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Middle East Press (01 Oct 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Saudi-Turkish Ties Get New Meaning: New Age Islam's Selection, 01 October 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

01 October 2016

Saudi-Turkish Ties Get New Meaning

By Sinem Cengiz

Pro-Israel? Or Pro-Palestinian? What Will Be Obama’s Legacy?

By Ray Hanania

Diplomacy Alone Cannot Stop Barbarism In Syria

By Mohamed Chebarro

Implications of the Growing Iran-Syria Economic Relations

By Dr. Majid Rafizade

What the Spanish Civil War Can Reveal About Syria

By Ibrahim Al-Marashi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Saudi-Turkish Ties Get New Meaning

By Sinem Cengiz

1 October 2016

The visit of the crown prince, who was accompanied by a high-level delegation, is just a routine visit which aims to enhance political and economic ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the two regional heavyweights. However, this routine visit comes at a crucial time while Turkey is going through tough days since the failed coup attempt of July 15. The crown prince’s visit is the second one from the Saudi side since the bloody coup attempt. On several occasions and also during the crown prince’s meetings with Turkish officials, the Turkish side underlined its contentedness with the Saudi position against the coup attempt.

The timing of the visit becomes important due to several reasons. First, it comes at a time while Turkey’s ongoing operation in Syria has taken a critical phase. A month has passed since Turkey and Turkish-supported Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched the Euphrates Shield Operation, which has led the years-long Syrian crisis to enter a new era. Following the coup attempt, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim announced that a new page will be opened in Turkey’s Syria policy. And it was just after a month that the button for Euphrates Shield Operation was pushed.

Given the complicated picture in the Syrian war, which has become an internationalized multi-sided battlefield, it is still unclear how long this operation will last. However, based on the developments in the region, it seems Turkish troops in Syrian territory will stay for a long term.

On Friday, the Saudi crown prince was received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at an official ceremony at the Presidential Palace. President Erdogan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif then had a tete-a-tete meeting. Following the meeting, the crown prince was presented with the Order of the State by President Erdogan.

The process and the ways to resolve the crisis in Syria was for no doubt the most important topic that dominated the talks between the Saudi and Turkish officials. Regarding Syria, both Ankara and Riyadh are on the same page and share similar views. That is — the ouster of Bashar Assad regime, support for Syrian opposition, integrity of Syria and a political solution for the crisis. During his visit to Turkey recently, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir also stated that his country supports Turkey’s operation in Syria, adding that both countries support the moderate opposition there.

The visit also came at a time while Syrian regime is carrying out a deadly aerial bombardment against opposition-held parts of eastern Aleppo that cost lives of hundreds of civilians. So, long story short: Syria file was as usual the hardest one on the table in discussions. Besides these topics, the regional challenges that the two countries face, such as instability in Iraq and Yemen, also occupy the agenda of talks.

Yildrim, who received Saudi crown prince on Thursday afternoon and discussed bilateral ties and regional issues during a meeting with him in Çankaya Palace in Ankara, stressed increased cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the “fight against terrorism.” On his part, the crown prince highlighted the “key role” that Ankara and Riyadh play in the region in order to secure stability and security.

Meanwhile, the visit also saw the inking of several agreements between Turkish and Saudi side. A memorandum of understanding was inked to enhance cooperation in the field of labour and a deal on media was signed. Also, a protocol to strengthen the cultural ties between the two states was inked. In the framework of the protocol regarding culture, 2017-2018 was declared as the years of culture between the two countries.

The visit also saw the revival of the “Saudi-Turkish Strategic Cooperation Council,” which was established in April in order to bolster economic ties between the two states. Needless to say, the economic ties between the two countries are below the expectation despite the good potential between Ankara and Riyadh. Thus, crown prince’s visit is expected to bear fruit in this respect.

It is important to note that Erdogan’s meeting with the crown prince have the characteristic of being the “6th meeting” with a top Saudi official within a year. And also it becomes the second between Erdogan and Crown Prince Naif within less than 10 days after both met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Sept. 21.

It is also noteworthy to mention that this is the third time Erdogan is coming together with a Saudi official within a month. The high-level meetings between the two countries started from the end of last year, and the recent visits show that this pace is expected to continue.

Ankara and Riyadh seems to be eager to strengthen the cooperation through these visits while the region is going through critical days and poses challenges for both countries. Also, when taking into consideration the US’ relations with both regional allies, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the close cooperation between Ankara and Riyadh becomes more meaningful. It seems that the coming days will show us the outcomes of these visits.

Source: arabnews.com/node/992116/columns


Pro-Israel? Or Pro-Palestinian? What Will Be Obama’s Legacy?

By Ray Hanania

1 October 2016

Many Arabs believed newly elected President Barack Obama would re-balance America’s heavily pro-Israel foreign policy, including establishing a Palestinian State.

In fact Obama didn’t disappoint Arab world or Palestinian expectations when he embraced Palestinian rights and acknowledged Palestinian “suffering” during an unprecedented speech in Cairo six months after winning election in November 2008.

Seven years later, though, Obama found himself in the ruins of the two-state solution, doing what his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton did as his term ended, currying Israeli forgiveness to strengthen his post-White House legacy.

Clinton spent his entire eight years nurturing Palestinian-Israeli peace only to watch it vanish.

In 1993, Clinton convinced Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to shake hands with PLO leader Yasir Arafat. It was a spectacular moment that I personally witnessed at the White House with the naïve hope it would end decades of American anti-Palestinian bias.

Clinton blamed Palestinians for the failure of the 2000 Camp David peace process and before leaving office gave Israel a record $3.12 billion in aid.

What a trophy it would be for any President to finally resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. But how to off-set the cost of failure?

After peace failed, both presidents did an about-face at the end of their terms after pressuring Israel.

It is disappointing to see both presidents do the same thing, fight for Palestinian rights for much of their years, and in failure, take the safe route out by showering Israel with support.

At the end of his term in 2000, Clinton tried to force Palestinian President Yasir Arafat to accept a flawed peace accord that was drafted in private meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack by Dennis Ross, who years later acknowledged he is a Zionist with his allegiance to Israel’s interests. Arafat was justifiably skeptical in going to Camp David in July 2000. The Wye River agreements signed by Arafat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spelled out specific actions that Israel was to take, but Israel never took, including withdrawal and the release of prisoners.

After being elected to replace Netanyahu in 1999, Barak was desperate to achieve a peace accord acceptable to Israelis but not to appear too conciliatory to the Palestinians. As a consequence, Barak only met face-to-face with Arafat twice, including only one time during the so-called Camp David “negotiations.” Camp David wasn’t a negotiation at all, but a dictate from Barak in consultation with Clinton and delivered to Arafat by Ross.

Ross conferred with Barak and Clinton to deliver a “peace plan” that Israelis would accept in the hopes of strengthening Barak’s chances for political survival. The plan relegated Palestinians to a state that would remain managed by Israeli soldiers in three buntastans, allow Palestinian “custody” of Muslim Holy sites in East Jerusalem, but refused to take the Palestinian refugees Right of Return seriously.

With Arafat’s rejection of the dictate, Barak’s government collapsed and in the new elections in 2001, Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister. Sharon had used violence to raise the apprehensions of Israelis provoking Palestinians by visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Surrounded by army of police and soldiers, Sharon declared the compound would always remain in “Jewish” hands..

Clinton left office without achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It was a peace Clinton needed almost as much as Israelis and Palestinians. In January 1999, Clinton was accused of having sex with an intern, Monica Lewinsky, at the White House over a period of several years during his first and second terms in office.

Congress impeached Clinton but the Senate declined to indict him, even though he repeatedly lied to the public claiming he never had “sexual relations” with Lewinsky. A peace accord might have wash away that stain from his legacy.

Obama walked into the Middle East abyss with his eyes wide open and with the power of a strong mandate from the American people to do what he wanted.

Delivering a powerful speech in Cairo to the Arab world, months after being sworn in as the 44th American president, Obama expressed passionate sympathy for Palestinians who “suffered in pursuit of a homeland.” Declared Obama, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.”

Hearing Obama deliver the Cairo speech in June 2009 was as powerful as watching Rabin and Arafat shake hands in 1993. The declaration rankled Israel, fuelling a long-running battle that hit a record low in 2012 when Netanyahu all but endorsed Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

With three months remaining in his term as the world’s most powerful leader, Obama gave Israel the largest military aid package in US history, $38 billion ($3.8 billion a year) over 10 years.. It’s a steep price to enhance his pro-Israel legacy.

Source: arabnews.com/node/992111/columns


Diplomacy Alone Cannot Stop Barbarism in Syria

By Mohamed Chebarro

30 September 2016

The latest sequence of siege, death, and destruction in Aleppo is just another example of an international community that has gone irrelevant, incapable and indolent.

The post-WW2 order, the post-Soviet Union collapse and the order that followed called for solving world problems multilaterally and through diplomatic pressure. But after nearly six years of war in Syria the stalemate at the UN remained and the power of diplomacy that the US Secretary of State John Kerry has been armed with seems outdated and irrelevant.

President Putin of Russia cannot become a peacemaker when his Air Force squadron commander continues to rain bombs indiscriminately on Aleppo, and whatever targets the Syrian president and their Iranian allies brandish as terrorist positions.

The world has been there many times before. The Bosnian crisis of 1992 was stopped only by the use of massive power that persuaded all parties to sit and search for a compromise.

In Kosovo in 1999, NATO undertook an air campaign for 78 days before Serbian leadership and their Russian allies agreed to come to terms with the right of Kosovar for self-determination, which is still short of total independence.

The American intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 was aimed at stopping terror reaching American shores. The Iraq war, we were told, was aimed at stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

These may not be perfect examples of intervention for world peace and security for civilians but they seemed necessary at the time and stability in those countries are still a work in progress. Syria, after nearly six years of ongoing onslaught on its civilians, could have benefited from action aimed at least at containment.

The world will survive the continued onslaught on Syria but the world that we know and its tenets of peace will change for good

Search for a Compromise

Creating a no-fly zone could have sent a message to all parties that meaningful negotiations and the search for a compromise is in everyone’s interest.

The creation of a safe haven for Syrians fleeing their regime’s barbarism could have saved the world’s destabilizing influx of refugees and delivered a message that those Syrians will not disappear and therefore push the regime of Assad to discuss a transitional government that leads eventually to his departure.

In Syria today, and after all types of bloodshed, the world stands divided between those resorting to disproportionate violence, namely Assad regime, president Putin of Russia and Iran. They are achieving their goal to create a Syria empty of more than half of its population whom this camp brandish unfairly as terrorists.

They are inflicting suffering by obliterating cities and shattering livelihood as punishment for daring to call for a change after 40 plus years of Assad family and their cronies.

The reality on the ground calls for a review of rhetoric of the condemnation, dismay and of empty red lines. The killing of 400,000 Syrians will not be healed just by allowing convoys into besieged areas. The 5 million refugees will not stop spilling into Europe just because they are getting aid in their camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

The 7 million internally displaced Syrians are unlikely to return home soon unless they sign a surrender papers to a regime that dropped barrel bombs day in and day out on their livestock, agricultural land and their villages in a scorched earth strategy masterminded by Assad and his allies in Moscow and Tehran.

It is ridiculous to be told for the past year that Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lavrov are about to reach an accord that would implement a transitional deal that would settle the Syrian crisis and stop the killing. All this has been heard while Russian air campaigns and Iranian-led foreign militias continue to kill, maim and besiege and then forcefully transfer civilians under the nose of the UN.

The United States, UK and France have been limiting the help the Syrian opposition could get from other allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to counter balance the Russian and the regime air supremacy. All this under the banner of Russian-American cooperation that will settle the Syrian crisis to join efforts in the fight against ISIS later.

Beyond barbarism and brutality

The bombing campaign of Aleppo shows clearly the intentions of the Kremlin, Damascus and Tehran regime to eliminate all opposition to Assad through a scorched earth policy to regain rebel held areas at all cost.

Mere use of terms such as “barbarism”, “brutality” and “excessive use of force” will not alleviate the suffering of Syrians. Just calling Russian action in Syria a war crime and crimes against humanity will not save makeshift hospitals and civil defence teams working in harsh conditions to apply the thinnest dose left of humanity to civilians caught in relentless bombing of densely populated areas of Aleppo.

Last but not the least, all the friends of Syria – such as US, UK and France – could offer is to call Russia a pariah state for floundering in its duty to protect peace as a responsible member of the Security Council.

Diplomacy alone cannot stop barbarism by Russia and Iran in Syria. The world will survive the continued onslaught on Syria but the world that we know and its tenets of peace will change for good.

Maybe the so-called friends of the Syrian people could finally understand that without the use of a stick the diplomacy of John Kerry w

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/09/30/Diplomacy-alone-cannot-stop-barbarism-in-Syria-.html


Implications of the Growing Iran-Syria Economic Relations

By Dr. Majid Rafizade

30 September 2016

A considerable amount of analysis has been dedicated to Iran’s geopolitical, strategic, and military relationships with the Syrian government apparatuses. Nevertheless, the shifting economic nexus between Tehran and Damascus has been subjected less to scholarly work, policy analysis, or media attention.

The changing paradigm in Tehran-Damascus economic ties can have significant long-term implications for Iran’s geopolitical and economic influence in the region.

Iran’s shifting economic paradigm in Syria

Right before the conflict erupted, Iran ratcheted up its investment with considerable amounts of money, resources, skilled forces, and labor in various provinces in Syria.

Large sums of cash and resources were allocated to investments in several sectors such as transportation, infrastructure, and energy, including a joint bank in Damascus, 60 percent of which is owned by the Iranian government, as well as a $10 billion natural gas agreement with Syria and Iraq for the construction of gas pipeline that would start in Iran, run through Syria, Lebanon, and the Mediterranean, and reach several Western countries.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the main player alongside Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also supported the allocation of $5.8 billion in aid to Syria by Iran’s Centre for Strategic Research (CSR), which concentrates on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategies in six different arenas including Foreign Policy Research, Middle East and Persian Gulf research, and International political economy research.

A 17-article agreement was also signed which concentrated on “trade, investment, planning and statistics, industries, air, naval and rail transportation, communication and information technology, health, agriculture, and tourism.” The contracts are mainly between the state organizations while Iran’s main investors are various companies (transportation, food, etc) owned by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Office of the Supreme Leader.

Iran’s economic influence in Syria has exponentially increased contrary to common perceptions. In the long-term, if the Syrian war ends, Iran would be the most dominant player in Syria economically

Iran’s Long-Term Plan

Iran and Syria played almost equal role in economic trade and investments before the conflict, as both held some leverage against the other. But after the uprising, Iran’s economic leverage over Syria increased exponentially causing Syria's debt and dependence on Iran to increase as well.

While some argue that Iran’s economic investment in Syria has decreased, in fact statistics show otherwise. Isolated from the international community and being confined with global sanctions, the Syrian government has become more reliant on Iran. In other words, Iran has become Syria’s economic lifeline. After the conflict, free trade has increased and the trade custom fees have been significantly decreased up to 60 percent, in favor of Tehran.

These agreements are believed to increase Iran and Syria’s annual trade volume to $5 billion. Allaedin Boroujerdi stated that the recent agreements were “a firm response” to the United States and its Western allies “investing billions of dollars to change the political structure of the Syrian government.” Iran has also the dominant role in Syria’s economy since trade between Syria and Turkey and other regional players has significantly shrunk.

Iran’s investments in Syria’s infrastructure, power generation capabilities, and gas market have also increased since then, as part of the reconstruction process. The additional shift is that the investments are not only done with the Assad’s governmental apparatuses, but also with many Shiite militia groups.

Iran’s investments remain mostly in the form of credit lines and loans. Although the war has become costly for Iran, Iran has not abandoned its economic plan in Syria. Tehran’s economic and reconstruction plan in Syria is a long-term one which can pay off very well in the vast market of Damascus if the Syrian war ends. We can make the analogy that Iran’s economic agenda is similar to its plan in Iraq, after US invasion, and partially similar to the US Marshall plan of giving economic support to rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II.

But Iran is playing a more enduring plan. Some reports indicate that Iran is getting paid back via contracts in Syrian real state by buying Syrian land. This gives Iran considerable amount of power over Syria in the long-term. If the war ends, Iran will be single most important player in Syria economically.

The nuclear deal has definitely made Iran’s economy stronger. This in return has increased Iran’s economic influence in Syria, as it has also benefited Assad as well. Larger infrastructure and energy projects will be more likely on the horizon. Almost every year, Iran is signing a new contract with Syria for nearly over a billion dollars of credit line.

Another area of increasing trade- and Khamenei and the IRGC’s priority- is arms trade with Syria in order to strengthen its defense. Syria is a matter of national security for Iran. Without Iran’s financials assistances, Assad would have not survived.

For example, although there are international economic sanctions against Syria, Iran’s crude oil sale to Syria increased to its highest record of 125,000 barrels a day in March 2015. The amount will more likely increase since sanctions were lifted against Iran.

More recently, Syria and Iran signed several agreements to invest in oil, electricity, power, energy, and other industrial sectors. They discussed “means to implement cooperation between the two countries.” Although it is billions of dollars, it is still hard to quantify the exact estimate Iran’s investment in Syria and its trade.

Iran’s trade and investment in Syria was approximately over $9 billion annually before the sanctions were lifted. This amount is expected to increase to $15-20 billion annually. Iran’s non-arms trade with Syria is still one-fifth (nearly $2 billion) of Iran’s trade with Iraq, which is intriguing since Syria is a conflict-affected state.

Iran’s economic influence in Syria has exponentially increased contrary to common perceptions. In the long-term, if the Syrian war ends, Iran would be the most dominant player in Syria economically. This also suggests that due to the above-mentioned date, Iran cannot afford any peace plan that will lead to the removal of the Alawite state from power.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/09/30/How-Iran-is-gradually-owning-Syria-economically.html


What the Spanish Civil War Can Reveal About Syria

By Ibrahim Al-Marashi

30 Sep 2016

As the battle for Aleppo continues unabated, this intense episode in the Syrian civil war harkens back to a vicious battle for another Mediterranean city, Barcelona, during the Spanish civil war.

July 2016 marked the 80-year anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict in Spain, lasting from 1936 to 1939. In July 1936, General Francisco Franco led a rebellion among the Spanish military and his allies, collectively referred to as the Nationalists, against the recently elected left leaning Republican Government.

The Republican government rallied its military forces to its defence, in addition to anarchist and communist militia, and a civil war ensued.

I refrain from invoking the cliched phrase, "history repeats itself". Rather, this piece, part of a series of articles comparing the Spanish past and Syrian present, will elucidate similar dynamics in civil wars, and illustrate how they end or why they continue to endure.

The Similarities 

Comparisons between these two conflicts have been made before. Two prominent political scientists, Laia Balcells and Stathis Kalyvas write, "The Spanish Civil War became a focal conflict in Europe, the ideological and military battleground where fascist and anti-fascist forces clashed while the entire world stared. Today, Syria has become the key battleground of Sunni and Shia ideologues and activists."

While I disagree that the Syrian civil war can be reduced to Sunni-Shia tensions, their mention of how the "world stared" as the Spanish civil war unfolded holds true for most of the international community and Syria since the fighting broke out in 2011.

First, in terms of similarities, both conflicts involved rival foreign powers which sponsored proxies in the Spanish civil war, akin to the roles Saudi Arabia and Iran have played in the Syrian civil war, just to name a few.

The USSR sided with the Republicans and Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy provided its troops and military aid to the Nationalists, tipping the balance in Franco's favour.

Franco was leading a rebellion against the government, which would seem to make his forces similar to the Nusra Front, but in terms of military hardware, he would be comparable to Bashar al-Assad in that he utilised most of the military hardware inherited from the state to combat his foes.

Both these parties demonstrated their dependence on airpower, even though 80 years have transpired, and aerial technology has developed significantly.

Franco had complete control of the air, due to the participation of the air forces of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, which bombarded pro-Republican towns. As of 2015, the intervention of the Russian air force tilted the balance in Assad's favour.

In the case of the Republican side, the aid delivered by the USSR to the Spanish communist militias, defeated the anarchist militias in Barcelona. ISIL has played a similar role in weakening Syrian rebels, particularly those forces who control Aleppo.

The Differences

Despite the strength of Franco's forces, in the spring of 1938 the Spanish civil war appeared to have reached a stalemate, yet a year later the Nationalists scored their final victory after conquering Madrid. That conflict spanned three years. Why has the Syrian conflict endured so much longer?

There are numerous reasons why the Syrian civil war continues. Differences in terms of military, geographical, and economic dynamics of the conflict provide some explanations.

First, the roles of the strongest military side are reversed. Assad has been ensconced in the capital, and the onus has been on the rebels to seize it.

Franco was invading his own country from Morocco to capture Madrid. The stronger military force in Spain had to take the capital, the ostensible seat of power, whereas in Syria the weaker power had to achieve this goal, which proved elusive.

Second, Spain is only bordered by France and Portugal, with the former providing minimal aid to the Republicans, and the latter aiding the Nationalists.

In the case of Syria, it has many more neighbours, bordered by Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan, and each border serves as a conduit for perpetuating the conflict in terms of arms flows and fighters. Those border nations, in addition to the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran, all have a stake in the civil war, and all seek an end to the war that suits their national security interests.

Al-Nusra Front fighters carry weapons on the back of pick-up trucks during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon [Reuters]

Third, because the conflict has lasted longer in Syria, another difference is the political economy of the civil war.

Since the war has lasted so long in Syria a myriad warlords, some on the government side and others on the rebel side, have taken root during the conflict, developing their own parasitic set of micro-economies.

It is doubtful that these parties would support a negotiated political solution if their financial base were to be threatened by an end to the hostilities.

Anarchist and communist militias in Spain had developed their own micro-economies, such as in Barcelona, but these were dismantled after the Nationalist victory there.

Rehearsal for World War II

The Spanish civil war served as a battleground for Germany and Italy to test out their new military hardware, particularly their bombers targeting civilian centres. This tactic was a prelude to a much larger conflict, World War II.

Observers of the Syrian civil war argue that Russia is using this conflict to try out its new military hardware, ranging from cruise missiles to long-distance bombing raids from Iran, in order to send a message to the US and its NATO allies about its new military prowess.   

As a historian, I dislike the phrase "history repeats itself", because it is overly deterministic, and denies the agency to actors in the present.

In this case, the US, Russia, and the Syrian parties need to ensure that the bloody, half-a-decade civil does not become the prelude to a much larger conflict.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/09/spanish-civil-war-reveal-syria-160927053935205.html

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