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Russia- China military alliance: The Middle East impact

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Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, image by the Presidential Press and Information Office, the Kremlin, via Wikipedia

The first real Israeli response came after Russian President Putin has invaded the cities of (Lugansk and Donetsk in the Donbass region) in Ukraine, on Monday, February 21, 2022, at an official request from the Israeli government to the Russian side to (protect Jewish citizens in  Ukraine and Israel’s request for Russia’s help to evacuate Jewish and Israeli citizens residing in Ukraine in the event of a war). The features of the Israeli plan to evacuate the Jews of Ukraine in accordance with the principle of the right of return for Jews around the world, as well as the Israelis residing in Ukraine, by evacuating them via land routes, with Israel’s request for a number of legal and security guarantees from the capital “Moscow” to “open humanitarian corridors”. Despite the previous Israeli attempts to “mediate between the Russian and Ukrainian parties, to achieve a balance between them”, but, Israeli officials have failed to achieve any kind of rapprochement with the Kremlin in this matter.

   The most important fears in the Middle East in general are that these developments regarding the Russian recognition of the cities of “Lugansk and Donetsk” in the “Donbas region” of Ukraine, as two independent countries, may lead to the escalation and growth of security threats, which will negatively affect Ukrainian wheat exports to the region, which constitutes “the greatest threat to global food security”, especially since most of the Ukrainian regions producing grains and vegetable oils are in (the eastern side of Ukraine), which is the most threatening and targeted side by Russia more than others, especially after the recognition of “Lugansk and Donetsk” as two independent countries,  Which may pave the way for an escalation of the conflict and the possibility of a possible Russian attack. Expectations indicate that Egypt, as an important country in the Middle East, has sufficient wheat reserves for five months.

  Here, the most prominent repercussions of the Ukraine and Russia crisis in the event of a war between them on Egypt and the countries of the Middle East will be mainly economic, as Ukraine has come to be called the “breadbasket of Europe”, with the heavy dependence of the Middle East countries heavily on Ukraine to a level that some warn from its dangerous height in the event of war. The most important consequences of this Ukrainian-Russian conflict for Egypt and the Middle East are, as follows:

   Note that allies and partners in the Middle East are not important in efforts to deter Russia from invading Ukraine. They may be willing to help out on the sidelines. Here, “Qatar” can divert gas supplies from long-term contracts in Asia to the European market in the event of war between Russia and Ukraine, considering that the “Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates” can work to (reduce pressure on oil prices in the event of war, and Israel can continue to pass messages  to the Kremlin to urge a halt to the escalation between the two sides of the conflict), according to what Israel itself announced.

   But, the public silence of all those countries in this crisis speaks of the need to point and consider the analysis with (the reality of the new geopolitics of the Middle East). Russia has become a player in the region and has partially filled the void left by the USA. According to some US allies, Moscow appears “more confident than Washington”. There is no room to get around this basic trade-off, given the fact that a resurgent China and an aggressive Russia require more from the USA.

  Perhaps US President “Joe Biden” will resort to easing his pressure on the countries of the Middle East, instead of asking his partners and allies in the region to take a clear public stance.  This goes beyond statements and condemnations about Ukraine. Washington may be forced to (compromise with Saudi policies), and with the Saudi Crown Prince, “Mohammed bin Salman”, especially if “Biden” needs to resort to the Saudi side to reduce the price of oil.

  Accordingly, Biden may be forced to adopt a new realistic policy to achieve his interests, through (a policy of abandoning pressure on Saudi Arabia and the UAE to end their war in Yemen, and making room to support their efforts to deter the Iranian-backed Houthi militia). Here, the United States of America may have to continue giving Israel freedom of action in dealing with Iran’s regional subversion even with the Biden’s return to the nuclear agreement with Iran.

  It may also be (American cooperation with Egypt in “Gaza and Libya” is a priority for the United States of America over its demands on President “Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi” with regard to human rights and democracy files), and other internal affairs.

  We will note the extent to which the Ukrainian-Russian crisis revealed (the significant decline in the role of the United States in the Middle East), which was evident in that crisis, despite the official silence from Arab political regimes to comment on this crisis, but my analysis and general vision of the current scene in  The region, perhaps referring to (the bias of a large number of Arab countries to the Russian side and its Chinese ally, which they consider to have provided them with a strong alternative or partners that can be relied upon in the future), especially in light of these international changes taking place.

  My analysis of the Ukrainian crisis and its repercussions on the Middle East after the gradual retreat of the United States of America from the region, has enabled me to note that Washington’s allies and partners in the Middle East, even if they are sympathetic to Ukraine and committed to the United States, but at the same time, we can understand that the (Middle East countries aren’t ready to take any hostile, negative or inflammatory stances against Moscow).

  Here, to understand the extent of change for Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, which is “Israel”. In mid-January 2022, the United States of America and Israel held a round of strategic consultations. The Israeli focus was on (Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the extent to which Iran and Russia exploited the Ukraine crisis and the world’s preoccupation with it, to threaten Israel’s interests in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, as a punishment for Israel as a trust ally from Washington), at a time when attempts by Washington and its European allies began fiercely salvaging the 2015 agreement with Iran that former President “Trump” canceled.

  Most notably to me, is that while the Biden administration is lobbying to oppose Moscow’s pressure tactics against “Kiev”, the US-Israeli consultation did not mention any consultations regarding the impact of the Ukraine crisis on Israel. In fact, since the start of the reinforcement of Russian forces since 2020, Israel has adhered to a policy of continuous silence, with the exception of an offer by Prime Minister “Naftali Bennett” to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, an idea that Moscow has flatly rejected.

  In my opinion, I see that the situation for the Israelis is that their calculations are not different from before, despite their strong dependence on the United States of America. The existential threat to Israel is still Iran. The only Israeli fear of the Ukrainian crisis is (the policy of Russian and Iranian indirect punishment of Israel, considering “Tel Aviv” a close security and diplomatic partner to Washington), that both Russia and Iran will open several pressure fronts on Israel, with the presence of (numerous enemies on Israel’s borders). According to the analyzes of the Israeli think tanks, the Israeli fear here is that Israel’s enemies will exploit the Ukraine crisis with Russia, to increase their rapprochement with Iran, as Iranian agents in confronting Israel. The most prominent of the Israeli enemies here, are: (Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Iranian militias that control it  Iran in Syria).

  Here, we will notice that the impact of the Ukrainian-Russian crisis on the Israeli side is represented in the Israeli fear of its enemies, “Israel” exploiting the crisis, which Israel calls the “war between wars” theory, in order to prevent the transfer of advanced Iranian missiles and guidance systems through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon and may thwart the (attempts of the Iranian-backed militias to open another front with Israel in the Golan Heights).

  The Russian military presence in Syria makes Israel more of a player in this conflict than the United States of America, which maintains a limited force in eastern Syria to fight “ISIS”, but has left Israel to fend for itself in the rest of the country.

 The only way that Israel can continue its repeated air attacks on Iranian targets in Syria is if the “Russian Air Force” agrees to Israel’s use of Syrian airspace.

  Therefore, we can explain the reasons for the repeated visits by Israeli former Prime Minister “Benjamin Netanyahu”, which amounted to ten visits to Russia between 2015 and 2020, in order to secure the cooperation of the Russian President and to ensure that the operations of the Russian and Israeli air forces in Syria will not  get in the way of each other. Likewise, once “Naftali Bennett” became prime minister in 2021, he wasted no time in reaffirming those arrangements on a visit to the Kremlin in October 2021.

  But in January 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that (Russian and Syrian planes conducted a joint patrol over the Syrian Golan Heights occupied by Israel, and that these patrols will continue). This was a (symbolic warning shot) by Russia and Syria to “Israel”, that if “Putin” wanted, he could easily end the Israeli military operations in Syria. If Israel is considering openly siding with the United States on Ukraine, Moscow has indicated that there will be a heavy strategic price to pay.

   The United States of America is trying to follow a new global mechanism and spread it around the world regarding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, especially with the American keenness to issue repeated warnings of an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine. The United States is publishing “secret information” about Russian moves in an unprecedented way.  But, the analyzes indicate that the United States does not care in the first place that its information on this current crisis appears in “transparent and more open”, but the truth is that what Washington is doing is nothing but a “new form of war”.

  All media analyzes refer to all US advertisements and statements to publish detailed information about Russia’s moves and attempts to mislead the media, as part of its preparations to attack Ukraine, despite Moscow’s denial of its intention to attack it.

  It may not be a coincidence that (the Russian intervention in Syria in September 2015, occurred a year after the attack on eastern Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea). The Russian move in Syria was not just a consolidation of its traditional influence there, but rather revealed a new dynamic in the Russian role militarily in the face of Western influence.

 Here, the Russian side, at the height of this global interest in the Ukrainian crisis, announced that it had conducted several (naval exercises in the Mediterranean, and the transfer of bombers and aircraft equipped with hypersonic missiles to the Russian air base in Syria). This is one of the indicators that the (Middle East and North Africa region) represents a piece of a global chessboard around which the roles and the struggle for influence between the major powers are attracting.

  After extending almost complete Russian influence in Syrian territory, whether through its military forces or through (Wagner mercenaries), we note Moscow’s direction after that towards North Africa and the sub-Saharan region, through the deployment of thousands of (Wagner elements), to become a major player in the Libyan crisis and in the conditions of a number of (West and Central African countries).

 The impact of the crisis on the countries of the region will be largely related to the nature of the scenarios according to which the current crisis may develop.  Experts draw different scenarios for the outcome of the open power struggle between the West and Russia, ranging between the (scenarios of a widely or limited war, a scenario of continuation of severe tension, and a scenario of the crisis heading towards détente based on a temporary or long-term settlement).

  If the expansion of Russian influence in the region occurred during a period in which the influence of European countries witnessed a decline, especially (France and Italy), it also coincided with the direction of the United States to (re-arrange its priorities in the world and reduce its role in the region, towards focusing mainly on China as an enemy).

  The most important thing remains for us, (analyzing the potential impact of Russia’s military campaigns and its penetrations into the spheres of influence of the traditional Europe and the United States, all influential Western powers to reconsider their calculations), and even the extent to which this could lead to the restoration of the Middle East region to its place in the American strategy?

   If this happens, it may start from a Western perspective, by closing some of the “strategic gaps” that have appeared in the last few years in the relations of traditional allies of the United States, such as: (Egypt and Saudi Arabia), which have opened large channels of military and economic cooperation with Russia. We can notice that, Russian-Egyptian exchanges recorded a growth of 10% during 2021, and Russia regained its presence as a (main supplier of arms to Egypt).

  In what appears to be a shift in the position of the “Biden’s administration”, due to the fear of the Russian war against Ukraine and the American role to prevent this and defend Ukraine, (Washington raised its reservations about major arms deals to Saudi Arabia and the UAE), after the two Gulf states were under the pressure of the (Yemen war), and the conflict with Iran has opened channels of military cooperation with Russia and China, which do not set preconditions before concluding arms deals.  Which is considered an attractive factor for the tendency of a large number of Arab countries to (request support from “Putin”, in the face of Western pressures or popular and internal security entitlements).

  The North African region, which includes (Tunisia and Morocco), that considered mainly as allies of Washington, has maintained its position within the arrangements established during the administration of former President “Trump”, in particular, after (the strengthening of military cooperation agreements with Morocco and Tunisia as major non-NATO allies), which confirmed that the extent to which the United States can benefit from them is at the heart of the American strategic interest in the African continent as an area of ​​heated competition with China and Russia, which is the same trend that President “Joe Biden” supported.

  Based on the previous analysis, here the Ukrainian crisis could contribute to “strengthening the American alliance and coordination with North African countries during the coming period”, depending on the state of momentum that has been achieved between American and European allies within “NATO” in the face of China and Russia. In addition to continuing to rely on partnership with traditional regional allies, led by (Israel and Turkey).

  We can observe new elements in the conflict, which are (derived from technological and cyber developments and a new type of conflict tools that are not limited to conventional and strategic weapons, including nuclear ones and by virtue of their qualitative impact on the nature of the conflict, they give the cconfrontation of an unconventional character this time).  Strategists are considered that (it’s new generations of wars and conflicts).

  Hence, the repercussions of the Ukrainian crisis on the countries of the regions of North Africa and the Middle East are not only related to the nature of the interests that link the countries of the region to the parties to the conflict, i.e. Russia, Ukraine, then the United States and Europe, but (they are dynamic interests, not only by virtue of interaction and change in relations, but also  due to the emerging and evolving nature of the tools of influence in those relations).

  The great developments in the crisis between the West and Russia have shown once again (the importance of the strategic position occupied by Ukraine as a sensitive area of ​​contact between Russia on the one hand and Europe and the rest of the “NATO” member countries), and many other countries on the other hand.

  Here we can analyze the extent (the competitive role that Ukraine can play as a main source of basic foodstuffs), such as: (grains, oils, and meat), which Ukraine exports to a large number of Arab countries, which depend on wheat imports through the “Black Sea”, which in turn is in the heart of  Military tension.

  It is expected that grain prices will increase by 20%, and the outbreak of war in Ukraine may lead to two things, first: a rise in oil prices in the world, which in turn will affect food prices, and consequently the costs of sea and land transportation within countries will rise, second: this will lead to a rise in wheat and grain prices in general, because Russia and Ukraine control a large amount of grain imports in the world, so grain prices will rise by no less than 20%, unlike the increase in oil prices, which can also reach 20%, so prices will be affected  internally and externally.

  And we will note that the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine will affect Egypt’s import of grain from Ukraine, because (in the event of war, all the ports of Ukraine will be closed, so it is expected that transportation costs will rise), especially with ships having to impose a risk allowance in areas where there are wars, and therefore, the end result is higher import costs for wheat.

  The outbreak of war will (negatively affect the Egyptian import of grains such as wheat and maize for fodder and edible oils, which will affect Egypt’s strategic stock), because the strategic stock of Egypt is one third in stores, one third on boats at sea, and one third in contracts, so one third of the contracts will be affected until the problem of contracting contracts with Ukraine is resolved if war breaks out.

 Perhaps, it will become (the alternative plan for Egypt in the event of the outbreak of war, is to move to France, given that it is the closest facilities exporting wheat, and then Australia, then we will resort to distant facilities such as Canada, the United States and Brazil), given that the mother of wheat in these countries is much better in the quality of wheat in Russia and Ukraine, because Russian and Ukrainian wheat is less than international prices by 10%, because its types are lower than American, Australian and French wheat, but this difference will increase wheat prices, in addition to increasing the price of oil if war breaks out.

  Knowing that Ukraine and Russia’s wheat exports represent about 23% of the volume of global exports, and world food prices are currently approaching their highest levels in 10 years, and the two countries’ market share means that (any disturbances in exports may cause a rise in grain prices  in Egypt and the region).

 According to “USDA data”, the Middle East is considered (the third largest buyer of wheat from Ukraine) was between 2020/2021, and more than 40% of Ukraine’s wheat exports were destined for the Middle East or African markets alone.

  It was one of the most important consequences of the rise in the prices of some commodities, especially in Egypt, because (Egypt imports a group of strategic food commodities from the Ukrainian side, especially wheat, as Egypt imports 13 million tons of wheat annually from Russia and Ukraine together), and Egypt also imports from Ukraine also produce corn, barley and soybeans, as well as edible oil, iron and steel and its products.

  Expectations indicate that (the prices of some of these commodities will rise by 20%, due to the outbreak of a war between Russia and Ukraine, in contrast to the increase in global oil prices), with its effects on Egypt and the countries of the region.

  Here, the “International Monetary Fund’s expectations” indicate that (energy costs and commodity prices in many countries, including Egypt) will rise in the event of a conflict.

 There are fears that the impact of the conflict on the Middle East may be much worse, especially as it is a conflict between two of the world’s major suppliers of grain, which will have a (negative impact on prices, while there is already a feeling of shortage of wheat globally and in countries  Middle East and Egypt).

 We note that the countries in the Middle East that consume the most wheat, are: (Lebanon, Libya and Egypt), which are considered among the largest importing countries of wheat from Ukraine in the region, there are some other countries, such as: (Yemen and Syria) are depending on the (World Food Program’s purchases) of Ukrainian wheat as a aid.

  We understand, through the previous analysis, the extent of the impact of the development of the Ukrainian crisis and the Russian-Chinese support in the face of “NATO” and its prominent members in the West and the United States of America.  And perhaps this is what the former US National Security Adviser, “Zbigniew Brzezinski”, expressed about the danger behind the potential alliance and the policies pushing towards it, when he explicitly asserted that: “the worst scenario that the United States could be exposed to, is the formation of a large defense and security alliance between China and Russia”. The US policy against Russia and China, which is now pursued by the current US leadership of President “Joe Biden”, and expresses the current prevailing trend of the US administration, is pushing Russia and China to achieve this scenario, which is considered the (worst case for the United States of America).

Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit

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‘Protracted political impasse’ further polarizing Libya

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Libya continues to struggle to recover from conflict and insecurity. UNOCHA/Giles Clarke

Despite UN efforts, political, economic and security deadlock continues in Libya, the UN political affairs chief told the Security Council on Thursday, adding that human rights there have also deteriorated.

“We are concerned that the protracted political impasse is having an increasingly negative impact on security,” said Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo.

“A coordinated and constructive effort is required to prevent further polarization and end the political stalemate.”

Commendable progress

Last week, UN Special Advisor Stephanie Williams convened a second round of consultations of the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and High State Council, in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, reviewing a reformed constitution for a democratic way forward for the country, the 2017 Constitutional Draft.

The delegations reached agreement in several areas, including basic rights and freedoms; the structure and powers of a two-tier new parliament; and the prerogatives of the President and Prime Minister.

Under UN auspices, members will reconvene on 11 June for a final round to reach consensus on finalizing constitutional arrangements to hold key national elections – delayed from last December – as soon as possible.

The Special Adviser also met Presidency Council members, who expressed their intention to continue working on a national reconciliation process with UN and African Union support.

‘Fragile’ security

While the 2020 ceasefire continues to hold, Ms. DiCarlo stated that the security situation “remains fragile”.

She drew attention to clashes in the capital on 17 May, following the recent political crisis which began in March, which saw the eastern parliament select a new government. The incumbent UN and internationally-backed Prime Minister however, refused to stand aside.

The parliamentary choice for the top job, Fathi Bashagha, entered Tripoli backed by armed groups, leading to skirmishes with supporters of incumbent Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah.

One militant died, a policeman was injured and several buildings were damaged.

Following mediation by local actors and outreach by military representatives, from the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC), Mr. Bashagha was escorted out of Tripoli.

“While fighting has ceased, the situation remains tense. Tripoli-based armed groups supporting either Mr. Dbeibah or Mr. Bashagha remain in a state of high alert,” the political chief said.

Positive note

She reported that the JMC’s eastern and western delegations met on Monday and Tuesday in Spain for the first time since the end of February.

After discussions with the 5+5 Commission, the Special Adviser said that the members expressed their readiness to resume negotiations over the Ceasefire Agreement implementation.

Meanwhile, the reluctance of the Government of National Unity (GNU) to pay the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) salaries for the first quarter of this year – the military wing of the rival eastern administration – triggered the closure of several oil fields and ports, “cutting the country’s daily oil output in half,” Ms DiCarlo told ambassadors.

However, following Special Adviser Williams’ intercession with the GNU, the outstanding salaries were paid. Mr. Dbeibah confirmed that he would authorize regular monthly payments.

“Oil production, however, has yet to return to normal,” she added.

Rights concerns

The human rights situation in Libya remains a source of great concern, Ms. DiCarlo told the Council, elaborating on a new wave of youth arrests for alleged crimes against “Libyan culture and values”.

And restrictions persist on the work of civil society organisations, including women’s rights groups accused of violating “the principles and values of Libyan society.”

Special Adviser Williams visited mass graves in Tarhouna and met with families of victims who disappeared between 2012 and 2020.

“The perpetrators of these horrific crimes have yet to be brought to justice,” said Ms. DiCarlo, shining a light on the “highly precarious” situation of internally displaced people.

Equally worrying are the continued campaigns of mass arrests and detention – in inhumane conditions – of undocumented foreign nationals and migrants in the western region.

Resolving differences

“It is imperative that the ceasefire in Libya be maintained, calm preserved and any steps that could result in renewed violence be avoided,” the political chief underscored.

She stressed the need for all parties to uphold their commitment to “the peaceful resolution of political differences” and for political and security actors to “look beyond their personal interests and continue to engage constructively” in upcoming talks supporting the electoral/constitutional track.

“This is the only way to fulfil the aspirations of the Libyan people to select their representatives through the ballot box,” Ms. DiCarlo said, maintaining that the UN would “spare no effort” to support Libyans in building “a stable and peaceful country.”

Staunch allies

The Under-Secretary-General flagged the importance of the Council’s support, which she described as “invaluable in keeping a political process alive”.

Meanwhile, a coordinated and constructive effort is required to prevent further polarization and end the political stalemate.

During a time of “aggravated global turmoil,” she upheld that unity in the Council and the international unity on peace in Libya is “especially important”.

“It is what Libyans deserve. It is what the world needs,” concluded Ms. DiCarlo.

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Israel admits involvement in the killing of an Iranian army officer

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Image credit: MEHR News Agency

Col. Sayad Khodayee, 50, was fatally shot outside his home in Tehran on Sunday when two gunmen on motorcycles approached his car and fired five bullets into it, according to state media. Iran has blamed Israel for the killing, which bore the hallmarks of other Israeli targeted killings of Iranians in a shadow war that has been playing out for years on land, sea, air, and cyberspace.

Although a spokeswoman for the Israeli prime minister declined to comment on the killing. But according to an intelligence official briefed on the communications, Israel has informed American officials that it was behind the killing.

At the funeral in Tehran for a colonel in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, thousands of mourners packed the streets around the cemetery chanting “Death to Israel” and calling for revenge for his killing.

“We will make the enemy regret this and none of the enemy’s evil actions will go unanswered,” Gen. Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards, said in a speech on Monday. A member of Iran’s National Security Council, Majid Mirahmadi, said the killing was “definitely the work of Israel,” and warned that harsh revenge would follow, according to Iranian media.

The United States has designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group unilaterally — a decision that has been a sticking point in the negotiations with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran has demanded that the designation be removed as a condition for restoring the deal, but the United States has refused, leaving the negotiations frozen. The Nuclear deal was terminated by President Trump, but President Joe Bidden wanted to resume the deal and is in communication with Iran for restoration. Definitely, Iran had bitter experiences and concerns about the sincerity of Washington. It wanted safeguards and certain guarantees. Iran is willing to such a nuclear deal, which protects the interest of both sides, any unilateral deal may not be accepted by Tehran.

Israel is openly opposed to the nuclear deal. In fact, President Trump, after meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, took the unpopular decision of terminating the deal unilaterally. Some Iranian analysts close to the government said the attack was aimed at derailing the nuclear talks at a delicate point and undermining any possibility that Iran and the United States might reach a consensus over the issue of the Guards.

However, the Israelis told the Americans the killing was meant as a warning to Iran to halt the operations of a covert group within the Quds Force known as Unit 840, according to the intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information. Whereas, Iran has portrayed the colonel as a martyred hero who joined the Revolutionary Guards as a teenager, volunteered as a soldier in the Iran-Iraq war, and went on to play a prominent role in the Quds force fighting the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria. The people of Iran are proud of his contributions.

What so ever is the justification presented by Israel, is a clear violation of international laws and practices. It has violated the UN charter and all norms of the civilized world. It might bear consequences, and Iran’s warning to retaliate is legitimate as a victim has not been provided justice yet. The aggressor needs to be taught a bitter lesson to avoid any future misadventure.

It has created new tension in the region and many speculations are roaming in the middle-east. Iran is a sovereign state and has the legitimate right to protect its safety, security, and vital interests. Iran has the capability to react, but, the visionary leadership in Tehran, might be waiting for an appropriate time, and opportunity. Iran does not want to escalate further and trying to minimize the existing tension, while committed to safeguarding its sovereignty and interests.

As matter of fact, Israel is the root cause of all problems in the Middle East and since its inception is over-engaged creating problems one after another. It is a defaulter of the UN and denied the implementation of several resolutions passed by the UNSC. It strongly urged that the UN and the International community must keep eye on Israeli activities and atrocities that are spoiling the peace and security of the whole region.

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Playing games in NATO, Turkey eyes its role in a new world order

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erdogan

NATO’s spat over Turkish opposition to Swedish and Finnish membership is about more than expanding the North Atlantic military alliance. It’s as much about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s immediate political goals as Turkey’s positioning itself in a new 21st-century world order.

On its surface, the spat is about Turkish efforts to hinder support for Kurdish ethnic, cultural, and national aspirations in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq and a crackdown on alleged supporters of a preacher who lives in exile in the United States. Turkey accuses the preacher, Fethullah Gulen, of instigating a failed military coup in 2016.

The spat may also be a play by NATO’s second-largest standing military to regain access to US arms sales, particularly upgrades for Turkey’s aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets as well as more advanced newer models of the F-16 and the top-of-the-line F-35.

Finally, playing the Kurdish card benefits Mr. Erdogan domestically, potentially at a time that the Turkish economy is in the doldrums with a 70 per cent inflation rate.

“Erdogan always benefits politically when he takes on the Kurdistan Workers Party (the PKK) and groups linked to it, like the YPG in Syria… In fact, attacking the PKK and the YPG is a two-for-one. Erdogan is seen to take on genuine terrorists and separatists, and at the same time, he gets to take a swipe at the United States, which taps into the vast reservoir of anti-Americanism in Turkey,” said Middle East scholar Steven A. Cook.

While important issues in and of themselves, they are also likely to influence where Turkey will rank as the world moves towards a bi-polar or multi-polar power structure.

The battle over perceived Scandinavian, and mainly, Swedish support for Kurdish aspirations involves the degree to which the United States and Europe will continue to kick the can down on the road of what constitutes yet another Middle Eastern powder keg.

Mr. Erdogan announced this week that Turkey would soon launch a new military incursion against US-backed Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria. Mr. Erdogan said the operation would extend the Turkish armed forces’ areas of control in Syria to a 30-kilometer swath of land along the two countries’ shared border.

“The main target of these operations will be areas which are centers of attacks to our country and safe zones,” the Turkish president said.

Turkey asserts that the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian militia that helped defeat the Islamic State, is an extension of the PKK. The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey, home to some 16 million Kurds. Turkey, the United States, and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Mr. Erdogan charges that Sweden and Finland give the PKK sanctuary and is demanding that the two countries extradite the group’s operatives. Turkey has not officially released the names of 33 people it wants to see extradited, but some were reported in Turkish media close to the government.

Swedish media reported that a physician allegedly on the list had died seven years ago and was not known to have had links to the PKK. Another person named was not resident in Sweden, while at least one other is a Swedish national.

Swedish and Finnish officials were in Ankara this week to discuss Turkey’s objections. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson insisted as the officials headed for the Turkish capital that “we do not send money or weapons to terrorist organizations.”

Conveniently, pro-government media reported the day the officials arrived that Turkish forces found Swedish anti-tank weapons in a cave in northern Iraq used by the PKK. Turkey recently launched Operation Claw Lock against PKK positions in the region.

Mr. Erdogan’s military plans complicate Swedish and Finnish accession to NATO. The two Nordic states slapped an arms embargo on Ankara after its initial incursion into Syria in 2019. The Turkish leader has demanded the lifting of the embargo as part of any deal on Swedish and Finnish NATO membership.

A renewed incursion that would cement Turkey’s three-year-old military presence in Syria could also throw a monkey wrench into improving relations with the United States due to Turkish support for Ukraine and efforts to mediate an end to the crisis sparked by the Russian invasion.

Turkey slowed its initial incursion into Syria after then US President Donald J. Trump threatened to “destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy.

The State Department warned this week that a renewed incursion would “undermine regional stability.”

Revived US arms sales would go a long way to cement improved relations and downplay the significance of Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile system, even if Turkey’s opposition to Scandinavian membership will have a lingering effect on trust. The United States expelled Turkey from its F-35 program in response to the acquisition.

This week, Mr. Erdogan appeared to widen the dispute in NATO after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis lobbied the US Congress against military sales to Turkey. “Mitsotakis no longer exists for me. I will never agree to meet him,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that Mr. Mitostakis’ lobbying violated an agreement between the two men “not to involve third countries in our bilateral issues.”

The US arms sales would also impact Turkish Russian relations, even if Turkey, in contrast to most NATO members, will continue seeking to balance its relationships and avoid an open rift with Moscow or Washington.

“Russia’s geopolitical revisionism is set to drive Turkey and the West relatively closer together in matters geopolitical and strategic, provided that Turkey’s current blockage of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bid is resolved in the not too distant future,” said Turkey scholar Galip Dalay.

Turkey’s NATO gamble is a game of high-stakes poker, given that Russia is as much a partner of Turkey as it is a threat.

NATO is Turkey’s ultimate shield against Russian civilizationalist expansionism. Russian support in 2008 for irredentist regions of Georgia and annexation of Crimea in 2014 created a buffer between Turkey and Ukraine and complicated arrangements between Turkey and Russia in the Black Sea.

Nevertheless, Mr. Erdogan risks fueling a debate about Turkey’s membership in NATO, much like Prime Minister Victor Orban’s opposition to a European embargo of Russian energy has raised questions about Hungary’s place in the EU.

“Does Erdogan’s Turkey Belong in NATO?” asked former US vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman and Mark D. Wallace, a former senator, in an oped in The Wall Street Journal. Unlike Finland and Sweden, the two men noted that Turkey would not meet NATO’s democracy requirements if it were applying for membership today.

“Turkey is a member of NATO, but under Mr. Erdogan, it no longer subscribes to the values that underpin this great alliance. Article 13 of the NATO charter provides a mechanism for members to withdraw. Perhaps it is time to amend Article 13 to establish a procedure for the expulsion of a member nation,” Messrs. Lieberman and Wallace wrote.

The two men implicitly argued that turning the tables on Turkey would force the complicated NATO member back into line.

Adding to that, prominent Turkish journalist and analyst Cengiz Candar cautioned that “giving into Ankara’s demands amounts to letting an autocrat design the security architecture of Europe and shape the future of the Western system.”

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