Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts

28 June 2017

***Stories about Saudi Arabia reveal mysteries of the world’s most powerful kingdom

Nicolas Pelham

Summary: Yesterday’s news from Saudi Arabia reminds us about the importance of that little but rich and powerful nation, and how little we know about it. Here are two great articles giving fascinating glimpses into that strange and mysterious land. This is a follow-up to yesterday’s Today the Saudis got a new Crown Prince. Stratfor explains how this might rock the region.
The desert dream.

Elliott Abrams (bio) explains why this event is important. If this succession is successful, Saudi Arabia will change in two ways. First it will have a stable government for several decades. Second, it will have a young ruler.

“The Saudi system has had brother succeed brother …. Naturally, as his sons succeeded each other more or less in order of age, each successor was older than his predecessor; as noted, Salman was 79 when he became king. So the system has produced geriatric rule for decades now, while the Saudi population grew younger and younger. The CIA World Factbook says the median age in the kingdom is now just 27. And now the kingdom will have a ruler from those younger generations — for the first time ever. …

Charles Krauthammer: It's the end of the beginning in the great Muslim civil war

Charles Krauthammer

It might appear a mindless mess, but the outlines are clear: the Muslim civil war, centred in Syria, is approaching its post-Islamic State phase. It's the end of the beginning 

The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter-bomber. Iran launches missiles into eastern Syria. Russia threatens to attack coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates. What is going on?

It might appear a mindless mess, but the outlines are clear. The great Muslim civil war, centred in Syria, is approaching its post-Islamic State phase. It’s the end of the beginning. The parties are maneuvering to shape what comes next.

It’s Europe, 1945, when the war was still raging against Nazi Germany, but everyone already knew the outcome. The maneuvering was largely between the approaching victors — the Soviet Union and the Western democracies — to determine postwar boundaries and spheres of influence.

The Origins and Evolution of ISIS in Libya

This report examines the pre-history, birth, expansion, consolidation and dispersal of ISIS in Libya. It concludes that 1) the group’s brutality in the country was a huge mistake on its part; 2) the Libyan State’s collapse did indeed lead to ISIS’ rise; and 3) the group subsequently thrived in marginalized communities or areas where the central government had never devolved power. Given this rough-and-tumble context, the report closes by recommending six ways anti-ISIS stakeholders should continue their fight against the murderous group.


Jason Pack, Rhiannon Smith, Karim Mezran 



27 June 2017

*** A Shake-Up in the Saudi Royal Family

By Kamran Bokhari

Saudi Arabia is facing a number of serious challenges that threaten to destabilize the country. Low oil prices, unrest in the Middle East and a recent dispute between Gulf Arab countries over Qatar are just a few examples. And now, a shake-up in the royal family may make it harder for the country to manage these problems.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman announced June 21 that his son Mohammed bin Salman will be the new crown prince and first in line to the throne, replacing the king’s nephew Mohammed bin Nayef. The move was expected but could still cause complications in the royal family since 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman is much younger and less experienced than other potential candidates for the role.

New Precedents

Despite having been second in line to the throne behind Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s son was already the second-most powerful member of the royal family before this change. Since he became the monarch in 2015, the 81-year-old king had been preparing his son to take over as crown prince, giving him more powers and making him deputy crown prince in April 2015, despite the fact that he had no previous government role. Meanwhile, Mohammed bin Nayef was being progressively overshadowed by his cousin.

In addition to losing his role as crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef was also removed from his other positions, including interior minister, while the king’s son still holds a number of other titles, including defense minister.

The decision to replace a crown prince would be unprecedented were it not for the fact that Salman removed his half brother from the position two years ago to appoint Mohammed bin Nayef. It is still a risky maneuver that could eventually stir up opposition.

There are many other princes in the third generation of the Al Saud family who are more senior and more experienced than the new crown prince. Mohammed bin Nayef, who is 57 years old, had a long career in the Interior Ministry. He was the counterterrorism czar, earning a great deal of respect in Washington for his efforts to neutralize al-Qaida, and almost lost his life in an assassination attempt.

Other candidates included Prince Mitab bin Abdullah, the minister of the Saudi Arabian National Guard; Prince Turki bin Faisal, former intelligence chief and former ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom; and Prince Khaled bin Faisal, governor of Mecca and a former education minister. All these candidates are much more accomplished than Mohammed bin Salman, but they are also much older.

Riyadh is playing up the new crown prince’s youth, presenting it as a positive change for the kingdom, which historically has been ruled by older monarchs. This may have a certain appeal among the Saudi people, three-quarters of whom are under the age of 35. But it is also a shock to the culture and system of a tribal nation that deeply values seniority.

Inopportune Times

The king realizes this is a risky move, which is one reason he reinstated previously withdrawn benefits for state employees. The government implemented austerity measures last September because of low oil prices and declining foreign exchange reserves. The measures included cuts to salaries and other benefits for public workers. In April, the king reinstated the allowances, likely prompted by a public backlash against the cuts. But on June 21, the king announced that public workers would be paid the allowances they had missed out on since the measures were introduced, probably in an effort to gain public support as his son takes over as crown prince.

The government has been eager to show that the transition to a new crown prince has been smooth. It announced that the new crown prince’s appointment was supported by 31 of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, a body that approves successors to the throne. State TV also broadcast images of the outgoing crown prince blessing the new crown prince. It’s unlikely that this change will result in upheaval in the short term; the royal family would fear that any dissent from within the monarchy could add to the kingdom’s other social and economic challenges. But resentment, coupled with fears that the young prince may not be prepared to deal with these challenges, are likely to cause some dissent among the ruling elite down the road.

For now, the kingdom’s other problems are much more pressing. The biggest threat to the Saudis’ stability is low oil prices, since the country’s economy is so heavily dependent on the energy sector. After having risen to roughly $58 per barrel at the beginning of the year, the price of crude is at a nine-month low at roughly $43 per barrel. In the past few weeks alone, the price has dropped by almost $10 per barrel. The Saudis use oil revenue to pay public workers and maintain social cohesion. But given that oil prices are unlikely to rise to the levels that the Saudis need to pay for their expenses without dipping into their reserves, maintaining domestic stability will be hard.

In addition, a lot of attention has been given to an initiative called Vision 2030. Headed by Mohammed bin Salman, Vision 2030 would introduce major changes to the Saudi economy. But these changes would require a massive overhaul of the country’s political system, and this takes time – something that is in short supply in the kingdom.

The country is also facing challenges beyond its borders. Saudi Arabia has been forced into the impossible position of having to manage the increasing turmoil in the Arab world. It is also struggling with Turkey and the Islamic State for leadership of the Sunni Muslim world. In fact, as the recent dispute with Qatar shows, the Saudis do not even have effective control over the small bloc of countries included in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Saudi Arabia is also becoming more and more vulnerable to Iran and its Arab Shiite allies, who want to take advantage of the infighting among Arab states and non-state actors.

This is a very inopportune time for a major domestic shake-up. But as geopolitics teaches us, leaders seldom get to make decisions at opportune times.

Historically, the Saudi kingdom has been resilient. But it has never faced such daunting tests, both internally and externally. The kingdom has reached an impasse where the old ways of managing its affairs are not working, and embracing a new paradigm is extremely difficult. Leadership changes as radical as the one the king is engaging in only make matters worse.

U.S. Strategic Interests and the Rise of Prince Mohammed bin Salman

By Anthony Cordesman

It does not take much vision to predict that making Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the new Crown Prince, and removing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from any position of power, will lead to a flood of new speculation about the possible tensions with the Saudi royal family, the motives involved in changing the succession, and how the resulting changes will spill over into a host of changes in less important positions. 

It takes even less vision – just reading the reporting during one or two prior major changes in succession will provide all the necessary examples – to predict that the vast majority of this reporting will be pure speculation and wrong. Guessing about the Saudi royal family went from a national to an international sport at the time of Nasser, and the game – like all other forms of phantom sports leagues – is likely to continue indefinitely. This is particularly likely because the past shows that the full circumstances and facts behind many shifts within the Saudi royal family never do become fully known, and any really good conspiracy theory can live forever. 

In any case, what is done is done and America has far more serious priorities. What is far less speculative is the fact that Saudi Arabia is a key strategic partner of the United States at a time of great uncertainty, and finding the best ways to serve common strategic interests is already a critical challenge. 

Commando Raids on ISIS Yield Vital Data in Shadowy War

WASHINGTON — One late afternoon in April, helicopter-borne American commandos intercepted a vehicle in southeastern Syria carrying a close associate of the Islamic State’s supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The associate, Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, was a rare prize whom United States Special Operations forces had been tracking for months: a midlevel but highly trusted operative skilled in raising money; spiriting insurgent leaders out of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s besieged capital in Syria; and plotting attacks against the West. Captured alive, Mr. Uzbeki could be an intelligence bonanza. Federal prosecutors had already begun preparing criminal charges against him for possible prosecution in the United States.

As the commandos swooped in, however, a firefight broke out. Mr. Uzbeki, a combat-hardened veteran of shadow wars in Syria and Pakistan, died in the gun battle, thwarting the military’s hopes of extracting from him any information about Islamic State operations, leaders and strategy.

26 June 2017

*How Stable Is Saudi Arabia?

 Speculating about the future of Saudi Arabia has become one of the more common guessing games among Middle East experts. Since the onset of the Arab uprisings in 2011, if not before, doubts about the political stability of Saudi Arabia have been raised with almost metronomic frequency. The concern is understandable: Saudi Arabia is a major energy supplier and any sustained interruption caused by internal turmoil would likely roil markets around the world. Serious unrest, moreover, could undermine stability elsewhere in the Middle East and cause profound alarm throughout the Muslim world over the security of holy sites.

Yet for all the confident assertions that it is just a matter of time before the kingdom succumbs to internal unrest and even regime collapse, Saudi Arabia has remained one of the most stable countries in the region. It has weathered a major downturn in global oil prices and reduction of state revenues, managed what could have been a contentious royal succession, and prosecuted a costly military intervention in neighboring Yemen without facing major domestic blowback, all contrary to the expectations of many outside observers. So is Saudi Arabia the proverbial dog that regularly barks but never bites? Or is there only a false sense of calm for now, before the underlying risks of instability suddenly materialize? Put differently, how worried should we be?

25 June 2017

Crisis in the Gulf: Implications for India

Ashok Sajjanhar

The Persian Gulf region was shaken by a massive political earthquake on June 5, 2017 when four Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt – announced that they were severing all political, economic and diplomatic links with Qatar, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The four countries were soon joined by Libya, Yemen and even Maldives. However, Kuwait and Oman, the remaining two members of the GCC, refused to follow the lead of Saudi Arabia in this regard.

Saudi Arabia said that it took the decision because of Qatar’s “embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region”, including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and groups supported by Iran. Qatar vehemently denied that it supports terrorism, arguing that it has assisted the United States in the War on Terror and in the ongoing military intervention against ISIS.

While the immediate causes of the drastic action are not clear, problems between Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been brewing for some time. Tensions between Qatar and its Arab neighbours have grown in recent years as part of a tussle for regional leadership. Qatar, buoyed by its huge earnings from the production and export of gas, has been trying to carve out a comparatively independent foreign policy that is at variance with the approach of Saudi Arabia and other major Arab nations. Qatar's influential television channel Al Jazeera, which is extensively viewed in the region, often adopts positions that are critical of Saudi Arabia. In April 2017, Qatar was involved in a deal with militants in Iraq and Syria to secure the return of 26 Qatari hostages, including royals. What apparently outraged Saudi Arabia and UAE was the large amount of about USD one billion paid by Qatar to secure the deal. Subsequently, on May 27, Qatar’s Emir called up Iranian president Hasan Rouhani to congratulate him on his re-election. The call was seen as a clear, public, defiance of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to create a united front against Iran, which latter it perceives as an implacable foe.

** Saudi Arabia's 'Mr. Everything' Is Now Crown Prince, Too

After months of speculation and palace intrigue, Saudi King Salman shook up the kingdom's line of succession on June 21 by naming his powerful son, Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince and removing all titles from Mohammed bin Nayef, the former crown prince. This is the second time Salman has overhauled the line of successionand the Saudi government since taking the throne in January 2015. The move is a controversial one, considering it cuts large and powerful segments of the royal family out of the succession plan. And should the young bin Salman ascend the throne, it could mean Saudi Arabia will be ruled for six decades by father and son.

Today's announcement has several important implications. But none is as important as the amount of trust being placed in bin Salman, who has already amassed enough power to be dubbed "Mr. Everything" by some Western governments. As bin Salman has concentrated his power, bin Nayef has been increasingly sidelined. Today's reshuffle will only remove him from power even further, ousting him from his position at the head of the Interior Ministry and from all other leadership roles.

The Next King

If bin Salman becomes king, he will be the youngest Saudi ruler in modern history, able to potentially preside over decades of policy and reform in the kingdom. The crown prince is known for spearheading the country's economic reform, an agenda he will likely continue to push, and he may well turn his attention to effecting social change as well.

24 June 2017

*** The Race to the Iraqi Border Begins

By Omar Lamrani

One of the best ways to track Iran's priorities in Syria and Iraq is to follow the movements of one of its highest-ranking military leaders, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. In September 2016, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC's) elite Quds Force made an appearance south of Aleppo just before loyalist forces launched the final offensive that led to the critical city's capture. Seven months later, he was spotted in the northern Syrian governorate of Hama as loyalist troops, backed by Iran, geared up for a difficult fight with rebel forces on the outskirts of the provincial capital.

This month, Soleimani is on the move once again. On June 12 the elusive figure paid a visit to Iranian-led militia units on the border between Syria and Iraq, giving prayers of thanks for their recent victories in the area. His presence is telling of the newest phase unfolding in Syria's protracted civil war: the race to the Iraqi border.
The First to the Finish Line

As the Islamic State is slowly being driven out of Syria, its enemies are scrabbling to pick up the territory it leaves behind. Syrian rebels, supported by the U.S.-led coalition, are facing off against the government of President Bashar al Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, to wrest control of the extremist group's remaining positions from its weakened grasp. Yet despite having the same finish line in sight, each participant is driven by its own interests, and is willing to risk colliding with its rivals to secure them.

Israel, the Six Day War and the End of the Two-state Solution

By David Gardner

Donald Trump entered the White House promising to be ‘the most pro-Israel president ever’. This hyperbolic bombast gratified what is certainly the most right-wing Israeli government ever, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s crushing victory over Arab armies in 1967, and half a century of occupation of the West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem it has no plans to end.

President Trump, the self-described dealmaker, keeps hinting and tweeting he is on course to do ‘the ultimate deal’ that has eluded his predecessors: never spelt out but assumed to mean an Arab-Israeli peace encompassing a deal for the Palestinians, who have sought in vain the state proffered tantalisingly by the Oslo accords of 1993-95.

This most erratic of US presidents, meeting Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, in February, threw the international consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Oslo to the winds, saying that the two-state solution, meant to offer security to Israel and justice to the Palestinians, may not be the way to resolve it. ‘I am looking at two-state and one-state [solutions], and I like the one that both parties like,’ Trump said, to nervous chortles from Netanyahu and general bemusement.

Backgrounder: The Six-Day War

With the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War this month, we offer a quick review of work on the subject produced over the years by the Middle East Forum's staff and fellows, and by contributors to its flagship journal, Middle East Quarterly (MEQ).

The basic facts of the Six-Day War aren't really in dispute. In the face of a military buildup by Arab armies, bellicose threats by Arab leaders, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping (an act of war that cut off the Jewish state's access to the Red Sea), and other provocations, Israel struck first on June 5. Catching its enemies by surprise, Israel effectively destroyed Nasser's air force in the first hours, then defeated the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian armies in quick succession. By the end of the war it had captured the entire Sinai from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

The conventional wisdom is that the Six-Day War was more or less accidental in that Nasser did not want war. Led astray by Soviet misinformation and egged on by rival Arab leaders, he took the escalation a bridge too far, cornering Israeli leaders into seeing a "preemptive" strike as the only option.

But MEQ editor Efraim Karsh argues in the new Summer 2017 issue of MEQ that whatever specific triggers may have led to war on June 5, 1967, a "second all-out attempt ... to abort the Jewish national revival" was going to happen eventually given the Arab world's unwavering rejection of Jewish statehood, together with Nasser's pan-Arab ambitions and overconfidence.

23 June 2017

Mosul Old City Battle Goes House to House as IS Fighters Defend

by Reuters

Islamic State fighters defended their remaining stronghold in the Old City of Mosul, moving stealthily along narrow back alleys and slipping from house to house through holes in walls as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces slowly advanced.

The intensity of fighting was lower than on Sunday, when Iraqi forces announced the start of the assault on the Old City, a Reuters visuals team reported from near the frontlines.

The historic district, and a tiny area to its north, are the only parts of the city still under the militants' control. Mosul used to be the Iraqi capital of the group, also known as ISIS.

"This is the final chapter" of the offensive to take Mosul, said Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, senior commander in Mosul of Counter Terrorism Service.

The militants are moving house to house through holes knocked through inner walls, to avoid air surveillance, said Major-General Sami al-Arithi of the Counter Terrorism Service, the elite units spearheading the fighting north of the Old City.

“Now the fighting is going on from house to house inside narrow alleys and this is not an easy task,” he told state TV.

The Iraqi army estimates the number of Islamic State fighters at no more than 300, down from nearly 6,000 in the city when the battle of Mosul started on October 17.

What happens after the Islamic State is defeated in Iraq and Syria?

THE UNITED STATES is committed to defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but as that goal nears realization, another strategic question looms: What security order will replace it, and which of the outside powers enmeshed in the region will stand behind that order? The Trump administration doesn’t appear to have a strategy for that, but others clearly do — which helps to explain the incidents over the weekend in which the United States downed a Syrian government warplane , while Iran fired intermediate-range missiles from its territory at Islamic State targets in eastern Syria. 

Though the two incidents were nominally unrelated, they have a common cause: the drive by Iran and Russia, along with their Syrian and Iraqi Shiite clients, to dominate the space that will be left when the Islamic State is driven from its capital of Raqqa in eastern Syria, which is under assault from U.S.-backed Kurdish and Syrian Arab forces. At stake are both Syria’s oil-producing area to the south of Raqqa and a land corridor between Baghdad and Damascus that Iran aspires to control. Russia, for its part, hopes to drive the United States out of the region. 

22 June 2017

** Turkey Marches Ahead With Its Military Plans in Qatar

Though Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have cut ties with Qatar, touching off a diplomatic crisis in the Middle East, one friend has refused to abandon the small country on the Persian Gulf. Turkey's steadfast support of Qatar has stood out since the dispute began June 5. Not only has Ankara provided diplomatic and trade assistance to Doha, but it also has moved to expedite the deployment of Turkish forces to Qatar, a decision that will fortify the common ground forming between the two countries.
Building Stronger Security Ties

Though Turkey's parliament agreed to the deployment last week, the decision to base Turkish forces in Qatar dates back to a 2014 agreement between the two states. Turkey has already sent a limited number of troops to Qatar; according to several reports, between 100 and 150 troops have been stationed at a Qatari military base since October 2016. But these forces are only the vanguard of what is intended to become a more meaningful and permanent deployment. The Turkish military dispatched a three-person delegation on June 12 to coordinate the arrival of additional forces. The latest available information, however, indicates there are practical issues relating to the facility intended to host the Turkish troops that need to be resolved before they can arrive.

** For the Islamic State, Distraction Is Survival

By Kamran Bokhari

One of the Islamic State’s strengths is its ability to exploit the interests of those trying to defeat it. Sometimes, as they compete and maneuver for position against each other, they make it easy for the Islamic State. Other times, the Islamic State has been able to deepen divisions by staging attacks and compelling certain actors to retaliate, angering other players in the region. It’s one way the Islamic State has been able to frustrate its enemies’ efforts against it.

Two developments in Syria over the weekend illustrate how the competition among these enemies has benefited IS. First, Iran launched ballistic missiles at IS facilities in eastern Syria in response to the IS attacks in Tehran on June 7. Second, the United States shot down a Syrian army warplane that was attacking Kurdish-led forces fighting the Islamic State, the first time the U.S. has downed a Syrian plane since it got involved in the conflict. Russia has since announced it would no longer use the “deconfliction” communication channel that was set up to help Russian and U.S. forces avoid direct conflict in their Syrian operations. Both of these developments need to be unpacked separately.

Iran Strikes in Syria

On June 18, Tehran fired six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles at IS facilities in the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen. This is the first time Iran has fired missiles into Syria. Iran last conducted missile strikes in 2001 in Iraq, where it targeted a rebel group known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. A spokesman for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which runs the country’s ballistic missile program, told state TV that while these missiles targeted IS they were also designed to send a message to others, namely the Saudis and the Americans.

21 June 2017

** How Muslim Extremists Exploit European Liberalism

Robert G. Rabil

Coming on the heels of the Manchester terror attack targeting British youth, the recent terrorist act in London is the last in a series of attacks across Europe that displayed the eerie savagery of violence carried out in the name of Islam. The Islamic State claimed credit and proclaimed that a detachment of its fighters carried out the terror attack. British prime minister Theresa May condemned the attack and assertively declared that “enough is enough.” She vowed to undertake a sweeping review of Great Britain’s counterterrorism strategy, even though the British security apparatus has formidable surveillance and security laws. This provoked a national debate about balancing civil liberties and security.

The problem, however, goes beyond fending off terror acts or revising counterterrorism strategies. The problem is about how to reverse decades-long policies of promoting unbridled multiculturalism that allowed the ideologies of Islamism and Salafism to permeate an inchoate European Muslim society, thereby militating against the creation of an European Islam free from the ideological baggage exported by conservative and Islamist individuals, groups and governments. The extent to which this problem has been difficult to gauge lies squarely in the haughty—yet self-loathing—contemporary thought of the West, which has prevented a civilized and honest critique of Islam’s inability to reform its perversions.



Dear Readers:

You may be aware that the Syria War entered a new stage in the past week or so. Things are looking up for the combined forces of the Syrian Army, with assistance from the Russian armed forces and also Hezbollah. Syrian tanks made a Rommel-like “lightning move” eastward all the way to the Iraqi border, cutting off ISIS/Daesh units from their Iraqi supplies. While this was going on, the pro-American so-called “coalition forces” entered Raqqa. Like the wiki says, Raqqa, a strategic Syrian city located on the Northeast bank of the Euphrates River, was captured by ISIS in 2013 and became the capital of their Islamic State.

The Headchoppers had their day in the sun, but now their time is almost up. It’s not an issue of “if”, but of “when” and “who”. And the race is on: the Americans seeking to gain some advantage and carve up the Syrian carcass to their own advantage. On the other side: the Syrian government and their Russian allies seeking to keep Syria together in one piece, while making some internal adjustments to benefit, for example, the Kurds.

To help explain the highly fluid military situation, I have this piece from VZGLIAD, by military/intelligence reporter Evgeny Krutikov. The headline reads:

The Battle for ISIS Capital City will Prove a Tough Slog for the Americans

The lede paragraph translates thusly:

The Syrian Opposition, with the assistance of the U.S., hastily entered Raqqa, the capital of ISIS, in an attempt to overtake the pro-government Syrian forces. For the Americans it is a matter of principle to overtake Assad’s forces and to not allow the Shiites to gain control over the borders of the Syrian Arab Republic. The question now is: Will they succeed? It is not excluded that the Americans will find an unpleasant surprise waiting for them.

Countries That Could Work With Iran For Developing Chabahar: India, China And Japan Competing For Investment – OpEd

By Madjid Raoufi

Although the first Indian vessel, which set out from the country’s Kandla port, has already berthed at Iran’s Chabahar port, Indians have not worked fast enough to develop the Iranian oceanic port. China, which is now focused on developing Pakistan’s Gwadar port, also has an eye on Chabahar and Iran’s presence in Beijing’s “One Belt and One Road” initiative. Japan is another serious actor, who is openly interested in taking part in development of Chabahar. The question is which one of these three countries will be of priority to Iran for cooperation in development of Chabahar port and the country’s eastern rail routes?

One year after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Iran and signed a “historic” deal for development of Iran’s Chabahar port, he paid a visit to Gujarat province saying that Iran and India would soon be connected through a marine route from Kandla to Chabahar. A few days later, the first container ship, which had set out from Kandla in India, berthed at Shahid Kalantari port of Chabahar. However, the outlook delineated in past years for development of Chabahar and a transport corridor from Chabahar to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Caucasus, Russia and Europe, as part of the North-South Transportation Corridor, goes far beyond this historic and symbolic development.

20 June 2017

** After Raqqa, How the US Must Adapt to ISIS


What to do when ISIS goes underground, and other things to worry about after the caliphate falls. 

The last bastions of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria – Mosul and Raqqa –could be liberated within months. But they will remain perilous places, and in some respects, the fall of Raqqa will complicate the conflicts that swirl through the region.

How might the U.S. have to adapt to ISIS after Raqqa?

ISIS GOING UNDERGROUND: Military analysts have already warned that the elimination of the Islamic State as a territory governed by ISIS will not end the group’s armed struggle. Its leaders spent years underground and can revert to a covert terrorist campaign. Even while pummeled and pushed back by Iraqi, Kurdish, and other ground forces backed by coalition air power, ISIS demonstrated its capability to simultaneously carry out terrorist operations in Baghdad and Damascus as well as in neighboring countries. That will continue and may escalate.