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When Israel Almost Bombed Iranian Nuclear Site Using Azerbaijani Airbases

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Populated by fluent Hebrew speakers, the Israel desk of Armenia’s foreign ministry waited back in 1991 in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union for a phone call that never came.

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The ministry was convinced that Israel, with whom Armenia shared an experience of genocide, were natural allies.

The ministry waited in vain. Israel never made the call. The shared experience could not compete with Armenia’s Turkic nemesis, Azerbaijan, with which it was at war over Nagorno Karabagh, an Armenian enclave on Azerbaijani territory.

“The calculation was simple. Azerbaijan has three strategic assets that Israel is interested in – Muslims, oil and several thousand Jews. All Armenia has to offer is at best several hundred Jews,” said an Israeli official at the time.

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Azerbaijan had one more asset: close ties to Turkey, which supported it in the war against Armenia. As a result, Israel and Jewish organizations with long-standing ties to Turkey refrained for years from participating in annual commemorations of the 1915 mass murder of Armenians.

In a sign of the times, that may be changing.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s strained relations with Israel and the West, his touting of implicitly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, hollowing out of Turkish democracy and offensive against Syrian Kurds who played a key role in defeating the Islamic State, appears to have turned the tide.

The US Congress as well as major American Jewish organizations have laid Turkish objections by the wayside and recognized the mass murder of Armenian as genocide.

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“One thing is certain: Armenians and Jews, two groups whose similar history makes them natural allies, will improve their relationships,” said historian and political scientist Marc David Baer.

Mr. Baer may have spoken too early. While relations with Turkey may no longer be a consideration, relations with Azerbaijan are. To be sure, Azerbaijan’s human rights record is hardly better than that of Turkey.

Yet, predominantly Shiite Azerbaijan, like Armenia, borders on Iran.

With tension between the United States and Iran on the rise, that could be of significance. President Donald J. Trump tweeted earlier this week that he had ordered the US Navy to destroy any vessels in the Gulf that harassed American navy ships.

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Mr. Trump posted his tweet after Iranian Revolutionary Guard gun speedboats had made, according to the US, “dangerous and harassing approaches.”

The approaches were part of Iran’s strategy of gradual escalation that aims to bring the United States and the Islamic republic to the brink of war in a bid to force a return to the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program.

The Trump administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran.

The International Crisis Group, in an effort to pre-empt the tit-for-tat from escalating out of control, called this week for a US-Iranian military hotline. “A mechanism facilitated by a third party might contain the risk of conflict due to misreading signals and miscalculation,” the group said.

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Lurking in the background as the United States and Israel focus on getting a grip on the coronavirus and the pandemic’s economic fallout is the fact that Iran’s gradual breaching of the nuclear accord has put the Islamic republic within reach of the amount of enriched uranium needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

The breaches were part of Iran’s so far failed attempt to pressure the United States as well as an effort to force other signatories to compensate it for losses suffered by the US sanctions.

Iran has consistently denied that it aims to obtain a nuclear capability. It has breached the nuclear deal without abrogating the agreement that was also signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union.

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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned last month that Iran had nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium and was refusing to answer questions about three possible undeclared nuclear sites.

Concern about Iran’s military capability was boosted this week with the Islamic republic’s successful launch of a satellite and unveiling of a full-blown space program managed by the Revolutionary Guards.

Add to that a just-published study of the Iranian navy that concludes “based on its doctrine of naval warfare, the Iranian revolutionary naval forces have embarked on a fast-paced rearmament and re-equipment program during the past two decades, aimed at offsetting the U.S. Navy’s military presence in the Persian Gulf region.”

All of which demonstrates the failure of the United States’ maximum pressure campaign against Iran and the country’s abilities despite sanctions and a pandemic.

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Israel made clear in the years prior to the signing of the nuclear accord that it would not allow Iran to get within a year of being able to build a nuclear weapon. At the time, Israel and Azerbaijan discussed the possibility of the Israeli air force using Azerbaijani airbases should it opt to take out the Islamic republic’s nuclear facilities.

Talk of an Israeli strike has not yet been revived amidst the current escalating US-Iranian tension, but that does not mean it will not. For Armenia’s Israel experts, this means that there is no point in once again waiting for an Israeli phone call. That call is not coming any time soon.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. 

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Asia Pacific

India can ‘no longer’ choke China at the Strait Of Malacca as Beijing finds solution

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia through which the majority of Chinese imports pass. The narrow waterway also makes the perfect chokepoint from the perspective of India, and should tension between Beijing and New Delhi rise, the Malacca Strait can be blocked easily by India. 

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Could the advantage that India enjoys over China due to the Strait of Malacca be coming to an end? Does China have a way to tackle the Indian plans of chocking Beijing at the Malacca Straits – the strategic waterway, in case of a war?

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India’s position at the mouth of the Malacca Strait has created panic amongst Chinese officials as they try to find an alternative route, writes the Forbes.

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia through which the majority of Chinese imports pass. The narrow waterway also makes the perfect chokepoint from the perspective of India, and should tension between Beijing and New Delhi rise, the Malacca Strait can be blocked easily by India.

India’s natural position in the Indian Ocean, with basing capabilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the mouth of the strait, would allow its navy to cut it off in the event of a crisis or war with China.

Keeping in mind the recent flare-up between India and China, Larry Bond, renowned naval author and creator of the Harpoon war game series, says that if India wanted to block trade with China, all it has to do is its park ships at the mouth of the Malacca Strait.

The vast majority of China’s oil imports, from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and Angola, pass by this route. Due to the strategic importance of the waterway, there is fear amongst Chinese officials that India could block the Malacca Strait in case of war.

Experts at EurAsian Times believe that the strategic importance of the Malacca Strait and the advantage it gives to India will likely reduce over time as Beijing find alternative routes.

Bypassing the Malacca Strait

The fact India enjoys a strategic advantage over China because of the Malacca Strait has forced Beijing to explore other options and find ways around the waterway.

One such option is Gwadar Port in Pakistan. As part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Beijing has developed the port in Gwadar so that goods unloaded there will be shipped overland to China.

On June 8 the Pakistani government approved a $7.2bn upgrade to a railway which will connect Gwadar to Kashgar, China. The port is not yet operating at capacity, but the direction seems clear.

While Gwadar is still susceptible to an attack by the Indian Air Force (IAF), it adds political and military risks as it is in a third country’s territory. The Indian Navy could try and block this port but it would require ships to move away from the Malacca Strait.

The other option Beijing is exploring is Northern Sea Route in the Arctic which could create a ‘Polar Silk Road.’ The importance of this is underlined by China’s 2018 Arctic policy. It asserts, “Geographically, China is a “Near-Arctic State”, one of the continental States that are closest to the Arctic Circle.”

The policy statement goes on to say, “China hopes to work with all parties to build a “Polar Silk Road” through developing the Arctic shipping routes.”

Due to accelerated global warming, ice sheets are receding, thus making it possible for ships to travel via this route. Having sent its first ship through the region in 2013, Beijing is now investing in port infrastructure in the Arctic which connects to Europe.

China is also investing in designing ice breakers, vessels that would ease navigation through the Arctic. With help from Finnish Aker Arctic, China launched its first locally built ice breaker the Xue Long 2 in 2018.

Apart from exploring new waterways and developing strategic ports, Beijing is developing a land route directly to Europe, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), mainly as a way to export goods.

Thousands of trains are transversing across Asia in recent times, the modern-day version of the ancient Silk Road. Land routes are one way China can reduce the criticality of Chinese sea routes.

The strategic importance of the Strait of Malacca to China will lessen over a period of time. India will still be in a position to throttle Chinese supply lines there, but it will not have the same impact that it once had.

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Americas

India Bets Big On Nikki Haley To Emerge As Vice Presidential Candidate Under Trump

Nikki Haley has echoed some of the same arguments Donald Trump has made on national topics such as cancel culture, defunding police forces and statue removal, although the tone and frequency between Trump and Haley differ dramatically.  

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India has pinned hopes on Nikki Haley to become the US Vice President (VP) should Donald Trump get re-elected this November. Haley, a first-generation Indian American, is expected to strengthen Indo-American relation and also attract a lot of voters including women and minorities.

According to the reports, there is speculation that Trump might switch out Vice-President Mike Pence for Nikki Haley as his running mate in the hopes of boosting his lagging approval numbers among the broader electorate.

Despite resigning as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Haley has been active in politics. She has been fundraising for Republican congressional candidates as well as in the Senate and gubernatorial arena.

She has set up a non-profit organization to boost her policy priorities and has continued to pen editorials on foreign policy. And Hailey has retained a small, tightly knit orbit of advisers.

The former governor of South Carolina, Haley is one of the people who left the Trump Administration on good terms. She has even promised to campaign for the President for his re-election bid.

Haley has echoed some of the same arguments Donald Trump has made on national topics such as cancel culture, defunding police forces and statue removal, although the tone and frequency between Trump and Haley differ dramatically.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, Haley’s recent moves can be seen as a carefully executed plan to stay involved in key Republican policy circles and the national discourse. Haley has fundraised for almost a dozen Republican Senate candidates, many of them in tough re-election races, and has been a special guest at Republican Governors Association (RGA) events.

While Haley has dismissed reports about her running for VP, her being an influential person of colour could help Trump win constituencies he is currently losing.

India pinning hopes on Nikki Haley

The US Presidential elections are a spectacle observed globally and India would be hoping Trump wins and Haley gets elected as the VP. Haley enjoys nationwide popularity amongst Indian-Americans and her election as VP could lead to stronger ties between Washington and New Delhi.

She has natural links to India with her parents having emigrated to the US in the 1960s from Punjab. Haley has often pointed out that India is an example of a free government and recently even applauded New Delhi’s decision to ban 59 Chinese applications and for standing up to China.

With an Indian-American at the helm of affairs, New Delhi would see it as an opportunity to get closer to Washington. It could lead to India benefitting in the areas of trade, defence and investment and would be a huge blow to neighbours China and Pakistan.

US Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in November and will be contested between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. While Biden’s re-election does not mean that India and the United States will have weak relations, having Trump in the White House and Haley as VP would definitely lead to stronger Indo-American ties.

Armaan Srivastava. Views Personal

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Americas

Russian T-14 Armata Tanks Now On Sale; Hopes To Challenge US’ M1 Abrams

The T-14 is part of the Armata’s heavily tracked standardized platform, which serves as the basis to develop the main battle tank, an infantry fighting vehicle, an armoured personnel carrier and other armoured vehicles.

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Russia’s T-14 Armata tank will be up for sale from 2021. This was announced by Denis Manturov – Industry and Trade Minister of Russia. He said that they are already receiving requests for the deadly T-14 Armata tanks from several foreign customers.

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The T-14 is part of the Armata’s heavily tracked standardized platform, which serves as the basis to develop the main battle tank, an infantry fighting vehicle, an armoured personnel carrier and other armoured vehicles. It has fully digitized equipment, an unmanned turret and an isolated armoured capsule for the crew.

“Russian producers are ready to offer potential buyers both air defence systems, such as the S-300 and the S-400 and advanced aircraft and helicopters,” explained Dmitry Shugayev, Head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation.

“We are preparing the MiG-35 light fighter for sale and are promoting the latest T-14 ‘Armata’ tank,” he added.

The Armata T-14 was first demonstrated during the Victory Day Parade in May 2015 in Moscow. The actual production of the tanks was delayed. The first nine T-14 Armatas were originally planned to be handed over to the Russian Ground Forces (RGF) in 2018. This date then got pushed to 2019 and then to 2020.

Russia hopes that the T-14 Armata tank will give a tough competition to America’s M1 Abrams that destroyed thirty-seven of the Soviet-designed T-72s during the 1991 Gulf War.

T-72s remain Russia’s primary battle tank, supplemented by turbine-engine T-80s and four hundred more advanced T-90s. According to Sébastien Roblin, an expert on security and militarywhile Russia may finally have a 125-millimetre sabot round that can threaten Western main battle tanks at the range, only its handful of new T-14s tank are capable of actually using it.

Experts claim that the 2A82 gun could be retrofitted to numerous older T-90s and T-72s so far appear not to have materialized.

Despite Russia’s defence spending, the Russian military has continued with the production of the new tank. The production is overseen by Rostec Corporation, the Moscow conglomerate that specializes in consolidating strategically important companies in Russia’s defence sector.

It has undergone field testing in Syria. Although the extent of testing and the results are still unclear, a Russian media outlet suggested that “one Armata was completely destroyed.” There’s no confirmation on that but it might not look good to its buyers.

“It [the T-14 Armata tank] is expensive because it is still undergoing extra trials and modernization after the defence ministry requested additional technical solutions in order to begin serial supplies starting from the next year under the existing contract,” said Manturov in April this year.

He further said that next year, when serial supplies of these tanks to the defence ministry are launched and an export certificate is obtained, they will begin to work with foreign clients. “Preliminarily, bearing in mind that we cannot provide all the documentation to our foreign clients. We do have preliminary orders,” he added.

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