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.”


Hong Kong police begin to clear streets of protesters

An ambulance is pictured surrounded by thousands of protesters dressed in black during a new rally against a controversial extradition law proposal in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019
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Hong Kong police begin to clear streets of protesters

  • Nearly 2 million of the city’s 7 million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organizers

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police and protesters faced off Monday as authorities began trying to clear the streets of a few hundred who remained near the city government headquarters after massive demonstrations that stretched deep into the night before.
The police asked for cooperation in clearing the road. Protesters, many in masks and other gear to guard against possible use of tear gas, responded with chants, some kneeling in front of the officers. The move came after activists rejected an apology from the city’s top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.
Hundreds of protesters sat on and along a main road through downtown, but they were scattered over a relatively wide area.
Activists called on Hong Kong residents to boycott classes and work, though it was unclear how many might heed that call.
Nearly 2 million of the city’s 7 million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organizers. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the “peak period” of the march. A week earlier as many as 1 million people demonstrated to voice their concern over Hong Kong’s relations with mainland China in one of the toughest tests of the territory’s special status since Beijing took control in a 1997 handover.
After daybreak Monday, police announced that they want to clear the streets. Soon after, police lined up several officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a street in central Hong Kong.
The night before, as protesters reached the march’s end thousands gathered outside the city government headquarters and the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who on Saturday suspended her effort to force passage of the bill.
Hong Kong residents worry that allowing some suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China would be another of many steps chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms and legal autonomy. One concern is that the law might be used to send criminal suspects to China to potentially face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair trials.
The protesters are demanding that Lam scrap the proposal for good and that she step down.
Protesters are also angered over the forceful tactics by police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other forceful measures as demonstrators broke through barricades outside the city government’s headquarters to quell unrest during demonstrations on Wednesday, and over Lam’s decision to call the clashes a riot. That worsens the potential legal consequences for those involved.
In a statement issued late Sunday, Lam noted the demonstrations and said the government “understands that these views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong.”
“The chief executive apologizes to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledges to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public,” it said.
Not enough, said the pro-democracy activists.
“This is a total insult to and fooling the people who took to the street!” the Civil Human Rights Front said in a statement.
Protesters have mainly focused their anger on Lam, who had little choice but to carry through dictates issued by Beijing, where President Xi Jinping has enforced increasingly authoritarian rule. But some were skeptical that having Lam step down would help.
“It doesn’t really matter because the next one would be just as evil,” said Kayley Fung, 27.
Many here believe Hong Kong’s legal autonomy has been significantly diminished despite Beijing’s insistence that it is still honoring its promise, dubbed “one country, two systems,” that the territory can retain its own social, legal and political system for 50 years after the handover in 1997.
After Lam announced she was suspending the legislation to avoid more violence and allow additional debate, Chinese government officials issued multiple statements backing that decision. Lam, however, made clear she was not withdrawing it.
She has sidestepped questions over whether she should quit and also defended how the police dealt with last week’s clashes with demonstrators.
Lam insists the extradition legislation is needed if Hong Kong is to uphold justice, meet its international obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives. The proposed bill would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.
So far, China has been excluded from Hong Kong’s extradition agreements because of concerns over its judicial independence and human rights record.
Prosecutions of activists, detentions without trial of five Hong Kong book publishers and the illegal seizure in Hong Kong by mainland agents of at least one mainland businessman are among moves in recent years that have unnerved many in the city of 7 million.