GEOPOLITICA DEL MONDO MODERNO

Tag archive

US - page 2

High-level Kurdistan Region delegation to meet with security council in US

BreakingNews @en di

Kurdish Chancellor Masrour Barzani is leading a high-level delegation this week to Washington, D.C., where they will meet principle members of the US National Security Council (NSC). “On Monday, Chancellor Barzani will lead a high-level delegation from the Kurdistan Region to meet principle members of the US National Security Council”, read a statement from the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC). It is Barzani’s second official visit to Washington in the past six months and first since US President Donald Trump took office in January.  The Chancellor will underscore Kurdistan’s future bilateral relations with Iraq and the United States, read the statement. “Barzani will discuss the importance of continued US military and political support to the Kurdistan Region and its Peshmerga Forces”. The NSC is the White House’s primary advisory body on foreign and domestic security issues. Its members are selected by the current president and include Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. In addition to KRSC Chancellor Barzani, the Kurdish delegation includes Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the Kurdish President, and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United States, Her Excellency Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman. On Tuesday, Barzani will speak at the influential and conservative D.C. think tank, the Heritage Foundation. “Chancellor Barzani will also outline strategies to address Iraq’s unending conflict,” the Heritage Foundation wrote”. “[He] will give insights on the anti-ISIL campaign; immediate and long-term political challenges in Iraq and the broader Middle East”. Kurdistan’s Council of Ministers agreed to a joint Peshmerga and US proposed plan that seeks to unify and reorganize the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the next ten years, a government official told Rudaw on Sunday. In March, the US State Department approved a possible sale of military equipment to the Peshmerga to an estimated cost of $295.6 million. Kurdish officials have also emphasized the need for addressing the defeat of ISIS beyond the battlefield.

KRG Council of Ministers approves project to restructure Peshmerga forces

BreakingNews @en di

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Council of Ministers has approved a project to restructure the Peshmerga forces. The Council of Ministers held talks  to discuss the project of restructuring Peshmerga forces in the Kurdistan Region. KRG Council of Ministers Secretary Amanj Raheem issued a statement posted to his Facebook page saying the council has adopted the project, which was structured in consultation with military advisors from the U.S, the U.K. and Germany. “The Ministry of Peshmerga will become a modern and trusted ministry [which will be apart] from politics”, Raheem added. The head of the Peshmerga Ministry’s Culture and Media Office, Halgurd Hikmat, said on Saturday  that a new body was suggested for the Peshmerga Ministry by the Coalition forces and the joint Peshmerga committee. Hikmat noted the new body suggested for the Peshmerga forces is a standard body like the Coalition forces. The new body will begin with the Peshmerga Ministry, then it will be decentralized to the Peshmerga forces, he added.

 

DW: “Greater Albania” – bogeyman or a pipe dream?

BreakingNews @en di

The idea of Greater Albania – uniting all Albanians in one state – is once again a hot topic in the Balkans, DW reports. While leaders in Pristina and Tirana deny pan-Albanian ambitions, their recent statements have caused alarm. Serbian Foreign Minister Dacic also said that the EU, the US, and Britain “will be directly responsible” if the Albanians push ahead with their territorial ambitions. According to Erdoan Shipoli, Associate Dean of School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia International University, the Albanian leaders, with their statements, want to get more votes from the more nationalist groups, because they know that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to even choose the leader of the Great Albania, let alone making it function. Even so, the talk of Greater Albania can be dangerous, according to the expert. People across the region are tired of corruption and unemployment, pro-western Albanians feel like the EU has failed to defend their interests in Macedonia and Serbia, and Kosovo citizens are angry at the EU for not letting them travel without visas. In such circumstances, it is natural for nationalist sentiment to rise. “Right now there is no support but if the EU continues to fail the Albanians in general and Kosovo in particular, then this thought will gain more momentum and have more acceptance”, Shipoli said.

 

US ready for secondary sanctions, more punishments against North Korea.

BreakingNews @en di

The US Secretary of State said Wednesday that the country is ready to increase pressure on North Korea through additional penalties, secondary sanctions and a tighter implementation of UN resolutions. The US is ready to ramp up pressure against North Korea through additional penalties, secondary sanctions and a tighter implementation of UN resolutions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday, adding “a lot of work” is left to maximize its strategy.  “So it’s a pressure campaign that has a knob on it. I’d say we’re at about dial setting five or six right now, with a strong call of countries all over the world to fully implement the UN Security Council resolutions regarding sanctions, because no one has ever fully implemented those”, Tillerson said at a meeting with State Department employees.

Efforts Underway to Let Iranians in North America Vote in Presidential Election.

BreakingNews @en di

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said it has been pursuing diplomacy to allow the Iranian nationals residing in the US and Canada to vote in the upcoming presidential election simultaneous with the polls at home. The Foreign Ministry has made all arrangements for holding the presidential election abroad and has taken all necessary measures in this regard, the ministry’s spokesman Bahram Qassemi said. Considering the relatively high number of Iranians residing in the US, the Foreign Ministry has taken all necessary measures to set up polling stations there, he noted. As regards Canada, Qassemi said Iran hopes to be able to have ballot boxes in that country, despite the fact that Tehran and Ottawa have no diplomatic relations. The Foreign Ministry is making efforts through diplomatic channels to obtain permission to dispatch ballot boxes to Canada, he noted.

United States pushes for more sanctions, diplomacy over North Korea threats.

BreakingNews @en di

The Donald Trump administration is seeking to step up sanctions and pressure as its key drivers to tackle North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, while engaging the regime through diplomacy, top US officials said Wednesday.  Following a two-month review, the administration is said to have recently settled on its North Korea policy, dubbed “maximum pressure and engagement”. Trump hosted a rare closed-door briefing for all 100 senators at the White House, after which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a joint statement, vowing efforts to boost pressure on Pyongyang.

UN-proposed government's PM to meet with Donald Trump in Washington.

BreakingNews @en di

The Head of the UN-proposed government’s Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sirraj, has been invited to visit the White House to meet with the US President, Donald Trump, next June. According to first informations, Al-Sirraj could also meet General Haftar during the visit to Washington, which could be the beginning of a reconciliation between both parts of Libya, under US auspicce. However, few days ago, after an official meeting with Italian Prime Minister, Gentiloni, Donald Trump tol that US has no role to play in the Libyan peacemaking process.

 

Banking problems persist despite JCPOA: Iran’s Oil Minister.

BreakingNews @en di

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said banking problems created by anti-Tehran sanctions are “still in place” despite the enforcement of the nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and six powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “The banking problems are still in place after JCPOA”, Zanganeh told reporters on the sidelines of the 13th Iran Petrochemical Forum in Tehran on Saturday. He further emphasized that to some extent, the problems have to do with foreign banks’ cautiousness about cooperating with Iran. While the JCPOA, a 159-page nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) came into force in January last year, some Iranian officials complain about the US failure to fully implement the accord. Back in March 2016, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said Americans have yet to fulfill what they were supposed to do as per the nuclear deal.

 

Only Israel would recognize a Kurdish state, Iraq’s al-Hakim says.

BreakingNews @en di

Iraq’s National Coalition Chief, Ammar al-Hakim, said on Wednesday that Israel would be the only country to recognize a Kurdish state if it were declared. Hakim stated the U.S. administration has repeatedly declared its commitment to the territorial integrity of Iraq. He added Iraqi officials have received assurances from the new U.S. administration of its commitment to the unity of Iraq, as well as the commitment of previous administrations. Iraq’s Shi’ite ruling coalition would oppose Kurdish plans to hold a referendum on independence of Kurdistan Region after the defeat of Islamic State, its president, Ammar al-Hakim, has said. Hakim said Kurdish officials have a 70-year ambition to announce a Kurdish state, which could continue for another decade whether it were achieved or not. Kurds seek self-determination to have their own state having a logic that they can have a country the way Arabs have 22 countries as well as Turks and Persians who have their own countries, Hakim added.

 

Saudi Arabia toward the economic diversification

Middle East - Africa/Politics di

In the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia has been at the centre of intense diplomatic activities, mainly directed to make significant economic deals. It is not a coincidence that some of the actors involved are the three biggest world economies: The United States, China and Japan. Indeed, while King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has taken a six-week trip in Asia, His Energy Minister Khalid-Al Falin headed for in Washington, to meet the US President Trump at the White House.

Such an intense effort goes beyond the normal diplomatic relations, especially given that the King’s visit in Japan has been the first visit to the country by a monarch of the Middle East oil-rich countries in the past fifty years. So, what is behind this busy agenda? First and foremost, oil. For decades, the vast availability of oil combined with the harsh regulations imposed by the monarchy -which did not encourage foreign companies entering Saudi markets-  have made oil the country’s one and only source of income.

However, the recent drop in oil price has been worrying the oil-rich monarchy. IMF projection for Saudi economic growth is not more encouraging, sharply foreseeing a drop from 2% to 0.4% this year. Hence, Saudi Arabia is exploring alternative economic paths, which include attracting foreign capitals and developing other industrial sectors. The short-term strategy, indeed, sets investments and infrastructure maintenance, especially electricity and transport networks, as first priorities. In a long-term perspective, “Vision 2030” expresses goals and expectations of the nation, based on three strong pillars: leading role in the Arab and Islamic word, become a global investment powerhouse and become a global hub, thus connecting Asia, Africa and Europe.

Having said that, Saudi effort to diversify its economy is more understandable. However, it is important to analyse also the political implications that these visits and commercial agreements may have.

Let’s start with Japan, the first trip of King Salman. As mentioned above, the Saudi King arrival in the Asian island is not an ordinary event, though the Kingdom is the largest provider of oil export and the two countries have friendly relationships. But this time King Salman has decided to travel all the way to the East and meet the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders, then, agreed and signed the “Saudi-Japan Vision 2030”, a governmental project that aims to enhance the cooperation between the two countries.

By developing this project, Saudi Arabia and Japan will become equal strategic partners and Japanese companies will be given a designated zone in Saudi Arabia to allow fluid entry into the country, thus facilitating the economic partnership. The developmental projects outlined in the document include both government-related and private sector ones.

Notable names emerge with the private projects. Toyota is opting to produce cars and components in Saudi Arabia; Toyobo will cooperate in technological developments of desalination plants and several banks -i.e. Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank- will be promoting investments in the Kingdom, while Softbank Group is planning to create investment funds worth 25$ billion for technological investments.

Therefore, Japan raises as a key actor to diversify Saudi Arabian economy. However, there are also political reasons behind this stronger partnership. The Japanese government is trying to contribute to Saudi Arabia political and economic stability, which is a fundamental factor to maintain the stability in the region. The competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran for the leadership in the Middle East has been deteriorating security and stability in the area for a long time. Japan has friendly relations with both countries and welcomes a productive dialogue between the two powers. Helping Saudi Arabia to strengthen its economy is indeed essential to maintain some balance between the two nations, also given that the relationship with the US -traditional ally and a core pillar of Saudi foreign policy- has recently gone through a hard time.

Moving forward, or better said westwards, King Salman reached China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer as well as the third largest economy. Similarly, as for Japan, the Sunni monarchy is the primary source of China’s energy demand. The two countries have sharply deepened their relationship by signing up to 65$ billion economic and trade deals. Within this framework, the countries are promoting manufacturing and energy sectors, included downstream oil opportunities. Moreover, the deals include a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the oil firm Saudi Aramco and China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco) to look into the construction of refining and chemical plants in China. Meanwhile, Sinopec and Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) agreed upon the development of petrochemical projects both in China and Saudi Arabia.

The stronger economic relationship comes as mutually beneficial for the countries. On the one hand, Saudi Arabia may see new trade opportunities in sectors other than oil, while confirming his position as key energy partner for China; on the other, China can benefit from further Saudi investments in its markets but also for the kingdom’s strategic location in the Middle East. Indeed, Saudi political, religious and economic influence in the region is a key factor for the Chinese “One belt, one road” initiative, that aims to build connectivity and cooperation between Eurasia and China.

However, Saudi Arabia also has its strategic advantages. From a security perspective, Saudi Arabia has always strongly relied on the US and its military presence in the Gulf. However, under Obama’s administration concerns and disappointments arose, as the US failed to show a firm determination in dealing with Iranian attempts to further develop its nuclear capabilities, thus jeopardising the stability of the region. In the past, China has refrained from interfering in the Middle East issues, trying to keep a neutral position between the two rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran and stressing the importance of close consultation. Some changes occurred, though.

In 2016, China backed Bashar al-Assad, offering its military cooperation and supported Yemen’s government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels (A Saudi-led military coalition supports Yemen’s government). Lastly, the Chinese government signed an agreement to set the first factory for Chinese hunter-killer aerial drones in Saudi Arabia, first in the Middle East.

Is China going to replace the US in the Middle East? Perhaps it is still too early to make such an assumption, especially given the new development in Syria. However, it seems that China may and would like to play a more influential role in promoting security and stability in the region, having all the means (military and economic) to do it.

And here comes the third core piece of this puzzle: The United States. As mentioned above, Obama administration has seriously challenged the relationship between the West power and the Saudi monarchy. The major issue was the multilateral nuclear deal signed with Iran, which allowed Iran to sell its vast oil supplies more freely and solicit investment in its energy industry, increasing competition with top oil exporter Saudi Arabia. However, the new presidency has made clear its approach toward Iran, by immediately imposing additional sanctions on entities involved in the nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia visit to Washington seems to open a new phase in US-Saudi relations. While the King was busy in Asia, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and the Deputy Crowne Prince Mohammed bin Salman met President Donald Trump at the White House. As Saudi minister pointed out, US-Saudi relationship is one of the most central to global stability and now seems to be better than ever. Indeed, the two countries again align on all the major issues, such as confronting Iranian aggression and fighting ISIS, but also enjoy the benefit of a closer personal bond between his royal highness, the Deputy Crown Prince and President Trump.

At the economic level, new investment programs are focused on energy, industry, infrastructure and technology. According to the Financial Times, Saudi Arabia is interested in investing up to $200 billion in US infrastructure, which is a core pillar of Trump’s agenda. As Falih explains, “The infrastructure program of President Trump and his administration is something that we’re interested in because it broadens our portfolio and it opens a new channel for secure, low-risk yet healthy return investments that we seek”.

These are only some of the economic negotiations and deals that Saudi Arabia is currently conducting, but they help to understand the new economic course of the country. They represent, indeed, a “Plan B” against the drop of oil revenue and the chance to reinforce and diversify the economic capabilities of the country, which can rely on resources other than oil, such as phosphate, gold, uranium and other minerals. Developing new sectors will also attract foreign investments and create new job opportunities for a young and ambitious local population.

One of the risks of such a massive network of economic deals is the reaction that other partners may have to commitments taken with other countries. As known, commercial arrangements have political consequences and impacts. Therefore, one of the main challenges for Saudi leaders will be to pursue its economic goals, while balancing its position toward all his major allies and friend nations, especially when some of its partners are not the best friends ever.

An obvious example is China. Despite years of lack of interest for Middle East issues, China is now trying to play a bigger role in the region, as the support in Yemen and Syria but also the Chinese warship tour in the Arab Gulf (January 2017) prove. Saudi Arabia welcomes this kind of assistance, as it can help to reduce Iran’s influence in the region. However, it is important not to upset a key and historical ally, the United States. As the new administration has shown a different approach toward the main regional issues -Syria and Iran- it might be a strategic mistake to bond too closely to the new player. Indeed, this might give the impression that a new guarantor of security in the Middle East has replaced the United States, a change that President Trump may not be entirely happy with.

In conclusion, the diversification of Saudi Arabia’s economy is a smart and necessary move to make. However, it goes beyond the economic sphere, as it also shapes Saudi political posture, as a regional power but also among the biggest foreign nations involved in the Middle East political struggle. It appears that the country is trying to bond closer ties with all those powers that have more interests -but also economic and military capabilities- influencing the stability and security of the region, thus trying to get the strongest support possible against its main rival, Iran. China and USA are on the spot but do not forget Russia, which has developed bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia in the past few years and has strong political and strategic interests in the Middle East. Lastly, a key factor will be the development of the Syrian war, especially after the US Tomahawk missile strike on an air base in Syria, very well welcomed by Riyadh.

It is likely that the future economic strategy of the Kingdom will follow the political and strategic needs of the country, confirming once again the strong interrelation between economic and political dimensions, but also the importance of a robust and independent economy to maintain an influential and leading role in the region.

 

Paola Fratantoni

Paola Fratantoni
Vai a Inizio
× Contattaci!