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Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9120
By Wayne McLean
11 April 2018
It appears a new regional security order is encircling Syria as the civil war grinds into its seventh year. This shift was visible last week, when the leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia met in Ankara to discuss solutions to the Syrian crisis. The detailed talks covered de-escalation zones, humanitarian concerns, and intra-Syrian dialogue, but the broader motive was to agree on the role of each state once the conflict ends.
A further variable framed the meeting: potential US retrenchment from the region. On the same day as the Ankara summit, Trump told reporters in Washington that he was going to “get out” of Syria “very soon”.
Then yet another variable emerged: Assad’s troops were, according to John McCain, emboldened by Trump’s retreat, leading to a chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held city of Douma.
The horrific attack was significant enough for Trump to assign Assad the puerile nickname “animal”, but the hard reality is that any US response, even military action, will be tokenistic.
The march towards Syrian retrenchment is already set on a path: $200 million has been removed from the US budget for recovery efforts, military plans have been prepared for the quick withdrawal of the 2000 US troops in Syria, and there is little domestic hunger for renewed adventurism, let alone around a conflict this complex.
The takeaway from the Ankara meeting and Trump’s rhetoric is that the regional security order around Syria is in flux, and that US efforts are likely to be replaced by a zone of anti-Western influence stretching from Beirut through to the Caspian Sea.
Turkey’s participation and positioning within this order is arguably the most radical. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has viewed itself as the natural leader of the region, but the neo-Ottoman dream of previous Turkish strategic thinkers, such as Ahmet Davutoğlu, is now dead.
Instead, Erdogan is likely to set aside his grandiose ideational prose in exchange for pragmatism. One prominent example is Turkey softening its anti-Assad position in exchange for concessions along Turkey’s southern border to counter Kurdish groups.
Turkey has another problem, which the group of three can assist it with. The country’s political capital is declining. As a NATO member, it has access to US defence mechanisms on paper, but Trump’s frigidity towards Brussels, combined with erratic grand strategies, has left Ankara isolated and concerned about its place in the European security complex.
The result is an increase in Russia–Turkey security cooperation. For example, after nearly a decade of stuttering, Turkey has committed to purchasing the S-400 missile defence system, and this month commenced construction on the Akkuyu nuclear power plant (Turkey’s first).
In short, by softening its position on Assad, and by aligning its interests closer to Moscow, Turkey regains some security currency in a dangerous neighbourhood as the US presence degenerates.
The intersection of Iranian and Turkish interests is somewhat more complex, but both countries share a common interest in defeating Kurdish forces. From this position, both Moscow and Tehran have been muted about Turkey’s actions in Afrin, as courting Ankara on this front supports their longer-term ambitions for influence on the Mediterranean coast above Lebanon.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, is happy to see Kurdish groups around the Syria–Turkey–Iran triangle weakened as a result of Turkish actions. This allows it to focus on support for Hezbollah and the consolidation of territory around the Golan Heights. This region is critical because it allows the deployment of short-range missiles capable of hitting Israel, providing a deterrent against Israeli attacks. More broadly, for Tehran, a strong Hezbollah creates a counterweight against Saudi and Wahhabi influences in the north of Syria.
This leads us to Russia. President Vladimir Putin’s largest challenge will be filling any void the US leaves behind.
Conflict and recovery is an expensive business, and discussions of Moscow’s weak economy are often glossed over in analysis. Russia is a state with a GDP on parity with Australia, not with the US or Germany. Granted, it compensates for this across other variables: territory, energy, transit routes, and nuclear capabilities.
Consequently, when viewed as a whole, this group of three provides mutual benefits. Turkey maintains Afrin and weakens the cause of Kurdish nationalists around the southern border. Iran gets more reliable access to its interests in the Golan Heights. Russia maintains its presence in Tartus port, which provides a cost-effective way to project power into the Mediterranean and thereby avoid perceived containment by Western forces.
The group of three deals with the apparent deficiencies of each member. Russia can ameliorate costs by burden sharing and delegating military efforts. Turkey no longer needs to appease Western normative sensibilities when engaging Kurds in a security setting. Iran can leave Kurdish security to Turkey and focus on building a Shia-led counterbalance against Israel and Saudi Arabia.
This outcome will comfort neither those recovering from the chemical attacks in Douma, nor Kurdish nationalists. But it is perhaps a glimpse of the types of alliances and compromises that will emerge as the US-led security order winds down.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9116
As Netanyahu and Erdogan’s public clash over Gaza escalates, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says in hindsight, perhaps 2016 detente should not have been approved
Israel’s 2016 reconciliation agreement with Turkey may have been a mistake, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday, as a war of words between the nation’s leaders over the Gaza Strip became increasingly vitriolic.
“Looking back, maybe the accord should not have been approved,” Erdan told Army Radio, calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “an anti-Semite who continues to support Hamas.”
He said Israel must stand up “to the hostility and anti-Semitism of Erdogan. It’s odd for a country such as Turkey, that is massacring the Kurds and occupying northern Cyprus, to be accepted as a legitimate nation by the West.”
Turkey invaded areas of northern Cypus in 1974 and later annexed the territory in a move not recognized by any other country.
In January this year, Turkey launched an air and ground offensive in the enclave of Afrin in Syria to root out the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey brands a terrorist group but which is seen by the United States as a key player in the fight against Islamic State jihadists. The UN has said that 170,000 people have fled Afrin in the wake of the Turkish offensive. Dozens of civilians have been killed.
Erdan noted that he had always had issues with the 2016 deal with Ankara that ended years of diplomatic crisis.
“I’m not fully comfortable with my vote, and I wasn’t then either,” he said. He explained that “there were many considerations for and against” and that he had considered opposing it, but was convinced otherwise by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Looking back, maybe the accord should not have been approved,” he said. But he added that he was speaking with the benefit of hindsight, and that Israel “did not have the luxury of rejecting a compromise deal with one of the Middle East’s greatest powers.”
The 2016 reconciliation deal with Turkey saw the two countries restore ties soured by the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident six years earlier.
Relations between the former allies imploded in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The raid, in which IDF commandos were attacked by activists on board, left 10 Turks dead and several Israeli soldiers wounded.
Erdan’s comments echoed those of Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who in December called the accord a “diplomatic mistake” that had “failed.” At the time Erdogan called Israel a “terrorist state” that “kills children” after US President Donald Trump’s recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Netanyahu stepped up a war of words with Erdogan Sunday, telling him that he had better get used to an Israeli response to his rhetoric and that Israel was not prepared to accept criticism from the Turkish strongman.
“Erdogan is not used to being answered back to,” Netanyahu tweeted. “He should get used to it. ”
His comments came on a day of back and forth between the two in which Erdogan called Netanyahu a “terrorist” and Israel a “terrorist state.”
Netanyahu cited what he said were Turkey’s crimes: “Someone who occupies northern Cyprus, invades the Kurdish regions, and slaughters civilians in Afrin — should not preach to us about values and ethics,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu’s comments came after earlier in the day Erdogan had branded him a “terrorist.”
“Hey Netanyahu! You are an occupier. And it is as an occupier that you are on those lands. At the same time, you are a terrorist,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Adana, southern Turkey.
“What you do to the oppressed Palestinians will be part of history and we will never forget it,” he said, adding: “The Israeli people are uncomfortable with what you’re doing. We are not guilty of any act of occupation.”
In another speech, Reuters quoted Erdogan as saying: “You are a terrorist state. It is known what you have done in Gaza and what you have done in Jerusalem. You have no one that likes you in the world.”
Netanyahu earlier Sunday lashed out at Turkey in response to its president’s claim that Israel had mounted an “inhumane attack” on Palestinians during Friday’s mass protests on the border with Israel.
“The most moral army in the world will not accept moral preaching from someone who for years has been bombing a civilian population indiscriminately,” he said, in apparent reference to Ankara’s ongoing battle against the Kurds.
“That’s apparently how Ankara marks [April Fool’s Day],” Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew, of the Turkish condemnation.
On Saturday, Erdogan said during a speech in Istanbul, “I strongly condemn the Israeli government over its inhumane attack.”
The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday that at least 10 of those killed — the Gazans reported a death toll of 15 — were members of Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas.
On Friday, some 30,000 Palestinians took part in demonstrations along the Gaza border, during which rioters threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops on the other side of the fence, burned tires and scrap wood, sought to breach and damage the security fence, and in one case opened fire at Israeli soldiers.
The army said that its sharpshooters targeted only those taking explicit violent action against Israeli troops or trying to break through or damage the security fence. Video footage showed that in one case a rioter, whom the army included in its list of Hamas members, appeared to be shot while running away from the border. The army in response accused Hamas of editing and/or fabricating its videos.
As of Saturday evening, Hamas, a terrorist group that openly seeks to destroy Israel, itself acknowledged that five of the dead in the so-called “March of Return” were its own gunmen.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9102
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian government has deemed members of religious minorities, such as Christians and Jews, “enemies of the state,” an analyst tells Breitbart News, echoing the U.S. State Department.
“The religious minorities in Turkey, like the Christians, Jews, and a few others, suffer from unequal treatment. … The religious minorities are believed to be enemies of the state,” Dr. Y. Alp Aslandogan, the executive director of the Alliance for Shared Values, a non-profit group that promotes bringing people from different backgrounds together, told Breitbart News. “So the association with them becomes a crime. So those religious minorities, those citizens themselves, are pushed into enemy status.”
“That’s what all religious minorities suffer from — the Armenians, the Christian Orthodox, and the Jews, among others — they suffer from this kind of stigma,” he added.
In the latest U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report, the American government acknowledged that discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities intensified in Turkey following the failed coup attempt of July 2016.
State reports that following the rebellion seeking to depose Erdogan, the president of Muslim-majority Turkey:
Some foreign citizens, including several individuals with ties to Christian groups, faced detention, residency-permission problems, or denial of entry to the country under the state of emergency powers following the attempted coup. The government continued to prosecute individuals for ‘openly disrespecting the religious belief of a group.
Several foreign Christian missionaries were subjected to deportation, and cancellation of valid residency permits without notice. The government provided limited explanation or justification for such actions. The government denied any anti-Christian motivation underlying these actions.
Breitbart News also spoke with Emre Celik, the president of the Rumi Forum, an organization dedicated to intercultural and interfaith dialogue, about the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey under the Erdogan administration.
“Erdogan’s bigotry against Christians goes against the very fabric of Islam’s respect towards the ‘People of the book’ – a Quranic term for Jews and Christians – and does not comply with the very fundamental principle of democracy that people of different faith backgrounds need to be treated justly and with respect,” Celik told Breitbart News.
“It’s unfortunate that prejudicial and polarizing language is being used for political gain and has become commonplace in Erdogan’s Turkey – against Christians and numerous other minorities,” he continued.
Consistent with Celik’s remarks, Dr. Aslandogan told Breitbart News that Erdogan and his allies use association with religious minorities as a form of attack against their political opponents.
“There has been hate speech and defamation against religious minorities from the ruling party. When they want to attack their enemies, they openly associate them with religious minorities,” explained Aslandogan. “They accuse religious minorities as trying to undermine progress.”
“Erdogan, for instance, attacks his enemies by referring to them as the pawn of Israel or the pawn of the Jews or the pawn of the Catholics,” he also said.
Echoing the State Department, the executive director for the Alliance for Shared Values also noted that the lack of legal standing for religious minorities in Turkey prevents them from owning territory, rendering them a landless group.
“They don’t have a legal standing, so they cannot officially function as a legal entity. They can only exist as community foundations, so that creates difficulties for them because they cannot exist as legal entities. Therefore, they cannot own property either,” he told Breitbart News.
“During the formation of the Turkish Republic, many of the lands of the religious minorities were confiscated, and although Erdogan took some steps to restore those lands to the religious minorities, he later made a U-turn,” he added.
Breitbart News spoke to Aslandogan and Celik after they participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Newseum in Washington, DC, on March 5.
In remarks prepared for the event, Aslandogan pointed out that President Erdogan is seeking to become the “caliph” of the Muslim world.
Currently, “non-Muslim minorities” in Turkey “suffer various forms of discrimination,” he stressed during the March 5 discussion.
Open Doors, which tracks the mistreatment of Christians across the world, records that out of 50 countries, Turkey is the 37th-worst nation for persecution against followers of Jesus Christ. It notes:
Religious nationalism has grown to new heights. President Erdogan has strengthened his position, trying to transform Turkey from a secular state into a Sunni Muslim one. Leaving Islam for Christianity is considered a betrayal of the Turkish identity, Islam, and the family.
Christians have no access to state jobs and experience discrimination in private employment, especially where employers have ties to the government.
According to Open Doors, 187,000 Christians are in Turkey.
The State Department, which places the estimated number of Christians at nearly 300,000, notes that the Christians belong to a plethora of denominations, including Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox Christians, Russian Orthodox Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, various Protestant denominations, Chaldean Christians, and Greek Orthodox Christians, among others.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9093
Turkey Newspaper Yeni Safak Calls For A Global ‘Army Of Islam’ To Come Against Israel And Take Jerusalem
The report suggested the formation of a “Jerusalem Task Group” to take steps to form an army of Islam that would besiege Israel. “In a possible military operation, the first step is expected to involve 250,000 soldiers, and the establishment of joint land, air and naval bases for use in the short term,” explained the report. It would include the mobilization of 500 tanks and armored vehicles, 100 war planes, 500 attack helicopters and 50 warships and submarines. Interactive maps provided information on specific bases and operations against Israel.
by Geoffrey Grider March 19, 2018
When Turkey’s semi-official newspaper Yeni Safak called for urgent action in forming a 57-nation “Army of Islam” to besiege and attack Israel, a suggestion undoubtedly approved with at least a wink and nod by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it would signal the possible intent to create the largest military force on the planet – one nearly as large as the total population of the Jewish state.
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” Zechariah 12:2,3 (KJV)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The astute student of Bible prophecy knows something that almost none of the world’s leaders who constantly try to bring peace to the Middle East are aware of. There can be no peace, and there will be no peace in the Middle East without deciding the fate of Jerusalem. Why all the fuss over Jerusalem? Because that is where the King of Kings will return to when He rules and reigns for one thousand years on the Throne of David. The entire Battle of Armageddon will be fought over who has the right to Jerusalem, and the global army of Islam will be the muscle behind the Antichrist for the time of Jacob’s trouble.
The report came just ahead of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and was published under the headline, “What if an Army of Islam was formed against Israel?” It was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
But it wasn’t a rhetorical question. It was actually a suggestion to combine the military forces of all Islamic countries to overwhelm the Israeli army in manpower, budget and equipment – even boasting with statistics.
On December 12, 2017, ahead of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, the Turkish daily Yeni Şafak, which is close to Erdoğan and his ruling AKP party, published an article titled “A Call for Urgent Action,” which also appeared on the paper’s website under the title “What If an Army of Islam Was Formed against Israel?” The article called on the 57 member states of the OIC to form a joint “Army of Islam” to besiege and attack the state of Israel.
It notes that such a joint army will greatly exceed the Israeli army in manpower, equipment and budget, and presents statistics to prove this. It also advocates establishing joint bases for the army’s ground, air and naval forces that will arrive from all over the Muslim world to besiege Israel, while noting that Pakistan, as the only nuclear country, has “a special status” among the OIC countries. An interactive map provides information on military forces stationed in various locations and the role they can play in the potential joint Muslim attack on Israel.
Much of the information in the article was provided by Turkey’s SADAT International Defense and Consulting Company, which provides consultancy on defense and warfare, both conventional and unconventional, and on military organization, training and gear. The company promotes pan-Islamic military cooperation. According to its mission statement, it seeks “to establish defense collaboration and defense industry cooperation among Islamic countries, to help the Islamic world take its rightful place among the superpowers by providing … strategic consultancy and training services to the militaries and homeland security forces of Islamic countries.”
The SADAT company was founded by Erdoğan’s senior adviser on military affairs, retired General Adnan Tanrıverdi, and is chaired by his son, Melih Tanrıverdi. Adnan Tanrıverdi served in the Turkish army’s artillery corps and is an expert on asymmetric warfare. He was dismissed from the Turkish military in 1996 for his Islamist leanings.
In the report, Israel is described as “the outpost of the new Crusade and a dagger in the heart of Islam,” and “the eyes, ears and fist of the Christian World.”
“If the OIC member states unite and form a joint military force, it will be the largest army in the world,” the newspaper report said. “These countries’ total population is 1,674,526,931. The number of soldiers in active service in these countries is at least 5,206,100. Their [overall] military defense budget, of $174.7 billion, is also worthy of emphasis.”
It continues by contrasting the size of this potential Islamic force with Israel’s military capabilities.
“As for Israel, it is significantly inferior,” the report said. “The population of this country, which attempted to occupy Jerusalem while surrounded by Muslim states, is 8,049,314. Note that the population of Istanbul alone exceeds 14 million. The number of soldiers in active service in the [Israeli] occupation forces is 160,000, and [Israel’s] defense budget is approximately $15.6 billion.
The report suggested the formation of a “Jerusalem Task Group” to take steps to form an Islamic army that would besiege Israel.
“In a possible military operation, the first step is expected to involve 250,000 soldiers, and the establishment of joint land, air and naval bases for use in the short term,” explained the report. It would include the mobilization of 500 tanks and armored vehicles, 100 war planes, 500 attack helicopters and 50 warships and submarines.
Interactive maps provided information on specific bases and operations against Israel.
“Turkey will serve as an important headquarters during the operation, due to its land, air and naval infrastructures,” the report continued. “The Turkish army, which carried out ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ [in Syria in 2017] with great success, is now ranked the world’s seventh strongest army, and the second largest army among the NATO powers. Turkey has approximately 4,000 tanks and 1,000 war planes and other aircraft. Its navy made significant progress during the last years, with 194 vessels at its disposal.”
The report also noted Pakistan, with its nuclear arsenal, “has important status among the 57 Muslim countries.”
In a statement, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described President Donald Trump’s Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a blow to Muslims, and added: “The Malaysian armed forces are ready to fulfill their duty regarding Jerusalem.”
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9090
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Turkey hopes to build good relations with new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but he must respect the country, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, amid deep tensions over Syria policy and other issues.
FILE PHOTO: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo
Turkish media has seized on a tweet purportedly made by Pompeo after a failed coup in July 2016 – and before he became CIA director – which referred to Turkey as a “totalitarian Islamist dictatorship”. The tweet was later removed.
Relations between the NATO allies had started to improve recently after a visit to Turkey by Rex Tillerson, whom U.S. President Donald Trump sacked on Tuesday as secretary of state.
Pompeo, seen as a Trump loyalist, had previously headed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
“We would like to work with the new secretary of state with the same understanding, with bilateral respect and understanding,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Moscow, where he was on an official visit.
“This is the choice of the United States (on who serves as secretary of state). We do not want to comment on it but whoever it will be, they need to first learn how to behave, approach and respect us.”
Cavusoglu said talks planned between the United States and Turkey for March 19 could be delayed owing to Tillerson’s departure.
In a column on Wednesday, Murat Yetkin of the Hurriyet Daily News wrote that Pompeo had “prejudgments” regarding Turkey, citing the deleted tweet, and he added that it was not easy to erase people’s memories.
Turkey has been angered by Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in the fight against Islamic State. Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9084
“If they are really going to develop this in desert areas of all three countries, you’d expect Israeli technology perhaps to have a role to play.”
By Ben Lynfield
March 13, 2018 09:16
Building Red Sea mega-city, Saudis eye economic integration with Egypt, Jordan, March 13, 2018
To observers, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s flagship idea may seem overly ambitious – to build a mega-city known as Neom along the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea that extends across the borders to Jordan and Egypt.
Indeed, its proponents are describing the planned 26,500 square kilometer city in almost messianic terms. “Neom is positioned to become an aspirational society that heralds the future of human civilization by offering its inhabitants an idyllic lifestyle set against a backdrop of a community founded on modern architecture, lush green spaces, quality of life, safety and technology in the service of humanity paired with excellent economic opportunities,” says Neom’s website.
That may be overstating Neom’s significance, but the project, which is yet to get underway, promises to be extremely important – not only for Saudi Arabia but for the region as a whole. For Riyadh, it is a central component of plans by bin Salman to ween the kingdom off of its dependence on oil exports and diversify the economy by emphasizing, for example, knowledge-based industries. Egypt and Jordan are reacting with enthusiasm to the plan, hoping it can give a boost to their depressed economies.
While bin Salman was in Egypt last week, the two countries set up a ten-billion-dollar joint fund to help develop the Egyptian side of Neom. Egypt has reportedly earmarked more than a thousand square kilometers in southern Sinai for the project. As part of economic integration the two countries are planning to build King Salman Bridge, linking them across the Gulf of Aqaba.
Mohab Mamish, chief of the Suez Canal Development Authority, is touting the north-east Egyptian city of Ismailia as the gateway for the Neom project, Emirati daily newspaper The National reported last week.
MEANWHILE, Jordanian officials are in the midst of discussions with their Saudi counterparts to identify projects to be implemented in Aqaba as part of Neom, The Jordan Times reported on Saturday.
In a related development, Reuters reported on Saturday that Saudi Arabia will work with Egypt and Jordan to attract European cruise companies to operate in the Red Sea during winter season. The report said that Riyadh is negotiating with seven such companies and plans to build yacht marinas.
In the view of Yoram Meital, an Egypt specialist at Ben Gurion University, Neom “is seen by [President Abdul-Fatah] al-Sisi as a new space for more cooperation, for creating more Egyptian employment.”
“The idea of building a bridge, and around the bridge a modern commercial industrial zone, is seen by Egypt as a potential major boost,” he said.
For the Saudis – and for the Arab world – the economic integration would be a new departure. “The scale is unprecedented; and if it happens in the way that’s being discussed it would create a more integrated relationship among Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia than in the past, and that’s new,” said Brandon Friedman, a Middle East specialist at the Dayan Center in Tel Aviv University.
But, Friedman added, leveraging its economic wealth to cement its influence has been a long standing component of Saudi policy. In the past it took the form of aid or loans; now bin Salman “is trying to directly link the economies of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”
“The Saudis see increased economic health for Egypt and Jordan as being in their own security interest,” Friedman said. “The more vulnerable Egypt and Jordan are, the more difficult it potentially [becomes] for the Saudis to stabilize the region. They are trying to create more dynamic economies in Jordan and Egypt as a means to creating a stronger, more stable moderate Sunni bloc in the region.”
Neom’s progress should be followed closely by Israel, especially since some of the sectors planned for the mega-project coincide with areas of Israeli expertise: energy and water, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, and technological and digital sciences.
“Depending on how the project evolves and how Saudi relations with Israel evolve, given Israel’s relations with Egypt and Jordan, there is potentially a role for Israeli economic integration,” said Friedman. “If the Israeli-Saudi relationship revolves around its current trajectory, it would be natural to assume that at some stage there would be Israeli integration.
“If they are really going to develop this in desert areas of all three countries, you’d expect Israeli technology perhaps to have a role to play,” Friedman said.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9082
Erdogan’s Islamic newspaper demands ‘army’ be launched against U.S. ally in Mideast
Published: 17 hours ago
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
A Turkish newspaper close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party is urging 57 Islamic nations to build a joint army specifically to attack Israel, notes a new report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The Middle East Media Research Institute reports the article appeared on the paper’s website under the title “What If an Army of Islam Was Formed against Israel?”
It was published shortly ahead of a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which has 57 members, MEMRI reported.
The article notes, MEMRI said, “that such a joint army will greatly exceed the Israeli army in manpower, equipment and budget, and presents statistics to prove this.”
“It also advocates establishing joint bases for the army’s ground, air and naval forces that will arrive from all over the Muslim world to besiege Israel, while noting that Pakistan, as the only nuclear country, has ‘a special status’ among the OIC countries,” the report said.
MEMRI explained that many of the major points in the newspaper article were “taken from the website of the Turkish SADAT International Defense and Consulting Company, which provides consultancy on defense and warfare, both conventional and unconventional, and on military organization, training and gear.”
“The company has an agenda of promoting pan-Islamic military cooperation. According to its mission statement, it seeks ‘to establish defense collaboration and defense industry cooperation among Islamic countries, to help the Islamic world take its rightful place among the superpowers by providing … strategic consultancy and training services to the militaries and homeland security forces of Islamic countries.’”
The article states: “It becomes evident that the member states’ [joint] military might greatly exceeds that of Israel. Moreover, in a possible military operation, this superiority [can] be realized on the ground by [setting up] joint military bases for ground, air and naval forces.”
It says that if the OIC member states “unite and form a joint military force, it will be the largest army in the world.”
“These countries’ total population is 1,674,526,931. The number of soldiers in active service in these countries is at least 5,206,100.”
The newspaper calls Israel “significantly inferior” and says that “this country, which attempted to occupy Jerusalem while surrounded by Muslim states” has a population of only about 8 million, while Istanbul alone exceeds 14 million.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9079
ITALY leaving the European Union and the Eurozone would be a “disaster” for the bloc from both a political and economic perspective, as it could lead to a turmoil in the financial markets and the departure of more countries, experts have claimed.
By Alice Scarsi
PUBLISHED: 11:05, Fri, Mar 9, 2018 | UPDATED: 13:08, Fri, Mar 9, 2018
The shocking outcome of the election that took place in Italy last Sunday has paved the way for populist parties Lega and Five Star Movement, which together gathered more than 50 per cent of the votes.
Both the forces are eurosceptic and have in the past promoted the idea of pushing Italy outside of the EU and the eurozone.
Experts claim the possibility of a so-called Italexit would be devastating for the EU, which would see a second country leaving its borders in less than two years.
Lorenzo Codogno, former general director at the Treasury Department of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, thinks Italy exiting the European Union would lead to a “storm in the markets”.
He said: “Italy is a big country, the third-largest national economy in the eurozone and one of the six founding members of the bloc.
“If it left the Union, there would be a storm in the markets, Italy would suffer but Europe would also be hugely affected.
“Italexit would be something very difficult to manage for the EU, so the bloc would do anything to make the country remain.”
Market analyst and CEO at Explain The Market Guy Shone thinks that Italexit would highlight the divisions within the EU, although he sees an exit of Italy too dangerous for a country with such a fragile banking system.
He said: “If Italexit were to happen, I think it would be reasonable to imply that the EU in its current form would be under threat and would be failing to prove its essentiality.”
Leaving the eurozone would be even more difficult than the process undertaken by the UK of leaving the European Union.
Whereas Britain has kept the pound, Italy uses the euro, which would make an Italexit a business complicated enough to threaten the survival of the single currency.
Mr Codogno said: “Leaving the eurozone poses a much greater problem than walking out of the bloc.
“While it was an established procedure to leave the EU, there isn’t anything like Article 50 that allow countries to opt out.”
The financial difficulties that would arise from Italexit for Italy itself lead Mr Codogno to think that the process is still far from becoming a reality.
He said: “These newly-elected eurosceptic parties might soften their positions once in power and change their attitude as concrete financial problems, such as a financial crisis and the need of a new currency, would pile up with an Italexit.
Austria: The hard-Right Freedom Party (FPO) has previously been accused of xenophobia and racism
“Nevertheless, the populists’ stance may cause severe problems, and if the will of the people is strongly in favour of an exit, they could have to act accordingly.”
In 2014, Five Star Movement founder Beppe Grillo proposed a referendum that would have questioned Italians on the possibility of leaving the eurozone.
Two years later, the party decided to set aside the referendum for the moment and to work at changing the Union from within.
In September 2017, Five Star political leader Luigi Di Maio said: “We have presented a seven-point programme to the European Parliament on the euro, with a referendum on the single currency as the final point.
“If the attitude is one of openness, we are willing to take part in a discussion on changing the rules of the game.”
The Standard Eurobarometer, which analyses the mood of European citizens towards the Union, in November signalled that that only 58 per cent of Italians were in favour of the euro, the lowest percentage recorded among all the members of the EU.
The once europhile nation has changed its attitude towards Europe following the financial crisis which hit the country in 2008 and fears over illegal migration.
The possibility of an alliance between the two eurosceptic parties seems momentarily impossible, as Five Star opened to a coalition with the europhile and centre-left wing Democratic Party while Lega leader Matteo Salvini has declared he is willing to enter Palazzo Chigi only with his centre-right wing allies Forza Italia and Brothers of Italy.
Still, Lega has already stepped up his pressure against the EU.
On Wednesday, a senator from the anti-establishment party said: “The EU is becoming more and more of a German empire.
“We are seeing German bureaucrats taking over the key positions in the EU institutions.
“We can understand why Britain wanted to escape from this prison.”
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9071
Turkey is now invading Syria with the Special Forces of its military. Make no mistake about it, you are now witnessing Turkish expansionism
Turkey is increasing the intensity of its expansion into northern Syria, this time by mobilizing its “Special Forces” into the region. Make no mistake about it: this is Turkish expansionism. As we read in a report from RT:
Ankara has sent police special forces units to the northern Syrian region of Afrin in anticipation of a new phase of its campaign against the Kurdish militias. It also says the UN-backed ceasefire does not affect its operation.
The special forces units crossed into Syrian territory from the southern Turkish provinces of Kilis and Hatay, local media reported. The new forces are expected to hold villages taken by Turkish troops from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as well as to take part in urban combat as Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch apparently moves from the countryside to the major settlements.
“Deploying special forces is part of the preparation for a new fight that is approaching,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told Turkish NTV. “The fight will shift to places where there are civilians, as the area (of fighting) narrows,” he said, adding that the special forces units have experience in fighting militants in residential areas.
Even though the Turkish operation has entered its sixth week, most of the larger towns in the Kurdish-held enclave, including the city of Afrin itself, remain in the hands of the YPG. Still, Turkish forces drove the Kurdish militias from all areas bordering Turkey, local media report. On February 20, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the troops would lay siege to Afrin “in the coming days.”
Operation Olive Branch will continue despite a UN Security Council resolution envisaging a 30-day nationwide ceasefire in Syria. The resolution, which was unanimously adopted by the security council on Saturday, says that the ceasefire does not apply to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), Al-Nusra, or any other terrorist organization.
Ankara believes this exemption applies to the Kurdish militias as well. “When we look at the UN Security Council resolution, we see that fight against terror organizations is outside its scope. Therefore, it will not affect Turkey’s ongoing operation,” Bozdag said, as cited by Anadolu news agency.
The Turkish military began its operation against the YPG, a Kurdish-led militia, as it considers it to be a wing of the PKK, an armed movement that Ankara regards as terrorist. The YPG, which controls several enclaves in northern Syria, including Afrin, secured the territories from Islamist rebels and other extremist groups over the course of the Syrian conflict with the US-led coalition’s backing.
The number of “terrorists” who were “neutralized” over the course of the operation has reached 2,059, the Turkish General Staff said on Monday. Ankara also insists that the offensive is solely aimed at wiping out terrorists, denying allegations that it has targeted civilians.
The Turkish operation also increases tensions between Ankara and Damascus. The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned the operation as a violation of the country’s sovereignty and has accused Ankara of “aggression” against the Syrian people. Damascus also sent militias to Afrin to reinforce locals in their resistance against the Turkish onslaught.
This information was disputed by Ankara, which said the Syrian forces were prevented from entering the region. Erdogan also warned that the incoming militias would “pay a heavy price.”
Who is is supplying Turkey with its military technology? Western defense companies. We know for a fact that Germany is the one supplying Turkey with its Leopard tank, as we read in a report from DW:
Turkey has given confirmation that its troops have been using Leopard 2 tanks supplied by Germany during their offensive against Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border region of Afrin, according to a report from the German Ministry for Economic Affairs sent to parliamentarians in Berlin.
And we know that the German defense company, Rheinmetall, has made a contract with the Turkish defense company, Havelsan, to produce for Turkey a tank of its own.
This all has historical parallels. Lets remember that during World War One it was the Germans who provided the Ottomans naval support, driving the British navy out of the Dardanelles with its U-boats, removing the obstacle of naval bombardment for the Turks and giving the Turkish artillery men freedom to strike the British and the Aussies without impediment.
Moreover, the mobile batteries that the Turks were using to strike the British in the Dardanelles were German made. Furthermore, the Germans built the railway network by which they could send a continual flow of weapons and troops to Turkey. This overwhelming flow of weapons and men exhausted the British and French and forced them to retreat in the battle over the Dardanelles.
So while we must focus on what Turkey is doing, we must also remember the Germanic forces backing them (and yes, that includes the Americans and Anglo Saxons who are providing support for Turkey). Germany, like in the past, will side with the revived Ottoman empire.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9054