January 13, 2013

Is the Arab Spring Going On?

Having loudly banged the door, the year of Dragon had left. We have inherited from it the “Arab spring”, world economic crisis and many other things that make us to shudder with cold of bad premonitions. A year of Snake is crawling into our homes. What has it in store for us?

In the year of Dragon the USA and their allies in the Middle East did not dare to openly attack Iran, though it all went smooth enough in Libya and Iraq. Western oil and gas corporations came into stony-broke by “new democracy” countries and are pumping out energy carriers, ruling the local puppet governments at the same time.

More or less successfully the problem with Syria is being settled. Who is next for the “Arabian spring”, continuing its march along the East?

Annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Manama, Bahrain, 24th December 2012

On the New Year’s Eve in the capital city of Bahrain, Manama, an annual, already the 33d Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) took place. It is true, this meeting can hardly be called a summit: out of six leaders of Arabian monarchies only King of Bahrain and Emir of Kuwait participated in the work of the forum. The members of the Council, which included Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and UAE, demanded from Teheran “immediate and complete stopping of interfering into their inner affairs”, having accused him of destabilizing the situation in the region and creating threats to security. In the communiqué it was also pointed out that an occupation of the three islands - Abu Musa, Large and Small Tomb, situated in the Strait of Hormuz and taken by Iran under its control in 1971, should not be allowed. Traditionally, the Council called Iran to cooperate with MAGATE at a full scale and to ensure security at the Nuclear Power Plant in Bushehr, in order to “avoid a catastrophe”. The participants of the forum discussed the situation in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and at the Palestinian territories.

But the main achievement of the meeting was the establishment of the unified military commandment of the countries - GCC members, which will be given all the functions of control of the joint military forces of Arab countries of the Persian Gulf “The Shield of the Peninsula” which will include air and sea components in its military grouping.

Mass demonstrations of protest in Manama, Bahrain

The decisions of this meeting, and in particular, the accusations of Iran, had caused a wave of anti-governmental demonstrations in Bahrain.

The protesters were accusing Saudi Arabia and the USA of supporting the regime of Al-Khalifa in order to maintain their own interests, not taking into consideration the “rights and lives” of the people of Bahrain. “They turned our house into headquarters of the 5th USA Fleet, patrolling the sea routes, supporting the USA’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan and spying on Iran”,- one of the leaders of the opposition stated in his open letter.

USS "John Stennis" (CVN-74)

Meanwhile, on the 27th December of 2012, a USA’s aircraft carrier group arrived in the region of the Persian Gulf, including USS “John Stennis” aircraft carrier, USS “Mobile Bay”  guided missile cruiser and USS “Peleliu” LSL. The aircraft carrier escorted by the cruiser, passed the Strait of Hormuz zone and arrived at the port of Jebel Ali, 35 kilometers south-west of Dubai, while the landing boat went to the Oman port of Salalah.

Iran, having called all the accusations addressed to it “groundless and unacceptable”, the very next day after the Assembly began its annual large scale military training in the waters of the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Omanand in the northern part of the Indian Ocean under the code name of “Velayat 91”.

Training of the Iranian fleet  "Velayat -91”  in the Strait of Hormuz and Oman Bay

The Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf

The Strait of Hormuz, through which the strategic sea route of oil and gas export goes from the Persian Gulf to the world market, is the narrowest, only 6 km wide, place. If it is closed, the world markets will face an unavoidable deficit of oil and, as a result, a rapid growth of oil products prices.

According to the statement of the Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibolah Sayyari, in the course of trainings the questions of sea patrolling, reconnaissance and convoying cargo ships and tankers were perfected, large scale tests of new missile systems and combat abilities of the newly introduced into the Navy combat ships were carried out, a new tactics of units of combat ships was tested, measures for electronic warfare (EW) were trained and systems of communication were tested. In the course of training the 23d squad of combat ships of the Iranian Navy (a helicopter carrier “Bushehr” and the “Jamaran” destroyer had been really securing the passing of the Iranian transport ships and tankers through the Strait of Hormuz.

Within the framework of “Velayat-91”, the Navy of Iran had successfully tested a new middle-range missile system “Raad” (“Thunder”). For the first time this system was shown at the military parade in Teheran in September 2012. According to the statements of Iranian specialists, it can hit all types of airspace targets at up to 45 km distance and at 30 meters to 24 kilometers altitude.

"Raad" Air Defence middle-range Mobile Missile Complex

Judging by photos, the launcher of a surface-to-air missile system is equipped with three rockets of the Russian “Buk” system (the index 33K-9106-012M can be seen on the rocket) and is placed on the three-axial chassis of a MZKT-6922 quad, which is used for the systems «Buk-М2», «Тor-М2» (Russia) and Т38 «Stilet» (Ukraine-Belarus, AD systems «Оsа-1Т»).

Unlike «Buk-М2», the Iranian launcher has three rockets, not four, doesn’t have radar (perhaps in the photo you can see a transportation vehicle). Anyway, Iran is trying to increase the combat capabilities of its AD system, concentrating attention at building up the number of mobile surface-to-air missile systems.

According to the statements of senior officers of IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guards Corps), in the course of trainings there took place tests of a surface-to-air missile systems of a long-range “Bavar 373”, the prototype of which is the Russian C-300 system. Why “Bavar 373”? Bavar in Persian means “Belief”, and the number 373 means 373 names of Prophet Mohammad.

Launching a missile "Noor" from the desk of "Sabalan" destroyer

Within the framework of the trainings, some more missiles had been tested - an anti-ship short–range “Nasr”, “Noor” surface-to-surface missile and an anti-radar medium range “Mehrab”(Altar) missile.

The Deputy Commander in Chief on coordination of the Iranian Navy Rear Admiral IRGC Amir Rastegari announced also that in the training there would participate a submarine “Tareq”, which had been repaired and upgraded for a long time. “In the course of training we are planning to widely use UAVs too, the capabilities of which have increased significantly, as compared with the previous years”, said Admiral Rastegari to a correspondent of IRNA.

Rear Admiral of IRGC Amir Rastegari and the "Tareq" submarine

So, the trainings “Velayat-91” have become not only Teheran’s demonstration of force and its latest developments in the missile technologies, but an actual continuation of the military-political confrontation between Iran and the West. In the light of the GCC and the accusations of Iran that sounded there, the mentioned trainings were a demonstration of Iran’s capabilities to really play a leading role in the Persian Gulf zone.

Within the framework of the “Velayat-91” trainings, the Armed Forces of the Revolutionary Guards’ Navy (IRGC) carried out their own training on covering from the enemy‘s attacks of the largest natural gas resources in the Persian Gulf in the regions of Assaluyeh and South Pars under the codename of “Fajr 91”. Units of the 4th sea zone of IRGC took part in the training too.

After the IRI Navy’s training had been over, Defense Minister of Iran Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi announced about the beginning of serial production of a assault helicopter Toofan-2 (“Storm”). In May 2012 “Jane’s” agency informed about Iran’s intentions to demonstrate helicopters of its own make, which are copies of the American Bell Ah-1J Sea Cobra.

A Assault Helicopter Toofan-2 (“Storm”)

As the Defense Minister Vahidi stated, the helicopter of the national production belongs to the new generation of such flying apparatuses; new technologies had been used in it, high accuracy guidance systems included. “Supplying the troops with such helicopters will significantly increase the combat capability of our armed forces”, pointed out Vahidi. Production of Toofan-2 was organized in Isfahan in the workshops of the Iranian Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO).

At the moment the reality and time limits of the armed confrontation are still an open question, but at least, it is clear that if it does begin, it will, most likely, begin at the sea theater of military actions.

Meanwhile an economic war is in a full swing. The USA are using various economic sanctions against the countries which cooperate with IRI. Due to the applied sanctions, the country’s income has decreased nearly by 50%. And even the increase of tax collection by 85 % and introduction of the “economy of resistance” can’t improve the situation. In 2012 Teheran received 40% less income into the state budget than it had expected to.

According to the Customs committee of Iran, in 2012 import decreased by 10.54 % and made about 40 billion US dollars. The main importers became UAE (20%), China (15%), Turkey (9%), Republic of Korea (8.9%), and Switzerland (6%).

Non-oil export of Iran in 2012 increased by 4% and made 24.14 billion US dollars. Thus, according to the information of “Gulf News” publishers, dated to the 26th December 2012, re-export from the United Arab Emirates in the first half of the last year decreased nearly by 32% and made 3.6 billion US dollars, but at this the UAE remain the main trade partner of Iran in the Middle East. In 2012 the raw oil export from Iran decreased by 38.7%, and this negatively affected the Iranian budget. As for the export of natural gas to Turkey, it reached the record point of more than 31 million cubic meters daily. So, Turkey is using 90% of the gas exported from Iran.

The Iranian oil export by the end of 2012 made 1.1 million barrel daily. Experts are forecasting that the situation with the Iranian export will be getting worse within the nearest months. More so, the USA are planning to apply new sanctions, forbidding the countries-importers of the Iranian oil to pay for it directly to Iran or to pay via third countries. Washington insists on the money for the oil import being put on a deposit in banks of countries- importers, from where Teheran could pay with them for the received goods or services. As a result, the flow of so needed currency to the Iranian budget will decrease considerably, which will surely show on the Iranian economy. Meanwhile the rate of exchange of the national currency of IRI as compared with foreign currencies has decreased, and import goods in Iranian shops have sharply become more expensive.

Literally within the last days of the last year, the Iranian “Pars Oil and Gas Company”, having launched the first phase of the development of the gas resource “South Pars”, increased natural gas production by 5.7 million cubic meters, having brought it up to 28.75 million cubic meters. The peculiarity of this resource is its being divided between Iran and Qatar. The Iranian part contains about 14 trillion cubic meters of gas (which makes 8% of the world’s resources) and more than 18 billion barrels of gas condensate. But to get the best profit from selling gas, the country needs gas depots. Within the nearest years Iran is planning to build 40 gas depots fit for keeping 60-70 million cubic meters of gas each. In spring of 2012 in the Iranian Qom Province the first in the country and in the whole Middle East “Saraje” gas depot was put into operation.

According to the Iranian information agency IRNA, around January-February of 2013 a contract on the construction of a gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan will be signed. The cost of the project is estimated at 1.5 billion US dollars. The 1100 kilometers long new gas pipeline will begin at the natural gas resource in Assalouyeh and will go through the territory of Iran (Sistan and Baluchestan Province), to Sindh Province (Pakistan’s territory). China is supposed to participate in the realization of this project too.

Exactly for the development of so big projects Iran needs considerable funds, but Western countries’ sanctions are preventing from receiving them. In this connection, President of Iran Mahmud Ahmadinejad addressed the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution with a request to sell some of its assets and help the country’s economy. It is no secret that AGIR is one of the richest Iranian organizations. It has owns lots of land, makes largest investments into sea transportations, means of communication and oil and gas industry.

All the mentioned above shows that the economic methods of war, tested by Western countries, though partially, but reach their goals.

In the energy sphere the situation looks much better. With putting into action the Bushehr nuclear power in February 2013, Iran will be able to make the most powerful in the Islam world electric energy network. The total power of electricity production in Iran today makes about 67 GW. Iranian electric energy (2200-2500 MW/h) at the sum of more than 1 billion US dollars is delivered into Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

According to the information of the agency “Fars News”, the level of unemployment in Iran in summer of 2012 made 12.4%, which is lower than the last year’s index by 1.3%. Minister of Social Security of Iran had declared earlier about the plans of the Government to decrease the unemployment level to 7%. According to the statistic data, in August 2012 in Iran 68.3 % of men and 15.4% of women aged from over 15, were employed.

Iranian Sunni Islamic group "Jaish ul-Adl" (Army of Justice)

Not everything is smooth in the inner political life of Iran either. On the 28th of December 2012 a new Sunni Islamic group “Jaish ul-Adl” (Army of Justice) announced about itself with the terrorist act against the military men of AGIR in the South-Eastern Sistan and Baluchestan Province.

After the successful action, the leader of the group Salh Al-Deen Farouki at his site announced about “recruiting volunteers” into “Sheikh Zaiei martyr brigade” for fighting for the rights of Baloch people who make the Sunni majority among the population of the Province, and for withdrawal of all AGIR formations from its territory.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, who visited Turkey with the IRI delegation, on the 29th of December in his interview to a correspondent of IRNA stated that special services of Iran and Turkey are tightly cooperating in the questions of anti-terrorist struggle. Operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party are quite possible.

The only woman of the Cabinet of Ministers of IRI, Health Minister Doctor Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi

According to IRNA, on the 29th of December Iranian President dismissed from her post the only woman of the Cabinet of Ministers of IRI, Health Minister, and Doctor Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi for her criticizing the Government. Doctor Marzieh “too actively” was demanding to increase the budget of the Ministry in order to buy foreign medications, which contradicted the Government’s policy.

On the 26th of December 2012 Egypt’s President M. Mursi signed the new Constitution which had been approved in the course of the December referendum. According to the official information, the project of the new Constitution was supported by 63.8% of electors (10.694 million people), while 36.2 % (6.61 million people) voted against it.

When considering appeals, the results of voting in a number of electoral districts were cancelled, but this did not change the results of the referendum.

On the same day, addressing the nation, M. Mursi announced that the adoption of the Constitution “had put an end to the transformation of power” in the country and declared a “new republic” in Egypt, which means a final rupture with the system of government which had been in the country after the overthrow of a monarchy in 1952. The President called all the political forces of Egypt to a dialogue on solving the existing problems and promised to take measures for leading the country’s economy out of the crisis.

The main opposition force - National Salvation Front refused to participate in the dialogue, having called it “a theater of farce” and the new Constitution - “not answering the interests of the Egyptian people” and “non-valid”, as the appearance at the referendum was lower than 50%.

Literally the very next day after the President’s speech to the nation, a representative of the Egyptian public prosecutor’s department announced about the beginning of the juridical examination of the case of “high treason”, the main culpable of which being the leaders of the opposition parties from the National Salvation Front.

The Government of Egypt forbade bringing in and taking out foreign currency in amounts larger than 10 thousand US dollars. This measure is aiming at stabilizing the national currency, Egyptian pound, and has to stop the mass outflow of assets abroad. On the 30th of December, the Head of the Government H. Kandil admitted that the Egyptian economy is in a hard situation, but “we cannot say it is falling apart”.

Many analysts in the West ask themselves a question: what has happened in Egypt in reality and who benefited from it?

Experts think that the referendum and the adoption of the new Constitution were initiated by the “Muslim Brotherhood” in order to defeat the opposition and to establish the power of an Islamic regime.

On the other hand, thrusting upon the referendum in order to adopt the new Constitution, had brought the opposition together, which allowed to form a more or less stable political union - the “National Salvation Front” headed by the ex-General Secretary of LAS Amr Moussa, ex-Chief of MAGATE Muhammad ELBaradei and leader of the People’s movement of Egypt Hamdeen Sabahi. The civil opposition has got a sole platform, they have won some popularity with the people, they now can systematically criticize the current power, while positioning themselves as the only serious force in the Middle East, confronting Islamism, and, most importantly, not being responsible for the hard social-economic situation in the country.

Specific is the situation of the armed forces of the country. Having been dismissed, the high military commandment did not confront “Muslim Brotherhood”, the President of the country, and actually, their people, openly. The military commandment was lingering, the tank units, guarding the president’s palace, remained completely neutral. And when the contradictions between the power and civil opposition had reached the critical point, Minister of Defense and Military Industry Abdel Fattah as-Sisi addressed all the political forces of the country with the statement on prevention of the country’s falling into violence. For this purpose the military commandment made M.Mursi allow the military to secure the civil order during the referendum on the Constitution, which means to actually control the situation in the country.

Political scientists think that judging by the gradual exhaustion of the “sponsor enthusiasm” of support to “Muslim Brotherhood” and Salafits (fundamentalists) from the side of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian army can again become the force which will extinguish the conflict.

Tense remains the situation in Syria, where the fighting actions between the government troops and units of the armed opposition are going on. Lately the most violent fightings took place on the outskirts of Damascus, in cities and Aleppo and Homs Provinces. There were clashes in the Idlib, Hama, Daraa, Al-Raqqah and Deir-ez-Zor Provinces.

At the background of the armed violence in Syria, as the analysts point out, there appeared an expected trend - Washington either does not react to terrorist attacks at all or blames the Syrian Government for them. As to the massacre in Acrab, Washington, as it should have been expected, did not notice it at all. If the population there were not Alavit one, the USA could have possibly put all the responsibility on Damascus.

International activity is increasing around the Syrian crisis. At the Summit in Bahrain the leaders of the Arab monarchies yet again called the National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces “a legal representative of the Syrian people” and called the world community to take immediate measures for stopping the bloodshed and speeding up of the political transformations in Syria.

UN and LAS ‘s Special Representative on Syrian regulation L. Brahimi on the 24th of December discussed in Damascus with the President of SAR B. Assad and representatives of the inner legal opposition the ways of overcoming the crisis.

At the same time the irreconcilable Syrian opposition yet again refused to talk with the current regime and to discuss any projects of regulation that suggest B. Assad’s remaining at power till the presidential elections in 2014. L. Brahimi is sure that the situation in Syria is getting worse, and only a dialogue between the confronting sides alone can settle the crisis. In other case, Syria will meet the same fate as Somali.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt M. Amr is also sure that “it will be difficult for the current leaders of SAR to find themselves in the future construction of this state”. Amr pointed out, that Cairo is against any interference into the domestic affairs of Syria and calls all confronting forces to stop fire immediately.

Russia criticized the National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces after it had refused from a dialogue with Assad, having called such a position a dead-end one, leading to further sharpening of the situation. The Russian Federation’s Minister of Foreign Affairs S. Lavrov confirmed that Russia will not support the UN Security Council’s resolution allowing foreign military intervention into Syria. Leader of AGIR A.M. al-Khatib refused to visit Moscow for talks about Syrian regulation, having stated that he was ready to have talks with representatives of Russia in an Arab country, if there was a “clear agenda” for the dialogue. According to Khatib, Russia also had to condemn “the cruelty of the regime” of Assad and to declare about its breaking any connections with that regime.

Some Western and Russian analysts consider the question of Damascus’ using chemical weapon not more than a provocation in order to begin foreign intervention into Syria’s domestic conflict. Teheran is of the same opinion. “Americans are pushing the Syrian armed opposition towards the actions of using chemical weapon, the responsibility for which will be laid on the legal power, namely, on Bashar Assad”, wrote in his blog Ambassador of Iran in Russia Mahmud Reza Sadjadi.

Syrian President Bashar Assad in his public address to the nation on the 6th January 2013 blamed “plotters and terrorists” for the armed conflict and called the Syrian people to get mobilized. He also offered a new plan for peaceful regulation of the conflict in the country. The plan includes conducting a national conference in order to reconcile the conflicting sides, a referendum on the project of a new Constitution of Syria, parliamentary elections and formation of a new government.

In his speech the Syrian President also complained at lack of partners with whom to lead talks and refused to meet the representatives of the current Syrian opposition, having accused them of terrorism. “Syria will talk with a master, not with servants”, said B. Assad, meaning the Syrian opposition.

In respond to Assad’s suggestions, the National Coalition declared that it is not accepting the presented by the President of Syria plan of peaceful regulation.

The Syrian president’s speech was immediately commented on by Western politicians. Foreign Minister of Great Britain William Hague called the Syrian president’s plan, presented in his speech “empty promises”. The Head of the Foreign Policy Service of the European Union Catherine Ashton still is sure that peace can be achieved only after Assad’s dismissal.

Pakistani Talibs in Syria

According to the data of the United Nations Organization, within 21 months of the conflict in Syria 60 thousand people were killed, and the Red Cross had earlier called the situation in Syria a civil war. But it is not quite so. Confirmations of this can be found in Press TV and UN messages, where they speak about hundreds of mercenary - Salafits from 29 countries of the world, who had arrived in Syria to fight against B. Assad’s regime. In particular, Pakistani Salafits had arrived in Syria illegally with the assistance of special services of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. According to the information of the UN, in the fightings in and around Damascus and in the region of the international airport 1 000 Pakistani talibs were killed.

Complicated remains the situation in Iraq. In the regions where the majority of the population is Arab Sunni, mass anti-government actions keep taking place, the participants of which accuse the Head of the Iraqi Government N. al-Maliki of discrimination of Sunni and of a tight cooperation with Iran. N. al-Maliki, in his turn, called the Sunni politicians “not to force the situation and not to assist the plot on exciting internecine wars”. Meanwhile, it has been announced that the military leaders of Iraq and Kurdistan Region had managed to achieve a compromise in the questions of lowering tension and ensuring security in debatable regions in the North of Iraq. The agreement is to be signed in Erbil.

The leader of Muslim-Shiits of Iraq announced about his support to Sunni anti-governmental demonstrations.

On the 28th of December 2012 The Head of Palestinian National Administration M. Abbas threatened to dismiss the bodies of Palestinian self-government and to return Israel the responsibility for governing the Western bank of the Jordan River, if after the elections in January 2013 and formation of the new Israeli Cabinet, stagnation of the peaceful process is noticed. Abbas announced that he is ready for the talks with the Prime Minister of Israel B. Netanyahu, about whose reelection for the next term he has no doubts. To re-start the dialogue, Abbas demands from Israel to freeze for the time of talks the construction in Jewish settlements, to free 120 imprisoned before the agreements of 1993 Palestinians and to restart the list of taxes, the Israeli have been collecting on the part and for the needs of PNA.

Meanwhile, on the 25th of December Ministry of Domestic Affairs of Israel approved of the construction of 1200 units of housing in the Jerusalem quarter of Gilo beyond the line of armistice, which had existed before the 1967 war. On the 29th December, for the first time since 2007, building materials, given by Qatar, on Israel’s permission were brought to Gaza Strip from Egypt.

Islamic Jihad is training...

HAMAS will start a campaign of terrorist-martyrs’ attacks in respond to the plans of Israeli Government of housing construction in Jerusalem and at the Western Bank. This was announced by the chief of a HAMAS bureau in Jerusalem Ahmed Abu Khaliba, and the Iranian agency Mehr immediately published photo reportage about the Islam Jihad terrorist grouping fighters’ preparations.

The leader of Pakistani Talibs H. Meshud announced on the 28th December about the fighters’ readiness for the talks with the Government, but at this he refused to disarm his units. Radical Islamists also demand that the Government should introduce the Muslim law as the main law of the country, break its connections with the USA and begin the fighting actions against India.The representative of Pakistan called the demands of talibs “absurd”. Meanwhile, last week in different parts of Pakistan bloodshed terrorist acts took place and the talibs killed the captured earlier 21 years old Pakistani serviceman.

So, the situation in the Middle East remains tense and explosive, due to which fact the world’s interest to this region is not getting weaker.