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The French economic intelligence and the Intelco case

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Christian Harbulot

In order for the intelligence to contribute to making the best strategic decisions, it is necessary that the mechanism linking intelligence, decision-making and actions should work smoothly. Therefore, it is important to provide a critical evaluation of the information and to understand that in the information society there is a great number of accessible sources.

In this regard, the French Intelco project had this specific goal and turned out to be a very positive experience. Funded in April 1993 by Christian Harbulot and Jean Pichot-Duclos, Intelco is a laboratory of ideas on the role of the information in post-Cold War geo-economic power relations.

Intelco was originally part of the Council of International Defense (DCI) that had been granted full autonomy to start a debate over economic intelligence in France. The original six members of Intelco were sided by one or two other members nominated by the DCI; Intelco’s main goals were 1) promoting research and awareness on economic intelligence through conferences sponsored by the Institute for Higher National Defense Studies and partnership with universities; 2) direct support to institution and enterprises. Intelco contributed to expanding the national debate on new frontiers of economic intelligence such as information war and cultural interference.

Intelco’s message encountered the opposition of those who refused to acknowledge the concept of economic warfare and maintained that while war brings death, liberalism creates wealth. Such a misconception can lead to wrong conclusions like considering the Clinton system as liberal, when in reality it is a mix of protectionism, diplomatic interventionism and special services to support U.S. companies, abuse of power in controlling electronic fluxes (the United States control 90% of the software industry). Besides, refusing the idea of economic warfare can also favor criminal organizations that are increasing their turnover.

The Intelco experience aimed at raising the awareness on real problems in the people who were supposed to solve them beyond ideologies and partisan interests. The most problematic hurdles Intelco had to overcome resulted from French cultural inertia. Economic intelligence was regarded with distrust: engineers were not familiar with indirect strategies imposing to perform invisible and transversal actions; security specialists had troubles adapting their traditional approach into a new context in which information is accessible to everybody.   Intelco had to face the antimilitarism of those refusing to admit that defense operations could also be helpful to companies and ignored the role of the Pentagon in protecting the economic interests of the United States.

Contrary to what most ideologues maintain, capital holders and defenders of national interests do not automatically get together and join forces. Despite its many enemies, Intelco continues to develop the concept of economic intelligence, which sooner or later will be integrated with the concept of global intelligence as the complexity of globalization increases.

The experience with Intelco led to the development of a scientific literature in French on the use of information and intelligence in both private and public sector. The cultural gap with the United States shrank significantly despite the fact that state administration, academia and business have long ignored this issue. The contribution this literature gave to the debate on economic intelligence is very important since it puts into question the Anglo-Saxon approach – that is usually narrow-minded and influenced by big corporations – and therefore provides room for a comparative study of market economies.

According to the United States laws and business mentality, companies must be free to deal with economic competition through offering better deals. The facts proved this assumption to be wrong. In fact, to protect the automobile industry from foreign competition, all stakeholders of the U.S. economy came together (companies, trade unions, federal authorities). The ultra-liberalism suddenly turned into a patriotic liberalism. The politically correct propaganda promoted by the international institutions under the Anglo-Saxon influence did not prevent Clinton to consider defense as number one priority for the U.S. economic interests.

Another achievement of Intelco was the creation of the School of Economic Warfare, in collaboration with the School of Trade (ESLSCA); the choice of using the words “economic warfare” instead of “economic intelligence” was driven by the fact that the former is more impactful than the latter.

Companies struggling with the competition attacks know very well what economic warfare is about, but is very rare for them to realize the importance of the role of information in developing their business.

The functioning of the School of Economic Warfare was based on the following principles: fighting spirit, teamwork, risk-taking, cunning. These principles find their equivalents in some of the illness of the French society: fighting spirit only for career goals, information that is not shared, little awareness of the importance for the business world to join forces, risk-adverse attitude.

Globalization requires companies to adopt all strategies necessary to protect themselves against the encirclement techniques used by foreign competitors. Companies not only need to promote their own products but they also need to consider the destabilization factors that competitors or other opponents can put in place.

The School of Economic Warfare aims at seeking solutions to these problems, but so far it is just a drop in the ocean. If the French elites continue to ignore the importance of a culture on intelligence, they risk leaving the world in the hands of one single owner. Clinton created a state-led security system allowing the United States to increase exports while creating and keeping hundreds of jobs. Placing the intelligence to the top of this mechanism significantly contributed to the expansion of the U.S. power, together with favorable trends of the world economy.

EU Commissioner Édith Cresson explicitly said that the United States need its own intelligence policy in order not to be affected by the other states’ one. In this regard, former French Secretary General for Defense Alain Juillet defined economic intelligence as a governance tool focused on controlling strategic information and aimed at increasing competitiveness and security for both national economy and private business.

Two other leading experts of economic warfare, Christian Harbulot and Éric Delbecque offered their own definition of economic intelligence. Harbulot defined it as the constant research and interpretation of open source information with the aim of understanding the other actor’s intentions and capabilities. Delbecque identified economic intelligence as part of economic warfare culture, specifically in the competence – meaning the combination of methods and instruments of surveillance, security and influence – and in public policy that aims at increasing power through elaborating and implementing geo-economic strategies and establishing collective control of strategic information.

The concept of intelligence here derives from its original Anglo-Saxon meaning, that is a collection of information enabling to operate in different fields. This understanding of intelligence is not related to the espionage Cold-War techniques, in which information circulated only within a restricted group of experts through the use of illegal means such as technological transfers, theft of IT material, firing high-profile managers.

A more detailed analysis on economic intelligence and the practical application of the so-called economic warfare, reveals three main fields of action: the watch, the protection of information and lobbying practices. In particular, the watch consists in the surveillance of the economic reference ambient in order to instantly detect possible threats or opportunities to seize; there are seven kinds of watch: competition, trade, technological, geographic, geopolitical, legislative and corporate. The states that are able to perform these practices are those which truly experience an increase in influence and thus in power. This perspective privileges the state capability to use this strategic weapon over the one of single companies that use it in order to expand their trades and increase their profits. Since economic intelligence can be considered as both offensive and defensive tool (for example when it is used to either foresee an alliance between competitors or perform disinformation operations), it is the crown jewel of economic warfare policies, especially due to the importance of information in modern economies.

In this regard, it is necessary for both public and private sector to join forces. An interesting model is provided by the case of post-WWII Japan, where the Japan External Trade Organization started collaborating with the above-mentioned MITI, which had a significant role in strengthening of commercial ties with other states. The Japanese case is very interesting not only for its flourishing economic but also for the cultural environment, where every citizen feels morally engaged in pursuing the nation’s greatness through technological and trade primacy. It is no coincidence that 10-15% of Japan national budget for research and development is allocated to scientific and technical information. The United States also adopts a similar strategy, although it tends to disguise it as an official matter of fair competition. The U.S. administration has in fact established a counter-intelligence service. Through expanding the CIA mandate, this U.S. agency also plays an active role in industrial espionage and provides companies secret information about their foreign competitors.

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ISIS-K, Talc, Lithium and the narrative of ongoing jihadi terrorism in Afghanistan

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Terrorism

Chinese and Russian efforts are underway to strengthen the Taliban government economically and militarily, along with legitimacy and international recognition. In return, Pakistan is trying to disrupt the Taliban government’s relations with Iran and Tajikistan, as well as with China and Russia. Subsequent to the fall of the previous republican government, following Russia and China, Iran is a major supporter of the Taliban.

Iran plays a significant role in a new intelligence surge launched by major regional players in Afghanistan, which includes ISIS-K campaign against the Taliban government in country. Although Taliban have been able to crush, ISIS-K in several provinces of Afghanistan, but the group was able to mobilize a bunch of other terrorist organizations such as Turkistan Islamic Party, Khetabat Iman Ul Bekhari, Khetabat ultauhied Waljihad, Islamic Jihad Union, Jamaat Ansarullah and East Turkistan Islamic Movement, and The Army of Justice. According to sources on the ground, the group has also established contacts with the resistance front led by Ahmad Massoud to fight Taliban.

Seemingly, the group joined forces with the Resistance Front in northern part of the country to downfall the Taliban particularly in northern Afghanistan.  In addition to defeating the Taliban in the central and southern provinces of Afghanistan, the group has started a sectarian war between the Sunnis and Shiites, which has partly soured relations between the Afghan Taliban and Iran. The group had the support of Pakistan as well as other regional countries and beyond.  Furthermore, Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters entered Afghanistan with the help of the Pakistani army, joining the fight between Sunni and Shia in Afghanistan.  Efforts are underway to start a civil war in the country.  According to the information, ISIS militants have been mostly funded and financed by the Saudi government, as well as other Salafi Gulf States to minimize and even eradicate Shiites in the region.

In accordance with some sources, additional costs are being borne by the United States and Great Britain.  Beside all such financial support, Islamic State (ISIS-K) militants also obtain some funding and thrive through mining and establishing business firms throughout the region.

Let us say, Islamic State militants relatively control the oil reserves in Iraq and they illegally extract it, meantime they have hands on talc and other precious stones in Afghanistan to cover their propaganda campaign expenses. ISIS-K uses the same tactics applied by Taliban during the US occupation; Taliban began illegal mining in Afghanistan to finance their activities in order to wage the war against the US aggression.   During the Taliban’s resistance, Taliban fighters had also a strong financial support from Pakistan, and the Pakistani government accordingly received that financial sustenance from other countries namely western and the Arab world.  However, the Taliban forcibly mined Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli and smuggled it to Pakistan. Under the auspices of the Pakistani government, the gems were shipped to the United States and the European countries.  In return, the Taliban were paid in cash.  Likewise, the Taliban, ISIS chose the same path, and made the most of money via mining in Afghanistan.

Subsequently, the ISIS group has chosen Nangarhar province as its stronghold in Afghanistan, since it has mineral deposits of talc, chromite, marble and other precious and rare earth minerals in addition, the group is also trying to control smuggling routes, to launch cross border terrorism.

 Consequently, ISIS-K endeavors to bring Ghazni province under its control, since a huge Lithium, mine exists in the province. The group is well aware of its preciousness in the world market because the element is mainly used by automotive industries to produce batteries for electric cars.

The anti-corruption network of the former Afghan government reported that the Taliban and the Islamic State together received about 46 million in 2016 thru illegal mining from a single district of Nangarhar province. That is why ISIS has spent millions of dollars in Afghanistan because of holding its campaign and propaganda, allegedly, most of which came from mining.

Furthermore, district governors have been appointed by ISIS for Afghanistan’s 387 major districts, with a monthly salary of up to 80,000 Afghanis.  This is a huge financial burden for the Islamic State, but the Islamic State group’s representatives say that they stick to their words, so that everyone will be paid on time. The ISIS group needs a large amount of financial support to achieve its major goals, but the group is not overstrained financially, because it receives a chockfull financial support.

Conversely, Iran is trying to increase the number of Shiite orientated proxies in the world and especially in Afghanistan to eliminate ISIS-K in return; the Saudi and other Gulf Sates want to prevent it. Therefore, they use ISIS and other associates of the group to counter Iran’s ambitious trans-national agenda; ISIS-K takes advantage of having been provided with huge financial support by anti-Iran camp.

Iran has repeatedly tried to spread Shia religion around the world, most notably at Mustafa International School in Bamko, the capital of Mali in Africa.  There have been several attempts by the Iranian government to convert the students to Shi’ism, an issue that has become the topic of international debate supported by Saudi Arabia.  Finally, all of these events are currently having a direct and indirect impact on Afghanistan and the country’s ongoing security crisis, which will affect the entire region at the end.

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The means to manage cyberspace and the duty of security

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Over and above the ethical concepts regarding the near future, it is also good to focus on the present. Governments are required to protect their national resources and infrastructure against foreign and domestic threats, to safeguard the stability and centrality of human beings and political systems and to ensure modern services for civilians. Suffice it to recall the chaos that arose some time ago in the Lazio region for the well-known health issues.

Governments must play a key role in developing and leading the local ecosystems, but this national effort must involve many other stakeholders: local businesses, entrepreneurs, multinational companies, local and foreign investors, State agencies, Ministries and academics, people in education, professional institutions and the public at large.

Furthermore, cybersecurity is a national opportunity for developing the local economy and for positioning any country in the international arena as a safe place to establish and develop economic relations between States and companies. It is also important as a regional cyber hub.

Cyber strategy therefore consists in prioritising operational cyber activities with a view to optimising and monitoring the overdevelopment of cyber intelligence that could one day take such turns as to be ungovernable.

This is the reason why investment in technology, local capacity building and resource allocation and concentration are required. This means providing strategic advisory services to government agencies that are seeking to advance cyber security at a strategic and operational level.

It is therefore necessary to work with governments to develop their strategic and operational capabilities in cybersecurity, either at the national or sectoral level, as well as providing comprehensive cyber projects that combine cyber defence and the development of a local cyber ecosystem, based on the models tried and tested by various countries around the world, such as the People’s Republic of China, Israel, the United States of America, etc.

There is a need to specialise in setting up Cyber Units and Cyber Centres (SOC & Fusion Centres) and in developing Cyber Eco-Systems and Cyber Strategies. This means providing various cyber solutions, services and know-how to companies in various sectors, such as financial, industrial, energy, health, technology and many other sectors.

Stable OT (operational technology) security services and strategic advice to companies in the fields of energy, manufacturing, security, medicine, transport, critical infrastructure and many others create the prerequisites for defending cyberspace. As well as helping OT-based organisations integrate cybersecurity into their processes and products. Design, develop and deliver advanced technologies and solutions to protect critical assets in OT environments, such as ICS, SCADA, IIoT, PLC, etc.

In this regard there is a basic need for creating professional IT schools around the world that teach the meaning of cyberspace, and not just how to use Word and other simple Office programs.

The expansion and creation of universities and institutes of cyber knowledge is a starting point from which partnerships are launched with organisations seeking to create their own cyber schools or with academic or educational organisations offering cyber training to their students.

Providing comprehensive solutions for IT schools, enables the training of IT professionals and new recruits in all IT roles, so that hackers do not remain the sole repository of digital truth. Advanced training is a solid starting point for organisations seeking to train their IT professionals. Professionals who can manage and master schemes such as Cyber Defender, Cyber Warrior, Cyber Manager, SOC Analyst, Digital Forensics, Basic Training and many others, including through the use of simulation.

Leading the creation and development of the high-level cybersecurity ecosystem is a duty of States towards the citizens who elect their leaders. The same holds true for seeking and employing highly experienced experts in the various security subject matters, including strategic cyber defence, cyber warfare, cyber intelligence, cyber research and development and cyber strategy, as well as defining training policies for these branches of operation.

Having examined the prerequisites for protecting cyberspace, it is worth addressing the structure of some of the risks faced by institutional network systems.

One of the most typical operations made by hackers relates to the use of client/server technology to combine several computers as a platform to launch DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks against one or more targets, thus exponentially increasing damage.

A malicious user normally uses a stolen account to install the DDoS master programme on a computer. The master programme will communicate with a large number of agents at any given time and the agent programmes have been installed on many computers in the network. The agent launches an attack when it receives an instruction. Using client/server technology, the master control programme can activate hundreds of agent programmes in a matter of seconds.

A DDoS uses a group of controlled machines to launch an attack on a computer, be it server or client. It is so fast and hard to prevent that is therefore more destructive. If we consider that in the past network administrators could adopt the method of filtering IP addresses against DDoS, it becomes more difficult to prevent such actions today. How can measures be taken to respond effectively?

If the user is under attack, defence will be very limited. If there is a catastrophic attack with a large amount of traffic pouring onto the unprepared user, it will very likely that the network will be paralysed before the user can recover. Users, however, can still take the opportunity to seek defence.

Hackers usually launch attacks through many fake IP addresses. At that juncture, if users can distinguish which IPs are real and which are fake – and hence understand from which network segments these IPs come – they can ask the network administrator to change them. Firstly, the PCs should be turned off to try to eliminate the attack. If it is found that these IP addresses are coming from outside rather than from the company’s internal IP, a temporary investigation method can be used to filter these IP addresses on the server or router.

The solution would be to discover the route through which the attackers pass and block them. If hackers launch attacks from certain ports, users can block these ports to prevent intrusion. After the exit port is closed, all computers cannot access the Internet.

A more complex method consists in filtering the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), a service protocol for packet networks transmitting information regarding malfunctioning, monitoring and control information or messages between the various components of a computer network. Although it cannot completely eliminate the intrusion during the attack, filtering the ICMP can effectively prevent the escalation of the aggression and can also reduce the level of constant damage to a certain extent.

The DDoS attack is the most common attack method used by hackers. Some conventional methods of dealing with it are listed below.

1. Filter all RFC1918 IP addresses. The RFC1918 IP address is the address of the internal network, such as 10.0.0.0, 192.168.0.0, 172.16.0.0, etc. These are not fixed IP addresses of a particular network segment, but confidential local IP addresses within the Internet, which should be filtered out. This method serves to filter out a large number of fake internal IPs during an attack, and can also mitigate DDoS attacks.

2. Use many PCs to resist hacker attacks. This is an ideal response phase, if the user has sufficient ability and resources to enable a defence against hackers who attack and continue to access and take over resources. Before the user is fatally attacked, the hacker has little means to control many PCs. This method requires considerable investment and most of the equipment is usually idle, which does not correspond to the actual functioning of the current network of small and medium-sized enterprises.

3. Make full use of network equipment to protect resources. The so-called network equipment refers to load balancing hardware and software such as routers and firewalls, which can effectively protect the network. When the network is attacked, the router is the first to fail, but the other devices have not yet collapsed. The failed router will return to normalcy after being restarted and will restart quickly without any loss. If other servers collapse, their data will be lost and restarting them is a lengthy process. In particular, a company uses load balancing equipment so that when a router is attacked and crashes, the other will work immediately. This minimizes DDoS attacks.  

4. Configure the firewall. The firewall itself can resist DDoS and other attacks. When an attack is discovered, it may be directed to certain sacrificial hosts, which are able to protect the actual host from the attack. The sacrificial hosts may obviously choose to redirect to unimportant hosts or to those having systems with fewer vulnerabilities than some operating systems and with excellent protection against attacks.

5. Filter unnecessary services and ports. Many tools can be used to filter out unnecessary services and ports, i.e. filter out fake IPs on the router. For example, Cisco’s CEF (Cisco Express Forwarding) can compare and filter out Source IP and Routing Table packets. Opening only service ports has become a common practice for many servers. For example, WWW servers open only 80 ports and close all the others or use a blocking strategy on the firewall.

6. Limit SYN/ICMP traffic. The user must configure the maximum SYN/ICMP traffic on the router to limit the maximum bandwidth that SYN/ICMP packets can occupy. Therefore, when there is a large amount of SYN/ICMP traffic exceeding the limit, this means it is not normal network access, but hacking. In the beginning, limiting SYN/ICMP traffic was the best way to prevent DDoS. Although the effect of this method on DDoS is currently not widely used, it can still play a certain role.

7. Scan regularly. Existing network master nodes should be scanned regularly, checked for security vulnerabilities and new vulnerabilities cleaned up promptly. Computers on backbone nodes are the best locations for hackers to use because they have higher bandwidth. It is therefore very important to strengthen the security of these hosts. Furthermore, all computers connected to the major nodes of the network are server-level computers. Hence regular scanning for vulnerabilities becomes even more important.

8. Check the source of the visitor. Use suitable software to check whether the visitor’s IP address is true. This should be done by reverse-searching the router: if it is fake, it will be blocked. As said above, many hacker attacks often use fake IP addresses to confuse users and it is hard to find out from where they come. Therefore, for example, the use of Unicast Reverse Path Forwarding can reduce the occurrence of fake IP addresses and help improve network security.

As seen above, we need experts who know more than hackers, and this is the duty that States and governments have towards their institutions, but primarily towards their citizens.

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The visit of the head of Israeli Mossad intelligence to Bahrain

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The visit of the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed to Damascus on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 and the meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, sparked a great controversy that began from the moment it was announced, which was highlighted by Western analyzes mainly from outside the region, that it comes for a (comprehensive Arab reassessment of the reality of the relationship with Syria and its importance in combating terrorism in the region, and the importance of the current Syrian reality in the calculations of Arab and Gulf national security, primarily towards Iran, and breaking the American “Caesar Law” towards imposing an economic blockade on Syria), and various analyzes and speculations about the future of these have increased. The Emirati step, its implications and dimensions in the Arab and Gulf relations towards the Syrian regime, and whether it represents one of the indicators of the transition to another new phase of political action towards opening up to Damascus, and the return of Syria to its regional and international role. Especially with the clarification of the “Emirati-Syrian coordination” some time before that visit to arrange the rapprochement between the two sides, which became clear by the announcement of the contact between the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and President Bashar Al-Assad), as well as an official invitation to Syria to participate in the “International Expo Exhibition In Dubai” and then my meeting with the Syrian and Emirates oil ministers in Moscow.

    But what stopped me in that Emirates visit, was perhaps other events that were not addressed during those analyzes, which caught my attention analytically and academically, and the most different of them was (I was alerted by a foreign researcher during my commentary on the same analysis, that the Emirates move is mainly in the interest of Tehran the Iranian regime, not to stifle and besiege Iran in its areas of influence and its known role in Syria).  Despite the strangeness of this analysis, I occupied my mind with another matter to respond to it, regarding: (the significance of the visit of the head of the Israeli Mossad to Bahrain, and the visit of Emirates officials to Tel Aviv, and what is even clearer to the public is the organization of joint naval exercises in the Red Sea with the joint Israeli naval forces with Bahrain and the UAE), at the same time as the aforementioned visit.

    Accordingly, my analysis mainly focuses on whether that visit took place through (arranging and coordinating with Tel Aviv to curb Iran in Syria and the region, by attracting Syria to the Arab League and collective Arab action again), and the Gulf rejectionist and Arab reservations towards the step of rapprochement.  The Syrian-Iranian, or did I aim for a clearer Gulf rapprochement with Iran through rapprochement with Syria, as I went to a number of mainly Western analyzes, which I received.  From here, the Egyptian researcher will analyze all the following elements:

Analyzing the implications of the visit of the UAE Foreign Minister (Bin Zayed) to Syria on November 9, 2021.

And its relationship to the “joint naval maneuvers” between (Israel, the UAE and Bahrain) in the Red Sea on November 10, 2021 on the Iranian existence at Syria

The visit of (the head of the Israeli Mossad intelligence service to Bahrain) at the time of the naval joint maneuvers with Israel in the Red Sea, with (the visit of the UAE Air Force commander to Israel).

Then, finally, analyzing the impacts of the Israeli Mossad intelligence moves in the Red Sea on its rapprochement with the USA in the face of (China, Russia and Iran).

   To answer those questions, it is necessary to verify and respond to number of inquires and some other different analyses, such as:

The UAE’s motives for taking such a step of rapprochement with Syria, through the visit of the UAE Foreign Minister “Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed” to Damascus on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, and the meeting with Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad”.

Rather, will this Emirates step (encourage the rest of the Arab countries to follow the Emirates footsteps)  and open up to the Syrian regime?

What is the fate of the “Syrian opposition to the Emirati-Syrian rapprochement”, and is this Emirates move aimed at weakening the Syrian opposition track, especially the Syrians opposing the regime of President “Bashar Al-Assad” abroad?

Then, it will remain to analyze (the Syrian opposition’s options if more Arab countries open up to the Al-Assad’s regime).

Will there be a (Syrian-Emirati consensus) towards the step of solving the (return of Syrian refugees from abroad and the settlement of their situation with the current Syrian regime)?

Finally, the question arises, regarding: (the impact of the intensity of American and international criticism of the UAE’s step of rapprochement with the Syrian regime and President “Bashar Al-Assad” on the completion of the remaining Arab steps seeking to integrate and return Syria once more to its membership in the League of Arab States)?

In fact, the most dangerous and important analysis for me remains completely analytical, namely: (What was raised about the fact that the UAE obtained the green light from the United States of America itself and from the Israeli side before the visit of the UAE Foreign Minister “Bin Zayed” to the Emirates, in pursuit of forming (Gulf-UAE-Israeli alliance against Iran), and seeking to neutralize the Syrian regime in the face of these Iranian moves as a closely related ally of the Iranians?) Accordingly, we can analyze that, as follows:

Perhaps what reinforces and supports my recent view regarding the “Israeli Gulf mobilization with the help of the UAE and Washington’s support to confront Iran through Syria” is (the joint security coordination between Israel and the Emirati and Bahraini naval forces to conduct joint naval maneuvers in the Red Sea, which lasted for five full days), which began on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, which comes at the same time as the UAE rapprochement with Syria, meaning:

 (There are joint security arrangements between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in the face of Iran through the move of rapprochement with Syria as an ally of Iran)

As I mentioned, the joint naval maneuvers between Israel and the UAE at the same time as the UAE visit confirms (the continuation of joint security coordination between Israel and the UAE), especially to curb and limit Iranian influence.  Knowing that the step of joint security coordination between the Emirates and Israel began three years ago, when the naval forces of the Gulf states, mainly the “UAE and Bahrain”, began conducting joint naval maneuvers with the Israeli side, which were the first for them ever with their Israeli counterpart, in cooperation with the forces of the United States of America’s Navy.

We find that the current joint naval maneuvers in the Red Sea with the participation of the UAE and Israel, with the participation of (warships from the Emirates, Bahrain and Israel), in addition to the United States of America, is a “joint Israeli-Gulf assertion” to send a message to the Iranian side, that these naval maneuvers with  Israel, aims to:

 “Securing the maritime traffic in the face of Iran, and seeking to secure the movement of the straits and maritime navigation in the Red Sea with the help of Israeli security, especially that these joint maritime training operations included training on encirclement and raid tactics”

This was confirmed by the US Naval Forces Central Command, in an official statement, to confirm that:

“The Israeli, Emirates, and Bahraini training aims to enhance the ability to work collectively among the forces participating in the maneuvers”

From here, we understand that the step of joint Israeli-Emirati security coordination, and the consequent step of the joint naval maneuvers, came after the signing of the “Abraham Accords” in September 2020, and the normalization of their relations with Israel by the UAE and Bahrain. Since then, it has strengthened the (diplomatic, military, and intelligence relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, as the two most important Gulf countries that share Tel Aviv’s concerns about Iran’s activities in the Red Sea and the region).

The most prominent here, is (the visit of the head of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad in a public visit to Bahrain at the time of the joint naval maneuvers with Israel in the Red Sea, with the commander of the UAE Air Force heading at the same time also on a first-of-its-kind visit to Israel in October  2021).

In general, the (re-opening of the Emirati and Bahraini embassies in Damascus) in December 2018, was considered at that time as (a major change in the Gulf policy towards Syria, and it was among the first indications of a more comprehensive normalization). There is no doubt that these steps came after consulting Saudi Arabia.  However, it seems that Saudi Arabia, as usual, is taking a cautious and secretive attitude towards the move of rapprochement with Syria due to its fear of the “Al-Assad regime’s relations with Tehran”.

At the time, the UAE and Bahrain talked about (the geopolitical benefits of rehabilitating the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad). The State of Bahrain confirmed that “the step of integrating Bashar Al-Assad aims to strengthen the Arab role and prevent regional interference in Syrian affairs”.

The most important analytical question for me is whether Abu Dhabi has completely severed its relations with Damascus at all, given (the continued presence of prominent Syrian figures loyal to Damascus living and working in the Emirates).

In general, this (continuous stream of signals emanating from Damascus and other Arab capitals, led by the Emirates for rapprochement with Syria), indicates that the former opponents of the Syrian government have come close to reaching mutually beneficial arrangements with the Syrian government, some of which pledged a few years ago to drop it.

The most important gains for the Syrian regime from that rapprochement with the UAE and the rest of the Arab countries will be (reconstruction contracts for Syria and energy deals), in addition to the markets that will be opened to it if they reconcile with the Arab countries, which may later pave the way for “inclusion of Damascus again and  returning its membership in the League of Arab States”, which is of course the most important strategic step for the UAE and the Gulf states, to help Syria to return back to the “Arab House”, and consequently put pressure on it not to rapprochement with Iran, as it is a rival opponent for the UAE and the Gulf states.

    In this context, the Syrian capital, Damascus is now hoping for (influential Arab voices to exert international pressure in order to lift the severe sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime), which aims to (punish Syrian officials and Syrian organizations for their alleged involvement in human rights violations).

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