The land of Magog is getting more and more involved in the Middle East, and as we would predict, it ultimately comes down to control and money. Additionally, it would seem that Putin is more concerned with gas and oil exports coming from Israel than first thought; this could be an attempt to gain a foothold in the Mediterranean and subsequently block Israeli exports either by force or by negotiation.
Either way, we can see the early phases of what will become the epic battle of 'Gog-Magog':
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) launched his “diplomatic intifada” against Israel and exit from the Kerry peace initiative Thursday, Jan. 23, from Moscow. His meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev marked his breakaway from the US-led peace process with Israel, four months before it was due to expire, and signaled his bid for Russian backing for a Palestinian state.
The Palestinian leader’s defection caught both Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Binyamin unprepared – and surprised their intelligence agencies. Putin and Abbas almost certainly planned in advance to drop their bombshell on the day both Kerry and Netanyahu were otherwise engaged at two international events in Switzerland, Geneva 2 on Syria and the World Economic Forum.
For the Russian leader it was a chance to show the international community and the Obama administration that he was several steps ahead of the game on the three hottest Middle East issues – Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian civil conflict and the Palestinian bid for statehood.
The first intimation that something big was up came from an ITAR-TASS agency report Thursday that Abbas and Medvedev were due to sign an intergovernmental agreement for a $1 billion natural gas project in the Gaza section of the Mediterranean Sea. Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom hoped to produce 30 billion cubic metres of natural gas at the site.
The report added that Russia's Technopromexport engineering firm was also considering a small oil development project near the West Bank city of Ramallah, hub of the Palestinian Authority government headed by Abbas.
The Palestinian leader began his conversation with Putin by calling Russia a "great power" that deserved to play a more prominent role in the volatile Middle East region.
This move confronts Israel with two troubling concerns:
1. Russian interests could potentially encircle Israel’s offshore Mediterranean gas and oil sites and Russian pipelines may block Israel’s export facilities.
2. Under international law, the Palestinian Authority is not recognized as an independent state and is therefore not empowered to establish Special Economic Zones in the Mediterranean as closed areas for prospecting for oil or gas. This was one of the topics placed on the agenda of the peace talks led by John Kerry.
However, Moscow has high-handedly circumvented this obstruction by taking charge of the offshore exploration opposite Gaza, thereby proffering its Palestinian partner to the deal implicitl Russian recognition of its status as an independent national entity authorized to sign international contracts. This could be the precedent for a process of creeping Palestinian statehood without engaging Israel in negotiation.
Moscow has already proved it can get away with busting international sanctions by concluding a $1.5 bn contract with Tehran for the purchase of half a million barrels of Iranian oil a day, without incurring a word of complaint from Washington.
Two weeks later, Putin and Abbas have acted together to wreck a painstaking US diplomatic initiative actively partnered by Israel for a negotiated peace accord with the Palestinians. They have left John Kerry and Binyamin Netanyahu holding an empty shell.
The Palestinians have clearly opted to follow the examples of other Middle East leaders, ranging from Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to Syria’s Bashar Assad, Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian strongman Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, in making tracks, overtly or covertly, to Moscow. They are opening the door for Russia to fill the void left by American disengagement from region under the Obama administration.
The People's Liberation Army has for the first time released photos of its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in action - a move seen as a response to US military moves in the region.
The 17 photos published on the PLA Daily's website on Tuesday provided the first glimpse of a live drill involving the Dongfeng-31 since its delivery to the Second Artillery Corps in 2006.
The missile has an estimated range of nearly 10,000 kilometres - enough to deliver a nuclear warhead to the capitals of Europe or the west coast of the United States. Military experts said the release was a warning to the US not to interfere in the country's territorial disputes with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, or Senkakus, in the East China Sea.
"The disclosure of the Dongfeng-31 at this time obviously aims to respond to the United States' two big military moves in Japan, which make Beijing believe it is going to meddle in the territorial disputes between China and Japan," Wong said.