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MIDDLE EAST

Israeli, Arab generals hold secret meeting

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Israeli Chief of Staff Hayzi Halevi met with his counterparts from various Arab armies in Bahrain to discuss regional security cooperation, two sources with direct knowledge of the meeting told Axios.

The meeting, which took place under the auspices of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), was not made public due to sensitivities surrounding the war in Gaza.

The meeting, which took place in Manama on Monday, was attended by CENTCOM commander Michael Erik Kurilla and Halevi, as well as senior generals from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

According to Barak Ravid’s report, the meeting was a sign that military dialogue and cooperation between Israel and the Arab countries continues under the umbrella of CENTCOM, despite harsh public criticism of Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

The IDF and CENTCOM did not comment on the meeting.

CENTCOM and the Pentagon have recently sought to increase air defence cooperation with regional militaries.

The US success in countering Iran’s unprecedented missile and drone attack on Israel on 13 April is seen as a result of this work.

US officials say that cooperation with Israel and Arab countries in the region allows them to gather intelligence and receive early warning of an attack. This cooperation includes the active involvement of Jordan and Saudi Arabia in intercepting missiles and drones that pass through their airspace after being fired at Israel from Iran, Iraq and Yemen, they said.

MIDDLE EAST

Israel’s ‘negotiations’ deception

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According to Egyptian intelligence, negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza will continue until the US presidential election. Israel believes that the US will develop a ‘different approach’ if Trump wins the election.

Egyptian intelligence reportedly believes that the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a prisoner swap and ceasefire agreement in Gaza could last until the US presidential election in November.

According to the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, Egyptian sources believe that the prisoner swap and ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel will not be finalised until after the US elections. According to the newspaper, which cited an unnamed source, Egyptian intelligence has submitted a report to the presidency on the ceasefire process in Gaza.

The report predicted that the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a prisoner swap and ceasefire agreement in Gaza might not last until after the US presidential elections in November, and included scenarios in which attacks on Gaza would continue until the end of the year.

The source said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes that with the possibility of former US President Donald Trump returning to power, a different approach will develop in the US administration regarding the attacks on Gaza.

Commitment to end the war

On the other hand, J.D. Vance, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, said he would call on Israel to end the war in Gaza “as soon as possible”.

In an interview with Fox News, Vance argued that US President Joe Biden had allowed the war to go on too long. Joe Biden has made it harder and harder to win the war,’ Vance said, arguing that the longer the war goes on, the harder it will be for Israel and the harder it will be to achieve a sustainable peace. Vance claimed that Trump would revive the process of reaching a peace deal with Saudi Arabia and that this would be an appropriate response to Iran.

In a debate with Biden at the end of June, Trump accused Biden of acting ‘like a Palestinian’ in the conflict between Israel and Hamas and said ‘Israel must be allowed to finish the job’.

If Trump wins the presidential election, Israel seems to hope that it will be able to continue its massacres and occupation of Gaza more easily and start the negotiation process with Arab countries without imposing a two-state solution.

The negotiation process

US President Joe Biden announced on 31 May that Israel had presented a new ceasefire proposal consisting of 3 phases. Although Biden said that this proposal belonged to Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that they would continue their attacks on Gaza until the “set goals” were achieved.

Netanyahu claimed in his speech to the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on 3 June that there were ‘gaps’ between Israel’s proposal and Biden’s.

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Pezeshkian, newly elected-president and calculations of Iranian leaders

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In the past few days, important political events happened in Washington, Tehran, London and Paris. In current world situations, elections are not only an internal issue of a country because the results of these elections would definitely affect the future of economies, policies, and military arrangements in a larger point of view.

When it was announced that Masoud Pezeshkian, the reformist president-elect of Iran, had won the presidential election, many people in different countries rushed to find his background because it was felt necessary to know about him. He is the first Iranian president who has no bear and he is very much interested in bringing reforms and to mend ties with the world community.

He is the first one who has not reached the presidency of Iran through a religious institution, although many former presidents of Iran, such as Khamenei, Khatami, Rouhani, and Raisi, have risen from that address and position.

Also, Pezeshkian did not have a position in Iran’s military and security institutions. But it doesn’t mean he doesn’t support the military institutions. He and his colleagues in the Iranian parliament, when some countries called the IRGC a terrorist organization, they put on IRGC uniforms to protest this decision and to show support to the IRGC.

Pezeshkian was born in the city of Mahabad. This city is the place that once witnessed the establishment of the Kurdish government, a government whose candle was extinguished soon.

Pezeshkian’s father is Azari and his mother is Kurdish. Many people believe that this gives him the power to understand the situation and demands of the minorities in Iran. He studied medicine and specialized in heart surgery. During the era of Mohammad Khatami, he was the Minister of Health and represented the people of Tabriz in the parliament for five terms.

The general perception was that Iran’s religious leader prefers to be a conservative and radical person like Saeed Jalili, the president of Iran. It was predicted that with Jalili’s victory, Iran’s policies will become more radical, at the same time that it seems that the presidency of the United States will go to the person who ordered the killing of Qassem Soleimani; Donald Trump. However, this did not happen. Accurate reading of Iran’s policies is not an easy task, and it probably requires patience similar to the patience of those who weave the Iranian carpet.

Why did the leader of Iran allow Pezeshkian to take part in the presidential elections and finally win?

In 2021, the Guardian Council, which has the duty to consider the worthiness of the people who participate in the presidential elections, did not allow Pezeshkian to enter the presidential race.

Last February, the Guardian Council did not allow Pezeshkian to participate in the parliamentary elections, because in the opinion of this council, he did not adhere to the “principles of the revolution”.

This judgment comes from the fact that he had spoken against the opinion of the regime about popular protests. Despite this, he was able to participate in the elections with Khamenei’s intervention. The truth is that the Pezeshkian criticized the severity of the protests, especially the way the religious police dealt with Mehsa Amini, which caused her death, but at the same time, the Pezeshkian believed that the protests were harming the country.

Masoud Pezeshkian, a veteran reformist lawmaker elected as a new president of of Iran after he defeated conservative rival Saeed Jalili in a presidential runoff election.

The image presented by Pezeshkian in the past years shows him as a “conservative with reformist tendencies”.

He does not have the ability to give a passionate speech to stimulate the feelings of the masses and marginalized people, a skill that Ahmadinejad could handle well. He is a moderate person. He is a doctor who believes in science and chooses his words carefully.

Pezeshkian willing to remove sanctions and work to improve the economy

At the same time, he is a realist and aware of the system and also aware of the underbelly of power balances and knows who makes the big decisions.

He tries to open the windows to its residents under the roof that he has built. Pezeshkian has talked about the benefits of negotiating with the West so that part of the painful sanctions can be removed. Sanctions that, in his words, have made the lives of many Iranians “miserable”.

Khamenei knew very well that the participation of Pezeshkhian in election contests would force Khatami, Mehdi Karroubi, Hassan Khomeini (grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran) and Ali Akbar Natiq Nouri to support him.

Analyzes regarding Pezeshkhian reaching the presidency have been made from many angles, although everyone agrees that the major and final decision on domestic and foreign issues depends on Khamenei’s office.

Some believe that maybe the leader of Iran has come to the conclusion that the achievement of a radical person like Saeed Jalili to the presidency will increase Iran’s tension with the outside world. A tension that has been growing on a daily basis. The Iranian leader is willing to reduce the level of anxiety especially at the time when there is a common belief in the West that Iran is very close to the stage of producing nuclear weapons.

In this situation, Iran needs some de-escalation both with foreign parties and with the masses of people inside Iran, especially considering that if Trump wins the US presidential election, Iran needs to deal with a storm of events that will affect international relations. The effect will be to interact more quickly.

Also, Iran currently needs an opportunity to strengthen and digest the successes achieved by Soleimani’s advances in some regional plans.

Perhaps, the leader of Iran accepts the point that the ruling system in Iran has been more successful abroad than inside this country. But, when we look at the high statistics of poverty and unemployment and lack of development in this country, this claim seems irrational.

In addition, Iran is involved in the Gaza war and other wars in the Middle East, and the management of this complex scene requires the creation of peace inside the country.

A number of analysts are of the opinion that Khamenei preferred a non-religious person to become president so that he could not participate in the competition for the seat of the future religious leader or influence it, although this would also help to revive the role of the reformists and restore their image.

The world was full of events last week, but political atmosphere in US was interesting and painful

The world was full of events last week, but it was easier to understand other events than what happened in Iran.

The UN ended 14 years of Conservative rule. Rishi Sunak left power, and Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labor Party came to power on stage. British institutions have proven that they can function without falling apart.

Instead, the French election showed the depth of divisions in French politics and warned of tense years ahead.

These days, the scenes that were shown in the US political atmosphere were interesting and at the same time painful. Joe Biden is trying to shoulder the heavy burden of being eighty years old. He uses his memory beyond his capacity and shows disregard for the advice given to him that he should withdraw from the electoral competition due to his old age.

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MIDDLE EAST

‘Turkey-Syria negotiations to be held in Baghdad’

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The Syrian daily al-Watan reports that the first round of talks between Syria and Turkey to normalise bilateral relations will take place in Baghdad.

Turkish and Syrian officials are expected to meet in the Iraqi capital Baghdad to restore diplomatic relations between Syria and Turkey, which were severed more than 12 years ago, after President Erdogan said there was “no reason not to meet with Syria”.

Press TV quoted an unnamed official as saying that the meeting would be the first step in a long process of negotiations leading to a political agreement, al-Watan reported.

According to the sources, Ankara has asked Moscow and Baghdad to pave the way for Turkish diplomats to sit at the negotiating table with the Syrian side without a third party. They also asked that the meetings be closed to the press.

Al-Watan noted that the Turkish-Syrian rapprochement and the initiative to restore diplomatic relations have received wide support from Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Russia, China and Iran.

Mutual statements

President Erdoğan said on Friday: “There is no reason not to re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria. We can do it again as we did in the past. We have no intention of interfering in Syria’s internal affairs. As you know, there is no reason why we should not re-establish diplomatic relations with Mr Assad, as we did in the past, down to family meetings”.

During a meeting with Russia’s special envoy to Syria, Aleksander Lavrentiev, in Damascus on 26 June, Syrian leader Assad said he was open to initiatives to normalise relations with Turkey.

“Syria is open to all attempts to normalise Syrian-Turkish relations on the basis of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian state and within the framework of the fight against all forms of terrorism,” SANA quoted Assad as saying.

New mediator Iraq

While Turkish-Iraqi relations are developing positively, Baghdad’s mediation role in the normalisation of Turkish-Syrian relations is attracting attention. On 31 May, during a visit to Turkey, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani said that he was working on reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus. Asked if he had spoken to Erdogan or Assad about this issue, Sudani replied: “Certainly, negotiations on this issue are continuing. And God willing, there will be some steps in this regard soon”.

In June, an Iraqi government source told Iraqi media that Baghdad would soon host officials from both countries in Baghdad as part of efforts to reconcile Syria and Turkey.

What happened?

Turkey severed all diplomatic ties with Syria in 2012 following the outbreak of war in 2011 and supported armed opposition groups in the northwest of the country.

Since 2016, Turkish forces have carried out a series of military operations and established a ‘safe zone’ in the north of the country, claiming that terrorist organisations such as PKK-ISIS threaten Turkey’s security.

The normalisation of relations between Ankara and Damascus began on 28 December 2022 with a Russian-mediated meeting between the Turkish and Syrian defence ministers in Moscow, the highest-level meeting between the two sides since 2011.

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