Qatari emir in Russia to discuss Syrian crisis

https://www.aljazeera.com

On Sunday evening, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in Moscow for a short work visit. On Monday he is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the wars in Syria and Yemen and the situation in Palestine.

Тhe Sheikh Tamim’s visit was preceded by phone calls between Putin and Abu Dhabi Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in early March and Saudi King Salman in February. In October last year the Saudi king paid a three-day visit to Moscow.

“It’s not only the [Gulf] crisis that boosted the relations [with Gulf countries] but also the general Russian presence in the region which has been augmenting since Putin took part in the Syrian crisis,” Frolovsky said.

Russia has assumed a neutral stance on the Gulf crisis but it did offer to help Qatar with food shipments last year, he added.

A delegation of Qatari ministers of finance, foreign relations, energy, and culture, along with a number of other officials, accompanied Sheikh Tamim.

On the sidelines of official meetings, Qatar Petroleum and state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft are expected to discuss possible contracts, and Qatar Airways will also sign a cooperation agreement with Rosaviatsia, Russia’s federal air transport agency.

Emir accorded warm welcome in Moscow

https://thepeninsulaqatar.com

The visit of Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to Russia  will open new horizons of cooperation and strategic partnership between the State of Qatar and the Russia, said  Ambassador of Qatar to Russia, Fahad bin Mohammed Al Attiyah.

“It is the first visit of a leader to Moscow after the victory of Russian President Vladimir Putin for a new presidential term. The visit also emphasizes the strength of Qatari-Russian relations,” the Ambassador said.

He added that the visit will provide opportunity to both leaders to exchange views and ideas on various crises and regional issues “especially the Palestinian and the Syrian issue” and the ongoing war in Yemen and all areas of conflict in the Middle East.

“There are aspirations from both countries to increase investment and trade and economic cooperation,” he said, adding that Qatar has all the infrastructure to enable Russian products to reach Doha through the country’s ports and airports with ease, QNA has reported.

Al Attiyah also said that there is great ambition and horizons to deepen the ties between the two countries. He said that this visit will be followed by many meetings between businessmen from both countries.
“Moreover, many administrative and legal procedures will be overcome in order to facilitate the movement of bilateral trade between the two countries by this visit of H H the Emir.”

On the Russian experience of organising mega sports events especially that Russia is set to organize, World Cup 2018,  Al Attiyah said that countries share their experiences. “We are in contact with officials in Moscow.  A Qatari team will be present before the start of the World Cup 2018 to exchange experiences. This is a natural cooperation between the countries in hosting such events.”

The Ambassador said that the Qatari-Russian relations have grown steadily in recent years in all economic, cultural, military and security fields.

The ambassador highlighted that both countries have increased visits, where Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs HE Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah visited Russia, in response to an invitation from the Russian counterpart. In addition to the State of Qatar’s participation in military-technical exhibition “Army”, which took place in October 2017, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu also held an official visit to Qatar, during which an agreement on military-technical cooperation was signed.

The Ambassador says, the year 2018 is the Year of Culture between Russia and Qatar, which will provide an opportunity to not only intensify humanitarian cooperation, but will also increase the flow of tourists to both countries, strengthening economic ties, and opening new opportunities for cooperation in new directions.

An assertive Russia in the Middle East suggests an eye on the post-Putin era

http://www.arabnews.com

Russia has been a key actor in Syria since August 2013, when it engineered a last-minute plan to dissuade the Obama administration from carrying out air strikes in retaliation against the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. Two years later, Russian military intervention in support of desperate Assad-regime forces and pro-Iranian militias decisively changed the course of the conflict.

Despite regular reports of mistrust in Tehran over Moscow’s regional plans, the Russia-Iran alliance is alive and well. Both leaderships share a deep desire to oppose and roll back US regional influence and, following the nuclear deal, bilateral economic ties have blossomed.

At the same time, Moscow has improved its working relationship with Saudi Arabia. In October, King Salman became the first Saudi monarch to visit the Russian capital. A deal between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Putin on the sidelines on the G-20 meeting in China in September 2016 was apparently critical for last year’s deal between Russia and OPEC over oil-production cuts. Russia has also moved to take advantage of the opportunities provided by Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s ground-breaking reform program. During a visit by the crown prince to Moscow last year, Putin said Russian-Saudi economic exchanges had increased by 130 percent since the beginning of the year.

What the future holds for Russia in the Middle East during and after what is likely to be Putin’s last presidential term will very much depend on what system it will transition to. Possible successors are still unknown yet a radical break with the recent past seems unlikely. The boiling tensions with the West are indicative of an aggressive and very active regional policy in the pipeline.

Ask Pompeo: Why did we cede the Middle East to Russia?

https://www.washingtonpost.com

Since Moscow’s demonstration of strength (with Iran’s help) in Syria, the Russians have asserted themselves as a credible alternative to the Americans with traditional U.S. allies. With arms sales, economic deals, and diplomatic maneuvering, Russia has been effective in pulling Turkey and Egypt away from the United States, though not completely, and closer to Russia’s orbit. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman traveled to Moscow last October — the first ever visit by a Saudi king — to talk oil prices and hedge against American retrenchment. And now that the United States is the world’s leading producer of petroleum, there is likely to be more cooperation between the Russians and the Arab Gulf states in an effort to ensure that global oil prices are favorable to their interests. Even the Israelis have repeatedly beaten a path to Moscow over the last few years in hopes of persuading Putin to look after their interests in Syria.

Trump and his enablers threaten to rip up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with no plausible approach if Iran then resumes its nuclear program. (And then what? Are we going to sanction German and French companies that continue to do business there?) Trump has paid little attention to the hugely consequential shift in power underway in the region.

It would be interesting to know whether Pompeo has counseled Trump privately to take more robust action — just as Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other top advisers did during the Obama administration. If Pompeo do so and was ignored, that does not bode well for his ability to influence the president. If he did not, it is worth questioning whether Pompeo understands the blunder spanning two administrations and is ready to handle a policymaking job.

 

TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY HAS LEFT THE MIDDLE EAST WIDE OPEN TO RUSSIA AND CHINA—AND THEY’RE MOVING IN

http://www.newsweek.com

Donald Trump’s presidency has spurred a sharp uptick in global distaste for U.S. policies. His first year in office ended with international approval for U.S. political leadership plunging to levels on par with China and Russia. Trump’s “America First” foreign policy doctrine has done nothing to abate such perceptions, not least because it has been marked by unabashed unilateralism that cares little for mutually-beneficial cooperation with the world.

Contrary to Trump’s nationalist predilections and self-avowed deal-making prowess, his policies have demonstrably constrained U.S. maneuverability in its foreign relations and have overseen major shifts in global power. They have proven to be a catalyst for the waning of America’s role as the supreme arbiter of world order.

However, despite Trump’s wishes, the Saudis have not only been hesitant to list Aramco on a U.S. stock exchange but have taken historic steps to form deeper energy and security ties with Russia and China. The past few years have seen Saudi Arabia and Russia reach landmark agreements over oil production cuts—forming a partnership that gives them decisive influence over the oil market.

The production deals were followed last October by a visit to Moscow by King Salman, the first for a Saudi leader in decades. While there, Salman signed 15 cooperation agreements, including a $3 billion arms deal and agreements between Saudi Aramco and Russian hydrocarbon companies Gazprom Neft and Sibur. Perhaps most strategically consequential, Salman also bought the sophisticated Russian S-400 air-defense system.

In February, Saudi Arabia and Russia reached another major agreement for Aramco to invest in a Russian liquefied natural gas project. This was accompanied by an even bigger announcement that Russian banks and a joint Russian-Chinese investment fund were eager to invest in Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO). King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin also shared a phone call at the time in which they “expressed readiness to boost meaningful coordination in global hydrocarbon markets.”

The Netanyahu government in Israel has also developed an endearing relationship with Russia, despite their differences over Syria. Netanyahu reportedly has a close personal connection to Putin and since 2015 has met with him more times than any other world leader. Notably, after an Israeli jet was shot down over Syria in February, when the region seemed at the brink of a major conflict, it was Putin’s phone call to Netanyahu that resulted in Israeli de-escalation, not the U.S. president.

Russia has also indicated its aim to use national currencies in settlements with Iran by the end of 2018. Strikingly, European countries are heading in the same direction as well. France has already declared that it will begin financing exports to Iran with euro-denominated credits to stay out of the reach of U.S. sanctions. The head of France’s state-owned Public Investment Bank Nicolas Dufurcq has stated in this regard: “This is a completely separate flow (of money). There is no dollar in this scheme … no one holding a U.S. passport.”

Russia Is in the Middle East to Stay

http://foreignpolicy.com

Since Moscow’s demonstration of strength (with Iran’s help) in Syria, the Russians have asserted themselves as a credible alternative to the Americans with traditional U.S. allies. With arms sales, economic deals, and diplomatic maneuvering, Russia has been effective in pulling Turkey and Egypt away from the United States, though not completely, and closer to Russia’s orbit. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman traveled to Moscow last October — the first ever visit by a Saudi king — to talk oil prices and hedge against American retrenchment. And now that the United States is the world’s leading producer of petroleum, there is likely to be more cooperation between the Russians and the Arab Gulf states in an effort to ensure that global oil prices are favorable to their interests. Even the Israelis have repeatedly beaten a path to Moscow over the last few years in hopes of persuading Putin to look after their interests in Syria.

This is a solid record of achievement. In the span of less than a decade, the Middle East has gone from a region in which the United States was overwhelmingly predominant to one that Washington and Moscow contest.

Iran considers turning to China and Russia after Trump appointments of ‘super hawks’ Bolton and Pompeo

https://www.independent.co.uk

Iran is considering turning to Russia and China following Donald Trump’s decision to appoint “super hawks” John Bolton and Mike Pompeo as his national security adviser and secretary of state.

A senior Iranian politician said the Islamic Republic should strengthen its ties with the two global powers because of the harder line expected from the US administration.

Both Mr Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations and Fox News contributor, and CIA Director Mr Pompeo have criticised the nuclear deal with Iran and are viewed as pro-Israel. Mr Bolton has supported taking military action.

“Americans are pushing for harder policies towards the Islamic Republic of Iran and we need to strengthen our view towards the East, especially China and Russia,” said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.