Thursday, November 21, 2013

Iran, Syria & Israeli spare parts going to the Egyptian military ...

MEPGS: Excerpts from November 21 'brief':
"Events are moving quickly as representatives of the P5+ 1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) engage at the end of this week in crucial talks with Iran.  At stake is not only what not only top Administration officials, but also Iranian representatives, call the best chance in years for an initial agreement on the course of Iran’s nuclear development program.  The focus is directly on an interim deal that would, in the view of the P-5+ 1, freeze or at least slow down Iran’s dash towards nuclear weapons capability – in exchange for short term easing of international economic sanctions on Teheran.  However, the stakes are much greater than whether this round of talks is a success.When they met last month, by all accounts, Secretary of State Kerry was close to inking a deal with his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Zarif.  However, at the last minute the deal fell through, with most observers blaming the French for scuttling the accord.  According to well-informed sources, the French, were indeed, miffed at being sidelined and ...  after a lengthy phone conversation between President Obama and French President Hollande, both sides say, to quote one well-informed observer, “ We are now on the same page.”
Yet, even as this tortuous diplomacy played out, there were other actors clamoring to be heard.  Most outspoken was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu..., ..., ..., Another party also demanding to be heard is the US Congress....  the intense lobbying by Administration officials from the President on down, has – for a time – succeeded in gaining a respite (on sanctions) – at least until the beginning of December. Perhaps those with the most at stake, the Gulf countries, while not as outspoken in public, have made it clear privately to US officials, their unhappiness with the prospect of a deal with Iran.  However, unlike Congress, which has a mainly political stake in the outcome or Israel, which possesses a military that can theoretically act on its own, the Gulf states have nowhere else to turn, other than to the US for protection from an aggressive Iran, particularly one that is a proverbial “screw driver away” from assembling a nuclear weapon.  Moreover, the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, have complaints about US Middle East policy that go beyond Iran’s nuclear intentions.  These days it focuses on Syria -- where the last minute deal brokered by Russia that prevented an American military strike on Syria – left the top leadership in Riyadh incensed.  So much so, that quite uncharacteristically, the Saudis have “gone public” with their disenchantment. Led by Prince Bandar, the Kingdom’s key player on Syria, the Saudis have let it be known that they believe the strategic nature of the longstanding US-Saudi relationship is under review.  While American officials scoff at the notion that the Saudis have any alternative, it has not prevented them, Bandar in particular, from trying to chart an independent course, where possible. It has also led, at least in one instance to a very un-Saudi like snub.  On his last trip to Riyadh, according to informed sources, Kerry’s scheduled meeting with Bandar was abruptly cancelled at the very last moment. [Although this action, like many of Bandar’s recent actions and those of his generation of Princes, is being seen by US analysts as indicative of the infighting now going on as the last of the sons of Abdul Aziz – the Kingdom’s Founder – fade from the scene].
As those aggrieved with US policy have maneuvered for leverage, recently all have turned to Russia.  Over the past few months, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Israel [Netanyahu is now in Moscow lobbying Vladimir Putin on the Iranian threat] have struck up talks with the one time Super Power.  Referring to this unlikely trio working the Russians, one US State Department official sighed, “What an extreme example of the enemy of my enemy is, well, not exactly but close to being my friend’.”  This official went on to say that there is a real shared interest among this threesome which goes beyond Iran and directly to the heart of US policymaking.  The Israelis as well as the Saudis believe that the Obama Administration has badly mishandled the consequences of the “Arab Spring”, particularly in its handling of the rise of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt.  The Israelis fear their profound hostility to the Jewish state.  The Saudis see them as fascists.  And the Egyptian military see them as direct threat to their primacy at home.  For those reasons, US analysts expect Saudi money to keep pouring into Egypt; Israeli spare parts finding their way to the Egyptian military, should the US cut them off and the Egyptian military itself willing to go to any lengths necessary to prevent its reemergence or even large demonstrations on its behalf."

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