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The Libyan crisis in the summer of 2020

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In 2011, in a phase of severe economic crisis for Italy, almost on the verge of default, the violent ousting of the Libyan leader, Muammar al Minyar El Gaddafi, was the obvious tombstone of Italian foreign policy and also of its intelligence Services forced to serve only the interests of those who wanted to destroy Italy’s interests.

 The United States wanted to put an end to the sequence of “Arab Springs” started in Tunisia, a small country suitable for tests – as the papers of the Foreign Office reported in 1901 with respect to Russia, “a country suitable for Socialist tests”.

The United States interpreted foreign policy according to its internal and self-referential criteria and it was useless to ask it to have a broader vision.

Certainly France wanted to take Libya, but above all it wanted to take ENI and also to put Italy in a severe minority condition throughout the Mediterranean region.

 The way in which France operated in Gaddafi’s times – and, indeed, France has never relinquished coup designs against Gaddafi – showed only one thing, that also Great Britain knew, i.e. that Gaddafi had been an excellent invention of the Italian Intelligence Services, when they still existed. Italy rescued Gaddafi at least three times, twice from Great Britain and once from France, as well as twice from the United States.

Pursuing our national interest, we were branded as “anti-liberal” and, in any case, within NATO you pay for certain betrayals.

 Great Britain also wanted to follow France in its anti-Gaddafi hysteria, especially after Sarkozy asked the Raisfor a significant loan. It had some oil interest with it to prepare for the Royal Dutch Shell, which first opened negotiations with the new Libyan regime in 2013, as well as the ENI security Services, which quickly agreed with Jallud and Italy’s traditional points of reference in opposing Gaddafi. Either Shell or Total – that was the game, while Italy was sinking into the crisis and a “friendly” sale of ENI was not unlikely.

To put it frankly, however, the anti-Gaddafi rhetoric was ridiculous: the usual talk about his “not being democratic” – as if an Arab Rais could behave like a Manhattan jazz musician, all sex, drugs and rock & roll – while opening the doors to the Muslim Brotherhood and its networks which, coincidentally, immediately generated a widespreading of jihadist organisations, as it happened also outside Libya.

 Did they really believe there were good and “bad” jihadists? But where did they live, in a commercial spot for detergents?

The French intelligence services’ operation triggering the “revolt” was above all the tension at the Abu Salim prison, organized by a strange and previously unknown “Libyan section of the Association for Human Rights” based in Paris.

 The material start of the revolt was in Benghazi, in February 2011, but the economic and social situation in Gaddafi’s Tripoli was very different from the other “Arab springs” superficially organized by some strategic PRs,paid by the intelligence Agencies, between Manhattan and Sloane Street. Nothing to do with talk about “freedom” and Martini cocktails.

In fact, as maintained by some reports of the German Foundations published shortly before Gaddafi’s fall, Gaddafi’s Libya ensured an average income five times as much as Egypt’s. Said income was also well spread among the population, especially with Gaddafi who did the only possible job in a country with many tribes, i.e. ensuring their selective support.

Furthermore, the harsh but also naïve system – already put in place against Milosevic in Serbia or against Saddam Hussein in Iraq – was used again in Libya. Distingue frequenter, as the medieval logicians used to say.

The network of bloggers, previously strangely silent, started immediately, as well as some demonstrations on problems that existed even before, and the obsessive use of the “buzzword” democracy, which, in the minds of the poor and underprivileged people meant “getting better”, while in the words of strategic information managers, hired at a high and useless price by Western governments, meant: “now work for us”.

There was also Nietzsche’s “soothing oil” of the democratic myth to calm people’s fears, with some other possible distraction. Sex, above all, or youth amusement and entertainment business.

In the first phase of the Libyan “people’s” revolt, the United States largely had a wait-and-see attitude, but certainly a West believing that reality reasons like snobbish young ladies, like those you can find in some jet setters’ and socialites’ salons, is always doomed to the most tragic failures.

 The Libyans did not want to kill the “tyrant”, in a Macbeth-style Scottish ritual – since it is a concept completely alien to their political culture – but they simply wanted to improve the Libyan regime, like the Tunisian one, both certainly permeated with nepotism and corruption, especially in Tunisia. Nevertheless, everything would certainly have been better than what happened afterwards.

Just think about the fact that the long war seems to be the silly rule of current “humanitarian” operations and interventions: everything is done with great fanfare and democratic rhetoric – as if the whole world should go on like Vermont, or Paris V Arrondissement -and later you discover that the world is different from the parochial and obscure wealth of certain leaders. Hence “the dose is repeated” endlessly, always with fewer troops, as if the others were idiots or unable to fight, finally believing that everything works according to the repetitaiuvant principle. However, foreign policy and strategy never work like that.

 The United States will be out of Afghanistan, without having resolved anything. Indeed, the situation will be worse than before, after a treaty with the Taliban drafted in Doha, which should lead to the withdrawal and complete return of U.S. soldiers back home within the next 14 months.

In Iraq, U.S. troops have been the subject of a Parliamentary resolution calling for their removal, despite the fact that the Iranian Armed Forces are still reluctant.

No significant strategic results have been reached and will be reached on the ground. Hence in Afghanistan the Taliban will obviously rise to power, as would have also happened many years ago.

 In Iraq, with the Shiite majority in the population and the Iranian oil, economic, political and military penetration, I do not believe that the U.S. presence will achieve other great results.

Certainly the U.S. bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the largest one in the Emirates, are another necklace around Tehran. As the old and new AFRICOM networks around Libya, i.e. as many as 29 military bases in Bizerte, Tunisia; Libreville, Gabon; Ouagadougu, Burkina Faso; Dakar, Senegal; Niamey and Agadez, Niger, to control the great route of African migration, often directed against our shores, as well as 5 other bases in Somalia, 4 in Mali, and finally 2 in Libya.

 Hence a terrible game is being played on Libya, which is the command and control on the passages from the Mediterranean to Central Africa, and Italy seems only to repeat the usual formulas of the snobbish young ladies, like those portrayed by Italian comedian Franca Valeri, based on two gross and very dangerous mistakes: a) Libya is not a “national interest”, because the usual human rights must be restored, but this is huge nonsense because these famous rights should be restored all over Africa; b) Italy’s interest is only that of the West, which does not have only one interest and, anyway, all the interests already defined are against Italy.

Which is the virus currently inoculated in our childish and immature politicians, which does not let them believe that there is a national interest, in which Libya is an unavoidable axis, considering that, as Napoleon said, “the basis of foreign policy lies in geography”?

At the time, we followed the very childish idea of Silvio Berlusconi and of his “centre-right” coalition that sided with the Anglo-Saxons and France as if we were in a costumed re-edition of the Second World War.

Certainly, just in case, we were also told that we would be bombed “by mistake”. But fear is not part of some strategic calculations. If our “allies” –that were stealing Libya and ENI from us – had done so, we would have told the truth. And more train attacks and bombings would have taken place…

The Reductio ad Hitlerum is a naivety that, in Italy, also applies to ruling classes. Ignorant of foreign policy as confirmands.

 Now, we are in the fairy world of a government that believes it can mediate while being completely irrelevant. Even on the ground, in Tripoli and Benghazi. A fairy-tale world made of human rights, always slave to propaganda, as well as to the rejection of war laid down by the most idiotic article of our Constitution, Article 11 (and, indeed, it is not the only one), which in fact accepts only unconditional surrender. In fact, those who came to power after an unconditional surrender, remember only that.

Not to mention the usual irregular migrants to be accepted without saying a word – something that our EU friendly countries do not and have never done, but that we should do immediately, considering the Dublin agreement and the always artfully created sense of guilt for old experiences.

It is also worth reiterating that Italy is out of Libya, of the Maghreb region, of Africa and it will shortly be out of the Mediterranean. Thanks to our politicians, who know about strategy and geopolitics like a pizza maker usually knows about the calculus of variations. No disrespect and offense to our pizza makers, of course.

 Without Libya there will beno control of the Mediterranean. Without control of the Mediterranean, there will be no Italian strategic and economic autonomy. Finally, without Italian strategic and economic autonomy there will be no growth, the mantra about which current politicians talk grandly.

However, let us better analyse the situation: Russia denies any direct engagement in Libya, but there are at least 14 MiG29 missiles in the Jufra base, as well as some Sukhoi-24 bombers, and also Pantsir anti-missile systems.

Allegedly, in the bases still linked to General Haftar, there are also Serbian and Ukrainian mercenaries, connected to the Wagner networks of Russian contractors.

 They are mainly in the base of Gardabyah, but although denying any direct military interest in Libya, Russia has reportedly deployed its 900 “militants” in Syria and Libya in the bases linked to Haftar, as done also by Turkey.

The intelligence Services are particularly active. Especially the French ones, namely the DGSE, as well as the American CIA, which has never left Libya, and the German BND. This is not surprising.

 Italy still has an excellent advisor to al-Sarraj, who knows all too well how to deal with certain issues. But he is alone, isolated, and now he is rare breed in Tripoli’s government.

In our opinion, al-Sarraj was not the holder of some Italian geopolitical interests, which should be dealt with well, but has the virtue of having been awarded the holy spirit of international organisations, through complex and sometimes indescribable ploys and ruses.

Italy would recognize also the devil, if it were appointed by some international organisations and fora, possibly even irrelevant.

France does not care about the international choices, which so much entice ambassadors and ladies, although it is a major part of them, more than Italy. In fact, it has always operated with its intelligence Services on Haftar’s side. When will the geopolitical servile attitude typical of the Italian ruling classes end?

 The passage channel between Libya and Europe – but not in Italy – is always the triangle between Benghazi, Zuwara and Malta, created with light aircraft.

They know more in certain palaces in Valletta, including the “religious ones”, than in many Italian palaces of power, if we still want to call them so.

 For the French Intelligence Services, the easiest connection is between Algeria and Lyon and, still today, some French intelligence service operatives train the still budding executives of Haftar’s Internal Intelligence Service.

 The Germans meet both Haftar and al-Sarraj with communication lines starting directly from Germany and arriving both in Tripoli and Benghazi.

 Meanwhile, on July 19, Egyptian President Al Sisi, the former Chief of the Military Services of the Armed Forces in Cairo stated – and he could not do otherwise – that Libya is obviously a national interest for Egypt. Even Italy, however, should have done so, also with possible “harshness”.

The EU, another factory of nothing, has stated in these days that we need to go back to the 5+5 mechanism for negotiation. But all the Libyan parties are reflections of other foreign countries and it is useless kicking the dog and meaning the master. We only need to talk to the master. What would be the “resolution of the Libyan crisis” magically awaited by the United Nations? No one knows.

An open and clear segmentation of the territory, which at the time of the Ottoman Empire was not unified at all. Hence it is a matter of “saying goodbye and part without resentment”. Like the aforementioned snobbish young ladies, jet setters and salon socialites.

But are we sure that a split Libya would be in our best interest? Possibly with the Fezzan tribes, happily involved in the illegal migration business, and Italy there to wait and see, as well as pay additional 1.3 million Euros to the so-called Libyan “coastguards”, as recently happened?

 In a context of oil and hence of public revenue crisis, such as the one expected in Libya in 2020/2021, the only country that will bear a heavy brunt will be Italy, which will probably die economically together with its old Libyan colony.

 Al-Sarraj recently explained that 1.4 billion U.S. dollars of oil sales have been lost since the port blockade imposed by General Haftar last January.

 It should also be noted that General Haftar already has excellent relations with the Greek Intelligence Services, he has often met in obvious opposition with Turkey. However, the choices made by the Benghazi leader have already caused an 80% fall in Libyan oil sales.

Considering that, in a situation of low prices per barrel and oil extraction restrictions, the least expensive oil in Africa, that is Libya’s, has its own strong significance, if it is closed to markets, we can infer the rule of those who have an interest in still destabilising Libya and those who have not.

Where would the “playing cards” of Westerners be? A small market in a very severe crisis? A non-existent presence on the ground? The idiotic ideologies that see in rampant immigration or in the impossible sealing of borders the solution to our problems? Those who do not know how to use weapons should not do foreign policy, and there would also be many weapons.

 Turkey has quickly taken the place of Italy, which is increasingly apallic.

In Italy they probably fear the reactions of some salon , jet setters and socialites, who would cry out for human rights and, sometimes, for the necessary actions of some lackeys.

Until January 2020, however, Turkey sent 100 of its officers and at least 2,500 militants from a jihadist group operating in Syria under the orders of MIT, the Turkish Intelligence Service, who quickly overturned the military result on the ground against General Haftar.

 Turkey has two goals on Libyan soil: firstly, stopping the Egyptian, Emirates and Saudi operations against Turkey’s economic and oil expansion in the Mediterranean. They know where the Mediterranean is. We do not.

We have surrendered to a beautiful region full of far more powerful States than Italy, namely Northern Europe, which no longer knows what to do with us. If it were not for the SMEs in the North.

 Beautiful those times when Amintore Fanfani, a man with extraordinary strategic and predictive skills- after all Tuscan-Etruscans are a bit haruspices, or predictors, whom the Romans greatly feared, according to Titus Livy – predicted a new “Mediterranean policy” for Italy, so as to take back that area that solum è mio, just to quote Machiavelli in a well-known letter to Vettori.

 The other Turkish policy line is that of perceiving a threat of the strategic whole between Israel, Greece and Cyprus – to which at least it reacts – with the probable EU support which, if any, would probably bring bad luck to the Turkish expansion in the Mediterranean.

 The reaction of Haftar’s operatives, although defeated on the ground so far, has not been negligible and allows to foresee a long proxy war between Turkey, Egypt, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

 With whom are the Westerners siding? They have left the ground to local players, with the exception of a few intelligence positions. Precisely with the hope of nothing, or rather with the idea that the matter will calm down and be settled by going back to the “negotiation and mediation tables”. To mediate what?

 The success of Turkey, which will certainly not want to mediate its new presence in Tripoli’s oil market, as well as in the new Turkish Exclusive Economic Zone, stretching from the Libyan coast to Kastellorizo, in the Dodecanese?

What does Russia want? It wants to fight Westerners in the region and, anyway, also Turkey.

 But again for Turkey and its intelligence, the services of the Russian contractor company Wagner were allegedly sold to the Emirates. This is not impossible.

Russia does not want a long war in Libya, which would wear out Mediterranean equilibria and probably exclude it from the new strategic context.

 On the contrary, Russia officially wants an agreement between the parties, the end of hostilities and the creation of a Government of National Unity.

 Furthermore, unlike others, Russia perceives the sense of Turkish penetration in Libya as the antecedent of the hegemonic Islamization of Turkey with respect to the jihadist groups of sub-Saharan Africa.

President Erdogan knows that Westerners – who do not make calculations,  but live on paranoia – are now obsessed with “China in Africa”. He therefore thinks they will keep quiet while Turkey takes the big piece of Africa not yet fully colonized by China.

Russia, however, will never take great risks in Libya, because it does not want tension with Turkey, and especially with its new Turkish Stream.

In 2016 Russia already printed 9 billion U.S. dollars of Haftar’s new Libyan currency, with the effigy of the old Rais, transported to Benghazi via Malta, which imposed its remarkable “tax”.

Moreover, the Russian Federation is playing its future true cards on Saif-al Islam Gaddafi rather than on General Haftar. In short, everyone is playing and making plans on Libya, after the “democratic” disaster of France and Great Britain, while Italy is doing nothing at all.

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

When Mr. Xi comes to town

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photo: Xinhua/Liu Weibing

Pomp and circumstance are important.

So are multiple agreements to be signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia this week, his first venture beyond East and Central Asia in three years.

No doubt, Mr. Xi’s reception will be on par with the welcoming of Donald J. Trump when he headed to Saudi Arabia in 2017 on his first overseas trip as US president. At the same time, it will contrast starkly with the more downbeat response to Joe Biden’s hat-in-hand pilgrimage to the kingdom in July.

Mr. Xi Jinping and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s timing is perfect.

The visit allows Gulf states, with Saudi Arabia in the lead, to further diversify their foreign relationships and hedge their bets as the world moves from a unipolar to a bipolar, if not multipolar, order.

In addition, Mr. Xi’s visit boosts the positioning of Mr. Bin Salman and his kingdom as undisputed leaders of the Muslim world.

Like when Mr. Trump was in town five years ago, Mr. Bin Salman has ensured that Mr. Xi’s visit will involve bilateral talks and multilateral gatherings with Gulf and Arab leaders.

Even though Mr. Xi and Gulf leaders project the Chinese president’s visit as a milestone rather than the latest of regular high-level gatherings, neither seeks to fundamentally alter the region’s security architecture with the United States as its guarantor.

On the contrary.

While eager to strengthen and expand relations with China, Gulf states see Mr. Xi’s visit as a vehicle to pressure the United States to spell out and formalize its security commitment to the region at a time when America has made China and the Indo-Pacific its main strategic concern and has not lived up to the region’s expectations.

Speaking three weeks before the Chinese leader’s visit, Anwar Gargash, the diplomatic adviser of United Arab Emirates President Mohammed bin Zayed, insisted that “our primary strategic security relationship remains unequivocally with the United States… Yet, it is vital that we find a way to ensure that we can rely on this relationship for decades to come through clear, codified, and unambivalent commitments.”

Mr. Xi has no problem with that. On the contrary, China is not interested and perhaps incapable of replacing the United States militarily in the Gulf. So while it may want the United States out of East Asia, the same need not be valid for the Middle East.

That allows Mr. Xi and his Saudi and Arab counterparts to focus on the nuts and bolts of their meetings.

High on Mr. Xi’s agenda is the export of its model of authoritarianism, involving one-person rule, a surveillance state, and the ringfencing of the Internet. It’s a model that appeals to men like Mr. Bin Salman and UAE and Egyptian presidents Mr. Bin Zayed and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

The appeal remains, even if Mr. Xi’s proposition has lost some of its shine as a result of his faltering zero-tolerance Covid-19 policy that has slowed economic growth, hindered the country’s private sector that is also hobbled by punitive state interventions, and sparked an anti-government protest that has forced the Chinese leader to abandon core elements of his effort to control the pandemic.

Moreover, Middle Eastern leaders will have noticed that China’s firewall failed to prevent Internet users from discovering that a majority of spectators at World Cup matches in Qatar were unmasked. Nor were Chinese censors able to prevent an avalanche of video clips of nationwide protests against strict Covid-19 rules from flooding the country’s tightly policed social media.

In addition, Gulf efforts to diversify their economies and reduce dependence on fossil fuel exports centre on a free-market economy and a private sector driven by innovation and creativity rather than the kind of state-controlled capitalism envisioned by Mr. Xi.

That has not prevented China from advancing its control and governance systems with investments and partnerships in Middle Eastern telecoms, corporate communication systems, cybersecurity, and smart cities in countries stretching from Morocco to the Gulf.

Chinese involvement runs the gamut from building 5G systems and data centres to providing cloud services and developing artificial intelligence systems.

Investments in technology and knowledge transfers enable Arab autocracies to enhance their surveillance capabilities and Internet control.

Furthermore, countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have looked for inspiration in China’s restrictive cybersecurity legislation.

Days before Mr. Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia, China’s foreign ministry released a report on ‘Sino-Arab Cooperation in a New Era’ that, according to Chinese media, misleadingly asserted that China “never seeks any geopolitical self-interest.”

China probably meant to say that it is not seeking to challenge the US position in the Gulf any time soon but intends to be the region’s major partner economically and in terms of technology, a focal point of US-Chinese rivalry.

Speaking last month at a regional security conference, senior Pentagon official Colin Kahl spelt out limits to Gulf-China technological Cooperation that the United States would seek to impose.

“If our closest allies and partners cooperate too deeply with China on the security side, it’ll create security risks for us. Getting into certain networks that create real cyber vulnerabilities and risks for us. Infrastructure that generates real intelligence risks for us, and networks that touch our military networks that create real risk for us, or a presence in certain countries that allow surveillance of our forces and what we’re doing in ways that presents a threat to us,” Mr. Kahl said.

Although Chinese 5G projects in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and elsewhere in the region have progressed despite US objections, Mr. Kahl left unaddressed whether they threatened to cross his threshold.

The Chinese foreign ministry report identified technology, agriculture, and investment as focal points of Chinese-Arab economic cooperation.

During his visit, Mr. Xi was likely to also angle for construction contracts for Mr. Bin Salman’s US$500 billion futuristic Red Sea city of Neom, as well as involvement in developing a Saudi defense and automotive industry.

For its part, Saudi Arabia will want to attract Chinese investment in its mining sector. Khalid Al Mudaifer, the kingdom’s deputy mining minister, said he is seeking US$170 billion by 2030.

In a bid to exploit strains in Saudi- and potentially UAE-US relations and uncertainty about America’s reliability as a security partner, the Chinese report asserted that “China has always believed that there is no such thing as a ‘power vacuum’ in the Middle East and that the people of the Middle East are the masters of the future and destiny of the region.”

Mr. Xi arrived in the kingdom as a US district court in Washington dismissed a lawsuit against Mr. Bin Salman and 20 others for the 2028 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The court based its decision on a finding by the US government that Mr. Bin Salman enjoyed sovereign immunity.

On another note, the Chinese report predicted that China and the Arab world would continue to support each other’s counterterrorism and deradicalisation policies.

In stressing counterterrorism and deradicalisation, the report suggested that Gulf silence, and in the case of Saudi Arabia, endorsement of Mr. Xi’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims in the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang, reflected a more complex balance of power in the Chinese-Gulf relationship.

In other words, Gulf acquiescence is more than simply wanting to ensure that the region stays on China’s right side or seeking to shield autocracy from criticism as the preferred political system in both parts of the world.

Because the crackdown targets Islam as a faith, not just Turkic Muslims as a minority, Gulf support offers China badly needed Muslim endorsement, particularly from Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina. In doing so, the support enhances Gulf leverage in relations with China.

At the same time, China’s framing of the crackdown as a fight against extremism, terrorism, and separatism legitmises the clampdown by Saudi Arabia and the UAE on any expression of political Islam.

For Mr. Gargash, the UAE diplomatic advisor, the Gulf’s ties to the United States and China fit neatly into a box. “Our trade relations increasingly look to the East, while our primary security and investment relations are in the West,” Mr. Gargash said.

The official did not mention increasingly close political ties to China, like in the case of Xinjiang or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and that is where things potentially get messy.

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Middle East

The Popular Uprisings and unfulfilled achievements

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From the Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing in 1989 to the Arab Uprisings in 2011, to the demonstrations and anger in Iran that exceeded a month and a half after Iranian security killed Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman in Tehran in mid-October, which triggered protests that are the most dangerous, longest, most widespread, and threatening to the regime since the revolution in 1979. It claimed the lives of more than 400 demonstrators and protesters, according to an Iranian human rights organization – since 1,500 people were killed in 2019-2020.

The eruption of popular anger and the expansion of the area of angry protests led to the deterioration of living conditions and the dominance of the regime and its tools and reversed priorities, and led to a decline in the standard of living and a blockage of horizons for millions of young people. Improving the standard of living of citizens in the face of high rates of unemployment, inflation, high prices, and the collapse of the value of the riyal, which led to the loss of hope and the accumulation of popular frustration.

As we witnessed in the Arab Uprisings(a media term related to the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia in 1968 in response to the repression of the Soviet forces), I prefer to call them the uprisings of freedom, dignity, and a decent life. They did not, in their entirety and on their own, change the regimes from their roots, their old guard, and the deep state. Rather, it kept its pillars who returned to lead the scene and turn the clock back, as in Egypt and Tunisia, or to slide towards chaos and internal conflict, Libya and Yemen, or the militarization of the uprising and the summoning of foreign powers from inside and outside the region and the loss of sovereignty, as in Syria.

We witnessed the failure to bring about change in October 2019 in Lebanon, after tumultuous demonstrations that swept across its cities, under the slogan “All of them means all of them.” Despite the resignation of the Saad Hariri government, the economic and social conditions continued to collapse, the banking sector in Lebanon collapsed, the national currency (the Lebanese pound) lost 90% of its value, Lebanon approached the Venezuelan bankruptcy model, and the banks seized the deposits and accounts of Lebanese citizens (and age transfers), and some depositors deliberately stormed Banks by force of arms to recover their deposits and money withheld due to the arbitrary decisions of the Banque du Liban to withdraw money by dropper! So to live and to pay for treatment! This led to an increase in the number of Lebanese who are below the poverty line to 80 percent! Today, they have mercy on the days before the uprising or bypassing the “October Revolution” whose slogan is change for the worse, and they elected “change-making” deputies. The middle class has disappeared, and the phenomenon of mass brain drain has expanded with tickets without return!

Iraq also witnessed the October 2019 revolution. Protests swept the capital, Baghdad, and major cities and governorates of Iraq due to the deteriorating financial and economic conditions, high rates of unemployment and high prices, rampant corruption and Iran’s interference. The protesters demanded the dismissal of the Iraqi government and early elections, and later elections took place in October 2021, and only a president was elected and a new government formed. More than a year after the parliamentary elections, the parliament elected Kurdish President Abdul Latif Rashid, who commissioned Mohammed Shia al-Sudani last October to form a new government. This was after confrontations and the resignation of the largest al-Sadr bloc in the parliament, and the sit-in of his deputies in parliament and the divided system. What is remarkable, however, is the high death toll, which exceeded 750 dead and 17,000 wounded, and for the first time the protesters shouted, “Baghdad is free – free, and Iran is out, out!” Burning the Iranian flag and the Iranian consulate in Najaf, and pictures of Qassem Soleimani.

We are witnessing the expansion of the protests in China, in its second week, in rejection of the strict measures of closure and strict quarantine to prevent the spread of the Corona virus, which has returned to spread violently in several Chinese cities, including the capital, Beijing, and major cities, Shanghai and Guangzhou, due to anger at the policy of the ruling Communist Party regime. To confrontations and clashes with the security forces and even demands for political reforms, and in the precedent of calling for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to step down.

But the question is: Why did those uprisings and protests fail to impose a fait accompli and succeed in achieving the change for which they arose and the masses who were moved by the hope of change gathered around them to thwart and return the countries against which they revolted, and even in a position more capable of dealing with the protests.

Scientific studies have proven that the chances of popular protests against non-democratic regimes succeeding are slim due to the policy of repression and the employment of censorship, eavesdropping, and monitoring devices, and thwarting the protesters’ ability to intimidate, infiltrate, and disperse. Totalitarian autocratic regimes also succeed in maintaining the cohesion of the ruling class, preventing its weakening. As in the case of China, with its experience in containing protests, it has resorted to easing strict lockdown and stone restrictions!

The studies also indicated that since the first decade of the twenty-first century, the pace of protests increased, but this was accompanied by a decline in their success rates, as in the Arab Uprisings. At the end of the first decade, the success rates of the uprisings declined to one in three. As for the beginning of the second millennium in the twenty-first century, the success rate declined to one in six uprisings. Because of the loss of leaders and the ability to change, and the ability of the regimes to confront them with hacking measures, spreading fake news, and arresting their leaders. China, also has advanced technological capabilities for monitoring and eavesdropping, and even exporting this technology to countries around the world.

The regimes that came to power through revolutions live for a long time and gain experience in dealing with challenges and threats such as the Bolshevik revolution in the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1991, the Chinese revolution of 1949 and the Iranian revolution of 1979.

In the end, as in the bloody protests of the Arab Uprisings, in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and China, none of the revolutions and popular uprisings, due to counter-revolutions, security measures and the iron fist, failed to achieve their hoped-for goals of improving and changing the difficult reality. The results remain either the survival of the status quo, or further deterioration of the living conditions of the frustrated citizens, which generates uprisings.

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Middle East

Why Israel should support the establishment of the Middle Corridor

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The governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan earlier in the year signed a declaration on improving the transportation potential throughout the region.   Following that, the Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Georgian and Turkish foreign and transport ministries decided that there should be accelerated transport routes throughout the region, which will include the development of the Middle Corridor, a rail freight and ferry system that will link China with Europe.  

It starts in Southeast Asia and China, and runs through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey before reaching southern and central Europe.   This will permit trains to travel from China to Europe within 20-25 days, thus helping to reconnect the former Silk Road.  As a former Israeli minister, I believe that Israel should be supportive of the establishment of the Middle Corridor, as it will help to strengthen the Abraham Accords if it is expanded to include Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the region.

The entire Middle East region used to be connected by train under the rule of the Ottoman Turks.   There are a number of remnants of this wonderful train system in Israel, including the Ottoman train stations in Beersheba, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.    These Ottoman train stations are historic landmarks from a bygone era when train travel across the Middle East was possible. Ottoman-era trains used to travel from Jaffa to Jerusalem, Haifa and other areas of the former Ottoman Turkish Empire, such as Medina and Damascus.

However, since Israel was declared to be independent, there has been no train travel between Israel and the Arab world.    This was one of many causalities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.     Yet in the wake of the Abraham Accords, this all has the potential to change, as the Arab countries no longer view Israel to be the pariah that they once viewed it to be.   If anything, the Persian Gulf countries now view Israel to be a partner in the struggle against Iran, as do the Turkic republics like Azerbaijan, who greatly disdain how the mullahs are treating the Azerbaijani population in the Islamic Republic.   

Thus, if this Middle Corridor is built, we Israelis can try to connect onto it as well, as it will help to counter the mullahs in Tehran by creating a stronger connection between the Turkic republics, Israel and the Arab world.   We can connect to it via Turkey by ferry, and then from there, have another set of trains going from Israel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia and from there, to the United Arab Emirates.   In our times, this is within the realm of the possible.   

This will thus help to greatly expand trade between China, the Turkic republics, Israel and the Arab countries.   Already, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan know that it is necessary to have a train that crosses from Israel to the Gulf states.  They are talking about it and thinking about it.  They are starting with trucks with containers that I arranged, where they bring containers from Abu Dhabi to Israel crossing from Saudi Arabia to Jordan to Haifa.  They could continue from there to Turkey via ship and from there to Europe and anywhere else. 

That means that we can have a train traveling from Europe to Turkey and from there, ships can go to Haifa, and from Haifa to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and from there, to the Gulf states, and they can go back in the opposite direction.    I am in Bulgaria now to check how I can make it more relevant.  After that, a Saudi Arabian agreement with Israel can start with a new train, like what existed in the Ottoman times with the Hijaz Railway.   The people of Hijaz want to make it happen again. This is in the plan of the Abraham Accords Agreement and it will happen in the future.    

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