MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL: Did former US officials support extremists in Syria as an ‘asset’?

It is unclear why the US saw these groups as assets, considering that not long ago, they were cheering 9/11 and supporting genocidal terrorism.

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN   APRIL 6, 2021 11:05 JERUSALEM POST

In a bizarre twist of the remnants of the Syrian civil war, it was revealed in a recent PBS interview that the former US envoy on Syria saw an extremist group as an “asset” in the war-torn county.

How this was revealed is a circuitous route that ended with an interview by PBS Frontline correspondent Martin Smith in Syria’s Idlib province. Smith spoke with Mohammad al-Jolani, a terrorist and senior extremist Islamist leader whose group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Levant Liberation Committee – HTS) has turned Syria’s Idlib province into a mini theocratic state.

According to the article at PBS, former US Syria Envoy James Jeffrey, who also headed a separate envoy’s office to the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, told Smith that Jolani’s organization was an “asset” to US strategy.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : Vienna talks on nuclear deal end well, say European officials / Vienna Grand Hotel Meeting

RUDAW  7 April 2021 Holly Johnston  – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The first round of talks in Vienna on the Iran nuclear agreement have ended well with concrete steps to revive “full implementation of the deal”, European officials said on Tuesday.

“Constructive Joint Commission meeting. There’s unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting,” said Enrique Mora, the European Union chief of the joint commission talks. Mora said he will “intensify” meetings with all parties, including the US, in the Austrian capital.

Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov said the meeting was “successful”,

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUNDER : THE HAMZAH AFFAIR –  CONTEXT AND IMPLICATIONS OF JORDAN’S ROYAL CRISIS

by Ghaith al-Omari and Robert Satloff  PolicyWatch 3465 –  April 5, 2021

The immediate crisis seems to have ended for now, but the stunningly public Hashemite feud is a reminder that Jordan’s stability needs tending and is not something to be taken for granted by Washington or Amman’s regional friends.

The news emerging out of Amman—with former crown prince Hamzah bin Hussein ultimately vowing allegiance to his half-brother King Abdullah II after being placed at the center of coup rumors, and other former senior officials being arrested—is highly unusual in the traditionally quiet Middle Eastern kingdom that is approaching its centennial in a few weeks. While the full picture is unlikely to emerge soon, if ever, these developments focus attention on the country’s internal situation and highlight the need to bolster the stability of a key U.S. ally after a period of relative uninterest from Washington.

Potential Royal Showdown Amid Public Unrest

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS FORECAST :  U.S.-Russian Relations Will Only Get Worse

Even Good Diplomacy Can’t Smooth a Clash of Interests

By James Goldgeier April 6, 2021 – FOREIGN AFFAIRS TODAY

It is hard to imagine that U.S.-Russian relations could get much worse, but sadly, they are unlikely to get better anytime soon. Over the past two decades, Russian President Vladimir Putin has defined his country’s interests in ways that are incompatible with the interests of the United States and its European allies. The latter believe that democracy, the rule of law, and the provision of security to eastern European countries enhance stability; Putin, meanwhile, considers the spread of democracy to be a threat to his regime and believes that having vulnerable neighbors enhances Russian security.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL : Jordanian news agency claims Mossad involvement in helping alleged coup plotter

APRIL 5, 2021 BY JOSEPH FITSANAKIS INTEL ORG  

A NEWS AGENCY IN Jordan has said that a man with alleged ties to Israeli intelligence offered protection to Hamzah bin Hussein, half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who is reportedly under house arrest in Amman. Prince Hamzah is among at least 16 members of the Jordanian royal family and other senior officials, who were apparently arrested last week, with the government claiming soon afterwards that a coup to depose the country’s monarch had been averted.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL BY MEIR AMIT CENTER – ISRAEL – Spotlight on Iran

The meeting between the Iraqi minister of labor and social services and the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad. Source: IRNA, March 26 2021

The meeting between the Iraqi minister of labor and social services and the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad. Source: IRNA, March 26 2021

Overview
  • The activity of Iran and its proxies in eastern Syria: fighters of the Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade, which operates under the guidance of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Syria held training maneuvers in southeastern Syria. In Deir Ezzor, in eastern Syria, IRGC personnel distributed food baskets to families of fighters killed in the ranks of the pro-Iranian militias operating in the region.
  • An investigation of Agence France-Presse revealed that the control of Shia pro-Iranian militias of Iraq’s border crossings has allowed them to funnel billions of dollars in customs duties, which ought to have been collected by the State, to their own coffers, to political parties connected to them and corrupt officials. The investigation showed that in addition to the official Iraqi import system, there is a parallel system operating in the land and maritime crossings between Iran and Iraq, many of which are under the control of militias close to Iran.
  • In the economic sphere: the head of the Joint Iranian-Syrian Chamber of Commerce estimated that the volume of trade between Iran and Syria will rise in the coming year. He admitted, however, that there are still problems hindering expanding the economic cooperation between the two countries, including banking-related and finance-related issues, as well as the absence of land crossings directly linking the two countries. Meanwhile, the spokesman of the Iraqi Ministry of Energy stated that his county is interested in expanding the import of gas from Iran, to ensure the electricity supply in the country ahead of the summer. He mentioned that the issue of the Iraqi debt to Iran is in the process of being resolved.
  • The Iranian ambassador to Yemen rejected the Saudi peace proposal for resolving the crisis in Yemen and declared that any real initiative to end the war will entail lifting the siege placed on Yemen, withdrawing of Saudi armed forces, and an end to Saudi Arabia’s support for its “mercenaries” in the country.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • The pro-Syrian opposition outlet, Euphrates Post, reported (March 21) that the Nasr Center, which is operated by the IRGC in the city of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, distributed food baskets to the families of fighters killed in the ranks of the pro-Iranian militias in the governorate of Deir Ezzor.
The food basket distribution by the IRGC to families in Deir Ezzor of fighters killed in the ranks of pro-Iranian militias. (Euphrates Post, March 21)
The food basket distribution by the IRGC to families in Deir Ezzor of fighters killed in the ranks of pro-Iranian militias. (Euphrates Post, March 21)
  • In late March, the Fatemiyoun Brigade, an Afghan militia operating under IRGC guidance in Syria, conducted training maneuvers in southeastern Syria on the occasion of 15th of the month of Shaaban, the birthday of the 12th Imam according to Shia tradition (Telegram channel of the Fatemiyoun Brigade, March 29 2021)

The training maneuver of the IRGC-backed Fatemiyoun Brigade in southeastern Syria. (Telegram channel of the Brigade, March 29 2021)
The training maneuver of the IRGC-backed Fatemiyoun Brigade in southeastern Syria.
(Telegram channel of the Brigade, March 29 2021)

  • In an interview to the Iranian news agency ILNA, the Head of the Joint Iranian-Syrian Chamber of Commerce, Kivan Kashefi, estimated that the volume of trade between Iran and Syria will increase in the coming Iranian year (March 2021 – March 2022). He remarked that the volume of trade between the two countries in the prior year according to the Persian calendar stands at 170 – 180 million dollars, and the goal is to expand this to 500 million dollars annually. Kashefi stated that over the past year, about ten commercial delegations of Syrian and Iranian businesspeople and officials carried out visits in Iran and Syria, respectively. In addition, two joint trade shows were held, and the Iranian trade center was established in Damascus, with participation from over 30 companies. He stressed, however, that problems remain to be solved concerning realizing financial deals between the two countries and added that the absence of shared borders makes ground transport of goods and trade more cumbersome.
  • In the 5th Brussels Donor Conference, held online on March 29-30, the Iranian Ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, Gholam-Hossein Dehgani, stated that the international community has no real desire to solve the crisis in Syria in accordance with international rights, and particularly the respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. He claimed that since the start of the crisis, Iran supported a political solution and that the cooperation between Iran, Russia and Turkey as part of the Astana Process is intended to achieve such a solution. The Iranian ambassador condemned the sanctions placed on the Syrian regime, stating that they contravene international rights and only exacerbate the suffering of the Syrian people (Fars, March 31). The Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal bin Farhan, assailed during his interview at the conference the Iranian intervention in Syria, and called on Tehran to end its effort to promote “demographic and sectarian change in Syria” (al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 30).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq and Yemen
  • An investigation published by the French news agency AFP, published on March 29, showed that the control exercised by Shia pro-Iranian militias over Iraq’s border crossings allows them to funnel billions of dollars intended to state coffers to themselves, political parties linked to them and corrupt officials. The investigation, which relied on multiple interviews with government officials, employees at ports and border crossings and importers, indicated that in addition to the official Iraqi import system, a parallel system exists in the land and maritime crossings between Iran and Iraq, many of which are under the control of Iraqi militias affiliated with the IRGC. The members of the militias, their allies or their relatives serve as employees in the border crossings, as supervisors or policemen who take bribes from importers who wish to bypass the official import process, or receive significant discounts in the payment of customs. The militia members at times resort to death threats to prevent customs employees from disobeying them. In some cases, the militias control entire trade sectors such as the trade in cigarettes. Despite the efforts of the central government in Baghdad to tackle the phenomenon, for example by conducting operations to capture shipments passing illegally through the border crossings, they have not been successful in significantly reducing the volume of the illicit imports. This failure stems, in part, from the involvement of the police itself in the illicit smuggling and surrounding corruption.
  • On March 25, the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, met with the Iraqi Minister of Labor and Social Services, Adel al-Rikabi, and discussed bilateral relations. The Iraqi minister expressed willingness to sign a memorandum of understanding with his Iranian counterpart, particularly concerning cooperation in the field of instruction and exchange of expertise between workers (IRNA, March 26).
  • The Spokesman of the Iraqi Ministry of Energy, Ahmed al-Ebadi, stated that his country is interested in increasing the volume of gas import from Iran. He mentioned that the import of gas from Iran to Iraq decreased from 50 million cubic feet per day to 22 million due to the Iraqi debt to Iran. He expressed hope that Iran will increase the export of gas to Iraq to ensure Iraq’s electricity supply during the summer season. Al-Ebadi also stated that the matter of the Iraqi debt to Iran is in the process of being solved (IRNA, March 30). In early March, the President of Iran, Hasan Rouhani, spoke with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazimi, and called on him to immediately release the Iranian funds frozen in Iraqi banks due to Western sanctions; these funds are part of the debts of the Iraqi government to Iran for imported gas and electricity. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration extended by four months the waiver given to Iraq to import electricity and gas from Iran despite the sanctions (Arab News, March 30).
  • In response to the Saudi peace proposal to end the conflict in Yemen, the Iranian Ambassador to Yemen, Hassan Irlu, accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to maintain an endless war and continue the occupation and war crimes in Yemen. In a tweet on his Twitter account (March 23), Irlu argued that a real initiative to end the crisis in Yemen would entail a complete ceasefire, lifting of the blockade place on Yemen, ending the occupation, withdrawing Saudi armed forces, ending Saudi financial and military support to its “mercenaries,” and conducting an internal Yemeni dialogue, without foreign interference. Thus, the Iranian ambassador responded to the new peace proposal, recently presented by the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faysal bin Farhan, to end the war in Yemen.

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS Q & A : Quo Vadis Turkish Politics?

 

By Dr. Begum BurakApril 4, 2021 – ISRAEL – BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,985, April 4, 2021

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Turkey has never had a fully liberal democratic regime. The country, which suffered the authoritarianism of the Kemalist regime’s top-down attempts to modernize, is now experiencing a different form of authoritarian consolidation under the AKP-controlled government.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : BAD TIMES FOR ERDOGAN – 103 ex-admirals issue declaration bashing AKP for ‘Islamisation of army’

Ahval NEWS – Apr 04 2021 11:55 Gmt+3 – (Updates with comments from signatory, politicians)

A total of 103 retired admirals from the Turkish navy published a declaration on Saturday night, denouncing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for “opening up for discussion the Montreux Convention” and for Islamising the army over an active-service rear admiral’s visit to the leader of an extreme religious sect.

“It is met with concern that the Montreux Convention is opened up for discussion within the framework of both Kanal Istanbul and who has the authority to annul international treaties,” the admirals said in their declaration published on secular-nationalist news network Veryansın TV.

The Montreux Convention, signed in Switzerland in 1936, granted Turkey rights to control its two straits, the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, while limiting the passage of warships from the straits to only states with borders to the Black Sea.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS ISRAELI VOICES : JONATHAN S. TOBIN

Iran plays the China card while Biden fumbles

An agreement with Beijing may alter the global strategic equation and facilitate Tehran’s nuclear quest. A new administration that is signaling its openness to appeasement cannot meekly accept it.

(March 31, 2021 / JNS) EWISH NEWS SYNDICATE – In the two months since Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, the new administration has been dancing around the question of how exactly to accomplish his campaign pledge to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal. Biden is determined to reinstate the pact that former President Donald Trump trashed in 2018. But rather than merely lift sanctions and embrace the agreement that was the signature foreign-policy accomplishment of his former boss, President Barack Obama, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were cautious about their public statements on the issue. Yet while they claimed that they needed Iran to roll back its efforts to pursue their nuclear goal, it was also no secret that backchannel efforts were underway to find a way to get Tehran to agree to come back into compliance with the weak terms of the 2015 deal.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS SITU REPORT : ONE LESS HURDLE BEFORE IRAQI ELECTIONS – by Safwan Al-Amin and Bilal Wahab

PolicyWatch 3462 April 1, 2021 – A complicated parliamentary compromise has reactivated some of the machinery required for this year’s proposed ballot and a potential resolution to the KRG energy dispute, though the country’s hobbled legal institutions are still holding back reform.

On March 19, the Iraqi Council of Representatives (COR) amended Law No. 30 of 2005 establishing the Federal Supreme Court (FSC), the country’s highest constitutional court. Although the decision stems from a thorny political compromise and fails to resolve Iraq’s deeper legal pathologies, it will nonetheless help overcome a serious barrier to holding early elections in October. The FSC has been paralyzed since 2019 by a self-inflicted constitutional crisis, but it can now fulfill its mandated duty of ratifying election results. It might also be able to dust off a case regarding national oil and natural gas management rights—a subject of bitter dispute between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Yet if Iraq keeps kicking the can down the road on constitutionally mandated reforms, the situation could lead to even worse political and legal complications.

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