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Strategic equalization in current Syria

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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. “

Middle East

After 10 years of war in Syria, siege tactics still threaten civilians

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The future for Syria’s people is “increasingly bleak”, UN-appointed rights experts said on Tuesday, highlighting escalating conflict in several areas of the war-ravaged country, a return to siege tactics and popular demonstrations linked to the plummeting economy.

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the country is not safe for refugees to return to, after a decade of war.

The panel’s findings come amid an uptick in violence in the northwest, northeast and south of the country, where the Commissioners highlighted the chilling return of besiegement against civilian populations by pro-Government forces.

“The parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity and infringing the basic human rights of Syrians,” said head of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro. “The war on Syrian civilians continues, and it is difficult for them to find security or safe haven.”

Scandal of Al Hol’s children

Professor Pinheiro also described as “scandalous” the fact that many thousands of non-Syrian children born to former IS fighters continue to be held in detention in dreadful conditions in Syria’s north-east.

“Most foreign children remain deprived of their liberty since their home countries refuse to repatriate them,” he told journalists, on the sidelines of the 48th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“We have the most ratified convention in the world, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is completely forgotten. And democratic States that are prepared to abide to this Convention they neglect the obligations of this Convention in what is happening in Al Hol and other camps and prison places.”

Some 40,000 children continue to be held in camps including Al Hol. Nearly half are Iraqi and 7,800 are from nearly 60 other countries who refuse to repatriate them, according to the Commission of Inquiry report, which covers the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. 

Blockades and bombardment

The rights experts also condemned a siege by pro-Government forces on the town of Dar’a Al-Balad, the birthplace of the uprising in 2011, along with “siege-like tactics” in Quineitra and Rif Damascus governorates.

“Three years after the suffering that the Commission documented in eastern Ghouta, another tragedy has been unfolding before our eyes in Dar’a Al-Balad,” said Commissioner Hanny Megally, in reference to the siege of eastern Ghouta which lasted more than five years – and which the commissioners previously labelled “barbaric and medieval”.

In addition to the dangers posed by heavy artillery shelling, tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside Dar’a Al-Balad had insufficient access to food and health care, forcing many to flee, the Commissioners said.

Living in fear

In the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn regions of Aleppo, the Commissioners described how people lived in fear of car bombs “that are frequently detonated in crowded civilian areas”, targeting markets and busy streets.

At least 243 women, men and children have been killed in seven such attacks over the 12-month reporting period, they said, adding that the real toll is likely to be considerably higher.

Indiscriminate shelling has also continued, including on 12 June when munitions struck multiple locations in Afrin city in northwest Syria, killing and injuring many and destroying parts of al-Shifa hospital.

Insecurity in areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria has also deteriorated, according to the Commission of Inquiry, with increased attacks by extremist “remnants” and conflict with Turkish forces.

Division remains

The Commissioners noted that although President Assad controls about 70 per cent of the territory and 40 per cent of the pre-war population, there seems to be “no moves to unite the country or seek reconciliation. On the contrary.”

Despite a welcome drop in the level of violence compared with previous years, the Commission of Inquiry highlighted the dangers that continue to be faced by non-combatants

The senior rights experts also highlighted mounting discontent and protests amongst the population, impacted by fuel shortages and food insecurity, which has increased by 50 per cent in a year, to 12.4 million, citing UNFPA data.

“The hardships that Syrians are facing, particularly in the areas where the Government is back in control, are beginning to show in terms of protests by Syrians who have been loyal to the State,” said Mr. Megally. They are now saying, ‘Ten years of conflict, our lives are getting worse rather than getting better, when do we see an end to this?’”

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IAEA Director General reaches agreement in Tehran, as Biden’s clock is ticking

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IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi at a press conference. Photo: IAEA/Dean Calmaa

A meeting to resolve interim monitoring issues was held in Tehran on 12 September between the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi. Grossi was on a visit to Tehran to fix roadblocks on the stalled monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program, which is ever more challenging in a context where there is no diplomatic agreement to revive or supersede the JCPOA. Grossi said in a press conference on 12 September that the IAEA had “a major communication breakdown” with Iran. But what exactly does that mean?


The IAEA monitoring equipment had gone three months without being serviced and Grossi said he needed “immediate rectification” of the issues. He was able to get the Iranian side to come to an agreement. The news from Sunday was that the IAEA’s inspectors are now permitted to service the identified equipment and replace their storage media which will be kept under the joint IAEA and AEOI seals in Iran. The way and the timing are now agreed by the two sides. The IAEA Director General had to push on the terms of the agreement reached in February 2020.

Grossi underlined on Sunday that the new agreement can’t be a permanent solution. Data from the nuclear facilities is just being stored according to what commentators call “the continuity of knowledge” principle, to avoid gaps over extended time periods but the data is not available to inspectors.

When it’s all said and done, basically, it all comes down to the diplomatic level. The American withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement in 2018 keeps undermining the Iran nuclear inspections on the technical level. All the inspection activities have been stalled as a result of the broken deal. The IAEA’s strategy in the interim is that at least the information would be stored and not permanently lost.

Everyone is waiting for the JCPOA to be restored or superseded. As Vali Nasr argued in the New York Times back in April this year, the clock is ticking for Biden on Iran. Iran diplomacy doesn’t seem to be on Biden’s agenda at all at the moment. That makes the nuclear inspectors’ job practically impossible.  Journalists pointed out on Sunday that the Director General’s visit found one broken and one damaged camera in one of the facilities. Grossi assured it has been agreed with Iran that the cameras will be replaced within a few days. The IAEA report notes that it was not Iran but Israel that broke the IAEA cameras in a June drone attack carried out by Israel. Presumably, Israel aimed to show Iran is not complying by committing the violations themselves.

Grossi’s visit was a part of the overall IAEA strategy which goes along the lines of allowing time for diplomacy, without losing the data in the meantime. He added that he thinks he managed to rectify the most urgent problem, which is the imminent loss of data.

The Reuters’s title of the meeting is that the agreement reached on Sunday gives “hope” to a renewed Iran deal with the US, after Iran elected a hardliner president, Ebrahim Raisi, in August this year, but that’s a misleading title. This is not the bit that we were unsure about. The question was never on the Iranian side. No one really expected that the new Iranian president would not engage with the IAEA at all. Earlier in November 2019, an IAEA inspector was not allowed on a nuclear cite and had her accreditation canceled. In November 2020, Iranian lawmakers passed a law that mandated the halt of the IAEA inspections and not to allow inspectors on the nuclear sites, as well as the resuming of uranium enrichment, unless the US sanctions are lifted. In January 2021, there were threats by Iranian lawmakers that IAEA inspectors would be expelled. Yet, the new Iranian President still plays ball with the IAEA.

It is naïve to think that Iran should be expected to act as if there was still a deal but then again, US foreign policy is full of naïve episodes. “The current U.S. administration is no different from the previous one because it demands in different words what Trump demanded from Iran in the nuclear area,” Khamenei was quoted to have said in his first meeting with President Raisi’s cabinet.

“We don’t need a deal – you will just act as if there was still a deal and I will act as if I’m not bound by a deal” seems to be the US government’s line put bluntly. But the ball is actually in Biden’s court. The IAEA Director General is simply buying time, a few months at a time, but ultimately the United States will have to start moving. In a diplomatic tone, Grossi referred on Sunday to many commentators and journalists who are urging that it is time.

I just don’t see any signs on Biden’s side to move in the right direction. The current nuclear talks we have that started in June in Vienna are not even direct diplomatic talks and were put on hold until the outcome of Iran’s presidential elections were clear. US hesitance is making Grossi’s job impossible. The narrative pushed by so many in the US foreign policy space, namely that the big bad wolf Trump is still the one to blame, is slowly fading and reaching its expiry date, as Biden approaches the one-year mark of his presidency.

Let’s not forget that the US is the one that left and naturally is the one that has to restart the process, making the parties come back to the table. The US broke the deal. Biden can’t possibly be expecting that the other side will be the one extending its hand to beg for forgiveness. The US government is the one that ruined the multi-year, multilateral efforts of the complex dance that was required to get to something like the JCPOA – a deal that Republicans thought was never going to be possible because “you can’t negotiate with Iran”. You can, but you need skilled diplomats for that. Blinken is no Kerry. Judging from Blinken’s diplomacy moves with China and on other issues, I just don’t think that the Biden Administration has what it takes to get diplomacy back on track. If he follows the same line with Iran we won’t see another JCPOA in Biden’s term. Several weeks ago, Biden said that there are other options with Iran if diplomacy fails, in a White House meeting with Israel’s new prime minister Bennett. I don’t think that anyone in the foreign policy space buys that Biden would launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But I don’t think that team Biden can get to a diplomatic agreement either. Biden and Blinken are still stuck in the 2000, the time when others would approach the US no matter what, irrespective of whose fault it was. “You will do as I say” has never worked in the history of US foreign policy. That’s just not going to happen with Iran and the JCPOA. To expect otherwise is unreasonable. The whole “Trump did it” line is slowly and surely reaching its expiry date – as with anything else on the domestic and foreign policy plane. Biden needs to get his act together. The clock is ticking.

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Elections represent an opportunity for stability and unity in Libya

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With just over 100 days until landmark elections in Libya, political leaders must join forces to ensure the vote is free, fair and inclusive, the UN envoy for the country told the Security Council on Friday. 

Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) briefed ambassadors on developments ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place on 24 December. 

They were agreed under a political roadmap stemming from the historic October 2020 ceasefire between Libya’s rival authorities, and the establishment of a Government of National Unity (GNU) earlier this year. 

At the crossroads 

“Libya is at a crossroads where positive or negative outcomes are equally possible,” said Mr. Kubiš.  “With the elections there is an opportunity for Libya to move gradually and convincingly into a more stable, representative and civilian track.” 

He reported that the House of Representatives has adopted a law on the presidential election, while legislation for the parliamentary election is being finalized and could be considered and approved within the coming weeks.  

Although the High National Election Commission (HNEC) has received the presidential election law, another body, the High State Council, complained that it had been adopted without consultation. 

Foreign fighter threat 

The HNEC chairman has said it will be ready to start implementation once the laws are received, and will do everything possible to meet the 24 December deadline. 

“Thus, it is for the High National Election Commission to establish a clear electoral calendar to lead the country to the elections, with support of the international community, for the efforts of the Government of National Unity, all the respective authorities and institutions to deliver as free and fair, inclusive and credible elections as possible under the demanding and challenging conditions and constraints,” said Mr. Kubiš.  

“The international community could help create more conducive conditions for this by facilitating the start of a gradual withdrawal of foreign elements from Libya without delay.” 

Young voters eager 

The UN envoy also called for countries and regional organizations to provide electoral observers to help ensure the integrity and credibility of the process, as well as acceptance of the results. 

He also welcomed progress so far, including in updating the voter registry and the launch of a register for eligible voters outside the country. 

So far, more than 2.8 million Libyans have registered to vote, 40 per cent of whom are women.  Additionally, more than half a million new voters will also be casting their ballots. 

“Most of the newly registered are under 30, a clear testament to the young generation’s eagerness to take part in determining the fate of their country through a democratic process. The Libyan authorities and leaders must not let them down,” said Mr. Kubiš. 

He stressed that the international community also has a responsibility to support the positive developments in Libya, and to stand firm against attempts at derailment.  

“Not holding the elections could gravely deteriorate the situation in the country, could lead to division and conflict,” he warned.  “I urge the Libyan actors to join forces and ensure inclusive, free, fair parliamentary and presidential elections, which are to be seen as the essential step in further stabilizing and uniting Libya.”

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