USA-Pakistan. Allies or Foes?

A very interesting article by Foreign Affairs, titled “An Unworthy Ally: Time for Washington to Cut Pakistan Loose”, August 2015, about the relationship between the US and Pakistan. In the 20th Century Pakistan was fighting the Soviets together with the Arabs of the Persian Gulf and the Americans. Pakistan was also fighting India together with China. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Americans, the Chinese, the Arabs of the Gulf and the Pakistanis were supporting the islamists of Afghanistan against the communists of Afghanistan, who were supported by India and the Soviets.

During the 20th Century the American and the Pakistani interests were almost perfectly aligned. But things have changed. China is promoting the 45 billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in order to receive raw materials from Africa, and in order to export her products avoiding the South China Sea. China is facing many enemies at the South China Sea due to her desire to completely dominate this sea, by militarizing the small uninhabited islands which are located in the other countries’ exclusive economic zones. China is also developing the Kenyan port of Lamu, in order to ship to China the raw materials of Africa, and in order to ship to Africa the Chinese products.

USA Pakistan

You can see on the map that by using the China Pakistan Economic Corridors, China can save billions of dollars in transport costs, and at the same time increase the security of her exports and imports by avoiding the dangerous straits of the South China Sea, and also encircle India by creating a naval base at the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which is also developed by China. Gwadar will also give China a naval base near the Persian Gulf. Moreover Iran and China will use the China Pakistan Economic Corridor in order to send to China the oil and natural gas of Iran, which means transit fees and investments for Pakistan, and an enhanced energy security for the country. Therefore it seems that Pakistan has more to expect from China than from the US.

It is true that the US is counting on Pakistan to use its great influence in order to promote stability in Afghanistan, so that the oil and natural gas of Kazakhstan and Turkemenistan can reach India and the Indian Ocean. This is a project very desirable by Pakistan too, because the oil and natural gas of the Middle East and of Central Asia will pass from Pakistan, making Pakistan an energy hub. The problem is that Pakistan is India’s number one enemy, together with China of course, and the Americans have to distance themselves from Pakistan if they want to compete with Russia for India’s friendship.

Trying to maintain a balance between Pakistan and India can be very tough for the Americans, and it can hurt the new American-Indian friendship. India cannot count on Russia for help when she is facing China, because Russia and China are allies, but India can count on USA. The problem is Pakistan. The important factor that determines the US strategy is that India is for China a natural competitor, while Pakistan is for China a natural ally. India has an annual GDP of 2 trillion dollars, and she wants to be an independent power, while Pakistan has a GDP of only 250 billion dollar, and it desperately needs China.

Everything seems to imply that the USA should move away from Pakistan and closer to India. India is accusing Pakistan of plotting terrorist attacks in India. As you can read at the following Guardian article, titled “Suspected mastermind of Mumbai terror attack released from Pakistan jail”, April 2015, the man suspected of masterminding the terrorist attack of Mumbai in 2008 was released from the Pakistan prison that he was held, something that greatly upset India.

The US has been traditionally providing Pakistan with military aid, and given the relations between Pakistan and India this can be a great problem for the Indo-American relations. It seems that if the US wants to “steal” India from Russia, it will have to let Pakistan loose. And that’s what the Foreign Affairs article is about. In the first paragraph the article says that the US has provided Pakistan with more than 30 billion dollars assistance since 2002, in order to help Pakistan enforce peace in Afghanistan. The article means that the US is helping Pakistan in order to promote peace in Afghanistan, so that the TAPI pipeline can be constructed (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). A very difficult task given that the Arabs and the Iranians are united in blocking the pipeline at Afghanistan.

In the 10th paragraph the article says that it is very unfair to accuse the United States for the Islamic jihad in Pakistan, given that the Pakistani officials were using islamist militants a long time before their cooperation with the US against the Soviets in 1979. In the 18th paragraph the article says that the geopolitical landscape today is very different from the one of the Cold War, when the US was pretending that it was not seeing the Pakistani misdeeds, because the US needed Pakistan in order to confront the Soviets. In the 19th paragraph the article says that it is not very realistic to expect Pakistan to change methods, and it is now feasible for the US to achieve its geopolitical goals without having to tolerate Pakistan. The article means that the Pakistanis will not stop their terrorist attacks against India, which will be a problem between the US and India as long as the US provides military assistance to Pakistan.

USA Pakistan

In the 20th paragraph the article says that it is better for the US to start treating Pakistan as an enemy rather than as an ally, but at the same time the US should try to maintain diplomatic relations with Pakistan. The article also says that the US should keep providing assistance to Pakistan, but not military assistance. In the 21st paragraph the article says that the US should stop providing Pakistan with arms which can be used by Pakistan against India.

Give that the Foreign Affairs is one of the oldest and most respected geopolitical magazines of the US, the above opinion should not be taken lightly. Moreover it should not be forgotten that in 2011 two NATO helicopters which operated in Afghanistan attacked the Pakistani borders and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, as you can read at the following BBC article, titled “Pakistan outrage after ‘Nato attack kills soldiers’”, November 2011. As a result Pakistan closed the Pakistani routes used by NATO to provide supplies to its Afghanistan soldiers. This could not be an accident.

Finally I want to mention an LSE article, titled “India’s quiet acceptance of the annexation of Crimea reflects its vision for a multi-polar world order”, January 2015, which says about India’s discrete support to Russia over the Ukrainian crisis. The article mentions that Russia and India are traditional allies and that India buys most of its armaments from Russia, while at the same time Russia is helping India with her nuclear reactors. Therefore one can assume that there is a lot competition for the US when it comes to India. But if the US distances itself from Pakistan, India and the US might have more in common than India and Russia have. And basically that’s what the Foreign Affairs article is about.

For the Foreign Affairs article see

“An Unworthy Ally:Time for Washington to Cut Pakistan Loose”, August 2015

1st Paragraph

Ever since 9/11, the United States has provided Pakistan with a steady supply of security and nonsecurity assistance. U.S. officials have justified these generous transfers—worth more than $30 billion since 2002—on the grounds that they secure Pakistan’s ongoing cooperation in Afghanistan, bolster Pakistan’s ability to fight terrorism, and give the U.S. government influence over the country’s ever-expanding nuclear weapons program. Failing to deliver this support, the argument runs, could dramatically weaken the will and capacity of Pakistan’s security forces and possibly even lead to the collapse of the Pakistani state. In that event, Pakistan’s nuclear know-how, material, or weapons could well fall into the hands of nefarious actors.

10th Paragraph

As for the claim that Islamabad was drawn into Washington’s Afghan jihad, the chronology suggests otherwise. Seeking leverage against the government in Kabul, Pakistan had been supporting Islamist militants in Afghanistan at its own expense since 1974—five years before Soviet troops crossed into the country. In other words, Pakistan brought the United States, and its wallet, into a campaign it had been pursuing on its own for years.

18th, 19th, 20th and 21st Paragraph

The strategic demands of today’s South Asia are distinct from those of the Cold War era, but the central dynamic of U.S.-Pakistani relations remains constant. The United States turns a blind eye to Pakistan’s misdeeds because it depends on the country’s leaders to counter U.S. enemies in the region—first the Soviets, now the mélange of militant groups active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, the United States has subsidized both the expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and its stable of Islamist terrorists through programs ostensibly created to manage those same concerns.

Past attempts to induce Pakistan to change its behavior have largely failed, and there is little reason to believe that a change in course is imminent. Indeed, what little convergence of interests existed between Washington and Islamabad during the Cold War has long since disappeared. After six decades of policy predicated on Pakistani blackmail, it should be possible to achieve U.S. interests with a different approach.

A strategy of containment is the United States’ best option. Above all, U.S. relations with Pakistan should be premised on the understanding that Pakistan is a hostile state, rather than an ally or a partner. To be sure, accepting that reality does not mean abandoning Pakistan altogether. The United States should maintain its diplomatic relations with Pakistan, and it should address a long-standing Pakistani complaint by providing Pakistani products greater access to American markets, signaling that Washington takes Islamabad’s legitimate concerns seriously enough to risk the ire of domestic business interests. It should also continue training Pakistanis in critical capacities such as peacekeeping, disaster relief, and civil-military relations through the U.S. government’s International Military Education and Training program. And it should continue to provide Pakistan with modest assistance in such areas as basic health care, gender equality, and primary and occupational education. Yet it must delink that help from the failed counterterrorism programs with which many such human development programs are currently bundled. And above all, Washington must end its support for the country’s turgid military establishment, which sustains a perverse strategic culture that has ill served Pakistani and U.S. interests for decades.

To that end, the United States should stop supplying Pakistan with strategic weapons systems, and it should prevent Pakistan from replacing and repairing those pieces of equipment that it has already received. The provision of U.S. weapons cannot reshape Pakistan’s will to maintain its militant proxies, but those weapons do equip Pakistan to challenge India. Indeed, the vast majority of the weapons systems provided to Pakistan since 2001 are better suited for a conventional conflict with its neighbor than for internal security operations. These transfers undermine U.S. efforts to cultivate a relationship with India, an important democratic partner on a range of crucial issues, from securing regional sea-lanes to managing China’s rise.

For the BBC article see

“Pakistan outrage after ‘Nato attack kills soldiers’”, November 2011

1st Paragraph

Pakistani officials have responded with fury to an apparent attack by Nato helicopters on a border checkpoint they say killed at least 24 soldiers.

9th Paragraph

Within hours of the alleged attack it was reported Pakistan had closed the border crossing for supplies bound for Nato forces in Afghanistan – a move which has been used in the past as a protest.

For the LSE article see

India’s quiet acceptance of the annexation of Crimea reflects its vision for a multi-polar world order”, January 2015

2nd Paragraph

India’s unwillingness to openly criticise Russian actions in the Ukraine has been associated with lingering socialist sentiments from stronger relations during the Cold War or else with India’s increasingly pragmatic foreign policy based on economic linkages. However, under closer scrutiny India’s response to the Ukraine Crisis illuminates a nascent Indian vision of the world order with a specific end goal in mind – to restore India’s destined greatness. India’s perception of how the international system ought to be structured is expressed first through India’s scepticism towards democracy promotion abroad, and secondly through India’s desire for a multi-polar world, in which Russia is one of the key actors.

4th, 5th and 6th Paragraph

Aside from Indian foreign policy values, part of the unwillingness to promote democracy internationally could be that it would open up the black box of past Indian interventions on the subcontinent, such as in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. In addition, actively supporting democracy and enhanced democratisation processes on the international stage could lead to a too critical reflection and a consequential debate of the value of democracy at home: India still suffers from high levels of political corruption, lack of genuine and effective poverty relief programmes, and a persistent caste system that can inhibit social mobility. Therefore, the dearth of democracy promotion efforts and rhetoric could be seen as a tool to protect India’s own perceptions of inherent greatness and maintain external views that India is an emerging power.

India does not seek to completely alienate or isolate Russia in the same way as many Western states. For India, international stage should not be constructed around an American hegemonic order; but rather the coordination and existence of multiple great powers ought to be realised. Russia not only has a vital role in India’s view of the multi-polar international stage, but Russia offers direct benefits to the further development of India as an emerged power. Under the Modi government relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia seem to be improving. In July during a BRICS meeting Modi, in a private comment, reportedly told Putin that “Even a child in India, if asked to say who is India’s best friend, will reply it is Russia because Russia has been with India in times of crisis.” Russia is a top supplier of defence materials to India, and since India is currently the world’s leading weapons importer, this relationship is crucial to bolstering India’s domestic defence apparatus with future potential for enhanced R&D and manufacturing capabilities. In terms of engagement within international institutions, Russia is willing to use its United Nations Security Council veto power to support India, for instance from deterring votes on the Kashmir issue.

On 11th December 2014, Putin arrived in New Delhi. As a result of this brief summit, India will build ten new nuclear reactors with the help of Russia and the two states will work on jointly-manufacturing a fifth generation fighter aircraft. However, Putin did not come alone. Also on Putin’s flight was Sergey Aksyonov, the leader of Crimea, who proceeded to his own meeting to sign a memorandum with the Indian-Crimean Partnership in an effort to increase Indian trade with the Black Sea Region. This annual summit and the presence of Aksyonov highlights the importance of Russia as one of the pieces of India’s ideal international relations that is based on a multi-polar reality rather than utopian visions of democracy promotion.

For the Guardian article see

“Suspected mastermind of Mumbai terror attack released from Pakistan jail”, April 2015

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The Wars for the Silk Roads

The ancient Silk Roads were the sea and land economic corridors which connected Asia to Europe and Africa. Through these economic corridors the silk and the spices of Asia could reach Europe and Africa. According to George Friedman, some spices, like pepper, could sell as high as gold. The two most important points of the silk roads were Cairo (Egypt), as far as the sea lanes were concerned, and Constantinople (Istanbul), as far as the land routes were concerned. See map 1 from wikipedia.

Map 1

Silk Road


For centuries there was a lot of competition between the Christians and the Muslims about the control of the Silk Roads. Whoever controlled these routes could impose taxes on the merchandise and earn huge amounts of wealth. Most of the time the Muslims were controlling the southern part of the Mediterranean Sea (Africa), and the Christians were controlling the northern part of the Mediterranean Sea (Europe). When the Muslims beat the Greeks in 1453, and took control of Constantinople (Istanbul), they dominated the sea and land lanes of the Silk Roads. See map 2.

Map 2

Muslims and Christians

What is very interesting is that today the situation is very similar, except that the important merchandizes are not spices, silk and wool, but oil and natural gas. Today Erdogan in Turkey, who is already in control of Constantinople (Istanbul), is trying to establish a friendly islamist government in Egypt i.e. Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, and at the same time he attacks Israel and Syria, which are the only alternative routes to Europe. Trade and merchandize can change but geography always remains the same.

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The Conflict Between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, over the rivers Tiger and Euphrates

At the following Foreign Affairs article, titled “Rivers of Babylon: Iraq’s Water Crisis—And What Turkey Should Do”, August 2015, you can read about the conflict between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, over the waters of the rivers Tigers and Euphrates. See the following map.

Map 1

Map of Tiger and Euphates Rivers


The two rivers start in Turkey, they cross Syria and Iraq, and they end up in the Persian Gulf. Ancient Mesopotamia, which is the region between these two rivers, and Ancient Egypt, both owe much of their achievements to these three rivers i.e. Tiger, Euphrates and the Nile. See map 2.

Map 2



The article mentions that twice in the period 1975-1991 Iraq and Syria threatened Turkey with military action, and once Syria and Iraq almost went to war, over the waters of Tiger and Euphrates. The main problem is that Turkey is constructing huge dams, either to increase her water supplies, or for irrigation purposes, or for generating hydroelectric power. The Atatourk dam reduced the waters of Euphrates that reach Iraq by 1/3, and the Turkish dam of Ilisu Cizre, which is almost ready, will reduce the waters of Tiger that reach Iraq by almost 50%.

According to the article Iraq gets almost 90% of its fresh water supplies from these two rivers, and the great powers should help these three counties to reach a peaceful and viable solution. The war in Syria and Iraq makes the situation even worse, because it hurts the water network. Moreover some of the networks of Syria and Iraq are now controlled by ISIS. On the other hand, the Kurdish separatists of the PKK who operate in Eastern Turkey, threaten Turkey that they will attack the Turkish dams as a means of retaliation over their clashes.

The article also mentions the conflict between Israel, Jordan and Syria over the rivers Jordan and Yarmuk. Israel attacked a dam that was under construction by the Syrians in 1967. However according to Foreign Affairs there has been a lot of progress between the Israelis, the Jordanians and the Syrians, but this is not the case for the Turks, the Syrians and the Iraqis.

Jordan River


I was recently saying about the conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile River. See “The Conflict Between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile River”.

For the Foreign Affairs article see

“Rivers of Babylon: Iraq’s Water Crisis—And What Turkey Should Do”, August 2015

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Al Qaeda VS China

At the following article by the Diplomat, titled “Al-Qaeda Declares War on China, Too”, October 2014, you can read that Al Qaeda declared war on China too, because China oppress the Uyghurs at her eastern province of Xinjiang. A bit more than 50% of Xinjiang’s population are of Muslims of Turkic origin.  Al Qaeda, among others, calls Xinjiang “East Turkestan”, and wants to see Xinjiang independent.

Map 1

Map Al Qaeda China

I have mentioned in the past the clash between Turkey and China over the issue of Xinjiang and the Uyghurs. The sunni islamist organization “East Turkestan Islamic Movement” operates in Xinjiang. The Diplomat article mentions that Al Qaeda and ISIS are united on the issue of Xinjiang. I must say that the 45 billion dollar Chinese-Pakistan economic corridor, which is promoted by China, will transfer the Iranian gas and oil to China, something that deeply hurts Arab economic interests. Moreover the Altai natural gas pipeline, which was agreed by the Russians and the Chinese, and which will carry Russian natural gas to China, will run through Xinjiang.

As I said the population of Xinjiang is of Turkic origin to a large extent, as it is the case with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgizstan, and Turkey wants to use her cultural similarities with the region, in order to outweight the Russian military influence, and the Chinese economic influence. Therefore the alliance between Al Qaeda, which is mainly influenced by Arabs, and ISIS, which is mainly influenced by Turkey, should not surprise anyone.

See also Turkey VS China

and “Turkey, Russia and China in Central Asia”

For the Diplomat article see

“Al-Qaeda Declares War on China, Too”, του Οκτωβρίου 2014

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Islamic State (ISIS) VS Al Qaeda

A very nice article by the Business Insider, titled “We’re getting to know just how different ISIS is from al Qaeda”, March 2015, about the differences between ISIS and Al Qaeda. In the third paragraph the article says that Al Qaeda did not care much about the creation of an Islamic Chaliphate, while this is one of ISIS’s main concerns.

That makes sense, if we take into account that the major influence in Al Qaeda is the Arabs of the Persian Gulf, who do not want a Chaliphate, because a Chaliphate would mean that they would have to share their oil and natural gas with other countries. On the contrary, the main influence in ISIS is Turkey, and Erdogan would love to be some kind of Sultan in a Chaliphate i.e. some form of union with the Persian Gulf, which would also imply many economic benefits for Turkey. Turkey wants to somehow regain the influence it had in the Middle East until the First World War (1914-1918). The Turkish soldiers that were sent to Qatar in 2015, one hundred years after their withdrawal from the region, was a step towards this end.

In the 9th paragraph the article says that the great enemy of Al Qaeda is the United States, while the great enemy of ISIS is the Shites of Syria and Iraq, and the Assad regime of Syria. That makes sense too, because Al Qaeda wanted to fight the Americans who wanted to bring the oil of Kazakhstan and the natural gas of Turkmenistan to India and the Indian Ocean i.e. TAPI pipeline etc. After all the base of Osama bin Laden was for many years in Afghanistan.

Map 1

Map of TAPI pipeline

Moreover some parts of the Saudi elites might have been angry with the US, due to the American pressures for larger oil production and lower oil prices. Finally some Arabs might believe that the alliance between US and Saudi Arabia was a constraint towards closer economic relations with China, which is now the big customer in the Middle East. The Americans have reduced their imports from the Gulf. China has much closer relations with Iran due to the Saudi alliance with the US. But Al Qaeda should not be seen as the same thing with the Saudi leadership, because Al Qaeda was the first one to call the Saudi King an apostate, and asked for a jihad against him.

As far as Turkey is concerned, the US and the TAPI pipeline is not a problem. The problems for ISIS are the Arabs of Syria and Iraq, who refused the construction of the Arab-Turkish Pipelines i.e. Qatar-Turkey pipeline, and agreed with the Russian state-owned Gazprom to the construction of the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. It is true of course that some problems arose between Turkey and the US too, because the US supports the Syrian Kurds in Northern Syria, which is a big problem for Turkey. Moreover the Americans have also improved significantly their relations with Iran, which is another problem for Turkey and ISIS. But it is unlikely that the US will become the main target of ISIS, because Turkey and the US need each other a lot, no matter what problems they encounter in their relationship. However there is always the possibility of regional clashes between the US and ISIS, something that has already happened in Syria.

Another interesting article for the clash between Al Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS’s dominance over Al Qaeda, is the Guardian’s “How Isis crippled al-Qaida”, June 2015. I must say that the main reason that ISIS became stronger than Al Qaeda, which was the leader of all terrorist organizations, is the support from Turkey. The Turkish military machine is much stronger than the Saudi one. In addition the Americans were not putting many restrictions on the supply of arms to Turkey and Israel, which was not the case with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was not seen by the Americans as reliable as Turkey and Israel, not only because of China, but also because at some point an anti-American leadership could come to power. Moreover Al Qaeda does not have the support of all the Saudi elite, because it is an enemy of the Saudi King.

Another reason that Al Qaeda is weaker than ISIS is that the United States attacks Al Qaeda wherever they can, because Al Qaeda is for the US a deadly enemy. On the contrary attacking ISIS creates problems in the relationship between the US and Turkey, and therefore the Americans have to show a lot more restraint when they attack ISIS.

For the Business Insider article see

“We’re getting to know just how different ISIS is from al Qaeda”, March 2015

3rd Paragraph

Unlike the self-proclaimed Islamic State, al Qaeda — led by bin Laden until his death in 2011 — was never overly concerned with the immediate formation of an Islamic caliphate.

9th Paragraph

Whereas al Qaeda’s primary enemy has always been the United States, ISIS targets are much closer to home: Namely, apostate Shi’ite regimes such as Bashar Assad’s government in Syria and Haider al-Abadi’s in Iraq that impede the creation of a “pure”, radically sectarian Islamic state.

 For the Guardian article see

“How Isis crippled al-Qaida”, June 2015

Map 2

Map of the Middle East

Map 3

Oil Fields (black) and Natural Gas Fields (red) of the Middle East and the Caspian Sea

Χάρτης Πετρελαίου και Φυσικού Αερίου της Μέσης Ανατολής

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The Alliance Between Iran and Al Qaeda

A very interesting article by Foreign Affairs, about the limited alliance between Iran and Al Qaeda, titled “Al Qaeda in Iran: Why Tehran is Accommodating the Terrorist Group”, January 2012. Al Qaeda is a Saudi terrorist organization, which was created by Osama bin Laden in 1988, and it is very hostile towards the US and the Saudi leadership. It is the organization responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attack (Twin Towers).

It can be assumed that Osama bin Laden was funded by business centers which wanted a closer cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China, and which believed that the US military presence in Saudi Arabia was a big constraint towards this end. And it is true that the Saudi-American relations allowed the Iranians to have a closer cooperation with China. One of the main requests of Osama bin Laden was for the US military to leave Saudi Arabia. And indeed, immediately after the 9/11 attack, the US military bases were transferred from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, which was more than happy to host them, as a shield against the Saudis and the Iranians. However Saudi Arabia paid a very high price for that, because the Americans reduced their backing for the Saudis in many aspects of their foreign policy.

Moreover we can assume that Osama bin Laden was funded by Saudis who wanted to prevent the flow of the Kazakh oil and Turkmen natural gas to India and the Indian Ocean. From 1996 Afghanistan was the base of Osama bin Landen.

Map 1

Al Qaeda Iran

The Foreign Affairs article mentions that Iran and Al Qaeda are opponents, and this has been more than obvious in Iraq, but they have a common hatred for the US. I must add that the TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), promoted by the US and India, hurts both the Iranian and Arab interests. The article refers to Al Qaeda’s bases in Iran, and says that the Iranians do not allow members of Al Qaeda to move freely within Iran. However, according to Foreign Affairs, it is much harder for the US to attack Al Qaeda’s bases in Iran, compared to the ones in Iraq, Pakistan or Yemen.

In the 10th paragraph the article says that the Iran-Al Qaeda limited alliance seems odd, but it can be explained by their common hatred for the US, the Saudi leadership and Israel. Moreover the Al Qaeda presence in Iran is a guarantee for the Iranians that Al Qaeda will not carry out any attacks within Iran. For Al Qaeda the Iranian bases are its safest bases, since it is very difficult for the US to attack them. The article says that if the US-Iranian relations further deteriorate, the Iran-Al Qaeda ones will become even better. However the article was written in 2012, and the relations between Iran and the US significantly improved, and therefore it can be assumed that the ones between Iran and Al Qaeda became more difficult.

For the Foreign Affairs article see

“Al Qaeda in Iran: Why Tehran is Accommodating the Terrorist Group”, του Ιανουαρίου 2012

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As you can read at the following Reuters article, titled “Japan protests Russian PM’s visit to disputed island”, August 2015, the Kuriles Islands in the Sea of Okhotsk have strained relations between Japan and Russia since the end of World War 2. Russia calls the islands South Kuriles, and Japan calls them Northern Territories. Russia took control of the islands in the last days of World War 2. Russia was with the winners and Japan was with the losers of the war. You can see the disputed islands at the following map.

Map 1

Kuril Islands

As you can see at the following map of Energy Information Administration, Russia produces 4% of her oil and 4% of her natural gas from the region near the Kuriles Islands, and Japan is a country very poor in energy resources. That problem became more important for Japan after the nuclear accident of Fukushima in 2011.

Map 2

Russian Production

At the other end of Japan, at the East China Sea, Japan and China are facing each other over the Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan, but Japanese control is disputed by China and Taiwan. See map 3 from Wikipedia.

Map 3

Map Senkaku Islands

Sea also map 4.

Map 4

Kuril Islands 2

It is believed that the East China Sea is rich in resources, and as you can read at the following Reuters article, titled “Japan demands China halt oil exploration in part of East China Sea, July 2015, China is exploring the waters of East China Sea for oil , and Japan demands that China halts these operations.

Moreover Japan wants to prevent China from militarizing the islets of the South China Sea, which would make the South China Sea a Chinese lake. China claims control of almost the whole of the South China Sea, due to historical reasons, something strongly opposed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan, which are the other countries of the South China Sea. These countries are backed by India, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and of course by the US. See map 4.

Map 5

Χάρτης Νοτιας Κινεζικής Θάλασσας

The Straits of Malacca in South China Sea is one of the most important energy choke points of the world, second only to the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, as you can see at the following table from the Energy Information Administration.

Picture 6

Energy Chοlkpoints

As you can see from the table, in 2013 17 million barrels of oil were passing daily from the Strait of Hormuz, and 15 million were passing from the Malacca Straits. At the following map you can see the most important energy choke points of the world.

Map 7

Energy Cholkpoints

You can see that Russia and China have a motive to cooperate against the US and their allies in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Sea of Okhtsok.

At the following article from the Financial Times, titled “Chinese boats fish in dangerous waters”, April 2012, you can read about China’s claims over the South China Sea. The following map is from the same FT article, and it depicts China’s claims. The Chinese “nine-dashed line” map.

Map 8

FT Body Article

For the conflict of the South China Sea see also Huffington Post, titled “Indonesia, America and China’s Nine-Dash Line”, August 2014.


Huffington Post, titled “U.S. Alliances Encourage Asian Allies to Be More Antagonistic Toward China”, May 2014.


Financial Times, titled “Construction on the high seas adds to Asian maritime tensions”, March 2015.

For the Reuters article about Japan and Russia see

“Japan protests Russian PM’s visit to disputed island”, August 2015

For the Reuters article about Japan and China see

“Japan demands China halt oil exploration in part of East China Sea, July 2015

For the Financial Times article about China and her claims in the South China Sea see

“Chinese boats fish in dangerous waters”, April 2012

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