Bloomberg: Gulf States Are Backpedaling on Iran

Bloomberg: Gulf States Are Backpedaling on Iran

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By Staff, Bloomberg

An expanded soccer tournament, a direct flight, clandestine meetings and a pledge to release prisoners of war; diplomacy is breaking out as Gulf Arab nations back away from a Donald Trump-inspired confrontation with Iran. And the signs are everywhere.

Last week, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain played their first games of the 2019 Arabian Gulf Cup in Qatar after a last-minute decision to take part.

Meanwhile, Oman is quietly hosting high-level meetings, and even Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hinted at direct channels with the UAE.

Spooked by the prospect of a catastrophic war with Iran and its allies across the region, Gulf monarchies are in the midst of a strategic rethink. The UAE, whose economic model relies in large part on its international links, quickly realized it had most to lose from a military escalation. It had pulled out most of its troops from Yemen by the end of a turbulent summer that saw oil tankers targeted and a US drone downed in the Gulf without significant American response.

While the humanitarian catastrophe unleashed by the war on Yemen trained an unwelcome spotlight on Saudi Arabia, it took a brazen strike on Saudi oil installations – which knocked out half the country’s crude production – to ram home the risks and prove that Trump was not about to ride to his allies’ rescue.

“The attacks shattered any illusion of this magical US security umbrella,” said David Roberts, an assistant professor at King’s College London who studies the Gulf. “It burst the bubble and showed that Iran had the willingness to both do something astonishing like the attack on Aramco facilities and the capability to carry it out.”

In the meantime, the Trump administration withdrew last year from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], known commonly as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions that have crippled its oil exports.

Rolling back Iran’s power remains a priority for the Gulf Arab leadership. There’s an increasing recognition, however, that no one stands to gain from a military escalation in the world’s top oil-exporting region.

In search of a breakthrough, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, shuttled between Tehran and Riyadh in October. He met Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Sheikh Hassan Rouhani, as well as Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman [MBS], describing talks as “encouraging.”

As they explore ways forward, Gulf States are moving at different speeds.

The UAE broke with the US and Saudi Arabia by not naming Iran as the culprit behind attacks in May and June on oil tankers as they sailed toward the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s foremost oil shipping chokepoint.

It sent coast guard officials to Iran for the first time in six years and Rouhani hinted at other meetings with senior UAE officials. “We’re moving toward improved relations,” he said Oct. 14. Saudi Arabia is catching up.

However, where the US holds back, others are crowding in. Russian President Vladimir Putin has forged a partnership with Iran, created an oil alliance with Saudi Arabia and built ties with Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who was warned by the US last month against plans to purchase Russian jets.

Putin traveled to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in October after visits by the Saudi king and the UAE’s de-facto leader Mohammad bin Zayed to Moscow. The two Gulf countries and Russia have signed deals valued at billions of dollars.

For Iran’s Rouhani, the case for regional engagement is obvious.

“Don’t you know that Iran is going to stay here and we will remain neighbors throughout history?” he has said, referring to Iran’s Arab neighbors. “Trump will only be around for a few years and will go back to whatever it was he was doing.”

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Are We on the Path to War? – Middle East Heats Up While Viewers Watch the Impeachment

By Philip Giraldi

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Trump Iran ff24b

Americans and also much of the rest of the world have been watching or otherwise following the impeachment proceedings in Washington and not paying much attention to developments in the Middle East that could be setting the stage for a new war.

It should surprise no one to learn that Washington has no actual policy to finish what it is doing and get out so it is allowing itself to be led by its so-called allies in the region. There has been what amounts to a nearly complete reversal of the early October decision by President Donald Trump to deescalate in the region by pulling U.S. troops out of northern Syria. After occupying the Syrian oil fields in the immediate wake of that decision and declaring that American soldiers would shoot-to-kill Russian and Syrian soldiers who tried to retake that bit of sovereign Syrian territory, one now learns that U.S. troops are again operating hand-in-hand with Kurdish militias to attack what have been claimed to be ISIS remnants.

Defenders of Donald Trump continue to insist that he does not want a war and is serious about disengaging from “senseless” conflicts, but it would be hard to come to that judgement based on what the president and his staff of pathological miscreants actually do. In fact, one might reasonably argue that the administration is planning for war on multiple fronts.

Russia has long been a target of an ignorant Trump’s neoconnish foreign policy, to include the refusal to renew several admirable treaties that have limited the spread of certain types of weapons. Also, lethal military aid to gallant little Ukraine, much in the news of late, is actually a dangerous misstep on the part of Washington as Russia regards its border with that country as a vital interest while defending Kiev is in reality no national security interest for the United States at all.

And there is more in the pipeline. Discussions are underway with new NATO ally Bulgaria to create a Black Sea Coordination Center in Varna. The United States is considering a ten-year roadmap for defense cooperation with Bulgaria and is eager to provide Sofia broader access to its high-end military technologies. The advanced technologies would include surveillance capabilities specifically targeting Russia.

There is also a fundamental second level of stupidity in basing such an effort in Bulgaria as the Turks, also frequently at odds with Washington, control the door to the Black Sea through the Bosporus and Dardanelles. If relations really do go sour and if demands to kick Turkey out of NATO ever do bear fruit, Ankara can make it very difficult for NATO warships transiting into the Black Sea.

As ever, however, the most troubled and most interfered-in-by-Washington foreign region continues to be the Middle East and more specifically the Persian Gulf where there have been a number of relatively minor developments that, when assembled, comprise a serious threat that war could break out either deliberately or by accident.

The basic line-up for what is going on in the Persian Gulf region runs something like this: Israel, the Saudis and most of the Gulf States are keen on attacking Iran, which, on its side, has lined up as friends and allies Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Those seeking war with Iran, would like to see the United States do the heavy lifting as it alone can use its strategic bombers to take out military targets deep underground or otherwise heavily protected. The Trump administration has so far stopped short of war with the Iranians, though it has done everything it can otherwise to punish them, including the shortsighted withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which limited Tehran’s nuclear development program. The White House has also initiated a heavy dose of sanctions that are explicitly intended to cause suffering among the ordinary people and are clearly creating considerable disruption in the country. The U.S. intention is to starve the Iranian people into rebelling against their government, but the unrest is also reportedly being fueled by Saudi paid agents provocateurs as well as a flood of media and social network propaganda that is as well being supported and organized by Riyadh.

One recent incident that has attracted remarkably little media coverage is an Israeli attack on Syria that took place on November 19th. It reportedly destroyed two Iranian Revolutionary Guard headquarters, one of which was at Damascus International Airport, possibly killing twenty-three, sixteen of whom were likely Iranians. The attack was in response to an unsubstantiated Israeli claim that four rockets were fired its way from a site controlled by Iran inside Syria, though they were intercepted by Iron Dome and caused no damage. The overwhelming and disproportionate response by Israel suggests that Tel Aviv would like to have produced a commensurate response from the Iranians which could then escalate, but in this case, Tehran opted not to strike back, possibly because it understood that it was likely being set up.

There have also been a number of key meetings in the region that suggest that something big is coming. In an odd move, the U.S. and France have agreed to take steps to increase security in the Gulf region by enhancing defensive systems in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. The move is ostensibly a response to the devastating drone attack on the Saudi oil refinery in September, which has been blamed on the Iranians, though without any evidence being provided. In the past, increasing security has often been a prelude to attacks by western powers in the Gulf region.

Other recent visitors have included CIA Director Gina Haspel meeting with the Saudi King Salman on November 7th to discuss “topics of interest,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting the United Arab Emirates to talk about Iran and other regional issues, and Vice President Mike Pence staging a surprise visit to the Kurds in Syria. Pence assured the Kurds that they were not forgotten and would be protected by the U.S.

General Kenneth A. McKenzie, who heads America’s Central Command, which has responsibility for the Middle East, also warned last week that even with the 14,000 additional military personnel that Trump sent to the region earlier this year, the forces available would not be enough to deter an Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia or one of the Gulf States. McKenzie was speaking at a conference in Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Comic relief at the conference was provided by American under secretary of defense John C. Rood who said that “Iran has made clear its intent to pursue a pattern of aggressive behavior that is destabilizing,” conveniently forgetting that it is Washington that has completely destabilized the entire region since it invaded Iraq in 2003.

Iran for its part has been stung by the recent violent protests and has declared itself prepared to deal with both the Saudis and the presumed CIA and Israeli Mossad assets that have been stirring things up. The rioting has been serious with numerous deaths reported and Iran is fully capable of using its missile arsenal to hit targets both in Saudi Arabia and in Israel.

So, the conventional wisdom that a serious war is too dangerous to contemplate in the confined spaces of the Middle East might be naïve in the extreme as representatives of a number of nations consider just how to fight each other and how to win. One misstep, or even a false flag provocation, is all it would take to engulf the region in flames. It would be a conflict in which many would die and no one could really come out a winner, and the real tragedy is that it is avoidable as no one has a genuine vital interest at stake that could actually be resolved by war with its neighbors.

Iran’s ‘only crime is we decided not to fold’

Foreign Minister Zarif sketches Iran-US relations for diplomats, former presidents and analysts

Global Research, November 26, 2019

Just in time to shine a light on what’s behind the latest sanctions from Washington, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a speech at the annual Astana Club meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan delivered a searing account of Iran-US relations to a select audience of high-ranking diplomats, former Presidents and analysts.

Zarif was the main speaker in a panel titled “The New Concept of Nuclear Disarmament.” Keeping to a frantic schedule, he rushed in and out of the round table to squeeze in a private conversation with Kazakh First President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

During the panel, moderator Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, managed to keep a Pentagon analyst’s questioning of Zafir from turning into a shouting match.

Previously, I had extensively discussed with Syed Rasoul Mousavi, minister for West Asia at the Iran Foreign Ministry, myriad details on Iran’s stance everywhere from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan. I was at the James Bond-ish round table of the Astana Club, as I moderated two other panels, one on multipolar Eurasia and the post-INF environment and another on Central Asia (the subject of further columns).

Zarif’s intervention was extremely forceful. He stressed how Iran “complied with every agreement and it got nothing;” how “our people believe we have not gained from being part of” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; how inflation is out of control; how the value of the rial dropped 70% “because of ‘coercive measures’ – not sanctions because they are illegal.”

He spoke without notes, exhibiting absolute mastery of the inextricable swamp that is US-Iran relations. It turned out, in the end, to be a bombshell. Here are highlights.

Zarif’s story began back during 1968 negotiations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,  with the stance of the “Non-Aligned Movement to accept its provisions only if at a later date” – which happened to be 2020 – “there would be nuclear disarmament.” Out of 180 non-aligned countries, “90 countries co-sponsored the indefinite extension of the NPT.”

Moving to the state of play now, he mentioned how the United States and France are “relying on nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence, which is disastrous for the entire world.” Iran on the other hand “is a country that believes nuclear weapons should never be owned by any country,” due to “strategic calculations based on our religious beliefs.”

Zarif stressed how “from 2003 to 2012 Iran was under the most severe UN sanctions that have ever be imposed on any country that did not have nuclear weapons. The sanctions that were imposed on Iran from 2009 to 2012 were greater than the sanctions that were imposed on North Korea, which had nuclear weapons.”

Discussing the negotiations for the JCPOA that started in 2012, Zarif noted that Iran had started from the premise that “we should be able to develop as much nuclear energy as we wanted” while the US had started under the premise that Iran should never have any centrifuges.” That was the “zero-enrichment” option.

Zarif, in public, always comes back to the point that “in every zero-sum game everybody loses.” He admits the JCPOA is “a difficult agreement. It’s not a perfect agreement. It has elements I don’t like and it has elements the United Stares does not like.” In the end, “we reached the semblance of a balance.”

Zarif offered a quite enlightening parallel between the NPT and the JCPOA:

“The NPT was based on three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Basically the disarmament part of NPT is all but dead, non-proliferation is barely surviving and peaceful use of nuclear energy is under serious threat,” he observed.

Meanwhile,

“JCPOA was based on two pillars: economic normalization of Iran, which is reflected in Security Council resolution 2231, and – at the same time – Iran observing certain limits on nuclear development.”

Crucially, Zarif stressed there is nothing “sunset” about these limits, as Washington argues: “We will be committed to not producing nuclear weapons forever.”

All about distrust

Then came Trump’s fateful May 2018 decision:

“When President Trump decided to withdraw from the JCPOA, we triggered the dispute resolution mechanism.”

Referring to a common narrative that describes him and John Kerry as obsessed with sacrificing everything to get a deal, Zarif said:

“We negotiated this deal based on distrust. That’s why you have a mechanism for disputes.”

Still, “the commitments of the EU and the commitments of the United States are independent. Unfortunately the EU believed they could procrastinate. Now we are at a situation where Iran is receiving no benefit, nobody is implementing their part of the bargain, only Russia and China are fulfilling partially their commitments, because the United States even prevents them from fully fulfilling their commitments. France proposed last year to provide $15 billion to Iran for the oil we could sell from August to December. The United States prevented the European Union even from addressing this.”

The bottom line, then, is that “other members of the JCPOA are in fact not implementing their commitments.” The solution “is very easy. Go back to the non-zero sum. Go back to implementing your commitments. Iran agreed that it would negotiate from Day One.”

Zarif made the prediction that

“if the Europeans still believe that they can take us to the Security Council and snap back resolutions they’re dead wrong. Because that is a remedy if there was a violation of the JCPOA. There was no violation of the JCPOA. We took these actions in response to European and American non-compliance. This is one of the few diplomatic achievements of the last many decades. We simply need to make sure that the two pillars exist: that there is a semblance of balance.”

This led him to a possible ray of light among so much doom and gloom:

“If what was promised to Iran in terms of economic normalization is delivered, even partially, we are prepared to show good faith and come back to the implementation of the JCPOA. If it’s not, then unfortunately we will continue this path, which is a path of zero-sum, a path leading to a loss for everybody, but a path that we have no other choice but to follow.”

Time for HOPE

Zarif identifies three major problems in our current geopolitical madness: a “zero-sum mentality on international relations that doesn’t work anymore;” winning by excluding others (“We need to establish dialogue, we need to establish cooperation”); and “the belief that the more arms we purchase, the more security we can bring to our people.”

He was adamant that there’s a possibility of implementing “a new paradigm of cooperation in our region,” referring to Nazarbayev’s efforts: a real Eurasian model of security. But that, Zarif explained, “requires a neighborhood policy. We need to look at our neighbors as our friends, as our partners, as people without whom we cannot have security. We cannot have security in Iran if Afghanistan is in turmoil. We cannot have security in Iran if Iraq is in turmoil. We cannot have security in Iran if Syria is in turmoil. You cannot have security in Kazakhstan if the Persian Gulf region is in turmoil.”

He noted that, based on just such thinking, “resident Rouhani this year, in the UN General Assembly, offered a new approach to security in the Persian Gulf region, called HOPE, which is the acronym for Hormuz Peace Initiative – or Hormuz Peace Endeavor so we can have the HOPE abbreviation.”

HOPE, explained Zarif, “is based on international law, respect of territorial integrity; based on accepting a series of principles and a series of confidence building measures; and we can build on it as you [addressing Nazarbayev] built on it in Eurasia and Central Asia. We are proud to be a part of the Eurasia Economic Union, we are neighbors in the Caspian, we have concluded last year, with your leadership, the legal convention of the Caspian Sea, these are important development that happened on the northern part of Iran. We need to repeat them in the southern part of Iran, with the same mentality that we can’t exclude our neighbors. We are either doomed or privileged to live together for the rest of our lives. We are bound by geography. We are bound by tradition, culture, religion and history.” To succeed, “we need to change our mindset.”

Age of hegemony gone

It all comes down to the main reason US foreign policy just can’t get enough of Iran demonization. Zarif has no doubts:

“There is still an arms embargo against Iran on the way. But we are capable of shooting down a US drone spying in our territory. We are trying simply to be independent. We never said we will annihilate Israel. Somebody said Israel will be annihilated. We never said we will do it.”

It was, Zarif said, Benjamin Netanyahu who took ownership of that threat, saying,

“I was the only one against the JCPOA.” Netanyahu “managed to destroy the JCPOA. What is the problem? The problem is we decided not to fold. That is our only crime. We had a revolution against a government that was supported by the United States, imposed on our country by the United States, [that] tortured our people with the help of the United States, and never received a single human rights condemnation, and now people are worried why they say ‘Death to America’? We say death to these policies, because they have brought nothing but this farce. What did they bring to us? If somebody came to the United States, removed your president, imposed a dictator who killed your people, wouldn’t you say death to that country?”

Zarif inevitably had to evoke Mike Pompeo:

“Today the Secretary of State of the United States says publicly: ‘If Iran wants to eat, it has to obey the United States.’ This is a war crime. Starvation is a crime against humanity. It’s a newspeak headline. If Iran wants its people to eat, it has to follow what he said. He says, ‘Death to the entire Iranian people.’”

By then the atmosphere across the huge round table was electric. One could hear a pin drop – or, rather, the mini sonic booms coming from high up in the shallow dome via the system devised by star architect Norman Foster, heating the high-performance glass to melt the snow.

Zarif went all in:

“What did we do the United States? What did we do to Israel? Did we make their people starve? Who is making our people starve? Just tell me. Who is violating the nuclear agreement? Because they did not like Obama? Is that a reason to destroy the world, just because you don’t like a president?”

Iran’s only crime, he said, “is that we decided to be our own boss. And that crime – we are proud of it. And we will continue to be. Because we have seven millennia of civilization. We had an empire that ruled the world, and the life of that empire was probably seven times the entire life of the United States. So – with all due respect to the United States empire; I owe my education to the United States – we don’t believe that the United States is an empire that will last. The age of empires is long gone. The age of hegemony is long gone. We now have to live in a world without hegemony. – regional hegemony or global hegemony.”

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the annual Astana Club meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan last week. Photo: Asia Times / Pepe Escobar

Bibi’s Get-out-of-Jail Card… War With Iran

Image result for Bibi’s Get-out-of-Jail Card… War With Iran

Finian Cunningham
November 24, 2019

It seems more than coincidence that as the legal noose tightens around Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Israeli military have suddenly stepped up air strikes on Iranian forces based in Syria.

Playing the strongman role on national security and winning another term as prime minister would stave off prosecution over pending corruption charges.

If Netanyahu is ousted from office he will be immediately subjected to trial. A subsequent conviction on all charges could result in him facing up to 13 years in jail. A lot is at stake for Israel’s elder statesmen. At 70 years old, he is the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the Israeli state, having been elected four times already.

Therefore the longer he can hang on as premier, the longer he can postpone his day in court, as the leadership position affords a certain immunity while in office.

Israel’s current political impasse is a particularly dangerous time for Netanyahu. After two elections held earlier this year, neither Netanyahu nor his nearest rival Benny Gantz have been able to form a coalition government. Netanyahu is still the sitting PM. But lawmakers could vote for a new prime minister in the next few weeks, or else failing that the country will be forced to go to a third election in March next year.

Either way, Netanyahu needs to stay in office if he wants to throw the prosecution trial into the long grass. That means the temptation will be ever-stronger for the hot-headed commando-turned-politician to rile up security tensions with Iran and Syria, as well as neighboring Palestinians. Netanyahu has always drummed up votes by presenting himself as the great defender of Israelis.

Over the past week, as a three-year criminal investigation concluded with charges being leveled against Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and abuse of power for favorable media influence, Israeli forces under his command launched deadly air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria. Reports indicated that around 23 people were killed, most of whom were Iranian military belonging to the elite Quds Force. Though Syrian media claimed that most of the attacks were intercepted. Whether Iranian personnel were killed or not, the Israeli intention is to provoke Tehran.

Notably, Israeli military usually do not confirm or deny when they carry out air strikes on Syria or neighboring countries. This week, however, Israeli leaders including Netanyahu were bragging about the strikes.

Netanyahu said: “I have made clear that any who attack us, we will attack them. That is what we did tonight [November 20] toward military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets.”

The Israelis claim they were responding to rockets fired from the Golan Heights. But it seems those rockets were provoked by earlier Israeli strikes on Syria just days before.

There is more than a suspicion that Israel was orchestrating the pretext for a flare up in violence. The purpose being to allow Netanyahu to dust off his war medals and flex his muscles for the electorate.

Such a ploy is in keeping with how Netanyahu over recent months has been cranking up the bellicose rhetoric. Before the elections this year in March and September, he has been declaring that if he is re-elected his government would annex large swathes of the Palestinian territory in the West Bank. In spite of international law and UN resolutions designating Israeli settlements as illegal.

US President Donald Trump obliged Netanyahu’s electioneering when the White House announced on November 18 that Washington was henceforth recognizing all Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory as legitimate. Was this Trump shifting US policy to help bail out his friend Bibi, knowing that the indictment sheet was on the way?

Over the past month, Israeli forces have also escalated air strikes on Gaza with dozens of civilians being killed, including families and children. Netanyahu has been cynically winding up fears among Israelis of rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in the besieged Gaza strip. A densely populated area of 1.8 million people subsisting in poverty, deprived of fresh water and electricity, due to Israel’s military cordon.

But in ginning up tensions with Iran in such a provocative way by targeting its elite Quds Force in Syria, Netanyahu is playing with fire.

Russia condemned the Israeli air strikes on Syria last week as unlawful aggression. The Russian foreign ministry warned that such acts were risking a wider conflict in the region.

Again, Trump seems to be aiding and abetting Netanyahu’s agenda of inciting national security tensions with Iran in order to hand Netanyahu a get-out-of-jail card. No doubt Trump knows the feeling as lawmakers in Washington push an impeachment inquiry into his alleged abuse of authority for favors regarding Ukraine.

The dramatic eruption of street violence in Iran over the past week has seen provocateurs hijack public protests over fuel price increases. The rapid spread of arson attacks on public property and shooting dead of several Iranian security force members indicate a foreign role in agitation.

President Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued stark statements of interference in Iranian internal affairs, by encouraging further street disturbances, hypocritically claiming that the US “was standing with the Iranian people”.

Brian Hook, the White House’s special envoy for Iran, even went as far as openly admitting that the US has been working for the past 18 months on finding ways of helping anti-government activists to circumvent internet restrictions imposed by the Iranian authorities to quell the spread of disturbances.

“We have been able to get into the hands of the Iranian people circumvention tools that allow them to communicate with each other when the regime tries to censor them,” said Hook.

Last week, Trump told Congress that he was sending 3,000 US troops to Saudi Arabia to “prevent Iranian provocation”, another move which Russia slammed as provoking regional tensions. Meanwhile, the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group entered the Persian Gulf.

Trump and Netanyahu seem to be working hand-in-hand to ratchet up tensions with Iran. Evidently, Netanyahu is betting that the sound of war drums will drown out the calls for his prosecution trial over corruption charges. But rather than facing justice, the Israeli leader seems prepared to ignite a war with Iran just to save his own hide.

Why countries are reluctant to join U.S.-led maritime coalition

TEHRAN – The U.S.-led naval coalition to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf formally was launched in Bahrain on Thursday. But the notable point is that countries have not welcomed this plan. Only a few countries with ineffective naval power have joined the coalition.

*By Mohammad Ghaderi

On July 2019, the U.S. proposed a coalition plan to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf. Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, invited U.S. allies such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Australia to join the coalition. Although the U.S. has persuaded its allies on various occasions and even applied pressure on them to join the coalition, it was not warmly welcomed. In August, Britain joined the U.S. military coalition in the wake of a conflict with Iran over oil tanker seizures first in Gibraltar and later in the Strait of Hormuz.

Later the Zionist regime and Australia joined the coalition.

Launch of the U.S.-led marine coalition

The coalition, which reportedly aims to “protect shipping in the Persian Gulf”, was launched on Thursday. The U.S. stated that through the coalition it intends to safeguard region’s oil supply against possible threats. Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has joined the coalition along with the UEA and Saudi Arabia.

James Malloy, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, has claimed that the goal of the coalition is defensive. Malloy said the coalition will last as long as necessary.

Some European countries, including France, has not joined the coalition to avoid escalating tensions in the region. Japan has decided to dispatch its naval forces to the Strait of Hormuz independently, rather than joining the coalition.  It is said that Japan made this decision because it has an amicable relationship with Iran and does not like to be seen as an important country and power in the U.S.-led coalition.

In this regard, the London-based Raialyoum wrote that the announcement of formal launch of the U.S.-led maritime coalition to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf with the participation of only 6 countries reminds the old Arab proverb saying “the mountain was in labor but gave birth to a mouse”. Raialyoum added the limited number of countries joining the coalition reveals that the U.S. influence has been reducing not only in the Persian Gulf region but also all around the world. It seems that the current and former U.S. administrations cannot any longer form coalitions like the ones that launched wars in Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan with the participation of 30 or 60 countries.

The Arab world digital news and opinion website said that it is noteworthy that three Persian Gulf states namely Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar are absent in the coalition. They have refused to join the coalition not because they have taken a neutral stance toward U.S. controversial measures against Iran, but because they do not trust the U.S. and its current government. The source added that the U.S. government has adopted rash policies that can lead to regional and probably international war; furthermore, the coalition can be an element of “tension” not a guarantee for defense and stability.

Raialyoum stated that we do not believe these six countries – Britain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Australia, and Albania – will be able to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf because most of them, except the U.S. and Britain, do not have effective naval power.

However, the marine coalition is a dramatic and hypocritical show and the U.S. is trying to milk the three states of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain. By its presence, the U.S. only disturbs the region’s security. Washington only takes care of its interests.

The security in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf will only be achieved through the reconciliation between regional countries since they are neighbors and they cannot change their geography. The intervention of countries outside the region will only make the situation more complicated.

* Author: Mohammad Ghaderi , Tehran Times editor in chief 

His page on Twitter : @ghaderi62 – and Gmail address : m.ghaderi62@gmail.com

US Moved Air Force Command From Qatar To South Carolina Fearing Iranian Attacks

US Moved Air Force Command From Qatar To South Carolina Fearing Iranian Attacks

Source

30.09.2019

The US Air Force Commander Center’s operation was moved from Qatar to South Carolina, after operating out of the Middle Eastern country for the last 13 years.

The Command Center was used to command fighter jets, bombers, unmanned aerial vehicles and other US Air Force assets from Northeast Africa, the Middle East to Southeast Asia.

On September 28th, the building of the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in al Udeid Air Base, Qatar was vacated.

All flights and operations were controlled from Shaw Air Base in South Carolina, US. Over 300 planes were in the air when the shift happened in Syria, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

On the next day, the CAOC in Qatar regained control, but this marked the first-time operation was transferred to the US since the CAOC was initially established in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War.

Air Force Commanders said that new technology allowed the shift and it was a long-standing ambition. But it surely comes by no accident, as it happens during renewed tensions in the Middle East, with both US and Saudi Arabia having a tough rhetoric on Iran. The Islamic Republic also leaves no quarter in its responses.

“The functions that the CAOC provides for air power are so critical and so essential that we can’t afford to have a single point of failure,” said Maj. Gen. Chance Saltzman.

Air Force officials said that the increased tensions in the Middle East and the incidents blamed on Iran added urgency to possibly moving command away from the region – especially if a war would be coming.

“Iran has indicated multiple times through multiple sources their intent to attack U.S. forces,” said Col. Frederick Coleman, commander of the 609th Air and Space Operations Center.

“Frankly, as the war against ISIS winds down and as we continue to work through a potential peace process in Afghanistan, the region is calming down and potentially more stable than it has been in decades,” he said. “Except for Iran.”

Analysts, quite obviously, said that if a conflict arises the command center would likely be targeted.

“It doesn’t take a whole heap of imagination to look at it and think, if push came to shove and it was a full-blown conflict, it would be one of the priority targets,” said Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow specializing in aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

Most notably, the base is defended by Patriot batteries and other missile defense systems, whose capabilities were clearly presented in defending Aramco’s oil infrastructure on September 14th.

According to Saltzman, the practicalities of missile defense made complete protection impossible.

“It’s really probably better to think about this as an immune system,” he said. “There’s going to be germs that get into the body. It’s about how fast and how resilient you can fight it off.”

By making the CAOC mobile, the US could respond to a potential attack much more quickly.

Byron Pompa, AFCENT operations director at Al Udeid, said moving facilities and equipment often could compensate for not having a huge footprint across the region.

“In times like today,” he said, “we can’t have a ton of permanent-fixture operating bases throughout the area of responsibility.”

“Our goal is deterrence,” Saltzman said, not conflict. But the lack of communication with Iran can make sending that message difficult. The U.S. has to use other measures, he said, including turning off radar from time to time or planning flight routes to make it clear it does not intend to attack.

The plan is to operate the CAOC remotely once per month, while it would remain in Qatar during the remainder of the time. The idea is to reach 8 hours of distanced operation every 24-hour period, either from South Carolina or elsewhere.

There were no plans to close al Udeid permanently. Some of the 800 positions are to be transferred to US in the future.

“The goodness here is now we’re saving taxpayer dollars that we’re giving back to America,” Coleman said. “And, you know, America’s sons and daughters aren’t abroad in the Middle East. They’re home.”

Qatar, in particular, has invested heavily on Al Udeid in recent years, spending as much as $1.8 billion to renovate the base, the largest in the region, capable of housing more than 10,000 U.S. troops. Thus, shifting focus away from it may seem as a sort of loss on investment on Qatar’s side.

This is actually a development that leads to the consideration that the US and its allies may, in fact, be considering the highly likeliness of a war in the Middle East against Iran, showing the urgency of this shift of command capability.

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

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September 27, 2019

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

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

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

Unofficial translation

Distinguished Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

Today’s challenges and threats are no less dangerous.

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

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