World Peace “Lennon Ivan Style” – Part 375

 

In summary, I refer to “World Peace Lennon Ivan Style – Part 375” 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 KURDISH YPG fighters completed withdrawal from areas along SYRIAN & TURKISH border after TURKISH military bombardments, as part of U.S. negotiated ceasefire deal, while RUSSIAN & SAA forces moved in, now providing protection to KURDISH YPG, as SAA & TURKISH forces traded deadly fire, while U.S. will not sit by & let IRAN attack SAUDI ARABIA if IRAN so chooses, as recent deployments by U.S. of additional personnel, air & missile defense assets highlight growing & evolving air & missile threat from IRAN, controlling an increasingly diverse, expansive & modern range of regional offensive missile systems, that can threaten U.S. forces abroad, allies & partners, while hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reached climactic conclusion, as U.S. President Donald Trump declared that raid conducted by U.S. military in northwest SYRIA killed ISIS leader, limiting ISIS ability to inspire global terror, while IRAN & RUSSIA condemned U.S. decision to maintain military presence near oil fields in north-eastern SYRIA, stating that any exploitation of oil resources by U.S. would be deemed illegal, as unlike U.S., IRAN & RUSSIA are there on invitation of SYRIAN government, while U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be sending message that if SYRIA cannot secure all oil facilities from ISIS, U.S. can and will secure these resources accordingly. 

 

TURKEY News

 

During the week ending on Sunday, November 3, 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.

It is important to note that 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.

However, TURKEY’s acquisition of the RUSSIAN S-400 missile systems has led many to wonder if TURKEY was moving away from its U.S. and Western allies, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be treating the RUSSIAN S-400 as a simple business transaction, as the governing AKP appears to realise how much TURKEY needs U.S. and European support to fuel the TURKISH economy and to maintain NATO security. It is important to note that although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has increasingly cast the U.S. and Western nations as TURKEY’s secondary allies, he is aware that most of his electoral success since 2002 has been driven by the record amount of mostly U.S. and European foreign direct investment that TURKEY has attracted. Furthermore, since TURKEY’s currency crisis last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan understands that only the U.S., E.U. and International Monetary Fund (IMF) can rescue TURKEY from a financial meltdown. It is important to note that TURKEY’s top four export destinations in 2018 were Germany ($16.1 Billion), Britain ($11.1 Billion), Italy ($9.6 Billion) and the U.S. ($8.3 Billion), all well above RUSSIA and CHINA, with 78% of TURKEY’s foreign direct investment coming from strategic WEST last year. However, EUROPE’s leverage comes with significant financial exposure, as nearly 80% of TURKEY’s foreign debt is owed to E.U. banks, such that EUROPEAN leaders cannot afford to see the TURKISH economy collapse.

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.

Furthermore, the leaders of RUSSIA and TURKEY stated that they shared deep concerns over fighting in north-western SYRIA, with TURKEY warning that it would take the steps necessary to protect its troops there. It is important to note that after meeting for talks in RUSSIA, RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin and TURKEY’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated they hoped to work together to ease tensions in IDLIB province. However, TURKEY does back the moderate rebels in northwest SYRIA and has deployed TURKISH forces in the IDLIB region, such that it is difficult to differentiate between military and humanitarian convoys. Nonetheless, TURKISH Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated that right now, TURKEY does not have any intention of moving its observation posts elsewhere, such that TURKEY will carry on with its mission at the MOREK observation post regardless of the recent attack. Unfortunately, this week, airstrikes once again hit IDLIB, after a ceasefire was declared 10 days ago, such that intense airstrikes by RUSSIAN and SYRIAN warplanes accompanied another SYRIAN government push to re-take the area, with intensified ground fighting and shelling. Ironically, the U.S. stated that its forces had also carried out air strikes against an AL-QAEDA facility in IDLIB. Nonetheless, this week, the leaders of TURKEY, RUSSIA and IRAN attended a trilateral summit aimed to negotiate peace in SYRIA’s last rebel-held stronghold, such that a ceasefire in substance is now currently in effect. Hence, in my opinion, after a four-month offensive in IDLIB by SYRIAN and RUSSIAN forces that has caused a massive outflow of refugees to TURKEY, albeit TURKEY already hosts 3.6 million SYRIAN refugees, all parties seem to realize that there cannot be peace in IDLIB by force as the HTS rebels refuse to cede defeat.

However, more than 70,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in SYRIA recently, as TURKISH forces pushed further into the northeast of SYRIA against KURDISH YPG forces. That is, fighting had been raging, as TURKISH forces had stepped up their assaults against KURDISH forces that were pounded relentlessly by TURKISH fighters with air raids and artillery fire amid heavy fighting. As a friendly reminder, the TURKISH government considers the KURDISH YPG as terrorists although the KURDISH YPG was the primary U.S. allies in the war against ISIS. It is thus obvious to me that over thirty years of bad blood between TURKEY and the KURDISH PKK has clouded TURKEY’s judgement to the point that they are unable to remain objective and impartial as concerns the KURDS such that their personal animosities have taken control and thus all KURDS are now seen as part of the terrorist mole. Thus, the KURDISH YPG have formally stated that the barrage of attacks by TURKEY represents a U.S. betrayal whereby U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon SYRIA’s KURDS is perceived as a knife in the back given that the KURDISH YPG fought alongside the U.S. against ISIS.

It is important to note that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants a 20 miles deep “safe zone” along SYRIAN side of the border clear of all KURDISH YPG fighters, where he wants to resettle up to two million SYRIAN refugees currently living in TURKEY. However, TURKEY reached an agreement with the U.S. to pause its military offensive against KURDISH YPG forces. That is, a six-day pause in the TURKISH offensive began under agreements with both RUSSIA and the U.S. in order to give the KURDISH fighters 150 hours to leave the TURKISH designated safe zone in SYRIA’s war-torn north. It is important to note that RUSSIA’s defense minister stated that KURDISH YPG fighters have completed their withdrawal from areas along the SYRIAN border, in line with the recent RUSSIA and TURKEY deal. However, RUSSIAN and SYRIAN troops have moved into the border zone following the KURDISH YPG withdrawal. Furthermore, the RUSSIA and TURKEY deal to divide control of northeast Syria has halted the TURKISH invasion of the area, as the primary objective of TURKEY remains to drive out KURDISH YPG forces. Ironically, although the KURDISH YPG forces had been U.S. allies during the five-year campaign against ISIS, U.S. forces withdrew from the area, allowing the TURKISH offensive, whereby the KURDISH YPG forces have since turned to RUSSIAN and SAA government forces for protection. The key point under the agreement between RUSSIA and TURKEY is that TURKEY gets to retain control over the areas it seized when it launched its offensive while RUSSIAN and SAA troops will control the rest of the SYRIAN frontier. Thus, RUSSIA and TURKEY are set to conduct joint patrols of areas east and west of the TURKISH held parts of the SYRIAN border area.

 

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.

Therefore, 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.

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, U.S. President Donald Trump obviously supported SAUDI ARABIA and Crown Prince MBS, while some members of the ruling family and business elite expressed their frustrations with Crown Prince MBS’s leadership, that have increased after recent largest-ever attack on SAUDI ARABIA’s oil infrastructure. It is important to note that the recent attack has sparked concern among several prominent branches of the ruling AL SAUD family, which numbers about 10,000, about Crown Prince MBS’s ability to defend and lead the world’s largest oil exporter. Furthermore, the recent oil attack has also fuelled discontent among some in elite circles who believe that Crown Prince MBS has sought too tight a grip on power. In addition, the recent oil attack has also fuelled criticism among those who believe Crown Prince MBS has pursued an overly aggressive stance towards IRAN. Thus, this week, the U.S. and SAUDI ARABIA have stepped up their efforts to protect SAUDI ARABIA’s oil production, holding talks on connecting SAUDI ARABIAN missile defenses to U.S. systems and investigating new anti-drone technologies, after recent attacks that knocked out half of SAUDI ARABIA’s crude oil production. Hence, this week, it has become apparent that the U.S. is not going to sit by and let IRAN think that IRAN could attack SAUDI ARABIA if it so chooses following recent targeted attacks on SAUDI ARABIAN oil infrastructure. It is important to note that in response to the September 14 attack on SAUDI ARABIAN oil facilities, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced plans to deploy additional personnel, air and missile defense assets to the MIDDLE EAST, including one PATRIOT battery, four SENTINEL radars and 200 support personnel. Furthermore, this deployment represents the latest U.S. effort to deter IRANIAN aggression and highlights the growing and evolving air and missile threat to the U.S. and its partners.

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, in regards to claims that the HOUTHI rebels continue to violate the HODEIDA agreement, albeit, the YEMENI army foiling HOUTHI rebels attempts to infiltrate YEMEN army from the east of HODEIDA, it is my opinion that the HOUTHI rebels will violate the HODEIDA agreement, to the extent the HOUTHI rebels continue to be backed by IRAN. In my opinion, the SAUDI ARABIAN led effort to crush the rebellion by IRAN-aligned HOUTHI rebels in YEMEN appears to be in a stalemate, as neither party is ready nor willing to relinquish control. It is important to note that the SAUDI ARABIA and UAE coalition have succeeded in preventing a strategic control disaster by preventing HOUTHI rebels from capturing BAB AL-MANDEB, a critical transportation point between the RED SEA and the GULF OF ADEN. Nonetheless, HOUTHI rebels remain in control of YEMEN capital, SANAA, a considerable part of YEMEN coast and main urban centers of YEMEN. Unfortunately, anti-HOUTHI rebel forces, have now turned on one another, with the UAE-backed SOUTHERN TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL (STC) challenging SAUDI ARABIA supported forces aligned with official YEMENI government led by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, such that the STC fighters now control the port of ADEN, with potential for further clashes between the sides escalating over time. Hence, SAUDI ARABIA appears to be experiencing a form of self-fulfilling prophesy, in the sense that the HOUTHI rebels had nothing to do with IRAN until SAUDI ARABIA got involved.

It is important to note that SAUDI ARABIA and UAE pledged to keep their floundering coalition war against YEMEN’s HOUTHI rebels together after a UAE troop pullout and the rise of the YEMENI southern separatists they once supported. 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

 

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.” Thus, this week the hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reached a climactic conclusion as U.S. President Donald Trump declared that a raid conducted by the U.S. military in northwest SYRIA this week killed the senior ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It is important to note that while ISIS may have a succession plan in place, it is likely only known to a very small number of ISIS senior leadership, as ISIS has not publicly signalled who will take over. Thus, whoever succeeds Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will likely have very little name recognition amongst terrorists worldwide which could pose a challenge for ISIS by limiting ISIS’s ability to inspire global terror.

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.

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, 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. Hence, SAA and its Russian allies have intensified their bombing campaign on IDLIB 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 are literally bringing a new massacre each day.

Furthermore, the leaders of RUSSIA and TURKEY stated that they shared deep concerns over fighting in northwestern SYRIA, with TURKEY warning that it would take the steps necessary to protect its troops there. It is important to note that after meeting for talks in RUSSIA, RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin and TURKEY’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated they hoped to work together to ease tensions in IDLIB province. However, TURKEY does back the moderate rebels in northwest SYRIA and has deployed TURKISH forces in the IDLIB region, such that it is difficult to differentiate between military and humanitarian convoys. Hence, in my opinion, after a four-month offensive in IDLIB by SYRIAN and RUSSIAN forces that has caused a massive outflow of refugees to TURKEY, albeit TURKEY already hosts 3.6 million SYRIAN refugees, all parties seem to realize that there cannot be peace in IDLIB by force as the HTS rebels refuse to cede defeat. Nonetheless, the SAA and RUSSIA are now once again seriously considering a new offensive in IDLIB, after several days of exchanging fire with HTS rebels near the demilitarized zone, as patience is wearing thin in IDLIB and western ALEPPO after several ceasefire violations by HTS rebels.

 

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.

However, IRAN’s President Hassan Rouhani kept the door open to diplomacy, backing EUROPEAN efforts to salvage 2015 Nuclear Deal, despite rebuffing FRANCE attempts to broker meeting between him and U.S. President Donald Trump at U.N. Nonetheless, Iran agreed to a four-point plan for talks with the U.S. during the U.N. General Assembly, until U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to increase sanctions against IRAN, as per IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani. Thus, it appears that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has set the tone at the top whereby IRAN operates in the grey zone as concerns decisions towards U.S. whereby IRAN takes decisions between peace and open military conflict, by denying use of force to minimize consequences of escalations. However, this week, IRAN and RUSSIA condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to maintain a military presence near oil fields in northeastern SYRIA, with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov stating that any exploitation of oil resources by the U.S. would be deemed illegal. It is important to note that U.S. President, Donald Trump’s suggestion that Exxon Mobil Corp or another U.S. oil company operate SYRIAN oil fields drew resistance from both legal and energy experts on the MIDDLE EAST. Nonetheless, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper stated that the U.S. would like to strengthen its military presence in SYRIA with mechanized forces to prevent ISIS fighters from seizing oil fields and revenue in SYRIA. Not surprisingly, IRAN’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, stated in response that it seems that the U.S. is staying to protect the oil while at least U.S. President Donald Trump is honest to state what the U.S. intends to do. Furthermore, Mohammad Javad Zarif elaborated that IRAN and RUSSIA are there on the invitation of the SYRIAN government, such that they intend to stay in SYRIA as long as the official SYRIAN government and SYRIAN people want RUSSIA and IRAN to be in SYRIA.

 

 

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.

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, 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.

Nonetheless, 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, the 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.

In regards to TURKISH inflation slowing down sharply into single digits, I expect another showdown between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his new central banker, Murat Uysal, who hinted at limited room for more monetary easing. In my opinion, given that the inflation rate dropped to an annual 9.3% during September’ 2019 from 15% in August, TURKEY’s real interest rate is now among the highest in emerging markets, such that the big challenge will now be to manage the political aspects of the gap between the current TURKISH government policy interest rate at 16.5% and a single-digit inflation rate. Therefore, in my opinion, the good news could turn into a headache for TURKISH Bank Governor, Murat Uysal, whose predecessor was fired for not cutting interest rates fast enough. Nonetheless, in my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains fixated on lower interest rates, which he believes would only curb inflation, while Murat Uysal signalled this month that the TURKISH central bank might look to moderate its pace of interest rate cuts, after monetary easing that took place between July to September of 2019, in anticipation of a decrease in inflation. However, in my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s quest for TURKEY’s economic rebirth is already struggling while setting out a goal of 5% growth for 2020-2022 after slashing this year’s forecast near zero. Thus, despite the expectation of TURKEY’s economy suddenly awakening months after recession, the rest of the outlook is leaving the world in a state of shock, in the sense of too good to be true. In my opinion, the assumption by the governing AKP of a quick TURKISH take-off will require little fiscal stimulus, even after the TURKISH central bank stated that its monetary easing over the last several months left limited policy space. In my opinion, TURKEY also anticipates that an economic surge is possible without triggering a rise in inflation and generating a huge gap in the current account that haunted TURKEY’s previous economic recoveries.

In my opinion, 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).

However, in my opinion, TURKEY’s acquisition of the RUSSIAN S-400 missile systems has led many to wonder if TURKEY was moving away from its U.S. and Western allies, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be treating the RUSSIAN S-400 as a simple business transaction, as the governing AKP appears to realise how much TURKEY needs U.S. and European support to fuel the TURKISH economy and to maintain NATO security. In my opinion, given the size of the TURKISH economy, occasional partners like RUSSIA and IRAN cannot provide the cash necessary to mitigate a TURKISH economic crisis, while CHINA also seems to be unwilling to provide TURKEY with necessary economic support, as CHINA has been focusing on its own domestic economy issues. Furthermore, in my opinion, TURKEY is more economically dependent on the U.S. and E.U. where trade ties are more balanced overall, compared to large TURKISH trade deficits with RUSSIA and CHINA. Thus, in my opinion, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to keep TURKEY within relations with the U.S. and E.U. as this group accounted for over 55% of TURKISH trade last year, with the E.U. alone accounting for over 40%. Furthermore, in my opinion, TURKEY’s economy has recovered from the difficulties it experienced since the end of 2018, but TURKEY should undertake additional reforms because it remains vulnerable to a variety of risks. Thus, in my opinion, positive market sentiment has provided TURKEY with an opportunity to enact additional reforms that would not only address existing vulnerabilities but also would strengthen policy credibility and set the TURKISH economy on a higher and more sustainable growth path.

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.

Hence, 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.

In regards to the leaders of RUSSIA and TURKEY stating that they shared deep concerns over fighting in north-western SYRIA, with TURKEY warning that it would take the steps necessary to protect its troops there, RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin hit the nail on the head by clearly stating that he hoped to work together with TURKEY to ease tensions in IDLIB province. Thus, in my opinion, I was surprised to see RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin adopt a sympathetic tone with TURKEY by stating that RUSSIA understands TURKEY’s concerns regarding the security of its southern border, while RUSSIA believes that TURKEY has legitimate interests. Hence, in my opinion, troops from TURKEY, which has backed some rebel groups against President Bashar Al-Assad, are stationed in IDLIB as part of a buffer zone deal reached with RUSSIA last year but the situation in IDLIB has become so complicated, that at this moment TURKISH troops are in danger. In regards to this week’s airstrikes once again hitting IDLIB, after a ceasefire was declared 10 days ago, intense airstrikes by RUSSIAN and SYRIAN warplanes accompanying another SYRIAN government push to re-take the area was not surprising. However, the U.S. also carrying out air strikes against an AL-QAEDA facility in IDLIB were surprising as the U.S. for the large part has remained on the sidelines for this battle. Thus, in my opinion, the dominant force in IDLIB consisting of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist alliance formerly known as the NUSRA FRONT, which cut ties to AL-QAEDA in 2016, seems to be a thorn in everybody’s eyes. Thus, in my opinion, this week’s trilateral summit aimed to negotiate peace in SYRIA’s last rebel-held stronghold, between the leaders of TURKEY, RUSSIA and IRAN resulted in a ceasefire in substance that is now currently in effect. Hence, in my opinion, after a four-month offensive in IDLIB by SYRIAN and RUSSIAN forces that has caused a massive outflow of refugees to TURKEY, all parties seem to realize that there cannot be peace in IDLIB by force as the HTS rebels refuse to cede defeat.

However, in my opinion, it was shocking to see more than 70,000 people being forced to leave their homes in SYRIA, as TURKISH forces pushed further into the northeast of SYRIA against KURDISH YPG forces. Thus, in my opinion, the fighting that had been raging, as TURKISH forces had pounded KURDSH YPG forces relentlessly with air raids and artillery fire amid heavy fighting cannot be justified. In my opinion, the TURKISH government considering the KURDISH YPG as terrorists, by association to the KURDISH PKK, although the KURDISH YPG was the primary U.S. ally in the war against ISIS is absurd. Hence, in my opinion, it is thus obvious that over thirty years of bad blood between TURKEY and the KURDISH PKK has clouded TURKEY’s judgement to the point that they are unable to remain objective and impartial as concerns the KURDS such that their personal animosities have taken control and thus all KURDS are now seen as part of the terrorist mole. In my opinion, the KURDISH YPG have formally stated that the barrage of attacks by TURKEY represents a U.S. betrayal whereby U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon SYRIA’s KURDS is perceived as a knife in the back given that the KURDISH YPG fought alongside the U.S. against ISIS. Thus, in my opinion, TURKEY took advantage of opening to pursue its goal of 20 miles deep “safe zone” along SYRIAN side of border being cleared of all KURDISH YPG fighters, where TURKEY wants to resettle up to two million SYRIAN refugees currently living in TURKEY. However, in my opinion, given that the TURKISH government fears KURDISH YPG forces in SYRIA will link up with Kurdish PKK rebels in TURKEY, who have been fighting for a breakaway KURDISH state for decades, TURKEY has become in substance paranoid, anxious and demented schizophrenics as concerns the KURDS.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, TURKEY reached an agreement with the U.S. to pause its military offensive against KURDISH YPG forces because TURKEY believes that it is closer to formally designating a safe zone along its border with SYRIA. However, in my opinion, the KURDISH fighters have not received the six-day ultimatum well, as the KURDS obviously anticipated retaining parts of these safe zone territories after having defeated ISIS with U.S. military support. Nonetheless, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump stood by TURKEY’s six-day ultimatum by stating that TURKEY has done what the U.S. has asked TURKEY to do. Thus, in my opinion, it was not surprising to see KURDISH YPG fighters completing their withdrawal from areas along the SYRIAN border. However, in my opinion, RUSSIAN and SYRIAN troops have moved into the border zone following the KURDISH YPG withdrawal, as the KURDISH YPG forces have now turned to RUSSIAN and SAA government forces for protection. In my opinion, the agreement between RUSSIA and TURKEY whereby TURKEY will get to retain control over the areas it seized when it launched its offensive, while RUSSIAN and SAA troops will control the rest of the SYRIAN frontier, is not surprising. However, in my opinion, it was not surprising to see the SAA and TURKISH forces trading deadly fire this week for the first time since TURKEY launched its anti-KURDISH YPG offensive. In my opinion, until the RUSSIAN and TURKISH deal is fully implemented on the ground, heavy fighting erupting between the SAA and TURKISH forces is expected, as seen this week whereby six SAA soldiers were killed near the key border town of RAS AL-AIN and five SAA soldiers in the village of ASSADIYA.

 

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.

Nonetheless, 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.

Therefore, 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.

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 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, U.S. President Donald Trump obviously supported SAUDI ARABIA and Crown Prince MBS, while some members of the ruling family and business elite expressed their frustrations with Crown Prince MBS’s leadership, that have increased after recent largest-ever attack on SAUDI ARABIA’s oil infrastructure. In my opinion, the recent oil attack has fuelled discontent among some in elite circles who believe that Crown Prince MBS has sought too tight a grip on power while pursuing an overly aggressive stance towards IRAN.

In my opinion, U.S. and SAUDI ARABIA stepped up efforts to protect SAUDI ARABIA’s oil production, by connecting SAUDI ARABIAN missile defenses to U.S. systems and investigating new anti-drone technologies, after recent attacks knocked out half of SAUDI ARABIA’s crude oil production are not surprising. In my opinion, although U.S. President Donald Trump is wisely resisting starting a new war in the MIDDLE EAST, his maximum pressure campaign against IRAN, that IRAN has chose to weather the storm, has put him on the spot to do something, especially after recent attacks on SAUDI ARABIA oil facilities. Thus, in my opinion, the U.S. Administration has been focused on the U.S. imposed sanctions, with the U.S. having already sanctioned almost every sanctionable thing in IRANIAN economy, including placing a terrorist designation on IRANIAN central bank. However, in my opinion, the Trump Administration is now also trying to appear tough by dispatching 1,800 more U.S. troops to SAUDI ARABIA, while reconciling this deployment with his statements that it is a mistake to be in the MIDDLE EAST, by stating that SAUDI ARABIA is a very good ally and has agreed to pay the U.S. for everything U.S. doing.

Thus, in my opinion, this week’s apparent position that the U.S. is not going to sit by and let IRAN think that IRAN could attack SAUDI ARABIA if it so chooses is not surprising. Therefore, I was not surprised to see recent deployments by the U.S. of additional personnel, air and missile defense assets to the MIDDLE EAST, including one PATRIOT battery, four SENTINEL radars and 200 support personnel. Furthermore, in my opinion, it has become evident that the latest deployment represents U.S. efforts to deter IRANIAN aggression while highlighting the growing and evolving air and missile threat to the U.S. and its partners. Thus, in my opinion, IRAN should never be underestimated as IRAN appears to be controlling an increasingly diverse, expansive, and modern range of regional offensive missile systems that can threaten U.S. forces abroad, allies, and partners. Furthermore, IRAN has also displayed a land-attack cruise missile that IRAN claims has a range of 2,000 k.m. Thus, in my opinion, the U.S. is appropriately committing the necessary air defense, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to the MIDDLE EAST in order to deter additional attacks on the international energy market, as these measures could help deter additional attacks while empowering U.S. and allied efforts to control IRAN while preventing any large-scale military conflict in the MIDDLE EAST.

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 HOUTHI rebels continuing to violate the HODEIDA agreement, SAUDI ARABIA appears to be experiencing a form of self-fulfilling prophesy, in the sense that the HOUTHI rebels had nothing to do with IRAN until SAUDI ARABIA got involved. However, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA seems to have mastered the art of war with the HOUTHI rebels by consistently intercepting drones fired from SANAA, as the HOUTHI rebels have fired dozens of missiles and drones into SAUDI ARABIA, but most of them have been successfully intercepted by SAUDI ARABIA, preventing them from reaching their targets. In my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA led effort to crush the rebellion by IRAN-aligned HOUTHI rebels in YEMEN appears to be in a stalemate, as neither party ready nor willing to relinquish control. Furthermore, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA and UAE coalition have succeeded in preventing a strategic control disaster by preventing HOUTHI rebels from capturing BAB AL-MANDEB, a critical transportation point between the RED SEA and the GULF OF ADEN.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, HOUTHI rebels remain in control of YEMEN capital, SANAA, a considerable part of YEMEN coast and main urban centers of YEMEN due to their sheer resilience to cede defeat, while being supported by IRAN. Unfortunately, in my opinion, anti-HOUTHI rebel forces, have now turned on one another, with the UAE-backed SOUTHERN TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL (STC) challenging SAUDI ARABIA supported forces aligned with official YEMENI government led by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, such that the STC fighters now control the port of ADEN, with potential for further clashes between the sides escalating over time. Thus, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA would like to see the total defeat of HOUTHI rebels but have proved unable to accomplish this military objective, while UAE now seems to be focused on securing Red Sea shipping lines and restricting influence of SUNNI Islamist forces in areas under YEMEN government control. In my opinion, on-going series of attacks by YEMEN rebels is testimony to military confidence of HOUTHI rebels, who are no longer facing an existential threat to their sphere of influence, but rather have now built firm foundations in their area of control, forming a key force along the broader IRAN-led regional block.

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, 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

 

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.

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 my opinion, it was not surprising to see this week’s hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reach a climactic conclusion as U.S. President Donald Trump declared that a raid conducted by the U.S. military in northwest SYRIA killed the ISIS leader. Thus, in my opinion, by removing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from the battlefield, the U.S. has neutralized the threat from a man who was both ruthless and highly skilled in running an underground terrorist organization. Furthermore, in my opinion, after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took over the leadership of ISIS in 2010, he rebuilt the group into a force that was able to take control of significant parts of SYRIA and IRAQ before being conquered by the U.S. led coalition. Hence, in my opinion, the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, identified by U.S. President Donald Trump as the world’s number one terrorist leader, obviously strikes a paralyzing blow to ISIS. That is, for ISIS and its tens of thousands of followers globally, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was publicly presented as caliph by ISIS in the Great Mosque of AL-NURI in MOSUL in July of 2014, such that his followers held him to be the supreme political and spiritual leader of all Muslims worldwide such that his elimination from the terrorist scene is a significant victory for the U.S. led war on terror.

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

 

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. 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-Nurse, 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.

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 have 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.

In regards to the leaders of RUSSIA and TURKEY stating that they shared deep concerns over fighting in northwestern SYRIA, with TURKEY warning that it would take the steps necessary to protect its troops there, RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin hit the nail on the head by clearly stating that he hoped to work together with TURKEY to ease tensions in IDLIB province. Thus, in my opinion, I was surprised to see RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin adopt a sympathetic tone with TURKEY by stating that RUSSIA understands TURKEY’s concerns regarding the security of its southern border, while RUSSIA believes that TURKEY has legitimate interests. Hence, in my opinion, troops from TURKEY, which has backed some rebel groups against President Bashar Al-Assad, are stationed in IDLIB as part of a buffer zone deal reached with RUSSIA last year but the situation in IDLIB has become so complicated, that at this moment TURKISH troops are in danger.

Thus, in my opinion, the dominant force in IDLIB consisting of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist alliance formerly known as the NUSRA FRONT, which cut ties to AL-QAEDA in 2016, seems to be a thorn in everybody’s eyes. Hence, in my opinion, after a four-month offensive in IDLIB by SYRIAN and RUSSIAN forces that has caused a massive outflow of refugees to TURKEY, all parties seem to realize that there cannot be peace in IDLIB by force as the HTS rebels refuse to cede defeat. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the SAA and RUSSIA are now once again seriously considering a new offensive in IDLIB, after several days of exchanging fire with HTS rebels near the demilitarized zone, as patience is wearing thin in IDLIB and western ALEPPO after several ceasefire violations by HTS rebels. In my opinion, the SAA has responded to ceasefire violations, but they have not yet launched any storming operation against HTS and their allies because they seem to be waiting to see if TURKEY will dismantle HTS, before the SAA military launches a new offensive to further weaken HTS rebels.

 

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%, 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 the 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 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. 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. Nonetheless, in my opinion, IRAN’s President Hassan Rouhani kept the door open to diplomacy, backing EUROPEAN efforts to salvage 2015 Nuclear Deal. Thus, in my opinion, IRAN agreed to a four-point plan for talks with the U.S. during the U.N. General Assembly because FRANCE, who is considered by IRAN to be a neutral party, brokered the plan. Thus, in my opinion, it was not surprising to see IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani confirm that the four-point program stipulated that IRAN should not seek nuclear weapons, should abide by regional peace, help to contribute to peace, and, in exchange, the U.S. would lift all sanctions against IRAN and allow IRANIAN exports immediately, as the lifting of sanctions immediately form the backbone of the plan.

In my opinion, it has become blatantly obvious that IRAN operates in the grey zone as concerns decisions towards U.S., whereby IRAN takes decisions between peace and open military conflict, by denying use of force to minimize consequences and future escalations. Thus, in my opinion, given that IRAN has been able to survive U.S. imposed sanctions that have now reached a climax, with limited possibilities for additional future sanctions, the U.S. should contest IRAN in the gray zone. That is, in my opinion, to restore deterrence while minimizing the risks of escalations, the U.S. should also consider using limited U.S. military actions that fly under the radar screen like IRAN, but which IRAN still recognizes as executed by the U.S. In my opinion, the U.S. should adopt a similar military policy like IRAN to operate in the grey zone with covert military strikes on strategic assets without accepting any formal responsibilities in order to minimize the risk of a full blown military conflict. Furthermore, in my opinion, this week, IRAN and RUSSIA obviously condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to maintain a military presence near oil fields in northeastern SYRIA, with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov stating that any exploitation of oil resources by the U.S. would be deemed illegal. In my opinion, it was obviously not surprising, for IRAN’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to state that unlike the U.S., IRAN and RUSSIA are there on the invitation of the SYRIAN government. Thus, in my opinion, the U.S. obviously stated that the return of U.S. forces to SYRIA, after their transfer to IRAQ, was under the pretext of protecting oil deposits from ISIS. However, in my opinion, SYRIA, RUSSIA and IRAN have obviously taken the position that under international laws, any illegal exploitation of natural resources of a sovereign state, without its consent, is illegal such that given that the U.S. was not invited by the existing SYRIAN regime, the U.S. has no right to exploit any SYRIAN resources. In my opinion, SYRIAN oil or other types of revenue should be used for the reconstruction efforts of SYRIA including local infrastructure, support for civilians, internally displaced people and refugees, whereby SYRIANS determine how their resources will be utilized. However, U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be sending the message to the existing SYRIAN regime that if they and their allies consisting of RUSSIA and IRAN cannot secure all oil facilities in SYRIA from ISIS, the U.S. can and will secure these resources accordingly.

 

 

Summary

 

In summary, I refer to “World Peace Lennon Ivan Style – Part 375” 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 KURDISH YPG fighters completed withdrawal from areas along SYRIAN & TURKISH border after TURKISH military bombardments, as part of U.S. negotiated ceasefire deal, while RUSSIAN & SAA forces moved in, now providing protection to KURDISH YPG, as SAA & TURKISH forces traded deadly fire, while U.S. will not sit by & let IRAN attack SAUDI ARABIA if IRAN so chooses, as recent deployments by U.S. of additional personnel, air & missile defense assets highlight growing & evolving air & missile threat from IRAN, controlling an increasingly diverse, expansive & modern range of regional offensive missile systems, that can threaten U.S. forces abroad, allies & partners, while hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reached climactic conclusion, as U.S. President Donald Trump declared that raid conducted by U.S. military in northwest SYRIA killed ISIS leader, limiting ISIS ability to inspire global terror, while IRAN & RUSSIA condemned U.S. decision to maintain military presence near oil fields in north-eastern SYRIA, stating that any exploitation of oil resources by U.S. would be deemed illegal, as unlike U.S., IRAN & RUSSIA are there on invitation of SYRIAN government, while U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be sending message that if SYRIA cannot secure all oil facilities from ISIS, U.S. can and will secure these resources accordingly.

 

 

Spirit of John Lennon – THE ROCK’s News:



November 3, 2019