As voters in Iran danced in the streets, celebrating the landslide re-election of a moderate as president, President Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”

That nation was – Iran.

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:11 P.M.) – The Turkish government has decided to send troops to Qatar. The looming decision was fast tracked, after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain pressured Qatar with allegations of terrorism support and cut their ties with the small Emirate.

According to the Reuters news agency with today’s positive parliamentary vote on the issue, Turkey is set to station its troops in Qatar and will provide combat training to Qatari forces. In consequence Qatar, which also hosts the US Central Command and 10.000 US troops at the Al-Udeid base, will  now have forces of NATO’s military wise two biggest members stationed on its territory.

Qatar – one of the richest countries in the world – thrust itself into the global spotlight on Monday morning, when six biggest Arab powers cut ties from the 2.5-million populated country over its alleged ties to terrorism.

Just hours after six Arab nations – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and the Maldives – severed diplomatic ties from Qatar, the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of more than $1.4 billion worth of military training and equipment for Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s biggest enemy in the region and the driving force behind the Qatari diplomatic crisis.

Meanwhile, Iran is threatening to declare war on any country that attacks a ship it says contains “humanitarian aid” currently making its way to Yemen, accompanied by warships. The warning came amid heightened tensions after the Islamic Republic seized a cargo ship last month.

Iran’s Powerful Revolutionary Guard stopped short of directly blaming Saudi involvement but called it “meaningful” that the attacks took place a week after President Donald Trump traveled to Riyadh. The Guard statement said that Saudi Arabia “constantly supports takfiri terrorists” and the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the Tehran attacks “reveals [Saudi Arabia’s] hand in this barbaric action.”

CBS News’ Mark Phillips reports on the terror attacks in Tehran that killed at least 12 people in a market and Iran’s parliament building.

The Syria-based terror group ISIS is active and recruiting inside the Middle Eastern state of Yemen, already a hotbed of terrorist activity, CNN has learned.

Qatar had fired the opening shot by what seemed to be open criticism of the Saudi-led and US-assisted anti-Iran alliance pushed by Donald Trump after his visit to Riyadh on May 21.

As voters in Iran danced in the streets, celebrating the landslide re-election of a moderate as president, President Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”

That nation was – Iran.

Iran vowed quick revenge after ISIS suicide bombers and gunmen stormed parliament and the mausoleum of the country’s revered spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing 13 people and injuring 41.

That revenge is likely to be swift and brutal based on the response to past terror attacks in the country, and won’t be tempered by the fact that all five attackers were killed by security forces. And it might not even be entirely aimed at preventing future terrorist attacks.

Iran’s Powerful Revolutionary Guard stopped short of directly blaming Saudi involvement but called it “meaningful” that the attacks took place a week after President Donald Trump traveled to Riyadh. The Guard statement said that Saudi Arabia “constantly supports takfiri terrorists” and the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the Tehran attacks “reveals [Saudi Arabia’s] hand in this barbaric action.”

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, says that the Trump administration and its Gulf allies are taking aim at Iran through the re-ignited dispute with Qatar. Sources also claim the Pentagon has directed U.S. troops to directly confront Iranian-backed forces inside Syria

The disturbing information comes from a Yemeni official, who told CNN on Wednesday that ISIS has a presence in at least three provinces in southern and central Yemen, and there is now a “real competition” between ISIS and the Yemen-based terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

The aid ship left southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on Monday and its destination is Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah on the Red Sea.

According to a statement allegedly released by aid workers, the ship carries 2,500 tons of medical supplies, flour, water and other aid, as well as relief workers, doctors, journalists and peace activists.

In Washington, US Army Col. Steve Warren said the US was monitoring the cargo ship and he warned that it would not be helpful if Iran is “planning some sort of stunt.” He said using Iranian warships to accompany the ship is not necessary and Iran should just send the cargo vessel to Djibouti, where humanitarian efforts for Yemen are being coordinated.

“The Iranians have stated that this is humanitarian aid,” Warren said.

“If that is the case, then we certainly encourage the Iranians to deliver that humanitarian aid to the United Nations humanitarian aid distribution hub, which has been established in Djibouti.”

“This will allow the aid to be rapidly and efficiently distributed to those in Yemen who require it,” he added.

There some six US warships already in the region around Yemen, including in the Gulf of Aden.

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke confirmed the United States was “certainly tracking this convoy closely.”

“We would discourage any provocative actions,” he added

The US and other Western countries have accused Iran of militarily backing the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis. Both the rebels and the Islamic Republic deny that.

Tuesday’s announcement comes after Iran seized a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship April 28 as it traversed the Strait of Hormuz, saying it was over a court dispute. The ship later was released, but sparked renewed tension between Iran and the US over the strait, the route for about a fifth of the world’s oil.

A five-day humanitarian cease-fire between a Saudi-led coalition and Shiite rebels and their allies began on Tuesday.

With this audacious move of Turkey a further escalation of the dispute between Qatar and its opposing coalition into an open conflict has become unlikely. How far, if at all, the US would have supported the Emirate was questionable, as officials have sent mixed signals.

While the US Defense Department avoided to answer the question, whether Qatar was a host of terrorist groups, it emphasized Qatar’s “enduring committment to regional security” and encouraged “all the parties involved to work together.” US President Donald Trump on the other hand signalled approval of the front against Qatar via Twitter.

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding … extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”, two tweets of the President read.

Last month during his first trip abroad, Trump met with members of the GCC in Saudi Arabia and signed a weapons delivery deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) worth 110 billion US Dollar, the single biggest US arms deal ever, which Trump said, would enable “Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.” In a speech the next day he described the KSA as having taken leadership in the regions’ fight against terrorism and singled out Iran as the major host of terrorism, that needs to be challenged.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both came to extreme wealth due to the nations vast natural resources like oil and gas and are also infamous for pouring financial support over a wide array of extremist groups throughout the Middle East including the Islamic State. For example former US State Secretary Hillary Clinton stated in a leaked e-mail, that “Qatar and Saudi Arabia […] are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”

Therefore terrorism support in general can be ruled out as the reason for the coalition around Saudi Arabia to confront Qatar. But peculiarly Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood sets it aside and is also shielding it from influence of the extreme Sunni confession of Wahhabism which predominant in Saudi Arabia and a major pillar of the Kingdom’s power structure.

Other nations in the region, consider the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) a threat. Traditionally this is the case in Syria, where the Muslim Brotherhood is also involved in the latest conflict. But the MB is very active in Egypt too, where it successfully overthrew then President Husni Mubarak in a widespread uprising in 2011, also popularized with the help of the Qatari owned tv-network Al-Jazeera.

Following the event Mohamed Morsi, a member of the MB, was elected President and ruled until in 2013 another round of protests resulted in a military coup and his ousting. But Qatar’s support for the MB is just one, though important, aspect exemplifying policy differences of the region’s states, due to their natural rivalry for influence.

Among the state’s confronting Qatar there are also tensions. For instance between the UAE and the KSA though allied against the Houthis in Yemen a major rift has shown. Groups affiliated with the UAE formed an autonomously ruled region in southern Yemen, despite KSA’s efforts to reinstall Yemen’s ousted President Hadi as the countries’ ruler.

But unlike the states now pressuring Qatar, the Emirate has and fosters good relations with Iran. Qatar, the world’s biggest supplier of liquified natural gas shares a major gas-field in the Gulf with Iran and has cast for itself the role of a soft power and neutral mediator between competitors in the Middle East. This stance of course collides with the vision of a coalition against Iran, promoted by Trump and embraced by the KSA and Bahrain, for which Iran is a nemesis to tackle.

The animosities are also based in religious differences, as Iran’s state religion is Shiism. Therefore in Bahrain the government fears Iran’s influence on the dissatisfied mostly Shiite population. In the KSA Shiites stem the majority in the countries’ oil rich east and are of course in a perpetual conflict with the state’s fostering of Wahhabism, which despises Shiites as apostates.

Turkey on the other hand, has recently started a rapprochement with Iran and currently deepens it’s trade ties with the country. The two nations, supporting opposing parties in the Syrian conflict, on May 4 also agreed together with Russia, to implement de-escalation zones in Syria, which could prove as a first step to end the 6 years old conflict.

Turkey despite being a NATO member, has seen it’s relations to many Western NATO members including the US rapidly deteriorate in recent years. Especially with the failed military coup in Turkey last year. Turkish President Erdogan in a speech broadcasted on live-tv accused the West of orchestrating the coup: “This coup attempt has actors inside Turkey, but it was written outside. Unfortunately the West is supporting terrorism and stands by coup plotters.”

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:35 A.M.) – A large convoy of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) has been noticed moving towards Iraqi-Saudi border.

Iraqi journalist, Haidar Sumeri, published a video footage of the convoy travelling through desert terrain:

This comes amid sharpening tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar as the latter is on the verge of partial diplomatic isolation.

According to Sumeri, Iraqi authorities have already built a Najaf – Karbala – Saudi border defense line, and current deployment of PMU is the next stage of Iraq’s security build-up near southern border.

It is also noteworthy that Iraqi government openly expressed support for Qatar in their conflict with Saudi Arabia, saying that “Qatar is being unfairly accused”.

Turkey also has strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and in an interview with the Saudi owned Al-Arabiya news network in February Erdogan defended the MB against US pressure: “it is not an armed group, but is in actual fact an ideological organisation […] there would be no tolerance for the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey, if they had anything to do with terrorism, and we have not seen or observed any action that indicates this.”

Now according to Al-Jazeera Turkey together with Iran is also negotiating with Qatar about food and water supplies to the Emirate. Egypt, the KSA, the UAE and Bahrain have in addition to severing diplomatic ties with Qatar also set up a total blockade of travel and trade with the Emirate, endangering ending their supplies to it and impeding Qatar’s gas shipments.

Earlier today Iraq was also fast to react and send troops to reenforce it’s border region with Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan has joining the Saudi Arabia-led “Muslim NATO” military alliance with a hope of bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia closer and achieving unity in the Islamic world. On Friday, Pakistan formally gave the green light for its former army chief, General (retd) Raheel Sharif, to command the new powerful military alliance based in Saudi Arabia. It’s a move that will likely deteriorate the otherwise improving relations between Islamabad and Tehran.

Pakistan, however, has no plans to cut ties from Iran by joining the 41-nation coalition. In fact, Islamabad is doing the opposite by focusing its diplomatic efforts on convincing Iran to join the so-called “Muslim NATO.” While the exchange of hostile gestures between Riyadh and Tehran shows no signs of going away, Pakistan is willing to risk its good relations with both the Saudis and Iranians to serve as a bridge to foster unity in the Islamic world.

Although it has the potential to derail Pakistan’s relationship with its key Muslim neighbor and have far-reaching strategic and domestic implications, the country’s civil and military authorities decided to join the Saudi-led military alliance with the hope that it may foster unity in the Islamic world.

Towards this end, Pakistan has launched a diplomatic initiative to convince Iran to join the 41-nation coalition and bring about a rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh. The Express Tribune has learnt through credible sources that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had given a special task to Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf.

Pakistan, Iran work to heal Saudi alliance rift

Ausaf, who is considered a close confidant of the prime minister, last month travelled to Riyadh where he held a series of meetings including with Saudi Crown Prince to discuss the issue. More significantly, the attorney general is also scheduled to travel to Tehran in coming days as part of quiet diplomacy to ensure that Pakistan’s relations with Iran are not affected by the decision on the Saudi alliance.

“We are trying to facilitate some kind of rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” said an official familiar with the development. He conceded, however, that bringing the Middle Eastern rivals on the same page “is a daunting task indeed.”

Below is a map of the region also detailing gas and oil fields as well as the respective area’s predominant religious affiliation, done by Persian Gulf Studies, for better orientation:

Henri Feyerabend | Al-Masdar News



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