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What does Israeli occupation of Palestine really mean?

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Palestinians feel being chased by Jewish government and its military cum police all the time. Persecution, aggression, oppression of Israel in Palestine where its military and police have a free ride all the time. USA, Europe and their UNSC help Israel terrorize Palestinians all the time.

Israeli occupation of Palestine means annexations, destruction genocides, midnight knocks at house doors, insane torture worse than beheading, military-police chasing of Palestinian youth and children, and fear among Palestinian community living even abroad as Zionist Mossad with CIA backing can murder any Palestinians anywhere in the world. CIA guys make the so-called suspected terrorists remove their cloths and use the worst kind to torture methods on their bodies, worse than even murdering them. Chopping of finders, hands, legs, other body parts have become very ordinary technique of these imperialist capitalists.

Since America and Europeans claim to be democracies they think they have the right to torture any Muslim anywhere in the world. Israel also does it because it a terror allies of NATO/USA.

Unlike American occupation forces s in Islamic countries or Hindu/India terror forces in Kashmir, Jewish military keeps expanding the illegal borders by annexing more and more lands each time after its genocides of Palestinians.  

The Hindu forces in Kashmir keep building houses and offices for military purposes. JK government disallows anybody from purchasing lands in Kashmir which disables Indian desire to make Hindutva inroads by making Hindus settle down in Kashmir. However, Indian regime and its military keep trying all tricks to break the law.

Zionist crimes in Gaza

Let us consider the Jewish attacks most recently on Gaza strip on July 28. Israeli navy attack fishermen in Gaza damaging their boats, meanwhile Israeli troops invade West Bank communities and injure three youth. The Pentagon has already offered its blanket approval of all Zionist crimes inside Palestine as such terror operations reduce Islamic population worldwide – a major goal of US led NATO terror wars in Islamic world.

Israeli navy ships attacked, on Thursday morning, several Palestinian fishing boats in the Sudaniyya Sea area, northwest of Gaza city, kidnapped seven fishermen and confiscated their boats. A fisherman told local news sources that the Israeli military forces first surrounded them all of a sudden giving a deadly shock to them and the navy boats attacked them from several directions, and fired many rounds of live ammunition, causing damage. The navy illegally confiscated the boats before moving them to the Ashdod Port.

On July 27 also the Israeli navy attacked Palestinian fishing boats, close to the Gaza shore, and kidnapped two fishers. Some of the boats were hit with live rounds, before the Jewish terroirsts in uniform (soldiers) assaulted them. Elsewhere, three Palestinian youth were injured; four others kidnapped when Israeli soldiers invaded Deheishe refugee camp in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday at dawn and searched homes there.

The Zionist “soldiers” surrounded the refugee camp before invading it and clashed with dozens of local youths, who hurled stones and empty bottles at the military vehicles, while the army fired live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs. Medical sources said the soldiers shot three Palestinians with live rounds before the medics moved them to hospital suffering moderate-but-stable wounds, while many suffered the effects of teargas inhalation.

Moreover, Dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday at dawn, the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and conducted extensive searches of homes before kidnapping seven Palestinians.

In the meantime, Israeli troops invaded late at night and at dawn, several areas in occupied Jerusalem, searched many homes and kidnapped four young Palestinian men.

All such terror operations happen without the knowledge of western capitals or their intelligence wings that care for freedoms, democracy, etc.

Despite lack of support from USA for the cause of freedom and sovereignty for Palestinians, there has been strong protest against Zionist occupational crimes inside Palestine.

The crude manner in which the Zionist criminals deal with besieged Palestinians has been criticized even by some Jewish leaders themselves. The day after the shooting of Palestinians recently, Tel Aviv’s Mayor Ron Huldai found the courage to state the obvious—that the state violence will persist until the occupation ends. Israel “is perhaps the only country in the world holding another nation under occupation without civil rights,” Huldai said.

Such frankness counts as bravery these days, but even Huldai was understating the truth. It’s not the mere fact of a military occupation, of Israeli troops on Palestinian territory, which provokes such attacks. It can be difficult to comprehend from across the Atlantic, or even from usually tranquil Tel Aviv, but the occupation, as many commentators have observed while reporting from the West Bank since 2011, functions as a massive mechanism for the creation of uncertainty, dispossession and systematic humiliation.                                                                            

It is not just soldiers and guns, but a far-reaching structure that affects all aspects of Palestinian life—a complex web of checkpoints to harass and torture the Palestinians , travel restrictions, permits, walls and fences, courts and prisons, endless constraints on economic possibilities, home demolitions, land appropriations, expropriation of natural resources, and, too often, lethal force.

Crime and Punishment

Palestinians, the real owners of Palestine lands, are made now the enemy now whom Israel wants to kill enmasse. With Israeli state backing, the illegal settlers seemed a little crazy, but they are Jews the “boss” of Mideast.

Efrati, a Jew who quit Israeli army in protest against Zionist occupational crimes against humanity was earlier a part of the military in Jerusalem at the beginning of a war on Gaza Strip, targeting the children and women as well, that would leave more than 2,000 Palestinians dead. Efrati he spent most of 2006 and 2007 stationed in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, but had long since Gaza attack left the army and become an anti-occupation activist. Efrati was 19 when he arrived there and at the time saw little reason to question the Israeli military’s presence in the city. At his first briefing, he recalled an officer asking the troops what they would do if they saw a Palestinian running at a settler with a knife. “Of course the answer was you shoot him in the center of his body, Palestinians have no right to live ” Efrati said. The officer posed the question in reverse: What if it was the settler with a knife? “And the answer was you cannot do anything. The best you can do is call the police, but you’re not allowed to touch them. From day one the command was, ‘You cannot touch the illegal settlers and other Jews.’” This made sense to him, Efrati said.

A few days later, thousands of illegal settlers, mostly Russian speaking, arrived from all over the West Bank to celebrate a religious holiday. The army imposed a curfew to keep Palestinians off the streets to target the Palestinians. Efrati’s first task as a soldier in Hebron was to throw stun grenades into elementary school of Palestine children to announce the beginning of the curfew. “I just did it, like everyone Jew,” he said, “and within seconds, hundreds of kids ran outside. I was standing at the entrance and a lot of them looked at me in the eyes—that was the first time that it hit me. All of a sudden I understood what I was doing.

Later, Efrati recalled, settlers filled the central city. He was assigned to escort a group of them into the Patriarchs’ Tomb, a site holy to both Islam and Judaism, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their wives Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are believed to be buried. The settlers were allowed into the Palestinian side of the site, even into the mosque with their dirty legs and blood stained hands. Israeli children were peeing on the floors and burning the carpets. Their parents were there—the mosque was packed with settlers—but no one was able to stop them. A Israeli criminal soldier grabbed one of the children and took a cigarette lighter from his hand. “He started screaming at us,” Efrati said. “We laughed at him.” Five minutes later, “one of our very, very high-ranking officers came inside the mosque and said, ‘Did you steal something from the kid?’” They tried to explain, but the officer only repeated the question. The officer ordered them to give it back and apologize and Jews have a right to smoke inside mosques . They found the child, apologized and returned the lighter. The boy ran right into the next room, Efrati said, and resumed setting fire to the carpets.

Things got weirder. Efrati was put in charge of a checkpoint separating the area of Hebron inhabited by settlers from the larger Palestinian city. He described it as grueling, mind-numbing work, standing in the cold for as long as 16 hours, usually hungry and always sleep-deprived. Inflicting humiliation was part of the assignment. Schoolteachers would cross dressed in suits and ties. The soldiers would make them strip in front of their students. “Sometimes we would make them wait for hours in their underwear,” Efrati said.

Pure entertainment for the criminal Jews in human suffering…

The pretext was to check them for weapons. “Nobody thought that anything would happen to them,” he said, but the troops were told again and again by their officers that all Palestinians were potential threats, that anyone might stab them if they dropped their guard for a moment. That notion meant to make the Jewish solders more arrogant , Efrati said, “made us very, very aggressive. So you would push them against the wall, undress them, take your weapon and hit them a few times.

That is Zionist democracy, not entirely different from American or NATO’s. “If he’s saying something, hit him.. Just make sure that you’re completely in control.” His conscience began to nag at him. He started bringing bags of Bamba—a popular Israeli snack food, like Cheez Doodles, only peanut flavored and not phosphorescent orange—to the checkpoint and offering them to children.

After a few days, “the first brave kid came up, grabbed a bag of Bamba and ran away.” Efrati was thrilled. Not long after, a Palestinian boy of about eight years old asked him for a treat. This boy didn’t run. He opened the bag, and offered some to Efrati. They sat and ate the chips together. When the boy walked off, Efrati felt ecstatic. He could finally be the man he wanted to be, a soldier who was loved for his kindness and who at the same time, as he put it, “was protecting my country from a second Holocaust.”

When he got back to the base that night, he was ordered to eat quickly and prepare for another shift, not at the checkpoint but on a “mapping” expedition into the section of the city governed by the Palestinian Authority. He was still so high from his success with the Bamba that he didn’t mind the extra work. The routine was simple: “You go into houses in the middle of the night, get everybody outside, take a photo of the family, and start going around the house, destroying things.” The idea was to search for weapons, “but we also needed to send a message,” Efrati said, to make sure the residents never lost “the feeling of being chased.” His job was to draft maps of each house, charting the rooms, the doors and the windows. “If at some point there was a retaliatory attack from that specific house,” the army would be ready.

That night, they searched, trashed and mapped two houses in the neighborhood of Abu Sneineh. It was snowy and cold. When they were done, the sun had not yet risen. They forced the family outside and into the snow and went in and started searching. Efrati opened the door to a child’s room—he remembered seeing a painting of Winnie-the-Pooh on one wall—and had begun sketching when he realized that there was someone in the bed. A young boy leaped out from under the covers. He was naked. Startled, Efrati raised his gun, aiming at the child. It was the kid from the checkpoint that afternoon. “He started peeing himself,” Efrati said, “and we were just shaking, both of us, we were just standing there shaking and we didn’t say a word.”

The boy’s father, coming down the stairs with an officer, saw Efrati pointing a rifle at his son and raced into the room. “But instead of pushing me back,” Efrati said, “he starts slapping his kid on the floor. He’s slapping him in front of me and he’s looking at me saying, ‘Please, please don’t take my child. Whatever he did, we’ll punish him.” In the end, the officer decided that the man’s behavior was suspicious, that “he was hiding something.” He ordered Efrati to arrest him. “So we took the father, blindfolded him, cuffed his hands behind his back and put him in a military jeep.”

They dumped him like that at the entrance to the base. “He stayed there for three days in a very torn-up shirt and boxer shorts. He just sat there in the snow.” Eventually, Efrati summoned the courage to ask his officer what would happen to the boy’s father. “He had totally forgotten about him, didn’t even know what I was talking about,” Efrati said. “He was like, ‘Which father?’” Efrati reminded him. “You can release him,” the officer said. “He learned his lesson.”

After cutting the plastic ties that bound the man’s wrists, untying the blindfold and watching him run off barefoot in his underwear through the streets, Efrati realized that he had never given his commander the maps he had drawn. He hurried back to the officer’s room, apologizing for his negligence. The officer wasn’t angry. “It’s okay,” he said. “You can throw them away.” It is just like that. Efrati was confused. He protested: wasn’t mapping a vital task that might save other soldiers’ lives?

The officer got annoyed. “He says, ‘Come on, Efrati. Stop bitching. Go away.’” But Efrati kept arguing. He didn’t understand. When it became apparent that he wasn’t going anywhere, the officer told him: “We’ve been doing mappings every night, three or four houses a night, for forty years.” He personally had searched and mapped the house in question twice before with other units. Israel is eager to terrorize the civilians everywhere and might knocks terrorize the local population, they pick young persons and never to return them to the families. At times, Palestinians run away through back doors when Israeli military knocks at their doors in the night and the never return homes.

Israeli military and police don’t entrain any complaints from Palestinian parents about their missing sons. If any Palestinian goes to police station or military officers with complaints they are told to go to Tel Aviv and meet the PM Netanyahu and complain to him or report to UN.

Cool guys, Israeli terrorists.

Israeli fascist regime is insane and wants to keep the Palestinians in the terrorization status. Efrati was even more confused. The officer took pity, and explained: “If we go into their houses all the time, if you arrest people all the time, if they feel terrified all the time, they will never attack us. They will only feel chased after.” That, Efrati said, “was the first time I understood that everything I was told was complete bullshit.” From then on, he said, “I didn’t stop doing the things I did, I just stopped thinking.”

Of course Efrati’s officer was wrong. If you terrorize people long enough, they eventually lose their fear. They hold onto the anger. This last October, after a year of relative calm, young Palestinians began attacking Israeli soldiers, police and civilians, occasionally with guns or cars but most often with household implements: knives, scissors, screwdrivers. The attacks were uncoordinated and outside the control of the Palestinian leadership or the traditional armed factions.

Many such reactions from Palestinians occurred in or near Hebron, often at checkpoints or other sites of friction between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli military, but also on buses and trains in Jerusalem, in supermarkets and in the streets.

Israeli military and police ransack Palestine territories with perpetual terrorization of peole on permanent basis.

World powers do not make any genuine steps to teach a bloody lesson to fanatically fascist Israel which also advices those countries like India purchasing terror goods from Tel Aviv depots to follow the terror footsteps of Israeli military in Palestine territories.

Terrorization of people by midnight knocks. .

Why do Palestine youth attack powerful Israeli army?

Will any one, individual or nation, fight against powerful nations? Certainly not, unless out of mere insanity. But Palestinians are facing dirtiest attacks from Israel, made powerful by USA and NATO, and also fighting the one of the dirtiest militaries in third world whose terror goods are being brought across the globe including India. .

Israel possesses not only illegal nukes but also strongest military terror equipment with regular updates from the world’s most powerful military called the Pentagon. Any nation, including Russia, is scared of the pentagon and CIA. Every power in West Asia fears Israeli military might. But the powerless and defenseless Palestinians are not afraid of it and fights against its illegal occupation of Palestine lands and its expansionist-murder strategy by sacrificing their own valuable lives.

Continued occupation crimes of Israeli military forces against the besieged Palestinians force the Palestinians to retaliate to Zionist attacks with small scale attacks.

In November, Major General Herzl Halev, Israel’s highest ranking military intelligence officer, explained to PM B. Netanyahu’s cabinet that the Palestinian attacks were not primarily ideological. They were motivated by rage and frustration and carried out by youth—mainly teenagers—who “felt they had nothing to lose.” In fact, they had a great deal to lose, as much as anyone, their whole lives ahead of them. But the fact that so many were willing to throw it away, and to take others with them, testifies to the depths of the despair bred by Israel’s occupation.

Until Wednesday’s shootings, only Palestinians got killed and no Israelis had been killed by Palestinians since February 18. In the same period, Israeli security forces killed 34 Palestinians, including a six-year-old girl and her 10-year-old brother who died when an air strike hit their family’s home in the Gaza Strip. Their names were Israa and Yasin Abu Khussa.

Such Israeli murders rarely make headlines here, but Palestinians are well aware of them. So long as they continue, and the occupation drags on, world can expect many more opportunities to grieve. That is exactly what Netanyahu and his government continued to do.

Fifty years into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Israel’s government is continuing its “preemptive and predetermined” territorial changes and a policy of clandestine ethnic cleansing in what the Oslo Accords designated as Area C, which constitutes over 60 percent of the West Bank. As for the USA, the mischievous mediator for peace talks, it continues to pretend it believes Netanyahu’s claim that he is seeking a two-state solution, and continues to assure Israel that it will not allow “any daylight”—and any Security Council resolutions—to come between the USA and Israel.

American regime shields the Zionist crimes by misusing its veto on UNSC.

If in fact world no longer believes Netanyahu’s lies, his two state theory, then its tendency of “balancing” even the mildest reproaches of Israel’s never-ending occupation with condemnations of Palestinian incitement is particularly reprehensible. Whatever the Palestinian Authority may be guilty of by delaying to file cases against Israeli crimes, it pales into insignificance when compared to the incitement that is Israel’s half-century long fascist occupation.

Zionist fascism in Palestine functions as a massive mechanism for the creation of uncertainty, dispossession and systematic humiliation. It is not just soldiers and guns, but a far-reaching structure that affects all aspects of Palestinian life—a complex web of check points, travel restrictions, permits, walls and fences, courts and prisons, endless constraints on economic possibilities, home demolitions, land appropriations, expropriations of natural resources, and, too often lethal force.

Neither the USA nor the UNSC nor the Quartet’s diplomacy has the slightest prospect of changing the status quo that Netanyahu has so successfully entrenched if they cannot screw up the courage to state straightforwardly the truth—that Israel’s half-century long occupation and genocides not only incites to violence but itself constitutes violence incarnate on a massive scale. The injection of such truthfulness might perhaps help flush the diplomatic channels that have for so long been clogged by pretense and dishonesty, indirectly supporting Zionist fascism.

Unfortunately, shamefully!

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Al-Kadhimi’s government in its first test

Diyari Salih

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On June 26, 2020, Iraq’s prime minister, Mostafa al-Kadhimi (MK), demanded the counter-terrorism forces head to a place located on the outskirts of Baghdad to arrest some persons working with Kataib Hezbollah (KH), one of the factions operating under the umbrella of the popular mobilization units (PMU), under the pretext of threatening Iraq’s national security.

While some observers deemed that decision as an irrational adventure, the others saw it as a significant step to entrench the notion of the state and to determine the nature of the relation among different actors affecting its functional structure. this piece is trying to shed light on the consequences of that move and its futuristic dimensions.

The first point we can mention in this regard relates to the huge public information capacity of KH. Through which, it managed to create its fabricated story as to that event. It was able to guide public opinion according to the information it offered on social media. In return, the governmental side was not prepared well to deal with the possible implications of that campaign. That put al-Kadhimi in severe trouble. 

The second point affirms that that critical moment was witnessing very dangerous signs. Many of KH’s leaders admitted they encouraged their followers to raid the Green Zone (GZ), the place where the most important governmental headquarters are located. They could control its basic entrances, and the government was under real siege. That was similar to various military coups that Iraq had seen in the past. This time, however, this coup did not become reality. PMU issued its directions for KH’s fighters to withdraw from there to end that tension.

The third case we have to state is questioning the tale of liberating GZ. Different officials belonging to KH tweeted and noted that another special force came to do that job. That force also belongs to KH. That movement exposed the military complicated structure of KH. Furthermore, it assures that the government does not have any ability to contain such actions or curb its effects. Therefore, MK must have been aware of the dangers of that decision before going to apply it.

In Iraq, it seems that we need more focus on how the relations between al-Kadhimi and KH’s leaders will develop. Interestingly, they no longer deal with him as a prime minister, nor do they hesitate of using insulting words against him. For example, they affirmed that they enforced him to free their detainees and to guarantee that he would never target them again. The tweets they published during those days proved they have since started to consider him an enemy. 

To affirm the rhetoric of confrontation with the state, KH released some degrading pictures. while celebrating their release, the detainees were stepping on the pictures of MK. Such a scene, as expected, sends contradictory messages that will restrain the symbolic power of the government. It will also mobilize people negatively against the law. It forms a direct challenge to the security decision of MK. in the same context, a widespread campaign of charges appeared against writers and commentators supporting MK’s step, classifying them as being clients of the US in Iraq.

It seems there a political and military confrontation that will take place between MK and KH. PMU administrators believe that the government wants to target their military capabilities. This will be an existential threat to their future. Hence, those leaders have many times warned him of dreaming about achieving this goal.    

They ignore that MK had himself said that he would not target PMU. Instead, he would launch a war against some other groups whom he accused of doing dirty business, exploiting the name of PMU, and putting Iraq’s future at risk. He was trying to send a clear message to them saying ” He can distinguish between these factions well. The government will only respect and protect who is working under its rules and laws”

The discourse of war has become clear in the statements of some parties. KH has declared that it will not hand its guns off to the government under no circumstance. This is a real challenge to the Iraqi state and its sovereignty too. This affirms that a hot dispute will happen between them in the coming months.

KH has started to look at some governmental institutions as a competitor that must not be allowed to play a vital role in the future. It is stating that Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) is a tool in the hands of MK, who is seen from its standpoint as an agent to the US. KH emphasized that MK and CTF are paving the ground to execute their suspicious plans that will undermine PMU. This might lead to an uncontrolled military clash between them. To freeze such a conflict between KH and CTF, MK brought them together in a special meeting to directly talk about the upshots of this scenario.

In the last days, there was an extensive talk about the Shiite division towards the state and its philosophy. There are two opposing views on this matter. The first one is represented by the Shiite rational attitude of Syaid Ali al-Sistani, who has consistently prompted people to respect and obey the state and its law so long as it is fair. The second position advocated by the others who want to create a radical state. Some writers say that KH attempts to be the patron of this model. This will result in placing MK in an untenable position, and Iraqis’ dream of having a civil state will also be destroyed.  

KH still reiterates that MK is embroiled with others, especially the US, in the operation of assassination Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. This will remain an important source of determining its interaction with this government. Therefore, it is predicted that KH will consider any decision taken by MK against its interests as a part of a broad conspiracy trying to end its presence in Iraq.  KH will count on this troubled relation to agitate people against MK. In the forthcoming period, KH might think of exploiting this matter to enhance its role politically, socially, and electorally.

Though difficult to foresee the mechanisms of settling these problems between KH and the government, it is clear that there are some efforts now being made to put an end to this confrontation. Thus, MK must be careful in dealing with this case. He must announce his convictions regarding how to solve this problem and how to consolidate the role of the state. He must convince public opinion that the institution of PMU will obey the Iraqi state’s commands. In return, KH must help him to achieve the Iraqi national security strategy, including not targeting the foreign missions by Katyusha rockets.

We are in need to produce an approach that can help the Iraqi state in its endeavors to face such turning points. We, as Iraqis, dread that such confrontations might lead to more regional polarization on the Iraqi ground. We apprehend that civil war might also return to hit the Iraqi cities. Hence, all actors participating in the new Iraqi political system must stay away from the politics of violence and counter-violence. The sacrifices of our nation in the sacred struggle it waged against Da’ish must be preserved. This cannot be reached without buttressing the state and its reforms to be practically engaged in the international order. Without meets these conditions, the state will be in the wind, and extensively social chaos will be prevalent. Iraq does not worth like this destiny.

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The Causes and Effects of the United States “Long Goodbye” to the Middle East

Lawrence Habahbeh

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A glance at a world map reveals one great reason why the Middle East (ME) claims the attention of great power centres of the world.  A roughly rectangular area stretching from the Adriatic Sea, East to the black sea ,and south to the Indus River.   The ME is a joining point of three continents, Europe, Asia, and Africa and one of the most vital crossroads on the planet.   It is the cradle of world civilization and the birth place of the three monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.    Further, it is rich in oil, gas, and other commodities.   According to British Petroleum 2019 (BP) Statistical review of World Energy, the Middle East holds 836 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, which constitutes 48% of world total.   In comparison to other regions of the world, it holds 3X the proven oil reserves of the U.S, Canada and Mexico combined, and 58X the proven oil reserves of Europe.   Likewise, the Middle East has the world’s largest proven reserves of Natural Gas (NG); standing at 38.3% of the world’s total, while the Common wealth of Independent States (CIS) holds the second largest reserves at 31.9%.

Historically, the strategic foundation for the U.S. involvement in the Middle East was shaped by several policy objectives reflecting both regional dynamics and U.S. interests.  These strategic interests centred primarily around protecting the reliable free flow of commodities and commercial activity through well known checkpoints in the Arabian Peninsula, especially the strait of Hormoz and Suez canal; supporting the security, stability, and prosperity of U.S. partners in the region, including the State of Israel; preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, countering Jihadist movements, and terrorism.  Since 2011, geopolitical tensions, trade disputes, and changes in the international security landscape have tested the US-ME relationship, and have caused the strategic pillars of the U.S. Involvement in the region to undergo a state of transition, hastened by three major factors: 

First; In a speech by former Secretary of Defence James Mattes at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, January 19, 2018, he asserted” Great Power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security”.  Further, according to President Obama’s June 2015 National Military Strategy and also President Trump’s January 2018 National Defence Strategy  (NDS), they both acknowledged that the shift in U.S. strategic direction is driven by a return to great power competition with China and Russia, underlined by a rising trend in strategic cooperation between two countries on many issues across many regions of the world, In fact; this strategic cooperation can be seen taking shape in the economic and military spheres.  For example, according to various press reports, in September of 2019, Chinese and Russian troops took part in joint military manoeuvres; dubbed, “Tsentr-2019” to strengthen their military readiness.  Further, direct trade between the two countries is increasing.  According to data from statista, trade between Russia and China reached a record level, exceeding $100 billion compared to previous years.  Likewise, China’s natural gas imports from Russia more than doubled in 2019 subsequent to operating the “Power of Siberia”  gas pipeline with a total initial capacity of 5 Billion Cubic meters (BCM) of gas, and a targeted capacity of 38 BCM by 2025, which constitutes 13% of China’s 2018 demand.  Equally important; China’s expanding major economic development project, the Belt and Road (BRI) initiative.  The BRI initiative is an ambitious plan to build an open and balanced regional economic architecture connecting dozens of countries in Asia, Eurasia, and Europe by constructing six international economic corridors and an extensive rail network linking China to Europe through a “new Eurasian Land Bridge”.  In the same way, the project aims to construct economic corridors linking China, Mongolia, and Russia; also, China to west, central, and South Asia. 

The evolving dynamics of economic corridors connecting all sub-regions in Asia, and between Asia, Europe, and Africa is consistent with the ideas of the Eurasianist Aleksandr  Dugin’s, and the ideas advanced in his book published in 1997 titled “Foundations of Geopolitics”, in which he calls for the realization of a Unified Economic Landscape called Greater Eurasia.  Greater Eurasia refers to countries that are on the territory of the Eurasian continent across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.  It consists of two regions of energy consumption (Europe & Asia Pacific) and three regions of energy production (Russia and Arctic & Caspian & Middle East) in between.  It includes 91 countries, which represents two-thirds of the world population, exports of goods and services and GDP.

These evolving and developing geographic and economic integration projects based on strategic cooperation between Russia and China create a geographic mass of countries across, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East that are increasingly interdependent, and their interests are more closely intertwined than ever before.  Consequently; shifting geopolitics in Greater Eurasia driving the strategic convergence in economic power between Russia and China is posing challenges to U.S. leadership in the region and the world.   These interactions between Russia and China in the military and economic spheres demonstrate a growing trend in strategic cooperation between the two countries and may be driven by an ideological denominator, where both countries view the U.S. as the “Glavny Protivnik”.

Second; according to the U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States became the world’s largest producer of petroleum hydrocarbons and the largest producer of oil with a total production capacity of 12.7 million barrels of oil per day as of March 2020, surpassing the daily production capacity of both Russia and Saudi-Arabia.  In the same manner; according to BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy report, the U.S. is still the world leader when it comes to natural gas production, averaging approximately 920 billion cubic meters of gas in 2019, followed by Russia, Iran, and Qatar.  As a result, the United States is undergoing an oil and natural gas production renaissance that will likely continue to change the global energy landscape, and lead to wide-ranging regional and global geopolitical implications.   The Age of Abundance for the U.S is driving the change in relations with regional allies, which, in part, will be redefined based on relations that are built around competition in the global gas market, and the supply of cleaner energy sources, especially, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

Third; according to the CIA’s Global Threats Report  2019.  The ME region is highly vulnerable to changes in the frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, and floods, and that combined with Poor Governance – leads to increased food and water insecurity.    As a result, it is very likely that there will be an increased risk of social unrest, migration and tension between regional State, and non-State actors.

It stands to reason that the U.S. views the strategic benefits derived from maintaining the  historical strategic pillars, and policy objectives in the ME vis-à-vis the strategic risks associated with such policy as costly and no longer viable because of the greater strategic threats posed by both Russia’s aggression towards its neighbours in Europe in consequence of Russia’s own economic, political, and social agenda, which opposes the international liberal order promoted, and protected by the U.S. since the second world war., and China’s expanding financial and economic influence, and strategic cooperation with Russia in multiple domains to amass political and strategic advantage through improved economic and energy connectivity projects in Europe, Eurasia, Middle East, and Asia pacific.  Therefore; U.S vital strategic interests lay elsewhere and the U.S. views Russia and China as a greater strategic risk than Iran and Al-Qaeda, and that requires the U.S. to “do less” in the Middle East.  In consequence, from U.S perspective the Middle East region is no longer a priority for the United States.  

The strategic implications of the ongoing U.S. long goodbye to the M.E. region over the past decade have shifted the regional geopolitical environment and caused the formation of a power vacuum where state and non-state actors competing in a multi-level and proxy executed competition to gain diplomatic, economic, and strategic advantage.  As a result, three regional spheres of influence emerged vying for control and power in the region, including the conservative wing, comprising Saudi Arabia (GCC, less Qatar), Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. The anti-American wing includes Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.  Lastly the Islamist wing includes Turkey, and Qatar.  Add to this complex geopolitical landscape, Russian and Chinese inroads through military, economic, and weapons sales to regional actors to increase their regional influence.  In fact; in recent years, Moscow has strengthened its military foothold in Syria and secured access to military bases on the Mediterranean Sea, in order to expand its regional political, military, and economic influence.  Moscow’s regional engagement has solidified since 2015 Russian intervention in Syria.  Moreover, Russia’s expanding military exercises and weapons sales with Egypt selling 2$ billion worth of aircrafts to Cairo.  Further, Moscow support and expanded ties with Khalifa Haftar in Libya,  talks to sell S-400 Missile Defence System to Qatar, cooperation with Saudi Arabia to stabilize global oil markets, and strengthening relations with Israel and Iran are clear indications of Moscow’s increasing influence in the Middle East region.

In the same way, China’s strategic cooperation with Middle Eastern countries is on the rise.  For instance, the region is China’s No.1 source of imported petroleum products.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over 50% of Chinese Oil imports come from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, and Iran, with Saudi Arabia providing 16% of Oil imports.  Further; Qatar, is the one of largest LNG suppliers to China.  Moreover, In July 2018, China and the UAE announced an upgrade to their 2012 strategic partnership to a “comprehensive Strategic Partnership”- China’s highest level of diplomatic relations, outlining cooperation in wide range of fields such as politics, economics, trade, technology, energy, renewable energy, and security.   Likewise, In Egypt, in September 2018 President Sisi visited Beijing and signed 18$ billion worth of deals with China including projects covering rail, real estate, and energy.  Again, Chinese construction firms are heavily engaged in constructing Egypt’s new administrative capital outside of Cairo and developing the Red Sea port and industrial zone.  Likewise, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt are important to China’s expanding BRI initiative.   The majority of Chinese trade with Europe passes through the Suez Canal, and China is expanding the cooperative zone around the canal by expanding the port and shipping facilities.   Finally, Jordan joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015, and Israel high speed rail project with China that will connect Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean to Eilat on the Red Sea.  Clearly, the multitude of Chinese driven infrastructure projects in the region are an indication that countries in the Middle East are welcoming China’s economic investments, and if history is a gauge of future developments, then it is reasonable to conclude that China is likely to increase its political engagement and expand its military presence in the region to protect and secure its economic interest.

In 2017, during a visit by president Trump to Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh declaration was announced.  The declaration is a U.S. proposal for a multilateral regional arrangement between Gulf Cooperation Council nations (GCC), including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to Jordan and Egypt, dubbed the Middle East Strategic alliance (MESA).  The proposal centres on the idea of a regional system with shared security, economic, and political architecture.   According to data from the World Bank Development Indicators (WBDI) (2018), the MESA boasts a combined GDP of $2.3 trillion and represents a market of 175 million consumers.  The proposal joins an increasing number of regional alliances that exist across the globe, such as the three seas initiative (3SI), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), among others.  Since its announcement, an ongoing dispute among the competing, regional spheres of influence, due to differences in their respective interests, capabilities, and threat perceptions has caused little progress in the future trajectory of this multilateral arrangement.

Finally, the reality is that the U.S. should not fully extricate itself from the region due to the U.S. great power competition with China and Russia, which the Trump Administration has placed at the centre of its national security strategy.   Instead, the U.S. should invest in its regional network of allies and partners to work together to maximize their strengths and address common challenges that are vital to U.S. national security and geopolitical stability.  The U.S. should push for and hasten the strategic convergence of the MESA member States by promoting deeper coordination and interaction among participants through multilateral cooperation in the economic, political, security, and energy spheres by calling to build the tools and the governing institutions to govern MESA operations and decision making such as a Middle East Strategic Alliance Council with prime ministers as members, the Middle East Strategic Alliance Economic Commission to manage the organizations day to day decision making activity, the Middle East Strategic Alliance Court system, tasked with managing disputes among member States, and a Middle East Strategic Alliance development bank and stabilization fund to support and drive integration efforts through regional lending and investment programs to boost, along an East-West axis, cross-border economic development, energy, water, transportation, and digital infrastructure connectivity projects.

As noted above, the U.S. should reposition itself at the helm of key Middle East dynamics, while simultaneously working with regional partners to balance Russian and Chinese inroads and expanding patterns of influence in the region.  Else, a lack of a clear, unified strategy for the Middle East, will perpetuate the current Hobbesian state of a bellum omnium contra omnes, which renders the whole Middle East system in a quantum state of neither at peace, nor at war, but, entangled in a super position of both states simultaneously; waiting for an observer; to implement the wrong policy option, resulting in the collapse of the state function; into a wilderness of tempestuous combustion; likely, paving the way, to the last age of Pax Americana.

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Middle East

Economic Crisis Does Little to Dampen Mohammed bin Salman’s Pricey Ambitions

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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When Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan announced austerity measures in May, including an $8 billion USD cut back on spending on Vision 2030 — Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious plan to restructure the Saudi economy — economists and pundits assumed that was the death knell for trophy projects like NEOM, a $500 billion USD plan for a futuristic mega smart city on the Red Sea.

Economists and pundits may want to think again.

Plagued by questions about the project’s strategic value at a time when the kingdom is struggling with the economic fallout of a pandemic, the impact of an oil price rout, and controversy over the killing of a tribal leader who resisted displacement, NEOM last week sought to counter the criticism by hiring a US public relations and lobbying firm.

NEOM’s $1.7 million USD contract with Ruder Finn – a PR company with offices in the US, Britain, and Asia – was concluded as the kingdom sought to salvage another trophy project, the acquisition of English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United, beset by accusations that the Saudi government had enabled TV broadcasting piracy in its rift with fellow Gulf state Qatar.

The controversy proved to be a lesson in the reputational risk involved in high-profile acquisitions. Piracy was not the only thing complicating the acquisition of Newcastle. So was Saudi Arabia’s human rights record as a result of mass arrests of activists and critics and the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

With the publication of a damning report by the World Trade Organization (WTO), Saudi Arabia moved quickly to counter the criticism by removing boxes of BeoutQ, an operation that pirated sports broadcasts legally contracted by BeIN, the sports franchise of state-owned Qatari television network Al Jazeera. BeoutQ broadcasts were carried by Saudi-based Arabsat.

BeoutQ was taking advantage of the banning of BeIN in the kingdom as part of the three-year-old Saudi-UAE diplomatic and economic boycott of fellow Gulf state Qatar. Saudi sports cafes began broadcasting BeIN for the first time immediately after release of the WTO report.

Like the Saudi response to the WTO, NEOM’s contract with Ruder Finn seems to be an effort to repair reputational damage.

Ruder Finn’s mandate appears designed to counter the fallout of the killing in April of Abdulrahim al-Huwaiti, whom the government labelled a terrorist, and to project NEOM as a socially responsible corporation bent on engagement with its local community.

Taking issue with the suggestion that NEOM was in damage limitation mode, Ali Shihabi, a political analyst, former banker, and member of NEOM’s advisory board who often reflects Saudi thinking, argued in a series of tweets that project NEOM was about much more than refuting negative media reporting.

“There is much more substance to NEOM than ‘flashy projects.’ NEOM will be heavily involved in serious projects like advanced desalination, innovative desert agriculture and more use of solar and wind energy, etc. that are very relevant to the country and the region’s urgent needs. These have been very well planned/researched and some are already being executed,” Mr. Shihabi wrote, admitting that the company behind the project had yet to detail its plans.

Mr. Shihabi’s claims were seconded by Ruder Finn in its filing to the US Department of Justice as a foreign agent.

“NEOM is a bold and audacious dream,” Ruder Finn said. “It’s an attempt to do something that’s never been done before and it comes at a time when the world needs fresh thinking and new solutions.”

Ruder Finn’s contract was announced after NEOM said that it was taking multiple steps to demonstrate that it was being “socially responsible and [would] deliver . . . impactful, sustainable and committed initiatives.”

In lieu of Mr. Shihabi’s anticipated detailing of NEOM’s grandiose plans, Ruder Finn’s filing to the Department of Justice as a foreign agent, as well as NEOM’s announcements, seemed less geared toward projecting the futuristic city’s economic and environmental contribution and more towards repairing damage caused by the dispute with local tribesmen and the killing of Mr. Al-Huwaiti.

Mr. Al-Huwaiti, a leader of protests against alleged forced evictions and vague promises of compensation, was reportedly killed in a gun fight with security forces.

Mr. Al-Huwaiti predicted that he would be either detained or killed in a video posted on YouTube hours before his death. In the video, he claimed that whatever happened to him would be designed to break the resistance of his Huwaitat tribe to their displacement.

He denounced Prince Mohammed’s leadership as “rule by children” and described the kingdom’s religious establishment that has endorsed the Crown Prince’s policies as “silent cowards.”

An estimated 20,000 people are expected to be moved out of an area that Prince Mohammed once said had “no one there.”

NEOM declared earlier this week that it would be offering English-language lessons at its recently established academy and that some 1,000 students would be trained in tourism, hospitality, and cybersecurity.

At the same time, the government said that eligible Saudis would be compensated for loss of land with plots along the coast as part of a program to improve standards of living.

Online news service Foreign Lobby Report reported that Ruder Finn would produce informational materials, including a monthly video to promote NEOM’s engagement with the local community as well as visual materials highlighting the company’s fulfillment of its social responsibility.

Ruder Finn’s efforts were likely to do little to convince the kingdom’s critics.

Writing in Foreign Policy in April, Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s former Middle East and North Africa Director, and Abdullah AlAoudh, a Saudi legal scholar, dismissed NEOM’s grand ambitions. Mr. AlAoudh’s father Shaykh Salman Al-Odah, a prominent reformist religious scholar, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since 2017 for advocating an end to the rift with Qatar.

“Whether the NEOM project is even remotely viable, given the global financial collapse because of the coronavirus and rising Saudi debt amid historically low oil prices, is highly doubtful,” Ms. Whitson and Mr. AlAoudh said. “The only result we’ve seen from this vision for a futuristic city is the promised destruction of a historic community and the death of a Saudi protester, using archaic means with no room for modern notions of rights and justice.”

Author’s note: An initial version of this story was first published in Inside Arabia

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