New Age Islam Edit Bureau
20 March 2018
Saudi Nuclear Bomb Justifications
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
America Is A Natural Partner As Saudi Arabia Opens Up
By Taylor Luck
Qatar, the Worst Is Yet To Come
By Mohammed Al Shaikh
What If Pompeo’s Appointment Is Also about EU, Not Just Iran?
By Martin Jay
Saudi Crown Prince US Visit Likely To Emphasize Economics over Politics
By Ali Al-Shihabi
What The Crown Prince Didn’t Say!
By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
Can The EU Save The Iran Nuclear Deal?
By Massoumeh Torfeh
Turkey Must Overhaul Its Approach To Arab Nations
By Yasar Yakis
Crown Prince’s White House Visit a Major Concern for Iran
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
19 March 2018
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dropped a bombshell when he said Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if Iran builds a nuclear bomb. Before this week, Saudi Arabia’s strategy was either based on not letting Iran develop nuclear weapons, via international negotiations and pressure, or depending on the international community – which we know is not reliable – to deter it.
Saudi policy has now changed. Prince Mohammed bin Salman chose CBS to announce the kingdom’s new policy before meeting with US President Donald Trump. His statements had tangible consequences in Washington whose stances are usually divided. The crown prince’s task to convince legislators in the Congress and the different political powers in Washington will be difficult.
Washington’s approval to let Saudi Arabia develop nuclear weapons is almost impossible especially that some countries, like Israel, oppose this. However, the prince linked this to Iran’s attempt to build its own nuclear weapons. This resembles the Pakistani scenario with India.
The new Saudi policy conveys to the Europeans and the Americans, particularly those who seem lenient towards Iran, that they must understand that Riyadh will not settle with any guarantees if Iran develops its nuclear weapons and that it will do the same within the context of balance of deterrence.
First of all, we must ask, is Saudi Arabia capable of building a nuclear bomb?
No one can confirm that. However, the kingdom does have scientific competencies. This year, it will set up projects related to reactors, factories and infrastructure to develop its nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes. What distinguishes Saudi Arabia from Iran here is that it has uranium in its desert. Therefore, the kingdom does not need to buy it, and it has actually adopted a plan to extract it for development projects that are part of Vision 2030.
The second question is how will Saudi Arabia confront international opposition and possible political risks?
I do not think Riyadh will take this step to develop nuclear weapons without the approval of the concerned superpowers which cannot ignore the fact that Iran targets Saudi Arabia and that the former has reached an advanced stage of readiness to build nuclear weapons. If Tehran decided to enrich uranium and resume its nuclear project for military purposes, the crown prince’s statement will thus be justified.
Those who oppose the crown prince are not just in Iran but also in Washington itself. US Senator Ed Markey, also member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, immediately responded to the prince’s statements and said: “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has confirmed what many have long suspected—nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia is about more than just electrical power, it’s about geopolitical power,” adding: “The United States must not compromise on non-proliferation standards in any 123 agreement it concludes with Saudi Arabia.” Opponents have noted that Saudi Arabia refuses to sign the “gold standard” or the “123 agreement” which guarantees that it does not enrich uranium and does not reproduce plutonium.
It’s worth noting that a week before the crown prince kicked off his tour in the US, the kingdom announced that it approved its national policy of the atomic energy program and confirmed its commitment to international agreements and the principle of transparency while emphasizing the program aims to serve peaceful purposes. The prince’s recent statements ahead of his travel to Washington prepared everyone there to understand that keeping silent and being lenient with Iran, thus allowing it to produce nuclear weapons, will mean that Saudi Arabia will do the same and possess a nuclear bomb. His statements may be looked at from two angles. The first one is that Saudi Arabia does not intend to develop nuclear weapons if Iran commits not to, and the second one is that the prince is warning of being lenient with Tehran because he will thus develop nuclear weapons to defend his country and create “a balance of terror.”
Everyone takes Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s statements seriously. In addition to announcing its national policy of the atomic energy program, Saudi Arabia held talks with China around six months ago to establish a nuclear infrastructure for peaceful purposes. This will probably be among the topics he will address in Washington. Discussing these matters will not be easy due to all those sceptics who doubt Saudi Arabia’s aims and intentions. These sceptics have two choices, to either work seriously to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons – in this case Saudi Arabia and the world will not sense nuclear threats – or approve Saudi Arabia’s right of readiness to possess weapons like Iran’s. Iran is headed by an extremist fascist and religious regime which may use any nuclear weapons it builds to attack its rivals. Even if it does not directly use these weapons, it will exploit them to blackmail the region and the world and it will threaten to use them to achieve its expansive activities it’s currently endeavouring.
America Is a Natural Partner As Saudi Arabia Opens Up
March 20, 2018
Mohammed bin Salman's two-week long visit to the US will put trade and military ties back on track.
If strategic relationships crave stability and dependability, the connection between the United States and its long-time Middle East ally Saudi Arabia has faced more than the usual challenges in the past year - perhaps especially in the last few weeks.
But with Saudi Arabia's young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, visiting the US to assess ties with the Trump administration, he no longer needs to conduct a desperate search for a new White House point man to replace the president's demoted son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Instead, Saudi crown prince is arriving in Washington with a sense of confidence. With Mike Pompeo, the kingdom has an administration ally on its overriding issue of Iran who has security clearance, the ear of the president, and is designated to fill the post as the United States' top diplomat.
In short, the crown prince may be poised to appreciate how the recent White House turmoil giveth, even as it taketh away.
As he embarks on a two-week, multi-city tour of the US, Mohammed bin Salman is meeting with President Trump and other White House officials on Tuesday before meeting business and political leaders across the country.
Saudi insiders and US analysts say the visit is a chance for Saudi Arabia to reassess the investment it has made in the Trump administration and especially to seize the opportunity to push for policy change and action from what it regards as the most pro-Saudi White House in decades. If there's any urgency, analysts say, it stems from a concern that the administration could someday be immobilised by potential scandal or its own internal turmoil and turnover.
One year on, the results have been mixed.
Although ties are immensely better than with the Obama administration, there has been tough talk but no action - diplomatic, political, or military - against Iran.
The Saudis have watched with concern an administration lurching from crisis to controversy on a near daily basis. Even more alarming for Riyadh are reports that Trump has cooled on Kushner, who has lost his security clearance and is facing increasing legal scrutiny. "I think Saudi Arabia has unstated, but nonetheless very real concerns about the chaos that is going on in the Trump administration and in particular what it might mean for their best friend Jared Kushner," says Bruce Riedel, Brookings Institution expert and author of Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR.
"One part of this trip is trying to get a handle on where the Trump administration is going and what is its future."
But if the Saudis may be losing a key ally in Kushner, they gained a key partner this week for their number one diplomatic and political priority.
As a congressman in 2014 and 2015, secretary of state nominee Pompeo repeatedly advocated military strikes on Iran. As CIA director he has met with Saudi leadership, and has reportedly built up a rapport with Saudi leaders, particularly the crown prince.
"Nominee Mike Pompeo has a very deep appreciation of the pivotal role Saudi Arabia has played in terms of countering violent extremist groups, and has spoken about the destructive and destabilising role Iran has played in the region," says Fahad Nazer, a political consultant to the Saudi Embassy in Washington who does not speak on their behalf.
"I think there is a lot of agreement on some very important policy issues, and there will be a very good relationship between him and the Saudi leadership."
While Trump has cited scrapping the Iranian nuclear deal as a priority and a point of conflict with outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, other observers say the treaty itself is not necessarily a priority for Riyadh, which will push for further action.
Instead, Saudi Arabia will likely push the US to combat Iranian-backed militias -confirmed and alleged - in Iraq, Yemen and Syria; disrupt the flow of Iranian militants and arms in the Arab world; and ramp up pressure to isolate Tehran economically and politically to counter its alleged agenda of regional hegemony and interference.
Saudi and US experts say Riyadh will urge the US to support its economic boycott of Qatar. The crown prince has his eyes set on another prize in Washington: a nuclear deal.
Saudi Arabia is finally pushing forward its decade-old nuclear energy programme, with plans to construct as many as 16 reactors to produce 15 per cent of the kingdom's energy needs by 2040 - an $80 billion project that has attracted the interest of US, French and Russian energy firms.
Previous negotiations with the Obama administration for a nuclear cooperation deal collapsed in 2015. Riyadh refused to forgo uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing - key technologies for developing a nuclear weapon and a concession made by the UAE that paved the way for its own deal with the US in 2009.
"Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible," the prince told CBS in an interview.
With the Trump administration looking to revive the US nuclear industry, observers say Mohammed bin Salman is likely to push for a nuclear cooperation deal - one without a provision barring uranium enrichment - by personally dangling the prospect of billions of dollars of potential contracts for US firms.
In an effort to change the kingdom's image and reach out to potential allies beyond the Trump White House, the prince is also using his cross-country tour to tout recent social and legal reforms to brand himself as a progressive reformer.
He will also play up his role as an ally on the war on extremism, emphasising Riyadh's intelligence sharing with the US, its commitment to crack down on extremist speeches, and renewed commitment to "moderate Islam".
On a visit that includes talks with Apple and Amazon executives, the crown prince will also sell his economic reform strategy. But the prince's sales pitch likely will face some resistance over recent high-profile Saudi initiatives.
There are attempts, particularly by some Qatari media outlets, to make some helpless Qataris hope that the American authorities will support them and save them from the crisis which their regime has put them in.
This is wishful and naïve thinking that has nothing to do with the logic and standards of political interests. It would be stupid to believe that the Americans would sacrifice their relationships with major countries in the region, like the quartet (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE), and stand with a very small state, like Qatar, which is marginal in terms of influence and impact.
This may have been possible during Barack Obama’s term; however, the rules of the game have changed during Donald Trump’s term. Today’s standards are different from the past as the anti-terror quartet intends to continue boycotting Qatar until the crisis is resolved - even if this lasts for 10 years.
Qatar’s Art of Treachery
Boycotting Qatar does not cost the quartet anything worth mentioning. However, it costs Qatar a lot. This cost only increases with time. The crisis with Qatar is also not a priority for us at all. When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the Qatari issue is minor and not among his priorities, he meant it.
The same applies to the three other countries that came together with Saudi Arabia to “discipline” this harmful neighbour that only knows the art of conspiracy, treachery and deception. Qatar only embraced the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorists to be its arm that implements its wicked conspiracies. This is what Trump implied to in one of his tweets when the decision to boycott Doha was first made. This made the Qataris turn to Turkey and Iran to protect their palaces in Doha.
The Americans, who occupy one third of Qatar's territory in the al-Udeid Air Base, may remain neutral in case the Qataris took action, like the rational members of the al-Thani ruling family, to curb this unjustified insanity. By the way, this is a possible scenario that cannot be ruled out especially that popular anger is increasing by the day.
Qatar’s problem will only be resolved via deeply rooted solutions that revolve around expelling the main source of the problem: Hamad bin Khalifa from Qatar. The other solution is for destiny to intervene and take its toll on this spiteful man. As for the poor Tamim bin Hamad, he does not make any decisions and only obeys his father who insists to rule from behind the scenes.
Jeopardizing the 2022 World Cup
The question now is: What if the Qataris insist to be stubborn and do not submit to the boycotting countries’ conditions and do not expel Hamad bin Khalifa? The answer is simple: Everything will remain as it is. Boycotting Doha does not cost the quartet anything, however, it’s exhausting the Qataris and it will continue to exhaust them.
The FIFA World Cup which the Qataris aspire to host and which they spent a lot of money on, is now at stake due to the current crisis. Qatar’s place as a host for the 2022 World Cup is in jeopardy as it may be stripped of holding the tournament if the country’s isolation lasts till then. Holding the tournament is thus linked to the boycotting countries. I do not think there will be any solutions soon.
When the Qatari regime began to interfere in the neighbouring countries’ internal affairs, I thought it would have a plan to retreat if faced by any firm decision, like the boycott. However, the crisis which it’s going through now, and which it does not know how to solve, shows that this is an adventurer regime that developed its policies based on wrong calculations.
In politics, those who do not cautiously and carefully foresee the future and who burn their bridges when taking risks will put themselves through a catastrophic crisis like the one which the Qatari regime has led the country and its people to.
Trump may now have unshackled himself from Rex Tillerson but few in this part of the world were concerned with the foibles of his decision. Most, however, noticed saw how Qatar will soon be in the cross hairs of Mike Pompeo, who will not be so easily cajoled.
There are other less sensational reasons, which click bait hungry outlets might not like to acknowledge and offer a more sober rationale as to what is going through Trump’s mind. They may also have ignored what his fatuous objectives are in the Middle East – a region where he has not yet chalked up a solid policy success – if we are to ignore making Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
It’s true, Trump is worried about bad press coverage. But this time it’s not about his people. It’s about his own, when in the coming weeks two major historical events will either make him or break him.
The North Korea talks are unlikely to produce a nuclear free deal which Trump can serenade to the American public. Bereft of any diplomatic protocol, Trump wants a deal to be hammered out in a matter of hours. This is after all a US President who can’t be bothered to read memos or listen to advisors.
A ‘no deal’ would be quite damaging as it would start to compound an idea that this is a President inept on the international stage. But Trump’s real nightmare is a few weeks later in mid-May when he will have to either scrap the so-called “Iran deal” and impose new sanctions or climb down and sign the waiver to endorse the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) which prohibits Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Given Trump’s extraordinary obsession with his own media coverage – the constant need to create a crisis simply to place himself at the centre of it and lead the news daily bulletins – he must be having some sleepless nights about Iran. He has constantly told the American public that the Iran deal, signed by Obama, is a bad deal and needs to be fixed. But how?
The manner of Tillerson’s dismissal by twitter suggests that a certain realization is hitting Trump that he is heading towards an international calamity which will be the first significant demise of his ratings when the Iran fiasco reaches fever pitch.
Tillerson’s dismissal and the appointment of Pompeo, the announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs and the North Korea debacle are all related. Yet where we should be looking is not into Jared Kushner’s business failings but into what Trump is seeking from the EU.
What Trump needs is for a new relationship with Old Europe to negotiate one for him as Iran is now becoming increasingly worried about Mike Pompeo’s appointment. The tariffs ruse is meant to crack the whip and remind the Europeans that he is prepared to start a trade war if they do not help America where it needs it most: Iran.
France, Germany and the UK agree with the US that Iran should not test its ballistic missiles and have even appealed to the Iranians to curb the program. But alone, those three EU countries can’t expect to achieve much. It is the stubborn EU, led by foreign policy diva Federica Mogherini, which is sticking to the terms of the Iran deal (which excluded ballistic missiles) which could make all the difference.
Herein lies the heart of the matter and why Trump has both installed a hardcore Iran hawk and threatened the EU with a trade war. If the EU, which has considerable influence in Tehran, were to convince the Rouhani government to reduce its ballistic weapons testing, Trump would back down from him threats to impose sanctions in mid-May and the EU might mysteriously get a favoured exemption to the tariffs. As someone who knew Trump in the 90s in New York City told me recently “he’s a failed businessman, but his main talent is manipulating people”.
With France’s Emmanual Macron, Trump’s greatest supporter in Europe, already going against the EU position by appealing to Iran to drop the ballistics, Trump has already identified a weakness in the EU phalanx of foreign ministers and the folly of what some in Brussels like to believe as a working “foreign policy”, which in reality only exists as an idea on paper.
Iran badly needs cash for its economy and if the EU is happy to shovel hundreds of millions to despots in Africa in its former colonies, why wouldn’t it finance Iran’s restructuring, while averting a trade war with the US? Trump’s recent announcement to the tariff plan merely compounded a fear that many harboured: that he doesn’t understand business.
The European cars – BMWs – which he wants to tax are actually made in the US. But being a buffoon in economics won’t matter. Understanding how to exploit an EU which really can’t afford another political crisis after Brexit might be a genius move.
Saudi Crown Prince US visit likely to emphasize economics over politics
By Ali al-Shihabi
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) arrives in Washington for the start of a two-week tour of the United States. His trip coincides with a Congressional push to end US support for the war in Yemen, considerable criticism of the Trump-Saudi relationship within policy circles, and questions about whether the US-Saudi strategic partnership, historically built on the premise of trading American military might for Saudi oil, has become an anachronism.
Within the context of these debates, fueled, in part, by intense political polarization in Washington, MBS’s visit is likely to emphasize economics over politics. This approach, if successful, will expand the scope and value of a 75-year-old partnership, which has always been bigger than oil-for-security.
Much of what the crown prince hopes to achieve will take place outside of Washington. After just three days in the capital, he will travel to New York, Boston, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Houston. In these cities, MBS’s primary goal will be to cultivate, expand, and deepen ties with leading US financial, technology, entertainment, and energy companies in order to advance Saudi’s economic development and diversification plan, as laid out by Vision 2030.
In terms of the Washington agenda, there is a real opportunity for progress on a nuclear power agreement that benefits both parties. Signing an accord which, like the Iran deal (JCPOA), does not require Riyadh to waive its uranium enrichment rights, would help the US check Russian inroads into the Kingdom’s energy market and boost its flagging nuclear power industry while allowing Saudi to exploit its considerable uranium deposits and conserve oil for export. Following this deal with a Subsequent Arrangement that enables Riyadh to begin enriching uranium just as key JCPOA “sunset provisions” expire, would also give Iran added incentive to restrict its nuclear program to peaceful civilian applications.
Inking New Deals
New deals in business or energy would expand on a relationship that has produced wide-ranging political and economic benefits for the US since 1945. During the Cold War, for example, Riyadh helped Washington topple the Soviet Empire by crashing oil prices (severely straining Moscow’s petroleum-dependent economy in the mid-1980s) and by matching CIA funding for the Afghan resistance dollar-for-dollar.
More recently, the horror of the September 11th attacks and the shocking discovery that Saudi citizens were involved, greatly embarrassed the Kingdom but also awoke its leadership to the threat posed by Jihadi terrorism. In the years which followed, Saudi Arabia fought a vicious war against Al Qaeda and went after its sources of funding. The crown prince’s 2017 crackdown on religious extremism is vigorously expanding that fight into the realm of radical ideas.
Today, even as the US reduces its dependence on oil imports, America’s robust military presence in the Persian Gulf safeguards the energy supplies of key European and Asian allies while giving Washington considerable influence over China’s energy lifeline. By continuing to insist on pricing oil in dollars despite Russian and Chinese pressure, Saudi has also helped maintain the greenback as the world’s reserve currency, reducing US Treasury borrowing costs.
This is not to say the relationship is without its difficulties. Within the corridors of Washington, the Kingdom has become a partisan football, chastised by many for its efforts to cultivate a close relationship with the Trump Administration despite the fact that, as the US’s junior partner, Riyadh has had little choice but to court every American president since Roosevelt.
The polarized political environment and US-Saudi variance, in terms of how best to approach the Yemen war, the Qatar crisis, and Israel-Palestine, has made a major breakthrough on any one of these issues unlikely.
War of Necessity
Riyadh continues to see Yemen as “a war of necessity” preventing Iran-backed Houthi militias from becoming a new Hezbollah on the Kingdom’s southern border; the conflict will persist as long as the Houthis refuse a political settlement, as they did just last month. Despite some Congressional pushback, US “support” for the Saudi-led coalition is more symbolic than substantive, limited to midair refueling of Emirati jets and intelligence-sharing. If necessary, Riyadh could substitute the refueling services, but Washington’s intelligence-sharing has helped to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage. Saudi will deliver aid for as long as the war continues but ending intelligence-sharing now only risks worsening the humanitarian situation.
For Riyadh, the Qatar embargo, a last attempt to undo two decades of Doha’s subverting its security, remains a sideshow. Judging by the alacrity with which Qatar is attempting to undo it, the embargo is clearly having a painful impact while costing Saudi, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain little. Consequently, none of the Arab Quartet seems very interested in US involvement or mediation.
As to the much-vaunted Israel-Palestine peace deal, Saudi leaders explicitly warned the Trump administration that relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem would make any progress on the president’s proposed accord nearly impossible.
The crown prince’s trip reflects all of the promise and complexities of a multi-faceted relationship that has endured since the Second World War. Should his visit yield new economic or energy ties, it will further expand the US-Saudi partnership, even if little progress is made on the policy front.
AGAIN, we make headlines! Again, our Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman “MBS” is making waves in world media. And, again, Iran and company are in a media blitz against the prince and his nation.
“Tomorrow is going to be fully full!,” says Nabeel Maghrabi, the studio engineer responsible for TV satellite transmission at one of the top Jeddah providers. “I’ll be standby for the whole week, starting Monday. We had a lot of reservations and expect back-to-back recordings. Most of our clients are new. US, European and Asian TVs are taking every available spot, day and night,” he explains.
He is not alone. Other providers are busy, too. Commentators, like me, are expecting the same thrust. Not that we mind — not at all. We love to talk about our young prince and his “vision.”
In three years, he managed to realize an overdue list of hopes and dreams — not just for the young and women. He took our breath away with the scale and scope of his projects. They cover a wide variety of developmental, economic, political, cultural and even religious dimensions.
MBS is undoing lots of what has been done in the last forty years. His relentless war on corruption alone was undreamed of only few months ago. Not in our wildest dreams we expected the untouchable becoming so touchable, or that stolen public money that made a whole class of people multi-billionaires would be fully returned to state covers.
“No one is above the law? No one at all? Say that again, for I never thought it was at all possible — not in my lifetime!,” or so would Saudis express their astonishment at the level and speed of the anti-corruption campaign.
Religious extremists who hijacked our society and polluted our culture for ages had looked so secured in their ivory towers that we wouldn’t dare to even question their stands. Whenever I did, they called me all kinds of names, from corrupt liberal to Godless atheist. Today, I could revisit their literature, criticize their methods and question their motives, and still be a good Muslim!
Women, in particular, are celebrating a whole new chapter in their lives. So many doors and windows are opened to them for study, work and entertainment. The army, police and other male-only positions in the state and public sectors, like the courts, airports, passport departments, as well as political, diplomatic, finance, social, sports and religious sectors are now available to our women. They could even fly — literally. Airlines have started training and hiring female captains! A new law is expected soon to guarantee equality of salaries and benefits, MBS announced in his “60 minutes” interview, this Sunday.
In what seems now a distant past (like in 2015!), we used to envy Dubai for its miraculous economic achievements. We are the bigger Arab market, we argued, and one of the world biggest economies — a member of G20. Located in the heart of the world, connecting Asia, Africa and Europe, Saudi Arabia (2,149,690 km²) equals Western Europe and is more than fifth the size of the United States.
Ours is a rich land with everything a civilization may need to prosper — seas, lands, airspace; deserts, mountains, valleys and costs; oil, gas, gold, phosphate; great history, diversified culture, with highly educated and trained young workforce. And above all, we have the holiest land on earth, and the most sacred cities—Makkah and Madinah. In short we have all it takes to occupy a higher and larger place in the world map. So why are we not there?
Saudi Vision 2030 is about to change all that. The best part is we won’t do it alone. We are opening up to the world, and inviting all to join our march. NEOM, for example, is an international project, hospitable to investors, explorers and dreamers. The same can be said about other mega projects in different parts of the country. In addition, huge military industry is being built today, in partnership with the world top manufacturers.
On the political front, we are abandoning the overcautious approach to challenges. Iran has exploited that to its best advantage —extending their imperialistic hegemony over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and Afghanistan. We held our horses for decades, as the Nazis of the day encircled and infiltrated our nations with terrorists, militias and agents.
No more! We have built the Arab Alliance to liberate Yemen and the Islamic Alliance Against Terrorism. We have strengthened relations with trusted friends and traditional allies, like France, Britain and the United States.
If Iran dares to build a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit, right away, as our Crown Prince warns. Iranian army is no match to ours. We are fully capable to defend our nation by all means. No more Mr. Nice Guy! A new Saudi Arabia is born.
Following the unexpected sacking of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini must be more concerned than ever before about the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the "Iran nuclear deal".
Today, the EU is faced with having to make a choice between preserving the Iran deal that it regards as a major diplomatic achievement and breaking away with its most important political ally, the United States of America.
Since the deal was signed in 2015, the EU has been bearing the responsibility of protecting an increasingly fragile balance: safeguarding Iran's commitment to the nuclear agreement while simultaneously trying to dissuade the US from using a language of containment and sanctions. This task became even harder when the Trump administration started pressuring European leaders into signing a "supplemental agreement" with Iran that would also regulate the Islamic Republic's ballistic missile programme and its role in Syria.
Trump's decision to sack Tillerson, who was often depicted as a calming influence in the administration, and to put forward former CIA director Mike Pompeo, who has a history of ruthless partisanship and opposition to the Iran deal, as candidate for US secretary of state only added to these pressures.
Moreover, as it tried - and failed - to control the hawkish behaviour of the new US administration, the EU started losing Iran's trust. Earlier this month, for the first time since the signing of the deal, Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has blamed the EU for "appeasing" the US. "We now have two problems, one is the US and the other the EU," he said.
He also accused the EU of supporting American sanctions and not keeping to its commitments with regards to improved banking arrangements with Iran. Iranian business sector remains disappointed by the level of European investment in the Islamic Republic.
Contrary to the EU's call in January for sanctions relief to benefit Iran, on March 12, President Trump used the National Emergencies Act to order the continuation of the "comprehensive non-nuclear-related sanctions with respect to Iran".
Also, some European Foreign Ministers seem to be edging towards a supplemental agreement.
The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who has been an outspoken supporter of JCPOA in the past, began edging towards the American call for a new agreement after a meeting in January with Tillerson.
"There are some areas of the JCPOA, or some areas of Iran's behaviour, that should be addressed," he told reporters in London on January 22. "And most particularly, their ballistic missile programs and our concerns over the expiry of the JCPOA," he said, referring to what the US calls "sunset clauses", which Trump wants to address in the supplemental agreement.
During his visit to Iran early March, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also referred to Iran's ballistic programme as "a great cause for concern" and questioned Iran's presence in Syria and Yemen.
Iran was quick to respond to Le Drian's pro-US stance.
"European countries come here and say we want to negotiate with Iran over its presence in the region," said Iran's spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei referring to Le Drian's visit. "It is none of your business. It is our region. Why are you here," he asked?
As such the French President, Emmanuel Macron, who has cordial relations with both his American and Iranian counterparts, might have lost a unique chance to hold that EU balance. In the process, he probably disappointed French companies such as Total, Airbus, Renault and Peugeot, which are eager to sign up trade deals with Iran pending US sanctions relief.
In an interview with the moderate Etemad newspaper on March 5, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said it was dangerous for the Europeans to mix the question of ballistic missiles and Syria with JCPOA. He also warned that Iran could stop its bilateral talks with the EU.
A report by International Crisis Group recommends that if the Trump administration is determined to breach JCPOA, the EU "should do what it can to save it".
It said that its exclusive survey of more than 60 senior managers at multinational companies had shown this could be achieved "if Iran remains committed to its JCPOA obligations and European countries pre-emptively revive their 'Blocking Regulations', shielding their companies from US extraterritorial sanctions".
This is an extremely difficult choice for Europe to make, because it may trigger a trade war with the US.
The European Council on Foreign Relations recommended that the EU must "continue to resist US pressure to once again isolate Iran". At the same time, it must pursue "tough diplomacy" with Iran over other issues.
Yet European attempts to "tough diplomacy" has so far proved ineffective, as seen in Iran's response Le Drian and other EU leaders.
If Europe is to succeed in safeguarding JCPOA it must push more vigorously for US sanctions relief. This is the only way that President Hassan Rouhani of Iran would get authorisation for negotiations over other issues.
JCPOA is a highly intricate international agreement that was signed after two years of painstaking negotiations. It cannot be easily "supplemented", especially with an agreement that aims to regulate Iran's role in an even more complex international crisis such as Syria. And as long as Israel holds the largest stockpile of ballistic missiles in the region it would be hard to persuade Iran to terminate its ballistic programme.
International diplomacy would only work if it is objective and balanced.
Turkey Must Overhaul Its Approach to Arab Nations
Turkey’s relations with Arab countries have reached a record low. Relations may of course deteriorate between countries from time to time when their national interests collide, but in the case of Turkey and Arab countries, there was no threat to the interests of either side.
In Egypt, Turkey stood against Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s military takeover, which was understandable because Turkey has suffered a lot from military interventions. The mistake was in Turkey’s insistence in not recognizing the new leadership even after it had established its authority in the country. Turkey had to take into account that Egypt is the unchallenged leader of the Arab world. When the region faces its worst crises, these two countries can take action to alleviate the effects and contribute to their solution.
Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have soured not because of reasons directly related to bilateral ties, but because Ankara is part of an intra-Arab conflict. Its traditional foreign policy was to avoid direct involvement in such conflicts and, thanks to this policy, Turkey had accumulated great prestige among Arab countries. It now wastes this prestige prodigally.
In the Syrian crisis, Turkey has persistently picked the wrong options since the outset. First, it presumed in late 2011 that the regime’s fall was imminent and suffered the consequences of ill-advised policies. Second, when Western powers became aware that arms they were supplying were ending up in the wrong hands, they stopped the supply. Turkey, meanwhile, was slow in following this decision and became a “highway” of arms supply to extremist factions and for the passage of terrorists going to Syria. Eventually, Turkey became one of the most important recruiting grounds for Daesh.
Third, in the north of Syria, Turkey took the right initiative by inviting Salih Muslim, the representative of the Syrian Kurds, for talks. But it failed to discuss with him Ankara’s issues with the Syrian Kurds — instead it asked Muslim to cooperate in overthrowing the Assad regime.
The fourth mistake made by Turkey in Syria was its military operation in Afrin, which reportedly aimed to set up an administration where all ethnic groups would be represented proportionally. The idea is appealing but it is the Syrian authorities, with or without Bashar Assad, that will govern Afrin after the crisis. Therefore, Turkey should cooperate with the Syrian authorities during this operation.
In Iraq, when Turkey made a deal with the Kurdish Regional Government to pump oil to its Mediterranean terminals, the Iraqi central authorities opposed it, saying the export of Iraqi oil requires their approval. Turkey disregarded this objection and responded by using less-than-diplomatic language about Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi.
Turkey also deployed a military detachment in the Bashiqa base in northern Iraq with the consent of the KRG authorities, but the central government opposes this presence. This is another thorny issue that casts a shadow over Turkey-Iraq relations.
In Tunisia, when the Ennahdha Party was about to come to power, its leader Rached Ghannouchi said it was going to be inspired by the moderate Islam as practiced in Turkey by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Six years later, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to Tunisia, he greeted the crowd by raising his hand and showing four fingers as a sign reminiscent of the Rabaa Square in Cairo, where 800 to 1,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed in 2013. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi responded by saying: “Tunisia has no other symbol but its flag. Neither Rabaa nor any other symbol.” Turkey has always been held in high esteem in Tunisia but, six years on from the Arab Spring, it became a country where its president was snubbed.
Mutual confidence between nations takes decades to establish, but can be lost with one unfortunate incident. If Turkey starts to mend relations with Arab countries now, it will take decades to bring it back to the level before the recent deterioration. Therefore Turkey has to immediately engage in a serious overhaul of its policies toward Arab countries.
United States President Donald Trump is hosting Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. The visit is critical as it highlights the warmer relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. Last year, the US president selected Saudi Arabia as the first country to visit in his first overseas trip since taking office.
Crown Prince Mohammed’s visit is part of his first comprehensive foreign trip. American and Saudi leaders can use the opportunity to reaffirm US-Saudi ties, since this year marks the 75th anniversary of the strategic, geopolitical and diplomatic alliance between the two nations.
Iranian leaders fear that one of the topics that will top the agenda is discussing the threat the regime poses to the Middle East. This issue has become more pressing as Iran continues to blatantly violate international laws. Most recently, the United Nations conclusively found that Tehran was behind the illicit supply of weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, in violation of UN Security Council resolution 2216, which imposes an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels, and resolution 2231, which bans the Iranian regime from transferring weapons and advancing its ballistic missile program in specific instancies.
In addition, the regime continues to pose a threat when it comes to its nuclear program because the Iranian leadership does not allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect some of its military sites, such as Parchin military base. Several of these sites are believed to be clandestine areas where the regime conducts nuclear research and development. The Islamic Republic is also investing in terrorist and militia groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon at a much faster pace than ever before, according to several military generals.
In addition to establishing and enjoying a long-term military presence in Syria, some of the leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are emboldened and empowered to such an extent that they are publicly calling for the expansion of their military missions in countries such as Yemen and Palestine, according to Iranian Persian language news outlet Bahar News. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief commander of the IRGC, boasted recently that setting up, supporting and expanding opposition forces in other countries serves the Islamic Republic’s national and security interests, according to Fars News. All these developments are credible signs that the Iranian regime is brazenly pursuing its imperialistic objectives and militaristic adventurism through the use of hard power.
As a result, the timing of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit is significant and intriguing. Inside Iran, at this critical time, the strengthening of ties between the US and Saudi Arabia is considered a blow to the leadership.
Iranian leaders fear the convergence of interests, as well as the current powerful alignment of shared geopolitical and strategic interests between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia. The Iranian regime’s ruling clerics are concerned that the US and Saudi will take more robust and concrete steps in countering its increasing influence and expansionist policies in the region.
It is critical to point out that the Iranian authorities are cognizant of the fact that Washington and Riyadh can confront Tehran’s power if several tangible initiatives and policies are pursued simultaneously. The first one is economic, and would require that the US and Saudi Arabia impose similar financial sanctions on the Iranian regime. But they could also join hands to pressure the international community, including the EU and Arab allies, to financially sanction those Iranian officials and organizations that continue to wreak havoc in the region and violate international norms.
The second policy that Iran fears is linked to soft power. Saudi Arabia enjoys high regard and legitimacy in the Muslim world, while the US also has good ties with a majority of Muslim nations. As a result, they can use their political and economic leverage to call on Muslim countries to isolate the Iranian regime. This can have a significant impact on Iran’s ruling clerics and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who views himself as the leader and savior of the Muslim world.
The third policy is related to hard power. The Iranian regime will not change its destabilizing behavior solely with soft power, diplomatic pressure and verbal condemnations. A powerful united military force is required as a bulwark against Tehran’s militaristic adventures in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Finally, Iran fears that Saudi Arabia and the US could take measures to whole-heartedly assist the Iranian people who are disaffected with the regime, as well as support the opposition. Iranian leaders are aware that not only can these steps effectively counter Tehran’s power and increasing influence, but more fundamentally could endanger the hold on power of the ruling mullahs.