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By Dr. Arshad M. Khan*

The Jerusalem story is the centerpiece of news this week. Donald Trump and Mike Pence, an evangelical, in favor of moving the embassy and Rex Tillerson and John Mattis opposed in their discussion prior to the announcement. That State and Defense departments both found the move detrimental to U.S. interests underlines how politics trump sound policy.

Mr. Trump is trying to wrap up his evangelical constituency ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. Of course it was an unconditional gift for Netanyahu, in desperate need of any success as his criminal investigation for financial corruption approaches a climax. Domestic concerns remain in the present while deliverables for Palestinians are in the future … a distant future.

It was also a gift for the Iranians and a slap for the Saudis, who have been moving closer to Israel. Turkey has now stepped up to take the leadership role for the Muslim community. Mr. Erdogan has threatened to cut off diplomatic relations with Israel; he has also called for a meeting of Muslim leaders next week in Istanbul.

Not just the Saudis, other staunch mideast U.S. allies like Jordan and Egypt have been undermined. Al-Azhar the claimed arbiter of Sunni Moslem teachings, said the action will open the gates of hell. Even the Orthodox church in Egypt condemned it as violating international laws and agreements.

The West Bank erupted in demonstrations and burning of the U.S. flag and effigies of President Trump. Palestinians leaders both Muslim and Christian (Mahmoud Abbas and Hanan Ashrawi) spoke out against it. An interesting dynamic when evangelical Christians appear to favor Israel over fellow Christians in Palestine. But the alliance is one of temporary convenience.

Evangelicals believe in the ‘rapture’ when they will be taken to heaven. For that to happen the Messiah must return to earth, which requires the necessary condition of Jews controlling all of Israel, especially Jerusalem. However, rapture includes only those who accept Jesus as their savior. The rest, including Jews, are cast into the other place.

Trump’s only support lies with right-wing Israelis; the rest including the UN, the EU, UK, Russia, China, India, and the Muslim world from Africa to Indonesia are opposed to the gesture — a hollow one in the face of reality.

Not at all the undivided capital of Israel, Jerusalem has 220,000 Palestinians in the historic East where all the iconic religious places are located. These Palestinians have no vote, their land is occupied territory, and the U.S. has now therefore contravened international law and the Oslo Accords through an implicit assumption of Israeli suzerainty. The fact remains, Israelis seldom venture into East Jerusalem and Palestinians stay away from the West part. It is not one city but two. The U.S. will be the sole country in the world with an embassy there — a hardship post when all the embassy parties will be in Tel Aviv!

A final word: The highly successful former editor of Vanity Fair, Tina Brown, has written an autobiography (reviewed in The New Yorker, November 20, 2017). Trump is mentioned here and there … at a 1987 dinner party given by Ann Getty, he can be seen promoting himself. But the best is Brown’s read of “The Art of the Deal” a book she had decided to excerpt in Vanity Fair. “It feels, when you have finished it, as if you’ve been nose to nose for four hours with an entertaining con man.” She adds, “I suspect the American public will like nothing better.” Now we just have to wait until they begin feel the eventual bite of the tax bill, the missing “great” healthcare plan, and the absent flood of good jobs before his voters figure the con. So the shoring up of evangelicals.

In the meantime, ask yourself this question: When the U.S. embassy moves to Jerusalem, what will happen to the one in Tel Aviv … another Trump Tower?

About the author:
*Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King’s College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

Caucasus

Caspian Sea states sign landmark convention on sea’s legal status

During the fifth summit of the Caspian states, the leaders of the Five coastal countries – Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran – signed the long-awaited Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.

This document had been preparing for 22 years. It establishes clear rules for the collective use of the Caspian Sea. The presidents of the Caspian five themselves call it not only the “Constitution” of the Caspian sea, the world’s largest body of water that has no access to the world ocean. Initially, the Tehran Convention, which regulated all the activities of coastal countries, was considered a special document. Then, with subsequent meetings at the level of heads of state, foreign affairs agencies, as well as meetings of the Joint Working Group, additional documents were adopted that gave impetus to the negotiation process. But there was still no concrete outcome document. And he really was all needed.

“The Convention is a kind of Constitution of the Caspian Sea. It is designed to resolve the whole range of issues related to the rights and obligations of the coastal countries, as well as to become a guarantor of security, stability and prosperity of the region as a whole”, such an explanation to the signed document on in historic day was given by the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.» One of those who all these years sought to solve the painful “Caspian” issue painlessly for each of the parties, wishing to turn the Caspian into a zone of peace, good-neighbourliness and friendship.

Speaking at the plenary meeting of the Caspian summit in Aktau, the head of Kazakhstan stressed the important geopolitical significance of the Caspian Sea because of its favorable location on the world map. This region, noted the President, has a unique history and diverse culture, there are huge human resources and the richest natural reserves. The total population of the five Caspian States is about 240 million people. All this has led to the need to develop joint solutions to the whole range of issues related to the Caspian.

As a result, the Convention has become the main comprehensive document regulating the rights and obligations of the parties in relation to the Caspian Sea, including its waters, the bottom, subsoil, natural resources and airspace. Particular attention in drafting the document the parties paid to the issues of ensuring security, warnings and preventing the consequences of emergencies and military activities of the Caspian states.

The most important principles of the activities of the member countries of the Convention are, as mentioned earlier, the transformation of the Caspian Sea into a zone of peace, good-neighborliness and friendship, its peaceful use, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the absence of armed forces on the Caspian Sea that do not belong to the parties. Experts say, it is very important that the document clearly regulates the issues of necessary delineations, modes of navigation and fishing, fixes the principles of military-political interaction of the participating countries.

The essence of the Convention is not just to share the sea. Its exact boundaries have yet to draw out and fixed. It was much more important to agree on the use of water space and the bottom so that it would fit all the countries of the “five”. As a result, we chose an option that suits all parties.

“We have established territorial waters with a width of 15 nautical miles, and their external borders acquire the status of state. To the territorial waters adjoin ten-mile fishing zones, where each state has exclusive rights for fishing. Outside the fishing zones, the total water area is preserved. The freedom of navigation for ships under the flags of coastal countries will operate outside the Maritime state borders. An agreement on freedom of transit to other seas and oceans is important. Each state exercises sovereign rights to subsoil use within the boundaries of its bottom sector. At the same time, it is possible to lay trunk pipelines and cables on the seabed with the condition of compliance with environmental requirements”, – said the head of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, speaking at a press conference on the results of the 5th summit of the Caspian States.

The President of Kazakhstan stressed that the observance of these principles is designed to promote the development of transport infrastructure of coastal States, increase the transit potential of the Caspian region, as well as the preservation of the ecological system and the unique population of biological resources of the Caspian sea.

And here it is necessary to tell separately about this point of the adopted new Constitution of the Caspian sea-a question of protection of biodiversity of the sea. Poaching in this region is a problem of all five States. If earlier sturgeon in the Caspian sea was more than 80% of the total world volume, today, because of the criminally large fish catch, as well as pollution of the natural environment by oil products, the populations of these valuable fish species have fallen hard. With the signing of the Convention, the preservation of the flora and fauna of the Caspian Sea and the solution of environmental problems are given special attention and place. “As a result, all activities in the Caspian will be more regulated through the prism of environmental policy. The environmental aspect will limit activities in many sectors, primarily in extractive industries and transport, and also affect the fishing regime, “analysts note.

Another significant clause of the agreement is an agreement on cooperation in the field of combating terrorism. Experts call the document timely, because it is known that the Caspian Sea is located near the centers of terrorist activity (Syria, Afghanistan), and here, under the impact of crime, both the transportation routes for energy resources passing through the Caspian region and the offshore oil and gas production platforms themselves can fall. In this case, this can lead to severe consequences for all.

In General, following the meeting, the leaders of the five countries signed seven documents, including the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, as well as agreements on trade and economic partnership, cooperation in the field of transport, on the prevention of incidents in the Caspian Sea, and the interaction of border agencies . Most importantly, a legal framework has been established in many areas for a long period. Now the countries of the “five” will concentrate more on the ecological aspects of development and preservation of bioequilibrium in the region, without forgetting, however, about economic interests.

 

 

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Caucasus

Israel buying Kurdish oil shipped via Turkey in ‘disappearing’ tankers,Report

ANKARA(turkey):Israel is secretly buying oil from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported, citing an article by Ellen Wald in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs.

Haaretz describes an unusual situation observed in November by Samir Madani, a Kuwaiti oil trader living in Sweden who created the TankerTrackers.com website, involving the Valtamed oil tanker heading to the Suez Canal from Turkey’s port of Ceyhan, which is supplied by the oil pipeline from the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. The tanker suddenly stopped somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean, off Tel Aviv but outside Israel’s territorial borders, turned off its identification transponder and “resurfaced” a few days later, mysteriously lighter than when it had left Ceyhan.

The Valtamed then sailed to Cyprus and returned to its home base in Turkey, loaded up on oil that had arrived from northern Iraq and repeated the whole journey, including the disappearing act.

“His conclusion was that the Valtamed had been shipping oil that wasn’t recorded anywhere to a country that wasn’t supposed to buy it – in other words, Israel was secretly buying Kurdish oil through Turkey,” according to Haaretz.

Oil was officially discovered in northern Iraq’s Baba Gurgur area in 1927, one of the world’s largest fields, but Kurdish oil needs to be refined and reach the sea, which has been accomplished for years by a pipeline running from Kirkuk to Ceyhan.

After the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held an independence referendum in 2017 that was condemned by the central Iraqi government, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to impose a blockade on the oil, halting the KRG’s primary source of income and stifling the Kurdish economy by refusing to load the KRG’s oil into tankers at Ceyhan. But to the surprise of many, Erdoğan did no such thing, and Kurdish oil continued to flow unimpeded through Turkey to customers mainly in Greece, Israel, Poland, Cyprus and Croatia. The Iraqi government subsequently took over control of Kirkuk’s oil in a military action supported by Iranian-backed Shia militia.

In another incident, reports Haaretz, “TankerTrackers says a tanker called Kriti Diamond tends to suddenly assume a new identity – Kiton – offload oil in Israel and then resume its original identity before sailing back to Turkey. ‘It is with great pride that we present you the missing KRITI DIAMOND, currently operating under her new pseudonym: KITON,’ the site tweeted on February 16.Four days later, it was followed by another tweet: ‘The MARIKA/KRITI DIAMOND forgot to take off her disguise as KITON after leaving Ashkelon empty’.”

Tanker Trackers noticed that another crude oil tanker, the Mabrouk, left Ceyhan, assumed the disguise of Maro – an unknown, unregistered identity – near the Israeli shore, disappeared for a few days and then popped up again as the Mabrouk, said Haaretz.

When asked by the daily for a response, Oil Refineries in Haifa and the Trans-Israel Pipeline company said they do not comment on commercial matters.

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Caucasus

Enterance in Afrin would lead to a catastrophe,Turkish Deputy PM

ANKARA:Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Damascus against supporting the Kurds, while the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said that if Syrian forces entered Afrin, this would lead to a catastrophe.

“Turkish forces will encircle Afrin’s center in the upcoming days. Thus, we will cut out any external help, so that nobody could strike a secret bargain. We will show those, who want to create a terrorist corridor on Turkey southern border, that it’s not an easy task,” Erdogan said at a meeting with lawmakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Speaking further, Erdogan said that possible deployment of Syrian government forces into Afrin had been “halted through our communications.”

At the same time, opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli said today that the Turkish military will clear Syria’s Afrin region of terrorists “no matter the consequences.”

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