Russia not aligned with Iran, say experts

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Russia’s relationship with Iran in the wake of US sanctions is “not strategic,” and ties with Riyadh are a priority say experts at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate. (Emirates Policy Center)
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Russia’s relationship with Iran in the wake of US sanctions is “not strategic,” and ties with Riyadh are a priority say experts at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate. (Emirates Policy Center)
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Russia’s relationship with Iran in the wake of US sanctions is “not strategic,” and ties with Riyadh are a priority say experts at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate. (Emirates Policy Center)
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Russia’s relationship with Iran in the wake of US sanctions is “not strategic,” and ties with Riyadh are a priority say experts at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate. (Emirates Policy Center)
Updated 12 November 2018
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Russia not aligned with Iran, say experts

  • Moscow’s ties with Riyadh are a priority, speakers have told the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate
  • Russia recognizes that the two greatest threats to the region are “political Islam” and “Iran’s bid for expansion of power”

ABU DHABI: Russia’s relationship with Iran in the wake of US sanctions is “not strategic,” the chair of the comparative politics department at Russia’s MGIMO University told the fifth Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate on Sunday.
Russia remains committed to strengthening relations with Saudi Arabia and ensuring regional stability, said Dr. Oxana Gaman-Golutvina.
When asked about Russia’s relationship with Iran in the wake of Moscow planning to defy US sanctions and purchase Iranian imports, she said: “This doesn’t mean a lack of principle, and doesn’t mean Russia aligns itself (with Iran).”
Moscow is “disappointed” about the US re-imposing strict sanctions on Iran, fearing it will heighten its nuclear activities, she added.
But Russia recognizes that the two greatest threats to the region are “political Islam” and “Iran’s bid for expansion of power,” said Gaman-Golutvina.
Moscow wants to bring an end to the conflict between Iran and Arab Gulf states, she added.

“Coordination with Iran wasn’t very successful,” she said, adding that Russia’s coordination with Saudi Arabia has been “more successful” due to bilateral agreements in the field of nuclear energy.
Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, said: “Russia’s goals are rational, and I think they’re achieving them.”
Building relations with Gulf nations, especially Saudi Arabia, is “top of Russia’s dashboard,” he added.
“One of its key goals is to be a key player in the Middle East, in Syria, Libya, Egypt, and its relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
On the panel “Temptation of Power: US Policies,” the senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute said every American president for more than the last half-century had come into office saying he did not wish to be engaged in foreign policy in the way his predecessor was.
“The reality is, if you ignore foreign policy it finds you and grabs you,” said Danielle Pletka. “The world won’t let the US disengage.”
Dr. Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said in a time of “rapid and systematic global transformation,” collaboration between Arab Gulf states and their Western allies is critical in building a strong new order in the region.
“New dangers (such as) terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and climate change have appeared, new movements (such as) globalization, technologies and women empowerment have emerged, and new centers of strategic and economic powers such as China, India and the Arab Gulf are developing,” he added.
“We need to build a strong and moderate Arab center that takes on an increasing responsibility for addressing our common regional security channels.”
Saudi Arabia is playing a leading role in shaping a peaceful and prosperous Arab world, Gargash said.

“For this Arab-led approach to be successful, we must continue to develop our own capabilities,” he added.
“It’s critical that Saudi Arabia and Egypt play a leading role in helping to steer the region in a more positive direction. Their stability is so important for the future of the whole region.”
Iran’s role as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism was a hot topic at the conference, as international experts highlighted the growing need to combat Tehran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.
“Since 1979, Iran has been a primary source of sectarianism in the region, expanding its development and proliferation of ballistic missiles,” said Gargash.
“We supported Iran. We gave them a chance, but this softer approach failed. Iran only strengthened its development and proliferation of ballistic missiles,” he added.
“It has intensified its funding, arming and enabling violent proxies like the Houthis. It caused cyberattacks. It plotted terrorism, conflicts and assassinations in the Middle East, Europe and beyond. We need a new approach.”
Gargash lauded US President Donald Trump for walking away from the Iran nuclear deal.
“We need a common approach by all responsible nations, including our friends in Europe, to recognize the obvious need in standing up to Iran’s menacing activities,” Gargash said.
“There must be a new arrangement with Iran that addresses all the issues, not just the nuclear issues. This will be the first step in recognizing Iran as a true partner in the region.”
Dr. Andrew Parasiliti, director of the Center for Global Risk and Security at the Rand Corp., said: “Iran doesn’t operate in the realm of peace. They operate well in the realm of conflict.”
Dr. Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, president of the Emirates Policy Center, said Saudi Arabia is a political, economic and religious balancing power, in addition to Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, as they possess human resources and other qualifications to play that role.
Dr. Sultan Al-Nuaimi, a faculty member at Abu Dhabi University, highlighted the UAE’s relations with Saudi Arabia, citing the Kingdom as a “leader” when it comes to shaping a prosperous and peaceful future for the region.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Nahas, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council, highlighted the important relationship between the Kingdom and the UAE in fighting regimes that sponsor terrorism, such as Iran’s, and tackling Qatar’s regional “interference.”


Trump picks ambassador to Canada for UN post

U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft takes part in a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Trudeau's office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 3, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 40 min 5 sec ago
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Trump picks ambassador to Canada for UN post

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump announced Friday that he has selected Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to Canada, as his nominee to serve as the next US ambassador to the United Nations.
Trump said in a pair of tweets that Craft “has done an outstanding job representing our Nation” and he has “no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level.”
Two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters had told The Associated Press that Trump had been advised that Craft’s confirmation would be the smoothest of the three candidates he had been considering to fill the job last held by Nikki Haley.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, had backed Craft for the post, and she also has the support of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, the people said. Trump’s first pick to replace Haley, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew over the weekend.
Craft, a Kentucky native, was a member of the US delegation to the UN General Assembly under President George W. Bush’s administration. She is also friends with McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and thanked Chao for her “longtime friendship and support” at her swearing-in as ambassador.
As US ambassador to Canada, she played a role in facilitating the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump had also considered US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and former US Senate candidate John James of Michigan for the post.
Nauert’s withdrawal from consideration came amid a push within the administration to fill the position, given a pressing array of foreign policy concerns in which the United Nations, particularly the UN Security Council, is likely to play a significant role. From Afghanistan to Venezuela, the administration has pressing concerns that involve the world body, and officials said there had been impatience with the delays on Nauert’s formal nomination.
Trump said Dec. 7 that he would pick the former Fox News anchor and State Department spokeswoman for the UN job, but her nomination was never formalized. Notwithstanding other concerns that may have arisen during her confirmation, Nauert’s nomination had languished in part due to the 35-day government shutdown that began Dec. 22 and interrupted key parts of the vetting process. Nauert cited family considerations in withdrawing from the post.
With Nauert out of the running, officials said Pompeo had been keen on Craft to fill the position. Although Pompeo would like to see the job filled, the vacancy has created an opportunity for him and others to take on a more active role in UN diplomacy. On Thursday, for example, Pompeo was in New York to meet with UN chief Antonio Guterres.
Trump has demoted the UN position to sub-Cabinet rank, in a move backed by both Bolton and Pompeo, according to three other officials. Grenell had suggested he wasn’t interested in a non-Cabinet role. The officials were not authorized to discuss internal personnel deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Haley had been a member of the Cabinet and had clashed repeatedly with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others during the administration’s first 14 months. Bolton was not a Cabinet member when he served as UN ambassador in President George W. Bush’s administration, and neither he nor Pompeo is eager to see a potential challenge to their foreign policy leadership in White House situation room meetings, according to the officials.
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said Craft was appointed ambassador to Canada because of her financial contributions to the Trump campaign, but said that’s not unusual as past ambassadors have also contributed to presidents who have appointed them.
“I think Ottawa has regarded Craft as a light weight, partly because of her background and partly because the sense is that Trump, unlike his predecessors, doesn’t listen to his ambassadors or care what they think,” Wiseman said.
Craft is married to billionaire coal-mining executive Joe Craft, and they are major Republican donors.
Craft has been ambassador during a low point in relations. Last year Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weak and dishonest, words that shocked Canadians.