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Saudi Arabia says relations with Qatar ‘very good’ | Source: Anadolu Agency

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan has hailed his country’s relations with Qatar, saying ties between the two neighbors were “very good”. In January, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt agreed to restore diplomatic, trade, and travel ties with Qatar. The four countries severed relations with Doha in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Source: Anadolu Agency


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Hamas Slams Arab States for Joining NATO Drill Alongside Israel | Source: FARS NEWS

The Hamas resistance movement denounced the participation of four Arab countries alongside Israel in a US-led NATO war game, describing it as a “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause against Israeli occupation. Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are among the participants.

Source: FARS NEWS


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UAE, Israel say to move forward with normalization process | Source: Yeni Safak

Emirati Foreign Minister and his Israeli counterpart expressed their intention to move forward with the normalization process between their countries. In September 2020, the UAE and Israel signed a US-sponsored deal to normalize their relations. Since then, the two countries have signed dozens of bilateral agreements in various fields, including investment, banking services, and tourism.

Source: Yeni Safak


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Here’s How Eritrea Became The Horn Of Africa’s Most Influential Country

Here’s How Eritrea Became The Horn Of Africa’s Most Influential Country

21 JUNE 2021

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Eritrea used to be regarded as a so-called “pariah state” and is still perceived that way to a certain extent among some, but recent years have seen its regional role evolve to the point where it’s arguably the most important player in the Horn of Africa right now, thereby warranting an analysis of how this happened.

Eritrea is one of the most mysterious countries in the world, which is intriguing for many outside observers, for better or for worse. It used to be regarded as a so-called “pariah state” and is still perceived that way to a certain extent among some, but recent years have seen its regional role evolve to the point where it’s arguably the most important player in the Horn of Africa right now. This development is attributable to a combination of its leadership’s vision and fast-moving events in neighboring Ethiopia from which Eritrea gained independence in 1993 after thirty years of separatist struggle. Considering its newfound importance, a general analysis of how this happened is certainly warranted.

For those who aren’t all that familiar with it, Eritrea is a revolutionary socialist-inspired state that was mostly isolated from the rest of the world after its bloody border conflict with Ethiopia from 1998-2000. It’s been previously accused of supporting armed groups across the region, especially in Somalia, including some that others have described as terrorists. The country excels in unconventional warfare considering its three-decade-long experience with it and the fact that this is the only means through which Eritrea can ensure its sovereignty from much larger Ethiopia which it always feared still harbored hegemonic ambitions against it. In fact, the previously mentioned border conflict can in some ways be seen as a “second war of independence”.

It’s neither here nor there who was in the right or wrong since the significance lies in the fact that Eritrea would probably have become a proxy state of Ethiopia had it lost that war. Ethiopia, having incomparably larger economic potential than Eritrea by virtue of its enormous population that’s at least 30x larger than its former province’s, was obviously much more important to the Great Powers than the tiny coastal state. This explains the immense international pressure that Eritrea experienced after that war which resulted in nearly two decades of isolation. During that time, the country has been accused of human rights abuses against its population, including through what some have reported is its de facto policy of indefinite conscription.

President Isaias Afwerki is considered to be a strong leader who exercises centralized control over the country. He’s also the former leader of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) which allied with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) during the Ethiopian Civil War and was thus jointly responsible for the rebels’ victory. Just as Afwerki subsequently went on to lead Eritrea after independence, so too did the TPLF essentially lead Ethiopia through the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). They eventually had an acrimonious falling out which contributed to their 1998-2000 war. It wasn’t until incumbent Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power and dismantled the EPRDF that the two countries finally agreed to peace.

I discussed Prime Minister Abiy’s inadvertently destabilizing reforms in a recent analysis asking, “Is There Still Any Hope Left For The Horn Of Africa?”, which goes much further in depth analyzing everything that’s recently happened there than is within the scope of the present piece. Readers should review it if they’re interested in learning more, but to oversimplify an admittedly complex situation, his visionary reforms prompted intense pushback from the TPLF, which later left the governing coalition, launched a rebellion in their native Tigray Region, was designated a terrorist group, and finally crushed through an ongoing military campaign there that’s also seen the contentious participation of Eritrean troops who’ve been accused of war crimes.

Before expanding further on that latest regional conflict, it’s important to point out that Eritrea previously took part in the GCC’s War on Yemen and even up until recently hosted an Emirati base. It remains unclear exactly why it decided to do this, but most observers agree that it was probably driven by a desire to procure much-needed funds for its struggling economy as well as pioneer a long-overdue breakout from its prolonged period of international isolation. Nevertheless, this development solidified the UAE’s growing influence over the Horn of Africa, which it later leveraged to facilitate the ultimately successful peace talks between Eritrea and Ethiopia that won Prime Minister Abiy the Nobel Peace Prize.

While Eritrea’s military involvement in that war resulted in a comparative reduction of international pressure upon it, that decision also harmed the country’s soft power insofar as it wasn’t to present itself any longer as a revolutionary state that always supports just causes and so on. It also prompted speculation that the opaque country’s economy was even worse than observers thought since it probably wouldn’t have done this if it didn’t desperately need the financial support that it received in exchange. Even so, the oft-repeated predictions among some that Eritrea is always just a step away from collapse have thus far failed to materialize, mostly due to the fact that the state itself still remains very strong (largely aided by the security services of course).

In contrast, neighboring Ethiopia has recently proven itself to be a lot weaker than some might have thought since it’s actually the regional country that’s nowadays on the brink of collapse, not Eritrea. The power reversal between these formerly acrimonious rivals tremendously plays in Eritrea’s favor, which isn’t lost on Ethiopia, hence why it requested Asmara’s military assistance in Tigray. That move was extremely symbolic since it showed that Ethiopia is no longer the regional hegemonic force that it used to be. It was also a deference to Eritrea’s comparative military strength since Ethiopia showed that it isn’t even able to control the situation within its own borders without foreign military support.

President Afwerki must have been pleased with this outcome. His vision has consistently been one of ensuring Eritrea’s security through asymmetrical and unconventional means in order to weaken Ethiopia from the inside-out, ergo its support for violent non-state actors in the region. Lo and behold, it ultimately wasn’t through militant means but political ones that Ethiopia ended up becoming destabilized, and by none other than its own hand through the inadvertent consequences of Prime Minister Abiy’s reforms. Not only that, but President Afwerki’s hated TPLF rivals became outcasts in the same country they once led, were designated as terrorists, and subsequently crushed through an Eritrean military intervention requested by Ethiopia itself.

As it presently stands, the geopolitical tables have certainly turned. It’s Eritrea, not Ethiopia, that’s the rising force in the region. Asmara, however, doesn’t intend to utilize conventional means to assert its influence. Rather, staying true to its his vision, President Afwerki seems to be cleverly manipulating the strategic situation behind the scenes through his intelligence services. His country simply can’t do much else considering how small and economically weak it is so this is the best use of its very limited resources by concentrating on its area of expertise. It’s more important to him at this moment to achieve tangible gains aimed at ensuring Eritrea’s security for years to come than to care all that much about the latest international pressure upon his country.

This explains why Eritrea controversially dispatched its troops to Tigray despite knowing that its previously secret military involvement there would eventually be exposed. The war crimes that it’s now accused of are very serious and have served to redirect international attention back to Eritrea, though of course not the kind that President Afwerki would have preferred. In his strategic calculations, however, the intervention was well worth the soft power cost since it symbolically showed that it’s Eritrea that’s calling the regional shots right now and not Ethiopia. In fact, Ethiopia tacitly confirmed that it can’t ensure security within its own borders without Eritrean support, thus showing how indispensable Asmara has become for Addis Ababa. President Afwerki is expected to take maximum advantage of this new power asymmetry to continue expanding Eritrea’s influence.

The Horn of Africa’s stability is intimately tied to Ethiopia’s, which is why Eritrea’s military intervention is of regional significance. Supporters believe that it helped restore stability to Ethiopia and therefore the entire region while critics claim that it further destabilized Africa’s second most populous country. Whichever side of the debate one is on, there’s no denying the game-changing importance of this campaign, for better or for worse. Even though both countries are now coming under intense Western pressure because of it, they still enjoy the support of key non-Western states like Russia and China. They could therefore rely more on the latter group of countries to compensate for the increase in pressure from the former.

To wrap everything up, Eritrea is now the most influential country in the Horn of Africa after its military intervention in Tigray showed the world just how drastically the tables have turned in the region. Ethiopia is struggling to contain newfound separatist threats unleashed as an unintended result of Prime Minister Abiy’s reforms, and it’s ironically doing this with Eritrea’s support for the first time ever despite Asmara being suspected of patronizing such forces in the past. Since the Horn of Africa’s future is tied to Ethiopia’s, and the latter has shown how reliant it is on Eritrea to ensure stability within its own borders, it therefore follows that the Horn of Africa’s future is being disproportionately shaped by Eritrea. President Afwerki has therefore fulfilled his vision of turning Eritrea into the region’s most indispensable country despite its “pariah” status.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Eritrea, Ethiopia, UAE, Horn of Africa, Tigray, Isaias Afwerki, Abiy Ahmed.


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Russia Should Consider Partnering With The UAE In The Horn Of Africa

20 MAY 2021

Russia Should Consider Partnering With The UAE In The Horn Of Africa

The Horn of Africa is arguably the most geostrategic part of the continent for the rest of the world at large so it’s only fitting that Russia crafts a comprehensive strategy for advancing its interests there, one which would become much more viable if it seriously considered partnering with the region’s de facto Emirati hegemon

The Horn Of Africa

Africa’s geostrategic significance is rising as Great Powers resume their historical scramble for influence, resources, and prestige there, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Horn of Africa. This region is arguably the most geostrategic part of the continent for the rest of the world at large given its position astride the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea (GARS) waterway connecting the Eastern Hemipshere’s maritime trade routes. It’s therefore only fitting that Russia crafts a comprehensive strategy for advancing its interests there which aligns with the model that it’s begun to experiment with across Africa, albeit of course custom tailored for the Horn of Africa’s specific context.

Background Briefing

My recent piece asking “Is Khodorkovsky Behind Claims Of Russian Death Squads In The Central African Republic” chronologically lists my 18 prior analysis over the years on Russia’s new African outreach strategy, which should be referenced by those with an interest in the topic. In particular, attention should be paid to the one about how “The Improvement Of Russian-Togolese Relations Is A Multipolar Masterstroke” since it summarizes most of what’s been going on recently. To be brief, Russia is employing a combination of “Democratic Security” programs (counter-Hybrid War tactics and strategies), strategic economic deals, and political support to bolster the viability of so-called “fragile states” and strengthen their nation-building efforts.

Challenges & Opportunities

The Horn of Africa though already has a panoply of very confident nations, most of which which live within the centrally positioned cosmopolitan state of Ethiopia that’s recently been under severe strain as a result of the incipient “Balkanization” processes inadvertently catalyzed by its new leader’s “glasnost” and “perestroika” attempts. They therefore don’t require, nor have requested, any of Russia’s “nation-building” support, though the several states comprising this region (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan) are still attractive destinations for Russian investment though provided that the Horn of Africa eventually stabilizes. That might not happen anytime soon though, yet Russia can’t wait much longer to more actively engage the region.

Russia’s Regional Entry Point

Moscow’s entry point appears to be the naval base that it plans to open in Sudan despite recent speculation about its future. With or without a military presence there though, Russia can still utilize this location to benefit from the prospective Sahelian-Saharan Silk Road that China might eventually advance as part of its worldwide Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) upon the end of the global economic crisis brought about by the world’s uncoordinated attempts to contain COVID-19 (“World War C”). Chad’s recent security challenges following the unexpected killing of its long-serving leader at the front lines of its latest war with rebel groups might further delay this project’s implementation, hence the need for Russia to diversify its regional economic outreaches.

The Prospects For Ethiopian Engagement

Ethiopia is therefore an exciting prospect and close historical ties support this possible direction of Russian policy, but there’s immense competition with China and the GCC so Moscow would need to find a suitable niche from which to establish its influence there. Interest exists on both sides since each aspires to improve their respective balancing acts via the other, but not much of tangible significance has occurred. Statements of intent are positive signs, but they aren’t anything substantive. Both sides should therefore urgently set up working groups at the intergovernmental and entrepreneurial levels to explore this more seriously. If successful, then more trade, security, and closer political ties would be mutually beneficial and also help the larger region.

Relegating The Rest Of The Region

Speaking of which, Russian engagement with the other three countries – Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia – remains minimal, which is unfortunate. They, too, are under a lot of external influence and have recently become scenes of intense rivalry between various powers, especially Somalia which is the scene of competition between Turkey and Qatar on one side and the UAE on the other. The latter engages mostly with the breakaway region of Somaliland, among the most stable and successful places on the continent despite its de facto independence being unrecognized. Closer Russian-Emirati coordination in recent years might in theory provide some openings to Moscow in that region, but it still remains to be seen whether it has the political will to engage Somaliland.

The (South) Yemeni Dimension

Regarding the UAE, Russia could also utilize its newfound ties with that country to expand its influence in Yemen, which can unofficially be regarded as a Horn of Africa country for strategic purposes. More specifically, Russia might revive its historical ties with the UAE-backed South Yemeni separatist movement, not necessarily in support of their independence agenda, but for practical reasons related to Moscow’s broader interests in the Horn of Africa region. Again, this would require political will to risk provoking the ire of its internationally recognized government just like it would Somalia’s in the event of engaging UAE-backed Somaliland, but this possible vector should be more closely studied by Russian strategists to assess the range of its pros and cons.

The Pros & Cons Of Engaging With The Emirates

Upon contemplating this, an intriguing possibility begins to emerge, and that’s of Russia partnering more closely with the UAE in the Horn of Africa in order to proverbially “piggyback” off of its recent strategic successes there. Observers have positivenegative, and neutral views of the UAE’s grand strategic vision, particularly in the Horn of Africa, which should also be considered by Russian experts before deciding whether to move ahead with this or not. Should they end up doing so, then it might be a game-changing development since the impact of a prospective Russian-Emirati Strategic Partnership in the Horn of Africa region could improve the viability of both players’ comprehensive engagement there.

From Mutual To Multilateral Benefits

For example, they’re each formidable military players in their own right, whether with respect to their conventional or unconventional (i.e. “mercenary”) forces, and each could entrench themselves in different economic niches in select countries like Ethiopia or their subregions such as Somaliland and South Yemen. Russia and the UAE also have different networks of partnerships across the world and particularly in Africa, so coming closer together could end up being multilaterally beneficial as well provided that they coordinate their respective visions. Nevertheless, closer Russian-Emirati ties might upset Turkey, which is expanding its influence in the Horn of Africa (specifically Somalia) and the rest of Africa more broadly, but should be manageable.

Concluding Thoughts

What’s basically needed is a breakthrough for accelerating and expanding Russia’s outreaches in the Horn of Africa region. Bilateral efforts with certain countries like Sudan and Ethiopia have failed to reap thus far apart from a possible naval base deal in Port Sudan, hence the proposal for considering a strategic partnership with the UAE, one that would imply closer engagement with the Emirates’ partners in Somaliland and South Yemen. Russia needs to objectively assess its capabilities and realize that closer ties with the Horn of Africa require regional modifications to the strategy that it’s presently employing in other parts of the continent. Moscow might not be able to do much on its own, but together with Abu Dhabi, they might make a major impact.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, UAE, Horn Of Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, Yemen, South Yemen, Balancing.


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MIDDLE EAST

SAUDI ARABIA:

  • A senior Saudi Arabian delegation visited Syria as part of a widescale attempt by Saudi Arabia to improve relations with those aligned with Iran. It s part of an initiative by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to an understanding that the US will return to the “Iran deal.” Some Gulf states, such as Oman and the UAE, have recently rekindled ties with the Syrian regime.

SOURCE: ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS THE NEW ARAB


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WHAT IS HAPPENING IN GEOPOLITICS? MIDDLE EAST:

DEFENCE ALLIANCE:

  • Israel is in talks with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to establish a four-nation defence alliance, i24NEWS reported. The report comes amid the news that Washington and Tel Aviv are set to summon a strategic group to work on Iran’s nuclear agreement. Previously, some partners, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have advocated for negotiating an expanded deal with Tehran to include Saudi Arabia and Israel, as well as stronger limits on Iran, but the Islamic Republic has rejected the suggestion.

SOURCE: SPUTNIK


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AFRICA:

SENEGAL:

  • In an attempt to counter Turkey’s expansion in West Africa, Egypt and the UAE seek to consolidate their ties with Senegal, the gateway to West Africa. The year 2020 witnessed intensive activities on the part of Turkey to consolidate its ties with West African countries, namely Senegal.

SOURCE: AL MONITOR


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Russia’s Red Sea Base In Sudan Is A Recalibration Of Its Intra-Ummah Balancing Act

Russia’s Red Sea Base In Sudan Is A Recalibration Of Its Intra-Ummah Balancing Act

16 NOVEMBER 2020

Russia

Russia’s draft deal to open up a Red Sea naval base in Sudan amounts to a strategic recalibration of its careful “balancing” act between the GCC and Turkey after moving more closely to the latter following the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which in turn shows how important Moscow regards its “Ummah Pivot” as being by seeking to maintain equally excellent relations with all majority-Muslim countries without any of its bilateral relations being misperceived as directed against any third country in this civilizational sphere.

A Deal Three Years In The Making

Some observers were surprised by reports late last week that a Russian government website published details of a draft deal pertaining to Moscow’s plans to open up a Red Sea naval base in Sudan, but this was actually something that’s been openly discussed for the past three years already. The author wrote about former President Bashir’s public invitation for Russia to do exactly just that during his visit to the Eurasian Great Power in November 2017 in his piece titled “Here’s Why Russia Might Set Up A Red Sea Base In Sudan”. The geopolitical situation has considerably changed since then following his overthrow last year, which the author also recently analyzed at length in an article about how “The Sudanese-‘Israeli’ Peace Deal Required Lots Of Behind-The-Scenes Maneuvering”, but some of his insight from that time is still relevant.

Russia’s Silk Road & “Democratic Security” Interests

For instance, Russia indeed hopes to gain influence along China’s prospective Sahelian-Saharan Silk Road that he first identified in early 2017 and which is expected to terminate precisely in Port Sudan, which is where Moscow plans to open up its naval base. There are still domestic military dimensions to this draft deal which could be taken advantage of by Sudan, though not necessarily in terms of preventing the country’s further Balkanization considering the recent peace deal between its warring sides. More specifically, they likely relate to the “Democratic Security” strategies that the author summarized in his October 2019 piece written during the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit about how “Africa Needs Russia More Than Ever, And This Week’s Sochi Summit Proves It”, in which some hyperlinks are now broken but can still be accessed via other sites.

The “Ummah Pivot”

The most pertinent point made in his prior topical analysis, however, relates to Russia’s “balancing” act. The hyperlinked piece from the preceding sentence introduced the author’s concept of the “Ummah Pivot”, which he describes as the recent prioritization of Russia’s relations with majority-Muslim countries stimulated by the West’s anti-Russian sanctions of the past six and a half years. Many observers predicted Russia to “pivot eastward” in the face of that economic warfare campaign, but in reality, the country ended up pivoting southward towards the international Muslim community (“Ummah”) in order to optimize its continental “balancing” strategy by incorporating a third element (the Ummah) into this supposedly binary choice between East (China) and West (EU).

The Unofficial Russian-Turkish Alliance

In the present geostrategic conditions, there’s little doubt after the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War that Russia and Turkey are the new power duo in the “Greater Mideast”, which the author coined “Putogan” in his latest analysis on the topic titled “Analytical Reflections: Learning From The Nagorno-Karabakh Fiasco”. Less than a week prior, he noted that “Russia & Turkey Stand To Lose The Most From A Biden Presidency”, predicting that the simultaneous pressure that might likely be placed upon them in that scenario could result in them being pushed into an unofficial alliance out of pragmatic necessity. That potential outcome would risk giving off the optics that Russia is a partisan player in the cold war between Turkey and the GCC, however, hence the need to preemptively recalibrate that aspect of its “balancing” act within its larger “Ummah Pivot”.

The Unofficial Russian-Emirati Alliance

Post-coup Sudan is practically a GCC protectorate nowadays, and it wouldn’t have been possible for Russia to clinch its draft deal for a Red Sea naval base in Port Sudan without the approval of the North African state’s new Gulf overlords. They seemingly understand the importance of improving military interoperability with Russia through the joint naval drills that they’ll likely carry out in the Red Sea upon this agreement’s conclusion. The UAE in particular is the most important extra-regional player in this strategic waterway as a result of its newly established bases in Eritrea and the de-facto independent Somali and Yemeni regions of Somaliland and South Yemen, as well as its hegemonic influence over Ethiopia after brokering its historic peace deal with Eritrea two years back. Russia has also been seeking to cultivate closer state-to-state military ties with the UAE as well.

The Syrian Convergence

Unofficially allying with the UAE in this trans-regional space could “balance” its unofficial alliance with Turkey elsewhere in the “Greater Mideast”, thus reinforcing the impression that Russia is indeed the neutral partner that it presents itself as being in the Ummah. This in turn preemptively thwarts any misperception about the grand strategic motives behind its “Ummah Pivot”, thus helping it to maintain its careful “balancing” act in this civilizational space. The two halves of its intra-Ummah “balancing” act might ultimately converge in Syria where Turkey and the GCC are intensely competing in this geostrategic state where Russian influence undoubtedly predominates. It would be a diplomatic masterstroke if Moscow was able to leverage its “balancing” act in pursuit of a lasting political solution there, though it’ll still take lots of time and skill to achieve, if ever.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Sudan, Horn Of Africa, Red Sea, UAE, Turkey, Ummah Pivot, Balancing, China, BRI.


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Middle East

MIDDLE EAST

  • UAE: United States is planning to sell advanced defense capabilities -that are worth $23.37 billion-to United Arab Emirates, a longtime vital U.S. security partner. The sale will make the UAE even more capable and interoperable with U.S. partners in a manner fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.

SOURCE: STATE GOV US

 

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