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Russia’s new Middle Eastern role

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Russia has thrown a monkey wrench into Western plans for Syria by promising to deliver its top-of-the-line S300 surface-to-air missile system to the Bashar al-Assad government. Exactly when the missiles might arrive remains unclear; the last word from Moscow is that the missiles are not yet in place, which means the matter is up for bargaining.

It is humiliating for the West to trip over a game-changing Russian technology nearly a quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The larger scandal is that the West lacks countermeasures against the Russian system, the result of misguided defense priorities over the past dozen years. If the United States had spent a fraction of the resources it wasted in nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan on anti-missile technology, Russia would lack the bargaining chip in the first place. That’s spilt milk, however, and the pressing question is: what should the West do now?

The questions to ask are:

1. Is Russia a rational actor?
2. If the answer to the first question is affirmative (as the overwhelming majority of analysts believe), what does it have to be rational about?
3. Can the United States do anything in the foreseeable future to change the present regime in Russia?
4. If the answer to the third question is affirmative, then what do we want to negotiate with Vladimir Putin?

The right way to go about this, I believe, is to draw a bright line between Russia’s opportunistic meddling in Middle Eastern affairs and existential issues for the Russian state. Much as we may dislike the way the Russians manage their affairs, it isn’t within the power of the West to change the character of the Russian regime.

What does Moscow want in the Middle East? It has taken a more active interest in the region’s malefactors of late. Jean Aziz of Al-Monitor argues that Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s April 28 meeting with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon marks a turn in Russia’s relationship with the Hezbollah. Russia’s new alliance-that seems to be the right word-with the Lebanese terrorist organization implies a Russian commitment to carving out a sphere of influence.

On the other hand, Russia does not seem to want a full-blown alliance with the Iranian regime and its Syrian satrap. Iran is present suing Russia for failing to deliver the promised S300 system at the same time that Russia claims that it is sending the same system to Syria. Russia’s refusal to honor its contract with Tehran is a signal that the Putin regime would not be heartbroken if someone were to obliterate Iran’s nuclear bomb-making capacity. Russia has no interest in helping a fanatical regime deploy nuclear weapons on its southern flank.

On the other hand, Russia’s support for the Assad regime is a fact of life. Russia may enjoy the paralysis of the West in the region and seek to embarrass the United States and its allies, but that is a secondary matter. It also may want to demonstrate to the world that it doesn’t abandon allies the way that the United States abandoned former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Again, that is a minor matter. Russia’s interest in the outcome of the Syrian civil war stems from two critical interests.

The lesser of these is the naval supply station at Tartus, which supports the expansion of Russia’s naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. The more important concern is Russia’s fear of the Sunni jihadists who dominate the rebel opposition.

Russia has been fighting a brutal war against jihadists in the northern Caucasus for 20 years, punctuated by some of the most horrendous terrorist acts ever perpetrated, including the 2004 slaughter of 380 hostages on North Ossetia, mainly small schoolchildren. The term “paranoid Russian” may be a pleonasm, but in this case Russia has a great deal to be paranoid about. Caucasus terrorism spilled over into the United States with the Boston marathon bombing.

“In Russia, most analysts, politicians and ordinary citizens believe in the unlimited might of America, and thus reject the notion that the US has made, and continues to make, mistakes in the [Middle East]. Instead, they assume it’s all a part of a complex plan to restructure the world and to spread global domination,” wrote Fyodor Lukyanov on the Al Monitor website March 19.

Lukyanov, who chairs Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, dismisses this sort of thinking as a “conspiracy theory”. But he is quite serious in his account of the Putin government’s frame of mind. The Russian elite really think that the United States is creating chaos in the Middle East as a matter of geopolitical intent. Lukyanov wrote:

From Russian leadership’s point of view, the Iraq War now looks like the beginning of the accelerated destruction of regional and global stability, undermining the last principles of sustainable world order. Everything that’s happened since – including flirting with Islamists during the Arab Spring, US policies in Libya and its current policies in Syria – serve as evidence of strategic insanity that has taken over the last remaining superpower.

It is impossible to persuade Vladimir Putin that the Middle East policies of the past two American administrations were merely stupid, because Putin doesn’t believe that stupid people rule great powers. All the stupid people he met are dead. From the Obama administration’s vantage point, chaos in the Middle East is a matter for hand-wringing by the likes of anti-genocide crusader Samantha Power, now the designated ambassador to the United Nations. From the Russian point of view, it is an existential threat.

The ethnic Russian population is declining, and Russia well may have a Muslim majority by mid-century. If chaos envelops the Muslim world on its southern border, it may spread to Russia via the northern Caucasus. During the Cold War, America supported jihadis in Afghanistan and elsewhere to make trouble for the Soviet Empire (and properly so, because the Soviet threat to American security outweighed any inconvenience the US might suffer at the hands of jihadists). Russia is convinced that America still intends to promote jihad in order to destabilize its old Cold War opponent.

How should America respond?

First, the US should back the partition of Syria into a Sunni majority state and an Alawite rump state in the northwestern quadrant of the country, where the Russian navy station happens to be located. The Kurds should get autonomy, just like their Iraqi compatriots.

Turkey will object vociferously because it would advance Kurdish independence, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan views the way Captain Hook viewed the crocodile. Too bad for the Turks: someone has to lose here, and it might as well be they. Partition is the only way to stop the civil war and avoid mass murder in its wake. Total victory by either side would be followed by massacres. The most humane solution is a breakup on the precedent of the former Yugoslavia. Assad can remain in power in a rump state where the Alawites will be safe from Sunni reprisals, and the Russians can keep their fueling station. One wonders why the “responsibility to protect” crowd in Washington hasn’t considered that.

Second, the US should use its influence with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to clean out the nastier jihadist elements among Syria’s Sunni rebels. It should also make clear to the Russians that it will not interfere with their counter-terrorist operations in the Caucasus, grisly as these might be.

Third, the US should attack Iran and destroy its nuclear weapons capability and key Revolutionary Guard bases (and perhaps a few other things; various American flag officers have they own list of druthers).

Neutralizing Iran is the key: it eliminates the pipeline of support from Iran to Assad and various terrorist organizations, and reduces them to obnoxious but strategically unemployed local players.

Russia evidently has fewer objections to an American air strike on Iran than on Damascus. It has signaled this as clearly as it can by refusing to deliver the S300 system to the Iranian regime while promising to deliver it to the Syrian regime. The bad news is that we cannot extract Russia from the region; America has made too many blunders in the region to turn the clock back.

The good news is that the problems occasioned by Russia’s enhanced role can be localized and contained. Basher al-Assad and his Alawite army bottled up in a redoubt would be an annoyance, not a strategic threat. A Sunni regime with a Kurdish autonomy zone in the remainder of the country would be susceptible to Western pressure to purge the more dangerous jihadists.

In fact, Russia has fewer objections to an American attack on Iran’s nuclear program and foreign subversion capacity than does the Obama administration. It is painful to read American conservative Jeremiads against the resurgence of Russian influence in the Middle East, when few American conservatives openly propose a strike against Iran. They are afraid that voters don’t trust them with guns after the poor results of the Iraq and Afghanistan nation-building campaigns.

It is much easier to rally the troops by shouting “The Russians are coming!” than to point out that the Obama administration’s ideological aversion to using force against Iran is the core problem. In fact, Putin’s position is more amenable to America’s strategic requirements than Obama’s, counterintuitive as that might sound.

More broadly, the US should draw a bright line between areas of the world where it has inviolable interests and areas subject to bargaining. It was a supreme act of stupidity to abandon the deployment of anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic as the Obama administration did in September 2009. Russia didn’t like it, but Russia is not supposed to like it. Showing weakness to the Russians merely elicits contempt. The US should make clear that ties of culture and blood link the Poles and Czechs to the American people, and that we will stand behind them no matter what.

Ukraine is a different matter. Russians comprise half the population of Ukraine, and Russia cannot walk away from them, nor from the rest of the 22 million Russians left outside the Federation in the so-called near abroad after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

As I reported in a 2008 essay (Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess, Asia Times Online, August 19, 2008), “The desire of a few hundred thousand Abkhazians and South Ossetians to remain in the Russian Federation rather than Georgia may seem trivial, but Moscow is setting a precedent that will apply to tens of millions of prospective citizens of the Federation – most controversially in Ukraine.”

America has no strategic interest in Ukraine. Nine years after the so-called Orange Revolution, the pro-Moscow Party of the Regions remains firmly in charge. The opposition is tainted with an ugly strain of anti-Semitism, as Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center of Democracy, reported May 30.

The nationalists whom Washington backed in the heady days after the invasion of Iraq are not exactly the good guys. What we have learned from a decade of bumbling is that Russia can have Ukraine if it wants it badly enough, and that we really don’t want it anyway. Except for Hungary, Ukraine has the lowest fertility rate of any country in Europe. Its strategic importance will deteriorate along with its demographics.

The proposals above are stopgap measures to limit damage in a deteriorating situation. If the US really want to get Russia’s attention, it needs to do precisely what Ronald Reagan and his team set out to do in 1981: convince the Russians that America would leapfrog them in military technology. That means aggressive funding of basic research on model of the old DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). If Putin is persuaded that his residual advantage in surface-to-air missile technology has reached its best-used-by-date, he will be far more flexible on a range of negotiating issues.

I am painfully aware that the political environment is not conducive to this approach. That does not change the fact that it is what needs to be done.

Middle East

The failure of the US-backed Israeli peace agreements and its normalisation with the Gulf states

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Egyptian diplomacy has always played a (positive mediation role to consolidate the ceasefire between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially in the recent events in Gaza 2021, and Egypt was ready to work with everyone and Israel), in order to promote an early, comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue on the basis of a “the two states solution” and work together to contribute to achieving lasting peace in the Middle East. Israel, as a close ally of the United States of America, considers that “the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure is the first step in the road map towards peace and stability in the region, and indeed it constitutes a valid basis for any peace process”. Israel has also always emphasized that “building and achieving peace requires creating a positive atmosphere between all its parties in an atmosphere free of terrorism and incitement, which encourages efforts to reach an understanding between its parties”.

   However, if the current US administration of President “Joe Biden” avoided inviting the Egyptian side and all Arab parties and forces not to attend the conference of democracies in the world, with the exception of Israel and Iraq only from the heart of the Arab region, it will have (negative and dangerous repercussions on the security of the Hebrew state, and weaken the Israeli peace plans with the Arab Gulf countries mediated by the United States), and this can be analyzed through:

   It is possible that (Arab countries take collective steps to stop peace plans and political normalization with Israel under American auspices), due to the excessive sensitivity of the description or stigmatization of the United States of America as “non-democratic countries”, and therefore not to invite them to the conference of American democracies.  This may contribute to stopping and freezing all multilateral contacts that Washington had encouraged on regional cooperation between the countries of the region and Israel.  With the American side neglecting that (moving forward and cooperating in areas that affect the lives of all who live in this region will contribute psychologically to confronting the complex political issues that must be dealt with and resolved).

   Likewise, the danger of this American step in avoiding the invitation of Egypt, despite it being one of the most important contributors to regional stability, according to a published report issued by the “National Security Agency of the United States of America”, will lead to a continuous escalation of these terrorist attacks targeting security in the Sinai Peninsula, which could be understanding of the successive Israeli protests for such actions that affect the Israel’s security.

   The American provocation to Cairo will increase the activities and number of terrorist groups in Sinai and direct them to work against Israel itself, including (the Sinai Province organization) and its known terrorist activity in targeting ambushes of the Egyptian army in the city of Rafah and others, as it tries, along with the “Ansar Beit al-Maqdis organization”, which is ssociated with the terrorist organization “ISIS”, intimidating civilians by attacking them and carrying out terrorist operations, near the border strip parallel to the border of Israel.

   The activity of (ISIS Sinai Province) can be seen with (its repeatedly expression of its anti-Israel intentions, although its main goals for now are still focused on harming Egypt). This has remained the case even amid the numerous Israeli strikes that were described in Israel as “urgent”, and will not bear fruit without joint security coordination between Israel and Cairo to control the activity of terrorist groups and their extremist activities and movements in Sinai.

  If the estimates related to the strikes launched by these terrorist organizations in Sinai are aimed at (threatening the stability of Tel Aviv and the Israeli response mechanism against them), it is reasonable to assume that the leaders of the “Islamic State of Sinai” who were realised the growing role of the “Israeli army” in  Sinai.  However, they have not yet changed their policy toward Israel, especially with their awareness of the sensitivity of relations between Cairo and Washington, as a result of the United States not inviting Egypt and the countries of the region to attend the democracy conference.

    The current situation has worsened dangerously at the present time, especially after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and ISIS defied Washington by intensifying its attacks on several main targets, especially on “Kabul Airport in Afghanistan”, and the announcement of ISIS with its headquarters in the Afghan state of “Khursan” for its responsibility for the attack and the killing of dozens of American soldiers themselves. This means, that (Israel’s security may have become threatened in light of the close US-Israeli alliance in the region and the extensions of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq “ISIS” to the Sinai land in Egypt, near the border areas with Israel, and thus its security threat).

  Although ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria lost almost all of their territory, from here (the Sinai Peninsula may become the only remaining “province” of the organization), which makes it a suitable haven for fighters from other fronts, all of whom target the security and threat of Israe

   Also, the Egyptian government’s lack of control over the Sinai Peninsula, due to the “annexes of the Camp David agreement with Israel”, carries with it great potential for the extremist organization to target the security of the Hebrew state, as it gives it great opportunities to extort resources from the local population and military personnel, and (expand its support among residents, and perhaps take advantage of its proximity to the Israeli border).

  Here, all Israeli and American military analyzes affirm with certainty that the “Islamic State” organization and its supporters in Sinai will do everything in their power (continuing to work in Israel or working with other countries to threaten Tel Aviv itself).

    However, it is likely that the facts on the ground will make Sinai the next focal point for ISIS, and this will be more important and dangerous than ever, and will serve as a (security dilemma that Israel is severely facing, therefore, the support of the Egyptian army in its battle against these terrorist organizations, their extremist activities and movements has become the duty of both Israeli and American leaders themselves).

  Hence, (Strengthening the stability of the Egyptian state and consolidating its sovereignty to protect Israel security and maintain the security of Sinai is a very important strategic goal).  In recent years, Israel has sought to facilitate the achievement of this goal by agreeing to temporary amendments to the security arrangements of the “Camp David Accords”, and this has already been done recently. Especially with (the successive Egyptian security requests since the revolution of January 25, 2011 until recently from the Israeli and American sides to work together to maintain the security of Sinai), and thus not to endanger Israeli security due to the succession of these terrorist incidents on the Sinai land near the border with Israel.

   Perhaps this explains the reasons for this increasing repeatedly demand from Cairo for getting the required (permission from the United States of America and Israel itself to deploy large-scale armored forces in the Sinai Peninsula, and Israel generally agreed to this request, and Egypt granted extensions of treaty exceptions according to need).  According to published Israeli security and military reports, Israel is also greatly assisting the Egyptian forces in the field of intelligence and air strikes in the region to thwart terrorist operations near the Tel Aviv borders.

  Despite my reading of American and Western academic analyzes, in which other Western analysts assert that Cairo has given the “Israeli army” absolute freedom to target fighters in Sinai with manned and unmanned aircraft.  However, from my point of view, the result is one, and it is represented in the importance of the joint security agreement and coordination between Israel, Egypt, with Washington to “confront the activities of all extremist terrorist organizations against the security of Sinai because of their common danger to the security of Israel and Cairo”.

  Although Cairo’s assistance to Israel is very important, this goal does not cancel the basic security concept on which the “Camp David Agreement” and the military annex of Sinai are based, meaning that:    

(Maintaining Sinai as an impenetrable barrier against any future hostilities  It may reach Israel from Egypt)

   We can explain all of the revolutionary events during the “period of the Arab Spring revolutions”, specifically the revolutions of January 25, 2011 and the June 30 revolution in Egypt in 2013 – especially after the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo – during the events of the revolution, and even the subsequent coming of the rule of the “Muslim Brotherhood” after a few months, it is evidence of the extent of the instability of the situation, and how important it is to keep the Sinai Peninsula under the Egyptian-Israeli security control, in view of (the long-term growth and spread of terrorism, extremism and arms movement, which threatens Israeli national security).

  Thus, Sinai constitutes a real and growing dilemma for both Israeli and American policy. On the one hand, it is necessary to provide as much assistance as possible to Cairo to (re-establish its sovereignty and prevent destabilizing shocks to Israel’s stability). On the other hand, the ongoing fighting leads to the possibility of instability in the Sinai borders parallel to Israel, so Israel must be prepared for any scenario. Hence, the (necessity of coordination between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai to eliminate the danger of extremism, terrorism and militants close to the Egyptian and Israeli fronts alike).

   Hence, the Egyptian researcher can accurately analyze the situation and perhaps (from a different analytical angle) that Egypt’s failure to invite “President Joe Biden’s administration to the Conference of Democracies” has serious and long-term repercussions on the security of Sinai and even on the political and regional stability in the region in  “Not inviting any Arab or regional party to the conference of democracies with the exception of Israel and Iraq,” and this would increase the level and degree of security sensitivities between Cairo and Tel Aviv.  the depth of the Israeli state itself), and thus launching more destabilizing attacks from inside Tel Aviv, which Washington did not pay close attention to.

   Hence, it is possible to understand and analyze “behind this American step by excluding Egypt and the countries of the region from their democracy”, which is:

  The effect and implications of not inviting Cairo, the Arab Gulf states, and the entire Arab region to the Conference of American Democracies under the auspices of “Biden”, will inevitably affect the (level of joint contacts to promote more Israeli peace plans with the countries of the region with American support), and will affect the degree of joint security and political coordination between the three (Egyptian, Israeli, American) parties, which will increase the danger, activity and penetration of all these extremist terrorist organizations, especially what is known as, the “Islamic State Organization of the Sinai Province”, as well as the danger of (the intertwining and growing extension of “ISIS” into Sinai itself and launching attacks against Israel)

    Hence, the Biden administration has caused (the spread of extremism, terrorism and religious extremism on the land of Sinai, and the most important threat to Israel’s security from within and on its borders), which Washington may not have taken into account, in order to preserve the interests of its Israeli partner, so perhaps  Israel must urgently demand its American ally to reduce attempts to provoke its Egyptian neighbor and the rest of the Arab and Gulf countries, even the printing press with it, in accordance with peace agreements, normalization, and security and borders coordination, in order to preserve the security of Israel itself, and to preserve the joint military-security coordination mechanism between Egypt and Israel under American auspices, so that the amendment of the “new Camp David security amendment” to allow the Egyptian presence and Israeli coordination and their military deployment in the Sinai does not turn into an extreme and very dangerous targeting of all Israelis, thus undermining and targeting  Washington’s interests, by extension, in Egypt and the region.

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Middle East

The question with contradictory US human rights policies towards Saudi Arabia and Iran

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A cursory look at Saudi Arabia and Iran suggests that emphasizing human rights in US foreign policy may complicate relations but has little impact on regional stability or the willingness of protagonists to reduce tension and manage conflicts when it is in their interest.

A post 9/11 US emphasis on human rights was not what inspired homegrown popular Arab revolts over the past decade that initially toppled leaders in eight Arab countries but were largely rolled back or stymied by counter-revolutionary US allies.

The UAE and Saudi counter-revolutionary efforts put the two Gulf states on the autocratic frontline of President Joe Biden’s democracy versus autocracy dichotomy. They were motivated by a rejection of democracy as an existential challenge to the absolute power of their ruling families.

Subsequent US administrations effectively let the counter-revolutionary moves pass, although, to be fair, the Biden administration has suspended $700 million in aid to Sudan following a military power grab in October. However, it has yet to do the same with an additional $500 million for Tunisia. Democratically elected President Kais Saied disbanded parliament in July and assumed the power to enact laws.

By the same token, Middle Eastern protagonists, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran, opted to reduce tensions and explore ways of managing their differences to focus on reforming and diversifying their economies, fuelling growth, and stimulating trade.

In other words, they would have sought to reduce tensions even if they had not anticipated that the Biden administration would adopt a more human rights and democratic values-driven foreign policy and would want to focus on Asia rather than the Middle East.

If anything, a contentious relationship with the United States could have provided a further incentive for reducing tensions. Yemen, which figured prominently in Iran’s talks with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, may be a case in point.

As a result, the regional moves raise the question of whether a US refusal to stand up for principle produces the kind of short-term results that outweigh the long-term cost of autocracy as well as the price of undermining US credibility.

The short-term results of abandoning principle for pragmatism were evident in this week’s shift in oil politics.

The shift was prompted by US efforts to assure the kingdom and other Gulf states that the United States was no longer in the regime change business. US officials also insisted that the administration would concentrate on maintaining and strengthening regional partnerships. They signaled that the administration’s lip service to human rights and democratic values would not have policy consequences.

The message was well received in Riyadh. In response, Saudi Arabia reversed its rejection of Mr. Biden’s request to increase oil production to reduce soaring prices at US gas stations.

The de facto leader of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the cartel’s largest producer, Saudi Arabia, said the group and its associates, which include Russia, would increase monthly production by 400,000 barrels a day.

The Saudi concession also came in response to the administration’s willingness to sell the kingdom US$650 million worth of missiles. The sale threatened to further call into question the credibility of the United States as it prepared to host this week’s virtual Summit for Democracy, which some 110 countries are expected to attend.

The administration says the sale is in line with its policy of supplying only defensive weapons to the kingdom as US officials push for an end to the devastating, almost seven-year-long Yemen war that has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Administration officials assert that the missiles would enable Saudi Arabia to shoot down Houthi drones in the air before they hit targets in the kingdom but cannot be used for attacks against the rebels in Yemen itself.

The Senate vote could set the tone for the democracy summit. Anti-Saudi sentiment runs deep in the US Congress. A vote against the sale would force Mr. Biden to cancel it or override the Senate with a veto.

Saudi violations of human rights, the killing in 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the kingdom’s crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression, and its conduct of the Yemen war fueled the anti-Saudi sentiment.

With the arms sale on the line, the administration has remained silent about reports that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had used a combination of economic incentives and threats to pressure African and Asian nations to vote for the shutdown of a United Nations investigation into abuses of human rights in the war.

Meanwhile, the administration’s efforts to reassure Middle Eastern nations that its policy emphasis has changed has done little to prevent Iranian negotiators at the Vienna talks on reviving a 2015 international agreement that curbed the country’s nuclear programme from hardening their positions.

Iran believes that the United States and, at least until recently, some of its Gulf allies, aim to encircle the Islamic republic and foment domestic unrest that will lead to the regime’s fall. The US has imposed crippling sanctions in response to its nuclear programme and harshly criticized Iran for its abusive human rights record.

That has not stopped Iran from engaging in separate talks with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which appear to be producing results in Yemen.

As a result of those talks, Saudi and Emirati forces, and their Yemeni allies, were reportedly withdrawing from positions in southern and western parts of the country.

 “These are very likely the opening moves by Saudi Arabia and the UAE as they prepare to fully exit Yemen,” said former member of the United Nations Panel of Experts on Yemen Gregory D. Johnson.

The war has increasingly turned into an albatross around Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s neck, with much of the international community wanting to see an end to the conflict.

It was not immediately clear if and what Iran may have offered in return for the withdrawals that have allowed the Houthis to move into evacuated spaces. “The latest developments seem to suggest that the Houthis seem on the edge of gaining the upper hand,” said NATO Foundation analyst Umberto Profazio.

In line with that assessment, the Houthis have not indicated that they had become more interested in a negotiated end to the war.

“It is clear that the Houthis intend to try to bring down the Yemen government. The Iranians, I believe, would like to see the same,” said US special envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking.

The Emirati withdrawals, particularly around the strategic port of Hodeida, follow gestures including an effort to return internationally isolated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab fold and an exchange of visits with Iran. Syrian membership in the Arab League was suspended early in the civil war.

Some analysts suggested that the withdrawals in Yemen were part of an effort to build confidence. However, it was not clear why the Saudis and Emiratis would cede strategic territory with no apparent Iranian or Houthi concessions in return unless they were looking for a rush to the exit no matter what.

“The pull-out was unnecessary to open new frontlines, and Hodeida seems to have paid the price for confidence-building with Iran,” said Yemen analyst Ibrahim Jalal.

The withdrawals, including from Mara on the Yemeni border with Oman, help Saudi Arabia put its backyard in order. Saudi operations in Mara irritated Oman that sees the Yemeni region as its sphere of influence.

The withdrawals helped facilitate a visit to Oman by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week. Mr. Bin Salman may try to reach an agreement during the visit to construct a pipeline from the kingdom’s oil fields to an export terminal in Oman. The pipeline would allow Saudi Arabia is to circumvent the Strait of Hormuz.

In the final analysis of the pros and cons of a values-driven US foreign policy, hardline realists will argue that backing down on rights produces tangible results.

Yet, the United States’ selective and opportunistic hardline emphasis on rights and values in Iran has not prevented the Islamic republic from engaging with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and possibly helping to end the Yemen war. The pressure may have been one factor that persuaded Iran to engage.

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Middle East

Democracy Summit: Excluding countries and igniting the Cold War in the Middle East

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A number of American leaks have appeared at the present time for several American think tanks that have reached a dangerous conclusion, which is: (The United States of America must re-use the influence of the extremist Islamic currents and radical political Islam movements in the Middle East and Africa to confront the rise of China in the first place). Hence, the first practical American application of this through the conference to divide the world democratically, according to the American concept, through the following possible scenarios:

   Washington may have practically started using the game of “rapprochement with extremist currents in the face of communist China”, which can be understood through (the United States of America is currently trying to re-use the strategy of rapprochement with extremist currents and political Islam currents in the face of the Chinese and Russian communist enemy as well), and made them raise  Ideological slogans whose purpose is to “ignite the region sectarianly and religiously and cause chaos and turmoil”, and Washington helps in this the ambitions of some nascent national forces in the Middle East, or perhaps some individuals and civil organizations with narrow, limited interests at the expense and in the face of their homelands.

   The American prominent book, which is called (The Devil’s Game: Political Islam and the United States), which was published by “Robert Dreyfuss”, who is an American scholar, specializing in political Islam, is one of the most academic efforts close to understanding the support of the United States and the West in general for the project of so-called political Islam, as well as presenting, highlighting and analyzing of (all American plans aimed at attracting the extremist currents in the Middle East, bringing them closer and using them by the USA to cause unrest in their regions), by fueling their exploitation in achieving sectarian and religious fanaticism in the Arab world.

   Here, the author of the aforementioned book, “Robert Dreyfuss”, presented many of the mysteries and unknown reasons about those (secret and mysterious alliances that the United States of America made with Muslim Brotherhood groups and the other political Islam movements in Egypt and the other countries in the region), over a period of several decades to sponsor and encourage the Islamic currents and radicalism, whether by US secret agreements with them or perhaps by manipulating them as well, so that (the United States of America will use them later in its cold war against China ideologically).

  Perhaps the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister “Wang Yi” to the Middle East in March 2021, who summarized his trip in several words, concerning the Chinese response in the Middle East to the policy of American alliances and polarization, by asserting that:

 “China and the countries agreed on the need to respect sovereign independence and national dignity for all countries, and to promote independent and diversified avenues of development”

   The official Chinese media also supported the speech of its Chinese Foreign Minister, “Wang Yi” and his assurances to all countries in the Middle East region, by confirming that:

 “It was agreed to oppose interference in the internal affairs of the other countries and slander others under the guise of human rights and the protection of the international system, so that the United Nations “UN” would be the core of the international order based on international law, pluralism, fairness and international justice”

   The analyses and the main visions of the Chinese think tanks, which are considered that: the failure of the United States of America to invite the countries of the region to the conference of democracies in the world is (the beginning of the “Joe Biden’s administration” leaving the Middle East for China).

  So, the logic results for the American provocation to the Middle East region, according to the Chinese way of thinking, represents in: (deepening China’s relations with the Middle East countries outside the scope of trade should worry the United States of America), especially since the administration of US President “Joe Biden” has recently taken steps to reduce interest in the region, thus opening the door to Chinese hegemony in accordance with the American vision.

   And perhaps in my viewpoint that (the Conference of American Democracies is the beginning of the American vacuum in favor of China and Russia), which is the same as what was confirmed by a former senior official in American national security, and a close advisor to President “Joe Biden” in a report published in the “American Politico Newspaper”, confirming it frankly by saying:

  “If you were to rank the regions that “Biden” considers a priority, the Middle East is not among the top three. Because, the main top priorities are: the Asia-Pacific region, then Europe, and the Western Hemisphere, and this reflects a bipartisan consensus that the issues of our interest has changed with the return of the great-power competition with China and Russia”

   Hence, we conclude, that with China competing for more international (militarily, economically, technologically and politically) influence, to become the largest power in the world by 2049, according to its stated strategy. So, here we find that (the Middle East is likely to become decisive, whether the United States of America prioritizes it or not).

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