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SOUTH ASIA:

AFGHANISTAN:

  • Reports say that the border towns of Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan which border Tajikistan are turning into new concentration points of foreign terrorists from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, and Eastern Turkistan, concerning the Russian leaders.  Some political experts suggest that the ISIS is restoring its strength in Afghanistan as part of an American and Western roadmap. They say its wins justification to the Western military presence in Afghanistan. For the US and NATO, the presence in Afghanistan will lead to the control of three important countries of Iran, Russia and China.

SOURCE: ABNA 24


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Geoeconomics

MIDDLE EAST:

IRAN:

  • Iran is reaching out to its old customers in Asia to gauge interest in its crude as the Persian Gulf oil producer ramps up diplomacy in a bid to get U.S. sanctions lifted. Prior to the penalties — put in place to pressure the country into renegotiating a nuclear deal — China and India were Iran’s biggest buyers in Asia, followed by South Korea and Japan. Iran’s crude shipments dwindled to a trickle after sanctions by the former U.S. administration in 2018 and the end of waivers for some countries in 2019, although a number of Chinese refiners continued to take some oil.

SOURCE: BBN BLOOMBERG


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Expert Analysis

Biden’s Playing Hardball With MBS

2 MARCH 2021

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The promulgation of the US’ so-called “Khashoggi ban” in response to its intelligence agencies determining that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was behind that dissident journalist’s brutal killing shows that the Biden Administration is playing hard ball with the Kingdom’s future ruler, though there’s only so far that it’ll go in this respect since it’s still important for America to still retain some degree of regional strategic “balance” despite its newfound willingness to renegotiate the Iranian nuclear deal.

US-Saudi relations are drastically changing under the Biden Administration as evidenced by its promulgation of the so-called “Khashoggi ban” in response to American intelligence agencies determining that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was behind that dissident journalist’s brutal killing. This shows that the Biden Administration is playing hardball with the Kingdom’s future ruler, though there’s only so far that it’ll go in this respect. As it stands, the pro-Democrat members of the permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) that pull the President’s strings intend to diversify their country’s hitherto regional strategic dependence on Saudi Arabia in line with former President Obama’s vision by improving relations with Iran. Nevertheless, there’s only so far that they’ll go in this respect since it’s still important for them to retain some degree of “balance” so as not to push the Kingdom further into Russia and China’s arms.

On the one hand, the US wants to make it clear that the days of Saudi Arabia calling the shots are over. Washington will no longer allow its regional strategy to be led by Riyadh. This also explains Biden’s pragmatic recalibration of his country’s policy towards Yemen, which was also influenced by the desire to send a goodwill signal to Iran about Washington’s willingness to re-enter into negotiations on the nuclear deal. That arguably went against Saudi regional strategic interests, yet the Kingdom was powerless to stop its patron from implementing this policy reversal, at least for the time being. In parallel with this, American intelligence decided to punish some Saudis for Khashoggi’s murder, which was also intended to further erode the Kingdom’s already damaged reputation, and MBS’ personally. The tangential objective is to put pressure on MBS to comply with the US’ new regional policy instead of opposing it lest he risk the ever-present threat of a palace coup.

On the other hand, however, American strategists are aware that these moves will only encourage the Kingdom to intensify its growing relations with Russia and China. It already cooperates real closely with Moscow on energy issues (OPEC+) and Beijing on military (drones) and investment (Vision 2030) matters. Saudi Arabia also agreed to an arms deal with Russia a few years back during King Salman’s historic visit to Moscow which eventually saw the Eurasian Great Power delivering state-of-the-art rocket launchers to the Kingdom that presumably saw action during the ongoing War on Yemen. The US fears these two Great Power’s multipolar coordination in courting the Kingdom to their side in the New Cold War, especially as it relates to the possibility of Riyadh supporting Beijing’s plans for the “petroyuan”, so it knows that it’ll either have to hold back on playing hardball with MBS or move forward with replacing him in the worst-case scenario.

This “deep state”/geostrategic dynamic explains why American intelligence agencies publicly blamed MBS for Khashoggi’s killing yet Biden backed off from personally punishing him for this. It’s a “good cop/bad cop” type of play, but one which is being made in order to put Saudi Arabia back in place after it ran the former Trump Administration’s regional policy in partnership with its unofficial “Israeli” ally. Those two players stand in the way of the Biden (Obama 2.0) Administration’s risky gambit to restore “balance” to their country’s regional strategy by reaching out to Iran through “nuclear diplomacy” and other means, though all the while retaining pressure on the Islamic Republic as well as can be seen by Biden’s Syria strike last week. If clumsily executed, however, then the US might ultimately end up provoking a so-called “polar reorientation” whereby Saudi Arabia and “Israel” “jump ship” by siding with Russia and China in response to any meaningful US-Iranian rapprochement.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: US, Saudi Arabia, Biden, MBS, Iran, China, Russia, Israel, Balancing.


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MIDDLE EAST:

NUCLEAR DEAL:

  • Iran rejected a European Union offer to arrange direct nuclear talks with the US, saying it wanted a guarantee first that the US would lift some sanctions. However, the Biden administration had refused to provide sanctions relief before face-to-face negotiations with Iran had taken place.

SOURCE: ASHARQ AL-AWSAT


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MIDDLE EAST:

QATAR DIPLOMATIC MOVES:

  • Qatar is stepping up its diplomatic moves in the region, playing its cards in Iran, Lebanon and Syria with the hope of regaining influence after its presence declined in recent years due to overlapping factors. Qatar’s hope of regaining its presence is mainly related to the presence of a new American administration that seems intent on increasing its pressure on the regime of President Bashar Assad and filling the vacuum left by the former administration of Donald Trump, which Russia exploited to control the political process through the Astana talks.

SOURCE: THE ARAB WEEKLY


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WHAT IS HAPPENING IN GEOPOLITICS? MIDDLE EAST:

DEFENCE ALLIANCE:

  • Israel is in talks with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to establish a four-nation defence alliance, i24NEWS reported. The report comes amid the news that Washington and Tel Aviv are set to summon a strategic group to work on Iran’s nuclear agreement. Previously, some partners, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have advocated for negotiating an expanded deal with Tehran to include Saudi Arabia and Israel, as well as stronger limits on Iran, but the Islamic Republic has rejected the suggestion.

SOURCE: SPUTNIK


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WHAT IS HAPPENING IN GEOPOLITICS? MIDDLE EAST:

NUCLEAR DEAL:

  • UK, France & Germany urge Iran to reverse ‘dangerous’ decision to suspend agreement on short-notice nuclear inspections, as part of its campaign against US sanctions. Washington re-imposed sanctions on Iran and added new ones, including restrictions on the nation’s oil trade and financial sector.

SOURCE: RT


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MIDDLE EAST:

LEBANON:

  • Qatar is seeking to play an active role in Lebanon by helping the cash-strapped country with money and investments, in a move that seems to be green-lighted by most regional and local actors, especially Hezbollah, which sees itself benefiting from any Qatari role that has the support of Iran. Qatar’s intervention is encouraged by Turkey, which will seek to benefit from Qatari investments to consolidate its presence in Lebanon’s Sunni regions at the expense of Saudi Arabia’s traditional role there.

SOURCE: THE ARAB WEEKLY


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SOUTH ASIA:

INDIAN OCEAN:

  • Russian, Iranian, and Chinese naval drills will be held in the Indian Ocean in mid-February. A Zionist media outlet described it as a step by Iran to challenge the navies of some Western countries in the region. After the US-French naval alliance in the Persian Gulf, Iran intends to show its strength, the Zionist Jerusalem Post wrote in an analysis.

SOURCE: MEHR NEWS


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Balancing Regional Interests In Syria Is The Only Way Reach A Compromise Solution

8 FEBRUARY 2021

Balancing Regional Interests In Syria Is The Only Way Reach A Compromise Solution

Politically resolving the Hybrid War of Terror on Syria will involve difficult compromises on all sides, but this is only possible if each party acknowledges their counterparts’ regional interests and Russian diplomats are able to successfully devise a creative solution for “balancing” between them as best as possible.

The Impossibility Of A Military Solution

The Hybrid War of Terror on Syria cannot be resolved militarily by any of the participating parties. The US and its fellow anti-Syrian allies, which importantly include “Israel” and Turkey to differing but not necessarily always coordinated degrees, are unable to forcefully overthrow the country’s democratically elected and legitimate government. In fact, one can argue that they don’t even pursue that goal all that seriously anymore after having informally accepted President Assad’s continued leadership of Syria, who they’ve learned to imperfectly live with after all these years. At the same time, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is unable to unilaterally liberate all of its territory from the occupying American and Turkish forces. This is especially the case after Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov reaffirmed late last month that Russia “cannot expel it, and we will not clash with US forces” in Syria, hence why he reminded everyone of his country’s “so-called deconfliction” talks with it. It’s for this reason why the war has largely remained frozen on the military front over the past few years.

The Long Path Towards A Political Solution

The only solution is therefore a political one, but this is only possible if each party acknowledges their counterparts’ regional interests and Russian’ diplomats are able to successfully devise a creative solution for “balancing” between them as best as possible. This might sound like wishful thinking to many at the moment, but it’s the only realistic way out of the present impasse, no matter how difficult some of the compromises might be. Of course, any potential solution must involve the means to verify each party’s compliance and ensure enforcement against all violators without discrimination. It might still be a long way off before anything like that is agreed to, but that noble goal must be the basis for beginning talks to that end at the soonest possible moment. To facilitate these efforts, it’s worthwhile remembering each party’s regional interests, after which a discussion can commence for exploring the most realistic extent to which each one of them might compromise on reaching a final Russian-brokered agreement to end the war.

Respective Interests

Syria:

* Sustain Anti-Terrorist Gains

* Liberate The Rest Of The Occupied Territories

* Retain The Centralized State Structure

* Remove The Crippling Sanctions Regime

* Reconstruct The Country

Russia:

* Sustain Anti-Terrorist Gains

* Maintain A Long-Term Military Presence In Syria

Avoid A Larger War Erupting In Syria Between Iran & “Israel”

* Leverage Diplomatic Leadership To “Balance” The Region

* Maximize Post-War Economic Dividends

Iran:

* Sustain Anti-Terrorist Gains

* Prove To Damascus That It’s More Of An All-Around Reliable Ally Than Russia

* Receive An Eventual Economic “Return On Investment” For Saving Syria

* Entrench Military Presence In Syria As Long-Term Strategic Leverage Against “Israel”

* Strengthen The Axis Of Resistance

Turkey:

* Prevent The Emergence Of A PKK-Pioneered Terror Corridor In Northern Syria

* Ensure That Turkish-Backed “Rebels” Have A Political Role In Post-War Syria

* Demonstrate To Regional Allies That It’s A Reliable Partner

* Strengthen Strategic Relations With Russia And Iran Through The Astana Process

* Establish Global Respect As A Rising Great Power

US/”Israel”

* Maintain Pressure On Damascus Through Unconventional (“Rebel”/Terrorist/Sanctions) Means

* Permanently Neutralize The Anti-”Israeli” Capabilities Of The SAA

* Expel Iranian Military Forces From Syria

* Retain “Freedom Of Action” To Conduct “Surgical Strikes”

* “Decentralize” Syria To Redistribute Damascus’ Power To Allied Proxies

Assessing Strategic Successes And The Lack Thereof

With the above-mentioned strategic goals of all relevant players in mind, it’s now time to assess their successes and lack thereof. What follows is a simplified bullet point list of the present state of affairs:

* ISIS’ “Caliphate” Has Been Dismantled But Terror Threats Persist Along Syria’s Periphery

* Foreign Forces Continue To Support “Rebel”/Terrorist Groups

* Political Progress Towards Peace Is Practically Non-Existent Because Of A Refusal By All To Compromise

* Turkey Is The Only Party Continuing To Resist The Syrian Kurds’ Participation In The Peace Process

* US-Enforced Sanctions Will Remain Until Damascus Irreversibly Compromises On Political Issues

* Russia Sat Back While “Israel” Reportedly Hit 50 Targets In Syria Last Year Alone

* Russia Has Yet To Allow Syria To Operate The S-300s To Defend Itself From “Israeli” Strikes

* Russia’s Reshaping Syria’s ‘Deep State’ In Its Own Image” To Reduce Iranian Influence

* Russia’s Regional Diplomatic Role Continues To Rise As A Result Of Its “Balancing” Act

Zero-Sum Interests

Building off of these observations, the following zero-sum interests are presently obstructing a solution:

* Syria Won’t Consider Political Compromises Until Its Territory Is Liberated And Sanctions Removed; The US And Turkey Won’t Withdraw And Remove Their Sanctions Until Syria Makes Political Compromises

* Turkey Won’t Fully Support The Political Process In Syria If The Kurds Are Involved; All Other Players Believe That The Political Process Can’t Succeed Without The Kurds’ Involvement

* “Israel” Will Continue Bombing Iran In Syria Until The Latter Fully Withdraws; Iran Won’t Seriously Consider Withdrawing From Syria Until “Israel” No Longer Poses A Direct Threat To It And Its Syrian Ally’s Forces

* The US & “Israel” Will Continue Pressuring Damascus Through Unconventional Means Until It Politically Compromises And Expels Iran; Damascus Won’t Consider Either Until Those Two Stop Pressuring It

* Russia Is The Best Suited Of Syria’s Allies For Promoting Damascus’ Interests Among Relevant Hostile Players; Syrian Interests Will Always Be Subservient To Russia’s Own With Respect To Its “Balancing” Act

Summarized Insight

Considering everything, a Russian-brokered compromise solution would have to do the seemingly impossible by resolving the contradictions between each relevant players’ zero-sum interests. This would naturally involve painful compromises by each party except for itself since none of the others have the political will to cross its red lines by either militarily targeting its forces (relevant for Iran/Turkey/US/”Israel”) or expelling it from the country (such as if Syria ever became fed up with Russia’s “balancing” act being carried out as its “perceived expense”). The three most controversial issues in the grand scheme of things are the refusal of any domestic party to compromise on the peace process and thus lead to promised sanctions relief, the continued US and Turkish military occupations of Syria (“Israel’s” Golan one is taken for granted), and Iran’s continued military presence in Syria which is exploited by “Israel” to “justify” its regular attacks. Quite clearly, these three bones of connection must somehow be creatively addressed by any speculative Russian-brokered compromise solution.

Speculating On A Russian-Brokered Compromise Solution

As the most realistic starting point, Russia can “lean on” Syria to promise constitutionally enshrined decentralization in the currently occupied territories allowing for a greater degree of local political and cultural autonomy for groups opposed to Damascus’ centralization policies there while preventing them from conducting their own military and diplomatic relations with foreign powers. If agreed with all relevant players ahead of time, this could satisfy some of the US and Turkey’s political demands while also ensuring Syria’s national security interests. Should progress be made on this front, then Syria could request Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal from the country in parallel with symmetrical US and Turkish steps culminating with the gradual lessening of sanctions in order to facilitate much-needed reconstruction. As a guarantee against continued “Israeli” aggression afterwards, Russia could then transfer control of the S-300s to the SAA and even consider exporting state-of-the-art S-400s to it too upon all foreign forces’ ultimate withdrawal from Syria.

Concluding Thoughts

The proposed Russian-brokered compromise solution for politically ending the Hybrid War of Terror on Syria is admittedly imperfect and might even be unrealistic so long as even one of the relevant parties lacks the political will to compromise on their zero-sum interests. The key to success lies in Russia leveraging its “balancing” act to foster indirect trust between hostile players through their shared belief in the sincerity of Moscow’s efforts to achieve tangible gains in these respects, after which they could all work on agreeing to timelines for each phase of the suggested peace plan. Nevertheless, partisan disagreements within each relevant party’s government could ultimately derail any progress that might be made if even one of them unilaterally reverses its previously (whether publicly or secretly) agreed commitments to each step, such as if their opponents provocatively presented their compromises as being a “loss of face”. It’ll therefore be very difficult to pull this off, but a political solution is the only possible one since a military solution is impossible.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Syria, US, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Kurds, ISIS, Balancing.


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