Jerusalem on November 18, 2020. Photo by Menahem Kahana/POOL
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held secret talks in Saudi Arabia on Sunday with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli media reported on Monday. The trip would be the first of its kind by an Israeli premier to the Gulf State.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited Israel (including Judea and Samaria) last week, also reportedly attended the meeting. Israel’s public broadcaster Kann’s diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid reported. Mossad chief Yossi Cohen accompanied Netanyahu as well.
The journalist cited anonymous Israeli officials quoting them as saying that Netanyahu as well as the head of the Mossad spy agency, Yossi Cohen “flew yesterday to Saudi Arabia, and met Pompeo and MBS (Prince Mohammed bin Salman) in the city of Neom,”
Oddly, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi were not informed of the meeting. This could possibly be because Gantz has been accused of being compromised by Iran who reportedly hacked into his phone and discovered incriminating material.
Several other Israeli media outlets reported similar information on Monday as well.
Netanyahu’s office did not confirm nor deny the reports. The meeting comes following Israel agreeing to forge historic accords to normalize ties with two Saudi Arabian allies in the Gulf – Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Like its Biblical archetype, a massive swarm of locusts has engulfed Ethiopia as a harbinger of an Exodus of Jews and a group of Israeli experts step in to help as a graphic reminder of the Biblical connection between Israel and the modern country of Sheba.
ISRAELI EXPERTS CALLED TO HELP WITH ETHIOPIAN LOCUST CRISIS
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed requested help from Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabi Ashkenazi, in coping with a massive swarm of locusts plaguing his country. The Embassy of Israel in Addis Ababa is now leading the operation run by Yoav Mortro, Israel’s top locust expert, in coordination with the authorities in Ethiopia. The Israeli team is comprised of four experts, a logistics officer, drone pilot and scout, and spraying expert. The Israeli team arrived last week and plans on spending two weeks in the country, training 300 Ethiopians in fighting the locusts. The Israeli task force brought with it more than 2 tons of equipment including 27 drones and other advanced equipment that will be handed over to the Ethiopian authorities at the conclusion of the operation. The Israeli strategy for coping with the locusts involves using drones to remotely monitor the location and movements of the swarms and then spraying insecticide at night.
“The better thing as the experts told us is that it is possible to work at night; as locust is cold-blooded and sleeps at night it is efficient to fight the locusts at night. The experts will train over 300 persons at the locust affected fields,” Agriculture Minister Oumer Hussien told the Ethiopian News Agency.
Recent reports claim that the infestation has destroyed crops in over 900,000 acres of farmland belonging to half a million farmers since July in what authorities called the worst in 25 years. In addition to the locusts, flooding destroyed another 90,000 acres of farmland, displacing some 64,630 people. TO make matters worse, Ethiopia is being ravaged by a civil war in the north.
Swarms are often tens of square kilometers in size. A swarm of just one square kilometer eats the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. The swarms also can travel 93 miles a day making efforts to control an outbreak even more difficult. Officials warned that further rains in the region could lead to an even larger outbreak.
About 600,000 people in the region depend on food assistance, while another million people receive other forms of support, all of which are now disrupted, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report released on 7 November.
Lesser swarms have been reported in Kenya, as well as smaller ones in Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia. Yemen, also wartorn, is struggling with an outbreak of locusts.
Desert locusts are always present in the region but are typically solitary. Favorable breeding conditions generate swarms and their behavior changes as they form groups that can be miles long and contain a billion individuals. Last year, locusts destroyed 350,000 tons of grain and more than 3 million acres of pasture in Ethiopia.
Locusts invaded all the land of Egypt and settled within all the territory of Egypt in a thick mass; never before had there been so many, nor will there ever be so many again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Exodus 10:14-15
Like its Biblical precedent in Egypt, this plague of locusts comes in time to precede an Exodus of Jews from Ethiopia. Last month, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss deepening the ties between their two countries. In the course of the conversation, Netanyahu expressed his desire to immediately bring to Israel some 2,000 Ethiopian Jews currently in Addis Ababa and Gondar waiting to immigrate. The plan is expected to cost Israel $109 million.
Approximately 13,000 Jews currently reside in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and in Gondar in the northern part of the African country. About 9,000 of the Ethiopian Jews have been waiting for 15 or more years to immigrate. Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the situation. In 1991, Israel airlifted some 14,500 Jews out of Ethiopia in less than two days as part of Operation Solomon. About 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel today.
The connection between the two countries goes far deeper than a telephone call between two heads of state. According to Ethiopian legend recorded in the Kebra Nagast (Glory of the Kings), the Ethiopian national saga translated from Arabic, Menelik I, from whom the Ethiopian dynasty claims descent to the present day, was the son of Makeda, the Ethiopic name for the queen of Sheba, and King Solomon.
According to Jewish tradition, the ten-plagues will reappear before the Messiah. Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, explained this aspect of the Messianic process to Israel365 News, quoting the Prophet Micah.
I will show him wondrous deeds As in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt. Micah 7:15
“All of the miracles will reappear, all of the plagues, the entire story, in all its pain and all its glory,” Rabbi Berger said. “Our job in this generation is to speak about it, to pray for it, even while it is unfolding in front of our eyes.”
By Aren Melikyan, Arzu Geybulla, Gul Tuysuz, Mary Ilyushina, Tim Lister and Ivana Kottasová, CNN
Updated 6:05 AM ET, Tue November 10, 2020
(CNN)Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced he had signed an “unspeakably painful agreement” with Russia and Azerbaijan to end the war over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh, just hours after Azerbaijan claimed it captured the region’s strategic city of Shusha.
“I have made a difficult, extremely difficult decision for personally me and all of us. I have signed a declaration with the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on stopping the war starting from 01:00 (local time),” Pashinyan said in a statement posted on his Facebook page early Tuesday.
After claiming earlier on Monday that the fight over Shusha was not over, Pashinyan said he made the decision to sign the agreement based on a deep analysis of the military situation and “on the conviction that in the existing situation this is the best possible outcome.“
Speaking after the agreement was announced, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said the deal would “return our territories without any further bloodshed.” He said all military operations in the region that sits in Azerbaijani territory but has been populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians have stopped.
“Today, I am signing this agreement with pride! Congratulations to the people of Azerbaijan!,” Aliyev added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian peacekeeping forces will be deployed along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and within the corridor that connects the region with Armenia.
He said the ceasefire deal stipulates the exchange of prisoners of war and bodies, according to the Russian official news agency, TASS. Russia neighbors Azerbaijan, but has a security alliance with Armenia. Moscow had tried to broker a ceasefire several times in the past few weeks, but each agreement fell apart within a short time.
Aliyev declared Sunday that his forces had taken Shusha, a city sometimes described as “the Jerusalem of Nagorno-Karabakh” for its religious significance.
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry released a video Monday showing the country’s flag flying on public buildings in the city, putting Azerbaijani forces mere miles from the regional capital Stepanakert. The video shows deserted streets and damaged buildings.
Later on Monday, Azerbaijan apologized for downing a Russian helicopter near the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, saying it was an accident.
Shusha — or Shushi as it’s known to Armenians — lies some 10 kilometers south of Stepanakert and is on higher ground, making the capital more vulnerable. It has already suffered regular rocket and missile attacks; many civilians fled towards Armenia over the weekend.
The first Armenian acknowledgement that Shusha had fallen came Monday from the spokesman for Nagorno-Karabakh’s presidency, Vahram Poghosyan. He posted on Facebook that the “city is completely out of our control and all kinds of encouraging or inspiring propaganda do[es] not give us anything besides losing the sense of reality.” Poghosyan added that “the enemy is in the vicinity of Stepanakert and now the existence of the capital city is threatened.”
Videos posted on social media Sunday showed convoys of cars heading away from Stepanakert, but reports from the city say many civilians remain there.
Hours after Azerbaijan’s defense ministry posted the Shusha video online, the Russian defense ministry said a Russian military helicopter was shot down over Armenia near the border with Azerbaijan.
The helicopter was downed using a portable surface-to-air missile, the ministry said, adding that two crew members were killed when the Mi-24 crashed in a mountainous area in Armenia and a third was taken to an airfield with injuries.
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry later issued a statement apologizing for the downing of the helicopter, which it said was an accident.
“The Azerbaijani side apologizes to the Russian side in connection with this tragic incident, which is accidental and was not directed against the Russian side,” the statement said. The statement went on to express Azerbaijan’s “sincere condolences” to the families of the Russian crew members and offered to pay compensation.
“The helicopter flight took place in close proximity to the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border, while active military clashes continue in the zone of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” the Azerbaijani statement said.
“The flight took place in the dark, at low altitude, outside the air defense radar detection zone. Russian Air Force helicopters have not been seen in the specified area before,” it added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a vocal supporter of Azerbaijan — told a rally in the Turkish city of Kocaeli on Sunday that “the liberation of Shusha also signals that liberation of remaining occupied territories is near.”
In a call with Putin on Saturday, Erdogan said Armenia must withdraw from the Azerbaijani lands under its occupation, according to a read-out of the call from the Turkish presidency.
The unrest in Nagorno-Karabakh dates back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the region, backed by Armenia, declared independence from Azerbaijan.
Shusha was captured by Armenian forces in 1992 and Nagorno-Karabakh established a de facto independence that is not recognized by most of the world. A 1994 ceasefire brought the violent conflict over the enclave to an end, but tensions continued to simmer.
Azerbaijan has long claimed it would retake the territory, which is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani. Tensions flared up again over the summer and escalated in September.
Both sides have reported dozens of civilian casualties since the conflict began in September.
Iran is in a fury over President Trump’s peace deals between three Islamic nations and the Middle East’s premiere democracy, Israel.
The mullah-led regime sees the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and the Jewish state as a direct threat, endangering its hegemony in the Persian Gulf, reports the Middle East Media Research Institute.
It’s also a “severe blow to Iran’s narrative of Islamic unity and Islamic values, and to the ideological messages of the Islamic revolutionary regime in Iran that claims to be the standard-bearer of the defense of the pure and correct Islam,” MEMRI said.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wrote in Twitter that the Muslim nations “will not tolerate any normalization with the Zionist regime.”
“The Americans are wrong if they think they can solve the problem of the region in this manner,” he said
Iranian President Hassan Rohani, during a meeting, blasted the Arab Gulf states.
“Sadly, there are countries in the region whose citizens are observant and faithful Muslims, [but] whose rulers do not understand the religion, do not heed its directives and do not implement them, [including] with respect to the Palestinian people, who are their brothers and speak their language,” he said. “They claim to be Arab. … Where is your [Arab] identity? What has happened to it? [The Israelis] are committing more and more crimes in Palestine every day. How can you reach out to Israel, which will later [lead to] giving it a base in this region? All the grave outcomes [of this agreement] will be on your head. You are the ones who are violating the rules and [endangering] the security of this region.”
The Trump administration went against precedent, bypassing the Palestinian issue and approaching the Arab nations directly.
The White House has said that several more nations are on the brink of agreements with Israel.
Any nation that follows the path of the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan will be seen as aiding and abetting “the enemy,” Israel, warned Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri
He said that “if the Zionists have a foothold here, and if even the smallest harm were to be caused to our national security and defense, we will view these countries as providing bases for the enemy, and we will respond the way we would respond towards any enemy.”
Ali Akbar Velayati, a Khamenei adviser, said the “enemies of the pure Islam and the hypocrites have once again removed the mask from their faces and evilly and deceptively declared their shame and their treason throughout the world.”
“The American strategists, who in the recent years have experienced numerous and ongoing defeats in the international arena, and especially in the Middle East, have no goal but to employ propaganda so as to achieve normalization between the region’s autocrats [and Israel] as a service to the Zionist lobby, in order to win [the Zionists’] votes in America’s presidential elections and save the prime minister of the wretched Zionist regime, whose position in the occupied territories [i.e., in Israel] is now very weak,” he said.
He accused the Arab nations normalizing relations with Israel of building their foundations on “the hollow promises of the Great Satan, the criminal America.”
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said any “threat” will be met “with a clear and direct response.”
And Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, an adviser to the Majlis speaker, said: “The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain are giving the Zionist Israelis a foothold in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. They must know that in this dangerous game, they are fanning the flames. The response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to maximally preserve its national security, and regional security… If even the smallest harm is caused to the Islamic Republic or its allies in the region, its response will not only be aimed at the Zionists. It will also be aimed at those who have given the Zionist regime a foothold in the region. The political and security arrangements in the region will not allow the Zionists to breathe a sigh of relief. This is a necessity for the maximal preservation of Iran’s national security…”
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said: “The hangman-ruler of Bahrain should await the bitter revenge of the fighters of Jerusalem, the fighters of the devout Islamic nation, against his country. The disgraceful act of [Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa] Aal Khalifa and of his regime, which is dependent [on America] the establishment of relations with the Zionist regime, against the will and aspirations of [his] country’s Muslim people is an act of great stupidity that is entirely illegitimate and will meet with appropriate responses.”
The IRGC, warning of a domino effect, called Trump the “hated and stupid American president.”
As the US election enters the home stretch, politicians and pundits in Israel are anticipating how the day after will look if either President Donald Trump, or Joe Biden is elected president.
In an interview with channel 13 News, Minister of Settlement Affairs Tzahi Hanegbi said that if President Biden were to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, it could ultimately precipitate an Israeli-Iranian war because “we will be forced to take action.”
Hanegbi, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and considered to be a close confidant of the prime minister, previously served as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Minister of Regional Cooperation. He is also considered to be a security expert.
Hangebi may be referring to Biden’s commitment to restart the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that his administration brokered when he was vice president under Barack Obama. This means that the economic sanctions imposed by President Trump could be thawed out under his leadership. That can translate into Tehran exporting over 2 million barrels of crude oil a day.
Netanyahu for his part addressed congress against the wishes of Obama to warn about the Nuclear deal with the Islamic republic which he called a “historic mistake.”
The sanctions imposed by Trump have managed to cripple the Iranian economy sending its currency, the rial, to 304,300 on the dollar. Many experts believe that it was precisely these sanctions that have prevented Iran from following through on their threats to wipe Israel off the map – a war that currently cannot afford.
But if the sanctions are indeed lifted under a potential Biden administration, that can all change. This could leave Israel no choice but to wage war on Tehran.
Charges global body ‘complicit’ in Islamic regime’s ‘malign behavior’
By WND Staff Published October 31, 2020 at 11:45am
The United Nations is ignoring Iran’s establishment of sleeper terrorist cells in the United States and other countries, a Middle East expert charges.
“By turning a blind eye to the Iranian regime’s terror activities in foreign countries and by refusing to open investigations or even condemn the mullahs, the United Nations is complicit in Iran’s malign behavior across the globe,” said Majid Rafizadeh, a business strategist and adviser, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review and president of the International American Council on the Middle East.
Former CIA officer Bryan Dean Wright said in the report there “unquestionably” are sleeper cells run by Iran in the U.S. and across Latin America.
But the U.N. hasn’t been addressing the clear threat, Rafizadeh said.
“Perhaps it is time for the U.S. to ‘pay for what it wants’ from the U.N., rather than automatically handing it billions, more than a fifth if its budget, every year — and to make sure America gets what it pays for?”
He explained that the objective of the Iranian regime’s terror cells is to “create fear in other nations through terrorism, subvert foreign governments and ultimately impose on the world an Islamist and Shariah system.”
As recently as last month, Saudi Arabia broke up an Iranian-trained cell, arrested 10 suspects and seized weapons and explosives, he noted.
“These included ‘electrical components used in the making of explosives such as capacitors, transformers and resistors, gunpowder, chemicals, Kalashnikov rifles, guns, sniper rifle, live ammunition, machine guns, blades, military clothes, and wireless communication devices.'”
Also, Bahrain’s Ministry of the Interior revealed last month that it foiled a terrorist attack earlier this year by a group backed by the IRGC. The group, called the Qassem Soleimani Brigade, had apparently planned to attack several security and public structures in Bahrain.
And Albanian authorities said they prevented an attack by an “active cell” through informants inside criminal organizations working on behalf of Iran.
Iran also has established terror cells in Africa “to attack Western targets,” he said.
“In 2018, the Iranian regime tried to orchestrate a terrorist operation in Europe: French officials foiled a planned bomb attack in Paris against a large ‘Free Iran’ convention held by people opposing the regime, and attended by many high-level speakers, including former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, as well as your humble correspondent.”
A normalization announcement between Israel and Saudi Arabia is close and there could be major developments following the US presidential elections depending on who wins, Mossad director Yossi Cohen has said in closed conversations, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning, N12 reported that Cohen had said privately to those around him that the Saudis were waiting until after the US election, but that they could potentially announce normalization as a “gift” to the winner.
The implication from the N12 report was that such an announcement could even come almost immediately after the election.
However, the Post has learned that the N12 report either misunderstood or did not fully flesh out what Cohen had said.
What Cohen actually said to those around him was that if US President Donald Trump wins reelection, there could be an almost immediate announcement.
Yet, if as the polls suggest, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the election, though the Saudis would still want a normalization deal with Israel, there would not necessarily be a clear timeline.
Cohen had emphasized that the Saudis did not want to give a gift to Trump and then get nothing for it upon a Biden administration taking over the reins.
Rather, Cohen understands that a Biden administration may want to link normalization with the Saudis to progress with negotiations with the Palestinians – the opposite tactic of the Trump administration which is trying to pressure the Palestinians to show flexibility in negotiations with Israel by moving ahead with normalization deals without them.
Further, Cohen would have acknowledged that the post-election situation in the US, especially if Biden is elected, would be far more uncertain regarding international relations in general, and that his estimate was based on knowing what the Saudis want and are ready for.
The normalization deal will also reportedly involve an arms deal between the US and Saudi Arabia, which could serve to cushion the move, Cohen said.
Normalized ties are something many in Israel and Saudi Arabia look forward to, with a recent poll by Zogby Research Services finding that nearly 80% of Saudis are in favor of working towards normalizing ties with Israel within the next five years.
This was reflective of another poll published by Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, which saw Saudi Arabia as the country with which most Israelis would like to next establish normalized ties.
In addition, it was also reported by N12 citing Israeli sources that US-mediated normalization talks between the Jewish state and Oman are close to achieving a breakthrough. In fact, these sources believe Oman is the most likely country to next normalize ties, though some believe Muscat will also take a more cautious approach and not sign anything until the election is over.
These announcements follow the ongoing wave of full relations being established between Israel and countries in the Arab world, with Sudan recently announcing a move towards normalization.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday there is no need for a Russia-China military alliance now, but noted it could be forged in the future.
Putin’s statement signaled deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing amid growing tensions in their relations with the United States. The Russian leader also made a strong call for extending the last remaining arms control pact between Moscow and Washington.
Asked during a video conference with international foreign policy experts Thursday whether a military union between Moscow and Beijing was possible, Putin replied that “we don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”
Russia and China have hailed their “strategic partnership,” but so far rejected any talk about the possibility of their forming a military alliance.
Putin pointed to the war games that the armed forces of China and Russia held as a signal of the countries’ burgeoning military cooperation.
Putin also noted that Russia has shared sensitive military technologies that helped significantly boost China’s military potential, but didn’t mention any specifics, saying the information was sensitive.
“Without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defense capability of China’s army,” he said, adding that the future could see even closer military ties between the two countries.
“The time will show how it will develop,” the Russian president said, adding that “we won’t exclude it.”
Russia has sought to develop stronger ties with China as its relations with the West sank to post-Cold War lows over Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other rifts.
Putin on Thursday emphasized the importance of extending the New START treaty that expires in February, Russia’s last arms control pact with the United States.
Earlier this week, the United States and Russia signaled their readiness to accept compromises to salvage the New START treaty just two weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential election in which President Donald Trump faces a strong challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, whose campaign has accused Trump of being soft on Russia.
New START was signed in 2010 by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.
Russia had offered to extend the pact without any conditions, while the Trump administration initially insisted that it could only be renewed if China agreed to join. China has refused to consider the idea. The U.S. recently modified its stance and proposed a one-year extension of the treaty, but said it must be coupled with the imposition of a broader cap on nuclear warheads.
The Kremlin initially resisted Washington’s demand, but its position shifted this week with the Russian Foreign Ministry stating that Moscow can accept a freeze on warheads if the U.S. agrees to put forward no additional demands.
Putin didn’t address the issue of the freeze on warheads, but he emphasized the importance of salvaging New START.
“The question is whether to keep the existing treaty as it is, begin a detailed discussion and try to reach a compromise in a year or lose that treaty altogether, leaving ourselves, Russia and the United States, along with the rest of the world, without any agreement restricting an arms race,” he said. “I believe the second option is much worse.”
At the same time, he added that Russia “wasn’t clinging to the treaty” and will ensure its security without it. He pointed at Russia’s perceived edge in hypersonic weapons and indicated a readiness to include them in a future pact.
“If our partners decide that they don’t need it, well, so be it, we can’t stop them,” he said. “Russia’
Despite indications earlier this week that Russia and the U.S. were inching closer to a deal on New START, the top Russian negotiator said that “dramatic” differences still remain and strongly warned Washington against making new demands.
Sergei Ryabkov cautioned the U.S. against pressing its demand for more intrusive control verification measures like those that existed in the 1990s and aren’t envisaged by the New START. The diplomat argued that new control mechanisms could be discussed as part of a future deal, saying firmly that Russia will not accept the demand that amounts to “legitimate espionage.”
“If it doesn’t suit the U.S. for some reason, then there will be no deal,” Ryabkov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
Following the end on the 18th of October of the 13-year United Nations’ embargo on Iran buying or selling weapons, the roll-out of the military component of the 25-year deal between China and Iran will begin in November, as exclusively revealed by Oil Price.com. After a series of meetings in China on the 9th and 10th of October between Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, and his China counterpart, Wang Yi, this military component may now also feature the deployment in Iran of North Korean weaponry and technology, in exchange for oil, according to sources very close to the Iranian government spoken to by OilPrice.com last week. Most notably this would include Hwasong-12 mobile ballistic missiles, with a range of 4,500 kilometres, and the development of liquid propellant rocket engines suitable for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or satellite launch vehicles (SLVs). This will all be part of a broader triangular relationship co-ordinated by Beijing and further facilitated by the imminent launch of a new digitised currency system by China.
This sort of co-ordination – between North Korea and Iran and also between North Korea, Iran, and China – is nothing new, although its resumption at such a scale and in such products is. According to a number of defence industry sources – and recorded in various ‘Jane’s Intelligence Reviews’ (JIR) – over the first five-year period from the onset of Iran’s ballistic missile program in 1987, Iran bought up to 300 Scud B missiles from North Korea. Pyongyang, though, did not just sell Iran weapons but it was also instrumental in helping Iran to build-out the infrastructure for what has become an extremely high-level ballistic missile program, beginning with the creation in Iran of a Scud B missile plant that became operational by the end of 1988. According to JIR and other defence sources, this early-stage co-operation in this area between North Korea and Iran also included Iranian personnel travelling to North Korea for training in the operation and manufacture of these missiles and the stationing of North Korean personnel in Iran during the build-out of missile plants. This model of knowledge and skills transference, of course, has been a key part of the 25-year deal between Iran and China since it was formally agreed back in 2016, including the training of up to 130 young, fast-tracked officers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) every year at various military institutions across mainland China. The simple idea of paying North Korea in oil is also far from new, having been a key method by which Iran helped to fund the development of North Korea’s more powerful Nodong series of missiles as early as the 1990s, according to Kenneth Katzman, Middle Eastern affairs specialist at the Congressional Research Service, in Washington. According to sources close to Iran’s Petroleum Ministry spoken to by OilPrice.com last week, oil shipments are the number one suggestion from North Korea to any country that has oil and wants weapons as a means of payment for any weaponry that Pyonyang has available.
The Hwasong-12, first revealed internationally in a military parade on 14 April 2017 celebrating the birthday anniversary of North Korea’s founding President, Kim Il-sung, is being made available to Iran in such a way and, from Tehran’s perspective, fits neatly into the delicate military strategy in which it is currently involved. This is founded on the fact that decades of various sanctions have left the Islamic Republic with a severely constrained ability to defend itself against attacks from hostile aircraft or missiles with its own air force, which leaves a massive standing army as the primary deterrent for land invasion and its own missile defence systems as the primary deterrent for aerial attacks. On the other hand, though, the Islamic Republic is aware that any major long-range missile attack on any foreign power allied with the U.S. will end in absolute disaster for it. As former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said: “The threat of committing suicide is a poor deterrent to being murdered.”
Consequently, Iran has consistently stated since 2017 – by order of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei – that it will limit itself to developing ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 2,000 kilometres. Clearly, the Hwasong-12 has a range of double this but, crucially from Iran’s political impact modelling undertaken over recent months, this is unlikely to make the existing relationship with the U.S. worse. “The U.S. wanted more specific prohibitions on ballistic missiles in a new JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] to be drawn up at the beginning of 2018 but that did not happen, so it withdrew,” said one of the Iran sources. “Iran believes that the next U.S. President, be it Trump or Biden, will want to do a deal to get some form of JCPOA back on track, so from that perspective being able to offer the withdrawal of the Hwasong-12s would be a useful negotiating tool,” he said. “At the same time, though, there is the threat that the Hwasong-12 IRBM [intermediate range ballistic missile] could be upgraded through the addition of an 80-ton thrust engine to either the Hwasong-14 [two-stage, 10,000 km range] or the Hwasong-15 [two rocket engines cluster in first stage, 13,000 km range] ICBMs,” he added.
This ‘upgrade’ would be regarded by the U.S. as a serious proposition, as there have been signals over the years that Iran might already have been working on such a higher-powered rocket booster configuration. According to a New York Times report from December 2011, the previous month had seen the destruction of a supposed development site in Iran for long-range solid-propellant missiles. “This was the first public indication that Iran was working on such systems, which would need much more energetic – and thus, explosive – propellants than used in Iran’s current Fateh-110-based solid-propellant short range ballistic missiles and Sejil medium range ballistic missiles, and press reports in May 2018 indicate that the program has continued at a new location where ICBM-class solid rocket motor production facilities and evidence of ground testing of ICBM-class motors have been detected in open source imagery,” said Robert Einhorn, senior fellow in the foreign policy program at Brookings Institution in Washington. He added that various sources since 2013 suggest Iran has been receiving cooperation from North Korea in the development of a large, liquid-propellant rocket engine suitable for ICBMs or SLVs and that a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions notice from January 2016 refers to Iranian work on a North Korean ‘80-ton rocket booster.’
China, for its part, has been warned by the U.S. in the past for failing to adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime in supplying missile equipment and technology to various countries, which is why it has frequently used North Korea as an agent to do so, allowing itself to plead ignorance of any illegal activity. It is obvious, however, that there are many benefits for China in seeking to expedite the movement of such missile technology from North Korea to Iran as part of the 25-year deal’s military component. First, as Iran is paying North Korea in oil it takes some pressure off China in its obligations to its neighbour. Second, it cements China’s clear position to the U.S. as having influence over not just one but two nuclear and near-nuclear states. Third, it further binds Iran (and the rest of the Shia crescent of power, especially Iraq) into China’s geopolitically game-changing ‘One Belt, One Road’ project. Fourth, it creates a counterpoint of influence and power in the Middle East akin to the U.S.-Israel axis. And fifth, it will shift more of the U.S.’s attention on the Persian Gulf and away from the Asia-Pacific region that China regards as its backyard of power.
All of this is set to be facilitated further by the imminent roll-out of China’s digital currency electronic payments system (DC/EP), on which the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been working since at least 2014. The DC/EP will operate on a two-tiered system, with the digital currency itself, like cash, being a direct claim on the central bank denominated in renminbi (RMB), Rory Green, Asia analyst for TS Lombard, in London, told OilPrice.com last week. The PBoC will exchange CBDC with chosen banks and financial intermediaries, which, in turn, will make the funds available to users via existing electronic banking platforms, and clients will be able to convert RMB to CBDC (at a rate of 1:1) via their digital wallets. “The digital RMB could certainly help the integration of Iranian financial companies into the Chinese banking system and avoiding the US$/Swift monopoly,” highlighted Green. “China could set up an entity completely unconnected to its traditional banking system to receive all the payments via digital RMB, with the payments then sent on via digital RMB,” he added. “This would be similar to the function currently performed by the Bank of Kunlun, and some of the North Korea trading houses but with fewer of the downside risks for other banks/companies in China to associate with the processing entity,” he concluded.
For the past several months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has busily dispelled any residual doubts about his hostility toward the U.S. and its allies in NATO and the Middle East. He has accomplished this in multiple ways. Erdogan purchased Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system and, in a swipe at the U.S. and NATO, announced his intention to test the system next week.
He threatens and seeks to subvert Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. He has destroyed his nation’s longstanding strategic alliance with Israel.
He has cast his lot with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, and with Iran against his Arab enemies. Indeed, Erdogan has effectively appointed himself the head of the Muslim Brotherhood. An associate of his recently published a map of a new Ottoman Empire, or “Greater Turkey”—with Erdogan as sultan. It included vast territories spanning from northern Greece to the east Aegean islands, half of Bulgaria, Cyprus, most of Armenia and large swaths of Georgia, Iraq and Syria. Erdogan is fighting on behalf of Sunni jihadists in Syria and in Libya.
On the positive side, Erdogan’s fights in Syria and Libya place Turkey in confrontation with Russia, which is siding with the opposite side in both wars. Erdogan started a new fight with Russia over the past couple of months, which now threatens to transform into a major war. Erdogan is fighting with Azerbaijan against Russia’s client Armenia for control over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area that both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim.
How is the U.S. supposed to deal with Erdogan, the head of NATO member Turkey—a strategically placed ally, traversing two continents, that Washington has long viewed as indispensable?
The Pentagon rejects calls to walk away from Turkey. And a brief look at the map makes clear the generals’ reluctance. Perched on Russia’s backyard, Turkey’s massive landmass provides U.S. forces with easy access to key theaters in Asia, the Middle East and Russia.
To uphold the alliance, the U.S. has consistently bowed its head in the face of Turkish aggression against its allies and partners. In 2019, the U.S. agreed to ditch the Kurdish forces in Syria, despite their central role in assisting U.S. efforts to destroy ISIS’s caliphate, in order to avoid a direct confrontation between U.S. and Turkish forces. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just visited Greece and told its leaders to stand down against Turkey and seek a diplomatic solution to Turkey’s aggression.
Owing to Turkey’s strategic importance, the U.S. has turned a blind eye to its sponsorship of Hamas. The U.S. has not called Turkey to account in a serious way for its willingness to permit ISIS to use Turkey as its logistics and mobilization base, or economic hub, during the years that the murderous jihadist group controlled large portions of Syria and Iraq.
During Barack Obama‘s presidency, kowtowing to Erdogan was of a piece with Obama’s foreign policy vision. Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden, sought to restructure the U.S. alliance system in the Middle East away from Israel and the U.S.’s traditional Sunni Arab allies and toward Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Given its radical thrust, it made sense when Obama told an interviewer in 2012 that he spoke with Erdogan more than any other foreign leader.
The Obama administration was sympathetically inclined toward the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It pushed for the overthrow of U.S. ally and long-serving Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2012, and supported the Muslim Brotherhood regime that took power in 2013. Like Erdogan, the Obama-Biden administration was livid when, following mass protests throughout the country and the drying up of Egypt’s financial reserves that brought the country of 90 million to the brink of starvation, the Egyptian military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power and installed Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president.
Throughout their second term, Obama and Biden did nothing to stop Erdogan’s efforts to destabilize and subvert Sisi’s government and return the Muslim Brotherhood to power. Today, some 20,000 members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood are living in Turkey, which has become their center of operations just as the nation serves as the operational center of Hamas.
The Obama-Biden administration also did not seriously object to Erdogan’s efforts on behalf of Iran when he transformed Turkey into a major economic hub for Iranian sanctions busting. Obama’s decision to appease Tehran through the nuclear deal that gave Iran an open road to a nuclear arsenal and enriched the mullocracy by abrogating the UN economic sanctions against it made him, by consequence, supportive of Turkey’s outreach and support for the Iranian regime.
The Obama-Biden desire to appease Iran precluded their administration from taking effective action against Syrian President, and Iranian and Russian client, Bashar Assad. Obama’s unwillingness to confront Iran empowered Russia to deploy forces to Syria for the first time since 1982. Obama’s supine policy in Syria also played a role in Erdogan’s decision to begin negotiations regarding the purchase of Russia’s S-400 system, which drove a stake into the NATO alliance. Biden has pledged to reinstate Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East and worldwide if he is elected next month.
On the surface, Trump’s policies toward Turkey don’t appear that different from Obama’s. He has not challenged Turkey’s membership in NATO. He has bowed to Turkey’s demands in Syria. Although he did block the delivery of F-35s to Turkey, he has refused to-date to sanction Turkey for its aggressive behavior toward Greece and Turkey. He hasn’t removed U.S. forces and nuclear warheads from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. And he continues to refer to Erdogan as a leader he respects.
But in practice, Trump’s policy is very different from the Obama-Biden policies. Trump is not an ideologue except insofar as “America First” can be considered an ideological position. His commitment to advancing U.S. interests has compelled Trump to set aside traditional policies if they do not conform to realities on the ground. Traditionally, for instance, it has been considered impossible to forge peace between Israel and the Arab states so long as the Palestinian conflict with Israel remains unresolved. Trump saw, however, that Israel and several Gulf Arab states and Egypt were maintaining intense, friendly ties and realized that the traditional perceptions of the Middle East were wrong.
From the time of Ronald Reagan, the prevailing wisdom in Washington was that the U.S. had to cut a deal with the ayatollahs in Iran. Trump realized that no one had succeeded because the Iranian regime seeks to destroy the U.S.—not make peace with it. The Iranians even refused to sign their nuclear deal with Obama, lest they be perceived as making peace with “the Great Satan.”
The consistent themes of Trump’s foreign policies in the Middle East and throughout the world are that he has insisted on judging leaders by their deeds, and not their words; judging policies by their success in making the U.S. and its allies better off, and not by the support they receive from the foreign policy establishment; and basing U.S. partnerships with foreign states on the presence of shared interests, rather than relying on formal alliance structures to advance American interests and goals.All of these aspects of Trump’s foreign policies are vital for developing and maintaining a successful U.S. policy toward Erdogan’s Turkey, as Erdogan exposes himself as a foe interested in pitting all sides against one another to enable his efforts to construct a new Ottoman Empire. Many commentators advocate expelling Turkey from NATO. But it isn’t clear that a head-on confrontation with Erdogan would neutralize him. It could well empower him by helping him to rally the Turkish public behind him at a time when Turkey’s economy stands on the brink of collapse.
Given Erdogan’s multipronged aggression, the first goal of a realistic policy would be to diminish his power by severely weakening Turkey economically. This may mean imposing economic sanctions on Turkey for its aggression against Greece and Cyprus. Or it may mean simply giving Turkey a gentle push over the economic cliff.
Without raising the issue of removing Turkey from NATO, the U.S. can simply not sell Turkey advanced platforms while demonstrating its support for Greece and Cyprus, as well as Israel and its Arab partners. True, China is already seeking to supplant the U.S. in sponsoring the Turkish economy and selling Turkey arms—but by keeping Turkey in NATO, the U.S. still has more leverage over Turkey than China.
A passive-aggressive policy for diminishing Erdogan’s power and the threat he can mount is right up Trump’s alley. Trump doesn’t often directly attack his opponents. He embraced North Korean leader Kim Jong-un even as he imposed the harshest economic sanctions ever on North Korea and redesignated it a state sponsor of terrorism. He has acted similarly with Putin and with Erdogan himself.
Erdogan’s belief that he can rebuild the Ottoman Empire while attacking EU and NATO members, the U.S., its key allies in the Middle East as well as Russia, owes to his narcissism that Obama and Biden did so much to feed.
With Erdogan now openly threatening multiple U.S. allies, it is increasingly apparent that the largest and fastest rising threat to stability and peace in the Middle East is Turkey—and the victor in next month’s U.S. presidential election will have no lead time to deal with it.
Trump’s reality-based foreign policy, his preference for indirect confrontations and empowerment of U.S. partners to defend themselves from aggression, rather than dictating their actions or fighting their battles for them, give the president the flexibility to diminish Erdogan’s maneuver room, his economic independence and his popularity at home—while also empowering U.S. allies directly affected by the strongman’s aggression to stand up to him effectively, with or without direct U.S. involvement.
Revelation 1:3 "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near".
Watchman for Christ