Contemporary Zionism pursues its assigned role as an advanced military and intelligence base of Anglo-American, European imperialism – Part II

28 Jul 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen English

Niloufer Bhagwat 

The Partition of Palestine to establish a Zionist Military Base in the Arab world; the Partition of Korea and the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent are an extension of the same strategy to set back National Liberation Movements in these regions.

Contemporary Zionism pursues it assigned role as an advanced military and intelligence base of Anglo-American, European imperialism – Part II

To read Part I, click here. (Wrong Link)

The Zionist Israeli colonial-settler, apartheid, military and Intelligence project, was part of the new strategy for control of resource-rich regions of the world, implemented through British, American, and European policy, even as National Liberation Movements in Asia, Africa, and in the Arab world began freeing their countries from British, French and European colonial rule. The establishment of a Zionist military outpost in the Middle East to control adjacent regions was part of the new strategy for continuing colonial exploitation and occupation of several parts of the world by erstwhile colonial powers in collaboration with the United States, by partitioning countries they had earlier colonized, before their withdrawal, to establish proxy governments in various regions of the world, a different strategy to direct colonial rule. At the same time, the Indian Subcontinent was partitioned by the British collaborating with the pro-British comprador classes of different religious groups in India: Muslim, and Hindu, and a new country Pakistan created from this partition, another British project to establish theocratic states, immediately integrated into an Anglo-American Military pact against the Arab world, West Asia, the former USSR, and India. General Zia Ul Haq, then a brigadier in the Pakistan Army (later military dictator and President of Pakistan after a military coup) led a military expedition of Pakistan in 1970 to the Kingdom of Jordan allied with Britain, during what was known as ‘Black September’, to put down by military force the ‘Palestinian uprising’ in the West Bank of Palestine, leading to a massacre of Palestinians. In the Far East, Korea was partitioned by the United States, after the Korean war during which US forces used bio-weapons against the Korean people and its allies the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army, all cities of North Korea were destroyed. Thereafter a proxy government of the United States was placed in power in South Korea, a colonial adjunct of the United States in the region, and a US military base to dominate and control the Far East, apart from the US military bases in Japan, which exist till date, including for stationing of nuclear weapons platforms of the United States.

The latest example of the establishment of a US military base and colonization of a country in East Europe is Ukraine, after Victoria Nuland, then-Assistant Secretary of State under the administration of President Obama (presently Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs), led the United States ‘Maidan’ coup of 2014 in Ukraine, which was another Anglo-American- Zionist and NATO project to control the resources of the region, to destroy both Ukraine and the Russian Federation and economically setback Europe, by deliberately inciting war on Europe’s Eastern periphery by initiating genocidal attacks on Eastern and Southern Ukraine’s predominantly Russian population, and attempting to destroy their language and culture and encouraging Ukraine and concerned European governments to renege on the Minsk Agreement signed with Russia. Thereafter an all-out economic war was declared on the Russian Federation, with sanctions imposed on Russia’s oil and gas resources, on Russian shipping, banking, and all its financial institution, to financially strangulate the Russian Federation, to control Russia’s trade in energy resources, in food and other commodities; the key to control several economies, the whole of Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America; and if necessary expand this into a Third World War for the Imperialist restructuring of the world, as earlier by the Second World War. Zionism is a global Imperial Military project integrated with Anglo-American Imperialism and NATO’s wars of aggression and internal subversion in Palestine, in the Arab world,  in Iran, and worldwide, including in Ukraine.

The second reason for the failure by Jurists with exceptions, to examine the real nature of Zionism and the Zionist project of “Israel”, was the touching faith of many jurists in the United Nations and its resolutions, including of the Security Council and General Assembly and other organizations, instead of an objective and critical approach to resolutions and decisions of all UN bodies and instrumentalities. No institution national or international can be above scrutiny or is infallible. This approach led to the flawed academic tendency to accept decisions of all United Nations organizations as ‘gospel’ or ‘divine’ truth. Consequently, there was an ideological disinclination to examine the validity of the United Nations Palestine Partition Resolution of 1947 which led to the establishment of the Zionist entity of “Israel” in 1948, controlled by the financial and banking elite of the Anglo-Saxon-Zionist world, in their own interests. The 1947 Partition of Palestine Resolution was a violation of International Law. Palestinian territory was forcibly seized from the people of Palestine by Jewish European settlers, facilitated through the instrumentality of the British Mandate over Palestine, in reality, British colonial occupation. The Palestine Partition Resolution of 1947 was a violation of the right of Self-Determination of the Palestinian Arab people and a violation of General Assembly Resolutions on National Liberation Movements and anti-Colonial struggles of the people of Asia, Africa and South America among other regions. From the legal and political perspective, there was no basis for the 1947 Partition Resolution. The British Mandate over Palestine was ending and in accordance with International Law and De-colonization, it was necessary for Palestine to revert to the political control of the Indigenous Arab people of Palestine, subjugated by British occupation and colonial rule. For the United Nations to give legitimacy to the European Zionist Jewish Settler project, was a decision promoting European-settler colonization in Palestine, in violation of declared International Law on De-colonization and National Self-Determination, and to repeat in Palestine, what had taken place in past centuries in the United States of America, in Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South Africa, in South West Africa, in South America, among other regions of the world; where ‘neo-Europes’ and European civilization were forcibly transplanted into alien soil, to perpetuate European occupation and colonization and the seizure of land and resources of vast continents exterminating the Indigenous people in a colonial holocaust not of 6 million, but of hundreds of millions worldwide including in India and China, with no reparation till date.

The United Nations Charter is an International Treaty. The United Nations was not established as per its declared objectives to perpetuate a Zionist European Jewish Colonial-Settler and a ‘Racist and Apartheid’ Israeli Regime, massacring Palestinians, and waging a continuous war both on the people of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza, and other Palestinian territories occupied by “Israel”, and expansionist wars of aggression on its Arab neighbors, to achieve the Zionist objective of dominating the region and seizing all resources, including land and water reservoirs of Palestine and river waters of neighboring states of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, including in the Syrian Golan Heights, the Jordan river and Sea of Galilee; with no other justification than the Zionist self-propagated Racist theory of a superior or ‘Chosen People ’, causing widespread ecological devastation from the overuse of waters of the region. “Israel’s” policy is a continuous project for militarization and weaponization of the region against Palestinians, all “Israel’s” neighbors, and beyond against other countries in the wider region and adjacent continents; and includes a covert nuclear weapons program, while destroying peaceful nuclear energy projects of neighboring Arab states of Iraq and Syria; threatening the Iranian Nuclear Energy program, assassinating Iranian scientists, generals and military officers in Iran and in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, that is in countries who have military co-operation agreements with Iran. “Israel” has stealthily infected Iranian facilities with the ‘Stuxnet Virus’ or computer worm to disrupt operations, and resisted all proposals for a ‘Nuclear –Free Zone’ for this entire region including for “Israel”. In a new Quad has been established for the Middle East, of the USA, India, “Israel” and the UAE, a so-called “Indo-Abrahamic” Bloc similar to the Quad of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ a strategic alliance of the US, Japan, India and Australia to counter China which is unlikely to be welcomed by the Arab street, which sees such an alliance which includes the United States and “Israel”, as a threat to the military and economic sovereignty of the Arab world and its energy resources, as this West Asia Quad in its statement refers to focus on joint investments in the region, in” water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security, etc. directly related to economic sovereignty of governments and the people of the region . President Joe Biden of the United States and Prime Minister Yair Lapid of “Israel” also signed a joint declaration on the state of the ‘strategic partnership’ between the two countries, which is in fact a military and strategic pact targeting Iran, purportedly to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In reality, there is a military pact to threaten Iran as a possible prelude to incite a wider war in the region like in Ukraine in furtherance of NATO economic and military hegemony against the Multi-polar world order emerging.

The ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people, the US-UK led Coalition’s repeated wars of aggression on Iraq, to which Ukraine contributed a military contingent as part of the coalition after the invasion of 2003; the US and NATO-led ISIS/Daesh/Jabhat Al-Nusra and their front organizations’ attacks in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon; the successive Israeli wars of aggression on Syria and Lebanon, and earlier on Jordan and Egypt; Israeli military advisers directing and participating in the war of aggression waged on Yemen are all the direct consequence of the powerful Zionist and Israeli lobbies of the United States, UK, France, among other NATO countries, controlling resources of the region, assisting in the expansionist military objectives of the state of “Israel”, the military and intelligence outpost of NATO.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Iran and the Persian Gulf monarchies: Diplomacy remains their only option

Reconciliation between Iran and the GCC will reap vast mutual benefits, while conflict only serves those outside the Persian Gulf

September 07 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Mohammad Salami

In mid-August, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states the UAE and Kuwait announced the return of their respective ambassadors to Iran after a six year hiatus.

The move represents the latest sign of warming ties between Iran and the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms since the controversial execution of prominent, outspoken, Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr in 2016 interrupted relations.

Nimr’s killing prompted angry protestors to storm the Saudi diplomatic mission in Tehran, leading to a concerted action by several GCC states to sever or downgrade relations with the Islamic Republic.

The reconciliation of two GCC countries with Iran last month was a result of negotiations stretching back several years. These advances also come amid on-going – sometimes stalled – talks between Tehran and Riyadh, hosted by neutral mediators in Baghdad. So far, five rounds of discussions have been held, with the last one held in April and a sixth one looming on the horizon.

Deescalation and diplomacy

Over the past two years, tensions in the Persian Gulf region deescalated as regional states began to seek alternative options to wind down their various proxy fights in West Asia.

The UAE has been at the forefront of these efforts, normalizing relations with Syria – another battleground against Iran – and agreeing to reset relations with Turkey last year after a decade of divergent ideological stances over the wider region.

Following Abu Dhabi’s lead, Riyadh also markedly improved its own relations with Ankara after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-day trip to Saudi Arabia, which was reciprocated by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MbS) visit to the Turkish capital in June.

Most important for the region, however, is the thorny issue of the longstanding, mutually-perceived threat between Iran and the ‘Saudi camp’ within the GCC. For various reasons, including defeats and setbacks in Syria and nearby Yemen, Iran’s Arab neighbors have come to realize that the continuation of hostilities with Tehran is no longer in their national security interest.

“[Iran and Saudi Arabia] are neighbors. Neighbors forever. We cannot get rid of them, and they can’t get rid of us. So, it’s better for both of us to work it out and to look for ways in which we can coexist,” MbS said in an abrupt about-turn earlier this year.

Such conciliatory views are shared by Tehran, as conveyed by Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani who told reporters on 22 August: “We are optimistic that a positive regional atmosphere is fostering a path of communication and dialogue, and ultimately better relations.”

Rapprochement between Iran and the UAE was preceded by a similar trajectory; after four years of negotiations and five phone calls between Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the two countries concluded that their interests can be better resolved through dialogue.

“Short of confronting Iran, it is wiser to reach out to Mr. [Ebrahim] Raisi. One way to deal with Iran is to continue the conversation and find common ground for good neighborly relations,” AbdulKhaleq Abdulla, the former advisor to the UAE government wrote in an opinion article, in reference to the Iranian president.

The diplomatic moves make sense considering that the UAE and Iran are economically interdependent; trade between Iran and the UAE is extensive, and Abu Dhabi is the largest exporter of goods to Iran. It is worth noting that despite tensions between the two countries, trade never completely ceased during the toughest times.

Motivating factors

Several factors have motivated this wholesale revision of policies towards Iran. Chief among these is the concern that GCC states can no longer depend on unconditional protection from unreliable allies outside the region.

Certainly, US President Joe Biden’s focus on reentering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran – unilaterally abandoned by his predecessor – is a strong indicator that Washington seeks to defuse its own decades-long standoff with Tehran to address more pressing national security priorities elsewhere.

As the US military and foreign policy establishments recalibrate their focus onto major peer adversaries like China and Russia, Washington has reduced its defense and security commitment to its long-time allies in the Persian Gulf.

This eroding ‘security guarantee,’ which began under former President Barack Obama and his “Pivot to Asia,” became strikingly evident in the 2019 Yemeni attack on Saudi’s Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and subsequent attacks on ships anchored in the UAE port of Fujairah, including two Saudi oil tankers.

After the unprecedented strikes by Yemen’s resistance movement Ansarallah, Washington’s utter failure to provide material support to its closest Persian Gulf allies – who have spent billions to procure US military protection – strongly influenced the GCC’s decision to engage with Iran.

“When the US didn’t follow through on defending its Arab partners following the Aramco attacks “it became imperative [for the UAE] to secure itself without relying on others – the US in particular – and engaging with Iran is a part of that,” Dina Esfandiary, a Middle East adviser at the International Crisis Group think tank explained.

The US’ faltering pledge to safeguard the Arab states of the Persian Gulf was heavily criticized by the Senate Republican Policy Committee. In a statement in early August, it accused Biden of undermining his commitment to Persian Gulf allies and missing an opportunity to take advantage of developments in West Asia and the US-brokered Abraham Accords for a united front against Iran.

Additional factors that accelerated dialogue with Iran include the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic – which encouraged further economic diversification away from reliance on oil revenues – the crisis in Ukraine, global energy shortages, and the issue of regional food security.

Conflict with Iran is ‘off the table’

The 2020 Abraham Accords presented an opportunity for Israel and its new Arab partners to form an anti-Iranian front aimed at reducing Iran’s geopolitical reach. But two years of inactive bluster about an “Arab NATO” has instead demonstrated that none of the Persian Gulf’s monarchies – despite plenty of encouragement from Tel Aviv and Washington – have the political will to take that confrontational regional step.

Instead, in the aftermath of normalization, Arab states such as the UAE sought to gain economic and commercial benefits from Israeli IT technologies and clean energy companies, rather than crow for open confrontation with Iran. For this reason “Middle East NATO was a ‘theoretical’ concept and … for Abu Dhabi confrontation [with Iran] was not an option,” says Anwar Gargash, senior diplomatic advisor to the UAE president.

Other GCC member states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar have thus far opposed full normalization with Israel. They know that any overt anti-Iranian front – encouraged by the US and centered on Israel – serves primarily to rehabilitate Tel Aviv’s image within Arab countries, where populations remain hostile to Israel.

They are also now painfully aware that the US will not waste its limited and valuable resources in West Asia when the strategic geography of the China Sea and East Asia are of infinitely more intrinsic value to Washington.

Following the Jeddah Summit, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud said decisively: “There’s no such thing as Arabic NATO.”

Pragmatism in the Persian Gulf

Furthermore, for many Arabs, Iran acts as a valuable counterbalance to Israel in the region. The Persian Gulf – Levant and North Africa too – have a shared interest in obstructing Israel’s many troublesome and disruptive regional ambitions. Iran is a useful tool in this respect, as it absolves Arab states from doing the heavy lifting themselves, which would earn Washington’s ire.

In turn, reconciliation with its Arab neighbors will help Iran mitigate the effects of US-imposed sanctions and isolation efforts. Tehran also wants to keep these diplomatic channels open should the nuclear negotiations in Vienna not come to fruition.

Since his election in 2021, Iran’s President Raisi has repeatedly stressed that regional relations are the primary foreign policy focus of his administration. At the same time, Iran has introduced proposals on a mutually-beneficial regional security architecture that would exclude the need for external military forces in the Persian Gulf and its environs.

Tehran believes a region-first approach can strengthen relations with neighbors across all fields and, importantly, build years of depleted trust. The question is whether its Arab neighbors, many of whom rose to power on the back on western colonial projects, can extract themselves from this dependency and forge independent security strategies.

The timing is not bad. GCC states have concluded that the US will not guarantee security in the way they once perceived, and that Washington is – possibly permanently – distracted elsewhere. These events coincide with a global hike in oil and gas prices because of western sanctions on Russia. As a key member of OPEC+, Russia has thus far managed to keep influential Persian Gulf producers onside on production and pricing policies. China is investing billions in the Persian Gulf states on connectivity and infrastructure. Heavily dependent on Gulf energy resources, China – as well as Iran and Russia – is pushing for a new Persian Gulf security architecture run by regional states.

While the moment may be ripe to advance these new ideas, Iran’s reconciliation with its Arab neighbors is contingent on all parties understanding their mutual interests and threats, which is essential to reduce conflict.

The benefits will be game-changing for all. Ensuing stability in the Persian Gulf will bring about a more prosperous regional economy through interdependence, in addition to enhanced political, security, and geopolitical cooperation in the longer term.

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

What to Expect at the Arab League Summit in Algiers

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360°  

Amin Qammouria

Algeria’s strong anti-colonial stance and ties to Russia, Syria and Iran ensures that the upcoming Arab League Summit in Algiers will be anything but business-as-usual

Algeria will be taking the political centre stage in the Arab world when it hosts the 31st Arab League Summit on 2 November, the first after a three-year pandemic hiatus.

As a former revolutionary state – once at the forefront of resistance against the western settler-colonialism of the twentieth century, and still today a champion of Arab resistance – it is no surprise that majority-Sunni Algeria continues to take positions that are at odds with those of western-backed Sunni Arab governments of West Asia and North Africa.

Algeria’s principles that irk the region’s pro-west monarchies include its vehement opposition to Zionism, support of the Palestinian cause, insistence on maintaining relations with Iran, and engagement with Syria, with Algiers adamantly demanding that the Syrian state be readmitted to the Arab League.

Diplomacy or distraction?

The host country is pinning great hopes on the success of this summit for several reasons, the most important of which is its desire for a major event that restores vitality to Algerian diplomacy.

The state’s regional clout had receded during the years of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s prolonged illness and death, which inhibited his ability to exercise his duties. During this period, widespread street protests thwarted Bouteflika’s plans to extend his presidential term, ultimately bringing down his administration.

By hosting the summit, Algiers seeks an opportunity to shine regionally and highlight its diplomatic reach, distracting Algerians from the daily grind they’ve endured for years. It is a formula Iraq’s prime minister has used to some degree of success.

In this context, Algeria’s leaders have ensured the summit coincides with the 68th anniversary of the launch of their revolution against colonial France, and have planned an elaborate series of political, cultural, youth and artistic activities to burnish Algeria’s image as a regional powerhouse.

These are intended to project the North African state as the new ‘Mecca of Arab diplomacy,’ just as it remains a hub for liberation movements across the Global South and the ‘Mecca for revolutionaries’ since the 1960s.

It’s not such a wild idea. Algeria has come into play in recent years, not just for championing popular Arab worldviews, but for its geopolitical choices that are now in ascent. Like Syria, Algeria’s military is heavily invested with Russian equipment, training, and know-how. The energy-producing state is also receiving windfall profits from skyrocketing fuel and gas prices globally. And the increasing Russian, Iranian and Chinese (RIC) influence in West Asia – concurrent with the receding US presence – places Arab Algiers in a strong starting position.

Energy and food security

Recent global and regional developments, however, may make this Arab League meeting one of its most complex summits. The reverberations of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine just as the world began to emerge from the repercussions of the pandemic, have added a slate of pressing issues to Algiers’ table in November.

The impact of these two events have reshuffled geopolitical cards everywhere, and caused a global energy crisis that has placed several nations on the brink of severe economic and food crises.

In the unlikely scenario that the war in Ukraine ends before this year’s Arab Summit, its impact will remain on the top of the agenda. On the economic level, oil and gas prices will be a priority for both energy-producing and energy-consuming Arab countries, with expectations that the price of a barrel of oil will exceed $160 if the situation continues as is.

Another important agenda item is food security – especially vital crops such wheat and maize. It is expected that the summit will study the possibility of inter-cooperation to develop agriculture within regional states, with the hope that the studies will not remain as ink on paper as is the usual outcome of these gatherings.

Algeria calls for Syria’s return

Syria’s return to the Arab League after its highly politicized and unprecedented suspension in 2011 is another important challenge facing the summit. Algeria, which has maintained good relations with Damascus, has been adamant that Syria should be re-admitted to the League.

Algiers’ position is supported by several Arab countries such as Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq, the UAE and Bahrain. But Syria’s return depends on buy-in from the remaining members too – with Qatar playing spoiler to Damascus’ regional rehabilitation. This too may change in time, as even Doha’s close Turkish allies are working toward normalizing relations with the Syrian government.

Syria’s membership was suspended at a highly-irregular emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo in November 2011. The move came after the Syrian government failed to implement the terms of the “Arab initiative” that gave President Bashar Al-Assad an unrealistic two weeks to conduct a political dialogue with the opposition, form a “national unity government” within two months, and conduct early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has said Syria’s participation in the upcoming Arab summit “is still subject to an Arab consensus,” which has not yet been achieved.

It does not seem that the countries that demanded the suspension of Syria’s membership will agree to its return as long as the conditions of suspension still exist. In turn, Damascus is unenthusiastic about returning to the League before certain Arab countries apologize for their material support of the Syrian armed opposition.

In fact, on 4 September, in a phone call with his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra, Syrian Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad appeared to unilaterally bow out from the November summit, saying he “prefers not to raise” Syrian’s readmission to the League at this time.

Mikdad said his decision was made to keep the Arab focus on more urgent issues facing the region: “[To] contribute to uniting the Arab world and ranks in facing the challenges posed by the current situation at the regional and international levels.”

Israel’s presence at Algeria’s border

The most pressing diplomatic issue for Algiers though has been its fallout with neighboring Rabat, particularly following the latter’s decision to resume relations and sign defense agreements with Tel Aviv, which has heightened security concerns in Algeria.

It remains to be seen whether Morocco will participate in the summit after Algiers severed diplomatic relations with Rabat in August 2021.

At the heart of the neighbors’ spat is a territorial dispute in the Western Sahara. Both states have long been at odds over this sparsely-populated desert terrain where the Algiers-backed Polisario Front is seeking independence from Rabat’s rule. Morocco, in turn, is believed to have secured Washington’s recognition of its ‘sovereign claim’ to the Western Sahara in exchange for normalizing relations with Tel Aviv.

Morocco fears that, as the summit’s host, Algeria will be able to advance the momentum on this contentious issue and win over other Arab states to its side.

With the escalation in tension between the two countries, Algerian political writer Ahmed Boudaoud expects Morocco to be absent from this summit or reduce its level of representation: “especially with the assurances of Algerian officials that their country’s position will not change as long as the reasons that led to the diplomatic rupture between the two countries persist.”

In order to legitimize the diplomatic and economic estrangement with Rabat, Algeria may insist at the summit on issuing a statement condemning the wave of Arab normalization with Israel.

But such a statement will not be unanimously approved as long as there are influential countries, in addition to Morocco, with which Israel has peace treaties, such as Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Sudan and Bahrain.

Unwavering Palestinian solidarity

As is customary in all Arab summits, the Palestinian issue is given priority on the agenda – though typically without any practical measures that actually support Palestinians and their oft-neglected cause.

But Algerian President Abdel Majid Tebboune made a special gesture toward Palestinians in an attempt to reconcile key factions at the summit, particularly Fatah and Hamas.

On 6 July, Tebboune brought together Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, during their attendance at the 60th anniversary celebrations of Algeria’s independence.

Despite the meeting being praised as “historic” after years of estrangement, the gloomy looks on the faces of those present, and the statements issued thereafter, indicated that reconciliation is far from being achieved.

The limits of Algerian diplomacy

The situation in neighboring Libya, around which both regional and European schisms are intensifying, will be another important issue expected to be discussed in Algiers.

Algeria seeks to consolidate Arab consensus around the  adoption of a “Libyan-Libyan solution” which rejects any external interference that might hinder the unification of the Libyan parties and disrupt the course of upcoming presidential elections.

Some Arab countries such as Morocco, however, have accused Algeria of interference in Libya with the intention to dominate its neighbor’s political discourse – taking particular aim at Algiers’ own diplomatic shortcomings in Libya and its failed mediation attempt in the Egyptian-Ethiopian dispute over the Renaissance Dam.

Cracks in Arab “unity” will also appear in discussions on the growing Iranian and Turkish influence in a number of Arab countries.

Given the significant Arab differences over basic regional and global issues, and the preoccupation of each of states with their internal problems and priorities, the Algeria summit will likely be similar to the summits that preceded it: Luxurious receptions, resonant speeches, projects, plans, and decisions that expire the moment participants return to their respective countries.

Although swimming against a powerful tide of Arab states still servile to western diktats, an Algeria noted for its revolutionary struggle toward genuine independence will not entirely be faulted for sticking to its principles. Instead, Algiers will be able to collect its ‘summit success’ from the popular sentiment of the Arab street, which still shares its worldview stances.

The Siege of West Asia

TUESDAY 30 AUG 2022

Source

By Tim Anderson

The one redeeming feature of the US-EU siege of West Asia, one of the worst crimes of the 21st century, is that it is forcing a restructuring of international economic relations, away from a Washington-centred unipolar world.

With multiple failed or failing wars, Washington and its NATO partners and hangers-on have imposed a genocidal economic siege on a contiguous bloc of seven West Asian countries, between the Mediterranean and the Himalayas.

The physical blockades on Palestine and Yemen are joined by coercive measures on Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Amongst other things, this brutal regional siege has led to 90% of the Syrian population living in poverty  and the blockaded people of Yemen suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The aim in all cases has been ‘to starve and cause desperation’ amongst entire populations – as was said about Washington’s blockades on Cuba and on Iran. The explicit aim is imposing ‘deliberate harm’, in the hope of coercing political change. A key associated aim is to help the zionist colony keep stealing Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese land, and so destabilise and cripple the development of the entire region.

While much of this siege is imposed in the name of ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ and ‘anti-terrorism’, none of the NATO allied states of the region – like the Saudis, the UAE and Qatar, who actually finance and arm mass sectarian terrorism – face ‘sanctions’.

The pretexts for this siege are buried in pseudo-legal inventions. The US Treasury’s OFAC database has lists of dozens of ‘sanctioned’ entities and individuals in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen. There are not many ‘sanctions’ against Afghanistan, after 20 years of US and NATO military occupation. However it is notorious that Washington has seized several billion dollars belonging to Afghanistan’s Central Bank, simply because the U.S. is dissatisfied with the current Afghan government. That is certainly a big factor in the looming mass starvation of millions of people in that unfortunate West Asian country.

So what are sanctions and when can they be justified? In international law two principles are said to limit a state’s retaliation against others: that the response should be ‘in proportion’ to an alleged action by the other; and that any reprisal only comes after attempts at negotiation.

But retaliation is unlawful when (1) the aim is to damage the economy of another nation, or there is (2) an attempt at political coercion or (3) the measures imposed also damage the rights of third parties. All these illegal elements are at work in Washington’s current regional siege. Such unilateral ‘sanctions’ are now termed ‘unilateral coercive measures’ (UCMs) and subject to special scrutiny at the United Nations.

For some time international agencies have reported on the catastrophic impact of this siege, for example in Syria and Yemen. Despite the theoretical ‘humanitarian’ exemptions in both US and European coercive measures, the U.S. strangle hold on finance means there is severe impact on essentials such as food, medicine and energy.

The W.H.O. has reported that unilateral US-EU ‘sanctions’ damage children’s cancer treatment in Syria. Medical studies have condemned Europe’s coercive ‘sanctions’ for their damage to COVID-19 prevention and treatment in Syria, while the UN rapporteur on the impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures, Ms Alena Douhan, has called for an end to Washington’s UCMs which inhibit the rebuilding of Syria’s civilian infrastructure, destroyed by the conflict. “The sanctions violate the human rights of the Syrian people, whose country has been destroyed by almost 10 years of ongoing conflict,” said Ms Douhan.

Washington’s anti-Syrian ‘Caesar Law’ was also condemned as it attempts to block third party support for the Syrian population. “I am concerned that sanctions imposed under the Caesar Act may exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in Syria, especially in the course of COVID-19 pandemic, and put the Syrian people at even greater risk of human rights violations,” she said.

Siege measures on north African countries have come under similar criticism. In 2015 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the impact of ‘sanctions’ on human rights, Idriss Jazairy, urged States which have imposed UCMs on Sudan to review their policies. “Sudan has been under unilateral coercive measures for two decades without any adaptation .. The signal given by compulsory measures is in contradiction with their proclaimed objectives” he said, referring to the financial restrictions imposed on all business transactions with Sudan.

In Yemen, the rational is a little different. The US-EU ‘Sanctions’ which sustain the humanitarian crisis are carried out with direct approval by the UN Security Council, under the misguided idea that an interim president from 2014 (Mansour Hadi, in exile in Saudi Arabia for the last seven years) is still the legitimate President of the country. The actual revolutionary government (the only successful revolution of the so-called Arab Spring) led by Ansarallah (disparagingly referred to as ‘Houthi rebels’) is under UNSC sanctions. So the siege on Yemen is authorised under international law, unlike the UCMs against Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Nevertheless, a UN body has said that the western powers and their Persian Gulf allies (especially the Saudis and the U.A.E.) waging war on Yemen should be held responsible for war crimes. That 2019 report detailed a range of war crimes over the previous five years, including airstrikes, indiscriminate shelling, snipers, landmines, as well as arbitrary killings and detention, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and impeding access to humanitarian aid.

This writer has previously argued that the UN Security Council has betrayed the people of Yemen, exacerbating ‘the world’s ‘worst humanitarian crisis’ by demonising and sanctioning the revolutionary government while backing a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) puppet.

UCM regimes, now so popular with the USA and the European Union, have been condemned by independent UN experts for violating international law and for impeding the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. While UCMs are “imposed mostly in the name of human rights, democracy and the rule of law”, Rapporteur Douhan concludes they actually “undermine those very principles, values and norms” while inflicting humanitarian damage.

The one redeeming feature of the US-EU siege of West Asia, one of the worst crimes of the 21st century, is that it is forcing a restructuring of international economic relations, away from a Washington-centred unipolar world. In future the BRICS bloc, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and allied groups will play a much greater role.

Iran’s UN Envoy Slams “Israel” Refusal to Join NPT, Urges Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in ME

August 27, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

A senior Iranian diplomat has denounced the “Israeli” entity’s continued refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], stressing that establishing a Middle East region free of nuclear weapons is of utmost importance.

Iran’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, made the remarks while speaking to reporters on Friday on the sidelines of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons held at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The issue of the Middle East as a region free of nuclear weapons is one of the important discussions… because the ‘Israeli’ regime, as the only possessor of hundreds of nuclear warheads, is not ready to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said.

He added that the “Israeli” entity’s refusal to join the NPT comes as some countries are cooperating with the regime and have always supported it.

The Iranian delegation attending the tenth NPT review conference played a constructive role in highlighting the significance of a Middle East region free of weapons of mass destruction, he said

As documents relating to the NPT review conferences in 1995, 2000, and 2010 have explicitly announced that the apartheid “Israeli” regime must join the treaty, the Iranian team emphasized that the issue should also be included in the final statement of the 10th NPT review meeting, Takht-Ravanchi added.

He emphasized that during the current conference, the Islamic Republic clearly announced that it would not back down from its stance on the importance of a Middle East without any weapons of mass destruction.

“We said that this issue is one of the red lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran and if they want to act honestly and constructively, the literature used in the statements of previous conferences should also be used in this conference in order to move towards a Middle East without nuclear weapons,” the senior Iranian diplomat pointed out.

He noted that Iran seeks to reach a consensus with the participants at the current NPT review conference but it has principles and certain measures must be carried out.

In a Monday address to the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Takht-Ravanchi expressed concern over the lack of progress in the implementation of the 1995 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] resolution and the 2010 action plan on the Middle East, saying the “Israeli” regime must eliminate its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Takht-Ravanchi also slammed the US double standards, saying the entity’s accession to the NPT “without precondition and further delay” and the placement of all of its nuclear activities and facilities under the comprehensive IAEA safeguards are “essential in realizing the goal of universal adherence to the Treaty in the Middle East and the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.”

The “Israeli” entity, which pursues a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear weapons, is estimated to possess 200 to 400 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, making it the sole possessor of non-conventional arms in West Asia.

The illegitimate entity has, however, refused to either allow inspections of its military nuclear facilities or sign the NPT.

What has emboldened Tel Aviv to accelerate its nuclear activities, according to observers, is the support from the US and Europe, the two countries most critical of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.

The regime has assassinated at least seven Iranian nuclear scientists and conducted a series of sabotage operations against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities.

An Alternative Open Letter to Western Politicians

August 15, 2022

Source

by Asia Teacher

Dear western politicians!

Leaving aside the usual sycophantic nonsense, which applauds your continuing efforts to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East with missile attacks, trying to change the earth’s climate using beliefs, promising an unknown source of ‘green’ energy whilst promoting vaccines to save us from certain death from a dose of flu, here’s an alternative open letter.

As a UK citizen now retired, having recently returned to the UK after over a decade of living and working in Asia and the Far East I’m stunned by the stupification around me. Have I inadvertently fallen down an alternative universe Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole, or is there a hidden factory somewhere mass-producing stupid politicians?

As yet another British Prime Minister resigns following the resignations of two others before him producing a failing economy, soaring inflation, sky-high taxes, an energy crisis and a falling pound … The indoctrinated cheer on men with beards wearing dresses and it’s left to a dwindling minority to explain why carrots don’t grow on trees in a socially engineered ideological dystopia! The consequences of which you blame on the Russians, or the Chinese depending on who the US has currently fallen out with.

As you sit in your elitist tax payer funded ivory towers, let’s briefly detail the chaos and mayhem you’ve produced.

Did you think the outside world believed you were trying to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East and not trying to control the world’s major oil producers who just all happened to have abandoned the petrodollar? How many millions lost their lives in that failed adventure?

How many of you swooned over a 16-year-old autistic Swedish school drop out with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD and selective mutism whose mother said she had “special eyes” that could see carbon rising from a dying planet? As a self-inflicted energy crisis looms and both Britain and Germany re-open coal-fired power stations, are you still cheering for mentally ill Greta and her windmills?

How can you keep a straight face whilst telling millions that if they didn’t have the Covid vaccine they’d be passing on the flu they didn’t have onto others? How much of the vaccine scam profit disappeared into the pockets of pharmaceuticals, lobbyists and your own pockets? The whole country could hear the cash tills ringing as shares in the pharmaceuticals producing vaccines went through the roof amid crony contracts awarded to favoured companies. Are you listening former British Health Secretary Matt Hancock who resigned after being caught with his nose in the trough.

Predictably, as the manufactured hysteria wore off and attention spans waned, the advice from the British National Health Service was to open our windows and let the virus out. Apparently, it had been hiding in our homes the whole time? Moreover, the experiment of a “new normal” locked down muzzled population also failed, together with the attempt to introduce Covid passports as hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Britain and throughout Europe in mass demonstrations to protest against the implementation of virtual house arrest and freedom of movement. After this, what comes next, a climate change lock down?

Moving on, Russia, who just by coincidence is another major energy producer surrounded by NATO missile bases and sanctioned hoping its economy collapses and produces another “regime change.” Why does that produce a feeling of déjà vu? How long did you believe a nuclear power would tolerate an aggressive US led NATO advancing towards its border? The last time western armies gathered on Russian borders was in 1941 and that didn’t end well.

Oh the irony, as you cheer for the same Nazis your grandfathers fought against and vilify the Russians who are now having to fight them again. How many of you condemned the previous eight years of ethnic Russian murders in the Crimea and Donbass by Nazi militias who you helped arm and train, but turned a blind eye to the consequences. No crocodile tears and outraged comments from you when Russian civilians were being killed. Make no mistake, in another era the majority of you would be sitting in the same Nuremberg dock as the previous psychopaths!

For the last quarter century you are without doubt the most useless, corrupt and destructive political class in British history. In one generation you have dumbed down the British population to an idiocracy in your ‘Woke’ eagerness to remove the cultural traditions and values of centuries. As suicide statistics soar, mental health issues reach an all-time high and drugs become a lifestyle choice for many to block out the horror of reality, it’s not a diverse and equality multicultural utopia you’ve produced, it’s a nightmare!

And you, the US demagogues and liberal fascist European Commissioners; in two decades your ideologically warped quest for power has not only failed to make the world a safer place, you have brought us to the verge of a nuclear conflict. Between you, you’ve managed to wreck our economies, brought terrorism to our streets and created the worst energy crisis since the 1970s – whilst becoming fabulously wealthy yourselves. Yes, we have noticed. The sooner you’re removed from power, the sooner both we the western populations and the outside world can have a rest from your incompetence and murderous activities!

Meanwhile, as I write from England, outside my window another car with exhaust baffles removed and the window wound down emitting ear-splitting decibels of rap ‘music’ drives past, whilst on the pavement a silent E-scooter carrying a bald middle-aged man with expressionless eyes in short trousers and tattooed legs races by.

Asia Teacher is a UK citizen, retired teacher of English plus Social and Political Science.

The power troika trumps Biden in West Asia

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

July 20 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

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

By Pepe Escobar

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

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

Standing up to the global sheriff

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

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

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

Moscow’s moment

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

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

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

Iran says ‘no’ to NATO

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Putin-Sultan ballet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say farewell to the ‘teleprompter guy’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

De-Dollarization, not just Eurasian integration

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

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

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

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

Oil, Iran On Biden’s Agenda at Arab Summit Concluding Middle East Tour

July 18, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies

US President Joe Biden is set to discuss volatile oil prices during a summit with Arab leaders on Saturday in Saudi Arabia, the final stop of his Middle East tour, meant to bolster US positioning and knit the regional countries against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second city on the Red Sea coast, will bring together leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

Biden landed Friday in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally he once vowed to make a “pariah” over its human rights record, and met with King Salman, de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other top Saudi officials.

Tensions had been high between Biden and Prince Mohammed, especially after Biden’s administration released US intelligence findings that Prince Mohammed approved an operation targeting journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose gruesome killing in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate in 2018 spurred global outrage.

Biden now appears ready to re-engage with a country that has been a key strategic ally of the United States for decades, a major supplier of oil and an avid buyer of weapons.

Washington wants the world’s largest exporter of crude to open the floodgates to bring down soaring gasoline prices, which threaten Democratic chances in November mid-term elections.

But Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, tamped down expectations of immediate progress while speaking with reporters on the flight to Jeddah.

Biden said his trip “Is about once again positioning America in this region for the future. We are not going to leave a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia or China to fill.”

At the summit, Biden was set to hear a chorus of concern about the region’s stability and security, as well as concerns about food security, climate change and the continued ‘threat of terrorism.’

Biden was under pressure to discuss the cases of Khashoggi as well as Saudis detained under what critics of Prince Mohammed described as a far-reaching crackdown on dissent.

Late Friday, Biden said he raised Khashoggi’s killing “at the top of the meeting” with Prince Mohammed and “made it clear if anything occurs like that again they will get that response and much more.”

While in the ‘Israeli’-occupied territories, Biden admitted in comments to reporters that his motives for visiting Saudi Arabia were “broader” than human rights.

“My views on Khashoggi have been absolutely, positively clear, and I have never been quiet about talking about human rights.”

ماذا يريد جو بايدن من الشرق الأوسط؟

تموز 15 2022

حسن لافي 

يتمثّل الهدف الأميركي للزيارة في إعادة صياغة خارطة موازين القوى لدول المحور الأميركي في المنطقة.

يمكن قراءة زيارة الرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن للشرق الأوسط من خلال عدة مستويات تمثل بكليتها الأهداف الرئيسية لتلك الزيارة. على المستوى الاستراتيجي، تأتي زيارته في خضم صراع الولايات المتحدة الأميركية الشرس والمعلن مع كلٍّ من الصين وروسيا على معركة تشكيل المنظومة الدولية وصياغتها بعد انتهاء عصر القطب الأميركي الواحد الذي شارف على الانتهاء.

تسعى أميركا لقطع الطريق أمام الصين وروسيا، للحؤول دون نسجهما علاقات مع حلفاء أميركا في الشرق الأوسط.

لذلك، تسعى الولايات المتحدة الأميركية لاستعادة سيطرتها على موارد الطاقة في الشرق الأوسط بعدما أجبرتها الحرب الأوكرانية الروسية على البحث عن مصادر تمويل للطاقة لحلفائها الأوروبيين، ما أعاد للنفط الخليجي وغاز البحر المتوسط أهميته، إضافة إلى العمل على زيادة إنتاج النفط الخليجي مع خفض أسعاره، من أجل خلق استقرار في سوق الطاقة، حتى لا يتأثر الاقتصاد الأميركي الذي يعاني حالة غير مسبوقة من التضخم المالي.

على المستوى الجيو-استراتيجي، تسعى أميركا لقطع الطريق أمام الصين، ومن ثم روسيا، للحؤول دون نسجهما علاقات مع حلفاء أميركا في الشرق الأوسط، وخصوصاً دول الخليج، الذين شعروا بالخوف من تراجع اهتمام أميركا في الشرق الأوسط بعد انسحابها من العراق وأفغانستان وذهابها للتفاوض مع الإيرانيين على اتفاق نووي جديد، ما أنتج حالة من الانفتاح على كلٍّ من الصين وروسيا، ولو على سبيل تحسين شروط تحالفهم مع الأميركيين، وليس تغيير اتجاهاتهم التحالفية، ناهيك بأن تداعيات الأزمة الأوكرانية باتت تهدد الهيمنة الأميركية على المنظومة الدولية كدولة عظمى.

وبالتالي، رجعت أميركا إلى سياسة الأحلاف التي انتهجتها في ستينيات القرن الماضي، واستمرت طوال فترة الحرب الباردة. لذلك، تعيد ترميم علاقتها مع حلفائها، وخصوصاً السعودية، تحت شعار “المصالح الأميركية فوق المبادئ الإنسانية”.

يتمثّل الهدف الأميركي للزيارة على مستوى إقليم الشرق الأوسط بإعادة صياغة خارطة موازين القوى لدول المحور الأميركي في المنطقة، لتكون “إسرائيل” هي مركز الثقل الأساس الذي يثق الأميركي بأنه قادر على تنفيذ متطلبات مصلحته بأقل الأثمان، وبإخلاص كبير، لكون ذلك يتطابق مع مصلحتها كدولة وظيفية احتلالية يرتبط وجودها بالرعاية الأميركية؛ قائدة المشروع الغربي في العالم.

والأهم أنّ الدول الأخرى الحليفة للولايات المتحدة الأميركية، سواء العربية أو الإسلامية، لا تثق أميركا بها وبقدرتها على أداء ذلك الدور، ناهيك بالإشكاليات الداخلية التي يعانيها قادة تلك الدول على المستوى الداخلي.

لذلك، كل ما يحدث في المنطقة من إنشاء تحالفات عسكرية واقتصادية وسياسية تحت الرعاية الأميركية هدفه ضمان أمن “إسرائيل” والحفاظ على قوتها كدولة مركزية في الشرق الأوسط، ما دفع الولايات المتحدة الأميركية مجدداً إلى إعادة اكتشاف أهمية وجود “إسرائيل” ككيان استعماري متقدّم في خدمة مشروعها كدولة عظمى في العالم، في ظل منافسة كلٍّ من الصين وروسيا، وفي منطقة لم تنتهِ مصالحها الاقتصادية فيها بعد.

ينبع خطورة إطلاق بايدن – لابيد “إعلان القدس” من كونه وثيقة أعادت الولايات المتحدة الأميركية مجدداً فيها تأكيداتها والتزاماتها السابقة على مدار أكثر من 70 عاماً تجاه “إسرائيل والشعب اليهودي” في ورقة واحدة لا تتضمن الجديد، ولكنها بمنزلة تأكيد من جو بايدن، الرئيس الديمقراطي، على “صفقة القرن” التي طرحها الرئيس السابق دونالد ترامب الجمهوري، ما يعيد التزام الحزبين الأميركيين تجاه “إسرائيل”، بعدما عصفت الكثير من الرياح السيئة بالعلاقة بينهم منذ عهد الرئيس الأميركي السابق باراك أوباما، وليس انتهاء بأزمة رفض التيار اليساري في الحزب الديمقراطي الأميركي التصويت على تضمين الموازنة العامة في الكونغرس بند تمويل إعادة مخزون صواريخ القبة الحديدية الإسرائيلية.

من الواضح أن “إسرائيل”، للأسف الشديد، استطاعت أن تستفيد جيداً من التطورات والتغيرات في الساحة الدولية، والتي هددت الهيمنة الأميركية، في إعادة تسويق نفسها بحلة جديدة للمشروع الغربي الاستعماري، ولكن هذه المرة كـ”دولة اليهود”، وبدعم دول التطبيع العربي غير المسبوق وغير المتوقع، حتى من الأميركيين أنفسهم، بل أدت “إسرائيل” دور الوسيط بين دول الخليج، وخصوصاً السعودية، وإدارة جو بايدن، وبالتالي برهنت للأميركيين قدرتها على قيادة حلف الناتو الصهيو-تطبيعي الجديد.

أوضحت الزيارة أنَّ بايدن لم يغير موقفه تجاه إيران، فما زال يفرق بين المشروع النووي الإيراني من جهة، والمشروع العسكري لمحور المقاومة بقيادة إيران من جهة أخرى. 

في المشروع النووي، أكد بايدن التزامه الحل الدبلوماسي من خلال اتفاق جديد مع إيران. وبالنسبة إلى التهديد العسكري، منح بايدن “إسرائيل” الكثير من الأدوات العسكرية والسياسية والاقتصادية لمواجهته، مثل منظومة الاعتراض بالليزر الجديدة ومنظومة الدفاع الجوي الإقليمي المشترك، لكن تبقى رؤية بايدن متعارضة مع الموقف الإسرائيلي الذي يرى في التهديد الإيراني رزمة واحدة متكاملة.

لذلك، تضغط “إسرائيل” تجاه وضع الحل العسكري تجاه المشروع النووي الإيراني على طاولة خيارات إدارة بايدن، رغم التزام الأخير عدم السماح لإيران بالحصول على القنبلة النووية. وفي هذا السياق، تحاول “إسرائيل” انتهاج سياسة التدرج الاستراتيجي في سبيل تغيير موقف إدارة بايدن من دون الوصول إلى صدام معه، رغم أن الوقت لا يسعفها كثيراً بحسب تقديراتها الاستخبارية.

أظهرت أجندة الزيارة أنَّ القضية الفلسطينية بالنسبة إلى جو بايدن مجرد هوامش، ويكفي إبداء قناعته الشخصية بحل الدولتين، لكن من دون أي خطوة حقيقية تجاه هذا الحل، بل إنّ الذريعة الأميركية حاضرة بعدم وجود حكومة مستقرة في “إسرائيل”.

ويخشى بايدن أن يستغلّ بنيامين نتنياهو أي ضغط أميركي على حكومة يائير لابيد قبل الانتخابات للعودة إلى الحكم، الأمر الذي سيجعل تأجيل تنفيذ أي خطوة أميركية لمصلحة الفلسطينيين إلى ما بعد الانتخابات الإسرائيلية وتأليف حكومة مستقرة في “إسرائيل” أمراً مبرراً لدى السلطة الفلسطينية.

إن الآراء المذكورة في هذه المقالة لا تعبّر بالضرورة عن رأي الميادين وإنما تعبّر عن رأي صاحبها حصراً

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

July 15, 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Source

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

By Pepe Escobar

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

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

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

Caspian is key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The West Asia connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pipelines and the “stans”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking BRI in Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FM Spox: US-“Israeli” Declaration Threatening All Islamic States, Not Just Iran

July 15, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies

The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman says the newly-signed declaration between the United States and the “Israeli” entity is a threat to all Islamic and Arab countries as it seeks to support the “Israeli” regime’s so-called “military edge” in the region.

Nasser Kan’ani took to Twitter on Thursday evening to make the comments, following the inking of the declaration by US President Joe Biden and “Israeli” caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid in occupied al-Quds [Jerusalem] earlier in the day.

According to a White House press release, the declaration points to the “unshakeable US commitment to ‘Israel’s’ security, and especially to the maintenance of its qualitative military edge.” It pledges that Washington will continue to strengthen the regime’s military capabilities.

“The joint declaration of Biden and Lapid stresses America’s firm commitment to maintaining ‘Israel’s’ security and military edge. Do not take it wrong: the aim is not just Iran, but rather, Arab and Islamic countries must always bow to the Zionist regime’s superiority,” wrote the spokesman. 

“Therefore, the main source of threat to the region is crystal clear,” he added.

Iranian officials have repeatedly denounced the destabilizing activities of the “Israeli” entity as the main source of insecurity in the region, warning regional countries of the perils of allowing the regime to establish a foothold in the region.

Observers believe that the unconditional support of the US for the “Israeli” entity, as the only regime that openly threatens Iran with military aggression, can further embolden Tel Aviv.

In a separate tweet, the Iranian spokesman said the region will not see stability and peace as long as the US continues this approach in its foreign policy.

“Regional states and nations will not achieve stability and peace as long as the fake ‘Israeli’ government remains the first stop of US presidents’ trips and their number one aim is to preserve its security and dominance,” he stressed.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the security of its neighbors as its own security,” added the official.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also warned on Thursday that any mistake by the US and its allies will be met with a harsh response.

Addressing people in Kermanshah province, west of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi said that “any mistake by the Americans and their allies in the region and the world will be met with a harsh response that will make them regret it.”

Noting that Iran is “stronger than ever,” Raisi said, “The great nation of Iran does not accept any kind of insecurity and crisis in the region, and the Muslim nations of the region hate the humiliating relations of their governments with America, which has led to the looting of their country’s wealth.”

His remarks came a day after US President Joe Biden opened his first visit to the region since taking office by telling ‘Israeli’ leaders of his determination to confront Iran’s nuclear energy program, saying he’d be willing to use force as a “last resort.”

Raisi: Any Mistake by US, Allies to Be Met with Iran’s Harsh Response

July 15, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi confirmed that his country cannot condone insecurity and crisis in the region, warning that any mistake by the enemies will be met with a harsh response from the Islamic Republic that will make them rue their acts.

Raisi made the remarks in a Thursday visit to the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, referring to the hostile and destabilizing activities of the United States and its allies in the region.

“In the gathering of the resistant people of Kermanshah, I say that any mistake by the Americans and their allies in the region and the world will be met with a harsh and regrettable response,” he said.

He further stated: “Today, Islamic Iran is stronger than ever”, adding that the United States on the contrary is weaker than ever. 

The Iranian president also said, “The great nation of Iran does not accept any kind of insecurity and crisis in the region, and the Muslim nations of the region hate the humiliating relations of their governments with America, which has led to the looting of their country’s wealth.”

His remarks came a day after US President Joe Biden opened his first visit to the region since taking office by telling Israeli leaders of his determination to confront Iran’s nuclear energy program, saying he’d be willing to use force as a “last resort”.

President Raisi touched on Iran’s military power and authority, calling it a security factor in the region and stressing that the Islamic Republic will not accept any insecurity or crisis in the region.

“The Zionist regime should not have a covetous eye on the Middle East and West Asia, and it can never have normal relations in the region,” he said.

In parallel, Raisi added that the Islamic Republic does not see the interference of the US and its allies in the region as anything other than creating a crisis, “because these countries are constantly transiting insecurity and terrorism into the region”.

Netanyahu highly values MBS role in signing ‘Abraham Accords’

11 Jul 2022

Source: Israeli media

By Al Mayadeen English 

Former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu expresses openly for the first time MBS’ clear contribution to the signing of several normalization agreements with “Israel”.

Former Israeli occupation PM Benjamin Netanyahu (Archive)

Israeli media relayed the appreciation of the leader of the Israeli opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, for his contribution to the completion of the four so-called “Abraham Accords”.

Netanyahu said that in case he assumes leadership once again, then he intends to achieve full “peace agreements” with Saudi Arabia, as well as with other Arab states.

The former Israeli Prime Minister’s statement comes ahead of an upcoming visit by US President Joe Biden to the Middle East, during which he will meet with Palestinian and Israeli occupation officials.

According to Israeli media, Biden plans to meet with Netanyahu during his upcoming visit to “Israel”.

This is the first time in which an Israeli official openly highlights bin Salman’s clear contribution to the signing of the normalization agreements with the Israeli occupation.

The UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan were part of the so-called “Abraham Accords” brokered by former US President Donald Trump’s administration in 2020 to normalize relations with “Israel”.

Mossad plane lands in Riyadh ahead of Biden’s visit

On Monday, the political affairs commentator for the Israeli Makan channel, Shimon Aran, revealed that a private Israeli plane “that the Israeli Mossad used in the past landed this afternoon in Riyadh.”  

The Israeli commentator confirmed, through his account on Twitter, that the plane landed this afternoon in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, apparently in preparation for US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit.

Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia

It is noteworthy that “Israel” Hayom newspaper had previously revealed that Israeli envoys visited Riyadh several times throughout a period of time that extends for over a decade now. However, these visits have always been kept secret.

There has been one exception to the secret visits and that is Netanyahu’s visit in November of 2020 to the Red Sea city of Neom, which was widely yet carefully publicized, where he met with bin Salman.

Previously, Israeli Security Minister Benny Gantz had visited Saudi Arabia as chief of staff, while Aluf Meir Dagan, Tamir Pardo, and Yossi Cohen arrived as heads of Mossad and Ben Shabbat as head of the “National Security Council.” The purpose of the visit was to develop security coordination, especially against Iran.

Netanyahu, as did most Israeli officials, had flown to Saudi Arabia in a private plane especially leased for this occasion. At the time, it was business contacts that have matured into political, military, and security deals.

 A “road map for normalization”

In the same context, four informed US sources told Axios that the White House has been working on a “road map for normalization” between Saudi Arabia and the Israeli occupation ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to West Asia in July.

Earlier this year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said, “We do not view Israel as an enemy, but rather as a potential ally in the many interests that we can pursue together, but some issues must be resolved before we can reach that.”

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Israeli military officials sent to Qatar as US works to bolster security cooperation

Arrival of officials in Qatar underscores how normalisation impacts Arab states that have not formally established ties to Israel

A general view shows US Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft at al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar (AFP/File photo)

8 July 2022 

By Sean Mathews

Israeli military officials have secretly been dispatched to Qatar as part of a security reshuffle that places Israel in US Central Command’s area of responsibility, current and former US and Gulf officials have told Middle East Eye.

At least one location where Israeli officials have travelled is al-Udeid, a US air base and the forward operating headquarters of all US forces in the Middle East, also known as Centcom, the sources said.

Israel was absorbed into Centcom last year, in a move that built on the 2020 normalisation agreements which saw Bahrain and the UAE establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Morocco and Sudan normalised relations with Israel soon after.

A Gulf official with knowledge of the matter who spoke with MEE on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic did not say how many Israeli personnel were currently in the country.  

The Abraham Accords and Israel’s inclusion in Centcom ‘are forcing all Arab capitals to reassess what their relationship with Israel looks like’

– R Clarke Cooper, former US official

Despite lacking formal relations, Israel and Qatar – two key US allies – maintain ties, and are known to engage on issues including the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

“There is dialogue, and it is a good dialogue,” said the Gulf official.

Qatar publicly acknowledges what it calls a “working relationship” with Israel. Those ties came to the fore during Israel’s offensive on Gaza last year when Defence Minister Benny Gantz reportedly met with Qatari officials in an unnamed country to negotiate aid for the besieged Gaza Strip.

However, the disclosure, not previously reported elsewhere, of Israeli military officials travelling to Qatar underscores how ties are extending beyond traditional areas such as Palestine, particularly as the US works to bolster security cooperation between its Arab partners and Israel.

“The Abraham Accords, as well as the inclusion of Israel into the US Central Command, are forcing all Arab capitals to reassess what their relationship with Israel looks like,” R Clarke Cooper, former assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs under the Trump administration and currently at the Atlantic Council, told MEE.

“Current considerations of military integration to address shared threats like Iran is a real-time example of such reassessment,” he added.

‘Exploring greater security coordination’

In March, Qatari military officials – along with those from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan – reportedly held a meeting with US and Israeli counterparts in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh to discuss a plan for joint missile defence.

The meeting took place against a backdrop of rising tensions with Iran, as talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal stall. 

In contrast to other Gulf states, Qatar is seen as more supportive of a return to the deal. Qatar shares the world’s largest natural gas field with Iran. Its leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, travelled to the Islamic Republic in May in a push to jumpstart stalled talks. Last month, the US and Tehran held indirect negotiations in Doha aimed at reviving the accord.  

Biden Middle East visit: Why an Israel-led security pact is a paper tiger
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But Qatar’s geographic position also means that it would be vulnerable to any escalation in the region, analysts say.

“The Qataris, like other smaller countries between Saudi Arabia and Iran, are open to exploring greater security coordination with other actors, whether that be Turkey, whether that be Israel as well,” Anna Jacobs, a senior analyst on Gulf states at the International Crisis Group, told MEE.

Asked about the stationing of Israeli military officials at US bases in Qatar, Centcom referred MEE to the Israeli military. The Israeli military refused to comment on the topic.

Lt Col Dave Eastburn, US Central Command spokesman, told MEE in a written response that the “easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors subsequent to the Abraham Accords has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East, including our partners in Israel”.

‘Working relationship’

Qatar, a gas-rich country of 2.8 million people, of which only 300,000 are Qatari nationals, has had a complex relationship with Israel.

Qatar was the first country in the Gulf to establish trade relations with Israel. During the Second Intifada, it was reportedly pressured by Saudi Arabia and other states to close its trade office there. A reopened office was subsequently shuttered when Israel launched its 2009 invasion of Gaza.

Qatar has long positioned itself as an advocate of the Palestinian cause. The Al Jazeera Media Network and its affiliates, which are funded by the Government of Qatar, are viewed by many as critical of Israel.

Doha is also close to Hamas, the group that governs the besieged Gaza Strip, and provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza in coordination with the UN, and with the backing of Israel.

Doha’s leverage with Hamas helped it negotiate a ceasefire to last May’s fighting which saw more than 260 Palestinians killed in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, and 13 in Israel. Following the truce, Qatar pledged $500m in support of Gaza’s reconstruction.

A few months after the ceasefire, Qatar announced new measures to provide aid to impoverished families in Gaza. Defence Minister Benny Gantz praised Doha, stating: “I would like to thank Qatar for taking a positive role as a stabilising actor in the Middle East.”

“The Qataris have a win-win situation,” Yoel Guzansky, a Gulf expert at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, told MEE.

“They are appreciated on the Palestinian street for not normalising. They have good relations with the US and good relations with Israel.”

Navigating the grey zone

Biden is scheduled to embark on a four-day trip to the Middle East next week, where he will first visit Israel and the occupied West Bank. The visit will then culminate with a major gathering of regional leaders in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah.

Ahead of Biden’s trip, US officials have hinted that new states could take steps to normalise relations with Israel. The US is believed to be negotiating a deal to transfer two Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, in a move that could eventually pave the way for Riyadh to normalise in the future.

Biden Middle East visit: Why the Arab world needs a new leadership
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Few expect Qatar to take similar measures.

The State Department denied MEE’s request to discuss Qatar and US normalisation efforts. Qatar also didn’t respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. 

In an interview earlier this year, Qatar’s foreign minister ruled out normalising ties with Israel “in the absence of a real commitment to a two-state solution” between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“If I was the Qataris, I would not normalise. And if I was the Israelis, I don’t know if I would want them to,” Guzansky said, explaining that both sides were so far apart on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that it was likely in each’s favour to keep bilateral ties in a “grey zone”.

Navigating that grey zone amid signs that normalisation in the region is proceeding will likely continue to test Qatar’s ability to balance the relationship. 

Biden Says His Visit Is Meant to Integrate The ‘Israeli’ Entity In the Region

July 1 2022

By Staff, Agencies

The goal behind US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the Middle East is to further integrate the Zionist occupation regime into the region.

“I am, as I said, going to ‘Israel’ to meet with ‘Israeli’ leaders to affirm the unbreakable bond ‘Israel’ and the United States have,” Biden said when asked about the trip during a news conference in Madrid.

“And part of the purpose is — the trip to the Middle East — is to deepen ‘Israel’s’ integration in the region, which I think we’re going to be able to do and which is good — good for ‘Israeli’ security,” he added.

That goal of integration is “why ‘Israel’ leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi,” Biden stated.

The Zionist occupation leaders encouraged Biden to visit Saudi Arabia, despite the president’s past call for it to be a “pariah” because of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden is set to visit the ‘Israeli’-occupied Palestinian territories on July 13-14, and continue from there to Jeddah for a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council the following day.

‘Israel’ and the Gulf States “have real concerns about what’s going on in Iran and other places in terms of their security,” he went on to claim.

Biden pushed back against an assertion that the trip was about asking Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, in light of the rising price of gas in the US.

He said that he does not have a planned meeting specifically with the Saudi king or crown prince, but that they will be part of the larger GCC meeting. Biden said he plans to ask all Gulf States to increase oil production, not just the Saudis.

The Little Prince and the Saudi Blower

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

June 24, 2022

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

Ladies and gentlemen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iranian president welcomes Russian FM, warns against NATO expansion

Establishing channels of cooperation to overcome western sanctions is reportedly high on Lavrov’s agenda

June 23 2022

(Photo credit: Agencies)

ByNews Desk

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi welcomed the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, to Tehran on 22 June for talks on boosting trade and energy cooperation.

During their conversation, Raisi stressed the need to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible and expressed Tehran’s willingness to help the two nations find a diplomatic solution. He also warned against the expansionist agenda of NATO.

“There is no doubt that the US and NATO provocations have been the factor behind these conflicts [in Ukraine], and therefore, it is necessary to be active in the face of attempts to expand NATO’s influence in any part of the world, including in West Asia, the Caucasus and Central Asia,” the Iranian president said.

This is the first visit by Russia’s top diplomat to the Islamic Republic since Raisi took power in 2021. It comes at a time when the Kremlin is facing sweeping sanctions from the west, overtaking Iran as the most sanctioned nation on the planet.

Establishing avenues of cooperation despite the existence of sanctions is reportedly a main point in Lavrov’s agenda.

“Strengthening cooperation and coordination is an effective way to counter US sanctions and economic unilateralism against independent nations,” the Iranian president told Lavrov.

Tehran and Moscow both have significant oil and gas reserves, but their energy industries are constrained by US sanctions, which limit their ability to export their output.

According to a report in the Qatari daily Al Araby Al Jadeed, Russian officials visited Iran secretly and publicly in recent months to “benefit from its experience in facing sanctions.”

On 23 June, the Russian foreign minister is set to meet with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, to discuss the Iran nuclear deal, the war in Ukraine, and cooperation in regional security concerning Syria and Afghanistan.

Over recent months, Iran has played host to high-ranking officials from sanctioned nations like RussiaVenezuela, and Syria, as part of Raisi’s policy to boost ties with countries faced with economic warfare from the west.

To this end, Tehran has signed long-term cooperation documents with China and Venezuela, and is in the process of signing another one with Russia.

This strategy is part of Raisi’s foreign policy agenda of fostering relations with neighboring countries and major non-western powers, known as the Neighborhood Policy.

Exile on Main Street: The Sound of the Unipolar World Fading Away

June 22, 2022

The future world order, already in progress, will be formed by strong sovereign states. The ship has sailed. There’s no turning back.

By Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

Let’s cut to the chase and roll in the Putin Top Ten of the New Era, announced by the Russian President live at the St. Petersburg forum  for both the Global North and South.

The era of the unipolar world is over.

The rupture with the West is irreversible and definitive. No pressure from the West will change it.

Russia has renewed with its sovereignty. Reinforcement of political and economic sovereignty is an absolute priority.

The EU has completely lost its political sovereignty. The current crisis shows the EU is not ready to play the role of an independent, sovereign actor. It’s just en ensemble of American vassals deprived of any politico-military sovereignty.

Sovereignty cannot be partial. Either you’re a sovereign or a colony.

Hunger in the poorest nations will be on the conscience of the West and euro-democracy.

Russia will supply grains to the poorer nations in Africa and the Middle East.

Russia will invest in internal economic development and reorientation of trade towards nations independent of the U.S.

The future world order, already in progress, will be formed by strong sovereign states.

The ship has sailed. There’s no turning back.

How does it feel, for the collective West, to be caught in such a crossfire hurricane? Well, it gets more devastating when we add to the new roadmap the latest on the energy front.

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, in St. Petersburg, stressed that the global economic crisis is gaining momentum not because of sanctions, but exacerbated by them; Europe “commits energy suicide” by sanctioning Russia; sanctions against Russia have done away with the much lauded “green transition”, as that is no longer needed to manipulate markets; and Russia, with its vast energy potential, “is the Noah’s Ark of the world economy.”

For his part Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller could not be more scathing on the sharp decline in the gas flow to the EU due to Siemens’ refusal and/or incapacity to repair the Nord Stream 1 pumping engine: “Well, of course, Gazprom was forced to reduce the volume of gas supplies to Europe by 20%+. But you know, prices have increased not by 20%+, but by several times! Therefore, I’m sorry if I say that we don’t feel offended by anyone, we are not particularly concerned by this situation.”

If this pain dial overdrive was not enough to hurl the collective West – or NATOstan – into Terminal Hysteria, then Putin’s sharp comment on possibly allowing Mr. Sarmat to present his business card to “decision-making centers in Kiev”, those that are ordering the current shelling and killing of civilians in Donetsk, definitely did the trick:

“As for the red lines, let me keep them to myself, because this will mean quite tough actions on the decision-making centers. But this is an area that shouldn’t be disclosed to people outside the military-political leadership of the country. Those who deserve appropriate actions on our part should draw a conclusion for themselves – what they may face if they cross the line.”

Baby please, stop breaking down

Alastair Crooke has masterfully outlined  how the collective West’s zugzwang leaves it lumbering around, dazed and confused. Now let’s examine the state of play on the opposite side of the chessboard, focusing on the BRICS summit this Thursday in Beijing.

As much as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and ASEAN, now it’s time for a reinvigorated BRICS to step up its game. In conjunction, these are the key organizations/instruments that will be carving the pathways towards the post-unipolar era.

Both China and India (which between them were the largest economies in the world for centuries before the brief Western colonial interregnum) are already close and getting closer to “the Noah’s Ark of the world economy”.

The G20 – hostages of the Michael Hudson-defined FIRE scam that is the core of the financialized neoliberal casino – is slowly fading away, while a potential new G8 ramps up: and that is directly connected to BRICS expansion, one of the key themes of this week’s summit. An expanded BRICS with a parallel G8 configuration is bound to easily overtake the Western-centric one in importance as well as GDP by purchasing power parity (PPP).

BRICS in 2021 already added Bangladesh, Egypt, the UAE and Uruguay to its New Development Bank (NDB). In May, at Foreign Ministry-level debates, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Thailand were added to the 5 BRICS members. Leaders of some of these nations will be connected to the Beijing summit.

BRICS plays a completely different game from the G20. They aim for the grassroots, and it’s all about slowly “building trust” – a very Chinese concept. They are creating an independent Credit Rating Agency – away from the Anglo-American racket – and deepening a Currency Reserves Arrangement. The NDB – including its regional offices in India and South Africa – has been involved in hundreds of projects. Time will tell: one day the NDB will make the World Bank superfluous.

Comparisons between BRICS and the Quad, a U.S. concoction, are silly. Quad is just another crude mechanism to contain China. Yet there’s no question India treads on tightrope walker territory, as it’s a member of both BRICS and Quad, and made a vastly misguided decision to walk out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – the largest free trade deal on the planet – opting instead to adhere to the American pie-in-the-sky Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

Yet India, long term, skillfully guided by Russia, is being steered to find essential common ground with China in several key issues.

BRICS, especially in its expanded BRICS+ version, is bound to increase cooperation on building truly stable supply chains, and a settlement mechanism for resources and raw material trade, which inevitably has to be based in local currencies. Then the path will be open for the Holy Grail: a BRICS payment system as a credible alternative to the weaponized U.S. dollar and SWIFT.

Meanwhile, a torrent of bilateral investments from both China and India in the manufacturing and services sector around their neighbors is bound to lift up smaller players in both Southeast Asia and South Asia: think Cambodia and Bangladesh as important cogs in a vast supply wheel.

Yaroslav Lissovolik had already proposed a BEAMS concept as the core of this BRICS integration drive, uniting “the key regional integration initiatives of BRICS economies such as BIMSTEC, EAEU, the ASEAN-China free trade agreement, Mercosur and SADC/SACU.”

It’s only (BRICS) rock’n roll

Now Beijing seems eager to promote “an inclusive format for dialogue spanning all the main regions of the Global South via aggregating the regional integration platforms in Eurasia, Africa and Latin America. Going forward this format may be further expanded to include other regional integration blocks from Eurasia, such as the GCC, EAEU and others.”

Lissovolik notes how the ideal path from now on should be “the greater inclusivity of BRICS via the BRICS+ framework that allows smaller economies that are the regional partners of BRICS to have a say in the new global governance framework.”

Before he addressed the St. Petersburg forum on video, President Xi called Putin personally to say, among other things, that he’s got China’s back on all “sovereignty and security” themes. They also, inevitably, discussed the relevance of BRICS as a key platform towards the multipolar world.

Meanwhile, the collective West plunges deeper into the maelstrom. A massive national demonstration of trade unions this past Monday paralyzed Brussels – the capital of the EU and NATO – as 80,000 people expressed their anger at the rising and rising cost of living; called for elites to “spend money on salaries, not on weapons”; and yelled in unison “Stop NATO.”

It’s zugzwang all over again. The EU’s “direct losses”, as Putin stressed, provoked by the sanctions hysteria, “could exceed $400 billion a year”. Russia’s energy earnings have hit record levels. The ruble is at a 7-year high against the euro.

It’s a blast that arguably the most powerful cultural artifact of the entire Cold War – and Western supremacy – era, the perennial Rolling Stones, is currently on tour across a “caught in a crossfire hurricane” EU. On every show they play, for the first time live, one of their early classics: ‘Out of Time’.

Sounds much like a requiem. So let’s all sing, “Baby baby baby / you’re out of time”, as one Vladimir “it’s a gas, gas, gas” Putin and his sidekick Dmitry “Under My Thumb” Medvedev seem to be the guys really getting their rocks off. It’s only (BRICS) rock’n roll, but we like it.

Ayatollah Khamenei: West Uses Issue of Ukraine to Expand NATO

 June 19, 2022

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei says the West is using the issue of Ukraine to pave the way for further expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks in a Sunday meeting with the visiting President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Tehran.

“In the case of Ukraine, the main problem is that the West means to expand NATO and they will lose no time to further expand their influence wherever they can,” the Leader said.

Ayatollah Khamenei added, “[Various] issues must be painstakingly monitored and [we] must be careful because Americans and the West [in general] always seek to expand the scope of their influence in different regions, including in East and West Asia and scuttle independence and power of countries [in those regions].”

The Leader also highlighted profound historical and cultural ties between Iran and Kazakhstan, stressing the need to further expand cooperation between the two countries, especially with regard to regional collaboration.

Ayatollah Khamenei also called for more coordination between the two countries with respect to political and economic issues, saying that it was necessary for further expansion of bilateral ties.

Stressing the necessity of activating the joint commissions between Iran and Kazakhstan, the Leader said the two countries must boost their efforts for the follow-up and implementation of bilateral agreements.

SourcePress TV

Related

Beggaring Europe: switching cheap Russian gas for expensive American LNG

EU steps to significantly reduce Russian gas imports will see Europe newly dependent on much pricier US liquefied natural gas

June 15 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Daoud Baalbaki

Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas has been a contentious issue for European Union (EU) policy makers for decades. Dozens of policies have been proposed over the years to diversify the continent’s gas supply, or to switch to green energy sources in order to minimize reliance on Russian gas.

There are only two ways to transport natural gas – via pipelines, or by liquifying the gas, transporting it as cargo, then re-gasifying it at the destination. Both processes require time and considerable infrastructure investment.

Pipelines: In 2021, Russian natural gas accounted for about 46 percent of the EU’s total natural gas imports with an amount of 155 bcm (billion cubic meters). Figure 1 shows that Russian pipelines provided about 41 percent (about 139 bcm) of these gas imports to the EU over the same period.

Norway is Europe’s second-biggest natural gas supplier, followed by pipelines from North Africa and Azerbaijan.

LNG: Imports of LNG constitute about 21 percent of total European natural gas imports.

Figure 2 shows the sources for the LNG shipments that were imported by the EU in 2021. It is important to note that the United States represents the main supplier for LNG to the EU, and is likely to be the main beneficiary if Russian gas pipelines cease operations. The US only commenced exports of LNG to the EU in 2016, but rapidly reached 22.3 bcm in 2021, representing 23 percent of all LNG exports from the US.

Europe’s dependency

Before the conflict in Ukraine, Russia was still a major supplier for LNG in Europe with about 20 percent of the total LNG imports (equivalent to 16 bcm). This means the EU imported a total of 155 bcm of natural gas from Russia annually – 139 bcm via pipelines and 16 via LNG. This accounts for almost half of all European natural gas imports.

This strategic failure in achieving independence from Russian natural gas was mainly due to lack of a coherent and unified strategy among EU members. As shown in Figure 3 the dependency on Russian natural gas varies from one European country to another.

Countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Hungary are fully dependent on Russian natural gas, while the countries that import the largest quantities like Germany, France, Italy Poland, and Greece are semi-dependent, and countries like Portugal are quasi-independent.

With intense pressure from Washington, this issue of over-reliance on Russian resources became further securitized following the conflict in Ukraine. Even after the west announced sanctions on Russian imports, the EU imported 39 billion euros worth of fossil fuel from Russia, until as recently as mid-May.

Reducing reliance on Russia

According to a Flash Eurobarometer survey for the European Commission (EC), 85 percent of Europeans believe that the EU should reduce its dependence on Russian gas and oil as soon as possible to support Ukraine. Meanwhile the EC, international agencies, and independent think tanks have proposed short term plans to decrease the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels by the end of 2022.

The main three short term plans are the EC’s REPowerEU Plan under which two-thirds of Russian gas (101.5bcm/155bcm) could be replaced by next winter; the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) ten-point plan which proposes a one-third (50bcm / 155bcm) reduction of the Russian natural gas imports, finding alternative sources, and switching to renewable energy; and economic think tank Bruegel’s plan which says, in theory, the EU should be able “to replace Russian [gas] flows entirely,” even in the short term, by calculating Europe’s spare gas import capacity. Realistically, however, Bruegel calls for a reduction (86 bcm/155 bcm) by possibly switching electricity production to nuclear and coal, while applying energy saving policies.

What’s the plan?

Essentially, what these plans all have in common is a call for the EU to diversify its natural gas imports portfolio, switch to renewable energy, and apply policies for energy saving. Of the aforementioned plans, the REPowerEU strategy appears to be the most feasible.

The plan suggests cutting Russian natural gas imports to 101.5 bcm from 155 bcm in 2021 – in theory, by increasing non-Russian gas supply by 63.5 bcm, and reducing gas demand by 38 bcm.

To increase non-Russian gas supply by 63.5 bcm, the plan assumes the following can be achieved:

  1. Increase non-Russian LNG imports by 50 bcm
  2. Increase non-Russian pipeline imports by 10 bcm.
  3. Increase biomethane production by 3.5 bcm.

Complimentary to this, they also recommended reducing gas demand by 38 bcm. For this, they proposed 4 points:

  1. Energy savings to cut demand by 14 bcm
  2. Rooftop solar power to reduce gas demand by 2.5 bcm
  3. Heat pumps to reduce gas demand by 1.5 bcm
  4. Deploying wind and solar in the power sector to reduce gas demand by 20 bcm.

The first problem with the EC study is that it expects the demand for gas in Europe in 2022 to remain the same as in 2021. Studies shows that the continent may need around 20-25 bcm more than in the same period last year. So, the target gas requirement is actually 121.5 – 126.5 bcm – not just replacing the Russian imports of 101.5 bcm.

Increasing non-Russian LNG

By far the most important metric here is the EU’s current regasification capacity. As mentioned above, when imported as LNG, the liquified gas needs to be regasified by specialized plants in ports in order to be reinjected into pipelines. All combined, the EU countries had around 74 bcm spare regasification capacity last year.

The problem is that about half this spare capacity is concentrated in Spain and Portugal, which are linked to the rest of the EU with a pipeline of just 7.5 bcm/year capacity. Therefore, the EU has insufficient re-gasification plants to import an additional 50 bcm of LNG.

The proposed solution is to use the UK (now, officially outside the EU) – which has around 29 bcm spare regasification capacity – as a land bridge to import LNG and then reexport it to the EU via pipelines. In this scenario, the EU may succeed in importing an extra 50 bcm of LNG.

But even if Europe overcomes the regasification obstacle, is there enough LNG supply in the world to cover the demand?

Switching dependency from Russia to the US 

Due to many export plants struggling with technical and feed gas issues during the year, global LNG export capacity actually declined in 2021, despite the continued rise in capacity in the US. At the beginning of 2022, it was estimated that the LNG global export capacity will increase by some 43 bcm if all plants that had technical issues and shutdowns were to come back online.

In the second quarter of this year, the International Energy Agency’s gas market report estimated that the EU’s LNG imports may increase by a maximum of 25 bcm and that 65 percent of this quantity will be supplied by the US.

If this transpires, US LNG exports will increase by a whopping 19 percent, making it the global leader of LNG exports overnight. Meanwhile, Africa, Europe, Central and South America and Eurasia will have smaller contributions to global LNG supply growth in 2022, while the supply of the Asia Pacific and West Asian regions are expected to decline.

If we take Qatar as an example, despite its leading role in LNG markets and close relations with western states, Qatar is unable to supply Europe with extra large quantities in the short term because it suffers from a lack of spare LNG export capacity. Furthermore, over 70 percent of these exports are sold to Asian buyers via long term contracts. Europe would have to wait until 2024-25 to be able to count on Qatari LNG supplies.

This high-level demand for LNG projected by Europe will saturate the market and increase the competition for flexible LNG cargoes. In order to attract more LNG cargoes, spot prices in Europe should be $2-3/MMBtu higher than the Asian markets. This is leveling now at $35/MMbtu for the rest of 2022 which is more than five times their five-year average.

The bottom line is that it will be impossible for the EU to increase their LNG imports by the crucial 50 bcm milestone. Even if the EU overcomes the technical issues represented by the regasification capacities and the interconnections between the EU countries and Britain, the supply in the global LNG market simply cannot meet the demand.

Although Europe may receive an extra 25 bcm of LNG, it will come attached to a very high price tag, while prices in North America will be largely unaffected. The US is the big winner in this scenario, raking in exorbitant profits while establishing itself as the world’s biggest LNG exporter.

Where are the non-Russian gas pipelines?

Norway: As the main non-Russian gas supplier of natural gas to Europe via pipelines, Norway’s total capacity of supply is 94.3 bcm per year. Only 86.3 percent of this capacity was used in 2021, theoretically leaving 12.9 bcm of spare annual capacity.

However, in the first two quarters of 2022, the pipelines have been working close to effective full capacity, and this capacity is expected to be lower in the summer, as previous records indicate.

North Africa: The other source of pipeline natural gas to Europe is via three pipelines from North Africa: The Medgaz pipeline from Algeria to Spain, the Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline (also known as Transmed which carries Algerian gas from Tunisia to Italy), and the Green Stream pipeline, from Libya to Italy. A fourth pipeline, the Gas Pipeline Maghreb-Europe (GME), runs from Algeria to Spain via Morocco, but has not been used since 1 November 2021, following the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Algeria and Morocco that August.

The flow in Medgaz pipeline to Spain can increase by around 2 bcm, after increasing its capacity.  These extra quantities can cover a part of the quantities that have been delivered via GME in 2021. However, Algeria has also recently suspended trade ties with Spain over the latter’s decision to side with Morocco over the disputed Western Sahara territory, which has exacerbated tensions between Rabat and Algiers.

The Transmed pipeline to Italy has around 10 bcm spare capacity, but recent analysis shows that Algeria will not be able to offer additional gas quantities since reaching its production capacity and needing to address its own growing domestic demand.

Exports in Libya ranged around 5 bcm before 2020 but declined to 3.2bcm in 2021. A recovery can offer the extra 1-2 bcm, but ongoing political instability in Libya can offer no such guarantees.

As a result, North Africa is not foreseen to provide any extra-large quantities of gas to Europe in 2022.

Azerbaijan: In 2021, the EU started receiving natural gas from Azerbaijan via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The capacity of TAP is around 11 bcm, and flows in 2021 totaled 8.1 bcm, meaning there is extra capacity of around 2.5 bcm.

Overall, the EU plan is based on making a year-on-year increase of 2-3 bcm from Azerbaijan, 2-3 from Algeria, and 4-5 bcm from Norway. These appear to be achievable with regards to the pipelines’ spare capacities, but ambitious in terms of gas production quantities for the suppliers.

Trading dependencies

This European demand for non-Russian gas will mainly be covered by the United States which is the only player that stands to gain economically. It is therefore in Washington’s interests that Europe converts a big part of its gas imports from Russian pipelines into LNG. It is also why the US has remained determined for years to stop the Russia-to-Germany NordStream 2 pipeline from becoming operational – which it succeeded in doing in February, as tensions over Ukraine worsened.

As the US has its own independent pricing system, it is not affected by the international gas prices, which are expected to rise significantly in the European and Asian markets, bringing instant value to LNG production activities in the US.

The EU plan to cut two-thirds of its Russian gas imports and replace it elsewhere – by the end of 2022 – is very optimistic. Closer scrutiny shows it will come with a very high cost – around five times the price that Europe used to pay. Whichever plan the EU implements, Europe will have to acknowledge that it will be neither an energy independent or politically independent continent for the foreseeable future.

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

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