Tag Archives: Middle East

Getting Others To Untie the Knot, by Patrick Armstrong

Only time will tell, but this may prove an astute analysis of President Trump’s foreign policy goals. It certainly offers a fair amount of food for thought. From Patrick Armstrong at theburningplatform.com:

President Trump is a new phenomenon on the American political scene. Not a professional politician begging for funds but a rich man who spent his own money and raised money on his own name: he arrived in office unencumbered with obligations. Free from a history in politics, he owes nothing to anyone. Add in his personality, grandiosity and late-night tweets and the punditocracy is in a state of angry incomprehension. Even more offensive to their notions of propriety is that this “dangerously incompetent“, unqualifiedmentally ill man beat the “most qualified presidential candidate in history“. No wonder so many of them believe that only cunning Putin could have made it happen – even if they don’t know how. But the punditocracy is as befuddled about him today as it was last year and the year before. (Scott Adams, who got it right, reminds us just how clueless they were.) The very fact that Trump won despite the opposition of practically every established constituency in the United States shows that there is more to him than readers of the NYT and WaPo or watchers of CNN and MSNBC (can) understand.

What follows is an attempt to divine Trump’s foreign policy. It proceeds from the assumption that he does know what he’s doing (as he did when he decided to run in the first place) and that he does have a destination in mind. It proceeds with the understanding that his foreign policy intentions have been greatly retarded by the (completely false) allegations of Russia connections and Russian interference. There was no Russian state interference in the election (the likelihood is that Moscow would have preferred known Clinton) and, as I have written here, the story doesn’t even make sense. I expect when the Department of Justice Inspector General completes his report that the Russiagate farrago will be revealed as a conspiracy inside the US security organs. We do not have a date yet, but mid-January is suggested. Readers who want to follow the story are recommended to these websites:DystopiausaCTH and Zerohedge.

To continue reading: Getting Others To Untie the Knot

Advertisements

Saudi-Israeli Friendship Is Driving the Rest of the Middle East Together, by Federico Pieraccini

Saudi Arabia and Israel may find themselves the odd men out in the Middle East. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:

Through its top official, Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia continues a wave of internal arrests, having seized nearly $800 billion in assets and bank accounts. A few days later, MBS attempted to demonstrate his authority by summoning Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Saudi Arabia, where he was forced to resign on Saudi state TV. Trump tweeted support for Bin Salman’s accusations against Iran and Hezbollah, and the future Saudi king even obtained Israel’s secret support. Iran, meanwhile, denies any involvement in Lebanon’s domestic affairs or involvement with the ballistic missile launched by Houthi rebels towards Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport a few days ago. Meanwhile, Trump, Putin and Xi met recently and seem to have decided the fate of the region in an exercise of realism and pragmatism.

News that upends the course of events has now become commonplace over the last few months. However, even by Middle East standards, this story is something new. The affair surrounding Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hariri generated quite a bit of commotion. Hariri had apparently been obliged to announce his resignation on Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya news channel while being detained in Riyadh. His most recent interview seemed to betray some nervousness and fatigue, as one would expect from a person under enormous stress from forced imprisonment. In his televised resignation statement, Hariri specified that he was unable to return to Lebanon due to some sort of a threat to his person and his family by operatives in Lebanon of Iran and Hezbollah. The Lebanese security authorities, however, have stated that they are not aware of any danger faced by Hariri.

In an endless attempt to regain influence in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has once again brought about results directly opposite to those intended. Immediately after receiving confirmation that the resignation had taken place in Saudi Arabia, the entire Lebanese political class demanded that Hariri return home to clarify his position, meet with the president and submit his resignation in person. Saudi actions have served to consolidate a united front of opposition factions and paved the way for the collapse of Saudi influence in the country, leaving a vacuum to be conveniently filled by Iran. Once again, as with Yemen and in Syria, the intentions of the Saudis have dramatically backfired.

To continue reading: Saudi-Israeli Friendship Is Driving the Rest of the Middle East Together

Russia’s Arms Sales to Middle East Countries Spike to Record-High Levels, by Andrei Akulov

There’s a vendor in the Middle East arms bazaar who has technology as good or better  than the US’s, at lower prices. That total orders from all vendors have tripled in two years is cause for concern, at least for those who concerned with peae. From Andrei Akulov at strategic-culture.org:

Russia’s Arms Sales to Middle East Countries Spike to Record-High Levels

Dubai Airshow 2017, one of the largest and most successful air shows in the world, ended on Nov.16, having drawn over 79,000 trade visitors, up around 20% over the last version of the event in 2015. The total order tally is $113.8 billion in orders. It nearly tripled from the $37.2 billion signed two years ago.

Russia’s exposition at the Dubai Airshow 2017 included the combat helicopter Ka-52, multi-mission fighter MiG-29M, Su-35 supermaneuverable air defense fighter, Be-200 multipurpose amphibious aircraft, combat-transport helicopter Mi-35M, long-range air defense system S-400 Triumph, and short-range air defense missile system Pantsir–S1. The ‘Russian Knights’ aerobatic demonstration team performed extraordinary stunts riding through the skies to greatly impress spectators.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is interested in procuring the Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role fighter. The country is considering the purchase of 10 or more of such aircraft. The UAE and Russia signed a letter of intent on the purchase of Su-35 fighter jets in Feb. 2017. The talks are in progress. The Emirates will be the second country after China to buy the plane.

The UAE has already purchased Russian ground weapons, such as BMP-3 infantry combat vehicles and Pantsir S1 air-defense systems. In February, the Emirates entered into military contracts with Russia worth $1.9 billion. The deal includes 5,000 anti-armor missiles in addition to training and logistic support. The UAE started talks with Rostec company on the development of light fighter based on the MiG-29 twin-engine aircraft with development set to kick off in 2018.

The military cooperation with the UAE is a good example to illustrate the increasingly growing demand for Russian weapons in the Middle East. Orders from Arab countries account for roughly 20 percent of Russian weapons’ exports. Last year, Russia delivered more than $1.5 billion in arms to Algeria, $37 million to Egypt, $374 million to Iran and $300 million to Iraq. Today, the Russia’s portfolio of weaponry orders from the countries of the region is $8 billion. In 2017, the Russian defence industry has been making major inroads in the Middle East and North Africa. Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia are interested in purchasing Russian weapon systems.

To continue reading: Russia’s Arms Sales to Middle East Countries Spike to Record-High Levels

Reining in the Rogue Royal of Arabia, by Patrick J. Buchanan

The US needs to tell Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince, that if starts wars he’d better be able to end them, because he’ll be on his own. Unfortunately, that isn’t what the US has told him with regards to Yemen. From Patrick J. Buchanan at buchanan.org:

If the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has in mind a war with Iran, President Trump should disabuse his royal highness of any notion that America would be doing his fighting for him.

Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, the 32-year-old son of the aging and ailing King Salman, is making too many enemies for his own good, or for ours.

Pledging to Westernize Saudi Arabia, he has antagonized the clerical establishment. Among the 200 Saudis he just had arrested for criminal corruption are 11 princes, the head of the National Guard, the governor of Riyadh, and the famed investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

The Saudi tradition of consensus collective rule is being trashed.

MBS is said to be pushing for an abdication by his father and his early assumption of the throne. He has begun to exhibit the familiar traits of an ambitious 21st-century autocrat in the mold of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Yet his foreign adventures are all proving to be debacles.

The rebels the Saudis backed in Syria’s civil war were routed. The war on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, of which MBS is architect, has proven to be a Saudi Vietnam and a human rights catastrophe.

The crown prince persuaded Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE to expel Qatar from the Sunni Arab community for aiding terrorists, but he has failed to choke the tiny country into submission.

Last week, MBS ordered Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Riyadh, where Hariri publicly resigned his office and now appears to be under house arrest. Refusing to recognize the resignation, Lebanon’s president is demanding Hariri’s return.

After embattled Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at its international airport, Riyadh declared the missile to be Iranian-made, smuggled into Yemen by Tehran, and fired with the help of Hezbollah.

The story seemed far-fetched, but Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the attack out of Yemen may be considered an “act of war” — by Iran. And as war talk spread across the region last week, Riyadh ordered all Saudi nationals in Lebanon to come home.

To continue reading: Reining in the Rogue Royal of Arabia

Is This The Geopolitical Shift Of The Century? by Cyril Widdershoven

Russia is skillfully playing its cards and amassing influence in the Middle East and Northern Africa. From Cyril Widdershoven at oilprice.com:

Putin

The geopolitical reality in the Middle East is changing dramatically.

The impact of the Arab Spring, the retraction of the U.S. military, and diminishing economic influence on the Arab world—as displayed during the Obama Administration—are facts.

The emergence of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish triangle is the new reality. The Western hegemony in the MENA region has ended, and not in a shy way, but with a long list of military conflicts and destabilization.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Russia shows the growing power of Russia in the Middle East. It also shows that not only Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also Egypt and Libya, are more likely to consider Moscow as a strategic ally. 

King Salman’s visit to Moscow could herald not only several multibillion business deals, but could be the first real step towards a new regional geopolitical and military alliance between OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and Russia. This cooperation will not only have severe consequences for Western interests but also could partly undermine or reshape the position of OPEC at the same time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is currently hosting a large Saudi delegation, led by King Salman and supported by Saudi minister of energy Khalid Al Falih. Moscow’s open attitude to Saudi Arabia—a lifetime Washington ally and strong opponent of the growing Iran power projections in the Arab world—show that Putin understands the current pivotal changes in the Middle East.

U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and even the UAE, have shown an increased eagerness to develop military and economic relations with Moscow, even if this means dealing with a global power currently supporting their archenemy Iran. Analysts wonder where the current visit of King Salman will really lead to, but all signs are on green for a straightforward Arab-Saudi support for a bigger Russian role in the region, and more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas markets.

To continue reading: Is This The Geopolitical Shift Of The Century?

 

 

“Putin Is The New Master Of The Middle East”, by Tyler Durden

American ineptitude created an opening in the Middle East for Vladimir Putin, of which he has taken full advantage. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

With the Trump administration lately focused mostly on domestic policy – even as Mueller’s ongoing Russian probe continues to hang over Trump’s head – US power and influence in the Middle East has found itself in retreat, a continuation of unsuccessful and/or failed policies implemented by the Obama administration, resulting in a power vacuum that has to be filled, and one country has emerged willing to take America’s spot.

As Bloomberg writes today, “the Israelis and Turks, the Egyptians and Jordanians – they’re all beating a path to the Kremlin in the hope that Vladimir Putin, the new master of the Middle East, can secure their interests and fix their problems.”

And now, none other than Saudi Arabia is the latest to make friendly overtures toward the Kremlin, when Saudi King Salman visits Moscow on Wednesday, the first monarch of the oil-rich kingdom to do so. At the top of his agenda will be reining in Iran, a close Russian ally seen as a deadly foe by most Gulf Arab states.

As Bloomberg concedes, until very recently, Washington stood alone as the go-to destination for such leaders. Now, however, “American power in the region is perceptibly in retreat” a testament to the success of Russia’s military intervention in Syria, which has not only succeeded in squashing the local Islamic State threat, but kept President Bashar al-Assad in power after years of U.S. insistence that he must go.
“It changed the reality, the balance of power on the ground,” said Dennis Ross, America’s former chief Mideast peace negotiator who advised several presidents from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama. “Putin has succeeded in making Russia a factor in the Middle East. That’s why you see a constant stream of Middle Eastern visitors going to Moscow.”

Welcome to the Post-American World, by Tom Engelhardt

America looks everywhere for the causes of its decline…except in the mirror. An excellent analysis from Tom Engelhardt at tomdispatch.com:

Pardon Me!
High Crimes and Demeanors in the Age of Trump

Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet’s indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours.

We were the sole superpower, Earth’s hyperpower, its designated global sheriff, the architect of our planetary future.  After five centuries of great power rivalries, in the wake of a two-superpower world that, amid the threat of nuclear annihilation, seemed to last forever and a day (even if it didn’t quite make it 50 years), the United States was the ultimate survivor, the victor of victors, the last of the last.  It stood triumphantly at the end of history.  In a lottery that had lasted since Europe’s wooden ships first broke out of a periphery of Eurasia and began to colonize much of the planet, the United States was the chosen one, the country that would leave every imperial world-maker from the Romans to the British in its shadow.

Who could doubt that this was now our world in a coming American century beyond compare?

And then, of course, came the attacks of 9/11.  A mere $400,000 and 19 suicidal hijackers (mostly Saudis) armed with box cutters and organized from Afghanistan, a country plunged into an Islamic version of the Middle Ages, had challenged the greatest power of all time.  In the process, they would bring down iconic structures in what would soon be known to Americans as “the homeland,” while killing almost 3,000 innocent civilians, acts so shocking that they really did change the world.

Yet even then, a fervor for world-organizing triumphalism only took firmer hold in Washington.  The top officials of President George W. Bush’s administration almost instantly saw the 9/11 attacks as their very own “Pearl Harbor,” the twenty-first-century equivalent of the moment that had launched the U.S. on the path to post-World War II superpowerdom.  As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld instantly told his aides in the rubble of the Pentagon, “Go massive.  Sweep it all up.  Things related and not.”  And indeed they would do just that, seizing the moment with alacrity and promptly launching the “Global War on Terror” — aka, among the cognoscenti, World War IV (the third, in their minds, having been the Cold War).

To continue reading: Welcome to the Post-American World