Archive for the ‘Iran and Saudi Arabia’ category

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is moving on to his next target: Iran

March 21, 2018

John Kilduff Published 2:02 PM ET Tue, 20 March 2018 via CNBC

Source Link: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is moving on to his next target

{A good time to buy Exxon stock, IMHO. – LS}

  • Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, nicknamed MBS, has rapidly consolidated power within the kingdom.
  • With his position secured and his rivals vanquished, he is moving on to his next target: Iran.
  • With hostilities rising, war is seeming more inevitable, which increases the likelihood of rising oil prices.

The new face of Saudi Arabia makes his Washington D.C. debut this week, and you better take a good look because, at 32-years old, he will very likely be with us for a while.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, nicknamed MBS, has rapidly consolidated power within the kingdom. He iced out his rivals by charging many of them with corruption, extracting forfeitures of great sums of wealth that the Saudi government claims were ill-gotten.

With his position secured and his rivals vanquished, he is moving on to his next target: Iran.

The topic of Iran is a key agenda item for his meeting with President Trump on Tuesday. President Trump should find himself well-versed on the topic, which he discussed at-length with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, earlier this month.

Iran is serving as a unifying force among its Middle East neighbors. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia see Iran as a grave threat, to such a degree that the two countries, once fierce enemies, are now sharing intelligence and cooperating in other ways. Netanyahu has alluded to this budding friendship by noting that Israel “has friends in the Middle East.”

MBS compared Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei to Adolf Hitler in an interview over the weekend, and he termed the Iran nuclear deal as a “flawed agreement” echoing President Trump’s position. President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State is expected to push hard to see the U.S. terminate the Iran nuclear deal, which had been favored by former Secretary of State Tillerson.

We are now dealing with a much more forward-leaning Saudi Arabia that is also seeking to modernize.

But, has the leopard really changed its spots?

The recent corruption purge took on a hint of irony, when it was revealed recently that MBS himself has some extravagant tastes that include a palace in Versailles, France, and the purchase of the most expensive art work in history, Da Vinci’s depiction of Jesus, for $450 million, among other goodies.

MBS is being championed, in some circles, as standing against radical Islam, but he is also standing as Sunni Muslin against Islam’s other faction, the Shia branch, which Iranians, mostly, adhere to, and there is nothing new about that.

There has been a proxy war raging between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Syria. The Saudis recently trotted out an unexploded rocket that was launched from Yemen into the kingdom that bore Iranian markings. Saudi air sorties regularly bomb Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The situation vis-à-vis Iran is escalating. A second “coalition of the willing,” the term used to describe allies in the second U.S. war with Iraq, may be forming to take on Iran more directly, and the roster looks to include Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Israel, and the United States. Look for triparty agreement on Iran among the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and U.A.E. to be announced this week, as a prelude to a broader grouping.

Saudi Arabia used to be a quiet giant in the Middle East, more than happy to be the world’s largest source of oil, minting petrodollars and spreading the wealth, internally, to keep the powers that be in charge and the populace placated.

MBS is making it clear that is no longer the case. Get ready to hear Saudi Arabia roar, with all that brings with it.

Saudi Arabia will look to use its power and influence to remake the Middle East in its image. The kingdom will not sit idly by and allow Iran to gain de facto control of Iraq, which has parliamentarian elections in May. Iran is actively trying to engineer the return of former Prime Minister Maliki.

The new Saudi doctrine is also being seen in the form of the blockade of Qatar, which several other Gulf nations have joined in.

It does appear that policies and regional ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Iran are putting them on a collision course that will result in direct hostilities, and Saudi Arabia has partners willing to assist it with such a fight, that coalition of the willing.

The rhetoric and apparent intentions of MBS have reinflated the risk premium in oil prices. If it keeps up and if the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal becomes a reality, WTI oil prices will head higher, upwards of $70-plus. Absent these tensions, the prices is more appropriately in the low $50 area.

 

Iran’s Plans Need to be Recognises and Thwarted

August 30, 2017

Iran’s Plans Need to be Recognises and Thwarted, Iran News Update, Jazeh Miller, August 29, 2017

At the minute, Tehran has control over an alarming amount of space in Syria and Iraq. It is using its forces in Iran, and Assad’s forces, to provide a safe route of almost 2,000 kilometres linking Tehran and Beirut. This will give Iran the chance to supply its militias, including the notorious Hezbollah, with supplies and heavy weapons without being hindered by checks, border verifications, etc.

Now that Iran and Qatar have restored ties and Turkey and Iran are planning joint military action against Kurdish groups, foreign governments need to pick a side. Non-complaint states should have their diplomatic ties severed and a devastating result needs to be avoided.

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It is very clear that Iran plans to dominate the Middle East – this is its long-term goal and the reason why it is interfering in so many countries. However, some experts believe that the Iranian regime is also targeting Makkah and Madinah.

There are several indications to suggest this. For one, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last year insulted the Saudi royal family and criticised its role as caretaker of the holiest Islam sites.

Only a few months ago, the former defense minister of Iran Hossein Dehghan warned Saudi Arabia: “If the Saudis do anything ignorant, we will leave no area untouched except for Makkah and Madinah.” One of the princes of Saudi Arabia said that his country is well aware that it is a main target of the Iranian regime and said that instead of waiting for the battle to come to Saudi Arabia, they would work to have it in Iran.

Saudi Arabia and its allies in the GCC took action to stop Iran from opening the military corridor that would have led the regime right to the Saudi border.

However, there may be an even more pressing danger.

At the minute, Tehran has control over an alarming amount of space in Syria and Iraq. It is using its forces in Iran, and Assad’s forces, to provide a safe route of almost 2,000 kilometres linking Tehran and Beirut. This will give Iran the chance to supply its militias, including the notorious Hezbollah, with supplies and heavy weapons without being hindered by checks, border verifications, etc.

Iran has been identified as the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world and it is not even trying to cover up its terrorist activities.

President Trump announced that he was considering the United States’ position with regards to the 2015 nuclear deal, and President Rouhani responded by saying that Iran’s nuclear program could be restarted immediately.

The Iranian regime is out of control and threats like these show that there is no chance of bringing moderation to the ruling powers of Iran.

As well as threatening the international community, the Iranian regime is threatening people at home. The Iranian people have no right to free speech and are threatened with prison, cruel punishments, or in some cases execution.

Now that Iran and Qatar have restored ties and Turkey and Iran are planning joint military action against Kurdish groups, foreign governments need to pick a side. Non-complaint states should have their diplomatic ties severed and a devastating result needs to be avoided.

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East

June 22, 2017

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East, Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, June 22, 2017

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

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The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of such a doctrine from their communities.

What still has to be considered is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

The tectonic plates in the Middle East have shifted markedly with President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and his announced new regional policy.

The trip represented the beginning of a major but necessary shift in US security policy.

For much of the last nearly half-century, American Middle East policy has been centered on the “peace process” and how to bring Israel and the Palestinians to agreement on a “two-state” solution for two peoples — a phrase that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to say.

First was shuttle diplomacy during 1973-74 in the Nixon administration; then second, in 1978, the Camp David agreement and the recognition of Israel by Egypt, made palatable by $7 billion in new annual US assistance to the two nations; third, the anti-Hizballah doctrine, recently accurately described by National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, as Iran, since 1983, started spreading its terror to Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. This last effort was often excused by many American and European analysts as a result somehow, of supposed American bad faith. Fourth, came the birth, in 1992, of the “Oslo Accords” where some Israelis and Palestinians imagined that a two-state solution was just another round of negotiations away.

Ironically, during the decade after Oslo, little peace was achieved; instead, terror expanded dramatically. The Palestinians launched three wars, “Intifadas,” against Israel; Al Qaeda launched its terror attacks on U.S. Embassies in Africa; and Iran, Hizballah, and Al Qaeda together carried out the forerunner attacks against America of 9/11/2001.

Since 9/11, despite wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism has not only failed to recede; on the contrary, it has expanded. Iran has become the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and the Islamic State (ISIS) has tried to establish a transnational “Islamic caliphate.” Literally tens of thousands of terror attacks have been carried out since 9/11 by those claiming an Islamic duty to do so. These assaults on Western civilization have taken place on bridges, cafes, night clubs, offices, military recruitment centers, theaters, markets, and sporting events — not only across the West but also in countries where Muslims have often been the primary victims.

Particularly condemnable have been the improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, perpetrated to a great extent by Iran, according to U.S. military testimony before Congress.

All the while, we in the West keep trying to convince ourselves that, as a former American president thought, if there were a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, most of the terrorist attacks we see in Europe and the United States “would disappear.”

No matter how hard we may rhetorically push the “peace process”, there is no arc of history that bends naturally in that direction. Rather, nations such as the United States together with its allies must create those alliances best able to meet the challenges to peace and especially defeat the totalitarian elements at the core of Islamist ideology.

If anything, the so-called Middle East “peace process” has undercut chances of achieving a sound U.S. security policy. While the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian “problem” dominated American thinking about Middle East peace for so many decades, other far more serious threats materialized but were often ignored, not the least of which was the rise of Iran as the world’s most aggressive terrorist.

The United States has now moved in a markedly more promising and thoughtful direction.

The new American administration has put together an emerging coalition of nations led by the United States that seeks five objectives:

(1) the defeat of Islamic State;

(2) the formation of a coalition of the major Arab nations, especially Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to clean up in their own back yards financing terrorism and providing terrorists with sanctuary. As Elliott Abrams, an adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush, cautions us, however, this will not be an easy effort: “Partnerships with repressive regimes may in some cases exacerbate rather than solve the problem for us” but, Abrams says, “gradual reform is exactly the right approach…”;

3) “driving out” sharia-inspired violence and human rights abuses from the region’s mosques and madrassas;

(4) a joint partnership with Israel as part of an emerging anti-Iran coalition — without letting relations with the Palestinian authority derail United States and Israeli security interests; and

(5) the adoption of a strategy directly to challenge Iran’s quest for regional and Islamic hegemony, while ending its role in terrorism.

Defeating Islamic State

Defeating ISIS began with an accelerated military campaign and a new American-led strategy to destroy the organization rather than to seek its containment. According to the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, “Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (Dept. of Defense/Brigitte N. Brantley)

So far, the United States coalition has driven ISIS from 55,000 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria.

A New Coalition

Apart from a strategy to counter ISIS, the Trump administration also called on our allies in the Middle East to put together a new joint multi-state effort to stop financing terrorism. Leading the multi-state effort will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which together will supposedly open a new center dedicated to the elimination of terrorist financing. Positive results are not guaranteed, but it is a step in the right direction.

According to Abdul Hadi Habtoor, the center will exchange information about financing networks, adopt means to cut off funding from terrorist groups, and hopefully blacklist Iran’s jihadist army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These measures in turn will help eliminate the sanctuaries from which terrorists plot and plan.

This move also places emphasis on the responsibility of states to eliminate terrorism. As President Trump said, each country — where it is sovereign — has to “carry the weight of their own self-defense“, be “pro-active” and responsible for “eradicating terrorism”, and “to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil”.

This determination was underscored by many Arab countries breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar for its support of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Most of Qatar’s Arab neighbors, including the Saudis, Egypt, and the UAE did so, while the US, although denouncing Qatar’s support of terrorism, continues to maintain access to, and use of, its critical military base there.

In short, the U.S. is playing good-cop, bad-cop in the region, while U.S. allies are putting together what Josh Rogin of the Washington Post described as “a regional security architecture encompassing countries on the periphery of Iran.”

Such an approach is not without risk: Turkey, allied with Iran and Qatar, has already has pledged to help Qatar defy the Gulf States’ trade cut-off. If Turkey, for example, seeks to move its promised aid shipments to Qatar through the Suez Canal, the ships could possibly be blocked by Egypt or attacked on the high seas. Does the U.S. then come to the assistance of a NATO member — Turkey — against an ally in the strategic coalition?

Drive Hateful Ideology Out

A companion challenge by the new American President underscored this new security effort. President Trump said to the assembled nations of the Islamic conference that they have to expel the ugly Islamist ideology from the mosques and madrassas that recruit terrorists and justify their actions.

Trump said: “Drive them out of your places of worship”. Such words had never been spoken so clearly by an American president, especially to the collection of nearly all the Islamic-majority countries (minus the Shi’ite bloc) gathered together.

The president’s audience doubtless understood that he was speaking of the doctrine of sharia (Islamic law). The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of the doctrine from their communities. It was a sharp but critical departure from the previous American administration’s message in Cairo in 2009, and placed the Islamic doctrine that seeks to establish the sharia throughout the world in a contained context.

New Israeli Partnership

With Israel, the administration has cemented the next part of its strategy. Here the Trump administration successfully improved our political and military relations with Israel. Markedly so. One part of that effort was enhanced missile-defense cooperation called for in the FY18 United States defense budget, specifically to deal with Iranian and Iranian-allied missile threats.

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

Challenge and Roll Back Iran

The final part of the administration’s strategy starts with a thorough review of our Iran strategy and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or “nuclear deal”, with Iran. As Max Singer recently wrote, even if we discount what secretive nuclear capability Iran may now have, the Iranian regime will at the very least be much closer to producing nuclear weapons down the road than when the JCPOA was agreed to.

As Ambassador John Bolton has warned the nuclear deal with Iran did nothing to restrain Iranian harmful behavior: “Defiant missile launches… support for the genocidal Assad regime… backing of then Houthi insurgency in Yemen… worldwide support for terrorism… and commitment to the annihilation of Israel” continue.

In addition, uranium enrichment, heavy water production, the concealed military dimensions of warhead development and joint missile and nuclear work with North Korea all lend a critical urgency to countering Iran’s lethal efforts. The United States did not make these counter-efforts any easier by providing to Tehran $100 billion in escrowed Iranian funds, equivalent to nearly one quarter of the Islamic Republic’s annual GDP.

The United States’ and Europe’s easing of sanctions on Iran has helped reintegrate Iran into global markets via mechanisms such as the electronic payment system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). That, in turn, has helped Iran expand dramatically its military modernization budget by 33%, including deals worth tens of billions of dollars in military hardware with China and Russia.

Added to that is Iranian financial- and weapons-support for foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Iran’s significant support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen includes weaponry, financing and logistical support, including advanced offensive missiles. The Houthis regularly attempt to carry out missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities.

Such Iran activity is described by the Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, as “the most significant threat to the Central Region and to our national interests and the interest of our partners and allies”.

As such, it can only be challenged through exactly the kind of military, political, and economic coalition the Trump administration is seeking to band together, which would include the Gulf Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

The administration’s five-step strategy has a chance to work. It creates a policy to destroy ISIS; oppose Islamic terrorism and specifically the imposition of sharia; adopt measures to go after the financing of such terrorism; implement improvements in Gulf allies’ military capabilities — including missile defenses — parallel with pushing NATO members to meet their military spending obligations; put back into place a sound and cooperative relationship with Israel; and specifically contain and roll back Iranian hegemonic ambitions and its terror-master ways.

What still has to be considered, however, is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of ISIS, as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

If successful, some modicum of peace may be brought to the Middle East. And the arc of history will have finally been shaped toward America’s interests and those of its allies, rather than — however inadvertently — toward its mortal enemies.

Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years.

Top Iranian Official Threatens Saudi Arabia Over Alleged Ties With Israel

June 20, 2017

Top Iranian Official Threatens Saudi Arabia Over Alleged Ties With Israel, AlgemeinerBen Cohen, June 20, 2017

(Please see also, IRGC Commanders: Our Main Aim Is Global Islamic Rule. — DM)

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. Photo: IRNA.

The speaker of the Iranian Parliament assailed Saudi Arabia on Tuesday over its alleged ties with Israel in a speech in Tehran to a group of ambassadors from Muslim nations.

“The dependence of some Muslim countries on Israel is catastrophic and a stain of shame, while the Muslim Ummah (global community) should be sensitive to the fate of Palestine,” Ali Larijani said, in remarks reported by the Iranian regime’s English-language mouthpiece, PressTV.

Larijani named Saudi Arabia specifically, asserting, “Eventually, all Saudi moves are in favor of Israel.”

Without producing evidence, Larijani claimed Iran had obtained documents showing that the Saudis provided Israel with intelligence during the 2006 war between the IDF and the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy.

“We have tried hard to make the Saudis understand that their measures are to the detriment of the Muslim Ummah, but they only make harsher remarks every day,” Larijani said. He warned Muslim states “not to be trapped in a bigger plot.”

Larijani has held several high offices in the Tehran regime, including serving as chief negotiator with the international community over Iran’s nuclear program, and as secretary of Iran’s National Security Council. A hardline Islamist, Larijani shocked an audience of world leaders and diplomats at the Munich Security Conference in 2009 when he endorsed Holocaust denial, praising the Iranian regime for having “different perspectives” on the Nazi genocide of the Jews.

Larijani’s attack on Saudi Arabia comes at a time of growing rumor and speculation about Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning economic and security ties with Israel. Israeli officials have tended to play down such reports, among them a recent claim by the London Sunday Times that Jerusalem was preparing to announce commercial relations with Riyadh.

Larijani’s accusation that Saudi Arabia has betrayed Islam matches rhetoric from other regime officials promoting Iran as the leader of the Islamic world. In several speeches this year, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Ali Jafari — the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) — has emphasized Iran’s place at the head of “the Islamic Revolution.”

“The Islamic Revolution is now in its third stage — that is, [the stage] of assembling the Islamic government, and with God’s help it will pass this stage successfully despite the ups and downs that constantly occur,” Ja’fari declared in a March 15 speech.

In another speech on April 30, the IRGC commander asserted, “In order to build the Islamic regime, there is no other path but to advance the Islamic Revolution. As the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic) said: ‘If this Islamic regime is defeated, Islam is defeated.’”