Putin, Raisi and Erdogan have less in common than it appears

Putin, Raisi and Erdogan have less in common than it appears

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Tuesday’s three-way summit in Tehran, the first to bring the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran together since 2019, put many common issues on the table, but with a diverse agenda. So diverse, in fact, that the chances of Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ebrahim Raisi agreeing on everything, when the three are facing unique challenges, were remote at best.
The Tehran meeting came a few days after US President Joe Biden participated in an extraordinary high-level meeting in Jeddah, hosted by Saudi Arabia and attended by the GCC leaders plus the heads of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. The outcome of the Jeddah summit was in contrast with the bilateral US-Israel declaration signed only two days before while Biden was visiting Israel.
While the main component of the so-called Jerusalem Declaration was a vow not to allow Iran to militarize its nuclear program, the message from Jeddah was articulated in a way that keeps the door open for an Arab reconciliation with Iran. There was no mention of an anti-Iran Middle Eastern version of NATO, with Israel as a member.
The Iranian leadership will appreciate the value of the messages coming from Jeddah. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that Riyadh continues to extend its hand to Tehran. The UAE announced that it is considering sending an ambassador to Iran, which Tehran has also welcomed.
But the leaders’ meeting in Tehran had other issues to consider. Putin wants to sign with Iran a comprehensive strategic treaty, whose main objective is to lessen the effect of Western sanctions on Moscow and create an anti-American alliance. Tehran can go as far as siding with Putin, but not at the expense of losing an opportunity, feeble as it may be, to end Western oil sanctions.

Tehran can go as far as siding with Putin, but not at the expense of losing an opportunity to end Western oil sanctions.

Osama Al-Sharif

For Iran — where a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Kamal Kharrazi, announced this week that Tehran had the capability to build a nuclear bomb but it chooses not to — an 11th-hour deal to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement remains possible. An anti-Western alliance with Moscow at this stage would not help conclude a deal that Tehran badly wants.
For Putin, any semblance of support from states with an axe to grind with America is a good thing. But there are limits to such support. For Tehran, normalizing ties with Riyadh would carry huge geopolitical value. Such rapprochement could end many of the region’s conflicts. At the end of the day, Iran is aware of its geographical destiny as a neighbor of the Arab Gulf states.
For Erdogan, a pragmatic leader who has no qualms about shifting sides and switching positions, cementing his presence and influence over two anti-US countries is enough to keep Turkey a major geopolitical player regionally and beyond. He has been threatening to launch a major military operation in northern Syria for weeks. But Moscow and Tehran have different takes on such an operation. Why Ankara wants to engage in a risky military adventure in northern Syria is difficult to fathom.
Iran has stated that it opposes any operation that threatens the territorial integrity of Syria. Moscow is also not happy with Turkey’s meddling in Syria, which it sees as an extension of its own geopolitical influence in the region. The fact that Moscow is caught up in the Ukrainian quagmire makes it apprehensive about any serious shift in the balance of power in Syria.
Topping all this is the fact that Israel, in the wake of Biden’s visit, has made direct threats toward Tehran. On Monday, Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi said that the military is preparing for the possibility it will have to act against Iran’s nuclear program. Israel and Iran have been engaged in an indirect war for years. But the fact that Israel is considering an attack on Iran does not please anybody. The US, the Europeans and the Arab countries are in no mood to see another unpredictable war break out in the region. Certainly, when it comes to potentially igniting another war in the region, Israel is in a minority of one.
While the Tehran summit offered much in terms of a photo opportunity, a platform for some fiery statements and a semblance of an accord, the reality is that the three leaders have less in common than it appears. Their personal agendas are not in synergy and, while joint challenges may bring them together for now, dealing with them leaves much to be desired.

Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Erdogan presses case against Syria’s Kurds at Tehran summit despite Khamenei rebuke

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meet in Tehran on July 19, 2022. (WANA handout via REUTERS)
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Updated 20 July 2022

Erdogan presses case against Syria’s Kurds at Tehran summit despite Khamenei rebuke

  • The summit was ostensibly aimed at ending more than 11 years of conflict in Syria
  • Turkey is also deeply opposed to a semiautonomous Kurdish administration in Syria’s northeast

TEHRAN: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed his case for a military offensive against Syria’s Kurds at a summit in Tehran Tuesday, despite Iran’s supreme leader warning against such a move.

Erdogan told the leaders of Russia and Iran that he expected their full support in Ankara’s fight against “terrorists” in Syria.

The summit, hosted by Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and also attended by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, was ostensibly aimed at ending more than 11 years of conflict in Syria, where Iran and Russia support the Damascus government and Turkey supports rebel forces against the regime.

But Turkey is also deeply opposed to a semiautonomous Kurdish administration in Syria’s oil-rich northeast, and Erdogan has lately repeatedly vowed to launch an offensive against Kurdish militants, on the back of a 2019 onslaught.


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Both Russia and Iran have a military presence in parts of Syria mentioned as possible targets of Turkey’s new assault.

A statement by the three presidents “expressed their opposition to the illegal seizure and transfer of oil revenues that should belong to Syria,” while they also “rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground... including illegitimate self-rule initiatives” in the war-torn country.

The trilateral statement came shortly after Erdogan had urged Russia and Iran to back his efforts to combat terrorism in Syria, contending that “it should be understood clearly that there is no room in our region’s future for separatist terror organizations.”

“We will continue our fight against terrorist organizations in the time to come,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presses his case at the Tehran summit. (WANA handout via REUTERS)

Erdogan accuses outlawed Kurdish militants of using the border region as a staging post for their decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

“What we expect from Russia and Iran is their support for Turkey in its fight against terrorism,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.

Erdogan noted that Turkey had struck an agreement with Moscow and Washington in 2019 under which both countries were supposed to help push outlawed Kurdish militants 30 km away from the Syria-Turkey border.

“This still has not happened,” said Erdogan. “It is a long overdue.”

Washington and Moscow have also urged Turkey to exercise restraint.

Erdogan had earlier Tuesday earned a rebuke for his push for an offensive against Syria’s Kurds from Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei in a bilateral meeting ahead of the summit.

Khamenei told Erdogan such an offensive would be “detrimental” for the region and called for the issue to be resolved through dialogue between Ankara, Damascus, Moscow and Tehran.

A Turkey-backed fighter looks out from a military position in the Syrian area of Jibrin towards the Kurdish-controlled area of Tal Rifaat on July 19, 2022. (Bakr Alkasem / AFP)

It was not immediately clear whether the trilateral statement at the summit reflected any alteration in Iran’s or Russia’s position on Turkey’s threatened offensive.

Khamenei also on Tuesday urged strengthened energy cooperation with Moscow in a meeting with Putin.

Russia’s president traveled abroad for only the second time since ordering Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine in order to attend the gathering.

The summit came days after US President Joe Biden visited the Middle East for the first time in his presidency, with stops in Iran’s regional foes Israel and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, a country his government has pressed to increase oil output to ease a price spike related to the Ukraine war.
Khamenei called for stronger “long-term co-operation” with Moscow, according to a statement on his official website that noted both Moscow and Tehran are afflicted by Western sanctions.
Describing such ties as “deeply beneficial to both countries,” the supreme leader called for bilateral contracts and understandings in hydrocarbons to be “followed up and implemented fully.”
Prior to Putin’s arrival, the National Iranian Oil Company and Russia’s Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding “worth about $40 billion,” according to the Iranian oil ministry’s official news agency.
Putin and Erdogan also held a bilateral meeting where the Russian president said he wanted to “thank” his Turkish counterpart for progress on talks over Ukraine’s grain, according to the Kremlin.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has massively hampered shipments from one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat and other grain, sparking fears of global food shortages.
Turkey — a NATO member on speaking terms with both Russia and Ukraine — has spearheaded efforts to resume the grain deliveries.
Erdogan has for months been offering to meet Putin in a bid to help resolve heightened global tensions.
“I want to thank you for your mediation efforts,” Putin told Erdogan during the bilateral meeting, according to comments released by the Kremlin.
“We have moved forward,” Putin said, while adding “not all issues have yet been resolved.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Monday that Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports threatens supplies to countless thousands vulnerable to starvation.

On Sunday, a day after Biden ended his tour of the Middle East, Iran accused the United States of provoking crises in the region.
Biden had vowed the US would not “tolerate efforts by any country to dominate another in the region through military buildups, incursions, and/or threats,” in reference to Iran.
In a speech at a Saudi summit of Gulf Arab states as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, Biden assured those gathered that the US would remain fully engaged in the Middle East.
“We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” he said
Following the meeting, a joint statement committed the leaders to “preserve regional security and stability.”
It also underscored diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a goal Tehran has always denied seeking.
On Sunday, Iran accused the US of having “once again resorted to the failed policy of Iran-phobia, trying to create tensions and crises in the region.”
The US last week alleged Iran plans to deliver “hundreds of drones” to Russia to aid its war on Ukraine, an accusation the Islamic republic dismissed as “baseless.”

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Syria Kurds halt all joint ops with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks

Updated 1 min 49 sec ago

Syria Kurds halt all joint ops with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks

QAMISHLI: The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed group that helped defeat Daesh terrorists in Syria, has stopped all joint counter-terrorism operations as a result of Turkish bombardment on its area of control, a spokesman said Friday.
Turkiye has ramped up its shelling and air strikes on northern Syria in recent weeks and is preparing a ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters that it dubs terrorists but which make up the bulk of the US-supported SDF.
The SDF has long warned that fighting off a new Turkish incursion would divert resources away from protecting a prison holding IS fighters or targeting IS sleeper cells still waging hit-and-run attacks in Syria.
Aram Henna told Reuters that “all coordination and joint counter-terrorism operations with the coalition” as well as “all the joint special operations we were carrying out regularly” had had been halted.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder earlier told reporters that operations against IS had not stopped.
SDF head Mazloum Abdi earlier this week told Reuters he wanted a “stronger” message from Washington after seeing unprecedented Turkish deployments along the border.
“We are still nervous. We need stronger, more solid statements to stop Turkiye,” he said. “Turkiye has announced its intent and is now feeling things out. The beginning of an invasion will depend on how it analyzes the positions of other countries.”

Two Palestinians killed in Jenin city camp raid

Updated 02 December 2022

Two Palestinians killed in Jenin city camp raid

  • Israel strips human rights defender Salah Al-Hamouri of his Jerusalem residency, plans to deport him to France

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians on Thursday and injured two others during a West Bank arrest raid that sparked gun battles, confirmed Palestinian medical sources.

The Jenin city refugee camp raid at dawn also resulted in the arrest of nine people. 

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh warned of the severe consequences of the Israeli killings. He called on the world’s countries to intervene.

A general strike to mourn the two who were killed, Mohammed Al-Saadi and Naim Al-Zubaidi, was declared in the city.

According to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health, eight Palestinians have been killed and 10 injured in the West Bank during the past 72 hours.

Shtayyeh accused Israeli forces of “benefiting from the absence of accountability and punishment, under an international policy based on double standards.”

Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub, governor of Jenin, told Arab News that an atmosphere of pain, anger and sadness has overwhelmed the city due to the actions of the Israeli army, which “violates Palestinian lands and commits cold-blooded killing.”

He told Arab News that 54 Palestinians had been killed in Jenin since the beginning of this year.

Most of them were not involved in stone-throwing incidents, and they were not armed. Dozens were wounded, and many others have been detained.

“This is targeted killing and systematic state terrorism against the Palestinians,” the governor told Arab News.

Israeli armed forces issued an alert for expected rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel following the murder of the Jenin Brigade commander in Thursday’s early morning raid.

The Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission said that Israeli security authorities and settlers carried out 833 attacks against Palestinians during November.

It said the aggressive acts ranged from direct assaults on citizens to vandalism, land razing, the confiscation of property and more.

The attacks were concentrated in the Ramallah governorate with 170 attacks, followed by the Hebron governorate with 140, then the Nablus governorate with 111, said the commission.

In another development, Israeli authorities have decided to deport Palestinian prisoner Salah Al-Hamouri from East Jerusalem to France after the expiration of his detention on Sunday, Dec. 4.

Israelis arrested Al-Hamouri on March 22, and since then, he has been under administrative detention with no trial or known charge.

Human Rights Watch has called on the Israeli authorities to free Al-Hamouri and cancel their decision to deport him.

Activists said that Palestinian human rights defender Al-Hamouri “is at imminent risk of deportation” after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected on Nov. 30 an appeal against the Interior Ministry’s decision to revoke his Jerusalem residency status on the grounds of “breach of allegiance.”

This decision leaves Al-Hamouri with no legal status in Jerusalem. He will thus likely be deported on Sunday to France, as he also has French citizenship, human rights activists said.

“Salah Al-Hamouri’s case illustrates so many of the restrictive measures Israel is employing against Palestinians, including human rights defenders,” Jessica Montel, executive director of human rights organization HaMoked, told Arab News.

Among these are the “invasive surveillance technology, the criminalization of human rights organizations, the use of administrative detention, and the revocation of Jerusalem residency,” she said. “This is outrageous.

“As a member of the indigenous population of Jerusalem, Al-Hamouri owes no allegiance to the state of Israel. The fact that his residency was revoked largely based on secret evidence only exacerbates the injustice.”

Hassan Al-Hamouri, 66, father of Salah Al-Hamouri, told Arab News that the Israeli police summoned him on Nov. 29 and asked him not to raise Palestinian flags when receiving Salah on Sunday and not to organize official receptions.

He also said that the number of those receiving him should not exceed 20 at his house. 

Following this, Salah’s lawyer, Leah Tsemel, tried to talk to the police officer to find out what happened, but he refused to inform the lawyer anything.

The family later learned that Salah would be deported to France if he was released from Hadarim prison on Sunday.

Israeli authorities had previously deported Salah’s wife, who was pregnant in 2016, to France.

Palestinian human rights activists are concerned about Israel’s resumption of the deportation policy against Palestinians after it had been halted for many years.

Qadura Faris, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Arab News in a phone interview that deportation is the “harshest deterrent punishment practiced against Palestinian prisoners and citizens.

“Al-Hamouri is not accused of practicing violent acts against Israel, but rather he is a human rights activist and an administrative detainee without a specific charge. If such a person is expelled, what about the rest of the Palestinian prisoners?” 

Activists say 4,700 Palestinian prisoners are in Israeli prisons, while the number of Palestinians detained in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has reached 6,300 since the beginning of the year.

Iran probes killing of man celebrating World Cup loss

Updated 02 December 2022

Iran probes killing of man celebrating World Cup loss

  • "An investigation has been opened and a local prosecutor has been assigned to the case," Gilan province's prosecutor Mehdi Fallahmiri said
  • Human rights groups based abroad said Samak, 27, had been shot dead by Iranian security forces after honking his car horn during celebrations

TEHRAN: Iran said on Thursday it had opened an investigation into the death of a man who was shot while celebrating Iran’s World Cup defeat to arch enemy the United States.
The loss eliminated Iran’s national football team from the tournament in Qatar on Tuesday night, drawing a mixed response from pro- and anti-government supporters.
Following the match, “a person named Mehran Samak died suspiciously after being hit by shotgun pellets in the city of Bandar Anzali,” Gilan province’s prosecutor Mehdi Fallahmiri said, quoted by the judiciary’s Mizan Online website.
“An investigation has been opened and a local prosecutor has been assigned to the case,” he added.
Human rights groups based abroad said Samak, 27, had been shot dead by Iranian security forces after honking his car horn during celebrations that followed Iran’s loss to the United States.
The result sparked both scenes of joy and despair among Iranians in a country divided by protests that flared over the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
The 22-year-old, an Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after falling into a coma following her arrest for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s dress code for women.
The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Hossein Salami, said on Thursday Iran’s enemies had influenced youths who were happy with the football result.
“Today, they (the enemies) are all trying to sow the seeds of despair in the hearts of young people and some of them even showed their satisfaction afterwards and that they are happy with the elimination of the national football team,” he said.
“We must take measures to serve the people, because poverty and misery are also among the enemies of the country,” Salami said, according to the official news agency IRNA.
An Iranian general said on Monday that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest sparked by Amini’s death.
Oslo-based non-governmental organization Iran Human Rights said on Tuesday that at least 448 people had been “killed by security forces in the ongoing nationwide protests.”

Turkiye calls for US understanding ahead of possible Syria operation

Updated 01 December 2022

Turkiye calls for US understanding ahead of possible Syria operation

  • Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar: ‘The US asked us to re-evaluate; we emphasized that they should understand us’
  • US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday told his Turkish counterpart of his ‘strong opposition’ to a new Turkish military operation in Syria

ANKARA: Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar called on the United States on Thursday to show understanding over a possible new Turkish military operation in Syria, after Washington voiced its “strong opposition” to such a move.
Turkiye has been threatening a new incursion into northern Syria for months, and stepped up preparations last month after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul it blamed on a Kurdish militants.
“The US asked us to re-evaluate. We conveyed to them our sensitivities and thoughts, and asked them to keep their promises. We emphasized that they should understand us,” Akar told reporters.
Turkiye also asked allied countries that have a military presence in Syria not to allow local militias to use their flags and uniforms, Akar added. “We are reminding them that they should keep terrorists away from themselves and eventually they should cut their ties with terrorist organizations,” he said.
Turkiye sees the Kurdish YPG militia, the leading presence in the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as the Syrian wing of the PKK militant group and labels both of them as terrorist organizations.
The PKK is also considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
The PKK and SDF have denied involvement in the Nov. 13 bombing of a busy pedestrian avenue in Istanbul.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday told his Turkish counterpart of his “strong opposition” to a new Turkish military operation in Syria and voiced concern over the escalating situation in the county.


Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests

Updated 01 December 2022

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests

  • The players returned from Qatar late Wednesday, a day after their 1-0 loss
  • Anti-government protesters, considering the team a symbol of Iran's clerical rulers, had celebrated the loss in some Iranian cities with fireworks and cheers

BAGHDAD: Iran’s national soccer team received a subdued welcome home after their World Cup defeat against the United States, a match played against the backdrop of ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.
One Iranian man was shot dead celebrating the American victory.
The players returned from Qatar late Wednesday, a day after their 1-0 loss. Anti-government protesters, considering the team a symbol of Iran’s clerical rulers, had celebrated the loss in some Iranian cities with fireworks and cheers.
One man was shot dead by Iranian security forces in northwest Iran for honking his car horn in support of the US victory, the Oslo-based rights monitor Iran Human Rights reported on Thursday.
Iran’s treatment of the players will likely be scrutinized because they refrained from singing the Islamic Republic’s national anthem during their opening World Cup match. Many considered the move a show of solidarity with the protests. The team did sang the anthem in subsequent matches.
A few dozen fans greeted the national team’s return at Tehran’s international airport late Wednesday, with people cheering and waving the Iranian flag.
Yet the players have faced biting criticism from anti-government protesters who have blamed the team for not being more vocal about the security force’s violent put down of the demonstrations. Human rights groups say over 400 protesters have been killed in the crackdown, with thousands more arrested.
An image of players bowing in the presence of President Ebrahim Raisi before setting off to the tournament was widely criticized by activists on social media. A hard-line cleric, Raisi has likened protesters to “flies” and dismissed the movement as a foreign plot, without offering any proof.
Mehran Samak, 27, was shot dead after honking his car in support of the US win after Tuesday’s match in the city of Bandar Anzali in northwest Iran. Oslo-based Iran Human Rights reported he was “shot in the head by state forces when he went out to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s loss.”
Samak is also a childhood friend of Iranian midfielder Saeed Ezatollahi, who mourned his death on his social media. But again he received criticism from activists for not explicitly stating Samak was killed by government forces.
Many Iranian celebrities have however been targeted by the government with arrest or other measures for speaking out on behalf of the protesters.
Iranian officials acknowledged but downplayed compatriots celebrating the US win. Gen. Hossein Salami, chief of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, said those who had celebrated were doing so on “behalf of the enemies,” adding “it is not important to us.” His comments appeared in the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
A former culture minister and editor-in-chief of the Ettelaat newspaper, Abbas Salehi, who has close ties with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweeted: “Iran’s defeat in the game against America was bitter, but even more bitter was the happiness of some people.”
Iran was eliminated from the tournament in Qatar following the loss to the US on Tuesday that saw the players scrambling to score a goal in the last remaining minutes of the game. Striker Sardar Azmoun told reporters he was not satisfied with his performance in the last match.
It was the sixth time Iran has participated in the World Cup.
Anti-government protests first erupted in September, following the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police in the capital, Tehran. The protests quickly grew into the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocracy since its establishment in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.