Re-Balancing the Middle East Part 2 (of a 3 Part Series)

The Arab World, Turkey & Iran

The Region’s Flash-points

The world is in turmoil. 2020 has already brought major multiple crises, with the Iranian-American clash in Iraq which followed the US assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani, and the COVID-19 health pandemic and economic disaster that followed.  None of this, however, prevented America from imposing even more sanctions on Iran, Syria and Venezuela.

 In parallel with America’s implosion due to domestic protests caused by deep-rooted racism and injustice, in the Middle East other fronts are taking shape in the shadows, to prevent war or to trigger a wider military confrontation. A likely front is the Levant, where preparations are being made to confront Israel and end its continued violations of Syria’s sovereignty and bombardment of hundreds of targets in Syria throughout the years of the war. This particular issue may bring the Middle East into an all-out war; one mistake could turn fatal and drag the region into an all-out clash in which Syria will not be alone.

The region, currently, has three major flash-points, and we will discuss each one in detail. There is Lebanon, Syria and the Gulf Arabs. In part 2 of this article, we will discuss the role of the key regional powers.

Syria & Lebanon

A new geopolitical confrontation is shaping up in the Middle East, and not only between Israel and Syria or Iran. Like most conflicts there, it involves a fight for hydrocarbon resources—oil and gas. The new focus is a dispute between Israel and Lebanon over the precise demarcation of the Exclusive Economic Zone between the two countries. The prime actors at present, in addition to the governments of Israel and Lebanon include Russia, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and the US in the shadows. The latest Israeli attacks on alleged Iranian bases or Hezbollah camps inside Syria are closely tied to the Israeli aim to prevent a land link from Iran through Syria to the Hezbollah home-base infrastructure in Lebanon. The whole situation has the potential to lead to an ugly wider war nobody wants, at least almost nobody.

In 2010 the oil and gas geopolitics of the Mediterranean changed profoundly. That was when a Texas oil company, Noble Energy(which was purchased by a Rockefeller company-Chevron for $5 billion two months ago), discovered a huge deposit of natural gas offshore Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean, the so-called Leviathan Field, one of the world’s largest gas field discoveries in over a decade. The same Texas Company later confirmed significant gas resources offshore in Cyprus waters near the Israeli Leviathan, called Aphrodite. Until recently, political paralysis inside Lebanon and the war in Syria had prevented Lebanon from actively exploring its offshore gas and oil potential. Now that’s changing. With the change, the tensions between Israel and Lebanon are escalating, and Russia is engaging in Lebanon in a bold way.

At a formal ceremony in Beirut on February 9, 2015, together with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, the heads of Total( a Rothschild company), ENI and Russia’s Novatek signed the first agreements to drill for oil and gas in the offshore sector claimed as part of Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The event drew a sharp attack from Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman who called Lebanon’s exploration tender “very provocative,” declaring Lebanon had put out invitations for bids from international groups for a gas field “which is by all accounts ours.”

The energy tenders from Lebanon take place amid a backdrop of dramatic new defense relations between Russia and Lebanon, creating an entirely new political calculus in the Mediterranean region.

The Riches of Levant Basin

What’s clear at this point, after some eight years of exploration offshore in the Eastern Mediterranean, is that the region is awash with hydrocarbons, something neither Israel nor Lebanon had previously been able to find. For Lebanon, to develop its own sources of natural gas would be a literal godsend. The country has been subjected to electricity blackouts since the 1975 civil war. The country daily must experience cuts in electricity, because the peak demand exceeds production by a large margin. Lacking its own gas or oil Lebanon must import expensive diesel fuel at an annual loss to the economy of some $2.5 billion. Lebanon is one of the world’s most indebted countries with debt to GDP of some 245%. The Syrian war and internal Lebanese political stalemate have frozen its offshore energy exploration until now.

It is estimated that the Lebanese waters could hold more than 1 billion cubic meters of economically recoverable gas. Development of those gas reserves would alter the entire economy of Lebanon.

Is Russian a buffer between Hezbollah and Israel?

Given the potential for conflict over the energy resources of the region, it’s no coincidence that just as Lebanon welcomes the participation of a major Russian oil company, Novatek, in development of its offshore resources, the Russian government has authorized the Russian Defense Ministry to prepare a military cooperation treaty that includes a “comprehensive framework for coordination,” with the Lebanese military. The framework reportedly includes joint military exercises and Russian usage of Lebanese ports and airfields as well. In short it is major.

This, in addition to the now-permanent Russian bases in Syria–Hmeimim air base and the Russian Naval base at Tartus on the Mediterranean – is a major move on Russia’s part to establish a permanent ongoing role in the volatile region as peace-broker or mediator as the credibility of Washington with her broken promises declines. This Russia-Lebanon deal is not exactly what is on Netanyahu’s wish list. The dramatic Israeli attacks inside Syrian airspace indicate what seems to be a preemptive Israeli decision to try to disrupt the de facto Iran-Syria-Lebanon supply lines that could sustain the Hezbollah in Lebanon, that have begun to emerge in recent months.

Israel warns Putin of Hezbollah

If it were to come to a new Israeli-Lebanon-Syria shooting war, it would not be a war for simple control of potential oil or gas resources in the Lebanese offshore waters. The real target would be the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shi’a political party and militia, and a major actor on the side of Bashar al-Assad and Russia in the Syrian war. Were Lebanon to successfully develop the gas in the offshore region it could go a long way to stabilize the Lebanese economy, ease the high unemployment and, as Netanyahu sees it, further entrench the pro-Iran Hezbollah in power as the key stability factor.

Well before the latest Israeli strikes inside Syria recent Israeli press stories carried provocative headlines such as the recent one from the English-language Jerusalem Post: “5 reasons why Israel is ready for war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.” In September of last year, the Israeli Defense Forces launched a war game simulating such a clash with Hezbollah. IDF troops practiced shifting from a defensive to an offensive posture and executing maneuvers designed for the terrain of South Lebanon.

At this point Israel’s Netanyahu is in an open alliance with Saudi Prince bin Salman, with Washington in the shadows, to oppose Iran and Iranian influence in Syria as well as Lebanon and Yemen, following Netanyahu’s secret visit to Riyadh.

With Washington declaring its growing hostility to Iran as well as its highly-provocative unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the preconditions for an Israeli third Lebanon war, this one backed from behind by Washington and up front by Saudi economic sanctions, using the pretext of territorial claims to Lebanese offshore waters, would have the potential to escalate into a far broader war across the Middle East. By inserting its formidable military presence as well as energy presence into Lebanon at this point, Russia at this point may be the only barrier to that new Middle East conflagration.

The dramatic escalation of Israeli attacks on Damascus and the Syrian shooting down of an Israeli F-16 jet, the first since 1982, and the disproportionate Israeli response against Syrian targets suggest how explosive the entire region is. As Ghassan Kadi writing for the Saker Blog recently notes in an excellent analysis of the situation in the region, “The recent escalation between Syria and Israel is not a prelude for a bigger war. Nobody wants a war; not right now, as they are all aware of the damage that can be inflicted upon them. Israel keeps testing the waters, testing Syria’s air defense capabilities, and above all, testing Russia’s resolve and determination to create a true balance of power in the Middle East.” As of this writing it appears as if Israel used the pretext of alleged Iranian drone incursion and the shooting of an Israeli F-16, to launch test probes of possible Russian and Iranian response going forward.

If Russia is able to contain these forces from an all-out war is not yet clear. The Russian decision to sign a military cooperation agreement with Lebanon at the same time a leading Russian energy company wins rights to drill for oil and gas offshore Lebanon is no spur-of-the-moment decision. It is a calculated chess move in one of the most entangled lands of the world. For the good of mankind let us hope it succeeds in restraining the war interests.

It is well known that Israel possesses enormous firepower and strong armed forces for land, sea, and air combat, and is better equipped than any other army in the Middle East. It is also known that Israel’s main enemy and nightmare, the Lebanese Hezbollah, possesses sophisticated weapons, armed drones, and land attack long-range all-weather subsonic cruise missiles. Hezbollah also has long-range strategic anti-ship missiles, anti-tank laser-guided missiles, anti-air low and medium altitude missiles, and precision missiles. These are pointed at precise targets over all the Palestinian geography controlled by Israel, including ports, airports, military barracks, infrastructure, ships, oil-rigs and flying helicopters or jets at medium altitude. Thousands of Hezbollah’s Special Operation Forces, al-Ridwan, never lost a battle since their first engagement in Syria.

Israel has never ceased acquiring the most modern military hardware but it has failed to develop its fighting spirit. It has no newly acquired military experience on the battlefield, because the last battle it fought dates back to 2006, which was considered the second war on Lebanon (after the first invasion of 1982) which resulted in failure on many levels. Meanwhile Israel’s enemy, Hezbollah, developed and strengthened its fighting spirit following its participation for many continuous years in a very wide geographical military theatre

Hezbollah fought alongside classic (Syrian, Russian, and Iraqi) armies, gaining battlefield experience against armed groups trained and armed by the CIA and other jihadists affiliated with Al Qaeda and ISIS and possessing highly developed combat skills (combined with classical and guerrilla skills) and high spiritual motivation, far more motivated than the Israeli soldiers. These jihadists fought against the American army throughout its occupation of Iraq and Syria and completed their journey fighting against the Iraqi and Syrian armies and against various organizations, which gave them significant combat experience, an aspiration for martyrdom and advanced guerrilla fighting tactics.

However, Israel was not satisfied with these attacks. Israeli jets went on to strike Syria in depth in Damascus, Homs, Hama, Al-Qaim, the desert of the Badia, and any area where there are military warehouses and missiles that Iran supplied to Syria in order to support the Syrian army and rearm it with precision missiles.

Israel was able to hit and destroy a large number of these stores. This prompted Iran to change its armament storage policy for the Syrian army. Syria has built strategic warehouses in the mountains and underground in silos, waiting for the appropriate moment to impose a balance of deterrence – in response to hundreds of Israeli raids – a moment that has not yet come. The Syrian priority is still liberation of its still occupied territories, mainly in Afrin, Idlib and surroundings, without excluding the US-occupied oil and gas fields in the north-east of Syria.

However, Iran no longer wants to accept Israeli strikes on its warehouses without any response. Iranian advisers (a few hundred) are not free to respond to these attacks because the decision is in the hands of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad and his allies are aware that any Iranian response from Syria would most likely drag the US into the battle to support its ally Israel.

Hence, Iran has decided to evacuate the sites of the gatherings of its advisers, not for withdrawal or for redeployment but to find bases within the Syrian Army barracks. Hezbollah has taken over the vacated Iranian buildings. Russia has been informed of the change so that the information would reach Israel, which is coordinating with Moscow and its base in Syria. Russia, in turn, informs the Syrian army and its allies of coming Israeli strikes. Moscow refuses to be involved in the Iran-Syria-Israel conflict. Russia has strategic interests with all belligerents and is not a party to the “axis of resistance”. Russia warned Israel not to strike the Syrian army under any circumstance and informed them that the Iranian bases have been handed over to Hezbollah.

It seems obvious that Hezbollah wants to relieve Syria and Iran from the responsibility for a response. Israel is aware that any attack against Hezbollah’s men in Lebanon or Syria would lead to a direct response along the Lebanese borders and inside Palestine. This means that Israel must think carefully before bombing any Hezbollah objective because retaliation will certainly follow, preventing a US-Israeli response against Syria. Hezbollah is offering a new “Rule of Engagement” in Syria which cripples or limit Israel’s freedom to violate Syria’s sovereignty.

Before any airstrike aimed at specific targets in Syria, Israel’s drones make sure these locations are free of Iranian advisers and that the Russian warning reaches those concerned to evacuate human personnel and reduce casualties. Israel follows the same practice when it attacks Hezbollah cars or trucks, warning drivers and passengers in advance. Israel fires a missile, and on the last occasion two missiles, in front of the car or truck so passengers understand to leave it and take a distance to allow Israel a safe-bombing. In this case, Hezbollah’s deterrent response may or may not be required or painful because only material losses are involved.  Hence, it is likely that Israeli strikes on Syria will decrease in number, or Israel will rely on its intelligence information before hitting any Hezbollah target to make sure it is free of any human presence to avoid losses and consequent further humiliation like that imposed on the Israeli army in the past months on the Lebanese-Palestinian border.

Israel is walking through a strategic minefield. The danger for Israel lies in any potential error that might kill Hezbollah members in Syria. Such an outcome would lead to an escalation that may take the Middle Eastern region into a larger and more comprehensive war. The timing will not be to the advantage of Israel and its American ally. Hezbollah’s new rules of engagement, its advanced armaments and outstanding military experience amount to a significant deterrent. Nevertheless, wars can start by mistake. Will Israel make such a fatal mistake?

In one of his last acts, on the eve of the end of his term, President Donald Trump ordered Israel to be included in CENTCOM, the US military’s central command in the Middle East, The Wall Street Journal reported. The expansion of US CENTCOM to include Israel is the latest reorganization initiated by pro-Israel supporters to encourage strategic cooperation against Iran, US officials told the newspaper.  For decades, Israel has been part of the European Command of the US Armed Forces, mainly because of historical friction between Israel and Arab countries, which are also American allies in the region covered by CENTCOM. 

The move is the latest in a series of policy changes by the Trump administration before Joe Biden took office, which include increasing sanctions against Iran and declaring the Iran-backed Houthi forces in North Yemen . A former CENTCOM commander said there is good reason to move Israel into its military command, where it becomes the 21st country in the sphere of activity, and includes Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan and Egypt. This is the “Arab NATO”.

The Arab Gulf Role in the Middle East conflicts

In Syria, since 2011 the Arab Gulf countries, allied with Turkey and ‘Israel’, have sent and trained terrorists, who are following the political ideology of radical Islam, which is not a religion, or a sect. These countries have bowed to the pressure of the US sanctions on Syria, and have refused to do business with Syria, even on humanitarian items.  They have also waged political war on Syria, by accepting the removal of Syria from the Arab League, which was proposed by Qatar at the beginning of the conflict.

In Libya, the Arab-Gulf countries have been funding both sides of a civil war, while stealing petroleum resources there.  While Turkey and Qatar are funding and supporting the forces of Prime Minister Sarraj, the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are funding and supporting the opposing forces of Field Marshall Haftar. Recently, it was revealed that the UAE bought Israeli military weapons and sent them to Haftar. Beginning in 2011, these countries participated in the ‘regime change’ project which saw Colonel Qaddafi removed from power, and murdered.

The chaos that exists in Iraq today began with the US military intervention in Iraq, which included 2 wars.  The Arab Gulf countries, with their ally Israel, have funded and supported the Iraqi Kurdish separatists, who have been successful in dividing Iraq.  It was the Arab Gulf countries that nurtured and gave birth to the political ideology we know as radical Islam. The various terrorist groups, such as ISIS, Jibhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda, and others are all the creation of the CIA and the Arab Gulf countries.  The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 saw the stealing of petroleum resources, gold bullion from the Central Bank, and antiquities from the National Museum in Baghdad. This looting of Iraqi resources is continuing.  The Arab Gulf countries have funded and supported differing Muslim sects to ensure the various groups will continue to fight, thus keeping Iraq weak and divided.

Lebanon may be a small country; however, it has a big role to play in the region. The Arab Gulf countries have funded and supported the US and the Israel during the 2006 war on the Lebanese Resistance movement, and have launched a propaganda war through their media.  On the political side, the Arab Gulf has invested in certain Lebanese politicians who work as their agents. The Arab Gulf countries have deported Lebanese workers who belong to a certain religious sect, which fuels the sectarian conflict in the region. The Arab Gulf countries have waged economical war on Lebanon by freezing bank accounts, under the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’, but in reality, they are fighting the Lebanese Resistance movement.

Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest countries on earth, is waging war on one of the poorest countries on earth, Yemen. After many years, and war crimes, they have failed to occupy Yemen. It is Saudi Arabia’s strategic goal to occupy and annex Aden, the main port of Yemen, which sits on the gateway to the Red Sea.  The UAE is the partner in the war on Yemen. The aim of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE was to create a “transportation corridor” southwards through Yemen, and into the Arabian Sea. This is in the event that the Hormuz Straights were closed during the upcoming conflict. For more details on this, please read the author’s article, called

Like a couple who are not invited to the party, Turkey and its ally Qatar, have been singled out of the Arab Gulf alliance.  Differing political ideologies have created the split: with Turkey and Qatar following the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, while the rest of the Gulf adheres to the Salafi and Wahabi strain of Islam.

The US-EU-NATO Responsibility in the Current Middle East Conflict Zone

“The Arab Spring” was not a grass-roots movement but was a 3 party project designed in Washington and London.  2011 saw ‘regime change’ plans put into action in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, which has also suffered from a US ‘regime-change’ project in 2003. The Arab Gulf: UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar participated in “The Arab Spring” by funding the US-EU-NATO project, at the behest of the ‘western civilized nations’, who used the Arabs as their source of funds.  The Arabs were also used for propaganda purposes, such as Qatar’s “Al Jazeera”, and Saudi Arabia’s “Al Hadath” and “Al Arabia”.

The US is continuing to steal resources from Syria and Iraq, such as the oil and gas wells they have occupied illegally. A similar conflict between “normal” and extremist imperialists is a permanent element of political life in Israel, but there the power of extremists is even higher than in the USA. This is by the way quite astonishing given that, if the “radical” ideas were implemented, Israel would risk much more than the United States!

The announcement on 13 August that Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will normalise relations, around the same as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he was suspending plans to annex more areas of the West Bank that it seized during the 1967 ‘Six Dar War’, has naturally raised the adjunct question about what this deal means for the two powerhouses of the Middle East: Saudi Arabia and Iran? As with so many queries relating to the Middle East, the answer is not as straightforward as many might imagine, but it is outlined below. To begin with, the Israel-UAE deal is a lot more multi-layered than the simple announcement implies, which means that the response of Saudi and Iran to it is equally multi-faceted. “More than any other outcomes from this deal, the UAE wanted to put itself firmly in the U.S.’s most-favoured allies for receiving future business and financing deals, as it suffered a big hit from the Saudi-led oil price war that just ended, and to be included in the U.S.-Israel intelligence and security network to protect itself from Iran,” a senior source who works closely with the European Union (EU) on energy security told last week. “This formal deal, though, just officially clarifies what has been happening for some time between Israel and the UAE in the field of intelligence co-operation to counteract Iran’s growing power in the region that has become more militaristic, given the increasing dominance of the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] in Tehran,” he said. 

A 5th Column in Iran?

‘Quietly’ is the operative word here as, currently 62 per cent of the aforementioned US$2.19 billion Israel-UAE property fund for new settlements of UAE citizens into Iran’s Khuzestan comes from “Saudi Arabian-connected organisations.” The aim here is to build a potential 5th column in Iran’s southern province, where Iran’s Sunni population (comprising 2 % of Iran’s population).

A key part of this joint intelligence initiative between the UAE and Israel (and, by extension, the U.S.) has been the dramatic increase in the past two years of the purchase of commercial and adjunct residential properties in Iran’s southern Khuzestan province – a key sector for its oil and gas reserves – by UAE-registered businesses, particularly those based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, said the source.

Around 500,000 Iranians left Iran around the time of the [1979 Islamic] Revolution and settled in Dubai, in the first instance, and then Abu Dhabi, and they have never been in favor of the IRGC having the key role in Iran, so some of them have been used to front businesses or commercial property developments in Khuzestan that are being funded from business registered in those two states of the UAE. However, these apparently Abu Dhabi and Dubai businesses are actually being funded from a major Israeli property company that in turn is funded from a Israel-U.S. operation specifically set up for this project, with a budget of US$2.19 billion.  These businesses, and the additional property acquisitions for the individuals working for these business in Khuzestan, mean that not only is the native Iranian population being diluted by non-Iranian Arabs [although broadly Persian in demographic terms, indigenous Arabs make up around two per cent of Iran’s population] but also the opportunity for on-the-ground intelligence gathering has been dramatically enhanced. Basically, Israel is doing through the UAE presence in southern Iran exactly what Iran has been doing to Israel through its presence in Lebanon and Syria.

Given the obvious opportunities for increased intelligence-gathering and economic and political disruption within Iran’s borders stemming from the new Israel-UAE deal, Iran has been unsurprisingly hostile to it. More indicative of future actions over and above just words was the subsequent high-level meeting of Iran’s Defense Minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoygu. Even publically, Hatami alluded to the new military deals reached with China and Russia  – referring to the joint strategic, regional and international goals and interests between Tehran and Moscow, underlining the “developing mutual defense co-operation” between the two sides. Hatami then castigated the U.S.’s recent attempts to invoke a ‘snapback’ of full international sanctions against Iran through the United Nations Security Council: “In recent years, Iran and Russia have launched a joint and purposeful effort to counter the unilateralism and bullying policies of the U.S. and the Trump administration in the region,” he noted. “The realistic response of the UN Security Council [UNSC] and the rejection of the recent U.S. anti-Iran resolution on extension of arms embargoes against Iran, once again, brought a major defeat for the U.S. and its regional allies and proved the global opposition to unilateralism,” he underlined.

“The guarantee of China and Russia’s support as two of just five Permanent Members on the UNSC was one of the absolutely key reasons why Iran agreed to the military elements of the 25-year deal it had made earlier with China,” said the EU source. Indeed, with this new Israel-UAE deal now formally announced, the IRGC (with the rubber-stamped blessing of Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei) is fully set to allow the presence of Chinese and Russia naval assets in and around Iran’s key ports at Chabahar, Bandar-e-Bushehr, and Bandar Abbas, in line with the military element of the agreement.

These deployments will be accompanied by the roll-out of Chinese and Russian electronic warfare (EW) capabilities that will encompass each of the three key EW areas – electronic support (including early warning of enemy weapons use) plus electronic attack (including jamming systems) plus electronic protection (including of enemy jamming). Based originally around neutralising NATO’s C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) systems, part of the new roll-out of software and hardware from China and Russia in Iran will be the Russian S-400 anti-missile air defense system (“to counter U.S. and/or Israeli attacks”) and the Krasukha-2 and -4 systems (“as they proved their effectiveness in Syria in countering the radars of attack, reconnaissance and unmanned aircraft”).

So, what will Saudi Arabia’s position be in the wake of the Israel-UAE deal?

Saudi Arabia, in particular, may be quietly supportive but is unlikely to normalise relations. The clerical establishment has had a privileged role in the Kingdom since the eighteenth century, the king is the custodian of the two holy mosques, and Saudi Arabia is the founder of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. This fits in with the widely held view among dedicated-Saudi analysts that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is far more sympathetic to the agreement – and to the ultimate strategic aim of the U.S. and Israel of undermining the IRGC’s grip on the country – than his father, King Salman. King Salman told the Organization of Islamic Cooperation just last year that the Palestinian cause remained a core issue and that the kingdom “refuses any measures that touch the historical and legal position of East Jerusalem.” On the other hand, he is 84 years old and in poor health and even Saudi’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, cautiously welcomed the Israel-UAE agreement, saying: “It could be viewed as positive.” It is also apposite to note that back in 2002 – not that long ago in global geopolitical terms – it was the Saudis who launched the ‘Crown Prince Abdullah Peace Plan’ at the Beirut Arab summit, offering Israel full recognition in exchange for a return to its pre-1967 borders.

GCC Feud Resolved

But Kushner was most busy in the Gulf region.  He engineered a dramatic Gulf Cooperation Council reconciliation on Jan. 4 after years of feuding between Qatar, on the one hand, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia on the other.

The Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and 17 other nations. The reconciliation was sudden and concessions by the UAE and Saudi Arabia were uncharacteristic, to the effect that they basically dropped the famous 13 conditions and agreed to lift the tight siege on Qatar in return for nothing from Qatar — at least nothing that we know of. The two regimes had not been magnanimous toward Doha, whom they accused of collaborating with their chief enemy, Iran, and conspiring with Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood.  (It is true that Qatar has been a chief sponsor in recent years of the Muslim Brotherhood and a close ally of Turkey which also supports the Brotherhood). While it was Kushner who sponsored this GCC reconciliation, the two regimes (the UAE and Saudi Arabia) also have their own calculations.

Both the Saudi and UAE regimes were assuming that Trump was going to be re-elected.  Both were nervous about a Biden presidency, although bin Salman had the most reasons to worry.  It’s not that Biden will reverse the traditional U.S. foreign policy of installing and coddling despots around the world.

That won’t change. But the Democratic leadership is on the record committing to hold bin Salman responsible for the murder of Khashoggi, who has become in Democratic rhetoric a symbol of freedom of speech — which is ironic given Khashoggi’s lifetime of propaganda work for the CIA.

Biden pledged to seek accountability and that won’t be easy to reverse, despite Biden’s long career of support for Arab despots.  Most likely, Biden will support the replacement of MbS with another prince. Former Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayif remains a favorite of the D.C. security and intelligence establishment. But the rehabilitation of MbS is not out the question, especially if he were to follow in Sadat’s footsteps by addressing the Israeli Knesset. Bin Salman has not been able to visit Western capitals since the murder of Khashoggi, and no Saudi king can rule without having direct access to the White House and Congress.  Bin Salman needs to improve his image quickly now that Biden has taken over. Trump, not unlike previous presidents, supported and armed Gulf despots but Kushner took the relationship with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ), the ruler of Abu Dhabi, and MbS a step further by pushing for a regional triangle, which includes Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel.

The normalization process was blessed and instituted by MbS, but he has not openly joined in.  He has been cautious, particularly because of internal dissent within the Saudi royal family (many of his uncles and cousins remain under house arrest). If MbS can achieve GCC reconciliation and help the U.S. in creating a united front against Iran in the region, he gains more support from Israel, which is already lobbying the Biden administration for a softer approach to those Arab nations (namely, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE).

There was little attention paid in the media, following the announcement of Gulf reconciliation with Qatar, to an important Trump administration announcement: that the U.S. decided a week before Biden’s inauguration to move Israel from under U.S. European military command to Central Command, which covers the Arab region. The U.S. will be working to consolidate the Israeli-Gulf regional alliance and the Biden administration won’t work to reverse that either.


Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey in the past few years has engaged in a remarkable series of active geopolitical foreign interventions from Syria to Libya to Cyprus and most recently on the side of Azerbaijan in the territory conflict with Armenia over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Some have called it Erdogan’s ‘New Ottoman Empire’ strategy. Yet a free-falling Lira and a collapsing domestic economy threaten to put an unplanned end to his grand geopolitical ambitions.

In 2010 Erdogan’s then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu proclaimed the famous “Zero Problems Policy” with its neighbors. That has long since vanished along with the foreign minister. Today Erdogan seems intent on creating clashes with all Turkey’s once-allies. Erdogan’s bold attempt to place Turkish gas exploration ships in recent months into territorial waters of EU member Cyprus and Greece, claiming sovereignty over the offshore region, has brought it into direct clash with fellow NATO member Greece which plans a gas pipeline from Israel and Cyprus to Greece and on to Italy, as well as with France. Turkey has refused to sign the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. To further complicate matters, some months ago Erdogan openly backed the embattled Muslim Brotherhood-led Government of National Accord in Tripoli Libya against a strong military advance by General Haftar. In June Erdogan, who supports the Muslim Brotherhood, sent Turkish troops to support Tripoli. Haftar is backed by Russia, Egypt, the UAE and France. The Turkey-Libya Special Economic Zone declared earlier this year provocatively cuts across the planned EastMed Israel-Cyprus-Greece gas pipeline path.

In Syria, France supports the Syrian Kurds, bitter foes of Erdogan who maintains a military presence in the border region of Syria to control the Kurds. As well France backs the Cyprus-Greek position on their rights to the offshore gas, against Turkey. The French Total energy group is active in the Cyprus project.

Most recently, in the wake of the gruesome beheadings in France by Jihadists, Erdogan has called for a boycott of French goods and called Macron mentally ill after Macron defended the free speech rights of a French satire magazine for reprinting a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

Straining ties with Russia in addition to Libyan adventures, has been the open backing from Erdogan, including reportedly of military supplies and possible troops, in Azerbaijan’s clash with Russian ally Armenia over Nogorno-Karabakh. A new factor in Turk-Azeri relations is the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline from Arerbaijan to Turkey where Turkey imported for the first time 5.44 bcm Azrei gas in the first half of this year, a 23 percent increase compared to the same period of 2019. Yet Erdogan has gone to great lengths to cultivate good relations with Russia’s Putin among other things to buy the advanced Russian S-400 Russian anti-missile defense system, earning the condemnation of NATO and Washington.

At this point the hyper-active foreign interventions by Erdogan’s Turkey have met little serious sanction or opposition by the EU. One obvious reason is the large exposure of EU banks to Turkish loans. According to a September 17 report in the German Die Welt newspaper, Spanish, French, British and German banks have over a hundred billion dollars invested in Turkey. Spain is most exposed with $62 billion, followed by France with $29 billion. That means the EU is walking on eggshells, not eager to sink more money into Turkey but leery of precipitating a full clash of economic sanctions.

As Erdogan for many reasons refuses to go hat in hand to the IMF, his options at present are to drastically reduce his foreign geopolitical operations to concentrate on stabilizing the domestic economy, or find a Plan B.  And the Plan B is China. And China is hoping that Turkey will become another country to join its OBOR project. The key reason why Turkey invaded and occupied a portion of Syria has to do with Turkey’s Kurdish problems. In October 1983, at the launch of the Greater Anatolian Project, or GAP, the British created an insurrection against this project. The resulting low-intensity conflict has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 civilians, to date. To add to this, the Turkish leadership is well aware of the Anglo-Zionist plans to create a Kurdish state on its territory, which will lead to a break-up of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. This, Turkey would not allow. Hence, its moves into Northern Syria. And to make sure it does not happen, Turkey has cultivated a secret back channel with Israel.

  Turkey and ‘Israel’ work in tandem, and both have played a major role in the 9-year conflict in Syria. They share intelligence to coordinate attacks on Syria.  Turkey is currently occupying parts of Syria, and ‘Israel’ has been occupying the Golan Heights of Syria since 1967. Both Turkey and ‘Israel’ have plans to annex Syrian lands.  Turkey is occupying the Syrian region of Iskenderun since the end of WW1.

 Turkey is also working closely with Russia in Syria, each for their own geopolitical interests. Do note that they are not the best of friends, due to the history between them. Both fought several wars in the 18th and 19th centuries. And Turkey is the “gate-keeper” for the Black Sea. And the Black Sea is where Russia has a naval base in the Crimea, one of Russia’s only two warm-water ports that can be used all year round. So, both need each other, in many respects; from arms to gas, and from nuclear reactors to trade in general. These are ties that the US needs to break, but relations between Turkey and the West is poor at the moment.

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