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The U.S. Descends into the Syrian Maelstrom

June 21, 2017

Syrian National Forces Liberating Aleppo from ISIS-al Nusra in May 2016. The world should have celebrated (and many did). But instead of acknowledging that this was a significant military victory that isolated the likes of ISIS, the American media tried to manipulate it into a tragedy.

For what can war but endless war still breed? (John Milton, Sonnet 15 – Thanks Richard Rozoff)

We were waste deep in the big muddy, but the big fool said to push on” (Pete Seeger)

The latest news from Syria, is once again is unsettling. All appearances are that the Trump Administration has crossed its own red line. As one writer, Jim Kavanagh, succinctly put it:The latest news from Syria, is once again is unsettling. All appearances are that the Trump Administration has crossed its own red line. As one writer, Jim Kavanagh, succinctly put it:

The United States is at war with Syria.

Though few Americans wanted to face it, this has been the case implicitly since the Obama administration began building bases and sending Special Ops, really-not-there, American troops, and it has been the case explicitly since August 3, 2015, when the Obama administration announced that it would “allow airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. military from any attackers, even if the enemies hail from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” With the U.S. Air Force—under Trump, following Obama’s declared policy—shooting down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace, this is now undeniable.  The United States is overtly engaged in another aggression against a sovereign country that poses no conceivable, let alone actual or imminent, threat to the nation.

This is an act of war.

Washington has entered the Syrian fray in a more direct manner. More U.S. troops are being sent there. Already there are confrontations – not so much with ISIS and al Nusra – but with the Syrian government forces, the Iranians and the Russians – all of which are, in principle, U.S. allies fighting these Muslim fundamentalists. Nothing could be worse for Syria and for Middle East peace.

Let us briefly note the escalation of tensions in the past few days:

• The United States shot down a Syrian national government jet fighter, although supposedly both the United States and the Assad Government are “theoretically” on the same side in the fight against a common enemy – ISIS, Al Nusra and the like.

The Independent (British newspaper) reports that “Israel is giving secret aid to the Syrian rebels” referring to a report in the Wall Street Journal June 18, 2017.• And now the U.S. has shot down an Iranian made drone over Syria

So what’s the deal with Syria? Read more…

Saudi Intimidation of Qatar – The Syrian Connection

June 17, 2017

Bangladeshi workers living in cramped quarters in Doha, Qatar. Qatar boasts one of the highest standards of living in the world. But these living standards do not extend to foreign workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines who work in conditions that international human rights organizations have described as close to slave labor

 

Anti-Iranian Coalition Trump and the Saudis Tried to Slam Together in Chaos.

The Saudi led blockade (which the Saudis insist is not one) of Qatar is stuttering. The anti-Iranian campaign heralded by Donald Trump in Riyadh in mid-May has failed to get off the ground. Not only that it has backfired. The Saudis underestimated Qatari support in the region from Turkey and Iran. The blockade has, for all practical purposes failed. They also miscalculated U. S. support for the effort. True enough Donald Trump and his little family entourage might have been enthusiastic, but the representatives of the military industrial complex (Mattis) and the energy industry (Tillerson) are far from enthusiastic and have not bought in to the Saudi project of regime change in Qatar. Not at all.

The blockade which Saudi Arabia has spearheaded against Qatar with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt is now more than a week old. Blockades, lest it be forgotten, are a form of warfare. These countries have cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar, kicked out their embassy staff, closed down branches of the Qatari run Al Jazeera media outlet. They have cut transport links, making it difficult for the country to import and export goods. Air space for Qatar Airways, the country’s airlines has been denied air space over Saudi Arabia and landing possibilities in the other states involved, complicating the airlines travel routes. On the opening days of the embargo/boycott – essentially a full court economic siege – the computer systems of many of the country’s institutions experienced cyber attacks.

As an example of how far this anti-Qatari blitzkrieg has gone, the United Arab Emirates made it illegal “for citizens to feel sorry for what is happening in Qatar.”As an example of how far this anti-Qatari blitzkrieg has gone, the United Arab Emirates made it illegal “for citizens to feel sorry for what is happening in Qatar. The UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif- al Shamsi noted:”

“Strict and firm action will be taken against any one who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar or anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form.

Certainly the Saudi hope for a quick knockout blow that would tame the Qataris into submission to Washington and Riyadh’s coordinated diktats has not taken place. Key Washington regional allies (Turkey, Iran, Oman, Kuwait) have opposed it to one degree or another and have been able to stall any military action against Qatar that Saudi might have been contemplating and to place the Saudis on the ideological offensive. A call from the United Arab Emirates to move the U.S. air base from Qatar to the Emirates has been outright rejected by Secretary of Defense James Mattis. A stalled crisis plays in Qatar’s favor that some grace saving formula (for Saudi) can be found to smooth over this spat among U.S. strategic allies.

Read more…

The Trump Circus In Saudi Arabia – 3 – U.S Troops In Saudi Arabia?, The “Arab NATO,” Why Trump To Saudi Arabia Now?

June 11, 2017

What is known as the South Pars field (in blue) whose underground natural gas reserves are divided between Qatar (in amber). Having failed to “produce” for the US in Syria through its terrorist allies – that is to overthrow the Assad government there, the U.S has turned to Saudi Arabia to do the job. The Saudis and Washington want Qatar to “fall in line” and accept “Saudi leadership” – it too is a major funder of terrorism in Syria – but Qatar is resisting. The Saudis, for whom economic crises continue to add up, are also eyeing control of the lucrative Southern Pars natural gas field which help ease its financial burden as well as enabling Riyadh to put more pressure on Iran…target of the new sectarian Sunni campaign which Trump has encouraged.

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Note: In Part Three of this interview – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues on May 23, 2017 – we discuss a number of things –  The little known fact of U.S Troops In Saudi Arabia, The collapse of  “Arab NATO” even before it got off the ground,” Why Trump To Saudi Arabia Now?

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Part One of the Series

Part Two of the Series

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Transcript: Part Three.  KGNU – Boulder – May 23, 2017. Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, one of the things we talked about in our discussions before tonight was the rarely acknowledged presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. I’d like to look at that a little bit because their presence is kind of opaque if you like in terms of how it’s seen here in the United States.

It takes place in a number of ways.

First of all of this weaponry that the Saudis have been buying from the United States – not just this most recent $110 billion deal – but they have been doing so for some time. Just in the Obama years, and even before – the Saudis purchased more than $150 billion worth of arms sales, 42 military contracts – this was during the Obama presidency! Now Trump is trying to outdo him. But the interesting point is, that the Saudi ability to use that weaponry is, to put it politely, rather limited.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Or nonexistent

Rob Prince: In that case, who manages these complex weapons’ systems? It’s American military personnel and advisers.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: One of the misconceptions we have here is the illusion that the United States pulled their troops out of Saudi Arabia and took them to Qatar or Bahrain.

But nothing is further from the truth. What have the U.S. and the Saudis done? Under the banner of “advisers” U.S. troops have moved into various Saudi military bases and sites.

Rob Prince: They are not considered American military bases, so under the cover of Saudi military bases we have American advisers and troops operating in Saudi Arabia.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: And then the United States claims that Washington has no bases in Saudi Arabia and that the troops have been pulled out. But in reality the pictures of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia have been presented either trying to guide Saudi troops, teaching them. There are some claims that some of these sophisticated aircraft being flown over Yemen are being piloted either directly by Americans or by some other foreign mercenary pilots brought in from various private security firms. But, they are there.

And then the United States claims that Washington has no bases in Saudi Arabia and that the troops have been pulled out. But in reality the pictures of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia have been presented either trying to guide Saudi troops, teaching them. There are some claims that some of these sophisticated aircraft being flown over Yemen are being piloted either directly by Americans or by some other foreign mercenary pilots brought in from various private security firms. But, they are there

In Syria there are close to 5000 U.S. troops in the northeastern region close to the Iraqi-Turkish border. There are a number of images showing U.S. troops trying to direct and guide the Kurds and so-called other moderate resistance fighters.

What is happening? If you want to receive sophisticated weaponry from the United States, change your name, call yourself “moderate rather than Islamic opponents” of the Syrian regime and then the United States will remove your organization from the “terrorist organization” watch list and then your organization can receive huge amounts of sophisticated weapons, training and other forms of support.

This is one of the problems that we have.

Rob Prince: What do you think of this so-called alliance, the “Arab NATO” that the United States and the Saudis are attempting to put together. Do you think that it will hold? All the machinations that have been going on. The Saudis reconciling with the Israelis, the Gulf states saying they will open diplomatic relations with Israel, the attempt to put the U.S. backed team together in a way that it hasn’t been for some time. How do you see this situation evolving?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, you know as well as I do that the Saudis have been working with the Israelis, have been in contact with them for many years, if not decades, so this is nothing new.

But as far as the ability of the so-called “Arab NATO” we know that the Saudis tried under the auspices of (at least) the Obama Doctrine to put these five or six countries from the Persian Gulf states, to put them together against Yemen. The war is in its third year. They are trying to beat the Yemenis. The Yemenis are poor, backward but very determined group of people and this so-called alliance hasn’t been able to do anything.

The main problem is different. If the United States really wants to get rid of ISIS, al Qaeda and so on, and all these terrorist organizations in the Middle East, it’s not the Saudis, the Qataris or the Turks that they have to work with. Instead, they have to work with the Iranians, with the Russians, the Chinese – the nations that for different reasons are really concerned about the crisis in the Middle East.

For example, one of the consequences of the Trump-Salman conversation a few days ago, the Bahrainis immediately went on a repressive rampage, arresting and killing Shi’a religious leaders yesterday and today which has provoked a huge crisis in Bahrain with threats and counter threats being made.

Bahrain got “the green light” (from Washington and Riyadh) that these peaceful protesters, demonstrators are terrorist organizations. Peaceful demonstrators are “transformed” into terrorist organizations!

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, I wanted to spend a little time talking about some of the domestic considerations.

Beyond the antics – his stupidity – and that of Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross – to participate in a Saudi sword dance…this trip does mark a shift in the U.S. approach to the region – from Obama’s “soft” hegemony – trying to tone down some of the conflicts, thus the Iran deal …to a “hard hegemony” – more direct military involvement – mammoth arms deals, giveaways to client states and a harsher – provocative posture towards Iran, commitment to keep the Syrian conflict going – continued plan to partition the country.

I am wondering about what Americans think about this trip to Saudi and how they are responding to it. Two questions that emerged from this trip are:

The first question: why did Trump go where he went? For most American presidents their first trip is to Canada, Mexico, in Europe to the UK or Germany. Why did Trump choose Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy?

The second question: why now?

Trump was worried about his reception in Canada and Mexico – as well as the European countries where angry demonstrations against is policies have already taken place. He chose countries in the Middle East where he will be well received – or thought so – especially a country like Saudi Arabia where demonstrating and protesting is a risky business.

As you noted Ibrahim, Trump’s Saudi visit did trigger protests in Bahrain and the wave of repression. I didn’t know anything about that.

Of course he expected  a warm welcome in Israel; actually he was received politely there but with virtually no fanfare although there were thousands of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories who demonstrated against his visit, the U.S. arms giveaways to Israel and in support of Palestinian political prisoners – some 6000 of them – many of whom are on extended hunger strikes. The Palestinians are also demonstrating against the deal that Trump, the Saudis and the Israelis are trying to impose on the Palestinian Authority as a part of this overall plan to restructure the region to Washington’s liking and interests.

The question of “why now?” – you’ve covered it already Ibrahim. Undoubtedly one reason was for Trump and his entourage to get away from the growing Congressional investigation into his ties with the Russians – and the possibilities of impeachment that does not seem to go away but only get bigger.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: By the way Rob, as we discussed between ourselves, Hamas and the Palestinians are only a marginal issue. The central issue is to destroy any kind of resistance to American hegemony.

Remember what Condoleezza Rice said in 2006 about the creation of “the new Middle East.” In the construction of the new Middle East there is no space for what is referred to as “the axis of resistance” (opposition to U.S. regional plans). In any shape or form it has to be destroyed.

Rob Prince: So the current pressure on the Palestinians is a part of the same overall program to put pressure on Hezbollah (in Lebanon), on the Yemenis, to call for and organize regime change in Syria and isolate and ultimately to overthrow the government of Iran. It’s one plan. This is basically what the alliance is about. At its heart and soul it’s an anti-Iranian alliance . One of its “side-shows” is to put pressure on the Palestinians. Basically the supposed deal that is being offered to them is: take this now, this is the best deal you are going to get and if you don’t accept it..well, your situation, already very harsh, will get even worse.

So the current pressure on the Palestinians is a part of the same overall program to put pressure on Hezbollah (in Lebanon), on the Yemenis, to call for and organize regime change in Syria and isolate and ultimately to overthrow the government of Iran. It’s one plan. This is basically what the alliance is about. At its heart and soul it’s an anti-Iranian alliance . One of its “side-shows” is to put pressure on the Palestinians. Basically the supposed deal that is being offered to them is: take this now, this is the best deal you are going to get and if you don’t accept it..well, your situation, already very harsh, will get even worse

I was reading recently how the Saudis have essentially abandoned their position calling for the end of the Israeli occupation as a precondition for beginning a peace process. What they are proposing is another “Oslo Process” – a step by step process. I know there have been many criticisms of Abbas, and valid ones, but I cannot imagine any Palestinian leadership accepting such conditions and then expecting to survive politically.

When it comes to other domestic considerations for the Trump trip, yes there is the talk of impeachment, but less noticed it was during this trip that his budget to Congress would be introduced with its herculean cuts to human and social services, increases in military spending.

The Trump Circus in Saudi Arabia – 2: Targeting Iran, The Kissinger Deal, Doctrines – Obama and Trump

June 7, 2017

Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank demonstrated against the Trump visit and the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi effort to force a humiliating settlement agreement down their throats.

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Part One: The Trump Circus in Saudi Arabia Milking the  Saudi Cash Camel-1

Part Three: The Trump Circus in Saudi Arabia – 3 – US. Troops in Saudi? The “Arab NATO,” Why Trump to Saudi Now?

(Note: In Part Two of this interview – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues on May 23, 2017 – we discuss a number of things – the consequences of the Iran Nuclear Issue, the relevance of the Kissinger Deal of 1973 to current U.S.-Saudi relations and what might be called the Obama and Trump Doctrines for the Middle East.)

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Transcript: Part Two.  KGNU – Boulder – May 23, 2017. Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues

While Obama tried to focus on China and to curtail the expansionist plan that the Chinese have, with Trump – if it’s true to call it “the Trump Doctrine – I don’t know if he is intelligent enough to have a doctrine, but let’s say for the sake of argument it is a doctrine – his making a u-turn and focusing back onto the Middle East, particularly in the manner in which it is being done, this is a dead end.

Jim Nelson: In the last month China has announced a new “Silk Road Agenda.” How does it play into what you have described as this antiquated attack on Iran. It seems that the United States is missing the boat, both on the economic opportunities which opened up with the Iran Nuclear Deal and with the expansion of the Silk Road Agenda as well.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Concerning the nuclear issue, Rob and I have repeatedly talked about this during the past months. The nuclear deal opened Iran up to the international community. Europeans are going to Iran from the left, right and center as are Far Easterners and South Americans. They are going into Iran and making various economic deals.

The options for the United States in being able to isolate Iran again to the point where they were able to in the past since the revolution, unfortunately for Washington, doesn’t exist. The Iranians are well aware of this.

The Chinese approach, particularly the “Version Two of the Silk Road Agenda” that I briefly talked about last week (on another radio program) clearly includes a number of key players into the mix. Iran is one of them. We are no longer speaking uniquely of the Silk Road between East and West, going from China through Mongolia, northern Iran, across Turkey and so on. It now has “its arms,” extensions, tentacles that connect to various places – going into Bangladesh, through Kashmir to Pakistan to Iran into the warmer waters of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean giving the Chinese the opportunity to invest in the infrastructure and bringing all these countries in line with its own foreign policy. That is something that unfortunately Trump, in his rush to sing the Saudi tune, has failed to understand.

Jim Nelson: Just to back that up. It appears that the United States is missing the boat. Obama was trying to make an Asian pivot.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The central point of at least the latter part of his presidency, particularly as a part of his doctrine, was that in the Middle East region, instead of the United States actively or directly getting involved militarily in a major way, it gave the opportunity to a few major players, again – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel – to work in a collaborative manner with a few other regional forces that they would implement policies that ultimately would support U.S. interests in the region.

While Obama tried to focus on China and to curtail the expansionist plan that the Chinese have, with Trump – if it’s true to call it “the Trump Doctrine – I don’t know if he is intelligent enough to have a doctrine, but let’s say for the sake of argument it is a doctrine – his making a u-turn and focusing back onto the Middle East, particularly in the manner in which it is being done, this is a dead-end. The man doesn’t understand that even Hillary (Clinton) in one of her emails to her campaign manager, John Podesta, noted that the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing clandestine financial and logistical support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups. They are supporting terrorism and ISIL in the region.

Rob Prince: I believe you referring to the 2009 communique released by Wikileaks

Jim Nelson: The enormous sums of money that the Saudis are shelling out in this deal appears to be a waste, a waste to the Saudi people and the people in the region who will be devastated by these bombs. It’s an antiquated approach. It’s looking backwards politically, not forward. It’s being used to foment dissension and sectarian violence.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The Saudi and Wahhabi mindset and the money from Qatar and others, are the ones who are at the root of supporting extremism and Takfiri terrorism around the world and in the Middle East specifically. For those who might not have the statistics, some 70% of those who have blown themselves up in Iraq are Saudis. Then there are the Chechens, a few Chinese and Syrians coming in as well. But 70% are actually Saudi citizens that are coming into Iraq with the clear goal of blowing themselves up and killing more Shi’a. This is the kind of sectarian violence that the United States is getting itself involved in.

Jim Nelson: What is needed are jobs in the region. The China deal (discussed above) is more likley to create them.

Rob Prince: I don’t know that the Chinese deal (the Silk Road project) will result in jobs to the Middle East but one of the striking elements of this enormous Saudi arms purchase is how it will affect Saudi economic growth long-term. They are talking about half a trillion dollars, $500 billion to be spent between military arms sales over the next ten years, plus investments in American based equities. That money could be used much more constructively in Saudi Arabia to fuel development there.

The Saudi long-term struggle and crisis is very simple: some day – we don’t exactly know when because the size of their oil reserves is a state secret – but some day the Saudis will run out of oil. They are well aware of this. To take that amount of money and divert it into what amounts to non-productive parts of the American economy, mostly for political reasons, to tie the United States more closely to Saudi, is almost to derail, the necessary transformation of their own economic potential. In the long run, it weakens, not strengthens the Saudi position, their own economic progress and to keep them mired in the position where they have been for the last seventy years: a peripheral structural position in relation to an American (and European) core, in a position of economic dependency, – absolute dependency – nothing less.

When you examine what the Arab nationalist governments were trying to do – before they ran into their own economic complications – it was basically to free themselves from that kind of dependency.

The Saudi long-term struggle and crisis is very simple: some day – we don’t exactly know when because the size of their oil reserves is a state secret – but some day the Saudis will run out of oil. They are well aware of this. To take that amount of money and divert it into what amounts to non-productive parts of the American economy, mostly for political reasons, to tie the United States more closely to Saudi, is almost to derail, the necessary transformation of their own economic potential. In the long run, it weakens, not strengthens the Saudi position, their own economic progress and to keep them mired in the position where they have been for the last seventy years: a peripheral structural position in relation to an American (and European) core, in a position of economic dependency, – absolute dependency – nothing less

Ibrahim Kazerooni: I’m certain you are going to address this point but I have to briefly touch upon it. During the past couple of years, every time there was a court case against the Saudis, the Saudis threatening to take their financial investments out of American banks, to sell their sizable U.S. bond holdings, etc. triggering a default that would bankrupt the banking system resulting in the ruin of the American economy.

This kind of deal (the one crafted by Trump in Saudi), literally what it did, was to suck out any power that the Saudis may have had to utilize this kind of leverage.

Going back to 1973 (the Middle East War and the arrangements between the United States and the Saudis which resulted) as a result of the Arab oil embargo, (Henry) Kissinger came up with a formula and presented to the then Shah of Iran Pahlavi as well as the King of Saudi Arabia. The essence of it was that the United States would not object to any oil price hike so long as so long as one thing was guaranteed: that the profits resulting from increased oil prices would be divided into three parts. One third needs to be invested in American banks; a third needs to be invested in American military industry (which means the Saudis will by American military gadgets) and a third can be kept within the respective national economies – but again, that third has to be deposited in American and/or Western banks that can be accessed whenever the parties want to use it.

That is what is known as “the Kissinger deal.”

Over the decades, as a result of overproduction when the price of oil was over $110/barrel, the Saudis were able to save quite huge amounts of money. When the judicial decision was announced that the victims of the 9-11 attack could sue the Saudis for damages, the Saudis threatened to pull out their financial holding in the United States. Had they gone ahead and pulled out their money, a huge sum, it would have ruined not just the United States’ economy but the Western economy as well.

This deal (the current economic and military package Trump negotiated with the Saudis) literally ties them (the Saudis) down, ties down the money that they have at their disposal, and may have used it as a weapon against the United States and threatened the U.S. economy has been literally taken out of their hands and tied into useless projects from which they will not benefit.

Rob Prince: What is ironic about all this is the Saudis are doing this because they believe this deal will increase their political leverage when the deal will result in just the opposite.

Ibrahim, moving on a bit, something has gone on in the Middle East these past few days of significance. The Trump Administration is attempting to set up basically a security alliance; there is talk of the establishment of a kind of “Arab NATO” in Riyadh. It is reminiscent of what the British and the U.S. tried to do in the 1950s with the establishment of CENTO. CENTO targeted the former Soviet Union, this one is targeting Iran.

Can you talk a little bit about the goals and features of this “alliance and how you see it emerging? Does it look like it will be a successful alliance, will it fall apart.”

What I see happening here bears great similarities to the period prior to the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq: the vilification of Iran, the attempts to put together a coalition (to veil what is essentially U.S. aggression) – all of this kind of nonsense – and also, and this is what this entire weekend was about – the attempt to provoke Iran into taking their bait.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Which Iran has not done (taking the bait).

It is an apt comparison, Rob, with CENTO, but the CENTO proposal by the British and to a degree the Americans were involved as well. The project was conceived as a way to use local agents against nationalists and national movements in the region that threatened British interests, be it in Iran during Mossadegh’s time, but particularly, one of the places they focused on and tried to use CENTO was Syria.

The early post World War II governments in Syria were considered to be a threat to Western interests.

Isn’t that strange that after fifty, sixty years that we’re returning to the same old policy but this time under the auspices of the United States, the same old corrupt regimes are being called to come together to unite to overthrow the current government of Syria. These regime are the sources of terrorism, the financiers of terrorism. In most of these countries around Syria the training takes place for the terrorist organizations whether it is in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or somewhere else. The poachers are now becoming the game keepers as such, if that is possible, overnight.

Trump knows that the leadership of these countries are up to their neck in supporting terrorists.

But the whole issue is to try to curtail Iran.

Another difference with the Obama Doctrine is direct intervention.

Obama’s approach was essentially that the United States would provide the direction and the regional allies would get involved militarily directly. On the other hand, the Trump Administration wants to actually increase U.S. troop presence in the Middle East and get more American troops involved in the actual fighting. There are already some contingents in northern Syria, in the Jordanian Desert close to the Syrian border. But what is being proposed is much more: 35,000 American troops going into the region under various auspices as directors, advisers. But when we look at what is going on already on the ground we can realize that the plan hasn’t changed – to partition and divide Syria.

The goal of the plan hasn’t changed. There is just the following variation: Trump now says “we will send the soldiers, you (U.S. Arab allies) pay the bill. … Rather than “we will send you the logistical support, you fight for it” which was part of the Obama Doctrine. All of Trump’s comments about allies having to “shoulder responsibility” means “you pay.”

To Be Continued.

Is Saudi Arabia Preparing To Invade Qatar?

June 7, 2017

South Pars natural gas field, the large red item in the center of the Persian Gulf, between Qatar and Iran

Is this where all the pressure on Qatar is heading?

I don’t know…but it is very much within the realm of possibility and if I was a betting man, as the expression goes, (I am not) I’d put down a nice sum on the “they’ll go in” side of the equation.  Whatever, the Saudis, their Emirate allies, with the full support of the United States are essentially trying to overthrow the government of Qatar, a place where four years ago, they also forced the abdication of one emir and replaced him with another.

Regardless, the current Saudi threats against Qatar only deepens the divide between three U.S. allies (two decrepit monarchies fueling dogmatic militant groups in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere and an increasing authoritarian government in Turkey). The new explosive environment undermines a good deal of the fanfare of the Trump Saudi visit that there is something of an “Arab” or “Islamic” NATO in the making. As Saudi Arabia and its close buddies turn on Qatar, consider the Arab NATO as dead in the water…and it only took two weeks for it to collapse, record time actually. W

Will it lead to war? We can only hope not and urge restraint on all parties. But at the very least a very, very dangerous scenario is being played out with Saudi and the emirates threatening Qatar, Turkey about to send special forces to its Muslim Brotherhood ally, Qatar, and the Trump Administration seeming not to have a clue as to how to tone down the antagonisms, which if they get out of control, could very well plunge the region and beyond into a kind of war that will make the previous ones appear to be little more than child’s play. In any case more and more the growing tensions between key U.S. allies in the region is looking like a mini version of Sarajevo in 1914. No better indication of the degree to which the Trump visit to Saudi Arabia was not about peace-making but inflaming tensions in the region. Maybe sword dancing with Wahhabists in Riyahd pretty much negated any references that Trump might have made in his remarks there about “peace” – a concept with which the president does not appear familiar. It cannot be an accident that the Saudis have “found courage” to take more aggressive moves against their Arab adversaries and of course, Iran in the aftermath of the Trump visit. It is nothing short of pathetic that after having encouraged Saudi sectarianism that has grown into a full blown crisis, ie, that Trump is THE CAUSE of the increased tension, that now in a statement that can only be described as lame and insincere, that the Trump Administration has “offered to mediate” to cool down the flames they have previously set in motion. Another example of how the president and his entourage don’t have a clue as to how to deal with the region…even less so than Obama.

The threats to Qatar come only two months after Qatar announced that it was going to restart development of the South Pars natural gas field after a twelve-year delay. As Qatar Petroleum Chief Executive, Saad al-Kaabi, noted, “For oil there are people who see peak demand in 2030, others in 2042, but for gas demand is always growing.” While Qatar and Iran are developing the natural gas potential of this field separately, there is some modicum of cooperation involved in the project and it appears to be proceeding in a business-like manner, with an absence of tension which must deeply irritate the Saudis, representing as it does, the possible future cooperation on energy development on both sides of the Persian (or as the Arabs refer to it, the “Arab”) Gulf.

The first public hints that such scenario is being considered (that I have seen) comes from an on-line article in Sputnik International, a Russian website. Although, as with all news sources, it is wise to read it with a skeptical eye, it would be a mistake to reject its content out of hand because it is a Russian based source of information. The article claims that this possibility was discussed during Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and that he gave the green light to such an operation (probably as long as the major U.S. base on Qatar, the largest U.S. military installation in the Gulf region, Al Udeid Air Base, remains untouched). Let us be clear here: should such an attack take place, it could not take place with prior approval from Washington and any notion that Saudi Arabia is acting on its own (in Yemen, Syria or now perhaps Qatar) is, as the British would say “poppycock” – rubbish.

There are certain parallels with the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait  and a Saudi military offensive against Qatar:

  • a Washington green light for the operation (in the case of Kuwait, soon thereafter reversed), in Saudi’s case, as mentioned above, there can be no attack without permission from Washington
  • an expansionist ideology – in Iraq’s case for a greater Iraq by swallowing up Kuwait, in Saudi’s case it’s brittle Wahhabist ideology
  • an Arab county in deepening trouble financially (Iraq for its stupid, cruel and costly war against Iran, Saudi for its war against Yemen, a drop in the price of crude oil – which in its stupidity, it helped trigger by flooding oil markets),
  • a growing financial crisis, an attempt to corner the energy market (in Iraq’ case to add Kuwaiti oil to its own, in Saudi’s an effort to control Qatar’s natural gas with its shrinking oil reserves. Qatar has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, the source of its wealth)
  • and last but not least, an effort to strengthen their positions visavis the growing Iranian influence in the region.

For sometime now Saudi Arabia and Qatar – both whose activities have fueled ISIS-al Qaeda like movements in the region have been at odds. The biggest “sin” that the Qataris have committed is to try to be a voice independent of the Saudis, something that they could do given their great wealth from natural gas reserves. There are certain Islamic doctrinaire conflicts, with the Saudis as usual, spreading their brittle Wahhabist message far and wide while the Qataris align more closely with a competing Islamic fundamentalist sect, the Moslem Brotherhoods. For those unfamiliar with this ideological tension, I simply remark that it is a part of the toxic mix between the two countries and should not be underestimated. It is an integral part of the competition for regional influence. At times even the United States has had to step in, mostly in favor of their Saudi Wahhabist ally, to dampen Qatari aspirations.

For the Trump Administration the logic for supporting such a dumb and dangerous move has several sources, the main one being that a Saudi take-over of Qatar, should it succeed and it probably would, would strengthen the Saudi position to put pressure on Iran. It also serves as a warning to nearby Kuwait to limit if not break its commercial ties with Iran. While a Saudi absorption of Qatar would strengthen the Saudi position visavis Qatar it will only create greater tensions among American allies, which the Trump Administration is trying to slam together into some kind anti-Iranian alliance. It will pit Turkey, which has promised to come to the aid of Qatar in case of military action, against Saudi Arabia, two of Washington’s most important and strongest regional allies. Rather than strengthening the anti-Iranian alliance, such a move would probably lead to the alliance’s formal collapse. It is already reeling from Pakistan’s refusal to participate.

One should also add, given Saudi military wastefulness, ineffectiveness and utter brutality (think Yemen) that a Saudi invasion and annexation of Qatar will result in a need for the Saudis to, yet again, replenish its weapons supplies, by purchasing yet more military hardware from U.S. arms industries.

Both Kuwait and Qatar, while not particularly friendly with Iran, have tried to maintain cordial, business-like relations with Teheran. Qatar and Iran have been cooperating in developing what is referred to as South Pars natural gas field, some of which lies beneath the surface of the waters adjoining both countries. A successful Saudi invasion of Qatar would end that cooperation and hurt Iran economically. Qatar is the second largest producer of natural gas in the world after Russia, Iran the third. In the case of Kuwait, the relations have been somewhat strained with Iran, but still there has been a modicum of economic cooperation and trade, with once more, natural gas being a factor. For a number of reasons, Kuwait has not been able to develop its natural gas potential. Buying it from neighbor Iran would make the most sense but regional tensions and pressure from both Saudi Arabia and the United States have discouraged these relations from developing beyond a certain point. Still, it is clear that Kuwait has tried not to antagonize Iran to the degree that the Saudis do.

 

The Trump Circus in Saudi Arabia – Milking The Saudi Cash Camel – 1

June 5, 2017

Bahrain Protests. In the aftermath of the Trump visit to Saudi Arabia, in neighboring Bahrain, home of a major U.S. naval base, repression against the democratic movement has intensified…

We began to hear murmurs within the Trump Administration during the time that he was giving that short speech in Riyadh – the most profitable speech ever given in the history of humanity up until now, we don’t know what will happen later. For saying a few words that the Saudi’s wanted to hear – and I will explain shortly why these words were critical for the Saudis – identifying Iran as the source of trouble and identifying Hezbollah, Hamas and a few others as terrorist organizations – as well as calling for regime change in Syria and Iran – this pleased the Saudis who reciprocated with a big economic package.

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Part Two

Part Three

Transcript: Part One.  KGNU – Boulder – May 23, 2017. Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues

Jim Nelson: The evening Ibrahim (Kazerooni) and Rob (Prince) will be discussing the U.S.-Saudi relationship in relation to the recent visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to that country.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Money, money, money! It’s so funny.

Rob Prince: Yes, follow the money!

Jim Nelson: As many of our listeners know, the President has spent the last few days in the Middle East, for the last few days in Saudi Arabia.

Rob Prince: Learning how to sword dance

Jim Nelson: From Saudi, he moved on to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. What surprised me is the way that the close relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel, how they share information and so forth. I wasn’t surprised to hear that because I moderate program – and you two have repeatedly emphasized the strategic alliances between the two countries, especially concerning Iran and the recently completion of the nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and their (Israel and Saudi Arabia’s) opposition to wanting that deal to go forward. But it has not been mentioned very much in the mainstream media.

Anyway, please begin with your commentary

Rob Prince: Let me begin by telling you what we hope to accomplish tonight.

What we want to talk about is: What happened of substance on President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Ibrahim will begin by examining how Trump’s journey is viewed in the Middle East itself. Then I’m going to comment upon domestic political considerations, why it was that our President and his little entourage chose these countries and this particular moment to make his first foreign trip.

Ibrahim, let me ask you to start off, besides the President learning how to sword dance in Saudi Arabia, am I correct that he was also given a golden sword as a personal gift because he danced so well? Read more…

The Trump Entourage in Saudi Arabia…Notes from a Radio Interview

June 1, 2017

Donald Trump and King Salman of Saudi Arabia…two beauties

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Notes..KGNU – May 30, 2017

(A note on “the Notes” – The radio interview took plaee on May 30, 2017 at KGNU. It was a part of an ongoing series “Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues” hosted by Jim Nelson who has been interviewing Ibrahim Kazerooni and myself since late 2010 from 8-10 times a year for an hour. This particular program was a follow up on the interview done a week earlier, on May 23, 2017, concerning the Trump entourage visit to Saudi Arabia which had just been completed. Given the size of the announce deals made between Saudi Arabia and the United States and the political focus – an attempt to create an anti-Iranian front of some 55 Muslim countries, essentially a Sunni alliance against all the different forms of Muslim Shi’ism, we thought it important to look at the results of this visit in depth and did so over the course of the two program, the full transcripts of which are being prepared.

I take extensive notes for each program and did so for this one. Given the ebb and flow of our dialogues, the notes only partially cover what is discussed in the interviews. When I think that my notes reflect some ideas not covered in the interviews, on occasion, like with this one, I publish them)

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In our last program last week, in looking at the deals that Trump and King Salman agreed to on President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia (May 20-21) as a part of his first foreign visit. Besides Saudi Arabia, the Trump entourage also visited Israel, Brussels and two stops in Italy – one at the Vatican to visit the Pope, the second to Sicily to attend a meeting of the G-7 nations. Although Trumpty-Dumpty tweeted that the trip was a roaring success, actually it was the opposite as today’s news, that he pulling the United States out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change testifies. The rest of his trip was also nothing less than a train wreck, even in Israel.

The deals he cut with King Salman in Saudi Arabia – the arms sales, the promise of Saudi investment in U.S. equities and the like are little more than a green light to more Saudi war in Yemen and Saudi meddling and support for ISIS (in the name of course for fighting it) and like organization in Syria. Saudi purchases of sophisticated arms that they are incapable of using without foreign (U.S) advisers will do little to help the deeper problems in the United States and the so-called “Arab NATO” that was announced, actually a “Sunni NATO against all of Shia Islam” began falling apart almost as quickly as it supposedly came together with Pakistan making it clear that it will not target neighbor Iran and with a number of Gulf Emirates announcing in the aftermath of the birth of the so-called alliance that Iran is a good neighbor. Read more…