As the fight for presidency by the republican and democratic candidates get intensified US with a very few candidates remaining for the contest, President Barack Obama must know his happy days at White House are coming to an end soon. World expects Obama to ensure peace in Mideast as his major achievement by arm twisting the unwilling fanatic and fascist regime Israel to agree for credible peace as per the Arab peace Plan of 2002 that would have full cooperation of the GCC and entire world frantically seeking a new peaceful ea in west Asia.
The question is will Obama care for world opinion at all when his opinions are not at all listened to by anyone including Israeli leaders? Does it not mean the Obama diplomacy has failed!
Israel, imposed on Mideast into Palestine in 1948 by USA-UK big twins, has over years of western aid and arms& technology supply has become a monstrous fascist and illegal nuclear power in the region, threatening the very existence of Palestinians. The Zionist regime has taken the ‘permanent’ US shield for all criminal operations against humanity for granted and so much that today Jews decide the foreign policy for USA especially for West Asia and South Asia.
The US presidents make ritual trips to Israel not to declare the continuous US led Western support but in doing so Washington openly admits that the Israeli role in the foreign policy making of USA, especially in West and South Asia. It is not surprising that many countries like India are trying to be in the good books of Israel and strike military deals for Zionist terror equipment. .
When he assumed power at White House, there was a strong belief in the world that US President Barack Obama would try to fight for world peace and get the Palestinians out of Israeli terror blockades and stop the Israeli illegal occupation and crimes against humanity, by ending their intermittent terror attacks. However, he disappointed the world by supporting the Israeli terror regime in Mideast because he was pursuing the US national interest in Mideast by using Israel.
As the regular US President, Barack Obama just advance the imperialist and capitalist policies very religiously. Though he protected the US-Israeli secret nexus and Pentagon supply of terror goods to Tel Aviv, Obama once famously said he would “always have Israel’s back,” may be rethinking that promise as aides begin weighing options in response to Israeli leader Netanyahu’s election criticism of Obama’s foreign policy and his disapproval of a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
When, some time back, President Obama warned that the United States would reassess its relationship with Israel though Israel did not think any new problem cropping up in the bilateral relations as it is the ‘prime duty’ of USA and its NATO allies to shield Israeli regime. However, following Obama’s warning that the United States would “reassess” its relationship with Israel, the White House was not only reconsidering the diplomatic cover along with veto it has long given Israel at the United Nations but was also looking at a range of other possibilities to put pressure on its historically close ally to help resolve the Palestine issue. Bu later, when Palestine pushed for full UN status for conducting international affairs as a soverign nation, Obama used its power to support Israel and oppose Palestine. Obama thus reveled his true Zionist color. Even US officials who hitherto promoted Zionist regime and shielded all its crimes against humanity by misusing media networks have begun take a strong position on Israel. .
As a fascist tradition, US presidents not only misuse the American parliament to support all Zionist crimes against humanity but also, in order to obtain political support of US Jews, encourage the criminal ruler so Israel to address the august body in Washington. But the US parliament is meant for Americans to pass laws, among other things.
Why should US leaders allow Israeli leaders to address the US lawmakers – is there something common between them? Do the US values like capitalism and imperialism plus fascism serve as the strong bridge between Israeli East and American West?
Americans should be ashamed of the fact that off and on Israeli leaders insist on addressing the US Congress to discuss Israeli politics and instruct US policy makers – both domestic and foreign – the course they are supposed to pursue in a given situation. When they persistently insist, the Republicans and even Democrats make the necessary ‘arrangement’ for hawkish Zionist rulers to address the US lawmakers. Israeli leaders address the US Congress and direct the president to execute what is necessary for the promotion of Israeli regime.
Let Israeli leaders are free to misuse their own parliament Knesset for mere anti-Palestine, anti-Arab propaganda purposes but how can they do the same of misusing US parliament for that purpose?
There is an emerging opinion among most Americans to let Israel defend its own actions and crimes against humanity and Washington should be less active in protecting Israel in international forums. The bipartisan leaders are finding new ways to reinforce the message of US opposition to Jewish settlement expansion.
Many Arab leaders and governments have come to view Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its behavior towards the Palestinians as strictly an Israeli-Palestinian problem, not an Arab one. That’s a departure from a bygone era when the struggle against the occupation was a central theme that brought Arab states together. Therefore, Qatar’s official foreign policy towards the occupation and the plight of Palestinians sets it apart from the majority of the Arab world.
Recently, the 16th Doha Forum has wrapped up with speakers from around the world touching on issues ranging from global and regional security to conflict resolution and climate change. Achieving Middle East peace directly linked to ending Israel’s occupation of Palestine and Israel must end occupation of Palestine, said Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdurrahman Al Thani, while speaking at the 16th Doha Forum. He stressed the need to support human rights and bolster security for the people of the Middle East region – and around the world. “Repression, tyranny, double standards and violating human rights and basic freedoms constitute the underlying threats to elements of human security,” he said. According to Sheikh Mohammed, achieving peace in the volatile Middle East is directly linked to ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem. Al Thani also made it clear the main foreign policy instrument of his country is the soft diplomacy of “mediation” efforts, while at the same time “discouraging the use of force by Israeli regime to resolve disputes”.
Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s chief negotiator with Israel, spoke about his people’s need for international backing to force Israel to end its decades-old takeover of Palestinian lands. Erekat compared what he called the “right-wing extremism” of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, with that of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. “What is the difference between one who calls himself the leader of the Jewish state, and another who calls himself as the leader of the Islamic State,” he said in one his many sharp rebukes of Netanyahu. “The two-state solution is the only possible solution that would put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people,” he said.
Even as international outcry for the creation of Palestine state and internal discussions on containing Israeli aggression continue unabated, Obama seems not to be in hurry to solve the worst ever conflict in human history. The US double speak is evident from the way the USA plays mischief with Palestine and GCC at the same time by speaking for the Zionist crimes.
However, the White House appeared in no rush to lower the temperature in the worst US-Israeli crisis in decades, sparked by Netanyahu’s campaign declaration that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. The White House officially made clear that it had little faith in Netanyahu’s effort to backtrack since winning election and insist he was in favour of a two-state solution, long a cornerstone of US Middle East policy.
Interestingly, there was no sign of any imminent move to turn the administration’s heated rhetoric against Netanyahu into a tangible shift in policy.
As USA was readying for a nuclear deal with Ira against the will of is real, some analysts questioned whether Washington was merely posturing to put the Israeli leader on the defensive at a time when an end-of-March deadline looms in US-led nuclear diplomacy with Iran that Netanyahu vehemently opposes. The Obama government put everything on the table except security assistance, thinking this would allow Netanyahu time to walk back his comments on Obama more credibly.
Obama eyed on the powerful US Jewish support for the Democrats in Presidency poll. The US officials privately were mindful of the risk that the diplomatic storm could drive a deeper wedge between the White House and the influential US pro-Israel lobbyist camp and cause problems for Obama’s fellow Democrats as the 2016 presidential campaign approaches. Many strategists voiced skepticism that the US government would shift its stance towards Israel in any substantive way, arguing that despite White House annoyance at Netanyahu, there would likely be too high a domestic political cost to pay for alienating pro-Israel Americans.
But the White House pressure had other motives as well. There’s an effort to apply leverage to the Israelis to get the prime minister to move on some things when he has a new government formed, as there was a US wish to see Israel release frozen Palestinian tax funds and take other goodwill gestures.
Israel takes care not to annoy Washington beyond certain point as it depends on US veto to shield its crimes from any possible punitive measures against the criminal rulers for its crimes against Palestinians and humanity at large. Among the most serious risks for Israel would be a shift in Washington’s posture at the United Nations. If USA refuses to use its veto for Israel , all Jewish leaders would be in jails.
The United States has long stood in the way of Palestinian efforts to get a UN resolution recognizing its statehood, including threatening to use its veto, and has protected Israel from efforts to isolate it internationally. But most European governments incensed by Netanyahu’s campaign comments against Palestinian statehood, have joined in another push for such a resolution, ignoring US-Israel pressure tactics.
David Makovsky, a former member of Obama’s team in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed last year, said the question is: “Will the U.S. consider avoiding a veto over the parameters to a final-status deal with the Palestinians?” “There’s no doubt that this approach will lead to a firestorm between these two governments if they go forward,” said Makovsky, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Another option under consideration could also be controversial. A report from the government to Congress about US loan guarantees to Israel, including how much is used for settlements, could contain language critical of expanded construction on occupied land in the West Bank.
Today humanity is fully aware of destructive and anti-human nature of capitalism that promotes expansionist military trends like imperialism and colonialism. Occupation of and continued Israeli aggression against Palestine, like Indian brute occupation of neighboring Jammu Kashmir, does not let peace dawn in the world. Even countries that seek help from the USA, Israel or India also condemn the brutality and repression of these ‘rogue’ powers against the oppressed nations under their colonial yoke, notwithstanding the “help” being offered by the colonialist nations.
All these years ever since Israel was established in Mideast by the then big powers led by UK-USA twins, the western rulers pampered the illegal regime in Mideast with terror goods and technology, and money, today Israel has every reason not to take any warning from western capitals seriously and deny a chance for peace in West Asia. Comprehending the total failure of his triclomacy, President began supporting the Israeli fascism as part of NATO imperialism.
That is tragedy of the Palestinians and diplomacy itself.
Will Obama’s United States is not likely to reverse its opposition to the powerless Palestinians becoming a full-fledged UN member and a soverign nation? Instead of stopping a large sized aid and terror goods supply to Israel, some fanatic US lawmakers already have threatened to push for a cutoff of the meager US aid to the Palestinian Authority whenever it talks about sovereignty from the Zionist fascist yoke or goes ahead with seeking justice and war crimes charges against Israel for war crimes in the Gaza Strip, killing thousands of innocent Palestinians, women their children inclusive.
Will Obama refuse meetings with Israeli leaders and their US lobbyist till he leaves the White House?
President Obama has to take hard decision to disobey US Jewish dictates and declare Palestine a soverign state and support the cause of Palestine UN, by using veto for the Palestine for a change. Will he?
Or, will the White House seeker Trump who is not sympathized with Palestinians make a shift in his approach by openly supporting the Palestinians cause, if he elected to presidency?
It is really funny that President Obama is unable to make Israel listen to him when USA offers huge aid packages to Israel but some American senators and Congress men – the traitors of US democratic foundations for freedom and peace – get sumptuous bribes from Israeli government and Jewish politicians to help the Israeli regime eat the US terror cake.
Obama has enough economic and military tools to get a positive response from Tel Aviv only if he has the will and broad-mind a true statesman should have!
Whether Obama decides to change the petrified US policy for Palestine and Arab world or not, time is overdue for US lawmakers and law-breakers to think seriously about the future of children of Palestine and protect its people as part of their international duty.
Enough of shielding the Zionist criminal wars!
Paris Peace Forum: A missed opportunity for the Middle East
Timed to coincide with the centennial of the World War I armistice, the Paris Peace Forum (PPF) launched by French president Emmanuel Macron adopted a welcome approach to the root causes of contemporary conflict, including climate change and the double-edged sword represented by new technologies.
The forum, which took place from November 11-13, showcased projects that spoke to the innovation and collaboration critical to improving lives and reducing tensions across the globe.
Conspicuous by their absence
Even though the summit saw 65 heads of state from all over the world come together to launch the event, precious few of those leaders came from the Middle East – even though the region could benefit as much as any other part of the world from this “Davos for democracy.” While this first peace summit represented a promising start, any future editions need to find a way to make inroads with citizens in the countries where they are needed most. Of course, this is a two-way street, with leaders in those countries needing to participate in and draw lessons from such gatherings.
The Middle East’s most notable representatives at the event were Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri. Their presence was fitting: while so many of their neighbors jostle with each other to secure their own geopolitical ends, Qatar and Lebanon have faced down the instability surrounding them to protect themselves from dangerous regional currents. Unfortunately, the leaders who could have really used reminding of the importance of peace were absent from the stage.
An “island” of stability
Qatar, for its part, has been the subject of a regional blockade for the best part of 18 months. A coalition of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have all severed ties with the country since June 2017 for its alleged “support for terrorism” but more realistically for its willingness to deal with Iran against a backdrop of acrimony between the two sides of the Gulf. The Saudis, for their part, have gone so far as planning to cut Qatar off from the mainland with a new canal.
Far from buckling, however, Qatar has proven remarkably resilient and stuck firmly to a strategy of de-escalation with both sides of the Saudi-Iranian cold war. Events since have rewarded that cool-headedness. Global markets nervous about the turbulence in Riyadh are now looking to Qatar as a regional investment driver instead. Ironically enough, none other than Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman praised the performance of the Qatari economy last month.
Delicate peace in Beirut
Lebanon has had greater difficulty insulating itself from the instability across its border with Syria, but Saad Hariri has nonetheless maintained a fragile domestic peace even after an apparent kidnapping and forced resignation (later rescinded) orchestrated by bin Salman in November of last year. Hariri was detained for two weeks and only released on the back of intense international pressure, apparently out of Saudi anger with the Lebanese premier for cooperating with his Shi’a Hezbollah rivals in Lebanon.
In Lebanon’s torturous system of confessional politics, however, difficult compromises are the nature of the game. Hariri and his Sunni-led political movement have no choice but to negotiate with Hezbollah’s Shi’a faction over the balance of political power on an ongoing basis to keep the country stable. Hariri’s resistance to Saudi demands for aggression has helped keep the peace between Lebanese Sunnis and Shi’a, preventing the sectarian fires that have torn Syria apart from jumping across the border.
External actors have key roles to play
Of course, none of the crises in the Middle East can be viewed in a vacuum. One key part of the program at the Paris Peace Forum summit – entitled Global Powers and the Middle East – focused on the responsibility of outside powers like the United States, Russia, China, Europe and India to find common ground and address the causes of Middle Eastern instability. Left unsaid: these same countries are often deeply involved in perpetuating these crises.
If American, European, or Russian leaders truly want to prevent conflicts in the Middle East, their first step should probably be a sort of Hippocratic oath to “do no harm.” The arms trade is a notable case in point. The Middle East is responsible for 32% of global arms imports. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE are three of the five largest customers; their primary suppliers are the US, UK, France, Italy, and Russia.
Rather than encourage stability, this supply of weapons has fed a volatile arms race. Much of that equipment has been used by the Saudi coalition’s intervention in Yemen, which has left eight million Yemenis are the brink of starvation and the country confronting the fastest growing cholera epidemic the world has ever seen. Russia has openly used the civil war in Syria as a venue for showing off its military hardware to potential customers worldwide, even as Bashar al-Assad’s regime continues to massacre civilians.
Instead of helping their local allies arm themselves to the teeth, these outside powers should push Middle Eastern governments to change their damaging patterns of behavior and undertake the kinds of social reforms that are instrumental in easing tensions. Otherwise, systemic inequality and unaccountable leadership will continue to lay the groundwork for conflicts and crises. That might enrich weapons manufacturers, but it will do nothing to achieve the goals pursued in Paris this week.
The sanctions of a split
The tough economic sanctions imposed by the United States against Iran have aggravated conflict between Washington and its close allies. The European Union, the United Kingdom, France and Germany have expressed regret over measures taken by American President Donald Trump and signaled the need to protect their companies. Simultaneously, eight countries have received a six-month “sanctions delay” from the United States, which produced a further negative effect on the balance of strength and set the scene for a further escalation of tension.
The United States announced the resumption of anti-Iranian sanctions, which ban the purchase of Iranian oil and oil products, on November 5. The US Treasury Department pointed out that they were the “toughest” in history: “These are the toughest U.S. sanctions ever imposed on Iran, and will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as the energy, shipping and shipbuilding, and financial sectors. The United States is engaged in a campaign of maximum financial pressure on the Iranian regime and intends to enforce aggressively these sanctions that have come back into effect.”
“The unprecedented financial pressure exerted by the US Treasury Department on Iran should make it clear to the Iranian regime that it will face ever-increasing financial isolation and economic stagnation until it radically changes its destabilizing behavior. From now on, the maximum pressure exerted by the United States will only increase,” – emphasizes US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin. Washington makes it no secret that the ultimate goal of the sanctions is to reduce oil exports from Iran “to zero.”
Over 700 individuals and legal entities have been put on the sanctions list, including the Iranian national air company Iran Air, more than 65 aircraft it owns, and several dozen ships of the merchant fleet. The sanctions prohibit the purchase of Iranian oil and are directed against port operators, shipping and shipbuilding companies, the financial sector, – primarily tanker insurance companies, – and also restrict operations with Iran’s banks and Central Bank.
Fines will be imposed on anyone who trades oil with Iran and works with its banking system. Secondary sanctions (fines and shutout from the dollar system) may be imposed on companies of third countries. The US also demanded that Iran should be cut off from the SWIFT international payment system. According to reports, on November 5 SWIFT suspended access of some Iranian banks to its system, but without reference to the US sanctions.
This step followed President Trump’s announcement in May this year about Washington’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action on the Iranian nuclear program. Adopted in 2015 with the participation of Iran, the USA, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the document envisages easing sanctions against Tehran in exchange for its measures to wrap up its nuclear program under the control of the IAEA. The US president dubbed it “the worst deal ever,” saying that it does nothing to stop Iran from pursing its nuclear and missile programs. After Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, the other participants expressed their commitment to this document.
Two days before the sanctions package was put into effect, US President Donald Trump made it clear that the United States was ready to conclude a new agreement with Iran on more stringent conditions. “Our objective is to force the regime into a clear choice: either abandon its destructive behavior, or continue down the path toward economic disaster”, – the US president said on November 3: “The sanctions will target revenues the Iranian regime uses to fund its nuclear program, development and proliferation of ballistic missiles, fuel regional conflict, support terrorism and enrich its leaders”. At the same time, according to Donald Trump, “the United States remains open to reaching a new, more comprehensive deal with Iran that forever blocks its path to a nuclear weapon, addresses the entire range of its malign actions, and is worthy of the Iranian people. Until then, our historic sanctions will remain in full force”.
Having introduced “unprecedentedly tough” sanctions against Tehran, Donald Trump, as part of his business approach to international affairs, left substantial “windows of opportunity” for the subsequent bargaining on a wider range of issues of the international agenda. The USA made an exception for eight states. China, India, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea were allowed to buy Iranian oil temporarily. According to the London-based Financial Times, these countries will be able to import a limited amount of Iranian oil over the next six months.
Simultaneously, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that more than 20 countries have already cut down on oil exports from Iran, reducing purchases by more than 1 million barrels per day. Independent sources indicate that average daily oil production in Iran fell from 3.8 million barrels in May to 3.3 million barrels in early October. This is quite a lot: because of the reduction, Iran loses about 1 billion dollars a month.
Given that the above exemptions from the sanctions list are temporary, the United States will likely resume political and economic bargaining with the eight countries in spring, with a view to preserve a favorable regime for these countries. In the first place, it concerns China. President Donald Trump will try to use the “Iranian factor” in order to achieve maximum concessions on trade and economic issues from Beijing. Among other things, he will probably make an attempt to force the Chinese side to reconsider joint energy projects with Russia. In the meantime, China’s response to the US decision to resume the anti-Iranian sanctions has been markedly restrained. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has called on Washington to respect China’s trade rights and expressed “regret” that the United States relaunched sanctions against Iran.
A much more resolute response came from the European Union – whose trade and economic interests are affected by anti-Iranian sanctions first. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, as well as the foreign ministers of Great Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement in which they promised to protect their companies from restrictive US measures. “Our goal is to protect the subjects of the European economy that have legal commercial ties with Iran,” the document states.
In the meantime, the European Union is confronted with the problem of creating a specific structure that would allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran without risking falling under Washington’s sanctions. Brussels reported in October that a new mechanism of payment for Iranian oil exports should be legally ready by November 4, and would go into operation in early 2019. However, according to The Financial Times, by the time the current sanctions were introduced, the Europeans did not have even a legal foundation for the defense mechanism and had not come to agreement on the location of the corresponding “special purpose structure” (SPV). “Now we are actively discussing where the SPV will be located, who will participate in it, and are launching the process of registering it. Time is short, and given the complexity and sensitivity of this issue in the light of its geopolitical consequences, we see very rapid and effective progress,” – said a representative of the French Finance Ministry.
For Europeans, sensitivity of this issue lies in their unwillingness to come under tough Washington’s sanctions themselves – especially in the context of deepening trade and economic differences between the US and the EU. “The US authorities are demonstrating that they will act aggressively towards violators of sanctions, which boosts the effect,” warns partner of law firm Morrison & Foerster and former director of the Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury John Smith. “When the United States threatens to punish violators and does it in practice, examples of punished companies force others to think seriously,” he said in an interview published by the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal.
Without waiting for the sanctions regime to come into effect, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani stated that Tehran would be able to overcome it. “America wants to bring down Iran’s oil sales, but we will continue to sell oil to break through the sanctions,” he said.
Tehran could not but point out the fact that the resumption of the US sanctions package against Iran coincided with the anniversary of the capture of the US embassy during the Islamic revolution in Tehran in 1979. Addressing his compatriots, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “The goal of American sanctions is to cripple and restrain the Iranian economy, but the result we obtained in reality was the country’s striving for self-sufficiency.” “The main objective of the United States in all this is to regain the supremacy it had in the period of tyranny. But this will not happen,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
Meanwhile, Tehran does not attach any fundamental significance to the exclusion of eight states from the sanctions regime. “The Islamic Republic could sell its oil even if these eight countries were not excluded, we would still sell our oil,” said Hassan Rouhani in this regard.
The anti-Iranian sanctions imposed by Washington have not yet had a direct impact on Russia. The sanctions list published by the US Treasury contains only the Russian “daughter” of the Iranian Bank Melli – the Mir Business Bank, registered in Moscow (MB Bank). Its shareholder is Bank Melli Iran, which, according to the United States, provides multi-billion financial, material and technological support to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). “Bank Melli enabled the IRGC and its related parties to transfer funds both inside and outside Iran,” the statement of the US Treasury said. JSC Mir Business Bank was registered in Moscow in 2002. Bank Melli Iran is its sole shareholder.
According to reports, the Trump administration has decided not to pursue the Russian direction in its pressure on Iran ahead of a new meeting of the presidents of Russia and the United States due to take place at the end of this year. The meeting could be held on November 11 in Paris, at events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, or — more likely — at the G-20 summit in Argentina in late November – early December this year. However, regardless of the outcome of this meeting, Russia should bear it in mind that its trade and economic ties with Iran, and in a broader context – relations with OPEC – will become the target of a new round of global games of the US administration.
First published in our partner International Affairs
The Khashoggi crisis: Saudi Arabia braces for tougher post-election US attitude
Saudi Arabia is bracing itself for a potentially more strained relationship with the United States in the wake of Democrats gaining control of the House of Representatives in this week’s mid-term elections and mounting Turkish efforts to corner the kingdom in the Khashoggi crisis.
To counter possible US pressure, the kingdom is exploring opportunities to diversify its arms suppliers and build a domestic defense industry. It is also rallying the wagons at home with financial handouts and new development projects in a bid to bolster domestic support for crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Democrats’ election victory has strengthened Saudi concerns that the Trump administration may pressure the kingdom to back down on key issues like the Yemen war that has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two and the 17-month old Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar.
US officials have argued that Saudi policies complicate their efforts to isolate and economically cripple Iran.
The officials assert that the boycott of Qatar and the fallout of the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul constitute obstacles to the creation of a Sunni Muslim alliance against the Islamic republic, dubbed an Arab NATO, as well as the achievement of other US goals in the Middle East, including countering political violence and ensuring the free flow of oil.
Going a step further, senior Israelis say they have given up on the notion of a Sunni Muslim alliance whose interests would be aligned with those of the Jewish state and see their budding relations with Gulf states increasingly in transactional terms.
The Trump administration signalled its concerns even before the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.
“Our regional partners are increasingly competing and, in the case of the Qatar rift, entering into outright competition to the detriment of American interests and to the benefit of Iran, Russia and China,” National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a letter late summer, according to Reuters.
With the House expected to be tougher on arms sales to the kingdom and possibly go as far as imposing an arms embargo because of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen caused by Saudi and UAE military operations, Saudi Arabia has wasted no time in casting around for alternative weapons suppliers.
In apparent recognition that the Saudi military, reliant on US and European arms acquisitions, would find it difficult to quickly shift to Russian or Chinese systems, Saudi Arabia appears for now to be focussing on alternative Western suppliers.
That could prove to be risky with anti-Saudi sentiment because of the Yemen war also running high in European parliaments and countries like Spain and Germany either teetering on the brink of sanctions or having toyed with restrictions on weapons sales to the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia, nonetheless, has in recent days contracted Spanish shipbuilder Navantia to jointly build five corvettes for the Saudi navy and offered South African state-owned defense group Denel $1 billion to help the kingdom build a domestic defense industry.
The partnership with Denel would involve Saudi Arabia taking a minority stake in German defense contractor Rheinmetall, which designs armoured fighting vehicles and howitzers.
With sale of the US-made precision-guided munitions bogged down in Congress, Spain has stepped in to address Saudi Arabia’s immediate need. The question is however whether Spain can fully meet Saudi demand.
A US refusal already before the Gulf crisis and the Khashoggi incident to share with Saudi Arabia its most advanced drone technology, paved the way for Chinese agreement to open its first overseas defense production facility in the kingdom.
State-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) will manufacture its CH-4 Caihong, or Rainbow drone, as well as associated equipment in Saudi Arabia. The CH-4 is comparable to the US armed MQ-9 Reaper drone.
Saudi Arabia also fears that Democratic control of the House could strengthen opposition to a nuclear energy agreement with the kingdom. Five Republican senators called on President Donald J. Trump days before the mid-term election to suspend talks with Saudi Arabia.
Development of a defense industry would over time serve Prince Mohammed’s efforts to diversify the Saudi economy and create jobs.
So would King Salman’s inauguration this week of 259 development projects worth US$6.13 billion ranging from tourism, electricity, environment, water, agriculture, housing, and transport to energy. King Salman launched the projects during a curtailed visit to Saudi provinces designed to bolster support for his regime as well as his son, Prince Mohammed
On the other hand, the government’s most recent decision to restore annual bonuses and allowances for civil servants and military personnel without linking them to performance constitutes an attempt to curry public favour that runs contrary to Prince Mohammed’s intention to streamline the bureaucracy and stimulate competition.
Bonuses were cut in 2016 as part of austerity measures. They were restored last year and linked in May to job performance.
In a further populist move, King Salman also pardoned prisoners serving time on financial charges and promised to pay the debts up to US$267,000 of each one of them.
King Salman’s moves appear designed to lessen Saudi dependence on US arms sales and project a united front against any attempt to implicate Prince Mohammed in the death of Mr. Khashoggi.
The moves come as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that the order to kill the journalist came “from the highest levels of the Saudi government” and the Trump administration demands Saudi action against the perpetrators and those responsible for the murder.
Failure to be seen to be taking credible action may not undermine King Salman’s rallying of the wagons at home but will do little to weaken calls in Washington as well as European capitals for tougher action in a bid to force Saudi Arabia to come clean on the Khashoggi case and adopt a more conciliatory approach towards ending the Yemen war and resolving the Gulf crisis.
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