While the recent alliance between Israel and Arab Gulf states appears to be a major defeat for Iran, it’s not as bad as it appears. That’s because Iran has one thing in its favor; most Arabs still do not consider Iran the greatest threat to peace in the region. You can thank decades of anti-Israel Arab propaganda for that. This was made clear in recent opinion polls of average citizens. Only two Middle East nations (Israel and the UAE) consider Iran a greater threat to peace than Israel. That is progress because a decade ago few Arabs would even consider a more favorable attitude towards Israel. Most Arabs are familiar with the Iranian threat but are unaware of how opposed the Palestinians are to any peace deal that does not involve the elimination of the Israeli government and killing or expelling all Israeli Jews. For decades the official Arab line was that the Palestinians desired peace with an Israeli state. That was once true but over the last two decades Palestinian policies have changed and now the official Palestinian position in Gaza and the West Bank is that Israel must be destroyed. Proof of this is available in Palestinian print and electronic media and it may take a while for most Arabs to accept that the Palestinians are no longer interested in peace with Israel. Some Arabs already realize this and are emphasizing that Palestinian leaders have been increasingly corrupt and incompetent, which is why most Arab states supply much less (or no) aid to the Palestinians. Most of that aid gets stolen or spent to reward terrorists.
Another factor that cannot be ignored is that the Middle Eastern Moslem states have been violently hostile to non-Moslems for over a thousand years. That is hard to change because there is so much encouragement for those attitudes in Islamic scriptures (the Koran). A growing number of Moslems realize that this hostility has been a major liability for Moslems because the non-Moslems are more powerful militarily and advanced scientifically in part because they have far fewer problems with religious differences and violent religious radicals. A growing number of Arabs are speaking out about what. For many Moslems this is an unpleasant truth that has been avoided for centuries.
While Arab public opinion did not see Iran as the greatest threat, the U.S. and Turkey were most frequently cited as the greatest threat. This was true even in the U.S. and Germany. All those decades of anti-Israel propaganda often included accusations that American support for Israel was part of a larger plot against Islam. Arab leaders were more realistic but for a long time were prisoners of the anti-Israel propaganda that had long been popular in the Middle East and in the last few decades has become more fashionable in Europe and the United States. Iran has long realized and exploited this and will continue to do so.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing to win the most popular support possible in Iraq. The Saudis are offering billions of dollars’ worth of economic investments, much of it aimed at improving the Shia south and the Shia majority city of Basra. This is the heartland of the Iraqi Shia, who comprise about 60 percent of the Iraqi population. Iraqi Shia live throughout the country but most are down south where they are very much the majority. Most Iraqi Shia are dissatisfied with Iraq’s Shia dominated parliament and government. Lots of government investment has gone to the south and much of it got stolen or paid for sub-standard work. Corrupt Shia politicians were responsible for this and for more than a year there have been anti-corruption demonstrations in the Shia south and Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad.
The Saudis point out that they also have a corruption problem but have learned how to control it and have been reducing the corrosive impact of corruption on their economy. They are obviously successful. In the latest global corruption survey Iraq was near the bottom (162 out of 180) in the rankings of who was least corrupt. Those at the top of the list are all more successful because they have the least corruption. Down at the bottom are the more and most corrupt. The Saudis are at 52 out of 180 and the UAE is at 21, ahead of the U.S. at 23 and Israel at 35. Iran is at 146. The Iraqis have been getting more advice and economic assistance (trade and investment) from the Sunni Arab oil states while all they get from Iran is offers of alliance, more Iranian military advisors and threats of violent retaliation if Iraqi politicians do not comply.
Economically, Iran has not got much to offer. Their latest proposal is a military/defense treaty with no Iranian cash attached. These Iranian treaties and aid packages once included generous bribes for key politicians. Those bribes are no longer paid, which makes Iran appear weak. Since the Americans revived their economic sanctions in 2017 and became the global leader in oil production, Iran had a lot less cash for their foreign subversion efforts. With oil prices down and their exports subject to seizure, there is a lot less cash for terrorism.
Iran still has many thousands of loyal and fanatic Iraqi Shia on their side but three years ago they had a lot more. Iran has not been able to improve the lives of Iraqi Shia and those Iraqis have noticed. It has also been noticed that Iran has been trying to enrich Iranian manufacturers by driving Iraqi competitors out of business. No such threat from the Sunni oil states.
The Saudis and other oil-rich Sunni Arabs still have more to do if they want to turn Shia Iraq into an ally. For decades the Sunni Arab oil states supported Saddam Hussein, even though Saddam operated a brutal dictatorship that was particularly vicious towards the Iraqi Shia Arabs and Sunni Kurds. These two groups comprised nearly 80 percent of the population with Iraqi Sunni Arabs about 20 percent. Saddam had the support of his southern neighbors because Iraq was the key to blocking any Iranian invasion of Arabia. Since the 1960s Arabs feared such an aggressive move and a Sunni dominated Iraq was considered worth supporting no matter what.
To pay for Saddam’s anti-Iran police state, most Iraqi oil income went to the Sunni minority and a lot of that paid for an army where most of the officers and senior NCOs were Sunni Arabs while over half of the troops were Kurds or Shia. To deal with any unrest or mutiny there was a separate force, the Republican Guard, to deal with any disloyalty and provide protection for Saddam and his key officials. Another elite group were the secret police. Actually, there were several different secret police and intelligence agencies, so everyone could be periodically investigated to verify their loyalty. That is all gone since 2003 and for over a decade many Iraqi Sunni Arabs fought to get back what they had lost. That effort suffered a succession of defeats and now the remaining Iraqi Sunni Arabs are about fifteen percent of the population and trying to be more cooperative, less troublesome and less persecuted for past crimes.
With the pro-Saddam terrorist threat much diminished the Iranians feel they have lost a valuable asset in Iraq. Trying to demonize the Americans never worked very well because U.S. troops took the lead in fighting the Sunni Arab terrorists and still do. Since 2014 most of the American military aid has been from the air, with over 13,000 airstrikes and many more surveillance missions. There are only 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq right now and the American goal is to get them all out. Despite that Iran continues to insist that the Americans are the Great Satan and a dangerous enemy of Islam. Four decades of preaching that has not reflected well on Iran. This assessment is shared by most Iranians as well.
The September Threat
The U.S. and Iraq are deadlocked over how to move against Iran-backed Iraqi militias. In late September the U.S. threatened to bomb pro-Iran Iraqi militias unless Iraq eliminated the threat first. The American position was that Iran was at war with Americans in Iraq and said so frequently and publicly. All the major Iraqi Shia religious leaders have called for the disbanding of all PMF (Popular Mobilization Forces) militias, in part because Iran was rapidly turning the entire PMF into an Iraqi version of the Lebanese Hezbollah organization called Kataib Hezbollah. Founded in the 1980s with Iranian help, the original Hezbollah still takes orders from Iran and has dominated Lebanese politics for over three decades. Most Lebanese want Hezbollah gone but a heavily armed militia with enormous economic power in Lebanon is difficult to disband. Iraqis want Kataib Hezbollah gone now and cannot understand why their prime minister does not act. Fear probably has a lot to do with the delay. In Lebanon Iran had several senior Lebanese politicians assassinated for being too openly hostile to Hezbollah. The personal danger for the Iraqi prime minister is based on fact, not just speculation.
In response to the American threat against them the Iran-backed militias, especially Kataib Hezbollah, agreed to a temporary halt to attacks against Americans. Not all the pro-Iran factions agreed, but most did and there have been far fewer attacks lately.
The new Iraqi prime minister (Mustafa al Kadhimi) is decidedly hostile to Iran and calls for easing the Iranians out and not giving them any justification to get more violent. Kadhimi had already ordered the removal of many pro-Iran commanders in the security services and disbanded some units that were dangerously pro-Iran. Kadhimi went to the U.S. in late August to meet with the American leader and discuss improving U.S.-Iraq relations. Such a meeting was important because Kadhimi is the first post-Saddam (2003) prime minister that is not heavily influenced/controlled by Iran.
Iran still has enough loyal (to Iran) Iraqi militias to be a threat to the Iraqi government. Most Iraqi politicians and voters want less Iranian influence. Iran wants fewer foreign troops in Iraq. That is a point of contention because Iraqis realize the foreign troops offer some assurance that Western and Arab states would actively assist Iraq if Iran sought to take control via a civil war or invasion. Civil war is the more likely option, but only in an emergency, such as Iraq appearing to succeed in disbanding all the pro-Iran militias. At the moment Iran is willing to halt all violence by Kataib Hezbollah if the government agrees to have all foreign troops leave Iraq, except for Iranian advisors. This sort of thing is seen by Iraqis as an expression of Iranian contempt for Iraq and confidence that Iran will turn Iraq into another Lebanon.
Iran has developed useful allies in Afghanistan. One of then is a major Taliban faction led by Mullah Rasool and operates along the Iranian border. The other allies are comprised of Afghan Shia, especially the Hazara (Mongol) minority. Many Afghan Shia have served as Iranian mercenaries in Syria and returned to Afghanistan. If Afghanistan suffers another civil war, Iran will have some powerful factions it can rely on.
Rasool always had lots of contacts in Iran and saw himself as a potential supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban, if only because Rasool was always a close ally of Taliban founder and leaders Mullah Omar. The recent Taliban civil war was the result of disagreements over who should take over as Taliban leader after it was revealed in 2015 that founder Mullah Omar had died of kidney failure in 2013 (in a Pakistani hospital) at age 53. The information was known to only a few key Omar associates who were accused of doing this as part of a plot to install an Omar successor (Mullah Mansour) who was second-rate but backed by the Pakistan military. Since Pakistan created it in the mid-1990s, they saw the Taliban as an inexpensive way to keep Afghanistan dependent on Pakistan and cooperative whenever Pakistan wanted something,
From late 2015 to mid-2016 Rasool fought other Taliban factions for control. Heavy fighting began in late November 2015 when Mullah Mansour ordered attacks against the forces loyal to Mullah Rasool. This marked a major defeat for the Taliban as they lost a major asset; unity. Most of the fighting took place in Herat, Zabul and Farah provinces. There were apparently several thousand casualties and the heavy fighting did not cease until July 2016. Meanwhile Pakistan backed their man Mansour, who was then killed in May 2016 by an American air strike. Pakistan used its considerable control over the Afghan Taliban to get the head of the Pakistan backed Haqqani Network appointed as one of the three senior Taliban leaders. Rasool apparently backed down in the face of all this and was thought to have left the country. That was not the case as the Rasool faction remains active in western Afghanistan along the Iranian border. Rasool cooperates with Iran in return for access to Iran for supplies. Rasool only controls about five percent of Taliban manpower but he is not the only anti-Pakistan faction. There are many more but these other factions go along with the main Taliban leadership while waiting for an opportunity to openly side with Rasool or some other Taliban leader free of Pakistani control. All these dissidents and Rasool account for about a third of Taliban strength. A smaller number of Taliban were so fed up with the drug gang connection and Pakistani dominance that they joined ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). For most Taliban the drug money is too good, or simply essential for survival, to ignore. Even some ISIL factions will extort drug smugglers for needed cash rather than just blocking the movement of exportable heroin.
Russia has been trying to persuade or manipulate the various factions in Syria to preserve the rule of the Assad clan and its decades-old alliance with Russia. To that end Russia wants Turkey to withdraw its troops from Syria and the Turks refuse to leave. Russia also wants the Americans out of eastern Syria and the Americans won’t leave. In the south Russia wants the Iranians out of Syria. The Iranians won’t leave. The Assads want the last rebel stronghold in Idlib province eliminated and the surviving Islamic terrorist rebels pushed out of the country. Turkey, Iran and the Americans have other priorities.
Too many of these Russian, Turkish, Iranian, American and Syrian goals contradict each other. There are other parties that must be paid attention to, like ISIL and Israel. ISIL is still a violent presence in eastern Syria and Israel continues to carry out airstrikes on Iranian forces as long as the Iranians are in Syria demanding that Israel be destroyed.
In Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran continue to pretend they are all friends and allies of Syria but the reality is different and is becoming more visible and violent. Syrians fear Russia and Turkey will join forces to extract what they can from Syria. Although Russian and Turkish forces are confronting each other in Libya, Russia recently played a major role in obtaining a nationwide ceasefire followed by peace negotiations between the major factions.
In effect Iran and ISIL were staying away from each other. Since mid-2020 the ISIL raids in the east have become larger and more effective. The Turks have cooperated by putting more pressure on Kurdish forces near the Turkish border. Russia has a small but growing number of troops in the east and these are capable of calling in Russian airstrikes. These Russians are now directing more airstrikes against ISIL combat groups in the east. That is not having the desired effect as ISIL has adapted to the constant threat of American, Russian or Syrian air strikes and provide no easy targets, only elusive ones. ISIL sees the squabbling between Turkey, Iran, the Assads and Kurds as an opportunity.
November 23, 2020: Foreign ministers from Britain, France and German met in Germany to discuss what to do with Iran. These three countries opposed the 2017 revival of American economic sanctions on Iran. The Americans claimed that Iran was cheating on the 2015 deal that lifted those sanctions in return for Iran halting its nuclear weapons work. In the last three years is has become evident that the Iranians were, and still are cheating. All this time the European nations insisted that was not the case but now Iran has become more blatant about its work on nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to carry them to targets as far away as Europe.
November 22, 2020: In Yemen, Iran-backed Shia rebels used an Iranian Quds 2 cruise missile to successfully hit a Saudi oil facility in Jeddah, a town about 860 kilometers from the Yemen border. The Yemeni rebels claim they launched the Quds 2 in northern Yemen about 20 kilometers from the Saudi border. Commercial satellite photos showed a damaged oil storage tank in Jeddah, which apparently the only damage.
On the same day the first meeting between the Israeli leader and the Saudi crown prince was held in a Saudi Red Sea coastal town. The Saudis denied the meeting took place and the Israelis had no comment. The Israeli leader was accompanied by the head of Mossad (the Israeli CIA). For months it has been rumored that the Saudis were reaching out to Israel for help in dealing with Iranian aggression in the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudis are particularly concerned about Yemen, which has always been a troublesome southern neighbor. The official Saudi position for over half a century is that Israel must be destroyed. That has turned into efforts to establish formal diplomatic, trade and military links with Israel. Most Arab leaders see this as necessity to deal with Iran and other real or potential foreign threats from Turkey, Russia, China and so on. While Arab leaders have accepted the need for such a change, most of their subjects have not and recent opinion surveys confirm this threat.
November 21, 2020:
In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) there was another airstrike against Iranian mercenaries guarding and weapons stored near the Al Bukamal crossing into Iraq. There were fifteen deaths of Afghan and Iraqi gunmen working for Iran. The attackers were believed to be Israeli but the Israelis rarely confirm these attacks.
November 20, 2020: In Yemen the Arab Coalition has found and removed 157 naval mines Iran-backed Shia rebels placed in the Red Sea. Many of the mines were supplied by Iran as are most of the weapons and explosives the Shia rebels use.
November 19, 2020: Egypt is hosting another round of Palestinian reconciliation talks aimed at forming a unified Palestinian government by holding elections in Gaza and the West Bank. This would select a new Palestinian parliament that Egypt hopes would be anti-Iran. That parliament has not functioned since 2007.
Both Fatah (West Bank) and Hamas (Gaza) openly condemn Arab states that recently made peace with Israel or are considering doing so. That means Fatah and Hamas are openly criticizing the UAE and Saudi Arabia, long the most generous Arab donors to Palestinians. No more, mainly because of the corruption that kept much of that money from getting to Palestinians that needed it. Fatah and Hamas are both turning to Iran for military and economic aid. At the moment Iran cannot afford to give much. Fatah sees Iran favoring Hamas and the Hamas plan to use subversion and violence to eliminate Fatah in a reunited Palestinian government. Fatah is desperate, having lost most foreign aid and about to lose more because of its refusal to stop diverting a large fraction of foreign aid to reward imprisoned Palestinians who have killed or at least attacked Israelis. The families of dead terrorists also receive payments. All this encourages Palestinians to undertake attacks.
November 18, 2020: In an unusual move, Israel revealed much of what it knows about how Iranian operations are organized in Syria. The Iranian Quds Force has established a Unit 840 to control all its activities in Syria. This includes Iranian mercenaries, which comprise most of the Iranian manpower in Syria. Most of the mercenaries are currently Syrians or Lebanese. The Syrians militias tend to be local self-defense groups that have accepted Iranian aid and will undertake Quds Force operations that do not require leaving the area they protect. The more effective mercs are Lebanese Hezbollah. These men have training and often quite a lot of combat experience. Israel reports that Iran has shut own a lot of its bases in Syria and concentrated its forces closer to the Israeli border in bases with more bunkers and other measures to better protect the inhabitants from air strikes. Unit 840 also seeks to recruit individual Syrians for espionage and attacks against Israelis (military and civilian) near the border. Quds spends a lot of time training its Syrian personnel for increasingly elaborate attacks on Israel. It was not a surprise that Israel knew all this because they have been hitting Iranian targets accurately for years and the Iranians are trying to establish a counterintelligence capability in Syria that will cripple Israeli information gathering efforts. Iran knows the Israelis are very good at this sort of thing and have even managed to maintain a network of agents inside Iran.
November 17, 2020: In Iraq an Iran-backed militia fired seven rockets into the Baghdad Green Zone, apparently at the American embassy compound. Three rockets landed in or near the compound but caused no injuries or damage. Another rocket landed in an empty part of the Green Zone while three rockets landed outside the zone, killing a child and wounding five other civilians.
In southern Syria (Golan Heights) Israeli troops, during an early morning patrol, found and neutralized a roadside bomb that was planted next to border fence near a road. Hezbollah has long used this tactic along the Lebanon/Israel border. Israel accused Syria of responsibility for this latest incident because the Syrians will not block Iran-backed groups from the border and ignores these Iranian supported Islamic terrorists attempts to kill Israelis. Over the next 24 hours Israel carried out airstrikes against the Iran-backed groups responsible. At least three people were killed and one wounded because of these airstrikes on Iranian bases in Syria. The Iranian Quds Force handles organizing these operations and sustaining the local militant groups working for Iran.
November 16, 2020: Iran admitted that its new underground nuclear material enrichment center existed and was a violation of the 2015 nuclear weapons control treaty. So far this year
UN inspectors of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) have uncovered several such violations. In May the inspectors reported that Iran has stockpiled eight times more enriched uranium than allowed by the 2015 treaty to lift sanctions. More recently IAEA found an underground facility that was enriching nuclear materials to levels required for nuclear weapons. The IAEA also reports another violation of the 2015 deal is Iran blocking IAEA inspectors from two sites where nuclear weapons research may be taking place. In 2017 the U.S. accused Iran of violating the 2015 treaty and renewed its sanctions. Russia and other European nations that signed the treaty disagreed with the American assessment and did not renew sanctions. Germany, France, Russia, China and the European Union are still observing the 2015 treaty. For most of 2020 the Americans have pointed out that Iran is obviously in violation and the U.S. is urging the UN to impose stricter sanctions and enforce them. Germany and France, the main European participants in the 2015 deal, are angry at Iran for continuing to sponsor terrorist activities in Europe, including assassinations of exiled Iranians who criticize the Iranian government.
November 15, 2020: The government revealed that 25 border guards had been killed so far this year, most of them by Kurdish separatists in the northwest or Baluch separatists in the southeast. Since the 1990s over 13,000 border guards have died, mainly in the fight to halt drug smuggling from Afghanistan. That border has been relatively quiet recently, in part because the border security there is rather heavy. For a long time, the Afghan border was a combat zone with daily gun battles between Iranian security forces and heavily armed Afghan smugglers. The Afghan drug gangs eventually concluded that it was easier to smuggle out the drugs via Afghan’s northern neighbors.
November 14, 2020: In the northwest (West Azerbaijan Province,
where the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Iran meet) artillery was used against Kurdish camps across the border in Iraq. This attack was considered part of an effort by Iran and Turkey to get Kurdish separatists out of northern Iraq. The current Turkish campaign began in mid-June and is still active, more so than any previous campaign against PKK (Turkish Kurdish separatists) activity in northern Iraq. The Turks consider the current operation a continuation of a smaller cross border offensive that began at the end of May. Turkish warplanes, armed UAVs and artillery hit over 700 targets in a combat zone extending from border areas of Iraq’s Dohuk province (on the Syrian border) to Hakurk, the mountainous region where the three borders meet. Iran participates in this operation by attacking PKK and local Iranian Kurd separatists found inside Iran opposite the Iraqi Hakurk region.
In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) there was several airstrikes against Iranian and Syrian army targets. The aircraft could not be identified and were thought to be Israeli. However, some of the jets turned north after an attack, heading for SDF (U.S. backed Syrian Kurds) territory. Neither Israel nor the U.S. would comment.
November 13, 2020: In the northwest (West Azerbaijan Province) three border guards were killed by Iranian Kurdish separatists based across the border in Iraq.
November 10, 2020: Iraq is in the process of getting additional electric power from Saudi Arabia instead of Iran. New power transmission lines are being built into Saudi Arabia and will soon be able to import 500 MW from the Saudis.
November 7, 2020: The U.S. revealed that it had worked with Israel to locate Abu Muhammad al Masri, the al Qaeda deputy (number 2) commander, in the Iranian capital Tehran. Once located, two Israeli Mossad agents killed Masri on August 7th. This was the seventh anniversary of al Qaeda bombing of several American embassies. Masri was believed to have organized that attacks and knew the Americans were searching for him. He, like many other senior al Qaeda officials, was hiding out in Iran under an assumed name. The U.S. was searching for Masri and when they found him in Iran they requested Israeli help in killing the terrorist leader and one of his associates, the widow of Osama bin Ladens son. Israel has long maintained a network of agents in Iran, something the U.S. had not been able to do.
October 29, 2020: The U.S. provided details of recent major captures of Iranian weapons on their way to Yemen and Iranian oil illegally headed for Venezuela. The major weapons seizures took place in November 2019 and February 2020. Since then the weapons, which had been scrubbed of any national origin information, were closely examined. The stateless smuggler boats and their cargo were eventually linked to Iran. Some of the missile components were identical to those found in missiles clearly marked as Iranian. Some of the captured smugglers were persuaded to reveal details of their operation. The U.S. recently seized 1.1 million barrels of oil on an Iranian tanker and sold the oil.
Iran continues to get weapons, ammo and missile and UAV components into the Shia rebel stronghold in northwest Yemen. Despite having access to Oman, which shares a 293-kilometer border with Yemen, the Saudis have managed to make the Oman smuggling route much less effective than the water route through the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea. That route is guarded by the naval blockade and Iran has to spend a lot of money to hire experienced smugglers that can get past that.
While Oman maintains good relations with Iran, it also maintains even better relations with the United States and Britain. The Saudis are an ally, so Oman does not take orders from the Saudis but does get along with them. Such is not the case with Qatar, which sides with Iran, in part because of family feuds with the other Arab monarchies. Arabia is ruled by monarchies and the royal families have numerous links via past marriages, with the other Gulf dynasties and the resulting family feuds as well.
Qatar is a smaller Gulf state that actually borders the Gulf. Oman controls one side of the Strait of Hormuz (the entry to the Persian Gulf) but is, like Yemen, outside the Gulf. Oman is sometimes accused of siding with Iran and Qatar but that support is not strong and often changes. Ultimately Oman sides with the ethnic (fellow Arab) and distant Western allies against Iran. Only Qatar has been accused of being too cooperative with Iran. The fact is that most of the smaller (than Saudi Arabia) states bordering the Gulf have long-standing business and personal relationships with Iraq that have survived many changes in the Iranian government over the last century.
These relationships between Iran and the Arabian states was made clear in 1981 when the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) was formed. Its members (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) appeared to have the wealth and military power to deal with threatening local (Iran) or foreign (China, Russia, India, the West and so on) threats. At the moment the religious dictatorships in Iran is seen as the major threat. Not the Iranian people, but the Iranian religious fanatics who are now openly disliked by most Iranians.
Within the GCC smaller members are willing to work with the Saudis when the cause is critical enough. Such was the case with the original Arab Coalition being formed and entering Yemen in 2015. The UAE and Saudi leaders of the coalition still had disagreements and these grew until the UAE withdrew most of its forces in late 2019. Iran takes advantage of these feuds as much as possible and the Arab monarchies are aware of this weakness but find themselves unable to completely suppress the grudges and all the problems this personal animosity creates.
October 23, 2020: In Libya the Turkey backed GNA faction signed a mutual security agreement with Qatar, a Persian Gulf Arab oil state that is an ally of Iran and Turkey. The agreement enables Qatar and GNA to negotiate ways that Qatar had help the GNA improve its security forces. There are two governments in Libya, the GNA and H0R. Most Libyans back the HoR faction, whose forces control most of the country.