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On creating a U.S-Ethiopian Friendship Society – Forming a human nexus. Breaking out of social & political bubbles. Part two of a two part interview.

May 16, 2021
Taste of Ethiopia – Aurora, Colorado. August 3, 2019

Interview – Part Two…

The first part of this interview was more political. It dealt with what is shaping up to be a campaign of hybrid warfare against the Ethiopian government of Prime Minister – and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Abiy Ahmed starting with misinformation and the gorwing Congressional call for sanctions against Ethiopia..

It this segment Part Two) I talk about the need to establish something along the lines of an Ethiopian-American Friendship Association as well as the typical challenges of immigrant communities to life in the USA.

(Part oneEthiopia: Senator Coon’s Fact-Fining Vs. Ultimatum Rendering with Professor Rob Prince. Part One of a two part interview)

CFJ-Colorado Interview with Yara M. Asi: A Tale of Two Covid-19 Responses – Israel & Palestine

May 15, 2021
Vaccine Apartheid in Israel and Palestine

Interview

In this live interview (done Thursday, May 13, 2021) Dr. Asi discussed the discrepancy between how Israel dealt swiftly and effectively with the COVID-19 pandemic within Israel’s borders but has largely failed to do likewise among Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories (West Bank and Gaza). Yara M. Asi is a non-resident Fellow at the Arab Center Washington D.C., a Policy Member of Al-Shabaka, and a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Central Florida specializing in health in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Yara M Asi – A Tale of Two Covid-19 Responses – Israel and Palestine

May 12, 2021

Thursday, 6-7:15 pm Mountain States Time

For Palestine! Friday, May 14th @ 4 pm at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. Come, bring a friend! Bring 10 friends!

May 12, 2021
Nearly forty years ago – in Denver, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. There is Larry Kanafani (on the left “Israel out of Lebanon”), Hamzi Alami (on the left with his hands in the air holding a sign, Morty Dayan (on the right, former first violinist in the Israeli Symphony Orchestra) and on the right, Nancy Fey…

This demonstration this coming Friday, has been called by the Palestinian Community of Colorado. Come, bring a friend! Bring ten friends

A number of local peace and church groups have been asked to join in, participate, support, and the like, among them the Center for Freedom and Justice – Colorado – an informal sister city project with the Palestinian town of Beit Ummar, in the West Bank Area C. Area C is the part of the West Bank completely under Israeli military control and is a microcosm of life under Israeli occupation.

We will be there – at the State Capitol – on Friday at 4 pm, brushing off our old “End othe Occupation” poster that is still in the garage, and making more.

Join us – in solidarity with the people of Palestine, against Occupation, forced expulsion and for the realization of the political and human rights.

Join us – in calling for a change in U.S. policy, to an end of American one-sided military and economic support for Israel, for a dismantling of U.S. foreign bases in the Middle East, for an end of the maximum pressure campaign against Iran, and a removal of U.S. trrops from Syria …

For peace… with justice…

Ethiopia – More on Senator Chris Coons – Ultimatums to Addis Ababa, Big Pharma’s Point Man on opposing lifting patent restrictions on COVID-19

May 10, 2021

Now it appears, that when Coons is not working with the Administration to destabilize Ethiopia, he’s defending the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying effort to prevent the Biden Administration from ending unethical COVID-19 vaccine hoarding which has led to “vaccine apartheid” to the disadvantage of the Global South. Worried – as usual – more about profiting off its control of the vaccine than addressing the global Coronavirus spread, the pharmaceutical lobby in Washington has gone all out to prevent any Administration lifting of patent control. Leading the change putting drug company profits before people – and in this case overwhelming non-White peoples of the Third World (including Ethiopia) is, Chris Coons!

When Joe Biden wanted to send a special emissary to Ethiopia to give the government of Ethiopia an ultimatum 1. to permit so-called unhindered humanitarian aid (meaning the U.S. and allies could go into Tigray Province with no supervision from the Ethiopia government 2. To postpone umcoming national elections or, again, to permit unsupervised, international observers 3. To demand that Ethiopian troops “withdraw” from their own territory after putting down an insurrection spearheaded by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front which the Addis Ababa government crushed 4. to press the Abiy Ahmed government to negotiate with the defeated insurrectionists with an eye on getting them one way or another back in power – When Joe Biden wanted to do all that, he sent his good friend and former U.S. Senate member, Chris Coons to Ethiopia. This was in mid March, 2021.

It was not a “fact finding” mission as it was presented by the State Department and the media in the U.S. but more of an imperial politican delivering an ultimatum. The visit was preceded by what was – against Ethiopia – anyhow, nothing short of an unprecedented (American) misinformation campaign with growing calls from different well-lobbied members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives for the United States to do what it does worldwide when it doesn’t know what else to do: slap Ethiopia with sanctions to pressure it to bend to Washington’s will. Unsubstantiated claims that the Addis Ababa government and its Eritrean allies were committing war crimes in Tigray province – broadly accepted now in Western government and media circles – harken to the kind of fabrications, exaggerations that preceded the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq (weapons of mass destruction) and the 2011 U.S. inspired (they “led from behind” as they called it) NATO invasion of Libya, the pretexts for the failed mercenary driven proxy war against Syria.

Indeed, all the signs are that Washington has opened up a new front of hybrid warfare against the Ethiopian state following a pattern that extends from Yugoslavia through Iraq, Libya, Syria – add Myanmar to the list…and now Ethiopia. A number of factors enter into Washington’s new hard line over Ethiopia. It’s hard to tell which is more primary – whether it’s Washington’s onesided support for Egypt’s attempt to stop the completion of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Dam or Washington’s anxiety about the inroads that China is making in Africa, including Ethiopia, or Washington’s manic drive to win and corner control of rare earth (and other) minerals some of whcih are found in Ethiopia, or some combination thereof. Regardless of whatever it is that driving U.S. Ethopia policy the goal is clear enough: either to keep the country so politically weak so that it is more vulnerable to foreign influence or, should that not work, to actually work to partition the country, either de jure or de facto.

Whatever, Chris Coons is a key Biden Administration in this Ethiopia destabilization campaign which continues.

Hybrid warfare – that is modern warfare in which actual military confrontation takes a back seat to disinformation, sanctions, destabilization – now includes weaponizing the COVID-19 vaccines to suit global political ends and competition.

Now it appears, that when Coons is not working with the Administration to destabilize Ethiopia, he’s defending the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying effort to prevent the Biden Administration from ending unethical COVID-19 vaccine hoarding which has led to “vaccine apartheid” to the disadvantage of the Global South. Worried – as usual – more about profiting off its control of the vaccine than addressing the global Coronavirus spread, the pharmaceutical lobby in Washington has gone all out to prevent any Administration lifting of patent control. Leading the change putting drug company profits before people – and in this case overwhelming non-White peoples of the Third World (including Ethiopia) is, Chris Coons!

As noted in a recent article in Jacobin, Coons’ defended the pharmaceutical industry’s effort to continue to control their patents on COVID-19 vaccine using old Cold War logic. “Many political and business leaders are defending unethical vaccine patent hoarding. But Sen. Chris Coons recently achieved new levels of repulsiveness, invoking Red Scare rhetoric, the Capitol riot, and the Constitution to justify protecting Big Pharma’s profits.” Here are his remarks at an April 22 event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

Let me close by being optimistic about our ability to invest in innovation, science, and competitiveness here in the United States. If we look back at what happened when the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite, it was a moment that was a genuine wakeup call for the American people. And as a result, Congress and the administration invested in STEM education, invested in research, and in fundamental and applied science, and the benefits of that lasted for two generations.

January 6 was a moment that was challenging, divisive, difficult for all of us here in Congress, and it was a wakeup call that our country is badly divided [my emphasis]. And the ways in which China has become a peer competitor in investing in R&D, in the number of patents issued, the number of research papers published, and the ways in which they are now trying to take the lead in standard essential — standard-setting bodies — that recent campaign to put a Chinese national at the head of the WIPO, where the PTO director, Andrei Iancu, was — did yeoman’s work to make sure that someone committed to a strong intellectual property system globally instead became the head of the WIPO — all of this is a wakeup call for us that we need to have another Sputnik-like moment of reinvestment in American innovation and competitiveness. A central part of being successful in this competition is continuing with our constitutionally created protected property right of a patent, something I’ve long believed in.

https://jacobinmag.com/2021/05/senator-chris-coons-vaccine-patent-remarks-csis-cold-war-red-scare?fbclid=IwAR3Ei2s-3whwVsclM4XIG2G2H6VUNpaccA_dU0SAQtPyH5HKpFZ9GgaHnzo

As Luke Savage, the author of this piece notes, the way the Coons “one of Big Pharma’s most reliable tribunes in Washington” phrases the issue “transforms a question of global public health into one of naked imperial self-interest,” an approach Savage refers to as “as grotesque and immoral as any argument for patent hoarding made yet.”

Ethiopia: Senator Coon’s Fact-Fining Vs. Ultimatum Rendering with Professor Rob Prince. Part One of a two part interview

May 8, 2021

The Interview

Center for Freedom and Justice – Colorado Presents: A Tale of two COVID-19 Responses: Israel and Palestine. Thursday, May 13, 2021 @ 6-7:15 Mountain States Time. An interview with Professor Yara M. Asi, a Post-Doctoral Scholar at the University of Central Florida specializing in health in fragile and conflict-affected states. Live on YouTube and Facebook.

May 5, 2021
Palestinians at a demonstration in Gaza City demand coronavirus protection for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, March 19. (Ali Jadallah / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Center for Freedom and Justice – Colorado Interviews Yara M. Asi, Non-resident Fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC, a Policy Member of Al-Shabaka, and a Post-Doctoral Scholar at the University of Central Florida specializing in health in fragile and conflict-affected states. Live on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OozxoZQv3kohursday, May 13, 2021 from 6 -7:15 pm MST.

Live Facebook link to follow in a few datys.

Dr. Asi will be talking about the discrepancy between how Israel dealt swiftly and effectively with the COVID-19 pandemic within Israel’s borders but has largely failed to do likewise among Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories (West Bank and Gaza).

“Perhaps more urgently, the entanglement of Palestinians and Israelis – with Israeli settlers and soldiers on Palestinian lands and Palestinian workers entering Israel daily – should have made a clear and obvious health case to Israeli authorities. Even Israeli public health experts called for Israel to vaccinate the entire Palestinian population. But instead of implementing a comprehensive vaccination plan for the Israeli-occupied Palestinian population, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to send thousands of doses around the world as rewards to countries that agreed to move embassies to Jerusalem and for other political considerations. This cynical vaccine diplomacy plan was frozen almost immediately due to legal challenges and significant global criticism. Israel faced further criticism when Israeli politicians delayed, and debated blocking completely, a small shipment of vaccines from Palestinians in the West Bank to Gaza, citing a desire to extract political concessions in exchange.”

For more information: cfjcolorado@gmail.com

Black Alliance for Peace on U.S. (probable) Pullout from Afghanistan

May 5, 2021

A zoom seminar worth watching in full

Building a People’s Movement to End US Imperialism in Afghanistan & the World

High Noon In the Middle East – The full transcript…

May 4, 2021

Above, the audio of the program.

Below is the entire KGNU – Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues program of April 27, 2021 broken up into readable segments.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

High Noon in the Middle East. The Danger of a major Middle East confligration if the Vienna Talks on the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal) Fail. KGNU Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues. April 27, 2021. Transcript. Part 4

May 4, 2021

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There is something that I’ve said ad nauseum on this program and over the past fifty years to be quite frank, there are no military solutions to the crises, the issues in the Middle East. What both the United States and Israel have run into is this reality: the limits of their military power. Their choices are stark today: negotiate, make peace, to deal with the multitude of issues in the region along with Iran, Syria, along with the other regional players, whether it concerns the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Rob Prince

I think to conclude – in a nutshell – there are not many options open to the United States at all. The new dynamic has literally removed options for the United States and the situation has become “either-or.” “Either” the United States will have to come and join the negotiation, and since the Iranians are speaking from a position of strength, Washington must drop all the sanctions, which means accepting Iran as a new emerging political entity. “Or” if the United States is not prepared to do that – in our conversation we have both agreed that the Biden Administration is not prepared to do so – then the other alternative is more somber, since the situation – the region – is so tense, only one spark is necessary to set off a major conflagration, with the whole region going up in flames.

The situation is serious. The United States has no other options.

Ibrahim Kazerooni.

(Continued from Part Three…)

Jim Nelson: I want to jump in here. How many elections has Israel had in the past few years, four? Five? It looks like it will have to have another one here soon. That must be adding to uncertainty in Israel – not having a clear political direction for the country.

Rob Prince: There is an interesting dynamic I have been following in terms of Israel and the Iran Nuclear Deal, the JCPOA

Needless to say Netanyahu has been on the warpath in his efforts to sabotage the Biden Administration from re-entering the deal. Talk about interfering in the American electoral process – no country does it more, and more aggressively than Israel. He’s made it know unambiguously that he wants to see the agreement killed.

But what has happened in the last month?

Voices coming out of Israeli intelligence, the Israeli military – what are they saying? Quite interesting. In terms of what is going on throughout the region, the Intelligence and Military communities in Israel have always had a more sober view of the situation than some of the political players like the present prime minister.

Ibrahim, what’s your thinking here? Am I off base… again?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: It’s an accurate and apt representation of the crisis.

Concerning this issue of missiles that you talked about, the Defense Minister Benny Gantz tried to present the Syrian missile as some kind of stray missile, that the missiles that Israel has are much more sophisticated in stopping any ballistic missiles that might be targeting Israel.

This (Syrian) missile was simply “a stray” that fell within Israeli territory.

He was laughed at in a meeting where he spoke about this in a meeting of ex-Israeli military commanders. One of those in the room made it clear that if one missile comes out of Syria and lands within thirty kilometers of the Dimona Nuclear Facility, is Israel really ready to go war with the Axis of Resistance where they possess somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 missiles raining down on us daily?

No sane individual in their right mind would say yes.

So the option is quite clear.

The Israelis have no other option but to accept the current realities, in the same way that India has to accept that the Pakistanis have nuclear missiles – there is no option other than diplomacy.

The Iranians do not intend to go that far (making nuclear weapons) but Israel must accept that Iran is a serious nuclear research and development center.

Rob Prince: There is another comparison, Ibrahim, that deserves out attention.

We can compare the Syrian missile strike on Israel with the Iranian missile strike on al Asad Air Base in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of Iran General Qassem Suliemani.

Before landing in Israel, this Syrian missile flew several hundred kilometers over Israeli Occupied Territory (the West Bank) without being detected.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: That is correct. And another thing that the Israelis said which is hugely false…

Since the 1967 War and particularly after 1973 the Syrians have changed what are referred to as fixed missile bases into mobile once. The idea that the United States (and/or Israel) attacked these fixed bases is a fiction. There are no fixed missile bases in the region anymore

It’s similar to what transpired in the 2006 war in Lebanon. (Hezbollah) mobile missile launchers traveled around the country and fired at Northern Israel from different places.

So the idea that a single missile can travel 200 km with all the sophisticated radar that exists and still go undetected – as was the case with the Syrian missile that landed in Israel and then land some thirty kilometers from the Dimona Nuclear Facility – this is taken by the same politicians and military leaders as a clear warning that “an adjustment” is required.

Jim Nelson: I just want to jump in and put on my hawk hat here and play Tom Cotton or Lindsay Graham. Their response to this might be that if Iran wants to go to war, then the United States with its predominance of military power will respond with overwhelming force and unmatched military power, and would devastate any challenge – regardless if it came from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen.

Rob Prince: Look where all this is coming to – and your question, Jim ties into this.

What we are really seeing in the Middle East, are the limits of military power without a socio-economic vision to decide political issues in the region.

Militarily, what can be said about Israel? It has decisive if not overwhelming military power within the region. Yes, the United States and/or Israel can militarily hurt, if not maul, whomever, given the overwhelming fire power and technical advantages that they have.

And yet their hands are tied militarily and it knows it.

For sometime ago, the balance of power in the region has shifted and the Iranians (and Hezbollah, Syria, the Yemenis revolutionaries) can hurt both the U.S. (its interests in the Middle East) and Israel too for they have learned how to engage in asymmetrical warfare – where one side of a conflict has the military edge but the weaker party has learned all the same how to effectively counter the military imbalance.

They (the U.S. and Israel) have taken the military card and played as far as they can and now they are stuck because their regional adversaries have learned the lessons of asymmetrical warfare The weaker side learns how to effectively utilize the tools it has its disposal – that is how the Vietnamese did to defeat the United States.

There is something that I’ve said ad nauseum on this program and over the past fifty years to be quite frank, there are no military solutions to the crises, the issues in the Middle East. What both the United States and Israel have run into is this reality: the limits of their military power. Their choices are stark today: negotiate, make peace, to deal with the multitude of issues in the region along with Iran, Syria, along with the other regional players, whether it concerns the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: I’m glad, Rob, you have brought the Vietnamese model into it.

When Ahmed Ahmadinejad was Iran’s president he was interviewed at the United Nations in New York by one of the American hawk newspaper journalists at the time. They posed a similar question to him. The journalist involved noted that the United States has the power to trigger a war with Iran. Ahmadinejad agreed and said something along the lines of “Yes, Washington does have the power to start a war with us (Iran) – we don’t deny that. True you may start the war, but we will finish it because time is on our side.”

Jim Nelson: Or we could look at Afghanistan too.

Rob Prince: Yes, Afghanistan, another classic example. Look at the uselessness of all that American fire power and yet after twenty years, the United States lost that war in Afghanistan. Not billions but trillions of dollars lost, wasted.

OK. We don’t have much time, left. Ibrahim we need to conclude, to sum up what where our discussion is leading to this past hour. What’s the kicker, what are the conclusions are there that we draw from this analysis that we’ve tried to make in terms of U.S.-Iranian relations, the JCPOA, – what’s the last pearl we’d like to leave for the listeners?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: I think to conclude – in a nutshell – there are not many options open to the United States at all. The new dynamic has literally removed options for the United States and the situation has become “either-or.” “Either” the United States will have to come and join the negotiation, and since the Iranians are speaking from a position of strength, Washington must drop all the sanctions, which means accepting Iran as a new emerging political entity. “Or” if the United States is not prepared to do that – in our conversation we have both agreed that the Biden Administration is not prepared to do so – then the other alternative is more somber, since the situation – the region – is so tense, only one spark is necessary to set off a major conflagration, with the whole region going up in flames.

The situation is serious. The United States has no other options.

Either 2015 (the U.S. going back to the JCPOA) return to the full agreement with the full implementation of the conditions or accepting the consequences of not doing so – the Middle East going up in flames.

Rob you want to say something.

Rob Prince: The whole question of the United States returning to the JCPOA…

I’m thinking of this wonderful coalition that has come together here in Colorado calling on the U.S. government ot return to the JCPOA – it has had national echoes – .

Many people think that if the technical issue can be resolved – what should be the Iranian limit of enriching uranium, etc., to my thinking these technical issues are not as central as publicly suggested.

Then what is the more central issue here?

Will after 42 years of the United States attempting to pressure, to overthrow the Iranian Islamic Republic, be prepared to recognize and normalize its legitimacy and accept it in “the family of nations” and then together with Iran, and the other players in the region, began to address and overcome the many regional tensions.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: It’s not just a question of normalization, but the need for the United States to accept Iran as a defacto reality.

Rob Prince: Yes, that is what “this whole thing” is about.

Think about the alternative. I realize that the threat of regional war might sound somewhat exaggerated to some of you.

But take warning. If this agreement, the JCPOA, is not re-energized, the danger of an explosion is real and immediate.
Jim Nelson: Does Iran want changes in the 2015 agreement?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: No.

Remember Jim that Iran went into the agreement in the first place seeking economic development, trade and investment with Europe and the United States especially, so that Iran could become more economically stable.

If Iran doesn’t get the sanctions removed and essence of the 2015 economic benefit for them is not there, Iran is not prepared to negotiate anything else.

High-Noon-in-the-middle-east-the-danger-of-a-major-middle-east-confligration-if-the-vienna-talks-on-the-jcpoa-iran-nuclear-deal-fail-kgnu-hemispheres-middle-east-dialogues-april-27-2021 – Part Three

May 1, 2021
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zari. China And Iran Approach Massive $400 Billion Deal

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(Note: if you are listening to the audio, Part Two starts at 26 minutes and 17 seconds into the program and ends at 40 minutes and 7 seconds.

We talk about Israel some. But at this point I want the emphasize the following: what it looks like from where I’m sitting in my vantage point high in the Rockies is something that that the mainstream media is not seeing. That is that Israel is experiencing a geopolitical crisis at the moment and the geopolitical transition that we have been talking about has confused it at the very least and it’s not sure how to deal with it. And for all its own military power and support from Washington, its options are limited.

Rob Prince

I tend to agree that politically or militarily the Europeans might be stuck in the American camp but economically they have to look to China because it is in developing that relationship that the possibility of economic expansion could take place. But for the Europeans, the fact that Chinese went to remove Iran as a market (for Europe) right under the nose of the Europeans and have turned Iran into a market for the Chinese – it’s going to be a huge loss for Europe.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

Continued from Part Two…

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Can I interject?

I tend to agree with Rob that politically or militarily the Europeans might be stuck in the American camp but economically they have to look to China because it is in developing that relationship that the possibility of economic expansion could take place. But for the Europeans, the fact that Chinese went to remove Iran as a market (for Europe) right under the nose of the Europeans and have turned Iran into a market for the Chinese – it’s going to be a huge loss for Europe.

The Europeans are feeling the pain and yet because they cannot severe the umbilical chord they have to “look the other way “ and accept this loss.

Yesterday we heard that a concerted effort is being taken by the Europeans to force the United States to drop all the sanctions and come to the negotiations so as to limit the economic and trade damage Europe is suffering as China moves in. Because if this continues, Iran will use take advantage of their new economic relations with China and Europe will have lost an important market.

It’s going to be very hard for Europe – let’s say – once Iran reaches the level of 60% uranium enrichment to persuade the Iranians to turn back to Europe – after increasing its trade relations with China to such a degree.

There is a significant different (in terms of uranium enrichment) between the Libyan case and the Iranian case. The Iranian case is an in-house reseach development program. It primarily is based upon the knowledge and technology developed in Iran. It is not some kind of package purchased from abroad with the United States or some other country sharing outside technology, with the purchasing country just assembling the product.

Once the knowledge is gained and the path to enrichment is reached, Iran is moving towards “the North Korean model” or the Pakistani model or the Indian model. There is no return. That is why – Rob and I when we were discussing this program beforehand – this idea that Iranians are expressing in the Vienna negotiations – “Take It or Leave It” – that the Iranians are presenting to the United States is causing a huge amount of discomfort for Washington.

Keep in mind that in 2015 the Europeans immediately used the opportunity of the completion of the agreement (JCPOA) to increase their dealings with Iran. The airline industry, oil, and other technologies rushed to Teheran. Then Trump threatened to impose economic sanctions on any country, company that made economic deals with Iran and they (the European companies) had no other alternative but to back down.

For the Europeans, this is a crisis of their own making.

On the one hand, they (the Europeans) understand how much Washington’s policies are hurting them. On the other hand they don’t want to break their security ties with the United States. So this is what happened, the sanctions against Iran created a vacuum – and this is what the Russians and the Chinese are taking advantage of at Europe’s expense.

Rob, do you want to add anything?

Rob Prince: Since 1991, there has been no counter forec globally to U.S. Imperialism. Whatever the Soviet Union was – whatever problems it had – it was a counter force which limited U.S. global options to a certain extent.

Between 1991 and a few years ago, that was “the ball game” and that resulted in Washington’s “hyper arrogance” on the part of Washington, the sense that it could dictate policy everywhere in the world with the rest of the world submitting to its will. To pressure the rest of the world to bend to their will, Washington developed a new form of warfare – well, if you study History carefully it’s not even that new, just reshaped and intensified – it’s called hybrid warfare.

According to hybrid warfare – actually military warfare is a small component of the overall package. Economic warfare, sanctions, subversion, misinformation, all these othe mechanisms short of outright invasion has been the main focus of modern war making.

But what has emerged in the past three, four years – a new counter force and that new counterforce is China. I was just thinking about all this the other day. Up until 1991, the counterforce to U.S. global expansion is the Soviet Union with China as a kind of subsidiary factor. Now the balance has shifted; China is the main counterforce and Russia is something of a junior partner. Russia needs Chinese support and cooperation in the same way that Iran does.

I mention this because that’s the new geo-political reality.

I bring all this up because I am in constant arguments with friends – especially about Syria, but also now about Ethiopia – they have good minds and they are thoughtful people but something is missing when they talk about these subjects and that “something” is their lack of understanding – or even interest in – geopolitics.

What is it that had given Iran the new verge and energy that it can stand up to the United States.

Let’s remember that after Soleimani was assassinated – a cold blooded horrible act if you think about it – Iran responds by bombing a U.S. base in Iraq, the al Asad Air Base – this is the first time since the end of World War II that there has been an open military attack against a U.S. installation by another country.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Not only that Rob. Not only did Iran bomb al Asad but the U.S. “swallowed the attack” without responding.

Rob Prince: Yes

The U.S. “swallowed it.”

Interestingly enough, Ibrahim, in the last week or so, an American General who, more than a year later, has publicly started to analyze the consequences of that missile attack.

What are the main points?

  1. That U.S. radar did not detect the missiles given all the fancy radar that the Unites States has in the Middle East dpest the fact that the missiles traveled long distances.
  2. The missiles were very accurate

This attack was “a message” and this general understood it: If the United States (or one of its allies) attacks Iran that the Iranians are in a position to retaliate in such a way as to seriously hurt U.S. allies and interests in the region.

There are 35 military bases around Iran, who knows how many naval vessels both in the Persian Gulf and near by. They have all morphed from being an offensive threat to Iran into targets for Iranian (or other) missiles.

All this factors into what is taking place in Vienna.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: This idea that Iran has the military means to retaliate is important. MacKenzie admitted it as well. In an interview yesterday or the day before he commented that the U.S. has to accept the fact that we need to reshape our policy in the Middle East being mindful of the strength of the Iranian military.

Rob Prince: In the same way that Iranian missile striking the al Asad base in Iraq was something of a shock in Washington, a couple of days ago, what happens?

Syria launches a missile into Israel. It landed 30 kilometers from Israel’s Dimona Nuclear Plant. This is the plant in Israel that produces nuclear weapons. Keep in mind that 35 years ago already, whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu claimed that Israel already had at that time 200 or more nuclear weapons.

The Syrians shoot one missile into Israel.

How many missile attacks has Israel launched against Syria? Hundreds? Thousands? Hundreds of times Israel bombs Syria. Syria on the other hand sends one missile into Israel that lands in an uninhabited area. The explosion is heard all over Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza but no one is hurt, no property is destroyed.

Israeli response?

The Israeli’s are going ballistic. It’s all over the Israeli press. If it hasn’t been covered that much in the American media this is not unusual once again.

The point is that both Israel and the United States find themselves in this strange position, strange in terms of where they have been historically. They find themselves geopolitically on the defensive. This is new for them and neither Washington nor Tel Aviv have responded well to this new situation.

Ibrahim, do you think that is exaggerated to define their situation as such?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Far from it

You spoke of the number of attacks the Israelis conducted against Syria. Show me one attack from Gaza against Israel that the Israelis have not responded to. Two days ago the Gazans attacked with ten or fifteen missiles and the Israelis decided not to respond.

They are afraid of escalation.

Rob Prince: Ibrahim maybe we should explore Israel’s role in a little more depth.

We talk about Israel some. But at this point I want the emphasize the following: what it looks like from where I’m sitting in my vantage point high in the Rockies is something that that the mainstream media is not seeing. That is that Israel is experiencing a geopolitical crisis at the moment and the geopolitical transition that we have been talking about has confused it at the very least and it’s not sure how to deal with it. And for all its own military power and support from Washington, its options are limited.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: This is exactly what one of the retired generals noted in today’s news.

In one of today’s Middle Eastern news sources, a comment was made about the shambles in which the Israeli government finds itself and its inability to understand – the term they used – the new dynamic in the region.

High Noon in the Middle East. The Danger of a major Middle East confligration if the Vienna Talks on the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal) Fail. KGNU Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues. April 27, 2021. Transcript. Part Two

April 30, 2021
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zari. China And Iran Approach Massive $400 Billion Deal

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(Note: Part One. Part Two starts 14 minutees and 30 seconds into the audio and runs till 26 minutes and 17 seconds)

It’s not just Washington that has not anticipated these changes but also Israel that has been caught – as we say – with its pants down. Despite appearances – U.S. influence in the Middle East is shrinking. And keep in mind, at the end of the day, what we are talking about – although there are technical issues – is a power struggle..that is seen in Washington as a zero sum game… in which if Iran (or China, or Syria) gain, the U.S. sees it as a loss.

Rob Prince

In between that period (just after 2015) and now, they signed a number of agreements with the Chinese, with regard to their (Iranian) oil industry, with regard to infrastructure needs – roads, construction, etc., but all that pales in contrast to the recent $400 billion deal between Iran and China where Iranian oil will be taken. That represents a huge blow to U. S. efforts to isolate Iran and prevent it from exporting even one barrel of its oil at all.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

Rob Prince: Yes.

Listening to you Ibrahim I have this sense that many or most of the listeners in the American public don’t have a clue about what we are talking about. The idea that United States is essentially being marginalized from most of what is going on in the Middle East – it’s not something that the American people understand certainly because the way that the region has been discussed in the media, the way that the government has talked about it – this is a hard pill to swallow.

I would simply remind the listeners of what we have tried to do on this program over the past eleven years. We have tried to deconstruct the mainstream narratives which, in the end, present a picture of what is going on in the Middle East that is skewed, inaccurate. At the same time, if the mainstream narrative is inaccurate, what is going on?

What is clear is that the changes taking place in the Middle East is something that Washington has not anticipated – but now the realities in the region are being forced on the Administration.

It’s not just Washington that has not anticipated these changes but also Israel that has been caught – as we say – with its pants down. Despite appearances – U.S. influence in the Middle East is shrinking. And keep in mind, at the end of the day, what we are talking about – although there are technical issues – is a power struggle..that is seen in Washington as a zero sum game… in which if Iran (or China, or Syria) gain, the U.S. sees it as a loss.

Another point I want to explore that of the Axis of Resistance which is hardly covered in the news here. Well, there is a little bit of coverage in the news here, but what does appear is pretty slanted, it’s vilified for the most part. Listeners should just remember how it was that different Administrations spoke of the Vietnamese revolutionaries, the Nicaraguans, the Chinese Revolution of Mao Tse Tung. It’s not surprising that a coalition of forces anywhere in the world that is challenging U.S. dominance – and in the case of the Middle East also Israel – would be treated in such a fashion.

The Axis of Resistance – it is a kind of united front effort but I want to emphasize how different it is from the traditional “united front’ efforts of the 20th century. It is a different kind of model from the old united fronts of the 1930s, 1940s actually going on into the 1970s and 1980s which were ideologically based, if you like.

The Axis of Resistance is a very different kind of a movement.

It’s not like the Communist International with its center in Moscow and where now the “center” is in Teheran. It’s nothing like that. In fact there is no center. Instead it’s a goal-oriented coalition rather than an ideologically based international movement with a managing center.

Each of the different participants, whether it’s Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the Iraqis, the Yemeni revolutionaries they all have their own situation that they are dealing with in quite different ways. It’s a case where Syria is concerned that somehow it’s going to wind up an Islamic theocratic state like Iran. Or for that matter Iran is not concerned it is going to be pressured to adapt Chinese Communist influences.

The ideologies of the different participants in the Axis of Resistance are quite different and that is what makes this alliance of forces so interesting. What they share is a common regional programs and common goals that brings them together.

The unfortunate part of what we are hearing here in the United States is that we know so little about the Axis of Resistance. It’s been kept from us… and the Axis of Resistance is strengthening.

This is something that I wanted to emphasize.

At the same time, one of the key elements one of the key elements in this power balance shift has been the Iranian-Chinese relationship and the strengthening of that relationship.

Ibrahim, can you explain what is going on here and what this growing cooperation between China and Iran is about?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes.

Since 2015 once the Iranians realized that even Obama was not prepared to adhere to the terms and conditions of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – they began to gradually move away from the West. Once they realized that nobody in the West – neither the Europeans nor the United States – were prepared to adhere to the conditions, the Iranians realized that they found themselves in some kind of a trap and that their focus should move eastwards towards China and Russia as emerging powers economically, politically and militarily.

In between that period (just after 2015) and now, they signed a number of agreements with the Chinese, with regard to their (Iranian) oil industry, with regard to infrastructure needs – roads, construction, etc., but all that pales in contrast to the recent $400 billion deal between Iran and China where Iranian oil will be taken. That represents a huge blow to U. S. efforts to isolate Iran and prevent it from exporting even one barrel of its oil at all.

Now Iranian ships full of Iranian oil are taking oil to Chinese ports and emptying it there for anyone who wants to purchase it from China. As a part of the agreement, China is protecting Iran from any adverse reactions that might be in the offing, any attacks against Iran. So now Iran has not only its own military capabilities but it also has the backing of Chinese and Russian military capability.

This is why Iran had become emboldened to the degree that now they can dictate their terms and conditions (concerning the revival of the JCPOA) to the United States as they have been doing in Vienna.

I’m sure you remember Rob, that when the original proposal for Vienna came out there was talk of introducing a step-by-step removal of U.S. sanctions. After its deal with China the Iranians rejected this step-by-step approach. Instead they put their negotiating position on the table – either the United States returns to the agreement (JCPOA) as it was agreed upon and endorsed by the United Nations Security Council with full compliance that includes removing all sanctions or the whole arrangement goes down the tubes and Iran will pursue its own path.

This unique understanding, this unique power of Iran ‘s is a result of the deal with the Chinese. Chinese support technologically, economically as well as militarily has placed Iran in a much stronger position, permitting it to literally tell the West to “get lost” and focus its attention eastwards.

Jim Nelson: I want to jump in here

I am assuming that the Washington’s European allies will follow Washington’s dictates pretty much.

Rob Prince: Not entirely, especially where it comes to China.

Jim Nelson: With the original deal (2015), China was not as involved, not militarily anyway?

Ibrahim Kazerooni:Well they (the Chinese) were involved in 2015. In 2015, all of the power involved came to sign the JCPOA as well as it being approved by the United Nations Security Council. Then Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the agreement.

Ever since that move on Trump’s part – while the Europeans mildly criticize Washington for withdrawing – the strongest criticism for the U.S. withdrawal has come from China and Russia.
The Russian military support went towards Syria, now Chinese military support to Iran has increased. So as far as the United States sees it, China and Russia are now part and parcel of the Axis of Resistance.

The presence of Russia in Syria emboldened that country to continue fighting against U.S. domination. The presence of China in Iran now has emboldened the Iranians to stand up in these international negotiations and actually dictate the terms and conditions of engagement in those negotiations that they are prepared to agree to.

All this is a great embarrassment for the United States; they could have done better.

Rob, you want to add anything?

Rob Prince: A couple of points…

In response to the question Jim raised..

The problem for Europe as I see it, is the following: strategically speaking, it’s just stuck in the U.S. camp – NATO and all that. And there it just plays a subsidiary role be it in Central Europe, the Middle East, Africa. But still sees the great potential for its future economically with China. Europe wants to be part and parcel of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. So there is a fundamental tension between its strategic alliance with Washington and its economic future.

The European approach to China is clearly not as antagonistic as it is towards Russia.

But even in its approach to Russia, Europe is caught up in serious contradictions. It can be seen in a recent spat over the completion of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. The United States is trying to pressure the Germans not to complete this natural gas pipeline which will give Germany and Europe an alternative to Middle East oil and gas so that they are not so completely dependent upon sources from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar, etc.

The U.S. wants to prevent Germany – and through it Europe – from not getting natural gas from Russia because of the obvious political consequences. This would necessitate a modicum of normalization of relations between Germany and Russia.

Not that German intentions towards Russia are so innocent, but still, at the same time Germany is caught too. It’s a little bit complicated concerning the relations between the United States, Europe and the Russians and Chinese – and that flows over into the Middle East.

High Noon in the Middle East. The Danger of a major Middle East confligration if the Vienna Talks on the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal) Fail. KGNU Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues. April 27, 2021. Transcript. Part One

April 29, 2021
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zari. China And Iran Approach Massive $400 Billion Deal

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(Note: Part One goes approximately 14 minutes and 30 seconds into the program. The entire audio is above)

On foreign policy, from what we can tell, the Administration is in trouble in a lot of its international relations. One of the areas where it definitely is in trouble is the Middle East. And in fact what we’ve title this particular program – High Noon in the Middle East – is just one manifestation of the Biden Administration’s overall foreign policy crisis. Rob Prince

After the rhetoric of the election, if President Biden would have immediately jumped on the bandwagon and removed the sanctions against Iran, he would not have found himself pushed into a corner where now he has to play to Iran’s tune. It was embarrassing for the United States when three weeks ago when the Vienna negotiations started, Iran made it conditional that their representatives will attend the negotiations and participate in the discussions (around the U.S. returning to the JCPOA) only if the U.S. flag was removed from the hall. Ibrahim Kazerooni

Jim Nelson: Good evening and thanks tuning into Hemispheres. I’m your host Jim Nelson. Thanks for tuning in to listener sponsored community radio, KGNU Denver, Boulder and Ft. Collins and also kgnu.org online.

This evening on Hemispheres we’re going to continue the Middle East Dialogues. As always joining me in these dialogues are Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince.

Ibrahim Kazerooni is a regular contributor to (KGNU’s) International Press Roundtable. He has a phd in Religio and Social Change from the Joint Iliff School of Theology – University of Denver Korbel School of International Affairs – joint phd program. He is an imam of the Islamic Center of America, in Dearborn Michigan. He joins us from there.

Good evening Ibrahim

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Good evening Jim, good evening Rob, good evening to our listeners.

Jim Nelson: Also joining me on the phone and Ibrahim as a commentator is Rob Prince.

Rob is a retired Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. He has been published at on-line magazines such as Foreign Policy in Focus, AlgeriaWatch and the award winning Tunisian website, Nawaat.org, a Tunisian human rights publication.

Good evening to you, Rob

Rob Prince: Good evening Jim, good evening Ibrahim, good evening to our listeners.

Jim Nelson: This evening’s program comes the day before President Biden gives his speech before a joint session of Congress, similar to a State of the Union address. From the news reports, it is likely that President Biden will be emphasizing his successes in these first one hundred days of his time in office as president.

He’ll be focusing on his domestic achievements, the COVID-19 vaccine roll out which has been fairly successful; but in this evening’s program we’re going to focusing on Biden’s foreign policy, especially as it concerns the Middle East, through the lens of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) known more colloquially as the Iran Nuclear Deal. A meeting in Vienna is taking place, the results of which will have profound implications for the future of the region.

One of the most recent U.S. policy shifts took place a few days ago when the Biden Administration formally recognized the fate of the Armenians in the early 20th century as being a clear cut example of genocide – which Turkey still denies.

When it comes to U.S. foreign policy, my reading is that it hasn’t changed much from the Trump years. The rhetoric has been toned down but the content remains essentially the same.

With that gentlemen, I’ll turn it over to you.

Rob Prince: Thanks for the introduction Jim. Yes, it will be interesting to hear what President Biden says tomorrow.

Generally speaking there is a kind of a disconnect in this administration’s approach between domestic and foreign policy. Foreign policy seems to be on the back burner.

On foreign policy, from what we can tell, the Administration is in trouble in a lot of its international relations. One of the areas where this is unmistakable the case is the Middle East. And in fact what we’ve title this particular program – High Noon in the Middle East – is just one manifestation of the Biden Administration’s overall foreign policy crisis.

There is a new reality – a new geopolitical dynamic in the Middle East that has come into being. It touches every country in the region and also the dominant players globally – the USA, China, Russia.

The region is heating up. It’s long been tense, but now the tensions have reached historic levels. In fact, one could speak today of the region beling something of a powder keg ready to explode with consequences no one can predict.

This might sound like some kind of an exaggeration – I assure you that it’s not that at all. We’re at a juncture in the juncture in the road, a moment when the paths toward peace or war, as we see it, literarlly hang in the balance.

So new geopolitical dynamics are in the making… Ibrahim, what is the the old geopolitical reality that is eroding and the new geopolitical dyanmic in the region that Washington can’t seem to understand or respond to with any vision or program?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Thank you Rob.

I think, going back to the question that you posed, one has to understand that the old geopolitics is centered on the United States in Washington and with its European allies.
In a nutshell it was driven by, manipulated, controlled by Washington and to a degree by its Western allies.

Unfortunately for the United States, the new geopolitical dynamic reality – the epicenter of this is not going to be Washington. The major players here (in the Middle East) are going to be the Chinese and the Russians globally with Iran becoming the major center of political, socio-economic developments in the Middle East where Iranian influence will be unpacked to the detriment of those who remain within the U.S. camp and to the benefit of those who say “au revoir” to the U.S. camp and move away from it, understanding the reality on the ground.

I would like to remind everyone that during last week two secret meetings took place between the Saudi secret service and intelligence bureau and the Iranian one in Baghdad. During the past ten years or two decades, no one could have envisaged that the Saudi secretly meet with Iran because now they understand the reality of how the Middle East is changing.

The old dynamic is falling apart; a new dynamic is being shaped. The major regional player in the new dynamic is gong to be Iran and everyone – the rest of the entire region – will be affected by this new dynamic. Even the Israelis have made a few comments to indicate that now the ball is dropping.

The answer to your question regarding the old and new dynamic is that the center is no longer in Washington.

Unfortunately for the United States, the success, the strength of Iran in the region is going to have repercussions on what we have repeatedly talked about (in previous programs) – the Axis of Resistance which will be emboldened. In a number of countries, they are not prepared to accept the New Order which Washington is trying to impose on the region and together they are carefully watching U.S. moves in the region. The countries involved are Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen – even in Afghanistan these days. There are elements among the Taliban that are becoming increasingly critical of the United States and looking for the possibilities of collaboration with other regional players.

The fact that all the efforts during the past ten or twenty years taken by the United States to marginalize Iran – and specifically during the past ten years – also to overthrow Assad (in Syria) – unfortunately for the United States, these efforts have not worked. Assad’s popularity is growing. An election will soon take place in Syria. On paper there are two or four people in competition for the presidency standing against Bashar al Assad, but the popularity that Bashar has gained as a liberator against the U.S. orchestrated invasion of other regional players, mercenaries has given him a 60% level of popularity among Syrian voters at the moment.

Chinese and the Russian support has emboldened Iran, particularly the more hard-line elements within the government, against Washington. The Israeli-Iran tensions, competition has heated up to great degree with a tit for tat from both parties. The Russians have come in, because they need to protect Syria – Syrian oil, wheat and grain – so they have offered to protect Iranian ships going through the Suez Canal from Iran to Syrian ports on the Eastern Mediterranean against Israeli attacks.

The increasingly deep sense of patriotism in Iran certainly is going to move towards the country to a more hardline position visavis the United States as a result of the upcoming election. I think it would be a miracle if the so-called liberals, moderates in Iran were to win anything. The conservatives are going to win a majority in the Iranian parliament and they really are not interested in any kind of agreement or association with the United States.

With the help of the Chinese, the balance of power in the region is going to change in favor of Iran and the Iranian government will face the United States as well as any Israeli attack – and I’m sure that it will wind up with Iran – if not being THE major player in the region, still, probably the strongest major player in the region and it’s all thanks to the United States.

And guess what? The Europeans did that. They removed the American flag and the United States found itself left in a corner, in a room, mediating through negotiators.

Rob, do you want to add anything?

To be continued. (Part Two)

Guest Bloggers: Professor Ann Fitzgerald and Hugh Segal: Ethiopia: A New Proxy Battlespace? Commentary, 19 April 2021 Africa in Perspective, Horn of Africa

April 26, 2021

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The commentary below first appeared at www.rusi.org.

The author Professor Ann Fitzgerald is currently under attack – with opponents to her objective interpretation of the crisis in Ethiopia calling that she be removed from her teaching post. More on her situation in future posts. What follows is one of the better articles on what is transpiring in Ethiopia currently and a critique of the current weaponization of the Western media against the Addis Abba government.

One further comment – her comments, brief as they are, concerning Washington’s interest in Ethiopia’s rare metals (and other natural resources) is key to understanding why the Biden Administration has come out with such force against the Addis government and in suport of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front whose corrupt and repressive rule in Ethiopia came abruptly to an end in the Spring of 2018.

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The conflict in Ethiopia’s northern state of Tigray is being fought on two interconnected fronts. The first is physical and on the ground, while the second is a dangerous information campaign projected via social media to influence, draw in and even direct international reaction. At the same time, the geopolitical interests of various major powers in the Horn of Africa, such as the US, China, the UK and France, remain largely hidden. As with similar situations elsewhere and before, the evolving strategic interests and decisions of these global actors will play a role either in achieving an equitable and sustainable solution to the violent dispute, or in escalating it.

COMPETING NARRATIVES

The conflict was initiated by a planned attack by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on military outposts of the Ethiopian federal armed forces’ northern command. Yet on social media, keyboard warriors have worked hard to portray the TPLF’s action as a defensive, ‘pre-emptive attack’ to counter the contrived alleged threat of a combined assault by Ethiopia and Eritrea. Serious allegations are also made of genocide, along with claims that Eritrean troops committed acts of sexual violence. Claims are also made on social media that 80% of the region remains inaccessible to humanitarian aid and is on the brink of famine. There are also statements by TPLF spokesmen from the areas that it purportedly still controls, which hint at wider separatist sentiments across the Tigrayan population.

On the other hand, the Ethiopian federal government insists that it is providing 4.2 million people in the region with aid. It questions the credibility of allegations of a massacre of over 750 people in the historic town of Axum, as well as Western media claims of alleged federal government war crimes. It also asserts that the TPLF’s unprovoked military attack on federal troops involved the illegal manufacture of bogus Eritrean uniforms in Tigrayan factories. The federal government says that tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees in the regional camps and over 10,000 prisoners being held by the TPLF in prisons still remain unaccounted for.

Officials in Addis Ababa emphasise that media reports continue to ignore many ground-based realities. These include the powerful effect of an entrenched ‘one in five’ authoritarian intelligence network where one person in every five is a spy for the Tigrayan government – a Marxist-Leninist control system developed in 2005 after the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) failed to secure any seats in Addis Ababa in the federal election. This authoritarian political culture enables both intimidation by the TPLF and significant control of the ‘conflict narrative’. In addition, the longstanding practice of arming and training farming communities to augment a regional militia of 250,000+ – which resembles a national army – has helped to shelter some TPLF holdouts cut off from the central command who are executing guerrilla tactics.

While the two narratives are poles apart, Western media seems to have chosen its side, portraying the TPLF as an ‘underdog’ and being broadly credulous of its messaging. While some external actors have rushed to judgement, accusing the Ethiopian government of genocide and of enlisting a foreign army to neutralise provincial opposition, the reality is sure to be more complex. An independent and intellectually forensic examination of the facts is urgently required.

THE WIDER BATTLESPACE

Prior to this examination, it should also be asked why a major African nation and long-time ally of the West suddenly finds itself isolated and its actions largely misinterpreted. To answer this, it is necessary to examine the contextual impact of the geopolitical competition for both water and natural resources.

Egypt (still central to US Middle East peace plans) and Sudan are both contesting plans for the filling and water-sharing arrangements of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Sudan’s military invaded and displaced Ethiopian farmers from a contested border community, while Egypt’s anti-Ethiopian rhetoric is becoming increasingly bellicose, with Cairo warning Addis that its historic unshared domination of the Nile waters is non-negotiable. Working together, Egypt and Sudan conducted a rare demonstration of joint air power only days after the Tigray conflict began. The second part of the exercise, dubbed ‘Nile Eagle’, came only days before the start of fresh GERD talks on 6 April. These talks failed and the stalemate continues.

International and regional actors are working to help the three countries find a way out of the GERD stalemate. These include the African Union, EU, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Israel also has a direct interest in the outcome with Egypt, having enabled the transfer of Nile water across the Sinai to the Negev Desert in southern Israel. Meanwhile, as President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) steps into the role of Chair of the African Union, he is also pushing for tripartite negotiations on the GERD. The DRC’s Grand Inga Dam was promoted in 2019 as an important anchor of green energy and a resolution to power shortages in Africa. The GERD dam carries similar constructive potential.

GREAT POWER INVOLVEMENT

With the above actors building an alliance to push for changes to the GERD plan from Ethiopia, the new Joe Biden administration in the US sent a powerful senator, Chris Coons, to Addis to meet with Ethiopia’s prime minister. It is hard to imagine that the River Nile was not on the agenda. Given that the US has declared that national security and economic security will not be treated separately, and has initiated a 100-day review by Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, on securing the US supply of strategic minerals, it is also highly likely that access to the Horn of Africa’s strategic minerals – copper, tantalum, niobium, phosphate, natural gas and other resources locked within, and close to, the Arabian-Nubian Shield – is of interest to the US.

As competition between the US and China escalates – and with China currently leading the world in its development of green and information-age technology through its Belt and Road and other investment initiatives – control over the global supply of key metals is in play. The US is obviously lagging behind China as the preferred economic partner for investment in Africa and needs to catch up.

Put in this context, the Tigray conflict with Ethiopia can be seen as a proxy battleground for external powers and a way to exert influence over Ethiopian policymakers. The legitimate government of Ethiopia, so recently praised by the international community for the peace it built with Eritrea, must work hard to resolve the existential threat now posed to that peace by the TPLF. It will need to hold its delayed elections at the same time as dealing sustainably with an authoritarian governance culture and guerrilla gangs across Tigray. Just how much Ethiopia will be supported or hindered in these efforts by international players seeking other outcomes for their own ends remains to be seen.

But if Western powers have legitimate and honest concerns about regional stability besides their economic interests, they should not rush to judgement on the ongoing Tigray conflict. Instead, they should make efforts to bolster and engage with the democratic federal Ethiopian state, which has already embarked on domestic social and political reforms and is clearly willing to engage in reasonable negotiations on the GERD. This offers the best chance for the Horn of Africa to prosper. Failure to do this could see a resurgence of instability, which may not exclude Al-Shabaab-led incursions and the rise of new demagogues across the region. The TPLF-inspired social media hyperbole makes a compelling smoke screen as local players entrench their positions regarding the Nile’s water and global powers seek to secure access to African metals for their green economies. This is a risky game – and if lost, it is sure to widen the space for China’s future economic dominance in the region. The West’s natural partner is Ethiopia; failing to embrace this choice and help it with its conflict resolution efforts is tantamount to ignoring the greater strategic benefits that come with partnership, and will surely destabilise the region further.

If the US wants to partner with Addis in the future, it should be helping to de-escalate the conflict – both in the media and on the ground. It should use its considerable influence over all parties and partner with the African Union to help broker a fair and reproducible solution to the water crisis with Egypt and Sudan.

The views expressed in this Commentary are the authors’, and do not represent those of RUSI or any other institution.

High Noon in the Middle East. The Danger of a major Middle East confligration if the Vienna Talks on the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal) Fail. KGNU Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues. April 27, 2021

April 25, 2021
Dimona Nuclear Plant in Israel nearby where a Syrian missile exploded – a sign of how the Middle East region has become a powerkeg ready to blow if the Joint Comprehesive Plan of Action (JCPOA – Iran Nuclear Deal is not salvaged in Vienna.

High Noon in the Middle East. Again.

The Danger of a major Middle East confligration if the Vienna Talks on the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal) Fail. KGNU Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues. April 27, 2021. 6-7 pm Mountain States Time. Hosted by Jim Nelson with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Available live by streaming at http://www.kgnu.org

High Noon in the Middle East…

We are a juncture in the juncture in the road, a moment when the paths toward peace or war hang in the balance. Will the United States and Iran normalize their relations and work together along with other parties, both regional and global to reduce Middle East tensions, or will the match be lit?

The United States and Iran are engaged in informal talks in Vienna. What does that mean? They are not speaking directly to one another – the sit in separate rooms while mediators pass notes to each of them in yet another effort to bridge the gap between the two countries that would result in the United States returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) known colloquially as the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Meanwhile, the Middle East is heating up… with tensions reaching historic levels. In fact, the region is a powder keg ready to explode with consequences no one can predict. It is an illusion to think resulting the violence, should it burst forth, be limited to some limited exchange between Israel and Iran.

Will the U.S. return to the JCPOA as it existed in 2016, that includes Washington’s dropping of sanctions against Iran – or will this round of talks, like those of the past, fail to bridge the gap and increase the possibility of a regional war?

These negotiations need to be understood within the new geopolitical realities taking shape through out the region.

That and more… Tune in.