World Peace “Lennon Ivan Style” – Part 352

 

In summary, I refer to “World Peace Lennon Ivan Style – Part 352” as the belief that IRAQ and SYRIA victories are critical to ISIS decimation, while SYRIAN negotiations must result in peace, while focusing on the new geopolitical realities, whereby tensions between ISRAEL and IRAN represent the biggest concern, as the trigger for a potential Third and Final World War, such that all leaders across the globe must increase their efforts to identify creative diplomatic options to reduce tensions, by considering the appointment of THE ROCK as special envoy to the MIDDLE EAST, as the current situation between ISRAEL and IRAN depicts the new geopolitical realities in the region, whereby U.S. President Donald Trump seems to have realized that he needs an ally in the MIDDLE EAST, and hence the U.S. turned its attention to SAUDI ARABIA, who has been grappling with the KHASHOGGI scandal, whereby there has been an international uproar over the alleged killing of a SAUDI journalist inside the SAUDI ARABIAN consulate in the capital of ISTANBUL, TURKEY, with U.S. President, Donald Trump, initially playing public relations frontman and spin-doctor for the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family by speculating about rogue killers, while insisting that the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, while now being forced to qualify his initial unconditional support with a WOW, as U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, warned that U.S. President Donald Trump is considering using an obscure loophole in arms control law, that would allow Trump administration to sell new batch of bombs to SAUDI ARABIA without congressional approval, as U.S. Arms Control laws allow U.S. Congress to reject sale to foreign country, but U.S. President Donald Trump could claim that the sale constitutes an emergency, which means that the U.S. Congress cannot take a vote of disapproval, such that the sale could go through automatically, albeit to the extent that U.S. President Donald Trump respects the law, one man’s opinion on abuse of power, could be seen as another man’s opinion as above board practices to meet arms demands by SAUDI ARABIA, in response to recent attacks by YEMENI rebels in SAUDI ARABIA, as SAUDI ARABIA focused its attention on placing a huge bet on U.S. natural gas (LNG), as ARAMCO announced a mega preliminary agreement to buy 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year from PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS export project, that is currently under development, in conformance with the SAUDI ARABIAN objective of becoming a global natural gas player, as everybody now seems to make decisions in the context of personal, financial and political interests, such that values, morals, principals and ethics seem to be secondary to the primary objective of taking decisions that best serve beneficial interests.

 

TURKEY News

 

During the week ending on Sunday, May 26, 2019, the focus in TURKEY seemed to shift to the TURKISH struggling economy, largely attributable to a lack of confidence by foreign investors, due largely to TURKEY’s repressive crackdown measures on all opposition movements. It is important to note that, several months ago, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan allowed TURKEY’s two-year state of emergency to come to an end but as trials of dissidents and journalists continue, human rights campaigners continue to pressure TURKEY to do more to reverse a suffocating crackdown on free speech. Critics claim that the state of emergency, in place since the failed “Coup D’État” in July of 2016 that killed 250 people and wounded 1,400, has been used to detain opponents of the governing AKP for lengthy periods of time without trial to intimidate dissidents and to prosecute media outlets. That is, more than 120,000 people in the police, military, academia, media and civil service have been detained or dismissed from their jobs, over their alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, who is the exiled TURKISH preacher based now in the U.S., who TURKEY blames as the brains behind the operations for the failed “Coup D’État”.

 

However, the behaviours of TURKEY’s governing AKP seem to be taking their toll on the TURKISH economy as turbulent politics have resulted in economic turmoil whereby the sliding TURKISH Lira set-off alarm bells across TURKEY as businesses struggle to cope with the financial impacts of a declining TURKISH Lira. Unfortunately, TURKEY’s fragile economy recently received another economic blow when TURKEY’s growth forecasts for this year and next year were dramatically reduced, triggering further drops in the value of the TURKISH Lira. It is important to note that TURKISH Finance Minister Berat Albayrak stated that growth would be 2.3% in 2019, revised downwards from the initial forecasts of 5.5%. Ironically, TURKEY’s finance minister insisted that TURKEYS’s economy did not face any significant risks, despite the TURKISH Lira plunging to its lowest point after new economic data was released that points to the risk of a sharp economic slowdown in TURKEY. Furthermore, TURKISH banks that borrowed heavily abroad now face the near impossible task of refinancing short-term debt in expensive U.S. Dollars and E.U. Euros. Therefore, TURKEY will be hit with a currency mismatch as TURKEY mostly earns returns on investments in TURKISH Lira, while it has to payback its foreign currency denominated debt by converting a plummeting TURKISH Lira, resulting in significantly higher debt payments.

 

However, this week TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak, continued to focus on the TURKISH economy, as TURKEY’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate on hold sticking to its promise to stand firm on inflation even as the economy suffers a sharp slowdown in growth. Furthermore, it is important to note that the TURKISH economy officially sank into recession in the fourth quarter of 2018. However, TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak, stated that the TURKISH economy had survived the most serious speculative attack in its history such that the current data for 2019 shows the TURKISH economy is making a rapid recovery, such that the decline in economic growth is temporary. Furthermore, TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak, stated that the expedited economic reforms in the post-election period would reinvigorate the normalization of TURKISH markets as a new comprehensive economic package was announced on April 8, 2019. It is important to note that TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak, stated that there should be no major election issues in TURKEY for four-and-a-half years following the March 31, 2019 polls, such that TURKEY should swiftly proceed into a new era of economic stability. Thus, this week TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak all but dismissed that an economic recession is taking place, despite a surge in unemployment and a slump in consumer confidence, while highlighting a 5% decline in inflation from a 15 year high, and a sharp contraction in the current account deficit, due to a decline in demand for imports, as key TURKISH government achievements. However, this week, TURKEY’s battered economy appears to be heading in the direction of emerging from recession later this month, due primarily to a politically driven surge in bank lending and public spending. It is important to note that the governing AKP took steps to try to limit the risk of a voter backlash at the beginning of 2019, as nationwide municipal elections loomed, and the economy reeled from the TURKISH Lira that plummeted by almost 30% in 2018. That is, TURKISH banks which had reduced their lending activities during 2018 following the shock caused by the dramatic TURKISH Lira crisis were encouraged by the governing AKP to sharply increase their lending in the run-up to the TURKISH elections, while the TURKISH government also adopted stimulus measures including tax cuts and employment incentives.

 

Thus, TURKISH Finance Minister Berat Albayrak who declared war on soaring inflation and called on TURKEY’s businesses to cut prices by 10% to counter runaway inflation, that has driven up the price of everything from food to fuel, and sent inflation to 25% during October’ 2018, its highest in 15 years continued with the firm stance of implementing this policy. Furthermore, TURKEY has already resorted to the seizure of numerous companies that have been accused of conspiring against the TURKISH government with speculation, opportunism and stockpiling. Furthermore, TURKISH police have also raided businesses, based on accusations of speculation, and shops and supermarkets, based on allegations of price gouging. Thus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling on consumers to report shops and businesses for excessive price hikes in order for the police to investigate and resolve accordingly. However, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), the TURKISH watchdog, stated that the TURKISH banking sector’s sound and healthy structure continues at full strength. Therefore, the TURKISH banking sector’s current capital structure is fully capable of withstanding asset quality-driven risks.

 

Not surprisingly, the main TURKISH opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, TURKEY’s main opposition CHP leader obviously accused the governing AKP of running unsuccessful economic policies, while adding that TURKEY possesses the potential to overcome current economic problems under prospective CHP rule. Thus, the CHP opposition successfully worked together to deliver a rebuke to the governing AKP in local elections on March 31, 2019. That is, the municipal elections resulted in major wins for the opposition CHP in the capital, ANKARA, along with ISTANBUL and IZMI. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing AKP is contesting the slim opposition victory in TURKEY’s biggest city consisting of ISTANBUL alleging irregularities, while challenging the results in every ISTANBUL district, although the official results published show the CHP ahead by approximately 25,000 votes in ISTANBUL. Ironically, the governing AKP is also contesting the CHP victory in the capital ANKARA albeit a larger spread in favour of the opposition CHP. However, the governing AKP seems to be heading in the direction of being forced to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financing albeit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan consistently refusing this alternative on the basis of refusing to relinquish TURKISH economic sovereignty. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this week, TURKEY appears to be paying the price for its pre-election efforts to control the capital markets, as foreign investors have withdrawn close to $ 2.5 billion dollars from TURKISH capital markets, while the 2019 exodus consisting of approximately $ 1.8 billion, represents the biggest retreat by foreign investors since 2015.

 

However, TURKEY’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to warn the SYRIAN regime, RUSSIA and IRAN that an all-out military offensive on IDLIB could lead to a disastrous outcome for TURKEY by triggering a new wave of refugees heading towards the TURKISH borders. Thus, the world has been bracing for months for the Bashar al-Assad Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to attack IDLIB, where around 2.5 million civilians are living in opposition-held territory with no clear escape routes if fighting escalates. Hence, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a ceasefire deal with RUSSIA, in recent months, to prevent an all-out attack on IDLIB, as TURKEY is worried that an attack on IDLIB will trigger a mass exodus of refugees fleeing towards the TURKISH border. It is important to note that the weapons, which have entered SYRIA in large quantities, in recent months, including ammunition and GRAD rockets, clearly indicated that TURKEY would be providing complete TURKISH military support, for a long drawn-out battle over IDLIB, if necessary, that functioned as an effective deterrent from a full scale attack by the SAA and its RUSSIAN and IRANIAN backed allies. However, in recent months, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which includes former AL-QAEDA terrorist fighters among its ranks, seems to be attempting to consolidate power in northern SYRIA with waves of arrests of civilians during the TURKEY and RUSSIAN brokered ceasefire.

 

It is important to note that HTS signed a ceasefire deal with what was left of the rival NLF alliance that sees HTS supremacy and unison of the region under a HTS led administration. However, the SAA still appears to be preparing for a full fledge assault on IDLIB, as the war between the SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces appear to be entering the final phase, as the U.S. announces its intention for a complete withdrawal from SYRIA. Thus, the RUSSIAN foreign ministry announced that the situation was rapidly deteriorating such that IDLIB was almost under the full control of the HTS rebel group, previously linked to al-Qaeda that should trigger a coordinated military effort between RUSSIA and TURKEY to stabilise the situation in IDLIB. However, this week, it appears that RUSSIA and TURKEY are reinforcing their respective positions in IDLIB, as a final imminent battle appears to be inevitable. It is important to note that after 8 years of bloodshed that has killed over 500,000 people and forced over 7.5 million people from their homes, IDLIB, in the northwest of SYRIA is the last opposition stronghold, including extremist terrorist elements such as HTS to existing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Thus, for the 2.5 million people trapped in IDLIB, with no way out, the tense ceasefire still currently in effect could very well be the only difference between life and death, albeit the de-escalation zone in SYRIA is witnessing ongoing and large-scale cease-fire violations by multiple parties.

 

Unfortunately, escalations in fighting this week resulted in the SAA unleashing a powerful assault across the southern countryside of IDLIB, targeting several areas controlled by the terrorist HTS rebels, as the SAA repeatedly fired several artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles towards HTS positions. Furthermore, this week, RUSSIA made it clear that it will not allow the de-escalation zone in IDLIB to be a safe zone for terrorists. However, at this stage, RUSSIA also opposes any large-scale military operation in the region, citing numerous civilians who can be used as human shields by the HTS militants. Nonetheless, a large number of SAA soldiers were redeployed to HAMA and IDLIB, as the SAA military appears to be making new preparations for a wide-scale offensive to liberate the remaining areas of SYRIA once and for all. It appears that SAA forces have nearly doubled this week, as dozens of military units seem to have redeployed to the demilitarized zone that was established on September 17 in Sochi. Hence, this week, SAA forces along with the RUSSIAN air force bombarded residential areas in the suburbs of IDLIB and ALEPPO, as air raids killed dozens of civilians amidst the heaviest fighting in months. It is important to note that the SAA and its Russian allies intensified their bombing campaign on IDLIB this week, as the area has seen a dramatic increase in violence, including airstrikes, barrel bombs and artillery attacks. Furthermore, TURKEY backed rebels increased their number of fighters on the front lines in northeastern SYRIA, joining forces with the rival HTS rebel group to force back SAA troops from the town of Kfar Nabuda that had been retaken by the SAA in its recent assaults. It is important to note that more than 80 fighters were killed in the battle for Kfar Nabuda, as TURKISH fighters under the National Liberation Front (NLF) banner confirmed that they assisted HTS rebels to protect territory from SAA forces, deemed to be a common enemy.

 

SAUDI ARABIA News

 

In an unusual chain of events that triggered a change of fate, international uproar over the alleged killing of a SAUDI journalist inside the SAUDI ARABIAN consulate in the capital of ISTANBUL, TURKEY continues, whereby the SAUDI ARABIAN officials had promised consequences for anyone, even a member of the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family, found responsible for the assassination. Thus, TURKEY has led a relentless campaign to hold SAUDI ARABIA accountable, as TURKISH authorities have allowed media leaks to the international press. Furthermore, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally denounced SAUDI ARABIA for initially trying to deny involvement in the killing, as after weeks of lying, SAUDI ARABIA finally admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was dead, such that as per TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, covering up this kind of savagery will hurt the conscience of all humanity.

 

Nonetheless, in an unusual twist of fate, CIA Director Gina Haspel obviously presented a solid case behind her conclusion that there is a high level of confidence that Crown Prince MBS was complicit in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Thus, CIA Director Gina Haspel garnered extensive support for her conclusion from both top Republican and top Democratic leaders to the point that the entire Senate Committee voted unanimously to overrule U.S. President Donald Trump by officially blaming Crown Prince MBS for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Thus, the official response from the SAUDI ARABIAN Foreign Ministry was that Saudi Arabia categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs, any and all accusations, in any manner, that disrespect its leadership, and any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature. Thus, in a decisive move by Crown Prince MBS and the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family, they have ceased offering new versions of their own account of what transpired, with the final official SAUDI ARABIAN version remaining, that the SAUDI ARABIAN assassins killed Jamal Khashoggi with an injection of sedatives, and then immediately set to work dismembering him and hiding his remains. Hence, SAUDI ARABIA put the Jamal Khashoggi murder suspects on trial, whereby the prosecutor, SAUDI ARABIA’s attorney general, demanded the death penalty for 5 of the 11 suspects.

 

Nonetheless, Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special investigator on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions who is heading an independent international inquiry into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, released her preliminary conclusions. Thus, the official statement by the U.N. that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was a brutal and premeditated killing, which was planned by SAUDI ARABIAN officials, was expected. However, a further allegation from the U.N. inquiry that SAUDI ARABIA seriously undermined TURKEY’s efforts to investigate the murder was surprising. That is, Agnes Callamard stated that woefully inadequate time and access was granted to TURKISH investigators to conduct a professional and effective crime-scene examination and search required by international standards for investigation. In particular, TURKEY was not allowed into the SAUDI ARABIAN consul where Jamal Khashoggi was killed for 13 days. Furthermore, Agnes Callamard requested that SAUDI ARABIA reveal the defendants’ names and the fate of the 11 suspects initially arrested given that SAUDI ARABIA’s secretive hearings for the 11 suspects accused in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi fall short of international standards whereby the hearings should be opened to the public and trial observers.

 

Therefore, a group of U.S. Democratic senators introduced a bill that would require the leader of the U.S. intelligence community to submit an unclassified report on the death of SAUDI ARABIAN journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to the bill, the report must include identification of those who carried out, participated in, ordered, or were otherwise complicit in or responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi. However, the CIA has already concluded that Crown Prince MBS personally ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder while U.S. President Donald Trump has steered clear of blaming the SAUDI ARABIAN leader on the basis of a lack of substantive evidence, clearly signalling that he will not take strong action against SAUDI ARABIA, a key U.S. ally, or Crown Prince MBS. Ironically, this week, U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, warned that U.S. President Donald Trump is considering using an obscure loophole in arms control law that would allow the Trump administration to sell a new batch of bombs to SAUDI ARABIA without congressional approval. It is important to note that U.S. Arms Control laws allow the U.S. Congress to reject a sale to a foreign country, but U.S. President Donald Trump could claim that the sale constitutes an emergency, which means that the U.S. Congress cannot take a vote of disapproval, such that the sale could go through automatically. It is important to note that U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy clearly stated that circumventing U.S. Congress in order to sell munitions to SAUDI ARABIA would be a complete abuse of power. Furthermore, U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy elaborated that to state the obvious, there is no new emergency reason to sell bombs to SAUDI ARABIA to drop in YEMEN as SAUDI ARABIA has been dropping bombs on civilians, so if there is an emergency, it is a humanitarian emergency caused by the bombs the U.S. has previously sold to SAUDI ARABIA. In addition, U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy that he wanted to alert his colleagues that the move was potentially happening, in hope that his fellow lawmakers would pressure the Trump administration to stop the manoeuvre.

 

Ironically, the U.S. Democratic senators are still frustrated by U.S. President Donald Trump downplaying their hype regarding Jamal Khashoggi by focusing on senior adviser Jared Kushner’s face-to-face meeting with Crown Prince MBS and his father King Salman to discuss U.S. and SAUDI ARABIAN cooperation, the ISRAELI and PALESTINIAN conflict and economic investment in the region. However, this week, the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that the counter-revolutionary forces may have created with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi seem to have dissipated, with the waves of protests sweeping across ALGERIA and SUDAN suggesting that a second manifestation of the ARAB SPRING may very well be underway in the MIDDLE EAST, that bears a similar resemblance to the first wave witnessed in 2011. As a friendly reminder, the ARAB SPRING was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the MIDDLE EAST in late 2010, that began in response to oppressive regimes and a low standard of living commencing with protests in TUNISIA. Subsequently, the effects of the TUNISIAN Revolution spread strongly to five other countries consisting of LIBYA, EGYPT, YEMEN, SYRIA and BAHRAIN, where either the regime was toppled or major uprisings occurred, including riots, civil wars or insurgencies.

 

Furthermore, this week, civilians in YEMEN struggle to buy food to break their fast culminating after four consecutive years of civil war that has resulted in the YEMEN currency sinking to its lowest levels in history while the cost of food has soared triggering a major food crisis like YEMEN has never before seen. It is important to note that many in the capital, SANAA, which is under HOUTHI control, work without pay and have no money to buy food. However, this week, SAUDI ARABIA focused its attention on placing a huge bet on U.S. natural gas (LNG), That is, SAUDI ARABIAN ARAMCO announced a mega preliminary agreement to buy 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year from San Diego based Sempra Energy (SRE) for a PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS export project that is currently under development. It is important to note that if completed, the purchase from PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS would be one of the largest deals ever signed. Furthermore, ARAMCO, SAUDI ARABIA’s crown jewel, would also inject a cash infusion into the PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS development in exchange for a 25% interest.

 

IRAQ News

 

As a friendly reminder, there were two obvious potential outcomes from IRAQI political party negotiations with substantial regional and international consequences. That is, the first potential outcome was a coalition headed by Moqtada al-Sadr that would probably mean a diminishing U.S. presence in IRAQ combined with an IRAQI government that is independent of IRAN’s influence, while reintegrating an independent and sovereign IRAQ into the Arab world. Conversely, the second potential outcome was a coalition headed by the pro-IRANIAN Fatah Alliance representing the SHIITE militias, along with parties loyal to former Prime Ministers Haider al-Abadi and Nouri al-Maliki, as well as smaller groups such as the Kurdistan Coalition, that would result in an overtly pro-IRANIAN government. Thus, in spite of dramatic differences, the three parties that gained the most votes in IRAQ’s May 12, 2018 parliamentary elections agreed to work together to form a new IRAQI government. Thus, after the dust settled, Barham Salih was voted by parliament into the position of President with his first act naming Adil Abdul-Mahdi to be prime minister, who formed the new government during November’ 2018. Ironically, IRAQ’s prime minister-designate Adel Abdul Mahdi presented his new cabinet to the IRAQI parliament for approval, although he has no parliamentary block of his own to stand on, and is thus dependent on the blocks of cleric MUQTADA AL-SADR and pro-IRANIAN militia leader HADI AL-AMIRI for his position.

 

Furthermore, uncertainty appeared to be looming over IRAQ, as it appears that ISIS is trying to re-emerge in IRAQ, while the traditional political parties remain strong, such that the new president and prime minister will have a difficult time translating recent political developments into concrete changes. However, it is important to note that for the first time ever, the IRAQI parliament voted freely for IRAQ’s next president, with Barham Salih winning by a landslide vote of 219 to 22 over his competitor, while in the past, the parliamentary vote served mainly as a rubber-stamp of election results. Furthermore, immediately after Barham Salih was sworn in as President, he designated Adil Abdal-Mehdi to become prime minister, who is the first prime minister not to come from the Islamic Dawa Party, which has dominated post-invasion IRAQI politics. Nonetheless, further complicating the situation in IRAQ is the U.S. re-imposing sanctions against IRAN as IRAQ finds itself caught in the crossfire between its key allies of IRAN and the U.S. such that IRAQ’s economy could suffer the worst economic collateral damage from the U.S. sanctions on IRAN. Ironically, as soon as the most recent round of U.S. sanctions hit IRAN, the IRAQI Prime Minister stated that IRAQ would reluctantly comply but one week later, reality hit IRAQ whereby many IRAQIS forced the IRAQI government to maintain trade relations with IRAN. Thus, IRAQI’s new Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had no choice but to formally request that the U.S. provide certain exemptions to IRAQ on specific critical IRANIAN goods.

 

Nonetheless, deadly protests continued to rage in IRAQ over the lack of basic services and government corruption as IRAQI security forces were bracing with a rise in violence that has resulted in more solidarity protests throughout IRAQ as activists look to create momentum in their protests against intermittent electricity availabilities, undrinkable water, unemployment and frustrations with the political system. Furthermore, tensions were once again high in IRAQ this week, as speculations among IRAQI officials that the U.S. will begin to draw down the 5,200 U.S. military personnel based in IRAQ, in view of the defeat of ISIS on the ground in late 2017, and subsequent to U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of a complete withdrawal from SYRIA. Thus, SAUDI ARABIAN Crown Prince MBS offered his full support for IRAQ’s continued security in a telephone call with Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi to fill the void left behind by a potential U.S. withdrawal from IRAQ. Contemporaneously, IRAQI Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi expressed full support of Saudi Arabia’s initiatives to support IRAQ’s permanent security and prosperity.

 

Furthermore, this week, IRAQ finds itself caught in the crossfire as U.S. President Donald Trump plans to revert U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East by an eventual complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. However, with the impending U.S. withdrawal, IRAQ appears to be on high alert for ISIS fighters fleeing SYRIA, as there are legitimate security concerns that the fleeing ISIS militia will attempt to regroup in areas they once controlled in northern and western IRAQ. However, IRAQI President Barham Salih stated that foreign ISIS fighters would be tried under IRAQI law, such that they could be handed death sentences for acts of terrorism, if found guilty of killing IRAQIS, as IRAQI law allows for capital punishment. It is important to note that at least 200 mass graves containing up to 12,000 victims have been discovered in IRAQ, as IRAQ continues to struggle to emerge from the psychological damage caused by the four-year battle with ISIS militants. Ironically, IRAQ’s military announced that it is granting a reward to anyone with information related to senior ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It is important to note that leaflets stated that “The leader of ISIS and his fighters stole your land and killed your people, and now he is hiding in safety away from the death and destruction that he planted. With your intelligence reports, you can avenge. Any individual with intelligence that could result in the detention of the leader of the ISIS terrorist group will be receiving a reward of USD 25 million.”

 

Ironically, IRAQI Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi made his first visit to SAUDI ARABIA after SAUDI ARABIA reopened its consulate in Baghdad, IRAQ and announced $ 1 billion in aid for IRAQ. Hence, Adil Abdul-Mahdi visited SAUDI ARABIA, the Americans prime ally in the MIDDLE EAST, demonstrating that Iraq wants to maintain good relations with both IRAN and the U.S. However, the U.S. is well apprised of IRAQ’s current dependence on IRANIAN gas and electricity, as although the U.S. re-imposed tough sanctions on IRAN’s energy and finance sectors last year, IRAQ continues to benefit from several temporary exemptions granted by the U.S. to allow IRAQ to continue importing IRANIAN gas and electricity, crucial to IRAQ’s weak power sector. However, the shadow of senior ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hovered over IRAQ this week, as rumours continued to circulate, that the latest video of him filmed in a remote location might very well be IRAQ. Thus, IRAQI Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi stated that ISIS remains a potent threat around the world despite reduced capabilities, adding that its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had made his latest video appearance in a remote area while never specifically confirming that it was in fact IRAQ. It is important to note that this week, the Archbishop of IRBIL, the capital of IRAQI KURDISTAN, accused CHRISTIAN leaders of failing to do enough in defence of the vanishing CHRISTIAN community in IRAQ. That is, Archbishop Bashar Warda stated that IRAQ’s CHRISTIANS now faced extinction after 1,400 years of persecution, while highlighting that since the U.S. led invasion toppled the IRAQI regime under Saddam Hussein in 2003, the CHRISTIAN community had plummeted by 83%, from around 1.5 million to just slightly over 250,000. It is important to note that Archbishop Bashar Warda clearly stated that Christianity in IRAQ, consisting of one of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction, while those who remain must be ready to face martyrdom. Thus, Archbishop Bashar Warda clearly stated that political correctness, exercised by CHRISTIAN leaders, has resulted in them not speaking out loudly enough, for fear of being accused of Islamophobia over the issue. However, given that CHRISTIAN leaders have not condemned the extremist cancer that has decimated CHRISTIAN churches, monasteries and homes, there is a growing number of extremist groups that have formally asserted that the killing of Christians and Yazidis helped to spread Islam.

 

SYRIA News

 

As a friendly reminder, in recent months, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) along with its RUSSIAN allies retook a town, DERAA, that was at the heart of the SYRIAN civil war, that engulfed SYRIA for over seven years now, as SAA government forces raised the SYRIAN flag, in the birthplace of the SYRIAN war. It is important to note that the SAA along with their RUSSIAN allies now continue to focus their attention on IDLIB where they have vowed to wipe out all terrorists. It is important to note that the SAA and RUSSIA have signalled that an all-out offensive to retake the last rebel-held province in SYRIA consisting of IDLIB is only a matter of time. Therefore, the SAA and RUSSIA have triggered rising fears over a major humanitarian crisis as it has become evident that IDLIB will eventually be subjected to an intense bombing campaign.

 

Therefore, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave the HTS rebels inside the IDLIB buffer zone another warning to leave the designated RUSSIA and TURKEY designated demilitarized zone. Furthermore, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that if HTS rebels refuse to leave the designated demilitarized zone, TURKEY will allow the SAA and RUSSIAN Air Force to resume their operations against them in northwestern SYRIA. However, SYRIAN Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu’allem stated that retaking IDLIB province, and liberating IDLIB from terrorism, is a top priority for the SYRIAN government, such that the primary objective is to contain the terrorists in IDLIB through dialogue, as the SAA prefers to take this route in order to avoid bloodshed. Thus, an opposition government in IDLIB backed by HTS, imposed Islamic Sharia law, which calls for severe retribution for lawbreakers, in order to consolidate their power in the region.

 

Furthermore, terrorists based in SYRIA’s IDLIB province have threatened to launch a large-scale operation on the northern areas of neighbouring Latakia and Hama provinces, while organizing large-scale attacks, although the SAA is taking appropriate measures and is ready to repel possible attacks. It is important to note that this week, that HTS signed a ceasefire deal with what was left of the rival NLF alliance, that sees HTS supremacy and unison of the region under a HTS led administration. However, the SAA still appears to be preparing for a full fledge assault on IDLIB, as the war between the SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces appear to be entering the final phase, as the U.S. announces its intention for a complete withdrawal from SYRIA. Thus, the Free Syrian Police (FSP), a symbol of SYRIA’s revolution and a recipient of international support, ceased operations following the HTS takeover of IDLIB. However, civilians, members of civil society and activists, who saw the unarmed and independent FSP as a military force for good, see the decision by the FSP to disband as a shocking surprise. Thus, the RUSSIAN foreign ministry announced that the situation was rapidly deteriorating such that IDLIB was almost under the full control of the HTS rebel group, previously linked to al-Qaeda that should trigger a coordinated military effort between RUSSIA and TURKEY to stabilise the situation in IDLIB. However, this week, it appears that RUSSIA and TURKEY are reinforcing their respective positions in IDLIB, as a final imminent battle appears to be inevitable.

 

It is important to note that after 8 years of bloodshed that has killed over 500,000 people and forced over 7.5 million people from their homes, IDLIB, in the northwest of SYRIA is the last opposition stronghold, including extremist terrorist elements such as HTS to existing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Thus, for the 2.5 million people trapped in IDLIB, with no way out, the tense ceasefire still currently in effect could very well be the only difference between life and death, albeit the de-escalation zone in SYRIA is witnessing ongoing and large-scale cease-fire violations by multiple parties. Furthermore, this week, RUSSIA made it clear that it will not allow the de-escalation zone in IDLIB to be a safe zone for terrorists. However, at this stage, RUSSIA also opposes any large-scale military operation in the region, citing numerous civilians who can be used as human shields by the HTS militants. Nonetheless, a large number of SAA soldiers were redeployed to HAMA and IDLIB, as the SAA military appears to be making new preparations for a wide-scale offensive to liberate the remaining areas of SYRIA once and for all. It appears that SAA forces have nearly doubled this week, as dozens of military units seem to have redeployed to the demilitarized zone that was established on September 17 in Sochi. Hence, this week, SAA forces along with the RUSSIAN air force bombarded residential areas in the suburbs of IDLIB and ALEPPO, as air raids killed dozens of civilians amidst the heaviest fighting in months. It is important to note that the SAA and its Russian allies intensified their bombing campaign on IDLIB this week, as the area has seen a dramatic increase in violence, including airstrikes, barrel bombs and artillery attacks. Furthermore, TURKEY backed rebels increased their number of fighters on the front lines in northeastern SYRIA, joining forces with the rival HTS rebel group to force back SAA troops from the town of Kfar Nabuda that had been retaken by the SAA in its recent assaults. It is important to note that more than 80 fighters were killed in the battle for Kfar Nabuda, as TURKISH fighters under the National Liberation Front (NLF) banner confirmed that they assisted HTS rebels to protect territory from SAA forces, deemed to be a common enemy.

 

Meanwhile, the tensions between IRAN and ISRAEL seem to have continued to escalate again after ISRAELI airstrikes targeted IRANIAN military infrastructure inside SYRIA, in recent months. Obviously, IRAN condemned the wave of ISRAELI air strikes in SYRIA and clearly stated that these attacks by ISRAEL represent a blatant violation of SYRIA’s sovereignty such that IRAN has backed SYRIA’s right to defend itself against ISRAEL. It is important to note that the strikes were the heaviest strikes carried out by ISRAEL on SYRIA in decades that came right after twenty rockets were fired at ISRAELI military positions in the occupied Golan Heights of SYRIA. It is no secret that the strikes hurt IRAN that has deployed hundreds of troops inside SYRIA as military advisers to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) while thousands of IRANIAN militia armed, trained and financed by IRAN, have also been battling SYRIAN rebel forces alongside the SAA. ISRAEL stated that ISRAELI fighter jets struck almost IRAN’s entire military infrastructure inside Syria consisting of some 70 targets in ISRAELS biggest assault since SYRIA’s civil war commenced in 2011.

 

Subsequently, the tone escalated between ISRAEL and IRAN, as ISRAEL continues to look to RUSSIA for help to protect ISRAEL from IRAN’s presence in SYRIA to prevent IRAN from gaining a permanent foothold in SYRIA. ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to be adamant that the IRANIANS want to stay in SYRIA, and ultimately take over control of SYRIA, that will be a threat not only to ISRAEL but also for other countries in the region, such that IRANIANS should not be allowed to remain in SYRIA. However, in recent months, IRANIAN forces did pull back from the Golan Heights that seems to be a step in the right direction. However, tensions seemed to have risen with IRANIAN’s fuming at the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions to an IRANIAN economy already suffering from high unemployment and an IRANIAN Rial currency that has lost around half of its value since April of 2018. The new sanctions target IRANIAN purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and IRAN’s auto sector although the toughest sanctions targeting oil exports have only taken effect recently. However, IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani clearly stated that IRAN would not let the enemy bring IRAN to its knees such that if the enemy thinks they will defeat IRAN, they will take their hope to the grave with them.

 

Hence, U.S. President, Donald Trump, warned that the U.S. is developing a new strategy for the war in SYRIA that would focus more heavily on pushing IRAN’s military and its proxy forces out of SYRIA. However, U.S. President, Donald Trump, then seemed to realize that he needed an ally in the Middle East and hence the U.S. turned its attention to SAUDI ARABIA who has been grappling with the KHASHOGGI scandal whereby there has been an international uproar over the alleged killing of a SAUDI journalist inside the SAUDI ARABIAN consulate in the capital of ISTANBUL, TURKEY. Nonetheless, U.S. President, Donald Trump, seemed to have initially sided with the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family by speculating about rogue killers, while insisting that the SAUDI ARABIAN family must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Obviously, with the IRANIAN oil embargo plans that took effect on November 5, 2018, when sanctions kicked-in, success of the embargo depends on SAUDI ARABIA pumping extra oil to compensate for the anticipated shortfall.

 

 

TURKEY News – THE ROCK’s Opinions

 

This week’s focus in TURKEY seemed to shift to the TURKISH struggling economy, largely attributable to a lack of confidence by foreign investors, due largely to TURKEY’s repressive crackdown measures on all opposition movements. In my opinion, over the last two plus years, TURKEY has been radically transformed with emergency measures used to consolidate authoritarian powers, silence opposition voices and take away basic human rights and civil liberties. However, the behaviours of TURKEY’s governing AKP seem to be taking their toll on the TURKISH economy, as turbulent politics have resulted in economic turmoil, whereby the sliding TURKISH Lira has set-off alarm bells across TURKEY, as businesses struggle to cope with the financial impacts of a declining TURKISH Lira.

 

In my opinion, the underlying problem is that TURKISH banks and companies borrowed a lot of U.S. dollars, as TURKISH foreign currency debt represents about 30% of TURKEY’s GDP, such that TURKEY is now struggling to pay down the debt as the TURKISH Lira is falling. In my opinion, TURKEY’s economy is struggling in large part due to the TURKISH Lira losing almost 40% of its value against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of 2018, albeit recovering slightly since it hit its lows during October’ 2018. In my opinion, there are a slew of reasons dissuading investors from TURKEY, but at the end of the day, many investors continue to try to liquidate their TURKISH Lira given that it has been dropping fast since the beginning of 2018. Thus, the solution from my point-of-view is quite obvious, that TURKEY needs to raise interest rates in order to counter its problems of high inflation and a declining TURKISH Lira, while its economy should be able to bear the brunt of higher interest rates, without significant drops in current production levels. Nonetheless, Berat Albayrak, TURKEY’s finance minister stated that TURKEY does not foresee a big risk on the TURKISH economy and banking system as the TURKISH economy has strong fundamentals.

 

Hence, although THE ROCK kindly and politely offered his consulting services to Berat Albayrak to help TURKEY straighten out their economic and geopolitical mess, Berat Albayrak seems to be heading in the right direction as TURKEY continued this week to focus on the TURKISH economy. In my opinion, TURKEY’s central bank keeping its benchmark interest rate on hold, sticking to its promise to stand firm on inflation, even as the economy suffers a sharp slowdown in growth, was critical to insuring minimal economic volatility with the upcoming local elections to be held on March 31, 2019. In my opinion, TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak, managed to reassure the global markets that the expedited economic reforms in the post-election period will reinvigorate the normalization of TURKISH markets, as a new comprehensive economic package was announced on April 8, 2019. Thus, in my opinion, TURKISH markets now seem to be returning to normal after the recent TURKISH elections such that TURKEY should quickly enter a normalization process with the economic package announced by TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak.

 

Furthermore, in my opinion, this week TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak continued to hold his position that his plans are the best TURKEY could achieve if it wants to ignore the option of obtaining financing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In my opinion, the option of IMF financing would speed up the process for TURKEY to recover from the technical recession, after the economy contracted for two-straight quarters in the second half of 2018, albeit President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refuses to go the IMF route. However, in my opinion if Berat Albayrak’s plan is unable to produce timely results in TURKEY’s economy, TURKEY may be forced to go to the IMF for financing. However, in my opinion, U.S. sanctions on IRAN that will influence TURKEY, as it is one of the eight countries that the U.S. will no longer apply IRANIAN sanction waivers that expired on May 2, 2019, is expected to contribute to the slump in the TURKISH economy. Thus, in my opinion, both Turkey as a major importer that receives 90% of its oil from overseas, and RUSSIA, as one of the biggest oil exporters will be impacted by the IRANIAN sanctions. I believe that RUSSIA will likely increase its exports to TURKEY to fill the gap in the oil market as TURKEY imports around 15% of its oil from IRAN.

 

In regards to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing on April 22, 2019 that the U.S. administration would no longer renew IRANIAN sanctions waivers, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump will once again squeeze IRAN as hard as possible until IRAN agrees to return to the table of negotiations, albeit IRAN seems to love to play poker with their economic destinies. That is, IRAN may choose to play hardball, whereby IRAN will escalate the conflict by increasing its nuclear activities and intentionally provoking a crisis, if IRAN wants to bet its life that the U.S. will cave in and return to the status quo deal previously negotiated in 2015. Alternatively, IRAN may choose to simply hold out with the goal of endurance for a time rather than bargaining with the U.S. to relieve crushing economic pressure from U.S. imposed sanctions. Thus, in my opinion, IRANIAN egos are too strong to take the logical, rational and coherent deductive reasoning approach of renegotiating the 2015 IRAN Nuclear Deal immediately such that I believe IRAN will take the poker bet that the U.S. will be isolated internationally, that U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach will prove polarizing domestically and thus be discarded by his successor, and that the U.S. will not go beyond U.S. imposed sanctions to challenge IRAN across the region militarily.

 

In my opinion, TURKEY appears to be heading in the right direction with the current economic package with the goal of expanding capital markets, by including steps to establish a new investment fund, regulations to boost TURKEY’s ranking as an international finance center and diversification of financial derivatives, while fuelling economic growth with plans to reduce unemployment and ensure a fairer distribution of income including redesigned incentive systems for agricultural production. Furthermore, in my opinion, Berat Albayrak’s perspective seems to be reasonable that the worst was over, albeit TURKEY still seems to have a long battle ahead to emerge out of recession, as for much of the past year, TURKEY’s economy has been teetering. Therefore, TURKEY cannot blame international banks for a decade-long, credit-fuelled economic expansion that froze last year after investors expressed uncertainties in TURKISH financial markets, as investors were genuinely concerned about TURKEY’s economic and foreign policies. Thus, TURKEY still needs to reverse the negative impacts attributable to the TURKISH Lira losing 40% of its value against the U.S. dollar in one year, that has in turn fed inflation that has risen by over 20% in one year, representing the fastest increase in over 15 years, while hundreds of TURKISH companies have sought bankruptcy protection, as millions of people have been out of work. In my opinion, this week, TURKISH Finance Minister Berat Albayrak did the best he could to alleviate investor confidence, by reiterating that TURKISH inflation and employment would improve this year, while the TURKISH government will implement necessary reforms without hesitation as deemed necessary. However, in regards to this week’s news that TURKEY’s battered economy appears to be heading in the direction of emerging from recession later this month, due primarily to a politically driven surge in bank lending and public spending, in my opinion, the underlying economic vulnerabilities remain unaddressed and thus the recovery is likely to be short-lived. That is, growth figures due to be published at the end of May of 2019 are widely expected to show that TURKEY has emerged from its first contraction in a decade that occurred during the first quarter of 2019. However, in my opinion, the anticipated reversal appears to be mainly driven by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to minimize the economic pain for TURKISH voters in the run-up to elections held on March 31, 2019, with a TURKISH government spending splurge and a lending spree fuelled by TURKISH-owned banks. In my opinion, as the political stimulus push fades, another recession will likely take hold in the coming months, as the TURKISH banks which were encouraged by the governing AKP to sharply increase their lending in the run-up to the TURKISH elections, while the TURKISH government also adopted stimulus measures including tax cuts and employment incentives, represent short-term bandages for relief as opposed to long-term remedies.

 

In my opinion, Berat Albayrak sounds like President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which is not surprising as he is his son-in-law such that Berat Albayrak seems to be significantly influenced by the President and seems to be extremely reluctant to go against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s firm belief in the need to maintain interest rates stable at around 17%. However, in my opinion, TURKEY faces the risk of a rapid slowdown in the TURKISH economy that could potentially culminate in a difficult recession unless TURKEY’s finance minister, Berat Albayrak, takes urgent steps to rebalance the TURKISH economy while fuelling investor confidence. In my opinion, TURKEY’s finance minister, Berat Albayrak, acted appropriately, by declaring war on soaring inflation and calling on TURKEY’s businesses to cut prices by 10% to counter runaway inflation, that has driven up the price of everything from food to fuel, and sent inflation to 25% last month, its highest in 15 years. In my opinion, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unorthodox brand of economics whereby inflation should not be contained by raising interest rates or other traditional measures, but rather by employing supply-side measures to reduce costs, may very well work for medium, large and government controlled organizations.

 

In my opinion, the main TURKISH opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) successfully worked together to deliver a rebuke to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his governing AKP in local elections on March 31, 2019, that resulted in major wins for the opposition CHP in the capital, ANKARA, along with ISTANBUL and IZMI. However, in my opinion, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing AKP will fight and contest the slim opposition victory in TURKEY’s biggest city consisting of ISTANBUL that officially shows the CHP ahead by approximately 25,000 votes in ISTANBUL. However, in my opinion, the governing AKP is still reeling from the aftermath of last year’s currency collapse, when the TURKISH Lira crashed by around 30%, unleashing a wave of inflation, still running at around 20%, while Turkey’s central bank was forced to increase interest rates to 24% to stabilize the TURKISH Lira, one of the highest interest rates in the industrial world, which is obviously constraining TURKISH economic activity. Thus, in my opinion, TURKEY now faces stagflation consisting of persistent high inflation, combined with high unemployment and stagnant demand in TURKEY’s economy while currently in official recession status with the risk of further soring inflation. Hence, from my point-of-view, it is clear that the ailing TURKISH economy was the major issue for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who built his political success on supercharging TURKISH economic growth that voters now held the governing AKP to account.

 

In my opinion, the official results say it all as nationwide, the governing AKP-led alliance won 51.6% of the vote while in the three major TURKISH cities, the opposition CHP effectively swept into power. That is, more than 57 million people in TURKEY who were registered to vote for mayors and councillors, resulted in a high turnout rate of just under 85% with CHP taking Istanbul with 48.8% (AKP: 48.5%); Ankara with 50.9% (AKP: 47%); and Izmir with 58% (AKP: 38.6%). Thus, in my opinion, although the governing AKP may have strived towards authoritarianism in the last few years, the opposition CHP is very much alive, while obviously being enriched by winning control of six of the ten biggest cities in TURKEY. However, in my opinion, only time will tell whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be forced to change his governing AKP’s economic policies as all opinion polls clearly depicted economic conditions as the number one issue in the TURKISH elections, while the actual TURKISH economy is currently in recession, with inflation hovering around 20%, unemployment around 13.5% and the prices of vegetables having risen around 30% year-on-year.

 

Thus, in my opinion, TURKEY does not need changes to reforms as announced by Berat Albayrak but rather TURKEY needs a change in mentality whereby the governing AKP realize that TURKEY is a country based on institutions and rules, such that the most effective strategy is allowing those institutions to operate freely so that free market principals take over. Furthermore, in my opinion, TURKEY will likely need short-term IMF financing for its economy to recover more quickly from its current economic slump, such that although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled IMF financing out, TURKEY may be forced to go the IMF route as TURKEY is now short on the capital needed to help reduce the debt load of the TURKISH private sector, which has grown significantly after the TURKISH Lira currency crisis last year. In my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be in complete denial about the gravity of TURKEY’s economic problems, while showing no sign of being ready to come to political terms with the U.S. to facilitate a successful strategy to obtain IMF financing. That is, should the delivery of the RUSSIAN S-400 missile systems lead to U.S. sanctions being imposed in the near term, this could impact TURKEY’s ability to access IMF assistance, albeit TURKEY continuing to state publicly that TURKEY will take delivery of the Russian S-400 air-defense system, which has put the U.S. and TURKEY on a collision course that could harm the historic NATO alliance between TURKEY and the U.S. Thus, in my opinion, the governing AKP victory with a do-over of mayoral elections in ISTANBUL, overturning a win for the opposition CHP, resulted in the TURKISH LIRA falling to its lowest level since the LIRA crisis last year, while inflation continues to be at nearly four times the official target, that will make it more expensive for TURKISH companies to repay debt, most of which is in denominated in U.S. dollars and EUROS, such that it appears that the economy will likely get worse before it gets better. Furthermore, in my opinion, TURKEY appears to be paying the price for its pre-election efforts to control the capital markets, as foreign investors have withdrawn close to $ 1.8 billion dollars from TURKISH capital markets during 2019, representing the biggest retreat by foreign investors since 2015. In my opinion, with the TURKISH central bank’s cash reserves running low, TURKEY seems to have few options available should foreign investors decide to pull their investments out of TURKEY. In my opinion, the trouble with recent measures adopted by the governing AKP is that they are short-term in nature as opposed to being part of a coherent and comprehensive macro-economic program to deal with TURKEY’s economic woes such that they do little to restore investor confidence, who are more receptive to IMF financing that the governing AKP has rejected as an alternative thus far.

 

In my opinion, this means that the TURKISH economic crisis will likely further deteriorate, while it seems to be just a matter of time before the global financial system will have to deal with widespread TURKISH defaults on corporate debt. In my opinion, the TURKISH LIRA currency crisis seems to be heading in the inevitable direction of IMF help, as over the past year, the TURKISH Lira lost around 30% of its value after years of over-borrowing, especially in U.S. dollars, by TURKEY’s corporate sector. In my opinion, TURKEY’s finance minister, Berat Albayrak made a gallant effort to solve TURKEY’s economic problems internally but after a brief period of stabilization, the TURKISH LIRA has resumed its downward march in recent weeks, albeit the fact that the TURKISH central bank has raised interest rates to 24% and burnt through one-third of its international reserves to support the TURKIS Lira ahead of TURKEY’s March 31, 2019 local elections. Thus, in my opinion, the resumed Turkish LIRA currency weakness that has occurred despite the TURKISH Federal Reserve’s shift to an easier monetary policy stance, indicates that a wave of corporate debt defaults, bears the risks of crippling the TURKISH banking system, as a weak TURKISH LIRA and a deepening recession take their toll on TURKEY’s corporate sector’s balance sheets. Thus, the fact that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refuses to recognize that his governing AKP economic policy credibility is approaching collapse such that TURKEY will likely need IMF financing in order to restore that credibility, seems to suggest that the TURKISH currency crisis will need to get a lot worse before TURKEY makes the needed economic and political U-TURN to get an IMF financing in place.

 

In my opinion, I was not surprised to see TURKEY focus its attention on IDLIB and continue to warn the SYRIAN regime, RUSSIA and IRAN, that an all-out military offensive on IDLIB could lead to a disastrous outcome for TURKEY, by triggering a new wave of refugees heading towards the TURKISH borders. In my opinion, TURKEY has already sheltered 3.5 million SYRIANS such that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under significant domestic pressure to not take in any more refugees. Nonetheless, RUSSIA’s worries about AL-QAEDA linked terrorist groups based in IDLIB are legitimate but a full-scale military attack is not the way to deal with this situation as it will certainly put the lives of all innocent civilians at risk and create a humanitarian crisis. Thus, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs to receive full credit for being able to negotiate a ceasefire deal with RUSSIA, in recent months, to spare IDLIB from disastrous consequences for the time being. In my opinion, the large quantities of weapons entering SYRIA, in recent months, indicated that TURKEY would be providing complete TURKISH military support for a long drawn-out battle over IDLIB, if necessary. Thus, RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin once again made the right strategic decision to hold back the SAA and IRANIANS from engaging in a full fledge military assault on IDLIB that in my opinion will have disastrous consequences for all parties.

 

However, in my opinion, although RUSSIA blames TURKEY by claiming that HTS is using IDLIB as a base to launch attacks against SAA forces, I believe that controlling the HTS group is an impossible mission. Therefore, in my opinion, the rise of HTS in IDLIB has given RUSSIA and the SAA a strong pretext for an assault, although the U.N. warns that such an assault could trigger this century’s worst humanitarian crisis, as IDLIB is home to an estimated 3 million people. Nonetheless, the SAA seems to be pushing ahead with its military operations to retake the strategic M5 highway that connects the provincial capitals of IDLIB, HAMA and ALEPPO. Thus, it is not surprising to see the de-escalation zone in SYRIA witnessing ongoing and large-scale cease-fire violations by multiple parties. In my opinion, both TURKEY and RUSSIA continue to manoeuvre diplomatically and militarily to head off a confrontation over IDLIB, as everybody knows that the potential collapse of the de-escalation zone risks creating the largest humanitarian crisis in the history of the SYRIAN civil war. In my opinion, the current pattern of ceasefire violations seriously threatens the viability of the de-escalation zone, due to raging escalations in violence, as the pattern of attacks in IDLIB, particularly from the Bashar al-Assad regime, targeting communities near the boundaries of the de-escalation zone, consisting of both urban centers and rural communities, seem to be of little military or strategic value, other than easy targets.

 

In my opinion, TURKEY already struggles to provide for the 3.6 million SYRIAN refugees it currently hosts, while the possibility of 800,000 or more refugees fleeing towards TURKEY from an offensive in IDLIB represents a potential humanitarian catastrophe. In my opinion, it is unfortunate that IDLIB is far from the front pages of major news publications, as the recent escalation and use of chemical weapons showcases the level of impunity the Bashar al-Assad regime and its allied partners, Russia and Iran, continue to enjoy while inflicting ongoing damage and destruction in IDLIB. That is, escalations in fighting this week resulted in the SAA unleashing a powerful assault across the southern countryside of IDLIB, targeting several areas controlled by the terrorist HTS rebels, as the SAA repeatedly fired several artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles towards HTS positions. In my opinion, although the RUSSIAN and TURKISH armed forces have attempted to quell the violence in northern HAMA and southern IDLIB, the tit-for-tat attacks between the SAA and the HTS rebels persists with no foreseeable end to the violence in sight. Thus, in my opinion, this week’s, SAA forces along with the RUSSIAN air force bombarding residential areas in the suburbs of IDLIB and ALEPPO was not surprising. Hence, in my opinion, this week’s intensification of SAA and RUSSIAN bombing campaigns on IDLIB, including airstrikes, barrel bombs and artillery attacks is not surprising as the shaky truce is on the verge of total collapse, with SYRIAN and RUSSIAN forces set to launch a full-blown assault. Hence, TURKEY backed rebels increasing their number of fighters on the front lines in northeastern SYRIA, joining forces with the rival HTS rebel group to force back SAA troops from the town of Kfar Nabuda that had been retaken by the SAA in its recent assaults was not surprising, as the SAA forces are deemed to be a common enemy. However, in my opinion, IDLIB could very well become the next hell on earth as the situation on the ground is chaotic, with families fleeing for their lives from the targeted areas on crowded roads, knowing full well that if an all out war breaks out, the entire region could very well be razed to the ground.

 

SAUDI ARABIA News – THE ROCK’s Opinions

 

In my opinion, the international uproar over the alleged killing of a SAUDI journalist inside the SAUDI ARABIAN consulate in the capital of ISTANBUL, TURKEY has still not been resolved. Furthermore, consequences for anyone, even a member of the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family, found responsible for the assassination, must be enforced to the fullest extent of the law as the audio recordings of Jamal Khashoggi being assaulted, tortured, killed and dismembered inside the SAUDI ARABIAN consulate, are disturbing and down right psychopathic in nature. Thus, TURKEY led a relentless campaign to hold SAUDI ARABIA accountable, as TURKISH authorities have allowed media leaks to the international press. Thus, in my opinion, it was not surprising to see CIA Director Gina Haspel garnering extensive support for her conclusion, from both top Republican and top Democratic leaders. However, it was surprising to see the entire Senate Committee vote unanimously to overrule U.S. President Donald Trump, by officially blaming Crown Prince MBS for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Nonetheless, in my opinion U.S. President Donald Trump has made the right decision to stick with Crown Price MBS on the basis that there is no substantive evidence to link him to the crime.

 

In my opinion, the final official SAUDI ARABIAN version remaining that the SAUDI ARABIAN assassins killed Jamal Khashoggi with an injection of sedatives, and then immediately set to work dismembering him and hiding his remains, clearly answers the question of who, what, when, where and how but the remaining question of why still remains unclear. In my opinion, the 11 Jamal Khashoggi murder suspects put on trial, demanding the death penalty for 5, is completely expected. However, in my opinion, the 5 death sentence decisions will in substance result in SAUDI ARABIA preventing those people responsible from speaking publicly. Thus, in my opinion, it is to the benefit of SAUDI ARABIA for the truth about Jamal Khashoggi to disappear with the 5 planned executions, such that at this stage it appears that SAUDI ARABIA will execute a 5 to 1 exchange.

 

Nonetheless, in my opinion, preliminary conclusions by the U.N. special investigator on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions heading an independent international inquiry into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi are not surprising. That is, in my opinion, the official statement by the U.N. that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was a brutal and premeditated killing, which was planned by SAUDI ARABIAN officials, was expected. In my opinion, TURKEY was not allowed into the SAUDI ARABIAN consul where Jamal Khashoggi was killed for 13 days, in order to give SAUDI ARABIA enough time to insure that the trial of the 11 suspects in the case, would not produce any direct links to formal or informal authorization from the Crown Prince MBS or the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family. Therefore, I believe that Agnes Callamard’s assessment that efforts to undermine the investigation in TURKEY raises major concerns about transparency and fairness is valid justifying her request for an official visit to SAUDI ARABIA so that the SAUDI ARABIAN authorities can directly provide her with relevant evidence. In regards to the request by Agnes Callamard that SAUDI ARABIA reveal the defendants’ names and the fate of the 11 suspects initially arrested, I agree with her opinion that the hearings fall short of international standards as they have not been opened to the public and trial observers. Furthermore, I agree with her opinion that SAUDI ARABIA is grievously mistaken if SAUDI ARABIA believes that these proceedings, as currently constituted, will satisfy the international community, in terms of procedural fairness under international standards and in terms of the validity of their conclusions.

 

However, in my opinion, the introduction of a bill by a group of U.S. Democratic senators that would require the leader of the U.S. intelligence community to submit an unclassified report on the death of SAUDI ARABIAN journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is another formality in the relentless pursuit by the opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump to hold Crown Prince MBS and the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family accountable. However, like the E.U. and the U.N., the U.S. Democratic Senators are now attempting to beat a dead horse to death, although there is nothing more anybody can do at this stage to bring back Jamal Khashoggi. Furthermore, in my opinion, at this stage it would seem more constructive to focus on changing the authoritarian mind sets in the MIDDLE EAST as opposed to overanalyzing the evidence behind the Jamal Khashoggi killing to the point of paralysis, as at the end of the day the elite class rules, such that Crown Prince MBS and the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family are under armour and bullet proof. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the report that must include the identification of those who carried out, participated in, ordered, or were otherwise complicit in or responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, will likely not provide any new information, in the sense that there is no substantive evidence to pin Crown Prince MBS or the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family. Thus, in my opinion, focusing on punishing SAUDI ARABIA for its sins of the past will have very little impact, such that the U.S. Democratic Senators should focus on obtaining prospective concessions from SAUDI ARABIA consisting of: (1) Negotiate directly with representatives of the HOUTHI rebels to end the war in YEMEN; (2) End a blockade imposed by SAUDI ARABIA and three other ARAB states on QATAR, in June of last year seeking a political solution, in one of the worst diplomatic rifts with QATAR throughout its entire history; and (3) Release blogger Raif Badawi, women’s rights activists and other political prisoners held in SAUDI ARABIA.

 

However, in my opinion, this week’s news about U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, warning that U.S. President Donald Trump is considering using an obscure loophole in arms control law that would allow the Trump administration to sell a new batch of bombs to SAUDI ARABIA without congressional approval is not surprising. In my opinion, U.S. Arms Control laws allow the U.S. Congress to reject a sale to a foreign country, but U.S. President Donald Trump could claim that the sale constitutes an emergency, which means that the U.S. Congress cannot take a vote of disapproval, such that the sale could go through automatically. In regards to U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy clearly stating that circumventing U.S. Congress in order to sell munitions to SAUDI ARABIA would be a complete abuse of power, to the extent that U.S. President Donald Trump respects the law, one man’s opinion on abuse of power, could be seen as another man’s opinion as above board practices to meet arms demands by SAUDI ARABIA in response to recent attacks by YEMENI rebels in SAUDI ARABIA. In regards to U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy stating that there is no new emergency reason to sell bombs to SAUDI ARABIA to drop in YEMEN, as SAUDI ARABIA has been dropping bombs on civilians, so if there is an emergency, it is a humanitarian emergency caused by the bombs of the U.S., U.S. President Donald Trump will likely argue that recent drone strikes by YEMENI rebels in SAUDI ARABIA constitutes an emergency. In my opinion, the loophole mentioned by U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy appears to be in reference to a specific section of the Arms Export Control Act that allows the U.S. President to waive congressional approval requirements if an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale, in the national security interest of the U.S. In my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump will likely argue that the two oil-pumping stations for the EAST-WEST pipeline that had been hit by explosive-laden drones, that SAUDI ARABIA obviously labelled an act of terrorism by YEMENI rebels, that targeted global oil supplies, represents a risk to the security of worldwide oil supplies and thus the U.S. economy in order to exercise the loophole to sell arms to SAUDI ARABIA.

 

In regards to U.S. Democratic senators still being frustrated by U.S. President Donald Trump downplaying their hype regarding Jamal Khashoggi by focusing on senior adviser Jared Kushner’s face-to-face meeting with Crown Prince MBS and his father King Salman to discuss U.S. and SAUDI ARABIAN cooperation, the ISRAELI and PALESTINIAN conflict and economic investment in the region, it has become clear almost six months after SAUDI ARABIAN journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, that Crown Prince MBS believed to have ordered the killing has cemented his position as U.S. President Donald Trump’s closest ally in the MIDDLE EAST. However, in my opinion, this week, it was evident how what would appear to be two very different developments, were in fact part of same story, as the Jamal Khashoggi killing triggered the UAE and SAUDI ARABIA to announce that they would provide a joint $ 200 million in urgent aid for people in YEMEN. In my opinion, civilians in YEMEN struggling to buy food to break their fast culminating after four consecutive years of civil war, that has resulted in the YEMEN currency sinking to its lowest levels in history, while the cost of food has soared, has triggering a major food crisis like YEMEN has never before seen.

 

Thus, I was surprised to see this week, that SAUDI ARABIA focused its attention on placing a huge bet on U.S. natural gas (LNG) as SAUDI ARABIAN ARAMCO announced a mega preliminary agreement to buy 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year from San Diego based Sempra Energy (SRE) for a PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS export project that is currently under development. In my opinion, this is a major statement about the SAUDI ARABIA entering the LNG market and about how price competitive the outlook is for U.S. natural gas. In my opinion, although the agreement calls for SAUDI ARABIA to purchase LNG from the U.S., it is unlikely the natural gas would end up being consumed directly by SAUDI ARABIA to meet its vast electricity needs. In my opinion, SAUDI ARABIAN ARAMCO will most likely try to contract buyers in SOUTH AMERICA and EUROPE for the LNG. Thus, in my opinion, I believe that this investment by SAUDI ARABIAN ARAMCO will be used to establish a SAUDI ARABIAN volume of natural gas in conformance with the SAUDI ARABIAN objective of developing a global portfolio to become a global natural gas player. However, this arrangement appears to reflect the new geopolitical realities centered upon personal, financial and political interests, as everybody now seems to make decisions in the context of this interests based model and framework, such that values, morals, principals and ethics seem to be secondary to the primary objective of taking decisions that best serves beneficial interests.

 

Thus, in my opinion, despite the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that the counter-revolutionary forces may have created with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the waves of protests sweeping across ALGERIA and SUDAN suggest that a second manifestation of the ARAB SPRING may very well be underway in the MIDDLE EAST, that bears a similar resemblance to the first wave witnessed in 2011. However, in my opinion, the second manifestation of the ARAB SPRING feels more peaceful in its approach and realistic in its aspirations, as everybody seems to have learned from their mistakes of the past, as everyone is now well aware of the dangers that the militarisation of protests poses to the effectiveness of the movement, consisting of prolonged civil wars with significant human casualties and horrendous refugee crises. However, in my opinion, the same underlying motive that drove the first wave of the ARAB SPRING in 2010-2011 now drives the second, consisting of social, political and economic conditions deteriorating, while showing no signs of relief in the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, instead of addressing this social and political collapse, many MIDDLE EASTERN countries choose to silence dissident voices that raise these concerns while not only limiting the freedom of speech, but also by now criminalising the freedom to be silent. Thus, in my opinion, when the freedom to be silent is seen as a form of passive opposition, leading to intellectuals and journalists across the MIDDLE EAST being imprisoned and tortured for refusing to publicly and unconditionally support the existing regime in place, this is a sure sign of existing regimes fearing uprisings through dialogue and free thought within these dictatorial regimes.

 

Hence, this week I was not surprised to see SUDAN and ALGERIA rise once again in protest, in honour of Jamal Khashoggi’s legacy, as a sign that he was right that the ideas behind the Arab Spring still have some life left in them. Thus, in my opinion, the latest pictures of triumphant popular protests in ALGERIA and SUDAN, trigger a reminder about Jamal Khashoggi who wrote quite clearly about the Arab world’s longing for democracy. Hence, in my opinion, Jamal Khashoggi’s last article for the Washington Post continues to ring in the ears of ALGERIANS and SUDANESE, where he stressed how the lack of freedom in most of the MIDDLE EAST left their citizens either uninformed or misinformed, unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the MIDDLE EAST and their day-to-day lives, whereby a state-run narrative dominates the public psychology, albeit that many do not believe, a large majority of the population does fall victim to this false narrative.

 

IRAQ News – THE ROCK’s Opinions

 

As a friendly reminder, with ISIS inevitably nearing its downfall in IRAQ, IRAQI security forces need to be prepared for a different kind of war against ISIS, shifting away from ground offensives, to intelligence work and surgical airstrikes to counter an expected move by ISIS away from holding territory and back to a more terrorist role of a dispersed underground terror organization. In my opinion, ISIS is already laying the groundwork for a new terrorist strategy of hiding in remote areas, carrying out attacks in IRAQ and abroad and resorting to organized crime to bankroll future operations. In addition, in my opinion, IRAQ has obtained the necessary political support to get the SUNNIS back into the government in IRAQ to avert a new set of extremists in IRAQ. That is, given that the SUNNIS were brought back into the IRAQI political system, that should be the end of a significant ISIS uprising, as if the SUNNIS are not satisfied with their political voice, then IRAQ could see the emergence of new terrorist groups having a similar agenda as ISIS.

 

As a friendly reminder, either a coalition under Moqtada al-Sadr was expected to emerge or a pro-IRANIAN coalition under the Fatah Alliance was expected to emerge such that either way, it seemed that the U.S. presence in IRAQ would likely diminish over time. Ironically, after months of negotiations, Barham Salih was voted by parliament into the position of President with his first act naming Adil Abdul-Mahdi to be prime minister, who formed his government during November’ 2018. Thus, it seems that the results of the elections were bypassed for the benefit of stability, as this new duo represents the old IRAQI regime, as both have been active in IRAQI politics since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. That is, President Barham Salih was previously deputy prime minister of IRAQ and Prime Minister of IRAQI Kurdistan while Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was formerly vice president of IRAQ and more recently oil minister. Thus, in my opinion, the election of President Barham Salih, a KURD, and his nomination of Adil Abdul-Mahdi to be prime minister, a Shiite, seems to have broken months of political deadlock in IRAQ after an inconclusive May election result that everybody seems to have agreed to scrap. Nonetheless, with IRAQ’s prime minister-designate Adel Abdul Mahdi presenting his new cabinet to the IRAQI parliament for approval, although he has no parliamentary block of his own to stand on, and is thus dependent on the blocks of cleric MUQTADA AL-SADR and pro-IRANIAN militia leader HADI AL-AMIRI for his position, Adel Abdul Mahdi will most likely not be able to control IRAQI corruption or challenge existing underlying militia influences in IRAQ.

 

In regards to recent uncertainty looming over IRAQ, as it appears that ISIS is trying to re-emerge in IRAQ, the new president and prime minister will have a difficult time translating recent political developments into concrete changes. Nonetheless, it is important to note that for the first time ever, the IRAQI parliament voted freely for IRAQ’s next president, with Barham Salih winning by a landslide vote of 219 to 22 over his competitor, representing a step in the right direction, given that Barham Salih acclaimed a clear majority. Thus, in my opinion, this vote marks a departure from last summer’s election shake-up, with some two-thirds of the members of IRAQI parliament now being new to the job, as growing protest movements exposed IRAQI citizen disillusionment with the political process, while increasing pressure on the IRAQI parliament for significant change. Nonetheless, in my opinion, poor governance, lack of public infrastructure and high levels of corruption, particularly in poor SUNNI areas, is helping to fuel ISIS’s objectives of a comeback after its crushing defeat. Unfortunately for IRAQ, the U.S. sanctions on IRAN seem to be arriving at the worst possible time, as the embargo on its IRANIAN neighbour could hit jobs in IRAQ and cut off a crucial source of relatively cheap imports into IRAQ.

 

In my opinion, with 80% of the products on the market in IRAQ being IRANIAN made, if the border closes, it will be an economic crisis for IRAQ. Thus, I was not surprised to see many IRAQIS pushing the IRAQI government to maintain trade relations with IRAN because IRAQ, which shares around 1,450 kilometers of border with IRAN, will be badly hurt by the IRANIAN sanctions. In my opinion, IRAQ relies on IRAN for gas supplies, electricity, water and food such that the U.S. has placed IRAQ in a loser position, as by attempting to cut-off the head of IRAN, the U.S. cut-off the waist of IRAQ, such that although IRAN suffers most without its head, IRAQ is unable to reproduce without its waist. In my opinion, IRAQ will certainly experience shortages of key products if IRAQ complies with all of the U.S. sanctions that could lead to political turmoil at a critical crossroads period in IRAQI politics. Therefore, I was not surprised to see Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, obtain U.S. sanction waivers, based on a clear vision of what IRAQ really needs, which includes IRANIAN natural gas, electricity and other critical trade related products that fuel the IRAQI economy.

 

Nonetheless, I was not surprised to see the deadly protests continuing to rage in IRAQ over the lack of basic services and government corruption as IRAQI security forces were bracing for new rounds of violent protests. In my opinion, intermittent electricity availabilities, undrinkable water, unemployment and frustrations with the political system will certainly result in more IRAQI protests. In my opinion, it is easier said than done for IRAQI security forces to protect and facilitate peaceful demonstrations when frustrated IRAQI populace hurl stones and Molotov cocktails at local IRAQI government buildings and IRAQI security forces. Furthermore, tensions were once again high in IRAQ this week, amid speculations among IRAQI officials that the U.S. will begin to draw down the 5,200 U.S. military personnel based in IRAQ. In my opinion, in view of the defeat of ISIS on the ground in late 2017, and subsequent to U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of a complete withdrawal from SYRIA, it is only a matter of time before the U.S. will withdraw from IRAQ. However, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump will stick to his guns, as he has been extremely vocal that the U.S. has spent over US$ 7 Trillion in the MIDDLE EAST, with nothing to show for it, such that he has long favoured seizing IRAQ’s oil, while at a minimum IRAQ will have to renegotiate business relationships with the U.S. in order to warrant future U.S. involvement in IRAQ.

 

Thus, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIAN Crown Prince MBS offer of full support for IRAQ’s continued security, to fill the void left behind by a potential U.S. withdrawal from IRAQ, is not surprising. In my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA is courting IRAQ as part of a combined effort with the U.S. to stem the growing regional influence of IRAN, while IRAQ is seeking economic benefits from closer ties with SAUDI ARABIA. Furthermore, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA which is of a majority SUNNI Muslim background is the perfect financial backer for SUNNI Muslim parts of IRAQ, which bore the brunt of the fighting during the war against ISIS, but that now seem to be underfunded by the SHIA-led central government in IRAQ, as the budget appears to be lacking to help the liberated SUNNI Muslim areas. Furthermore, in regards to this week’s turmoil, as IRAQ finds itself caught in the crossfire as U.S. President Donald Trump plans to revert U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East by an eventual complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, it is my opinion that IRAQIS will no longer be able to blame interference by the U.S. for exacerbating IRAQ’s internal problems. However, in my opinion, the impending U.S. withdrawal, will likely trigger ISIS fighters fleeing SYRIA attempting to regroup in areas they once controlled in northern and western IRAQ.

 

In regards the announcement by IRAQI President Barham Salih that foreign ISIS fighters would be tried under IRAQI law, such that they could be handed death sentences for acts of terrorism, if found guilty of killing IRAQIS, as IRAQI law allows for capital punishment, ISIS fighters who committed atrocities should be executed accordingly as their actions were committed without any human decency like savage wild animals without any mercy. That is, with at least 200 mass graves containing up to 12,000 victims discovered in IRAQ, IRAQ continues to struggle to emerge from the psychological damage caused by the four-year battle with ISIS militants. In my opinion, with ISIS in IRAQ killing almost 33,000 civilians, with more than 55,000 injured, it is critical to identity the victims in order to aid the recovery process for their families. However, in my opinion, this week it appears that IRAQ’s military wants to symbolically close the ISIS book with its announcement that it is granting a reward to anyone with information related to senior ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whereby any individual with intelligence that could result in the detention of the leader of the ISIS terrorist group will be receiving a reward of USD 25 million.

 

In regards to IRAQI Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi making his first visit to SAUDI ARABIA after SAUDI ARABIA reopened its consulate in Baghdad, IRAQ and announced $ 1 billion in aid for IRAQ, Adil Abdul-Mahdi obviously went to SAUDI ARABIA with a large delegation, including officials and businessmen, with trade billed as a prime focus of the discussions between the two largest oil producers in the MIDDLE EAST. In my opinion, the 13 agreements signed in areas such as trade, energy and political cooperation, set the precedent that although the two countries have historically been at odds with each other ever since the IRAQI invasion of KUWAIT in 1990, SAUDI ARABIA has wooed IRAQ as part of an effort to stem the growing influence of IRAN in the region. Thus, in my opinion, the new government in IRAQ is walking a tightrope between appeasing IRAN, the dominant power in IRAQ, while capitalizing on new opportunities from Arab Gulf states with U.S. alliances, such as SAUDI ARABIA. In my opinion, this week’s However, in my opinion, the shadow of senior ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hovered over IRAQ this week, as rumours continued to circulate, that the latest video of him filmed in a remote location might very well be IRAQ. However, I was not surprised to see this week that the Archbishop of IRBIL, the capital of IRAQI KURDISTAN, accused CHRISTIAN leaders of failing to do enough in defence of the vanishing CHRISTIAN community in IRAQ. In my opinion, the statistics clearly show that IRAQ’s CHRISTIANS now face extinction, as the CHRISTIAN community with just slightly over 250,000 followers, is perilously close to extinction, while those who remain must be ready to face martyrdom. Furthermore, in my opinion, the current threat from ISIS with a final existential struggle, following ISIS’s initial assault in 2014, still looms in the minds of the remaining CHRISTIAN populace. In my opinion, ISIS has effectively managed to take away the peace of mind of the remaining CHRISTIANS, after attempting to wipe out their CHRISTIAN history and destroy their future. Thus, in my opinion, the remaining CHRISTIAN population in IRAQ that has already lost properties, homes and businesses, find themselves with very little to show for their life’s work, in places where their families have lived for thousands of years. Thus, in my opinion, Archbishop Bashar Warda’s views are accurate that political correctness, exercised by CHRISTIAN leaders, has resulted in them not speaking out loudly enough, for fear of being accused of Islamophobia over the issue. Hence, in my opinion, CHRISTIAN leaders need to condemn the extremist cancer that has decimated CHRISTIAN churches, monasteries and homes, while warning the growing number of extremist groups that the killing of Christians and Yazidis in order to spread Islam will not be tolerated any longer in IRAQ.

 

SYRIA News – THE ROCK’s Opinions

 

As a friendly reminder, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) along with its RUSSIAN ally recently retook a town, DERAA that was at the heart of the SYRIAN civil war, as SAA government forces raised the SYRIAN flag in the birthplace of the SYRIAN war. Thus, in my opinion, the shift now in focus of the SAA campaign to IDLIB was expected, as it is unacceptable that terrorists, particularly the AL-NUSRA FRONT, are using the de-escalation area of IDLIB to attack the SYRIAN army and to also attack the RUSSIAN military bases in the area by utilizing drones. However, in my opinion, TURKISH backed opposition groups in IDLIB that have attempted to unify into a new coalition, with some 70,000 fighters pledging to fight against SAA forces without the terrorist group, Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the most dominant rebel force in IDLIB in control of about 60% of the province, will not be able to indefinitely withstand the impending SAA and RUSSIAN military onslaught. Furthermore, in my opinion, a major military operation in IDLIB could pose a particularly threatening humanitarian crisis because there is no opposition held territory remaining in SYRIA, where people could be evacuated to, such that as many as 2.5 million SYRIANS could try to flee to the closed TURKISH border, creating a new refugee crisis of catastrophic proportions.

 

Hence, in my opinion, although RUSSIA’s worries about AL-QAEDA linked terrorist groups based in IDLIB are legitimate, a full-scale military attack is not the way to deal with this situation as it will certainly put the lives of all innocent civilians at risk and create a humanitarian crisis. Thus, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs to receive full credit for being able to negotiate a ceasefire deal with RUSSIA to spare IDLIB from disastrous consequences for the time being. In my opinion, RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin is by far the best negotiator currently in the region, who always seems to be able to remain cool, calm and collected, as he once again made the right strategic decision to hold back the SAA and IRANIANS from engaging in a full fledge military assault on IDLIB that in my opinion will have disastrous consequences for all parties.

 

Nonetheless, in my opinion, the announcement by the RUSSIAN foreign ministry was not surprising that the situation was rapidly deteriorating such that IDLIB was almost under the full control of the HTS rebel group, previously linked to al-Qaeda, that should trigger a coordinated military effort between RUSSIA and TURKEY to stabilise the situation in IDLIB. Thus, this week, I was not surprised to see that RUSSIA and TURKEY are reinforcing their respective positions in IDLIB, as a final imminent battle appears to be inevitable. In my opinion, as the last opposition stronghold, including extremist terrorist elements such as HTS, IDLIB is shaping up to be the site of a geopolitical showdown, including TURKEY, RUSSIA and IRAN while also risking that the U.S. is pulled into the conflict, as all of these powerful foreign militaries have opposing ambitions. In my opinion, for RUSSIA, who supports the existing AL-ASSAD regime, and TURKEY, who have backed the opposition seeking to overthrow the SYRIAN strongman, the conclusion in IDLIB is now stretched to the breaking point whereby it seems that both sides cannot remain, while nobody wants to relinquish any claims. However, RUSSIA appears to be running out of patience with TURKEY as HTS, the Sunni extremist faction that grew out of the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, has emerged as the dominant force in IDLIB. Obviously, President Bashar al-Assad cannot accept HTS controlling IDLIB’s economy, by extracting tolls and fees on border crossings and controlling traffic between IDLIB and TURKEY, while imposing its own interpretation of ISLAMIC law and imprisoning and torturing its opponents.

 

However, in my opinion, although RUSSIA blames TURKEY by claiming that HTS is using IDLIB as a base to launch attacks against SAA forces, I believe that controlling the HTS group is an impossible mission. Therefore, in my opinion, the rise of HTS in IDLIB has given RUSSIA and the SAA a strong pretext for an assault, although the U.N. warns that such an assault could trigger this century’s worst humanitarian crisis, as IDLIB is home to an estimated 3 million people. Nonetheless, the SAA seems to be pushing ahead with its military operations to retake the strategic M5 highway that connects the provincial capitals of IDLIB, HAMA and ALEPPO. Thus, it is not surprising to see the de-escalation zone in SYRIA witnessing ongoing and large-scale cease-fire violations by multiple parties. In my opinion, both TURKEY and RUSSIA continue to manoeuvre diplomatically and militarily to head off a confrontation over IDLIB, as everybody knows that the potential collapse of the de-escalation zone risks creating the largest humanitarian crisis in the history of the SYRIAN civil war. In my opinion, the current pattern of ceasefire violations seriously threatens the viability of the de-escalation zone, due to raging escalations in violence, as the pattern of attacks in IDLIB, particularly from the Bashar al-Assad regime, targeting communities near the boundaries of the de-escalation zone, consisting of both urban centers and rural communities, seem to be of little military or strategic value, other than easy targets.

 

In my opinion, TURKEY already struggles to provide for the 3.6 million SYRIAN refugees it currently hosts, while the possibility of 800,000 or more refugees fleeing towards TURKEY from an offensive in IDLIB represents a potential humanitarian catastrophe. In my opinion, it is unfortunate that IDLIB is far from the front pages of major news publications, as the recent escalation and use of chemical weapons showcases the level of impunity the Bashar al-Assad regime and its allied partners, Russia and Iran, continue to enjoy while inflicting ongoing damage and destruction in IDLIB. That is, escalations in fighting this week resulted in the SAA unleashing a powerful assault across the southern countryside of IDLIB, targeting several areas controlled by the terrorist HTS rebels, as the SAA repeatedly fired several artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles towards HTS positions. In my opinion, although the RUSSIAN and TURKISH armed forces have attempted to quell the violence in northern HAMA and southern IDLIB, the tit-for-tat attacks between the SAA and the HTS rebels persists with no foreseeable end to the violence in sight. Thus, in my opinion, this week’s, SAA forces along with the RUSSIAN air force bombarding residential areas in the suburbs of IDLIB and ALEPPO was not surprising. Hence, in my opinion, this week’s intensification of SAA and RUSSIAN bombing campaigns on IDLIB, including airstrikes, barrel bombs and artillery attacks is not surprising as the shaky truce is on the verge of total collapse, with SYRIAN and RUSSIAN forces set to launch a full-blown assault. Hence, TURKEY backed rebels increasing their number of fighters on the front lines in northeastern SYRIA, joining forces with the rival HTS rebel group to force back SAA troops from the town of Kfar Nabuda that had been retaken by the SAA in its recent assaults was not surprising, as the SAA forces are deemed to be a common enemy. However, in my opinion, IDLIB could very well become the next hell on earth as the situation on the ground is chaotic, with families fleeing for their lives from the targeted areas on crowded roads, knowing full well that if an all out war breaks out, the entire region could very well be razed to the ground.

 

Meanwhile, in regards to escalation of tensions in recent months between ISRAEL and IRAN, I am not surprised to see ISRAEL continuing to look to RUSSIA for help to protect ISRAEL from IRAN’s presence in SYRIA to prevent IRAN from gaining a permanent foothold in SYRIA. In my opinion, ISRAEL will not back down from its position that IRANIANS want to stay in SYRIA, and ultimately take over control of SYRIA, that will be a threat not only to ISRAEL but also for other countries in the region, such that IRANIANS should not be allowed to remain in SYRIA. However, in recent months, IRANIAN forces have pulled back from the Golan Heights that should be welcomed as a positive development, although ISRAEL clearly stated that such a pull back is insufficient, with no compromises or concessions from ISRAEL’s position of a complete withdrawal being necessary. In my opinion, tensions have obviously risen once again since IRANIAN’s were fuming at the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions to an IRANIAN economy already suffering from high unemployment and an IRANIAN Rial currency that has lost around half of its value since April of 2018. The recent sanctions that target IRANIAN purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and IRAN’s auto sector that took effect seem to reflect the U.S. belief that IRAN will eventually surrender via the pressure tactics of sanctions. However, in my opinion IRAN’s pride runs through the veins of a majority of IRANIANS who would prefer to eat sand and drink sewage water before conceding to U.S. pressure tactics via sanctions.

 

In my opinion, the U.S. withdrawal from the IRAN nuclear deal has already badly shaken IRAN’s economy, crashing its currency, the IRANAN Rial, such that IRAN will have to choose to either come back to the negotiating table with the U.S. or watch its IRANIAN economy suffer from re-imposed U.S. sanctions. Thus, I was not surprised at U.S. President, Donald Trump warning that the U.S. is developing a new strategy for the war in SYRIA that would focus more heavily on pushing IRAN’s military and its proxy forces out of SYRIA. In my opinion, the new U.S. strategy would probably not involve the U.S. military directly targeting and killing IRANIAN soldiers or IRANIAN proxies, given that the U.S. military only has the right of self-defence authorization in SYRIA, and thus should only strike IRANIAN targets if the U.S. feels threatened. In my opinion, the U.S. plan will likely focus on political and diplomatic efforts to force IRAN out of SYRIA by squeezing SYRIA financially. That is, the U.S. will likely withhold reconstruction aid from areas where IRANIAN and RUSSIAN forces are present and also impose sanctions on RUSSIAN and IRANIAN companies working on reconstruction in SYRIA. Ironically, IRAN seems to be heading in the direction of weathering the storm created by the crippling U.S. sanctions on IRAN’s oil industry that came back into full force during November’ 2018. Therefore, IRAN’s strategy seems to be heading in the direction of maintaining a status-quo arrangement until the fate of U.S. President Donald Trump becomes clearer in terms of whether he will ultimately be elected to serve a second term in 2020.

 

However, U.S. President, Donald Trump, then seemed to realize that he needed an ally in the Middle East and hence the U.S. turned its attention to SAUDI ARABIA who has been grappling with the KHASHOGGI scandal whereby there has been an international uproar over the alleged killing of a SAUDI journalist inside the SAUDI ARABIAN consulate in the capital of ISTANBUL, TURKEY. Nonetheless, I am not surprised that U.S. President, Donald Trump, seems to have sided with the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family by initially speculating about rogue killers, while insisting that the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, I was not surprised that U.S. President, Donald Trump did not hide from the U.S. realities that he does not want the U.S. lucrative business relationships with SAUDI ARABIA to change. Hence, in my opinion, the Jamal Khashoggi scandal will shortly come to an end, with the Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman (MBS) and the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family walking away absolved, as TURKEY has not produced adequate substantive evidence to pin them with the crime, other than an abundance of circumstantial evidence that they ordered the hit as defector rulers of SAUDI ARABIA.

 

In my opinion, the current situation in the Middle East depicts the new geopolitical realities whereby tensions between ISRAEL and IRAN represent the biggest concern, as the trigger for a potential Third and Final World War that would likely be triggered by a direct ISRAEL and IRAN conflict, such that all leaders across the globe must avoid the temptation to look away but rather should increase their efforts to identify creative diplomatic options to reduce tensions, minimize civilian casualties, prevent the further use of chemical weapons and alleviate the humanitarian crisis from a civil war spiralling out of control with no end in sight, by considering the appointment of THE ROCK as special envoy to the Middle East. That being said, the current situation between ISRAEL and IRAN depicts the new geopolitical realities in the region, whereby U.S. President Donald Trump seems to have realized that he needs an ally in the MIDDLE EAST, and hence the U.S. turned its attention to SAUDI ARABIA, who has been grappling with the KHASHOGGI scandal, whereby there has been an international uproar over the alleged killing of a SAUDI journalist inside the SAUDI ARABIAN consulate in the capital of ISTANBUL, TURKEY, with U.S. President, Donald Trump, initially playing public relations frontman and spin-doctor for the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family by speculating about rogue killers, while insisting that the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, while subsequently being forced to qualify his initial unconditional support with a WOW, as U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, warned that U.S. President Donald Trump is considering using an obscure loophole in arms control law, that would allow the Trump administration to sell a new batch of bombs to SAUDI ARABIA without congressional approval, as U.S. Arms Control laws allow the U.S. Congress to reject a sale to a foreign country, but U.S. President Donald Trump could claim that the sale constitutes an emergency, which means that the U.S. Congress cannot take a vote of disapproval, such that the sale could go through automatically, albeit to the extent that U.S. President Donald Trump respects the law, one man’s opinion on abuse of power, could be seen as another man’s opinion as above board practices to meet arms demands by SAUDI ARABIA, in response to recent attacks by YEMENI rebels in SAUDI ARABIA, as SAUDI ARABIA focused its attention on placing a huge bet on U.S. natural gas (LNG), as ARAMCO announced a mega preliminary agreement to buy 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year from San Diego based Sempra Energy (SRE) for a PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS export project that is currently under development, as basis for SAUDI ARABIA to establish volume of natural gas, in conformance with the SAUDI ARABIAN objective of developing a global portfolio to become a global natural gas player, reflecting the new geopolitical realities centered upon personal, financial and political interests, as everybody now seems to make decisions in the context of this interests based model and framework, such that values, morals, principals and ethics seem to be secondary to the primary objective of taking decisions that best serves beneficial interests.

 

In my opinion, SYRIA desperately needs a ceasefire on all fronts with RUSSIA taking over a new round of negotiations between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the KURDISH YPG and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) along with all external parties actively involved in this conflict consisting of TURKEY, IRAN, U.S. and RUSSIA in order to put an end to this madness once and for all. In my opinion, although ISIS was literally disappearing from the face of the map in SYRIA, new showdowns between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) under the control of President Bashar al-Assad and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) only serves to fuel the re-emergence of ISIS as a dangerous player in SYRIA. In my opinion, even without formal federalization, SYRIA is in substance divided into several regions controlled by different forces consisting of the government under SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad; the anti-Assad opposition groups under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA); pro-Turkish and pro-Iranian militias; and the KURDS. Thus, in my opinion, RUSSIA is the only player in SYRIA able to garner enough respect from ALL affected parties to negotiate a deal such that ALL parties need to put their big egos aside and give RUSSIA exclusive mediation powers to develop some sort of reorganized SYRIA that can once and for all put an end to all of this senseless never ending violence, bloodshed and utter madness.

 

 

Summary

 

In summary, I refer to “World Peace Lennon Ivan Style – Part 352” as the belief that IRAQ and SYRIA victories are critical to ISIS decimation, while SYRIAN negotiations must result in peace, while focusing on the new geopolitical realities, whereby tensions between ISRAEL and IRAN represent the biggest concern, as the trigger for a potential Third and Final World War, such that all leaders across the globe must increase their efforts to identify creative diplomatic options to reduce tensions, by considering the appointment of THE ROCK as special envoy to the MIDDLE EAST, as the current situation between ISRAEL and IRAN depicts the new geopolitical realities in the region, whereby U.S. President Donald Trump seems to have realized that he needs an ally in the MIDDLE EAST, and hence the U.S. turned its attention to SAUDI ARABIA, who has been grappling with the KHASHOGGI scandal, whereby there has been an international uproar over the alleged killing of a SAUDI journalist inside the SAUDI ARABIAN consulate in the capital of ISTANBUL, TURKEY, with U.S. President, Donald Trump, initially playing public relations frontman and spin-doctor for the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family by speculating about rogue killers, while insisting that the royal SAUDI ARABIAN family must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, while now being forced to qualify his initial unconditional support with a WOW, as U.S. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, warned that U.S. President Donald Trump is considering using an obscure loophole in arms control law, that would allow Trump administration to sell new batch of bombs to SAUDI ARABIA without congressional approval, as U.S. Arms Control laws allow U.S. Congress to reject sale to foreign country, but U.S. President Donald Trump could claim that the sale constitutes an emergency, which means that the U.S. Congress cannot take a vote of disapproval, such that the sale could go through automatically, albeit to the extent that U.S. President Donald Trump respects the law, one man’s opinion on abuse of power, could be seen as another man’s opinion as above board practices to meet arms demands by SAUDI ARABIA, in response to recent attacks by YEMENI rebels in SAUDI ARABIA, as SAUDI ARABIA focused its attention on placing a huge bet on U.S. natural gas (LNG), as ARAMCO announced a mega preliminary agreement to buy 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year from PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS export project, that is currently under development, in conformance with the SAUDI ARABIAN objective of becoming a global natural gas player, as everybody now seems to make decisions in the context of personal, financial and political interests, such that values, morals, principals and ethics seem to be secondary to the primary objective of taking decisions that best serve beneficial interests.

 

 

Spirit of John Lennon – THE ROCK’s News:



May 26, 2019