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A new great Islamic crescent: The Turkey-Qatar axis from the Caucasus to Libya

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“Turkey has deep ties of friendship and fraternity with Qatar and the relations between the two countries have rapidly improved in all fields… Both countries are actively cooperating in solving regional problems.”

 With these words the official website of the Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs briefly describes the status of relations between Qatar and Turkey. These relations have influenced and will continue to deeply influence the evolution (or involution) of international relations in a wide region that goes beyond the classic borders of the geopolitical Middle East and stretches from Libya to the Caucasus, passing through Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean basin.

“Friends of hard times”: this is how the Turkish President, Tayyp Recep Erdogan, and the Emir of Qatar, the unscrupulous 40-year-old Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani, define themselves.

 In fact, they must be good friends, considering that in 2018 the Turkish President accepted, without blinking an eye, the “personal” gift of a private jet plane worth 400 million dollars generously provided by his young and very rich ally, with whom he has maintained very close relations over the last decade, with face to face meetings on a monthly if not weekly basis.

The liaison between Turkey and Qatar has two very precise dates of reference: December 2010 and June 2017.

After the initial and limited unrest that broke out in Tunisia on the wave of protests against the rising cost of living and for greater democracy, also thanks to the sophisticated and incessant information (and disinformation) strategy of the TV station Al Jazeera, owned by the Emir of Qatar, the protests spread rapidly to Libya, Egypt and Syria producing upheavals and disruptions that still persist today.

The myth of the “Arab Springs” started thanks to Al Jazeera, and to the political short-sightedness and analytical superficiality of the U.S Department of State, led at the time by the “vestal” of politically correct, Hillary Clinton.

It wasAl Jazeera who inflamed the squares, streets and minds of the whole Arab and Muslim world, calling for rebellion against the “despots” and instilling in the West and in the Euro-American mainstream media the idea that behind the insurgency there was a genuine demand for democracy.

We realised (with difficulty) that things were not as the Qatari broadcaster reported, after a decade of bloody clashes, civil wars and authoritarian coups – all events that showed that the “Arab Springs” were nothing more than the attempt of the most backward part of Islam, gathered around the “Muslim Brotherhood”, to finally take power by overthrowing more or less authoritarian secular regimes, and to replace them with governments based exclusively on the Sharia, the Islamic law requiring the strictest compliance with the Qur’an precepts.

It was in that context that the special liaison between Erdogan and al-Thani developed and strengthened. Both of them realised that if they managed to take over the political leadership of the “Muslim Brotherhood” -which was disliked by the more moderate Arab governments in the Persian Gulf – they could become the new key players of Middle East geopolitics.

That prospect led Turkey and Qatar to support the short-lived rise of the “Muslim Brother”, Mohammed al-Morsi, to Egypt’s Presidency in 2012 and to intervene heavily in the Syrian crisis, with economic and military aid, as well as the support of propaganda (always with Al Jazeera at work) against the rebel forces opposing Assad’s regime that were rapidly hegemonized and dominated by the Syrian jihadist militiamen of Jabat Al Nusra and the Iraqi cutthroats of “Caliph” Al Baghdadi’s Isis.

Turkey and Qatar bet on Assad’s fall and the turning of Syria into an Islamic Republic that could support Turkey’s new hegemonic role in the region, financially backed by the very rich Qatar – a State that with its 300,000 inhabitants was unable to stand out faced with the hegemonic country of the Gulf, namely Saudi Arabia.

Things did not go as desired by the two “friends of hard times”. In Egypt the dreams of Morsi and the “Muslim Brotherhood” were shattered in 2013, faced with the reaction of the military led by General al-Sisi, while in Syria – thanks to Russia’s intervention – Assad still “reigned” even if only on the ruins of a country destroyed by a senseless and ferocious civil war that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths among civilians and the flight of over a million refugees.

The role played by Turkey and Qatar in the Middle East turmoil and the ambitions of the two allies to take the leadership and excel in the most sensitive region of the world, lead us to the second significant date in the relations between Erdogan and al-Thani, namely June 5, 2017. It was the day on which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke diplomatic relations with Qatar. A few days later they gave a very harsh ultimatum to Qatar imposing to minimize relations with the “Muslim Brotherhood” and close the military base of Tariq Bin Ziyad, occupied since 2014 by a contingent of Turkish armed forces. Otherwise very harsh sanctions would be imposed.

With a view to strengthening pressure, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates sent troops to the border with Qatar, stopped flights and land communications while, by decision of the Turkish Parliament, the Turkish contingent was further strengthened.

The sanctions against Qatar were very harsh and only a Turkish airlift could avert a severe food crisis for a rich but powerless people, faced with its neighbours’ siege.

The support provided by Erdogan to Qatar, during what was called the “Gulf crisis”, negatively and definitively marked relations between Turkey, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, with strong repercussions on trade (a general boycott of Turkish goods was called for) and on the Turkish economy in general, which was negatively affected by the drop in exports throughout the region.

The unscrupulous activism of the Turkish leader, the profligate spending to back the airlift to Qatar and the military engagement in Syria put Ankara’s economy into crisis long before the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was felt in Turkey, with devastating effects on its people’s living standards.

Nevertheless, a boycott from the Gulf countries, threats of sanctions from Europe and substantial international isolation have not yet limited the adventurism of the Turkish President who, like an avid gambler, is raising the stakes on several tables in the hope of making up for his losses.

From Libya to Armenia, from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, the Turkish leader keeps on trying to play a leading role, with the support of his friends in Doha.

In Libya he sent his own Jabat Al Nusra Syrian soldiers and militiamen to fight alongside the forces loyal to President al-Sarraj, thus forcing his opponent, namely General Haftar, to stop last spring-summer’s offensive on Tripoli.

In Libya, Turkish interference caused the harsh reaction of the Egyptian President, al-Sisi, who warned Turks and loyalists not to cross the “red line” west of Sirte, threatening to send ground troops.

In the Mediterranean the crisis is open and far from a solution.

Turkey’s designs on the exclusive economic zones off the Turkish part of Cyprus and the Eastern Aegean islands for the exploration and exploitation of underwater gas are harshly and formally contested by Greece and France, while Al Sisi’s Egypt has even involved Israel in exploration projects off the Egyptian coast.

In the debate on the borders of gas exploration and extraction areas in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean basin, there is no clear position and commitment by Italy, despite the active presence of ENI in the area, left alone in the difficult Libyan and Mediterranean situation.

While the dossier on the independence of Syrian Kurds – strongly opposed by Turkey but supported by the United States – is still open, the only partial strategic success achieved by President Erdogan’s activism has been in Nagorno-Karabakh where, with Turkish military support, the Azerbaijani Muslims have defeated the Armenians on the ground, thus forcing them to surrender portions of territory inhabited by Christians.

 However, the Turkish-Azerbaijani success has not been complete, as troops from the Russian Federation have been deployed on the ground, with the belligerents’ consent, to guarantee the truce. Hence a Pyrrhic victory, which still enables Vladimir Putin to control the disputed territory and keep on protecting the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh not only with diplomacy but also with his armed forces.

With Israel in the background, politically strengthened by the opening of diplomatic relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, forged under Saudi Arabia’s benevolent eye, the power relations from the Black Sea to Libya are taking shape and see the two “friends of hard times” becoming increasingly aggressive but probably even weaker.

Turkey imports 60% of the gas from Russia via Azerbaijan and, until it can exploit the deposits being explored on the Turkish shores of the Black Sea, it will not be able to push too hard with Russia, which has so far not responded to Turkish provocations harshly, but has certainly demonstrated with a Foreign Minister such as Sergey Lavrov that it does close its eyes or bow its head in front of a new Islamist crescent.

With America distracted by the paradoxical outcome of the Presidential elections and Europe prostrated by the health, economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not surprising that international political adventurers such as Erdogan and al-Thany – who have not hesitated to support the worst representatives of Islamic extremism in the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus and even Europe – and the Qatar-Turkey axis have so far substantially held out despite the many debacles of their allies, due to the common front erected by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.

What is surprising is that these countries have anyway been left alone, with the exception of Russia, France, Egypt and Israel, to face an Islamist axis that would expect to continue to act undisturbed to the Southern borders of Europe and Italy.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Middle East

North Africa: Is Algeria Weaponizing Airspace and Natural Gas?

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In a series of shocking and unintelligible decisions, the Algerian Government closed its airspace to Moroccan military and civilian aircraft on September 22, 2021, banned French military planes from using its airspace on October 3rd, and decided not to renew the contract relative to the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which goes through Morocco and has been up and running since 1996–a contract that comes to end on October 31.

In the case of Morocco, Algeria advanced ‘provocations and hostile’ actions as a reason to shut airspace and end the pipeline contract, a claim that has yet to be substantiated with evidence. Whereas in the case of France, Algeria got angry regarding visa restrictions and comments by French President Emmanuel Macron on the Algerian military grip on power and whether the North African country was a nation prior to French colonization in 1830.

Tensions for decades

Algeria has had continued tensions with Morocco for decades, over border issues and over the Western Sahara, a territory claimed by Morocco as part of its historical territorial unity, but contested by Algeria which supports an alleged liberation movement that desperately fights for independence since the 1970s.

With France, the relation is even more complex and plagued with memories of colonial exactions and liberation and post-colonial traumas, passions and injuries. France and Algeria have therefore developed, over the post-independence decades, a love-hate attitude that quite often mars otherwise strong economic and social relations.

Algeria has often reacted to the two countries’ alleged ‘misbehavior’ by closing borders –as is the case with Morocco since 1994—or calling its ambassadors for consultations, or even cutting diplomatic relations, as just happened in August when it cut ties with its western neighbor.

But it is the first-time Algeria resorts to the weaponization of energy and airspace. “Weaponization” is a term used in geostrategy to mean the use of goods and commodities, that are mainly destined for civilian use and are beneficial for international trade and the welfare of nations, for geostrategic, political and even military gains. As such “weaponization” is contrary to the spirit of free trade, open borders, and solidarity among nations, values that are at the core of common international action and positive globalization.

What happened?

Some observers advance continued domestic political and social unrest in Algeria, whereby thousands of Algerians have been taking to the streets for years to demand regime-change and profound political and economic reforms. Instead of positively responding to the demands of Algerians, the government is probably looking for desperate ways to divert attention and cerate foreign enemies as sources of domestic woes. Morocco and France qualify perfectly for the role of national scapegoats.

It may be true also that in the case of Morocco, Algeria is getting nervous at its seeing its Western neighbor become a main trade and investment partner in Africa, a role it can levy to develop diplomatic clout regarding the Western Sahara issue. Algeria has been looking for ways to curb Morocco’s growing influence in Africa for years. A pro-Algerian German expert, by the name of Isabelle Werenfels, a senior fellow in the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, even recommended to the EU to put a halt to Morocco’s pace and economic clout so that Algeria could catch up. Weaponization may be a desperate attempt to hurt the Moroccan economy and curb its dynamism, especially in Africa.

The impact of Algeria’s weaponization of energy and airspace on the Moroccan economy is minimal and on French military presence in Mali is close to insignificant; however, it shows how far a country that has failed to administer the right reforms and to transfer power to democratically elected civilians can go.

In a region, that is beleaguered by threats and challenges of terrorism, organized crime, youth bulge, illegal migration and climate change, you would expect countries like Algeria, with its geographic extension and oil wealth, to be a beacon of peace and cooperation. Weaponization in international relations is inacceptable as it reminds us of an age when bullying and blackmail between nations, was the norm. The people of the two countries, which share the same history, language and ethnic fabric, will need natural gas and unrestricted travel to prosper and grow and overcome adversity; using energy and airspace as weapons is at odds with the dreams of millions of young people in Algeria and Morocco that aspire for a brighter future in an otherwise gloomy economic landscape. Please don’t shatter those dreams!

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Middle East

Breaking The Line of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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The conflict between Israel-Palestine is a prolonged conflict and has become a major problem, especially in the Middle East region.

A series of ceasefires and peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine that occurred repeatedly did not really “normalize” the relationship between the two parties.

In order to end the conflict, a number of parties consider that the two-state solution is the best approach to create two independent and coexistent states. Although a number of other parties disagreed with the proposal, and instead proposed a one-state solution, combining Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big state.

Throughout the period of stalemate reaching an ideal solution, the construction and expansion of settlements carried out illegally by Israel in the Palestinian territories, especially the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also continued without stopping and actually made the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis increasingly eroded, and this could jeopardize any solutions.

The attempted forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah district, which became one of the sources of the conflict in May 2021, for example, is an example of how Israel has designed a system to be able to change the demographics of its territory by continuing to annex or “occupy” extensively in the East Jerusalem area. This is also done in other areas, including the West Bank.

In fact, Israel’s “occupation” of the eastern part of Jerusalem which began at the end of the 1967 war, is an act that has never received international recognition.

This is also confirmed in a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council Numbers 242, 252, 267, 298, 476, 478, 672, 681, 692, 726, 799, 2334 and also United Nations General Assembly Resolutions Number 2253, 55/130, 60/104, 70/89, 71/96, A/72/L.11 and A/ES-10/L.22 and supported by the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 on Legal Consequences of The Construction of A Wall in The Occupied Palestine Territory which states that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli “occupation”.

1 or 2 country solution

Back to the issue of the two-state solution or the one-state solution that the author mentioned earlier. The author considers that the one-state solution does not seem to be the right choice.

Facts on the ground show how Israel has implemented a policy of “apartheid” that is so harsh against Palestinians. so that the one-state solution will further legitimize the policy and make Israel more dominant. In addition, there is another consideration that cannot be ignored that Israel and Palestine are 2 parties with very different and conflicting political and cultural identities that are difficult to reconcile.

Meanwhile, the idea of ​​a two-state solution is an idea that is also difficult to implement. Because the idea still seems too abstract, especially on one thing that is very fundamental and becomes the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, namely the “division” of territory between Israel and Palestine.

This is also what makes it difficult for Israel-Palestine to be able to break the line of conflict between them and repeatedly put them back into the status quo which is not a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The status quo, is in fact a way for Israel to continue to “annex” more Palestinian territories by establishing widespread and systematic illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In fact, a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council have explicitly and explicitly called for Israel to end the expansion of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territory and require recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the region.

Thus, all efforts and actions of Israel both legislatively and administratively that can cause changes in the status and demographic composition in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must continue to be condemned. Because this is a violation of the provisions of international law.

Fundamental thing

To find a solution to the conflict, it is necessary to look back at the core of the conflict that the author has mentioned earlier, and the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to encourage Israel to immediately end the “occupation” that it began in 1967, and return the settlements to the pre-Islamic borders 1967 In accordance with UN Security Council resolution No. 242.

But the question is, who can stop the illegal Israeli settlements in the East Jerusalem and West Bank areas that violate the Palestinian territories?

In this condition, international political will is needed from countries in the world, to continue to urge Israel to comply with the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and also the UN Security Council Resolutions.

At the same time, the international community must be able to encourage the United Nations, especially the United Nations Security Council, as the organ that has the main responsibility for maintaining and creating world peace and security based on Article 24 of the United Nations Charter to take constructive and effective steps in order to enforce all United Nations Resolutions, and dare to sanction violations committed by Israel, and also ensure that Palestinian rights are important to protect.

So, do not let this weak enforcement of international law become an external factor that also “perpetuates” the cycle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It will demonstrate that John Austin was correct when he stated that international law is only positive morality and not real law.

And in the end, the most fundamental thing is that the blockade, illegal development, violence, and violations of international law must end. Because the ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict is only a temporary solution to the conflict.

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Iran unveils new negotiation strategy

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Image source: Tehran Times

While the West is pressuring Iran for a return to the Vienna nuclear talks, the top Iranian diplomat unveiled a new strategy on the talks that could reset the whole negotiation process. 

The Iranian parliament held a closed meeting on Sunday at which Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian briefed the lawmakers on a variety of pressing issues including the situation around the stalled nuclear talks between Iran and world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Iranian foreign ministry didn’t give any details about the session, but some lawmakers offered an important glimpse into the assessment Abdollahian gave to the parliament.

According to these lawmakers, the Iranian foreign ministry addressed many issues ranging from tensions with Azerbaijan to the latest developments in Iranian-Western relations especially with regard to the JCPOA. 

On Azerbaijan, Abdollahian has warned Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev against falling into the trap set by Israel, according to Alireza Salimi, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s presiding board who attended the meeting. Salimi also said that the Iranian foreign minister urged Aliyev to not implicate himself in the “Americans’ complexed scheme.”

In addition to Azerbaijan, Abdollahian also addressed the current state of play between Iran and the West regarding the JCPOA.

“Regarding the nuclear talks, the foreign minister explicitly stated that the policy of the Islamic Republic is action for action, and that the Americans must show goodwill and honesty,” Salimi told Fars News on Sunday.

The remarks were in line with Iran’s oft-repeated stance on the JCPOA negotiations. What’s new is that the foreign minister determined Iran’s agenda for talks after they resume. 

Salimi quoted Abdollahian as underlining that the United States “must certainly take serious action before the negotiations.”

In addition, the Iranian foreign minister said that Tehran intends to negotiate over what happened since former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA, not other issues. 

By expanding the scope of negotiations, Abdollahian is highly likely to strike a raw nerve in the West. His emphasis on the need to address the developments ensuing the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 could signal that the new government of President Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi is not going to pick up where the previous government left. 

This has been a major concern in European diplomatic circles in the wake of the change of administrations in Iran. In fact, the Europeans and the Biden administration have been, and continue to be, worried about two things in the aftermath of Ayatollah Raisi taking the reins in Tehran; one is he refusing to accept the progress made during six rounds of talks under his predecessor Hassan Rouhani. Second, the possibility that the new government of Ayatollah Raisi would refuse to return to Vienna within a certain period of time. 

With Abdollahian speaking of negotiation over developments since Trump’s withdrawal, it seems that the Europeans will have to pray that their concerns would not come true. 

Of course, the Iranian foreign ministry has not yet announced that how it would deal with a resumed negotiation. But the European are obviously concerned. Before his recent visit to Tehran to encourage it into returning to Vienna, Deputy Director of the EU Action Service Enrique Mora underlined the need to prick up talks where they left in June, when the last round of nuclear talks was concluded with no agreement. 

“Travelling to Tehran where I will meet my counterpart at a critical point in time. As coordinator of the JCPOA, I will raise the urgency to resume #JCPOA negotiations in Vienna. Crucial to pick up talks from where we left last June to continue diplomatic work,” Mora said on Twitter. 

Mora failed to obtain a solid commitment from his interlocutors in Tehran on a specific date to resume the Vienna talk, though Iran told him that it will continue talks with the European Union in the next two weeks. 

Source: Tehran Times

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