Posts Tagged ‘Military’

Black Sea: Pentagon’s Gateway To Three Continents And The Middle East

August 27, 2009 1 comment

February 21, 2009

Black Sea: Pentagon’s Gateway To Three Continents And The Middle East
Rick Rozoff

The Black Sea region connects Europe with Asia and the Eurasian land mass to the Middle East through Turkey on its southern rim, which borders Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The northern Balkans lie on its western shores and the Caucasus on its eastern end, the latter a land bridge to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia.

Ukraine, Russia and the strategic Sea of Azov are on its northern perimeter.

Given its central location, the Black Sea has been coveted for millennia by major powers: The Persian and Roman empires, Greeks and Hittites, Byzantines and Huns, Ottoman Turkey and Czarist Russia, even by Napoleon’s France and Hitler’s Germany in their wars to unite Europe to Asia and the Middle East.

The famed Trojan War was fought for control of Troy/Dardania/Ilium, the entrance to the Sea of Marmara which connects the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. The strait connecting the two is still called the Dardanelles after ancient Dardania.

Going back to antiquity a third continent has also been involved, Africa; the Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Black Sea city of Colchis, now in modern Georgia, was founded by Egyptians and in Virgil’s if not Homer’s account of the siege of Troy Memnon, king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), is slain by Achilles fighting in defense of Troy.

A Romanian news source recently reiterated the importance of the region for the modern era:

“Through the Black Sea, the European area strategically meets Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East, hydrocarbon production and transit areas.” [1]

Allusions to the Black Sea’s importance for not only energy and transit but for world military purposes will occur frequently in citations to follow.

Prior to the breakup of the Warsaw Pact in 1990 and the Soviet Union a year later the Black Sea was mainly off limits to the West in general and to the Pentagon and NATO in particular. Until 1991 only four states bordered the sea, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and the Soviet Union.

Turkey as a key NATO member state was the West’s sole beachhead in the region with Bulgaria and Romania, the second more nominally than in fact, members of the Eastern bloc and the Warsaw Pact.

In the intervening eighteen years the situation in this region, like so many others, has been transformed and a new battle for control of it has emerged.

There have arisen two new littoral states, Georgia and Ukraine, with Abkhazia added last August, and every past Warsaw Pact nation outside the former Soviet Union is currently a full member of both NATO and the European Union – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the former German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – with three former Soviet republics on the Baltic Sea – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – also dual members.

As an Indian commentator, Premen Addy, described it last summer:

“NATO’s noose is drawn ever tighter round the Russian neck. American military and missile bases are already ensconced in Romania and Bulgaria – two states once in harness with Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and the invading Nazi legions into the USSR – in a bid to strangle the possible emergence of a rival centre of power in the Black Sea….” [2]

A year earlier the online intelligence site The Power and Interest News Report in an analysis called “Bulgaria, U.S. Bases and Black Sea Geopolitics” summarized the situation regarding one key Black Sea state in the following words:

“Geographically speaking, Bulgaria provides the U.S. (and N.A.T.O.) a greater presence in the Black Sea, through which there are plans to build oil and gas pipelines.

“Also, it is close to the former Yugoslavia, a place of constant tensions, particularly in the last decade.

“The [new Pentagon] bases allow the U.S. to keep increased control of the country and the Greater Middle East region, as Washington now has a military presence in the south (America’s 5th fleet is based in Bahrain) and will have a presence in the north through nearby Bulgaria.” [2]


Since 1991 but especially since the December 2003 “Rose Revolution” the United States has transformed Georgia on the Black Sea’s eastern border into a private military preserve, first dispatching Green Berets, then Marines to train, equip and transform the nation’s armed forces for wars abroad and at home.

The revamped Georgian army was first tried out in Iraq, where with a 2,000-troop contingent it had the third largest foreign force in Iraq until last August when the U.S. military, whose creation it was, flew the soldiers home for the war with Russia.

Before the echoes of last August’s gunfire and artillery rounds had died down the U.S. sent its warship the USS McFaul to the Georgian port city of Batumi and the flagship of its Sixth Fleet, the USS Mount Whitney, to Poti whose mission was announced to the chronically credulous as delivering “juice, powdered milk and hygiene products.”

Batumi is the capital of Ajaria (Adjaria), a former autonomous region subjugated by the then newborn “Rose” regime in April of 2004 after its American-trained army staged Georgia’s largest-ever military exercises in nearby Poti and threatened invasion, lies just south of the Abkhazian capital of Sukhumi, where Russian ships were then stationed. Warships of the world’s two major nuclear powers faced off against each other off the Black Sea coast just 75 kilometers apart.

At the same time NATO deployed a naval strike group to the Black Sea consisting of three U.S. warships, a Polish frigate, a German frigate and a Spanish guided missile frigate as well as four Turkish vessels with eight more warships planning to join the flotilla.

The NATO warships were only 150 kilometers from their Russian counterparts then docked in Abkhazia.


On the north end of the Black Sea the U.S. has led annual Sea Breeze NATO exercises in Ukraine’s Crimea, evoking mass outrage and spirited protests from the Crimeans themselves whose parliament three days ago voted against a proposed U.S. representative office being set up, one which no doubt would oversee both the suppression of increased autonomy demands and anti-NATO actions in Crimea and prepare the groundwork for the eviction of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol.

Regarding the second point, a Russian news site offered these insights:

“Analysts speak about Ukrainian plans to kick out Russia and turn over the Crimean bases to NATO and the United States, as both salivate for a military presence in the Black Sea Basin.” [4]

“One of the conditions for NATO membership is absence of foreign bases on the country’s territory….[Ukraine’s “orange” authorities] do what they can to drive away the Russian Black Sea Fleet from the Crimea. In such a way Kiev signals to Brussels that it is preparing a base for NATO naval ships in the Black Sea.” [5]

Georgia’s and Ukraine’s next, complete, phase of integration as Pentagon military outposts was announced last December and January, respectively, when Washington signed Strategic Partnership Charters with first Kiev and then Tbilisi. Months before that and only days after Georgia launched its attack on South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers there, triggering last August’s war, all 26 NATO members sent representatives as part of a delegation to the Georgian capital to establish a new NATO-Georgia Commission.

At the same time the regime of Ukraine’s Viktor Yushchenko, who rode to power on the U.S.-financed and -directed “orange revolution” of December 2004, and whose wife Kathy is a Chicago-born and -raised former official in the Reagan State Department and the George H. W. Bush Treasury Department and was once described by a fawning admirer as “a Reaganite’s Reaganite,” used the deployment of Russian ships to the Black Sea during the war with Georgia to apply pressure on the Black Sea Fleet, at one point implying the ships might not be permitted to return to Sevastopol.

Several weeks after the Caucasus war ended, Washington sent an intelligence gathering ship, U.S. Pathfinder, to Sevastopol harbor.

The Yushchenko government renewed its accusations against the Russian fleet late last month on another score, slightly over a month after the Charter on Strategic Cooperation was signed with Washington.

The Black Sea connects with the Sea of Azov, surrounded almost entirely by Russia, at the Kerch Strait, the scene of a confrontation between Russia and Ukraine in 2003.

A Russian newspaper at the time explained what was at stake in the dispute:

“The Kerch Strait at the center of Russia’s dispute with Ukraine controls access to the Azov Sea, which is reputed to have largely untapped hydrocarbon reserves.

“Ownership rights to potential oil and gas resources have not been decided between the two countries, despite years of negotiations to delimit the seabed.

“Although unlikely to be a second Caspian, geologists believe the Azov Sea is likely part of the same seam of hydrocarbon deposits that stretches from southern Ukraine and Russia through the Black Sea to the Caspian and beyond.” [6]

The U.S.’s Stratfor augmented the above with this brief analysis:

“The Kerch Strait is a 25-mile-long channel that is no wider than 9 miles, linking the critically important Black Sea to the Sea of Azov off of Russia’s Northern Caucasus border. It has served as a key location for some strategic battles in the past from the Crimean wars to a Nazi-Soviet naval clash. To Russia, the Kerch Strait is a continuation of the Northern Caucasus into Ukraine’s Crimea regions, which is one of the country’s most pro-Russian regions and home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet located at Sevastopol.” [7]

More concisely and even more to the point, a few weeks ago this quote appeared in a Ukrainian press wire report:

“Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations require that it solves all its problems, including border disputes. They need a border [in the Kerch Strait] for just one reason: to be able to join NATO as soon as possible.” [8]

Bulgaria and Romania

Washington has signed Strategic Partnership Charters with both Georgia and Ukraine over the past two months and the two nations are the centerpieces for Washington’s takeover of the Black Sea and indeed the former Soviet Union as a whole.

They are the main fulcra for the U.S.-created GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) bloc originally set up in 1997 as the main transit route for 21st century Eurasian energy wars and for undermining and undoing the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States. They are also the foundation stones of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership.

But to date the main emphasis of the Pentagon’s campaign to conquer the Black Sea region, and arguably the major focal point for its international shift to the east and the south, is with Bulgaria and Romania.

Both nations were formally brought into NATO at the 2004 Istanbul summit of the Alliance and since became the last – perhaps in both senses of the word, most recent and final – members of the European Union.

Earlier, Bulgaria and Romania both denied Russia use of their airspace to transport supplies to troops they had moved into Kosovo in June of 1999.

Russia was acting within its rights under the terms of UN Resolution 1244 to protect ethnic minority communities in the Serbian province, but clearly Bulgaria and Romania were following U.S. and NATO orders in blocking the flights.

Whether, if Russia had persisted in its intent, the two nations would have grounded the Russian aircraft or even shot them down is a matter of conjecture, though perhaps not much.

Later Romania allowed the U.S. to use its Mikhail Kogalniceanu Air Base in 2002 for the buildup to the following March’s invasion of Iraq.

In December of 2005 U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to the Romanian capital to sign an accord to use – take control of – four military bases, the aforementioned Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base and training and firing grounds in Babadag, Cincu and Smardan.

The U.S.’s explanation at the time was that it was to employ the four bases for training, including joint and multilateral exercises, provision of supplies and transit for the downrange wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And Romanian territory has served those purposes ever since.

In April of the following year, 2006, Washington signed a comparable agreement with neighboring Bulgaria for the use of three of its major military bases – the Bezmer air base, the Novo Selo army training range and the Graf Ignatievo airfield.

Both pacts were signed for an initial ten year duration.

The U.S. was allowed to station troops – estimates vary from 5,000-10,000 – on a rotating or permanent basis in both countries.

In the case of Bulgaria it will be the first time foreign troops have been stationed on its soil since Nazi Wehrmacht forces were driven out in 1944 and with Romania since Soviet troops withdrew in 1958.

The seven sites in both countries will be the first U.S. military bases in former Warsaw Pact territory.

The Bezmer air base in Bulgaria is a major facility, similar in scope to Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu, and its scale and purpose for current and futures campaigns in the east and south are indicated by this Bulgarian description:

“[T]he airbase…according to the US-Bulgarian agreement…will acquire the status of a strategic military facility in two years, like the Incirlik airbase in Turkey and Aviano in Italy.” [9]

The same newspaper added that, “The Bezmer military airport near the town of Yambol (southeastern Bulgaria) will be transformed into one of the six new strategic airbases outside US borders.” [10]

Britain’s Jane’s Defence Weekly in late 2006 informed its readers of the strategic sweep of the Pentagon’s move into the Black Sea:

“[T]he new land, sea and airbases along the Black Sea will provide much improved contingency access for deployments into Central Asia, parts of the Middle East and Southwest Asia. [11]

From the other end of the planet Lin Zhiyuan, deputy office director of the World Military Affairs Research Department of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, saw the developments through the same lens but with trepidation:

“[N]ew military bases, airports and training bases will be built in Hungary, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and other nations to ensure ‘gangways’ to some areas in the Middle East, African and Asia in possible military actions in the years ahead.” [12]

Both preceding analyses were confirmed by the U.S. military itself the following year when Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the U.S. Army Europe operations chief and deputy chief of staff, spoke of Romania to an armed forces publication:

“It’s in a critical location with emerging partners, at a location which is really a place that has been a historical transit route for bad guys.”

The interview added “The bases would house rotating U.S. troops that would train under the command of Joint Task Force East, headquartered at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base.

“The U.S. signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement with Romania in December 2005 to allow U.S. forces to use the former communist nation for training, pre-positioning of equipment and, if necessary, staging and deploying troops into war zones.” [13]

Two months after the U.S.-Bulgarian agreement the U.S. led joint military training exercises in Bulgaria in which the head of local troops involved effused, “We want to be certified as part of NATO forces. We want to conduct expeditionary exercises as part of NATO.” [14]

The war games, named Immediate Response 2006, were designated to break in the new bases in Bulgaria and Romania and to implement the Rumsfeld era Pentagon’s plans for military “lily pads” from which to spring into action to points east and south.

In reporting on the exercise the main newspaper of the American armed forces provided this background perspective:

“According to the agreements, the U.S. would be able to use the Romanian and Bulgarian bases for pre-positioning of equipment, and to send U.S. troops and equipment into war if necessary. The ‘forward operating sites,’ as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calls them, would be in Romania at the Smardan Training Range, Babadag Training Area and Rail Head, Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, and Cincu Training Range.” [15]

A Bulgarian civilian cited by the same source said, “Every day we can see them (U.S. troops) in the cities and villages.” [16]

By September of the same year, “Sofia and Washington are to sign about 13 additional agreements to regulate the joint usage of several military bases in Bulgaria.

“Defence Minister Veselin Bliznakov has announced that next week US European Command (EUCOM) experts will arrive in Bulgaria to draw a draft document.” [17]

The pacts with Bulgaria and Romania are, as usual in such instances, to be jointly used by NATO, as all three signatories are members of the bloc.

In a U.S. armed forces dispatch titled “England-based airmen head to NATO exercise in Bulgaria” it was reported that a British “squadron plans to test-fire laser-guided and general-purpose weapons at a Bulgarian range, as well as conduct air-to-air training with the Bulgarian MiG-29 and -21 aircraft” in war games coded Exercise Immediate Response. [18]

Later NATO continued its leapfrogging over the Pentagon into Bulgaria as detailed in an article called “NATO bases may be set up near Bulgaria’s Sungulare” which included this report:

“NATO asked if the former buildings of a tank brigade in the town of Aitos could be turned into a reserve storage base.

“NATO planned to store here the equipment for one or two battalions, which would be based in the military bases of Novo Selo and Bezmer.” [18]

In fact what NATO achieved was securing a base of its own.

“NATO will pay 150 million US dollars to the municipality of Sungurlare (central Bulgaria) in exchange for a plot of municipal land for the construction of a military base.” [20]

The comparison between the Bulgarian Bezmer air base and the U.S.’s and NATO’s main strategic air (bombing) bases in Aviano, Italy and Incirlik, Turkey was established earlier and this report later confirmed the analogy’s accuracy, though immediately in reference to another air base.

“NATO will move aircraft from the US air base in Aviano, northeastern Italy, to Bulgaria’s Graf Ignatievo air base near Plovdiv.” [20]

The above news item described the transfer as temporary, but it may have been a portent of what is planned for the future.

Aviano was the main base used by the U.S. and NATO in their joint Operation Deliberate Force bombing of the Bosnian Serb Republic in 1995 and in the 78-day terror bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999.

To leave no further doubt as to under whose auspices the Pentagon was able to secure its seven new bases for attacks to the east and south, in the autumn of 2007 “A top general from the NATO’s Southern Command in Naples will inspect the two-week military exercises of army units from Bulgaria, the USA and Romania which will be held near the town of Sliven, in southern Bulgaria.” [22]

And to dispel any misconceptions as to who the main target of the U.S.- and NATO-acquired bases was, in June of that year Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing the emerging and unmistakable pattern of “a new base in Bulgaria, another in Romania, a site in Poland, radar in the Czech Republic,” rhetorically queried “What are we supposed to do? We cannot just observe all this.” [23]

The severity and urgency of the threat perceived by Russia was such that General Vladimir Shamanov, adviser to Russia’s Defense Minister, was quoted as saying “We will point our missiles at the US military facilities in Bulgaria and Romania.” [24]

This concern was echoed by the Russian foreign ministry:

“Russia once again voiced her concern with the deployment of US military facilities in Bulgaria and Romania.

“‘We are deeply concerned, because such a move entails an expansion of the US forces in countries, which not long ago were allies of Russia,’ Anatoly Antonov, Head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Security and Disarmament Department, said at an extraordinary conference on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (DOVSE,) held in Vienna.” [25]

The Russian military, most directly alert to and aware of the repercussions of the deployments, voiced its alarm in the person of Maj. Gen. Vladimir Nikishin, a representative of the Defense Ministry’s Main International Military Cooperation Department, who said, “The location of NATO bases in Bulgaria and Romania actually means that the Alliance is creating bases for building up it forces in Eastern Europe, which is at variance with the adapted Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.” [26]

Two months afterward Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would add, “Russia finds it hard to understand some decisions of NATO like, for example, the deployment of US military facilities in Bulgaria and Romania.” [27]

Lastly, the then chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, Yuri Baluyevsky, voiced concern that “Plans are…afoot to set up new US military bases in Bulgaria and Romania, and unlike Russia, no NATO country has so far raised a finger to ratify the modified CFE treaty.” [28]

The references to the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) pertain to a 1989 pact signed between NATO and the former Warsaw Pact limiting the deployment of conventional weapons and equipment. No member of NATO has ratified the treaty.

The above apprehensions could not have been assuaged by comments that year from Solomon Passy, former Bulgarian foreign minister, advocating that American infantry, air and naval forces be followed by missile deployments.

“Following the NATO treaty and the agreement for joint military bases in Bulgaria I think this will be the next strategic step that would enhance the security of the country, the region and the whole of Europe….This shield should be [placed] above all member states of NATO and the EU.” [29]

Nor could Russian fears be alleviated by the announcement the same month that “NATO defence ministers agreed at their Friday meeting in Brussels to initiate procedures for adding a short-range missile defence system in Eastern Europe to the on the US proposes that would also include Bulgaria.” [30]

Slightly over a year after the U.S.-Bulgarian bases accord had been inked it was announced that U.S. troops were heading there and to Romania and “The bases are part of an ambitious plan to shift EUCOM’s [the Pentagon’s European Command’s] fighting brigades from western Europe – mostly Germany – to forward bases closer to the Caucasus, the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa, for a quicker strike capability.” [31]

The same report added:

“‘When this rebasing process is complete, two-thirds of USAREUR’s [United States Army Europe and Seventh Army’s] maneuver forces will be positioned in southern and eastern Europe,’ [EUCOM and NATO’s top commander John] Craddock told the U.S. Senate in written testimony.

“USEUCOM has requested $73.6 million to build out Mikhail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, and to establish a forward operating station in Bulgaria.” [32]

The Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base received the first U.S. troops deployed to Romania in 2007 and has hosted the U.S. European Command’s newly formed Joint Task Force East, formerly the Eastern Europe Task Force.

The title of that unit alone reveals volumes.

As soon as the Bulgarian and Romanian “full spectrum” air, land and sea bases were acquired, the Pentagon moved to expand and integrate them with its other Black Sea military partners, Georgia and Ukraine.

Referring specifically to the Romanian bases, it was reported that “It is also possible that troops from others nations would go to the sites to train, and that U.S. forces based there would, as part of their six-month tour, travel to nearby nations such as Georgia and Ukraine for shorter training missions.” [33]

In May of 2007 the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Gen. Tom Hobbins, “visited with defense and air force leaders in Bulgaria and Georgia May 14-16 to discuss air force capabilities, modernization and future goals.” [34]

The same commander the following month, described as looking “eastward to the Black Sea and southward into Africa,” said: “Both Bulgaria and Romania have over a dozen projects where runways are being enhanced, facilities [and] buildings are being built. So we’re actually taking advantage of the fact that there’s a lot of NATO money being spent….” [35]

To make maximal use of the runways Hobbins mentioned, in February of 2007 Reuters reported that the U.S. was selling Romania 48 new fighter jets and recalled that “The Romanian facilities and bases in Bulgaria will be the first U.S. military installations in the former Soviet bloc.” [36]

In August Washington launched war games in Romania to inaugurate its new forward sites and break in its new Joint Task Force East, a process accompanied by no little fanfare:

“About 1,000 mostly Europe-based military personnel and civilians will have a ceremony today to commence the United States’ first deployment to Joint Task Force East.” [37]

The significance of the exercise, named Proof of Principle, was highlighted as being a watershed, that “The U.S. military’s new era in Eastern Europe has begun.”

The same news source elaborated:

“American and Romanian military forces marked the start of a historic, two-month exercise on Friday that will serve as a trial run for thousands of U.S. troops expected to rotate in and out of Romania and Bulgaria for years to come.” [38]

Two months afterward the U.S. held the Rodopi Javelin 2007 air warfare exercise in Bulgaria at the Graf Ignatevio air base where US F-16s were able to practice against Russian-made Bulgarian MiG-29s for future purposes.

Earlier in the year a U.S. destroyer, the San Jacinto, docked in the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Varna.

In April of last year the U.S. reprised the earlier joint air exercise, also at the Graf Ignatevio air base. Similar aerial combat drills have been conducted in Romania and in both countries American warplanes are provided the opportunity of testing their abilities against Russian-made aircraft.

A month afterward the U.S. embassy announced “a deal to re-fit a Bulgarian military base, one of four due to be used…in autumn 2008.

“The Novo Selo camp in eastern Bulgaria will undergo a $6.5 million refurbishment by the German-based company Field Camp Services (FCS).

“The Pentagon has also set aside some $60 million for the construction of a permanent base at Novo Selo.” [39]

In June a Bulgarian news source, in an article titled “US Army Town to be Built near Novo Selo,” wrote:

“Five hundred soldiers and officers will settle in Bulgaria permanently, the other 2,500 will live in the bases of Bezmer, Novo Selo, Graf Ignatievo and Aitos on a rotation principle.

“It means that up to 5,000 troops may be using the bases when need arises….The first US servicemen will arrive in Bulgaria this August.

“Over 1,200 soldiers will take part in a three-month exercise called ‘The Bulgarian Panther.'” [40]

The following day another Bulgarian report appeared on the expansion of U.S. military sites in the nation:

“{T]he US military base to be built near Novo Selo…is expected to be of the size of an average Bulgarian town….500 US rangers and their entire families would arrive at the base then to live permanently there while deployed to Bulgaria.

“Another 2,500 US soldiers would use on rotation bases the military facilities in Bezmer, Graf Ignatievo and Aitos….[T]he military airport in Bezmer…is slated to become one of the 6 strategic military airport bases outside the US….” [41]

Events proceeded similarly in Romania.

“Construction of a permanent U.S. base in Romania to house 1,700 personnel is well under way, with work on a similar facility for up to 2,500 personnel due to start in Bulgaria this winter, according to a U.S. official.” [42]

In August of 2008 the Deputy of the Office for Defense Cooperation with the American embassy in the Bulgarian capital, Jake Daystar, held an interview with a Bulgarian news agency in which he said of one of the new U.S. bases in the nation, “The main purpose of the base is to improve abilities through training – both of NATO troops and divisions of the US Army….The imperatives are hidden in the location of the state” as “with its geographic location Bulgaria has always been a strategically important country, as it stands on the crossroad between Asia and Europe.” [43]

By September of last year Russian concerns over the escalating U.S. military buildup in the Black Sea had not abated and in citing the Pentagon’s new bases in Bulgaria and Romania as well as its missile shield plans and ongoing NATO expansion to its borders, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “Parity as the basis of the strategic balance in the world has been violated.” [44]

Nothing loath, within days of Lavrov’s dire warning it was reported that “U.S. warships will call at the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Burgas, and drills involving the U.S. and Bulgarian air forces are also scheduled for next month….” [45]

While that dispatch was being filed U.S. and Bulgarian troops were engaged in a joint military drill at the Novo Selo Training Area and “Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and Commander of the U.S. Army in Europe Gen. Carter Ham…watched the drill….”

The news story added, “More than 62 million dollars will be spent on the training area’s permanent facilities and equipment in the next two years, and construction is expected to be completed by then [for] conflict zones in the Middle East and beyond.” [46]

Bulgaria and Romania, now full NATO members for almost five years, have deployed military contingents to the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq and have lost troops in the last two nations.

While neither hosted Soviet forces or Warsaw Pact bases during the Cold War, both are on the front line of future wars in the Black Sea region like that of last August between Georgia and Russia, one which might easily have drawn in Ukraine and in alleged defense of Ukraine NATO and the U.S. directly.

Romanian President Traian Basescu was quoted in a feature of last August titled “Romania is responsible for EU, NATO borders protection” as saying that “The Romanian navy is responsible in the name of the EU and allied countries.” [47]

Romania and Bulgaria will both be held to that pledge. That is one of the crucial reasons they were absorbed into the Alliance.

Both will be ordered to intervene in former Yugoslavia – Kosovo and Bosnia – if their masters in Washington and Brussels will it.

They are both involved in the transit of troops and materiel for the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq.

For two years now it has been repeatedly mentioned that Bulgarian, now joint Bulgarian-U.S., air bases may be used for attacks against Iran, most recently by Russian envoy Dmitry Rogozin last September.

The U.S. and allied NATO military expansion into the Black Sea is aimed at all four compass points.

A proponent of this dangerous strategy, Vakhtang Maisaia, Chairman of the Foreign Policy Association of Georgia, offered this terse yet comprehensive summary of what is involved in the Georgian Times of April 2, 2008:

“The Black Sea is a vital geo-strategic area for the Alliance in conjunction with the Alliance’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan, logistic operations in Darfur, the NATO training mission in Iraq, and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo.

“Currently, some clear signs of the new interest of NATO in the Black Sea region comprised of the South Caucasus and the South-East Europe sub-regions and Black Sea area itself, can be seen by looking at the geo-economics (including the Caspian energy reserves)….” [48]

“[W]ith the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria into the Alliance, the Black Sea has been incorporated into NATO’s Article 5 (collective defense) operational zone where activation of the Combined Joint Task Force (a deployable, multinational, multi-service force with a land component and comparable air and naval components) is possible.

The author cited a statement from the 1999 NATO fiftieth anniversary summit in Washington, DC: “In the event of crises which jeopardize Euro-Atlantic stability and could affect the security of Alliance members, the Alliance’s military forces may be called upon to conduct crises response operations.” [49]

1) Nine O’Clock News, May 14, 2008
2) Daily Pioneer, August 16, 2008
3) The Power and Interest News Report, August 29, 2007
4) Voice of Russia, May 28, 2008
5) Voice of Russia, May 22, 2008
6) Moscow Times, October 24, 2003
7) Stratfor, November 10, 2008
8) Interfax-Ukraine, January 31, 2009
9) Standart News, June 10, 2007
10) Standart News, June 6, 2007
11) Sofia Echo, November 17, 2006
12) People’s Daily, December 5, 2006
13) Stars and Stripes, May 4, 2007
14) Stars and Stripes, July 22, 2006
15) Stars and Stripes, July 5, 2006
16) Stars and Stripes, July 24, 2006
17) Sofia News Agency, September 21, 2006
18) Stars and Stripes, July 13, 2006
19) Sofia Echo, January 3, 2008
20) Standart News, December 2, 2007
21) Sofia News Agency, October 6, 2007
22) Standart News, September 3, 2007
23) New Europe [Belgium], Week of June 2, 2007
24) Standart News, June 6, 2007
25) Standart News, June 13, 2007
26) Interfax-Military, September 19, 2007
27) Standart News, December 7, 2007
28) Voice of Russia, December 17, 2007
29) Focus News Agency, June 10, 2007
30) Sofia News Agency, June 15, 2007
31) United Press International, May 18, 2007
32) Ibid
33) Stars and Stripes, July 8, 2007
34) U.S. Air Forces in Europe, May 18, 2007
35) Air Force Magazine, June 2007
36) Reuters, February 22, 2007
37) Makfax, August 17, 2007
38) Stars and Stripes, August 18, 2007
39) Agence France-Presse, May 14, 2008
40) Standart News, June 23, 2008
41) Sofia News Agency, June 24, 2008
42) Stars and Stripes, July 27, 2008
43) Focus News Agency, August 14, 2008
44) Itar-Tass, September 29, 2008
45) Sofia News Agency, October 15, 2008
46) Ibid
47) Focus News Agency, August 15, 2008
48) Georgian Times, April 2, 2008
49) 1999 NATO Washington Summit

NATO In Persian Gulf: From Third World War To Istanbul

August 26, 2009 1 comment

February 6, 2009

NATO In Persian Gulf: From Third World War To Istanbul
Rick Rozoff

[NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in the Kingdom of Bahrain for the NATO-Bahrain Relations and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative conference in 2008]

The NATO summit held in the Turkish city of Istanbul on June 28-29, 2004 was nothing less than epochal in terms of its geopolitical repercussions, where several historical thresholds were crossed and post-World War II international taboos violated.

Some of the decisions reached at the summit were commented upon in the world press at the time as the precedents they were, but the implementation of the same has in the interim come to be accepted as not only an accomplished fact but as within the natural and inevitable nature of things.

The multifaceted expansion plans formalized by NATO at the summit will be dealt with separately below and major emphasis will be directed to that least examined aspect, the eponymous Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

On January 3 of this year Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Admiral Luciano Zappata was obliging enough to issue this statement:

“The vast dimension of the emerging area of responsibility and interest covers traditional NATO borders, but also ranges from the Strait of Bering to Norway and Estonia; from the Bosphorus-Dardanelles, the Gibraltar Strait and the Mediterranean Sea to the High North; and from the Suez Canal to the Red Sea, Horn of Africa, the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf – and possibly beyond.” [1]

The Persian Gulf and beyond will be the main focus of this article.

But to provide historical context, the last four NATO summits have been held in Eastern Europe: the Czech Republic in 2002, Turkey in 2004, Latvia in 2006 and Romania in 2008.

Three of the four host nations were formerly in Warsaw Pact territory and one, Latvia, was a former Soviet Republic. Latvia and Romania were only inducted into NATO in 2004, at the Istanbul summit, and were the sites of summits themselves only two and fours years later, respectively.

A lot has happened since then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker assured the Soviet Union’s last president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that “there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.”

What began to happen, four years later to be exact, was that NATO instituted two transitional mechanisms for integrating states traditionally “out of area” (Alliance term) into what were even at that time plans for a global military nexus.

The two programs were the so-called Partnership for Peace (PfP) and Mediterranean Dialogue partnerships, both of which were initiated in 1994.

The first, with Ireland didn’t join until 1999, included every nation in non-post-Soviet continental Europe not already one of NATO sixteen members (here and henceforward by European nations are designated all but minor entities like Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City State) except for what remained of Yugoslavia and two former Yugoslav republics (Bosnia and Croatia, both still riven by post-conflict instability) and Cyprus, and included all fifteen former Soviet republics.

In the first category were Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Macedonia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland and in the second Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Russia would pull out of the PfP in 1999 in reaction to NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, about which more later, and Ireland would join in the same year.

Malta, which was incorporated into the PfP in 1995 would withdraw the following year – the only nation ever to have pulled out of a NATO structure – but was dragged back in last year.

Also in 1994 NATO launched what it called the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD), a military and political partnership with seven nations on the southern flank of the Mediterranean Sea, on or near its eastern wing and all the way to Africa’s Atlantic coast: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

[Military officials from Jordan and Mauritania at a Mediterranean Dialogue meeting with the NATO Military Committee in Brussels in 2007]

With Bosnia (2006), Croatia (2000) and Montenegro (2006) being pulled into the PfP, 17 of 21 nations with coastlines on the Mediterranean are now full NATO members or members of the bloc’s partnerships.

Starting clockwise from the Strait of Gibraltar they are: Gibraltar/Great Britain (NATO), Spain (NATO), France (NATO), Italy (NATO), Malta (PfP), Slovenia (NATO), Croatia (PfP, soon to be a NATO member), Bosnia and Herzegovina (PfP), Montenegro (PfP), Albania (PfP, also soon to be inducted into NATO), Greece (NATO), Turkey (NATO), Israel (MD), Egypt (MD), Tunisia MD), Algeria (MD) and Morocco (MD).

The only exceptions currently are Cyprus, Lebanon, Libya and Syria. (For the purposes of this study the Palestinian Gaza Strip will be considered separately.)

[Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) visiting Morocco as part of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue]

After Israel’s war against Lebanon in the summer of 2006, German warships were deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean to lead a naval blockade of the nation, leading a Western news source to note, accurately enough but also blandly, that the German deployment represented “this country’s first military engagement in the Middle East since World War II.”

Berlin’s cohorts in this ongoing blockade include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Bulgaria. In other words, a NATO operation in all but name.

And one that is slated to be extended to the Mediterranean coast of Gaza.

In April of last year it was announced that “Libya has agreed to participate in its first NATO naval exercise” and “Libya will send naval vessels to NATO’s Phoenix Express-2008. …” [2]

On January 28 of this year a Cypriot paper wrote that the opposition Democratic Rally (DISY) party had “re-introduced the issue of Cyprus joining the Partnership for Peace, a programme of practical military and security co-operation between NATO and individual countries,” and that “DISY is trying to forge alliances with other parties that support its entry.” [3]

One has to assume that the above initiative was forged in Brussels and Washington and not Nicosia.

Should all the above efforts to pull hitherto unaffiliated nations into NATO’s military nexus succeed, that would leave only Syria unaligned in the entire Mediterranean.

The Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) of imperial Rome at its zenith never dreamed of such comprehensive control. Neither did the Berlin-Rome Axis of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, even with the former’s Vichy France proxy’s control of what are now Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon and Syria.

At the 1999 50th anniversary summit in Washington, as the bloc was waging its first full-blown war – against Yugoslavia, which then didn’t even border a NATO state much less threaten one – the first post-Cold War NATO expansion was effected.

It was not only the single largest extension of memberships at any one time – three countries were brought into the fold – but all the new inductees were former Warsaw Pact members: The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, with one, Poland, bordering Russia (the Kaliningrad enclave).

Only three years later the Czech capital hosted the next NATO summit and two years after that the Alliance further demonstrated its new drive east by holding a summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

That summit make a complete mockery of James Baker’s earlier-cited pledge and in a number of alarming ways.

First, NATO accepted seven new members, more than half the number of original NATO members at its founding summit in 1949.

Also, it brought into its phalanx six more nations once in the Warsaw Pact (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the first two new members on the Black Sea since Turkey joined in 1952 (Bulgaria, Romania), the first former Yugoslav republic (Slovenia) and, what was unimaginable a few years earlier, three former Soviet republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania).

The Istanbul summit also signaled an equally dangerous shift in another direction: The south.

The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) was created to elevate the Mediterranean Dialogue to full partnership status and to initiate a military arrangement with the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – in the Persian Gulf.

On the opening day of the summit the NATO website published a description of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative which is at this link:

It contains plans to promote “military-to-military cooperation to contribute to interoperability through participation in selected military exercises and related education and training activities that could improve the ability of participating countries’ forces to operate with those of the Alliance in contributing to NATO-led operations” and to “invite interested countries to observe and/or participate in selected NATO/PfP exercise activities” such as “to join Operation Active Endeavour (OAE)….”

Operation Active Endeavour is the all-encompassing naval surveillance and interdiction deployment that was started in October 4, 2001 under NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense clause and is slated to end…never.

[NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor]

Also, the ICI intends to not only upgrade Mediterranean Dialogue but eventually also Persian Gulf allies to the level of the Partnership for Peace apprenticeship and gateway to complete NATO integration; or, as the Alliance document states, to provide the thirteen new partners “access to appropriate PfP programmes and training centres.”

The last-named is already being implemented with the annual Cooperative Longbow / Cooperative Lancer multinational military exercises in the South Caucasus – last year in Armenia (which included Istanbul Cooperation Initiative forces), this year in Georgia.

Last year in the third South Caucasus nation, Azerbaijan, the annual NATO Week activities included the participation of “Representatives from about 100 member countries of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative” members. [4]

One astute Persian Gulf observer characterized the ICI in these terms:

“Nato, as a…tool in the hands of the US, became the final arbiter in world disputes and effectively sidelined the UN. It took on the mantle of the ‘world cop’…In 2004, after the US and the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations coined the new term ‘Broader Middle East and North Africa’, Nato launched the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), an ambitious joint-venture endeavour with the GCC countries.”

And added that “A sensitive aspect of the ICI is the clause that it ‘should be complementary to the alliance’s Mediterranean Dialogue and would complement Nato’s specific relationship with the partner countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue’… .Oman is apprehensive the ICI stands the risk of being interpreted by Iran as an attempt to rope in Nato to intimidate it.” [5]

In addition to the Alliance filling in another geopolitical gap in its expansion from its Euro-Atlantic metropolis southward and eastward toward what is a self-proclaimed global NATO, and as will be documented later the bloc’s plan to police world energy resources and their transit, the invitation to the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council to be integrated into the regional and worldwide ambitions of NATO was aimed squarely at Iran.

To both solidify and camouflage what has been, particularly since 1990, a permanent and ever-growing and deepening U.S. military presence in the Gulf, already used to wage two wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003, since 2004 NATO has been used to ensnare the Persian Gulf sheikdoms and monarchies into a military cordon sanitaire around and a string of basing and transit launching pads for potential attacks against Iran.

Regarding the already extant U.S. buildup in the region, it’s worth recalling that the American Navy’s 5th Fleet is based in Gulf Cooperation Council/Istanbul Cooperation Initiative member state Bahrain. The 5th Fleet takes in the entire area of responsibility of the Pentagon’s Central Command (CENTCOM) including 25 nations in and bordering the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the coastline of East Africa south to Kenya.

The Fleet was decommissioned after World War II and only recommissioned in 1995, in between the two wars against Iraq.

The Pentagon’s Central Command headquarters was shifted to Qatar for the war on Iraq named Operation Iraqi Freedom in and after March of 2003.

100,000 U.S. troops were amassed in Kuwait for the initial attack and the nation remains a key transit station for the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Slightly over a year ago the Congressional Research Service in the U.S. reported that Washington had provided $72 billion dollars worth of arms to the six Gulf Cooperation Council members from 1981 to 2006.

Regarding just U.S. air forces in the region, “About 27,000 Air Force personnel are stationed in the Middle East region….They operate from a network of bases that stretch from the Persian Gulf to Central Asia. The Air Force has at least five air bases inside Iraq, one in Afghanistan, one in Kyrgyzstan, and several others in Qatar, Kuwait, and surrounding countries.” [6]

The Gulf is also an integral part of the U.S.’s plans for a global layered interceptor (Star Wars) missile system and has been for a while.

“The Bush administration announced plans on Wednesday to sell advanced anti-missile systems to the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait with a combined potential value of nearly $10.4 billion.

“The Pentagon told Congress the United Arab Emirates had asked about buying 288 Patriot Advanced Capability PAC-3 missiles and related gear worth up to $9 billion.” [7]

“The UAE (United Arab Emirates] led the region in missile defense deals, receiving approval from the Pentagon to buy Patriot 3 launchers and systems. It also became the first country outside the US to receive approval to purchase the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) designed to shoot down incoming missiles, in a deal valued at $7b.” [8]

In December of 2007 Pentagon chief Robert Gates traveled to Bahrain to issue a call for an “‘air and missile defence umbrella'” over the Gulf region to deter missile attacks by Iran.” [9]

The following month the U.S. Defense Department “proposed sales of Patriot missile defence and early warning systems to the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait worth more than $US10 billion.” [10]

It’s upon the above foundation that NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative is being constructed.

The following excerpts from a speech by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer illumine another aspect of NATO plans in the Gulf:

“[NATO] can help to police the oceans….Just a few days ago NATO defence ministers decided to detach parts of a NATO Maritime Task Force to the Gulf of Aden….Just this week we are holding a major conference in Doha [Qatar] on energy security with our partners from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Those partners include Qatar, which is the world’s largest producer of liquified natural gas, but also major energy producers in Central Asia such as Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan, not to speak of important African producers such as Nigeria….Energy security is today very much on the agenda when we meet with these countries in our Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, our Mediterranean Dialogue or our Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.. ..” [11]

Again NATO’s plans regarding energy and military expansion are not only integrally, indeed inextricably, linked but are fully reciprocal. Allegedly providing for “energy security” and “protecting shipping lanes” are in fact just as much the public relations rationale for projecting military power into strategic areas as they are concerns and objectives in themselves.

A review of NATO’s relations with the ICI since the 2004 summit will illustrate the bloc’s major strategies in relation to the Persian Gulf, which include:

-Integrating the Gulf Cooperation Council states into NATO’s global army. The progressively larger involvement of GCC military forces in exercises in the South Caucasus alongside those of the Mediterranean Dialogue and Partnership for Peace has been discussed earlier.

The United Arab Emirates has assigned troops to serve under NATO in Afghanistan alongside counterparts from the Partnership for Peace and so-called Contact Countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore.

In increasingly frequent meetings of NATO Chiefs of Defence, the Alliance’s highest military authority, the heads of defense and other representatives from ICI partners are in attendance.

-Employing GCC states to base troops, warplanes, cargo and surveillance for operations both in the area and throughout the so-called Broader Middle East.

-As mentioned above, incorporating the Gulf states into a global missile surveillance and missile shield program

-Bringing the GCC nations not only under the U.S.’s missile and nuclear umbrella, but effectively under NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense provision, the latter entailing the possibility of claiming that one or more GCC members is threatened by a non-member (that is, Iran) and using that as a pretext for “preemptive” attacks.

-Reprising NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor in the Gulf by inaugurating a comprehensive naval interdiction – that is, blockade – in the Strait of Hormuz where an estimated 40-50% of world interstate oil transportation occurs.

The following chronology attests to how far these plans have advanced since 2004.

At a conference entitled International Conference of NATO and Gulf Countries: Facing Common Challenges Through ICI attended by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and delegates from all NATO and GCC states held in Kuwait City in December of 2006, the head of Kuwait’s National Security Agency, Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah, said:

“Kuwait and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are looking forward to building strategic security cooperation with NATO” and the Alliance’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that “cooperation between NATO and Gulf states had already increased in the fields of political contacts, intelligence sharing and military inter-operability. ” [12]

The latter also revealed that NATO had submitted a list of demands to Kuwait, that was more elaborate than the list previously presented to GCC states, “regarding border security, counter-terrorism, crisis management, as well as military training and development.” [13]

The above-mentioned conference was touted as gathering “together for the first time in the region the NATO secretary general and the North Atlantic Council – which includes top NATO officials, academics and government officials from all six Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) invited countries – to exchange views on the ICI and opportunities for cooperation available to the countries of the broader Middle East region.” [14]

The Alliance’s motives were characterized as NATO seeking “to establish a political and security partnership with important international and regional blocs including the GCC due to the Gulf states’ strategic location, natural resources and their investment and economic role internationally….” [15]

[Signing of an agreement between NATO and the United Arab Emirates in 2009]

During the meeting NATO signed a military intelligence agreement with Kuwait, the first such between the Alliance and a GCC member state.

Several months later NATO commenced negotiating a transit pact with Kuwait, described in the local press as “the first of its kind in the Gulf region, and NATO is working to conclude a similar one with Qatar.” [16]

Representing NATO, its Deputy Secretary General Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo also announced that “the alliance was now developing a ‘training and education initiative’ including a new faculty for the Middle East at NATO Defense College in Rome.” [17]

In the interim between the last two reports, “Experts from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [arrived] in Kuwait…to assess the Gulf Arab nation’s preparedness to deal with a nuclear emergency.” [18]

Two months later someone NATO called its Weapons of Mass Destruction Centre head, Ted Whiteside, asserted “We have to organise our efforts and move towards global integration to improve our performance.” [19]

In September of 2007 the aforementioned NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, while in Bahrain, stated that nation would “host a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the most important decision-making body in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)….” [20]

By 2007 four of the six Gulf Cooperation Council members had formally joined the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – and Oman and Saudi Arabia had not.

Oman’s possible objections have been alluded to earlier, to wit that the ICI could embroil GCC states in a regional war should the U.S. and its NATO allies stage a provocation against Iran.

A not unlikely scenario at a time when then U.S. Central Command chief Adm. William Fallon was in Bahrain, en route to Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, “pressing Arab allies to form a more united front against Iran,” and “seeking to quietly galvanize Gulf leaders while letting others sharply escalate pressure on Tehran” and “express[ing] support for a possible $300 million upgrade for the nation’s [Bahrain’s] F-16 fleet.” [21]

Two weeks later NATO chief Scheffer was in the Israeli capital meeting with the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee where they discussed “developments in the enhanced Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative launched at the 2004 Istanbul Summit.” [22]

Several months earlier “a Centre for Strategic Studies is to be established in one of the GCC countries,” the Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee General Raymond Henault announced while in Qatar. [23]

Later in the year, this time in the United Arab Emirates, the same Henault “noted that intensive consultations are going on with Qatar and Bahrain in an effort to pen a security agreement, close on the heels of a similar agreement signed with Kuwait last year.” [24]

Pressure was brought to bear on seemingly refractory Saudi Arabia early in the year.

In January “NATO appealed to Saudi Arabia…to consider entering a cooperation agreement with the Western alliance” and its Deputy Secretary-General Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo effused “I do want to stress here today that NATO would very much value the participation of Saudi Arabia.” [25]

The following day a joint NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council Security Cooperation Forum opened in Riyadh which focused on “how to strengthen security cooperation within the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.” [26]

By early 2008 NATO had succeeded in recruiting the first troops from the GCC, Emirati ones, for the war in Afghanistan. To date they are the only contingent from an Arab country serving under the Alliance in the Afghan War.

And no later than January NATO had appointed a head of a bureau for Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and Contact Countries, one Dr. Alberto Bin, who was in Kuwait to finalize the Alliance’s military transit agreement with his host as part of a delegation that “came to enhance already existing military and diplomatic relations with Kuwait.” [27]

At the same time the new Sarkozy government announced that France was “Setting up a permanent military presence in the Gulf region, where they had no such presence before,” by establishing a base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

With this unprecedented move, as France is a NATO member and the UAE part of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, one observer opined that “we can assume that a military base in Abu Dhabi would contribute to a better NATO-GCC understanding.

“For France, the military base certainly improves its status within NATO as well as with the US as it would become the only NATO member other than the US that is stationed in the Gulf.” [28]

A couple of days before, NATO’s Secretary General Scheffer signaled his approval of the initiative in advance by visiting the UAE, when it was noted “that his first ever official visit to this region showcases the strengthening pace of cooperation between NATO and the countries of this region.”

On that occasion Scheffer emoted that “Even before the launch of the ICI, the UAE displayed strong cooperation with NATO in the Balkans during the 1990s” and threatened that “The issue of nuclear proliferation has again taken center stage owing to the ambitions of Iran and North Korea….” [29]

And it was added, not that it needed to be, “The United Arab Emirates and Nato mull the establishment of cooperation in line with the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), said the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.” [30]

On January 29 NATO Assistant Secretary Jean-Francois was in Qatar where he told the local press corps:

“Our practical cooperation has intensified as well, especially at the military-to-military level. There has been a growing number of participants from Qatar in NATO courses and seminars. Besides, Qatar was the first ICI country to appoint a Liaison Officer to NATO in Brussels, in order to facilitate our cooperation,” after which the press reported that “A NATO team recently visited Doha to discuss…the possibility of elaborating an Individual Cooperation Programme with the Alliance….” [31]

Not to be left out, the Pentagon announced the following month that it was establishing a major Army command in Kuwait. Its commander described it as “a permanent platform for ‘full spectrum operations in 27 countries around southwest Asia and the Middle East’ and added, “That’s full spectrum operations. We’re able to adapt better…and go from high-intensity to regular warfare….” [32]

Among the command’s objectives was “facilitating Patriot missiles in Qatar and Bahrain to discourage attacks from Iran.” [33]

Five months later Kuwait placed a $156 million-order with the U.S.’s Raytheon to purchase the Patriot air and missile defense system.

The same month, July, the Director of the Security Office of NATO was in Kuwait to complete the joint security accord negotiated in 2006.

“The current security situation in the region and means to promote Kuwait-NATO ties within the Istanbul Initiative for Cooperation were also discussed.” [34]

In April NATO held its second international conference in Bahrain which was the first occasion in which it openly identified Iran as the target of its Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

“A 110-member NATO delegation, including ambassadors from all of Nato’s 26-member countries, will discuss the changing security landscape of the Gulf from a Bahrain and regional perspective, as well as Gulf-Nato relations.” [35]

During the gathering, which included “Ambassadors from all of [NATO’s] 26-member countries…including the head of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Co-operation Initiative Nicola de Santis,” it was announced that “Bahrain is on the verge of signing a security agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.” [36]

But the major policy statement would come from Jaap de Hoop Scheffer:

“NATO’s secretary-general told Gulf Arab states on Thursday that Iran’s nuclear ambitions were a major threat to regional stability.

“‘Iran’s pursuit of uranium enrichment capability in violation of its U.N. Security Council obligations is a serious concern not just for Iran’s neighbors but for the entire international community,’ Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a conference to promote ties between NATO and Gulf Arab states.” [37]

The following month, right on cue, the U.S., France, Italy, Australia, Egypt, Jordan and all six Gulf Cooperation Council member states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – conducted a joint air force exercise in Bahrain.

In October NATO would drop the last veil and expose what the ultimate purpose of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative was: Preparing for possible military action against Iran.

Jean-Michel Boucheron, then outgoing chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group, said “that while Nato states did not have the same obligation to defend GCC countries as they would other alliance members in the event they were attacked, Nato would ‘not remain indifferent’ if a Gulf country were subject to aggression.

“’Gulf countries are friends of Nato countries and of other western countries, notably France, for example,’ he said, citing Nato’s involvement in the First Gulf War when Iraq invaded Kuwait, as well as French overtures towards establishing a military base in the UAE.

“’An attack against a country of the Gulf would be very, very badly viewed because it would be against the security interests of all.’” [38]

Another account of Boucheron’s comments is even more revelatory of NATO’s role in the region for the past nineteen years:

“For example, when Kuwait was attacked in 1990, we were unanimous in condemning this and taking part in the first war….Kuwait was attacked and therefore we were in agreement with the war.” [39]

At practically the same moment NATO parliamentarians were holding a seminar on Middle East and Global Challenges in the United Arab Emirates, whence the following statement was issued:

“This strategic meeting contributes to creating a common understanding between NATO countries and the GCC region, and will address the global challenges faced by Middle East.” [40]

Within weeks, matching the action to the word, NATO held its first ever operation within the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, a multinational naval exercise, described by a Gulf newspaper:

“German, Turkish and US ships are expected to hold their first joint exercise with the Bahraini Royal Navy today.

“The exercises will be repeated with other Gulf navies following visits to Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. involves the U.S., France, Italy, Australia, Egypt, Jordan and the six Gulf Cooperation Council member states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.” [41]

Note that all six Gulf Cooperation Council member states were brought into the war games.

Two weeks later “Rear Admiral Ignacio Horcada, Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS) Support CC-Mar Naples, who is currently in Doha leading a three-vessel fleet of Standing Nato Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), told Gulf Times that they would like to expedite the level of co-operation between Qatar and Nato.”

“‘This is our first practical activity as part of the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI) in the region’….” [42]

NATO’s penetration of and military buildup in the Persian Gulf continues apace into this New Year.

After a meeting of Kuwaiti Deputy Premier, Foreign Minister and Acting Oil Minister Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah with NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Claudio Bisogniero on January 27, the former said that he had been “briefed on Nato’s role, which was to form a defense mechanism and ‘prepare for the Third World War, which was the ‘mindset’ from which the alliance expanded” and on “Nato’s training of Iraqi security forces, as well as exercises with armed forces in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, noting Nato’s relations with all countries of the region.” [43]

Preparing for the Third World War remains NATO’s mindset and no better proof of it exists than the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
1) NATO, Allied Command Transformation, February 3, 2009
2) World Tribune, April 4, 2008
3) Cyprus Mail, January 28, 2009
4) Azertag, May 27, 2008
5) Gulf News [United Arab Emirates], October 13, 2008
6) Boston Globe, December 23, 2008
7) Reuters, December 5, 2007
8) Jerusalem Post, October 16, 2008
9) Agence France-Presse, December 8, 2007
10) Khaleej Times [United Arab Emirates], January 27, 2008
11) Quoted in Lloyd’s List [Britain], December 9, 2008
12) Agence France-Presse, December 12, 2006
13) Kuwait News Agency, December 12, 2006
14) Kuwait News Agency, December 4, 2006
15) Ibid
16) Kuwait Times, September 9, 2007
17) Ibid
18) Associated Press, April 3, 2007
19) Gulf Daily News [Bahrain], November 20, 2007
20) Gulf News [United Arab Emirates], September 12, 2007
21) Associated Press, September 18, 2007
22) NATO International, October 4, 2007
23) Gulf Times [Qatar], May 16, 2007
24) Gulf News [United Arab Emirates], November 26, 2007
25) Reuters, January 21, 2007
26) Xinhua News Agency, January 22, 2007
27) Kuwait News Agency, January 17, 2008
28) Gulf News [Saudi Arabia], January 27, 2008
29) Dubai City Guide, January 24, 2008
30) Khaleej Times [United Arab Emirates], January 27, 2008
31) The Peninsula [Qatar], January 29, 2008
32) Stars and Stripes, February 19, 2008
33) Ibid
34) Kuwait News Agency, July 10, 2008
35) Gulf Daily News [Bahrain], April 24, 2008
36) Gulf Daily News, April 24, 2008
37) Reuters, April 24, 2008
38) The National [United Arab Emirates], October 9, 2008
39) Gulf News [United Arab Emirates], October 10, 2008
40) Emirates News Agency, October 6, 2008
41) The National [United Arab Emirates], November 2, 2008
42) Gulf Times [Qatar], November 14, 2008
43) Kuwait News Agency, January 27, 2009


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