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Middle East

How Iran Can Checkmate Trump

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On Sunday morning 5 January 2020, the great investigative journalist and geostrategist who blogs as “Moon of Alabama” (MOA) headlined “Iraqi Parliament Expels Foreign Militaries From Iraq” and he reported that not only the parliament but also the nation’s Prime Minister (Abdel Mahdi) are demanding departure from Iraq of all foreign military forces, and that Iraq will now — as UAE’s The National puts it — “lodge an official complaint against the US at the UN.” The complaint will “condemn #US airstrikes on #Iraqi soil targeting Iraqi soldiers and both Iraqi and #Iranian military leaders.”

(U.S.-and-allied ‘news’-media, such as Reuters, lied about this matter when saying that “While such resolutions are not binding on the government, this one is likely to be heeded: Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had earlier called on parliament to end foreign troop presence as soon as possible.” As MOA had already explained, the assassination was profoundly embarrassing personally to Mahdi, and he “and the whole cabinet supported the resolution.” Under such circumstances, there is no way possible that the Prime Minister can reverse himself and his cabinet and the Parliament, on that demand. It’s a non-reversible demand. But, later on January 5th, the U.S. State Department nonetheless said, “While we await further clarification on the legal nature and impact of today’s resolution, we strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries and the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.” That was a stupid statement, but at least it wasn’t so demeaning to Shiites and to Shiite-led governments as the U.S. President’s statements normally are. It was instead a public display that the American dictator can’t believe that, from now on, Iraqis are going to be running Iraq, and that there’s no way the ruler in Washington DC can possibly dictate to Iraq again. Yet, Axios reported later in the day, that “‘I think it would be inconvenient for us, but it would be catastrophic for Iraq,’ said a U.S. official familiar with the Trump administration’s effort to block the vote. ‘It’s our concern that Iraq would take a short-term decision that would have catastrophic long-term implications for the country and its security.’” The U.S. Government was already becoming desperate and resorting to veiled unspecific ‘catastrophe’ for Iraqis if Iraq’s Government won’t reverse this command. Some fat chance that the outraged and temporarily united Iraqi public are going to cave to such veiled threats from Iraq’s viscerally hated invader.)  

MOA, a progressive German who despises fascists (such as Trump), makes abundantly clear that “Without any bases in Iraq the U.S. position in Syria will become untenable.” He quotes another respected geostrategist, Elijah Magnier, saying, “#QassemSoleimani managed to reach with his death what he couldn’t reach when he was alive. That is his last spectacular act for Iran and for the ‘Axis of the Resistance’: legislation forcing the US to withdraw and cease all kind of collaboration.”

Instances in which I have tracked the accuracy of predictions of both MOA and Magnier, have shown MOA’s to have an even higher (virtually 100%) rate of having proven accurate than Magnier’s do; and, consequently, MOA’s quoting this from Magnier makes it MOA’s prediction also, and not only Magnier’s. This adds weight to it. Consequently, the U.S. regime’s long war against Iran, which started by its successful coup in 1953 overthrowing Iran’s democratically elected Government and replacing that legimate Government by a barbaric dictatorship which lasted until 1979 and which American billionaires even up to the present time cannot tolerate having been overthrown by the Iranian people in 1979, does finally appear likely to end, with the fascist imperialist U.S. regime’s humiliating defeat, one way or another, but not necessarily quickly.

MOA closes with:

There is a clear danger in this act [by Iraq’s Government, expelling all U.S. forces]. The Trump administration is now likely to see Iraq as completely in the Iranian camp. That never was and never will be true but that is how it will be seen. The U.S. may therefore again start to pay (with Saudi money?) Sunni extremists, i.e. ISIS, to change the current situation to its advantage.

That is one reason why I recommend to Iraq to invite Russia to train its army.

However, here I respectfully diverge from MOA’s view. While I do favor Iraq’s becoming allied with Russia — the nation that America’s Government has been aiming ever since 26 July 1945 (when the U.S. Government became taken over by America’s Deep State or aristocracy) to conquer — I believe that immediately is not the best time to do this. My sense of the situation is that Trump has already trapped himself here, and that if only Iran will refrain from fulfilling anytime soon its threats to retaliate, then Trump will become forced by circumstances to accept a settlement on Iran’s terms. Consequently, any public action by Russia right now would serve only to provide America’s billionaires (acting, as they customarily do, via their agents and fronts) yet another opportunity to call Russia ‘an enemy of America’ and thereby to distract the global public from the blatant, sheer, and unalloyed, evil, of Trump’s constant efforts to crush Iran — a nation that never invaded nor even threatened to invade America. Furthermore, Iraq’s leadership have probably already been advised by Russia to refrain from publicly seeking alliance with Russia at the present stage; and, so, I do not expect that any such request by Iraq will be made at this time. If Iraq requests it now and Russia does not favorably respond, that would only weaken both Iraq and Russia; so, I do not expect it to happen. Not yet.

Timing is almost everything. On 18 November 2019, Russia’s Sputnik News bannered “Russia Ready to Deliver Arms to Iran After Int’l Sanctions Lifted — Defence Cooperation Body”, and this obviously means that Russia doesn’t want to come out publicly on Iran’s side unless and until the U.S. regime has cancelled its sanctions against Iran. Putin is an extremely intelligent man; he understands timing. Trump’s 3 January 2020 assassination of Iran’s #2 leader is an overt (by means of that action) declaration of war by him against Iran; and, so, Russia clearly can see that if Russia overtly comes out as being allied with Iran against the United States, then the conflict between U.S. and Iran would immediately be also a conflict between U.S. and Russia — and at an even higher level of adversariality than since 30 September 2015 (when Russia started bombing America’s and Saudi Arabia’s hired boots-on-the-ground fighters — led by Al Qaeda in Syria — who were trying to overthrow Syria’s secular Government) has existed regarding the war in Syria. It would be wrong for Russia, until U.S. troops are already gone from Iraq. Russia’s strategy has always been to delay World War III until all other means of pacifying America’s cravenous aristocracy have become exhausted — which hasn’t happened yet. If Russia will be coming out publicly in favor of Iran against the U.S. regime, then that would be just one step away from a direct hot war with the United States, which would produce global nuclear annihilation. Obviously, Russia won’t yet do that. Forcing Trump either to become publicly humiliated by backing down, or else for him to destroy the planet within less than an hour by means of WW III, isn’t necessary now, though could later occur, if Trump is crazy enough to refuse to comply with Iraq’s January 5th command.

So: neither Iraq nor Iran should make any such move (inviting Russia in), at the present time. Only after U.S. troops are gone from the region could Iraq and Iran become publicly allied with, and under the protection of, Russia. Only then will the realigned global order start. Right now would be too early.

Iran’s leadership team are remarkably intelligent. (America’s, after FDR died, have usually been cunning but now — under Trump — aren’t even that.) Iran’s leaders have promised retaliation for what Trump did. But they haven’t said when it will be done, or what it will entail. If they just stand back and wait while the world-at-large (other than American billionaires’ core foreign allies the aristocracies of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and UK) gradually abandon their alliances with the U.S. regime, then not only Iran but also the U.S. regime’s other main targets — Russia and China — will naturally rise in the international order, and this could become the way that the world’s most dangerous imperialistic regime, the United States Government (since 1948 the serial perpetrator of coups and invasions), will finally be able to be defeated peacefully, and defanged gradually thereafter.

That would be Iran’s retaliation — none.

Here is what I see as a possible end-point to this matter, if all non-U.S. entitities respond to this turning-point in history in the optimal ways:

Trump would announce that he is herewith cancelling sanctions against Iran and restoring U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which in 2015 was signed by China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and then the entire European Union. Iran would then announce that it is willing to discuss with all of the signatories to that agreement, if a majority of them wish to do so, international negotiations regarding possible changes (amendments) to be made to that agreement. The United States would then offer, separately, and on a strictly bi-lateral, U.S.-Iran, basis, to negotiate with Iran a settlement to all outstanding issues between the two nations, so that they may proceed forward with normal diplomatic relations, on a peaceful instead of mutually hostile, foundation.

Trump also would announce that he is seeking negotiations with Iraq about a total withdrawal of the United States from Iraq — the end of the U.S. occupation that started on 20 March 2003 — and closure of the U.S. Embassy there, to be replaced by a far smaller U.S. Embassy. America’s imperial sway over Iraq will end, though not immediately — its ending will be a process. This will be a negotiated termination, a peaceful one (unless Trump is crazy enough to resist).

Trump would initiate this as a package-deal confidentially offered by him to Khamenei — all steps of it — in advance of any carrying-out of the steps, and initiated by him soon enough to ward off any retaliatory action by Iran (just in case Iran isn’t smart enough to give him all the time he needs in order to quit his further provocations), so as to avoid further escalation of the hostilities, which otherwise would likely escalate to a widespread and possibly global war. In other words, this direct communication between the two should already have been sought by Trump. (But, since he’s probably too stupid to have thought that out in advance, let’s all hope that Iran’s leadership are sufficiently intelligent to give him all the time that he needs.)

I do not expect Trump to do any of that, not even the first step, and not even the offer to Khamenei; and Iran is in no position to make the first step, in any case (since the U.S. had started the mutual hostilities between the two nations in 1953). However, if Trump does, at least make the offer and then do the first step (ending sanctions), then I think that he will easily win re-election, regardless of whom the Democratic nominee will be. If he can re-establish friendly relations with Iran, then that will be a diplomatic achievement of historic proportions, the best and most important in decades. No one would then be able to deny it. He would, in fact, then deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize (which Obama never deserved to win, though he did win it). But I don’t expect any of that to happen, because it would be exactly contrary to the way that any recent U.S. President has behaved, and because many in power in the United States would be furious against him if he did do it.

But just give it time; and, if Iran simply waits for ‘the right time to retaliate’, then retaliation by Iran won’t even be necessary.

This would be “Checkmate!” by Iran, against the U.S. regime. And that  would be Iran’s (and everyone’s except U.S.’s, UK’s, Israel’s, and Saudi Arabia’s) ‘retaliation’, for Trump’s personal combination of psychopathy and stupidity. (Those four nations — the core U.S. group — would then go on together, to decline peacefully in the global order.)

An interesting feature of this outcome is that Iran would then be using Trump’s enormous blunder in a way that would simultaneously defeat all four of the nations that are seeking to defeat Iran: U.S., Saudi Arabia, Israel, and UK. Even if Trump ends up winning his vaunted Nobel Peace Prize and Iran won’t share in it, Iran would be the winner of what really is important, and (no matter how much such a prize would then be deserved only by Iran), that meaningless piece of PR dross wouldn’t mean anything to Iran’s leaders, anyway. They’re not nearly so petty as Trump — that’s for sure.

Iran’s biggest weapon now will be patience, if they’re smart enough to use it.

Trump’s assassination of Soleimani could turn out to have been the best thing that has ever happened for Iran. If so, Soleimani, were he around to see the outcome, would be ecstatic that Trump did it. He was a true Iranian patriot, nothing of the fake sort. In any case, nothing, from now on, will be able to detract from the legend that will arise in Iran about him. The ball is now in Iran’s court, for Soleimani’s successors to determine the world’s future. Trump made this possible. Without what he did on January 3rd, it would not be possible.

UPDATE:

However, the news on the morning of January 7th is that at least thus far, Iran is behaving badly, and also Europe is behaving badly. Iran is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which in 2015 was signed by China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and then the entire European Union. This drives European nations to continue relying on America and its NATO. And the rhetoric from European leaders is suddenly more favorable toward Trump’s assassination of Soleimani. Things right now are hurtling toward an isolated Iran against ‘The Western Alliance’ or the U.S.-and-allied regimes. Perhaps Iran’s leaders (Khamenei and Solemani’s replacement, announced by Khamenei on January 3rd, Brigadier General Ismai Ghani), are expecting that in a lurch they will ask Russia to back them up against U.S.-and-its-allies. This suggests that Putin hasn’t yet told them that unless they adhere to this plan, he would say no to that. If this is what’s happening behind the scenes, then Putin goofed there by having assumed they understood, and should promptly but privately tell Iran this, and should privately instruct Iran promptly to reverse its announced withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. That reversal would turn out to be temporary if EU leaders fail then to back Iran and Iraq against U.S. on Soleimani and on the necessity for Trump to comply with the order from Iraq to end occupying Iraq now. Unless Iran promptly reverses its announced withdrawal from JCPOA, everything will fall apart and not be able to be put together again, and, at the very least, Iran will be destroyed and probably almost all of the Middle East too. The Cold War would go on, and the U.S. regime would be in an even stronger position than before. America’s occupation of Iraq woud continue. The misery and humiliation of Iraqis would intensify even further, China would be practically isolated, and America’s all-but-total conquest of the world would be good for nobody but U.S.-and-allied billionaires. But the results would be worst of all for Iranians.

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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Middle East

The Mediterranean: Will Turkey be successful in pulling Egypt to its side?

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The Mediterranean acts as a channel connecting Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The region has, however, become a bone of contention due to varying political setups, religions and cultural values, economic resources, and the existence of crisis situations. The maritime dispute between Turkey and Greece is highly contentious, developing new complexities that worries the international community. Greece prefersinternational arbitrationwhile Turkey favors the option of bilateral negotiationsconstituting asthe main cause of friction between the two countries.

Historically, root of the crisis also lies in conflicting claims by Turkey and Greece concerning maritime boundaries and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), threatening Ankara’s “Blue Homeland”doctrine. To further aggravate the situation, the dispute has now been intertwined withdisputes in the eastern Mediterranean among Turkey and a coalition of countries including France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates that are doused in geopolitical tensions, energy disputes and Libyan conflict.

Gas discoveries in eastern Mediterranean have increased Turkey’s greed for hydrocarbon exploration. Turkey aims to solve its longstanding economic challenges and reduce its energy dependency due to which the country has increased its energy-related exploration activities in the region resulting in a major gas discovery thus shaping the region towards resource competition. Moreover, Turkey seeks to establish itself as an energy hub for Europe and has signed several oil and gas pipeline deals with Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, and Russia. However, its aspirations have significantly remained unsuccessful, and the gas discoveries have deepened its concerns of being left out from the region’s emerging energy and security order due to the creation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF).

Conflict in the Mediterranean has unwittingly pushed Libya into a proxy war. Scuffle between Libyan National Army (LNA) and Government of National Accord (GNA) has pushed Turkey to increase its support for GNA by sending troops and weapons to Libya which is a move directly affecting the ongoing situation in the region. GNA signing its EEZ agreement with Turkey while Greece turning to LNA and signing an agreement with Egypt have contributed to exacerbating the dispute. Not only this, but major European powers have shown keen interest in the region that patently require Turkey’s support in terms of migration and counterterrorism. If the conflict between the Turkish-backed GNA and the LNA stabilizes, this would result in an ordered flow of migrants to Europe.

Moreover, Europeans do not wish to abandon a 2016 German-brokered deal between Turkey and the European Union (EU) that allows Turkey to maintain a considerable control over refugee movements into Europe. On counterterrorism, France to fight against the terrorism in southern Libya and Benghazi, allied with Haftar against Turkey, despite recognizing the GNA’s sovereignty.  France has developed security partnerships with UAE and Egypt, who are opponents of Turkey in the region.

Egypt’s possession of two liquefication facilities, making the country act as both an exporter and re-exporter of LNG including a potential Cyprus-Egypt pipeline beneficial to Egypt in terms of economic stability, and help establish itself as a regional power. Cyprus-Egypt pipeline will allow Cyprus to export gas from the Aphrodite gas field to Egypt for liquefaction and Egypt would then reexport LNG to the European market. Turkey, however, argues that revenue generated from the process must be shared with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TNRC). Turkey’s continuation on the belligerent course will bring consequences for Egypt making its support for Greece more prominent. Turkey also stands with Mediterranean cooperation through initiatives like the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum that focuses on exploitation and regional energy resource sale.

Turkey is keen to become a regional gas trade hub thus looks forward to the initiative of a Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) which transfers from Azerbaijan to Europe through Turkey. Reducing the region’s reliance on Russian gas could certainly achieve the goals. Talks between Israel and Turkey of a pipeline from Israel to Europe were also initiated, however relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated following Erdogan blatantly supporting Palestine. This led Israel to work with Cyprus and Greece on the EastMed pipeline, stemming in devaluation of the Trans-Anatolian pipeline.

Most of the Middle Eastern countries have recalibratedtheir foreign policy following Joe Biden’s presidential win in the United States. Similarly, both Turkey and Egypt have begun to revise their foreign policies as well. The two countries have initiated a series of new diplomatic dialogue including Turkey and Greece signing a maritime delimitation agreement in August 2020.Nonetheless Egypt did not accept Greece’s thesis of having claims over islands in the south of Aegean Sea and it also announced a new oil and gas exploration bid with taking Turkey’s coordinates of the continental shelf into consideration. Moreover, Egypt began to change its Libya policy and improve relations with GNA. Turkey has stated that it is willing to negotiate dialogue with Egypt and focus on common interests.

Understanding the new developments, it is suggested to continue to alleviate tensions as the two countries enjoy same moral values at cultural level, given their shared past and historical ties. That is only possible if the expansionist pan-Islamistproject stops with Erdogan and does not continue with future Turkish governments. Cairo and Ankara must move together on the issues concerning Palestine, Libyan conflict, and the eastern Mediterranean. Despite possible pressure from the Democrats in the Biden administration, Egypt seems reluctant to consider convergence on Islamic synthesisand integration of Muslim brotherhood. Complete normalization of relations between the two sides may take time therefore to establish trust in one another, all parties must take certain confidence-building steps.

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Israel and Turkey in search of solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 25-year China-Iran agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

China’s objectives

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

The Iranian regime’s objectives

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

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

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

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

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