Saudi Arabia, Iran, USA and oil

One of the world’s riskiest situations is developing in one of the most volatile regions of the world, the Middle East, after oil production facilities were bombed by drones. The US has blamed Iran. The US has close ties with Saudi Arabia.

Oil production has been affected, with prices surging following the attack (but settling back a bit since).

MSN: Saudis face lengthy oil halt with few options to fill gap

The oil market is facing a prolonged disruption to Saudi Arabia’s oil production with few options for replacing such huge output losses.

The weekend attacks on the kingdom eliminated about 5% of global oil supply — and raised the risk of more conflict in the region — propelling Brent crude to a record surge on Monday. Officials at state oil company Saudi Aramco have become less optimistic on the pace of output recovery, telling a senior foreign diplomat they face a “severe” disruption measured in weeks and months and informing some customers that October shipments will be delayed.

The historic price gain underscores the unprecedented nature of the disruption caused by the drone attack on the Abqaiq crude processing plant. For decades, Saudi Arabia has been the oil market’s great stabilizer, maintaining a large cushion of spare production capacity that can be tapped in emergencies, such as the 2011 war in Libya.

The halt of 5.7 million barrels day of the kingdom’s production — the worst sudden supply loss in history — exposes the inadequacy of the rest of the world’s supply buffer.

Petrol prices have already risen in New Zealand. I don’t know why that has happened so quickly, petrol in tanks here should be the same price as it was last week. Is there any other market that changes prices based on possible future cost rises?

ABC News:  U.S. intel shows cruise missiles fired at Saudi oil facility came from Iran, officials say

The attack on a major Saudi oil facility originated geographically from Iranian territory, with a series of low-altitude cruise missiles fired from at least one location in the western region of the country, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the latest intelligence.

The intelligence assessment draws a more clear link between the attack and Iran, and it could worsen tensions between Washington and Tehran.

U.S. officials are considering possible multilateral sanctions with allies against Iran as part of the response to the attacks…

The Department of Defense has advocated for restraint. But it has provided a briefing on military options to President Donald Trump, who over the weekend tweeted that the U.S. is “locked and loaded” and ready to respond, once it officially determined who was behind the attack.

Three U.S. officials previously told NBC News there was extremely compelling evidence showing the origination point of the strikes, and one official with direct knowledge described that evidence as imagery.

That’s image based imagery, not imaginary.

A Saudi military spokesman says initial investigations show Iranian weapons were used in the attack.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday no talks would take place between Iran and the U.S. “on any level…

Reuters: U.S. lawmakers blast Iran, wary of war, after Saudi oil attack

Members of the U.S. Congress blasted Iran after the attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, but expressed wariness about U.S. military action, especially before they have a clearer picture of who was behind it.

President Donald Trump said the United States was “locked and loaded” to hit back after Saturday’s attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant.

Iran denied U.S. accusations it was to blame and said it was ready for “full-fledged war.”

U.S. lawmakers, especially Trump’s fellow Republicans, were quick to blame Tehran.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Republican majority leader, called it “a brazen attack” with significant implications for the global energy market and said he welcomed Trump’s preparation to potentially release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to stabilize markets if necessary.

Many lawmakers stressed that Congress, not the president, has the right to declare war and warned against any quick military action.

Trump may not be able to initiate quick military action on his own, but he is capable of escalating tensions and the prospects of war via Twitter.

Military action would likely put oil production and supply at even more risk.

Congress, with backing from both Republicans and Democrats, has passed – but Trump has vetoed – four bills seeking to push back against Trump’s strong support for the Saudi government, despite its human rights record and steep civilian casualties in the war in Yemen.

Trump and the US say nothing against Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemeni war – and supply the Saudis with arms.

Wikipedia:  2017 United States–Saudi Arabia arms deal

On May 20, 2017, U.S. President Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a series of letters of intent for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from the United States totaling US$110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years. The intended purchases include tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, as well as radar, communications and cybersecurity technology. The transfer was widely seen as a counterbalance against the influence of Iran in the region and a “significant” and “historic” expansion of United States relations with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Between 2011 and 2015, Saudi Arabia was the destination for nearly 10% of all U.S. arms exports

The 2017 deal was partially created with the help of Jared Kushner, son-in-law of and senior advisor to President Trump

So the attack on the Saudi oil production facilities raises tensions significantly between the US and Iran. The risks may temper responses, but I think it likely that there will be some sort of retaliation.  Economic sanctions are already in place against Iran, so that must be a limited option. If Iran is indeed responsible for the attack it may in part be an attempt to enhance the value of their own oil to compensate for sanctions.

Whatever, it’s complex and it’s a high risk game being played in the Middle East that could significantly impact on the world.

 

 

Immigration rules discriminatory

An item on Sunday raised ‘serious serious questions’ about NZ’s refugee policy, which has a special rule that requires that refugees from Africa and the Middle East must have family in New Zealand to qualify. And the Minister of Immigration agrees that it is a discriminatory rule and says that Cabinet is reviewing the rule.

1 News: Is it racist? ‘Very serious questions’ raised about fairness of NZ’s refugee policy

New Zealand’s refugee policy is discriminating against vulnerable people from Africa and the Middle East, a TVNZ Sunday investigation has found.
In 2009, the then-National Government introduced the “family link” policy, requiring refugees from Africa and the Middle East to have an existing family connection to New Zealand.

The “family link” rule doesn’t apply to refugees from the Asia-Pacific or the Americas.

While some Middle Eastern refugees have been brought in under emergency intakes, including from Syria, the main refugee quota has been heavily affected by this policy.

New Zealand has been unable to meet its refugee targets for Africa and the Middle East over the past decade.
Refugee leaders and community organisations told Sunday that the policy is racist and unfair.

The “family link” policy has been criticised by Amnesty International and World Vision. Both organisations say they have lobbied the Government, asking for a change in the policy. Those efforts have been unsuccessful.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt told Sunday that he would be “very disappointed if different rules were being applied to refugees from different geographic regions without very good reasons for such an approach”.

In a statement, the UNHCR – the UN’s refugee agency – told TVNZ that refugee laws should be applied “without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin”.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway refused to be interviewed, saying that the issue is before Cabinet and he hopes to make an announcement later in the year.

However on Monday Lees-Galloway responded – Immigration Minister agrees Middle East, Africa refugees rules are discriminatory

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the rules were inherited from the previous government and were being reviewed.

He told Morning Report the official advice he has received was clear about the difficulties with the current quota system.

“They told me that it’s difficult to source sufficient numbers of people to meet the targets that were set by the previous government with that policy in place.

“And that is something that we will need to take into consideration if we want to change the proportion of people that we take from various regions from around the world.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said quota rules run for three years and a government decision about the next three years was “imminent”.

I don’t buy the three year rule claim. Governments change rules when they want to.

It is good that the clear discrimination is being reviewed – but I presume it will require agreement from NZ First to change.

 

Violence in Gaza continues

The violence that flared with protests over the moving of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem continues in Gaza.

Reuters: Israeli forces kill Palestinian near Gaza border as Gaza buries dead

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian near the Gaza-Israel border on Tuesday after thousands of Palestinians turned out for the funerals of dozens of protesters killed by Israeli troops a day earlier, local health officials said.

Sixty Palestinians were killed on Monday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, including an eight-month-old baby that died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled at a protest camp near the border. More than 2,200 Palestinians were also injured by gunfire or tear gas, local medics said.

Monday’s bloodshed took place as the United States opened its new embassy in contested Jerusalem. For the past six weeks, Palestinians have been holding Gaza border demonstrations for the return of Palestinian refugees to areas that are now part of Israel.

Israel rejects any right of return, fearing that it would deprive the state of its Jewish majority.

Too bad about democracy.

Palestinian medical officials say 106 Gazans have now been killed since the start of the protests and nearly 11,000 people wounded, about 3,500 of them hit by live fire. Israeli officials dispute those numbers. No Israeli casualties have been reported.

Palestinian leaders have called Monday’s events a massacre, and the Israeli tactic of using live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide concern and condemnation.

BBC – Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

There have been angry exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian envoys at the UN, as the diplomatic fallout over deadly violence in Gaza gathered pace.

Some 58 Palestinians were killed when Israeli troops fired on protesters on Monday, with funerals held on Tuesday.

The Palestinian envoy spoke of a “crime against humanity”, while Israel accused the rulers of Gaza, Hamas, of taking their own people hostage.

BBC: May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

Theresa May has urged an independent inquiry into violence on the border between Israel and Gaza which left a reported 58 Palestinians dead.

The prime minister said the use of live rounds by Israeli forces was “deeply troubling” and urged greater restraint.

While Palestinians had a legitimate right to protest, she said, she was concerned about extremist infiltration and the role Hamas had played.

Both Hamas and Israel have been responsible for the flare up in violence – as has Donald Trump in his provocative moving of the US embassy.

Earlier, Labour’s Emily Thornberry condemned a “horrific massacre”.

Here in New Zealand: NZ condemns Israel’s actions along Gaza border

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on behalf of the government, raised concerns directly to the ambassador in New Zealand.

The violence showed that the decision by the US to open the new embassy was counter to efforts to find a peaceful resolution in the region, she said.

“At the time when the United States announced they’d be moving their representation to Jerusalem we stated strongly that we did not think that would take us closer to peace, and it hasn’t,” Ms Ardern said.

New Zealand also voted on a United Nations resolution emphasising the view that there should be a two-state solution, she said.

“This is a hotly contested issue within that peace process and as we’ve seen the results of the protest along the border of Gaza have been devastating.”

Ms Ardern was asked for her view on comments made by Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyadh Mansour, who said the Israeli action violated international law.

“It is the right of any nation to defend their border but this is a devastating, one-sided loss of life; we would condemn the violence that has occurred,” Ms Ardern said.

“And I think it’s plain to see the effects of this decision and the ramifications are wide reaching.”

That’s a fairly diplomatic response that acknowledges the complexities and the spread of blame for violence.

However the Greens have a more one-sided view:

And:

It’s a bloody mess with both Israel and Hamas in part responsible for the escalation.

Jerusalem Post – NO HOLDS BARRED: JERUSALEM ON FIRE WITH GRATITUDE TO PRESIDENT TRUMP

President Donald Trump has electrified the State of Israel with the embassy move. You have to see the excitement on the streets, especially Jerusalem, to understand the depth of gratitude. Flags are flying from every street light. Massive signs around the capital show the American and Israeli flags intertwined with giant thank yous to President Trump.

In a single week President Trump has not only established America’s embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, but also rid America of the shame of the Iran nuclear deal, which completely overlooked all of Iran’s sins. In doing so, he has created the potential for reining in the rogue regime in Tehran, curbing the ascendance of radical Islamists and advancing a foreign policy that recognizes evil and holds belligerent government accountable. Simultaneously, Trump has emerged as a great champion of the Jewish people and a protector of Israel.

A cynic could wonder whether the escalations against Iran and the Palestinians has been a deliberate plan by Israel, with Trump a willing partner.

It’s hard to see this turning out well. The violence in Gaza suggests it is more likely to get worse.

It’s worth looking back at a speech by Trump at Fort Dodge, Iowa: ““I would bomb the shit out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers.”

It looks like Trump has been sucked into the Middle East mire.

 

 

 

The star of Donald?

The Trump versus Iran situation is a high risk international play, with Trump having isolated the US from Europe and other allies, apart from Israel, and he is talking big on threats against Iran (who is close to Russia and China).

Who knows what might happen now? No one can do anything but guess and hope.

Perhaps the star of Donald will shine peace on the Middle East. It would be an unprecedented international success.

But it could as easily turn to custard in an already very lumpy region of the world. In distance countries we must hope that it doesn’t become nuclear custard – the level of Trump’s current rhetoric can easily be interpreted as threats of a big bang.

The danger is that one day Trump may paint himself into a corner, and either have to back down bigly, or push a very dangerous button.

We may end up with the mushroom of Donald.

Trump pushing weapon sales to Middle East

You would have to be cynical to think that this has anything to do with The ‘virtue-bombing’ of Syria.

 Arming the world: Inside Trump’s ‘Buy American’ drive to expand weapons exports

In a telephone call with the emir of Kuwait in January, U.S. President Donald Trump pressed the Gulf monarch to move forward on a $10 billion fighter jet deal that had been stalled for more than a year.

With this Oval Office intervention, the details of which have not been previously reported, Trump did something unusual for a U.S. president – he personally helped to close a major arms deal. In private phone calls and public appearances with world leaders, Trump has gone further than any of his predecessors to act as a salesman for the U.S. defense industry, analysts said.

Trump’s personal role underscores his determination to make the United States, already dominant in the global weapons trade, an even bigger arms merchant to the world, U.S. officials say, despite concerns from human rights and arms control advocates.

Those efforts will be bolstered by the full weight of the U.S. government when Trump’s administration rolls out a new “Buy American” initiative as soon as this week aimed at allowing more countries to buy more and even bigger weapons. It will loosen U.S. export rules on equipment ranging from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery, the officials said.

Human rights and arms control advocates warn that the proliferation of a broader range of advanced weaponry to more foreign governments could increase the risk of arms being diverted into the wrong hands and fueling violence in regions such as the Middle East and South Asia.

There’s good bomb business in the Middle East in particular, even under the guise of virtue bombs.

Trump slaps Middle East peace

In a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Donald Trump has given hopes of advances in Middle East peace talks a slap, ruling out dealing with the Palestinians unless they do what he wants.

Does this mean his son-in-law Jarod Kushner will be reassigned from his Middle East peace mission?

Last month:  Donald Trump has a plan to bring peace to the Middle East – he just can’t reveal it, says Jared Kushner

President Donald Trump’s push for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians stems from a belief that his broader goals of stopping Iranian aggression and Islamic extremism will not be possible without it, presidential adviser Jared Kushner said in a rare public appearance on Sunday.

“If we’re going to try to create more stability in the region as a whole, you have to solve this issue,” Kushner told Middle East experts gathered at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum. Trump, he said, “sees this as something that has to be solved.”

But nearly a year after Trump named Kushner, his son-in-law and senior White House aide, as point person for what he called “the ultimate deal,” there has been no public indication of where the initiative is heading.

“We’ve solicited a lot of ideas from a lot of places,” Kushner said. “There is obviously a lot of speculation… ‘There is a plan, what is it? Are these four points in or out?’

“We all kind of laugh and say, OK, we’re just not going to play the guessing game… We know what’s in the plan. The Palestinians know what discussions we’ve had with them, the Israelis know.”

Jerusalam Post: TRUMP: IF PALESTINIANS DON’T WANT PEACE, U.S. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM

Unless the Palestinian Authority shows that it wants to make peace, the US will “not have anything to do with them any longer,” US President Donald Trump said Thursday in Davos before meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I can tell you, Israel does want to make peace, and they [the Palestinians] are going to have to want to make peace too, or we aren’t going to have anything to do with them any longer,” Trump said, sitting next to Netanyahu. “This was not brought up by other negotiators, but it is brought up by me.“

Is this another case of Trump making things difficult for his Middle East peace team led by Kushner?

Trump did not hide his anger toward the Palestinians for snubbing Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Israel this week, saying that the US will withhold aid funds to them until they return to negotiations.

The Palestinians, he said, “disrespected us” by not “allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid support.”

That money, Trump said, will not go to the Palestinians “unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Time will tell what happens to the peace process, Trump said, “but respect has to be shown to the US, or we just are not going any further.”

Respect generally needs to be earned, not demanded with ultimatums.

Trump said that the US has a peace proposal, which he characterized as “a great proposal for the Palestinians” and a “very good proposal for Israel.”

He said the proposal “covers a lot of the things that were over the years discussed and agreed on.”

The fact is, he said, “ there were never any deals that came close because you could never get past Jerusalem.”

Trump dismissed critics saying that his Jerusalem decision set back peace, saying that he enhanced the chances of peace by taking the toughest issue off the table.

The issue of Jerusalem hasn’t been taken off the table by Trump, he has inflamed it.

Not surprisingly responses have not been complimentary.

In response to Trump’s words, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said: “If the issue of Jerusalem remains off the table, America will remain away from the table.”

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also responded to Trump’s comments, saying: “Today’s message is clear: President Trump is blackmailing and punishing the Palestinian people for fighting and believing in their freedom and human rights per international law and UN resolutions. President Trump could buy many things with his money, but he won’t be able to buy the dignity of our nation.”

“This is not a game for the people of Palestine. It is about our very existence that continues to be denied by Israel with full US support,” Erekat continued.

“As the US Administration insists to continue promoting international anarchy and rewarding violations of international law, we will continue to use all available political, diplomatic and legal venues in order to achieve the long overdue rights of the Palestinian people, most importantly our right to self-determination.”

Middle East peace was always going to be difficult to achieve. Kushner’s job looks to be a bit harder still now, unless this was his plan all along.

The Jerusalem announcement effect

President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there was controversial, and has been deeply unpopular with Palestinians and throughout much of the Middle East. It may also be unpopular in the US.

The Guardian: Defiant Donald Trump confirms US will recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Donald Trump has defied overwhelming global opposition by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but insisted that the highly controversial move would not derail his own administration’s bid to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a short speech delivered at the White House, Trump directed the state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a process that officials say will take at least three years.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

Trump said: “My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

It is highly debatable whether this will help already difficult attempts at peace solutions, and may do the opposite.

The president’s announcement provoked condemnation from US allies, and a furious reaction from Palestinian leaders and the Muslim world.

Al Jazeera: Trump’s Jerusalem move roundly condemned at UN

During an emergency meeting, UN Security Council members widely condemned Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has led to deadly clashes across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Eight countries called for the emergency meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, as Palestinians protested across the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip against the US president’s decision throughout the day.

Several countries resoundingly condemned the unilateral move by the US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel says Jerusalem, which is under Israeli occupation, cannot be divided.

The international community has never recognised Israel’s claim to the entire city.

Predictably it provoked protests and violence – Reuters: Israeli strikes kill two Gaza gunmen, anti-Trump protests less intense

Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed two Palestinian gunmen on Saturday after rockets were fired from the enclave, in violence that erupted over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Trump’s reversal of decades of U.S. policy has infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies, who say it is a blow to peace efforts and risks sparking more violence in the region.

Gaza militants launched at least three rockets toward Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip – which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas – after dark on Friday. The day had been declared a “day of rage” by Palestinian factions protesting against Trump’s announcement on Wednesday.

Trump’s announcement has not been supported internationally, and has had limited support in the US.

Time: Rex Tillerson Is on a Lonely Mission to Defend Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Pronouncement

It’s a go-to catchphrase when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is called on to explain his boss on the world stage: “America first is not America alone.” Yet as President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, Tillerson on Wednesday stood all by himself.

The onslaught came from all sides as Tillerson, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, got an earful from many a U.S. ally on Trump’s Jerusalem move. So far, not a single country — other than Israel, of course — has thrown its support behind the declaration. Even Tillerson’s own State Department has conceded the announcement could sow unrest throughout the Middle East.

Asked about Trump’s decision, Tillerson insisted the president “still is very committed to the peace process” — an assertion that U.S. allies said Trump had disproven by going ahead with the move despite near-universal protestations. And while the decision directly affects his department, Tillerson acknowledged his role was relatively minimal, focused on ensuring the State Department and Pentagon had enough time to boost precautions to keep U.S. personnel overseas safe amid the inevitable backlash.

Tillerson claims US support: On Jerusalem, Trump obeys will of US people: Tillerson

“The president is simply carrying out the will of the American people,” Tillerson said at a news conference with Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.

“This has to do with the US law and a US decision and every country has a right to decide what it wants to decide as to its embassy in Israel.”

But apart from the protests Trump’s announcement won’t take immediate effect, other than give the appearance of fulfilling a campaign promise.

Fox News: Trump’s Jerusalem move: President’s patented strategy of taking a half-step

With his speech about moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump is following a familiar pattern.

He is taking a controversial step but not going all the way—taking a kind of halfway measure that fulfills a campaign promise but doesn’t necessarily have immediate consequences.

He has become the first president since Israel’s founding in 1948 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital, although other presidential candidates have talked about doing so. At the same time, he is signing a waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months, and officials say it could take years to build an embassy in Jerusalem.

Indeed it could take years. Haaretz: Jerusalem Embassy Move Won’t Happen Next Year

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jeruaslem is likely to take at least two years due to logistical reasons. Tillerson stated that the move probably won’t happen “this year or next year.”

He added that Jerusalem’s “final status” will be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

So apart from provoking protests and claiming a promise has been kept, and making Middle East peace efforts harder, what has changed? Possible American approval of Trump. His approval rating had been slightly improved, until his Jerusalem announcement, after which it has dropped sharply to near lows again.

So what has been gained, apart from pleasing Israel, international condemnation, violent protests and pissing on the peace process?

Trump may have been delivering more for rich campaign supporters than for his voter support base.

 

Bizarre Qatar situation

Turkey has sided with Qatar in the Middle East split:

Bloomberg:  Turkey Lines Up Behind Qatar as Gulf Crisis Fault Lines Deepen

Turkey criticized Saudi-led efforts to isolate ally Qatar, deepening the fault lines in a crisis that has engulfed one of the world’s most strategically important regions.

In defending Qatar, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined a growing list of Middle East nations resisting Saudi Arabia’s push for a united regional front against the gas-rich emirate, whose maverick policies have vexed the kingdom for years. On Wednesday, the head of NATO’s second-largest army offered to try to mend the rift, which has created havoc at airports and seaports, and added new tinder to the already combustible Middle East by challenging the authority of Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

“I’d like to say that we don’t find sanctions against Qatar right,” Erdogan said at a gathering in the Turkish capital, Ankara, late Tuesday. “The most appropriate way for the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to solve their internal issues is through dialogue.”

“We are ready to do everything to resolve other countries’ problems with Qatar,” he added.

Turkey and Qatar have close ties, and Erdogan has sided with the emirate against Saudi Arabia in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Qatar is a major investor in Turkey’s $857 billion economy, with interests in media, financial and defense companies, and Turkey is building a base in the emirate.

Surprise surprise, money is involved.

Interesting that Turkey is building a base in Qatar. The US already has a large base there.

Saudi Arabia and three other U.S. allies in the region — the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — escalated tensions that followed President Donald Trump’s Iran-bashing visit to the kingdom last month by severing ties with Qatar on Monday.

Trump gave the Saudis crucial backing on Tuesday, calling the squeeze on Qatar just punishment for the country’s financial support for Islamic extremists.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” Trump said on Twitter. “Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” In two additional tweets he said the action proved that his meeting with Persian Gulf Arab leaders last month was “already paying off.”

But the US is supposed to be selling $21.1 billion (US) worth of F-15s to Qatar.

Fox News:  Qatar’s $21B deal to buy F-15s moving forward amid diplomatic battle

A plan to sell $21.1 billion worth of Boeing (BA)-made F-15 fighter jets to Qatar appears to be moving forward, despite several countries cutting diplomatic ties with the Middle Eastern nation this week.

A State Department official said the diplomatic battle and President Donald Trump’s criticism of Qatar, which is under fire for allegedly supporting terrorist groups, has not affected the pending deal to deliver 72 F-15QA multirole fighters, according to Fox News.

In a statement, Boeing said it’s “closely following recent developments.”

“We have been working closely with the U.S. and Qatari governments on this proposed sale. We continue to expect that an agreement will be signed,” Boeing added.

What a convoluted mess it is.

I think it’s likely that Trump has no idea how complex things are there. It seems as long as there’s business in it he will back it, but the military complications are bizarre.

Kushner style Middle East ‘peace’

A post from ’emptywheel’ posits: What would Jared Kushner’s Middle east peace look like?

…consider what the purported Middle East peace that Kushner has reportedly been crafting would actually look like.

It’d include unlimited support for Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Bashar al-Assad would be ousted, but in a way that would permit Russia a strategic footprint, perhaps with sanction of its occupation of Crimea and Donetsk as well.

It’d sanction the increasing authoritarianism in Turkey.

It’d sanction Saudi Arabia’s ruthless starvation of Yemen.

It’d fuck over the Kurds.

And it’d mean war with Iran.

I’m not sure about most of those but support for Israel was obvious. This may not be surprisong – Kushner is a Jew.

Trump took steps towards doing most of those things on his trip, not least with his insane weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, itself premised on a formal detachment of weapons sales from any demands for respect for human rights.

And while an all out military war against Iran may or may not happen Trump made it clear that Iran wasn’t seen as a part of any peace process, they were painted as the bad.

Of particular note, Trump claimed to be establishing a great peace initiative with Islamic countries, even when discussing meetings that treated Iran (and by association most Shia Muslims) as an enemy.

Several days ago in Saudi Arabia, I met with the leaders of the Muslim world and Arab nations from all across the region. It was an epic gathering. It was an historic event. Kind Salman of Saudi Arabia could not have been kinder, and I will tell you, he’s a very wise, wise man. I called on these leaders and asked them to join in a partnership to drive terrorism from their midst, once and for all. It was a deeply productive meeting.

People have said there had really never been anything even close in history. I believe that. Being there and seeing who was there and hearing the spirit and a lot of love, there has never been anything like that in history. And it was an honor to be involved.

Kushner’s “peace plan” is not so much a plan for peace.

It’s a plan for a complete remapping of the Middle East according to a vision the Israelis and Saudis have long been espousing (and note the multiple nods on Trump’s trip to the growing alliance between the two, including Trump’s flight directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv and Bibi’s comment on “common dangers are turning former enemies into partners”).

It’s a vision for still more oppression (a view that Trump supports globally, in any case).

Yes, it’d probably all be accomplished with corrupt self-enrichment on the part of all players.

And it’d likely be a complete clusterfuck.

Good may eventually come out of it but it is unlikely to be quick or simple, and it is very likely to be ugly. It could get very ugly, especially with the nuclear threat.

The Trump card peace in the Middle East?

President Donald Trump is starting his visit to the Middle East in Saudi Arabia this weekend (he has arrived in Saudi Arabia). One of his aims is to encourage and help Israel and Arab countries work towards more peaceful relationships. If Trump achieves this he will have done very well, because peace in the Middle East has been long sought after but unattainable.

Obviously this is peace involving Israel, but I presume civil wars in Syria and Yemen and the ongoing problems, especially with ISIS and Al Qaeda, in Iraq and Afghanistan, will also be on the agenda.

A different approach to Israel-Arab peace is certainly worthwhile, a lot has been tried and failed already.

Wall Street Journal: Trip to Test Trump’s Ambition for Middle East Peace

President is exploring a solution that is based on cooperation between Israel and Arab countries

President Donald Trump faces a set of early challenges to his aspirations for a regional solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as he begins his first international trip.

Typically Trump is confident.

The Atlantic: Trump: Middle East Peace Is ‘Not as Difficult as People Have Thought’

One of Donald Trump’s great strengths is his ability to project confidence and bravado nearly constantly. The president is sometimes peevish, and he sometimes lashes out, but he seldom seems glumly resigned.

Who else, in the middle of a rough stretch of his presidency (one that, arguably, has persisted since Inauguration Day) could blithely assert that he would solve the most famously unsolvable problem in international diplomacy? Yet there was Trump Wednesday afternoon, appearing with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and promising to bring peace in the Middle East.

“We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done,” Trump said. “We will be working so hard to get it done. I think there is a very good chance and I think we will.”

At a lunch later on, he was even bolder: “It is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

Haaretz: Trump’s Plan for Middle East Peace Is to Do the Opposite of Everything Obama Did

Crazy as it may sound, Trump’s haphazard approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may succeed where Obama’s by-the-book route failed.

Here’s one thing Barack Obama and Donald Trump have in common. Both of them believed early in their presidency that they would be the U.S. president to bring peace to Middle East. In his United Nations General Assembly address in September 2010, Obama felt confident enough to say that “when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”

We all know how that ended. But Trump of course is not deterred. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on the day after his election victory, he called Israel-Palestinian peace “the ultimate deal,” and said that “as a deal maker, I’d like to do … the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake.”

But here’s where all similarities end. The two presidents may have shared the same goal, but so far, Trump is going about achieving it in exactly the opposite way that Obama did. And as crazy as it may sound, on this issue at least, Trump’s haphazard approach may actually have more chance of success than Obama’s.

After decades of fruitless engagement, all the American by-the-book diplomacy in the region has failed to yield results. Trump’s unique style of diplomacy will at least make a change.

That’s not to say, of course, that there’s anywhere near a good chance of an Israel-Palestine peace treaty being reached. The issues on the ground remain as intractable as ever and ultimately it will be the two sides who have to bridge their wide differences – no outsider, not even the president of the United States can do it for them. And besides, Trump is very likely to be totally sucked in soon by the political turmoil at home and have no time for any foreign policy whatsoever.

But in the meantime, before yet another president calls time on the peace process, it’s worthwhile to consider how this new and unorthodox approach may actually be better.

Trump sees it as a glittering prize

Obama wanted an Israeli-Palestinian agreement for the best reasons in the world, he wanted an end to hatred and bloodshed and to bring peace, prosperity and justice to all sides in the region. He dealt with the process rationally, reaching the conclusion toward the end of his administration that the U.S. couldn’t want a deal more than the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Trump’s approach to the conflict, like to many other thorny issues that he is only now beginning to grasp, is visceral. He hasn’t weighed the pros and cons and won’t think through his chances of success. He wants the glittering prize, to prove that the master deal maker can deliver the “ultimate deal” that has eluded everyone else. It will probably blow up in his face – but he could also be the one to go the extra mile.

Trump won’t play by the rules

Despite all his frustration with Netanyahu, Obama never broke the unwritten rules of the U.S.-Israel relationship. He didn’t threaten Israel that it would lose America’s financial, diplomatic or military support, and signed the largest aid deal ever with Jerusalem just before he left office. Just like every president in the last three-and-a-half decades. He also vetoed every UN Security Council resolution criticizing Israel, except the last one of his administration. Previous presidents did so much earlier in their term.

Trump has no rule book. He may still move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, he may abandon the two-state solution, and – in a fit of anger over Israeli intransigence – he may just threaten to withhold aid. The last president who seriously pressured Israel to make concessions was Jimmy Carter, who, for all his many faults, delivered the peace deal with Egypt. Maybe Trump will break the rules again?

A different approach may work, and may be worth trying, but there are risks in a volatile region.

Trump will be here for only 24 hours but he’s going all out to create a lasting impression. There will be the first visit of a serving U.S. president to the Western Wall, which is certain to create a thousand headlines and tweets on “Trump’s Wall.” And then, of course, there’s the backdrop he chose for his signature speech: From the cliffs of Masada it really doesn’t matter what he’ll say. We won’t forget it.

At the end of the day, once Air Force One takes off into the sunset, it will probably change nothing for us remaining behind, but this is a region where grand gestures sometimes work better than quiet and patient behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

But some Israeli hope and optimism that something different is at least worth a try it won’t be easy.

AlJazeera: Palestinians expect nothing good from Trump

As President Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met on May 3, Palestinians held their breath, but not because we expectеd any progress towards just and comprehensive peace to emerge from the meeting. Quite the opposite.

First, Trump’s bias towards Israel’s far-right regime of occupation and apartheid does not bode well for bringing about respect for international law and human rights principles.

The US has been arming Israel’s wars on Palestinians and Arabs, and generously funding and protecting Israel’s system of oppression, well before Trump. Obama, after all, has committed a record $38bn in military aid to Israel over ten years, even as domestic health, education and employment programmes face severe cuts across the US.

But Trump takes this decades-old US complicity to the next level.

Take Israel’s settlements built on occupied Palestinian and Syrian land as an example. Despite recent rhetoric to the contrary, Trump stands out in politically and financially supporting them, when almost the whole world considers them as flagrantly illegal under international law and as a fatal obstacle to “peace”.

Trump also frequently refers to Israel’s policies to justify his own, whether on ethnic profiling, the refugee and Muslim ban, or the racist wall with Mexico, which Benjamin Netanyahu openly champions.

Trump’s Middle East team must be the most dishonest broker in the history of US “peacemaking”. Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman explicitly support Israel’s fanatical, settler-influenced government, with Kushner and Friedman deeply invested in financing extremist settlement groups.

One has to be clinically delusional or irreparably opportunistic to expect any good to come out of this administration in the pursuit of freedom, justice and equal rights for Palestinians.

Bringing Israel and the Palestinians together in a peaceful solution has huge challenges for the very inexperienced Trump and his inexperienced administration, but perhaps it will prove to be easier than achieving peace and progress at home in US politics.

One of Trump’s first big Middle East publicity events is a curious way to kick off a peace mission.

Fox News: Trump in Saudi Arabia signs $110B arms deal with Persian Gulf ally

President Trump in Saudi Arabia on Saturday signed a nearly $110 billion arms deal to help the Persian Gulf ally with its military-defense system.

“That was a tremendous day,” Trump said after signing the deal with Saudi leader King Salman. “Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The White House says the package includes defense equipment and other support to help the Arab nation and the rest of the Gulf region fight again terrorism and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, according to the White House.

Multitasking on a foreign trip is fine, but major military backing of an US ally (a country complicit in 911 and influencing conflicts through the Middle East) might not go down well with everyone.

Shouldn’t Iran be a part of any peace process?