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Which Nations Are State Sponsors of Terrorism?

Eric Zuesse

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On 30 December 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a cable (subsequently released to the public by WikiLeaks) to America’s Ambassadors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, and Pakistan, headlined, “Terrorist Finance: Action Request for Senior Level Engagement on Terrorism Finance.”

“Terrorism finance” is what’s generally referred-to by the official phrase “state sponsorship of terrorism.” This cable from Clinton contained the U.S. Government’s confidential list of state sponsors of terrorism. Her cable discussed exactly how bad the situation was in each of those countries. The supply of money to jihadists is what makes a government a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Supplying money to jihadists is illegal in almost every country, including the United States. And very little even of private money is paid from Americans to jihadists. However, the U.S. Government hides its own quite substantial supply of weapons to jihadists. Here are some examples of that: On 24 March 2013, the New York Times bannered “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.”, and reported that “From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons,” and that “‘A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,’ said Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors illicit arms transfers.” The U.S. Government tried to hide its involvement in this, by doing it through allied “Arab governments,” which were named in this news-report: “Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been shipping military materials via Turkey,” and all four of these Governments (U.S., Sauds, Turkey, and Qatar) were trying to overthrow Syria’s Government. Then, on 8 September 2014, AFP headlined “Islamic State fighters using US arms: study”, and they reported that the U.S. Government was supplying ISIS. On 1 September 2017, Russian Television reported that the U.S. Government was secretly supplying weapons to ISIS and that an anti-Assad fighter had even quit the CIA-backed New Syrian Army because of that.

However, these supplies were only weapons, not money. For example: the study cited by AFP “documented weapons seized by Kurdish forces from militants in Iraq and Syria over a 10-day period in July.” “Militants” were also called “rebels,” and they had U.S. weapons, which were seized by U.S.-backed “Kurdish forces,” whom the U.S. Government called “rebels,” but who thought that “rebels” didn’t include ISIS, and that ISIS wasn’t also being armed by the U.S. Government. They were mistaken. In fact, on 2 July 2017, the great investigative journalist Dilyana Geytandzhieva headlined “350 diplomatic flights carry weapons for terrorists Azerbaijan’s Silk Way Airlines transports weapons with diplomatic clearance for Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo.” Bills of lading, etc., were presented as documentation, for the CIA’s secret operation to arm the jihadist groups that were trying to overthrow and replace Syria’s Government.

However, these were not supplies of money to the ‘rebels.’ Only the supply of money is what makes a government a “state sponsor of terrorism.” And that was her cable’s topic.

Secretary of State Clinton told those Ambassadors to those Muslim-majority lands, to make clear to the given nation’s aristocrats, that, under the new U.S. President, Barack Obama, there would no longer be any allowance for continuation of their donations to Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups that attack the United States.

Her cable opened, “This is an action request cable,” meaning that the operations of the local U.S. Embassy in the given nation would be monitored for compliance with the Secretary of State’s “request.”

Clinton’s focus was:

on disrupting illicit finance activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the external financial/logistical support networks of terrorist groups that operate there, such as al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT). The IFTF’s [Interagency Illicit Finance Task Force] activities are a vital component of the USG’s [U.S. Government’s] Afghanistan and Pakistan (Af/Pak) strategy dedicated to disrupting illicit finance flows between the Gulf countries and Afghanistan and Pakistan. The IFTF has created a diplomatic engagement strategy to assist in the accomplishment of this objective. The strategy focuses on senior-level USG engagement with Gulf countries and Pakistan to communicate USG counterterrorism priorities and to generate the political will necessary to address the problem. The IFTF has drafted talking points for use by all USG officials in their interactions with Gulf and Pakistani interlocutors. These points focus on funding for terrorist groups threatening stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan and targeting coalition soldiers. These points have been cleared through the relevant Washington agencies.

Although the named concern was “groups threatening stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the U.S. Secretary of State was actually telling her agents (the Ambassadors) to warn the local aristocracy to stop funding the groups that pose a terrorist threat to the United States as well.

She was listing the actual countries that are State Sponsors of Terrorism and threaten the people of the United States and of other countries.

These confidentially listed State Sponsors of Terrorism were being listed as of 2009, which was 8 years after 9/11; and so, after eight years of George W, Bush’s being in the U.S. White House, these were the nations that still were leading the world in the financing of the Sunni fundamentalist group Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, which were doing such attacks.

This cable reviewed the existing situation regarding each one of the governments, and it included separate instructions to each of the Embassies:

Concerning Saudi Arabia:

While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority. …

Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. …

Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources. …

She noted that, In 2002, the Saudi government promised to set up a Charities Committee that would address this issue, but has yet to do so. 

She instructed the U.S. Ambassador there to:

encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide, and to, encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide.

Concerning Qatar:

Qatar’s overall level of CT [Counter Terrorist] cooperation with the U.S. is considered the worst in the region. Al-Qaida, the Taliban, UN-1267 listed LeT, and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale.  Although Qatar’s security services have the capability to deal with direct threats and occasionally have put that capability to use, they have been hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals. …

However, given the current focus of U.S. engagement with the GOQ [Government of Qatar] on terror finance related to Hamas, it would be counter-productive for Embassy Doha to engage the GOQ at this time on disrupting financial support of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. [No explanation of that was provided, but one interpretation of it might be: Protecting Israel from Hamas was more important to the Obama Administration than was “disrupting financial support of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”]

Concerning Kuwait:

Kuwait … has been less inclined to take action against Kuwait-based financiers and facilitators plotting attacks outside of Kuwait. Al-Qa’ida and other groups continue to exploit Kuwait both as a source of funds and as a key transit point. …

Clinton noted that though

Kuwait’s law prohibits efforts to undermine or attack Arab neighbors, … the GOK [Government of Kuwait] faces an uphill battle to implement comprehensive terror finance legislation due to a lack of parliamentary support. 

In other words: Kuwait’s aristocracy refused to donate to jihadist groups that attack themselves or the aristocracies of other “Arab” countries, but did contribute to jihadist groups which attacked non-Arab countries. Furthermore, the official reason why they did was that the parliament, which consists of people who are elected by the public, supported jihadists who attacked non-Arab countries. (Actually, when they supported jihadists trying to take over Syria, they were violating that rule, but only because those Sunni jihadists would be replacing a Shiite leader, Bashar al-Assad, who was, to them, even worse: he’s a non-sectarian Shiite, whose political party, the Ba’athist Party, is committed to a separation between church-and-state.)

The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung headlined on 25 April 2014, “Kuwait, ally on Syria, is also the leading funder of extremist rebels.” She reported that, “Last month, the administration decided to go public with its concerns. … Such fundraising was not illegal in Kuwait until last year, when the government took advantage of an unrelated parliamentary boycott to push through a new law. Disappointingly, since then there has not been much vigor shown in implementing a ban on terrorist financing.”

DeYoung went on: “Unlike other monarchies and autocracies in the region, Kuwait’s politics are relatively open and combative. The executive branch, headed by Emir Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah, frequently clashes with a feisty parliament composed of warring political groups within both the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority. Unlike other Gulf countries, Kuwait allows broad freedom of association for its 2.7 million citizens, and Sabah’s rule is characterized more by political incorporation than confrontation.”

Secretary of State Clinton’s cable continued:

A particular point of difference between the U.S. and concerns Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS). … providing financial and material support to al-Qa’ida. … In Kuwait, RIHS enjoys broad public support as a charitable entity. The GOK to date has not taken significant action to address or shut down RIHS’s headquarters or its branches.

So: whereas the Sabah family had been saved by America’s 1991 war against Saddam Hussein’s invasion and attempted takeover there, they didn’t crack down against Al Qaeda; they didn’t stop the funding to Al Qaeda. They “took advantage of an unrelated parliamentary boycott to push through a new law,” but, after the boycott ended, didn’t enforce the new law.

Concerning UAE:

UAE-based donors have provided financial support to a variety of terrorist groups, including al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups, including Hamas. 

Concerning Pakistan:

Pakistan’s intermittent support to terrorist groups and militant organizations threatens to undermine regional security and endanger U.S. national security objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Although Pakistani senior officials have publicly disavowed support for these groups, some officials from the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) continue to maintain ties with a wide array of extremist organizations, in particular the Taliban, LeT and other extremist organizations.  These extremist organizations continue to find refuge in Pakistan and exploit Pakistan’s extensive network of charities, NGOs, and madrassas.  This network of social service institutions readily provides extremist organizations with recruits, funding and infrastructure for planning new attacks.

Those were the countries that, in private, the U.S. Government recognized as being State Sponsors of Terrorism. All of them were being identified as funders of fundamentalist-Sunni groups who perpetrate terrorism upon the U.S. and other countries.

The United States Government has an official list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”, and only four governments are on it: Syria (as of 1979),  Iran (as of 1984), Sudan (as of 1993), and North Korea (as of 2017). None of them is a fundamentalist-Sunni-led nation, and none of them has ever attacked, nor even threatened to attack, the United States of America. By contrast, fundamentalist-Sunni terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, which are primarily funded by the actual State Sponsors of Terrorism (mainly Saudi Arabia), have attacked the U.S. Furthermore, on 6 September 2016, Asia News headlined “Conference in Grozny: Wahhabism exclusion from the Sunni community provokes Riyadh’s wrath” and reported that at the international Islamic conference in Grozny, jihadist sects were condemned by all Governments except Saudi Arabia’s, and that the only Government continuing to support the most extremist sect, Wahhabism, was Saudi Crown Prince Salman, the American regime’s closest ally.

Furthermore, in a secret 2014 court case in the United States, the financial bagman who had personally collected tens of millions of dollars for Al Qaeda during the years prior to Saudi Arabia’s 9/11 attacks, said there, under oath, that, “without the money of the — of the Saudi, you will have nothing” of Al Qaeda. And, yet, Saudi Arabia wasn’t even on the official list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” not at all. The U.S. Government continues, to this day, to protect the royal Saud family, who own and control Saudi Arabia and its Government and who were the chief funder of the 9/11 attacks.

Consequently: On whose side is the Government of the United States of America? Is it on the side of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; or is it on the side of countries such as Iran and Syria — countries that the Sauds want to take over? And why does it lie (deceive), so much, calling “State Sponsors of Terrorism” countries such as Syria and Iran that are instead the chief enemies of the actual state sponsors of terrorism?

As I have previously documented, the only country that has any authentic reason to worry about terrorism that comes from Shiites, such as in (or that are backed by) Iran, is Israel. But is the U.S. Government supposed to be representing and protecting the people in Israel, or instead to be representing and protecting the people in the United States of America? What’s actually behind the U.S. Government’s systematic lying, against Shiites, and for Sunnis (especially Wahhabist ones) and Israel? And why is this U.S. Government lying bipartisan — not Republican or Democratic, but both — at the very top of the U.S. regime: the people who actually control both of America’s political Parties? Or, do the American people actually not control the American Government? If not, then what should be done to the American Government, and why are such questions not being publicly debated and discussed, especially in the American press and among the American people? Is the U.S. lockdown that complete? (This commentary is being submitted to all U.S. newsmedia for publication, to get that essential public conversation in America started.)

Author’s note: first published in strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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The Nuclear Dimension of Cyber Threats

Dmitry Stefanovich

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The subject of the interrelation of threats in the fields of information and communication technologies and nuclear weapons is gradually becoming one of the dominant topics in current international security issues. In early summer 2019, a group of researchers working under the auspices of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) presented the Russian version of the “Nuclear Weapons in the New Cyber Age” report prepared by the Cyber-Nuclear Weapons Study Group (hereinafter referred to as the NTI Report). Russian assessments of the proposals put forward by American experts may contribute to finding constructive solutions that may be ultimately transferred to international communication platforms.

Understanding the Threats

The NTI Report is structured very logically and succinctly. The authors give specific examples using formalized scenarios and demonstrate the practical dimension of specific threats and their consequences. This is followed by concrete proposals. On the whole, this approach is conducive to understanding the essence of certain phenomena and is useful both for experts in the area under consideration and for the general public. Moreover, one would like to think that decision-makers in various countries will be interested in the problems considered.

The authors considered four “illustrative scenarios”:

Scenario 1: Warning systems provide false indications of a nuclear attack during a crisis.

Scenario 2: A cyberattack disrupts communications between officials, operators and nuclear systems, and/or international counterparts in a potential crisis.

Scenario 3: An adversary introduces a flaw or malevolent code into nuclear weapons through the supply chain or otherwise in a way that could compromise the effectiveness of those weapons

Scenario 4: An adversary is able to achieve unauthorized control of a nuclear weapon through cyber-assisted theft and/or defeating of security devices.

These scenarios look quite realistic. We will not go into detailed descriptions (or, more precisely, retellings) of them. A brief summary is given in Figure 1.

At the same time, we will note that each scenario has an element of simplification, which is generally justified from the point of view of the research objectives. An important clarification should be made, at least for the first scenario. An early warning system comprises many elements, and it is highly improbable that the decision to deliver a retaliatory strike will be made on the basis of a single sub-system. The probability of the “entire set” malfunctioning or being hacked and providing the exact same information appears to be very low. At the same time, when nuclear powers are in a crisis that has an obvious military aspect to it, the threat of a hastily made decision will also increase.

A Search for Solutions

The authors of the NTI Report propose the following three guiding principles that should be taken into account when developing approaches to minimizing the risk of cyber threats against nuclear weapons:

  1. The United States will continue to require a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent as long as nuclear weapons remain a central element of its security strategy.
  2. Technical measures alone are unable to completely eliminate the cyber threat to nuclear weapons.
  3. The cyber challenge is global, and a unilateral approach is not sufficient.

These principles appear to be quite sound and constructive. Item 1 is certainly reasonable for Russia and for other nuclear powers.

Maybe such statements should be also reflected in bilateral (or even multilateral) declarations on international security issues and strategic stability. Naturally, conditions should emerge first for such declarations.

The experts make several very specific proposals, which are grouped as follows:

reducing the risk of launch as a result of miscalculation;

reducing risks to the nuclear deterrent;

reducing the risk of unauthorized use;

taking a global approach to the cyber threat to nuclear weapons systems.

On the whole, this approach seems logical, but the feasibility of these proposals is questionable.

Certainly, the key task shared by all nuclear powers is to guarantee the impossibility of accidentally interfering with nuclear weapons and related infrastructure through information and communication technologies. What is problematic is the attitude of various states to interference that is deliberate, i.e. intentionally carried out by government services against probable adversaries. This contradiction sharply limits the room for joint action to minimize threats.

In particular, the recommendation contained in the NTI Report on bilateral and multilateral steps towards developing certain new rules of behaviour in cyberspace are unlikely to be fully implemented. This is primarily due to one of the key features of cyber weapons: the impossibility of reliably ascertaining the adversary’s target, even if the malware itself has been detected. Identical cyber weapons can be used to collect information and interfere with the systems into which the malware has been introduced.

Unilateral and Multilateral Approaches

At the same time, much can be done in the context of unilateral measures to minimize cyber threats.

It would seem that the most important task in this area is the training of qualified military personnel for the nuclear forces. Excellent knowledge of relevant weapons and military equipment, as well as the rules of operation in any situation and basic “digital hygiene” will evidently contribute to the overall reduction of threats.

Comprehensive rules and regulations for protecting equipment from external interference already exist. However, given that individual components are purchased from foreign manufacturers (this problem is relevant for both Russia and the United States), there is still danger of hardware implants. Let us hope that personnel of the relevant departments in the military and the special services have the necessary qualifications to detect such threats.

At the same time, certain national measures for enhancing the cyber protection of the nuclear weapons infrastructure should be compiled into some sort of “best practices” collection. Perhaps P5 countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) could prepare some handbooks to be distributed, for instance, as part of a Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. This would to some extent demonstrate the responsible approach of recognized nuclear powers to current issues related to nuclear weapons.

As we have mentioned before, developing a relevant section in the Glossary of the Key Nuclear Terms could be a useful step, as fine-tuning the Glossary is supposedly still on the agenda. A dialogue based on a uniform conceptual and categorial framework leads to negotiations being more effective. At the same time, forming a uniform terminology should not be viewed as a trivial task. The solution of this task requires both political will and a deep understanding of the subject of negotiations. And still, even if such procedures do not have a positive outcome, such communications promote an improved understanding of assessments, approaches and paradigms among partners.

We should remember the Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on strengthening global strategic stability today, which envisages, among other things, a joint “analysis of the regulation of new strategic security dimensions” related to the “possible impact of achievements in science and technology.” Moreover, Russia and China consider it appropriate to conduct a multilateral study of the relevant problems and their legal regulation on the basis of the United Nations.

Expanding the Context

As we have already mentioned, the crucial feature of cyber weapons (that kind of links it with “kinetic” weapons, primarily strategic weapons) is that the delivery vehicle and the payload are two different things: the same product can be used to introduce malware intended for monitoring and spying, as well as for control hacking and disabling.

Maybe classifying cyber weapons by hostile impact type can create conditions for searching for points of contact between various countries and international organizations. In general, the task of formalizing and coordinating definitions is one of the most complicated stages of any negotiation process, and a key stage that determines the success of the negotiations and the prospects for adapting the agreements to the rapidly changing reality against the backdrop of the scientific and technological progress.

As for deliberate cyberattacks that may be of interest to states that have the requisite capabilities, we should take note of the opinion of the UK-based Chatham House, which draws attention to the complex dynamics of military-political relations in the event of a further escalation in rhetoric concerning cyberattacks preventing combat missile launches as part of the so-called “left of launch” concept, which the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation calls “pre-start intercept.” The problem is that the hypothetical “Party A,” fearing an attack of such kindby “Party B,” may decide to use weapons at the early stages of a conflict. And if “Party B” is bluffing, then calling its bluff may result in the “failure” of the deterrent tactic. If “Party B” is confident in its supreme cyber capabilities, then its actions can easily become overconfident and result in a “hot” conflict.

Strictly speaking, the problem of the “rules of the game” in cyberspace is important in and of itself, without being tied to nuclear weapons. For instance, attempts can be made to train “cyber soldiers” to follow the rules of international humanitarian law, as, for instance, Professor Götz Neuneck from the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH) suggests. And the specific content of such concepts as “proportionality” and “military necessity” when applied to cyberspace requires additional research. Joint international exercises, including those related to nuclear systems, ideally with the participation of “probable adversaries,” could be a useful event in this area. Thus, states could gain some experience of acting in a simulated combat situation and gain experience of interaction through emergency communication channels, which is of crucial importance.

Safe Communication Lines

For decades, information and communication technologies have been developing at breakneck speed, and the militarization of cyberspace accompanies these processes. In general, any technological changes result in new threats, and “Neo-Luddism” will hardly be a suitable cure for such threats. “Nuclear abolitionists” are unlikely to achieve their goals in the foreseeable future either: we are seeing a return to the international rivalry of great powers, and nuclear weapons are one of the principal elements confining death and destruction in the course of this rivalry within relatively moderate bounds.

The only way to preserve strategic stability and prevent catastrophic consequences from the incorrect use of nuclear weapons is to perform an in-depth analysis of the impact that new technologies have on the relevant systems. This analysis should be as open as possible and involve an element of international dialogue at both the state and expert levels. At the same time, it is necessary to “increase literacy” in information and communication technologies and nuclear weapons (and their control systems) both among military personnel and among civilian specialists and decision-makers. The NTI Report and the subsequent communication activities of its authors are a step in the right direction, especially since representatives of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation attended the presentation of the report at the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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Omani national security and the kind of political and military cooperation with the United States

Sajad Abedi

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Historical documentary evidence suggests that the United States has always had a strategic partner in the region. Oman is undoubtedly the closest Iranian southern neighbor to the Persian Gulf, with its common cultural and religious roots with the land of Iran. But it should be noted that the effects of convergence between the United States and Oman have an impact on Iran’s national security. Also, after the US Secretary of State Visits Oman and his visit to Sultan Qaboos and the Pompeo positions in Amman, the question is: How much is Oman to do with US sanctions against Iran?

Oman has a geographical isolation in the Arabian Peninsula. The country has only a frontier from its western region, and the three UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are neighbors. On the other hand, the majority of the Abbasid religion of this country has led to its religious isolation in the Islamic world, and Wahhabism has entered into conflict with the followers of this religion several times since its inception, and still considers the abbots from the divergent difference of the Islamic world, And excuses.

Oman is relatively weak in the economic field, dependent on oil and the outside world. However, the Omani dealings with the United States are not high, and most of it is in the military arms sector. The demographic structure of this country, in particular the population of about 5% Shiite, who has a lot of strength and wealth, with the Baluchis, who have traveled to Oman many years before Iran, actually created a situation and the Omani government will not be in a relationship with Iran. If this issue is analyzed along with the influence of Wahhabism on the Omani population, it will be more important if it is to be analyzed.

It should be borne in mind that the Sunnis in Amman claim that they are the majority of the citizens of this country. Oman considers the Gulf Cooperation Council to be important in the framework of this cooperation, in addition to external problems, to prevent Arab aggression, the Omani are well aware of the history of Saudi Arabia’s deployment to its neighboring countries, and therefore the balance Power will not be pleasing to Saudi Arabia. Oman, which seeks to reduce dependence on oil and economic diversification in its 2020 and 2040 prospects, avoids any kind of conflict and conflict in the region, because the arrival of capital, tourists and goods, and services and manpower require security in this country. And stability in the region. They are working to strengthen Qatar in the Gulf Cooperation Council and are working with the United States to provide their own resources in the region, and because strengthening Qatar and removing Saudi and Qatari hostilities are in the interest of the country and necessary to curb Saudi Arabia. Greetings from the United States.

But the question is whether Oman can adopt an independent policy at the level of engagement with global powers such as the United States?

In August 2010, Oman and Iran signed a security agreement; of course, it cannot be said that the relations between Tehran and Muscat are generally without problems and is a full-fledged relationship; for example, the Oman navy does not participate in Iranian military maneuvers while Which is in the military maneuvers of the Gulf states, the United States, India and Pakistan. Oman has given America’s military partner its ports and bases. It has shown its willingness to participate in the US missile defense shield, which is aimed at creating security against Iran’s threat to the countries of the region.

From the point of view of Oman, the military conflict between the United States and Iran has a huge geopolitical and economic risk. To reduce this danger, the Omani government has acted as a bridge between Tehran and the West; that is why the Oman kingdom, unlike Saudi Arabia and some countries of the Cooperation Council, Which wants Iran to lose its position in the region, does not want Iran to be attacked by the military and tries to increase the capacity of Iran in the region by means of a synergy.

The geographic proximity of Iran and Oman in the Strait of Hormuz, Oman’s geographical remoteness from the Arab world, and the geopolitical and geopolitical importance of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran and Oman, have required good relations. Accordingly, and despite the fact that Oman has always had close ties with the United States, this has not had any effect on Iran’s friendly relations with the country. In fact, the different Muscat approach to the Tehran Cooperation Council has had a dramatic impact and has effectively reduced the influence of Riyadh on the smaller member states of the Council for the purpose of convergence, and undermined West’s efforts to isolate Tehran.

It should now be seen that in spite of important approaching variables such as geographic continuity, geopolitical situation in the region, oil, the need for stability in the region, and … the main causes of the security scene in the region.

In the past, in the context of security-related security with national power, there was a belief that with increasing military power security would increase, and with the number of military forces and equipment representing the power and security of each country, but now beliefs have changed and should be noted. National security is not a unilateral process that can only be increased by increasing its military power, but has a broad and comprehensive concept.

It is possible to maintain the national security of each political unit by increasing national power and balancing its constituent elements, and increasing one of these factors, if not accompanied by an increase in other factors, could threaten national security. In this regard, today, national security has taken a cross-border dimension; in other words, it is not just inside the border. Of course, security is not military power, so sometimes increased military strength reduces security and insecurity.

The Omanian kingdom has a different look at the position of the Gulf Cooperation Council on the issue of convergence; on the one hand, it contributes to economic issues within the framework of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, but on the other hand, in foreign policy and disputes between the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council Persian countries has not entered and has been trying to play a role in the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council by assuming the role of the Hammer of Equilibrium. However, now it seems that, despite the differences between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, it is not very willing to remain in the Gulf Cooperation Council. This approach may lead to a gap in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and will split countries into two different blocks. In this regard, Muscat tries to maintain its impartiality in the internal conflicts of this council as well as the differences between Iran and Arab countries, while playing a positive role.

Now the kingdom of Oman is not willing to pay for the rest of the world; therefore, in view of Muscat, Egypt’s entry into the Gulf Cooperation Union is very dangerous. On the other hand, the Omani kingdom does not differ much with other countries, but it is not pleasing to Saudi policies (which are trying to dictate their policies to other Gulf States). The country has repeatedly objected to Saudi apparent interference in foreign policy of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and if the situation continues, it is foreseeable that the Gulf Cooperation Council will collapse in the future, and even Qatar, along with the Oman kingdom, will cooperate with the Co-operation Council Gulf exits and form an alliance with Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. In contrast, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are on the other.

In the future, Muscat tries to maintain its impartiality and, in its relations with the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, and …, continues its policies and tries to play a positive role in resolving regional crises, as The meetings of Iran and the Western countries over the past years with Oman’s administration show that the king wants to mediate Iran’s relations with the West.

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Tension in the Gulf: Not just maritime powder kegs

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A recent interview in which Baloch National Movement chairman Khalil Baloch legitimized recent militant attacks on Iranian, Chinese and Pakistani targets is remarkable less for what he said and more for the fact that his remarks were published by a Saudi newspaper.

Speaking to Riyadh Daily, the English language sister of one of Saudi Arabia’s foremost newspapers, Al Riyadh, Mr. Baloch’s legitimization in the kingdom’s tightly controlled media constituted one more suggestion that Saudi Arabia may be tacitly supporting militants in Balochistan, a troubled Pakistani province that borders on Iran and is a crown jewel of China’s infrastructure and energy-driven Belt and Road initiative.

Riyadh Daily interviewed Mr. Baloch against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran that many fear could escalate into military conflict, past indications of Saudi support for religious militants in Balochistan, and suggestions that countries like the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are united in their opposition to Iran but differ on what outcome they want maximum pressure on the Islamic republic to produce.

The interview followed publication in 2017 by a Riyadh-based think tank with ties to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of a call by a Baloch nationalist for support for an insurgency in the Baloch-populated Iranian province that borders Pakistan and is home to the crucial Indian-backed port of Chabahar on the Arabian Sea.

It also juxtaposes with Pakistani anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian militants who operate madrassahs along the Iranian-Pakistani border reporting stepped up Saudi funding. The monies are believed to come in part from Saudi nationals of Baloch descent, but the militants suggest the funding has at least tacit government approval.

Balochistan has witnessed multiple attacks on its Hazara Shiite minority as well as in May on a highly secured luxury hotel frequented by Chinese nationals in the Chinese-backed Baloch port city of Gwadar and a convoy of Chinese engineers as well as the Chinese consulate in Karachi. Militants killed 14 people in April in an  assault on an Iranian revolutionary guards convoy and exploded in December a car bomb in Chabahar.

Saudi Arabia is also suspected of supporting the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a controversial Iranian exile group that seeks the fall of the Iranian regime and enjoys support of senior Western politicians and former officials as well as US national security advisor John Bolton prior to his appointment and ex-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal.

For now, tacit Saudi support for Baloch militants is likely to be more about putting potential building blocks in place rather than the result of a firm decision to wage a low-intensity proxy war.

“The recent escalation in militant attacks is a direct reaction to Pakistan army’s growing atrocities in Balochistan and China’s relentless plunder of Baloch resources,” Mr. Baloch said.

Asserting that the Pakistani part of Balochistan has been occupied by Pakistan since 1948, Mr. Baloch insisted that the “Baloch nation is resisting against this forced accession. This insurgency is the continuation of that.”

The alleged Saudi support coupled with plans for a US$10 billion Saudi investment in a refinery in Gwadar and a Baloch mine has sparked discussion in Beijing about the viability of China’s US$45 billion plus stake in the region’s security and stability.

Iranian officials see a pattern of foreign support for insurgents not only in Balochistan but also among Iran’s Kurdish, Arab and Azeri minorities. Their suspicions are fuelled by statements by Mr. Bolton prior to his appointment calling for support of insurgencies and Prince Mohammed’s vow that any battle between the Middle East’s two major rivals would be fought in Iran rather than Saudi Arabia.

Complicating the situation along Iran’s borders is the fact that like in the waters of the Gulf where naval assets are eyeing one another, it doesn’t take much for the situation to escalate out of control. That is particularly the case with Iran having shifted tactics from strategic patience to responding to perceived escalation with an escalation of its own.

Iran moreover has been preparing for a potential covert war waged by Saudi Arabia and possibly US-backed ethnic insurgent groups as well as the possibility of a direct military confrontation with the United States by building a network of underground military facilities along its borders with Pakistan and Iraq, according to Seyed Mohammad Marandi, an Iranian academic who frequently argues the Tehran government’s position in international media.

Iran recently released a video showcasing an underground bunker that houses its missile arsenal.

In a further heightening of tension, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards attacked on Friday Iranian armed opposition groups in the Kurdistan region of Iraq with drones and missiles. Iranian artillery separately shelled villages in a region populated not only by armed anti-Iranian and anti-Turkish Kurdish groups but also smugglers.

The strikes followed the killing of three Iranian revolutionary guards. A spokesman for the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) denied responsibility for their deaths.

The risk of escalation is enhanced by the fact that while the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel agree on the principle of maximum pressure, they do not necessarily see eye to eye on what the end goal is.

While US President Donald J. Trump appears to want to force Iran back to the negotiating table, Israel and Mr. Bolton are believed to advocate gunning for regime change ignoring the risk that the effort could produce a government that is even less palatable to them.

That outcome would suit Saudi Arabia that does not want to see a regime emerge that would be embraced by Western nations and allowed to return to the international fold unfettered by sanctions.

A palatable government would turn Iran into a Middle Eastern powerhouse with a competitive edge vis a vis Saudi Arabia and complicate the kingdom’s ambition to become a major natural gas player and sustain its regional leadership role.

Writing in the Pakistan Security Report 2018, journalist Muhammad Akbar Notezai warned: “The more Pakistan slips into the Saudi orbit, the more its relations with Iran will worsen… If their borders remain troubled, anyone can fish in the troubled water.”

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