خياران متصادمان في العراق: الدولة/ اللادولة وأميركا/ اللاأميركا

أكتوبر 7, 2019

د. عصام نعمان

الصراع في العراق وعليه ليس في الشارع وحسب بل بين أهل السلطة ايضاً. في الشارع، لم يكن للمتظاهرين قائد. في أروقة السلطة ثمة قادة كثر من دون ان يكون اولٌ بينهم. انها ظاهرة فريدة وغير مسبوقة.

المتظاهرون كان لهم دعاة لا قادة. كانت ثمة دعوة للتظاهر تداولتها وسائل التواصل الإجتماعي وفعلت فعلها بسرعة قياسية. الناشطون في الشارع اطلقوا شعاراً لافتاً: لا للسياسيين، لا للمعمَمين . مطلقو الشعار لم يحددوا هوية معيّنة للسياسيين والمعمَمين المطلوب إستبعادهم. ذلك سمح للمراقب الحصيف باستنتاج سريع: المتظاهرون يعارضون، وربما يعادون، كل المسؤولين الناشطين في المشهد السياسي منذ احتلال أميركا للعراق سنة 2003.

ثمة دليل على صحة هذا الإستنتاج: لم يَسْلَم من التخريب مقرّ ايّ حزب او تنظيم مشارك في السلطة في مناطق عدّة من البلاد. ربما لهذا السبب امتنعت المرجعية الدينية العليا ممثلةً بآية الله العظمى السيد علي السيستاني في الايام الثلاثة الاولى للحراك الشعبي عن التعليق على ما رافقه من حوادث واحداث.

الى ذلك ثمة ظاهرات اخرى استوقفت المراقبين:

أكثف التظاهرات كانت في مدن الجنوب الشيعي الكبرى: البصرة والنجف وكربلاء والناصرية، ناهيك عن الحلّة في الوسط.

امتناع التيار الصدري، بقيادة السيد مقتدى الصدر، عن المشاركة في التظاهرات. إلاّ ان الصدر طوّر قراره لاحقاً بإعلانه سحب كتلته، سائرون ، من البرلمان ومطالبته الحكومة بالإستقالة وإجراء انتخابات نيابية مبكرة.

معظم الاحزاب ايّد، بادئ الأمر، مطالب المتظاهرين إلاّ ان عمار الحكيم، زعيم تيار الحكمة، ورئيس الوزراء السابق حيدر العبادي حزب الدعوة سارعا لاحقاً الى تأييد مقتدى الصدر في دعوته الحكومة الى الاستقالة وإجراء انتخابات.

حتى رئيس الوزراء عادل عبد المهدي – ابن الناصرية – ايّد مطالب المتظاهرين، وحرص على القول بأنّ البلاد تقف امام خيارين: الدولة او اللادولة . في مفهومه، الدولةُ تعني الأمن والنظام كما تعني ايضاً الفئة الحاكمة التي تقبض على ناصية السلطة.

معظم المتظاهرين وضعوا اهل النظام كلهم في سلة واحدة وطالبوا بإسقاطهم. أقسى التهم الموجهة اليهم واكثرها رواجاً هي الفساد والسطو على المال العام. لعل احداً لا يجادلهم بأن الفساد في العراق سلطان. ثمة تقارير رسمية تكشف انه، منذ إسقاط نظام صدام حسين بفعل الإحتلال الأميركي، ابتلع الفساد نحو 450 مليار دولار من الأموال العامة، ايّ أربعة اضعاف ميزانية الدولة وأكثر من ضعفيّ الناتج المحلي الإجمالي للبلاد. مفكر وباحث عراقي يساري رصين من اهل النجف اكّد لي انّ دخل العراق من النفط منذ 2004 فصاعداً تجاوز مبلغ تريليون ألف مليون دولار، ومع ذلك لا اثر لمردود مجزٍ لهذا الدخل في ايٍّ من ميادين الصناعة او الزراعة او الخدمات العامة، اذ ما زالت مناطق عدّة في البلاد بلا كهرباء وبلا مياه نظيفة للشرب، وما زال اكثر من 30 في المئة من الشباب عاطلين عن العمل، واكثر من 25 في المئة من العراقيين تحت خط الفقر.

اذ يتضح عداء الشعب العراقي، في معظمه، لأميركا وما جرّته على البلاد منذ احتلالها من ويلات، استوقفت المراقبين فورة الغضب التي تبدّت في تظاهراتٍ عمّت مدن الجنوب الشيعية ما يحمل على التساؤل عمّا اذا كانت هذه الغضبة تطال ايضاً إيران والاحزاب التي تدعم انصارها في السلطة. في هذا السياق، أشار مراقبون الى أحزابٍ معادية لأميركا والسعودية اكدت ثبوت قيام موظفي السفارة الأميركية في بغداد بتحريض منظمات المجتمع المدني المدعومة من قبلها على المشاركة في التظاهرات وإطلاق شعارات ضد إيران وضد حكومة عبد المهدي.

الحقيقة ان ثمة اختلافاً وانزعاجاً متبادلين بين أميركا وعادل عبد المهدي سببهما خطوات خمسة اعتبرتها واشنطن استفزازية اتخذها الرجل وحكومته في الآونة الأخيرة تتمحور حول امورٍ خمسة:

اولاها، زيارته الصين منتصفَ الشهر الماضي وتوقيعه اتفاقات معها لبناء وتطوير بنى تحتية عراقية.

ثانيها، تنديده بـ صفقة القرن واتهامه إسرائيل بالوقوف وراء استهداف عدد من مقار الحشد الشعبي خلال شهريّ تموز/ يوليو وآب/ اغسطس الماضيين.

ثالثها، قيامه بتوقيع اتفاقيات مع شركة سيمنس الالمانية لتطوير قطاع الطاقة الكهربائية، مستبعداً بذلك شركة جنرال الكتريك الأميركية.

رابعها، توجهه الى روسيا لشراء منظومات دفاع جوي من طـراز أس 400 بعد اتهامه إسرائيل بإستهداف مقار الحشد الشعبي .

خامسها، قيامه بكسر اكبر المحظورات الأميركيـة وهو إفتتاح معبر القائم – البوكمال الحدودي مع سورية، معبّداً بذلك طريق طهران بغداد دمشق – بيروت ما يدعم لوجستياً قوى المقاومة العربية الناشطة ضد إسرائيل .

التطور الأهم تخلّي المرجعية الدينية العليا عن موقف الصمت. آية الله السيستاني أصدر بياناً أيّد فيه مطالب المتظاهرين المحقة ودعا الحكومة الى استجابتها بلا إبطاء، مؤكداً على وجوب تأليف لجنة خاصة من خبراء اختصاصيين من خارج الحكومة وخارج محيط الاحزاب المؤيدة لها مهمتها درس الاوضاع الإقتصادية والإجتماعية وتحديد مفاصل الاصلاح الشامل ومتطلبات مكافحة الفساد. عادل عبد المهدي سارع الى تأييد موقف السيستاني ومطالبه والإشادة بمرجعيته كصمام امان للبلاد.

إذ حدّد السيستاني لأهل السلطة طريق الخروج من الأزمة التي عصفت بالبلاد وهدّدت الدولة الهشة بالإنهيار، فإنّ عبد المهدي أدرك بلا شك أنّ ما حدث هو حصيلة سنوات طويلة من صراعات اهل السلطة أنفسهم الذين عاد معظمهم بمواكبة الأميركيين مع احتلال البلاد، وان تهافتهم على إحتلاب مواردها وتقاسم خيراتها أنهك بنيتها الاجتماعية ومؤسساتها الاقتصادية، وأغرى قوى خارجية متعددة بإبتزازها واتخاذها ساحة لتصفية حسابات اقليمية ودولية. ولا يفوت عبد المهدي ايضاً الإدراك بأنّ القوتيّن الابرز في الصراع داخل العراق وفي الاقليم هما الولايات المتحدة وإيران، وانّ تداعيات الصراع بينهما وتكالب أهل السلطة على المال والنفوذ وضع البلاد أمام خيارات متصادمة، وانّ شراسة ادارة ترامب، ومن ورائها إسرائيل ، في مواجهة إيران مداورةً بمحاصرتها اقتصادياً، ومباشرةً بالضرب في عمق حلفائها الأقربين سورية والمقاومات اللبنانية والفلسطينية والعراقية دفع الى واجهة الصراع خياراً إضافياً لعله الأكثر إلحاحاً وأهمية هو وجوب بناء عراق بلا أميركا بعدما تمكّن العراقيون الأحرار، او كادوا، من تحرير العراق من الإرهاب والإرهابيين.

اجل، المطلوب من أحرار العراق اعتماد خيارين متكاملين: الدولة القوية الديمقراطية، وعراق متحرر من أميركا المستبطنة دائماً عدوانية صهيونية فاجرة، ومتحرر من مخططات ومطامع اقليمية ماثلة.

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Why Patriot Missiles Are Useless

South Front

Missile strikes that shut down a half of Saudi oil production not only marked a new round of escalation in the Persian Gulf, but also revealed the limitations of the Kingdom’s air defense. Over the past years, Saudi Arabia, the state with the third largest military budget in the world ($82.9bn), has spent billions of dollars building up six battalions of US-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles and associated radars. However, these seemingly sophisticated air-defense systems appeared to be not enough to protect key infrastructure objects.

Yemen’s Ansar Allah movement (more widely described by the media as the Houthis) claimed responsibility for the September 14 attack. According to Ansar Allah, its forces employed Qasef-3 and Samad-3 unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as some mysterious “jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicles”, launched from three different positions. The movement added that the strike was a response to the Saudi aggression against Yemen and warned of more strikes to come.

Saudi Arabia and the United States are putting a different version foreward, claiming that the strike did not originate from Yemen and was carried out with Iranian-made drones and cruise missiles. The Saudi military explained the air-defense failure by claiming that drones and missiles came from the northern direction, while its air defense radars were oriented towards Yemen in the south. Saudi Arabia and the US are yet to state directly that the supposed strike was launched from Iranian territory, but mainstream media outlets are already speculating on this topic using their lovely anonymous sources.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rushed to defend the reputation of the Patriot system.

“Look, anytime – we’ve seen air defense systems all around the world have mixed success.  Some of the finest in the world don’t always pick things up. We want to work to make sure that infrastructure and resources are put in place such that attacks like this would be less successful than this one appears to have been.  That’s certainly the case,” Pompeo said during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

However, the truth is that this was not the first time that Saudi Arabia’s Patriots have failed. Over the past years, Ansar Allah has carried out dozens of successful drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia, targeting airports, military camps, oil infrastructure and even the Saudi capital, Riyadh. All these attacks were delivered from the ‘right direction’, but this did not help Saudi Arabia to repel them with anything that could be described as a high degree of success.

Multiple incidents involving Patriot missiles failing, malfunctioning or even returning to explode near the launch area do not add credibility to the Saudi Air Defense Forces and their Patriots. One of the most widely covered of such incidents happened on March 25, 2018, when at least 5 Patriot missiles missed, malfunctioned or exploded mid-air during the Saudi attempt to repel an Ansar Allah missile strike.

The repeated failures of Patriots to defend targets in Saudi Arabia already turned them into a meme at an international level.

It also should be noted that the Patriot was originally created to shoot down aircraft, not missiles or drones. The Patriot got the ballistic missile capability after the missile and system upgrade dubbed the PAC-2. This included the optimization of radar search algorithms, the beam protocol in “theatre ballistic missile search”, and the introduction of the PAC-2 missile optimized for ballistic missile engagements. The missile got larger projectiles in its blast-fragmentation warhead and was optimized for high-speed engagements. The method of fire to engage ballistic missiles was changed. Instead of launching two missiles in an almost simultaneous salvo, a brief delay was added in order to allow the second missile launched to discriminate a ballistic missile warhead in the aftermath of the explosion of the first.

During the Gulf War (1991), Patriot missiles attempted to intercept hostile ballistic missiles over 40 times. The results appeared to be controversial. Then President George H. W. Bush declared that the Patriot intercepted 41 Scud missiles of 42 engaged. This would be a 98% success rate. However, a post-war analysis of presumed interceptions suggested that the real success rate was below 10%. Since then, the Patriot has received multiple upgrades.

In 1995, 1996 and 2000, the Patriot underwent three stages of major upgrades known as the PAC-3 configuration to increase its anti-ballistic missile capability. The Patriot got multiple system and software improvements, a new radar and a new missile almost fully designed to engage ballistic targets, the PAC-3.

According to a 2005 report by Office of the US Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Patriot PAC-3, GEM, and GEM+ missiles demonstrated a high success rate engaging 9 hostile ballistic missiles. The report described 8 of them as successful. The ninth engagement was declared as a “probable success”.

These PAC-3 configuration Patriots are the core of the Saudi Air Defense Forces. According to Russian military sources, Saudi Arabia’s northern border is protected by 88 Patriot launchers: 52 of which are the PAC-3 version, 36 – the PAC-2. Therefore, it is possible to suggest the PAC-3’s real success rate in combat conditions could be lower than the 2005 report claimed. This may explain why more and more states seek to acquire non-US systems, for example the Russian S-300 and S-400, despite US diplomatic and sanction opposition to such moves.

Another possible explanation of the inability of Saudi Arabia to protect its infrastructure from missile and drone attacks is that it lacks layered defenses that include long-range, short-range point defense systems and electronic warfare systems which are capable of repelling mixed attacks of this type.

For example, Russia pairs its long-range S-400s and S-300s with short-to-medium range Pantsir and Tor systems designed to engage smaller targets at shorter distances. During the past few years of the Syrian conflict, Pantsirs and EW systems deployed at the Hmeimim airbase successfully repelled dozens of attacks of armed drones. At the same time, the Syrian Armed Forces, drastically limited in resources and mostly equipped with Soviet-times air defenses, demonstrated a surprising effectiveness for a military suffering from an almost 9-year long war.

All kinds of traditional air-defenses could struggle to repel mixed attacks massively involving relatively cheap drones and missiles. However, the air defense capabilities of some systems and the ability of some states to employ these systems does seem to be somewhat overestimated.

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Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again

Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again

September 20, 2019

By Aram Mirzaei for The Saker Blog

August was an eventful month for the Syrian Army and its allies as the battle for northwestern Syria saw a breakthrough after months of static frontline movements. Just like in the previous 3 years, the month of August has been one accompanied by important victories for Damascus. The Syrian Army managed to break through the jihadist lines at the Khan Sheikhoun front and from there steamrolled through the entire frontline, eventually encircling and trapping the jihadist militants in a pocket in northern Hama. Despite counteroffensives launched by Tahrir Al-Sham and their allies from the “Rouse the believers” operations room, the SAA managed to hold on to the newly liberated areas.

With this development, Hama city and Christian towns such as Mhardeh are now safe from the encroaching jihadist threat. This offensive should be expanded now that the Syrian Army still has the initiative, especially with the jihadist morale still shaken by the loss of their doorway into Hama. It is important for Damascus to clear out the remainder of the Latakia province as well as western Aleppo since both these areas are heavily populated and hold strategic value. If Latakia and Aleppo are cleared, then the jihadist threat will be contained to a single province in the country, leaving them pretty much besieged in Idlib as Ankara’s support seems to be fading, as evident by their passiveness during the Syrian Army’s August offensive.

Since the conclusion of the offensive, with a new ceasefire having been declared and expired, the Syrian Army is said to be amassing troops near the Al-Ghaab front in a potential move to completely kick the jihadists out of Hama and thereby finally paving the way for the liberation of Jisr Al-Shughour. This news seems to have been expected by the Jihadists as the Jaysh Al-Izza terrorist outfit has already begun making preparations for the upcoming battle, reportedly sending over 2000 men to the Western Hama countryside. The Syrian Army would do well to be careful here as the key hilltop town of Kabani, overlooking Jisr Al-Shughour still hasn’t been liberated.

Meanwhile, last weekend saw more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production go down in flames as the Saudi Aramco oilfields and refineries came under heavy drone attacks. The attacks caused the greatest drop in oil production in history, prompting oil prices to jump 19 percent. If oil prices rise further, the world will inch closer to a global recession, which, among other things, could cost Trump his reelection. Immediately after the attacks, the Yemeni Houthis issued a statement where they took responsibility for the attacks with the movement’s spokesperson General Yahya Sare’e adding that 10 drones were deployed against the sites at Khurais and Abqaiq. “This was one of the largest operations which our forces have carried out deep inside Saudi Arabia. It came after careful intelligence and cooperation with honorable and free people inside Saudi Arabia,” he said without elaboration.

Washington was quick to dismiss the Houthi claim of responsibility when Trump said that Washington has “reason to believe that we know the culprit,” noting that Washington is “locked and loaded depending on verification” and is waiting to “hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack.” The same response was voiced by Pompeo and Lindsey Graham who called for Washington to strike Iran in an attempt to “break the regime’s back”.

Surely Washington understands how embarrassing this debacle is for them. The Saudis have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on purchasing US military equipment and weapons. Equipment and weapons that Washington has spent quite some time claiming is superior to anything else the world has to offer. Last week, a Saudi prince took to twitter and claimed that Saudi Arabia could “destroy Iran in 8 hours”, adding that Iran’s military technology belong to the “museum”.

That same claimed superior weaponry failed to stop a single attack that took out half of the kingdom’s oil production. This makes me wonder if they’re laying the blame on Iran in order to cover up the even greater embarrassment, that American and Saudi military forces and their networks of advanced air defenses never detected the Yemeni drones that were launched on Saturday to strike oil facilities deep inside Saudi Arabia, proving futile the billions of dollars that the Riyadh regime has spent on them to protect its territories. What message does this send to US vassals around the world? In an attempt to downplay the uselessness of the Patriot system, Pompeo, sounding surprised by the vastness of the operation, said: “This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before.”

Really? Never seen before? So the thousands of drone strikes that Washington has launched across the Islamic world is something that they’ve never seen before?

In any case, Pompeo immediately traveled to Riyadh to assure Washington’s vassals that everything is under control, and to discuss “potential responses”, calling the incident “an act of war”. By now, this blame game has become routine, Washington keeps using the same miserable strategy of intimidation, thinking it will work at the 500th attempt.

So here we are again, another dubious incident in which Tehran is held responsible, without any evidence presented. Of course, Tehran didn’t just stand idly by while Washington made these threats, both Ayatollah Khamenei and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued separate responses, vehemently denying Iran’s role in the attack and warning that any attack on Iran would spark an all out war. Khamenei also went on to talk about the importance of not falling for the failed US maximum pressure campaign, which this is all about. Speaking on Tuesday, Khamenei said entering talks with the US under the current circumstances would be tantamount to surrendering to Washington’s pressure campaign. “Negotiating would mean Washington imposing its demands on Tehran. It would also be a manifestation of the victory of America’s maximum pressure campaign,” he noted.

Thus, the Islamic Republic has correctly calculated that Washington’s maximum pressure campaign is nothing but a bluff to intimidate Iran into entering negotiations. Khamenei said “I had already said that America’s objective of [pursuing] talks is to impose [its demands], but they have become so insolent that they even speak about this openly.”

“The US regime is after making its domestic rivals and the Europeans accept this as a definitive policy that maximum pressure is the only way to confront Iran,” added Ayatollah Khamenei. “Their objective in [offering to hold] talks is to prove to everyone that the policy of maximum pressure has yielded results, and that Iranian authorities were forced to come to the negotiating table despite what they said.”

The most probable conclusion is that there won’t be a war. Washington knows very well that it cannot afford a regional war, especially not now when Washington has been exposed for not being able to defend its vassals. If indeed Iran was behind this attack, then one can imagine that if a single drone strike took out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, imagine what an all-out war would result in for Washington and its vassals. The consequences of this debacle can be very severe for Washington in the future as Moscow has already offered the Arab states to purchase Russian weaponry instead, slowly outmanoeuvring Washington as was the case with Turkey and the S-400 deal. It is a real pathetic mess that Washington has got itself into. Washington’s own allies won’t even back their lies. “We are not aware of any information that points to Iran,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

“We believe the Houthis carried out the attack based on the statement claiming responsibility,” he added, referring to the Yemeni group incorporated into the armed forces fighting back a Saudi-led war on Yemen.

Washington’s list of options grows thin, the US better retract its words, repent and return to the nuclear accord that it has violated or see itself fall even further into decay as Washington’s days of being the sole unipolar power that everyone used to fear are quickly fading away.

The Ansarullah’s Aramco Drone Strike versus “The Real Act of War” against Yemen

Global Research, September 19, 2019

Pompeo’s provocative pronouncement that the Ansarullah’s drone strike on Aramco’s oil facilities was an “act of war” is extremely hypocritical because it ignores the fact that the Saudis were the ones to initiate the international dimension of the War on Yemen as part of the US’ long-running Hybrid War on Iran, and any conventional US and/or Saudi attack against the Islamic Republic in response to its alleged involvement in the attack would amount to an “act of war” against the entire world due to the global economic consequences that such a move would very likely trigger.

US Secretary of State Pompeo provocatively described the Ansarullah’s drone strike on Aramco’s oil facilities last weekend as an “act of war“, thus making many observers fear that his country and the Saudis are plotting a reciprocal response against them and their Iranian political supporters that both also blame for complicity in the attack, therefore potentially leading to a larger regional conflict. There are reasons to doubt that such a scenario will actually transpire, but the arguments thereof will be explained after elaborating on the hypocrisy of the “act of war” pronouncement.

It was the Saudis, not the Ansarullah, that initiated the international dimension of the War on Yemen out of their serious concern that this rebel group’s rapid successes in the neighboring country would eventually lead to their Iranian rival making military inroads on their doorstep (whether conventional or more likely unconventional) if its political allies captured control of the coast. The Saudis, however, sold their intervention to the public as an attempt to restore Hadi’s internationally recognized government to power following his request for military assistance to this end, which was technically true but didn’t officially touch on the Iranian angle even though the authorities have since emphasized it to the extreme.

Seeing as how no evidence has emerged in the past 4,5 years to corroborate the Saudis’ suspicions about Iran’s future plans to tilt the regional balance of power against it in the event that the Ansarullah were to have taken full control of Yemen, it can be said that their formal intervention was predicated on the concept of “preemptive war” to offset that seemingly impending scenario that they convinced themselves (whether rightly or wrongly) was on the brink of unfolding had they not actively thwarted it. Critics allege that perspective is nothing more than the paranoid delusions of a crumbling Kingdom, but it should be pointed out that Iran has never made a secret of exporting its Islamic Revolution, with its justification for going on the counter-offensive against Iraq in the First Gulf War of the 1980s being a case in point that continues to send chills down the back of its royalist rivals. They, however, weren’t completely innocent in that sense either because they fully supported Iraq’s war of aggression against Iran, as did many other countries in the world at that time including interestingly also the US and USSR. The reason why so many feared the Islamic Revolution is because it presented a credible “third way” for Muslim countries to follow in the Old Cold War and thus upset bipolarity.

To simplify a very complex series of events, the 1979 Islamic Revolution set off a regional — and to an extent, even a global — security dilemma that continues to influence International Relations to this day, most recently when forming the implied basis behind the Saudis’ “preemptive” War on Yemen that eventually led to the Ansarullah asymmetrically responding out of self-defense through their massive drone strike against Aramco’s oil facilities last weekend. Even in the unlikely event that Iran somehow contributed to the attack through logistics, military, or other forms of support like the US and Saudi Arabia allege, that wouldn’t change the fact that it would have been a response to the Hybrid War that those two have been incessantly waging against it since 1979 and which markedly intensified in nearly the past 1,5 years since the imposition of the anti-Iranian sanctions. Even so, many observers fear that the US and Saudi Arabia are prepared to strike (back at?) Iran and ominously climb the conventional escalation ladder to dangerously new heights, but while that certainly can’t be discounted, there are valid reasons for arguing that it probably won’t happen owing to Iran’s control of the asymmetrical escalation one that could impose unacceptable costs to them and the world if that ever occurs.

Irrespective of whether there really was a secret Iranian hand behind the Aramco attack or not, few doubt that the country has the drone and missile capabilities to turn that incident into child’s play and carry out something far more devastating if it were ever attacked. The US’ Patriot missiles failed to intercept the Ansarullah’s ten drones, revealing a glaring regional security shortcoming that therefore means that practically every oil processing facility in the Gulf is vulnerable to this sort of attack unless they’re able to rapidly improve their defensive capabilities, which can’t realistically happen for some time even if they were to purchase Russia’s S-400s and anti-drone equipment to complement or partially replace their inefficient American systems. World-renowned geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar is correct in predicting that

“The real reason there would be no ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz (author’s note: if the US and Saudi Arabia attack Iran) is that there would be no oil in the Gulf left to pump. The oil fields, having been bombed, would be burning”, which would collapse the Gulf economies and also instantly trigger the world’s worst economic crisis in history.

With this in mind, a US-Saudi strike on Iran would be an actual “act of war” against both their target itself and the rest of the world.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Houthi Rebels Overturned the Middle East Geopolitical Chessboard

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

Global Research, September 19, 2019
Mohamed Bin Salman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orientalism strikes again

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

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

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

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

Houthi armed forces duly claimed responsibility for Abqaiq:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to the general

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get your S-400s or else

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

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

And now for the really hair-raising part.

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

Well, there’s always Russia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hybrid war, reloaded

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

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

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

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

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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

Did Russia really prevent Israeli airstrikes in Syria?

Sat Sep 14, 2019 08:32AM

This file handout obtained from the Russian Defense Ministry's official Facebook page on November 26, 2015 shows Russia's S-400 air defense missile systems at the Hmeimin airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia. (Photo by Russia Defense Ministry)
This file handout obtained from the Russian Defense Ministry’s official Facebook page on November 26, 2015 shows Russia’s S-400 air defense missile systems at the Hmeimin airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia. (Photo by Russia Defense Ministry)

Moscow has reportedly moved to prevent Israeli airstrikes in Syria, with Russian President Vladimir Putin warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the strikes.

Putin told Netanyahu that allowing Israeli strikes on Syrian military assets would undermine Moscow’s relations with Damascus, the Arabic edition of the UK-based Independent newspaper reported on Friday.

The report comes after Netanyahu met with Putin in the resort city of Sochi on Thursday to discuss “security coordination” in Syria.

According to an unnamed Russian source cited in the report, Moscow has also threatened to use its “fighter jets or the S-400 air defense system” in order to counter any Israeli aircraft striking Syria.

In August, Moscow stopped an airstrike on the strategic Qasioun region near Damascus, where a Syrian S-300 missile battery is said to be placed, according to the report.

Moscow allegedly prevented another airstrike later on a Syrian outpost in the southwestern province of Quneitra and a third in the western coastal province of Latakia.

The report comes as Syria has intercepted several Israeli missile attacks in the past month, casting doubt on the extent of Russian commitment to counter Israeli ambitions.

The Israeli regime has acknowledged repeatedly launching attacks against Syria in recent years, some of which have been carried out from Lebanese airspace.

Such aggressive moves have been viewed by observers as attempts to weaken the Damascus government as it increasingly gains the upper hand fighting terrorist groups which have plagued the country since 2011.

‘A failed meeting’

The Independent report also cited unnamed Israeli sources who described Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin as “a failure”, falling short of reducing any Syria policy disagreements with Moscow.

Israeli sources added that Israel airstrikes on Syria had “embarrassed” the Russians from failing to protect its allies.

During the “failed” meeting, Netanyahu had also called for Tel Aviv to be given “freedom of action” against Iran by Russia.

The Israeli prime minister had even sought to use the meeting to “present positive message of the cooperation between the two countries” for his election campaign but failed, the report wrote.

According to the Russian source, Putin’s disagreements with Netanyahu also went as far as Putin condemning Tel Aviv’s recent actions in Lebanon, with the Russian president saying that he “rejects the aggression towards Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

Israel launched a number of drone attacks into Lebanon last month.

Following the drone raids, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, vowed in a televised speech that fighters of the movement would counter any further violation of the Lebanese airspace by Israeli drones, warning the Tel Aviv regime to immediately halt such breaches.

Last week, Hezbollah fired two anti-tank guided missiles at a moving Israeli armored vehicle at the Avivim base north of the occupied territories, killing and wounding its occupants.

Also Read

A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the US Command Structure

Global Research, August 03, 2019
Global Research 8 July 2019

Updated, July 21, 2019

In this article, we examine America’s war strategies, including its ability to launch an all out theater war against the Islamic Republic on Iran.

A follow-up article will focus on the History of US War Plans against Iran as well as the complexities underlying the Structure of Military Alliances. 

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Under present conditions, an Iraq style all out Blitzkrieg involving the simultaneous deployment of ground, air and naval  forces is an impossibility. 

For several reasons. US hegemony in the Middle East has been weakened largely as a result of the evolving structure of military alliances.

The US does not have the ability to carry out such a project.

There are two main factors which determine America’s military agenda in relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

1. Iran’s Military

There is the issue of Iran’s military capabilities (ground forces, navy, air force, missile defense), namely its ability to effectively resist and respond to an all out conventional war involving the deployment of US and Allied forces. Within the realm of conventional warfare,  Iran has sizeable military capabilities. Iran is to acquire Russia’s S400 state of the art air defense system.

Iran is ranked as “a major military power” in the Middle East, with an estimated 534,000 active personnel in the army, navy, air force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It has advanced ballistic missile capabilities as well as a national defense industry. In the case of a US air attack, Iran would target US military facilities in the Persian Gulf.

2. Evolving Structure of Military Alliances

The second consideration has to do with the evolving structure of military alliances (2003-2019) which is largely to the detriment of the United States.

Several of America’s staunchest allies are sleeping with the enemy.

Countries which have borders with Iran including Turkey and Pakistan have military cooperation agreements with Iran. While this in itself excludes the possibility of a ground war, it also affects the planning of US and allied naval and air operations.

Until recently both Turkey (NATO heavyweight) and Pakistan were among America’s faithful allies, hosting US military bases.

From a broader military standpoint, Turkey is actively cooperating with both Iran and Russia. Moreover, Ankara has acquired (July 12, 2019) ahead of schedule Russia’s state of the art S-400 air defense system while de facto opting out from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system.

Needless to say the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in crisis. Turkey’s exit from NATO is almost de facto. America can no longer rely on its staunchest allies. Moreover, US and Turkish supported militia are fighting one another in Syria.

Moreover, several NATO member states have taken a firm stance against Washington’s Iran policy:  “European allies are grappling with mounting disagreements over foreign policy and growing irritated with Washington’s arrogant leadership style.”

“The most important manifestation of growing European discontent with U.S. leadership is the move by France and other powers to create an independent, “Europeans only” defense capability” (See National Interest, May 24, 2019)

Iraq has also indicated that it will not cooperate with the US in the case of a ground war against Iran.

Under present conditions, none of Iran’s neigbouring states including Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia would allow US-Allied ground forces to transit through their territory. Neither would they cooperate with the US in the conduct of an air war.

In recent developments, Azerbaijan which in the wake of the Cold War became a US ally as well as a member of NATO’s partnership for peace has changed sides. The earlier US-Azeri military cooperation agreements are virtually defunct including the post-Soviet GUAM military alliance (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova).

Bilateral military and intelligence agreements between Iran and Azerbaijan were signed in December 2018. In turn, Iran collaborates extensively with Turkmenistan. With regard to Afghanistan, the internal situation with the Taliban controlling a large part of Afghan territory, would not favor a large scale deployment of US and allied ground forces on the Iran-Afghan border.


Visibly, the policy of strategic encirclement against Iran formulated in the wake of the Iraq war (2003) is no longer functional. Iran has friendly relations with neighbouring countries, which previously were within the US sphere of influence.

The US is increasingly isolated in the Middle East and does not have the support of its NATO allies

Under these conditions, a major conventional theater war by the US involving the deployment of ground forces would be suicide.

This does not mean, however, that war will not take place. In some regards, with the advances in military technologies, an Iraq-style war is obsolete.

We are nonetheless at a dangerous crossroads. Other diabolical forms of military intervention directed against Iran are currently on the drawing board of the Pentagon. These include:

  • various forms of “limited warfare”, ie. targeted missile attacks,
  • US and Allied support of terrorist paramilitary groups
  • so-called “bloody nose operations” (including the use of tactical nuclear weapons),
  • acts of political destabilization and color revolutions
  • false flag attacks and military threats,
  • sabotage, confiscation of financial assets, extensive economic sanctions,
  • electromagnetic and climatic warfare, environmental modification techniques (ENMOD)
  • cyberwarfare
  • chemical and biological warfare.

US Central Command Forward Headquarters Located in Enemy Territory

Another consideration has to do with the crisis within the US Command structure.

USCENTCOM is the theater-level Combatant Command for all operations in the broader Middle East region extending from Afghanistan to North Africa. It is the most important Combat Command of the Unified Command structure. It has led and coordinated several major Middle East war theaters including Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003). It is also involved in Syria.

In the case of a war with Iran, operations in the Middle East would be coordinated by US Central Command with headquarters in Tampa, Florida in permanent liaison with its forward command headquarters in Qatar.

In late June 2019, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone President Trump “called off the swiftly planned military strikes on Iran” while intimating in his tweet that “any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”

US Central Command (CENTCOM), confirmed the deployment of the US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters to the al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, intended to “defend American forces and interests” in the region against Iran. (See Michael Welch, Persian Peril, Global Research, June 30, 2019). Sounds scary?

“The base is technically Qatari property playing host to the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command.” With 11,000 US military personnel, it is described as “one of the U.S. military’s most enduring and most strategically positioned operations on the planet”   (Washington Times). Al-Udeid also hosts the US Air Force’s 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, considered to be “America’s most vital overseas air command”.

What both the media and military analysts fail to acknowledge is that US CENTCOM’s forward Middle East headquarters at the al-Udeid military base close to Doha de facto “lies in enemy territory”

Since the May 2017 split of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Qatar has become a staunch ally of both Iran and Turkey (which is also an ally of Iran). While they have no “official” military cooperation agreement with Iran, they share in joint ownership with Iran the largest Worldwide maritime gas fields (see map below).

The split of the GCC has led to a shift in military alliances: In May 2017 Saudi Arabia blocked Qatar’s only land border. In turn Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE have blocked air transportation as well as commercial maritime shipments to Doha.

What is unfolding since May 2017 is a shift in Qatar’s trade routes with the establishment of bilateral agreements with Iran, Turkey as well as Pakistan. In this regard, Russia, Iran, and Qatar provide over half of the world’s known gas reserves.

The Al-Udeid base near Doha is America’s largest military base in the Middle East. In turn, Turkey has now established its own military facility in Qatar. Turkey is no longer an ally of the US. Turkish proxy forces in Syria are fighting US supported militia.

Turkey is now aligned with Russia and Iran. Ankara has now confirmed that it will be acquiring Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system which requires military cooperation with Moscow.

Qatar is swarming with Iranian businessmen, security personnel and experts in the oil and gas industry (with possible links to Iran intelligence?), not to mention the presence of Russian and Chinese personnel.

Question. How on earth can you launch a war on Iran from the territory of a close ally of Iran?

From a strategic point of view it does not make sense. And this is but the tip of the iceberg.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric underlying the official US-Qatar military relationship, The Atlantic Council, a think tank with close ties to both the Pentagon and NATO, confirms that Qatar is now a firm ally of both Iran and Turkey:

Put simply, for Qatar to maintain its independence, Doha will have essentially no choice but to maintain its strong partnership with Turkey, which has been an important ally from the perspective of military support and food security, as well as Iran. The odds are good that Iranian-Qatari ties will continue to strengthen even if Tehran and Doha agree to disagree on certain issues … On June 15 [2019], President Hassan Rouhani emphasizedthat improving relations with Qatar is a high priority for Iranian policymakers. … Rouhani told the Qatari emir that “stability and security of regional countries are intertwined” and Qatar’s head of state, in turn, stressed that Doha seeks a stronger partnership with the Islamic Republic. (Atlantic Council, June 2019, emphasis added)

What this latest statement by the Atlantic Council suggests is while Qatar hosts USCENTCOM’s forward headquarters, Iran and Qatar are (unofficially) collaborating in the area of “security” (i e. intelligence and military cooperation).

Sloppy military planning, sloppy US foreign policy? sloppy intelligence?

Trump’s statement confirms that they are planning to launch the war against Iran from their forward US Centcom headquarters at the Al Udeid military base, located in enemy territory. Is it rhetoric or sheer stupidity?

The Split of the GCC

The split of the GCC has resulted in the creation of a so-called Iran-Turkey-Qatar axis which has contributed to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East. While Turkey has entered into a military cooperation with Russia, Pakistan is allied with China. And Pakistan has become a major partner of Qatar.

Following the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in disarray with Qatar siding with Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar is of utmost strategic significance because it shares with Iran the world’s largest maritime gas fields in the Persian Gulf. (see map above). Moreover, since the GCC split-up Kuwait is no longer aligned Saudi Arabia. It nonetheless maintains a close relationship with Washington. Kuwait hosts seven active US military facilities, the most important of which is Camp Doha.

Needless to say, the May 2017 split of the GCC has undermined Trump’s resolve to create an “Arab NATO” (overseen by Saudi Arabia) directed against Iran. This project is virtually defunct, following Egypt’s withdrawal in April 2019.

The Gulf of Oman 

With the 2017 split up of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Oman appears to be aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf are potentially in jeopardy.

The Fifth Fleet is under the command of US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). (NAVCENT’s area of responsibility consists of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea).

With the split up of the GCC, Oman is now aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf would potentially be in jeopardy.

The strait of Hormuz which constitutes the entry point to the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman is controlled by Iran and the Sultanate of Oman (see map, Oman territory at the tip of the Strait).

The width of the strait at one point is of the order of 39 km. All major vessels must transit through Iran and/or Oman territorial waters, under so-called customary transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

More generally, the structure of alliances is in jeopardy. The US cannot reasonably wage a full-fledged conventional theatre war on Iran without the support of its longstanding allies which are now “sleeping with the enemy”.

Trump’s Fractured “Arab NATO”. History of the Split up of the GCC. 

Amidst the collapse of  America’s sphere of influence in the Middle East, Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) consisted at the outset of his presidency in an improvised attempt to rebuild the structure of military alliances. What the Trump administration had in mind was the formation of a Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), or  “Arab NATO”. This US-sponsored blueprint was slated to include Egypt and Jordan together with the six member states of the GCC.

The draft of the MESA Alliance had been prepared in Washington prior to Trump’s historic May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia, meeting up with King Salman, leaders of the GCC as well as “more than 50 high-ranking officials from the Arab and Islamic worlds in an unprecedented US-Islamic summit.”

The Riyadh Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the summit on May 21, 2017, announced the intention to establish MESA in Riyadh.” (Arab News, February 19, 2019). The stated mandate of the “Arab NATO”  was to “to combat Iranian hegemony” in the Middle East.

Two days later on May 23, 2017 following this historic meeting, Saudi Arabia ordered the blockade of Qatar, called for an embargo and suspension of diplomatic relations with Doha, on the grounds that The Emir of Qatar was allegedly collaborating with Tehran.

What was the hidden agenda? No doubt it had already been decided upon in Riyadh on May 21, 2017  with the tacit approval of US officials.

The  plan was to exclude Qatar from the proposed MESA Alliance and the GCC, while maintaining the GCC intact.

What happened was a Saudi embargo on Qatar (with the unofficial approval of Washington) which resulted in the   fracture of the GCC with Oman and Kuwait siding with Qatar. In other words,  the GCC was split down the middle. Saudi Arabia was weakened and the “Arab NATO” blueprint was defunct from the very outset.


May 21, 2017: US-Islamic Summit in Riyadh

May 23, 2017: The blockade and embargo of Qatar following alleged statements by the Emir of Qatar. Was this event staged?

June 5, 2019: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt sever diplomatic relations, cut off land, air and sea transportation with Qatar  accusing it of  supporting Iran.

June 7, 2017, Turkey’s parliament pass legislation allowing Turkish troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar

January 2018, Qatar initiates talks with Russia with a view to acquiring Russia’s  S-400 air defense system.


Flash forward to mid-April 2019: Trump is back in Riyadh: This time the Saudi Monarchy was entrusted by Washington to formally launching the failed Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) (first formulated in 2017) despite the fact that three of the invited GCC member states, namely Kuwait, Oman and Qatar were committed to the normalization of relations with Iran. In turn, the Egyptian government of President Sisi decided to boycott the Riyadh summit and withdraw from the “Arab NATO” proposal. Cairo also clarified its position vis a vis Tehran.  Egypt firmly objected to Trump’s plan because it “would increase tensions with Iran”.

Trump’s objective was to create an “Arab Block”. What he got in return was a truncated MESA “Arab Block” made up of a fractured GCC with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Jordan.

Egypt withdraws.

Kuwait and Oman officially took a neutral stance.

Qatar sided with the enemy, thereby further jeopardizing America’s sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf.

An utter geopolitical failure. What kind of alliance is that.

And US Central Command’s Forward headquarters is still located in Qatar despite the fact that two years earlier on May 23, 2017, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was accused by Saudi Arabia and the UAE of collaborating with Iran.

It is unclear who gave the order to impose the embargo on Qatar. Saudi Arabia would not have taken that decision without consulting Washington. Visibly, Washington’s intent was to create an Arab NATO Alliance (An Arab Block) directed against Iran “to do the dirty work for us”.

Trump and the Emir of Qatar, UN General Assembly, October 2017, White House photo

The rest is history, the Pentagon decided to maintain US Central Command’s forward headquarters in Qatar, which happens to be Iran’s closest ally and partner.

A foreign policy blunder? Establishing your “official” headquarters in enemy territory, while “unofficially” redeploying part of the war planes, military personnel and command functions to other locations (e.g. in Saudi Arabia)?

No press reports, no questions in the US Congress. Nobody seemed to have noticed that Trump’s war on Iran, if it were to be carried out, would be conducted from the territory of Iran’s closest ally.

An impossibility?

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Part II of this essay focuses on the history and contradictions of US war preparations directed against Iran starting in 1995 as well as the evolution of military alliances.

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