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Reducing presence in Saudi Arabia triggers Saudi prolif, Iran prolif, and and Israeli attack on Saudi Arabia

Eric Bordenkircher, Ph.D., is a research fellow at UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development. He tweets at @UCLA_Eagle, 12-11, 23, The Road to Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/road-nuclear-proliferation-middle-east-207847

Upon its adoption, the resolution requests information about Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices from the Secretary of State. If the requested information demonstrates that the kingdom violates human rights (an inevitable outcome), the United States must deny security assistance. The denial of security assistance would entail terminating U.S. assistance of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Senators Murphy, Sanders, Warren, Durbin, and Lee cannot see the forest for the trees in the Middle East. Their obsession with punishing Saudi Arabia and rectifying a minor foreign policy issue (U.S. support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen) blinds them to larger, more pressing U.S. foreign policy concerns and objectives. Ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen elevates the possibility of doomsday scenarios. It antagonizes volatile dynamics in the Middle East by incentivizing the proliferation of nuclear capabilities. The proliferation of nuclear capabilities in the Middle East threatens U.S. security, undermines U.S. interests, destabilizes the region, and places the international economy on the precipice of ruin. The connection between supporting the kingdom in Yemen and the proliferation of nuclear capabilities dates back to 2015 when President Obama was in the final stages of negotiating the Joint Cooperation Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. The Obama administration’s attempt to reach a settlement on Iran’s nuclear ambitions heightened fears of abandonment and increased a sense of vulnerability in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia saw the JCPOA as a de facto rapprochement between Iran and the United States and, thus, the betrayal of a seventy-eight-year-old ally. Why? Saudi Arabia believes the Islamic regime in Iran is an existential threat to the kingdom and a destabilizing regional force. The Iranian regime’s revolutionary ideology and pursuit of nuclear capabilities—uranium enrichment infrastructure— are promises of that hazard; support for militias that destabilize the region are its manifestations. In the months leading up to the signing of the JCPOA, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries threatened to match the nuclear enrichment capabilities provided to Iran by the proposed deal. To secure the JCPOA while forestalling the spread of nuclear capabilities and assuaging Saudi Arabia’s concerns, President Obama committed to continuing to support and defend Saudi Arabia. According to Obama, “The protection that we provide as [the Gulf countries’] partner is a far greater deterrent that they could ever hope to achieve by developing their own nuclear stockpile.” Limited American participation in the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemeni civil war is one aspect of that commitment to protect the kingdom. Saudi Arabia believes its intervention is critical to thwarting the Iranian threat on its southern border. The Houthis, an Iran-funded and inspired militia, seek to assert their authority in Yemen. The periodic drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia by the Houthis continue to validate the kingdom’s fears and rationale for using military force to crush the militia. The geopolitical dynamics in the Gulf demonstrate that the passage of Resolution 109 would engender considerable fallout. Withdrawing the U.S. commitment to protection in Yemen sows further distrust in the kingdom. Is the United States taking Saudi security seriously? If Washington were to go back on its word regarding Yemen, would it keep it on other matters Riyadh considers critical to its security? If America’s commitment to the kingdom’s security is diminished, the Saudis will inevitably seek alternative measures to protect themselves. One possibility is the pursuit of nuclear capabilities. As demonstrated by the Obama statement, the kingdom perceives nuclear capabilities as a means to deter the Iranian threat. The Saudi pursuit of nuclear capabilities would ignite a race toward nuclear proliferation in the Gulf. Saudi actions will dash the Senators’ hopes of resurrecting the JCPOA. Iran will have no incentive to re-enter an agreement that restrains its nuclear aspirations but not those of its rival. Other Arab countries could follow the Saudi and Iranian example. The development of nuclear weapons could follow the acquisition of nuclear capabilities. And then there is Israel. The Netanyahu government cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. Israel will be compelled to strike Iranian nuclear facilities. What comes next? Possibly a regional war. The fallout from the passage of Resolution 109 will extend to the global markets. The proliferation of nuclear capabilities in the Gulf places the international economy on an increasingly precarious footing. As a significant source of oil and gas, the Gulf region remains a linchpin of the world’s economic well-being. A lack of reliable access to the region’s vast oil and gas reserves will be the least of U.S. worries should nuclear proliferation occur. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Senator Murphy’s Resolution and its co-sponsors’ attempt to reform relations and rectify a minor U.S. foreign policy issue is shortsighted. They actually further complicate a challenging geopolitical environment. Passage of the resolution would make supporters complicit as harbingers of a Middle East rife with nuclear proliferation. Therefore, Resolution 109 needs to be permanently retired.

Iran is focused on becoming an aggressive nuclear power in the Middle East

Blank, 12-10, 23, Stephen Blank, Ph.D. is a Foreign Policy Research Institute senior fellow and independent consultant focused on the geopolitics and geostrategy of the former Soviet Union, Russia and Eurasia. He is a former professor of Russian national security studies and national security affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College and a former MacArthur fellow at the U.S. Army War College.

By any conceivable standard, Iran’s multi-dimensional threat to regional and international order is growing, and not only in the nuclear domain. The International Atomic Energy Agency has just reported that Iran has effectively stonewalled it on conforming to previous agreements on nuclear safeguards. Other reports also show it is moving swiftly to acquire a usable nuclear weapon without foreign constraints. Earlier this year the IAEA also found uranium particles enriched to near bomb-grade levels at an Iranian nuclear facility. Likewise, as the U.S. warned, Tehran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb was accelerating. Serious as this threat is, it is by no means the only arrow in Tehran’s quiver. We need to recognize that obtaining a nuclear weapon is merely one strand of Iran’s strategy to conduct a global strategy of destabilization, not just a campaign in the Middle East. To be sure there is abundant evidence of Iran’s sponsorship of what it calls the Axis of Resistance comprising the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Shia forces in Iraq, Hezbollah, and most recently, Hamas. Iran’s aim in coordinating these groups and providing them with weapons, intelligence, support and more is threefold: to destroy the state of Israel, unseat Sunni Muslim rulers in Arab lands and eject the U.S. and its partners from the Middle East. The current Gaza War may or may not have been coordinated with Iran, which denies that charge and claims it is “not going to expand this war front.” But keeping out of direct conflict with Israel or the U.S. conforms perfectly to Iran’s long-term strategy that relies upon its proxies to maintain steady pressure on Washington, Jerusalem and their partners. It has just employed those proxies to conduct numerous low-level attacks upon U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria and on commercial and U.S. shipping in the Red Sea. Like its partners Russia and China, Iran seeks to wage a multi-front and multi-dimensional war, including a global cyber presence, against Israel and the U.S. It will use all the instruments of power at its disposal and threaten to extend deterrence to terrorists like Hamas against Israel or other Iranian enemies. Iran reportedly has the support of terrorist organizations and pro-Iranian groups to expand its ideological influence in Latin America. Thus, Hezbollah has taken the lead in fundraising, propaganda and smuggling operations. Other pro-Iranian organizations such as Al-Tajammu reportedly also play notable roles in expanding Iranian influence there through the internet, websites and other social media platforms. One report notes that its outreach “stands out as large-scale psychological warfare” deploying “social network satellites and Spanish-language media” to promote Iran’s goals to “attack the West and Latin America.” Naturally, its key partners here are the pro-Russian states of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. That connection reinforces the growing partnership with Russia that embraces both economic and particularly dangerous military cooperation. This goes beyond the now well-known Iranian provision of a drone factory in Russia. Russia has built and launched satellites for Iran and has agreed to sell it SU-35 Fighters and Mi-28 helicopters. Captured Ukrainian weapons transferred from Russia to Iran offer a potential technological-military “windfall” for Iran’s defense industry. Both states have also now joined hands to seek ways around sanctions together which doubtless involves bilateral military cooperation. In a Moscow meeting on Dec. 7, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Gaza War, joint economic and trade cooperation and, presumably, further military cooperation as well. This collaboration could well deepen. In October, Russia informed the United Nations that it need not obey any further restrictions on sending missile technology to Iran. In return, Iran might transfer ballistic missiles to Russia for use against Ukraine. Thus, Iranian threats to international security are global, diverse and growing. They include the sponsorship of smuggling, information warfare, insurgency and terrorism and increasingly comprise outer space technologies, potential nuclear weaponry and extensive cooperation with Russia. There are also mounting fears about growing cooperation with North Korea that would revive previous proliferation, such as North Korea’s nuclear transfers to Syria in 2006-07. This possibility is by no means absent, as recent evidence indicates. All of this obliges us to formulate and execute a more robust policy to deter Iran from assisting its proxies while it makes an unimpeded dash for nuclear weapons. The current war in Gaza is a harbinger of the risks we are taking by failing to sufficiently heed the possibilities open to Iran, especially if it can align itself more closely with Moscow and/or Beijing. Obviously, concerning Iran as well as its partner and its proxies, diplomacy alone does not suffice as policy or strategy.

Iran on the threshold of a nuclear breakout; failure to deter nuclearization means there is no way to prevent Iran from pushing regional violence.

JEFFREY SONNENFELD AND ADAM BOEHLERDECEMBER 9, 2023, Sonnenfeld is a TIME columnist, global governance expert, and senior associate dean and Lester Crown Professor of Management Practice at the Yale School of Management. He helped advise the development of the Abraham Accords and helped organize and produce the 2019 Peace Through Prosperity Conference, which served as a foundation for the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab nations; Boehler is the founder and CEO of Rubicon Founders, a healthcare investment firm. He served in the Trump Administration as the founding Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, the U.S. government’s international investment arm. He served on the negotiating team for the Abraham Accords and led the normalization discussions between Israel and Morocco. He was also a founding member of Operation Warp Speed and is currently a board member at the Atlantic Council and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  As the Israel-Hamas War Governs the World’s Attention, Iran Is Quietly Marching Towards Nuclear Breakout. Time. https://time.com/6344430/israel-hamas-war-iran-nuclear-breakout/

When Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad invaded Israel on Oct.7, they didn’t just perpetrate the most deadly attack on Jews since the Holocaust. The Iran-trained and supported terrorists also helped divert the world’s attention away from how Iran is quietly, but quickly, marching towards nuclear breakout. In February, top Biden Administration official Colin Kahl, the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, admitted that Iran could soon assemble a crude nuclear device in days. Understandably, the U.S. and its allies are now focused on urgent, immediate regional crises—namely the IDF’s military operation to eliminate Hamas from Gaza and dealing with the ever-growing threat of militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. But a nuclear Iran remains the gravest long-term regional security threat facing Israel, the Middle East, and the United States, and it is not too late to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. The diplomatic backdrop has already changed considerably for Iran’s nuclear aspirations. In the weeks and months before the Oct. 7 attack, Israel and Saudi Arabia were close to completing a normalization agreement, building off the Abraham Accords, which were originally conceived by its architect Jared Kushner and which both of us were involved in advising and negotiating. The imminent addition of Saudi Arabia—home of Mecca, the spiritual center of Islam—to the Abraham Accords likely motivated Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Saudi-Israel normalization would have been disastrous for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s terrorist proxies, and the Iranian regime’s stated goal of destroying Israel. The more that the people of the region accept Israel’s existence, the harder it becomes for Tehran to obliterate the Jewish state and assert dominance over the Middle East. We remain confident Saudi Arabia will eventually recognize Israel’s existence, but not right now. The scenes of Israeli fighters marching through Gaza broadcast throughout the Middle East threaten to inflame a pre-existing hatred of Israel that makes normalization politically untenable at this time, even for Gulf monarchies not beholden to voting publics. We firmly judge this derailment of the next phase of the Abraham Accords as the great geopolitical casualty of the Oct. 7 attack. Even more importantly, the Ayatollah seems to believe the West is now further distracted and perhaps more deterred from confronting Iran over its nuclear program, as full-fledged nuclear weapons creep ever closer to fruition. The strides Iran has made in its nuclear program over the last few years have flown under the radar. Today, Tehran has enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon in only 12 days according to data collected from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran is essentially a nuclear threshold state given their stockpile of uranium, with estimated enrichment levels as high as 84%. For context, 90% is the benchmark for full breakout capability. International sanctions on the regime’s ballistic missile program have also been allowed to expire, giving the regime carte blanche to further develop and proliferate the delivery vehicles necessary for a potential strike with the ability to reach Tel Aviv, Haifa, or even a European capital. The potential destructive power of an Iranian nuclear weapon is obvious, but even the mere threat of a nuclear Iran is a potent weapon for the Ayatollah right now. He has surely seen how Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats seemingly deterred the U.S. from fully supporting Ukraine, according to experts including former American diplomat John E. Herbst. The Ayatollah may feel emboldened to run the same playbook now, especially if Israel reoccupies Gaza for the long-term or Hezbollah aggression compels the Israeli military to enter Lebanon in the months ahead. The U.S. has repeatedly backed down from even minor confrontation with Iran in the interests of avoiding a wider regional war, including responding rather timidly to attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by Iran-backed militias in recent weeks. As 60 Minutes detailed in November, the regime’s assassination campaigns on U.S. soil against U.S. officials and dissidents also continue apace. It seems conceivable that the Ayatollah may continue to scale the escalation ladder with increasingly potent nuclear threats. U.S. and Israeli officials have messaged resolve not to let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, but whether Israel and the U.S. actually have the political will to destroy the Iranian bomb-making program remains to be seen. Provided by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Adam Boehler Even with Iran entrenched as a nuclear threshold state, it is not too late to stop the West Asia country from obtaining nuclear weapons. The U.S. should be galvanized by the current conflict to restore deterrence against Iran—beginning with stronger enforcement of sanctions designed to cut off the regime’s number one source of income: oil revenues. The money generated from its petroleum exports funds Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist proxies alike, with windfall profits from increased oil exports, as we’ve discussed previously. As Secretary of State in 2016, John Kerry proudly proclaimed that the world was safer thanks to the nuclear deal he engineered, which released $150 billion in sanctions relief to Iran. In hindsight, Kerry’s sheepish admission that some of that money might go towards terrorism has proven sadly prescient, and we should hit pause on this spigot immediately. Additionally, the U.S. must continue to pressure the IAEA to conduct rigorous inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities and hold the regime accountable when it does not abide by its commitments. An IAEA report released on Sept. 4 stated: “Iran’s decision to remove all of the agency’s equipment previously installed in Iran for JCPOA-related surveillance and monitoring activities has also had detrimental implications for the agency’s ability to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.” To deter nuclear escalation, the world must impose new, tougher costs on Iran when it skirts IAEA regulations, stopping the country in its tracks before it progresses any further towards an actual nuclear weapon. Failure to do so makes it increasingly likely that Iran asserts control on the escalation ladder through nuclear threats, whether in the crisis in Israel or with increasing support for its terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and beyond. American policy makers are rightly seized with the urgent and important work of supporting Israel’s counter-offensive efforts against terrorists in Gaza. We should not, however, lose sight of the fact that the current crisis is inextricably tied to the strategic imperative of stopping Iran’s march to the bomb. Should we fail to urgently address and counter Iran’s nuclear program, today’s conflicts in the Middle East will likely become far worse.

Iran threat increasing

Alisa Rubin, 12-9, 23, Why Fears of a Broader Middle East Conflict Are Growing in Iraq, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/09/world/middleeast/iraq-iran-militias-jurf-al-nasr-weapons.html

For the United States, Tehran’s political gains in Baghdad, and the commandeering of Jurf al-Nasr by a militia allied with Tehran, are a startling reversal of fortune. Over the past 20 years, Republican and Democrat governments alike invested $1.79 trillion in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, battling Al Qaeda and joining Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State, all with the aim of creating stability and a reliable ally. Instead, Iran, more than ever, is “the predominant influence in Iraq today,” said Hoshyar Zebari, who was Iraq’s foreign minister for 10 years and finance minister until 2016. Iran’s interests, he said, affect “every sector of the security forces, the military, the provincial governors.” How a Militia Took Control Since the rise of Iran’s theocratic regime in 1979, it has wanted to force the U.S. military out of the Middle East. Sajad Jiyad, an Iraq analyst and nonresident fellow at Century International, a research group, said that when President George W. Bush described Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil,” it sounded as if Washington was saying, “You’re next — Iraq, Iran, North Korea, we’re coming for you.” Iran responded quickly, sending trainers and weapons and helping recruit a volunteer Iraqi force — eventually known as Popular Mobilization Units — to fight the ISIS invaders alongside Iranian-linked militias, including Khataib Hezbollah. The United States sent help, too, but several weeks later. Part of the battle took place in Jurf al-Nasr, then known as Jurf al-Sakhar, an Islamic State staging ground for attacks on nearby Shiite villages and on pilgrims, millions of them Iranians, who traveled through the area on their way to Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. “Iran always made protection of those shrines a priority,” said Kareem al-Nuri, then a commander in the Badr Corps, another Iranian-linked armed group. Jurf al-Nasr was also strategically located, with roads that led west to Syria, a route to ferry weapons to Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah. During the fighting, Khataib Hezbollah emptied every Sunni village, telling people they would be able to return once the Islamic State was gone. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented hundreds of disappearances, primarily of Sunni men, in the area; the 2019 U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report said 1,700 people were held in a secret prison there. A close-up of man’s finger pointing at an aerial photo on a phone. A displaced Iraqi from Jurf al-Nasr showing his bombed home. When the fighting was done, Jurf al-Nasr remained under the control of Khataib Hezbollah. In 2016, Khataib Hezbollah and other Iranian-linked militias, along with the Popular Mobilization Units, became part of the Iraqi security apparatus, with the Iraq treasury paying salaries for fighters and providing weapons — including for units that have continued to attack U.S. forces. This year, Iraq’s prime minister, Mr. Sudani, approved a three-year budget with more money for the fighters, who now number more than 150,000, to grow by at least 20 percent — “a major expansion,” according to Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who follows Iraq’s armed forces and their ties to Iran. Iran denies that it controls the armed Iraqi groups that have attacked U.S. forces, but in a recent interview, its foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said he viewed the United States as complicit in Israel’s war in Gaza, adding that the militias were created to fight terrorism and occupation. Experts say the Iraqi militias with the closest ties to Iran — like Khataib Hezbollah — have “a shared ideological vision “ with Tehran, as Inna Rudolf, a senior fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization in London, put it. That vision largely accepts Iran’s theocratic philosophy of governance and the broader goals of forcing U.S. troops out of Iraq and destroying the state of Israel. ‘We Don’t Ask About These Things’ Today, a reporter visiting near Jurf al-Nasr cannot miss the overwhelming signs of Khataib Hezbollah’s presence. The checkpoints on the roads into the area fly the group’s flag — white with a sketch of a fist gripping a stylized Kalashnikov rising out of a globe, and the words “Party of God” in Arabic calligraphy. The central street in the nearby town of Mussayib, outside the checkpoints, is lined with “martyrs flags” imprinted with photos of militia men who lost their lives fighting in Iraq, and with large posters depicting Iran’s celebrated Quds Force leader, Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who was assassinated by the United States in 2020. In interviews in Mussayib and other villages, residents — who refused to give their names — said that they didn’t know what was happening in Jurf al-Nasr but that the only people who traveled through the checkpoints were Khataib Hezbollah operatives and foreigners speaking Arabic with an Iranian or Lebanese accent. A small white and green building made of cement on a slight hilltop with a flag flying nearby. This checkpoint in Bzebiz, on the northwest border of Jurf al-Nasr, is about 600 feet from a fence that marks the Jurf al-Nasr perimeter. No one is allowed beyond this point. Western and Iraqi diplomats and intelligence officers, however, paint a picture of what goes on there, just 40 miles south of Baghdad. They say Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese Hezbollah trainers teach drone assembly and how to retrofit precision guidance systems onto rockets and surface-to-air missiles. For the rockets, General McKenzie said, “upgraded components will come from Iran.” Khataib Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal is mostly composed of shorter-range conventional Katyusha rockets, but also includes some longer range ones, said former and present intelligence and military officials, including General McKenzie, and Khataib Hezbollah commanders. Some weapons are shipped into Syria, according to Western and Middle Eastern military and intelligence reports. From there, they can be transported to Russia or Lebanon, said an intelligence official in the region. It is unclear, several people interviewed said, whether the longer-range rockets are entirely under the control of the Iraqi armed groups or if Iranian Revolutionary Guards supervise closely the use of the most sophisticated weapons

Iran presents multiple threats to the Middle East

Sabina-Joja, 12-8, 23, Iulia Sabina-Joja teaches at Georgetown University and George Washington University, runs the Middle East Institute’s Black Sea program in Washington, D.C., and is co-host of the AEI podcast “Eastern Front.”, The Hill, Iran wants its oar in the Black Sea, https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/4345867-iran-wants-its-oar-in-the-black-sea/

Iran sees lucrative markets across the Black Sea region. It also sees an opportunity to expand strategic cooperation with Russia. And there’s just a chance that America will turn inward in 2025. It’s all dangerous. To get the picture, start by connecting the dots. Last May, Velislava Petrova traveled from Sofia to Tehran. Donning a hijab in her meeting with Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Bulgaria’s deputy foreign minister announced new agreements that will inch NATO member Bulgaria and the anti-American theocracy closer together through expanded trade and cultural cooperation. Bulgaria and Iran had already agreed several years ago to deepen cooperation on nuclear power issues. Last summer, another guest turned up in Iran — Lazar Comanescu, Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization and a former foreign minister of Romania. Comanescu sat with the same Amir-Abdollahian and expressed interest in “enhancing the already active cooperation.” In 2022, Iran signed a deal with a Romanian company to export unspecified technical and engineering. This while Iran was ramping up to send trainers and kamikaze drones for Russian attacks on Ukraine. Iran wants economic and technological cooperation with NATO and EU members Romania and Bulgaria. It’s expanding economic ties to Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. And for Iranian mullahs, business is strategy and foreign policy is anti-West. No surprise that the Islamic Republic wants to sink deeper into the Black Sea region in order to expand its strategic cooperation with Russia. Over the last two years Iran has emerged as Vladimir Putin’s one true ally. Tehran delivers deep knowledge on sanctions-evasion and provides lethal weapons when no one else will. And there’s a quid pro quo. The Black Sea region is both a transit route and a final destination for Iranians weapons and the illicit oil trade. Russia can clear the way. Iran has vast knowledge and experience in sanctions-evasion. As an energy exporting power contending with a serious sanctions regime over decades, the Mullahs have mastered the art. Iran invested in a fleet of second hand (and dangerously old) ships to move sanctioned goods, particularly oil and weapons. Ownership and movements of these so-called ghost ships are obfuscated. As soon as a comprehensive sanctions regime hit Russia last year, hundreds of vessels from Iran’s ghost fleet started operating on routes to and from Russia. Many of these ghost ships are now on routes to and from Russia’s Black Sea ports. They operate through the Bosporus and the Kerch straits, bringing with them, incidentally, “tremendous environmental damage and safety risks and associated costs,” the U.S. Department of the Treasury warns. That’s the least of our worries, of course. If left unchecked, Russo-Iranian maritime strategic cooperation will deepen. In June, the Islamic Republic announced plans to create a joint shipping company with the Putin regime. Russia has granted Iran (and China) access to the Volga-Don canal, the only waterway through which Moscow and Tehran can now send ships from their Caspian Sea flotillas into the Black Sea. Until last year, the Kremlin had never permitted any other country access to the canal. Now Tehran is navigating — and helping Moscow dredge and widen — this strategically vital canal. Ukraine’s fate figures prominently. Iran’s Shahed drone has become a Russian favorite. Last summer, Revolutionary Guard members were in occupied Crimea, training Russians to fly these kamikaze drones. For over a year now, swarms of them have been terrorizing Ukraine’s civilian population in urban areas and damaging the country’s energy infrastructure. This summer, Iranian drones even fell on NATO territory. They’re effective and cost efficient. One Shahed costs $10,000 to $20,000. One missile used to shoot down such a drone from a Patriot system costs $1 million. Recently, the White House warned that Iran could provide ballistic missiles to Russia. Iran wants to buy billions of dollars of military equipment from Russia, including the most modern fighter jets Russia has to offer. Late last month, Tehran claimed that a deal for advanced Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jets, combat helicopters and hundreds of training aircraft has been finalized. There are dots to connect. In Russia, Iran has gained access to a Muslim-majority region, Tatarstan. It’s in the Tatar capital of Kazan, one of Russia’s largest cities, that Iran is building drones, in a factory that employs children, no less. This is no time for America to turn inward. If anything, Washington needs a wider lens.

Iran’s backing of Hezbollah is a threat

Fierestein, 12-7, 23, Gerald Feierstein is a distinguished senior fellow focused on U.S. diplomacy at the Middle East Institute, where he is also director of the think tank’s Arabian Peninsula Affairs program. He previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Yemen and the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs., Defense News, Houthis rise in prominence among Iran’s ‘axis of resistance’, https://www.defensenews.com/outlook/2023/12/04/houthis-rise-in-prominence-among-irans-axis-of-resistance/

A major question in trying to understand the Houthis’ goals and ambitions in fighting Yemen’s civil war is the extent to which they have coordinated with Tehran to support Iran’s larger regional objectives. The assessment has generally been that the Houthis have retained a large degree of independence from Iran. Although their links to Iran, including military assistance and training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, have been well established over the years and have deepened since the outbreak of the civil conflict in 2014, their willingness to follow Iran’s lead on matters beyond Yemen’s borders has not been established. Until now. A month after the Hamas terror attack on Israel, the Houthis have raised their profile as members of Iran’s “axis of resistance.” “We are in complete coordination with our brothers in the axis of resistance,” said Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the rebel movement. Since then, in furtherance of al-Houthi’s declaration, the Houthis have joined Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militias in launching attacks presumably against Israeli targets. To date, none of these efforts has been successful. The U.S. Navy destroyer Carney reportedly shot down multiple missiles and drones launched by the Houthis on Oct. 19, apparently targeting Israel. Additional Houthi drones apparently struck the Egyptian Red Sea towns of Taba and Nuweiba a week later, and the group subsequently fired additional missiles and drones toward Israel’s Red Sea coast. Although Houthi capabilities to strike Israel itself are limited, the Israeli Navy was forced to deploy Saar-class corvettes off of Eilat to guard against additional Houthi attempts. Despite its limited capacity to strike Israel, unlike Hezbollah or other pro-Iranian groups along Israel’s northern border, the Houthis do have the capacity to pose a significant security threat in the event that the conflict expands beyond Gaza. While they have been engaged for many months in talks with Saudi Arabia to end Saudi engagement in the civil conflict, none of the issues has been resolved, and the Houthis have threatened periodically to relaunch their missile and drone campaign against Saudi targets. Renewed Saudi-Houthi conflict will be destabilizing regionally and could be a threat to global energy markets at a time when they are already under stress. The Houthis have also demonstrated an ability to attack international commercial shipping off Yemen’s coast, in the Bab el-Mandeb strait and beyond. Periodically over the course of the Yemen civil war, the Houthis have attacked both coalition naval vessels and commercial shipping using suicide drone boats likely manufactured with Iranian assistance as well as Iranian-manufactured, Chinese-designed C-802 anti-ship missiles. In addition to attacks on ships, the Houthis have also reportedly placed mines in the Red Sea. Following an attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer Mason in October 2016, the U.S. responded by launching a cruise missile against a Houthi coastal radar position. Should the Houthis step up their campaign against either Saudi targets or targets in the Red Sea as the Gaza conflict continues, the potential for direct intervention by the U.S. against Houthi targets will expand. Gerald Feierstein is a distinguished senior fellow focused on U.S. diplomacy at the Middle East Institute, where he is also director of the think tank’s Arabian Peninsula Affairs program. He previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Yemen and the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. Share:

Iran will not attack the US, it wants its regime to survive

Joe Buccino, December 06, 2023, Military.com, American Forces Must Strike Iran to Protect US Troops, https://www.military.com/daily-news/opinions/2023/12/06/american-forces-must-strike-iran-protect-us-troops.html

Iran does not seek war with the U.S. any more than the U.S. invites a direct war with Iran. A full-out war would place the survivability of the regime in Tehran at risk. Instead, Iran hopes to control the dials of pressure against both the U.S. and Israel.

Counterplan: The US should strike targets in Iran to increase deterrence

Joe Buccino, December 06, 2023, Military.com, American Forces Must Strike Iran to Protect US Troops, https://www.military.com/daily-news/opinions/2023/12/06/american-forces-must-strike-iran-protect-us-troops.html

The groups striking American troops in Syria include Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Badr Organization and Kata’ib Hezbollah — all formed to advance Iranian interests in the Middle East and all of which receive funding and arms from Iran. Meanwhile, the Houthis are less tightly tethered to Tehran than these groups and often strike independently of Iranian orders. The Houthis are more a partner force than an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s most potent security organization. Nonetheless, Tehran can influence the Houthis and enables the group with arms and funding. Houthi forces are incapable of launching coordinated drone strikes against multiple ships at sea, as the group has done, without Iranian resources. Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, a group that functions as an IRGC branch in Lebanon, ensures that Israel maintains attention and an IDF element focused on its northern border while engaged in what will likely be a monthslong offensive in southern Gaza. In Iraq and Syria, Iran wants American troops with their heads down, hunched in defensive positions. In the Red Sea, Iran seeks to disrupt commercial shipping and oil flow through key maritime chokepoints to introduce sufficient regional instability to tip the balance of power away from Riyadh and toward Tehran. To do so, the IRGC pushes arms and funding to all these Shia groups. While these groups on occasion act out on their own, Iran can generally restrain or direct these attacks. With American troops in Iraq and Syria, Iran wants something else as well. Defense officials familiar with Iranian intelligence tell me that Iran believes a strike that kills multiple American service members could incite the U.S. Congress to remove all American troops from those two countries. The Iranian regime may be on to something here: Last March, after a drone strike killed an American contractor and wounded American troops, Republicans in Congress moved unsuccessfully to withdraw the hundreds of American troops remaining in Syria. Should another strike kill or injure more American troops, another withdrawal proposal may succeed. The thinking in Tehran is that a certain number of American dead may result in a complete American withdrawal, leaving Iran to bolster its influence across both countries and bully the rest of the region. But if the casualty number is low enough, Iran wagers it can avoid all-out conflict with the U.S. One month ago, the Houthis shot down an American drone operating in international airspace without an American response. Seeing no consequences, the group has now graduated to attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, an escalation that could detonate bubbling tensions in the region. The Houthis could introduce regional or even global instability if merchants, fearing attacks, discontinue the flow of energy and commerce through the Bab-el-Mandeb or the Strait of Hormuz. More than 10% of international commercial transport flows through these chokepoints. More than a quarter of global oil transits the Strait of Hormuz. These waterways are critical energy and commerce arteries, crucial to American interests and global energy and trade. In dialing the attacks on land and at sea up and down, Iran seeks to stay on the near side of a threshold that would trigger an American response. That threshold is unknown to Tehran and probably to Washington, D.C. The rocket attacks against American bases are meant, in part, to test how far Iran can go without triggering a significant reaction. The danger: In testing the Biden administration, should Iran trip over a red line, both countries could stumble into war. To prevent a catastrophic miscalculation and defend American troops and interests in the region, the U.S. must go beyond strikes on inconsequential targets in Syria. Deterrence of Iran, or any other state for that matter, is based on perception. For deterrence to work, leaders inside Tehran must perceive that the U.S. has not only the means but also the will to inflict such significant pain that the imposed costs of any further attacks outweigh the benefits. Right now, Tehran does not believe the Biden administration has the will. Beyond the quartet of American air strikes, the administration has mobilized a pair of aircraft carrier strike groups to the theater. The militia groups’ attacks, meanwhile, continue apace, now paired with the attacks at sea. The messaging from the Pentagon has not helped. According to official statements, the two carrier strike groups were moved to the region to “address risks” and “respond to contingencies.” Left unclear is whether these two dozen ships, more than 100 aircraft and thousands of troops are on hand to defend American forces in the region, protect the maritime straits, provide humanitarian relief to Gazans or strike at Iranian targets. In response to the Dec. 3 Houthi attacks on three separate commercial vessels, U.S. Central Command explained, “The United States will consider all appropriate responses.” Given the tepid reactions to the 76 strikes on American forces in Iraq and Syria, it’s unclear what the administration would consider an appropriate response. The United States cannot influence Iran’s behavior by targeting its surrogate militants. However, the instances where America has imposed direct, consequential losses upon the Islamic Republic have seen success in curbing hostile actions. A notable instance was during the Tanker War in 1988 when, under President Reagan’s orders, American ships destroyed more than half of Iran’s naval fleet, prompting an end to its belligerence and persuading Khomeini to conclude the protracted conflict with Iraq. A more recent example was the targeted elimination of Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, which precipitated a marked decline in Iranian hostilities toward American forces and interests in the Middle East. To restore deterrence and put a cap on escalation, U.S. forces must strike assets of value to Tehran. For example, a limited, precision strike against IRGC training bases inside Iran would send a message that the administration has moved beyond the back-and-forth exchanges inside Syria. Such a strike against empty IRGC facilities would avoid a broader war and allow room to scale up. An unmistakable public message should follow, clarifying that the carrier strike groups are in the region to climb the escalatory ladder should Iran choose to do so and inflict crushing damage against more significant Iranian targets. Similarly, a strike on IRGC naval assets in the Persian Gulf, followed by a clear public message, would restore deterrence. Supreme Leader Khamenei is a rational actor. As president and supreme leader, he has held power in the world’s most volatile region for four decades. He understands violence and its cost. He must be made to understand precisely how far he can go in provocations without prompting a war between two states looking to avoid one. Washington must be willing to impose significant costs on Iran for its actions

Iran-Russia military ties increasing

Joe Buccino, December 06, 2023, Military.com, American Forces Must Strike Iran to Protect US Troops, https://www.military.com/daily-news/opinions/2023/12/06/american-forces-must-strike-iran-protect-us-troops.html

US National Security spokesman John Kirby emphasized on Wednesday that Washington will continue to hold Tehran and Moscow accountable for their growing military ties. Referring to Iran’s military assistance to Russia and to extremist militant groups in the Middle East, Kirby warned that the burgeoning relationship between Tehran and Moscow “is not only not good for the Ukrainian people but it’s certainly not good for the region.” If the Iranian regime avails itself of Russian military capabilities, it can become “more lethal and more dangerous to its neighbors,” he added against the backdrop of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Russia on Thursday. According to Kirby, the US Department of Treasury has sanctioned nine entities and five individuals who facilitated Moscow’s access to electronics with military applications. The Department of Commerce has also slapped sanctions against 42 entities around the world for their activities against US interests, especially those engaged in Iran-Russia drone production. The killings of innocent Ukrainians is partly carried out “through the use of Iranian drones,” Kirby stressed. Since mid-2022, Iran has reportedly supplied hundreds of kamikaze Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to Russia, which have been extensively used to target civilian infrastructure and cities. Kirby also pointed to Iran’s backing of its proxy groups in the region, especially Yemen’s Houthis who have time and again attacked US and Israeli interests in the region. “We know that the Houthis are supported by Iran, not just politically and philosophically but, of course, with weapon systems,” he pointed out. Though the Islamic Republic has avoided any direct involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict, the regime has used its allies such as Houthis and Hezbollah to attack Israel and American targets.

Iran-Russia military ties increasing

Iran International, 12-10, 23, US Warns Against Iran, Russia Expanding Military Cooperation, https://www.iranintl.com/en/202312074700

US National Security spokesman John Kirby emphasized on Wednesday that Washington will continue to hold Tehran and Moscow accountable for their growing military ties. Referring to Iran’s military assistance to Russia and to extremist militant groups in the Middle East, Kirby warned that the burgeoning relationship between Tehran and Moscow “is not only not good for the Ukrainian people but it’s certainly not good for the region.” If the Iranian regime avails itself of Russian military capabilities, it can become “more lethal and more dangerous to its neighbors,” he added against the backdrop of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Russia on Thursday. According to Kirby, the US Department of Treasury has sanctioned nine entities and five individuals who facilitated Moscow’s access to electronics with military applications. The Department of Commerce has also slapped sanctions against 42 entities around the world for their activities against US interests, especially those engaged in Iran-Russia drone production. The killings of innocent Ukrainians is partly carried out “through the use of Iranian drones,” Kirby stressed. Since mid-2022, Iran has reportedly supplied hundreds of kamikaze Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to Russia, which have been extensively used to target civilian infrastructure and cities. Kirby also pointed to Iran’s backing of its proxy groups in the region, especially Yemen’s Houthis who have time and again attacked US and Israeli interests in the region. “We know that the Houthis are supported by Iran, not just politically and philosophically but, of course, with weapon systems,” he pointed out. Though the Islamic Republic has avoided any direct involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict, the regime has used its allies such as Houthis and Hezbollah to attack Israel and American targets.

Iranian militias threaten the US

Paul Iddon, 12-10, 23, Forbes, The Iran-Backed Militia Threats The U.S. Navy Faces, https://www.forbes.com/sites/pauliddon/2023/12/10/the-iran-backed-militia-threats-the-us-navy-faces-in-the-middle-east/?sh=15157db21ac2

U.S. warships in the Red Sea have come under increasing fire from the Houthis in Yemen since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in October. At the same time, the Hezbollah in Lebanon has hinted it could target the U.S. Navy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Could such Iran-backed armed groups really pose a serious obstacle or threat to U.S. naval power in the region? The naval destroyer USS Carney shot down three drones during a sustained attack in the Red Sea on Dec. 3. The drones targeted nearby commercial ships as well as the destroyer. The Houthis aren’t the only Iran-backed group capable of menacing U.S. warships. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah indirectly referred to his group’s long-range anti-ship missiles when commenting on the U.S. naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in early November. Forbes Daily: Get our best stories, exclusive reporting and essential analysis of the day’s news in your inbox every weekday. In a likely allusion to the group’s long-range Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles, Nasrallah declared U.S. warships “do not scare us, and will not scare us” and that his group has “prepared for the fleets with which you threaten us.” During its last war with Israel, in July 2006, Hezbollah surprised Israel when it proved capable of hitting one of its warships — the INS Hanit, a Sa’ar 5-class corvette — with a Chinese-made anti-ship missile, killing four crew and requiring months of repairs before returning to service. Hezbollah’s anti-ship capabilities are believed to have markedly improved in recent years, with some speculation it could even potentially target the two U.S. carrier strike groups in the Eastern Mediterranean. Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and expert on naval operations, noted U.S. naval deployments to the region haven’t stopped Hezbollah and the Houthis from “intensifying actions in the region.” “Attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon are rising, and the Houthis have launched missile and drone attacks against U.S. ships and bases in the region,” Clark said. Nevertheless, the naval deployments have enabled the U.S. to back up Israeli forces “by potentially intercepting threats coming from outside Israel, like Houthi missiles or Iranian attacks.” “The Carney shooting down Houthi drones may not be that impressive given the poor cost-exchange ratio for the U.S.,” Clark said, referring to the Oct. 19 incident. The Carney used a number of SM-2 missiles to bring down 19 Houthi projectiles. Each SM-2 costs approximately $300,000, while Houthi missiles and drones are believed to cost around $10,000. Nicholas Blanford, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of the 2011 book Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel, also doesn’t believe the naval deployments have deterred Hezbollah. Nevertheless, he noted the group is “acutely aware” of the possibility of a direct U.S. role in the ongoing regional hostilities. “The scale of Hezbollah’s operations along the Blue Line is linked to its interests and those of Iran, not as a reaction to the U.S. naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Blanford said, referring to repeated Hezbollah clashes on the Lebanon-Israel border since the present war began in October. Blanford noted that Hezbollah is believed to have acquired Russian-built Yakhont anti-ship missiles, which have a range of 186 miles. The group also has several attack drones in its arsenal and possibly an Iranian-built anti-ship missile derived from Tehran’s Fateh-110 family of surface-to-surface missiles. “I doubt that Hezbollah would unilaterally use any of these systems against the U.S. Navy,” Blanford said. “It might be a possibility if the U.S. was to become actively engaged in a war against Hezbollah.” Clark is skeptical that any of these Iran-backed groups could seriously endanger U.S. warships, which are on high alert given the tensions throughout the region. “The militias do not pose a significant threat to prepared U.S. naval forces, mainly because the militias lack sufficient capacity to overwhelm ships defenses, especially at long range,” Clark said. “If U.S. warships get too close to the coast, they can be seen and attacked, but Carney showed that prepared ships can defend themselves.” While targeting ships at sea at long ranges poses challenges, these groups could also target regional bases and ports frequented by the U.S. Navy.

US needs to keep pressure on Iran to prevent it from supporting the Houthis

Zakheim, 2023, Dov S. Zakheim is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and vice chairman of the board for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He was undersecretary of Defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense from 2001 to 2004 and a deputy undersecretary of Defense from 1985 to 1987, To stop the Houthis, America should ramp up pressure on Iran, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/4348369-to-stop-the-houthis-america-should-ramp-up-pressure-on-iran/

Since the onset of the Israeli war with Hamas, Iran has mobilized its clients in an effort to widen the conflict throughout the region, or at least pressure Jerusalem to bring a halt to its incursion into Gaza. Iranian-backed militias have stepped up their attacks on American forces in Iraq and Syria. Hezbollah has been firing rockets into northern Israel, forcing some 20,000 Israelis to move south. And during the first three weeks of November, Yemeni-based Houthis hijacked the Galaxy Leader, an Israeli-linked merchant ship, taking 25 crew members hostage. The Houthis also launched ballistic missiles at Israel and fired drones at American warships. On December 3, the Houthis fired on three more commercial ships in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. The group falsely claimed they were linked to Israel. The Houthis also launched a multiple-drone attack on the American Navy destroyer Carney. The warship shot down three drones. The attacks pose a major dilemma for the United States. On the one hand, Washington is deeply concerned about preventing the spread of the Israel-Hamas war. In particular, the Biden administration is reluctant to retaliate against the Houthis, given the relative quiet that has reigned in Yemen over the last year, as well as ongoing Saudi-Houthi negotiations to bring the Yemeni civil war to an end. On the other hand, the administration cannot remain passive in the face of ongoing Houthi attacks on commercial ships in international waters — as well as drone attacks on American warships. The longer the U.S. delays a response, the more likely the Houthis will conclude that they can continue their attacks with impunity. In the aftermath of the attacks, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that Washington was not planning to act alone. Rather, he averred, the United States would take “appropriate action in consultation with others,” meaning America’s allies and friends, and would “do so at a time and place of our choosing.” Moreover, he made it clear that he held Iran equally responsible for the Houthi attacks. As he put it, the Houthis “are the ones with their finger on the trigger but … the weapons here are being supplied by Iran, and Iran, we believe, is the ultimate party responsible for this.” Sullivan did not define what he meant by “appropriate action,” nor did he indicate whether that action would be directed at the Houthis or Iran. Any action would disrupt the tenuous balance that currently reigns in the Gulf/Arabian Sea/Red Sea region. Doing so would create new tensions with the Saudis in particular, who have made it clear that they oppose upsetting that balance. Yet inaction is not a viable option either. If the Yemeni Houthis are not to be the target of American retaliation, that would leave Iran as the logical substitute to be on the receiving end of Washington’s response. Sullivan pointed to America’s military buildup in the region, but the increase in force presence has not deterred the Houthis or Iran’s other proxies from launching missile and drone attacks. Nor is the threat of additional sanctions on Tehran likely to impress the mullahs. Washington has already reversed its effort to release to Iran $6 billion currently frozen in South Korean banks. And the Biden administration not only has continued to apply Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” on Iran but in mid-October announced new sanctions on Tehran’s missile and drone programs. If Washington is to dissuade Iran from supporting what Iran terms the “axis of resistance,” it will have to apply new forms of coercion on the Tehran regime. It could, for example, reimpose restrictions on Iran’s oil exports, which the Biden administration loosened in the hope of reaching a new nuclear deal the mullahs. Should Iran continue to encourage its proxies to attack American forces and international shipping, Washington could work jointly with key allies to launch one or more cyberattacks on strategic Iranian oil facilities. Should such an attack target Iran’s Kharg Island oil terminal, it would constitute a serious blow to Iran’s petroleum exports. Whatever form the American and allied response to the recent Houthi and militia attacks ultimately takes, it should be directed in a manner that sends a clear message to Iran. Either Tehran should cease and desist its destabilizing activities in the region, or it will find that the cost of those activities will continue to increase — until the mullahs find that cost to have become completely unbearable.

Iran is aggressive and threatening, it must be contained

Haas, 12-4, 23, Why is the Biden Administration Scared of Iran?, Lawrence J. Haas is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and the author of The Kennedys in the World: How Jack, Bobby, and Ted Remade America’s Empire (Potomac Books). Haas, a former senior White House official and award-winning journalist, is Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the American Foreign Policy Council. Haas writes widely on foreign affairs, is quoted often in newspapers and magazines, and appears frequently on TV and radio. At the White House, he was Communications Director for Vice President Al Gore and, before that, for the Office of Management and Budget, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/politics/why-biden-administration-scared-iran-207705

Washington’s concerns about provoking Iran, however, seem oddly misplaced. As events make clear, Tehran is already stirring a wider regional conflict, including a conflict with the United States, through its “Axis of Resistance” – a proxy network that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) coordinates and that includes Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shia militias in Iraq, and Houthi rebels in Yemen. Nor is Tehran making any secret of it. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told IRGC forces the other day that while Hamas attacked “the Zionist regime,” that attack was part of a larger war between Iran-backed forces and the United States, one he vowed would bring a “de-Americanization” of the region. Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister warned of “consequences” if Washington maintains its support of Israel. Iranian aggression demands a stronger, more consistent, more comprehensive U.S. response. Rather than fear provocation, Washington should commit more fully to deterrence in the form of Cold War-style containment. Consider the points of military conflict in today’s Middle East and the tentacles of Iranian influence. Tehran has provided funding, training, and other support for Hamas ever since its creation in 1987, and it reportedly helped plan and provided training for the group’s slaughter of 1,200 Israelis on October 7. A top Iranian official said he visited Hamas’ tunnels and trained terrorists to launch missiles and rockets. Nor is Hamas – which vows more October 7-like attacks on Israel to “annihilate” the Jewish state – alone as it battles Israeli forces in Gaza. Other Iranian proxies are attacking Israel to multiply Jerusalem’s military challenges while also attacking U.S. forces in the region. In Iraq and Syria, the New York Times reports, Iranian-backed militias have launched “more than 70 rocket and drone attacks” on U.S. troops since October 7. U.S. and coalition forces suffered four attacks on Thanksgiving Day alone. From Yemen, Houthi rebels in recent days fired two ballistic missiles at a U.S. warship in the Gulf of Aden, marking only the latest in a string of attacks by the Houthis on Israel and U.S. forces. What should Washington do? It should recognize that Iran seeks regional hegemony and is mounting a multi-faceted effort to achieve it. Tehran’s efforts are inter-connected, not disparate. It’s sponsoring terrorism, destabilizing other governments in the region, confronting U.S. forces on the ground and water across the region, expanding its nuclear pursuits, and advancing the sophistication of its ballistic missiles that, down the road, could carry a nuclear warhead. Progress in one area emboldens Tehran to seek progress in another. Rather than downplay Tehran’s efforts on any front (e.g., the nuclear front) due to provocation fears, Washington should meet Iranian action with a comprehensive plan of its own. In essence, it should apply, to Iran, the approach that George Kennan recommended in 1947 for the Soviets: “adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy, but which cannot be charmed or talked out of existence.”

Even Joseph Nye concedes the international system is at least somewhat realist and everyone can’t die in a nuclear war to protect a moral claim

Nye, 11-30, 23, JOSEPH S. NYE, JR., is Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at Harvard and author of Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy From FDR to Trump. His memoir, A Life in the American Century, comes out in January, Foreign Affairs, Judging Henry Kissinger: Did the Ends Justify the Means?, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/henry-kissinger-obituary-judging-ends-means

How should one apply morality to Henry Kissinger’s statesmanship? How does one balance his accomplishments against his misdeeds? I have wrestled with those questions since Kissinger was my professor, and later colleague, at Harvard University. In April 2012, I helped interview him before a large audience at Harvard and asked whether, in hindsight, he would have done anything differently during his time as secretary of state for U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. At first, he said no. On second thought, he said he wished he had been more active in the Middle East. But he made no mention of Cambodia, Chile, Pakistan, or Vietnam. A protester in the back of the hall shouted out: “war criminal!” Kissinger was a complex thinker. As with other postwar European émigrés, such as the international relations theorist Hans Morgenthau, he criticized the naive idealism of pre–World War II U.S. foreign policy. But Kissinger was not an amoralist. “You can’t look only at power,” he told the audience at Harvard. “States always represent an idea of justice.” In his writings, he noted that world order rested on both a balance of power and a sense of legitimacy. As he once told Winston Lord, his former aide and the ambassador to China from 1985 to 1989, the qualities most needed in a statesman are “character and courage.” Character was needed “because the decisions that are really tough are 51–49,” so leaders must have “moral strength” to make them. Courage was required so leaders could “walk alone part of the way.” In the case of Vietnam, he believed he had a mandate to end the Vietnam War. But, he said, he did not have a mandate to end it “on terms that would undermine America’s ability to defend its allies and the cause of freedom.” Evaluating ethics in international relations is difficult, and Kissinger’s legacy is particularly complex. Over his long tenure in government, he had many great successes, including with China and the Soviet Union and the Middle East. Kissinger also had major failures, including in how the Vietnam War ended. But on net, his legacy is positive. In a world haunted by the specter of nuclear war, his decisions made the international order more stable and safer.One of the most important questions for foreign policy practitioners is how to judge morality in the realm of global politics. A true amoralist simply ducks it. A French diplomat, for instance, once told me that since morality made no sense in international relations, he decided everything solely on the interests of France. Yet the choice to reject all other interests was itself a profound moral decision. There are essentially three different mental maps of world politics, each of which generates a different answer as to how states should behave. Realists accept some moral obligations but see them as severely limited by the harsh reality of anarchic politics. To these thinkers, prudence is the prime virtue. At the other end of the spectrum are cosmopolitans, who believe that states should treat all humans equally. They see borders as ethically arbitrary and believe that governments have major moral obligations to foreigners. In between are liberals. They believe that states have a serious responsibility to consider ethics in their decisions but that the world is divided into communities and states that have moral meaning. Although there is no government above these countries, liberals think the international system has an order to it. The world may be anarchic, but there are enough rudimentary practices and institutions—such as the balance of power between countries, norms, international law, and international organizations—to establish a framework by which states can make meaningful moral choices, at least in most cases. Realism is the default position that most leaders use. Given that the world is one of sovereign states, this is smart: realism is, in fact, the best place to start. The problem is that many realists stop where they begin rather than realizing that cosmopolitanism and liberalism are valuable in thinking about how to approach foreign policy. The question is often one of degree, and leaders should not arbitrarily reject human rights and institutions. Since there is never perfect security, they must first figure out what degree of security their states need before considering other values—such as welfare, identity, or the rights of foreigners—in how they make policy. Ultimately, they might factor morals into a wide range of decisions. Most foreign policy choices, after all, do not involve survival. Instead, they involve questions such as whether to sell weapons to authoritarian allies or whether to criticize the human rights behavior of another country. They involve debates about whether to take in refugees, how to trade, and what to do about issues such as climate change. Hardcore realists ultimately treat all decisions in terms of national security, very narrowly defined. They are willing to make many morally suspect choices to improve the security of their country. In 1940, after France’s surrender to the Nazis, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill attacked French naval ships on the Algerian coast, killing thousands of now neutral sailors, to prevent the fleet from falling into German hands. In 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman used the atomic bomb against Japan, killing more than 100,000 civilians. But by ignoring hard tradeoffs, realist leaders are simply ducking hard moral issues. “Security comes first” and “justice presupposes order,” but leaders have an obligation to assess how closely a situation fits a Hobbesian or Lockean mental map, or whether they could follow other important values without truly jeopardizing their country’s security. Realism is the default position that most leaders use. At the same time, leaders cannot always follow simple moral rules. They may need to make amoral choices to prevent even great catastrophes; there are no human rights, for example, among those incinerated in a nuclear war. As Arnold Wolfers, a prominent European American realist, once said, the most one can hope for in judging the international ethics of leaders is that they make “the best moral choices that circumstances permit.” This is true, but such a broad rule of prudence can easily be abused when convenient. Leaders could claim they had to commit a horrendous act to protect their country when, in fact, the circumstances afforded them much greater leeway. Instead of simply taking policymakers at their word, analysts should judge them in terms of their ends, means, and consequences. To do so, experts can draw from the wisdom of all three mental maps: realism, liberalism, and cosmopolitanism, in that order. Ultimately, as analysts look at ends, they should not expect that leaders will pursue justice at the international level in ways that resemble what they might pursue in their domestic societies. Even the renowned liberal philosopher John Rawls believed that the conditions for his theory of justice applied only to domestic society. At the same time, Rawls argued that there were duties beyond borders for a liberal society and that the list should include mutual aid and respect for institutions that ensure basic human rights. He also wrote that people in a diverse world deserved to determine their own affairs as much as possible. Analysts should therefore ask whether a leader’s goals include a vision that expresses widely attractive values at home and abroad. But they should also ask if a leader’s goals prudently balance attractive values against the assessed risks. In other words, analysts should evaluate whether there is a reasonable prospect the leader’s vision can succeed. When it comes to evaluating ethical means, experts can judge leaders by the long-standing tradition of “just war” criteria, which holds that a state’s use of force must be proportional and discriminate. They can factor in Rawls’s liberal concern for carrying out minimal degrees of intervention in order to respect the rights and institutions of others. As for evaluating consequences, people can ask whether leaders succeeded in promoting their country’s long-term national interests; whether they respected cosmopolitan values when possible by avoiding extreme insularity and unnecessary damage to foreigners; and whether they educated their followers by promoting truth and trust that broadened moral discourse. These criteria are modest and derived from the insights of realism, liberalism, and cosmopolitanism. But they provide some basic guidance that goes beyond a simple generality about prudence. I call this approach “liberal realism.” It begins with realism, but it does not end there.

Reducing Middle East presence cedes power to China and Russia

David Hale, 11-29, 23, National Interest, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East | The National Interest; Ambassador David Hale is a member of the Advisory Board at The Marathon Initiative and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. He was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2018 to May 2021 and was in the U.S. Foreign Service for thirty-eight years, holding the lifetime rank of a Career Ambassador. His book, “American Diplomacy toward Lebanon: Lessons in Middle East Foreign Policy,” will be published by Bloomsbury/I.B. Tauris in February 2024 as part of a Middle East Institute policy series, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/sino-american-competition-global-strategy-and-place-middle-east-207589?page=0%2C1

The pivot to East Asia is a rational maneuver much discussed over the past decades but of only recent and somewhat sticky execution. However, it should not entail abandoning America’s considerable allies and assets in the Middle East, where U.S. interests remain vital, in jeopardy, and relevant to the global contest with China. What is needed is a sense of proportion and conceptual coherence for the post-pivot partnerships between America and like-minded Middle Eastern states to protect those interests. A pivot that creates a vacuum in the Middle East for ready exploitation by China or Iran is hardly a step forward in America’s global competition with Beijing. Washington has yet to develop a framework that places the region’s competitive great power environment in a global context. The Middle East has for so long dominated the American vision of its threats that it has come to distort the latter’s picture of the globe. A correction should rank the Middle East at the right level of priority—and create conditions that allow the redistribution of America’s instruments of power elsewhere without damaging enduring U.S. interests in that part of the world.

US must defend the Gulf to prevent China from expanding there

David Hale, 11-29, 23, National Interest, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East | The National Interest; Ambassador David Hale is a member of the Advisory Board at The Marathon Initiative and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. He was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2018 to May 2021 and was in the U.S. Foreign Service for thirty-eight years, holding the lifetime rank of a Career Ambassador. His book, “American Diplomacy toward Lebanon: Lessons in Middle East Foreign Policy,” will be published by Bloomsbury/I.B. Tauris in February 2024 as part of a Middle East Institute policy series, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/sino-american-competition-global-strategy-and-place-middle-east-207589?page=0%2C1

A starting point for a response would be integrating U.S. strategies for the Middle East with those to counter China. After all, the Persian Gulf and Red Sea states are part of the Indo-Pacific. They will have a role as we deal with China globally. The Middle East will be of vital interest as long as the United States seeks a stable global market economy. China’s reliance on direct energy imports from the region is one of its greater vulnerabilities, making the Gulf a potential area of future Sino-American tension. The “sinification” of the Gulf’s energy supply chain would enable China to bully the global economy and should be prevented. America’s continued support for the security of the Gulf will remain a fundamental U.S. interest to ensure China cannot even aspire to dominate that area.

Iran is a threat, US needs to deter

David Hale, 11-29, 23, National Interest, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East | The National Interest; Ambassador David Hale is a member of the Advisory Board at The Marathon Initiative and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. He was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2018 to May 2021 and was in the U.S. Foreign Service for thirty-eight years, holding the lifetime rank of a Career Ambassador. His book, “American Diplomacy toward Lebanon: Lessons in Middle East Foreign Policy,” will be published by Bloomsbury/I.B. Tauris in February 2024 as part of a Middle East Institute policy series, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/sino-american-competition-global-strategy-and-place-middle-east-207589?page=0%2C1

For Saudi Arabia, de-risking has meant an attempted ceasefire and diplomatic exit from the war in Yemen and reduced tension with Iran. While Washington struggled to find a coherent strategy as Tehran balked at returning to the JCPOA nuclear deal, Riyadh and Tehran normalized relations. Both were reacting to American incoherence—Tehran to exploit it, Riyadh to shield against its consequences. Chinese involvement was useful for the Saudi “pariah” and Iran to show the Biden administration they had options. But the Saudi-Iranian rivalry will roll right along.

The Iranian-backed assault by Hamas against Israel in October, which some saw as a response to emerging Saudi-Israeli normalization, was a reminder of the fault lines that Iran can exploit. However, without an American strategy that deals with the core threats posed by Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons capabilities and its regional interference, our partners will draw their own conclusions on how to defend their interests. So long as the United States accommodates Iran, so will many others.

The campaign since October against Israel and the United States, choreographed by Iran, is setting the pace for regional diplomatic and military activity. Holding sway in four Arab capitals—Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sanaa—Iran is well positioned for this effort. U.S. military deployments and solidarity with Israel have been essential moves. Iran and its allies still retain the initiative, keeping America and its allies in a reactive mode.

US not credible against Iran now

David Hale, 11-29, 23, National Interest, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East | The National Interest; Ambassador David Hale is a member of the Advisory Board at The Marathon Initiative and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. He was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2018 to May 2021 and was in the U.S. Foreign Service for thirty-eight years, holding the lifetime rank of a Career Ambassador. His book, “American Diplomacy toward Lebanon: Lessons in Middle East Foreign Policy,” will be published by Bloomsbury/I.B. Tauris in February 2024 as part of a Middle East Institute policy series, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/sino-american-competition-global-strategy-and-place-middle-east-207589?page=0%2C1

Moreover, U.S. actions lack the context of a comprehensive strategy to constrain the Iranian threat. Instead, Washington continues to downplay the Iranian dimension of the current crisis. It is wise not to tumble into a war with Iran at this juncture. Yet, it is inaccurate and dangerous to fail to recognize that the Middle East is a single campaign theater and Iran is the primary adversary. Until America and its partners re-establish deterrence, Tehran will continue to identify where and how much pain will be applied to them.

US military presence needed to deter terrorism, even if the risks are not as high as they were in the past

David Hale, 11-29, 23, National Interest, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East | The National Interest; Ambassador David Hale is a member of the Advisory Board at The Marathon Initiative and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. He was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2018 to May 2021 and was in the U.S. Foreign Service for thirty-eight years, holding the lifetime rank of a Career Ambassador. His book, “American Diplomacy toward Lebanon: Lessons in Middle East Foreign Policy,” will be published by Bloomsbury/I.B. Tauris in February 2024 as part of a Middle East Institute policy series, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/sino-american-competition-global-strategy-and-place-middle-east-207589?page=0%2C1

While the secure existence of Israel as a state is not now in doubt, the price of complacency and the frustrating nature of asymmetrical warfare was evident with Hamas’ massacre of October 7. T David Hale, 11-29, 23, National Interest, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East, Sino-American Competition, Global Strategy, and the Place of the Middle East | The National Interest; Ambassador David Hale is a member of the Advisory Board at The Marathon Initiative and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. He was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2018 to May 2021 and was in the U.S. Foreign Service for thirty-eight years, holding the lifetime rank of a Career Ambassador. His book, “American Diplomacy toward Lebanon: Lessons in Middle East Foreign Policy,” will be published by Bloomsbury/I.B. Tauris in February 2024 as part of a Middle East Institute policy series, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/sino-american-competition-global-strategy-and-place-middle-east-207589?page=0%2C1

. However, the United States should still maintain intelligence and security partnerships across the globe and a tailored, persistent physical presence to contain this threat to the stateless areas of the Islamic world. U.S. statecraft should develop a doctrine aligned with a new, two-level reality that it faces: global competition with China and prioritizing, tackling, or deflecting regional challenges to American interests.

Deterrence and diplomacy needed to prevent widespread war

Hans Nichols & Barak Ravid, 10-29, 23, Axios, White House preps for broader war as concerns rise, https://www.axios.com/2023/10/29/white-house-biden-prepare-broader-war-israel-hamas

The Biden administration is preparing for the possibility the Israel-Hamas war will expand across the Middle East, and is focused on making sure U.S. forces in the region have adequate protection, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Axios. Why it matters: The alarming prospect of regional escalation — fueled by a series of skirmishes beyond the fighting in Gaza — hangs over many of the internal and external conversations among top officials at the White House. It was discussed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant on a call Friday, several hours after the Israeli Defense Forces expanded operations in Gaza, a senior Israeli official said. Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman (KBS) is expected to visit Washington on Monday for talks with senior Biden administration officials, Axios reported Saturday. The visit was planned before Hamas ignited the war by attacking Israel on Oct. 7. But it comes just after Riyadh condemned Israel’s ground operation — and as U.S. and Saudi officials share concerns about the conflict ballooning into a regional war. Also increasing officials’ concerns: Israeli intelligence services’ belief that Hezbollah — which is based in Lebanon and backed by Iran — will increase the intensity of its attacks against Israel on its northern border because of Israel’s ground operation in Gaza. Israeli officials think Hezbollah will try to escalate without leading to an all-out war that could easily go out of control. The discussions over the war’s potential to expand come after U.S. forces conducted airstrikes on two facilities in eastern Syria used by groups linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Pentagon said the airstrikes Thursday were in response to a “series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria” by Iran-backed groups that began on Oct. 17. Driving the news: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Saturday that Israeli ground forces had entered Gaza, calling it “the second stage of the war,” after persistent barrages of Israeli airstrikes on the enclave. Netanyahu warned his country of a “long and difficult campaign,” but he stopped short of calling the Israeli operation in Gaza an invasion. The IDF didn’t encounter much resistance in Gaza during the first day of the assault. But Israeli forces are still on the outskirts of urban areas, and expect the fighting to be much harder as they seek to root out Hamas militants, according to the senior Israeli official. “We are moving carefully without going wild,” a second senior Israeli official said. “There is no need to rush because it will take months anyway.” Behind the scenes: The plans and the timing for the ground incursion shifted during the past 10 days, the U.S. and Israeli officials say. Netanyahu was skeptical about some of the strategy, and U.S. officials — who are concerned about huge numbers of deaths among Palestinian citizens — have urged Israel to conduct a gradual, calibrated incursion. The operation also was delayed for several days because the U.S. wanted to get as many assets and defensive systems to the region, according to Israeli and U.S. officials. The goal was to better defend against attacks on U.S. troops by pro-Iranian militias. More than 20 such attacks took place during the past week. The big picture: Administration officials believe that the key to preventing the conflict from escalating is to send clear messages to Iran and Hezbollah to stay out of it. President Biden took the rare step of sending a message directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning him not to target U.S. troops in the Middle East. “There was a direct message relayed,” White House spokesman John Kirby said Friday. In the West Wing, officials know there’s little margin for error and that events can quickly spin out of control. A generation-defining war isn’t a foregone conclusion. Some officials continue to believe that diplomacy — and Biden’s experience — can still help prevent worst-case scenarios.

China is a threat in East Asia

Blumenthal, 11-27, 23, Dan Blumenthal is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations., China Takes Advantage of a New Era of World War, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/china-takes-advantage-new-era-world-war-207521?page=0%2C1

Meanwhile, as it throws support behind Russia and provides critical support to an Iran on the move, China is itself engaged in three simultaneous coercion campaigns against Manila, Tokyo, and Taipei. Its air, maritime, and cyber harassment of Taiwan has escalated to dangerous levels. At the same time, its pressure against Japan in the East China Sea is ceaseless, with ever larger Chinese vessels contesting China’s control over the Senkakus. Most recently, Beijing has raised tensions with Manila once again. The Chinese Coast Guard and China’s quasi-military “maritime militia” have blocked and harassed the Philippine Coast Guard and military as they attempt to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre in the Second Thomas Shoal. The shoal is well within the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone, though China claims it. Beijing is trying to control the entirety of the West Philippine Sea, which is Filipino maritime territory.

US withdrawal from West Africa means Russia-China fill-in

Baird, 8-11, 23, The Coup in Niger Threatens American Interests, The Coup in Niger Threatens American Interests | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/coup-niger-threatens-american-interests-206699

After the recent coup in Niger, the medium-term implications are undetermined, but the outcome is clear. The coup threatens stability in West Africa, American and French interests in the continent, and advances Chinese opportunities. Africans will suffer and Muslim extremists will continue to gain ground. Niger is unlikely to return to democracy in the short term. Initial hopes expressed by France that the Niger Armed Forces would step in to defuse the coup by the Presidential Guard quickly fizzled when the army sided with the coup. The angry deadline set by leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the military to return deposed President Mohamed Bazoum to power or face military intervention has come and gone. Sanctions were imposed and electricity to Niger was cut by Nigeria, but this hurts the people of Niger, not the military or the insurgents. Developments in Niger follow the deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso, which is also affecting other countries in the region. This is an early test for the newly-appointed UN special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Simão, who must muster a coherent response. Formerly Mozambique’s minister of foreign affairs, he is expected to pull together a better response to the risks in West Africa and the Sahel than has so far happened. ECOWAS has been planning to establish a crisis response team, but so far has failed to fund it. Despite a planning meeting of ECOWAS military chiefs, there is little likelihood of actual African military intervention unless funded and supported by the United States and France. The question is whether a lack of political will, leadership, and funding means nothing will happen. The military in Niger has learned from coups in Mali, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Guinea-Bissau that the consequences of such are manageable and rewards desirable. Mostly, in these other coups, when America and France walked away, Russians, in the form of the mercenary Wagner Group, were invited in. American and French governments have not learned from this near-term history. Risks for West Africa are already evident. For example, my sources in the mining industry In Cote D’Ivoire told me that, in the northeastern part of the country, there are daily incursions from Burkina Faso to steal mining equipment and food. “It used to be calm, but now there is risk in Cote D’Ivoire one hour from the Burkina Faso border,” they said. Other industry sources refer to attacks in the West, but mining companies in Mali are still doing mining and exploration, with increased security. Libya, Chad, Togo, Ghana, Senegal, Benin, Nigeria, and Cote D’Ivoire are most at ancillary risk to the weakening security situation due to the coups in Niger and Burkina Faso. The biggest beneficiary of the situation is Guinea, another West African country recently captured by a military coup. Guinea is proactively in favor of mining. The Guinean government is already trying to capture Burkina Faso mining investment and income and will likely also be attractive to Nigerien miners. Guinea apparently sent a counter-terrorism task force to the border with Mali recently. To see where the future leads Niger, it is necessary to watch out for certain signals. Consider the performance of its military against insurgents: if government forces lose several significant battles in a row or a major military base is overrun, or if there are significant attacks in Niyamey, the capital city, as happened in Burkina Faso, then America should know that the situation is fast deteriorating further. Another signal would be if high-ranking military officers, government officials, or civilians depart from Niger, and if NGO and UN offices and embassy closures that are currently happening do not reopen. Additionally, it is necessary to watch out for social decline, such as the rate at which displaced people camps grow, or data concerning harvest and food production as indicators of looming famine, and rumors of shortages. Declining tax income for the military government of Niger will significantly weaken its position too. Any number of these developments will open the door for China, Russia, and even Turkey, which is stepping up its game in Africa. At present, it is likely that America and France will lose their investments and counterterrorism bases in Niger. Russians will fight in return for mining and other assets. Muslim extremist insurgents will gain ground. And China will make money and increase its influence, all thanks to declining stability in Niger and West Africa.

A US-Saudi-NATO security pact that supports  normalization is key to contain Iran and facilitate Israel-Palestinian peace

Hadar, 8-10, 23, Dr. Leon Hadar, a contributing editor with The National Interest, is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia and a former research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He has taught at American University in Washington, DC, and at the University of Maryland, College Park. A columnist and blogger with Haaretz (Israel) and Washington correspondent for the Business Times of Singapore, he is a former United Nations bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post., Normalizing Saudi-Israeli Relations Is in America’s Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/normalizing-saudi-israeli-relations-america%E2%80%99s-interest-206702

A pro-American Middle Eastern bloc powered by the energy resources of the Persian Gulf and Israel’s high-tech industries and scientific centers would be the most effective way to contain the aggression of Iran and its regional satellites. One of the major dividing lines between “idealists” and “realists” in the foreign policy debate during the Cold War and its immediate aftermath was over the centrality of the promotion of human rights and democratic principles in the pursuit of American goals abroad. That debate pitted Kissingerian realpolitik types arguing that geostrategic and geoeconomic interests should be the main considerations guiding American diplomacy against liberal internationalists on the Left and, more recently, neoconservatives on the Right, who countered that the United States should place the goal of spreading its values worldwide at the center of its foreign policy agenda. In reality, when push came to shove—and in particular, over issues of war and peace—realism tended to win the day, even in the case of presidencies infused with idealism, like those of Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican President George W. Bush. Those two presidents also demonstrated the way in which preoccupation with human rights and democracy promotion could harm U.S. core national interests. Hence investing diplomatic efforts in pressing the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to improve his government’s human rights record, the Carter administration failed to pay attention to the deteriorating political situation in that country and failed to take action to prevent the fall of the pro-American regime in Tehran and the ensuing Islamist revolution in 1979, resulting in a devastating blow to U.S. status in the Middle East. Similarly, President Bush the Second’s fixation with remaking the Middle East along democratic lines steered his administration to pressure the Israelis to allow the holding of free democratic elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006, leading to the victory of the Islamist and anti-Western Hamas movement that remains in power in the Gaza Strip today. Another president who had entered the White House committed to an ambitious democracy-promotion and authoritarianism-fighting agenda but who gradually ended up readjusting his policies to the realities of international power politics has been Joe Biden. Reflecting the bizarre outcome of dogmatic idealism, Biden invited to his Summit for Democracy in 2023 an Islamist and anti-American country like Pakistan because it, well, holds elections. But Singapore, a leading American strategic ally in the Pacific, was not invited because of its supposedly questionable commitment to democratic ideals. Biden’s earlier pro-democracy campaign included also a vow to isolate and punish Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), bashing the Saudis as a “pariah” in response to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. For a while, that approach seemed to be cost-free as far as U.S. strategic and economic interests were concerned. After all, it was a time when America was becoming a major energy producer and oil prices were falling, and that supposedly provided an opportunity to reassess Washington’s alliance with Riyadh. Ending the alliance with Riyadh was a goal enunciated by members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which also question the U.S. commitment to its alliance with Israel and its entire strategy of engagement in the Middle East. And disregarding Saudi Arabia’s concern about the threat posed by its adversary Iran, one that it shared with Israel, Biden and his aides decided to move towards renewing the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. But then the war in Ukraine happened, and the Biden administration suddenly found itself operating in an international system dominated by a diplomatic and military conflict between great powers over territories and resources. Energy prices rose to the stratosphere, and whether MBS, the leader of the “pariah” Saudi Arabia, raised oil prices or flirted with the Russians and the Chinese mattered now much more than that country’s human rights record. Obsessing with the Saudis’ commitment to liberal democratic values seems in retrospect to be a luxury that a great power like the U.S. could not afford, especially when other great powers—like China and Russia, certainly not concerned about their potential allies’ treatment of political dissidents or religious minorities—are waiting to fill any geostrategic vacuum left by the Americans. From that perspective, pursuing the possibility of a NATO-level U.S.-Saudi mutual security pact—under which the United States would come to Saudi Arabia’s defense if it is attacked, and would involve Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel—makes a realpolitik sense, especially if it leads to progress on the Palestinian-Israeli front. In the aftermath of the Abraham Accords and Israel’s normalization of relationships with several Arab states, a process of diplomatic detente and economic cooperation between two of the region’s leading powers and allies of the United States would be a major coup as far as American interests are concerned. A pro-American Middle Eastern bloc powered by the energy resources of the Persian Gulf and Israel’s high-tech industries and scientific centers would be the most effective way to contain the aggression of Iran and its regional satellites. Such an arrangement is certainly worth the costs in the form of providing the Saudis with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile defense system, which would be helpful to the Saudis against Iran’s growing mid- and long-range missile arsenal, and helping them develop a civilian nuclear program. There is no doubt that MBS will also demand some concessions from Israel on the Palestinian issues, including stopping the establishment of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a clear commitment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. If Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes such steps that would lead to the withdrawal of two extremist right-wing ministers—Itamar-Gvir, the head of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit, and Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism Party—from the current coalition. That would then leave Netanyahu no choice but to rely on the support of the centrist parties in the Knesset and make with them a deal to end the current crisis over the government’s controversial plan for judicial reform.

US leads now and prevents China from establishing hegemonic influence in the Middle East

Chaziza, 6-30, 22, Dr. Mordechai Chaziza is a senior lecturer at the Department of Politics and Governance and the Multidisciplinary Studies in Social Science division at Ashkelon Academic College (Israel) and a Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Department, University of Haifa, specializing in Chinese foreign and strategic relations, China’s Strategic Partnerships Are Remaking the Middle East, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/china’s-strategic-partnerships-are-remaking-middle-east-206598

In the twenty-first century, Chinese foreign policy is widely reflected in developing global partnerships and expanding interests with other countries as geopolitical instruments for power and influence. China has resorted to building a global network of strategic partnerships (flexible political cooperation based on informal political bonds) instead of broad formal alliances (which often target external enemies based on defense treaties). While traditional alliances can potentially expose Chinese diplomacy to high risk, partnerships are perceived as more flexible and interest-driven. Such partnerships denote a shared commitment to managing unavoidable conflicts so that the two countries can continue working together on vital areas of common interest. Building strategic partnerships worldwide is one of the most important dimensions and instruments of Chinese diplomacy to achieve geopolitical goals. In the competitive Middle East dominated by Washington, Beijing has had to build a regional presence that does not alienate the United States or any Middle East states while pursuing its geopolitical interests, even as the U.S. security umbrella offers a low-cost entry into the region. China’s partnerships with the Middle East states broadly tend to correspond to the three major categories of partnerships: comprehensive strategic partnerships (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates), strategic partnerships (Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, and Kuwait), and innovative comprehensive partnership (Israel). Through strategic partnerships usually founded on economic interests, China has pursued its Middle Eastern geopolitical interests bilaterally without adopting region-wide or multilateral goals. It can say that Beijing’s circle of friends in the Middle East is getting broader and more diverse (See Table 1). China was among the first countries to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the State of Palestine as a sovereign state in 1988 and has since provided diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. China has also been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians in international forums and has called for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state solution. The strategic partnership agreement signed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Chinese president Xi Jinping in June 2023 shows China’s commitment to supporting the Palestinian people and the close relationship between the two countries (marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of establishing formal relations). It also signifies China’s willingness to be more active in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Xi called the strategic partnership an “important milestone in the history of bilateral relations.” The China-Palestinian Authority (PA) strategic partnership is significant for both countries. For China, it is an opportunity to deepen its engagement in the Middle East and to gain a foothold in a region that is increasingly important to its economic and strategic interests. For the PA, the agreement is a sign of China’s growing support for the Palestinian cause and a potential source of much-needed economic and political support. The strategic partnership includes an economic and technological cooperation pact, a deal on mutual visa exemption for diplomatic passports, and a friendship between the Chinese city of Wuhan and Ramallah. Overall, China-Palestine relations have maintained a positive growth momentum in recent years. The two sides launched the first round of negotiations on a free trade zone and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Belt and Road Initiative cooperation. The trade between the two countries in recent years has grown steadily and, in 2022, reached $158 million, reflecting a 23.2 percent increase compared to the previous year (see Figure 1). The China-Palestine strategic partnership is a significant development that has the potential to benefit both countries. However, it is important to note that the partnership is still in its early stages, and it remains to be seen how it will be implemented and its long-term impact. China’s establishment of a strategic partnership with the PA is another sign of its growing interest in the Middle East and its desire to increase its regional influence. China has been steadily increasing its economic and political engagement in the Middle East in recent years, and this partnership is another step in that direction. The strategic partnership with Palestine is the twelfth partnership China established in the Middle East (see Table 1). This shows that China is increasingly interested in the region and is looking to expand its influence there. Nevertheless, China’s influence in the Middle East is still relatively limited. The United States is still the most powerful great power in the region, and it will need to do more to build its influence if it wants to become a significant player in the Middle East. Therefore, the importance of the strategic partnership between China and Palestine is mainly in the economic and bilateral spheres. The two countries have already signed several economic cooperation agreements, and the strategic partnership will likely lead to even more cooperation in the future. China is also expected to provide Palestine with financial and technical assistance, which will help to boost the Palestinian economy. China has been a long-time supporter of Palestine and has provided economic and humanitarian assistance to the PA. China’s aid has been essential in recent years as the PA has struggled to meet its financial obligations. China aided Palestine in the construction of more than forty projects, including schools and roads, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building; sent expert teams, medical supplies, and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic; and recently pledged a further $1 million donation to the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Upgrading China-Palestine relations to a strategic partnership will provide a framework for increased cooperation on various issues, benefiting both countries. It has the potential to help Palestine’s economic development and humanitarian situation China relies on strategic partnerships to bolster its diplomatic posture in the Middle East and give large Chinese companies a leg up when negotiating infrastructure and digital deals with the local governments. China has historically shown sympathy toward the Palestinians in public. Still, it has focused more on its relations with Israel (a close ally of the United States) in practice due to technology and commercial interests, and the two sides established an innovative comprehensive partnership. China-Palestine trade is small two-way trade that only totaled $158 million in 2022, compared with $17.62 billion with Israel. China has become Israel’s third-largest trading partner. Still, it remained far behind the EU ($49.19 billion) and the United States ($22.04 billion), even though Israel trades with China more than any other European country. Overall, the China-Israel relationship is complex and has challenges and opportunities. China is looking to Israel for technology and commercial opportunities, while Israel is looking to China for investment and support. The increased tensions between the United States and China, however, could affect the China-Israel relationship. Therefore, Israel is forced to conduct its trade relations with China out of economic and commercial interests while considering U.S. demands and taking advantage of opportunities. Moreover, China supported the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict to enhance its worldwide image and bolster its great power status. Over the years, China has promoted several multipoint peace plans to facilitate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on multiple occasions, but with little success. However, China’s recent success in brokering a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia could give it renewed hope of playing a more active role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The China-Palestine strategic partnership comes when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a standstill. The renewed hostilities, Palestinian internal divisions, increased Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and a far-right government in Israel have all dampened sentiment toward negotiations in the near term. These longstanding obstacles in the Palestinian-Israel relationship led China to mainly be limited its diplomacy to construction, manufacturing, and other economic projects in the region. Only time will tell how the China-PA strategic partnership will ultimately impact the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. China’s growing presence, through strategic partnerships, in the Middle East poses significant challenges to the United States’ wide range of vital geopolitical, geostrategic, and geo-economic interests. The United States, however, still has several advantages, a long history of engagement in the region, strong ties with many Middle Eastern countries, and a strong military presence. Washington cannot afford to take China’s growing presence in the Middle East for granted. It needs to continue to engage with the region, strengthen its ties and alliances with Middle Eastern countries, and be prepared to compete with China’s strategic partnerships for regional influence.

Countries can replace US support with China’s support

Fouad, 6-26, 23, am Fouad is a Middle East analyst, editor, and a PhD candidate at The Catholic University of America., Egypt’s Struggle with Navigating the New Multipolar Reality Is an Opportunity for Washington, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/egypt’s-struggle-navigating-new-multipolar-reality-opportunity-washington-206585

Up until this point, the United States has sought to pressure Egypt to act in certain ways by withholding military aid to Cairo. This policy would be effective if America were still the hegemon of a unipolar world. But in today’s multipolar world, aid can come from elsewhere, like China, with much greater ease.

Iran-Saudi rapprochement fragile, strong ties are not inevitable

Natasha Turak, 6-21, 23, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/06/21/saudi-iran-ties-have-a-long-way-to-go-despite-rapprochement-efforts.html, WORLD POLITICS ‘Things will just have to be accepted as tense’: Saudi-Iran relations have a long way to go despite rapprochement efforts

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister made a high-profile visit to Tehran, drawing coverage and praise about the improvement in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two longtime foes. But hopes for immediate trust and consistency will likely have to wait, as the two regional powers continue to have dramatically divergent geopolitical and religious goals. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister made a high-profile visit to Tehran over the weekend, drawing coverage and praise about the improvement in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two longtime foes. “Mutual respect, non-interference in the two countries’ internal affairs and commitment to the United Nations Charter” will be at the core of bilateral relations from now on, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat, said at a news conference during the visit. His Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian praised the re-establishment of diplomatic ties, saying it would improve security for the region. The meeting was the result of Iran and Saudi Arabia agreeing to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies in each other’s countries after China-led negotiations in Beijing in March. The rapprochement was a watershed moment for diplomacy in the region. But hopes for immediate trust and consistency will likely have to wait, many regional analysts say, as the two regional powers continue to have dramatically divergent geopolitical and religious goals. A small example of that was evident on Saturday, when the Saudi foreign minister refused to hold a joint press conference in front of a portrait of the late Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who for decades directed Iran’s proxy wars around the Middle East. The Iranian hosts complied with the minister’s request for a change of venue in order to avert a diplomatic incident, regional outlets reported. “The meeting shows us that despite minor delays, both sides are prioritizing deescalation as part of a new regional strategy aimed at tactical threat reduction,” Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House. “Despite this progress,” she said, “nothing has been resolved between both capitals. What exists is a fragile agreement that can only be made stronger with time, consistency and trust building.” ‘A much longer process’ Michael Stephens, an associate fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute, agrees. “I think the two sides are serious, but I think this is a much longer process than maybe some of the commentariat are giving it. Not everything has changed, and there are still significant tensions to work through across a whole range of areas,” he said, citing the war in Yemen — Tehran and Riyadh support opposing sides — as well as Iran’s use of proxy militias around the Middle East and attacks on Saudi infrastructure by Iran-backed groups. Iran and Saudi Arabia have long accused each other of destabilizing the region and regarded each other as a grave security threat. They’re often on opposite sides of regional conflicts such as those in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria. Riyadh and Washington both accuse Tehran of being behind several attacks on Saudi ships, territory and energy infrastructure in the past few years. Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016, after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response to Saudi authorities’ execution of 47 dissidents, including a leading Shiite cleric. Mutual interests Still, the turning of this page signals that both countries have mutual interests to pursue and realize they ultimately benefit more from diplomatic engagement. “Both Riyadh and Tehran are motivated by economic imperatives,” Vakil said. “Breaking the deadlock between them could reduce missile and drone threats over the kingdom — a priority for vision 2030′s success while Tehran after the months of protests needs to break out of economic isolation and the stranglehold of sanctions.” Saudi Arabia also stressed the importance of maritime security in the Gulf region, from which a huge proportion of the world’s oil is exported, and where skirmishes involving Iran seizing foreign ships are fairly frequent. “I would like to refer to the importance of cooperation between the two countries on regional security, especially the security of maritime navigation … and the importance of cooperation among all regional countries to ensure that it is free of weapons of mass destruction,” Prince Faisal said while in Tehran. Despite enduring differences and ongoing regional conflicts, the visit was “clearly very important signaling, and it was done at the right level in terms of the right set of ministers,” Stephens said. “To my mind, this is exactly how the process should be building, through a series of diplomatic initiatives which show goodwill on both sides.” Prince Farhan also met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and expressed hope that Raisi would accept the kingdom’s invitation to visit Saudi Arabia “soon, God willing.” The process will be slow and will likely face disturbances, but it still should enable a shift from a tense dialogue a more constructive one over time, according to regional watchers. “Broadly speaking, things will just have to be accepted as tense,” Stephens said, adding that any changes to the U.S. administration, particularly concerning the Iran nuclear deal, could have significant ramifications and even rupture that process. “But ultimately you make peace with enemies, you don’t make peace with friends,” he said, “so they’re going to have to accept that both sides look at things in a very different way.”

US presence protects the flow of oil

Miller & Ehinger, 6-18, 23, Simeone Miller is a Middle East security analyst and a current graduate student in the Social Sciences and Globalization MA program at California State University, San Bernardino. He has previously worked as a researcher at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a Marcellus Policy Fellow at the John Quincy Adams Society. Garrett Ehinger is a China analyst who holds a bachelor’s in Biomedical Science with a minor in Mandarin Chinese from Brigham Young University in Idaho. He is currently a master’s student at the University of Utah studying public health. He has studied Chinese culture and language for over a decade., https://nationalinterest.org/blog/america-benefits-china-middle-east-206565

One of the United States’ most pressing interests in the Middle East is maritime security, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz, in which oil tankers move approximately 17 million barrels of oil daily. To protect this vital interest, America has consistently maintained thousands of U.S. troops and military installations in the Persian Gulf.

China’s influence in the region does not threaten the US and facilitates peace

Miller & Ehinger, 6-18, 23, Simeone Miller is a Middle East security analyst and a current graduate student in the Social Sciences and Globalization MA program at California State University, San Bernardino. He has previously worked as a researcher at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a Marcellus Policy Fellow at the John Quincy Adams Society. Garrett Ehinger is a China analyst who holds a bachelor’s in Biomedical Science with a minor in Mandarin Chinese from Brigham Young University in Idaho. He is currently a master’s student at the University of Utah studying public health. He has studied Chinese culture and language for over a decade., https://nationalinterest.org/blog/america-benefits-china-middle-east-206565

Yet rather than viewing it as a threat, Washington should recognize there are benefits to Chinese involvement in the Middle East. These include regional stability, as already evidenced by China’s facilitating recognition agreements between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Middle East also has the potential to become a financial and military liability for Beijing, which could give the United States a leg up in its current Sino-American rivalry. For one, if China were to become entangled in Middle Eastern conflicts, this would drain resources and reduce its ability to challenge American power on other fronts. For instance, China has invested close to $200 billion in Latin America, which extends its ability to influence regional politics. It has been pressuring South American nations—Argentina in particular—to permit the construction of military bases. But if China were to become preoccupied with problems in the Middle East, it may force them to deprioritize these other projects. Beijing is already moving in this direction. For example, China’s domestic persecution of Muslims has spawned dozens of militant Chinese Muslim groups in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There have been bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan targeting Chinese nationals, and ISIS is putting China in its crosshairs. Moreover, China has also built a naval base in Djibouti—with other potential base sites in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives—and deployed thousands of special forces in Syria. For extremist groups like ISIS, these are rich potential targets. Simultaneously, concerns about China wielding its newfound regional influence to harm American economic interests—especially when it comes to energy affairs—don’t carry much weight. Because of the United States’ firm integration into world trade, any harm to American regional maritime or energy security would damage other international actors that China is trying to strengthen relations with. Directly threatening America in this way is thus antithetical to China’s own goals. Barring the collateral damage, such moves would also invite retaliation. The United States has considerable influence over the South China Sea, its regional states, and other areas vital to Chinese influence and trade. If Beijing were to exercise its influence in the Middle East in such a way that directly harmed U.S. economic interests, Washington could easily counter back. There are some proactive measures the United States can take if it wishes to maximize costly risks to China. To start, Washington could reduce the common interests between China and the region’s inhabitants while still leaving plenty of room for Chinese overreach. For example, acknowledging China’s peacekeeping efforts in a positive light would remove mutual animosity towards the United States as a shared interest. With America no longer decrying Chinese peacekeeping efforts, fewer actors will see cooperating with China as a way of “defying” America. The United States should also focus on scaling down its extensive military presence in the Middle East, leaving gaps that Beijing may try to fill. This way, Chinese interests and forces end up becoming salient targets for militant jihadists in the face of an increasingly distant America. The United States should reconsider its current attitudes toward China’s expansion in the Middle East and take it for what it is: a chance to let China make costly mistakes. Washington needs to acknowledge that not everything China intends to do in the region will threaten U.S. interests. Not only that, but some of China’s initiatives may bring about stability in places that America has historically failed to stabilize. All the while, this approach can give Washington a leg up over its rival by keeping Beijing’s hands full. Only in well-defined instances where U.S. interests are directly threatened should Washington act decisively. Otherwise, all the United States needs to do is cautiously observe events unfold and avoid premature intervention.

China’s BRI investments already high

Dr. Mordechai Chaziza is a senior lecturer at the Department of Politics and Governance and the Multidisciplinary Studies in Social Science division at Ashkelon Academic College (Israel) and a Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Department, University of Haifa. He specializes in Chinese foreign and strategic relations, 6-4, 23, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/decade-china%E2%80%99s-belt-and-road-initiative-middle-east-206525, A Decade of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Middle East

Launched in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—a global infrastructure and development strategy that aims to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe through a network of land and maritime trade routes—was a significant turning point in China’s foreign policy and has become one of the most ambitious and far-reaching development initiatives in history. It is also regarded by many in the West, the United States especially, as a not-so-subtle attempt by Beijing to reshape regional political orders in its favor. In this light of this, it is worth considering the BRI’s impact in the Middle East. The region, home to a growing middle class, is home to several key international energy and sea trade routes. China’s heavy investment in the Middle East in recent years, including through the BRI, is thus of particular concern to Washington. Reviewing how such efforts have fared over the past decade may yield some interesting insights. Why BRI Matters to the Middle East The BRI is primarily a series of projects (comprising both traditional physical and digital infrastructure) designed to connect and integrate cooperating partners—cities, markets, and countries—across regions. Given this, a particular partner’s degree of connectivity plays a larger role than other factors, such as regime type or market share. For Middle East countries, favorable geopolitical location and integration into key facets of the global economy play an essential role in China’s BRI framework. Consequently, China has developed a deep commercial presence in port cities and industrial parks that link the Persian Gulf to the Arabian, Red, and Mediterranean Seas. Myriad observers regard this presence as a way for China to secure its energy supplies, expand its trade, and gain a foothold in the region. China’s engagement in the Middle East can be attributed to two primary drivers. First, it seeks to be recognized as a great power status domestically and by other states. The Middle East is a strategically important region, and China’s engagement is seen as a way to increase its influence and stake in the global order. Second, it aimed to secure its economic interests in the region through the BRI framework and continued access to energy resources on which it is heavily dependent. The BRI is thus a means for China to increase its channels for exporting goods, reduce trade friction, improve access to natural resources, build supply chains, and generate opportunities for Chinese companies to invest overseas and sell goods and services. To that end, over the past ten years, it has integrated the BRI framework with the Middle East countries’ national development strategies. As the BRI is a long-term initiative that will continue to evolve in the coming years, Beijing will need to carefully assess the success and impact of its projects in the Middle East to make informed decisions on how to proceed. The success of the framework in the Middle East depends on several factors, including the economic and political stability of the region, the quality of the BRI projects, and the willingness of host countries to cooperate with China. More importantly, BRI projects are essential for underdeveloped Middle East states dependent on external creditors to establish critical physical and digital infrastructures. These projects are already in operation or are entering the second and third phases of development. Unless alternative creditors support further development, countries in the Middle East will continue to depend on and work with China. Assessing BRI Projects in the Middle East Currently, BRI projects span fifteen Middle East nations and include major infrastructural and digital projects on land and sea. The status of these projects varies, with some being planned, ongoing, completed, halted, or canceled, providing insight into the present overall situation of BRI. Developing a deeper understanding can be challenging, however, due to 1) deliberate opacity surrounding BRI projects on both the Chinese and host regional countries’ sides and 2) the sheer scale of the initiative, which spans large swathes of continents. This lack of transparency is a major challenge for researchers and policymakers trying to understand BRI and its implications. Nonetheless, there is still a great amount of information available to consider. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) China Connects database, for example, provides a valuable overview of China’s BRI investment and lending in the Middle East. The database also includes information on Digital Silk Road (DSR) investments, which can be understood to be the BRI’s technological component—a digital bridge-building project intended to promote a new type of globalization via digital trade, digital infrastructure, cross-border e-commerce, mobile financial tools, Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies (big data, digital currencies, cloud computing, and so on). In any case, the IISS China Connects data demonstrates that China is investing heavily in the Middle East, with 266 BRI projects between 2005 and 2022 (see Table 1). Most of those are either ongoing or have been completed, and there are only a few projects that have been canceled or halted (see Table 2). This is a positive sign for China, showing that the initiative is gaining traction in the region. Of note is what is being funded. The data shows that China is investing heavily in digital infrastructure in the region, which will likely continue in the coming years as Beijing seeks to expand its global reach. Chinese companies invested in 202 DSR projects (76 percent of the total investment) compared to 64 traditional physical infrastructure projects (24 percent). These investments are likely to have a major impact on the region’s economies and societies, and it will be important to monitor the impact of these investments in the coming years.

US presence in Syria not needed to stop ISIS and it inflames regional conflict.

Adam Lammon, 6-16, 23, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/stealth-fighters-syria-why-america-sending-f-22s-206559, Stealth Fighters to Syria: Why America Is Sending in the F-22s,

The F-22 has its work cut out for it in Syria, whether in deterring the Russian military or aiding the broader U.S. military mission. On June 14, the U.S. Air Force deployed fifth-generation F-22 Raptors to Syria to deter what U.S. Central Command described as “increasingly unsafe and unprofessional behavior by Russian aircraft in the region.” The Raptor, an advanced air-superiority fighter that is renowned for its stealth capabilities, is intended to increase the U.S. military’s ability to defend the 900 U.S. servicemembers that remain deployed in the war-torn country. Geopolitics Strategy Game The last time the United States sent F-22 fighters to the Middle East was last year, when the combat jets flew to the United Arab Emirates in a show of force following drone and missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthis. However, it is not the aircraft’s first stint in Syria. In the spring of 2018, the F-22 provided “defensive counterair” capabilities by holding Syrian air defense assets at risk during the U.S.-led, multinational strikes against Syrian military targets in response to Damascus’ suspected chemical weapons attacks. Then, in the fall, the F-22 completed its first “combat surge” in Syria, in which U.S. Raptor pilots flew “deep into Syrian territory, facing both enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile systems” and deterred nearly 600 Syrian, Iranian, and Russian combat aircraft from threatening U.S. military personnel. The F-22 has its work cut out for it in Syria, whether in deterring the Russian military or aiding the broader U.S. military mission. Indeed, despite these deployments in defense of the years-long U.S. military presence on the ground, the Air Force reports that Russia has stopped adhering to agreed-upon deconfliction agreements in Syria’s busy skies and that Russian aircraft are harassing U.S. personnel with increasing frequency. The United States has long been concerned about Russian harassment of U.S. forces but has recently observed a “significant spike” in Russian aerial aggression in Syria. On the ground, too, U.S. servicemembers face a variety of threats from Russian forces, which have physically harassed and threatened Americans across the country. Russia maintains over 2,500 military personnel in Syria in support of its ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which for all intents and purposes has won his country’s civil war after more than a decade of conflict. Russia and Syria have long disparaged U.S. troops as “occupiers” and insisted that they leave the country. The U.S. refusal has put Americans in harm’s way, and not just from Moscow and Damascus. Iran, another Syrian and Russian ally, has regularly targeted the U.S. military as well. As recently as last March, for instance, a drone attack of “Iranian origin” killed one U.S. contractor and wounded six others in Syria, raising questions about the logic and sustainability of a U.S. presence that has persisted in Syria since 2015. The United States government consistently points to the threats posed by the remnants of the Islamic State when it justifies the U.S. presence in Syria. To be sure, even after losing its territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group’s resiliency continues to pose a complex challenge for the U.S.-led multinational coalition, which carried out 313 anti-ISIS operations in 2022. Yet the United States faces more and direr threats from Russia, Iran, and the Syrian government than ISIS itself, which has lost its once-formidable capability to carry out coordinated offensive operations in the Middle East or farther abroad. In fact, ISIS cannot be defeated by military action alone: tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners, including many foreign fighters and their families, are languishing in Iraqi and Syrian detention centers and prisons. Until these people are repatriated to their countries of origin, they will be at risk of radicalization and recruitment by jihadists, and ISIS will continue to target the prisons in its efforts to free its comrades. As U.S. policymakers should have learned from the U.S. war efforts against Al Qaeda or the Taliban, ISIS is not a problem that the United States can kill its way out of. However, much like the Taliban has proven its commitment to fighting ISIS even after the United States left Afghanistan, there is reason to believe that Syria, Iran, and Russia will not tolerate ISIS in the Middle East either. Americans should recall that Iran was instrumental in the U.S.-supported fight against ISIS in Iraq and opposed the same terrorist presence in Afghanistan, while Russia has fought ISIS in its efforts to secure Assad’s rule. It is additionally worth remembering that when President Donald Trump ordered a snap withdrawal from Syria in 2019, it was Russia who moved its troops into the abandoned U.S. outposts and called for de-escalation between the Kurds and Turkey in the northeast. Moscow’s subsequent, fruitful negotiations with Turkey then led to an agreement that prevented a Turkish military operation against the Kurds in exchange for the latter retreating from the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey, which was responsible for killing ISIS’s latest leader last month, is committed to combatting the same Syrian Kurds that the United States has been supporting since 2014—greatly straining the U.S.-Turkish relationship. This is just one more Gordian knot that the United States has been trying to untie in Syria—without much success. The fact of the matter is that the United States is an outsider with few friends in Syria. As an uninvited guest in the country, it remains a target of Syrian, Russian, and Iranian military pressure. Its own allies and partners, from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia and the broader Arab League, have begun welcoming Damascus back into the regional fold with open arms. Its policy of regime change, which began under the Obama administration but has continued in different forms, has long failed. Far from Russia being isolated—even after its invasion of Ukraine—Moscow continues to be an indispensable player in Syria, for Damascus and Tehran as much as Jerusalem and Ankara. The countries of the Middle East understand that the United States will not stay in Syria indefinitely, and they are hedging their bets accordingly. But America has not adapted in kind; instead, it has stayed the course, enduring casualties while vainly searching for a way out. But after nine years of war, only one thing is clear: no amount of F-22s can help America defeat the consequences of its own policy failings.

Counterplan: Condition assistance to Saudi Arabia on it stopping the war in Yemen

Neumann, 5-1, 23, Gerard A. Neumann is a student at Columbia University, America’s Failing Saudi Policy, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/america’s-failing-saudi-policy-206442

To further its own influence and minimize the risk these groups pose to its stability and national defense, Saudi Arabia has committed itself to counter-militancy. This policy has manifested most clearly in the ongoing Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, the country in which the Houthi movement is based. With the help of U.S. training, weapons sales, and intelligence, coalition forces have led an intensive bombing and ground campaign with the aim of ousting the Houthis and restoring the former Yemeni government. The conflict has created one of the largest humanitarian crises in history. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, millions are displaced, and millions more are starving. The intervention has no clear end date, and beyond being a massive humanitarian catastrophe serves as a blight on American international reputation by virtue of its second-hand involvement. While Saudi policy was more palatable during America’s own intervention in the Middle East, upon taking a step back it is clearly antithetical to American interests in almost every way. The United States needs cheap oil, or else its economy grinds to a halt: Saudi Arabia is directly involved in keeping oil expensive. The United States needs the Middle East to be stable so that it is not dragged into another conflict: the Saudi-Iranian rivalry endangers that stability. The United States needs to recover its international reputation after its disastrous Middle East wars: cooperation with Saudi intervention in Yemen makes that considerably more difficult. Current U.S. policy does little to address these glaring relationship deficiencies. There has been a malaise in American Middle Eastern diplomacy since the Afghanistan pullout. Yet America’s leverage is considerable. Saudi Arabia needs American weapons for its national defense, and it needs American expertise to maintain these weapons. Despite the recent cooling of some tensions, there is no strong evidence that the country’s rivalry with Iran is a thing of the past. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is no longer vital to America’s interests. Completely severing the relationship now would have almost no effect in comparison to severing it ten years ago. Even in the economic area, there are possible alternatives to Saudi oil that could be explored such as Venezuela, Nigeria, the UAE, Brazil, or even America itself. The United Stat should utilize its leverage, and demand that Saudi Arabia hold up its side of the oil-for-security bargain or else look elsewhere for defense.

US presence in Syria worsens the ISIS threat

Dedmidras, 4-5, 23, Ali Demirdas, Ph.D. in political science from the University of South Carolina, Fulbright scholar, professor of international affairs at the College of Charleston (2011–2018). You can follow him on Twitter @AliDemirdasPhD., he West Must Wake Up to the Iranian Drone Threat, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/west-must-wake-iranian-drone-threat-206396

The Iranian drone strike against the American military base in northern Syria that killed one American contractor and wounded six servicemen has once again called into question the purpose of the American presence, with some 900 troops, in the country. The official reasoning, according to the Pentagon chief, Gen. Mark A. Milley, is “to counter [the Islamic State].” Furthermore, the policymakers in Washington have stated that the United States should stay in Syria to “contain and roll back Iranian influence … also protecting Israel.” Whereas the two objectives may sound legitimate, the ways by which the United States implements them are inherently problematic and will beget more problems, not only for Washington but for the region as well. ISIS has posed a much more immediate threat to the regional states and actors than it has to Washington, which weakens the argument that the United States is in Syria to counter ISIS. By design, ISIS is an extremist Sunni organization that during its reign directed its attacks primarily against the Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria, explicitly engaging in a Shia genocide. This makes the organization a prime adversary for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Iran and its proxies, who are Shias. The pro-Iranian militias such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria played a great role in rolling back ISIS. Ironically, Washington has indirectly allowed Iranian influence in the region to strengthen by helping eliminate an anti-Shia group like ISIS, just as it did by removing a staunch anti-Iran figure, Saddam Hussein, and fighting the anti-Iran Taliban in Afghanistan. ISIS has declared Turkey “the Wilayat Turkey” (a part of its alleged caliphate) and issued a death warrant for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his cooperation with “the Crusaders” (NATO) in the fight against ISIS. The terror organization is known to have carried out numerous suicide bombings in Turkey that cost the lives of dozens of Turks. All this considered, Washington’s insistence on staying in Syria under the pretext of “containing ISIS” is rather weak. Every actor in the region considers ISIS an existential threat and has a stake in eliminating it. If anything, Washington should have cooperated with its NATO ally Turkey, a regional power that has formidable economic, political, and military clout, and its proxies. Such a partnership could have maintained U.S. power projection without risking a direct confrontation with regional adversaries such as Iran and the probability of initiating another “forever war” that would have America bogged down in the Middle East. This was seen with the assassination of the Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in 2020, for which Iran retaliated by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq where more than 100 US troops suffered brain injuries. However, a series of mistakes Washington made in 2014-2015 not only cost it Turkey, a valuable ally, but also resulted in America’s unjustified presence in Syria. At the height of the ISIS threat, the Obama administration failed to adopt a clear plan for its defeat and the toppling of Assad. The confused U.S. agencies began to support different opposition groups each having different agendas. The CIA began to train and equip the pro-Turkey Sunni opposition, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose main goal was to topple Assad and fight ISIS. The Pentagon, in contrast, propped up the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey’s arch foe, whose aim was primarily to fight ISIS and ultimately to gain autonomy, even independence, within Syria. By 2015, Washington’s Syrian plan was in shambles such that the FSA and the YPG turned against each other, while at the same time separately fighting ISIS. Eventually, the same year, Washington decided to abandon the Sunni FSA in favor of the YPG, and to relinquish the idea of toppling Assad, an Iranian ally, a decision that coincided with Obama’s Iran rapprochement. Not surprisingly, having seen the American ambiguity and weakness, in the Summer of 2015, Russian president Vladimir Putin descended into Syria to save Russian interests and Assad from being toppled, which resulted in retaliatory genocidal campaigns against the anti-Assad Syrian opposition and the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including the infamous 2017 chemical attack. The Pentagon’s staunch support for the YPG brought about the question of countering Iranian influence in the region. In Syria, the Pentagon heavily relies on the YPG, a majority Marxist Kurdish militant group, which as former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter put it, “has substantial ties with PKK … which is a terrorist organization in the eyes of the US and Turkish governments.” The YPG’s inability to counter Iran’s influence stems from two reasons: first, the YPG and the PKK have had organic ties with Iran due to their aligned regional goals; and second, Washington is making the same mistake in Syria that it did in Afghanistan—nation building. YPG/PKK – Iran Ties Iran, which has historically pursued adverse policies against Turkey, provided the PKK with a safe haven not only in Iran but also in Iraq. Tehran denied Ankara’s request for a cross-border operation into the Iranian Qandil Mountains, where the PKK’s upper echelon is believed to reside. Likewise, the PKK and Tehran have cooperated against their mutual adversary, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the strongest faction in Iraqi Kurdistan. Therefore, given their long-term strategic goals, the PKK’s top commanders, who also have control over the YPG, want to exert extreme caution to not agitate Tehran. Thus, the PKK’s leaders don’t allow the United States to use their Syrian branch, the YPG, as foot soldiers against Iran’s proxies. Bassam Ishak, then the Washington representative of the Syrian Democratic Council, a political umbrella organization to which the YPG belongs and which represents the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), acknowledged that an all-out war with Iran would wreak havoc on them. Moreover, Nicholas Heras, the Center for a New American Security fellow who talked to SDF members in Syria said, “There is a deep concern within the SDF over the extent to which the United States is looking to use SDF forces as a counter to Iran in Syria.” Washington’s Futile Effort: Nation Building in Syria From a social, political, and economic point of view, the YPG autonomy project in Syria is unsustainable. The Pentagon is pouring billions of dollars to train and equip the YPG and facilitate its autonomous rule in northeastern Syria. But the predominantly leftist Kurdish YPG is alien to the region, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Arab with some Turcoman. The YPG is known to have engaged in de-Arabization as it gained territory from ISIS, sowing further resentment, and breeding further intra-communal clashes. “By deliberately demolishing civilian homes, in some cases razing and burning entire villages, displacing their inhabitants with no justifiable military grounds, the Autonomous Administration is abusing its authority and brazenly flouting international humanitarian law, in attacks that amount to war crimes,” said Lama Fakih, senior crisis advisor at Amnesty International. Moreover, the YPG’s political wing, known as the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), has a reputation of persecuting those Kurds who don’t share their neo-Maoist worldview. Ibrahim Biro, the then-head of Syria’s Kurdish National Council, accused the PYD of being dictatorial. He was kidnapped by the PKK for opposing the YPG in Syria. The World Council of Arameans (WCA) has frequently condemned the YPG for closing their schools and kidnapping and conscripting Aramean Christian teenagers against their wills. Furthermore, Turkey controls much of the vital water inflow in Syria that is necessary for agriculture and power, as well as trade. A prospective Kurdish YPG state will heavily rely on resources from Turkey, which sees the organization as an existential threat. Currently, the YPG is exclusively sustained by American taxpayers and a small amount of oil export that necessitates a fragile deal with the Assad regime. It begs explanation why Washington is so insistent on investing in a pointless Kurdish nation-building exercise in Syria whereas the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq has much more wherewithal, from its own government to the central bank. Ironically, Washington in 2017 rejected Kurdish statehood in northern Iraq by not recognizing the region’s independence referendum. If the purpose is to counter ISIS and the Iranian influence via proxies, why has Washington not been investing in the Erbil government, which is extremely wary of the Iranian influence? Additionally, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces successfully fought against ISIS. To make things worse, by unconditionally supporting the YPG, Washington indirectly consolidates the PKK’s regional presence, which further complicates intra-Kurdish politics. The KRG in Erbil has long considered the PKK to be an existential threat. The friction escalated to the extent that the PKK began ambushing and killing members of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in 2021. What now? I believe Robert Pape, the renowned political scientist from the University of Chicago, is right: it is not the religious convictions but military occupations that create extremism and suicide bombers. After all, former British prime minister Tony Blair acknowledged that the Iraq War “helped give rise to ISIS.” It is not surprising that we don’t hear any more of those roadside bombs, or suicide bombings, after the United States departed from Afghanistan. When examining the consequences of the U.S. actions in the last thirty years, one can argue that by taking it upon itself to destroy Iran’s enemies from Saddam to ISIS, “America has Fought Iran’s Wars in the Middle East.” The weary American public now wonders why Iran, China, and Russia have become ever more influential in the Middle East and the United States is losing clout despite Washington having spent more than $8 trillion and lost more than 5,000 servicemembers. As the Ukrainian war rages on and talk of a war with China is abundant, the last thing America would want is to get bogged down in the Middle East by initiating another forever war with Iran. The United State ought to revise its Middle East strategy. Maintaining a small presence in the name of protecting the YPG and “countering Iran” is counterproductive. The Senate has repealed the Iraq War authorization, a move in the right direction. American policymakers should do the same for Syria. Instead of constantly alienating Turkey, a NATO ally and a major local powerhouse, by unconditionally supporting its arch PKK/YPG foe, Washington needs to take advantage of Ankara’s increasing military, political, and social clout not only in the Middle East but also in the Caucasus and the Black Sea.

Iran’s drones are a threat, especially to oil shipping

Brent Cagen is a researcher at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC., 4-12, 23,  https://nationalinterest.org/blog/west-must-wake-iranian-drone-threat-206396, The West Must Wake Up to the Iranian Drone Threat

Western governments should be worried. Despite stalled nuclear talks with Europe and the United States, and amid mounting grassroots unrest at home, there are clear signs that Iran’s military programs are maturing—and that its regional ambitions in the Middle East are growing as a result. In late September, Iran’s military launched an offensive on the Kurdish territories of neighboring Iraq. The strikes, involving domestically-built drones followed by missile salvos, were directed at the political center of Kurdish power in Iraq, Erbil. Presumably, these were intended to distract from Iran’s own internal issues as well as to “punish” the Kurds in Iraq for supporting Iranians protesting at home. But that attack could very well serve as a portent of things to come. To understand why, it’s necessary to examine the evolution of Iran’s drone program. Despite ongoing international sanctions and a lackluster economy, developing a sustainable drone industry has been an area of intense focus for Iranian officials in recent years, for good reason. By the early 2010s, it had become apparent that the country’s foreign policy ambitions and its military development were profoundly mismatched. Tehran gasped that it needed more sophisticated military hardware that could be easily used in asymmetric conflicts in which the Islamic Republic was involved. One of the most notable results of this realization was a crash program to develop cheap and expendable unmanned platforms. These included drones used purely for surveillance and reconnaissance, those that can launch air-to-ground missiles, and “kamikaze” UAVs that can serve as loitering munitions. In turn, the numerous drones designed by Iran have given it a wide range of strategic options in its pursuit of regional hegemony. The results are pronounced. Iranian drones, for instance, have been used for several years by the Houthis to launch attacks on Saudi Arabian soil by its Gulf proxy, Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Employing Iranian technology, the Houthis have menaced the nearby United Arab Emirates as well. But Iranian proxies are not the only beneficiaries of Tehran’s increasingly robust drone effort. So, too, is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which has come to rely on Iranian drone technology as an equalizer of sorts in its current conflict with Ukraine. Amid battlefield setbacks and a pronounced lack of strategy, the Kremlin in recent weeks has turned to Tehran for assistance in replenishing its rapidly dwindling stocks of precision weaponry. The result has been multiple deliveries of Iranian drones, which have since been employed by the Russian military on “kamikaze” missions against Ukrainian population centers as well as to acquire combat data. The pattern is clear: Iran’s drones, particularly those that serve as loitering munitions, are becoming a key component of Tehran’s low-intensity warfare tactics. In Iraq, Iran’s drones serve as a cost-effective way to increase its influence and react quickly to events on the ground. In the Gulf, they provide an indirect way to menace geopolitical adversaries and competitors. And in the broader region, such a capability gives Tehran the power to threaten naval vessels and the critical oil trade that transits the Strait of Hormuz. Western governments are waking up to the Iranian drone threat. The Stop Iranian Drones Act, which passed a vote in the House of Representatives this past fall, was a good initial response designed to prevent Iran or any of its proxies from acquiring the lethal technology. But the measure ended up dying before becoming law, thanks to wrangling between the House and Senate. As a result, there is currently no legislation on the books in the U.S. Congress to target Iran’s burgeoning drone industry and its potential beneficiaries. To its credit, the executive branch has taken steps to crack down on Iran’s drone technology, with the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announcing sanctions on entities and individuals in Iran and Turkey who trafficked parts and materials to Iran critical to the latter’s drone production and development. That represents a good start. But on the whole, America’s slow response to the Iranian drone threat sets a dangerous precedent, because a lack of serious action by the United States may force other actors in the Middle East to pursue their own strategies for reducing Iran’s drone capacity. A recent strike on an Iranian drone factory believed to have been carried out by Israel eloquently demonstrates this point. And if Iran’s recent activities on the Ukraine front and in the Gulf are any indication, the Islamic Republic’s drone program is poised to become a source of sustenance for its clerical regime—and a serious concern for everyone else.

China-US geopolitical competition is zero-sum

Cohen, 3-25, 23, Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Director of the Energy, Growth, and Security Program at the International Tax and Investment Center and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Has China Shifted the Middle East Balance of Power?, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/world/why-world-still-needs-trade

Even leaders who might be amicable to the West won’t push back on China’s creeping influence in regional matters given the economic benefits their countries can gain through ties with Beijing. The United States needs to come to grips with the depth of China’s financial reach and strategize to counter Beijing’s clear political intent. The United States is also heavily invested in the Middle East, not just for economic interests, but for regional security—which directly affects its own national security. These investments are too important to jeopardize by ignoring China’s calculated attempts at undermining America’s role. The next logical step for the United States is to push for Iran’s full compliance with the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, giving up all its highly enriched uranium, and allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities. The United States should also enhance its military cooperation with the Gulf states as the Iranian threat will not wane. The influence of oil and gas trade on the region’s politics is too big to ignore. Energy markets are significant to geopolitical relationships—even if some U.S. stakeholders prefer a foreign policy independent of the hydrocarbon economy. Finally, it is also important to engage with the Gulf nations in their efforts to diversify their economies, where the United States has much to offer in high technologies, internet technologies, health, education, and other industries. As Xi visits Moscow pretending to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine, checking China’s influence in strategic areas of the world, including Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, is becoming vital for U.S. national security. Competition with China in science, technology, business, diplomacy, and global security has become the defining theme of the twenty-first century. The Iranian-Saudi deal brokered by China is a test of Washington’s power and skill. It is a challenge the United States cannot afford to fail.

US disengagement produces regional agreements

Shankar, 3-29, 23, Niranjan Shankar is a software engineer and foreign policy analyst and writer based in Atlanta focusing on great power rivalry, the Middle East, tech policy, and diplomatic history, Saudi Arabia’s Rapprochement with Iran Was a Long Time Coming, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/saudi-arabia%E2%80%99s-rapprochement-iran-was-long-time-coming-206355?page=0%2C1

This widespread (and warranted) concern over American retrenchment in light of calls by Western policymakers to disengage from the Middle East in favor of rebalancing to Asia, despite President Joe Biden’s recent attempt to reverse these perceptions, compelled Riyadh and other U.S. partners to diversity their relationships and desperately mend relations with Tehran, rather than relying on America’s fickle commitments to defend them.

US committed to keeping 900 troops in Syria

Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs based in Washington, DC,  3-24, 23, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/syria-attacks-epitomize-america%E2%80%99s-troubled-middle-east-policy-206348, Syria Attacks Epitomize America’s Troubled Middle East Policy

The Biden administration has vowed to continue defending the 900 U.S. service members in Syria for as long as they remain in the country—an apparently indefinite timeframe. Despite Biden moving to end or drawdown the United States’ other “endless wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, this policy has not been extended to Syria. Rather, Washington is ostensibly committed to fighting ISIS and pressuring the Assad regime, which continues to be squeezed by a robust, U.S.-directed sanctions regime.

China’s influence produces Middle East conflict resolution

Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs based in Washington, DC,  3-24, 23, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/syria-attacks-epitomize-america%E2%80%99s-troubled-middle-east-policy-206348, Syria Attacks Epitomize America’s Troubled Middle East Policy

Coming on the heels of a Chinese-brokered agreement that codified Saudi Arabia’s détente with Iran, the emerging Saudi-Syrian peace deal stands to further shift Middle Eastern geopolitics. If successful, Moscow’s assistance in restoring Riyadh and Damascus’ diplomatic ties after a decade of war will be a remarkable victory for another U.S. adversary—as well as for the entire region. In this regard, it will further impress upon regional elites that they have options beyond America to advance their political and security objectives. Indeed, it is China and Russia—America’s so-called “great power competitors”—whose regional policies are now helping to stabilize the Middle East and support U.S. interests. China portrays itself as a friend to all and an enemy to none, allowing Beijing to position itself as an honest intermediary that can address the region’s problems in ways Washington cannoRussia, too, is seen as a dependable partner—one that has stood by its Syrian ally through thick and thin—and an interlocutor that has proven its sensitivity to the needs of capitals as different as Damascus, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, and Tehran. In contrast, the U.S. record is more troubled. It was the United States that invaded Iraq twenty years ago this week, unleashing chaos and violence across the region. It was also Washington that unilaterally blew up the international nuclear agreement with Iran—after the Obama administration had dragged its regional allies kicking and screaming to support the accord—setting Tehran on a glide path toward a nuclear weapons capability and increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf. The United States subsequently declined to defend Saudi Arabia and its Arab partners from Iran’s escalation in 2019 (ironically prompting Riyadh to later reconcile with Tehran), to say nothing of the fact that Washington has vacillated between pulling out of and leaning into the region across the last three presidential administrations.

China brought Iran and Saudi Arabia together

Lammon, 3-10, 23, Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/what-saudi-arabia-and-iran’s-détente-really-means-206295

The announcement that Saudi Arabia and Iran have restored diplomatic ties after seven years of tensions could result in significant changes in the Middle East. It not only stands to reset one of the region’s most violent rivalries but also exemplifies how China has become an influential player in regional affairs. Indeed, the joint statement issued from Beijing on March 10 committed both countries to respect each other’s sovereignty and to not interfere in each other’s internal affairs, to reopen their embassies in Tehran and Riyadh within two months, to revive a bilateral security pact, and to resume trade, investment, and cultural exchanges Occurring during a time of heightened fears of open conflict between Israel and a soon-to-be nuclear Iran, and after years of militant competition between Tehran and Riyadh across the region, this nascent rapprochement is undoubtedly positive. Yet the reactions in the United States and Israel suggest that the outcome—and perceptions of it—are more complicated. To its credit, the Biden administration welcomed the détente and stated that Riyadh had kept Washington informed of the talks’ progress. Yet the fact that it was Beijing that brought the Saudis and Iranians together—merely three months after Chinese president Xi Jinping was lavishly received in Riyadh in sharp contrast to U.S. president Joe Biden’s frosty reception six months earlier—has evidently smarted Washington.

China cannot replace the US in the Middle East now. The US is the dominant actor because of its military presence. The plan just turns it over to China

Lammon, 3-10, 23, Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/what-saudi-arabia-and-iran’s-détente-really-means-206295

Still, fears of American decline are overblown. China cannot (and is, in fact, not interested in) replacing the United States in the Middle East. The United States remains the region’s apex security provider, not only in terms of selling the most weapons to the region but also in terms of its on-the-ground military presence. But while Washington has squandered its time and resources toppling governments in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan and sanctioning Syria and Iran to ruin, China has forged ahead by investing in infrastructure and relationships. The Middle East is large enough for both China and the United States, and rather than panicking about every Chinese action, Washington would be better served by actually trying to compete with Beijing beyond the military sphere. Moreover, despite Beijing’s growing importance to the Middle East, it is not China, but the United States, that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are asking to defend them.

Saudi-Israel rapprochement depends on US security guarantees

Lammon, 3-10, 23, Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/what-saudi-arabia-and-iran’s-détente-really-means-206295

Just yesterday, one day before Saudi Arabia and Iran decided to allegedly bury the hatchet, Riyadh offered to normalize its relations with Israel in exchange for the United States guaranteeing Saudi security and aiding the Saudi nuclear program.

US security guarantees toward Iran trigger Iran prolif and undermine China’s efforts to support peace in the region

Lammon, 3-10, 23, Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/what-saudi-arabia-and-iran’s-détente-really-means-206295

In fact, even a U.S. security guarantee would not pull the Saudis decisively back into the U.S. camp, solve all the problems afflicting the Saudi-U.S. relationship, or end Riyadh’s efforts to reach a new security architecture with Iran. Instead, it will only codify the United States’ responsibility to defend Saudi Arabia, tying America’s soldiers to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s high tolerance for risk, and additionally comprise the United States by further involving it in the kingdom’s human rights abuses at home and abroad. It would also further stack the deck against Iran by formally throwing the weight of one of the world’s two superpowers behind Tehran’s foremost Islamic rival, thereby increasing the impetus for the Iranians to develop nuclear arms. If the United States is truly interested in supporting stability and competing with China in the Middle East, it needs to carefully extract itself from the region’s morass, not dive deeper in.

Iraq war strengthened Iran, US presence needed to deter, even if the US caused the problem in the first place

John Allen Gay is executive director of the John Quincy Adams Society and coauthor of War With Iran: Political, Military, and Economic Consequences., 3-24, 23, The Iraq War’s Worst Legacy: Endless Confrontation With Iran, The Iraq War’s Worst Legacy: Endless Confrontation With Iran | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/iraq-war%E2%80%99s-worst-legacy-endless-confrontation-iran-206338

This month marks twenty years since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. The bloodshed that followed cost Iraq and America dearly. Yet there was a winner in the chaos: Iraq’s neighbor and rival Iran. The invasion removed Iraq as a check on Iran; Tehran no longer had to fear the nation that invaded it in 1980. Ever since, U.S. strategy in the Middle East has had to deal with the consequences of a more powerful Tehran. “U.S. forces,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Baghdad on March 7, “are ready to remain in Iraq.” Blocking Iran there and elsewhere has become a U.S. job that will never end. The invasion and the subsequent dismantling of the Iraqi state prompted lawlessness and the emergence of a new order rooted in violence, sectarianism, and corruption. A weak Iraq left the door open for Iranian influence. Tehran built militias and political movements within Iraq’s Shia majority and used these groups to target U.S. interests. The groups demanded a veto in Iraqi politics, using force when they didn’t get their way. The militias contributed to a sectarianization of politics and society that saw Baghdad segregate itself and religious minorities flee. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s own efforts to make the Iraqi military loyal to him alone contributed to its collapse against the Islamic State in 2014. An army that had received a decade of U.S. training and equipment abandoned Iraq’s second-largest city under pressure from a small band of lowlifes. ISIS’s rise (itself an aftershock of the Iraq invasion, which spawned ISIS predecessor Al Qaeda in Iraq) strengthened Iran’s hand further. As the Iraqi army failed, militias answered the call. Many of these militias were backed by Tehran. Efforts to integrate the militias into Iraq’s armed forces only bandaged the problem. These militias remain outside the state’s control, and have routinely shot rockets at the U.S. embassy and U.S. bases. In 2019, they stormed the Green Zone when the United States hit back. Counterbalancing these militias’ influence has become a major justification for the continued presence of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq. Countering the militias is a mission that will never end. The militias also smuggle arms into Syria and Lebanon. These weapons have triggered an Israeli interdiction campaign that has been a headache for U.S. efforts in the region. The weapons flow contributes to the Israeli military’s warnings that its next war with Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah will require a fast, aggressive air campaign that could have huge costs in Lebanon. U.S.-made bombs plunging into Beirut apartment blocks, even if aimed at Hezbollah bunkers below, will hurt America’s image in the region. And blocking the Iranian supply lines into the area has become a justification for keeping U.S. troops in Syria. Blocking roads our invasion opened is another mission that will never end. The problems stretch beyond Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The Gulf states fear an Iran unchecked by Iraq and seek a security guarantor. America is their best choice. The Iraq War and the Global War on Terrorism drew a huge U.S. troop presence to their shores; fear of Iran, plus big Gulf investments in the U.S. policy and defense advisory sectors, have helped keep them there. Crises with Iran have seen deployments of scarce U.S. assets like Patriot missile batteries. At bottom, the invasion reflected a shift in U.S. Middle East strategy away from seeking balance and towards seeking transformation. We thought a free Iraq would inspire a wave of democratization in the region. This did not happen. Worse, we now do the balancing ourselves, rather than relying on our enemies’ self-interest to do the balancing for us. And Washington’s policy sphere is reluctant to return to letting the region balance itself. Balancing Iran is another mission that will never end. Last but not least are Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. Their current state—high levels of enrichment, multiple enrichment facilities, and a diverse array of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles—is inseparable from the Iraq War. Without Iraq to fear, Iran has more power to aim at the United States. Top U.S. worries like nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles are not good tools for Iran to counter a strong Iraqi state on its border. Conventional military power, backed by short-range ballistic missiles, would be far better suited for that task. Building these Iraq-focused capabilities would draw resources away from Iranian efforts to develop tools for fighting America and Israel. To be sure, some Iranian advances in short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Iraq would have also increased the Iranian threat to U.S. bases in the region. But those risks are not at the same scale as the Iranian nuclear and missile threat we face today. With Iran enriching uranium to near-weapons-grade purity, fears are growing that Israel may strike Tehran’s nuclear sites, a move that could spark a major war. Of course, we cannot know what the Middle East would look like today if the United States had not gone into Iraq. Yet it’s hard to envision a pathway that would have seen a similar rise in Iranian power. Invading Iraq brought many evils, but our long confrontation with Iran—one that may yet yield war—is one of the most enduring.

Can’t solve Israel-Palestine – Netanyahu can’t restrain the hard-liners without going to jail

Miller & Simon, 1-13, 23, Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former U.S. State Department Middle East analyst and negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations. He is the author of The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President; Steven Simon is the Robert E. Wilhelm fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a research analyst at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His new book, Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East, will be released in April, Foreign Policy, Biden Is About to Have His Hands Full in the Middle East, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/01/13/biden-united-states-middle-east-iran-israel/

Yet Biden may soon have his hands full with smaller yet determined regional powers eager to advance their own interests and unwilling to play by U.S. rules. With five states—Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Libya—in various stages of dysfunction, the Arab world will remain a source of instability, with the exception being wealthy Persian Gulf states (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) that are acting with greater independence from Washington while insisting on U.S. support. But it’s really the two non-Arab powers, Iran and Israel—one, the United States’ foremost regional adversary, the other its closest regional friend—that may set the agenda for the next two years. And the implications of that are not particularly uplifting. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to office, the Biden administration now confronts the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, one likely to cause a serious rise in—if not an explosion of—tensions over the Palestinian issue and Iran’s nuclear program. If you believe the rhetoric of its extremist ministers—and there’s no reason not to—this coalition is determined to alter Israel’s democratic system, transform society along Jewish exclusivist lines, sow tensions with Israel’s Arab citizens, and erect a gravestone over the buried hope of a Palestinian state by permanently lashing the majority of the West Bank and Jerusalem to Israel. How bad the situation in the West Bank becomes may be tied to the degree to which Netanyahu can exercise influence over coalition partners he desperately needs to pass legislation that will postpone, if not nullify, his ongoing trial. Being not as far right as other members of his party, Netanyahu would much prefer a coalition without extremists and may be already thinking about broadening his government at some point. But his legal travails are existential. Without some skyhook, he almost certainly faces prison if convicted—or, more likely, a plea bargain and an exit from politics. He cannot, therefore, jettison the extremists; for the time being, he’ll have to manage them. Netanyahu will do what he can to smother or divert their most egregious policies, but it’s hard to see how he can completely control them and easy to see how the fiefdoms they’ve carved out in their respective governmental roles could wreak havoc in relations with Israeli Arabs as well as Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Itamar Ben-Gvir, now the newly created minister of national security, ran on a platform of demonizing Palestinian citizens of Israel and will have a great deal of authority over the border police, an additional 2,000 troops he’s taken from the Israel Defense Forces, and Israel’s national police force. He will be free to reset their rules of engagement and permissible tactics, particularly in the mixed cities where Arabs and Jews interact. He will be able to redirect forces from the West Bank to the Negev or Galilee, which will not only endow him with unprecedented coercive power within the Green Line but also in effect erase it by creating a unitary jurisdiction for Israeli law enforcement. Bezalel Smotrich, perhaps the more dangerous of the two ministers, will have near-total authority for managing the lives of the inhabitants in Area C (more than 60 percent of the West Bank)—some 400,000 Israelis and 280,000 Palestinians—with responsibilities for all authorities related to infrastructure, planning, construction, energy, electricity supply, environmental protection, and more. Smotrich’s strategic goal is to dilute the influence of the Ministry of Defense and work to apply Israeli civilian law to these areas, effectively accelerating annexation.

The US needs to use diplomacy to push Azerbaijan to open the Lachin corridor

Ghazarian, 1-13, 22, Salpi Ghazarian is director of special projects at the USC Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies, LA Times, Op-Ed: The cruel blockade against Armenians shows the world order has collapsed, https://sports.yahoo.com/op-ed-cruel-blockade-against-110137776.html

The fighting ended with a ceasefire formally codified by the three political entities: Armenians of the Autonomous Republic of Karabakh, and the leadership of the republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Karabakh connection to Armenia was assured through a corridor of land that Armenians controlled, to offer a lifeline — a link to the outside world — while negotiators worked to reach agreement on Karabakh’s future political status. When I returned to Karabakh a year later, I traveled along that corridor, in an old Soviet truck carrying children’s school supplies that came from France. Since then, the corridor has been open. During the vicious 44-day war in 2020, it was open. Yes, during the fierce Azerbaijani onslaught intended to take complete control of Karabakh and its surrounding regions, which resulted in an estimated 7,000 deaths, the corridor was open. The new ceasefire document stipulated that the future of the corridor requires a negotiated resolution, and until that happens, Russian peacekeepers would ensure access and travelers’ safety. To close it now, as Azerbaijan has done since early December, means strangling the Armenian population to force a desired political outcome. Food, supplies and medical help can’t get in. Energy shortages persist. People cannot travel out. Families remain divided. Armenians are blockaded, and Russians are not keeping the peace. Instead, Russia has made clear to Armenians that their “Western ways” — democracy and an open, free society — are not only undesirable but punishable. Azerbaijan is pursuing control of the territory without its people, who want a continuation of the democracy they have experienced for nearly 30 years. Speaking of Armenians in Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s insistence that they live under its flag, President Aliyev cynically claimed that “just like all the other citizens of Azerbaijan, their rights and security will be provided.” It would be laughable if it weren’t so chilling. Azerbaijan’s dictator is unaccountable to his people, and his country has a track record of repressing its own citizens. It is only the pressure or sanctions of the international community that has a chance of changing Azerbaijan’s actions. The United States and the European Union, along with members of the U.N. Security Council, have called on Baku to restore traffic on the corridor and open the route to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. They need to do more. The letter from Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and L.A. City Council President Paul Krekorian is a welcome move urging President Biden to take further steps to open air and land links immediately. Armenians are now standing as a bastion of freedom in a volatile neighborhood. They are paying for it with a winter blockade, completely isolated and defenseless. It is clear that the Russian war on Ukraine has upended all international rules. There seems to be no global order left. Sovereignty — which is always fragile — has lost its meaning. Will the new world order be designed by autocrats for whom ethnic cleansing in broad daylight is a political tool? What is allowed to happen to the Armenians of Karabakh will be an indication of what kind of world awaits us all.

Reduced US security commitment to the Middle East increases China’s influence

Anthony, 1-13, 23, Benjamin Anthony is Co-Founder & CEO of The MirYam Institute, Can Israel Navigate U.S.-China Competition?, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/can-israel-navigate-us-china-competition-206110

China is rapidly becoming a major player in the Middle East; no longer just in terms of oil imports, but in regional security affairs, as well. Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia was designed at least partly as a counterbalance to China’s ties with Iran. Chuck emphasizes that one of the reasons for the Gulf countries’ interest in expanded ties with China is their decreasing confidence in the U.S. security commitment to them and the understanding that Israel, especially under the new government, cannot constitute even a substitute for the United States. Danny starts a discussion of the impact of U.S.-Chinese ties on U.S. ties with Israel, including the Phalcon case, one of the worst crises in U.S.-Israeli relations.

Sustaining Arab-Palestinian truce critical to prevent an explosion of violence

Dangot, 1-13, 23, Major General Eitan Dangot is a publishing Expert at The MirYam Institute. He concluded his extensive career as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (C.O.G.A.T.) in 2014, Will Temple Mount Tensions Spark Another Arab-Israeli Crisis?, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/will-temple-mount-tensions-spark-another-arab-israeli-crisis-206114

Events surrounding the Temple Mount can pour fuel on the fire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and ignite an inferno, literally, within hours. On the Israeli-Jewish side, the issue also serves as a detonator for extremist radical elements, who preach incessantly for the establishment of a Jewish foothold on the Temple Mount and wish to fly a red flag in front of the bull. Activities of this nature can upend Israeli government policies and the State of Israel’s ability to maintain law and order in Jerusalem. In Benjamin Netanyahu’s new cabinet, several parties have full-fledged right-wing lawmakers coming to power for the first time. The Temple Mount is part of the political hardcore environment that they grew up in. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s ascension to the Temple Mount on January 3 has far-reaching implications as it threatens the delicate security balance in Jerusalem, in the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and in Gaza. His decision to ascend the Temple Mount in one of his first acts as a minister was a deliberate provocation against Arab citizens of the State of Israel, Palestinians, and the Arab states of the region. It is clear that from now on, every move and every statement made by Ben Gvir and some of his colleagues will come under scrutiny and in the near future will trigger a response, perhaps in words but also possibly in actions. Before ascending to the Temple Mount, Ben Gvir should have adopted the maxim, “think first, act later.” Still, it is important to clarify that the status quo on the Temple Mount has not changed, and there is no plan to change it. Netanyahu had the option—one that he has adopted in the past—to instruct his ministers to refrain from visiting the Temple Mount and allow only rank-and-file ministers of the Knesset to do so. So far, he has yet to implement such a policy this time around. At the same time, Hamas has good reasons to avoid going to war over this issue. The current situation (where Gaza is quiet, but the West Bank is witnessing an increase in terrorist attacks and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces), together with the declining status of the Palestinian Authority, serves Hamas’s strategy well. This has been the case since May 2021 when Hamas initiated a conflict with Israel to portray itself as the protector of Al Aqsa. Hamas is currently hard at work rehabilitating its military force in Gaza, while at the same time exploiting opportunities to improve the strip’s economy and alleviate some of the pressure on it. Israel has granted some 20,000 work visas for Gazans, who bring much-needed cash into the Gazan economy. Meanwhile, Hamas is strengthening its collaboration with Hezbollah, Iran, and regional terror elements to optimize its position on the day the ceasefire is called off. In the near future, the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, which begins on March 26, could have game-changing potential in the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. And the Temple Mount’s role could be critical here. The month preceding Ramadan is historically associated with an increase in hatred and religious agitation. This is when it will be easiest to spark an explosion among Palestinians and Arab Israelis on the streets of East Jerusalem and in Israel. Israel’s strategy, particularly that of this new government, must be aimed at preventing this scenario wherever possible.

40% of Gazans are food insecure

Middle East Monitor, 1-13, 22, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20230113-unrwa-over-40-of-gazans-are-severely-food-insecure/, UNRWA: Over 40% of Gazans are severely food insecure

Over 40 per cent of Gazans are now severely food insecure, which means that they are regularly going a day without food,” UNRWA affirmed in a new report on Wednesday, The Palestinian Information Centre reports. “After 16 years of a land, air and sea blockade, life in Gaza has become increasingly dire,” UNRWA said. “The situation has been compounded by repeated cycles of hostilities, heightened tensions and violence, political instability and the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, these factors have destabilised the lives of individuals and communities and have further increased the hardships they are facing. Gaza is on ‘life support’ with 80 per cent of the population dependent on humanitarian assistance,” the UN refugee agency underscored. “Currently, three out of four Gazans rely on emergency food assistance – and, despite this support, the rate of food insecurity is rising. With exceptionally high poverty and unemployment rates, an already fragile humanitarian situation threatens to deteriorate further,” it added.

Israel constantly violating Lebanon’s air space

Middle East News, 1-13, 23, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20230113-lebanon-fails-to-intercept-israel-drone/,  Lebanon fails to intercept Israel drone

The Lebanese army announced today it had failed to intercept an Israeli drone flown over Lebanon’s southern airspace, a statement revealed. It added that a patrol was inspecting a separate incident in the south when a “drone belonging to the Israeli enemy violated Lebanese airspace,” prompting soldiers to shoot in its direction. A Lebanese security source told Reuters they failed to shoot it down. It comes after the Lebanese army said earlier this week that an Israeli drone and gunboat violated the Lebanese air space and maritime border, Anadolu News Agency reports. An Israeli army drone violated the Lebanese airspace “from opposite the town of Ramyah towards the town of Marwahin for 20 minutes,” the Lebanese Army said in a Monday’s statement. Lebanon says Israel violates its airspace and territorial waters on an almost daily basis and had called on the UN to intervene to stop these violations, especially with regard to the Israeli bombing of Syria from Lebanese airspace.

Blockade of Nagorno-Barabakh is genocide

Sarkissian, 1-12, 23, Dr. Armen Sarkissian, a scientist and former diplomat, served as the fifth prime minister and the fourth president of the Republic of Armenia. His next book, The Small States Club: How Small Smart States Can Save the World, will be published in November 2023, https://time.com/6246850/armenia-azerbaijan-nagorno-karabakh-lachin-corridor/

For the past five weeks, the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, sandwiched between Azerbaijan and Armenia, has been blockaded by Azerbaijan. As much of the world celebrated Christmas and New Year, over 120,000 Armenian residents of the region—the oldest continuously inhabited Armenian homeland, dotted with Armenian churches and monasteries and monuments predating the spread of Christianity to Europe by decades—were cut off from the world. A group of Azerbaijani citizens identifying as “environmental activists” barricaded the Lachin corridor, a mountainous road that serves as the only path between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, since December 12. The flow of food and medicine fell to a trickle before the supplies essential for the continuation of normal life gradually disappeared altogether. A place that once received 400 tons of food and medical supplies daily now barely receives a few carloads on a good day. Hospitals have indefinitely put surgeries on hold. Children are going hungry. There is an acute shortage of fuel as temperatures drop to below -4°C, and families are burning scraps to heat their homes. Armenians, a people who endured a protracted genocide under the Ottoman Empire before being exposed to Soviet autocratic rule in the 20th century, are being subjected to collective punishment in the 21st century with the intent of driving them out of their home. Nagorno-Karabakh, a historically Armenian territory, is known to Armenians as Artsakh. Despite its history and demography, it was handed to Soviet Azerbaijan in 1921 by Joseph Stalin, who implemented the imperial method of disrupting cohesive national and ethnic communities to keep diverse populations in check. In 1988, the people of Artsakh voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to dissolve Moscow’s artificial cartography, secede from Soviet Azerbaijan and assert their Armenian identity. This defiant act of self-determination resulted in yet more massacres of Armenians, whose wish was not honored. Upon the USSR’s collapse, Artsakh ended up inside the Soviet frontiers inherited by Azerbaijan. The Armenians, however, defeated Azerbaijan in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, which lasted until 1994, when the region proclaimed its autonomy. Then, in 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Azerbaijan launched a surprise offensive—now known as the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War—with the open involvement and assistance of Turkey. Azerbaijan wanted the land—without the people who inhabit the land. Its battlefield gains were followed by a ruthless effort to raze all traces of Armenian history. While Armenia maintains a medieval mosque in its capital, has excellent relations with the Islamic world and welcomes people of all faiths, Azerbaijan has taken to disfiguring and destroying Armenian churches in the territory it took as a matter of policy. Hundreds of Armenian servicemen still remain in Azeri captivity The humanitarian catastrophe we are now witnessing—or, more accurately, the world is refusing to witness—is a textbook enactment of ethnic cleansing. More than a dozen nongovernmental organisations, including Genocide Watch, have issued a stark warning that Azerbaijan’s blockade is “designed to, in the words of the Genocide Convention, deliberately inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the end of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. All 14 risk factors for atrocity crimes identified by the UN Secretary-General’s Office on Genocide Prevention are now present.”

Syrian refugees in Turkey returning home now

IANS, 1-11, 23, https://in.investing.com/news/turkey-russia-syria-dialogue-to-facilitate-refugees-return-erdogan-3480490, Turkey, Russia, Syria dialogue to facilitate refugees’ return: Erdogan

The number of Syrian refugees returning to their homeland will increase as a result of new dialogues among Turkey, Russia and Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. As the security situation in northern Syria improves, the number of Syrians returning to their homes will increase, the Turkish President told the International Ombudsman Conference on Wednesday. Turkey hosts more than four million refugees, including 3.5 million Syrians who fled from their war-torn country, according to Erdogan. Nearly 550,000 Syrian refugees have returned to northern Syria where Turkey “has cleared of terrorism and made secure,” the Turkish President added. “The number will increase as the diplomatic contacts among Turkey, Russia and Syria bear fruit. We will continue to fulfill our duties of brotherhood, neighbourliness, and humanity,” he said. Syrian, Turkish, and Russian Defence Ministers, along with Intelligence Chiefs from the three countries, met in Moscow on December 28, marking the first high-level contact between Ankara and Damascus since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Xinhua news agency reported. Last week, Erdogan said he might meet his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad to foster peace and stability in the region. The two leaders have not met since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, as Turkey has backed Syrian rebels politically and militarily during the 11-year crisis.

 

US should increase diplomacy with Saudi Arabia in order to prevent it from building ties with China

Wabha & Zobak, 1-11, 23, Mariam Wahba is an Egyptian-American Middle East analyst. She is an Associate Director of Advocacy with the Philos Project and the co-host of the Americanish podcast; Zane Zovak foreign policy analyst who writes about the U.S.-China rivalry. His work has been featured in publications such as Foreign Policy, The Diplomat, The National Interest, and Defense One, Saudi Arabia Remains an Indispensable U.S. Ally, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/saudi-arabia-remains-indispensable-us-ally-206100

The momentum continued when Xi touched down in Riyadh. During Xi’s visit, he and MBS signed a strategic partnership between their respective nations, as well as facilitated a number of private sector deals between Saudi and Chinese companies in fields including information technology, genetics, mining, hydrogen energy, and manufacturing totaling more than $29 billion. Notably, Huawei signed a memorandum of understanding with a Saudi government ministry that enables the telecom conglomerate to build partnerships with local data centers. The two also agreed to make this a more regular dialogue, as they continue to find tangible ways to deepen their relationship where their interests align. For the Saudis, those interests include gaining access to massive investment from the world’s second-largest economy. The Saudis may also see ties with Beijing as a hedge against their biggest regional threat, Iran—the thought being that Iranian reliance on China might be a lever by which to moderate Tehran’s malign behavior in the region. Moves closer to China increased when the Biden administration announced its intention to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a deal the kingdom has vehemently opposed. American promises and declarations about “longer and stronger” during negotiations did little to assuage Saudi concerns. But mass protests in Iran and the regime’s response have seemingly changed the calculus for the Biden administration, leading it to announce, perhaps unintentionally, that the Iran deal is dead. While this could ease some tension between Washington and Riyadh, America should officially commit to this position, both to dispel the fiction that such a return is feasible and to reassure our partners in the region. More broadly, in order to salvage America’s fragile position in the Middle East, the White House needs to invite a Saudi delegation to Washington to outline why Saudi interests are better served when Riyadh partners with the United States over China, while also being frank about why it matters to America. First, the administration should reassure the KSA that the United States is better equipped and more likely to contain Iran. This starts with accepting that the window of opportunity for a nuclear deal has passed. Since JCPOA negotiations began, the KSA and others in the region have viewed Washington’s concessions as a sign of weakness, proof the United States was abandoning its allies. In order to counter this narrative, the United States should denounce Iran’s shifting demands and publicly call the time of death on the JCPOA. Second, the United States should increase its Foreign Military Sales to the KSA. This would help arm them with cutting-edge products against Iran and the proxies it employs to destabilize the region. Iranian proxies also target longtime American ally, Israel, and that dynamic is unlikely to improve with a greater Chinese presence. When Xi met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas during his recent trip, he reiterated that China “always stands with the Palestinian people.” Third, Washington should work with corporate America to provide investment alternatives to Chinese products. Not only would closer economic ties advance American commercial interests, but they would also help ensure the KSA doesn’t become technologically dependent on China. Recent telecom deals may seem innocuous but Huawei and other Chinese companies have been banned from the United States and elsewhere due to their affiliation with the CCP and involvement in skirting sanctions and in enabling minority repression. Before the KSA goes all in on China, the United States should present alternatives to these blacklisted businesses. Saudi Arabia has long been a leader in the Arab world and will likely continue to do so for years to come. To retain this strategic relationship, the United States needs to make it clear that its shared interests have not shifted. With China and Xi Jinping attempting to disrupt over seven decades of mutual understanding, the onus is on Washington to reassert its position as the indispensable ally.

The US needs to push Turkey to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO

Andrew Rettman, 1-10, 23, EU Observor, No sign of quick Nato deal, as Turkey and Sweden dig in, https://euobserver.com/nordics/156588

Turkey and Sweden have hit a wall in talks on Nato accession, with some predicting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won’t give way till July. The deadlock comes after Sweden indicated it won’t extradite anybody else to Turkey just to please Ankara. “We have done what we said we would do, but they [Turkey] also say that they want things that we cannot or do not want to give them,” Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson said on Sunday (8 January). “We have complied with all parts of the agreement with Turkey and Finland, and we continue to implement them,” the Swedish foreign ministry also told EUobserver on Tuesday, referring to a pact on Nato enlargement between Ankara, Helsinki, and Stockholm. “It is up to Turkey to decide when ratification will take place. We cannot speculate on a specific date,” Sweden said. “I think, now they [Sweden] lost their patience and want to make the Erdoğan regime understand that they demand the impossible,” added Bülent Keneş, an exiled Turkish journalist in Stockholm. Sweden and Finland are ending decades of neutrality by joining Nato in reaction to Russia’s war in Europe, but Erdoğan has demanded Sweden hand over Keneş and 42 others in return for ratification. Swedish courts extradited two people but ruled Keneş can keep his asylum, before Sweden now claimed it has “complied with all parts” of Turkey’s request. Turkey had made similar demands of Finland, who extradited nobody. “Finland has constructively implemented the trilateral memorandum agreed in Madrid last year,” the Finnish foreign ministry also told EUobserver on Tuesday, when asked if there was anything left to do. The three capitals are meant to iron out their differences in a trilateral “contact group”. But this last met on 25 November and there is no date set for its first meeting this year. For his part, Finnish president Sauli Niinistö warned in a speech on 1 January: “It is possible that the delay will extend beyond the [Finnish] parliamentary elections this spring [April]”. Some EU diplomats fear the real deadline is the Turkish election in June. “Erdoğan needs a row to show voters he’s a strong man,” an EU contact said. “Two rich, Western countries seeking his accord, doing his homework, filing reports to him — it’s just too politically delicious,” he added. But one Turkey expert predicted Erdoğan will orchestrate the climax of his “drama” to coincide with the Nato summit in Vilnius in July. “Between the Turkish elections and the Nato summit will be the big moment for a breakthrough,” Asli Aydıntaşbaş, from the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington, said. “It’s a question of his [Erdoğan’s] personality — he’s an insatiable negotiator and he sensed that the Swedes were willing to do anything, so his list kept getting longer”, she added. And ultimately, Keneş and Aydıntaşbaş added, Nato’s major powers will have to lean in to clinch a deal, in a final belittling of the Nordic sates. “In the end, the Americans will have to come into the room and push … it’ll take US intervention,” Aydıntaşbaş said. “If the US, the UK, France, and Germany among others put their weight on the issue they could easily solve the deadlock,” Keneş said. Nato speaks Nato and EU top officials already applied gentle pressure in remarks in Brussels on Tuesday. “Finland and Sweden agreed to lift restrictions on arms exports [to Turkey], that has already been done. And they also agreed to work more closely in the fight against terrorism, that is also taking place,” Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said. He underlined that both were covered by Nato’s Article 5 mutual-defence clause in de facto terms while awaiting ratification. “It’s inconceivable that Finland and Sweden will face any military threats without Nato reacting to that,” he said.

Iran has a full-fledged defense partnership backed by Russia and is engaging in aggression

Cohen, 1-5, 23, UKRAINE AND THE NEW TWO WAR CONSTRUCT, https://warontherocks.com/2023/01/ukraine-and-the-new-two-war-construct/, Raphael S. Cohen is a senior political scientist and the director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program at Project AIR FORCE at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.tns

But the geopolitical winds are changing. For starters, American adversaries are increasingly militarily intertwined. Russia has long been in the arms business — selling air defense systems to Iran and aircraft engines to China, among other items. Today, though, the relationships are more bidirectional. Iran gave drones and North Korea shipped artillery shells to Russia to support its war in Ukraine. China supplied Iranian proxies with drones. North Korea proliferated missile technology to Iran and potentially offered its nuclear know-how as well. Military cooperation between American adversaries now goes beyond mere weapons sales. Iran and Russia supposedly colluded on the response to the Syrian civil war, coordinating their military activities in the country. More recently, Iran provided advisors to assist Russia in using its drones in Ukraine. In return, Tehran has reportedly asked Moscow for help quelling protests. As National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said recently, Russo-Iranian ties are deepening into a “full-fledged defense partnership.” Meanwhile, China and Russia have said their friendship has “no limits.” While China only has offered tepid support for Russia in its war in Ukraine, Beijing still has an interest in deepening military ties with Moscow. In fact, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has — at least in some estimations — doubled down on his relationship with Russia. The two have conducted multiple joint bomber patrols and participated in military exercises with much fanfare. And the timelines for each of these threats are accelerating. Iran now regularly engages in low-level military aggression, including missile attacks near American diplomatic facilities. North Korea has hit another record year of missile tests. Russia is fighting a war in Ukraine and has threatened nuclear war. And the timeline for a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan may have accelerated. Consequently, it is no longer implausible that more than one threat would bubble up at once. Indeed, several seem to already be bubbling.

Iran threat

The Su-35 procurement is not only a defense deal but also a strategic manifestation, proving the bitter cost of appeasement and naivety.

 

by Can Kasapoglu

 

Taking advantage of Russia’s growing reliance on low-cost Iranian weapons amidst its stumbling campaign in Ukraine, Iran is now set to procure dozens of Russian Su-35 aircraft. While some Western assessments tend to downplay the gravity of the acquisition, claiming that it would not drastically alter the airpower balance in the Gulf, the Su-35 would give an unprecedented boost to Tehran’s control over the Iranian airspace. Such a capability development effort is particularly dangerous as the regime is moving closer to a nuclear bomb.

More importantly, the ambitious barter of Russian Su-35 fighters in return for Iranian drones, and probably ballistic missiles, manifests a grim calculus for the West. Contemporary military transactions between Tehran and Moscow have unveiled a new geopolitical episode. Washington and its allies are now facing a more aggressive and hostile axis than ever.

Enter the Su-35: The Flanker on Steroids

Given Tehran’s obsolete air warfare arsenal and very large airspace, the Su-35 is a very lucrative catch. Hailing from the Flanker baseline, the Su-35 is a Russian 4.5th generation air-superiority fighter that has a better thrust-to-weight ratio than its predecessor, the Su-27. The platform is super-maneuverable, meaning that it is capable of performing controlled maneuvers that would otherwise be impossible via regular aerodynamics. Its thrust-vectoring engines, the nozzles of the Saturn AL-41FS turbofans, can independently point in different directions. This kinematic edge allows the Su-35 to pursue very high angles of attack and makes it capable of moving in one direction when its nose points in another. The aircraft enjoys potent agility and Mach 2.25 maximum speed. The R-73 missiles, which Iran will probably receive, can be fired “off-boresight” at enemy platforms outside the frontal cone of the aircraft via helmet-mounted sights, enabling at least a 70 percent kill probability. Overall, we are talking about a truly menacing aircraft, especially when it comes to within-visual-range air warfare.

The Su-35 should also be treated carefully in beyond-visual-range combat as well. The aircraft’s X-band, passive electronically scanned array (PESA) Irbis-E radar is highly powerful. The official factsheet claims that the Irbis-E radar’s detection range is between 350 and 400 kilometers for a target with a 3m2 radar cross-section, which is comparable to a standard fourth-generation fighter with no low-observability features. The Su-35’s radar configuration and the digital cockpit provide the pilot with good frontal-aspect awareness.

The Irbis-E radar supports “track-while-scan” (TWS) mode for up to eight targets in long-range air combat. Simply put, TWS mode offers a trade-off between lower resolution (due to limited radar energy directed on targets) and being able to engage multiple targets at a time. Lessons learned from the ongoing air war in Ukraine suggest that when the Russian Su-35s launched R-77-1 beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles, supported by the Irbis-E radar’s TWS mode, the Ukrainian pilots did not receive any warning from their radar-warning receivers (RWR) for a long duration. While relying on TWS decreases the chances of a kill compared to single-target-track, it puts pressure on the adversary within a large air theater. As a result, a combination of the Irbis-E radar and R-77-1 BVR missiles with active radar guidance would foster the Iran air deterrent’s combat air patrol (CAP) capacity.

Schizophrenia Treatment A

While Tehran’s Su-35 procurement alone would not turn the Middle East’s military balance upside down, it will definitely make Iranian airspace a more pernicious place to operate. This potential change would pertain to the Iran–Gulf Arab military balance as well as Israel’s preventive strike card.

Except for Israel, Washington’s allies in the Middle East do not operate fifth-generation, stealth tactical aircraft. While it does not mean that American (advanced F-16 and F-15 variants) and European (Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale) solutions are dwarfed by Russia’s Su-35s, one thing is clear; no expert can claim absolute superiority favoring the 4th and 4.5th Western aircraft against the latest Flankers. This military calculus is a problem in itself. Because, just like the United States Armed Forces, Washington’s allies in the region have not engaged in any armed conflict without enjoying an undisputed defense technological edge.

With outgoing defense minister Benny Gantz hinting at the prospects of preventive military action against Iran’s nuclear program “in two or three years,” Iran’s Su-35 procurement has gained additional importance. As to any Israeli F-35I versus Iranian Su-35 scenario, one has to consider doctrinal approaches in modern air combat and military theory.

Conventional wisdom suggests that thanks to its advanced sensors suit (including its AESA radar), an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would detect a Su-35 further away than the Su-35 could detect the Joint Strike Fighter. Besides, the F-35’s NATO-standards datalinks and network-centric information superiority assets are more advanced than those of the Su-35. Furthermore, the beyond-visual-range gap between the two aircraft does not merely emanate from the F-35’s state-of-the-art intelligence capabilities or its stealth status. The Su-35, like the rest of the Flanker baseline, is a large platform in the tactical aircraft segment. Besides, its high-thrust engines make it extremely detectable.

Overall, one can assume that the F-35 would land the first punch in a brawl before the Su-35 anticipates that the duel has started. Nevertheless, two critical factors challenge this optimistic assessment.

First, in a hypothetical preventive strike scenario, Israel will have a very limited, if any, chance for dispatching combat search and rescue missions in hostile Iranian territory. Besides, given the military-geostrategic imperatives, Israeli aircraft will not have all the time in the world to accomplish their missions and head back home. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards would be after every single Israeli pilot to gain political leverage. Aerial combat is not a cage fight where two athletes, with other conditions remaining the same, fight in an isolated octagon. In case of a military action to delay Iran’s nuclear breakthrough, Israeli F-35Is will have to operate deep in Iranian airspace protected by a network of layered defenses, as well as the Su-35 CAPs. It is not a secret that the Revolutionary Guards have been after the Russian S-400 strategic air defense system for a long time. With Russia being desperately reliant on Iranian drones and missiles, Tehran might be very close to securing an S-400 deal in addition to the advanced aircraft. While this lethal combination would not render the preventive strike option impossible, it would decidedly alter the risk assessment.

Second, although present war-gaming results are more accurate than ever thanks to computational simulation technologies, we still do not have any tangible combat record to grasp how the F-35 versus the Su-35 bout could play out. Let us revisit some important facts: Unlike America’s other fifth-generation tactical aircraft, the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 is not an air-superiority platform. The F-35, therefore, would have to rely on its stealth, superb sensors capacity, and advanced beyond-visual-range weapons to survive against the Su-35. The Russian Su-35, however, is a textbook air-superiority aircraft with a distinctive design philosophy suitable for hunting down enemy platforms. The Su-35 can easily outpace and outmaneuver the F-35 if it comes to that. Almost all military writings, which rightfully favored the F-35 over the Su-35, assumed that an engagement would not boil down to within-visual-range air combat for obvious reasons. However, the ironclad Clausewitzian principle of warfighting, the friction factor, spells Murphy’s law for combatants: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Russia-Iran Military Axis Grows Dangerous

The greater geostrategic picture is not any better than the military aspects of Iran’s Su-35 procurement. Having already transferred thousands of loitering munitions to Russia, Iran has become a major drone warfare systems supplier to the world’s second-largest arms exporter. Tehran is actively backing Putin’s invasion at NATO’s east while running a brutal crackdown at home. This is not a peacetime trend. Almost every week, the Russian military is deliberately targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and population centers with Iran-manufactured Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 kamikaze drones. Worse, Iran is now ready to transfer its Fateh-110 derivative short-range ballistic missiles to support Putin’s expansionist agenda in the post-Soviet space. Fateh-110 derivatives carry highly destructive warheads and follow a quasi-ballistic trajectory which makes them harder to intercept. If delivered in large numbers, Iranian ballistic missiles can cause massive civilian casualties in Ukraine.

In return, Iran is getting a pretentious defense package from Russia. The bad news is that the planned Su-35 deliveries might only be the tip of the iceberg. Hypothetically, Russian anti-ship missiles and strategic SAM systems would provide Iran with critical capabilities. Certain Soviet-remnant missile engine technologies can even help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) suitable to carry strategic nuclear payloads.

The geopolitics of the new challenge is highly dynamic. Tehran and Moscow have maliciously established a military logistics route stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Don-Volga Canal and the Sea of Azov. Iranian drone proliferation is now an eastern flank challenge to NATO. Likewise, advanced Russian air-superiority fighters will soon protect Iranian skies when the regime is moving closer to obtaining a nuclear warfare capacity.

These besetting developments happened because nations like Russia and Iran exploit any sign of weakness. After all, NATO’s frontier in Eastern Europe is now plagued with mass graves, like the ones in Bucha and Izyum. But Vladimir Putin is well are that the Biden administration will not provide Ukraine with ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles. The ruling elites of Iran, who are currently busy with drumhead courts and mass executions, know that their drone and missile transactions with Russia mark a clear violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231—the resolution which endorses the nuclear deal. However, the ayatollahs are relieved to see that Western administrations have been silent regarding Iran’s escalations. In a broader sense, the Su-35 procurement is not only a defense deal but also a strategic manifestation, proving the bitter cost of appeasement and naivety.

The US doesn’t need cobalt from West Asia

 

Bazilian & Brew, 1-6, 23, MORGAN D. BAZILIAN is the Director of the Payne Institute for Public Policy and Professor of at the Colorado School of Mines; GREGORY BREW is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Jackson School of Global Affairs at Yale University, Foreign Affairs, The Missing Minerals; To Shift to Clean Energy, America Must Rethink Supply Chains, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/missing-minerals-clean-energy-supply-chains

Shifting to a clean energy economy will require a decades-long investment in technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and batteries. All this infrastructure will require massive quantities of critical minerals. According to the International Energy Agency, the world will require four times more critical minerals in 2040 than are currently mined, from roughly seven million tons to 28 million tons. By that point, energy transition needs will consume 40 percent of the world’s copper production, 60 to 70 percent of its nickel and cobalt production, and almost 90 percent of its lithium production. For lithium, demand is expected to be 13 times greater in 2040 than it was in 2020. Over the last 5,000 years, the human race has mined 700 million tons of copper. That is roughly as much as will be needed over the next 22 years to meet global energy transition targets.

This level of supply production does not yet exist. New mines will have to be dug, and processing and refining industrial complexes will need to be built—both exceedingly difficult to do with existing permitting rules. The existing facilities, moreover, are almost entirely outside the United States. The production of critical minerals is concentrated in a handful of countries. Indonesia makes 30 percent of the world’s nickel, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies 70 percent of the world’s cobalt….

The Biden administration is already taking steps in this direction: in December, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed memorandums of understanding with officials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia, two major cobalt producers, demonstrating the United States’ desire to import greater amounts of cobalt and other minerals for EV battery manufacturing. The United States should work through the Mineral Security Partnership—a new pact that comprises Australia, Canada, France, and the United States—to fund overseas mining operations through the Export-Import Bank.

Collapse of the deal is actually better for deterrence, which stops war, but we need diplomacy to effectuate it

 

Geoffrey Aronson is a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC., 1-5, 23, The United States and Iran Are Headed Toward a New Nuclear Normal, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/united-states-and-iran-are-headed-toward-new-nuclear-normal-206076

Iran always saw this as an unequal and coercive bargain, which masked a continuing effort by Washington to undermine the Iranian revolution of 1979. Washington, for its part, proved unwilling, even in the wake of the 2015 agreement, to forego the use of ever-escalating economic sanctions at the heart of its policy of “maximum pressure” towards Tehran. The Trump administration’s repudiation of the agreement precipitated the complete breakdown of this enterprise, which the Biden administration has failed to remedy. But there is reason to believe that the JCPOA’s failure has created an opportunity to build a post-JCPOA understanding between Washington and Tehran that may indeed prove more lasting and effective than the moribund JCPOA in defusing Washington’s (if not Israel’s) concerns. The keystone of this new phase of U.S.-Iranian nuclear diplomacy is a mutual embrace of the concept of nuclear ambiguity. This cautious development in U.S.-Iran relations rests on a mutual Iranian and American interest to maintain and honor a studied uncertainty concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons capability. This posture stands in direct opposition to the were the key objectives at the heart of the JCPOA: to preempt, prevent, and aggressively monitor the expansion of an Iranian nuclear enrichment capability. The doctrine of nuclear ambiguity has a central place in nuclear diplomacy. U.S. and Russian doctrine are based on an openly declared nuclear capability, backed by the promise and the opposing arsenals of mutual nuclear destruction. North Korea maintains a declared nuclear arsenal and delivery system aimed at deterring foreign intervention and maintaining the regime in power. Nuclear ambiguity, in contrast, as practiced by Israel and now increasingly by Iran, all but ignores the issue of uranium enrichment that was at the center of the JCPOA era. It focuses instead on the deliberate decision not to declare the existence of a nuclear weapons capability, either as a deterrent or as a weapon. A policy of deliberate uncertainty about Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities helps to diffuse unwelcome pressure by the international community to disarm. In contrast, integrating nuclear weapons openly in its military doctrine could well instigate rather than deter armed conflict. The parameters of this new grand bargain between Tehran and Washington first appeared last summer. Not surprisingly, its key elements were announced in the context of U.S. commitments to Israel. The Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration, announced on July 14, 2022, reaffirms the longstanding “unshakeable U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, and especially to the maintenance of its qualitative military edge (QME).” As long as Washington maintains Israel’s conventional superiority over Iran and its neighbors, Jerusalem will keep its famed nuclear arsenal “in the basement”—that is, ambiguous, undeclared, and undeployed. Nothing new here. But the declaration, taking note of the new post-JCPOA policy on Iran unveils an unusually explicit and perhaps unprecedented public U.S. commitment, “to use all elements of its national power” to ensure that “Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. It is instructive to pay close attention to the extraordinary language now employed by the Biden administration to describe this U.S. policy. The U.S.-Israel agreement, subsequently repeated by administration officials in various venues, does not warn Iran against enriching uranium but rather advises it of certain unprecedented peril (employing “all elements of [U.S.] national power”) should it choose to acquire a nuclear bomb. The distinction is significant, all but inviting Iran to adopt a policy of nuclear ambiguity short of acquisition and deployment as a way of avoiding a preventative or preemptive U.S. (nuclear) attack. Iran appears to have internalized the new line declared by Washington. In the wake of the U.S. announcement, Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations and a top aide to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, acknowledged that Iran indeed has the ability to produce a nuclear weapon, but it is choosing not to do so—the formula at the heart of a policy of nuclear ambiguity. Kharazi told Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel that “In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60% and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium … Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one.” According to a statement by Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, “The window for reaching an agreement on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran will not always be open.” He continued: “If the Westerners want to continue their hypocritical and interventionist behavior, we will move in the direction of another plan.” That other plan—Macron’s “new framework”—could well be one based upon nuclear ambiguity. The new nuclear era now emerging in Washington and Tehran (if not necessarily Israel) repudiates two concepts at the heart of the moribund JCPOA. Ambiguity rather than clarity, intentions rather than capabilities, are at the heart of an era of strategic stability now tentatively on offer by Washington and Tehran. Yet unlike the blossoming of Washington’s relations with Israel that followed their nuclear understandings in the late 1960s, relations between Iran and Washington in the wake of this emerging nuclear rapprochement are set to remain in the deep freeze.

 

China-Saudi ties don’t undermine Iran containment

Alaqrout & Ahmadi, 1-3, 23, Ahmed Alqarout is a London-based expert in international political economy. His research focuses on the impact of financial and economic policies on global and regional stability with a special focus on the Middle East and Africa; Ali Ahmadi is a scholar of sanctions and geoeconomics. He is currently an Executive Fellow at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP) and a Research Fellow at the Brussels-based Vocal Europe foreign policy think tank. You can follow him on Twitter and Linkedin, Don’t Fear Saudi Arabia’s Pivot to China, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/don%E2%80%99t-fear-saudi-arabia%E2%80%99s-pivot-china-206073?page=0%2C1

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s recent trip to meet with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) set off a storm of anxiety in Washington. But it’s important to note that much of what was agreed to in these meetings is actually designed to marginalize Iran in regional and trans-regional affairs—a cause shared by the United States and many of its GCC partners.

The Saudi Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement with China comes just two years after Beijing signed a similar deal with Iran. The timing of the deals is thus not a coincidence but a calculable act by Saudi Arabia to contain Iran and curtail any gains it may have secured through such a strategic partnership. Hence, despite popular belief to the contrary, the United States stands to gain from the agreement, which will help ensure Iran’s regional and global power remains checked.

Iran and Saudi Arabia Look East

The Saudi-China strategic partnership should not be seen in isolation from the other agreements Riyadh has advanced in Asia. In a way, Saudi Arabia’s “Pivot to Asia” is its answer to Iran’s “Look to the East” strategy. Iran’s strategy was adopted by conservatives who see Asia and Eurasia as key avenues to expand Iranian influence at the expense of ties with the West. Thus, Saudi Arabia aims to contain Iran’s strides in Asia, supplementing similar U.S. efforts. Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries have been signing deals with Asian countries that Iran seeks stronger ties with to relieve itself from Western economic pressure. In the past two years, Riyadh has signed economic, diplomatic, and defense agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Kazakhstan, and Bangladesh, to mention a few. Therefore, Saudi Arabia’s closer ties with China should be seen as part of its efforts to contain Iran’s growing relationships in Asia and as a response to the Raisi administration’s shift away from the West.

By signing the China-Saudi Arabia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement, Saudi Arabia has cemented its economic partnership with China, which was already thriving, in a bid to limit the possibility of China moving closer to Iran. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, the trade volume between China and Saudi Arabia stood at $65 billion in 2020. The volume of trade in the same year between Iran and China lagged behind at $14.5 billion. The significant gap is partly explained by Western sanctions constraining Chinese companies’ ability to trade with Iran and vice versa. Nonetheless, the signing of the China-Iran Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020 had the potential to boost the volume of trade between the pair.

Furthermore, as the West threatens to sanction China and imposes broad sanctions on Russia, Riyadh is worried that a sanctioned China will seek to boost trade with Iran, as they both aim to resist Western economic statecraft. This was the case with Russia. Since the imposition of sanctions on Russia, Iran has sought to capitalize on the situation, signing large trade deals with Russia that have significantly boosted the volume of trade between the pair, which stood at only $4 billion as of 2021. For example, Iran signed $40 billion worth of gas deals with Russia’s Gazprom. There has also been a significant influx of Russian businesspeople and private sector interest in Iran over the past month and a greater emphasis on major joint infrastructure programs. Thus, Saudi Arabia worries that Iran’s trade with China will grow and tilt the balance in favor of Iran. The Saudi strategic partnership with China ensures that trade between Iran and China remains well below its own, maintaining the balance of power against Iran.

These efforts should also be seen as part of Riyadh’s desire to contain Iran’s championing of emerging non-Western-dominated international organizations. Iran is being elevated to full membership in the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and has applied to join the BRICS bloc led by Russia. Saudi Arabia worries that Iran’s growing importance in such alternative trade and security blocs will offer Iran relief from Western sanctions and enable it to continue pursuing regional activities that undermine Saudi interests. Saudi Arabia applied to join BRICS shortly after Iran filed its membership application and is considering joining the SCO along with Qatar and Bahrain. Furthermore, Riyadh’s commitment to connecting its Vision 2030 with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is also part of its effort to decrease Iran’s chances of being a key beneficiary of the BRI and ensure that China continues to hedge its BRI investments. The Saudi government is also seeking to make Chinese companies base their regional headquarters in the kingdom as part of its steps to ensure its economy dominates the Middle East. This will ensure that Chinese companies approach Iran as a second-priority market, not a strategic one, helping to undermine Iran’s effort to become a regional investment and trade hub for China and others.

On the geo-financial front, Iran and China have been pursuing the de-dollarization of trade and advancing the idea of the “petro-yuan.” By joining the SCO, a key international platform pushing for global de-dollarization, Iran can be a key regional power promoting that agenda. Not only would this help Tehran overcome Western sanctions, but it could also make it the most experienced and capable country in the region with the infrastructure to enable trade in non-dollar currencies. Thus, it is no coincidence that China called Saudi Arabia to join this effort and sell its oil in yuan. While Riyadh remains committed to selling energy exclusively in dollars, the China-Saudi partnership summit makes the “petro-yuan” an official objective, giving Saudi Arabia the ability to exercise that option in the future, especially if Iran advances de-dollarization as a result of its partnership with China. Largescale sales of petroleum through yuan-based contracts may not be possible in the immediate future, but the prospect of such a move would be worrying to Washington due to the importance of dollar-centered energy markets to the dollar’s status as the world’s dominant currency.

The Saudis are also eager to contain Iran’s technological advancement and growing military edge. The Iranian industrial base is perceived by Saudi Arabia as a threat that helps Iran export missiles, drones, and advanced communication technologies in the region, undermining Saudi interests. By warming up to China, Saudi Arabia is seeking to capitalize on China’s industrial capacity to build an advanced industrial base. Thus, China welcomed Saudi sovereign wealth fund investments in its industrial sector, which will help Riyadh gain knowledge to advance its industrial base and maintain the industrial balance with Iran. An agreement to build a drone factory in Saudi Arabia, while signed before the strategic partnership, complements Riyadh’s efforts to ensure the balance of power between Saudi Arabia and Iran remains checked. Of course, Saudi Arabia has access to Western arms that Iran lacks, but it is seeking to develop its indigenous military-industrial capacity.

 

Renewable energy undermines Iran’s oil economy and its renewable sectors

 

Alaqrout & Ahmadi, 1-3, 23, Ahmed Alqarout is a London-based expert in international political economy. His research focuses on the impact of financial and economic policies on global and regional stability with a special focus on the Middle East and Africa; Ali Ahmadi is a scholar of sanctions and geoeconomics. He is currently an Executive Fellow at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP) and a Research Fellow at the Brussels-based Vocal Europe foreign policy think tank. You can follow him on Twitter and Linkedin, Don’t Fear Saudi Arabia’s Pivot to China, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/don%E2%80%99t-fear-saudi-arabia%E2%80%99s-pivot-china-206073?page=0%2C1

The agreement’s commitment to renewable investment is key to Saudi efforts to contain Iran’s rise. Iran has pursued growth in its renewables industry in a bid to diversify its economy, strengthen its technological capacity, and secure new regional and international partnerships, including with China, which will help it overcome sanctions. GCC countries have been helping Yemen, Iraq, and Syria reduce their reliance on Iranian hydrocarbons by encouraging the use of renewables through initiatives and investments. With the signing of the deal with China, Saudi Arabia aims to gain an edge in the renewables sector, which will undercut Iranian energy sales in the region and beyond. China, as a leading power in renewables, stands to help Saudi Arabia achieve such objectives at the cost of Iran’s aspirations, which are already held back by Western sanctions.

Azerbaijan threatens genocide

 

Armenian Press, 1-4, 23, https://armenpress.am/eng/news/1101019/,

.Turkey, Azerbaijan openly threaten Armenia with war, occupation and genocide – Lemkin Institute

YEREVAN, JANUARY 4, ARMENPRESS. The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention published a report at the end of 2022 to reflect on the events of the past year that, in one way or another, are related to genocide. The report also includes Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), particularly the Azeri attacks on Armenia, the Azeri ceasefire violations in Artsakh and the Azeri blockade of Lachin Corridor.

“In 2022 the small Republic of Armenia faced increasing threats to its territorial integrity from neighboring Azerbaijan and its ally, Turkey. On September 13, in violation of the 2020 Tripartite Ceasefire Agreement that ended the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani military launched an attack against several eastern Armenian towns, committing horrific atrocities against Armenian soldiers that were filmed and shared widely on Azeri social media. These atrocities, and their dissemination, followed patterns from the 2020 war, when Azerbaijan sought to take over the ethnic Armenian enclave of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Although the external world acted quickly to end Azerbaijani aggression in September, Azerbaijan still occupies 140km of sovereign Armenian territory as well as important parts of Artsakh, including the city of Shushi. Since December 12 it has also blockaded the only road linking Artsakh to the outside world, causing a humanitarian crisis that may quickly become a catastrophe. The regime of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev openly promotes violent anti-Armenianism at home, celebrating war crimes while representing itself as a bastion of tolerance to the outside world. Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine has emboldened Turkey and Azerbaijan to aggressively push for a land corridor (the ‘Zangezur’ corridor) linking the two countries through the Armenian province of Syunik. They openly threaten the Armenian state with war, occupation, and genocide.

Russia cannot mediate because it’s too tied to Azerbaijan; any mediation depends on the West

 

Kirill Krivosheev, Carnegie Endowment for Internatiional Peace, Jan. 3, 2023, Russian Peacekeepers Find Themselves Sidelined in Nagorno-Karabakh,

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2023/01/03/russian-peacekeepers-find-themselves-sidelined-in-nagorno-karabakh-a79868

 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan to drift away from Russia’s mediation toward that of the West. Now, Russian peacekeepers in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region appear to be in a catch-22 situation. Azerbaijan is becoming increasingly emboldened by the Kremlin’s weakness, with the country’s pro-government media now describing the peacekeepers as “occupiers,” but Moscow’s hands are tied: any response will only make its situation worse…. Instead, therefore, Moscow is choosing to do next to nothing. Since the Lachin Corridor has been blocked, Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken to both Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilhar Aliyev, but that has not defused the tension. On the contrary: on Dec. 13, Azerbaijan also cut off the gas supply to Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh.

Israel is willing to make a deal with Saudi Arabia to contain Iran

Hadar, 1-4, 23, Leon Hadar, a Washington-based journalist and global affairs analyst, is the author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)., Saudi Arabia May Be Netanyahu’s Political Lifeline, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/saudi-arabia-may-be-netanyahu%E2%80%99s-political-lifeline-206077

Recognizing that President Joe Biden and his aides will not give him a green light to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, and may even try to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu believes that the only way to change the status quo and force the Americans and the West to confront the Islamic Republic before it is too late is to form a diplomatic and military front with Saudi Arabia and its Arab-Sunni allies. According to press reports, Netanyahu has met in the past with Saudi crown prince and prime minister Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and discussed the potential for cooperation between the Saudis and the Israeli in containing the shared Iranian threat. The hope in Jerusalem has been that in addition to facilitating trade and investment, the so-called Abraham Accords will become the first step in the process of creating a rapid response force modeled after NATO and consisting of Israel and the Gulf states, or perhaps an arrangement like the Asian Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, that would involve cooperation under U.S. leadership. But since the signing of the Abraham Accords, the world has changed in a way that has forced both the Israelis and the Saudis to consider the new international reality, in which growing U.S. military commitments in Europe and Asia are reducing the U.S. ability to sustain its long-term presence in the Middle East. These developments are making it unlikely that Washington would be ready to go to war against Iran if it decides to build a nuclear bomb. At the same time, the growing tensions between MBS and Biden over the Saudi refusal to pump more oil to reduce global energy prices amid the fallout from the Russo-Ukrainian War and Western sanctions have put Riyadh in a very difficult situation. The Saudis are trying to balance their economic interests, which run contrary to those of the United States, with their continued reliance on U.S. military support. Moreover, the Saudis are facing growing hostility in Washington from members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, who, in response to Saudi human rights violations, are calling for a reexamination of the U.S. partnership with the Saudis. As it happens, they are also urging a reassessment of the American “special relationship” with Israel. MBS and Bibi, both close buddies of Trump, likely recognize that a Trump restoration in 2024 isn’t going to happen and that, at a minimum, they will have to find ways to work with the Democrats in Washington. From that perspective, Israel and Saudi Arabia share an interest in ensuring that the United States remains militarily engaged in the Middle East. But at the same time, they also have to prepare for the eventuality that the Americans will start reducing their military commitments in the region and create a strategic vacuum, requiring the Israelis and the Arab Gulf states to maintain a common military front to deter Iran. The conventional wisdom is that MBS will refrain from establishing a full diplomatic relationship with Israel as long as his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, an Arab nationalist and a long-time supporter of the Palestinian cause, remains alive. But it’s possible that in the face of the changing global and regional balance of power, MBS will be more inclined to take steps toward a diplomatic détente with Israel, which could help him restore his bruised reputation in Washington. Moreover, the image of MBS and Netanyahu signing a peace accord at the White House would be regarded as a major diplomatic triumph for Biden and reduce the odds that the Americans will revive the nuclear deal with Iran. A peace deal with Saudi Arabia would certainly amount to a political victory for Netanyahu, shifting attention from his controversial cabinet members and his unstable coalition that may not survive longer than a year. It’s doubtful, however, that MBS would agree to make a deal with Netanyahu without some concessions on the Palestinian issue, such as re-committing Israel to the two-state solution and leaving the status of the holy sites in Jerusalem open for negotiations. But that could actually prove to be a good political move for Bibi. By making concessions to the Arabs, he would leave Ben Gvir and Smotrich no choice but to resign from the cabinet and open the door for Gantz and Lapid to join it to ensure that the Knesset approves the peace agreement with the Saudis and can form a national unity government to confront the expected challenges from Iran. A Saudi prince may therefore hold the key to Bibi’s political survival and that of his government, demonstrating how the Middle East is rapidly changing.

New Syria-Turkey ties, no risk of a Turkish invasion

 

Bhadrakumar, 1-3, 23, MK Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey., Russia consolidates in East Mediterranean

It is against such a backdrop that the two meetings in Moscow on Wednesday between the defense ministers and intelligence chiefs of Turkey and Syria in the presence of their Russian counterparts took place. Erdogan’s reconciliation process with Assad is quintessentially his sweet revenge for the American betrayal. Erdogan sought help from Russia, the archetypal enemy country in the US and NATO’s sights, in order to communicate with Assad who is a pariah in American eyes. The matrix is self-evident. On Thursday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said: “At the meeting (in Moscow), we discussed what we could do to improve the situation in Syria and the region as soon as possible while ensuring peace, tranquility and stability… We reiterated our respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty rights of all our neighbors, especially Syria and Iraq, and that our sole aim is the fight against terrorism, we have no other purpose.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has been counseling Erdogan in recent years that Turkey’s security concerns are best tackled in coordination with Damascus and that Adana Agreement could provide a framework of cooperation. The Turkish Defense Ministry readout said the meeting in Moscow took place in a “constructive atmosphere” and it was agreed to continue the format of trilateral meetings “to ensure and maintain stability in Syria and the region as a whole.” Without doubt, the normalization between Ankara and Damascus will impact regional security and, in particular, the Syrian war, given the clout Turkey wields with the residual Syrian opposition. A Turkish ground operation in northern Syria may not be necessary if Ankara and Damascus were to revive the Adana Agreement. In fact, Akar disclosed that Ankara, Moscow and Damascus are working on carrying out joint missions on the ground in Syria. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s willingness right in the middle of the Ukraine war to take the steering wheel and navigate its reconciliation with Syria adds an altogether new dimension to the deepening strategic ties between Moscow and Ankara. For Erdogan too, Syria becomes the newest addition to his policy initiatives lately to improve Turkey’s relations with the regional states. Normalization with Syria will go down well with Turkish public opinion and that has implications for Erdogan’s bid for a renewed mandate in the upcoming elections. From the Syrian perspective, the normalization with Turkey is going to be far more consequential than the restoration of ties with various regional states (starting with the UAE) in the recent years who had fueled the conflict. Turkey’s equations with Syrian militant groups (eg., Syrian National Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham), its continued occupation of Syrian territory, Syrian refugees in Turkey (numbering 3.6 million), etc. are vital issues affecting Syria’s security.

Russia’s influence in West Asia is growing

 

Bhadrakumar, 1-3, 23, MK Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey., Russia consolidates in East Mediterranean, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2023/01/03/russia-consolidates-in-east-mediterranean/

Last week’s meetings in Moscow show that Russia’s standing in the West Asian region is far from defined by the Ukraine conflict. Russian influence on Syria remains intact and Moscow will continue to shape Syria’s transition out of conflict zone and consolidate its own long-term presence in Eastern Mediterranean. OPEC Plus has gained traction. Russia’s ties with the Gulf states are steadily growing. The Russia-Iran strategic ties are at its highest level in history. And the return of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister means that the Russian-Israeli ties are heading for a reset. Clearly, Russian diplomacy is on a roll in West Asia. Armenia and Azerbaijan are on the brink of war, Western diplomacy is needed to solve News.com, 1-2, 23, Experts: New war between Baku and Yerevan will be shorter, but no less dramatic than the conflict of 2020, https://news.am/eng/news/738031.html Two years after their last war over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to be headed for a new confrontation. Russia’s failures in Ukraine have upset the calculations in the region, the International Crisis Group writes. The new war will be shorter but no less dramatic than the six-week conflict of 2020. Since then, the balance has shifted further in favor of Azerbaijan. The Armenian army has not been replenishing its troops and armaments because Russia, its traditional arms seller, lacks supplies. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, is gaining ground. Its army is several times larger than that of Armenia, it is much better equipped and has the support of Turkey. Baku was also encouraged by the increased European demand for Azerbaijani gas. In particular, the report notes that after the 2020 cease-fire, Russia deployed peacekeepers to Karabakh and reinforced its border forces and military personnel on those parts of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border that became the new front line after the 44-day war. The idea was that even a small Russian contingent would deter attacks on Armenia because Baku would be wary of Moscow. After the war in Ukraine, however, these calculations did not materialize. Russian forces failed to prevent several outbreaks last year. In March and August, Azerbaijani troops seized new territories in Nagorno-Karabakh, including strategic heights. In September, the Azerbaijani military seized territory from Armenia. Terrorist attacks became more and more bloody, the International Crisis Group notes. Experts say the war in Ukraine also overshadowed Armenian-Azerbaijani talks. According to their information, at the end of last year, Moscow accepted the European Union’s petition, hoping it would strengthen Russia’s peacekeeping mission. However, after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Moscow perceived Brussels’ mediation as another attempt to curb Russia’s influence, and no matter how much the Western capitals try to convince them otherwise, the Kremlin refuses to intervene. As a result, two draft agreements are being circulated – one was developed by Russia, the other was developed by Armenia and Azerbaijan with the support of the West, the report notes, specifying that each of the documents concerns the restoration of communication and trade channels and the stabilization of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, leaving the fate of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh separate from the unstarted process for now. The Armenian-Azerbaijani project, supported by the West, is probably more promising, partly because it was developed by the sides, the experts express their opinion, stressing, however, that it is not clear how Moscow will react if this happens. On the other hand, according to the international crisis group, although the sides are trying to work out a joint project, their approaches are still very far from each other. All cards are in Baku’s hands, and Azerbaijan would benefit more from a possible deal, especially in terms of military and foreign policy, than if it tried to achieve these goals militarily, experts say, warning that the danger is that negotiations will lead nowhere, and either another military conflict will destroy the ways sponsored by both Moscow and the West, and Azerbaijan will take what it can by force.

US/Western led negotiations will protect the capitalist business interests of the West

 

Azerne News, 1-3, 23, Vigorous protests in Karabakh against plunder of Azerbaijani natural resources by Armenians underway, https://www.azernews.az/nation/204590.html

Protesters from all walks of life have been vigorously rallying against the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan’s mineral resources in the Karabakh economic region by ethnic Armenian separatists in collaboration with Armenia’s various governments for over 20 years. At a conservative estimate, Armenians, hand in hand with offshore and European companies, have illegally pocketed billions of dollars from plundering Azerbaijan’s mineral resources both in Karabakh and around during the 30-year-long occupation and continued the same scheme of theft of gold, molybdenum, copper, and other mineral resources after the war under the supervision and in collaboration with the Russian peacekeepers. The Azerbaijani public has finally decided to say enough is enough and halt the continuous plunder, and thus on December 12, 2022, a group of eco-activists took to the streets to say this is the last straw. And they succeeded in it by kicking off open-ended pickets on the Lachin road through which Azerbaijani wealth from the interior of the earth has been transported to Armenia for further processing. One of the fundamental reasons for the international support for the Armenian claims now is the similarity of the business interests of certain political groups in Europe with those in Armenia and separatist Karabakh in the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan’s mineral resources. In concert with wide-ranging corrupt political groups from across Europe, particularly in France and in the USA, separatists in Karabakh under the temporary control of the Russian peacekeepers pocket millions from the illegalities, and Azerbaijan’s determination though late to halt both looting and prevent ecocide trigger anti-Azerbaijani moves ranging from pressure at local, national and international levels, orchestrated by corrupt and criminal elements sitting at high-echelons of power and fed by Armenian diaspora.

 

Security guarantees mean Israel and Saudi Arabia will cement ties

 

Ariel Kahana, 1-2, 23, Netanyahu might have to turn US policy on its head, https://www.israelhayom.com/2023/01/02/netanyahus-might-have-to-turn-us-policy-on-its-head/

Amid the brouhaha of the past several days as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put the final touches on his government, he also set his sights on two major personal foreign policy goals. The first is his life’s mission – to stop the Iranian nuclear project. The second – to strike a peace accord with Saudi Arabia and thus put a practical end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Realizing those two objectives may not seem to be such a hard feat at first glance, precisely because they are intertwined: Saudi Arabia detests Iran just as much as Israel does. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, the old adage says. In other words, having given tacit agreement to the Abraham Accords between Israel and four Arab states and opened its airspace for Israeli overflights, and let dual Israeli citizens enter the kingdom (along with subtle cooperation on other matters), Riyadh has every reason to move closer to Jerusalem. But the obstacles that have stalled this have nothing to do with reasons and everything to do with circumstances. The peace deal with Bahrain and the UAE was finalized during the Trump administration, under what was perceived to be a powerful American umbrella. Today, at least in the eyes of regional power brokers, the US presence in the region pales in comparison. The Saudi regime feels it cannot trust the US. Just recently, China’s President Xi Jinping was treated like royalty when he visited the kingdom and announced a host of collaboration projects between the countries. Such a reception was in stark contrast to the cold shoulder President Joe Biden got when he visited there in the summer. The Saudis are justifiably of the view that Washington should have ratcheted up the pressure to the maximum on Iran. That was the right thing to do before the Hijab protest broke out and prior to Iran entering the Ukraine theater by helping Russia with drones; it is doubly true now – from a moral standpoint but also for political and security reasons. The US has continued to treat Iran with kid gloves. Although it has been lending a hand, it has not been fully behind the protest movement in Iran. It has also shied away from creating a direct threat to Iran’s nuclear program. Had Saudi Arabia and Israel been given a US umbrella against Iran, they would have found it easier to work together. Lacking such protection, both countries will have to resort to under-the-radar coordination that will most likely stay under wraps.

Strong diplomacy with Saudi Arabia needed to prevent it from turning to China

 

Burks, 1-2, 23, Cam Burks is a senior fellow at George Mason University’s National Security Institute. He is a corporate global security executive, previously serving in chief security officer and enterprise, geopolitical strategy leadership positions at Chevron Corporation and Adobe. He served for nearly 15 years in the Foreign Service as a special agent and American Embassy Regional Security Officer with the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. He is a network affiliate at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, Kingdom, come: The case for partnering with Saudi Arabia, https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/3786860-kingdom-come-the-case-for-partnering-with-saudi-arabia/

Saudi Arabia, the largest Gulf state and custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites, is the obvious candidate to help carry Washington’s water. The Kingdom long has had a robust defense relationship with the United States and U.S. and Saudi officials for decades have strived to maintain comity in the face of periodic differences and dustups that threatened to undermine bilateral ties. Indeed, after Israel, Saudi Arabia stands as our most-indispensable Middle Eastern partner. So, one might ask, if working with Riyadh represents such an obvious slam-dunk, why hasn’t Washington seized the ball and driven down the court? Answer, and question The answer is values. Happy to cooperate with the Kingdom privately, U.S. officials are loath to do so publicly because of the widespread perception that Saudi Arabia is just too different. It is a monarchy, and we are a republic. It cloisters women (albeit less so than before) and we celebrate their liberty. It punishes dissent; we champion freedom of expression. It hearkens to arch-conservative social mores, and we let it all hang out. The question also is values. More specifically, do they really matter as much as we think they do? Policymakers in Washington have no apparent difficulty tolerating what human rights groups say is Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, but they become positively apoplectic concerning the Kingdom’s rights record. Childhood’s end It is high time to dispense with such puerile thinking. Handwringing about remaking allies in our image retards our ability to consider clearly how best to achieve lasting security. International relations is a deadly serious game played for keeps, and we would do well to listen to Otto von Bismarck instead of Oprah. Friends make us feel good, partners help us get things done, and —mais oui! — it is lovely when a country like the United Kingdom can fill both roles. But when we need help — and there is no doubt we do in the Middle East — it hardly matters whether we admire the party rendering assistance or how much they resemble us. We must be mature enough to recognize that, when it comes to advancing our interests, our enemies’ enemy is our friend. The White House should extend its hand to Riyadh. It should dispense with notions of pride and face and say to the Kingdom, “Come, work with us on finding a path forward through the challenges that lie ahead.” I propose three steps forward: Invite de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Washington for a strategy summit with President Biden. Would this provoke a media firestorm and partisan cries of hypocrisy? Of course, but the juice — gaining Saudi help in a range of issues from quashing Sunni extremism to engineering a soft landing for the Iranian regime’s successor — will be well worth the squeeze. Encourage bilateral investment. Despite the current oil-price windfall, the Kingdom faces serious economic challenges (including towering unemployment among the aforementioned high-expectations youth) that U.S. private-sector innovation can help it to overcome. Facilitate people-to-people exchanges. Few things are more impactful on hearts and minds than personal encounters revealing our shared humanity. Reducing barriers to Saudi students and helping U.S. universities to open campuses in the Kingdom will create a cadre of future U.S. and Saudi leaders with an intimate appreciation of what “the other” brings to table. The time is now. Among the lessons U.S. policymakers drew from Iran in 1979 and Lebanon in the 1980s was the danger of hubris. Ours is the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, but we imperil ourselves by confusing might with omnipotence. In a region as fraught and complex as the Middle East, there is no shame in recognizing we need help in securing our interests. Saudi Arabia’s centrality — geographically, politically, socially and economically — make it uniquely positioned to render assistance. The Biden administration should treat the Kingdom as a partner, not a gas station or a piggy bank, to anchor it firmly in our camp and to influence it with our values. With White House missteps leading Riyadh to question Washington’s commitment to Saudi security, and to the region more generally, now is the time to act. Failure to do so would be tantamount to pushing Riyadh into Beijing’s and/or Moscow’s embrace, where it can do us no good — and potentially a lot of harm.

Iran nuclear deal enables Iranian aggression

 

Stricker, 1-1, 23, Andrea Stricker is deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow her on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy, In 2023, Washington Can’t Neglect Iran, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/2023-washington-can%E2%80%99t-neglect-iran-206069

U.S. Iran policy currently rests on the hope that Tehran will not intensify its malign conduct as Washington focuses on other priorities: arming Ukraine, competing with China, and a range of domestic issues. The West is hedging its bets: If Iran’s uprising fails, the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), remains an option to bribe Tehran to temporarily refrain from dashing to nuclear weapons. The West seems unconcerned that the deal’s revival would pump some $1 trillion in revenue to Iran by 2030, helping the regime shore up its hold on power, repress its people, and attack its neighbors.

Iran deal is dead

 

Stricker, 1-1, 23, Andrea Stricker is deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow her on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy, In 2023, Washington Can’t Neglect Iran, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/2023-washington-can%E2%80%99t-neglect-iran-206069

The president acknowledged on camera that the JCPOA is dead, but his administration will not announce its demise. Biden may believe doing so would cause the regime to rush to the nuclear threshold. The reaction from Tehran? It keeps moving toward the nuclear threshold.

It’s possible to revive the Iran nuclear deal

 

Financial Tribune, 1-1, 2023, CPOA Revival Still Possible Despite Challenges, https://financialtribune.com/articles/national/116610/jcpoa-revival-still-possible-despite-challenges

China said the talks to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are in the “final phase”, emphasizing that there is still an opportunity to reach a final agreement on the revival of the accord. “Despite the complex and challenging prospects facing the talks, there is still hope for reaching an agreement” to revive the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press conference on Monday, according to the ministry’s website. She urged all parties to the agreement to stay committed to dialogue and step up diplomatic efforts to “bring the JCPOA back on track as soon as possible.” Pointing to Iran’s sincerity in seeking an agreement on the JCPOA resumption, she urged all concerned parties to “work in the same direction, make the right decision, take positive and constructive steps forward, avoid linking the Iranian nuclear issue with other issues and help the negotiations produce an outcome at an early date.”

Iran nuclear deal is dead

 

Margarat Brennan, Fox and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, 1-1-2023, to Videos, https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2023/01/01/hr_mcmaster_chances_are_quite_high_israel_will_strike_irans_nuclear_program_in_2023.htmlH.R. McMaster: “Chances Are Quite High” Israel Will Strike Iran’s Nuclear Program In 2023

MARGARET BRENNAN: Oone of the things you’re saying there is recognition that the attempt to broker a nuclear deal with Iran is dead.

H.R. MCMASTER: It’s a pipe dream. It’s trying to revive something that is completely dead. And I couldn’t believe it, Margaret, as- as we were supplicating to the Iranian regime as they’re intensifying their proxy war in the region, and attacking some of our- of our long-standing partners there, the- the Saudi- Saudi Arabia and, and the UAE. And I think we lost a lot of ground in the Middle East, because we’re chasing this pipe dream of trying to revive this- this nuclear agreement. And if we didn’t Margaret, what would happen- what would happen is we’d give Iran a pass on- on the destructive effect that the dictatorship has had on the Iranian economy. And you know, where that money would go, that money would go into the bonyads, which are these collectives controlled by the theocratic dictatorship, who extend their patronage network and control and that money would go to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, who would, as they did after the first Iran nuclear deal, intensify their proxy war against us, their Arab neighbors, and especially against Israel

 

Azerbaijan’s blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh risks genocide

 

Billy Hallowell, 1-1, 2023, https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/2023/january/genocide-warning-as-armenian-christians-face-potential-horror-nagorno-karabakh-official-speaks-out, ‘Genocide’ Warning: As Armenian Christians Face Potential Horror, Nagorno-Karabakh Official Speaks Out

Chaos is once again brewing over Nagorno-Karabakh, a small, landlocked region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This area, also known as Artsakh and comprised chiefly of Armenian Christians, has been disputed for decades. But experts are sounding the alarm, as the typical chaos plaguing the area has recently escalated. Azerbaijani residents reportedly blocked the Lachin corridor Dec. 12, the only land passage into Nagorno-Karabakh, cutting off food, medical supplies, and travel between the area and Armenia. That blockade is now approaching its second week, with desperation increasing. A TRULY DIRE SITUATION The situation is so dire a group of human rights organizations issued a genocide warning Monday, cautioning how deadly and diabolical the situation could become. “The current Azerbaijani aggression against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh conforms to a long pattern of ethnic and religious cleansing of Armenian and other Christian communities in the region by the government of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, and their partisans,” the warning reads, in part. The blockade is the clear catalyst for the increased alarm. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry placed blame for the closure on Russian peacekeepers who are responsible for the area under a 2020 peace agreement. Part of that treaty called for Azerbaijan to ensure the safe passage of materials along that road, which is purportedly no longer happening. The blockade is sparking a crisis Ruben Vardanyan, minister of state for Nagorno-Karabakh, is hoping to see remedied as quickly as possible, as his citizens do not have access to travel or much-needed resources.

China-Saudi ties increasing

 

Tom Porter, 1-1, 2023, Business Insider, How Saudi Arabia’s crown prince snubbed Biden repeatedly to forge ties with authoritarian China and Russia, https://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-snubs-us-embraces-china-russia-2022-12

In Riyadh in early December, China’s President Xi Jinping met with Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, to announce a “new era” in relations between the countries. They touted sweeping new trade and energy deals, and alignment on issues ranging from the war in Yemen, to digital infrastructure and space research. It was the culmination of years of alliance-building between Beijing and Riyadh in their increasingly brazen opposition to US global dominance. “Saudi Arabia and China each find each other useful. They have significant economic ties, and they expect those to grow,” the analyst Jon Alterman told Insider in an interview. “While their concerns about US global leadership are very different, they both agree that a unipolar world led by the United States would undermine their interests,” said Altermann, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. For China, the US stands in the way of further expanding its global influence. For Saudi Arabia, it sees economic opportunity and the possibility of taking a bigger global role where several great powers are competing. And it’s not just China that Saudi Arabia has been growing closer to, provoking US concern, but another authoritarian superpower and US adversary: Russia. Back in October, Riyadh infuriated the Biden administration by announcing in tandem with Russia that it would be cutting oil production. The deal was reportedly a shock to Biden administration officials, who believed they had secured a secret agreement with Saudi Arabia to increase production in a bid to ease domestic inflation.

Saudi Arabia won’t trust US security guarantees because they think the next President will revoke them

 

Tom Porter, 1-1, 2023, Business Insider, How Saudi Arabia’s crown prince snubbed Biden repeatedly to forge ties with authoritarian China and Russia, https://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-snubs-us-embraces-china-russia-2022-12

The nation is essentially hedging its bet, reacting to shifting rhetoric from Washington, DC, and declining US commitment to the Middle East “The Saudis fear it is reckless to rely entirely on the United States, whose long-term intentions they distrust and whose attitude toward Saudi Arabia has shifted dramatically between the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations,” said Alterman.

No risk of Turkey attack on Greece; their evidence is hype

 

Elana Becatoros, 12-31, 22, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-politics-turkey-greece-government-0fac79560b01e5c59677be0388ee5d34, Despite rhetoric, Greek-Turkish armed conflict seen remote

Both countries face national elections in the first half of 2023, which is likely to ramp up the rhetoric still further, and Russia’s war in Ukraine has demonstrated that an invasion of a smaller European country by a larger neighboring power is no longer unthinkable. But analysts on both sides of the Aegean Sea are cautious, noting an escalation in verbal barbs but still assessing a military conflict between neighbors Greece and Turkey as unlikely. Traditional adversaries, the countries are no strangers to tension. Mock dogfights by fighter jets over the Aegean have taken place for decades as the two sides disagree on the limits of Greece’s national airspace. They are at loggerheads over a broad variety of other issues, including the ethnically divided island of Cyprus, maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea and territorial claims in the Aegean Sea, through which their joint border runs. In 2021, Turkish and Greek warships shadowed each other and briefly collided during a heated dispute over exploration rights to potential offshore energy reserves. Greece and Turkey have come close to war three times in the past half-century. The most recent was in January 1996, when a last-minute U.S. intervention averted an armed conflict over an obscure pair of uninhabited islets named Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish. ….. Ankara recently has focused on the militarization of the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, saying international treaties prohibit the presence of armed forces. Greece counters that it is adhering to the treaties and needs to defend the islands against a potential attack from Turkey, which maintains a sizable military force on its nearby coast. Turkey “is building a story, a narrative, so it can (potentially) attribute its own aggressive act against Greece to legitimate self-defense,” Filis said, a tactic that “has many similarities with what Russia did and is doing in Ukraine.” Still, chances of open conflict — or of an accident or military incident triggering an unplanned escalation — remain slim, both analysts agreed. An armed conflict is “still a very, very low probability,” Unluhisarcikli said, noting that past accidents, such as collisions between navy vessels or jet crashes during island patrols, had not led Turkey and Greece to war. A military incident or conflict “is a scenario that doesn’t have much probability,” said Filis. “But the climate that the Turkish leadership is cultivating could make something like that easier.”

China will not provide security guarantees to Saudi Arabia even if Saudi Arabia wants them

 

Zakheim, 12-30, 22, Dov S. Zakheim is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and vice chairman of the board for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He was under secretary of Defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense from 2001 to 2004 and a deputy under secretary of Defense from 1985 to 1987, The Hill, Saudi Arabia still needs the United States, despite its growing ties to China, https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/3792146-saudi-arabia-still-needs-the-united-states-despite-its-growing-ties-to-china/

China’s increasing economic involvement in Saudi Arabia does not necessarily translate into a security relationship, however. China may indeed be “an all-weather friend,” as a former Pakistani prime minister once told me, but whatever the weather, that friendship has its strict limits. In particular, China has demonstrated a reluctance to provide any country with security guarantees. Indeed, despite its joint proclamation with Russia just prior to the invasion of Ukraine, stating that “friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation,” Beijing has not felt compelled by its strategic partnership to bolster Moscow’s urgent need for military materiel. Moreover, China’s policy is to remain aloof from regional rivalries while spreading its influence throughout the Middle East. In that regard, Beijing is party to another long-term partnership with the Kingdom’s arch-enemy, Iran. Moreover, in contrast to Beijing’s economic undertakings with the Saudis, the 25-year China-Iran cooperation agreement that the two countries signed in March 2021 not only involves a reported $400 billion Chinese investment in Iran, but has a major military component as well. Indeed, in January, together with Russia, China held naval exercises in the northern Indian Ocean — they had also jointly exercised in 2019 – and in late April, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe led a senior military delegation to Beijing for talks on military cooperation. Wei met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, as well as with his counterpart, Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, and with Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri. After his meeting with Wei, Bagheri confirmed journalistic speculation that China and Iran had “agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in joint military drills, exchange of strategies, training issues, and other common fields. None of this can be welcome news in Riyadh, which remains concerned about Iran’s threat to its security. Sharing a common enemy, the Saudis are expanding their security ties to Israel. But the Israelis, who have serious security needs of their own, are unlikely to come to Saudi Arabia’s aid with anything like the support that the United States gave to Kuwait after the 1990 Iraqi occupation of that country. At the end of the day, therefore, Riyadh will still need to look to America to underpin its security. And even if Washington’s focus is on peer competitors in Europe and Asia, as it should be, if Saudi Arabia finds itself desperate for assistance in the face of an imminent Iranian threat, its longstanding friendship with the United States most certainly will come into play. Whatever its current differences with the Saudis, America, unlike China, surely can be trusted not to let them down in their time of extreme need.

Increasing China-Arab ties come at the expense of the US

 

Dr. Mustafa Fetouri, 12-29, 22, Middle East Monitor, The long overdue China-Arab summit highlights Beijing’s increasing assertiveness, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20221229-the-long-overdue-china-arab-summit-highlights-beijings-increasing-assertiveness/

Almost all major Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are traditional US allies in the Middle East and any Chinese advances in this part of the world would come at the expense of the US. While Washington-Tehran relations are at their lowest, Beijing-Tehran ties are expanding without upsetting Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival. So far, Beijing has demonstrated an ability to perform a delicate balancing act in the region. President Xi, in his speech, highlighted “solidarity” and “inclusiveness.”

China-Saudi ties are increasing

Dr. Mustafa Fetouri, 12-29, 22, Middle East Monitor, The long overdue China-Arab summit highlights Beijing’s increasing assertiveness, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20221229-the-long-overdue-china-arab-summit-highlights-beijings-increasing-assertiveness/

It is worth remembering here that the Saudi Kingdom only recognised China as an independent state in 1990; yet bilateral relations between the two have expanded rather quickly. For example, last year, China bought some $43.9 billion worth of Saudi oil; that is one quarter of the kingdom’s oil exports or nearly 77 per cent of Beijing’s overall imports from Riyadh. In the same year China spent nearly $5 billion on Saudi plastics and another $5.6 billion buying Saudi organic chemicals. In the same year, Saudi Arabia spent nearly $16.50 billion on Chinese made electrical, electronic goods, machinery and vehicles. Oil, though, remains the main Chinese import from Arab countries like Kuwait, Oman and Iraq.

The US should use diplomacy to boost Israel-Saudi ties. This will create deterrence against Iran and protect US interests in the Middle East

 

Omri Mahmias, 12-28, 22, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-726032, Is Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization ‘ready for prime time’?

WASHINGTON – In the eight weeks since the Israeli elections, there has been growing speculation that normalization between Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia might be back on the table. Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot reported talks were underway between Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia with respect to a normalization deal between the Jewish state and the Gulf country. Richard Goldberg, the senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said we’ve “definitely seen the Biden administration pivot toward embracing the Abraham Accords over the last few months – something we didn’t see in the president’s first year.” Last week, Goldberg hosted Benjamin Netanyahu on his podcast, where the prime minister-designate said he would love to see full normalization between the countries. Last week, Goldberg hosted Benjamin Netanyahu in his podcast, where the incoming prime minister said he would love to see a full normalization between the country. “Since the White House hasn’t been able to jump-start the US-Saudi relationship or provide any clear wins for the Palestinians, the administration might view Saudi-Israel normalization talks as a way to do both,” Goldberg said. Is US support needed for Israel-Saudi normalization? Some media reports suggested that such progress would also be linked to possible support from the US, such as approving the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the kingdom. According to Goldberg, “A lot will depend on what assurances MBS [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] is willing to provide the United States and Israel. Normalizing relations with Israel would be a strategic game changer, as it was for the UAE. But Washington also needs assurances that Riyadh will stop playing military and nuclear footsie with Beijing,” he noted. For the long-term stability of the Middle East, the US has an enormous amount to gain, he added. “Saudi-Israel normalization will be the linchpin to regional economic integration and counter-extremism – in addition to formalizing a security architecture to deter and eventually defeat the Islamic Republic of Iran without drawing American military resources away from much-needed deterrence in the Asia-Pacific theater.” Goldberg also said the incoming government in Israel won’t be an obstacle in this regard. “Netanyahu and MBS gave birth to the Abraham Accords — they have a level of trust that cannot be matched,” Goldberg said. “If anything, the incoming government gives MBS the opportunity to claim greater victories in a normalization deal — much as the UAE spun a victory in 2020.” AARON DAVID MILLER, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, “When the meeting between an Israeli prime minister and a Saudi crown prince or king happens, it will not be the first time it has occurred.” Miller likened the Israeli-Saudi relationship to an iceberg. “Most of what’s interesting on the intelligence-security side and the meetings with senior Israeli officials is occurring below the waterline. We never see it,” he said. “But there’s no doubt that there’s a serious foundation that links these two countries together. The public aspect is the Abraham Accords, of course. But what’s underneath and what’s driving this relationship is a couple of things that are indigenous to the region. First, the clear reality is both countries are fundamentally concerned and worried about Iran. Second, is the rise of Sunni jihadis, Islamic State, [or] al-Qaeda elements.” There is also an exhaustion and frustration with the Palestinian issue, Miller said. “So, what’s occurring between Israel and Saudi Arabia is real, and it’s enduring.” He noted that the US has an important role to play in bringing the two countries together. “Part of the alignment that has occurred between Israel and the Emiratis, the Bahrainis and the Saudis has a lot to do with the repositioning of the United States,” Miller said. When a great power decides that it has de-prioritized the region, which the United States is doing, there is a great concern on the part of Israel and the Gulf states.” Miller added that the Emiratis have set the bar very high – a new set of relationships that go beyond a simple exchange of ambassadors and embassies. “I think Mr. Netanyahu imagines a much more robust relationship with Saudi Arabia. Whether it could go as far as the Emirates, it is unclear,” said Miller. “[But] that’s really what we’re talking about.”

US security commitments to Saudi Arabia will overcome obstacles to strengthening Saudi-Israeli ties

 

Omri Mahmias, 12-28, 22, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-726032, Is Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization ‘ready for prime time’?

Israel-Saudi ties not ready for prime time? “There are several reasons why. First, there is the constraint on the accession and whether or not MBS would be able to do this without full authority as a king,” Miller said. “Second, you’ve got the most right-wing government in Israel’s history emerging.” A third constraint, he said, is that the US-Saudi relationship is “as dysfunctional as I’ve seen it in the past six administrations” as the countries are divided on many issues, from human rights to oil production and the relationship with China. “The sun, the moon and the stars are just not aligned right now.” Dennis Ross, a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, weighed in as well. “Is there a possibility of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia? Yes, but one should not exaggerate the near-term chances,” Ross said. “MBS has been clear with many visitors about what is important to him to move on normalization. Put simply, he needs a number of commitments from the US that would provide greater certainty about its security and the nature of American support. “Normalizing with Israel would increase Iranian threats to Saudi Arabia,” Ross continued. “MBS clearly wants more of a set of formal security assurances. This is less about F-35s and more about formalized commitments.” He said the administration, knowing the mood in Congress and its own instincts, “is not inclined to make such commitments at this point.”

US diplomacy responsible for Israel-Lebanon peace

 

ROUDI BAROUDI, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR – 12/28/22, Lebanon-Israel deal counts as big win for both parties — and for US diplomacy, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/3790958-lebanon-israel-deal-counts-as-big-win-for-both-parties-and-for-us-diplomacy/

The United States accomplished a diplomatic tour de force in October when Lebanon and Israel agreed to settle most of their maritime boundary.

Of course, credit for this achievement is also due to the principals, but U.S. mediation was essential to setting the stage for the mostly indirect negotiations, regaining momentum when it looked like the process might be permanently stalled, and keeping the parties on-course until they reached agreement. Simply put, in this instance, the U.S. really was the “indispensable nation” it has so often strived to be The very fact that an agreement was reached is itself a remarkable departure from decades of mutual enmity between Lebanon and Israel. After all, the deal is anything but the usual sort between two sides that have recently been at odds over one or more particular issues Instead, from the moment of Israel’s establishment in 1948, a state of war has existed between it and Lebanon. A cease-fire was agreed to the following year, but since then there have been countless confrontations between the two sides, including at least three full-scale wars (1978, 1982, 2006), multiple smaller conflicts, a 22-year occupation of South Lebanon ending (for the most part) in 2000, and hundreds of skirmishes. Although the Lebanese have sustained far more than their share of losses in blood and treasure alike, the Israelis also have paid a painful price. Each side has plenty of reasons to distrust the other, and any Lebanese or Israeli advocating accommodation between the two risks running afoul of powerful domestic constituencies bent on continued mutual hatred. It took more than a decade of intermittent contacts, virtually all of them consisting of messages exchanged through American intermediaries, but eventually logic prevailed, and the deal got done. And it’s a good deal for both sides. The Israelis have been extracting offshore gas since 2004 and exporting some of it to Jordan since 2017, but the agreement enhances their ability to expand production and tap enormous markets in Europe. Lebanon’s gas industry is far less advanced, so recognition of its maritime boundaries is even more important: Recognition of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) makes it a viable destination for the foreign investment required for offshore hydrocarbon activities, and the country’s crippling economic and financial crises make the chance to become energy self-sufficient and even earn badly needed export revenues even more attractive.

17 million Houthis need food assistance

Cohen, 12-27, 22, Jordan Cohen is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, an Expert at the Forum on the Arms Trade, and a PhD candidate in political science at George Mason University. Jonathan Ellis Allen is a research associate and producer at the Cato Institute, The Hill, It is time for Congress to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for its victims, https://thehill.com/opinion/congress-blog/3789858-it-is-time-for-congress-to-hold-saudi-arabia-responsible-for-its-victims/

Saudi Arabia’s goals in Yemen are simple: empower a puppet leader and cause suffering to any political opposition, even if they are civilians. Saudi Arabia formed a coalition in 2015 to reinstall President Mahdi al-Mashat to power in Yemen after he was overthrown by the Houthis during the Arab Spring. The Saudi-led coalition has launched a war that has consisted of only an air campaign and blockade. The former has come under criticism for using U.S. weapons to target civilians. The latter has left  over 17.6 million Yemenis needing food assistance. Overall, civilians account for more than 19,200 of the total killed or maimed in Yemen.

Arms sold to Saudi Arabia end up in the arms of terrorists

 

Cohen, 12-27, 22, Jordan Cohen is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, an Expert at the Forum on the Arms Trade, and a PhD candidate in political science at George Mason University. Jonathan Ellis Allen is a research associate and producer at the Cato Institute, The Hill, It is time for Congress to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for its victims, https://thehill.com/opinion/congress-blog/3789858-it-is-time-for-congress-to-hold-saudi-arabia-responsible-for-its-victims/

The Cato Institute’s annual Arms Sales Risk Index, which measures negative factors linked to arms sales such as dispersion, diversion, and the misuse of weapons by recipients, found Saudi Arabia to be one of the 30 riskiest countries to sell weapons to, as the kingdom uses weapons for human rights abuses, there are high levels of government corruption in Saudi Arabia, and there is a high risk those weapons will find their way into the wrong peoples’ hands. Beyond the sheer civilian damage, reports suggest that weapons sold to the coalition ending up on the black market and are being sold to terrorist groups. Nonetheless, Riyadh is also America’s No. 1 arms purchaser 13 years running because three straight administrations have prioritized defense contractors’ profits over human rights.

Sanctions easily circumvented

 

Demarais, 12-27, 22, Foreign Affairs, The End of the Age of Sanctions?, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/end-age-sanctions

Yet the golden days of U.S. sanctions may soon be over. As Washington has come to rely more and more heavily on sanctions, many rogue states have begun to harden their economies against such measures. Three events over the past decade in particular have convinced them to do so. In 2012, the United States cut Iran off from SWIFT, the global messaging system that enables virtually all international payments, in a bid to isolate the country financially. Other U.S. enemies took note, wondering whether they might be next. Then, in 2014, Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea, prompting Moscow to make economic autonomy a priority. Finally, in 2017, Washington started a trade war with Beijing, which soon spilled over to the technological sector. By restricting the export of U.S. semiconductor know-how to China, the United States put its adversaries on notice that their access to crucial technology could be severed Individually, currency-swap agreements, alternative payment systems, and digital currencies would not have much of an impact on the efficacy of U.S. sanctions. But together, these innovations are increasingly giving countries the ability to conduct transactions through sanctions-proof channels. This trend appears irreversible. There is no reason to believe that relations between Washington and Beijing or Washington and Moscow will improve anytime soon. The likeliest scenario is that things get worse, prompting Beijing and Moscow to double down on their sanctions-proofing efforts. The rise of a fragmented financial landscape threatens both U.S. diplomacy and national security. In addition to undermining the effectiveness of sanctions, the rise of sanctions-proof financial channels means that the United States will increasingly have a blind spot when it comes to detecting illicit global activities.

No deal on Nagarno-Karabakh is possible because Armenia wants its territorial integrity respected but won’t support Azerbaijan’s

 

Farid Shafiyev is Chairman of the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations, 12-27, 22, Azerbaijan’s Lachin Road Conundrum, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/azerbaijan%E2%80%99s-lachin-road-conundrum-206061

The Lachin road conundrum has three elements: the immediate cause, the ecological problems and the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan’s natural resources; the use of the Lachin corridor for military purposes, contrary to the Trilateral Statement; and finally, the obligation to open transportation links (also in accordance with the Trilateral Statement). Azerbaijan provides passage via the Lachin road. Moreover, Armenian and foreign (for example, Iranian) trucks use other roads through Azerbaijan’s territory, such as the Goris–Kafan route. However, Armenia, under various pretexts, refuses to create a passage from Azerbaijan proper to its exclave of Nakhichevan that passes through Armenian territory—something that is stipulated in Article 9 of the Trilateral Statement. Overall, the situation over the Lachin road points to more fundamental problems: the lack of a formalized peace treaty (rather than a ceasefire agreement) and the current stalemate in negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan; the performance of Russian peacekeepers; the actions of radicals among Karabakh Armenians and the arrival of Ruben Vardanyan; and the attitudes of geopolitical actors/spoilers, such as France and Russia. If there is a solution, it lies in a durable peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan based on the mutual recognition of territorial integrity. Unfortunately, the leading Armenian approach to peace remains the following: Azerbaijan must unconditionally recognize Armenia’s territorial integrity while Armenia will continue to regard “Nagorno-Karabakh” as an “independent” entity and fight for it through international actors and organizations.

A “peace” deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan will only happen if Armenia agrees to be assimilated, which means genocide

Setrakian, 12-26, 22, Lara Setrakian is a journalist and the president of the Applied Policy Research Institute based in Yerevan, Armenia., Foreign Policy, The West Must Act to Avert War in Nagorno-Karabakh, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/26/nagorno-karabakh-lachin-corridor-protests-armenia-azerbaijan/

“The peace the way Baku envisions it is a peace that is entirely established on its own terms,” said Eldar Mamedov, a Brussels-based foreign-policy analyst. “Aliyev is trying to apply pressure on the Armenian side to re-integrate the Karabakh region into Azerbaijan proper.” Armenians in Karabakh see full integration into Azerbaijan without security guarantees as a prelude to ethnic cleansing, either through direct violence or severe pressure to leave their homes. Azerbaijan has vowed to treat the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh as equal to its own citizens, which provides little comfort given Baku’s poor human rights record. Moreover, a series of gruesome incidents by Azerbaijani soldiers, including the execution of Armenian prisoners of war, sexual violence against women soldiers, and the mutilation and beheading of Armenian civilians have swelled their fears. “The fate of the Karabakh Armenians is a core issue for ending the hostility between the two countries. No one has laid out what’s the best way,” said Zaur Shiriyev of the International Crisis Group. Earlier this year, Armenian cultural heritage in Karabakh was targeted for erasure by a state committee in Baku, echoing the mass destruction of Armenian cultural artifacts in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. All of that has undermined confidence that Armenians have a safe place within Azerbaijani society.

US diplomacy. Is needed to stop Nagarno-Karabakh from escalating

 

Setrakian, 12-26, 22, Lara Setrakian is a journalist and the president of the Applied Policy Research Institute based in Yerevan, Armenia., Foreign Policy, The West Must Act to Avert War in Nagorno-Karabakh, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/26/nagorno-karabakh-lachin-corridor-protests-armenia-azerbaijan/

In this toxic climate, the risks of escalation are not just clear, they are explicit pressure tactics. Azerbaijan has threatened a new, large-scale war if its demands over Nagorno-Karabakh are not met. Those demands have escalated since the 2020 war as Azerbaijan’s leverage has climbed; chiefly, they center on the full integration of Karabakh territory with no protected status for Armenians. Most controversially, Aliyev has threatened that he would take by force a strip of land across central Armenia as an extraterritorial corridor linking Azerbaijan proper to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, as well as to Turkey. The Armenian section would likely be administered by Russia, giving Moscow a permanent foothold across Armenian territory and seeding the potential for chronic security flare-ups along the route. It could also cut off Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, from the southern regions of Armenia, creating economic, administrative, and humanitarian havoc. The conditions for stability in the South Caucasus have broken down and will continually decline if they are left alone. Responsible powers need to reconfigure the dynamics in a way that ensures peace and prosperity for all, with no country eating its neighbor for lunch. Russia’s vision for the region may be one of ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, simply to justify its peacekeeping presence and give it a more permanent place at the juncture of Armenia, Iran, and Azerbaijan. But apart from that strategic upside for Moscow, constant conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is bad for nearly everyone. It encourages aggressive behavior from the stronger party, results in loss of life on both sides, and erodes Western influence and ability to negotiate a lasting settlement. This is the time for the West to use its significant stores of unspent capital, through levers of hard and soft power, to bring Armenia and Azerbaijan back to the negotiating table. “There are considerations by Aliyev that would steer away from full-scale war, but it is not a given,” Mamedov said. “What would stop it is if the Western community, the U.S. and the European Union, sends a very clear message that Azerbaijan will pay a diplomatic and economic price.” “You need to have a mediator that is able to coerce or incentivize a state to take a step forward. There is no other way to do it,” said Kamal Makili-Aliyev (no relation to President Aliyev), an associate professor at the University of Gothenburg who has written a book analyzing the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Without a strong guiding mediator, the outcome will be a “never-ending conflict in the Caucasus.” The dangerous slide toward conflict is one that the West can skillfully resolve. While the European Union facilitated recent peace talks, it is still the United States that underwrites the weight of the Western position. Washington needs to act like the “supervisor” keeping diplomatic efforts on track, said Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. That means wielding tools that include suspending U.S. military assistance to Baku. The United States provided $164 million in security support to Azerbaijan from 2002 to 2020, without sufficient oversight of key conditions, such as ensuring it was not used by Azerbaijan for offensive purposes against Armenia. Washington should also consider various economic sanctions on the country until Baku consistently chooses diplomacy over forcefully imposed outcomes. “More of a nuclear option would be Global Magnitsky Sanctions on [Azerbaijani] military commanders, if not on Aliyev himself and his family,” Rubin said. The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which U.S. President Joe Biden permanently reauthorized in April, allows the United States to target foreign individuals involved in human rights abuse, freeze their U.S.-based assets, limit access to U.S. visas, and block business transactions. Switzerland can become a more vocal guardian and guarantor of the Geneva Conventions, which are being violated on the ground. The European Union could impose targeted sanctions, consistent with its commitment to human rights. Pairing accountability with incentives, the European Union and United States can offer improved trade relations if the issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan are resolved. Baku can be a more responsible and productive partner for its allies if it curbs aggressive behaviors.

Turkey is trying to broker a deal to end the Ukraine war

 

Agence France Presse, 12-, 24, 22, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20221224-turkey-says-ukraine-war-will-not-end-easily, Turkey says Ukraine war ‘will not end easily’

Turkey, which helped broker a deal with the United Nations for the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea this summer, is seeking to bring together Russian and Ukrainian leaders for negotiations to end the war. It already hosted a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers during the early stages of the war in March and held other talks between the two warring parties in Istanbul. “As Turkey, we call for a ceasefire, at least a humanitarian ceasefire. Then a permanent ceasefire and then peace talks,” Akar said. Turkey has however shied away from Western sanctions against Russia with which it has boosted trade while supplying Ukraine with combat drones.

 

Turkey does not think it can end the Ukraine war

 

Agence France Presse, 12-, 24, 22, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20221224-turkey-says-ukraine-war-will-not-end-easily, Turkey says Ukraine war ‘will not end easily’

NATO member Turkey, which has friendly relations with both of its Black Sea neighbours, has positioned itself as a neutral player and tried to broker a truce. But the continuing war, which entered its 10th month, is dashing Ankara’s hopes. “It appears that this war will not end easily,” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told journalists during a year-end briefing in the capital Ankara. He pointed to Western support for Ukraine and Russia’s statements that it would not give up for his reasoning.

 

US relations with Turkey already low

Orban Cocksun, 12-24, 22, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkey-talks-with-russia-about-using-syrian-airspace-potential-operation-2022-12-24/,

Turkey sees the YPG militia, the leading presence in the SDF, as the Syrian wing of the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Washington’s support for the YPG in the fight against Islamic State has infuriated Ankara, causing a major rift between the NATO allies.

US cooperating on security with Saudi Arabia now

Jared Szuba, 12-23, 22, AL-Monitor, US working with Saudi Arabia on strategic military plans, general says, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/12/us-working-saudi-arabia-strategic-military-plans-general-says#ixzz7oTqt8HUL, US working with Saudi Arabia on strategic military plans, general says

American military officials have been working behind the scenes to help counterparts in Saudi Arabia lay out a long-term vision for the kingdom’s national security, even as ties between the two governments remain strained, a top US general revealed Thursday. “The Saudis are very interested in strategic plans with us,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, top commander of US forces in the Middle East, told reporters via conference call. “Our strategic planners travel to the kingdom regularly to work with Saudi military leaders to build up their ideas for a long-term strategic vision,” Kurilla explained. Saudi Arabia is also set to release a national defense strategy and a national military strategy next year for the first time in its history, he said. The strategy documents, which have not yet been publicly confirmed by Saudi officials, will codify “the kingdom’s strategic vision for national security and regional security,” the general said. Kurilla called the decision “a critical step” in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s military modernization plans. Why it matters: The Biden administration is leveraging the Pentagon’s know-how to help the kingdom meet its security goals in a bid to rebuild trust, even as the White House says it is reevaluating US relations with Riyadh.

Yemen war has already killed 400,000

 

Walt, 12-23, 22, Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University, Foreign Policy, The Realist Guide to World Peace, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/23/a-realist-guide-to-world-peace/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=News%20Alerts&utm_term=62594&tpcc=News%20Alerts

Similarly, the civil war (and Saudi Arabia’s intervention) in Yemen has killed nearly 400,000 people and devastated an already poor country, while civil conflicts in Africa and Latin America continue to immiserate these regions and drive outward migration.

War turns every non-war impact

 

Walt, 12-23, 22, Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University, Foreign Policy, The Realist Guide to World Peace, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/23/a-realist-guide-to-world-peace/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=News%20Alerts&utm_term=62594&tpcc=News%20Alerts

But the direct costs of conflict are just part of the price. As competition between states intensifies and the risks of war go up, the ability to cooperate even on matters of mutual interest goes down. Humanity faces a host of daunting problems today, including climate change, pandemic disease, and rising refugee flows. None of them will be easy to solve and all of them are arguably of greater importance than who ends up governing Crimea, Taiwan, or Nagorno-Karabakh. The more nations fight, or the more time and effort and money they devote to preparing for war, the harder it will be to address these other problems.

 

Difficulties in relations do not undermine security cooperation

Jared Szuba, 12-23, 22, AL-Monitor, US working with Saudi Arabia on strategic military plans, general says, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/12/us-working-saudi-arabia-strategic-military-plans-general-says#ixzz7oTqt8HUL, US working with Saudi Arabia on strategic military plans, general says

Why it matters: The Biden administration is leveraging the Pentagon’s know-how to help the kingdom meet its security goals in a bid to rebuild trust, even as the White House says it is reevaluating US relations with Riyadh. The October announcement that OPEC+ would slash oil production drew rare pointed rebuke from the White House, but did not significantly disrupt regular meetings and bilateral training between the two countries’ militaries, Al-Monitor previously reported.

Saudis oppose outside efforts to mediate relations with Israel

 

MAJDI HALAB, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia depend on progress with Palestinians – opinion, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725676

It is important to note that Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not wavered in its stance on relations with Israel. This comes after the Saudi Arabian government discontinued connections with Israel in all areas when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, arrived in the city of Neom in November 2020 without prior consultation, accompanied by then-United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In private discussions, the Saudis have emphasized their lack of desire for anyone to act as a mediator between themselves and the Israelis. They also made it clear that the interests of the two countries overlap and the revival of security coordination depends solely on Israel’s willingness to make progress with the Palestinians.

 wit, Saudi-Israel relations cannot improve until the Palestine issue is resolved

 

MAJDI HALAB, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia depend on progress with Palestinians – opinion, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725676

In concusion, while there may be potential for improved relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, it is crucial for Netanyahu to understand and respect the conditions set forth by the Saudi leadership. Any progress toward normalization likely will depend on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the fulfillment of the Arab Peace Initiative. In order to move forward, it will be necessary for both sides to engage in honest and constructive dialogue, taking into consideration the concerns and interests of all parties involved.

Saudis want strong US relations now

 

MAJDI HALAB, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia depend on progress with Palestinians – opinion, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725676

The Saudi crown prince is currently working to secure his position and prepare for his eventual ascension to the throne, while also striving to improve the strained relationship with the United States. He hopes that the United States will recognize his status and that the controversy surrounding the 2018 murder of journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi will not hinder their relationship.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t think it can replace US weapons with weapons from China

 

MAJDI HALAB, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia depend on progress with Palestinians – opinion, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725676

The Saudis are seeking closer ties with China, but do not view this as coming at the expense of their relationship with the United States, which is considered their most important ally. They also do not have high hopes for Chinese weapons, which they view as on a similar level with those from Russia, and don’t expect any significant benefit to come from strengthening their relationship with China

 

Description of the current Syria situation; US diplomacy stops further Turkish aggression

 

Jonathan Spyer, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Turkish, Russian strategy for Syrian endgame emerging, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725610

Since 2019, the Syrian situation has been largely at a stalemate, with authority divided among three de facto enclaves, each dependent on the sponsorship of outside powers. The Assad regime, guaranteed by Russia and Iran, controls around 60-65% of Syria’s territory, including the coastline and the main cities. The US-backed, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces hold most of the area east of the Euphrates, comprising roughly 30% of Syria’s area. Turkey, in partnership with the self-styled “Syrian National Army” (the remnants of the Sunni Islamist rebellion, remustered under Turkish auspices) and with the jihadi Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group, controls an area in the northwest, comprising around 10% of Syrian territory.

This de facto partition has mostly held since early 2018. Turkey shifted the balance somewhat in October-November 2019, with a ground incursion east of the Euphrates. This resulted in the establishment of an enclave of Turkish-controlled territory biting into the Kurdish-controlled area, and in the deployment of regime and Russian forces east of the Euphrates in order to deter further Turkish advances.  Since then, the military situation on the ground has been static, the broader question of Syria’s future unresolved.

There are currently indications of renewed movement. Specifically, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been carrying out an air campaign against targets in the Kurdish/US area since November 20. The Turkish president has already threatened a ground incursion, with the intention of pushing the Kurdish forces back 30 kilometers from the border and conquering three towns – Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Kobani. Kurdish sources told The Jerusalem Post that the Syrian Kurdish leadership had expected the invasion in late November. Its postponement appears to be the result of both American and Russian representations to and pressure on Ankara.

Turkey wants to invade Syria to attack the Kurd-related Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are working with the US to stop attacks on ISIS

 

Winter, 12-23, 22, Dr. Charlie Winter is Director of Research at ExTrac, an AI-powered threat intelligence system. Over the last decade he has worked in a range of academic positions in the US and UK, researching how and why insurgents innovate to further their political and military agendas in both on and off-line spaces., THE ISLAMIC STATE IS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT A NEW TURKISH OPERATION IN SYRIA, https://warontherocks.com/2022/12/the-islamic-state-is-cautiously-optimistic-about-a-new-turkish-operation-in-syria/

In internet forums over the past several weeks, Islamic State members have expressed cautious optimism about the benefits of a potential Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria. For the group’s scattered fighters, further Turkish attacks against the Syrian Democratic Forces could represent a unique opportunity to reconstitute their strength. Given the organization’s weakened (yet resilient) state, their optimism may well be misplaced. Still, it would be better for the world not to find out. Since late November, Ankara’s Operation Claw-Sword has been targeting Syria’s Kurdish forces with long-range missile and rocket strikes directed at bases and installations in Syria. Ankara has also repeatedly threatened a full-scale ground incursion, which Syrian Kurdish leaders have said would prevent them from continuing operations against the Islamic State. As Ankara continues to push back against U.S. and Russian opposition to its plans, U.S. policymakers should do all they can to ensure Islamic State forces don’t get the opportunity they’re hoping for. Pressure and Opportunity While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to brand the Syrian Democratic Forces a terrorist threat, they remain the primary bulwark against the Islamic State in Syria and a key enabler for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State. Claw-Sword has already degraded, and continues to degrade, the Syrian Democratic Forces’ infrastructure and capabilities — even bases that are shared with U.S. forces have been struck. Shortly after Ankara initiated the operation, the group stated publicly that it would not be able to maintain pressure on the Islamic State’s latent networks if it had to simultaneously withstand Turkish attacks. And the group’s senior officials have expressed their concern at the apparent lack of support from Global Coalition states in the face of the Turkish campaign. On Dec. 2, Syrian Kurdish forces declared a freeze on counter-Islamic State operations in northeastern Syria, including a suspension of all joint patrols, training activities, and special operations. While the moratorium was lifted later that same day, the incident speaks to the fragility of the situation and underscores the fact that, should Turkey at some point launch a new ground incursion into Syria, Kurdish fighters will not hesitate to reprioritize their resources and capabilities to defend themselves, even if that undermines wider Global Coalition counter-terrorism efforts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Islamic State supporters in the region consider the degradation of the Syrian Democratic Forces to be a potentially transformative opportunity. Even the Islamic State’s own official reporting suggests its prospects in Syria have not looked all that good in recent months. Within minutes of Turkey’s first airstrike on Nov. 20, Islamic State supporters were heralding its new intervention as a strategic boon for the group’s increasingly embattled network across Syria. To a large extent, their response in the weeks since has been characterized by a sense of optimism, grounded in the idea that the current air campaign is only a preamble to a Turkish ground operation that will, as one munasir puts it, “grind whatever remains of the [Syrian Democratic Forces] into dust.” According to this reasoning, the collapse of the Syrian Democratic Forces — or even just the redirection of its resources away from counter-Islamic State operations — would permit an intensification of offensive activity. According to one prominent Islamic State military analyst on Telegram this would “end the stage of attrition,” meaning the low-intensity asymmetric warfare that the group is currently in, and “usher in a new period of bone-breaking tamkin.” In the Islamic State’s nomenclature, the word tamkin or “consolidation” refers to late-stage insurgency and territorial control, something we have not seen from the movement in Syria since early 2019…. But along with that kinetic pressure on the Islamic State, the United States should exert diplomatic pressure on Turkey — to the extent that it is possible — to mitigate the chances of a new ground incursion. If that were to happen and the Syrian Democratic Forces were to wind back its operations, however briefly, U.S. tactics in Syria would almost certainly shift toward short-term, reactive unilateralism rather than strategic interdiction efforts. This is a change that the counter-Islamic State mission can ill afford.

Diplomacy won’t stop Azerbaijan aggression

 

Avedis Hadjian, 12-20, 22, The Spectator, As the Post-Soviet Order Collapses, Azerbaijan Tests New Ways to Pressure Armenia, https://mirrorspectator.com/2022/12/20/as-the-post-soviet-order-collapses-azerbaijan-tests-new-ways-to-pressure-armenia/

In the circumstances, the prospects of a peace treaty that would put an end to conflict in the region are dim at best. CivilNet’s analyst Eric Hacopian says that as long as the military balance is not addressed, peace cannot be assured. “Unfortunately, so much of the political legitimacy of the regime in Baku comes from aggression,” he said. “The other thing about a piece of paper is that no matter what they say, the heart of the argument is Artsakh, and there’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room and it’s Russia — they can blow up any agreement: we have no idea what they will do or what condition that country will be in six months from now or two years from now or three days from now.” But signing anything doesn’t mean anything, he said. “The moment you say you sign and say we accept each other’s borders, and the next day something happens in Artsakh and any Armenian government says something, [Azerbaijan] will say ‘you are violating the agreement, you are interfering in our internal rights, we are going to fight revanchism.” Defense expert Nerses Kopalyan, political science professor at the University of Nevada, advocates the “military porcupine” doctrine, the one underpinning Taiwan’s deterrence architecture. In the face of such an imbalance of military power, Armenia should become extremely costly to defeat. “The time has come for Armenia to reconfigure its security architecture as it exists now, as opposed to these grand understandings that Russia will come to our rescue and the continuous reliance on Russia,” Kopalyan said.

Aid needed to avert a humanitarian crisis in Yemen

 

Relief Web, 12-20, 22, https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-humanitarian-needs-overview-2023-december-2022, Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview 2023 (December 2022)

After more than eight years of conflict, millions of people in Yemen millions of people in Yemen are suffering from the compounded effects of armed violence, ongoing economic crisis and disrupted public services. In 2023, an estimated 21.6 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection services, a slight decrease from the 23.4 million people in need in 2022. This is largely due to technical changes in cluster-level needs assessments, as well as revised food security projections released late in 2022, rather than an overall improvement in the humanitarian outlook. Following intense fighting in the first months of 2022, the political and conflict environment shifted significantly in April upon the transition of power to the Presidential Leadership Council and announcement of a UN-brokered truce. The subsequent six-month period, up to the truce’s expiry on 2 October, offered a glimpse of hope for many people. Civilian casualties and displacement decreased, a steady flow of fuel imports were received through Al Hodeidah port, and commercial flights resumed through Sana’a International Airport. Despite these overarching benefits, localized clashes continued in some areas, including Ta’iz and Ad Dale’, and landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) posed heightened risks, especially in the context of increased civilian movement. Tensions have increased following the truce’s expiry, although no major military escalation or offensive has taken place. Despite extensive efforts, an agreement to extend the truce had not been reached as of end November. The continued fragility of Yemen’s economy in 2022 exacerbated vulnerabilities among poor families, including as a result of depreciation of the Yemeni rial (YER), macroeconomic instability, the de facto separation of economic institutions and issuance of competing monetary policies, and decreasing household purchasing power. Being largely reliant on imported food and goods, Yemen is extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in global prices. Throughout the course of the year, pressures on international supply chains stemming from the crisis in Ukraine has heightened global food insecurity and contributed to increased food prices in Yemeni markets. The Black Sea Grain Initiative provided for the resumption of some exports, easing pressures on global prices and supply chains, although uncertainties in the market remain. Yemen’s public services and infrastructure have been severely impacted by the conflict, deteriorating economy and recurrent natural hazards. More than 80 per cent of the country’s population struggles to access food, safe drinking water and adequate health services, while nearly 90 per cent of the population has no access to publicly supplied electricity. Most public sector employees, including teachers and healthcare workers, have not received a regular salary in years—while this issue has formed part of discussions between the parties throughout 2022, little progress had been made by the end of the year. Overall, some 17.7 million people are estimated to be in need of protection services in 2023. This includes people exposed to the risks associated with landmines and ERW, including unexploded ordnance (UXO). Legal and civil issues also perpetuate disadvantage and protection risks, such as the lack or loss of civil documentation, which undermines and prevents people from exercising their basic rights. The humanitarian operating environment remains severely restricted. Bureaucratic impediments continue to delay and hinder the delivery of principled humanitarian assistance, and security incidents increased throughout the course of 2022, including carjackings, kidnappings and attacks on humanitarian personnel and infrastructure. In March 2023, the people of Yemen will enter their ninth year of conflict since its escalation in 2015. As of November 2022, the post-truce period remained relatively stable, without any major escalation in hostilities or military operations. However, increasing tensions and heightened rhetoric between the parties carries the potential for a resumption of armed violence. If this occurs, civilian casualties and displacement would likely increase, with host communities feeling the strain of even further stretched resources. In the absence of country-wide mine clearance activities, landmines and ERW will continue to endanger lives, hinder movements, including returns to places of origin, and impede engagement in livelihood activities and access to basic services. Without sustained support from international financial institutions, donors and development actors, ongoing macro-economic instability will likely lead to the continued erosion of household purchasing power. This will erase any gains made in 2022 by limiting people’s access to food and other basic goods and drive already significant levels of need even higher. Without the restoration of essential public services and infrastructure, people will continue to be forced to contend with malnutrition, disease outbreaks, poor health outcomes and loss of opportunities. Women and girls will continue to bear a disproportionate impact of the crisis, including compounded forms of violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong Turkey-US relations deters Russia and helps with refugee protection

 

Keteleh, 12-19, 22, Dr. Tarek Kteleh is a practicing medical doctor and president of Rheumatology of Central Indiana. He is the author of “The Six Pillars of Advocacy: Embrace Your Cause and Transform Lives.”, Daily Journal, https://www.daily-journal.com/opinion/commentary-stronger-u-s–turkish-relations-will-help-us-counter-russia/article_7e388f42-7d6a-11ed-9d14-0b8a2c82b96c.html

COMMENTARY: Stronger U.S.-Turkish relations will help us counter Russia After years of frostiness, U.S.-Turkey relations could be warming again. With Russian aggression on the rise and the Middle East in a state of tumult, U.S. national security interests require in Turkey a partner that bridges the continents of Europe and Asia — an analysis that appears to complement Turkish national security needs. The “thaw” started last October, when President Biden and Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed their interests as NATO members and trading partners. By April 2022, the Biden administration was already moving forward with a new U.S.-Turkey Strategic Mechanism, which would cement the nations’ joint stance against Russia following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. These diplomatic achievements helped assuage concerns about a permanent Turkish tilt toward Russia. Turkey is a NATO ally. Yet some analysts had begun to question the viability of the partnership. Turkish feelings were sore from the view that NATO hasn’t always backed Turkey to the extent it should. When Ankara shot down a trespassing Russian fighter jet in 2016, NATO defended Turkey’s right to self-defense. But when Putin threatened retaliation, NATO’s secretary general merely issued a milquetoast request for “calm and de-escalation.” Not long after, Turkey decided to buy advanced Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, defying both the United States and NATO. Washington responded by shutting off Ankara’s supply of F-35 fighter jets. But Russia’s attempted courtship failed. That was due to the priority Putin placed on his alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. The source of the rupture dates to a May 2017 deal between Russia, Iran and Turkey to establish four de-escalation zones in the Syrian civil war. The Turks thought the agreement could be the beginning of a mutually beneficial partnership. But the ink had scarcely dried before Putin reneged and helped Assad seize the zones. Assad, aided by Russian airstrikes, then attacked Idlib, a vulnerable region home to some 30,000 Syrian rebels and 2.9 million civilians caught in the crossfire. Turkey demanded a cease-fire, but both Putin and Assad shrugged off the request. Given this history of treachery, Putin shouldn’t be surprised to find Turkey supporting Ukraine and warming to the United States. In February, at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request, Ankara blocked Russian warships from entering the Black Sea. Meanwhile, with 25 million tons of grain foundering in Europe’s bread-basket, Turkey has helped Ukraine export food from three ports, including Odessa. America should reward Turkey’s gestures. That means rolling back the sanctions imposed after Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400s and supplying Turkey with F-35s. It means displaying greater sensitivity toward Ankara’s concerns about the United States fighting alongside the Syrian Kurds’ People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have ties to Ankara’s primary enemy, the terrorist group known as the PKK. And it means pushing the U.S.-Turkey Strategic Mechanism. Strengthening America’s partnership with Turkey could also help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of Syrian refugees reside in Turkey, and more and more Turks have vocalized support for sending those refugees back. Guidance from American officials could ensure that, if Turkey does resettle refugees, it’s done with as much care as possible. Accomplishing these goals will require a shared understanding of both sides’ legitimate security concerns. Building that trust will have massive payoffs.

Iran destabilizing Nabarno Karak

 

Valiyev, 12-18, 22, Dr. Cavid Veliyev is Head of Department of the Center of Analysis of International Relations, Is Iran Seeking a New Proxy War in the South Caucasus?, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/iran-seeking-new-proxy-war-south-caucasus-206030

A New Front in the Caucuses Tehran, which thinks that the geopolitical balance in the region has changed against its interests after the Second Karabakh War, seems to have pushed diplomacy and cooperation into the background, especially over the past two years, and has instead brought military plans to the fore. The IRGC, which is especially active in the Middle East, is trying to achieve comparable effectiveness in the South Caucasus region. In August, the IRGC confirmed that it was conducting a joint drone exercise with the armies of Russia, Armenia, and Belarus at Kashan Air Base. Revolutionary Guard Aerospace General Ali Babali reported that the exercises, held within the framework of the 7th UAV competition, lasted for two weeks. Seventy personnel from four countries participated in this exercise. It was later revealed that UAVs supplied to Russia from Iran were used in the Ukraine war. Further on, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard held military exercises along the Araz river on the border with Azerbaijan. This exercise, codenamed “IRGC Ground Force’s Might,” covered the East Azerbaijan and Ardabil regions. Mock heliborne parachute operations, night raids, helicopter combat operations, and suicide drone operations were carried out during the first day of the exercises. Construction of a temporary bridge over the Aras River that separates Iran from Azerbaijan and Armenia, seizure and control of supply roads and heights, and offensive, as well as destructive operations against designated targets, constituted other parts of the drills. After the IRGC’s exercises, on October 20, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visited Armenia as the head of a delegation. During his visit, Abdullahian participated in the opening of the Kafan consulate, where he said that “the security of Armenia is our security.” A few weeks later, the former ambassador of Iran in Azerbaijan, Mohsin Pakain, said that these exercises were aimed at protecting Armenia against Azerbaijan. Former Commander of the IRGC and top military aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Yahia Rahim Safavi, stated on October 18 that twenty-two countries in total, including Armenia, had submitted official requests to purchase Iranian-made UAVs. After this, it was revealed that twenty-seven Iranian citizens went to Karabakh, which is Azerbaijani territory, between November 26 and 30. Azerbaijani political activists appealed to Iran’s Baku embassy to make a statement about this unauthorized visit. As the Iranian embassy did not respond, the Azerbaijani press put out the news that Iran had supplied 500 Dehlavieh and 100 Almas missiles to Armenia. These missiles were previously seen in Yemen and Libya, but were intercepted before reaching non-state actors there. It was reported that these missiles were supplied to Armenia by the Al-Kuds branch of the IRGC, which is the organization’s de facto “manager” of Iran’s proxy wars in the Middle East. At the same time, Tehran maintains support for proxy groups of pro-Iranian Azerbaijani citizens. Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev demanded in April of this year the extradition of twenty-two Azerbaijani citizens who were officially operating in Iran against Azerbaijan under the name of Huseyyniyun, which was created and supported by the IRGC Quds Force. Then, in August, the prosecutor general of Azerbaijan visited Iran and presented his counterpart with a list prepared by Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies. It is reported that this list includes persons who make threats against the state structure of Azerbaijan. To this day, however, Iran has yet to extradite these people, and Iranian officials have indirectly made it known that they will never be deported to Azerbaijan. Iranian officials, including former diplomats and experts, claim that, after the Second Karabakh War, the effectiveness of NATO, the EU, and Israel in the South Caucasus has increased, through Azerbaijan in particular. Iranian authorities, seeking to counter this supposed situational change, have openly declared that they will not allow such to continue, and are considering arming Armenia, training and arming the separatists in Karabakh for proxy warfare, and supporting pro-Iranian groups in Azerbaijan as a solution. Russia is also involved, for it allows Iranian personnel to enter the Karabakh region illegally. All this only serves to further destabilize the South Caucasus, at a time when the region is of increasing importance to global energy security, supply chain diversification, and more.

Turkey wants Russian mediation [not US mediation]

Modern News, 12-17, 22, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/17/erdogan-proposed-trilateral-mechanism-with-russia-and-syria/, Erdogan proposed trilateral mechanism with Russia and Syria

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (photo) said he proposed to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin establishing a trilateral mechanism with Russia and Syria and to hold a leaders meeting, primarily for discussions on the security issues. “As of now, we want to take a step as Syria-Türkiye-Russia trio,” Erdoğan told journalists. “First our intelligence agencies, then defense ministers, and then foreign ministers could meet. After their meetings, we as the leaders, may come together. I also offered this to Mr. Putin. He also viewed it positively. Thus, we will start a series of negotiations,” he added. Erdoğan earlier said he had not ruled out a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, although the two countries have been regional foes since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011. Erdoğan emphasized that the terror threat posed by the YPG (a militia in Syria made up of Kurdish community fighters) from Syria is “another issue that needs to be taken quickly.” “Terrorist organizations must not rest comfortably in Syria, especially in northern Syria. From time to time, they threaten and provoke our country from there, they do everything,” he said.

Russia supports Turkey’s request

 

Arab News, 12-17, 22, Moscow welcomes Turkiye’s call for trilateral Syria diplomacy, https://www.arabnews.com/node/2217256/middle-east

Moscow on Friday welcomed Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s proposal to establish a three-way mechanism for diplomacy between Turkey, Russia and Syria, Russian state news agencies reported, citing a deputy foreign minister. The RIA Novosti news agency also reported that Syria’s position on the idea – which could involve a summit between the leaders of the three countries – was not yet known, but that Moscow was in contact with officials in Damascus.

Turkey doesn’t trust the US

 

Fillis, 12-16, 22, Constantinos Filis is the director of the Institute of Global Affairs and associate professor at the American College of Greece. A new book in Greek titled “The Future of History,” edited by Filis, is currently in stores, The West hypnotized by Erdogan, https://www.ekathimerini.com/opinion/1200306/the-west-hypnotized-by-erdogan/

For months now, tough negotiations have being under way between Turkey and the United States in an atmosphere of mutual mistrust but also of mutual understanding that a rupture in their relations is not in the interest of either party. The fact that Turkey is about to enter an election year, the difficulties faced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mainly due to the state of the economy, and his need to win the elections at all costs create problems as well as limitations in their consultations.

The problems exist because Ankara is irked about Washington’s actions which it considers to be demonstrably against Turkey’s interests. This is intensified by the belief that Americans don’t like Erdogan – hence the alleged attempt to “get rid of him” with the failed coup in 2016and that the US continues to undermine him by supporting the Syrian Kurds and a change of policy in relation to Greece. In Erdogan’s domestic narrative, the US is usually demonized and accused of attempting to destabilize the regime in order to rally a mainly nationalist audience and justify a departure from Western norms.

Besides, Erdogan does not want to be held captive to the decisions and choices of third parties, and because of the war in Ukraine he is trying to a gain a greater degree of flexibility, even in aggressive actions such as those against the Syrian Kurds. He also wants to be allowed to lash out against Greece without cost, cultivating an anti-Greek climate in his country, embellishing the agenda of Turkish claims, burdening relations with a country that is supposed to be an ally, and threatening to “come suddenly one night.”

Turkey wants to launch an incursion into Syria against US-backed forces

RFI, 12-17, 22, https://www.rfi.fr/en/podcasts/international-report/20221217-turkish-military-incursion-in-syria-faces-opposition-from-us-russia, Turkish military incursion in Syria faces opposition from US, Russia

Turkish military forces are poised to launch a ground offensive in Syria against US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, accused by Ankara of attacks on Turkey. But Ankara is facing stiff opposition from both Washington and Moscow. Turkish security forces blame the Syrian Kurdish YPG for carrying out a series of recent attacks against Turkey, including in Istanbul, a charge the group denies. The Turkish Defense Ministry said Sunday that Turkey launched deadly airstrikes over northern regions of Syria and Iraq, targeting Kurdish groups that Ankara holds responsible for last month’s deadly bomb attack in a bustling street in Istanbul. Ankara also accuses them of being linked to PKK insurgents fighting in Turkey.

Armenia shelling Azerbaijan

Azer News, 12-18, 22, https://www.azernews.az/nation/203740.html, Armenia shells Azerbaijani positions in Kalbajar & Tovuz directions of border

On December 16, starting from 1200 to 1350 local time, using various calibers of weapons, units of the Armenian armed forces stationed in the direction of Musurskand of Tovuzgala (Tavush) region and Yukhari Shorzha (Verin Shorzha) settlement of Basarkechar (Gekharkunik) region shelled positions of the Azerbaijani army in Aghdam settlement of Tovuz and Zaylik settlement of Kalbajar districts, Azernews reports per Defense Ministry. Moreover, members of the illegal armed formations in Karabakh, where the Russian peacekeepers are temporarily stationed, periodically subjected to fire the Azerbaijan army positions stationed in the direction of Khojavand District at 1305 local time on December 16.

-Russia can’t stop Azerbaijan from being aggressive

 

Haoyu “Henry” Huang, 12-17, 22, Modern Diplomacy, Russia Incapable in Facilitating Armenia-Azerbaijan Talks, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/17/russia-incapable-in-facilitating-armenia-azerbaijan-talks/

Moscow still sees itself as a critical player in the Caucasus region.  The ongoing crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Karabakh region allows Russia to participate in Caucasus affairs. Moscow organized Sochi Summit for Baku and Yerevan for direct talks. The ongoing crisis in the Caucasus has also become a hot topic at the CSTO summit.  Russia seems to remain an influential power and a peace mediator for the Caucasus.

However, Russia’s desire to become the peace broker in the outer Caucasus region is merely a fantasy.  Due to the ongoing Ukrainian war, Russia lacks the power to project and credibility.  Armenia, a close ally of Moscow, is also slowly distancing itself from Moscow, thus making Russia’s vision even harder to achieve.  Furthermore, the outside powers, especially Turkey, have grown significantly more substantial, further eroding Russia’s influences in the region and, therefore, the chances of facilitating peace talks.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has gone far beyond the expectation of Moscow.  While Ukrainians bravely defend their homeland, Russia’s seemingly almighty war machine is deep in a predicament.  Moscow calling for partial mobilization further reveals its dire situation.  Russia’s military failure also shook the foundation of Russia’s power projection, as the world now sees Russia as weaker than ever before.  The recent incident of Azerbaijani blocking the road towards Karabakh is a vital sign that Russia is losing its grip over the Karabakh region.

To make matters worse, Russia’s military actions in Ukraine also triggered a diplomatic tsunami.  Putin’s speech alerted all the former Soviet countries, further depleting Russian credibility.  Meanwhile, the war diverted essential resources and ruined the formidable image of Russian troops.  Azerbaijanis are now taking more aggressive actions in Karabakh after the war, while Karabakh residents have already questioned the effectiveness of Russian peacekeeping forces even before the war.  On all fronts, Moscow’s credibility in mediating peace has eroded.

Armenia wants US support to resolve the Karabkah issues

 

Haoyu “Henry” Huang, 12-17, 22, Modern Diplomacy, Russia Incapable in Facilitating Armenia-Azerbaijan Talks, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/17/russia-incapable-in-facilitating-armenia-azerbaijan-talks/

At the same time, Armenia has also been seeking outside support beyond Russia.  The visit of Speaker Pelosi of the US has given Armenians hope that the country could be supported by outside powers other than Russia.  Yerevan has also tried to seek rapprochement with Turkey, a historical adversary.  Armenia was invited to the Antalya Security Conference, and the Foreign Minister of both countries met and discussed normalizing the relationship.  These are all clear signs that Armenia seeks other sources to solve the long-lasting Karabakh issues, thus making Russia’s presence less relevant.

A Turkish incursion into Syria undermines the war against ISIS

 

The Hindu, 12-17, 22, Dangerous gamble: On Turkey’s attacks on Syrian Kurds, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/dangerous-gamble-the-hindu-editorial-on-turkeys-attacks-on-syrian-kurds/article66271141.ece

Turkey has carried out several incursions in the past into Syria, gobbling up territories now manned by the Syrian National Army, a rebel umbrella group that is opposed to Damascus and backed by Ankara. But, Turkey had also come under pressure from the U.S., its NATO partner that backs a YPG-led militia group, and Russia, an ally of the Syrian regime, which placed constraints on its operations. However, Russia’s Ukraine war seems to have altered the geopolitical reality in the region in Turkey’s favour. A preoccupied Russia would not like to antagonise Turkey, which despite being a NATO member has not joined the U.S.-led sanctions, and the U.S. would want Ankara’s support for the inclusion of Sweden and Finland into NATO. This opens space for Mr. Erdoğan to up the ante in Syria. But this could be a dangerous bet. The IS had captured most of these border towns in 2014-15. The YPG, with U.S. help, had fought hard against the IS to liberate the region. Now under attack, the YPG has already said it would end patrolling of many towns on the border. A Turkish incursion could trigger further chaos, which could help Islamist militants to regroup and push the Kurdish population, already victims of years of wars, into further misery

Iran blocks Armenia-Azerbaijan peace

 

Fuad Shahbazov, December 16, 2022, Eurasian Daily Monitor, Iran’s Drone Exports to Armenia Could Undermine Peace Process in Karabakh, https://jamestown.org/program/irans-drone-exports-to-armenia-could-undermine-peace-process-in-karabakh/

However, Russia is only one of a number of regional states that have complicated peace negotiations between Baku and Yerevan. Recently, Iran, another powerful regional actor, has attempted to discourage Armenia from moving forward with peace negotiations amid Iran’s deteriorating relationship with Azerbaijan. The diplomatic tensions between Baku and Tehran mounted sharply when Iran staged massive war games along its shared border with Azerbaijan as a reaction to Baku’s efforts to establish the Zangezur transit corridor passing through the Nakhchivan exclave via Armenia’s Syunik Province linking to Turkey. Iran has been further bristled by Azerbaijan’s deepening engagement with Israel on defense and security issues (Gulf International Forum, November 17).

Turn: Diplomacy has brought the Houthis more time to increase aggression

 

Zimmerman, 12-16, 22, The Hill, Katherine Zimmerman is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and advises AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Congress missed an opportunity to ask the right questions on Yemen, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/3772765-congress-missed-an-opportunity-to-ask-the-right-questions-on-yemen/

The Biden administration has leaned heavily into diplomacy to help end Yemen’s war. Stopping the fighting to set conditions for the United Nations to negotiate a resolution have been key aims. U.S. efforts were key to the diplomatic breakthrough in April that yielded a UN-brokered truce, but that truce has only bought the Houthis time to further consolidate power in northeast Yemen. Moreover, while they have extracted concessions, the Houthis have yet to follow through on terms to which they agreed. Still, UN and U.S. officials continue to hope that they can translate ongoing talks into a viable resolution to the conflict. What no one has articulated is how negotiations today, when the Houthis have the upper hand, would lead to any semblance of an acceptable resolution for the Yemeni people and for U.S. interests.

US has no leverage over the Houthis to get them to stop fighting

 

Zimmerman, 12-16, 22, The Hill, Katherine Zimmerman is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and advises AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Congress missed an opportunity to ask the right questions on Yemen, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/3772765-congress-missed-an-opportunity-to-ask-the-right-questions-on-yemen/

What sources of leverage short of armed force does the U.S. hold over the Houthis to encourage them to negotiate in good faith? The Houthis remain empowered in Yemen, allowing them to make maximalist demands. They are militarily strong. Even should Iran stop supplying the Houthis with weapons — and there are no signs of this occurring — the Houthis have an enormous stockpile, which Iran continued to add to during the six-month truce period, that ensures they can carry on their fight. The Houthis are further emboldened by messaging from Congress against Saudi Arabia and mixed signals from the international community demanding they back down from their current positions but criticizing any resumption of fighting that might weaken the Houthis. Sanctions have had little impact, as have public exhortations for the Houthis to make necessary concessions for peace.

It’s in the US national interest to end the war in Yemen because it will disrupt shipping

 

Zimmerman, 12-16, 22, The Hill, Katherine Zimmerman is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and advises AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Congress missed an opportunity to ask the right questions on Yemen, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/3772765-congress-missed-an-opportunity-to-ask-the-right-questions-on-yemen/

Yemen’s conflict is complex and mostly out of the news, making it difficult to follow and even more difficult to evaluate the administration’s messaging on the conflict. Not to add that for most Americans, Yemen and its issues have again fallen off the map. Yemen’s location south of Saudi Arabia along the Bab al Mandab, a strategic maritime choke point, means the United States has a permanent interest in ensuring that developments within the country do not threaten maritime security or the stability of the Gulf

 

2/3 of the population needs food assistance

 

David Minden & Laura Good, 3-16, 22, https://madison.com/opinion/column/david-minden-and-laura-good-end-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen/article_932af4fc-c20e-58f6-91da-6d180db72b51.html, David Minden and Laura Good: End U.S. support for war in Yemen

The war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen has caused great civilian suffering since it began eight years ago, with an average of almost 10 raids with hundreds of bombs per day, according to the Yemen Data Project. Furthermore, the Saudis have imposed blockades of ports and airports, keeping food and heating oil out and sellable crude petroleum in. This has caused civilian deprivation and starvation, with more than two-thirds of the entire population of 29 million in need of food assistance, according to the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies.

Without US arms Saudi Arabia’s planes couldn’t fly

 

David Minden & Laura Good, 12-16, 22, https://madison.com/opinion/column/david-minden-and-laura-good-end-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen/article_932af4fc-c20e-58f6-91da-6d180db72b51.html, David Minden and Laura Good: End U.S. support for war in Yemen

The U.S. supplies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with weapons, airplanes, fuel, parts and intelligence that have allowed them to conduct the raids and blockades, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The roots of this war are complicated, but one thing is clear: Without tires and parts from the U.S., the Saudis’ bombers wouldn’t fly.

A child dies in Yemen every day

 

David Minden & Laura Good, 12-16, 22, https://madison.com/opinion/column/david-minden-and-laura-good-end-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen/article_932af4fc-c20e-58f6-91da-6d180db72b51.html, David Minden and Laura Good: End U.S. support for war in Yemen

A truce beginning in April should have opened the airports and seaports, but the Saudi-led coalition has allowed only a trickle of ships and planes through. Food, fuel, medicine and clean water are scarce. Eight years of this catastrophic strangling of the goods necessary for life has resulted in tragedy: every 10 minutes on average, a child in Yemen dies from a preventable cause, including starvation, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This year, the World Food Program found 2.2 million children under 5 needed treatment for acute malnutrition. Last year, the U.N. estimated 377,000 died from the war, the majority indirectly from hunger and disease.

US pressure on Saudi Arabia will end the war

 

David Minden & Laura Good, 3-16, 22, https://madison.com/opinion/column/david-minden-and-laura-good-end-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen/article_932af4fc-c20e-58f6-91da-6d180db72b51.html, David Minden and Laura Good: End U.S. support for war in Yemen

At this very moment, the U.S can make pivotal moves to stop the killing and starvation. First, political pressure by the U.S. can make a difference in the Saudi-led coalition’s aggression. Saudi air raids have decreased when U.S. public opposition is most vocal, according to reports by the Quincy Institute. Efforts by bipartisan groups in both the U.S. House and Senate to promote a new Yemeni War Powers Act likely encouraged the Saudis to enter the recent truce. So the U.S. ending all support for the war, which is not a threat to our borders, should stop the war, according to experts.

Cutting arms sales to Saudi Arabia empowers the Houthis, Saudis want to end the war

 

Trita Parsi, MSNBC Opinion Columnist, 12-16, 22, https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/yemen-biden-war-powers-resolution-bernie-rcna61893, While MBS undermines America, Joe Biden has his back on Yemen

Few people noticed, but the United States Senate came very close to ending America’s complicity in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen earlier this week. But the very same person who had vowed to end that war intervened and stopped the Senate from taking action — President Joe Biden. The White House feared that the Senate resolution would have emboldened the Yemeni Houthi movement. But Biden may have instead signaled the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) that, even as he continues to undermine the United States, America still has his back.

The war in Yemen has a special characteristic. Opposition to it is one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats can find some agreement on. At a time when partisanship is at an all-time high, Congress has passed several resolutions calling for an end to America’s support for that war. The last war powers resolution that passed in 2019, which would have forced an end to American military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, was vetoed by Donald Trump. All Democrats in the Senate voted for it, as did several Republicans.

It was that same war powers resolution — with some modifications — that Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont tried to put to a vote this week. One main difference compared to the 2019 version of the resolution was that “sharing intelligence [with Saudi Arabia] for the purpose of enabling offensive coalition strikes” was now also defined as a form of participation in hostilities…. The White House appears convinced that the Saudis are genuinely seeking an exit from the war and worries, as a result, less about a scenario in which the war is restarted by the Saudi side. I share their assessment that Saudi Arabia currently wants out of the war. But that can change as realities on the ground in Yemen evolve. The point of the resolution is to make sure that the fate of America’s involvement in the war is not determined by the Saudis.

Economic collapse and expanding humanitarian crisis in Yemen

 

Trita Parsi, MSNBC Opinion Columnist, 12-16, 22, https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/yemen-biden-war-powers-resolution-bernie-rcna61893, While MBS undermines America, Joe Biden has his back on Yemen

Despite the substantial reduction, even the near cessation of military offensives between the Houthi armed group and the Saudi-UAE-led coalition, and especially following the October 2 expiration of a UN-brokered truce, Yemen today is far from peaceful. In fact, a state of “no war, no peace” currently prevails, while the country suffers from an economic collapse and an escalating humanitarian crisis consisting of scant food supplies, health problems, unaddressed trauma, and widespread displacement.

Truce doesn’t protect children

 

DEBBIE MOHNBLATT/THE MEDIA LINE Published: DECEMBER 16, 2022, War in Yemen kills 4 children every day but safety requires more than a truce, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725093

Yemeni Ambassador Mohamed Qubaty, a former minister who held the tourism and information portfolios in the Yemeni cabinet, told The Media Line, “The overall suffering of the children of Yemen has continued to be the same and never actually changed over time since the beginning of the talks of the so-called truce,” he says. “The people of Yemen need to raise awareness regarding the criminal practices of recruiting children to the war effort, besides debunking all corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency of the Yemeni government officials and their mishandling of all the international aid received,” Ambassador Mohamed Quabaty Kendall explains that children in Yemen die not only because of violence directly caused by the active war; the danger comes from many different directions. It’s not just a result of airstrikes, which have subsided in recent months, but starvation, lack of access to clean water, the destruction of health facilities, and the spread of preventable diseases,” she says. “Even during the truce, children continued to be killed by landmines,” she adds. She says that although the truce expired in October, airstrikes have not yet resumed with the previous intensity. However, “children continue to be killed, maimed, exploited, and traumatized by a whole range of ongoing factors, from landmines to diseases and child recruitment,” she says. Qubaty stresses that the Yemeni people must oppose child recruitment. “The people of Yemen need to raise awareness regarding the criminal practices of recruiting children to the war effort, besides debunking all corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency of the Yemeni government officials and their mishandling of all the international aid received,” he says.

Armenia-Azerbaijan tensions increasing

 

Reuters, 12-16, 22, Tensions flare between Armenia and Azerbaijan over blocked transport route, https://www.euronews.com/2022/12/16/armenia-azerbaijan-lachin-russia

TBILISI –Russia expressed concern on Thursday over escalating tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan as a key road linking Armenia to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave remained blocked for the fourth day. The two countries have fought repeated wars over Nagorno-Karabakh – internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but home to about 120,000 ethnic Armenians – since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. As recently as September, more than 200 soldiers were killed in a flare-up of fighting. A group of Azerbaijanis claiming to be environmental activists blocked the Lachin corridor, the only land route for people, goods, food and medical supplies to reach Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia across Azerbaijani territory, at the start of this week. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Thursday that the closure of the passage was a “gross violation” of a 2020 peace agreement between Baku and Yerevan and that the population of the enclave had been made into hostages. Armenia says the protesters have been dispatched by the Azerbaijani government in an attempt to block Armenia’s access to the region. Baku rejects those claims, saying the dispute is over illegal Armenian mining in Nagorno-Karabakh. The standoff is a test of Russia’s authority as the main security guarantor in the region at a time when its struggles in the war in Ukraine risk undermining its top-dog status among former Soviet republics in the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

Need expanded diplomacy; the current truce has failed

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

The most recent UN-brokered truce expired on October 2 after the Houthis and the IRGY failed to reach an agreement on its renewal. Subsequent peace talks have also stalled. The Houthis continue to launch both conventional and drone attacks against civilian and vital economic targets in Yemen. Occasional fighting also continues between the IRGY’s forces and the UAE-backed STC. Meanwhile, escalating economic warfare between the Houthis and the IRGY is further exacerbating the country’s dire humanitarian situation, and Yemen continues to be ranked as one of the most food-insecure countries in the world.

Food insecurity will increase in Yemen

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

More than half of Yemen’s population of nearly 30 million are expected to experience a high level of food insecurity by the end of the 2022 due to multiple impacts of the conflict, including still-rising levels of internal displacement (with over four million people already internally displaced) and a collapsing economy, and due also to disastrous flooding and other effects of climate change. One key factor, though, has been the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine on global wheat supplies, including supplies to Yemen, since until recently Russia and Ukraine supplied nearly 45 percent of Yemen’s imported wheat.

Attempt to revive Yemen peace agreements in the status quo

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

As new attempts to revive collapsing peace settlements are coming to the fore, the IRGY’s role in them continues to weaken. An exchange of visits in October between delegations from Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, which occurred without the presence of any IRGY officials, represented an unprecedented step in the course of the conflict, and raised questions about the possibility of Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic acknowledgement of the Houthis as the de facto authority in northern Yemen.

Houthis refuse to compromise

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

The Houthis continue to be one of the truce’s biggest beneficiaries, as most of their conditions have been met, including ending the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes and the closure of Sanaa International Airport. However, the group refuses to compromise in return. It remains reluctant to end its siege on Taiz Governorate, which was one of the truce’s terms, and in fact is trying to maximize its gains by setting conditions for peace, such as having the IRGY pay salaries to public sector workers, including Houthi security and military forces. Houthis have long been described by both Yemen experts and international diplomats as spoilers of peace. US ​​Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, for example, notably stated on December 6 that the Houthis were the ones who are “walking away from peace.”

Peace with Houthis mean the Houthis recharge

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

The cessation of large-scale fighting between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition that opposes it has enabled the group to recharge, reorganize, strengthen its military capacity, and train its fighters. And news reports came out in June revealing that the group is increasingly recruiting children to build up its forces during the truce, despite its pledge to the UN that it would stop the practice. Meanwhile, several separate incidents occurred during the truce wherein marine shipments carrying Iranian weapons bound for the Houthis were confiscated by authorities. In November, the US Navy said that it had seized more than 70 tons of rocket and missile fuel on a ship bound for Yemen, signaling that the Houthis are still continuing to prepare for conflict.News reports came out in June revealing that the Houthis are increasingly recruiting children to build up their forces during the truce, despite their pledge to the UN that they would stop the practice.

Azerbaijan cutting gas supplies to the Nagorno-Karabakh region

 

Simon Maghakyan, 12-15, 2022, Simon Maghakyan is a visiting scholar at Tufts University and a Ph.D. student in Heritage Crime at Cranfield University. He writes and speaks on post-Soviet memory politics and cultural erasure, and facilitates global conversations on protecting Armenian heritage, History Suggests This Winter Could Be Dangerous for Armenians, https://time.com/6241293/armenia-azerbaijan-winter-war/

Wintertime is peace time, or so goes the conventional wisdom in the South Caucasus. This thinking is being challenged this week: On Tuesday, in cold temperatures, Azerbaijan reportedly suspended again the gas supply to Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed Armenian-populated region, amid an already ongoing blockade. With E.U. monitors set to depart on Sunday the borderlands that Azerbaijan attacked three months ago, the populations of Nagorno-Karabakh and all of Armenia are left pondering the next moves of Azerbaijan’s dynastic president Ilham Aliyev.

Growing risk of Azerbaijan-Armenia war

Simon Maghakyan, 12-15, 2022, Simon Maghakyan is a visiting scholar at Tufts University and a Ph.D. student in Heritage Crime at Cranfield University. He writes and speaks on post-Soviet memory politics and cultural erasure, and facilitates global conversations on protecting Armenian heritage, History Suggests This Winter Could Be Dangerous for Armenians, https://time.com/6241293/armenia-azerbaijan-winter-war/

All of this makes this winter an extra dangerous one for Armenians. In addition to this week’s suspension of Nagorno-Karabakh’s gas supply and the ongoing blockade, satellite images suggest a military build-up around Armenia’s internationally recognized borders. Aliyev must know that his opportunities for regional opportunism are shrinking, and would do so even more if his key enabler, Erdogan, loses the election. Despite continuing negotiations, Armenia appears to be expecting a war any moment. But it, and stability-seeking powers, should not let their guard down just because it’s winter. After all, following the late 2020 war, when Erdogan’s and Aliyev’s forces held “the most comprehensive” winter military drill, close to the borders of Armenia, they tested exactly 218 different types of weapons for a reason: to match the artillery count at Sarikamish.

Azerbaijan will only agree to peace if it takes over Nagorno-Karabkh

 

Simon Maghakyan, 12-15, 2022, Simon Maghakyan is a visiting scholar at Tufts University and a Ph.D. student in Heritage Crime at Cranfield University. He writes and speaks on post-Soviet memory politics and cultural erasure, and facilitates global conversations on protecting Armenian heritage, History Suggests This Winter Could Be Dangerous for Armenians, https://time.com/6241293/armenia-azerbaijan-winter-war/

To solidify the narrative that only an Aliyev-led Azerbaijan can be secure and victorious, the senior Aliyev seems bent on delivering a “peace deal” by Jan. 1, in which Armenia would officially consent to Nagorno-Karabakh being part of Azerbaijan and would cede a sovereign corridor, which would accomplish Enver’s Pan-Turkist dream of connecting Turkey and Azerbaijan via uninterrupted land.

Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict undermines the delivery of humanitarian aid

MASSIS Post, 12-15, 22, https://massispost.com/2022/12/hearing-on-u-s-policy-towards-caucasus-highlights-armenia-azerbaijan-peace-process/, Hearing on U.S. Policy Towards Caucasus Highlights Armenia & Azerbaijan Peace Process

Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), emphasized that she has a “significant Armenian American community” in her district, and that many of her constituents are “deeply and personally connected to the continuing conflict.” “Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh continue to face an acute humanitarian crisis, including threats of renewed attacks and chronic shortages of water, energy, healthcare and food,” she noted, to which Secretary Donfried replied that access to Nagorno-Karabakh is limited, “which impacts U.S. ability to engage and undertake in assistance programs.” Despite limitations, however, the “U.S. has sought to help those impacted by the conflict, many of whom are in Armenia.”

Cessation in fighting means the Houthis violate rights

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

The Houthis’ fortified military capacity is evidently fueling their gains, and they clearly have no plans to stop. In addition to carrying out drone attacks on the IRGY’s ports, in December the group threatened any foreign oil and gas companies operating in Yemen if they looted “the wealth of the Yemeni people.”

More tragically, the cessation of large-scale fighting creates a favorable environment for the Houthis to continue waging their parallel war on personal liberties and basic human rights. And indeed, the lull has enabled them to shift their focus toward escalating their political oppression. In November, the group announced a new code of conduct binding all civil servants working in the public sector in Houthi-controlled areas, one that has been met with widespread rejection because of the limits it places on the right to freedom of speech and opinion, and to freedom of mobility. The new code also imposes the group’s sectarian ideas on society. Additional repressive Houthi regulations include restrictions on university professors to prevent them from working in private universities and enforcing the male guardianship rule for women traveling inside the country and abroad. Kendall explains that children in Yemen die not only because of violence directly caused by the active war; the danger comes from many different directions. “It’s not just a result of airstrikes, which have subsided in recent months, but starvation, lack of access to clean water, the destruction of health facilities, and the spread of preventable diseases,” she says. “Even during the truce, children continued to be killed by landmines,” she adds.

 

Yemenis depend on humanitarian assistance to survive

 

Hunt, 12-14, 22, Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, FACING HOUTHI VICTORY IN YEMEN, US CHANGES TACTICS, https://fpif.org/facing-houthi-victory-in-yemen-us-changes-tactics/

The Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention sparked a massive humanitarian crisis that continues to this day. The situation in Yemen remains “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” according to the United Nations. An estimated 80 percent of the population requires humanitarian assistance just to survive.

Yemen war has killed 400,000

 

Hunt, 12-14, 22, Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, FACING HOUTHI VICTORY IN YEMEN, US CHANGES TACTICS, https://fpif.org/facing-houthi-victory-in-yemen-us-changes-tactics/

At a congressional hearing last week, U.S. officials lamented the current state of affairs in Yemen, as they reviewed the grim consequences of the war.

Sarah Charles, an official at the U.S. Agency for International Development, told Congress that nearly 400,000 people have died in the war, mostly as a result of hunger, sickness, and inadequate health care. “Children are the primary victims of this war,” she said.

Truce increases humanitarian assistance

 

Hunt, 12-14, 22, Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, FACING HOUTHI VICTORY IN YEMEN, US CHANGES TACTICS, https://fpif.org/facing-houthi-victory-in-yemen-us-changes-tactics/

The truce has brought several benefits to the people of Yemen. Since its implementation in April, civilian casualties have sharply declined. More people have received humanitarian assistance. Despite the fact that the truce lapsed in October, several of its main elements remain in place, including a major reduction in hostilities.

 

Stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia forces a truce

 

Hunt, 12-14, 22, Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, FACING HOUTHI VICTORY IN YEMEN, US CHANGES TACTICS, https://fpif.org/facing-houthi-victory-in-yemen-us-changes-tactics/

It remains unclear whether the Biden administration has been using the truce to buy time for the Saudi-led coalition or establish a foundation for ending the war. Reportedly, the administration has been reconsidering its ban on sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. Its sense of betrayal by the Saudi regime over an alleged deal on oil production may stall future cooperation, however. Congressional opposition to more U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia may tie the administration’s hands. Congress could invoke the War Powers Resolution to end U.S. involvement in the war, leaving the Saudi regime with no option but maintaining the truce and working toward a negotiated settlement. “As we look forward, we want to get back into the truce,” Lenderking insisted at last week’s hearing. “There are important back-channel conversations that are happening between the parties that are helpful to this process. But… we are not there yet.”

Turkey preparing to assault the YPG in Syria

 

O’Brien, 12-14, 22, Erin O’Brien is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul., Foreign Policy, Will Waging War in Syria Save Erdogan?, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/14/war-syria-turkey-save-erdogan/

In Syria, the United States, Turkey, and even in Russia, fears are mounting that Turkey could launch a full-scale military operation on its embattled neighbor at any moment. On Nov. 27, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told military commanders on the Iraqi border that Turkey was ready to “complete the tasks” of his government’s operation against the People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Syria, indicating Turkey’s readiness to launch a ground offensive in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself said his forces would “come down hard on the terrorists from land at the most convenient time,” reiterating his conviction to building a “security corridor” in Syria along the Turkish border—something he specifically mentioned in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin last weekend. Tensions turned to escalation on Nov. 13 when a bombing on Istanbul’s Istiklal Street, a popular shopping area, killed six people and reportedly injured 81 individuals. The Turkish government blamed the bombing on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and livestreamed the arrest of the Syrian woman responsible for the attack; the PKK, for its part, denied involvement in the bombing. One week later, Turkey launched Operation Claw-Sword, a series of missile attacks on Kurdish bases across northern Syria and Iraq.

Turkish incursion results in ISIS members being released from prison

 

Middle East Eye, 12-13, 22, US ‘very concerned’ about potential Turkish incursion into Syria, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-very-concerned-about-potential-turkish-incursion-syria

The top US military general for the Middle East said Thursday he was “very concerned” about Turkey’s potential land operation into Syria, which could lead to an influx of Islamic State fighters. “I’m very, very concerned about that because that can destabilise the region and call our SDF partners off of the [ISIS] prisons. They have about 28 prisons across northern Syria,” Centcom head, General Erik Kurilla said. Northeastern Syria’s Hasakah region is home to 14 overcrowded prisons where approximately 10,000 men and hundreds of adolescent boys are being held. Al-Roj and al-Hol camps are home to around 60,000 people: around 20,000 from Syria; 31,000 from Iraq; and up to 12,000, including 4,000 women and 8,000 children, from other countries. Turkey views the Syrian Democratic Forces as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged a decades-long war for independence against Turkey. The US considers the group, known as the PKK, a terrorist organisation, but refuses to cut ties with the SDF, which is Washington’s main partner in the battle against IS. Turkey launched its first incursion into Syria in 2016. Ankara blamed a November bombing in Istanbul on Kurdish militants and has since threatened a new assault. The Kurds denied involvement. Kurilla said a new Turkish incursion could lead to the release of IS prisoners. He pointed to a January breakout of almost 4,000 IS detainees which lead to heavy fighting between the militants and the SDF. “It could cause them to pull off of those [prisons] and put those at risk,” Kurilla told reporters in a phone briefing on Thursday. “So anything we can do to de-escalate the situation and prevent that incursion by the Turks will be important,” he added.

Pushing Turkey more means undermining Turkey’s cooperation on Russia

 

Middle East Eye, 12-13, 22, US ‘very concerned’ about potential Turkish incursion into Syria, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-very-concerned-about-potential-turkish-incursion-syria

“So anything we can do to de-escalate the situation and prevent that incursion by the Turks will be important,” he added. The US has been lobbying Turkey against an incursion over the last several weeks, but analysts are sceptical Washington’s warnings will dissuade the Turks. The US is also walking a tightrope as it looks to keep Turkey in its camp over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Israel engaging in strikes in Syria

 

TIA GOLDENBERG, December 14, 2022, AP News, Israeli military chief suggests Israel behind Syria strike, https://apnews.com/article/iran-israel-syria-3cb2f1119bd6106160905c6a671b57e4

Israel’s military chief of staff strongly suggested on Wednesday that Israel was behind a strike on a truck convoy in Syria last month, giving a rare glimpse of Israel’s shadow war against Iran and its proxies across the region. Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Israeli military and intelligence capabilities made it possible to strike specific targets that pose a threat.  Without those capabilities, he said, a recent strike would not have been possible. “We could have not known a few weeks ago about the Syrian convoy passing from Iraq to Syria. We could have not known what was in it, and we could have not known that out of 25 trucks, that was the truck. Truck No. 8 is the truck with the weapons,” Kochavi told a conference at a university north of Tel Aviv.

Armenia-Azerbaijan tensions increasing, EU monitoring being eliminated

 

Azetum, 12-13, 22, EU To End Armenia-Azerbaijan Border Monitoring,    https://www.azatutyun.am/a/32174526.html

The European Union has decided not to extend a two-month monitoring mission launched by it along Armenia’s volatile border with Azerbaijan in October. The decision made by the foreign ministers of EU member states at a meeting in Brussels was announced by Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, late on Monday. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as French President Emmanuel Macron and EU chief Charles Michel reached an agreement on the mission at an October 6 meeting in Prague. It came three weeks after large-scale border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces left more than 300 soldiers dead. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said as recently on December 6 that the 40 or so civilian monitors deployed by the EU to the Armenian side of the border have “really limited the risk of escalation” and should continue their work “as long as it is needed.” However, Borrell made clear that the mission will end as planned on December 19. He gave no reasons for the 27-nation bloc’s decision not to extend it. It is not clear whether the Armenian government requested such an extension. Senior Armenian officials last week praised the monitors but did not clarify whether Yerevan asked the EU to keep them deployed longer than was originally planned. Tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the “line of contact” in and around Nagorno-Karabakh have remained high since September, with the conflicting sides regularly accusing each other of violating the ceasefire. The monitoring team’s reactions to the truce violations remain unknown.

Turkish incursion into Syria not enough to re-constitute the Islamic State

 

Winter, 12-23, 22, Dr. Charlie Winter is Director of Research at ExTrac, an AI-powered threat intelligence system. Over the last decade he has worked in a range of academic positions in the US and UK, researching how and why insurgents innovate to further their political and military agendas in both on and off-line spaces., THE ISLAMIC STATE IS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT A NEW TURKISH OPERATION IN SYRIA, https://warontherocks.com/2022/12/the-islamic-state-is-cautiously-optimistic-about-a-new-turkish-operation-in-syria/

All that being said, the Islamic State response to Claw-Sword also highlights the group’s current weakness and its limited capacity to fully capitalize on the opportunity that new Turkish operation would present. Some within the movement have been actively tempering expectations in closed online discussions, encouraging fellow supporters not to rush into a new campaign without instruction from their leadership. These figures argue that Turkish airstrikes alone would not be enough to make a tangible operational difference on the ground and that talk of a Turkish ground invasion may still be unrealistic.

Turkish opposition to ISIS means it can’t reconstitute itself

 

Winter, 12-23, 22, Dr. Charlie Winter is Director of Research at ExTrac, an AI-powered threat intelligence system. Over the last decade he has worked in a range of academic positions in the US and UK, researching how and why insurgents innovate to further their political and military agendas in both on and off-line spaces., THE ISLAMIC STATE IS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT A NEW TURKISH OPERATION IN SYRIA, https://warontherocks.com/2022/12/the-islamic-state-is-cautiously-optimistic-about-a-new-turkish-operation-in-syria/

What’s more, there is no love lost between Ankara and the Islamic State. Their enmity is well-known and deeply entrenched, especially following the Turkish-led Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and 2017, which saw the Islamic State ultimately burning several Turkish soldiers alive on film. This means that even if Erdogan were to launch a ground invasion and critically undermine the Syrian Democratic Forces, the residual networks of the “caliphate” would not suddenly find themselves operating in friendly territory.

On that basis, many of these calls for restraint have been aimed at managing the hopes of Islamic State supporters held in Syrian Democratic Forces-run detention facilities in the northeast, as well as the al-Hol, and to a more limited extent Roj, camps. Since 2019, Islamic State leaders have repeatedly stated that their priority in Syria is the liberation of detained supporters in the northeast. Indeed, in every strategic statement since the military defeat of the “caliphate” at Baghuz in March 2019, this has been a core theme.

Resolving Nagorno-Karabak requires putting pressure on Turkey

 

Yeghia Tashjian is a regional analyst and researcher. He has graduated from the American University of Beirut in Public Policy and International Affairs. He pursued his BA at Haigazian University in political science in 2013, 12-22, 22, The Armenian Weekly, https://armenianweekly.com/2022/12/22/beyond-the-blocking-of-the-lachin-corridor/, Beyond the Blocking of the Lachin Corridor

The blockade of the Lachin Corridor should not come as a surprise to us as such scenarios were already discussed in Azerbaijani media. The only surprise has been Russia’s inability to solve the crisis. Weeks ago, Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar, during joint military drills with Azerbaijan near the Iranian border, called on Armenia to “grasp the opportunity and respond positively to Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s peace calls.” Commenting on the so-called “Zangezur corridor” Akar said, “It is our sincerest wish to re-establish the railway and connections in the region, especially the opening of the Zangezur corridor, to start economic activities, and to ensure a comprehensive normalization throughout the region, including the relations between Azerbaijan-Armenia and Turkey-Armenia.” The Turkish defense minister said that Turkey will vow to continue supporting Azerbaijan’s “righteous cause” against Armenia.CONTINUES: It is important to remind readers that Azerbaijan once again has invited the Turkish F-16 fighters. This is a clear message to Yerevan and Moscow that Baku is ready for the escalation. Hence, Baku is pressuring Moscow to renegotiate the terms of the November 10, 2020 trilateral statement. Meanwhile, Turkey is also sending a signal to Moscow via Baku that Azerbaijan is a “red line” for Turkey, and Ankara will protect its interests in the South Caucasus as it did in 2020.

Azerbaijan is already deterred by the threat of US sanctions

 

Yeghia Tashjian is a regional analyst and researcher. He has graduated from the American University of Beirut in Public Policy and International Affairs. He pursued his BA at Haigazian University in political science in 2013, 12-22, 22, The Armenian Weekly, https://armenianweekly.com/2022/12/22/beyond-the-blocking-of-the-lachin-corridor/, Beyond the Blocking of the Lachin Corridor

The blockade of the Lachin Corridor should not come as a surprise to us as such scenarios were already discussed in Azerbaijani media. The only surprise has been Russia’s inability to solve the crisis. Weeks ago, Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar, during joint military drills with Azerbaijan near the Iranian border, called on Armenia to “grasp the opportunity and respond positively to Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s peace calls.” Commenting on the so-called “Zangezur corridor” Akar said, “It is our sincerest wish to re-establish the railway and connections in the region, especially the opening of the Zangezur corridor, to start economic activities, and to ensure a comprehensive normalization throughout the region, including the relations between Azerbaijan-Armenia and Turkey-Armenia.” The Turkish defense minister said that Turkey will vow to continue supporting Azerbaijan’s “righteous cause” against Armenia.CONTINUES: It is important to remind readers that Azerbaijan once again has invited the Turkish F-16 fighters. This is a clear message to Yerevan and Moscow that Baku is ready for the escalation. Hence, Baku is pressuring Moscow to renegotiate the terms of the November 10, 2020 trilateral statement. Meanwhile, Turkey is also sending a signal to Moscow via Baku that Azerbaijan is a “red line” for Turkey, and Ankara will protect its interests in the South Caucasus as it did in 2020.

Is Azerbaijan ready to take a risk and ask for the removal of Russian peacekeeping forces and their replacement with international peacekeeping forces? According to several Azerbaijani experts, currently, Baku is against the withdrawal of Russian forces by force since the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the ethnic cleansing of Armenians will tarnish President Ilham Aliyev’s image in the West. Azerbaijan fears that such an action would force the EU and the US to impose economic sanctions. For now, Baku prefers to see the Russians staying, but under control. For Azerbaijan, as one of the experts claimed, it is much easier to deal with a weak Russia, rather than with Europeans. That’s because Baku is familiar with the “Russian mentality.” Hinting at the Russians, one Azerbaijani expert said “a microbe when it is in full shape – is highly dangerous, but once you destroy the microbe to its half capacity, it turns into a vaccine.” Baku prefers a weak and “good microbe” that can boost Azerbaijan’s immunity and consolidate Aliyev’s grip over the Azerbaijanis.

 

Diplomacy needed to prevent Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict escalation

Tmnecky, 12-22, 22, Mark Temnycky is an accredited freelance journalist covering Eastern Europe and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/armenian-azerbaijani-conflict-about-escalate-206045

Aliyev’s outbursts may have been strategic. Days after calling off the peace negotiations, Azerbaijani officials reportedly blocked off the Lachin Corridor, the only passage that connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. According to Armenian reports, over 120,000 people were cut off from Armenia for several hours due to this “blockade.” Azerbaijani officials have alleged that Armenia is using the corridor to sneak military hardware into the region, an accusation that Armenian officials deny.

Amid the delays in negotiations, the Armenians are now concerned that Azerbaijan is trying to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh by force. The Armenians previously stated that they would withdraw their troops from the region by September. Armenia also told residents to leave the area, but tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians continue to reside there. In addition, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations are still reviewing claims submitted by the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments.

Given the delays in these various matters, Azerbaijani authorities are becoming impatient. Instead, they may try to take matters into their own hands. Russia, which currently has peacekeepers in the region, has become preoccupied with its illegal and unnecessary war in Ukraine. As a result of Russia’s waning influence in the region, Turkey has become the main intermediary. But it is facing its own problems as it combats soaring inflation while also trying to balance its collapsing currency. With two of the region’s biggest powers dealing with their own affairs, Armenia and Azerbaijan are left to fend for themselves as they try to resolve their differences.

Armenian officials now report that residents in Nagorno-Karabakh have been cut off from gas and other necessities. The European Union has expressed its concerns about the situation, highlighting that it does not have a presence in the region, which makes assessing the situation more complicated. Still, the EU is actively trying to engage with Armenian and Azerbaijani officials to de-escalate recent developments in the region.

Overall, the recent escalations in Nagorno-Karabakh are a result of missed opportunities. The conflict has flared and subsided throughout the year. Armenian and Azerbaijani officials have met on numerous occasions, but little action has been taken to resolve the conflict. Instead, the current ceasefire has been violated, additional lives have been lost, and Armenian and Azerbaijani officials and citizens are frustrated by the never-ending conflict.

As we enter 2023, one New Year’s resolution should be for the world to help mediate the conflict and finally convince Armenia and Azerbaijan to sign a peace treaty to end the war. Doing so will spare thousands of lives from additional hardship. But if the conflict continues to drag on, and if officials from both sides are not held accountable, the risk of a deadlier conflict will only grow. It is time for peace.

 

Saudi Arabia currently wants to maintain relations with the US

 

Salem Alketebi, 12-22, 22, UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate, Jerusalem Post, A new geostrategic reality: Saudi Arabia’s growing role, https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-725504

Saudi Arabia is aware of the enormous consequences of not valuing the price of its oil exports to China in dollars, as well as the link to the global influence of the US, mainly related to the strength of the American currency and its impact on the global economy. The Chinese president’s visit to Saudi Arabia strengthens Saudi Arabia’s role and influence and reflects the kingdom’s prestige.

However, this does not necessarily mean a breakdown in relations between Riyadh and Washington, especially in the security and military sphere. There remains evidence that Saudi Arabia wants to maintain its alliance with the US but under new rules of the game that reflect changes in the international environment and the Saudi vision of the relationship.

17 million Yemenis face food insecurity

 

USAID, 12-22, 22, https://www.usaid.gov/humanitarian-assistance/yemen, Yemen

Relief actors reported nearly 700 access incidents in Yemen between July and September, which delayed or interrupted the delivery of humanitarian assistance to more than 5.8 million people, according to the UN. Nearly 17 million people in Yemen—more than 53 percent of the population—will likely experience Crisis—IPC 3—or worse levels of acute food insecurity between October and December 2022, according to an updated IPC analysis released in November. Through USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the U.S. Government will provide up to $20 million in humanitarian assistance funding to support the UN World Food Program in transporting grain donated by the Government of Ukraine to assist food-insecure people in Yemen.

Armenia-Azerbaijan war risks increasing, need diplomacy

 

Rellief Web, 12-21, 22, https://reliefweb.int/report/armenia/despite-glimmer-hope-armenia-azerbaijan-conflict-escalating-tensions-threaten-derail-fragile-progress-senior-official-tells-security-council, Despite ‘Glimmer of Hope’ in Armenia, Azerbaijan Conflict, Escalating Tensions Threaten to Derail Fragile Progress, Senior Official Tells Security Council

Despite a “glimmer of hope” regarding diplomatic efforts by Armenia and Azerbaijan towards a resolution of their ongoing dispute, a current escalation of tension and incidents threatens to derail fragile progress and unleash a dangerous resumption of violence, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today. Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, noted that since his last briefing, the parties have regularly traded accusations of ceasefire violations. Following renewed violence in mid-September, there have been several high-level diplomatic initiatives — including a meeting in October between Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, and Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, in Prague, resulting in an agreement to deploy the European Union monitoring capacity in Armenia. He further recalled that in late October, leaders of the country met again in Sochi, hosted by Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, where they agreed to refrain from use or threat of force.In addition to the European Union mission agreed on by both sides, the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the Collective Security Treaty Organization — at the request of Armenia — have also deployed missions to Armenia. Regrettably, he noted that tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and around areas under control of Russian Federation peacekeeping forces have not abated.While representatives of both Armenia and Azerbaijan have provided widely differing accounts of the situation and accused each other of violating the 9 November 2020 trilateral statement, he underscored that the potential human toll of resumed conflict could be considerable. It would not only impact people of Armenia and Azerbaijan, but the wider South Caucasus region and beyond, he said, urging the parties to redouble efforts for a negotiated peaceful settlement before it is too late. In the ensuing debate, Member States called for calm and diplomacy, expressing concern over the Lachin Corridor situation, while the representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged charges that the other side is continuing provocations and has violated the trilateral statement. The representative of Armenia said that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is close to turning into a humanitarian catastrophe.Negotiations by the region’s authorities with the Azerbaijani side to restore the Lachin Corridor’s safe and unhindered operation have not yielded results.That country’s unabated provocations have shown that, without strong accountability measures including sanctions, it will continue to test the determination of the international community and the Council

Russia can best resolve Nagorno-Karabakh

 

Edith Lederer, 12-21, 22, Yahoo News, UN official warns against new Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, https://www.yahoo.com/now/un-official-warns-against-armenia-060556214.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAC0HKGKFEM5JBPi0NOQ41Ix5H8oZkyLBZOWs7qrzj0pCGmFhfFL7wSmHdQAo0ISFGV6n-wl8VHLtAM83Y7sibkvpo3KBBN7I2mfHlh4rkG4J248IQ2QQBlveMTqvIECy7_D64fuGcz3-ICFplt9tm6337xV0M1Ko9pWUy7oay9M0

The former Soviet countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan reclaimed broad swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories held by Armenian forces. More than 6,700 people died in the fighting that was ended by a Russia-brokered peace agreement. Jenča said there has been “a glimmer of hope” for progress in ongoing diplomatic efforts following renewed violence in mid-September that killed 155 soldiers from both countries. But regrettably, he said, tensions on the border and around areas put under control of Russian peacekeeping forces in the 2020 peace agreement “have not abated as hoped.”

Saudi Arabia won’t abandon US relations because it needs its security blanket

 

Law, 21-21, 22,  Bill Law is the editor of Arab Digest. An award winning journalist, he reported extensively from the Middle East and North Africa for the BBC. In addition to numerous radio documentaries, his films have focused on the Arab Spring and its aftermath. He has also reported from West and Central Africa, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Before leaving the BBC in 2014, Mr Law was the corporation’s Gulf analyst. He now runs TheGulfMatters.com, providing analysis and journalism focusing on the Gulf states and the wider Middle East. He tweets@BillLaw49, Mid East Eye, How 2022 saw a tectonic shift in power between Gulf states and the Westm, https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/gulf-west-tectonic-shift-power-how

MBS met with Tamim in Doha to underline that the Gulf feud of 2017-2021 was now well and truly history. And Mohammed bin Zayed, very much the chief instigator of the feud, surprised observers by turning up as well. Not quite the three amigos, but they are all leaders in the ascendancy. As the tectonic shift plays out in 2023, they will continue to consolidate the bountiful gains they have been provided by the war in Ukraine.Energy will remain the driving force, but diversification will continue, though MBS’s obsession with giga-projects like Neom, rather than bread-and-butter issues such as solving the flooding crises in Jeddah, may damage his domestic support. With Biden in the White House, US relations with the Saudis will remain strained. Less so for the Emiratis, who have been highly successful at avoiding much of the opprobrium directed at Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen, though both are deeply engaged and stand accused of numerous war crimes.Tough balancing act All three will be conscious of not allowing the rift with Washington to deepen very much further, as they will continue to need the security blanket that the world’s greatest military superpower still provides. However, the balancing act will be a tough one and one well worth watching.

Russia brokered the last deal and has peacekeepers in the region

 

AA World, 12-21, 22, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/azerbaijan-armenia-trade-barbs-at-un-over-lachin-corridor-to-karabakh-region/2768809, Azerbaijan, Armenia trade barbs at UN over Lachin corridor to Karabakh region

Relations between the two former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions. In the fall of 2020, in 44 days of fighting, Azerbaijan liberated several cities, villages and settlements from Armenian occupation. The Russian-brokered peace agreement is celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan.​​​​​​​

Since then, Russian peacekeeping troops have been deployed in the region.

Shelling on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border

 

JAM News, 12-20, 22, “Azerbaijan creating pretexts for the resumption of war.” Opinion from Yerevan, https://jam-news.net/probability-of-an-armenia-azerbaijan-war/

In parallel with the blocking of the Lachin corridor in Armenia, the Armenian Defense Ministry reports that after midnight, Azerbaijani units opened fire in the direction of Armenian positions near the village of Kutakan, Gegharkunik region. Meanwhile, Baku has been regularly accusing Armenia of shelling Azerbaijani positions in the eastern direction of the border. All such reports from Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan are immediately followed by denial from the Armenian side. According to political scientist Gurgen Simonyan, Baku is trying to create the impression that “Azerbaijan is being subjected to aggression by Armenia, so they take retaliatory steps.” “Baku trying to legitimize ‘new regime’ in the Lachin corridor.” Opinion from Yerevan Gas supply restored, road still blocked: situation in NK “The silence of friendly countries seems strange” – Pashinyan on situation in Lachin According to the Armenian Ministry of Defense, on December 20 at about 00:05 units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire in the direction of Armenian positions located near the village of Kutakan: “There are no losses on the Armenian side. As of 09:00, the situation on the front line is relatively stable.” On December 15 the Armenian Defense Ministry also reported on shelling from the Azerbaijani side. Then it was reported that the Azerbaijani military opened fire from small arms of various calibers in the direction of the villages of Norabak (Gegharkunik region) and Srashen (Syunik region). Almost daily last week there were reports from Baku that the Armenian military was shelling Azerbaijani positions in the eastern, northeastern and southeastern sections of the border.

CSTO solves Armenia-Russia conflict

 

Bruc Eruguyur, 12-19, 22, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/russian-led-bloc-to-send-mission-to-baku-yerevan-border-if-armenia-deems-necessary-official/2767716,

Russian-led bloc to send mission to Baku-Yerevan border if Armenia deems necessary: Official

The Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) proposals to send a mission to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border remain should Yerevan deem it necessary, the former head of the Russian-led bloc said on Monday.  “As for the direction of the CSTO mission – those proposals to provide assistance to the Republic of Armenia – one of the points was the direction of the CSTO mission to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border … This remains in force. If Armenia considers it necessary either to make a decision on the entire package of measures or on individual points, this can be implemented,” Stanislav Zas said during a press conference. Saying that the heads of CSTO member states met three times in 2022 to discuss the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, Zas noted that the CSTO is not going to turn away from Armenia. “As for the intentions of the CSTO to leave Armenia or somehow turn away from it: of course not,” Zas said.iplomacy

US diplomacy stopped Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in the past

 

Bruc Eruguyur, 12-19, 22, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/russian-led-bloc-to-send-mission-to-baku-yerevan-border-if-armenia-deems-necessary-official/2767716,

Russian-led bloc to send mission to Baku-Yerevan border if Armenia deems necessary: Official It was five minutes past midnight and Lilit was praying by the window of her apartment in Jermuk, a resort famous for its mineral water and spas in southern Armenia. Suddenly, enormous, orange balls of fire lit up the sky. “This is it,” she said aloud to herself. “The war has begun.” The blitzkrieg attack by Azerbaijan in the early minutes of September 13, 2022 left at least 6 civilians and 200 Armenian soldiers dead in two days of fighting, which stopped after the prompt diplomatic intervention by the US State Department and, according to Russian president Vladimir Putin, his government too.

Armenia-Azerbaijan war coming in the spring

 

Bruc Eruguyur, 12-19, 22, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/russian-led-bloc-to-send-mission-to-baku-yerevan-border-if-armenia-deems-necessary-official/2767716,

In Jermuk, Lilit was visiting her neighbor, Maryam. The two women were among the very few residents — perhaps a dozen or two — who decided to stay in the city of 6,000 after the civilians were evacuated during the two days of fighting. Maryam, a widow and the mother and grandmother of soldiers serving in the Armenian army, has seen war on and off since independence in 1991. Her son, who fought in the 44-day Nagorno Karabakh war, returned unharmed from fighting yet with a memory that has been haunting him from the first day of combat in Jabrayil, now a ghost town captured by the Azerbaijani forces in 2020. “Just as they were emerging from their hideout, he saw the car in which his four friends had just got into go up in flames,” possibly struck by a drone. Analyst Benyamin Poghosyan believes a new war is in the making, saying it may happen by the end of 2022 or March-April 2023. “Any timeframe is based on perceptions, misperceptions, and speculation, but Azerbaijan is preparing for war.”

Iranian arms transfers to Armenia increase war risks

 

Dr. Yasif Huseynov, 12-11, 12, Modern Diplomacy, Armenia and Iran combine forces against Azerbaijan, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/11/armenia-and-iran-combine-forces-against-azerbaijan/

In early December, the Azerbaijani media reported about free of charge military supplies of Iran to Armenia amidst the growing tensions between Azerbaijan and Islamic Republic. According to the reports, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) provided 500 units of the Dehlavieh anti-tank missile system and 100 units of Almas system to Armenia at the end of October. These supplies took place amidst the military exercises the Iranian army carried out along the borders with Azerbaijan for the second time since the end of the Second Karabakh War of 2020 – Iran never conducted military drills along the Azerbaijani borders before this war. Along with these, Azerbaijani media published evidence confirming that Iran also sends military personnel to the separatist Armenian forces in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan that is currently under the temporary control of the Russian peacekeeping units. They are reportedly supposed to train the Armenian separatist forces who regularly carry out terrorist and sabotage attacks against the Azerbaijani army. Although Iran has always, since the post-Soviet independence of Azerbaijan, treated Armenia as an ally against Azerbaijan and even provided military and economic backing to Armenia’s occupation of the Azerbaijani territories in the early 1990s, Baku sought to keep these hostilities down and tried to build good neighborly relations with the Islamic Republic. A number of factors affected this decision of the Azerbaijani government, including the presence of more than 20 million ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran as well as Baku’s efforts to establish friendly relations with the neighboring countries and ensure the Iranian leaders that Azerbaijan did not pose any threat to the Islamic Republic. Towards this end, the Azerbaijani government even quietly reacted to Tehran’s support to the radical religious groups inside Azerbaijan by cracking down only on these groups without challenging the country’s broader relations with Iran. This curtain was lifted between Baku and Tehran following Azerbaijan’s liberation of its occupied territories from the Armenian occupation. Although the Iranian leaders repeatedly relate their “concerns” with Azerbaijan’s alleged plans (in particular, the “Zangazur corridor” transportation route) to cut off Iran-Armenia border by occupying the southern territories of Armenia, these statements do not sound convincing. There are assurances not only by Azerbaijan but also Armenia’s another ally Russia that these transportation routes do not envisage the occupation of anyone’s territories, and they will remain under the sovereignty of the respective transit country. Iran’s aggressive rhetoric and military flexing against Azerbaijan shoot up against the background of Azerbaijan’s decision to open an embassy in Israel and Turkiye’s growing influence in the South Caucasus. In this context, Iran’s narratives resemble those of Russia against Ukraine. In a similar vein, Iranian leaders question Azerbaijan’s independence and its ethnic identity, claiming that Azerbaijan was a historical part of Iran and should return to the Iranian control. One of the latest such claims was made by Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ali Fadavi, who, in a tweet, reiterated these historical claims against Azerbaijan saying that this country “was separated from Iran due to the incompetence of the Qajar kings”. Attempting to take the advantage of the Shiite believers in Azerbaijan, he openly called for a government change in Baku. “The people of Azerbaijan are Shiite believers who did not lose their original Shiite beliefs under the 70 years of communist pressure. As a rule, there should be a government that pays special attention to this Shiite majority of Azerbaijan”, he added. Thus, Iran, building active cooperation with Armenia in military and economic fields, poses a great threat to the national security of Azerbaijan. In response to these threats, Baku boosts its ties with the major allies of the country, in particular, Turkiye and Israel. Hence, over the last two months, Baku held two major military exercises along the borders with Iran which, according to President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, aimed to “to show that we are not afraid of them”. While the first round of these exercises was held exclusively by the special forces of Azerbaijan in early November, the second round was conducted at much larger scale and together with the Turkish armed forces in early December. These joint exercises included also a response to the most provocative element of the Iranian military drills – employing phantom bridges to cross the river that forms the natural border between Azerbaijan and Iran in most sections of the interstate border. Turkiye’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who joined his Azerbaijani counterpart to supervise the exercises, voiced strong support to Azerbaijan, declaring that any threats or provocations against Turkiye and Azerbaijan is considered as directed against both countries. In parallel to demonstrating military confidence of Azerbaijan in response to the Iranian threats, Baku has also become more outspoken against the repression of the fundamental rights of ethnic Azerbaijanis under the Iranian control. Addressing an international conference in Baku on November 25, President Aliyev criticized the lack of Azerbaijani language schools in Iran while there are those in the languages of other ethnic minorities, vowing that his country will do its best to protect all Azerbaijanis across the world, including those living in Iran. That said, the aggressive rhetoric and expansionist claims of the Iranian leaders dramatically threaten peace and security in the South Caucasus. In this context, Armenia’s alignment with Iran in this power game and the de-facto military alliance they build against Turkiye and Azerbaijan run the risk of triggering a major conflict in the region with catastrophic consequences for the local peoples.

Three reasons Houthis oppose a truce

 

Fatima Abo Alasrar, 12-9, 22, The Houthis’ embargo on Yemen’s oil exports, https://www.mei.edu/publications/houthis-embargo-yemens-oil-exports

The Houthis’ rejection of the truce with the Yemeni government was based on three fundamental factors. The first is the rebels’ inability to fulfill their obligations under the agreement to lift the siege on Taiz because their control over the city keeps pressure on their opponents and gives them increased leverage in any peace negotiations. The second is a lack of interest in the peace process itself as the current status quo gives the Houthis access to Yemeni resources without committing to a power-sharing agreement that could threaten their monopoly over the war-torn country’s northern territory. The third is a desire to return to violence as swiftly as possible because this tactic had proven to give them the upper hand in negotiations in the past. Within 48 hours of the truce’s expiration, the Houthis’ military spokesperson warned Saudi and Emirati oil workers to leave the country while the militant group prepared its attack.

China solves the Yemen war

 

SAEED AL-BATATI, 12-8, 22, China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official, https://www.arabnews.com/node/2213186/middle-east

RIYADH: Yemeni experts and officials have called on China to do more to help bring an end to the country’s civil war by helping peace talks and by increasing economic and humanitarian aid. “Yemen needs China’s assistance,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News. “Achieving peace in Yemen is in China’s interest because it will revitalize Yemen’s ports, which would aid China’s Belt and Road Initiative and open the nation to Chinese businesses.” His comments come as Rashad Al-Alimi, the leader of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, is traveling to Riyadh to attend an Arab-Chinese summit on Friday. Ghallab said that can press Iran to cease supplying and funding its proxy militias across the Middle East, including Yemen. “China can persuade Iran to stop supporting its organizations, particularly the Houthis in Yemen,” he said. The UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg’s efforts to end the war have come to a standstill after the Houthis refused to extend a ceasefire that ended in October, and threatened to strike oil infrastructure in regions under government control. The Houthis have said they would not extend the ceasefire until the government pays public workers in regions the group controls.

Truce key to preventing Saudi air strikes

Shelline & Tayyab, 12, 5, 22, Annelle Sheline is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Her research focuses on religion and politics in the Middle East; Hassan El-Tayyab is an author, songwriter, and the legislative director for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation., About the Truce in Yemen, https://inkstickmedia.com/what-congress-needs-to-know-about-the-truce-in-yemen/

Because violence has not significantly escalated and specific aspects of the truce remain in place — flights from Sana’a to Amman continue, and ships continue to unload fuel at Hodeidah port — the case of Yemen may appear less urgent. However, without the truce, there is no formal mechanism preventing the Saudis from restarting airstrikes, ending flights, or once again preventing fuel ships from docking at Hodeidah.

using diplomacy to push for peace in Yemen

US Department of State, November 28, 2022, https://www.state.gov/u-s-special-envoy-for-yemen-lenderkings-travel-to-oman-and-saudi-arabia/, U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Lenderking’s Travel to Oman and Saudi Arabia

U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking started travel on November 27 to Oman and Saudi Arabia to support ongoing peace efforts. The environment created by the UN-mediated truce presents the best opportunity Yemen has had for peace in several years. At this critical moment, we remind the Houthis that Yemenis are calling for peace, not a return to war. To that end, we call on the Houthis to immediately cease their attacks on Yemeni ports, which are disrupting the flow of much-needed resources and exacerbating suffering across Yemen. Such attacks only risk plunging Yemenis into another pointless cycle of violence and suffering. We urge the Houthis to instead seize this opportunity for peace, cooperate with the UN, and accept that the only path forward to ending eight years of destructive war is through a negotiated, inclusive Yemeni-led political settlement.

 

National News, 11-28, 22, Return of truce is vital to Yemen as global food and energy crises take toll, https://www.thenationalnews.com/opinion/comment/2022/11/28/how-the-un-has-deepened-the-yemen-crisis/

Yemen nervously awaits signs that a truce involving all main factions can hold, despite a failure to renew it after the most recent deadline expired. The truce is absolutely vital, not least because the main drivers in Yemen are now shaped by the fallout from the 2018 Stockholm Agreement as well as the global energy and food crisis. Those living in Yemen are left to grapple with a cascading set of dire daily realities. The failure to achieve peace and restore the national government throughout the country is something to be squarely laid at the feet of the UN. The agreement was badly rolled out. One of the pillars of the Stockholm Agreement was the Hodeidah Accord, which opened up the Red Sea port and associated road routes to ensure that food and other flows could increase to ease the threat of famine. Last week, Anis Al Sharafi of the Aden-based Southern Transition Council (STC), which is a partner with the national government, set out how what looked like a viable solution was, in fact, twisted by the implementation. By overriding the safeguards on how trade and revenues are freed up, Houthi commanders and checkpoints were granted a gatekeeper. The consequences have been downplayed. The outcome is an escalatory cycle, according to Mr Sharafi, that has granted the Houthi leadership “infinite” military and political capacity. With its new space within the context of conflict, the Houthi leadership has taken the opportunity for a stand that is stubborn and prolonging. “Maybe on the surface it looks like you might have a variable solution, but typically giving [the advantage] to one side causes the problem to become more complicated,” he said in Aden. The failure to achieve peace is something to be squarely laid at the feet of the UN Rising oil prices have given the Houthi leadership and its backers in Iran more cause to block an overarching solution in Yemen. As another Yemeni last week observed, the seas around the country’s coast are the main route for energy exportation to Europe and the Houthis are trying to take advantage of this vantage point. Escalation along that route is obviously something that European countries are very alert to, and the regimes hostile to the West are just as alert to the advantages of disruption of those corridors. Iranian efforts to have another coast to launch attacks on the tanker lanes to Europe are holding Yemen hostage. This, for the Iranian leadership, is a potential pinch point that would allow Tehran to exercise pressure through escalation. At a time when Iran’s internal dynamic is one of siege by the opposition demonstrations, this gives Tehran an external card to play to ensure that the international community does not support the regime’s opponents. For the wartime administration in Yemen, this is a dire squeeze. This is particularly as the people who have fled the oppressive situation in Sanaa or the hardships across the frontlines wait fora return to their properties or towns in dire straits. “On top of our own population, we have more than 3 million refugees from the north and we have more than a million that have come from Africa,” said the STC representative. “Although there is pressure on our resources, the aid that is given by the international community is given to refugees. Whereas our own people who are suffering from this extra pressure are not getting anything.”

US needs to diplomatically reengage in the Middle East, especially in Syria, where the US needs to be engaged to stop Turkish aggression

 

Yanis E. Makhlouf, 8-13, 22, The Diplomatic Retreat of the US in the Middle East, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2022/08/13/the-diplomatic-retreat-of-the-us-in-the-middle-east/

To fill the void, regional powers like Turkey are stepping up their diplomatic efforts, especially in light of the war in Ukraine. Similarly, the US seems increasingly set aside the Syrian situation. Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to the UAE a few months ago, the first to any Arab state since the start of the Syrian civil war was a major development from which the US seemed rather absent apart from some diplomatic objections towards its Emirati ally.

The dynamics of the region have changed greatly in the past twenty years and though America’s presence especially militarily has been considerably reduced, American leadership is still needed. The War in Syria is a case in point with the question of America’s support for the Kurds in the northeast of the country. Leaving the issue unresolved and the Kurds to their fate do not seem like a good solution. It could incite Turkey to engage in further advances in the Syrian north, which in turn, could stoke great tensions with the Al-Assad clan, the Russians and Iranians.

It is time for the current administration to recognise that it has a Middle East problem and address the failures of its foreign policy. Not doing so could leave a dangerous opening to other powers like China or Russia that will do their utmost to court America’s Middle Eastern partners to gain their good graces and snatch them away from the US’ sphere of influence.

US leadership in the Middle East needed to prevent a rise in China’s influence

 

Yanis E. Makhlouf, 8-13, 22, The Diplomatic Retreat of the US in the Middle East, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2022/08/13/the-diplomatic-retreat-of-the-us-in-the-middle-east/

The dynamics of the region have changed greatly in the past twenty years and though America’s presence especially militarily has been considerably reduced, American leadership is still needed. The War in Syria is a case in point with the question of America’s support for the Kurds in the northeast of the country. Leaving the issue unresolved and the Kurds to their fate do not seem like a good solution. It could incite Turkey to engage in further advances in the Syrian north, which in turn, could stoke great tensions with the Al-Assad clan, the Russians and Iranians.

It is time for the current administration to recognise that it has a Middle East problem and address the failures of its foreign policy. Not doing so could leave a dangerous opening to other powers like China or Russia that will do their utmost to court America’s Middle Eastern partners to gain their good graces and snatch them away from the US’ sphere of influence.

-Understanding the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

Radio Free Liberty, 8-9, 22, Turkey Warns Armenia Against ‘New Provocations’ Over Nagorno-Karabakh, https://www.rferl.org/a/turkey-warns-armenia-provocations-nagorno-karabakh/31979795.html

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh for years. Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the OSCE’s so-called Minsk Group — co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States — failed to result in a resolution before war broke out again in September 2020. In the aftermath of the war that killed more than 6,500 people, Armenia agreed to hand over three districts ringing Nagorno-Karabakh that had been under Armenian control since the 1990s, including the Lachin corridor, and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the truce.

Reducing Middle East diplomacy increases war risks that suck in the US military and divert resources from Asia

 

  1. Brandon Morgan June 7, 2022, The Imperative of Middle East Regional Order and U.S. Diplomacy, https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2022/6/7/the-imperative-of-middle-east-regional-order-and-us-diplomacy

Indeed, U.S. ambivalence towards recent Iran-backed Houthi strikes against Saudi and Emirate oil facilities suggest that Washington is ready to accept broader strategic disengagement from the region, come what may. But strategic disengagement from the Middle East to focus on China and a war-bound Russia will likely come at high cost for Washington. Indeed, without a U.S.-supported Middle East security architecture, the long simmering tensions could erupt into a firestorm of region wide conflict inevitably requiring American military intervention to prevent an oil crisis or  renewal of transnational terrorism. This would completely undermine Washington’s desire to pivot strategic focus towards the Indo-Pacific. But insuring against negative outcomes in the Middle East—the region of traditional U.S. focus—also provides the opportunity for the rise of positive outcomes in economic growth and institutional development. This would not only provide positive trade benefits for the U.S., but it would also promote an American friendly regional order while limiting the growing influence of China and Russia. Fortunately, the tools to prevent strategic crises and promote Middle East regional growth lie increasingly less in military capacity and more in the realm of diplomatic and economic engagement. This excess of military capacity in the Middle East could prove highly valuable in the Indo-Pacific and Eastern Europe.

Establishing a Middle Eastern security architecture centered on a balance of power is crucial to American interests in ensuring uninhibited movement of global trade and energy resources. Importanly, the relationship between Iran and the Arab-Israeli coalition is central to ensuring this regional order and stability. But the current American strategy of diplomatic disengagement coupled with unabated conventional arms buildup of Gulf Arab partners only serves to exacerbate regional tensions.

Diplomacy will reduce the Iran threat over the long-term

  1. Brandon Morgan June 7, 2022, The Imperative of Middle East Regional Order and U.S. Diplomacy, https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2022/6/7/the-imperative-of-middle-east-regional-order-and-us-diplomacy

Indeed, Iran’s economy grew by 13.4% in 2016—all before full sanctions relief implementation, strongly suggesting that Iran stands to benefit from a renewed deal.[11] But it is important to remember that although Iran has long maintained its asymmetric and ballistic missile capabilities, the scale and severity of attacks against strategic oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Persian Gulf came after U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018. This suggests that while Tehran is not likely to surrender the Revolutionary Guard and proxy-force funding in the short term, it is possible for the U.S. to establish a security dialogue that minimizes regional tensions and builds momentum for further diplomatic victories in the long term.

A regional security architecture in the Middle East must be founded on reassurance to Arab-Israeli partners, continued deterrence against Iran, and good faith negotiations. The U.S. should revitalize its diplomatic engagement with Arab-Israeli partners. Importantly, this requires astute diplomacy that recognizes that a general pivot to other regions does not equate to complete strategic disengagement from the Middle East. The U.S. should reassure its Arab-Israeli partners that the American government will diplomatically support the coalition against attacks by Iran while offering economic assistance in the aftermath of Iranian strike

Middle East conflict undermines the Asia pivot

 

  1. Brandon Morgan June 7, 2022, The Imperative of Middle East Regional Order and U.S. Diplomacy, https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2022/6/7/the-imperative-of-middle-east-regional-order-and-us-diplomacy

While such a regional order may seem far-fetched, the U.S. government would at least benefit significantly from renewing its geostrategic appreciation of the Middle East. Importantly, this focus should rely on diplomacy and economics as the primary instruments to achieve a stable balance of power and regional order. The likely alternative of escalating tensions, expanded conflict, and abdicating American regional influence to strategic competitors would only serve to further erode U.S. geopolitical strength in the Middle East and beyond. Furthermore, Washington will have to undertake a concerted effort to renew progress towards a Palestinian-Israeli resolution to achieve broader regional stability. The U.S. will also have to consider the implications of recognizing disputed territory—such as the Western Sahara as part of Morocco, and the Golan Heights as part of Israel—with America’s assertion that military force should not be used to rewrite borders, as in Russia’s occupation of Crimea. A physical equilibrium must match its moral counterpart. As Henry Kissinger remarked in Diplomacy, a regional balance of power “reduces the opportunities for using force” while “a shared sense of justice reduces the desire to use force.”[15] Indeed, if there is any hope to complete the Indo-Pacific military pivot, the U.S. must commit to restore world class diplomacy in the Middle East.

 

 

A US-Saudi-NATO security pact that supports  normalization is key to contain Iran and facilitate Israel-Palestinian peace

Hadar, 8-10, 23, Dr. Leon Hadar, a contributing editor with The National Interest, is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia and a former research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He has taught at American University in Washington, DC, and at the University of Maryland, College Park. A columnist and blogger with Haaretz (Israel) and Washington correspondent for the Business Times of Singapore, he is a former United Nations bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post., Normalizing Saudi-Israeli Relations Is in America’s Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/normalizing-saudi-israeli-relations-america%E2%80%99s-interest-206702

A pro-American Middle Eastern bloc powered by the energy resources of the Persian Gulf and Israel’s high-tech industries and scientific centers would be the most effective way to contain the aggression of Iran and its regional satellites. One of the major dividing lines between “idealists” and “realists” in the foreign policy debate during the Cold War and its immediate aftermath was over the centrality of the promotion of human rights and democratic principles in the pursuit of American goals abroad. That debate pitted Kissingerian realpolitik types arguing that geostrategic and geoeconomic interests should be the main considerations guiding American diplomacy against liberal internationalists on the Left and, more recently, neoconservatives on the Right, who countered that the United States should place the goal of spreading its values worldwide at the center of its foreign policy agenda. In reality, when push came to shove—and in particular, over issues of war and peace—realism tended to win the day, even in the case of presidencies infused with idealism, like those of Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican President George W. Bush. Those two presidents also demonstrated the way in which preoccupation with human rights and democracy promotion could harm U.S. core national interests. Hence investing diplomatic efforts in pressing the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to improve his government’s human rights record, the Carter administration failed to pay attention to the deteriorating political situation in that country and failed to take action to prevent the fall of the pro-American regime in Tehran and the ensuing Islamist revolution in 1979, resulting in a devastating blow to U.S. status in the Middle East. Similarly, President Bush the Second’s fixation with remaking the Middle East along democratic lines steered his administration to pressure the Israelis to allow the holding of free democratic elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006, leading to the victory of the Islamist and anti-Western Hamas movement that remains in power in the Gaza Strip today. Another president who had entered the White House committed to an ambitious democracy-promotion and authoritarianism-fighting agenda but who gradually ended up readjusting his policies to the realities of international power politics has been Joe Biden. Reflecting the bizarre outcome of dogmatic idealism, Biden invited to his Summit for Democracy in 2023 an Islamist and anti-American country like Pakistan because it, well, holds elections. But Singapore, a leading American strategic ally in the Pacific, was not invited because of its supposedly questionable commitment to democratic ideals. Biden’s earlier pro-democracy campaign included also a vow to isolate and punish Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), bashing the Saudis as a “pariah” in response to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. For a while, that approach seemed to be cost-free as far as U.S. strategic and economic interests were concerned. After all, it was a time when America was becoming a major energy producer and oil prices were falling, and that supposedly provided an opportunity to reassess Washington’s alliance with Riyadh. Ending the alliance with Riyadh was a goal enunciated by members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which also question the U.S. commitment to its alliance with Israel and its entire strategy of engagement in the Middle East. And disregarding Saudi Arabia’s concern about the threat posed by its adversary Iran, one that it shared with Israel, Biden and his aides decided to move towards renewing the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. But then the war in Ukraine happened, and the Biden administration suddenly found itself operating in an international system dominated by a diplomatic and military conflict between great powers over territories and resources. Energy prices rose to the stratosphere, and whether MBS, the leader of the “pariah” Saudi Arabia, raised oil prices or flirted with the Russians and the Chinese mattered now much more than that country’s human rights record. Obsessing with the Saudis’ commitment to liberal democratic values seems in retrospect to be a luxury that a great power like the U.S. could not afford, especially when other great powers—like China and Russia, certainly not concerned about their potential allies’ treatment of political dissidents or religious minorities—are waiting to fill any geostrategic vacuum left by the Americans. From that perspective, pursuing the possibility of a NATO-level U.S.-Saudi mutual security pact—under which the United States would come to Saudi Arabia’s defense if it is attacked, and would involve Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel—makes a realpolitik sense, especially if it leads to progress on the Palestinian-Israeli front. In the aftermath of the Abraham Accords and Israel’s normalization of relationships with several Arab states, a process of diplomatic detente and economic cooperation between two of the region’s leading powers and allies of the United States would be a major coup as far as American interests are concerned. A pro-American Middle Eastern bloc powered by the energy resources of the Persian Gulf and Israel’s high-tech industries and scientific centers would be the most effective way to contain the aggression of Iran and its regional satellites. Such an arrangement is certainly worth the costs in the form of providing the Saudis with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile defense system, which would be helpful to the Saudis against Iran’s growing mid- and long-range missile arsenal, and helping them develop a civilian nuclear program. There is no doubt that MBS will also demand some concessions from Israel on the Palestinian issues, including stopping the establishment of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a clear commitment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. If Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes such steps that would lead to the withdrawal of two extremist right-wing ministers—Itamar-Gvir, the head of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit, and Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism Party—from the current coalition. That would then leave Netanyahu no choice but to rely on the support of the centrist parties in the Knesset and make with them a deal to end the current crisis over the government’s controversial plan for judicial reform.

Israel-Saudi deal has no impact – no war risks

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt, Foreign Policy, A Saudi-Israeli Peace Deal Isn’t Worth It, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/06/27/saudi-israel-biden-blinken-peace-normalization/?tpcc=onboarding_trending

At first glance, pushing Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalize relations seems like a no-brainer. U.S. leaders have long wanted Israel’s neighbors to accept its existence and reach a permanent peace. That impulse (and the related goal of reducing Soviet influence in the region during the Cold War) helped inspire the Carter administration’s shepherding of the 1978 Camp David Accords and subsequent Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, as well as the later U.S. effort to broker peace between Israel and Jordan in 1994. Unfortunately, subsequent efforts to achieve a “two-state solution” within the framework of the Oslo Accords were dismal failures, in good part because the United States was not an evenhanded mediator and acted as “Israel’s lawyer” instead. Even so, given the long history of Arab-Israeli enmity, it’s easy to assume that normalization between Riyadh and Tel Aviv would strengthen peace and facilitate regional economic development. Why shouldn’t Washington try to get two of its closest regional partners to come to terms with each other? In fact, there are two big reasons why this sudden push makes little sense right now. First, the danger of a serious conflict between Israel and any Arab states is already vanishingly small. The days where Israel had to worry about being surrounded by large, hostile, and more populous Arab coalition—with some members armed and trained by the Soviet Union—are long gone. Let’s not forget that the supposedly outnumbered and vulnerable Israeli David won every one of the wars fought against the mostly mythical Arab Goliath. Today, Israel has the most powerful military in the region, and it is the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia isn’t going to attack Israel under any circumstances, and neither are Jordan, Iraq, or Egypt. Syria is still technically a belligerent, but the battered Assad regime won’t lift a finger against Israel either. Indeed, most of these states have been collaborating with Israel against mutual foes—including Hamas in Gaza and of course Iran—for a long time. Don’t get me wrong: Full normalization would be nice—especially for Israel—and arranging it would probably win the Biden administration some plaudits from groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee . But normalization wouldn’t be a sea change in regional politics; it would merely codify and make a situation that already exists more visible. The open secret is that Saudi Arabia (and some other Gulf states) tacitly accepted Israel a long time ago, even if they haven’t been willing to admit it in public. The bottom line is that even if Biden’s long-shot bid were to pay off, the strategic benefits for the United States will be minor. Second, in making this push, Biden and Blinken are spending scant political capital on two of the least grateful clients in America’s portfolio. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a history of treating U.S. presidents with contempt, and his relationship with Biden has been frosty. He now heads the most hard-line government in Israel’s history, one that is streamlining the colonization of the West Bank and facilitating an increasingly violent campaign against its Palestinian subjects (including some U.S. citizens). The Biden administration isn’t happy about these developments, not to mention Israel’s drift away from democracy, but it has confined itself to the usual limp and ineffectual protests. Meanwhile, Israel has remained steadfastly neutral over the war in Ukraine while continuing to receive generous U.S. military and diplomatic backing. Netanyahu and company are just acting in what they think is Israel’s best interest, of course, but their conduct should be a wake-up call for Biden & Co. Saudi Arabia is no more deserving of U.S. diplomatic solicitude. Even if one ignores the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, Saudi Arabia has been a prickly and unhelpful ally of late. Its military campaign in Yemen was a humanitarian disaster and a blow to America’s image, insofar as U.S. support facilitated a destructive and largely pointless war. Riyadh has also stayed on the sidelines over Ukraine, and it continues to feed the Russian war machine by purchasing Russian oil at bargain prices while exporting more of its own production at a premium. Moreover, the Saudis angered the Biden administration last fall by coordinating a production cut with Russia to keep prices up, despite direct U.S. requests that they not do so. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has moved steadily closer to China, too, and Saudi officials have made it clear that they welcome alternatives to U.S. patronage, especially in the economic realm. Here too: One can argue Saudi Arabia isn’t doing this to spite the administration; its just following its own interests. From Riyadh’s perspective, the fate of Ukraine is not a vital issue, and it makes good strategic sense to reach out to China and reduce dependence on U.S. protection. Fair enough, but then why is Washington wasting time, effort, and potential leverage trying to broker a deal between Riyadh and Tel Aviv? To be clear: If those two states think it makes sense to normalize their relationship at this point, the United States would not and should not object. But why should it expend any effort at all trying to persuade them? It’s possible that Biden and Blinken are worried about declining U.S. influence in the region and alarmed by China’s recent diplomatic achievements. Convincing Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel would show that the United States could still deliver tangible diplomatic results, even if the strategic significance of the move were modest. Convincing the Saudis to shelve their nuclear ambitions as part of the deal would be a genuine achievement, but that’s not very likely. There’s one more big downside to this endeavor, and it might be the most significant. By pushing Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations, Biden and Blinken are in effect helping make the world safer for Israeli apartheid. The Saudis were never going to do very much to oppose the emerging one-state reality, of course, but normalization would be tantamount to their saying that permanent subjugation of the Palestinians is OK by them. Biden and Blinken aren’t going to do anything to halt or reverse this process either, even though it makes a mockery of their claims to take human rights seriously and makes their opposition to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine or China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority look hypocritical in the minds of independent observers. If you’re wondering why much of the world no longer sees the United States as an inspiring beacon of progress, there’s part of your answer. Given all the other items on the State Department’s to-do list, I can’t quite fathom why this long-shot bid is even being attempted.  And for those who believe that it’s at least worth a try, I’d remind them that trying and failing to broker a deal makes Washington look ineffectual, and all the more so when its entreaties are rejected by two states with whom the United States supposedly has a “special relationship.”

Saudi government undemocratic

Branco Marcetic, July 2023, Jacobin, Saudi Arabia’s PGA Golf Merger Is Proof Its Monarchy Is Untouchable, https://jacobin.com/2023/07/saudi-arabia-pga-golf-merger-liv-monarchy-human-rights

The PGA Tour is now dealing with a public relations fiasco of its own, with Monahan denounced as a hypocrite by September 11 victims’ families and labeled a “piece of shit” by Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy (who made sure to clarify that he would gladly accept the Saudi money if they offered him $1 billion, just not an amount like $5 million). And it’s still far from clear if the merger will go ahead, with the US Senate in opposition and the Justice Department examining it on antitrust grounds.

But despite that encouraging pushback, it’s a sad reflection of the political landscape that these Saudi plans, which date back to 2021, were even able to get this far. If the Russian government had started a rival golf tour and threw money at a bunch of famous players, it’s hard to imagine it would have poached enough of them to draw the PGA Tour’s ire, let alone merge with the organization in a lucrative partnership. In a political climate where so much as setting a book in 1930s Siberia is met with apocalyptic levels of outrage, the weight of moral censure for anything of the sort would have likely been total and overwhelming.

Yet by every measure, the Saudi government is even worse than Vladimir Putin’s. It’s far more socially reactionary, less democratic, and vastly more repressive toward its people — and it has been waging an even more brutal war on its neighbor for roughly eight times as long and with an even bigger death toll. And, as bad as the Kremlin is, it so far hasn’t been complicit in the worst attack on US soil that left thousands of Americans dead, as the Saudi government was.

US leads now and prevents China from establishing hegemonic influence in the Middle East

C haziza, 6-30, 22, Dr. Mordechai Chaziza is a senior lecturer at the Department of Politics and Governance and the Multidisciplinary Studies in Social Science division at Ashkelon Academic College (Israel) and a Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Department, University of Haifa, specializing in Chinese foreign and strategic relations, China’s Strategic Partnerships Are Remaking the Middle East, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/china’s-strategic-partnerships-are-remaking-middle-east-206598

In the twenty-first century, Chinese foreign policy is widely reflected in developing global partnerships and expanding interests with other countries as geopolitical instruments for power and influence. China has resorted to building a global network of strategic partnerships (flexible political cooperation based on informal political bonds) instead of broad formal alliances (which often target external enemies based on defense treaties). While traditional alliances can potentially expose Chinese diplomacy to high risk, partnerships are perceived as more flexible and interest-driven. Such partnerships denote a shared commitment to managing unavoidable conflicts so that the two countries can continue working together on vital areas of common interest. Building strategic partnerships worldwide is one of the most important dimensions and instruments of Chinese diplomacy to achieve geopolitical goals. In the competitive Middle East dominated by Washington, Beijing has had to build a regional presence that does not alienate the United States or any Middle East states while pursuing its geopolitical interests, even as the U.S. security umbrella offers a low-cost entry into the region. China’s partnerships with the Middle East states broadly tend to correspond to the three major categories of partnerships: comprehensive strategic partnerships (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates), strategic partnerships (Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, and Kuwait), and innovative comprehensive partnership (Israel). Through strategic partnerships usually founded on economic interests, China has pursued its Middle Eastern geopolitical interests bilaterally without adopting region-wide or multilateral goals. It can say that Beijing’s circle of friends in the Middle East is getting broader and more diverse (See Table 1). China was among the first countries to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the State of Palestine as a sovereign state in 1988 and has since provided diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. China has also been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians in international forums and has called for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state solution. The strategic partnership agreement signed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Chinese president Xi Jinping in June 2023 shows China’s commitment to supporting the Palestinian people and the close relationship between the two countries (marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of establishing formal relations). It also signifies China’s willingness to be more active in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Xi called the strategic partnership an “important milestone in the history of bilateral relations.” The China-Palestinian Authority (PA) strategic partnership is significant for both countries. For China, it is an opportunity to deepen its engagement in the Middle East and to gain a foothold in a region that is increasingly important to its economic and strategic interests. For the PA, the agreement is a sign of China’s growing support for the Palestinian cause and a potential source of much-needed economic and political support. The strategic partnership includes an economic and technological cooperation pact, a deal on mutual visa exemption for diplomatic passports, and a friendship between the Chinese city of Wuhan and Ramallah. Overall, China-Palestine relations have maintained a positive growth momentum in recent years. The two sides launched the first round of negotiations on a free trade zone and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Belt and Road Initiative cooperation. The trade between the two countries in recent years has grown steadily and, in 2022, reached $158 million, reflecting a 23.2 percent increase compared to the previous year (see Figure 1). The China-Palestine strategic partnership is a significant development that has the potential to benefit both countries. However, it is important to note that the partnership is still in its early stages, and it remains to be seen how it will be implemented and its long-term impact. China’s establishment of a strategic partnership with the PA is another sign of its growing interest in the Middle East and its desire to increase its regional influence. China has been steadily increasing its economic and political engagement in the Middle East in recent years, and this partnership is another step in that direction. The strategic partnership with Palestine is the twelfth partnership China established in the Middle East (see Table 1). This shows that China is increasingly interested in the region and is looking to expand its influence there. Nevertheless, China’s influence in the Middle East is still relatively limited. The United States is still the most powerful great power in the region, and it will need to do more to build its influence if it wants to become a significant player in the Middle East. Therefore, the importance of the strategic partnership between China and Palestine is mainly in the economic and bilateral spheres. The two countries have already signed several economic cooperation agreements, and the strategic partnership will likely lead to even more cooperation in the future. China is also expected to provide Palestine with financial and technical assistance, which will help to boost the Palestinian economy. China has been a long-time supporter of Palestine and has provided economic and humanitarian assistance to the PA. China’s aid has been essential in recent years as the PA has struggled to meet its financial obligations. China aided Palestine in the construction of more than forty projects, including schools and roads, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building; sent expert teams, medical supplies, and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic; and recently pledged a further $1 million donation to the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Upgrading China-Palestine relations to a strategic partnership will provide a framework for increased cooperation on various issues, benefiting both countries. It has the potential to help Palestine’s economic development and humanitarian situation China relies on strategic partnerships to bolster its diplomatic posture in the Middle East and give large Chinese companies a leg up when negotiating infrastructure and digital deals with the local governments. China has historically shown sympathy toward the Palestinians in public. Still, it has focused more on its relations with Israel (a close ally of the United States) in practice due to technology and commercial interests, and the two sides established an innovative comprehensive partnership. China-Palestine trade is small two-way trade that only totaled $158 million in 2022, compared with $17.62 billion with Israel. China has become Israel’s third-largest trading partner. Still, it remained far behind the EU ($49.19 billion) and the United States ($22.04 billion), even though Israel trades with China more than any other European country. Overall, the China-Israel relationship is complex and has challenges and opportunities. China is looking to Israel for technology and commercial opportunities, while Israel is looking to China for investment and support. The increased tensions between the United States and China, however, could affect the China-Israel relationship. Therefore, Israel is forced to conduct its trade relations with China out of economic and commercial interests while considering U.S. demands and taking advantage of opportunities. Moreover, China supported the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict to enhance its worldwide image and bolster its great power status. Over the years, China has promoted several multipoint peace plans to facilitate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on multiple occasions, but with little success. However, China’s recent success in brokering a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia could give it renewed hope of playing a more active role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The China-Palestine strategic partnership comes when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a standstill. The renewed hostilities, Palestinian internal divisions, increased Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and a far-right government in Israel have all dampened sentiment toward negotiations in the near term. These longstanding obstacles in the Palestinian-Israel relationship led China to mainly be limited its diplomacy to construction, manufacturing, and other economic projects in the region. Only time will tell how the China-PA strategic partnership will ultimately impact the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. China’s growing presence, through strategic partnerships, in the Middle East poses significant challenges to the United States’ wide range of vital geopolitical, geostrategic, and geo-economic interests. The United States, however, still has several advantages, a long history of engagement in the region, strong ties with many Middle Eastern countries, and a strong military presence. Washington cannot afford to take China’s growing presence in the Middle East for granted. It needs to continue to engage with the region, strengthen its ties and alliances with Middle Eastern countries, and be prepared to compete with China’s strategic partnerships for regional influence.

Countries can replace US support with China’s support

Fouad, 6-26, 23, am Fouad is a Middle East analyst, editor, and a PhD candidate at The Catholic University of America., Egypt’s Struggle with Navigating the New Multipolar Reality Is an Opportunity for Washington, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/egypt’s-struggle-navigating-new-multipolar-reality-opportunity-washington-206585

Up until this point, the United States has sought to pressure Egypt to act in certain ways by withholding military aid to Cairo. This policy would be effective if America were still the hegemon of a unipolar world. But in today’s multipolar world, aid can come from elsewhere, like China, with much greater ease.

Iran-Saudi rapprochement fragile, strong ties are not inevitable

Natasha Turak, 6-21, 23, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/06/21/saudi-iran-ties-have-a-long-way-to-go-despite-rapprochement-efforts.html, WORLD POLITICS ‘Things will just have to be accepted as tense’: Saudi-Iran relations have a long way to go despite rapprochement efforts

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister made a high-profile visit to Tehran, drawing coverage and praise about the improvement in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two longtime foes. But hopes for immediate trust and consistency will likely have to wait, as the two regional powers continue to have dramatically divergent geopolitical and religious goals. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister made a high-profile visit to Tehran over the weekend, drawing coverage and praise about the improvement in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two longtime foes. “Mutual respect, non-interference in the two countries’ internal affairs and commitment to the United Nations Charter” will be at the core of bilateral relations from now on, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat, said at a news conference during the visit. His Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian praised the re-establishment of diplomatic ties, saying it would improve security for the region. The meeting was the result of Iran and Saudi Arabia agreeing to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies in each other’s countries after China-led negotiations in Beijing in March. The rapprochement was a watershed moment for diplomacy in the region. But hopes for immediate trust and consistency will likely have to wait, many regional analysts say, as the two regional powers continue to have dramatically divergent geopolitical and religious goals. A small example of that was evident on Saturday, when the Saudi foreign minister refused to hold a joint press conference in front of a portrait of the late Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who for decades directed Iran’s proxy wars around the Middle East. The Iranian hosts complied with the minister’s request for a change of venue in order to avert a diplomatic incident, regional outlets reported. “The meeting shows us that despite minor delays, both sides are prioritizing deescalation as part of a new regional strategy aimed at tactical threat reduction,” Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House. “Despite this progress,” she said, “nothing has been resolved between both capitals. What exists is a fragile agreement that can only be made stronger with time, consistency and trust building.” ‘A much longer process’ Michael Stephens, an associate fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute, agrees. “I think the two sides are serious, but I think this is a much longer process than maybe some of the commentariat are giving it. Not everything has changed, and there are still significant tensions to work through across a whole range of areas,” he said, citing the war in Yemen — Tehran and Riyadh support opposing sides — as well as Iran’s use of proxy militias around the Middle East and attacks on Saudi infrastructure by Iran-backed groups. Iran and Saudi Arabia have long accused each other of destabilizing the region and regarded each other as a grave security threat. They’re often on opposite sides of regional conflicts such as those in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria. Riyadh and Washington both accuse Tehran of being behind several attacks on Saudi ships, territory and energy infrastructure in the past few years. Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016, after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response to Saudi authorities’ execution of 47 dissidents, including a leading Shiite cleric. Mutual interests Still, the turning of this page signals that both countries have mutual interests to pursue and realize they ultimately benefit more from diplomatic engagement. “Both Riyadh and Tehran are motivated by economic imperatives,” Vakil said. “Breaking the deadlock between them could reduce missile and drone threats over the kingdom — a priority for vision 2030′s success while Tehran after the months of protests needs to break out of economic isolation and the stranglehold of sanctions.” Saudi Arabia also stressed the importance of maritime security in the Gulf region, from which a huge proportion of the world’s oil is exported, and where skirmishes involving Iran seizing foreign ships are fairly frequent. “I would like to refer to the importance of cooperation between the two countries on regional security, especially the security of maritime navigation … and the importance of cooperation among all regional countries to ensure that it is free of weapons of mass destruction,” Prince Faisal said while in Tehran. Despite enduring differences and ongoing regional conflicts, the visit was “clearly very important signaling, and it was done at the right level in terms of the right set of ministers,” Stephens said. “To my mind, this is exactly how the process should be building, through a series of diplomatic initiatives which show goodwill on both sides.” Prince Farhan also met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and expressed hope that Raisi would accept the kingdom’s invitation to visit Saudi Arabia “soon, God willing.” The process will be slow and will likely face disturbances, but it still should enable a shift from a tense dialogue a more constructive one over time, according to regional watchers. “Broadly speaking, things will just have to be accepted as tense,” Stephens said, adding that any changes to the U.S. administration, particularly concerning the Iran nuclear deal, could have significant ramifications and even rupture that process. “But ultimately you make peace with enemies, you don’t make peace with friends,” he said, “so they’re going to have to accept that both sides look at things in a very different way.”

US presence protects the flow of oil

Miller & Ehinger, 6-18, 23, Simeone Miller is a Middle East security analyst and a current graduate student in the Social Sciences and Globalization MA program at California State University, San Bernardino. He has previously worked as a researcher at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a Marcellus Policy Fellow at the John Quincy Adams Society. Garrett Ehinger is a China analyst who holds a bachelor’s in Biomedical Science with a minor in Mandarin Chinese from Brigham Young University in Idaho. He is currently a master’s student at the University of Utah studying public health. He has studied Chinese culture and language for over a decade., https://nationalinterest.org/blog/america-benefits-china-middle-east-206565

One of the United States’ most pressing interests in the Middle East is maritime security, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz, in which oil tankers move approximately 17 million barrels of oil daily. To protect this vital interest, America has consistently maintained thousands of U.S. troops and military installations in the Persian Gulf.

China’s influence in the region does not threaten the US and facilitates peace

Miller & Ehinger, 6-18, 23, Simeone Miller is a Middle East security analyst and a current graduate student in the Social Sciences and Globalization MA program at California State University, San Bernardino. He has previously worked as a researcher at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a Marcellus Policy Fellow at the John Quincy Adams Society. Garrett Ehinger is a China analyst who holds a bachelor’s in Biomedical Science with a minor in Mandarin Chinese from Brigham Young University in Idaho. He is currently a master’s student at the University of Utah studying public health. He has studied Chinese culture and language for over a decade., https://nationalinterest.org/blog/america-benefits-china-middle-east-206565

Yet rather than viewing it as a threat, Washington should recognize there are benefits to Chinese involvement in the Middle East. These include regional stability, as already evidenced by China’s facilitating recognition agreements between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Middle East also has the potential to become a financial and military liability for Beijing, which could give the United States a leg up in its current Sino-American rivalry. For one, if China were to become entangled in Middle Eastern conflicts, this would drain resources and reduce its ability to challenge American power on other fronts. For instance, China has invested close to $200 billion in Latin America, which extends its ability to influence regional politics. It has been pressuring South American nations—Argentina in particular—to permit the construction of military bases. But if China were to become preoccupied with problems in the Middle East, it may force them to deprioritize these other projects. Beijing is already moving in this direction. For example, China’s domestic persecution of Muslims has spawned dozens of militant Chinese Muslim groups in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There have been bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan targeting Chinese nationals, and ISIS is putting China in its crosshairs. Moreover, China has also built a naval base in Djibouti—with other potential base sites in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives—and deployed thousands of special forces in Syria. For extremist groups like ISIS, these are rich potential targets. Simultaneously, concerns about China wielding its newfound regional influence to harm American economic interests—especially when it comes to energy affairs—don’t carry much weight. Because of the United States’ firm integration into world trade, any harm to American regional maritime or energy security would damage other international actors that China is trying to strengthen relations with. Directly threatening America in this way is thus antithetical to China’s own goals. Barring the collateral damage, such moves would also invite retaliation. The United States has considerable influence over the South China Sea, its regional states, and other areas vital to Chinese influence and trade. If Beijing were to exercise its influence in the Middle East in such a way that directly harmed U.S. economic interests, Washington could easily counter back. There are some proactive measures the United States can take if it wishes to maximize costly risks to China. To start, Washington could reduce the common interests between China and the region’s inhabitants while still leaving plenty of room for Chinese overreach. For example, acknowledging China’s peacekeeping efforts in a positive light would remove mutual animosity towards the United States as a shared interest. With America no longer decrying Chinese peacekeeping efforts, fewer actors will see cooperating with China as a way of “defying” America. The United States should also focus on scaling down its extensive military presence in the Middle East, leaving gaps that Beijing may try to fill. This way, Chinese interests and forces end up becoming salient targets for militant jihadists in the face of an increasingly distant America. The United States should reconsider its current attitudes toward China’s expansion in the Middle East and take it for what it is: a chance to let China make costly mistakes. Washington needs to acknowledge that not everything China intends to do in the region will threaten U.S. interests. Not only that, but some of China’s initiatives may bring about stability in places that America has historically failed to stabilize. All the while, this approach can give Washington a leg up over its rival by keeping Beijing’s hands full. Only in well-defined instances where U.S. interests are directly threatened should Washington act decisively. Otherwise, all the United States needs to do is cautiously observe events unfold and avoid premature intervention.

China’s BRI investments already high

Dr. Mordechai Chaziza is a senior lecturer at the Department of Politics and Governance and the Multidisciplinary Studies in Social Science division at Ashkelon Academic College (Israel) and a Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Department, University of Haifa. He specializes in Chinese foreign and strategic relations, 6-4, 23, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/decade-china%E2%80%99s-belt-and-road-initiative-middle-east-206525, A Decade of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Middle East

Launched in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—a global infrastructure and development strategy that aims to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe through a network of land and maritime trade routes—was a significant turning point in China’s foreign policy and has become one of the most ambitious and far-reaching development initiatives in history. It is also regarded by many in the West, the United States especially, as a not-so-subtle attempt by Beijing to reshape regional political orders in its favor. In this light of this, it is worth considering the BRI’s impact in the Middle East. The region, home to a growing middle class, is home to several key international energy and sea trade routes. China’s heavy investment in the Middle East in recent years, including through the BRI, is thus of particular concern to Washington. Reviewing how such efforts have fared over the past decade may yield some interesting insights. Why BRI Matters to the Middle East The BRI is primarily a series of projects (comprising both traditional physical and digital infrastructure) designed to connect and integrate cooperating partners—cities, markets, and countries—across regions. Given this, a particular partner’s degree of connectivity plays a larger role than other factors, such as regime type or market share. For Middle East countries, favorable geopolitical location and integration into key facets of the global economy play an essential role in China’s BRI framework. Consequently, China has developed a deep commercial presence in port cities and industrial parks that link the Persian Gulf to the Arabian, Red, and Mediterranean Seas. Myriad observers regard this presence as a way for China to secure its energy supplies, expand its trade, and gain a foothold in the region. China’s engagement in the Middle East can be attributed to two primary drivers. First, it seeks to be recognized as a great power status domestically and by other states. The Middle East is a strategically important region, and China’s engagement is seen as a way to increase its influence and stake in the global order. Second, it aimed to secure its economic interests in the region through the BRI framework and continued access to energy resources on which it is heavily dependent. The BRI is thus a means for China to increase its channels for exporting goods, reduce trade friction, improve access to natural resources, build supply chains, and generate opportunities for Chinese companies to invest overseas and sell goods and services. To that end, over the past ten years, it has integrated the BRI framework with the Middle East countries’ national development strategies. As the BRI is a long-term initiative that will continue to evolve in the coming years, Beijing will need to carefully assess the success and impact of its projects in the Middle East to make informed decisions on how to proceed. The success of the framework in the Middle East depends on several factors, including the economic and political stability of the region, the quality of the BRI projects, and the willingness of host countries to cooperate with China. More importantly, BRI projects are essential for underdeveloped Middle East states dependent on external creditors to establish critical physical and digital infrastructures. These projects are already in operation or are entering the second and third phases of development. Unless alternative creditors support further development, countries in the Middle East will continue to depend on and work with China. Assessing BRI Projects in the Middle East Currently, BRI projects span fifteen Middle East nations and include major infrastructural and digital projects on land and sea. The status of these projects varies, with some being planned, ongoing, completed, halted, or canceled, providing insight into the present overall situation of BRI. Developing a deeper understanding can be challenging, however, due to 1) deliberate opacity surrounding BRI projects on both the Chinese and host regional countries’ sides and 2) the sheer scale of the initiative, which spans large swathes of continents. This lack of transparency is a major challenge for researchers and policymakers trying to understand BRI and its implications. Nonetheless, there is still a great amount of information available to consider. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) China Connects database, for example, provides a valuable overview of China’s BRI investment and lending in the Middle East. The database also includes information on Digital Silk Road (DSR) investments, which can be understood to be the BRI’s technological component—a digital bridge-building project intended to promote a new type of globalization via digital trade, digital infrastructure, cross-border e-commerce, mobile financial tools, Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies (big data, digital currencies, cloud computing, and so on). In any case, the IISS China Connects data demonstrates that China is investing heavily in the Middle East, with 266 BRI projects between 2005 and 2022 (see Table 1). Most of those are either ongoing or have been completed, and there are only a few projects that have been canceled or halted (see Table 2). This is a positive sign for China, showing that the initiative is gaining traction in the region. Of note is what is being funded. The data shows that China is investing heavily in digital infrastructure in the region, which will likely continue in the coming years as Beijing seeks to expand its global reach. Chinese companies invested in 202 DSR projects (76 percent of the total investment) compared to 64 traditional physical infrastructure projects (24 percent). These investments are likely to have a major impact on the region’s economies and societies, and it will be important to monitor the impact of these investments in the coming years.

US presence in Syria not needed to stop ISIS and it inflames regional conflict.

Adam Lammon, 6-16, 23, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/stealth-fighters-syria-why-america-sending-f-22s-206559, Stealth Fighters to Syria: Why America Is Sending in the F-22s,

The F-22 has its work cut out for it in Syria, whether in deterring the Russian military or aiding the broader U.S. military mission. On June 14, the U.S. Air Force deployed fifth-generation F-22 Raptors to Syria to deter what U.S. Central Command described as “increasingly unsafe and unprofessional behavior by Russian aircraft in the region.” The Raptor, an advanced air-superiority fighter that is renowned for its stealth capabilities, is intended to increase the U.S. military’s ability to defend the 900 U.S. servicemembers that remain deployed in the war-torn country. Geopolitics Strategy Game The last time the United States sent F-22 fighters to the Middle East was last year, when the combat jets flew to the United Arab Emirates in a show of force following drone and missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthis. However, it is not the aircraft’s first stint in Syria. In the spring of 2018, the F-22 provided “defensive counterair” capabilities by holding Syrian air defense assets at risk during the U.S.-led, multinational strikes against Syrian military targets in response to Damascus’ suspected chemical weapons attacks. Then, in the fall, the F-22 completed its first “combat surge” in Syria, in which U.S. Raptor pilots flew “deep into Syrian territory, facing both enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile systems” and deterred nearly 600 Syrian, Iranian, and Russian combat aircraft from threatening U.S. military personnel. The F-22 has its work cut out for it in Syria, whether in deterring the Russian military or aiding the broader U.S. military mission. Indeed, despite these deployments in defense of the years-long U.S. military presence on the ground, the Air Force reports that Russia has stopped adhering to agreed-upon deconfliction agreements in Syria’s busy skies and that Russian aircraft are harassing U.S. personnel with increasing frequency. The United States has long been concerned about Russian harassment of U.S. forces but has recently observed a “significant spike” in Russian aerial aggression in Syria. On the ground, too, U.S. servicemembers face a variety of threats from Russian forces, which have physically harassed and threatened Americans across the country. Russia maintains over 2,500 military personnel in Syria in support of its ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which for all intents and purposes has won his country’s civil war after more than a decade of conflict. Russia and Syria have long disparaged U.S. troops as “occupiers” and insisted that they leave the country. The U.S. refusal has put Americans in harm’s way, and not just from Moscow and Damascus. Iran, another Syrian and Russian ally, has regularly targeted the U.S. military as well. As recently as last March, for instance, a drone attack of “Iranian origin” killed one U.S. contractor and wounded six others in Syria, raising questions about the logic and sustainability of a U.S. presence that has persisted in Syria since 2015. The United States government consistently points to the threats posed by the remnants of the Islamic State when it justifies the U.S. presence in Syria. To be sure, even after losing its territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group’s resiliency continues to pose a complex challenge for the U.S.-led multinational coalition, which carried out 313 anti-ISIS operations in 2022. Yet the United States faces more and direr threats from Russia, Iran, and the Syrian government than ISIS itself, which has lost its once-formidable capability to carry out coordinated offensive operations in the Middle East or farther abroad. In fact, ISIS cannot be defeated by military action alone: tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners, including many foreign fighters and their families, are languishing in Iraqi and Syrian detention centers and prisons. Until these people are repatriated to their countries of origin, they will be at risk of radicalization and recruitment by jihadists, and ISIS will continue to target the prisons in its efforts to free its comrades. As U.S. policymakers should have learned from the U.S. war efforts against Al Qaeda or the Taliban, ISIS is not a problem that the United States can kill its way out of. However, much like the Taliban has proven its commitment to fighting ISIS even after the United States left Afghanistan, there is reason to believe that Syria, Iran, and Russia will not tolerate ISIS in the Middle East either. Americans should recall that Iran was instrumental in the U.S.-supported fight against ISIS in Iraq and opposed the same terrorist presence in Afghanistan, while Russia has fought ISIS in its efforts to secure Assad’s rule. It is additionally worth remembering that when President Donald Trump ordered a snap withdrawal from Syria in 2019, it was Russia who moved its troops into the abandoned U.S. outposts and called for de-escalation between the Kurds and Turkey in the northeast. Moscow’s subsequent, fruitful negotiations with Turkey then led to an agreement that prevented a Turkish military operation against the Kurds in exchange for the latter retreating from the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey, which was responsible for killing ISIS’s latest leader last month, is committed to combatting the same Syrian Kurds that the United States has been supporting since 2014—greatly straining the U.S.-Turkish relationship. This is just one more Gordian knot that the United States has been trying to untie in Syria—without much success. The fact of the matter is that the United States is an outsider with few friends in Syria. As an uninvited guest in the country, it remains a target of Syrian, Russian, and Iranian military pressure. Its own allies and partners, from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia and the broader Arab League, have begun welcoming Damascus back into the regional fold with open arms. Its policy of regime change, which began under the Obama administration but has continued in different forms, has long failed. Far from Russia being isolated—even after its invasion of Ukraine—Moscow continues to be an indispensable player in Syria, for Damascus and Tehran as much as Jerusalem and Ankara. The countries of the Middle East understand that the United States will not stay in Syria indefinitely, and they are hedging their bets accordingly. But America has not adapted in kind; instead, it has stayed the course, enduring casualties while vainly searching for a way out. But after nine years of war, only one thing is clear: no amount of F-22s can help America defeat the consequences of its own policy failings.

Counterplan: Condition assistance to Saudi Arabia on it stopping the war in Yemen

Neumann, 5-1, 23, Gerard A. Neumann is a student at Columbia University, America’s Failing Saudi Policy, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/america’s-failing-saudi-policy-206442

To further its own influence and minimize the risk these groups pose to its stability and national defense, Saudi Arabia has committed itself to counter-militancy. This policy has manifested most clearly in the ongoing Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, the country in which the Houthi movement is based. With the help of U.S. training, weapons sales, and intelligence, coalition forces have led an intensive bombing and ground campaign with the aim of ousting the Houthis and restoring the former Yemeni government. The conflict has created one of the largest humanitarian crises in history. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, millions are displaced, and millions more are starving. The intervention has no clear end date, and beyond being a massive humanitarian catastrophe serves as a blight on American international reputation by virtue of its second-hand involvement. While Saudi policy was more palatable during America’s own intervention in the Middle East, upon taking a step back it is clearly antithetical to American interests in almost every way. The United States needs cheap oil, or else its economy grinds to a halt: Saudi Arabia is directly involved in keeping oil expensive. The United States needs the Middle East to be stable so that it is not dragged into another conflict: the Saudi-Iranian rivalry endangers that stability. The United States needs to recover its international reputation after its disastrous Middle East wars: cooperation with Saudi intervention in Yemen makes that considerably more difficult. Current U.S. policy does little to address these glaring relationship deficiencies. There has been a malaise in American Middle Eastern diplomacy since the Afghanistan pullout. Yet America’s leverage is considerable. Saudi Arabia needs American weapons for its national defense, and it needs American expertise to maintain these weapons. Despite the recent cooling of some tensions, there is no strong evidence that the country’s rivalry with Iran is a thing of the past. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is no longer vital to America’s interests. Completely severing the relationship now would have almost no effect in comparison to severing it ten years ago. Even in the economic area, there are possible alternatives to Saudi oil that could be explored such as Venezuela, Nigeria, the UAE, Brazil, or even America itself. The United Stat should utilize its leverage, and demand that Saudi Arabia hold up its side of the oil-for-security bargain or else look elsewhere for defense.

US presence in Syria worsens the ISIS threat

Dedmidras, 4-5, 23, Ali Demirdas, Ph.D. in political science from the University of South Carolina, Fulbright scholar, professor of international affairs at the College of Charleston (2011–2018). You can follow him on Twitter @AliDemirdasPhD., he West Must Wake Up to the Iranian Drone Threat, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/west-must-wake-iranian-drone-threat-206396

The Iranian drone strike against the American military base in northern Syria that killed one American contractor and wounded six servicemen has once again called into question the purpose of the American presence, with some 900 troops, in the country. The official reasoning, according to the Pentagon chief, Gen. Mark A. Milley, is “to counter [the Islamic State].” Furthermore, the policymakers in Washington have stated that the United States should stay in Syria to “contain and roll back Iranian influence … also protecting Israel.” Whereas the two objectives may sound legitimate, the ways by which the United States implements them are inherently problematic and will beget more problems, not only for Washington but for the region as well. ISIS has posed a much more immediate threat to the regional states and actors than it has to Washington, which weakens the argument that the United States is in Syria to counter ISIS. By design, ISIS is an extremist Sunni organization that during its reign directed its attacks primarily against the Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria, explicitly engaging in a Shia genocide. This makes the organization a prime adversary for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Iran and its proxies, who are Shias. The pro-Iranian militias such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria played a great role in rolling back ISIS. Ironically, Washington has indirectly allowed Iranian influence in the region to strengthen by helping eliminate an anti-Shia group like ISIS, just as it did by removing a staunch anti-Iran figure, Saddam Hussein, and fighting the anti-Iran Taliban in Afghanistan. ISIS has declared Turkey “the Wilayat Turkey” (a part of its alleged caliphate) and issued a death warrant for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his cooperation with “the Crusaders” (NATO) in the fight against ISIS. The terror organization is known to have carried out numerous suicide bombings in Turkey that cost the lives of dozens of Turks. All this considered, Washington’s insistence on staying in Syria under the pretext of “containing ISIS” is rather weak. Every actor in the region considers ISIS an existential threat and has a stake in eliminating it. If anything, Washington should have cooperated with its NATO ally Turkey, a regional power that has formidable economic, political, and military clout, and its proxies. Such a partnership could have maintained U.S. power projection without risking a direct confrontation with regional adversaries such as Iran and the probability of initiating another “forever war” that would have America bogged down in the Middle East. This was seen with the assassination of the Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in 2020, for which Iran retaliated by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq where more than 100 US troops suffered brain injuries. However, a series of mistakes Washington made in 2014-2015 not only cost it Turkey, a valuable ally, but also resulted in America’s unjustified presence in Syria. At the height of the ISIS threat, the Obama administration failed to adopt a clear plan for its defeat and the toppling of Assad. The confused U.S. agencies began to support different opposition groups each having different agendas. The CIA began to train and equip the pro-Turkey Sunni opposition, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose main goal was to topple Assad and fight ISIS. The Pentagon, in contrast, propped up the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey’s arch foe, whose aim was primarily to fight ISIS and ultimately to gain autonomy, even independence, within Syria. By 2015, Washington’s Syrian plan was in shambles such that the FSA and the YPG turned against each other, while at the same time separately fighting ISIS. Eventually, the same year, Washington decided to abandon the Sunni FSA in favor of the YPG, and to relinquish the idea of toppling Assad, an Iranian ally, a decision that coincided with Obama’s Iran rapprochement. Not surprisingly, having seen the American ambiguity and weakness, in the Summer of 2015, Russian president Vladimir Putin descended into Syria to save Russian interests and Assad from being toppled, which resulted in retaliatory genocidal campaigns against the anti-Assad Syrian opposition and the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including the infamous 2017 chemical attack. The Pentagon’s staunch support for the YPG brought about the question of countering Iranian influence in the region. In Syria, the Pentagon heavily relies on the YPG, a majority Marxist Kurdish militant group, which as former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter put it, “has substantial ties with PKK … which is a terrorist organization in the eyes of the US and Turkish governments.” The YPG’s inability to counter Iran’s influence stems from two reasons: first, the YPG and the PKK have had organic ties with Iran due to their aligned regional goals; and second, Washington is making the same mistake in Syria that it did in Afghanistan—nation building. YPG/PKK – Iran Ties Iran, which has historically pursued adverse policies against Turkey, provided the PKK with a safe haven not only in Iran but also in Iraq. Tehran denied Ankara’s request for a cross-border operation into the Iranian Qandil Mountains, where the PKK’s upper echelon is believed to reside. Likewise, the PKK and Tehran have cooperated against their mutual adversary, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the strongest faction in Iraqi Kurdistan. Therefore, given their long-term strategic goals, the PKK’s top commanders, who also have control over the YPG, want to exert extreme caution to not agitate Tehran. Thus, the PKK’s leaders don’t allow the United States to use their Syrian branch, the YPG, as foot soldiers against Iran’s proxies. Bassam Ishak, then the Washington representative of the Syrian Democratic Council, a political umbrella organization to which the YPG belongs and which represents the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), acknowledged that an all-out war with Iran would wreak havoc on them. Moreover, Nicholas Heras, the Center for a New American Security fellow who talked to SDF members in Syria said, “There is a deep concern within the SDF over the extent to which the United States is looking to use SDF forces as a counter to Iran in Syria.” Washington’s Futile Effort: Nation Building in Syria From a social, political, and economic point of view, the YPG autonomy project in Syria is unsustainable. The Pentagon is pouring billions of dollars to train and equip the YPG and facilitate its autonomous rule in northeastern Syria. But the predominantly leftist Kurdish YPG is alien to the region, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Arab with some Turcoman. The YPG is known to have engaged in de-Arabization as it gained territory from ISIS, sowing further resentment, and breeding further intra-communal clashes. “By deliberately demolishing civilian homes, in some cases razing and burning entire villages, displacing their inhabitants with no justifiable military grounds, the Autonomous Administration is abusing its authority and brazenly flouting international humanitarian law, in attacks that amount to war crimes,” said Lama Fakih, senior crisis advisor at Amnesty International. Moreover, the YPG’s political wing, known as the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), has a reputation of persecuting those Kurds who don’t share their neo-Maoist worldview. Ibrahim Biro, the then-head of Syria’s Kurdish National Council, accused the PYD of being dictatorial. He was kidnapped by the PKK for opposing the YPG in Syria. The World Council of Arameans (WCA) has frequently condemned the YPG for closing their schools and kidnapping and conscripting Aramean Christian teenagers against their wills. Furthermore, Turkey controls much of the vital water inflow in Syria that is necessary for agriculture and power, as well as trade. A prospective Kurdish YPG state will heavily rely on resources from Turkey, which sees the organization as an existential threat. Currently, the YPG is exclusively sustained by American taxpayers and a small amount of oil export that necessitates a fragile deal with the Assad regime. It begs explanation why Washington is so insistent on investing in a pointless Kurdish nation-building exercise in Syria whereas the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq has much more wherewithal, from its own government to the central bank. Ironically, Washington in 2017 rejected Kurdish statehood in northern Iraq by not recognizing the region’s independence referendum. If the purpose is to counter ISIS and the Iranian influence via proxies, why has Washington not been investing in the Erbil government, which is extremely wary of the Iranian influence? Additionally, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces successfully fought against ISIS. To make things worse, by unconditionally supporting the YPG, Washington indirectly consolidates the PKK’s regional presence, which further complicates intra-Kurdish politics. The KRG in Erbil has long considered the PKK to be an existential threat. The friction escalated to the extent that the PKK began ambushing and killing members of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in 2021. What now? I believe Robert Pape, the renowned political scientist from the University of Chicago, is right: it is not the religious convictions but military occupations that create extremism and suicide bombers. After all, former British prime minister Tony Blair acknowledged that the Iraq War “helped give rise to ISIS.” It is not surprising that we don’t hear any more of those roadside bombs, or suicide bombings, after the United States departed from Afghanistan. When examining the consequences of the U.S. actions in the last thirty years, one can argue that by taking it upon itself to destroy Iran’s enemies from Saddam to ISIS, “America has Fought Iran’s Wars in the Middle East.” The weary American public now wonders why Iran, China, and Russia have become ever more influential in the Middle East and the United States is losing clout despite Washington having spent more than $8 trillion and lost more than 5,000 servicemembers. As the Ukrainian war rages on and talk of a war with China is abundant, the last thing America would want is to get bogged down in the Middle East by initiating another forever war with Iran. The United State ought to revise its Middle East strategy. Maintaining a small presence in the name of protecting the YPG and “countering Iran” is counterproductive. The Senate has repealed the Iraq War authorization, a move in the right direction. American policymakers should do the same for Syria. Instead of constantly alienating Turkey, a NATO ally and a major local powerhouse, by unconditionally supporting its arch PKK/YPG foe, Washington needs to take advantage of Ankara’s increasing military, political, and social clout not only in the Middle East but also in the Caucasus and the Black Sea.

Iran’s drones are a threat, especially to oil shipping

Brent Cagen is a researcher at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC., 4-12, 23,  https://nationalinterest.org/blog/west-must-wake-iranian-drone-threat-206396, The West Must Wake Up to the Iranian Drone Threat

Western governments should be worried. Despite stalled nuclear talks with Europe and the United States, and amid mounting grassroots unrest at home, there are clear signs that Iran’s military programs are maturing—and that its regional ambitions in the Middle East are growing as a result. In late September, Iran’s military launched an offensive on the Kurdish territories of neighboring Iraq. The strikes, involving domestically-built drones followed by missile salvos, were directed at the political center of Kurdish power in Iraq, Erbil. Presumably, these were intended to distract from Iran’s own internal issues as well as to “punish” the Kurds in Iraq for supporting Iranians protesting at home. But that attack could very well serve as a portent of things to come. To understand why, it’s necessary to examine the evolution of Iran’s drone program. Despite ongoing international sanctions and a lackluster economy, developing a sustainable drone industry has been an area of intense focus for Iranian officials in recent years, for good reason. By the early 2010s, it had become apparent that the country’s foreign policy ambitions and its military development were profoundly mismatched. Tehran gasped that it needed more sophisticated military hardware that could be easily used in asymmetric conflicts in which the Islamic Republic was involved. One of the most notable results of this realization was a crash program to develop cheap and expendable unmanned platforms. These included drones used purely for surveillance and reconnaissance, those that can launch air-to-ground missiles, and “kamikaze” UAVs that can serve as loitering munitions. In turn, the numerous drones designed by Iran have given it a wide range of strategic options in its pursuit of regional hegemony. The results are pronounced. Iranian drones, for instance, have been used for several years by the Houthis to launch attacks on Saudi Arabian soil by its Gulf proxy, Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Employing Iranian technology, the Houthis have menaced the nearby United Arab Emirates as well. But Iranian proxies are not the only beneficiaries of Tehran’s increasingly robust drone effort. So, too, is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which has come to rely on Iranian drone technology as an equalizer of sorts in its current conflict with Ukraine. Amid battlefield setbacks and a pronounced lack of strategy, the Kremlin in recent weeks has turned to Tehran for assistance in replenishing its rapidly dwindling stocks of precision weaponry. The result has been multiple deliveries of Iranian drones, which have since been employed by the Russian military on “kamikaze” missions against Ukrainian population centers as well as to acquire combat data. The pattern is clear: Iran’s drones, particularly those that serve as loitering munitions, are becoming a key component of Tehran’s low-intensity warfare tactics. In Iraq, Iran’s drones serve as a cost-effective way to increase its influence and react quickly to events on the ground. In the Gulf, they provide an indirect way to menace geopolitical adversaries and competitors. And in the broader region, such a capability gives Tehran the power to threaten naval vessels and the critical oil trade that transits the Strait of Hormuz. Western governments are waking up to the Iranian drone threat. The Stop Iranian Drones Act, which passed a vote in the House of Representatives this past fall, was a good initial response designed to prevent Iran or any of its proxies from acquiring the lethal technology. But the measure ended up dying before becoming law, thanks to wrangling between the House and Senate. As a result, there is currently no legislation on the books in the U.S. Congress to target Iran’s burgeoning drone industry and its potential beneficiaries. To its credit, the executive branch has taken steps to crack down on Iran’s drone technology, with the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announcing sanctions on entities and individuals in Iran and Turkey who trafficked parts and materials to Iran critical to the latter’s drone production and development. That represents a good start. But on the whole, America’s slow response to the Iranian drone threat sets a dangerous precedent, because a lack of serious action by the United States may force other actors in the Middle East to pursue their own strategies for reducing Iran’s drone capacity. A recent strike on an Iranian drone factory believed to have been carried out by Israel eloquently demonstrates this point. And if Iran’s recent activities on the Ukraine front and in the Gulf are any indication, the Islamic Republic’s drone program is poised to become a source of sustenance for its clerical regime—and a serious concern for everyone else.

China-US geopolitical competition is zero-sum

Cohen, 3-25, 23, Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Director of the Energy, Growth, and Security Program at the International Tax and Investment Center and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Has China Shifted the Middle East Balance of Power?, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/world/why-world-still-needs-trade

Even leaders who might be amicable to the West won’t push back on China’s creeping influence in regional matters given the economic benefits their countries can gain through ties with Beijing. The United States needs to come to grips with the depth of China’s financial reach and strategize to counter Beijing’s clear political intent. The United States is also heavily invested in the Middle East, not just for economic interests, but for regional security—which directly affects its own national security. These investments are too important to jeopardize by ignoring China’s calculated attempts at undermining America’s role. The next logical step for the United States is to push for Iran’s full compliance with the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, giving up all its highly enriched uranium, and allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities. The United States should also enhance its military cooperation with the Gulf states as the Iranian threat will not wane. The influence of oil and gas trade on the region’s politics is too big to ignore. Energy markets are significant to geopolitical relationships—even if some U.S. stakeholders prefer a foreign policy independent of the hydrocarbon economy. Finally, it is also important to engage with the Gulf nations in their efforts to diversify their economies, where the United States has much to offer in high technologies, internet technologies, health, education, and other industries. As Xi visits Moscow pretending to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine, checking China’s influence in strategic areas of the world, including Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, is becoming vital for U.S. national security. Competition with China in science, technology, business, diplomacy, and global security has become the defining theme of the twenty-first century. The Iranian-Saudi deal brokered by China is a test of Washington’s power and skill. It is a challenge the United States cannot afford to fail.

US disengagement produces regional agreements

Shankar, 3-29, 23, Niranjan Shankar is a software engineer and foreign policy analyst and writer based in Atlanta focusing on great power rivalry, the Middle East, tech policy, and diplomatic history, Saudi Arabia’s Rapprochement with Iran Was a Long Time Coming, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/saudi-arabia%E2%80%99s-rapprochement-iran-was-long-time-coming-206355?page=0%2C1

This widespread (and warranted) concern over American retrenchment in light of calls by Western policymakers to disengage from the Middle East in favor of rebalancing to Asia, despite President Joe Biden’s recent attempt to reverse these perceptions, compelled Riyadh and other U.S. partners to diversity their relationships and desperately mend relations with Tehran, rather than relying on America’s fickle commitments to defend them.

US committed to keeping 900 troops in Syria

Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs based in Washington, DC,  3-24, 23, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/syria-attacks-epitomize-america%E2%80%99s-troubled-middle-east-policy-206348, Syria Attacks Epitomize America’s Troubled Middle East Policy

The Biden administration has vowed to continue defending the 900 U.S. service members in Syria for as long as they remain in the country—an apparently indefinite timeframe. Despite Biden moving to end or drawdown the United States’ other “endless wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, this policy has not been extended to Syria. Rather, Washington is ostensibly committed to fighting ISIS and pressuring the Assad regime, which continues to be squeezed by a robust, U.S.-directed sanctions regime.

China’s influence produces Middle East conflict resolution

Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs based in Washington, DC,  3-24, 23, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/syria-attacks-epitomize-america%E2%80%99s-troubled-middle-east-policy-206348, Syria Attacks Epitomize America’s Troubled Middle East Policy

Coming on the heels of a Chinese-brokered agreement that codified Saudi Arabia’s détente with Iran, the emerging Saudi-Syrian peace deal stands to further shift Middle Eastern geopolitics. If successful, Moscow’s assistance in restoring Riyadh and Damascus’ diplomatic ties after a decade of war will be a remarkable victory for another U.S. adversary—as well as for the entire region. In this regard, it will further impress upon regional elites that they have options beyond America to advance their political and security objectives. Indeed, it is China and Russia—America’s so-called “great power competitors”—whose regional policies are now helping to stabilize the Middle East and support U.S. interests. China portrays itself as a friend to all and an enemy to none, allowing Beijing to position itself as an honest intermediary that can address the region’s problems in ways Washington cannoRussia, too, is seen as a dependable partner—one that has stood by its Syrian ally through thick and thin—and an interlocutor that has proven its sensitivity to the needs of capitals as different as Damascus, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, and Tehran. In contrast, the U.S. record is more troubled. It was the United States that invaded Iraq twenty years ago this week, unleashing chaos and violence across the region. It was also Washington that unilaterally blew up the international nuclear agreement with Iran—after the Obama administration had dragged its regional allies kicking and screaming to support the accord—setting Tehran on a glide path toward a nuclear weapons capability and increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf. The United States subsequently declined to defend Saudi Arabia and its Arab partners from Iran’s escalation in 2019 (ironically prompting Riyadh to later reconcile with Tehran), to say nothing of the fact that Washington has vacillated between pulling out of and leaning into the region across the last three presidential administrations.

China brought Iran and Saudi Arabia together

Lammon, 3-10, 23, Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/what-saudi-arabia-and-iran’s-détente-really-means-206295

The announcement that Saudi Arabia and Iran have restored diplomatic ties after seven years of tensions could result in significant changes in the Middle East. It not only stands to reset one of the region’s most violent rivalries but also exemplifies how China has become an influential player in regional affairs. Indeed, the joint statement issued from Beijing on March 10 committed both countries to respect each other’s sovereignty and to not interfere in each other’s internal affairs, to reopen their embassies in Tehran and Riyadh within two months, to revive a bilateral security pact, and to resume trade, investment, and cultural exchanges Occurring during a time of heightened fears of open conflict between Israel and a soon-to-be nuclear Iran, and after years of militant competition between Tehran and Riyadh across the region, this nascent rapprochement is undoubtedly positive. Yet the reactions in the United States and Israel suggest that the outcome—and perceptions of it—are more complicated. To its credit, the Biden administration welcomed the détente and stated that Riyadh had kept Washington informed of the talks’ progress. Yet the fact that it was Beijing that brought the Saudis and Iranians together—merely three months after Chinese president Xi Jinping was lavishly received in Riyadh in sharp contrast to U.S. president Joe Biden’s frosty reception six months earlier—has evidently smarted Washington.

China cannot replace the US in the Middle East now. The US is the dominant actor because of its military presence. The plan just turns it over to China

Lammon, 3-10, 23, Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/what-saudi-arabia-and-iran’s-détente-really-means-206295

Still, fears of American decline are overblown. China cannot (and is, in fact, not interested in) replacing the United States in the Middle East. The United States remains the region’s apex security provider, not only in terms of selling the most weapons to the region but also in terms of its on-the-ground military presence. But while Washington has squandered its time and resources toppling governments in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan and sanctioning Syria and Iran to ruin, China has forged ahead by investing in infrastructure and relationships. The Middle East is large enough for both China and the United States, and rather than panicking about every Chinese action, Washington would be better served by actually trying to compete with Beijing beyond the military sphere. Moreover, despite Beijing’s growing importance to the Middle East, it is not China, but the United States, that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are asking to defend them.

Saudi-Israel rapprochement depends on US security guarantees

Lammon, 3-10, 23, Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/what-saudi-arabia-and-iran’s-détente-really-means-206295

Just yesterday, one day before Saudi Arabia and Iran decided to allegedly bury the hatchet, Riyadh offered to normalize its relations with Israel in exchange for the United States guaranteeing Saudi security and aiding the Saudi nuclear program.

US security guarantees toward Iran trigger Iran prolif and undermine China’s efforts to support peace in the region

Lammon, 3-10, 23, Adam Lammon is a former executive editor at The National Interest and an analyst of Middle Eastern affairs, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means, What Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Détente Really Means | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/what-saudi-arabia-and-iran’s-détente-really-means-206295

In fact, even a U.S. security guarantee would not pull the Saudis decisively back into the U.S. camp, solve all the problems afflicting the Saudi-U.S. relationship, or end Riyadh’s efforts to reach a new security architecture with Iran. Instead, it will only codify the United States’ responsibility to defend Saudi Arabia, tying America’s soldiers to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s high tolerance for risk, and additionally comprise the United States by further involving it in the kingdom’s human rights abuses at home and abroad. It would also further stack the deck against Iran by formally throwing the weight of one of the world’s two superpowers behind Tehran’s foremost Islamic rival, thereby increasing the impetus for the Iranians to develop nuclear arms. If the United States is truly interested in supporting stability and competing with China in the Middle East, it needs to carefully extract itself from the region’s morass, not dive deeper in.

Iraq war strengthened Iran, US presence needed to deter, even if the US caused the problem in the first place

John Allen Gay is executive director of the John Quincy Adams Society and coauthor of War With Iran: Political, Military, and Economic Consequences., 3-24, 23, The Iraq War’s Worst Legacy: Endless Confrontation With Iran, The Iraq War’s Worst Legacy: Endless Confrontation With Iran | The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/lebanon-watch/iraq-war%E2%80%99s-worst-legacy-endless-confrontation-iran-206338

This month marks twenty years since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. The bloodshed that followed cost Iraq and America dearly. Yet there was a winner in the chaos: Iraq’s neighbor and rival Iran. The invasion removed Iraq as a check on Iran; Tehran no longer had to fear the nation that invaded it in 1980. Ever since, U.S. strategy in the Middle East has had to deal with the consequences of a more powerful Tehran. “U.S. forces,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Baghdad on March 7, “are ready to remain in Iraq.” Blocking Iran there and elsewhere has become a U.S. job that will never end. The invasion and the subsequent dismantling of the Iraqi state prompted lawlessness and the emergence of a new order rooted in violence, sectarianism, and corruption. A weak Iraq left the door open for Iranian influence. Tehran built militias and political movements within Iraq’s Shia majority and used these groups to target U.S. interests. The groups demanded a veto in Iraqi politics, using force when they didn’t get their way. The militias contributed to a sectarianization of politics and society that saw Baghdad segregate itself and religious minorities flee. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s own efforts to make the Iraqi military loyal to him alone contributed to its collapse against the Islamic State in 2014. An army that had received a decade of U.S. training and equipment abandoned Iraq’s second-largest city under pressure from a small band of lowlifes. ISIS’s rise (itself an aftershock of the Iraq invasion, which spawned ISIS predecessor Al Qaeda in Iraq) strengthened Iran’s hand further. As the Iraqi army failed, militias answered the call. Many of these militias were backed by Tehran. Efforts to integrate the militias into Iraq’s armed forces only bandaged the problem. These militias remain outside the state’s control, and have routinely shot rockets at the U.S. embassy and U.S. bases. In 2019, they stormed the Green Zone when the United States hit back. Counterbalancing these militias’ influence has become a major justification for the continued presence of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq. Countering the militias is a mission that will never end. The militias also smuggle arms into Syria and Lebanon. These weapons have triggered an Israeli interdiction campaign that has been a headache for U.S. efforts in the region. The weapons flow contributes to the Israeli military’s warnings that its next war with Iran’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah will require a fast, aggressive air campaign that could have huge costs in Lebanon. U.S.-made bombs plunging into Beirut apartment blocks, even if aimed at Hezbollah bunkers below, will hurt America’s image in the region. And blocking the Iranian supply lines into the area has become a justification for keeping U.S. troops in Syria. Blocking roads our invasion opened is another mission that will never end. The problems stretch beyond Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The Gulf states fear an Iran unchecked by Iraq and seek a security guarantor. America is their best choice. The Iraq War and the Global War on Terrorism drew a huge U.S. troop presence to their shores; fear of Iran, plus big Gulf investments in the U.S. policy and defense advisory sectors, have helped keep them there. Crises with Iran have seen deployments of scarce U.S. assets like Patriot missile batteries. At bottom, the invasion reflected a shift in U.S. Middle East strategy away from seeking balance and towards seeking transformation. We thought a free Iraq would inspire a wave of democratization in the region. This did not happen. Worse, we now do the balancing ourselves, rather than relying on our enemies’ self-interest to do the balancing for us. And Washington’s policy sphere is reluctant to return to letting the region balance itself. Balancing Iran is another mission that will never end. Last but not least are Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. Their current state—high levels of enrichment, multiple enrichment facilities, and a diverse array of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles—is inseparable from the Iraq War. Without Iraq to fear, Iran has more power to aim at the United States. Top U.S. worries like nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles are not good tools for Iran to counter a strong Iraqi state on its border. Conventional military power, backed by short-range ballistic missiles, would be far better suited for that task. Building these Iraq-focused capabilities would draw resources away from Iranian efforts to develop tools for fighting America and Israel. To be sure, some Iranian advances in short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Iraq would have also increased the Iranian threat to U.S. bases in the region. But those risks are not at the same scale as the Iranian nuclear and missile threat we face today. With Iran enriching uranium to near-weapons-grade purity, fears are growing that Israel may strike Tehran’s nuclear sites, a move that could spark a major war. Of course, we cannot know what the Middle East would look like today if the United States had not gone into Iraq. Yet it’s hard to envision a pathway that would have seen a similar rise in Iranian power. Invading Iraq brought many evils, but our long confrontation with Iran—one that may yet yield war—is one of the most enduring.

Can’t solve Israel-Palestine – Netanyahu can’t restrain the hard-liners without going to jail

Miller & Simon, 1-13, 23, Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former U.S. State Department Middle East analyst and negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations. He is the author of The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President; Steven Simon is the Robert E. Wilhelm fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a research analyst at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His new book, Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East, will be released in April, Foreign Policy, Biden Is About to Have His Hands Full in the Middle East, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/01/13/biden-united-states-middle-east-iran-israel/

Yet Biden may soon have his hands full with smaller yet determined regional powers eager to advance their own interests and unwilling to play by U.S. rules. With five states—Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Libya—in various stages of dysfunction, the Arab world will remain a source of instability, with the exception being wealthy Persian Gulf states (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) that are acting with greater independence from Washington while insisting on U.S. support. But it’s really the two non-Arab powers, Iran and Israel—one, the United States’ foremost regional adversary, the other its closest regional friend—that may set the agenda for the next two years. And the implications of that are not particularly uplifting. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to office, the Biden administration now confronts the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, one likely to cause a serious rise in—if not an explosion of—tensions over the Palestinian issue and Iran’s nuclear program. If you believe the rhetoric of its extremist ministers—and there’s no reason not to—this coalition is determined to alter Israel’s democratic system, transform society along Jewish exclusivist lines, sow tensions with Israel’s Arab citizens, and erect a gravestone over the buried hope of a Palestinian state by permanently lashing the majority of the West Bank and Jerusalem to Israel. How bad the situation in the West Bank becomes may be tied to the degree to which Netanyahu can exercise influence over coalition partners he desperately needs to pass legislation that will postpone, if not nullify, his ongoing trial. Being not as far right as other members of his party, Netanyahu would much prefer a coalition without extremists and may be already thinking about broadening his government at some point. But his legal travails are existential. Without some skyhook, he almost certainly faces prison if convicted—or, more likely, a plea bargain and an exit from politics. He cannot, therefore, jettison the extremists; for the time being, he’ll have to manage them. Netanyahu will do what he can to smother or divert their most egregious policies, but it’s hard to see how he can completely control them and easy to see how the fiefdoms they’ve carved out in their respective governmental roles could wreak havoc in relations with Israeli Arabs as well as Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Itamar Ben-Gvir, now the newly created minister of national security, ran on a platform of demonizing Palestinian citizens of Israel and will have a great deal of authority over the border police, an additional 2,000 troops he’s taken from the Israel Defense Forces, and Israel’s national police force. He will be free to reset their rules of engagement and permissible tactics, particularly in the mixed cities where Arabs and Jews interact. He will be able to redirect forces from the West Bank to the Negev or Galilee, which will not only endow him with unprecedented coercive power within the Green Line but also in effect erase it by creating a unitary jurisdiction for Israeli law enforcement. Bezalel Smotrich, perhaps the more dangerous of the two ministers, will have near-total authority for managing the lives of the inhabitants in Area C (more than 60 percent of the West Bank)—some 400,000 Israelis and 280,000 Palestinians—with responsibilities for all authorities related to infrastructure, planning, construction, energy, electricity supply, environmental protection, and more. Smotrich’s strategic goal is to dilute the influence of the Ministry of Defense and work to apply Israeli civilian law to these areas, effectively accelerating annexation.

The US needs to use diplomacy to push Azerbaijan to open the Lachin corridor

Ghazarian, 1-13, 22, Salpi Ghazarian is director of special projects at the USC Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies, LA Times, Op-Ed: The cruel blockade against Armenians shows the world order has collapsed, https://sports.yahoo.com/op-ed-cruel-blockade-against-110137776.html

The fighting ended with a ceasefire formally codified by the three political entities: Armenians of the Autonomous Republic of Karabakh, and the leadership of the republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Karabakh connection to Armenia was assured through a corridor of land that Armenians controlled, to offer a lifeline — a link to the outside world — while negotiators worked to reach agreement on Karabakh’s future political status. When I returned to Karabakh a year later, I traveled along that corridor, in an old Soviet truck carrying children’s school supplies that came from France. Since then, the corridor has been open. During the vicious 44-day war in 2020, it was open. Yes, during the fierce Azerbaijani onslaught intended to take complete control of Karabakh and its surrounding regions, which resulted in an estimated 7,000 deaths, the corridor was open. The new ceasefire document stipulated that the future of the corridor requires a negotiated resolution, and until that happens, Russian peacekeepers would ensure access and travelers’ safety. To close it now, as Azerbaijan has done since early December, means strangling the Armenian population to force a desired political outcome. Food, supplies and medical help can’t get in. Energy shortages persist. People cannot travel out. Families remain divided. Armenians are blockaded, and Russians are not keeping the peace. Instead, Russia has made clear to Armenians that their “Western ways” — democracy and an open, free society — are not only undesirable but punishable. Azerbaijan is pursuing control of the territory without its people, who want a continuation of the democracy they have experienced for nearly 30 years. Speaking of Armenians in Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s insistence that they live under its flag, President Aliyev cynically claimed that “just like all the other citizens of Azerbaijan, their rights and security will be provided.” It would be laughable if it weren’t so chilling. Azerbaijan’s dictator is unaccountable to his people, and his country has a track record of repressing its own citizens. It is only the pressure or sanctions of the international community that has a chance of changing Azerbaijan’s actions. The United States and the European Union, along with members of the U.N. Security Council, have called on Baku to restore traffic on the corridor and open the route to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. They need to do more. The letter from Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and L.A. City Council President Paul Krekorian is a welcome move urging President Biden to take further steps to open air and land links immediately. Armenians are now standing as a bastion of freedom in a volatile neighborhood. They are paying for it with a winter blockade, completely isolated and defenseless. It is clear that the Russian war on Ukraine has upended all international rules. There seems to be no global order left. Sovereignty — which is always fragile — has lost its meaning. Will the new world order be designed by autocrats for whom ethnic cleansing in broad daylight is a political tool? What is allowed to happen to the Armenians of Karabakh will be an indication of what kind of world awaits us all.

Reduced US security commitment to the Middle East increases China’s influence

Anthony, 1-13, 23, Benjamin Anthony is Co-Founder & CEO of The MirYam Institute, Can Israel Navigate U.S.-China Competition?, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/can-israel-navigate-us-china-competition-206110

China is rapidly becoming a major player in the Middle East; no longer just in terms of oil imports, but in regional security affairs, as well. Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia was designed at least partly as a counterbalance to China’s ties with Iran. Chuck emphasizes that one of the reasons for the Gulf countries’ interest in expanded ties with China is their decreasing confidence in the U.S. security commitment to them and the understanding that Israel, especially under the new government, cannot constitute even a substitute for the United States. Danny starts a discussion of the impact of U.S.-Chinese ties on U.S. ties with Israel, including the Phalcon case, one of the worst crises in U.S.-Israeli relations.

Sustaining Arab-Palestinian truce critical to prevent an explosion of violence

Dangot, 1-13, 23, Major General Eitan Dangot is a publishing Expert at The MirYam Institute. He concluded his extensive career as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (C.O.G.A.T.) in 2014, Will Temple Mount Tensions Spark Another Arab-Israeli Crisis?, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/will-temple-mount-tensions-spark-another-arab-israeli-crisis-206114

Events surrounding the Temple Mount can pour fuel on the fire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and ignite an inferno, literally, within hours. On the Israeli-Jewish side, the issue also serves as a detonator for extremist radical elements, who preach incessantly for the establishment of a Jewish foothold on the Temple Mount and wish to fly a red flag in front of the bull. Activities of this nature can upend Israeli government policies and the State of Israel’s ability to maintain law and order in Jerusalem. In Benjamin Netanyahu’s new cabinet, several parties have full-fledged right-wing lawmakers coming to power for the first time. The Temple Mount is part of the political hardcore environment that they grew up in. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s ascension to the Temple Mount on January 3 has far-reaching implications as it threatens the delicate security balance in Jerusalem, in the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and in Gaza. His decision to ascend the Temple Mount in one of his first acts as a minister was a deliberate provocation against Arab citizens of the State of Israel, Palestinians, and the Arab states of the region. It is clear that from now on, every move and every statement made by Ben Gvir and some of his colleagues will come under scrutiny and in the near future will trigger a response, perhaps in words but also possibly in actions. Before ascending to the Temple Mount, Ben Gvir should have adopted the maxim, “think first, act later.” Still, it is important to clarify that the status quo on the Temple Mount has not changed, and there is no plan to change it. Netanyahu had the option—one that he has adopted in the past—to instruct his ministers to refrain from visiting the Temple Mount and allow only rank-and-file ministers of the Knesset to do so. So far, he has yet to implement such a policy this time around. At the same time, Hamas has good reasons to avoid going to war over this issue. The current situation (where Gaza is quiet, but the West Bank is witnessing an increase in terrorist attacks and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces), together with the declining status of the Palestinian Authority, serves Hamas’s strategy well. This has been the case since May 2021 when Hamas initiated a conflict with Israel to portray itself as the protector of Al Aqsa. Hamas is currently hard at work rehabilitating its military force in Gaza, while at the same time exploiting opportunities to improve the strip’s economy and alleviate some of the pressure on it. Israel has granted some 20,000 work visas for Gazans, who bring much-needed cash into the Gazan economy. Meanwhile, Hamas is strengthening its collaboration with Hezbollah, Iran, and regional terror elements to optimize its position on the day the ceasefire is called off. In the near future, the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, which begins on March 26, could have game-changing potential in the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. And the Temple Mount’s role could be critical here. The month preceding Ramadan is historically associated with an increase in hatred and religious agitation. This is when it will be easiest to spark an explosion among Palestinians and Arab Israelis on the streets of East Jerusalem and in Israel. Israel’s strategy, particularly that of this new government, must be aimed at preventing this scenario wherever possible.

40% of Gazans are food insecure

Middle East Monitor, 1-13, 22, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20230113-unrwa-over-40-of-gazans-are-severely-food-insecure/, UNRWA: Over 40% of Gazans are severely food insecure

Over 40 per cent of Gazans are now severely food insecure, which means that they are regularly going a day without food,” UNRWA affirmed in a new report on Wednesday, The Palestinian Information Centre reports. “After 16 years of a land, air and sea blockade, life in Gaza has become increasingly dire,” UNRWA said. “The situation has been compounded by repeated cycles of hostilities, heightened tensions and violence, political instability and the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, these factors have destabilised the lives of individuals and communities and have further increased the hardships they are facing. Gaza is on ‘life support’ with 80 per cent of the population dependent on humanitarian assistance,” the UN refugee agency underscored. “Currently, three out of four Gazans rely on emergency food assistance – and, despite this support, the rate of food insecurity is rising. With exceptionally high poverty and unemployment rates, an already fragile humanitarian situation threatens to deteriorate further,” it added.

Israel constantly violating Lebanon’s air space

Middle East News, 1-13, 23, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20230113-lebanon-fails-to-intercept-israel-drone/,  Lebanon fails to intercept Israel drone

The Lebanese army announced today it had failed to intercept an Israeli drone flown over Lebanon’s southern airspace, a statement revealed. It added that a patrol was inspecting a separate incident in the south when a “drone belonging to the Israeli enemy violated Lebanese airspace,” prompting soldiers to shoot in its direction. A Lebanese security source told Reuters they failed to shoot it down. It comes after the Lebanese army said earlier this week that an Israeli drone and gunboat violated the Lebanese air space and maritime border, Anadolu News Agency reports. An Israeli army drone violated the Lebanese airspace “from opposite the town of Ramyah towards the town of Marwahin for 20 minutes,” the Lebanese Army said in a Monday’s statement. Lebanon says Israel violates its airspace and territorial waters on an almost daily basis and had called on the UN to intervene to stop these violations, especially with regard to the Israeli bombing of Syria from Lebanese airspace.

Blockade of Nagorno-Barabakh is genocide

Sarkissian, 1-12, 23, Dr. Armen Sarkissian, a scientist and former diplomat, served as the fifth prime minister and the fourth president of the Republic of Armenia. His next book, The Small States Club: How Small Smart States Can Save the World, will be published in November 2023, https://time.com/6246850/armenia-azerbaijan-nagorno-karabakh-lachin-corridor/

For the past five weeks, the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, sandwiched between Azerbaijan and Armenia, has been blockaded by Azerbaijan. As much of the world celebrated Christmas and New Year, over 120,000 Armenian residents of the region—the oldest continuously inhabited Armenian homeland, dotted with Armenian churches and monasteries and monuments predating the spread of Christianity to Europe by decades—were cut off from the world. A group of Azerbaijani citizens identifying as “environmental activists” barricaded the Lachin corridor, a mountainous road that serves as the only path between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, since December 12. The flow of food and medicine fell to a trickle before the supplies essential for the continuation of normal life gradually disappeared altogether. A place that once received 400 tons of food and medical supplies daily now barely receives a few carloads on a good day. Hospitals have indefinitely put surgeries on hold. Children are going hungry. There is an acute shortage of fuel as temperatures drop to below -4°C, and families are burning scraps to heat their homes. Armenians, a people who endured a protracted genocide under the Ottoman Empire before being exposed to Soviet autocratic rule in the 20th century, are being subjected to collective punishment in the 21st century with the intent of driving them out of their home. Nagorno-Karabakh, a historically Armenian territory, is known to Armenians as Artsakh. Despite its history and demography, it was handed to Soviet Azerbaijan in 1921 by Joseph Stalin, who implemented the imperial method of disrupting cohesive national and ethnic communities to keep diverse populations in check. In 1988, the people of Artsakh voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to dissolve Moscow’s artificial cartography, secede from Soviet Azerbaijan and assert their Armenian identity. This defiant act of self-determination resulted in yet more massacres of Armenians, whose wish was not honored. Upon the USSR’s collapse, Artsakh ended up inside the Soviet frontiers inherited by Azerbaijan. The Armenians, however, defeated Azerbaijan in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, which lasted until 1994, when the region proclaimed its autonomy. Then, in 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Azerbaijan launched a surprise offensive—now known as the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War—with the open involvement and assistance of Turkey. Azerbaijan wanted the land—without the people who inhabit the land. Its battlefield gains were followed by a ruthless effort to raze all traces of Armenian history. While Armenia maintains a medieval mosque in its capital, has excellent relations with the Islamic world and welcomes people of all faiths, Azerbaijan has taken to disfiguring and destroying Armenian churches in the territory it took as a matter of policy. Hundreds of Armenian servicemen still remain in Azeri captivity The humanitarian catastrophe we are now witnessing—or, more accurately, the world is refusing to witness—is a textbook enactment of ethnic cleansing. More than a dozen nongovernmental organisations, including Genocide Watch, have issued a stark warning that Azerbaijan’s blockade is “designed to, in the words of the Genocide Convention, deliberately inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the end of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. All 14 risk factors for atrocity crimes identified by the UN Secretary-General’s Office on Genocide Prevention are now present.”

Syrian refugees in Turkey returning home now

IANS, 1-11, 23, https://in.investing.com/news/turkey-russia-syria-dialogue-to-facilitate-refugees-return-erdogan-3480490, Turkey, Russia, Syria dialogue to facilitate refugees’ return: Erdogan

The number of Syrian refugees returning to their homeland will increase as a result of new dialogues among Turkey, Russia and Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. As the security situation in northern Syria improves, the number of Syrians returning to their homes will increase, the Turkish President told the International Ombudsman Conference on Wednesday. Turkey hosts more than four million refugees, including 3.5 million Syrians who fled from their war-torn country, according to Erdogan. Nearly 550,000 Syrian refugees have returned to northern Syria where Turkey “has cleared of terrorism and made secure,” the Turkish President added. “The number will increase as the diplomatic contacts among Turkey, Russia and Syria bear fruit. We will continue to fulfill our duties of brotherhood, neighbourliness, and humanity,” he said. Syrian, Turkish, and Russian Defence Ministers, along with Intelligence Chiefs from the three countries, met in Moscow on December 28, marking the first high-level contact between Ankara and Damascus since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Xinhua news agency reported. Last week, Erdogan said he might meet his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad to foster peace and stability in the region. The two leaders have not met since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, as Turkey has backed Syrian rebels politically and militarily during the 11-year crisis.

US should increase diplomacy with Saudi Arabia in order to prevent it from building ties with China

Wabha & Zobak, 1-11, 23, Mariam Wahba is an Egyptian-American Middle East analyst. She is an Associate Director of Advocacy with the Philos Project and the co-host of the Americanish podcast; Zane Zovak foreign policy analyst who writes about the U.S.-China rivalry. His work has been featured in publications such as Foreign Policy, The Diplomat, The National Interest, and Defense One, Saudi Arabia Remains an Indispensable U.S. Ally, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/saudi-arabia-remains-indispensable-us-ally-206100

The momentum continued when Xi touched down in Riyadh. During Xi’s visit, he and MBS signed a strategic partnership between their respective nations, as well as facilitated a number of private sector deals between Saudi and Chinese companies in fields including information technology, genetics, mining, hydrogen energy, and manufacturing totaling more than $29 billion. Notably, Huawei signed a memorandum of understanding with a Saudi government ministry that enables the telecom conglomerate to build partnerships with local data centers. The two also agreed to make this a more regular dialogue, as they continue to find tangible ways to deepen their relationship where their interests align. For the Saudis, those interests include gaining access to massive investment from the world’s second-largest economy. The Saudis may also see ties with Beijing as a hedge against their biggest regional threat, Iran—the thought being that Iranian reliance on China might be a lever by which to moderate Tehran’s malign behavior in the region. Moves closer to China increased when the Biden administration announced its intention to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a deal the kingdom has vehemently opposed. American promises and declarations about “longer and stronger” during negotiations did little to assuage Saudi concerns. But mass protests in Iran and the regime’s response have seemingly changed the calculus for the Biden administration, leading it to announce, perhaps unintentionally, that the Iran deal is dead. While this could ease some tension between Washington and Riyadh, America should officially commit to this position, both to dispel the fiction that such a return is feasible and to reassure our partners in the region. More broadly, in order to salvage America’s fragile position in the Middle East, the White House needs to invite a Saudi delegation to Washington to outline why Saudi interests are better served when Riyadh partners with the United States over China, while also being frank about why it matters to America. First, the administration should reassure the KSA that the United States is better equipped and more likely to contain Iran. This starts with accepting that the window of opportunity for a nuclear deal has passed. Since JCPOA negotiations began, the KSA and others in the region have viewed Washington’s concessions as a sign of weakness, proof the United States was abandoning its allies. In order to counter this narrative, the United States should denounce Iran’s shifting demands and publicly call the time of death on the JCPOA. Second, the United States should increase its Foreign Military Sales to the KSA. This would help arm them with cutting-edge products against Iran and the proxies it employs to destabilize the region. Iranian proxies also target longtime American ally, Israel, and that dynamic is unlikely to improve with a greater Chinese presence. When Xi met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas during his recent trip, he reiterated that China “always stands with the Palestinian people.” Third, Washington should work with corporate America to provide investment alternatives to Chinese products. Not only would closer economic ties advance American commercial interests, but they would also help ensure the KSA doesn’t become technologically dependent on China. Recent telecom deals may seem innocuous but Huawei and other Chinese companies have been banned from the United States and elsewhere due to their affiliation with the CCP and involvement in skirting sanctions and in enabling minority repression. Before the KSA goes all in on China, the United States should present alternatives to these blacklisted businesses. Saudi Arabia has long been a leader in the Arab world and will likely continue to do so for years to come. To retain this strategic relationship, the United States needs to make it clear that its shared interests have not shifted. With China and Xi Jinping attempting to disrupt over seven decades of mutual understanding, the onus is on Washington to reassert its position as the indispensable ally.

The US needs to push Turkey to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO

Andrew Rettman, 1-10, 23, EU Observor, No sign of quick Nato deal, as Turkey and Sweden dig in, https://euobserver.com/nordics/156588

Turkey and Sweden have hit a wall in talks on Nato accession, with some predicting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won’t give way till July. The deadlock comes after Sweden indicated it won’t extradite anybody else to Turkey just to please Ankara. “We have done what we said we would do, but they [Turkey] also say that they want things that we cannot or do not want to give them,” Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson said on Sunday (8 January). “We have complied with all parts of the agreement with Turkey and Finland, and we continue to implement them,” the Swedish foreign ministry also told EUobserver on Tuesday, referring to a pact on Nato enlargement between Ankara, Helsinki, and Stockholm. “It is up to Turkey to decide when ratification will take place. We cannot speculate on a specific date,” Sweden said. “I think, now they [Sweden] lost their patience and want to make the Erdoğan regime understand that they demand the impossible,” added Bülent Keneş, an exiled Turkish journalist in Stockholm. Sweden and Finland are ending decades of neutrality by joining Nato in reaction to Russia’s war in Europe, but Erdoğan has demanded Sweden hand over Keneş and 42 others in return for ratification. Swedish courts extradited two people but ruled Keneş can keep his asylum, before Sweden now claimed it has “complied with all parts” of Turkey’s request. Turkey had made similar demands of Finland, who extradited nobody. “Finland has constructively implemented the trilateral memorandum agreed in Madrid last year,” the Finnish foreign ministry also told EUobserver on Tuesday, when asked if there was anything left to do. The three capitals are meant to iron out their differences in a trilateral “contact group”. But this last met on 25 November and there is no date set for its first meeting this year. For his part, Finnish president Sauli Niinistö warned in a speech on 1 January: “It is possible that the delay will extend beyond the [Finnish] parliamentary elections this spring [April]”. Some EU diplomats fear the real deadline is the Turkish election in June. “Erdoğan needs a row to show voters he’s a strong man,” an EU contact said. “Two rich, Western countries seeking his accord, doing his homework, filing reports to him — it’s just too politically delicious,” he added. But one Turkey expert predicted Erdoğan will orchestrate the climax of his “drama” to coincide with the Nato summit in Vilnius in July. “Between the Turkish elections and the Nato summit will be the big moment for a breakthrough,” Asli Aydıntaşbaş, from the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington, said. “It’s a question of his [Erdoğan’s] personality — he’s an insatiable negotiator and he sensed that the Swedes were willing to do anything, so his list kept getting longer”, she added. And ultimately, Keneş and Aydıntaşbaş added, Nato’s major powers will have to lean in to clinch a deal, in a final belittling of the Nordic sates. “In the end, the Americans will have to come into the room and push … it’ll take US intervention,” Aydıntaşbaş said. “If the US, the UK, France, and Germany among others put their weight on the issue they could easily solve the deadlock,” Keneş said. Nato speaks Nato and EU top officials already applied gentle pressure in remarks in Brussels on Tuesday. “Finland and Sweden agreed to lift restrictions on arms exports [to Turkey], that has already been done. And they also agreed to work more closely in the fight against terrorism, that is also taking place,” Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said. He underlined that both were covered by Nato’s Article 5 mutual-defence clause in de facto terms while awaiting ratification. “It’s inconceivable that Finland and Sweden will face any military threats without Nato reacting to that,” he said.

Iran has a full-fledged defense partnership backed by Russia and is engaging in aggression

Cohen, 1-5, 23, UKRAINE AND THE NEW TWO WAR CONSTRUCT, https://warontherocks.com/2023/01/ukraine-and-the-new-two-war-construct/, Raphael S. Cohen is a senior political scientist and the director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program at Project AIR FORCE at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.tns

But the geopolitical winds are changing. For starters, American adversaries are increasingly militarily intertwined. Russia has long been in the arms business — selling air defense systems to Iran and aircraft engines to China, among other items. Today, though, the relationships are more bidirectional. Iran gave drones and North Korea shipped artillery shells to Russia to support its war in Ukraine. China supplied Iranian proxies with drones. North Korea proliferated missile technology to Iran and potentially offered its nuclear know-how as well. Military cooperation between American adversaries now goes beyond mere weapons sales. Iran and Russia supposedly colluded on the response to the Syrian civil war, coordinating their military activities in the country. More recently, Iran provided advisors to assist Russia in using its drones in Ukraine. In return, Tehran has reportedly asked Moscow for help quelling protests. As National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said recently, Russo-Iranian ties are deepening into a “full-fledged defense partnership.” Meanwhile, China and Russia have said their friendship has “no limits.” While China only has offered tepid support for Russia in its war in Ukraine, Beijing still has an interest in deepening military ties with Moscow. In fact, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has — at least in some estimations — doubled down on his relationship with Russia. The two have conducted multiple joint bomber patrols and participated in military exercises with much fanfare. And the timelines for each of these threats are accelerating. Iran now regularly engages in low-level military aggression, including missile attacks near American diplomatic facilities. North Korea has hit another record year of missile tests. Russia is fighting a war in Ukraine and has threatened nuclear war. And the timeline for a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan may have accelerated. Consequently, it is no longer implausible that more than one threat would bubble up at once. Indeed, several seem to already be bubbling.

Iran threat

 

The Su-35 procurement is not only a defense deal but also a strategic manifestation, proving the bitter cost of appeasement and naivety.

 

by Can Kasapoglu

 

Taking advantage of Russia’s growing reliance on low-cost Iranian weapons amidst its stumbling campaign in Ukraine, Iran is now set to procure dozens of Russian Su-35 aircraft. While some Western assessments tend to downplay the gravity of the acquisition, claiming that it would not drastically alter the airpower balance in the Gulf, the Su-35 would give an unprecedented boost to Tehran’s control over the Iranian airspace. Such a capability development effort is particularly dangerous as the regime is moving closer to a nuclear bomb.

More importantly, the ambitious barter of Russian Su-35 fighters in return for Iranian drones, and probably ballistic missiles, manifests a grim calculus for the West. Contemporary military transactions between Tehran and Moscow have unveiled a new geopolitical episode. Washington and its allies are now facing a more aggressive and hostile axis than ever.

Enter the Su-35: The Flanker on Steroids

Given Tehran’s obsolete air warfare arsenal and very large airspace, the Su-35 is a very lucrative catch. Hailing from the Flanker baseline, the Su-35 is a Russian 4.5th generation air-superiority fighter that has a better thrust-to-weight ratio than its predecessor, the Su-27. The platform is super-maneuverable, meaning that it is capable of performing controlled maneuvers that would otherwise be impossible via regular aerodynamics. Its thrust-vectoring engines, the nozzles of the Saturn AL-41FS turbofans, can independently point in different directions. This kinematic edge allows the Su-35 to pursue very high angles of attack and makes it capable of moving in one direction when its nose points in another. The aircraft enjoys potent agility and Mach 2.25 maximum speed. The R-73 missiles, which Iran will probably receive, can be fired “off-boresight” at enemy platforms outside the frontal cone of the aircraft via helmet-mounted sights, enabling at least a 70 percent kill probability. Overall, we are talking about a truly menacing aircraft, especially when it comes to within-visual-range air warfare.

The Su-35 should also be treated carefully in beyond-visual-range combat as well. The aircraft’s X-band, passive electronically scanned array (PESA) Irbis-E radar is highly powerful. The official factsheet claims that the Irbis-E radar’s detection range is between 350 and 400 kilometers for a target with a 3m2 radar cross-section, which is comparable to a standard fourth-generation fighter with no low-observability features. The Su-35’s radar configuration and the digital cockpit provide the pilot with good frontal-aspect awareness.

The Irbis-E radar supports “track-while-scan” (TWS) mode for up to eight targets in long-range air combat. Simply put, TWS mode offers a trade-off between lower resolution (due to limited radar energy directed on targets) and being able to engage multiple targets at a time. Lessons learned from the ongoing air war in Ukraine suggest that when the Russian Su-35s launched R-77-1 beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles, supported by the Irbis-E radar’s TWS mode, the Ukrainian pilots did not receive any warning from their radar-warning receivers (RWR) for a long duration. While relying on TWS decreases the chances of a kill compared to single-target-track, it puts pressure on the adversary within a large air theater. As a result, a combination of the Irbis-E radar and R-77-1 BVR missiles with active radar guidance would foster the Iran air deterrent’s combat air patrol (CAP) capacity.

Schizophrenia Treatment A

While Tehran’s Su-35 procurement alone would not turn the Middle East’s military balance upside down, it will definitely make Iranian airspace a more pernicious place to operate. This potential change would pertain to the Iran–Gulf Arab military balance as well as Israel’s preventive strike card.

Except for Israel, Washington’s allies in the Middle East do not operate fifth-generation, stealth tactical aircraft. While it does not mean that American (advanced F-16 and F-15 variants) and European (Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale) solutions are dwarfed by Russia’s Su-35s, one thing is clear; no expert can claim absolute superiority favoring the 4th and 4.5th Western aircraft against the latest Flankers. This military calculus is a problem in itself. Because, just like the United States Armed Forces, Washington’s allies in the region have not engaged in any armed conflict without enjoying an undisputed defense technological edge.

With outgoing defense minister Benny Gantz hinting at the prospects of preventive military action against Iran’s nuclear program “in two or three years,” Iran’s Su-35 procurement has gained additional importance. As to any Israeli F-35I versus Iranian Su-35 scenario, one has to consider doctrinal approaches in modern air combat and military theory.

Conventional wisdom suggests that thanks to its advanced sensors suit (including its AESA radar), an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would detect a Su-35 further away than the Su-35 could detect the Joint Strike Fighter. Besides, the F-35’s NATO-standards datalinks and network-centric information superiority assets are more advanced than those of the Su-35. Furthermore, the beyond-visual-range gap between the two aircraft does not merely emanate from the F-35’s state-of-the-art intelligence capabilities or its stealth status. The Su-35, like the rest of the Flanker baseline, is a large platform in the tactical aircraft segment. Besides, its high-thrust engines make it extremely detectable.

Overall, one can assume that the F-35 would land the first punch in a brawl before the Su-35 anticipates that the duel has started. Nevertheless, two critical factors challenge this optimistic assessment.

First, in a hypothetical preventive strike scenario, Israel will have a very limited, if any, chance for dispatching combat search and rescue missions in hostile Iranian territory. Besides, given the military-geostrategic imperatives, Israeli aircraft will not have all the time in the world to accomplish their missions and head back home. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards would be after every single Israeli pilot to gain political leverage. Aerial combat is not a cage fight where two athletes, with other conditions remaining the same, fight in an isolated octagon. In case of a military action to delay Iran’s nuclear breakthrough, Israeli F-35Is will have to operate deep in Iranian airspace protected by a network of layered defenses, as well as the Su-35 CAPs. It is not a secret that the Revolutionary Guards have been after the Russian S-400 strategic air defense system for a long time. With Russia being desperately reliant on Iranian drones and missiles, Tehran might be very close to securing an S-400 deal in addition to the advanced aircraft. While this lethal combination would not render the preventive strike option impossible, it would decidedly alter the risk assessment.

Second, although present war-gaming results are more accurate than ever thanks to computational simulation technologies, we still do not have any tangible combat record to grasp how the F-35 versus the Su-35 bout could play out. Let us revisit some important facts: Unlike America’s other fifth-generation tactical aircraft, the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 is not an air-superiority platform. The F-35, therefore, would have to rely on its stealth, superb sensors capacity, and advanced beyond-visual-range weapons to survive against the Su-35. The Russian Su-35, however, is a textbook air-superiority aircraft with a distinctive design philosophy suitable for hunting down enemy platforms. The Su-35 can easily outpace and outmaneuver the F-35 if it comes to that. Almost all military writings, which rightfully favored the F-35 over the Su-35, assumed that an engagement would not boil down to within-visual-range air combat for obvious reasons. However, the ironclad Clausewitzian principle of warfighting, the friction factor, spells Murphy’s law for combatants: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Russia-Iran Military Axis Grows Dangerous

The greater geostrategic picture is not any better than the military aspects of Iran’s Su-35 procurement. Having already transferred thousands of loitering munitions to Russia, Iran has become a major drone warfare systems supplier to the world’s second-largest arms exporter. Tehran is actively backing Putin’s invasion at NATO’s east while running a brutal crackdown at home. This is not a peacetime trend. Almost every week, the Russian military is deliberately targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and population centers with Iran-manufactured Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 kamikaze drones. Worse, Iran is now ready to transfer its Fateh-110 derivative short-range ballistic missiles to support Putin’s expansionist agenda in the post-Soviet space. Fateh-110 derivatives carry highly destructive warheads and follow a quasi-ballistic trajectory which makes them harder to intercept. If delivered in large numbers, Iranian ballistic missiles can cause massive civilian casualties in Ukraine.

In return, Iran is getting a pretentious defense package from Russia. The bad news is that the planned Su-35 deliveries might only be the tip of the iceberg. Hypothetically, Russian anti-ship missiles and strategic SAM systems would provide Iran with critical capabilities. Certain Soviet-remnant missile engine technologies can even help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) suitable to carry strategic nuclear payloads.

The geopolitics of the new challenge is highly dynamic. Tehran and Moscow have maliciously established a military logistics route stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Don-Volga Canal and the Sea of Azov. Iranian drone proliferation is now an eastern flank challenge to NATO. Likewise, advanced Russian air-superiority fighters will soon protect Iranian skies when the regime is moving closer to obtaining a nuclear warfare capacity.

These besetting developments happened because nations like Russia and Iran exploit any sign of weakness. After all, NATO’s frontier in Eastern Europe is now plagued with mass graves, like the ones in Bucha and Izyum. But Vladimir Putin is well are that the Biden administration will not provide Ukraine with ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles. The ruling elites of Iran, who are currently busy with drumhead courts and mass executions, know that their drone and missile transactions with Russia mark a clear violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231—the resolution which endorses the nuclear deal. However, the ayatollahs are relieved to see that Western administrations have been silent regarding Iran’s escalations. In a broader sense, the Su-35 procurement is not only a defense deal but also a strategic manifestation, proving the bitter cost of appeasement and naivety.

The US doesn’t need cobalt from West Asia

Bazilian & Brew, 1-6, 23, MORGAN D. BAZILIAN is the Director of the Payne Institute for Public Policy and Professor of at the Colorado School of Mines; GREGORY BREW is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Jackson School of Global Affairs at Yale University, Foreign Affairs, The Missing Minerals; To Shift to Clean Energy, America Must Rethink Supply Chains, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/missing-minerals-clean-energy-supply-chains

Shifting to a clean energy economy will require a decades-long investment in technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and batteries. All this infrastructure will require massive quantities of critical minerals. According to the International Energy Agency, the world will require four times more critical minerals in 2040 than are currently mined, from roughly seven million tons to 28 million tons. By that point, energy transition needs will consume 40 percent of the world’s copper production, 60 to 70 percent of its nickel and cobalt production, and almost 90 percent of its lithium production. For lithium, demand is expected to be 13 times greater in 2040 than it was in 2020. Over the last 5,000 years, the human race has mined 700 million tons of copper. That is roughly as much as will be needed over the next 22 years to meet global energy transition targets.

This level of supply production does not yet exist. New mines will have to be dug, and processing and refining industrial complexes will need to be built—both exceedingly difficult to do with existing permitting rules. The existing facilities, moreover, are almost entirely outside the United States. The production of critical minerals is concentrated in a handful of countries. Indonesia makes 30 percent of the world’s nickel, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies 70 percent of the world’s cobalt….

The Biden administration is already taking steps in this direction: in December, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed memorandums of understanding with officials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia, two major cobalt producers, demonstrating the United States’ desire to import greater amounts of cobalt and other minerals for EV battery manufacturing. The United States should work through the Mineral Security Partnership—a new pact that comprises Australia, Canada, France, and the United States—to fund overseas mining operations through the Export-Import Bank.

Collapse of the deal is actually better for deterrence, which stops war, but we need diplomacy to effectuate it

Geoffrey Aronson is a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC., 1-5, 23, The United States and Iran Are Headed Toward a New Nuclear Normal, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/united-states-and-iran-are-headed-toward-new-nuclear-normal-206076

Iran always saw this as an unequal and coercive bargain, which masked a continuing effort by Washington to undermine the Iranian revolution of 1979. Washington, for its part, proved unwilling, even in the wake of the 2015 agreement, to forego the use of ever-escalating economic sanctions at the heart of its policy of “maximum pressure” towards Tehran. The Trump administration’s repudiation of the agreement precipitated the complete breakdown of this enterprise, which the Biden administration has failed to remedy. But there is reason to believe that the JCPOA’s failure has created an opportunity to build a post-JCPOA understanding between Washington and Tehran that may indeed prove more lasting and effective than the moribund JCPOA in defusing Washington’s (if not Israel’s) concerns. The keystone of this new phase of U.S.-Iranian nuclear diplomacy is a mutual embrace of the concept of nuclear ambiguity. This cautious development in U.S.-Iran relations rests on a mutual Iranian and American interest to maintain and honor a studied uncertainty concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons capability. This posture stands in direct opposition to the were the key objectives at the heart of the JCPOA: to preempt, prevent, and aggressively monitor the expansion of an Iranian nuclear enrichment capability. The doctrine of nuclear ambiguity has a central place in nuclear diplomacy. U.S. and Russian doctrine are based on an openly declared nuclear capability, backed by the promise and the opposing arsenals of mutual nuclear destruction. North Korea maintains a declared nuclear arsenal and delivery system aimed at deterring foreign intervention and maintaining the regime in power. Nuclear ambiguity, in contrast, as practiced by Israel and now increasingly by Iran, all but ignores the issue of uranium enrichment that was at the center of the JCPOA era. It focuses instead on the deliberate decision not to declare the existence of a nuclear weapons capability, either as a deterrent or as a weapon. A policy of deliberate uncertainty about Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities helps to diffuse unwelcome pressure by the international community to disarm. In contrast, integrating nuclear weapons openly in its military doctrine could well instigate rather than deter armed conflict. The parameters of this new grand bargain between Tehran and Washington first appeared last summer. Not surprisingly, its key elements were announced in the context of U.S. commitments to Israel. The Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration, announced on July 14, 2022, reaffirms the longstanding “unshakeable U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, and especially to the maintenance of its qualitative military edge (QME).” As long as Washington maintains Israel’s conventional superiority over Iran and its neighbors, Jerusalem will keep its famed nuclear arsenal “in the basement”—that is, ambiguous, undeclared, and undeployed. Nothing new here. But the declaration, taking note of the new post-JCPOA policy on Iran unveils an unusually explicit and perhaps unprecedented public U.S. commitment, “to use all elements of its national power” to ensure that “Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. It is instructive to pay close attention to the extraordinary language now employed by the Biden administration to describe this U.S. policy. The U.S.-Israel agreement, subsequently repeated by administration officials in various venues, does not warn Iran against enriching uranium but rather advises it of certain unprecedented peril (employing “all elements of [U.S.] national power”) should it choose to acquire a nuclear bomb. The distinction is significant, all but inviting Iran to adopt a policy of nuclear ambiguity short of acquisition and deployment as a way of avoiding a preventative or preemptive U.S. (nuclear) attack. Iran appears to have internalized the new line declared by Washington. In the wake of the U.S. announcement, Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations and a top aide to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, acknowledged that Iran indeed has the ability to produce a nuclear weapon, but it is choosing not to do so—the formula at the heart of a policy of nuclear ambiguity. Kharazi told Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel that “In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60% and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium … Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one.” According to a statement by Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, “The window for reaching an agreement on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran will not always be open.” He continued: “If the Westerners want to continue their hypocritical and interventionist behavior, we will move in the direction of another plan.” That other plan—Macron’s “new framework”—could well be one based upon nuclear ambiguity. The new nuclear era now emerging in Washington and Tehran (if not necessarily Israel) repudiates two concepts at the heart of the moribund JCPOA. Ambiguity rather than clarity, intentions rather than capabilities, are at the heart of an era of strategic stability now tentatively on offer by Washington and Tehran. Yet unlike the blossoming of Washington’s relations with Israel that followed their nuclear understandings in the late 1960s, relations between Iran and Washington in the wake of this emerging nuclear rapprochement are set to remain in the deep freeze.

China-Saudi ties don’t undermine Iran containment

Alaqrout & Ahmadi, 1-3, 23, Ahmed Alqarout is a London-based expert in international political economy. His research focuses on the impact of financial and economic policies on global and regional stability with a special focus on the Middle East and Africa; Ali Ahmadi is a scholar of sanctions and geoeconomics. He is currently an Executive Fellow at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP) and a Research Fellow at the Brussels-based Vocal Europe foreign policy think tank. You can follow him on Twitter and Linkedin, Don’t Fear Saudi Arabia’s Pivot to China, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/don%E2%80%99t-fear-saudi-arabia%E2%80%99s-pivot-china-206073?page=0%2C1

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s recent trip to meet with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) set off a storm of anxiety in Washington. But it’s important to note that much of what was agreed to in these meetings is actually designed to marginalize Iran in regional and trans-regional affairs—a cause shared by the United States and many of its GCC partners.

The Saudi Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement with China comes just two years after Beijing signed a similar deal with Iran. The timing of the deals is thus not a coincidence but a calculable act by Saudi Arabia to contain Iran and curtail any gains it may have secured through such a strategic partnership. Hence, despite popular belief to the contrary, the United States stands to gain from the agreement, which will help ensure Iran’s regional and global power remains checked.

Iran and Saudi Arabia Look East

The Saudi-China strategic partnership should not be seen in isolation from the other agreements Riyadh has advanced in Asia. In a way, Saudi Arabia’s “Pivot to Asia” is its answer to Iran’s “Look to the East” strategy. Iran’s strategy was adopted by conservatives who see Asia and Eurasia as key avenues to expand Iranian influence at the expense of ties with the West. Thus, Saudi Arabia aims to contain Iran’s strides in Asia, supplementing similar U.S. efforts. Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries have been signing deals with Asian countries that Iran seeks stronger ties with to relieve itself from Western economic pressure. In the past two years, Riyadh has signed economic, diplomatic, and defense agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Kazakhstan, and Bangladesh, to mention a few. Therefore, Saudi Arabia’s closer ties with China should be seen as part of its efforts to contain Iran’s growing relationships in Asia and as a response to the Raisi administration’s shift away from the West.

By signing the China-Saudi Arabia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement, Saudi Arabia has cemented its economic partnership with China, which was already thriving, in a bid to limit the possibility of China moving closer to Iran. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, the trade volume between China and Saudi Arabia stood at $65 billion in 2020. The volume of trade in the same year between Iran and China lagged behind at $14.5 billion. The significant gap is partly explained by Western sanctions constraining Chinese companies’ ability to trade with Iran and vice versa. Nonetheless, the signing of the China-Iran Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020 had the potential to boost the volume of trade between the pair.

Furthermore, as the West threatens to sanction China and imposes broad sanctions on Russia, Riyadh is worried that a sanctioned China will seek to boost trade with Iran, as they both aim to resist Western economic statecraft. This was the case with Russia. Since the imposition of sanctions on Russia, Iran has sought to capitalize on the situation, signing large trade deals with Russia that have significantly boosted the volume of trade between the pair, which stood at only $4 billion as of 2021. For example, Iran signed $40 billion worth of gas deals with Russia’s Gazprom. There has also been a significant influx of Russian businesspeople and private sector interest in Iran over the past month and a greater emphasis on major joint infrastructure programs. Thus, Saudi Arabia worries that Iran’s trade with China will grow and tilt the balance in favor of Iran. The Saudi strategic partnership with China ensures that trade between Iran and China remains well below its own, maintaining the balance of power against Iran.

These efforts should also be seen as part of Riyadh’s desire to contain Iran’s championing of emerging non-Western-dominated international organizations. Iran is being elevated to full membership in the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and has applied to join the BRICS bloc led by Russia. Saudi Arabia worries that Iran’s growing importance in such alternative trade and security blocs will offer Iran relief from Western sanctions and enable it to continue pursuing regional activities that undermine Saudi interests. Saudi Arabia applied to join BRICS shortly after Iran filed its membership application and is considering joining the SCO along with Qatar and Bahrain. Furthermore, Riyadh’s commitment to connecting its Vision 2030 with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is also part of its effort to decrease Iran’s chances of being a key beneficiary of the BRI and ensure that China continues to hedge its BRI investments. The Saudi government is also seeking to make Chinese companies base their regional headquarters in the kingdom as part of its steps to ensure its economy dominates the Middle East. This will ensure that Chinese companies approach Iran as a second-priority market, not a strategic one, helping to undermine Iran’s effort to become a regional investment and trade hub for China and others.

On the geo-financial front, Iran and China have been pursuing the de-dollarization of trade and advancing the idea of the “petro-yuan.” By joining the SCO, a key international platform pushing for global de-dollarization, Iran can be a key regional power promoting that agenda. Not only would this help Tehran overcome Western sanctions, but it could also make it the most experienced and capable country in the region with the infrastructure to enable trade in non-dollar currencies. Thus, it is no coincidence that China called Saudi Arabia to join this effort and sell its oil in yuan. While Riyadh remains committed to selling energy exclusively in dollars, the China-Saudi partnership summit makes the “petro-yuan” an official objective, giving Saudi Arabia the ability to exercise that option in the future, especially if Iran advances de-dollarization as a result of its partnership with China. Largescale sales of petroleum through yuan-based contracts may not be possible in the immediate future, but the prospect of such a move would be worrying to Washington due to the importance of dollar-centered energy markets to the dollar’s status as the world’s dominant currency.

The Saudis are also eager to contain Iran’s technological advancement and growing military edge. The Iranian industrial base is perceived by Saudi Arabia as a threat that helps Iran export missiles, drones, and advanced communication technologies in the region, undermining Saudi interests. By warming up to China, Saudi Arabia is seeking to capitalize on China’s industrial capacity to build an advanced industrial base. Thus, China welcomed Saudi sovereign wealth fund investments in its industrial sector, which will help Riyadh gain knowledge to advance its industrial base and maintain the industrial balance with Iran. An agreement to build a drone factory in Saudi Arabia, while signed before the strategic partnership, complements Riyadh’s efforts to ensure the balance of power between Saudi Arabia and Iran remains checked. Of course, Saudi Arabia has access to Western arms that Iran lacks, but it is seeking to develop its indigenous military-industrial capacity.

Renewable energy undermines Iran’s oil economy and its renewable sectors

Alaqrout & Ahmadi, 1-3, 23, Ahmed Alqarout is a London-based expert in international political economy. His research focuses on the impact of financial and economic policies on global and regional stability with a special focus on the Middle East and Africa; Ali Ahmadi is a scholar of sanctions and geoeconomics. He is currently an Executive Fellow at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP) and a Research Fellow at the Brussels-based Vocal Europe foreign policy think tank. You can follow him on Twitter and Linkedin, Don’t Fear Saudi Arabia’s Pivot to China, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/don%E2%80%99t-fear-saudi-arabia%E2%80%99s-pivot-china-206073?page=0%2C1

The agreement’s commitment to renewable investment is key to Saudi efforts to contain Iran’s rise. Iran has pursued growth in its renewables industry in a bid to diversify its economy, strengthen its technological capacity, and secure new regional and international partnerships, including with China, which will help it overcome sanctions. GCC countries have been helping Yemen, Iraq, and Syria reduce their reliance on Iranian hydrocarbons by encouraging the use of renewables through initiatives and investments. With the signing of the deal with China, Saudi Arabia aims to gain an edge in the renewables sector, which will undercut Iranian energy sales in the region and beyond. China, as a leading power in renewables, stands to help Saudi Arabia achieve such objectives at the cost of Iran’s aspirations, which are already held back by Western sanctions.

Azerbaijan threatens genocide

Armenian Press, 1-4, 23, https://armenpress.am/eng/news/1101019/,

.Turkey, Azerbaijan openly threaten Armenia with war, occupation and genocide – Lemkin Institute

YEREVAN, JANUARY 4, ARMENPRESS. The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention published a report at the end of 2022 to reflect on the events of the past year that, in one way or another, are related to genocide. The report also includes Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), particularly the Azeri attacks on Armenia, the Azeri ceasefire violations in Artsakh and the Azeri blockade of Lachin Corridor.

“In 2022 the small Republic of Armenia faced increasing threats to its territorial integrity from neighboring Azerbaijan and its ally, Turkey. On September 13, in violation of the 2020 Tripartite Ceasefire Agreement that ended the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani military launched an attack against several eastern Armenian towns, committing horrific atrocities against Armenian soldiers that were filmed and shared widely on Azeri social media. These atrocities, and their dissemination, followed patterns from the 2020 war, when Azerbaijan sought to take over the ethnic Armenian enclave of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Although the external world acted quickly to end Azerbaijani aggression in September, Azerbaijan still occupies 140km of sovereign Armenian territory as well as important parts of Artsakh, including the city of Shushi. Since December 12 it has also blockaded the only road linking Artsakh to the outside world, causing a humanitarian crisis that may quickly become a catastrophe. The regime of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev openly promotes violent anti-Armenianism at home, celebrating war crimes while representing itself as a bastion of tolerance to the outside world. Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine has emboldened Turkey and Azerbaijan to aggressively push for a land corridor (the ‘Zangezur’ corridor) linking the two countries through the Armenian province of Syunik. They openly threaten the Armenian state with war, occupation, and genocide.

Russia cannot mediate because it’s too tied to Azerbaijan; any mediation depends on the West

Kirill Krivosheev, Carnegie Endowment for Internatiional Peace, Jan. 3, 2023, Russian Peacekeepers Find Themselves Sidelined in Nagorno-Karabakh, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2023/01/03/russian-peacekeepers-find-themselves-sidelined-in-nagorno-karabakh-a79868

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan to drift away from Russia’s mediation toward that of the West. Now, Russian peacekeepers in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region appear to be in a catch-22 situation. Azerbaijan is becoming increasingly emboldened by the Kremlin’s weakness, with the country’s pro-government media now describing the peacekeepers as “occupiers,” but Moscow’s hands are tied: any response will only make its situation worse…. Instead, therefore, Moscow is choosing to do next to nothing. Since the Lachin Corridor has been blocked, Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken to both Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilhar Aliyev, but that has not defused the tension. On the contrary: on Dec. 13, Azerbaijan also cut off the gas supply to Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh.

Israel is willing to make a deal with Saudi Arabia to contain Iran

Hadar, 1-4, 23, Leon Hadar, a Washington-based journalist and global affairs analyst, is the author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)., Saudi Arabia May Be Netanyahu’s Political Lifeline, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/saudi-arabia-may-be-netanyahu%E2%80%99s-political-lifeline-206077

Recognizing that President Joe Biden and his aides will not give him a green light to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, and may even try to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu believes that the only way to change the status quo and force the Americans and the West to confront the Islamic Republic before it is too late is to form a diplomatic and military front with Saudi Arabia and its Arab-Sunni allies. According to press reports, Netanyahu has met in the past with Saudi crown prince and prime minister Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and discussed the potential for cooperation between the Saudis and the Israeli in containing the shared Iranian threat. The hope in Jerusalem has been that in addition to facilitating trade and investment, the so-called Abraham Accords will become the first step in the process of creating a rapid response force modeled after NATO and consisting of Israel and the Gulf states, or perhaps an arrangement like the Asian Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, that would involve cooperation under U.S. leadership. But since the signing of the Abraham Accords, the world has changed in a way that has forced both the Israelis and the Saudis to consider the new international reality, in which growing U.S. military commitments in Europe and Asia are reducing the U.S. ability to sustain its long-term presence in the Middle East. These developments are making it unlikely that Washington would be ready to go to war against Iran if it decides to build a nuclear bomb. At the same time, the growing tensions between MBS and Biden over the Saudi refusal to pump more oil to reduce global energy prices amid the fallout from the Russo-Ukrainian War and Western sanctions have put Riyadh in a very difficult situation. The Saudis are trying to balance their economic interests, which run contrary to those of the United States, with their continued reliance on U.S. military support. Moreover, the Saudis are facing growing hostility in Washington from members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, who, in response to Saudi human rights violations, are calling for a reexamination of the U.S. partnership with the Saudis. As it happens, they are also urging a reassessment of the American “special relationship” with Israel. MBS and Bibi, both close buddies of Trump, likely recognize that a Trump restoration in 2024 isn’t going to happen and that, at a minimum, they will have to find ways to work with the Democrats in Washington. From that perspective, Israel and Saudi Arabia share an interest in ensuring that the United States remains militarily engaged in the Middle East. But at the same time, they also have to prepare for the eventuality that the Americans will start reducing their military commitments in the region and create a strategic vacuum, requiring the Israelis and the Arab Gulf states to maintain a common military front to deter Iran. The conventional wisdom is that MBS will refrain from establishing a full diplomatic relationship with Israel as long as his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, an Arab nationalist and a long-time supporter of the Palestinian cause, remains alive. But it’s possible that in the face of the changing global and regional balance of power, MBS will be more inclined to take steps toward a diplomatic détente with Israel, which could help him restore his bruised reputation in Washington. Moreover, the image of MBS and Netanyahu signing a peace accord at the White House would be regarded as a major diplomatic triumph for Biden and reduce the odds that the Americans will revive the nuclear deal with Iran. A peace deal with Saudi Arabia would certainly amount to a political victory for Netanyahu, shifting attention from his controversial cabinet members and his unstable coalition that may not survive longer than a year. It’s doubtful, however, that MBS would agree to make a deal with Netanyahu without some concessions on the Palestinian issue, such as re-committing Israel to the two-state solution and leaving the status of the holy sites in Jerusalem open for negotiations. But that could actually prove to be a good political move for Bibi. By making concessions to the Arabs, he would leave Ben Gvir and Smotrich no choice but to resign from the cabinet and open the door for Gantz and Lapid to join it to ensure that the Knesset approves the peace agreement with the Saudis and can form a national unity government to confront the expected challenges from Iran. A Saudi prince may therefore hold the key to Bibi’s political survival and that of his government, demonstrating how the Middle East is rapidly changing.

New Syria-Turkey ties, no risk of a Turkish invasion

Bhadrakumar, 1-3, 23, MK Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey., Russia consolidates in East Mediterranean

It is against such a backdrop that the two meetings in Moscow on Wednesday between the defense ministers and intelligence chiefs of Turkey and Syria in the presence of their Russian counterparts took place. Erdogan’s reconciliation process with Assad is quintessentially his sweet revenge for the American betrayal. Erdogan sought help from Russia, the archetypal enemy country in the US and NATO’s sights, in order to communicate with Assad who is a pariah in American eyes. The matrix is self-evident. On Thursday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said: “At the meeting (in Moscow), we discussed what we could do to improve the situation in Syria and the region as soon as possible while ensuring peace, tranquility and stability… We reiterated our respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty rights of all our neighbors, especially Syria and Iraq, and that our sole aim is the fight against terrorism, we have no other purpose.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has been counseling Erdogan in recent years that Turkey’s security concerns are best tackled in coordination with Damascus and that Adana Agreement could provide a framework of cooperation. The Turkish Defense Ministry readout said the meeting in Moscow took place in a “constructive atmosphere” and it was agreed to continue the format of trilateral meetings “to ensure and maintain stability in Syria and the region as a whole.” Without doubt, the normalization between Ankara and Damascus will impact regional security and, in particular, the Syrian war, given the clout Turkey wields with the residual Syrian opposition. A Turkish ground operation in northern Syria may not be necessary if Ankara and Damascus were to revive the Adana Agreement. In fact, Akar disclosed that Ankara, Moscow and Damascus are working on carrying out joint missions on the ground in Syria. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s willingness right in the middle of the Ukraine war to take the steering wheel and navigate its reconciliation with Syria adds an altogether new dimension to the deepening strategic ties between Moscow and Ankara. For Erdogan too, Syria becomes the newest addition to his policy initiatives lately to improve Turkey’s relations with the regional states. Normalization with Syria will go down well with Turkish public opinion and that has implications for Erdogan’s bid for a renewed mandate in the upcoming elections. From the Syrian perspective, the normalization with Turkey is going to be far more consequential than the restoration of ties with various regional states (starting with the UAE) in the recent years who had fueled the conflict. Turkey’s equations with Syrian militant groups (eg., Syrian National Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham), its continued occupation of Syrian territory, Syrian refugees in Turkey (numbering 3.6 million), etc. are vital issues affecting Syria’s security.

Russia’s influence in West Asia is growing

Bhadrakumar, 1-3, 23, MK Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey., Russia consolidates in East Mediterranean, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2023/01/03/russia-consolidates-in-east-mediterranean/

Last week’s meetings in Moscow show that Russia’s standing in the West Asian region is far from defined by the Ukraine conflict. Russian influence on Syria remains intact and Moscow will continue to shape Syria’s transition out of conflict zone and consolidate its own long-term presence in Eastern Mediterranean. OPEC Plus has gained traction. Russia’s ties with the Gulf states are steadily growing. The Russia-Iran strategic ties are at its highest level in history. And the return of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister means that the Russian-Israeli ties are heading for a reset. Clearly, Russian diplomacy is on a roll in West Asia. Armenia and Azerbaijan are on the brink of war, Western diplomacy is needed to solve News.com, 1-2, 23, Experts: New war between Baku and Yerevan will be shorter, but no less dramatic than the conflict of 2020, https://news.am/eng/news/738031.html Two years after their last war over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to be headed for a new confrontation. Russia’s failures in Ukraine have upset the calculations in the region, the International Crisis Group writes. The new war will be shorter but no less dramatic than the six-week conflict of 2020. Since then, the balance has shifted further in favor of Azerbaijan. The Armenian army has not been replenishing its troops and armaments because Russia, its traditional arms seller, lacks supplies. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, is gaining ground. Its army is several times larger than that of Armenia, it is much better equipped and has the support of Turkey. Baku was also encouraged by the increased European demand for Azerbaijani gas. In particular, the report notes that after the 2020 cease-fire, Russia deployed peacekeepers to Karabakh and reinforced its border forces and military personnel on those parts of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border that became the new front line after the 44-day war. The idea was that even a small Russian contingent would deter attacks on Armenia because Baku would be wary of Moscow. After the war in Ukraine, however, these calculations did not materialize. Russian forces failed to prevent several outbreaks last year. In March and August, Azerbaijani troops seized new territories in Nagorno-Karabakh, including strategic heights. In September, the Azerbaijani military seized territory from Armenia. Terrorist attacks became more and more bloody, the International Crisis Group notes. Experts say the war in Ukraine also overshadowed Armenian-Azerbaijani talks. According to their information, at the end of last year, Moscow accepted the European Union’s petition, hoping it would strengthen Russia’s peacekeeping mission. However, after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Moscow perceived Brussels’ mediation as another attempt to curb Russia’s influence, and no matter how much the Western capitals try to convince them otherwise, the Kremlin refuses to intervene. As a result, two draft agreements are being circulated – one was developed by Russia, the other was developed by Armenia and Azerbaijan with the support of the West, the report notes, specifying that each of the documents concerns the restoration of communication and trade channels and the stabilization of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, leaving the fate of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh separate from the unstarted process for now. The Armenian-Azerbaijani project, supported by the West, is probably more promising, partly because it was developed by the sides, the experts express their opinion, stressing, however, that it is not clear how Moscow will react if this happens. On the other hand, according to the international crisis group, although the sides are trying to work out a joint project, their approaches are still very far from each other. All cards are in Baku’s hands, and Azerbaijan would benefit more from a possible deal, especially in terms of military and foreign policy, than if it tried to achieve these goals militarily, experts say, warning that the danger is that negotiations will lead nowhere, and either another military conflict will destroy the ways sponsored by both Moscow and the West, and Azerbaijan will take what it can by force.

US/Western led negotiations will protect the capitalist business interests of the West

Azerne News, 1-3, 23, Vigorous protests in Karabakh against plunder of Azerbaijani natural resources by Armenians underway, https://www.azernews.az/nation/204590.html

Protesters from all walks of life have been vigorously rallying against the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan’s mineral resources in the Karabakh economic region by ethnic Armenian separatists in collaboration with Armenia’s various governments for over 20 years. At a conservative estimate, Armenians, hand in hand with offshore and European companies, have illegally pocketed billions of dollars from plundering Azerbaijan’s mineral resources both in Karabakh and around during the 30-year-long occupation and continued the same scheme of theft of gold, molybdenum, copper, and other mineral resources after the war under the supervision and in collaboration with the Russian peacekeepers. The Azerbaijani public has finally decided to say enough is enough and halt the continuous plunder, and thus on December 12, 2022, a group of eco-activists took to the streets to say this is the last straw. And they succeeded in it by kicking off open-ended pickets on the Lachin road through which Azerbaijani wealth from the interior of the earth has been transported to Armenia for further processing. One of the fundamental reasons for the international support for the Armenian claims now is the similarity of the business interests of certain political groups in Europe with those in Armenia and separatist Karabakh in the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan’s mineral resources. In concert with wide-ranging corrupt political groups from across Europe, particularly in France and in the USA, separatists in Karabakh under the temporary control of the Russian peacekeepers pocket millions from the illegalities, and Azerbaijan’s determination though late to halt both looting and prevent ecocide trigger anti-Azerbaijani moves ranging from pressure at local, national and international levels, orchestrated by corrupt and criminal elements sitting at high-echelons of power and fed by Armenian diaspora.

Security guarantees mean Israel and Saudi Arabia will cement ties

Ariel Kahana, 1-2, 23, Netanyahu might have to turn US policy on its head, https://www.israelhayom.com/2023/01/02/netanyahus-might-have-to-turn-us-policy-on-its-head/

Amid the brouhaha of the past several days as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put the final touches on his government, he also set his sights on two major personal foreign policy goals. The first is his life’s mission – to stop the Iranian nuclear project. The second – to strike a peace accord with Saudi Arabia and thus put a practical end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Realizing those two objectives may not seem to be such a hard feat at first glance, precisely because they are intertwined: Saudi Arabia detests Iran just as much as Israel does. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, the old adage says. In other words, having given tacit agreement to the Abraham Accords between Israel and four Arab states and opened its airspace for Israeli overflights, and let dual Israeli citizens enter the kingdom (along with subtle cooperation on other matters), Riyadh has every reason to move closer to Jerusalem. But the obstacles that have stalled this have nothing to do with reasons and everything to do with circumstances. The peace deal with Bahrain and the UAE was finalized during the Trump administration, under what was perceived to be a powerful American umbrella. Today, at least in the eyes of regional power brokers, the US presence in the region pales in comparison. The Saudi regime feels it cannot trust the US. Just recently, China’s President Xi Jinping was treated like royalty when he visited the kingdom and announced a host of collaboration projects between the countries. Such a reception was in stark contrast to the cold shoulder President Joe Biden got when he visited there in the summer. The Saudis are justifiably of the view that Washington should have ratcheted up the pressure to the maximum on Iran. That was the right thing to do before the Hijab protest broke out and prior to Iran entering the Ukraine theater by helping Russia with drones; it is doubly true now – from a moral standpoint but also for political and security reasons. The US has continued to treat Iran with kid gloves. Although it has been lending a hand, it has not been fully behind the protest movement in Iran. It has also shied away from creating a direct threat to Iran’s nuclear program. Had Saudi Arabia and Israel been given a US umbrella against Iran, they would have found it easier to work together. Lacking such protection, both countries will have to resort to under-the-radar coordination that will most likely stay under wraps.

Strong diplomacy with Saudi Arabia needed to prevent it from turning to China 

Burks, 1-2, 23, Cam Burks is a senior fellow at George Mason University’s National Security Institute. He is a corporate global security executive, previously serving in chief security officer and enterprise, geopolitical strategy leadership positions at Chevron Corporation and Adobe. He served for nearly 15 years in the Foreign Service as a special agent and American Embassy Regional Security Officer with the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. He is a network affiliate at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, Kingdom, come: The case for partnering with Saudi Arabia, https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/3786860-kingdom-come-the-case-for-partnering-with-saudi-arabia/

Saudi Arabia, the largest Gulf state and custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites, is the obvious candidate to help carry Washington’s water. The Kingdom long has had a robust defense relationship with the United States and U.S. and Saudi officials for decades have strived to maintain comity in the face of periodic differences and dustups that threatened to undermine bilateral ties. Indeed, after Israel, Saudi Arabia stands as our most-indispensable Middle Eastern partner. So, one might ask, if working with Riyadh represents such an obvious slam-dunk, why hasn’t Washington seized the ball and driven down the court? Answer, and question The answer is values. Happy to cooperate with the Kingdom privately, U.S. officials are loath to do so publicly because of the widespread perception that Saudi Arabia is just too different. It is a monarchy, and we are a republic. It cloisters women (albeit less so than before) and we celebrate their liberty. It punishes dissent; we champion freedom of expression. It hearkens to arch-conservative social mores, and we let it all hang out. The question also is values. More specifically, do they really matter as much as we think they do? Policymakers in Washington have no apparent difficulty tolerating what human rights groups say is Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, but they become positively apoplectic concerning the Kingdom’s rights record. Childhood’s end It is high time to dispense with such puerile thinking. Handwringing about remaking allies in our image retards our ability to consider clearly how best to achieve lasting security. International relations is a deadly serious game played for keeps, and we would do well to listen to Otto von Bismarck instead of Oprah. Friends make us feel good, partners help us get things done, and —mais oui! — it is lovely when a country like the United Kingdom can fill both roles. But when we need help — and there is no doubt we do in the Middle East — it hardly matters whether we admire the party rendering assistance or how much they resemble us. We must be mature enough to recognize that, when it comes to advancing our interests, our enemies’ enemy is our friend. The White House should extend its hand to Riyadh. It should dispense with notions of pride and face and say to the Kingdom, “Come, work with us on finding a path forward through the challenges that lie ahead.” I propose three steps forward: Invite de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Washington for a strategy summit with President Biden. Would this provoke a media firestorm and partisan cries of hypocrisy? Of course, but the juice — gaining Saudi help in a range of issues from quashing Sunni extremism to engineering a soft landing for the Iranian regime’s successor — will be well worth the squeeze. Encourage bilateral investment. Despite the current oil-price windfall, the Kingdom faces serious economic challenges (including towering unemployment among the aforementioned high-expectations youth) that U.S. private-sector innovation can help it to overcome. Facilitate people-to-people exchanges. Few things are more impactful on hearts and minds than personal encounters revealing our shared humanity. Reducing barriers to Saudi students and helping U.S. universities to open campuses in the Kingdom will create a cadre of future U.S. and Saudi leaders with an intimate appreciation of what “the other” brings to table. The time is now. Among the lessons U.S. policymakers drew from Iran in 1979 and Lebanon in the 1980s was the danger of hubris. Ours is the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, but we imperil ourselves by confusing might with omnipotence. In a region as fraught and complex as the Middle East, there is no shame in recognizing we need help in securing our interests. Saudi Arabia’s centrality — geographically, politically, socially and economically — make it uniquely positioned to render assistance. The Biden administration should treat the Kingdom as a partner, not a gas station or a piggy bank, to anchor it firmly in our camp and to influence it with our values. With White House missteps leading Riyadh to question Washington’s commitment to Saudi security, and to the region more generally, now is the time to act. Failure to do so would be tantamount to pushing Riyadh into Beijing’s and/or Moscow’s embrace, where it can do us no good — and potentially a lot of harm.

Iran nuclear deal enables Iranian aggression

Stricker, 1-1, 23, Andrea Stricker is deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow her on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy, In 2023, Washington Can’t Neglect Iran, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/2023-washington-can%E2%80%99t-neglect-iran-206069

U.S. Iran policy currently rests on the hope that Tehran will not intensify its malign conduct as Washington focuses on other priorities: arming Ukraine, competing with China, and a range of domestic issues. The West is hedging its bets: If Iran’s uprising fails, the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), remains an option to bribe Tehran to temporarily refrain from dashing to nuclear weapons. The West seems unconcerned that the deal’s revival would pump some $1 trillion in revenue to Iran by 2030, helping the regime shore up its hold on power, repress its people, and attack its neighbors.

Iran deal is dead

Stricker, 1-1, 23, Andrea Stricker is deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow her on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy, In 2023, Washington Can’t Neglect Iran, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/2023-washington-can%E2%80%99t-neglect-iran-206069

The president acknowledged on camera that the JCPOA is dead, but his administration will not announce its demise. Biden may believe doing so would cause the regime to rush to the nuclear threshold. The reaction from Tehran? It keeps moving toward the nuclear threshold.

It’s possible to revive the Iran nuclear deal

Financial Tribune, 1-1, 2023, CPOA Revival Still Possible Despite Challenges, https://financialtribune.com/articles/national/116610/jcpoa-revival-still-possible-despite-challenges

China said the talks to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are in the “final phase”, emphasizing that there is still an opportunity to reach a final agreement on the revival of the accord. “Despite the complex and challenging prospects facing the talks, there is still hope for reaching an agreement” to revive the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press conference on Monday, according to the ministry’s website. She urged all parties to the agreement to stay committed to dialogue and step up diplomatic efforts to “bring the JCPOA back on track as soon as possible.” Pointing to Iran’s sincerity in seeking an agreement on the JCPOA resumption, she urged all concerned parties to “work in the same direction, make the right decision, take positive and constructive steps forward, avoid linking the Iranian nuclear issue with other issues and help the negotiations produce an outcome at an early date.”

Iran nuclear deal is dead

Margarat Brennan, Fox and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, 1-1-2023, to Videos, https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2023/01/01/hr_mcmaster_chances_are_quite_high_israel_will_strike_irans_nuclear_program_in_2023.htmlH.R. McMaster: “Chances Are Quite High” Israel Will Strike Iran’s Nuclear Program In 2023

MARGARET BRENNAN: Oone of the things you’re saying there is recognition that the attempt to broker a nuclear deal with Iran is dead.

H.R. MCMASTER: It’s a pipe dream. It’s trying to revive something that is completely dead. And I couldn’t believe it, Margaret, as- as we were supplicating to the Iranian regime as they’re intensifying their proxy war in the region, and attacking some of our- of our long-standing partners there, the- the Saudi- Saudi Arabia and, and the UAE. And I think we lost a lot of ground in the Middle East, because we’re chasing this pipe dream of trying to revive this- this nuclear agreement. And if we didn’t Margaret, what would happen- what would happen is we’d give Iran a pass on- on the destructive effect that the dictatorship has had on the Iranian economy. And you know, where that money would go, that money would go into the bonyads, which are these collectives controlled by the theocratic dictatorship, who extend their patronage network and control and that money would go to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, who would, as they did after the first Iran nuclear deal, intensify their proxy war against us, their Arab neighbors, and especially against Israel

Azerbaijan’s blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh risks genocide

Billy Hallowell, 1-1, 2023, https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/2023/january/genocide-warning-as-armenian-christians-face-potential-horror-nagorno-karabakh-official-speaks-out, ‘Genocide’ Warning: As Armenian Christians Face Potential Horror, Nagorno-Karabakh Official Speaks Out

Chaos is once again brewing over Nagorno-Karabakh, a small, landlocked region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This area, also known as Artsakh and comprised chiefly of Armenian Christians, has been disputed for decades. But experts are sounding the alarm, as the typical chaos plaguing the area has recently escalated. Azerbaijani residents reportedly blocked the Lachin corridor Dec. 12, the only land passage into Nagorno-Karabakh, cutting off food, medical supplies, and travel between the area and Armenia. That blockade is now approaching its second week, with desperation increasing. A TRULY DIRE SITUATION The situation is so dire a group of human rights organizations issued a genocide warning Monday, cautioning how deadly and diabolical the situation could become. “The current Azerbaijani aggression against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh conforms to a long pattern of ethnic and religious cleansing of Armenian and other Christian communities in the region by the government of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, and their partisans,” the warning reads, in part. The blockade is the clear catalyst for the increased alarm. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry placed blame for the closure on Russian peacekeepers who are responsible for the area under a 2020 peace agreement. Part of that treaty called for Azerbaijan to ensure the safe passage of materials along that road, which is purportedly no longer happening. The blockade is sparking a crisis Ruben Vardanyan, minister of state for Nagorno-Karabakh, is hoping to see remedied as quickly as possible, as his citizens do not have access to travel or much-needed resources.

China-Saudi ties increasing

Tom Porter, 1-1, 2023, Business Insider, How Saudi Arabia’s crown prince snubbed Biden repeatedly to forge ties with authoritarian China and Russia, https://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-snubs-us-embraces-china-russia-2022-12

In Riyadh in early December, China’s President Xi Jinping met with Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, to announce a “new era” in relations between the countries. They touted sweeping new trade and energy deals, and alignment on issues ranging from the war in Yemen, to digital infrastructure and space research. It was the culmination of years of alliance-building between Beijing and Riyadh in their increasingly brazen opposition to US global dominance. “Saudi Arabia and China each find each other useful. They have significant economic ties, and they expect those to grow,” the analyst Jon Alterman told Insider in an interview. “While their concerns about US global leadership are very different, they both agree that a unipolar world led by the United States would undermine their interests,” said Altermann, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. For China, the US stands in the way of further expanding its global influence. For Saudi Arabia, it sees economic opportunity and the possibility of taking a bigger global role where several great powers are competing. And it’s not just China that Saudi Arabia has been growing closer to, provoking US concern, but another authoritarian superpower and US adversary: Russia. Back in October, Riyadh infuriated the Biden administration by announcing in tandem with Russia that it would be cutting oil production. The deal was reportedly a shock to Biden administration officials, who believed they had secured a secret agreement with Saudi Arabia to increase production in a bid to ease domestic inflation.

Saudi Arabia won’t trust US security guarantees because they think the next President will revoke them

Tom Porter, 1-1, 2023, Business Insider, How Saudi Arabia’s crown prince snubbed Biden repeatedly to forge ties with authoritarian China and Russia, https://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-snubs-us-embraces-china-russia-2022-12

The nation is essentially hedging its bet, reacting to shifting rhetoric from Washington, DC, and declining US commitment to the Middle East “The Saudis fear it is reckless to rely entirely on the United States, whose long-term intentions they distrust and whose attitude toward Saudi Arabia has shifted dramatically between the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations,” said Alterman.

No risk of Turkey attack on Greece; their evidence is hype

Elana Becatoros, 12-31, 22, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-politics-turkey-greece-government-0fac79560b01e5c59677be0388ee5d34, Despite rhetoric, Greek-Turkish armed conflict seen remote

Both countries face national elections in the first half of 2023, which is likely to ramp up the rhetoric still further, and Russia’s war in Ukraine has demonstrated that an invasion of a smaller European country by a larger neighboring power is no longer unthinkable. But analysts on both sides of the Aegean Sea are cautious, noting an escalation in verbal barbs but still assessing a military conflict between neighbors Greece and Turkey as unlikely. Traditional adversaries, the countries are no strangers to tension. Mock dogfights by fighter jets over the Aegean have taken place for decades as the two sides disagree on the limits of Greece’s national airspace. They are at loggerheads over a broad variety of other issues, including the ethnically divided island of Cyprus, maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea and territorial claims in the Aegean Sea, through which their joint border runs. In 2021, Turkish and Greek warships shadowed each other and briefly collided during a heated dispute over exploration rights to potential offshore energy reserves. Greece and Turkey have come close to war three times in the past half-century. The most recent was in January 1996, when a last-minute U.S. intervention averted an armed conflict over an obscure pair of uninhabited islets named Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish. ….. Ankara recently has focused on the militarization of the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, saying international treaties prohibit the presence of armed forces. Greece counters that it is adhering to the treaties and needs to defend the islands against a potential attack from Turkey, which maintains a sizable military force on its nearby coast. Turkey “is building a story, a narrative, so it can (potentially) attribute its own aggressive act against Greece to legitimate self-defense,” Filis said, a tactic that “has many similarities with what Russia did and is doing in Ukraine.” Still, chances of open conflict — or of an accident or military incident triggering an unplanned escalation — remain slim, both analysts agreed. An armed conflict is “still a very, very low probability,” Unluhisarcikli said, noting that past accidents, such as collisions between navy vessels or jet crashes during island patrols, had not led Turkey and Greece to war. A military incident or conflict “is a scenario that doesn’t have much probability,” said Filis. “But the climate that the Turkish leadership is cultivating could make something like that easier.”

China will not provide security guarantees to Saudi Arabia even if Saudi Arabia wants them

Zakheim, 12-30, 22, Dov S. Zakheim is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and vice chairman of the board for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He was under secretary of Defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense from 2001 to 2004 and a deputy under secretary of Defense from 1985 to 1987, The Hill, Saudi Arabia still needs the United States, despite its growing ties to China, https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/3792146-saudi-arabia-still-needs-the-united-states-despite-its-growing-ties-to-china/

China’s increasing economic involvement in Saudi Arabia does not necessarily translate into a security relationship, however. China may indeed be “an all-weather friend,” as a former Pakistani prime minister once told me, but whatever the weather, that friendship has its strict limits. In particular, China has demonstrated a reluctance to provide any country with security guarantees. Indeed, despite its joint proclamation with Russia just prior to the invasion of Ukraine, stating that “friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation,” Beijing has not felt compelled by its strategic partnership to bolster Moscow’s urgent need for military materiel. Moreover, China’s policy is to remain aloof from regional rivalries while spreading its influence throughout the Middle East. In that regard, Beijing is party to another long-term partnership with the Kingdom’s arch-enemy, Iran. Moreover, in contrast to Beijing’s economic undertakings with the Saudis, the 25-year China-Iran cooperation agreement that the two countries signed in March 2021 not only involves a reported $400 billion Chinese investment in Iran, but has a major military component as well. Indeed, in January, together with Russia, China held naval exercises in the northern Indian Ocean — they had also jointly exercised in 2019 – and in late April, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe led a senior military delegation to Beijing for talks on military cooperation. Wei met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, as well as with his counterpart, Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, and with Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri. After his meeting with Wei, Bagheri confirmed journalistic speculation that China and Iran had “agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in joint military drills, exchange of strategies, training issues, and other common fields. None of this can be welcome news in Riyadh, which remains concerned about Iran’s threat to its security. Sharing a common enemy, the Saudis are expanding their security ties to Israel. But the Israelis, who have serious security needs of their own, are unlikely to come to Saudi Arabia’s aid with anything like the support that the United States gave to Kuwait after the 1990 Iraqi occupation of that country. At the end of the day, therefore, Riyadh will still need to look to America to underpin its security. And even if Washington’s focus is on peer competitors in Europe and Asia, as it should be, if Saudi Arabia finds itself desperate for assistance in the face of an imminent Iranian threat, its longstanding friendship with the United States most certainly will come into play. Whatever its current differences with the Saudis, America, unlike China, surely can be trusted not to let them down in their time of extreme need.

Increasing China-Arab ties come at the expense of the US

Dr. Mustafa Fetouri, 12-29, 22, Middle East Monitor, The long overdue China-Arab summit highlights Beijing’s increasing assertiveness, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20221229-the-long-overdue-china-arab-summit-highlights-beijings-increasing-assertiveness/

Almost all major Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are traditional US allies in the Middle East and any Chinese advances in this part of the world would come at the expense of the US. While Washington-Tehran relations are at their lowest, Beijing-Tehran ties are expanding without upsetting Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival. So far, Beijing has demonstrated an ability to perform a delicate balancing act in the region. President Xi, in his speech, highlighted “solidarity” and “inclusiveness.”

China-Saudi ties are increasing

Dr. Mustafa Fetouri, 12-29, 22, Middle East Monitor, The long overdue China-Arab summit highlights Beijing’s increasing assertiveness, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20221229-the-long-overdue-china-arab-summit-highlights-beijings-increasing-assertiveness/

It is worth remembering here that the Saudi Kingdom only recognised China as an independent state in 1990; yet bilateral relations between the two have expanded rather quickly. For example, last year, China bought some $43.9 billion worth of Saudi oil; that is one quarter of the kingdom’s oil exports or nearly 77 per cent of Beijing’s overall imports from Riyadh. In the same year China spent nearly $5 billion on Saudi plastics and another $5.6 billion buying Saudi organic chemicals. In the same year, Saudi Arabia spent nearly $16.50 billion on Chinese made electrical, electronic goods, machinery and vehicles. Oil, though, remains the main Chinese import from Arab countries like Kuwait, Oman and Iraq.

The US should use diplomacy to boost Israel-Saudi ties. This will create deterrence against Iran and protect US interests in the Middle East

Omri Mahmias, 12-28, 22, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-726032, Is Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization ‘ready for prime time’?

WASHINGTON – In the eight weeks since the Israeli elections, there has been growing speculation that normalization between Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia might be back on the table. Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot reported talks were underway between Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia with respect to a normalization deal between the Jewish state and the Gulf country. Richard Goldberg, the senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said we’ve “definitely seen the Biden administration pivot toward embracing the Abraham Accords over the last few months – something we didn’t see in the president’s first year.” Last week, Goldberg hosted Benjamin Netanyahu on his podcast, where the prime minister-designate said he would love to see full normalization between the countries. Last week, Goldberg hosted Benjamin Netanyahu in his podcast, where the incoming prime minister said he would love to see a full normalization between the country. “Since the White House hasn’t been able to jump-start the US-Saudi relationship or provide any clear wins for the Palestinians, the administration might view Saudi-Israel normalization talks as a way to do both,” Goldberg said. Is US support needed for Israel-Saudi normalization? Some media reports suggested that such progress would also be linked to possible support from the US, such as approving the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the kingdom. According to Goldberg, “A lot will depend on what assurances MBS [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] is willing to provide the United States and Israel. Normalizing relations with Israel would be a strategic game changer, as it was for the UAE. But Washington also needs assurances that Riyadh will stop playing military and nuclear footsie with Beijing,” he noted. For the long-term stability of the Middle East, the US has an enormous amount to gain, he added. “Saudi-Israel normalization will be the linchpin to regional economic integration and counter-extremism – in addition to formalizing a security architecture to deter and eventually defeat the Islamic Republic of Iran without drawing American military resources away from much-needed deterrence in the Asia-Pacific theater.” Goldberg also said the incoming government in Israel won’t be an obstacle in this regard. “Netanyahu and MBS gave birth to the Abraham Accords — they have a level of trust that cannot be matched,” Goldberg said. “If anything, the incoming government gives MBS the opportunity to claim greater victories in a normalization deal — much as the UAE spun a victory in 2020.” AARON DAVID MILLER, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, “When the meeting between an Israeli prime minister and a Saudi crown prince or king happens, it will not be the first time it has occurred.” Miller likened the Israeli-Saudi relationship to an iceberg. “Most of what’s interesting on the intelligence-security side and the meetings with senior Israeli officials is occurring below the waterline. We never see it,” he said. “But there’s no doubt that there’s a serious foundation that links these two countries together. The public aspect is the Abraham Accords, of course. But what’s underneath and what’s driving this relationship is a couple of things that are indigenous to the region. First, the clear reality is both countries are fundamentally concerned and worried about Iran. Second, is the rise of Sunni jihadis, Islamic State, [or] al-Qaeda elements.” There is also an exhaustion and frustration with the Palestinian issue, Miller said. “So, what’s occurring between Israel and Saudi Arabia is real, and it’s enduring.” He noted that the US has an important role to play in bringing the two countries together. “Part of the alignment that has occurred between Israel and the Emiratis, the Bahrainis and the Saudis has a lot to do with the repositioning of the United States,” Miller said. When a great power decides that it has de-prioritized the region, which the United States is doing, there is a great concern on the part of Israel and the Gulf states.” Miller added that the Emiratis have set the bar very high – a new set of relationships that go beyond a simple exchange of ambassadors and embassies. “I think Mr. Netanyahu imagines a much more robust relationship with Saudi Arabia. Whether it could go as far as the Emirates, it is unclear,” said Miller. “[But] that’s really what we’re talking about.”

US security commitments to Saudi Arabia will overcome obstacles to strengthening Saudi-Israeli ties 

Omri Mahmias, 12-28, 22, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-726032, Is Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization ‘ready for prime time’?

Israel-Saudi ties not ready for prime time? “There are several reasons why. First, there is the constraint on the accession and whether or not MBS would be able to do this without full authority as a king,” Miller said. “Second, you’ve got the most right-wing government in Israel’s history emerging.” A third constraint, he said, is that the US-Saudi relationship is “as dysfunctional as I’ve seen it in the past six administrations” as the countries are divided on many issues, from human rights to oil production and the relationship with China. “The sun, the moon and the stars are just not aligned right now.” Dennis Ross, a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, weighed in as well. “Is there a possibility of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia? Yes, but one should not exaggerate the near-term chances,” Ross said. “MBS has been clear with many visitors about what is important to him to move on normalization. Put simply, he needs a number of commitments from the US that would provide greater certainty about its security and the nature of American support. “Normalizing with Israel would increase Iranian threats to Saudi Arabia,” Ross continued. “MBS clearly wants more of a set of formal security assurances. This is less about F-35s and more about formalized commitments.” He said the administration, knowing the mood in Congress and its own instincts, “is not inclined to make such commitments at this point.”

US diplomacy responsible for Israel-Lebanon peace

ROUDI BAROUDI, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR – 12/28/22, Lebanon-Israel deal counts as big win for both parties — and for US diplomacy, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/3790958-lebanon-israel-deal-counts-as-big-win-for-both-parties-and-for-us-diplomacy/

The United States accomplished a diplomatic tour de force in October when Lebanon and Israel agreed to settle most of their maritime boundary.

Of course, credit for this achievement is also due to the principals, but U.S. mediation was essential to setting the stage for the mostly indirect negotiations, regaining momentum when it looked like the process might be permanently stalled, and keeping the parties on-course until they reached agreement. Simply put, in this instance, the U.S. really was the “indispensable nation” it has so often strived to be The very fact that an agreement was reached is itself a remarkable departure from decades of mutual enmity between Lebanon and Israel. After all, the deal is anything but the usual sort between two sides that have recently been at odds over one or more particular issues Instead, from the moment of Israel’s establishment in 1948, a state of war has existed between it and Lebanon. A cease-fire was agreed to the following year, but since then there have been countless confrontations between the two sides, including at least three full-scale wars (1978, 1982, 2006), multiple smaller conflicts, a 22-year occupation of South Lebanon ending (for the most part) in 2000, and hundreds of skirmishes. Although the Lebanese have sustained far more than their share of losses in blood and treasure alike, the Israelis also have paid a painful price. Each side has plenty of reasons to distrust the other, and any Lebanese or Israeli advocating accommodation between the two risks running afoul of powerful domestic constituencies bent on continued mutual hatred. It took more than a decade of intermittent contacts, virtually all of them consisting of messages exchanged through American intermediaries, but eventually logic prevailed, and the deal got done. And it’s a good deal for both sides. The Israelis have been extracting offshore gas since 2004 and exporting some of it to Jordan since 2017, but the agreement enhances their ability to expand production and tap enormous markets in Europe. Lebanon’s gas industry is far less advanced, so recognition of its maritime boundaries is even more important: Recognition of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) makes it a viable destination for the foreign investment required for offshore hydrocarbon activities, and the country’s crippling economic and financial crises make the chance to become energy self-sufficient and even earn badly needed export revenues even more attractive.

17 million Houthis need food assistance

Cohen, 12-27, 22, Jordan Cohen is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, an Expert at the Forum on the Arms Trade, and a PhD candidate in political science at George Mason University. Jonathan Ellis Allen is a research associate and producer at the Cato Institute, The Hill, It is time for Congress to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for its victims, https://thehill.com/opinion/congress-blog/3789858-it-is-time-for-congress-to-hold-saudi-arabia-responsible-for-its-victims/

Saudi Arabia’s goals in Yemen are simple: empower a puppet leader and cause suffering to any political opposition, even if they are civilians. Saudi Arabia formed a coalition in 2015 to reinstall President Mahdi al-Mashat to power in Yemen after he was overthrown by the Houthis during the Arab Spring. The Saudi-led coalition has launched a war that has consisted of only an air campaign and blockade. The former has come under criticism for using U.S. weapons to target civilians. The latter has left  over 17.6 million Yemenis needing food assistance. Overall, civilians account for more than 19,200 of the total killed or maimed in Yemen.

Arms sold to Saudi Arabia end up in the arms of terrorists

Cohen, 12-27, 22, Jordan Cohen is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, an Expert at the Forum on the Arms Trade, and a PhD candidate in political science at George Mason University. Jonathan Ellis Allen is a research associate and producer at the Cato Institute, The Hill, It is time for Congress to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for its victims, https://thehill.com/opinion/congress-blog/3789858-it-is-time-for-congress-to-hold-saudi-arabia-responsible-for-its-victims/

The Cato Institute’s annual Arms Sales Risk Index, which measures negative factors linked to arms sales such as dispersion, diversion, and the misuse of weapons by recipients, found Saudi Arabia to be one of the 30 riskiest countries to sell weapons to, as the kingdom uses weapons for human rights abuses, there are high levels of government corruption in Saudi Arabia, and there is a high risk those weapons will find their way into the wrong peoples’ hands. Beyond the sheer civilian damage, reports suggest that weapons sold to the coalition ending up on the black market and are being sold to terrorist groups. Nonetheless, Riyadh is also America’s No. 1 arms purchaser 13 years running because three straight administrations have prioritized defense contractors’ profits over human rights.

Sanctions easily circumvented

Demarais, 12-27, 22, Foreign Affairs, The End of the Age of Sanctions?, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/end-age-sanctions

Yet the golden days of U.S. sanctions may soon be over. As Washington has come to rely more and more heavily on sanctions, many rogue states have begun to harden their economies against such measures. Three events over the past decade in particular have convinced them to do so. In 2012, the United States cut Iran off from SWIFT, the global messaging system that enables virtually all international payments, in a bid to isolate the country financially. Other U.S. enemies took note, wondering whether they might be next. Then, in 2014, Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea, prompting Moscow to make economic autonomy a priority. Finally, in 2017, Washington started a trade war with Beijing, which soon spilled over to the technological sector. By restricting the export of U.S. semiconductor know-how to China, the United States put its adversaries on notice that their access to crucial technology could be severed Individually, currency-swap agreements, alternative payment systems, and digital currencies would not have much of an impact on the efficacy of U.S. sanctions. But together, these innovations are increasingly giving countries the ability to conduct transactions through sanctions-proof channels. This trend appears irreversible. There is no reason to believe that relations between Washington and Beijing or Washington and Moscow will improve anytime soon. The likeliest scenario is that things get worse, prompting Beijing and Moscow to double down on their sanctions-proofing efforts. The rise of a fragmented financial landscape threatens both U.S. diplomacy and national security. In addition to undermining the effectiveness of sanctions, the rise of sanctions-proof financial channels means that the United States will increasingly have a blind spot when it comes to detecting illicit global activities.

No deal on Nagarno-Karabakh is possible because Armenia wants its territorial integrity respected but won’t support Azerbaijan’s

Farid Shafiyev is Chairman of the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations, 12-27, 22, Azerbaijan’s Lachin Road Conundrum, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/azerbaijan%E2%80%99s-lachin-road-conundrum-206061

The Lachin road conundrum has three elements: the immediate cause, the ecological problems and the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan’s natural resources; the use of the Lachin corridor for military purposes, contrary to the Trilateral Statement; and finally, the obligation to open transportation links (also in accordance with the Trilateral Statement). Azerbaijan provides passage via the Lachin road. Moreover, Armenian and foreign (for example, Iranian) trucks use other roads through Azerbaijan’s territory, such as the Goris–Kafan route. However, Armenia, under various pretexts, refuses to create a passage from Azerbaijan proper to its exclave of Nakhichevan that passes through Armenian territory—something that is stipulated in Article 9 of the Trilateral Statement. Overall, the situation over the Lachin road points to more fundamental problems: the lack of a formalized peace treaty (rather than a ceasefire agreement) and the current stalemate in negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan; the performance of Russian peacekeepers; the actions of radicals among Karabakh Armenians and the arrival of Ruben Vardanyan; and the attitudes of geopolitical actors/spoilers, such as France and Russia. If there is a solution, it lies in a durable peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan based on the mutual recognition of territorial integrity. Unfortunately, the leading Armenian approach to peace remains the following: Azerbaijan must unconditionally recognize Armenia’s territorial integrity while Armenia will continue to regard “Nagorno-Karabakh” as an “independent” entity and fight for it through international actors and organizations.

A “peace” deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan will only happen if Armenia agrees to be assimilated, which means genocide

Setrakian, 12-26, 22, Lara Setrakian is a journalist and the president of the Applied Policy Research Institute based in Yerevan, Armenia., Foreign Policy, The West Must Act to Avert War in Nagorno-Karabakh, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/26/nagorno-karabakh-lachin-corridor-protests-armenia-azerbaijan/

“The peace the way Baku envisions it is a peace that is entirely established on its own terms,” said Eldar Mamedov, a Brussels-based foreign-policy analyst. “Aliyev is trying to apply pressure on the Armenian side to re-integrate the Karabakh region into Azerbaijan proper.” Armenians in Karabakh see full integration into Azerbaijan without security guarantees as a prelude to ethnic cleansing, either through direct violence or severe pressure to leave their homes. Azerbaijan has vowed to treat the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh as equal to its own citizens, which provides little comfort given Baku’s poor human rights record. Moreover, a series of gruesome incidents by Azerbaijani soldiers, including the execution of Armenian prisoners of war, sexual violence against women soldiers, and the mutilation and beheading of Armenian civilians have swelled their fears. “The fate of the Karabakh Armenians is a core issue for ending the hostility between the two countries. No one has laid out what’s the best way,” said Zaur Shiriyev of the International Crisis Group. Earlier this year, Armenian cultural heritage in Karabakh was targeted for erasure by a state committee in Baku, echoing the mass destruction of Armenian cultural artifacts in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. All of that has undermined confidence that Armenians have a safe place within Azerbaijani society.

US diplomacy. Is needed to stop Nagarno-Karabakh from escalating

Setrakian, 12-26, 22, Lara Setrakian is a journalist and the president of the Applied Policy Research Institute based in Yerevan, Armenia., Foreign Policy, The West Must Act to Avert War in Nagorno-Karabakh, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/26/nagorno-karabakh-lachin-corridor-protests-armenia-azerbaijan/

In this toxic climate, the risks of escalation are not just clear, they are explicit pressure tactics. Azerbaijan has threatened a new, large-scale war if its demands over Nagorno-Karabakh are not met. Those demands have escalated since the 2020 war as Azerbaijan’s leverage has climbed; chiefly, they center on the full integration of Karabakh territory with no protected status for Armenians. Most controversially, Aliyev has threatened that he would take by force a strip of land across central Armenia as an extraterritorial corridor linking Azerbaijan proper to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, as well as to Turkey. The Armenian section would likely be administered by Russia, giving Moscow a permanent foothold across Armenian territory and seeding the potential for chronic security flare-ups along the route. It could also cut off Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, from the southern regions of Armenia, creating economic, administrative, and humanitarian havoc. The conditions for stability in the South Caucasus have broken down and will continually decline if they are left alone. Responsible powers need to reconfigure the dynamics in a way that ensures peace and prosperity for all, with no country eating its neighbor for lunch. Russia’s vision for the region may be one of ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, simply to justify its peacekeeping presence and give it a more permanent place at the juncture of Armenia, Iran, and Azerbaijan. But apart from that strategic upside for Moscow, constant conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is bad for nearly everyone. It encourages aggressive behavior from the stronger party, results in loss of life on both sides, and erodes Western influence and ability to negotiate a lasting settlement. This is the time for the West to use its significant stores of unspent capital, through levers of hard and soft power, to bring Armenia and Azerbaijan back to the negotiating table. “There are considerations by Aliyev that would steer away from full-scale war, but it is not a given,” Mamedov said. “What would stop it is if the Western community, the U.S. and the European Union, sends a very clear message that Azerbaijan will pay a diplomatic and economic price.” “You need to have a mediator that is able to coerce or incentivize a state to take a step forward. There is no other way to do it,” said Kamal Makili-Aliyev (no relation to President Aliyev), an associate professor at the University of Gothenburg who has written a book analyzing the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Without a strong guiding mediator, the outcome will be a “never-ending conflict in the Caucasus.” The dangerous slide toward conflict is one that the West can skillfully resolve. While the European Union facilitated recent peace talks, it is still the United States that underwrites the weight of the Western position. Washington needs to act like the “supervisor” keeping diplomatic efforts on track, said Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. That means wielding tools that include suspending U.S. military assistance to Baku. The United States provided $164 million in security support to Azerbaijan from 2002 to 2020, without sufficient oversight of key conditions, such as ensuring it was not used by Azerbaijan for offensive purposes against Armenia. Washington should also consider various economic sanctions on the country until Baku consistently chooses diplomacy over forcefully imposed outcomes. “More of a nuclear option would be Global Magnitsky Sanctions on [Azerbaijani] military commanders, if not on Aliyev himself and his family,” Rubin said. The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which U.S. President Joe Biden permanently reauthorized in April, allows the United States to target foreign individuals involved in human rights abuse, freeze their U.S.-based assets, limit access to U.S. visas, and block business transactions. Switzerland can become a more vocal guardian and guarantor of the Geneva Conventions, which are being violated on the ground. The European Union could impose targeted sanctions, consistent with its commitment to human rights. Pairing accountability with incentives, the European Union and United States can offer improved trade relations if the issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan are resolved. Baku can be a more responsible and productive partner for its allies if it curbs aggressive behaviors.

Turkey is trying to broker a deal to end the Ukraine war

Agence France Presse, 12-, 24, 22, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20221224-turkey-says-ukraine-war-will-not-end-easily, Turkey says Ukraine war ‘will not end easily’

Turkey, which helped broker a deal with the United Nations for the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea this summer, is seeking to bring together Russian and Ukrainian leaders for negotiations to end the war. It already hosted a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers during the early stages of the war in March and held other talks between the two warring parties in Istanbul. “As Turkey, we call for a ceasefire, at least a humanitarian ceasefire. Then a permanent ceasefire and then peace talks,” Akar said. Turkey has however shied away from Western sanctions against Russia with which it has boosted trade while supplying Ukraine with combat drones.

Turkey does not think it can end the Ukraine war

Agence France Presse, 12-, 24, 22, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20221224-turkey-says-ukraine-war-will-not-end-easily, Turkey says Ukraine war ‘will not end easily’

NATO member Turkey, which has friendly relations with both of its Black Sea neighbours, has positioned itself as a neutral player and tried to broker a truce. But the continuing war, which entered its 10th month, is dashing Ankara’s hopes. “It appears that this war will not end easily,” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told journalists during a year-end briefing in the capital Ankara. He pointed to Western support for Ukraine and Russia’s statements that it would not give up for his reasoning.

US relations with Turkey already low

Orban Cocksun, 12-24, 22, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkey-talks-with-russia-about-using-syrian-airspace-potential-operation-2022-12-24/,

Turkey sees the YPG militia, the leading presence in the SDF, as the Syrian wing of the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Washington’s support for the YPG in the fight against Islamic State has infuriated Ankara, causing a major rift between the NATO allies.

US cooperating on security with Saudi Arabia now

Jared Szuba, 12-23, 22, AL-Monitor, US working with Saudi Arabia on strategic military plans, general says, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/12/us-working-saudi-arabia-strategic-military-plans-general-says#ixzz7oTqt8HUL, US working with Saudi Arabia on strategic military plans, general says

American military officials have been working behind the scenes to help counterparts in Saudi Arabia lay out a long-term vision for the kingdom’s national security, even as ties between the two governments remain strained, a top US general revealed Thursday. “The Saudis are very interested in strategic plans with us,” Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, top commander of US forces in the Middle East, told reporters via conference call. “Our strategic planners travel to the kingdom regularly to work with Saudi military leaders to build up their ideas for a long-term strategic vision,” Kurilla explained. Saudi Arabia is also set to release a national defense strategy and a national military strategy next year for the first time in its history, he said. The strategy documents, which have not yet been publicly confirmed by Saudi officials, will codify “the kingdom’s strategic vision for national security and regional security,” the general said. Kurilla called the decision “a critical step” in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s military modernization plans. Why it matters: The Biden administration is leveraging the Pentagon’s know-how to help the kingdom meet its security goals in a bid to rebuild trust, even as the White House says it is reevaluating US relations with Riyadh.

Yemen war has already killed 400,000

Walt, 12-23, 22, Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University, Foreign Policy, The Realist Guide to World Peace, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/23/a-realist-guide-to-world-peace/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=News%20Alerts&utm_term=62594&tpcc=News%20Alerts

Similarly, the civil war (and Saudi Arabia’s intervention) in Yemen has killed nearly 400,000 people and devastated an already poor country, while civil conflicts in Africa and Latin America continue to immiserate these regions and drive outward migration.

War turns every non-war impact

Walt, 12-23, 22, Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University, Foreign Policy, The Realist Guide to World Peace, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/23/a-realist-guide-to-world-peace/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=News%20Alerts&utm_term=62594&tpcc=News%20Alerts

But the direct costs of conflict are just part of the price. As competition between states intensifies and the risks of war go up, the ability to cooperate even on matters of mutual interest goes down. Humanity faces a host of daunting problems today, including climate change, pandemic disease, and rising refugee flows. None of them will be easy to solve and all of them are arguably of greater importance than who ends up governing Crimea, Taiwan, or Nagorno-Karabakh. The more nations fight, or the more time and effort and money they devote to preparing for war, the harder it will be to address these other problems.

Difficulties in relations do not undermine security cooperation

Jared Szuba, 12-23, 22, AL-Monitor, US working with Saudi Arabia on strategic military plans, general says, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/12/us-working-saudi-arabia-strategic-military-plans-general-says#ixzz7oTqt8HUL, US working with Saudi Arabia on strategic military plans, general says

Why it matters: The Biden administration is leveraging the Pentagon’s know-how to help the kingdom meet its security goals in a bid to rebuild trust, even as the White House says it is reevaluating US relations with Riyadh. The October announcement that OPEC+ would slash oil production drew rare pointed rebuke from the White House, but did not significantly disrupt regular meetings and bilateral training between the two countries’ militaries, Al-Monitor previously reported.

Saudis oppose outside efforts to mediate relations with Israel

MAJDI HALAB, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia depend on progress with Palestinians – opinion, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725676

It is important to note that Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not wavered in its stance on relations with Israel. This comes after the Saudi Arabian government discontinued connections with Israel in all areas when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, arrived in the city of Neom in November 2020 without prior consultation, accompanied by then-United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In private discussions, the Saudis have emphasized their lack of desire for anyone to act as a mediator between themselves and the Israelis. They also made it clear that the interests of the two countries overlap and the revival of security coordination depends solely on Israel’s willingness to make progress with the Palestinians.

Saudi-Israel relations cannot improve until the Palestine issue is resolved

MAJDI HALAB, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia depend on progress with Palestinians – opinion, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725676

In concusion, while there may be potential for improved relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, it is crucial for Netanyahu to understand and respect the conditions set forth by the Saudi leadership. Any progress toward normalization likely will depend on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the fulfillment of the Arab Peace Initiative. In order to move forward, it will be necessary for both sides to engage in honest and constructive dialogue, taking into consideration the concerns and interests of all parties involved.

Saudis want strong US relations now

MAJDI HALAB, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia depend on progress with Palestinians – opinion, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725676

The Saudi crown prince is currently working to secure his position and prepare for his eventual ascension to the throne, while also striving to improve the strained relationship with the United States. He hopes that the United States will recognize his status and that the controversy surrounding the 2018 murder of journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi will not hinder their relationship.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t think it can replace US weapons with weapons from China

MAJDI HALAB, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia depend on progress with Palestinians – opinion, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725676

The Saudis are seeking closer ties with China, but do not view this as coming at the expense of their relationship with the United States, which is considered their most important ally. They also do not have high hopes for Chinese weapons, which they view as on a similar level with those from Russia, and don’t expect any significant benefit to come from strengthening their relationship with China

Description of the current Syria situation; US diplomacy stops further Turkish aggression

Jonathan Spyer, 12-23, 22, Jerusalem Post, Turkish, Russian strategy for Syrian endgame emerging, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725610

Since 2019, the Syrian situation has been largely at a stalemate, with authority divided among three de facto enclaves, each dependent on the sponsorship of outside powers. The Assad regime, guaranteed by Russia and Iran, controls around 60-65% of Syria’s territory, including the coastline and the main cities. The US-backed, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces hold most of the area east of the Euphrates, comprising roughly 30% of Syria’s area. Turkey, in partnership with the self-styled “Syrian National Army” (the remnants of the Sunni Islamist rebellion, remustered under Turkish auspices) and with the jihadi Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group, controls an area in the northwest, comprising around 10% of Syrian territory.

This de facto partition has mostly held since early 2018. Turkey shifted the balance somewhat in October-November 2019, with a ground incursion east of the Euphrates. This resulted in the establishment of an enclave of Turkish-controlled territory biting into the Kurdish-controlled area, and in the deployment of regime and Russian forces east of the Euphrates in order to deter further Turkish advances.  Since then, the military situation on the ground has been static, the broader question of Syria’s future unresolved.

There are currently indications of renewed movement. Specifically, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been carrying out an air campaign against targets in the Kurdish/US area since November 20. The Turkish president has already threatened a ground incursion, with the intention of pushing the Kurdish forces back 30 kilometers from the border and conquering three towns – Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Kobani. Kurdish sources told The Jerusalem Post that the Syrian Kurdish leadership had expected the invasion in late November. Its postponement appears to be the result of both American and Russian representations to and pressure on Ankara.

Turkey wants to invade Syria to attack the Kurd-related Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are working with the US to stop attacks on ISIS

 

Winter, 12-23, 22, Dr. Charlie Winter is Director of Research at ExTrac, an AI-powered threat intelligence system. Over the last decade he has worked in a range of academic positions in the US and UK, researching how and why insurgents innovate to further their political and military agendas in both on and off-line spaces., THE ISLAMIC STATE IS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT A NEW TURKISH OPERATION IN SYRIA, https://warontherocks.com/2022/12/the-islamic-state-is-cautiously-optimistic-about-a-new-turkish-operation-in-syria/

In internet forums over the past several weeks, Islamic State members have expressed cautious optimism about the benefits of a potential Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria. For the group’s scattered fighters, further Turkish attacks against the Syrian Democratic Forces could represent a unique opportunity to reconstitute their strength. Given the organization’s weakened (yet resilient) state, their optimism may well be misplaced. Still, it would be better for the world not to find out. Since late November, Ankara’s Operation Claw-Sword has been targeting Syria’s Kurdish forces with long-range missile and rocket strikes directed at bases and installations in Syria. Ankara has also repeatedly threatened a full-scale ground incursion, which Syrian Kurdish leaders have said would prevent them from continuing operations against the Islamic State. As Ankara continues to push back against U.S. and Russian opposition to its plans, U.S. policymakers should do all they can to ensure Islamic State forces don’t get the opportunity they’re hoping for. Pressure and Opportunity While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to brand the Syrian Democratic Forces a terrorist threat, they remain the primary bulwark against the Islamic State in Syria and a key enabler for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State. Claw-Sword has already degraded, and continues to degrade, the Syrian Democratic Forces’ infrastructure and capabilities — even bases that are shared with U.S. forces have been struck. Shortly after Ankara initiated the operation, the group stated publicly that it would not be able to maintain pressure on the Islamic State’s latent networks if it had to simultaneously withstand Turkish attacks. And the group’s senior officials have expressed their concern at the apparent lack of support from Global Coalition states in the face of the Turkish campaign. On Dec. 2, Syrian Kurdish forces declared a freeze on counter-Islamic State operations in northeastern Syria, including a suspension of all joint patrols, training activities, and special operations. While the moratorium was lifted later that same day, the incident speaks to the fragility of the situation and underscores the fact that, should Turkey at some point launch a new ground incursion into Syria, Kurdish fighters will not hesitate to reprioritize their resources and capabilities to defend themselves, even if that undermines wider Global Coalition counter-terrorism efforts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Islamic State supporters in the region consider the degradation of the Syrian Democratic Forces to be a potentially transformative opportunity. Even the Islamic State’s own official reporting suggests its prospects in Syria have not looked all that good in recent months. Within minutes of Turkey’s first airstrike on Nov. 20, Islamic State supporters were heralding its new intervention as a strategic boon for the group’s increasingly embattled network across Syria. To a large extent, their response in the weeks since has been characterized by a sense of optimism, grounded in the idea that the current air campaign is only a preamble to a Turkish ground operation that will, as one munasir puts it, “grind whatever remains of the [Syrian Democratic Forces] into dust.” According to this reasoning, the collapse of the Syrian Democratic Forces — or even just the redirection of its resources away from counter-Islamic State operations — would permit an intensification of offensive activity. According to one prominent Islamic State military analyst on Telegram this would “end the stage of attrition,” meaning the low-intensity asymmetric warfare that the group is currently in, and “usher in a new period of bone-breaking tamkin.” In the Islamic State’s nomenclature, the word tamkin or “consolidation” refers to late-stage insurgency and territorial control, something we have not seen from the movement in Syria since early 2019…. But along with that kinetic pressure on the Islamic State, the United States should exert diplomatic pressure on Turkey — to the extent that it is possible — to mitigate the chances of a new ground incursion. If that were to happen and the Syrian Democratic Forces were to wind back its operations, however briefly, U.S. tactics in Syria would almost certainly shift toward short-term, reactive unilateralism rather than strategic interdiction efforts. This is a change that the counter-Islamic State mission can ill afford.

Diplomacy won’t stop Azerbaijan aggression

 

Avedis Hadjian, 12-20, 22, The Spectator, As the Post-Soviet Order Collapses, Azerbaijan Tests New Ways to Pressure Armenia, https://mirrorspectator.com/2022/12/20/as-the-post-soviet-order-collapses-azerbaijan-tests-new-ways-to-pressure-armenia/

In the circumstances, the prospects of a peace treaty that would put an end to conflict in the region are dim at best. CivilNet’s analyst Eric Hacopian says that as long as the military balance is not addressed, peace cannot be assured. “Unfortunately, so much of the political legitimacy of the regime in Baku comes from aggression,” he said. “The other thing about a piece of paper is that no matter what they say, the heart of the argument is Artsakh, and there’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room and it’s Russia — they can blow up any agreement: we have no idea what they will do or what condition that country will be in six months from now or two years from now or three days from now.” But signing anything doesn’t mean anything, he said. “The moment you say you sign and say we accept each other’s borders, and the next day something happens in Artsakh and any Armenian government says something, [Azerbaijan] will say ‘you are violating the agreement, you are interfering in our internal rights, we are going to fight revanchism.” Defense expert Nerses Kopalyan, political science professor at the University of Nevada, advocates the “military porcupine” doctrine, the one underpinning Taiwan’s deterrence architecture. In the face of such an imbalance of military power, Armenia should become extremely costly to defeat. “The time has come for Armenia to reconfigure its security architecture as it exists now, as opposed to these grand understandings that Russia will come to our rescue and the continuous reliance on Russia,” Kopalyan said.

Aid needed to avert a humanitarian crisis in Yemen

 

Relief Web, 12-20, 22, https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-humanitarian-needs-overview-2023-december-2022, Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview 2023 (December 2022)

After more than eight years of conflict, millions of people in Yemen millions of people in Yemen are suffering from the compounded effects of armed violence, ongoing economic crisis and disrupted public services. In 2023, an estimated 21.6 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection services, a slight decrease from the 23.4 million people in need in 2022. This is largely due to technical changes in cluster-level needs assessments, as well as revised food security projections released late in 2022, rather than an overall improvement in the humanitarian outlook. Following intense fighting in the first months of 2022, the political and conflict environment shifted significantly in April upon the transition of power to the Presidential Leadership Council and announcement of a UN-brokered truce. The subsequent six-month period, up to the truce’s expiry on 2 October, offered a glimpse of hope for many people. Civilian casualties and displacement decreased, a steady flow of fuel imports were received through Al Hodeidah port, and commercial flights resumed through Sana’a International Airport. Despite these overarching benefits, localized clashes continued in some areas, including Ta’iz and Ad Dale’, and landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) posed heightened risks, especially in the context of increased civilian movement. Tensions have increased following the truce’s expiry, although no major military escalation or offensive has taken place. Despite extensive efforts, an agreement to extend the truce had not been reached as of end November. The continued fragility of Yemen’s economy in 2022 exacerbated vulnerabilities among poor families, including as a result of depreciation of the Yemeni rial (YER), macroeconomic instability, the de facto separation of economic institutions and issuance of competing monetary policies, and decreasing household purchasing power. Being largely reliant on imported food and goods, Yemen is extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in global prices. Throughout the course of the year, pressures on international supply chains stemming from the crisis in Ukraine has heightened global food insecurity and contributed to increased food prices in Yemeni markets. The Black Sea Grain Initiative provided for the resumption of some exports, easing pressures on global prices and supply chains, although uncertainties in the market remain. Yemen’s public services and infrastructure have been severely impacted by the conflict, deteriorating economy and recurrent natural hazards. More than 80 per cent of the country’s population struggles to access food, safe drinking water and adequate health services, while nearly 90 per cent of the population has no access to publicly supplied electricity. Most public sector employees, including teachers and healthcare workers, have not received a regular salary in years—while this issue has formed part of discussions between the parties throughout 2022, little progress had been made by the end of the year. Overall, some 17.7 million people are estimated to be in need of protection services in 2023. This includes people exposed to the risks associated with landmines and ERW, including unexploded ordnance (UXO). Legal and civil issues also perpetuate disadvantage and protection risks, such as the lack or loss of civil documentation, which undermines and prevents people from exercising their basic rights. The humanitarian operating environment remains severely restricted. Bureaucratic impediments continue to delay and hinder the delivery of principled humanitarian assistance, and security incidents increased throughout the course of 2022, including carjackings, kidnappings and attacks on humanitarian personnel and infrastructure. In March 2023, the people of Yemen will enter their ninth year of conflict since its escalation in 2015. As of November 2022, the post-truce period remained relatively stable, without any major escalation in hostilities or military operations. However, increasing tensions and heightened rhetoric between the parties carries the potential for a resumption of armed violence. If this occurs, civilian casualties and displacement would likely increase, with host communities feeling the strain of even further stretched resources. In the absence of country-wide mine clearance activities, landmines and ERW will continue to endanger lives, hinder movements, including returns to places of origin, and impede engagement in livelihood activities and access to basic services. Without sustained support from international financial institutions, donors and development actors, ongoing macro-economic instability will likely lead to the continued erosion of household purchasing power. This will erase any gains made in 2022 by limiting people’s access to food and other basic goods and drive already significant levels of need even higher. Without the restoration of essential public services and infrastructure, people will continue to be forced to contend with malnutrition, disease outbreaks, poor health outcomes and loss of opportunities. Women and girls will continue to bear a disproportionate impact of the crisis, including compounded forms of violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong Turkey-US relations deters Russia and helps with refugee protection

 

Keteleh, 12-19, 22, Dr. Tarek Kteleh is a practicing medical doctor and president of Rheumatology of Central Indiana. He is the author of “The Six Pillars of Advocacy: Embrace Your Cause and Transform Lives.”, Daily Journal, https://www.daily-journal.com/opinion/commentary-stronger-u-s–turkish-relations-will-help-us-counter-russia/article_7e388f42-7d6a-11ed-9d14-0b8a2c82b96c.html

COMMENTARY: Stronger U.S.-Turkish relations will help us counter Russia After years of frostiness, U.S.-Turkey relations could be warming again. With Russian aggression on the rise and the Middle East in a state of tumult, U.S. national security interests require in Turkey a partner that bridges the continents of Europe and Asia — an analysis that appears to complement Turkish national security needs. The “thaw” started last October, when President Biden and Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed their interests as NATO members and trading partners. By April 2022, the Biden administration was already moving forward with a new U.S.-Turkey Strategic Mechanism, which would cement the nations’ joint stance against Russia following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. These diplomatic achievements helped assuage concerns about a permanent Turkish tilt toward Russia. Turkey is a NATO ally. Yet some analysts had begun to question the viability of the partnership. Turkish feelings were sore from the view that NATO hasn’t always backed Turkey to the extent it should. When Ankara shot down a trespassing Russian fighter jet in 2016, NATO defended Turkey’s right to self-defense. But when Putin threatened retaliation, NATO’s secretary general merely issued a milquetoast request for “calm and de-escalation.” Not long after, Turkey decided to buy advanced Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, defying both the United States and NATO. Washington responded by shutting off Ankara’s supply of F-35 fighter jets. But Russia’s attempted courtship failed. That was due to the priority Putin placed on his alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. The source of the rupture dates to a May 2017 deal between Russia, Iran and Turkey to establish four de-escalation zones in the Syrian civil war. The Turks thought the agreement could be the beginning of a mutually beneficial partnership. But the ink had scarcely dried before Putin reneged and helped Assad seize the zones. Assad, aided by Russian airstrikes, then attacked Idlib, a vulnerable region home to some 30,000 Syrian rebels and 2.9 million civilians caught in the crossfire. Turkey demanded a cease-fire, but both Putin and Assad shrugged off the request. Given this history of treachery, Putin shouldn’t be surprised to find Turkey supporting Ukraine and warming to the United States. In February, at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request, Ankara blocked Russian warships from entering the Black Sea. Meanwhile, with 25 million tons of grain foundering in Europe’s bread-basket, Turkey has helped Ukraine export food from three ports, including Odessa. America should reward Turkey’s gestures. That means rolling back the sanctions imposed after Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400s and supplying Turkey with F-35s. It means displaying greater sensitivity toward Ankara’s concerns about the United States fighting alongside the Syrian Kurds’ People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have ties to Ankara’s primary enemy, the terrorist group known as the PKK. And it means pushing the U.S.-Turkey Strategic Mechanism. Strengthening America’s partnership with Turkey could also help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of Syrian refugees reside in Turkey, and more and more Turks have vocalized support for sending those refugees back. Guidance from American officials could ensure that, if Turkey does resettle refugees, it’s done with as much care as possible. Accomplishing these goals will require a shared understanding of both sides’ legitimate security concerns. Building that trust will have massive payoffs.

Iran destabilizing Nabarno Karak

 

Valiyev, 12-18, 22, Dr. Cavid Veliyev is Head of Department of the Center of Analysis of International Relations, Is Iran Seeking a New Proxy War in the South Caucasus?, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/iran-seeking-new-proxy-war-south-caucasus-206030

A New Front in the Caucuses Tehran, which thinks that the geopolitical balance in the region has changed against its interests after the Second Karabakh War, seems to have pushed diplomacy and cooperation into the background, especially over the past two years, and has instead brought military plans to the fore. The IRGC, which is especially active in the Middle East, is trying to achieve comparable effectiveness in the South Caucasus region. In August, the IRGC confirmed that it was conducting a joint drone exercise with the armies of Russia, Armenia, and Belarus at Kashan Air Base. Revolutionary Guard Aerospace General Ali Babali reported that the exercises, held within the framework of the 7th UAV competition, lasted for two weeks. Seventy personnel from four countries participated in this exercise. It was later revealed that UAVs supplied to Russia from Iran were used in the Ukraine war. Further on, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard held military exercises along the Araz river on the border with Azerbaijan. This exercise, codenamed “IRGC Ground Force’s Might,” covered the East Azerbaijan and Ardabil regions. Mock heliborne parachute operations, night raids, helicopter combat operations, and suicide drone operations were carried out during the first day of the exercises. Construction of a temporary bridge over the Aras River that separates Iran from Azerbaijan and Armenia, seizure and control of supply roads and heights, and offensive, as well as destructive operations against designated targets, constituted other parts of the drills. After the IRGC’s exercises, on October 20, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visited Armenia as the head of a delegation. During his visit, Abdullahian participated in the opening of the Kafan consulate, where he said that “the security of Armenia is our security.” A few weeks later, the former ambassador of Iran in Azerbaijan, Mohsin Pakain, said that these exercises were aimed at protecting Armenia against Azerbaijan. Former Commander of the IRGC and top military aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Yahia Rahim Safavi, stated on October 18 that twenty-two countries in total, including Armenia, had submitted official requests to purchase Iranian-made UAVs. After this, it was revealed that twenty-seven Iranian citizens went to Karabakh, which is Azerbaijani territory, between November 26 and 30. Azerbaijani political activists appealed to Iran’s Baku embassy to make a statement about this unauthorized visit. As the Iranian embassy did not respond, the Azerbaijani press put out the news that Iran had supplied 500 Dehlavieh and 100 Almas missiles to Armenia. These missiles were previously seen in Yemen and Libya, but were intercepted before reaching non-state actors there. It was reported that these missiles were supplied to Armenia by the Al-Kuds branch of the IRGC, which is the organization’s de facto “manager” of Iran’s proxy wars in the Middle East. At the same time, Tehran maintains support for proxy groups of pro-Iranian Azerbaijani citizens. Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev demanded in April of this year the extradition of twenty-two Azerbaijani citizens who were officially operating in Iran against Azerbaijan under the name of Huseyyniyun, which was created and supported by the IRGC Quds Force. Then, in August, the prosecutor general of Azerbaijan visited Iran and presented his counterpart with a list prepared by Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies. It is reported that this list includes persons who make threats against the state structure of Azerbaijan. To this day, however, Iran has yet to extradite these people, and Iranian officials have indirectly made it known that they will never be deported to Azerbaijan. Iranian officials, including former diplomats and experts, claim that, after the Second Karabakh War, the effectiveness of NATO, the EU, and Israel in the South Caucasus has increased, through Azerbaijan in particular. Iranian authorities, seeking to counter this supposed situational change, have openly declared that they will not allow such to continue, and are considering arming Armenia, training and arming the separatists in Karabakh for proxy warfare, and supporting pro-Iranian groups in Azerbaijan as a solution. Russia is also involved, for it allows Iranian personnel to enter the Karabakh region illegally. All this only serves to further destabilize the South Caucasus, at a time when the region is of increasing importance to global energy security, supply chain diversification, and more.

Turkey wants Russian mediation [not US mediation]

Modern News, 12-17, 22, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/17/erdogan-proposed-trilateral-mechanism-with-russia-and-syria/, Erdogan proposed trilateral mechanism with Russia and Syria

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (photo) said he proposed to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin establishing a trilateral mechanism with Russia and Syria and to hold a leaders meeting, primarily for discussions on the security issues. “As of now, we want to take a step as Syria-Türkiye-Russia trio,” Erdoğan told journalists. “First our intelligence agencies, then defense ministers, and then foreign ministers could meet. After their meetings, we as the leaders, may come together. I also offered this to Mr. Putin. He also viewed it positively. Thus, we will start a series of negotiations,” he added. Erdoğan earlier said he had not ruled out a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, although the two countries have been regional foes since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011. Erdoğan emphasized that the terror threat posed by the YPG (a militia in Syria made up of Kurdish community fighters) from Syria is “another issue that needs to be taken quickly.” “Terrorist organizations must not rest comfortably in Syria, especially in northern Syria. From time to time, they threaten and provoke our country from there, they do everything,” he said.

Russia supports Turkey’s request

 

Arab News, 12-17, 22, Moscow welcomes Turkiye’s call for trilateral Syria diplomacy, https://www.arabnews.com/node/2217256/middle-east

Moscow on Friday welcomed Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s proposal to establish a three-way mechanism for diplomacy between Turkey, Russia and Syria, Russian state news agencies reported, citing a deputy foreign minister. The RIA Novosti news agency also reported that Syria’s position on the idea – which could involve a summit between the leaders of the three countries – was not yet known, but that Moscow was in contact with officials in Damascus.

Turkey doesn’t trust the US

 

Fillis, 12-16, 22, Constantinos Filis is the director of the Institute of Global Affairs and associate professor at the American College of Greece. A new book in Greek titled “The Future of History,” edited by Filis, is currently in stores, The West hypnotized by Erdogan, https://www.ekathimerini.com/opinion/1200306/the-west-hypnotized-by-erdogan/

For months now, tough negotiations have being under way between Turkey and the United States in an atmosphere of mutual mistrust but also of mutual understanding that a rupture in their relations is not in the interest of either party. The fact that Turkey is about to enter an election year, the difficulties faced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mainly due to the state of the economy, and his need to win the elections at all costs create problems as well as limitations in their consultations.

The problems exist because Ankara is irked about Washington’s actions which it considers to be demonstrably against Turkey’s interests. This is intensified by the belief that Americans don’t like Erdogan – hence the alleged attempt to “get rid of him” with the failed coup in 2016and that the US continues to undermine him by supporting the Syrian Kurds and a change of policy in relation to Greece. In Erdogan’s domestic narrative, the US is usually demonized and accused of attempting to destabilize the regime in order to rally a mainly nationalist audience and justify a departure from Western norms.

Besides, Erdogan does not want to be held captive to the decisions and choices of third parties, and because of the war in Ukraine he is trying to a gain a greater degree of flexibility, even in aggressive actions such as those against the Syrian Kurds. He also wants to be allowed to lash out against Greece without cost, cultivating an anti-Greek climate in his country, embellishing the agenda of Turkish claims, burdening relations with a country that is supposed to be an ally, and threatening to “come suddenly one night.”

Turkey wants to launch an incursion into Syria against US-backed forces

RFI, 12-17, 22, https://www.rfi.fr/en/podcasts/international-report/20221217-turkish-military-incursion-in-syria-faces-opposition-from-us-russia, Turkish military incursion in Syria faces opposition from US, Russia

Turkish military forces are poised to launch a ground offensive in Syria against US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, accused by Ankara of attacks on Turkey. But Ankara is facing stiff opposition from both Washington and Moscow. Turkish security forces blame the Syrian Kurdish YPG for carrying out a series of recent attacks against Turkey, including in Istanbul, a charge the group denies. The Turkish Defense Ministry said Sunday that Turkey launched deadly airstrikes over northern regions of Syria and Iraq, targeting Kurdish groups that Ankara holds responsible for last month’s deadly bomb attack in a bustling street in Istanbul. Ankara also accuses them of being linked to PKK insurgents fighting in Turkey.

Armenia shelling Azerbaijan

Azer News, 12-18, 22, https://www.azernews.az/nation/203740.html, Armenia shells Azerbaijani positions in Kalbajar & Tovuz directions of border

On December 16, starting from 1200 to 1350 local time, using various calibers of weapons, units of the Armenian armed forces stationed in the direction of Musurskand of Tovuzgala (Tavush) region and Yukhari Shorzha (Verin Shorzha) settlement of Basarkechar (Gekharkunik) region shelled positions of the Azerbaijani army in Aghdam settlement of Tovuz and Zaylik settlement of Kalbajar districts, Azernews reports per Defense Ministry. Moreover, members of the illegal armed formations in Karabakh, where the Russian peacekeepers are temporarily stationed, periodically subjected to fire the Azerbaijan army positions stationed in the direction of Khojavand District at 1305 local time on December 16.

-Russia can’t stop Azerbaijan from being aggressive

 

Haoyu “Henry” Huang, 12-17, 22, Modern Diplomacy, Russia Incapable in Facilitating Armenia-Azerbaijan Talks, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/17/russia-incapable-in-facilitating-armenia-azerbaijan-talks/

Moscow still sees itself as a critical player in the Caucasus region.  The ongoing crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Karabakh region allows Russia to participate in Caucasus affairs. Moscow organized Sochi Summit for Baku and Yerevan for direct talks. The ongoing crisis in the Caucasus has also become a hot topic at the CSTO summit.  Russia seems to remain an influential power and a peace mediator for the Caucasus.

However, Russia’s desire to become the peace broker in the outer Caucasus region is merely a fantasy.  Due to the ongoing Ukrainian war, Russia lacks the power to project and credibility.  Armenia, a close ally of Moscow, is also slowly distancing itself from Moscow, thus making Russia’s vision even harder to achieve.  Furthermore, the outside powers, especially Turkey, have grown significantly more substantial, further eroding Russia’s influences in the region and, therefore, the chances of facilitating peace talks.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has gone far beyond the expectation of Moscow.  While Ukrainians bravely defend their homeland, Russia’s seemingly almighty war machine is deep in a predicament.  Moscow calling for partial mobilization further reveals its dire situation.  Russia’s military failure also shook the foundation of Russia’s power projection, as the world now sees Russia as weaker than ever before.  The recent incident of Azerbaijani blocking the road towards Karabakh is a vital sign that Russia is losing its grip over the Karabakh region.

To make matters worse, Russia’s military actions in Ukraine also triggered a diplomatic tsunami.  Putin’s speech alerted all the former Soviet countries, further depleting Russian credibility.  Meanwhile, the war diverted essential resources and ruined the formidable image of Russian troops.  Azerbaijanis are now taking more aggressive actions in Karabakh after the war, while Karabakh residents have already questioned the effectiveness of Russian peacekeeping forces even before the war.  On all fronts, Moscow’s credibility in mediating peace has eroded.

Armenia wants US support to resolve the Karabkah issues

 

Haoyu “Henry” Huang, 12-17, 22, Modern Diplomacy, Russia Incapable in Facilitating Armenia-Azerbaijan Talks, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/17/russia-incapable-in-facilitating-armenia-azerbaijan-talks/

At the same time, Armenia has also been seeking outside support beyond Russia.  The visit of Speaker Pelosi of the US has given Armenians hope that the country could be supported by outside powers other than Russia.  Yerevan has also tried to seek rapprochement with Turkey, a historical adversary.  Armenia was invited to the Antalya Security Conference, and the Foreign Minister of both countries met and discussed normalizing the relationship.  These are all clear signs that Armenia seeks other sources to solve the long-lasting Karabakh issues, thus making Russia’s presence less relevant.

A Turkish incursion into Syria undermines the war against ISIS

 

The Hindu, 12-17, 22, Dangerous gamble: On Turkey’s attacks on Syrian Kurds, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/dangerous-gamble-the-hindu-editorial-on-turkeys-attacks-on-syrian-kurds/article66271141.ece

Turkey has carried out several incursions in the past into Syria, gobbling up territories now manned by the Syrian National Army, a rebel umbrella group that is opposed to Damascus and backed by Ankara. But, Turkey had also come under pressure from the U.S., its NATO partner that backs a YPG-led militia group, and Russia, an ally of the Syrian regime, which placed constraints on its operations. However, Russia’s Ukraine war seems to have altered the geopolitical reality in the region in Turkey’s favour. A preoccupied Russia would not like to antagonise Turkey, which despite being a NATO member has not joined the U.S.-led sanctions, and the U.S. would want Ankara’s support for the inclusion of Sweden and Finland into NATO. This opens space for Mr. Erdoğan to up the ante in Syria. But this could be a dangerous bet. The IS had captured most of these border towns in 2014-15. The YPG, with U.S. help, had fought hard against the IS to liberate the region. Now under attack, the YPG has already said it would end patrolling of many towns on the border. A Turkish incursion could trigger further chaos, which could help Islamist militants to regroup and push the Kurdish population, already victims of years of wars, into further misery

Iran blocks Armenia-Azerbaijan peace

 

Fuad Shahbazov, December 16, 2022, Eurasian Daily Monitor, Iran’s Drone Exports to Armenia Could Undermine Peace Process in Karabakh, https://jamestown.org/program/irans-drone-exports-to-armenia-could-undermine-peace-process-in-karabakh/

However, Russia is only one of a number of regional states that have complicated peace negotiations between Baku and Yerevan. Recently, Iran, another powerful regional actor, has attempted to discourage Armenia from moving forward with peace negotiations amid Iran’s deteriorating relationship with Azerbaijan. The diplomatic tensions between Baku and Tehran mounted sharply when Iran staged massive war games along its shared border with Azerbaijan as a reaction to Baku’s efforts to establish the Zangezur transit corridor passing through the Nakhchivan exclave via Armenia’s Syunik Province linking to Turkey. Iran has been further bristled by Azerbaijan’s deepening engagement with Israel on defense and security issues (Gulf International Forum, November 17).

Turn: Diplomacy has brought the Houthis more time to increase aggression

 

Zimmerman, 12-16, 22, The Hill, Katherine Zimmerman is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and advises AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Congress missed an opportunity to ask the right questions on Yemen, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/3772765-congress-missed-an-opportunity-to-ask-the-right-questions-on-yemen/

The Biden administration has leaned heavily into diplomacy to help end Yemen’s war. Stopping the fighting to set conditions for the United Nations to negotiate a resolution have been key aims. U.S. efforts were key to the diplomatic breakthrough in April that yielded a UN-brokered truce, but that truce has only bought the Houthis time to further consolidate power in northeast Yemen. Moreover, while they have extracted concessions, the Houthis have yet to follow through on terms to which they agreed. Still, UN and U.S. officials continue to hope that they can translate ongoing talks into a viable resolution to the conflict. What no one has articulated is how negotiations today, when the Houthis have the upper hand, would lead to any semblance of an acceptable resolution for the Yemeni people and for U.S. interests.

US has no leverage over the Houthis to get them to stop fighting

 

Zimmerman, 12-16, 22, The Hill, Katherine Zimmerman is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and advises AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Congress missed an opportunity to ask the right questions on Yemen, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/3772765-congress-missed-an-opportunity-to-ask-the-right-questions-on-yemen/

What sources of leverage short of armed force does the U.S. hold over the Houthis to encourage them to negotiate in good faith? The Houthis remain empowered in Yemen, allowing them to make maximalist demands. They are militarily strong. Even should Iran stop supplying the Houthis with weapons — and there are no signs of this occurring — the Houthis have an enormous stockpile, which Iran continued to add to during the six-month truce period, that ensures they can carry on their fight. The Houthis are further emboldened by messaging from Congress against Saudi Arabia and mixed signals from the international community demanding they back down from their current positions but criticizing any resumption of fighting that might weaken the Houthis. Sanctions have had little impact, as have public exhortations for the Houthis to make necessary concessions for peace.

It’s in the US national interest to end the war in Yemen because it will disrupt shipping

 

Zimmerman, 12-16, 22, The Hill, Katherine Zimmerman is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and advises AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Congress missed an opportunity to ask the right questions on Yemen, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/3772765-congress-missed-an-opportunity-to-ask-the-right-questions-on-yemen/

Yemen’s conflict is complex and mostly out of the news, making it difficult to follow and even more difficult to evaluate the administration’s messaging on the conflict. Not to add that for most Americans, Yemen and its issues have again fallen off the map. Yemen’s location south of Saudi Arabia along the Bab al Mandab, a strategic maritime choke point, means the United States has a permanent interest in ensuring that developments within the country do not threaten maritime security or the stability of the Gulf

 

2/3 of the population needs food assistance

 

David Minden & Laura Good, 3-16, 22, https://madison.com/opinion/column/david-minden-and-laura-good-end-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen/article_932af4fc-c20e-58f6-91da-6d180db72b51.html, David Minden and Laura Good: End U.S. support for war in Yemen

The war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen has caused great civilian suffering since it began eight years ago, with an average of almost 10 raids with hundreds of bombs per day, according to the Yemen Data Project. Furthermore, the Saudis have imposed blockades of ports and airports, keeping food and heating oil out and sellable crude petroleum in. This has caused civilian deprivation and starvation, with more than two-thirds of the entire population of 29 million in need of food assistance, according to the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies.

Without US arms Saudi Arabia’s planes couldn’t fly

 

David Minden & Laura Good, 12-16, 22, https://madison.com/opinion/column/david-minden-and-laura-good-end-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen/article_932af4fc-c20e-58f6-91da-6d180db72b51.html, David Minden and Laura Good: End U.S. support for war in Yemen

The U.S. supplies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with weapons, airplanes, fuel, parts and intelligence that have allowed them to conduct the raids and blockades, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The roots of this war are complicated, but one thing is clear: Without tires and parts from the U.S., the Saudis’ bombers wouldn’t fly.

A child dies in Yemen every day

 

David Minden & Laura Good, 12-16, 22, https://madison.com/opinion/column/david-minden-and-laura-good-end-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen/article_932af4fc-c20e-58f6-91da-6d180db72b51.html, David Minden and Laura Good: End U.S. support for war in Yemen

A truce beginning in April should have opened the airports and seaports, but the Saudi-led coalition has allowed only a trickle of ships and planes through. Food, fuel, medicine and clean water are scarce. Eight years of this catastrophic strangling of the goods necessary for life has resulted in tragedy: every 10 minutes on average, a child in Yemen dies from a preventable cause, including starvation, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This year, the World Food Program found 2.2 million children under 5 needed treatment for acute malnutrition. Last year, the U.N. estimated 377,000 died from the war, the majority indirectly from hunger and disease.

US pressure on Saudi Arabia will end the war

 

David Minden & Laura Good, 3-16, 22, https://madison.com/opinion/column/david-minden-and-laura-good-end-u-s-support-for-war-in-yemen/article_932af4fc-c20e-58f6-91da-6d180db72b51.html, David Minden and Laura Good: End U.S. support for war in Yemen

At this very moment, the U.S can make pivotal moves to stop the killing and starvation. First, political pressure by the U.S. can make a difference in the Saudi-led coalition’s aggression. Saudi air raids have decreased when U.S. public opposition is most vocal, according to reports by the Quincy Institute. Efforts by bipartisan groups in both the U.S. House and Senate to promote a new Yemeni War Powers Act likely encouraged the Saudis to enter the recent truce. So the U.S. ending all support for the war, which is not a threat to our borders, should stop the war, according to experts.

Cutting arms sales to Saudi Arabia empowers the Houthis, Saudis want to end the war

 

Trita Parsi, MSNBC Opinion Columnist, 12-16, 22, https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/yemen-biden-war-powers-resolution-bernie-rcna61893, While MBS undermines America, Joe Biden has his back on Yemen

Few people noticed, but the United States Senate came very close to ending America’s complicity in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen earlier this week. But the very same person who had vowed to end that war intervened and stopped the Senate from taking action — President Joe Biden. The White House feared that the Senate resolution would have emboldened the Yemeni Houthi movement. But Biden may have instead signaled the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) that, even as he continues to undermine the United States, America still has his back.

The war in Yemen has a special characteristic. Opposition to it is one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats can find some agreement on. At a time when partisanship is at an all-time high, Congress has passed several resolutions calling for an end to America’s support for that war. The last war powers resolution that passed in 2019, which would have forced an end to American military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, was vetoed by Donald Trump. All Democrats in the Senate voted for it, as did several Republicans.

It was that same war powers resolution — with some modifications — that Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont tried to put to a vote this week. One main difference compared to the 2019 version of the resolution was that “sharing intelligence [with Saudi Arabia] for the purpose of enabling offensive coalition strikes” was now also defined as a form of participation in hostilities…. The White House appears convinced that the Saudis are genuinely seeking an exit from the war and worries, as a result, less about a scenario in which the war is restarted by the Saudi side. I share their assessment that Saudi Arabia currently wants out of the war. But that can change as realities on the ground in Yemen evolve. The point of the resolution is to make sure that the fate of America’s involvement in the war is not determined by the Saudis.

Economic collapse and expanding humanitarian crisis in Yemen

 

Trita Parsi, MSNBC Opinion Columnist, 12-16, 22, https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/yemen-biden-war-powers-resolution-bernie-rcna61893, While MBS undermines America, Joe Biden has his back on Yemen

Despite the substantial reduction, even the near cessation of military offensives between the Houthi armed group and the Saudi-UAE-led coalition, and especially following the October 2 expiration of a UN-brokered truce, Yemen today is far from peaceful. In fact, a state of “no war, no peace” currently prevails, while the country suffers from an economic collapse and an escalating humanitarian crisis consisting of scant food supplies, health problems, unaddressed trauma, and widespread displacement.

-Truce doesn’t protect children

 

DEBBIE MOHNBLATT/THE MEDIA LINE Published: DECEMBER 16, 2022, War in Yemen kills 4 children every day but safety requires more than a truce, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-725093

Yemeni Ambassador Mohamed Qubaty, a former minister who held the tourism and information portfolios in the Yemeni cabinet, told The Media Line, “The overall suffering of the children of Yemen has continued to be the same and never actually changed over time since the beginning of the talks of the so-called truce,” he says. “The people of Yemen need to raise awareness regarding the criminal practices of recruiting children to the war effort, besides debunking all corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency of the Yemeni government officials and their mishandling of all the international aid received,” Ambassador Mohamed Quabaty Kendall explains that children in Yemen die not only because of violence directly caused by the active war; the danger comes from many different directions. It’s not just a result of airstrikes, which have subsided in recent months, but starvation, lack of access to clean water, the destruction of health facilities, and the spread of preventable diseases,” she says. “Even during the truce, children continued to be killed by landmines,” she adds. She says that although the truce expired in October, airstrikes have not yet resumed with the previous intensity. However, “children continue to be killed, maimed, exploited, and traumatized by a whole range of ongoing factors, from landmines to diseases and child recruitment,” she says. Qubaty stresses that the Yemeni people must oppose child recruitment. “The people of Yemen need to raise awareness regarding the criminal practices of recruiting children to the war effort, besides debunking all corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency of the Yemeni government officials and their mishandling of all the international aid received,” he says.

Armenia-Azerbaijan tensions increasing

 

Reuters, 12-16, 22, Tensions flare between Armenia and Azerbaijan over blocked transport route, https://www.euronews.com/2022/12/16/armenia-azerbaijan-lachin-russia

TBILISI –Russia expressed concern on Thursday over escalating tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan as a key road linking Armenia to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave remained blocked for the fourth day. The two countries have fought repeated wars over Nagorno-Karabakh – internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but home to about 120,000 ethnic Armenians – since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. As recently as September, more than 200 soldiers were killed in a flare-up of fighting. A group of Azerbaijanis claiming to be environmental activists blocked the Lachin corridor, the only land route for people, goods, food and medical supplies to reach Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia across Azerbaijani territory, at the start of this week. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Thursday that the closure of the passage was a “gross violation” of a 2020 peace agreement between Baku and Yerevan and that the population of the enclave had been made into hostages. Armenia says the protesters have been dispatched by the Azerbaijani government in an attempt to block Armenia’s access to the region. Baku rejects those claims, saying the dispute is over illegal Armenian mining in Nagorno-Karabakh. The standoff is a test of Russia’s authority as the main security guarantor in the region at a time when its struggles in the war in Ukraine risk undermining its top-dog status among former Soviet republics in the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

Need expanded diplomacy; the current truce has failed

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

The most recent UN-brokered truce expired on October 2 after the Houthis and the IRGY failed to reach an agreement on its renewal. Subsequent peace talks have also stalled. The Houthis continue to launch both conventional and drone attacks against civilian and vital economic targets in Yemen. Occasional fighting also continues between the IRGY’s forces and the UAE-backed STC. Meanwhile, escalating economic warfare between the Houthis and the IRGY is further exacerbating the country’s dire humanitarian situation, and Yemen continues to be ranked as one of the most food-insecure countries in the world.

Food insecurity will increase in Yemen

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

More than half of Yemen’s population of nearly 30 million are expected to experience a high level of food insecurity by the end of the 2022 due to multiple impacts of the conflict, including still-rising levels of internal displacement (with over four million people already internally displaced) and a collapsing economy, and due also to disastrous flooding and other effects of climate change. One key factor, though, has been the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine on global wheat supplies, including supplies to Yemen, since until recently Russia and Ukraine supplied nearly 45 percent of Yemen’s imported wheat.

Attempt to revive Yemen peace agreements in the status quo

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

As new attempts to revive collapsing peace settlements are coming to the fore, the IRGY’s role in them continues to weaken. An exchange of visits in October between delegations from Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, which occurred without the presence of any IRGY officials, represented an unprecedented step in the course of the conflict, and raised questions about the possibility of Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic acknowledgement of the Houthis as the de facto authority in northern Yemen.

Houthis refuse to compromise

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

The Houthis continue to be one of the truce’s biggest beneficiaries, as most of their conditions have been met, including ending the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes and the closure of Sanaa International Airport. However, the group refuses to compromise in return. It remains reluctant to end its siege on Taiz Governorate, which was one of the truce’s terms, and in fact is trying to maximize its gains by setting conditions for peace, such as having the IRGY pay salaries to public sector workers, including Houthi security and military forces. Houthis have long been described by both Yemen experts and international diplomats as spoilers of peace. US ​​Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, for example, notably stated on December 6 that the Houthis were the ones who are “walking away from peace.”

Peace with Houthis mean the Houthis recharge

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

The cessation of large-scale fighting between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition that opposes it has enabled the group to recharge, reorganize, strengthen its military capacity, and train its fighters. And news reports came out in June revealing that the group is increasingly recruiting children to build up its forces during the truce, despite its pledge to the UN that it would stop the practice. Meanwhile, several separate incidents occurred during the truce wherein marine shipments carrying Iranian weapons bound for the Houthis were confiscated by authorities. In November, the US Navy said that it had seized more than 70 tons of rocket and missile fuel on a ship bound for Yemen, signaling that the Houthis are still continuing to prepare for conflict.News reports came out in June revealing that the Houthis are increasingly recruiting children to build up their forces during the truce, despite their pledge to the UN that they would stop the practice.

Azerbaijan cutting gas supplies to the Nagorno-Karabakh region

 

Simon Maghakyan, 12-15, 2022, Simon Maghakyan is a visiting scholar at Tufts University and a Ph.D. student in Heritage Crime at Cranfield University. He writes and speaks on post-Soviet memory politics and cultural erasure, and facilitates global conversations on protecting Armenian heritage, History Suggests This Winter Could Be Dangerous for Armenians, https://time.com/6241293/armenia-azerbaijan-winter-war/

Wintertime is peace time, or so goes the conventional wisdom in the South Caucasus. This thinking is being challenged this week: On Tuesday, in cold temperatures, Azerbaijan reportedly suspended again the gas supply to Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed Armenian-populated region, amid an already ongoing blockade. With E.U. monitors set to depart on Sunday the borderlands that Azerbaijan attacked three months ago, the populations of Nagorno-Karabakh and all of Armenia are left pondering the next moves of Azerbaijan’s dynastic president Ilham Aliyev.

Growing risk of Azerbaijan-Armenia war

Simon Maghakyan, 12-15, 2022, Simon Maghakyan is a visiting scholar at Tufts University and a Ph.D. student in Heritage Crime at Cranfield University. He writes and speaks on post-Soviet memory politics and cultural erasure, and facilitates global conversations on protecting Armenian heritage, History Suggests This Winter Could Be Dangerous for Armenians, https://time.com/6241293/armenia-azerbaijan-winter-war/

All of this makes this winter an extra dangerous one for Armenians. In addition to this week’s suspension of Nagorno-Karabakh’s gas supply and the ongoing blockade, satellite images suggest a military build-up around Armenia’s internationally recognized borders. Aliyev must know that his opportunities for regional opportunism are shrinking, and would do so even more if his key enabler, Erdogan, loses the election. Despite continuing negotiations, Armenia appears to be expecting a war any moment. But it, and stability-seeking powers, should not let their guard down just because it’s winter. After all, following the late 2020 war, when Erdogan’s and Aliyev’s forces held “the most comprehensive” winter military drill, close to the borders of Armenia, they tested exactly 218 different types of weapons for a reason: to match the artillery count at Sarikamish.

Azerbaijan will only agree to peace if it takes over Nagorno-Karabkh

 

Simon Maghakyan, 12-15, 2022, Simon Maghakyan is a visiting scholar at Tufts University and a Ph.D. student in Heritage Crime at Cranfield University. He writes and speaks on post-Soviet memory politics and cultural erasure, and facilitates global conversations on protecting Armenian heritage, History Suggests This Winter Could Be Dangerous for Armenians, https://time.com/6241293/armenia-azerbaijan-winter-war/

To solidify the narrative that only an Aliyev-led Azerbaijan can be secure and victorious, the senior Aliyev seems bent on delivering a “peace deal” by Jan. 1, in which Armenia would officially consent to Nagorno-Karabakh being part of Azerbaijan and would cede a sovereign corridor, which would accomplish Enver’s Pan-Turkist dream of connecting Turkey and Azerbaijan via uninterrupted land.

Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict undermines the delivery of humanitarian aid

MASSIS Post, 12-15, 22, https://massispost.com/2022/12/hearing-on-u-s-policy-towards-caucasus-highlights-armenia-azerbaijan-peace-process/, Hearing on U.S. Policy Towards Caucasus Highlights Armenia & Azerbaijan Peace Process

Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), emphasized that she has a “significant Armenian American community” in her district, and that many of her constituents are “deeply and personally connected to the continuing conflict.” “Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh continue to face an acute humanitarian crisis, including threats of renewed attacks and chronic shortages of water, energy, healthcare and food,” she noted, to which Secretary Donfried replied that access to Nagorno-Karabakh is limited, “which impacts U.S. ability to engage and undertake in assistance programs.” Despite limitations, however, the “U.S. has sought to help those impacted by the conflict, many of whom are in Armenia.”

Cessation in fighting means the Houthis violate rights

 

AFRAH NASSER, 12-15, 22, Non-resident Fellow, Arab Center, Yemen in Limbo: No War, Yet Still No Peace, https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/yemen-in-limbo-no-war-yet-still-no-peace/

The Houthis’ fortified military capacity is evidently fueling their gains, and they clearly have no plans to stop. In addition to carrying out drone attacks on the IRGY’s ports, in December the group threatened any foreign oil and gas companies operating in Yemen if they looted “the wealth of the Yemeni people.”

More tragically, the cessation of large-scale fighting creates a favorable environment for the Houthis to continue waging their parallel war on personal liberties and basic human rights. And indeed, the lull has enabled them to shift their focus toward escalating their political oppression. In November, the group announced a new code of conduct binding all civil servants working in the public sector in Houthi-controlled areas, one that has been met with widespread rejection because of the limits it places on the right to freedom of speech and opinion, and to freedom of mobility. The new code also imposes the group’s sectarian ideas on society. Additional repressive Houthi regulations include restrictions on university professors to prevent them from working in private universities and enforcing the male guardianship rule for women traveling inside the country and abroad. Kendall explains that children in Yemen die not only because of violence directly caused by the active war; the danger comes from many different directions. “It’s not just a result of airstrikes, which have subsided in recent months, but starvation, lack of access to clean water, the destruction of health facilities, and the spread of preventable diseases,” she says. “Even during the truce, children continued to be killed by landmines,” she adds.

 

Yemenis depend on humanitarian assistance to survive

 

Hunt, 12-14, 22, Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, FACING HOUTHI VICTORY IN YEMEN, US CHANGES TACTICS, https://fpif.org/facing-houthi-victory-in-yemen-us-changes-tactics/

The Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention sparked a massive humanitarian crisis that continues to this day. The situation in Yemen remains “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” according to the United Nations. An estimated 80 percent of the population requires humanitarian assistance just to survive.

Yemen war has killed 400,000

 

Hunt, 12-14, 22, Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, FACING HOUTHI VICTORY IN YEMEN, US CHANGES TACTICS, https://fpif.org/facing-houthi-victory-in-yemen-us-changes-tactics/

At a congressional hearing last week, U.S. officials lamented the current state of affairs in Yemen, as they reviewed the grim consequences of the war.

Sarah Charles, an official at the U.S. Agency for International Development, told Congress that nearly 400,000 people have died in the war, mostly as a result of hunger, sickness, and inadequate health care. “Children are the primary victims of this war,” she said.

Truce increases humanitarian assistance

 

Hunt, 12-14, 22, Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, FACING HOUTHI VICTORY IN YEMEN, US CHANGES TACTICS, https://fpif.org/facing-houthi-victory-in-yemen-us-changes-tactics/

The truce has brought several benefits to the people of Yemen. Since its implementation in April, civilian casualties have sharply declined. More people have received humanitarian assistance. Despite the fact that the truce lapsed in October, several of its main elements remain in place, including a major reduction in hostilities.

 

Stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia forces a truce

 

Hunt, 12-14, 22, Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, FACING HOUTHI VICTORY IN YEMEN, US CHANGES TACTICS, https://fpif.org/facing-houthi-victory-in-yemen-us-changes-tactics/

It remains unclear whether the Biden administration has been using the truce to buy time for the Saudi-led coalition or establish a foundation for ending the war. Reportedly, the administration has been reconsidering its ban on sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. Its sense of betrayal by the Saudi regime over an alleged deal on oil production may stall future cooperation, however. Congressional opposition to more U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia may tie the administration’s hands. Congress could invoke the War Powers Resolution to end U.S. involvement in the war, leaving the Saudi regime with no option but maintaining the truce and working toward a negotiated settlement. “As we look forward, we want to get back into the truce,” Lenderking insisted at last week’s hearing. “There are important back-channel conversations that are happening between the parties that are helpful to this process. But… we are not there yet.”

Turkey preparing to assault the YPG in Syria

 

O’Brien, 12-14, 22, Erin O’Brien is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul., Foreign Policy, Will Waging War in Syria Save Erdogan?, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/12/14/war-syria-turkey-save-erdogan/

In Syria, the United States, Turkey, and even in Russia, fears are mounting that Turkey could launch a full-scale military operation on its embattled neighbor at any moment. On Nov. 27, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told military commanders on the Iraqi border that Turkey was ready to “complete the tasks” of his government’s operation against the People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Syria, indicating Turkey’s readiness to launch a ground offensive in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself said his forces would “come down hard on the terrorists from land at the most convenient time,” reiterating his conviction to building a “security corridor” in Syria along the Turkish border—something he specifically mentioned in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin last weekend. Tensions turned to escalation on Nov. 13 when a bombing on Istanbul’s Istiklal Street, a popular shopping area, killed six people and reportedly injured 81 individuals. The Turkish government blamed the bombing on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and livestreamed the arrest of the Syrian woman responsible for the attack; the PKK, for its part, denied involvement in the bombing. One week later, Turkey launched Operation Claw-Sword, a series of missile attacks on Kurdish bases across northern Syria and Iraq.

Turkish incursion results in ISIS members being released from prison

 

Middle East Eye, 12-13, 22, US ‘very concerned’ about potential Turkish incursion into Syria, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-very-concerned-about-potential-turkish-incursion-syria

The top US military general for the Middle East said Thursday he was “very concerned” about Turkey’s potential land operation into Syria, which could lead to an influx of Islamic State fighters. “I’m very, very concerned about that because that can destabilise the region and call our SDF partners off of the [ISIS] prisons. They have about 28 prisons across northern Syria,” Centcom head, General Erik Kurilla said. Northeastern Syria’s Hasakah region is home to 14 overcrowded prisons where approximately 10,000 men and hundreds of adolescent boys are being held. Al-Roj and al-Hol camps are home to around 60,000 people: around 20,000 from Syria; 31,000 from Iraq; and up to 12,000, including 4,000 women and 8,000 children, from other countries. Turkey views the Syrian Democratic Forces as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged a decades-long war for independence against Turkey. The US considers the group, known as the PKK, a terrorist organisation, but refuses to cut ties with the SDF, which is Washington’s main partner in the battle against IS. Turkey launched its first incursion into Syria in 2016. Ankara blamed a November bombing in Istanbul on Kurdish militants and has since threatened a new assault. The Kurds denied involvement. Kurilla said a new Turkish incursion could lead to the release of IS prisoners. He pointed to a January breakout of almost 4,000 IS detainees which lead to heavy fighting between the militants and the SDF. “It could cause them to pull off of those [prisons] and put those at risk,” Kurilla told reporters in a phone briefing on Thursday. “So anything we can do to de-escalate the situation and prevent that incursion by the Turks will be important,” he added.

Pushing Turkey more means undermining Turkey’s cooperation on Russia

 

Middle East Eye, 12-13, 22, US ‘very concerned’ about potential Turkish incursion into Syria, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-very-concerned-about-potential-turkish-incursion-syria

“So anything we can do to de-escalate the situation and prevent that incursion by the Turks will be important,” he added. The US has been lobbying Turkey against an incursion over the last several weeks, but analysts are sceptical Washington’s warnings will dissuade the Turks. The US is also walking a tightrope as it looks to keep Turkey in its camp over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Israel engaging in strikes in Syria

 

TIA GOLDENBERG, December 14, 2022, AP News, Israeli military chief suggests Israel behind Syria strike, https://apnews.com/article/iran-israel-syria-3cb2f1119bd6106160905c6a671b57e4

Israel’s military chief of staff strongly suggested on Wednesday that Israel was behind a strike on a truck convoy in Syria last month, giving a rare glimpse of Israel’s shadow war against Iran and its proxies across the region. Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Israeli military and intelligence capabilities made it possible to strike specific targets that pose a threat.  Without those capabilities, he said, a recent strike would not have been possible. “We could have not known a few weeks ago about the Syrian convoy passing from Iraq to Syria. We could have not known what was in it, and we could have not known that out of 25 trucks, that was the truck. Truck No. 8 is the truck with the weapons,” Kochavi told a conference at a university north of Tel Aviv.

Armenia-Azerbaijan tensions increasing, EU monitoring being eliminated

 

Azetum, 12-13, 22, EU To End Armenia-Azerbaijan Border Monitoring,    https://www.azatutyun.am/a/32174526.html

The European Union has decided not to extend a two-month monitoring mission launched by it along Armenia’s volatile border with Azerbaijan in October. The decision made by the foreign ministers of EU member states at a meeting in Brussels was announced by Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, late on Monday. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as French President Emmanuel Macron and EU chief Charles Michel reached an agreement on the mission at an October 6 meeting in Prague. It came three weeks after large-scale border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces left more than 300 soldiers dead. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said as recently on December 6 that the 40 or so civilian monitors deployed by the EU to the Armenian side of the border have “really limited the risk of escalation” and should continue their work “as long as it is needed.” However, Borrell made clear that the mission will end as planned on December 19. He gave no reasons for the 27-nation bloc’s decision not to extend it. It is not clear whether the Armenian government requested such an extension. Senior Armenian officials last week praised the monitors but did not clarify whether Yerevan asked the EU to keep them deployed longer than was originally planned. Tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the “line of contact” in and around Nagorno-Karabakh have remained high since September, with the conflicting sides regularly accusing each other of violating the ceasefire. The monitoring team’s reactions to the truce violations remain unknown.

Turkish incursion into Syria not enough to re-constitute the Islamic State

 

Winter, 12-23, 22, Dr. Charlie Winter is Director of Research at ExTrac, an AI-powered threat intelligence system. Over the last decade he has worked in a range of academic positions in the US and UK, researching how and why insurgents innovate to further their political and military agendas in both on and off-line spaces., THE ISLAMIC STATE IS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT A NEW TURKISH OPERATION IN SYRIA, https://warontherocks.com/2022/12/the-islamic-state-is-cautiously-optimistic-about-a-new-turkish-operation-in-syria/

All that being said, the Islamic State response to Claw-Sword also highlights the group’s current weakness and its limited capacity to fully capitalize on the opportunity that new Turkish operation would present. Some within the movement have been actively tempering expectations in closed online discussions, encouraging fellow supporters not to rush into a new campaign without instruction from their leadership. These figures argue that Turkish airstrikes alone would not be enough to make a tangible operational difference on the ground and that talk of a Turkish ground invasion may still be unrealistic.

Turkish opposition to ISIS means it can’t reconstitute itself

 

Winter, 12-23, 22, Dr. Charlie Winter is Director of Research at ExTrac, an AI-powered threat intelligence system. Over the last decade he has worked in a range of academic positions in the US and UK, researching how and why insurgents innovate to further their political and military agendas in both on and off-line spaces., THE ISLAMIC STATE IS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT A NEW TURKISH OPERATION IN SYRIA, https://warontherocks.com/2022/12/the-islamic-state-is-cautiously-optimistic-about-a-new-turkish-operation-in-syria/

What’s more, there is no love lost between Ankara and the Islamic State. Their enmity is well-known and deeply entrenched, especially following the Turkish-led Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and 2017, which saw the Islamic State ultimately burning several Turkish soldiers alive on film. This means that even if Erdogan were to launch a ground invasion and critically undermine the Syrian Democratic Forces, the residual networks of the “caliphate” would not suddenly find themselves operating in friendly territory.

On that basis, many of these calls for restraint have been aimed at managing the hopes of Islamic State supporters held in Syrian Democratic Forces-run detention facilities in the northeast, as well as the al-Hol, and to a more limited extent Roj, camps. Since 2019, Islamic State leaders have repeatedly stated that their priority in Syria is the liberation of detained supporters in the northeast. Indeed, in every strategic statement since the military defeat of the “caliphate” at Baghuz in March 2019, this has been a core theme.

Resolving Nagorno-Karabak requires putting pressure on Turkey

 

Yeghia Tashjian is a regional analyst and researcher. He has graduated from the American University of Beirut in Public Policy and International Affairs. He pursued his BA at Haigazian University in political science in 2013, 12-22, 22, The Armenian Weekly, https://armenianweekly.com/2022/12/22/beyond-the-blocking-of-the-lachin-corridor/, Beyond the Blocking of the Lachin Corridor

The blockade of the Lachin Corridor should not come as a surprise to us as such scenarios were already discussed in Azerbaijani media. The only surprise has been Russia’s inability to solve the crisis. Weeks ago, Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar, during joint military drills with Azerbaijan near the Iranian border, called on Armenia to “grasp the opportunity and respond positively to Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s peace calls.” Commenting on the so-called “Zangezur corridor” Akar said, “It is our sincerest wish to re-establish the railway and connections in the region, especially the opening of the Zangezur corridor, to start economic activities, and to ensure a comprehensive normalization throughout the region, including the relations between Azerbaijan-Armenia and Turkey-Armenia.” The Turkish defense minister said that Turkey will vow to continue supporting Azerbaijan’s “righteous cause” against Armenia.CONTINUES: It is important to remind readers that Azerbaijan once again has invited the Turkish F-16 fighters. This is a clear message to Yerevan and Moscow that Baku is ready for the escalation. Hence, Baku is pressuring Moscow to renegotiate the terms of the November 10, 2020 trilateral statement. Meanwhile, Turkey is also sending a signal to Moscow via Baku that Azerbaijan is a “red line” for Turkey, and Ankara will protect its interests in the South Caucasus as it did in 2020.

Azerbaijan is already deterred by the threat of US sanctions

 

Yeghia Tashjian is a regional analyst and researcher. He has graduated from the American University of Beirut in Public Policy and International Affairs. He pursued his BA at Haigazian University in political science in 2013, 12-22, 22, The Armenian Weekly, https://armenianweekly.com/2022/12/22/beyond-the-blocking-of-the-lachin-corridor/, Beyond the Blocking of the Lachin Corridor

The blockade of the Lachin Corridor should not come as a surprise to us as such scenarios were already discussed in Azerbaijani media. The only surprise has been Russia’s inability to solve the crisis. Weeks ago, Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar, during joint military drills with Azerbaijan near the Iranian border, called on Armenia to “grasp the opportunity and respond positively to Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s peace calls.” Commenting on the so-called “Zangezur corridor” Akar said, “It is our sincerest wish to re-establish the railway and connections in the region, especially the opening of the Zangezur corridor, to start economic activities, and to ensure a comprehensive normalization throughout the region, including the relations between Azerbaijan-Armenia and Turkey-Armenia.” The Turkish defense minister said that Turkey will vow to continue supporting Azerbaijan’s “righteous cause” against Armenia.CONTINUES: It is important to remind readers that Azerbaijan once again has invited the Turkish F-16 fighters. This is a clear message to Yerevan and Moscow that Baku is ready for the escalation. Hence, Baku is pressuring Moscow to renegotiate the terms of the November 10, 2020 trilateral statement. Meanwhile, Turkey is also sending a signal to Moscow via Baku that Azerbaijan is a “red line” for Turkey, and Ankara will protect its interests in the South Caucasus as it did in 2020.

Is Azerbaijan ready to take a risk and ask for the removal of Russian peacekeeping forces and their replacement with international peacekeeping forces? According to several Azerbaijani experts, currently, Baku is against the withdrawal of Russian forces by force since the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the ethnic cleansing of Armenians will tarnish President Ilham Aliyev’s image in the West. Azerbaijan fears that such an action would force the EU and the US to impose economic sanctions. For now, Baku prefers to see the Russians staying, but under control. For Azerbaijan, as one of the experts claimed, it is much easier to deal with a weak Russia, rather than with Europeans. That’s because Baku is familiar with the “Russian mentality.” Hinting at the Russians, one Azerbaijani expert said “a microbe when it is in full shape – is highly dangerous, but once you destroy the microbe to its half capacity, it turns into a vaccine.” Baku prefers a weak and “good microbe” that can boost Azerbaijan’s immunity and consolidate Aliyev’s grip over the Azerbaijanis.

 

Diplomacy needed to prevent Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict escalation

Tmnecky, 12-22, 22, Mark Temnycky is an accredited freelance journalist covering Eastern Europe and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/armenian-azerbaijani-conflict-about-escalate-206045

Aliyev’s outbursts may have been strategic. Days after calling off the peace negotiations, Azerbaijani officials reportedly blocked off the Lachin Corridor, the only passage that connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. According to Armenian reports, over 120,000 people were cut off from Armenia for several hours due to this “blockade.” Azerbaijani officials have alleged that Armenia is using the corridor to sneak military hardware into the region, an accusation that Armenian officials deny.

Amid the delays in negotiations, the Armenians are now concerned that Azerbaijan is trying to take control of Nagorno-Karabakh by force. The Armenians previously stated that they would withdraw their troops from the region by September. Armenia also told residents to leave the area, but tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians continue to reside there. In addition, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations are still reviewing claims submitted by the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments.

Given the delays in these various matters, Azerbaijani authorities are becoming impatient. Instead, they may try to take matters into their own hands. Russia, which currently has peacekeepers in the region, has become preoccupied with its illegal and unnecessary war in Ukraine. As a result of Russia’s waning influence in the region, Turkey has become the main intermediary. But it is facing its own problems as it combats soaring inflation while also trying to balance its collapsing currency. With two of the region’s biggest powers dealing with their own affairs, Armenia and Azerbaijan are left to fend for themselves as they try to resolve their differences.

Armenian officials now report that residents in Nagorno-Karabakh have been cut off from gas and other necessities. The European Union has expressed its concerns about the situation, highlighting that it does not have a presence in the region, which makes assessing the situation more complicated. Still, the EU is actively trying to engage with Armenian and Azerbaijani officials to de-escalate recent developments in the region.

Overall, the recent escalations in Nagorno-Karabakh are a result of missed opportunities. The conflict has flared and subsided throughout the year. Armenian and Azerbaijani officials have met on numerous occasions, but little action has been taken to resolve the conflict. Instead, the current ceasefire has been violated, additional lives have been lost, and Armenian and Azerbaijani officials and citizens are frustrated by the never-ending conflict.

As we enter 2023, one New Year’s resolution should be for the world to help mediate the conflict and finally convince Armenia and Azerbaijan to sign a peace treaty to end the war. Doing so will spare thousands of lives from additional hardship. But if the conflict continues to drag on, and if officials from both sides are not held accountable, the risk of a deadlier conflict will only grow. It is time for peace.

 

Saudi Arabia currently wants to maintain relations with the US

 

Salem Alketebi, 12-22, 22, UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate, Jerusalem Post, A new geostrategic reality: Saudi Arabia’s growing role, https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-725504

Saudi Arabia is aware of the enormous consequences of not valuing the price of its oil exports to China in dollars, as well as the link to the global influence of the US, mainly related to the strength of the American currency and its impact on the global economy. The Chinese president’s visit to Saudi Arabia strengthens Saudi Arabia’s role and influence and reflects the kingdom’s prestige.

However, this does not necessarily mean a breakdown in relations between Riyadh and Washington, especially in the security and military sphere. There remains evidence that Saudi Arabia wants to maintain its alliance with the US but under new rules of the game that reflect changes in the international environment and the Saudi vision of the relationship.

17 million Yemenis face food insecurity

 

USAID, 12-22, 22, https://www.usaid.gov/humanitarian-assistance/yemen, Yemen

Relief actors reported nearly 700 access incidents in Yemen between July and September, which delayed or interrupted the delivery of humanitarian assistance to more than 5.8 million people, according to the UN. Nearly 17 million people in Yemen—more than 53 percent of the population—will likely experience Crisis—IPC 3—or worse levels of acute food insecurity between October and December 2022, according to an updated IPC analysis released in November. Through USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the U.S. Government will provide up to $20 million in humanitarian assistance funding to support the UN World Food Program in transporting grain donated by the Government of Ukraine to assist food-insecure people in Yemen.

Armenia-Azerbaijan war risks increasing, need diplomacy

 

Rellief Web, 12-21, 22, https://reliefweb.int/report/armenia/despite-glimmer-hope-armenia-azerbaijan-conflict-escalating-tensions-threaten-derail-fragile-progress-senior-official-tells-security-council, Despite ‘Glimmer of Hope’ in Armenia, Azerbaijan Conflict, Escalating Tensions Threaten to Derail Fragile Progress, Senior Official Tells Security Council

Despite a “glimmer of hope” regarding diplomatic efforts by Armenia and Azerbaijan towards a resolution of their ongoing dispute, a current escalation of tension and incidents threatens to derail fragile progress and unleash a dangerous resumption of violence, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today. Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, noted that since his last briefing, the parties have regularly traded accusations of ceasefire violations. Following renewed violence in mid-September, there have been several high-level diplomatic initiatives — including a meeting in October between Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, and Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, in Prague, resulting in an agreement to deploy the European Union monitoring capacity in Armenia. He further recalled that in late October, leaders of the country met again in Sochi, hosted by Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, where they agreed to refrain from use or threat of force.In addition to the European Union mission agreed on by both sides, the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the Collective Security Treaty Organization — at the request of Armenia — have also deployed missions to Armenia. Regrettably, he noted that tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and around areas under control of Russian Federation peacekeeping forces have not abated.While representatives of both Armenia and Azerbaijan have provided widely differing accounts of the situation and accused each other of violating the 9 November 2020 trilateral statement, he underscored that the potential human toll of resumed conflict could be considerable. It would not only impact people of Armenia and Azerbaijan, but the wider South Caucasus region and beyond, he said, urging the parties to redouble efforts for a negotiated peaceful settlement before it is too late. In the ensuing debate, Member States called for calm and diplomacy, expressing concern over the Lachin Corridor situation, while the representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged charges that the other side is continuing provocations and has violated the trilateral statement. The representative of Armenia said that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is close to turning into a humanitarian catastrophe.Negotiations by the region’s authorities with the Azerbaijani side to restore the Lachin Corridor’s safe and unhindered operation have not yielded results.That country’s unabated provocations have shown that, without strong accountability measures including sanctions, it will continue to test the determination of the international community and the Council

Russia can best resolve Nagorno-Karabakh

 

Edith Lederer, 12-21, 22, Yahoo News, UN official warns against new Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, https://www.yahoo.com/now/un-official-warns-against-armenia-060556214.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAC0HKGKFEM5JBPi0NOQ41Ix5H8oZkyLBZOWs7qrzj0pCGmFhfFL7wSmHdQAo0ISFGV6n-wl8VHLtAM83Y7sibkvpo3KBBN7I2mfHlh4rkG4J248IQ2QQBlveMTqvIECy7_D64fuGcz3-ICFplt9tm6337xV0M1Ko9pWUy7oay9M0

The former Soviet countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan reclaimed broad swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories held by Armenian forces. More than 6,700 people died in the fighting that was ended by a Russia-brokered peace agreement. Jenča said there has been “a glimmer of hope” for progress in ongoing diplomatic efforts following renewed violence in mid-September that killed 155 soldiers from both countries. But regrettably, he said, tensions on the border and around areas put under control of Russian peacekeeping forces in the 2020 peace agreement “have not abated as hoped.”

Saudi Arabia won’t abandon US relations because it needs its security blanket

 

Law, 21-21, 22,  Bill Law is the editor of Arab Digest. An award winning journalist, he reported extensively from the Middle East and North Africa for the BBC. In addition to numerous radio documentaries, his films have focused on the Arab Spring and its aftermath. He has also reported from West and Central Africa, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Before leaving the BBC in 2014, Mr Law was the corporation’s Gulf analyst. He now runs TheGulfMatters.com, providing analysis and journalism focusing on the Gulf states and the wider Middle East. He tweets@BillLaw49, Mid East Eye, How 2022 saw a tectonic shift in power between Gulf states and the Westm, https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/gulf-west-tectonic-shift-power-how

MBS met with Tamim in Doha to underline that the Gulf feud of 2017-2021 was now well and truly history. And Mohammed bin Zayed, very much the chief instigator of the feud, surprised observers by turning up as well. Not quite the three amigos, but they are all leaders in the ascendancy. As the tectonic shift plays out in 2023, they will continue to consolidate the bountiful gains they have been provided by the war in Ukraine.Energy will remain the driving force, but diversification will continue, though MBS’s obsession with giga-projects like Neom, rather than bread-and-butter issues such as solving the flooding crises in Jeddah, may damage his domestic support. With Biden in the White House, US relations with the Saudis will remain strained. Less so for the Emiratis, who have been highly successful at avoiding much of the opprobrium directed at Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen, though both are deeply engaged and stand accused of numerous war crimes.Tough balancing act All three will be conscious of not allowing the rift with Washington to deepen very much further, as they will continue to need the security blanket that the world’s greatest military superpower still provides. However, the balancing act will be a tough one and one well worth watching.

Russia brokered the last deal and has peacekeepers in the region

 

AA World, 12-21, 22, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/azerbaijan-armenia-trade-barbs-at-un-over-lachin-corridor-to-karabakh-region/2768809, Azerbaijan, Armenia trade barbs at UN over Lachin corridor to Karabakh region

Relations between the two former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions. In the fall of 2020, in 44 days of fighting, Azerbaijan liberated several cities, villages and settlements from Armenian occupation. The Russian-brokered peace agreement is celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan.​​​​​​​

Since then, Russian peacekeeping troops have been deployed in the region.

Shelling on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border

 

JAM News, 12-20, 22, “Azerbaijan creating pretexts for the resumption of war.” Opinion from Yerevan, https://jam-news.net/probability-of-an-armenia-azerbaijan-war/

In parallel with the blocking of the Lachin corridor in Armenia, the Armenian Defense Ministry reports that after midnight, Azerbaijani units opened fire in the direction of Armenian positions near the village of Kutakan, Gegharkunik region. Meanwhile, Baku has been regularly accusing Armenia of shelling Azerbaijani positions in the eastern direction of the border. All such reports from Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan are immediately followed by denial from the Armenian side. According to political scientist Gurgen Simonyan, Baku is trying to create the impression that “Azerbaijan is being subjected to aggression by Armenia, so they take retaliatory steps.” “Baku trying to legitimize ‘new regime’ in the Lachin corridor.” Opinion from Yerevan Gas supply restored, road still blocked: situation in NK “The silence of friendly countries seems strange” – Pashinyan on situation in Lachin According to the Armenian Ministry of Defense, on December 20 at about 00:05 units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire in the direction of Armenian positions located near the village of Kutakan: “There are no losses on the Armenian side. As of 09:00, the situation on the front line is relatively stable.” On December 15 the Armenian Defense Ministry also reported on shelling from the Azerbaijani side. Then it was reported that the Azerbaijani military opened fire from small arms of various calibers in the direction of the villages of Norabak (Gegharkunik region) and Srashen (Syunik region). Almost daily last week there were reports from Baku that the Armenian military was shelling Azerbaijani positions in the eastern, northeastern and southeastern sections of the border.

CSTO solves Armenia-Russia conflict

 

Bruc Eruguyur, 12-19, 22, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/russian-led-bloc-to-send-mission-to-baku-yerevan-border-if-armenia-deems-necessary-official/2767716,

Russian-led bloc to send mission to Baku-Yerevan border if Armenia deems necessary: Official

The Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) proposals to send a mission to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border remain should Yerevan deem it necessary, the former head of the Russian-led bloc said on Monday.  “As for the direction of the CSTO mission – those proposals to provide assistance to the Republic of Armenia – one of the points was the direction of the CSTO mission to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border … This remains in force. If Armenia considers it necessary either to make a decision on the entire package of measures or on individual points, this can be implemented,” Stanislav Zas said during a press conference. Saying that the heads of CSTO member states met three times in 2022 to discuss the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, Zas noted that the CSTO is not going to turn away from Armenia. “As for the intentions of the CSTO to leave Armenia or somehow turn away from it: of course not,” Zas said.iplomacy

US diplomacy stopped Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in the past

 

Bruc Eruguyur, 12-19, 22, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/russian-led-bloc-to-send-mission-to-baku-yerevan-border-if-armenia-deems-necessary-official/2767716,

Russian-led bloc to send mission to Baku-Yerevan border if Armenia deems necessary: Official It was five minutes past midnight and Lilit was praying by the window of her apartment in Jermuk, a resort famous for its mineral water and spas in southern Armenia. Suddenly, enormous, orange balls of fire lit up the sky. “This is it,” she said aloud to herself. “The war has begun.” The blitzkrieg attack by Azerbaijan in the early minutes of September 13, 2022 left at least 6 civilians and 200 Armenian soldiers dead in two days of fighting, which stopped after the prompt diplomatic intervention by the US State Department and, according to Russian president Vladimir Putin, his government too.

Armenia-Azerbaijan war coming in the spring

 

Bruc Eruguyur, 12-19, 22, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/russian-led-bloc-to-send-mission-to-baku-yerevan-border-if-armenia-deems-necessary-official/2767716,

In Jermuk, Lilit was visiting her neighbor, Maryam. The two women were among the very few residents — perhaps a dozen or two — who decided to stay in the city of 6,000 after the civilians were evacuated during the two days of fighting. Maryam, a widow and the mother and grandmother of soldiers serving in the Armenian army, has seen war on and off since independence in 1991. Her son, who fought in the 44-day Nagorno Karabakh war, returned unharmed from fighting yet with a memory that has been haunting him from the first day of combat in Jabrayil, now a ghost town captured by the Azerbaijani forces in 2020. “Just as they were emerging from their hideout, he saw the car in which his four friends had just got into go up in flames,” possibly struck by a drone. Analyst Benyamin Poghosyan believes a new war is in the making, saying it may happen by the end of 2022 or March-April 2023. “Any timeframe is based on perceptions, misperceptions, and speculation, but Azerbaijan is preparing for war.”

Iranian arms transfers to Armenia increase war risks

Dr. Yasif Huseynov, 12-11, 12, Modern Diplomacy, Armenia and Iran combine forces against Azerbaijan, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2022/12/11/armenia-and-iran-combine-forces-against-azerbaijan/

In early December, the Azerbaijani media reported about free of charge military supplies of Iran to Armenia amidst the growing tensions between Azerbaijan and Islamic Republic. According to the reports, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) provided 500 units of the Dehlavieh anti-tank missile system and 100 units of Almas system to Armenia at the end of October. These supplies took place amidst the military exercises the Iranian army carried out along the borders with Azerbaijan for the second time since the end of the Second Karabakh War of 2020 – Iran never conducted military drills along the Azerbaijani borders before this war. Along with these, Azerbaijani media published evidence confirming that Iran also sends military personnel to the separatist Armenian forces in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan that is currently under the temporary control of the Russian peacekeeping units. They are reportedly supposed to train the Armenian separatist forces who regularly carry out terrorist and sabotage attacks against the Azerbaijani army. Although Iran has always, since the post-Soviet independence of Azerbaijan, treated Armenia as an ally against Azerbaijan and even provided military and economic backing to Armenia’s occupation of the Azerbaijani territories in the early 1990s, Baku sought to keep these hostilities down and tried to build good neighborly relations with the Islamic Republic. A number of factors affected this decision of the Azerbaijani government, including the presence of more than 20 million ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran as well as Baku’s efforts to establish friendly relations with the neighboring countries and ensure the Iranian leaders that Azerbaijan did not pose any threat to the Islamic Republic. Towards this end, the Azerbaijani government even quietly reacted to Tehran’s support to the radical religious groups inside Azerbaijan by cracking down only on these groups without challenging the country’s broader relations with Iran. This curtain was lifted between Baku and Tehran following Azerbaijan’s liberation of its occupied territories from the Armenian occupation. Although the Iranian leaders repeatedly relate their “concerns” with Azerbaijan’s alleged plans (in particular, the “Zangazur corridor” transportation route) to cut off Iran-Armenia border by occupying the southern territories of Armenia, these statements do not sound convincing. There are assurances not only by Azerbaijan but also Armenia’s another ally Russia that these transportation routes do not envisage the occupation of anyone’s territories, and they will remain under the sovereignty of the respective transit country. Iran’s aggressive rhetoric and military flexing against Azerbaijan shoot up against the background of Azerbaijan’s decision to open an embassy in Israel and Turkiye’s growing influence in the South Caucasus. In this context, Iran’s narratives resemble those of Russia against Ukraine. In a similar vein, Iranian leaders question Azerbaijan’s independence and its ethnic identity, claiming that Azerbaijan was a historical part of Iran and should return to the Iranian control. One of the latest such claims was made by Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ali Fadavi, who, in a tweet, reiterated these historical claims against Azerbaijan saying that this country “was separated from Iran due to the incompetence of the Qajar kings”. Attempting to take the advantage of the Shiite believers in Azerbaijan, he openly called for a government change in Baku. “The people of Azerbaijan are Shiite believers who did not lose their original Shiite beliefs under the 70 years of communist pressure. As a rule, there should be a government that pays special attention to this Shiite majority of Azerbaijan”, he added. Thus, Iran, building active cooperation with Armenia in military and economic fields, poses a great threat to the national security of Azerbaijan. In response to these threats, Baku boosts its ties with the major allies of the country, in particular, Turkiye and Israel. Hence, over the last two months, Baku held two major military exercises along the borders with Iran which, according to President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, aimed to “to show that we are not afraid of them”. While the first round of these exercises was held exclusively by the special forces of Azerbaijan in early November, the second round was conducted at much larger scale and together with the Turkish armed forces in early December. These joint exercises included also a response to the most provocative element of the Iranian military drills – employing phantom bridges to cross the river that forms the natural border between Azerbaijan and Iran in most sections of the interstate border. Turkiye’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who joined his Azerbaijani counterpart to supervise the exercises, voiced strong support to Azerbaijan, declaring that any threats or provocations against Turkiye and Azerbaijan is considered as directed against both countries. In parallel to demonstrating military confidence of Azerbaijan in response to the Iranian threats, Baku has also become more outspoken against the repression of the fundamental rights of ethnic Azerbaijanis under the Iranian control. Addressing an international conference in Baku on November 25, President Aliyev criticized the lack of Azerbaijani language schools in Iran while there are those in the languages of other ethnic minorities, vowing that his country will do its best to protect all Azerbaijanis across the world, including those living in Iran. That said, the aggressive rhetoric and expansionist claims of the Iranian leaders dramatically threaten peace and security in the South Caucasus. In this context, Armenia’s alignment with Iran in this power game and the de-facto military alliance they build against Turkiye and Azerbaijan run the risk of triggering a major conflict in the region with catastrophic consequences for the local peoples.

Three reasons Houthis oppose a truce

Fatima Abo Alasrar, 12-9, 22, The Houthis’ embargo on Yemen’s oil exports, https://www.mei.edu/publications/houthis-embargo-yemens-oil-exports

The Houthis’ rejection of the truce with the Yemeni government was based on three fundamental factors. The first is the rebels’ inability to fulfill their obligations under the agreement to lift the siege on Taiz because their control over the city keeps pressure on their opponents and gives them increased leverage in any peace negotiations. The second is a lack of interest in the peace process itself a