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War coming in the Gulf? Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Sarajevo moment with Qatar

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ultimatum to Qatar threatens a wider regional war pitting key allies of the US against each other.

Alexander Mercouris

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In July 1914 warmongers in the Habsburg government sent an insanely worded ultimatum to Serbia.  Emperor Franz Josef I – 84 and in poor health – did nothing to restrain them, whilst they were actually egged on by the Habsburg empire’s powerful but wilful ally, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

The result was a geopolitical catastrophe which brought about the end of the Habsburg empire.

In June 2017 warmongers in Saudi Arabia have sent an insanely worded ultimatum to Qatar.  King Salman – 81 and in poor health – is doing nothing to restrain them, whilst they are actually being egged on by the Saudi Kingdom’s powerful but wilful ally, President Trump of the United States.

Will the result be a similar geopolitical catastrophe that will bring about the end of the Saudi Kingdom?

It is impossible to believe that anyone in Riyadh seriously believes that Qatar can comply with the terms of the Saudi ultimatum, just as no-one in Vienna in 1914 seriously thought Serbia would comply with the Habsburg ultimatum.

In both cases complying with an ultimatum phrased in such an extreme way would result in a complete loss of independence and sovereignty. For proudly independent countries like Serbia and Qatar that is inconceivable.  Unsurprisingly the Saudi ultimatum has been rejected.  The people who drafted the Saudi ultimatum in Riyadh cannot have expected otherwise, just as the people who drafted the Habsburg ultimatum in Vienna never expected it to be accepted either.

If the Saudi ultimatum to Qatar is intended to be rejected, just as the Habsburg ultimatum to Serbia was also intended to be rejected, the big question is what happens next?

In 1914, despite weeks of frantic diplomatic activity and attempts by the Serbian government to find some diplomatic solution to the crisis, the Habsburg empire attacked Serbia, setting in train a series of events which within days resulted in an all-out European war, which eventually became a World War.  It is now universally accepted that this was the intention throughout, and that the Habsburg ultimatum was drafted so as to provide a pretext for war when the ultimatum was rejected.

Is there any risk of anything like that happening now?

Unfortunately the possibility cannot be excluded.

I have already written that the previously announced steps taken by Saudi Arabia and its allies – closing land and air links to Qatar and breaking diplomatic relations – look very like preparatory steps before an armed attack on Qatar

Whilst I do not know this for a fact, I think it is at least possible that Saudi Arabia’s breaking of diplomatic relations and the land and air blockade it imposed on Qatar were intended to be followed up by a ground invasion of Qatar.

Such an aggressive step would be very much in character for Saudi Arabia’s volatile de facto leader Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Much as former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 1990 mistook a conversation with the US ambassador as a green light from the US to invade Kuwait, so it is possible that the equally foolhardy Prince Mohammed bin Salman misread some comments of US President Trump during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia as a green light for a Saudi attack on Qatar.

Since I wrote those words Turkey has further ramped up its support for Qatar, Rex Tillerson and the US State Department have become more increasingly critical of Saudi actions, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been promoted by his father Crown Prince, putting him in a position where he is possibly no more than a few months away from succeeding to the Saudi throne.

It would be entirely in character for Prince Mohammed bin Salman – pressed by Rex Tillerson and the US State Department to clarify what Saudi Arabia actually wants from Qatar – to respond by doubling down, by sending an impossibly worded ultimatum to Qatar via the Kuwaiti mediators.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s previous behaviour points to someone who consistently and recklessly overplays his hand, and even if he is not actually planning a war against Qatar it could be that like a bad poker player he is responding to a challenge by raising his stake to ridiculous levels in the belief that no-one will then dare to call his bluff.

The question is what will he do when his bluff is called and the 10 day time limit in the ultimatum expires with Qatar still having failed to comply with it?  Will he step back and permit the Kuwaiti mediators to do their work, or will he escalate further?

The list of demands in the ultimatum is so extreme that it is impossible to see how it can form the basis for a negotiation.  If there is going to be a negotiated solution to this crisis – which Prince Mohammed bin Salman has single-handedly created all by himself – then the ultimatum will have to be dropped in its entirety.

In theory Saudi Arabia could try to sustain the status quo indefinitely by persisting with its air and land blockade of Qatar.  However growing criticism of the blockade in the US might make that difficult, with US pressure probably increasing over time on Saudi Arabia to agree a compromise.

That would entail a climbdown, whilst doing nothing after the 10 day time limit of the ultimatum expires might anyway expose the ultimatum as too obviously a bluff.

That might be more than Prince Mohammed bin Salman can stand.  He might fear that if were to climb down or fail to act on the ultimatum that would humiliate him before his father the King and the other Saudi Princes.

It would also surely lead to more questions being asked within Saudi Arabia about the quality of his judgement.  Given that he is almost certainly already the target of criticism from some of the older Princes – including from some of his older brothers, who are being passed over for the throne – he might also fear that such a humiliation would weaken his position and damage his chances of succeeding his father.

In view of this there has to be a risk that rather than be humiliated by climbing down or having his ultimatum exposed as a bluff Prince Mohammed bin Salman might decide instead to double down further, and do what Saddam Hussein did in 1980, which is launch a ground invasion of a small but rich neighbouring Arab country which is daring to defy him.

After all like Saddam Hussein he already has form.  Just as before attacking Kuwait in 1990 Saddam Hussein had previously in 1981 attacked Iran, so in March 2015 – just weeks after his father became King – Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the prime instigator of the disastrous Saudi intervention in Yemen.

If Prince Mohammed bin Salman really does order an attack on Qatar then there is a serious danger that the situation could spiral out of control.

Though Qatar is obviously no match for Saudi Arabia it now has the support of the two military giants in the region: Turkey and Iran.  The Turks have already established a military base in Qatar (one of the Saudi demands is for Qatar to close it) and it is far from impossible that in the event of a Saudi attack on Qatar President Erdogan – who has denounced the Saudi ultimatum in the strongest terms – might feel that he has to come to Qatar’s rescue.

If so then just as the Habsburg officials in 1914 miscalculated the international reaction to their attack on Serbia, so Prince Mohammed bin Salman might find that he is miscalculating the regional reaction to a Saudi attack on Qatar.

The country which ought to be working diplomatically to prevent this disaster happening is the US.  Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the US, just as the Habsburg empire was Germany’s key ally in 1914.  Moreover just as Germany in 1914 wielded decisive influence in Vienna, so the US today wields decisive influence in Riyadh.  Strong diplomatic action by the US in Riyadh would be the one certain way of preventing a Saudi attack on Qatar.

Unfortunately President Trump is inexperienced in international affairs, apparently feels personally beholden to the Saudis after his recent visit to Riyadh, and is weighed down by the Russiagate scandal.  The result is that the US seems incapable of responding strongly to the crisis, with President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson sending out discordant signals.

I still believe that in the end sense will prevail and that there will come a point beyond which further escalation stops.  However the potential for things to go wrong – with Turkey and Iran coming to the aid of Qatar in a war with Saudi Arabia which pits two key US allies – Turkey and Saudi Arabia – against each other, cannot be completely excluded.

To the anxious contemplation of such dangerous scenarios do the unrestrained follies of Prince Mohammed bin Salman inexorably lead.

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…


The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.

RT

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Via RT…


A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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