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Additional considerations on Syria

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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A complex strategic game is underway between Russia, Iran, Syria and, consequently, between Assad’ supporters and the other actors of the current Syrian war balance.

Firstly, note must be taken of the statements made by the Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani who, on January 15 last, said that “the fragmentation of regional areas in the Middle East will anyway pave the way for the Takfiri forces (i.e. the “Infidels”) on all Islamic territories”. He also added, with an interesting nuance, that this runs counter to the interests of the whole Islamic world” – and hence Iran.

In other words, Shamkhani, who speaks in the name and on behalf of the Supreme Leadership Authority and Supreme Leader, Rahbar Khamenei, means two things: he means that Iran will fight for the integrity of Syria, and within its old borders, and that Iran is anyway ready to fight against the Takfiri, namely the “apostates”, both in the Shiite and in the Sunni world.

Iran has no interest in setting a “democracy” fire to the Middle East, as conversely was the case for the United States with the notorious “Arab Springs” and the creation of the so-called “Caliphate” between Iraq and Syria.

Furthermore, in Iran, the Shiite fight against the Sunni Takfirism entails   some future clash with Saudi Arabia, although Shamkhani has been clear in saying that what he states does not even regard Saudi Arabia’s regime.

Shamkhani added: “The fall of the ruling Saudi Royal Family does not mean that it would be replaced by a new regime better adapted to the needs.” It is better to control and protect, at a very high political cost, rather than creating strategic void conditions which would be uncontrollable.

Once again, the “Arab springs” lesson has been fully understood and learnt by the Middle East powers.

Moreover Iran insists on the fact it does not want to destabilize anyone – and the same holds true for Russia itself, which has even invited Saudi Arabia in the future conference for the New Middle East.

For all those who are winning the war in Syria the essential strategic aim is to maintain the current system, with the United States losing and – hopefully now reluctantly – linked to Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, the Americans still have a lukewarm attitude – as in Obama’s perspective – vis-à-vis Israel, the only right card they were not able to play and which will finally be played by the current Trump Presidency.

And we expect so not just in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, on Monday 15 last, Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian Arab Army launched an effective attack on the military emplacements and installations of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the new franchise of the Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian group of al-Qaeda operating in the region along with the jihad of Harakat Harar al-Sham, another contentious union of small jihadist groups.

Since yesterday the 42nd Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division of Assad’s forces has been repeatedly hitting al-Fijah areas, in the Wadi Barada region, in an emplacement that the jihadist forces not signatories to the agreement held and refused to leave, according to the letter of the Treaty signed on December 30, 2016 in Astana.

Wadi had been recently held by the Free Syrian Army, the main operator of the West’s “blind kittens”.

Fateh al-Sham is even supposed of having killed a mediator of the peace treaty.

Looking at the Chiefs of Staff’s maps and documents, Wadi Barada is the point linking Central Syria’s water needs and the closure of the Syrian, Russian and Iranian front on Damascus, of which Wadi is the primary gateway.

Bashar al-Assad’s and the Lebanese Hezb’ollah forces are still at work – liberating Wadi means to ensure the survival of Damascus and to open the way to Idlib.

Meanwhile, Russia and Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian Arab Army keep on bombing Isis-Daesh emplacements between Maskanah and the Deir Hafer plain.

We are in Aleppo’s Eastern region, which is also central to put an end to the war. The Russian and Syrian bombings are targeted to destroy the main road for the supplies of the so-called “Caliphate”, going from Raqqa to East Aleppo.

According to internal military sources, Russia even supported and protected the Turkish control area north of Al Bab, by throwing bombs in air raids.

Furthermore, again according to Syrian sources, the Russian Air Force has already created its own fixed structure, which should support and cover the Syrian ground offensive precisely in the Deir Hafer region.

As expected, Russia is using the truce of December 30 last to strengthen its positions in Syria.

Rumours are rife that there is a plan to strengthen the naval base of Tartus, in the Mediterranean, and that the Russian air forces will be increased in the Humaynim base.

Furthermore, in another crucial point of the war in Syria, reliable Russian sources inform us that Bashar al-Assad’s forces are advancing in East Ghouta, in the region of Damascus, and hitting jihadist positions in Autaya and Nashabiyan, areas where Jaysh al-Islam operated.

Bashar al-Assad’ Syrians had the support of some agents of the Iranian intelligence services and, above all, of a hit squad of Free Palestine Movement which, in the current Syrian war, is usually armed precisely by Iran.

Another battle that helps to understand the war is the one in Deir Ezzor, where Daesh-Isis is operating massively.

Obviously if the “Caliphate” loses Deir Ezzor, Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Russia will have all clear way to Raqqa.

For the time being, Bashar al-Assad’ Syrians are taking back some significant military positions and installations, such as the helicopter fields that Daesh/Isis had previously regained, while the so-called “Caliphate” definitely wants to keep Deir Ezzor airport, which is the axis of Isis jihadists’ territorial resilience to protect Raqqa, which is still their “capital city”.

In essence, the crisis points of the current war in Syria are the offensives of Assad’s Damascus forces towards Deir Ezzor and Palmyra, as well as the “Caliphate” response in the Deir Ezzor region.

Among other things, there is also the already mentioned issue of Wadi Barada and Ghouta East. If the operations in Wadi Barada are successful for the Syrian forces, the way to Beit Jinín, the crucial area running between Damascus and the Golan Heights, will be open for Assad’s Army.

This is an essential point for Israel’s involvement in the war that no one wants and is definitely not in Israel’s plans.

In the coming days, the role played by Turkey in East Aleppo will be very decisive, because the Turkish forces should conquer Al Bab, the current lowest point of the “Islamic State” military force and possibly the key for breaking it up and destroying it definitely.

These are the forces on the ground but, at cultural and political levels, we are witnessing a new and largely unexpected phenomenon.

One of today’s active forces is what we could define new totalitarian Islamism, which obviously include the so-called “Islamic State”, but also all the jihadism operating in the Middle East, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s old network, which is at the origin of the current chaos.

These are forces which, apart from the so-called “Caliphate”, are fighting for greater and more decisive political presence in all their Sunni or non-Sunni penetration areas.

Furthermore there is Iran, which does not want to create the all too familiar “Shiite camp” and is not interested in doing so, but supports its interests in Syria, Yemen, the Unites Arab Emirates and the wide minorities of “the Party of Ali” throughout the Fertile Crescent.

As stated by the Iranian leader mentioned at the beginning of this article, for the time being Iran does not want to wage war, but the Shiite Iran is seeking stability so as to later negotiate with the existing powers in the region from a position of strength.

We are reminded of the recent statement made by a commander of the Pasdaran, namely the Iranian “Revolutionary Guards”, informing us of the fact that his army structure already controlled four Arab capital cities, namely Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a.

Hence Turkey is basically distant from NATO policies in the Middle East – if it were ever close to them – and Russia has gained, on the ground, the decisive support of the Atlantic Alliance’ second military force.

Iran will continue to play its “Shiite International” card, but without abrupt or dangerous operations, which could isolate it from Russia, its inevitable global ally, and from the “Sunni camp”, which has a vested interest in bringing the conflict with Iran closer.

Up to a certain extent, however.

No one, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, wants military confrontation with Iran, considering that their Shiite minorities are now active on their own territory.

As Shamkhani said, the very resilience of their States would be in danger.

Furthermore Russia will remain in Syria until three key strategic goals are reached: the elimination of every US jihadist or non-jihadist proxy; the creation of a series of alliances, also with Donald Trump’s United States, so as to monitor truces and Syria’s internal stability under Bashar al-Assad; finally, the agreement with Turkey for its areas of interest in the Syrian and Iraqi territory.

Furthermore there is also the control of Iran’s ambitions and designs which, in Russia’s opinion, must only be regional and designed to protect its borders.

Russia does not want to build its Shiite “Saudi Arabia” to which it should be linked in a region where strategic autonomy is the essential factor for those who know how to wage war and hence how to make peace.

This is what is happening, while the European Union pretends to exist and the widest regime change of our time is taking place not in Syria, but in the United States.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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Middle East

NATO and the puzzle of a nuclear deal with Iran

Mohammad Ghaderi

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A meeting of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Heads of State and Government was held on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 July 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. NATO leaders met in Brussels amidst a terse environment that threatens to further weaken the post-war order.

This year’s meeting came at a tense time for transatlantic relations since the US president is set to sit down one-on-one with Russian president Vladimir Putin on May 16 in Helsinki. One of the topics the US president sought to discuss with his Western counterparts in Brussels was “the nuclear deal with Iran” and its fate.  Regarding this controversial issue Time wrote:

“After ripping up the Iran nuclear deal in May, the Trump Administration is fanning out across the globe to rally support for a return to economy-crippling sanctions against Tehran.”

It continues: “The effort comes ahead of President Donald Trump’s trip next week to Europe, where he is expected to pressure leaders into joining the far-reaching campaign to handcuff major aspects of Iran’s economy, including driving oil exports to zero. If European allies don’t join, Trump has threatened secondary sanctions on any company that does business with Tehran.”

According to the Time and other Western sources, Donald Trump intends to press NATO leaders over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and “The president hopes his bare-knuckled approach will coerce European leaders to unite behind him, even as they publicly oppose a return to sanctions and scamper to salvage the existing nuclear deal without American participation. This is while the White House keeps to press its European allies for increasing the military and defense budget (to 2% of their GDP).

While the transatlantic tensions are raising day by day due to the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Europe, what meaning can negotiations on the JCPOA imply? Does Trump intend to make a deal with his European partners in this regard? Do NATO’s European members welcome the integration of the JCPOA amid their conflicts with the US?

The British Prime Minister Theresa May has recently asked other European countries to remain silent against Trump’s actions in imposing tariffs on imported goods from Europe, and not to seek retaliatory measures. She also asked European authorities to negotiate with the US president on the JCPOA. Indeed, what’s going on among NATO members?

The truth is that in near future, the JCPOA will turn to the Europe’s leverage for making deals with the United States in security grounds, an issue witch its signs we could well see in the Brussels summit. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in its calculations, the EU is still regarding itself as dependent to the United States. Those like Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are adjusting their policies in the international system based on their security dependence on the United States. It might be possible that the European officials agree on “restraining Trump”, but that’s all, and we can’t expect them to go further as to fulfil their obligations in this regard. The EU would never confront the US seriously, since “resisting against the White House” is in no way defined in Europe’s strategies and tactics.

In the course of the G7 recent meeting in Canada, Donald Trump discussed various subjects with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, including Iran nuclear deal, tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Europe, and the increase of NATO defense budget. But these talks resulted in the intensified disagreements among EU member states and Trump. The tensions were so high that the meeting ended with no final statement. Now the US president is pursuing the same approach I dealing with NATO states.

Trump and the European countries both regard the tensions raised in the international system as a “single package”. In this equation, Trump asks the European authorities to cease their support for the JCPOA and the continuation of the nuclear deal in exchange for a decrease in the US economic and security pressures. It should be noted that one of the main reasons for the European leaders’ refusal of offering a conclusive, detailed and effective package to Iran regarding the JCPOA was their secret negotiations with the American officials. Since the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Mike Pompeo the American Secretary of State had been constantly in contact with the European troika’s foreign ministers, and announced them the exact positions and policies of the US government.

In the course of the NATO summit, we witnessed the continuation of the Europe’s paradoxical game playing towards the JCPOA. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the EU’s main strategy towards Iran and the JCPOA, is to make us remain as part of the nuclear deal as long as possible, and without benefiting from its advantages, so that the influence of the US sanctions would be multiplied. The offering of the EU’s unacceptable and useless package of proposals is also to be analyzed in the same vein; a weak package which is resulted from the special relations between the US and Europe.

First published in our partner MNA

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Middle East

God’s Grace: Reichstag Fire and July 15 Military Coup

Zakir Gul, Ph.D.

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“By the grace of God!” Some rulers use the cry to explain why certain events happen and why they play out as they do. They will argue that God, in allowing the events to happen, has bestowed his grace upon the ruler. Two rulers and two events—the Reichstag fire in Germany on February 27, 1933,and the military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016—illustrate the devastating consequences this twisted logic can have on the lives of ordinary people.When Adolph Hitler arrived at the scene, he told German Chancellor Franz von Pape, “This is a God-given signal” to crush Communists (and later opponents). Immediately after the failed military coup, Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the event was “a gift from God” and justification for Erdogan to start cleansing the military (and later purging opponents).

The similarities between the two events are striking in terms of beneficiaries, consequences and suspicions about the rulers’ true intentions going forward. Soon after the fire, Hitler started to consolidate his powers in the name of protecting the state’s security and democracy. To do so, Hitlersuspended civil liberties and shut the door on the rights and freedom of the country’s citizens. The fire in the heart of the countrywas used to justify the notion that the country was in a great danger. With decrees, Hitler purged his opponents, even though there was only one person considered to be responsiblefor the fire. Erdogan followed a similar path when he has declared a state of emergency after the coup attempt and consolidated his powers with radical changes in the country’s political and legal systems. With decrees, Erdogan purged hundreds of thousands of people under the guise of protecting the country’s security and democracy—even though soldiers who allegedly were involved in the coup attempt that night already had been into custody.In the political arena, Hitler increased the number of votes he received in the election that took place a week after the fire. Similarly, public support for Erdogan increased after the coup attempt. History does, indeed, repeat itself. These are two of many examples that could have been cited.

It may not be possible to know for sure who staged and orchestrated the Reichstag fire orthe military coup attempt; however, it is clear that the rulers’ purported motives are suspicious and their explanations filled with inconsistencies, given the many controversies arising from both events.The Reichstag firehas been discussed by scholars and historians who concluded that Hitler and his team—either directly or indirectly—helped to instigate the fire. Indeed, the arsonist responsible for the fire was pardoned years later. The military coup in Turkey wasa terrorizing and wicked deed against humanity and democracy, and the persons responsible must be identified and punished based on the rule of law and democratic values. It is, however, a Herculean task. Too many loopholes and controversies about the coup attempt need to be clarified. Erdogan should provide evidence-based, honest and objective explanations to remove the suspicions surrounding the coup attempt. Many answers are needed. For example,why did Erdogan refuse to answer questions from the major opposition party (the Republican People’s Party, or CHP) about the coup? Why has the investigation case report and the report of the parliament’s investigation committee deemed inappropriate and unsatisfactory even by some members of the committee? More important, why has an international committee not been allowed to investigate the case? Questions such as these highlight the many mysteries and suspicions that still surround the event two years after it occurred.

An independent international investigation committee should be established by the United Nations to examine the coup attempt and eliminate possible suspicions about Erdogan and his governing team. The committee also should determine whether thousands of people were responsible for organizing the coup attempt, as the government alleges, and clarify the following: whether some U.S. citizens, such as Andrew Brunson, who is still in jail, were among the primary plotters of the coup; whether some other U.S. citizens for whom bounties were offered were behind the coup attempt; and whether the United States was behind the coup attempt, as Turkish politicians and government officials claim—even though the United States has denied any involvement in the event.

Another independent international investigation committee should be established by the U.N.(or some other internationally accepted institution)to investigate the aftermath of the coup. Violations of internationally accepted human rights (as reported by credible human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) that have been committed by government security and intelligence officials since the coup attempt should be investigated. The committee also should also determine whether persons victimized in any way (such as imprisonment, job loss, inhumane treatment, and deprival of constitutional rights and freedoms)were based on evidence or resulted from the arbitrary application punishment. A final task of the committee should be to investigate allegations of abductions, extrajudicial executions and torture by government security and intelligence agencies. As John Dalhuisen,Amnesty International’s Europe director, has said, “It is absolutely imperative that the Turkish authorities halt these abhorrent practices and allow international monitors to visit all these detainees in the places they are being held.”

An independent and objective domestic committee that consists of members from every political party in the country—regardless of the parties’ percentage of the vote among constituents—should be established to investigate the same issues the two international committees need to review. Care must be taken to ensure that the members of this domestic committee—unlike those serving on the committee that was formed after the coup attempt—can maintain their objectivity and are aware of their responsibilities. The committee should be transparent and its actions and discussions observed and by international representatives of the U.N., the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union, and individual countries and/or journalists.

Finally, the European Court of Human Rights, an internationally accepted high court of which Turkey is a member,should determine for itself—rather than rely solely on the response from government officials—whether the country’s domestic legal and judicial system can be accessed openly and freely by all citizens and the attorneys representing them in legal matters.

It is only through these independent international and domestic investigations that the truth about the failed coup attempt can come to light.

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Middle East

Ghassan Kanafani, the Palestinian Pioneer Author of Resistance Literature

Sondoss Al Asaad

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The eighth of July marks the 46th martyrdom anniversary of Ghassan Kanafani, who was assassinated by the Zionist Intelligence;  Mossad, along with his 17-year-old niece Lamees. Days before their martyrdom, Lamees had asked Kanafani to diminish his activitism and to concentrate on his writings. He answered her,” I write well because I believe in a cause, in principles. The day I leave these principles, my stories will become purposeless. If I were to leave behind my principles, you yourself would not respect me.”

Kanafani was born in 1936, in Palestine, to a father who was a national activist in the resistance against the British colonialism. After the 1948 Zionist occupation, his family sought refuge to Syria, when he was 12-year-old. In the refuge camps, Kanafani wrote most of his novels which highlights the sufferings that the Palestinians endure in the diaspora. He won multiple awards for his works both during his life and posthumously. For instance, in “Umm Saad,” Kanafani’s protagonist is a symbol of the Palestinian women in the refugee camps.

Kanafani was inspired by Jamal Abd al-Nasser’s ideas of national independence and defiance of imperialism. Due to the decline of Nasserism after the 1961 failure to consolidate Egypt and Syria under a unified United Arab Republic, the ascendancy of imperialism and Zionism and the rise of communism; Kanafani, along with his comrade George Habash, resolved to adopt Marxism. They belived that the political crisis in the Arab world could only be solved by turning the anti-imperialist struggle into a social revolution.

In Lebanon, Kanafani adopted the Communist philosophy and become a leading member of the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He says, “The Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary, wherever he is, as a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses in our era.”

Besides, he was a prolific creative and brilliant novelist and the first to anticipate the “resistance literature” genre. His literary products and fictitious works have inspired a whole generation of resisting youth, both during and after his lifetime as they are greatly rooted in the Palestinian culture and cause. Kanafani dedicated his works to reflect on the Palestinians’ lives and the challenges they face under the Zionist occupation. He states, “My political position springs from my being a novelist. In so far as I am concerned, politics and the novel are an indivisible case and I can categorically state that I became politically committed because I am a novelist, not the opposite.”

The assassination of Ghassan Kanafani was the result of his commitment to the Palestinian cause and the resistance methodology. Today, his legacy echo within every free revolutionary who devoted his life to confront the imperialist conspiracies. Indeed, Kanafani was murdered merely because he had constituted an intellectual threat to the Zionist entity. He refused the negotiations with the enemy, pointing that it would be “a conversation between the sword and the neck […] I have never seen talks between a colonialist case and a national liberation movement.”

The chief thematic field of Kanafani’s writing was inseparably connected to the anti-imperialism struggle. He stressed that the Palestinian cause could not be resolved in isolation of the Arab ‘s social and political crisis. Further, he insisted on developing the resistance movement from being a nationalist Palestinian liberation movement into being a pan-Arab revolutionary socialist movement of which the liberation of Palestine would be a vital component.

Definitely, Kanafani played an influential role in raising consciousness on the issue of imperialism. He maintains, “Imperialism has laid its body over the world, the head in Eastern Asia, the heart in the Middle East, its arteries reaching Africa and Latin America. Wherever you strike it, you damage it, and you serve the world revolution. “Shortly after Kanafani’s obituary in Lebanon, “The Daily Star” stated, “He was a commando who never fired a gun, whose weapon was a ball-point pen, and his arena the newspaper pages.”

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