Nov 2017 The U.S. Middle East Peace Plan?

• No American or European on the face of this earth could force a Palestinian leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel that would be rejected by an overwhelming majority of his people.

• Trump’s “ultimate solution” may result in some Arab countries signing peace treaties with Israel. These countries anyway have no real conflict with Israel. Why should there not be peace between Israel and Kuwait? Why should there not be peace between Israel and Oman? Do any of the Arab countries have a territorial dispute with Israel? The only “problem” the Arab countries have with Israel is the one concerning the Palestinians.

• The question remains: how will the Saudis and the rest of the international community respond to ongoing Palestinian rejectionism and intransigence?

Last week Saudis (PA) Leader Abbas to Riyadh

Who said that Palestinians have no respect for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab countries? They do.

Palestinians have respect for the money of their Arab brethren. The respect they lack is for the heads of the Arab states, and the regimes and royal families there.

It is important to take this into consideration in light of the growing talk about Saudi Arabia’s effort to help the Trump Administration market a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East, the details of which remain intriguingly mysterious.

Last week, the Saudis unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh for talks on Trump’s “ultimate solution” for the Israeli-Arab conflict, reportedly being promoted by Jared Kushner.

According to unconfirmed reports, the Saudis pressured Abbas to endorse the Trump Administration’s “peace plan.” Abbas was reportedly told that he had no choice but to accept the plan or resign. At this stage, it remains unclear how Abbas responded to the Saudi “ultimatum.”

Last week, the Saudis unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh for talks on Trump’s “ultimate solution” for the Israeli-Arab conflict. Abbas was reportedly told that he had no choice but to accept the plan or resign. Pictured: Abbas on a previous visit to Saudi Arabia, on February 23, 2015, meeting with Saudi King Salman. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)

“ultimate solution”

If true, the Saudi “ultimatum” to Abbas is tantamount to asking him to sign his death warrant. Abbas cannot afford to be seen by his people as being in collusion with an American “peace plan” that does not comply completely with their demands. Abbas has repeatedly made it clear that he will not accept anything less than a sovereign Palestinian state on all the pre-1967 lands, including east Jerusalem. He has also emphasized that the Palestinians will never give up the “right of return” for millions of “refugees” to their former homes inside Israel. Moreover, Abbas has clarified that the Palestinians will not accept the presence of any Israeli in their future Palestinian state.

Abbas has done his dirty work well. He knows that he cannot come back to his people with anything less than what he promised them. He knows that his people have been radicalized to the point that they will not agree to any concessions or compromise with Israel.

And who is responsible for this radicalization? Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, who continue unendingly to tell their people through the media, discourse and mosques that any concession to Israel constitutes treason, pure and simple.

President Donald Trump meets with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

So it would be naïve to think that Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country would be able to strong-arm any Palestinian leader to accept a “peace plan” that requires the Palestinians to make concessions to Israel. Abbas may have much respect for the ambitious and savvy young crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. This respect, however, certainly stops at the border of the political suicide – and extreme personal risk — from Abbas’s point of view.

Abbas is now caught between two choices, both disastrous: On the one hand, he needs the political backing of his Arab brothers. This is the most he can expect from the Arab countries, most of whom do not give the Palestinians a penny. It is worth noting that, by and large, the Arab countries discarded the Palestinians after the PLO and Yasser Arafat openly supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Kuwait was one of several Gulf countries that used to provide the Palestinians with billions of dollars a year. No more.

Since then, the Palestinians have been almost entirely dependent on American and European financial aid. It is safe to assume, then, that the US and EU have more leverage with the Palestinians than most Arab countries.

Nevertheless, no American or European on the face of this Earth could force a Palestinian leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel that would be rejected by an overwhelming majority of his people.

Trump’s “ultimate solution” may result in some Arab countries signing peace treaties with Israel. These countries anyway have no real conflict with Israel. Why should there not be peace between Israel and Kuwait? Why should there not be peace between Israel and Oman? Do any of the Arab countries have a territorial dispute with Israel? The only “problem” the Arab countries have with Israel is the one concerning the Palestinians.

For now, it appears that the vast majority of Arab regimes no longer care about the Palestinians and their leaders. The Palestinians despise the Arab leaders as much as they despise each other. It is a mutual feeling. The Palestinians particularly despise any Arab leader who is aligned with the US. They do not consider the US an honest broker in the Israeli-Arab conflict. The Palestinians, in fact, view the US as being “biased” in favor of Israel, regardless of whether the man sitting in the Oval Office is a Democrat or Republican.

The Saudi crown prince is viewed by Palestinians as a US ally. His close relations with Jared Kushner are seen with suspicion not only by Palestinians, but by many other Arabs as well. Palestinian political analysts such as Faisal Abu Khadra believe that the Palestinian leadership should prepare itself to face the “mysterious” Trump “peace plan.” They are skeptical that the plan would meet the demands of the Palestinians.

The Palestinians appear to be united in rejecting the Trump Administration’s effort to “impose” a solution on them. They are convinced that the Americans, with the help of Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries, are working towards “liquidating” the Palestinian cause. Abbas and his rivals in Hamas now find themselves dreading the US administration’s “peace plan.”

Like lemmings drawn to the sea, the Palestinians seem to be marching towards yet another scenario where they “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The question remains: how will the Saudis and the rest of the international community respond to ongoing Palestinian rejectionism and intransigence?

Original Source: Date-stamped: 2017, November, 13. | Time-stamped: 5:00 am | Author: Bassam Tawil | Article Title:The U.S. Middle East Peace Plan? | Article Link: gatestoneinstitute.org
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Islamic One-Way Street

♦ Extremist Muslims’ understanding of freedom is a one-way street: Freedoms, such as religious rights, are “good” and must be defended if they are intended for Muslims — often where Muslims are in minority. But they can simply be ignored if they are intended for non-Muslims — often in lands where Muslims make up the majority.

♦ Many Muslim countries, apparently, already have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.

♦ Look at Saudi Arabia. Deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

♦ Given the state of non-Muslim religious and human rights, and the sheer lack of religious pluralism in most Muslim countries, why do Muslim nations suddenly become human rights champions in the face of a ban on travel to the U.S.?

♦ Meanwhile, Muslims will keep on loving the “infidels” who support Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands, while keeping up intimidation of the same “infidels” in their own lands.

President Donald Trump’s executive order of January 27, 2017, temporarily limiting entry from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days, until vetting procedures can be put in place — has caused international controversy, sparking protests both in the Western and Islamic worlds, including in increasingly Islamist Turkey.

HYPOCRISY

This article does not intend to discuss whether Trump’s ban is a racist, illegal order, or a perfectly justified action in light of threatened American interests. The ban, right or wrong, has once again unveiled the hypocrisy of extremist Muslims on civil liberties and on what is and what is NOT racist. Extremist Muslims’ understanding of freedom is a one-way street: Freedoms, such as religious rights, are “good” and must be defended if they are intended for Muslims — often where Muslims are in minority. But they can simply be ignored if they are intended for non-Muslims — often in lands where Muslims make up the majority.

Muslims have been in a rage across the world. Iran’s swift and sharp answer came in a Tweet from Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who said that the ban was “a great gift to extremists.” A government statement in Tehran said that the U.S. travel restrictions were an insult to the Muslim world, and threatened U.S. citizens with “reciprocal measures.” Many Muslim countries, apparently, already have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.

SUDAN

Sudan, host and supporter of various extremist Muslim terror groups including al-Qaeda, said the ban was “very unfortunate.” In Iraq, a coalition of paramilitary groups called on the government to ban U.S. nationals from entering the country and to expel those currently on Iraqi soil.

TURKEY

In Turkey where the extremist Islamic government is unusually soft on Trump’s ban — in order not to antagonize the new president — a senior government official called the order “a discriminative decision.” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said:

“Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that rising Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant feelings have a great weight on this decision. Taking such a decision in a country such as America, where different ethnic and religious groups are able to co-exist, is very offensive.”

The ruling party’s deputy chairman, Yasin Aktay, called the ban “racist,” and said: “This is totally against human rights, a big violation of human rights.” Aktay also said that he had started to “worry about the future of the U.S.”

Turkey’s top Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, praised the Americans who rushed to the airports to protest the ban. “[This] is very important. It gives us hope,” he said — presumably meaning that non-Muslim protestors will continue to advocate for Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands.

Turkish government bigwigs and the top Islamic authority seem not to have heard of their own country’s dismal human rights record when it comes to non-Muslim minorities. Most recently, Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches noted in a report that hate speech against the country’s Christians increased in both the traditional media and social media. It said that hate speech against Protestants persisted throughout 2016, in addition to physical attacks on Protestant individuals and their churches.

GLOBAL

Nevertheless, the Islamist’s one-way sympathy for human rights (for Muslims) and his one-way affection for discrimination (against non-Muslims) is not just Turkish, but global. What is the treatment of non-Muslim (or sometimes even non-extremist Muslim) visitors to some of the Muslim cities and sites in the countries that decry Trump’s “racist,” and “discriminative” ban that “violates human rights?”

In a 2016 visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Muslim custodians of the site did not allow entry to this author, despite the Turkish passport submitted to them, saying “you do not look Muslim enough.” And Muslims now complain of “discrimination?” Incidentally, Al Aqsa Mosque is, theoretically at least, open to visits from non-Muslims, except on Fridays.

Look at Saudi Arabia. Deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In 2013, the Saudi Minister of Justice, Mohamed el-Eissi, insisted that “the cradle of the Muslim sanctities will not allow the establishment of any other places of worship.”

The Saudi ban on other religious houses of worship comes from a Salafi tradition that prohibits the existence of two religions in the Arabian Peninsula. In the Saudi kingdom, the law requires that all citizens must be Muslims; the government does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion; and the public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited.

In Iran, where even non-Muslim female visitors must wear the Islamic headscarf, the government continues to imprison, harass, intimidate and discriminate against people based on religious beliefs. A 2014 U.S. State Department annual report noted that non-Muslims faced “substantial societal discrimination, aided by official support.” At the release of the report, then Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Sadly, the pages of this report that are being released today are filled with accounts of minorities being denied rights in countries like Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, many others”.

In Iran, marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized unless the husband produces proof that he has converted to Islam. The mullahs’ government does not ensure the right of citizens to change or renounce their religious faith. Apostasy, specifically conversion from Islam, can be punishable by death. In 2013, 79 people from religious minorities were sentenced to a total of 3,620 months in prison, 200 months of probation, 75 lashes and 41 billion rials in fines [approximately $1.3 million].

QUESTIONS

That being the state of non-Muslim religious and human rights, and the sheer lack of religious pluralism in most Muslim countries, why do Muslim nations suddenly become human rights champions in the face of a ban on travel to the U.S.? Why, for instance, does Turkey never criticizes the extreme shortcomings of freedoms in the Muslim world but calls the U.S. ban “racist?”

Why does the Iranian government think that Trump’s ban is a “gift to the [Muslim] extremists?” In claiming that travel bans would supposedly fuel extremism, how come Iran does not think that its own persecution of religious minorities is a “gift” to non-Muslims?

Such questions will probably remain unanswered in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, Muslims will keep on loving the “infidels” who support Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands, while keeping up intimidation of the same “infidels” in their own lands.

Extremist Muslims'
by Burak Bekdil
February 24, 2017 at 5:00 am https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9935/extremist-muslims
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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Russia’s Trap: Luring Sunnis into War

World War Three WWIII feature

• Washington should think more than twice about allowing Turkey and Saudi Arabia, its Sunni allies, militarily to engage their Shiite enemies in Syria. Allowing Sunni supremacists into a deeper sectarian war is not a rational way to block Russian expansion in the eastern Mediterranean. And it certainly will not serve America’s interests.

• Turkey and Saudi Arabia are too weak militarily to damage Russia’s interests. It is a Russian trap — and precisely what the Russians are hoping their enemies will fall into.

After Russia’s increasingly bold military engagement in war-torn Syria in favor of President Bashar al-Assad and the Shiite bloc, the regional Sunni powers — Turkey and its ally, Saudi Arabia — have felt nervous and incapable of influencing the civil war in favor of the many Islamist groups fighting Assad’s forces.

Most recently, the Turks and Saudis, after weeks of negotiations, decided to flex their muscles and join forces to engage a higher-intensity war in the Syrian theater. This is dangerous for the West. It risks provoking further Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria, and sparking a NATO-Russia confrontation.

After Turkey, citing violation of its airspace, shot down a Russian Su-24 military jet on Nov. 24, Russia has used the incident as a pretext to reinforce its military deployments in Syria and bomb the “moderate Islamists.” Those are the Islamists who fight Assad’s forces and are supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Russian move included installing the advanced S-400 long-range air and anti-missile defense systems.

Fearing that the new player in the game could vitally damage their plans to install a Sunni regime in Damascus, Turkey and Saudi Arabia now say they are ready to challenge the bloc consisting of Assad’s forces, Russia, and Shiite militants from Iran and Lebanon.

As always, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke in a way that forcefully reminded Turkey-watchers of the well-known phrase: Turkey’s bark is worse than its bite. “No one,” he said on Feb. 9, “should forget how the Soviet forces, which were a mighty, super force during the Cold War and entered Afghanistan, then left Afghanistan in a servile situation. Those who entered Syria today will also leave Syria in a servile way.” In other words, Davutoglu was telling the Russians: Get out of Syria; we are coming in. The Russians did not even reply. They just kept on bombing.

Will direct military involvement in Syria by Turkey and Saudi Arabia spark a NATO-Russia confrontation? Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then prime minister), meeting in Istanbul on December 3, 2012. Image source:kremlin.ru

Turkey keeps threatening to increase its military role in Syria. Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan pledged that Turkey will no longer be in a “defensive position” over maintaining its national security interests amid developments in Syria. “Can any team,” he said, “play defensively at all times but still win a match? … You can win nothing by playing defensively and you can lose whatever you have. There is a very dynamic situation in the region and one has to read this situation properly. One should end up withdrawn because of concerns and fears.”

Is NATO member Turkey going to war in order to fulfill its Sunni sectarian objectives? And are its Saudi allies joining in? If the Sunni allies are not bluffing, they are already giving signals of what may eventually turn into a new bloody chapter in the sectarian proxy war in Syria.

First, Saudi Arabia announced that it was sending fighter jets to the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, where U.S. and other allied aircraft have been hitting Islamic State strongholds inside Syria. Saudi military officials said that their warplanes would intensify aerial operations in Syria.

Second, and more worryingly, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Saudi Arabia could engage in ground operations inside Syria. He also said that the two countries had long been weighing a cross-border operation into Syria — with the pretext of fighting Islamic State, but in fact hoping to bolster the Sunni groups fighting against the Shiite bloc — but they have not yet made a decision.

In contrast, Saudi officials look more certain about a military intervention. A Saudi brigadier-general said that a joint Turkish-Saudi ground operation in Syria was being planned. He even said that Turkish and Saudi military experts would meet in the coming days to finalize “the details, the task force and the role to be played by each country.”

In Damascus, the Syrian regime said that any ground operation inside Syria’s sovereign borders would “amount to aggression that must be resisted.”

It should be alarming for the West if Turkey and Saudi Arabia, two important U.S. allies, have decided to fight a strange cocktail of enemies on Syrian territory, including Syrian forces, radical jihadists, various Shiite forces and, most critically, Russia — all in order to support “moderate” Islamists. That may be the opening of a worse disaster in Syria, possibly spanning over the next 10 to 15 years.

The new Sunni adventurism will likely force Iran to augment its military engagement in Syria. It will create new tensions between Turkey-Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government. It may also spread and destabilize other Middle Eastern theaters, where the Sunni bloc, consisting of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, may have to engage in new proxy wars with the Shiite bloc plus Russia.

Washington should think more than twice about allowing its Sunni allies militarily to engage their Shiite enemies. This may be a war with no winners but plenty of casualties and collateral damage. Allowing Sunni supremacists into a deeper sectarian war is not a rational way to block Russian expansion in the eastern Mediterranean. And it certainly will not serve America’s interests.

Turkey with Saudi Arabia are too weak militarily to damage Russia’s interests. It is a Russian trap — and precisely what the Russians are hoping their enemies will fall into.

February 16, 2016 | by Burak Bekdil | gatestoneinstitute.org "Russia's Trap: Luring Sunnis into War"
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World War III Could Start This Month

World War Three WWIII feature

Three-hundred fifty thousand soldiers, 20,000 tanks, 2,450 warplanes and 460 military helicopters are massing in northern Saudi Arabia for a military exercise that is being called “Northern Thunder.”

Turkey after a recent shelling. The Syrian Kurds are not threatening Turkey in any way right now, but Turkey is using the instability in the region as an excuse to lob artillery shells at a hated enemy. Reuters

According to the official announcement, forces are being contributed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Sudan, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia and several other nations. This exercise will reportedly last for 18 days, and during that time the airspace over northern Saudi Arabia will be closed to air traffic. This will be the largest military exercise in the history of the region, and it comes amid rumors that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are preparing for a massive ground invasion of Syria.

If you were going to gather forces for an invasion, this is precisely how you would do it. Governments never come out and publicly admit that forces are moving into position for an invasion ahead of time, so “military exercises” are a common excuse that gets used for this sort of thing.

If these exercises are actually being used as an excuse to mass forces near the northern Saudi border, then we should expect an invasion to begin within the next couple of weeks. If it happens, we should expect to see the Saudi coalition storm through western Iraq and into Syria from the south, and it is likely that Turkey will come in from the north.

The goal would be to take out the Assad regime before Russia, Iran and Hezbollah could react. For the past couple of years, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies have been funding the Sunni insurgency in Syria, and they were counting on those insurgents to be able to take down the Assad regime by themselves.

You see, the truth is that ISIS was never supposed to lose in Syria. Saudi Arabia and her allies have been funneling massive amounts of money to ISIS, and hundreds of millions of dollars of ISIS oil has been shipped into Turkey where it is sold to the rest of the world.

The major Sunni nations wanted ISIS and the other Sunni insurgent groups to take down Assad. In the aftermath, Saudi Arabia and her allies intended to transform Syria into a full-blown Sunni nation.

But then Russia, Iran and Hezbollah stepped forward to assist the Assad regime. Russian air support completely turned the tide of the war, and now the Sunni insurgents are on the brink of losing.

Aleppo was once the largest city in Syria, and Sunni insurgents have controlled it since 2012. But now relentless Russian airstrikes have made it possible for Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah ground forces to surround the city, and it is about to fall back into the hands of the Syrian government.

If this happens, the war will essentially be over.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies have invested massive amounts of time, money and effort into overthrowing Assad, and they aren’t about to walk away now.

If the war was to end right at this moment, a weakened Assad regime would remain in power, and Iran and Hezbollah would be the dominant powers in the country for years to come. And once Assad died, it would be inevitable that Iran and Hezbollah would attempt to transform Syria into a full-blown Shiite nation. This is something that Saudi Arabia and Turkey want to avoid at all costs.

So they are actually considering what was once absolutely unthinkable – a massive ground invasion of Syria.

But if Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies go in, they run the risk of a full-blown war with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Just consider some of the comments that we have seen in recent days …

Reacting to a potential troop deployment, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said Saturday, “Let no one think they can attack Syria or violate its sovereignty because I assure you any aggressor will return to their country in a wooden coffin.”

Pavel Krasheninnikov, a deputy of Russia’s State Duma, has warned Saudi Arabia that any military ground operation in Syria without Damascus’ consent would amount to a declaration of war, Press TV reported.

Walid al-Muallem

We could literally be looking at the spark that sets off Word War III. I can’t believe that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are actually considering this.

And if it does happen, you can rest assured that Barack Obama gave them the green light to go in.

Unfortunately, it sounds like the decision may have already been made. Just consider what Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is saying …

“If we have such a strategy, then Turkey and Saudi Arabia may launch a ground operation,” he added, fueling concerns that a foreign troop invasion may soon further complicate the already turbulent situation in the war-torn country.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE voiced their readiness to contribute troops for a ground operation in Syria on the condition that the US would lead the intervention. Damascus and its key regional ally, Iran, warned that such a foreign force would face strong resistance.

Mevlut Cavusoglu

And in addition to all of the forces massing in northern Saudi Arabia, the London Independent is reporting that the Saudis have sent troops and aircraft to a military base in Turkey…

Saudi Arabia is sending troops and fighter jets to Turkey’s Incirlik military base ahead of a possible ground invasion of Syria.

The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, confirmed the deployment in a statement to the Yeni Şafak newspaper on Saturday, days before a temporary ceasefire is due to come into force.

London Independent and Mevlut Cavusoglu

There are reports that Saudi officials are saying that the decision to send in ground troops is “irreversible”, and Reuters is reporting that the Syrian government claims that some Turkish troops have already entered the country …

The Syrian government says Turkish forces were believed to be among 100 gunmen it said entered Syria on Saturday accompanied by 12 pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, in an ongoing supply operation to insurgents fighting Damascus.

“The operation of supplying ammunition and weapons is continuing via the Bab al-Salama crossing to the Syrian area of Azaz,” the Syrian foreign ministry said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council published by state news agency SANA.

Reuters

Of course the Turkish government is not going to confirm that report, but what we do know is that Turkey is shelling Kurdish forces on the Syrian side of the border. The funny thing is that these Kurdish forces are actually being supported and supplied by the U.S. government.

So the Turks are not supposed to be doing this, but according to Reuters they have been doing it for two days in a row anyway …

The Turkish army shelled positions held by Kurdish-backed militia in northern Syria for a second day on Sunday, killing two fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Turkey on Saturday demanded the powerful Syrian Kurdish YPG militia withdraw from areas that it had captured in the northern Aleppo region in recent days from insurgents in Syria, including the Menagh air base. The shelling has targeted those areas.

Reuters

The hostility between Turkey and the Kurds goes back a long, long way.The Syrian Kurds are not threatening Turkey in any way right now, but Turkey is using the instability in the region as an excuse to lob artillery shells at a hated enemy. It is an act of naked aggression that the Obama administration should be loudly denouncing.

In addition, it is being reported that Syrian government forces have also been getting shelled by the Turkish military …

Anatolia news agency reported that the Turkish military hit Syrian government forces on Saturday, adding that the shelling had been in response to fire inflicted on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.

Turkish artillery targeted Syrian forces again late on Saturday, according to a military source quoted by RIA Novosti. The attack targeted the town of Deir Jamal in the Aleppo Governorate.

RIA Novosti

Needless to say, the Russians are quite alarmed by all of this.

In fact, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is warning about what could happen if things spiral out of control …

In the wake of Saudi Arabia’s proposal to send in ground troops on Thursday, the Russian Prime Minister claimed the move could spark a new world war.

“A ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper.

“The Americans and our Arab partners must consider whether or not they want a permanent war.”

Russian Prime Minister

If Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies launch an invasion and make a mad dash to take out the Assad regime in Damascus, the Russians will inevitably respond.

And if tactical nuclear weapons are necessary to keep the invading forces out of Damascus, the Russians will not be shy about using them.

I don’t know if I have ever seen a scenario which was more likely to initiate Word War III than the one that we are watching unfold right now.

So what has the mainstream media been saying about all of this?

Incredibly, they have been almost entirely silent. When he went looking for news about these events, James Bailey could find almost nothing on either Fox News or CNN …

I just visited the home page for Foxnews.com and found not one single mention of the insane events now unfolding in the Middle East. I could not believe it, so I used my Find tool to search for Syria and Saudi Arabia. Not one mention!

Of course that could change at any moment, but nothing there when I checked. Their stories were all about the meaningless Presidential election, which has already been decided regardless of what we think about it, and other stories about entertainment, sports, Congressional political theater, etc.

So I went to CNN and found just about the same thing with one news story about the Syrian cease fire, but when I read it there was no mention of any of the big events that have developed this week. This is truly an amazing media blackout!

James Bailey

But Fox News does have space to run headlines like these…

»»: Spanish man skipped work for 6 years, still got paid

»»: 48 people rescued from stuck tram cars at New Hampshire ski resort

»»: Lovelorn elephant takes out his rage on more than a dozen cars

And CNN apparently thinks that these news stories are more important than the potential beginning of Word War III …

»»: Kanye West drops album, says he’s $53 million in debt

»»: Dutch cops train eagles to hunt drones

»»: Teen hands out 900 flowers to girls at school

If Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies are going to conduct an invasion of Syria, the most likely time for this to happen will be by the end of this month during these military exercises.

If we can get to March 1st and no invasion has happened yet, perhaps we can breathe a little sigh of relief.

But if it does happen, and the Russians and the Iranians decide to shoot back, it really could be the start of Word War III.

If you have not been paying attention up until now, you need to start, because this could literally change everything. 

2016, Feb 16 | Michael Snyder | Solurce: charismanews.com "World War III Could Start This Month"
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Middle East Strategic Outlook, February

Map: Middle East feature

• The EU-Turkey agreement of 25 November, which provided Turkey with 3 billion euros over two years in order to stop the flow of refugees to Europe, has not achieved that goal. Speaking privately, EU officials complain that Turkey has not taken any concrete measures to reduce the flow of refugees. In our assessment, Turkey will continue to prevaricate on steps to stem the flow of refugees as pressure on the EU to give more concessions.

• During the coming year there will certainly be further terrorist attacks that will push European public opinion further to the right.

• We assess that Iran will continue in indirect channels with a parallel nuclear program, realized long before the 10-year target of the JCPOA.

• The demand for unification of Kurdistan — Iraqi and Syrian — will also begin to be heard. It is highly likely that Russia will take advantage of the trend and support the Kurds, effectively turning an American ally into a Russian one.

The announcement by the IAEA that Iran has fulfilled its obligations according to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has triggered “Implementation Day” and the removal of the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

The JCPOA, however, did not deal with Iran’s ballistic missile program, and the sanctions related to it are still nominally in force. These sanctions are minor and will not have any real effect on the Iranian missile program. The missile program will mature during this period and will include Ghadr missiles with ranges of 1,650-1,950 km, which may be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The question now is: whither the Iranian nuclear program? After the lifting of sanctions, and taking into account the impracticality of “snap-back” of sanctions, we assess that Iran will now initiate a parallel nuclear program.

This will, of course, be far slower than the program that was dismantled by the JCPOA, but it will be realized long before the 10-year target of the JCPOA. One possibility for Iran to continue its nuclear program is through North Korea.

The wording of the JCPOA is ambiguous on nuclear Iranian nuclear cooperation with other countries that are not a party to the agreement. North Korea could produce the whole chain of nuclear weapons and put it at Iran’s disposal in return for Iranian funding.

North Korea would certainly profit economically from such collaboration and would not risk further sanctions.

Such cooperation would be difficult to detect, and even if detected, may not reach the threshold of a material breach of the JCPOA.

The most immediate reward that Iran will receive is the release of frozen Iranian funds ($100-$150 billion).

In addition, Iran may now market oil stored offshore in tankers (about 50 billion barrels) and is preparing to increase its production by 500 thousand bpd (from 2.8 million bpd). It is doubtful that Iran can truly increase its production as planned. Even if it does, the addition of Iranian oil is likely to drive prices down even further, counterbalancing much of the potential profit.

Sanctions relief also is not a quick fix for the Iranian economy.

While it removes legal impediments for investment and business in Iran, the risks that Western companies will face due to residual non-nuclear sanctions (that may be enhanced and enforced by a future American administration), lack of government protection, corruption, and the weakness of the Iranian market cannot be removed by decree. Therefore, European banks and investors may not hurry to invest in Iran at the levels needed to jump-start the Iranian economy after years of sanctions.

The Iranian regime’s goal is not only to block the path to the reformists or reformist-minded, but also to the extremists on the right to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Such a balance could help the Iranian system maintain its “centrist” orientation and guarantee the continuity in the event of Khamenei’s death and the appointment of a new successor (or a triumvirate of several potential leaders).

It will also facilitate the eventual takeover of the regime by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) after the demise of Khamenei. The backing that the Guardian Council received from the Supreme Leader for the results of its vetting process, in the face of Rouhani’s condemnation of the disapproval of almost all reformists, is also indicative of the balance of power in the regime.

The Iranian seizure of two US Navy patrol boats on January 12 and the publication of drone pictures of a US Navy aircraft carrier underlined the sense of immunity that Iran has achieved.

These actions should be seen in the context of Iran’s attempt to change the rules of the game in the Persian Gulf, while testing the waters of American tolerance and sending to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States an indirect message that Iran is ready and willing to risk conflict with the US and that the US is a paper tiger that cannot be relied upon in a confrontation between the Gulf States and Iran.

In our assessment, Iran will continue with shows of force such as seizing of naval vessels of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, stop and search operations of commercial vessels en route to the Gulf States, naval exercises — including missile tests close to Gulf sea-lanes and to the territorial waters of the Gulf States — in international waterways that implicitly interrupt and threaten shipping in the Gulf, “spooking” of Gulf aircraft and even false flag operations of mining, piracy or attacks by proxies in the Gulf and the Red Sea along the Yemeni coast.

We may expect as a result possible frontier skirmishes on the shared littoral borders of Iran and Saudi Arabia, gas fields and disputed islands and in the international waters of the Gulf.

The Iranian seizure of two US Navy patrol boats on January 12 underlined the sense of immunity that Iran has achieved.

Saudi Arabia is drawing up its own map of interests and areas of influence that it is projecting as “no-go zones” for Iran — a Saudi “Monroe Doctrine” for the region.

The most critical of these are:

Yemen (due to the potential for threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Straits), subversion in the Gulf States (primarily Bahrain), the Strait of Hormuz and the international waters of the Gulf.

To this list one must add the obvious: any Iranian-inspired or -planned attack on the Saudi homeland itself — government facilities, oil installations etc. — would be perceived as crossing a red line.

While neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran is interested in direct conflict, and both would prefer to continue to work through proxies and in areas outside their respective sovereign territories, the dynamic nature of the situation can easily lend itself to misreading of such red lines and such miscalculation may lead to direct confrontation between them.

While all-out direct war between Iran and Saudi Arabia remains a low probability, this assessment should be revisited again in the near future.

In Syria, American positions have undergone a strategic shift that reflects the new balance of power created by the Russian intervention.

On the military side, the Russian presence imposes a heavy constraint on the American activities, and U.S. officials caution that the success of the Ramadi operation will not be followed by a concerted effort to roll back the “Islamic State” in the Syrian theater.

In regards to a political solution, the US has accepted the Russian-Iranian four-point-plan that envisages Bashar al-Assad remaining in office during a transition period and being allowed to run for President in “internationally supervised elections”.

In our assessment, the Syrian opposition and their Arab supporters cannot accept any blueprint that would leave any doubt regarding Bashar al-Assad relinquishing power before any process begins.

These developments will only feed the sense of the Sunni Arabs that the United States has turned its back on them and is supporting Iranian-Russian hegemony in the region.

On this background, the prospects that the Syrian “peace talks” in Geneva will achieve any progress towards resolution or even mitigation of the civil war are close to nil.

Last month’s visit by Chinese President Xi Jin Ping to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran was the first such visit of a Chinese President in the region since 2002, and the first foreign head of state to visit Iran since the announcement of “Implementation Day” of the JCPOA.

The Chinese emphasis in all the visits was on economic cooperation, development and stability, but above all — in an implicit stab at the US and Russia — emphasizing that China does not seek proxies, to fill a power vacuum or hegemony in the region.

The leitmotif of the visit was the integration of the Middle Eastern partners (i.e. the Arabs in general and Iran) into China’s “Belt and Road Initiative.”

In spite of the inclusion of Iran in the visit, President Xi took care not to offend the Arabs.

The agreements with Saudi Arabia included nuclear cooperation in a scope far greater than that which was offered to Iran, and the joint statement reflected the Saudi position on Yemen, stating, “both sides stressed support for the legitimate regime of Yemen.”

The “Arab Policy Paper” published on the eve of the visit stresses China’s commitment to “non-intervention and opposition to interference in the affairs of other countries”.

This is seen by the Arab policy communities as a sign of implicit Chinese support for their position vis-à-vis Iran’s activities in the region, though they would have welcomed more explicit statements of support.

There is no expectation in the region that China is going to play the “Big Power” card in the region. Taking sides in this conflict would be out of character for China.

Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states will attempt to convince China to refrain from demonstrations of rapprochement with Iran and to support the Arab positions vis-à-vis Iranian provocations in the Gulf, Syria and Yemen.

While China may show a slight implicit leaning towards the Arab position on these issues, it is not likely to take a clear anti-Iranian/pro-Arab position in the near future.

The European Union-Turkey agreement of 25 November, which provided Turkey with 3 billion euros over two years in order to stop the flow of refugees to Europe, has not achieved that goal.

Speaking privately, EU officials complain that Turkey has not taken any concrete measures to reduce the flow of refugees.

In our assessment, Turkey will continue to prevaricate on steps to stem the flow of refugees as pressure on the EU to give more concessions.

Turkey has already signaled that the sum will not suffice for the task of maintaining the refugees inside Turkey alone, and certainly not for other security measures such as blocking the border with Turkey to prevent passage to and fro of “Islamic State” foreign fighters.

Aside from the 3 billion euros, the EU commitments will also not be easily implemented; visa waivers for Turkish citizens in general will encounter massive opposition within the EU.

The road to Turkish accession to the EU must also go through complex negotiations on various aspects of compatibility of Turkey to the standards of the EU.

All these discussions will encounter a veto by Cyprus, pending a peace deal with Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. This veto may be resolved if a referendum on unification of Cyprus takes place and supports reunification later this year.

However, the real obstacle towards Turkish accession is not technical or due to the Cyprus question; it revolves around the shift in European public opinion towards absorption of immigrants from Muslim countries.

During the coming year, there will certainly be further terrorist attacks that will push European public opinion further to the right. Under these circumstances, Turkish accession or even visa waiver will be very unlikely.

In our assessment, the trend towards Kurdish independence will eventually lead to an independent Iraqi Kurdistan.

The events in Syrian Kurdistan will also affect the pace and direction of the independence movement in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Unification of the parts of Syrian Kurdistan in the face of Turkish opposition and under Russian protection will give impetus to the demand to create a political fait accompli of independence in Iraqi Kurdistan.

As the principle of Kurdish independence in Iraq gains more and more support and becomes a reality, the irredentist demand for unification of Kurdistan — Iraqi and Syrian — will also begin to be heard.

This is the fulfillment of the Kurdish nightmare that Turkey has always feared.

With the deterioration of relations between the AKP government and the Turkish Kurds inside Turkey, such a political reality of independent Kurdistan will add fire to the flames of the Kurdish rebellion in southern Turkey.

It is highly likely that Russia will take advantage of the trend and support the Kurds, effectively turning an American ally into a Russian one. If this happens, the US will have lost an important potential ally in the new map of the Middle East.

The large number of players on the ground that may take a part in the campaign for Mosul will only complicate the campaign further and — if the city or part of it is retaken, will increase the chances of internal fighting between the components of the ad-hoc alliance of Iraqi government forces, Shiite militias, Sunni militias, Kurdish Peshmarga, Turks and American forces.

On this background, the Syrian “Peace Talks” in Geneva started (29 January) as “proximity talks” in which the UN representatives shuttle between the rooms of the opposing parties.

The Saudi supported High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of the Syrian opposition ceded their original conditions — cessation of the attacks on civilians — though they refuse to meet with the regime representatives while the latter refuse to meet with “terrorists”.

The Syrian regime representation is low-level as an indication that there is no intention to hold real negotiations. Furthermore, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose military wing, the YPG, is the most effective fighting force on the ground against the “Islamic State,” were not included in the opposition delegation because of the Turkish threat to boycott the Geneva negotiations if it participates.

Under these conditions, the prospects that the talks will achieve any progress towards resolution or even mitigation of the civil war are close to nil.

February 7, 2016 | by Shmuel Bar | gatestoneinstitute.org "Middle East Strategic Outlook, February"
Dr. Shmuel Bar is a senior research fellow at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy studies at the Technion in Haifa, Israel, and a veteran of Israel’s intelligence community.
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World Watch List – Country Profiles

Open Doors Logo (01) feature

World Watch List 2016: Released

The list showing the countries where Christians are persecuted most, has just been released. Resources will be available from 1 February.

The countries listed below make up the current World Watch List – a yearly ranking of the top 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the most intense. Click on a country to read about its current situation.

Source: World Watch List – Country Profiles

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Iran Taking Over Latin America

“This is a matter of life or death. I need you to be an intermediary with Argentina to get help for my country’s nuclear program. We need Argentina to share its nuclear technology with us. It will be impossible to advance with our program without Argentina’s cooperation.” – Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

According to Venezuelan informants, whitewashing Iran’s accused from the AMIA attack was only a secondary objective in its outreach to Argentina. The primary objective was to gain access to Argentina’s nuclear technology and materials — a goal Iran has for more than three decades.

During the last 32 years, Iran has achieved a resounding success in promoting an anti-US and anti-Israel message in Latin America. Its state-owned television network, HispanTV, broadcasts in Spanish 24 hours a day, seven days a week in at least 16 countries throughout the region.

The lifting of sanctions and influx of billions of dollars as a result of Iran’s nuclear deal will undoubtedly help Iran in Latin America, where many countries face economic turmoil and can use an Iranian “stimulus.”

While Latin America is often regarded as a foreign policy backwater for the United States, it is the geopolitical prize for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

During the last couple months, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been playing a political tug of war over Latin America. On November 10, 2015, Iran’s deputy foreign minister held a private meeting with ambassadors from nine Latin American countries to reaffirm the Islamic Republic’s desire to “enhance and deepen ties” with the region. This was followed by similar statements from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Tehran later that month.

The same day, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, presided over a South American-Arab world summit in Riyadh. FM al-Jubeir, while Ambassador to the United States in 2011, had himself been the target of an Iranian-Latin American assassination plot.

The message of the Saudi summit was clear: An Arab rapprochement with South American countries will increase Iran’s isolation in the world.

Unfortunately for the House of Saud, in South America, they are more than thirty years behind their Persian rivals.

After the 1979 revolution, the leaders of the newfound Islamic Republic of Iran sought to change their country and the world. In 1982, Iran held an international conference of the Organization of Islamic Movements, bringing together over 380 clerics from some 70 countries around the world, including many from Latin America.1)Alberto Nisman cited this OLM meeting in Iran in both his 2006 official indictment on the AMIA attack, as well as his 2013 dictum on Iran’s expanding terrorist networks throughout South America. The purpose of this conference was to export their revolution abroad.

The next year, in 1983, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) carried out their first major international terrorist operation: the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. This act led to the withdrawal of multinational forces from Lebanon. That same year, Iran began funding and training Hezbollah in Lebanon. 1983 is also the year the Islamic Republic began its covert operations in Latin America.

On August 27,1983, the first Iranian operative to land in Latin America touched down in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mohsen Rabbani was not just any operative, but one of Iran’s most highly trained and dedicated intelligence officers.2)For a more detailed description of Mohsen Rabbani and his role in the 1994 AMIA attack, please see the full English translation of the 2006 indictment against Iran from the Investigations Unit of the Office of the Attorney General in Argentina. Latin American intelligence officials have since dubbed him “the terrorist professor.”

Rabbani spent more than a decade in Argentina, creating the conditions that would allow one of Hezbollah’s biggest terrorist attacks be carried out with complete impunity: the bombing, on July 18, 1994, of the AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. The attack, by a suicide bomber who drove a truck packed with explosives into the AMIA building, killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. This was not even Argentina’s first encounter with Islamic terrorism; two years earlier, on March 17, 1992, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was also bombed.

Many of the Iranian officials who helped Rabbani carry out the AMIA attack are still important political players in the Islamic Republic. Ahmad Vahidi, who founded the feared, elite Qods Force of the IRGC and was recently the country’s Defense Minister, was prominently named in the official AMIA indictment by the Investigations Unit of the Office of the Attorney General of Argentina. Mohsen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayti, both presidential candidates in the 2013 Iranian elections, are also prominently named in the same indictment by Argentine authorities.3)Interpol’s Executive Committee did not issue a Red Notice on Ali Akbar Velayti because he was the Iranian Foreign Minister at the time of the AMIA attack.

During the last 32 years, Iran has achieved a resounding success in promoting an anti-US and anti-Israel message in Latin America. Iran’s state-owned television network, HispanTV, broadcasts in Spanish 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in at least 16 countries throughout the region.

Formally, Iran has also doubled the number of its embassies in Latin America — from six in 2005 to eleven today.

Informally, according to U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), Iran has established more than 80 Islamic cultural centers promoting Shi’a Islam throughout Latin America. The number represents more than a 100% increase from 2012 when, according to estimates by USSOUTHCOM, Iran only controlled 36.4)Please see 2012 posture statement by Gen. Douglas M. Fraser and the 2015 posture statement by Gen. John F. Kelly before the House Armed Services Committee to see USSOUTHCOM estimates on Iranian-controlled Islamic cultural centers in Latin America.

Most importantly, however, Iran has established an unprecedented military and intelligence footprint that extends from Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of Argentina, up to the Rio Grande, bordering the United States. Iran is active in every country in Latin America.

The lack of transparency, political corruption, high levels of crime and violence — and the growing anti-American and anti-Jewish attitudes in Latin America — enable Iran to enjoy its success. Due to the efforts of a handful of regional governments seeking to revolutionize the region, this trend has only increased in the last decade. Thanks to the legacy of the late Hugo Chávez and his contemporaries such as Nicolás Maduro, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, and others, Iran is now more powerful in Latin America than ever before.

The recent election in Argentina, while providing an opportunity for the new President Mauricio Macri, does not in and of itself weaken Iran’s influence in the continent. The Islamic Republic has, for more than three decades, studied the political patterns and socioeconomic trends in the region. In several countries, Iran has a greater presence and influence than the United States.

Latin America’s importance for Iran was highlighted by a bombshell article published in March of this year in the highly respected Brazilian weekly Veja magazine. Through interviews with high-level Venezuelan informants who are collaborating with U.S. authorities, Veja reported that the Argentine government’s reversal on its decades long policy of freezing diplomatic relations with Iran (because of the 1994 AMIA bombing) did not change in 2013 with a controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two countries. The policy also did not change two years prior, in 2011, when Argentina’s former Foreign Minister, Hector Timmerman, met secretly in Syria with his then-Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, to negotiate this MOU — meant to whitewash Iran’s role in the AMIA attack.5)For more on the Argentine government’s attempt to negotiate with Iran the impunity of the AMIA attack, please see Alberto Nisman’s official complaint before an Argentine Federal Court of Justice on January 14, 2015.

Instead, the Veja article revealed that Argentina’s warming of relations with Iran began in 2007 when then-Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner became Argentina’s president — in part, thanks to the financial support she received from Iran, courtesy of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.6)There is a famous case of political corruption in Argentina known as the “maletinazo” in which a US-Venezuelan businessman illegally smuggled $800,000 USD to Argentina in 2007 to help finance then-presidential candidate Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. This money was largely believed to have originated from Venezuela, but later discovered to potentially be from Iran. The highly controversial MOU between Argentina and Iran was therefore actually a campaign promise that had been made by the outgoing Argentine president, Fernández de Kirchner, six years earlier.

The most noteworthy revelation from the Veja piece, however, is not whom Iran bribed and bought in Latin America, but why Iran bribed them.

According to the Venezuelan informants, whitewashing Iran’s accused from the AMIA attack was only a secondary objective in its clandestine outreach to Argentina. The primary objective was to gain access to Argentina’s nuclear technology and materials — a goal Iran has apparently desired for more than three decades.

According to the late Dr. Alberto Nisman — the special prosecutor who investigated the AMIA attack — the goal of accessing Argentina’s classified nuclear program is the reason Argentina was targeted by Iran and Hezbollah back in the early 1990’s. According to Dr. Nisman, Iran’s motivation for targeting Buenos Aires in the AMIA attack was a direct response to the Argentine government’s cancellation of nuclear cooperation agreements that had been in place between the two countries since the mid-80’s.7)In subsection C.2 “Reasons for carrying out an attack in Argentina” (pages 263 – 285) of the official 2006 AMIA indictment, Dr. Nisman clearly explains the cancelation of nuclear cooperation as a primary motivation for Iran and Hezbollah’s attack on the AMIA in Buenos Aires.

There is a telling account in the Veja piece of a private meeting on January 13, 2007, between Iran’s then President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. In the meeting, Ahmadinejad tells Chávez:

“This is a matter of life or death. I need you to be an intermediary with Argentina to get help for my country’s nuclear program. We need Argentina to share its nuclear technology with us. It will be impossible to advance with our program without Argentina’s cooperation.”

“Impossible” is a strong word. If true, this information suggests that Iran needs Latin America to advance its highly ambitious nuclear program. For Iran, Latin America is not just a side project; the region may well be Iran’s top foreign policy priority outside of its immediate interests in the Middle East.

“I need you to be an intermediary with Argentina to get help for my country’s nuclear program. We need Argentina to share its nuclear technology with us. It will be impossible to advance with our program without Argentina’s cooperation.” – Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (far left) to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (hugging Ahmadinejad). Shown at right is Chávez with Argentina’s former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

The untimely and mysterious death, for which no one has formally been charged, of Dr. Alberto Nisman — found shot on January 18, 2015, hours before he was to present his most recent findings before the Argentine congress — has essentially cleared the way for even greater Iranian influence in Latin America. The lifting of sanctions and influx of billions of dollars as a result of Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) will undoubtedly help Iran in its quest for global legitimacy. It is most likely a quest easily achieved in Latin America, where many countries are facing economic turmoil and might appreciate an Iranian “stimulus.”

While Latin America is often regarded as a foreign policy backwater for the United States, it is a geopolitical prize for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Saudi Arabia may have just woken up to this fact. It is high time U.S. policymakers did the same.

 December 16, 2015 | by Joseph Humire | Source: gatestoneinstitute.org "Iran Taking Over Latin America"
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References   [ + ]

1. Alberto Nisman cited this OLM meeting in Iran in both his 2006 official indictment on the AMIA attack, as well as his 2013 dictum on Iran’s expanding terrorist networks throughout South America.
2. For a more detailed description of Mohsen Rabbani and his role in the 1994 AMIA attack, please see the full English translation of the 2006 indictment against Iran from the Investigations Unit of the Office of the Attorney General in Argentina.
3. Interpol’s Executive Committee did not issue a Red Notice on Ali Akbar Velayti because he was the Iranian Foreign Minister at the time of the AMIA attack.
4. Please see 2012 posture statement by Gen. Douglas M. Fraser and the 2015 posture statement by Gen. John F. Kelly before the House Armed Services Committee to see USSOUTHCOM estimates on Iranian-controlled Islamic cultural centers in Latin America.
5. For more on the Argentine government’s attempt to negotiate with Iran the impunity of the AMIA attack, please see Alberto Nisman’s official complaint before an Argentine Federal Court of Justice on January 14, 2015.
6. There is a famous case of political corruption in Argentina known as the “maletinazo” in which a US-Venezuelan businessman illegally smuggled $800,000 USD to Argentina in 2007 to help finance then-presidential candidate Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. This money was largely believed to have originated from Venezuela, but later discovered to potentially be from Iran.
7. In subsection C.2 “Reasons for carrying out an attack in Argentina” (pages 263 – 285) of the official 2006 AMIA indictment, Dr. Nisman clearly explains the cancelation of nuclear cooperation as a primary motivation for Iran and Hezbollah’s attack on the AMIA in Buenos Aires.

The Secret Awfulness of Saudi Arabia

Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr, arrested in Saudi Arabia at the age of seventeen, has been sentenced to beheading and crucifixion.

Last week, two Saudi human rights activists were sentenced to jail for illegally establishing a human rights organization, questioning the credibility and objectivity of the judiciary, interfering with the Saudi Human Rights Commission (one can imagine what that is like), and describing Saudi Arabia as a police state.

Karl Andree, a 74-year-old British grandfather and a UK citizen who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for the last year, is due to receive 350 lashes for unpardonable crime of being caught with some homemade wine.

British Justice Minister Michael Gove has now reportedly insisted that the UK could not possibly enter into a contract to train Saudi prison guards.

The naïve Western leaders are those who expect our countries to carry on with “business as usual” with a regime that sentences our citizens to flogging, and that beheads and crucifies political dissidents.

The naïve politicians are those who think the publics of the West do not know what a human rights sewer Saudi Arabia is, or think that we will put up with it. If that were ever the case, that time is over.

Is international opinion on Saudi Arabia finally shifting? For years, one of the great embarrassments and contradictions of Western diplomacy has been the intimacy of the West’s relationship with the House of Saud. Of course, both Britain and America have some responsibility for installing and then maintaining the Saudi royal family in their position. Were it not for this circumstance, in addition to the world’s largest oil reserves, the people we now call the Saudi royal family would be neither richer nor any more famous than any other group of goat-herders in the region.

For decades now, the Saudi royal family has been a continuing embarrassment for the civilized world. Their brand of extreme Wahhabi Islam is not only — against some very stiff competition — one of the worst interpretations of the Islamic faith. It is the basis of a religious and judicial system that they have not been content to keep within their borders, but rather regard as such a success that they have sponsored it around the world, while promoting violence abroad to keep it from exploding at home.

From the mosques of North Africa to the schools of Europe, these abusive and retrograde Wahhabi teachings can be found everywhere. Ten years ago, the Saudi-sponsored King Fahad Academy in West London was found to be using Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks that, among much else, taught their young students that Christians and Jews are apes and monkeys. But even while such teachings have been pushed into our countries, they have been swallowed by Western leaders. The possibility that whatever regime follows the House of Saud in Arabia could be even worse could have been one reason for this, at least in recent years. Another reason, probably much more likely, was the simple desire for a slice of the desert kingdom’s cash. So, even while Saudi Arabia practices and exports a brand of Islam essentially indistinguishable from that of ISIS, the alliance has gone on. Until now.

In March of this year, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, spoke out against Saudi Arabia’s brutalizing repression of 50% of its population: women. She also objected to the Saudi regime’s sentencing of blogger Raif Badawi to a thousand lashes for the crime of writing a mild blog regarding the wish for a bit more speech. The sentence was, said Wallstrom, “medieval” and a “cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression.”

The Saudi propaganda regime promptly attacked the Swedish minister for “unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia.” The Saudi propaganda machine has had to issue similar statements quite a lot as of late, most recently when worldwide attention finally focussed in the past few weeks on the case of Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr, arrested at the age of seventeen, who has been sentenced to beheading and crucifixion. The international uproar that this unspeakable sentence has finally triggered suggests that the House of Saud may – in the media Information Age — not only have overstretched itself, but come to the end of a road.

This past week, another two Saudi human rights activists — Abdelrahman Al-Hamid and Abdelaziz Al-Sinedi — were sentenced to jail for, among other similar charges, illegally establishing a human rights organization, questioning the credibility and objectivity of the judiciary, interfering with the Saudi Human Rights Commission (one can imagine what that is like), and describing Saudi Arabia as a police state.

These cases are, finally, being noticed in a significant way, and being picked up in mainstream newspapers and media outlets. Now, there is a British case that has caught international attention. In recent days, Karl Andree, a 74-year-old grandfather and British citizen, who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for the last year, is due to receive 350 lashes after being found guilty of the unpardonable crime of being caught with some homemade wine.

As his family back home in Britain have said in an appeal to Prime Minister David Cameron, it is likely that this sentence will kill Mr. Andree, who has already been weakened by cancer.

British citizen Karl Andree, a 74-year-old grandfather and cancer survivor, has been in a Saudi Arabian prison for the last year and is due to receive 350 lashes — all for the crime of possessing homemade wine.

It is significant that cases such as this, of routine Saudi barbarism, are finally causing a reaction. The UK and Saudi Arabia had agreed on a contract worth £5.9 million (USD $9.1 million) for the UK to train Saudi prison guards, but in recent days the UK government withdrew from this contract. The cause was a cabinet discussion in which the new British Justice Minister, Michael Gove, reportedly insisted that the UK could not possibly have such an agreement with Saudi Arabia. The two specific cases he is said to have highlighted were the case of Mr Andree and the case of Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr.

The Foreign Secretary is alleged to have disagreed with Mr. Gove, describing his views as “naïve.” But the Justice Minister, appropriately enough, prevailed. It is not Michael Gove, of course, who is naïve. The naïve Western leaders are those who expect our countries to carry on with “business as usual” with a regime that sentences our citizens — or anyone — to flogging, and that beheads and crucifies political dissidents.

The days of the secret awfulness of Saudi Arabia are long over. Now the routine abuses and atrocities of Saudi Arabia are rapidly moving from the blogosphere to the newspapers to the tables of cabinet with an unstoppable momentum. The naïve politicians are the ones who think the publics of the West do not know what a human rights sewer Saudi Arabia is, or think that, while knowing this, we in the West will all sit back and put up with it. If there were ever a time when this was the case, that time is over.

October 20, 2015 | by Douglas Murray | Source: gatestoneinstitute.org "The Secret Awfulness of Saudi Arabia"
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Saudi Arabia Has 100,000 Empty Tents with AC for 3 Million People – They’ve Taken Zero Refugees – Living Off The Grid

Facts feature (01b)

While European countries are being lectured about their failure to take in enough refugees, Saudi Arabia – which has taken in precisely zero migrants – has 100,000 air conditioned tents that can house over 3 million people sitting empty.

The sprawling network of high quality tents are located in the city of Mina, spreading across a 20 square km valley, and are only used for 5 days of the year by Hajj pilgrims.

As the website Amusing Planet reports, “For the rest of the year, Mina remains pretty much deserted.”

The tents, which measure 8 meters by 8 meters, were permanently constructed by the Saudi government in the 1990’s and were upgraded in 1997 to be fire proof. They are divided into camps which include kitchen and bathroom facilities.

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The tents could provide shelter for almost all of the 4 million Syrian refugees that have been displaced by the country’s civil war, which was partly exacerbated by Saudi Arabia’s role in funding and arming jihadist groups.

However, as the Washington Post reports,  wealthy Gulf Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and others have taken in precisely zero Syrian refugees. 

Although Saudi Arabia claims it has taken in 500,000 Syrians since 2011, rights groups point out that these people are not allowed to register as migrants. Facts-thumb-08

Many of them are also legal immigrants who moved there for work.

In comparison, Lebanon has accepted 1.3 million refugees – more than a quarter of its population.

While it refuses to take in any more refugees, Saudi Arabia has offered to build 200 mosques for the 500,000 migrants a year expected to pour into Germany.

 

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Saudis argue that the tents in Mina are needed to host the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, but given that the Arabic concept of Ummah is supposed to offer protection to all Muslims under one brotherhood, surely an alternative location could be found so that Mina can be repurposed to house desperate families fleeing war and ISIS persecution?

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While Europe is being burdened by potentially millions of people who don’t share the same culture or religion as the host population, Gulf Arab states refuse to pull their weight, resolving only to throw money at the problem.

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The likelihood of the Saudis inviting Syrian refugees to stay in Mina is virtually zero, but the thousands of empty tents serve as a physical representation of the hypocrisy shared by wealthy Gulf Arab states when it comes to helping with the crisis.

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Photos: Akram Abahre. via: Infowars

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November 20, 2015 | david | Source:  offgridquest.us "Saudi Arabia Has 100,000 Empty Tents with AC for 3 Million People – They’ve Taken Zero Refugees"
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