tuesday, after spending the night in the Sinai resort town.

Concern in Tel Aviv about Washington’s intention to respond to the demand to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard from the list of terrorism

البخيتي لـ”كلوب هاوس” الميادين: عملياتنا ستستمر.. وقرار زيادة إنتاج النفط في يدنا أيضاً

2022 الاثنين 21 آذار

المصدر: الميادين نت

عضو المجلس السياسي لحركة “أنصار الله”، محمد البخيتي، يؤكد لـ”كلوب هاوس” الميادين، أنّ العمليات اليمنية في العمق السعودي “ستستمر وتتصاعد”، ويشدد على “أنّنا بتنا على مشارف مرحلة جديدة”.

كلوب هاوس

قال عضو المجلس السياسي في حركة “أنصار الله”، محمد البخيتي، اليوم الإثنين، إنّه “عندما يصبح النظامان السعودي والإماراتي في خطر، يصبح وقف الحرب على اليمن مصلحة للأميركي والبريطاني”.

وفي حديثٍ إلى “كلوب هاوس” الميادين، أكد البخيتي أنّ “هذه هي المرة الأولى التي يتمّ فيها وصف عملياتنا باسم عملية كسر الحصار”.

وأضاف البخيتي أنّ “اليمن يعتمد في الزراعة على مادة الديزل”، لافتاً إلى أنّ التحالف السعودي “يعرف أنّ منع دخول المشتقات النفطية يُعَدّ منعاً للحياة في اليمن”.

ورأى القيادي في “أنصار الله” أنه لم يكن أمام بلاده خيار غير “التصعيد وضرب منشآت النفطية السعودية في العمق السعودي”، موضحاً أنّ هذه العمليات “سوف تستمر على نحو تصاعدي”.

وتابع البخيتي: “نحن جادون في تصعيدنا العمليات ضد منشآتهم النفطية”، مؤكداً امتلاك اليمن “مخزوناً كبيراً من الصواريخ الباليستية والمجنَّحة والطائرات المسيّرة”.

وكان المتحدث باسم القوات المسلحة اليمنية، العميد يحيى سريع، أكد أمس استهداف شركة “أرامكو”في جدة، وأهداف حيوية أخرى في جيزان، خلال المرحلة الثالثة من عملية كسر الحصار الثانية.

البخيتي: استمرار العدوان على اليمن خطر على الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا

وبحسب البخيتي، فإنّ “العدوان على اليمن مرّ في عدة مراحل؛ الأولى عندما لم يكن اليمن يمتلك القدرات الجوية، وكانت السعودية في موقعٍ آمن وقتذاك. أمّا المرحلة الثانية، فتمثّلت بأنّ وقف الحرب أصبح مصلحة مشتركة للطرفين السعودي واليمني”، مضيفاً أنّ “المرحلة الجديدة هي أنّ استمرار العدوان على اليمن بات يشكل خطورة على الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا”.

وأكد القيادي في “أنصار الله” أنّ بلاده ستصل إلى هذه المرحلة “عندما تستشعر الولايات المتحدة أنّ نظامَي آل سعود وابن زايد لم يعودا آمنين”، لافتاً إلى أنّ “من اتخذ قرار الحرب هو شخص ليس لديه أي خبرة، مثل خبرة الملك عبد العزيز، حين دخلت السعودية حرباً لمدة 3 أشهر وانسحبت”.

وقال إنّ “قيادات، مثل محمد بن سلمان، لا تفكر وفق المنطق الأخلاقي”، مشيراً إلى أنّ “هذا تحدٍّ كبير واجهناه”. وأوضح البخيتي وجود “قرار إماراتي سابق للخروج من الورطة في الحرب على اليمن”، مؤكداً حدوث “ضغوطات عليها مؤخراً”.

وتابع “أننا بتنا على مشارف مرحلة جديدة، تتأكّد من خلالها الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا أنّ عدوانهما بات يشكل خطراً على سيطرتهما على المنطقة”.

البخيتي: نمتلك الإرادة والقدرة على التصعيد

وقال القيادي في “أنصار الله” إنّ “القيادتين السعودية والإماراتية تعرفان ماذا نقصد بالأهداف الحساسة والبعيدة”، لافتاً إلى أنه “ليس لدينا مصلحة في الإفصاح عن بنك أهدافنا الحساسة”.

وأكد البخيتي أنّ “زيادة عدد الضربات ستحدث”، مشدداً على أنّ بلاده تمتلك “الإرادة والقدرة على التصعيد وستكون الضربات موجعة للسعودية”.

ورأى أنّ “محمد بن سلمان ومحمد بن زايد لن يصحو ضميرهما. لذلك، نحن عازمون على التصعيد”، معتبراً أنّ “القوة العسكرية هي اللغة التي يفهمها التحالف السعودي”. 

وشدد البخيتي على أنّ “عملياتنا في العمق السعودي ستستمر وستتصاعد، وليست مرتبطة بما يحدث في أوكرانيا وأوروبا”، مؤكداً أنه “سيكون لها وقع كبير على السعودية وإسرائيل”.

وأضاف أنّ “الأحداث الأخيرة تشكّل عاملاً مساعداً من أجل زيادة تأثير ضرباتنا في العمق السعودي”، مضيفاً أنّ “زيادة ضرباتنا ستضاعف أزمة النفط العالميّة”.

وأكد القيادي في “أنصار الله” أنّ “الموقف الدولي تجاه العملية الروسية في أوكرانيا عرّى الصورة الإجرامية للمجتمع الدولي في العالم”، مشيراً إلى أنّ “ما يحدث في اليمن، بالمقارنة مع ما يجري في أوكرانيا، كافٍ ليعرّي الجميع”.

البخيتي: قرار زيادة إنتاج النفط أصبح في يد اليمن أيضاً

ورأى البخيتي أن “من الخطأ أن نقلّل ضرباتنا في هذه الظروف”، لافتاً إلى أنه “نتيجةً للظروف التي يمر فيها العالم، أصبح لليمن دور كبير “.

وتوقّع رضوخ السعودية للمطالب الأميركية بشأن زيادة إنتاج النفط، مؤكداً أنّ “قرار زيادة إنتاج النفط في السعودية والإمارات لم يعد في أيدي الولايات المتحدة والسعودية والإمارات فقط، بل أصبح في يد اليمن أيضاً”.

وأشار البخيتي إلى أنّ الإمارات “لا تزال في دائرة الاستهداف”، مضيفاً أنّ “من يقرر موعد العمليّة المقبلة هو القيادة”.

وأوضح القيادي في “أنصار الله” أنه لا يوجد لدى الحركة اليمنية حسابات بنكية، لا في داخل اليمن ولا خارجه، متابعاً: “قالوا إنهم جمدوا أرصدة لبعض الشخصيات من أنصار الله، لكن نحن لا نملك أيّ حسابات مصرفية”.

وأردف: “أي قرار من المنظمات الدولية في حق اليمن لم يعد لديه أي تأثير بعد أن أمعنت في الحصار علينا”، مؤكداً أنّ “القرارات الدوليّة لا تؤثر فينا، لا من قريب ولا من بعيد”.

البخيتي: لا يستفزّنا التقارب بين الدول العربية

وفيما يخص زيارة الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد للإمارات، ولقاءَه وليَّ عهد أبو ظبي، محمد بن زايد، قال البخيتي إنّ “سياستنا تتماهى مع الأمتين العربية والإسلامية، وأي تقارب بين الدول العربية والإسلامية نعدّه أمراً إيجابياً”.

وأضاف: “كنت وجّهت دعوة إلى الحكومة السورية من أجل استعادة علاقتها بالمقاومة الفلسطينية (حركة “حماس”)”، مؤكداً أنه “لا يستفزنا التقارب بين الدول العربيّة”.

وتابع: “سبق أن عبّرت عن إيجابية استعادة العلاقات بين السعودية وإيران، لأنه يجب أن يكون هناك موقف موحد بين الدول العربية والإسلامية “، مؤكداً أنه “يجب أن تتوحَّد وجهتنا لنواجه “إسرائيل””.

المتوكل: فتح ميناء الحديدة سيخفّص أسعار النفط

وبشأن احتجاز السفينة النفطية، “سي أدور”، من جانب التحالف السعودي، أكد المتحدث الرسمي لشركة النفط اليمنيّة، عصام المتوكل، لـ “كلوب هاوس” الميادين، أنه “تمّ احتجاز سفن النفط، والتضييق على الشعب اليمني”.

وأضاف المتوكل أنه “لا يمكن استيراد النفط باسم الشركة النفطية اليمنية، لذا لجأنا إلى التجار ليقوموا بهذه المهمّة”، موضحاً “أنّنا مجبَرون على شراء النفط من الإمارات ودفع المستحقات مسبّقاً، وإيداعها في مصارف خارجيّة”.

وأشار إلى أنّ “سفن النفط تنطلق من الإمارات نحو جيبوتي لتلبث بضعة أيام، لتنطلق بعدها إلى بحر اليمن قبل أن تدخل المياه الإقليمية اليمنية، لتتمّ قرصنتها وسحبها إلى سواحل جيزان”.

ولفت المتوكل إلى أنّ “الحكومة اليمنية تسرق ما يقارب 165 مليون دولار شهرياً من العائدات النفطية”، موضحاً أنّ “قوات التحالف تأخذ رشوة من كل شحنة نفطية تقدَّر بنحو 8000$”، مضيفاً أنّ “ميناء الحديدة هو ميناء إنساني وفتحه سيخفّص الأسعار”.

يُشار إلى أنّ شركة النفط اليمنية أعلنت، اليوم الإثنين، أنَّ التحالف السعودي احتجز السفينة النفطية “سي أدور”، على الرغم من تفتيشها وحصولها على تصاريحَ أمميةٍ لدخول ميناء الحُدَيْدَة.

US “disappointed” by Assad’s visit to UAE

March 18, 2022 

Source: Agencies + Al Mayadeen Net

By Al Mayadeen net 

The US State Department has expressed feeling “troubled” and unsupportive of US allies’ efforts at restoring relations with Syria.

The Syrian leader with the UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan during Friday’s visit (AFP)

The US State Department Spokesman Ned Price has expressed that the US feels troubled and disappointed by the Syrian President’s visit to the United Arab Emirates since 2011.

In a statement on Friday, Price said “We are profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimize Bashar al-Assad… As Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken has reiterated, we do not support efforts to rehabilitate Assad; and we do not support others normalizing relations,” adding that “We have been clear about this with our partners.”

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad met Dubai’s ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum in Dubai on Friday, according to the Syrian presidency.

In his first visit to an Arab state since the war on Syria started in 2011, Assad also met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Emirati state news agency WAM reported.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince expressed his hope that this visit will pave the way for prosperity, peace, and stability in Syria and the region as a whole. 

Read more: Assad Discusses Syria-UAE relations with Bin Zayed 

The US occupation forces have long been in Syria, and the Syrian Arab tribes are strongly adamant about the rejection of the presence and practices of the US occupation forces, not to mention the theft of oil, gas, wheat, and resources.

On March 1, a Syrian military source said that a US occupation patrol, accompanied by a group of SDF militia members, tried to infiltrate the Syrian army checkpoints in the village of Ghozaliya in Tal Tamr countryside in Al-Hasakah Governorate.

According to the source, the Syrian army prevented the US patrol from entering and forced it back.

Read more: Syrians citizens kick US occupation convoy out of their village

The US claims its presence in Syria is to combat terrorists, when in reality it encompasses smuggling military equipment and transferring ISIS militants from prisons to military bases. 

Last year, the US threatened Arab states over restoring ties with Syria, following the Syrian presidential elections since the war. 

According to senior US officials, Assad’s election victory proved the US efforts to stage a coup in Syria were a failure.

The US sanctions and economic boycott have made it difficult for Arab leaders to normalize relations with Assad’s government, but Friday’s meeting might be a sign that things are changing.

Recently, reports surfaced of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammad bin Zayed have declined US requests to speak to the US President in recent weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal.

While the West and Europe look for alternative energy sources, MBS has reiterated Riyadh’s refusal to abandon the OPEC+ pact for the sake of greater oil output on Friday.

In snub to Washington, UAE reaches out to Russia

Washington’s geopolitical cards are dwindling rapidly. The high-level UAE visit to Moscow this week has consolidated OPEC+ support for Russia in the energy war now raging between east and west.

March 18 2022

The UAE is the fourth West Asian state to have travelled to Moscow in the past week to strike agreements unfavorable to Washington.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By MK Bhadrakumar

Four top foreign minster level diplomats from Qatar, Iran, Turkey and the UAE travelled to Moscow this week, in as many days, in an impressive display of strategic realignment by regional states against the backdrop of the US-Russia conflict unfolding over Ukraine.

The arrival in Moscow of the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan on Thursday is the most striking. This is happening within a fortnight of the country’s inclusion on 4 March in the Grey List of the global financial crime watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), due to alleged financial crimes. The FATF recommendations for the UAE include:

  • Implementing a more robust system to collect case studies and statistics used in money laundering (ML) investigations;
  • Demonstrating a sustained increase in effective investigations and prosecutions of different types of ML cases;
  • Probing increase in the number and quality of suspicious transaction reports filed by financial institutions and other entities; and,
  • Monitoring high-risk ML threats, such as proceeds of foreign predicate offences, trade-based ML, and third-party laundering.

The FATF is one of those tools of torture that the west has finessed in the international system to humiliate and punish developing countries whom it wants to teach a lesson or two. A cursory look at the countries figuring in the 22-member Grey List would reveal that the UAE shouldn’t really belong there — Albania, Burkina Faso, Haiti, South Sudan, Uganda, Yemen and so on.

But the west’s calculation is that the economy of a country gets affected in a negative manner when it figures on the Grey List — with international financial institutions starting to look at it as a risky nation for investment, which in UAE’s case also renders a lethal blow to its flourishing tourism industry.

Indeed, this happened under the watch of an American, Vincent Schmoll, who is holding interim charge as the acting FATF executive secretary since January. Schmoll used to be a functionary at the US Treasury. Conceivably, Washington’s writ runs large in this episode.

US-UAE relations have been experiencing some tumult during the past year. The trouble began soon after President Donald Trump’s departure from the White House. In January 2021, on Trump’s last full day in office, Abu Dhabi had signed a $23 billion agreement to buy 50 F-35 fighter jets, 18 Reaper drones, and other advanced munitions, but incoming President Joe Biden froze the deal as soon as he entered the Oval Office.

A number of factors might have influenced the Biden administration’s calculations, apart from the fact that the lucrative F-35 deal was a Trump legacy. As it transpired, in a delaying tactic, Washington began voicing serious concerns about the UAE-China relationship and the particularly strong economic ties developing between Abu Dhabi and Beijing. Notably, Washington wanted the UAE to put an end to a 5G contract with Chinese tech giant Huawei, which is the undisputed global leader in next-generation 5G technology.

Meanwhile, in addition to the Huawei issue, US intelligence agencies claimed to have discovered that Beijing was building what they thought to be a secret military facility at the Khalifa port in the UAE.

Emirati officials denied the allegation, but under pressure from Washington, were forced to halt the project, although the Persian Gulf states in general, and the UAE in particular, do not like being pushed to take sides between Washington and Beijing. They consider that their best interest lies in maintaining neutrality and balancing relations.

The end result, as everyone knows, was that much to the annoyance of Washington, Abu Dhabi finally hit back by opting for 80 Rafale combat aircraft from France in a deal worth over $20 billion last December.

Then came the bombshell in February with the sensational disclosure that the UAE has plans to order 12 L-15 light attack planes from China, with the option of purchasing 36 more. A UAE defence ministry statement said the purchase is part of the country’s efforts to diversify weapon suppliers. As an aside, the UAE air force operates mainly American-made F-16 and French-made Mirage fighters.

Only a week later, all hell broke loose when the UAE resisted American pressure and abstained (twice) on US-led Ukraine-related UN Security Council resolutions condemning Russia. Subsequent reports said that the Biden administration conveyed its displeasure to Abu Dhabi.

Soon after that, according to a Wall Street Journal report last week, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan failed to take a call from Biden who apparently wanted to discuss the US expectation that the UAE would pump more oil into the market to bring down skyrocketing prices.

Yet another complicating factor is that the Biden administration blundered into the intra-Gulf rivalries by designating Qatar as a ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’ (MNNA). On 31 January, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani became the first Persian Gulf leader to meet with Biden in the White House and media accounts of the visit highlighted a $20 billion deal for Boeing 777X freighter aircraft. Additionally, the emir met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and discussed weapons sales.

Given this backdrop, Foreign Minister Abdullah Al-Nahyan’s arrival in Moscow couldn’t have been any less dramatic. The Russian side has divulged few details about the visit. The big question is whether any arms deal was been discussed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a statement that the talks covered “a wide range of issues related to our bilateral relations and international agenda. For obvious reasons, we paid a great deal of attention to the Ukrainian developments. We spoke in detail about the goals and objectives of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine to protect people from the Kiev regime, and to demilitarize and de-Nazify this country.”

The UAE foreign minister reportedly told Lavrov that his country aimed at further systematic development of relations with Russia and diversification of the areas of bilateral cooperation. In what was possibly an indirect swipe at the US sanctions aimed at isolating Russia from the world economy, Al-Nahyan said:

“It is always important for us to keep our finger on the pulse and make sure that relations between Russia and the UAE move forward. There is no doubt that we are aimed at the systematic development of these relations and the diversification of the areas of bilateral cooperation so that it meets the interests of both our citizens and state institutions and other structures.”

He stressed that the parties should strengthen cooperation on energy and food security. Clearly, the US cannot count on the support of the Persian Gulf region in its campaign to isolate Russia or to dismantle OPEC+ – an increasingly influential body consisting of the 13 OPEC members plus ten non-OPEC oil exporters, which is chaired by the largest producers Russia and Saudi Arabia. The Gulf countries are, one by one, seeking out Russia to signal their solidarity and register their own desire to shake off US hegemony.

Interestingly, last Tuesday, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa had called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss “topical issues of Russia‒Bahrain cooperation in politics, trade and the economy… (and) expressed the shared intention to further develop the friendly ties between Russia and Bahrain.” This, despite the fact that the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the US Naval Forces Central Command are based in Bahrain.

Such display of solidarity by the ‘non-western international community’ brings some vital nuance to the global geopolitical chessboard: for one, it makes a mockery of the western sanctions against Russia. The Gulf countries are avid ‘globalizers’ and trading nations — Dubai, in particular. As time passes, western companies are sure to find ingenious ways to trade with Russia via resourceful intermediaries in the Gulf region.

Abdullah Al-Nahyan’s trip to Moscow is a demonstrative act of defiance, both symbolically and strategically. It is a mark of the Persian Gulf region’s growing alienation from Washington. Reports suggest that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who travelled to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia this week to press for increased oil production to lower oil prices, also came back empty-handed.

Contrary to Washington’s hopes, there is every likelihood that the OPEC+ will continue to strengthen its strategic autonomy vis-a-vis the US. Previously, Russia used to be a voice of moderation within the group. This will have profound implications for the world oil market.

The high attention Russian diplomacy paid to the West Asian region in the recent decade is returning dividends, for sure. Russia offered its Persian Gulf interlocutors something they never experienced before with a great power – an equal partnership based on mutual respect.

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

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Saudi Arabia, UAE Leaders Not Returning Biden’s Calls, Disappointed With US – WSJ

March 9, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies

The leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates [UAE] have declined calls from US President Joe Biden for several weeks, the Wall Street Journal [WSJ] reported on Wednesday citing officials in the Middle East and the United States.

The messages of dissatisfaction sent by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirati Shiekh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan come as the two leaders share concerns over the American response to recent counterattacks by the Yemeni resistance.

The two nations are also reportedly disappointed with the state of negotiations in the ever-nearing Iran nuclear deal, according to the WSJ.

The deal, which IAEA chief Rafael Grossi called “very complex,” does not account for Saudi and Emirati security interests, they claimed.

The US has been pushing to repair its relations with the two nations as it looks to stifle an oil crisis. Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports on Tuesday as gas prices reach all-time highs globally.

“There was some expectation of a phone call [between Biden and MBS], but it didn’t happen,” an American source told WSJ, adding that the call was intended to focus on “turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil].”

In addition, support from the Middle Eastern oil giants is increasingly important to the US in order to create a united front against Russia due to its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia has long been disappointed with its reportedly deteriorating relationship with the US since Biden was sworn in, according to the report. Along with more support in Yemen, the Saudis are reportedly seeking assistance with their own nuclear program, in addition to clarification on MBS’ legal position in the US due to lawsuits filed over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

In an interview with The Atlantic earlier this month, the Saudi crown prince commented on his relationship with Biden, stating he “does not care whether Biden misunderstood things about him.”

Biden should be “focusing on America’s interests,” MBS said, adding that he “does not have the right to lecture America and the same goes the other way.”

However, MBS also reiterated that Riyadh’s objective was to maintain and strengthen its “long, historical” relationship with the US.

Why Israel is reluctant to give the UAE help against the Houthis

Israeli sources tell MEE that giving air defence systems to Abu Dhabi might compromise Israel’s technological edge – and even anger Washington

Published date: 9 February 2022

By Yossi Melman

Following the recent missile and drone attacks by Yemen’s Houthi movement on Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’ rulers have turned to Israel for military assistance.

The most recent drone attack occurred during last week’s state visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

It wasn’t the first Houthi threat to Israel. In the past, the Iran-aligned Houthis have threatened to launch their missiles against Eilat, the southern Israel port city located 1,500km from Yemen.

In response, Israel two years ago increased its state of alert in the Eilat region and has occasionally deployed Iron Dome batteries there based on intelligence warnings. Simultaneously, Mossad and military intelligence stepped up their monitoring of Yemen and information-gathering there.

Recently, a high-ranking Israeli delegation consisting of defence ministry officials, Mossad operatives and executives of Israeli arms manufacturers visited the United Arab Emirates.

Emirati officials are especially interested in Israeli-made air defences, such as the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow, as well as their radar systems.

Until now, all Emirati and Saudi anti-missiles systems are US-made, such as the Patriot batteries.

Israeli sources told Middle East Eye that they are considering the UAE request, but added a caveat, arguing that it is a serious matter that must be dealt with using caution.

Israel will have to balance between its desire to sell weapons around the globe – it was officially announced this week that it granted military export licenses to 139 countries – and the need to protect its homemade sensitive equipment.

Technological edge

The Israeli dilemma is how to maintain its own technological edge while selling systems to strategic partners. In the past, it was reported that Saudi Arabia is also interested in Iron Dome systems.

So far, Israel has sold partial components for Iron Dome, such as radars and ground control, to Singapore and Azerbaijan, but not the intercepting missiles, manufactured by state-owned company Rafael. Washington purchased two Iron Dome systems to evaluate their effectiveness.

The Israeli dilemma is how to maintain its own technological edge while selling systems to strategic partners

Israel claims that during its wars in Gaza, Iron Dome has shown a 92 percent interception rate when downing Hamas’s missiles. In the past, South Korea has also expressed interest in the system, which is capable of intercepting rockets that have a range of around 80km.

However, there is also one more obstacle in the way of Israel delivering air defences to the Gulf, one that is perhaps even stronger: the United States.

The US perceives the region as its sphere of interest. It has a military presence and bases in Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE.

Washington sells them weapons of all sorts, from F-35 fighter jets, drones and intelligence tech, to naval equipment and anti-aircraft batteries.

American security and military corporations would not like seeing Israeli competition entering what they consider as their backyard.

Secret cooperation

For years, the Mossad facilitated secret ties between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which has resulted in close intelligence-sharing cooperation against Iran, as well as sales of intelligence equipment such as the infamous Pegasus spyware.

Israeli firms such as Logic, owned by Mati Kochavi, secretly operated for years in the UAE. Kochavi employed ex-Mossad and Shin Bet officials, as well former experts from Israel Aerospace Industries.

After Kochavi fell out of Abu Dhabi’s ruling Nahyan family’s graces, he was replaced by David Meidan, a former Mossad operative, as the mediator between Israel and the UAE.

All of these clandestine deals and contacts were approved and encouraged by the Israeli defence ministry.

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Since open normalisation began with the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, Israel has been able to open full diplomatic and commercial ties with the UAE, Bahrain and later Morocco, as well as enhance its intelligence relations.

Cooperation no longer needed to be kept a secret.

Last week, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited Bahrain, met with its rulers and signed with his counterpart a memorandum of understanding for security cooperation – the first agreed with an Arab country.

Only the special relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia remain secretive.

Despite the encouragement and lobbying by Donald Trump and his administration, Riyadh refused to take the public plunge.

Yet Israeli security and diplomatic sources told MEE that they have great expectations that once Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sits on the throne, after his old and ailing father King Salman dies, the kingdom will most probably bring the relations into the open.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states will continue and even accelerate their security collaboration with Israel and purchase more arms.

Abu Dhabi forewarned: More Israel, more missile strikes

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

January 31 2022

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

By Abdel Bari Atwan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UAE’s bitter choices: strikes in its cities or defeat in Yemen

January 19 2022

By Abdel Bari Atwan

There are two main choices for the UAE: escalate dramatically or exit quickly, both with considerable cost to Abu Dhabi

On 17 January, Yemeni resistance movement Ansarallah launched its first-ever retaliatory missile strikes into the UAE’s depth, hitting Abu Dhabi airport and a key petroleum facility. Within hours, the Saudi-led coalition struck Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing 23 civilians in the ensuing bombardments. Both sides have threatened to escalate, after seven years of a brutal war.

So, what are the options of the UAE and the Houthis after the recent and sudden military confrontations? Will Abu Dhabi withdraw again – as it claimed to have done in 2019 – or will it continue its expensive proxy war, via its Yemen-based mercenary armies? And how will the Houthis respond to each of these scenarios?

After the unprecedented drones and ballistic missile attack launched by Ansarallah, Yemen’s Houthi-dominated resistance movement, into the UAE’s territorial depth, there are two critical questions that arise. The first is about the real motives behind this new Ansarallah gambit, and the second, about the UAE’s reaction to this attack.

Importantly, will this escalation lead to a change in strategy in the long run: will Abu Dhabi return to this war after a semi-interruption of three years, or will it decide to withdraw completely this time – proxies included – in order to avoid potentially high costs?

The Houthis, who have targeted multiple strategic economic and military sites inside Saudi Arabia with ballistic and winged missiles over the past years, had thus far avoided targeting the UAE in its retaliatory strikes. The Emiratis are the second-lead and key partner in the Arab coalition’s “Decisive Storm” assault launched on Yemen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March 2015, in which he pledged to enter Houthi-controlled Sanaa “as a conqueror.”

When asked about why they neglected to retaliate against the UAE until now, sources close to the Houthis provided several reasons for that decision:

First, Ansarallah was unwilling to open two battle fronts at the same time – with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both – in addition to their internal battlefronts with the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), and the Saudi-backed Islah party and al-Sharia army.

Second, the Houthis had reached an implicit, unwritten agreement with the UAE that can be summed up thus: “We left the south to you, so leave the north to us, and do not interfere in it politically or militarily… and you will be safe.”

Third, the desire of Iran, an Ansarallah ally, to maintain a cautious balance with the UAE – especially with the Emirate of Dubai, a critical commercial gateway for undermining the severity of US sanctions on Iran, estimated to account for more than $14 billion annually in Emirati-Iranian trade.

Fourth, the sudden decision of the UAE in 2019 to withdraw its official troops gradually from Yemen after a sharp increase in soldier losses, estimated at 150 dead and hundreds more wounded.

Among the most prominent of those injured was Zayed bin Hamdan, the son of former foreign minister and governor of the northern region Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, and also the son-in-law of the the de facto ruler of the Emirates, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ). Hamdan was paralyzed and is in a wheelchair.

The UAE’s strong return to the Yemeni theater in recent months, via its proxies, especially in the critical battles of Shabwah, Marib and Al-Bayda, has changed Ansarallah’s calculations. The UAE-backed Giant Brigades – headed by General Tariq Afash, nephew of the late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh – and other southern factions, upended all the equations on the ground when it stymied the advance of Ansarallah forces on these key frontlines.

Because of this Emirati escalation in recent weeks, Ansarallah lost partial control of the oil-rich Shabwah governorate, inflicting huge human losses in its ranks, tipping the scales toward the Saudi-backed Sharia army and easing the siege on them in Marib, which the Saudis were on the verge of losing.

After several days of hesitation, during which consultations took place with allies in Tehran, Beirut, and among Yemeni tribal leaders, Ansarallah decided to send a strong message to the UAE. It did so by bombing the Emirati depth, but in a reduced and deliberate way, to deliver a warning message to Abu Dhabi: “You breached the agreement.. If you go back, we will return, and he who warns have been excused (from explaining further),” say the Houthi sources mentioned above.

The Emirati military response came quickly, less than 24 hours later, with an aerial bombardment of the home of retired General Abdullah Qassem al-Junaid, head of the Yemeni Air College in the heart of Sanaa – where three families resided – killing about 23 civilians and wounding dozens for the first time in years.

There are two options for the UAE after these recent developments.

First, to revive the 2019 ‘truce agreement’ with the Houthis, which would entail ordering UAE proxies to immediately withdraw from the Shabwah, Marib and Al-Bayda fronts and return to their former bases on the western coast, south of Hodeidah and near Bab al-Mandab, as a first step.

Second, to advance its proxies into Ansarallah’s geographic red lines, and throw its full weight back into the Yemeni war  to strengthen the exhausted military position of its Saudi ally. These were decisions implemented by the UAE and Saudi Arabia in an agreement reached during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MbS) visit to Abu Dhabi before last December’s Gulf summit.

It is not known which of the two options the Emirati leadership will choose. The first will be difficult as it will require an exit from the Saudi-led war coalition, an increase in tension with Riyadh, and the abandonment of its allies’ military ambitions in southern Yemen – but it will lead to halting any new Houthi attacks in the Emirati depth.

The second option may be vastly more expensive, because the Houthis are likely to continue their bombing of the UAE with more powerful retaliatory strikes targeting the oil and tourism infrastructure, especially the airports and the facilities of the “ADNOC” company, an Emirati version of Saudi Aramco.

Ansarallah’s bombardment of the UAE with missiles and drones, although expected, constituted a dangerous new development. It changed all the rules of engagement and moved the Yemeni war to a new stage where developments are difficult to anticipate.

Israel is about 1,600 kilometers from Sanaa – approximately the same distance between Abu Dhabi and Yemen’s capital city. Tel Aviv’s assistance to the UAE to investigate the Ansarallah strike capabilities comes on the back of increasing Israeli fears that it could be the next destination for Houthi ballistic missiles and armed drones. So, how then could this new element influence the direction of the Arab coalition countries in this war, and the UAE, in particular?

This unprecedented bombing of the Emirati depth will either lead to accelerate the exploration of a solution to end the Yemeni war – or escalate it, expand its circle, and invite other regional parties into it. The new entrants could include the countries and arms of the resistance axis, jihadists from all over the world, Russia, China, and a more active presence by western NATO states – similar to what happened in Syria.

In all cases, the surprises of the new year have already arrived, faster than we could have imagined.

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

Macron, the Gulf, and Islam

January 6, 2022

French President, Emmanuel Macron (L) welcomes Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan prior to a working lunch at Fontainebleau castle on September 15, 2021 in Fontainebleau, France. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images.

BY ALAIN GRESH


n December 3 and 4, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to the Gulf for a short visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. This is likely to be his last foreign trip outside of Europe, as France has entered election season. The presidential election will take place on April 10 and 24, 2022, and

Macron is preparing to run for re-election.

Macron’s trip highlights the importance of the Gulf countries on at least two levels. First, at a time of the United States’ disengagement from the region, France is trying to occupy its place economically, militarily, and politically.

Second, at a time when the issue of Islam and Muslims is at the center of the presidential campaign, Macron wants to seek support for the French position against “radicalism,” and especially so after the adoption of the “Law against Separatism,” renamed the “Law Reinforcing the Principles of the Republic,” which came into force in August 2021 and which has caused much misunderstanding in the Muslim world (and elsewhere) as it appears to be (and is in fact) a law against Islam and Muslims.

The most successful stopover was in Abu Dhabi, where President Macron has a close personal relationship with the Emirates’ strongman, Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ). The signing of a record contract for the sale of 80 Rafale aircraft was accompanied by the sale of twelve Eurocopter EC725 Caracal helicopters, and the singing of various economic partnership agreements. “This is the biggest military contract with a French component in our history – worth some 17 billion euros,”  Macron said.

For Macron, this is proof of the close ties between Paris and Abu Dhabi. “I think that the Emirates and the Crown Prince saw that France was a solid partner in the fight against terrorism (…), that is to say that we kept our commitments in the region and that we were attached to its balance.” For it is not only a question of arms sales, but of a community of views and coordination between Abu Dhabi and Paris in the “war against terrorism” (notably in Libya), and in the fight against “political Islam,” as shown by the presence on the trip of Laurent Nuñez, the national coordinator of intelligence and the fight against terrorism. MBZ’s support for French laws against “separatism” is particularly appreciated.

We should notice that the French president said nothing about the authoritarian nature of the Abu Dhabi regime, which imprisons and tortures its opponents, about its involvement in the deadly war in Yemen, or about its use of Pegasus spy software. Yet, a few days later, a report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) highlighted the dark side of the regime and Paris’s complicity in it.

The second stop was Doha. Although it did not call into question the very good relations between the two capitals (the visit was fruitful), the meeting was marked by an incident that was barely reported. The French delegation reported that Nuñez gave the local authorities a list of approximately fifteen entities (mosques, associations etc.)  whose funding by Qatari sources, private or public, France requested comes to an end. Anonymously, a Qatari official reacted quite strongly,

“This is a pure invention by Mr Nuñez – no such list has been given to our government and there would be no reason to create one. This is an attempt at political gain at the expense of Qatar. (…) Our government is working closely with its French counterparts on several bilateral and international initiatives to combat illicit financing from source to destination.”

Beyond the controversy, the incident illustrates Macron’s emphasis on controlling France’s Muslims and his willingness to assert that he is doing all he can to counter “political Islam”.

The last and most controversial stop of Macron’s trip to the Gulf, in France at least, was his visit to Saudi Arabia. For the first time since the horrific murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, a major head of state of the Western world agreed to meet Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the Saudi crown prince, widely considered the mastermind of this crime.

Relations between MBS and Macron had not been rosy since the French president “rescued” Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2018, when he was reportedly kidnapped in Saudi Arabia by MBS and forced to announce his resignation from Riyadh.

Relations between MBS and Macron had not been rosy since the French president “rescued” Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2018.

While the aim of the meeting was also to give a boost to bilateral relations – and to take advantage of the rift between Washington and Riyadh, with President Joe Biden refusing any contact with MBS – one of the objectives was a new mediation with Lebanon, which the Saudis are subjecting to a trade embargo that is aggravating the economic crisis in the country. The result was modest: a conversation between Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and MBS on Macron’s phone. Nothing more came of the visit – no return of ambassadors and no lifting of the embargo.

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The UAE clock is ticking in Yemen

MbZ needed Yemen’s southern ports and waterways to underpin his ‘Maritime Empire’ and extend his security realm. But now the Yemeni resistance is set to blow a hole in those plans.

Jan 04 2022

UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed bet on his Yemen war to consolidate his maritime and security ambitions. It may have backfired.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Karim Shami

On 3 January, a UAE-flagged vessel carrying ‘military supplies’ was seized by Yemeni resistance movement Ansarallah, which disseminated photos of the war contraband widely on social media.

One week earlier, Yemen’s Armed Forces launched a ballistic missile strike on Shabwah province, an area under the control of UAE-backed militias.

If a new strategy of targeting Emirati interests – instead of mainly Saudi ones – is taking shape in Yemen, these incidents are likely to have a ripple effect on the UAE’s role in both Yemen and the wider region.

Ambition and contest inside a house of glass

At the onset of the war on Yemen in 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates divided their military-strategic roles in Yemen in accordance with country’s former partition lines of 1967–1990.

Back then, Yemen was divided into two separate states, north and south. The oil-rich north was attached to Saudi Arabia, while the communist south received significant aid and other assistance from its alliance with the USSR.

After the dissolution of the USSR, the nation unified under Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of the former North Yemen since 1978, firmly consolidating the country under the influence of Saudi Arabia.

The UAE began its role as a regional player in West Asia after the death of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 2004.

The ambitious Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MbZ), subsequently took full control of the UAE. He overhauled his predecessor’s visions and prepared the UAE for a post-oil era, in which the country would transform from a traditional Gulf oil-dependent country to one with a diversified economy.

Briefly, the UAE’s diversified economy rested on the construction of mega projects funded by oil revenues, such as ports and airports that turned the UAE into a regional, free trade zone hub for importing and exporting oil, jewelry, electronics and other goods. The economy of the UAE would be further boosted by foreign investments in tourism, air transport, and real estate.

In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, foreign investments as well as real estate sectors depreciated, and the UAE struggled to achieve full recovery until 2019. Then, as others in the Arabian Peninsula, the Emirati economy took another bashing from the effects of COVID-19 on its tourism industry and the subsequent instability of the global oil market.

These downturns increased the importance of ports and airports in MbZ’s grand scheme. Today, re-exports (non-petroleum) account for almost 50 percent of total exports, making maritime security an ultimate priority for UAE foreign policy.

Ultimately, the success of MbZ has been in transforming the UAE from an absolute realm of sand to an absolute realm of glass, and his fortunes can remain intact as long as those glass towers stand.

A coalition of differing goals

When Ansarallah (the Houthis) – a northern Yemeni resistance movement against western and Gulf interventionism – took over the capital city of Sanaa, a coalition spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE was formed to push back and destroy it.

UAE officials claim that their role in the coalition is to support the ‘legal’ government of Hadi, who was overthrown by the Yemeni people in a popular uprising, and who subsequently sought protection in Riyadh.

Generally speaking, the UAE adamantly opposes any popular Islamic or resistance movements across the region, from the Polisario on the Atlantic Ocean to the Islamic Brotherhood on the Persian Gulf. The UAE has also periodically employed the hollow excuse of ‘restraining Iran’s influence’ to justify their aggressions in Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

However, the real reason for the conflict waged on Yemen by Saudi Arabia and the UAE has little to do with politics – and much more to do with the geography of South Yemen.

It’s all about geography…and location

Along the coastlines of Yemen are ports and islands overlooking the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa, and the Bab al-Mandab strait.

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Division of labor: Saudi interests lie primarily in Yemen’s north; the UAE’s ambitions, in the south.

The foreign policy of the UAE today is determined mainly by maritime trading and security. Control of Yemen’s south will assist the UAE in maintaining its regional trading dominance and will secure the waterways and airports to avoid future vulnerabilities.

Maritime trading will be determined in the upcoming years by the Maritime Silk Road,  which is part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Engineered to connect around 60 countries, the $4 trillion project will bolster the strategically-located Yemen as a vital hub of maritime trading, naturally diminishing the UAE’s location and role.

For the UAE, the three key sites in connection with maritime trading are the Aden governorate, Socotra Island, and Bab al-Mandab strait:

First is Aden province which includes Aden Port City, purported to be part of the Maritime Silk Road. It has the biggest container terminal in Yemen and is located on the Gulf of Aden near one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Aden also now hosts the country’s largest airport after the war coalition in 2015 destroyed the airport in Sanaa. Currently, Aden is under the control of the UAE.

Then there is Socotra, a unique natural and isolated wonder, a well-sized island surrounded by the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea. It faces the Horn of Africa from the west, and is also located on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Currently, Socotra is controlled by the UAE.

Finally, there is the Bab al-Mandab strait, which will be an essential part of the Maritime Silk Road. The strait connects the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, and is shared by three countries: Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Around 20,000 ships pass through the strait each year, and the total petroleum flows through Bab al-Mandab account for nine percent of global supply.

The UAE is currently in control of the Bab al-Mandab strait.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

A colonial strategy that never tires

While the coalition may have ostensibly sought the unity of Yemen by re-establishing what they called the ‘legal’ Hadi government in Sanaa, the intent – at least by the UAE – was quite the opposite.

MbZ’s ambition within the coalition differs significantly from that of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS). Saudi Arabia sought mainly to dismantle Ansarallah, regain Yemen as its pawn, and eliminate any threats that might emerge from its southern border.

But the UAE saw in this war an opportunity to establish an oversized maritime role for itself by deploying the colonial principle of divide and conquer.

The Emiratis achieved their ‘self-styled maritime empire’ in Yemen with the aid of the Southern Movement, which came into existence in 2007. The Southern Movement was formed by tribes and groups seeking to divide Yemen along the old partition lines of 1967–1990.

The movement, however, would soon be restructured to match the aspirations of the UAE, and thus the formation of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) was announced in 2017.

Known for its brutality and ruthlessness, the STC was trained, equipped, and fully funded by the UAE. The council was established to provide the illusion of a governing authority, which could then bestow a semblance of “legitimacy” on the UAE’s unlawful actions in Yemen’s south. The STC even have their own ‘elected’ president in Aden, while Hadi has been holed up in Riyadh since 2015.

Through the STC, the UAE was able to seize both Aden and the island of Socotra. Without the formation of the STC, the UAE would have had absolutely no influence in Yemen.

The takeover of Bab Al Mandab strait, however, took a different route. The UAE established its dominance over the strait simply by building a military base on the tiny and uninhabited island of Perim (Mayyun).

Perim lies on the narrowest corridor of the strait at 26 km (16 miles) wide – and faces Djibouti, Eritrea, and Somalia to the west. Incidentally, the UAE has also built military bases and ports in both Eritrea (Assab port/base) and Somalia (Berbera port/base), whereas in Djibouti, the UAE established the port of Doraleh in a joint project with China.

With typical colonial-style flair, the UAE took on the ‘guardianship’ of the strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

The spoils of war

So how was all this achieved by a 50-year old emirate with a population of just over one million?

Certainly, none of this was possible without an American green light and the complete cluelessness of the Saudi crown prince.

Unlike his Saudi counterpart, MbZ is viewed in Washington (and London, for that matter) as a trustworthy ally who can achieve US foreign policy interests in the region without the public embarrassment associated with MbS.

Accordingly, the Bab al-Mandab strait fell neatly into a vital component of the Cold War 2.0 buildup between China and the US. The Arab ally that can control this essential strait will give the US leverage with which to jeopardize the Maritime Silk Road. Hence, its support for the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

MbZ also knew how to keep the UAE in the shadows by taking advantage – as he always does – of MbS’ inexperience and ignorance in matters related to geopolitics.

While the idea of a Saudi-led coalition and a regional show of force might have initially rung enticingly in the ears of MbS, today, after several costly years, many documented war crimes, and a shattered global reputation, the Saudi crown prince has essentially been cornered in defeat.

This, despite spending billions more than the UAE and taking on a barrage of targeted Yemeni ballistic missiles since 2019, when Ansarallah went on the offensive.

That same year, Ansarallah Leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi warned the UAE not to escalate its attacks on Yemen as the resistance movement’s retaliatory ‘options’ had expanded well beyond Yemen’s borders. The threat itself resulted in a partial withdrawal of Emirati troops, and later a full withdrawal in 2020.

Despite its military withdrawal, the UAE did not lose an inch of its dominance in the south due to the generous support and diplomatic protection it provided to the brutal STC.

Gains and losses 

Official reports indicate that by 2018 the UAE had recorded 112 military personnel deaths and injured soldiers in the thousands.

Further reports indicate that the UAE spends well over $16 billion a year to maintain its dominance in the war on Yemen. Billions of dollars have been spent just on logistics, propaganda, and the amassing of foreign mercenary militias.

Logistics are essential to maintaining the security of the maritime corridors and helping to puppeteer the UAE’s southern minions.

Propaganda is funded by both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, known for their ability and willingness to throw cash at such projects. Global and regional media has been well controlled: it is rare after seven years of war to hear details in mainstream media about Yemen that doesn’t focus primarily on the humanitarian dimension – often blamed on Ansarallah – and it is almost impossible to find analysis or data that highlights the monumental geopolitical and material losses encountered by the various coalition partners.

But the bulk of the UAE bill goes to STC ‘politicians’ who enjoy a life of luxury in a war-torn country in tandem with the 200,000 well-equipped and armed members who, as stated by an Emirati official, are the ‘biggest accomplishment’ of the UAE.

The gains made by the UAE since 2015 are utterly unmatched by its material losses.

The road ahead for the UAE

Both MbZ and MbS assumed the war on Yemen would be a blitz that would end rapidly and allow them to bask in the glory of victory. But for those who know Yemen well, the uncalculated consequences of that rosy, inexpert outlook would quickly emerge to flip the war’s course.

One of these consequences would be the growth of Ansarallah’s military sophistication and capabilities.

Ansarallah first started fighting with light arms, but was gradually able to manufacture its own accurate ballistic missiles and drones. And Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, unlike other leaders, did not hesitate to use these capabilities to strike at Saudi Arabia.

In 2021, Al-Houthi said in a broadcast: “We will liberate all of our country and take back all the areas that were occupied by the enemies. Our enemy’s aim is to subjugate our land to the US, the British and the Israelis.”

Currently, the ongoing battles are in areas surrounding Sanaa province, specifically in Marib. After the Saudi militias are defeated, the next confrontations are likely to be in areas under the control of the UAE.

MbZ will shortly face two choices: First, to withdraw completely from Yemen and cease his support for the STC, thereby losing control over the southern waterways and ports and scuttling his oversized regional ambitions.

His second choice is to take the risk and face Ansarallah’s retaliation, which may result in attacks on facilities and military bases inside and outside the UAE. In this event, tourism and foreign investment sectors in the UAE would be adversely affected, and a new kind of war will commence.

MbZ has prepared for the second option, both militarily and politically. This year alone, the UAE has attempted to conceal multiple military deals related to air defense systems with various countries that include Russia, the US, GreeceIsrael, and South Korea.

The UAE has also invested in manufacturing its own air defense system to counter the threat escalation triggered by its foreign policies.

On the political side, MbZ has recently managed to ease tensions with Iran and Turkey and has allowed China to build a port/base on the shores of the Persian Gulf. He has also struck unmatched cordial relations with Israel, and has – so far, unsuccessfully – tried to invest in an Israeli port that is, ironically, geared to be part of the Maritime Silk Road.

Perhaps, in his own mind, MbZ believes this may gain him more protection from the west and his neighbors, and bestow his maritime schemes with some legitimacy.

However, Mbz’s recent actions to strengthen the UAE’s defensive capabilities suggests that he expects his emirate to take direct hits from Ansarallah.

His friendly diplomatic overtures to neighboring countries is a tactical move on his part to ensure strong condemnation from the international community against any Ansarallah strikes on the UAE. How effective an international response might be as a result of a strike on the UAE remains to be seen. 

The stakes are high for all parties. A coalition loss in Yemen will shake the emirates and monarchies of West Asia and shift the course of the Maritime Silk Road away from the UAE and its allies.

An Ansarallah-ruled Yemen would reap huge material benefits and geopolitical clout from the nation’s strategic location and unexploited natural resources, and would likely seek to establish regional and international ventures with trusted partners in the new multipolar system emerging.

The Saudis are on their way out, leaving the UAE with little cover for their Yemeni project. The current US administration, despite continued arms injections into the war front, is publicly attempting to keep a careful distance.

An Emirati counter using western mercenaries and Israeli special forces, while possible, could delay an Ansarallah victory, but would also invite countless additional consequences. It may even, this time, entirely flip the Arab discourse – already highly critical of “normalization” with Israel – against Abu Dhabi and Gulf monarchies in general.

With Ansarallah attacks on Emirati interests in and around Yemen this past week, the spotlight is now suddenly – certainly uncomfortably – focused on a UAE that prefers its place in the shadows of conflict.

So will the UAE fully withdraw from Yemen, or will MbZ risk shattering the fragile glass towers of his realm?The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE: Two rival allies

Once staunch allies, MbS and MbZ can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on regional matters anymore, and so a competition for primacy is underway.

December 16 2021

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and his Emirati counterpart Mohammad bin Zayed are old allies whose rivalry for West Asian dominance is heating up as they search for new groundings in the post-oil eraPhoto Credit: The Cradle

By Mohammad Salami

Many years ago, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was respected among its neighbors, close and far, as a protector of Arab unity and of Islam’s holiest sites within the Arabian Peninsula.

But after the 1998 establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saudi Arabia’s role began to assume the form of  a ‘superior power’ among its closest neighbors. Over time, and with growing fortunes of their own, other GCC states began to challenge the status quo of the Saudi superpower in order to forge their own geopolitical directions and relationships based on national interests.

While competition between the oil-rich states is rife, today, the often starkly differing visions of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Saudi kingdom are giving shape to the Persian Gulf’s most potent new rivalry.

Like Qatar, which opened its borders to the US Military Central Command’s (CENTCOM) headquarters as leverage against Saudi diktats and as means to attain its own regional aspirations, the UAE has also invested heavily in an American buffer, becoming arguably Washington’s closest Arab ally today.

Abu Dhabi has spent a reported $4 billion cultivating their relationship with Washington via lobby groups and other personal strategic investments. The Emiratis’ abundant wealth, its expansive military spending and development of mercenary armies currently at work in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Egypt’s North Sinai, have paid off: the UAE is well positioned to challenge Riyadh within the GCC and adopt regional policies independent of the kingdom.

Border, oil, and foreign hub rivalries

The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the UAE is not exactly new. In 1974, the two fledgling nations hammered out the Treaty of Jeddah to try and resolve border, land, and resource issues wedged between them.

Specifically, Riyadh laid claim to the oil-rich Buraimi Oasis and refused to recognize the Emirates until that area was ceded to the Saudis. Abu Dhabi capitulated and signed the treaty, but in 2004 decided to dispute its terms, claiming inconsistencies between the pre-treaty oral agreement and the actual text of said treaty. The issue remains unresolved to this day and is a clear example of residual tensions between the neighboring nations.

Another dispute surfaced in 2009 when the GCC agreed to create a joint bank to promote economic unity among member states. But when a decision was taken to establish the bank in Saudi territory, the UAE objected, pointing out that they had requested to host this joint venture for the previous five years.

Eventually the Emiratis withdrew from the plan and single currency negotiations within the GCC never took hold.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also embroiled in an economic war over oil sales at a time when the world is working to reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons. In recent years, both the US and the European Union (EU) have announced ambitious plans to combat global warming by radically reducing carbon emissions.

The Europeans in particular are planning to end the sale of all gas and diesel-run vehicles by 2035 and to reach a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

This has placed both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in a race to out-produce each other before global demand wanes and favorable prices drop below the level needed to fill government coffers. This race against time has led the Emiratis into a $122 billion spending spree to boost their production capacity to five million barrels a day by the end of this decade. The Saudis, in turn, have begun to expand their own production capacities with an eye to producing 13 million barrels a day.

Meanwhile, the net share of oil revenue (oil rents) in Saudi Arabia’s 2019 GDP was about 50 percent higher than that of the UAE.

A more recent public dispute between the Persian Gulf neighbors occurred in July 2021 at the OPEC+ Summit, during which the UAE expressed its vigorous opposition to a Saudi decision to keep oil production levels low until December 2022, claiming this was “unfair” to the UAE.

But competition between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in non-oil trade is also abundant. In October, Saudi Arabia licensed 44 international companies to set up regional headquarters in Riyadh in a deal that will add 67 billion riyals ($18 billion) to the economy. The offer came with a proviso: companies that base their operations outside the kingdom will be shut out of the lucrative Saudi market

The move came as part of the kingdom’s push to become a regional commercial hub and to vie for foreign capital and talent, ignoring the fact that many of these firms already had head offices up and running in the UAE.

Riyadh has set a 2023 end-of-year deadline for firms to set up headquarters in the country or risk losing out on Saudi government contracts.

A disastrous partnership in war

The overly ambitious goals of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) to vie for leadership in the region, as well as their rivalry with older regional powers like Iran and Turkey, has unfolded over their disastrous war in Yemen.

The six-year old war was launched with conflicting interests and end goals from both the kingdom and the UAE, paving the way for its collective failure.

For its part, the UAE sought to gain control over Yemen’s ports and shipping lanes, as well as of its strategic advantages such as the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and its proximity to the Horn of Africa. The Saudis, meanwhile, were more concerned with protecting their southern border from the political ideologies of the Zaidi Shia and the Ansarallah resistance movement, ideologies that reject all foreign intervention in Yemen – a country which has been under the Saudi thumb for decades.

In yet another show of their conflicting interests, Saudi Arabia supports the Al-Islah Party, the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen, while the UAE opposes it. But even more egregious, while Riyadh backs the parallel government of ousted Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in the south and north of the country, the UAE supports the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which holds deep differences with the Hadi government.

In 2019, this particular dispute unfolded when the STC gained control of the city of Aden, which was the seat of Hadi’s parallel administration. As clashes between the STC and Hadi loyalists unfolded, UAE troops were forced to join the battle to provide aid for the STC, in a battle that ended with over 300 dead and wounded.

With the STC strengthened and eventually able to declare autonomy in Aden in April 2020, the UAE withdrew its forces from the battlefield and headed south to secure Yemen’s ports for itself.

Beyond its role in Yemen, the UAE has also pursued diplomatic relations in the region in opposition to Saudi Arabia. Most recently the Emiratis have made efforts to improve their ties with Iran, Turkey, Syria, and even Israel, all of them countries Riyadh holds at a significant distance.

The safe train to Tehran

Last month, the diplomatic advisor to the UAE president, Anwar Gargash, spoke of conflict de-escalation with Iran, saying: “We have taken steps to de-escalate tensions [with Iran] as we have no interest in a confrontation.The whole region would pay the price of such a confrontation for decades to come,” he told audiences at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate.

Saudi Arabia cannot so swiftly resolve its disputes with the Islamic Republic – exacerbated during the Yemen and Syria wars – with which it has a historic regional rivalry. The UAE’s advantage in such scenarios is that it enjoys the flexibility to resolve tensions without losing face – it is not perceived as ‘leading’ those conflicts, unlike the Saudis, and does not consider Iran a “menace,” also unlike the Saudis.

Moreover, Abu Dhabi has good reason to maintain functioning relations with Iran, a country with which it enjoys substantial trade relations, partly due to the large Iranian community living in the UAE and their local investments. Other reasons for the country’s focus on economic diplomacy instead of aggressive measures include the US administration’s desire to advance nuclear talks with Iran, and Tehran’s capacity to influence developments in Afghanistan and other key regional states.

By maintaining friendly relations with Iran, the UAE is looking to strike a balance of power with the Saudis, as Tehran could prove to be useful in the event of a serious dispute with Riyadh. Qatar did much the same, using Iranian aid to reduce the effects of sanctions during the 2017–2021 economic blockade imposed on Doha by the kingdom.

In regard to Israel, due to its central role in the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia cannot make peace with Israel openly. The UAE, however, has fewer restrictions, as evidenced by the signing of the so-called Abraham Accords in September 2020.

Well aware of its limited reach in the geopolitical arena, Abu Dhabi’s normalization of ties with Israel is an attempt to reduce their own vulnerability to regional threats, such as airstrikes on their infrastructure. The Abraham Accords also provide the Emiratis with direct US support, even against the dictatorial policies of Saudi Arabia.

The Turkish dilemma

The relationship between Ankara and Abu Dhabi has been improving over the past year. In late November, MbZ met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara after 10 years of tensions, in an attempt to resolve their rivalry as the UAE has become Turkey’s largest regional trading partner.

“From 2019 to 2020, UAE exports to Turkey increased by more than 110 percent and total trade increased by 21 percent,” Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said on 25 November.

Abu Dhabi is also hoping to use Ankara’s significant influence in Azerbaijan, Palestine, Central Asia, and the Balkans to expand trade relations beyond West Asia. The UAE is also aware of the influence Turkey has in Afghanistan and is eager to face off against the Saudis in this arena as well.

Crucially, in preparation of the post-oil era, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are not only vying to bolster their strategic influence over other regional players, but they need to gain an understanding of what life will look like in a carbon-neutral world.

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

Erdogan’s Reconciliations: ‘Israel’ is a Friend, Assad Remains an Enemy! مصالحات إردوغان.. “إسرائيل” صديق والأسد يبقى عدواً!

 ARABI SOURI 

Turkey Erdogan – Syria President Bashar Assad

Erdogan knows that reconciliation with Assad will not be easy for him as long as he believes that such reconciliation will mean the final defeat of his regional and international project.

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

A week after the “Turkish reconciliation with the UAE”, which was achieved by Mohammed bin Zayed’s visit to Ankara (11/24) at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the latter announced his “efforts to achieve similar reconciliations with Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain,” speaking about his upcoming visit to Abu Dhabi in the first half of next February after he called Bin Zayed and congratulated him on the UAE National Day (December 1).

Erdogan, who, along with his ministers, forgot everything he said about Mohammed bin Zayed politically, and the loyal Turkish media insulted him, describing him with the worst epithets, it seems that he also forgot everything he personally said about Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and “Israel” in whole and in detail, which proves the success of the Emirati mediation on the path of Trump’s “deal of the century”, Bin Zayed declared himself its godfather.

As the betting continues on the results of the seventh round (and subsequent rounds) of the Iranian nuclear file negotiations in Vienna, the information talks about the recent visits of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to Cairo, Riyadh, Manama, and “Tel Aviv”. The visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog (with Azerbaijani and Ukrainian mediation as well) to Ankara may soon follow, at a time when ambiguity persists about Cairo’s position, which seems to not rush reconciliation with Ankara until it secures a practical and final position from President Erdogan against the Egyptian and Arab Muslim Brotherhood, it is a request that he may agree to the Egyptian part (and indeed the Israeli one with regard to the “Hamas” movement), and postpone the Arab part, especially the Libyan and the Syrian, with the continuation of regional and international bargaining in these two files, including the visit that President Emmanuel Macron will pay (4-3). (December) Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, yesterday’s enemies and today’s allies in the American play which still have Syria as its main target, along with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen.

This explains the Saudi-Emirati escalation in Yemen, the continued Saudi conspiracy against Lebanon, the Moroccan persistence (the king and his entourage) in alliance with “Israel” against Algeria (to obstruct and thwart the Arab summit) and North Africa in general, and finally, the continuation of the Turkish and American position in Syria.

Washington prevents its Kurdish allies from any agreement with Damascus, to continue its covert and overt projects with various parties in Iraq, to ​​ensure its interests in the region in general, at a time when the Turkish position in Syria remains the most important and influential element in the overall developments of the latter, with its repercussions on all regional projects and plans. and international (the West’s provocations against Russia in Ukraine), which is the calculation that makes President Erdogan a key party in the “deal of the century” in its updated form, which Washington, along with Paris, London, and even Berlin, wants with its new government (the leader of the Green Party and Foreign Minister Annalina Birbock is a friend of “Israel” and an enemy of Russia and China), to succeed in arranging the affairs of the region, while guaranteeing the future of “Zionist” Israel forever.

This will require weakening the Arab position more than it is now, by blowing up the concept of resistance in all its forms and military, political, social, cultural, and humanitarian content, which has so far succeeded in obstructing all imperialist and colonial projects and schemes with its Arab and Islamist tools.

As usual, the bet remains on President Erdogan’s stance regarding all these facts and their future possibilities that he wants to support his position in Syria as long as the Arab and Western parties do not want a solution soon. Erdogan, who abandoned all his previous statements and policies, and reconciled with the Emirates, and declared his readiness to reconcile with the “archenemy” Egypt (Sisi) and “Israel”, everyone knows that he will not reconcile with President Assad as long as he knows that the Arab and Western regimes will never force him to do so.

He also knows that reconciliation with al-Assad will not be easy for him personally, as long as he believes that such reconciliation will mean the final defeat of his regional and international (Muslim) Brotherhood project, reconciliation with President al-Assad will require him to withdraw the Turkish forces and authorities from the areas they control (about 9% of the area of Syria) in northern Syria, and stop all kinds of military and financial support for tens of thousands of armed opposition factions (operating under the orders of the Turkish army) that are fighting the Syrian state, And to stop protecting Idlib and the “Al-Nusra” (Al Qaeda Levant) and its ilk in it, and finally to return the Syrian refugees from Turkey to their country, within the framework of a plan to be agreed upon with Damascus. This is, of course, with coordination and cooperation with it to address the situation east of the Euphrates, where the Kurdish militias that Ankara considers the Syrian branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party, which has been fighting the Turkish state for 40 years.

Such possibilities require more than a miracle for President Erdogan to call or meet with President Assad, who was his only friend when everyone was against him because of his former Brotherhood origins. The Turkish withdrawal from Syria, with all its secret and overt elements, would mean at the same time its withdrawal from Libya and Iraq, and its abandonment of its ideological projects, not only in the region but in the whole world as well.

This probability is very weak, at a ratio of 1 out of 10, if not 1 out of 100, given Ankara’s intertwined and complicated relationship externally and the most complex at home, especially after he became the absolute ruler of the country after the change of the constitution in April 2017. He sees in the details of his ideological and nationalist foreign policies important elements to influence his supporters and followers, to ensure the continuity of their support for him, despite the catastrophes of serious economic and financial crises, the most important of its causes are the costs of foreign policy. Otherwise, the issue does not need such tidal changes in Erdogan’s positions, who can return Turkey to pre-2011 with one phone call with President al-Assad, and without resorting to any Gulf, Russian or Iranian mediation. Who would reconcile with Sisi (he said that he is a criminal) And “Israel” (he described it more than once as a criminal gang), and seeking reconciliation with Ibn Salman after he said what he said about him (after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi), he can reconcile his former friend Assad simply, especially since Syria has not undertaken any hostile action against Turkey, despite all that Ankara has done to it over the past ten years.

This comes at a time when everyone knows that reconciliation with Syria will open the gates of the region to him again, as long as he will return to be a friend of “Israel” (to win the favor of the Jewish lobbies and to distance “Israel” from Cyprus, Greece, and France), and to ensure that the Gulf regimes support him financially, to help him achieve huge economic gains from development and reconstruction projects in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, and the rest of the countries in the region, and Turkey is the most fortunate in it, because of its capabilities and proximity to it, which requires a new stage of reconciliation and forgiveness between Erdogan and all the leaders of the region.

The return of coordination and cooperation between them will mean nothing unless it starts with President Assad. This is, of course, if the new coordination and cooperation are not aimed at another bloody spring targeting Syria, as was the case 10 years ago, otherwise, how can “Israel” turn into a friend of Erdogan, and Assad remains more than an enemy!

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مصالحات إردوغان.. “إسرائيل” صديق والأسد يبقى عدواً!

الخميس 2 كانون الأول 2021

حسني محلي

يعرف إردوغان أنَّ المصالحة مع الأسد لن تكون سهلة بالنسبة إليه ما دام يعتقد أن مثل هذه المصالحة ستعني هزيمة مشروعه الإقليمي والدولي نهائياً.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turkey-erdogan-syria-president-bashar-assad.jpg
كيف تتحول “إسرائيل” إلى صديق لإردوغان، ويبقى الأسد أكثر من عدو!؟

بعد أسبوع من “المصالحة التركية مع الإمارات”، والتي تحققت بزيارة محمد بن زايد إلى أنقرة (24/11) بدعوة من الرئيس رجب طيب إردوغان، أعلن الأخير “مساعيه لتحقيق مصالحات مماثلة مع كل من مصر وإسرائيل والسعودية والبحرين”، متحدثاً عن زيارته القادمة لأبو ظبي في النصف الأول من شباط/فبراير المقبل بعد أن اتصل بابن زايد هاتفياً وهنأه بالعيد الوطني للإمارات (1 كانون الاول/ديسمبر).

فإردوغان الذي نسي، ومعه وزراؤه، كل ما قاله عن محمد بن زايد سياسياً، وأهانه الإعلام التركي الموالي، واصفاً إياه بأسوأ النعوت، يبدو أنه نسي أيضاً كل ما قاله شخصياً عن عبدالفتاح السيسي و”إسرائيل” جملةً وتفصيلاً، وهو ما يثبت نجاح الوساطة الإماراتية على طريق “صفقة القرن” التي أطلقها ترامب، وأعلن ابن زايد نفسه عراباً لها.

ومع استمرار الرهان على نتائج الجولة السابعة (والجولات اللاحقة) من مفاوضات الملف النووي الإيراني في فيينا، تتحدث المعلومات عن زيارات قريبة لوزير الخارجية مولود جاويش أوغلو إلى القاهرة والرياض والمنامة و”تل أبيب”. وقد تلحق بها زيارة الرئيس الإسرائيلي إسحاق هرتسوغ (بوساطة أذربيجانية وأوكرانية أيضاً) إلى أنقرة قريباً، في الوقت الذي يستمر الغموض حول موقف القاهرة، التي يبدو أنها لن تستعجل المصالحة مع أنقرة حتى تضمن موقفاً عملياً ونهائياً من الرئيس إردوغان ضد الإخوان المسلمين مصرياً وعربياً، وهو الطلب الذي قد يوافق على شقه المصري (بل والإسرائيلي في ما يتعلق بحركة “حماس”)، ويؤجل شقه العربي، وخصوصاً الليبي والسوري، وذلك مع استمرار المساومات الإقليمية والدولية في هذين الملفين، ومنها الزيارة التي سيقوم بها الرئيس إيمانويل ماكرون (3-4 كانون الأول/ديسمبر) لكلٍّ من قطر والإمارات والسعودية، أعداء الأمس وحلفاء اليوم في المسرحية الأميركية التي ما زالت سوريا هدفها الرئيسي، ومعها إيران والعراق ولبنان واليمن.

ويفسّر ذلك التّصعيد السّعودي – الإماراتي في اليمن، واستمرار التآمر السعودي ضد لبنان، والتمادي المغربي (الملك وحاشيته) في التحالف مع “إسرائيل” ضد الجزائر (لعرقلة القمة العربية وإفشالها) والشمال الأفريقي عموماً، وأخيراً استمرار الموقف التركي والأميركي في سوريا.

وتمنع واشنطن حلفاءها الكرد من أيّ اتفاق مع دمشق، لتستمر في مشاريعها السرية والعلنية مع أطراف مختلفة في العراق، لضمان مصالحها في المنطقة عموماً، في الوقت الذي يبقى الموقف التركي في سوريا العنصر الأهم والأكثر تأثيراً في مجمل تطورات الأخيرة، بانعكاساتها على مجمل المشاريع والمخططات الإقليمية والدولية (استفزازات الغرب ضد روسيا في أوكرانيا)، وهو الحساب الذي يجعل الرئيس إردوغان طرفاً أساسياً في “صفقة القرن” بصيغتها المحدثة، التي تريد لها واشنطن، ومعها باريس ولندن، وحتى برلين، بحكومتها الجديدة (زعيمة حزب الخضر ووزيرة الخارجية أنالينا بيربوك صديقة لـ”إسرائيل” وعدوة لروسيا والصين)، أن تنجح في ترتيب أمور المنطقة، مع ضمان مستقبل “إسرائيل” الصهيونية إلى الأبد. 

وسيتطلَّب ذلك إضعاف الموقف العربي أكثر مما هو عليه الآن، من خلال نسف مفهوم المقاومة بكلِّ أشكالها ومضامينها العسكرية والسياسية والاجتماعية والثقافية والإنسانية، وهي التي نجحت حتى الآن في عرقلة كل المشاريع والمخططات الإمبريالية والاستعمارية بأدواتها العربية والإسلامية. 

وكالعادة، يبقى الرهان على موقف الرئيس إردوغان حيال كلّ هذه المعطيات واحتمالاتها المستقبلية التي يريد لها أن تدعم موقفه في سوريا ما دامت الأطراف العربية والغربية لا تريد لها حلاً قريباً، فإردوغان الّذي تخلّى عن كل مقولاته وسياسته السابقة، وصالح الإمارات، وأعلن استعداده للمصالحة مع “العدوين اللدودين” مصر (السيسي) و”إسرائيل”، يعرف الجميع أنه لن يصالح الرئيس الأسد ما دام يعرف أن الأنظمة العربية والغربية لن تجبره على ذلك أبداً.

كما أنه يعرف أنَّ المصالحة مع الأسد لن تكون سهلة بالنسبة إليه شخصياً، ما دام يعتقد أن مثل هذه المصالحة ستعني هزيمة مشروعه الإخواني الإقليمي والدولي نهائياً، فالمصالحة مع الرئيس الأسد ستتطلَّب منه سحب القوات والسلطات التركية من المناطق التي تسيطر عليها (حوالى 9% من مساحة سوريا) في الشمال السوري، وإيقاف كل أنواع الدعم العسكري والمالي لعشرات الآلاف من مسلحي الفصائل المعارضة (تأتمر بأوامر الجيش التركي) التي تقاتل الدولة السورية، والكفّ عن حماية إدلب ومن فيها من “النصرة” وأمثالها، وأخيراً إعادة اللاجئين السوريين من تركيا إلى بلادهم، في إطار خطة يتم الاتفاق عليها مع دمشق. هذا بالطبع مع التنسيق والتعاون معها لمعالجة الوضع شرق الفرات، حيث الميليشيات الكردية التي تعتبرها أنقرة الفرع السوري لحزب العمال الكردستاني التركي الذي يقاتل الدولة التركية منذ 40 عاماً. 

وتتطلّب مثل هذه الاحتمالات أكثر من معجزة بالنسبة إلى الرئيس إردوغان حتى يتصل بالرئيس الأسد أو يلتقيه، وهو الذي كان صديقه الوحيد عندما كان الجميع ضده بسبب أصوله الإخوانية السابقة، فالانسحاب التركي من سوريا بكل عناصره السرية والعلنية سيعني في الوقت نفسه انسحابه من ليبيا والعراق، وتخليه عن مشاريعه العقائدية، ليس في المنطقة فحسب، بل في العالم أجمع أيضاً.

هذا الاحتمال ضعيف جداً بنسبة 1 على 10، إن لم نقل 1 على 100، نظراً إلى علاقة أنقرة المتشابكة والمعقدة خارجياً والأكثر تعقيداً في الداخل، وخصوصاً بعد أن أصبح الحاكم المطلق للبلاد بعد تغيير الدستور في نيسان/أبريل 2017، فهو يرى في تفاصيل سياساته العقائدية والقومية الخارجية عناصر مهمة للتأثير في أنصاره وأتباعه، لضمان استمرارية دعمهم له، على الرغم من كوارث الأزمات الاقتصادية والمالية الخطرة، وأهم أسبابها تكاليف السياسة الخارجية، وإلا فالموضوع لا يحتاج إلى مثل هذا المد والجزر في مواقف إردوغان الذي يستطيع أن يعود بتركيا إلى ما قبل العام 2011 باتصال هاتفي واحد مع الرئيس الأسد، ومن دون اللجوء إلى أي وساطة خليجية أو روسية أو إيرانية، فمن يصالح السيسي (قال عنه إنه مجرم)، و”إسرائيل” (وصفها أكثر من مرة بأنها عصابة إجرامية)، ويسعى للمصالحة مع ابن سلمان بعد أن قال عنه ما قال (بعد مقتل جمال خاشقجي)، يستطيع أن يصالح صديقه السابق الأسد بكل بساطة، وخصوصاً أنَّ سوريا لم تقم بأي عمل معادٍ ضد تركيا، على الرغم من كل ما فعلته أنقرة بها خلال السنوات العشر الماضية.

يأتي ذلك في الوقت الذي يعرف الجميع أن المصالحة مع سوريا ستفتح له أبواب المنطقة من جديد، ما دام سيعود صديقاً لـ”إسرائيل” (ليكسب ود اللوبيات اليهودية، ويبعد “إسرائيل” عن قبرص واليونان وفرنسا)، ويضمن دعم أنظمة الخليج له مادياً، ليساعده ذلك على تحقيق مكاسب اقتصادية ضخمة من مشاريع التنمية وإعادة الإعمار في سوريا والعراق وليبيا واليمن ولبنان وباقي دول المنطقة، وتركيا هي الأكثر حظاً فيها، بسبب إمكانياتها وقربها منها، وهو ما يحتاج إلى مرحلة جديدة من المصالحة والمسامحة بين إردوغان وكل زعماء المنطقة، وعودة التنسيق والتعاون في ما بينهم لن تعني أي شيء ما لم تبدأ بالرئيس الأسد. هذا بالطبع إن لم يكن التنسيق والتعاون الجديد لا يهدف إلى ربيع دموي آخر يستهدف سوريا، كما هو الحال منذ 10 سنوات، وإلا كيف تتحول “إسرائيل” إلى صديق لإردوغان، ويبقى الأسد أكثر من عدو!

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