Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Top Trump Adviser John Bolton to Visit Russia, Kremlin Says

June 21, 2018

’This trip will indeed happen,‘Mr. Putin’s spokesman says; no dates provided

Mr. Bolton would be one of the highest-ranking Trump administration officials to visit Moscow.
Mr. Bolton would be one of the highest-ranking Trump administration officials to visit Moscow. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

MOSCOW—The U.S. national security adviser John Bolton is coming to Russia, said the Kremlin, amid growing speculation about a coming summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

“This trip will indeed happen,” Mr. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russia’s state media Thursday. Mr. Peskov declined to provide further details or potential dates.

White House officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Mr. Bolton’s plans.

Mr. Bolton would be one of the highest-ranking Trump administration officials to visit Moscow, after former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited last year. Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has been dogged by the allegations that Russia’s meddling with the U.S. electoral process in 2016 helped him secure a victory.

Relations between the two countries have since hit a new low, with the U.S. slapping the latest round of sanctions on Mr. Putin’s alleged associates in April. The two countries, however, still require each other’s cooperation on many global issues, including North Korea’s nuclear program and war in Syria.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the White House has begun early preparations for a potential Trump-Putin summit. Mr. Putin has also been lobbying European leaders to help set a concrete date with the White House.

Write to Anatoly Kurmanaev at Anatoly.kurmanaev@wsj.com

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ABC News is also reporting that Bolton will visit EU leaders in Europe en-route to Russia.
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Why Russia’s Middle East Gamble Has a Limited Payoff

June 21, 2018

To many countries, ties with Moscow are just a way to leverage stronger U.S. backing

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses troops at a Syrian air base in December.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses troops at a Syrian air base in December. PHOTO: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW—Russia’s military intervention in Syria has turned it into a significant player across the Middle East once again.

But what does this really mean?

Is Russia, as some American allies (and officials) fear, close to displacing the massive influence that the U.S. has exercised over the region for decade?

Or is it simply being drawn into the quagmire of Middle Eastern intrigues, used by regional powers for their own interests—and garnering little strategic benefit for its efforts?

A look at the region provides a complex picture. While Moscow’s relationships are deepening, its influence is still nowhere near matching Washington’s.

None of the Middle East nations that aligned themselves with the U.S. and the West have changed camp since the Arab Spring’s turbulence hit the region in 2011.

Russia’s intervention to rescue its historic ally, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, came only after another historic Moscow ally, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, was ousted and killed following a NATO military campaign in support of Libyan rebels. Gone with Ghadhafi were billions of dollars in contracts awarded to Russian enterprises.

Military backing from Mr. Putin has shored up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, seen here with the Russian president in Sochi, Russia, in May.
Military backing from Mr. Putin has shored up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, seen here with the Russian president in Sochi, Russia, in May. PHOTO: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Yet, Russia has managed to nurture relationships with traditional Western allies that were hostile to Moscow in Soviet times, including TurkeyIsrael, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. That carries some economic benefits—but provides Moscow with only limited political gains.

“Nobody is pushing America out of the Middle East, it’s just pulling out by itself and leaving a vacuum behind,” said Alexey Khlebnikov, a fellow at the Russian International Affairs Council, a state-run think tank. “Russia has no real allies in the region, just partners with which it can do business despite political disagreements on many issues. Russia is not an alternative to them, it’s just a way to diversify their portfolio of relations.”

That diversification is made easier by the fact that President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t seem to mind Russia’s new prominence in the Middle East.

“For most countries in the region, ties with Russia represent just an insurance policy—and, because the U.S. is not showing any displeasure over this and isn’t trying to kick Russia out, it’s now a zero-cost insurance policy,” said Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy, a Dubai-based consultancy and advisory firm.

Today’s Russia, despite its military abilities and its sophisticated diplomatic and intelligence networks, doesn’t really have the means to project power across the region: its midsize economy is roughly the size of Australia’s or Spain’s.

And, unlike the Soviet Union, which inserted itself in Middle Eastern conflicts as a way to promote the Communist ideology during the Cold War confrontation, modern Russia has no alternative social and economic model to spread.

“Russia is in new conditions because we don’t provide ideological support to some kind of left-wing, communist forces,” said Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister who oversees the Middle East and Africa. “That is all in the past. We act based on rational considerations because cooperation must be mutually beneficial…. But at the same time, we stand for respecting the sovereignty of those nations.”

A frequently heard refrain in the Middle East is that Russia—unlike the U.S.—has proved that it backs its allies, no matter how unsavory they may be. By contrast, the U.S. under President Barack Obama embraced the 2011 protests that ousted such longstanding American allies (and autocrats) as President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia.

Even many of those Arabs who hold little love for Syria’s Mr. Assad confess admiration for how Mr. Putin didn’t hesitate to use military force to prevent a similar downfall of the Syrian regime.

“Egyptians see Putin as someone who’s a statesman that stands by his friends, someone who doesn’t let them down the way the Americans did with Mubarak,” said Anwar E. Sadat, a prominent opposition politician and a nephew of Egypt’s late President Anwar Sadat. “At the same time, the American president is making everyone confused about what he really wants.”

This admiration for Mr. Putin and widespread perplexity about the Trump administration don’t necessarily translate into a policy shift toward Moscow, Mr. Sadat added.

“Russia has nothing to deliver,” he said. “The Russians know that our strategic relationship with America is vital and will always be there. I don’t think there is a big future to Egyptian-Russian relations.”

If anything, regional countries such as Egypt and Turkey are using Russia—and actual or threatened purchases of Russian weapons—as leverage to improve their negotiating position where it still really matters: in Washington.

“Many countries in the Middle East are making limited investments in their relationship with Russia just so that they can use it with their allies such as the U.S., telling them—give us this or that, or we will ask Russia,” said Yuri Barmin, a Russian security consultant working in the Middle East. “But Russia is an imaginary alternative. The optical effect here is much larger than the substance. All these countries understand perfectly well how limited Russia’s influence really is.”

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-russias-middle-east-gamble-has-a-limited-payoff-1529573402

Iran’s ‘aggression’ in Middle East must be countered: Merkel

June 21, 2018

Measures are needed to counter Iran’s “aggressive tendencies” in the Middle East, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday after talks in Jordan with King Abdullah.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel reviews an honor guard upon her arrival at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

The Jordanian monarch said that peace in the region could only take place once the Palestinians have a state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Editing by Paul Carrel

Reuters

Netanyahu: If You Stand With Trump on North Korea, Oppose a Nuclear Iran

June 12, 2018

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“I think the entire world, as we do, prays for the success of this effort.”

BY TOVAH LAZAROFF

Netanyahu relates Trump’s efforts to denuclearize North Korea to his efforts to denuclearize Iran at the AJC Global Forum, June 10, 2018 (GPO)

Netanyahu relates Trump’s efforts to denuclearize North Korea to his efforts to denuclearize Iran at the AJC Global Forum, June 10, 2018 (GPO)

Those who support US President Donald Trump’s effort to denuclearize North Korea should stand behind his quest to halt a nuclear Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

“Dangerous regimes should denuclearize,” Netanyahu told the AJC Global Forum, whose members gathered in Jerusalem before Tuesday’s meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“I think the entire world, as we do, prays for the success of this effort,” Netanyahu said.

“Now, imagine, imagine: Imagine that President Trump would come back with some deal, and Britain, France and Germany would applaud it and South Korea and Japan would say that it endangers their existence,” Netanyahu said.

With regard to the Iran deal, one can see that same global division between those in missile range and those who are not, Netanyahu said.

“This deal was applauded by many in the international community who are not in the missile range of Iran, but Israel and Saudi Arabia and others said this deal will ultimately give Iran a nuclear arsenal,” Netanyahu said.

Israel fears it will be Tehran’s first target after it becomes nuclear, Netanyahu said.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the AJC Global Forum in Jerusalem, June 10, 2018. Photo – YouTube screenshot

“They will use [nuclear weapons] first against us, and then with the long-range missiles that they’re building and that the deal doesn’t prevent them from building, against everyone else,” Netanyahu said.

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he blamed the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process on the Palestinian failure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“The reason we don’t have peace is not because of the absence of a Palestinian state. It has been offered many, many times, and it has been rejected many, many times because it always had a condition: No Jewish state,” Netanyahu said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday criticized US “unilateralism” in withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and said he appreciated efforts by China and Russia to maintain the agreement.

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A file photo of a missile launch from Houthi Rebels (Reuters/Houthi Military Media Unit)
File photo — Iranian built ballistic missile is fired from yemen by Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia. Credit Reuters

“The US efforts to impose its policies on others are expanding as a threat to all,” Rouhani told the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional security grouping led by China and Russia where Iran has observer status.

“The recent example of such unilateralism and the defiance of the decisions of the international community by the US government is its withdrawal from the JCPOA,” he said, referring to the nuclear agreement by its official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Reuters contributed to this report.

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Benjamin-Netanyahu/Netanyahu-If-you-stand-with-Trump-on-North-Korea-oppose-a-nuclear-Iran-559652

Global conflict continues to rise, index shows

June 6, 2018

The world has become less peaceful over the last 10 years, mostly due to conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. An international index paints a dark picture, although with some brighter spots.

    
A Palestinian protester during a protest near the Gaza Strip border with Israel (picture alliance/AP Photo/K. Hamra)

Europe was the most peaceful region in the world in 2017, while the Middle East and North Africa were the least peaceful, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), said in its 12th annual report published in London on Wednesday.

“There is an ongoing deterioration in global peace,” Steve Killelea, head of the Australia-based IEP, told DW. “It’s gradual and it’s been going on for the last decade.”

The conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and the spillover effects into other areas have been the main drivers in the decline of global peace, Killelea said.

Map of how countries ranked in Global Peace Index

The IEP’s Global Peace Index (GPI) found that in 92 nations peacefulness fell in 2017, with improvements in only 71 countries. Killelea told DW this negative trend has continued for the fourth year in a row.

According to the GPI, the Middle East and North Africa region is the least peaceful region in the world. At the bottom of the 163-state ranking are Syria, with Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Somalia not far ahead.

Read more: UN appeals for record $22.2 billion in global humanitarian aid

Emerging Sub-Saharan Africa improving

The biggest positive changes in GPI in 2017 were in sub-Saharan Africa. The Gambia, for example, rose 35 places, the biggest improvement in the index. Liberia, Burundi and Senegal were also among the five countries with the largest improvements.

Western Europe falling in the index

Of the nine global regions, the IEP identified Europe as the world’s most peaceful. Of the five most peaceful countries in the world, all are in Europe: Iceland, Austria, Portugal and Denmark. Germany is in 17th place.

“But 23 of the 36 countries classified as Europe deteriorated in peace in 2017,” Killelea said, mainly in western Europe, with eastern Europe improved overall.

Infographic of changes in GPI scores

Global economy loses

Analysing data from think tanks, research institutes, governments and universities, the IEP calculaed that violence cost the global economy $14.8 trillion in 2017, that is almost $2,000 (€1,650) per person.

If the least peaceful countries, including Syria, South Sudan and Iraq, were as stable as the most peaceful — Iceland and New Zealand — it would add an extra $2,000 per head to their economies, according to the IEP study, which Killelea said was the only research that measures the economic impact of violence.

“For every 1 percent improvement in positive peace, GDP per capita income goes up by 1.8 percent,” Killelea said.

More countries invest less in armaments

Although Europe is under pressure from the US administration to increase defense spending, the global trend in military spending is downward, Killelea said. “Over the past decade, 104 countries have cut their defense spending relative to economic output and 115 countries have reduced their military personnel,” he said.

However, a look at the past 10 years also reveals that the intensity of the conflicts has increased significantly. “The death toll on the world’s battlefields has increased 246 percent, and the death toll from terrorism has increased 203 percent over the past decade,” Killelea said.

A Palestinian protester throws back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli security forces in clashes in March (picture alliance/ZUMAPRESS/W. Hashlamoun)A Palestinian protester throws back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli security forces in clashes in March

New criteria: Peace not just the absence of war

The GPI is calculated on the basis of 23 indicators in three areas: security in society, ongoing conflicts, and militarization.

In the field of security in society, the IEP looks at the murder rate, the number of people in prison, the number of police officers and also perceptions of crime. The area of militarization includes the number of soldiers, the military spending in relation to economic output and also possible arms exports.

The report methodology also introduced the category positive peace for the first time this year. This treats peace not only as the absence of conflict and war. but takes into account structures, social factors and institutions that contribute to the peacefulness of societies.

http://www.dw.com/en/global-conflict-continues-to-rise-index-shows/a-44090159

German spy agency can keep tabs on internet hubs: court

May 31, 2018

Germany’s spy agency can monitor major internet hubs if Berlin deems it necessary for strategic security interests, a federal court has ruled.

In a ruling late on Wednesday, the Federal Administrative Court threw out a challenge by the world’s largest internet hub, the De-Cix exchange, against the tapping of its data flows by the BND foreign intelligence service.

Image result for BND foreign intelligence, photos

The operator had argued the agency was breaking the law by capturing German domestic communications along with international data.

However, the court in the eastern city of Leipzig ruled that internet hubs “can be required by the federal interior ministry to assist with strategic communications surveillance by the BND”.

© AFP/File | De-Cix, the world’s largest internet hub, says Germany’s spy agency is able to get a complete and unfiltered copy of the all data passing through its fibre optic cables

De-Cix says its Frankfurt hub is the world’s biggest internet exchange, bundling data flows from as far as China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, which handles more than six terabytes per second at peak traffic.

De-Cix Management GmbH, which is owned by eco Association, the European internet industry body, had filed suit against the interior ministry, which oversees the BND and its strategic signals intelligence.

It said the BND, a partner of the US National Security Agency (NSA), has placed so-called Y-piece prisms into its data-carrying fibre optic cables that give it an unfiltered and complete copy of the data flow.

Given the mass of daily phone calls, emails, chats, internet searches, streamed videos and other online communications, an effective fire-walling of purely German communications is unrealistic, activists argue.

Germany had reacted with outrage when information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that US agents were carrying out widespread tapping worldwide, including of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany where state spying on citizens was rampant, declared repeatedly that “spying among friends is not on” while acknowledging Germany’s reliance on the US in security matters.

But to the great embarrassment of Germany, it later emerged that the BND helped the NSA spy on European allies.

Berlin in 2016 approved new measures, including greater oversight, to rein in the BND following the scandal.

AFP

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

May 26, 2018

‘Noose is tightening on Tehran’ in face of US sanctions, expert tells Arab News — US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

A special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran’s nuclear deal is in progress in Vienna. (Reuters)

Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement after Washington’s dramatic withdrawal earlier this month.

For the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered — at Iran’s request — without the US, which pulled out of the agreement on May 8 and said it would reinstate sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran — concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama — saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to AFP after Friday’s meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, said: “We are negotiating… to see if they can provide us with a package that can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting.”

“Practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investment in the country, he said.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all the chances to succeed, provided we have the political will.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News that it would be against Europe’s interests to stay in the deal.

“The European nations should be cognizant of the fact that the beneficiary of the nuclear deal is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its militias,” he said. “Staying in the deal or submitting to the Iranian regime’s new demands will inflict damage on the EU’s geopolitical and national security interest in the short and long term.”

The EU could not thwart or skirt US primary and secondary sanctions against Iran, he said. Rafizadeh said Iran’s hard-liners were attempting to obtain concessions from the EU by threatening to pull out of the JCPOA.

“But from the perspective of the Iranian leaders, giving concessions means weakness. And although Iran is playing tough, it needs the deal to support Bashar Assad and its proxies.

“The European governments should be aware that the Iranian leaders — moderates and hard-liners — are playing a shrewd tactical game.

“The regime is playing a classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ game. The moderates set the tone on the international stage through their shrewd diplomatic skills and softer tone, while the hard-liners take a tougher stance to help the moderates win more concessions,” said Rafizadeh.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said the noose was tightening on Tehran.

“European firms simply cannot afford the penalties imposed by US secondary sanctions on Iran. The Iranian plan to press Europe to compensate for President Trump’s policy decision to restart a crippling sanctions regime is unlikely to prove fruitful,” he told Arab News.

Recent revelations of a covert Iranian facility designed to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be fitted with nuclear warheads will only complicate matters for Tehran as it scrambles for a European lifeline, Shahbandar said.

“The collapse of the JCPOA is likely to prove a major shock to the Iranian economy in the long run,” he said.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1309766/middle-east

Related:

Iran asks Europe what it can offer to keep it in the nuclear deal after U.S. pullout

May 25, 2018

Secretary General of the European Union External Action Service Helga Schmid and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano meet to discuss Iran’s nuclear deal, in Vienna on Friday. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)
May 25 at 9:53 AM

Iran will decide within weeks whether to stay in a faltering deal to restrain its nuclear program, pressing Europe to compensate for President Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions, a senior Iranian official said Friday.

The caution came ahead of the first talks among the remaining parties to the landmark 2015 deal since the United States pulled out earlier this month. The negotiations in Vienna, which were called by Iran, are aimed at salvaging the deal.

The talks came a day after an official report declared Iran to still be compliant with the stringent controls on its nuclear program.

Iran has long declared that its nuclear program is limited to the peaceful generation of nuclear energy and production of medical isotopes. If it were to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and seek nuclear weapons, it could spark an arms race in the already volatile Middle East.

The United States and Israel have also warned that an Iranian nuclear weapons program would be countered with force.

“We have not decided yet to stay in the deal,” said the Iranian official, who briefed a small group of reporters under ground rules of anonymity. The official said that Iranian hard-line factions that always opposed the nuclear deal are now pushing to pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that forbids the development of nuclear weapons.

One possibility if Iran withdraws from the deal would be a return to the status quo before 2015, the official said: an intensified uranium-enrichment program that the Iranian government says is for peaceful civilian use, and economic relations with the world that are hobbled by U.S. sanctions.

“Another solution that some promote is for Iran to go out of NPT or at least reconsider and revisit our nuclear doctrine,” the official said.

Tehran wants a full package of proposals from Europe by the end of May, after which leaders will decide whether to stay in the agreement, the official said. The aim is to see whether Europe can create enough paths to protect private investment in Iran so that Tehran still feels it is receiving concrete economic benefits from the deal.

“We were always told there is a Plan B,” the official said. “But I’m sorry to say we haven’t seen the Plan B yet.”

Friday’s meeting in Vienna of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) committee included Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union. It was the first such meeting at which the United States was not present.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week vowed to destroy Iran’s economy and “crush” its operatives and proxies around the world, offering a hard-line vision that many analysts said seemed intended to provoke Tehran.

Europe’s urgent, down-to-the-wire effort to preserve the deal has the effect of pushing America’s allies to work with its traditional adversaries to thwart White House actions. A similar realignment may be underway on the Korean Peninsula, as South Korean President Moon Jae-in tries to salvage a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after Trump abruptly canceled it this week.

Europeans have been working on a suite of proposals, including making it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in Iran, sheltering payments for oil and gas from U.S. sanctions and ordering European businesses to disregard the new U.S. measures. But European diplomats involved in the efforts acknowledge uncertainty about whether the plans are enough to salvage the economic benefits of the deal.

The Iranian official dismissed any further attempt to work with the United States, saying that the experience of making a deal with one administration only to have it nullified by its successor made new talks impossible.

The official also dismissed European attempts to link further talks on nuclear issues to Iran’s ballistic missile program and its disruptive role in the Middle East. Due to political pressures inside Iran, linking the issues was likely to further undermine the existing deal and make agreement on other issues even harder, the official said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/iran-asks-europe-what-it-can-offer-to-keep-it-in-the-nuclear-deal-after-us-pullout/2018/05/25/f0e8be70-6011-11e8-8c93-8cf33c21da8d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ff29008fe3be

For Many Muslims, Israeli Occupation Is The Problem

May 20, 2018

Washington’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem continues to cause harm and suffering. On May 14, 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers and hundreds were injured. This is pretty much the end of the Donald Trump administration’s role in the Middle East peace process.

The move has also undermined any remaining hope for a two-state solution. The Trump administration is giving full support to Israel’s long-standing policy of “creating facts on the ground” and then grabbing more Palestinian land for reasons of security and the Israel’s so-called “natural growth” needs. This mindset has never taken into account the security, freedom and prosperity of the Palestinian people. They are expected to accept the 70-year occupation without putting up any resistance or objections. No other modern political story has been as tragic and hypocritical as the story of Palestine under occupation.

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Palestinian people during the protest against the U.S. relocating its embassy to Jerusalem and the Israeli state’s occupation on their lands, Gaza Strip, May 15.

Not many believed that the U.S. was an honest broker in the Middle East peace process in the first place. Trump’s Jerusalem decision is the last nail in the coffin. The Palestinians do not want to deal with the U.S. administration and they are right. The Trump administration has given them no hope, no encouragement, no support and nothing to keep them in the negotiations. Trump’s officials have said for months – without sharing any details – that they have been working on a new road map for peace. As it turns out, the only road map that has emerged so far is one destined to end in a crash – a crash that has the potential to set fire to the entire region. The Jerusalem move may have fulfilled the weird theological beliefs of some evangelical Americans and Zionists, but it has done immense damage already. The so-called Western liberal world order and its governments are either silent or utterly helpless when it comes to the Israeli occupation. They accept every Israeli claim at face value and design their policies according to the dictates of the Israeli lobbies in their respective countries. They have no desire or courage to confront the U.S. and Israeli governments to hold them accountable for their irresponsible, provocative and criminal actions. They just want the problem to go away. Countless U.N. resolutions condemning the Israeli occupation have been brushed aside. No other country or occupying force in the world has violated as many U.N. resolutions as Israel.

Given the political realities on the ground, Israel will continue its “piece-by-piece” policy of perennial occupation. It will continue its strategy of erasing the Palestinian people from the face of the earth with impunity. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plays the “Israel on the brink of destruction” card, it is the Palestinians who are facing the threat of annihilation by a military machine and apartheid state with its shameless racism and brutality. In fact, many Israelis do not even use the word “Palestinian” because they don’t recognize them as an official group of people.

Netanyahu cannot cover up his crimes and domestic troubles by attacking President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He may enjoy the relative silence of the international community and the disunity and lethargy of the Arab world, but he can never break the will of the Palestinian people and our support for them. He attacks Erdoğan because Erdoğan is the only leader who has the humanity and courage to call out the Israeli violence for what it is: Systematic massacring of a people living under occupation. He is a democratically elected leader forcefully criticizing Israel for its crimes against the Palestinian people.

As it often happens, the truth is the first casualty of war. Much of the European and American media once again failed to tell the truth in regard to the ongoing violence. The headlines read “Dozens killed in Gaza” and none of them referred to the Israeli brutality and willful killing, as if the Palestinians died of some sort of natural disaster or epidemic. They equate the killer and the killed to tell a story of “clash and confrontation” that does nothing but help Israeli officials in their shameless promotion of violence against a defenseless people. But this is nothing new. This is a story that keeps popping up in every Israeli attack on the Palestinian people. Palestinians never get a voice and are thus victimized twice. They are killed by an apartheid state but accused of violent extremism and terrorism. They are forced to live under occupation in their own land but never seen as having a right to claim their homes. They are subjected to discrimination, humiliation and dispossession on a daily basis but are accused of anti-Semitism. Much of the Western media coverage of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands seeks to justify the greatest story of injustice and brutality in modern history.

Just imagine how the world would have reacted if the 62 people killed on May 14 were Israelis rather than Palestinians. It would not have been a news story but a bombshell. It would have changed the parameters of regional and international politics. Western governments would have done everything in their capacity to punish those responsible. Even armies would have been mobilized. But none of that happened because the victims were Palestinian and the culprit was Israel which, with the deadliest army in the Middle East and unconditional U.S. support behind it, claims to fear for its existence in the face of rock throwing kids and women. In reality, Palestinians have nothing else to defend themselves, their families, their elderly, their homes, their olive fields, their lives and dignity with.

It is with these considerations in mind that Turkey called for an extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to mobilize Muslim countries to defend Palestinians against Israeli aggression. Turkey took a number of other measures in response. It declared three days of mourning, called its ambassadors in Washington and Tel Aviv back and held an emergency session at the Turkish National Assembly.

Thanks to the irresponsible and populist policies of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations, peace has never been as far away as it is today. Muslim countries, Europeans, Africans, Asian nations and Latin American countries must come together to stop the downward spiral of blatant violations of international law by Israel and the unjust punishment of the Palestinians.

The problem is the occupation and without ending it, there will be no peace, no security, no prosperity for anyone.

By İbrahim Kalın
Daily Sahah

https://www.dailysabah.com/columns/ibrahim-kalin/2018/05/19/occupation-is-the-problem

Merkel, Putin revive dialogue after Trump scraps Iran deal

May 16, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday to discuss the explosive global issues of Iran, Syria and Ukraine amid a deepening US-European crisis of confidence.

© AFP / by Antoine LAMBROSCHINI | Russian leader Vladimir Putin hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel seeking common ground in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear accord

This year’s first face-to-face talks between the veteran leaders, who speak each others’ languages, comes as European powers are scrambling to preserve the Iran deal which US President Donald Trump abandoned last week.

For Merkel, the main objective in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi will be to seek pragmatic dialogue with Putin, despite their yawning political differences, in the quest to preserve the landmark 2015 agreement.

Time is running out to save the accord under which Iran pledged not to build a nuclear bomb in return for relief from punishing sanctions.

While Trump has threatened to punish allies which continue to do business with the Islamic republic, Iran has demanded European guarantees to respect the pact and warned it could revive its atomic programme, sparking fears of more turmoil in the conflict-torn region.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a whirlwind global diplomatic tour, Tuesday welcomed as “a good start” talks with his French, British and German counterparts in Brussels but insisted on continued economic benefits for Iran.

Putin — a key player as an ally of Iran, with which it militarily backs President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s bloody conflict — is also due to meet French President Emmanuel Macron in late May.

After years of a deepening East-West rift sometimes labelled a new Cold War, Merkel recently repeated her warning that Europe can no longer rely on its traditional bedrock NATO ally the United States to “protect” it.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle commented that “a rapprochement between Germany and Russia could be an unexpected consequence of Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear deal with Iran”.

– Accusations, denials –

Merkel’s challenge will be how to move forward without yielding to Moscow on a range of divisive issues — from Russia’s role in Syria to Iran’s ballistic missile programme to sanctions imposed against Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Western powers have also accused Moscow of a poison attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain and of destabilising cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns, claims which Russia denies.

Also looming over the talks is the festering conflict between Ukraine’s government and pro-Russian rebels which has seen barely a day without armed clashes since the 2015 Minsk peace accords brokered by Berlin and Paris.

This week starkly recalled Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea when Putin, who was re-elected for a fourth Kremlin term in March, personally drove a truck over a new 19 kilometre (12 mile) bridge linking the peninsula with the Russian mainland.

Moscow has said Putin will urge a four-way meeting with Merkel, Macron and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to revive talks on a possible UN peacekeeping mission along the eastern Ukraine battlefront.

“We’ll see what arrangements will be found, it’s hard to predict,” said Russian deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin, tempering expectations.

– Energy friendship –

Despite all the problems, Germany and Russia see eye to eye on one issue that troubles other EU nations and has sparked angry protests from Trump — the construction of a new Baltic Sea pipeline to export Russian gas to the biggest EU economy.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has welcomed the “continued support of Germany for the construction of Nord Stream 2”, which is due to come into service in 2019.

Several EU countries, most vocally Poland, have protested the project for aiding a big neighbour they see as a strategic threat.

Berlin has urged Moscow to give assurances that it will preserve Ukrainian interests and not deprive it of lucrative gas transit fees.

A final irritant has emerged as Russia readies to host the World Cup, where the German national side will seek to defend their world title.

Berlin this week protested Moscow’s denial of a visa to a German journalist who was a driving force in uncovering the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal.

Moscow relented, but also warned that its prosecutors would seek the reporter for questioning if he enters Russian soil.

Germany has so far not confirmed whether it will send government representatives to the international football tournament.

by Antoine LAMBROSCHINI
.
AFP