What Erdogan and Aliyev agreed on in Karabakh

The presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a declaration in Shusha

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, together with the head of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh. In Shusha, which was declared the “cultural capital of Azerbaijan” after last year’s war, the parties signed a declaration of cooperation

“Today is a historic day. Today we are receiving the President of Turkey, my brother Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the liberated Shusha, ”Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev began the press conference after the signing ceremony.

Erdogan flew to Azerbaijan immediately after the NATO summit held the day before. In Nagorno-Karabakh, he stopped in two cities – Fizuli and Shusha, which after the recent conflict received the status of the “cultural capital of Azerbaijan”.

It was in Shusha that the sides signed a declaration on allied relations in various spheres. It also touches upon the issues of mutual assistance in the military sphere. The document contains a clause on the Zangezur corridor. The corridor will connect Azerbaijan and Turkey by road and rail (while Armenia lying between them opposes it).

According to Aliyev, the declaration has historical significance. It raises the relations of the countries to the highest level and guarantees the unity of the “closest countries on a global scale” in the future.

In particular, Turkish TV channel TRT reports, Turkey and Azerbaijan have agreed to conduct joint actions in case of threat or aggression from third states against the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability or security of the internationally recognized borders of any of the parties.

Erdogan said at a joint press conference that it is planned to open a Turkish consulate in Shusha as soon as possible. On the eve of the visit, various media outlets, citing sources, reported that the parties would discuss the implementation of joint reconstruction and construction projects in Karabakh.

After the official part, Aliyev decided to conduct an excursion around Shusha for Erdogan. 

“Remind about Turkey’s role in victory”

Interestingly, the Day of National Salvation is celebrated in Azerbaijan on June 15. It is believed that Heydar Aliyev, who headed the Supreme Council on this day in 1993, saved the country from a coup and separatism.

Erdogan is expected to address the Azerbaijani parliament on June 16.

According to experts, with his visit, Erdogan, first of all, is trying to consolidate his role in the region. This opinion was expressed in an interview with Gazeta.Ru by a senior researcher at IMEMO RAN , turkologist Viktor Nadein-Raevsky .

“He wants to show that Turkey’s actions, which made it possible to win this victory, are not an accident, but fit into the framework of a common pan-Turkist policy. Erdogan sought to eliminate the Armenian wedge that divides the Turkic world. And this policy should not be confused with elements of the policy of neo-Ottomanism, which is spreading on the territory of the former Ottoman Empire – the Arab countries, Syria, Iraq, and partly Libya.

Here we are talking about the creation of a supranational community in a new area. The goal is to unite the Turkic-speaking peoples. During the war, Turkish generals took part in the command at the fronts, officers were in each military unit, the Turks also trained Azerbaijani special forces. And this visit is another confirmation of the policy that Erdogan has adopted, ”the Turkologist is sure.

At the same time, the expert points out that Russia “did not allow Turkey to develop in full force.” Thus, only 60 Turkish officers are employed in the joint Russian-Turkish observation point.

At the same time, not all experts are inclined to believe that the application of the term “pan-Turkism” to Turkey’s foreign policy is appropriate.

What are Erdogan goals?

“Rather, it refers to political philosophy, ideology and journalism. And if we talk about the attempts of the cultural influence of Turkey, then it extends far not only to the Turkic countries. After all, Georgia has a Turkish university, and Germany has Turkish mullahs, ”recalls Nikolai Silaev, a leading researcher at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies .

At the same time, the expert identified three goals that Erdogan pursued during his visit to Nagorno-Karabakh. “Firstly, he was traveling with the aim of strengthening political ties with Azerbaijan. Secondly, it was necessary to remind once again about the role of Turkey in the Karabakh war, since without it Baku either would not have won, or, at least, not with such results. Third, it is the exploitation of the political capital that Erdogan acquired by providing military assistance to Azerbaijan. Erdogan came to celebrate the victory with Aliyev , they will do it for many years to come. The trip also has great symbolic meaning, ”says Silaev.

Vadim Mukhanov, senior researcher at the MGIMO Center for Eurasian Studies, agrees that Erdogan’s visit to Shusha is also important for the Azerbaijani leadership headed by Ilham Aliyev against the backdrop of an incompletely resolved conflict with Armenia, including over the issue of the transit corridor.

“In general, Erdogan has repeatedly spoken about Turkic unity. Close relations between Baku and Ankara fit well into this framework, ”the expert said.

Nadein-Raevsky is sure that

Azerbaijani President Aliyev is not ready to share power with anyone, and therefore is not interested in a significant strengthening of Turkish influence in his country.

The role of Shushi and the road through Armenia

“This is evidenced by the fact that Turkish military bases have not appeared in Azerbaijan. He also suspended the settlement of territories by Turkomans, who traditionally cover the faces of women. The Azerbaijani population is still not ready to accept such a return to the Middle Ages, they are Europeanized. The role of religion in this country was significantly reduced during the Soviet era, and Azerbaijan became largely secular, ”reminds the Turkologist.

Shusha is a key city in Nagorno-Karabakh with a population of 4.5 thousand people. In Armenia and Karabakh there is an expression “who owns Shushi, he owns Karabakh”. During the 1992-1994 Karabakh war, victorious for the Armenians, the Azerbaijani population left the city.

Shusha is a key city in Nagorno-Karabakh with a population of 4.5 thousand people. In Armenia and Karabakh there is an expression “who owns Shushi, he owns Karabakh”. During the 1992-1994 Karabakh war, victorious for the Armenians, the Azerbaijani population left the city.

During the operation on November 8-9, 2020, the city was again under the control of Azerbaijan. And it was the date of November 8 that was chosen by Aliyev for the Victory Day holiday in the whole war.

Later, he laid the foundation for the construction of a new mosque in Shusha, citing the fact that allegedly “at one time there were 17 mosques”, and began restoration of the Cathedral of Holy Christ the All-Savior, which had suffered during the war. A number of Armenian observers are suspicious of this initiative, seeing the possible motives of the Azerbaijani authorities in the desire to destroy the Christian heritage.

The corridor

The Syunik (or Zangezur, as it is called in Azerbaijan) automobile corridor through the territory of Armenia, which is mentioned in the Shusha Declaration, existed in the Soviet years until the early 1990s – the message was interrupted due to the events of the first Karabakh war.

Under the terms of the peace treaty concluded with the participation of Moscow in November 2020, it is envisaged to build a road linking the main territory of Azerbaijan with its exclave – the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, surrounded by the territories of Armenia, Turkey and Iran.

“By agreement of the Parties, the construction of new transport communications linking the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan will be ensured,” says the 9th clause of the agreement without specifying a specific route for the future road.

At the end of April, the head of Azerbaijan already said that in case of Armenia’s refusal to voluntarily agree to the construction of the corridor, Baku could use force again. Yerevan is in no hurry to agree on the construction of infrastructure, calling Aliyev’s threats a provocation.

As earlier Vadim Mukhanov from MGIMO explained to Gazeta.Ru, now in the Armenian society revanchist sentiments are gaining popularity. At the same time, they are not completely satisfied with the results of last year’s war in Azerbaijan, where they just want to unblock old and create new communications. “This is a very interesting attempt on the part of Aliyev. Therefore, we can in this regard Erdogan’s visit to Karabakh as support for the expansion of Azerbaijan, ”the expert said.

France Challenges Russian Peacekeeping In Caucasus

Written by M. K. BHADRAKUMAR on 23/11/2020

The trilateral agreement on November 10 between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia over Nagorno-Karabakh is leading to a geopolitical struggle in the Caucasus. So long as Armenia and Azerbaijan were ferociously fighting, the great game lurked in the shade.

But no sooner than the seven-week old conflict reached a climax — capture of Shusha by Azeri forces and Armenia facing imminent rout — Moscow stepped in to mediate a truce in real time.

The speed with which Russian President Vladimir Putin moved and his hands-on role in knocking the Armenian and Azeri heads together through night-long negotiations was absolutely stunning. It took the region and the international community by surprise.

Putin’s mediation inevitably led to Russian peacekeeping. By the time the world came to know of the truce in the wee hours of November 10, Russian military contingents were already en route to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The French President Emmanuel Macron has egg on his face. He had fancied himself to be the charioteer in the Caucasus ever since conflict erupted in late September. Of course, the Armenian Diaspora in France constitutes an influential constituency in French politics.

On November 7, Macron had called Putin and discussed the “ongoing large-scale hostilities” in Nagorno-Karabakh and reached a “mutual commitment to continued coordinated mediation efforts by Russia and France, including as part of the OSCE Minsk Group.”

Next he knew, as he woke up at Elysee Palace three days later, was that Russian peacekeeping forces were landing in Nagorno-Karabakh. And, to rub salt into Macron’s bruised ego, it was only six days thereafter that Putin remembered to call Macron (on November 16) — “considering that Russia and France are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group,” as the Kremlin readout put it.

Putin filled in Macron with the flow of events and informed Macron that “the general situation in the region has stabilised.” Here was Macron, all dressed up and raring to perform a high octane diplomatic role in the Caucasus when Putin called him to say the war got over a week ago and it was time now to turn to the unappetising residual issues concerning “urgent humanitarian issues, including returning refugees to their permanent homes, ensuring normal living conditions for the population, restoring the infrastructure, and preserving Christian temples and monasteries.”

Macron couldn’t take it anymore. The French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was ordered to urge Moscow publicly that it should clear up the “ambiguities” over the ceasefire, notably regarding the role of Turkey and foreign fighters. He told the French National Assembly, “We must remove the ambiguities over refugees, the delimitation of the ceasefire, the presence of Turkey, the return of fighters and on the start of negotiations on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

To be sure, France coordinated with the US (both are co-chairs of the Minsk Group). Within hours of the French FM’s statement, the US State Department waded into the topic. While welcoming the cessation of hostilities, the US statement ignored Moscow’s mediatory role. It said,

“Ending the recent fighting is only the first step toward achieving a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  We urge the sides to re-engage as soon as possible with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs to pursue a lasting and sustainable political solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the Helsinki Final Act principles of the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity, and the self-determination and equal rights of peoples.  As a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States remains fully engaged in this effort.”

Plainly put, both France and the US insist that Russia cannot act unilaterally but only through the Minsk Group. On November 19, the French presidency called for international supervision to implement the cease-fire. “We want the Minsk Group to play its role in defining the surveillance (of the cease-fire),” an official in Macron’s office said.

The French official rebuked the Kremlin: “We understand that the Russians are talking to the Turks regarding a possible formula, which we don’t want, that would replicate the Astana process (on Syria) to divide their roles in this sensitive region. We can’t have on one side Minsk (Group) and the other Astana (process on Syria). At one point the Russians have to make a choice.”

Clearly, France (and the US) fear that that Russia and Turkey have cut a deal to keep out Western powers from future peace talks. Indeed, the Astana forum enabled Russia and Turkey to discuss between themselves how to handle the Syrian conflict and marginalised the Western powers. To add insult to injury, like in Syria, Russia also has a deal with Turkey on the deployment of the latter’s military personnel in Azerbaijan.

The western expectation was that Russia and Turkey would fall out over Nagorno-Karabakh, but the opposite has happened. They have blocked the western powers from getting involved. Both Turkey and Russia have strained relations with the US; Macron and Turkish President Recep Erdogan are confronting each other on multiple fronts ranging from Libya to Syria to France’s predicament with “Islamist terrorism”. Recently, Erdogan proposed psychiatric counselling for Macron.

Putin and Erdogan would have a congruence of interest to cement the November 10 peace deal before the Joe Biden presidency sails into view. Biden has harshly referred to Erdogan and Putin. In the final analysis, though, Nagorno-Karabakh highlights a serious fracture in the western alliance system: one NATO power (Turkey) has aligned with the alliance’s existential enemy (Russia) to humiliate and marginalise two major allies (the US and France). The Minsk Group consists of two other NATO members also — Germany and Italy.

Russia and Turkey are unlikely to get back into the Minsk Group. Neither country wants the western powers to get a habitation in Caucasus. Russia, perhaps, has more to lose than Turkey, since Azerbaijan and Georgia  also border North Caucasus, a volatile region with majority Muslim population, and Azerbaijan is also a littoral state of the Caspian Sea, where Moscow is determined to preserve security primacy and constrain other external powers that can impede its influence, especially the US and NATO.

In Georgia, the US has consolidated a strategic presence. The US is committed to helping Georgia deepen its Euro-Atlantic ties and supports Georgia’s NATO aspirations. Curiously, in a signal to Moscow, the outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Georgia on November 18.

At the end of the day, Russia-Turkey coordination in Nagorno-Karabakh remains tactical. But it is with Iran that Russia a robust understanding over Nagorno-Karabakh. The November 10 peace accord is based on Iran’s peace plan and Tehran feels gratified that Moscow opted for the “Astana format”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is travelling to Moscow and Baku on November 23-24. Iran is well placed to supplement Russian diplomacy to give traction to the peace agreement, since it has friendly ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan (and Georgia.) Reports suggest that western powers have been hyperactive in Baku and Yerevan to subvert the peace plan.

Source: The Indian Punchline

Indo-US Security Pact to Alter Asian Geopolitics

by Nair N.B.

October, 29. 2020

India and the United States have signed a key defence pact, which would give New Delhi access to real-time US geospatial data that would enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones. The US has also said it would “stand with the people of India to confront threats to their sovereignty and to their liberty.”

Defence and security experts say India’s proximity to the United States could have an impact on the geopolitics of Asia, especially India’s long-term strategic partner Russia, while some others believe it could make China uncompromising on the contentious border dispute with India.

“This will have a very deep impact on the regional geopolitics. It is not Russia alone; Pakistan, China and our entire neighbourhood. This is a huge thing that happened on Tuesday. Let’s not undervalue the importance of this agreement,” says Pravin Sawhney, Editor of FORCE, a magazine which covers defence and security issues.

The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) – one of the basic deals the United States signs only with close partners, was the last of the foundational agreements New Delhi signed with Washington on Tuesday, 27 October, at the end of the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. The first deal – the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSMIA) was signed in 2002, when the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister of India.

Sawhney believes the latest deal with Washington offers three things to Delhi – intelligence or information on data, more material-like platforms, fighter aircraft, where India could build its military capability, and advanced training with the US military, both at the bilateral and multilateral level.

The strategic expert, however, warns that the access to these advanced military system does not come free: in military terms, the US can “potentially” control India’s military operations.

“They can control the entire war cycle if they want. So by giving us three force-multipliers, potentially they can control our entire operations,” says Sawhney.

According to Sawhney, through the pact, the United States could ask India to take responsibility on its behalf for the security of sea lanes in the Indian Ocean region. “There is a strategic purpose and a military purpose,” he added.

Sawhney points out that now China could become more uncompromising in the contentious border with India, adding that Beijing “doesn’t get jittered by all these things”.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday once again reiterated that the “Indo-Pacific strategy proposed by the United States trumpets the outdated Cold-War mindset, a confrontation between blocs and geopolitical rivalry”. 

Nevertheless, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, maintained that the China-India boundary issue is between the two countries, and the US should stop “sowing discord between the countries of the region, and undercutting regional peace and stability”.

The Sino-Indian border dispute reached an unprecedented scale in the summer of 2020, resulting in a violent faceoff, in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in the Eastern Ladakh region.  

Dragon at India’s Doorstep for Decades 

Agreeing with Sawhney, Professor Bali Ram Deepak of the New Delhi-based Center for Chinese and South East Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says China has never been accommodating as far as its border with India was concerned.

“If you see our relationship in the 1980s or 1990s, even in the first decade of 2000 – during these three decades, though we put our contentious issues on the back-burner, there was no compromise at all (from the Chinese side),” he explains.

Professor Deepak continues by saying that during the three decades, China had narrowed its gap in terms of technological and defence capabilities with the United States, while widening it with India.

“Given these asymmetries, China is becoming more assertive along our border, and China believes that balance of power at least in Asia favours it and there is no need to make any concession to India,” he points out.

The academic, who specialises in Chinese and South East Asian countries, says Beijing is already thinking strategically, considering the possibility of India moving closer to the United States in terms of security cooperation.

India’s Power Equation with the US and Russia

Professor Deepak is sceptical as to whether the latest defence pacts with the United States would tilt New Delhi towards Washington, and believes that the kind of platforms and systems India has procured from the United States so far are limited.  

“To give full plate to these foundational agreements, India and the United States really need to transfer technology and a whole lot of these platforms. So at this point in time, it is not enough. I doubt the US would be willing to share these high tech technologies with India instantly,” he says. 

Besides, it also remains to be seen if India is willing to open up its facilities for the United States, the professor adds.

“We also have to see New Delhi’s commitments and relations with Moscow as Russia would be watching very keenly, like how far we would go to the United States as far as security cooperation is concerned,” suggests the professor.

The US is the second-largest defence exporter to India after Russia. Designated as a major defence partner by Washington, New Delhi has signed arms deals worth over 20 billion since 2008. Despite an increase in arms supply from Washington, Russia remains India’s top defence supplier, which is reflected in 86% of the equipment, weapons, and platforms currently in military service in the country. The figure is a whopping 90% if around 10,000 pieces of military hardware are also taken into consideration, as per a paper by the Stimson Centre.

Former OPCW Chief Says His Office Was Bugged While USA Pushed Iraq War

Caitlin Johnstone

In an important new interview with The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, the first Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has revealed new insights into the way the US exerted control over the Organisation in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion and the suspicious way pro-US narratives appear to be dominating controversies in the supposedly impartial OPCW to this day.

The most significant piece of new information revealed in this interview with the acclaimed former OPCW chief José Bustani is his assertion that while the US was orchestrating his 2002 ouster due to the risk he posed of derailing the Iraq war agenda with successful negotiations, his office was packed with hidden surveillance equipment and that his American head of security vanished immediately after this was discovered.

After noticing suspicious phenomena and leaks coming out of his office, Bustani reports that he sent for a trusted security expert from outside the Organisation to investigate over the weekend.

“The fact was that the wall behind my desk, the wall behind the desk of the Director-General was full of equipment, listening equipment,” Bustani reported. “He broke the whole wall and removed everything, and there were bugs in the drawer, my desk, phone. I was shocked I must say. But he did it immediately. It took him the whole of Saturday, half of the Sunday, he took it [away], he removed everything and nobody realized except me and my wife. On Monday when people came to my office, they were shocked with the way the wall was. It was a big hole.”

“And interesting thing is — and I never said this before — is that I had then a person that was the head of the security of the Organization,” Bustani said. “He used to be an American. He had a large office full of equipment. I called him, the Monday after that happened, I called his office to check with him how come he didn’t know, he was in charge of security of the building, how come he didn’t know that there was such bugging equipment behind me. And he wasn’t there. And I was told that he was traveling to Germany, and I asked then, ‘Who allowed him to go to Germany? I am his direct boss. He was my subordinate, he was directly subordinate to me.’ Nobody could say anything. So I said ‘As soon as he returns tell him I want to have a word with him.’ This was the Monday. You will not believe it Aaron, but on Tuesday as I got to the OPCW I am told that I should go up to the head of security office and when I got there the office was empty, and this person disappeared and never showed up again. Never showed up again.”

This is a major revelation. When you’ve got an American infiltrator covertly surveilling a foreign official to advance US foreign policy agendas, what you have is a US spy. We don’t know what agency that spy would have worked for, but what Bustani is describing is US espionage targeting an international watchdog organisation.

Bustani gave additional insights into the ongoing OPCW scandal surrounding the extremely suspicious practices that were implemented in the investigation of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria in 2018 which preceded airstrikes against the Assad government by the US, UK and France. He stated emphatically that as Director-General he would “never” have allowed the Douma investigation team to be replaced with a “core team” who never went there or permitted a team of inspectors to meet with US officials during an active investigation, as reportedly happened after the Douma incident.

“This would have never happened if I were Director-General,” Bustani said when asked if he’d have allowed a US delegation to lobby them to come to a specified conclusion in their investigation. “The Inspectors know themselves that they cannot. They cannot. They are not supposed to meet with delegations on issues like inspections in particular. I don’t know how it happened, maybe they were forced to or they were led to by… I don’t know how it in practice happened because if I were Director-General this would never happen.”

“Absolutely not,” Bustani said when asked if he’d have permitted a team of investigators to be replaced mid-investigation with another team who never visited the crime scene. “It would have never happened to me, unless there was a serious violation of the code of conduct on the part of the inspectors. Which fortunately never, never happened.”
Bustani said he knew the whistleblowers who sparked the OPCW scandal from his time at the Organisation, and decried the way they are being smeared, silenced and their anonymity removed for simply voicing objections to an investigation’s methodology in the interest of protecting the OPCW’s legitimacy. He voiced a great fondness for the Organisation and a grave concern for the suspicious abnormalities in its investigative practices involving the United States, and he expressed shock at the way the US, UK and France recently blocked him from offering comments to the UN about those concerns.
Maté pointed out that one highly suspect common denominator in both the current OPCW scandal and Bustani’s 2002 ouster is John Bolton. As US ambassador Bolton is known to have been actively involved in arranging Bustani’s removal as Director-General to such an aggressive extent that he reportedly threatened Bustani’s children, and Bolton’s stint as Trump’s National Security Advisor began immediately before the 2018 airstrikes on Syria after the Douma incident. Bolton claims to have played a role in planning those airstrikes and was active at the highest levels of the US government’s executive branch throughout the entirety of the OPCW Douma investigation.

The mountains of evidence that the US has been meddling in an investigation of an incident which led to an act of war by the United States and its allies keeps stacking higher. The way the US power alliance has been actively suppressing and avoiding that evidence is appalling, and the way the mass media have refused to report on this fact is even more so.


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Originally Published by Caitlin Johnstone

WHICH TARGET AFTER SYRIA?

19 years of “war without end”

President George W. Bush decided to radically transform the Pentagon’s missions, as Colonel Ralph Peters explained in the Army magazine Parameters on September 13, 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Admiral Arthur Cebrowski to train future officers. Cebrowski spent three years touring military universities so that today all general officers have taken his courses. His thoughts were popularized for the general public by his deputy, Thomas Barnett.

The areas affected by the US war will be given over to “chaos”. This concept is to be understood in the sense of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, i.e. as the absence of political structures capable of protecting citizens from their own violence (“Man is a wolf to man”). And not in the biblical sense of making a clean slate before the creation of a new order.

This war is an adaptation of the US Armed Forces to the era of globalization, to the transition from productive capitalism to financial capitalism. “War is a Racket,” as Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated general, used to say before World War II [1]. From now on, friends and enemies will no longer count; war will allow for the simple management of natural resources.

This form of war involves many crimes against humanity (including ethnic cleansing) that the US Armed Forces cannot commit. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld therefore hired private armies (including Blackwater) and developed terrorist organizations while pretending to fight them.

The Bush and Obama administrations followed this strategy: to destroy the state structures of entire regions of the world. The US war is no longer about winning, but about lasting (the “war without end”). President Donald Trump and his first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, have questioned this development without being able to change it. Today, the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski thinkers pursue their goals not so much through the Defence Secretariat as through NATO.

After President Bush launched the “never-ending war” in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), there was strong contestation among Washington’s political elites about the arguments that had justified the invasion of Iraq and the disorder there. This was the Baker-Hamilton Commission (2006). The war never stopped in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it took five years for President Obama to open new theatres of operation: Libya (2011), Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015).

Two external actors interfered with this plan.
 In 2010-11, the United Kingdom launched the “Arab Spring”, an operation modeled on the “Arab Revolt” of 1915, which allowed Lawrence of Arabia to put the Wahhabi in power on the Arabian Peninsula. This time it was a question of placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power with the help not of the Pentagon, but of the US State Department and NATO.
 In 2014, Russia intervened in Syria, whose state had not collapsed and which it helped to resist. Since then, the British – who had tried to change the regime there during the “Arab Spring” (2011-early 2012) – and then the Americans – who were seeking to overthrow not the regime, but the state (mid-2012 to the present) – have had to withdraw. Russia, pursuing the dream of Tsarina Catherine, is today fighting against chaos, for stability – that is to say, for the defence of state structures and respect for borders.

Colonel Ralph Peters, who in 2001 revealed the Pentagon’s new strategy, published Admiral Cebrowski’s map of objectives in 2006. It showed that only Israel and Jordan would not be affected. All other countries in the “Broader Middle East” (i.e., from Morocco to Pakistan) would gradually be stateless and all major countries (including Saudi Arabia and Turkey) would disappear.

Noting that its best ally, the United States, was planning to cut its territory in two in order to create a “free Kurdistan”, Turkey unsuccessfully tried to get closer to China, and then adopted the theory of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Zero problems with its neighbours”. It distanced itself from Israel and began to negotiate peace with Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Iraq etc. It also distanced itself from Israel. Despite the territorial dispute over Hatay, it created a common market with Syria. However, in 2011, when Libya was already isolated, France convinced Turkey that it could escape partition if it joined NATO’s ambitions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a political Islamist of the Millî Görüş, joined the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was not a member, hoping to recoup the fruits of the ’Arab Spring’ for his own benefit. Turkey turned against one of its main clients, Libya, and then against one of its main partners, Syria.

In 2013, the Pentagon adapted the “endless war” to the realities on the ground. Robin Wright published two corrective maps in the New York Times. The first dealt with the division of Libya, the second with the creation of a “Kurdistan” affecting only Syria and Iraq and sparing the eastern half of Turkey and Iran. It also announced the creation of a “Sunnistan” straddling Iraq and Syria, dividing Saudi Arabia into five and Yemen into two. This last operation began in 2015.

The Turkish General Staff was very happy with this correction and prepared for the events. It concluded agreements with Qatar (2017), Kuwait (2018) and Sudan (2017) to set up military bases and surround the Saudi kingdom. In 2019 it financed an international press campaign against the “Sultan” and a coup d’état in Sudan. At the same time, Turkey supported the new project of “Kurdistan” sparing its territory and participated in the creation of “Sunnistan” by Daesh under the name of “Caliphate”. However, the Russian intervention in Syria and the Iranian intervention in Iraq brought this project to a halt.

In 2017, regional president Massoud Barzani organised a referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Immediately, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran understood that the Pentagon, returning to its original plan, was preparing to create a “free Kurdistan” by cutting up their respective territories. They coalesced to defeat it. In 2019, the PKK/PYG announced that it was preparing for the independence of the Syrian ’Rojava’. Without waiting, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran once again joined forces. Turkey invaded the “Rojava”, chasing the PKK/YPG, without much reaction from the Syrian and Russian armies.

In 2019, the Turkish General Staff became convinced that the Pentagon, having temporarily renounced destroying Syria because of the Russian presence, was now preparing to destroy the Turkish state. In order to postpone the deadline, it tried to reactivate the “endless war” in Libya, then to threaten the members of NATO with the worst calamities: the European Union with migratory subversion and the United States with a war with Russia. To do this, it opened its border with Greece to migrants and attacked the Russian and Syrian armies in Idleb where they bombed the Al Qaeda and Daesh jihadists who had taken refuge there. This is the episode we are living through today.

The Moscow Additional Protocol

The Turkish army caused Russian and Syrian casualties in February 2020, while President Erdoğan made numerous phone calls to his Russian counterpart, Putin, to lower the tension he was causing with one hand.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to curb the Pentagon’s appetites if Turkey helped the Pentagon restart the “endless war” in Libya. This country is divided into a thousand tribes that clash around two main leaders, both CIA agents, the president of the Presidential Council, Fayez el-Sarraj, and the commander of the National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

Last week, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Professor Ghassan Salame, was asked to resign for “health reasons”. He complied, not without expressing his bad mood at a press conference. An axis has been set up to support al-Sarraj by the Muslim Brotherhood around Qatar and Turkey. A second coalition was born around Haftar with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but also Saudi Arabia and Syria.

It is the great return of the latter on the international scene. Syria is the culmination of nine years of victorious resistance to the Brotherhood and the United States. Two Libyan and Syrian embassies were opened with great pomp and circumstance on 4 March, in Damascus and Benghazi.

Moreover, the European Union, after having solemnly condemned the “Turkish blackmail of refugees”, sent the President of the Commission to observe the flow of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border and the President of the Council to survey President Erdoğan in Ankara. The latter confirmed that an arrangement was possible if the Union undertook to defend the ’territorial integrity’ of Turkey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talk during a meeting in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

With keen pleasure, the Kremlin has staged the surrender of Turkey: the Turkish delegation is standing, contrary to the habit where chairs are provided for guests; behind it, a statue of Empress Catherine the Great recalls that Russia was already present in Syria in the 18th century. Finally, Presidents Erdoğan and Putin are seated in front of a pendulum commemorating the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.

It was thus on this basis that President Vladimir Putin received President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Kremlin on March 5. A first, restricted, three-hour meeting was devoted to relations with the United States. Russia would have committed itself to protect Turkey from a possible partition on the condition that it signs and applies an Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area [2]. A second meeting, also of three hours duration but open to ministers and advisers, was devoted to the drafting of this text. It provides for the creation of a 12-kilometre-wide security corridor around the M4 motorway, jointly monitored by the two parties. To put it plainly: Turkey is backing away north of the reopened motorway and losing the town of Jisr-el-Chogour, a stronghold of the jihadists. Above all, it must at last apply the Sochi memorandum, which provides for support only for the Syrian armed opposition, which is supposed to be democratic and not Islamist, and for combating the jihadists. However, this “democratic armed opposition” is nothing more than a chimera imagined by British propaganda. In fact, Turkey will either have to kill the jihadists itself, or continue and complete their transfer from Idleb (Syria) to Djerba (Tunisia) and then Tripoli (Libya) as it began to do in January.

In addition, on March 7, President Putin contacted former President Nazerbayev to explore with him the possibility of deploying Kazakh “blue chapkas” in Syria under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This option had already been considered in 2012. Kazakh soldiers have the advantage of being Muslims and not orthodox.

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Missiles were fired this week against the royal palace in Riyadh. Prince Mohamed ben Salmane (known as “MBS”, 34 years old) had his uncle, Prince Ahmed (70 years old), and his former competitor and ex-heir prince, Prince Mohamed ben Nayef (60 years old), as well as various other princes and generals arrested. The Shia province of Qatif, where several cities have already been razed to the ground, has been isolated. Official explanations of succession disputes and coronavirus are not enough [4].

Notes:

[1] “I had 33 years and 4 months of active service, and during that time I spent most of my time as a big shot for business, for Wall Street, and for bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster in the service of capitalism. I helped secure Mexico, especially the city of Tampico, for the American oil companies in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a suitable place for the men of the National City Bank to make a profit. I helped rape half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the American bank Brown Brothers from 1902 to 1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the benefit of American sugar companies in 1916. I delivered Honduras to American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped the Standard Oil company do business in peace.” Smedley Butler in War Is a Racket, Feral House (1935)

[2] “Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area”, Voltaire Network, 5 March 2020.

[3] “Taking Saudi out of Arabia“, Powerpoint by Laurent Murawiec for a meeting of the Defence Policy Board (July 10, 2002).

[4] “Two Saudi Royal Princes Held, Accused of Plotting a Coup”, Bradley Hope, Wall Street Journal; “Detaining Relatives, Saudi Prince Clamps Down”, David Kirkpatrick & Ben Hubbard, The New Yok Times, March 7, 2020.


By Thierry Meyssan
Source: Voltaire Network]

GREATER ALBANIA PROJECT

GREATER ALBANIA PROJECT IS ACCELERATING AS KOSOVO’S STATEHOOD IS IN QUESTION

Clear indications have been made that there is a project for a Greater Albania and it is progressing ahead, especially as the world’s attention is focussed on and distracted by the coronavirus, Libya and Syria’s Idlib province. The ultimate goal of Albania was to absorb Kosovo and the Preševo Valley in Serbia, southern Montenegro, Epirus in Greece and western North Macedonia into a single Greater Albania state.

Although this may not be official policy of the Albanian Republic, it is ingrained into the Albanian mythos. However, this has now changed with the Kosovo-born Albanian Minister-in-office for Europe and Foreign Affairs Gent Cakaj and the Foreign Minister of Kosovo Glauk Konjufcameeting yesterday to discuss the establishment of common economic space for free movement of people, goods and capital between Albania and Kosovo, as well as sharing embassies around the world which so far only exists in the Australian capital of Canberra.

Cakaj said on Twitter about “the need to deepen cooperation between [Albania and Kosovo] and strongly support the coalition of Albanian political parties in [Serbia’s] Preshevo [Preševo] Valley” to the east of Kosovo. Although the tweet just emphasizes deeper cooperation between Albania, Kosovo and the Preševo valley, it was his comments to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency that gives the biggest suggestion of a Greater Albania project being put into action. Cakaj said to the agency that:

“the borders between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Albania should not exist at all, they should be removed immediately and our countries should enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement and unhindered ability to deepen economic cooperation.”

Although it may seem like that Albania and Kosovo are making strong efforts for the Greater Albania project, it rather demonstrates their desperation as Kosovo continues to lose legitimacy and countries withdraw their recognition of the quasi-independent state that illegally broke off from Serbia in 2008. A total of 14 countries since 2017 have withdrawn their recognition of Kosovo, meaning only 51% of United Nations members now recognize it. The usual norm in statehood recognition is that more and more countries overtime recognize the state, not withdraw recognition. If we look at the Israeli situation, since its founding in 1948, only five states have withdrawn recognition and 162 of the 193 United Nations member states recognize it. It is inevitable that with incentives from China and Russia more states will withdraw their recognition of Kosovo.

This brings a new question then. Has the failings of Kosovo actually accelerated the Greater Albania project?

The proposal by Finnish Nobel “Peace” Prize winning Marti Ahtisaari to establish an independent Kosovo and Kosovan identity has been an abject failure. Rather, Kosovo has taken on the Albanian identity openly with KosovoPrime Minister Albin Kurti, who is currently serving as the fourth Prime Minister of Kosovo since February 3 2020, not differentiating between nation and ethnicity as he sees Kosovo as an extension of Albania, despite the nation and the state not being the same. Kurti also does not recognize the flag and anthem of Kosovo, as well as the Kosovar identity.

As Kosovo continues to lose legitimacy, meaning the breakaway province could return back to Serbian administration, it is attempting to avoid this situation by merging Kosovo into Albania. It is for this reason that Cakaj says the borders between Albania and Kosovo should not exist at all and that they should both share embassies. As Serbia’s position has strengthened, Albania’s official support for Kosovo is an attempt to parry it and jointly formulate a strategy to achieve some success.

The broader goals of merging Albania and Kosovo are multiple – to confirm Kosovo’s independence from Serbia; to propagate the Greater Albania project; and to put pressure on Serbia as well as international states to challenge Belgrade’s foreign policy successes. The campaign cooperation between Albania and Kosovo demonstrates the attempts to raise the issue to a higher level and the desire to establish new mechanisms and measures, with the incumbent government in Pristina to implement a practical policy because all tactics so far have not yielded results and giving up is not an option.

Therefore, there is no reason why Serbia should give up its current policy of pushing states to withdraw their Kosovo independence recognition. Belgrade must maintain that Kosovo is an integral and historical part of Serbia. Belgrade’s efforts have produced results and the Serbian public demand results. Serbia should not accept any blackmail and demands from Kosovo or Albania, especially as it continues its project of reintegrating Kosovo. Only days ago, it was announced that rail links between Belgrade and Pristina will be constructed, something that does not even exist between Kosovo and Albania. Although Kosovo’s failings continue, it has also accelerated the Greater Albania project in an effort to prevent the reintegration of the breakaway province back into Serbia.

By Paul Antonopoulos
Source: InfoBrics

Is Vietnam adopting a tough South China Sea posture?

By Xuan Loc Doan

Over the past month, some international news outlets have reported that Vietnam is pursuing a strong stance on the South China Sea. Yet a closer look at Hanoi’s overall position – as well as those of other countries and international entities – vis-à-vis the maritime issue shows that is not the case.

On December 30, Reuters reported that Vietnam was pushing for tough provisions in the code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea that Southeast Asian nations and China are negotiating. More precisely, according to this report, Vietnam wants the pact to outlaw Beijing’s controversial actions in the disputed area in recent years, including the building of artificial islands and military activities such as missile deployments.

It also pushes for a ban on any new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that China unilaterally announced over the East China Sea in 2013. It equally demands that disputing states clarify their maritime claims as per international law.

A day later, the South China Morning Post also claimed that Vietnam “takes [a] hard line” by making such demands. It described Hanoi’s request that “states clarify their maritime claims according to international law” as “an apparent attempt to shatter Beijing’s ‘nine-dash line,’ by which China claims and patrols much of the South China Sea.”

Last Friday, the Hong Kong-based newspaper ran an article headlined “Vietnam risks Beijing’s ire as it uses US freedom-of-navigation exercise to stake its claim in South China Sea.” That article referred to a freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) by USS McCampbell near the Paracel Islands on January 7 and remarks by a Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman about it two days later.

Asked for her comments about the US guided-missile destroyer’s passage in a press briefing on January 9, Le Thi Thu Hang said Vietnam “has sufficient legal grounds and historical evidence testifying its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa [Paracel] and Trưong Sa [Spratly] archipelagoes in conformity with international law.”

She also stressed that as a member of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and a coastal state in the East Sea (Vietnamese name for the South China Sea), her country always respects the right to freedom of navigation and aviation in the area of other states in line with international law, especially the UNCLOS.

It could be that, as the SCMP’s article said, Beijing, which was angry about the USS McCampbell’s FONOP, was not pleased with the Vietnamese spokeswoman’s remarks and that Hanoi used the US military’s move to reaffirm its territorial claims in the area.

But Vietnam’s demands that states clarify their maritime claims, resolve their disputes and operate in the area in line with international law, notably UNCLOS, are not new.

In its own statements, joint declarations with its main partners – such as the United States, India, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and France – as well as talks with China, Vietnam has long and consistently maintained an international-law-based approach to the South China Sea issue.

For instance, in his keynote speech at the 2013 Shangri-La Dialogue, Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam’s then prime minister, urged China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to “double efforts to formulate a COC that conforms to international law and in particular, the 1982 UNCLOS.” He also said: “As a coastal state, Vietnam reaffirms and defends its legitimate rights and interests in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS.”

Similarly, in a speech at the 38th Singapore Lecture three years later, Tran Dai Quang, its then president, who died a few months ago, clearly and firmly stated Vietnam’s “consistent position” vis-à-vis the South China Sea – that is “to remain resolute and persistent in the defense of national independence, sovereignty and territorial unity and integrity” and “to settle disputes by peaceful means through the political, diplomatic and legal process on the basis of international law, including [UNCLOS].”

In line with what Quang said in that lecture, in a Vietnam-Singapore joint statement issued at the end of his official visit to the city-state, both sides “emphasized the importance of resolving disputes peacefully, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with international law, including as reflected in the 1982 [UNCLOS].”

Vietnam’s joint statements with the US in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 stated, more or less, the same posture. For instance, in the 2017 statement issued during US President Donald Trump’s Vietnam visit, the leaders of the two countries “underscored the strategic importance to the international community of free and open access to the South China Sea” and “the need to respect freedom of navigation and over-flight, and other lawful uses of the sea.”

They also “reaffirmed their shared commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes.”

In his talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing in early 2017, Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, also clearly “asserted Vietnam’s consistent stance of persistently dealing with the dispute in the East Sea by peaceful measures in compliance with international law, including the 1982 [UNCLOS], and with respect to diplomatic and legal processes.”

Such an approach is also supported by other countries and international bodies, such as the Group of Seven advanced economies, which repeatedly says its members “are committed to maintaining a rules-based order in the maritime domain based on the principles of international law, in particular as reflected in the [UNCLOS].”

Of Vietnam’s demands reported by Reuters, the stress that disputing states “clarify their maritime claims in according to international law” is, without doubt, the most fundamental one. All nations, strong and weak alike, should, if not must, make their claims, resolve their disputes and act in accordance with international law.

In his remarks at the G7 summit in Canada last June, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, urged the member states (namely France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the US, Canada and Japan) to “demonstrate unity regarding the ongoing land reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea, as the international law must apply to all countries, big and small, on land and at sea.”

In this sense, Vietnam’s South China Sea posture is not tough at all. On the contrary, it’s very sensible, advisable and, as such, widely supported.

Yet for China, the provisions that its communist neighbor wants the COC to include – notably that “states clarify their maritime claims” in the 3.5-million-square-kilometer sea “according to international law” – are tough.

As the December 31 SCMP article said, they are “likely to prove unpalatable to Beijing.” This is because such propositions would invalidate the Asian giant’s controversial, if not illegal, claims and actions in the resources-rich and strategically vital waters.

As ruled by a UNCLOS tribunal in 2016, if it is based on international law, notably the 1982 Convention, China’s “nine-dash-line” claim would be unlawful. And as that infamous line was already declared illegal by the international tribunal, many, if not most, of China’s contentious actions within it, including its recent land reclamation and military buildup or a future ADIZ declaration, are illegal.

That said, it may be true that Vietnam is adopting a tougher posture than it was, and that would be understandable.

A few years ago, the Philippines and Vietnam were the two regional countries that were mostly critical of China’s behavior in the area. But since Rodrigo Duterte became the Philippines’ president in 2016, Manila has pursued an accommodating, if not defeatist, attitude toward Beijing.

The maverick leader is now seen as “China’s voice in ASEAN.” It’s no coincidence that China, which was previously very reluctant to negotiate the COC, has recently vowed to conclude it before 2021. Both the Duterte presidency and the Philippines’ term as the coordinator of the ASEAN-China dialogue end in that year.

Against this backdrop, Hanoi needs to voice its position robustly if it wants to “remain resolute and persistent in the defense of [Vietnam’s] national independence, sovereignty and territorial unity and integrity.” An effective – if not, the most plausible – way to achieve that goal is to internationalize the issue and call for an international-law-based approach to it, because international law and many other countries are on its side.

By calling claimant parties as well as other interested countries to act according to international law in the South China Sea, Hanoi is, intentionally or not, urging China to practice what Xi Jinping, its core leader, repeatedly and, indeed, beautifully, preaches on the world stage.

For instance, addressing the United Nations Office in Geneva in 2017, the Chinese president quoted “an ancient Chinese philosopher

[that]

said, ‘Law is the very foundation of governance’” and then lectured that all countries should “uphold the authority of the international rule of law … ensure equal and uniform application of international law and reject double standards and the practice of applying international law in a selective way.”

In that speech, titled “Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind,” Xi also vowed, “No matter how strong its economy grows, China will never seek hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence.”

Should Beijing apply all this to the South China Sea, the intractable maritime disputes would be easily and peacefully resolved.


Xuan Loc Doan Dr Xuan Loc Doan researches and writes on a number of areas. These include Vietnam’s domestic and foreign policy, ASEAN, EU, UK’s politics and international politics in the Asia-Pacific region.