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How stable are US-Turkey relations?

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It looks strange that an Islamic Turkey and essentially an anti-Islamic America have worked for years now notwithstanding serious differences even conflict between them. The fact that USA is not just a veto member and super power but also the strongest power that controls entire world by using most of the powers in the world, including Russia and China.

Turkey as a strong NATO member has been a useful asset for USA as well as all NATO and other anti-Islamic nations while United States and Israel have used the Islamist nation to their own advantages.

On positive side, USA and Turkey have maintained a closely knit relations for years since the Second World War and operated jointly to upset the Soviet efforts to make entire Europe and elsewhere anti-communist. They did achieve a great deal of success and by being the corner stone of NATO. However, that deep relationship looks shaking its foundations now.

In fact, the USA sought Turkey’s assistance for NATO and went on to sponsor Turkey’s successful bid for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The two countries then officially became allies. The alliance provided real political and security advantages to both parties, but it was certainly not to be free of frictions and tensions. The first occurred at the time of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Events of the past few weeks have precipitated a new crisis in American-Turkish relations, but it is certainly not the first one. In fact, it builds on a long history of bouts of mutual suspicion and antagonism over a period of more than 60 years. Last month, newspapers around the world featured pictures of US Vice-President Joe Biden shaking hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace in Ankara. The facial expressions of the two men eloquently illustrated the state of relations between their countries. Both seemed extremely wary of the other and this for good reason.

Past

The relationship between the USA and Turkey began to take shape in the years immediately following the Second World War. At the time, Turkey was coming under serious political and diplomatic pressure from the Soviet Union, which wanted to gain control of the Turkish Straits. Turkey appealed for help to the USA, which provided it with certain security guarantees under the terms of the Truman Doctrine. The United States went on to sponsor Turkey’s successful bid for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The two countries then officially became allies.

The NATO alliance provided real political and security advantages to both parties, but it was certainly not to be free of frictions and tensions. The first occurred at the time of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Although strongly denied at the time by the United States government, it was widely believed that the USA had concluded a deal with the Soviet Union whereby in exchange for its withdrawal of missiles from Cuba, the United States would withdraw the Jupiter missiles it had recently deployed in Turkey. When the Jupiter missiles were indeed removed in April 1963, it was generally believed in Turkey that this was a case of the United States protecting its own security interests at the expense of Turkey’s.

Even while employing Turkey for a collective “capitalist” response to Soviet threat, Washington also played havoc in containing Turkey. The long-running Cyprus issue was to create more frictions in the alliance. When the Turkish government was contemplating military action in Cyprus in 1963-64, it was the object of a blistering response by President Lyndon Johnson. When Turkey did, in fact, invade and occupy northern Cyprus in 1974, it was soundly condemned in Washington and the US Congress voted an embargo on all military assistance to Turkey.

Comprehending US hidden agenda, the Turkish government retaliated by suspending all American operations at military facilities in Turkey. These events convinced many Turks that the US government and Pentagon-CIA duo had little interest in protecting Turkey’s vital interests and that it was operating under the influence of the Greek-American community.

As super powers, USA and Soviet Russia had maintained secret deals and this concealed relationship continues even today and did not reveal that to Turkey which even was made to fear an attack by Moscow. For instance, although strongly denied at the time by the US government, it was widely believed that the USA had concluded a deal with the Soviet Union whereby in exchange for its withdrawal of missiles from Cuba, the USA would withdraw the Jupiter missiles it had recently deployed in Turkey, accelerating fears in Istanbul. When the Jupiter missiles were indeed removed in April 1963, it was generally believed in Turkey that this was a case of the US protecting its own security interests at the expense of Turkey’s.

Many other events also contributed to cooling the bilateral relationship. The three military coups that occurred in Turkey between 1960 and 1980 were greeted with dismay in Washington, giving the strategic community in Turkey speculation that USA systematically promotes troubles in Turkey which then had to revise its anti-Soviet policy towards a neutral one.

USA insists every NATO member and ally must do exactly what Washington tell them. Turkey’s rapprochement with the Soviet Union in the 1970s, therefore, was also the cause of serious concern. By the end of the decade, Turkey was receiving generous economic assistance from the Soviet Union, which created a major crisis in NATO. Turkey was benefitting enormously from its friendship with the one country the USA and NATO were dedicated to opposing and resisting.

Another significant irritant was to emerge in the 1990s: Turkey’s policies and actions regarding its Kurdish minority that sought independence with US backing. Successive In order keep Turkey under its control, Turkish governments mounted campaigns to repress secessionist movements among the Kurds. In the course of those campaigns, Turkish security forces committed massive human rights abuses, including the wholesale destruction of villages and the displacement of populations.

Along with the governments of many western European countries pursuing fake democracy and imperialism, the USA, seeking to control Turkish government, became increasingly critical of the ‘human rights violations’ and voted to block the sale of military equipment to Turkey. These criticisms and actions gave rise to profound resentment among Turks for whom the Kurdish question is a matter of national unity and territorial integrity. Those resentments were intensified when the USA gave its support to the Kurds of northern Iraq following the first Gulf War of 1991.

There was a further falling out between the USA and Turkey at the start of the new century when hawkish CIA boss turned US president George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq to remove President Saddam Hussein, destabilize Iraq and squander its vast energy resources and it did accomplish all with Turkey’s help. In the run-up to that war, the Bush regime put heavy pressure on the Turkish government to allow it to station forces in Turkey so as to be able to create a second front for the assault on Iraq (with a threat rider that if Turkey does not oblige, it would use Russia to create problems for Turkey).

However, despite offers of billions of dollars in American economic assistance, the Turkish parliament, reflecting Turkish public opinion, turned down the American request cum indirect threat. This forced the USA to make major last-minute changes to its military planning for the war and engendered considerable bitterness in Washington.

Coup

USA and Israel have every effectively used Turkey, for too long, to stop Moscow from coming into close contact with Arab world, Islamic nations. But that trend is facing rupture. USA, its Neocons strategists are now deeply disturbed by the emerging scenario of Russia and Turkey cementing their ties – seen as a devastating step that could harm US interests across the globe

In fact, as the EU opposes an Islamic Turkey from entering the essentially Christian European structures, USA feared Turkey if left out of EU would eventually join hands with Russia, eagerly wanting to take Istanbul into its own global fold. USA is eager to keep Turkey in perpetual tensions- neither within Europe nor inside West Asia. Now Russia is fast becoming a top ally of Turkey.

In recent times, especially after the Israeli-Turkish tensions over Gaza Strip, in which USA as usual took a pro-Israeli stand and later tensions with Russia over shooting down of a Russia war plane believable on US instructions and very recent anti-Islamist coup by the pro-US section of Turkish military Turkey got annoyed as USA refused to support the Turkish government or sympathize with President Erdogan, and indirectly supported the coup plotters hoping to dismantle the Erdogan government and replace it with a bogus democratic regime to promote US and Israeli interests blindly. However, the coup plot was put down and USA and Germany stood fully exposed of their anti-Islamic agenda for Turkey and Mideast.

To complicate matters, strong disagreements have emerged over the fate of a Muslim cleric by the name of Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the United States for more than 15 years. From his base in Pennsylvania, Gulen runs a network of schools and charitable organizations in a number of Muslim countries, including Turkey. Once an ally of President Erdogan, they had a falling out in 2013, and since that time, Erdogan has accused Gulen of having infiltrated his supporters into the Turkish police, army and judiciary. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan claimed that Gulen had masterminded it and demanded his extradition from the United States to face justice in Turkey. The American government has taken a cautious approach to this demand of a NATO member for years, citing the doctrine of the separation of powers in the USA. It has said that it is willing to extradite Gulen if and when the Turkish government provided sufficient evidence to satisfy an American court that extradition is warranted. This response has generated yet more conspiracy theories and anti-Americanism in Turkey.

Two things are clear now. USA is basically anti-Islamic and it has fielded Gulen, among others in Turkey, to work for USA and NATO. Another important reality in this regard that harms Turkey’s genuine interests is joint operations by USA and Israel against Islamic world, including Turkey.

A major US ally Israel, on its part, manipulated US-Turkish relations to its own advantages against Arab nations.

USA uses Turkey only for advancing hidden agendas

As the most dreadful state terror nation whose military-intelligence networks are spread across the globe, USA could be instrumental in creating problems for the Erdogan government for its “disobedience” and terror attacks took place in cities, forcing the Turkish government to finally change its tune. It decided to allow the United States to use a major air base in Turkey for operations against the ISIS and to join in the aerial campaign against the ISIS, making Washington happy. This, however, proved to be a mixed blessing from the American perspective. Turkish air strikes were directed equally against ISIS targets and against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. Now these Kurdish forces are among America’s’ most valued allies in the war against the ISIS and Islam, and the Americans had invested heavily in training and equipping them. The United States and Turkey were once again operating at cross-purposes, to the dismay and annoyance of the Obama regime.

Matters have only gone from bad to worse in recent months. In mid-July, Turkey was the scene of a failed military coup, presumably ignited by USA, Germany and Israel, in the course of which some 300 people were killed and many more wounded. With vast displays of popular support, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was able to crush the coup attempt and reassert his authority. Erdogan then took advantage of the event to strengthen the nation by launching an overdue purge of all of anti-Islamist operators backed by USA. He arrested or dismissed approximately 80,000 policemen, judges, civil servants, teachers, academics and journalists, and closed down a number of media outlets that had been critical of his government and Islamic system. The coup forced Erdogan to put on full display his authoritarian tendencies.

Turkish aidship and coup have exposed anti-Islamic mindset of Turkey’s western Washington allies as Obama was fairly slow to condemn the coup attempt and express its support for the democratically elected government. In fact, within two days of the event, John Kerry was issuing warnings to the Turkish government to respect the human rights of its citizens. This infuriated the Turkish government and wide swaths of the Turkish population.

Western powers and Israel as its agent for many tasks, including arms sale to third world, have caused authoritarian tendencies in Turkey. The US-Germany move to destabilize the Islamist government and nation by enacting a coup has clearly spoiled the ties very badly.

However, US strategists think Turkey could be brought back to US obit by using Israel and Arab nations.

Being a party to destabilization move in Turkey, Washington was fairly slow to condemn the coup attempt or express its support for the democratically elected government. In fact, within two days of the event, John Kerry exposed the US complicity in the coup attempt, by issuing warnings to the Turkish government to “respect” the human rights of its citizens. This infuriated the Turkish government and wide swaths of the Turkish population. Public opinion polls suggest that a majority of Turks believe that the United States had something to do with it. Anti-American sentiment is now rife in Turkey.

When the Turkish government was contemplating military action in Cyprus in 1963-64, it was the object of a blistering response by the administration of President Lyndon Johnson. When Turkey did, in fact, invade and occupy northern Cyprus in 1974, it was soundly condemned in Washington and the US Congress voted an embargo on all military assistance to Turkey. The Turkish government retaliated by suspending all American operations at military facilities in Turkey. These events convinced many Turks that the United States government had little interest in protecting Turkey’s vital interests and that it was operating under the influence of the Greek-American community.

Other events also contributed to cooling the bilateral relationship. The three military coups that occurred in Turkey between 1960 and 1980 were greeted with dismay in Washington. Turkey’s rapprochement with the Soviet Union in the 1970s was also the cause of serious concern. By the end of the decade, Turkey was receiving generous economic assistance from the Soviet Union, which created a major anomaly in NATO. Turkey was benefitting enormously from its friendship with the one country the United States and NATO were dedicated to opposing and resisting.

Another significant irritant was to emerge in the 1990s: Turkey’s policies and actions regarding its Kurdish minority. Successive Turkish governments mounted campaigns to repress secessionist movements among the Kurds. Along with the governments of many western European countries, the US Congress became increasingly critical of these human rights violations and voted to block the sale of military equipment to Turkey. These criticisms and actions gave rise to profound resentment among Turks for whom the Kurdish question is a matter of national unity and territorial integrity.

Those resentments were intensified when the United States gave its support to the Kurds of northern Iraq following the first Gulf War of 1991.

There was a further falling out between the United States and Turkey at the start of the new century when President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq. In the run-up to that war, the Bush administration put heavy pressure on the Turkish government to allow it to station forces in Turkey so as to be able to create a second front for the assault on Iraq. Despite offers of billions of dollars in American economic assistance, the Turkish parliament, reflecting Turkish public opinion, turned down the American request. This forced the United States to make major last-minute changes to its military planning for the war and engendered considerable bitterness in Washington.

US double speak

US double speak does not require any elaboration and explanations as it has been hallmark of US practice in dealing with nations across the globe. Anything that suits Washington is good and other things are too bad for USA.

USA always seeks get its “wanted “people from foreign nations but it does not oblige Turkey by extraditing Gulen. Once an ally of President Erdogan, they had a falling out in 2013, and since that time, Erdogan has accused Gulen of having infiltrated his supporters into the Turkish police, army and judiciary. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdogan claimed that Gulen had masterminded it and demanded his extradition from the United States to face justice in Turkey.

Strong disagreements have emerged over the fate of a Muslim cleric by the name of Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the United States for more than 15 years. From his base in Pennsylvania, Gulen runs a network of schools and charitable organizations in a number of Muslim countries, including Turkey. The American government has taken deliberately a cautious approach to this demand, citing the doctrine of the “separation of powers” in the USA. It has said that it would extradite Gulen if and when the Turkish government provided “sufficient evidence” to satisfy an American court that extradition is warranted.

This response has generated yet more conspiracy theories and anti-Americanism in Turkey. Starting in 2014, the Obama regime, advancing the Neocons “regime change” agenda to generate puppet governments in Asia, especially in West Asia (Mideast), except in Israel,   began to display ever more impatience with the Turkish government’s attitude toward the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. South Asia not a problem for USA as India and Pakistan are promoting US interests. The Turkish authorities initially saw the IS as a useful Sunni Muslim adversary of the Shia/Alawite Syrian regime of President Bashar al Assad, whose overthrow had become a priority in Turkish policy. Not only did Turkey refuse to join the United States-led coalition fighting the IS, but it also allowed foreign fighters to transit its territory en route to join the ISIS extremists. This led the Obama administration to exert increasing pressure on Ankara to change its policy, but to no avail.

US leaders play chess with international affairs and get what they want form Turkey by promoting terror attacks. It was only when the IS began mounting terrorist attacks on Turkish cities and towns that the Turkish government finally changed its tune. It decided to allow the USA to use a major air base in Turkey for operations against the IS and to join in the aerial campaign against the IS. This, however, proved to be a mixed blessing from the American perspective. Turkish air strikes were directed equally against IS targets and against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. Now these Kurdish forces were among the USA most valued allies in the campaign against the ISIS, and the Americans had invested heavily in training and equipping them.

The United States and Turkey were once again operating at cross-purposes, to the dismay and annoyance of the Obama government. Starting in 2014, the Obama government began to display ever more “impatience” with the Turkish government’s independent attitude toward the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish authorities initially saw the ISIS as a useful Sunni Muslim adversary of the Shia/Alawite Syrian regime of President Bashar al Assad, whose overthrow had become a priority in Turkish policy.

The Obama team exerted increasing pressure on Ankara to change its policy by toeing the US line of state terrorist action, but to no avail.

Observation

Relations between the USA and Turkey are now at very low ebb. The historical record suggests that the two countries have in the past been able to overcome and reconcile their differences. They should seek to do so again in their mutual interest. However, whether or not they will be able to reconcile this time is an open question with profound implications for these two countries, as well as for Europe and the Middle East.

USA does not allow equal status in NATO any nation, including UK. This obviously creates tensions. USA always used Muslim nations, including Arab nations and never come to defend or support them in any manner and Turkey is no different.

Turkey, like today’s UK which refused to cooperate with USA and Israel over UN vote on Palestine’s defacto statehood, has shown it can withstand pressure tactics of USA and other western powers operating under the NATO terror organization and take a firm decision with regard to its national interest without spoiling the relations badly.

Unfortunately, America is eager to see an anti-Islamic Turkey emerging by throwing away the Islamist Brotherhood government and when his predecessors failed, Obama also tried it but also failed. The Islamist government in Turkey is not what USA wants in Europe and is trying to dismantle that.

American leaders have never been totally reliable partners of Turkey and so Turkey is not happy that USA stood by Israel when the Zionist military attacked Turkey aidship bound for Gaza to breach Israeli-Egyptian terror blockades. USA has succeeded, however, in dividing Islamic world as well as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

It is against this background of frequently troubled relations that the current tensions can best be understood. They represent little more than another chapter in a history largely characterized by episodes of mutual distrust and antagonism. Many in USA would think their destabilization move for Turkey would only harm President Erdogan and his Islamist program, but America would too feel the pinch once Turkey chooses to leave American orbit and US company.

As usual, USA can exert pressure on Russia to let Turkey, a close ally of USA and NATO, take its own decisions and force Turkey to undertake the tasks assigned by the big boss- Uncle Sam. The former Ottoman Empire would be very cautious.

Even though Turkey has been an ally of USA and NATO, It has been the target of these entire anti-Islamic nations. Even while using Turkey for NATO operations against Islam and Islamic nations, the USA has been working against Islamist government to destabilize it and replace it with a puppet regime like in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. But turkey has woken up the western challenge but that alone won’t end hostility of its sworn enemies in democracy uniform.

Of course USA and Turkey now each other as allies for several decades of joint military operations, but the latest development shows the former needs the latter more than the opposite scenario.

America is bent upon advancing terror wars in Islamic world. US concern for peace is not genuine. Hence the tensions with Turkey!

USA cannot exploit Turkey for advancing its own national interest and also create tension and destabilization in Turkey.

An honest ally won’t do that! Dishonesty can destroy any US sponsored international alliance.

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Who are the real betrayers of Egypt, Critics or Sycophants?

Mohammed Nosseir

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“You are betraying your country by exposing its defects!” is a common accusation made by the sycophants to the ruling regime in Egypt who have managed to well situated themselves in our society simply by blindly praising the ruler’s policies. Apparently, these sycophants place a higher value on the privileges that they have gained to living in a truly advanced nation. In fact, the real betrayers of any given authoritarian nation are those who justify this immoral ruling mechanism for their own personal gain.  

Despotism is the evilest ruling mechanism ever devised; apart from its cruelty and unfairness, it works on inflating the ruler’s ego by mirroring his thoughts that are always passionately endorsed by his flatterers, regardless of their merits! Meanwhile, the ruler’s manipulation of the entire political sphere impairs the state’s ability to detect and correct its blunders. Concurrently, the harsh and inhuman treatment of the state’s critics, which includes threats to their personal lives, results in spreading fear throughout the entire society.

A successful strategy for running a country ruled by a tyrannical government is to enable ignorant citizens to dominate the state media exclusively, thus empowering them to express their opinions on a much wider scale than knowledgeable citizens. This approach consequently creates significant friction between knowledgeable and ignorant citizens, resulting in the polarization of the entire nation. The state methodically fuels this process by labeling the mediocre as loyal citizens and accusing its critics of treason.

The privileging of sycophants financially, along with advancing their power and upscaling their status, have prompted many Egyptians to join this beneficial club, which prerequisites praising superiors and justifying their faults, thus compensating for the natural dullness and incompetence of the flatterers. Meanwhile, the state’s critics who demand freedom and stand by their values are aware that they are engaged in a long-lasting battle and are risking their lives for generations to come!

In fact, sycophants are the weakest link in the state’s ruling dynamics. They hypocritically heap intense praise on the security apparatus who sacrifice their lives to defend our nation – but do their utmost to ensure that their youngsters abandon their military duty; just one facet of their deceitful conduct. Sycophantic behavior and false testimony are the most sinful acts in Islam; yet they have become, ironically, a habitual pattern of behavior in our social norms.  

That Egypt needs to be ruled by an Iron-fist is a common argument put forth by the flatterers. It is translated into applying harsh measures to critics and laxity toward lawbreakers – a proposition that reflects the low moral values espoused by flatterers to secure their status. The policy of maximum repression adopted by the current ruling regime might be successful in controlling society; however, it has certainly contributed to an escalation of terrorism activities by political Islamists against the military apparatus.

In my former party, the Egyptian Democratic Front, a few executive party members used to instantly report our internal discussions to the State Security apparatus. In addition totheir immoral conduct and betrayal of their peers, they used to enhance their ratting out by exacerbating our opposing political stands. I argued, at that time, for either offering those ratters a crash course on “minutes-taking” or inviting the State Security apparatus to participate in our meetings to better learn about our viewpoints.

“Cairo is a dirty city” – a painful remark that I occasionally hear from international visitors to our capital. The Egyptian State will never be able to manipulate the perception of millions of diversified tourists who visit Cairo yearly, but we can easily work to bring order to our city and live in a hygienic place. The same applies to other qualities of life such as freedom, dignity and justice; we need to highlight deficiencies in these areas to be able to advance our nation.  

President Al Sisi has a clear desire to be a remarkable leader; he believes that expanding our roads and building new flyovers will make Egypt an advanced nation and that these developments will be credited to his legacy. The president is unaware that the future of our country will be written and judged by the youths of today, who are extremely angry with him due to his policy of demolishing humanity and freedom, compounded by his inability to create decent jobs for youngsters.

Egypt is currently confronting a number of complex internal and external challenges, including an economic slowdown, a civil war on our eastern borders, a potential water shortage due to the filling of Ethiopian GRED and rising unemployment. All of these challenges, and many more, will simply be intensified by our deep polarization, further weakening the state. The sycophants’ deliberate misleading of Egypt concerning these challenges is dragging our nation downward, transforming us into a fragile state.

Advancing an old-fashioned country like Egypt requires honest citizens who have bold ideas and enough courage to implement their ideas. These qualities are found more among knowledgeable citizens and critics of the state who are already sacrificing for their country; large numbers of them are spending their best years in prison simply for having voiced their opinions. Modernizing Egypt will require our president to unite our nation, appointing well-educated citizens to key positions and completely discarding state sycophants.

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Israel-China Relations: Staring Into the Abyss of US-Chinese Decoupling

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Israel knew the drill even before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boarded his flight to Tel Aviv earlier this month four days after the death of his father. It was Mr. Pompeo’s first and only overseas trip since March.

Echoing a US warning two decades ago that Israeli dealings with China jeopardized the country’s relationship with the United States, Mr. Pompeo’s trip solidified Israel’s position at the cusp of the widening US-Chinese divide.

Two decades ago the issue was the potential sale to China of Israeli Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS). Israel backed out of the deal after the US threatened withdrawal of American support for the Jewish state.

This month the immediate issue was a Chinese bid for construction of the world’s largest desalination plant and on the horizon a larger US-Chinese battle for a dominating presence in Eastern Mediterranean ports.

Within days of his visit, Mr. Pompeo scored a China-related success even if the main focus of his talks with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was believed to be Iran and Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Israel signalled that it had heard the secretary’s message by awarding the contract for the Sorek-2 desalination plant to an Israeli rather than a Chinese company.

The tender, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.

China’s interest in Israel is strategic given the fact that the Jewish state is one of the world’s foremost commercial, food and security technology powerhouses and one of the few foreign countries to command significant grassroots support in the United States.

If there is one thing Israel cannot afford, it is a rupture in its bonds to the United States. That is no truer than at a time in which the United States is the only power supportive of Israeli annexation plans on the West Bank.

The question is whether Israel can develop a formula that convinces the United States that US interests will delineate Israeli dealings with China and reassure China that it can still benefit from Israeli assets within those boundaries.

“Right now, without taking the right steps, we are looking at being put in the situation in which the US is telling us we need to cut or limit our relations with China. The problem is that Israel wants freedom of relations with China but is not showing it really understands US concerns. Sorek-2 was a good result. It shows the Americans we get it.” said Carice Witte, executive director of Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership (SIGNAL) that seeks to advance Israeli-Chinese relations.

Analysts, including Ms. Witte, believe that there is a silver lining in Israel’s refusal to award the desalination plant to a Chinese company that would allow it to steer a middle course between the United States and China.

“China understands that by giving the Americans this win, China-Israel relations can continue. It gives them breathing room,” Ms. Witte said in an interview.

It will, however, be up to Israel to develop criteria and policies that accommodate the United States and make clear to China what Israel can and cannot do.

“In order for Israel to have what it wants… it’s going to need to show the Americans that it takes Washington’s strategic perceptions into consideration and not only that, that it’s two steps ahead on strategic thinking with respect to China.  The question is how.” Ms. Witte said.

Ports and technology are likely to be focal points.

China is set to next year takeover the management of Haifa port where it has already built its own pier and is constructing a new port in Ashdod.

One way of attempting to address US concerns would be to include technology companies in the purview of a still relatively toothless board created under US pressure in the wake of the Haifa deal to review foreign investment in Israel. It would build in a safeguard against giving China access to dual civilian-military use technology.

That, however, may not be enough to shield Israel against increased US pressure to reduce Chinese involvement in Israeli ports.

“The parallels between the desalination plant and the port are just too close to ignore. We can’t have another infrastructure divide,” Ms. Witte said.

The two Israeli ports will add to what is becoming a Chinese string of pearls in the Eastern Mediterranean.

China already manages the Greek port of Piraeus.

China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) is looking at upgrading Lebanon’s deep seaport of Tripoli to allow it to accommodate larger vessels.

Qingdao Haixi Heavy-Duty Machinery Co. has sold Tripoli port two 28-storey container cranes capable of lifting and transporting more than 700 containers a day, while a container vessel belonging to Chinese state-owned shipping company COSCO docked in Tripoli in December 2018, inaugurating a new maritime route between China and the Mediterranean.

Major Chinese construction companies are also looking at building a railroad that would connect Beirut and Tripoli in Lebanon to Homs and Aleppo in Syria.  China has further suggested that Tripoli could become a special economic zone within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and serve as an important trans-shipment point between the People’s Republic and Europe.  

BRI is a massive infrastructure, telecommunications and energy-driven effort to connect the Eurasian landmass to China.

Potential Chinese involvement in reconstruction of post-war Syria would likely give it access to the ports of Latakia and Tartous.

Taken together, China is looking at dominating the Eastern Mediterranean with six ports in four countries, Israel, Greece, Lebanon, and Syria that would create an alternative to the Suez Canal.

All that is missing are Turkish, Cypriot and Egyptian ports.

The Chinese build- up threatens to complicate US and NATO’s ability to manoeuvre in the region.

The Trump administration has already warned Israel that Chinese involvement in Haifa could jeopardize continued use of the port by the US fifth fleet.

“The writing is on the wall. Israel needs to carve out a degree of wiggle room. That however will only come at a price. There is little doubt that Haifa will move into the firing line,” said a long-time observer of Israeli-Chinese relations.

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Will Gulf States Learn From Their Success in Handling the Pandemic?

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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The economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic for Gulf states has done far more than play havoc with their revenue base and fiscal household. It has propelled massive structural change to the top of their agenda in ways that economic diversification plans had not accounted for.

Leave aside whether Gulf states can continue to focus on high-profile, attention-grabbing projects like Neom, Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion USD 21st century futuristic city on the Red Sea.

Gulf rulers’ to do list, if they want to get things right, is long and expensive without the burden of trophy projects. It involves economic as well as social and ultimately political change.

Transparency and accurate and detailed public reporting go to the core of these changes.

They also are key to decisions by investors, economists, and credit rating companies at a time when Gulf states’ economic outlook is in question. Many complain that delays in GDP reporting and lack of easy access to statistics complicates their decision-making.

Nonetheless, if there is one thing autocratic Gulf governments have going for themselves, beyond substantial financial reserves, it is public confidence in the way they handled the pandemic, despite the fact that they failed to initially recognize crowded living circumstances of migrant workers as a super spreader.

Most governments acted early and decisively with lockdowns and curfews, testing, border closures, repatriation of nationals abroad, and, in Saudi Arabia, suspension of pilgrimages.

To be sure, Gulf countries, and particularly Saudi Arabia that receives millions of Muslim pilgrims from across the globe each year, have a long-standing history of dealing with epidemics. Like Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, they were better prepared than Western nations.

History persuaded the kingdom to ban the umrah, the lesser Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, in late February, days before the first case of a Covid-19 infection emerged on Saudi soil.

Beyond public health concerns, Saudi Arabia had an additional reason to get the pandemic right. It offered the kingdom not only an opportunity to globally polish its image, badly tarnished by human rights abuses, power grabs, and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but also to retain religious influence despite the interruption in the flow of pilgrims to the kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia is still a reference for many Muslim communities around the world,” said Yasmine Farouk, a scholar of Saudi Arabia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It also allowed Saudi Arabia to set the record straight following criticism of its handling of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012 when the kingdom became the epidemic’s epicenter and in 2009 when it was hit by the H1N1 virus.

Saudi Arabia is also blamed for contributing to a public health catastrophe in Yemen with its frequent indiscriminate bombings.

A country in ruins as a result of the military intervention, Yemen has grappled for the past four years with a cholera epidemic on the kingdom’s borders.

Trust in Gulf states’ handling of the current pandemic was bolstered by degrees of transparency on the development of the disease in daily updates in the number of casualties and fatalities.

It was further boosted by a speech by King Salman as soon as the pandemic hit the kingdom in which he announced a raft of measures to counter the disease and support the economy as well as assurances by agriculture minister Abdulrahman al-Fadli that the crisis would not affect food supplies.

Ms. Farouk suggested that government instructions during the pandemic were followed because of “trust in the government, the expertise and the experience of the government [and] trust in the religious establishment, which actually was following the technical decisions of the government.”

To be sure, Ms. Farouk acknowledged, the regime’s coercive nature gave the public little choice.

The limits of government transparency were evident in the fact that authorities were less forthcoming with details of public spending on the pandemic and insight into available medical equipment like ventilators and other supplies such as testing kits.

Some Gulf states have started publishing the daily and total number of swabs but have yet to clarify whether these figures include multiple swabbings of the same person.

“It is likely that publics in the Middle East will look back at who was it that gave them reliable information, who was it who was there for them,” said political scientist Nathan Brown.

The question is whether governments will conclude that transparency will be needed to maintain public confidence as they are forced to rewrite social contracts that were rooted in concepts of a cradle-to-grave welfare state but will have to involve greater burden sharing.

Gulf governments have so far said little about burden sharing being allocated equitably across social classes nor has there been transparency on what drives investment decisions by sovereign wealth funds in a time of crisis and changing economic outlook.

Speaking to the Financial Times, a Gulf banker warned that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “needs to be careful what he spends on . . . Joe Public will be watching.”

Headed by Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund has gone on a $7.7 billion USD shopping spree buying stakes in major Western blue chips, including four oil majors: Boeing, Citigroup, Disney, and Facebook. The Public Investment Fund is also funding a bid for English soccer club Newcastle United.

The banker suggested that Saudi nationals would not appreciate “millionaire footballer salaries being paid for by VAT (value added tax) on groceries.” He was referring to this month’s hiking of sales taxes in the kingdom from five to 15 percent.

The fragility and fickleness of public trust was on display for the world to see in Britain’s uproar about Dominic Cummings, a close aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who violated lockdown instructions for personal reasons. Mr. Johnson is struggling to fight off demands for Mr Cummings’ dismissal.

To be sure, senior government officials and business executives in the Gulf have cautioned of hard times to come.

A recent Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey of CEOs predicted that 70 percent of the United Arab Emirates’ companies would go out of business in the next six months, including half of its restaurants and hotels and three-quarters of its travel and tourism companies.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan warned earlier this month that the kingdom would need to take “painful” measures and look for deep spending cuts as a result of the collapse of oil prices and significantly reduced demand for oil.

Aware of sensitivities, Mr. Al-Jadaan stressed that “as long as we do not touch the basic needs of the people, all options are open.”

There was little transparency in Mr. Al-Jadaan’s statements on what the impact would be on employment-seeking Saudi nationals in a labor market where fewer migrant workers would be available for jobs that Saudis have long been unwilling to accept.

It was a missed opportunity considering the 286 percent increase in the number of Saudis flocking to work for delivery services.

The increase was fueled by an offer by Hadaf, the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund, to pay drivers $800 USD a month, as well as a newly-found embrace of volunteerism across the Gulf.

The surge offered authorities building blocks to frame expectations at a time when the kingdom’s official unemployment rate of 12 percent is likely to rise.

It suggested a public acknowledgement of the fact that well-paying, cushy government positions may no longer be as available as they were in the past as well as the fact that lesser jobs are no less honorable forms of employment.

That may be the silver lining as Gulf states feel the pressure to reinvent themselves in a world emerging from a pandemic that potentially will redraw social, economic, and political maps.

Author’s note: This story was first published in Inside Arabia

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