World Peace “Lennon Ivan Style” – Part 364

 

In summary, I refer to “World Peace Lennon Ivan Style – Part 364” 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. President Donald Trump capitalized on worries about confrontation between U.S. & long-time arch-nemesis IRAN, that have been escalating, by succeeding with third veto, as Trump Administration argued that US$ 8 billion in arms sales necessary because of heightened threats from IRAN, albeit IRAN warned against arms race, after SAUDI ARABIA & UAE spent more than US$ 100 billion on weaponry, while clearly stating recent U.S. weapons sales have turned GULF region into tinderbox ready to blow up, as more warships in GULF will only lead to more insecurity, albeit U.S. & IRAN now on equal footing, such that nobody has any competitive advantage militarily, hence, whoever fires first will set in motion series of domino events culminating in full fledge civil war, as first person to fire will put bullet in oppositions head, while contemporaneously putting bullet to own head, such that U.S President Donald Trump strategically set in motion necessary pre-conditions for deterrence from entering into full fledge civil war, such that by default, only other remaining option is returning to negotiating table of peace, albeit IRAN warned that any ISRAELI involvement in U.S. led naval operation into Strait of Hormuz, would have disastrous consequences for MIDDLE EAST, as IRAN wants to provide exclusive security over historical region, alongside its littoral states, while U.S. will never grant such exclusivity to IRAN, as if IRAN would ever choose to block Strait of Hormuz, U.S. would be unable to export oil from its MIDDLE EASTERN allies.

 

TURKEY News

 

During the week ending on Sunday, August 18, 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.

 

Furthermore, this week, TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak urged foreign investors to once again put their funds into TURKEY’s expanding economy as TURKISH companies are cushioned against bankruptcy, with cash reserves that add up to US$ 6.5 billion more than their debts while TURKEY’s own debt levels are also low compared to other countries. Nonetheless, fears of a total economic meltdown continue to mount in TURKEY, as the influence of global institutions appears to have the power to shape the TURKISH economy, that seems to have become all the more important, as one of the world’s leading credit rating agencies, Moody’s cut TURKEY’s rating deeper into junk territory recently. That is, with the TURKISH central bank on hold since September of 2018, the governing AKP has relied on fiscal stimulus to ride out TURKEY’s first recession in a decade. However, the governing AKP spending spree will result in a wider budget deficit than previously forecast, pushing this year’s TURKISH shortfall to 3.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while keeping GDP at more than 3% in 2020-2021. It is important to note that the TURKISH budget deficit will likely hit between 4.0% to 4.25% of GDP by the end of 2019, hence TURKEY will likely need additional financing of US$ 15 billion, such that total financing required this year will likely rise to US$ 50 billion.

 

However, this week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may end up losing the long-term game of bringing TURKISH interest rates lower after installing a new TURKISH central bank governor. It is important to note that the ouster of Murat Cetinkaya just over three weeks ago, insures monetary easing in the quarters ahead, but new Governor Murat Uysal could push the benchmark interest rate to 19% by the end of this year, 3% below the median forecast a month earlier. It is important to note that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made it clear that he expects the TURKISH central bank to respect his calls for interest rate cuts, after the shake-up following an interest rate policy pause that lasted for more than nine months. It is important to note that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains convinced that his enemies are out to get him, with the latest villains in this self-centred drama consisting of America and Europe, who seek to hold back both him and the proudly rising TURKISH nation.

 

Thus, this week TURKISH Finance Minister Berat Albayrak stated that he expects more sharp interest rate cuts from the TURKISH central bank, which should bring down inflation, and push back against investor concerns over government interference. It is important to note that speaking two weeks after TURKEY’s central bank triggered concerns about its independence, by delivering a sharper than expected interest rate cut, TURKISH Finance Minister Berat Albayrak stated that the TURKISH bank makes data-based policy decisions and has thus entered an era of easing of interest rates. Furthermore, TURKISH Finance Minister Berat Albayrak clearly stated that with the important reduction of interest rates in TURKEY, and based on the fact that the interest rate trend will come down more strongly in the future, TURKEY has entered a period of interest rate cuts, while stressing that the TURKISH central bank makes its monetary policy and interest rate decisions based on its own data set. Ironically, this week, TURKEY’s economy, which suffered a TURKISH Lira crisis last year, is still in the doldrums and only a modest recovery is expected. Thus, key measures reflecting consumer and business confidence show no indication of a sharp bounce back from previous lows. It is important to note that the TURKISH Treasury and Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak, stated that TURKEY is emerging strongly from its downturn such that economic growth should be positive this year. That is, an economic contraction of 1.5% is expected in 2019, before the TURKISH economy recovers to post growth of 2.5% next year, that should result in recovering consumer confidence, while retail sales and manufacturing outlook appear that they will remain negative. It is important to note that the TURKISH central bank is expected to cut interest rates by 4.25% during the remainder of the year, to a hit 15.5%, while inflation is set to end 2019 at 15%.

 

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. It is important to note that Ekrem Imamoglu, from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), again won the race to control TURKEY’s biggest city after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing AKP claimed fraud.

 

It is important to note that TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to purchase the S-400, surface-to-air, missile defense system from RUSSIA, due for delivery in the next few months comes at the same time that TURKEY expects to take delivery of the U.S. F-35, the newest stealth fighter jet being produced by the U.S. and its allies, while TURKEY is part of the consortium co-producing the F-35 with Lockheed Martin. It is important to note that the U.S. argues the presence of the RUSSIAN S-400 missile defense system on NATO soil would compromise the security of the U.S. and its allies, because if the S-400 missile batteries were deployed inside TURKEY, RUSSIA could obtain confidential information about the U.S. F-35, which is supposed to become NATO’s principal combat aircraft. Nonetheless, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that TURKEY will not cancel the deal, despite the U.S. warning of sanctions and cutting off TURKEY’s purchase and production of the F-35 fighter jet, as the U.S. vehemently opposes the RUSSIAN S-400 missile defense system as it is the largest and most expensive weapons system ever produced that the U.S. assesses in poising unacceptable risks to the U.S.

 

Therefore, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resolved to stand firm on TURKEY’s decision to buy the RUSSIAN S-400 missile defense system based on grievances that include: (1) U.S. armed Syrian KURDISH forces in war against ISIS, although TURKEY regards this as a threat to its territorial integrity; (2) U.S. refused to extradite the exiled TURKISH preacher, Fethullah Gulen, who TURKEY blames as the brains behind failed “Coup D’État”; (3) Turkey’s economy has been hurt by U.S. sanctions on IRAN that are driving up energy prices; and (4) U.S. is backing TURKEY’s rivals in a natural gas dispute with CYPRUS and in other regional conflicts. Nonetheless, this week, the U.S. held firm that it will not allow TURKEY to purchase both the F-35 fighter jet and the RUSSIAN missile system. Ironically, TURKEY appears to be undeterred by the threats, arguing that the U.S. has no right to remove TURKEY from the F-35 program under existing agreements, while threatening to take reciprocal steps to any U.S. imposed sanctions. However, the first batch of the RUSSIAN S-400 surface-to-air, missile defense system equipment was delivered to TURKEY, even after repeated U.S. calls to cancel the deal or face punishment, defying increasingly vocal warnings from the U.S. that TURKEY faces sanctions over the US$ 2.5 billion acquisition.

 

Nonetheless, TURKEY’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that a controversial RUSSIAN missile defense system will be fully deployed in April of 2020, despite the threat of U.S. imposed sanctions, while adding that the next step would be to jointly produce the S-400 surface-to-air, missile defense systems with RUSSIA. It is important to note that U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, conveyed the U.S. disappointment over TURKEY’s purchase of the RUSSIAN S-400 surface-to-air missile system. Furthermore, the U.S. removal of TURKEY from the F-35 joint fighter program comes at a considerable cost to the NATO alliance, overlooking the fact that TURKEY has spent millions on developing the US$ 1.5 trillion stealth fighter that was only possible through joint investment. However, there is a cost for the rash decision that the U.S. appears to have deferred for the time being, consisting of the fact that TURKEY produces nearly 900 parts for the F-35 program, and thus its removal will cost the program an additional US$ 9 billion for participants across the board, with losses of at least 500 million dollars. Furthermore, TURKEY has warned the U.S. that TURKEY would retaliate against what TURKEY calls an unacceptable threat of sanctions by the U.S. over TURKEY’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence systems. Ironically, the TURKISH Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated that the RUSSIAN S-400 anti air missile and defense system does not pose a problem for NATO, and that TURKEY does not have any problems with NATO. Furthermore, Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that TURKEY is contributing to NATO’s operations in many ways, while the S-400 issues have never been brought up at any NATO summit, as the S-400 is an issue between TURKISH and U.S. relations rather than TURKISH and NATO relations. In addition, this week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that there is no evidence proving that the S-400 systems will harm NATO or the F-45 aircraft, as for TURKEY; the S-400 purchase is a completely commercial move, while suggesting the establishment of a joint TURKISH and U.S. commission to discuss the U.S. S-400 concerns.

 

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 stabilize 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, it is important to note that escalating military operations in northwestern IDLIB this week are literally bringing a new massacre each day.

 

However, this week, HTS rebel counterattacks in SYRIA’s northwestern IDLIB continue as the HTS rebels prove to be a challenge for President Bashar al-Assad, while underlining TURKISH resolve to keep the area free from the hands of the SAA regime forces. It is important to note that little has come from more than two months of RUSSIAN-backed operations in and around IDLIB, the last stronghold of the SYRIAN opposition, marking a rare case of a SAA military campaign that has not gone President Bashar al-Assad’s way since Russia’s 2015 intervention. Nonetheless, RUSSIA and SYRIA have stepped up their airstrikes against civilians in IDLIB, as war monitors and rebel commanders in northern SYRIA stated that RUSSIAN and SAA regime air strikes had intensified in civilian areas, of the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad, while a U.N. official condemned world leaders for ignoring attacks on non-military targets. Meanwhile, the HTS rebels launched a counter-offensive this week in southern IDLB, targeting the areas recently captured by the SAA, that was led by Rouse The Believers, the HTS rebels who began their offensive by sending two suicide bombers towards defense positions of the SAA. It is important to note that following the suicide attacks, the HTS rebels began storming SAA defenses in a bid to fracture the SAA front-lines, and thus retake the town of SUKAYK and its corresponding hilltop.

 

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.

 

Finally, Agnes Callamard concluded that the Jamal Khashoggi murder was deliberate and premeditated but made no conclusion as to guilt, as her report relies on recordings and forensic work conducted by TURKISH investigators and information from the trials of the suspects in SAUDI ARABIA. Furthermore, Agnes Callamard concluded that the SAUDI ARABIAN trial should be suspended, citing concerns over secret hearings and a potential miscarriage of justice. In particular, Agnes Callamard concluded that there is sufficient credible evidence that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince MBS bears responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, such that he should be investigated for it, while SAUDI ARABIA should be held responsible under international law for the deliberate, premeditated execution of Jamal Khashoggi while current sanctions on some senior officials do not go far enough. Obviously, Saudi Arabia’s Minister Of State For Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, rejected the U.N. report while tweeting, “Nothing new…The rapporteur in the human rights council repeats in her non-binding report what has been published and circulated in the media”.

 

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, last week, some U.S. Senators formed a bipartisan opposition movement to attempt to find ways to block U.S. President Donald Trump’s US$ 8 billion in arm sales to SAUDI ARABIA, initiated without congressional approval, by applying legal loopholes by declaring a national emergency, to bypass the U.S. Congress. It is important to note that the House approved resolutions on blocking U.S. President Donald Trump’s emergency arms sales to SAUDI ARABIA and other GULF allies. However, U.S. President Donald Trump has vetoed the resolutions, representing his third veto, and the second veto related to SAUDI ARABIA, such that U.S. President Donald Trump succeeded with his third veto as the Trump Administration argued that the arms sales are necessary because of what it calls heightened threats from IRAN.

 

However, it is important to note that U.S. President Donald Trump is now focusing his efforts on strengthening ties with SAUDIA ARABIA and UAE, while the U.S. Congress persists to challenge him every step of the way, as bipartisan majority in U.S. Congress fed up with U.S. President Donald Trump’s deference to SAUDI ARABIA and UAE, which has allowed those countries to act with impunity under his Administration’s policies. It is important to note that U.S. Congress will be pushing forward several provisions, including the SAUDI ARABIAN and UAE led coalition airstrikes, using U.S. made precision-guided munitions, that have been a leading cause of civilian deaths in YEMEN, responsible for over 8,000 of approximately 11,700 fatalities reported in connection with direct targeting of civilians in YEMEN. However, this week, IRAN’s foreign minister warned against an arms race after SAUDI ARABIA and UAE spent more than U.S.$ 100 billion on weaponry, while clearly stating that recent U.S. weapons sales have turned the GULF region into a tinderbox ready to blow up, as more warships in the GULF will only lead to more insecurity.

 

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, 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, SAUDI ARABIA focused its attention on the HOUTHI rebels after HOUTHI forces crossed the border into neighbouring SAUDI ARABIA, currently leading a military coalition against them, and took control of more than 20 positions. It is important to note that the military sites in SAUDI ARABIA’s southwestern NAJRAN province were captured in a surprise offensive. Furthermore, more than 200 SAUDI ARABIAN-UAE military coalition fighters battling the HOUTHI rebels had been killed or wounded as part of the attack, while many others were captured along with large quantities of military equipment. It is also important to note that the HOUTHI rebels had launched multiple attacks on several SAUDI ARABIAN military positions in NAJRAN because it is strategically located adjacent to the YEMENI border.

 

However, this week, fighting broke out in ADEN, the temporary seat of the internationally recognized government of YEMEN but this time it was not the SAUDI ARABIAN and UAE coalition battling IRANIAN-backed HOUTHI rebels, as has usually been the case, in SAUDI ARABIA’s past four years of brutal civil war. Instead, factions within the SAUDI ARABIAN and UAE coalition took arms against each other, killing dozens and threatening the alliance between SAUDI ARABIA and UAE. Thus, the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), backed by UAE, was effectively in control of ADEN and its nominal ally, as the government of exiled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by SAUDI ARABIA, was nowhere to be seen. Thus, in four days of fighting between the southern Separatists STC and the President’s forces, 40 people were killed and 260 injured. Hence, as the Separatists STC made gains, the SAUDI ARABIAN led coalition intervened to defend the government, albeit the presidential palace being taken over by the Separatists STC. Ironically, YEMEN’s interior minister, Ahmed al-Maysary, called it a successful coup, as he conceded defeat in a video before joining the rest of HADI’s government in the SAUDI ARABIAN capital of RIYADH. Nonetheless, relative calm has returned to the city, following days of street battles that trapped civilians in their homes. However, the Separatist STC have long sought independence while putting their aspirations on hold, when the HOUTHI rebels took over the capital of SANAA, in 2014. However, the Separatist STC has regularly complained about the YEMEN government corruption and military failure. Furthermore, the Separatist STC has accused HADI’s Presidential Guard of collaborating with HOUTHI rebels in an attack that killed one of their military leaders.

 

Nonetheless, it is important to note that the UAE, part of the SAUDI ARABIAN led military coalition in YEMEN, is not leaving the war-torn country despite an ongoing withdrawal and redeployment of UAE forces. Ironically, U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths stated that all fighting sides and the international community support a U.N. peace deal brokered in SWEDEN last December and are making progress towards achieving it. Furthermore, Martin Griffiths stated that he believes that this war in YEMEN is eminently resolvable, as both parties continue to insist that they want a political solution, as a military solution is not available. As a friendly reminder, YEMEN’s latest conflict broke out in late 2014 when the HOUTHI rebels, allied with forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and backed by IRAN, seized much of YEMEN, including the capital, SANAA. Subsequently, the war escalated in March of 2015 when a military coalition led by SAUDI ARABIA and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched a fierce air campaign against the HOUTHI rebels in a bid to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Unfortunately, since then, tens of thousands of civilians and combatants have been killed and as many as 85,000 children appear to have literally starved to death, while each respective side holds on to what appears to be a never ending conflict for power and control.

 

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 continued to hover 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, IRAQI President Barham Salih focused on U.S. and IRANIAN tensions by clearly stating that war is the last thing the MIDDLE EAST needs, as the last war on terror against ISIS has not yet been completed. It is important to note that the Middle East has been overshadowed by rising tensions and the threat of war between the U.S. and IRAN, while it is certain that IRAQ would be caught in the middle of such a conflict, as IRAQ is still a base for thousands of U.S. troops and IRANIAN paramilitary units. Therefore, IRAQI President Barham Salih made it clear that under no circumstances will IRAQ allow the U.S. to use its bases in IRAQ to launch any attacks on neighbouring IRAN. Furthermore, IRAQI President Barham Salih made it clear that IRAQ does not want IRAQI territory to be a staging post for any hostile actions against any IRAQI neighbours, including IRAN, such that utilizing IRAQ as a base to launch attacks against IRAN is definitely not part of any agreement between the IRAQI government and the U.S.

 

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 stabilize 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, it is important to note that escalating military operations in northwestern IDLIB this week are literally bringing a new massacre each day.

 

However, this week, HTS rebel counterattacks in SYRIA’s northwestern IDLIB continue as the HTS rebels prove to be a challenge for President Bashar al-Assad, while underlining TURKISH resolve to keep the area free from the hands of the SAA regime forces. It is important to note that little has come from more than two months of RUSSIAN-backed operations in and around IDLIB, the last stronghold of the SYRIAN opposition, marking a rare case of a SAA military campaign that has not gone President Bashar al-Assad’s way since Russia’s 2015 intervention. Nonetheless, RUSSIA and SYRIA have stepped up their airstrikes against civilians in IDLIB, as war monitors and rebel commanders in northern SYRIA stated that RUSSIAN and SAA regime air strikes had intensified in civilian areas, of the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad, while a U.N. official condemned world leaders for ignoring attacks on non-military targets. Meanwhile, the HTS rebels launched a counter-offensive this week in southern IDLB, targeting the areas recently captured by the SAA, that was led by Rouse The Believers, the HTS rebels who began their offensive by sending two suicide bombers towards defense positions of the SAA. It is important to note that following the suicide attacks, the HTS rebels began storming SAA defenses in a bid to fracture the SAA front-lines, and thus retake the town of SUKAYK and its corresponding hilltop.

 

IRAN NEWS

 

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.

 

However, IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani stated that IRAN would exceed the enrichment level set out under the 2015 Nuclear Deal, in response to failure by other parties to the deal to keep up their promises, including providing IRAN with relief from the U.S. imposed sanctions. Furthermore, President Hassan Rouhani stated that as of July 7, 2019, IRANIAN enrichment levels would no longer be 3.67%, as IRAN will withdraw from this IRANIAN commitment, while IRAN will increase the enrichment level beyond 3.67%, to as much as IRAN desires, as much as IRAN deems necessary, or as much as IRAN requires. It is important to note that the enrichment maximum set in the 2015 Nuclear Deal is sufficient for commercial power generation, but far below the more than 90% level required for a nuclear warhead. Not surprisingly, IRAN enriched uranium to 4.5%, representing enough enrichment for IRAN to power its peaceful, already-active BUSHEHR nuclear reactor, but far short of the 90% threshold for weapons-grade uranium. It is important to note that enriching uranium to 90% is an enormous technical challenge that requires building and operating very advanced centrifuges, such that IRAN is not yet even close to producing weapons-grade uranium.

 

Ironically, IRAN turned around in a twist of fate, and offered a deal to the U.S. in which IRAN would formally and permanently accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear program, in return for the permanent lifting of U.S. sanctions. It is important to note that the offer was made by IRANIAN foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a visit to NEW YORK, but it was not warmly received by U.S. President, Donald Trump, who is currently demanding that IRAN make a range of sweeping concessions, including cessation of uranium enrichment and support for proxies and allies in the region. However, Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted that his offer was a substantial move, as that it was not about photo ops, but rather substance, as he advised reporters at the IRANIAN mission to the U.N. in New York that there are other substantial moves that can be made. Furthermore, Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that if U.S. President, Donald Trump was putting U.S. money where their U.S. mouth was, the U.S. was going to do it, such that they do not need a photo op, or a two-page document with a big signature. Ironically, President Hassan Rouhani had previously stressed that IRAN’s action would be reversed if the other parties to the 2015 Nuclear Deal made good on their side of the bargain, consisting of relief from sanctions.

 

Hence, IRAN previously was only ready to remain committed to the 2015 Nuclear Deal to the extent that the other parties remain committed as well, but now IRAN seems to be open to further negotiations as IRAN has faced a steadily tightening U.S. driven oil embargo, and severe banking sanctions since May of last year, when U.S. President, Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Nuclear Deal. However, Mohammad Javad Zarif also credited U.S. President, Donald Trump with prudence for calling off missile attacks last month in reprisal for the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone that gave him confidence that diplomatic progress was possible. Furthermore, Mohammad Javad Zarif also stated that he believed that the U.S. and IRAN were only a few minutes away from a war, such that prudence prevailed, so that they are not fighting, giving reason to be optimists, as if the U.S. and IRAN work, if the U.S. and IRAN are serious, then the U.S. and IRAN can find a way forward.

 

Hence, this week, IRAN threatened to cut its commitments under the international nuclear deal further unless EUROPEAN partners move to protect it from U.S. sanctions by insuring IRAN can sell oil and receive income. Furthermore, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also told state television that IRAN was ready to negotiate with archrival SAUDI ARABIA, while stating that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not welcome in IRAN. However, this week, IRANIAN President, Hassan Rouhani, blasted ISRAEL’s reported support of the U.S. led naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz, while stating that the U.S. military build-up in the GULF was aimed at creating division and emptying the treasuries of countries in the MIDDLE EAST. It is important to note that speaking during a cabinet meeting, IRANIAN President, Hassan Rouhani stated that the Gulf countries could handle their own security and called for unity to do so. Furthermore, according to IRANIAN President, Hassan Rouhani, all talks about establishing a new coalition in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman will not be practical, as there is no doubt that it will not help the security of the MIDDLE EAST, as there is no need for the presence of foreign forces to provide security. In addition, IRANIAN President, Hassan Rouhani stated that IRAN is ready to insure the security of the historical region alongside its littoral states, as it has done so throughout its history.

 

 

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 my opinion, this week’s news from TURKISH Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak urging foreign investors to once again put their funds into TURKEY’s expanding economy is not surprising, as TURKISH companies are cushioned against bankruptcy, with cash reserves that add up to US$ 6.5 billion more than their debts while TURKEY’s own debt levels are also low compared to other countries. In my opinion, although there is a recession going on right now in TURKEY, it has not yet turned into an economic crisis, despite all of the instability and incredible fall in the value of the TURKISH Lira. Furthermore, in my opinion, most economies would have collapsed, but TURKEY has a very dynamic economy given that TURKISH people seem to have grown accustomed to instability. Nonetheless, it appears that TURKEY will now likely be facing an L-Type crisis consisting of an economic downturn characterized by a sharp decline followed by a slow recovery that takes at least two years to return to healthy growth levels because of the breadth of the capital market drawn into the economic crisis and the TURKISH government’s lack of ability to manoeuvre.

 

In my opinion, with the TURKISH central bank on hold since September of 2018, the governing AKP has relied on fiscal stimulus to ride out TURKEY’s first recession in a decade, such that the TURKISH spending spree will shortly come to a standstill, as the TURKISH budget deficit this year will hit a shortfall of 3.6%. Therefore, I believe that the spending spree by Turkey that has kept the TURKISH economy alive during the election season, will push the budget deficit to double the official target this year, as set by the governing AKP, as the TURKISH economy starts to loose more steam. In my opinion, the TURKISH budget deficit will likely hit between 4.0% to 4.25% of GDP by the end of 2019, hence TURKEY will likely need additional financing of US$ 15 billion, such that total financing required this year will likely rise to US$ 50 billion. Therefore, in my opinion, TURKEY’s economic policy seems to have shifted from traditional monetary policies to more fiscal policies, depicting a change in the governing AKP reactions driven by necessity, because TURKISH monetary policy is now more constrained. Thus, I was not surprised to see TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan trying to reign in as TURKEY’s strongman, as 80 million TURKS remain stuck in an uncomfortable position, on the brink of an economic crisis. Hence, in my opinion, it was not surprising to see TURKEY’s new central bank governor signal an impending interest rate cut, arguing that the TURKISH Bank has room to manoeuvre on monetary policy as inflation falls. In my opinion, Murat Uysal needed to come out strong, after he was promoted to the head of the TURKISH bank earlier this month, after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the TURKISH President, fired his predecessor over a dispute about the pace and depth of interest rate cuts.

 

However, in my opinion, this week it does appear that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may end up losing the long-term game of bringing TURKISH interest rates lower, after installing a new TURKISH central bank governor. Thus, in my opinion, interest rate cuts will begin in July of 2019, and probably proceed until interest rates fall to 17% or slightly lower, before the TURKISH Lira exchange rates and financial consequences wreak havoc. However, in my opinion, it does appear that the easing of interest rates is set to begin with a reduction from 24% to 22% shortly, while the interest rate will eventually fall to 14.5% in the first quarter of 2021. In regards to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan making it clear that he expects the TURKISH central bank to respect his calls for interest rate cuts, after the shake-up following an interest rate policy pause that lasted for more than nine months, it is obvious that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is convinced that higher interest rates cause inflation, such that his replacement will now provide stronger support for the TURKISH government’s economic program. Furthermore, in my opinion, the interest rate stimulus will come in handy, for a TURKISH economy struggling to gain momentum, as it now appears there will be a deeper contraction through the third quarter of 2019 than previously forecast, before Gross Domestic Product (GDP) returns to annual growth. In my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may remain convinced that his enemies are out to get him, but it is difficult to hold foreign powers responsible for TURKEY remaining in recession, following a disastrous 2018 TURKISH Lira currency crisis, along with current fears that a new financial crunch is imminent, as unemployment and inflation in TURKEY are elevated, while business is depressed.

 

Thus, in my opinion, this week’s announcement by the TURKISH central bank that it was cutting its key policy interest rate to 19.75%, from 24%, and setting the stage for more, was not surprising. In my opinion, TURKISH Finance Minister Berat Albayrak made it clear that with the important reduction of interest rates in TURKEY, and based on the fact that the interest rate trend will come down more strongly in the future, TURKEY has entered a period of interest rate cuts, while stressing that the TURKISH central bank makes its monetary policy and interest rate decisions based on its own data set. However, in my opinion, TURKEY was forced to lower interest rates as economic confidence in TURKEY fell during July of 2019, to 80.7 from 83.4 in June of 2019, while any reading below 100 indicates pessimism about the future among businesses and consumers. Furthermore, in my opinion, this week, I was not surprised to see TURKEY’s economy, which suffered a TURKISH Lira crisis last year, still in the doldrums with only a modest recovery expected. Thus, in my opinion, key measures reflecting consumer and business confidence show no indication of a sharp bounce back from previous lows. Hence, in my opinion, while we have seen the worst, I believe that we can only expect a modest recovery. However, in my opinion, TURKEY’s government is seeking to stimulate the economy through cheap lending from TURKISH government run banks and lower central bank interest rates, after the TURKISH Lira hit a record low of 7.22 per U.S. dollar during August of 2019, after concerns for an overheating TURKISH economy were exacerbated by a political crisis with the U.S. However, in my opinion, the main short-term risk to TURKEY’s economy is the possibility of U.S. sanctions for TURKEY’s purchase of the RUSSIAN S-400 air defence missiles. Thus, in my opinion, the economic situation in TURKEY is very unpredictable, as it is largely dictated by the U.S. political position towards another NATO member, as if U.S. sanctions are imposed, it will not rain but it will pour, as the U.S is still the largest investor in TURKEY such that any imposed sanctions could cause widespread market panic.

 

Thus, in my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, as he should accept interest rates above the now-elevated level of 24% to dissuade investors from abandoning TURKEY, that should also prevent the TURKISH Lira from falling further, while limiting inflation but high interest rates would also deprive TURKISH businesses of capital, that could trigger further bankruptcies and rising unemployment, while constraining TURKISH economic growth. Hence, in my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has consistently opted for growth at any cost, such that he will likely force interest rates lower, while providing additional credit to TURKISH businesses and households, that should fuel additional spending and economic growth, but likely at the cost of further declines in the TURKISH Lira, coupled with rising inflation and TURKISH Bank financing losses, that bear the potential risk of eventually exploding into a full-blown economic crisis.

 

Nonetheless, in my opinion, the TURKISH indictments related to a Bloomberg story published in August 2018, whereby the article was about the effects of a sharp decline in the TURKISH Lira and how TURKISH authorities and banks were responding is surprising given that it will be difficult for TURKISH courts to prove a cause and effect relationship. Nonetheless, in my opinion, TURKEY is sending a message to the foreign media that the necessary legal avenues will be resorted to in the future, concerning similar publications that could damage the prestige of TURKISH banks, economy or any other TURKISH sector. Thus, in my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan perfectly capitalized on the recent indictments by having a key ally, nationalist leader Devlet Bahceli, introduce the need for TURKEY to work on a new and fair approach to managing the TURKISH Lira that better suits TURKEY’s economy and people, by calling for a new TURKISH Lira regime that safeguards TURKEY’s economic relationships and channels TURKEY’s values. However, in my opinion, the first step in the safeguarding of TURKEY’s economic relationships and channelling TURKEY’s values would be for TURKEY to withdraw from the purchase of the Russian S-400 air and missile defense system, which has strained the ties between the U.S. and TURKEY, while scaring investors as the U.S. has threatened to impose sanctions on TURKEY over the deal.

 

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. However, in my opinion, the governing AKP obviously remained silent on the slight strengthening of the TURKISH Lira after TURKEY’s opposition secured a resounding victory in the rerun of ISTANBUL’s mayoral election. In my opinion, the defeat in ISTANBUL will come as a blow for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has for years warned his governing AKP that losing ISTANBUL could mean losing TURKEY. However, the rally in the TURKISH Lira would suggest that the market has decided that growing support for the opposition is good news.

 

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 week’s announcement by TURKISH Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that there could be a delay in the delivery of the RUSSIAN S-400 missile-defense system, that threatens to exacerbate tensions between TURKEY and the U.S., could result in future difficulties for TURKEY to obtain IMF financing. In my opinion, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to purchase the S-400, surface-to-air, missile defense system from RUSSIA, has completely ignored the U.S. opinion that the presence of the RUSSIAN S-400 missile defense system on NATO soil would compromise the security of the U.S. and its allies. In my opinion, the U.S. has a valid point that if the S-400 missile batteries were deployed inside TURKEY, RUSSIA could obtain confidential information about the U.S. F-35, which is supposed to become NATO’s principal combat aircraft. In my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump appears to have given TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan an informal deadline of next month to choose between the U.S. F-35 and RUSSIAN S-400 given that TURKISH Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has delayed the first delivery of the RUSSIAN S-400 missile defense system from June of 2019. Thus, in my opinion, given that TURKEY has consistently refused to abandon the RUSSIAN S-400 deal, the U.S. has threatened to withhold the sale of the U.S. F-35 fighter jets to TURKEY, or to impose sanctions on TURKEY under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

 

Hence, in my opinion, TURKEY now finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place, given that TURKEY’s credit-fuelled growth has halted, triggering runaway inflation, high unemployment and a collapsing TURKISH Lira such that if U.S. sanctions are imposed due to the RUSSIAN S-400 missile defense system, the TURKISH economy could very well slip deeper into economic recession. However, in my opinion, this week’s letter to his U.S. counterpart, by TURKISH Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, emphasizing the importance of mutual respect and friendship to the problems between the two countries has not negated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has resolved to stand firm on TURKEY’s decision to buy the RUSSIAN S-400 missile defense system based on grievances with the U.S. However, in my opinion, TURKEY is convinced the U.S. can’t replace it strategically with another ally if TURKEY goes ahead with the RUSSIAN S-400 missile purchase while the U.S. will ditch TURKEY by cutting off TURKEY from buying, and helping to build, the F-35 fighter jets. Hence, in my opinion, if the U.S. and TURKEY cannot come to terms, ties may be irrevocably harmed as sentiments flare on either side of the divide, such that the U.S. could lose a critical partner in the volatile MIDDLE EAST, while TURKEY could lose its strongest WESTERN ally and main weapons supplier.

 

Nonetheless, in my opinion, it became apparent this week that TURKEY is expected to take delivery of the first shipment of the RUSSIAN S-400 surface-to-air, missile defense system from RUSSIA, in the coming days, defying increasingly vocal warnings from the U.S. that TURKEY faces sanctions over the US$ 2.5 billion acquisition. Furthermore, in my opinion, this week’s statement by U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, conveying the U.S. disappointment over TURKEY’s purchase of the RUSSIAN S-400 surface-to-air missile system was not surprising. In my opinion, the U.S. removal of TURKEY from the F-35 joint fighter program comes at a considerable cost to the NATO alliance, overlooking the fact that TURKEY has spent millions on developing the US$ 1.5 trillion stealth fighter that was only possible through joint investment. Furthermore, in my opinion, there is also a strategic price to pay consisting of a weaker NATO by denying TURKEY, NATO’s second largest army, the F-35 fighter jet, albeit TURKEY appears to have shown disregard for NATO as of late. However, in my opinion, the TURKISH Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stating that the RUSSIAN S-400 anti air missile and defense system does not pose a problem for NATO, and that TURKEY does not have any problems with NATO, clearly places the S-400 as an issue between TURKISH and U.S. relations. Nonetheless, in my opinion, RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin is on the verge of a major diplomatic victory in his efforts to divide the NATO alliance. That is, with the delivery of the first elements of the RUSSIAN S-400 defense system to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the U.S. decision to halt delivery of F-35 jets bound for TURKEY, TURKEY may set off a chain of events that could even lead to TURKEY’s withdrawal from the NATO alliance, such that NATO must commence to think creatively in order to reverse the impending unraveling. In regards to TURKEY warning the U.S. that TURKEY would retaliate against what TURKEY calls an unacceptable threat of sanctions by the U.S. over TURKEY’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence systems, it is not surprising that TURKEY will take retaliatory measures. However, in my opinion, only time will tell whether U.S. President Donald Trump will impose sanctions on TURKEY as he frequently says that the current and previous U.S. administrations may also be responsible for TURKEY not being able to buy the U.S. Patriot systems. Nonetheless, in my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the right strategic move this week, by stressing that there is no evidence proving that the S-400 systems will harm NATO or the F-45 aircraft, while suggesting the establishment of a joint TURKISH and U.S. commission to discuss the U.S. S-400 concerns. Thus, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump should consider taking the right steps, by attempting to salvage the U.S. and TURKEY bilateral relations, as TURKEY seems to find itself hostage to the S-400 issue, while U.S. President Donald Trump has demonstrated throughout his Presidency that he only makes important business decisions based on substantive evidence.

 

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, despite strong support from the RUSSIAN air forces, the SAA regime has remained on the periphery of IDLIB while being unable to advance, as TURKEY’s support for HTS rebels has presented the greatest challenge to the Bashar al-Assad regime around IDLIB, as TURKEY does not wish to give SYRIA’s northern regions to its NATO ally the U.S., or any other power. Hence, in my opinion, RUSSIA and SYRIA have stepped up their airstrikes against civilians in IDLIB, as war monitors and rebel commanders in northern SYRIA stated that RUSSIAN and SAA regime air strikes had intensified in civilian areas, of the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad. Furthermore, in my opinion, the U.N. official that condemned world leaders for ignoring attacks on non-military targets, calling the situation in IDLIB a catastrophe, that the world has ignored, summarizes the realities on the ground whereby since April of 2019, the SAA regime offensive against HTS rebel groups in IDLIB has killed at least 400 people, including 90 children, with at least 62 people having been killed across IDLIB since last week alone. Furthermore, in my opinion, RUSSIAN and SAA regime air strikes appear to be revenge for the popular support of the TURKISH backed National Liberation Front (NLF). In regards to this week’s counter-offensive in southern IDLIB, targeting the areas recently captured by the SAA, I was not surprised that the HTS rebels began their offensive by sending two suicide bombers towards defense positions of the SAA, as the HTS rebels cannot take on the mighty SAA army with the RUSSIAN backing. In my opinion, the high loss of life in the suicide attacks were not surprising, as HTS rebels resorted to a desperate attack in order to hold their ground. However, in my opinion, the SAA killed dozens of HTS rebels during the battle, including several foreign combatants, as the SAA has fully secured SUKAYK and TAL SUKAYK, although the HTS rebels will likely make another attempt to capture the hilltop of TAL TARI, as they were forced to retreat earlier in the day. Thus, in my opinion, TURKEY, a significant backer of opposition groups in IDLIB since the outbreak of anti-government clashes in the middle of 2011, hold the balance of power in SYRIA such that TURKEY seems to have set the tone at the top, whereby obvious attempts by RUSSIAN & SAA forces to capture IDLIB have failed thus far, as they cannot bomb their way into victory as long as TURKEY backs the rebels in IDLIB. Nonetheless, I was not surprised with this week’s suspected RUSSIAN Special Forces operation that was carried out behind HTS rebel lines in IDLIB Governorate, as RUSSIANS attacked KHIRBAT AL-NAQOUS, which is close to SAA front lines in AL-GHAAB PLAIN region of IDLIB.

 

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.

 

However, in my opinion, the formal conclusion by Agnes Callamard, concluding that the Jamal Khashoggi murder was deliberate and premeditated while making no conclusion as to guilt, is not surprising, as Agnes Callamard seems to have accepted all circumstantial evidence in forming the basis of her conclusions. Thus, in my opinion, although Agnes Callamard concluded that the trial in Saudi Arabia should be suspended, citing concerns over secret hearings and a potential miscarriage of justice, Saudi Arabia’s Minister Of State For Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, obviously rejected the U.N. report on the simple basis of nothing new. Nonetheless, I was not surprised by Agnes Callamard’s conclusion that there is sufficient credible evidence that Crown Prince MBS bears responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, such that he should be investigated for it, while SAUDI ARABIA should be held responsible under international law for the deliberate, premeditated execution of Jamal Khashoggi while current sanctions on some senior officials do not go far enough. However, once again the U.N. conclusion is based on “sufficient credible evidence” although there is no certainty such that SAUDI ARABIA will corroborate the famous O.J. Simpson closing arguments at the trial, whereby the lawyer Johnny Cochran uttered the now famous words, if the glove does not fit, you must acquit, in a dramatic scene whereby O.J. Simpson appeared to have difficulty getting the glove on that was stained with blood of both victims and O.J. Simpson, that had been found at the crime scene.

 

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, the news that some U.S. Senators formed a bipartisan opposition movement to attempt to find ways to block U.S. President Donald Trump’s US$ 8 billion in arm sales to SAUDI ARABIA is not surprising, as it was initiated without congressional approval, by applying legal loopholes by declaring a national emergency, to bypass the U.S. Congress. In my opinion, some U.S. senators are trying to rein in the power of the U.S. President given that although ultimate power may very well rest with the U.S. Congress, U.S. President Donald Trump seems to manage to act on a timely basis day to day, while the U.S. Congress struggles to react. Thus, in my opinion, the bipartisan Senate starting a short process to force a vote on U.S. and SAUDI ARABIAN ties, and possibly delivering one of the strongest rebukes to the Trump Administration’s foreign policies is not surprising.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump has obviously capitalized on worries about a confrontation between the U.S. and long-time arch-nemesis IRAN that have been escalating, while recently being heightened by suspected attacks on two oil tankers that the U.S. blamed on IRAN, although IRAN obviously denied any responsibility. In my opinion, it is not surprising that the House approved resolutions on blocking U.S. President Donald Trump’s emergency arms sales to SAUDI ARABIA and other GULF allies. However, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump succeeded with his third veto as the Trump Administration argued that the arms sales are necessary because of what it calls heightened threats from IRAN. However, in my opinion, it is important to note that U.S. President Donald Trump is now focusing his efforts on strengthening ties with SAUDIA ARABIA and UAE, while U.S. Congress persists to challenge him every step of way, as bipartisan majority in U.S. Congress fed up with U.S. President Donald Trump’s deference to SAUDI ARABIA and UAE, which has allowed those countries to act with impunity under his Administration’s policies. In my opinion, this week’s denouncement by IRAN’s foreign minister was not surprising, as he warned against an arms race after SAUDI ARABIA and UAE spent more than U.S.$ 100 billion on weaponry, while clearly stating that recent U.S. weapons sales have turned the GULF region into a tinderbox ready to blow up, as more warships in the GULF will only lead to more insecurity. In my opinion, U.S President Donald Trump made the right decision to fully arm SAUDI ARABIA and UAE, as the U.S. Coalition in the gulf now has enough firing power to take on IRAN if necessary. Therefore, in my opinion, the U.S. and IRAN are now on equal footing such that nobody has any competitive advantage militarily, hence, whomever fires first will set in motion a series of domino events culminating in a full fledge civil war. Hence, in my opinion, U.S President Donald Trump has levelled the playing field, as the first person to fire will essentially put a bullet in their oppositions head while contemporaneously putting a bullet to their own head. Therefore, in my opinion, U.S President Donald Trump has strategically set in motion the necessary pre-conditions for deterrence from entering into a full fledge civil war, such that by default, the only other remaining option is returning to the negotiating table of peace.

 

Furthermore, in my opinion, these provocative actions mark a new evolution in the threat IRAN poses to the region, to U.S. partners, and to U.S. own national security, including the security of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who live and work in the MIDDLE EAST. Therefore, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to resist harsh punishment against SAUDI ARABIA over the Jamal Khashoggi killing, arguing that curtailing of the U.S. and SAUDI ARABIA relationship would leave American arms dealers exposed as SAUDI ARABIA could and would take their business elsewhere. Thus, in my opinion, it is not surprising that the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has advanced a bill to amend the Arms Export Control Act to prevent future emergency sales to SAUDI ARABIA, with a broader SAUDI ARABIA accountability bill in the coming weeks. However, any amendments would only apply to future arms sales, as the resolutions blocking the current US$ 8 billion in arms sales will be vetoes by U.S. President Donald Trump before the new measures reach the President’s desk.

 

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.

 

However, I was not surprised to see, that SAUDI ARABIA focused its attention on the HOUTHI rebels as YEMEN’s HOUTHI rebels crossed the border into neighbouring SAUDI ARABIA, currently leading a military coalition against them, while taking control of more than 20 positions. In my opinion, given that NAJRAN is strategically located adjacent to the YEMENI border, it is not surprising that the military sites in NAJRAN were captured in a surprise offensive, as the YEMENI rebels appear to have chosen to launch this offensive as the U.S. is preparing to ramp up the SAUDI ARABIAN military arsenal, in essence sending SAUDI ARABIA a subliminal message that the YEMENI rebels still have IRANIAN backed power to launch artillery showers. Furthermore, given that the HOUTHI rebel raids come amid heightened regional tensions, after the U.S. accused IRAN of shooting down a U.S. drone over international waters and of carrying out attacks on oil tankers in the strategic Gulf of Oman, the HOUTHI rebels are in essence lending further support to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to exercise his veto power and push through the US$ 8 billion in arms sales to SAUDI ARABIA.

 

In regards to the SAUDI ARABIAN and UAE coalition subsequently unleashing air raids on YEMEN’s capital targeting several air defence sites and ballistic missile depots in SANAA, it was not surprising as coalition forces warned that they would attack YEMEN’s HOUTHI rebels, aimed at what they called legitimate rebel targets in the capital, SANAA. However, in my opinion, YEMEN’s HOUTHI rebels refuse to cede to the onslaught of air force attacks, and have thus been forced to resort to guerrilla warfare tactics, with drone attacks that target radars and military sites at SAUDIA ARABIAN air bases. In regards to the UAE, part of the SAUDI ARABIAN led military coalition in YEMEN, stating that it is not leaving the war-torn country despite an ongoing withdrawal and redeployment of UAE forces, it is my opinion that at this stage, a pre-mature withdrawal by UAE forces would create a vacuum in YEMEN, as it trained about 90,000 local fighters such that the UAE must remain committed to the coalition and the deposed YEMENI government. In regards to this week’s fighting broke out in ADEN, the temporary seat of the internationally recognized government of YEMEN but this time it was not the SAUDI ARABIAN and UAE coalition battling IRANIAN-backed HOUTHI rebels, as has usually been the case, in SAUDI ARABIA’s past four years of brutal civil war. Instead, factions within the SAUDI ARABIAN and UAE coalition took arms against each other, killing dozens and threatening the alliance between SAUDI ARABIA and UAE. Thus, the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), backed by UAE, was effectively in control of ADEN and its nominal ally, as the government of exiled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by SAUDI ARABIA, was nowhere to be seen. Thus, in four days of fighting between the southern Separatists STC and the President’s forces, 40 people were killed and 260 injured. Hence, as the Separatists STC made gains, the SAUDI ARABIAN led coalition intervened to defend the government, albeit the presidential palace being taken over by the Separatists STC. Ironically, YEMEN’s interior minister, Ahmed al-Maysary, called it a successful coup, as he conceded defeat in a video before joining the rest of HADI’s government in the SAUDI ARABIAN capital of RIYADH. Nonetheless, relative calm has returned to the city, following days of street battles that trapped civilians in their homes. However, the Separatist STC have long sought independence while putting their aspirations on hold, when the HOUTHI rebels took over the capital of SANAA, in 2014. However, the Separatist STC has regularly complained about the YEMEN government corruption and military failure. Furthermore, the Separatist STC has accused HADI’s Presidential Guard of collaborating with HOUTHI rebels in an attack that killed one of their military leaders.

 

In regards to this week’s fighting that broke out in ADEN, I was not surprised, as the fighting took place at the temporary seat of the internationally recognized government of YEMEN, where this time it was not the SAUDI ARABIAN and UAE coalition battling IRANIAN-backed HOUTHI rebels, as has usually been the case, in SAUDI ARABIA’s past four years of brutal civil war. Furthermore, the Separatists STC making gains did not surprise me, as the SAUDI ARABIAN led coalition intervened to defend the government, albeit the presidential palace being taken over by the Separatists STC. However, I was surprised to see YEMEN’s interior minister, Ahmed al-Maysary, called it a successful coup, as he conceded defeat in a video before joining the rest of HADI’s government in the SAUDI ARABIAN capital of RIYADH. In my opinion, it was ironic to see, Ahmed Al-Maysary, HADI’s interior minister, congratulating the UAE for victory, as he conceded defeat, a brief moment that revealed the possibility of a proxy war between the UAE and SAUDI ARABIA. In my opinion, the two sides have longstanding political differences, as RIYADH is the de facto center of YEMEN’s government, while HADI and his ministers spend most of their time in SAUDI ARABIA. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the UAE has empowered the Separatists STC, relying on them, and others, to win the battles on the ground. Furthermore, in my opinion, the UAE is at odds with SAUDI ARABIA over the HADI government’s inclusion of members of the ISLAH political party, the party known for its connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that the UAE labels as terrorists. In my opinion, the Aden conflict complicates everything as a fractured coalition is not enough to tip the balance in anyone’s favour, while it could even mean that fighting will drag on longer, with multiple sides involved. However, in my opinion, HADI’s legitimacy and credibility will be hugely undermined if he cannot speak on behalf of all he claims to represent. Furthermore, in my opinion, on the humanitarian side, any interruption to a vital port like ADEN complicates the work of aid missions responding to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. However, in my opinion, there is a silver lining, in that this could be a wake up call to SAUDI ARABIA, the UAE and other parties, that any sustainable solution requires addressing everyone’s grievances.

 

However, in my opinion, an enduring settlement in YEMEN will almost certainly require a de-escalation of tensions across the MIDDLE EAST, which in turn, can come about only if the U.S and Iran reach some kind of binding geopolitical agreement. Nonetheless, in my opinion, for now, U.S. President Donald Trump appears determined on continuing his maximum pressure campaign against IRAN, while supplying SAUDI ARABIA with additional weapons, albeit a war with Iran does not appear to be an option at this stage. Thus, in my opinion, those behind SAUDI ARABIA and the UAE will argue that their interventions have been aimed at fighting off ISLAMIST extremism and promoting regional stability, while those behind IRAN will argue that SAUDI ARABIA and the UAE are in substance driven by their own fears that should a major Arab country transition to democracy, it would lead to upheavals at home in SAUDI ARABIA and the UAE. Nonetheless, in my opinion, since the YEMENI war commenced, tens of thousands of civilians and combatants have been killed and as many as 85,000 children appear to have literally starved to death, while each respective side holds on in what appears to be a never ending conflict for power and control, that does not seem resolvable with heavy artillery.

 

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 militarization 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 criminalizing 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 populaces 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. 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 IRAQI President Barham Salih focused on U.S. and IRANIAN tensions by clearly stating that war is the last thing the MIDDLE EAST needs, as the last war on terror against ISIS has not yet been completed.

 

Furthermore, in my opinion, the Middle East is definitely overshadowed by rising tensions and the threat of war between the U.S. and IRAN, while it is certain that IRAQ would be caught in the middle of such a conflict, as IRAQ is still a base for thousands of U.S. troops and IRANIAN paramilitary units. Thus, in my opinion, IRAQI President Barham Salih was obligated to make it clear that under no circumstances will IRAQ allow the U.S. to use its bases in IRAQ to launch any attacks on neighbouring IRAN. In my opinion, with mounting tensions between the U.S. and IRAN, U.S. President Donald Trump’s voice resonates in the background, as he has stated that one of the reasons he wants to keep a base in IRAQ was to be able to look a little bit closer at IRAN, because IRAN is a real problem, although when asked if he meant that his intention was to be able to attack IRAN, U.S. President Donald Trump clearly stated no as all he wanted to do in IRAQ was monitor IRAN. Thus, in my opinion, IRAQI President Barham Salih wanted to make sure that there were no miscommunications, misinterpretations or over analysis creating any erroneous perception of monitoring somehow being converted into launching attacks, as IRAQ knows very well that although it may be quite easy to start a war, it is very difficult to end a war.

 

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, Hayed 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 stabilize 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 Jab hat 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, despite strong support from the RUSSIAN air forces, the SAA regime has remained on the periphery of IDLIB while being unable to advance, as TURKEY’s support for HTS rebels has presented the greatest challenge to the Bashar al-Assad regime around IDLIB, as TURKEY does not wish to give SYRIA’s northern regions to its NATO ally the U.S., or any other power. Hence, in my opinion, RUSSIA and SYRIA have stepped up their airstrikes against civilians in IDLIB, as war monitors and rebel commanders in northern SYRIA stated that RUSSIAN and SAA regime air strikes had intensified in civilian areas, of the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad. Furthermore, in my opinion, the U.N. official that condemned world leaders for ignoring attacks on non-military targets, calling the situation in IDLIB a catastrophe, that the world has ignored, summarizes the realities on the ground whereby since April of 2019, the SAA regime offensive against HTS rebel groups in IDLIB has killed at least 400 people, including 90 children, with at least 62 people having been killed across IDLIB since last week alone. Furthermore, in my opinion, RUSSIAN and SAA regime air strikes appear to be revenge for the popular support of the TURKISH backed National Liberation Front (NLF). In regards to this week’s counter-offensive in southern IDLIB, targeting the areas recently captured by the SAA, I was not surprised that the HTS rebels began their offensive by sending two suicide bombers towards defense positions of the SAA, as the HTS rebels cannot take on the mighty SAA army with the RUSSIAN backing. In my opinion, the high loss of life in the suicide attacks were not surprising, as HTS rebels resorted to a desperate attack in order to hold their ground. However, in my opinion, the SAA killed dozens of HTS rebels during the battle, including several foreign combatants, as the SAA has fully secured SUKAYK and TAL SUKAYK, although the HTS rebels will likely make another attempt to capture the hilltop of TAL TARI, as they were forced to retreat earlier in the day. Thus, in my opinion, TURKEY, a significant backer of opposition groups in IDLIB since the outbreak of anti-government clashes in the middle of 2011, hold the balance of power in SYRIA such that TURKEY seems to have set the tone at the top, whereby obvious attempts by RUSSIAN & SAA forces to capture IDLIB have failed thus far, as they cannot bomb their way into victory as long as TURKEY backs the rebels in IDLIB. Nonetheless, I was not surprised with this week’s suspected RUSSIAN Special Forces operation that was carried out behind HTS rebel lines in IDLIB Governorate, as RUSSIANS attacked KHIRBAT AL-NAQOUS, which is close to SAA front lines in AL-GHAAB PLAIN region of IDLIB.

 

IRAN News – THE ROCK’s Opinions

 

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.

 

In regards to the statement by IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani that IRAN would exceed the enrichment level set out under the 2015 Nuclear Deal, in response to failure by other parties to the deal to keep up their promises, including providing IRAN with relief from the U.S. imposed sanctions, I am not surprised by IRAN essentially fighting fire with fire. In my opinion, the 3.67% enrichment levels set in the 2015 Nuclear Deal which is sufficient for commercial power generation, is far below the more than 90% level required for a nuclear warhead, such that there still seems to be room for further negotiations before IRAN hits 90%. It is important to note that the enrichment maximum set in the 2015 Nuclear Deal is sufficient for commercial power generation, but far below the more than 90% level required for a nuclear warhead. In my opinion, it is not surprising that IRAN enriched uranium to 4.5% this week, representing enough enrichment for IRAN to power its peaceful, already-active BUSHEHR nuclear reactor, but far short of the 90% threshold for weapons-grade uranium. Thus, in my opinion, IRAN does not currently represent a significant risk for enriching uranium to 90%, as this is an enormous technical challenge that requires building and operating very advanced centrifuges. Furthermore, in my opinion, IRAN will likely once again be subject to international attempts to sabotage any significant escalation of IRANIAN nuclear efforts, with computer viruses like STUXNET that previously successfully attacked IRANIAN centrifuges.

 

In regards to last week’s decision by IRAN to offer a deal to the U.S. in which IRAN would formally and permanently accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear program, in return for the permanent lifting of U.S. sanctions, in my opinion, the offer was made by IRANIAN foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a visit to NEW YORK, but it was not warmly received by U.S. President, Donald Trump, who is currently demanding that IRAN make a range of sweeping concessions, including cessation of uranium enrichment and support for proxies and allies in the region. Hence, I believe that it is in IRAN’s best interests to bring back the same IRANIAN Team to renegotiate the IRAN Nuclear Deal with the new U.S. Administration because they were exceptional in skills last time, while they will now be matched in skills, to renegotiate the sticking points of an end to IRAN’s ballistic missile program and an end to IRAN’s interference in the Middle East. Therefore, only time will tell where the gridlock will lead, as U.S. President, Donald Trump will likely abstain from striking IRAN knowing full well that Jimmy Carter’s attempt for a second term as President was destroyed by the IRAN hostage crisis in 1980 that essentially unseated an American President. However, in my opinion, U.S. President, Donald Trump seems to be the first U.S. President since 1980, who is willing to allow IRAN to flourish, to the extent IRAN focuses on promoting business and prosperity in the MIDDLE EAST, as opposed to conflicts and further civil wars.

 

Thus, in my opinion, the offer by IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani appears to indicate that he is open to negotiations, starting with the U.K. releasing an IRANIAN tanker it apprehended off the coast of GIBRALTAR earlier this month, in exchange for IRAN returning a BRITISH-flagged vessel it recently seized. In my opinion, if the U.K. steps away from the wrong actions in GIBRALTAR, they will receive an appropriate response from IRAN, as per President Hassan Rouhani, who seems to be sending the message that IRAN will reciprocate in kind, as part of any form of negotiations. In regards to senior IRANIAN officials warning against any attempt to form an international coalition to protect shipping in the GULF, with IRAN’s vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, stating that the move will only bring insecurity to the MIDDLE EAST, I tend to agree that IRAN should not seek confrontation, but IRAN does have the right to protect 1,500 miles of Persian Gulf coastline, that represents IRANIAN waters. However, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump has shown great restraint to this point, as he knows that his sanctions are working, such that he has properly positioned U.S. military assets in the region to protect U.S. military personnel and insure the Strait of Hormuz remains open.

 

Thus, in my opinion, the U.S. imposed sanctions and maximum pressure campaign are forcing IRAN to focus on its own problems, as for years, IRAN was one of the chief enablers and financiers of the NORTH KOREAN nuclear and ballistic threat. However, in my opinion, with 50% inflation and food prices that have risen 85%, IRAN does not have the excess cash IRAN used to have to engage in disruption. Thus, in my opinion, to this point, the U.S. has made the right moves with regards to IRAN but what IRAN will do next will be absolutely critical. Hence, in my opinion, it is important for U.S. President Donald Trump to be well apprised that there has never been a full-scale war between two nuclear-armed states, such that if IRAN one day did cross the nuclear threshold, the same deterrence would apply, as no one rational would want to provoke their own incineration. In my opinion, with ISRAEL possessing over 200 nuclear weapons, which the U.S. refuses to publically admit, IRAN still believes that by also having a nuclear bomb, this would bring stability. However, in my opinion, the launch of nuclear weapons can always be done by accident, or by the rogue action of one or two of the members of the launch team, in spontaneous uncontrolled actions of rage. It is important to note that close calls have nearly happened in the U.S. a number of times, and probably in RUSSIA too, while if IRAN got really close to building a nuclear bomb, SAUDI ARABIA would follow in short order, and perhaps EGYPT too somewhat later. However, if IRAN were to successfully procure a nuclear weapon, that would really be IRAN cutting off its nose to spite the face of its opposition in the region. Thus, in my opinion, the arguments between IRAN, the U.S. and EUROPE over the supposed bomb question are becoming confusing, such that it is not evident whether or not clear thinking can be quickly restored, as otherwise, the entire world would lose out.

 

However, in my opinion, the imminent threat these days comes from IRAN’s Defense Ministry that warned that any ISRAELI involvement in a U.S. led naval operation into the Strait of Hormuz, would have disastrous consequences for the MIDDLE EAST. Furthermore, IRANIAN Defense Minister Amir Hatami reportedly added that the military coalition that the U.S. is seeking to form, with the excuse of securing maritime transport, that will likely only increase insecurity in the MIDDLE EAST. Ironically, IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani urged the U.S. to reopen a dialogue with IRAN, saying that peace with IRAN is the mother of all peace and war with IRAN is the mother of all wars, as he defended a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between IRAN and world powers. In regards to this week’s threat by IRAN to cut its commitments under the international nuclear deal further unless EUROPEAN partners move to protect it from U.S. sanctions by insuring IRAN can sell oil and receive income, it is no secret that IRAN is desperate to sell its oil on the market to mitigate the crumbling IRANIAN economy. Furthermore, in my opinion, IRAN obviously believes that all talks about establishing a new coalition in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman will not be practical, and that it will not help the security of the MIDDLE EAST, such that there is no need for the presence of foreign forces to provide security. In my opinion, IRAN wants to provide exclusive security of the historical region, alongside its littoral states, as it has done so throughout its history, albeit the U.S. will never grant such exclusivity to IRAN, as if IRAN would ever choose to block the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. would be unable to export oil from its MIDDLE EASTERN allies. Thus, in my opinion, the narrow Strait of Hormuz between OMAN and IRAN has become a flashpoint between the U.S. and IRAN, as the U.S. accused IRAN of sabotaging tankers along this important trade route, allegations that IRAN obviously denied. Furthermore, in my opinion, the U.S. military has since deployed additional forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the MIDDLE EAST as tensions have mounted.

 

 

Summary

 

In summary, I refer to “World Peace Lennon Ivan Style – Part 364” 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. President Donald Trump capitalized on worries about confrontation between U.S. & long-time arch-nemesis IRAN, that have been escalating, by succeeding with third veto, as Trump Administration argued that US$ 8 billion in arms sales necessary because of heightened threats from IRAN, albeit IRAN warned against arms race, after SAUDI ARABIA & UAE spent more than US$ 100 billion on weaponry, while clearly stating recent U.S. weapons sales have turned GULF region into tinderbox ready to blow up, as more warships in GULF will only lead to more insecurity, albeit U.S. & IRAN now on equal footing, such that nobody has any competitive advantage militarily, hence, whoever fires first will set in motion series of domino events culminating in full fledge civil war, as first person to fire will put bullet in oppositions head, while contemporaneously putting bullet to own head, such that U.S President Donald Trump strategically set in motion necessary pre-conditions for deterrence from entering into full fledge civil war, such that by default, only other remaining option is returning to negotiating table of peace, albeit IRAN warned that any ISRAELI involvement in U.S. led naval operation into Strait of Hormuz, would have disastrous consequences for MIDDLE EAST, as IRAN wants to provide exclusive security over historical region, alongside its littoral states, while U.S. will never grant such exclusivity to IRAN, as if IRAN would ever choose to block Strait of Hormuz, U.S. would be unable to export oil from its MIDDLE EASTERN allies.

 

 

Spirit of John Lennon – THE ROCK’s News:



August 18, 2019