mfioretti: middle east*

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  1. India is looking forward to exploring some of Israel’s offshore gas fields soon. Analysts suggested that by including oil in its relationship with Israel, India is giving a strong message to Iran that has held up the allocation of two gas fields discovered by oil companies.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Indian consortium led by ONGC was among the two global entities that took part in the auction of Israel's offshore gas fields held last month after a gap of more than 4 years during which the sea was completely closed for the distribution of new exploration licenses.

    The consortium comprising ONGC Videsh Ltd, Bharat PetroResources Ltd, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd and Oil India Ltd is also set to be registered as a foreign company in Israel's Corporations' Authority in January 2018. This would facilitate its participation in the second round of bidding.

    "This bid round is the first step in a long-range process that would lead to utilization of the gas and oil fields in the Israeli EEZ to the benefit of Israel's citizens. I am pleased to have companies from Greece and India contribute to Israel's energy market. I have ordered preparations for a 2nd licensing round to be launched in 2018, in which lessons from the 1st round will be incorporated," Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Israel's Energy Minister said after the completion of the first round.

    The Israeli blocks are in close proximity to a number of large and proven gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean. Some are adjacent to the recently discovered Leviathan and Tamar fields. According to an industry estimate, nearly 2,200 billion cubic meters of natural gas and a potential 6.6 billion barrels of oil are to be discovered in these blocks.

    India's decision to enter Israeli waters for energy exploration has a greater strategic significance than securing energy at another location, especially after waiting for several years to win exploration rights for Iran's Farsi and Farzad B gas fields.

    "India wants to send two signals from this decision. First, if Iran continues to dillydally on the proposal of awarding gas fields to India, New Delhi can open new vistas for exploration in the region; secondly, to Israel that New Delhi really wants to deepen its relationship with the Jewish nation," SC Tripathi, former secretary in India's Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas told Sputnik.

    Spike missile
    CC BY-SA 4.0 / Rhk111 / Spike NLOS missile
    India Calls off $500 Mln Spike Missile Deal With Israel
    Making oil a subject of bilateral relation will also pacify Israel which received a jolt in four major defense deals with India in the last year. The Indian government scrapped defense contracts for light machine guns, close quarter battle carbines, assault rifles and anti-tank missiles with Israeli firms either due to the single-vendor situation or for giving priority to homemade equipment.

    India's decision to expand the horizons of the bilateral relationship with Israel will have some ramifications on its relationship with the Arab world.

    "Entry into Israeli water for gas exploration could upset some Arabian nations. But, of late, it is being seen that countries like Jordon have started co-operating with Israel while Saudi Arabia is no more fervently opposing Israel. Iran is the only country in the region which could pose strong opposition to the Indian move," SC Tripathi, added.
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  2. A huge economic transformation is planned for the kingdom, and the fees on offer are well worth a few days of strawberry juice in the puritan luxury of a five-star hotel in the Saudi capital.

    Saudi Arabia is lining up a privatisation of state assets that dwarfs the Thatcher “revolution” of the 1980s, and rivals the 1990s dissolution of Soviet assets in scale and significance. It has hung a “for sale” sign on virtually every sector of Saudi economic life: oil, electricity, water, transport, retail, schools and healthcare. Even the kingdom’s football clubs are due to be auctioned off.

    The sell-off programme is the central part of the economic transformation plan envisaged under the Vision 2030 strategy. With oil stuck around the $50 mark, Saudi budgets are creaking and deficits are widening. Around $75 is regarded as the break-even point for the national finances.

    But in 13 years, if all goes to plan, the kingdom will be financially stable, with a more dynamic economy and society, less reliance on oil and government spending, and with a thriving private sector that releases the pent-up entrepreneurial spirit of Saudi men and (whisper it in the kingdom) Saudi women.

    It is, of course, a big “if”, but for an economy stuck in the rentier mentality of the 1930s – when it became a country under the house of Saud and oil was discovered, and which has been ruled by the strict orthodoxy of Wahhabi Islam ever since – this will be nothing less than a revolution.
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  3. let’s talk about the most seminal moment in recent Saudi history: the key oil-for-money-and-protection deal struck between the Nixon administration and King Faisal back in the early 1970’s.

    This pivotal agreement allowed KSA to secretly recycle its surplus petrodollars back into US Treasuries while receiving US military protection in exchange. The secret was kept for 41 years, only recently revealed in 2016 due to a Bloomberg FOIA request:

    The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.

    It took several discreet follow-up meetings to iron out all the details, Parsky said. But at the end of months of negotiations, there remained one small, yet crucial, catch: King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud demanded the country’s Treasury purchases stay “strictly secret,” according to a diplomatic cable obtained by Bloomberg from the National Archives database.

    “Buying bonds and all that was a strategy to recycle petrodollars back into the U.S.,” said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. But politically, “it’s always been an ambiguous, constrained relationship.”


    The essence of this deal is pretty simple. KSA wanted to be able to sell its oil to its then largest buyer, the USA, while also having a safe place to park the funds, plus receive military protection to boot. But it didn’t want anybody else, especially its Arab neighbors, to know that it was partnering so intimately with the US who, in turn, would be supporting Israel. That would have been politically incendiary in the Middle East region, coming as it did right on the heels of the Yom Kipper War (1973).

    As for the US, it got the oil it wanted and – double bonus time here – got KSA to recycle the very same dollars used to buy that oil back into Treasuries and contracts for US military equipment and training.

    Sweet deal.

    Note that this is yet another secret world-shaping deal successfully kept out of the media for over four decades. Yes Virginia, conspiracies do happen. Secrets can be (and are routinely) kept by hundreds, even thousands, of people over long stretches of time.

    Since that key deal was struck back in the early 1970s, the KSA has remained a steadfast supporter of the US and vice versa. In return, the US has never said anything substantive about KSA’s alleged involvement in 9/11 or its grotesque human and women’s rights violations. Not a peep.

    Until recently.
    Then Things Started To Break Down

    In 2015, King Salman came to power. Things began to change pretty quickly, especially once he elevated his son Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to a position of greater power.

    Among MBS's first acts was to directly involve KSA into the Yemen civil war, with both troops on the ground and aerial bombings. That war has killed thousands of civilians while creating a humanitarian crisis that includes the largest modern-day outbreak of cholera, which is decimating highly populated areas. The conflct, which is considered a 'proxy war' because Iran is backing the Houthi rebels while KSA is backing the Yemeni government, continues to this day.

    Then in 2016, KSA threatened to dump its $750 billion in (stated) US assets in response to a bill in Congress that would have released sensitive information implicating Saudi Arabia's involvement in 9/11. Then-president Obama had to fly over there to smooth things out. It seems the job he did was insufficient; because KSA-US relations unraveled at an accelerating pace afterwards. Mission NOT accomplished, it would seem.

    In 2017, KSA accused Qatar of nefarious acts and made such extraordinary demands that an outbreak of war nearly broke out over the dispute. The Qatari leadership later accused KSA of fomenting ‘regime change’, souring the situation further. Again, Iran backed the Qatar government, which turned this conflict into another proxy battle between the two main regional Arab superpowers.

    In parallel with all this, KSA was also supporting the mercenaries (aka "rebels" in western press) who were seeking to overthrow Assad in Syria -- yet another proxy war between KSA and Iran. It's been an open secret that, during this conflict, KSA has been providing support to some seriously bad terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other supposed enemies of the US/NATO. (Again, the US has never said 'boo' about that, proving that US rhetoric against "terrorists" is a fickle construct of political convenience, not a moral matter.)

    Once Russia entered the war on the side of Syria's legitimate government, the US and KSA (and Israel) lost their momentum. Their dreams of toppling Assad and turning Syria into another failed petro-state like they did with Iraq and Libya are not likely to pan out as hoped.

    But rather than retreat to lick their wounds, KSA's King Salman and his son are proving to be a lot nimbler than their predecessors.

    Rather than continue a losing battle in Syria, they've instead turned their energies and attention to dramatically reshaping KSA's internal power structures:

    Saudi Arabia’s Saturday Night Massacre

    For nearly a century, Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the elders of a royal family that now finds itself effectively controlled by a 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman. He helms the Defense Ministry, he has extravagant plans for economic development, and last week arranged for the arrest of some of the most powerful ministers and princes in the country.

    A day before the arrests were announced, Houthi tribesmen in Yemen but allied with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh.

    The Saudis claim the missile came from Iran and that its firing might be considered “an act of war.”

    Saudi Arabia was created between the two world wars under British guidance. In the 1920s, a tribe known as the Sauds defeated the Hashemites, effectively annexing the exterior parts of Saudi Arabia they did not yet control. The United Kingdom recognized the Sauds’ claim shortly thereafter. But since then, the Saudi tribe has been torn by ambition, resentment and intrigue. The Saudi royal family has more in common with the Corleones than with a Norman Rockwell painting.

    The direct attack was undoubtedly met with threats of a coup. Whether one was actually planned didn’t matter. Mohammed Bin Salman had to assume these threats were credible since so many interests were under attack. So he struck first, arresting princes and ex-minsters who constituted the Saudi elite. It was a dangerous gamble. A powerful opposition still exists, but he had no choice but to act. He could either strike as he did last Saturday night, or allow his enemies to choose the time and place of that attack. Nothing is secure yet, but with this strike, there is a chance he might have bought time. Any Saudi who would take on princes and clerics is obviously desperate, but he may well break the hold of the financial and religious elite.
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  4. The dominance of Wahhabism in Saudi public life made conducting business in the country very difficult. It also created sectarian conflict where none had existed in previous centuries. Wahhabism was a practically non-existent fringe idea with no real followers that had never caught on. Oil wealth allowed it to flourish. If Crown Prince Mohammed’s plan is successful, Saudi Arabia will be able to return, as he put it, “to moderate Islam.” This will allow it to get along with its other Muslim neighbors, including Turkey. While the population of Saudi Arabia has mostly resisted Wahhabism, especially the vast majority non-Saudi residents, the elites tolerated and even protected it. As soon as Wahhabism ceases to be protected by the government, it will wither and die like a fungus exposed to the sun. This is a point that many Western observers have completely missed, predicting it will be difficult to disassemble a system imposed on the people for many decades. I disagree. The people are eager to throw off the shackles of Wahhabism and will do so with pleasure.

    The export of Wahhabism has also been very costly for Saudi Arabia and has caused sectarian divisions among Muslims internationally. The death of Wahhabism will also facilitate a truce with Qatar and a rejuvenated GCC.

    The importance of the words of the crown prince cannot be overstated. For the first time ever, Saudi Arabia now has an economic and political future.
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  5. ’ve interviewed dozens of refugees about why they’re risking death to reach Europe. The most common answer is this: because there is no other option. Many cannot return home, or start new lives in other countries in the Middle East or north Africa. So they have nothing to lose by trying for Europe. This means that they will continue to cross the sea in leaking boats – and a few of them will continue to set up camps at Calais – until there is a safe, legal and realistic means of being relocated to Europe.

    Previous camp clearances over the past decade have ultimately not stopped the flow at Calais. Why would they work now?

    For many, the implications of this will be hard to swallow. But the reality is clear: the only logical, long-term response to the Calais crisis is to create a legal means for vast numbers of refugees to reach Europe in safety. This may sound counter-intuitive. But at the current rate, whether we like it or not, 1 million refugees will arrive on European shores within the next four or five years. Whether they set up camps at Calais depends on how orderly we make that process of resettlement.

    The prime minister thinks that sending home west African migrants will do the trick. But this so-called deterrent won’t put off most of the people at Calais. The majority of migrant arrivals to Europe in the past two years have been Syrians, Eritreans and Afghans. These are not “economic migrants” – they are people respectively fleeing civil war, oppression and religious extremism, and in some cases all three. They therefore have a legal right to seek sanctuary in Europe.

    Promising to swiftly relocate 1 million Syrian, Eritrean and Afghan refugees within a viable timeframe is the only thing that will persuade most of them to stay and wait in the transit countries of the Middle East and north Africa – instead of going by boat, or setting up shanty towns in northern France. Currently the EU has promised to relocate 22,000 Syrians and Eritreans awaiting asylum in the Middle East. But given that there are already a total of 4 million Syrian refugees, this is a tiny, token number – and will do nothing to discourage the tide of people crossing the sea through illegal means, or turning up at Calais. We need to promise to resettle a far bigger number in the long-term in order to persuade them to stay put in the short term.
    Europe could solve the migrant crisis – if it wanted
    Daniel Trilling
    Read more

    Some readers will find this idea unworkable. How could Europe handle so many migrants? But spread throughout Europe’s total population of 740 million, an additional 1 million would have a minimal social impact. It would also still be smaller than the number of refugees currently in, for example, Lebanon – where an indigenous population of 4.5 million is struggling to host a refugee population of nearly 1.2 million. Such a massive resettlement programme also has precedent. After the Vietnam war, western countries resettled 1.3 million refugees from the region. If it was achieved once, it can be achieved again.

    Large-scale resettlement is certainly a more logical response than what has been tried so far. Last October, the EU opted to suspend rescue missions in the Mediterranean, fearing that they were attracting migrants. People came anyway – in record numbers. Then the EU decided to launch military operations against Libyan smugglers. I’ve written elsewhere about how that’s doomed to failure. In any case, it’s already too late: there are now more migrants going from Turkey to Greece, than from Libya to Italy.
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  6. Features
    The Islamic world did liberalise – but then came the first world war
    It seems vital to recall that hopeful century when the lands of Islam engaged lustily with modernity
    Christopher de Bellaigue
    Iran's Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, c.1820. (Photo: Getty)

    Christopher de Bellaigue

    25 February 2017

    9:00 AM


    I am quite used to people smirking into their sleeves when they hear that I’ve just written a book called The Islamic Enlightenment. The really helpful wags say they expect something along the lines of The Wit and Wisdom of Spiro Agnew, which was billed as a collection of all the memorable aphorisms of the former US vice-president, and contained only blank pages.

    So, the Islamic Enlightenment — good for a laugh. But we’re all familiar with the serious argument that lies behind the jests; that Islam has not been through an Enlightenment, a Reformation, or any of the other rites of passage that have formed our modernity, and that, ergo, Muslims and modernity are strangers. Not just strangers, but enemies: ever since Gutenberg revolutionised mass printing in the 1450s, pushing the West into the modern age, the Muslims have set their face against innovation. And to be fair, when you take into account the fact that it took some 400 years for movable type to come into general use in the Middle East, and that for much of this period the Ottoman authorities punished book-printing with death, is it any wonder that this bleak view of Muslim improvability has acquired the wide acceptance and legitimacy it currently enjoys?

    In fact, rarely has there been a better time to test the belief — widespread in the Trump White House, among Europe’s rising populists, and the Kremlin — that Islamic society is incapable of reforming because it hates progress. Wouldn’t it be awkward if proof were adduced to show that, on the contrary, for long periods in their recent history the central and most influential lands of Islam, having been confronted by dynamic western modernity, embraced that modernity in spades and only lapsed into Islamist recalcitrance after the first world war obliterated them physically and the victorious allies tried to subjugate them politically? But this is what happened in Turkey, Egypt and Iran during the ‘long’ 19th century until 1914.

    A key aspect of Islamic modernisation (in Egypt’s case only until the British invasion of 1882) was that the lands in question acted as free, independent agents. Change was not only driven by royal autocrats like Iran’s Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, who reformed the Persian military during the Napoleonic wars, but also by commoners of vision such as the Egyptian administrator and intellectual Rifaa al-Tahtawi, whose conception of progress accommodated steamships, girls’ education and linguistic reform. Another secular visionary was Ibrahim Sinasi, father of Turkish journalism, who peppered the Ottoman government of the early 1860s with impertinent advice on how to deal with Greek irredentists and poured scorn on reactionaries who opposed the introduction of gaslights in Istanbul (the same innovation had met with the same reaction in Georgian London).

    Islamic society on the eve of the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt in 1798 had indeed been medieval in many ways, its backwardness perpetuated by despotic government, almost universal illiteracy and the clergy’s monopoly over knowledge. Now change came in a rush. The telegraph, the postal service and table manners arrived almost simultaneously, closely followed by the first polite calls for the crowned head to share power. Theatres of anatomy overturned the prophet’s injunction against cutting up corpses (‘though it may have swallowed the most precious pearl’) and there was an increase in religious scepticism; a photograph of an Istanbul medical school around the middle of the century shows a cohort of medics posing in fezzes amid ghoulish arrangements of human remains. As for the plague, quarantine and hygiene did for this mass killer as they had in Europe two centuries earlier, while slavery was first challenged by a ban on the trade itself (insisted upon by those newbie zealots the British), and ultimately condemned by the decline of the harem, shared habitat of eunuchs and concubines.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-03-02)
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  7. La corrente jacksoniana è invece la meno conosciuta e la più deplorata in Europa e, guarda caso, è proprio quella che fornisce il suo retroterra ed humus al fenomeno Trump. Quello che scriveva Russel Mead di questa corrente oltre 15 anni fa si presta benissimo a interpretare il “fenomeno Trump”: “Forse la politica jacksoniana è così poco compresa perché il jacksonismo è un movimento meno intellettuale e meno politico, mentre ha invece la capacità di esprimere i valori sociali, culturali e religiosi di una grossa fetta del popolo americano. Il suo pensiero è meno noto anche perché affonda le radici in quella porzione di popolazione meno rappresentata nei media e nell’ambiente accademico” e formata, aggiungeva poco dopo, soprattutto da maschi bianchi e protestanti, di estrazione sociale medio-bassa e con collocazione geografica prevalentemente nel Sud e nel Midwest. L’America jacksoniana, continuava lo storico, non è una corrente ideologica, né un complesso di interessi organizzati, ma è una “comunità popolare” e “sembra voler continuare a produrre leader e movimenti politici, destinati a detenere una forte influenza sugli affari interni ed esteri degli Stati Uniti nel prossimo futuro”.
    Come la corrente jeffersoniana, quella jacksoniana ha una forte impronta libertaria ed è intollerante nei confronti dei controlli e dei vincoli statali, ma mentre i jeffersoniani privilegiano il Primo Emendamento e quindi la libertà di espressione, i jacksoniani considerano invece il Secondo Emendamento e quindi il diritto di portare armi, come la pietra angolare e la fortezza delle libertà.

    il maggior numero di interventi militari americani si sono realizzati, nel XX secolo e all’alba del XXI, con amministrazioni di matrice hamiltoniana o wilsoniana e secondo il programma di queste correnti, compresa la famigerata guerra del Vietnam, comprese la prima guerra del Golfo e la guerra del Kosovo. Quanto a Bush figlio, va detto che Russel Mead scrive proprio alla vigilia dell’11 settembre 2001 e può così senz’altro ascriverlo alla corrente jacksoniana, perché di chiara fattura jacksoniana era stato il programma sulla cui base aveva vinto le elezioni. In politica estera, George W. Bush intendeva ritrarsi dalle imprese militari di Clinton su posizioni tendenzialmente isolazioniste. L’11 settembre cambiò la scena e – provo a continuare l’analisi nell’ottica di Russel Mead anche se il suo saggio non arriva al drammatico evento delle Torri gemelle - Bush reagì nell’immediato ancora con un riflesso jacksoniano (capiremo a breve a cosa mi riferisco). La sua amministrazione era però dominata dai cosiddetti neo-con, che jacksoniani non erano affatto. La loro matrice era piuttosto wilsoniana ed essi per lo più si erano formati politicamente nel partito democratico, prima di fare il salto sull'altra sponda. Se l’attacco all’Afghanistan fu la reazione immediata in stile jacksoniano del Presidente, questa reazione presto fu inserita nel ben diverso progetto dei neo-con (il “New american Century") e il corto circuito fra questo wilsonismo piegato a destra dei neo-con e il jacksonismo originario di George W. produssero la sciagurata guerra all’Iraq (appoggiata da molti democratici, a cominciare dalla Clinton).

    La Clinton porta con Obama la responsabilità della guerra civile siriana, nata dall’idea balzana che una “primavera democratica” potesse rovesciare il “feroce dittatore Assad”. La primavera democratica è invece rapidamente evaporata, il feroce dittatore è ancora al suo posto a Damasco, sostenuto dai russi che sono tornati in forze grazie all’insipienza di Obama, dall’Iran e dagli integralisti di Hezbollah; la Siria è però precipitata in una guerra civile che ne ha diviso il territorio fra varie componenti, fra cui lo Stato islamico e islamisti di varia e diversa “confessione”. Con centinaia di migliaia di morti e di profughi. Con la distruzione di un patrimonio storico e artistico di incomparabile valore. Con Aleppo, una delle più splendide città del mondo, ridotta a macerie. Tutto ciò sta sulla coscienza innanzitutto di Obama e della Clinton.
    La Clinton porta con Obama la responsabilità della nascita dello Stato islamico, ossia del più feroce totalitarismo della storia dopo il nazismo. Lo stato islamico, infatti si è allargato alla Siria, ma è nato in Iraq ed è nato grazie alla dissennatissima decisione di Obama di ritirare le truppe senza aver costruito o contribuito a costruire neanche una parvenza di stato e di convivenza fra sunniti, sciiti e curdi (per tacere degli yazidi e dei cristiani). La Clinton e Obama hanno sulla coscienza lo Stato islamico.
    La Clinton, più ancora di Obama stesso, ha sulla coscienza la Libia (Gheddafi era un suo target specifico e Obama in quel caso non mostrava molta passione per la causa), anche qui con una guerra civile e con la “catastrofe umanitaria” dei migranti.

    Non posso concludere senza citare il secondo fondamentale motivo, oltre a quello della politica estera, che induce a preferire Trump: se vincesse, passeremmo da un Presidente icona del “politicamente corretto” a un Presidente icona del “politicamente scorretto”. Non è una battuta e non è un fatto marginale, ma di primaria rilevanza. Il “politicamente corretto”, purtroppo a molti sfugge, ha una portata totalitaria, anzi si potrebbe dire che è il “totalitarismo soft” che nel triste mondo odierno fa da pendant al “totalitarismo hard” dell’integralismo islamico. Infatti, chi pretende di controllare il linguaggio pretende di controllare il pensiero e forse non è neanche necessario aver studiato Parmenide e la scuola eleatica per capire questo. Il politicamente corretto, inoltre, rende l’Occidente inerme – inerme culturalmente prima che militarmente - di fronte alla epocale minaccia dell’integralismo islamico. Non mi pare che si debba aggiungere altro: quando una cosa è tanto importante non servono molte parole ed anzi troppe parole relativizzano pericolosamente la dimensione del fenomeno; la dittatura del politicamente corretto va sradicata dal mondo occidentale esattamente come lo Stato islamico va sradicato dall’Iraq e dalla Siria. Solo così la civiltà occidentale – e mi permetto di dire la civiltà tout court – potrà tornare a guardare al futuro senza angoscia.
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  8. Britain is divided as never before. The country has turned its back on Europe, and its female ruler has her sights set on trade with the East. As much as this sounds like Britain today, it also describes the country in the 16th century, during the golden age of its most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.

    One of the more surprising aspects of Elizabethan England is that its foreign and economic policy was driven by a close alliance with the Islamic world, a fact conveniently ignored today by those pushing the populist rhetoric of national sovereignty.

    From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers in Iran, Turkey and Morocco — and with good reasons. In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown. Soon, the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion imminent. English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands. Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.

    Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Islamic world. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Sultan Murad III, which stretched from North Africa through Eastern Europe to the Indian Ocean. The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary. Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the sultan would provide much needed relief from Spanish military aggression

    Elizabeth’s Islamic policy held off a Catholic invasion, transformed English taste and established a new model for joint stock investment that would eventually finance the Virginia Company, which founded the first permanent North American colony.

    It turns out that Islam, in all its manifestations — imperial, military and commercial — played an important part in the story of England. Today, when anti-Muslim rhetoric inflames political discourse, it is useful to remember that our pasts are more entangled than is often appreciated.
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  9. For Americans to really understand what’s going on, it’s important to review some details about this sordid but little-remembered history. During the 1950s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers — CIA Director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles — rebuffed Soviet treaty proposals to leave the Middle East a neutral zone in the Cold War and let Arabs rule Arabia. Instead, they mounted a clandestine war against Arab nationalism — which Allen Dulles equated with communism — particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions. They pumped secret American military aid to tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon favoring puppets with conservative Jihadist ideologies that they regarded as a reliable antidote to Soviet Marxism. At a White House meeting between the CIA’s director of plans, Frank Wisner, and John Foster Dulles, in September 1957, Eisenhower advised the agency, “We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect,” according to a memo recorded by his staff secretary, Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster.

    The EU, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, was equally hungry for the pipeline, which would have given its members cheap energy and relief from Vladimir Putin’s stifling economic and political leverage. Turkey, Russia’s second largest gas customer, was particularly anxious to end its reliance on its ancient rival and to position itself as the lucrative transect hub for Asian fuels to EU markets. The Qatari pipeline would have benefited Saudi Arabia’s conservative Sunni monarchy by giving it a foothold in Shia-dominated Syria. The Saudis’ geopolitical goal is to contain the economic and political power of the kingdom’s principal rival, Iran, a Shiite state, and close ally of Bashar Assad. The Saudi monarchy viewed the U.S.-sponsored Shiite takeover in Iraq (and, more recently, the termination of the Iran trade embargo) as a demotion to its regional power status and was already engaged in a proxy war against Tehran in Yemen, highlighted by the Saudi genocide against the Iranian backed Houthi tribe.

    Of course, the Russians, who sell 70 percent of their gas exports to Europe, viewed the Qatar/Turkey pipeline as an existential threat. In Putin’s view, the Qatar pipeline is a NATO plot to change the status quo, deprive Russia of its only foothold in the Middle East, strangle the Russian economy and end Russian leverage in the European energy market. In 2009, Assad announced that he would refuse to sign the agreement to allow the pipeline to run through Syria “to protect the interests of our Russian ally.”
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  10. The US response was to try to use a chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta as a pretext to bomb Syria. When that failed because of strong opposition from Russia and US public opinion it stepped up support for the insurgency.

    Weapons, money and fighters poured in, and over the course of 2014 the military balance shifted back to the rebels again.

    The main beneficiary was the organisation that now calls itself the Islamic State. This began as the Iraqi branch of the global jihadi terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

    It took advantage of the vacuum created by the Syrian army's withdrawal from Syria's desert regions to expand into Syria and to establish itself there.

    The Islamic State is said to have a Wahhabist or Salafist ideology, like those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and like that of its original parent, Al-Qaeda. Actually it combines Salafism with an apocalyptic vision previously unknown to Islam.

    As it says its leader is the Caliph it claims to be the only legitimate government for Muslims.

    It rules the areas it controls by violence and terror, backed by money it gets from the Gulf and from the illegal oil trade.

    All this explains why following Russia's military intervention in Syria it is doomed.

    The Russian military intervention means there is no danger of the Syrian government collapsing — as looked possible just a few months ago.
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