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American Resistance To Empire

Jordanian Activists decry ‘Parliament’s silence’ over Israel gas deal

Protesting MP claims deal violates Article 33 of Jordanian Constitution

By Suzanna Goussous

Activists protest against the gas deal with Israel in front of Parliament on Tuesday (Photo by Suzanna Goussous)

AMMAN — Jordanian activists on Tuesday decried “Parliament’s silence” over the gas deal with Israel which was signed by the state-owned National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) in September last year, arguing that the deal would “reduce Jordanian investments in the country that benefit the Jordanian youth”.

As MPs met in an extraordinary session, dozens of Jordanians from several political parties and blocs gathered in front of the Parliament to protest “Parliament’s silence” on the gas deal, which has seen postponement of discussions.

“Many investments can be implemented with the money from the gas deal. We could have provided Jordanian youths with many opportunities,” Hisham Bustani, director of the National Jordanian Campaign Against the Gas Agreement with the Zionist Entity, said.

Abdelmajeed Dandees, a member of Al Wihda Popular Party, said the demonstration was to condemn the role of MPs who did not deliver the “people’s message” regarding an issue of national importance.

“Today, we voice our anger towards this Parliament. This is part of a series of events against the gas deal and against promoting ties with Israel,” Dandees said.

The gas deal, if approved, will create further economic and political  “burdens” for the people, the activist continued.

Mohammad Absi, head of the anti-normalisation campaign, said that, despite the previous Parliament’s rejection of the gas deal by a clear majority, the current Parliament “has been avoiding discussions of the consequences of approving the gas deal”.

“It is not enough anymore to deal with memorandums here and there. We demand a unified, clear answer. By being silent about the gas deal with Israel, we are mortgaging the country for 15 years,” he told The Jordan Times.

Absi added: “We have reached the point where some MPs view the gas deal as a normal contract and many also justify signing the deal with the Zionist entity. We have contacted many members, but have not yet received a clear response.”

The campaign has also been contacting the Parliamentary Energy Committee. Many committee members have stated they are personally against the gas deal and its conditions, Absi said, adding they hope the committee will deliver its disapproval of the treaty to Parliament.

MP Saleh Armouti (Amman, 3rd District), who joined the demonstration, said the gas deal violates Article 33 of the Jordanian Constitution.

The article states that no treaty that involves financial commitments to the state treasury, or public or private rights of Jordanians, shall be valid unless approved by the National Assembly. The article also states that under no circumstances shall any secret terms be contained in any agreement.

Armouti told The Jordan Times that “approving the gas deal signed with Israel serves Zionist policies in the region”.

Islah (Reform) Bloc submitted a proposal to discuss the gas deal in the extraordinary session held on Tuesday, among 15 other pieces of legislation.

He described people’s rejection of the deal as “valid”, since there are alternative energy sources from Aqaba and other areas in Jordan, as well as from Algeria and Qatar.

“Jordan imports gas from Aqaba to Egypt. We also have solar and wind energy sources. With the deal, we are funding the Zionist entity with $10 billion,” the MP told The Jordan Times, adding that “we will work towards the cancellation of this deal and the Wadi Araba Peace Treaty”.

Hanadi Dweik, of the Nationalistic Movement Party (Al Haraka Al Qawmiyyah), said MPs must not approve the deal, as it “makes the normalisation of ties more domestic and acceptable”.

NEPCO, however, previously stated that the gas deal will help save Jordan around $600 million per year.

Read 2013 Deleted Expose’ of Israeli/Arab Secret Alliance, Highlighting UAE Role

Israel’s Secret Alliance with The Persian Gulf’s Arab States Against Iran

Posted on May 7, 2013

 

Since Saddam Hussein’s Invasion of Kuwait, GCC states have collectively established a strong alliance with Israel. This alliance is currently focused on the destruction of Iran and the elimination of Iranian influence throughout the Middle East (and Central Asia). Both Israel and GCC countries are scared livid of the Iranian regime, its influence in their states and are therefore necessarily committed to this common goal. But this is a strategic mistake – for both GCC states and Israel. They have confused Iran’s regime with ordinary Iranians. Their beef is with the Mullahs NOT Iranians. This is a strategic blunder.

The Palestinian Factor

For decades Israel and the ‘whole’ Arab world were blood enemies.  Arab league members provided over $250 Million in funds to support the Palestinians since the ‘60s, and successfully organized an embargo with their oil supplies in the 1970’s to place pressure on Israel (and its allies: US and Europe).

But, in 1990, there was a tidal shift in alliances. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Yasser Arafat (then PLO Chairman) came out and publicly supported Hussein; and Kuwait’s Palestinian population rose in support of the Iraqis during the invasion.  And not long after the U.S. led liberation, the Kuwaitis expelled 450,000 Palestinians.  The Palestinian population in these booming Persian “Gulf Arab” states has now dwindled by about 90% since 1990, replaced by Pakistanis and Filipinos.

Kuwait’s allies: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and other Persian Gulf Monarchs or Sheikhdoms or dictators (depending on your point of view) have rationalized that Palestinians were and still are a national security risk and should not be trusted – nor supported.

Payback against Saddam Hussein did not take long. Ironically, Saddam Hussein who was once supported to the tune of billions of dollars by these same states in his war with Iran was also in their cross hairs. And within a decade, or so the U.S. stationed itself in Qatar, and transported troops through Kuwait to decimate his regime. Hussein had not only failed to follow to destroy Iran, but had turned against them!

In politics it seems – the enemy of my enemy is my friend!  In fact, the opening with Israel came on the heels of the Madrid Conference in 1991 that contributed to the countries’ official, rapprochement with Israel. Most of the ‘brokerage’ in these relationships has developed through close relations with Jewish organizations in the United States. There is now an odd sense of solidarity arising out of the knowledge that Iraqi Scud missiles had fallen on both Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

In 1994, the GCC canceled its boycott of companies and countries that maintained economic ties with Israel. In 2005 the same Gulf States announced normalization measures with Israel. The Bahraini foreign minister confirmed that his country had decided to cancel the boycott of Israeli goods, and the Qatari foreign minister called on Arab nations “to respond positively to the step taken by Israel.” He noted that “full diplomatic relations between Qatar and Israel may be possible even before a comprehensive Israeli withdrawal from the territories.”

And while this decade long strategic shift was occurring, the British government sold its stake in BP basically to a combination of Jewish Bankers (Rothschilds Holdings 39%) and Gulf State Investment Organizations like for example the Kuwait Investment Organization  (21.6% by 2005). BP now, is basically an arm of these states, while employing and banking primarily British executives and banks.

And Israel’s government, for its part is enabling Israeli companies to indirectly contribute to the security of these dictatorships through training of local armed forces and by offering advanced (homeland security-related) advanced products, as long as they are perceived not to harm Israel’s strategic competitive advantage. Israel already has access to markets in the Gulf; the boycott is not applied if the products do not carry an Israeli label.

Israel’s covert relations with the United Arab Emirates were partially exposed by the late-November 2010 leak of diplomatic cables by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks that uncovered the “secret and persistent dialogue” between the two countries.

There are numerous formal and informal visits between the nations (and with Turkey among the crowd). Whether or not there are formal relations, i.e. embassies, it’s very clear that there is a strong alliance in place. Israelis and Sheikhdoms are ONE.

The Iran Factor

Iran’s Mullahs have long been an adversary to these Arab dictators. It is not clear why? It is true that Shiites comprise the majority of the populations in most of this region – including Saudi Arabia’s oil rich Eastern provinces. Democratic reforms, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain …you name it…would result in Shiite led majorities, just like Iraq. There is real fear in these ruling Arab elites when it comes to ‘democratic reforms’.  But what exactly the Mullahs did to deserve this status is unclear? Yes, Iran did bomb Kuwaiti tankers – but that was during the war when Kuwait was exporting Iraqi oil…and Iraq had just bombed Iranian oil installations. And okay, there is a territorial dispute over islands in the Persian Gulf. So what??

What is strange for me is that there is frequent intermarriage, migration, bilingualism, and commerce between Iranians and many of these GCC states and citizens. Indeed besides the indigenous Shiite populations in the states around the Persian Gulf, there are over 400,000 Iranians residing in places like Dubai, roughly one third of its urban population…performing core functions in the area. Iranians, (the people of Iran), are a huge regional asset.

Despite all this, in recent years what has tied the Gulf states to Israel more than anything else is their ever-growing mutual fear of Iran. Israel today, represents the enemy of not only the Palestinians but also Iran’s Mullahs. An alliance between these “(Persian) Gulf Arab” states and Israel has been established with a clear objective of undermining Iranian influence and “suppressing” Palestinian ambitions.

According to Wikileaks published US State Department cable, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, repeatedly implored Washington to target the Iranian nuclear sites—in his words: to “cut off the head of the snake while there was still time.”

It is an open secret that these Gulf countries maintain contacts with Israel—mainly through the sharing of intelligence. In the summer of 2010 it was again reported (although the reliability of these claims is uncertain) that Saudi Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs V : 1 (2011)   Arabia would allow Israeli warplanes to use its airspace in the event of an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. Israeli military gear was even delivered to Saudi Arabia in preparation for an eventual attack on Iran.

Sami al Faraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies and a consultant to Kuwait and other GCC states, said recently that the “GCC states have been engaged in consultations and intelligence exchange with Israel, particularly regarding the Iranian threat.” Indeed, in the eyes of Arab rulers of the Gulf, it may seem that Israel can be vital to Gulf security, as the US is now leaving Iraq and Afghanistan.

Containing Iran’s quest for what is viewed as a ‘hegemonic role’ in the Persian Gulf is the main concern of the Arab monarchies, committed as they are to the preservation of their regimes. After the Islamic Revolution, terror and subversion became Tehran’s primary means of enforcing its regional policy and boosting its influence. In most cases, as with the covert Iranian “sleeper cell” uncovered in Kuwait (with links to Bahrain) in April 2010, it was hard to prove Iranian involvement; thus, Iran can deny any connection to such activity, while maintaining open diplomatic relations with the Gulf states it is covertly targeting.

On the one hand, the Mullahs have conveyed that they see themselves as partners for all Gulf States. On the other, their actions have been hardly reassuring on the western side of the Gulf. Iran has questioned the legitimacy of regimes, explicitly threatened to shut the straits of Hormuz, and to target strategic facilities in the Gulf States. It has conducted ominous military maneuvers and played a negative role in events in Iraq and Yemen. Moreover, Iran has occupied what the GCC consider to be their land (Abu Musa and the Tunb Islands). The Mullahs even went so far as to declare Bahrain as the fourteenth district of Iran (reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s rhetoric regarding Kuwait).

For their part, the GCC governments recognize the difficulties facing the international community in stopping Iran on its way to nuclear weapons capability and want to avoid angering their increasingly powerful neighbor—and prefer to do what is necessary behind the scenes – indirectly if you will. Netenyahu’s brazen verbal attack on Iran is heralded by its ‘tacit allies’ and further amplified on Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV throughout the Middle East during peak viewing periods.

There is a genuine concern that an Iranian bomb will enable the Mullahs to set the future political, economic, and strategic agenda in the region. Similar concerns stem from the possible outcome of an Israeli and/or American military operation aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear capability, namely, a massive and widespread Iranian retaliation. Although GCC countries support a ‘comprehensive’ diplomatic solution to the crisis with Iran, they fear it will be at the expense of their interests and result in American recognition of Iran’s dominance in the Gulf.

Today’s Proxy Wars

In the absence of an overt war, Israel and its Arab allies have decided to fight Iran’s mullahs by proxy. The overall plan is to ‘contain’ Iran – i.e. surround Iran while ensuring Iran’s economy is held back with sanctioning. This is a systematic policy of weakening Iran and sucking Iranian blood. Meanwhile, of course they (and their surrogates) are running off with Iran’s treasure in the Caspian Sea and limiting Iranian oil and gas exports in favor of their own exports. In addition, sanctions have served to enable GCC countries to act as trading points for ‘sanction busting’ – reselling sanctioned goods to Iran at inflated prices and essentially profiting from Iran’s demise.

Interestingly, Israel and GCC states enjoy excellent relations with Azerbaijan. And BP, their joint prime investment vehicle, owns (and operates) the key oil pipeline across Azerbaijan and is the major operator of oil and gas platforms in the Caspian Sea (in what is actually Iranian water).

It is reported that Israel has a number of air bases inside Azerbaijan, with fighter jets ready for orders to attack Iran at any time. Azerbaijan now also is tacitly supporting Azeri separatists inside Iran.

GCC states have begun funding Al-Ahwazi separatists and Jundallah (Baluchi) separatists. While Israel too, has been funding Kurdish separatists.

But the clearest expression of this proxy effort is in Syria. I will grant you that the Syrian affair is much more than a proxy fight with Iran. Yes, both Israel and GCC states (like Qatar) have a clear objective of running major gas pipelines across Syria (and Lebanon too) to the Turkey to export their newly discovered resources. And yes, Turkey too has partnered with them and built the Nabucco pipeline to Europe with 40% excess capacity with this objective in mind.

What apparently started as a legitimate attempt to join the Arab spring and fight for democratic rights in Syria has transpired into a mercenary led ‘civil war’, with considerable entry of ‘foreign fighters’ in the fray. The Syrian government recently handed a list of names of citizens from 19 countries accused of joining Syria’s rebels: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Chad, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen and Chechnya. Since Chechnya is not a country, but a republic of the Russian Federation, the list likely contains names of Russian citizens…too. According to CNN reports, the strangest part of all of these fighters is that Jabhat al-Nusra — the radical Islamic group that has become the opposition’s best fighting force. The lead author of a new analysis of the group, which is backed by al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), told CNN that al-Nusra now has 5,000 fighters and is willing to watch Syria burn to secure an al-Qaeda foothold in the region!

In July, Dutch photo journalist Jeroen Oerlemans and British photographer John Cantlie were captured and held hostage in Syria for a week by rebel militants. They claimed that several of their captors spoke English with recognizable regional British accents, like Birmingham and London. And in August, Syrian rebel commanders reportedly became concerned over the numbers of hardline Islamists entering Syria from other Muslim-majority countries.

Beyond these proxy wars, there is clear indication that a direct war may in fact be in the cards. This past year, both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have opened new pipelines bypassing the Strait of Hormuz.  The new links more than double the total pipeline capacity bypassing the strait to 6.5m barrels a day, or about 40 per cent of the 17m b/d that transits Hormuz. GCC states are clearly preparing for a conflict, although their preparations are NOT yet complete. Interestingly, Iraq too has a pipeline across Saudi Arabia to al Muajiz on the Red Sea to deliver its oil and by pass the Persian Gulf. One fascinating fact is that Saudi Arabia’s Al Muajiz Port on the Red Sea was developed for a total shipping capacity of 10 Million barrels a day!

A Major Strategic Blunder

The problem with this complete strategic realignment is that core populations of these GCC states are inherently pan-Arabist. Which means that once the ‘people’ of these states figure out that there is an ‘overt’ realignment between their leaders and Israel, there is the potential for a massive back-clash domestically. This could be further fueled by natural ‘Arab Spring” type democratic yearnings among the populations of these GCC states – and not only might there be a massive shift in government in the GCC states, but Israel too risks losing partners that it has invested heavily in.

Secondly, an overt war with Iran would only accelerate the demise of these regimes – not sustain them. The deal so far with their suppressed populations has been to exchange economic gains for political gains. If war breaks out there will naturally be rationing and military drafts. This sort of instability will only make them further vulnerable.

Thirdly, I believe a calculation that makes Iran their enemy is fundamentally flawed. The Mullahs in Tehran do not represent Iran or Iranians. In fact the Mullahs in Iran are enemies of Iranians too. In fact most Iranians see the Mullahs as ‘Arabs’ i.e. imposed on Iran; and indeed many senior regime leaders were born in Iraq – not even Iran.

These sheikhs need to remember that Iran’s current role in the region is a derivative of wars ‘started’ by GCC states – not Iranian aggression.  Remember, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran – with support, encouragement and financial backing from GCC states. The minutes of his meetings with King Fahd in Egypt is now public record. The loan balances Iraq had to GCC states is also public record that came out as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. You can’t hide it. And any insecurity these monarchs feel from the legitimate demands of their populations should NOT be confused with Iranian meddling.  Iranians have become a scapegoat – when the real problems are elsewhere. Iranians did NOT put the Mullahs in power – the West did. That is public record too.

Fourthly, Iran (especially after the war with Iraq and two neighboring wars) has now developed a formidable defense establishment, and its own (in house) weapon systems. This strategic posture cold provoke an outright war, and just like the war with Iraq – there is a real possibility that the GCC states could come out on the short end of their own stick. After two years of a proxy war versus Iran in Syria, there is no clear conclusion. Assad remains in power. The joint Israeli/GCC/Turkey plan is to then extend the war to Lebanon and then Iran. But what if the GCC states get ‘stuck’ in Syria? Have they succeeded? Will the west come to the rescue again? Or let’s put it another way, is there a vital strategic interest in Syria that the U.S. must defend? Will the U.S. risk bankruptcy for Syria? I doubt it.

The truth is, that while this all seemed like a good idea (and everyone was angry at Saddam Hussein the Palestinians) it may not be a great idea today. Once one domino starts to fall through a public uprising for democracy – with ‘no’ push from Iran (May I add, there are many radical actors in the Middle East – Hamas, Hizbullah, al Qaeda, you name it…) – in any single one of these GCC countries, all these Sheikhs, or Monarchs or Dictators could all fall. This is something they need to learn from the former “Shah of Iran” – who had grandiose strategic ideas but did not establish a strong domestic political infrastructure that was vitally necessary to carry out his ambitions.  The Sheikhs need to understand that they can do NOTHING without the heartfelt support of their citizens.

These GCC countries need to understand what their core strategic interest is. Does Iran represent a strategic threat? If so, why? And does that mean that GCC states need to align with Israel?

I would argue that it is in the “world’s” national interest to topple the regime in Iran – but not do anything to alienate the people of Iran or cause division among Iranians. That to the extent GCC states can be aligned with Israel or indeed any other country (Indonesia, Brazil etc.) to topple the regime in Tehran – that this would a fundamental strategic win for everyone. But beyond that any permanent alliance with Israel will be counterproductive to their interests and stability. This is not meant as a negative statement about Israel, it’s just a strategic reality. Israel has nothing to offer these regimes except exposure to radical forces. (Look at who they are partnering with in Syria?) And in fact Qatar could have pumped its natural gas across Syria – even without a proxy war in Syria or the balkanization of Syria, or the death of 60,000 Syrians. When the dust settles on all this, it will not be pretty. There were other ways to bring democracy to Syria without arming these sorts of rebels and radicals.

In fact, the most vital strategic ally every GCC state can have is a transformed Iranian government – their neighbor – that can police the neighborhood with them and help them make democratic transitions without a great deal of pain. Petty fights over small deserted islands, or sectarian considerations should not distract quality strategic thinking. Iran can offer them a huge market, can offer them regional stability, and also access to even bigger markets in Central Asia. Israel on the other hand is a strategic liability. So what if the Jewish lobby in Europe or the U.S. is helping them get access to cable TV distribution, and helping them buy soccer (football) teams – how is that of value to the people (the actual citizens) of GCC states? The Sheikhs are being shaked down for cash, buying over-priced assets.  There is no real strategic, sustainable gain in getting VIP seats to major games.

It is true that before the West toppled the Shah, Britain persuaded America to align strategically with it and invest in Alaskan Oil while Britain exploited North Sea oil – both of which were expensive to extract, AND needed sustained high oil prices. Toppling the Shah also meant shutting off Iran’s exports for over 10 years! Today, America is being ‘pushed’ into becoming an energy ‘power house’ with net energy exports for the first time in over 30 years. But it is a mistake to believe that this will result in a strategic realignment. The Obama administration so far has refused to ‘play’ in Syria in concert with Israel, Turkey or the GCC. And the Obama administration is focused on ‘reducing imports’ NOT maximizing exports i.e. reducing America’s oil dependency. The GCC is mistaken if they believe “Saudi-Americanization” will shift U.S. policy. And if the GCC are really shrewd, they will notice that in fact the U.S. has been protecting Iran’s Mullahs – not undermining them…and vice-a-versa. Iran today lists Iraq and Afghanistan as major export clients (both dominated by the U.S. military, while apparently there are global sanctions on Iran). The Mullahs are an expression of U.S. foreign policy.

What do these Sheikhs really have to show for all the money they have invested in the West? Indeed, governments in the West view them as great candidates for hosing, and use all these opportunities to sell the Sheikhs billions of dollars of inflated priced arms – and junk government bonds to undermine their own domestic spending. They are being hosed. They are the ones being used…by Israel and the West!

And they have to face it, democratic yearnings in the region are unstoppable. The Mullahs will fall, and their dictatorships are at risk (and it is not because of Iran). These dictators can become Monarchs like the Queen of England – even if there are a ton of Catholics in Britain!

There is a better path to peace, stability and prosperity – they need to see it – but their strategic calculations are completely wrong.

Construction of Turkish Stream Underway

On 23 June 2017, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, inaugurated the construction works for that section of the gas pipeline, Turkish Stream, passing through deep seas.

 

A decision was made to go ahead with this project when President Putin visited Turkey on 1 December 2014. Construction had been interrupted in August 2015 for tariff reasons, but in the context of the war in Syria, it should allow Russian gas to be delivered to Turkey. Parting from there, it could also serve as a transit for Russian gas to the European Union, replacing the plan for the South Stream pipeline, blocked by Brussels.

Estimated at six billion dollars, Project Turkish Stream provides for the construction of two pipelines with a capacity of delivering 15.75 billion m3 of gas every year. The first pipeline must be completed in 2018 and the second at the end of 2019.

Whilst President Putin stressed that this timetable should be adhered to, it is extremely rare that such works are completed so rapidly. This has only been possible due to the personal investment made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is thus seeking thus to free himself of US economic protection.

Translation
Anoosha Boralessa

The war against Arab democracy

The war against Arab democracy

 

 

Charles Richardson

The conflict with Qatar is fundamentally about the possibility of democracy in the Arab world. That’s why Saudi and Trumpian autocrats are on the same side.

I’m in Crikey last Friday with a piece on the crisis over Qatar. I talk about some of the scary parallels with the First World War – my original title was “Sarajevo on the Gulf” – and I try to get at what Saudi Arabia and its allies are really on about:

When Saudi Arabia is accusing someone else of Islamic extremism, it’s pretty clear that something else is really going on. Qatar’s real sins, in the Saudis’ eyes, seem to be threefold:

  1. It has tried to maintain good relations with Iran, thereby, at least to some extent, opting out of the Saudi narrative of perpetual conflict between Sunni and Shiite Islam;

  2. It has provided funding and other support for the Islamic political movement the Muslim Brotherhood, which was overthrown by the current military regime in Egypt and is aligned with both Hamas in Gaza and the Turkish government; and

  3. It is the home of news network Al Jazeera, which is funded by the Qatari royal family and provides generally independent and politically neutral reporting on Middle East issues.

I quote Gideon Rachman’s bon moton the Arab Spring: “The good news is that this is the Arab 1989. The bad news is that we are the Soviet Union.” There are also links to a number of other commentators who have said similar things, to which I would now add, at the top of the list, this piece by Hugh Miles in yesterday’s Observer. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time.

Miles headlines with the story of Al Jazeera, which he explains very well, but even more importantly he shows the connection between my second and third points above:

What [Saudi Arabia and its allies] find particularly distasteful is the widely propagated view, shared by the Qatari leadership, that sooner or later Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas will come to power across the whole region, propelled either by revolution or democratic elections. …

Given that on the few occasions Sunni Arab countries have been able to hold free and fair elections Islamist parties have usually won, even though they are not often allowed to take or hold power for long, Qatar’s assumption that one day they will come to power is not unrealistic. But for Qatar’s neighbours it is heretical.

This is the vital point to appreciate. But if your understanding of “Islamist” is that it’s roughly equivalent to “terrorist” or perhaps “extremist fundamentalist” (if, say, you’re Gerard Henderson), then the quoted passage makes no sense. On any conceivable test, the Saudi regime is much more extreme in its fundamentalism, and more closely linked to the terrorists of Da’esh/IS or Al-Qaeda, than the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas.

The big thing about groups like the Muslim Brotherhood is not just that they believe in some sort of political Islam – that’s normal for the region – but that they have popular support and are trying to bring about democratic change. As Miles puts it:

Arabs generally are fed up with their corrupt and useless unelected governments and are ready for any alternative in future, as long as it looks nothing like the past. Many Sunni Arabs, liberals and Islamists alike, find al-Jazeera’s democratic, Islamist discourse and optimistic vision of the future much more inspiring than the visions their widely hated and feared governments are peddling.

That’s not to say that the Brotherhood and its sister parties would necessarily remain democratic if they took power. But so far their record is a lot better than that of their opponents. The potential is there to bring political Islam within the democratic tent, in much the way that the Christian Democrat parties did for political Christianity in the period after the Second World War.

And that’s what forms the common bond between the Saudis and the hard right in the United States – both the neoconservatives and the Trumpian nationalists. Both are committed to the view that Islamic democracy is impossible; the Saudis because it threatens their autocracy, the Americans because it means admitting the Arabs to the status of real political players.

Charles Richardson — Editor of The World is not Enough

How the Arab/Israeli Alliance Is Making A Chump Out Of Trump

As novices to the world of Mideast intrigue, President Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner are being led by Israel and Saudi Arabia into a dangerous confrontation with Iran, explains former British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One for Israel, the next stop in Trump's international tour, at King Khalid International Airport, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP/Evan Vucci)

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One for Israel, the next stop in Trump’s international tour, at King Khalid International Airport, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The Israeli website Debka, though not always reliable in some respects, nonetheless, occasionally, can give useful glimpses into the Israeli calculus: Here it is expressing somewhat unusual enthusiasm, even open rapture, about a recent political event: “The Saudi king’s decision to elevate his son Mohammed bin Salman … is not merely the internal affair of the royal hierarchy, but a game-changing international event.

The king’s son is ready to step into his allotted place in a new US-Arab-Israeli alliance established by President Trump in May, along with the UAE, Egyptian and Israeli leaders that will seek to dominate Middle East affairs. Israel will be accepted in a regional lineup for the first time alongside the strongest Sunni Arab nations who all share similar objectives, especially the aim to stop Iran” [emphasis added].

“A game-changing international event”?

Why exactly are these Israelis so excited; why should the elevation of bin Salman, known by the initials MbS, be such a game-changer? Is there here something new?

And how come the dismissal of Prince Nayef, whom MbS replaced as crown prince and who was a Western favorite, barely ruffled a leaf in protest?

On the face of it, not much has changed. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s (and his father’s) obsession with Iran is well known. The Israeli PM (like his father before him) believes that Iran is the precursor to a new Jewish Holocaust.

It was not always like this, however: the Ben Gurion doctrine of courting regional minorities to Israel’s side (including Iran), was only “flipped” when the Israeli Labour Party won parliamentary elections in 1992.

In short, Iran’s subsequent identification with Satan by the Israeli government effectively was a domestic Israeli political need of the electoral moment: switching from the Arabs as “enemy” – in order for Rabin to make peace – required, in public terms, that Iran become the “far enemy” – the new existential threat to “plucky little” Israel’s survival, versus the now peace-partnering Arabs.

Netanyahu however, is a true “believer” (in Iran’s murderous intentions) and tried to corner President Obama into destroying Iran, by threatening America that either you do it (bomb Iran) – or, Israel shall (which effectively amounted to making America “do it” anyway). Obama demurred, and avoided Bibi’s binary threat to him of “war or war” by rather unenthusiastically negotiating a JCPOA with Iran – and thus re-balancing the region.

 

A New Strategic Situation

So what has changed? Iran has just re-elected President Hassan Rouhani who upholds the JCPOA and who actively engages with the West, and does not exude any clear and present danger to Israel, or the region (ISIS and al-Qaeda apart). “Nothing to see here”: aside from some jostling with U.S. partner forces for future influence in Syria.

Clearly, however, Debka does espy something new in the strategic situation. And they may be right. Ostensibly, on the surface, things may look the same, but two dynamics seem to be conflating that may account for official Israel’s high excitement. (It is not just Debka that is on a high – several senior intelligence and security officials at the recent Herzaliyia security conference, were also selling the imminent strategic change meme.)

One of the two conflating dynamics which might help us understand the enigma of Israeli satisfaction is this: a well-known Arab journalist wrote recently of a dinner held some months ago in the Gulf (with prominent Gulf guests), at which an unnamed former Arab Prime Minister was quizzed about MbS’ prospects of becoming king. What he said shocked the gathering. Some expressed their incredulity.

Donald Trump holds a sword and sways with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace, in Riyadh, May 20, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Donald Trump holds a sword and sways with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)

He said bluntly: if MbS wanted to come to the throne, he would need America’s blessings. He would need to offer them something that no one had offered before – that no one had dared to offer before. And what was that, the journalist asked the former PM that MbS must offer: “He must recognize Israel. If he does that, the U.S. will support him. They’ll even crown him themselves.”

In one of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Holmes’s solution to a particular mystery rested on “the dog did that did not bark in the night.” Holmes’s point was why had the dog not barked when its nature is to bark.

It is common knowledge that the U.S. has been firmly committed to Prince Nayef succeeding King Salman. The authoritative Saudi insider and blogger Muhtahidd has tweeted that the U.S. sent messages last year to MbS warning that he should not seek to supplant Nayef. In July 2016,

Mujtahidd tweeted that Secretary of State John Kerry had told MbS that Nayef continuing as Crown Prince was a “red line” for the U.S.
Why then did the U.S. “dog” not bark on the night that MbS seized the succession, just before dawn? We have heard not one tiny growl on Nayef’s behalf. In fact, a trawl through Mutahhid’s early tweets lays it all bare … if one bothers to connect the dots.

 

A Kingmaker

The main actor in this drama is Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ), the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who according to Mutjtahidd recognized MbS’ ambition from early on, and saw in him an instrument by which MbZ could gain personal influence through becoming kingmaker in Saudi Arabia. From the outset MbZ apparently urged MbS to obtain America’s support for him becoming king – via the channel of Israeli full support.

In tweets from May 2, 2016, Mujtahhid describes MbZ’s advice to bin Salman: first, seize the succession to the throne before King Salman dies; second, gain U.S. favor by moving the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia away from religious values – away from values that reinforce an Islamic identity, and third, expand ties with Israel.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Mujtahidd developed the third element in his tweets – ties to Israel – by saying that it began “shyly” as a lead-in to direct contacts. Senior Saudis were to be encouraged to participate in debates with Israelis (i.e. appearing on Israeli TV channels), while highlighting a common interest in combatting Iran and fighting “terrorism.”

MbZ was also reported by Mujtahidd as advising MbS to please Israel by supporting President Sisi of Egypt (with whom the Israelis have a close relationship) – and finally, Mujtahidd reports MbS (again in July last) that Netanyahu had met with MbS at Aqaba, three months earlier.

All of Mujtahidd’s points made over a year or more have been borne out in practice: The Saudi succession has been seized before the king has died; MbS has paraded his “opposition to religion” and Vision 2030 has emphasized a more secular, liberal economic identity for Saudi Arabia; Sisi has been supported (in spite of political differences); and Saudi ties to Israel have become incrementally more visible.

Mujtahidd is clear: There is no “big bang” shock recognition of Israel planned, but a continuing incrementalism (Israeli use of Saudi airspace, institution of telephone links, etc.).

On the one hand, Israel may be seeing the ambition and opportunism of two young men (MbZ and Mbs), but what “bakes the cake” for Israel, is the background, long-term dynamic of the declining legitimacy the Gulf “system” of monarchical, non-representational rule — a vulnerability exacerbated by financial tightening: an austerity that promises to limit Saudi ability to buy out popular disaffection.

This – the declining standing of Sunni authority and the leadership of Islam which the Saudis claim to be theirs and theirs alone – is what MbS and MbZ wish to reverse. Qatar was the first victim of their insistence on complete obedience.

Crosscurrents of Change

It was the “Arab Awakening” that initially fanned secular alienation with the absolute nature of the monarchial system, but then the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine of the Umma (the whole community of Muslims bound together by ties of religion) as sovereign, undermined it further, but from the Islamic stance. A left and a right punch. Also, the revisionist history of the first Islamic State, presented by ISIS, shreds Saudi’s religious credentials completely.

This is the combination that may be provoking such Israeli excitement: The ambition and opportunism of two young crown princes, coupled by their desire to restore Sunni authority (and the obedience of subordinate states) by mobilizing the Sunni world in a “jihad” against Iran and “terrorism,” must be music to some Israeli ears.

President Donald Trump talks to reporters before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump talks to reporters before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP/Evan Vucci)

And this is the rabbit hole down which President Trump has fallen. It matters little whether the primary motive for Trump’s Riyadh fiesta was pecuniary, or whether it was triggered by son-in-law Jared Kushner’s ambitions. Either way, Trump has embraced pushback against Iran (and seemingly, regime change, as Rex Tillerson has implied). In fact, Trump seems to be surrounding himself more and more with anti-Iranian advisers. He seems to like the notion of leading an alliance of the U.S., Israel and the two Crown Princes pushing back against Iran and its “terrorism.”

The Shi’a — pilloried by the Sunni Establishment as discontents, rejectionists and revolutionaries — have over a thousand-year history. Language changes, but the Shi’a as (false) innovators, apostates, heretics – and now “terrorists” – are as old as Islam. Terrible persecutions have ensued over the centuries. And Shi’a Islam is no insignificant 10 percent minority — in the Arab heartland, it is more like 60-40 percent. In the northern crescent, it is some 100 million Shi’i to 30 million Sunnis. And Sh’ism is undergoing a profound revival.

What interest of America will be served by intruding into these ancient animosities? MbS, MbZ and Netanyahu may be American “allies,” but their interests are not America’s. The former might be happy for America to spill its blood in fighting their fights. But why should Trump want to do that?

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum and writes for Consortium News, where this editorial first appeared.

 

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