Category: Gog-Ezekiel 38 & 39



When you take the field against your enemies, and see horses and chariots—forces larger than yours—have no fear of them, for Hashem your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, is with you. Deuteronomy 20:1 (The Israel BibleTM)

Iran lecturer at the IDC Meir Javedanfar told i24 News in a recent interview that whether or not Iran gets a nuke and ignites a nuclear war in the region “depends.” He added that “it’s one thing to have enough law enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. But then iran needs to go another step further to bring in and by enriching the uranium to higher levels to 20, and then from 20 to 90 which is what you need for nuclear weapon.

“We’re still not there yet and that would be a very drastic decision by the Iranians to make. On the one hand, the Iranians feel that they need to have some leverage in their dealings with the United States. President Trump walked out of the Iran nuclear deal. He imposed very tough sanctions against the Iranian regime. Iran cannot impose sanctions against America because its economy is nowhere as near. So they need leverage.”

Javedanfar added that “they’re holding on to this enriched uranium. They’re enriching uranium in quantities that are close to enough for making a weapon. But again, to come back to my original point, it’s not clear that they’re gonna go back to the enrichment level required to make a weapon. So we need to see basically see what happens from now on. If Joe Biden is elected what would be the plan with Iran? Whether he returns to the Iran nuclear deal whether they can reach an understanding or if Trump is reelected, then what would that mean for Iran? Would that mean that Iran would actually enrich you further levels it all depends on what happens in November 20th in the United States.

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Erdogan: My entire nation is an army and we’re not afraid to sacrifice martyrs

Turkey’s president declares ‘no power’ can stand in his way

By WND Staff
Published September 12, 2020 at 1:44pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan long has declared his intention to restore the Ottoman Empire.

Time magazine notes Erdogan has been tightening “his grip on social media freedom” and even is considering pulling Turkey out of what “is known, now farcically, as the 2011 Istanbul Convention, a treaty of the Council of Europe that commits countries to protecting women from domestic violence.”

There is truth in Erdogan’s well-known attempts to “resurrect” the Ottoman Empire “or to style himself a sultan,” Time said.

Now, the Middle East Media Research Institute says Erdogan has moved beyond his previous stance.

Erdogan has declared there is “no power” that can stand in his way.

“We will not hesitate to sacrifice martyrs in this fight – are the people of Greece, France, certain North African and Gulf countries prepared to make such sacrifices?”

Erdogan’s remarks came in a recent speech in Ankara.

The Turkish leader said his country is not a society with an army, but a “nation that is an army within itself.”

He warned his nation’s “enemies” that he will “not hesitate to sacrifice martyrs.”

He charged Greece, France, North Africa and the Gulf countries have “greedy and incompetent leaders,” claiming that Turkey never colonized; it was “a civilization” that conquered.

“When we combine our technological superiority, our fully developed human resources, and our spiritual power … with Allah’s permission, there is no power that can stand in the way of this country,” he said.

He told his enemies, “Bring it on.”

“Everyone who would stand against us on land, at sea, and in the air has seen Turkey’s legitimacy and its determination in protecting its rights, interests, and capabilities based on international law. Be sure that those who have not seen it will face this reality in the field, at the diplomatic table, and in international platforms. We do not run away from a fight. We will not hesitate to sacrifice martyrs and wounded people in this fight. For our independence and our future, we will not hold back from roaring all together as 83 million people, and running over the dams that get in our way, like a flood.”

He said the people of North Africa and the Gulf region “are eyeing Turkey’s democracy, constitutional state, and regional interests – do they realize that this process will turn around and harm them?

“Throughout its history, Turkey has never been an aggressive country. The Turkish nation is one of the rare peoples that does not have the stain of colonialism in its past. Certainly, our civilization is one of conquest, but our understanding of conquest is not based on taking control of underground and aboveground riches along with land. On the contrary, our understanding of conquest is first the conquest of hearts.

“Throughout the world, and particularly in Europe, we are in a period in which xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Turkishness, and discrimination are on the rise. Despite this, the fact that Turkey is being brought to the forefront of every negative subject is not a vulnerability of our nation. Rather, it is a sign of the fascism and animosity in the back of their minds.”

Time reported Erdogan is modeling himself after the Ottoman Empire’s ninth sultan, Selim I, who saw “during his lifetime that the Ottoman Empire grew from a strong regional power to a gargantuan global empire.”

The article said: “We should be wary of Erdogan’s embrace of Selim’s exclusionary vision of Turkish political power. It represents a historical example of strongman politics that led to regional wars, the attempted annihilation of religious minorities, and the monopolization of global economic resources. In addition to his attempts to monopolize natural gas reserves around Turkey, today this takes the form of Erdogan’s foreign military ventures in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. At home, he has gone after Turkey’s Shiite community, Kurds, intellectuals, Christians, journalists, women, and leftists. Erdogan cultivates his own Sunni religiosity to position Islam at the center of Turkey’s domestic agenda, with the church conversions the most potent recent symbols of this. Erdogan’s represents a political logic of zero-sum competition that pits Turkey against Saudi Arabia and Iran for control of the region and over claims of global Islamic leadership.

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Power-Hungry Turkey May Push the Eastern Mediterranean Into an Armed Conflict

Erdogan appears to feel that his aggressive policies, which include lunging after energy resources and are reminiscent of Ottoman behavior, have broad domestic support.

by Yaakov Amidror

Heightening tensions over energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, which recently led to a collision between Greek and Turkish warships, have cast renewed attention on Turkey’s aggressive regional policy.

The country hosts senior Hamas operatives and allows them to plot terrorist attacks against Israel from Istanbul. It sent troops to Qatar after Doha was accused of supporting terrorism by Arab countries and blockaded. It attacked Kurds in Syria who helped the United States fight ISIS. And it threatened to cut ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the recently announced peace deal with Israel—even though Turkey has an embassy in Tel Aviv.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has extended this belligerent approach to the Mediterranean, sending soldiers to war-torn Libya and tipping the scales in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced Government of National Accord (GNA), which is fighting the Egypt and UAE-backed Libyan National Army. He reached a maritime agreement with the GNA to delimit their exclusive economic zones (EEZ), which utterly ignored the rights of Cyprus and Greece—the latter of which is Turkey’s NATO ally.

Both countries are threatened by Turkey’s attempts to turn swaths of the Mediterranean into the Turkish Sea. Ankara is using this dubious deal to legitimize energy explorations in areas that, by any measure of international maritime law, are Greek and Cypriot economic waters, and is threatening to use its navy against anyone who tries to intervene—even though this would be a gross violation of international law. to

This situation is made possible by the weakness of the European Union, which is unable to act unanimously even when member states are confronted by a hostile neighbor and the United States fails to exert its influence. Erdogan has learned that the use of force pays off unless the other side is willing to respond with greater force—like Israel, for example.

What motivates Turkey? While the country is recovering relatively well from the coronavirus pandemic, it continues suffering from an ongoing economic crisis. Erdogan appears to feel that his aggressive policies, which are reminiscent of Ottoman behavior, have broad domestic support. He seems to sense the weakness of other powers in the region, especially the EU, and he wants to expand his country’s influence at the expense of others in the Mediterranean—which, without U.S. backing, are left largely defenseless.

The massive intervention of the Turkish army in Libya poses an immediate threat to Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Erdogan has become the informal leader, is the regime’s biggest enemy. There is also real disdain for the Turks in Egypt, which was once under Ottoman rule, and tensions between the parties were acute even before the latest developments. Egypt has thus far refrained from sending troops to counter Turkish influence in Libya, in part due to its current dispute with Ethiopia over the Nile River. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi must decide what  endangers him more and act accordingly.

Aside from a recent statement in support of Greece, Israel has so far not been involved in either conflict. Libya is far from Israel, and Turkey does not threaten to infringe on Israel’s EEZ in the Mediterranean. Turkey’s claims overlap those of Greece and Cyprus. The friction between Israel and Turkey these days concerns Ankara’s support for Hamas, as well as its efforts to gain influence among Palestinians by investing in eastern Jerusalem. When Erdoğan turned the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, there was talk that the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem was next in line to be liberated—but Turkey has been wary of using force in the Israeli context since the 2010 Mavi Marmara fiasco.

However, Israel has clear plans to connect to Europe via a gas pipeline and power cable that are supposed to pass through Cyprus. Will Turkey try to interfere with these projects, on the basis that they cut into the EEZ that Ankara established with the support of the GNA? That would be a Turkish invitation to a military confrontation with Israel, which will not hesitate to defend its vital interests in the Mediterranean.

Regardless, it seems that the eastern Mediterranean may degenerate into an armed conflict with or without Jerusalem’s involvement—an unfortunate reality made possible by European incompetence, American indifference, and unrelenting Turkish aggression.

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Moscow is eyeing a possible military base along the oil-rich shores of Libya. China is seeking investment deals across the region. Turkey is clashing with NATO partner Greece over drilling rights and militarized islands. Newly discovered offshore natural gas deposits have nations scrambling to stake their claims. Even the Trump administration on Wednesday partially lifted an arms embargo with Cyprus in what was widely interpreted as a shot across Turkey’s bow. Analysts generally agree that NATO is failing to ease regional tensions.

by Geoffrey Grider September 4, 2020

The Mediterranean — an on-again, off-again geopolitical hot spot since before the pyramids were built — is emerging anew as a sea of division and instability, with powers including Russia, China, Turkey and Israel jostling aggressively for influence, natural resources and military advantage.


In your King James Bible, we see the term ‘great sea’ mentioned 13 times, and it is referring to, of course, the massive Mediterranean ocean. Scripture also tell us that the full size of the land God gave to Abraham borders on the Mediterranean, and Daniel further tells us that this is where the 4 beasts who are political end times kings originate from. This is referring to nations that will rise to power in the time of Jacob’s trouble. So is it any wonder that right now we are seeing many key players from end times prophecy all trying to take control of the region?

“Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. These great beasts, which are four, are four kingswhich shall arise out of the earth.” Daniel 7:2-4,17 (KJB)

When we understand the role of the Mediterranean ocean in bible prophecy, and we look around and see who the players are – Russia, Turkey, China, Greece, Israel – we understand that we are on the cusp of Ezekiel 39. In that chapter, we read about the nations of the world that will come against Israel in the time of the great Tribulation. So if we are as close as we think we are, then all the key players would be busy preparing themselves to fulfill end times bible prophecy. They absolutely are, and it is a joy to watch. Flight #777 on Titus213 Airlines…last boarding call.

Sea of troubles: Tensions flare across Mediterranean as world powers jockey for power

FROM WASHINGTON TIMES: Moscow is eyeing a possible military base along the oil-rich shores of Libya. China is seeking investment deals across the region. Turkey is clashing with NATO partner Greece over drilling rights and militarized islands. Newly discovered offshore natural gas deposits have nations scrambling to stake their claims. Even the Trump administration on Wednesday partially lifted an arms embargo with Cyprus in what was widely interpreted as a shot across Turkey’s bow.

Analysts generally agree that NATO is failing to ease regional tensions. The U.S., despite multiple interests, lacks leverage in many of the disputes, with President Trump accelerating a U.S. pullback begun under President Obama that opened a power vacuum that others are now scrambling to fill.

While a range of unsavory players are making moves — Iran, Hezbollah and the Islamic State are among those seeking to exploit the situation — many in Europe and Washington are pointing the finger at Turkey for escalating the crisis by threatening to use force to take possession of natural gas finds beneath a string of Mediterranean islands that most in Europe say belongs to Greece.

The two NATO member states are now locked in a dangerous maritime standoff that is shaking the alliance to its core, with mediation attempts by Germany and others in the European Union so far going nowhere while the Trump administration warily monitors the situation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that Mr. Trump has held private discussions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and that the White House is “urging everyone to stand down.”

Mr. Pompeo also sought to downplay the appearance of serious U.S. engagement, asserting that the administration’s decision to lift a 33-year arms embargo on nearby Cyprus — a move that triggered outrage in Turkey — was something U.S. officials had been working on “for an awfully long time.”

The current TurkeyGreece standoff was sparked weeks ago when Ankara sent a research ship accompanied by Turkish warships to search for energy reserves off Greece’s coast. It has since seen the two engage in competing military exercises at sea — exercises that came dangerously close to devolving into an all-out clash in mid-August when a Turkish and a Greek warship collided.

Dangerous as the standoff has become, analysts say it is just the latest in a pattern of incendiary developments unfolding on a fabled body of water in which it is no longer clear who’s in charge.

“The broader story here has to do with this growing U.S. isolationism and disengagement from the region at large,” said Aykan Erdemir, a former opposition member of Turkish parliament now serving as a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among a slate of actors trying to take advantage of the vacuum created by U.S. disengagement from the Middle East, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean,” Mr. Erdemir said in an interview this week.

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He will be a wild ass of a man Genesis 16:12 (The Israel BibleTM)

by David Sidman | Aug 17, 2020 | Middle East

The chief of Iran’s armed forces, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, said on Sunday that his country’s approach to the United Arab Emirates would shift because of the UAE’s normalization agreement with Israel.

“Definitely, the Iranian nation’s attitude towards this neighboring state [UAE] will change fundamentally, and the Islamic Republic’s armed forces will also deal with that country with different calculations,” said Bagheri, according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.

Iranian parliament speaker Baqer Qalibaf said on Sunday that friendship with Israel was treason against the Islamic world, Tasnim reported. A day earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani harshly criticized the UAE over its Aug. 13 announcement.

“These days we have faced a neighboring country which has approached the enemy of the Islamic world and the region and the murderer of the Palestinian nation in a decision to get close to the Zionist regime,” said Rouhani, according to Iran’s Fars news agency. “[The UAE’s] measure is one hundred percent wrong and condemned,” he added.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that the normalization agreement was intolerable, and that Turkey may suspend diplomatic ties with the UAE and withdraw its ambassador. “The move against Palestine is not a step that can be stomached. Now, Palestine is either closing or withdrawing its embassy. The same thing is valid for us now,” said Erdoğan, reported Reuters. He added that he had given orders to his foreign minister regarding the matter, according to the report. “I told him we may also take a step in the direction of suspending diplomatic ties with the Abu Dhabi leadership or pulling back our ambassador,” he said.

Turkey maintains diplomatic relations with Israel, but the ties are tense as the Islamist Turkish president pursues a foreign policy at odds with Israel and supports radical movements throughout the region.

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Did The “Mushroom Cloud” Explosion In Beirut Just Push The Middle East Closer To A Major War?

August 4, 2020 by Michael Snyder

2020 just keeps getting weirder.  On Tuesday, an absolutely massive explosion caused a red mushroom cloud to rise high over the city of Beirut, Lebanon.  It is being called “Beirut’s Hiroshima”, and the blast was heard as far away as Cyprus.  You can watch a two minute compilation that contains video clips of the explosion from several different angles right here.  It appears that the shockwave did even more damage than the initial explosion did, and at this hour a large portion of the city of Beirut lies in ruins.  Dozens are dead, thousands are injured, and the entire city is now in a state of complete chaos

Two enormous explosions devastated Beirut’s port on Tuesday, leaving at least 73 people dead and thousands injured, shaking distant buildings and spreading panic and chaos across the Lebanese capital.

The second blast sent an enormous orange fireball into the sky, flattened the harbourside and drove a tornado-like shockwave through the city, shattering windows kilometres (miles) away.

It is being reported that Beirut’s port “is totally destroyed”, and this comes at a really bad time because Lebanon is already in the midst of an epic economic collapse.

In recent months, we have become accustomed to hearing about “mystery explosions” all over the Middle East, and many believe that those mystery explosions indicate that the region is on the brink of a full-blown war.

But this incident was different.  A large section of the capital of Lebanon has been flattened, and many eyewitnesses are comparing the blast to a nuclear explosion.  Here is one example

“It was like an atomic bomb,” said Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired schoolteacher in her mid-70s who has lived near the port for decades.

“I’ve experienced everything, but nothing like this before,” even during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, she said. “All the buildings around here have collapsed.”

And even Beirut Governor Marwan Aboud brought up “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki” when asked about the explosion

“This reminds me of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” said Beirut Governor Marwan Aboud. “I have never seen such widespread destruction. This is a national catastrophe. This is a disaster for Lebanon. We’re already living through days where we can barely keep going.”

“And now this…I don’t know how we’re going to recover from this,” Aboud told Sky News, before bursting into tears.

Immediately after this happened, a lot of people began wondering if this was an Israeli attack, but that does not appear to be the case.

One unnamed Israeli government official told AFP that “Israel had nothing to do with the incident”, and Benny Gantz has actually offered to send humanitarian aid to Beirut…

Offers of aid also came from bitter rivals Israel, with which it is still technically at war. Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, on behalf of the State of Israel, have offered the Lebanese government – via international intermediaries – medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance,’ said a joint statement from the two ministries.

If Israel really had been behind this attack, I seriously doubt that they would be offering to patch up their enemies.

And this isn’t Israel’s style either.  The Israelis prefer surgical strikes that avoid civilian casualties as much as possible, and this explosion definitely does not fit that profile.

Instead, it appears that this was some sort of deeply tragic accident.  Lebanese officials have admitted that 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in the unit that exploded, and that amount of ammonium nitrate can definitely produce the sort of explosion that we just witnessed

Lebanon’s interior minister said ammonium nitrate had been stored in the unit since 2014, with experts agreeing that the chemical would cause the red plume of smoke which burst up from the blast.

Local media are reporting that 2,700 tonnes of the chemical exploded, which scientists making initial calculations said was about three kilotonnes of TNT – roughly a fifth of the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in the Second World War.

But Donald Trump is apparently not buying that explanation.  He told the press that the explosion “was an attack” and that it was caused by “a bomb of some kind”…

At least 60 people were killed and thousands were wounded in an explosion that caused widespread damage in the Lebanese capital. Trump said he had been briefed by “our great generals” and that they “seem to feel” that the explosion was not an accident.

“According to them – they would know better than I would – but they seem to think it was an attack,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “It was a bomb of some kind.”

If this really was an attack, the Lebanese are going to want revenge, because a substantial portion of their capital city has been absolutely decimated.

And needless to say, there are already voices all over the Middle East that are eagerly pointing a finger of blame at Israel and are calling for war.

But unlike the “mystery explosions” that have been happening in Iran, the evidence does not indicate that Israel had anything to do with this great tragedy.

Unfortunately, a lot of people out there are going to jump to their own conclusions, and many of those that hate Israel will use this as another justification to call for armed conflict.

Over the past couple of years, there have been so many moments when it seemed like a major war could break out at any time in the Middle East.  And here in 2020, tensions are running higher than ever.  The IDF has been regularly hitting Iranian and Hezbollah targets all over the region, and we just witnessed a harrowing confrontation on the Syrian border.

It appears that it is just a matter of time before a huge war erupts in the Middle East, and it certainly isn’t going to take much to trigger one. So could this explosion push the region over the edge?

Let us hope not, but without a doubt this blast is not going to help matters.

The devastation that we just witnessed has caused great pain and anger in Lebanon, and terror groups such as Hezbollah will inevitably try to channel all of that pain and anger in a way that furthers their ultimate goals.

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A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday and a tall plume of smoke could be seen from a distance. The explosion took place at the Beirut Port. According to Lebanese media, ambulances were transporting dozens of injured people to local hospitals. Multiple videos from the area showed a plume of smoke rising from near the coastline and then a large blast and shockwave. Nearby buildings were damaged in the blast. The Daily Star newspaper, for example, released a video from its offices showing extensive damage. 

by Geoffrey Grider August 4, 2020

Video and pictures from the scene showed windows blown out and debris strewn in shops and offices in the Hamra neighborhood of Beirut. The IDF has been on high alert in the North ever since Hezbollah operatives tried crossing into Israel last week.


Even though early reports coming out of Lebanon are calling this an ‘accident’, the timing of this explosion is highly suspect to say the least. For the past 6 weeks or so, Israel has been relentlessly bombing targets in Iran and Syria, due to an increase in terrorist activity coming from those areas. As recently as just yesterday, the IDF made air strikes on Iranian targets near Damascus.

When you look at the video of the explosion in Beirut, it was multiple explosions actually, it does not appear to be something that was accidental. It looks like a strategic air strike, the only question is why. If it does turn out to be from Israel, this could well lead to a fresh outbreak in hostilities in the Middle East.

Massive explosion rocks Beirut Port causing damage to nearby buildings

FROM THE JERUSALEM POST: A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday and a tall plume of smoke could be seen from a distance. The explosion took place at the Beirut Port. According to Lebanese media, ambulances were transporting dozens of injured people to local hospitals.

Multiple videos from the area showed a plume of smoke rising from near the coastline and then a large blast and shockwave. Nearby buildings were damaged in the blast. The Daily Star newspaper, for example, released a video from its offices showing extensive damage.

Massive explosion rocks Beirut Port causing damage to nearby buildings as Israel goes on high alert after strikes on Syria and Iran in recent weeks.

The source of the explosion was unclear. LBCI Lebanon News claimed that a fire had broken out at the port and then triggered an explosion of a nearby warehouse storing fireworks.

According to the Daily Star, two explosions were reported, one at the port and another near the former home of the late Lebanese president Rafik Hariri, who was killed 15 years ago in a Hezbollah-Iranian attack.

Video and pictures from the scene showed windows blown out and debris strewn in shops and offices in the Hamra neighborhood of Beirut. The IDF has been on high alert in the North ever since Hezbollah operatives tried crossing into Israel last week. Late Monday night, the IDF struck multiple targets throughout Syria in response to an attempt by a terror cell in Syria to plant an explosive device along the border fence with Israel.

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Lebanon is sliding into the abyss of a “failed state”

 Aug 4, 2020 @ 11:02 Economic collapseHizballahLebanon failed stateSaudi Arabia

When he quit as Lebanon’s foreign minister on Monday, July 3, Nasser Hitti said his country was close to becoming a “failed state” due to “conflicting interests” and its weakened ties with the “Arab community” – a dig at the Shiite Hizballah’s iron fist on government as Iran’s tool.

Lebanon’s woes are the result of a compendium of troubles: a cold shoulder from oil-rich Sunni Arab friends, a collapsed economy, popular discontent that transcends sectarian divides, government corruption and ineptitude, and the disastrous spinoff from the Syrian civil war – all aggravated by the coronavirus outbreak. Last year, as Lebanon plunged deep into debt, Hizballah fighters came marching home from a successful campaign on Iran’s behalf in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah, riding high, deepened his grip on government and parliament, after forging an alliance with President Michel Aoun.

Lebanon’s formerly strong ties with Arab nations were soon derailed, especially with Saudi Arabia. They bitterly resent the Iranian Lebanese proxy’s growing role in furthering Tehran’s ambitions in its country and region and interference in its conflicts.

Hizballah’s increased clout in Beirut also tipped the scales of the fragile power-sharing arrangement among the country’s three main sects, based on a Christian president, a Sunni Muslim prime minster and a Shiite Muslim Parliament Speaker. They form the elite which maneuvers tirelessly for the high ground in Beirut and plum jobs for their cronies.

Not long ago, Beirut was the free-and-easy playground of well-heeled Arabs who kept the town buzzing and its banks swimming in abundant dollars. Today, Lebanon’s public debt-to-gross domestic product is the third highest in the world, unemployment is rife and a third of the population had sunk to below the poverty line. Transfers have dried up from the large Lebanese diaspora. The drop in remittances from Gulf-based Lebanese nationals and decline in oil prices keep on pushing Lebanon further into debt and widening the gap between the Lebanese pound and the dollar in a thriving black market.

The country’s weakness is further exacerbated by the added burden of 1,5 million Syrian displaced refugees displaced to Lebanon at the height of the war.

Furious protests starting last year over the breakdown of basic services – power cuts, shortages of clean water and public healthcare – spilled over in October when the government levied a tax on tobacco, petrol and the Whatsapp messaging service. This plan was scrapped but the protests continued against the ruling elite, which continues to be blamed for feathering their nests while failing to carry out essential reforms. Tens of thousands of angry Lebanese forced the Western-backed Sunni prime minister Saad Hariri to resign and his unity government to fall, bringing the country to a standstill.

The protesters will not have forgotten or forgiven Hizballah goons for wielding sticks to break up their demonstrations last year.

The current Prime Minister Hassan Diab subsequently announced that Lebanon would default on its foreign debt for the first time in its history, saying its foreign currency reserves had hit a “critical and dangerous” level and that those remaining were needed to pay for vital imports.

By the time the coronavirus restrictions began to be lifted in May, the prices of some foodstuffs had doubled, and Lebanon was at risk of a major food crisis. At a time of hyperinflation, meat, fruits and vegetables have become unattainable luxuries for most Lebanese; some can’t even buy bread. Hours after Hitti resigned, President Michel Aoun and Diab signed a decree appointing Charbel Wehbe as the new foreign minister.

Hitti’s resignation was the biggest blow yet to Diab’s six-month-old government, which has struggled to make good on promises to implement wide-ranging reforms following the massive anti-establishment protests last year.  Diab’s cabinet has already seen two high-profile resignations from a team negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout. Both had cited the same lack of will to reform due to the interests of the country’s political-financial elite.

Hitti’s prediction that “If they don’t’ come together, then the ship will sink with everyone aboard.” is close to being realized. “Everyone” also includes Hizballah, whose response to this dire fate is keenly watched from neighboring Israel.

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The China-Iran Deal: A Trial Balloon with a Clear Message

By Dr. James M. Dorsey July 22, 2020


BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,655, July 22, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Hobbled by harsh US sanctions and a global economic downturn, Iran has discovered a new weapon: hot air in the form of a cooperation deal with China that carries messages to its opponents. China, albeit far less economically impaired, sees virtue in this arrangement too.

A proposed 25-year humongous China-Iran cooperation deal has proven to be good business. Reams of articles, analyses, and commentary by pundits are ensuring that the two countries’ messages are delivered loud and clear.

Beijing and Tehran have provided evidence to keep the story alive: Numerous agreements signed by Presidents Xi Jinping and Hassan Rouhani during the Chinese leader’s visit to the Middle East in 2016 would, if implemented, expand economic relations between the two countries by a factor of 10 to $600 billion and significantly enhance military cooperation.

Those agreements, which signaled a potential Chinese tilt toward Iran, were concluded at a time when a significant easing of US sanctions against Iran was anticipated as part of the 2015 international agreement, which curbed Iran’s nuclear program.

Those hopes were dashed when President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed crippling sanctions. China has since by and large abided by the US restrictions.

Iran appeared this month to put flesh on the skeleton of a Beijing-Tehran deal by leaking a purported final draft of a sweeping 25-year partnership agreement that envisions up to $400 billion in Chinese investment to develop Iran’s oil, gas, and transportation sectors. The problem is that there is nothing final about the draft. It is little more than a trial balloon.

That is just fine as far as Tehran and Beijing are concerned, even if both would like to cooperate on a far grander scale if geopolitical circumstances permitted it. For now, there remains a long negotiation path to the conclusion of an agreement. It is certainly not yet ready for implementation.

That does not mean that there is no upside to be had immediately, however.

By fueling talk of an imminent agreement, Iran is signaling Europe and a potential Biden administration after the US November presidential election, American and European policies might drive the Islamic Republic into Beijing’s arms. It also allowed Iran to take a swipe at Saudi Arabia by suggesting that when the chips are down, it will be Tehran, not Riyadh, to which China will turn.

China capitalized on Iran’s hot air by amplifying its messages toward the US and the kingdom. Officially, China limited itself to a non-committal on-the-record reaction and low-key semi-official commentary.

FM spokesman Zhao Lijian, an exponent of China’s newly adopted more assertive approach to diplomacy, was exceptionally tactful in his comment. “China and Iran enjoy traditional friendship, and the two sides have been in communication on the development of bilateral relations. We stand ready to work with Iran to steadily advance practical cooperation,” Zhao said.

Writing in the Shanghai Observer, a secondary Communist party newspaper, Middle East scholar Fan Hongda argued that an agreement, though nowhere close to implementation, highlights “an important moment of development” at a time when US-Chinese tensions have allowed Beijing to pay less heed to American policies.

In saying this, Fan was echoing China’s warning that the US was putting much at risk by ratcheting up tensions between the world’s two largest economies and could push China to the point where it no longer regards the potential cost of countering US policy as prohibitively high.

China’s response also amplified its message to the Gulf States. Scholars with close ties to the government have suggested that the economic downturn, which affects China’s economic ties to the region, could persuade Beijing to further limit its exposure if the Gulf States fail to find a way to come to grips with Iran in a way that would dial down tensions.

“For China, the Middle East is always on the very distant backburner of China’s strategic global strategies … COVID-19, combined with the oil price crisis, will dramatically change the Middle East. [This] will change China’s investment model in the Middle East,” said Niu Xinchun, director of Middle East Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), widely regarded as China’s most influential think tank.

In July, in an interesting twist that could signal China’s appetite to play the Iranian card soon, Iran dropped India as a partner in the development of a rail line from its Indian-backed deep-sea port of Chabahar because of delays in Indian funding. The Trump administration had exempted Chabahar from its sanctions regime.

Iranian transport and urban development minister Muhammad Eslami recently inaugurated the track-laying for the first 628 kilometers of the line, which will ultimately link Chabahar to Afghanistan. Iranian officials said Tehran would fund the rail line itself, but both China and Iran have expressed an interest in linking Chabahar to Gwadar, the Chinese-backed Arabian Sea port, some 70 kilometers down the coast in Pakistan. The economic downturn as a result of the pandemic has revived doubts about the viability of Gwadar, a crown jewel of the approximately $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China’s single largest BRI-related investment.

In an indication that the US does not see a potentially game-changing China-Iran deal as imminent, the Trump administration has stuck to its long-standing policy so far.

“The United States will continue to impose costs on Chinese companies that aid Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” said a US State Department spokesperson.

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At least 7 Iranian ships in flames at Bushehr port. New US warning

 Jul 15, 2020 @ 16:46 7 Iranian ships on fireUS Gen. Kenneth McKenzie

The types of the seven vessels on fire on Wednesday, July 15, and what caused the blazes were not revealed in the first official report from Tehran. The incident followed a string of mysterious explosions at Iran’s nuclear, military and missile production sites ongoing since late June.

DEBKAfile: If this suspected campaign of sabotage has been extended to encompass Iran’s navy, it would be a serious escalation, amounting to a threat to Iran’s claim to control the Persian Gulf and its waters.

Bushehr province is also home to Iran’s only nuclear power plant.

A day earlier, on Tuesday, US Central Command Chef Gen. Kenneth McKenzie warned Tehran that “any malign activities in the Gulf would bear a high cost.” In an interview sponsored by the State Department, he reminded Iran of “the events of January” when a US drone killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. “So we are postured and will continue to be postured in the region, working closely with all our partners, all our friends n the region, to ensure that we’re ready and Iran sees very clearly what would be the high cost of any malign activity on their part,” the US Centcom chief stressed.

The general was asked if the Iranian regime was truly deterred by the killing of Soleimani or whether, before making its move, it was waiting out the upcoming UN Security Council vote on extending the arms embargo or the US presidential election. He replied that Washington had established “red lines” that might not have been visible before. The UN vote was a factor, he said, adding “But to be honest with you, it’s very hard to know and understand exactly what Iran’s thinking is.”

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