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Syria’s new position on the Russian scene

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap]mong the nine military bases currently used by the Russian Federation, so far the only one in Syria is Tartus, a naval facility classified by Russia as a “technical and material support point”, operating since 1971 thanks to an agreement with Hafez al-Assad’s Baathist Syria. The Humaynim air base, however, is Syrian and, in any case, Russian aircraft and sensors are stationed there.

The Tartus base is a necessary supply and repair point for the initially Soviet and later Russian ships that were to transit through the base located in the Syrian territory to reach the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

The Tartus base can accommodate three ships at the same time and an Amur PM-138 class repair ship is stationed there. Nevertheless the base is not yet suitable for hosting, protecting and repairing the new large Russian warships.

Nevertheless the new agreement between the Russian and Syrian governments, signed last January, extends the concession of the base to the Russian Federation for further 49 years and allows the necessary works to make the Tartus base capable of repairing and supplying eleven ships at the same time. Most importantly, it grants to Russia sovereignty over the base territory and its waters.

In particular, the Tartus base will be able to host ships which are both nuclear-armed and nuclear-propelled.

If we relate this fact to the Russian base planned by Khalifa Haftar’s “Operation Dignity” on the coast of Cyrenaica – an operation seeking to ridicule the European and North American powers which have bet on the wrong horse, namely Al Serraj, a true Machiavelli’s “unarmed prophet” – we have all the geopolitical dimension of the new projection of Russian power onto the Mediterranean.

We must also consider the Conference managed by Russia for mediating between Hamas and Fatah, making Russia stand for becoming the only real Middle East power broker, while the United States is turned into a  free tool of the Saudi policy against Iran and Qatar, which are still supported by Turkey, namely NATO’s second armed force.

It is certainly not easy for NATO to find a common policy on the Middle East, considering that France and Turkey support Haftar; the other NATO European countries unnecessarily support al-Sarraj’s government, in line with UN preferences; Russia backs “Operation Dignity” of Libyan General Haftar, who already controls Cyrenaica, Sirte and much of the Libyan oil crescent, and the United States does nothing.

In other words, in the Mediterranean basin, the Russian Federation plans to restructure the whole Maghreb region on its own, after the evident US failure of the “Arab Springs”.

The Russian strategy is easy to explain, namely a series of military bases or concessions, which progressively expel the United States and its  European allies from the Mediterranean region.

Furthermore Russia will soon propose a possible agreement of mutual alliance and bilateral support against terrorism that will be offered by it to all NATO and EU Mediterranean countries, ever less seduced by NATO and above all by the United States.

Let us revert, however, to the new Russian base in Syria, which closes the loop of this strategic project.

Today, the military engineers’ corps of the Russian Armed Forces are building a new base, which will probably be the vertex of the new Russian Mediterranean triangle, at Kirbet Ras Al-Wa’r, in the Syrian district of Bir Al Qasab.

The Syrian-Arab army, the main force available to Bashar al-Assad, has recently reconquered the whole area from Kirbet up to Arinbah and the whole desert south-east of Damascus, by defeating the para-jihadist – albeit US-backed – forces of Assud Al Sharqia.

Assud Al Sharqia’s group operated under the command of the US base of Al Tanf, on the Syrian border with Iraq.

As we will see later on, this base has now been made harmless.

The war material left by the defeated anti-Assad “rebels” is certainly remarkable both in quantitative and in qualitative terms: many RPG-26 disposable anti-tank rocket launchers developed by Russia, but probably of Jordanian origin; other GRAD BM 21 missiles, namely largely and effectively used rocket launchers manufactured by Russia; many KONKURS (NATO reporting name: AT 5 Spandrel), widely-used wire-guided anti-tank missiles developed in the former Soviet Union.

Clearly the new Russian base of Khirbat Ras al Wa’r, at the core of the Syrian Southern region, deprives the United States of the only concrete possibility of attacking Bashar Assad’s forces north of Al Tanf and, in any case, of drawing the Syrian-Arab Army of the Alawite government away from the Iraqi border, a primary source of support for jihadists and for those whom the United States – using an Orwellian expression – calls “moderate Islamists”.

The new Russian base is 85 kilometres from Damascus, 96 from Deraa and 185 kilometres from the US base of Al-Tanf, which will soon be encircled from the South by the operations of Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian-Arab Army, which is also opening its way to Deraa and Idlib along the Jordanian border.

Furthermore, the recent US operation against the Russian-Syrian base of Shayrat, in central Syria, was meant to be a retaliation against the attack on the village of Qan Shayqun, for which Syria had considered the possibility of using nerve gas.

Despite the scarcity of sources, also the US intelligence had clarified that  the Syrian attack had been targeted against a jihadist gathering organized there on April 4 – an attack carried out by a Russian-guided missile containing conventional explosives.

The US reaction – prompted by the fake news that Syria had used Sarin –  was based on a series of Tomahawk missile launches, but most of the Syrian aircraft had already been moved to bases far from Shayrat.

All this gives you the idea of the poor quality of the US operational and tactical intelligence on the Syrian territory and of the particular level of disconnection between the collection of data on the field and the US decision-making process.

The new base – the intelligence axis of Russia’s engagement in Syria –  will be aimed at controlling the Syrian South-Eastern border, where both the US-backed and the Iranian forces enter.

Building this new military base, just 50 kilometres from Damascus, means protecting the Syrian capital city from any present and future threat, namely the one currently coming from the Al Tanf area and, hence, from the  Jordanian forces, from the US ones and their “moderate jihadist” allies operating on the Syrian soil.

Hence the final stabilization of Bashar al-Assad’s regime under the Russian protection is approaching, as well as the consequent expulsion of the Sunni and pro-American jihad from the Syrian territory.

This is the operation that will become the starting point for a new Russian hegemony in the Greater Middle East, where Russia has no real enemies, but wants to restructure it according to its interests: at first, the projection onto the Mediterranean and, later, the strategic correlation between Russian and OPEC oil.

The construction of the base has begun when the secret contacts between the United States and the Russian Federation resumed in Amman, Jordan.

Contacts useful primarily to define the “de-escalation zone” in Southern Syria, especially in the Deraa area.

For various parts of Syria, the four de-escalation zones had already been defined during the Astana talks of last May in a specific agreement between Russia and Iran.

Obviously the United States does not accept an agreement with Iran, but  proposes a new de-escalation zone to Russia, without having to rely on a relationship with Iran.

The two delegations are led by Michael Ratney for the United States and Aleksandr Lavrentiev for Russia.

At the end of last January, the Russian envoy had already negotiated with Israel the central lines of the future peace in Syria.

Al Tanaf, the US base that the new Russian facility could make harmless, was one of the two pillars of the US plan, consisting in unilaterally declaring a “de-escalation zone” between Al Tanaf itself up to the Euphrates valley, in the direction of Deyr al-Zur.

The plan underlying this operation was to break the “Shiite crescent” that was supposed to connect, on the ground, Iran to the Lebanon via Southern Syria.

It is likely, however, that the plan was, in fact, to build a larger Sunni corridor, at the sides of the Shiite crescent, going from the Saudi-Iraqi border, namely from Al Anbar – through the Syrian Sunni area and the area occupied by the Kurds, up to the Turkish border.

The Syrian forces alone have blocked this plan by connecting the Western area of their country to the Iraqi border, north-east of Al Tanaf, and by advancing just north-east towards Abu Qamal and the Euphrates valley.

The US-Jordanian base of Al Tanaf has been closed southwest – as in a vice – by both Syria and the Iranian forces. This is the premise for the passage of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrians towards Deyr al Zur and the Euphrates valley, although today Deir is still surrounded by jihadists.

Hence the United States is acknowledging its limited room for manoeuvre in Syria.

In fact, on June 22, a still confidential tripartite agreement was reached by the United States, Russia and Jordan to create a true demilitarized zone in Southern Syria, which would also cover the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

As far as we know, the agreement envisages that the United States will continue to manage the base of Al Tanaf.

In return, the United States will not react to Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah operations against Daesh-Isis to reconquer the border town of Abu Kamal, north of Al Tanaf.

Conversely, Russia ensures the return back home of the Iranian forces, of Hezbollah and the militia they command, in a still undefined phase of the future stabilization of the Syrian area.

Moreover a joint Russian-American administration will be defined to manage the civil affairs of Southern Syria, including the areas bordering on Israel and those bordering on Jordan.

Russia, to which Syria cannot deny large interference with some Syrian areas, will ensure stability north of the Jewish State – in the place of the United States and, anyway, in a hegemonic way with respect to it – which Russia wants to keep within the Middle East, but without playing the old role of power broker it had before the conflict in Syria.

A clash that has revealed who is the new, real Middle East broker and manager, after the US ill-advised support to the jihadist guerrilla warfare against Bashar el Assad, the last tessera of the “Arab Springs” and the final crucial point of the US hegemony over the whole area.

Meanwhile, the US-linked Syrian Democratic Forces have encircled Raqqa – and Syria foresees that the liberation of the last “capital city” of Daesh-Isis will last at least three months.

The US geopolitical tape will rewind: hence future stabilization – also with the US support – of the tension between the various Palestinian organizations; probable peace between Israel and the PNA Territories; Russian-American cooperation against the jihad in Sinai and a new agreement between the United States and Egypt, while a new role of  armed mediation will be probably played by the United States and by the two conflicting governments within Libya.

Conversely, no one can say anything about Russia’s expansion in the Mediterranean, which will probably be supported by Turkey that, as already said, is the second NATO armed force, while Russia will favour either an agreement between Khalifa Haftar and Fayez al-Sarraj or a definitive military action against Tripoli’s government.

Nevertheless, the United States will not have the opportunity of accepting  the new bilateral US and Russian administration in Southern Syria: in fact, if Bashar al-Assad’s forces conquer Abu Kamal, Iran will strengthen its position on the Syrian-Iraqi border, while the United States does not want any presence – albeit limited in time – of Iran and Hezbollah on the Syrian territory.

Hence, according to the United States, at first the Shiites must be out of the Syrian territory and later the real bilateral negotiations on Southern Syria can start.

Nevertheless will Israel trust more the control that Russia has shown over the Iranian and Lebanese operations north of Golan or the US side guarantees which, however, will be marginal in the future in the region?

Another factor we must consider – also in view of understanding Syria’s future – is the clash between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

As is well known, the Saudi demands to Qatar are thirteen: in particular, breaking any relationship with Iran – and I think it will be hard, considering the cooperation between the two countries for the South Pars gas field; closing the Turkish military base, which does not only depend on Qatar – but Turkey has no intention of closing anything and, indeed, it is planning joint Turkish-Qatari exercises after Eid-ul Fitr, i.e. in a few days;  Qatar’s closing Al Jazeera and not funding media such as “Arabi21”, “Rassdi”, “Arabi Al-Jadid” and “Middle East Eye”; blocking any funding to terrorist groups so defined by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States,  Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – and you can tell they will be mainly Shiite and pro-Iranian groups; breaking off any relations with Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Caliphate; not interfering with the internal affairs of the signatory countries of the motion against Qatar; suspending any aid to the internal opponents in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain; compensating the damage caused to the above-stated countries; finally aligning with said countries from all viewpoints, according to the agreement signed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia in 2014, so as to be later subjected to monthly inspections to monitor the implementation of these agreements, at least for the first year.

In principle, it is a spoliation of Qatar to support the Saudi finances and back the transformation of the Saudi economy, with the capital and funds  of the wealthy Qatar, so as to make it no longer dependent on oil.

The United States supports this agreement to rebalance the power void experienced in Syria, but it is by no means certain it will have to do with friendly countries and with similar regional interests.

Saudi Arabia’s financial crisis is severe, mainly because of the expensive engagement of the Al Sauds’ kingdom to support the war in Syria, Iraq and Yemen – a war that the very link between Bashar al-Assad and the Russian Federation has shown to be useless and dangerous from the Sunni side.

The fight to reduce the oil barrel price, triggered off by Saudi Arabia to undercut the US shale oil competition, on which Obama’s new economic growth was centered, led to Trump’s victory, thus creating – in the Saudi clan – an internal war between those who want a new relationship with Russia and China, the winners on the field, and a new and stronger relationship with the new US Presidency – which, however, will be ever  less important in the Middle East.

An almost explicit goal is to block the participation of the Saudi-dominated Middle East system in the Chinese New Silk Road project,  encompassing Iran and part of Syria.

And here we revert again to the Russian project on Syria, crowned with  the future victory on the field.

In fact, Iran would be the spearhead of the new Chinese project to put its currency at the core of future oil trade.

This is also the reason why we are still fighting in Syria. And it is precisely Iran that has just liberated Mosul.

Nevertheless it is exactly the Chinese finance that is currently pivoting on Qatar, for the whole Middle East.

Hence if the situation in Syria stabilizes under the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad, Saudi Arabia will no longer have any protection from the Syrian-Jordanian border towards its territory, and even a pincer movement might take place, while the Kingdom’s finances go bust, between Qatar and Iran’s Northern allies, namely Syria, the Lebanon and Iraq.

Moreover, if Saudi Arabia keeps its role as Asia’s primary oil supplier, excluding Iran from playing this role, it can reasonably support its post-oil project for transforming its economy.

Conversely, if the United Kingdom unwillingly accepts a strong and dominant presence of Iran and its allies in the New Middle East, it shall necessarily accept to play a marginal role in the Chinese Road and Belt Initiative, which already makes most of its Middle East investment in Qatar.

Nevertheless there is the variable of the contrast between Hezbollah and Israel. Just in these days the Jewish State has carried out air raids against Syrian positions near Quneitra, three kilometres from the Golan border.

Shortly before, Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian-Arab Army and Hezbollah had fought against a large alliance of Salafist jihadist groups, while the Lebanese Shiite groups were made up of Shiites, Circassians, Shiite Afghans and soldiers of some Bashar al-Assad’s brigades.

If Syria tends to put Golan under its control, Israel’s immediate reaction will be very tough. Moreover if, from Deraa southwards, Syrians arrives at the border with Jordan, a severe casus belli will be created with the Hashemite Kingdom.

Syria cannot hit two of its opponents at the same time to avoid a joint attack that would move the Syrian-Arab Army away from Golan and would push it into the arms of Al Nusra and the other jihadist groups still present north of Quneitra.

And this will be a real acid test for the Russian Federation’s credible mediation role.

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 “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. 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 “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Israel and Turkey in search of solutions

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Twelve and eleven years have elapsed since the Davos and Mavi Marmara incidents, respectively, and Turkey-Israel relations are undergoing intense recovery efforts. They are two important Eastern neighbours and influence regional stability.

Currently, as in the past, relations between the two countries have a structure based on realpolitik, thus pursuing a relationship of balance/interest, and hinge around the Palestinian issue and Israel’s position as the White House’s privileged counterpart. However, let us now briefly summarise the history of Turkish-Jewish relations.

The first important event that comes to mind when mentioning Jews and Turks is that when over 200,000 Jews were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition in 1491, the Ottoman Empire invited them to settle in its territory.

Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognise Israel in 1949. Israel’s first diplomatic Mission to Turkey was opened on January 7, 1950 but, following the Suez crisis in 1956, relations were reduced to the level of chargé d’affaires. In the second Arab-Israeli war of 1967, Turkey chose not to get involved and it did not allow relations to break off completely.

The 1990s saw a positive trend and development in terms of bilateral relations. After the second Gulf War in 1991 -which, as you may recall, followed the first Iraqi one of 1980-1988 in which the whole world was against Iran (with the only exception of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Libya and the moral support of Enver Hoxha’s Albania) – Turkey was at the centre of security policy in the region. In that context, Turkey-Israel relations were seriously rekindled.

In 1993, Turkey upgraded diplomatic relations with Israel to ambassadorial level. The signing of the Oslo Accords between Palestine and Israel led to closer relations. The 1996 military cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, which provided significant logistical and intelligence support to both sides.

In the 2000s, there was a further rapprochement with Israel, due to the “zero problems with neighbours” policy promoted by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. I still remember issue No. 3/1999 of the Italian review of geopolitics “Limes” entitled “Turkey-Israel, the New Alliance”.

In 2002, an Israeli company undertook the project of modernising twelve M-60 tanks belonging to the Turkish armed forces. In 2004, Turkey agreed to sell water to Israel from the Manavgat River.

Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit to Israel in 2005 was a turning point in terms of mediation between Palestine and Israel and further advancement of bilateral relations. In 2007, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas spoke at the Turkish Grand National Assembly one day apart. High-level visits from Israel continued.

On December 22, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Ankara and met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In that meeting, significant progress was made regarding Turkey’s mediation between Israel and Syria.

Apart from the aforementioned incidents, the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations occurred five days after the above stated meeting, i.e. Operation “Cast Lead” against Gaza on December 27, 2008. After that event, relations between the two sides were never the same as before.

Recently, however, statements of goodwill have been made by both countries to normalise political relations. In December 2020, President Erdoğan stated he wanted to improve relations with Israel and said: “It is not possible for us to accept Israel’s attitude towards the Palestinian territories. This is the point in which we differ from Israel – otherwise, our heart desires to improve our relations with it as well”.

In its relations with Israel, Turkey is posing the Palestinian issue as a condition. When we look at it from the opposite perspective, the Palestinian issue is a vital matter for Israel. It is therefore a severe obstacle to bilateral relations.

On the other hand, many regional issues such as Eastern Mediterranean, Syria and some security issues in the region require the cooperation of these two key countries. For this reason, it is clear that both sides wish at least to end the crisis, reduce rhetoric at leadership level and focus on cooperation and realpolitik areas.

In the coming months, efforts will certainly be made to strike a balance between these intentions and the conditions that make it necessary to restart bilateral relations with Israel on an equal footing. As improved relations with Israel will also positively influence Turkey’s relations with the United States.

Turkey seeks to avoid the USA and the EU imposing sanctions that could go so far as to increase anti-Western neo-Ottoman rhetoric, while improved relations with Israel could offer a positive outcome not only to avoid the aforementioned damage, but also to solve the Turkish issues related to Eastern Mediterranean, territorial waters, Libya and Syria. Turkey has no intention of backing down on such issues that it deems vital. Quite the reverse. It would like to convey positive messages at the level of talks and Summits.

Another important matter of friction between Turkey and Israel is the use of oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean reserves between Egypt, Israel, Greece and Cyprus (Nicosia).

This approach is excluding Turkey. The USA and the EU also strongly support the current situation (which we addressed in a previous article) for the additional reason that France has been included in the equation.

The alignment of forces and fronts in these maritime areas were also widely seen during the civil war in Libya, where Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France, as well as other players such as Russia, Italy, etc. came into the picture.

Ultimately, a point of contact between Turkey and Israel is the mediation role that the former could play in relations between Iran and Israel, especially after the improvement of Turkish-Iranian relations.

Indeed, in the aftermath of the U.S. airstrike in Baghdad – which killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020 -the Turkish Foreign Minister stated that the U.S. action would increase insecurity and instability in the region. He also reported that Turkey was worried about rising tensions between the United States and Iran that could turn Iraq back into an area of conflict to the detriment of peace and stability in the region. There was also a condolence phone call from President Erdoğan to Iranian President Rouhani, urging him to avoid a conflictual escalation with the United States following the airstrike.

Consequently, it is in the Turkish President’s interest to maintain an open channel with Iran, so that he himself can soften the mutual tensions between Israel and Iran, and – in turn – Israeli diplomacy can influence President Biden’s choices, albeit less pro-Israel than Donald Trump’s.

Turkey is known to have many relationship problems with the United States – especially after the attempted coup of July 15-16, 2016 and including the aforementioned oil issue – and realises that only Israel can resolve the situation smoothly.

In fact, Israel-USA relations are not at their best as they were under President Trump. President Erdoğan seems to be unaware of this fact, but indeed the Turkish President knows that the only voice the White House can hear is Israel’s, and certainly not the voice of the Gulf monarchies, currently at odds with Turkey.

Israel keeps a low profile on the statements made by President Erdoğan with regard to the Palestinians- since it believes them to be consequential – as well as in relation to a series of clearly anti-Zionist attitudes of the Turkish people.

We are certain, however, that President Erdoğan’s declarations of openness and Israeli acquiescence will surely yield concrete results.

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The 25-year China-Iran agreement

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On March 27, 2021, a document entitled “Comprehensive Document of Iran-China Cooperation” was signed by Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, and his Chinese counterpart. The Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had previously called “the agreement between the presidents of Iran and China correct and wise.” However, the Iranian people have widely criticized it as entirely against their national interests. Iranian officials have not even publicized the document’s contents yet probably because it is highly contentious.

In 2019, excerpts from this document were revealed by the Economist Petroleum news site. The details included:

  • China invests $460 billion in Iranian oil and transportation sectors. China will get its investment back from the sale of Iranian crude during the first five years.
  • China buys Iranian petroleum products at least 32% cheaper.
  • The Chinese can decide before other companies whether to participate in completing all or part of a petrochemical project.
  • 50,000 Chinese security personnel will be deployed to protect Chinese projects in Iran.
  • China has the right to delay the repayment of its debts for up to two years in exchange for Iranian products’ purchase.
  • At least one Russian company will be allowed to participate in the Tabriz-Ankara gas pipeline design together with the Chinese operator.
  • Every year, 110 senior Revolutionary Guards officers travel to China and Russia for military training. 110 Chinese and Russian advisers will be stationed in Iran to train Revolutionary Guards officers.
  • Development of Iranian military equipment and facilities will be outsourced to China, and Chinese and Russian military aircraft and ships will operate the developed facilities.

Even some circles within the regime have criticized the agreement. The state-run Arman newspaper wrote, “China has a 25-year contract with Iran and is investing $460 billion in Iran. It is somewhat ambiguous. Presently, China is holding the money it owes us and blames it on the U.S. sanctions. How can we trust this country to invest $460 billion in Iran?”

Last year, Iran and China had the lowest trade in the previous 16 years, and according to statistics, by the end of 2020, the volume of trade between Iran and China was about $16 billion, which, including undocumented oil sales, still does not reach $20 billion.

Jalal Mirzaei, a former member of Iran’s parliament, said: “If in the future the tensions between Tehran and Washington are moderated, and we see the lifting of some of the sanctions, China can also provide the basis for implementing the provisions of this document, but if the situation continues like today, Beijing will not make any effort to implement the document, as it is essentially unable to take concrete action on the ground because of the sanctions.”

China’s objectives

Iran is vital to China in two ways, through its geopolitical location and its geo-economic importance. China knows that it does not have enough natural resources and is currently having a hard time supplying them from Russia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia supplies its energy needs from oil giant Aramco, half of which is owned by the United States. That is why China is looking for a safe alternative that the United States will not influence, and the only option is Iran. They may also have a two-pronged plan in Iran, which involves using Iran’s profitable market and making Iran into a lever of pressure against the United States for additional concessions.

The Iranian regime’s objectives

The deal could deepen China’s influence in the Middle East and undermine U.S. efforts to isolate the Iranian regime. While the international dispute over the Iranian regime’s nuclear program has not been resolved, it is unclear how much this agreement could be implemented. The regime intends to make it a bargaining chip in possible future nuclear negotiations. However, some of Iran’s top authorities believe that China and Russia cannot be trusted 100 percent.

Due to the sanctions, the regime has a tough time to continue providing financial support to its proxy militias in the region. The regime also faced two major domestic uprisings in 2017 and 2019. Khamenei’s regime survived the widespread uprisings by committing a massacre, killing 1,500 young protesters in the 2019 uprising alone, according to the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and later confirmed by the Iranian regime’s Interior Ministry officials. Now with the coronavirus pandemic, Khamenei has been able to delay another major uprising.

Iran’s economy is on the verge of collapse. Khamenei must bow to western countries’ demands regarding the nuclear issue, including an end to its regional interventions and its ballistic missile program. Khamenei will struggle to save his regime from s imminent uprisings and a deteriorating economy that will undoubtedly facilitate more protests by the army of the unemployed and the hungry at any moment.

Unlike the 2015 JCPOA, the Iranian regime in 2021 is in a much weaker position. In fact, by many accounts, it is the weakest in its 40-year history. By signing the recent Iran-China agreement and auctioning Iranian resources, Khamenei wants to pressure the United States to surrender and restore the 2015 JCPOA as quickly as possible. But in the end, this pivot will not counteract domestic pressures that target the regime’s very existence.

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China-Arab Relations: From Silk to Friendship

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China and the Arabs have a long and rich economic and cultural history, and this distinguished relationship still exists today, with a promising future. This bilateral relationship between the two nations is based on the principles of respect and non-interference in internal affairs or foreign policies. Therefore, China’s relationship with the Arabs as well as with other nations is unique and a model to be followed. If you meet a Chinese person, the first phrase will be “Alabo” or an Arab in Mandarin, and he/she will welcome you. The Chinese state’s dealings with its counterparts can be measured based on the model of this Chinese citizen. China deals with the Arabs on the basis of friendship and historical ties.

The history of Sino-Arab relations goes back to the Tang Dynasty, and these relations developed with the flourishing of trade between the two nations. Since China was famous for its high quality silk, this trade route was called the “Silk Road”. Baron Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen, better known in English as Baron von Richthofen, was a German traveller, geographer, and scientist. He is noted for coining the terms “Seidenstraße” and “Seidenstraßen” = “Silk Road” or “Silk Route” in 1877.

Chinese-Arab relations have developed in contemporary history. In 1930, China established official relations with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A library in China was named the “Fouad Islamic Library”, after the late Egyptian king, “Fuad the First”. In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser cut ties with China and established relations with the Communist People’s Republic of China and inaugurated an embassy in Egypt. In the same year, the Arab League established relations with the People’s Republic of China. By the year 1990, all Arab countries cut their relations with the Republic of China and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

In 2004, the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was established, and today it is considered a milestone for the Sino-Arab relationship. At its inauguration, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing delivered a speech stating:“The Arab world is an important force on the international scene, and that China and the Arab countries have enjoyed a long friendship. Our similar history, our common goals and our broad interests have been credited with enhancing cooperation between the two sides; no matter how the international situation changes, China has always been the sincere friend of the Arab world”. The China-Arab Cooperation Forum was officially established during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the headquarters of the League of Arab States in January of 2004.

Hu Jintao indicated at that time that the formation of the forum is a continuation of the traditional friendship between China and the Arab world. The Chinese president said at the time, “The establishment of the forum is conducive to expanding mutual cooperation in a variety of fields. He added that China had made four proposals; First, maintaining mutual respect, fair treatment and sincere cooperation at the political level. Second, strengthening economic and trade relations through cooperation in the fields of investment and trade, contracted projects, labor services, energy, transportation, communications, agriculture, environmental protection and information. Third, expand cultural exchanges. Finally, conducting training for the employees.”

During the second session of the forum in Beijing in 2006, China showed its sympathy for the issues of the Arab world and its interest in the peace process between Palestine and Israel, since China is a peace-loving country; it presented the idea of “a nuclear-free Middle East”. China is the best friend of the Arab countries today. Although some Arab countries have strong relations with the West whose policy does not match the Chinese policy, but all Arab countries agree on friendly and good relations with the People’s Republic of China.

The Arab citizen is not interested today in the foreign policy of the US, the deadly weapons of the US and Russia, or European culture, but rather the livelihood and economy, and this is what China provides through its wise economic policy. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative, or New Silk Road, which will restore glow to China-Arab relations; as the Arab world is in a strategic location on the initiative map. Thus, the Arab countries are an important partner for China in the initiative. Although the volume of trade exchanges between China and the Arab countries exceeded 200 billion US dollars, which increased 10 times over the past decade, there was no commercial and institutional arrangement to facilitate trade between the two sides.

China, as a peaceful and non-invasive country, aims to promote economic cooperation with Arab region on an equal basis because it considers the Arab world a historic partner. The historical experience of the Arabs with the Chinese through the Silk Road has confirmed that China differs from the nations of colonialism and imperialism, which consider the Arab region a place rich in natural resources only. In his historic speech at the Arab League, Chinese President Xi stressed that China will not seek to extend influence and search for proxies in the Middle East. The Chinese initiatives will contribute to establishing security and stability through economic development and improving the people’s livelihood, in line with the post-2015 development agenda and the aspirations of the Arab people for a better life, as the Chinese experience proves that development is the key to digging out the roots of conflicts and extremism in all its forms.

China is a neutral country and does not favor the use of violence. During the Syrian crisis, for example, the Chinese envoy to the Security Council raised his hand three times, meaning that China, with its wise diplomacy, supported the Syrian regime without entering the military war. During the recent Chinese military parade, Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed some Chinese military capabilities and thus sent a message to the enemies that China will always be ready if a war is imposed on it, and a message of support to China’s allies. The Arab region today needs a real partner who possesses economic and military power and international political influence, such as China; to ensure the success of the Belt and Road Initiative, and to consolidate the China-Arab relations and raise it to the level of a strategic alliance.

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