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5 ways Egypt and the Arab world benefit from Russian-Egyptian cooperation

Russia’s re-established strong relations with Egypt are a boost for the Arab world.

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Following Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s visit to Egypt, Moscow and Cairo have agreed that Russian Aerospace Forces will have the right to use Egypt’s air bases. In addition to both permanent and temporary bases in Syria, this means that Russia now has two friendly states in the Middle East with whom it can rely on for defence and security cooperation.

While this represents an achievement in the steadily re-ignited positive relations between Egypt and Moscow, which have attained their most fruitful levels since the Nasser era, ultimately, the move is more important for Egypt than for Russia.

In the Nasser era, Egypt was the undisputed leader of the Arab world and the wider Middle East. It’s geo-political leadership, military strength and economic might meant that other countries looked first to Cairo for all matters concerning pan-Arab issues.

Today, Egypt’s position is far weaker, although Egypt remains incredibly important as the most populous Arab state. Under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt has restored secular rule after a brief period of being held captive by a Muslim Brotherhood regime. The terrorist group is once again illegal in Egypt.

However, since 2013 when Egypt re-established normalcy in government, Cairo has become overly reliant on Saudi Arabian investments. In spite of this, Egypt still shows some degree of geo-political independence on issues such as Lebanon. Cairo recently refused to join Saudi Arabia in sanctioning Hezbollah, much to the chagrin of Riyadh.

Beyond this however, Egypt’s warming relations with Russia could help to ensure Cairo’s geo-political independence, as in recent years the country has been far too reliant on both Saudi money and American geo-political cooperation to truly exercise the kind of sovereign regional leverage it achieved in the age of Nasser and the Non-Aligned Movement which he co-founded.

While the agreement with Russia does not change Egypt’s position overnight, it does signify an important building block in a longer-term relationship that could help Egypt become more independently assertive in the following ways.

1. Palestine 

Under Nasser, Egypt was the most important supporter of Palestine. Egypt’s historical ties to Palestine still carry some amount of weight, as Cairo was the location of a recent meeting between the Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas which resulted in a power-sharing agreement, the conditions of which are still attempting to be implemented in Gaza, in spite of a new Israeli onslaught.

Since 1979 when Egypt normalised relations with the Israeli regime, Cairo has been less generous to the Palestinians. However, if Russia were to become more involved in Egypt, Cairo could become more assertive in this area.

Russia retains a balanced relationship with both Palestine and the regime in Tel Aviv, but crucially, Russia’s most important Arab ally Syria is the last Arab country in which supporting Palestine is a major policy issue.

While many highlight the fact that Russia does not consider it within its mandate to stop illegal Israeli attacks on Syria, what many neglect to realise is that if not for Russia’s presence in Syria, Israeli forces could have attacked and occupied more parts of Syria than that which they already do.

Tel Aviv will not want to risk Russia’s wrath by provoking any new major conflicts with its neighbours. This is why the regime has increasingly turned to terrorist funded proxy wars rather than direct military engagement.

A more independent Egypt could return to a more balanced policy on Palestine, something which would irk both the occupier and Saudi Arabia, but which is necessary if any lasting peace is to be achieved for Palestine.

An Egypt that has been closer to Palestine has been invaded and occupied by Israel in the past. The presence of Russian fighter jets in Egypt could serve to deter such a move if relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv were to deteriorate over Palestine.

2. Saudi Arabia 

The kind of liquid cash flow that Saudi Arabia injects into Egypt will not be easily replaced, but at the same time, with Riyadh becoming ever more assertive over its regional allies, the presence of Russian planes on Egyptian airfields would certainly make Saudi think twice before attempting to meddle in Egypt. If Saudi Arabia wants to complete its ambitious Vision 2030 economic diversification programme, it cannot afford to alienate China or Russia, as the expertise required for such a project can and likely will be provided by the two eastern superpowers. The US by contrast, would rather see Saudi retain its own economic dependence on the Petrodollar. Thus, Russia could help Egypt to leverage its diplomatic weight against an increasingly power-hungry Riyadh.

3. Libya 

Unlike the US, Egypt supports the secular Libyan House of Representatives whose capital is in the city of Tobruk, near the Egyptian border. In recent months, Egypt has coordinated airstrikes on Takfiri terrorists with the Tobruk government and both have pledged to expand mutual commitments.

Russia has also been developing increasingly close ties with the Libyan House of Representatives and its de-facto representative abroad, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.

As Egypt is the only country with any legitimate mandate to help secure Libya and reverse its current status as a failed state, a Russian partnership with both Cairo and Tobruk could ultimately provide the only source of salvation for Libya.

4. Syria 

Dating from the beginning of the Syria conflict, Egypt’s policy towards Syria has at best been ambiguous and at its lowest ebb, has been hostile.

Recently, Egypt has become increasingly supportive of stability in Syria and has called for preserving the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria.

It is no coincidence that Egypt’s increasingly reasonable and productive line on Syria has happened as Russian relations with Cairo have grown increasingly warm.

With quiet Russian assistance, Egypt could become a key problem solver for Syria. As a large predominately Sunni Arab state, Egypt’s voice in support of Syria’s unity and political sovereignty could be important, not least because it would counter the Saudi/western narrative that the war in Syria is a sectarian battle rather than the proxy imperialist conflict which it is.

5. Lebanon 

If Saudi Arabia was foolish enough to attempt airstrikes on Lebanon, it would almost certainly require the use of Egyptian air bases. Egypt has already shown reluctance to join Riyadh’s anti-Lebanon would-be jihad. insofar as President Sisi refused to sanction assets of Hezbollah.

An increased Russian presence in Egypt could only help solidified Egypt’s position as a restraint on would-be Saudi aggression against Lebanon.

CONCLUSION: 

As I have previously written, the Middle East is now roughly divided into rival north versus south blocs. At the moment, the two most influential powers in the southern bloc are Saudi Arabia and Egypt. If Egypt, rather than Saudi were to become the most important power in this bloc, it could go a long way in easing tensions as secular Egypt is historically not hostile towards countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

While Russia is also developing historically new ties with Riyadh, ultimately, Saudi Arabia holds the potential to be an economic leader of the wider southern bloc of the Middle East if (and it is a big if) Vision 2030 is successful, but ultimately, Egypt is far better placed to assert diplomatic leadership of the region, not least because it is a far less ideologically restricted power than Saudi Arabia.

Russia can help Egypt in respect of re-establishing a broader, more open, more balanced and  more dignified position in the region. Russia and Egypt were once highly important allies, in the coming years, this relationship could become increasingly restored.

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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