viernes, 24 de noviembre de 2017
Título: Syria - This U.S. Occupation - Or "Presence" - Is Unsustainable
Epígrafe: The U.S. is now occupying north-east Syria. It wants to blackmail the Syrian government into "regime change". The occupation is unsustainable, its aim is unattainable. The generals who devised these plans lack strategic insight. They listen to the wrong people.
Texto: The Islamic State no longer holds any significant ground in Syria and Iraq. What is left of it in a few towns of the Euphrates valley will soon be gone. Its remnants will be some of several terror gangs in the region. Local forces can and will hold those under adequate control. The Islamic State is finished. This is why the Lebanese Hizbullah announced to pull back all its advisors and units from Iraq. It is the reason why Russia began to repatriated some of its units from Syria. Foreign forces are no longer needed to eliminate the remains of ISIS.
In its UN Security Council resolutions 2249 (2015) for the fight against ISIS the UNSC was:
“Reaffirming its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and unity of all States in accordance with purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter,
Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter, ... on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq, to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL ... and entities associated with Al-Qaida ... and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria
There is no longer any "territory under the control of ISIL". Its "safe havens" have been "eradicated". The task laid out and legitimized in the UNSC resolution is finished. It is over. There is no longer any justification, under UNSC Res 2249, for U.S. troops in Syria or Iraq.
Other legal justifications, like an invitation from the legitimate governments of Syria and Iraq, could apply. But while Syria has invited Russian, Iranian and Lebanese forces to stay in its country it has not invited U.S. forces. These are now illegally occupying Syrian land in the north-east of the country. The Syrian government explicitly called it such.
(One wonder how long it will take the sanctimonious European Union to sanction the U.S. for its egregious breach of international law and for violating the sovereignty of Syria.)
According to official documents more than 1,700 U.S. troops are currently in Syria. The publicly announced number is only 500. "Temporary" forces make the up the difference. (Overall U.S. troop numbers in the Middle East have increased by 33% over the last four month. The numbers doubled in Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. No explanation has been given for these increases.)
The U.S. troops in Syria are allied with the Kurdish YPG. The YPG is the Syrian branch of the internationally designated Kurdish terrorist organization PKK. Only about 2-5% of the Syrian population are of Kurdish-Syrian descent. Under U.S. command they now control more than 20% of Syrian state territory and some 40% of its hydrocarbon reserves. This is thievery on a grand scale.
To disguise its cooperation with the Kurdish terrorists, the U.S. renamed the group into the "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF). Some Arab fighters from east Syrian tribes were added to it. These are mostly former foot-soldiers of ISIS who changed sides when the U.S. offered better pay. Other fighters were pressed into service. The people of the Syrian-Arab city Manbij, which is occupied by the YPG and U.S. forces, protested when the YPG started to violently conscript its youth.
New troops were added to the SDF during the last days when ISIS fighters escaped from the onslaught of Syrian and Iraq forces in Abu Kamal (aka Albu Kamla aka Bukamal). They fled northwards towards YPG/U.S. held areas. Like other ISIS fighters the U.S. helped to escape their deserved punishment these forces will be relabeled and reused.
The Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. of blocking the lower airspace over Abu Kamal while its Syrian allies were trying to liberate it. For eight days Russian high flying long range bombers had to come all the way from Russia to provide support for its troops on the ground. In a recent TV speech the leader of the Lebanese Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, accused the U.S. troops in Syria of providing drone intelligence to ISIS in Abu Kamal. ISIS used it to shell Syrian and allied forces. Several high officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed in such attacks. Nasrallah also said that the U.S. used electronic warfare measures to disable the radios of the attacking force. He said that it rescued fleeing ISIS troops. Nasrallah's accusations are consistent with reports from the ground. (The U.S. and its allies also continue to supply other terrorist groups in north-west and the south-west of Syria.)
Neither Nasrallah nor the IRGC will forget those misdeeds. The operation commander of the IRGC, General Quasem Soleimani, recently reported to Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei:
All these crimes have been designed and implemented by US leaders and organizations, according to the acknowledgement of the highest-ranking US official who is currently president of the United States; moreover, this scheme is still being modified and implemented by current American leaders.
The U.S. has changed its rule of engagements and unofficially declared a no-fly zone for Russian and Syrian planes on the east side of the Euphrates. It says that it will attack any force that crosses the river to pursue ISIS. It is openly protecting its terrorists.
Ten days ago the U.S. Secretary of Defense General (rtd) Mattis announced U.S. intentions to illegally occupy Syria:
The U.S. military will fight Islamic State in Syria “as long as they want to fight,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday, describing a longer-term role for U.S. troops long after the insurgents lose all of the territory they control.
“We’re not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has traction,” he added.
Turkey said on Monday the United States had 13 bases in Syria and Russia had five. The U.S-backed Syrian YPG Kurdish militia has said Washington has established seven military bases in areas of northern Syria.
A report in today's Washington Post is more specific. The fitting headline: U.S. moves toward open-ended presence in Syria after Islamic State is routed:
The Trump administration is expanding its goals in Syria beyond routing the Islamic State to include a political settlement of the country’s civil war ..
With forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies now bearing down on the last militant-controlled towns, the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria could be imminent — along with an end to the U.S. justification for being there.
U.S. officials say they are hoping to use the ongoing presence of American troops in northern Syria, in support of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to pressure Assad to make concessions at United Nations-brokered peace talks in Geneva.
An abrupt U.S. withdrawal could complete Assad’s sweep of Syrian territory and help guarantee his political survival — an outcome that would constitute a win for Iran, his close ally.
To avoid that outcome, U.S. officials say they plan to maintain a U.S. troop presence in northern Syria — where the Americans have trained and assisted the SDF against the Islamic State — and establish new local governance, apart from the Assad government, in those areas.
“By placing no timeline on the end of the U.S. mission . . . the Pentagon is creating a framework for keeping the U.S. engaged in Syria for years to come,” [said Nicholas Heras of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security.]
Even the propaganda writers at the Washington Post admit that there is no longer any justification for a U.S. presence in Syria. The U.S. intent is to commit blackmail: "to pressure Assad to make concessions". The method to do so is military "presence". There is no way that Syrian government and its people will give in to such blackmail. They did not fight for over six years to give up their sovereignty to U.S. intrigue. They will call the U.S. bluff.
No military handbook includes "presence" as a military mission. There are no rules for such an undefined task. The last time the U.S. used the term was in the early 1980s during the civil war in Lebanon. The task of U.S. troops stationed in Beirut was defined as showing military "presence". After such units and naval forces of the U.S. interfered on one side of the civil war, an aggrieved party took revenge against the U.S. and French military stationed in Beirut. Their barracks were blown up, 241 U.S. and 58 French soldiers died. U.S. military "presence" in Beirut ended.
The U.S. military "presence" in Syria is likewise doomed.
The U.S. alliance with the YPG/PKK pushes Turkey into an alliance with Russia, Iran and Syria. Several thousand Turkish soldiers and civilians have died due to PKK attacks. Last week Russian transports planes crossed through Turkish air space on their flights from Russia to Syria. This was a first. The U.S. had urged its NATO allies, including Turkey, to prevent such flights and Russian planes had to take the longer route through Iranian and Iraqi air space. Due to the U.S. alliance with the YPG and for many other reasons Turkey feels alienated from the U.S. and NATO. It is moving into the "resistance" camp.
The northern border between Turkey and Syria is thus closed for U.S. supplies to its forces in north-east Syria. Towards the west and south Syrian forces and their allies prohibit any U.S. supplies. Iraqi Kurdish territory to the east is for now the only way for a land supply route. But the government in Baghdad is allied with Iran and Syria and it is pushing to regain control over all the border posts of Iraq, including those still held by the Kurds and used by the U.S forces. Several Iraqi militia who fought ISIS under Iraqi government command have announced their hostility to U.S. forces. The Iraqi government may try to reign them in but they will hardly vanish. The U.S. land supply route through Iraqi-Kurdish areas can thus be closed at any time. The same goes for any air space around Syria's north-east.
The north-east of Syria is surrounded by forces hostile to the U.S. On top of that many Syrian people in the now occupied north-eastern Syria continue to be loyal to the Syrian state. Syrian, Turkish, Iranian and Hizbullah intelligence are working on the ground. There are lots of local Arabs hostile to Kurdish overbearance. The U.S. bases, outposts and all its transports in the area may soon come under sustained fire. While Russia said that it will not intervene against the U.S. allied SDF forces, many other entities have motives and means to do so.
The mission of the 1,700+ U.S. troops in north-east Syria is undefined. Their supply routes are unsecured and can be blocked by its enemies at any time. The local population is largely hostile to them. All of the surrounding countries and entities have reasons to attain the end of any U.S. presence in the area as soon as possible. It would require a ground force that is at least ten-twenty times larger to secure the U.S. presence and its communication and supply routes.
The presence is as useless and unsustainable as the southern U.S. presence at al-Tanaf.
Trump had spoken out against such occupation and interference in the Middle East:
The U.S. president [..] campaigned on a pledge to avoid getting sucked into intractable conflicts.
The military junta that controls Trump and the White House, (former) generals McMaster, Kelly and Mattis, are not acting in the interest of the United States, its citizens and troops.
They are following the call of the Zionist Jewish Institute for National Security of America which is pushing for a war on all Iran related entities and interests in the Middle East. JINSA advertises its huge influence on the higher U.S. officer corps. It is not by chance that a recent speech at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington described The U.S. Military as a Zionist Organization. But like other such wish-wash, it fails to explain why unquestioned support for a colony of east-European racist in west Asia is of "American interest".
The military mission of the U.S. occupation force in north-east Syria is undefined. It positions are not sustainable. The aim this "presence" is said to have is unattainable. There is no larger concept into which it fits.
The generals ruling the White House may be tactical geniuses in their fields. They are neophytes when it comes to strategy. They blindly follow the siren call of the Lobby only to again wreak the U.S. ship of state on the cliffs of Middle Eastern realities.
jueves, 23 de noviembre de 2017
Seguimos analizando las implicancias de la nueva Ruta del Norte en el transporte marítimo euroasiático. William Engdahl se pregunta, en esta nota aparecida ayer en Global Research, si no estaremos ante un nuevo Canal de Suez en potencia. Acá va la nota:
Título: Huge Implications of Russia’s Northern Sea Route. An Alternative to the Suez Canal?
Epígrafe: In terms of dealing with some of the world’s harshest weather conditions no country comes close compared with Russia. Now Russia has made it a highest priority to develop a Northern Sea Route along the Russian Arctic coast to enable LNG and container freight shipments between Asia and Europe that will cut shipping time almost in half and bypass the increasingly risky Suez Canal. China is fully engaged and has now formally incorporated it into its new Silk Road Belt, Road Initiative infrastructure.
Texto: Before attending the Hamburg G20 Summit in July, China’s President Xi Jinping made a stopover in Moscow where he and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed the “China-Russia Joint Declaration on Further Strengthening Comprehensive, Strategic and Cooperative Partnership.” The declaration includes the Northern Sea Route as a strategic area of cooperation between China and Russia, as a formal part of China’s Belt, Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure. For its part, Russia is investing major resources in development of new LNG ports and infrastructure along the route to service a growing maritime traffic passing through its Arctic territorial waters.
The Russian Federation, under the direct supervision of President Putin is building up the economic infrastructure that will create an alternative to the Suez Canal for container and LNG shipping between Europe and Asia. In addition, the developments are opening up huge new undeveloped resources including oil, gas, diamonds and other minerals along the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone, transversing its northernmost Siberian coastline.
Officially Russian legislation defines the Northern Sea Route as the territorial waters along the Russian Arctic coast east of Novaya Zemlya in Russia’s Arkhangelsk Oblast, from the Kara Sea across Siberia, to the Bering Straitthat runs between far eastern Russia and Alaska. The entire route lies in Arctic waters and within Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Preliminary geophysical studies confirm that vast oil and gas reserves exist below the sea floor along the Northern Sea Route of Russia’s EEZ waters, increasing interest of the Chinese government in joint resource development with Russia, in addition to the potentially shorter shipping times to and from Europe.For China, which sees increasing threats to its oil supply lines by sea from the Persian Gulf and via the Straits of Malacca, the Russian Northern Sea Route offers a far more secure alternative, a Plan B, in event of US Naval interdiction of the Malacca Straits.
US Geological Survey estimates are that within the Russian Arctic EEZ some 30% of all Arctic recoverable oil and 66% of its total natural gas is to be found. The USGS estimates total Arctic oil recoverable reserves to be about one-third total Saudi reserves. In short, as Mark Twain might have said, there’s “black gold in them thar’ icy waters…”
The United Nations Convention on Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), to which Russia and China are signatories, but the USA not, defines an exclusive economic zone to be an area “beyond and adjacent” to a state’s territorial waters and provides the state with “sovereign rights…[over] managing the natural resources” within the zone. China does not contest Russia’s EEZ rights, but rather seeks to cooperate in its development now formally within the BRI project.
New Shipping Lanes
The other interest in Russia’s Northern Sea Route is for more economical and faster shipping. In August this year in a test run the Russian LNG tanker, Christophe de Margerie, delivered Norwegian LNG from Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea in just 19 days, some 30% faster than the traditional Suez Canal route despite the fact that the vessel was forced to go through ice fields 1.2 meters thick. The Arctic Sea part of the journey was made in a record six and half days. The Christophe de Margerie is the first joint LNG tanker and icebreaker in the world, built to specification for the state-run Sovcomflot for the transportation of LNG from the Yamal LNG project in the Russian Arctic by a South Korean shipbuilder.
Russia is also cooperating with South Korea in development of the shipping capabilities of its Northern Sea Route. On November 6, Russia’s Minister for Development of the Far East, Aleksandr Galushka, met South Korea’s Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, Kim Yong-suk. The two countries agreed to pursue joint research into investments for an Arctic container line along the Northern Sea Route. The joint development will include shipping hubs to be created in each end of the Northern Sea Route–Murmansk in the west and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the east. Murmansk, bordering the northern regions of Finland and Norway, has ice-free access to the Barents Sea year around.
Korea’s Hyundai Merchant Marine plans test sailings of container ships along the Northern Sea Route in 2020 with container ships capable of carrying 2,500-3,500 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, a measure of container size) on the route. In July 2016, an historical shipment of two major industrial components was made from South Korea to the new Russian Arctic port at Sabetta and from there, on the rivers Ob and Irtysh to the South Ural city of Tobolsk.
New Arctic Port Investments
Murmansk itself is site of one of Russia’s largest infrastructure projects. Major construction work is currently on going to complete the so-called Murmansk Transport Hub which includes new roads, railway, ports and other facilities on the west of the Kola Bay. Murmansk is already a key hub for reloading coal, oil, fish, metals and other cargo from the European part of Russia. It will serve as the main western gateway for the Northern Sea Route to Asia.
The Russian Federation is also completing a new port at Sabetta on the Yamal Peninsula. The Yamal Peninsula, bordering the Arctic Kara Sea, is location of Russia’s biggest natural gas reserves with an estimated 55 trillion cubic meters (tcm).By comparison, Qatar gas reserves are calculated at 25 tcm, Iran at 34 tcm. The main developer of the Sabetta Port on Yamal is Novatek, Russia’s largest independent gas producer, together with the Russian government.
Sabetta Port is also site of the major new Yamal LNG Terminal that before end of 2017 will begin transporting Yamal gas via the Northeast Sea Route to China. When at full capacity, Sabetta Port will handle 30 million tons of goods a year making Sabetta the world’s largest port north of the Arctic Circle, surpassing Murmansk. Novatek hasalready pre-sold all its production volumes for Yamal LNG Terminal gas under 15- and 20-year contracts, most to China and other Asian buyers.
Yamal LNG is far from the only area where Russia’s Novatek is cooperating with China. On November 4, Novatek announced it had signed further agreements with Yamal partners China National Petroleum Corporation and China Development Bank for the Arctic LNG 2 project that is potentially larger than the Yamal LNG project. The Arctic LNG 2 project of Novatekon Gydan Peninsula, separated from Yamal by the Gulf of Ob,is to begin construction in 1919.
The Yamal LNG Terminal is a $27 billion project whose lead owner is Russia’s Novatek. When the US Treasury financial warfare targeted Novatek and the Yamal project in 2014 following the Crimea referendum to join the Russian Federation, China lenders stepped in to provide $12 billion to complete the project after China’s state oil company, CNPC bought a 20% interest in the Yamal LNG Terminal project. The China Silk Road Fund holds another 9.9% and France’s Total 20% with Novatek having 50.1%.
Breaking the Ice, Russian-Style
Opening the potentials of Russia’s Northeast Sea Route to full commercial LNG and container freight traffic flow from the west along the Siberian Arctic littoral to South Korea and China and the rest of Asia requires extraordinary technology solutions, above all in the field of ice-breakers and port infrastructure along the deep-frozen Arctic route. Here Russia is unequalled world leader. And Russia is about to expand that leading role significantly.
In early 2016 Russia commissioned a new class of nuclear powered ice-breakers called Arktika-class operated by Atomflot, the ship subsidiary of the giant Russian state Rosatom nuclear group, the world’s largest nuclear power construction company and second largest in terms of uranium deposits producing 40% of the world’s enriched uranium.
The new Arktika icebreaker is at present the world’s most powerful icebreaker of its kind and when ready for sailing in 2019 will be able to break 3 meters of ice. A second Arktika-class nuclear icebreaker is due to sail in 2020. At present Russia has a total of 14 diesel as well as nuclear-powered icebreakers in construction in addition to the just completed Christophe de Margerie. All those 14 new icebreakers are being constructed at shipyards in the St. Petersburg area.
Rosatom to take lead
Now the Russian government is about to dramatically escalate its development of icebreaker technologies with the clear aim of developing the shipping and resources along its Northeast Sea Route passage as a national economic priority.
In 2016 President Putin made a personal priority of overseeing building up of an ultra-modern state-of-the-art shipbuilding center in PrimorskyKrai in the Russian Far East to balance the development of western yards around St. Petersburg and buildup Russia’s economic region around Vladivostok as Russia’s economy, reacting to the incalculable Washington and its sanctions, turns increasingly to self-sufficiency in vital areas.
The Far East shipbuilding is centered ona $4 billion complete reconstruction of the old Zvezda shipyard in BolshoyKamen Bay owned by the Russian state’s United Shipbuilding Corporation. PrimorskyKrai is also home to the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet. When the giant new Zvezda yard is ready in 2020, it will be Russia’s largest most modern civilian shipyard, focusing on large-tonnage ship construction of tankers including LNG tankers, Arctic icebreakers and elements for offshore oil and gas platforms.
On November 18 Russia’s Kommersant business daily announced that Russia’s president Putin wants to turn infrastructure development for the Northern Sea Route over to state nuclear corporation Rosatom. According to the report, Putin approved the idea, which was put to him by his prime minster, Dmitry Medvedev, and which would turn all state services for nautical activities, infrastructure development, as well as state property used along the corridor to Rosatom’s management. Among other implications the decision to make Rosatom solely responsible for the Northern Sea Route development suggests that nuclear-powered ice-breakers are to play a far larger role in the Northeast Sea Route developments.
According to the report, which has yet to be formally confirmed, the Rosatom role was proposed by Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin, sanctioned by Washington, has been Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Defense Industry of Russia since 2011. If the new proposal becomes law, Rosatom will oversee all infrastructure and energy building along the 6,000 kilometers of the route through its arctic division.
According to the source, that will mean Rosatom oversees just about everything, from building ports, to building communications and navigation infrastructure, as well as coordination scientific research. Under the plan a new Arctic Division of Rosatom would centralize ports previously controlled by the Ministry of Transport as well as non-nuclear icebreakers operated by Rosmorport and Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet. The NSR Administration, the state institution responsible for safety of navigation, would also become part of this new “Arctic Division” at Rosatom. It would be a move to greatly streamline the present fragmentation of responsibility for different aspects of Russia’s Northeast Sea Route transportation development, one of the highest priorities of Moscow and a key building block in development of the China-Russia collaboration in BRI.
Taking all into account what is very clear is that Russia is developing cutting-edge technology and infrastructure in some of the most extreme climate conditions in the world, in building its economy new, and that it is successfully doing so in collaboration with China, South Korea and even to an extent with Japan, contrary to the hopes of Washington war-addicted neoconservatives and their patrons in the US military industrial complex.
miércoles, 22 de noviembre de 2017
La diplomacia del Imperio no pasa por sus mejores momentos, ciertamente. Basta escuchar unos 30 segundos a la embajadora de los EEUU en la ONU, Nikki Haley foto), para dar fe de ello. Uno se pregunta qué es lo que realmente hay detrás de esta gente. La nota que sigue habla un poco de estas cosas. Fue escrita por Thierry Meyssan para Red Voltaire:
Título: Estados Unidos sigue mostrando su incapacidad para admitir la realidad en la ONU
Epígrafe: Mientras los presidentes Putin y Trump avanzan sobre el tema sirio, los altos funcionarios estadounidenses en la ONU se empeñan en seguir probando fuerza con Rusia. Negándose a aceptar que se investigue un crimen cuyos culpables ellos designan sin pruebas, los “diplomáticos” estadounidenses ya han provocado no uno sino cuatro vetos en el Consejo de Seguridad. Para Thierry Meyssan, el comportamiento esquizofrénico de Estados Unidos en la escena internacional muestra tanto la división de la administración Trump como la decadencia del imperialismo estadounidense.
Texto: Es imposible negar que las cosas no han cambiado mucho desde el 11 de septiembre de 2001. Estados Unidos persiste en manipular la opinión pública internacional y los mecanismos de la ONU, por razones diferentes, pero mostrando siempre el mismo desdén por la verdad.
En 2001, los representantes de Estados Unidos y del Reino Unido, John Negroponte y Stewart Eldon, aseguraban que sus dos países acababan de atacar Afganistán en legítima defensa después de los atentados cometidos en Nueva York y Washington . El secretario de Estado Colin Powell prometía, claro está, distribuir al Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU un completo dossier con las pruebas de la responsabilidad de Afganistán. Hoy, 16 años después de aquella promesa, seguimos esperando por esas pruebas.
En 2003, el mismo Colin Powell se presentaba ante el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU para explicar a sus miembros, en una intervención difundida por las televisiones del mundo entero, que Irak también estaba implicado en los atentados del 11 de Septiembre y que ese país estaba preparando una nueva agresión contra Estados Unidos, pero con armas de destrucción masiva . Años después, cuando ya había abandonado sus funciones en el seno de la administración estadounidense, Powell reconoció ante las cámaras de una televisora de su país que las acusaciones que contenía aquel discurso eran todas falsas . Hoy, 14 años después de aquel discurso, seguimos esperando que Estados Unidos se disculpe ante el Consejo de Seguridad.
Todo el mundo ha olvidado las acusaciones de Estados Unidos sobre la responsabilidad del presidente iraquí Saddam Hussein en los atentados del 11 de septiembre (antes, Washington también atribuyó aquellos atentados a Arabia Saudita y ahora los atribuye a Irán, sin haber aportado nunca pruebas contra ninguno de esos 4 países). Pero sí se recuerda el debate, que se prolongó por meses, sobre las famosas armas de destrucción masiva. En aquella época, la Comisión de Control, Verificación e Inspección de Naciones Unidas (UNMOVIC, siglas en inglés) no encontró absolutamente ningún indicio de la existencia de aquellas armas. Se produjo entonces un duro enfrentamiento entre el director de la UNMOVIC, el sueco Hans Blix, y Estados Unidos, al principio, y posteriormente entre la ONU y, en definitiva, todo el mundo occidental. Washington afirmaba que si Hans Blix no encontraba las armas de destrucción masiva era porque hacía mal su trabajo. Pero Hans Blix aseguraba que Irak nunca tuvo la capacidad necesaria para fabricar ese tipo de armas. De todas maneras, Estados Unidos bombardeó Bagdad, invadió Irak, derrocó al presidente Saddam Hussein y lo ahorcó, ocupó su país y lo saqueó.
El método estadounidense posterior al 2001 no tiene nada que ver con lo que Estados Unidos hacía antes. En 1991, el presidente George Bush padre se aseguró de poner el Derecho Internacional de su parte antes de atacar Irak. Lo hizo empujando Bagdad a invadir Kuwait y estimulando a Saddam Hussein a persistir en su error. Así obtuvo Bush padre el respaldo de casi todas las naciones del mundo. En 2003, por el contrario, George Bush hijo se limitó a mentir y a seguir mintiendo una y otra vez. Numerosos Estados se distanciaron entonces de Washington mientras que el mundo asistía a una de las manifestaciones pacifistas más grandes de toda la Historia, de París hasta Sydney y de Pekín a Ciudad México.
En 2012, el Departamento de Asuntos Políticos de la ONU redactó para Siria un proyecto de capitulación total e incondicional . Su director, el estadounidense Jeffrey Feltman, ex secretario de Estado adjunto de la secretaria de Estado Hillary Clinton, utilizó todos los recursos a su disposición para conformar la más amplia coalición internacional de la Historia y acusar a Siria de todo tipo de crímenes, sin que ninguno haya podido probarse.
Si los países que tienen en su poder el documento de Feltman han decidido no publicarlo es para proteger la ONU. Es, en efecto, inaceptable que los recursos de la ONU hayan sido utilizados para promover la guerra, tratándose de una organización creada precisamente para preservar la paz. Como no me atan las obligaciones que tienen los Estados, yo publico en mi libro Sous nos yeux  un estudio detallado de ese abyecto documento.
En 2017, el Mecanismo Conjunto de Investigación ONU-OPAQ , creado a pedido de la República Árabe Siria para investigar el uso de armas químicas en su territorio fue objeto de la misma oposición que ya había tenido que enfrentar Hans Blix de parte de Washington. Pero esta vez, algunos contendientes habían cambiado de bando: en 2003, la ONU defendía la paz. Ya no es así actualmente. El estadounidense Jeffrey Feltman fue mantenido en sus funciones y sigue siendo el segundo funcionario más poderoso en la jerarquía de la ONU. Ahora es Rusia la que se opone, en nombre de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas, a una serie de funcionarios internacionales pro-estadounidenses.
Los trabajos del Mecanismo de Investigación se analizaron y fueron objeto de debates de manera normal durante su primer periodo, o sea desde septiembre de 2015 hasta mayo de 2017. Pero se hicieron sesgados cuando el guatemalteco Edmond Mulet reemplazó en su dirección a la argentina Virginia Gamba. La nominación de Edmond Mulet fue impulsada por el nuevo secretario general de la ONU, el portugués Antonio Guterres.
El Mecanismo de Investigación reúne en su seno a funcionarios de la ONU y de la OPAQ. Esta última organización internacional recibió en 2013 el Premio Nobel de la Paz, principalmente por su trabajo en la supervisión de la destrucción –por Estados Unidos y Rusia– del arsenal químico sirio. Pero su director, el turco Ahmet Uzumcu, ha cambiado mucho. En junio de 2015, fue invitado a Telfs Buchen (Austria) para asistir a la reunión anual del Grupo de Bilderberg, el restringido club de la OTAN.
La cuestión resulta extremadamente grave. En 2003 el enfrentamiento era entre Hans Blix y Estados Unidos, que amenazaba con intervenir militarmente contra Irak si la ONU comprobaba que Bagdad tenía armas de destrucción masiva. Pero en 2017, Rusia se opone a Edmond Mulet, quien podría avalar a posteriori la intervención estadounidense contra Siria. Porque el hecho es que Washington ya decidió, sin investigación, que Siria es responsable de un ataque con gas sarín en Khan Cheikhoun, y ya bombardeó por eso la base aérea siria de Sheyrat .
Si el Mecanismo de Investigación se apartara de alguna manera del discurso de Washington, eso pondría a Estados Unidos en la obligación de presentar excusas e incluso de indemnizar a Siria. Los funcionarios internacionales pro-estadounidenses consideran por tanto que su misión es determinar que Siria utilizó contra su propia población gas sarín que aún mantendría ilegalmente en la base aérea bombardeada de Sheyrat.
Desde el mes de octubre, el intercambio ha ido subiendo de tono entre ciertos funcionarios de la ONU y Rusia. Pero, la divergencia no tiene nada que ver –como pretende la prensa occidental– con las conclusiones del Mecanismo Investigador sino sólo con sus métodos ya que Moscú dio a conocer que rechaza toda conclusión obtenida mediante métodos que no se ajusten a los principios internacionales establecidos en el marco de la Convención sobre las Armas Químicas y de la OPAQ .
El gas sarín es un agente neurotóxico extremadamente letal para el hombre. Existen variantes de ese producto, como el clorosarín y el ciclosarín, y una versión aún más peligrosa: el VX. Todos esos productos se absorben a través de la piel y pasan directamente a la sangre. Luego de su dispersión en el entorno se degradan en semanas o meses, no sin consecuencias para la fauna que puede entrar en contacto con ellos. Cuando el sarín penetra en el suelo, a salvo de contacto con el oxigeno o la luz, puede mantenerse activo durante mucho tiempo.
Basta con ver las fotos divulgadas después del ataque de Khan Cheikhoun, que muestran varias personas recogiendo muestras sólo horas después del ataque –sin ningún tipo de traje de protección para evitar el contacto del sarín con su piel– para saber que si realmente se usó allí algún tipo de agente químico no fue sarín ni ninguno de sus derivados. Para más detalles, vale la pena ver el estudio del profesor Theodore Postol, del Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), que echa abajo uno a uno todos los argumentos de los supuestos expertos de la CIA .
Sin embargo, contraviniendo los principios de la Convención sobre las Armas Químicas, el Mecanismo Investigador no fue al lugar para recoger muestras, analizarlas e identificar el gas utilizado, si realmente ocurrió eso.
Al responder a las preguntas de Rusia sobre ese asunto, en mayo y junio de 2017, la OPAQ respondió que estaba estudiando las condiciones de seguridad para viajar al lugar. Pero finalmente concluyó que no era necesario hacerlo porque «la utilización de gas sarín está fuera de duda».
Por su parte, el Mecanismo Investigador estuvo en la base aérea siria de Sheyrat, donde –según Washington– estaba ilegalmente almacenado el gas sarín y donde fue cargado en los aviones que supuestamente lo utilizaron. Pero, a pesar de la insistencia de Rusia, se negó a recoger muestras.
El Mecanismo Investigador también se negó a estudiar las revelaciones de Siria sobre las entregas de gases de combate a los yihadistas por parte de las empresas Federal Laboratories y NonLethal Technologies –de Estados Unidos– y Chemring Defence UK –del Reino Unido .
Estados Unidos y sus aliados incluso reconocen en el proyecto de resolución que presentaron el 16 de noviembre que los funcionarios internacionales deberían realizar sus investigaciones de «una manera apropiada para la realización de su mandato» .
Rusia rechazó el informe del Mecanismo Investigador debido al amateurismo de sus autores y rechazó en 3 ocasiones la prolongación de su mandato. Utilizó el veto el 24 de octubre  y los días 16  y 17 de noviembre, como ya lo había hecho antes, el 12 de abril  cuando Estados Unidos y Francia  trataron de condenar a Siria por el supuesto ataque con gas sarín. Eran la octava, novena, décima y undécima veces que Rusia utilizaba el veto sobre el tema sirio.
Se ignora por qué razón Washington ha presentado 4 veces la misma alegación al Consejo de Seguridad por vías diferentes. Ese tartamudeo ya se había producido antes, al principio de la guerra contra Siria: el 4 de octubre de 2011, el 4 de febrero de 2012 y el 19 de julio del mismo año, cuando Francia y Estados Unidos trataron de que el Consejo de Seguridad condenara lo que llamaron la represión de la primavera siria. En aquel momento Rusia aseguraba, por el contrario, que no había en Siria ninguna guerra civil sino una agresión externa. Y los occidentales siempre replicaron que iban a «convencer» a su socio ruso.
Es interesante observar que la leyenda que se repite en Occidente afirma que la guerra en Siria comenzó siendo una revolución democrática que se desvió de su rumbo y acabó bajo la dirección de los yihadistas. Pero, contrariamente a lo que se dijo entonces y a lo que aún se dice, no existe ninguna prueba de que se haya producido en Siria la menor manifestación en reclamo de democracia en 2011-2012. Todos los videos que datan de aquella época muestran manifestaciones de apoyo al presidente Assad o contra la República Árabe Siria, pero los manifestantes nunca reclaman democracia. Ninguno de esos videos incluye consignas o pancartas en reclamo de democracia. Todos los videos de supuestas «manifestaciones revolucionarias» que corresponden a aquel periodo fueron grabados los viernes a la salida de mezquitas sunnitas, ninguno se grabó otro día ni en otro lugar que no fuera una mezquita sunnita.
Es cierto que en algunos de esos videos se oyen consignas que incluyen la palabra «libertad». Pero al prestar atención se comprueba que los manifestantes no reclaman «Libertad», en el sentido occidental, sino «la libertad de aplicar la sharia». Si usted, estimado lector, encuentra un documento realmente fidedigno que me contradiga mostrando una manifestación de más de 50 personas, le agradeceré que me lo envíe y me comprometo a publicarlo.
La obstinación estadounidense en manipular los hechos podría interpretarse como una forma de alineamiento de la administración Trump con la política de los 4 últimos mandatos presidenciales. Pero esa hipótesis está en contradicción con la firma en Amman –el 8 de noviembre– de un Memorándum secreto entre Jordania , Rusia y Estados Unidos, y con la Declaración común de los presidentes Putin y Trump, fechada el 11 de noviembre en Da Nang, y dada a conocer al margen de la Cumbre de la APEC .
El primero de estos documentos no se ha publicado, pero varias indiscreciones ya han permitido saber que no tiene en cuenta la exigencia israelí de crear una zona neutral –en territorio sirio– que abarcaría 60 kilómetros más allá no de la frontera israelí sino de la línea de alto al fuego de 1967. El gobierno británico, que no deja pasar la menor ocasión de añadir leña al fuego, reaccionó haciendo publicar a través de la BBC varias fotografías satelitales de la base militar iraní de Al-Kiswah (a 45 kilómetros de la línea de alto al fuego) .
Como era de esperar, el primer ministro israelí Benyamin Netanyahu rechazó de inmediato el acuerdo entre los Dos Grandes y anunció que Israel se reserva el derecho a intervenir militarmente en Siria para preservar su seguridad , comentario que constituye una amenaza contra un Estado soberano y, por tanto, viola la Carta de las Naciones Unidas. En todo caso, todos han podido comprobar en los últimos 7 años que el pretexto de las armas destinadas al Hezbollah libanés está más que gastado. Por ejemplo, el 1º de noviembre Israel bombardeó ilegalmente una zona industrial en la región siria de Hassiyé… otra vez con el pretexto de destruir armamento destinado al Hezbollah. En realidad, el blanco del ataque era una fábrica de cobre indispensable en el restablecimiento de la red eléctrica siria .
La Declaración de Da Nang incluye avances bien definidos. Por ejemplo, deja establecido por primera vez que todos los sirios podrán participar en la próxima elección presidencial. Hay que recordar que los miembros de la coalición internacional violaron la Convención de Viena impidiendo que los sirios residentes en el exterior votaran en la última elección presidencial. Por su parte, la «Coalición Nacional de Fuerzas de la Oposición y de la Revolución» boicoteaba las elecciones porque estaba bajo control de la Hermandad Musulmana y esta proclama que «El Corán es nuestra ley» y que no hay espacio para elecciones en un régimen islamista.
El contraste entre, por un lado, el avance de las negociación ruso-estadounidense sobre Siria y, por otro lado, el empecinamiento del mismo Estados Unidos en negar los hechos ante el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU resulta realmente sorprendente.
Es interesante observar el desconcierto de la prensa europea, tanto ante el trabajo de los presidentes Putin y Trump como frente a la terquedad infantil de la delegación de Estados Unidos en el Consejo de Seguridad. Casi ningún medio de difusión ha mencionado el Memorándum de Amman y todos comentaron la Declaración Común Putin-Trump antes de su publicación, basándose sólo una Nota de la Casa Blanca. En cuanto a las niñerías de la embajadora estadounidense Nikki Haley en el Consejo de Seguridad, los medios europeos se limitaron a señalar unánimemente que los Dos Grandes no pudieron llegar a un acuerdo… pero sin mencionar los argumentos rusos, a pesar de que Moscú los expuso extensa y detalladamente.
Lo que puede verse es que mientras el presidente Trump trata de separarse de la política imperialista de sus predecesores, los funcionarios internacionales pro-estadounidenses de la ONU son incapaces de adaptarse a la realidad. Después de 16 años de mentiras sistemáticas, ya no logran pensar en función de los hechos sino sólo de sus obsesiones. Ya no logran dejar de creer que la realidad corresponde a lo que ellos quieren. Es el comportamiento característico de los imperios en decadencia.
 Referencia: ONU S/2001/946 y S/2001/947.
 «Discours de M. Powell au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU», por Colin L. Powell, Réseau Voltaire, 11 de febrero de 2003.
 “Colin Powell on Iraq, Race, and Hurricane Relief”, ABC, 8 de septiembre de 2005.
 «Alemania y la ONU contra Siria», por Thierry Meyssan, Al-Watan (Siria), Red Voltaire, 28 de enero de 2016.
 Sous nos yeux. Du 11-Septembre à Donald Trump, Thierry Meyssan, Demi-Lune, 2017.
 La OPAQ es la Organización para la Prohibición de las Armas Químicas.
 «¿Y por qué Trump bombardeó Sheyrat?», por Thierry Meyssan, Al-Watan (Siria) , Red Voltaire, 2 de mayo de 2017.
 «Observations émises par le Ministère russe des Affaires étrangères au sujet du dossier chimique syrien», Réseau Voltaire, 23 de octubre de 2017.
 «El informe de la CIA sobre el “ataque químico” de Khan Shaykhun es una burda falsificación», Red Voltaire, 15 de abril de 2017.
 «Londres y Washington entregaron armas químicas a los yihadistas», Red Voltaire, 16 de agosto de 2017.
 «Projet de résolution sur le Mécanisme d’enquête conjoint Onu-OIAC (Véto russe) », Réseau Voltaire, 16 de noviembre de 2017.
 «Projet de résolution sur le renouvellement du Mécanisme d’enquête conjoint (Veto russe)», «Utilisation d’armes chimiques en Syrie (Veto russe)», Réseau Voltaire, 24 de octubre de 2017.
 «Projet de résolution sur le Mécanisme d’enquête conjoint Onu-OIAC (Véto russe)», Réseau Voltaire, 16 de noviembre de 2017.
 «Debate sobre el presunto incidente químico de Khan Cheikhun (veto ruso)», Red Voltaire, 12 de abril de 2017.
 «Évaluation française de l’attaque chimique de Khan Cheikhoun», Red Voltaire, 26 de abril de 2017.
 «Jordania expresa apoyo a Siria», Red Voltaire, 30 de agosto de 2017.
 «Declaración de los Presidentes de Rusia y Estados Unidos sobre Siria», Red Voltaire, 11 de noviembre de 2017.
 “Iran building permanent military base in Syria – claim”, Gordon Corera, BBC, 10 de noviembre de 2017.
 «Israel rechaza el plan ruso-estadounidense para la paz en Siria», Red Voltaire, 15 de noviembre de 2017.
 «Israel bombardea una fábrica de cobre en Siria», por Mounzer Mounzer, Red Voltaire, 3 de noviembre de 2017.
martes, 21 de noviembre de 2017
La canciller alemana Angela Merkel no ha podido formar un gobierno de coalición para su país. Eso significa próximas elecciones, chicos. Ya se habla del fin de la Era Merkel. La nota que sigue es de Alex Gorka para el sitio web Strategic Culture Foundation:
Título: Germany’s Government Impasse: End of Merkel Era Is Within Sight
Texto: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suffered a crushing defeat. On Nov.20, she informed the president of her failure to form a coalition government. This is a shock for Germany with its postwar record of government stability and political consensus and the entire Europe as well.
For the first time in her 12 years as chancellor, Angela Merkel is unable to exercise power. Germany's Free Democrats (FDP) have called off coalition talks with her CDU/CSU bloc and the Greens. According to Christian Lindner, the party’s leader, “no basis for trust and a shared idea” has been found. Angela Merkel will remain acting chancellor, but the prospects of forming a new coalition government are dim.
Among the core differences is the issue of refugee and asylum policy and, in particular, the issue of whether refugees should be allowed to bring their families to Germany. In 2016, the right was suspended. But the freeze runs out next year, raising the prospect of a spike in migrant flows. The idea of family reunification is supported by Greens. The Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) is on the way to toughen its position on allowing in new migrants.
Russia is also an issue of discord. Christian Lindner, the leader of Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP) opposes the Merkel’s stance on the relationship with that country. He believes that “The security and prosperity of Europe depends on its relationship with Moscow.” According to him, the issue of Crimea should be set aside for the moment in order to make progress in other areas. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also voiced his support for improvement of the ties with Moscow. The voices are heard in Germany calling for easing the Russia sanctions, which destroy German businesses. Dozens of German companies have already gone bankrupt because of the punitive measures.
Before the September elections in Germany, representatives of all many political parties, including the AfD, the Left-wing party (Die Linke), and the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) declared that improving relationships with Moscow was important for them, calling for at least a partial lifting of sanctions against it. The SPD described Russia as a key country for security and peace in Europe and those goals may be achieved “exclusively jointly with Russia, rather than beside or against it”. Sigmar Gabriel, the head of German diplomacy and influential SPD politician, believes that the expectation of a full implementation of the Minsk arrangements is “illusionary” and sanctions should already be lifted in the situation in which the truce in Eastern Ukraine is maintained.
Even the Bavarian CSU, the chancellor’s closest ally and partner, believes that “sanctions against Russia must not continue permanently” and Germans must “build bridges to Russia”. Accordingly, the CSU wants to develop a schedule for lifting the sanctions, which would be “waived alongside the gradual entry into force of the Minsk provisions”. German direct investments in Russia are growing to reach $312 million in the first quarter of 2017. It significantly exceeded the total volume of German investments in 2016, which amounted to $225 million. Over 5,500 companies with the German capital are operating in Russia. Lifting the sanctions against Moscow could eliminate an irritant in the Germany’s relationship with other EU members.
Angela Merkel could choose to enter talks with just the Greens to form a minority government. The Christian Democrats could also try to make an arrangement with the but the chance is slim as the SPD has repeatedly reaffirmed that its role in the parliament will be in opposition. Even if an agreement is reached, the country would have a weak government with murky future. Normally, such minority coalitions don’t last long.
The situation raises the prospect of new elections. This is the most probable scenario, unless the Christian Democrats can entice the FDP back to the table in the days ahead, which is unlikely. A return to the polls in early 2018 is a chance for the right wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) to score an even better result than it achieved two months ago with almost 13 percent of the vote. A new election hardly bodes well for the parties that failed to agree on a coalition. And now the main thing - if a new election is announced, the Christian Democrats are likely to be led by another leader. After all, nobody else but Angela Merkel is responsible for the problem of migrants, which divides the country, the failure of the party to win at least 40 percent of the vote in the September election and the recent failure to form a ruling coalition.
Whatever the outcome, the days of Angela Merkel as the strong leader of the EU are gone. Once dubbed the «Queen of Europe», she has passed her zenith and is standing on shaky ground now. With irritation caused by the immigration policy growing across Europe, many people in Germany and other European countries remember who is responsible for the EU’s woes. French President Macron is better positioned to lead the European Union as the German chancellor’s turn at the top appears to be coming to an end. The balance in France’s favor. The end of Merkel’s era is in sight.
A pesar de los resonantes éxitos militares del gobierno sirio contra los chicos malos del ISIS, el país está todavía lejos de ser controlado en su totalidad por las fuerzas estatales. El siguiente resumen de situación apareció ayer en el sitio web Sic Semper Tyrannis:
Título: Summary of Syria situation
Texto: Now, Syria could be divided into 7 sectors controlled by various parties:
1- The Syrian government, backed by its allies – Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, controls the biggest part of the country, including the cities of Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Damascus, Latakia, as-Suwayda and Tartus. However, the militant-held pockets inside the government-held area pose a significant security threat. The situation is especially complicated in Eastern Ghouta and the Yarmouk Refugee Camp. The pockets of Bayt Jinn, Jayrud and Rastan are relatively calm.
2- The situation is complicated in Daraa where Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies are in control of a part of the provincial capital. The Russia-US de-escalation zone agreement in southern Syria allowed the intensity of fighting there to decrease. Despite this, clashes erupt from time to time in Daraa city and near the Golan Heights. Militants in southern Syria are mostly backed by Jordan, the US and Israel. Tel Aviv often uses tensions in the area to justify its strikes against Syrian forces and describes its support to local militants as a humanitarian assistance to the local population. It is interesting to note that Israel has no problems with the ISIS-linked Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, which operates near its forces. The so-called local armed opposition does not seek to fight ISIS there either.
3- The at-Tanf area on the Syrian-Iraqi border is controlled by the US-led coalition and a few US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups. FSA units are concentrated around the US garrison at at-Tanf and in the nearby refugee camp. The US says that it needs this garrison to fight ISIS while in fact it is just preventing Syria and Iraq from using the Damascus-Baghdad highway as a supply line. US forces respond with airstrikes and shelling to any Syrian Arab Army (SAA) attempts to reach at-Tanf.
4- Northeastern Syria, including the cities of Raqqa, Tabqah, Hasakah and a part of Qamishli, is controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Kurdish militias YPG and YPJ are a core of the SDF and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) de-facto controls this area. A notable number of US military facilities and troops in this area are an important factor contributing to the SDF’s confidence. Some aggressive SDF statements against Damascus can serve as an illustration of this fact.
5- Northwestern Syria is also controlled by the SDF. However, the US influence in this area is lower and local Kurdish militias maintain better military relations with the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance. They also face more pressure from Turkey and its proxies.
6- Turkey and pro-Turkish militant groups control a chunk of the border area, including al-Bab, Azaz and Jarabulus, in northern Syria. Ankara has a strong position there and pro-Turkish militants have repeatedly clashed with SDF members near Tall Rifat.
7- Turkish forces are also deployed at the contact line with the SDF in the province of Idlib. However, almost the entire province is still controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). This means that Ankara and the terrorist group have reached a kind of agreement over the deployment of the Turkish troops. Ankara actively uses various militant groups to pressure Kurdish forces, which it sees a part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK operates in Turkey and northern Iraq and has been seeking for a long time to establish an independent Kurdish state there."
lunes, 20 de noviembre de 2017
Acá va una buen resumen de situación sobre las últimas movidas de Arabia Saudita en la región de Medio Oriente. También, una interpretación posible (no la única, desde ya) de los hechos. La nota es de Federico Pieraccini para el sitio web Strategic Culture Foundation:
Título: Saudi-Israeli Friendship Is Driving the Rest of the Middle East Together
Texto: 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.
This Saudi interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign country has stirred up unpredictable scenarios in the Middle East, just at the time that tensions were cooling in Syria.
Hariri's detention comes from far away and is inextricably linked to what has been happening over the past few months in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed bin Salman, son of King Salman, began his internal purge of the Kingdom’s elite by removing from the line of succession Bin Nayef, a great friend of the US intelligence establishment (Brennan and Clapper). Bin Nayef was a firm partner of the US deep state. Saudi Arabia has for years worked for the CIA, advancing US strategic goals in the region and beyond. Thanks to the cooperation between Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, Bin Nayef, and US intelligence agencies, Washington has for years given the impression of fighting against Islamist terrorist while actually weaponizing jihadism since the 1980s by deploying it against rival countries like the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the Iraqi government in 2014, the Syrian state in 2012, and Libya’s Gaddafi in 2011.
MBS has even detained numerous family-related princes, continuing to consolidate power around himself. Even Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world, ended up caught in MBS’s net, rightly accused of being one of the most corrupt people in the Kingdom. It is speculated that family members and billionaires are detained at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, with guests and tourists promptly ejected days before the arrests began. Mohammed bin Salman’s actions are not slowing down, even after seizing $800 billion in accounts, properties and assets.
MBS is intensifying his efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, which is a drain on Saudi finances, lifting the naval blockade of the Port of Aden. Not only that, the two main Syrian opposition leaders, Ahmad Jarba and Riyadh Hijab, have been arrested by Riyadh in an effort to demonstrate to Putin the good will of MBS in seeking to resolve the Syrian conflict. Not surprisingly, King Salman, in a frantic search for a solution to the two conflicts that have lashed his reputation as well as the wealth and alliances of the Saudi kingdom, flew to Moscow to seek mediation with Putin, the new master of the Middle East.
MBS has undertaken an anti-corruption campaign for international as well as domestic purposes. At the national level, the collapse of oil prices, coupled with huge military spending, forced the royal family to seek alternatives for the future of the Kingdom in terms of sustainability, earnings and profits. MBS’s Vision 2030 aims to diversify revenue in order to free Saudi Arabia from its dependence on oil. This is a huge ask for a nation that has been thriving for seventy years from an abundance of resources simply found under its ground. This delicate balance of power between the royal family and its subjects is maintained by the subsidies granted to the local population that has allowed the Kingdom to flourish in relative peace, even during the most delicate periods of the Arab Spring in 2011. There is an underlying understanding in Saudi Arabia that so long as the welfare of the population is guaranteed, there should be no threat to the stability of the royal family. It is no wonder that after losing two wars, and with oil prices at their lowest, MBS has started to worry about his future, seeking to purge the elites opposed to him.
The Kingdom’s reality is quickly changing under MBS, the next Saudi king, who is trying to anticipate harder times by consolidating power around himself and correcting his errors brought on by incompetence and his excessive confidence in the Saudi military as well as in American backing. The ballistic missile that hit Riyadh was launched by the Houthis in Yemen after 30 months of indiscriminate bombing by the Saudi air force. This act has shown how vulnerable the Kingdom is to external attack, even at the hand of the poorest Arab country in the world.
In this context, Donald Trump seems to be capitalizing on Saudi weakness, fear, and the need to tighten the anti-Iranian alliance. What the American president wants in return for support of MBS is as simple as it comes: huge investments in the US economy together with the purchase of US arms. MBS obliged a few months ago, investing into the US economy to the tune of more than $380 billion over ten years. Trump's goal is to create new jobs at home, increase GDP, and boost the economy, crucial elements for his re-election in 2020. Rich allies like Saudi Arabia, finding themselves in a tight fix, are a perfect means of achieving this end.
Another important aspect of MBS’s strategy involves the listing of Aramco on the NYSE together with the switch to selling oil for yuan payments. Both decisions are fundamental to the United States and China, and both bring with them a lot of friction. MBS is at this moment weak and needs all the allies and support he can get. For this reason, a decision on Aramco or the petroyuan would probably create big problems with Beijing and Washington respectively. The reason why MBS is willing to sell a small stock of Aramco relates to his efforts to gin up some money. For this reason, thanks to the raids on the accounts and assets of the people arrested by MBS, Saudi Arabia has raised over $800 billion, certainly a higher figure than any sale of Aramco shares would have brought.
This move allows MBS to postpone a decision on listing Aramco on the NYSE as well as on whether to start accepting yuan for payment of oil. Holding back on the petroyuan and Aramco’s initial public offering is a way of holding off both Beijing and Washington but without at the same time favouring one over the other. Economically, Riyadh cannot choose between selling oil for dollars on the one hand and accepting payment in another currency on the other. It is a nightmare scenario; but some day down the road, the Saudi royals will have to make a choice.
The third party to this situation is Israel in the figure of Netanyahu, Donald Trump's great friend and supporter right from the beginning of his electoral campaign. Trump's victory brought positive returns to the investment the Israeli leader had made in him. Ever since Trump won the election, the US has employed harsh words against Iran, turning away from the positive approach adopted by Obama that managed to achieve the Iran nuclear deal framework. Nevertheless, the Israeli prime minister has had to deal with numerous problems at home, with a narrow parliamentary majority and several members of his government under investigation for corruption.
Donald Trump pursued a very aggressive policy against Tehran during the election campaign, then went on to annul the Iran nuclear deal a few weeks ago. The decision is now for Congress to certify, with a difficult mediation between European allies (other than China and Russia), who are opposed to ending the deal, and the Israelis, who can count on the support of many senators thanks to their lobbying efforts. Israel, for its part, sees in Saudi Arabia and MBS the missing link between Saudi Wahhabism and Israeli Zionism. Various private cablegrams leaked to the press have shown how Israeli diplomats around the world were instructed to support Saudi accusations of Iran interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs.
The interests of MBS and Netanyahu seem to dovetail quite nicely in Syria and Yemen as well as with regard to Iran and Hezbollah. The two countries have a common destiny by virtue of the fact that neither alone can deal decisively with Hezbollah in Syria or Lebanon, let alone Iran. Rouhani himself has said that Iran fears American strength and power alone, knowing that Saudi Arabia and Israel are incapable of defeating Tehran.
Trump's approval of the arrests carried out by MBS is based on a number of factors. The first involves the investments in the economy that will be coming America’s way. The other, certainly less known, concerns the subterranean battle that has been occurring between the Western elites for months. Many of Clinton’s top money sources are billionaires arrested by MBS, with stock options in various major banks, insurance companies, publishing groups, and American television groups, all openly anti-Trump. In this sense, the continuation of Trump's fight with a portion of the elite can be seen with the halting of the merger of AT&T and Time Warner involving CNN.
Trump seems to be accompanying Saudi and Israeli urgings for war with multiple intentions, potentially having a plan for a broader, regional and global agreement between the parties.
At a regional level, Trump first supported the Saudi crusade against Qatar, resolved with Riyadh not getting Qatar to accede to any of its advanced demands. During the crisis, Doha approached Tehran and Moscow, who immediately took advantage of the situation to establish trade relations and commence negotiations with Qatar to tame its terrorist influence in the region, especially in the Syrian conflict. Turkey and Qatar have practically announced a military alliance, cementing a new front that includes China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Qatar, now potentially all on the same side of the barricades, opposed to Saudi dictates and Israel’s efforts to foment war with Iran.
With the US withdrawal from the region, as is increasingly evident from Trump's reluctance to embark on a Middle East conflict, Israel and Saudi Arabia are increasing their desperate cries against Iran, observing how the gains of the resistance axis have led Tehran to dominate the region with its allies. The visit of King Salman to Russia, and the four meetings between Putin and Netanyahu, give the idea of which capital is in charge in the region. This all represents an epochal change that further isolates Riyadh and Tel Aviv, two countries that represent the heart of chaos and terror.
The Saudi attempt to isolate Qatar has failed miserably, and the continuous effort to paint Iran as the main cause of tension in the region seems to have reached a point of no return, with the latest stunt involving Hariri. Sunnis, Christians and Shiites agree on one point only: that the premier must return home. Riyadh hopes to light the fuse of a new civil war in the region, with Israel hoping to take advantage of the chaos brought about by an attack on Hezbollah. This is not going to happen, and the disappointment of the House of Saud and the Israeli prime minister will not change anything. Without a green light from Washington and a promise from Uncle Sam to intervene alongside his Middle East allies, the Israelis and Saudis are aware that they have neither the means nor strength to attack Iran or Hezbollah.
Trump is playing a dangerous game; but there seems to be some degree of coordination with the other giants on the international scene. The main point is it is impossible for Washington to be an active part in any conflict in the region, or to change the course of events in a meaningful way. The "End of history" ended years ago. US influence is on the decline, and Xi Jinping and Putin have shown great interest in the future of the region. In recent months, the Russian and Iranian militaries, together with the Chinese economic grip on the region, have shown a collective intention to replace years of war, death and chaos with peace, prosperity and wealth.
MBS and Netanyahu are having a hard time dealing with this new environment that will inevitably proclaim Iran the hegemon in the region. Time is running out for Israel and Saudi Arabia, and both countries are faced with enormous internal problems while being unable to change the course of events in the region without the full intervention of their American ally, something practically impossible nowadays.
The new course of the multipolar world, together with Trump’s America First policy, seems to have hit hardest those countries that placed all their bets on the continuing economic and military dominance of the United States in the region. Other countries like Qatar, Lebanon and Turkey have started to understand the historical change that is going on, and have slowly been making the switch, realizing in the process the benefits of a multipolar world order, which is more conducive to mutually beneficial cooperation between countries. The more Saudi Arabia and Israel push for war against Iran, the more they will isolate themselves. This will serve to push their own existence to the brink of extinction.