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Strategic equalization in current Syria

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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One of the most obvious results of the current stabilization of operations in Syria is the next and predictable equality of offensive potentials on the ground.

The United States, however, thinks it shall no longer deal with Syria, considering that the ultimate goal of the War on Terror is to avoid jihadist attacks on its territory or on its bases.

As often happens, psychopolitics for internal use that pretends to be  global strategy, which is indeed wrong.

Clearly, too little as US political goal. Nevertheless we have now already entered the classic overstretch cycle – “let us go back home soon” -that characterizes the American cyclical history of strategic burn and burst of US geopolitics, which works as the boom and bust cycles of financial economy, but anyway also old and Jeffersonian.

We could define it as “geopolitics of the altered states of consciousness”.

In other papers we have already analysed the issue of the US- Free Syrian Army base in Al Tanf, which is essential to protect Jordan and avoid encirclement on the Euphrates by the Caliphate jihad. Currently, however, this base is an uncertain bivouac of terrorists, although “moderate” and connected to the Free Syrian Army.

The Free Syrian Army was the first US operation in Syria. From the very beginning it was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, but it was born during the 2011 “Arab Springs”.

If President Trump really decides to withdraw from Syria, the only highly probable future variable will be Turkey’s open invasion of  the Northern and Western Kurdish areas.

Hence, as already happened, the Kurdish Rojava will immediately head for Damascus, as it has already done, thus creating a new internal front within Syria, a harbinger of future and severe dangers.

Obviously, the hasty and strategically undefined US withdrawal is also a great and unique missed opportunity for Iran.

Iran, however, has already reached an agreement with Turkey: the stable tripartition of the areas of influence in Syria, already fully foreshadowed by the “de-escalation zones” of 2017.

Russia will certainly claim to be the strategic winner in Syria, which is what it wanted, but excluding particularly the USA and the EU from that area (certainly an easy success to be achieved).

Iran, however, will have reached its goal anyway, i.e. changing and turning to its advantage the configuration of its strategic potentials along the Syrian border with Israel and reaching up to its new Mediterranean  with the maximum political-military destabilizing power.

Once won its fight for Syria, Turkey will be in a position to afford a new area of protection and control against the unification of the Kurdish world, but will particularly ensure the smooth and undisturbed passage from Anatolia to Central Asia.

Therefore, we will have in Syria the S-300s and other advanced technologies of the Russian Defence, which will remain there in Bashar al-Assad’s hands. Nevertheless we will also have as many as 11 types of air superiority fighters in various bases (Palmyra, T4, Humaynim and two other dedicated and confidential ones), but also all the highly-advanced  set of C3 active war-control networks and of sensors, directly connected to Russia’s Central Command.

Israel finally reaches an agreement with Russia that could even allow a new arrangement of its operations in Southern Syria or even a full  agreement with the Russian Federation on the bipartite control of the Bekaa-Golan-Southern Lebanon axis, where both countries have potentially converging interests.

Moreover Iran has reached its true strategic result, the Iraqi-Lebanese “corridor”, which is modest at technological level, apart from some thefts of Russian and Turkish material, but is very effective in enabling Iran to wage its asymmetric war against Israel on a broader front, and above all new compared to the old positions.

Israel’s Kurdish friends could control this network from the North.

The Shiite Republic certainly wants to eliminate the “Zionist entity” – as Israel is called in Iran –  or make it irrelevant, but it wants above all to play  a primary role on the Mediterranean shores. This will have endless repercussions on the Shiite oil trade and on the different arrangement of  defence potentials around the Saudi axis, of which Iran wants to destabilize all its vast Shite areas, one after the other.

It will then be the turn of Bahrain and other Emirates, while the Shiite Egyptian, Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian communities will move radially.

Considering that, for the time being, light and stable missile bases on the “corridor” are not available – although there are signs of rooting-technologically Iran’s policy line is to make every point of its “corridor” an element of mobile and variable guerrilla warfare against Israel, so as to finally set fire to the whole line and block the North of the Jewish State.

With a certain, connected and subsequent attack from the Gaza Strip and, in all likelihood, even from the areas already arranged on Israel’s Eastern  border.

Hence the quick and full deprivation of every strategic asset for the Jewish State.

Nevertheless, so far the military potentials are still asymmetric for Iran.

The missiles it has granted to Hezbollah are manifold and sufficiently advanced, but small and mainly suited to saturate Israel’s defences, so as to later propose to the Islamic world an internal and concentric attack on Israel.

Hence Israel would become a mere small terrestrial power, inevitably devoid of its technological, air, sea and signal intelligence strengths.

As already seen, however, Iran does not even trust Russia, which has no interest in permanently protecting its “corridor” northwards.

Certainly Russia does not even trust its “proxy agents” left in Syria that it wants to control permanently so as to avoid precisely what Iran wants: the clash between Russia and Israel.

A struggle that would extend ad infinitum the destructive effect of its own guerrilla warfare and of its small missiles, which today, however, are certainly much more advanced than the “toys” it supplied to Hezbollah until a few years ago.

However, the Iranian variable to command and control the phases following the outbreak of a war north of Israel is currently technological and resolves the dispute between Iran and Russia at its root.

It is a missile, namely Hoveizeh, which has been tested for the first time this February.

It is not by chance that is named after a city in South-Western Iran that bravely resisted Iraq in the Shiite “war of necessity” when the USA armed Saddam Hussein and later left him to his own destiny.

And the symbolism of the “war of necessity” comes to the fore today, on  the forty-year anniversary of the Shiite revolution.

Symbols always have essential strategic power.

Hoveizeh is a surface-to-surface missile with an average range of 1,350 kilometres, always flying at a low altitude. It needs a very short time for its preparedness and armament.

As has long been the case in Iranian arsenals, it has a fully autonomous and “national” technology.

Hence it is hard to be tracked.

The Hoveyzeh missile, however, is Iran’s direct response to the success of the recent Israeli-US Arrow (orHetz) 3missile.

Said Israeli-US missile had been tested on January 22 last.

It is an exoatmospheric anti-ballistic missile for intercepting enemy missiles which, however, can also be an attack weapon.

The Arrow 3 structure also consists of a hypersonic missile interceptor missile, also equipped with an ELM-2080 Green Pine produced by Elta, which is an AESA early warning radar, finally connected to a C3 centre and to the network of Israeli air industries known as Hazelnut.

Nevertheless it is a system that has already been declared operational in 2000.

Only the third part of the Arrow 3 system, however, has been declared fully operative in 2017.

Arrow 3 can also be used as an anti-satellite weapon, but the Israeli Forces still do not fully like it since they have always preferred the strategy of preventive attacks and deterrence. Another very problematic aspect is the high cost of this system.

Is it better to have many and possibly inexpensive missiles, with scarce  but efficient technology, or very few and expensive ones, probably even insufficient and inadequate to oppose a salvo intended to saturate the Dome?

Iran has already made its choice.

It would be interesting, however, to see Israel’s final choice in the field of the so-called “mass” missile weapons, which could also be suitable for strategies where the central point still consists in the advanced weapon, that determines in a moment the attacker’ superiority.

Also the attacker, however, must be saturated quickly.

Coincidentally, however, Arrow 3 was tested just two days after Hoveizeh, at the base of Palmachim, Israel, but there will soon be further tests on the island of Kodjak, Alaska.

Arrow 3 was tested after an Iranian missile, launched from the Syrian skies on January 28 last, had been intercepted by the Israeli structure.

However, over the last few days, a significant number of Iranian carriers has been launched onto Israel: a Fajr 5 (with a 35-kilometre range) on December 29 last, and a Fatteh 100 (with a 300-kilometre range) onto the Golan on January 21 last, which was also intercepted.

Many other smaller ones were fired.

Hence, while Israel and the United States are developing hypersonic missiles capable of striking outside the atmosphere, Iran is following  exactly the opposite policy, i.e. manufacturing fully traditional missiles, albeit capable of long flying at a low altitude, since so far no one can define valid interception techniques before the missile has actually been launched.

Israel has also recently used missiles (such as the Delilah, with a 250-kilometre range) that have not been intercepted by Russia or Syria.  The United States still has the old Tomahawk missiles in the Middle East and Russia uses its most recent Kalibr, but they are all controllable only after being launched, if all goes well.

A solution to the problem is the missiles fired by ships which, however, can be useful only if they operate in an area already full of sensors and radars.

Even in this case, these operations are traceable only for large sea and land areas and for the main launches only. This tactic is essentially useless to counteract surface missiles at a low altitude.

Hence Israel currently operates with a high-tech strategy, which strikes selectively and in the best of times, with a view to weakening the Iranian enemy and making its mass attack with small surface warheads useless.

But will it be enough? I do not believe so.

It should, however, be possible for Israel to respond quickly with equal and opposite saturation so as to avoid the temporary blindness of sensors and the excess cost of very “American-style” technologies, which are extremely top range but often of little effect.

Before leaving Syria, however, also the United States carried out attacks there. Just on February 3 last, an attack was launched between Abu Kamal and Deir Ezzour, with probable collateral damage to the Syrian artillery.

On February 2 last, three Iranian missiles were ready to be put into action at the US base of Ain Al Assad in Anbar, but they were not activated only thanks to the Iraqi intelligence services.

This means that Iran wants the United States not only out of Syria, but also out of  Iraq.

Without this preventive “cleansing” of the territory, which primarily regards the stabilization of Iranian missile forces, all the variables of command, direction and response against Iranian missiles – anyway large and numerous – are too dangerous for the Shiite Republic itself.

Probably, however, the missile bases that the USA hit on February 3 last were those of the Pasdaran’s Al Qods Force.

In that region there are also the bases of an Iraqi Shiite militia under the  Al Quds’ command, namely the Kataib Hezbollah that serves as a line of communication between the Iranian forces in Iraq and those in the Lebanon.

An essential axis of the “corridor”.

From this viewpoint, President Erdogan’s new anti-Semitic policy is certainly functional to the new Syrian stability. In fact, Erdogan has recently had Dawud Baghestani – the Secretary of the Israeli-Kurdish Friendship Association, who is also the editor of the official Kurdish-Israeli magazine – arrested.

Therefore President Trump has completely abandoned both Israel and the Kurds in Syria. Hence it is obvious that now Turkey wants to control the whole Kurdish area, thus putting in serious difficulty even Israel, which is now the only organizational, financial and military point of reference for Rojava.

The United States will certainly leave both Al Tanf- although we do not know yet how – but also the area of Al Bukhamal, on the Iraqi borders, the last stretch of Western protection between the Iranian area and the Syrian world.

This is precisely the point that is still missing to close the well-known “corridor”.

President Erdogan’s political aim is to demonstrate that there is still a link between US and Israeli intelligence services and the Kurds, which would be the greatest possible justification for a final takeover of Rojava.

Hence it is a matter of concealing – with an alleged operation of the Turkish intelligence services – Turkey’s willingness to take and control the whole of Northern Syria where there is a Kurdish majority.

Here the war of words between Israel and Turkey is always very clear in its strategic aims.

In fact, two years ago Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that Israel considered the PKK a “terrorist group”, unlike what Turkey had always said about Hamas.

Again on that occasion, however, the Israeli Prime Minister stated that one thing was to combat terrorism, even the Kurdish one, while another thing was to accept the free claim of the Kurdish people to have their right to freedom and autonomy, which Israel supported.

In other words, if the United States leaves and Turkey continues to avoid any opening to the autonomy of the Kurdish territories in Syria, without anyway putting them in communication with the Turkish-Anatolian territories, Rojavawill become the preferential target of Israel’s attention and designs.

Israel will take advantage of its old excellent relations with the Kurds to use them both against the Iranian-Lebanese “corridor” and to avoid Iranian, Syrian or other pressure on the Northern borders between Israel and Syria.

As well as to deal –  possibly from an indirect position of strength – even with Russia which, however, has no interest in using the Kurdish area  against Iran or Turkey.

Obviously Putin has already announced he will never accept a Turkish invasion of Syria for the Kurdish territories, nor the Turkish control of the YGP-controlled Kurdish areas.

Hence a new structure and organisation of central Syria: Israel plays the Kurdish card, knowing that Turkey cannot take it due to its relations with Russia, which would block any Turkish interest in Syria.

Therefore any agreement between Russia and Israel envisages a possible control zone of the “corridor”, well before the 80 kilometres set by Israel, as well as a new positioning of Syria within the Russian sphere of influence.

This means that Russia could also tolerate the line between Iran and the  Lebanon, but it would certainly put the former in a position to accept pressing remote or direct systematic checks on the corridor.

As well as additional security on the Lebanese coasts by Hezbollah that now operates near the Russian military ports of Latakia and Tartus.

This could also reduce the mass of missiles deployed by Iran and Hezbollah in the Bekaa-Golan region, although always remaining well beyond the threshold of lethality and, above all, of saturation of the attack areas in Israel’s metropolitan territory, which is the true target of Iran and its regional allies.

Therefore Turkey shall place itself at the edges of the Kurdish region, albeit with all the possible operations of intelligence and strategic harassment.

Israel could control the “corridor” also from the North, even in partial autonomy from Russia.

Russia shall keep control of central Syria (the Sunni area, in particular), but in a stable and non-adverse relationship with the Kurds.

Moreover Iran shall fight with some not fully opposed factions of the Kurdish world on the Iraqi borders. However, under these conditions, Bashar al-Assad’ Syria will hence have the possibility to filter all the funds for reconstruction, but with the Russian-Chinese permission.

Nevertheless, once again the real political issue is to manage the Lebanese chaos, which is largely agreed among the real leaders of the region.

For obvious reasons, these leaders do no longer include Bashar al-Assad. However, Saudi Arabia counts very much, with its current policies for enslaving the old political-business classes of the coastal area.

And if Saudi Arabia decides to play a role, it mainly plays its own and, only residually and on the sidelines, it plays the Turkish role.

As is well-known, after nine months, Saad Hariri – the former expensive “guest” of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh – had to leave in Saudi Arabia much of the funds he held abroad, but not directly in the Lebanon.

The construction company Saudi Oger had a 3.5 billion debt with the Saudi banks – a debt promptly repaid mainly thanks to Mohammed Bin Salman’s prompt favours.

Now freed from his severe outstanding accounts and matters in the Saudi Kingdom, Saad Hariri is still and again President of the Lebanese Council.

However, at a price which is certainly not good even for Mohammed bin Salman.

The price of forming a government basically in Hezbollah’s hands.

The Shiite militia was given three Ministries, including Health, a Ministry  that is worth one fourth of government spending.

Hariri’s government should above all manage to release a share of foreign funding to the Lebanon of at least 84 billion, equivalent to 150% of the local GDP, with a view to solving many problems, including  unemployment which is around  36%.

All money fuelling Hezbollah, which uses a lot of public money for organizing its militias and managing its charitable activities and institutions, which are also guerrilla warfare, coverage and training structures, where necessary.

Probably only Hezbollah will solve the electricity crisis, which is structural in the Lebanon, thus creating a further basis of support and militancy to cover military operations or even to develop an attack strategy from Southern Lebanon.

The creation of the government was compulsory: the World Bank had threatened to immediately transfer to Jordan the 4 billion US dollars of funding previously envisaged for the Lebanon, if the country had not decided to form a government soon.

Corruption is always very widespread in the Lebanon, which is one of the twenty most corrupt countries in the world.

Hence the State does not exist there.

Now, however, at the core of the Lebanese power system there is the Head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, whose primary ally is Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian closely linked to Iran and Syria. There is also Foreign Minister Gebrane Bassile, son-in-law of President Aoun, but also very close- personally – to Hezbollah.

As is now well-known, Israel’s policy line has always been to preliminary destroy the Hezbollah tunnels in its territory and elsewhere.

On November 3 last, Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that those operations would continue and should also be provided some coverage from the United States and even from the irrelevant EU.

At this juncture, however, there is a clear link between the US withdrawal from Syria and the persistent Israeli operations in the Lebanon.

In particular, this clearly means that the United States will no longer be in a position to put pressure on Aoun and the new Lebanese government, with a view to marginalizing Hezbollah.

Hence Israel has currently no support from the United States for its actions against the Hezbollah tunnels, which are still located in some Caliphate’s pockets on the border between Syria and the Lebanon.

The US leaders have already said to the Lebanon that the Hezbollah leaders shall not use government funds to wage war against Israel.

Good intentions, especially in foreign policy, are welcome because they make us smile and relax.

Exactly the opposite happened in the division of Lebanese Ministries.

The Treasury Minister is Hassan Khalil, a man of the old Shite movement “Amal”. Elias Bou Saab, a businessman very close to Aoun, was appointed Defence Minister. The Health Ministry, a traditional focus of Hezbollah, was assigned to Jamil Jabak, a Shiite doctor who is very well known in the local scientific community but is, above all, a man very close to Iran.

Westerners – who are real geniuses – support Hariri, but not much of his government.

The squared circle of geopolitics.

The Interior Ministry was assigned to Raja al-Hassan, an important woman linked to Hariri’s party, but in excellent relations also with Iran and, indirectly, with Hezbollah.

Thus, in the Lebanon, there will be an officially “pro-Western” government, albeit with a wide para-Iranian majority, which will lead the country to support any Hezbollah actions in Israel.

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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Iran: How to Avoid a War

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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Upon closer inspection, it appears that the Islamic Republic of Iran has a relative near dearth of human rights organizations operating freely within that country.

Although Iran has apparently allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations, as all as some foreign nations to inspect from time to time its weapons facilities and nuclear power apparati, there does not seem to be a corresponding level of interest generated both externally or internally in investigating the various human rights complaints and abuses within Iran.

To be sure, this is the ultimate Achilles Heel of Iran – and a massive glaring fact that Western powers such as the United States, Israel, and other nations seize on to justify bombing the current government of Iran into oblivion.

On a more sick and hypocritical level the fact that Gulf States nations such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also constantly issue clarion calls for regime change or war with Iran, when they themselves host numerous and countless violations of human rights against women, minorities, religious organizations, and “heretics,” still this only underscores the geopolitical reasons that these aggressive nations want to change or destroy the current Iranian regime.

In order to both diffuse and defray these attacks, Iran has no other real choice other than to augment and increase their internal human rights organizations to both monitor as well as organically implement change in their country, subject to the will of their governed people.

By doing so, Iran could effectively accomplish 2 goals: (1) maintain their current government with relative stability; and (2) organically grow and develop to adequately and accurately transform their government into one that faithfully represents the interests and aspirations of its people, rather than appearing to subjugate and suppress them.

To be sure, Iran would be giving up some of its internal and external sovereignty by allowing more human rights monitoring agencies to actively police and report on its internal human rights conflicts and complaints, but it would go miles towards placating its enemies, removing their arguments for regime change/outright disastrous war, and would also allow for Iran to approach modernity with the rest of the world, rather than being trapped in a society/culture which really has nothing in common with the rest of the civilized world, any more.

In a similar vein, if the Iranian regime is truly serious about joining the league of modern nations, then they should not be afraid or closed off with regards to implementing this.

A nation must be confident in itself, its government, and its own culture, but should also evolve and reflect global change as it presents itself by and for the will of its people, not repressing them as such.

Iran has apparently had a troubling history with appointing human rights organizations in the past, as is reflected by its handling and treatment of the Human Rights Activists in Iran (also known as “HRAI” and “HRA”) which is a non-political non-governmental organization composed of advocates who defend human rights in Iran, which was founded in 2006.

This HRAI organization supposedly was set up to keep the Iranian community and the world informed by monitoring human rights violations in the country and disseminating the news about such abuses.

Additionally, HRAI was allegedly enacted to strive to improve the current state of affairs in a peaceful manner and support strict adherence to human rights principles.

However, the Islamic Republic of Iran has apparently moved to both dismantle and arrest many of the organization’s leaders and representatives, beginning in 2010.

Specifically, on March 2, 2010, the government of Iran moved to break up HRAI.

During the subsequent reconstruction of the organization, the organization apparently registered as a United States non-profit organization and was invited to attend the annual NGO Conference sponsored by the United Nations.

While the Iranian government may have a reason to distrust the impetus/motivations of the United States, Israel and the Gulf States, it really has no reason to distrust the United Nations, which has historically been its only real honest broker/ally.

Adding insult to injury, the HRAI has also been invited to join the World Movement for Democracy and to participate in the human rights events sponsored by the governments of Canada, the United States and the European Union.

The Islamic Republic of Iran can not (and should not) avoid this issue any further.

Merely parroting the mantra that “Saudi Arabia engages in more (or less) human rights abuses” is no longer adequate to stave off and prevent the war drum that is heading Iran’s way.

There are simply too many financial, oil and gas, military industrial complex, geopolitical, and human rights reasons and powers fixated on either regime change or outright war with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

If Iran is truly a confident nation that values it past history and desired future, it must drastically increase and augment its human rights organizations (to get on par with the United States, Europe, and Israel) and move forward to finally embrace its place in the sun as its leaders supposedly state that they want.

If not, then it deserves exactly what it is probably going to get, more war, destabilization, destruction, disorientation, and disarray, similar to what happened to Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other nations with closed door human rights policies.

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The new strategic axis between the Russian Federation and Iran

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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On February 11 last the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, arrived in Beirut, shortly after the establishment of a new Lebanese government that, although led by an old friend of Westerners, namely Hariri, is certainly one of the recent governments closest to Hezbollah.

Minister Javad Zarif offered the Iranian support to the new government – “support in all sectors”.

Besides the Foreign Minister, the Iranian delegation was composed of a select group of 30 Iranian businessmen, who met Lebanese and Palestinian businessmen.

It is the first sign of an Iranian “grip on the Lebanon” by the Shiite Republic of Iran, which will lead to many strategic, geopolitical and economic changes.

It is obvious that, at the end of clashes in Syria, Iran wants to secure a stable centre of power in the Mediterranean region, in close contact with Israel and towards the East Mediterranean gas area which – as often noted – will be very important in the future.

Nor should we forget that Zarif’s visit was scheduled precisely on the day of the 40thanniversary of Imam Khomeini’s Shite revolution – a political symbol which should certainly not be overlooked in a country with a large Shite population.

Same religion, same political leadership – this seems to be the meaning of this careful choice and coordination of dates.

Hence both Russia and Iranthink that the new stability in the Syria led by Bashar al-Assad is based above all in the Lebanon.

Both Russia and Iran, however, have indicated – at least indirectly in the case of Russia – Hezbollah, in particular, as their primary point of reference in the Lebanon.

For the Russian Ambassador to Beirut, currently only the United States can trigger a conflict with Iran, given its regional policy.

As to the probable future conflict between Israel and the Lebanon, Ambassador Zasypkyn believes that the situation is much more unstable and even more controllable.

In other words, Russia still relies on its power of political and military deterrence in Syria to avoid a clash between Hezbollah and Israel – a war that would put a strain on both its new hegemony in the Middle East and stability in Syria.

Just one day before Zarif’s visit to the Lebanon, the Russian envoy to Jerusalem had reassured the Israeli government that Hezbollah was a “stability force” throughout the region.

Probably Russia cannot yet do without Iran, both in Syria and in the Lebanon, and accepts – like it or not – that the primary link in the Lebanon is between the “Party of God” and the new government led by Hariri.

But how long can it last?

If Hezbollah decided to exert new pressure on Israel, Russia could quickly lose its grip on Southern Syria and miss its primary goal of becoming the rotating platform of the Greater Middle East.

Inter alia, the signals coming from the Lebanese Shiite military group are very clear: on February 7 last, Hassan Nasrallah openly called for the rearming of Lebanese forces (obviously) only by Iran and later made it clear that, in a possible US future attack to support Israel, Hezbollah would immediately fight on the Iranian side.

Nasrallah also asked to make the new Iranian “advanced” missiles available to the Lebanon, as well as sensor systems and tactical and signals intelligence.

It is therefore the request for a real strategic parity between Southern Lebanon and Israel.

This means that the Lebanese Shiites’ aim is to eliminate all kind of US interference in the region and later put pressure – not just at military level – on the Jewish State that, without the US support, would be forced to accept a downward and uncertain peace.

This is the first goal of both Iran and Hezbollah, but certainly not of the Russian Federation.

Nevertheless, in his Lebanese meetings, Javad Zarif – who implicitly accepted Hezbollah’s request for help – also made it clear that Bavar 373 – a missile launching and air defence system very similar to the Russian S-300 – was ready for the forces of the “Party of God”, but also for the Lebanese regular army.

“Bavar” means “belief”, albeit in a strictly religious sense, while the number 373 reminds of the soldiers belonging to the final ranks of the Twelfth Imam.

Iran is full of political symbols that must always be taken into account.

Bavar 373 is a well-copied surface-to-air missile system – probably from the Russian S-300 system that appeared in Iran for the first time in 2015.

The system uses the Iran-made missile called Sayyad-4 having a range of 150 kilometres. It also uses advanced radars that – as the analysts who saw Bavar 373 at work maintain – can saturate at least sixty targets at the same time.

It is therefore obvious to imagine what will immediately happen: sooner or later Israel will have the opportunity of destroying the Iranian networks in the Lebanon with a surgical operation. In all likelihood, however, Hariri’s government will refuse Iran’s offer, thus allowing Russian weapons and, above all, the S-300 missiles to arrive in the Lebanon.

It should be recalled that the S-300 missiles will be carefully monitored both from the Russian bases in Syria, which will never be abandoned by Russia, and simultaneously from the Russian missile site.

Obviously Iran does not object to the transfer of Russian weapons to the Lebanon. Quite the reverse.

Furthermore, the Shite regime will soon maintain that, since the United States still arm and train the Kurds against the so-called Caliphate, it also regularly and lawfully arms their Hezbollah units against the same enemy, and with equivalent devices and systems.

Hence Iran’s and Russia’s primary goal is the total expulsion of the United States from Syria and from the Lebanese and Israeli Mediterranean coast.

Once completed this operation, Russia will ask Israel for a new deployment of its potentials against Hezbollah and the Palestinian jihad forces, which are also in Iran’s calculations.

And possibly, in the future, in Russia’s calculations.

However, as far as we currently know, the final US withdrawal from Syria should be completed by the end of April.

But, again, what is the reason underlying this new Russian interest in the “Party of God”?

It is already clear that Russia does not want to remain alone in Syria.

The Russian Federation, however, does not even want Iran to undermine its regional hegemony, since it believes that everything Iran can ask is the stability of its “corridor” from Iraq to the Lebanon, but only under Russia’s control.

Hence taking Hezbollah away from Iran’s hands is vital for the Russian Federation, which desperately needs strategic buffers to control Syria by isolating Iran’s primary instrument, namely Hezbollah.

As already seen, also on February 11 last, in its talks with Netanyahu’s government, Russia maintained that “Hezbollah was a peace force”.

This also makes us understand that President Putin has no interest in stopping the Israeli operations against the tunnels of the Shiite military organization.

Again, for Russia, the possible conflict between Israel and Lebanon can only break out because of the United States, considering that Hezbollah supported only the lawful government of Damascus, unlike what the United States did since the beginning of hostilities.

Hence Russia believes that the United States should tone down its attacks on Iran, with a view to reducing the Shiite Republic’s pressure on Hezbollah and the current Lebanese government.

Is this hypothesis reasonable? Both yes and no.

Certainly, if the United States wants a prolonged war (this is the sense that Iran attributes to the US statements), the most likely reaction will be an Iranian attack that will set fire to the whole “corridor” and destabilize the Golan region.

Nevertheless, is it not equally probable that the US Presidency’s brags were just a strategic “trial balloon” and boasts for internal use?

As is currently probable, it is precisely Russia that wants the “Party of God” shift from a clear Iranian dominance to a stable (and hegemonic) Russian protection.

If this happened, Russia would avoid paying too high a Syrian price to Iran. It would also have a military organization at its disposal that could well secure the East Mediterranean region and keep – again on Russia’s behalf – peace and stability of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, whose Armed Forces it never liked much.

Three important considerations shall be made in this respect: the S-300 operating systems that Russia has left in Syria since last October are not yet operational.

This means that Russia has not yet decided what to do with them in Syria.

Furthermore, Iran has not yet completed the factory and has not yet started the production of “advanced” missiles on the Syrian territory.

It was, in fact, mere psyops to show to Israel and the USA a greater development stage than the real one and to underline the impending  danger of an Israeli attack.

Finally, Iran has not yet accepted the pressing Russian request to quickly move the centralized command of its forces in Syria, which operates from the Damascus International Airport area.

All Iranians are still there and they will stay there for a long time.

Therefore, in essence, Russia believes that all these post-truths are the result of an American and Israeli psywar operation, designed to clearly separate the Iranian, Russian and Lebanese interests and hence rebuild a security network in Syria and in the Lebanon.

Precisely in response to said alleged psyops, Russia is currently trying to place the whole “Party of God” movement under its wing, at a time when it knows very well that the Iranian support for Hezbollah is weak and economically unpredictable.

Hence a new Hezbollah, which would act as a watchdog in Syria and ensure the security of the coasts south of Latakia and Tartus. It would also enable Russia to have access to the wide universe of Sunni and Shite “resistance” movements opposing the Israeli expansion.

Russia wants a stable Israel, but small and less powerful than it currently is.

We have already seen important signs of this operation during the Sochi meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani held on February 14 last.

On that occasion President Putin clearly reaffirmed his support for Hezbollah, i.e. his “grip on the group”, and the possible use of this new protection for both Turkey and obviously Iran.

Probably Russia knows that Iran can no longer afford to support the very expensive “Party of God”, as well as the whole jihadist network south of Israel.

According to Russian plans, however, Iran and Turkey will never be able to use the new arrangement of the “Party of God” on their own.

In addition, Rosneft has already penetrated the complex and largely autonomous Lebanese natural gas market which, as already noted, has left the sphere of the Cairo Conference.

A twenty-year agreement between the Russian natural gas giant and the Lebanese government is already in place for a storage site in Tripoli.

As soon as the USA leaves the Middle East, Russia will immediately occupy the oil and gas sites and positions.

But it will do so on its own, without parallel agreements with Syria or Iran.

Moreover, from now on, the Lebanon explicitly wants Russia to manage the relations between the Lebanon and Syria that, as is well-known, have never been particularly peaceful.

The variable of the Lebanese real independence from Syria is the central point of Russia’s current posture and, hence, of its specific focus on Hezbollah.

The one billion US dollar agreement of military transfers from Russia to the Lebanon, which has been much discussed in Western capitals, is a first sign showing that Russia does not want Iran in the Lebanon, but can accept it among the other secondary players, above all in Syria.

The Russian-Lebanese trade has risen from 423 million in 2016 to the current 800 million, with a market dominated by Russian energy transfers to the Lebanese market.

In all likelihood, in the future Russia will support Hezbollah’s request that the Israeli deep-sea Leviathan gas field illegally acquires some of the resources of the Lebanese gas fields.

The threat is clear: if Russia fully supported the Lebanese requests, there would be the possibility of a beginning of hostilities between the “Party of God” and Israel. At the end of a short, but harsh confrontation, said hostilities would be mediated exactly by the Russian Federation.

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Middle East

Suicide attack in Iran frames visit to Pakistan by Saudi crown prince

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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on

This week’s suicide attack on Revolutionary Guards in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, the second in two months, could not have come at a more awkward moment for Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan.

The assault on a bus carrying the guards back from patrols on the province’s border with the troubled Pakistani region of Balochistan killed 27 people and wounded 13 others. It occurred days before Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was scheduled to visit Pakistan as part of a tour of Asian countries.

While Baluchistan is set to figure prominently in Prince Mohammed’s talks with Mr. Khan, the attack also coincided with a US-sponsored conference in Warsaw, widely seen as an effort by the Trump administration to further isolate Iran economically and diplomatically.

Inside the conference, dubbed The Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that US policy was designed to force Iran to alter its regional and defense policies and not geared towards regime change in Tehran.

Yet, US President Donald J. Trump appeared to be sending mixed messages to the Iranians as well as sceptical European governments with his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, addressing a rally outside the conference organized by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a controversial Iranian exile group believed to enjoy Saudi backing.

Mr. Giuliani told the protesters who waved Iranian flags and giant yellow balloons emblazoned with the words, “Regime Change” that “we want to see a regime change in Iran.”

Mr. Trump appeared to fuel suspicion that Mr. Giuliani represented his true sentiment by tweeting on the eve of the Warsaw conference in a reference to the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution: “40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure. The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future.”

In a statement, the Revolutionary Guards blamed the attack on “mercenaries of intelligence agencies of world arrogance and domination,” a reference to Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel.

Jaish-al-Adl (the Army of Justice), a Pakistan-based splinter group that traces its roots to Saudi-backed anti-Shiite groups with a history of attacks on Iranian and Shiite targets, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group says it is not seeking Baloch secession from Iran. Instead, it wants to “force the regime of the guardianship of jurisconsult (Iran) to respect the demands of the Muslim Baloch and Sunni society alongside the other compatriots of our country.”

Militants targeted a Revolutionary Guards headquarters in December in a rare suicide bombing in Chabahar, home to Iran’s Indian-backed port on the Arabian Sea, a mere 70 kilometres from the Chinese supported port of Gwadar, a crown jewel in the Pakistani leg of the People’s Republic’s Belt and Road initiative.

The attacks coupled with indications that Saudi Arabia and the United States may be contemplating covert action against Iran using Pakistani Balochistan as a launching pad, and heightened Saudi economic and commercial interest in the province, frame Prince Mohammed’s upcoming talks in Islamabad.

During his visit, Prince Mohammed is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on a framework for US$10 billion in Saudi investments.

The memorandum includes a plan by Saudi national oil company Aramco to build a refinery in Gwadar as well as Saudi investment in Baluchistan’s Reko Diq copper and gold mine.

The investments would further enhance Saudi influence in Pakistan as well as the kingdom’s foothold in Balochistan.

They would come on the back of significant Saudi aid to help Pakistan evade a financial crisis that included a US$3 billion deposit in Pakistan’s central bank to support the country’s balance of payments and another US$3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports.

Taken together, the refinery, a strategic oil reserve in Gwadar and the mine would also help Saudi Arabia in potential efforts to prevent Chabahar from emerging as a powerful Arabian Sea hub.

Saudi funds have been flowing for some time into the coffers of ultra-conservative anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian Sunni Muslim madrassahs or religious seminars in Balochistan. It remains unclear whether they originate with the Saudi government or Saudi nationals of Baloch descent and members of the two million-strong Pakistani Diaspora in the kingdom.

The funds help put in place potential building blocks for possible covert action should the kingdom and/or the United States decide to act on proposals to support irredentist activity.

The flow started at about the time that the Riyadh-based  International Institute for Iranian Studies, formerly known as the Arabian Gulf Centre for Iranian Studies, an allegedly Saudi government-backed think tank, published  a study that argued that Chabahar posed “a direct threat to the Arab Gulf states” that called for “immediate counter measures.”

If executed, covert action could jeopardize Indian hopes to use Chabahar to bypass Pakistan, significantly enhance its trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian nations and create an anti-dote to Gwadar.

Pakistani analysts expect an estimated US$ 5 billion in Afghan trade to flow through Chabahar after India in December started handling the port’s operations.

Iranian concerns that the attacks represent a US and/or Saudi covert effort are grounded not only in more recent US and Saudi policies, including Mr. Trump’s withdrawal last year from the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program despite confirmation of its adherence to the accord and re-imposition of harsh economic sanctions against the Islamic republic.

They are also rooted in US and Saudi backing of Iraq in the 1980s Gulf war, US overtures in the last year to Iranian Kurdish insurgents, the long-standing broad spectrum of support of former and serving US officials for the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and in recent years of Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former head of Saudi intelligence and ex-ambassador to the United States and Britain.

Said Ali Vaez, the International Crisis Group’s Iran analyst: “The concern was never that the Trump admin would avert its eyes from Iran, but rather that is in inflicted by an unhealthy obsession with it. In hyping the threat emanating from Iran, Trump is more likely than not to mishandle it and thus further destabilize the Middle East.”

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