World Peace “Lennon Ivan Style” – Part 410

 

In summary, I refer to “World Peace Lennon Ivan Style – Part 410” 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 TURKEY death toll due to COVID-19 outbreak increased to over 5,100, with total over 197,000 cases, as over 10.3 million people fallen ill globally, & more than 505,300 people dead, as UAE lobbying U.S. to intervene in LIBYA civil war, to help turn tide back to General Khalifa Haftar, backed by RUSSIA, UAE, EGYPT & FRANCE, to take over capital TRIPOLI from TURKEY backed GNA, while any attack on SIRTE or inland JUFRA military air base by GNA would amount to crossing red line, with sharp escalations in tensions between EGYPT & TURKEY over LIBYA, with similar military capabilities that would likely lead to long-lasting standoff, while apparent that cash is king, especially at time when sports properties hammered by COVID-19 pandemic, while SAUDI ARABIA’s wealth fund, led by Crown Prince MBS, has plenty of cash, which is why Public Investment Fund (PIF) on hunt for various sports assets, while all IRANIAN neighbours nervous after COVID-19 killed over 10,700 people in IRAN, with over 225,200 confirmed cases, while IRAN issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump, amongst 36 people, over drone strike that killed top IRANIAN General, Qasem Soleimani, in political stunt consisting of propaganda that U.S. used to, that has nothing to do with national security, international peace or promoting stability, so no one takes seriously & makes IRANIANS look foolish.

 

TURKEY News

 

During the week ending on Sunday, July 5, 2020, 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 by 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 continue to 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 continues to insist that TURKEYS’s economy does not face any significant risks. However, 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, the U.S. held firm that it will not allow TURKEY to purchase both the F-35 fighter jet and the RUSSIAN missile system such that TURKEY could face sanctions over the US$2.5 billion acquisition.

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, parts of the RUSSIAN S-400 surface-to-air, missile defense system equipment has already been delivered to TURKEY, even after repeated U.S. calls to cancel the deal or face punishment. Therefore, 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.

Meanwhile, 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. Hence, all parties seem to realize that there cannot be peace in IDLIB by force as the HTS rebels refuse to cede defeat.

Nonetheless, 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. ally 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 in order for the KURDISH YPG to complete 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. However, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed frustration that the world did not offer what he saw as sufficient support for TURKEY’s invasion of northern SYRIA, a measure he argued was designed to resettle refugees fleeing SYRIA’s eight-year conflict. It is important to note that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued that TURKEY hosts over 3.7 million SYRIAN refugees at a cost of over US$ 40 billion. Thus, as per TURKEY, in an attempt to alleviate this burden, TURKEY and allied SYRIAN rebels launched the cross-border offensive against areas held by U.S. backed KURDISH fighters, in order to establish a so-called safe zone. Ironically, the TURKISH led attack was met with criticism by SYRIAN government, but also from the U.S., RUSSIA and other powers as well. Thus, TURKEY has adversely reacted to those not supporting his project, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that even the giants of the world, the ones with the most money, just smile at TURKEY while there is no support for TURKISH initiatives.

However, TURKEY made it clear that TURKEY cannot absorb any more refugees, either from SYRIA or beyond. In addition, TURKEY has long cautioned the E.U. not to be complacent about the challenges the E.U. faces, including the rise of extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Lastly, TURKEY has called for a revamped international system to manage the huge displacement of people fleeing conflicts, such as SYRIA, while painstakingly trying to convince the E.U. to help TURKEY resolve such conflicts and address the geopolitical issues that currently surround EUROPE. Hence, perhaps COVID-19 will result in the imminent path towards peace in the MIDDLE EAST as all countries in the region now have a unified enemy to combat. Thus, TURKEY has been extending its measures against the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, from suspending flights and limiting work hours to more stringent disinfection works, as the death toll increased to over 5,100 with a total of over 197,000 cases. Meanwhile, TURKEY now has the thirteenth-highest number of cases worldwide as over 10.3 million people have fallen ill globally and more than 505,300 people have died.

However, this week, United Arab Emirates (UAE) were lobbying the U.S. to intervene in the LIBYAN civil war, aiming to help turn the tide back to the advantage of General Khalifa Haftar, who has been trying to seize the capital TRIPOLI from the U.N. backed government in a fourteen month long offensive. It is important to note that unless TURKEY’s actions in LIBYA are controlled, this situation could easily go from bad to worse. That is, as Turkey continues to push and provoke near SIRTE while deploying Navy vessels near EGYPT’s Mediterranean coast, TURKEY appears to be deliberately attempting to bait EGYPT into entering the conflict, while EGYPT is seriously considering it such that a direct military confrontation between EGYPT and TURKEY could come next. It is important to note that General Khalifa Haftar, based in eastern LIBYA, launched an offensive to try to take over the capital TRIPOLI and control of the country from the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) with the backing of RUSSIA, UAE, EGYPT and FRANCE. Thus, weapons and mercenaries have poured into LIBYA to support the warlord, creating problems for the United Nations (U.N.) efforts to establish permanent peace and stability in LIBYA that has been divided by violence, militias and foreign interests since the 2011 toppling of long time ruler Moammar Gadhafi. However, according to the U.N., General Khalifa Haftar’s failed campaign to capture TRIPOLI set off a humanitarian crisis, with over one million people in need of aid and almost a half million people internally displaced. Thus, EGYPTIAN President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi suggested that EGYPT could launch external military missions into LIBYA if required as any direct intervention in Libya has already become legitimate internationally. Furthermore, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told his army to be prepared to carry out any mission within EGYPTIAN borders, or if necessary outside EGYPTIAN borders while warning that any attack on SIRTE or the inland JUFRA military air base by the GNA would amount to crossing a red line. However, despite cease-fire calls in LIBYA, TURKEY and its allies might be readying for a push toward the strategically important areas of SIRTE and AL-JUFRA next month. Thus, as Egypt and Turkey head-to-head in Libya, a stalemate looms as sharp escalations in tensions between EGYPT and TURKEY over LIBYA could fully involve EGYPT’s military in LIBYA but with each country armed with similar military capabilities, such a scenario would likely lead to a long-lasting standoff.

 

SAUDI ARABIA News

 

In an unusual chain of events, 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. Subsequently, CIA Director Gina Haspel 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. However, 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, final official SAUDI ARABIAN version remains that 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. That is, bipartisan majority in U.S. Congress are fed up with U.S. President Donald Trump’s deference to SAUDI ARABIA and UAE, which has allowed those countries to act with impunity. Nonetheless, 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.

Nonetheless, SAUDI ARABIA has been ranked as the world’s top ease of doing business improver by the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2020 Report. It is important to note that the report indicates that SAUDI ARABIA has jumped 72 global positions in “Trading Across Borders”, an indicator which compares the time and cost of exporting and importing goods. Furthermore, these improvements follow a raft of legislative reforms implemented by Saudi Logistics Hub, a government initiative established to drive growth in SAUDI ARABIA’s logistics sector, whereby reforms include the reduction of Custom’s clearance from seven to ten days to 24 hours, the reduction of the manual inspection rate at Customs from 89% to 48%, and the reduction of the number of documents required to import from 12 to 2 and to export from 8 to 2. Thus, these critical reforms have facilitated SAUDI ARABIA’s drive to be positioned as one of the world’s most dynamic logistics hubs.

SAUDI ARABIAN authorities have temporarily suspended entry for people planning to visit SAUDI ARABIA for UMRAH, pilgrimage, or for visiting Prophet’s mosque in MEDINA over fears of deadly coronavirus, as per the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is important to note that the Ministry stated that this precautionary step comes in completion of efforts taken to provide the utmost protection to the safety of citizens, residents and everyone who intends to come to SAUDI ARABIA for the purpose of tourism. Furthermore, the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has disrupted the world economy, with fewer planes flying, ships sailing and factories producing, that has recently pushed down oil prices. It is important to note that this week, SAUDI ARABIA reported over 1,600 deaths from the coronavirus (COVID-19) while bringing the total number of cases to over 186,500. Hence, some SAUDI ARABIAN cities including the capital of RIYADH are under a 24-hour curfew imposed by the interior minister. It is important to note that the biggest economy in the MIDDLE EAST has also closed down cinemas, malls and restaurants and halted flights as it steps up efforts to contain COVID-19.

However, this week, after a SAUDI ARABIAN and RUSSIAN truce to stabilise oil markets with a record output cut, market players are seeing the two production heavyweights still trading blows in the physical market. That is, as demand is falling and the competition is getting even tougher, SAUDI ARABIA does not seem to mind enticing buyers with special offers. That is, SAUDI ARABIAN Aramco has offered refiners in ASIA and EUROPE the option to defer payments for crude cargo deliveries by up to 90 days. However, RUSSIA’s main advantage in the physical market fight with SAUDI ARABIA is its extensive pipeline network, helping RUSSIA to place oil at cheaper rates compared to its rival SAUDI ARABIA that has to find tankers and pay for transportation. Furthermore, RUSSIAN oil fields are connected to refineries in EUROPE and ASIA such that oil companies have long-term contracts with RUSSIA. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is subject to freight rates and vessel availability for transportation of its oil. Therefore, although the rivals stated that they were ready to take measures to balance the market by cutting combined output with other OPEC members from May to reduce global supply by 10%, the battle for clients is still going on the ground. Thus, it is on the day-to-day current market, rather than in the world of futures prices, that a long-standing battle for market share carries on, particularly in ASIA.

Furthermore, this week, it became apparent that cash is king, especially at a time when sports properties are being hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, if there is one thing that SAUDI ARABIA’s wealth fund, led by Crown Prince MBS, has, it is plenty of cash, which is why the sovereign investment fund is on the hunt for various sports assets. That is, two months ago, it was reported that the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, had purchased a large stake in Live Nation Entertainment LYV, the world’s largest live-entertainment company. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) disclosed that it owned a 5.7% stake in the company, a total of 12.3 million shares valued at approximately $ 500 million. It is important to note that recently trading at $43, Live Nation’s stock price is 44% below its 52-week high as the company is suffering from having to cancel concerts and from offering people who had bought tickets credits for future shows at 150% of the value of their original tickets. For months now, SAUDI ARABIA’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has been trying to close a deal to buy the English soccer team Newcastle United for $375 million. SAUDI ARABIA’s Public Investment Fund was also looking to buy the French soccer team Olympique de Marseille for $280 million. SAUDI ARABIA’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) was also looking to buy soccer’s television rights that are also suffering, as GERMANY’s Bundesliga would award its domestic broadcast rights for the four seasons starting with 2021-22, with the value likely to decline from the previous agreement. That is, with the value of the Bundesliga’s rights apparently depressed, SAUDI ARABIA is interested in buying as SAUDI ARABIA has approached GERMANY’s Bundesliga over acquiring the football league’s television rights in the MIDDLE EAST.

However, 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. Nonetheless, SAUDI ARABIA continues to insist that the HOUTHI rebels continue to violate the HODEIDA agreement, as 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. Furthermore, the SOUTHERN TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL (STC) fighters now control the port of ADEN, with the potential for further clashes between the sides escalating over time. Meanwhile, YEMEN’s Houthis took control of the city of AL-HAZM, the capital of AL-JAWF governorate, bordering SAUDI ARABIA by storming the city and seizing it after battles with government forces backed by SAUDI ARABIA and UAE. However, the fighting resulted in deaths and injuries on both sides while YEMENI ambassador to UNESCO, Muhammad Jumeh, blamed AL-HAZM fall on military and political leaders staying outside of YEMEN and being engaged with side battles instead of defeating YEMEN’s Houthis “Coup D’État”.

Ironically, U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths stated that all fighting sides 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 UAE launching 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

 

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.

However, 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 killed the senior ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Furthermore, more details emerged of how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi chose to blow up himself and three of his children in a tunnel, after U.S. Special Forces entered his heavily fortified compound in SYRIA’s IDLIB province during the raid. It appears that in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s last months on the run, he was agitated and fearful of traitors, sometimes disguised as a shepherd, sometimes hiding underground, but always dependent on a shrinking circle of ISIS right hand men for protection. Ironically, it seems that months ago, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delegated most of his powers to a senior deputy who is likely the man announced by ISIS as his successor, as even Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seemed to realize that his days were numbered, relying on a YAZIDI teen as a slave to travel as a cover for him and a core group of up to seven close ISIS body guards.

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. That is, 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. It is important to note that IRAQI President Barham Salih focused on U.S. and IRANIAN tensions by clearly stating that another 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.

Meanwhile, this week, IRAQ has logged a total of over 47,150 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and recorded over 1,850 deaths, but there are concerns that many more are going undetected, as only small portion of IRAQ’s 40 million plus population have been tested thus far. Therefore, although most of IRAQ’s 18 provinces have already imposed their own local curfews, new measures will include the whole of IRAQ, according to a decision by IRAQ’s crisis management team. Therefore, schools, universities and other gathering places would remain closed, as would IRAQ’s multiple international airports. However, in the backdrop lingers the possibility of the relationship between IRAQ and the U.S. being on the brink of collapse, as IRAQ seeks to form a new government, with its parliament on record as recommending that U.S. forces be expelled from IRAQ due to the January’ 2020 killing of IRANIAN terror mastermind Qassam Soleimani. Furthermore, tensions were once again inflamed by the U.S. retaliation, on March 13, 2020, for recent rocket barrages against U.S. and allied forces in IRAQ by IRANIAN-backed militias that killed two U.S. soldiers and one British soldier. Subsequently, another round of barrages occurred by IRANIAN-backed militias, with the potential for yet more U.S. retaliations. Therefore, the U.S. and IRAQI partnership appears to be in danger namely due to IRAN’s solid presence in IRAQ.

 

SYRIA News

 

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 regime under President Bashar al-Assad. 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. Nonetheless, 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.

Therefore, the leaders of RUSSIA and TURKEY persistently state that they share deep concerns over fighting in northwestern SYRIA, with TURKEY warning that it would take the steps necessary to protect its troops there, as TURKEY continues to back the moderate rebels in northwest SYRIA and has thus deployed TURKISH forces in the IDLIB region. Hence, after perpetual offensives 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, the SAA and RUSSIA are now once again seriously considering a new offensive in IDLIB, after regularly 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.

Meanwhile, SYRIA and TURKEY tensions rose in IDLIB as crowded camps, closed borders and cold weather raised fears of another humanitarian crisis. It is important to note that fierce fighting in IDLIB has resulted in the largest mass displacement of civilians in the SYRIAN war to date with over 900,000; leaving hundreds of thousands of people camped out in tents on the TURKISH border in sub-zero conditions. Furthermore, the aid operation by the U.N. in IDLIB was overwhelmed, as the number of people displaced by the SAA offensive continues to rise, with most of the 900,000 that have fled since December of 2019, consisting of women and children. Furthermore, the U.N. added that health facilities and schools were being targeted by the SAA, while President Bashar al-Assad vowed to continue SAA operations in IDLIB after SAA forces made new advances. However, the UN Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, warned that the biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21’st Century in IDLIB could only be avoided with a ceasefire, given that babies and small children were dying because of the cold, with people being forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures, as camps were full. However, this week, TURKEY signed a deal with RUSSIA to cease fighting in IDLIB, after an attack by SAA forces killed 36 TURKISH soldiers, that triggered a heavy TURKISH response.

However, this week, SYRIANS in IDLIB fear a nearing end as the city of IDLIB is the last urban area still under opposition control in SYRIA, located in a shrinking rebel enclave, while representing the last rebel held enclave in SYRIA’s civil war, which entered its 10’th year this week. However, the misery wreaked by the civil war has not diminished as a bloodier and possibly more disastrous phase is on the horizon, if government forces, backed by RUSSIA and IRAN, go ahead with threats to recapture IDLIB city and the remaining rebel-held north, crammed with over 3 million people. Thus, IDLIB residents struggle with daily life as more than half a million children have been displaced by latest fighting and are living in desperate conditions. It is important to note that the RUSSIAN and TURKISH ceasefire is largely holding in IDLIB, but for the nearly one million people displaced by the latest fighting, finding refuge is a daily struggle, while some have even been forced to live in graveyards. Thus, although the government offensive has been paused by a RUSSIAN and TURKISH cease-fire deal, residents of IDLIB are now living in a state of terrifying limbo, as they are sceptical whether the cease-fire will last, while being well aware that they are likely the next target of the last SAA assault.

Furthermore, SYRIAN and TURKISH armed forces have been sending reinforcements to the IDLIB on a daily basis, despite an ongoing ceasefire among the all-warring parties in the region. Meanwhile, as men wage bloody battle for IDLIB, women sew facemasks to fight the next threat consisting of COVID-19 in sprawling refugee camps, as the official SYRIAN total of 9 deaths and 270 cases, does not seem to reflect potential risk of over 100,000 deaths if COVID-19 is allowed to spread without any mitigation. Nonetheless, the SAA launched a new attack on the jihadist defenses along the southern IDLIB front lines, as the SAA once again struck the defenses of the jihadist rebels after they moved more forces to the front lines near the town of AL-BARA. However, this week, the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) stated that it expects that RUSSIA, TURKEY and IRAN will reach a consensus to remove the head of the SYRIAN regime, Bashar Al-Assad, and establish a ceasefire in exchange for forming a transitional government that includes the opposition, members of the regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

 

IRAN NEWS

 

Tensions between IRAN and ISRAEL seem to continue to escalate, 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 while the toughest sanctions targeting oil exports have also taken effect. 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.

Nonetheless, 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, the success of the embargo has been attributed to SAUDI ARABIA pumping extra oil to compensate for the IRANIAN shortfall.

Thus, 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, 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. Nonetheless, this week, the U.S. imposed sanctions on additional senior IRANIAN officials for human rights abuses as U.S. President Donald Trump increased its maximum pressure campaign on IRAN by imposing sanctions on judges. That is, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the recent violent crackdown by IRANIAN authorities against widespread protests, as the U.S. targeted two top IRANIAN judges with penalties, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assailed IRANIAN officials for hypocrisy, by depriving citizens, particularly ethnic and religious minorities of their constitutional rights. Furthermore, Mike Pompeo stated that he had redesigned IRAN as a country of particular concern for religious freedom, a status that adds a layer of potential sanctions against the IRANIAN government. He also stated that the U.S. would enact travel bans on officials found to have violated human rights, as well as upon their families. In addition, Mike Pompeo stated that the U.S. has stood, and will continue to stand by U.S. President Donald Trump, for the IRANIAN people, such that the appeasement of the IRANIAN regime simply will not work. It is important to note that the sanctions announced by the U.S. Treasury Department freezes any assets the two judges may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from any transactions with the U.S. judges. Furthermore, the U.S. imposed sanctions will also affect foreigners doing business with the judges, who sit at the top of two branches of the IRAN Revolutionary Court.

Meanwhile, airstrikes that hit Baghdad International Airport, whereby IRANIAN PMF group leaders were killed by U.S. including Senior General, Qassem Soleimani; Deputy Commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis; and Protocol Officer and Head of Public Relations, Mohammed Reza al-Jaberi, has resulted in tensions with IRAN reaching an all-time high. It is important to note that the U.S. issued a formal statement whereby, at the direction of the U.S. President Donald Trump, the U.S. military took decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel by killing Senior General, Qassem Soleimani. Furthermore, the U.S. claims that Senior General, Qassem Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in IRAQ and throughout the region. In addition, the U.S. claims that Senior General, Qassem Soleimani and his QUDS FORCE were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. Obviously, IRAN’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the assassination on Twitter saying that the U.S. bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism. Meanwhile, Populist IRAQI Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr mourned Senior General, Qassem Soleimani’s killing by stating that his militias are ready to protect IRAQ.

However, this week, IRAN exerted concentrated efforts to stop the potential spread of coronavirus, after IRAN reported over 225,200 cases of the disease. It is important to note that parts of IRAN face lockdown as part of IRAN attempts to control the spread of COVID-19, which has killed over 10,700 people in IRAN. As a friendly reminder, COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a virus closely related to the SARS virus, responsible for the 2019 to 2020 coronavirus outbreak. Furthermore, it is primarily spread between people via respiratory droplets from infected individuals when they cough or sneeze such that the time from exposure to onset of symptoms is generally between 2 to 14 days such that the spread can be limited by hand washing and other hygiene measures. Thus, the focus was on COVID-19 as all IRANIAN neighbours are nervous after the virus has so far killed over 10,700 people in IRAN, with over 225,200 confirmed cases. However, IRANIAN government has been accused of downplaying the severity of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic and not revealing the true extent of the crisis, as international officials fear the number of infections is much higher than the official count. Furthermore, popular mosques are not heeding IRANIAN government’s advice to shut down, while several senior members of IRANIAN government have also fallen ill.

Meanwhile, this week, IRAN has issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump over the drone strike that killed a top IRANIAN general in January. That is, U.S. President Donald Trump is one of 36 people IRAN has issued arrest warrants for in relation to the death of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), but IRAN attorney general, Ali Alqasi Mehr, stated that U.S. President Donald Trump was at the top of the list. As per Ali Alqasi Mehr, U.S. President Donald Trump would be prosecuted as soon as he stands down presidency after his term ends. IRAN also stated that IRAN had asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice for these 36 individuals, although it was unlikely that INTERPOL would grant the request. That is, INTERPOL stated that it would not consider requests of this nature as they were not in accordance with its rules and constitution, which states that it is strictly forbidden for the organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. It is important to note that U.S. Special Representative for IRAN, Brian Hook, called the move a political stunt consisting of propaganda that the U.S. is used to, that has nothing to do with national security, international peace or promoting stability, so the U.S. sees it for what it is, a propaganda stunt that no one takes seriously and makes the IRANIANS look foolish. As a friendly reminder, Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad International Airport in January along with five others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). It is important to note that IRAN and its allies condemned the strike as an assassination, such that an IRANIAN citizen had been sentenced to death for allegedly working for foreign intelligence agencies consisting of Seyed Mahmoud Mousavi Majd who disclosed the whereabouts of Qasem Soleimani to U.S. intelligence officials. However, the Trump administration viewed Qasem Soleimani as a ruthless killer, such that U.S. President Donald Trump stated in January that the general should have been taken out by previous presidents. Furthermore, the U.S. blamed Qasem Soleimani for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and U.S. allies in the months leading up to his killing.  In addition, Qasem Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in IRAQ and throughout the region such that the U.S. called the strike decisive defensive action aimed at deterring future IRANIAN attacks.

However, it is impossible to claim that the IRANIAN government is solely responsible for the devastation COVID-19 has caused in IRAN. That is, the U.S. maximum pressure strategy against IRAN that commenced two years ago has placed IRAN under strict economic sanctions that limit its ability to trade with other nations. Furthermore, these sanctions, which choked off IRAN’s oil exports, crippled its economy and practically pushed it out of the international banking system, made it impossible for IRAN to swiftly take the necessary medical, economic and social measures to protect its citizens from COVID-19. It is important to note that the role U.S. sanctions have played, and continue to play, in the devastation caused by COVID-19 in Iran led to renewed discussions on the effectiveness, legality and legitimacy of sanctions not only in IRAN and the U.S., but also across the world. Thus, in Iran, the IRANIAN government admitted that the sanctions make it difficult to obtain vital medical supplies and equipment to treat COVID-19 patients and called for their immediate lifting. Furthermore, IRAN’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the U.S. has moved from economic terrorism to medical terror by declining to lift the sanctions after the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in IRAN and thus urging the international community to stop aiding war crimes by obeying illegal and immoral sanctions.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary Of State, Mike Pompeo, is preparing an argument that the U.S. remains a participant in the OBAMA-era nuclear deal, with the goal of extending an arms embargo or destroying the 2015 Nuclear Accord. It is important to note that the U.S. remaining a participant in the IRAN nuclear accord that U.S. President Donald Trump renounced is part of a complex strategy to pressure the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council to extend an arms embargo on IRAN or see far more stringent sanctions re-imposed on IRAN. The strategy has begun to circulate in a new resolution in the U.N. Security Council that would bar countries from exporting conventional arms to IRAN after the current ban expires in October of 2020. However, any effort to renew the arms embargo is almost certain to be openly opposed by RUSSIA and privately by China, as the RUSSIANS have already told American and European officials they are eager to resume conventional arms sales to IRAN. Hence, Mike Pompeo has approved a plan, under which the U.S. would, in essence, claim it legally remains a participant state in the 2015 Nuclear Deal that U.S. President Donald Trump denounced but only for the purposes of invoking a snapback that would restore the U.N. sanctions on IRAN that were in place before the 2015 Nuclear Deal. Obviously, EUROPEAN diplomats who have learned of the effort maintain that U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary Of State, Mike Pompeo, are selectively choosing whether they are still in the agreement to fit their agenda. Thus, the entire drama could play out this October in the weeks before the presidential election, setting up a potential confrontation with IRAN in the midst of the contest.

 

 

TURKEY News – THE ROCK’s Opinions

 

TURKEY shifted focus 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 three 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.

Thus, 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 to focus on the TURKISH economy. In my opinion, 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.

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 and 2019 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 TURKISH central bank 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 below 100 indicating 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, TURKEY’s real interest rate is now among the highest in emerging markets, such that the big challenge is 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 that the TURKISH central bank might look to moderate its pace of interest rate cuts. 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 2019 forecast to near zero. 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. 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 good relations with the U.S. and E.U. as this group accounts for over 55% of TURKISH trade, 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.

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, to spare IDLIB from disastrous consequences for the time being. In my opinion, the large quantities of weapons entering SYRIA, in recent months, indicate that TURKEY is 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 IRAN 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 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 on IDLIB. That is, escalations in fighting resulted in the SAA unleashing a powerful assault across the southern countryside of IDLIB, targeting several areas controlled by the terrorist HTS rebels. In my opinion, although the RUSSIAN and TURKISH forces have attempted to quell 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, that have backed some rebel groups against President Bashar Al-Assad, are stationed in IDLIB as part of a buffer zone deal reached with RUSSIA 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 thorn in everybody’s sides. Thus, in my opinion, all parties seem to realize that there cannot be peace in IDLIB by force as the HTS rebels refuse to concede 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 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 see the barrage of attacks by TURKEY as a U.S. betrayal and 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 delusional 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 anticipated retaining parts of 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 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 RUSSIA and SAA government forces for protection. In my opinion, TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressing frustration that the world did not offer what he saw as sufficient support for TURKEY’s invasion of northern SYRIA, a measure he argued was designed to resettle refugees fleeing SYRIA’s eight-year conflict, is not surprising. In my opinion, the TURKISH leader played the victim card to Hollywood perfection by accusing foreign powers of prioritizing an oil grab in SYRIA over humanitarian causes, by stating that none of the efforts to protect oil wells has been spent on children fleeing barrels bombs, while arguing that when TURKEY did not see the support TURKEY wanted from the international community in the face of this sad picture, TURKEY had to take care of itself. In my opinion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments were a discreet jab at U.S. President Donald Trump, who refused to back TURKEY’s operation against KURDISH forces but instead withdrew U.S. troops further east to maintain control of oil fields. Thus, TURKEY has entered into a trilateral peace process with top SYRIAN international supporters consisting of RUSSIA and IRAN, while the U.S. has focused its efforts on ISIS while essentially avoiding the SAA under the command of SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad.

In regards to TURKEY making it clear that TURKEY cannot absorb any more refugees, either from SYRIA or beyond, in my opinion, this is not surprising, as TURKEY has already absorbed over 4 million refugees. However, in my opinion, TURKEY cautioning the E.U. not to be complacent about the challenges the E.U. faces, including the rise of extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is valid, albeit most of EUROPE is currently unable to absorb more refugees. Therefore, in my opinion, TURKEY calling for a revamped international system to manage the huge displacement of people fleeing conflicts, such as SYRIA, while trying to convince the E.U. to help TURKEY resolve such conflicts and address the geopolitical issues that currently surround EUROPE, is a priority, as the refugees fleeing war torn countries will not disappear on its own. In my opinion, the entire region needs peace now more than ever, to allow refugees to once again become active members of their respective countries of origin, as the only viable long-term solution to the huge refugee crisis. Hence, in my opinion, COVID-19 could result in the imminent path towards peace in the MIDDLE EAST as all countries in the region now have a unified enemy to combat. Thus, in my opinion, TURKEY has also been forced to extend its measures against the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, from suspending flights and limiting work hours to more stringent disinfection works, as the death toll increased to over 5,100 with a total of over 197,000 cases.

Meanwhile, in my opinion, it is not surprising that TURKISH authorities have imposed new measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), as the number of infections continues to rise sharply. In my opinion, TURKEY took necessary measures with mandatory facemasks on public transport, in markets and other communal spaces, along with 31 cities now being closed to all but essential traffic. Furthermore, in my opinion, TURKEY needs to remain vigilant as TURKEY has now become the thirteenth-highest number of cases worldwide as over 10.3 million people have fallen ill globally and more than 505,300 people have died.

In my opinion, it was not surprising that this week United Arab Emirates (UAE) were lobbying the U.S. to intervene in the LIBYAN civil war, aiming to help turn the tide back to the advantage of General Khalifa Haftar, who has been trying to seize the capital TRIPOLI from the U.N. backed government in a fourteen month long offensive. In my opinion, unless TURKEY’s actions in LIBYA are controlled, this situation could easily go from bad to worse. That is, in my opinion, as Turkey continues to push and provoke near SIRTE while deploying Navy vessels near EGYPT’s Mediterranean coast, TURKEY appears to be deliberately attempting to bait EGYPT into entering the conflict, while EGYPT is seriously considering it such that a direct military confrontation between EGYPT and TURKEY could come next. In my opinion, General Khalifa Haftar, based in eastern LIBYA, launched an offensive to try to take over the capital TRIPOLI and control of the country from the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) with the backing of RUSSIA, UAE, EGYPT and FRANCE. Thus, in my opinion, weapons and mercenaries have poured into LIBYA to support the warlord, creating problems for the United Nations (U.N.) efforts to establish permanent peace and stability in LIBYA that has been divided by violence, militias and foreign interests since the 2011 toppling of long time ruler Moammar Gadhafi. However, according to the U.N., General Khalifa Haftar’s failed campaign to capture TRIPOLI set off a humanitarian crisis, with over one million people in need of aid and almost a half million people internally displaced. Thus, in my opinion, EGYPTIAN President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi suggested that EGYPT could launch external military missions into LIBYA if required as any direct intervention in LIBYA has already become legitimate internationally. Furthermore, in my opinion, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told his army to be prepared to carry out any mission within EGYPTIAN borders, or if necessary outside EGYPTIAN borders while warning that any attack on SIRTE or the inland JUFRA military air base by the GNA would amount to crossing a red line. However, in my opinion, despite cease-fire calls in LIBYA, TURKEY and its allies might be readying for a push toward the strategically important areas of SIRTE and AL-JUFRA next month. Thus, in my opinion, as Egypt and Turkey head-to-head in Libya, a stalemate looms as sharp escalations in tensions between EGYPT and TURKEY over LIBYA could fully involve EGYPT’s military in LIBYA but with each country armed with similar military capabilities, such a scenario would likely lead to a long-lasting standoff.

 

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 persists, as anyone found responsible for the assassination, should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. That is, 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, in my opinion, 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, CIA Director Gina Haspel was able to garner extensive support for her conclusion, to officially blame Crown Prince MBS for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, as the entire Senate Committee voted unanimously to overrule U.S. President Donald Trump. 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 expected. However, in my opinion, 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. Hence, in my opinion, 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.

In my opinion, 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. 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 attacks knocked out half of SAUDI ARABIA’s crude oil production. 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, U.S. has been focused on U.S. imposed sanctions, with the U.S. has 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.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA being ranked as the world’s top ease of doing business improver by the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2020 Report is not surprising, as it is important to note that the report indicates that SAUDI ARABIA has jumped 72 global positions in “Trading Across Borders”, an indicator which compares the time and cost of exporting and importing goods. Thus, in my opinion, critical reforms have facilitated SAUDI ARABIA’s drive to be positioned as one of the world’s most dynamic logistics hubs. However, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump’s most consistent foreign policy of defending SAUDI ARABIA has helped elevate SAUDI ARABIA on the international stage, as when U.S. President Donald Trump is not axing legislation he deems hostile to SAUDI ARABIAN concerns, he is speaking on SAUDI ARABIA’s behalf. Thus, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump who places a high priority on the U.S. and SAUDI ARABIAN relationship, while seeing SAUDI ARABIA as an eager customer for U.S. arms, and a useful proxy in U.S. confrontations with IRAN, made SAUDI ARABIA first official foreign destination of his presidency, where he helped unveil a counterterrorism center run by SAUDI ARABIA. Furthermore, in my opinion, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has built up an alliance of personal and political contacts with prominent SAUDI ARABIAN royals and, in particular, Crown Prince MBS. In my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump decided some time ago that he would be in SAUDI ARABIA’s corner, such that there is not any circumstance under which he would feel the need to rethink that strategy.

In regards to SAUDI ARABIAN authorities temporarily suspending entry for people planning to visit SAUDI ARABIA for UMRAH, pilgrimage, or for visiting Prophet’s mosque in MAKKAH and MEDINA over fears of deadly coronavirus, this is not surprising as fears in entire MIDDLE EAST are at all time high. Thus, in my opinion, this precautionary step has been taken to provide the utmost protection to the safety of citizens, residents and everyone who intends to come to SAUDI ARABIA for the purpose of tourism. In regards to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak disrupting the world economy, with fewer planes flying, ships sailing and factories producing, it is not surprising to see recent declines in oil prices. However, in my opinion, when oil prices commence plummeting, they tend to bring world stock prices down with them. In my opinion, the main reason why coronavirus (COVID-19) is a threat to oil prices is that CHINA is the main new consumer of oil in the world, as CHINA alone contributes about 33% of new consumption of oil each year, and ASIA more broadly about 50% of new consumption. Therefore, in my opinion, if the demand for oil slows down in the region because people are not travelling or factories are not producing as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), oil prices will inevitably sink.

However, in my opinion, this week SAUDI ARABIA appears to be coping with rising number of cases as well with SAUDI ARABIA reporting over 1,600 deaths from the coronavirus (COVID-19) while bringing the total number of cases to over 186,500. Thus, in my opinion, oil prices fell to the lowest levels in more than 17 years as demand plunged as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Hence, this week, after a SAUDI ARABIAN and RUSSIAN truce to stabilise oil markets with a record output cut, it was not surprising to see the two production heavyweights still trading blows in the physical market. That is, in my opinion, as demand is falling and the competition is getting even tougher, SAUDI ARABIA does not seem to mind enticing buyers with special offers. That is, it was not surprising to see SAUDI ARABIAN Aramco offer refiners in ASIA and EUROPE the option to defer payments for crude cargo deliveries by up to 90 days. However, in my opinion, RUSSIA’s main advantage in the physical market fight with SAUDI ARABIA is its extensive pipeline network, helping RUSSIA to place oil at cheaper rates compared to its rival SAUDI ARABIA that has to find tankers and pay for transportation.

Furthermore, in my opinion, RUSSIAN oil fields are connected to refineries in EUROPE and ASIA such that oil companies have long-term contracts with RUSSIA. Meanwhile, in my opinion, Saudi Arabia is subject to freight rates and vessel availability for transportation of its oil. Therefore, in my opinion, although the rivals stated that they were ready to take measures to balance the market by cutting combined output with other OPEC members from May to reduce global supply by 10%, the battle for clients is still going on the ground. Thus, it is not surprising to see the battle raging on the day-to-day current market, rather than in the world of futures prices, as a long-standing battle for market share carries on, particularly in ASIA.

Hence, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA was forced to impose 24-hour curfews over some SAUDI ARABIAN cities including the capital of RIYADH. In my opinion, it is shocking to see the biggest economy in the MIDDLE EAST also close down cinemas, malls and restaurants and halt flights as it steps up efforts to contain COVID-19. Hence, in my opinion, King Salman hit the nail on the head by warning of a more difficult fight ahead against COVID-19, as SAUDI ARABIA faces the double blow of an economic standstill and crashing oil prices. That is, oil prices have plummeted because of the global economic shutdown, while SAUDI ARABIA and RUSSIA have pumped oil relentlessly in a war for market share.

Furthermore, in my opinion, this week it became apparent that cash is king, especially at a time when sports properties are being hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, in my opinion, if there is one thing that SAUDI ARABIA’s wealth fund, led by Crown Prince MBS, has, it is plenty of cash, which is why the sovereign investment fund is on the hunt for various sports assets. That is, in my opinion it was not surprising that two months ago, it was reported that the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, had purchased a large stake in Live Nation Entertainment LYV, the world’s largest live-entertainment company. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) disclosed that it owned a 5.7% stake in the company, a total of 12.3 million shares valued at approximately $ 500 million. In my opinion, it is not surprising that recently trading at $43, Live Nation’s stock price is 44% below its 52-week high as the company is suffering from having to cancel concerts and from offering people who had bought tickets credits for future shows at 150% of the value of their original tickets. In my opinion, it is not surprising that for months now, SAUDI ARABIA’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has been trying to close a deal to buy the English soccer team Newcastle United for $375 million. In my opinion, it is not surprising that SAUDI ARABIA’s Public Investment Fund was also looking to buy the French soccer team Olympique de Marseille for $280 million. In my opinion, it is not surprising SAUDI ARABIA’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) was also looking to buy soccer’s television rights that are also suffering, as GERMANY’s Bundesliga would award its domestic broadcast rights for the four seasons starting with 2021-22, with the value likely to decline from the previous agreement. That is, with the value of the Bundesliga’s rights apparently depressed, SAUDI ARABIA is interested in buying as SAUDI ARABIA has approached GERMANY’s Bundesliga over acquiring the football league’s television rights in the MIDDLE EAST.

Thus, in my opinion, all of SAUDI ARABIA’s faults and excesses seem to be excused as long as U.S. President Donald Trump remains focused on pressuring IRAN. That is, tensions over the killing of Washington Post columnist and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and alleged hacking of Amazon president Jeff Bezos’s phone by Crown Prince MBS all appear to be overlooked, as the U.S. focus remains steadfast upon IRAN. However, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA now finds itself with a conundrum, as SAUDI ARABIA wants IRAN beaten up but not broken, while SAUDI ARABIA relies on others, mostly the U.S., to do the job. Furthermore, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA does not have the skills and abilities to confront IRAN directly in terms of military expertise and strategic planning. However, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA has found that U.S. may be changing its mind frequently when it comes to defending SAUDI ARABIA from an IRANIAN attack, as transpired in September of 2019, when a suspected IRANIAN drone struck SAUDI ARABIA oil facilities. Furthermore, in my opinion, the U.S. responded with a lot of heat but little fire, as there was no direct U.S. retaliation on behalf of SAUDI ARABIA.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, although U.S. President Donald Trump has since deployed thousands of additional troops to SAUDI ARABIA, the SAUDIS still feel vulnerable, such that after the attack on SAUDI Aramco oil processing facilities, the SAUDIS were exploring indirect talks with IRAN, with help of IRAQ and PAKISTAN, to try to reduce tensions. Therefore, in my opinion, IRAN Senior General, Qassem Suleimani was Crown Prince MBS nemesis, who inspired some jealousy and admiration for having achieved what Crown Prince MBS felt SAUDI ARABIA never quite mastered, a regional MIDDLE EAST strategy that inspires both fear and respect, with a solid network of loyal proxies and allies. Therefore, in my opinion, as protests continue in IRAN and U.S. ramps up pressure on IRAN, choking IRAN economically, talk of IRAN regime change or collapse is in air once again, while Saudi ARABIA watches with fear and agitation, as although Saudi ARABIAN forces are not welcome in IRAN, SAUDI ARABIA actually needs current IRANIAN regime to survive, as U.S. special friend status in MIDDLE EAST has become tied to continuation of IRANIAN regime.

In regards to HOUTHI rebels continuing to violate the HODEIDA agreement, SAUDI ARABIA seems to have mastered the art of war with the HOUTHI rebels by consistently intercepting drones fired from SANAA, as 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 concede defeat, while being supported by IRAN. However, 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 STC fighters now control port of ADEN, with potential for further clashes between sides escalating over time. Thus, in my opinion, SAUDI ARABIA would like to see 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 existence, but rather have now built firm foundations in their area of control, forming a key force along the broader IRAN-led regional block.

Thus, in my opinion, advances by YEMENI Houthi rebels who took control of the city of AL-HAZM, the capital of AL-JAWF governorate, bordering SAUDI ARABIA by storming the city and seizing it after battles with government forces backed by SAUDI ARABIA and UAE was not surprising. In my opinion, YEMENI ambassador to UNESCO, Muhammad Jumeh, hit the nail on the head when blaming AL-HAZM fall on military and political leaders staying outside of YEMEN and being engaged with side battles instead of defeating YEMEN’s Houthis “Coup D’État”. Furthermore, in my opinion, YEMEN’s Houthis capture of AL-HAZM could be a game-changer, as control of the capital of AL-JAWF could totally change the course of the war, as YEMEN’s Houthis have made an exceptional advance and are thus slowly changing the balance of the war in their favour. That is, AL-JAWF is the third YEMENI governorate adjacent to SAUDI ARABIA to be under the control of YEMEN’s Houthi forces along with the provinces of SAADA and HAJJAH, representing the slow but steady increase in the balance of war in favour of YEMEN’s Houthis. Therefore, in my opinion, it was not surprising to see the SAUDI ARABIAN and UAE led coalition launching 25 air strikes on JAWF and MARIB literally overnight in a desperate attempt to reverse the tide of the war in favour of YEMEN’s Houthis.

However, in my opinion, an enduring settlement in YEMEN will require de-escalation of tensions across MIDDLE EAST, which in turn, can only arise if U.S and IRAN reach some kind of binding geopolitical agreement. Nonetheless, in my opinion, 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 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 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.

 

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 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 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 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 poor parts of IRAQ, which bore brunt of fighting during war against ISIS, but now seems to be underfunded by SHIA-led central government in IRAQ, as budget appears to be lacking to help liberated SUNNI Muslim areas. Furthermore, in regards to turmoil as IRAQ finds itself caught in crossfire, as U.S. President Donald Trump plans to revert U.S. foreign policy in MIDDLE EAST by eventual complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, it is my opinion that IRAQIS will no longer be able to blame interference by U.S. for exacerbating IRAQ’s internal problems. However, in my opinion, the impending U.S. withdrawal, will likely trigger ISIS fighters fleeing SYRIA while attempting to regroup in areas they once controlled in northern and western IRAQ.

The announcement by IRAQI President Barham Salih is not surprising that foreign ISIS fighters would be tried under IRAQI law, whereby they could be handed death sentences for acts of terrorism, if found guilty of killing IRAQIS, as IRAQI law allows for capital punishment. Thus, in my opinion, 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 psychological damage caused by 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 victims in order to aid recovery process for their families.

In my opinion, it was not surprising to see the hunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reach a climactic conclusion as U.S. President Donald Trump declared that raid conducted by U.S. military in northwest SYRIA killed ISIS leader. Thus, in my opinion, by removing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from battlefield, the U.S. has neutralized the threat from a man who was both ruthless and highly skilled in running an underground terrorist organization. Thus, with the killing of the world’s number one terrorist leader, the U.S. obviously struck a paralyzing blow to ISIS. Furthermore, in my opinion, details emerging of how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi chose to blow up himself and three of his children in a tunnel, after U.S. special forces entered his heavily-fortified compound in SYRIA’s IDLIB province during the raid, illustrates ISIS trademark signature move of suicide before surrender. However, in my opinion, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s last months on the run, that were agitated and fearful of traitors, disguised as shepherd, hiding underground, but always dependent on shrinking circle of ISIS right hand men for protection, illustrates that even Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi realized that his days were numbered. In my opinion, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became a nervous wreck, pacing up and down and complaining about treason and infiltrations among his ISIS group, at least one year prior to his capture, as he moved from place to place in eastern SYRIA, as one ISIS stronghold after another fell to U.S. backed KURDISH forces, before heading to IDLIB sometime this spring.

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 prime focus of 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. Therefore, I was not surprised to see IRAQI President Barham Salih focus on U.S. & 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, MIDDLE EAST is definitely overshadowed by rising tensions and threat of war between U.S. & IRAN, while certain that IRAQ would be caught in middle of such a conflict, as IRAQ 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 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 background, as he has stated that one reason he wants to keep a base in IRAQ is to be able to look a little bit closer at IRAN. That is, U.S. sees IRAN as real problem, although when U.S. President Donald Trump asked if he meant that his intention was to be able to attack IRAN, he clearly stated no, as all he wants to do in IRAQ is monitor IRAN. Thus, in my opinion, IRAQI President Barham Salih wants to make sure that there are 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.

Meanwhile, this week, in my opinion, IRAQ has only logged a total of over 47,150 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and recorded over 1,850 deaths, as there remain valid concerns that many more are going undetected, as only small portion of IRAQ’s 40 million plus population have been tested thus far. Therefore, in my opinion, although most of IRAQ’s 18 provinces have already imposed their own local curfews, new measures will include the whole of IRAQ, according to a decision by IRAQ’s crisis management team were necessary. Therefore, in my opinion, IRAQ has been forced to close schools, universities and other gathering places, including IRAQ’s multiple international airports. However, in my opinion, IRAQI authorities have been struggling to enforce previous curfews, as many thousands of SHIA pilgrims turned out in the capital of BAGHDAD and other cities in the south of IRAQ to commemorate the death of a revered Muslim imam, Musa al-Kadhim, with reports saying up to 400,000 people trying to attend his shrine north of BAGHDAD, as al-Kadhim was the seventh of 12 imams considered the spiritual and political successors to the Prophet Muhammad.

However, in my opinion, in the backdrop does linger the possibility of the relationship between IRAQ and the U.S. being on the brink of collapse, as IRAQ seeks to form a new government, with its parliament on record as recommending that U.S. forces be expelled from IRAQ due to the January’ 2020 killing of IRANIAN terror mastermind Qassam Soleimani. Furthermore, in my opinion, tensions were once again inflamed by the U.S. retaliation, on March 13, 2020, for recent rocket barrages against U.S. and allied forces in IRAQ by IRANIAN-backed militias that killed two U.S. soldiers and one British soldier. Subsequently, in my opinion, another round of barrages occurred by IRANIAN-backed militias, with the potential for yet more U.S. retaliations. Therefore, in my opinion, the U.S. and IRAQI partnership appears to be in danger namely due to IRAN’s solid presence in IRAQ which would be a tragic shame if it ended as for Iraq, U.S. presence is great counterweight to IRAN and ISIS, while U.S. also helpful with IRAQI internal politics, especially in regard to sectarian divisions in IRAQI security forces. In my opinion, KURDISH, SHIA and SUNNI IRAQIS may all have their issues with the U.S. but little view the U.S. as inherently biased against them such that the U.S. serves its purpose well as a balancing force in IRAQ amongst competing interests.

 

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, announcement by 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 U.S. 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.

Nonetheless, 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 front pages of major news publications, as escalation and use of chemical weapons showcases level of impunity for SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad regime and its allied partners, RUSSIA and IRAN, that continue to enjoy impunity while inflicting ongoing damage and destruction in IDLIB. That is, escalations in fighting have resulted in SAA unleashing powerful assaults across southern countryside of IDLIB, targeting several areas controlled by terrorist HTS rebels, as SAA repeatedly fired several artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles towards HTS positions. In my opinion, although the RUSSIAN and TURKISH 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, 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 sides. Hence, in my opinion, after offensives 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 HTS rebels refuse to concede defeat. Nonetheless, in my opinion, SAA and RUSSIA now once again seriously considering a new offensive in IDLIB, after exchanging perpetual fire with HTS rebels near demilitarized zone, as patience is wearing thin in northern HAMA, southern IDLIB and western ALEPPO after several ceasefire violations by HTS rebels. In my opinion, 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 major military offensive to further weaken HTS rebels.

In regards to this week’s escalated SYRIA and TURKEY tensions in IDLIB as crowded camps, closed borders and cold weather raised fears of another humanitarian crisis, IDLIB appears to be heading in the direction of all out war with over 700,000 displaced civilians. In my opinion, fierce fighting in IDLIB has resulted in the largest mass displacement of civilians in the SYRIAN war to date; leaving hundreds of thousands of people camped out in tents on the TURKISH border in sub-zero conditions. Furthermore, in my opinion, the aid operation by the U.N. in IDLIB being overwhelmed was not surprising, as the number of people displaced by the SAA offensive continues to rise, with most of the 900,000 that have fled since December of 2019, consisting of women and children. Furthermore, in my opinion, UN Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, hit the nail on the head when he warned that the biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21’st Century in IDLIB could only be avoided with a ceasefire, given that babies and small children were dying because of the cold, with people being forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures, as camps were full.

Thus, in my opinion, this week’s deal signed by TURKEY with RUSSIA to cease fighting in IDLIB was not surprising, after an attack by SAA forces killed 36 TURKISH soldiers, that triggered a heavy TURKISH response. In my opinion, the loss of the key strategic town of SARAQEB in IDLIB, by rebel forces in northwest SYRIA, means that TURKEY has lost the war for the last rebel-held province to SAA forces that are set on recapturing all lost territories in SYRIA. That is, in my opinion, the battle over SARAQEB, near the intersection of the key M4 and M5 highways, has been simmering for weeks before TURKEY launched its retaliatory operation. Hence, in my opinion, the military operation that TURKEY launched failed to make headway in SARAQEB, such that the situation facing TURKISH-backed rebel fighters was so dire that they were forced to give up all independent operations, and thus intermixed themselves within TURKISH troops to avoid being targeted by SAA and Russian Air Forces. Thus, in my opinion, for SYRIA and RUSSIA, the battle of SARAQEB was about restoring SYRIAN sovereignty over the totality of SYRIAN territory, while for TURKEY, it was about securing lasting TURKISH control and influence over the northwestern Syrian province of IDLIB such that TURKEY lost on both accounts. In my opinion, the ceasefire deal that TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached with RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin was in substance a document of surrender by TURKISH forces that ceded control of the air above IDLIB and forced TURKEY to jointly patrol M4 highway with RUSSIAN military patrols, while TURKEY also tasked with disarming jihadist groups that have been fiercest rebel fighters in IDLIB.

Hence, in my opinion, at this stage three scenarios are still possible for IDLIB consisting of the FIRST and most favourable being for TURKEY & RUSSIA to agree to uphold the de-escalation zone agreement in IDLIB while ordering SAA forces to return to the positions they held before their latest offensive. Furthermore, this could be combined with a revival of the political process and resumption of meetings with the goal of drafting amendments to SYRIAN constitution agreed upon by current regime, opposition forces and international community. However, although TURKEY has tried to push for such a settlement by threatening military action if SAA forces did not pull back, the likelihood of this happening on the ground now seems unlikely, in light of recent SAA advances. The SECOND scenario would be TURKEY accepting new realities on ground and allowing SAA to control M4 & M5 highways, but using force to limit any further SAA advances. Furthermore, TURKEY could seek to establish a safe zone in IDLIB by setting up re-enforced defence positions along frontline and supplying Syrian opposition with heavy weapons, especially anti-aircraft missiles. In my opinion, it appears that TURKEY Ankara has already adopted this policy on the ground given that two SAA helicopters were downed in IDLIB with anti-aircraft weapons. The THIRD scenario and the one that Turkey wants to avoid is an escalation with RUSSIA, as the presence of anti-aircraft weapons on ground raises risk of RUSSIAN aircraft being shot down. Furthermore, the TURKISH military is likely to take precautions to avoid such a dangerous development, but given massive deployments on the ground, TURKEY is the closest it has been since 2015 to a direct confrontation with RUSSIAN forces.

However, this week, in my opinion, SYRIANS in IDLIB rightfully feared a nearing end as the city of IDLIB is the last urban area still under opposition control in SYRIA, located in a shrinking rebel enclave, while representing the last rebel held enclave in SYRIA’s civil war, which entered its 10’th year this week. Therefore, in my opinion, the misery wreaked by the civil war has not diminished as a bloodier and possibly more disastrous phase is on the horizon, if government forces, backed by RUSSIA and IRAN, go ahead with threats to recapture IDLIB city and the remaining rebel-held north, crammed with over 3 million people. In my opinion, over the last three months, SAA forces recaptured nearly half of IDLIB province and surrounding areas, forcing nearly 1 million to flee their homes, around half of them into other parts of the province, including IDLIB city. Furthermore, during the advances, SAA forces neared IDLIB city outskirts while bombing parts and sending thousands of citizens fleeing north. In my opinion, IDLIB residents now struggle with daily life as more than half a million children have been displaced by latest fighting and are living in desperate conditions. Furthermore, in my opinion, although the government offensive may have been paused by a RUSSIAN and TURKISH cease-fire deal, residents of IDLIB are now living in a state of terrifying limbo, as they are sceptical whether the cease-fire will last, while being well aware that they are likely the next target of the last SAA assault.

However, in my opinion, the rebels still refuse to cede defeat as RUSSIAN Foreign Ministry stated that militant groups in the de-escalation zone in IDLIB have rearmed and are preparing to launch counter-attacks against the SAA, while stressing the need to eliminate and hold them accountable for their actions. However, in my opinion, the militant groups have refrained from launching any major attacks as of yet as they know full well that the SAA and RUSSIAN militaries are ready, willing and able to launch a final assault on IDLIB.

Furthermore, in my opinion, SYRIAN and TURKISH armed forces sending reinforcements to the IDLIB on a daily basis, despite an ongoing ceasefire among all warring parties in the region, indicates that the SAA may be launching an offensive soon. Meanwhile, in my opinion, as men wage bloody battle for IDLIB, women sew facemasks to fight the next threat consisting of COVID-19 in sprawling refugee camps, as the official SYRIAN total of 9 deaths and 270 cases, does not seem to reflect potential risk of over 100,000 deaths if COVID-19 is allowed to spread without any mitigation. Nonetheless, it is not surprising that the SAA launched a new attack on the jihadist defenses along the southern IDLIB front lines where they saw an opening, as the SAA once again struck the defenses of the jihadist rebels after they moved more forces to the front lines near the town of AL-BARA. However, in my opinion, this week, it was not surprising to see the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) stating that it expects that RUSSIA, TURKEY and IRAN will reach a consensus to remove the head of the SYRIAN regime, Bashar Al-Assad, and establish a ceasefire in exchange for forming a transitional government that includes the opposition, members of the regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Thus, in my opinion, this decision would send a very clear political message, that the SYRIAN people do not want Bashar Al-Assad to remain President.

 

IRAN News – THE ROCK’s Opinions

 

In regards to escalation of tensions between ISRAEL and IRAN, not surprising to see ISRAEL continuing to look to RUSSIA for help to protect ISRAEL from IRAN presence in SYRIA, to prevent IRAN from gaining 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 region, such that IRAN should not be allowed to remain in SYRIA. However, IRANIAN forces have pulled back from Golan Heights that should be welcomed as positive development, although ISRAEL clearly stated that such pull back is insufficient, with no compromises or concessions from ISRAEL’s position of complete withdrawal being necessary. In my opinion, tensions have obviously risen once again since IRAN 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. That is, in my opinion, recent sanctions that target IRAN sales of oil, IRAN purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and IRAN auto sector reflect U.S. belief that IRAN will eventually surrender via pressure tactics of sanctions. However, in my opinion IRAN’s pride runs through veins of 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, U.S. withdrawal from 2015 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 negotiating table with U.S. or watch its IRANIAN economy suffer from re-imposed U.S. sanctions. Thus, not surprising to see U.S. President, Donald Trump warning that U.S. developing new strategy for war in SYRIA that would focus more heavily on pushing IRAN’s military and its proxy forces out of SYRIA. In my opinion, new U.S. strategy would probably not involve U.S. military directly targeting and killing IRANIAN soldiers or IRANIAN proxies, given that U.S. military only has right of self-defence authorization in SYRIA, and thus should only strike IRANIAN targets, if U.S. feels threatened. Thus, in my opinion, U.S. plan focuses on political and diplomatic efforts to force IRAN out of SYRIA by squeezing IRAN & SYRIA financially. That is, 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, in my opinion, IRAN heading in direction of weathering storm created by crippling U.S. sanctions on IRAN, as IRAN strategy of maintaining status-quo arrangement until 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 statement by IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani that IRAN would exceed enrichment levels set out under 2015 Nuclear Deal in response to failure by other parties to keep their promises, including providing IRAN with relief from U.S. imposed sanctions, not surprising to see IRAN essentially fighting fire with fire. In my opinion, 3.67% enrichment levels set in 2015 Nuclear Deal is only sufficient for commercial power generation, while far below more than 90% level required for nuclear warhead, such that still room for further negotiations before IRAN hits 90%. It is important to note that the enrichment maximum set in 2015 Nuclear Deal is sufficient for commercial power generation, but far below 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 my opinion, decision by IRAN to offer deal to U.S. in which IRAN would formally and permanently accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear program, in exchange for permanent lifting of U.S. sanctions, not surprising. However, in my opinion, U.S. President, Donald Trump, demanding that IRAN make a range of sweeping concessions, including cessation of uranium enrichment and support of proxies and allies in the region, obviously rejected offer made by IRAN foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a visit to NEW YORK. Hence, I believe that in IRAN’s best interests to bring back same IRANIAN Team to renegotiate 2015 IRAN Nuclear Deal with 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 MIDDLE EAST. Therefore, only time will tell where gridlock will lead, as U.S. President, Donald Trump will likely abstain from striking IRAN knowing full well that Jimmy Carter’s attempt for second term as President was destroyed by IRAN hostage crisis in 1980, that essentially unseated an American President. However, in my opinion, U.S. President, Donald Trump seems to be first U.S. President since 1980, who is willing to allow IRAN to flourish, to extent IRAN focuses on promoting business and prosperity in 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 chief enablers and financiers of NORTH KOREAN nuclear and ballistic threat. However, in my opinion, with 50% inflation and food prices that have risen 85%, IRAN does not have excess cash IRAN once had to engage in disruption. Thus, in my opinion, U.S. has made right moves with regards to IRAN but what IRAN will do next will be absolutely critical, as imminent threat comes from IRAN Defense Ministry that warned that any ISRAELI involvement in U.S. led naval operation into Strait of Hormuz, would have disastrous consequences for MIDDLE EAST. Nonetheless, in my opinion, IRAN President Hassan Rouhani kept door open to diplomacy, by backing EUROPEAN efforts to salvage 2015 Nuclear Deal. Thus, in my opinion, IRAN agreed to a four-point plan for talks with U.S. during 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 forms the backbone of the plan. Unfortunately, in my opinion, IRAN further distanced itself from 2015 Nuclear Deal, as IRAN stepped up its activity, at its underground FORDOW nuclear plant, a move that FRANCE stated clearly demonstrated for first time, that IRAN explicitly planned to quit a deal with world powers that curbed its disputed nuclear work.

In my opinion, obvious that IRAN operates in grey zone as concerns decisions towards U.S., as 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 gray zone. That is, in my opinion, to restore deterrence while minimizing risks of escalations, U.S. should consider using limited U.S. military actions that fly under radar screen like IRAN, but which IRAN still recognizes as executed by U.S. In my opinion, U.S. should adopt a similar military policy like IRAN to operate in grey zone with covert military strikes on strategic assets, without accepting any formal responsibilities, in order to minimize risk of a full blown military conflict. Furthermore, in my opinion, 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, 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, U.S. imposed sanctions on additional senior IRANIAN officials for human rights abuses, as U.S. President Donald Trump increased its maximum pressure campaign on IRAN by imposing sanctions on judges, was not surprising. In my opinion, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was forced to denounce the recent violent crackdown by IRANIAN authorities against widespread protests, as the U.S. targeted two top IRANIAN judges with penalties, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assailed IRANIAN officials for hypocrisy, by depriving citizens, particularly ethnic and religious minorities of their constitutional rights. However, in my opinion, it was not surprising to see IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani warning that his nuclear experts are testing advanced centrifuges while claiming that the IRANIAN economy is rebounding despite crippling U.S. imposed sanctions. Thus, in my opinion, rising tensions between IRAN and U.S. are not a signal that diplomacy will fail but rather represent a warning that negotiations are a must and soon.

In my opinion, protests in IRAN came at delicate time, in tense standoff, between the U.S. and IRAN. Thus, in my opinion, with IRANIAN elections approaching, and without any U.S. agreement to desist from U.S. imposed sanctions, the current IRANIAN government might well lose all of its influence, in favour of far more confrontational hard-liners. Thus, in my opinion, it appears that U.S. and IRAN have drawn diametrically opposed interpretations of upheaval’s causes and consequences, rendering any effort at de-escalation unlikely. Hence, in my opinion, the unrest, triggered by an abrupt hike in fuel prices, quickly evolved into a violent nationwide revolt against ruling IRANIAN order. Thus, in my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump saw austerity measure as a direct result of its maximum pressure policy, and cried success, as in U.S. minds, the stifling impact of U.S. imposed sanctions had prompted public ire, and could soon persuade IRAN’s leaders to alter their domestic and foreign policies in order to retain power.

However, in my opinion, IRAN’s rulers believe that they crushed an American plot when they crushed the unrest quickly and decisively, and that by doing that, they rendered U.S. President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign far less effective. Furthermore, in my opinion, IRAN leadership is also confident that it has demonstrated its determination to defeat any challenge to its hold on power, by having killed more than 300 protesters and completely shutting down the Internet for more than a week. In addition, in my opinion, recent attacks on oil tankers and energy infrastructure in SAUDI ARABIA and UAE, which the U.S. and its allies have attributed to IRAN, is treated in IRAN as a demonstration of their power at home and throughout the region. Thus, in my opinion, if U.S. President Donald Trump is interested in a deal with IRAN, now is the optimum time, as there is no immediate prospect of a change in IRAN’s government structure, and further instability in IRAN will only render deal-making nearly impossible. Thus, in my opinion, IRANIAN President Hassan Rouhani’s government remains U.S. President Donald Trump’s best bet, and there is only a small window before maximum pressure completely sidelines any possibilities for civilized negotiations and diplomatic resolutions.

In regards to airstrikes that hit Baghdad International Airport, whereby IRANIAN PMF group leaders were killed by U.S. including Senior General, Qassem Soleimani; Deputy Commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis; and Protocol Officer and Head of Public Relations, Mohammed Reza al-Jaberi, in my opinion, tensions are obviously at an all time high in the MIDDLE EAST. In my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump took responsibility for the assassination on the basis that the U.S. military took decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel by killing Senior General, Qassem Soleimani. In my opinion, U.S. President Donald Trump justified U.S. actions on the basis that Senior General, Qassem Soleimani killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more while blaming Senior General Qassem Soleimani for being directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people. However, in my opinion, the U.S. was now forced to send 3,000 additional troops to the MIDDLE EAST amid rising tensions in the region following this assassination of Senior General Qassem Soleimani. In my opinion, IRAN’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif obviously condemned the assassination by stating that the U.S. bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism. Thus, in my opinion, the Strait of Hormuz, which is a vital point for American destroyers and warships, now represent 35 vital U.S. targets in the region for IRAN as well as TEL AVIV, ISRAEL.

However, in my opinion, IRAN furor became evident as an IRANIAN legislator offered a US$ 3 million reward to anyone who kills U.S. President Donald Trump to avenge the assassination of Senior General Qassem Soleimani. Obviously, in my opinion, the U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood dismissed the reward as ridiculous on the basis that it demonstrated the terrorist underpinnings of IRAN’s government. Nonetheless, in my opinion, Ahmad Hamzeh, the little-known member of IRANIAN parliament, offered the US$ 3 million bounty on behalf of the people of KERMAN, based on sentimental attachments as the hometown and final resting place of the revered Senior General Qassem Soleimani. Furthermore, in my opinion, Ahmad Hamzeh also stated that IRAN should start producing nuclear weapons and delivery systems to protect it, in order to capitalize on the anti-American sentiment currently flogging the mass IRANIAN populace. In addition, Ahmad Hamzeh capitalized on IRANIAN resentment towards the Americans by stating that if IRAN had nuclear weapons today IRAN would be protected from threats, such that IRAN should put the production of long-range missiles capable of carrying unconventional warheads on its military agenda, as the natural right of IRAN to protect itself from the U.S. Thus, in my opinion, tensions have steadily escalated between IRAN and the U.S. with a 2015 Nuclear Deal standoff erupting into tit-for-tat military attacks with the killing of Senior General Qassem Soleimani and IRAN’s missile barrage on a base in IRAQ that housed American forces albeit the attack did not cause any U.S. casualties.

In regards to this week’s efforts to stop the potential spread of coronavirus, after IRAN reported over 225,200 cases of the disease, it is quite normal for neighbour countries to be in fear of the virus spreading across borders. In my opinion, IRAN is desperately trying to limit the propagation of the virus by locking down parts of IRAN as part of attempts to control the spread of COVID-19, which has killed over 10,700 people in IRAN. Furthermore, in my opinion, IRAN has not made it secret that if the situation gets any worse, many IRANIANS will be expected to convert to teleworkers. As a friendly reminder, COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a virus closely related to the SARS virus, responsible for the 2019 to 2020 coronavirus outbreak. Furthermore, it is primarily spread between people via respiratory droplets from infected individuals when they cough or sneeze such that the time from exposure to onset of symptoms is generally between 2 to 14 days, such that the spread can be limited by hand washing and other hygiene measures. Thus, in my opinion, the focus was on COVID-19 as all IRANIAN neighbours are nervous after the virus has so far killed over 10,700 people in Iran, with over 225,200 confirmed cases.

In regards to this week’s evidence that Iran has become a new hotbed for coronavirus outside of CHINA, it is not surprising that authorities around the world are scrambling to expand their travel restrictions to stem the spread of the disease. Of particular note, in my opinion, what is also concerning is IRAN’s fatality rate of 5.5%, significantly higher than 3.4% in China and 1.5% outside of mainland China such that it appears that the COVID-19 disease came unseen and undetected into IRAN. Thus, in my opinion, the high death rate has raised questions over how the IRANIAN Government has handled the crisis and attracted accusations it has tried to cover up the severity of the outbreak. Hence, in my opinion, it is not surprising that IRANIAN government has been accused of downplaying the severity of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic and not revealing the true extent of the crisis, as international officials fear the number of infections is much higher than the official count.

Thus, in my opinion, even if the official IRANIAN estimates are off by a lot, they still reveal an outbreak completely out of control, beyond the capacity of IRAN or perhaps any other country to manage. In my opinion, the messages coming out of IRAN on social media, especially from health-care workers indicates that the confirmed cases are in fact in excess of the official 225,200 tallies. In my opinion, social media posts notes that the coronavirus (COVID-19) reportedly spread after panicked residents of QOM and TEHRAN fled to smaller cities, thereby sowing COVID-19 all over IRAN, while other reports circulating on social media report that some provinces, such as MAZANDARAN, have set up roadblocks to keep more people with COVID-19 from spilling into their territory. Furthermore, in my opinion, the situation the doctors describe is desperate, with nurses wrapping themselves in tablecloths because they have long since run through their supply of proper gear. In addition, medical professionals on social media appear to swear that the official numbers are wrong advising that just have to stay overnight in the hospital to find out what medical professionals are experiencing.

Meanwhile, I was not surprised to see that IRAN has now ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and banned travel between cities, albeit those measures came long after other countries in the region imposed more sweeping lockdowns. Thus, in my opinion, just over a week after saying that he expected the measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) to be eased by early April, Hassan Rouhani now warned that the new way of life in IRAN was likely to be prolonged. Thus, in my opinion, Hassan Rouhani hit the nail on the head that we must be prepared to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date. Hence, the new way of life IRAN has adopted is to everyone’s benefit such that these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time. Therefore, the reopening of schools following IRAN’s Persian New Year holidays from March 19 to April 3 did not transpire as planned. However, Hassan Rouhani stated that on a positive note, top health experts and doctors advised him that in some provinces, IRAN has passed the peak of the epidemic and IRAN is now on a downward trajectory. Hence, in my opinion, IRAN continues to confront the coronavirus (COVID-19) amid a battle between Science and Conspiracy Theories. Thus, in my opinion, this touchiness appears to be hindering efforts to gather information about the COVID-19 strains in IRAN, such that do not yet know the differences between IRAN isolates and others from MIDDLE EAST and ASIA, as IRAN has not deposited genomic sequences in global GISAID platform.

Furthermore, this week, in my opinion it was not surprising to see that IRAN has issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump over the drone strike that killed a top IRANIAN general in January. That is, it is not surprising in my opinion that U.S. President Donald Trump is one of 36 people IRAN has issued arrest warrants for in relation to the death of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), but IRAN attorney general, Ali Alqasi Mehr, stated that U.S. President Donald Trump was at the top of the list. In my opinion it was not surprising that as per Ali Alqasi Mehr, U.S. President Donald Trump would be prosecuted as soon as he stands down presidency after his term ends. In my opinion it was not surprising that IRAN also stated that IRAN had asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice for these 36 individuals, although it was unlikely that INTERPOL would grant the request. That is, INTERPOL stated that it would not consider requests of this nature as they were not in accordance with its rules and constitution, which states that it is strictly forbidden for the organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. In my opinion, U.S. Special Representative for IRAN, Brian Hook, appropriately called the move a political stunt consisting of propaganda that the U.S. is used to, that has nothing to do with national security, international peace or promoting stability, so the U.S. sees it for what it is, a propaganda stunt that no one takes seriously and makes the IRANIANS look foolish. As a friendly reminder, Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad International Airport in January along with five others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). It is important to note that IRAN and its allies condemned the strike as an assassination, such that an IRANIAN citizen had been sentenced to death for allegedly working for foreign intelligence agencies consisting of Seyed Mahmoud Mousavi Majd who disclosed the whereabouts of Qasem Soleimani to U.S. intelligence officials. However, in my opinion, the Trump administration viewed Qasem Soleimani as a ruthless killer, such that U.S. President Donald Trump stated in January that the general should have been taken out by previous presidents. Furthermore, in my opinion, the U.S. blamed Qasem Soleimani for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and U.S. allies in the months leading up to his killing.  In addition, in my opinion, Qasem Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in IRAQ and throughout the region such that the U.S. appropriately calling the strike decisive defensive action aimed at deterring future IRANIAN attacks.

However, in my opinion, it is impossible to claim that the IRANIAN government is solely responsible for the devastation COVID-19 has caused in IRAN. That is, in my opinion, the U.S. maximum pressure strategy against IRAN that commenced two years ago has placed IRAN under strict economic sanctions that limit its ability to trade with other nations. Furthermore, in my opinion, these sanctions, which choked off IRAN’s oil exports, crippled its economy and practically pushed it out of the international banking system, made it impossible for IRAN to swiftly take the necessary medical, economic and social measures to protect its citizens from COVID-19. In my opinion, the role U.S. sanctions have played, and continue to play, in the devastation caused by COVID-19 in Iran led to renewed discussions on the effectiveness, legality and legitimacy of sanctions not only in IRAN and the U.S., but also across the world. Thus, in my opinion, in IRAN, the IRANIAN government admitted that the sanctions make it difficult to obtain vital medical supplies and equipment to treat COVID-19 patients and called for their immediate lifting. Furthermore, in my opinion, IRAN frustrations were evident as IRAN’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the U.S. has moved from economic terrorism to medical terror by declining to lift the sanctions after the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in IRAN and thus urging the international community to stop aiding war crimes by obeying illegal and immoral sanctions.

Meanwhile, in my opinion, it was not surprising to see U.S. Secretary Of State, Mike Pompeo, preparing an argument that the U.S. remains a participant in the OBAMA-era nuclear deal, with the goal of extending an arms embargo or destroying the 2015 Nuclear Accord. In my opinion, the U.S. remaining a participant in the IRAN nuclear accord that U.S. President Donald Trump renounced is part of a complex strategy to pressure the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council to extend an arms embargo on IRAN or see far more stringent sanctions re-imposed on IRAN. Hence, in my opinion, the strategy has begun to circulate in a new resolution in the U.N. Security Council that would bar countries from exporting conventional arms to IRAN after the current ban expires in October of 2020. However, in my opinion, any effort to renew the arms embargo is almost certain to be openly opposed by RUSSIA and privately by China, as the RUSSIANS have already told American and European officials they are eager to resume conventional arms sales to IRAN. Hence, in my opinion, Mike Pompeo has approved a plan, under which the U.S. would, in essence, claim it legally remains a participant state in the 2015 Nuclear Deal that U.S. President Donald Trump denounced but only for the purposes of invoking a snapback that would restore the U.N. sanctions on IRAN that were in place before the 2015 Nuclear Deal. Obviously, in my opinion, EUROPEAN diplomats who have learned of the effort maintain that U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary Of State, Mike Pompeo, are selectively choosing whether they are still in the agreement to fit their agenda.

 

 

Summary

 

In summary, I refer to “World Peace Lennon Ivan Style – Part 410” 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 TURKEY death toll due to COVID-19 outbreak increased to over 5,100, with total over 197,000 cases, as over 10.3 million people fallen ill globally, & more than 505,300 people dead, as UAE lobbying U.S. to intervene in LIBYA civil war, to help turn tide back to General Khalifa Haftar, backed by RUSSIA, UAE, EGYPT & FRANCE, to take over capital TRIPOLI from TURKEY backed GNA, while any attack on SIRTE or inland JUFRA military air base by GNA would amount to crossing red line, with sharp escalations in tensions between EGYPT & TURKEY over LIBYA, with similar military capabilities that would likely lead to long-lasting standoff, while apparent that cash is king, especially at time when sports properties hammered by COVID-19 pandemic, while SAUDI ARABIA’s wealth fund, led by Crown Prince MBS, has plenty of cash, which is why Public Investment Fund (PIF) on hunt for various sports assets, while all IRANIAN neighbours nervous after COVID-19 killed over 10,700 people in IRAN, with over 225,200 confirmed cases, while IRAN issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump, amongst 36 people, over drone strike that killed top IRANIAN General, Qasem Soleimani, in political stunt consisting of propaganda that U.S. used to, that has nothing to do with national security, international peace or promoting stability, so no one takes seriously & makes IRANIANS look foolish.

 

 

Spirit of John Lennon – THE ROCK’s News:

July 5, 2020