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GCC-US Alliance Focuses On 'Moderate Islam', Isolating Iran's Axis & Obama's GME Legacy.

*** The US Justice Dept Has Named Ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller To Lead A Federal Probe Into Allegations That Trump's Campaign Collaborated With Russia To Sway The 2016 Election Which Put Him In The White House, Defeating Mrs Hillary Clinton, A Democrat Who Won Move Votes Than The Republican Candidate Managed To Get; But The Latter's Victory Was Based On Another Part Of The Polling System

*** Mueller Has The Powers To Prosecute Any Crimes He Finds; A Law-Man With All The Pi-Partisan Support He Needs, He Can Pursue Any Person In The US Found Guilty Of Irregularity

*** Trump's Justice Dept Had Resisted Increasingly Loud Calls From Democrats For An Outside Prosecutor

*** It Immediately Escalated The Legal Stakes - & The Potential Damage - For A President Who Had Tried

To Dismiss The Matter As A Partisan Witch Hunt

*** The Announcement, The Latest In The Shock A/Day Washington Saga, Was Made By Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; And The White House Counsel's Office Was Only Alerted After An Order Appointing Mueller Was Signed

*** Saudi Arabia And Russia Have Agreed To Extend The OPEC/NOPEC Oil Production Cuts For Another Nine Months To End-March 2018, With Riyadh Wanting A $45-55/B Price Range

DUBAI - Arriving in Riyadh on May 19, the period to May 26 has meant to be the key to the legitimacy of Donald Trump's embattled presidency of the US in a rapidly changing world. His choice of Saudi Arabia as his first stop in a series of momentous visits to include meetings with world leaders in Europe gave Iran's theocracy the strongest sign ever that its axis of control in the Greater Middle East (GME) no longer had any value. He reversed Barack Obama's legacy to shun the Riyadh-led Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC). This groups 57 states - Iran's being its sole Shi'ite member in a Sunni-dominated world of 1.7bn Muslims. Three summits convened in Riyadh on May 19-20: first for King Salman and Trump, one for Trump and the six GCC rulers, and the third for Trump and over 50 from the OIC. No state in the world has staged such summits in this short time.

A Salman-Trump summit yielded many things, including a set of defence and business partnerships totalling up to $354bn. These are to create jobs and other mutual gains. Trump later told Salman no state in the world could eliminate the worst terrorist groups on its soil: al-Qaeda, ISIS and Iran's IRGC in less than seven years (see fap5SaudiDe-Radicalstn8May17).

The Yemen war should end with a UN force to secure the key Hudaida port and Tihama region. The Zaidi Shi'ite Houthis will return to their Sa'da box. Traces of Iran's influence will disappear. Ex-president Saleh will get out of the way.

In the second summit, Trump and the GCC leaders agreed that the Syrian state was as good as gone, with the country split into two spheres of influence: Russia will keep most of the western half. The US will take the eastern half, where it is to eliminate ISIS within 2017 through the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). US air-strikes have just hit a Shi'ite militia force guided by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) near the borders of Iraq and Jordan.

The US area in Syria will help consolidate American control over Iraq, where ISIS must be finished and Musul will be set for re-building. The IRGC-guided Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) - a coalition of about 50 Safawi militia groups - will no longer create a land corridor between Iran and the Assad/ Hizbullah territories. Iraq will sell crude oil to Egypt and will plan a pipeline to Aqaba (see oed5IrqEgypt15May17).

In the OIC summit, Trump's proposed ban on Islamic extremism will be adopted after the Saudi/GCC and Egyptian examples. Turkish President Erdo?an will have to tame - if not to evict - the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Erdo?an will have to be persuaded to moderate his Neo-Ottoman drive.

Shortly before leaving on his tour, Trump extended sanctions relief for Iran to uphold Washington's part of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the 5+1 powers. This was the recommendation of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to limit parts of its peaceful atomic programme in return for the removal of all nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the US.

Yet Trump hit the IRGC with new sanctions related to its missile tests and programme. He set additional penalties on Hizbullah. A powerful US law firm had warned: "If they don't renew the waivers they will have a big mess on their hands". It said Iran would have no impediment to re-starting its nuclear programme. Thus Trump reversed his stand on this.

Defence Secretary James Mattis and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell travelled last month to meet with King Salman to ensure there would be enough policy substance to call the trip a win. Trump then announced the creation of an "Arab NATO" to push back against Iran. The US was to fortify ties with Saudi Arabia as its top Arab/OIC partner.

Lockheed plans for Riyadh and its allies include a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) rocket-guard system. The THAAD, like to one in South Korea, costs $1bn per unit. Being arranged is a C2BMC programme for combat coming with a "summon&control" system, in addition to a package of satellite-guided capabilities, all produced by Lockheed. Rowhani Wins Iran's Presidential Election; 2nd Term Will Accelerate Reforms: With a turn-out of over 70% of Iran's 56m voters casting ballots from the urban middle classes, President Hassan Rowhani, 68, on May 19 won another four-year term in a land-slide. This enables him to accelerate the pace of his reforms, focusing on expansion of personal freedoms and to open the country's ailing economy wider to global investors.

Equally as important, this victory will enable him to strengthen the position of the reformist faction as the country prepares for the end of the rule of the theocracy's 78-year-old Supreme Leader, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei. In parallel, the priority is to lower the degree of control which the IRGC has been assuming since 2005 as well as wrest back to the official economy those gains which this Safawi extremist giant has added to its autonomous business empire.

Of the 41m votes cast, the Interior Ministry said, Rowhani won 23m (57%), defeating his chief opponent Ebrahim Ra'isi, who received 15.7m (38.5%). State TV congratulated the president on his victory.

Rowhani, however, will face considerable challenges, both at home and abroad, as he embarks on his new term. He badly needs to demonstrate progress on over-hauling the economy. While he accomplished his goal of reaching a nuclear agreement with the US-led 5+1 powers in July 2015, that has not translated into the economic revival he predicted because of lingering US sanctions. He particularly needs American clearance to open the world's financial sector.

Rowhani must deal with a hostile and un-predictable Trump administration which last week reluctantly signed the sanctions waivers that are a central element of the nuclear agreement. At the May 19-20 summit meetings in Riyadh between President Trump and leaders of Sunni states, Iran was not only shunned but was the primary target for their punitive measures. The theocracy was condemned as the most dangerous source of terrorism in the world, as well as the source of most GME troubles, while the Republican-controlled US Congress is not about to loosen the unilateral sanctions which are frightening off foreign banks and businesses.

The reformist president, who has managed to mend ties with the EU, is defiant, however. In the previous week, he vowed: "We shall break all the sanctions against Iran".

After his victory, Rowhani invoked the name of God and told the Iranians: "With more than 41 million of your votes, you have pulled out the history of our country away from inertia and doubt". Defying Khamenei and the Safawi extremists, he mentioned Iran's reformist former President Muhammad Khatami, whose name and portrait have been banned by state television and all domestic print media.

Rowhani added: "I will keep my promises". He believes he has some cards to play with the US - but he is yet to realise that Iran is no longer in a position to keep controlling Iraq, which has joined the Arab allies of the US. Nor will Iran be capable to maintain its influences in most other Arab countries, despite the enormous amounts of money and weapons given to them by Iran since the 1990s.

Ra'isi, aged 56 with the religious ranking of hujjat ul-Islam, as in the case of Rowhani, is an extremist Safawi judge who leads one of the wealthiest religious foundations in the Middle East, which is in Mashhad. He campaigned as a corruption fighter and called on Iran to solve its economic problems without any assistance from foreigners. He appealed primarily to the poor and deeply religious Iranians.

As a prosecutor, Ra'isi was among those responsible for the brutal murder of many liberal politicians in the late 1980s, both before and after Khamenei became the supreme leader following the June 1989 death of Imam Ruhullah Khomeini who had founded the theocracy. But in the final years of his life, Khomeini moderated his position considerably. Still, however, his successor Khamenei pursued his own extremist line as a Safawi and Ra'isi was among those young up-starts who took their course.

Nevertheless, Ra'isi fared well enough in the May 19 elections to maintain his status as a potential successor to Ayatullah Khamenei. Earlier this year, he ran for the post of a potential supreme leader but lost.

In defeating Ra'isi, Rowhani proved once again that Iran's electorate prefered the moderate reformist path over the rigid Safawi ideology and harsh social restrictions favoured by the supremacist theologians and security establishment. Despite controlling most un-elected councils, these theologians and IRGC commanders have suffered a string of political defeats, beginning with Rowhani's election to the presidency in June 2013. That led to direct talks with their arch-enemy, the US, and ultimately to the nuclear deal, which they opposed. Then moderate and reformist candidates made strong gains in last year's parliamentary elections.

Ayatullah Khamenei remains the ultimate arbiter in Iran's opaque political system. He is the man who must approve any further changes sought by Rowhani. On the other hand, Khamenei has demonstrated a surprising flexibility in recent years. He has allowed Rowhani to break some decades-old ideological canons when public pressures grew too intense.

Thus, most Tehran residents have satellite dishes enabling them to watch foreign news broadcasts and entertainment. Couples often walk hand-in-hand through the city's parks without fear of arrest or harassment.

Using language which had not been heard since Iran's turbulent 2009 presidential elections, Rowhani recently began to explicitly question the powers of un-elected institutions that nonetheless wielded great control over domestic and foreign policy in the country, such as the powerful IRGC.

Rowhani's message became a rather simple one: He wanted to make serious changes to how Iran was to be governed, but "they" will not let him. No one in Iran is under any illusion about who "they" refers to. In a scathing attack against Ra'isi and others, Rowhani said: "The Iranian people will reject those who in the last 38 years have known noting but being executioners"
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:May 15, 2017
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