A New International Order…

Weekly Commentary • May 22 2024
A New International Order…
David McAlvany Posted on May 22, 2024
  • Kamran Bokhari: Russia & Iran’s Shared Motivations & Desired Outcomes
  • North Korea & Iran Send Arms For Russian Offensive
  • Will Israel Preemptively Strike A Nuclear Iran?

“That order—many times refer to as the rules-based international order post World War II—is naturally evolving into something that’s not clear. So it has natural weaknesses. That order needs an overhaul, if you will, a natural overhaul. No order can last forever. And we’re talking— We’re approaching 80 years now since that time period. So there is a need, a natural need to overhaul this order that currently exists because of realities that have nothing to do with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, but just with reality. Technology has advanced. The way of doing economics has advanced. New powers have emerged. So these realities are already forcing the old order to adjust. So what these actors, the adversaries of the United States that we’re talking about, they’re benefiting from that, and they will exploit that.” –Kamran Bokhari

Kevin: Welcome to the McAlvany Weekly Commentary. I’m Kevin Orrick, along with David McAlvany.

I’m looking forward to our guest, Dave, Kamran Bokhari. I remember you’ve had him on a number of times and he was also associated with Dr. George Friedman. These men look at geopolitics and geostrategic things in the way a person would look at a chessboard. And I’ll never forget, when the comment was made that when the United States took Saddam Hussein, the kingpin of the Middle East, out, it created a vacuum in Iraq that would either be filled with Iran or Turkey. Now, in that same note, I remember Dr. George Friedman saying that—this was five years before Russia went into Ukraine—he said a vacuum was created that will be filled in Ukraine, and that in the next five years, Russia will definitely have to go back into Ukraine.

Well, Dave, over the last week we saw the death of President Raisi in Iran. And of course, anytime something like that happens, the question would be, “All right, what changes with the power struggles, not only in the Middle East, but worldwide?”

David: Yeah, Dr. Bokhari is Senior Director of Eurasian Security & Prosperity Portfolio at the New Lines Institute, still a senior consultant with the World Bank, has been since 2009. He’s worked with the U.S Department of State’s Foreign Services Institute. And he could go through a laundry list of things that qualify him to have opinions on the Middle East, including three, four, five, six different books that he’s written, political Islam and things relating to the Middle East. This is certainly an area where he likes to spend some time.

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Kamran Bokhari, welcome back to the McAlvany Weekly Commentary. Ordinarily, we speak about Turkey and consider a broad range of factors impacting the balance of power in the Middle East. And as always, I’m interested in your perspective from a high level on the evolving leadership struggles across the Levant. Today, we also take the opportunity to dig a little deeper into Iran, recently in the news with a helicopter crash and the loss of their president and foreign minister, and Israel, also in the news this week with steps taken by the ICC to end the conflict in Gaza with pressures raised on Israeli leadership.

Iran is in the news for an unexpected reason this week. The president and foreign minister have died in a helicopter crash. There was already an evolution in leadership prior to this event. And now there are a few more variables in flux as Khamenei, number one in Iran for over 35 years, edges closer to death because of his age. What has changed this week in terms of the Khamenei secession? Some considered perhaps it was going to be the number two, Raisi, in line for that supreme leader role. How much has shifted this week?

Kamran: I think the struggle between the various power centers and the factions that make up the Iranian political establishment has intensified. And it’s only natural because in any system which is balancing between multiple factions, and that’s what Khamenei has been trying to do for decades, is to maintain that balance between different factions in order to keep the system going and more importantly his position at the apex of the system.

So you have who you more or less want as president, you have more or less those in various command roles in the military. And especially if you have two parallel military organizations, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the regular armed forces. And then you have your intelligence community, your judiciary, and the whole, if you will, maze of institutions and maze of power centers.

So you have this equilibrium of sorts. All of a sudden you lose one guy who, if you look at history, so pretty much every single president since Khamenei himself became president, has done two terms. So Khamenei before becoming the supreme leader was president under the founder, Ayatollah Khomeini. Then he was succeeded by Hashimi Rafsanjani, also in two terms. He was succeeded by the more reformist-leaning Mohammad Khatami did two terms. And then everybody remembers Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Maverick president. He did two terms. And then you had Rouhani who signed the nuclear deal with Washington. He did two terms.

And so it was assumed that Raisi will be also getting a second term. Those plans have been disrupted. So now you need to fill holes while you are still thinking about, “Okay, so who takes over after me?” I mean, this is, at the end of the day, Khamenei’s republic. For 35 years, he’s literally built it based on his own view of what Iran should look like. And therefore you have to assume he’s planning for the future when he’s not around.

It’s another thing that there are other factions, and we can get into that conversation here in a bit, but suffice to say that he enabled the rise of the military, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, that are now, for all intents and purposes, the center of gravity of this political system. And they also have a say, or will have a say, in who gets to be Khamenei’s successor. I mean, it’s one thing that you sort of say, “Hey, I have these preferences,” but when you’re not there and then others are taking a much more active role, then they’re the ones who prevail as opposed to you.

So the Raisi death has him now trying to sort of reestablish that balance of power. At a time when, let’s just put it this way, credible clergy are hard to find. You have eliminated even many of your own conservative allies because they did not see eye to eye with either you, you being Khamenei, or your allies. And so this is now a very complicated picture from the perspective of a transition, and this is going to be a systemic transition.

David: The idea that Raisi might have been in line, is there also a possibility that Khamenei’s own son would be a successor to the supreme leader?

Kamran: So first of all, I think Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, that would be a stretch because it would basically mean that leadership is now hereditary. And this is dynastic politics. This is exactly what this regime came to eliminate, the monarchy of the Shah. He was overthrown to establish a regime that had legitimacy in the beginning. Obviously, fast-forward 45 years, and that legitimacy is gone. But that doesn’t mean that you just completely do away with it in such an overt way by appointing your own son or your son taking over after you die. It also assumes that those around him, the various power centers that have emerged, particularly the military, are going to accept this.

So I’m not so sure that he’s in the running. As for Raisi, he has been a lightweight. He is there because there’s nobody else left. Other than Khamenei himself, there’s just one more cleric of any stature who’s an Ayatollah, who is from the days of the revolution, and he’s 96 years old. I’m talking about Ahmad Jannati, the head of the notorious Guardian Council vets people or sort disqualifies people, a lot of them, including many conservatives, from running for public office. And then they have oversight over any legislation that has passed. So it’s a pretty powerful authority.

But if you have a 96-year-old guy running that, and on top of that, he’s also the chair, or at least he’s keeping that seat warm until they find somebody else of the Assembly of Experts, which is the 88-member clerical body, popularly elected to the extent that we have public turning out to vote. But this is the body that formally is going to elect the next supreme leader. It also has the authority to hold him accountable, not that that has happened, ever. And it can also remove a supreme leader if that situation emerges. Again, that’s something that’s not happened, so it’s untested.

Nonetheless, the point is that you don’t have clerics. So what you have are Raisi-type ideologues who have come through the rank and file. They’ve climbed the ladder and joined the political elite even though they’re not clerics. So yes, he’s a sayyid because he claims lineage from the family of the prophet. His father-in-law in this town of Mashhad is a very powerful cleric, but he himself had no credentials. There’s no evidence that he ever completed his seminary studies. But he was a very big ideologue and an operator, which is why he found himself in the prosecutor’s chair for a long time. And he is responsible for the torture and the deaths of many, many political opponents, as many as 5,000 during the ’80s. And that’s how he made his way to becoming at one point the head of the judiciary, then running this powerful foundation in the second-largest city of Mashhad until he became president.

So you had a person who was not even, all things being equal, would not have been able to win a presidential election had there been a level playing field. And I’m talking about an Iranian level playing field, not any other standard. Definitely not what we see in other places that have free elections. So even by Iranian standards, he would not be capable of winning. He was brought to office through massive electoral and pre-electoral engineering.

So that person becoming supreme leader, I’m not ruling it out, but I have a hard time thinking that he would be able to make it that far. And then not to mention that there are so many intraconservative feuds going on, and he doesn’t necessarily represent all the factions. It’s like a spectrum. You have those who are a bit more pragmatic, and then there are those who are increasingly ideological. He’s somewhere in that latter camp. So it’s not like he had a whole lot of support.

I think that the next supreme leader is going to be a surprise because I don’t see anybody with the stature to take over who’s already in the system. And I think that now there are too many players that will get to decide who the next supreme leader is. So these reports about the obvious people, I take them with a pinch of salt.

David: So it seems like there was a consensus amongst the conservatives and hardliners following the Raisi election. And I appreciate your diplomatic way of saying that, pre-electoral engineering. But if there was a consolidation of power by conservatives and hardliners, that’s where this gets very interesting, the evolution of power and what becomes the core ideological theme that people rally to as we see a very significant transition of power.

We haven’t seen a different supreme leader in 35 years. So whoever takes over next, the US State Department will be very interested. The Israeli defense apparatus will be very interested. And that brings me to the next question, which is, you’ve got direct strikes on Israel from Iran in the last 60 days. That’s a change in character from a country that’s traditionally worked through proxies like the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah. It was unimpressive. There wasn’t a major escalation. Yes, there was sort of a tit-for-tat military engagement between Israel and Iran, but relatively boring. What do you see as the next supreme leader? Is this a moment of escalation? Is this a moment of de-escalation?

Kamran: So it’s difficult to tell for sure, but if I had to sort of pick apart that question, I’d say regardless of who becomes the next supreme leader, let’s just look at what happened. The Iranians were content for the longest time on not taking matters in their own hands. In other words, not directly responding to things, always operating by proxy. And they cultivated what they call the so-called Axis of Resistance, or plainspeak, a proxy network across the region. Their latest acquisition or project is the Houthis, which allowed the Iranians to have a significant outpost, strategic outpost, in Saudi Arabia’s backyard, essentially at the very strategic location where the Red and the Arabian Seas meet.

And we knew that that was the case for years. But in the wake of the October 7th attack by Hamas and the massive retaliation by Israel, we saw the Iranians use that as an opportunity to demonstrate something that we didn’t think they would do. They always said, “Hey, we’re going to disrupt shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.” And we would say, “Okay, let us know when you do that” because nobody really bought that because that’s a red line. It’s a disruption of oil supplies. 30% of the world’s oil supplies go through that waterway, and the Iranians didn’t want to do that. But they did demonstrate that capability, not because they were forced, but they saw an opportunity in the Gaza war.

And they also needed to show that they were doing something about— Or let’s just put it this way. The question is, if you are positioning yourselves as the champion of the Islamic world or the Middle East or whatever it is, then what are you doing for the Palestinians? That’s the big question. It’s a question not only for the Iranians, but for the Saudis and the Turks. But in this case, the Iranians needed to address that question. And so they saw that we could do something through the Houthis, which is not directly linked, or not directly getting involved, in the Gaza war, but indirectly. So we saw the disruption of shipping lanes and commercial trade through the Red Sea. And so that was something that is an opportunity, in my point of view.

Now as things escalate, I mean we thought this is going to be the flashpoint, if you will. The next flashpoint. We’ve known about Hezbollah. Hamas has been firing rockets on Israel. Now it’s done this unprecedented scale of an attack. We know Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq do their thing and target U.S forces, but they demonstrated something, the Iranians, through the Houthis striking at commercial shipping.

But then, obviously these things have a life of their own and they trigger consequences or things that you’ve not really gamed out. Again, you being the Iranians. And so at one point when their embassy was targeted, or the diplomatic compound, it’s hard to say whether that was part of the embassy or was it a side building, but nonetheless, it was being used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ overseas operations arm known as the Quds Force for operations on the northern flank of Israel. So when that happened, I don’t think the Iranians were prepared for that. I think that the Iranians were forced into a position where now there’s pressure building from within. There are many hawkish factions that you have sort of cultivated, but you kept them in check because there’s a need to be pragmatic while you are being ideological. But these are ideologues who are saying it’s now or never.

And then you have your proxies looking at you and saying, “Hamas is getting clobbered. Palestinians are dying in the Gaza Strip, and this regime isn’t doing much, other than the usual business of proxies.” And you have a relationship with Hezbollah where it knows how to maneuver and stay out of, if you will, much trouble. Although you keep sort of a level of engagement with the Israelis that is contained, more or less, but now you’ve been hit directly. And so your proxies that are looking at you and saying, “What are you going to do next?” So there’s an issue of credibility, not just from your own base at home, but also from your proxies. And generally speaking, the region and your adversary, in this case, Israel, and I would add the United States.

And then of course, there’s the issue of there’s a large swath of the population that just hates the regime. And the only thing that is keeping people from, if you will, completely going after the regime or protesting or an insurrection type of situation is the fear that this regime, if it falls apart, we hate it, but then do we want to turn into a Libya, Syria, Yemen, that kind of circumstance? So we don’t want that. So they go so far, but then at the end of the day, the devil that you know and the devil that you don’t. But then again, your credibility is at stake even in front of that audience. So I think the Iranians were forced into doing something.

This foreign minister who died with President Raisi the other day was very active in the lead-up to those 300 projectiles, including drones and ballistic and cruise missiles, that were fired at Israel, trying to choreograph or stage-manage this, because they knew that, “Hey, we need to respond, but we can’t respond in a way where there’s a counter response and work up that escalatory ladder. We don’t even want to be in this position of having to retaliate. We’ve never done this before. This is a very uncomfortable situation, but we have to do it. How do we pull it off?” You send signals to the US, you send signals to the Arab states, to Turkey, to whoever, to say, “Look, we’re going to retaliate. This is how we’re going to do it, but we are not interested in escalation.” You don’t know if it’s going to lead to an escalation or not, but you’re trying to contain it.

I think that that is something that the Iranians did because they were forced into that position. There may be some within the Iranian establishment, the national security establishment, who may look at this not just as a situation to which they need to react, but also an opportunity to demonstrate prowess and capability. But we saw that that didn’t really come through the way the attack took place.

So, that’s how I look at that. Now moving forward, once you’ve done it, once you’ve done this, then you say, “Oh, you know what? That wasn’t that bad. All hell did not break loose. Maybe we can do something. Maybe this becomes a routine.” And we’ve seen senior IRGC leaders and the commander-in-chief of the IRGC come out and say, “This is the new cadence through which we’re going to be operating.”

I think that, moving forward, there’ll be those who say, “Yes, we can do this, and we should do it, and whenever we need to. We don’t need to pull punches.” But then there are others who will say, “We’re lucky that we got away with it the first time, so let’s not push too hard over here, and so let’s keep things in check.” The next supreme leader, the question is, is this person going to be relatively, and the emphasis is on the term relatively, pragmatic or more hardline? That’s the question. And then the posture of the state and its behavior in the backdrop of this unprecedented move to strike directly at Israel will set the tone. But that’s my way of trying to say that we’re in sort of a very murky situation.

David: If the next supreme leader is faced with that option of being more pragmatic or more hardline, would that tend to shift one direction or the other depending on whether the focus is on internal stability, with the local polity being important—as you said, there’s been a loss of confidence on a broad basis amongst the population—or is it, back to sort of the greater Islamic world, needing to prove external credibility? Where do you think they fall, pragmatic-hardline with the emphasis either on internal stability or external credibility?

Kamran: There are two parts to this dynamic between the pragmatists and the hardliners, and these are not binary camps, as I mentioned. There are many, many different types of pragmatists and different types of hardliners. Number one is they all agree, except for those who are very, very ideological and from a younger generation who are more motivated by ideology than anything else. There’s a broad consensus. If I had to put a number, I’d say somewhere between 70%, 60% of the elite of the Islamic Republic at least has a common denominator, and that is, “We have to do something about the domestic political economy and public life,” especially in the wake of the protests that broke out in 2022 when the morality police killed the young lady who was visiting the capitol from Kurdistan, Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly improperly dressed. She was killed in their custody, and it really triggered something unprecedented. I don’t remember this level of ferocity and intensity and anger from the public towards the regime, and it lasted a long time. It’s calmed down, but it’s still there, and the elite knows that it’s there. They have to do something about it. That’s number one.

Number two is, for many years this regime has realized that we have had an aggressive foreign policy at the expense of the domestic political economy. A, we’re under sanctions, and B, whatever resources we’ve had, disproportionately we’ve directed them to Hezbollah, Hamas, Shiite militias in Iraq, supporting the Assad regime all throughout the Syrian Civil War, the Houthis. That’s sort of the main cast of characters. There’s also the Taliban and there are other actors that they spend money on. We’ve come as far as we could, but we can’t go any further without really breaking the situation at home.

This is why they engaged in the nuclear deal. They needed to be able to get sanctions respite to where they could continue to afford this assertive foreign policy but also take care of domestic political economic case. That didn’t happen, for obvious reasons. The Trump administration nixed the nuclear deal, so that plan didn’t work, but it doesn’t mean that they have another solution to it. They’ve been able to get by. Now, with this transition to a new supreme leader fast approaching, they’re worried. Will this be the moment where people will come out and we’ll have an uprising that we will not be able to control? So far, they’ve been able to dodge that bullet. This time around with the Mahsa Amini uprising, it was the longest, and that’s really spooked them.

You already have women who are not, again, quote, unquote, “properly dressed,” and they’re tolerating that in certain areas. Obviously, it’s not across the country, but in areas where people tend to be more liberal. They’re getting by, at least according to what I hear from people on the ground, and what makes it into the mainstream media. They need to be able to address that.

If the next supreme leader— If you look at the domestic political economy, you look at where the country is regionally, you also have this: We’ve established this sphere of influence. We’re the only game in the Middle East. We’re driving the geopolitics of the region. Even Turkey is not able to compete with us, and we have the Arab world deeply penetrated. We do something and everybody else reacts, including the United States and Israel. We don’t want to squander all of this. And the way to squander this is to continue being very ideological, and not taking a step back and consolidating.

For these reasons, I think that there are going to be a sufficient number of factions or elements within the regime who want the next supreme leader to ease up, especially on the home front. How do you take this steam out of the opposition at home? It’s you allow for some level of social reform, if you will. You lift restrictions. I’m not saying they’re going to become like MBS [Mohammed bin Salman] in Saudi Arabia, because at the end of the day, the Saudi clergy did not hold political office. They have one ministry but it was the House of Saud that dominated politics by giving the religious and some of the social space to the clergy. That’s been withdrawn, and you could see why MBS was successful in it, because the clergy, in sharp contrast with Iran, were not running the state. Here, the Islamic Republic as a political edifice is completely dominated by the clergy or by ideological elements that are spawned by the clergy. So, it’s going to be hard for them to do that, but they know that they need to lift some restrictions.

There’s already open talk by many people within the political elite who are talking about doing this. But will it happen? We don’t know, but it’s something that would make sense from the next supreme leader if that person happens to be more of a pragmatic bent. I know that the regular armed forces will increase—and this is what I argued in the recent report that I published from the New Lines Institute on what a post-Khamenei Iran would look like—that they would have—the regular armed forces would also have—a say, even if it is indirect. And then the IRGC is deeply divided amongst itself on this issue and many other issues between those who are pragmatists and those who are more ideological. It makes sense that the next supreme leader would be of this bent.

But then you have the ideologues and also many pragmatists. You can call them more like centrist, if you will. They feel that this is a slippery slope. Once you start to moderate, for a lack of better term, then it’s a spiral and you can quickly lose control of the situation. One of the reasons why it was so difficult for the Obama administration and the Rouhani government to come together was because there was a debate inside the regime. The hardliners would accuse Rouhani of essentially allowing for infiltration of the country by the West, American ideas, Western ideas. They wanted a nuclear deal and no more, this to lead to any form of normalization. Obviously, the Rouhani government and its supporters struck back with the charge of extremism, so it was infiltration versus extremism. That debate hasn’t ended. It’s simmering, and it’s probably going to come to the fore, most likely, again, when there’s time for the new supreme leader.

Those who are afraid of losing power, and this attempt at pragmatism leading to a weakening of the regime, they’re already pushing for a hardline conservative to take over from Khamenei. Likewise, those who want a pragmatist and who are confident that this is not going be the outcome— In fact, the only way for the Islamic Republic to consolidate everything that it’s gained is to become relatively more pragmatic.

If I had to draw an analogy, I’d say China in the ’70s and ’80s. It did not become pro-Western. It just had a détente, but it pursued its own interest, and here we are. China is the biggest adversary of the United States, or biggest foreign policy challenge for the United States.

If Iran were to reach an understanding with the United States at some point, whatever that understanding looks like, it does not mean Iran will become friendly to the United States, even under pragmatists. It will still pursue Iranian national interests, shaped not by theocracy necessarily or a theocratic vision of an Islamic state but more Islamic identity mixed in with Persian or Iranian nationalism.

David: Well, Trump nixed the nuclear deal put together by Rouhani and Obama, and since then we’ve had progress made on the development of weapons-grade fissile material. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most likely, where would you rate the odds of an Israeli preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear assets?

Kamran: The fact that the Israelis have not done that—and they had an opportunity to do it when they were hit by the Iranian attack—tells me that there is sufficient confidence within Israel. Of course, that intelligence is shared with the United States that, yes, they’re making advances. If we could go by what they say—very little that we can trust—but let’s just, for argument’s sake, say they’re enriching uranium at 60%. There’s still a 30% gap before they reach a situation where they have enough fissile material. And even if they reach that 90% mark, all they have is fissile material, but you need to make it into a weapon. You have to put in a box or a sphere to make a bomb, if you will. And then once you do that, which is what the North Koreans have, then you have a crude device. But then the question is delivery.

Merging missile technology with nuclear weapons is another level of engineering that, I’m not so sure they’re there. Can they conduct a nuclear test and declare that, “Hey, we have crossed that threshold”? I wouldn’t be surprised if they do that at some point. I can’t say when, but going from that to having weapons is another level of engineering that I’m not so sure they have. I mean, obviously, this is based on very limited intelligence. These are best estimates but that’s where I am.

To answer your question, if the Israelis had intelligence that they are approaching a dangerous range when it comes to the acquisition of nuclear weapons, then I think now, especially in the aftermath of what has happened, they will be less restrained to going out and striking at a facility. There’s other questions of, “Okay, so what does that mean? There’s going to be retaliation. Are we ready for that? There’s Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not just in Lebanon but also in Syria, allied militias.”

All of that has to be factored in in any Israeli decision, so it’s not just that, “Oh, they’re getting there and we need to strike.” Plus, the Israelis have demonstrated other means by which they have contained the progress on the Iranian nuclear program, whether it’s eliminating scientists or the Stuxnet virus back in the 2010s. There are other ways of doing this, and then of course the United States can also apply pressure and keep it that way.

Plus, bear in mind that when it comes to nuclear weapons, I don’t think the Russians want a nuclear Iran either. I don’t think the Chinese want a nuclear Iran, which is why they got into that nuclear deal. They want Iran’s nuclear program as something to preoccupy the United States, which is in their interest, Beijing and Moscow’s, but it’s not in their interest to see Iran having nuclear weapons.

I think there are more levers and tools there to prevent that from happening. Now, I distinguish that from them one day demonstrating that, “Hey, we’ve conducted a nuclear test.” And it’s not like it’s going to be a secret. It’s going to be picked up by satellite and all the earthquake monitors on the planet, so it’s not like they will have to announce it.

David: The Saudi relations with Israel were improving dramatically up through September of last year. Do you think Hamas and Hezbollah, their actions in October, were in part designed to upset that normalization process? And with that in mind, wouldn’t Iran lose something if Saudi Arabia extended the Trump-era Abraham Accords?

Kamran: Definitely. I am convinced that the Iranians and their Palestinian proxies, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, had a lot to lose. In fact, I remember four days before the October 7th attack, I wrote a piece on this. This was triggered by the very public statements that, I think it was an interview with Fox News that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave to Fox News, saying that we’re making progress every day and we’re very close.

We had the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say something similar, and both confirming what the other side was claiming. Had that gone through, it would’ve been a major setback for Hamas, but also for Iran. And they had the interest to torpedo it, which they have, and so now it’s become far more difficult. There are way too many Palestinians who have died. Gaza stated there’s close to 2 million people have been uprooted from their homes.

It’s a pretty bad situation that the Saudis cannot just ignore and say, “Okay, let the war end and we’ll go back to business as usual,” which is why the rhetoric from both Saudi Arabia and, more importantly, from the Biden White House has shifted. Initially all the shuttle diplomacy involving Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, “We’re working on a grand deal. We want to bring the Gaza war to an end. We want to put the things on a pathway to a Palestinian state in the future, which will lead to a normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia and American guarantees for Saudi National Security, etc.” Now, it’s become sort of this bilateral deal, strategic deal, that’s being described like that in the media in just the last one week or so.

So you see it’s a clear shift because it’s very difficult to do that three-way thing because Israeli interests, or at least short-term Israeli interests, seriously diverge from short-term Saudi interests. There is no way that Crown Prince can go and sort of say, “Okay, now that the war is over, we can get back to the Abraham Accords.” A lot more has to happen.

Initially, MBS was saying in that Fox News interview that, “We’re not waiting for a Palestinian state, but we need something for the Palestinians.” Didn’t define what that something is, but it was definitely that, hey, we’re not going to wait for a Palestinian state in order to establish normalized relations with Israel. Now, that’s not possible. But they also know that the opposite is not possible either, still, which is that you can’t have a Palestinian state in the short term.

So hence the language says we need a credible pathway towards the Palestinian state from almost like a direct pathway from cessation of hostilities in Gaza to reconstruction, rehabilitation of Palestinians in the strip to Palestinian statehood and what Secretary Blinken has been calling unity of governance, which is that the West Bank and Gaza Strip be brought under a Palestinian authority that will then become a Palestinian state in the future. Still not talking about when that would happen because they don’t know, frankly, but that’s the price that the Saudis are asking.

And also, if you are the Saudi, you have to wait. MBS isn’t going anywhere, but he doesn’t know about his negotiating partner, Bibi Netanyahu. And his position is becoming weaker and weaker. Not that he will leave office anytime soon, but you never know in Israeli politics. The split that’s happening now, even within the cabinet, is very telling. So if you’re the Saudis, why would you want to cut a deal just yet? Why not get a new government, and you can you extract more concessions and get a better deal? So I think that’s why you now have DC and Riyadh talking directly. And the Israeli component of that negotiation is put on the back burner, if you will.

David: We’re looking at the Israeli response to October 7th suggests that Hamas will not be allowed to exist. And there, of course, in the process of rooting out Hamas, you’ve got the civilian Palestinian body count, which has risen. Statistics haven’t moved that much in the last three to four weeks. I mean, if it was 32,000, it’s now 35, but the rate has certainly declined. But I don’t know that Hamas is helping with this at all, using their own people as human shields.

Nevertheless, we have Netanyahu under intense pressure, the International Criminal Court seeking to bring him to task for what they’re describing as war crimes. We come back to this idea of the two-state solution. Who is the second state? They were moving towards the second state, sort of, with Hamas being democratically elected, and they can’t be allowed to return. So is it the Palestinian authority? The viability of that state, at least insofar as Hamas’s— One of their bylaws suggests that Israel needs to be destroyed. They would want a one-state solution, with Israel being eliminated. So how do you have a two-state solution when one state won’t allow the other to exist? And maybe that goes both ways.

Kamran: I talked about what October 7 disrupted in terms of the Abraham Accords expanding to a bilateral agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. That was one of the things that got disrupted.

The other thing that was disrupted by that is Benjamin Netanyahu’s own policy, the policy of his government to basically allow for—and this is something that’s come out in the press now, it’s well-documented now—to allow for there to be a Hamas, not very powerful to threaten Israel in a major way. In other words, if they fire rockets, well, we have an antidote to that and we can deal with that. And so, keep Hamas there so that you don’t have to talk about a two-state solution, so you can continue ad infinitum for as long as possible without actually having to address the issue of the two-state solution.

Every time it comes up, well, who do we talk to? Mahmoud Abbas is geriatric. His PA does not have legitimacy. It is corrupt. And then there’s Hamas that wants to destroy Israel. So that was the argument of Netanyahu. The attack by Hamas forced Netanyahu into a position where it could no longer allow Hamas to rule Gaza. So that became very evident very early on, and we saw the rhetoric from the Netanyahu government shift accordingly.

The problem with that is that what the narrative has been really, really, if you will, vague. But what does it mean to destroy Hamas? There are many meanings to this phraseology of destroying Hamas, but you set yourself up for a task that you cannot achieve. And you saw from, I believe it was the US Joint Chief, General Brown, if I’m getting his name right, who would criticize the way that the Israeli military has been unable to neutralize Hamas. And it’s not really surprising because if you did not have the intelligence, or you were caught off guard with the October 7th attack, then you have to question the intelligence that is going to enable you to go and de-fang Hamas and effect regime change in Gaza, or try to impose military defeat on Hamas, which is why it’s taken so long.

And then of course, the going all-out and leading to a high casualty count with the civilian population placed a lot of constraints. You just mentioned, David, that in the last month or so, the numbers haven’t gone up, or at least the casualty rate has declined significantly, and it’s because of pressure from the United States.

So yes, that has played a role in slowing down Israeli efforts, but the intelligence wasn’t there to begin with, or at least not in the shape and form in which you can go in and execute and implement, which is why it’s taking so long. And you’ve even had former President Trump come out and say this, that this has gone on too long and it needs to be wrapped up. Israel is hurting itself, and so this has to stop. And he’s saying that because he now sees that this could be my problem in a few months’ time. So he’s adjusting to that potential reality.

So how do you sort of go back to that goal? There’s also some conflict between the imperative to get the hostages released, the imperative to address the international pressure, especially from your biggest ally, the United States, to reach a ceasefire, while the United States has pulled its punches in terms of calling for a ceasefire, sometimes saying, “We need one,” sometimes saying, “Hey, you need to complete the job. You need to do it fast.” But nonetheless, there is pressure behind the scenes. Everybody knows this.

Now the question is, how do you get the hostages retrieved, which requires a negotiation, which then says there will be a ceasefire, however temporary or long-term, with the idea that you’re going to impose defeat on Hamas. Because if you cannot impose defeat on Hamas, then you can’t be sure that they will not be part of a post-conflict political dispensation. You have the PA come out and say, from the West Bank, openly say that Hamas will have to be part of the PLO, will have to be part of the PA, but their best case scenario is that they will not be dominating the political system. But again, they can’t impose that either. They can’t get to that stage either without Hamas being compelled militarily.

Now, what does that look like? Do you eliminate their fighting force, their ability to make war? Well, we don’t really know what’s happening on that front. We hear that there’s been a lot of progress and only four battalions remain in the Rafah area, but we still have operations going on in Jabalia, in Gaza City, in Khan Yunis, in other areas. And that suggests that Hamas has not been defeated to the extent that the Israelis have been claiming, or at least what most people believe to be the case.

So as long as it’s able to wage war, they’re not going to surrender. If you are unable to impose defeat on Hamas, then it’s still in the position to negotiate from a position of relative strength. You want to reduce that and make it weak enough to where they’re willing to accept terms to a ceasefire in which they say, “Okay, we’re not going to be part of this government. Or maybe we’ll get a position that’s sort of like neither here nor there, or the share of power that Hamas will have in a future Palestinian authority will be minimal.” But that can only happen if you have made enough dent in the battle space. And that’s not what is happening just yet for a variety of reasons.

David: We’ve talked a bit about Iran, but not as it relates to Russia. Explore your views on the increasing involvements between Iran and Russia and sort of one step removed from that, China. It’s interesting that two of those three are under US sanctions.

First, is the alliance between these countries, is the cause of that discontent with the current global order, or is it an effect?

Kamran: I think it’s kind of both in the sense that if you look at it, what is the Russian imperative at this point? The Russian imperative is to force the United States and its allies to the negotiating table. How they do that is A) they need to be able to say that they have the relative upper hand in the Ukrainian battle space, which we’re beginning to see, but it’s still at the level of villages. It’s not like they’re taking town after town. It’s very slow, which suggests that the Russians don’t have the capability just yet to be able to revive their military capabilities after what has happened over the past two years or so.

In those circumstances, what is the additional leverage that the Kremlin has against Washington? It’s this situation in the Middle East, which involves its ally, Iran. And so it’s in the Russian interest to see this continue in some shape or form, or at least to the point where they can get the Americans to come to the table and say, “You now have two wars, the one in Ukraine, the one in the Middle East. And if you are willing to negotiate with us, we can help you in the Middle East, but we want something in return when it comes to Ukraine.”

What is that? “Well, it’s let’s have a ceasefire line that we draw where our forces are currently standing. In other words, the progress that we’ve made westwards from Donbas beyond the contact line that precedes February 2022, the land bridge along the Sea of Azov in southeastern Ukraine, connecting all the way to Crimea, we’re not giving that up, and everybody knows that it’s going to be hard for us to push further. You know you can give all sorts of ammunition and money to the Ukrainians. It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to roll our forces back, just like we can’t take more territory. It’s a stalemate. So accept our situation, accept this. Let’s agree on a neutral government in Kyiv and lift some of those sanctions, and then we’ll help you put pressure on Iran to rein itself in.”

That’s an ideal kind of scenario for Putin. The reality is that he’s also very dependent on the Iranians for hardware. He’s actually dependent now—to some extent, and it’s not really clear—on ammunition from North Korea. So if you are Russia, you’re the second-largest military of the world with your own indigenous military industrial base, and you are relying on supplies from drones and missiles from Iran, and ammunition, essentially artillery shells and bullets and whatnot, from North Korea, then you’re in a pretty bad shape. So you’re not in a shape to dictate terms. So I think that’s how this is connected.

And then Iran, not only dependent on Russia—that was the case until fairly recently, until [unclear] before the Ukraine War. Now it knows that the Russians need them as well, as much as they need the Kremlin. So that creates a new dynamic in which Iran is less likely—

So from an Iranian point of view, the Americans are in trouble in the Middle East, the Americans are in trouble in Ukraine, we have the relative upper hand. At least that’s how they read themselves, or their position.

So this Russia-Iran thing is very significant. It’s become a relationship that’s more, I’m hesitant to use the term parity, but there’s more parity in a very relative sense than what used to be the case. Not too long ago the Iranians needed the Russians for a lot of things. And even now, we don’t know what Putin has promised to the Iranians in exchange for all these drones and missiles and everything else that the Iranians are helping them with. Are they going to get fighter jets like the Sukhois and the Advanced Migs? We don’t know. Are they going to get the S-400? They do have an S-300.

So this relationship has yet to fully unfold and fully show itself as to where it is, but we need to keep an eye on it. This is why it’s a Eurasian problem. So Eurasia used to be a synonym for the former Soviet Union, but really Eurasia means the supercontinent. And on that continent in the southwest is Iran, and that’s sort of Southwest Asia and everything that’s happening in the Middle East. So I think that there’s a lot more need to pay attention to what’s happening between Tehran and Moscow.

As for Beijing, I think we’re in a much better position there because the Chinese economy isn’t doing well, and they need the United States to ease restrictions on trade, on investments and transfer of technology, which is why you’ve had this slew of meetings from last August when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen first went to Beijing, and she was there again recently. But there have been other officials going there, including Secretary Blinken.

Xi Jinping himself came to San Francisco and had that bilateral, the sidelines conference with Biden. So why is this happening? Because they know the Chinese economy is in trouble. And the solution to that is you can sort of waive this visit of Putin to Beijing, and Xi’s visit to Hungary and Serbia and France, but really, if you’re China, the solution to your immediate problem is an understanding of the United States because you have a domestic economic problem. And I don’t think the relationship between Beijing and Taiwan is anywhere near the caliber that it is or at the level that it is between the Russians and the Iranians. So these are two different sets of relationships. And I’ll just give you an example.

There was a lot made out of when the Saudis and the Iranians essentially signed the agreement and decided to put the past behind them, and that agreement was signed in Beijing, and everybody was talking about how Beijing has displaced the United States as a power of influence in the Middle East.

But I didn’t buy into that at the time, and it only took, what, seven or eight months or probably a little longer to show that Beijing did not really have any influence, or at least not the level that people think that it has, in the Middle East, because while the Iranians were “normalizing” with Saudi Arabia, they were also preparing for the Hamas attack. Likewise, the Saudis normalized with the Iranians, but they were also pursuing a negotiation with the Israelis.

So I think we tend to get carried away with Chinese influence in the world, and particularly in the Middle East, most especially with the case of Iran. But I would separate— Qualitatively the Chinese-Iranian relationship is very different from the Russian-Iranian relationship. There’s far more meat to the relationship between the Kremlin and the clerical regime in Iran.

David: We look at the One Belt, One Road project, and that is certainly a factor if you’re thinking of the Eurasian problem and sort of a reconfiguration of relationships throughout Eurasia. Is it too hasty a conclusion to connect these new-axis countries, whether it’s Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, into an order that would like to see an alternative to the post-World War II political and monetary regime? Is it too hasty a conclusion to say that their interests are aligned and there’s something afoot? Perhaps there’s just a difference in timeframes and particular game plans that apply to particular objectives, and we don’t have to worry about dispossession of hegemony here in the West.

Kamran: Yeah, I think it’s largely a function of capability. So if you look at, what is it that each of these adversaries of the United States needs and what is it that they can get in terms of cooperation from the others?, then you can see a bit of divergence. So let’s just take the example of Russia and China.

For China, as I just said, the first order of business is to stabilize their economy, and their economy has systemic problems. So this is not one of those cyclical things, but it’s far more than that. I’m not saying they’re going to collapse tomorrow. Far from it. But they have some serious problems that they need to address. That is not going to be done in the short term.

David: Agreed.

Kamran: What can Russia do to help on that front? Not much. Russia is already bogged down in Ukraine. Russia is trying to stay afloat amid increasing sanctions, and it’s getting by, but not to the point where it can help China with its problems, with its economic problem.

The solution to that economic problem, and the Chinese know this very well, hence the diplomacy, the intense diplomacy with Washington, because the United States is the player that can help China get past its economic problems, given the organic nature with which the two economies are linked to the global system.

Likewise, Russia needs to win in Ukraine, and we’ve already talked about what winning looks like. So the question is, what can China do on that front? Well, maybe it can help them evade sanctions at a tactical level here and there, but it’s not much. It’s not going to be a game changer. So both U.S. adversaries have certain problems that the other side cannot help with in any significant way. If you look at North Koreans, Kim Jong Un, and you see some sense of distancing between Beijing and Pyongyang, so it’s not like they’re all aligned.

Pyongyang has needs, and if its economy doesn’t do too well, how much can the Chinese help them? How much can the Russians help them? So again, not much. It doesn’t fundamentally change their position.

Iran definitely, given the weakness of the Arab world, the weakness of Turkey, just the whole imbalance of power in the Middle East, seems to have an upper hand, to the point where even the United States doesn’t seem to know how to deal with an Iran that is ascendant in the Middle East—other than hoping that the internal dynamics essentially reduce the firepower of Iran, but this is something we can’t control. But Iran, while it can manage itself more or less in the Middle East, how much will Russia help Iran? Iran can help with drones and ballistic missiles, but will that fundamentally alter Russian capabilities vis-a-vis Ukraine? What can China do for Iran?

David: Kamran, if we said that each of these countries is operating out of a deficit, so imagine being in an awkward position on a chessboard, and you don’t have the ideal setup, it seems to me that if you shift the balance, if you create pressure someplace else, that all of those pieces that are operating at deficits in isolation, if you shift the balance, maybe they are still operating out of a deficit, but they’ve also changed the pressure on the board and allowed for the U.S., or the “allies,” to then be in a defensive posture, which, again, just relieves some of the pressures that exist today.

I don’t think that they’re any stronger. Get a collection of weak countries together, they’re not necessarily stronger just because they collect together and aggregate weakness. But what about shifting the balance? And this is what brings me back to that political order that’s existed since World War Two, the monetary order that’s existed since World War Two. Post-Bretton Woods, if they’re able to impact the pipes of the world of finance just as they are already influencing the flows of oil, it seems like they can create some vulnerability in the West, which then we have to focus on, that relieves some pressure on them.

Kamran: Yes. I mean, they don’t have the wherewithal to create a counter-hegemonic order, if you will, but they can exploit the strain on the U.S.-led order, what is many times referred to as the rules-based international order post-World War Two. So yes, but I would also say that that order is naturally evolving into something that’s not clear. So it has natural weaknesses. That order needs an overhaul, if you will, a natural overhauling. No order can last forever, and we’re talking, we’re approaching 80 years now since that time period. So there is a need, a natural need to overhaul this order that currently exists because of realities that have nothing to do with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, but just with reality. Technology has advanced. The way of doing economics has advanced. New powers have emerged.

India is close to being the fourth-largest economy currently. It is the fifth largest. It’s overtaken the U.K., former colonial power. So these realities are already forcing the old order to adjust. So what these actors, the adversaries of the United States that we’re talking about, they’re benefiting from that, and they will exploit that, but they can add more pressure on the United States.

What’s happening in Gaza is a perfect case of that pressure. They can exploit it. Iran is applying that pressure, but to fundamentally alter, or at least, if you will, there can be disruptions to the order, but to say that somehow it’ll damage the order, well then we need to talk about what does damaging mean? And then there are all sorts of— It’s a relative term, and we can go into that debate, but my point is that the international order is already due for an overhaul and they’re benefiting from it. So I think that there’s definitely the need to deal with adversaries.

This is why my view of multi-polarity is a bit different than what most people think. Multi-polarity exists. Then we have to talk about, what does it really mean? Just because there are multiple countries now that are shaping the international system does not mean that the entire order has shifted. The Chinese are trying to survive right now economically and get to the other side of this economic downturn. So are the Russians, and the Iranians are going through an internal transition. North Korea is just trying to survive perpetually. And even India, as a rising power, wants a share of this global order, preferably a seat at the United Nations Security Council. Not that that will happen. Because then we have to talk about Germany and Japan, because they’ve been powers for far longer and they don’t have a seat at the United Nations Security Council. So the order isn’t going to change, but the order is under pressure, and actors like Russia, China, and Iran benefit from it. They extract as much mileage out of it as possible.

David: Let’s come full circle to the Middle East and our previous conversations that have been a lot about Turkey, about Erdogan, about the AKP. You see Erdogan, it appears he may be losing some grip on power. Of course, inflation and the Turkish fiscal crisis has created some pressure for him. How does Turkey factor into the current Mideast state of disarray?

Part of this goes back too to the vacuum created when Saddam Hussein was taken out of Iraq and the broad destabilization, and everyone then putting their hand in the air and saying, “Well, we’ll be the ones who lead the Islamic world.” So that’s what I have in the back of my mind, is it’s Turkey, it’s Iran, it’s Saudi Arabia, and still that jockeying to see who will fill the vacuum.

Kamran: So I think since the last time we spoke about this, and it’s been many years, I think a lot has shifted in terms of Turkey. A, Turkey went through that coup internally, or attempted coup, and it destabilized the Erdogan regime. And then Turkey as an economic power has declined. Inflation touched 80%, and it’s still pretty high. I think it’s probably at the 50% range at the moment. And then the AKP is not as popular as it used to be. The recent elections, the municipal election has demonstrated it very clearly. Municipalities used to be the core turf of the AKP, from which they rose to national power. So if you are now at the national level and the base is slipping from beneath you, then that gives you a sense of just how weak you’ve become.

Turkey thought also that the Arab Spring and that whole dynamic would allow it to project influence in the Middle East through its proxy, the Muslim Brotherhood. Well, that didn’t happen. So that was a setback for Turkey. ISIS emerged, and the main force fighting ISIS, at least in Syria, were the Syrian Kurds, who are, from their Turkish point of view, the cousins or the brothers of the PKK that they’re fighting. The Syrian Kurdish movement aligned itself with the United States. So Turkey got caught in a weird position where, on one hand you have ISIS, on the other hand you have the Kurds, and then your ally, the United States. And then we saw a shift in order to put pressure on the United States, let me go and align with Russia, even though your interests in Syria are not the same as those of Russia. So it became complicated.

In the end, purely if we’re talking about the Middle Eastern geopolitical real estate, there’s no going around the fact that Iran has had a head start of decades, and it already has a major presence in Iraq and Syria both, and those are the two Arab countries that are on the borders of Turkey.

In other words, Turkey is checked from playing a role in the Middle East, which is why we saw them open up and try to normalize relationships with Saudi, with UAE, with Egypt. These are adversary countries that had very hostile relations during the height of the Arab Spring. For them to have to do that speaks volumes about Turkey’s weakness.

Then if you just look at what has happened from October 7th until now, where has Turkey been? In fact, there are many who are arguing that a lot of the votes that they lost in the municipal election, the AKP, also has to do with the fact that public disappointment within its own conservative/Islamist base who thought that Turkey should do more for the Palestinians, and they’re disappointed with the way Erdogan has behaved.

They’ve not done much. They’ve been on the sidelines issuing statements, but what have they really done? They’re not in the negotiations. Qatar and Egypt are the ones doing that, and if the United States is negotiating with somebody at a strategic level, it’s Saudi Arabia. And then, of course, there’s Jordan as well. But Turkey’s nowhere to be found.

Iran has taken that mantle, at least for now, or that desire to be the leader of the Middle East or the broader Islamic world from Turkey. These are competitors, Turkey and Iran. Iran has the upper hand.

So Turkey finds itself on the margins of the Middle East today. That said, Turkey’s Northern Flank has presented opportunities for Turkey. Long before the Ukraine war, the Turks saw an opening in the South Caucasus, and they supported Azerbaijan with weapons and other forms of assistance, to where Azerbaijan was able to dramatically shift the balance of power in its favor against Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh, and took back all the territories they lost back in ’94 after a 28-year period.

That was made possible by help from Turkey, and in many ways, Turkey through that act had punched a hole in what was a Russian sphere of influence. You now have the Armenian President openly chastising Putin and saying, “You’ve abandoned us,” and they’re moving on. So the relations between Yerevan and Moscow are not good. Why is that the case? Because the Russians were more focused on Ukraine, and the last thing they wanted was this situation where they’ve now had to pull forces out of Armenia.

So Russia is weakening in the South Caucasus. Turkey’s taken advantage of that. And now that Azerbaijan has a much longer border with Iran because of retaking NK from Armenia means that there’s more Turkish influence, and this is part of Turkey’s efforts to create that Turkic union that includes all actors, Hungary as well. But really Turkey wants to have a connectivity, if you will, through Armenia, through Nakhchivan, the exclave of Azerbaijan, to Armenia, to Azerbaijan, and then beyond the Caspian to Central Asia with the Turkic nations there.

And there’s a lot of geo-economic benefit there, geo-energy interests there, that Turkey’s interested in, which is a medium- and long-term endeavor. But nonetheless, that’s where the Turks seem to have far more success. And Iran’s Northern Flank is where Turkey seems to be having the upper hand. But in the Middle East, it’s the other way around.

In the meantime, the Turks are also looking at the broader Black Sea base and seeing Russian power weakening. They obviously don’t know how this will all end in Ukraine, but as more vacuum emerges in the South Caucasus, say, for example Georgia—not that it’s going to happen anytime soon, but I’m talking more the medium to long term—and, of course, the North Caucasus.

Whatever becomes of Ukraine, if Russia loses its ability to project power and influence in the Black Sea Basin, which we’re already seeing by two measures—one is the sinking of the Russian fleet by Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea, and then opening up of that corridor all along the Black Sea Coast on the European side.

And so you’re seeing openings that Turkey can potentially influence and expand its own influence if Russian power is weakening, because somebody has to fill the vacuum and Turkey’s placed to do that. But then again, first things first, Turkey has to fix its economy. Turkey is going through a political evolution at home. We don’t know whether the AKP will win the next general elections or not, so there’s a lot of homework to be done. But the opportunities for Turkey are more what we can call the former Soviet Union space to its north and east, if you will, as opposed to the Middle East.

And of course, Europe is another can of worms for Turkey, and that’s an old, if you will, lingering problem from a Turkish point of view. They’ve always wanted to be part of Europe, but they’ve not been able to gain European Union membership. But that’s where I see Turkey right now.

David: In physics, we have the idea that nature abhors a vacuum. And in political science and political history, it’s about the same. As we’ve covered a lot of geographic territory today, one of the common themes is just that power abhors a vacuum just like nature does, and we continue to see a struggle in the Middle East for who will define the narratives of the 21st century, who will define the power structures of the 21st century. And we thank you for bringing us into complexity and sharing some insights into Iran and Israel and Turkey and Russia and China. There’s a lot more that we could talk about. We just scratched the surface with Nagorno-Karabakh and the conflict here in just recent months between Azerbaijan and Armenia. So much more to cover, so maybe we won’t wait as long to have you back as a guest. We thank you for your time and insight.

Kamran: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

*     *     *

Kevin: You’ve been listening to the McAlvany Weekly Commentary. I’m Kevin Orrick, along with David McAlvany, and our guest today, Kamran Bokhari. You can find us at mcalvany.com, and you can call us at (800) 525-9556.

This has been the McAlvany Weekly Commentary. The views expressed should not be considered to be a solicitation or a recommendation for your investment portfolio. You should consult a professional financial advisor to assess your suitability for risk and investment. Join us again next week for a new edition of the McAlvany Weekly Commentary.

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