Last week, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt delivered the following list of demands to Qatar with a 10-day ultimatum for compliance as carried by The Khaleej Times, an Emirati news service.
1. Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions in Qatar. Expel members of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps from Qatar and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.
2. Sever all ties to “terrorist organizations,” specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh (the Islamic State), Al Qaida, and Lebanon’s Hizballah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
3. Shut down Al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
4. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
5. Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar.
6.Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organizations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the United States and other countries.
7. Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
8. End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
9. Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
10. Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
11. Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
12. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.
13. Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
There are more demands, unstated above, that are likely to be levied. One of those will be a demand for Qatar to stop meddling in Yemen and supporting the Iranian proxy Houthi rebels. The list appears to have been crafted deliberately to be unacceptable to Qatar in order to justify the next escalation step. One source suggested that one punishment for non-compliance would be ouster from the Gulf Cooperation Council.
No country would agree to such intrusive demands, such as inspections for ten years, unless it was under threat of invasion.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister called the demands unreasonable. Turkey said it will not withdraw its soldiers from Qatar. The US Secretary of State said some of the demands are impossible to meet. Technically, many of the demands would be almost impossible to accomplish. Parts of Qatar would have to go off the grid.
Reading the tea leaves — Saudi Arabia would like to see the current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, replaced by somebody else from the Al Thani family. They can’t openly state that, but it’s certainly implicit in everything that they are saying. There are some key members of the Al Thani family who would be good choices to replace the emir and would bring calm to the area where Sheik Tamim is a pain in everyone’s butt.
In the final days of Ramadan, Muslim terrorists tried to overshadow the Eid al-Fitr observance by performing three deadly attacks.
On 23 June, a suicide car bomber detonated in Quetta, Baluchistan, killing 13 people and injuring 20. A Pakistani-Taliban offshoot and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for this attack. The Pakistani Interior Ministry said the Islamic State has no presence in Baluchistan.
Also, on 23 June, two bombs exploded at a market in Parachinar, killing 67 people and injuring over 200. Lashkhar e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group, claimed this attack. Parachinar’s population is mostly Shia.
To complete the 23 June festivities, unidentified gunmen attacked and killed four policemen in Karachi.
In Bahawalpur, a tanker truck carrying gasoline overturned and began to leak. As locals attempted to collect the leaking fuel, it exploded, killing at least 150 people. Emergency authorities said that some of the people collecting fuel oil were smoking cigarettes and using cell phones to inform other people about the crash and to collection the leaking fuel. If any of you have traveled to that part of the world, you’ll be nodding your heads as you read this. This event is stereotypical in the extreme. Then again so are the bombings and shootings to celebrate Ramadan.
There have been a few things going on in Syria worth of comment. On 22 June, Russia launched a salvo of six Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Mediterranean Sea at targets near Hama. It was more of a live fire exercise/crew training, but if you have an authorized (fragged) target, why not combine the two? That’s how the Russians roll.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces reported liberating another district in western Raqqa after three days of fighting. It hasn’t been covered in the corrupt, elite, nasty, lying mainstream media in the US but it’s a huge victory in the fight against ISIS.
The Syrian de-escalation zones (“safe zones”) are getting some play. The next session of talks in Kazakhstan on 4 and 5 July is supposed to determine the details of how the de-escalation zones will be demarcated, monitored and enforced and by which of the guarantors – Russia, Iran and Turkey.
According to an article in Izvestiya, a significant dispute has emerged between Turkey and Iran. Based on talks with Russia last week, Turkey is planning to send Turkish troops to police the perimeter of the zone that it is supposed to guarantee. Presumably that is still Idlib.
In the outlined initial plan, no soldiers from the guarantor countries would be involved in monitoring the buffer zones between the de-escalation zones and the forward lines of the Syrian forces. Soldiers from countries not involved in the war would perform the policing functions.
Turkey interpreted its role as guarantor differently because it accused Iran of building up its “presence” in Syria. The Iranians had not intended to send Iranian soldiers as peacekeepers, until they learned of Turkey’s plans. Now they have reversed their policy because of the Turks. If you are visualizing a ‘monkey f#cking a football, you’re right on the money.
The Turks’ obsession with influencing the outcome of the civil war is putting stress on the de-escalation zone arrangements. As a general principle, the Turks want no parties to succeed in ending the fighting without Turkey’s active involvement. Specifically, Turkey may be expected to do everything it can to block any further expansion of Iranian influence. I’m ok with that, but creates some sharp chasms in the deal that they were party to. Thus far, Turkey’s moves are again backfiring because they misjudged Iran’s intentions. As a result, the Turkish policymakers have precipitated an increased Iranian presence — the action they intended to block. Turkey’s action as a spoiler could unhinge the Russian arrangement.
The Russian leaders judge that if they must choose a side, they must side with Iran. Turkey is a NATO country. The Syrian leaders have not commented in public about the terms of the de-escalation zones, but they also would side with Iran. They would never approve Turkish soldiers in Syria.
Israeli forces attacked Syrian units near the Golan Heights on 24 and 25 June.
The pro-Syrian army Al-Masdar News website posted, “Suspected Israeli military strikes have hit Syria’s southern region of Qunaitra for the second time in 24 hours.”
“The Israeli military once again attacked the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Golan Heights this weekend, after projectiles fired from Syria allegedly landed in the occupied territories.”
The posted statement cited “initial reports from soldiers in Qunaitra Governorate” as saying the strikes hit Syrian army positions near an old administrative building in the Golan Heights that is now being used as a field hospital.
The pro-Syrian government pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen TV cited local sources who said that the latest Israeli strike had hit a Syrian army armored vehicle. It also quoted Israeli media as confirming that the country’s forces had carried out air strikes on Qunaitra after shells fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights.
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) confirmed Israel attacked Syrian army units in the northern Golan Heights, after errant fire (ten rounds) from the Syrian side spilled over into Israeli territory. The army confirmed the IDF attack after Syrian and Lebanese news outlets reported it. The Israeli army struck a Syrian army ammunition truck and two artillery guns in the Syrian Golan.
“The IDF is not a side to the internal fight in Syria and isn’t involved in it. However, it views with severity any attempt to harm the sovereignty of Israel and the safety of its citizens and considers the Syrian regime responsible for what transpires in its territory,” the IDF said in a statement.
Israeli admissions about IDF attacks are infrequent, deliberate and always signify that the leadership wants a target audience to receive Israel’s message. The target audience is the Syrian military and civilian leadership. The message is that Israel will not tolerate creeping aggression by the Syrians under the guise of errant and stray rounds, even when the Israelis know that fighting is taking place. Israel’s policy is no tolerance for cross border fire and encroachment.
The Israelis and the Iranians probably are the two leadership groups most focused on the next phases of the civil war. Both are sensitive to opportunities for taking advantage of the current confused stage of fighting in order to improve or defend positions along the Golan Heights. The Iranians and their proxies want to improve their tactical positions against Israel. The Israelis are determined that they gain no advantages that Israel must fight to neutralize later.
Those of you who follow the news, understand that the worker’s paradise of Venezuela is starving and its people are unhappy under the rule of the Bolivarian Republic’s dictator-for-life, Nicolas Maduro Moros. Last Saturday, President Maduro “denounced” leaders of the opposition in Venezuela, as being operatives of the USA, which is planning a military invasion. In his words:
“I am not exaggerating … a chain of events of these characteristics that were planned to be activated this week was going to imply the arrival of a US fleet and troops to seas and land belonging to Venezuela to justify a humanitarian military operation and to occupy our country, they are serious facts that have been planned by the opposition with the approval and participation of the political chiefs of the opposition.”
“…We have contained; we have unveiled; and we are defeating the oligarchic and imperialist coup d’état planned against our country to be executed this week.”
The President made these reflections from the Honor Courtyard of the Military Academy, in Fort Tiuna, during the main commemorative ceremony of the 196 years of the Battle of Carabobo and Bolivarian National Army Day. This is at least the third time he has claimed to have thwarted a US-backed attempt to oust him, with no proof. Each time the story has grown more sensational and less credible.
The people best able to destroy Venezuela are the communists who run the country. To date, they’ve done a bang-up job. Why would the USA want to invade and take financial responsibility for the place? Such logic never really occurs to the dictator-for-life.