Chinese Aggression in the South China Sea: U.S. Surrendering Global Trade to China

By: Terence Rosenthal, June 1, 2016

The Pentagon’s most overlooked military threat is Chinese militarized aggression in the South China Sea. Following the ISIS/Syria conflict, Chinese aggression in the South China Sea is the most significant global military threat. Currently the Chinese are constructing seven islands in the international waters of the South China Sea equipped with military airfields, radar systems, and surface-to-air missile systems. In addition, China is claiming all waters inside of the Nine-Dash-Line, which composes approximately 90% of the South China Sea. Through law-fare regarding U.N. Law of the Sea, the China is attempting to extend the boundaries of its waters to the end of its continental shelf, hundreds of miles into the South China Sea. As a result, the Chinese have coerced ships of ASEAN claimants near the Scarborough Shoals, and the Spratly Islands, part of the First Island Chain of the South China Sea.

While the South China Sea does not have the same ramifications in terms of collateral damage and loss of life as ISIS/Syria, its economic and geopolitical threats are far greater. The South China Sea, the busiest maritime trade zone in the world, is home to 50% of global maritime trade as well as the transport of approximately 60% of Japanese and South Korean energy supply. Significant adjustment to Southeast Asian trade routes may cost trillions of dollars to the U.S. and its allies. Chinese extension of hegemony to the disputed First Island Chain, hundreds of miles off of China’s coast, will effectively push U.S. forces out of the South China Sea.

To turn the tide, the U.S. must unify Vietnam, The Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, in response to China’s claim of the Nine Dash Line and its territorial advance toward the First Island Chain. This is possible through the TPP, or other multilateral partnerships. In addition, The U.S. should extend greater flexibility regarding loan and trade regulations to ASEAN powers in the transfer of maritime surveillance, satellite systems, and port development. Finally, the U.S. must set global precedent by encouraging international arbitration against China among all South China Sea claimants. If the U.S. delays, China will take advantage of ASEAN vulnerability, and arrange agreements with all South China Sea claimants individually. These agreements will diminish all ASEAN opposition to China in the South China Sea. The Chinese Navy has slightly more than700 craft, over 300 of which are in the South China Sea. Currently, the U.S. Navy currently only has slightly more than 400 craft in total. To be fair, 60% of U.S. Naval air assets are currently in the Pacific. By 2020, the U.S. wishes to send its newest air and amphibious equipment to the region. However, it is obvious that China is racing to become the top global power. By 2020, China may have complete control over the South China Sea.

Time is not on the side of the U.S. What is most troubling is that the freedom of global trade is at stake. 90% of trade is accomplished on the high seas. Trade is the lifeblood of free markets, and democracy. While the U.S. and its allies cannot engage in every global conflict, at the very least, they must assure freedom among maritime trade routes. If the Chinese remain unchallenged in the South China Sea, they will be perceived as the top global superpower. Global free trade will cease to exist. U.S. citizens, and the citizens of the U.S.’ allies will pay the price.

“Governor Nikki Haley: the anti-Palin for 2016” By: Terence Rosenthal

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has the potential to soften a Presidential ticket with either Trump or Cruz, making either candidate appear more digestible to those who want change, but are frightened of firebrand conservatism. Demonstrating her leadership after the shootings at Emanuel A.M.E. Church of Charleston, Haley brings believability that she can show compassion while governing conservatively. In addition, she has been lauded and has received much praise by newly minted establishment Republicans like Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. In this sense, Haley in 2016 fulfills the opposite role of that of Sarah Palin in 2008. Many viewed Governor Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate who would have been able to rally the strength of the conservative base behind Senator John McCain, who was a fairly centrist Presidential candidate.

Governor Haley’s ability to lead was confirmed with respect to the Dylan Roof race murders at Emanuel A.M.E. Church of Charleston this past Summer, when nine African-Americans were tragically murdered. Haley states, “Black lives do matter, and they have been disgracefully jeopardized by the movement that has laid waste to Ferguson and Baltimore…” She further states, “In South Carolina, we did things differently.” Although many in South Carolina take pride in their Southern heritage, after the shooting, Haley decided that removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol would be a decisive step in eradicating any lingering trace of the era of segregation still present in South Carolina.

With respect to current challenges in the U.S. as related to race relations and immigration, Haley states, “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices…” which some interpret to be a jab at Presidential candidate Donald Trump. Yet on the program “New Day,” Haley states, “We get more done when we listen and find out where someone else is coming from and put ourselves in their shoes to try and figure out where we can find common ground…” She states this in reference to the immigration of refugees and illegal aliens. Perhaps this recent statement makes Governor Haley come across as a RINO. However, Haley has a history with the Tea Party in South Carolina, and leans far enough to the right on issues like immigration, and the importation of Syrian refugees.

Much like Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley is proud of her parents’ immigrant heritage. However, this does not stop her from viewing illegal immigration as a violation of the law as well as an abuse of the safety of citizens and legal residents. In 2012, Governor Haley helped enact legislation to check personal status under reasonable suspicion. Haley also supported legislation for the creation of an Immigration Enforcement unit inside the Department of Public Safety.

Under Governor Haley’s leadership in South Carolina, nearly 75,000 jobs have been created. In addition, over 25,000 no longer need to rely on the state’s welfare system due to Haley’s favorable environment for economic growth. Haley’s opinions, legislation and accomplishments with respect to race, immigration, and economic growth validate her as a top choice for the V.P. slot. In addition, she is a woman born of first generation Indian parents. With this, she brings an interesting dynamic to the Republican Presidential ticket. Senator John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate was quite unique in 2008, having catered to the base of the Republican Party. Placing Governor Nikki Haley in the Vice Presidential slot for 2016 would bring comparable balance to the Republican ticket if a conservative candidate like Cruz or Trump wins the primary.

“Turkey: wayward U.S. ally, catalyst of conflict in ISIS and Syria” By: Terence Rosenthal

Introduction

In recent decades, and throughout the ISIS-Syria conflict, Turkey has been a controversial ally of NATO. The Turks have attempted to engage Russia via the downing of a Russian jet. They have purchased oil from ISIS through the black market. In addition, the Turks have funded radical groups like Hamas, and have turned a blind eye to radical jihadists coming in and out of their country. What drives Turkey, and what can the U.S. do to assure that the Turks promote stability in the region, and become a more reliable ally in terms of the greater interests of the U.S., the west, and NATO?

 

Turkey and NATO

Recently, Turkey shot down a Russian jet that was apparently trespassing over its sovereign territory. Whether or not the pilot of this jet was violating Turkish territory, NATO is placed in precarious situation with respect to Turkey in this incident and other aspects having to do with the ISIS-Syrian conflict. “Tensions between Russia and Turkey are at all times highs following the downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber by Turkish forces along the Syrian border on November 24. Russian leader Vladimir Putin called the attack “a stab in Russia’s back” and said that there would be severe consequences for Turkish/Russian relations” (VanNess 2015). “Not only is Turkey in a delicate situation, but also as a member of NATO, Turkey’s actions are placing the United States and other western nations in a precarious situation” (VanNess 2015).

Do the Turks have a desire to cajole members of NATO, including the U.S. into a greater war with Russia? Perhaps events in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine have the Turks worried that they will bear the brunt of similar bullying on the part of Russia next. It is possible that the Turks feel spurned by Russia for backing Iranian proxies like the Assad regime. Perhaps the downing of the Russian jet is a statement from Turkey to the Arab world that Turkey, and pro-Islamist supporters of president Erdogan in particular will lead the charge against an all-powerful Shia crescent in the Middle East. This may be both noble and ambitious on the part of the Turks, however, it is not yet clear who in the Sunni Arab world follow Turkey’s lead.

 

Is Turkey buying ISIS oil?

American officials in Turkey are revealing that oil from ISIS is being sold to Turkish businessmen. The reason why these businessmen are willing to buy black market oil from ISIS is because it is highly inexpensive, being sold at half of market value. In addition, black market oil is often sold through middlemen who create distance, acting as third parties, between those who purchase ISIS oil. With this in mind, even Bilal Erdogan, the son in law of the Turkish president has been accused of purchasing oil on the black market from ISIS. “Experts and U.S. Treasury officials agree that a significant portion of ISIS’ oil is being sold in Turkey, with the majority sold to middlemen acting on behalf of Turkish businessmen” (Masi 2015).  “The international effort to starve ISIS by denying it access to oil markets has been undermined by the hunger for profit among officials who share proximity to the high-value commerce, and who are aided by ordinary people trying to eke out an existence in a conflict zone” (Masi 2015). “ISIS sells roughly 100,000 barrels of oil a day from its territory in Iraq and Syria for an average cost of $20 a barrel, former CIA Director Mike Morell said last month. The price tends to increase by a few dollars when there is a battle, according to Samuel Laurent’s book “L’Etat Islamique,” but prices remain between 50 and 60 percent lower than market value” (Masi 2015).

It is possible that Turkey views the purchasing of ISIS oil as win-win for Turkish interests. Less revenue lost to the purchase of oil from the world market or Russia translates as greater revenue for the Turkish economy. Greater power given to ISIS for the purchase of their oil translates into greater power and representation of Sunni Islam in Syria and Iraq. Is greater prominence in the Sunni Arab world worth sacrificing regional stability? Is saving a few dollars per barrel on ISIS oil worth it with respect to the prospect of funding Islamic caliphate which desires hegemony over the entire Middle East?  Perhaps the Turks can be convinced that a formal border between itself and Kurdistan will assure stability and an end of age-old conflict between both neighbors. It is possible that Kurdistan will agree to sell oil at a reduced price to Turkey pending the establishment of an independent Kurdistan.

 

United States Military and Turkey

In recent years, the record of Turkey with respect to its relationship with the U.S. Military has been checkered. Originally Erdogan’s party, the AKP was a proponent of greater personal freedom of expression when it came to prominence in 2002. “…In 2002, the Department of Defense was among Turkey’s best friends inside the U.S. government. The Pentagon considered Turkey a staunch ally, and uniformed U.S. personnel had a deep affection for Turkey going back to U.S.-Turkish cooperation in the Cold War, and then in the Balkans in the 1990s” (Cagaptay 2015). “Following the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government, including the military, became preoccupied with identifying moderate Muslim allies. Turkey benefited from this endeavor, as the ruling pro-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the elections in 2002, taking office on a platform of moderation” (Cagaptay 2015). However, the AKP, in its quest to link with Sunni Arabs of the Middle East has moved in an anti-western direction, rejecting the secular routes of modern Turkey. Many view this as a return to Ottoman sensibilities.

It is possibly Erdogan’s promotion of Sunni Islam which led the Turks not to properly vet its jihadist that went into Syria at the start of the Syrian civil war. As a result, many Turks have been radicalized by groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS. One of Turkey’s main armed proxies, Ahrar al-Sham is almost as radical as Al Qaeda. “When the Arab Spring arrived in Syria, at Turkey’s doorstep in 2011, Ankara jumped into the Syrian uprising ahead of Washington. However, it also turned a blind eye to the jihadists, who were going into Syria to fight the Assad regime” (Cagaptay 2015). “Of course, that has not happened. In the interim, at least some of the bad guys who have crossed into Syria have morphed into the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS)” (Cagaptay 2015).

A true anti-western snub on the part of the Turks was the purchase of a Chinese defense system in 2013. “The U.S. military’s confidence in Turkey was shaken further in 2013 when Turkey decided to buy a Chinese air defense system, raising rare public objections from Washington” (Cagaptay 2015). It is highly beneficial for the U.S. and NATO that the Turks are letting the U.S. use its air bases. However, Turkey has been dragging its feet with respect to closing off a sixty mile hole in its border. This hole has allowed the passage of jihadists and ISIS oil. “In July, Turkey granted the United States access to use its military bases to conduct air operations against the Islamic State (IS) and to station search and rescue teams. This may have insulated it from Western frustration at Turkey’s slow efforts to close off a remaining 98-kilometer (60-mile) stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border that US officials say is being used by foreign fighters to enter Syria and by IS to smuggle oil” (Rozen 2015).

It is not clear if the eradication of ISIS is of the utmost importance with respect to the Turks. “‘Our priorities are very different,’ Barkey, head of Middle East studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told Al-Monitor on Dec. 1. ‘For Turkey, the priority is getting rid of [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad first, preventing the Syrian Kurds from consolidating and moving west of the Euphrates. [Combating IS] is No. 3 on their priorities’” (Rozen 2015).

The Turks consider the toppling of Assad as very important. This may be beneficial to U.S. and western interests. However, in terms of western interests, particularly the interests of NATO countries, the Turks are currently placing too much importance on secondary goals like nullifying the Kurds rather than on fighting ISIS. Turkey may end up placing too much preference on Sunni Islamic radicalism if it is not tempered by U.S. and other western voices in NATO. “NATO has thrown its support towards Turkey throughout this incident. However, under the leadership of, Recep Tayyep Erdogan, Turkey has largely undermined the U.S. and NATO, and has not been a strong ally. Despite, on the surface, involvement in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), Erdogan prefers to use this fight against ISIS as a pretext to attack Kurdish militia groups instead” (VanNess 2015).

Turkey may in fact be placing more value on thwarting the Kurds than at stopping ISIS. The Kurds have offered ISIS the most reliable opposition of any group in the region. Many of the “moderates” the Turks fund are offshoots of Al Qaeda. Although the ISIS-Syrian conflict may be too large for the west to rely only on the Kurds as its regional boots on the ground, the west must assure that Turkey give the Kurds some level of diplomatic latitude so that they are not nullified by fighting on two fronts. While some level Sunni Muslim leadership in Syria is inevitable after the ISIS-Syrian conflict is resolved, Kurdish autonomy must be considered if the Turkish-Kurdish rivalry is to come to a close as well.

 

Russia and Turkey

Like Europe, Turkey depends on Russian oil. Until the incident involving the Russian jet took place, Erdogan was planning on building a pipeline below the Black Sea to Turkey. Now, Russia has decided not to build this pipeline. “Gazprom has been in talks with Turkey to develop the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, to ship Russian gas underneath the Black Sea to Turkey. Russia is Turkey’s largest gas supplier and the pipeline was designed to be an alternative route for Russian natural gas heading to Europe that circumvents Ukraine, giving Russia the ability to diminish Ukraine as an important energy transit state. However, Russian Minister of development, Alexi Ulyukayev, announced that Russia is canceling Turkish Stream” (VanNess 2015).

It is possible that further controversial behavior on the part of the Turks will leave Europe in jeopardy with respect to its supply of Russian oil. Unfortunately, European members of NATO have given too much power to Russia with respect to the supply of their oil. It is not guaranteed that members of NATO will back Turkey if its actions reach a certain level of provocation with Russia. Witness the weak European and American reaction with respect to Russian takeover in Crimea. “Russia holds energy hegemony in the region. Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom provides energy to many countries throughout Europe. While Gazprom has numerous deals with various European counterparts, including a recent strategic alliance with Royal Dutch Shell, The Company regularly acts as a weapon in Putin’s arsenal, often forgoing profits in order to help push the Kremlin’s agenda” (VanNess 2015).

The good news is that the Russian economy will crumble if its prime customers from Western Europe were forced to stop purchasing oil from Russia due to a major conflict in the Black Sea. After witnessing Russia’s focused response toward Turkey, and not NATO as a whole, it is apparent that Putin has no willful desires to take on NATO in addition to its intervention in the Syria-ISIS conflict. Turkey must roll back its posturing against Russia and instead, focus on greater relations with states capable of selling the Turks quantities of comparable in price and volume as the Russians. This involves Turkey working with its oil-rich neighbors, the Kurds, the Turkmen, and Azerbaijan. If the Turks noticeably roll back some of its support for Sunni radicalism, it may be possible for them to attain lucrative deals with these countries.

 

Turkey and the Sunni Arab world

A logical reason for Erdogan supporting radical Sunni groups is that the AKP wishes to solidify support from the Sunni Arab world by assuring the Sunnis that Turkey stands behind their regional initiatives. “Since coming to power in 2002, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has made a strategic choice to reintegrate Turkey into the regional Arab political system” (Abaza 2009). However, Erdogan has made gross miscalculations in his quest for Sunni Arab support. The Turkish president has managed to turn Russia and Israel, two of its largest trading partners into rivals. In addition, after bearing the brunt of Sunni Islamic radical upheavals in their own countries, many Sunni Arab nations cannot afford to endorse the radical Islamic groups that Turkey has helped prosper.

 

Turkey and Israel

As the Erdogan administration gives greater political voice to Sunni Islamists in Turkey, he seeks to undo the relations that previous politically secular administrations developed in the past. Even after the Gaza flotilla incident of 2010, Turkey and Israel managed to maintain a profitable trade partnership. However, preceding this incident, Turkey and Israel were also productive political allies. “Previously, Arab states perceived Turkey as an anti-Arab and pro-Israel actor, but this perception is now being reversed” (Abaza 2009). In spite of being a NATO ally of the United States, the Erdogan regime has managed to link with Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, a notorious terror group who seeks the eradication of Israel. “Erdogan has met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and has expressed public support and financial assistance to the terrorist group Hamas” (VanNess 2015). The close relationship which Obama has with Erdogan has caused many who are against these terror organizations to question the judgement of both of these leaders with respect to stability in the Middle East. Israel has had to attack Hamas installations in the Palestinian territories. With respect to the Obama administration, “They consider the undermining of the Egyptian ceasefire proposals and the turning toward Qatar and Turkey – supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas – as another example of the US betraying its allies and engaging its enemies” (Leibler 2014).

 

Turkey and the Kurds

Politically, Turkish Kurds who were once divided in their allegiance to the Erdogan administration now stand squarely against him. This may be beneficial with respect Turkish Kurds building Kurdish unity between those in Syria, Iraq, and Iran. “For one thing, Turkey’s Kurdish problem has changed. Until this year, Turkey’s 10 to 12 million-strong Kurdish community, representing about 15 percent of the Turkish population, wasn’t a unified political force; its internal splits followed the fault lines of the country as a whole” (Cagaptay 2015). “…During Turkey’s most recent elections in June 2015…the Kurds – liberal, conservative, and nationalist alike – coalesced around the Kurdish-nationalist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)” (Cagaptay 2015).

The benefit of an independent Kurdistan is that the Turks could allocate less time and resources protecting their Kurdish rivals in organizations like the PKK. “…Many Turks still distrust Kurdish nationalism. This attitude is especially prevalent among the military establishment and its extensive civilian support network. Such sentiments make the military unsympathetic to calls for aiding the PKK-aligned Kurdish groups fighting ISIS in northern Syria” (Stafford 2015). Having an independent Kurdistan with clear, protected borders will provide the Turks with the security of knowing they will not be agitated by groups like the PKK. This will also allow the Kurds to focus on defending key resources and territory against ISIS.

 

Deadlock regarding Assad 

Ambiguity with respect to the U.S.’ main mission in the Syria-ISIS conflict is allowing the Turks to veer away from eradicating ISIS. To reiterate, politically, Turkey views regime change in Syria as more important than getting rid of ISIS. This is why the Turks are reluctant to completely close their Southern border. Many speak of toppling Assad. However, who will replace him? “Further, the Middle East battleground is crowded with competing ethnic, sectarian and tribal interests, most of which harbor jihadist sympathies. So, with which should the U.S. ally itself against ISIS: the al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra? The Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham? Are we helping Bashar al-Assad cling to power by fighting side-by-side with Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp?” (Hoekstra and Lopez 2015). Recently in Vienna, it was predictable who wished to see Assad remain, and who desired to see him exit. “At a rare but inconclusive round of talks in Vienna on Friday that brought together many of the main countries involved in Syria, ‘the Russians were in favor (of Assad), the Americans were against, the Turks were against, the Saudis were against, the Iranians were in favor’, Yaalon said” (Reuters 2015). However, all the only thing reiterated from these talks is the apparent Sunni-Shia divide, and the fact that no middle-ground exists.

 

Full representation at future negotiations?

To restate, one possible reason why Turkey shot down a Russian jet in late November was for Erdogan to show the Sunni Arab world that he is not afraid to lead on their behalf. Currently in the Middle East with respect to ISIS-Syria, it is apparent that two axes will form. There will be a Shiite axis represented by Russia, Iran, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. In contrast, there will be a Sunni axis represented by the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, members of the GCC, and Jordan. In addition, a neutral axis consisting of France, Israel, and possibly some NATO allies like Great Britain and Germany may arise to tamp down any threat of Russian oil boycotts to Europe, or territorial overflows into Israeli territories. Regarding the Sunni axis, “These states, from Saudi Arabia to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, will and must have a say in what happens next. They will not allow a nuclear-armed Iranian hegemony to expand unchallenged. They recognize that the U.S. has been an unreliable ally at best, as it facilitated the overthrow of Sunni regimes in Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and allowed for the advancement of Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities” (Hoekstra and Lopez 2015). With respect to the Shiite axis, “…Russia and Iran remain Assad allies and will resist having the Syrian president pushed aside–at least pushed aside indiscriminately” (Seib 2015).

 

Sunni buffer zones and territories

It is understandable why the Erdogan regime has taken provocative action during the course of the Syria-ISIS conflicts. Many territories that will be in dispute as events play out in this conflict. Eventually the Syria-ISIS conflict will spill over into countries that have stayed relatively quiet as events have unfolded. When this happens, Sunni nations that have laid low will have to confront ISIS. There may very well be conferences establishing the future makeup of the region before this happens. Sunni countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia will want a prominent place at the table so they to be on the winning end of future mediation. In the negotiations between the U.S. and Iran, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel felt betrayed by the U.S. After Russia entered Syria to defend Assad regime, Erdogan felt marginalized by Putin. “Ultimately driving out Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq will require finding fellow Sunni Muslim ground forces to finish the job and then stabilize Syria. Yet for now, other Sunni states also don’t want to get trapped in Syrian internal warfare” (Seib 2015). Inspiring these Sunni states to take on ISIS will require territorial incentive at the negotiation table. For many Sunnis, at least ISIS counters the push for Shia regional dominance. “Whether we like it or not, ISIS currently plays a role in the balancing act between Shia and Sunni in the Middle East. What happens to the equilibrium once it is removed from the equation?” (Hoekstra and Lopez 2015). “Have we considered that the very rise of ISIS, with broad support from local Sunni states, was itself a reaction to the removal of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army as the only credible counterweight to the Shiite rulers in Tehran?” (Hoekstra and Lopez 2015).

 

Closing

Based on the Erdogan administration’s recent behavior, it is probable that the Turks are attempting to assert a few key objectives. First, Turkey desires to be a chief representative of the Sunni Arab world at the bargaining table in terms of designing the makeup of territories in Syria and Iraq pending the defeat of ISIS. Second, after siding with the Sunni Arab world, Turkey wishes to assure that it has ample fuel supplies in spite of former business deals it had with Russia regarding the trade of oil. Third, Turkey wishes to nullify the power of the PKK or any Kurdish entity that is a threat to Turkish hegemony in the region.  The one benefit of the downing of the Russian jet is that it has put into perspective whether or not members of NATO are willing to address the Russians head on. Unless NATO allies are willing to live without the purchase of Russian oil, then they must cut a deal with Russia and its allies. This deal must be based on who the prime U.S. allies are in the regions neighboring the ISIS-Syria conflict. With this in mind, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries must have a place at the negotiating table pending the defeat of ISIS.

 

 

References

 

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Cagaptay, Soner. 2015. “How the U.S. Military Lost Its Favor for Turkey.” Washington

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Cagaptay, Soner. 2015. “Turkey Is in Serious Trouble.” The Atlantic, October 5. Accessed

December 12, 2015.

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Leibler, Isi. 2014. “Candidly Speaking: Will Obama keep shielding Hamas barbarians at our

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Fueling ISIS And Dividing The Terrorist Group’s Opponents.” International Business Times,

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“Aggressive Containment of ISIS and Iranian Imperialism in the Middle East, a plausible plan with respect to the current administration.” –By: Terence Rosenthal

“Aggressive containment” is a strategy the present U.S. administration is capable of pursuing without diverting from its current ideology with respect to its foreign policy in the Middle East. It consists of two U.S. brokered partnerships in the Middle East with respect to ISIS, the Syrian civil war, and expanding Iranian regional hegemony. The first partnership would respond to developments south of Syria and Iraq. It would be between Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. With the help of the U.S., this partnership would also be in charge of dealing with ISIS in the Sinai, and Houthis and Al Qaeda in Yemen. The second U.S. assisted partnership would be between the Turks and Kurdish forces to the north of Syria and Iraq. This partnership would focus on fortifying the Turkish border, and Turkish waterways on the Mediterranean. Both coalitions would fortify borders, utilize checkpoints to gather intelligence, and construct and fortify refugee camps with assistance and direction from the U.S.

Devising a strategy with regard to ISIS, Iran and their affiliates is quite challenging as any course of action the U.S. takes may be perceived as beneficial for bad actors in the region. However, inaction will yield worse consequences. “Aggressive Containment” offers many scenarios in which the U.S. can act as “manager in chief” with respect to the reinforcement of partnerships designed to confront challenges associated with ISIS, the Syrian civil war, and Iranian hegemony.

 

With respect to confronting ISIS, the Syrian civil war, and Iranian hegemony in the Middle East, what is realistic under current U.S. leadership must be considered

It is important to consider the current U.S. leadership when reviewing possible countermeasures with respect to the spread of both ISIS and regional Iranian Shia imperialism. So far, it is unclear what the U.S. seeks as an ideal goal with respect to these two challenges. Even after the Paris terror attacks, President Obama remains ambivalent with respect to developments in the Middle East. “President Obama has made clear that the attacks in Paris won’t change his strategy toward Syria—which means that meetings between the two presidents are likely to lead to announcements of incremental progress but nothing on par with the sort of strategic reorientation many might have expected after a deadly attack on the U.S.’s close European ally” (De Galbert, 2015).

 

Coalitions between the U.S. and regional forces must place the security of key maritime trade routes first.

As the Syrian civil war and the ISIS conflict progress, ISIS affiliates are claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks. ISIS affiliated groups are springing up throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Boko Haram, Ansar al-Sharia are probably the most well-known among these organizations. However, the Islamic State presence in Gaza and Sinai, Ahara al-Sunna, and Al-Qaeda in Yemen are possibly the most troubling incarnations of ISIS because of their proximity to major waterways in addition to other religious conflicts. ISIS has demonstrated that they have no problem plundering resources to generate revenue and attract new converts. If ISIS gains control of key waterways and trade routes, they will hold the maritime trade through the Middle East hostage.

 

Iranian hegemony in the Middle East threatens the international community as much as ISIS

During the Syrian civil war and the ISIS conflicts, Iranian influence has taken lower profile in the news. The international community has all but given Iran the green light to nuclear development. Perhaps the global diplomatic community has failed to take into account that Iran’s influence backs the Assad regime, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas, and IRGC, a semi-autonomous terrorist group inside of its own government.  Iranian influenced Shiite leadership is equal or surpasses Sunni leadership in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran and this group of countries is often called the Shia crescent. If the Shia crescent becomes more dominant, regional maritime trade routes may be closed to pro-western countries in Europe and Asia. These routes- the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden, are perhaps the most important trade routes in the world.

 

Conflicts in the Middle East have created global threats and challenges

Defensive mobilization of border forces is required now as according to the United Nations, over 4 million Syrian refugees have moved to other countries in the region, with more than 7.5 million who have left their homes within Syria due to conflict. The true danger revealed by these numbers is how great the possibility for chaos there is in the Middle East and Europe due to the amount of people who are displaced and cannot be identified.

 

The U.S,’ global role is to defend world trade. Trade through the Middle East is too important for U.S. to ignore.

Ambivalence with respect to U.S. military intervention in the Middle East is quite understandable. Although the wars in Iraq ended with some positive outcomes, it is questionable as to whether they worth the sacrifice that the U.S. put into them. Before directing more resources into the Syrian civil war, ISIS conflict, and response to Iranian expansion, the U.S. must define its purpose as a global leader. While the U.S. cannot afford to be the global police, it must be the prime guardian of free trade throughout the world. As the largest global economy, and the foremost proponent of democracy, the U.S. bears the most responsibility and has the most to gain from guarding world trade. In addition, assurance and safety with respect to free trade assures greater freedom and democracy internationally. For this reason, the U.S. cannot afford to turn its back on the Middle East by letting the most important global resources and trade routes fall into the hands of tyranny and chaos.

 

Some U.S. analysts favor striking ISIS in Syria, however, they offer very few alternatives in the event of an anti-U.S. counter attack on the part of Russia and Iran.

How should the U.S. further intervene in response to developments in Syria and Iraq? According to Christopher Harmer at Institute for the Study if War, “The U.S. can and should act decisively in Syria in order to protect its national security interests and those of its allies.” “Continued U.S. inaction in the face of these strategic challenges will only exacerbate the security situation and empower America’s enemies and strategic competitors.” Chris Harmer at ISW recommends segmented no-fly zones throughout Iraq and Syria that do not interfere with Russian intervention in the region. “Strategically, establishing a No-Fly Zone could deprive the Assad regime of its ability to continue its kill and depopulate strategy” (Harmer, 2015). This may help contain ISIS, however, it does not address where refugees will be taken, or how movements of people from the region will be limited.

 

Other American analysts say that the U.S. should stay out of the Syria conflicts, and let Iran and Russia bear the burden of confronting ISIS and sorting out the complex allegiances and logistics of the Syrian civil war.  

In May, Patrick Buchanan states, “While few would mourn the passing of the Assad dynasty, there is a problem: If Assad falls, a slaughter of Christians will follow and the battle for control of Damascus will be between the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, the Nusra Front, and the crazed terrorists of the Islamic State. Victory for either would be a disaster for America” (2015). In addition, if the U.S. remains neutral with respect to future leadership in Syria, perhaps a Sunni versus Shia power struggle will help the western interests. Buchanan further states, “…while the Houthis bear no love for us, they have been fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, the Saudi bombing has given AQAP, the most dangerous terrorist foe we face, freedom to create sanctuaries and liberate hundreds of fellow terrorists from prison” (2015). This “let the chips fall where they may” approach may create a scenario in which the U.S. and pro-Western powers may have to negotiate with terrorist groups regarding resources and trade routes in the future.

 

“Aggressive Containment” considers the significance of the Middle East with respect to future trade and global military and diplomatic alliances

The main focus of aggressive containment is to secure the borders of Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Once the borders of these countries are fully secured, starving ISIS of resources as well as limiting Iranian hegemony is more likely. Why emphasize a coalition between Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt? All gain as allies with respect to countering ISIS, the Assad regime, and Iranian regional influence. Together, they assure protection of waterways and trade to the west. In addition, as a coalition, they are a much stronger force against ISIS in the Sinai, and the Houthis in Yemen. Interestingly, these threats are both Sunni and Shia, and stand to block the world’s most important trade routes.

The Russians and Iranians are both present in Syria, and Iran has a presence in Yemen. ISIS has presence in the Syria, Sinai, and Yemen. The Eastern Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Persian Gulf are all in danger of becoming dominated by anti-western forces. The coalition of Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, to link with U.S. and other western navies, assuring the western dominance in the Mediterranean, the Suez, and Red Sea, assuring safe trade from Europe to Asia, as well as east-west trade of Saudi and Gulf State oil. Coalition victories in the Sinai and Yemen will show ISIS, Iran, and other radical Islamist groups that they will not succeed in threatening the west and free trade. In addition, Iran will face the reality that a pro-western coalition in the Middle East will hedge Iranian influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

The U.S. should broker a partnership between Turkey and Kurdistan in countering ISIS from the north. Kurdistan has been the only reliable force in countering ISIS in northern Syria and Iraq. If the Turks and the Kurds form a partnership, Turkey will be able to use Kurdistan as a buffer zone in which to gather key intelligence with respect to ISIS. Being trusted by Turkey and the international community to take on ISIS and while rallying all Kurdish provinces, there is no doubt that the Kurds will gain greater autonomy.

In addition to border fortification in the Middle East, the U.S. should lead in the construction of fortified refugee camps and identification checkpoints in Kurdistan, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This addresses the hemorrhage of refugees migrating to Europe from the Syrian and ISIS conflicts. U.S. boots will be required on the ground, but not in the heart of the Syrian civil war or ISIS conflicts.

 

Although Iran and ISIS are oppose each other, they both desire hegemony in the Middle East. Aggressive containment takes productive action while allowing ISIS and Iran to drain resources fighting over territory

“In many ways Iran and Islamic State are mirror images of each other. Take a historical example from a half millennium ago. Asked what Francis I of France sought in his war with Charles V of the Habsburg Empire, the French king replied: ‘None, we are in complete agreement. We both want control over Italy’” (Weinthal, 2015). Iran is an Islamist government with a semi-autonomous militant Islamist army embedded among its allies globally. With respect to pursuits designed to weaken the west, unlike ISIS, the IRGC prefers to operate in the shadows, training groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Taliban. It also partners with organized crime and illegal drug cartels throughout the world. Interestingly, much of the efforts of the IRGC are generated in South America.  Benjamin Weinthal, a writer for the Jerusalem Post states, “In those battles, Tehran will likely do just enough to make sure the Sunnis don’t conquer the Shi’a portions of Iraq and Assad’s enclave in Syria, but no more. Meanwhile, in ISIS’ wake, Tehran will strengthen its own radical Shi’a militias. The result could be a permanent destabilization of the Arab heartland” (2015).

 

U.S. will lose the trust of its allies if it chooses to continue “leading from behind.” France turning to Russia in the face of U.S. indecision.

U.S. allies are disheartened that although Obama offered Hollande sympathy, he was going to maintain the current U.S. foreign policy with respect to Syria and Iraq. Western Europe is searching for leadership with respect to events in Syria and the subsequent refugee crisis. In spite of Russia’s self- motivated interests in Syria, the Europeans may look to the Russians for that leadership. “Russia is attempting to align itself with France in the wake of ISIS’s terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13. Russia took steps to reassert its freedom of action in Syria as France expanded its anti-ISIS air campaign in response to the Paris attacks” (Spaulding, 2015). “Russia may view France’s accelerating air campaign in Syria as an opportunity both to draw a major U.S. ally into its proposed alternative counterterrorism coalition and to degrade NATO” (Spaulding, 2015).

 

About Isis in the Sinai, and Houthis and Al Qaeda in Yemen

Victory over ISIS in the Sinai offers the U.S. and a coalition between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt would help to reverse the public relations war ISIS is waging in the media and online. ISIS in the Sinai appeared after it took credit for the downing of a Russian passenger jet on October 31st. “On several occasions since then, both the Sinai “province” and other parts of the Islamic State’s international network have issued statements and videos saying the “caliphate’s” soldiers were responsible” (Jocelyn, 2015). In addition, “the group claimed to have destroyed more than 25 Egyptian military and security vehicles, killed more than 100 members of Egypt’s security forces and taken various spoils between October 14 and November 13” (Jocelyn, 2015). Suppression of the Houthis and Al Qaeda in Yemen will also better pro-western public relations in terms of diminishing the power of both Sunni and Shia radicalism in the Arabian Peninsula. If the coalition of Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan were cemented by the U.S., and they were to blight Sunni and Shia radical groups, key trade routes connecting the Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean would be assured.

 

Enlisting the Kurds in the north at the Turkish and Syrian borders

North of ISIS and the Syrian civil war, in Iraq and Syria lie the Kurds. Kurdish forces have shown immense courage with little help from outside forces since conflict arose in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds are more reliable to the west than any other group that the U.S. and western forces are reaching out to. “The U.S. also says it’s going to train ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels, a process that could take a year to generate some 5,000 fighters. Yet the U.S. has given no indication so far that it’s prepared to work with the Kurdish militias in Syria that are already clashing with the Islamic State” (Myre, 2015). While the Turks and the Kurds are not friendly, if the U.S. can oversee a partnership among these territories, border checkpoints and refugee camps can be set up in the mountains north of ISIS. The geography of the Kurdish territories offers somewhat of a safe haven because of its remote, mountainous terrain. The Kurdish territories also offer an optimal listening post to monitor movements of the Iranians in the East. The Kurds have also been the most effective in rolling back advances from ISIS. In contrast, moderate rebels in Syria are having to fight pro-Assad forces as well as ISIS. These forces have a variety of motives, some of which are not in concert with the West. If confronted by ISIS or Assad, many among the moderate rebels may turn against the U.S.

 

Aggressive containment is a viable strategy with respect to current U.S. leadership.

Aggressive containment is a viable strategy for the United States with respect to developments in the Middle East because it allows the U.S. to continue its utilization of smart weaponry offensives while guarding western interests, and not interfering with the Russians or other European forces. Aggressive containment responds to the public relations campaign of Sunni and Shia radical groups by halting their advances in Yemen and the Sinai, which are based near key maritime trade routes. In addition, aggressive containment answers humanitarian crises which are arising due to the Syrian civil war, and the advance of ISIS.

 

Links

http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/us-options-syrian-no-fly-zone#sthash.jFt5pawh.dpuf

 

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/11/islamic-state-province-bombs-hotel-in-sinai.php

 

http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-security-update-november-11-18-2015

 

http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-strikes-syria-november-6-november-17-2015

 

http://www.unhcr-northerneurope.org/news-detail/total-number-of-syrian-refugees-exceeds-four-million-for-first-time/

 

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/buchanan/why-attack-syria/

 

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/11/23/the-stakes-for-france-as-hollande-rallies-allies-against-islamic-state/

 

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran/Analysis-How-Iran-exploits-ISIS-to-wage-terror-434892

 

http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/09/23/350579007/why-does-the-u-s-like-the-kurds-in-iraq-but-not-in-syria

“Courage, a Necessary Virtue in 2016” By: Terence Rosenthal

Russian intervention in Ukraine and a return to Soviet style foreign policy, Chinese imperial aggression on the South China Sea, and a future nuclear arms race in the Middle East will demand both sacrifice and courage for U.S. citizens and their next President. Similar to preceding Presidential elections, 2016 offers two distinct political paths in which voters will have to decide.

It is important to note that now more than ever, the world is becoming more compact. What happens in the U.S. affects political and economic developments in Europe and Asia. Likewise, events occurring in the Middle East have a profound effect on political and economic developments in the U.S. In 2016, it is virtually impossible to exist in a political and economic bubble. As countries become more interdependent, global developments will have even greater significance with respect to how they affect the U.S. Domestic political and economic decisions will limit or enhance what the U.S. is capable of internationally.

In 2016, some will prefer a continuation of current policies. Voters who fall into this camp desire a large federal government capable of providing a more comfortable safety net. In addition, these voters believe that it is more realistic to have a multilateral approach to foreign policy. This ideological camp believes that the U.S. has enough problems of its own, and that to endure another war with an enemy thousands of miles away is simply not worth it.

On the other hand, due to present global threats, there are those who view the world as a more dangerous place without the U.S. functioning as its defining superpower. Voters in this ideological camp are concerned about the current political trajectory of the U.S. They prefer a Federal government which promotes greater individual liberty, allows for greater state’s rights, and less regulation with respect to business taxation. In addition, these voters are concerned that in terms of corporate taxes and business regulations, the U.S. may be pricing itself out of the market, particularly with respect to mid-size enterprises.

There will be a few voters who are a mix of these aforementioned political camps. Ultimately, these voters will be forced to decide between choosing a candidate of which they do not completely agree or to staying home on election night. It is certain that no matter who is elected, in 2016, all U.S. citizens will be forced to confront political and economic sacrifice. Many running for President will attempt to buy votes with fancy talk and impossible promises. In 2016, perhaps what voters should be searching for is a candidate who exemplifies and inspires courage.

“P5 + 1 Negotiations: Promoting Tyranny, Jeopardizing Free Markets” By: Terence Rosenthal

The P5 + 1 negotiations reject the global economic and political needs of people of the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Iran. These negotiators have ignored the significance of the Middle East with respect to shipment of global trade and commerce. The P5 + 1 negotiations embolden Iran as the hegemon in the Middle East, as well as Iran’s allies, China and Russia. Five capitals in the Middle East are under control of the Iranians. These are Baghdad, Sanaa, Damascus, Khartoum, and Tehran. In addition, Iran influences or controls every major body of water surrounding the Middle East. Shipment of goods to and from Europe and Asia must pass through these waterways.

As a result of the P5 + 1 treaty, security and control of three major trade waterways, the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Bab Al-Mandab straight are now in jeopardy. Approximately 40 percent of global maritime trade passes through the Bab Al-Mandab strait, much of it on its way to and from Suez Canal. Given the tone of current leadership in the U.S. and Europe, this waterway may potentially be blockaded by way of Iranian influence in Yemen. Twenty percent of oil traded globally is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz, the most important petroleum transit choke point in the world. Recently a Maersk cargo ship was commandeered by Iranian naval forces near this strait.

In addition, Iran is backed militarily and financially by China and Russia, two superpowers that, like Iran, seek to dominate in their global regions. China benefits from the purchase of Iranian oil while Russia is profits from outfitting Iran with new weaponry and nuclear technology. With respect to territorial violation and political encroachment in their territories, China, Russia, and Iran are three nations with which the U.S. and Europe are willing to do nothing to stop. In the past year, the world has witnessed Russia take over parts eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Threats of global litigation have done nothing to prevent China from building militarized islands in the South China Seas. Iranian proxies, the Houthis and Hezbollah have overthrown governments in Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria, as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard dominates in eastern Iraq.

With respect to challenges presented by the emboldened alliance of China Russia and Iran, U.S. and European leadership provide no solutions. It is conceivable that U.S. leadership is allowing the unfreezing of $150 billion in Iranian money as the result of not being able to pay back Chinese purchase of U.S. debt. Perhaps since the European Union depends on Russia to maintain flow of oil to Europe, European leadership is willing to provide Iran with easy terms with respect to lifting economic sanctions.

It appears that P5 + 1 negotiators are not looking out for private citizens in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Iran. The people of the U.S. and Europe stand to lose economically, being at the mercy of Iran with regard to the passage of imports and exports through waterways which Iran either influences or controls outright. With $150 billion of unfrozen Iranian money, pro-western countries in the Middle East should expect political encroachment and well-funded radicalized cells funded by an emboldened Iranian Republican Guard, Houthis, and Hezbollah. Hassan Rouhani, the winner of the P5 + 1 deal, runs a regime that is no less oppressive than it was under Ahmadinejad. Given the outcome of the P5 +1 deal, it is highly doubtful that Iran’s Green Revolution will re-emerge. It is unfortunate that the real losers of the P5 + 1 deal are average people who live in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Iran. These people depend on free trade, and the minimization of autocratic regimes like those of China, Russia, and Iran. Simply put, the U.S. Congress should not support the P5 + 1 negotiations. The P5 + 1 negotiations reward tyranny and jeopardize free markets.

Israeli-Azeri Economic Partnership: Shifting Balance of Power Away From Iran, ISIS, and Al Qaida By: Terence Rosenthal

As civil war in Syria, the onslaught of ISIS, and the deliberation of Iranian nuclear agreements ensue, very few are aware of the growing economic partnership between Israel and Azerbaijan. “Trade between Israel and Azerbaijan now totals $4 billion annually, the highest figure for Israel’s business with any of the now-independent countries that were part of the former Soviet Union…” (Albawaba, 2012). Israel has no better ally than Azerbaijan in terms of economic and military capability in the region. Israel is aware of the significance of Azerbaijan with respect to the collection of Iranian and Russian military and economic intelligence. Azerbaijan has an optimal ally in Israel with regard to the development of its weaponry and surveillance technology. In addition, Israel and Azerbaijan are quite familiar with conflict among neighboring countries, and dominant regional powers.

Through the Azeri-Israeli economic partnership, Israel is gaining from Azeri expertise in exploration and development of fuels, while benefiting Azerbaijan in the establishment of its technology, education, agriculture, and military sectors. “In February, Azerbaijan agreed to pay state-run Israel Aerospace Industries $1.6 billion for …drones and anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems. That’s nearly a quarter of the money Azerbaijan’s government takes in each year, $7.8 billion. Azerbaijan also provides about 30 percent of Israel’s energy needs” (Albawaba, 2012).

 

“Israel recognized Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991 and opened an embassy there in 1993” (Shaffer, 2013). Perhaps it was pure coincidence that Israel sought a relationship with Azerbaijan just before the fall of the Soviet Union. “Baku and Israel share a common regional orientation, strong strategic cooperation with the United States, and a potent security threat from Iran” (Shaffer, 2013). The fact is, both countries are aware of the strength that economic partnership provides. Since the 1990’s, numerous countries in the Middle East have attempted to become the regional hegemon. This trend has increased in past years due to a reduced presence in the region on the part of the United States. Pro-Western associations like the Israeli-Azeri partnership encourage greater economic freedom, and are necessary in hedging the prominence of Russia, China, and Iran in the Middle East and surrounding regions.

The development of Israel’s relationship with Azerbaijan proves that what truly divides Middle-Eastern nations is whether they have fundamentalist ideologies or not. Azerbaijan is 85 percent Shia Muslim, evidence that not all Shiites prefer Iran as the regional hegemon. Often when viewing economies in the Middle East, there is a tendency to label nations and territories pro-Sunni, or pro-Shia. Azerbaijan, Egypt, Jordan, and the territory of Kurdistan, all favorable trade and diplomatic partners with Israel, have varying degrees of Shia and Sunni populations. Israel, a true market economy, demonstrates the prospect of a prosperous future in the Middle East, and as a result, is gaining support among nations like Azerbaijan.

 

Even Turkey acknowledges the importance of maintaining its trade with Israel. Although Israeli-Turkish diplomatic relations have been strained over recent years due to the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010, trade among both countries has increased considerably in recent years. Perhaps strong economic partnership between Israel and Azerbaijan may lead to reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, once great diplomatic allies. If this occurs, an economic bloc from the Mediterranean to the north of Afghanistan will be created. Currently, Turkey and its Central Asian allies are developing the “…Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey transportation link project aimed at increasing trade and reducing cargo transit expenses among these countries…” (Rejepova, 2015).

 

It is possible that in the wake of regional civil war, the spread of militant Islam, and the threat of a nuclear Iran, a silver lining on the part of Israel and Azerbaijan is beginning to emerge. Nations in the Middle East are discovering the long-term advantage of sound diplomacy and trade. If relations like the Israeli-Azeri partnership continue to develop, regional negotiation with anti-Western, rogue regimes like ISIS, Al Qaida, and Iran will decline. Turkey realizes this, and does not interfere with the flow of Azeri oil to Israel amidst current political turbulence.

 

References

Albawaba News. 2012. “Azerbaijan’s Not-So-Secret Love Affair with Israel Provokes Mideast.”

Albawaba.com, April 30, 2012. Accessed May 19, 2015.

http://www.albawaba.com/behind-news/israel-azerbaijan-iran-423060

 

Rejepova, Tavus. 2015. “Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan Discuss

Energy and Transportation in Ashgabat.” Caci Analyst.org, March 4, 2015. Accessed May 15,

  1. http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/field-reports/item/13147-foreign-ministers-of-

turkey-azerbaijan-and-turkmenistan-discuss-energy-and-transportation-in-ashgabat.html

 

Shaffer, Brenda. 2013. “Azerbaijan’s Cooperation with Israel Goes Beyond Iran Tensions.”

Washington Institute.org, April 16, 2013. Accessed May 19, 2015.

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/azerbaijans-cooperation-with-israel-

goes-beyond-iran-tensions

“Language and Assertive Diplomacy: How U.S. Senate Must Reassert American Influence in the Heart of the Middle East” By: Terence Rosenthal

How much risk to global security and economy are leaders in the U.S. Senate willing to take to reverse current language in the Middle East regarding its foreign policy? With respect to Iranian nuclear development, perhaps the U.S.’s own worst enemy is its politically correct State Department, and complicit Western media. As related to Iranian nukes, Malcolm Hoenlein, when interviewed by David Horovitz and Raphael Ahren in the Times of Israel states, “The impression (in the media) is that we froze them (Iran) in a certain place, [but that’s] not [the case]. The R&D should have been frozen, everything else [should have been frozen]. We haven’t stopped the missile development, we haven’t stopped the weaponization process, we haven’t stopped them from doing other kinds of research…. They’re (Iran) going to be in a much better position. Because with the new centrifuges, you can get from 3.5% to the 90% [levels needed for a nuclear bomb] much faster. They can move to the point that, once the deal ends or breaks down, they will be then emerging as a threshold state” (2014).

The Obama administration wishes to be vindicated for reducing the U.S. footprint in the Middle East. It has attempted to change the perception of Iranian leadership, villainizing or keeping allies in the region at an arms – length. Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia come to mind. Does President Obama realize that by hastening a deal with Iran, he risks advancing a nuclear arms race in the region? “Once you start building the infrastructure for a nuclear capacity, to cross over is really simple… Jordan has indicated it wants to build several nuclear [reactors]. And Saudi Arabia and the UAE and many others want to do it. And once it starts, you’re not going to be able to stop it” (Ahren and Horovitz, 2014).

Language placating Iranian leadership gives hope enemies of the U.S., and demoralizes regional Western allies. Leaders in the Middle East are pragmatic, they view the prospect of a nuclear Iran as license to self-protection with regard to their own nukes. With respect to the people of Iran, “The West, as a whole, failed the people of Iran when they went out during the Green Demonstration, when the students went out…They were looking to the West for at least signals of support. … And now, they look at the execution of political prisoners in the largest numbers ever… There were 600 public executions in the past year: political dissidents, religious leaders — anybody that they see as a political threat. And of course they will, in some cases, invent crimes allegedly committed… A homosexual could be hung because he’s a homosexual; a Christian who is accused of proselytizing, which, in most cases, just means practicing their religion, will be hung — and they hang them from cranes! The White House — the whole Western community — ought to be taking action, as we would against any country that engages in this kind of action.” (Ahren and Horovitz, 2014).

It is one thing for U.S. executive administration to use isolationist language with regard to foreign policy. It is quite another when that administration excuses terrorist threats, vindicating terror groups, and putting its allies and itself at risk. “One of the most egregious examples of the politicization of U.S. intelligence came to light yesterday (March 17). The Worldwide Threat Assessment issued by the Director of National Intelligence on behalf of the U.S. intelligence community no longer reflects either Iran or Hezbollah as terrorist threats” (Gaffney, 2015). If James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence declares that Iran and Hezbollah are not terrorist threats, the world should just carry on its merry way, in spite of the fact that “Ever since 1979, the mullahs of Iran and their proxies, Hezbollah, have engaged in relentless, murderous jihadist attacks against us, our allies and interests” (Gaffney, 2015).

Recently, legislatures, using the limited power they have are attempting to create a new paradigm with regard to executive transparency with regard to the U.S. executive administration’s approach to the Middle East. U.S. Congressional leaders visited the Middle East, meeting with leaders to discuss regional threats as related to defense, political infrastructure, and economics. The U.S. Senate, second in power to President Obama must meet with these leaders as well. The Senate has an ever-closing window of time to reverse the language of regional pessimism the Obama administration has helped create. Fred Fleitz, affiliated with Center for Security Policy states,  “In response to Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, and yesterday’s letter to Iranian leaders by 47 U.S. senators that a nuclear agreement with Iran might be reversed by the next president, my friend Carol Giacomo wrote in a New York Times column today ‘by now it should be obvious that a vocal segment of Congress is determined to do whatever it can to undermine President Obama’s attempts to negotiate an agreement that would restrict Iran’s nuclear program’” (2015). “The real problem is not that we do not know what war is, but that we refuse to see what is right in front of us and always has been. The big question for us is why we keep ourselves blind. We have lost wars because fighting the war we wanted was more important to us than winning the war we had. — as in Vietnam, as in Iraq” (Vlahos, 2014).

It must be reiterated that language, dialogue, or lack thereof among those who control global media and policy is as harmful as any rebel army or terrorist force. “People also can’t let their domestic political objectives dictate what they say, if they don’t think about the broader consequences of their remarks… We draw the line. We have to say that there has to be zero tolerance for intolerance. We are the ones. It’s what Martin Luther King once said: ‘We won’t be judged by the attacks of our enemies, but by the silence of our friends.’ The lesson of history is that we give the license to our enemies. It’s not what they do; it’s what we fail to do. And right now, we’re falling into that trap again” (Ahren and Horovitz, 2014).

 

 

References

Ahren, Raphael; Horovitz, David. 2014. “Malcolm Hoenlein: ‘I don’t want any more memorials

to dead Jews’: The head of the US Jewish establishment slams the interim deal on Iran, the

public Israel-US sniping, and the deafening silence in the face of new anti-

Semitism.” Center for Security Policy.org, February 7, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2015.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/malcolm-  hoenlein-i-dont-want-any-more-memorials-to-dead-

jews/

 

Fleitz, Fred. 2015. “GOP Senators Try To Stop Bad Nuclear Deal With Iran.” Center for Security  

     Policy.org, March 10. Accessed April 23, 2015.

http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2015/03/10/senators-are-warning-iran-over-nuclear- 

     weapons-ambition/

 

Gaffney, Frank Jr. 2015. “A Threat Assessment that Ignores Two Threats.” Center for Security

     Policy.org, March 17. Accessed April 23, 2015.

http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2015/03/17/a-threat-assessment-that-ignores-two- 

threats/

 

Vlahos, Michael. 2014. “EYELESS IN GAZA — ARE WE BLIND TO AN ENDURING

REALITY OF WAR?” War on the Rocks.com, August 20, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2015.

http://warontherocks.com/2014/08/eyeless-in-gaza-are-we-blind-to-an- enduring-reality-of-

war/

“Infrastructure and Assertive Diplomacy: How U.S. Senate Must Reassert American Influence in the Heart of the Middle East” By: Terence Rosenthal

How much risk to global security and economy are leaders in the U.S. Senate willing to accept to avoid involvement in the Middle East? Military strategy, valuable as it is, does not provide answers to many of the region’s most pressing challenges with regard to future global security. What if U.S. legislatures in the Senate were to unleash a war of ideas with regard to establishing new, economically binding Middle East alliances?

Recently, a Congressional delegation travelled to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries to meet with leaders regarding military and economic infrastructure. However, the U.S. has a lot of catching up to do with regard to restoring trust among its allies. As John Bolton states, “Our declining prestige is already apparent globally; when all three Middle East negotiations fail conclusively, America’s influence will fall further. Friends and adversaries alike are recalibrating their policies accordingly, particularly because the underlying causes of the three impending failures will spell trouble and misfortune elsewhere” (2014). This is why members of the Senate must be more assertive in reaching out to Israel, and Middle East allies.  Dialogue must be created to assure partnership in future infrastructure and strategic alliances.

To thwart ISIS, the Iran, and militant Islam, diplomacy, trade, and infrastructure must be used to dissolve existing traces of the Arab league boycott against Israel among states in the GCC. Although many aspects of the Arab trade boycott created during Israel’s founding have been abandoned, most GCC states, including Saudi Arabia still refuse to trade directly with Israeli owned companies. This may change if the status of Israel as a major Mediterranean port becomes permanent. If links to the boycott can be dissolved, a precedent will be set showing unification between Israel and GCC states, counterbalancing the power of ISIS and Iran. Rather than isolating the Arab trade boycott head-on, the boycott must be shown to be impractical to the region.

In spite of the carnage, chaos, and confusion created in the wake of the Syrian civil war, the rise of ISIS, and the expansion of Iran’s regional proxies, hope exists for Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the GCC.  Ari Rabinovitch and Tova Cohen of Reuters explain, “Until three years ago the cargo these trucks carry – fruits, cheese, raw material for the textile industry, spare parts, and second-hand trucks – would have come through Syria. But civil war has made that journey too perilous” (2014). Rabinovitch and Cohen further state, “The number of trucks crossing between Israel and Jordan has jumped some 300 percent since 2011, to 10,589 trucks a year, according to the Israel Airports Authority. In particular, exports from Turkey – food, steel, machinery and medicine – have begun to flow through Israel and across the Sheikh Hussein Bridge to Jordan and a few Arab neighbors” (2014). Use of Israel as a port of access to the Middle East including Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC would drastically cut the cost of trade to that region.

Israel, the most diverse market economy in the Middle East may serve as the cornerstone Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and GCC members need to thwart the growing power of Iran and militant Islam. It is possible that an informal trade and military alliance between Israel and neighboring Arab states will help diversify these markets for a prosperous, new Israeli – Arabian century. If the members of the GCC do not take advantage of present opportunities, consequences may be dire. “The Arab world is facing a ticking time-bomb, with approximately 70 percent of its population under twenty-five years old. It desperately needs to find ways for its growing population to contribute to its economy. For most Arab countries, the commitment to strengthen their economies and develop trade relationships has taken precedence over the desire to enforce a secondary boycott against Israel” (Alford, 2010).

In the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Fikra Forum, Naday Pollak explains, “…the Syrian civil war, the Iranian nuclear program, and as of late, the rising “Islamic State”, are common threats to both Israel and the Arab states. These threats have pushed Israeli and Arab security officials to put their differences aside and work together. Moreover, the latest round of violence between Hamas and Israel has further demonstrated how similarly Israel and many Arab countries see certain issues. For example, Saudi Arabia, which delayed its condemnation of Israel, also blamed Hamas for its role in the last round of hostilities” (2014). Pollak continues, “In the long term Israel will be an especially relevant trade route for the Gulf Arab states. They already import 80-90 percent of their food, and any disruption in the Suez Canal or the Strait of Hormuz – ever more likely in the current regional environment – could lead to major food shortages. Exploring alternative trade routes, such as Israeli ones, is crucial in such a contingency” (2014).

Although the odds are favorable that Israel will earn permanent status as a main trade port for the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the GCC, significant challenges stand in the way. Frederick W. Kagan of the Hoover Institute explains, “The Kingdom is easily the most frustrating of all U.S. allies in the Middle East. It dominates the global oil market, making enormous profits from the West and holding the stability of the global economy in its hand…its royal family relies on support from extremist Wahhabi clerics to justify its right to rule the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. Saudi kings have recognized the threat posed to them by al Qaeda, itself an offshoot of Wahhabi theology, but have not stopped their own relatives from giving large donations to the terrorist group” (2015).

If leaders in the U.S. Senate unite officials from Israel with its Arab neighbors in the wake of threats posed by ISIS and Iran, new dialogue will change language with respect to current foreign policy in the Middle East. It is difficult for leaders to accept each other’s status as related to current regional vulnerabilities. However, many economic challenges would be addressed if Israel was to permanently serve as a major port of access for its Arab neighbors in the GCC. For many in Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities, trade alignment between Israel, its Arab neighbors, Jordan and Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and the GCC may seem like a violation of morality. However, given the current the rise of Iran, ISIS, and militant Islam in the region, this may be the most principled choice.

 

 

References

Alford, Roger. 2010. “The Death of the Secondary Boycott Against Israel.” Opiniojuris.org,

May 25, 2010. Accessed April 23, 2015. http://opiniojuris.org/2010/05/25/the-death-of-the-

secondary-boycott-against-israel/

 

Bolton, John. 2014. “The coming crash of American diplomacy in the Middle East: Obama’s

policy failures on Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will have devastating effects.”

Los Angeles Times.com, February 18, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2015.

http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/18/opinion/la-oe-bolton-obama-mideast-failure-20140218

 

Cohen, Tova; Rabinovitch, Ari. 2014. “Truck by truck, Israel builds trade gateway to Arab

world.” Reuters.com, July 1, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2015.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/01/us-israel-trade-insight-

idUSKBN0F63DF20140701

 

Kagan, Frederick W. 2015. “A HOOVER INSTITUTION ESSAY ON ALLIES AND

ENEMIES IN THE WAR ON TERROR:

Realism about Allies What The U.S. Can Expect From Middle Eastern Partners.” Hoover

     Institution, February 10. Accessed April 23, 2015.

file:///C:/Users/Owner1/Downloads/250516794-Realism-about-Allies-What-the-U-S-Can-

Expect- from-Middle-Eastern-Partners-by-Frederick-W-Kagan.pdf

 

Pollak, Naday. 2014. “Opportunities for Israeli-Arab Trade Cooperation.” Fikra Forum. Org,

August 28, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2015. http://fikraforum.org/?p=5304

“Five Middle East Foreign Policy Objectives for the U.S. Senate to Consider” By: Terence Rosenthal

As Americans, we need to take calculated risk to assure positive results. This past month, Speaker of the House, John Boehner yielded an effective outcome by allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak in front of Congress on behalf of Israel. Until last election, Republicans were in the minority, merely controlling Congress with regard to carrying out their agenda. Now, however, Republicans have control of both the Senate and the Congress. Democrats have many factors with which to minimize Republican action. Lame-duck presidency, the media, and universities are a few. If Republicans do not take risk with regard to ISIS and Iran, there will be a major global war. Many politicians, pundits, and academicians believe we are in one now.

 

1. Republican Senate leaders should aim to build a strategic partnership between India and pro-Western countries in the Middle East. These countries include Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. The best way to cement this partnership would be to convince leaders in India that it is worth it for them to partially fund the construction of a new trans-Arabian oil and irrigation pipelines from Egypt to central Oman. This will signal to Iran that even if it wins current negotiations, Iran will face severe economic contraction. Fortunately, moderate Arab countries who are either neutral or de facto allies with Israel have good standing with India, as does Israel. Why would India go for this? They need the oil for their billion plus population. The Middle East needs India’s business.

 

The creation of new trans-Arabian oil and irrigation pipelines bypassing territories influenced by ISIS or Iran will benefit all countries through which they travel. Egypt and Israel will have an unobstructed means of trading fuels and other goods to and from Europe and Asia. Jordan will have greater access to fuel and irrigation that passes through these pipelines. Saudi Arabia will have greater ease of transport with regard to trade of its oil. In addition, desert communities in Saudi Arabia will become more hospitable to growth among its young population. Oman will benefit as well, becoming the choice port for the transport of oil from the GCC to Europe and Asia. With new trans-Arabian water and oil pipelines, countries like Qatar, may stop supporting of organizations like Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood if they can benefit from contribution of trade that avoids conflict areas like the Strait of Hormuz.

 

2. U.S. Republican Senate leaders should persuade moderate Arab countries in the GCC that they will have much more power and wealth in the Middle East if they end their trade boycott with Israel. Perhaps what may entice countries like Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Oman to end the boycott is Israeli investment in pipelines rerouting oil and irrigation away from the Persian Gulf to the new safe harbor in Duqm, located in central Oman. In addition Israel would assist these countries in fortifying their ports against a potential Iranian attack. Iran must realize that, if necessary, all income derived from trade in the Persian Gulf can be halted.

 

3. A daunting challenge among pro-Western countries in the Middle East is the high percentage of unemployed youth. With assistance from Republican or pro-Israeli leaders in the U.S. Senate, Israel must reach out to these countries. Israel, the only true market economy in the Middle East will able to provide direction regarding how to transform oil and infrastructure based economies of its neighbors into market economies. The potential labor force of Israel’s moderate neighbors is a perfect match with regard to what Israel offers in terms of agriculture, irrigation, medical, and defense technologies. Republican leaders in the Senate must convince moderate members of the GCC that it is worth it for them to end their boycott with Israel as Egypt and Jordan effectively have.

 

4. Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan all have much to gain in fortifying the Gaza border, providing better protection of pipelines, and greater fortification of ports in Israel and Egypt. All of these countries need ports in Egypt, the Sinai, and Israel to safe so that trade to and from Europe is reliable. Republican leaders should reach out to the Sissi government in Egypt to propose this fortification of the Gaza border as a way of encouraging commercialism of its ports on the Mediterranean, and providing employment to the local Bedouin population of the Sinai. It would send a clear message to Iran and militant Islamic groups that economic power trumps the power of militant Islam. And that the Middle East youth would rather be promised a future with such infrastructure projects instead of prolonged regional strife.

 

5. The Republican Senate should conduct an investigation verifying Iranian Quds presence among illicit organizations in the Americas. This should be followed by a crackdown against these organizations in our hemisphere, and the use of IRGC prisoners as a bargaining chip against Iran in its nuclear negotiations. Iran is alive and well in the Americas. Its presence in Venezuela is alarming. The IRGC has served with the Venezuelan Army, while the Quds Forces have helped supervise transport of drugs from illicit Venezuelan crime syndicates. Conceivably, the most well-known partnership of the global IRGC is with Hezbollah, Iran’s most recognizable terrorist sponsor. The presence of Hezbollah and Quds forces in neighboring Mexico present the United States with a major threat at its southern border.

 

Pursuing any of the challenges listed would originate merely in the field of public relations with regard to global politics. However, public relations yields significant results. Observe how well public relations magnifies the power of Iran and ISIS. Public relations has the power attract followers and yield public faith exponentially. It would be decisive in terms of public relations for Republican Senate leaders to merely meet with diplomatic leaders from the countries mentioned.