Saudi Arabia, Iran and the 'Great Game' in Yemen
Sunni-Shiite Conflict Reflects Modern Power Struggle, Not Theological Schism
Read more: http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20151215/1031748253/saudis-form-counterterror-coalition.html#ixzz3ueVNXraGSaudi Arabia Forms Islamic Anti-Terror Coalition of 34 Countries - Reports
Saudi Arabia reportedly has set up an Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism.
MOSCOW/CAIRO (Sputnik) — Saudi Arabia has set up an Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism, local media reported Tuesday, citing a governmental statement.
According to Arabiya TV, the coalition consists of 34 countries.
The joint operations command center will be based in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, the TV channel said.
The coalition, according to the text of the statement is created "to counteract terrorism, which became a threat to the interests of the Islamic nation" and "on the basis of the right of peoples for self-defense."
Besides Saudi Arabia, the alliance includes Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Somalia, Guinea, the Palestinian National Authority, the Union of the Comoros, Cote d 'Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen.
Moreover, 10 other Islamic countries, in particular Indonesia, expressed their support to the newly created coalition, the statement concluded.
Turkey Has Plans to Station 1000s of Troops at New Military Base in Qatar
As Turkey faces international backlash over provocative actions, Ankara plans to expand its military footprint abroad.
As part of a "multi-purpose" mission to confront "common enemies," Turkey will establish its first overseas military installation in Qatar.
"Turkey and Qatar face common problems and we are both very concerned about developments in the region and uncertain policies of other countries…We confront common enemies," Ahmet Demirok, Turkey’s ambassador to Qatar, said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. "At this critical time for the Middle East cooperation between us is vital."
The base will be used to station approximately 3,000 troops, as well as air and naval units, special operations forces, and military trainers. While Demirok did not elaborate on who, exactly, "common enemies" refers to, he did indicate that the base will be used primarily for joint training exercises.
The agreement also paves the way for Qatar to open its own military base in Turkey.
"Today we are not building a new alliance but rather rediscovering historic and brotherly ties," Demirok added.
Nearly 100 troops are already in the Gulf nation training Qatari forces.
When completed, the new base will be the Turkish military’s second-largest overseas deployment, after the Cyprus Turkish Peace Force Commands, and the motivations for the expansion remain unclear.
"Qatar, as a member of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], is historically in the Saudi sphere of influence," Jason Ditz writes for AntiWar.com, "but they and Turkey are noteworthy in being among few nations backing the Muslim Brotherhood, a fact which has at times caused a split within the GCC."
Turkey came under fire last month for downing a Russian bomber in Syrian airspace. That incident left two Russian soldiers dead, and created a substantial rift in relations between Ankara and Moscow.
"It is hard or almost impossible for us to agree with the current Turkish government, as experience has shown," Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his annual press conference on Thursday. "And even when and where we say yes to them, we are stabbed in the side or in the back, for unknown reasons to us."
Ankara is also being criticized over its decision to hundreds of troops into northern Iraq. While claiming the deployment was necessary to protect military trainers already in the region, the Iraqi government views the incursion as a breach of national sovereignty.
"The government is committed to maintain good neighborly relations, but at the same time reiterates its right to take measures to protect national sovereignty," the Iraqi government said in a statement.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi gave Ankara 48 hours to remove its troops, but Turkey has failed to comply. The United Nations Security Council is currently reviewing a formal complaint lodged by Baghdad.
Read more: http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20151217/1031927332/turkey-qatar-military-base.html#ixzz3ueVg2Dqz
Once Upon a Pipeline
As oil-price.net reported back in 2012, Qatar needed to get its Qatar-Turkey" pipeline through Syria, and Europe looked forward to linking up with the world's largest gas producer because it was over-dependent on Russian supplies. Russia's unstable president Vladimir Putin had previously cut off gas supplies to Europe in the dead of winter 2009 after a dispute with Ukraine over gas royalties. The Russian military has since invaded Ukraine and given Putin's aggressive stance, Europe now urgently needs to find an alternate gas supply not controlled by Russia. This makes a middle-eastern pipeline coming through Syria a very attractive proposition.
The Assads soon realized that they were in a position of power. They decided to up the ante by creating an alternative source of fuel for a trans-Syrian pipeline. Most of the countries in the Middle East, including Syria are majority Sunni Muslim. The post-Hussein regime in Iraq was dominated by Shia Muslims, The Assads are Alawite Muslims - a Shia creed that the Sunnis from Qatar and Saudi Arabia would like to see wiped off the earth. So instead of the Qatar-Turkey pipeline, Assad stitched together a deal with the Shia administration in Iraq, together with Iraq's other neighbor, Iran - the largest Shia nation in the world. The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline project was born.
Map of Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline and Qatar-Turkey pipeline
Syria's economy was underdeveloped and the Assads needed oil money to keep their people placated. Their alternative pipeline plan would carry Iran and Iraq's gas to Europe, instead of gas from Qatar, and that option pleased Russia's Putin, because he already had long standing agreements in place with Iran, who were more amenable to gas price coordination with Russia. Moreover, as a long-term supporter of Syria, Russia had built up influence within the administration and the armed forces. Also Russia's only military base in the Mediterranean is located on the coast of Syria which would strategically allow Putin to control a second gas pipeline to Europe. Naturally this Iranian pipeline to Syria quickly became a top priority for Moscow. Assad and the Russians worked their contacts to dissuade the Qatar deal and promote the Iranian plan. Bashar and Asma thought they had forced Europe and the Gulf States to up their offer. Instead, they had made some very dangerous enemies.
Saudis need Assad overthrown
Saudi diplomatic efforts and generous contracts to US and UK arms manufacturers gave the Kingdom an unwritten call on the military of Western powers to fight its war for it. And so the Saudi king merely needed to lift a finger for President Obama and Britain's Prime Minister Cameron to schedule air strikes against Syria in an effort to overthrow Assad. At the end of August 2013, however, the British parliament voted against the action. That put pressure on the US president who calculated that Congress would follow suit and block any attack on Syria as well. Russia raised the stakes by moving warships into the Mediterranean, ready to defend Syria. Saudi Arabia's friends backed down, and the Saudi king resolved to solve the problem of Syria himself.
As Iran is liberated from US-imposed embargo, two power blocks have emerged in the Middle East - Iran, Iraq and Syria, which are all Shia-led, and the rest of the Arab world, which is Sunni and stands against the Shia. While America holds the alliance of the Sunni world, Russia is siding with the Shia-controlled nations.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar's first move was to fund the Muslim Brotherhood, which intended to impose Sunni control on all Middle Eastern countries. The Saudis persuaded the United States to endorse this policy and western media put a marketing spin on the rebellions of these Muslim fundamentalists, by dubbing their power grab "the Arab Spring". Once the Brotherhood's intolerance started to emerge in power, the US backed out and the Saudis tried a different tack.
The Saudis had another trick up their sleeve. Not only did the US refuse to overthrow Assad, but they then opened negotiations to loosen the oil embargo on Iran. The prospects of Iran coming back to the international oil market would heighten the growing over-supply of crude oil. Usually in these situations, OPEC was expected to cut its production to reduce oversupply in the oil market and make oil production profitable for all the other countries in the world. Saudi production quotas so exceed those of all the other OPEC nations that no production cut would be meaningful if the Saudis refused to cooperate.
The Saudis came up with a new strategy that would punish Russia for their intervention in Syria, stall Iran from retooling its oil industry and cripple America's fracking production. They increased oil production and aggressively offered low oil prices to grab market share. The oil price fall conveniently stymied all the parties involved in keeping Assad in power.
Proxy War in Syria
Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been heavily involved with fostering and funding Sunni Muslim insurgent groups in Iraq and Syria, including the much-publicized ISIS. Disaffected and experienced Sunni administrators and soldiers in Iraq poured into ISIS, who offered them wages and self-respect.
ISIS are funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar donors, but not controlled by them. Their leaders found it easy to quickly grab the Sunni dominated areas of Iraq and Syria, aided by the downtrodden locals. However, they have shown an ambivalent attitude in their administration. The leaders of national branches of ISIS seek income opportunities to enable them to advance ahead of rival branch leaders and gain policy independence from Saudi Arabia. In northern Iraq, they run the oil refineries they take over to make a profit. In Libya, they destroy them as offenses to God. The Libyan branch of ISIS prefers the easy money of people smuggling. Established smuggling routes also serve the long-term strategic ambition to project fighters worldwide.
ISIS-lead upheavals in Syria create a crisis that refugees are fleeing from, the ISIS-lead smuggling operations in Libya offer those refugees a route into Europe.