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Sunday, 21 May 2017 14:45

Russia keeping a close eye on Algeria

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The news about establishing safe zones in Syria, the leadership reshuffle in Palestine’s Hamas and the Abu Dhabi meeting of two Libyan leaders, Khalifa Hifter and Fayez al-Sarraj, stole the limelight from the Algerian parliamentary elections held May 4, making them seem a more or less mundane event unworthy of much media scrutiny.

True, one can confidently say on seeing the unchanged post-election landscape two weeks later that there was hardly anything sensational about the campaign. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN) and the National Rally for Democracy (RND), the two major parties in the presidential coalition, retained their majority; moderate Islamists’ share of seats remained almost intact, and other traditional competitors predictably lagged far behind.

Still, Moscow keeps Algerian developments on its radar screen — especially in light of what is happening in neighboring countries.

For Russia, Algeria has been a vital Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region partner for technical-military cooperation dating back to the 1960s, when the Soviets helped Algeria equip its newly created army. Algeria has been a major Russian market for wheat and metal, while Russian energy companies have been developing Algeria’s hydrocarbon mining and building pipelines since at least the mid-2000s.

So Algeria’s election held interest for Moscow and revealed some trends.

One of these trends was the low turnout, which was just above 37% (unless overseas constituencies are included, then the figure was 38.25%). The Algerian government’s attempts to galvanize voters into casting ballots did not bear much fruit, even when Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal promoted the election as he toured the country.

Citizens’ disillusionment with the country’s economic situation has simmered for years. In 2007, as many as 14.4% (965,064) of the ballots were disqualified, with the figure increasing to 18.2% (1.7 million) in 2012.

Earlier this year, falling oil and gas prices triggered an economic crisis, driving people to the streets in protest. The economy could have produced a disastrous result at the polls. But Robert Parks, a seasoned expert on Algeria, was right when he claimed Algeria has not yet faced a crisis of the presidential regime. A decline in electoral participation has been characteristic of recent regional campaigns as well as national ones.

However, the number of disqualified ballots this year — more than 2 million (24.47%) — can be interpreted as a sign of some crisis, even if it is not in full swing yet. Some people feel sidelined and excluded from participation and abstain from voting. Some people go through the process of voting but intentionally deface or otherwise invalidate their own ballots, demonstrating mistrust of the current government and the opposition alike.

Many Russian experts on the MENA region believe the decision of all the major parties to join the race — which distinguishes the 2017 electoral campaign from the one in 2012 — reveals the parties’ complete integration into the highly consolidated political elite and desire to work within the constitutional framework.

To Russians, the problems the Algerian elections brought to light are reminiscent of the difficulties Russian society experienced during the September elections. Deputies of the State Duma, Russia’s lower legislative house, enjoyed the support of all the parties, which went almost unnoticed by ordinary citizens. Voter turnout was 13% lower than in 2011.

Both cases prove that the political establishment has completely divorced itself from the concerns of ordinary people, with the latter unable to find effective representation and disillusioned with all political ideologies.

France and the United States have witnessed similar situations. France’s recent presidential runoff saw a fourfold increase in blank and spoiled ballots over the first round. US President Donald Trump’s electoral success was widely interpreted as a rebellion against political elitists.

Thus, the developments can be referred to as part of a global trend. In fact, nobody knows what most of the world’s population wants. Nor do people have a clear vision of their own aspirations. Consequently, the Algerian parliament represents the interests of the estimated 6.4 million people who actually voted, out of more than 41 million citizens. Central governments face a clear credibility gap all across the world.

Waning support for the FLN and the RND’s growing popularity deserve special attention. As Russian pundits believe, this trend testifies to the strength of former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, one of the RND’s founders and the party’s current leader. Ouyahia is considered one of the most likely candidates for the presidency, backed by his considerable government experience and credibility among most establishment forces, his moderate but pro-national stance and a fluent command of Tamazight (which was recognized last year as an official language of the country).

At the same time, Algeria’s political system allows little scope for accurate predictions. Regardless of further developments and Ouyahia’s role, it is evident that any government in power will have to press ahead with some unpopular reforms, which, in their turn, will require confidence-building measures among the people. Making progress in foreign policy issues would help with that greatly, especially regarding Western Sahara, the Algerian-Moroccan relationship and Libyan issues.

Algeria shelters an estimated 165,000 Sahrawi refugees, the indigenous people of Western Sahara — a disputed territory claimed by Morocco.

Morocco left the African Union more than three decades ago when the union recognized Western Sahara’s independence. Morocco recently rejoined the AU, which Algeria takes as a sign that Morocco also will acknowledge Western Sahara — but more likely it will only mean Morocco will have a louder voice on the continent and will perhaps gain better cooperation from other countries. The Moroccan royal family’s strong international positions leave little room for fence-mending on Algeria’s terms.

Therefore, working on the Libyan issues looks to be the most logical play.

In this context, the May meeting of representatives of Libya’s neighboring countries — which brought together the foreign ministers of Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt — comes into sharp focus, as does a subsequent security-related conversation among Sarraj, Sellal and Abdelkader Messahel, Algeria’s minister for Maghreb, African and Arab affairs.

Nevertheless, when Algeria’s activity is appreciated by Tripoli, it raises the ire of the rival government in Tobruk, which backs the “renegade general” Hifter. This situation is illustrated by the House of Representatives meeting during Messahel’s recent trip to southern Libya, where he was met with howls of outrage.

The response seems to have been conditional upon the differences between regional stakeholders — pro-Qatar Algeria and largely pro-Saudi Egypt — as well as the split state of affairs in Libya. Russia, backed by its partners and maintaining close relations with Hifter’s Libyan National Army and Algeria, could help soften Tobruk’s and Algeria’s stances toward each other, which would benefit all the North African countries.



Initially published by Al Monitor: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/05/russia-monitor-algeria-north-africa-economy.html#ixzz4hiGfE5NE

Fighting terrorism by the military means has always required a surgical precision and in-depth understanding of people and forces that take part in a local conflict. A well-known French expert on Islamic studies Gilles Kepel in 2000s explained a model of counter-terrorist activity that can still be applied for modern conflicts. According to this model if a responsive strike against Islamists is carried out without decent planning and leads to the casualties among the civil population, the civilians will start to sympathize terrorists, creating an impasse for conflict resolution.

Let’s imagine that the provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor are freed from the Islamic State. It does not matter who will free them - Syrian Democratic Forces alliance with direct US military support or pro-government forces operating together with the SDF to claim some territories in these provinces. We may also omit the topics, which may fuel the conflict and contribute to ISIS revival: partition of the territories, ethnic and confessional misbalance and the timeframe for political settlement in Syria. It is just important that the East of the country is free from ISIS thanks to the joint effort that somehow resembles a broad international coalition, which Kremlin has long been pleading to create.

So, it may seem that the mission is accomplished – Russia and US have achieved their goals and can go on arguing which one of them has defeated ISIS. But will it mean that the terrorism has been obliterated? In order to answer this question some other issues should be cleared out…

Inconvenient questions

The military intervention in Syria has predictably divided Russian public into three main camps: those who are firmly in favor or against the participation of the country in the conflict and those who have a shifting position. The last group is mainly represented by the middle-class.

The partisans of the operation are sure that Russia has a long-term strategy in the Middle East, knows how to get out from the Syrian impasse and they approve of Kremlin’s decision to wage war against all the militants in Syria that is required “for us and for the whole world”. They discard any criticism towards Assad regime as “the Western conspiracy” and believe that Russia may risk being attacked on the rear by the remaining “other terrorists” if it engages ISIS in the East. They do not acknowledge that these “other terrorists” may be an opposition to the regime and consist of Syrians.

The opinions of the critics of the pro-government media are portrayed as cries of madmen, who are condemning unreasonably high military spending and losses, participation of Wagner Group, imperial ambitions and interests not only in Syria, but also in Egypt and Libya.

Ordinary Russian citizens who are fed by the media which blames everything on US and Gulf countries, speak about “fighting terrorism early on”, “ruining the plans of the damned West” and about the resolution to support the strategic allies – Damascus and Teheran. Although sometimes Afghanistan is recalled, Russians always comfort themselves by saying that it is a completely different case – the scale of involvement was different and the losses were significantly higher.

It is not worth an effort to participate in this argument. As always the truth is somewhere in between. But the qualified experts prefer not to risk their career and begin their publications or speeches on Syria by mentioning “the machinations of the West” and the terrorist nature of the entire Syrian opposition to please the ruling regime.

For instance, analysts in Russia should avoid the following topics:

  • Why Russia launched its operation in the end of 2015 when the Syrian army was loosing and decided to side first with Shabiha and then with Iranian Shia International, letting them into the country?
  • Whether the late intervention of Russia into the Syrian crisis is directly related to the Ukrainian crisis and to the willingness to impose a “dialogue on an equal footing” on the West?
  • Whether Kremlin projects its perception of Russian opposition on the Syrian one and whether the list of the moderate groups is related to the forthcoming presidential elections in Russia?
  • Why did Assad regime fuel Jihadi ideas among Sunnis during the Iraqi war and send “green buses” with militants from Aleppo and Damascus provinces to Iraq through border town of Al-Bukamal?
  • Why did Assad regime free the most extremist imprisoned Islamists at the beginning of peaceful demonstrations?

If these issues are considered, Russia will have to admit that at first Damascus supported Islamists and suppressed healthy opposition, ignored Russia’s requests for extradition of extremists who fled to Syria after the war in the North Caucasus, and then took part in islamization of protest movements. For Russia it is better not to comment on the cooperation of Russia with Free Syrian Army in 2015 and on the bombardments of Liwa al-Haqq in Raqqa and Jabhat al-Nusra - in Deir ez-Zore, while these groups were not actually present in these cities.

So, it is very inconvenient to comment on these issues and it is in fact useless – any honest answers will be silenced by the wave of criticism. It is trendy to fight terrorism now. Thus, many Russian experts and media wrote about the “fall of ISIS in Aleppo” in the end of 2016 without even suspecting that the first ones to engage ISIS in Syria were the FSA units in Aleppo but not the Kurds in Kobani.

Syrian counter terrorism

From the very beginning of the military operation Moscow in fact refused to acknowledge the civil character of the war in Syria, depicting the conflict only as a struggle of Damascus against terrorists. Unfortunately, this idea became hardwired in Russian expert community and represents one of the gravest mistakes in the fight against terrorism made by Russia. The truce achieved in December despite the regime’s attempts to suppress the enclaves of opposition is surely the correct way to counter terrorism. However, even in the event of successful negotiations in Astana and the armistice preservation, there is still a risk that these measures will not be sufficient to resolve the real causes of the conflict.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that Syria and Iraq resemble communicating vessels (the so-called Wilayat al-Furat). And not only on the ground, but also underground: the Syrian-Iraqi border is crossed by the system of tunnels that was upgraded during Saddam Hussein rule. It is a perfect hiding place and R&R base for ISIS militants in case they lose Mosul and Raqqa.

Causes of “disease”

Despite the accusations of the US for ruining the balance in the region by launching the invasion in Iraq in 2003 that eventually led to the creation of ISIS and Sunni resistance, Syria is also partially responsible as it was a hiding place for many leaders of the would-be monster. Syria was a favorable country for the growth of then “Islamic State of Iraq” not only because of its refugee camps for the Iraqis but for the following reasons:

  • Extremely violent means of protest repressions during the first eight months of the Syrian uprising;
  • Ideological vacuum: a large share of Syrian Sunni were politically passive and lacked religious education;
  • Confessional nature of the war waged by the Alawite Assad’s regime and his elites against the Sunni population, which became a gift for Al-Qaeda and later for al-Nusra, ISIS and other groups.

Instead of concentrating its efforts against Al-Qaeda and ISIS from the very beginning, Damascus focused on eliminating ideologically moderate armed groups thus augmenting the opportunities for extremist organizations. The strengthening of Shia groups just upgraded the scale of war.

The fight against Al-Qaeda and ISIS

The leadership of Al-Qaeda set a course to infiltrate Syrian revolutionary movement back in 2012 and used ideological pressure on poor Sunni population to achieve this goal. Generally speaking, Al-Qaeda’s involvement in Syria was not limited to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. For instance, the exit of Jund al-Aqsa (then Sarayat al-Quds) in 2013 from al-Nusra when the latter confronted ISIS on the North of Syria, was conceived to assure the influx of foreign Mujahedeen to Idlib and Hama. In this sense, the religious rhetoric of Ahram al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam largely prevented Syrians from joining international al-Nusra and Islamic state. Nevertheless, in the context of struggle with the regime in the West al-Nusra gained a reputation of the main military movement participating in the large-scale opposition operations. The rebranding of al-Nusra into Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and its divorce with Al-Qaeda was supposed to dissolve it among other fractions and make it an exclusively local movement. This new image was presented mainly for the Syrians themselves.

Unfortunately, Russian airstrikes, which continued the strategy of Damascus and Teheran, led not to the dispersion of the opposition but to consolidation of radical and moderate movements and to enforcement of al-Nusra by more than 3-4 thousands new Syrian recruits. So, the situation is aggravated by the fact that al-Nusra became a movement with a Syrian majority.

It seems that the IS will retain its capacity of the international terrorist organization, even in the event of the defeat in Syria and Iraq. Firstly, due to the spread in more than 20 countries they will still be able to maintain the brand of a “state”. And the independence of the branches of the parent company makes the situation more difficult. Secondly, the experience of the survival of Al-Qaeda after the defeat in Afghanistan tells that a relatively small area is needed to lead terrorist operations form "safe haven".

But the experience of Iraq shows that even a few dozen experienced jihadists are able to revive an old structure. In these conditions, reactionary methods should be replaced by a long-term counter-terrorism strategy.

Saudi Arabia is ready for US President Donald Trump’s visit amidst mounting concerns about his temperament towards Arab and Sunni Muslim strategies to combat terrorism.

On his first overseas trip, Trump will seize this visit to cement ties with Arabs and Sunni Muslims in a bid to shove aside Iran, a rival for Sunni Muslims as he claimed on many occasions.

With Saudi preparations to dazzle the American president for his visit to Riyadh, where King Salman, his Crown Prince  and Minister of Interior Mohammad bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammad bin Salman try hard to prove to Trump that Saudi Arabia is the center of influence in the region as there will be a meeting on the tripartite summits for the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism which groups officials and officers from the concerned Muslim and Arab states along with the Americans.

The importance of the visit stems from the accompanying delegation which includes amongst others the National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, at a time many Saudi analysts believe that “Trump will not come to Riyadh because he loves us. The Gulf and Muslim leaders will not come to Riyadh because they love him. The common interests of these international leaders are what bring them together in Riyadh including issues ranging from terrorism to rekindling U.S. ties post-Obama.”

The other topics on his agenda are Iran and Syria as Riyadh has hailed Trump's rigid rhetoric on Iran regarding the nuclear deal. Other analysts from Saudi believe that such a visit would restore what Obama ruined during his tenure, describing Trump’s electoral campaign slogans against Muslims as mere propaganda.

The summit between Trump and Saudi royals will helps Saudis build on the visit to display that Saudi Arabia is an earnest honest reliable and credible partner in the war on terror and is sincere to fight radicalism.

With all eyes on the American president’s visit, the most of the regional moves currently being made by the US in the Middle East region which include the Eager Lion military exercises in Jordan aim to declare war on terrorism and those who support them, entailing drying up terrorists’ financial resources and criminalizing radical factions.

This summit comes after a closed door meeting in Washington DC early May between some Arab countries and the Americans regarding the coming scenario in the region starting from the Arab-Muslim-American Summit in Riyadh and the military drills in Jordan which would be a sign for Iran on the eve of its presidential elections.

The summit would result in imposing financial sanctions on the some Iranian figures, supporters and sympathizers around the world. Amongst the moves will be further measures to monitor money transfers to create difficulties for it Iranian leadership in financing its political and military structures in Syria and Iraq.

The Summit in Riyadh will also close the curtain on the war on Al-Nusra Front and Daesh in line with Astana agreement which delegated this mission to liquidate these factions to the moderate Syrian opposition factions backed by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Regarding Daesh, the terrorist faction has lost Mosul strategic locations and the war on Raqqa to liberate it from this terrorism group will start soon shortly after mid-Ramadan through the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The war will start once there is adequate number of American tanks and armored vehicles. That explains why the Americans approved the decision to arm the Kurds with heavy artillery.

Once terrorist in Syria and Iraq are destroyed, there will be no reason for any Iranian presence in both countries, thus, a new economic war will start on Iran accordingly if it refuses to withdraw from both countries.

This is also on the agenda of the summit between Arabs and Trump. Will this lead to a future war in the region?

What American analysts are gleeful about is that the visit aims to send powerful messages from the new president to Sunni countries that after 8 years of strained ties under former president Barack Obama, a new page has been opened with an announcement of setting up an Arab NATO led by the US and funded by the countries of the region.  

By Maria Dubovikova and Shehab Al Makahleh

After shuttle visit of some officials from Syria and of Jordan to a number of capitals along with meetings in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Rejeb Erdogan in the aftermath of a tripartite meeting of ministers of defense of Syria, Russia and Iran in Moscow early April, 2017, the prospects to establish safe zones under the supervision of three guarantors of a truce in Syria - Russia, Turkey and Iran are at stake as chances of success are in the offing to cease the 6 year long war in the country, which incurred a death toll of 400,000 and displacement of more than 11 million people.

Some regard that the agreement, signed by the representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey in the city of Astana which provides for the establishment of areas of "easing the escalation" in Syria in implementation of a plan presented by President Vladimir Putin after a phone call with American President Donald Trump to restore Geneva roadmap to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis, would be fruitful if the concerned parties are committed and if the memorandum is applied literally. This would be successful to uncover those who are against reaching a real and true peace truce in the country which are Daesh and Al Nusra or the so-called Al Sham Liberation Organization (Ahrar Al Sham).

After the approval of the Astana memorandum to set up four 'security areas' or what is geopolitically known as safe and buffer zones - in Syria, the implementation depends on the areas that will be included as per the map which will be announced by June 4.

The memorandum stipulates that there should be four safe zones with check points and points of observations near the borders of low-tension zones or buffer zones which are labelled as ''de-escalation zones''.

Though the opposition members have not approved the document and walked out of the meeting, the three guarantors, mainly Turkey which has very close ties with both Daesh and Nusra fighters will help set up these zones in Syria to pave the way to restore peace and stability before the major air-strikes on Daesh in Eastern parts of Syria and Western parts of Iraq start this summer at a comprehensive level.

The memorandum stipulates that there should be four safe zones with check points and points of observations near the borders of low-tension zones or buffer zones which are labelled as ''de-escalation zones''.

The most important point in this document is the literal text, which stipulates that "the three guarantors of this agreement must assist the Syrian government forces and the armed opposition in organizing and supporting the armed forces and their affiliates, as well as forming a working group within five days to establish the safe areas."This paragraph means that the "moderate" armed factions are to join the Syrian armed forces efforts in combatting and fighting Daesh and Ahrar Al Sham. This is a major political and military makeover in the Syrian crisis, which gives credit to the Syrian regime.

Some Jordanian sources believe that the Astana memorandum provides for a halt to hostilities between the military opposition and Syrian armed forces in these 'safe zones' where ceasefire will be effective as of May 6, 2017. The memorandum is valid for six months, extendable for another six months.
The four 'safe zones' encompass province of Idlib and some parts of Lattakia, Aleppo, Hama and Homs, Reef Damascus or the so-called al Ghuta or Damascus Vicinity, Dera’a and Quneitra by the borders with Jordan. The inclusion of Dera’a and Quneitra was the main one as it is of great concern to both Jordan and Israel due to the intensive presence of terrorist fighters in these two areas along with Hizbollah and Iranian forces.
The signs of the success of this memorandum were uttered by UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura who called the memorandum ''important, promising and positive, a step in the right direction to deescalate the conflict''. The chances of success of the agreement are reasonable because alternative options are disastrous, and the Syrian people are looking forward for a sigh of relief and a breakthrough for their conflict after six years of killing and destruction. However, there are chances to "sabotage" the agreement through a continuum of arming and funding these terrorist groups.

On April 22, the Russian Federation Council — the upper chamber of the Russian parliament — stated that Moscow could supply Damascus with air defense systems “on a priority basis.” However, no specifics were provided. A day before the statement was issued, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad noted that Syria and Russia were holding talks on new arms deliveries, including air defense systems.

As early as April 7 (shortly after the US airstrike on Syria’s Shayrat air base in retaliation for Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people), Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told the media that Russia would soon help strengthen Syria’s defense systems to shield the infrastructure. 

If approached critically, the statements can be taken with a grain of salt. Bolstering Syria’s air defense doesn’t benefit Russia. Rather, Russia should use the threat of US airstrikes to pressure Damascus and Tehran to work toward a political solution and should also take advantage of Syria’s dispersed aircraft to control the Syrian air force. At the same time, Russia's military and pundits refuse to recognize that Tehran, by becoming involved in the battles for Wadi Barada and East Ghouta, derailed the struggling negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, under the far-fetched pretext that it was fighting Jabhat Fatah al-Sham in places where the group doesn’t even operate or has very few soldiers. That action provoked moderate opposition groups to join jihadi group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, so that Syria's pro-government forces would release their grip on opposition enclaves outside Damascus.

However, it is hard to say what lessons the Kremlin has drawn from the results of Tehran’s actions. In a bid to impose "equal-footing dialogue" on Washington, Moscow has repeatedly changed its stance on Syria regarding both Russia’s military presence and the Syrian opposition. In October, Russian journalists reported on a possible dispatch to Syria of a Pantsir-S1, a short-range air-defense system designed to protect strategic military and civil targets. Under the pretext of the potential for American strikes, Moscow may expand its previously "behind-the-scenes" steps to strengthen the military infrastructure.

Any information about additional troops or the military’s use of Syria’s infrastructure is labeled media hype. Russian and American commanders prefer not to disclose details about their “boots on the ground,” and they deny any rumors or reports. In 2015, in his comments on the deployment of a Russian task force at Shayrat, Konashenkov emphasized "the absence of any operational need to establish additional military bases in Syria, whatever ‘couch strategists’ predicted.” Yet satellite imagery has repeatedly confirmed Russia is using Shayrat as a stage airfield.

Russia’s military presence in Syria goes beyond Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval base. Despite the international media’s and experts’ current keen interest in Khmeimim air base at Latakia, the country’s deployment of Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles there remains uncorroborated. However, there have been sightings of Iskander transporter erector launcher vehicles.

While some Russian experts are quick to highlight the sub-strategic and deterrent role of the missiles, especially given Turkey’s unpredictability, others are disposed to link the Iskander with a new modified combat support vehicle known by the Russian acronym MOBD. Although July 2016 commercial photos of the air base revealed two Iskander-M launch and transport vehicles at the site, the evidence is inexplicably overlooked.

Moreover, Russia’s activity at the Kuweires air base in Aleppo, recaptured by Syria's army in November 2015 and fully reopened in March 2017, stays under the radar. In early January 2016, rumors about increased Russian military presence at the airport and deployment of air defense forces started to circulate. Those reports were substantiated in July 2016. When comparing satellite pictures of different years, analysts saw both the prepared ground for installing S-200 launchers and their deployment in the northwestern part of the airport.

Russian specialists undoubtedly had rendered assistance, since the sophisticated systems were deployed in Homs and south of Damascus decades ago, back in Soviet times. Moreover, they cannot be redeployed elsewhere, given their concrete bases and the length of some cables, exceeding a kilometer. The Pantsir-S1 air defense systems were also detected at the site. However, it still remains a mystery whether MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft, able to fire long-range missiles, were deployed at the Kuweires base to patrol the area. An Al-Monitor source indicated that photos of the fighters were actually taken at the Kuweires base rather than at Khmeimim, and their redeployment was needed to improve the Russian air defense system.

The presence of Russian artillery units, special operations forces, military police and fighters from the private Wagner military group in other provinces does not imply that they are constantly based in an area. Russian military experts engage in combat for tactical purposes, and in most cases they train recruits and retrain the soldiers of the fifth corps of the Syrian army. They also deliver humanitarian aid and negotiate with the opposition. Al-Monitor has been informed that since the conflict between the pro-government Syrian forces and the Kurds erupted in August 2016, the Russian military has been acting as peacekeepers. Since then, Moscow has maintained a reconnaissance mission in Qamishli.

The Russian Aerospace Defense Forces and their effectiveness are extensively covered in the media, but helicopter activity at Kuweires, Shayrat and Tiyas air bases remains obscure. The tasks carried out by helicopter units include protection of the Khmeimim military base and support of Russian troops and Syrian pro-government forces as they combat Islamic State (IS) militants.

To complete the operation to retake the IS stronghold of Raqqa, the United States is building up its military presence and developing new airfields in Syria. It remains to be seen how many airfields will be built and how long they will remain, but the view in Russia is that after the provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor are liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition, the United States will be reluctant to abandon its military infrastructure in Syrian Kurdistan. In fact, that infrastructure would enable Americans to remain in the heart of the region and to annoy Erdogan by responding symmetrically to his threats of restricting US use of Incirlik Air Base.

Formally, the US military states that it uses the facilities in northern Syria only to deliver and handle the cargo dispatched to its anti-IS allies. However, at least two tactical missiles are known to have been launched against IS units with the high mobility artillery rocket system deployed in Kobani. The United States has two facilities in this area. One is on the territory of the former Lafarge plant, where AH-64 Apache, Black Hawk and CH-47 helicopters have been detected, and a new one with a landing strip is being constructed about 20 miles south of Kobani. Apart from Manbij, where US military forces halted the advance of the pro-Turkish Free Syrian Army in late February, Americans and their NATO allies use Ayn Issa facilities to train SDF fighters, as well as the Abu Hajar airport in the Rmelan area. US engineers are rebuilding the Taqba air base freed from IS in late March, transforming it into the Qayyarah-2, a logistics center similar to the Qayyarah base in Iraq.

Although the external players, in particular the United States and Russia, officially deny Syria is being divided into de facto zones of influence, the separate use of the military facilities testifies to the opposite. However, if the parties manage to channel the conflict onto a political track, Russian and US troops may act as guarantors of the Syrian-style Dayton Agreement.

Article published in Al Monitor: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/04/us-russia-staking-out-territorial-clout-syria.html

Responding to Trump’s cruise missiles attack on Syrian Shayrat airbase, the tripartite meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Syria was held today in Moscow. The meeting ended with a resounding ‘no’ to the Washington’s ‘Great Middle East Project’, and with equally resounding confirmation of already established policy of common fight against the plight of terrorism.

A week ago Trump made a sudden change in his proclaimed policy of de-escalation and international cooperation, and during a meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase near Homs, aiming to force Iran and Russia to cease supporting Syrian government.

The trilateral meeting of Lavrov, Zarif and Muallem in Moscow today proved Trump, his enemies and his foes wrong about Russian and Iranian responses to the strike. The meeting confirmed that there is no basis for rumors that Russia would abandon either of its two allies in Syria. Moreover, the three parties confirmed that Western media and political establishment are so deeply entangled in their own narratives that they are unable to see the reality.

The reality is that the legitimate Syrian Army under the command of the Syrian government led by its president Bashar al-Assad, with the support of Russia and Iran, is winning the war against various militant groups ― most of which are internationally designated terrorist groups. The strike has clearly not accomplished what it was made to look like. It did not stop or deter Russian or Syrian armed forces, but has only strengthened their resolve to obliterate the terrorists.

Moreover, the strike was conducted based on the information about a ‘chemical attack’ that the US military and intelligence, supposedly, have collected from online sources. The key information sources being al-Qaeda linked ‘rebels’, with dubious tweets and other social media posts that have appeared before the strike was reported to have happened―leading many analysts to conclude that the attack was another ‘false flag’ alike the Iraqi war WMD fabrication.

This was reiterated by Russian and Syrian officials, including yesterday’s interview with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Without verifying the data, without a proper, internationally approved investigation of the alleged attack, and moreover, without a UNSC approval – US once more unilaterally attacked a sovereign country, something that the world has witnessed few times before. Flagrant breach of the international law by the United States went unsanctioned again.

The message sent from the meeting back to the US and its allies is that three parties agree the US strike was "an act of aggression, a flagrant violation of the principles of international law and the UN Charter." The three top diplomats reiterated insistence on “the strict fulfillment by all without exception of those obligations set forth in the UN Security Council resolution, including full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic".

With the airbase strike Trump team hoped to send a warning message to Syrian president and his allies Russia and Iran that the US still plays a role in the Middle East. The tripartite meeting shows that the message has not accomplished the hoped for result in that target audience.

The offensive against terrorist and militant groups has only intensified in Syria, and at this juncture seems unlike to abate. The only thing that could change the balance of power on the ground in Syria would be another surprise from the American side. The rumors have it that tens of thousands of ground troops are being prepared to deploy in Syria. Should that happen things will get extremely messy and spillover effects will be felt in a number of countries in the region, as well as Europe.

However, to show that they mean business, Russians have intensified their diplomatic efforts on other fronts as well. Tomorrow Moscow is hosting another key figure for the resolution of the Syrian crisis, a Qatari foreign minister Mohammed al Thani. Not less important was the BRICS meeting in India’s Visakhapatnam, on April 12 – where special envoys for the Middle East have issued a similar communiqué strongly supporting sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.

Not to forget two other key players in the Syrian game of war – Turkey and Saudi Arabia, there is action on those fronts as well. Today, Russian and Turkish presidents have both called for an objective international investigation into the use of the chemical weapons in Khan Sheihoun in Syria, that served as a pretext for the US cruise missile attack. The unreliable one remains Turkish president who keeps switching sides. Following the alleged attack Turkey ‘confirmed’ the use chemical weapons and after the US strike on Syria offered its military support for further actions against its neighbor.

High level meeting headed by the Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko in which Russia reportedly counts on Saudi support, will be held in Riyadh from 15 to 17 April, during which the fight against terrorism will be discussed. The meeting follows early April discussions between the Saudi King and the Russian president on the importance of bolstering international joint efforts in the fight against terrorism.

Saturday, 15 April 2017 02:46

On Tillerson's visit to Moscow

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Rex Tillerson arrived to Moscow on Tuesday, having paralysed the traffic in Russia's capital, as police was blocking the roads to make a free way for his cortege, making blocked in traffic Muscovites send millions of curses in his address. The paralysis on the roads caused by Tillerson is very similar to the paralysis that has recently occurred in bilateral ties between the two powers, following the chemical attack in Idlib province reportedly committed by the loyal to Bashar al-Assad forces and then the strike of the SAA air base in Homs by the US «Tomahawk» missiles. The bilateral ties have reached the very low since the collapse of the Soviet Union and were about to pierce the bottom. The global uproar was at such extent that clash between the West and Moscow over Syria seemed inevitable. Russia has withdrawn from the the US-Russia air safety memorandum in SAR airspace and made it clear that in case of any further aggression threatening its safety will respond correspondingly to the challenge. Before the visit Rex Tillerson has sent Russia a kind of verbal ultimatum-like message to chose the side: with Iran and Assad or with the US. He was expected to bring to Moscow this ultimatums and tough rhetoric. But apparently he has lost them on his way to Moscow. The talks were finally constructive.

The global attention was engrossed to the visit of Tillerson. The allies were impressed by strong démarche of Trump all had been waiting from him, as it has put to an end the US Obama’s doctrine of relative non-involvement. So they expected that Rex Tillerson, will talk tough with Russia’s officials and make them sense how far the US can go and that it is in Russia’s interests to abandon the policy that brings it «to the wrong side of history». The «tomahawks» gave Tillerson a very strong position for talks. However, Russia has appeared to be not frightened, or at least demotivated, but concentrated and preparing for the tougher times and deeper confrontation, though keeping the doors for talks open. And the Secretary of State entered exactly those doors.

Tillerson held two much awaited meetings: with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and with President Vladimir Putin, meeting with whom was under the question mark until the last moment. The bilan is not so negative as it was expected to be. However, negative moments can hardly be overcome in the nearest foreseeable future.

Ukrainian issues apparently will not be resolved for a long time, until the US change position, so sanctions and damaged relations are likely to remain. In case of Ukraine only issue of Luhansk and Donbass may be settled in the framework of Minsk agreements. But Crimea, return of which to Ukraine was added by Trump's administration as an obligatory condition for ties normalisation, will literally never be returned to Ukraine, both because of historical justice and choice of the Crimean people, who have been struggling for independence from Ukraine since the very collapse of the Soviet Union. The history never lies.

Tillerson and Putin have failed to find the common ground in evaluations of the deadly chemical attack in Idlib province,situation in Syria in general and Russia's support of Assad. Support, which Russia continually rejects, explaining its role in Syria exclusively as of backing of the SAA forces in their fight with terrorists.

Russia keeps on demanding the investigation of the chemical attack while for the US and its allies it is an absolutely clear affair. Russia has once again blocked resolution in the UN Security Council that condemns regime of Assad for committing the atroce attack, calling for independent investigation. Previously Vladimir Putin has declared that Russia cannot take measures against regime of Bashar al-Assad until there are results of independent international investigations proving the guilt of the regime. Russia disapproves of the US strike on Syria, considering it a dangerous move to further destabilisation of the region and the world.

Tillerson's acknowledgement of the fact that the trust between the two countries is on  low level and that "the world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationships" is a promising sign, giving more or less positive perspective for the ties normalisation, or at least stabilisation. Another promising thing for the world's stability, is establishment of a bilateral working group, that is to "examine" the so-called "irritants" in relations between Moscow and Washington. Moreover, Russia is ready to come back to the bilateral air safety memorandum in Syria, thus somehow the sides have retreated  to the point before the "tomahawks" attack.

Russia and the US apparently have  very similar interests in many areas of the global agenda, as fight on terrorism, however in case of some of them they have totally different approaches to how to achieve the desired result. Even in case of Syria, both sides are eager to put an end to the brutal conflict, to see united and stable Syria, but they see the conflict settlement in different ways, if not to say opposite ones. Assad's family reign coming to an end is a clear fact for the US side and its allies, while Russia's side sees other scenarios. And to respond to Tillerson's appeal to sever ties with Assad and to work with the United States on different initiatives in the Middle East in a positive way, would mean for Russia a grave failure, geopolitical defeat of its six years conflict involvement and its policy. Russians either win or die but never give up – another important trait of Russian mentality coming from the depths of history. However Mr. Tillerson does not like historical excursus, though in case of Russia it is very useful to look deep into history books. Even being exposed by regime of Assad for many times during the six years of the bloody years, Russia will continue its general line, taken from the very beginning, as it is a matter of honor. Russia is sure that overthrow of Assad would bring to far more bloody and dangerous turbulences than his temporary remaining into power. And on this issue Washington and Moscow would hardly find a common ground unless the Syrians finally agree upon the launch of political transition and take the fate of their own country in their own hands.

Trump apparently was happy with the way how the visit of the US Secretary of State has passed. After having brusquely changed his views upon NATO to diametrically opposite ones, he claimed during his press-conference with Stoltenberg that "it would be a fantastic thing" if the US, Nato and Russia got along better. However at the same time he assumed that "it may be just the opposite".

So it is white, but can be black – it seems that it is characteristic feature of the current administration which have no clear understanding of not only what is exactly going on, but even lack understanding of what it actually wants. There is no strategy, and tactics is predetermined by momentary gusts, influenced by whoever. And it has such a scale, that the allies camp should be grateful for the US strike of Syria to a mother of three, Ivanka Trump, who was shocked by the photos of dead children.

In such circumstances it is practically impossible to predict how situation will develop both on bilateral and international tracks, as long as administration is absolutely unpredictable itself. Thus Russia following the Secretary of State visit will host trilateral meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of Iran, Syria and of its own, apparently forging their alliance stronger. Nothing makes Russia more stubborn and firm on its positions than abruptness of the US administration.

Eager to unlock the door to US-Arab cooperation on tackling regional issues following decades of disappointment with Washington’s lack of understanding of their concerns, three Arab leaders are engaging US President Donald Trump’s new administration over the next month.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met Trump at the White House on April 3; Jordan’s King Abdullah II will be in Washington on April 5; and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to follow later this month or in May. In their meetings, these leaders hope to discuss a number of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the civil war in Libya, and the threat posed by global terrorist organizations. 

In their meeting on April 3, Trump and Sisi discussed holding an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in the United States in June and renewing joint military exercises, which former US President Barack Obama halted in response to the Egyptian military government's bloody crackdown on protesters in 2013. The Egyptian leader, a former chief of the armed forces, sought logistical support from the United States for the Egyptian army in its fight against terrorism in the Sinai. Sisi would like Trump to focus more on ending the six-year-old civil war in Egypt's western neighbor—Libya. The two leaders also discussed regional issues, including Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. 

Abdullah, who hosted the Arab League Summit in Amman on March 29, is eager to solve a number of regional conflicts. Jordan is an important player in US-led military campaigns against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Abdullah will discuss with Trump the position of Arab leaders on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis—at the summit in Amman Arab leaders reiterated their support for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and opposed the construction of more settlements.

Jordan has playedan active role in Arab efforts to end the stalemate in talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The king himself has advocated for Palestinian national aspirations. On his previous visit to Washington in February, Abdullah sought to persuade the new US administration to reverse itsrhetoric about moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and to call for a freeze of settlement construction in the West Bank. In his meeting with Trump, Abdullah will likely reiterate Arab support fora two-state solution. Thus, this time, the royal visit aims to make Trump more sympathetic toward the Arab perspective on the Palestinian issue.

On his visit to Washington, Abbas is expected to ask Trump to seriously consider a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and will reiterate the Arab position that a two-state solution is impossible without East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. In his meeting with Trump, Abbas will likely argue that if there is no Palestinian state, no one in the Middle East, including Israelis, will enjoy the benefits of peace. Denying the Palestinians their right to statehood will only lead to a rise in the level of terrorism and extremism.

The Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement that on the sidelines of last month’s Arab League Summit, Abbas, Abdullah, and Sisi coordinated their positions on a number of regional issues and decided what they would discuss when they visit the White House.

These visits to Washington come at time when the greater Middle East is beset by numerous wars and political crises. Restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks based on the Arab Peace Initiative adopted at the Beirut Arab Summit in 2002, which calls for “land for peace,” is a high priority for the Egyptian and Jordanian governments, as well as the Palestinian people. 

The Oslo Accords initiated a period of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, delayed permanent status talks on Jerusalem, and paved the way for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Two decades later, however, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved and there is still no sovereign and independent Palestinian state. Obama—who believed that a multilateral effort, and not a single power, would be able to help reach a final settlement—was unable to resolve the crisis.

The Arab leaders want international powers to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis because they believe that if a peace agreement is reached it will resonate positively throughout the region and the world.

One positive outcome of the Amman summit was that it put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, overlooked for many years due to other conflicts and threats of extremism in the Middle East, back in the spotlight. In their final statement, Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Aboul Gheit reaffirmed a “commitment to the two-state solution and to the right of the State of Palestine to restore its sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.”

Will the Trump administration ask Israelis and Palestinians to prepare for talks in the near future? Will Jordan be in charge of liaising between regional actors and the United States in coordination with the United Nations (UN) and the Arab League? Will the forty-fifth US president become more sympathetic to Egypt’s agendas in Libya and in the Sinai? The answers to these questions remain to be seen.

What is known is that Abdullah, Sisi, and Abbas will do their best to convince Trump to begin taking more seriouslytheir ideas to resolve crises that threaten the security of Americans and Arabs alike.

For decades, Arabs have been justifiably disappointed with Washington’s stance on issues in the Middle East. The Jordanian, Egyptian, and Palestinianleaders are hoping to convince Trump to shift course and take Arab interests and concerns into account more than his predecessor did. If Washington fails to help the Arab world resolve its conflicts, there will be tectonic shifts toward radicalism, endangering governments in the region and opening the gate to even more chaos.

Initially published by Atlantic Council: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/arab-leaders-try-to-get-trump-s-attention 
Shehab al-Makahleh (Sam Mak) is a senior advisor at Gulf State Analytics with experience as a political advisor in the United Arab Emirates. IMESClub Member. 

Friday, 31 March 2017 01:13

The war on terror needs new strategies

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A close friend of mine lives and works in London. Her message to me on the day of the terrorist act near Westminster was: “I’m afraid to leave the office. Everybody is alarmed.

Terrifying. It’s London’s turn now.” The terrorists are moving the frontlines, step by step, closer to the homes of those who fight them, yet these countries still insist that evil will end with the fall of Raqqa. They are wrong.

The international community has been treating the symptoms of this deadly disease, not the disease itself. As a result, terrorism has mutated. Radicalism is common to all religions, but Islam’s image has been damaged the most by it. The core of Islamic radicalism is more political than religious, and initially grew due to dramatic regional turbulence, caused particularly by Western interventions without a proper understanding of the Middle East.

This created an environment conducive to the spread of dangerous ideas, turning religion into an instrument of manipulation. Muslims became pawns in a dangerous game, a brainwashed army without the capacity to think. The same is happening in Western societies due to the implementation of multiculturalism without proper integration policies.

Immigrants had to lose their old identity but did not get a new one. The same is happening with their children but on a new level. Cognitive dissonance and a feeling of injustice felt by the children of less fortunate immigrants can easily radicalize them. Thus Islam is proposed as an instrument of self-identification that can help them find their place.

Radical preachers and recruiters of terrorists, Daesh in particular, take advantage of this discontent in their propaganda and indoctrination. In particular, they hammer home the fact that Western countries have ruined the countries of immigrants, who are then humiliated and discriminated against by infidels when they have to move to the West. From the viewpoint of the target audience, that is exactly how it looks in many cases.

The new face of terrorism is far more dangerous than before, and can hardly be tracked by security services. It comprises lone wolves with minimal equipment, and small groups of mostly home-grown terrorists operating in European cities. It is time the West recognize this, tackle it properly, and come up with better policies for immigrant integration.

Despite Daesh taking responsibility for the attack in London, security services failed to find ties between the attacker and any terrorist organization. Daesh as a fading structure is using terrorist acts inspired, not directed, by it as a PR tool. The cheap attempt by some media to indirectly blame Saudi Arabia by saying the suspect visited the Kingdom at least twice is clumsy, because every Muslim wishes to visit Makkah at least once in their life.

So far, the international community has failed to formulate an appropriate strategy to counter extremist ideology. Separate local initiatives are woefully lacking, while the ideology of radical Islam is spreading, taking advantage of new technologies. Via social media, recruiters and propagandists come in direct contact with youths and brainwash them.

At the same time, moderate Muslims appear utterly incapable of playing a constructive role in preventing the spread of extremist ideology and the disfiguring of Islam’s image. They appear totally detached from the youth, unable to find common ground with them, and unable to use modern technologies as effectively as radicals.

Traditional security measures cannot guarantee much under the current circumstances without a full-scale strategy to counter the spread of extremism at all levels. It is high time the international community admit the mistakes made. Nothing ends in Raqqa. The longer the international community tries to make the war on terror a PR stunt, the more unavoidable radicalism and terrorism will become.

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1076236/opinion

Arab countries led by Jordan and Saudi Arabia have been pushing the Americans and the European Union to prepare for a framework agreement between the Palestine National Authority (PNA) and Israel based on a two-state solution, which ensures a Palestinian state in the areas occupied by Israel in 1967.

Though the laws of gravity are not in favor of Arab countries; yet, the endeavors of both Jordan and Saudi Arabia to solve the Arab Israeli conflict seem a preventive measure to avert any negative and destructive consequences that would arise if the stalemate between Palestinians and Israelis continue further with blurry hazy image.

Following the visits of King Abdullah II of Jordan and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia to Washington, Americans have planned to initiate a peace conference between Arab states and Israel to discuss the issue of stalemating talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis which have led to deadlock to their talks.

Arabs believe that a two-state solution is the cornerstone to end the conflict in the Middle East, and that Americans should play a key role to help both the Palestinians and the Israelis reach an agreement that paves the way to establish a Palestinian state in pursuance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

Any proposal to create one state where both nations live happily is refused by Arab countries and their leaderships and for sure by Palestinians as this means the Palestinians abroad will not be able to return to their country. This would be another impediment for future cooperation between Israel and Arab countries at trade and economic levels. All Middle Eastern countries are vulnerable to social unrest and extremism if the main reason for the conflict is not addressed and unresolved as further regional hostility to Israel would intensify and lead to a new type of skirmishes with new war players.

The Arab Summit in Jordan will highlight this issue and the committees concerned will be discussing it thoroughly in order to ink an accord between the PNA and Israel on the two-state paradigm with American and Russian direct mediation and honest brokerage. No super power is allowed to distance itself from this mission as the internal situation in Middle Eastern countries is exacerbating due to economic and social pressures which would lead to implosion in a number of states that would destabilize the whole region and lead to eccentric comprehensive war with new fighting techniques leading to street wars that no army would be able to stand.

The meetings of American President Donald Trump with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas aim to probe into means to launch a new pace conference to discuss further details, taking the concerns of both Netanyahu and Abbas into consideration.

However, the nonchalant comments and statements by American officials regarding the one-state or two-state solution complicated matters as both Palestinian and Israeli leaders cannot totally control their people and the situation if it aggravates. The one –state solution is rejected by a majority of Israelis as per a survey conducted in Israeli last February which showed that 55 per cent of Israelis and 44 per cent of Palestinians support the two-state solution for two people. The years of acrimony and hostility between both nations should come to an end and a new age of Arab-Israeli relationship should start as a new dawn has just started with a new American president who seeks to find Arabs and Israelis in one boat against Iran. Trump is currently working along with his administration on establishing a new paradigm for peacemaking, without abrasively encroaching upon Netanyahu’s views towards Arab Israeli conflict. In other words, any solution should be attuned with Israeli right wing opposition principles.

At present, we are at the threshold of either of a two-state solution or radicalism and wild-eyededness. Thus, the two-state paradigm should not be a fairy tale at Trumpland or a dream in the Palestinian Wonderland. Arab leaders are not more than ever aware that any further escalation in the Palestinian lands would lead to a third Intifada or uprising which will spill over oil on fire to turn the region into an erupt volcano as all Middle Eastern states with no exception are on “hot tin roof”.

The Arab Summit should reiterate that there is no solution to the regional conflicts without a Palestinian polity with its people to have the sole right of self-determination. This can be brokered by the two super powers: Russia and the USA. The sooner to resolve the conflict, the better it will be to foil all radical attempts to recruit more jihadis.

In 2002, Arabs offered their Peace Initiative in Beirut Summit based on full Israeli withdrawal to the borderline before 1967 and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Now, at Amman Summit they can recap this initiative with American support to create the proposed affinity of Sunni Arab countries and Israel to counter the increasing Iranian threats to Arab states.  This alliance would also help stand against extremism and terrorist risks.   

As far as the two-state solution might be unseen at least in the near future due to internal troubles in Israel, the PNA and the USA, the status quo will be last until further notice until an honest mediator or broker takes the initiative to end this dispute which lasted for over 69 years. An honest mediator will be in charge of understanding the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of sovereignty and religion including the holy shrines in East Jerusalem. If there is no cooperation from the UN and from other neighboring states, the issue will amalgamate. If the issue of the holy shrines is left unrequited, radicalism and jihadi threats will be in the offing.

 

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