By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
In Syria, on February 24 last, Iraq carried out its first bombing against Isis in the region of Abu Kemal, but the tactical and intelligence support to the Iraqi forces was been given by Russia and Iran, not by the United States which, however, also tacitly allowed the operations.
This also means that Putin has lost his patience and fears the new fragmentation of power and factionalism in the United States, considering Donald Trump’s Presidency and the intelligence agencies now deployed against the new President. Hence Putin goes on with his operations in Syria with the support of Iran and not with the US support, as had previously been planned by the Russian intelligence services.
It is also assumed that the United States does not accept the primary role of the Turkish forces in the conquest of Raqqa, the capital of the so-called “Caliphate”. However, after the conquest of the town of Al Bab in Northern Syria, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, announced that the Turkish armed forces would continue actions towards Raqqa with the support of France, Great Britain, and Germany – not to mention the United States.
Therefore, if the United States is de facto expelled from Syria, it will be irrelevant in the Greater Middle East. If the United States is short-lived in the Greater Middle East, America will be fully marginal in Europe. If it will not be present in Europe, this will not be a problem for the European Union which will not even notice it, but the United States will also be non-existent in the Maghreb region and in Central Asia.
The US absence will not be a danger for the EU’s foreign policy. The European foreign policy does not even exist now, let alone in the future.
Nevertheless for Russia and China it will mean “green light” for the great Eurasia planned by Russia and for the new Silk Road, namely the Road and Belt Initiative, conceived by China as early as 2013.
In both cases, this marks the end of the EU-US relationship as we currently know it, but in Brussels nobody has yet noticed it – hence let us leave them asleep.
It is exactly in this context that the rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia must be seen.
Between February 21 and 22 last, while the United States showed their weakness in the Middle East and in the rest of the world, the Saudi Chief of the intelligence services, Khalid bin Ali al Humaidan, secretly visited both Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Al Humaidan, recently appointed Head of the main intelligence service of the Saudi Kingdom does not belong to the network of the most important princes of the Al Saud family, the so-called “seven Sudayri”, but has emerged solely thanks to a brilliant military career – and it is the first time that this happens.
In fact, the Saudi intelligence services are very worried about the project, authorized a few weeks ago by the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and also by President Rouhani, whom Westerners stupidly define as a “reformist” – a project that the Iranian Armed Forces define as Riyadh, at first.
For Iran the issue lies in adding further 100 kilometres to the range of their SCUD-C and SCUD-D missiles, which is currently 600 and 700 kilometres, respectively, so as to enable the missile to directly reach the Saudi capital city.
Currently the Iranian operation is implemented at the Al Ghadi base in the Ganesh area, about 48 kilometers from the capital city of the Shiite republic.
Al Ghadi is a few kilometres from Hamadan, the base that Iran granted to the Russian air force last August which, however, has already been left by it, with some Iran’s complaints.
Therefore the strategy of the Shiite republic is clear: instead of accepting diversions or multiple regional conflicts by proxy, Iran will hit immediately and directly the Saudi Kingdom with such a missile salvo as to block its decision-making centres and much of its economy.
On the other hand, just on February 4 last, Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels attacked with a Borkan missile (i.e. a Volcano 1 missile) – which has an average range of 800 kilometers – the Saudi camp of Al Mazahimiyah, 40 kilometres west of Riyadh.
The Borkan 1 is a tactical ballistic missile developed on the basis of the R-17 Soviet Elbrus model, but it is not very likely for this medium-range missile fuelled with solid propellant to have been launched by the Houthis. It is rather the first test of the new Iranian extended-range SCUD missile.
What will the Head of the Saudi intelligence services have said to the Palestinian leaders gathered in Ramallah?
Certainly he will have told the PLO heirs to stop strengthening their ties with Iran.
As early as 2014 Hamas and the Al Qassam Brigades have publicly reaffirmed their political-military relationship with the Shiite republic, even though Hamas is an offshoot of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood that has always been the number one enemy of the Sunni kingdom of the Al Saud family.
While in 2012 Hamas had broken its relations with Iran, in the phase of the silly “Arab Springs”, by supporting the political legitimacy of President Hadi in Yemen, currently Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, wants a preferential relationship with Iran for its financial and military support, while the Saudi and Arab Emirates’ support is vanishing.
And this happens even though the Hamas leaders would accept, at first and preferentially, the support of the Saudi Kingdom.
Support to the Palestinian struggle which, however, is currently not provided “for internal reasons within the Saudi regime,” as said by our sources within the Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestinian Territories.
Furthermore a meeting was already held between Iranian and Palestinian delegations in Brussels, in mid-February 2017.
It is that meeting which alerted the Saudi intelligence services.
The whole Iranian delegation had been appointed directly by President Rowhani, the “reformist,” while the Palestinian one was led by Jibril Rajoub, whom Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, will probably appoint as his deputy in the coming days.
Rajoub is “persona non grata” for Jordan; he emerged as leader at the Fatah Congress held in Ramallah in 2016 and cannot even travel to Egypt.
On the contrary, in Jerusalem, the Head of the Saudi intelligence services will have talked about the issues relating to the next Middle East Conference proposed by President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in their last meeting.
However, what is the current relationship between Israel and the Gulf petromonarchies?
It is worth recalling that Israel sent its first diplomatic mission to the United Arab Emirates, precisely to Abu Dhabi, on November 27, 2015.
Obviously both for the United Arab Emirates and for Saudi Arabia the relationship with the Jewish State is instrumental to contain Iran, a sworn enemy of both counties.
But we must consider the economy and, above all, the advanced technology, which is essential for the economic diversification of the Sunni petromonarchies.
Recently Qatar has even tried to establish some unofficial diplomatic channels with Israel – channels that had been disrupted after the 2008-2009 Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip.
Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf petromonarchies are ever less interested in the Palestinians, but ever more greedy for the Israeli advanced technology that the United States has not or does not want to grant.
As early as the Six Day War, the Jewish State’s leadership has used the concessions made to the Palestinians with a view to defusing the threat that the Arab States posed to its very survival.
Moreover the Israeli diplomacy has always used the 1994 model of normalizing relations with Jordan to propose similar actions with the other Arab League countries.
And, over the years, the Qatari support to Hamas and the Saudi support to the whole Palestinian military and political region has become ever less passionate and relevant.
The primary reason is the massive corruption reigning in the Territories, which prevents also the Saudi and the Emirates’ counterparts from doing business, while the Saudi strategic equation is increasingly focused on Al Sisi’s Egypt, a ferocious enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than on Hamas, which is the Palestinian armed wing of the Brotherhood and, hence, directly operating in the Sinai region.
Currently the Saudi and Emirates’ support to the Palestinians is increasingly tactical and vague, except for preventing Iran from conquering the thriving market of “aid” to the Palestinian National Authority’s military forces.
Saudi Arabia does not want the increasingly close relationship between Mahmoud Abbas and Iran, nor it wants to support a military struggle against Israel – and it is worth noting King Salman Al Saud’s absence from the Arab League’s meeting held in Mauritania on July 25, 2016 – a Summit focused precisely on the Palestinian issue.
Currently the Israeli high-tech products and advanced technologies for irrigation have already entered the Kingdom through “third” companies.
In 2011, some Israeli companies sold military technology to the Arab Emirates to the tune of 300 million US dollars, while the members of the Gulf Security Council use technologies produced by the Jewish State to maintain safety and security in their oil wells.
In 2009 Saudi Arabia even tested its air defences to check the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran launched from its territory while, on the basis of 2015 data, 53% of the Saudi citizens see Iran as the primary threat, while Israel is considered the number one enemy only by 18% of the Saudi citizens.
Moreover, Israel publicly supported the Egyptian granting of the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in April 2016, while the primary strategic relationship in which Israel is interested is the one regarding the Saudi – or anyway Sunni – opposition and contrast to Iran’s penetration into the Palestinian universe.
The companies resulting from the spin-off of the Israeli intelligence services are used by Saudi Arabia to probe the deep web, while much of cybersecurity in the Emirates is originated from Israel.
Recently the United Arab Emirates have spent six billion dollars in security infrastructure, by using Israeli engineers and companies owned by or linked to Israeli businessmen.
The main intermediary for these relations, at least at government level, is Ayub Kara, an Arab-Israeli Druze who is currently Minister in Netanyahu’s government.
He is a Likud man, who cherishes no illusions about the strategic aims of Israel’s possible “friends” in the Middle East.
The starting point for new networks between Riyadh and Jerusalem is the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance Project.
The “Two Seas Canal” will bring drinking water from Aqaba to Lisan, in the Dead Sea – water available to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories – and will generate electricity. It is located entirely on the Jordanian territory and will be funded by the Jordanian government and by some international donors.
Its construction is expected to start next year and Ayub Kara, in particular, supports the redevelopment and enhancement of the Haifa port for the transport of goods to the EU and Turkey, in addition to conceiving a role for the Israeli port towards Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Another Israeli project in which Saudi Arabia is interested is the old Red Sea pipeline, an old network of 50 years ago from Eilat to Ashkelon, built jointly with the Iranian Shah.
It avoids the Suez Canal and hence reduces many political costs, as well as the costs for transporting oil to Europe and the United States.
Last year, however, a Swiss court granted to Iran 1.1 billion US dollars for loss of earnings, but Israel refuses to pay this sum to Iran, as can be easily imagined.
Other Israeli companies in the safety and security sector sold to the United Arab Emirates integrated systems for monitoring networks and people flows – systems which are also used for the remote supervision of pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina.
Hence the new strategic coordinates of the Greater Middle East will be, on the one hand, the Iranian management of the Shiite minorities in Bahrain, Yemen, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria and, on the other, Saudi Arabia’s opening to every Iranian enemy in the region.
The United States will continue their withdrawal from the Middle East system. Russia will become the true and only broker of military power and equilibriums in the Fertile Crescent. If there are no future military crises on its borders, in addition to the Syrian one, Israel will become the point of reference both for Russia and the Sunni world, which is orphan of the United States.
As is currently the case, Europe will be irrelevant and devoid of ideas.
About the author:
*Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy